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[Page 255]

My Father Ben-Tzion z”l[1]

Boruch Meren,[2] Baltimore

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD.


Was a religious Jew, may his memory be blessed,
Always reminded me to recite a prayer…
“Go to cheder, study, pray—be a Jew!”
With every step he took---
Worked for a living, during the day and during the night,
My mother was weak, did not sleep.
They complained, “Woe and bitter…
“There isn't any wood, and winter is coming soon….”
That is how I remember them, troubled and sad,
Always afraid of tomorrow…
Yes, my father, rest in peace,
I just saw you yesterday in my dream…
Your starry eyes toward heaven, your beard white,
And I look at him with wet eyes.
“Father, tell me—where is my mother, sister Serl?
“My Uncle Azshe and my Aunt Perl?...”
But my father is silent, he does not speak anymore…
I get up and wipe off a tear.

[The original Yiddish poem was written in rhyming couplets.—HBF]


Editor's footnotes:
  1. Ben Tzion Meren (1870–1942). A photo of Boruch's parents and sister Serl appears this volume, p. 456.-- HS Return
  2. Boruch's background is in his essay, “A Good Deed,” pp. 149-152, fn 1.--HS Return


[Page 256]

Small Shtetls, Large Families

by Mendel and Sonia Teitelman

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD


The shtetls in the Mlynov kehilla, which were all destroyed, had been blessed with a valuable quality– solid friendships within the families. This influenced the sons of the families to always concentrate on keeping their family ties as strong as possible. At that time there was a contrast of opinions. For example, according to the proverb, a rebbe is worse than an apostate, because he associates only with an Orthodox Rabbi or a state rabbi, but never with a Jew. However, I am of the other opinion, that because of their limitless devotion to one another, families were bound together more and more.

For the main example of that opinion, I want to write about the multi-branched, honorable family Goldseker (Holzeker),[1] the largest family in Mlynov. I greatly doubt that there was such a large family in the kehilla of another shtetl. Thanks to its sizeable numbers, this family had the luck of having a few surviving remnants. Very many other families did not leave the slightest trace of their existence; they were literally wiped out.

The family Goldseker had another nickname, and that was the “Slobodyantses.” It was likely that their grandfathers, or great-grandfathers, lived in the nearby village Sloboda, and it was enough to call out the name the “Sloboder” to indicate that somebody from the Goldseker family was meant.[2] And as I already said, it was the largest and one of the most respected families in Mlynov. Because of their size and honor, I will make an effort to note some names. As residents of Mervits, my report will not be exact, but it will be true for the most part.

I will begin with the old man, Reb [Mr.][3] Moyshe z”l, the father of Yankev, Ben-Tsiyon, Shike, and all z”l, from the family.[4] Yankev Goldzeker z”l,[5] the oldest son of the family, had a large family himself, which, thanks to its size, had a few survivors. Those survivors were Baila in Kibbutz Rukhama, Tzipora in the Negev, and Nakhman in Kiryat-Hayim, all with their families.[6]

[Page 257]

In addition to the parents, who were murdered in the Holocaust, one of the successful children, Hanoch z”l, was killed in the Negev during the War for Independence. [Another son] Menashe z”l was spared during the Holocaust; he was together with us near Mlynov.[7] From there he was mobilized into the Red Army, and he did not return; he probably died.[8] A few other descendants were with a group in the Smardover Forest, where they were killed.[9] The parents Yankev and Risia z”l died in the ghetto. They were a part of the large Goldseker family. It will not be an overstatement to designate them with the title of “tribe,” because even for a tribe, they were not small in number. “It is a pity for those who are gone and no longer to be found!”[10]

Further, there was Nokhum Goldseker with his family, Beni Goldseker with his family,[11] Shike Goldseker with his family, Peril Basis Goldseker with a son and family,[12] Yankev-Kalmen-Moyshe Yoel's-Risl,[13] and a few others, whose names I do not remember, and they all had large families.

It is not for nothing I call them a “tribe,” because they were.

After them there were other large families, but smaller in number. There were the Berger families:[14] Yoysef Berger, Khayim Berger, Faivel Berger, and Wolf Berger, with their families. There were a few other Berger families, whose names I do not, unfortunately, remember. Survivors from the Bergers are: Ahron Harari, a veteran in Israel, and his sister [Rosa/Reisel Berger];[15] Pinkhus Berger, and his sister Liza, in Brazil, who endured the terrible time in the forest with us.[16]

* * *

Another group of families, although smaller in number, yet large enough and having branches, were the Mandelkerns. A few of them are in Israel.[17] Additionally, there were smaller families, smaller in number. In addition to their great importance, the numbers there were larger than can usually be found today. And in a certain measure we can say that the entire shtetl was divided into tribes. Small families were, for example, Halperin,[18] Schechman,[19] and so on. All this gives the impression that a few families owned the small shtetls.

[Page 258]

Small shtetls, with large families. That applies to Mlynov.

It looked like that also in Mervits. For example, the Teitelman families: Khayim-Mayer z”l,[20] the family Mordkhe Teitelman z”l, the family Yankev-Yoysef (my brother) z”l, and my family–Shmuel Teitelman, Avrohom Yankev Teitelman,[21] Motil Teitelman. The street on which we Teitelmans lived was settled densely only by us, and also by Anshl[22] z”l. And may the Lord avenge his blood, Nakhum Teitelman[23] was from Mervits.

Following in number was the family Epshtayn[24] z”l, a large, many-branched family; The families Steinberg,[25] Sherman,[26] Raykhman, Gruber[27] and others followed.

Also I remember Ostrozhets was similar. For example, the Garber families z”l had the largest number of families in that shtetl. That was my brother-in-law Mayer Garber and sister's husband and family. And in general, the Garber family was the largest in Ostrozhets. There were a few more large families in Ostrozhets, but I have forgotten their names.


Avromke – A typical Mlynov character
From the photos of A. Harari

In Trovits,[28] the Feldman families were large in number. Boromel and Demydivka had the Fuks families; all had many branches. So it was in almost all the small shtetls where we had been born: small shtetls, large families.


Translator's and editor's footnotes:
  1. The Hebrew spelling of the surname in the Memorial volume sometimes begins with a “heh,” as in Holtzeker, and sometimes with a “gimel” as in Goldseker. This variation in the Hebrew, which carried over to the English, reflects the fact that a “h” was not pronounced in Russian and some Slavic languages. There are many other variations on the surname in English records. Return
  2. See the essay by Moshe Fishman in this volume, “Mlynov My Hometown,” which indicates the Goldseker family came to Sloboda from Dubno, pp. 60-62 and then followed Moshe to Mlynov. On the attempt to identify Sloboda, see footnote 2 in that essay. For another essay on the “Goldsekers,” see that of Boruch Meren, a Goldseker descendant, 245-246. See also the essay by Yankev Holtzeker, “My Hometown Mlynov,” 226-228. Return
  3. Reb is an honorific title like Mr. and does not signify the person was a Rabbi.--HS Return
  4. Moshe Goldseker was one of the five sons of Avrum and Baila Goldseker. For a list of the five Goldseker sons, see Boruch Meren's essay, “The Goldsekers,” 245-246, note 3. According to oral tradition among the Baltimore descendants, the Moshe Goldseker referred to here and his wife Ida had ten children: Yankel who married Risia, Benne, Pinchas, Nachum, Goldie, Yehea, Baila, Ruchel, Tchize (also spelled as Shisha or Sivve) and Rivkah. Some of Yankel's children survived as described below. Tchhize married David Fishman and one of their sons Morris Fishman came to Baltimore.” Return
  5. A photo of this Yankev's (or Yankel's) family appears this volume in the essay by Boruch Meren called “The Goldsekers,” p. 245. He is to be distinguished from the Yankev who wrote the essay in this volume, “My Hometown Mlynov,” pp. 226-227. Return
  6. Tzipporah Sulovsky-Holtzeker (1910–1986) made aliyah in 1933. Baila (Holtzeker) Wildikan (1914-1990) made aliya in 1941. Nahman (Holzeker) Israeli (1920–1986) made it to Israel at some unknown date and lived in Kiryat-Haim. Their younger brother, Hanoch (1930-1948) survived the ghetto liquidation and made aliyah in September 1946. He was killed defending Kibbutz Negba in May 25, 1948 by an Egyptian shell. Return
  7. Menashe is listed in Yad Vashem records as another child of Yaakov and Risia. Return
  8. He was seen one more time after he was mobilized. Mendel and Sonia's nephew, Asher Teitelman, who had enlisted in the Red Army and was wounded tells of meeting Menashe once more in the hospital when they both were was wounded in battle. That was the last time anyone saw him. See Chapter 4 of Asher Teitelman's life story, https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/documents/The_Asher_Teitelman_Story.pdf--HS Return
  9. Other Mlynov families in the Smordva forest include the family of Asher Teitelman and the family of Helen (Nudler) Fixler. See note 1 for the Teitelman story and for background on Helen's family story, see https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/families.html#Nudlers --HS Return
  10. The quotation comes from the Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin 111a. Basically the expression laments the great loss of the deceased persons who are irreplaceable. --HS Return
  11. Nahum and Beni are other children of Yankel and Risia.--HS Return
  12. Based on Yad Vashem records, probably Peril Shokhet who married Aisik Goldseker. They had a son Srul (Israel) who married Shifra Kotch.--HS Return
  13. We are not able to identify these other Goldsekers.--HS Return
  14. Wolf and Favel were brothers. See the story and photo of them as farmers and a photo in this volume, by Wolf's son, Aaron Harari, in “Jewish Farmers in Mlynov,” 75-76. It is not known whether or how Yosef and Khayim Berger were also related. See https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/families.html#Bergers for the Berger story.--HS Return
  15. Aaron and Rosa were Wolf's children. Aaron was a contributor to this volume, and also the person who took many of the photos in this volume. Return
  16. Pinchas and Liza were children of Tuvia (also Tevel) Berger, another brother of Wolf and Faivel. Pinchas survived the Shoah in the Red Army and Liza writes about her survival experience later in this volume, pp. 347–350. Return
  17. Shmuel Mandelkern, who was a leader in the Zionist Youth Groups, made aliyah. See Aaron Harari's reflections on Mandelkern's role in “Culture, Education, and Social Life in the Small Town,” pp. 66-68 and “The Youth Movement, ‘The Young Guard’ (Hashomer Hatzair),” pp. 69-73. Return
  18. Lipa Halperin is a contributor and editor of this original Memorial volume. Lipa Halperin was born in Mlynov (1907–1969) and made aliyah to Palestine in 1938. All of his immediate Mlynov nuclear family were killed in the Shoah. Lipa's father was Israel Halperin and his mother also from Mlynov was Rivkah Shrentzel (also spelled Shrenzel /Shrentsil). Lipa was named after his grandfather, Lipa Halperin, who had married Pessia Hirsch from Mlynov. Lipa's siblings can be seen in photos and in the 1935 home movie taken when Lipa's cousin A. D. Hirsch visited from the United States. See https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/families.html#Hirsch for further background. Return
  19. There was a large Schuchman family in Mlynov and the descendants of one line transliterate their surname Schechman. See https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/families.html#Schuchman. Return
  20. Chaim Meir and Mordkhe (Mordechai) were brothers of Mendel's father, Abraham. Return
  21. Possibly Abraham, son of Chaim Meir Teitelman. Return
  22. Possibly Anshel Eliezer Teitelman, a brother of Nahum Teitelman. Return
  23. Probably referring to Nachman Teitelman, a brother of Mendel, who died in the Shoah. Return
  24. Yitzhak Upstein (1910–2004) was one of five children of Raizel and Hanina Upstein. Hanina's father was Leazar Upstein. In the family, only Yitzhak survived WWII in the Red Army. He married Bunia Steinberg after returning to Mlynov. See https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/documents/A_Struggle_to_Survive.pdf for the family story of survival. After a stay in the Pocking displaced persons camp, Yitzhak and Bunia made aliyah. Bunia is a contributor to this volume, p. 387. Return
  25. Getzel (George) Steinberg (1907–2003) was one of seven children of Asher Anshel Steinberg (1881–1923) and Chaya Lerner (1881–1942). Getzel married Pessia (Paula) (1907–1994) Wurtzel, daughter of Zelig Wurtzel and Sooreh Gruber. They survived the Shoah with their son Zelig (Gerald) Steinberg (1937–) and two of Getzel's siblings, Getzel's sister, Bunia (Upstein) and his brother, Mendel and his wife. After the liberation, the families made their way to the Pocking displaced persons camp. Getzel's family eventually moved to Springfield, Massachusetts; Bunia and husband Yitzchak Upstein made aliyah with son Hanina, born in Pocking. Mendel and his wife Shaindel Grenspun settled in Cleveland with their daughter Susie who had been born in Pocking. Return
  26. Ezra and Yechiel Sherman were sons of Moshe Sherman and Etel (Ester) Golisuk (who was a daughter of Hanah Schuchman). Yechiel is a contributor to this volume (p. 415) and survived WWII with the Red Army. Ezra escaped the Mlynov ghetto as a young boy and survived wandering from place to place in the countryside. After the brothers were reunited, they made their way to Palestine where they settled. You can listen to Ezra speak about his experiences. https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/Mlinov_Interviews.html#EzraSherman Return
  27. There were a number of Gruber lines in Mlynov and their exact relationship is not known. Sonia, one of the authors of this essay was born Sonia (Gruber). Her sister was Rachel (Gruber). The two Gruber sisters and other siblings were daughters of Yosef Gruber, son of Mordechai Gruber. Their siblings were Yitzchak (Gruber) Hofri, (1910-2008) who made aliyah in the 1930s, Bentzion, Chiaka (Chaya) Schichman, and Nuta Gruber. Another line of cousins included four sisters: Riko/ Rikel who married Joseph Gelman/ Alman and migrated to Springfield, MA, Sooreh (Gruber) Wurtzel, Rachel (Gruber) Feldman, and Ester (Gruber) Boronstein. In addition, there was a line of Grubers descended from Moshe Gruber's daughter, Rivka, who married Israel Demb. Most of the Demb descendants migrated to Baltimore between 1900–1925. There was also a Shmuel Gruber who married Charna (Goldseker), both killed in the Shoah. Return
  28. Today Trohovitsya, Ukraine--HBF Return


[Page 259]

Mr. Avraham-Shlomo Teitelman[1]

by Eliyahu Gelman[2], Netanya

Translated and edited by by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD, with Hanina Epstein


From the abyss of oblivion of more than half a Jubilee generation of years [25 years] from the Shoah — the images of the town's people rise up and appear as if they are standing alive before our eyes. Here is one of them: Avraham Shlomo son of Mordechai and Freida from the multibranched Teitelman family. His father died and the burden of worry for the home's livelihood fell on his shoulders and strong hands, [including:] worry over a sick mother, younger and older brothers and sisters.

He circulated among the villages in the area — and returned home on cold winter nights and on days of summer rain, on snowy roads, and muddy, dusty trails. He brought with him cattle which he bought.

More than once he would encounter a gentile hooligan, who attacked him, but Avraham Shlomo did not recoil and was not afraid, and would display his relaxed [muscular] arm.

This way of life continued day and weeks, months and years, except for the days of Sabbath and festival, on which he rested and slept, prayed in the congregation, and learned a chapter of Mishnah.

One time he found me with a book of Sholem Asch[3] in Yiddish. He read one [essay] and then continued to read a second and third and the world of books that opened before him took him by storm. And when he returned home tired and worn out from trading in the villages, he found a source of enjoyment in reading.

But he found not only enjoyment in books –– The depths of life in the small town became too narrow for him and it seemed as if he would break out of the circle of sorrow and join the youth who were seeking new paths. But it was not to be. His mother, who felt the change that had begun in her son, did not permit him to follow these paths. “You, my son — the burden of the family is entirely upon you, and you are forbidden to confuse your head with stories and tales which who knows where they will take you and where you will go.”

Avraham Shlomo, the traditional good son, obedient and responsible, listened to his mother's words and accepted them. Eventually, he married a woman and had a family and during the Shoah they perished with all the Jews of the town.


Translator's and editor's footnotes:
  1. Avraham Shlomo Teitelman (1903–1942) was born in Mervits, one of seven children of Mordechai Teitelman and Freida (Horowitz), five of whom perished. Avraham was a first cousin of Nahum and Mendel Teitelman, contributors to this volume (their parents were siblings). Avraham's sister Sarah (Teitelman) (1924–1983) survived and married Rabbi Yisrael Feldman in the displaced persons camp of Bad Gastein. They subsequently moved to Milwaukee in the US. Avraham's brother Naftali Hertz Teitelman (~1912/1915–2002) died in Israel. The siblings who also perished were: Moshe Lipa, Chaya Dvoira Schwartzkopel, Yosef Aryeh, and Shmuel Teitelman and their families. Return
  2. Eliyahu Gelman contributed a number of essays to this volume. See the following essay about his family for more details. Return
  3. Sholem Asch (1880–1957) was a Polish Jewish novelist and essayist in Yiddish who settled in the US. Originally trained traditionally he was exposed to Enlightenment ideas and Yiddish literature. He arrived with his family in the US in 1914. Return


My Father's Home

by Eliyahu Gelman[1], Netanya

Translated and edited by by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD, with Hanina Epstein


World War One, which razed Mervits to its foundations, caused the residents of the town to flee to towns in the area, and with the cessation of fighting at the end of the War, a large part of them returned to the destroyed town, and rebuilt the destroyed houses anew.

My father and the members of his household, and also his brother Joseph[2] and Moshe[3] and the members of their households fled to the nearby Varkovychi[4] which was not damaged severely during the war.

[Page 260]

In this town my father continued his occupation from before the War, teaching Gemara, Bible (Humash) and Rashi.[5] My sister, Esther, married my cousin Benjamin during those years and went back to live in Mervits. In 1928, my father decided to return to [Mervits] the town where he had been born. He was 70 years old and felt, apparently, that his days were numbered, and he wanted to be buried in the place where his father, mother and relatives were buried from previous generations. And truly he didn't live long.

In the stormy winter at the beginning of 1929, my father died a painless death. I remember that evening the day before his death, we were sitting by the stove and warming ourselves. My father sensed that his strength was leaving him, even though he had begun going again every day as was his custom to the study hall, sighed and said, “Ah, if only I was able to extend my life at least five years, to raise my children, and guide them and marry them off ...” but the following night, after a day bedridden with illness, he called me to him. When I drew near, he asked me to bring him a bit of water in a jar. He extended his hands, said a short prayer – apparently the Vidui confession [said for the final moments of life] — his head dropped on the pillow and his soul departed. My mother, my sister Yenta and myself, remained living in the house of aunt Brendl, who had gone to live in a village, where she opened a convenience shop. Our married sister Ester joined us with her husband Benjamin, and her three loveable children, Leahle, Perele and Hershele.

In 1938, I made aliyah to the Land [of Israel] with the hope that I would succeed in bringing the members of my family there. But I was not so fortunate, nor were they, and thus came their cruel end.

* * *

The family members of my uncles, Joseph and Moshe, perished in the ghetto of Varkovychi. The family members of my father's sisters, Hannah and Brendl were killed in Mervits and its surroundings. My aunt Belumah and her family remained alive and made aliyah, and she and her husband Ben-tzion lived fortunately for years in Haifa, and passed away at a good old age several years ago. They were fortunate to see children and grandchildren, who live in Haifa to this day. My sisters Freidel and Dobrish – my father had succeeded some time before the First World War in sending them across the Austrian border on their way to the United States. There they live to this day. From my uncle Moshe's family, [his son] Meir Gelman and his family remained alive, living in Beit Eliezer near Hadera.

These are the generations of my father's family in Mervits. One family among many others in the town that its bitter end. It is a shame that so few remain, to record the history of their family. And their memories will join with the memory of that small town, [in which] generations came and went, as the tapestry of village life was spun until annihilation and destruction.

It is a rule and custom in Israel to rend one's garment after a death [called keriah], and the tearing is not only a religious symbol, but also a tearing pain in the soul of those bereaved. Children and grandchildren established year after year a day of remembrance, a “yahrzeit” and a “zicharon” to the memory of the departed.

But there were murdered women, men, babies, children and elders, who had no keriah [i.e., no one was left to rending a garment for them] and had no gravestone in remembrance.


Translator's and editor's footnotes:
  1. Eliyahu Gelman (1913–2008) was the son of Pesach Gelman and Raisi/ Raisel. Eliyahu made aliyah in 1938. In this essay, he describes what happened to his family whose photo appears on 473 of this volume. The family is listed in the Mervits martyr list, p 441. Eliyahu had four sisters, Ester, Yenti, Freidel and Dobrish. This essay indicates that two of his elder sisters, Freidel and Dobrish, were sent to the US before the War and were still living there when this essay was published. Their married names are unknown at the time of this writing. It is unknown if or how this Gelman family is related to Gedaliah (Gelman) who took the surname Alman in the US or Tola Gelman, both of whose photos appear appear on page 477. The Pesach Gelman listed in the Mlynov martyr list as a scribe and shochet is not Eliyahu's father, Pesach, according to family descendants. Eliyahu married Yehudit Rhyber (or Reiber) (1922–2000) in 1944 and had three children. --HS Return
  2. Yad Vashem records of those who perished in Varkovychi indicate Joseph Gelman (1876–1951) married Leah (1880–1942) and had the following children: Fejga (1914–1942), Ester (1918–1942), Machla (1916–1942), Elia/ Elijahu (1920–1942) and Ephraim (1922–1942).--HS Return
  3. Yad Vashem records from Moshe's son Meir Gelman indicate his father Moshe was born in Mervits (1877–1942) to Avraham Gelman and Gitel and married Sara (née Torchin) who was born in Warkowicze in 1881. They perished along with Meir's siblings Sprinca (1924–1942), Feiga (1902–1942), Herschel Tzvi (1906–1942), Genesja (Gelman) Raber (1904–1942).--HS Return
  4. Varkovychi (alternative spelling Warkowicze) is southwest of Mlynov today 31 km (19 m). See also Helen Lederer's essay “In Pain From the First World War” about the Gelberg family's experience as refugees from Mlynov during WWI and their experience reaching Varkovychi.--HS Return
  5. Rashi is the acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki (1040–1105), the French rabbi who wrote a comprehensive commentary on the Bible and Gemara, often credited staying closer to a literal reading of the texts.--HS Return


[Page 261]

Memories of Home

by Yosef [Gertnich] Ganon[1], Kiryat Ata

Translated and edited by by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD, with Hanina Epstein


When I was a boy of 8, my family came from Rovno to Mlynov to settle there. My first impression was that most of the town's houses looked likely to fall down, only there and there did one's eyes alight on a house that stood [firmly] on its foundation ...

During spring and autumn seasons, the mud in Mlynov was so deep and so sticky that even today I imagine that you would need to operate a bulldozer in order to extract pedestrians from it. Although the Jewish population of this town was relatively meager, the center of the town was comprised almost exclusively of Jews. In the front of every Jewish home was a shop, sometimes a business on a larger scale. I was impressed especially by the multitude of shops selling beer in the small town like this, but the reason for this was that nearby were many villages with German and Czech populations — and they loved to drink beer. 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.

My father, Moshe Gertnich[2] was a native of Mlynov, as were his parents and their parents for generations. From the stories I heard from my father, uncles and aunts are engraved in my memory, especially the character of Grandmother, peace be with her, Faiga-Hinda, mother of my father. She was an exemplary woman in her generation. Beautiful, sparkling and polished; a wise woman, righteous, a pure soul. On her and her superior female shoulders was placed the burden of support for 9-10 souls. Grandfather, who was learned, sat day and night at the house of study on his bench and repeated his chapters [of Mishnah]. If not for Grandmother, who would remind him, that there is a need to eat sometimes — he would skip even this ...Not once did he come on his own requiring a portion of the meager food. All of his effort was invested in holy books to the extent that he didn't set aside time for raising his children. This burden too Grandmother assumed.

With respect to this: Grandmother adapted a profession for herself that was like teaching. In her small home — where ten toddlers “roamed about” — she set up a kind of “cheder” [i.e. nursery]. Daily the children of Israel heard Torah from her lips, and she based her livelihood on this activity for families with many children. Additionally, she found free time to get involved in the charitable causes (tzedakah): helping brides get married (hachnasat kallah), assigning the poor to families for the Sabbath [meals], and more.

My two [paternal] uncles,[3] Shayiah and Yitzhak, them and their families and descendants were born, lived and died in Mlynov. I remember when I was a lad of 12, I studied in the traditional grade school (cheder) of Ben-Tzion (Bentzi) [Gruber][4], and already by then I was studying Gemara. Each and every week one page of Gemara. Each Sabbath my father would return, with my uncle Yitzhak, from the synagogue after the afternoon meal and my parents would nap.

[Page 262]

My uncle, who lived close by, would not eat his meal immediately but would sit first and review his studies. Afterwards I would go to his house, settle down by his table, take down a volume of Gemara from the bookcase that stood opposite me in the corner, and would begin to read aloud a page of Gemara, that I had studied during the week. It was incumbent on me to interpret with all the commentators that I learned (Bartenora[5], Rashi[6] etc). If I succeeded in satisfying my uncle, I would receive pears which grew on the old pear tree in his garden, and praise in my presence or not, but if God forbid I didn't succeed and I hesitated a bit — on the spot I would receive a ringing slap. And if this wasn't sufficient, I had to tell Father the whole truth and not hide, God forbid, any little thing ...

Thus the serene life flowed until the Great War, which was followed by the terrible Shoah, unlike anything humankind had ever known.

* * *

September 1939. The War broke out and many people temporarily fled the town because of the bombardment. Our family also headed to a nearby village for several days to non-Jewish friends. The terrible days approached and on the horizon the Germans could be seen advancing to the Bug River, which served as a natural boundary between Volyn and the western districts of Poland.

The holiday of Rosh Hashana passed with a tense atmosphere and sense of foreboding. But, as is known, suddenly there was a turning point, and the Red Army crossed the border and penetrated to our area.[7] That's when we returned to our home.

The joy was great. Yom Kippur was at that time a great festive day for us. We indeed thought that we had been saved from the Nazi claws. We especially increased our celebration and rejoicing on the festival of Simhat Torah. We rejoiced over the rescue effected by the Russians, even though austerity had already begun with the privatization of commerce, which the Jews suffered first.

* * *

In June 1941, when the Nazi military attacked the Soviet Russia, I left Mlynov with a group of young people.[8] By a difficult route and after many adventures and wanderings, I arrived very deep into Russia— and I was then a young man of nineteen.

After the War and the terrible Shoah, on a day of heavy rain, gray and gloomy, I arrived back at my town. I passed along her streets and I found only debris. It is true, here and there a house stood on its foundation,[9] but I saw no Jewish soul ...I met some gentiles and the sight of me provoked amazement, “From what planet does a Jew now appear? ...”

Truly, every gentile was certain, and not without good reason, that all the Jews had been liquidated.

The day drew to a close and I turned my back on the town of my birth forever.


Translator's and editor's footnotes:
  1. Yosef Ganon (also referred to as “Kuftzia”) was born Yosef Gertnich (alternate spelling Gertnikh) in Mlynov. His father was Moshe Gertnich (1900–1942) son of Mordechai Shmuel. Yosef's mother, Sorke (Sara), was the sister of Rivka (Shrenztel) Halperin, both daughters of Mordechai-Meir Shrenztel. Yosef was thus first cousin of Lipa Halperin whose essay “The Mill” talks about their shared grandfather Moredchai-Meir Shrentzel. Yosef had two siblings: Shmuel and Feiga. A photo of the family with the young Yosef appears on page 458 of this volume and a photo of him as a young man appears on page 248 standing next to his cousin Lipa Halperin. Yosef was the only survivor of his immediate family. Return
  2. Here the last letter of the surname is spelled with the Hebrew letter Qof as in “Gertnik” but in the martyr list and in Yad Vashem records spelled with a “kaf” like “Gernich.” Return
  3. Yosef's father had two brothers, Yehoshua (Shaye) Gertnich and Yitzhak Gernich. His uncle Yitzhak was a glazier and Yehoshua was a rabbi according to Yad Vashem records.--HS Return
  4. Ben-Tzion Gruber, son of Yosef Gruber and Shifra (Teitelman) was remembered as a beloved teacher in Mlynov. A short profile of him is provided in “The Two of Them,” by Eliyahu Gelman and a photo appears on page 457 with his family.--HS Return
  5. Bartenura refers to a commentary written by a 15th century rabbi, Obadiah Bartenura, best known for his commentary on the Mishnah.--HS Return
  6. Rashi is the nickname and acronym for Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105) who wrote a comprehensive commentary on the Gemara and Hebrew Bible.--HS Return
  7. The Soviets and Germans had signed a non-aggression pact, agreeing to split Poland between the two powers. The Germans invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. The Soviets delayed their attack until September 17, 1939. During those intervening days, the residents of Mlynov were terrified they would be occupied by the Germans.--HS Return
  8. See also the essay by Yechiel Sherman, “Departure from Home,” p. 344, who left Mlynov with the same group of young men.--HS Return
  9. With this image, the author poignantly returns to his very first memory of Mlynov when his family moved there, in which most of the houses were unstable and only a few secure on their foundation.--HS Return


[Page 263]

The Home That Was Lost

by Bat-Sheva Ben-Eliyahu (Ribetz)[1]

Translated and edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD, with Hanina Epstein


A memorial candle to my beloved ones. To Mother, to Father, to Sister, Brothers and their families and to all those who have no one to write a eulogy for them.

On Tisha B'Av 1939 [July 24, 1939], I left my beloved family forever. [I am] mentioning the time when mother, of blessed memory, hugged me and I felt in her hug and embrace, that this will be a separation forever.

* * *

For years I didn't believe that such an awful thing happened. I was not able to imagine, that there are human beings who are worse than animals of prey. Until ... until lone day I found out, first about you, my beloved sister Freidl (Penni), that you were so cruelly and brutally uprooted by Hitler's troops. And Mommy (imaleh) you continued to live in grief until [Death] the redeemer came and with all town's residents you were destroyed with the ghetto of Mlynov.

For years I was not able nor wanted to be consoled. How terrible I felt ...what you wanted while alive was to merit hearing a bit of satisfaction from me. But you weren't so fortunate, my beloved [Mother]. However, as long as there is life in me,[2] — your faces and memories will not leave me for even a moment. And during days of grief and joy, all of you are with me. With me, day and night and in everything to which I turn.

I continue to uphold your testament and walk in the ways of Father, of blessed memory – upholding the three pillars of commandments [upon which the world stands Pirkei Avot 1:12]: Torah Study, Worship (Avodah[3]), and acts of lovingkindness (gemilut hasadim).

* * *

Therefore, it is hard to put on paper all that a person feels, about a time when everything one regards as precious is lost; and lost with so much cruelty. Nevertheless, I want our children and the future generations after us to know. They should know, first of all, that we, those still alive and living here, we also had parents. A house. There were brothers and sisters and large families. We want our children to know that they also had grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles.

I want those who turn these pages and read these lines to know that there was once a town Mlynov in which lived Jewish residents — old and young, children and infants. And we had a youth movement, “The Young Guard” (Hashomer Hatzair), thanks almost entirely to which we survived and are living here in the Land [of Israel].

[Page 264]

And they should know to be proud of these grandmothers and grandfathers even though they never met them. They were cultured and noble people, and they bequeathed to their daughters and sons what is good and refined in the human soul; and that from our town came people of the pen and the book and industrious people.

* * *

A bit about my family

Father, of blessed memory, died before the Shoah. And those here with us among the living or across the ocean do not remember my father. Everything that is humanly good was in my father. Anyone who came and spilled their inner troubles to him — he would immediately extend help and assistance.

Mother, did she not always go to any home in need? — and that's how they always were. To one [who needed it], she would go with a pitcher of sour cream, for did we not always have a female cow or goat? And this was the way she would feed all in need. And we, the children, would also help her. And after this [assistance of food], [there followed] “the donation of sleeping quarters” (linat tzedek) and “acts of lovingkindness.”

* * *

About the Town

Many were surprised. “What, you all know Hebrew? They learned Hebrew?” It was difficult for them to believe that there were educated and learned people in our town who had a strong desire that their children should also study and learn [the language]. For this reason, there was a school where Hebrew was taught and spoken fluently. And there was a kindergarten, which I together with Miriam and Alice supervised; certainly, many still remember that period and its experiences. There were drama clubs and choirs. And Zionist quorums (minyanim) during Simhat Torah. I have a memory of my mother, of blessed memory, preparing treats and baked goods that the Zionist activists could enjoy after prayer.

On the eves of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the time when all the friends and relatives greet one another with “A Good Year” (Shanah Tova) and “May you be inscribed well” (gemar hatimah tovah). And [the prayer at the start of Yom Kippur] (Kol Nidrei) (“All Vows”) and [the festival] Simchat Torah, a time for getting drunk and dancing, and grabbing from the Sukkot anything that is there ...the days of Hanukkah, a time when we go from house to house and count the windows, pasting Hanukkah stickers, and [collecting] money for Keren Kayemeth LeYisrael (the Jewish National Fund). On every window a lit candle and we acknowledged the Festival of Lights. On Tu BiShvat with small bags of fruit from the Land [of Israel]: carobs, figs, and raisins — donations went to Keren Kayemeth LeYisrael. And the holiday of Purim with costumes. And Lag Ba'omer...

How did they bake matzah in the communities? — Until Father went up on a trip to Dubno, and brought back a matzah machine, and everything changed ...people would come to sign up, like in an employment office ... they worked [making matzah] in shifts, because matza was ordered from us for the whole area.

* * *

Recruits[4] during the period of self-denial would eat [in Yiddish:] flat bread with poppy seed, [then in Hebrew:] (dry cakes with poppy seed) and sometimes caused various defects and deformities, all in order to avoid serving “the Government” (“the pony”[5]).

[Page 265]

The unique characters. Avrahamke, the teacher.[6] He was a righteous man (tzaddik). And Futi, the unfortunate one, who cleaned houses and talked and cried about her only son who remained in Russia. The water drawers and wood cutters. Herschel Datina,[7] as he was called by the residents of the town. And many other good Jews, who appear as if living before my eyes.

My uncles and aunts from village Peremylivka[8], who came periodically to town during the month of Elul[9] with a wagon weighed down with goodies, fruit of the vine and fields, to distribute to the poor. And thus they did also in the [spring] month of Nisan, on the eve of Passover.

* * *

And you, Rivka and Tzvi,[10] my dear ones ...it never occurred to me that only I would remain from our quadruplets, as we called ourselves. Were we not so inseparable during our lives, and we never believed it possible we'd be torn apart in so cruel a fashion. And it happens, that at night I can't sleep a wink, and I see you in your joys and sorrows, and your aspirations to make aliyah to the Land [of Israel] which is what we all wanted.


Bat-Sheva Ben Eliyahu (Ribetz) by the grave of her father


Translator's and editor's footnotes:
  1. Bat Sheva Ben Eliyahu (née Riwic, alternative spellings Ribitz/Rivitz/Rivetz) (?-1998) was born in Mlynov, the daughter of Nute Rivitz. Her mother Chana (née Braker / Beraker) was born in Klevan to Yechiel and Sara. A photo of Bat Sheva with her family appears below, p. 470, and a photo of her cousin, Pesia Rivitz, appears on page 462. From Yad Vashem records, Bat Sheva's father, Nute, appears to have been the son of Yaakov and Sheva Rivitz and had at least one brother: Abram who was married to Rivka (Klaper) with three children who also perished.
    In this essay, Bat Sheva indicates that she made aliyah in July 1939 shortly before WWII broke out. Her parents and sister Freidl (also Fania) (1921–1940) are listed among the Mlynov martyrs (p. 438), though her father died before the War and her sister Fania was taken by the Germans before the ghetto liquidation. Yad Vashem records indicate her brother Mordechai Rivitz (1906–1942) married Dvora (Kuperman) and had three children, all of whom perished in Beresteczko. A second brother, Yitzchak (1908–1942), his wife Batia (née Gonik) and two children, Ronia, age 5 and Nute, age 3, also perished.
    Bat-Sheva Ben-Eliyahu married Efraim Ben-Eliyahu in 1949 in Israel and it appears from records she ran for the Histadrut in 1959, which is also where she is buried. It seems plausible that the street in Beer Sheva called "Bat-Sheva Ben-Eliyahu" may have been named for her.
    It also seems possible that as a “Riwic/Rivetz” descendant, Bat Sheva may be a relative of survivor Shaulik (Saul) Halperin, also a contributor to this volume, whose mother was remembered as Cipa Rywiec (another English variation on Rivitz). This Rivitz family may also be related to the two Rivitz siblings who were early immigrants from Mlynov to Baltimore. They were the children of Mordechai Rivitz. His daughter Chaia (Rivitz) married Getzel Fax and they were the first family from Mlynov to migrate to Baltimore and the US. Chaia's brother, David Rivitz, married Pesse (Demb) from Mlynov and migrated to Baltimore where they settled and became the Hurwitz family. Return
  2. A possible allusion to Job 27:3-4 in which Job says, “As long as there is life in me, And God's breath is in my nostrils, My lips will speak no wrong, Nor my tongue utter deceit.” Return
  3. Following the implied modern understanding in which Avodah means “worship” and not the more technical meaning of Temple ritual. Return
  4. Young men who came of age for the military. On this same topic, see more details in Aaron Harari's essay, “The Military Recruits,” 186-187. Return
  5. A Hebrew term analogous to the English expression “serving Uncle Sam.” Return
  6. In the martyr list (p. 434) Avrahamke is listed with the surname Veiner, is described as a bachelor and Stolin Hasid. His photo appears on page 258. Return
  7. A photo of Herschel Datina carrying water is on page 79. Return
  8. 20 km (12 m) east and slightly north of Mlynov today. Return
  9. The sixth month of the Hebrew Calendar and the month traditionally for searching one's heart and drawing close to God in preparing for the sacred days of Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur. Return
  10. It appears that Bat-Sheva is here speaking to her friends in the Zionist youth movement. Return


[Page 266]

Visiting My Grandparents

by Sylvia Barditch-Goldberg[1]

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD


I was always attracted to the small shtetl where nature's beauty was serenely spread over the lawns, gardens, and orchards; I wanted to be away from the crowded city streets of my hometown Lutsk.

I was thrilled when my mother's parents from Mlynov, with their wagon driver Itsik Ulinik, sent a note to my mother, asking her to be sure to send her children to them for summer vacation.

“As the air is clean, fresh, delightful, the children will also blossom after languishing in the house all winter. They will certainly enjoy drinking milk right from the cow; eating fresh sour cream, cheese, and butter; they can even churn butter. They can stay for as long as they want, if they don't get homesick and want to return.”

The question was–which of the children to send? My older brother Alter attended the city school, so he could not go.[2] My younger sister Sorele[3] would get homesick. The smaller two brothers, Benyomin and Mayerke, were too young to leave their mother. My mother could not afford the pleasure of coming too. My father was in America,[4] so she needed to be in the store. So whom, you ask, does she send? Yes, you guessed it; I was fated to go.

At the time arranged with Itsik Ulinik, I came to the place where passengers were boarding the wagon. They were merchants from Mlynov. I looked around, and I saw the familiar, long wagon bedded with a lot of straw. Two giant horses were harnessed to it. A thought ran through my head that they would take me to a distant, pretty world; I was enveloped in a feeling of delight. When I sat with everyone in the straw in the wagon, and Itsik Ulnik gave a snap with his horsetail whip and sang “Viyo, viyo, viyo,” it was melodious music to my ears. I closed my eyes, and my childish imagination took me far away over the dusty roads.

[Page 267]

Everything in me sang happily.

Having ridden about 12 versts,[5] we stopped in the village of Kripe.[6] The driver unharnessed the horses, fed them oats from a linen bag, and brought them water from the well in a linen pail. We passengers happily came out of the wagon, straightened out our legs which were stiff from sitting, and went into the inn for goat's milk.

Everyone sat around a wooden, uncovered table, on narrow seats by the wall. The Innkeeper's wife came out with disheveled hair, with an unbuttoned, dirty dress, and barefoot. She turned to us good-naturedly with an embarrassed smile.

“What should I give you, goat's milk or cow's milk?”


Tending Goats[7]
From the photos of A. Harari


Everyone ordered goat's milk for a change. Her husband the innkeeper came in right after her wearing linen pants and a worn shirt. He greeted the men with “Sholem” and the women with a hello. He asked about city things and was surprised by every answer, as though it would have come from a distant world.

Finally, we all went back to the wagon. As soon as it started to move, I closed my eyes, and my thoughts carried me far away. I saw myself in various places with various people. My young heart was happy.

[Page 268]

A few hours later, we arrived in the shtetl of Mlynov. The wagon stopped in the middle of the marketplace. Everyone, dusty, climbed out of the wagon and left. Some went home and some went to a store. Holding my bundle, I headed towards my grandparents' home. A small Jewish woman came over to me; she had a wide basket in one hand and a long knotty stick in her other hand. She was a trader.

Smiling, she threw everything down and grabbed me and kissed me and asked about everybody at home.

She commanded me, “Stand here. Don't move! I will run and announce to Male [Malia], your grandmother, that you are here, and I will have performed a good deed.”

As soon as she left, I was surrounded by the market people. Yente Brayndl's,[8] my mother's friend, came out of her food store. She was a redhead with a pleasant, laughing face; she spoke heartily, dragging out everyone's name like her children's: Malyenyu; Idele; Itsikl; Berele; Elkele; Milkele.[9] She turned to me, hugged, and kissed me.

“Silkele, how are your mother and Alterl and the other children?”

And then came good-natured, lovable Yose Brayndl's, her husband, a tall and thin man, who almost always wore a small shawl around his neck. He hugged me, tenderly stroked me, and begged me to come and play with his children. Most of his time he devoted to his children.

And here is the wide Mayer Yankekhe, near me, who almost got up from the step. She could not sit on a chair outside.

She asked about everybody, and she called out to her girls Toybe, Nekhe, and Sime: “See who we have here!”

Her unlucky daughter Patye, who wheezed and was practically impossible to understand, was also there. I felt such pity for her. I wanted to answer her, but I didn't know what she was asking. The other sisters just wanted to know when my brother Alter will come. And here is Enye Arele's,[10] another of my mother's friends. She hugged me and kissed me.

“How is your mother?” she asked.

And here is Soreke with Gitel-Pese Khlie's [daughter].[11] More kissing, again the same questions.

I saw my grandmother. A pretty woman with a white scarf on her head. A little shawl over her shoulders. A sweet little smile on her pretty, white face. When she came closer and saw the large crowd, the smile disappeared, and she screamed out with fright:

“Where is my child? What happened?”

I pushed through the large crowd, and I gave her a hug.

[Page 269]

She held me close with love, and said, frightened, “Come already, babbler.”

She took my bundle from me, and we went to the house. Coming in, my grandfather was walking back and forth over the large dining room. He was a tall Jew with a long, red beard, which was divided into two parts.[12] His appearance demanded respect from everyone. He was dressed in a long kapote with a belt holding it closed; a hat with a visor; tall boots. He was a true genius. He was known in the shtetl for his learning. He led the prayers for the Stolin Hasidism in their synagogue.

In addition to that, he was the town starosta,[13] and also the official shtetl scribe. He was very strict with his children. I was a little frightened of him.

But how surprised I was, when he, with his arms outstretched, came closer to me, gave me his hand, and smilingly asked me:

“How are you, Tsutsik?”

He used to call his grandchildren Tsutsik, Putsik, Nyutsik. Not by their names. He asked about my mother, the children, if I am learning, where I am in my studies, and if I obey my mother.

My grandmother mixed in: “Come, Silkele, wash up, then you will eat something.”

She led me into the kitchen; on a large oak shelf, in a corner, hung a snow-white linen bag with three points–that was fresh cheese for me, the guest.

“This,” said my grandmother, “is for you.”

After eating I was taken to a basement room where a ditch had been dug out. There they placed earthen jars with milk, which became sour cream and sour milk. From the cream my grandmother said she would let me churn butter if I would be a good little girl and not ask to go home. When I heard “churn butter,” I promised her everything.

Late afternoon the shepherd drove the cows home from pasture. I was shown a red cow with a large udder.

“That,” said my grandmother, “is our cow.”

Remarkably, she went away from the herd and straight to the stable. I could not believe it: a cow, I used to think, had no intelligence.

[Page 270]

A bucket of bran is mixed. My grandmother took a small stool and a large pail and told me to take a glass. Together we went into the stable. The cow was already standing bent over the bucket of feed, as though nothing affected her…

My grandmother went energetically to work. She milked and milked. The pail kept getting fuller. I was surprised, and I could not understand what was going on around me.

Suddenly I heard my grandmother's voice: “Silkele, take the glass. Put it under right here. Milk her like this.”

With a beating heart, I went over closer, as though I were afraid the cow would not recognize me. When I touched the cow, it turned out she recognized me and immediately greeted me with her tail. It got dark in front of my eyes; out of fright, I jumped backwards.

My grandmother, a quiet person, said: “Manka, stand!”

Amazingly, the cow stood and looked guilty, her head down, and let me do my work. A thought went through me that the beast understood and was not a beast.

The next morning, my mother's younger brother Benimke,[14] who was the same age as my older brother, but who treated me a lot better, showed me around the small garden: “Here will be red radishes; here–white radishes; here–beans; here will grow shallots; here, young onions.”

The orchard consisted of two flower gardens and one thin little tree. In the middle was a scarecrow. That was a stick, dressed in torn men's clothes and a cap, so that the birds would be afraid to come and eat the miserable little garden. In the flower garden on the left, the thin little tree was standing orphaned with a bent rose on it. It seemed to me that it was embarrassed in front of the rose bushes standing opposite, in the priest's large orchard, where the fragrances of the flowers, the fruit trees, and jasmine aromas wafted over the entire shtetl.

How happy I felt, when Benimke gave me millet in the fold of my dress, and said to me, “Here, you feed the hen with the chicks, and the goose with the goslings, and the turkeys.”

[Page 271]

I threw the bran and called “Tyu-tyu.” The chicken and geese ate; that gave me a strange pleasure. I was especially proud when I was given the wooden butter churn. I raised and lowered the stick and saw how pieces of butter formed; little by little they became one large piece. It was put into cold water, and we had butter.

“Akh,” I thought to myself, “If my city friends would see me now! I would show them how important I am!”

Benimke thought about various things that would bring me pleasure. He took me to Khaye-Malke (a widow), who maintained a small store that consisted of one cylinder of soda-water, several little pieces of candy, a few cooked peas, and rotten, small cherries. I was thinking.

Benimke said, “Khaye-Malke, this is my sister Basye's little girl. Give her whatever her heart desires. Every day she can come and take as much as she wants. I will pay for it.”

In my head I compared her to our Brayndl, the fruit-seller in Lutsk. She had a smaller store. But she had whatever a mouth could pronounce and whatever a child's heart desired. She had large cherries, small cherries, red cherries, and black cherries, grapes, raspberries, many large and small berries, green apples, red apples, kvass apples with all flavors, broad beans, cooked peas, strawberries, cooked cabbage, old after the season. Now the candies: colored chocolates with gold and silver, and candies grouped according to various prices, as much as one could afford. And if one did not have the money at the time, Brayndl talked her into borrowing.

So I stood and looked and did not know what to pick, while Khaye-Malke begged me: “Silkele take, take.”

So I finally settled on soda-water. I was happy with all the attention that was given me.


Translator's and editor's footnotes:
  1. Sylvia was one of the editors of this Memorial volume. For her background, see her essay about her grandfather, “Stoliner Hasidism in Mlynov,” note 3, as well as her essay about her visit for, “A Wedding in Mlynov,” pp. 27-29. Photos of Sylvia appears on pages 494 and 500 of this volume.--HS Return
  2. Referring to her older brother known later as Paul (Peretz Borodacz) Barditch (1895–1961).--HS Return
  3. Referring to Shirley (Borodacz /Barditch) Jacobs (1905-1983). Return
  4. Sylvia's father “Jechiel Borudocz” (Isadore Barditch) immigrated to Baltimore in July 1910. The rest of the family followed in November 1921.--HS Return
  5. About 8 miles--HBF Return
  6. Probably Krupa today, 11 km from Lutsk on the road to Mlynov.--HS Return
  7. It is interesting to note that Aaron Harari took these photos of goats in the winter of 1937/1938. By this time, he had begun breeding sheep in Palestine. When he went back to Mlynov, he pretended the purpose of the trip was to study breeding techniques. In fact, his actual purpose was to fictitiously marry a sister of a fellow Kibbutz member and enable her to make aliyah. See Aaron's narrative in “Visit to Mlynov in 1938,” pp. 77-79. Return
  8. Yentl Braindl (Weiner) Shargel (1872–1956) who married Joseph Shargel (1870–1954). Some of the children migrated to the US followed by their parents and several came later via Mexico in order to avoid quotas. See https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/families.html#Shargels. Yentl Braindl's uncle was the famous Solomon Mandelkern, https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/famous.html#Mandelkern, who wrote the concordance to the Hebrew Bible. Return
  9. The Shargel children are Malyenyu (Mollie Shargel Feingold), Idele (Earl Shargel), Itsikl (Julius Shargel), Berele (Bernard Shargel), Elkele (Elka Shargel Yakobovitz), Milkele (Amelia Shargel Meren, future wife of Boruch Meren). Yentl Braindl and Joseph's photo appears in this volume, p. 507. Return
  10. Also referred to as Henya Arelas, (Annie Hirsch) Katz the mother of Aleph Katz. Her photo appears on p. 500 of this volume with the mother of Sylvia, the author of this essay. On Henya's background, see the Hirsch family story https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/families.html#Hirsch--HS Return
  11. Likely Sorke Gelberg (Sarah Lewbel) (1906-1987) daughter of Gitel (Weitzer) (1880-1939), wife of Moshe Gelberg (Morris Goldberg). The latter is called Gitl, Pesye Khoylye's [daughter] in a photo on page 507 this volume and in an essay by Moshe's daughter, Helen Lederer, in this volume “In Pain from the First World War,” p. 147. Sylvia, by the way later married Morris's younger brother, George Goldberg (Gershon Joe Gelberg). On the Geldberg/Goldberg family story, see https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/Mlyniv/families.html#threebrothers --HS Return
  12. See the photo and essay by Sylvia about her grandfather on p. 80 of this volume.--HS Return
  13. A lower government official in Ukraine--HBF Return
  14. We know that Sylvia's mother had a brother Usher (later Harry Teitelbaum) who migrated to Baltimore in March 1911 along with the two other Mlynov men, Israel Schwartz, and Nathan (Chaim) Fischman. It is unclear here whether she is referring to him or another brother. Return


[Page 272]

The Treasure That Ran Out

by Boruch Meren, Baltimore

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD


What I want to tell here brings both tears and laughter, but mostly tears.

It happened to my father,[1] may he rest in peace, in my former shtetele Mlynov near the city of Dubno, neighborhood of Volhynia, right after the First World War.

Poland had just become an independent country. The country was poor. Artisans had no work. Farmers first started to cultivate the fields. The stores in the marketplace were empty, and Jews searched for ways to make a living but did not find them. The few bits of merchandise that were still found in the marketplace were passed from hand to hand, and by the time the little bit of food reached the customers, the price was sky high.

Only a few people could come near it. Is it a wonder that one had to go a little hungry? It was lucky that the blessed Ukrainian earth gave an abundance of potatoes. Potatoes always helped the needy poor. In the summer, during the season of cherries, grapes, and other assorted fruits, life became a little easier. Summertime, mothers would say they only have half their troubles. They could fill a mouth of a child with a handful of cherries and crust of bread, which was enough to quiet the child's hunger. And who could complain if one had a little garden behind the house? Or a cow that gave milk? We sold a little and left a little for ourselves, so it was almost a half income. We had to do a little trading–which in those abnormal times was called smuggling. Jews used to do it secretly since trading was not kosher in the eyes of the government. Because of the struggle for necessary products, a black market developed with all its characteristics. Police searched, caught, and put merchants into prison. It did not prevent further trading.

[Page 273]

Jews risked their lives and fortunes. After all, they had to support wives and children.


And now I come to the episode that happened to my father when he was persuaded to become a “speculator.”

My father, may he rest in peace, Bentsye Hersh Sloboda's[2]–that's how he was called–was a refined Jew who was an expert in the holy books. He was a prayer leader, he read the Torah for the synagogue, and he prayed with the last minyan of respectable Jews. Yet out of all this there was no income. The earthly world, my father would say, is only a corridor where the Jew needs to prepare good deeds, the more the better, for the true world. With such an approach to life, one could not feed a wife and children.

One time my mother, may she rest in peace, said to my father (both were killed by the Hitlerite murderers):

“Bentsye dear, what will be the end? You need to find an occupation! Go also out in the market, give a sniff! See what others are doing. We cannot just let the children starve. Sitting late in synagogue and studying does not bring bread into the house.”

So my father saw that my mother was right. He went out to the marketplace to find out with what he could trade. There he learned that Jews risk their lives by travelling to Rivne. That was a town about 40 miles away from our shtetl. There one could buy secretly a gallon of kerosene or a sack of sugar, which was in those times practically a treasure. Getting the merchandise was dangerous. Robbers used to befall the wagons and take everything, and often also murder. And if the police caught them, it was lucky if they took them to a designated area. If the merchants managed to return home from such a journey, they recited the blessings for escaping danger.

With a heavy heart and with much fear, my father became a “speculator.” He rented a wagon driver with two healthy horses, so that in an unlucky time they would be able to go back. The driver himself was young and strong, so he could deliver blows if needed. But my father did not rely on them completely.

[Page 274]

He relied on the Lord of the universe. He, the Guardian of Israel, will protect him from harm and bring him peacefully back home to his wife and children.

He made up with the wagon driver that they would depart in the evening, between the mincha [afternoon] and maariv [evening] prayer services, and drive the entire night. My mother, with a heavy mood and eyes wet from tears, put a loaf of bread, and something to go with the bread, into a bag. Mainly she did not forget to put in his tallis and tefillin.

Meanwhile her lips murmured: “Lord of the universe! Have pity on us and bring my husband back home in peace. He is, after all, a father of children. And I pledge a pound of candles for the synagogue.”

I was then a young man of 16 and understood the situation well.[3] I pitied my mother very much, and I told her I will recite psalms every day, and I will heartily pray to God for my father. The younger children promised her also that they will not annoy her by begging all the time for food.

As soon as it got dark, the wagon driver came noisily with a long wagon, bedded with straw. He stopped across from our house. He climbed out of the wagon and with his whip in his hand, angrily came into our house: “Nu, there is no end! Finish already! Finish the evening prayers! Get to Aleinu![4] You could have shoklt[5] less today!

“It would be more appropriate for him to be a teacher instead of a merchant,” the wagon driver further complained.

My father had actually lost himself in prayers a little, and he quickly said the Aleinu. He put on his thick coat and kissed us all, except for my mother. He was certainly embarrassed, or afraid to kiss my mother in the presence of the wagon driver with his whip in his hand.

“Be well! And children, in the name of God, I beg you, be good to your mother. You should not torture her about food. When I will come home in peace, there will be what to eat. Recite the Shema[6] before you go to sleep!”

And he told me to pray every day in the synagogue with the minyan and say a few verses of psalms every day. He gave the mezuza a kiss and went out of the house and into the wagon.

[Page 275]

The driver snapped his whip and ordered the horses: “Vyo!” The horses quickly ran with the wagon. We screamed out after them:

“Go in good health and come in good health!”

My mother and I remained standing on the threshold of the house and watched the wagon until it disappeared in the dark. My mother cried and wiped her eyes with her apron.

After eating our meagre supper, we children read the Shema with devotion and went to sleep. The entire night I did not close an eye. I looked out of the window in the sad, dark night and thought: we are sleeping in a house, in a warm bed, and my father is driving now through fields and forests. I strongly pitied him. It must be hard to be a father, I thought.

The three days that my father travelled were like three years to us. God helped, and my father came home in peace and brought back a barrel of kerosene. That, in those times, was a “treasure,” and a treasure needs to be buried, hidden. We did that. We dug out a ditch near the stable and we dropped the barrel with kerosene in it. We covered it with boards and straw and animal dirt. It looked like a mountain of garbage. Nobody could have imagined that under that mountain of dirt a treasure was buried.

Our hearts were lighter after that task. Now we had to wait for the barrel to “grow” in value. For two weeks, we looked out of the window with joy, knowing what the secret mountain of garbage meant to us. My father went out to the marketplace every day and found out what the price was for the kerosene. Every day the price climbed higher. When my father saw that he could make enough profit, he was afraid to wait longer. So he went to the marketplace and sold the barrel of kerosene to a man who also had the idea to risk everything, and then hide the barrel until it would grow more valuable.

[Page 276]

Now came the time to dig up the buried treasure. That also had to be done quietly. Nobody should hear and nobody should see. Late at night, when everything was sleeping and nobody moved, but the stars in the dark sky looked down, my father's two brothers-in-law helped with the work. These youths were needed for this task. My mother and I looked out through the window with beating hearts and shivered with fright. We saw the barrel of kerosene being lifted out of the ditch. Soon my father will get paid a large sum of money and we will be able to buy everything.

But our celebration ended. My father came into the house, and with a crying voice, told us that a tragedy happened–the entire barrel spilled out into the moist ditch. After so much fear and anxiety, everything ran out, including everyone's hopes. We all cried at the huge misfortune.

After this blow, my father tried his luck with other merchandise, but nothing worked. If it didn't run out, the price fell. One day, after all these lucky events, my father called to my mother and said to her:

“My dear Miryam, you should be informed that this kind of 'trading' where we tried to make some money is not the right way. You have a sign that the Creator punished us, and we lost money. Therefore, I have decided to trade in a kosher way and with merchandise which has no equal, merchandise that does not run out. And its price will never fall. I will sell learning because learning is the best merchandise!”

“And what do you think, my husband,” my mother said to him, “you will have an income from it?”

“You talk like a silly Jewish woman. Income is from the Creator. He nourishes everyone. He will nourish us also.”

And so my father went from speculator to teacher.


Translator's and editor's footnotes:
  1. Boruch's father was Ben Tzion Meren. For background on Boruch, see footnote 1 in the essay he wrote, “Episode,” pp. 149-152. See Boruch's poem for his father, p. 255. Return
  2. As noted in other essays in this volume, Sloboda was a nickname for the Goldsekers family, who came to Mlynov from Slobada. Here the nickname is used for Hersh (Goldseker) Sloboda, Boruch's grandfather, who was the father of Boruch's mother, Miriam. It appears from this essay that Boruch's father, who was a Meren, was also distinguished by the name of his father-in-law, as if to say “Ben Tzion, Hersh Sloboda's [son-in-law].” Return
  3. Boruch was born in 1908. Since he was sixteen when this incident happened, it was probably 1924.--HS Return
  4. The last prayer in the service.--HBF Return
  5. Shook. Observant Jews shake or sway back and forth when they pray--HBF Return
  6. The prayer that begins with “Hear O Israel.”--HBF Return

[Page 277]

Chana Klepatch[1] – A Mlynov Tragedy

by Reuven Raberman[2]

Translated and edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD. with Hanina Epstein


In the Mlynov tragedy, a link in the long chain would be missing, if the cry of the Klepatch family is not heard and that of their wonderful daughter - Chana.

The house–was one of those ones in which poverty and cold lie in wait under the beds and follow the movement of the babies who crawl on the cold floor and look for a piece of bread...Chana, the eldest daughter, and second in line after [her brother] Motel, would implore her parents to cease for a while the “natural production” [i.e., having more children], but without success...the father, a thin, tall man, was sick most of his life with different illnesses, while the mother had noble facial features and a nice figure — and this despite the special situation that visited her so often – taking care of so many babies.


The Daughter Chana

From the very beginning of her youth, the young girl experienced stormy life episodes, full of fury, in which were folded a family and personal tragedy unique in its kind. The surrounding villages, Smordva and Ostriiv,[3] the places where the father and mother came from, which were characterized by a tie to the land, to nature, and to darkness of night [i.e., no lights at night], bequeathed to her the wonderful mixture of ingenuity, personal initiative, a strong will with a full self-confidence.


Chana Klepatch, of blessed memory

[Page 278]

Many hopes hung on this whiz kid of Mlynov. How nice and refined was this young girl, with a peaceful disposition, smiling eyes, eyes that were never dull...she reminded us of the good in our youth, she completely evoked amazement, aspiration and confidence. While she was still in grade 3, they said that she was born for great things, a mind of a professor, with an analytical mind from birth, among the geniuses whom our parents thoroughly revere. Very quickly everyone recognized her sharp intelligence, her wit and rich imagination and all were amazed by her refreshing use of the Polish language and her store of folk sayings. She especially excelled in her appearances on the podium in public school. She was gifted by the theatrical muse and revealed a strong initiative in this area. In her lithe and flexible movements, she enchanted her listening audience and above all other amazing things, she impersonated the Polish insurrectionist heroine and emphasized the final verse in song, as if the following words were engraved on the tablet of her heart: “This is the insurrectionist leader – Emilia Plater!”[4]


During the Soviet Period [September 1939-June 1941]

The Klepatch family didn't secure the promised position among the families of the Soviet people [as promised in the Revolution]. The family preferred poverty, which had been its fate over the years and it wasn't taken in by the delusion Stalin's accomplishments. Their situation did not improve at all and with everyone they were strangled by the oppressive atmosphere of tyranny and insanity of “the Father of Nations.”[5] Fate was very cruel to them in the year before the Nazi conquest, a time when the father of the family died, while the eldest son, Motel, was an accidental victim of an assassination attempt intended for a Russian officer and the same bullet that missed its target , killed [Motel] the guardian of the large family, who was serving as a coachman for a senior officer.

The army of the Nazi Ashmedai [prince of the demons][6] infused her with rage, contempt, and deep hatred for all the new humanistic concepts. Springtime feelings that characterized her over the years were transformed suddenly by a bellicose spirit, a vigorous and rebellious resistance, and extraordinary daring. She despised the silence born out of fear [of other members of the community] and didn't leave the Judenrat alone who, in her view, didn't act appropriately given the demands of the hour. Her large, penetrating, and sad eyes expressed sorrow, heart break, and the height of depression arrived about two months before the ghetto liquidation.

In the beginning with no choice, she took upon herself the difficult role as mother to the many children... and when she was convinced that the “play” was coming to an end, being a very unusual master of intuition, she decided to suddenly throw off the heavy burden and to give daring expression to the manifestations of freedom, which beat inside of her and lit the fire of rebellion.


The Last Meeting

I will never forget our last meeting. At the conclusion of forced labor in Studyanka,[7] which was at the foot of the Kremenets mountains, I detoured into Mlynov to warn Chana, so that she should join us in the forest.

[Page 279]

“Yes,” she said, “I heard much about your activities; the forest tugs at my heart, but how can I leave Mother and small children without supervision and a livelihood, especially when my father and my older brother are no longer living? — my forlorn mother will surely die from all her sorrow!” At first, I tried to convince her and point out the how matters would progress. I sensed the beat of her young and sensitive heart; her face paled like lime and tears glittered in her eyes. With difficulty she resisted the significant temptation and choked back the terrible pain that had accumulated during all the days of suffering. She stood standing upright, tears falling down her cheeks, she almost did not dare to lift her eyes towards me, fearing that she would burst forth in loud sobbing.

For a long moment we stood hugging this way, until finally she gathered strength, leaned against me and whispered in my ears, “We are seeing each other for the last time, my heart understands the evil, you go, my dear one, and may God be with your footsteps; I don't have the strength to abandon the little ones, nor is it simple to leave a unfortunate mother, but perhaps, perhaps at the last moment I will succeed in escaping.” She was still standing petrified, when I waved to her with my hat and for a long time she looked at the abundant and promising forest towards which I was heading.

From the lips of Mlynov survivors, who met her in the last moments, I learned that, at the moment when the Ukrainian militia surrounded the ghetto, Chana tried her luck at escaping, but was caught in the barbed wire when the bullets of the murderers punctured her young heart.

May her memory be a blessing.


Shoshana (Reisel) Berger[8] on a River Ikva bridge


Translator's and editor's footnotes:
  1. Chana Klepatch (alternative spellings Klepacz) was one of seven children of Moshe Klepatch (1900–~1939/40) and Sara/Sorka (née Kaliner / also spelled Karliner) (1901–1942). Chana's father, Moshe, was a wagoner who was born in Smordva, the son of Yitzhak Leib Klepatch and Chana Yenta. Moshe's sister, Jessie (Chissa) Klepatch married Joseph Schuchman and joined him in Baltimore in 1921 with her four children. According to Joyce Jandorf, granddaughter of Jessie Klepatch, the youngest child of the Klepatch family in Mlynov, named Yisrael, was a hidden child with blond hair and blue eyes, who was later rescued after the war and later settled in Israel.
    Chana Klepatch's mother, Sara/Sorka Kaliner is listed in Yad Vashem records as the daughter of Nakhman and Tzipora Kaliner from what is probably the village, Ostriiv, which was only 10 km from Mlynov and also close to Smordva, where her father was from. Sara Kaliner was a relative, and perhaps first cousin, of Toba Kaliner from Ostriiv, who married Moshe Holtzeker and whose son Yaakov Holtzeker contributed “My Hometown Mlynov” to this volume and submitted some of the Yad Vashem records for the Klepatch family. Yaakov's mother, Toba, was also from Ostriiv, the daughter of Reuven and Nehama Kaliner. Toba's sister, Machla (Kaliner/also spelled Kline in some records) married Avraham Gelman from Mlynov.--HS Return
  2. Reuven Raberman was born in 1922 in Trovits (Targowica), Poland and was a survivor. His parents Barukh and Vitia (Kleiner) and a brother Mekhael (1914) perished. Reuven was a significant contributor to the Targovica Memorial book.--HS Return
  3. The Hebrew is probably referring to Ostriiv, a village just 10 km west of Mlynov. Ostriiv is also mentioned as a village passed on the way to Trovits by Shmuel Mandelkern in “Yaakov Yosi Goes to Israel,” p. 210.--HS Return
  4. Countess Emilia Plater (1806–1831), "the Lithuanian Joan of Arc," was a Polish Lithuanian noblewoman and revolutionary in the 1830 uprising against the Russia Empire. Her story inspired a number of works of art and literature. Return
  5. A term used by the Soviet propaganda to refer to Stalin. Return
  6. The mythic king of demons in Jewish demonology. Return
  7. Studyanka is 50 km (31 m) south of Mlynov today and is on the way to the town of Kremenets which is 63 km south. Asher Teitelman in his story of survival recalls being taken to forced labor at Studyanka and his father Nahum Teitelman recalls this occurring in the winter of 1941 (pp. 40 and 321). Return
  8. Rosa Berger (1910–2004) was sister of contributor Aaron Harari. In Mlynov, her boyfriend was Boruch Meren, another contributor to this volume, and she helped Boruch get a certificate to make aliyah in 1937. Later in Mandate Palestine, she married Mlynov-born, Moshe Chizik (1909–1959). More on Rosa in the Berger family story. Return

[Page 280]

A Mlynover Page


The children of the Rav Gordon[1], of blessed memory
From left to right: Hershel, Moshe, Toybeshe


Eidel Liberman,[2] of blessed memory, in front of Rubinska Street


Translator's and editor's footnotes:
  1. Rav Gordon was rabbi in Mlynov and had been chief rabbi for a time of the Mlynov kehilla, which included the other nearby towns as described in “Mlynov–A Kehilla for Mynov and its Surrounding Shtetlekh.” An account of Rav Gordon's death early in the Nazi occupation appears in several places in this volume (pp. 314, 352, 384). His daughter, Toybeshe, hid and survived and returned to Mlynov after the liberation (see p. 22). She eventually married and migrated to the United States. His two sons who survived were students in a yeshiva in Poland and with the Russian invasion in 1939 were evacuated to Japan and from there came to America. Return
  2. Eidel (alterative spelling Yidel or Idl) Liberman, son of Mordechai Liberman and Bracha (Gruber). Bracha was the daughter of Mordechai and Perel Gruber. Eidel's family perished including his siblings: Asher, Rivka, Miriam and Chaya. The fate of Yidel Liberman is mentioned in the essay by Yehudit (Mandelkern) Rudolf, p. 88, indicating he was accidentally swept up in a raid targeting 10–15 individuals suspected of being active in Polish political parties four to six weeks after the German occupation in June 1941. There are two other photos of “Y. Liberman,” first name spelled with an yod, who may be the same person among a group of younger boys on pages 227 and 461. Return


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