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Rachov (cont.)

Berlbash [and Vilchobad]

As stated above, within the town limits of Rachov was included the village of Berlbash, at a distance of 9 km. All of the citizens were Ruthenians. In Berlbash the Jewish population (about 50 people total) was able to sustain a minyan. Before the holocaust there were the following Jews there: the wagon owner Eliahu, the butcher Isaiah Arbast, flour mill owner Moses Arbast, wagon owner Abraham Hirsh Arbast, grocery store owner Krumholtz, Mordecai the tavern owner, Adler the carpenter, and landowner Fishel Arbast. Because of the distance from town, they had their own minyan (before the holocaust it was in the home of Abraham Hirsh Arbast, before that in Moshe Arbast's house). All other aspects of their religious services came from Rachov. These were the services available to the Jews of Berlbash: they made use of the mikveh in Rachov, and the shohet of Rachov came there on a regular basis. They buried their dead in the cemetery of Rachov. All the Jews of Berlbash were fervent Vishnitz hassidim (in contrast to the Jews of Rachov who had among them many Sziget Chassim, and others). When the Vishnitz rebbe stayed at the recuperative spa in Kvasi (see the separate article on Kvasi elsewhere in this book), all the Jews of Berlbash stopped work to be near him.

About 3 km from Berlbash is a tiny settlement called Vilchobad, where two Jews lived - a merchant and a shoemaker. They were included in the local Eruv, so when they wanted to pray with a minyan, they walked to Berlbash. Today there are no Jews in either Berlbash or Vilchobad.

The Holocaust

Between the time when the Czechs left the area [in November 1938] and the Hungarian occupation [in March 1939], the Jews of Rachov suffered dreadful times. During that 5-month period, the nationalist Ukranians declared this area as part of their newly declared independent country, with Chust as its capital. The Ruthenians “divided” the Jewish property among themselves and prepared to engage in a general campaign of pillage. They assembled a “black list” of Jewish “Kulaks” who were marked for elimination and death. The period between March 14-17 1939 were terrible times for the Jews of Rachov. When the Hungarian army conquered the Czech part of Marmaros and wiped out the Ukrainian gangs, the Jews were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief as they had been saved from a certain slaughter. However, the bitter oppression of the conquering Hungarian army was not slow in coming. In a short time the Hungarian regime was shown in its full cruel and inhuman aspect - these are well known facts.

Dozens of the young Jewish men of Rachov took the opportunity of slipping across the nearby Soviet border (after the ill-fated Molotov-Ribbentropp agreement partitioning Poland) in order to move into areas occupied by the Red army. Many of the young men were taken in by the Soviet and Communist propaganda about internationalism and the “garden of eden with red leaves” across the border. To their amazement, they were all arrested by the Soviet authorities and accused of being spies or “suspicious elements” and sent to slave labor and oncentration camps around the Soviet Union, mostly in Siberia. Many of them perished in horrifying ways in these camps. Those who survived joined in the war against the Germans, either by being drafted into the Red army or by volunteering for the Czech brigade commanded by General Swoboda.

In 1941 the Jews of Rachov suffered the decrees of the Hungarian civil administration. Several dozen Jews of Rachov who could not pay for the proper documents were exiled in July 1941. Units of the Hungarian gendarme came to Rachov with lists of names. They went from house to house rounding up families and took them to the train station. There the families were loaded onto rail cars, without knowing their destination. They were taken to the border station at Yasin-Zamir, and from there they were taken by truck to Poland; most arrived in the area of Kamenetz-Podolski where they were murdered.

Survivors from Rachov assembled the following list of 12 families exiled at this time. This list is fragmentary, and there were certainly at least another 4 or 5 families included in this tragedy: Dr. Monio Adlerstein and his wife, Moshe Lottman and his wife, Isadore Sirmai and his wife, Laichi Steiner and his wife, Abraham Taubman and his wife, Mendel Krumholtz, Isaac Hoss and his son Hirsh, Lazer Hamburger and his wife, Isaac Konitz and his family, Isaac Wolf and his wife and sons, Simonovits and his family, Asher the milkman and his family.

Only two families are known to have managed to escape this horror and return to Hungary. Simonovits brought back his entire family (13 people) through forests and mountains; ten members of the Krumholtz family of Berlbash, through a series of harrowing and hair-raising incidents succeeded in returning to Hungary. The rest of the exiles met their death either by drowning in the Dneister river, by being shot by the Hungarian or German army near Kamenetz-Podolski, or in other ways.

The day after Passover 5704 (April 16, 1944) the general roundup of all Rachov's Jews [by the Germans] began. The Jews were confined in the school opposite the town council building. It took eight days to complete the roundup. On the ninth day they were all taken to the railroad station and sent to the well known and despised ghetto in Mateszalka. Here, the Jews of Rachov suffered for approximately a month and were then sent to Auschwitz. It is estimated that about 1,200 of Rachov's Jews died at Auschwitz or at other camps.

mar405.jpg Jews from Rahov and vicinity in a forced labor camp [36 KB]
Jews from Rahov and vicinity in a forced labor camp

In the fall of 1944 the first survivors started to make their way from the “valley of death” - they had fled from the death camps. These survivors lived as a single family and tried to revive communal life in Rachov. In 1945, additional survivors joined from camps in Germany. The shochet Zeev Grief, as mentioned above, returned to his holy tasks and was the only mohel in the region until his death in 5735 (1975). A regular minyan was organized in a private house. The synagogues had all been confiscated and were off limits - they were used as warehouses and for other purposes. At the end of 1945 and in early 1946 most of the Jews in Rachov left to make their way to Israel. A few stayed in Rachov, those are now [circa 1985] slowly arriving in Israel in a new wave of immigration from the Soviet Union. Today there is not even a minyan of Jews left in Rachov.


Interviews with several survivors of Rachov.

A manuscript about Rachov written by David Shmerler with the help of Israel Chaim Shayovich.

Rabbi Eliezer Deutsch: Responsa “Pri HaSadeh”, part 3, Paksh 5673 (1913), section 186.

[Magyar-Zsido Okleveltar, vol VII, Budapest 1963, pp 134, 308, 748.

Yad Vashem testimonies: 015/157; 015/529; 015/838; 015/1395; 015/1425; 015/1278; 015/2109; 015/2169; 015/2178; 015/2200; 015/2519; 015/2526; 015/2688; 03/1403; M-1/1724/1603; M-1/E 2075/1878.]

Translated 1996 (from the 1986 1st Edition of Sefer Marmaros) by Eldad M Ganin (notes indicated by initials “emg”).

Completely re-translated and completed 2001 (from the 1996 2nd Edition) by Moshe A Davis. In this translation, I have endeavored to maximize ease of readability and the grammatical flow of the material, while keeping true to the spirit and the content of the information contained therein. To this end, in many places I have taken the liberty of rearranging the sentence and/or paragraph structure from that of the original Hebrew in order to improve the clarity and natural flow of ideas in English. Also, in many places I have slightly expanded the material, in order to clarify ideas or to define concepts which may not be familiar to readers who lack background in traditional Jewish customs and who are unfamiliar with Jewish Law. My own additions, and/or additions to the 2nd edition which did not appear in Eldad Ganin's translation of the article in the 1st edition, I have set apart by enclosing them in square brackets [].

Please note that many of the original sources used by the authors of Sefer Marmaros were written in languages other than Hebrew, which is the language of the text of Sefer Marmaros itself. Those original sources were not available to the translator, and thus most of the surnames as transliterated here may in fact have been spelled somewhat differently in the original source.

List of Jewish surnames mentioned in this article:


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