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[Page 7]

There Were Two Shtetlekh

 

Memorial to the Towns of Mlynov-Mervits

The Editors

Edited and translated by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD with Hanina Epstein

©

Polish Jewry has been lost, including our beloved ones from our towns of Mlynov-Mervits. It has been more than 20 years since that ruthless and cruel people[1] cut away the cradle of our youth, but the blood of our brothers and sisters[2] cries to us still from the valley of slaughter.

We, therefore, can no longer tarry in the efforts to raise up this memorial to the martyrs of our two towns. And even though we also know that our language is not inadequate enough to express and encompass the full horror of Shoah, we cannot release ourselves from the heavy responsibility that has fallen on us, to document and to bring to light at least the little that we can.

And it is incumbent upon us, the few of the remaining remnants, to raise a memorial to the town and its martyrs, so their memory will not cease. We are doing so in the form of the memorial volume before us.

Let these pages recount the active and vigorous lives, during the time when the two communities still stood on their foundations; the pure Jews who feared heaven, were upright and charitable; the Jewish workers and common folk, who put food on the table with the sweat of their brow; and the young people who breathed in liberty and sought improvement in our people and the world; and the dreams and desires, which were planned and realized – but ultimately were erased.

[Let these pages recount] the destruction and Shoah that befell these two towns, two communities that were cut out of the book of life, along with the destruction of the entire House of Israel. Therefore, let the agonizing path in which our beloved ones walked their last steps be revealed once more.

* * *

In our appreciation, we want to give thanks and recognition to all those in Israel and in the United States who supported and participated in the work of this book. May their reward be the recognition that they bestowed a final act of mercy on our martyred ones.

Editor's footnotes:

  1. Quoting an expression from the prophet Habakkuk 1:6 in which God says that the Babylonians are being raised up to destroy the people. Return
  2. The word in Hebrew is literally “brothers” but also carries the broader gender neutral meaning of family and friends. Return

[Page 8]

The Shtetlekh Mlynov–Muravica: A Memorial

The Editors

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD

Polish Jewry was annihilated, including our own dear ones from the double–town of Mlynov–Muravica. Even though more than 20 years have run by since that bitter time when an axe came down on the cradle of our childhood, the blood of our tortured brothers and sisters does not stop screaming to us from the killing fields.

Therefore, we few remaining ones have fulfilled our obligation to erect this monument to the martyrs of our two shtetlekh. We were fully aware that we were too deficient in language and in art to capture, portray, and express the entire width and depth of the annihilation and the horror, yet we still could not relinquish our responsibility to record and to write down at least this little bit of what we were capable of doing.

[Page 9]

May the pages of this book describe a blossoming, ebullient life of faultless, God–loving Jews; good and soft–hearted Jews; of workers and of plain people who earned their bread by the sweat of their brows. May it tell of a Jewish youth, of young Jews searching and yearning for ways to improve the world and to rebuild it for all people; of a youth struggling with dreams and desires, which were partially realized, and also partially dissolved and crushed.

May these pages describe the destruction and extinction which was fated to our shtetlekh, along with the entire house of Israel; may they describe two Jewish communities, which were erased from the Book of the Living. May these pages newly illuminate the painful journey of our dear ones' last steps.

* * *

Let us note with appreciation and gratitude all those who gave a hand, who supported and helped in the work for this book. They have earned the knowledge that they performed the last favor for our martyrs.

 

Mly009.jpg
A group of young people in Tarbut in the company of the teacher Zilberg [H]
| A Youth Group [Y], 1933
[1]

 

Editor's footnote:
  1. Back left Aaron (Berger) Harari, front right Rosa Berger, next to her is Rachel (Shapovnik) Givol. This version of photo courtesy of Hagar Lipkin, daughter of Rosa Berger. Return

 

[Page 10]

Mly010.jpg
A paragraph from Slownik Geograficzny, 1885, Warsaw [Polish Encyclopedia]  


Mlynow 1.) small town located on the banks of the Ikva, and a big pond, county Dubno in the second police region, 15 verst from Dubno, 62 houses, 203 inhabitants, of which 38% are Jewish. There is an Orthodox church, and a Catholic parochial church, founded in 1785 by Janusza Chodkiewicza; also a synagogue, school, brewery, post office, and a beautiful place built on the river Ikva. An old settlement. King Alexander donated Mlynov and Piekielewo (Pakalow) to Moskwicinowi Bobrowi. After he died without leaving any descendants, King Zgmunt I gave the village, by decree in 1508, to Jakubowi Michajlowiezowi from Kremenez, with the obligation to provide three persons from the village and one from Piekieloewo to ser serve in the army. Now the village belongs to Chodkiewiczow. King Stanislaw August, in an assembly meeting in 1789, ordered that fairs should be held in the village on the festivals of St. Mikolaj (St. Nicholas), St. Trojee (St. Trinity) and St. Illia, the prophet, and others. Alexander Chodkiewicz, a brigadier general, senator, chemist and poet, gathered a splendid lbray. The Catholic parish has been there since 1676.[1]

 

Footnote:
  1. Translation provided by David Sokolsky, ed., Mlynov-Muravica Memorial Book, p. 3 Return

 

[Page 11]

Mlynov

Translated and edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD

(According to the Jewish Encyclopedia [in Russian], vol. 12, brought out by the Society for Jewish Scientific Publications, in partnership with Brockhaus–Efron,[1] St. Petersburg, at the beginning of the 20th century).

The town of Mlynov is in the region of Vohlyn,[2] in the district of Dubno. According to the 1847 population census, the number of Jewish persons in the community was 209. According to the census of 1897, there were 1105 residents in Mlynov and 672 of them were Jews.

* * *

(According to the General Encyclopedia [in Polish], published by Orgelbrand[3], Warsaw 1865, volume 18).

Mlynov is a town in the area of Vohlyn, along the Ikva River and large lake, with beautiful scenery. It was once a village that the King Alexander Jagiellończyk gave as a gift to a man named Bobr Muskvitin,[4] but after the death of the latter, the village reverted to a possession of the Crown. In 1508, the village was transferred by Sigmund I to Jacob Michelyovetch, the delegate of Kremenets.[5] Later the village belonged to the Chodkiewicz family. In 1789 Stanisław August, with the advice of his council, decided to hold four fairs each year in the town.

In his beautiful palace in Mlynov, the nobleman Aleksander Chodkiewicz worked and died. He was a well–known figure in Polish literature. Here, close to his many scientific collections and next to his large and rare library, he spent all his days and engaged in chemistry experiments.[6]

 

Mervits (Muravica)

(According to the General Encyclopedia, as cited on the previous page, volume 19)

The townlet was in the area of Vohlyn along the river Ikva, a distance not far from the townlet of Mlynov. In Mervits in the past, there was a defensive castle, that passed in the year 1560, with all of its wealth, included to the possession of Grzegorz Chodkiewicz, as a bride price of his wife Katarzyna from the Wiśniowiecki family[7]. In a later period the town was inherited by the children of the Krasitsky family; in 1790, the nobleman Michal Krasitsky, prince of the court, put on four new fairs.[8]

 

Mly012.jpg
The Great Synagogue in Mlynov [H]
The Great Shul in Mlynov [Y]

Photo by A. Harari in the winter of 1937/38

 

Editor's footnotes:
  1. Brockhaus–Efron was a comprehensive encyclopedia published in Imperial Russia in 1890–1907, as a joint venture of Leipzig and St Petersburg publishers. The articles were written by the prominent Russian scholars of the period. Return
  2. The area of Volhynia, (Volyn in Russian or Wolyn in Polish) is an area in the northwestern corner of Ukraine that was ruled by the Tzarist rule until WWI when it became part of Poland. During the Russian period, 1795–1919, Mlynov and Muravica were part of the district of Dubno and province of Volhynia. After becoming part of Poland after WWI, the towns were part of the district of Dubno and the province of Wolyn. Return
  3. Samuel Orgelbrand (1810–1868) published a Comprehensive Encyclopedia in Polish of 28 volumes. Return
  4. Alexander was King of Poland from 1501–1506. Buber Muskvitin is unidentified. Return
  5. Sigismund I also called “the Old” was King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1506 until his death in 1548. Sigismund I was a member of the Jagiellonian dynasty. The identity of Jacob Michelyovetch is not known. Return
  6. Appears to refer to Aleksander Chodkiewicz (1776–1838) who was arrested in Mlynov in on February 8, 1826, on the orders of Grand Duke Konstanty, and escorted to St. Petersburg and imprisoned there. Due to the lack of serious charges, he was released, and was to remain in Zhytomyr under police supervision for a year. After November Uprising, he remained in Młynov until his death. In his villages (Młynov and Chernobyl), he established schools where Polish, Russian, arithmetic, moral science and catechism were taught. In 1830 he founded an Orthodox church in Mlynov to protect the local church from liquidation. Source Wikipedia. Return
  7. Appears to refer to Grzegorz (also spelled “Hrehory”) Chodkiewicz a Ruthenian noble and military officer of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1537 he married Katzarzyna from the Wiśniowecki family, a Polish princely family of Ruthenian–Lithuanian origin. Return
  8. The figure Michal Krasitzki has not been identified. Return

 

[Page 13]

“The Mill”

by Lipa Halperin, [Kibbutz] Yifat

Edited and translated by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD and Hanina Epstein[1]

©

The residents of the place, as befitting their nature and way of life, did not show interest in the past of the place in which they lived. The question did not occur to anyone – “what is the significance and source of the name of your birthplace?” or general questions that touched on the origin of this settlement, such as “where and when did the first residents, our Jewish brethren, arrive?” It was taken for granted that the events of family life were aligned to the events of the place. [For example:] – A person came here after the first fire. These houses and those houses were built after the second fire…and similarly, they knew how to enumerate a list of respected people who passed away during the epidemic.[2]

The events of the place were also depicted in relation to parallel events of the State or the period of Tzarist regime. [For example:] The road to Berestechko was paved during the Russo-Japanese War. The “Great Flood” from the river happened during the days of Alexander II; the immigration to America began here in the days of Nicholas II. So if a questioner wanted to know the time of an event according to a regular calendar, he had to know the history of the State…the time of antiques or very old remnants was captured in the idiom – “this is from the days of Khmelnytsky” [i.e., “a long time ago”].[3] You can also explain [that an object is from] a hundred years before Khmelnytsky. At one and the same time, knowledge of the past was at best limited to one generation's memory. From the more distant past, cloudy concepts remained that came to expression in folk sayings and proverbs.

In response to questions to which they didn't know the answer, they were accustomed to answer facetiously with this kind of language: “Go ask the Rabbi.” The intention – the rabbi who was authorized to render a decision about Kosher rules, he will adjudicate your question. Let us imagine that in the beginning of the century an eccentric explorer appeared in Mlynov, seeking an explanation for the strange question “why is this place called Mlynov?” To whom could he turn? – “Ask your elders and they will inform you” (Deuteronomy 32.7)

The elder of the community, among those who were most respected, was Rabbi Hanich, may his memory be a blessing. He was known as “Rav” Hanich, because he had not been granted the authority as “the local rabbi of the place.” Humble and modest was this man and far from the vanity of the world. Despite his weakness and pains, it was his custom to always fast on Monday and Thursdays, and say the prayer Tikkun Chatzos [each night after midnight][4] and he was satisfied with little to nothing.

He didn't preach musar (ethics) to the public, because he did not suspect that a Jew could sin [against God]…

[Page 14]

[Instead,] he rendered decisions on matters between one person and another, and the parties to disputes accepted his ruling without appeal. He spent most of his time in prayer and studying Torah.

That same eccentric man [mentioned earlier] turned one day, at a particular hour, into the poor home of Rav Hanich to seek an answer to his question, [“Why is this place named Mlynov?”]

He found him in his house, sitting on a low bench, his back bent and hunched over, submerged in a book of Gemara or in the Holy Zohar. As usual, Rabbi Hanich was occupied with questions of Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), and they were not few. It was the way of women to strictly observe the dietary laws. Every blemish found in a slaughtered fowl required examination. And now he was being bothered with a strange question. A question like, forgive the comparison, what is written in our Holy Torah: “And he called that place Beth-el” (Genesis 28.19).

He examined the question with his tired eyes and a look of astonishment:

What is the point of this question, Mr. Jew? After all, our lives in this world are a passage before our entrance to the parlor of the Eternal in the world to come. And this place, this town, with our many sins, is only a stop in our wandering in exile (galut) until our righteous Messiah arrives. – What does it matter what the gentiles called it?

This was how Rabbi Hanich answered.

And no different would the answer to this question have been if offered by the well-respected Jews, who spend a great deal of time in prayer and studying Torah, and if the person answering the question were average Jews, [such as] young shop owners toiling in their business, overwhelmed and anxious about supporting their family, [or] day laborers toiling with work that comes their way – their time is pressing and their minds are not free [to ponder] a question like this.

* * *

The Origin of the Names Mlynov and Ikva

With respect to the name of the town, it is possible to discern an answer from the testimony of the remains [of the mill], and because of this it is necessary for us to turn our attention to the River Ikva, on whose banks the town was built. The origin of the river is in Kremenets,[5] on its way to here, it passes Dubno and it twists along its way as it descends along Torhovytsia,[6] to the Styr River, the tributary of the Bug River.

My grandfather, Mordechai-Meir, may he rest in peace, told me once, that the name of the river Ikva came from [the verse in Genesis 1:9] “Let the waters (yikavu hamayim) be gathered.”[7]

The relevant incident happened many generations ago. It was a difficult winter and snow fell in an unusual amount. The beginning of spring the water of the river rose dramatically, chucks of ice accumulated along the posts of the bridges, and “stood straight up like a wall” [quoting Exodus 15:8] and blocked the passage of the water. The river kept rising higher and higher, the towns in the surrounding area and the Jewish dwellings were inundated and the danger was great. This is why we were accustomed to say, “Water is more dangerous than fire” – from fire you can flee but from a flood, which comes suddenly, there is no escape or rescue. The Jews gathered for prayer and read in a chapter of Genesis (Parashat Bereshit) “Let the waters be gathered and behold the dry land appeared” (Genesis 1:9). The sun came out and melted the ice, and the water broke through in a tremendous stream, the pillars and the bridges were destroyed, “and behold the dry land appeared.” This is the reason the river is called the Ikva. The name sounded good to the non-Jews and this became its name until today…

[Page 15]

The two bridges and the posts split the river into two streams.[8] Water from the first bridge reached Dubno, creating a waterfall, with turbulence of white foam, a noisy and raging tumult that does not end. From the second bridge, the water spread out into a wide stream. In the shallow water, black, charred stakes protruded. Their tips were sharpened in different shapes and of different heights. Thus the partly burned wood remains today, the remnants of the mill, that burned many years ago.

If you ask: “when was the first mill built, the one before the one that was burnt down?”, to this question, there is no answer. Nonetheless, it is clear, that the name Mlynov for the town was derived from the word “malin” which in Slavic languages means “mill.”

 

Mly015.jpg
Market day in the town [H]
On a market day in the Shtetl [Y], 1918

 

In the winter days, the remains of the mill could be seen like lumps of coal sticking up from the white snow. When spring came, they stood as obstacles to the blocks of floating ice, that hammered them furiously, but they stood firm for many years and did not get uprooted.

During summer months, oily decayed matter accumulated. The surface of the water was covered with a green mantle: a tangle of algae and water lilies and above the green cover the moss swirled like black scarves. The water flowed constantly with a soft, sad gurgling melody. Time passed by (heholef) and the events of the place flowed in parallel to the flow of the water. Thus, the generations passed (holef).[9]

The first fire, the epidemic, the second fire, wars. And in the end – the great fire.

 

Editor's footnotes:
  1. We would like to acknowledge Lipa's daughter, Miriam Aharoni, for her help with improving the understanding and translation of her father's essay. Return
  2. Probably refers to the pandemic of 1889–1890 sometimes called the “Russian flu” or the “Asiatic flu” which killed a million people worldwide. See also Moshe Fishman's discussion (p. 61) of the tragic events that occurred in Mlynov at the end of the 19th century. Insight courtesy of Lipa's daughter, Miriam Aharoni. Return
  3. Referring to “Kmelnsytsky” was like saying “a long time ago.” Zynoviy Bohdan Kmelnsytsky (1595–1657) was a Ukrainian character in the Polish Crown of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (now part of Ukraine). He led an uprising against the Commonwealth (1648–1654) that resulted in the creation of a state led by the Cossacks. Jews remember him as a mass murderer and it is customary to follow his name with the acronym, “may his name be blotted out.” Return
  4. This prayer was an expression of mourning and lamentation over the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, often popular among Sephardi and Hasidic Jews. Return
  5. Kremenets is 64 km (40 miles) south of Mlyniv today. Return
  6. Torhovytsia [known as Trovits in Yiddish] is 20 km to the northeast of Mlyniv today.] Return
  7. The full verse from Genesis 1:9 reads: God said, “Let the water below the sky be gathered into one area, that the dry land may appear. And it was so.” The implication is the name Ikva (אקװה) was an allusion to the Hebrew verse “let the waters be gathered” (יקװ ). Return
  8. It is implied here that the split in the Ikva was caused by the collapse of the bridges which split the river into two streams. Return
  9. Lipa is drawing an analogy between the flow of the river and the passage of time and the generations. Return

 

[Page 16]

Mlynov–A Kehilla[1] for Mlynov
and its Surrounding Shtetlekh

by Sonia and Mendel Teitelman, Haifa

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD

Mlynov–Surrounding Shtetlekh

The Mlynov kehilla included these shtetlekh: Mervits, Ostrozshets, Boremel, Demydivka, and Trovits.[2] In addition, there were some Jewish families who lived in the villages near each shtetl. Except for Mervits, which was not more than one kilometer from Mlynov, the shtetlekh were somewhat far from each other according to the possibilities of communication in those times. They were all independent. The villages surrounding every shtetl were the same distance away. For example, Ostrozshets was 15 kilometers from Mlynov; Trovits was 15 kilometers from Mlynov; Demydivka, 20 kilometers; and Boremel, 30 kilometers. The distance met the requirements for the shtetlekh in the area to belong to the Mlynov Jewish kehilla, although this was not a legal jurisdiction. All Jews from the above mentioned shtetlekh, and from their surrounding villages, were tied to the kehilla by annual taxes, by elections for the Jewish communal positions, and by other assorted details. Usually, regarding the citizens' duties to the local authorities, like to the regional governor, they belonged to the Jewish community.

From the inside Jewish point of view, however, the distance of the shtetlekh from the center in Mlynov lessened the feeling that they really belonged to the Mlynov Jewish community. Not all had real ties to the Mlynov kehilla. More than one person looked sadly at the luck of Mlynov, because both Demydivka and Boremel actually had larger Jewish populations than Mlynov. Mlynov was chosen only because of its geographic location.

[Page 17]

The anti–Semitic government desired it too, simply in order to have control over Jewish institutions, and Mlynov was the closest to Dubno, the central city. Every shtetl was independent, but each had to agree to be tied together into one Jewish community. There were also many family ties among the shtetlekh.

 

Elections to the Kehilla

Creating the Jewish kehilla in Mlynov, which would include the surrounding shtetlekh under its protection, was not easy.

Until then, nobody from the shtetlekh had had any Jewish elections. Jewish elections in all towns and in all times have had many issues. An entire structure with various divisions had to be created. For example, the kehilla had to handle issues of religion and rabbis, issues of weddings and divorces, issues of kashrut, social needs, cemeteries, and other subjects. It was always full of problems.

In a larger city, all the problems were concentrated in the same city, and the leaders of the congregation could control them more easily. That was not the case with the Mlynov kehilla, which consisted of distant shtetlekh and their surroundings. It had great difficulties with wanting to control all the issues.

It was necessary, for example, to begin voting for supervisors of the synagogues in the congregation. As usual, this election had to take place separately in each shtetl. Understandably, in every shtetl parties were created: Orthodox, Zionist–Orthodox, plain Zionists, and Bundists. Today we can imagine how the small number of voters had to elect supervisors. There was of course no shortage of volunteers for the positions, but how to choose? In such a small community, it was a large mishmash. There were great difficulties, and inexperience–because this was new for an important part of the Jewish population. All of this was carried through, and supervisors were elected.

[Page 18]

Then choosing the overall Rabbi of the kehilla first started. Here, you see, the thing was not so simple, because only the elected supervisors were able to vote, and not the general population. They could not come together with one voice, since there were a number of candidates for the rabbinical authority.

 

Who Will Be the Chief Rabbi?

The first candidate for Chief Rabbi of the kehilla was the Mlynov Rabbi, Rabbi Gordon, may his memory be blessed, and may the Lord avenge his blood. (By the way, he was one of our first victims, and he was brought for burial to the nearby village of Kutsa.) This candidate was very appropriate for several reasons. It would be frugal to have the chief Rabbi always in Mlynov, without having to pay travelling expenses, and without the physical difficulties of travelling. In addition, he was a highly learned genius. He had come to Mlynov from the big city of Lublin, and he had much experience in his life in business as well as in general worldly matters. He really was worthy of the position; but even though he had backers, he also had opponents from all levels, Orthodox as well as progressive. The orthodox parties could not agree on many things. Although they had never had such a sharp, educated person in the shtetl, they could not understand how such a learned man, an Orthodox Rabbi, could be so modern. According to the concepts of the Chassidim, he was modern.

Moreover, the modern and business–focused members of the population found another blemish that made him untrustworthy, and that finding was tinged with envy and hatred. The rabbis in Mlynov, and in many other shtetlekh, could not manage on their salaries, which until today I do not know who paid them. In every shtetl the rabbis needed additional income. Some sold candles and yeast, and they took a portion of the Kosher slaughtering tax. Other rabbis used to even keep little stores and beer taverns. The Rabbi of Mlynov, may his memory be a blessing, in addition to selling candles and yeast, was involved with interest–bearing loans (usually according to documents which gave permission to charge interest). Having contact with money matters, it was no wonder that envy and hate were by–products. His opponents decided that the democratic election would be the opportune moment to settle old accounts with the Rabbi, to get even with him, and in secret. Naturally, his chances of becoming Rabbi of the kehilla decreased after the first election.

[Page 19]

Mly019.jpg

 

All the remaining rabbis of the other shtetlekh then came under consideration, and all were found to be untrustworthy for some reason or other.[3] But the Rabbi of Trovits, Reb Mordkhe Note Akerman, may his memory be a blessing, had the greatest chances. He was a Jew who was popular with everyone, a man of the people, and in addition he was a brilliant, learned scholar. He was very often called on to important court trials, dealing with large sums of money, and with various general matters. Everyone was affected by his simplicity and cleverness. He acquired the position, and he remained Rabbi of the kehilla until the end. He attained even a greater reputation and also more honor than before.

 

The Rabbi of Mlynov

In addition to suffering financial loss, the Rabbi of Mlynov suffered a loss of honor. There was friction among the rabbis.

[Page 20]

There was also friction between the proprietors and the Mlynov Rabbi on various matters, which were matters belonging to the chief Rabbi of the kehilla. And I can say, as far as I can remember, that from those times on, no conflict in the shtetl created as much diversity of opinions as the battle over the office of Rabbi of the kehilla. Quite a number of misunderstandings had been created between the Mlynov Rabbi Gordon, may his memory be a blessing, and the Mervits Rabbi, because the brother–in–law of the Mervits Rabbi was the son–in–law of Peysakh the ritual slaughterer, may his memory be a blessing. And it seems to me that the Mervits Rabbi, as well as his brother–in–law in Mlynov, were also factors in the failure of Rabbi Gordon to attain the head title. They were retaliating from the time when the Mlynov Rabbi was opposed to the other's coming to Mervits as Rabbi. And the Mlynov Rabbi sensed that. In short, there was no peace among the rabbis from the beginning of the bloody war (then the kehilla with everything around it was destroyed).

As peace among the rabbis did not exist, so also did the peace among the local inhabitants diminish. Our relationship with the Christians in the area, with whom we had always been tied through business and income, also started to go downhill. Hitler's spirit, may his name be blotted out, slowly came to us in the small shtetlekh in Poland. It was an obstacle to our lives and ways of earning a living. And as the inhabitants were in need, this affected also the rabbis, who were supported by their congregations. Truly their earnings became constantly smaller.

The horizons of the Jewish population were covered more and more with black clouds. Everyone sensed it. Here it was heard that there were pogroms against Jews; over there Jews were beaten up in the high schools. There was picketing at Jewish businesses, so that the Christian customers could not buy from Jews. All these experiences affected, as already stated, the rabbis, the kosher slaughterers, and members of the clergy.

* * *

Here I want to mention a certain conversation that the Mlynov Rabbi led with his intimates from the town while sitting at a kiddush one Shabbat after prayer.

[Page 21]

He let himself into a discussion about Torah, like always, in holiness. It occurred a few weeks before the tragedy, about a month before the 22nd of June 1941. While the Rabbi was supposed to be talking on another theme, he declared this:

“I want to tell you, dear Jews, that you should know, that wherever a person dies, that spot is holy, and it is not necessary to exhaust yourselves for his honor by taking him to a Jewish cemetery….”

All those who were present looked at each other, and wonderingly thought what kind of a connection these words had to their group sitting at a kiddush. My brother–in–law Nakhman Teitelman, may he live, is a witness to these words.[4]

After that came the tragic event, with the Rabbi as one of the first victims. We have often repeated this with amazement, how our Rabbi prophesied and knew what he predicted.

* * *

Finished. The story of the Mlynov Rabbi is over. There is no more Mlynov Rabbi, with his illustrious family. There are no more heads of households, no more beautiful traditions of the past, which crystalized such a nice youth, especially in the last years. The closer the end came, all the more did the young people in Mlynov and Mervits blossom and grow. The same was true in all the shtetlekh which belonged to the Mlynov kehilla, and which had the same fate as Mlynov and the others. Even the youngest daughter of the Mlynov Rabbi, Dvoyre, suffered the same end as everyone else.

 

Mly021.jpg
Children Coming from School
From the photos of A. Harari

[Page 22]

A remnant of the Mlynov Rabbi has remained. His daughter Toybeshe, who had the honor of hiding herself from the murderers, returned to Mlynov with us after liberation. A short time later, a young man from Russia, a relative of theirs, searching for remains of the Mlynov Rabbi's family, found Toybeshe and took her with him. They were married in Poland or Germany, and today they are in America. Two sons of the Mlynov Rabbi also survived. They were studying in a Yeshiva, and with the coming of the Russians to us in 1939, the Yeshiva boys were evacuated to Japan; from there they came to America, where they can be found today.

 

The Other Rabbis

The Mervits Rabbi, who was also the ritual slaughterer, was a young man with little rabbinical experience. He did not have a chance of being Rabbi of the kehilla, because in addition to having rabbinical knowledge, he had to also have rabbinical standing, and for that he was still too young. He went the same way as all the other Jews there, with his entire large family.

Regarding the Rabbis from Demydivka, Boremel, and Ostrozshets, I do not remember what happened, if their candidates were promoted or if they were fitting to the position. The Trovits Rabbi, who was finally elected, as already stated, was the most appropriate candidate. He held the title, “Rabbi of the Mlynov Kehilla and the Surrounding Shtetlkeh,” with honor.

* * *

The Secretary of the kehilla was a Jew from Demydivka, with the name of Katsevman. Various people helped, whose names, unfortunately, I do not remember. I know that Lipa Halperin[5] who died in Israel, may his memory be a blessing, also worked there a while. The names of the sextons: from Mervits was Shamai Porizshok,[6] may his memory be a blessing; from Mlynov was Chaim–Yitskhok Kipergloz,[7] may his memory be a blessing; from Trovits was my brother, Nakhman Teitelman, may his memory be a blessing; and from Boremel, Alter Myoshever, may his memory be a blessing. The others I do not remember.

[Page 23]

The End

The demise of the kehilla began in the year 1939, with the marching in of the Soviet army into Mlynov. My wife Sonia and I, and many others, were walking around as if in the world of chaos; we benefitted from the Soviets, but we were also degraded. We benefitted from the secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact which, for a while, held off the Germans, may their names be blotted out. Degraded because that was the end of all the Jews there who were earning a living from business, and especially those who still owned something. This was also the fate of the Zionist organizations.

As Chairman of the Jewish National Fund for many years, I had quite a large archive. With the arrival of the Soviet army, I burned all the papers in the oven, so that not even a trace would remain. There were also other institutions which fell apart and disappeared by their own actions at that time. Being conquered by the Soviets, it is true, brought a temporary redemption, which is unnecessary to repeat. But at the same time, all Jews instinctively felt that they have to stop living their former ways of life, and they must begin everything anew.

And so we did. Every one of us started slowly to complete various jobs anew, and life was beginning to normalize. A few still could not quickly make peace with their fates, but nothing helped. Some earlier and some later. The worst was regarding the elderly, who all their days had lived the old way of life and done some small business; they had to quickly, in their older years, give their businesses over to the state, but still support their families. Of course, many did not give up their old businesses and they tried to continue as before in order to be able to exist. This brought a stiff punishment when the person was caught; it was not a light matter.

The members of the clergy suffered the most.

[Page 24]

The government did not tolerate them, and the population, who supported them in normal times, were, with their best intentions, not able to come up with a solution. There was not any hunger yet.

The same held true for all the shtetlekh which surrounded our Mlynov. We used to be able to travel from shtetl to shtetl, to relatives and acquaintances. Now it was extremely dangerous to use the trains. All the shtetlekh in the kehilla were in the same situation, and the same mood ruled everywhere–extreme pessimism.

It was not better in the bigger towns around us, like, for example, in Dubno, Rovno, and Lutsk. The important people from those large cities fell victim in the first days, when the Russians just came in. They were robbed in a delicate way; a short time later, many Jews were deported to a place nobody knew, and from which very few returned. The average and unimportant Jews did whatever they could.

* * *

The coming holocaust made an end to all of this; it did not differentiate between poor and rich, old and young, male and female; it only cared about who was a Jew. Our dear and beloved ones became martyrs with their Jewish faith. Interesting and sad is the fact that the enemy, may its name be blotted out, united and exterminated all the shtetlekh in the kehilla on the same day. Without giving details, the same things happened to all. The members of the kehilla lived together, they were tortured together, and they were also murdered together.

Editor's footnotes:

  1. A Jewish congregation; a kehilla is a local communal Jewish structure––HBF Return
  2. Today: Muravytsi, Ostrozhets, Baremel, Demidyvka, and Torhovytsia, Ukraine––HBF Return
  3. The photo appears to be of a water carrier with two buckets suspended from wood that hung across his shoulders. Other essays in the Memorial book refer to this method of carrying water – HS Return
  4. Nakhman Teitelman is known later as Nahum Teitelman Return
  5. Lipa Galperin in the Yiddish text. Note that the Russian language does not have an “h” and it does not distinguish between “g” and “h,” so the confusion is common.––HBF Return
  6. Dr. Howard Schwartz suggests the name may be “Polishuk” as he has traced a local family by that name. Return
  7. Kipergloz also appears transliterated as Kipergluz.––HS Return

 

[Page 25]

“The Cologia” [The Swamp]

By Aaron (Berger) Harari, [Kibbutz] Merhavia

Translated from the Hebrew by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD and Hanina Epstein

©

This was a large gathering of water (“mikveh”) which during our time was called a pond or a pool, but we called this water “Cologia,” and its meaning in the language of the gentiles was “swamp”. The Cologia was in the center of the town and didn't bother anyone since it was part of the town forever. In the houses around the Cologia, lived most of the tradespeople such as: Mendel, the blacksmith, Moshe the tinsmith, Moshe the cobbler, and others. Even those “hourly” professions[1] had their homes on its banks. Mr Moshe, the teacher, Mr. Pesach, the kosher slaughterer, Mr. Mendel, the scribe. North of it stood the Olyker synagogue and across from it the [ritual] bath house.

Who among us doesn't remember the croaking of the frogs during the summer nights, which could be heard even at a distance. On moonlit nights, it reflected shining, white light and in dark nights the stars appeared beneath the water. Who among the kids didn't enjoy the Cologia, during the winter months, when the water froze and they could skate on the ice – and this was the only sport for the children of the “cheder”, who didn't dare, from fear of the rabbi [teacher], to leave from the boundary of the courtyard, and go to the wide open Ikva River. The cheder of R Moshe Melammed was in fact on the south of the bank of the Cologia and his pupils took advantage of every “kosher” moment to hang out on the ice and skate.

 

Mly025.jpg
The swamp on Dinvinka Street. The Cologia.
On the left side: the Olyker synagogue.

From the photos of A. Harari

 

In the spring, with the melting of the snow, the water used to reach up to the fences of the houses, but the residents were never griped with a fear of flooding. And what did they do to get to the entrance of their homes? They put planks of wood, bricks, and boards and made something like a boardwalk – and thus they crossed until the Cologia water subsided.

And this is the origin of the Cologia. Many years ago, there was in this spot a grove of oak trees. They cut down these trees and on that area built houses. The walls of the houses they needed to plaster, and they found in this very earth that there was clay fitting for plastering the houses. Everyone would come[2] and take some of the clay. Thus in the course of the year, a lowland was created there and the water from the melting snow and rain would stream there and did not have exit. Only on rare occasions in a year without rain would the Cologia dry up and the area take on the appearance of a dying swamp. The croaking of the frogs was silenced, and the ground used to crack into deep cracks, as if it was calling for renewal…

 

Mly026.jpg
Market street
From the photos of A. Harari

 

Editor's footnotes:
  1. Hebrew uses the term “free professions” to refer to occupations like lawyer, accountant, and other labor for hire. Return
  2. Here Aaron uses the language from the Passover Seder “kol dichfin” (all are welcome to come as guests). Return

 

[Page 27]

A Wedding in Mlynov

by Sylvia Barditch-Goldberg, Jackson Heights

Translated by Hannah Bereliner Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD

It was after the holiday of Shevuot. A beautiful summer day. The whole shtetl was in a state of excitement. Chayeke, daughter of Ahron the blacksmith, is getting married today with her bridegroom from Lutsk,[1] Moyshe the cantor's son, who is also a cantor. The Count is sending out his carriage with two pairs of horses, decorated with ribbons and bells, to bring over the bridegroom with his parents. The Count does this for all the important people who marry off their girls. The bridegroom had klezmorim[2] come from Lutsk. The musicians from Ulik[3] were already there; they have the rights to perform here. The people are anxious to see a wedding with two klezmer ensembles.

I was, as is usual every year, visiting my grandparents for Shevuot. My grandmother tells me, “Silkele, wash up. I will put your new little dress and new shoes on you; I will comb your braids and put pretty ribbons in them; and you will go to the wedding with us.” Afterwards, she orders me to not get in the way, because she and my grandfather needed to get ready themselves.

So I went out, all dressed up, in the street. I see in the house next door, in Chaim the miller's garden, men, women, children, and friends in white. Everybody wants to see the bridegroom, who is staying there. Near the steps at the entrance, the klezmorim from Lutsk are standing. I push through the big crowd and recognize, among the musicians, Isaac, our neighbor, with his flute. He puts his arm around me, kisses me, and says: “Silkele, dance for me like you do at home.” I do not allow him to beg, and he tells the ensemble to play a cheerful tune. I dance, tapping my feet to the beat. The crowd is enthusiastically clapping, and I hear someone saying: “Here is a worldly chlld.”

Someone screams out, “Make way, the bridegroom is going!” Two men show up who will lead the groom to the bride. The klezmorim play, the bridegroom is walking, and the musicians with the large audience follow the bridegroom to Chayse's house; the bride is staying there.

[Page 28]

Coming into Chayse's house, I see the bride is sitting on an easy chair, and the large room is fully packed with men related to the groom; the bride is surrounded by well-adorned women of her future husband's family. The badkhn[4] from Ulik, Reb Leyzer, a tall, big-bellied Jew in a black overcoat and high top-hat, gets closer to the bride and begins to sing a sad melody, in his own style with his strong bass voice: “Dear bride, dear bride.” Then Itsik the fiddler from Lutsk, a deaf person, plays so artistically on his magical violin, making the strings cry, that everyone weeps out loud. Eyes are being wiped, noses are blown; the bride is crying with them.

After seating the bride, the girls stand outside with lit, colored candles in their hands. Boys, close friends of the bride, hold up the four posts of the chuppah. The Rabbi, Reb Henekhl, conducts the wedding ceremony. His beautiful voice resounds over the place. Afterwards the bride and groom are greeted—first in Hebrew, then in Russian and in Yiddish. People scream “Hurrah!” and throw confetti on them. Suddenly a wide aunt with a braided loaf in her hands appears, dancing in front of the bride and groom.

In the house, the crowd sits at long tables on benches; men are separate from the women. Boys and girls sit together. A group of women serve the tasty treats, which the servers had prepared: they were Rokhl Paveshe's and Leybtsikhe, whose reputation and cooking were well known. Gefilte fish is brought out, golden chicken soup, fatty kishkes, foods roasted and cooked. The men are brought bottles of 90 proof liquor. They smack their lips, and it doesn't take long until they become a little drunk. They dance the traditional mitsva dance with the bride.

Later, the Chassidim and the well-to-do from the town dance the Chassidic dances with enthusiasm. My grandfather, Itse Starosta,[5] a tall Jew with a handsome red beard, combed into two points, wearing a long kapote[6] and high boots—happily dances. And now Leybush Gershon's,[7] a Jew with a small beard and a wide smile, takes him into the circle. And here comes the mashgiakh[8] Itsik-Leyb, a tall Jew with a gray-white beard, in a black satin kapote, with high white socks, and with short half-shoes; he has a patriarchal appearance.

[Page 29]

The circle keeps getting bigger, the tapping with the feet, stronger. The men weave together, singing, in a holy chain. The klezmorim play louder, louder. People stand on the benches and watch the dancers.

Finally they sit down, tired. The musicians now play for the women. Quadrilles, a lively sher dance, a lenseis, a cheerful freylekhs. Afterwards the boys and girls come and dance together: waltzes, mazurkas, vingerkes, krakovyak, polyespans. They dance until day comes.

It is fashionable for the musicians to accompany the in-laws to their home. The music is especially beautiful. It is heard over the entire street. Some neighbor women are awake, waiting to hear the music, which is long remembered.

And so ended the wedding of Chayke the blacksmith's daughter in the town of Mlynov.

* * *

The bride is led around the groom, she is turned around;
The groom, in his heart, follows her and accompanies her
Until he hears secrets from under the footsteps.

The badkhn suddenly finishes and becomes
The officiant of the marriage ceremony, and not for a joke,
And chants the blessings according to the laws and requirements.

(Excerpt from “The Chuppah” by Aleph Katz)

 

Editor's footnotes:
  1. “Loyts” in the text, but I assume this is the town of Lutsk, Ukraine – HBF Return
  2. Jewish musicians who play klezmer music, usually including a fiddle, a clarinet, and other instruments – HBF Return
  3. Probably Olyka, called Olik in Yiddish – HS Return
  4. Wedding entertainer who usually composes improvised humorous and sentimental verse about the bride and groom – HBF Return
  5. Head of the village – HBF Return
  6. Long, black kaftan worn by Chassidim – HBF Return
  7. Possibly a reference to Labish Gelberg from Mlynov. Sylvia later marries his grandson, Gershon / Joe Goldberg. Return
  8. Supervisor of kosher laws – HBF Return

 

[Page 30]

“My Hill”[1]

by Moshe Teitelman (later Moshe Tamari)

Edited and translated by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD with Hanina Epstein

©

At the edge of my town where I live, the river runs, and near it is planted a grove of Linden trees with thick tangled branches. Over the river is a rickety bridge, which is impossible to cross with a wagon, and therefore it is always quiet and restful there. Not far from the river there is one hill – in a corner that is lonely and quiet. When I was little, we used to hike there – I and some friends my age – once a year, on the holiday of Lag B'Omer. We used to call the hill “Mount Sinai”, and there was no doubt among us, that this was “Mount Sinai” which we learned about in the 5 Books of Moses [Humash].

When I grew up, I treated this isolated hill as my most special place and on it I spent all my leisurely hours…. There I dreamed the first dreams of youth. And when the time came to leave the town where I lived, I thought of the hill and it was difficult for me to leave her…

* * *

Days and years passed, and I lived in other towns and walked among strangers, but my precious hill, I did not forget, and many, many times I longed for her. The ground was encased in green in summer and was enveloped in a shroud of snow in winter, I see her in my imagination and the scenery stood alive before my eyes…

When I returned home, my first stroll – to the hill. And my hill had not changed one iota. Then and also now, she was wrapped entirely in green.

“My hill was surrounded in splendor,”[2] – I thought, and my joy had no boundary…but after I sat there a while, I noticed a soft sound around me: with a wagon were coming pavers and bridge builders and they began to inspect and measure the area in that spot.

Every day the tumult grew, and the strangers began to come there frequently…the place became too confined for me and I left my cherished hill in grief and with a broken heart – – –

From that moment the question began to gnaw at my thoughts and didn't give me peace: if even here the tumult of the world penetrates and profanes the holy temple of my youth, where should I go with my soul full of dreams?...

 

Editor's footnotes:
  1. Published originally in “Eitoon Katan” [A Small Newspaper], Warsaw, 1929. Return
  2. A possible allusion to Psalm 145 speaking of God: “The glorious majesty of your splendor” (hadar kevod hodecha). Return

 

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