The tragedy and horrors of the Shoah are beyond any measure, but something we cannot allow would be for the memories of the innocent Jews who perished - their names, the stories of their daily lives and the connections to the people they loved and the community they were a part of to vanish without any recorded trace.
A group of dedicated Maytchet survivors got together in 1973 to write memories of their beloved shtetl that is now void of Jews, and to honor family members who were hideously murdered by the Nazis and their local collaborators. Their hope was that through this Yizkor book the lives of the poor souls and the beloved shtetl they lived in would not be forgotten. We do not know where many of them were buried or where they were murdered so this Yizkor book is their only tangible commemoration.
Thanks to the Molchad Yizkor book I discovered Sarah Boretcky Biribis in 1985 from a story she wrote about her grandfather Moshe Aaron Boretcky. I had been told that my gr. Grandfather Yakov Yoseph Boretcky had a brother Moshe Aaron who remained in Maytchet. After making contact with Sarah, with the help of the publisher of the Yizkor book, I contacted Sarah and in 1986 traveled to Israel to meet with her. Even though we did not share a common language we formed a close bond and connected our mutual families. I have also had the good fortune to meet with or be in contact with several other Maytchet survivors. One of them was Martin Small who became my mentor. In addition to Sarah and Martin I also met or was in contact with the following Maytchet survivors. Rachmiel Bar, Channa Boretcky Mechtiger, Fanny Dunetz Brodsky and Mordechai Dunetz from the Bielski family, Mordechai and Tuvia Gorsky, Minna Gorsky Levin, Abrasha Hanelis, Littman Litow, Nachum Margolin, Tzira Rabets (Kaplan- Royak), Meir Novomiski, Nachum Rabinovitch, Charles and Morris Samuels.
In 1995, and again in 2004, my husband Shael and I visited my ancestral shtetls, Maytchet, and nearby Slonim and Baranovichi which were home to my Boretcky, Plofsky, Gorski and Kovensky families. As we walked the streets the stories my parents and other family members (who had shared their memories with me, made the streets of this beloved shtetl come alive. The large church my mother lived across the street of stood out and I envisioned my mother helping take care of the wounded soldiers that were housed there during World War I. It was here she learned to speak several different languages. And I could sense the smell of my grandmother's delicious zermelach, just like the ones she sold in their store. As I stood numbed over the mass grave on the outskirts of the town, that held the remains of 3,600 poor souls from Maytchet and the surrounding towns, I quietly sobbed in prayer. The grave stone, July 15, 1942, marks the date of the mass killings which was just 3 weeks after my 6th birthday. Had both my maternal and paternal families not left Maytchet in the early 1900's I very likely would have been in that grave.
To reach a broader audience, 15 years ago Jewishgen began the translation project of the Yizkor books from Hebrew/Yiddish to English. I volunteered to co-ordinate the translation of the Maytchet Yizkor book. In the years to come, each time someone with a bit of sensitivity comes to read the stories of the people who lived in Maytchet, perhaps there will be a small lessening of the overwhelming destruction and grief as their lives will be remembered. That is the least that we can do, as we know these dear people deserve to be honored, and their hopes and dreams of a better life will be remembered. And to some of us, like myself, we can be grateful to the shtetl and people of Maytchet that supported the start to the lives of our parents and grandparents who mean so much to us.
Throughout the past 30 years my life has been touched and enriched by the survivors and their family members that I have made contact with; some I met personally and others via e-mail and/or phone. Unfortunately during this period of time most of these survivors have passed away. I hope that now that the translation of the book is completed the victims of the Shoah and all subsequent survivors are looking down and kvelling that through the translation of this book they and their beloved shtetl are being remembered now and for generations to come.
The translation of the book may not be perfect but I feel a great sense of pride with mission accomplished. There were multiple translators and the spelling of names and places may be inconsistent between various articles. The index itself in numerous cases was found to be incorrect and the transliteration did not fix such errors. Therefore, the index should not be considered complete. The Yizkor List of Holy Ones as well as names of victims in the Memorial Pages is incomplete. Since the book was printed in 1973 many victims names have been found, and are listed on the Yad Vashem web site. Because this is an ongoing project I encourage you to go to: Yad Vashem and search the Database of Shoah Victims Names. If you know of someone who was murdered in the Shoah and is not listed, fill out a page of Testimony and register their name.
This project required the generous support of many people to make it a reality. I am grateful to all those who enabled me to do so.
The following people either translated stories, scanned photos or made a financial contribution to Jewishgen to hire the necessary translators. Alyson Brodsky, Merwyn Brodsky, Sid Brodsky, Ariel Dvorjetski, Tzivia Romanovsky Fishbane, Roz Greenberg, Merle Gross, Marcia Hirsch, Dina Litow Hirsh, Leon Litow, Nate Kolodny, Sharon Perlman Krefetz, Isaac Margolin, Elliott Miller, Esther Nayman Muller, Roni Rabinovitch, David Romanoff, Pedro Rubio, Dov & Milton Schwartz, Sanford Sher, Madeline Shiffman, Amir Shomroni, Eric Siegel, Michael Siegel, Semadar Siegel, Shael Siegel, Martin Small a/k/a Mordechai Leib Shmuelvitz, Roberta Strauchler and Chaya Turin.
My appreciation also goes out to these volunteers and translators from JewishGen. A special thank you to Lance Ackerfeld, the manager of the JewishGen Yizkor Book Project who saw the project through from its early stages until its now completion. Joel Alpert, the co-ordinator of JewishGen Yizkor Books in Print Project, provided invaluable advice. Nili Goldman book cover design, Marcia Hirsch photo expertise, Jerrold Landau, Sara Mages and Esther Mann Snyder translated various parts of the book. Jerrold also edited several parts of the book that were translated by others.
I hope that you and your family treasure this book which contains memories of our vibrant ancestral shtetl Maytchet, and the beloved people who lived there.
Myrna Brodsky Siegel
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