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[Page 405]

In Memory and Mourning

In Memory and Mourning

by Sonia and Mendel Teitelman

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD.


I am tough. A few others and I had the luck, through a miracle from our Supervisor, to remain alive. Therefore, the holy duty of collecting and inscribing the great spiritual worthiness of our martyrs, who were killed so tragically, is incumbent on us. The nicest traditions of our people were erased with their deaths. As stated, this needs to be done by those who miraculously survived while they still live.

The destroyed beautiful lives should be portrayed with all their colors, and they should be written with golden pens as a guide to our future generations. May the coming generations take them as an example for their own lives. We have nothing to be embarrassed about the poor lives of our martyrs because they were poor in material goods but quite rich in spiritual and in moral values.


In Yad-Vashem

by N.D. Korman

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD.


The eternal light burns
It flickers in my heart—
The fire flames here
It burns our bodies.
From yesterday's past,
Dark, black—
Memory, do not erase!
Make notes, write it down!
Write it down here for generations
That will come
To cry, to lament,
The eternal Jew.
And maybe someone will
Say Kaddish here?
And maybe someone will
Write a poem. . .

[Page 406]

Yad Vashem[1]

by Yochanan Viner[2], Kiryat Hayim

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


I, Yochanan Viner, come to recall the memory of my loved ones: my parents, my father Mendel and my mother Baila Viner and my brother who was born on the eve of the Holocaust and was called Chaim [Life], and the beloved brothers of my father and my mother, who have no one to recite Yizkor.[3]

As a survivor of a town of Jews, I am joining in the memorialization of Jews from the towns of Mlynov-Mervits and the surroundings in the Volyn region in Poland and am participating in the publication of a Memorial book to our beloved ones who were killed in the Shoah, which took place in Europe in this century. These lines here are a memorial candle[4] to the souls of my parents my brother and all my beloved one, and this perpetual memory written in this Memorial book will be an eternal witness to the future.

* * *

Adults say that the past is not forgotten and perhaps because we lost such an important part of our lives, the entirety of childhood and pleasant youthful lives, and because that childhood was so cruel and bitter, filled with blood and tears, we remember it, even though we so much want to forget it all.

It was a village. Jews lived there and raised families. There, my father also lived. He was born to a home of believers, whose hope always was for good and who believed in good. They all dreamed of becoming old in that place, to see children and grandchildren and die in old age in peace. But fate decreed otherwise, and the War broke out.

Its goal was the final solution of the Jews. The evil didn't distinguish between people. One night all of them were chased and in the morning, everyone was assembled with a small bag in the same area of confinement. Exhausted from being hunted, fearful of coming day. Pressed together, withdrawn into themselves and full of thoughts about what the day will bring and what will now be. The mother continues to fret over her small children, the father prays with all his heart for good. Everything is as usual, all like it always was. The blade goes up and up and the belt tightens around the neck and there is no savior and no rescuer, and none to encourage: “Be strong, Jews!” and “Shema-Yisrael” helps a bit and intensifies uncertainty about redemption. All go, row by row, to the place of annihilation. Only my father remained,[5] an ember from that Jewish family that was lost inside kilns of fire. And we were born to be a rock of redemption, so as not to forget. To teach the generation after generation about the history of the six million.

[Page 407]

A branch was severed from a large tree of the people. And with that branch fathers and mothers were lost.

Today, we come to memorialize. Always remembering at a special time, and in a dream, and some moment during the day. It is not possible to forget the entire past. It lives in us, and we are children of the Shoah. It was our fate to be content building the homeland. And today, after years, we are obliged to take an oath to continue to remember and not forget. But to live. To live on the condition that every stone and home built, that every tree and flower planted, will thereby cry out and lift up the memories of our loved ones.

Bailah Viner[6]
Daughter of Yohanan Viner, son of Mendel and Bailah.

Editor's footnotes:

  1. Yad Vashem (meaning “a memorial and a name”) is the name of Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. It was established in 1953. This reflection may have been written for a visit to the memorial around the time this Memorial book was published. His daughter, Bailah, signed her name at the end of this reflection suggesting she transcribed these words from what her father said. Return
  2. Yochanan Viner (born around 1928-1932) was a child survivor. He was born to Mendel and Bailah Viner. In an interview he gave for the Zekelman Holocaust Center in Michigan, he recounts how his mother helped him escape from the ghetto. She watched and learned the routine of the Ukrainian guards every night until she knew when he could slip from the house without being caught. One night she opened the door and told him it was time to leave. He was about 10 years old and survived alone in the forests and begged for food at the home of Czech farmers. After surviving the War, he eventually was helped by the Jewish Brigade to get to Palestine. There he eventually settled in Kibbutz Beit HaArava and later Kibbutz Alonim. Return
  3. Yizkor is the memorial prayer said to commemorate the death of a beloved one. Return
  4. A candle is traditionally lit on the anniversary (yahrzeit) of a family member's death. Return
  5. It seems that the daughter Bailah is speaking here rather than narrating her father's voice. Return
  6. It appears that Bailah, Yohanan's daughter transcribed this reflection, though in the second half she may be speaking in her own voice. Return


by Yitzhak Lamdan[1], Holon, Israel

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


How many nights, my people, heavy of heart and lacking sleep
I tortured my soul with books of your accounts![2]
Angry and wounded, like a dried out field of shrubs,
between the pages of “debt,” a dry path, whose flank is a path in sorrow
And the columns of “credit,” which are turning green, like a shepherd who is silent and planning,
Love and hate both together – –

Now I close the books. I won't request an accounting.
Time for your heart to contribute working the uncivilized desert.
And every gentile dog, sinks its teeth in your flesh
And in their gnawing, your flowering[3] will bring forth every swine from the forest of peoples.
And all clouds of man will pass over your head and drop hail of hate
At a time like this, my people, again there is nothing in my heart for you,
But only love!

Editor's footnotes:

  1. Yizkhak Lamdan (1899–1954) famous author of the poem Masada. See his profile below (pp. 487-88) and his earlier poems in this volume and notes there about his life. The date of this poem is not known. Return
  2. The poem appears metaphoric and can sustain several meanings. It appears to use a financial accounting metaphor for a moral one. The columns of a ledger showing credit and debt serve as an analogy for the gains and losses of transforming the desert land into greenery, and for a moral accounting, as the poet's people experience and can expect the pain and hate of other peoples. The date of this poem is not known. Return
  3. Possibly pun on “skin rash” and “flowering” Return

[Page 408]

My Lamentations

by Yaakov Mohel[1], Holon, Israel

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD.


On the yahrzeit of your death, I light a memorial candle in your holy memory. I am looking at the flickering little flame of the candle, and heavy, sad thoughts painfully and deeply press upon my heart.

I see in the flickering flame a distant reflection of your last days and hours spent in tragic, horrible expectation of what had to come, the unalterable end. You all stand in front of my eyes like you stood in the cellar room where you had hoped to find a hiding place, already sentenced, having just a weak spark of hope. You were bursting from hunger, with eyes full of fear and terror, weak, alone, abandoned by everyone, even by God, in whom you had believed all these years, as well as by “civilized” humanity.

I see how the murderer marched into your house; I hear his teasing laughter when he shlepped you out of the ditch; I see how he forced you to undress naked. I hear your last parting words mixed with pleadings and crying; they torture my ears. I see your last convulsions; I hear your last dying breaths. I also hear the big scream for revenge, which tears up all the heavens, screams and demands, screams and orders:

“Do not forget! Never forget!”
Mama, can you be forgotten?! Our last goodbye and your words, “Go, but we will never see each other again,” ring in my ears like a large act of guilt. I would have needed to carry you out of the fire with my hands! Mama, why was there no miracle?! Had you not deserved to be saved through a miracle? Had you not devoted your entire life to helping people? Were you not the symbol of the highest human ethics and morality? I see you now in your last gruesome moments, how you spread out your motherly hands and you wanted, in your deep despair, to prevent your children from the hateful voices. You, the eternal mother, whose devotion had no limits, whose feelings of sympathy surpassed all acceptable human norms.

Mama, I see you so often in different forms, but I always see you astonished and wondering. I know: you could neither grasp nor understand the terrible sentence that was carried through onto you and your people. The question “Why?” may have hurt more than the bullet in your heart.

Father, I see you now during the interval that divided your death from the deaths of your wife and children. You went to search for a little piece of bread for them; when you returned, they were already dead. I see you bent into tenths, broken, near the corpses of your family, not even having the possibility of bringing them to the cemetery. I see you as hunted like an animal by the wild bands, lost, resigned.

And whenever I think of your last days, a hard ball rolls in my throat, and I do not want to cry, but rather scream in suffocating pain. Father, where are your tallis and tefillin? Where is your kittle[2] in which you hid your tears and prayers year in and year out in the fearful days of law and forgiveness?[3] Is this the reward for your learning?! Or is this the payment for your days and nights spent in following God?! Is this the compensation for your whole life that was brought as a sacrifice for higher human ideals, for human justice, and for Godly beauty?!

Father, I bow my head deeply in front of your unknown grave and wring my hands in deep sorrow. Filthy people despoiled and gassed your tallis and kittle, the same ones who raised the axe above your head. They shamed and made fun of your holy things while you are lying in a cold and strange earth. You are still waiting for someone to combat your injustice. The injustice is so huge that it screams out at the heavens, but nobody can compensate for it, nobody can alleviate it. The same holds for the injustice against your people.

I recite your name with holy shivers, and I swear to never forget your martyrdom. Your memory will remain in our hearts forever. Like a beacon in a lighthouse, your beautiful virtues will serve as an example for the coming generations. Your name will be written with burning letters in the pantheon of the holy martyrs who were sacrificed for kiddush hashem, sanctification of the Name.

Written on the fifth yarzheit

Editor's footnotes:

  1. Yaakov Mohel was one of seven children of Rabbi Leizer Mohel (1872–1942) and Hanna Beila (Kaszkiet) (1882–1942). The Mohel family came to Mlynov from Boremel in 1924–1925 when Rabbi Eliezer, a shochet and mohel, was hired for a position in town. The two parents and three sisters, Batya (1906–1942), Bouzke'leh (1926–1942), and Yenteleh (1930–1942) perished in the Shoah. Four children, Yaakov (1911–1974), Yehuda (1908–1989), Chaika (Chaya) (1916–1985) and Devorah (1914–1987) survived the war. The essay that follows this one describes what happened to the family left in Mlynov. Yehuda's amazing life journey and survival story is documented in detail by his son Dani Tracz (Issachar Mohel ) Riva and Yehuda: Life Story of Trancman, Mohel, Tracz and Ben-Eliezer Families, 2015).--HS Return
  2. A religious man wears this white linen robe in the synagogue on holidays, at his wedding, and when he is buried--HBF Return
  3. The 10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur--HBF Return

[Page 410]

A Murdered Family

by Y. Mohel[1]

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD.


Wandering in Uzbekistan, several months after our areas were liberated from the Hitler troops, we received a letter from Sore Neyter,[2] a girl from Mervits. It shook us up and greatly astonished us. To our great regret, it got lost, but every word of hers was engraved in my mind, and I surely will not be falsifying anything when I will present it now.

“The terrible deprivations, pain, and troubles that we withstood from the Germans and Ukrainians since they came into Mlynov is indescribable. But I want only to describe how your family was killed; I was a witness to it. A while earlier we young Jewish girls were taken to perform heavy labor in the fields of the Smordva Count.[3] We were driven in the fall and winter, barely dressed, while it was still dark out. Going past the Ikva river, many girls were forced to go into the ice-cold water, and they made fun of us. The work was very difficult. They lashed us with whips if we needed to catch our breaths.

“I worked in a group with your sister Bouzke'leh. I remember how your Bouzke'leh had saved something from the 100 grams[4] of bread that each one of us received for 12-13 hours of punishing work, and she carried it home for her sisters and parents who did not even receive the 100 grams. I remember how we got together a few times at night, hidden from strange eyes, when Bouzke'leh used to read her poems that she had composed. It is hard to understand from where she took so much strength and courage, in such inhumane circumstances, to write poetry. Her poems were bitter, full of hatred and abhorrence of the German executioners and their Ukrainian assistants.

[Page 411]

“So stretched the weeks and months like heavy lead until we approached the final liquidation of the remaining few Jews. Everyone searched for possibilities to hide, but there were no prospects. Your father made a hiding place in the kitchen. He cut out two boards from the floor and fitted them back perfectly so they would not be visible; and he put his entire family underneath. He also invited me to go into that underground basement, but I didn't like the hiding place. I decided to hide in the top of the chimney; I put a board between the bricks and let myself down.


Mohel house

[from left to right] Rivke, [in the window] Rizl, Seril, Dvoyre [Mohel], Khayke [Mohel], Reyzl, Batya [Mohel]
(original photo courtesy of Dani Tracz)[5]


[Page 412]

“And so I stayed in the chimney about three days and three nights without food and drinks, with one shirt. It was October. Cold winds blew; it rained. I often lost consciousness from suffering; I felt that I was almost at the end. But on the third day I awoke from my unconscious position when I heard the murderers tearing into your apartment. They searched everywhere, including the kitchen, and I heard how they discovered the hiding place! I heard how they shlepped everyone out one by one, then lined them up at the wall and murdered them. The words that Bouzke'leh told them still ring in my ears:

“'You can kill us, but my brothers will take revenge on you! Our innocent blood that you shed will not protect you. Your end is very near!'

“At these words a salvo was heard, and it became terribly quiet. I do not know with what strength I lasted until the evening. I got out of the chimney and, thanks to the darkness of the night which additionally was cold and rainy, I succeeded in getting out to the fields. And like a driven animal I ran around over the fields and forests until I survived the liberation.”

* * *

That is the short summary of the death of a family. My father, may he rest in peace, was not there when his family was shot. He had gone out somewhere searching for food; when he came back, everyone was dead. He ran around like a crazy person until the next day. Then the Germans murdered him not far from the slaughterhouse where he had worked for so many years.

And so came the bitter end of Reb Leyzer the kosher slaughterer from Mlynov, his wife Khana-Leye, daughter Basye, daughter Brukhe (Bouzke'leh), and the small 10 year-old Yenteleh.

Translator's and editor's footnotes:

  1. The is a letter written in 1944 by Yaakov Mohel to his brother Yehuda Mohel in 1944 about the fate of their family. See the previous essay for background on Mohel family. Return
  2. It is not clear how this Sore or Sarah Neyter (or Neiter ) was related to the Neiter families listed among the Mervits martyrs or to other Neiter descendants who survived. Batia (Blinder) Kopchak who contributed an essay to this volume, for example, was daughter of Pnina (Neiter) who married Yitzhak Blinder.--HS Return
  3. See Liza Berger's essay “I Wandered Hungry and in Pain,” which describes the same situation.--HS. Return
  4. 100 g. = 3.5 oz.--HBF Return
  5. The courtyard of the Mohel house. The Mohel sisters are Batya (on the right), Khayke (Chaya) (standing center), Dvorah (to her right). In the window sits another Batya who married Yitzhak Mohel. Return

[Page 413]

The Litvak Home

by Yosef Litvak[1], Jerusalem

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


My father, R. Mordechai Meir, son of Yaakov-Zelig, and Chana Litvak,
My mother Rivkah-Devora,[2] daughter of Yehudah Arieh and Liba Lamdan,
may their memory be blessed.

My father, of blessed memory, was born in the town of Slishtch -Zuta[3] in the year 5641 (1881). The years of his childhood and youth he spent in the town of Brisk (Brest-Litovsk) [now Belarus], where his father, my grandfather, was head cantor in the great synagogue during the tenure of Rav Gaon Chaim Soloveitchik[4] as the rabbi of the town. He studied holy subjects in cheder and for a few years a private teacher studying the Russian language and the principles of accounting. At the age of 18 he left his parents' home for an independent life in Kiev. On his own initiative, he learned accounting management and civil engineering and in a short time reached the level of supervisor in one of the large Jewish contractors in Tzarist Russia.

In addition to his professional education, he studied and read voluminously and acquired an extensive Jewish education and general education and expertise in Hebrew literature, Yiddish and Russian. Likewise, during his entire life he was interested in and had a great love and knowledge of music, whose foundations he learned from his father. In 1912, he married my mother. After hardships and much wandering during the civil war in Russia and the pogroms against Jews in Ukraine, he settled with his family in the small town of Mlynov in 1922.

Despite being very preoccupied and busy with difficulties of making a living, which was obtained with great difficulty, he expressed interest in many activities of public need and in particular in the arena of Zionist activities. In the first years after the First World War, he organized and led welfare activities in the town on behalf of the American government assistance fund and on behalf of the Joint [The American Joint Distribution Committee). He set up a kitchen to feed children and distribute necessities and he led the committee to help orphans. After this, he set up and managed, with no renumeration, “a charity fund” to help shop owners and artisans. Similarly, he set up a bank for the same purpose, that lasted only a few years. In the arena of Zionist activities, he led the local Eretz Yisrael [Zionist] office which organized the aliyah of the first pioneers during the years 1923–1926. He served as permanent chairman of the nomination committee for the Zionist Congress, [and] he was one of the principal active members in all the Zionist work: the distribution of shekalim,[5] cultural funds, etc.

For a number of years, his home served as a center and meeting place for the active Zionist members in that location.

[Page 414]

In the beginning of the Soviet occupation, he was imprisoned following the local Yevsk[6] snitching. He was freed after a few days thanks to a Soviet military prosecutor, a Jew with a warm heart, but he continued to be under the watch of the secret police during the entirety of the Soviet government.[7]

During the Nazi occupation he was appointed secretary of the Judenrat in the ghetto. He performed this coerced, wretched role with integrity, with honor and decency. He was beaten several times in a cruel fashion by the Nazi in charge for refusing to fulfill his extortive demands. He died a holy death — with my mother, of blessed memory — by the hands of the murderers from Ukrainian police, when they attempted to flee from the ghetto a few days before the general slaughter of the community, at the end of Tirshri 5703 (beginning of October 1942) and the place of their burial is not known. May their memory be a blessing. May their souls be bound in the bond of life.

* * *

My mother, of blessed memory, was born in the town of Mlynov in the year 5649 (1889). She didn't study during her lifetime in any kind of girl's religious high school but still she mastered several languages and read a great deal. She was faithful to the tradition of her father's home and combined it with a progressive outlook. She had an exemplary character as Jewish mother, sharing the burden of the household income and dedicating the best of her efforts to effectively care for her children and educating them for an ethical life and to be faithful Jews, with their whole soul and might. She excelled in diligence and as kindheartedness and employed her ethical character as an example to her children and everyone who knew her. She died a holy death together with her husband. May her memory be a blessing. May her soul be bound in the bond of life.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Yosef Litvak contributed two essays to this volume including “My Hometown Mlynov” with additional notes about his family and background. Yosef was born in Kiev in 1917. Yosef was away studying at a teacher's college in Rovno when the Nazis invaded. He fled east and survived in Russia and eventually made his way to Palestine. His parents were both killed in the liquidation of the Mlynov ghetto. His parents' photo appears on page 454. Return
  2. Rivkah-Devora was the sister of the poet, Yitzhak Lamdan. Return
  3. The town was called Selishche Mala in the Russian empire and Male Sedliszcze after WWII. It was 22 miles NE of Rivne and 9 miles ESE of Kostopil. It does not appear that there is any settlement there currently. Return
  4. Also known as Reb Chaim Brisker (1853-1918), Soloveitchik was considered the founder of the “Brisker method,” a method of highly exacting and analytical Talmudical study. Return
  5. See also Litvak's similar discussion in “My Hometown Mlynov,” p. 53. The Zionist shekel was the name of the certificate of membership in the Zionist Organization given to every Jew who paid annual membership dues. The name comes from the unit of weight and currency used in the First Temple period. Purchasing the Zionist shekel expressed identification with Zionism and its goals. The revenue from the sale of the shekalim (plural of shekel) was used for Zionist activities. The number of delegates that each country sent to the Congress was determined based on the number of shekalim sold in that country. Return
  6. The Yevsektsiya was Jewish section of the Soviet Communist Party originally founded with Lenin's approval to bring the communist revolution to the Jewish masses. They regarded Jewish Zionist organizations as counter-revolutionary. Return
  7. Litvak contributed a longer essay on this period, “The Mlynov Community at the Beginning of the Soviet Occupation,” pp. 283-286. Return

A Memorial Candle
[for Chaia Kipergluz]

by Y. L.[1] [Yosef Litvak]

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


For Chaia Kipergluz,[2] daughter of Mr. Chaim Yitzhak and Sara Kipergluz

Chaia, of blessed memory, was born in Mlynov in 1919. She excelled in her childhood in intelligence and natural talent in many different ways and with much charm. She finished Polish elementary school in 1932. Due to the absence of a high school in the town where she lived, she did not continue with formal studies. [Still,] she expanded her reading in high quality scientific[3] literature in Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew. She stood out among her peers and her manners were pleasant.

From the age of 9, she was a protégé of the youth movement “The Young Guard” (Hashomer Hatzair). She was visibly involved in many activities in the movement in all the different areas and filled responsible roles until the breakup of the movement with the Soviet invasion in September 1939. Among other things, she exhibited a natural talent for dramatic plays and narration and filled a central role in all plays and celebrations in the movement over the years.

[Page 415]

She yearned and strove to make aliyah to the Land [of Israel]. Her leaving for training kibbutz was held up by a family tragedy when her only brother, who was 10 years old, drowned in the river, in the summer of 1938. Her older sister made aliyah before this, and Chaia was not able to leave her parents alone in their heavy grief.

With the Soviet occupation, she experienced great personal suffering and difficult persecutions along with all the past members of the Zionist organizations at the hands of the Soviet secret police following snitching by the local Yevsektsiya [the Jewish section of the Communist party]. Despite the persecutions, she succeeded in obtaining a job and quickly climbed the ranks.

In the early days after the Nazi invasion towards the end of July 1941 she was arrested together with about 20 other Jewish youth – the best of the local Jewish youth – for being “Communists.”[4] All the members of the group were taken out to be killed about 3 days after their arrest following severe beatings by their Nazi torturers and their collaborators from the Ukrainian police men.

May her memory be a blessing and may her soul be bound up in bond of life.

A modest memorial to her memory from a friend from her youth.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. “Y. L.” is assumed to be Yosef Litvak, who wrote the preceding reflection and who also submitted the records for the Kipergluz family to Yad Vashem where he listed himself as a friend of the family. Return
  2. Chaia Kipergluz (1919-1942) (alt. spelling Kiperglaz) was one of the young people arrested and killed for supposedly being a Communist shortly after the Nazi occupation. Her father Chaim Yitzhak (1895–1942) was the son of Brakha (Gelman) and Yosef Kipergluz. He is mentioned several times in this volume: as a friend of Shmuel Mandelkern in the prank about Yaakov Yosi, as president of the Kehilla (p. 90), as second head of the Kehilla in “The Town of Mlynov” (p. 55), as the synagogue sexton in “Mlynov–A Kehilla for Mlynov,” (p. 21), and as a man known to give charity  (p. 317). During the Nazi occupation, he was forced to be a member of the Judenrat. A photo of the Kipergluz house/store appears on page 151. Chaia's mother, Sarah, was from the town of Trovits. A sister Rachel Kipergluz (married name Kleeman) is mentioned as having made aliyah in an earlier essay (p. 69). She had a brother Yosele, who died in a manner described in this story. Return
  3. “Scientific” here might have a broader meaning and refer to various books of secular studies. Return
  4. See also page 287. Return

The Sherman-Golisuk Families

by Yechiel Sherman[1]

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


Two brothers, Yechiel and Ezra, survived from two large families: Sherman and Golisuk (Mother's side). In the family of Father, there were four brothers: Shlomo, Ben-tzion, Feivel and Moshe (my father); and two sisters; Sarah-Bracha and Miriam — and all the children. On Mother's side: the grandmother Hannah Golisuk [nee Shuchman], Yosef Mutia, Shmuel, Pesiah, Byka, Tzvia and Etel (my mother) — and all the children.

All of them were murdered by the debased (tameh) bitter enemy.

May their memories be a blessing.

Translator's Footnote

  1. See Yechiel's other essay, “Taking Leave of Home,” with additional notes about him and his brother. See family photos on page 462. Return

[Page 416]

My Ester and Nakhman z”l

by Mendel Teitelman[1]

Translated from the Yiddish by Hannah B. Fischthal, PhD

Edited by Howard I. Schwartz, PhD.


When I remember my brother Nakhman z”l and my sister Ester z”l,[2] my heart melts from pain and stress. I cannot forget them even more than I cannot ever forget my brothers Yankev-Yoysef[3] and Shaye z”l,[4] and my sister Mirel,[5] with all their families, and all of my relatives and friends. I do not know why; I cannot express it with words, but I feel them much more in my heart. The reason for it is possibly because they were among the first victims in our shtetls.

My brother Nakhman, as is known, lived in Trovits.[6] He had a reputation there as a buyer who was sharp and wise. He was also materially well situated. The truth is that nothing good was missing in his childhood, as we all grew up in a rich household.

Right after WWI he married Khane Goldman z”l from Lutsk. He suffered terribly when his wife died in childbirth; that broke him physically and spiritually. We did not believe that he would ever again get back on his feet. And when, in great despair, he wanted to go out into the world and emigrate to Argentina, I was the first to persuade him away from taking that step. I did not have any intentions; it was simply hard for me to part with him. I never envisioned anything bad coming. The end of his tragic experience was that he did get back on his feet. He married Shayndl Akerman[7] from Trovits, revived, and was active in all cultural areas of Trovits. At the same time, he was a Zionist advisor until the start of the war. With the arrival of the Soviets in our neighborhood 17 September 1939, like everywhere then, all advisors had to put aside their businesses and erase their tracks.

[Page 417]

He, like his friends, started slowly to adjust to the new situation, although with great difficulties because formerly he had been a wealthy businessman. We are not talking about the degradation, as it did not matter if one could sit in peace.

The black clouds of the world-murderers came, with the help of the local Christian neighbors, on Friday, the 8 of Av 5701.[8] With tanks and machine-guns, they surrounded all of Trovits. They took most of the Jewish men not far from the shtetl, and then shot them all. That black Friday, which orphaned practically the entire shtetl, did not omit my brother Nakhman; having done nothing wrong, he was also murdered that day with the others. When, a few days later, I learned about that great tragedy, I mourned with my family double. It especially pained me that I was not a factor in aiding his desire to go out into the world. To write about this with all the details, after 25 years, is not easy, but the pain in my heart is still fresh.

The same happened with my sister Ester. The same Friday of the Trovits catastrophe was also the Ostrozhets catastrophe. That same Friday, they also made a death pogrom on practically all the Jewish men there. My brother-in-law Meir Graber z”l hid himself well, but my sister Ester was sure that nothing bad would happen to her since she was a woman, and they had not killed women yet.

And so you were, my dear brother and sister, among the first victims torn away from us forever, for no reason. We could not sit shiva,[9] tear our clothes in mourning, or even say kaddish over your young deaths. You, my dear brother, left a wife and a family. And you, my dear sister, left a husband and three dear children who were extremely beautiful and wise. Your bright figure stands in front of my eyes.

Translator's and editor's footnotes:

  1. Mendel and his wife Sonia (Gruber) were the most prolific contributors to this Memorial volume and tell their own story in “Tragic Tales,” in this volume. Mendel was born in Mervits, the son of Abraham Teitelman (1850–1922) and Rivka (Halperin), and one of nine siblings, most of whom died in the Shoah. His year of birth is given variously as 1893 and 1900. Mendel and Sonia's story is told in greater background here.--HS Return
  2. According to Yad Vashem records filled out by Asher Teitelman, Mendel's sister Ester Teitelman married a man named Meir Graber and had three children.--HS Return
  3. Yankev-Yosef (1896–1942).--HS Return
  4. “Shaye” is a form of the name “Yehoshua” one of the brothers listed in Teitelman family trees.--HS Return
  5. Mirel Teitelman (1908–1942) married Yehuda Zev Schwartz. Two of their children, Liba (or Libby) and Max, survived. Return
  6. Today, Torhovytsia, Ukraine--HBF Return
  7. In an earlier essay in this volume, Mendel mentions that the rabbi of the entire Mlynov community (kehilla) was a Rav Akerman from Trovits. Shmuel Mandelkern also mentions in this volume (p. 211) visiting with an Akerman family in Trovits when he was fund raising to send Yosi-Yaakov to the Land of Israel. It is unknown whether these Akerman families are related.--HS Return
  8. 8 August 1, 1941--HBF Return
  9. Sitting shiva describes the observance of Jewish mourning practices following the death of a family member. Kaddish refers to the prayer of sanctification said when a parent or other close family members dies.--HS Return

[Page 418]

In Memory

by Rachel Givon (Shapovnik)[1][Kibbutz] Givat Brenner

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


When I left my parents and my brother Levi and Mlynov, I knew that I was leaving my parents while they were suffering ...and in an extremely hard financial situation. All sorts of thoughts were running around in my head, and nothing was clear or certain. I didn't know if I would be able to help my family or whether I would see them again.

Only one thing was clear to me. I was leaving and making aliyah to the Land [of Israel], to a kibbutz and fulfilment. The idea and the way, which the [youth] movement instilled, was being realized, and in my heart there was hope, great hope, that my brother Levi would soon be able to make aliya to the Land and together we would be able to help [our] parents.

* * *

I remember how you promised me, that you would do everything in your power to make aliyah to the Land [of Israel] and together we would also be able to bring our parents. We had great hopes together, my brother. How I wanted to see you my brother...

But it was only an accident that separated us — and only I was saved.

* * *

I also remember Batya Mohel[2] at the time I left her. [She was] the first one who came to our house to assist and encourage. I totally loved talking with her, because Batya had an understanding and personal relationship to everyone of us, and whoever was in close to her knew her personable nature.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Rachel Givon (born Rachel Shapovnik) appears in Zionist youth group photos on pages 460. Her son appears as one of the fallen soldiers in Israel, p. 455. The rest of her family perished in the ghetto liquidation. Her father was Abisch Schapovnik (1882–1942) and her mother Chaia (Fridman). In this essay, and in Yad Vashem records, a brother Levi is mentioned who was born in about 1911. The Mlynov martyr list p. 439, also includes a brother Moshe (born in about 1926 according to Yad Vashem records) and a sister Brakha. For unknown reasons, Brakha does not appear in Yad Vashem records. Return
  2. Batya Mohel was a sister of Yaakov Mohel who contributed “A Murdered Family,” with additional notes there about the family. Return

My Family

by Chaya Moses-Fisher[1]Kvutzat Kinneret

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


I am Chaya Moses, daughter of Meir and Toibeh Fisher

I made aliyah to the Land [of Israel] in 1946 and lived in Kvutzat Kineret. I am one of the survivors of the terrible Shoah. I don't know how the miracle happened — in those days there were many Jews who were much more experienced; but they did not escape the claws of the German murderer and their Ukrainian collaborators.

At that time, I was a 14-year-old girl.

[Page 419]

* * *

We were a large family with children, and each child found his [and her] place on the learning bench, in the morning in the Polish school, and in the afternoon with Esther the teacher (the “melamedke” [the smart woman]), which is what they called her in the town. She taught us Hebrew. Our home had a general educational atmosphere.

Our father, peace be with him, was the source of this atmosphere. My mother passed away when I was still a small girl and my mother's siter, my aunt Devorah, raised us and also her own children. My father was a progressive man loved by all people. He had an amazing character, always ready to help another, always a smile on his face with a cigarette in his mouth.

A refrain we heard all the time from Father was: “When my kids grow up, I will not send them one by one to the Land of Israel — we will make aliyah as a whole family.” And other sayings of Father stick in my memory from the day I left home during the Shoah. “If you stay alive, remember that you came from a Jewish home.”

* * *

When I was captured by the Ukrainian police, they questioned me up and down about whether I was a Jewish girl. This was a very difficult interrogation. There was one Ukrainian policeman there, who once worked in our flour mill ... He suggested to his policeman friends that he should interrogate me by himself and if he came to the conclusion that I was a Jewish girl — he would shoot me with his own hands. When I entered to a special room with him, he turned to me and said, “Hold your position (in other words, that you are a Christian). They don't have any proof. But don't return to your previous place, because they will come there to interrogate; leave that place...”

That same “righteous man” wiped out the Wurtzel family[2] even though he also worked with them.

And these are the names of my beloved ones who were murdered by the Nazis murderers and Ukrainians. Meir, my father; Devorah my aunt; Shmuel, Tzvi,[3] Fruma, Shlomo, Moshe, Chanoch, Efraim. I was fortunate to make aliyah and to create a family. We have two sons and a daughter. They should read and know what Amalek did to us.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Chaya Fisher was the daughter of Meir and Tobe Fisher. The names of her siblings who perished are given below in this essay. Her father Meir, was the brother of Shimon Fisher, the father of contributors: Yaffa Dayagi (Sheindel Fisher) “Home and Youth Movement in Mlynov,” pp. 247-250, Bella/Baila Halevi Fisher, p. 422 and Miriam Fisher p. 423 whose short essays follow. Return
  2. There was a large Wurtzel (alt. spelling Vortsel) family in Mervits, descendants of Doovid and Meerel Wurtzel, the patriarch and matriarch of this family. The reference here probably refers to the descendants of their son Zelig Ulinik Wurtzel who married Sooreh Gruber. Of their seven children, only their daughter Pessia (Wurtzel) Steinberg survived with her husband Getzel and son Zelig. A photo of several of her brothers who perished appears on page, 475. The other two children of Doovid and Meerel Wurtzel each had large families. Their daughter Sorke Wurtzel married Isaac Flaisher /Fleisher and they migrated to Philadelphia where they settled and had family. Doovid and Meerel's daughter, Ronya Leah Wurtzel, married Yankel Volf Katz. Five of their nine children emigrated to the US and Canada: Louis Katz, David Katz, Maurice Katz and Bessie (Katz) Schnider settled in Saskatchewan, Canada. Their daughter Bella (Katz) Cohen settled in the suburbs of Boston Massachusetts. Return
  3. Appears as “Herschel,” which is the equivalent of the Hebrew Tzvi, in the list of Mlynov martyrs. Return

[Page 420]

To the Memory of My Beloved Ones
– My Parents, My Brother and My Sisters

by Baila Holtzeker, [Kibbutz Negba][1]

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


It was September 1939. The evening of Rosh Hashanah. All the Jews were getting ready to go to the synagogue – when they came to tell us to leave the town. That day complete bedlam ruled. We fled to the villages without taking anything at all, and after a number of days we returned, because the Russians[2] entered the town which was quickly converted to a place of shelter for several hundred. On the streets of the town one could hear, in addition to Yiddish, – Polish, Russian and so forth. It was possible to recognize the [origin] of refugees through their exchange of words. From all ends of the land came many Jews, young and old, religiously observant and secular. The common goal was to continue living. The Jews who came to Mlynov regarded it as a shelter temporary until the fury would subside. People who lost their land from under their feet and lost a sense of self-confidence were transformed into refugees not only in the eyes of others, but in their own eyes…

* * *

A few memories and youthful experiences bound up in this town, in which the best years of our youth were spent. We will remember all the Jews of the town burdened with suffering, working people, who struggled all the days of the week, who fought hard for their living in order to enjoy the coming Sabbath with serenity and love. We will remember the scenery of our town, its forests, the wide market, the narrow alleys, which we strolled on long nights from one end to the other; We will remember the effervescent youth. But the heart does not give us peace or rest, when all that is precious is remembered. Parents, brothers, sisters, grandfather, uncles, aunts, and cousins.

Father and Mother were good hearted and sentimental. Quiet, and serenity and love they had for their children. I remember when the Soviets were still in our town, they entered our house and demanded the keys to our store. With trembling hands, father gave them everything. When they left, Father was sad and worried and said “How can I support my 12 children?” And he added, “It is good that Tzipporah[3] is in the Land of Israel.”

On that day, trouble and suffering began. Immediately, they conscripted Nahman[4] and Avraham to the Red Army. My eldest brother, David, began looking for work and he worked as a clerk; my sister Miriam also worked as a clerk. In the identity papers of Father, they wrote the number 11[5] – if only they sent him to Siberia, perhaps one of them would have remained alive. But Father paid a great deal of money and remained in Mlynov and was buried in Mlynov. To me he said, “You have an opportunity to flee, do it; what depends on me, I will try [to do]).”

[Page 421]

I caused my parents, brothers and sisters no small amount of grief. More than once I attempted to flee via the window in the middle of the night when it was snowing, because I was not a citizen.[6] The day I received notification to come to Rovno, to pick up my authorization to make aliyah, father went with me. A full day I was in examination and father wandered around outside. It is not possible to forget the love and devotion of parents.

We were 12 children. The parents, my adult sister, Tevel, and her husband Baruch, and their children Soma, Miriam, Batya, Liubaleh – were buried together in the mass grave in Mlynov. My brothers Avraham and Menashe[7] fell in the Red Army. My brother Chuna – his school friend killed him because he liked my brother's boots. My older brother David was killed in the forests,[8] and my younger brother Henochal [Hanoch][9] passed through the seven gates of Hell. More than once he struggled with the master of death and prevailed, [and experienced] wandering, refugee camps, Cyprus.[10] He was killed in [Kibbutz] Negba on the 16th of year 5708, May 25, 1948 [just days after Israel declared Independence on May 14 1948].

And though his experiences were deeply unbearable [before his death], he was not heartbroken; he was tough in body to continue to live and create.

* * *

And these are words of Menachem K., who eulogized Hanoch, my brother who was killed in Negba:

Who in essence was Hanoch, did we know him as he should be known? How did we relate to him? Hanoch, Hanoch, only recently you arrived. In Negba, you joined us, and became beloved to us. You made friends, good friends. You wanted to erase completely your past; to forget the forests of Ukraine, the hiding places among the Christians, the [displaced persons] camps on impure German lands. To forget Cyprus, the boredom and the atrophy of captivity. To start a new life with us, among us. To go with head held high. To work in a carpentry shop which you adored. To learn all that you missed during the War years. You were happy that you were close to your sisters, together with them in one kibbutz. How enthusiastic you were traveling to the Negev to establish a new outpost. And in Nir Am, when we built a hospital, you loved the work, doing all of it, even that which you didn't know. You did the right thing, Hanoch. You were a talented young man, with a strong will. You wanted to learn much in a short time with your efforts. You also learned to play the flute. Playing music was your passion. And how you could dance! You put all the boys to shame. You were comfortable joking around, and you were also happy and cheerful. How can I forget you, beloved Hanoch! I am your longest term acquaintance. From Germany, when we got involved in our [youth group] movement activities until your last days – I was full of admiration for you. A few times I saw despair and feelings of inferiority mix confusingly together inside you. But the cloak of despair dissolved quickly at the first happy word. This, Hanoch, is how you appear in my memory, my precious Hanoch! Will I no longer be able to glue boards together with you, play volleyball, sing, and horse around? Must I really believe that the shell injured you, as your hand pressed the Bren [light machine gun] – Is it true [you are gone]?

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Information about Baila and her siblings was provided by her granddaughter, Lior Wildikan. Baila (Holtzeker) Wildikan / Vildikan (alt. spellings Holzeker, Goldseker) (1914–1990) was the daughter of Yaakov Holtzeker and his wife Risia. Baila's grandfather was Moshe Holtzeker, one of the five original Holtzeker brothers to arrive in Mlynov. Yaakov and Risia had twelve children and a photo of the family appears on page 245. Baila's older sister Tzipporah (1910-1986) made aliyah in 1933. Baila was also involved in the Zionist Youth Group Hashomer Hatzair and went for her training (hachsharah) in Czestochowa. For a variety of reasons including the outbreak of War, she was prevented from making aliyah. In 1941, she made the dangerous journey from Moscow to Odessa on the Black Sea and then took a rickety boat to Turkey. She continued by land to Syria and Lebanon until she finally made her way into the Land of Israel. She joined her sister, Tzipporah, in the new Kibbutz Negba. There she married and had two children, Sare and Hanoch, the latter named for her brother who is commemorated below. Return
  2. They fled when Germany attacked Poland afraid that the Germans would reach Mlynov. But Mlynov was in the section of Poland allocated to Russia under the non-aggression treaty that Russia and Germany had concluded before the start of the war. A similar story is told by Asher Teitelman in the book length account of his life. Return
  3. Tzipporah (1910-1986) was the second eldest child in the family. She made aliyah in 1933. Her group went first to Rishon LeTzion and then Givat Keren Kayemet where she worked in orchards and fruit packing. She later moved to Kibbutz Negba. Tzipporah and her longtime boyfriend Meir never had children. Return
  4. Nahman Holtzeker made it to Palestine or Israel at some point and took the name Krul Levi. His daughter Chaia David (Levi Holtzeker) contributed records to the Yad Vashem database. Return
  5. The number 11 identified a person as an asocial or nonproductive element of society, according to the earlier essay by Yosef Litvak, who discusses the beginning of the Soviet Occupation, p. 285. Return
  6. Perhaps Baila had not been given identity papers because she was involved in the Zionist youth group and was seen as a Communist, as described in the essay by Yosef Litvak about the Soviet occupation, pp. 284. Return
  7. In the testimony by Fania (Mandelkern) Bernstein in this volume, Menashe is recalled visiting bunkers p. 294, and Avraham is recalled securing rifles before the liquidation, 291. Return
  8. The testimony by Fania (Mandelkern) and David Bernstein mentions David in the bunkers, pp. 294, 300. Return
  9. See a photo of Hanoch (1930-1948) p. 455 and mention of Hanoch being among the returnees to Mlynov, p. 310. Return
  10. In his attempt to reach Palestine, he was taken to the British internment camps in Cyprus. As indicated in the commemoration that follows this one by Yosef Tomer, Hanoch had serendipitously ended up traveling on the same ship of illegal immigrants with the Teitelman family and was with them when they were turned away from landing in Palestine and forced to Cyprus. Return

[Page 422]

In Memory

Bella Halevi[1] (from the Fisher line), Tel Yosef

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


When I close my eyes, I see all of them: My dear parents, my brother and my sisters, my uncles and aunts and cousins, good neighbors, and the entire town. They all are standing alive before me...

It is February 2, 1936, when I made aliyah to the Land [of Israel]. I departed with great hope that I would be fortunate to see them in the Land, but they were not able to come to us and live in the State of Israel.

Seven am in the morning. Heavy snow descends. I left Mlynov in a wagon towards Dubno to the train station. It is hard to describe how crowded it was with people on all sides offering farewell blessings.

My father and Binyamin came with me, of blessed memory. Mother and the other children stayed in the doorway of the house without uttering a sound. Only grandmother said, “I envy you; you are young and going to the Land of Israel. Is it possible I too will be fortunate to see the Holy Land?”

I will list those were not so fortunate: My dear father Shimon Fisher, my mother Tova; my brother[s] Tzvi,[2] Binyamin and Shmuel; my sisters Ester and Breindela, and grandmother from my mother's side, Pesia Giz.[3]

I recall the Gertnich family, who were cousins.[4] Yeshayahu[5] and Perel and their children: Moshe, Rachel, Faiga, Miriam and Yaakov. And also the brother of Yeshayahu: Yitzhak. Their children, Moshe, Hershel and Miriam.

I recall Faiga Margulis with Chaim Neinstein.[6] Faiga was exceptionally talented in theatrical plays and music.

We will not forget them forever.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. The daughter of Shimon Fisher and Toba (Guz). She was a sister of contributor Miriam Fisher (see next reflection) and Yafa Dayagi (Sheindel Fisher) who contributed an essay on “Home and the Youth Movement,” p. 247–250 with additional notes on the family there. Return
  2. Also called Herschel in some records, the equivalent Yiddish name. Return
  3. Also called Pesia “Goz” or “Guz” in Yad Vashem records. She was born in Mervits in 1873 to Shmuel and Sheindel. Her husband was and her maiden name was Fridman. Return
  4. Alternative spelling Gertnikh. The Hebrew term “keruv” used here can mean “relatives” or “friends.” But in the next short reflection by this writer's sister, the Gertnich family is identified as relatives on their mother's side. This probably explains why a photo of the Gertnich cousins is placed on page 248 in the middle of the essay written by their other sister, Yafa Dayagi (Sheindel Fisher). Another photo of the Gernich family appears on page 458. Return
  5. Yeshayahu Gertnich (1878-) and Yitzhak Gernich (1883) were sons of Mordekhai Gertnich. In Yad Vashem records, Yeshayahu is called a rabbi and Yitzhak's son is described as a schohet in Dymydivka Return
  6. Chaim Neinstein appears with his wife in the photo on page 457 with additional notes. According to Yad Vashem records, Chaim's wife was Reizl Margulis. Return

On the Altar of Our Birthplace

Yosef [Teitelman] Tomer[1], Ramat Gan

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


Hanoch[2] son of Yaakov and Risia Holtzeker, was one of the youngest of Shoah survivors in Mlynov. The youngest son of one of the large families with many children in the town.

After the liberation from the yoke of the Nazis, the remnants of survivors began to gather in Mlynov and he was among them. Being alone, he took shelter in the company of our family during the time we stayed in Mlynov.

Our paths diverged when our left Mlynov on the way to the Land [of Israel]. Hanoch stayed with a group of children [going] to Poland and Germany while our path was via the refugee camps in Austria. After the vicissitudes of the long journey, we met again serendipitiously, and this time on a boat of illegal immigrants on our way to the Land [of Israel]. Hanoch was happy in being fortunate finally to realize his dream, to join the remnants of his family, his sisters, in Kibbutz Negba.

Indeed, Hanoch was able to reach his sisters before the outbreak of the War of Liberation [i.e., Israel's War of Independence] but the happiness did not last long. He participated in the defense of Negba, a heroic position in the War of Liberation, and there he fell. May his memory be a blessing.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Yosef (Teitelman) Tomer was the son of Nahum and Rachel Teitelman, both contributors to this volume. He survived with his siblings Shifra and Asher, who is also a contributor. See their essays for additional notes on the Teitelman's survival story. Return
  2. Hanoch was the brother of Baila Holtzeker who commemorated Hanoch's story on the previous page. Return

[Page 423]

To the Memory of a Family

Miriam Fisher[1], Haifa

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


In 1936, I made aliyah to the Land [of Israel]. I left my beloved family– father, mother, grandmother, brothers and sisters. I left all my cousins and acquaintances. I will never forget the separation from my parents and the other members of the family; the dream and hope were that, after a time, we would be able to bring the family [to the Land of Israel] and all of us would be together.

I held onto this dream for three years until the outbreak of the War. In the beginning there was some consolation that our area had not fallen into German hands, but as is known, in 1941, all was cut off, the German murderers conquered our area among others. We knew that significant troubles were afflicting our Jewish brethren, but it never occurred to us that they would kill them all. We regretfully deluded ourselves. We were under illusions until the end of the War, when the horrible truth became known to us.

[Page 424]

In our home, there were twelve people – only my sister Rachel remained alive. Tremendous pain accompanies us in our lives and our lips cannot adequately express our feelings.

I commemorate the names of our beloved ones who died at the hands of the Nazi murders with the help of the Ukrainians.

Father – Shimon; Mother – Teuvah; Grandmother – Pesia; My brother – Tzvi; his wife Rikvah, from the Goldseker family, two small girls, Chisha and Freida; my brother – Binyamin; my brother – Shmuel; my sister – Ester; my sister – Breindelah;

After the liberation I began the search for my sister Rachel, who remained alive. She was already far from Mlynov and I meanwhile had moved from the place I was living. Until finally I received a letter from her.

* * *

Father loved agriculture, and in particular caring for fruit trees. Where we lived, he would plant seedlings and successfully nurture them. During my first years in the Land, I was in an agricultural farm with many fruit trees. It was a dream of mine that my father would come to the Land and be able to dedicate himself to fruit trees. But we didn't succeed in bringing them. They did not realize what we did: to see the fall of the Germans and the establishment of the State of Israel.

* * *

I will remember my uncle Meir, my father's brother, with his family. One daughter remained living, today in Kevutsah Kineret.[2] My father's sister, my aunt Silvi, was murdered at the German hands. Her husband died fighting in the WWI. Her only son remained alive, joined the Russian army, and is now in the Land [of Israel] in Kefar Hasidim.

There was a family of cousins on my mother's side, the Gertnich family,[3] none of whom remained alive.

The mother Perel; the daughters: Rachel, married with children; Faiga with her family; Maikah was also apparently married, the sons Moshe with his family; Yaakov. The father died before the War.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Miriam Fisher's tribute follows that of her sister, Bella HaLevi. See additional notes about the family on the preceding page. Return
  2. Meir's daughter, Chaya Moses-Fisher contributed the tribute, “My Family,” pp. 418-419. Return
  3. See notes on page 422 about the Gertnich family. Return

[Page 425]

In Memory of the Minyan of Jews in Peremilowka[1]

Tova Wahrman [Grinshpun][2], Ramat Gan

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


Near Mlynov was a village called Peremilowka – the village of my birthplace and where I lived – and which had a minyan of [ten] Jews and no more. Even though it was about 15 km [9 mi] from Mlynov to our village, there prevailed – among the minyan of its Jews who lived among the gentiles – a very vibrant Jewish life. A handful of children from two families,[3] who dwelled in the village, studied in school in the nearby Mlynov, and this minyan which included all the Jews of the village, was tied in all its “arteries” to the Jews of Mlynov. Among this small group of Jews, the family Grinsphun[4] stood out in warm comforting hospitality for all Jews who happened to be visiting in the village. Especially acquaintances and many relatives of the family came to stay as guests under the roof of this family during the summer days. To this day, I am reminded of many different people who are located today all over Israel and the blessed and nice days and nights that they spent with this family in the heart of nature by the village and the warm and maternal atmosphere. It is worth noting, in particular, that during festivals and special Jewish occasions, Jews from nearby villages would gather in the house of R. Yoel-Leib Grinshpun and his wife Rachel, of blessed memory, to pray and pour out their hearts before the Creator of the World. The Torah reader was the homeowner himself and he would take care of inviting the prayer leader from nearby Mlynov who would go before the Holy Ark. Especially, the prayer leader R. Eliezer Mohel,[5] of blessed memory, is remembered positively – a reverent Jew who avoided sin and was also a sage who was knowledgeable in Torah. From time to time, Jewish beggars appear in the village, among them entire families from the nearby district. Most of them visited the home of the Grinsphun family, who received them with open arms, fed them until they were satiated, and even filled their sack with provisions for the way and clothes and even donations of money were not withheld.

* * *

There are many memories of the village and our home from those distant days, but buried deep in my memory is a terrible and very shocking incident which occurred on the eve of Yom Kippur – during the prayer “Kol Nidre”[6] in our home – with the outbreak of the War between Poland and Germany in the year 1939.

It was a stormy fall night; an angry rain fell intermittently. Suddenly – when all were absorbed in the holy prayer on the holy day – a large, blinding light shone through the window. For a moment I imagined that the whole area was going up in flames of fire. And suddenly against the background of this sea of flames, were outlines of hunched figures wet from the rain.

[Page 426]

They arrived quickly and drew close to the house. The prayer “Kol Nidre” stopped, and the eyes of all the people praying turned towards the arrivals – Jews from Mlynov, Dubno and other nearby towns.

Terrifying news was on the mouth of these Jews. “The German Nazis set fire to the village Boskovitz,[7] a village that is 7 km [4 mi] from our village. Bedlam and fear prevailed among all the people praying at the sight of the terrified Jews and, upon hearing the news on their lips, most broke out in bitter crying. But the homeowner, R. Yoel-Leib, didn't lose his wits and tried to calm the uproar. His voice reverberated loudly: “Quiet down Jews, continue praying – and the Holy One, via the merit of Yom Kippur, will save us from the hands of the murderers.” And truly, the words of R. Leib came from the depths of his heart, calmed the atmosphere and the prayer continued until the end.

At the end of the prayer, the daughters of the homeowner, Rivka, of blessed memory, and the youngest of the daughters, Gitla, may she live a long life, prepared the home to absorb the broken refugees. There were many rooms in the house and every family was limited to a particular room and individuals found a spot in the attic of the threshing floor, a storage place for fodder. They spread sheets and bedding – and everyone slept from much exhaustion.

At the break of dawn, quiet prevailed in this area and it became clear that the number of refugees who arrived was greater than thirty souls. But anxiety consumed the heart of the refugees and members of the household – the Germans are liable to reach our house and God forbid they wipe out all of us. But the home owner, R. Yoel-Leib again calmed down the refugees and called for those gathered to exercise self-control and believe that God would protect us from all evil. Most of the refugees stayed in my parents' home for more than two weeks. The firstborn son, and also Avraham and Rivkah Mohel packed their bundles and headed towards the Russian border; Batya Matz traveled to Zurnov[8] a village that was about 20 km from Peremilowka. My sister, Bat Sheva, of blessed memory lived there. Other young people left our house and returned to their homes and the elderly remained in our house until the fury passed.

After a number of days, we heard from a distance of several kilometers a clatter of tanks of the Red Army – and immediately the rumors spread that the Russians had reached our village. The Polish and Ukrainian neighbors, infamous antisemites, were perplexed at the sight of the Russian soldiers, who were generally hated by them. These neighbors began to flow to my father, who was very popular with them, in spite of his Judaism, to ask their questions “Have the Russians come to destroy us or to save us?”– – –

Let this be a candle of tribute to the very small community of only a few Jews among the other millions of Polish Jews, who once were but are no longer. – – –

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Likely Peremylivka, Ukraine today which is consistent with the distance from Mlynov described in this essay. The town is east and slightly north of Mlynov on current maps. Return
  2. The spelling of the author's married name in English is uncertain. Tova Wharman (alt. spelling Varman, Warman) was born Tova Grinshpan [alt. spellings Grenspun and Greenspun]. Her father, Yoel-Lieb Grinsphan, described in this essay, is listed among the martyrs (p. 446) of Peremilowka. Her mother, Rachel, died before the war. Her siblings Yitzhak and Bat-Sheva, who both perished, are in the photo of the young people by the Count's waterfall on page 203. In addition to Tova in Israel, a son was living in Israel, another son Micael was in France, and a daughter Mania in Canada. Return
  3. The family of this writer, the Grinsphans, and the Burshtein family. Return
  4. The writer's family described in previous note. Return
  5. Eliezer Mohel was a shochet who came to Mlynov in the 1920s. A photo of Mohel children and their home is on p. 411 with an essay by his son Yitzhak Mohel with additional notes. Return
  6. Kol Nidrei (“All Vows”) is an emotional declaration that ushers in the Day of Atonement by declaring all vows taken in the future to be void and asking for the sins of the congregation to be forgiven. Return
  7. Uncertain. Perhaps Bohushivka or an odd spelling of Varkovychi. Return
  8. Perhaps Zhorniv or Zhornyshche, both about the appropriate distance. Return

[Page 427]

A Ballad of a Tree

by Dvora Mohel-Yarnitsky[1]Natanya [Israel]


On the right—our community,
On the left—Yosel Meir's[2] mill
Rising on green lawns,
Full of yellow flowers.

Reaching until the monument on a mountain
Is the highway made of large, pointy stones;
That is the Mlynov-Mervits road—
Every one of us remembers it.

And after that a straight road.
On the right—standing even now in front of my eyes—
The old tree, with two large branches
Like arms stretched out to the sky. . .

Children, we heard a legend about the tree,
That an important holy man was killed there,
And before his death he stretched out his arms to the sky—
And he was buried on that very place.

And we were told: a miracle happened—
A tree grew, the holy man not forgotten.[3]
Childishly naive, I believed this completely,
And it never troubled me to look at the tree.

Waking up in my memory are
Carefree, happy, summer days
From those times, from my childhood years,
In the shadow of the old tree on Mervits Way

When I went into the fields with my girlfriends,
(Feygele Grinberg,[4] z”l, beloved of many)
Radiant, happy among golden ears of corn—
Picking blue flowers and red poppies,

[Page 428]

And when we became tired and sweaty,
We found rest in its shadow.
Sometimes we were also protected from sudden rain
Under branches of our old friend, the tree.

* * *

On the road from Mlynov-Mervits
Graves were dug
Opposite our old friend, the tree.
Parents and brothers buried alive.

And you, old tree, what can you tell
Of that black day now distant?
Although you did not stand indifferently-cold
When murderers without hearts murdered. . .

You, sole witness, heard all, saw
How the unhappy ones were led to their deaths;
You heard their lamenting screams of woe
And you saw their blood—redder than red.

You saw the last struggles
Of life, bleeding--young, full of love,
To quickly aged, gray, old people,
Of mothers and fathers, broken, tired.

Did you break your branch arms
In great pain? -- --
Did your yellow-green leaf-eyes burn
Or look with cataracts on their deaths? . . .

Did your friend-storm
Carry into all the corners of the world their “Shema Yisroel”--
East, west, north, south—
And stop somewhere?

[Page 429]

Did the golden fields, wheat and corn,
Swallow their wild grief
In those distant days during Tishrei,
On both sides of the Mlynov-Mervits way?

* * *

Old friend of my youth, see,
I cannot even go to their grave,
Nor pour out my grief and pain
Nor bring their flowers on stone.

May then birds on your branches say kaddish[5]
And be guardians over the holy place.
May autumn winds carry your golden leaves
To cover the mass grave of murdered Mlynov-Mervits.


During field work next to [the home of] Chotka Bialkosky[6]


Translator's and editor's footnotes:
  1. Dvora (1914–1987) was one of the Mohel children who escaped in 1941 when the Germans attacked the Russian held parts of Ukraine. She appears in the photo in this volume on p. 411 sitting in front of the Mohel home and is in the photo of Hashomer Hatzair on page 73. For further background on the Mohel family, see the notes on “My Lamentation” and the essay “A Murdered Family,” by her brother, Yitzhak Mohel. Dvora's escape is also in the book length story of her brother Yehuda Mohel's life. Yehuda who was with his wife in Demydivka fled east with a wagon he had procured and met up with his brother Yitzhak, sisters Chaika and Dvorah in Dubno. They piled into the wagon and all fled east.--HS Return
  2. Yosel Meir's refers to Yosel Gelberg son of Meir, who was the owner of the mill.--HS Return
  3. Alluding to The Tree That Resembled a Menorah on the Way from Mervits to Mlynov which grew on the spot where the Karliner rabbi, Rabbi Aaron II of Karlin had died, near Mlynov.--HS Return
  4. Perhaps a younger relative of Faiga Rakhel Grinberg who was born in Mlynov. Yad Vashem records submitted by a son, Shlomo, indicate Faiga Rakhel Grinberg's family name was Ingerman and her father's name was David. Faige Rakhel married Moshe Grinberg who was from Demydivka and she lived there with him during the war. They had four children. She was 60 when she died in 1942 in Demydivka suggesting she had been born in 1882, thus apparently too old to be a friend of Dvorah Mohel. --HS Return
  5. Kaddish refers to the prayer of sanctification said when a parent or other close family members dies.--HS Return
  6. Gerry Steinberg, who was born in Mervits, recalls his parents telling him this was a photo of workers on a gentile farm near Mlynov and some of the workers were Jewish. The gentile named Bialkosky is also mentioned in the essay by Sore Shichman-Vinokur, “Nazi Crimes in the Volyn Neighborhood,” p. 449 in whose home she secured a position as a maid and who helped her entire family escape the ghetto.
    The man kneeling on the left is Fishel Kleinberg, a brother-in-law of Gerry's mother, Pesia (Wurtzel / Vortzel) Steinberg. Standing next to Fishel is his daughter, name unknown. Records submitted to Yad Vashem by Mendel Teitelman, another contributor to this volume, indicates that Fishel was born in Berestechko, Poland in 1895 to Azriel and Leah Kleinberg and was a flourmill owner and married to Gitel (Wurtzel).
    According to a family tree documented by Naomi Tomer in the Teitelman family, Fishel's mother's maiden name was Leah Gruber and she was one of the daughters of Mordechai Gruber. That would make Fishel and Gitel, first cousins. Fishel Kleinberg -> Leah (Gruber) his mother -> Mordechai Gruber, her father. His wife Gitel -> Sooreh Gruber, her mother -> Mordechai Gruber, her father. According to the same family tree, Fishel was one of eight Kleinberg children: Ester, Moshe, Sarah, Etel, Rahel, Eta, Freida, and Fishel and all perished on October 9, 1942.--HS Return


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