September 1939 The Beginning of the End
Shmuel Aba Klurman
Translated by Selwyn Rose
It's started, muttered Mietek, taking me aside where no one could hear.
I was stunned and unable to utter a sound; I thought he was referring to a pogrom. It was only two years since our town had been pillaged by an angry mob, murdering and robbing with no one to stop them. It was the mayor himself who had organized the pogrom and the police protected the mob.
I had forgotten or perhaps never even knew that such a cruel thing as a pogrom ever existed. The word war didn't have a particularly threatening sound to me. The history books told of countless incidents of heroism in war that fired my imagination. We, the children of the ghettos, who knew only pogroms, thought that the meaning of the word war was that it gave one the possibility of defending one's property and honor and life with arms.
During the next two years I saw with my own eyes how the Germans murdered hundreds of thousands of prisoners, how they destroyed to their very foundations Russian and Ukrainian villages, without any opposition. And I saw that in the end when there was at last some resistance it sprang only from there being no alternative. The object was not to stay alive but to exact revenge. Everyone was dead parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and acquaintances. Someone had to take revenge for their spilled blood.
But, as I said, all that happened too late.
My friend Mietek sensed that I had misunderstood him and went on to explain, I heard that the Germans have invaded Poland and have begun to bomb her cities.
Mietek worked for my father and that same day was sent together with me to a place several kilometers from the Jewish village to supervise the loading of several wagons of produce. The porters were Christians. Seven notorious brothers known by all the local Jews as Balachoviches. And they were, indeed, survivors of General Balachovich's old army who had wreaked so much killing and destruction on Jewish villages and people towards the end of the First World War. They also took an active part in the pogrom of 1937.
What shall we do, I asked Mietek. If the Balachoviches find out they will start up again and we'll be the first ones to fall into their hands!
The only thing we can do is hope that they don't find out, answered Mietek. In any case, we haven't got any option. Let's get back to work as if nothing's happened and at lunch time we'll rush home.
But before half-an-hour had gone past there wasn't a man who hadn't heard the news. To our great surprise one of the brothers approached us and said, Right now we are all in the same boat [in trouble]; we have to forget the past.
Since I was no longer scared of attracting the attention of the Balachoviches I hurried to phone my father. His shaking voice betrayed his emotions. Hurry up and finish the loading of the wagons, he said, and get back home.
All the way back we were silent but I knew that Mietek's heart was also becoming increasingly filled with fears. When we got back to the town, the signs of apprehension and fear were clearly on the faces of the villagers. All of a sudden there was the sound of a loud explosion. It was the first of the bombs. One fell near the filling station and two others close to the local county office building.
Since the bombs had missed their targets, cries of joy came from the Polish residents. It was the first failure of the enemy.
In the town square crowds listened excitedly to the speech of the county governor stating firmly and with assurance that the wonderful Polish armed forces will quickly conquer Berlin and overwhelm the Nazi government.
The mobilization procedure gathered momentum. From all the surrounding villages Polish reserve forces were rushed by train westwards to the front, accompanied by the fire-brigade's brass band and the wailing of the mothers, wives and children.
The streets in the Jewish area emptied. They knew from experience that any drastic change in our lives brought with it chaos and pogroms. So the men began to build shelters, discovering stunning and unexpected qualities of improvisation and the women clutched their children to their breasts.
No one ever dreamed of the magnitude of the Holocaust which was to come.
Translated by Selwyn Rose
One day a rumor spread round the artelim that the end of the Ghetto had arrived. The Gebietskommissar together with the chairman of the Judenrat, Mr. Bar, went through all the workshops registering the names of all the trained workers in the hope of keeping them alive. In the welding shop (we were five men), only my cousin, Ephraim and myself were registered.
When they had gone, I went outside and met my cousin, Yehuda ['Idel'] Malik, his wife, Bracha and their little child. I advised him that we should conceal ourselves in the hiding place they had prepared in advance for such a situation and at night to escape from the town. They refused. I went back into the workshop and there I found that Ben-Tzion Karsh, with his wife and child, my own family (Bracha and Grunie), the Sokol sisters, and others were already in hiding.
Towards evening, when the Germans surrounded the artelim [workshops], we fled the village this writer, Ephraim Malik, Dina Malik, Pinie and Ronia Sokol, Yaakov-Itzchak Karsh, and another girl, a refugee from Poland called Dorka - along the canal. We hid among the bushes until nightfall, because we were waiting for the rest of the group who had stayed in hiding, since one of them had a rifle and a pistol.
We waited until midnight and when no one appeared we continued along the canal as far as the village Vyderta. There, we found the house of one of the farmers, who according to information we had obtained, had contacts with some of the Gentile partisans who were in hiding. He gave us directions but nevertheless we spent the night making mistakes. In the morning we met a Gentile who warned us that there were Germans in the vicinity. We retraced our steps and hid again among the bushes, dividing ourselves into small groups.
Around noon, we bumped into a Gentile, a passer-by who promised to come back at night and lead us well away from here. He also promised to bring bread and he kept his promise. The day seemed to pass as slowly as the Exile and when darkness fell, we grouped together again and waited. The man appeared and led us all night through swamps and forests in an attempt to find David Lerman, who was hiding in the vicinity with some Gentiles. After many extended searches, we succeeded in finding them in the middle of a large swamp.
We stayed there about seven days. During that time we met dozens of Jews passing through the area, escaping from the ghetto. Some of them joined our group.
One night or more correctly one morning, we were returning from a raid getting some food stores, when we were surrounded by a group of Ukrainian police who opened fire on us. We scattered in all directions. I got hold of a rifle that was left lying on the ground then I, too, ran for my life. In the meantime the police had managed to kill some of the Jews that hadn't escaped, among them David Brat and Mendl Plus. At night we returned to the spot and found the bodies. We moved our location to another area.
We had left a rifle hidden in Kamin and we decided to go and fetch it. Four of us started out Yaakov-Itzchak Karsh, Eliezer (Leizer) Stepak, Zisia Dekter (the son of Pinie the wagon-driver and myself. We left early evening and got to Kamin around midnight. We went into the hideout which was empty and found the rifle and a few other articles and returned to the group at daybreak.
One of the Neumik brothers (from the Gentile group that we were a satellite of), transferred a group of about 30 Jews to the area around the village of Nevir. A few days later we, too left for the same place.
One day we commandeered a horse and sleigh and drove to the village of Vyderta to avenge the blood of those of our group who had been betrayed by some of the villagers. We arrived at a certain house; the owner was asleep. We confiscated a pistol, led him out of the village and killed him. We dropped in on another Gentile - another murderer - and killed him too.
Because of the murders of Russian partisans we were forced to flee from the forests of Nevir and we returned to the vicinity of Vyderta. There we used a hideout that we had previously prepared. At nights we would go out raiding for food.
In the meantime, the mood between the Russian partisans had changed and they had stopped murdering the Jews. After long negotiations, we decided to join the partisans in Nevir. From the first day of our arrival we took part in all their operations.
One night we caught a Ukrainian policeman in the village of Shchityn. He informed on some of his colleagues who had taken part with him in some of the atrocities of extermination. In the end I decapitated him with one swing of an axe because every bullet was precious
In the brigade of partisans known as Suborov, of which I was a member, I was seconded to a fighting unit. We had many battles.
Once, while on the way from the village of Kalevitsa to Vyderta, we met an acquaintance who told us that there were many Ukrainian nationalists in the village. After we had organized a near-by brigade of Polish partisans to help us, we decided to fight them. A battle started that lasted several hours. As darkness fell, they retreated and we collected the equipment they had left behind and returned to the village and slept there. With the dawn, four of us, went in the direction of Kamin as far as the village of Olble, looking for a horse that had bolted from us during the battle. We went to a farmer who had cooperated with the Germans. We confiscated a horse and wagon from him and close to Vyderta we put him and his family on the ground and beat them thoroughly. On the way back we were delayed in another village and here we ran into some Germans coming from the direction of Kamin. We hid in the swamps. At nightfall we came out of the swamps and walked towards through the village and from there continued on to our meeting in Kalevitsa [Kolewice].
On another occasion, we were informed of a Ukrainian policeman who lived in the suburbs of Kamin. We decided to catch him. David Lerman, Yaakov-Itzchak Karsh, the Gentile Neumik and I took part in that operation. Under cover of darkness we found his house. We quietly forced a window and I slithered though, and opened the doors for the rest of the group. We entered the bed-room and found his wife and father-in-law the man himself was not there; apparently he was on duty that night. Yaakov-Itzhak stayed on guard outside. The policeman's brother arrived from town with bags of clothes taken from the ghetto. We commandeered a wagon and horse, and different belongings, etc. We decide to burn the house to the ground with all the property inside it. It had all been stolen from the ghetto. The flames accompanied us on our way home.
At the beginning of 1944 it was decided to capture the town of Kamin. Our entire brigade and additional groups of partisans took part. Heavy fire was opened on us from all directions especially from the Nationalist Ukrainians; we took positions and returned the fire. Afterwards we retreated.
Once we decided on obtaining medicines that we needed badly. We decided to organize an invasion of Kamin's hospital and confiscate what we needed and at the same time visit some other places in town. We got close to Kamin at nightfall. Mortar fire was used as a signal to attack and afterwards as a signal to retreat.
My platoon got to the railway station. We took whatever we wanted and set fire to all the warehouses and then the station itself. After a heavy exchange of fire we retreated.
And again, on another occasion we arrived in the vicinity of Kamin, entering the village of Rakov Les and as soon as dawn broke we commandeered a horse and cart from a collaborator and retreated. On our way we decided to recover from the Gentiles Jewish property that had been stolen from them. Suddenly it became clear that there were Germans in the vicinity. A scout reported that there were other partisans here and a battle had developed between them and Ukrainian nationalists. We left the horse and cart and retreated by foot in the direction of Nevir.
During the 'forties, a surgeon had arrived at Kamin from Kiev, by the name of Hotnik, who quickly built a reputation for being an excellent surgeon. The Germans didn't touch him because they needed his abilities in the hospital. We had no doctors in the woods. I suggested, therefore, that we send him a letter inviting him to join us. The suggestion was adopted and the letter sent, signed by Jewish fugitives. His reply was affirmative on condition that we first transferred all the instruments he needed in his work. Our contact-man would meet him every week and get from him a parcel of instruments and eventually a day was set for him to escape. We organized a horse and cart for him and a partisan waited for him and succeeded in smuggling him out of town. The Germans spread the rumor that Hotnik had been shot and murdered by them. He was a faithful Jew who aspired to emigrate to Eretz Israel. With the liberation, he was drafted into the Red Army with the rank of Colonel.
For a period of time I was drafted into the Special Unit of the brigade. We were operating then in the vicinity of Drahichyn - Yanov [Yanuvka]. Once we were ordered to liquidate, or capture alive several collaborators. We arrived at the village, close to an area under German control. We ran into a platoon of about 30 German soldiers but they saw us and opened up a heavy fire. One of our men was hit and died on the spot, while we (three of us) managed to retreat. Towards evening, when we received some reinforcements, we returned to the place, recovered the body and brought it back for burial in the forest.
Once, during one of the operations in the vicinity of Olble, I found a Holy Ark with one of the villagers that had belonged to the Synagogue of Trisk's Chasidim, that was being used as a cupboard for simple storage
And again, while we were in Vyderta it was decided to liquidate a known collaborator. We went to his house and entered. We couldn't find him. Outside again, we heard a rustling sound from near a stable and after a warning shot the man came out towards us. We led him to the front of the house and shot him. On a later occasion, when we returned from an operation, we went to the same house with the intention of commandeering a horse and cart. We discovered several Russian soldiers living there and when we told them who the house belonged to they helped us take the horse and cart.
In one of the villages close to Drahichyn lived a villager who collaborated with the Germans. We were ordered to liquidate him and leave no traces. We got to the yard of his house that was right on the edge of town. We encircled the house and ordered him to collect all his belongings and his family and to come with us. From pure lack of any alternative he obeyed. Obviously the punishment accorded was death.
From one of our contacts we learned that, every Sunday, Germans came to one of the villages to buy food. We were ordered to capture them alive. We arranged an ambush at night and waited. For some reason it just so happened that on that occasion they didn't appear and we had to abandon the project and leave the village. Immediately after our retreat the Germans somehow became aware of the plan and they began to chase us in an armored vehicle.
On the Anniversary of the October revolution, in 1943, it was decided to blow up the railroads throughout the whole of Ukraine. My platoon was given the section close to Drahichyn. The Germans were awake all night and fired along the rails. We waited a few hours and somewhat before dawn things quieted down and we crawled towards the railroad tracks and placed the explosives and at an agreed signal lit the fuse and retreated. There were about sixty of us. After a few minutes the sound of 120 railway lines being blown up was heard and again the Germans opened fire and we retreated happily to our places.
There were some Germans on one of the estates on the way home. We decided to attack them. On the order, we opened fire on the house where they lived and retreated.
The Impressions of a Partisan
Moshe Paltieli (Plot)
Translated by Selwyn Rose
We were on the way back from a special mission to Privitovka near Sarni, during which we were to make contact with the renowned Partisan commander, Fyodorov [from the Rovno division] to convey to him a message from our brigade's commander named by Molotov, and also from our immediate superior. My comrade and I, having endured all the rigors and dangers of our long, exhausting ride, arrived at last, back in our own domain, between Minsk and Yanov where we should find, according to our estimation, a military unit of the Brigade the Utriad.
My comrade on the road, a local man, parted from me while I continued riding serenely on my way in the forest. A deep pervading silence was everywhere. Suddenly my ears picked up the sound of people's voices. I got off my white horse and pressed my ear to the ground. I was astounded because I was sure I could hear a disjointed conversation in Yiddish, or perhaps German? Tense and palpitating, I strode towards the voices, the horse's reins in my hand. Suddenly, again, a deep silence fell and only the tweeting of the birds high above the forest canopy, and the trampling of my horse could be heard. I tired of trying to determine from whom, and from where the sound was coming and got back in the saddle. And then, after about an hour, the horse stopped, nostrils flaring and hooves pawing the ground a sure sign of disquiet. This time I drew the bolt of my rifle, putting a round in the breech and without getting off my horse, began to scout the area, after every suspicious sound.
And again my ears caught the sound of conversation and this time I quickly got off my horse, tethered her to a tree and obeying all the rules of Partisan caution, began to make my way towards the sounds. Sure enough, a short distance away, I saw a group of 3-4 men, in faded worn clothes, talking together and in Yiddish. I returned quietly to my horse, and with quickened pace rode towards them.
At first they were shocked into silence; however, after I blurted out the word Amcha in those days a known password for one of us they relaxed and approached me at the same time calling to the rest of their comrades in the camp, which was also, by the way, well-hidden, to come out from, seemingly, the depths of the earth and look at the miracle. They all looked at me wide-eyed with stupefaction and one of them an elderly Jew, (now living in Acco and the owner of a restaurant), Jews, wow! Today is Rosh Hashanah and the Messiah has come on a white mule! .It transpired that they had no idea that there were Jewish fighters among Partisans and here a Jew, armed with an automatic PPS rifle, in fighter's garb, on a white horse a Messiah if there ever was one!
Emotional and palpitating, I told them about our town, about what had happened to me and that there were other Jewish fighters among the Partisans. When I asked them about their conditions, they told me that local farmers helped them with food and clothes, and support, sometimes, local near-by Partisans, in return for which they would do all sorts of jobs. However, they were terrified of the Partisans and for good reason: there was among them a youngster who had been stabbed by a Russian Partisan by the name of Mustapha (by the way a colleague-in-arms of mine, Berish Drug, also known as Dov Amit but survived by a miracle.
What happened was this: Mustapha and his friend Sasha (later mistakenly killed), were patrolling in the forest and suddenly encountered a group of 11-13 Jews from Pinsk and Yanov. According to what I was told and as far as I can remember Mustapha demanded, whether seriously or as a joke, that they join the Partisans and avenge the spilled blood of the Jews and their brothers. According to their reply, they would willingly join up with the Partisans but how can they be accepted without arms? Mustapha became enraged and said: And with gold you can't buy rifles come, let's see if you've got any gold. So saying, he drew his bayonet and together with his colleagues, instituted a search finding all sorts of coins and gold jewelry hidden away in the clothing of the unhappy captives, trembling with fear. The result was that the anger of the two was ignited and they started stabbing their helpless victims, one by one, until there was no sign of life in any of them. Only the man mentioned above managed to survive, after being stabbed close to the heart and by a miracle managed to get back to his camp. (A few years ago, I met him on the beach at Kyriat Chaim and he showed me the scar).
I was stunned on hearing his shocking story and found no response to make, especially since the murderer was an ex-comrade and one of the finest of the fighting Partisans.
After an hour, I left my unhappy brothers, tortured and pursued from every side, and during the long ride back to my own headquarters, I rode with unstoppable tears of pain and shame streaming down my face, with no one around to see. The fountain couldn't be stopped and neither did I wish to do so me, the hardened hero, who until now had a heart of stone and a dried up source of tears
Translated by Selwyn Rose
I well remember those terrible days: the fear, the steadily worsening situation, the passivity with which we regarded others' suffering. We made no self-examination, and asked ourselves no questions as to why the Germans were killing us and we paid a high price for it.
I remember clearly the first Aktzia when we were all standing together on the field, saying to Ben-Zion Malik and to Ya'akov Karsh, Look, they are digging graves for us; if we don't do something we are lost!
When I left the field and went back to the ghetto, I tried to get hold of a gun. With the help of my brother-in-law, Yeshayahu Kroin (zl.), I managed to acquire a pistol and later two rifles.
I prepared a hiding place for the pistol in an empty water bucket for when I left and returned to the ghetto; outside the ghetto there was always a pistol in my pocket. My decision was firm and final: if I fell into the hands of the Germans, I would put an end to my life.
One day, I repaired a rifle in the cellar of the house and had to fire real bullets in order to test it. I placed Ya'akov Karsh on the steps of the house, gave him two large hammers and told him to start banging with them. Then I went down to the cellar again and started shooting.
One day we woke up to find the ghetto unguarded. I was quite sure that our liberation had not arrived but that it was some trick or other by the Germans.
During the day, I could not escape because the Gentiles pestered me with their demands that I return them the watches they had given for repair to my brother-in-law, Yeshayahu Kroin (he himself had already flown to his hiding place that he had prepared at a Gentile's house).
A few minutes before nightfall, I climbed up to the hiding place on the roof. The hiding place was able to hold about 15 people but there were about 30 people there. They just sat on one another's knees. I went to the hiding place where I had placed the rifles and found just one rifle there. Later on I discovered that the missing one had been taken by Ya'akov Karsh and Ben-Zion Malik who had escaped earlier. We sat there in the hiding place until late at night and couldn't get out because of the shooting going on all around. From time to time we heard someone coming up to the roof and going down again. We sat there petrified with fear and without uttering a sound.
Eventually, the sound of shooting lessened and I said that the time had come to get out to the forest. There were women from the Malik family and they said, No, no we'll stay here until tomorrow night. Almost certainly the whole situation will be even quieter by then.
No! I protested. Tomorrow they will destroy the ghetto. Come with me, please, I begged.
The majority refused, so I opened the door to the hide-out and went out. My own wife and Yeshayahu Kroin, Ya'kov Yaffe and his wife and two orphans, whose names I don't know, came with me.
On the way, I saw some wagons coming towards us. We ran into the field, lay down hiding and waited. Afterwards, we went into the village and got some food to take with us. We ran into a Gentile who raised his voice and began shouting, Dirty Jew! Dirty Jew! I approached him with my rifle at my shoulder and the pistol in my hand and he shut up. His shouts of Dirty Jew quickly changed to Sir or some such and we got some food. I warned him that I would shoot him and burn his house to the ground if he sent the villagers after us and we continued on our way. On the second evening we entered the forest.
After some time some others joined us and we dug a large bunker in the ground where we could hide, but we didn't have any food.
Eventually we decided that I would go with two friends to Kamen-Kashirskiy, to Zaminkovski the miller and bring some food. A few hundred meters from the miller's house, I gave my two friends a rifle and we separated.
When I knocked on the door it was opened by his wife. When I told her what I wanted, she hurried to the flour-mill adjacent to the house to call her husband. I stood in the corner of the room to make sure I wouldn't be seen and attacked from the window. Zaminkovski was sincerely happy to see me alive and well. I gave him a few watches and some money and he gave me in return a sack of food and promised to send more. I parted from him warmly and went back to my waiting friends who had hidden under a pile of hay.
About three days later a wagon arrived loaded down with food. There was a sack of flour, a sack of oats, tobacco, kerosene, matches and salt. A short time later the food was stolen and we were again hungry.
We decided to behave like all the other partisans. From time to time, we would take the wagon to one of the Gentile houses. My friends would wait outside while I, who didn't look all that Jewish, would go inside and order everyone to lay on the floor with their faces downwards. I confiscated about 40% of all the foodstuffs that they had, just like the partisans did. After we had visited two or three houses in one evening, our wagon was full of food.
The forest ranger, who was a good friend of ours, told us that they had lodged complaints with him about the partisans. But they never realized that the partisan who had entered their homes had been a Jew.
Once, it was decided that Yitzchak Toizner and I should make contact with a group of partisans. We succeeded in doing so. But they stole our weapons, killed Yitzchak Toizner and sought to kill me as well. But I managed to run, somehow, and hid among the trees and by a miracle the bullets failed to find their mark.
On the way back to my group, without a gun, I felt as if I had ceased to be master of my own fate and every rustle and every tree constituted a threat. But the distance wasn't great and I was soon holding the pistol I had left in safe-keeping with my wife.
Moshe Paltieli (Plot)
Translated by Selwyn Rose
I was ordered to go out with a local comrade, reconnoiter the movements of a Hungarian regiment that was encamped near Drahichyn under the command of the Germans, and bring back information regarding their movements.
When we arrived in enemy territory, they were exposed and encamped close to the forest. We loaded our rifles got off the highway riding on pathways through the fields of growing produce, close to the villages. Silence reigned over all and only the distant barking of dogs could be heard.
About 10 kilometers from Drahichyn, was a village with just one main street with farmyards on both sides. We made our way in complete silence, as were accustomed to do and using only signs to each other, decided between the two of us to make our way to the house of our informer , in order to get information from him and also to convey instructions.
It was twilight time. From all around came only an unusual silence. Sure of ourselves and without waiting for full darkness, we entered the village riding straight down the main street. Suddenly we became concerned. Hungarian soldiers line the entire length of the street, their rifles in their hands. Only a few paces from us was a machine-gun post, ready for action, with a belt already threaded into the shiny gun. Next to it lay the operator, while behind him on a bench close to a house, sat some officers and among them a conspicuous one in German uniform with glittering golden epaulettes. They, too, it seems, were stunned by the sudden appearance of two armed riders.
However, we very quickly recovered ourselves, pulled on our reins, wheeled our horses and made off with all our strength and speed galloping as fast as we could, laying across our horses neck to present as low a profile as possible. However, the enemy also recovered themselves and in a very few seconds the soldiers opened a hail fire at us from all sorts of fire-arms, especially from machine-guns. The bullets hummed past our ears and above us. I carefully turned my head and looked back, seeing several of the soldiers coming after us riding on horses. I instantly decided to deter them by shooting several rounds at them and fired a few long bursts from my Sten. Bad luck took a hand and the gun jammed. In despair I began to recite the opening verses of the Kaddish, carefully and precisely. A passing thought came, that I should be permitted at least to finish the prayer before being hit by a bullet, for it was extremely unlikely that I wouldn't get hit from such a hail of bullets. Interestingly, my comrade also, a dyed-in-the-wool communist and sworn atheist, was murmuring the prayer. And miracle of miracles! We both made it unscathed, without a scratch. Only my friend's horse was lightly wounded in the leg.
Since then I have come to believe that there is an address on every bullet and perhaps we were saved by the grace of the Rabbi's Kaddish who knows?
Simcha Lavi (Leker)
Translated by Selwyn Rose
Once upon a time there was an ancient shtetl that nestled in a small valley, between fields and forests, on the River Styr. Wrapped in mist are the early days of the village. And the histories of the Jewish community plumb the depths of forgetfulness.
Who were the Jews, who after centuries of wandering stuck their tent-pegs in this place? Why did they desire only this shtetl for their residency? Was it from their own wish that they came here? Or was it the hand of fate that guided them here? We cannot know today. But her sons who came after them were courageous indeed and of noble spirit. Here they lived their life. Here they taught and raised many generations yearning for Zion. Here they fought for their existence. A war that sometimes pit them against the hardships of life and sometimes against hooligans. Until the awful storm arrived that wiped them entirely off the face of the earth. Nevertheless their memory is not lost and is perpetuated in this memorial book.
The village of Kamin Koshirski is known for its sons of toil; as men of honest work, laborers and shopkeepers.
It is known for its Zionist movement, for its institutions and youth movements, its funds and its Hebrew school.
It is also known for its intelligentsia. Among whom were men of the free professions, as well as men of simple toil, for whom a good book was bread and butter during their hours of relaxation.
Throughout the generations, magnificent institutions were created here synagogues, institutions for charity and nursing, schools and loan clubs.
There is no doubt that there were many in Poland like it. But each one had its own special life and each one contributed its own special contribution to the wonderful Jewish life, shining and exemplary. Each one had its own special variation, sometimes tributaries to the mainstream. A wealth of legends and folklore of its own. The folklore of Kamin Koshirski was particularly rich. The grace of antiquity poured over it.
The village even radiated its glow over the surrounding area and its villages and acted as a cultural and spiritual center for Glusha, Lubieshov, Pnevno and many others.
Generations came and went. Quietly and modestly, the old people would vacate their positions to their children. They didn't go far. The cemetery and its ancient and eroded gravestones were an inseparable part of the town. It was not a scary place. It seemed that fathers and mothers, who had grown weary of life were resting there under the great trees and protecting their beloved children.
Occasionally this quiet town became fearful. Sometimes she was attacked by sudden, flying storms and gales. Sometimes rioters-soldiers visited there. The same happened after the First World War , when Bulak-Balachovich rioters went storming throughout Volhynia; nor was this shtetl given a miss. Then the learned Jewish shoulders stooped under the suffering of two-thousand years of exile and bitter groaning emanated from their throats. But what happened was that the Jewish hand turned into a fist; the Jewish back straightened and Jewish youth grasped hold of clubs in order to defend Jewish lives and their honor. Yes! That also occurred in this wonderful shtetl.
Until the night of darkness arrived, the night of terror when the Nazi jackboots invaded the town and destroyed it to its very foundations. Even at those times there was evidence of exalted heroism and not a few youngsters fled to the forests to continue the desperate fight for their honor if not their lives. But the ancient Jewish community, young and old, was humiliated beyond measure, imprisoned within the ghetto, its property pillaged, tortured and wounded and eventually exterminated.
Buried in a common grave is the generations' dream. The golden chain of tradition and faith broken. The Jewish heart has stopped beating. Gone are the little, ancient lanes, once teeming with life. Only a very few remain. But these few will carry, as long as they live, the memory of the little town in which they were born and first saw the light of day and in which all their loved-ones were lost.
In blood and tears these chapters are written by the survivors of Kamin Koshirski. In reverence this memorial is set up to the martyrs and heroes, to the reality of the suffering of the years of the Holocaust and also with a shadow of hope, that those who have come after them and know not the lovely shtetl and its way of life, will remember her and place her above all other joys.
A special place is set-aside in the book for individuals or groups who were martyred for displaying a spirit of revolt and carrying out deeds of heroism. But the memory of those who were herded like sheep to the slaughter is honored and holy, for the Satanic forces wiped them from the face of the earth and they are not the guilty ones for failing to stay alive.
We will remember them all. This is their memorial a holy memorial. They will be remembered for all time.
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