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[Page III]

English Section

 

Only the ”Pinkas Hrubieshov” Remained

by Baruch Kaplinsky

I have never been to Hrubieshov. I have never seen its streets and alleys, its schools and ”shtieblech”, its bridges and rivers, its communal leaders and its institutions.

I have never been in the Broditzer Grove, on the Probreczaner Roas, on the Pogerie or near the Shlicze; I never went for a walk on the Panske or ”lehavdil”, on the Shool street.

Nevertheless, after having studied all the material, texts, memoranda and written evidence on Hrubieshov, I see it all in my mind's eye; alive, fresh and authoritative.

It is not Hrubieshov that I see; I see good many; I see the Hrubieshov of 30-40 years ago.

I see the Chassidishe youths, attired in their Shabbat or holiday best, walking along the aristocratic Pansker Street. They carry books stuck under their armpits, following with their eyes the girls who are also walking along the street, cracking melon-seeds and meanwhile discussing Socialism, Zionism, Liberty and Social Justice. It is said that they are ”related” to the strikers and sympathize wholeheartedly and articulately with the Social Revolution.

Now they stop at the stand of Nathan Zeide's, or at the Abeles place. They drink a glass of soda-water and shew on a bun, the while intoning under their breath ”Huliet, Huliet, beize Wintern, (Shriek, Shriek, furious Winds) or ”Techezakna, Yedei Kol Acheinu” (Strengthened be the Hands of all our Brethren).

Now I see them the previous year, they sit in the ”Alkir” or Trisker, or at the Husiatiner Shtiebel.

What are they doing there?

It sounds as if they are rehearsing a new Chassidic tune. They start by murmuring it under their breath, then whisper it almost soundlessly, and then, all at once, they wax enthusiastic in their ecstasy, savouring the tune to the full.

After some time their elders come and drive them out of the Shtiebel with clenched fists:

“Out with you, Shkotzim; such a scandal!”
Why are these fanatic Chassidim so angry? Why are they so full of wrath? Probably they had heard a report that these youths were reading “Hatzefira”, or peruse “Hazman”, carry about “small” books and arrogantly argue that “Yiddishkeit” was made for Jews, and not the other way about. Or, maybe their “sin” is exchanging their Jewish headgear for something more modern, or cutting short their prayers and eschewing facial contortions during prayers.

Such arrogance, such a shame!

The banished youths take refuge in Fischer's “heizel” or at the guest-house of Brenner, or at the premises of Hashomer Hatzair, and sing all together with gusto: “Od lo avda Tikvateinu”.

With their former Chassidic ecstacy at the Shtiebel, they go out on Lag Baomerday or on May Day to the Broditzer Grove to exchange views and hopes, and dream about a Jewish state of Zion and Jerusalem.

This is one kind of Hrubieshov; the Hrubieshov of 30-40 years ago.

But there were other Hrubieshovs, others and no less meaningful.

Now, I see the Hrubieshov of the “Minyan” and the Baal Shem Tov, the Hrubieshov of 200 years ago.

I see the ten lean, dried “Lamed.Vovnikes”, skin and bones fiery eyes. They sit day and night in the Great Beth-Hamidrash, at the big table, poring over the sacred books, fasting and deciding fateful issues. Let Redemption come! Let the Messiah come!

And who knows whether the Minyan of the ten Hrubieshov “Lamed-Vovnikes” would not have brought about the “Geula”, if Rabbi Israel Sara's has not authoritatively decided: this generation is not the ripe as yet!

[Page IV]

Thus, at any rate, goes the story at Hrubieshov, told at the Beth-Midrash behind the big heating-stove. Now I see Hrubieshov of 500 years ago.

Forty years before that, in the year 1400, Hrubieshov was still a village. Possibly there were Jews already living in the village of Hrubieshov. But apparently they had no historical sense. As a result, we have practically no idea about their lives and achievements. Thus, the first known details about Hrubieshov Jewry date from 1440. The first known Jew was Eliahu. Nobody knows whence he came to Hrubieshov, or anything about his family, worries of joys. Had it not been for the fact that he used to travel from Hrubieshov to Kiev via Lutzk to purchase horses or hides, no trace of his existence would have remained. It is due to a short notice in a document of that time, that we know of Eliahu in 1440. Possibly, this Eliahu of 1440 struck roots in Hrubieshov and that his distant descendants living today do not know that Eliahu's blood flows in their veins.

A contemporary of Eliahu was a man Itzhak Sokolowitz by name. It appears that he had quite a substantial fortune in Hrubieshov. The historian, Itzhak Schipper, tells us that his operations extended over a wide field.

This is only a brief glimpse of the first Jewish elements in Hrubieshov, 500 years ago. These elements did not expand rapidly, because we find that in 1555 there were still only 13 Jews living in 4 houses in Hrubieshov. Nine years later we find 40 Jews in 5 houses. They do not as yet build up a congregation, but they constitute the nucleus of a congregation.

The major part of the book is devoted to Hrubieshov during the first part of the twentieth century.

During this period Hrubieshov was still a small orthodox town, but a new spirit was discernible among its youth, which found expression in two organized camps: Zionist and Socialist. Both Zionists and Socialists firmly believed in, and strenuously fought for, their new ideals, whilst preserving their Chassidic beliefs which they inherited from their parents.

The continuous development of the Hrubieshov Community following the First World War was shattered by the inhuman annihilation of its seven thousand families in the course of the Second World War.

And again I see the Shool Street, the Lubelsky, the Rinek and the Gorne. Now you no longer hear a single Jewish word. The Shtieblech, the Bathei-Midrash, the houses and the shops are mute. They may have the same signboards, but other names.

The Community, founded by Reb Eliahu in 1440, was annihilated in 1942 with unheard of brutality: out of seven thousand families there remained only graves and tombstones.

* * *

I meant to write only a few lines, but there emerged from my pen a short historical survey of several Jewish Hrubieshovs over a period of 20 generations, depicting a good deal of suffering, but perhaps no less sources of gratification.

How could we ignore pioneers, those who laid the foundation-stone of the Hrubieshov Community 500 years ago, and those who have built first and then the upper storeys 300, 200 and 100 years ago?

Could we consign to oblivion all those Jews who came to Hrubieshov from the South, West and East and who put up a flourishing community on the banks of the Hutchva and the Bug, on the frontiers of Little Poland and Wolhyn?

No!

It is for this reason that we now bring out this book, Pinkas Hrubieshov. This is a memorial tablet on the tomb of twenty Jewish generations in Hrubieshov. a survey of 500 years in the life of a small Jewish town in Little Poland.

Unfortunately, the details and the data available on these 20 generations are very paucy, fragmentary and sometimes unreliable. Our few words should, therefore, symbolize volumes. Let our unavoidable silence over many episodes and facts cry out and tell the story of 20 links in the chain of the Hrubieshov Community's life, of its achievements and hopes, of which there now remains the Pinkas Hrubieshov.


[Page V]

Sparks light the way

by Joseph Epstein (Rishon-Lesion)

A few 'minyanim' are gathered in the Trisker Shtiebel; they wear their Taleisim only on their shoulders, and not on their heads. This is a Zionist 'minyan'. When the time for ”Mi She-beirakh” comes, I hear: ”For contributing to the redemption of the people's land”. The phrase sounds strange, and yet so near our hearts.

 

Lag Baomer

Hundreds of children gather in the open space facing Panska Street. For the first time in my life we foregather, Cheder boys with “peoth” and traditional Jewish hats, with girls from the secular school. We are given small blue-white flags, and are marched along Broditzer Street to the nearby wood to the martial sounds of “Seu Ziona Ness Va-Degel”. The day was spent in song and dance. Tired and happy, we returned home when darkness fell.

 

I become a “Hebraist”

My uncle Welvish, who was then engaged to Toibe, a member of “Agudat Zion”, brought me the first books of the “Prahim” and “Nitzanim” series. Soon I and several of my friends from Cheder started borrowing books from the Agudat Zion library. We used to “swallow” them at the rate of three or four a week. Bunie Janower once takes up one of these books, leafs through it and asks me: “What is that there “Shezif”? “A fruit”, I reply, “A shezif is just a plum”.

 

Group of Chalutzim in Hachshara in a village near Hrubieshov, in 1925

 

But I could not understand why it was not included in the list of fruits enumerated in the Chumash. Thus I got used to read Hebrew and considered myself a “Hebraist”. When I became Bar-Mitzva, I lived with the characters of “Ahavat Zion” of Mapu.

 

I become an “Apikoress”

The old Rabbi of Hrubieshov, Reb Isser Javets, was gathered unto his fathers, and Reb Joseph Wertheim was appointed in his stead. As he lived nearby, my father was a frequent visitor at his home, and I was an avid reader of his books. To me they revealed a new world of Hebrew and world litterature: all Hatekufa volumes, Treivishe's translations of Tolstoy's “War and Peace” and “Anna Karenina” and a good many other pearls of world litterature: Tagore, Goethe and Byron. My zest for talmudical studies was transferred to these books. Thus, all unknowingly, the Rabbi hepled to deprive me of my ortodoxy. The Rabbi's home became the headquarters of work for Jewish National Fund. I took up his work with enthusiasm, and was forever busy collecting with the help of the blue-white box. On a certain Hanukka evening (1924?) the Rabbi invited some 50-60 “baalei-batim” and obtained and obtained on the spot numerous cintributions to the Fund.

 

The Borukhov Circle

The Revolutica created many, sometimes conflicting, ideologies. In our town they found expression in big May-day processions, in which thousands of young men and women took part. Even among our ranks there were serious ideological conflicts, notably as between national and international Socialism. The question of the Biro-Bidjan colonisation served as a bone of contention and Serious verbal clashes. But national socialism, along the lines laid down by Ber Borukhov, slowly and steadily gained the upper hand. It was not long before the first Borukhov Circle was followed by others: Syrkin Circle, Chazanowitz Circle, Brenner Circle.

 

An Attitude towards all Problems

Looking back, I cannot but wonder at the intense interest which our youthful Socialist members showed in any social or political movement the world over: our own Russian Revolution, the Labour Government in England, “red” Vienna, the Chang Kai Shek revolution in China, and others. We, the Jewish youth, could not rest until we crustalised out “attitude”. Still more so as regards problems nearer our heart: dictatorships, and democracies, materialism and idealism, Zionism and internationalism, Yiddish and Hebrew. The names of the great exponents of social theories were ever on our lips. There were particularly acrimonious discussions over Zionism when members of the Fourth Aliya (in the twenties) came back from Palestine, dispirited and desponent. But the devoted and loyal Zionists overcame this defeatist propaganda. They laboured long and arduously to instil the right spirit into the minds of the other members. Thanks to them, many, many of our members are now happily settled as Histadrut members in the State of Israel.

 

In 1928-30, 15 Freiheit and Poelei Zion came to settle in Eretz Israel. – See description of period in “Sparks”, above.

[Page VI]

Tel Hai School – Ray of Light

by Kliezker Polushko (Kibbutz Yagur)

As through a haze I see Hrubieshov, a town of some 15,000 inhabitants, on the Polish-Wolhynian border. Most of the inhabitants were Jews, subsisting on retail trade, in shops and in the weekly fairs.

The older generation struck to their old traditions and customs; the younger generation, however, was fired by the ideals of the national movement; it devoted its energies to the raising of money for the national funds, to a national awareness, to Hachshara and Aliya to Eretz Israel.

The Tel Hai school, in which I taught for two years, was the core and centre of these public activities. Well do I remember these years, the brightest in my public career.

The school was a “Tarbut” foundation of the General Zionists; most of its pupils were drawn from the poorest elements who could contribute but an insignificant part of its modest budget in tuition fees. For want of a government subsidy, working in competition to the government school shrank until there seemed no way out except to close it down. It was then that the Poalei Zion Organization came forward with a proposal to take over its management, adapt its curriculum to the movement's policies and be responsible for its maintenance. Those in charge saw no other way to save the school; this opened a new era in its history.

A new panel of teachers was constituted; the administration was recognized and new pupils admitted. The school expanded and its influence on the life of the community began to be felt. Especially gratifying was the close cooperation between teachers, parents and pupils – a potent contributory factor to its success.

The end of the first scholastic year under the new régime was celebrated by a festive evening. It was a rewarding sight to see the faces of the parents light up when their children performed, sang and declaimed on the stage. These end-of-year occasions became a tradition which, apart from its moral worth, contributed in no small measure to balancing the modest school budget. At the end of the second year the pupils of the upper classes produced a short drama based on the life of the prophet Amos. The clash of this prophet, the humble shepherd from Tekoa, with the rapacious rich, his prophecies saturated with a cry for social justice, presented a vivid revival of an important period in Israel's ancient history, during which it fought a losing battle against the savage hordes which sought to annihilate it.

Both teachers and pupils who took part in that performance will no doubt remember the enthusiasm of the audience when they listened to the well-known biblical utterances, which, in the mouths of their children, assumed a realistic significance. Looking back, it seems to me that this performance was more realistic than we realized at the time.

Due to the increasing influence of the Poalei Zion Party in municipal affairs, it was at last possible to obtain a certain sum out of the municipal budget to cover the school budget. The school came to serve as a refuge to the pupils. Knowing that most of the homes lacked the most elementary facilities for home-work, we kept the school open after regular classes, and the teachers used to serve, in turn, as supervisors of the pupils who stayed on to do their homework, occasionally helping them out. In time, the school became a sort of club, serving as reading-room, games-room or recreation hall. To acquire equipment for games, pupils contributed small sums, which the school matched, penny for penny. It was really touching to see with what enthusiasm the children made their modest contributions, often at the cost of their food allowance. The “gymnasium” consisted of the school courtyard in summer and the slope of the hills in winter, down which we skidded in primitive toboggans.

Whilst the relations between teachers and pupils were most cordial, the latter realized how hard the former had to work, so that they took good care not to trespass on their hours of well-deserved rest. But so informal were our relations that the pupils considered us more as friends than as masters. Well I remember one occasion when I was approached by one of my favourite pupils, Koppele of blessed memory, in one of my “off” afternoons, asking me to come and play cricket with him and him comrades. Of course I could not refuse.

Six years after leaving Hrubieshov for Palestine, I visited it anew and found some of my old pupils, now become adults. The atmosphere was tense; anti-Jewish feeling was on the increase. It was not long afterwards that the remnants of the Community were led to extermination camps.

 

THE TEl HAI SCHOOL WAS

FOUNDED BY THE POALEI ZION

IN HRUBIESHOV IN 1928

 

[Page VII]

The J.H. Brenner Memorial Library

by Eliahu Gertel (Ramat Yohanan)

In coming to write about the J.H. Brenner Memorial Library, I vividly remember the type of reader which one met within its walls. Girls, modestly clad, with shy looks, typical “daughters of Israel”; boys who had reached adolescence, clad in long “kapotes”, their headgear, the traditional Chassidic hat, stepping along all too diffidently. Outwardly, there was hardly any difference between these youths and their parents; shopkeepers, peddlers and other middlemen whose way of life had been laid down for them generations ago; from home to shop and from there to the “Shtiebel”.

To a large extent, the younger generation followed in the footsteps of their fathers: they too spent some of their time in the “Shtiebel” and pored diligently over their Gemarra. But, they felt that they must throw off the shackles of their hide-bound, frozen existence and strive for a new life. Their groupings in the desired direction led these boys and girls inevitably to the J.H. Brenner Memorial Library established by the Zeirei Zion. The library proved a reliable guide. The books widened their horizons and increased their general knowledge. Well, do I remember how we used to emerge from the library; the book just borrowed well hidden under the long “kapote” for fear of being regarded as apostates.

We used to read a book (most of the books were in Yiddish and some in Hebrew) just as we studied Gemora; diligently and painstakingly. We tried to reach the innermost secrets of the author: the true character of his hero. A good book served as a useful topic for discussion.

Here, within the walls of the library, we first met the charming girls of Hrubieshov. At first, a first encounter was marked by lowered looks and blushes. But this shyness slowly wore off and we came to meet and talk freely, unhampered by atavistic inhibitions. In the evenings we used to walk together along the broad Panska Street. Walks were followed by sailings on the river. We hired a sailing boat and slowly acquired the art of sailing. After some time, we organised sailing races. These were often accompanied by excursions to nearby villages, communal singing and all other manifestations of exuberant youth.

The library served to inculcate in us a sense of solidarity and loyalty; it belonged to the Zeirei Zion whilst the majority of its readers were members of the Poalei Zion Party. After some time, we tried to rectify this anomalous situation. We appealed to the Zeirei Zion Committee to call a general meeting of the readers.

As a result, it was decided to constitute a Library Committee composed of members of the Zeirei Zion Committee and three representatives of the readers. This was in 1924. Since then, our cultural activities started in earnest. Instead of the paid librarian, the late Sara Hai who was pensioned off, voluntary librarians from among our members saw to it that books drawn were suited to the age and standard of the borrower. Some saw in this undue interference in the liberty of the individual, but it was not long before it was generally realised that the benefits of the system greatly outweighed its disadvantages. In this work, we received considerable assistance from the Hebrew teacher – Eisenberg-Eshed – who is now member of Kibbutz Ein Harod.

From time-to-time, we organised cultural evenings; question-answer evenings or just social gatherings – the receipts from which were devoted to the Library. Occasionally, we invited a guest-speaker who talked to us on some literary topic. These lectures were usually held at the “Oaza” hall which was invariably filled to overflowing. I remember particularly one such notable evening when the well-known writer – Joseph Opatoshu – visited us. We also founded a dramatic circle under the direction of Maitche Hoffman, now of Kibbutz Sh'fayim. This circle presented “The Big Prize” by Shalom Aleikhem. It was a big success, morally and materially and the receipts were devoted to the library and to the school.

Thus, the library developed and the number of our readers steadily increased. Fees from readers were nominal and the main income was derived from special activities, as mentioned above. In 1926, we were able to move the Library to more commodious premises: we were able to devote one of the three rooms to reading. The reading hall was filled every evening, especially by the younger generation of the poorer class. Discussions were frequent, notably the fateful question: whither? Some answered it by enlisting in “Hehalutz”and thus finding their way to Palestine. Others went to Argentina, Australia, Brazil, etc. But most of them had no possibility to go anywhere and were eventually exterminated by the Nazi.

 

Reader's Card: I.H. Brenner Memorial Library Extracts from Regulations

[Page VIII]

How the “Minyan” Drove out Evil Spirits

by Nathan Hadass (Herzliya)

The “Minyan” resolved once and for all to put an end to the band of evil spirits and witches which haunted our town. The situation had become intolerable.

On the day of Hoshana-Raba, before the moment of the opening of the heavens, they came out of the Great Beth-Hamidrash and took with them the Town Shames – the man who woke up the faithful for Tehilim reading at dawn – who commanded silence in Shool by knocking his gavel or open palm on the centre table.

Every member of the congregation marched with a Lulav and a Hoshaana in his hand and all were enjoined not to utter a word on the way and do exactly what they, the members of the Minyan did.

They proceeded solemnly along the road which penetrates deep into the mountain and leads to the river which flows snake-wise around the town.

On the right side of the road, on the mountain slope, stood the Russian Orthodox Church which struck fear into the hearts of the marchers.

On the left side, deep in the mountain, the dog-cemetery was situated. At night, one could hear the howls of the dogs' souls as if in torment. Some said that these were ghosts and spirits. Others said that Hitzel, the dog-killer, was a member of the band. It was a fearful road by day and a thousand times more so by night.

Nearing the river, they stopped near the hovel of Simcha'le Plakhtes which stood half out and half in the water. Not a living soul was in sight. There, the marchers went through the first ritual “shakings” of the Lulav and Hoshaana and then proceeded on their way towards Wanes Street and from there to the big Khelmer Bridge; even there nothing was to be seen.

From this point, they passed through the Goyeshe Street to the Swinilte Bridge, which most of the time lay more under the water; there was a narrow bridge for pedestrians.

They crossed this narrow bridge, looked on all sides but could still see nothing. They then retraced their steps passing the petrol-station and through the Panske Street by the two churches: the Polish on the right and the Russian on the left.

It goes without saying that whilst marching by the churches they dutifully intoned: “Shaketz Teshaktazenu” (Deut. VII, 26), the most emphatic expression of detestation – seven times, spat on the ground and continued on their way until they reached the Zamoshtche Bridge. Here they could do nothing as the bridge was right in the centre of the town and they could not tarry there even for “Shakings”.

Crossing the bridge, they proceeded along the road which leads to Paberic and from there back to town by the Krilow Bridge. This was to be the last stop. They crossed the bridge at a slow pace, went through the “Shakings” to all cardinal points, up and down, seven times. This, they thought, would be the end. But it was not to be.

At a short distance from the bridge where the smithy of Berl Stellmach stood, there was a pond. All through the year it was covered by some green scum. Near the edge of the water, big, broad leaves grew under which green frogs danced and croaked day and night, unceasingly.

At this spot, there also grew a sort of grass, “Lefach”, which we used to cover the floor on the Feast of Shavuoth; children used to cut out whistles from it.

Now, from the depths of the pond, a faint rustling noise was heard as though fish were cavorting in the water. All of a sudden, the marchers saw coming towards them a young Poretz wearing a black cape, patent leather boots and a cap with a shining visor.

The Jews were not frightened. Without the slightest hesitation, they stuck the thumb of their left hand into their belt. This was a sure-fire means, known from time immemorial, tried time and again and never found wanting in similar circumstances. Pressing the Lulav hard to his chest with the right hand, one of the group cried out:

“Jews, hold fast and never fear; this is the “Baal Dover” (Satan) himself.
The Poretz'l drew nearer, slowly but confidently. Behind him marched and crawled all sorts of queer creatures. You could see that a life-and-death struggle was about to begin.

The Minyan did not remain inactive. They formed themselves into a circle and one started intoning the well-known chapter of the Psalms (91): “Thousands may fall beside you etc.” Then: “But the plague will never reach you, safe-shielded by his faithfulness, you have only to look on and see how evil men are punished”. And so on, and so on, to the end of the chapter.

All at once, the Poretz'l came up to the Minyan and, pointing to the Lulav, shot out the question:

“What's this, gentlemen?”

“This is a Lulav and a Hoshaana” was the reply.

“That's not true”, rejoined the Poretz'l; “This is a broom”.

“No, no. That's a Lulav and a Hoshaana”, they replied in unison.

This continued until he came up to the Shames. He sensed somehow that this was the weakest link in the chain and if he were to fail here, he was lost.

He, therefore, now used new tactics. Opening a big purse full of golden roubles and putting it close to the face of the Shames, he addressed him in persuasive tones:

“Say: broom and you will get the whole bag of roubles”.
The poor Shames remembered that at home he had five daughters – beautiful as dolls (may the Evil Eye never touch them!). The eldest, according to Jewish law and custom, should have been married long before. But where should he find the dowry for her? Now she just sits and is steadily “growing into grey locks”.
“O, Lord Almighty, merciful Father”, moans the Shames. “O God, perhaps it is really You who have sent me this? The summer is nearly over and I received nothing from my congregation except a few pennies which I took out from the Yom Kippur plate. Oi, Lord Almighty, winter is drawing nigh and not a piece of firewood is there at home. The children go about naked and barefoot. Oi, God Almighty, help me to pass this terrible trial”.

“Say: broom”, roars the Poretz'l.

“Oi, bursts forth from the Shames, “for Thee, our God, Hosanna!”.

When the Poretz'l saw that his blandishments did not avail, he tried other means. All of a sudden, the Shames felt

[Page IX]

dizzy, fiery coins started to dance before his eyes. It suddenly seemed to him that he was standing in the Shool on Sabbath eve with the broom in his hand, sweeping the floor and that on the floor heaps of golden coins were lying or rolling about.

“Sabbath eve, in Shool, golden coins? Gold Almighty, where am I?”

“What are you sweeping the coins with?” The Poretz'l throws at him. Hosanna, broom, golden coins, Sabbath – all these flit through the Shame's head in bewildering succession. What is happening?”

“Say that you are sweeping with a broom” cries the Poretz'l.

The Shames, almost in a faint, wants to open his mouth and say … Now a voice is heard:
“Say: Hosanna!”
Other voices thunder: “Say: broom”. The First voice: “Hosanna!”

It was as if two opposing armies were bombarding each other with heavy artillery. The Shames was terribly confused, not knowing what to say. In one hand, he held the Lulav, in the other, he seemed to hold the Shool broom; it was really difficult to decide.

It seems that the Minyan has won. This thought flitted through his mind. With his las remaining strength, the Shames cried out: “Hosanna!”

The sound of a heavy plunge was then heard, as if thunder had struck the pool, followed by a weird laughter: Ha, ha, ha which was heard all over the town.

 

The Minyan and the Baal-Shem-Tov

As you entered the Great Beth-Hamidrash, you saw in the south-eastern corner a table. Nobody knew how long the table had been standing there; only the table itself knew.

From time-to-time, the legs of the table had to be kept from collapsing by nailing to them thin boards lengthwise and crosswise. But the surface of the table was never damaged. Generations of Jews, good and true, polished it with a satin cloth until it shone like a “Shmira-Matza”.

At the table were seated only the leading members of the congregation. In its last years of the “Gvir” of the town – Abraham Brande.

A hundred years ago, the Minyan decided to bring the Messiah. They declared a fast which they would break only when the steps of Messiah were heard.

On a winter night when everybody was sleeping cosily in bed and the Minyan were shivering with cold and hunger around the table, a loud ringing of bells was suddenly heard. They exchanged looks without uttering a word; but they knew that the bells rang for them. Perhaps their prayers were answered at last.

Suddenly, the great portals were thrown open and on the threshold there appeared Reb Israel Baal-Shem-Tov who cried out:

“Stop it! The time is not yet!”
“Holy Rabbi, we do not want to break the fast”, was their answer.
The Rabbi could not overcome their stubbornness.
“Cursed be those who wish to calculate when Messiah will come!” With these dreadful words, he slammed the door and disappeared.
The Baal-Shem-Tov was right. The time was not yet and Messiah did not come. The members of the Minyan passed away on the same day and they were buried together alongside one another.

Even today, you can see at the cemetery, ten tombstones in the form of the letter “Het”. Some said that they died because the Baal-Shem-Tov cursed them; others, “Misnagdim” of course, maintained that they had died of pure inanition.

 

Young Agudat Israel Committee

 

In the Trisker Shtiebel

by Eliahu Gertel (Rama Yohanan)

Side by side with our home where we were brought up, and with the Cheder where we studied the Shtiebel, where we read our prayers together with our parents, was a potent factor in the formation of our consciousness. It is there that we made our first contacts with the outside world; where we had our first discussions on all sorts of topics; where the lighter sides of our lives found expression.

From the Shtiebel we emerged, each following his own bent and political beliefs. But the spark of reverence, sanctity and fanaticism we owe to the Shtiebel.

The Trisker Shtiebel stood in the Shool Street near the Husiatiner and Tomashever Shtieblech. It was a large wooden structure with a spacious yard covered with grass.

I remember the Jahrzeit of the Trisker Magid (2 Tammuz). In the middle of the Shtiebel, the young men hung up a board inscribed with the words: “Beth be-Tammuz” and surrounded by a number of lamps. The board was tied to the ceiling and made to revolve all through the night.

During the High Festivals, a special atmosphere prevailed. On the night of Slichot, candles were lit on the tables on the sandy floor. Many of the worshippers were wrapped in Taleissim and “Kittels” with “Attarot”. The whole ritual put the fear of God in us and we beat our breasts with fervour: “Ashamnu, bagadnu” (how we children had sinned I know not to this day!).

I clearly recall our Shlichei-Zibur (the Chazonim) Reb Yerahmiel Werbkowitzer with his ringing voice and Reb Nehemia Berliner, whose intonations tore at our heart-strings. In connection with the latter, I recall that in later years when the elders inveighed against Haskala and “small books”, Berliner it was who argued that it was bad policy to scold the youth and that the elders ought to attract them instead of alienate them.


[Page X]

Trade between the two World Wars

by Yeheskel Ader (Australia)

In normal circumstances, the various economic sectors in any one town or area assume a certain mathematical ratio to the economy as a whole. Not so in Poland. Its trade and commerce, which was preponderantly in Jewish hands, assumed abnormal proportions.

Thus, the trading sector in Hrubieshov suffered from a very pronounced surplus. The result was that a good many traders, who had started out with a nominal initial capital, saw their assets steadily shrink to a vanishing point and were forced to liquidate their business. During the period preceding World War II, Polish chauvinism dealt another serious blow to Jewish trade in Poland.

The Hrubieshov district with its rich corn growing hinterland was one of the big suppliers of agricultural produce. After the Soviet invasion following World War I, trade in agricultural produce expanded very considerably. Jewish merchants put up big storehouses near the railway line and bought up the produce from neighbouring farms. Thus was created the nucleus of the corn-merchants in Hrubieshov.

I recall several of the leading corn merchants: Shmuel Brand and his brother Itchele who dealt mainly with the “Pritzim” (large estate owners) and were purveyors to the army at Hrubieshov; Isaac Kaltan who conducted his business in partnership with the big farmers. He maintained roomy offices in the centre of the town and, with the help of his right-hand man, Yankel Kahan, was able to export corn to Galicia and other places. In time, the corn trade came to be the backbone of our town's economy. New names appeared on the “Who's Who” of the corn market: Yankele Sassow, Shlomo Itche Einhorn. Needless to say, not all Jews could talk properly with a “Poritz”. The merchants enumerated above spoke Polish fluently and succeeded in maintaining close relations with the landed aristocracy, even when the chauvinistic anti-Jewish boycott movement was in full swing.

The operating areas of the lesser merchants were situated at certain well-chosen spots in towns; one might say in strategical positions. This served a double purpose: attracting customers and preventing independent farmers from entering the town and dealing direct with the purchasing public. The merchants knew practically every farmer in the vicinity by name and thus could head him off by purchasing his goods.

Naturally the corn trade brought into being a number of other professions: bookkeepers, clerks, agents, transport offices. I mention this self-evident fact because I recall a number of these persons whom I knew intimately and who have perished in the Holocaust, either in the course of the death-march or at Hrubieshov itself: Itchele Lebros, Israel Zuckerman, Shmuel Ele Eisen, Azriel Hochman, Jude Waksman, Jacob Leib Feifer, Haim and Hirsch Engelsberg, Abraham Hochman, Abraham Zimmerman and a good many others whose names I no longer recall.

It is hardly to be wondered at that with the expansion of the corn trade, bitter rivalries sprang up. These often degenerated into open conflicts, mostly in the corn-exchange. This state of affairs lasted for several years, until they came to realise that the only person who profited from their disputes was the farmer. Several sensible Hrubieshov citizens epitomised the situation thus: “We are only pouring gold into the farmer's bag”.

The Hrubieshov merchants, the bigger and the smaller finally got together and hit on the only logical solution: partnership in the form of a cooperative body. Not all joined immediately but, as the first attempt met with almost immediate success, the movement spread. In later years, Christians too tried their hand but, characteristically enough, Polish farmers remained loyal to the Jewish merchants.

The constitution of the cooperative body did not resolve all problems and there still broke out conflicts, some quite serious, which all but destroyed the “partnership”. In this connection, I consider it a sacred duty to put on record the noble services of Shmuel Ele Eisen who spared no effort in keeping the partners together and preventing the collapse of the structure which had been set up at such cost.

The pulsating centre of the corn and timber trades was the Exchange situated at the centre of the town. There, all the sectors met: suppliers, purchasers, middlemen and workers. At the Exchange, car-loads of corn used to be sold by word of mouth, without any written document being required to confirm the transaction.

Usually the first call of the day was at the office of Itzhak'l Neumark because there one could ascertain, as a result of telephone calls, which had just been made to Lemberg and other towns, what the prices of wheat and other corn products were. More than often, one came to hear of a serious dispute which had broken out between two parties. These disputes were usually referred to an arbiter, a well-known or trustworthy man; the arbitration was called a “Din Tora”. Of these arbiters, the best known were Itzhak Neumark and his son, Yankele Neumark (both now dead).

Side-by-side with corn-merchants, there were millers who used to send the flour to other towns after satisfying the local needs. Of these, the best known and best organised was the Friedlaender mill which was a purely family affair into which no outsiders were admitted. During the last few years before World War II, the milling industry expanded very considerably and the flour was sent to out-

 

Market day in Hrubieshov

[Page XI]

lying districts and thus rendered the millers independent of the corn merchants in Hrubieshov.

* * *

The cooperative tendency among corn merchants caught on in the ranks of those who served the trade: porters and carters. The cooperative body, or the trade-union, whichever we prefer, saw to it that decent prices were paid to porters and carters for loading grain into railway trucks, off-loading into warehouses, etc. This body was well run and enjoyed a long existence, thanks mainly to the organising talent of Motel Thaler.

* * *

A special feature of Hrubieshov trade was the weekly fair which fell on a Tuesday. It did not lack in picturesqueness. Three main roads converged on Hrubieshov and on market-day, these roads were jammed with the carts of the peasants from surrounding villages. Imagine one such cart laden high with produce, and on top of it the matron of the family, the grandmother, seated as on a throne. The cart contained the fat of the land: vegetables, cheese, butter, eggs, poultry, geese, duck, turkey, etc. The matron was not merely an ornament; it was she who actually made the sales. She was also empowered to make the necessary purchases for the family back home – clothing for the girls and household articles. Clothing for the boys were usually bought by the father.

The visits to the fair by the children served a further purpose: to come in contact with townspeople. In the villages, all sorts of legends grew up about “the Jews”: children were even threatened with dire punishment for misdeeds by being handed over to “the Jews”. In time, this stupid custom went out of fashion although it did not disappear altogether.

The produce brought by the peasants was usually sold directly to the consumers, but a good part was sold to middlemen who disposed of it subsequently to the public. Some of these middlemen used to post themselves at strategic points along the path of the carts and enjoy the pick of the load.

This aspect of the fair brings to my mind, very vividly, the memory of Sara Kazak who was always up early on market day and drove a hard bargain with the peasants. Her harsh, mannish voice and her acute business acumen won her the sobriquet of “Kazak” (Cossack). Her husband, Haim Kradnik, invariably accompanied her on these expeditions but he was not to meddle in the bargaining and haggling; he was but to fetch and carry what his wife bought and to bring it home.

In contrast with her overbearing and aggressive tones during the week, Sara Kazak was a model of womanly modesty on Shabbat. On that day her very voice sounded more feminine, more refined, reserved and almost sweet. Thank God for the Shabbat!

As can be readily realised, spring and summer were the slack season, especially the latter, although a number found auxiliary occupations which helped them eke out their meagre budget.


The Merchants' Association

by Joseph Schwartz (Tel-Aviv)

After Poland regained her independence following World War I, a serious economic crisis set in because the country lacked the natural resources which could ensure a healthy economy. A marked inflationary trend gave rise to a flight from the Polish zloty. And who should be blamed for this ruinous state of affair if not the Jews?

The government, anxious to divert the wrath of the people from itself, proceeded to enact a series of measures against “currency speculators”. Heavy fines were levied on Jewish merchants all over the country.

In our town, Hrubieshov, a group of merchants gathered in the Small Beth-Hamidrash to decide on the best means for fighting this evil. They were particularly inspired by the late David Tannenbaum's clarion-call for unity and solidarity. He likened the situation to the classical bundle of sticks. And thus the Jewish Merchants' Association in Hrubieshov was founded.

The first important measure was instituting a united price-list for all commodities. As the exchange rate of Polish currency fluctuated, the price-list was amended accordingly. Thus no charge of “speculation” could be laid at the door of any particular merchant. But soon the gentile merchants complained that the Jews were conducting an unfair competition against them by under-cutting prices. Many of the members too fright and the Association petered out. Its place was taken by a “proletarian” body named Association of Small Jewish Retailers.

The Association, under the able guidance of its founder, Abraham Schein, did good work. When Schein left town, David Tannenbaum was elected in his stead. Tannenbaum established close relations with the central body of Jewish merchants in Warsaw and with the Chamber of Commerce in Lublin. He was especially successful in joining forces with a prominent estate owner and a number of Christian merchants and in bringing about the downfall of a virulent anti-Semitic official who, in the guise of a super patriot, was found guilty of taking bribes from right to left.

But the relief afforded by the removal of this official was not of long duration. Innate anti-Semitism was sparked by the rise of Nazism. Boycott of Jewish goods and services and the cry of: “Down with the Jews!” became the order of the day. Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, a desperate attempt was made to soften the hostile attitude of the authorities. But this representation proved to no avail and the situation steadily deteriorated.

 

Street in commercial centre

[Page XII]

Narrative of Captain Leon Poretzky

During the night before the big and last fight in Hrubieshov, I fled together with my wife, mother and two brothers, Franek and Joszek, to Abrawietz in order to wait for the end of the battle which was about to break out.

My mother and my late two brothers remained in the village whilst I and my wife decided to go to the woods. We left Abrawietz and through devious and terrible roads found our way to Bilgoray Forest where we joined a partisan guerrilla formation. Thus, it was that I started living as a Goy with the name Poretzky.

Once we were surrounded by German bandits and only by a miracle were we able to break through and reach Warsaw. There I joined the underground army of General Bar in order to avenge myself on the bandits.

My comrades-at-arms thought I was mad but they used to whisper to each other that possible I was a “Jid” because there never was a fight in which I was not in the front ranks.

 

We liquidate the Police-School in Tcheppel Street

This happened during the uprising in Warsaw. After occupying Grzybow Street, I was summoned to Headquarters and told that as we had run out of ammunition, there was no way out except to attack the School where the police were stationed and deprive them of their arms. We were four companies strong. It was suggested to us that we draw lots.

The feeling for vengeance was strong in me so I stood up and asked to be entrusted with this mission. The other officers were only too happy to accede to my request in view of the grave perils involved. That meant, literally, courting death. Nevertheless, I was told that the houses on the other side of the street were in our hands so that at least our rear was covered.

We fixed the zero hour at 9 p.m. so that the Germans should not be able to estimate the strength of the attacking force. I went to my battalion and conferred with my colleagues on the details of the operation. We had then 50 rounds with 10 rifles, 6 sten-guns, four pistols and a small supply of hand grenades of our own manufacture. We had no idea how many Germans were stationed at the Police

The famous hero of the General Bor Uprising in Warsaw, Captain Leon Poretzky, who was later awarded the highest possible decoration, was None other than Lotek Perets, the son of the Hrubieshov photographer, Hershl Peretz.

station; we only knew one thing that there was plenty of arms and ammunition there.

At 8 p.m. we left Grzybow ruins and started crawling one by one to the School. My plan was to take the bandits by surprise, blow up the gate and, on the wave of the explosion, penetrate into the building.

As we entered the Tcheppel Street, and being secure in the feeling that our friends were in occupation of the houses facing the Police station, we attacked with great verve. But just at that moment, a withering fire was opened on us by the Germans precisely from those houses so that we had to face an attack from the front and from the rear.

You already hear the moans of the wounded; you cannot retreat because hell has popped all around you. I see that we shall be mowed down to the last man. I took three of our hand grenades and a German one, tied them together the, leaping up from the ground, cried out: “Follow me, everybody!” With that, I threw the bundle of grenades at the gate. A big bang followed and the gate crashed to the ground.

We burst in raising such a racket that the Germans were convinced that they were being attacked by considerable forces. They soon hoisted a white rag to signify surrender. I demanded loudly that they all come down to the courtyard and lay down their arms. The Germans across the road stopped shooting too for fear of hitting their own comrades.

One-by-one the Germans came down and laid down their arms. Only then did they perceive that the attacking force was not more than 30 strong, whilst the Germans who were lined up against the wall with arms raised above their heads numbered 350.

I carried out a selection: Wehrmacht to the right and S.S. to the left. A good many pretended to be of the Wehrmacht but this ruse did not succeed because they denounced each other.

We put the S.S. into a cellar and on the spot shot 140 bandits.

We captured an enormous quantity of arms and ammunition. For this operation, I was awarded the highest decoration and promoted to the rank of Captain.

 

Tombstone of Common Grave
In memory of Hrubieshov Jewry
Hrubieshov Jews fleeing to Kutna: Abraham and Kehat.
Kvassovitzer, Berl and Moshe
Death march of Hrubieshov Jews to Sokal,
Dec. 1939

[Page XIII]

Disaster and Heroism

by Israel Weiss (Haifa)

Shlomo Brand, of our town, was one of the leaders of the fighters for freedom at the Wilno ghetto. Eng and I asked him to admit us into his classes for training young men and women in the art of warfare. This, of course, was done deep in the woods.

The military training was conducted under terrible conditions. We were handicapped by physical weakness induced by prolonged undernourishment in the ghetto. It was raining almost continuously and every so often, we used to wake up in the mornings in puddles of water. Disease was rampant and a good many of our comrades became dispirited. Unluckily, my friend Eng was also among those who lost heart. He tried to persuade me to leave together with him. I naturally refused and he left us never to be seen again.

This was the period of the partisan-guerrilla groups which multiplied and spread. We bore our misfortunes with fortitude, but there is no denying that

 

Memorial tombstone for Hrubieshov Martyrs
in the “Cellar of Disaster”, Jerusalem

 

moments of despondency and despair were not lacking.

When winter approached, we moved to upper ground to get out of the marshy area. Our supply lines were steadily improving although it was not easy to induce the farmers to hand out food and other supplies merely against our receipt, promising payment after victory was achieved.

Securing supplies, however, was often more than a matter of persuading reluctant peasants. One such operation I remember most vividly was a detachment of company strength under the command of Shlomo Brand started out at dusk on a wintry day to forage for supplies at a “rich” village near the town of Ishishok which we reached towards midnight. We posted guards on both sides of the village and I, together with my men, entered the first farmhouse. When the owner saw us he crossed himself and exclaimed: “You have fallen straight into the lion's mouth!” It transpired that considerable German forces were stationed about a mile away.

Despite the imminent danger, however, we worked feverishly that night collecting food and were ready to retrace our steps when dawn broke. Shlomo and 20 of his men stayed behind to protect our rear and we started out on our sleighs. But Shlomo's group was caught in an ambush and only after a fierce fight, which cost us three dead, did we succeed in reaching the shelter of the woods. We also managed to save the major part of the supplies.

This was by no means an isolated incident. Again and again Shlomo carried out daring actions which won the admiration of the Partisan leaders. When the Second Guerrilla Army moved, Shlomo was appointed its commander until the final liberation of Poland.

We, the Jewish fighters, were faced by a problem all of our own. A good many elderly Jews, with women and children, fleeing from the terror of the ghettos, had joined us. Our gentile friends and commanders were in a serious quandary since the presence of these non-fighters was highly undesirable and constituted a real danger. But we managed somehow to keep them.

We succeeded in wresting considerable quantities of arms and ammunitions from villages who collaborated with the Germans and were supplied with arms by them. Punitive measures were undertaken against collaborators; and one village, which was notorious for its hostility towards the Jews, was burned down completely.

At a later stage we received arms by air from the advancing Soviet troops. This enabled us to undertake more daring operations against the Germans. An open action between us and an armoured column on the Grodno-Wilno highway resulted in the Germans' complete rout and considerable booty fell into our hands.

In the spring of 1944, the Russians prepared a gigantic attack in the North and we redoubled our efforts in the rear. We devoted special attention to the mining of trains and railway bridges. This forced the Germans to keep strong forces in the rear and facilitated the Russian advance.

Naturally, hundreds of our Jewish comrades lost their lives in these operations but they avenged in some measure their brethren who had been exterminated. Blessed be their memory!

In July, 1944, we took part in the battle of Wilno. We happened to meet there the well-known writer, Ilya Ehrenburg who told us that he intended to write a book about the partisans.

In February, 1945 I returned to Hrubieshov only to find it occupied b gentiles. Just a few of the old residents remained alive.

When we heard about the Jewish Brigade, a number of us, under the banner of Kibbutz Dror, managed to sail in the immigrant ship “Nissionot”. We evaded the British guards and landed safely in Palestine on the Caesarea cost.

Remember! 29 Sivan is the Remembrance Day of Hrubieshov Martyrs

[Page XIV]

The Liquidation of Hrubieshov Jewry

by Hava Follman (Kibbutz Lohamel Hagetaot)

This was early in 1942 before the terrible April 17 – the bloody day at the Warsaw Ghetto. Reports had reached us of the slaughter in the Vilna region. The situation in the Warsaw Ghetto was as yet relatively quiet.

I left the ghetto with Frumka Plotnitzka. At that time such a daring deed did not involve a grave risk. It was enough to bribe the policeman, remove the armband and jump on the train. We travelled to Hrubieshov because we wanted to meet our comrades and prepare them for the time when it would no longer be possible to contact them.

The Warsaw Hrubieshov line was far from safe. At junctions the train stopped for eight to ten hours and personal documents were examine each time most scrupulously. You had to deliver the forged document and wait with all the patience you could muster, all the while hoping that the gendarme would not perceive your quickened heart beats or the flaw in the home-made stamp.

On approaching Hrubieshov, we became aware of an unusual commotion. Big crowds were gathered on the platform. Unsuspecting, we alighted at the station. But we soon learned that the thousands herded there were Jews: men, women, old, and young children pressed among bundles of household effects amidst cries and shouts of the Germans.

Four stout red-faced Germans, arms bare, galloped on horse-back along the platform, plying their whips ceaselessly, treading on whomever they found in their way, venting their wrath on mothers holding babies in their arms.

A huge German, with the face of a murderer, leads off four youths clad in kapotes. Their faces are frozen. A few metres from the window of the waiting-room, where Frumka and I took refuge, they are ordered to dig. They are urged along with the hip: “Quickly, we have no time!” A few minutes later, four shots are heard and again the whip is used on those who are bidden to fill in the open grave.

Suddenly, a horrible scream of a woman is heard followed by a shot. A woman with a baby in her arms keels over. She wanted to throw the baby over the fence in the hope that it would be spared. But a moment later, she and the baby are trodden to death by the horse's hoofs. A deadly silence descends on the platform. I hold fast to the window-sill: I feel terribly dizzy.

We start walking into the town. The road is crowded with carts bearing the old and sickly people who are unable to walk to their “destination”. They are guarded by Ukrainian police.

We are allowed to look our fill. Only a “trifle” is required of us: a smiling face! Are we not supposed to be true Goyim and is not spring in the air?

We go through well-known lanes and streets. We reach the house of Aaron Frumer where we used to meet frequently. The door to his flat is wide open. The floor is littered with all sorts of household objects but not a living soul in sight.

Where to now?

In the centre of the town, two Germans walk preceded by a group of gentile boys. The German carry axes, the boys are leading them to a house where Jews are hiding.

In order not to draw attention to ourselves, we quicken our pace in the direction of the church. There, Frumka stays behind and I make a short tour. In a shop, I learn that the Jewish youth had been concentrated back of the town. They are intended for the labour camps whilst the “rubbish” will go elsewhere. This remark by my informant is accompanied by a sly smile which I have to return in kind.

Despite my efforts, we could not reach our comrades and, as there was no train to Warsaw until 8 the following morning, we had to spend the night at the hotel. We pass the inspection of the hotel-keeper satisfactorily and are given a room.

Needless to say, we passed a sleepless night. Early in the morning another inspection is thorough. The policemen are not quite convinced and we are ordered to report later in the day at the police station.

We decide that we cannot risk another inspection. We check out and find our way to the station by devious ways. If we succeed in reaching Warsaw, we intend to return and try again to contact our friends.

A “special” train stands on the platform filled to overflowing with Jews. The platform is strewn with bundles, pillows, prams, pots and pans. A number of gentile boys are waiting: as soon as the train steams out, they will appropriate the loot.

We reach Warsaw safely. We submit the first authoritative report on the situation in the provincial towns but nobody believes us.

(From the book: Battles of the Ghettos)

 

Hrubieshov survivors gather bodies of Hrubieshov Martyrs which were desecrated

[Page XV]

I shall never forget those days

by Eliahu Silverblech (New York)

The first effect of the Nazi occupation of our town was the imposition of “contributions” to the occupying powers with the result that our social welfare and charitable institutions came to a standstill. Our activities in this domain were quite extensive: clothing for the poor, medical care for the sick, hostels for the casual visitor and benevolent funds. The benevolent fund is especially worthy of mention because it enabled the small artisan and petty trader to obtain a loan, without interest of course, to start business or to tide over a difficult period. The fund was first raised and replenished from time-to-time by a committee of women – all volunteers – with the help of a committee of Hrubieshov “Landsleit” in America. I had the honour to serve on the Hrubieshov committee. Well do I remember the last meeting of this committee, held at the residence of the President, the late Samuel Zeid, to decide on the liquidation of the Fund.

On the same day, the 20th of Kislev, 1939, big notices were posted up by the authorities ordering all men between the ages of 16 and 60 to assemble near the slaughter house on Saturday at 7 a.m. and whoever failed to report would be shot out of hand.

At the time, when we obeyed the summons, we did not know that we were being led to be slaughtered. The fact that we were told that we would be taken to the Russian frontier and not to a labour camp in Germany, as we supposed, gave rise to the belief that our lives would not end tragically.

Our hopes were soon dispelled. When we were taken to an open field, we were joined by the remnants of Chelm Jews, most of whom could hardly stand on their feet. They told us of the massacre of their brethren and of the decision of the German assassins to murder all the Jews of Chelm and Hrubieshov. Instead of being taken to the railway station, from which we hoped to be taken to Russia, we were led along the road to neighbouring Polish villages. Only then did the realisation of our fate burst on us with full force.

When night fell, we were ordered to lie down in the field which had been freshly mowed, faced down. Early the following morning, we were sorted out into two groups – the first to be taken to Belz and the other to Sokol. I belonged to the second group. After marching for two days, we reached, on the Monday, the village of Urinev where we were packed like sardines into the cellar of the school. On the following day we were allowed to wash at the well which was situated nearby.

A few miles short of Sokol, the Commander of the guard announced that three of us would be shot but that the rest would be allowed to cross the Bug into Sokol which was in Russian territory. These were moments full of suspense. Each one of us thought that it might be his lot to be shot. But we had not long to wait. Two of the Chelmer Jews and one of Hrubieshov were picked out and promptly shot.

Then came another moment of terrible suspense. We were sure that we would be ordered to swim across the broad river and that those would did not drown would be shot in the water. But, for some unknown reason, the commander was true to his promise. When we reached the frontier post at the Bug bridge, we were allowed to cross the bridge. With our hearts in our mouths, we rushed across, weak as we were. The Russian guard, too surprised to do anything, let us pass in the direction of Sokol.

A Committee of Sokol Jews was soon formed to take care of us and to intercede with the Russian authorities on our behalf. We were given food and beds to sleep in and our spirits rose appreciably. But this respite was soon to end. The commander of the Russian military guard crossed the Bug to confer with his German opposite. As a result, he came back and told us that we had to go back the way we came. Our cries and protests were in vain and when we lay down and offered to b shot on the spot rather than re-cross the bridge, the Russian soldiers picked us up bodily and carried us across the bridge.

I was among those who walked back. By devious ways, I found my way back to my house in Hrubieshov. I was soon visited by the wives of the group that had originally be sent out from Hrubieshov and I had to recount the sorry tale of our tragic march. Needless to add, most of these women were later to be massacred by the same band of murderers.


Who is “Gitele” of Hrubieshov?

by Chaia Dorembus

“The best thing is to disguise yourself as a Jew”, Pranie once said when he got cross with the Jews or when he expressed satisfaction at their annihilation and told funny stories at their expense.

Zoshke, on his part, told the story of a young blonde who used to sell old clothing on the Prag market, advertising her wares in a loud voice thus: “Buy Jewish remnants, buy – perchance it will be somebody's luck to find a treasure sewn in somewhere!”

Probably should would have got away with these nasty remarks had it not been for another woman hawker who recognised her and called out to her in a loud voice: “Gitele, did you have to come all the way from Hrubieshov in order to cheat our Warsaw brethren?”

And turning to the assembled crowd, she cried: “Brothers, she is a Jewess!”

She was instantly surrounded by “the catchers”, and despite her vociferous protestations, crossing herself devoutly, swearing by Jesus that she was a pure Pole, nobody believed her and she was led away to the Gestapo.

“How can you be sure that she was a Jewess?” I asked Zoshke.

“You could tell by the fact that she left her wares on the ground and was no longer concerned as to what would happen to them. One of ours would have picked them up and stuck to them so that nobody else took them. The Jewess, on the other hand, thought at that moment only how she could save her skin.


[Page XVI]

….. And I remained Alive…

by Yankel Tschechowitz (New York)

On June 15, a new order was issued. All survivors of Hrubieshov Jews were to be concentrated in a ghetto in the streets of Metalove, Novirinek and the alleys leading to the cemetery.

Thus opened a new chapter of tortures. Until then, only the unfit had been liquidated. Now came the turn of the able-bodied. The appetite of the monster had not as yet been appeased.

We see the arch-murderer, the Commander, every day. Every now and then he stops somebody and asks: “why are you here and not at work?” As there was no satisfactory reply to this question, as often as not the man questioned was taken to a nearby alley and shot down.

This situation lasted for some time – day in and day out. At night we sat in the dark and if anybody lighted a cigarette and the guards saw him, he was dragged out and shot without further ado.

On October 21,1942, groups of Jews were brought in from surrounding villages and town-lets and crowded into our ghetto. Now we realised that a new catastrophe was brewing.

I went to the Judenrat to find out “the lay of the land”. There, I was informed by the son of Leibush Morgenstern that it had been decided by the Germans to make Hrubieshov Judenrein.

Panic broke out: how to flee? We consult a few of the community leaders; we pool our meagre resources and try to bribe peasants in the surrounding villages to give us shelter in their cellars. Naturally, we had to oil the palm of the policeman who was stationed at the exit from the Ghetto.

The plan was to leave the ghetto at dawn. Needless to say, we did not sleep a wink that night. But the last stars had not disappeared when we heard a terrible tumult. Crowds of Jews were being driven by Latvian guards to an unknown destination. The Latvians surpassed the Germans in their cruelty. Whosoever as much as lagged behind a single step was cut down mercilessly.

A case of martyrdom on that day is deeply engraved in my memory. When the cries in the street are at their height, a young man, the son of Shloimele Gewertz, stands up and proclaims that he is going out to join his brethren. The pleas and cries of his father and mother as well as of all the others that empty martyrdom is purposeless and that every Jew must hide in the hope of saving himself, fall on deaf ears. He rushes out and is swallowed up by the mob never to be seen again.

The tumult in the street gradually died down and we were left trembling in our hideout. The burning question is: how long will the policeman be able to keep us concealed? Night approaches.

Suddenly, the policeman bursts in on us. In a trembling voice he tells us that a notice has been posted up that whoever is found having given shelter to Jews will be burnt in the incinerator, together with all his family. He begs us, with tears in his eyes, to have mercy on his family. “You are condemned in my case”, he pleads: “why then should I and my family be victimised?” He pushes back the money that he had received from us.

We listen heartbroken to his plea and recognise the force of his argument: why indeed should he and his family suffer for his kindness?

It devolves upon me to take a decision. I gather around me my wife Zlate and my two children, and go out. The others follow. We go to the house of my brother-in-law, Judel and there we bid each other goodbye. Shloimele Gewertz puts on his Talith. Judel and the others follow suit. They ask me what I intend doing. My answer is that I would not wait until we are massacred. I am going away and whoever wishes to follow me would be welcome.

Thus we departed and the sight of these men enveloped in their Taleisim, standing there awaiting their end, will forever remain a burning memory.


How I Saved Myself

by Naphtali Meil (New York)

Of all my large family, parents, brothers, sisters and their wives, husbands and children, I am the only survivor! After hiding in a bunker for some time, I succeeded in making good my escape on 15 Heshvan, 1942. All the other occupants of the bunk were shot.

I wandered about for some time, subsisting on bread and water. Having heard that on Yatkowe Street, a number of men lived who had been spared because they were skilled artisans, I tried to join them but they refused to admit me as one of the group for fear of endangering all of them. They promised me, however, to keep in touch with me and would advise me when an opportunity offered to escape.

After some time, I managed to be admitted into a workshop where metal work was done for the Germans. As there was a scarcity of skilled workers, I was taken on and remained there for a whole year until the summer of 1943.

From time to time, the Germans used to take out a number of men, women and children, lead them to the cemetery and shoot them. Thus perished my wife and my child.

Several members of the group kept hidden arms to be used in case of extreme emergency. Somehow, the Germans got wind of this. The arms were naturally confiscated and the whole group was punished by being forced to crawl on knees and elbows for quite a distance, and this, on top of their heavy quota of daily tasks. But there were not the only sadistic punishments which the Nazi camp commandants (we were moved from place-to-place at frequent intervals) could think up. In one camp, we were made to work stark naked; numbers were branded into our foreheads and backs!

One morning we perceived that there were no Germans in the camp. We did not run away for the simple reason that we were too ill and weak to move. Thus, we waited for two days until May 8, 1945, when, to our unspeakable joy, we were delivered by the American troops.


[Page XVII]

The Last Days

by Jacob Rosenblatt, Abraham and Leib Lehrer

On the ninth of Heshvan 1942, the third transportation of the Jews of Hrubieshov took place. All Jews were assembled, including the Judenrat and the Jewish police. Through various means, David, Abraham and Leibish Lehrer managed to persuade the officer Kantac to let them go free.

As for myself, I was hiding at the house of Michal the shoemaker, a drunkard of a Goy; but despite the fact that he was well paid for his services, I came to the conclusion that this was not a solution, especially as Michal decided all of a sudden to chase me out. I, therefore, left his house and proceeded to the police post. On the way, I encountered a policeman whom I accosted and asked him to report to the Gestapo that I gave myself up voluntarily and that I was not ferreted out whilst in hiding.

The Gestapo sent me to a labour camp. A little later, several other friends were freed and sent to the same camp: Joshua Kanner, Zalman Gelehrenter and Jacob Lehrer. Every morning we were led to the labour camp under escort and in the evening, we were taken to the town gaol where we were crowded together with convicted criminals.

It was painful to watch those of our brethren who had been found in hiding being brought to the gaol. They were taken to the cemetery and were shot down. They included close friends whose memory I shall for ever cherish.

At that period, the police caught Yankel Brand and Rabinowitz together with their families, and brought them to the Gestapo. When the arch-murdered, Ewner, who was responsible for shooting thousands of Jews, saw them, he asked: “How come you are here, after I had locked you in the truck which left for Belsetz?” They told him that they had managed to get the guard to let them out on the plea that they had left behind money and diamonds, which they were willing to share with the authorities. The money and diamonds were duly expropriated and the Brand, Rabinowitz and Arenstein families were left in peace for the time being.

One of the most tragic phases of this period was the creation of groups of collaborators with the Gestapo. It is painful to dwell on this subject. It would be enough to mention that following Ewner's group, known as Group 1, his successor, Wagner formed Group 2 and his successor Alex created Group 3. None of these groups survived. One by one they were taken to the cemetery and shot down to the last man.

We knew only too well that the turn of all those who worked in the Labour camp would come pretty soon. In fact, a large pit was dug in the cemetery for that very purpose. But, for some mysterious reason, when the fateful day in September 1943 arrived, we were sent to Bodzin near Lublin, and thus survived the Holocaust.

 

Tragic data on Hrubieshov Martyrdom

Dec. 1, 1939. Death march of H. Jews to the Bug
June 1, 1942. Some 3400 H. Jews evacuated and annihilated at Sobibor
June 7-9, 1942. Some 2000 H. Jews evacuated and annihilated
Oct. 28, 1942. Some 2000 H. Jews evacuated and annihilated at Sobibor
Sept. 1943. Last 160 H. Jews liquidated by Germans.

Labour conscription order of Josef Frajnd,
Issued by Nazi authorities in Hrubieshov
 

 

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