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{Page 193}

Vizno
(Chyrvonaya Slabada, Belarus)

52°51' 27°10'

Translated by Yocheved Klausner

 

The village Vizno belonged to the heiress the Princess Witgenstein, Papenlala. The estate measured approximately 5,000 Disyatins, had 958 residents, 2 synagogues, a hospital, 5 shops.
 
(From the Brookhaus-Efron Encyclopedia)

 

slu193.jpg
The Rav Moshe Yakov Mendelowitz
(Died in New-York)

 

Vizno, a small shtetl, contained 150 Jewish families, two synagogues, a rabbi and a ritual slaughterer [shohet]. Most of the residents were orthodox Jews and scholars, and even the so-called secular residents observed most of the commandments and traditions. The synagogue had a Hevrat Shass and a Hevrat Mishnayot [groups dedicated to learning Talmud and Mishna] and a fund for lending money to the needy. How pleasant it was to see Jews working for their sustenance and also learning Talmud and Mishna.

The people in town, as those in the neighboring towns, earned their livelihood from shops, peddling, working at the forest dealers etc. They sent their sons to study at the Yeshivas in Slutsk, Mir, Volozhin and sometimes to the High-Schools in the cities. Some of the rabbis, grown-up and educated in Vizno, occupied posts in other towns, as for example Rabbi Menachem-Mendel and Rabbi Moshe-Yakov Mendelowitz.

The name of the first Rabbi in Vizno was R'Shabtay-Ozer from Vizno. The second, called R'Yechiel Michel Yazgur z”l, was famous in the entire neighborhood. The last rabbi was R'Moshe-Meishel Weiner.

Many of the Vizno Zionists, former residents of Vizno, live in Israel and in the United States, among them the writer Dr. Reuven Wallenrod. During the invasion of General Bulak-Balakhowitz and his army in 1921, the Jews were tortured and Jewish women violated. In 1940, the town was totally destroyed and almost all its Jews were murdered by the Nazis.

 

Fragments from “Be'ein Dor

Reuven Wallenrod

When he came to Vizno for the Holidays, he felt the big change that had occurred in the place. The town looked empty and sad. During the reciting of the Torah in the Synagogue, the joking voices of the Yeshiva students and the sounds of the slow “negotiations for the prices of the Torah portions to be recited” were missing. Changes were felt among his own age-group, as well. Most of the young men had left the study of the Talmud [Gemara], some of them went home, their arms full of secular books, some became merchants or peddlers, looking happy and confidently walking the streets. They did not notice his High-School uniform, and the older generation stopped talking to him respectfully. - - -

He was told about people with whom he had grown up, who fell in the war and he would never see them again. He will never see “Hirshel the long one” or, as he was called since he returned from America “Hirshel Attaboy,” who was sitting at the entrance of his shop at the market, opposite the low green fence of the Church and tell stories, or was playing ball with the school children. In Aizik's imagination, the people of America looked like Hirshel Attaboy: tall and good-hearted, with big yellow shoes and colorful coats, narrow pants and shining golden teeth, standing in the street and throwing colorful balls to one another. On both sides of the street were big houses with open windows, where fathers and mothers, men women and children stood watching and urging the players loudly: Attaboy!!

When the war broke out, was “Hirshel the long one” one of the first in town to defend Russia during discussions and arguments. “You don't know what patriotism means” – he would shout angrily to his opponents: “When the homeland is calling, its sons must go and fight – all the reckoning and side-observations should be done after the war comes to its end. And indeed, when it was his turn, he left his young wife,

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who always looked at him with love and admiration, left his two small children and went to war – and disappeared. His friends related that he was killed in the fields of Eastern Galicia. Another townsman who was killed in the war was Pesach ben Shmuel the butcher, who used to inspect every wagon that came to the market. Pesach Shmuel's was about twenty, had a boyish face and would run around with the little boys as they left the synagogue during the Memorial Prayer and join their mischief. On Yom Kippur he would be among those who handed to the fasting adults the “smelling bottle” to ease their fast. And Moishele the rabbi's son, a handsome and elegant youth, who had organized “The Intelligentsia Club” in town and was a walking with the girls carrying books and newspapers under his arm – now was bent and limping… he would walk as fast as he could, not talking to anybody. Moishele had mutilated himself, by the advice of his relatives, in order to be released from the army (as many young Jews did) and he was certain that everybody knew his secret. - - - -

*

One event remained forever etched in my memory: Meir the blacksmith, small and thin, standing near the dead body of a polish soldier, his hand holding one of the shafts of his winter carriage. Only later it became known how it has happened: as the Polish rider entered the town, everybody hid in their houses. Lipa the short-sighted shames went to draw water from the well, and suddenly the soldier jumped at him: “Water my horse!”

 

slu194.jpg
R'Moshe-Yitzhak Kantor (SHU”V [ritual slaughterer]), born 1860, died 1915. Scholar, enthusiastic Zionist, brother-in-law of Professor Meir Wachsman
(Died in New-York)

 

As Lipa approached the horse with the pail of water, the soldier hit him with his whip, and as he tried again to give water to the horse he jumped on him and pushed him to the ground. The heavy pail turned over and the water poured on poor Lipa. The drunken soldier enjoyed the sight of the man crawling on the ground and kicked him:
- Get up and stand on your feet, despicable Jew! Dog's blood!!! – shouted the drunk Pole, kicked again the shames and whipped him, then he pulled out his sword and dragged Lipa by his beard.
The Jews, hidden in their houses, saw this from behind their windows. Compassionate and merciful as they were, some of them tried to find their way through the alleys, until they found Aizik. When Aizik and his friends came, they saw the wounded soldier and near him Meir the blacksmith, frightened and holding the big rod in his hand; Leibl was standing near his father and looking at him with admiration.

One by one, people began to crawl out if their hiding places, and Leibl said angrily: - What are you standing? Let's take the corpse to the garden and bury it. Are you waiting for his friends, or for the minute his friends will get the news about him? - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

A typhoid epidemic was raging in town, and many were its victims. We would carry the dead through the gardens and white alleys, to the cemetery, situated near the big pine-forest. Not a day passed without a funeral. Most of the time there were two or three deaths a day and the funerals were performed together, the coffins carried in a row. The mourners would walk in the deep snow and it was difficult even to shed a tear, out of the fear of falling into the ditch alongside the road. They were also worried about the children, who had remained home – who knows what calamity could happen there, while the parents were away, who knows who could enter the town through the main road, while they were fighting with the snow on the way to the cemetery?

This was how the Jews were walking together after the black coffins, in the deep snow, stopping every once in a while, with the defense groups in front of them and behind them. - - - - - -

One day, Leibl's father and Aizik's mother died. One funeral was held for both. The two young men followed the coffins, and other men, guns in their pockets, walked in front, at the sides of the coffins. - - - - - - -

Under Lipa's guidance, the ceremony was performed according to the rules. The voice of Aizik's father was heard, as if coming from a distance: - Aizik, say “Kadish…”

- - Aizik was not aware that he was replying – the syllable came out as if by itself:

- No.

Father is begging:
- Aizik, Aizik'l….

- You know I don't believe …. Why “Kadish?”

He felt the words only after he had pronounced them, and only then they gained weight. They were heavy and menacing. But it was possible to cling to them stubbornly.

It was hard. But at the same time it gave him strength: Piercing and desperate was father's question:

-Aizik… you won't say Kadish, Aizik?

 

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