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[Page 311]

Szarkowszczyzna Survivors Relate…

Told by Chana Chazan-Steinman, Moshe Chazan's daughter

Translation supplied by Jerrold Landau

Donated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

On the tragic Thursday of July 18 (Tammuz 3) 1942, at dawn, we began to run together with all the Szarkowszczyzners. As if to vex, my husband and my three children were sleeping. I had to awaken them. I could not even get the children dressed. Half-naked, I hurried them out of bed, and we started running. A few steps from the house, I lost sight of my husband Mendel and two children, five-year-old Shmuel and four-year-old Liba. I ran with my eight-month-old daughter in my hands. The shouting and crying pierced the heavens. From all sides, it sounded like everyone was calling out to their own. I found my way to Glubokie. We were a group of 50 people, but at the end of that same day, only 15 remained.

As we were running, my child was crying strongly in my hands. She was crying from terror, cold, and hunger. The Jews who were running with us yelled at me to silence the child, for I was liable to bring a misfortune onto them. I knew nothing of my husband and the two children. I left the group of Jews and set out to a nearby hamlet. I found a peasant woman in the hamlet. She gave me a bit of milk for the child and a rag to swaddle her. Of course, the peasant woman did not permit me to remain for an additional moment. She told me that she was afraid for her own life. I set out on my way again. I sat down at a highway. I was certain that the Germans or police would pass by and free me. Sitting there, I saw a man rise out of the stalks with a stick in his hand. It seemed that this was a peasant who was going to kill me. I did not raise my head, and nestled my child to me. I waited for the end, but then I heard that he was speaking to me in Yiddish. I lifted my head and saw that this was Nathan Szulkin (the brother of Alter Szulkin, today in Argentina). He told me that I must move away from the road, for it is dangerous. I must go to hide in the stalks. He advised me to leave the child with a peasant woman to hide her for a bit of time, until I find a place to remain.

We went along the side of the rye fields. I knocked at a peasant's house and asked that they take the child for a few days. They chased me away and threatened to turn us in to the

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police. We continued further and met another peasant woman. She told us that the police are there in the village. Not far from there, we saw a village hut. We approached it. It was raining. We intended to rest there a bit and continue on. We entered. We barely succeeded in entering when we heard knocking. We heard someone speaking Yiddish. It was a woman with two children and an elderly mother. They were from Pohost. We took them inside. After a few minutes, we decided that Nathan and I should go to see what was going on outside. After walking about twenty steps, a wagon with a policeman drove by. He immediately began to pursue us. We ran to the nearby grove. We heard gunshots. The ground near us tore open. Nathan ran a bit father than I did. I saw how he grabbed his stomach and fell. He then lifted himself up and ran into the grove. I went deeper into the forest. I did not see Nathan again. Of course, I could not give him any help. I also never saw my child and the Pohost family again. I barely heard the voices that were coming from the hut.

Thus did I wander through the forest for a month. I only saw wild ducks at night. I did not find any other animals there. My greatest fear, however, was to encounter a human beast. I sustained myself with bitter berries and sour grass. The dress that I was wearing disintegrated into pieces. I was often thoroughly wet. I continued walking on and on, until I arrived one evening at the edge of the forest. I noticed a shepherd. I waited so he would not see me. He went away, and a crazy peasant woman came opposite me, singing and dancing. I was not afraid of her.

I went to the little house not far away. Near the house, I saw the peasant woman carrying milk in a pail. I came closer to her, and asked for a bit of food. She directed me to a barn and told me to enter. I entered. She quickly brought me a pitcher of milk, and bread with butter. She also brought me a dress and a blouse. She told me that I could stay there for three days, until I regain my strength.

I dug a pit in the straw, and lay down in the barn. The

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peasant woman brought me bread and milk once a day. I had to leave on the fourth day. She told me that her friends, who are very good people, are over there, one kilometer away. I set out to them. It was not far. I arrived at a house and knocked. The peasant crossed himself when he saw me. Apparently, he was frightened by my gait. He told me to enter the stable. There was hay in there. I made a place for myself. The peasant brought me milk and bread. He told me that not from him, the police killed the Szarkowszczyzner Chona Szulkin, his wife and child. A peasant to whom he gave over his possessions to hide, turned him in. If I do not want to meet the same end, I should go. The peasant woman wept over my bitter fate. She gave me a pitcher of milk, cheese, and bread, and I left.

I walked among the rye stalks. I went, not knowing where I was going. I had food. Two days passed in that manner. I arrived at Pialikes, five kilometers from Szarkowszczyzna. I was afraid of entering the village. I first spent the night in a Christian cemetery. Then I dug a pit in a pile of hay. One early morning, a shepherd was leading cows, and one cow defecated on me. The shepherd saw me. I understood that I must leave. I continued on through the rye stalks and the fields. I was afraid to go on the road. At that point, it started to rain hard. It seemed that it would not stop raining. I came out from the stalks and sat under a tree. Then I went off to a nearby grove. This was a Christian cemetery. I spread myself over a gravestone and fell asleep.

I then set out again through the rye fields until I once again came to the village of Pialikes. From afar, I saw a peasant woman passing by. I ran after her and asked her to give me a bit of bread. The peasant woman crossed herself and wept over my bitter fate. She told me to go where a cow was standing tied up. She told me to take the rope and approach the cow. In this manner, I entered a stable. There was straw on one side. The peasant woman brought me water and a comb. I washed up and combed myself. I did not believe that this was possible. She brought me food. I did not eat anything non-kosher. The gentile woman lectured me that it was not for nothing that our G-d was punishing us. I spent a week there and then had to continue on. The name of the gentile woman was Fiene Tarases from Pialkes. She hid other

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Szarkowszczyzners, included Hershel Tabarowicz. After the liberation, I went to her and expressed my gratitude. She was indeed one of the few Christians who helped Jews.

The peasant woman told me to go to her acquaintance in a hamlet. The peasant woman told me to hide in the rye stalks. I was afraid to remain in the house, the stable, or the barn. She brought me food.

A rainstorm broke out. All the rye stalks flattened. The peasant woman noticed that I could be seen from outside. She told me to run to the bathhouse. I spent the night there. The next day, I went back to the rye stalks. I spent another four days there in that manner.

I had to continue on. I arrived at a nearby hamlet called Pialikes, where there were a few householders. They knew that I was from Szarkowszczyzna. They had sewn [had clothes sewn] with my sister-in-law. The main thing was that one family drew me close. The head of the household was Lawanda Milanda and his wife Anfisia. I spent a few weeks with them. Since I was a seamstress, I sewed for them. I spent a month and a half in that manner.

That peasant told me about my husband Mendel and my two children: My son Molinka and my daughter Libechke were killed while fleeing the ghetto. As I have already explained, I lost track of them. My husband and the children entered a hut at the end of Jorzelka street in Szarkowszczyzna. This was on the same day. There, the Germans and the police captured them and took them through the market to the pit in which all the killed Jews of Szarkowszczyzna were lying. There, by the pit, they shot everyone. Their blood mixed with that of all the other martyrs.

From there, I set out to the peasant's sister. Her name was Luba. I remained with her for a month. I also sewed for her, all covertly. From there, I went to a relative off theirs, where I spent a month. After that, I returned to the Milanda family. I asked the peasant to transport me to the Glubokie Ghetto. He travelled specially to the Glubokie Ghetto to find out if any of our people remained alive. He told me that he found alive near the fence of the ghetto the Szarkowszczyzner Chaim Zalkes (the butcher's), who told him that my sister Frumka, her husband, and two children were in the Glubokie Ghetto. Her other two children were killed while fleeing the Glubokie ghetto: a

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twelve and a fourteen-year-old girl. Chaim Zalkes also told about my brother Nachman Chazan, his wife and two children. The older two children were burnt, and their mother went crazy as a result. Their names were Shepsl and Motka. Chaim also told the peasant that Sonia, the sister of the Suskowicz[1] brothers, was in the ghetto. She was there with her husband Moshe Pajkin and their child. The older girl was Rivka. There were from among the finest in town.

I remained with him for only a very brief period after that greeting. He was afraid that someone might turn him in. While I was hiding with him I found out that a Jewish family from Haleve was hiding with the widow Alsepsczicha, not far from Haleve. I met with them in my peasant's stable. We decided to go into the forests, where we heard that there were partisans.

I set out on my way the next night. We arrived at a bog. There we met the Szarkowszczyzners Meir Estrin, Nathan Estrin, Binyamin Estrin (all now in North America), and Yisraelke Estrin (now in Israel). We decided to go to the Kazan forests. We were told that partisans were there. We set out on our way. We indeed met Jewish partisans there. They were Gutman Foigl, whose sister is today in Argentina; Baruch Lipszin, Motka Lipszin, Yorka Lipszin, and Yechiel Hertz Lipszin – some of whom are now in North America, and some in Israel. I should also mention here Zalman Lewi from Druya and Shachna Steinman (my current husband). They maintained widows and orphans in the forests. They risked their lives to bring food for them.

There is a great deal to tell about my partisan life. One can write thick books about this alone. I understand that we cannot fill the Yizkor Book with me alone, so I will also mention here the Szarkowszczyzners who I met in the forests and about whom I heard. These are: Avraham Pajkin, Lova Mendel (Chaim Itshe's son), Shlomo Cymer, Tzipka Cymer, Frumka Chidelel, Chana-Sara Knel, Foiga Szulkin-Lipszin, Leizer Cipelowicz, Beilka Chadasz, Sonia Cymer, Etka Cymer, and Polia Cymer. All survived. A few Szarkowszczyzners survived in Russia.

Thus did we survive until the liberation. We fought, risking our lives at every moment, starved, and hoped. After the liberation, I

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went to Szarkowszczyzna. I did not recognize the town. Everything was destroyed. I found two or three Jews there. All wept over the misfortune. The only thing that bound us together was the communal grave of our dearest beloved, in which my entire family was buried: my husband Mendel Szulkin, and my two children, five-year-old Mulinka and four-year-old Libetchke. My youngest girl, Malkele, was eight months old. As I explained, she was burnt in the hut. Their spilled blood will always demand revenge.

 

Beilka Chadasz, Nachum Czale's daughter, Tells

I was seven years old when the Germans entered Szarkowszczyzna. I do not recall any details of that time, which I can tell over. However, I do recall what took place later. I will begin with the liquidation of the Szarkowszczyzna Ghetto. It was 3:00 a.m. We heard heavy shooting. I was picked up, and we began running. The entire town was burning. I lost my parents. I ran together with others. We arrived in the forest. In the evening, when we emerged from the forest to see where we were we encountered the police. They started shooting heavily. The bullets hit many of us. The rest fled. One of us had a Nagan[2] (revolver), and killed a policeman. The police consisted of the local peasants.

We ran further, and arrived at a far-off forest, which was larger and deeper than the previous one. We rested there a bit, and looked for something with which to nourish ourselves. Once, I set out to ask for bread in a nearby village. I went from house to house. We were in luck. I collected a large sack of bread. When I returned to the forest, however, I had to cross a small stream on a wooden foot-bridge. Suddenly, a policeman approached me. He called to me. I began to run. I barely felt that he was shooting after me. Thus did I enter the forest.

There were six of us in the forest. We did not know where to go further. Once, a peasant came to us and told us that there was a call from the Germans that all the escaped Jews who were hiding

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in the forests should come to towns that had ghettos. If we would pay him, he would lead us to the Postavy Ghetto. Since we were poor and naked, we collected a few gold chains and rings, and gave them to him. He took them, and indeed led us to the Postavy Ghetto.

 

hly317.jpg
Memorial ceremony in the liberated Rondhoffen camp (Austria)

 

The Postavy Judenrat apportioned all of us up to families. The sent me to the Barkin family. I later heard that he survived. There, I found out that my parents were alive. A Szarkowszczyzner told me that my father was coming the next day. My father indeed came to me. He was in the Glubokie Ghetto with my mother and two sisters. He received a permit from there to come to find me and bring me to Glubokie. However, I could not go with him, as my feet were swollen. We could not go by vehicle. It was 60 kilometers. I remained, intending to go later along with other Szarkowszczyzners who also had to go to unite with their families in the Glubokie Ghetto.

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The slaughter in the Postavy Ghetto took place before we could gather in Glubokie. Of course, the slaughter was not only of Postavyers, but also of all the Jews who were found there. I started to run, and luck was in my favor again. I found myself with other Jews in a thick forest. The town was surrounded by forests. We lay there for an entire day, and set out at night to go closer to Glubokie. It was the winter, and the frost was great. My feet were bound with rags. We arrived in Glubokie at dawn. We broke open a board of the fence that surrounded the ghetto, and entered. I immediately searched for my parents. They lived in a stable. The Rajak brothers wrote about life in the Glubokie Ghetto. I immediately set out for work. I cleaned fish that were packed like sardines and sent to Germany. I was nine years old at that time. We lived in that fashion for a year, until the second and final slaughter in the Glubokie Ghetto took place. This was in August 1943.

As you know, it was impossible to escape from the Glubokie Ghetto. The ghetto was surrounded by such armaments that it was impossible to penetrate. My parents and I ran into a bunker. About 500 Jews were hiding there. The entry to the bunker was through a well. We had worked on it for over a year. This was under Kontorowicz's brick house. We lay there in perpetual darkness. We hid there for three days after the slaughter, until we were uncovered. A German noticed how someone jumped into the well, which was the entrance to the bunker. A slaughter took place. Many of the Jews had weapons. We defended ourselves to the extent that we could. Some of the murderers also fell. The majority of us were killed.

My father, one sister, and I remained in the bunker for one more day after the slaughter. We were so closed off that they did not notice us. At night, we went out. We walked over dead bodies that were strewn over all the streets. We left the town. When we went a few steps further, near the Baraker Forest, we heard a shout, ordering us to halt. We started to run. My father was hit by a bullet. My sister was also shot. I was shot in the hand. A German placed a gun on my shoulders to ensure that I was dead. The

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bullet went out through my mouth. I heard the German saying, “Four Jews kaput.”

I lay in the rye stalks among the tall sprouts for five days. I was covered with blood. I set out on the sixth day. I arrived at a hamlet. I knocked on a door. An elderly Christian woman came out. She took me inside. She washed my wounds and gave me something to eat. I could not chew or swallow. I spent a few days with her and set out on my way again. After going a few kilometers, I encountered an elderly Christian who immediately recognized that I was a Jew. He started to take me back to Glubokie to give me over to the Germans, for one would be paid for capturing a Jew. He took me for three kilometers until we arrived in a hamlet. He entered a house, dragging me along as well. However, I remained on the other side of the door. While he was inside, I banged the door and placed underneath it a shovel that was standing nearby, and began to run. I threw off the sack with food that the gentile women had given me. I ran until I arrived in a field. When I sat down to rest, I noticed about twenty people near the edge. I asked a peasant where I was. He told me that these were partisans.

I immediately set out to them. The group of partisans was mixed, with Jews and Christians. Yitzchak Blatt of Glubokie was among them. They showed me where the surviving Jews were located, and I set out to them. When I told them about the peasant who was leading me to the Germans, they figured out that this was a known spy for whom they had been searching for a long time. They immediately set out to the hamlet, called to him, and took his documents to be certain that he was indeed the spy whom they were searching for. Then they locked him in the house and burnt the house down with him inside.

I met an aunt of mine in the forest among the surviving Jews. She was my mother's sister, Liba Lewitanus. She was rescued from the Druya Ghetto. We lived from the food brought to us by the Jewish partisans.

Needless to say, it was only the Jewish partisan youth who helped us with love and life. However, they scared us. Once, a terrible German blockade took place. They

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surrounded us. The only place remaining for us was a large, deep swamp, through which nobody could come. We lay there for two weeks. After that, when it was quieter, each of us looked for food. The orphans that remained were forgotten. Only one of them, Leib Baum from Kazian, took all of us orphans under his protection. He looked after us like his own children.

 

hly320.jpg
Yitzchak Leib Chazan (the partisan) with his family

 

After the liberation, I went to Szarkowszczyzna. A large portion of the houses of the town remained. However, I could not remain. I escaped from there as quickly as I could, so as to see it no more.


[Page 321]

Sonia Szmuskowicz-Pajkin

hly321.jpg
Sonia Szmuskowicz-Pajkin

 

Beilka Chadasz tells:
Sonia Szmuskowicz, her husband Pajkin, and their five children were among the Szarkowszczyzners with whom I was together in the Glubokie Ghetto. (Sonia is the sister of Shlomo and Yehoshua Szmuskowicz). The children were Rivka, Arke, Yachne, Lyuba, and a young girls whose name I have forgotten. I worked at knitting gloves for the Germans together with Yachne, who was about ten years old. We worked from the morning until night. We received a bit of soup in return. The winter was difficult. Our hands and feet froze. Everyone had to work, including children from six or seven years of age.

During the liquidation of the Szarkowszczyzna Ghetto on July 18, 1942, Sonia and her family were saved. They all fled to their peasant acquaintance in a village, and hid there for about a half a year. Then it became impossible for them to hide there anymore. When the deceptive call came from the Germans that the escaped Jews should come to the Glubokie Ghetto, they believed it and went to that ghetto. They lived in a house

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with other Jews. The crowding, hunger, and terror were indescribable. They lived in that manner until the second and final liquidation of the Glubokie Ghetto on August 20, 1943, 19 Av 5703. The entire family was murdered on that day.

 

hly322a.jpg
A Seder in the camp in Austria

 

hly322b.jpg
A Szarkowszczyzner partisan

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Spelled as Szmuskowicz on page 321. Return
  2. Probably Nagant (a type of Russian revolver). Return

 

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