By Sarah Frank-Shapira
Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv
Our family lived on Kovna street (Kovner Gass), Yurburg's main street. On the other side of the street, opposite our home, was the town's central square, also used as a market. Beyond the square, on the side of the road leading to the Neiman river, the old synagogue stood (Die Alte Shul), a wooden building with a very special form. People would come from all over the country, Jews as well as gentiles, to look at the beautiful synagogue built in 1790. The synagogue was famous far beyond the borders of Lithuania and many tourists came to take a look at it.
The stone building of the Beth Hamidrash (prayer house) stood not far from the synagogue, it was used as a prayer house and a yeshiva (college) for scholars. Usually the light was on at the Beth Hamidrash and many people prayed there.
Our neighbors on the east, in the direction of Kovna, were the Efraim Heselowitz family. They were well to do, and lived in a large house. Efraim Heselowitz was a linen and grain trader who employed many workers in the store-room in his yard. I studied at the Hebrew Gymnasium together with one of the daughters of the Heselowitz family, Etti. Etti survived and lives in Canada. On the other side, to the west, the Yehuda-Leib (Alter) and Malka Petrikansky family lived, the parents of Zevulun Poran, who now lives in Jerusalem. It was a large family with boys and girls, with whom we studied together at the gymnasium. Alter Petrikansky was a linen merchant and in his yard too workers were employed who improved the quality of the linen, packed it and sent it abroad. Behind the Petrikansky home lived the Leib Bernstein family. He was a rich merchant, related to the Heselowitz and Petrikansky families. After a while the Bernstein family left Yurburg and the Feinberg family moved into their home with their daughters Batya and Pipa,who studied at the gymnasium.
Further on, beyond the Petrikansky family, the Reuven Hirsch family lived, the mother and her three daughters. One of the daughters, Tzila, went to Israel at the same time as I. She lived in Haifa. The Hirsch family had a bakery and patisserie where we used to buy fresh bread and warm rolls. After a while the daughter Pessia too went to Israel.
Our family had a quite large grocery-store. After my father died, my mother took care of the family. When there was pressure at the store my mother took on outside help and we children also helped when we did not have classes.
We lived in our own stone house, the grocery-store was at the front and beyond it the living quarters, the yard with its store-room. Work was usually calm during week-days, and only on market days, on Mondays and Thursdays, there was a lot of work. On market days many farmers would come from all the villages in the area and bring their wares along. Once they had sold the goods to the Jews, they would disperse among the shops of the Jews and buy all sorts of items they needed. On market days there was a lot of tumult. Some farmers liked to drink; they would crowd into the pubs, drinking till they were drunk and lost their senses. The farmers who drank too much would create an uproar in the streets of town until they got sober. However, in general, the Lithuanian farmers were moderate; they would come with their wives - buy and sell with good sense.
The farmers would come to our grocery-store too to buy; many of them were regular customers and good acquaintances. We allowed the regular customers to enter our home and eat and drink the farmer's dishes they had brought along. We had good relations with the farmers. It seemed to us that the farmers were good people, who showed the Jews respect and were friendly to them. They would usually drink Vodka on cold winter days, or beer, but would not get drunk. One should not forget that the Lithuanian winter was very cold, and the alcohol would warm body and soul. On market days the store was full of farmers. When I did not have classes, or after school, I would immediately help my mother, as much as I could. I was happy to assist my mother. My younger brother and sister also joined me and helped my mother.
As a child, I studied at the elementary school and afterwards at the "Herzl" Hebrew Gymnasium. The gymnasium building stood in a beautiful park called "Tel Aviv." There was a time when Jews were not allowed to enter the large park. "Jews and dogs not allowed" - said the sign on the entrance gate of the park.
This vile act made the Jews very angry and induced them to establish their own park. An area of land was bought in a beautiful leased area at the rear of town and this became a beautiful park of which the Jews of Yurburg were very proud. A large and beautiful building stood on this site, it was leased to the Hebrew Gymnasium. We loved the park, would stroll in it and have a good time together with the other students. It was nice to study at the gymnasium, We had good and devoted teachers who installed the love of Eretz Yisrael in us and taught us the Hebrew language. I remember that during the break, when we would play, the teachers would walk among us and see to it that we spoke only Hebrew. The slogan was: "Hebrewer speak Hebrew." We loved the gymnasium and our studies. Social life gave us many values and pleasant experiences. We shall never forget the years we studied at the gymnasium. We shall always remember the enchanting village landscape, the Imstra river flowing slowly along and the flights of merry birds. . . . those were happy days, the years when we were young.
When I completed the sixth grade, my mother decided I should learn a profession, towards the future. She therefore sent me to Memel (Klaipeda) to study at the Handel-Schule" (commercial school) there. When I graduated from this school, I received a certificate and returned to Yurburg, where I got a job at the Kommertz Bank, managed by Shmaryahu Bernstein. My mother was very happy that I had found work, was gathering experience and making progress at my job. However, I did not remain at the bank for long.
In those days a revolution was taking place among the youngsters. Matters got worse. The economic situation of the Jews in town deteriorated. The youngsters felt uncertain. The future was shrouded in uncertainty. Some youngsters emigrated to other countries and tried to make a living there, and many looked towards Eretz Yisrael. Yurburg was a Zionist town and our family was Zionist too. The members of my family were therefore also interested in going to Eretz Yisrael. Two sisters of my mother had already gone to Eretz Yisrael a long time ago and they were living in Jerusalem. One of them already went on aliyah in 1905. We always had ties with Eretz Yisrael.
In the early thirties young men and women from Yurburg started to become members of the "Hehalutz" movement which aimed at training youngsters to go on aliyah to Eretz Yisrael. Like many others, I too decided to do so. As I came from an observant family I decided to join "Hehalutz Hamizrahi" and after a short while I went on training. Kovna was my place of training, Yanauver street. I worked at a knitwear factory and at a kitchen too for a while. During the training period we learned a lot about Zionism and Eretz Yisrael. I was on training for about two years, and after that I had to wait a long time before I received the "Zertifikat" - the permit to go on aliyah issued by the British mandate government.
I was grieved at waiting for the certificate. I was impatient, like many others. Finally, however, one day the good news arrived - "we are going on aliyah." I was informed by the "Hehalutz Hamizrahi" center that I could go to Israel, linked to another pioneer, as husband and wife, who also received permission to go on aliyah. This was called a "fiction." It was not very pleasant, but the main thing was to go on aliyah, under any circumstances . . . .
When In arrived in Israel in 1936 my grandmother also joined me, she was "summoned" by her daughter living in Jerusalem. And here the longed -for day of aliyah arrived, and together with my grandmother I arrived in Jerusalem. Here I built my home. My dream had come true and turned into reality. Here too I married Yeruham Shapira and gave birth to three sons (physicians) and a daughter, a university graduate and teacher in Israel.
Since that day I am a Jerusalemite; happy to live in our capital; only the bitter memories of the home that was destroyed in Yurburg, and the brutal murder of my family during the Holocaust make me sad. It is hard to forget and erase the memory of my beloved ones - I shall never forget them.
Translated from Yiddish - Paz
Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv
I always think of Yurburg, the town where I was born, with mixed feelings of joy and sorrow. I had a very happy childhood and adolescence, however, this changed when the tragedy of the fire occurred. Yes, the great fire . . . I can not forget the fire, it still upsets me when I think of it. Whenever I close my eyes, I see horrible pictures -- flames of fire rising up . . . and I also see the house -- our home -- enveloped in heavy smoke, flames of fire bursting forth from it . . . . A truly terrible sight!
Our house went up in flames and nothing was left of it. Not only our house, but all the homes of our neighbors burnt down as well as many other houses in our area, where Jews were living . . . .
Our house was among the first to burn down in the great fire -- we were unable to save anything whatsoever. The fire spread and burnt down one house after another -- nothing was saved. Some Jews claimed the fire was caused deliberately, that it started at the Feinberg mill and spread from there to the Jewish homes in our town. As we lived close to the Feinbergs, I heard -- and indeed can still hear -- the terrible cries for help "Feinberg's Mill brennt! Feinberg's Mill brennt!" But even before it was possible to grasp the extent of the tragedy the fire had already spread to many houses, ours among them.
1940 - The great fire in Yurburg
The Hess family is standing in the street.
Everyone in Yurburg knew that the terrible deed had been committed by the Germans from Smolnikan, together with the Lithuanians, in response to the Russian decision, in 1940, to join Lithuania to the Soviet Union. The fire therefore was a warning to the Jews not to cooperate with Soviet authorities. We, the Jews, were the scapegoat, the victims of hate ....
The result was destructive and very sad indeed. Our family, like many other families, remained homeless. We had to lie down outside, on the area of the Zarda next to the Naiman. Afterwards my family received a room at the Naviazki home, on Kovna street.
Living conditions were hard; there was a shortage of apartments for the Jews who had been affected by the fire. Finally we had to leave Yurburg after a few days and settle in Kovna. It was hard to leave Yurburg. We could not stop thinking about our burnt-down home, or those of our neighbors. I was very sad, for I loved Yurburg, that lovely and beautiful little town. It seems to me that nothing equals Yurburg, with its luscious rivers -- the Naiman, the Mitova and the Imstra which lent it freshness and a beautiful view. Yurburg was surrounded by greenery, there were forests and parks everywhere.
As I remember, there was a very active social life in Yurburg, its citizens lived in an atmosphere of friendship and harmony and helped each other.
Yurburg, our town, is engraved on my memory, and I shall never forget it. I shall always remember Yurburg, the beautiful town, as it was before the fire.
From the time the Nazis entered Lithuania till this very day, I can not forget my relatives who were killed in the terrible Holocaust. Whenever I think of them I feel profound pain -- an entire family was destroyed and is no longer.
I remember my childhood days in Yurburg -- happy and merry times. I lived amongst a large family in an atmosphere of friendship, everyone helping each other. We had a single wooden house with a large yard around it. There were buildings in the yard, stables and sheds for cows and horses. My father, Reuben Hess, was a cattle trader; he would send the cattle to be sold in Kovna by gentiles. He made a good living and we lived a calm and quiet life. My mother Pessia, skillfully managed the household and was a good and devoted mother to her children. We were five brothers in our family -- Nehemia, Israel, Shraga, Beinish and Moshe-Mendel. There were three daughters -- together with me four -- Golda, Gittel and Miriam. The parents watched their children grow up and drew great satisfaction from this.
However, after a while, a terrible tragedy befell my family -- my father, Reuben, contracted coronary disease and died. After my father's death a series of tragedies descended on us, among them the fire, of which I spoke, and the Holocaust. The family was separated. My brother Nehemia, who married, moved to Tabrig, before the Nazi Germans entered Yurburg, and he died there. My sister Miriam and my brother Shraga perished in the days of the Holocaust in Yurburg.
I, my mother and brothers -- Israel, Beinish and Moshe- Mendel -- were living in Kovna. When the Nazi hooligans entered Yurburg many people fled from Kovna in the direction of Russia. My mother, brothers and I, who were living in Kovna, also fled in the direction of Linova. On the way the Nazi pilots attacked the poor people who were trying to escape and many were killed. I and my family were caught by the Nazis who pursued us. The murderers separated the men from the women. My brothers -- Israel, Beinish and Moshe-Mendel, were sent to Port 7 near Talboka and, as far as I know, they perished there.
I remained behind with my mother. We were taken to the Kovna ghetto. After a prolonged stay at the ghetto we, my sister and mother, were sent to the labor camp at Plimon. At the camp we were forced to work carrying bricks. Living conditions were poor. Many had no force left, especially the elderly. One day an "Aktion" was announced of old women and children. A S.S. (Nazi) officer came to me and brutally took away my poor mother, the only one of my family left to me. I never saw her again ..and I remained all alone.
I tried all the time to overcome the difficulties and used all my force to escape the claws of the Nazi beast. The end of the war was near, when I was sent together with other women to the Stuthof camp in Germany. While I was in Germany I passed through six camps, where I worked very hard until my liberation in March 1945. I was safe. The war was over -- and I, the only one of my large family, survived. I was free, but I felt no joy. The feeling of deep sorrow never leaves me.
True, I finally attained peace and quiet. I immigrated to Israel, founded a family and I am happy to be in my own country and among my own people.
However, how can I forget my past -- my childhood days and my parents home in our Yurburg -- or forget what the Nazis did to us?! It is impossible to forget such a Holocaust, such a terrible tragedy, and we should never forget or forgive those who murdered our people.
[Pages 171- 172]
By Yaffa Levin-Teitz
Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv
My family, the Levin family, was an old and well-known family in Yurburg. My father, Mordehai (Mottel) Levin, was born in Yurburg, and so was my mother, Golde-Gittel-born Hess. We were four children in the family - Meir, Raphael, Jaffa (I myself) and Rivka.
Unfortunately, all of them, except for myself, perished in the Holocaust, which affected the Jews of Yurburg, like all other Jewish communities in Lithuania. I remember all of them. I fondly remember their lovely personalities.
My mother was a beautiful woman. Those who knew her when she was young say that she was always elected beauty queen at the charity functions in Yurburg, and received many awards. Nevertheless, my mother was a devoted mother - a modest woman, a good and noble soul.
My father was a well-known merchant in town. He had business ties with German merchants. He was always traveling between Yurburg and Memel (Klaipeda) and Koenigsberg, Brikenkap, Samalnikan etc. for business purposes. My father was an upright businessman, very popular both among Jews and gentiles, and always ready to help. Many of those who knew him spoke of his love for others.
Our family was a good family - it would be a blessing if there were many like it.
In June 1941World War II broke out. I myself was not in Yurburg when the Nazi hooligans entered town. I did not witness the terrible atrocities and was not with my family when destruction came. I shall always be sad about this.
About a week before the war broke out I went to visit my grandmother in Kovna. When the Nazis invaded Yurburg there was no way of return anymore. I was worried about my family, but in those days I was in a difficult position. I entered the Jewish ghetto of Salbodkam, a little girl alone, and I lived through this hell together with the Jews of Kovna.
I was lucky enough to come out alive and at the end of the war I was transferred to the labor camps in Germany. I was fortunate enough to be liberated on the 10th of March 1945 in Launburg, close to the Polish border.
"I am free"! Together with the others in the camp we planned our future - "where shall we go?"
Together with many other refugees, I fled to Germany. From there to France. As I was still a young girl, I joined a youth aliyah group and was fortunate enough to go to Eretz Yisrael, my final destination.
In Israel I was sent to school at Magdiel. Before the War of Liberation I joined the "Gadna" led by Arik Sharon, a native of Magdiel, now a famous general in Israel. After a while I joined the "Palmach" and fought in the War of Liberation together with all the other young Israelis.
After the War of Liberation I got married. We have three children, and I presently have seven grandchildren. A new generation grew up in Israel. I am happy to live in my own country, but memories constantly bring me back to Yurburg, my parents' home, my relatives and friends - all the Jews of Yurburg I loved in that beautiful town.
All those people from Yurburg are no longer. I shall never forget them.
[Pages 173 - 175]
By Rachel Levin-Rosenzweig
Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv
Zeev (Velvel) Levin was one of Yurburg's long-standing inhabitants and a well-known merchant. He dealt in timber and export. In the early twenties an export company was set up in Yurburg, for the purpose of preventing competition and increasing the exporters' scope of activity.
The company's name was "Export-Handel," i.e. export company. Each export sector had a special committee. Zeev Levin was elected to the committee dealing with timber export. Zeev played an important role on the committee, for he was an expert in his field. His wife helped him.
When Lithuania's nationalistic government started to limit the rights of the Jewish merchants, Zeev's brothers left Lithuania and emigrated to the United States.
Zeev and his wife Golde had five sons - Yerehmiel, Yekutiel, Hanan, David and Hillel. The boys were educated at the local school and afterwards at the Hebrew Gymnasium, where they received a Zionist-nationalist education.
Thus life went on until the Nazi occupation in the summer of 1941. The Nazi murderers, assisted by their cruel Lithuanian helpers, put an end to the Jewish community in Lithuania. For three months the murderers tortured the defenseless Jews, until they were covered by dust; but a few managed, in one way or another, to escape from the murderers. The Levin family was almost entirely wiped out. The only survivors were the two sons, Hanan and David, who were absent from Yurburg in those days.
Hanan Levin, born in 1914, fled with his wife Bluma -born Blumenthal- to the Soviet Union. On the way their oldest daughter Nina was born. Hanan was recruited to the Red Army and joined the 16th "Lithuanian" regiment, composed mainly of Jewish soldiers. Hanan served as the division's photographer in the army. Here his gift for photography was discovered. His photographs of the division's fierce battles were published in Moscow and the United States. Hanan became famous for his sharp eye and artistic talent.
In 1944 Hanan arrived in Lithuania with the division and saw the destruction of the Jewish communities, the loss of Yurburg and his family. He had but one moment of solace when he met his brother David who was saved when he hid with a farmer, after he escaped from the Kovna ghetto. Hanan went on with the conquering army to Germany, his camera in hand. The photographs he took in the period of the war are included in the illustrated book "Along the battle path," a document of the battles, soldiers and officers up to the decisive victory over the enemy.
When the war was over, Hanan's family closed ranks; his wife and daughter arrived in Vilna and established their home there.
Hanan joins the Lithuanian newspaper TIESA (Truth) as a senior press photographer. In this function he accompanies the heads of state and their actions. His photographs are published in the press and at exhibitions and he receives praise and awards.
In 1983 a book appears in Vilna which is dedicated to his life and activities as a press photographer - Chanonas Levinas gyvenimo Zingsniai - the book is written in three languages, Lithuanian, Russian and English.
Hanan and his wife presently live in Vilna together with their daughter and son Moshe. His children founded families and they all live in Vilna. His daughter Galia emigrated to Eretz Yisrael in 1972 and is an English teacher at present. Hanan has close ties with Israel, but his wishes have not yet been realized . . .
Hanan's brother, David Levin, was born in 1915 in Yurburg. He studied at the local school and then completed his studies at the Hebrew Gymnasium in Yurburg. His complementary studies were in accounting. Like his friends, he too was a member of the Zionist youth movement and absorbed the love of Eretz-Yisrael.
In the days of the Holocaust David was in Kovna and was put into the ghetto, where he passed through hell, but survived. Before the ghetto was destroyed he escaped and hid with a farmer's family.
When the war was over the "Bricha" (Escape) to Eretz-Yisrael movement was founded in Kovna and Vilna. At the start of 1945 David left Kovna, together with his girlfriend-wife Rachel (Rashel) -born Rosenzweig - and joined the groups of blockade-runners who arrived in Eretz-Yisrael in unconventional ways. After a long, daring and exhausting journey David and Rachel reach the shore of Israel, David's goal has been reached, his dream has indeed come true.
David settles in Tel Aviv and establishes his home there. He gets a job at the "Hasneh" insurance agency as senior accountant. He serves the company faithfully, is popular and well-liked by all.
David and Chanan Levin (Page 175)
David was a nice man, and with his quiet way and love of mankind he made many friends and companions. David often meets his old friends from Yurburg, his place of birth, which he never forgets, and together with a number of friends they set up the "Former Residents of Yurburg Association." It is the purpose of the association to gather together all those who have come from Yurburg, in order to commemorate their Jewish community which was destroyed by the German murderers. David took part in all the association's plans - the conventions, the planting of the forest named after the Yurburg community, the commemoration in the Holocaust basement, etc. He also served as the association's auditor. His home was always open to former residents of Yurburg, city-dwellers as well as kibbutz members. He totally identified with the association and its aim to commemorate the Yurburg community. However, before he could witness the realization of the association's plans he was taken away by an early death, at the age of 56. David's absence is deeply felt by the Former Residents of Yurburg association, whose members are naturally getting sparse. He assisted the association in its activities, and was a friend of many of its members. However, David's home has remained open. Rachel tries to keep up the family tradition, is active in the Lithuanian Jewish archives, which include the Yurburg community. David's only daughter, Hassia, is a mathematics teacher and established her home in Ramat Aviv, her son is named after David.
The home established by the late David in Tel Aviv still constitutes a warm corner for the entire Levin family, both those in Israel and relatives arriving from abroad; Rachel keeps in touch , and hopes the relationships will continue as long as possible.
[Pages 176 - 178]
By Zvi Nehemia Hess
Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv
The memories of Yurburg, my town of birth, go back to 1929. That was the year when I graduated from the Hebrew Gymnasium in Yurburg and left town. I used to return to my parents' home for a few days once or twice a year. My parents' names were Tuvia and Menuha. My grandfather on mother's side was called Hirshel and on
father's side Nehemia; when I was born in 1920 I was named after them, Hirsh-Nehemia.
I spent my childhood years in the little town of Shaudina on the other side of the Neiman. At the start of World War I, when father was recruited to the Russian army, it was hard for my mother to support her three young children, therefore she sent us to Shaudina, where my mother's brothers Meir and Aba and her sister Hava and grandmother Lea lived. When the German army conquered Shaudina, they opened a primary school there in the German language and I studied at that school.
When father returned from the army we also returned to our home in Yurburg. We were seven children in the family - four daughters and three sons. I studied at the "heder" (religious elementary school) with a "Melamed" (teacher at a heder) and later on at the Hebrew Gymnasium until my graduation. We lived on Yurburg's main street opposite the Christian church. We were a close-knit family, and observed tradition, like most other families in town. At home Yiddish was spoken. At an early age I went with father to pray at the prayer house, close to the town's market. On the "high holidays" we prayed at the ancient Great Synagogue, a beautiful building with wood carvings on the holy ark and Elyahu's beautiful chair. Father had fixed seats ("Statt") at the two great synagogues, which he had inherited. My father was a merchant and traveled to the villages, bought cattle, poultry and sold them to the butchers in town.
Family life took its usual course, without any particular problems. I studied languages at the humanities faculty of the Lithuanian state university in Kovna. I made a living as a private tutor. After a while I was recruited to the Lithuanian army. I was sent to the army officers' school (Karo Mokykla). After my army service I took a complementary course at a physical education institute and served as a gymnastics teacher at the Hebrew Gymnasium in Kovna. At the same time I was a trainer at the "Hapoel" sports association.
World War II broke out in those days. The Nazis invaded Lithuania and our town of Yurburg was among the first casualties. The Jewish community was destroyed and our family perished. My parents, two brothers - Israel and Leibel- and the two sisters - Deborah and Bila - were murdered together with all the other Jews and no trace is left of them.
My sister Golda and her husband Shlomo Klininsky survived. They went to Israel. Shlomo passed away in Israel in 1977. My sister Hannah, who was saved together with her husband Yitzhak Shleifer, had the good fortune to go to Israel as well, and they passed away - Yitzhak in 1973 and Hannah in 1981. Both Golda and Hannah were in the Kovna ghetto and the Stutthoff camp in Germany.
I managed to flee to Russia with my wife Sonia. After we passed through hell we reached Uzbekistan and there we worked as high school teachers. After World War II we returned to Vilna. I taught at the technical college and the Lithuanian university, as senior lecturer, for almost thirty years.
In 1976, after 20 years of denial, I was finally able to realize my dream and received an exit permit to emigrate to Israel, together with my wife Sonia. In Israel I worked for three years as a clerk at the municipality of Bat Yam, and in 1979 I retired. In 1986 I moved from Holon to Jerusalem, where I now live in the Ramot quarter, close to my family. My son, Elyahu, emigrated to Israel after 13 years of denial. He is a graduate of the Vilna university, a mathematician.
I often ask myself what the most pleasant memories are that I have of Yurburg. The answer is - they are many and unforgettable. I will never forget the Hebrew Gymnasium on "The Gaon of Vilna" street, as the street was called by many Jews. The Gymnasium was called "Tel Aviv" by the Jews and the park around it was called "Tel Aviv Park."
I remember the names of the teachers who taught us - Zantkovsky, the bible teacher - to this very day I am able to recite select chapters from Amos and Yeshayahu which I learned from him. I also remember the excellent teacher Kossotzky, who taught literature and history, or Mordehai Taichman who taught mathematics and also was the principal of the gymnasium.
Then there were teachers like Mobshowitz and Dambo and the chemistry teacher, engineer Hen and the German language teacher, Mr. Lerman, who was an expert on German language and it was said that he knew Goethe's "Faust" by heart. And while I am writing these lines, I recall the profound sermons of Ha'Gaon Avraham Diamant, which were so impressive. I was also deeply impressed by chief Cantor Alperowitz, a tall and handsome man, who would sing with the choir at the synagogue on holidays and sometimes on the Sabbath as well. He was well versed in music and composed many beautiful melodies for the holidays.
I recall many Jews in Yurburg, among them the physician Gershtein, the pharmacist Bargovsky and hundreds of other scholars, as well as "simple people," honest men.
However, my most pleasant memories of Yurburg are from the days when we were young, when I was a member of the "Hebrew Scouts Hashomer Hatzair" movement. I remember the scouts club at the end of town and its lively and cultural atmosphere. I was most impressed by the chief youth leader, Haim Seiger, whose lectures were full of the love of Israel and Eretz-Yisrael. "Older brother" Haim Seiger devoted many
hours to educating the scouts, and the scouts loved him in return and remember him. I can still hear the sentimental songs we sang and the unforgettable patriotic songs.
I also remember the outings in the beautiful landscape surrounding Yurburg, and the scouts camps in the heart of nature. It is impossible to wipe any of this from my memory.
Yurburg was and is no more. There was a Jewish life there, there were dreams and hopes. All that is gone, never to return. I shall never forget our dear ones in the town where we were born and our community which was destroyed.
[Pages 179 - 183]
By Zevulun Poran
Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv
My family arrived in Yurburg from Russia in 1922 and settled at the home of uncle Leib Bernstein on Kovna street, opposite the square of the Great Synagogue.
My grandfather, on father's side, Zevulun (Zavel) Petrikansky, was born in the little town of Kazlo-Roda (in Yiddish: "Kazlava-Rude) in 1865, the fatherland of the Petrikansky families. Kazlo-Rode is a very special little town; entirely covered by forest trees and in the center of town there is a relatively large railway station, mid-way between Kovna and Germany. The Petrikansky families, and among them my grandfather Zevulun (Zavel) Petrikansky, were timber traders, owners of lumber mills and guest houses. My grandfather married Toive (Tova) Lapidot and they had a son Yehuda Leib (Alter), an only son after two of his older brothers died of diphtheria. My grandfather was a trader, like all the Petrikansky families, and he was a partner in the family enterprises; he died at an early age and my grandmother died in old age in Novo-Poltvaka, a Jewish settlement of farmers in south Russia.
My grandfather, on mother's side, Yosef Bernstein, was born in 1855 in Neistatt -Shirwint, on the German border. He married Chaya and they had two daughters and one son, Leib Bernstein (1875). Yosef's wife Chaya died at an early age. One of Yosef's daughters is Malka who married Yehuda Leib (Alter) Petrikansky. Grandfather Yosef Bernstein died in Novo-Poltvaka in south Russia.
My father was born in 1885 in Kazlo-Rode. When he grew up he continued his father's business and settled at an estate near the lovely little town of Isaki-Rode, near Kazalo-Rode. This was the estate of his father in law Yosef Bernstein.
When World War I broke out in 1914, the family was exiled to Harson in south Russia.
During the years of the revolution in Russia in 1917 and the hunger, our family moved to the Jewish farming settlement of Novo-Poltvaka, where we made a living. My father was appointed officer of the Independent Jewish Defense in the days of the progroms. In Russia we studied at Russian-Soviet schools and in private we studied Hebrew and Jewish studies. From here we moved after a couple of years to Minsk, the capital of White Russia (Belorussia), in order to reach Lithuania where Uncle Leib Bernstein lived, in Yurburg. After about two years in beautiful and hungry Minsk we finally reached our destination, independent Lithuania where we settled, as mentioned before, in Yurburg.
Uncle Leib Bernstein himself moved to Shavli, where he set up a large plant for linen processing called "Semlinas."
My father entered the world of business and joined an exporters company in Yurburg called "Export-Handel." He headed the linen and linen seeds section. In 1928 the Lithuanian-nationalist government took over the import/export business, removing it from Jewish hands. The injustice cried to heaven. My father then went to manage the Semlinas factory in Shavli, which was a unique factory in Lithuania. In the early thirties our family went to live in Kovna.We were seven people - my father in Shavli, my mother and three brothers - Yacov, Moshe, Itzhak and three sisters- Chaya, Rachel and Shoshana in Kovna. I no longer lived at home at that time. My brothers who had not yet graduated from the gymnasium in Yurburg, continued their studies at the gymnasium in Kovna. My sisters studied at the state university. My sister Shoshana went on training. The years we spent in Yurburg were pleasant and prosperous years. We got attached to the beautiful little town and its charming surroundings. Its beautiful sights were an integral part of us. When we were children and teenagers we saw many beautiful places in Russia, but none of them as charming as Yurburg. Wherever we went, when we left Yurburg, we saw ourselves as Yurburgers in heart and soul. We shall never forget that wonderful Jewish community.
Our family was a traditional family, very close, a Zionist family, aspiring to go on aliyah and realize its ideals. However, from all the family members only two managed to go to Israel - my sister Shoshana and I. The others, all the members of my family, parents, brothers and sisters, were murdered in the terrible days of the Holocaust at the Kovna ghetto. They suffered terribly at the ghetto. My oldest sister Haya, a graduate in literature and philosophy of the Lithuanian university married the author and poet Ari Glasman, one of the editors of the "Yiddishe Stimme" and they and their five-year old son Giora were put into the ghetto and lived together with our family. (Just before the war Ari Glasman published a first novel in Yiddish "A Fenster zu der Welt," he also belonged to the group of young authors and poets of which Lea Goldberg was a member. Avraham Shlonsky, the writer, sent him a Zertifikat, but too late . . . .) When he entered the ghetto, Ari Glasman was immediately taken in the action of the 550 "intellectuals" to a place from where he never returned . . . my sister Rachel, a surgeon, worked at the illegal hospital at the ghetto, where she was murdered together with the patients and the doctors. My brother Yacov died from physical exhaustion and suffering at the ghetto and he was buried at the Jewish cemetery in Salvodka.
The story goes that my brother Moshe, who was an engineering officer in the army, introduced arms into the ghetto, and trained those going into the woods.
All my other relatives were murdered in the underground bunker at the end of the bloody war. All of them were the victims of the horrible Nazi-German crime!. . . .
Little Giora, the son of Chaya and Ari Glasman, who grew up in hiding, died together with the family, and already at an early age, as told by the survivor Gail, he wrote a diary and songs, part of which she remembers by heart -
(Translated by Paz)
He too, Giora, the young child, went together with the others.
My sister Shoshana, who went to Israel before me, married Aharon Kanishinsky. Shoshana was a teacher in Ramat Gan, where she lived, until she retired. The Kanishinsky family had two sons, Avraham and Aviahu, university graduates, who live in Arizona, U.S.A., with their families.
Family of Zevulun Poran (Page 181)
I went to Israel after a long stay in Lithuania. I studied in Kovna at the teachers college and the university. As a teacher, I was sent to the little towns of Kalbaria and Zizmar, and after that I served as the pedagogic director of the children's home in Kovna. I was active in the "Maccabi" youth movement and then in "Hashomer Hatzair" as a youth leader and member of the chief management and head of the nest in Kovna. For a couple of years I was the movement's representative at the "Hehalutz" center and the "Das Wort" editing committees, a member of the "Keren Hakayemet" center and other institutions. I took part in the 20th Zionist Congress as a representative of the Eretz Yisrael Haovedet list and in Zionist-pioneer youth conferences in Europe.
In the agricultural training I was a member of the Dompen group in the Memel district and I went to Israel with the pioneering aliyah in 1938. In Israel I changed my name to the Hebrew name Poran, a kind of rebirth . . .
When I came to Israel I joined Kibbutz Kfar Massaryk, when it was set up, including the "Homa veMigdal" (Tower and Stockade) days. I worked as the movement's envoy at the educational institute in Mishmar Ha'Emek. I was a member of the "Haganah" and after the War of Independence and military service in the besieged capital I settled in Jerusalem. I worked at the head office of "Keren Hakayemet" as the director of the Zionist-education department, in educational publications and in teachers training. At present I am retired and a member of the Former Residents of Yurburg association, I am the editor of the memorial book of the community of Yurburg, where I was educated and where my personality and Zionist outlook were formed. I had the good fortune to go to Israel, assist in its building and live in the independent State of Israel. In Jerusalem I coordinate the activities of the Former Residents of Lithuania association, which aims at facilitating the absorption of emigrants from Lithuania in Israel and especially aims at commemorating the Lithuanian communities which were destroyed in the Holocaust.
In Israel I married Zippora Kandel, a Holocaust survivor from Dresden, Germany, who is my all-time companion, and encourages me in my work and public activities. In Jerusalem - at Kiryat Hayovel - Zippora and I established our home and here our two daughters were born -Anat, who is a teacher in Jerusalem, married Zvi Rametz, an artist and printing studio owner. Our first grandson - Shachar - is presently serving as a paratrooper in the IDF, and the two girls, Shani and Shiran are getting on with their studies, one at high school the other at elementary school. The parents of Zvi Rametz, Shlomo and Rivka, Holocaust survivors, live in Jerusalem. They come from the Vilna area. Osnat, my daughter, is a teacher and educator, married to Nehemia (Nemo) Ari, an engineer and they have three sons - Nimrod, Yiftah and Itamar, pupils at school. The family lives at "Omer" near Beersheba. The parents of Nehemia, Gideon and Yoheved, Holocaust survivors, live in Jerusalem. They come from Vilna.
The members of my family in Tel Aviv, on my mother's side are the Tulia Kapulsky family, the daughter of Clara and Zeev Dushinsky, the granddaughter of my uncle Leib and Vittel Bernstein. The daughter Tulia is married to Arie Kapulsky, the owner of the "Kapulsky Enterprises." Their son, Dr. Raziel Kapulsky, a physician and their daughter Vitia and her family. Uncle Leib Bernstein died in the first days after his aliyah to Israel and was buried at the municipal cemetery in Haifa. His daughter Clara Dushinsky died in Tel Aviv and her two sisters - Michalina Kantor and Dora Habar live in the United States.
Three sons of the Leventhal family, grandsons of my grandfather Yosef Bernstein - Dr. Yedidia Leventhal, was a volunteer in the War of Independence, helping to rehabilitate those wounded in the war; the brothers Sol and Lou are also doctors and they live in the United States, all of them love Israel. From those of Petrikansky origin - those in Israel coming from Kazlo-Rode - the late Hannah Petrikansky, Gita Petrikansky -Levinson (Netanya) and Yosef Petrikansky, Holocaust survivors in Tel Aviv. One of the Petrikansky families who were saved lives in Montevideo in Uruguay and another family in Canada.
Here the story of my family, the Petrikansky family, comes to an end, the generation of fathers and sons, who died like martyrs, killed by bestial German-Nazi and Lithuanian murderers.
Those who are left of the family will always remember their dear ones and bequeath their heritage to the next generations.
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