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[Page 61]

The Beginning of
Hashomer Hatzair in Our Town

Bracha Ben Yehonatan

Translated by Selwyn Rose

It was summer 1926. I was returning home from studies for the recess and was wondering how to spend the time interestingly. During the train ride from Kovel when the idea came to me to start a cell in town (by the way, I was already a member of a cell in Kovel). The following morning I got to work. I went to see the teachers at the Tarbut school (Yona Tcherbate and Shalom Rosenberg) and they permitted me to address the classes, to explain to the pupils the direction that the Hashomer Hatzair movement was taking. Indeed the two classes 6 and 7 became the first nucleus of Hashomer Hatzair in Kamin. In time we also absorbed children from the Talmud Torah and from the Cheder – and went further afield. In the meantime we rented a room that served us as a club-house, where we met, had discussions, played and danced.

Chance had it that our club happened to be exactly opposite the synagogue of the disciples of the Trisker Rabbi – window facing window. We, and the children, gathered every evening and danced, sang and generally had fun - and the religious ones facing us prayed, danced and sang. More than once, our voices rang out with “For G-D Will Build the Galilee” or “We are making Aliyah” to the Hassidic tune of “Ya ba bam babam ba”… sometimes it would sound like some kind of duet - we singing “Our Father Our King” to our tune and they singing the same thing in their style.

But not always was there peace between us and the orthodox group. On more than one occasion we had showers of abuse hurled at our heads and especially on Sabbath Eve when we lit the lamps in the club. But who cared about insults and shouts? We out-shouted them when we broke into song loudly and lustily.

During the summer we held our activities and events in the copse behind the [Zaklashtur] church.

I remember once, on a hot summer's morning, we were doing some keep-fit exercises and high- and long-jumps, wearing short trousers. Suddenly the Rabbi Perlin taking his customary morning walk. The following morning he met my father in the Beit Hamidrash and complained about me: “Tell me, my friend,” he asked – “A daughter of Israel wears shorts, skipping about – Heaven forbid, with shkotzim on a rope? Isn't she contravening our Holy Torah which commands us concerning the dress of the sexes…?”

My father, who was forward thinking, said to me the same evening in a gentle voice: “My child, if your desire is to skip with a rope, especially in shorts, please do it in the attic or some hidden corner. It's not very nice to incite people – its apostasy just for the spite of it…”

We continued, of course, with our training. Eventually, the townspeople got used to our “craziness” and with time didn't even see it as a sin. Shaking with emotion, I wonder more than once: what has survived from all of life's rich experiences? A town absolutely throbbing with life was our town. Where have our pioneering, wonderful youth movements disappeared to? And where are those Jews from the town who so assiduously guarded the religion and the traditions?

The heart is sad for all those who didn't gain the right. May their memories be for ever preserved in our hearts.

These are the names of that first cell of Hashomer Hatzair who perished:

Friedman Meier – died of a malignant disease.
Zchertock Yitzhak, son of Betzalel - died in the Red Army.
Verba Itzchak.
Lehrman Zalman.
Drug Avraham – died before the war.
Kimel (Leizeruk) Lea
Perlin Cyril.
Zafran Esther.
Plus Frida.

It is worth mentioning that this cell from Hashomer Hatzair was the only one in Poland, authorized by the government, and that only because of Mr. Baruch Melamed, living with us today in Israel.

[Hashomer Hatzair = The Young Guardsman]

[Page 63]

The Freiheit Organization

Ze'ev Vatun

Translated by Selwyn Rose

The ambition of parents in our town, was to obtain a minimal education for their children in the Talmud Torah, or with the Rabbi, or in the Polish elementary school. That was, after all, the limit of their financial capabilities. After that, it was expected of the children to help the fathers in the various trades – cobbling, tailoring, blacksmith shop, joinery, or whatever. When the parents aged, the children worried about sustaining them.

The Freiheit organization, sought to influence the youth to aspire to better chances for the future and that they should emigrate to Eretz Israel with their parents.

It was not easy to influence the youngsters, who were lacking the courage to stray from the accepted path: notwithstanding their parents, who were concerned with their work from morning to evening and most of them were unable to read and knew nothing of events in the Jewish world.

The Freiheit organization rented an apartment that acted as a center for its activities. It also occasionally rented a hall, in which the Dramatic Society of the Poalei- Tzion put on presentations. In the summer, Freiheit would send the children to various villages to rest and also to be closer to the land and the idea of work, fulfillment and cooperation.

Very often, Freiheit would be unable to secure the rental and the landlord, Feivel Segal, would place his bed in the entrance and prevent entry. Often the parents would come and abuse the leaders that they were “destroying” their children.

But Freiheit didn't really destroy the children, it taught many of them to read and write, and helped others in preparing their lessons. In fact, the rented apartment of Freiheit was for most of the children, the only restful, illuminated place they knew. As time went by, the children learned to express themselves both in writing and vocally. They told of the hard life at home on the life in the villages during the summer recess and their hopes and ambitions for the future.

They began to think of emigration to Eretz Israel and life as a worker on a kibbutz or moshav.

Many fulfilled their wish. They influenced their parents and together with them emigrated to Eretz Israel. Those who remained knew how to preserve the flag of Poalei-Tzion and they fought in the underground and took vengeance on their enemies.

[Page 65]

Founding the School
and Its Influence on Our Town

by D. Kuten (Engineer)

Translated by Selwyn Rose

The town had not yet recovered from the Balachovich rioters which came immediately after the First World War; the signs of charring from the fires that burnt most of the houses were still conspicuous, and among them, the building that had been used as a school-house by the Ginsburg brothers. One of them had been a victim in the riots. And already a room in theShtibal of the TriskerRabbi's disciples, the only one of three synagogues surviving the riots, was organized for a school-room. It was here that Rabbi Kopchik taught Torah to some tens of youngsters between the ages of 8-14.

He was most assiduous and taught Torah with grace and elegance. With the start of the second semester of his class in the spring of 1921, and during a lesson with the older children, Yitzchak Berenholtz came into the class accompanied by a young man wearing a Russian-style student's sweater with glittering buttons and a cap on his head with a shiny peak. It was Aharon Taratkowski. From the first moment of the stranger's appearance, his special garments made a strong impression on the Cheder pupils who were diligently studying their Mishna.

After the stranger had introduced himself to the Rabbi, and asked his pardon for the interruption, he turned directly to each pupil and asked in Hebrew if he would prefer to study in a modern school. Unanimously and happily we answered his question. And who among those who remained alive, the first students of the school, will forget the big preparations in the first week of founding the school?

Benches and tables were gathered from everywhere. And with what joy we transferred the two blackboards for the two first classrooms that were organized with the founding of the school! It was a real “parade”, from the carpentry-shop of Chaim-Asher to the home of Yitzchak Berenholtz. There the first classrooms were located.

And the ultimate joy and wonderment we achieved when we received the first globe of the world and the different maps from theTarbut center.

And how can we forget the parents: they donated cash and gave loans in addition to the salaries of the teachers, paid in advance, as a basis for the school?

From the moment of its foundation the school functioned as a coeducational institution, and the different age-groups in the classes was substantial.

But the marvelous combination between the teachers, the first educators who came to our town from afar in order to provide education and knowledge to “thirsty” youngsters was the main cause for the founding of the school and its development.

For a short while, Aharon Tratkowski managed the school almost on his own. Studies were carried on throughout the day.

After he was joined by Eliezer Shapira, Naphtali Puritzker and especially our teacher, the well-liked Baruch Melamed, the school became established and proved an example for the entire area.

The level of education was among the highest in the area and more than once the school received letters of commendation from the Tarbut center after a visit by controllers or an educational inspector.

The school in our town was a central factor in our cultural and social life, which developed and acted as a base for extensive Zionist activity.

Our teacher, Baruch Melamed, living with us today in Israel, was our uncrowned delegate who turned our school into a training ground for youth in town preparing to emigrate to Eretz Israel, and indeed he also realized the vision and went on to pout it into practice.

In great sorrow we parted from Aharon Taratkowski, who was well-known as an attorney and a fighter for the rights of Jews, before the World War Two. He was active after the war as well acting for the sake of Zionism and the State. The management of the school which was in the hands of our teacher, Baruch Melamed, continued with its excellence through different stages and different periods.

In the towns, moshavim and kibbutzim are found many, whose emigration was the fruit of the education of the school and its influence, for, indeed, the institution, whose base was the synagogue of the Trisker Rabbi, acted as a nucleus for the development of the Zionist youth groups, and their graduates completed their education in the Tarbut Gymnasium in near-by Kovel, until the hand of the enemy extirpated everything.

[Page 69]

The Dayanim Controversy

Abish Klurman

Translated by Selwyn Rose

It was about 50 years ago. There were then about 2,500 souls in the village (250 families). About 70% of them earned their living as small businessmen (among the gentiles in the area) and the rest were artisans such as: cobblers, tailors, builders, smiths and furriers who served all the surrounding villages. Kamin then was included in the county of Kovel in Vohlyn. The village spread around a marketplace and there were two rows of tiny shops. Because of the naturally water-logged ground, the approach to the shops and the houses was by bridges and sidewalks built of wood. There were also one or two larger stores that were engaged in commerce with estate owners in the area.

At that time there was a “Dayan” (a community spiritual leader) in the village by the name of R' Moshe Goldschmidt, the son-in-law of a famous Jew from Kobrin, Rabbi Pinil'eh Shick He was educated in secular learning as well and knew Russian, which was the official language, well. After some time, the Rabbi from Trisk visited and considered that the town could use an additional “Dayan” and sustain him as well. His disciples agreed with him and, of course, it was clear he already had a candidate for that post. After a few weeks a staunch Jew arrived in town, named Pesach-Aharon Weissman, who had many talents: he loved mankind, and what is known as visiting the sick in many, he dared, on his own initiative, and on his own responsibility to prescribe medicines. He was also a good prayer-leader, the possessor of a sweet voice. In spite of all this a controversy broke out in town and the residents were divided into two camps – who was in favor of the existing Dayan and who for the newcomer.

The argument continued for a couple of years until a vacancy became available in Kovel and the original Dayan moved there to officiate. His place was taken by another rabbi called Ginzburg.

Apart from the Dayanim in town, there were also two ritual slaughterers, R' David the Slaughterer and R' Moshe Plot and also R' Motl the Slaughterer – David's son, all of whom worried about the needs of the Jews in the area. Peace dwelt among the slaughterers and they got on well together, possibly because of the family ties between them. There was also a Cantor by the name of R' Yossel who knew voice and singing excellently, who, in order to make a living, found it necessary to trade somewhat with the Gentiles. Although it was agreed to pay him for cantorial services, the money in the cash-box always seemed to be lacking for some reason and payment was deferred from year to year. Possibly they failed to pay him deliberately, because there was certainly no lack of excellent, well-known candidates, so he would resign and move to another place.

All the education was built on a few “melameds” - one schooled in the Gemara R' Itzchak Wolf and one who was known to be well-versed in the Pentateuch and was nicknamed “the Vilna Melamed”, the beginners were taught by R' Yaakov-Moshe and R' Moshe-Poticha and last of all a Jew by the name of “Yehoshua the Melamed”. He is seared into my memory as on of the legendary “36-Righteous” who disseminated knowledge purely for the love of Heaven. There was also then in town R' Pesach Hirsh, the melamed who was considered an advanced teacher in writing theory.

For the sake of formality and good order in the community, there was also a government-appointed Rabbi, by the name of Shlugleit, whose seat was located in Kovel. In the whole of the town there were not more than ten Jews considered to be comfortable or well-off. The rest were in straitened circumstances and struggled to support their families which were burdened with many children.

Clearly, there were also more “powerful” Jews considered to have the right to some extra preferential rights – both because of their property and because of their importance. There were also “intermediaries” who maintained contact with the authorities in town. For many years the post had been filled by “Zelig Kimmel the Governor” and when the argument between the rabbis broke out, the job was taken from him and given to Baruch Verba, who was one of the new Dayan's supporters (Weissman).

Another episode from those days: the sanitary conditions were not all they might have been and when there was an outbreak of Cholera, tens of Jews died because of the dearth of doctors and the lack of medicines. I remember that they tried to stop the plague by performing a wedding in the cemetery between two of the poorer members of the community (the daughter of Naftali Patikas, Hania, who was very pretty, and Meir “the hunchback”). Obviously this didn't work. Although the plague was stopped thanks to the work and dedication of Dr. Lichatschevsky, a Righteous Gentile, unlike his only son who became an enemy of the Jews during the Holocaust. When speaking of Lichatschevsky, it is worth mentioning that when he died, close to the end of the Second World War, a large funeral ceremony was arranged by the Jewish community and the entire Jewish population of the town walked after his cortège An interment prayer (the first of its kind in the history of the town), was held for him near the Trisk synagogue.

Among the people considered at that time as influential were: Shalom Karsh (Tshortsher), Itzik Friedman, the Eisenberg sons (Itzchak and Gershon), Hershel Eli Isaacs, Yehoshua Kremner, while the popular people were: Shlomo Sokol, Hirsh-Bar Katan, Eli Katan, et al.

In the town was the big study house, the Trisker Shtibl, and the Stepaner Shtibl and after the First World War the Kobriner Shtibl was added. The disciples of the new Dayan prayed at the Trisker Shtibl and the followers of the old Dayan at the Stepaner Shtibl and prayer hall.

That style of life continued until the outbreak of First World War when all the young men were mobilized for the army and me among them.

[Page 71]

The War of Yesterday and Tomorrow

by Baruch Stoller

Translated by Selwyn Rose

My town Kamin! Not because of nostalgia do I mention your name or because of a yearning to see you again. For me, you don't exist any more and your value in my eyes has been lost forever. I mention you this time because of my great respect for the blood that has soaked into your soul, the tragic past that occurred on your soil and to remember the martyrs. There was a time when you were mother to your children and to all who found his corner in your soul – young and old, educated and toiler. Many they were who found their redemption in the synagogues and the amcha [common man] would congregate in the great House of Study in which all the decisions concerning arrangements in the town would be made, or relate and debate on the disturbances of the day and the latest news. While the Chasidic men would regularly congregate in at the feet of their Rabbis – to whom would also come the womenfolk with their different requests. Even the “moderns” arranged a quorum for themselves to pray each Shabbat and a place to hold debates in the school.

A major change in the life of the town occurred with the introduction of the different youth movements that were not in keeping with the ideals of their parents who were adamant in their stand against non-religious books, uncovered heads and meetings in which boys and girls kept mixed company. There were some parents who fought a holy war against their rebellious children who refused to walk in the traditional ways of their forefathers. The struggle intensified when their turn came to fulfill their plans to leave and join kibbutzim.

Indeed, not all of the parents were extreme zealots to that extent but many failed to understand and to come to terms with the new generation and all its modernizations……

Part of our youth adhered to the slogans of exile [the Diaspora] and class theory [Communism] and would ridicule the national Zionist youth – foretelling that their end would be dispersion to yet new exiles.

In the last accounting: in spite of the struggle between the different blocks, between “yesterday” and “tomorrow”, it is a great honor for us to recall and be reminded of the deeds and lives that were woven in our town during that period. And the intellectual strengths and talents which were born of them.

[Page 73]

My Town Glusha

by Berl Greenberg

Translated by Selwyn Rose

For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt;
I am mournful; astonishment hath taken hold on me.
Jeremiah 8:21M
Glusha Lishe– that is how our town was nicknamed and how it was known to the whole area. It was a tiny village numbering about 40 Jewish houses in all. It was spacious and well-ordered. A large empty, town square in the center, used as an area for fairs and markets and round it the large houses, built with red bricks and roofed with tiles. The few thatched houses that existed didn't jar on the general beauty of the picture.

My home town; the home of my childhood and my dreams, a tortured childhood full of threat, a childhood that at the age of seven or eight saw murder, insults and suffering, a childhood that knew not games and happiness. How shall I not remember you, my village?

From the distance of time her charm appears, full of elegance, bubbling with life. Here I see, through the eyes of my soul, my old house made of cracked wooden logs. Here I slept; here my brothers slept; there my father died; in another corner my mother. In that room we danced, in this one we gathered together and planned all sorts of activities; here is the garden at the back of the house – the cherry garden. Here, with my own hands and the help of my brothers, we planted the trees, looked after them and they brought forth fruit. Here is the cow-shed and the cow – Zocha. She is coming in from pasture, opens the latch on the gate to the farmyard with her horns and marches in with powerful steps – and my big brother milks her. Behind our cow-shed and the rest of the Jewish cow-sheds, stretch the fields of Adamski that the Jews farmed as tenant-farmers – the fields of the magnate Mikhailovski and the Baron Lubinski. Ah!...is it all a dream, was it all real, once upon a time? My town Glusha.

I close my eyes and wander through the days of my childhood. The Cheder for Melamed R' Shmuel Yitzhak from Zlochova – here he is, walking doubled over, his face almost touching the ground, because he was almost blind in both eyes, fondling the prayer-book and teaching the boy to read. The boy is confused, because the finger of the rabbi searches blindly between the lines jumping from row to row in a zigzag…..and when he eats, all his pupils rush to freedom in the playground. And he shouts after them “Hey! Shkotzim where are you?”

Youth. I visit a more modern school. The teacher, Rabinowitz from Kobrin. Two organized classes. Twice a week, Hebrew songs. Topics for discussion: Zion, work and guard-duty. The Hebrew tongue is heard in the village and young hearts beat emotionally.

After a while an even better-organized school opened up run by the teacher from Kovel, Michael Graiber. As his deputy in the lower classes was his brother, Shmuel. There were only five pupils in the “higher” class: two sisters Bracha and Sheindl Goldsholl, Simcha Sher, Eliyahu Pasternak and myself. The studies were on the purity of Hebrew. The school introduced a new spirit into the village, every festival celebrated with performances by the children. The synagogue treasurer even agrees to give the big Women's Hall located in the Study-House for the performances……….

Sabbath. The afternoon hours. Summer and sun. The youth wander around in groups, in twos, down the road to the Baron's Garden and the Palace. There is no way of describing the life of our youths in the village without that garden. It was an inseparable part of life. Years ago, when the Baron still lived there, the gates of the estate were locked and Jews were not allowed to pass. But after some years, the Baron's fortunes changed and he spent most of his time in Warsaw or Vilna. His managers and servants who remained on the estate didn't worry too much about the restriction and Jews were allowed to ramble there freely. The Palace awakened feelings of respect from outside. However, inside it had been neglected and destroyed. The stairs were almost in a state of collapse. When I used to climb them, and look in the darkened rooms, or in the cellars, it all somehow awoke in me associations with torture and the inquisition…... on the other hand the garden was always glowing with its elegance. There were China-berry trees whose flowers spread their perfume afar. Perpetual shade was everywhere on its myriad paths and hidden corners. The garden was always an eternal first meeting place for lovers, for parting tears and sorrows, for songs and poems, for arguments and disagreements, and for those who just wanted to be alone and read. The experiences I have from there have not faded from my heart to this very day.

May 3rd. Polish National Day. Jewish children also took part in the parades. Representatives of the authorities would come to the synagogue in which the Jews were gathered. The Cantor, Berl Tanis trills his voice and chants “May He who blesseth….” for the Republic and its President. The parade arrives at the church. A Polish dignitary makes a speech praising to the heavens the achievements of the State, the wonder of the Polish Constitution that gave rights “even” to the Jews……….The Jewish youth leave the place with furious eyes – the heart pinches and pinches.

Lag B'Omer. The forests are far away. The young people go out for a day's excursion. They arrange themselves in rows, number off and start marching: left, right; left, right……dreaming of an army, rifles, Land of Israel and the heart trembles, trembles………………

O, My village, were you really there – or did I simply dream a dream?

Life bubbled there, like in a big city. Most of her Jews were poor, owners of tiny shops or small businesses, barely making a living and only the minority becoming rich and established, but everyone displayed an interest in the general questions of the day and there was no lack of causes for disagreements. If a fence is required for the cemetery and the donations aren't enough - then the Torah reading on Shabbat is delayed until the matter is taken care of. The old bath-house has been burned down and a new one is being built, and again arguments. An event ends in blows being exchanged – then the Polish police inspector is called in…..he brings the opponents to some kind of compromise, ridiculing them. Somebody writes a report. Even on the holiest of Holy Days, when everyone thinks they are fit to pass before the Holy Ark, for morning services or additional services, arguments break out……..

But the argument grew on the topic of ritual slaughter, which actually caused a split in family members and damaged the life of the community.

In the House of Study (the only public meeting place in the village), there were disturbances and arguments even during the prayers. In the end they divided themselves into two separate quorums which were, in effect, two tiny splinter-groups, in the local parlance of the time – two “sides.” One – the majority – supporting the veteran slaughterer, while the second, the minority, the younger, my brother, Shmuel Z”L.

It is worth pointing out that the rights of both sides were equal, since they were both authorized by the old slaughterer and inspector, R' Abba Z”L.

The crisis-point of the argument was reached when the village Rabbi declared a prohibition on meat slaughtered by the minority's slaughterer, the echoes of which reached afar. Needless to say, the influence of the minority on the young generation was negative and dragged them willy-nilly into the perpetual arguments – and certainly into rage and contempt.

Nevertheless, apart from the controversies above, there were many instances of unity, joy, mutual assistance and aid to the needy both openly and in secret. I recall Simchat Torah, a time when Jews drink just a little too much and dance in the House of Study, climb on the tables and benches, exchange hats with each other and then go calling from house to house, unpack the pie and cholnt and dance around while singing and eating.

And the weddings in the village – Aaaaah, how I loved them! A wedding in the village – poor as well as rich – one invites Itzheleh the klezmer, the well-known violinist from Kovel. He brings with him a trumpeter, clarinetist and drummer – and a stylish wedding is guaranteed! Before the ceremony comes the entertainer – the “clown” and he would entertain the bride with rhymes both sad and amusing, and even though they had been heard a thousand times before all the women would burst into emotional tears. Then Itzheleh would lead the bride to the canopy erected in front of the Study House. Musicians and violinists I had heard many times in my life but the sounds of Itzheleh from Kowel accompany me to this day……..

Festivities of this genre united Jews of the village, especially in times of trouble and disturbances that broke out occasionally.

Two dates in particular are deeply etched into the lives of the Jews of our village.

The year 1914. The First World War breaks out and the Russian armies, at their head the Cossacks, break through at Pinsk, Lubieszów, passing Glusha in a south west direction, to face the German army. Week after week they passed through our village. Infantry camps, wagons pulled by horses and cavalry units. When the Cossacks began robbing, the Jews escaped to the forests, leaving their homes and property to the tender mercy of the soldiers and local farmers. When they returned they found their homes emptied of every single item. But at least they were alive. But the instability, the uncertainty between life and death, the dependence on the grace of the Gentiles, the escape to the cellar, the attic or the forest in order to remain alive – accompanied the Jews of the village like a dangling Sword of Damocles. As it is written ME'NE ME'NE TE'KEL U-PHARSIN (Daniel 5:25)

At that time – because of the closeness to the front – hundreds of Jewish families from Pinsk were deported. With their bundles and possessions they wandered the byways of Polesia. About ten of these families arrived in our village. The Jews welcomed them with open arms. In our house we received a family burdened with many children.

Pinsk was known in Poland as a city of books and culture. And indeed a different spirit existed in our village after the arrival of the Pinsk evacuees. They knew to speak Hebrew and their Yiddish was graphic. They brought with them thousands of books in both languages and sold them in order to exist. My older brother bought hundreds of valuable books which later came to be of great use. They founded a youth club for leisure and meetings, informed us about the Defense cells in White Russian cities and instilled in the youth a spirit of preparedness and rebellion. Most importantly they brought to the village Zionist news. From that time, you could hear songs of work and Zionism on the lips of everyone. From my childhood I remember the Yiddish song that they sang - “Learn you children, the sweet cookies of the alphabet……..”

The Year 1920. The Bolshevik invasion of Poland. The retreat. The Polish army chases the Bolsheviks and at the head of their battalions – the White Russians under the command of Batiushka (“Father”) Balachovich. With his rabble of villains, murderers and released criminals, he burst into Jewish villages in Polesia and created mayhem and devastation among the Jewish “Bolsheviks”. From Kamien Koszyrski he arrived at our village. When he left, he left behind him 120 murdered Jews. Obviously the Jews ran for their lives leaving behind them their abandoned homes and everything they possessed. On the fateful Thursday, between the New Year and the Day of Atonement, the murderers broke into the Town Hall, collected Jews together in the home of Michael Goldsholl and demanded a large sum of money as ransom for the captives. When they were unable to supply the money – they took 12 of the men and killed them by shooting or bayoneting them to death behind the village of Yanuvka. Among these 12 was my older brother, Meir. He was 25 years old. That same day, they managed to murder also the newly-wed, young scholar Yisrael Goldsholl and the good-natured, talented Moshe Pasternak most cruelly. A full week the Balachovich gang went wild in the village and the terror reached its zenith on the Day of Atonement which fell that week. That same day, the murderers took the two respected elderly slaughterers, R' Abba Plot and R' David Kaminski, while they were standing at prayers, wrapped in their prayer shawls mourning their son and son-in-law, a great Torah scholar, R' Yitzhak Z”L, chopped off their fingers and slaughtered them with extreme cruelty. The two martyrs died in great agony and were buried by gentiles in a casually dug hole behind the cow-shed……..

I was just a young boy then but until this day I have not freed myself from the nightmare that was, neither will I succeed in doing so until my dying day. Even today I suffer from nightmares from that period and threatening visions pass before my eyes.

Here are the names of the martyrs of those awful riots:

    1. R' David Kaminski, slaughterer and inspector

    2. R' Avraham Abba Plot, slaughterer and inspector

    3. R' Yitzhak Plot, his son

    4. R' Ya'akov Ber Kotler

    5. Rivka Kotler, his wife

    6. Alter Kotler, their son

    7. R' Meir Hirsch Goldsholl

    8. R' Yisrael Goldsholl, his son

    9. R' Mordechai Leib Sher

    10. R' Mordechai Pasternak.

    11. The youth Moshe Pasternak, his son

    12. R' David Gitelis

    13. R' Alter Sher

    14. R' Yitzhak Kushpet

    15. Yozip Waks

    16. Mina Ingber

    17. Meir Greenberg

    18. Pen

    19. R' Aharon (Pinsk refugee)

    20. The young girl Slava, daughter of Tscherna from Pinsk
And another four victims whose names are unknown to me. May their souls be for ever bound up in eternal life with all the innocent martyrs of our people, who were killed with no evil on their hands.

A short time passed. Poland arose again. The Jews reestablished themselves anew. Their awesome powers of resilience deceived them, for they thought themselves secure.

Nearly all the children learned and knew Hebrew. There was a magnificent library in the village with thousands of books in Hebrew and Yiddish. The library was connected with a publishing house in Warsaw, and every book that appeared was sent to us. Our youth were voracious readers and debated much on topical and world events. The number of books in the library continued to grow, thanks to the income from the many performances put on by the youth in the village and the surrounding area. Preparations and rehearsals were done individually by the participants and when performers were lacking, the youth of Malaya Glusha (a nearby village and to all intents and purposes very similar), were incorporated.

All the same, it frequently occurred that parcels of books from Warsaw were held up in the postal office for lack of money to redeem them. Two of the youth, Meir Sher and Avraham Pasternak (now in Israel), would redeem them. Both of them – and my cousin, Beinish Kaufman, were open-handed and generous in deeds of charity and social help in town.

In general the youth of the village were united and integrated front without distinction of status or party and everyone would congregate together in one or other of the houses of friends. Our house – we were four young brothers but our parents were no longer living – was used as a sort of clubhouse for all the youth of the village. Day and night the house was astir with hubbub and the joy of living: music, singing, dancing, arguing about books, on politics, even card playing.

There were other homes like that, like the home of the Pasternak family, which was the center for all the chess players of the village. These were “open houses” where you could walk in as if it were your own home, freely and with a good feeling.

Also notable were the houses of the Avinovitzki family, Esther Sher, Miriam Sher, Ya'akov Malik, Mendl Malik, and the large, many-branched Kotler family, and in the latter years, the house of my aunt Yocheved and uncle Beinish together with their beautiful daughters. All these homes together – and separately – were the “workshops” of the village. (Clearly, this idyllic scene ceased to exist after the great dispute on the question of the slaughterers).

With the worsening of the situation in Poland for the Jews a large emigration abroad began. Some went to Argentina and to Mexico but among many awoke the yearning to go to Eretz Israel. Different pioneering organizations were formed in the town, like the Hashomer Hatzair (Young Guard), Hachalutz (Pioneer), the Hachalutz Hatzair (Young Pioneer), groups that we barely knew yet to distinguish between them. In 1933 Hachalutz was the only group that existed in the village and in that year about ten members went to Hachshara (preparation for going to Israel), of whom about four succeeded in leaving for Eretz Israel and are now living there. Masha Kotler (Shapira) in Haifa, Lippa Malik in Tel-Aviv, Freida Malik in Kibbutz Einat and the writer of these lines, in Afek. Also in Israel are the brothers Avraham and Eliyahu Pasternak (Tel-Aviv), the brothers Moshe and Yehuda Kotler (Ramat-Gan), the brothers Yehoshua, Ya'akov and Menahem Schwartz, Yehuda Plot (Havatzelet) and Moshe Plot, (now Paltieli) from Haifa, saved by a miracle on the day of slaughter in Kamien Koszyrski. When they kidnapped the Jews and drove them to a killing site in a wagon, he jumped from the wagon and ran. He later joined the Russian partisans, fought and took revenge on the enemy. After many wanderings, he emigrated to Israel by way of Italy.

Dr. Lippa Avinovitzki was in Russia, fought in the partisans and returned to Poland. A few of our villagers are in America, those who managed to emigrate before the war. In Argentina are some of the Malik, Tanis, Kotler and Chayat families. From our active members who didn't manage to make it to Israel, I will mention: my cousin, Beinish Kaufman, Yosef Kagan, Hinda Malik and Yona Kushpet. Most of our village sons wanted to leave Poland and hope to make it to Eretz Israel but fate decreed otherwise and it didn't materialize. I have no detailed knowledge to hand concerning the last days of the village, but it is known that the Germans collected together all the Jews of the neighborhood to Kamien Koszyrski where they were shot and thrown into a pit prepared ahead of time. Many were still alive and buried together with the dead. It is said that several days after the slaughter, the ground over the bodies was still in a state of movement, as if the souls of the martyrs were making their final struggle.

The list would be faulty if I did not mention the Jews of the villages surrounding our town, who were as if an integral part of it and many of our own lads spent years there as teachers, educators and instructors in Torah to the children of Israel: of Malaya Glusha, on the beautiful cultured youth, so few of whom survived and are in Israel: Yaffa Kagan and her brother, Yosef (Tel-Aviv), Reuven Grabov (Benei-Barak), the village of Nevir, with its two Jewish families: Shmulik'eh Tucker and Avraham Kostrynski, the Jews from the village of Borki, who would come to our village to pray and celebrate. I remember also, the Jews from the fisherman's village Vetly, from whom the smell of water and fish emanated strongly. I mention the villages of Tch'etin and Vul'ka where I stayed for a few years as a Torah teacher and got to like the residents – young and old alike – very much. A few remnants remain of them, among them Mordechai Oremland (Haifa), and his sister, Pessl. I will mention also the Jews of Vyderta and Vorokomle, which were close to Kamin and considered part of the town. Twenty-three years have passed since I parted from my brothers and sister and their dear children, all so dear to me, and left for Hachshara at Kibbutz Tel-Chai, Bialystok. I was already a candidate for emigration but because of not having an immigration certificate, I had to wait until February 1938. But at last, I received the “golden” certificate from the Immigration Office and traveled to Constanza, where I boarded the ship Polonia that was sailing to Haifa. It was the last sailing of that ship from Romania to Haifa.

At break of day, 6th February, Haifa was seen through the early morning mists. For a long hour I stood there just gazing at the Carmel Mountain and my eyes never tired of looking. My heart was overflowing. I sat and wrote a letter to my brother's family trying to express my feelings, that my heart was simply too small to contain them.

Since then, not a week passes that I don't write to them – on my happiness working as a porter in the new port of Tel-Aviv; of the hard nights of guard-duty and on every important event in Israel. I wanted to insert into their hearts if only the merest shadow of the beautiful, elevated spirit that now inhabits me from that time. There was a strange instinctive sense that perhaps they will not manage to get here (the days just before World War II), and will not live to enjoy all the feelings that I enjoy – and they didn't…………

I later learned from letters from my sister-in-law Buzi (Bracha), that my letters were read at home before prayers. My brother, Shmuel, would read them and Michael Avinovitzki would demand that they be read again and again from beginning to end and each time he would cry. These were tears of pride that the Jews also knew how to respond to the Arabs, blow for blow (the days of the disturbances). R' Michael was one of the learned Torah Jews and even though he was one of the readers of “Today” and knew all that was written in the press, my letters were more believable and trustworthy for him. Raitsa Plot, my brother's mother-in-law, would visit my mother's grave and prostrate herself on it, praying for my safety, that I shouldn't – G-d forbid – get hurt. “He is a great Epicurean, is Bereleh, but with the heart of a Jew.” She would often say about me.

They didn't get here. Until this day I can't come to terms with that. I hoped that after a few years, I would be able to bring my beloved Rivka and her family, my brothers and their families, as immigrants, but my ambitions didn't materialize. Since then my rest has been denied me. Three children were born to me here in Israel, resembling the children of my sister and brothers – and they remind me of them day in, day out……

But my soul is not at peace.

The tragedy was too great and nothing can cause it to be erased from my memory. The immensity of the insult, the pain and the sorrow, that I, the youngest of my meager family in our village, am to carry and lament, the dirge of my family and all the people of the village. And I have not the strength to express the enormity of the tragedy and the huge destruction.

I know that what I have written is inadequate and imperfect, and yet, for fear lest the memory of our village be forgotten and not be remembered in the Book of Kamin, I have taken the courage and audacity and have written with an aching heart these few words.

Translation edited in collaboration with Benjamin Goren, Berl Greenberg's son. An orphan at age 8, Berl Greenberg's life was shaped by hunger, fear, helplessness, and hatred at the killing of all family. His destiny was to be among those who came to Israel to build a home for Jews, and his spirit lives on in his joy of family and of each new creation in Israel. All of these emotions are expressed in his writings.

[Page 81]

A Visit to the Town After its Destruction

Moshe Paltieli (Plot)

Translated by Selwyn Rose

In fact this was not my first visit to my home town of Wielka Glusha after it lost its Jews. I had passed through it previously on two occasions, accompanied by a comrade-in-arms while on a scouting mission of the area. On those occasions I forced myself into a state of “passivity” towards it and didn't even bother to get down from my horse. And for what purpose? The main street, including the famous square at its center, was desolate and deserted., the houses broken into, without doors and windows, the one synagogue – only its walls remained with the droppings of horses and cattle strewn inside. Opposite, changed beyond recognition, stood the house of my uncle, R' Feibish Wernik, apparently refurbished after its destruction and broken into. And my house? The front of the house, where my uncle R' Aharon David Plot – the slaughterer – lived, was broken into and exposed. The doors and windows, together with the frames, were missing. Only the stone walls remained standing, while the back part of the house, where my mother's apartment was, remained basically unharmed.

I remember pacing backwards and forwards in front of the house, unable to pluck up enough courage to enter. I had many doubts if I would be able to control my hidden emotions and if I went inside the latent feelings would burst out of me in an uncontrollable storm and all the bitterness, the suffering and the pain that had accumulated during the years would be exposed for all to see – No! I could not yet lower my guard. Away with sensitivity and soft-heartedness! Long live callousness and a brazen-face!

I never expected at that time, that in six months or so, I would return and visit my town in the capacity of area manager of the Soviet Ministry of Finance. The chairman of the local council, Kutina, from the colony, received me with great honor and respect and conspicuous self-abasement. The rest of his retinue also displayed great surprise (and deep in their hearts, I suppose, great disappointment) that a scion of the Jews survived, a son of Reitze carrying an elevated and responsible position. Each of them was at great pains to demonstrate how he had helped the poor Jews by infiltrating flour and potatoes into the Jewish area and all of vying to outdo each other in self praise….but of course, I knew the truth behind what they were saying and how much they enjoyed the plunder….the chairman of the council added, as if by the way, that the ex-maid of the Baron Lubinski, Wanda, a rude, loud-mouthed woman, once the mistress of the notorious Bogdan Sidorski (who was shot and killed by the Germans), was now living in my mother's house and if I wished, she will be turned out and the house returned to me. I made no reply but asked him to wait at the Council House until my return.

I went out into the street. A few steps away, on the left, were the remaining walls of the synagogue spiking up into the sky. The building stood in the midst of its desolation, as before, and piles of refuse, from man and beast alike were all over. For a moment, I dived into the past and imagined I heard the sounds and music of prayers – the prayers of the Sabbath, of the festivals; of the Musaf [additional prayers], the Shacharit [morning prayers] of the High Holydays; of the “cold war” round the lectern between the professionalism of the prayer-leaders – the “elite,” emulating that of R' Feibish Wernik, and that of Yaakov-Yosef Malik, Chaim Goldsholl and Chaim “the carpenter”: the strength of R' Michael Goldsholl who instilled fear into us the youth – the “Shkotzim” [ruffians]. Of the especially important prayers of Kol Nidrei [opening prayer on the eve of Yom Kippur] and Neila [the closing service]; of the Mincha [afternoon prayer] of the Sabbath and festival of R' Avraham the builder, with his special trills and melodies; of the attempts of the young bachelors to attain the status of prayer-leaders on Sabbaths and Festivals. And the Simchat Torah, a time when everyone, both great and small, is called to the Torah reading. The males carrying the Scrolls with pride while the women permit themselves to approach that much closer to the “forbidden area”.

And after the prayers – the celebrations and the parade from one household to the next, where every housewife honors the crowd with kugel, with kishke and tzimmes with prunes and the entire happy company dives into the pot with their fingers – and all that, of course, without forgetting the raised glass “L'Chaim”. And when the heart is happy with wine comes the dancing – Chasidic dances with linked arms to the beat of melodies pleasant to the ears; one starts and all follow suit.

I awaken from my reverie and continue on my way. The house of R' Michael Goldsholl stands intact, the doors locked, the windows boarded up. Apparently the house is being used as a store of some sorts. Beyond that is empty ground as far as the “fortress” of R' Moshe Shwartz (rest in peace). And the house of my sister and brother-in-law and the Greenberg brothers – where is it? Wiped from off the face of the earth, apparently, in an artillery barrage, when the Germans retreated. Facing it, the four stark walls of what had been the house of Beinish Kaufman- the talented scholar, killed in battle - project up into the sky.

I am again removed from the present time and place and see before me how all this was before the Holocaust…….the hour between the afternoon and evening prayers and all the youth – the cream of the village society – gathered in front of the houses. Some of them sitting on benches, others standing around but all listening to the words of the wise men debating the important events of the world, analyzing the books of Artsybashev, Asch, Dostoevsky and Gorky – and arrive at their conclusions…..

Among the major speakers is my sister, Bracha, educated, talented; in spite of the malignant disease from which she suffered, she counseled and took part in every event and cultural project, whether it was some trifling little symposium on some literary problem, or a production at the amateur theatre, either staging, or preparing costumes, make-up, etc. My brother-in-law also, R' Shmuel, humble and modest, always thirsty for knowledge and education, and in spite of the fact the he was orthodox, a slaughterer and inspector, his mind was aware of all that occurred in the world and he was devoted to the Hebrew language, an expert who drew from it words like pearls. While Joseph Kagan – “The Reporter” – the only subscriber to the Warsaw “Today”, would present a political overview – and was a specialist in world politics. It is no wonder that he had much time at his disposal to devour the paper from cover to cover – including the advertisements. Even we, the youngsters, would trail along behind the adults, drinking their words thirstily.

Who would have thought that such bitterness would follow. Oh, our dearest ones, pure of heart and of such innocent ways, what sin did you commit and what crime did you perpetrate, that your fate should have been thus?

I reject the troubling thoughts and continue on my way to the home of the Pasternak family and glance at the ruins remaining from the homes of Sima Gitelis, Shwartz, Eli Kotler and Meir Sher and turn right, through the great square, now overgrown with thorns and weeds, to the main street. Here, too, all was deserted and destroyed, from the government school as far as the Sidorsky House. The big house, in which lived Berl Greenberg's sister, Rivka Lin and her family, Kossia the wagon-driver and Michael Avinovitzki, the brilliant scholar, who found rest in his grave only a few weeks before the onset of the Holocaust, had been turned into a pile of debris. The same had happened to the homes of Chaim Goldsholl, Joseph Kagan, Avraham the tailor and Avraham the builder. Their walls pointing starkly skywards, with only a piece of thatching remaining here and there from the roofs.

I arrived at my house, next to which was the hut of our neighbor, Mikhailek'eh, our “Sabbath Goy” who knew all our customs and habits, who, in the end, changed face and became a villainous blackguard, a Volksdeutsch, and deserted to the Germans. My house, the inheritance from my grandfather, R' Abba slaughterer and inspector, in which I had spent the most beautiful years of my life – my childhood years, although I had been an orphan because my father, whom I don't remember, had been murdered by the Balachovich killers in the riots of 1920 and my mother had been both father and educator to me. With dedication and self-sacrifice she had raised me. More than once she denied herself and gave to me. She would prove herself right and immediately forgive her adversary; slow to anger and easy to please. And who knew like me, her unfailing good-heartedness, honesty and ever-present willingness to help. There were not a few days when even a slice of coarse black bread was hard to come by and the house was empty of food, yet, nevertheless, my mother would prepare, modestly and in secret, nearly every week, a parcel of food, hide it beneath her thick winter scarf and take it to some poor, needy family that would receive help only from her.

In spite of her orthodoxy and adherence to tradition and her compliance with all the commandments – easy ones as well as difficult ones – and her simple faith emanating from a pure heart, she always recognized the right of the pioneers – the “epicureans”, and harkened to the words of the wise ones, that the blessed commandment to return to the Land of Israel outweighs all the other commandments.

I will never forget an event in 1942, during the days of the Russian occupation. Assimilation was growing and the number of people attending the synagogue was getting less and less. The children and the youth were deserting the classrooms and the Seminaries, ignoring the Bible and studies of Judaism, for studies of “A Short History of the Communist Party” and the constitution of Stalin. That disease spread even to our house and Bracha my sister's boys, Yitzchak-Joseph, and especially Avraham, began slowly to desert the Torah of their forefathers. They were excellent for declaiming enthusiastically, large tracts in support of “The Rising Sun” at the local Soviet government school, quoting entire passages from the new history, etc. My mother walked around like a shadow, in a state of sorrow and pain at her world collapsing about her.

And now a letter suddenly arrived from Eretz Israel, from Berl Greenberg, in clear, fluent Hebrew telling us not to abandon Judaism and the Hebrew language, but to study a chapter in the Torah with the children every day, and so on. My mother was overjoyed and turning to us said: “See, children, the strength of the Jewish spirit. I knew it and said to Bereleh before he went, that in spite of his irreligious liberalism, he had a Jewish heart – what a pity he doesn't believe in the commandments – he could have been a great Rabbi in Israel……” and turning to me particularly, she emphasized: “You grew 'fat', my son, and became a high-ranking clerk with the Soviet authorities, don't disparage the Jewish heritage of your fathers and especially keep an open and warm heart – a Jewish heart. Then G-d, may His name be blessed, will ignore all your errors……Dear Mother – why wasn't I able to appreciate your wonderful dedication and morality, the greatness of your humanity, while you yet lived?

Deeply moved and emotional, I turned my face and paced towards the door – and here! I am inside. A smell of perspiration and dirty laundry pervades the atmosphere; untidiness and neglect are all around. From the small room that used to be mine, emerged the new “lady of the house”, short and fat. She came towards me and asked me what I wanted. Apparently she did not know me. I replied with artificial calmness that it used to be my house and I had thought just to have a quick glance round. A moment's confusion, as if a creature not of the known world stood before her. However, she quickly recovered herself and justified her position saying she didn't know anything and had no idea that “….there were any of 'them' left,” while I had appeared so suddenly like that……indeed! The Jewish cheek of it!

And strangely, I began to wonder – perhaps Wanda was right? Indeed what business had I here? Is this indeed my house? The windows and the doors painted with fresh paint, blue, on the walls icons of Christian saints and multi-colored, decorative embroideries, the beds were wooden beds, not ours, with many cushions and pillows on them. A typical Christian house. A house completely strange to me, or I am a stranger to the house, an alien, an interloper and superfluous………..

I became silent and quickly left the house making my way back to the Council House.

[Page 85]

Mala Glusha and Wielka Glusha

Reuven Grabov

Translated by Selwyn Rose

Following is a selection of impressions from the cultural life of the Jews of Mala Glusha (Lishke) and Wielka Glusha (Lishe) and the surroundings, from before the First World War.

The Jews who lived in these two towns provided an excellent example of the social and cultural life.

Until 1924, there was no Hebrew school in either of the two towns thus the Jews hired two melameds for a period of six months – from Sukkot to Pesach and from Pesach until Sukkot. The salary of the melamed was not monthly but half-yearly and paid in dollars. He also received board and lodging. Neither the domicile nor the place of instruction were fixed and the melameds moved from place to place among the families, who united to further the children's education. Nevertheless, the children maintained attendance at the Polish school as required by the authorities.

In 1925 two fully qualified teachers were brought to the two towns and a fine elementary school was opened, that was an example to schools in the big cities.

Owing to the small number of pupils, a secondary school was not opened. Pupils who wished to advance further in their education traveled either to Kovel or other cities. It was not only because of reduced economic reasons that the youth of Mala Glusha and Wielka Glusha were prevented for obtaining a secondary school education: there were those among the rabbis and other staunch religious authorities who traveled to the various cities and prevailed upon the students to return to the seminaries. At Festival times, violent arguments broke out between the pupils from the secondary schools and those from the seminaries, with each side trying to justify their view of the dispute. There were also disputes between the parents themselves, many of whom viewed the general education as Epicurean.

In addition to education the youngsters obtained, they also came into contact with the Jewish intelligentsia of the larger towns and new ideas and it is they who later organized the Zionist, and later the pioneer movements. In Mala Glusha, these were Motl Kandel, Berl Serchuk, Berl Grabov, Chaim Wolinietz, the brothers Kirzner and the brothers Serchuk. In Vel'ka Glusha they were: the Greenberg family, Avinovitzki and Pasternak. Not one of them managed to get to the Land of Israel, as did their pupils. They were exterminated by the damned Nazi rioters.

Israel became the dream of my youth ever since I learned from history lessons that we, too, had a homeland. And so, as soon as money was saved in our towns for national purposes, I also volunteered and donated all my money.

In 1932 I founded the Hachalutz Hatzair movement with the help of Shmuel Wolinietz, who perished defending his homeland, Dov Greenberg, Masha Kotler (Shapira) and Yaffa Miller (Kagan), may they all have a long life.

We made sure that our “neophytes” would not be bored. We arranged meetings, in which all ages took part, and excursions. We traveled to Kamin several times and several times the residents of Kamin would come to visit Lishke, where close to a copse of pine trees there was a small convalescent home and a town. In winter we organized dances and excursions with sleighs.

About two years before the outbreak of World War Two, the situation of the Jews of the towns worsened, both economically and also from the point of view of safety. The hatred of the Christians grew and the Jews were imbued with a sense of immediate fear.

Shtetl Alternate names Coordinates
Malaya Glusha Mala Khlusha, Mala Glusha, Glusha-Zuta, (Yiddish name Lishke) 5148' 2459'
Velikaya Glusha Vel'ka Glusha, Wielka Hłusza, Vel'ka Khlusha, Marjampol, Bol'shaya Glusha, Glusha Rabta, (Yiddish name Lishe) 5149' 2503'

[Page 87]

The Jews of Vul'ka Shchityn'ska and Cherche

by Joel Eidess and Iser Oremland

Translated by Selwyn Rose

In the vicinity of Kamen Kashirskiy on the border between Polesia and Volyn, about 5 km from the River Pripyat is the village of Vul'ka Shchityn'ska. The area was densely afforested with many large lakes. Most of the incumbents of the village were Ukrainians with a minority of Poles. There were also ten Jewish families. The Poles and Ukrainians occupied themselves with primitive agriculture and fishing in the lakes. Of the Jews, some were fishermen, some owners of small shops, such as groceries, and some small traders dealing in fish-marketing and agricultural produce. As in the whole area here, too, the Jewish houses could be identified by their size and cleanliness. In addition to that – all the Jewish houses were in the main street.

The pride of the Jews was the Torah book in their possession and on the fact that there was always a quorum for public prayers on Sabbaths and Festivals.

In spite of a rather restricted economic situation, the Jews put aside sufficient money to maintain a teacher in the village who taught the children Hebrew and Torah, every day of the year. This was in addition to the regular government school. All the children in the village – boys and girls – knew Hebrew and all were imbued with an awareness of Zionism.

Reb David Kaplan, whose influence spread also to neighboring villages, was the “uncrowned” Rabbi of the locality.

R' David Kaplan (z”l), emigrated to America and returned after a few years complaining he was unable to organize his life there as a religious Jew. His wife Esther died and left him to raise the family alone.

R' David Kaplan was talented in several fields: a carpenter, glazier, builder, farmer, etc. After a hard day's rigorous work he would spend his evenings studying the Torah and the Mishna. He acted as Cantor, as Torah reader and as blower of the shofar during the High Holy days. His moral character was an example to all the Jews of the village. He was an enthusiastic disciple of the Rabbi from Stolin and would deprive himself in order to visit – albeit infrequently – the Rabbi's meetings at his home.

The adolescents from the village were not at peace with life in the village and sought ways and means of leaving. A large proportion of them belonged to the Zionists movements. Some of those youths are found today in Israel or in Argentina. Nevertheless, in spite of these ambitions, most of the youngsters stayed in the village until the Second World War.

In 1941, when the Germans appeared in the vicinity, many disturbances erupted and the first victims began to fall.

When many of the Jews were herded into the ghetto of Kamen Kashirskiy, there were among them Jews from Vul'ka Shchityn'ska.

Most of them were murdered when the ghetto was liquidated on 27th Av 1942. Many of them managed to escape the ghetto but failed to reach the partisan groups and were murdered by the local citizens. With the end of the war the survivors began to group themselves together and emigrate to Israel. It is from their evidence that we know the deaths of some of the others.

Rabbi Yehoshua, the son of Rabbi Shlomo Oremland was murdered by local rioters on 14th Tammuz 1941. Mrs. Tzvia Oremland, the daughter of David (z”l), her daughter Raizel and her son Shlomo, were all murdered on 25th Marcheshvan, 1942.

Chaim Kaplan and Hershl Blumenkrantz were murdered on 9th Av 1941.

When the ghetto was liquidated, Rabbi David Kaplan, Malka Kaplan, Perl Kaplan, Yosef Kaplan and Mordechai Kaplan, were all killed.


The Village of Czorze, near Kamen

With the destruction of the ghetto in Kamen Kashirskiy, the tidal wave of blood arrived in Czorcze [Cherche] , in the vicinity of Kamen Kashirskiy.

My mother, Faigel Schuster, née Burshtein, who had been widowed in the First World War, raised her daughters in Czorcze and saw them all married. She died before the liberation from the Nazi conquest, in a forest hideout, at the hands of a Ukrainian. My sister, Sarah, and her husband Pesach Sosicz, son of Baruch, with their children Manya, Raizel, Liba and Moshe were all murdered in the Kamen Kashirskiy ghetto at the time of the first “Aktzia”. Concerning the fate of my other sister, I know absolutely nothing. My soul compels me to mention all the members of my village who were exterminated during the Hitler years – may his name be eradicated from memory.

  1. Pessl Burshtein, daughter of Shlomo Burshtein.
  2. Sarah Burshtein, daughter of Shlomo Burshtein.
  3. Hanna Burshtein, née Galuz, and her daughter.
  4. Itzel Burshtein, son of Shlomo Burshtein.

Shtetl Alternate name Coordinates
Vul'ka Shchityn'ska Shchitynskaya Volya 51°53' 24°52'
Czorcze Cherche 51°44' 24°52'

[Page 89]

Mala Glusha (Lishke)
and the Surrounding Area

Reuven Grabov

Translated by Selwyn Rose

I would like to describe the town where I was born – and some of the villages in the vicinity, belonging to the administrative area of Kamin Koshirski, where Jews were living.

In the surrounding villages, the Jews were not living next to each other but dispersed among the local Ukrainian farmers; every Jewish family feared that his Jewish neighbor would deprive him of his livelihood. They met rarely even for public prayer meetings.

Such was not the case in Mala Glusha [Lishke]. In practical terms it was not possible to define Mala Glusha [Lishke]as a village or town but rather as a group of about 30 Jewish families in a large village of Christian farmers in Polesia. Most of the residents were Ukrainians and the remainder Poles, Germans and Jews. The Germans and the Poles lived somewhat separately and were landholders. The Jews' houses, which were built on land bought from the landowner Mikhaelovski at great cost, were bounded on one side by the Ukrainians and on the other by the German-Polish settlement. The Jewish homes were erected next to each other reproducing the semblance of a larger village on a small scale. The relationships among the families were excellent and since the families – almost of necessity – married into each other, the Jews of Lishke were nothing if not one large extended family.

The youth of Mala Glusha [Lishke] organized the “Pioneering Movement” and a few of them managed to emigrate to Israel and today occupy positions of some importance. The adults were organized in the Zionist Movement and organized dances etc., raising money and donations for the Movement and for Keren Kayemet L'Israel.

In the main, family heads of Mala Glusha [Lishke] sustained themselves basically in trading and commerce. Several of them would be away from home returning only for the Sabbath. On Saturday evenings, they would congregate in one or other of the homes, to share experiences, stories and their concerns for the future. Even apart from the sudden depredations of the Cossack gangs, they would fall foul of robbers and thieves. Because of this, many Jews longed to leave this rustic Paradise and move to the cities where there were large groups of Jews.

It is worth mentioning the concern the Jews had for the education of their children and this, perhaps exacerbated their yearning for the city. They would bring to their homes senior students from the seminaries who taught their children Gemara. Later, they sent their boys, sometimes the girls as well, to the towns in order to complete their education, either in the secondary schools or in the seminaries. In the 'thirties there were already Jewish elementary schools in both Wielka Glusha [Lishe] and Mala Glusha [Lishke].

Before the outbreak of World War II many of Mala Glusha's Jews [Lishke's Jews] rushed to emigrate to Eretz Israel, among them members of my family. However, the Polish government interfered and it was forbidden to transfer their assets. Among them, the position of the Jews of the smaller towns and villages worsened from both an economic and security aspect. At the crisis, Jews were working in the agricultural field and the fear in their hearts grew because the local Ukrainians began to exert their pride and threaten murder to the Jews before the Germans had arrived.

When war broke out and the Germans were approaching Brest-Litovsk, the Jews decided to turn to the police and request arms for their self-defense. They were refused. Renewed hope arose spurred the rumor that the Russians were in Kovel and that they would arrive in Mala Glusha [Lishke] in a day or two. The Jews were certain that the Russians would not be a threat to their lives.

The Red Army was received with singing and dancing by Christians and Jews alike but in a very short time disappointment set in. The first act of the communist army was to confiscate all the assets of the wealthy and their supporters. Next, when the war broke out between Russia and Germany, they mobilized all the young men into the Red Army. That cast a grave fear on the Jews since many of the younger men had not yet been released from the Polish army and there was no one left in the villages except the elderly and infirm.

When the Red Army left the towns and villages around Wolyn and Polesia, Mala Glusha [Lishke] was again without a governing authority. The Ukrainian thugs increased their acts of robbery and murder and every day brought its news of the Nazi's additional advance. At the same time rumors began to spread that the Nazis were herding together all the Jews in the conquered areas into ghettos and killing all those that they didn't need. A few of the local Jews suggested fleeing to the woods but the suggestion was rejected since it was thought that the old people and the children wouldn't cope with the situation in the forest.

After the arrival of the Nazis, about 25 Jews from the village were murdered and buried in a common grave, for refusing to report for forced labor, among them my brother Berl, my sister-in-law Chaia and their two-year old child. This was around Purim.

After the murder, every Jew knew that he was in line to be the next victim. Before anyone could yet consider how, and to where to flee, came a new order: All the Jews had to pack their belongings and move to the Ghetto in Kamin Koshirski. Their homes were taken by the local Christians.

Thus began the opening chapter in the destruction of the Jews of Lishke, as I still remember it in pain today – as I remember Zalman Wolinietz, known by his nickname “Zalman the Rabbi” because he was so knowledgeable and assiduous in the Talmud he could easily have been ordained. In those terrible days he would act as prayer leader and move the congregation to tears. He was the owner of a grocery store, and a produce marketer, well-founded and satisfied, with great-grandchildren from his first wife. At the age of 70 he was sent to the Ghetto of Kamin Koshirski, and there murdered.

He had four daughters and two sons. Two of his daughters live today in America. His two daughters, Feige and Elke and one of his sons, Hershel were killed in the Ghetto in Kamin Koshirski. His other son, Shmuel Wolinietz, survived, fought in the ranks of the Partisans and later emigrated to Israel.

Not far from the family of Zalman Wolinietz lived the family of Tzvi (Herschel) Shteinberg. They were an educated family, engaged in commerce. Tzvi Shteinberg and his wife Batya, their daughter Sarah and their sons, Shmuel-Dov (Berl) and Baruch – were all murdered, some in the Ghetto of Lubieshov.

At the other side of the village were two families. The head of one of them was a cobbler and the second a tailor. They were brothers-in-law. I only remember the cobbler and his family. His name was Leibl Koltin and his wife's name Libe. All of them were murdered in the Ghetto of Lubieshov.

I also remember a deserted wife, by the name of Freidl Kozak, daughter of “Zalman the Rabbi”. She too was murdered, together with her two children, Nachman and Hinda in the Ghetto of Kamin Koshirski.

The two brothers, Avraham-Baruch and Moshe-Itzchak Wolinietz, after returning from America, built for themselves a two-family house. They engaged in agriculture and commerce. Moshe-Itzchak and his wife, Esther, had eight children. Three of them stayed abroad and did not return to Poland with their parents. Another son, Shmuel Wolinietz, emigrated to Israel and lived in Ramat HaCovesh, where he was killed by the British during a weapons hunt. The four remaining children of the marriage – Gittel, Sheindl, Rachel, and Chaim were killed in the Ghetto of Kamin Koshirski together with their parents and families.

Avraham-Baruch Wolinietz and his wife, Chaia-Rachel, had six children. One of them, Yaakov Velvel, is today in Israel. The rest – Feige, Chaia, Elke, Zalman, and Shmuel, were murdered by the Nazis together with their parents.

At a distance of about 50 meters from the Wolinietz family lived the Miren family. The head of the family, Shlomo-Aharon, died about six months before war broke out. His wife and their seven children, Feige-Batya, Shifra, Wolf-Leib, Moshe-Hirsh, Sheine, Eliezer and Noach-Shmuel and their families were all murdered in Kamin Koshirski.

Parallel to the house of Shlomo-Aharon Miren were two homes – that of the Kagan family and our own home.

Asher and Chaia Kagan had six children – Sheindl, Yoske, Bracha, Chana, Motl, and Zelda. The mother, Chaia, was shot in the street by the Nazis before the Ghetto was built. The father, a blacksmith, was murdered in the Ghetto together with four of his children. Sheindl and Yoske survived and today are in Israel.

As for our own family, even before the outbreak of war my brothers had married and left home, while my mother and I emigrated to Israel.

Next door to the Mirens lived the Domb family. Israelushke, the father, was a cobbler. In time he became wealthy and was acknowledged by local estate owners. He had two married sons - Yudel and Chaim, and three daughters – Feige, Kresle, and Batya. Feige was the eldest and blessed her parents with grandchildren. Yisraelushke died before the war. After the Nazi invasion, the family was completely exterminated – the father, the mother Malka, the sons and daughters and their families.

My nephew, Zelig Grabov, and Avraham Shtrik managed to escape from the cemetery under a hail of bullets. They wandered in the forests starving and thirsty until they managed to join up with partisans.

They both displayed great courage in confrontations with the Nazis and received medals of commendation. At the end of the war Avraham Shtrik emigrated to Israel, while Zelig Grabov remained in Russia where he was murdered by Ukrainian nationalists.

A few meters away from the Domb house stood the house of the trader, Arieh (Leibe) Shtrik. The head of the family had died young, a year before the outbreak of the war. His wife, Sara-Pesia, the daughters, Freida, Rivka, and Feige-Rachel and the sons, Avigdor, Noach, and Itzchak – all were killed in the Ghetto of Kamin Koshirski. The only survivor from the entire family was Avraham Shtrik, who escaped, as I have earlier related.

In the same row of houses lived the family of Arie (Leibe) Kandel, which numbered six souls. He and his wife Batya and their children – Yudl, Ozer, and Leah – all murdered. The eldest daughter, Hinda, died a few years before the war.

A short distance away from the Leibe Kandel home stood the new house of his younger brother (one of the brothers, Sender, had been murdered by the Balachowitz gangs, another had died some years previously and his orphaned son, Michael, was murdered later by robbers). Yeshayahu Kandel had three children - Batya, Arie (Leibe), and Lipa. Batya was my sister-in-law and Arie was my friend. He joined the Polish army and fell prisoner to the Germans. My brother, Berl (Dov), his wife, Batya and their children were killed early on. Yeshayahu Kandel, his wife Chaia and their son, Lipa were killed later on in the Ghetto of Kamin Koshirski.

The house of Moshe-Zelig Kasher, from the Kandel family, was the next house in the row. Two days after the Germans came Moshe-Zelig was cruelly murdered. Shot, as if he were a stray dog, he was used by them for target practice. His wife and children were later murdered in the Ghetto of Kamin Koshirski.

Next house along the row was the home of Israel Segal. He had been taken into the Russian army in the First World War and had not returned for many years. His wife who was looked after by their two children, remained unable to wed. Six years before the outbreak of World War Two, Israel returned from German captivity and made his home in the area where the Jews were concentrated. He was the best plasterer in the area and there was an abundance of work for him. Two further children were born. All the family members –Israel, his wife Miriam, and the children, Shmulik, Feivel, Hinda, and Chaia – all murdered in the Ghetto of Kamin Koshirski.

Behind the Segal house the empty land continued as far as the German-Polish area. There were two Jewish families living there. The distance between them was no more than 50 meters. The first, the Yerozditzki family. The head of the family - Itzik, a big successful trader among the richest men in the town – and his wife, Feige, had four children, Leah, Yenta, Shmuel (nicknamed “pulke”), and Leibe. All of them were exterminated by the Germans.

The second family was my brother's family, Itzchak Grabov. He and his wife, Chaia-Rachel and their four children Zelig, Freida, Zlate, and Shmulik were murdered in the Ghetto of Kamin Koshirski. The sole survivor of that family is my nephew, Eliezer Grabov, living in Israel.

About a kilometer and a half from these houses was the German colony; there also were Jewish homes. The first house there was the Serchuk family. They made their living from the operation of a windmill that she owned. The head of the family had died before the First World War and his wife, Chuma-Reizl, remained a widow with three sons and a daughter, all living together with the mother. The senior son's name was Baruch and he had four children – Chaia, Sheindl, Israel-Meir, and Sara. His wife had died young from a malignant disease. From the entire family there were no survivors.

Thirty meters from the Serchuk house, there was the house of Benny Kandel and his wife, Esther-Malka. The family head had died a few years before the war and left four daughters and a son – Chaia, Meitze, Sashe, Hinda and Mordechai (Motl). Chaia, whose married name was Kagan, was killed together with the family of Asher Kagan. Meitze, whose married name was Kasher died in the Ghetto. The two other daughters survived and live in Argentina. Motl was highly educated and a man of considerable influence in public life; he was also a dedicated Zionist and a representative of the Keren Kayemet L'Israel. He died at the age of 36 from a malignant illness and left a widow and baby orphans.

A few meters away from the Kandel home lived the Kirzner family. The head of the family, Yaakov, had been severely injured in the First World War and died from his injuries. He left a wife and five children – Sima, Kroindl, Chaia, Aharon and Yehuda. The mother and four of the married children, were all murdered in the Ghetto. Kroindl, who emigrated to Eretz Israel, is the sole surviving member of the family.

Another family in the German colony was the family of Moshe Kandel, known to everyone as “Uncle Moshe”. His wife, Freidl, died many years before the war. A daughter of his old age, Feige, married but remained living in her father's house. Uncle Moshe was liked by everyone in the village, Jew and non-Jew alike. During the High Holydays he would voice his pleas and supplications to the Lord of the Universe in a heart-breaking voice fit to open the gates of Heaven. He died a few years before the war. His daughter and other family members were exterminated in the Ghetto of Kamin Koshirski.

The last family I will mention here was the family of Rabbi Zalman. At the age of forty R' Zalman was rich. He built a luxurious house and distributed a lot of charity. Although at the age of sixty he lost all his assets and became a wagon-driver. He refused charitable gifts. Because he and his wife were old and didn't have the strength to walk to the Ghetto, a sadistic German shot them on the spot.

Many Jews were killed in the neighboring villages as well. In Shchityn all the Jewish families were slaughtered, among them the rich and well-born. I remember well an educated, learned Jew by the name of Asher the Shtetiner. In the village of Zaluchuv there were six Jewish families, among them the family of my uncle, Michael Grabov. Of the entire family not a soul survived except a son and daughter, living now in Argentina.

From my large family, only two survived. My cousin Eliezer Grabov and myself. I emigrated to Israel in 1935 and in 1936 I brought over my mother, Rachel-Leah, a daughter of the well-known Levinson family, who died in 1947 after suffering from a prolonged illness.


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