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[Page 290]

escaping to Drohitchin. No legal action was taken against the killers because the Jews were outside of the law.

        At the beginning of July the Gestapo arrived in Drohitchin and captured the barber Khatislavsky, the shoemaker Litman Dolinsky, Shifra Schwartzberg (daughter of Asher the bricklayer) and a couple of Jewish refugees from Vietla, and sent them off to Brona (an estate four kilometers behind town), tortured them for a few hours and then shot them. They had all been accused of communist activity and were killed in connection with the anti-communist operation that took place in the entire region. A few days all the Jews of Khomsk and Motele were brutally murdered, as were most of the men of Brisk, Pinsk and Yanova.

        It was believed that the men from Brisk and Pinsk had been taken away somewhere for forced labor, and people waited for months to hear something about them. The Germans began their massacres in Khomsk and Motele after they obtained money from those Jewish communities. The German murderers claimed that the Jewish communists in Russia and their leader Litvinov, together with the Jewish millionaires in the United States and their servant Roosevelt, were responsible for the war, so the Jews around the world should have to pay for the costs and suffering of the war.

        In Khomsk and Motele the slaughter lasted several days. The local Christian population looked for Jews, pulled them out of their attics, cellars, gardens, forests and swamps – wherever they were in hiding. They killed them with knives, axes, scythes and blunt instruments. The priest of Khomsk was the person who led the anti-Jewish operations.

        The first details about the aforementioned massacres arrived in Drohitchin around the ninth of the month of Av, and a few days after the first Judenrat was elected in Drohitchin. The Jews in town were worried and feared for their lives, and the Drohitchin Judenrat went about its work.

[photo:] Yonah and Rachel Goldberg and their children, from right: Elka, Moshe, Milcha, Feigele and Eliyahu. Aside from Feigele everyone perished. May G-d avenge their blood! Rachel was the daughter of Eliyahu Liebkas Valevelsky. Yonah came from Kobrin and was the senior accountant at the People's Bank in Drohitchin. Feigele and her husband Herman Grossman and children live in New York. See p. 203.


Jews elect a Judenrat and hope it will help

        Although the German commander had shortly after the occupation told the Jews that they had no recourse to civil or human rights, the Jews agreeably accepted the order to elect a Jundenrat, a Jewish council. Moreover, many went around with the illusion that the Jewish administration and a Jewish police force would somehow find a way to soothe the wrath of the beast and guarantee the status of the Jews of Drohitchin. Khomsk and Motele were already destroyed, and the men of Pinsk and Brisk were taken away to parts unknown. All the Jews were expelled from Shershev and Heinevka. Many refugees arrived in Drohitchin and said that the Germans had killed many of them during the expulsion along the road of anguish, while the Jews of Drohitchin believed that their fate would be better.

        What did Drohitchin hope for? Had the Germans treated the Drohitchin Jews better than others? Never! From the earliest days of the occupation, the Jews of

[Page 291]

Drohitchin were robbed of such elementary human rights such as educating their children in school, reading a newspaper, listening to the radio news, going to a public bath, walking on the sidewalk, and traveling from one place to the other. In the second week an order was issued for Jews to wear a yellow patch on their chests and shoulders so they could be identified from a distance. The authorities did everything possible to show the Jews of Drohitchin that there was nothing to hope for. Nevertheless, the Jews kept hoping, and went to vote for a self-governing administrative council to serve the interests of the Jewish population. They couldn't imagine that the Judenrat would be run by the Germans to function as an instrument for the implementation of their extermination plans.

        At the election assembly that was held at the large House of Study, pharmacist Moshe Steinberg, mechanic Baruch Kaplan (born in Vilna) and many others refused to join the Judenrat, and asked that no one do so. On the other hand, many others believed that it was appropriate to get involved because in any event the Jews were under German control, it was better to be a member of the Judenrat than to be an ordinary Jew.

        The following were elected to the first Judenrat: Litman Feldman (chairman), Yaakov Siderov (vice-chairman), Velvel Goldberg, Yitzchak Levinovitz, Menachem Kalenkovitch and Yosef Kobrinsky. Later on the following were co-opted onto the Judenrat: Avraham Kravietz, Hershel Kolodny, Leibush Sliep, Khlavna Pisetsky and Shalom Morgenthaler.

        Two Jewish doctors served as advisors to the Judenrat, and the following positions were part of the Judenrat administration: secretaries, emissaries, bookkeepers etc. The elder appointed a Jewish police force, who worked with the Judenrat.

        The first activity of the Judenrat was to collect the first monetary contributions imposed on the Jews of Drohitchin – 10,000 rubles and 2 kilos of gold. The decree required it to be produced within two hours, and in the event of a delay, all the Jews were to be executed. On the very day of the decree refugees arrived in Drohitchin from Shereshov who told of their misfortune. The sad news and fear of their own fate had their effect, and the Jews brought to the Judenrat gold watches, rings, bracelets and the amount of money demanded.

        From then on, the Judenrat would collect twice and three times the required amount whenever a monetary contribution was required so that they would have a reserve in bad times. They would do the same thing for mobilizing workers to work in town, outside of town or even in the labor camps. The Judenrat would always call for more workers than they needed, and have them in reserve. They would operate the same way with household possessions and forced labor as they would with money. This was a daily occurrence, and the Jews wanted Judenrat members, police and their relatives to participate and not simply be satisfied with relying on others, often coercively. The privileges of the Judenrat members and their relatives angered everyone against them. People who had lost their property, possessions, furniture and especially their health over the number of months couldn't forgive the Judenrat members and the police who kept getting rich following each forced contribution, and who got fatter after every time of trouble. Jewish policemen would get drunk, enjoy themselves and do business with the gentile policemen.

[photo at bottom:] Sarah Kaplan Pisetsky, born in Ruzhinoy, graduated from gymnasia high school in a midwifery institute in Slonim. She married Shlomo Pisetsky of Drohitchin, where she practiced as a midwife her entire life. Shlomo died in 1915, and Sarah perished in 1942. Their son Izzy survived.

[photo at top:] R. Velvel Leibetchkas and Rachel Lev and grandchildren, may G-d avenge their blood! R. Velvel's home was always open to guests, and he was very generous with charity. There were always guests in his home.

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