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Gone But Not Forgotten:

An Introduction

by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD

Buried under the rubble of time, forgotten by the vicissitudes of history, lie two small towns, both shtetls that until recently have been lost to memory, especially to the memory of families who ended up in the English-speaking world. They were sister towns, no more than a mile apart, and their economies, cultures, institutions, and families were so intertwined with one another that some residents later hyphenated the town names, as if they were one place. In the end, residents of the two towns were liquidated together in an area along the road between them.

The larger of the two towns, Mlynov (also spelled “Mlinov” among other variations), still exists on maps today as “Mlyniv,” in what is now western Ukraine. The town today is nothing like what it was, once upon a time, when Jewish families lived and thrived there. There was a small Jewish community residing there not long after the area became part of Tzarist Russia in 1793 and Jews may have been there even earlier when it was still part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.[1] According to an unverified belief reported in this volume, the name “Mlynov” was derived originally from a Slavic or Polish word for “mill” (p. 15, 54),[2] and writers testify to the town's character as a mill town as far back as anyone can remember. The smaller of the two towns, called Mervits (“Muravica,” “Muravista,” among other variations), no longer appears on maps today and its prior location is just outside the existing border of its larger and still existing neighbor. The meaning of the name Mervits has been lost along with the town that once bore its name.

Here in these two sister towns, a vibrant Jewish community once thrived. Their cemetery tombstones are now gone, the streets have been largely reconfigured and renamed, and only an odd building or two is still standing from that earlier period when the several synagogues were full, the shop owners sat on their steps and waited for customers, and kids skated on the pond they called a swamp in the middle of town. These are just a few of the many images that emerge out of the pages of this new, fully annotated translation of the Mlynov-Muravica Memorial volume, also known as a “Yizkor book.” This new translation brings these two towns back to life for descendants who are searching for their family's roots and knowledge of their ancestors' birthplace.

What an extraordinary journey and honor leading this effort to excavate the past of these two forgotten towns. I am the grandson of first cousins, both born in Mlynov, who came at different times to Baltimore where they settled and eventually married.[3] Growing up, I never knew much about their lives. After my parents passed away, and as I grew older myself, I set off to learn about the history of my family and my family's past.

I discovered that my family journey was intertwined with the story of other families from Mlynov and Mervits who all knew each other and, in many cases, intermarried. The towns were so small in fact that many of the families were cousins of one degree or another. One essay in this volume, in fact, tells the funny story of how the rabbi in Mervits had difficulty finding “kosher” witnesses who were not relatives of the bride and groom (p. 168). Over the past several years, I tracked down and connected with more than 500 descendants of families that once lived in these two towns. Some of their ancestors came to the US before or after WWI. Others made aliyah (i.e., immigrated) to the Land of Israel (then still Mandate Palestine) in the 1920s and 1930s. Still others were survivors or descendants of survivors. I spoke to them by phone, exchanged emails with them and interviewed many by Zoom and in person. I asked them questions about their family trees and prodded them for family stories and photos that were passed down from the days of the shtetl. Each family had one or two pieces of the larger puzzle. Putting them together brought forth a more complete picture that amplifies the essays and photos in this volume.

When I first learned of this Memorial volume, I didn't realize the treasures it held. The essays, which were published originally in 1970 in Hebrew and Yiddish, were all authored by people who were born, lived, or visited these two towns during their lifetimes. Many descendants didn't even know that this volume existed, let alone what it said. Partial English translations circulated among a few families and was published in recent years.[4] Many descendants report that their immigrant parents and /or grandparents from these two towns were reluctant to speak about their birthplace, due in part to the trauma they suffered and/or because they were busy embracing their new cultures and identities in America, Canada, and Israel. For all these reasons, many of the English-speaking descendants know little to nothing about these birthplaces of their ancestors.

The essays in this first complete translation, replete with annotations about the authors and the individuals mentioned, help rectify this gap. The essays do more than mourn the loss of these places and the people who once lived there. In a vivid and magical way, they also nostalgically recall how residents lived life when these places were thriving and vibrant. While many of the essays recount the disturbing and incredibly painful experiences at the end, a number recall stories, anecdotes, and folklore which are nostalgic, funny, endearing and evocative. These moments touch the heart and provide a sense of what was good about life for a period of time in that place.

This volume thus has two streams that intermingle with each other. On the one hand, the essays tell the painful story of how these towns came to an end and the experiences of those who were viciously murdered or managed to survive. These firsthand accounts constitute the dark side of the story. They narrate the pain and suffering from the beginning of the Soviet occupation in September 1939 to the Nazi attack and occupation the week of June 22, 1941, through the erection of the Mlynov ghetto in April/May 1942, and its final liquidation on October 8, 9 or 10, 1942.[5] We relive the turmoil and horror of those who suffered through these events and the incredible stories of survival of the fortunate few. We learn too the names and characters of those who perished, memorialized by loved ones who left before the tragic events took place.

On the other hand, the essays capture the sights and sounds recalled from childhood including, the muddy streets in winter that sucked your boots in; the smell and beauty of lilacs in spring and the flowering of the cherry, apple and plum trees (pp. 44, 153); the sledding down hills in moonlight (p. 226); the teachers who were beloved and those who engaged in corporate punishment (pp. 156, 89); the first look by a young boy through the gate of the Church in town and the discovery of the figure hanging on the cross (p. 154); the folklore about how the Ikva River got its name (p. 14); and the disputes that arose among rabbis over who should have control over the community (p. 18). This stream of nostalgic memories is evocative, eye-opening, and even at times funny. This volume will be sacred for those who want to know what life was actually like where their families once lived.

* * *

Mlynov is characterized in this volume as a mill town that grew up along the Ikva River. The Ikva holds a prominent role in the childhood memories of those who once lived here. Residents boated on and swam in its cool waters during the hot days of summer (p. 226, photos pp. 187, 218) and the farmers and merchants from the nearby towns and villages took their horses there to drink and bathe on market days (p. 153). Sometimes, a child drowned tragically in the river (pp. 94, 415). Charred posts from an old mill that had once burned down stuck out of the flowing river and out of the ice when the river froze over (p. 15, 35). Folklore from the town indicates that the name “Ikva” came from the words of a Hebrew prayer that residents recited after blocks of ice caused the river to overflow its banks and flood the towns in the area. Their prayer caused the waters to recede. Even the gentiles supposedly liked the Hebrew-based name and adopted it too (p. 14).

Folklore recalls too how a very steep and memorable hill came into being across the Ikva River from Mlynov (photo p. 158). The young children called it “Mount Sinai” and played there (pp. 30, 54). Teens and young adults called it “Greenik” (pp. 70, 154) and youth headed there to escape the watchful eyes of their elders (p. 217). One reached “Mount Sinai” from town by walking east across one of the bridges over the Ikva, which was at the crossroads leading west to Smordva and south to Dubno (pp. 35, 217, photo of one of the bridges, p. 279). An old map below shows where Mlynov and Mervits (here called Muravica) were in relationship to one another and where bridges crossed the Ikva River.[6]

Gazing east from the top of “Mount Sinai,” one looked down on the town of Mlynov. Looking west, one could see the white walls of the nearby Count Chodkiewicz's palace, the local nobleman who owned all the property in the area including the towns and river. Mount Sinai was so prominent in the memory of Mlynov children that they wrote essays about it and went to say goodbye to it as young adults when they later secured documents authorizing their aliyah (p. 30). According to childhood folklore, “Mount Sinai” arose when a righteous man, a tzaddik, was attacked by the Count's dogs as he was walking by a church that used to be near the Count's property. Three times he uttered an incantation whereupon the Church was swallowed up by the earth and produced the hill (p. 154). Other legends attributed the origin of the hill to the soldiers of a Polish military leader and statesman who fought against Russia (p. 54).

 

Mly000.jpg
A 1925 Polish map shows the towns of Mlynov and Murawica on the bank of the Ikva River. Visible are the location of bridges, the approximate location of the Catholic church at the main square (large cross) the market square (a pentagon), as well as a cemetery (rectangle with crosses) east of town. A market square (a pentagon) is also visible in the nearby Mervits (Muravica)

 

One young girl named Silke, who was born in the nearby town of Lutsk and later was on the editorial committee of this volume, loved leaving her dirty, crowded hometown and going to Mlynov to visit her grandparents. Mlynov was rural and green, smelled wonderful, and everyone knew her name (pp. 266–271). She was there too for a beautiful wedding, when a young woman from Mlynov married a young man from Lutsk and when the town was filled with music and celebration (pp. 27–29). Even the Count pitched in, contributing horses and a wagon to carry the groom to the event. One summer holiday Silke traveled to Mlynov by coachman. There her grandmother taught her to milk a cow and she first realized that cows were not the dumb creatures she once thought they were (pp. 266–271).

During one of those visits, Silke witnessed the annual pilgrimage to Mlynov, when devotees flocked there to the memorial of the Rebbe who had died suddenly near town (p. 81). His name was Reb Aharon of Karlin II. He was from the Stolin-Karliner stream of Hasidism, the first branch of this new religious movement to establish itself in Lithuania. Reb Aharon was the fourth in line of succession of this Hasidic dynasty of which his grandfather, Aaron the Great, had been the founder. There was a belief among some of the residents of town that the Rebbe's memorial would protect the town (pp. 118, 145), a belief that those in the younger generation doubted and prompted them to acquire rifles and organize self-defense (p. 118). Curiosity prompted children to ask their parents about the Rebbe's memorial and the man who guarded the eternal light inside (p. 60); one former resident nostalgically remembers the thousands of petitionary notes that were stuffed in a holy box in the memorial (p. 63).

Reb Aharon's sudden death near Mlynov in 1872 generated folklore including a story about a tree that grew into the shape of a menorah (candelabra) at the spot where he died (p. 31). Looking back years later, one woman wrote a ballad to that tree (pp. 427–29). She recalled sitting under its shade as she and her girlfriend walked from Mlynov towards Mervits. She wonders if that old friend, the tree, is still standing there and hopes that the birds on its branches will recite a mourner's prayer (kaddish) for her family and the others who were senselessly murdered nearby along that road.

Silke's grandfather was one of the respected Hasids in town from the Stolin-Karliner dynasty (pp. 80–82). He attended one of the three synagogues (some essays say “two” synagogues and a study hall) that sprung up to meet the diverse religious inclinations of the Mlynov community (pp. 55, 61, 71, 226). In Mlynov, the largest synagogue of the Trisk Hasidim was built first (p. 55, 61). The second synagogue was named for the Rabbi from the Stolin Hasidim. The third for the Rabbi of Olyka (p. 61). Mervits also had two synagogues and a bathhouse but was otherwise heavily dependent on Mlynov for other functions (pp. 94, 111). There were also two churches in Mlynov, a Catholic and a Russian Orthodox church (pp. 10, 55, 119, 126, 153). As one writer recalls:

The focal point of the small town of Mlynov was the market square, at one end of which stood the Russian Orthodox Church. Along the river, opposite the palace of the Count, stood a Polish Church. On a number of narrow lanes around the market square stood Jewish homes. Behind the lanes of Jews were streets of Ukrainian gentiles. These streets were called “The Village.” Next to the palace there was a neighborhood of Poles, employees of the Count. Clerks and Polish businessmen lived among the Jews and Ukrainians (p. 55).
Some of the poorer residents lived in incredibly narrow alleyways of the shtetl (pp. 88, 182, 420). In these alleyways, young boys could hide away from the prying eyes of their parents (p. 154). On long nights, the young adults strolled from one end to the other (420) and walked a little freer during summer when they could leave the narrow streets of the shtetl (p. 182).

The streets were so narrow in places that, if one safely passed through them, one essayist jokingly says you should recite “gomel,” a prayer for surviving a dangerous situation or journey (p. 200). The streets were named after buildings or people who lived on them. Looking back many years later from Baltimore, the same writer described his memory of these streets this way:

The Rabbi's Street, the Shochet's Street, Nasele's Street, Moyshe Toybe's Street [i.e., Moshe Fishman's Street], Chaim Leml's Street — all the little streets led to the marketplace — if you were able to cross the street without leaving a boot in the deep mud. On Khaykl's street [photo p. 201] there was much traffic. His street was known in the shtetl. Getting to the market was not so easy. Firstly, we had to go through a long, little street very carefully; it was the width of one person. On one side there was a wall from the stable of Wolf [Berger], Nute-Ber's son, and on the other side was a kind of separation with barbwire fencing in Ishtekhe's garden; if you finally made it out of the shtetl okay, you could recite hagomel the blessing for surviving.

The little street had another good point: when you were busy making right turns, you quickly ended up in the Stolin synagogue where you could catch a prayer service, even if you had never been a Stoliner Hasid. But if you had to go out to the market, you needed to turn left. The street, which led to the market across from the Polish church, was called Tuvye's Street [Tuvye Berger]. In that street you needed a special strategy: namely, you had to hold onto the walls of the house — if not, you would fall, you should excuse me, into a mud of a different sort since there was always a mountain of manure in that street. As Tuvye's house was low, the windows reached to your feet, and you could see what was cooking in the fireplace. If you made it out of that street, there were cages. Again, you had to be careful and hold your body straight. More than once a heavy Jewish woman slipped into the mud with one foot; she would curse quietly to herself (p. 200).

Young people felt a comparable intellectual and cultural narrowness though a spirit of change began to reach the shtetls. One young man had his eyes opened and “was taken by storm” after reading a Yiddish book given to him by a friend (p. 259). But his widowed mother squashed his interest, fearing that his reading would seduce him to abandon her and his responsibilities to the family. Had he followed his heart, perhaps he would not have perished with his family.

By the 1920s, if not earlier, some young people were reading vanguard writers like Hayim Nahman Bialik, a pioneer in Hebrew poetry, and subscribing to newspapers and magazines that were reshaping their world view. In some cases, they were going off to study in larger cities like the sea-side town, Odessa (pp. 219, 92, 70). One young girl, a prodigy in town by the name of Chana Klepatch, knew the story of and memorized quotes from a Polish heroine, Countess Emilia Plater (1806–1831), the so-called Joan of Arc of Lithuania (p. 279). These external impulses tugged at the hearts of the young people, such as the young man, Solomon Mandelkern, who was one of Mlynov's most famous sons (pp. 484–86). Mandelkern was born in Mlynov in 1846 and his father prepared him from a very young age to be a traditional rabbinic scholar. At the age of 6, he was an expert in the Five Books of Moses and had memorized pages of Gemara by the age of 10. He left Mlynov at the age of 16 when his father died unexpectantly. Later, he abandoned his traditional studies along with his traditional wife. He was ordained a rabbi in Vilna, secured a PhD in Eastern Languages in St. Petersburg, and went on to write poetry and translate classic literature from Russian and German into Yiddish. According to folklore, when he came through Mlynov one day on the eve of the Sabbath and stopped in his sister's store, she didn't even recognize him with his top hat, his missing beard and his bushy moustache (p. 32, photo p. 484).

There were at least three different streams of Hasidism in town (Trisker, Olyker and Stolin-Karliner) and serious conflicts (p. 91) and even fisticuffs (p. 159) used to break out over the style of praying. Matters improved after 1903 when the large synagogue burned down and the Trisker Hasidim built their own separate chapel (pp. 91, 180). While most of the people in the towns observed the Sabbath, they were not as strictly observant as people in other places in Poland. No one wore fur hats (streimels), and women did not shave their heads when they got married as in some communities (p. 56). Not all the average folks were “so scrupulously devoted to observing” the Sabbath and some would instead leave town on the day of rest to enjoy the fresh air and grass of the fields and forests nearby (p. 189).

The most important and wealthiest men of town had seats in the synagogue facing the Eastern Wall (pp. 159, 220, 199, 246) where many also came to study traditional Jewish texts (p. 317). Following traditional practice, women were separated from the men during weddings (p. 28) and mention is made of a women's synagogue (pp. 326, 342–43). Some of the husbands were so pious and focused on study and prayer that they forgot to eat, and they left the burden of raising the family to their wives, to the later criticism of their grandchildren (p. 261). Wives sometimes had to push their religious husbands to find an occupation, leading in one case to one man's botched attempt to sell kerosene on the black market (pp. 273–76). Some men, like the father of the famous poet, Yitzhak Lamdan, had a very rigorous religious routine of daily study and prayer (p. 242).

When the young people congregated at the back of the synagogue chatting and uninterested in the service, the elders hushed them and insulted them by yelling, “Outside you bums (shkotzim).” The young people periodically took their revenge, wadded up the wet towels that people used to dry their hands after relieving themselves and threw them on the heads of the elders (pp. 159–60).

The synagogue was the place where emissaries lectured and where the most important and difficult community issues were aired and resolved in contentious debates that took place before the Torah reading. “If not for that,” one writer declares, “life would be too boring in the shtetl” (p. 190). Speakers during services sometimes provoked heated reactions from worshippers, one person even standing up and screaming, “Lies” (p. 165). Periodically, religious politics flared up. Disputes arose over which rabbi should lead the Mlynov Kehilla, a community governance structure which included and oversaw the other nearby shtetls of Mervits, Ostrozshets, Boremel, Demydivka, and Trovits (pp. 16, 56). Apparently revenge kept Rabbi Gordon of Mlynov from winning such an election because he had earlier opposed the appointment of the Mervits rabbi. Instead, the rabbi from Trovits was appointed head of the Kehilla. “No conflict,” one writer recalled, “creates as much diversity of opinion as the battle over who would be the rabbi of the Kehilla” (p. 20).

Several essays recall youthful pranks and other memorable incidents that took place. When the young men reached 21, the age of military conscription, they felt they had nothing to lose and would go to great lengths to avoid duty. They would fast, cut off their trigger fingers, puncture their eardrum, among other efforts to render themselves ineligible, though the efforts often proved futile (pp. 186–87, 190–91, 264). One time, such a group of conscription-eligible young men pranked the well-to-do elders of the town. During the night, they gathered up all the wooden objects they could find lying around town regardless of who owned them. The next day, they instructed the man who managed the communal bathhouse (who was also the grave digger) to fire up the waters and provide the luxury of a heated bath to even the poorest in town who could not afford the fee (pp. 190–94).

Such evocative incidents open a window into life of the towns' residents. They include the story of residents rescuing a widow from seduction and conversion (pp. 178–80), the disappearance of the only gramophone in town with its music (pp. 199–201), and the story of how a teacher convinced a Jewish Communist soldier stationed in his home to have a proper Jewish wedding with the Jewish Communist woman with whom he was cohabitating (pp. 150–51). There are stories too about a ghost of a murdered Mlynov man who led residents to find his lost fur hat (pp. 196–97), and a religious man who became a teacher when his efforts on the black market literally fell apart (pp. 272–76). These humorous, ironic anecdotes illuminate the typical heartache and challenges of daily life.

Many of the towns' men were hard-working, eking out a livelihood as artisans, blacksmiths, carpenters, joiners, coachmen, grain merchants, inn keepers, teachers, fishermen, tailors, shoemakers, water carriers, masons, house painters, basement diggers, undertakers and shop owners (p. 239). Most barely made a living, and during the winter many artisans and those in construction had no work at all (pp. 182, 236, 234). Women sometimes ran shops themselves (p. 271), started nursery schools (p. 261) and were seamstresses (p. 237), especially those whose husbands studied all the time. Fabric making was a profitable and prominent industry in Mervits which one poor family aspired to enter (p. 209). Some shops sold beer to the German and Czech populations (p. 261). Even some rabbis had beer taverns, among other business activities, to supplement their meager income from the kosher slaughtering tax (p. 18). As one writer remarked, “It was strange to see, from time to time, a Jew with a substantial beard standing behind the counter mixing beer for gentiles, and in addition, selling non-Kosher sausages to them” (p. 261).

Much of the economy in the area revolved around the Count's estate with its beautiful palace, gardens, and servants, which required a steady stream of farmhands to handle the animals, fields and forests (pp. 230, 232). The palace of the Count served as an endless source of legends and tall tales for the children (p. 54). The Count Chodkiewicz who owned the town and all the property in the area was descended from a well-known war hero Jan Karl Chodkiewicz, a prominent nobleman and military commander of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

A number of men in town worked for the Count (pp. 232–233), such as Hirsch Holtzeker, who oversaw fishing licenses in the river; fishing apparently was one of the toughest ways to earn a living (pp. 233). Hirsch was the oldest of the five Holtzeker brothers who came to Mlynov when the Russian government expelled Jews from the rural villages (p. 60), sometime after the assassination of Tzar Alexander II in 1881. The Holtzeker family, though originally from Dubno, was given the nickname “Slobadar” because they had been working as wood cutters in the nearby village of Slobada (today subsumed in the nearby town of Uzhynets'). The Holtzekers are remembered as the largest family in Mlynov with many branches (pp. 256–257, 245). Each shtetl tended to have one large family that dominated the population. In Mervits, the Teitelmans were the largest family (p. 258).

Hirsch Holtzeker was one of the wealthy men in town; his home on Shkolna Street (also called Church Street, p. 199 and Synagogue Street, pp. 152, 201), stood out and looked like that of a Polish nobleman with a fence, large yard, and fruit trees (p. 134). Hirsch was one of the few men in town who could go inside the Count's manor and the only one who supposedly could kiss the hand of the Countess (pp. 189, 54).

Prior to 1900, Count Chodkiewicz apparently owned the large water mill which he would lease to local Jews (p. 230). Later the mill was owned by Yosef Gelberg, a wealthy Jew in town, who eventually brought electricity into the town in the 1930s (p. 96). In an earlier period, the Count also leased a flour mill until it burned down (p. 61) in one of several severe fires that swept through the town (p. 180).

There are conflicting images of the Count which may testify to different periods of time. Some recall the Count supporting local Jewish weddings (p. 27); others recall that Jewish residents feared strolling near the Count's park, afraid that the Polish workers and servants would sic their dogs on them or throw stones (p. 54). While antisemitism was present in the earlier period, essayists recall some trust and respect among the greatest part of the population and the relationship of Jews and Christians was in some measure loyal and even honest (p. 232).

***

The two shtetls of Mlynov and Mervits were located at the crossroads of two major roads leading to more populated towns with larger Jewish populations. Running north-south was a road that today still connects Dubno (just 13 miles south of today's Mlyniv) to Lutsk (22 miles north). That road intersects with a road running east–west which links Rivne (32 miles to the east) with Demydivka and Berestechko to the west (14 and 27 miles respectively). Most of the stories and narratives that take place in this volume lie along these axes and various small villages in between.

 

Mly001.jpg
Contemporary map showing contemporary Mlyniv at the crossroads

 

In 1850, Mlynov was a small town of 48 households and 201 souls.[7] By 1897, there were 672 Jews out of 1105 residents (p. 11), the Jewish population apparently growing by 10 persons per year between the two periods. In the 1921 census, there were reportedly only 615 Jews.[8] Allowing for a natural growth rate, it is estimated that there were some 730 Jews in town by 1941 plus several hundred Jewish refugees, who arrived from Sokoliki (p. 384) among other places in western Ukraine. By the time of the liquidation, it is estimated that there were approximately 2,000 Jews living there.[9]

The area around Mlynov and Mervits was rural and there were many peasant farmers in the smaller villages nearby (photo p. 429). There was also a scattering of Jews in some of these nearby villages, such as the Grinshpun family in Peremilowka (pp. 425-426) and the Fisher family in Mantyn (p. 247). Often, farmers would come to Mlynov on market days and during fairs to sell grain and produce and buy goods (pp. 91, 153, 198). Several other ethnic groups lived in the area including not only Ukrainians but Poles, Czechs, as well as some Germans (p. 235). Despite the antisemitism fostered by the Catholic Church which grew worse during the 1930s, the Jewish men of town had good relations and became friends with some of their business contacts. These business relationships would later save the lives of some individuals and families. Ukrainians later comprised the police force that executed the violent German plans. Some of the Czechs and Poles were supportive and helpful to Mlynov and Mervits families trying to survive (p. 234), though occasionally even a Ukrainian helped save a Mlynov family or individual (pp. 355–56, 372, 419). One writer remarks that “we can openly say that thanks to the Czechs there was still a small trace of Jews remaining” (p. 235). And another survivor recalls one poor farmer named Bogdan who was “an angel in heaven” and who helped “all the Jews who wandered in that part of the woods.” Bogdan never refused. He did it “not for riches but because of his kind character and goodness” (p. 338). Bogdan lived near Pañska Dolina, a village that no longer exists, but which at the time was in the hands of Polish resistance and where several Mlynov survivors found refuge at key moments in their survival efforts (pp. 303–306, 324, 347, 387, 393).

The writers in this volume were born between 1875 and 1922 and thus have memories of the towns at different times and in different situations. Several of these writers left Mlynov and Mervits as immigrants to the US after WWI; some made aliyah to Palestine in the 1920s and 1930s, and some survived the Shoah. Only one immigrant to the US before WWI contributed to this volume (pp. 63–64) and the perspective of this early immigrant group is underrepresented. Their migration stories have been reconstructed from family oral traditions and US records and have been now documented on a memorial website.[10]

In the time span covered by this volume, the national identity of this area swung back and forth several times. In 1793, the two towns were part of the geographical area which became part of Russia in what is called the Second Partition of Poland. They remained part of Russia up until the outbreak of WWI. Many of the earliest memories in these essays recall life in this Russian period under the Tzars.

During WWI, the Eastern front moved back and forth near Mlynov and Mervits and several key battles took place nearby.[11] Mervits was razed to the ground and fighting apparently took place in the town's cemetery, as indicated by an article published at the time.[12] Mlynov had less extensive damage (pp. 94, 108–111, 259). During this time residents were evacuated and/or fled as refugees. Looking back on this period, a young girl, whose father was already in America, recalls her family wandering the roads as refugees; a young boy remembers leaving town on a wagon when the night was lit up by spotlights (pp. 147–149, 155). Most families eventually came back after the War and rebuilt their homes and the communal buildings (pp. 94–95, 108-111).

In February 1919, the Russian Revolution overthrew the Tzar's government. Then in November that same year (October by the Julian calendar), the Bolshevik Revolution toppled the earlier Revolutionary government. With the rhetoric of “brotherhood for all,” this was a period of new opportunity for Jews who could now enter previously forbidden professions. One former resident was even appointed judge in the Bolshevik government though he later returned to his hometown, apparently disillusioned, or dismissed (p. 241). During the period following the Bolshevik Revolution, the Tzar's armies still wandered the countryside and order broke down. Self-defense was needed and organized in Mlynov (pp. 116–145). After one incident, the youth persuaded the town's elders they needed rifles and not sticks for defense, which one young man eventually acquired from a military unit stationed in nearby Smordva. To ensure that support did not wane, the young men carried out pranks to keep fear alive among the prominent men of town (pp. 120–124, 134). The youth wore ersatz uniforms and gathered nightly for military style exercises at strategic locations around the town, especially at the homes with pretty daughters (e.g., Holtzekers, Shulmans) (pp. 128, 134, 137).

In June 1919, the area became part of a newly created Poland which came back into being in the Treaty of Versailles at the end of WWI. The culture in the two towns began to change. Polish was now taught in the public schools. Immigration slowed to America as the US imposed strict quotas limiting the immigration of Eastern European Jews. A growing interest in Zionism flowered among the young people. At first, this Jewish nationalist movement inspired only a few young men in town who concocted a scheme to secretly send one of the poor boys to Palestine as the town's first pioneer. The plan backfired in a humorous story that is as revealing as it is funny (pp. 208–219).

In the 1920s, Zionist youth groups, like The Pioneer (HeChalutz) and The Young Guard (Hashomer Hatzair), became the primary social outlet for young people in town (pp. 69–74). They also started a Tarbut (“Culture”) school to teach Hebrew to children and even a kindergarten. The Russian and Yiddish library of the Shulman family, once the treasured hangout for the young people on the outskirts of the town, became obsolete as the interest among the youth shifted to Hebrew (p. 66).

The Zionist youth groups also performed military style drills, spoke Hebrew, played volleyball and made trips to neighboring towns (p. 68, photo of volleyball p. 206). The youth involved in these activities yearned for Jews to become a normal people who could live off of their own land. Several essays in this volume were written by such young people. They left the shtetl to prepare for kibbutz life on a training farm, and then made aliyah to the “Land of Israel,” which was still under British control at the time and called “Mandate Palestine” (pp. 220–225, 247–250, 263–265, 420–421, 423–424). Not all the elders in town approved of their children's involvement in Zionist youth groups, viewing the movement as blasphemous for trying to force God's hand and representing a slippery slope away from religious observance (p. 213). Other adults in town took an active role in supporting Zionist causes (p. 413, 249).

Yitzhak Lamdan, who in 1927 published the Hebrew poem “Masada,” which made him famous, was the first Mlynov immigrant to reach Palestine. He headed there after his disillusionment doing a stint with the Red Army and after his brother had been killed in the civil wars. Those experiences and the memories of Mlynov would provide grist for his poem. In 1921, not long after Lamdan left, the Fishman family created a stir when they decided to sell off all their belongings and make aliyah. Many thought they were crazy, as one man recalled from his younger years before his own family had perished (pp. 220–25). Other young people followed in the 1920s and 1930s as Poland lurched to the right and became less hospitable to Jews. By the late 1930s, the British restricted immigration quotas further and the youth had more difficulty obtaining certificates authorizing their immigration. Some like Sheindel Fisher (known as Yafa Dayagi in this volume) managed to get authorization just weeks before the outbreak of WWII (p. 247).

During this Polish period between the two World Wars, some residents who previously left came back for a visit. Yitzhak Lamdan returned for a visit in 1931 in a perceptive and moving story told by a young man who hero worshipped the poet (pp. 32–37). In one of his own poems, Lamdan describes his own inner turmoil during that visit and wonders how revealing he should be with his aging father about the difficulties of his new life in Palestine (p. 83). Then in the winter of 1937–38, Aaron Harari (born Aaron Berger) returned to Mlynov after four years living on a kibbutz where he worked in sheep breeding (pp. 77–79). Aaron told his parents he came back to Poland to investigate sheep raising practices. In truth, he came back to fictitiously marry the sister of a kibbutz friend and help her leave Poland on his visa. Having substantially changed in his four years away, Aaron describes his feelings of alienation when first arriving in his birthplace (pp. 77–79). On that visit, he brought a camera borrowed from a friend, and, fortunately for us, he had a sense that he should photograph his family, scenes around town, and the other typical characters who were still there. Many of the photos in this volume come from that camera and his trip back to his hometown.

* * *

Not much time remained for the two shtetls after Aaron's visit. The Zionist youth groups had fallen apart. Many of the young people still there had all but lost hope for their future, as attested by a letter written by a young 16-year-old boy in Mlynov to his brother, Lipa, in Palestine during this time (pp. 202–203). On September 1, 1939, the Germans attacked Poland at the outbreak of WWII. Mlynov residents heard the news and quickly packed belongings, left town, and headed to gentile friends in nearby villages (p. 262). Within a few weeks, when the Red Army crossed the border and reached their area, they returned to their homes relieved. That Yom Kippur, they were joyful (p. 262) knowing that they would be under the rule of the Soviets and not the Germans. They knew how to bear life under Russian rule.

Based on the non-aggression treaty between Russia and Germany (called the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact), the Soviets occupied Eastern Poland, where Mlynov and Mervits were located, during the third week of September 1939. They soon nationalized all businesses and poverty fell on the population (pp. 283–286). The Count fled the area in fear for his life (287). His palace was open for a few days to the general public, but it was empty, because everything inside was looted overnight by the farmers in the area (p. 54). The Soviets built an airfield outside Mlynov on the Count's estate, and they billeted pilots in the homes of some Mlynov residents. They staged a political referendum to justify their annexation of the Polish lands, and they appointed a new governing council comprised of unsavory characters including a local Jewish woman who was released from prison. During this time, the local population lost most means of livelihood and with little choice, some turned to the black market. Residents stopped going to synagogue for fear of being seen as religious and thus enemies of the State. Many of those who had previously participated in Zionist youth groups were arrested even if they had subsequently joined the Polish Communist party (p. 284).

Though life was rough under the Soviet occupation, the suffering paled in comparison with what came next. On Sunday, June 22, 1941, Germany attacked Russia. The Germans bombed the Russian airfield outside of Mlynov and several homes in town. Some residents were killed and wounded (pp. 38–39, 287, 314, 344). The Germans occupied the town by Tuesday or early Wednesday that same week (pp. 287, 314) and one woman recalls the Germans entering her home and demanding pork to eat (p. 287). Some of the young men in Mlynov fled east and survived the War in Siberia or the Russian army (pp. 262, 346–347). They left behind their parents and siblings, most of whom didn't survive.

The details of the German occupation emerge in painful detail from the personal accounts in this volume. Shortly after the occupation, young men and women were enlisted in forced labor; young women had to stand all day in the Ikva River cleaning German vehicles; young men had to make repairs to the Count's property (pp. 40, 318, 347). On July 12th, just weeks after the Germans first arrived, 10 people were killed including eight young people and two older men (pp. 316, 325, 328). A series of official “Aktions” took place that summer confiscating gold and furniture among other valuables (p. 289). During those months residents had to fulfill increasingly impossible demands for various goods on the threat of death (p. 318). Sometime in that early period, the Mlynov rabbi, Rabbi Gordon, was interrogated and killed (pp. 289, 316, 328, 384).

Residents remember the ghetto being established in Mlynov in the spring of 1942, between Pesach (April 1) and Shavuot (May 22) though one writer recalls its appearance on July 10th (pp. 40, 290, 352, 449). Mervits survivors recall being brought into the ghetto on Shavuot (May 22–23) (pp. 320, 331, 387). The ghetto was established in Mlynov on Shkolna and Dubinska streets and surrounded by barbwire (pp. 290, 331). Multiple families were crowded together “like herring” into houses, with reports of 7—8 or 10–12 people per room (pp. 290, 40, 331). Jewish residents from other nearby towns were also brought into the Mlynov ghetto. Sanitary conditions deteriorated.

People who were skilled and given work certificates were allowed to leave the ghetto during the day and a black market sprang up in such highly prized certificates. Fictious weddings also took place to maximize the impact and reach of these prized documents (p. 287). Work certificates enabled some people to stay outside the ghetto and hide when the news reached them in September 1942 that pits were being dug nearby and that their own end was near. They already heard the rumors that Jews in other towns had been liquidated.

Trying to organize resistance, some of the young people acquired a few rifles which they hid in the Rebbe's memorial; they bought kerosene, too, intending to set fire to the ghetto and create confusion when the day of liquidation arrived (p. 291). After they were assembled in the streets, residents were taken out to a pit that had been dug between Mlynov and Mervits in an area called Kruzhuk, a place that served as the town's slaughterhouse, according to one Jewish man who witnessed the mounds covering the mass grave when he was working in Mlynov disguised as a Christian (pp. 386, 412). Ironically, the killing spot was not far from the “menorah tree” that had grown up where the famous Rebbe had died, as recalled by a woman who sat in the shade of that tree in her youth (pp. 427–430). Gathered there, the ghetto residents were told to walk across a suspended plank and were gunned down one by one by machine gun (p. 293).

 

Mly002.jpg
Some of the villages around Mlynov and Mervits that are mentioned in essays in this volume

 

It is impossible to summarize the horrific experiences and suffering of those who survived. Readers looking for a single narrative which starts with the invasion and continues until survivors returned to their homes are encouraged to read the four-part testimony by the Mandelkern daughters and one of their husbands (pp. 286–314).

Those who escaped the liquidation at the end were mystified by their fortune and survival. Some husbands, like Nahum Teitelman and Getzel Steinberg, turned to trusted farmers to smuggle family members out of the ghetto (e.g., p. 323).[13] Nahum also leveraged a letter authorizing business activity outside the ghetto to get himself and his son Asher out (p. 323). Before the roundup, Moshe Mandelkern and his sister Yehudit took refuge in bunkers that had been dug in the nearby forests (pp. 287–309). Arke (Aaron) Nudler somehow managed to get his wife and three younger children to other bunkers in the area, though only he and his daughter Yetka (Helen Nudler Fixler) managed to escape when the bunker was discovered.[14] Others, like child prodigy Channah Klepatch, turned down an invitation to the bunkers; she couldn't bear to abandon her widowed mother who was caring for several younger children (p. 279). She was shot trying to escape through the barbed wire at the end.

Days before the liquidation, Yaacov Tesler begged his daughter, Liba, to sneak out of the ghetto. It was the week of her 30th birthday. Liba dressed as a peasant girl and bribed the guard to open the gate. She was hidden by several different families until captured by the Nazis and eventually worked as a Polish slave laborer in Germany until the end of the war.[15] Icek Kozak, who had a work certificate as a wagon driver, took his family members out of the ghetto, one by one, covered under straw. The entire family survived (pp. 354–57). Fania Mandelkern bribed a ghetto guard and got out at the last minute with her sister, Rosa, but her mother refused to leave with them at the last minute (p. 292). Fania joined her siblings in the bunkers and lived to tell the story.

Bunia Steinberg put on a yellow sweater that disguised her yellow patches, threw her shoes over her shoulder, and walked out the gate past the unsuspecting guards who thought she was a Christian worker (p. 389). She survived as did two of her brothers, Getzel and Mendel. During the ghetto roundup, young Ezra Sherman, about 10 years old, told the guard he needed to relieve himself and, when given permission, went behind a building and climbed up into the top shelf of a shed and hid. He came out the next day and survived alone wandering the countryside.[16] A young woman named Sarah Neyter hid in a chimney for several days and got out after the Germans had stopped searching (p. 410). Her Mohel family friends who were hidden under floorboards were discovered and killed. Basye Blinder, a young girl under the age of 10, hid somewhere with her sister and came out a day after the Germans left (p. 374). After hiding in the cemetery and forests, she was eventually taken in by a caring Christian woman. These are only some of the stories of survival that emerge from these pages, some of which are now told in book-length accounts and recorded interviews.[17]

The stories of survival are heartbreaking, courageous, and miraculous. People survived in holes in the ground, in haystacks, under pigsties, in bunkers, behind stoves, in grain fields, scrounging for potatoes in the countryside at night, drinking green, putrid water, moving from one place to another when their hosts, afraid for their own lives, kicked them out or threatened to turn them in. Some passed for Christians. Others were hidden by former business associates. Reading their stories, one feels their shock believing what was taking place and trying to grasp the miracle of their own survival. Particularly poignant are the moments when survivors bumped into one another in hiding (p. 304) or emerged from their hiding places after the Russian liberation and discovered who else from their friends and family had survived (pp. 310, 339, 368). Getzel Steinberg didn't even recognize his brother Mendel when they first met when they came out of hiding (p. 369).

As the War was ending, some of the young men, who earlier fled to Russia and served in the Russian army, returned to their hometown for the last time. They discovered almost everything gone, even the tombstones where their ancestors had earlier been buried (pp. 228, 262, 346). Many, though not all, of the other survivors eventually headed back to Mlynov once it was safe to do so (p. 310, 341). One writer recalls 25 survivors present at the time (p. 310), though a stirring commemoration photo suggests about 45 survivors present (p. 313). The returnees shared rooms in houses where they or their neighbors had previously lived. In some cases, their homes were still occupied by non-Jewish families.

During this time, survivors managed to free several Jewish children who were still in the hands of Christian families. The Steinberg survivors managed to rescue Aviva Feldman who had been left with a Polish family for safekeeping (p. 395). Basye Blinder was discovered by accident when she came shopping in town with her adopted parents (p. 378). These children initially felt divided loyalty having grown attached to their caretakers (pp. 377–378, 401). One case became a cause célèbre when a Polish family refused to return the child to her mother who survived (p. 311). Eventually the court ruled in favor of the mother but not before thousands assembled at the court to protest on both sides of the case (p. 311).

The survivors who returned to Mlynov paid for and erected a monument on the mass grave of the martyrs and commemorated their loved ones. A photographer took a haunting photo of that moment and a number of the survivors in that photo have been identified (p. 313). With little left for them in Mlynov and too much pain to bear there, the survivors left for Displaced Persons camps where they made their way to the US, Canada, and Palestine/Israel. They and their descendants lived to share their stories and memories of the shtetl life with us.

 

A Timeline of Major Events

1793 Mlynov and Mervits become part of Tzarist Russia in what is called the Second Partition of Poland.
1891–1914 A robust migration from Mlynov to the US and especially Baltimore takes place. A few of the immigrants settle in Jersey City, New York, Chicago, Providence, and Canada.
1914–1919 The Eastern Front in WWI moves back and forth near the two towns. Mervits is razed and residents of both towns become refugees.
1919 June The two towns become part of Poland which is recreated in the Treaty of Versailles following the end of WWI.
1920–1939 Interwar Poland. Zionist youth groups develop and grow in importance in Mlynov. Young people make aliyah to Mandate Palestine. Immigration to the US gradually tapers off in the 1920s. Some of the young men to the US travel via Buenos Aires and Mexico.
1939 September 1 Germany attacks Poland and Mlynov residents flee town. They return when they realize their area is under Russia control. The Soviets nationalize businesses.
1941 Sunday, June 22 Germany attacks Russia and bombs the airfield outside Mlynov. The Soviets soon abandon town. Some young men flee east to the Russian border.
1941 Tuesday, June 23
or
early Wednesday, June 24
Germans occupy Mlynov.
1941 July 12 First persons murdered, eight young people and two older Jews. Actions that summer confiscate gold and other valuables.
1942 April – May The Mlynov ghetto erected on two streets of town and surrounded by barbwire. Residents of nearby towns are brought into the ghetto.
1942 September Rumors circulate that pits are being dug between Mlynov and Mervits for the liquidation.
1942 October 8, 9 or 10 The people in the Mlynov ghetto are taken to a pit on the road between Mlynov and Mervits and murdered.
1944 February 6 Mlynov liberated by the Russians.
1944 Spring Survivors return to Mlynov. That fall they hold a commemoration for those who were lost.
1945 The last of survivors leave Mlynov for Displaced Persons Camps.

 

Where to Learn More

There exists a great deal more information about the families that once lived in Mlynov and Mervits beyond the present volume. Additional stories, photos, interviews and history can be found on the Jewishgen Kehilla site for Mlynov and Mervits:

The Mlynov/Mervits website:

https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/

Biographical info on the Memorial book authors:

https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/Mlynov-Yizkor-Book-Bios.html

Info on Mlynov and Mervits families

https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/families.html

The 1850 and 1858 census from Mlynov

https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/Mlynov-Revision-1850.html

The Migration from Mlynov and Mervits

https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/documents/The_Mlynov_Mervits_Migration.pdf

Interviews

https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/Mlinov_Interviews.html

Additional Resources

https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/Mlinov_References.html

 

Acknowledgments

Being the editor and translator for this volume was a moving and daunting experience. The task was even more challenging than I first imagined. Every time I re-read the essays, some new insight or discovery emerged about the place from which my paternal grandparents came. I hope that this new translation does justice to the memory of these towns and our ancestors who once thrived there.

The Yiddish translation effort was generously supported financially by descendants of Mlynov and Mervits families whom I tracked down and whose names appear below. I want to thank all the many descendants who shared their family memories, stories, and photos with me. JewishGen staff, Lance Ackerfeld, Susan Rosin, and Jonathan Wind, were very gracious and helpful in what was a daunting effort to publish this volume online and in print.

The translation effort required understanding several historical periods, identifying foreign words in Polish and Russian, the location of various small villages that were near Mlynov and Mervits, not to mention the complex family trees and relationships that are implicit in these essays. To the extent feasible, I have tried to tease out these background assumptions and identify the individuals who are mentioned in the footnotes, tracking down their descendants, searching databases for their records, constructing their family trees, and cross-referencing information in this volume.

Because the Yiddish and Hebrew essays use a different language and idiom, we retained some variations in the translation of names and places to reflect the voice of the writers and the language they used. The footnotes draw attention to those variations. The names that appear in the text can often be rendered in multiple different ways in English. We followed the spelling used by descendants or that appeared in Yad Vashem records. Town and village names also have several original pronunciations with corresponding English variations depending on the period and the language. In general, this translation uses the current English spellings that appear on maps today to facilitate the reader's ability to follow along. Where in some instances we deviate from this practice, we try to footnote the current name.

For the Yiddish essays, we were blessed to have found and worked with Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD. Her sensitivity as a translator brought the Yiddish essays vividly to life. She worked on this effort as if she was one of the descendants herself and I am grateful for her support and impressive contribution. I personally translated the Hebrew essays with the support of Hanina (Charles) Epstein, whose mother, Bunia Epstein, was a survivor and a contributor to this volume. Hanina was born in the Pocking displaced persons camp and grew up in Israel. I had to brush up on the Hebrew that I once learned when I was ordained and later became a professor of Religious and Jewish Studies. I translated each essay and then every Sunday I would review the translations with Hanina, a native speaker. Often, we would also discuss what we were reading and learn together. I am grateful to Hanina for devoting so much of his time to supporting this effort. He substantially improved this translation and helped me avoid some glaring mistakes. I ultimately own full responsibility for any of the mistakes that remain in this translation.

A number of additional people were critical to this journey: First and foremost, the Mlynov and Mervits born individuals who took the time to write original essays for the volume and to recall their towns. How fortunate for us they did this. Special thanks to Irene Siegel, daughter of David Fishman and Eta [Goldseker] who did a great deal of work on earlier translations and keeping the memory of Mlynov and Mervits alive. Often as I would track down another Mlynov family or story I would find that Irene had already been there before me. Irene and her cousin (and my cousin), Gene Schwartz, commissioned an earlier translation of the Yiddish essays that circulated informally for a number of years. David Sokolsky recently published some of these translations and supplemented them with paraphrases of some of the Hebrew essays. Had it not been for their earlier efforts, I would not have been aware of the value these essays held. This new translation builds on and expands their earlier efforts.

David's book, Monument, on the survival story of his step-grandmother, Liba Tesler, was also important in my own journey back to Mlynov. When I found a photo of my great-grandmother, Yenta, with Liba Tesler back in Mlynov from 1930, I realized how tightly our family stories are intertwined. I am grateful to David's friendship and encouragement of me on this project. Audrey Goldseker Polt, daughter of Samuel Goldseker from Mlynov, and a family album creator herself, has become a close friend through this work. She was always willing to listen to my latest discoveries, share photos and stories, and offer helpful clarifying suggestions along the way. Joyce Jandorf, a Schuchman and Klepatch descendant, was the first to really open my eyes to the treasures the Yizkor book contained for retrieving an understanding of our families' histories.

I am especially honored and grateful for the experience speaking to and in some cases interviewing living survivors who were born in Mlynov and Mervits: Gerry Steinberg, Ezra Sherman, Karen (Kozak) Lowenthal, Helen (Nudler) Fixler, Aviva Feldman, and Tama (Hachman) Fineberg, as well as their children who shared their thoughts and reflections with me. How moving to meet people who were born in our ancestors' birthplaces before they were destroyed. I was supported as well by many Israeli-born descendants who helped me understand the role of aliyah in their family histories: Dani Tracz (Issachar Mohel), Hagar Lipkin, Efraim Tomer, Zev Harari, Meir Litvak, Miriam Aharoni, Ziva Dar, Lior Wildikan, Rachel Gordon, Tamar Gahiri, Sari Fishman, among others. Many American and Canadian family descendants also shared their family stories and photos with me. Special thanks to my 95-year-old new friend, Edith Geller, for all her memories about the Mlynov families who settled in New York. My cousin, Ted Fishman, passed away while I was working on this project. He was a consummate family historian, who regaled me on Sundays with stories of his Mlynov-born parents, Ben Fishman and Clara (Shulman). And finally, my wife, Carroll, deserves special credit for putting up with me and encouraging me while I obsessed over this effort, and my daughter, Penina, for always cheering me on.

I dedicate this new translation to the memory of my Mlynov-born paternal grandparents: Paul H. Schwartz and Pepe (Shulman).

Howard I. Schwartz, PhD
(May 2022)

 

Financial Contributors

Descendants of families from Mlynov and Mervits contributed financially to the new translation effort. They include: Adam Marcus (Hirsch descendant) | Amy Westpy (Gelberg descendant) | Anabel Fishman (Fishman family relative) | Andrea Carter (Hirsch descendant) | Arlene Polangin (Demb, Gruber descendant) | Audrey (Goldseker) Polt (Fishman, Goldseker descendant) | Barry Lerner (Lerner descendant) | Barry Stadd (Polishuk descendant) | Brooke Zigler (Demb, Gruber descendant) | Carol Engelman (Rivitz /Hurwitz, Demb, Gruber descendant) | Charles (Hanina) Epstein (Steinberg, Upstein, Lerner descendant) | Cheryl Lerner (Lerner Descendant) | David Sokolsky (Tesler Family relative) | Denise Gelberg (Gelberg descendant) | Edith Geller (Goldberg, Schuchman descendant) | Eileen Reichenberg Sherr (Demb, Gruber, Rivitz / Hurwitz descendant) | Eileen Yoffe (Fishman, Goldseker) | Ezra Sherman (Sherman, Golisuk, Schuchman descendant) | Galina Graber (Berger descendant) | Gerald Steinberg (Steinberg, Wurtzel, Gruber, Lerner descendant) | Harold Goldberg (Goldberg, Schuchman descendant) | Heidi Steinberg (Steinberg, Lerner, Grenspun descendant) | Helen Fixler (Nudler, Polishuk descendant) | Howard I. Schwartz (Demb, Gruber, Schwartz, Shulman descendant) | Josh Klavan (Schuchman, Klepatch descendant) | Joyce Jandorf (Schuchman, Klepatch descendant) | Larry Siegel (Shulman, Steinberg descendant) | Len Feldman (Polashuk family descendant) | Lillian Rosensweig (Gelberg, Schuchman descendant) | Marc Siegel (Fishman, Goldseker descendant) | Marlene Leffell (Teitelman descendant) | Miriam Berkowitz (Gruber, Demb, Herman descendant) | Miriam Litz (Kozak family descendant) | Richard Polt (Fishman, Goldseker descendant) | Robert Shulman (Gruber, Demb, Shulman descendant) | Ronald Gaynor (Gaynor descendant) | Saul Fishman (Demb, Gruber, Fishman, Goldseker, Shulman descendant) | Sheila Mandelberg (Marder, Tesler descendant) | Shelley and Sheldon Goldseker (Fishman, Goldseker descendant) | Sharna Goldseker (Fishman, Goldseker descendant) | Tamara Kirson (Demb, Gruber descendant) | Vivi Sadel (Sherman, Golisuk, Schuchman descendant).

 

Editor's footnotes:
  1. https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/Mlynov-Revision-1850.html. An 1850 census (called a revision list in Russian) shows that a number of those residents were already in Mlynov by the 1835 census and likely were living there when the area became part of Russia in 1793. Return
  2. There are two sets of page numbers in this volume. This new English translation has its own page numbers. In addition, the page numbers from the original volume appear within the flow of the translation in square backets for example, [page 15]. This introduction references the new page numbers of this English translation. Due to constraints in the publishing process, the footnotes in the translation reference page numbers of the original volume which are represented in translation by square brackets. The translators placed them at the beginning of the first full sentence that appeared on that original page of the Hebrew and Yiddish. Return
  3. My paternal grandfather was Paul Schwartz, son of Chaim Schwartz and Yenta (Demb). My paternal grandmother was Pepe Shulman (see page 128), daughter of Tsodik Shulman and Pearl Malka (Demb). Pearl Demb and Yenta Demb were sisters and born in Mlynov to Israel Jacob Demb and Rivka (Gruber). Return
  4. Mlynov family descendants, Irene Siegel and Gene Schwartz, commissioned an earlier translation of the Yiddish essays. David Sokolsky recently published some of these translations and supplemented them with paraphrases of some Hebrew essays. Had it not been for their earlier efforts, I would not have been aware of the value these essays held. This new translation builds on and completes their earlier efforts. Return
  5. Writers give slightly different dates for the liquidation in early October 1942: October 8th (pp. 291–292), October 9th (=28th of Tishrei) (p. 53). On October 10 (29th of Tisrhrei) news reached other survivors in hiding that the liquidation had taken place and graves were being dug (p. 352, 360). Return
  6. The Polish map reads in English: Print of the first edition of the Military Geographical Institute 1925. http://freemap.com.ua/maps/polskie/P46_S41.jpg?fbclid=IwAR0_ZZsHHQ45PJsGUXlO85L4WB4lXAVrIJ-Z34mpOeSktHT1W1dAx2Al_8s Return
  7. See https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/Mlynov-Revision-1850.html and page 10 this volume. Return
  8. “Mlynow,” 1428–1429, in Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos. 1933-1945. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Volume II. Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Ed., Martin Dean. 2012. Return
  9. Ibid. Return
  10. See https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/documents/The_Mlynov_Mervits_Migration.pdf and https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/families.html. Return
  11. See especially the Battle of Galicia and the Gorlice-Tarnow Offensive. Return
  12. Eugene Szatmari, “The Jewish Cemetery of Muravica.” Current History. Vol 3, Issue 6 (March 1, 1916), New York. Return
  13. The information about Getzel was reported to me by his son, and survivor, Gerald Steinberg. Return
  14. See the Nudler family story on the Mlynov website. Return
  15. Recounted in David Sokolsky, Monument: One Woman's Courageous Escape From the Holocaust. Return
  16. Ezra recounted this story in an interview accessible on the Mlynov website. Return
  17. There are book-length survival accounts available of Liba Tesler, and the Steinberg, Teitelman and Mohel families, as well as video interviews of several survivors. See the list of resources at the end of this essay. Return

 

List of Photos

Page #
A Group of Young People in Tarbut 9
The Great Synagogue in Mlynov 11
Market day in the town 15
A water carrier against the background of a house 19
Children Coming from School 12
The swamp on Dinvinka Street. The Cologia. 25
Market Street 26
Yitzhak Lamdan during his visit to Mlynov 36
Students in school for Hebrew 45
A Group of “The Pioneer” (HeHalutz), 1931 52
Fröbel-School (kindergarten) / Tarbut in Mlynov 58
Moishe Fishman and his grandson Aaron 61
A group of educated people 66
“Tarbut” group/ Lag B'Omer, 1919 68
A Hashomer Hatzair nest 1926 69
Hashomer Hatzair leadership 70
Group HaTikvah 1927 71
Passover Festival of Flags 1929 72
Nest of Hashomer Hatzair 1929. 73
Batia Berger, milking the cows 75
Faivel and Wolf Berger with families 76
Water carrier near Yaakov Holzeker house 79
Reb Yitskhok Staroste 80
Winter in the shtetl 89
Store of Kipergluz and Holtzeker 151
Assembly of area marksmen 152
Fieldtrip to “Greenik” (“Mount Sinai”) 158
Rovno Street 185
Winter – Count's garden in background 186
Boating on the Ikva River 187
A group of friends 194
Savka, tree cutter 197
Khaykl Shnayder's home, Synagogue Street 201
A group of educated ones 203
Youth group on a fieldtrip in Demydivka 204
Boating on Ikva River 218
A group of young people 225
A group of young men 227
Fradl, a typical Mlynov character 229
Futi and Leibish Preziment 232
Yankev Holtzeker and family 245
Children grade 7 with rabbi and priests 247
A group of friends (Gertnich / Halperin cousins) 248
Avromke, a typical Mlynov character 258
Bat-Sheva Ben Eliyahu (Ribetz) by grave of father 265
Tending goats 267
Chana Klepatch 277
Shoshana (Reisel) Berger on bridge over Ikva 279
Children of Rav Gordon 280
Eidel Liberman on Rubinska Street 280
Survivor commemoration by the mass grave 313
Sonia and Mendel Teitelman 325
Home of Dr. Wissotzky 345
Water carrier drawing water 373
Mohel Home 411
Field work at home of Chotka Bialkosky 429
Joseph Mandelkoren 448
Photos of Martyrs 453-482
Dr. Shlomo Mandelkern 484
Yitzhak Lamdan 489
Aleph Katz 490
Sylvia [Barditch] Goldberg and George Goldberg 494
Mlynov immigrants and survivors in US 498-507

 

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