1. The War
21st of June in the year 1941. A rumor was spreading in the town that we once again were facing war. We had not yet been able to absorb the events of the war from a short time ago and the change of Polish to Soviet authority which turned upside down all the accepted ways of life and traditions that stood for generations and which brought down the mighty while it raised the lowly; before we managed to recover from the legal collapse brought on by the entrance of the Russians who confiscated the best parts of the town and stole with their laws the fruits of years of labor by different hands, once again war.
I went outside and the town was seething with excitement. Groups of people standing about and exchanging confidences and their eyes filled with fear and terror. The rumor is confirmed at once. A group of Russian officers who made up the authority of the town, ran around from house to house with their police mobilizing the youth and mean of army age, arranging them in columns in the street and without giving time for farewells marched them out of the town towards the administrative centers of Brisk. Among the draftees were Chaim Yashpah, Meir Shuchman, Shmuel – the shoemaker’s son, Chaim Libshavski and his brother in law Yehudah Feldman, Moshe Polick, Avraham – the cart driver’s son, Shalom Lazer Gliberson, Simchah Goldberg, Abba Yashpah, Benyamin Stravitch and others who I no longer remember.
The broken hearted, harried mothers of the draftees ran to a from with a blanket or Talit and Tefilin, trying to hand them to their sons and unable to find them. The fathers stood in shock and mourning, their eyes filled with deep sorrow. The words forming unconsciously on the lips: who knows what this war will bring us.
The parents did not wait long for their mobilized sons. They all returned to
town after two days pursued by the Nazis and their helpers who greeted them
before they reached their destination and scattered them to the winds. The
treason was prepared in advance and the entire Brisk district was sold to the
Germans by a general named Pablov who made all the preparations to allow the
Germans to take over the area without any fighting. According to the residents
of the area around the town of Valodovah that lay on the bank of the Bag river,
the traitors prepared there a full forest of artificial trees and stood them
along the length of the river to hide the German invasion. The people who
at the airport narrated that on the day of the German invasion they received an
order from the above mentioned general to empty the gas tanks of all the planes
parked there, to dissemble each plane as if to give them a good cleaning, and
this to prevent receiving any help from the Red Air Force. The residents of
Brisk saw a totally different type of treachery. It was known that an agreement
between the Russians and the Germans existed from 1939 that Russia would assist
Germany with grain and wheat and in return Germany would send coal to Russia.
The main shipments of coal went by Brisk. On the day of the invasion, a train
arrived at four in the morning that was supposed to be carrying coal, but
instead of coal thousands of German troops jumped from it and immediately began
to take over the city with the assistance of thousands of paratroopers that the
Germans set down in the area occupied by the Russians near the old border. One
group of paratroopers met on its way a group of these draftees from our town
were being lead by the Russians to a meeting point and scattered them to the
2. Reports Of Terror
Before many days passed, reports of thievery and murder began to come in from the neighboring towns. Some Jews from Talchan came to Motol telling the bitter news that the Gentiles launched a pogrom against the city’s Jews, plundered and looted their property, and also killed some Jews, set fire to their houses and drove many out of their homes. Another report came from the town of Svintah-Walyah that its Gentiles gathered all the Jews into one house, beat them without mercy, and did not allow them to leave the house in order to finish them off with hunger. These events occurred before the Germans setup a stable authority and the Gentiles made do with a small scale pogrom. The fear of authority still governed them. But with the conquest of the area by the Germans, they were given a free hand to their most base, wild desires that were kept in check until now.
We had guarded nights since these reports were confirmed. The people that
stayed awake all night gathered and took care from a sudden attack as took
in the other towns. Also during daylight, we would not go out without defensive
weapons such as iron bars, axes, hammers and the like. There were also cases
when the Jews succeeded in driving out some "Black Century" gangs and cooled
their wild passions with a few broken skulls. But the gangs multiplied hourly
and sprouted like mushrooms after the rain. We especially suffered from the
gangs that organized themselves from the villages: Aufolyah, Aufirvah,
Dadvitch, Pantsvitch, Talchan and Svintah-Walyah. These were among the last
already developed a taste for larceny and when the impulse came it was hard to
stand up against them.
3. German Rule
On the fourth day of the War, the Germans appeared in our town. We did not know how to behave with the new authority: should we receive them with bread and salt as was the custom with all new rulers or not? We had already heard of how Germans treated the Jews and how they incited the Gentiles to torment the Jews, but maybe this was only a bad wind that would soon pass over and the new authorities planned to leave us alone.
But the Germans did not leave us in doubt for long and they revealed their true face as soon as they came in. As they entered the town, Leibel Yashpah crossed the street and was pointed out as a Jew by a Gentile, the son of Sergei the tanner. The soldiers lifted their whips and struck him with heavy blows and with difficulty he was able to flee while still alive. This was the first German reception that showed us their warped faces and our mood grew darker and darker.
Many of us did not want to believe the spreading rumors of the German plans for the Jews and to comfort themselves belittled the importance of the incident by saying that it was the wickedness of a few isolated soldiers and without doubt most of them are different and tried to calm things down. But there was immediately another incident that woke them up. Remember Yisrael Chimerinski who was known as "Malyosh". He was a horse trader. Some soldiers came in and demanded horses for the army. When he showed them some horses that they did not like, they fell on him and struck him with such blows that he was confined to his bed for several weeks.
Incident followed incident filling the cup of woe and sorrow until even the optimists among us who comforted each other with the theory that establishing a stable authority would rein in the wild spirits and restrain the wild mob, also bowed their heads and were seized by fear and trembling.
Here is once incident. When the Germans entered the town Lahiszyn adjoining Motol, their soldiers attacked Jewish houses to loot them. One of them entered the house of Meir Novick (cousin of the late Professor Chaim Weitzman), a resident of our town who settled in Lahiszyn. His wife was busy diapering a six week old infant and when she saw the soldier about to enter the house she panicked and left the baby and hid herself. When the soldier entered and saw the baby unattended by anyone he lifted his voice and shouted: where are the people in this blasted house who leave a baby alone? The mother, hearing his words, innocently thought that the infant’s crying touched the soldier’s heart and left her hiding place and ran to the baby. But the soldier arrived first. He lifted the infant on its pillow and cruelly smashed it soft skull on the wall. This murder placed fear in everyone’s heart and blotted out any hope that a stable authority will bring quiet and calm.
With this, the Germans began to incite against the Jews the local Ukrainians and White Russians who gladly received the freedom to go wild and let loose their base instincts. All our friends, with whom we maintained personal and business connections, became our enemies. And on the day that the hobnailed boots of the Germans marched in our town’s streets and it was forbidden for Jews to appear on the street, the Gentiles burst into our shops and took out everything they could find.
Meanwhile, the Germans publicized some orders to the residents. Most of the orders were directed only towards the Jews. These were:
4. The Sneaky Theft
When we realized that our property was up for grabs, many of us began to hand over our most precious possessions to Gentile acquaintances and friends of many years for safekeeping until the danger passed. They also hoped during the time of the danger that they would find sanctuary in the good Gentile’s house in return for a few promised things and they could survive. The Gentiles jumped at this opportunity and began to appear at the homes of their Jewish acquaintances and told them they received authoritative information that the Jews will be attacked soon and their property robbed, and they are willing to take some possessions for safekeeping. Some of the more sober among us warned not to hand over property and jewelry to the Gentiles, because by doing this we turn them into mortal enemies, for they will be the first who want to rid themselves of their Jewish "depositors" and enjoy the loot, but no one listened. Everyone hoped to survive and wished to keep a little property for life after the war.
When it became known to the other Gentiles that Jews are handing over their property to their acquaintances, others went after Jewish homes and demanded deposits also. And when they received no reply, a crowd of Gentiles gathered in the market square and incited them to go after our property.
Not many days passed after this merciful and sneaky theft and we began to feel that the faces of our good Gentile friends were not as they used to be. They distanced themselves from us, when we turned towards them with a request for help they avoided us, and rumors came to us that they helped hatch up a plot to more quickly rid themselves of the Jews so that the Jewish property could be kept permanently. The rumors kept on increasing that an extermination plot was hatched against us. From the neighboring town rumors reached us of killing and destruction. But we still did not want to believe. We deluded ourselves into thinking that the evil had not yet reached us. The will to live was very strong, we wanted to live. We believed that our oppressors would be satisfied with our property and maybe they would enslave and torture us. But in this case, the strong will survive, and everyone thinks himself as strong. We held out the shred of hope that the slight sanctity of life would float on the waves of hate and torture. And only a few of us saw correctly that there was no escape or refuge and nobody would escape alive from this Hell.
The sober among us tried to raise a defense movement by saying: our end is approaching, our fate is sealed and if to die - let us at least die with honor. Let the foul murderers know that our blood is not cheap! We would buy with the last of our money weapons and defend ourselves until our last breath. We will not go like sheep to the slaughter.
But the majority of the city dwellers raged against them: What! Do you want
to bring destruction down on an entire community and on all the Jews? A miracle
can still occur and somehow we will be saved, we must not lose hope, and what
strength do we have against the multitudes surrounding us. And so the people
were split in their opinions and dispersed without making a decision and
5. The Final Joy
The eight of Av, Friday. 5 The Jewish Committee of our town received an order to report to Jonava and receive the Gestapo’s new orders.
At this opportunity, I will present the committee’s members. The first is Dalogin the druggist, Kamintski the doctor, Moshe Pisatski, Berel Cheej (Tabolker), Loyal Krickon (grandson of Reb Yicheal Moliyar), and Yehoshuah Daniels.
When these appointees appeared at Jonava, they saw how the authorities and Gestapo heads ran in confusion and the army was returning from the front. The Gestapo said to them: go home and conduct your life as you wish. We are leaving here and tomorrow your beloved Russians will return They saw with their own eyes how they gathered the possessions and joined the retreating army.
As could be understood, the committee’s members did not waste much time and immediately returned to the town and with overwhelmingly joy told everyone what they saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears. And as if to confirm their words, Russian airplanes were seen in the sky attacking German airplanes and the retreating army; the sounds of the explosions rang in our ears like a song of redemption.
An additional confirmation that heightened hopes was received from the few that courageously hid radio sets and listened to them in deepest secrecy. These daring ones were: Hershel Shuchman, Moshe Shuster, Meir Shuchman, David Kroyitski, Izik Bonovitski and myself. It must be understood that we were in mortal danger if caught in the act. That evening we received the news that the Germans had suffered a great loss and were retreating to the Pinsk area. We were afraid, but the hope deepened that this was really the final fall of the Germans.
The next day, on the Sabbath, I went to synagogue. The people wandered around confused and nothing was known clearly. But as we returned, we were amazed to see two Germans riding on their motorcycles, dressed in elaborate uniforms toward Nishtut. Together with me, went my uncle Benyamin Hanger (Bahon) and his children, Reuven Mishkin (son of Mordechai Dam Kromins), Shlomke Kroyitski and his children and some others. As we went, besides the two above mentioned Germans, there were two others similarly dressed. We looked at them with obvious pleasure. They must be the remnants of a beaten and bewildered regiment searching for a path of retreat. We remembered that also in 1918 when the Germans were beaten in that war, how they ran through the town without knowing where they were going. We went home feeling lighthearted.
But even this momentary joy was immediately diluted with a drop of torment. Before entering our homes, we met Yisrael Chimerinski’s wife and she told us of Christian information from the village of Aufolyah who told her that the Germans with the help of a Gentile mob killed all the Jews there from young to old.
Although she added that it was likely that the Gentile only intended to frighten us so that we would deposit our property in her care, even with that our joy was frozen and our world had turned black.
We begin to notice that the Germans were traveling in complete calm and did
not appear to be beaten. They traveled and spread themselves through all the
streets and alleys and did not leave the impression that they planned to uproot
themselves. In a moment our mood changes and the fear returned in all its
6. The Beginning Of The End
We arrived at the house of my uncle Benyamin Polick (that before was of Hershel Nechamias and next to the house of Leebah Leeman [Hobs] that now belonged to the above mentioned son-in-law Shlomo Kroyitski on Hazamoshai Street) and with dread we surveyed what was before us. Suddenly a frightened Gentile passed by and said that in the town there are now more than a thousand Germans on horseback, all of them in elaborate uniforms and they are surrounding the town on all sides and driving all the people from the fields to the city. From afar, I saw how Moshe Pisatski was being led in the direction of the market under gun point, with the Gentile children joyfully running around him and shouting wildly. After this, we heard the proclamation ordering all male Jews from the age of fifteen to sixty to immediately report to the market square.
Some of them rushed pass us saying they killed the little boy of Benyamin Gotanski (Mahashamarchoks) when he wanted to cross the street and the Gentile children pointed out he was a Jew.
We dashed off an escape plan that took us by the Gentile cemetery adjoining the river and along the river to the Vigodah forest. We spoke and acted. We were joined by Reuven Mishkin, his three cousins Yosef, Shlomo, Hershel, David Kroyitski and his brothers. During our flight we managed to warn some other people who hurried and escaped as the extermination closed in.
As soon as we arrived at the forest we saw that some Germans reached the edge of the city from which we left and stood guard in order to block the way from the other escapees. In the forest we met some Gentiles who fell upon us shouting, "Zid! You escaped for nothing, You’re finished!" We went further and met some acquaintances among the Gentiles who told me in the village of Zaziryah, a man, a woman and their two children were shot and the reason for the killing was that they were Jews.
My cousins, on hearing this, said they would return to town to save the remainder of their family. David Kroyitski accompanied them. They passed by the first watch that allowed them to enter, but the second watch opened fire on them and with difficulty they escaped to the other side and ran back to the forest. When we saw this, I began to beg the Gentiles to let us pass to the other bank of the river, but they refused even though I offered them different things in return.
I calculated that it was essential for us to cross the river and arrive at the village of Tishkavitch of my cousin and there we could hide ourselves. We had many Gentile acquaintances and if we needed to hide in the forests or in the known swamps of the area, the area was known to my cousins who were familiar with every track and path and would be able to help us with food and clothing. But how to cross the river?
Deliverance was not long in coming. The guiding hand that wanted me to stay alive send a guide in the form of a Gentile whom I observed going directly to the river, taking off his clothes and beginning to cross the river. Without hesitation, I removed my clothes and Reuven Mishkin and I followed the Gentile to the other side of the river. I came to Tishkavitch and entered my aunt’s house and they also were hiding in fear of gangs that organized themselves from time to time to loot Jewish property in our town and enjoy our suffering and help finish us quickly off.
On my arrival, they arranged a hiding place for me and I requested my aunt to
entice one of her Gentile acquaintances to go to Motol to see what is happening
there. She did get someone who was agreeable to making a try after a proper
was promised. He lingered there until Saturday night and returned at midnight
and we watched in impotent despair while listening to his words.
7. The Extermination
The Gentile returned with his tale of destruction and poor I listened. My heart did not break although tears flowed like a river; I did not go mad, although my temple throbbed like a hammer. The bitter faith kept me alive to tell the world what the German people did to us exterminating baby and infant, aged and elderly, and on the Lord’s Day of Judgment not a remnant of them will remain.
The Gentile related the following. (Here I must note that I have entered into the Gentile’s account many things that I heard from those who managed to survive by various ways and who I consulted with before the second slaughter.)
When I arrived in town the German guards let me enter. But a great fear fell on me when seeing the guards wandering the streets and houses and shooting in the air all the time to frighten the people in hiding and they took all the men and forced them into the marketplace.
I was seized by trembling on approaching the marketplace. I saw how they forced Reb Yisrael Valodavski (Havigodar) to sing and dance. They did not like his singing, naturally, because who among us does not remember what sort of singer he was, so they beat and whipped him into a dance.
Yishayahu Portnoy was ordered to fill a water tank on which people stood and watched, and when the tank emptied he had to bring more.
At the same time, another group of Gentiles under German command was selecting people. They separated out a group of thirty young men and led them seemingly in the direction of Molodovo. Among them was Chaim Benderand Shmuel London from Drogichin who was the son-in-law of Avigdor - Reb Avraham Yitzchak’s son (from the Tzdokis family).
After that, they were all ordered to arrange themselves in rows, four people to a row and all were ordered to sing. In the first row was Berel Cheej (Tabolker) and his four sons. He implored his sons who were with saying "My dear sons! Let us sing! Even at the last moment of our lives we will sing and these defiled ones will know that we scorn death! Reb Lib Mintz tottered and fainted. But the tormentors had no pity on him and ordered a refugee from Lodz who wandered into our poor town to carry him on his shoulders.
In the second row, marched the doctor Kamintski with Dalogin the druggist, and by their side were Germans with heavy clubs that beat those two without letting up because they did not want to sing.
Among the people could be seen the only son of Noach Bonovitski - Izikil - who was laden with Channah Polick’s son, the lame Mordechai Shatz. He was chosen ironically because he spoke German and the sin of a Jew daring to be similar to a member of the "enlightened" people could not be forgiven. Naturally carrying the heavy burden over such a long way was beyond his strength and he collapsed under it. Immediately some Germans fell on him and struck him and his cries pierced the sky.
Among those being carried was also the wife of Avraham Nun, the barber, who was bleeding all the way. The reason for this was when the Germans were going from house to house checking if any men remained, they found her in her house taking care of herself after a late miscarriage resulting from fear. Certainly in such a state it was impossible to carry out the order to leave the place. They immediately shot her and ordered her body to be carried.
The locals did not keep their hands out of the till and did not pass up an opportunity to murder people with whom they lived with for generations and participated in both times of joy and mourning. One of them -- Pinchok -- was unable to control himself until the Jews was forced off the town’s streets and immediately ran to the attic to grab the loot. In one of these attics, he found Menachem Tubianski hiding. He immediately attacked him and forced him to go down to the cow shed in the yard, and killed him with a wooden beam that he was carrying. Another Gentile found Yitzchak Bagon, the haberdasher, hiding with his wife and four children. Yitzchak begged him not to reveal the hiding place and would pay him in return the few dollars he had in his possession. But the Gentile hardened his heart, went out, called to some Germans and they stood them against the wall of the house and took from them their money and dollars. After that, they read the sentence and said for not obeying the order to report to the market square, the sentence is death by gunfire and they were shot on the spot.
The thirty young men who were chosen were brought to Fritz Skirmont’s estate in Molodovo and there were forced to dig a giant pit twenty meters in length, three meters wide and two meters deep. The was to the left of the path leading from Motol to Molodovo, next to the Yaselda River leading from Motol to Pinsk. At the time they were busy digging the pit, eight hundred Jews were brought and held in the shacks on the estate.
When the digging was finished, the thirty young men were commanded to enter to the pit and lay with their faces toward the ground along the width of the pit and two of the killers began their murderous work.
There was a small table next to the pit with wine and spirits and every murderer gladdened his heart before loading the machine gun with bullets as the other shot at those lying down. The thirty were quickly finished and without checking if their work was actually completed, they went to the shacks to remove the remaining eight hundred Jews. The job of getting them out was given to the crowd of Gentiles who gathered around to enjoy the rare sight that they anticipated for many years and with a wild shout they went to carry out the order.
Now all hope was put away. Now even the heart that until now beat with a faint flicker of hope for a miracle and rescue was overcome with dark despair. No illusion! The voices of despair and prayer broke out from the shacks. The voice of terror and horror lifted to the heavens: Hear O’ Israel! 6 Lord of the Universe! Are you going to destroy your people that you glorified so that there is no rival to the people of Israel on Earth? See how it is now a despised and despoiled people, Save Us! Have mercy on the remnant of your people! From another corner pleading voices split the air, "We are the most guilty of all peoples, the most disgraced of all generations!" But the gates of Heaven did not open. The miracle did not occur. The judgment was sealed and it can not be changed. Only a single path lies before them -- to the pit of annihilation.
When the doors of the shacks opened and the command was issued to go out, the Jews refused to leave. The Nazis began to beat the heads of the Jews with the whips in their hands. Then the first group left. They went down into the pit by themselves and lay down according to the order, four in a row. For a moment, the awful firing of the machine gun would be heard and all would be silent. The first row filled. They put boards over them with German exactness. Immediately, the remainder of the people streamed to the pit. If before everyone refused to enter the pit of darkness, now everyone pressed to quickly get over the ignominy of being sheep sent to the slaughter and pass to the other side of this evil world.
This was the way eight hundred men of our town were wiped off the face of the Earth. Two remained at the end. One was Shimon Klitnick Feebles) and another was a woman of whom to this day no one knows how she came to this group of men, because the women were not exterminated until only after another day passed. This woman was Rachel Fein, daughter of Loyal Pinus. Shimon Klitnick began to be beg that he be allowed to stay alive as he was a good tailor and he could be of use to the army. Rachel also begged that only by chance she was in the men’s group and women are not being exterminated, but the ears of the murderers were sealed. They were thirsty for more blood. It was so easy for them! They waited hundreds of years and anticipated this moment and their wild thirst raging within them for destruction and killing and murder know no bound. The two of them were also shot and they then closed the pit with dirt and leveled the ground.
The Earth still shook and rose for hours and hours from the tortured writhing of those not yet shot to death and suffering from only light wounds. A Russian investigator who opened the pits after the liberation told me that more than half the people died of suffocation. He determined this by the known fact that a person who is suffocating grabs onto anything by his hand and in the hands of more than half the martyrs were found bits of clothes of those laying next to them and in the hand of others pieces of flesh. It was difficult to recognize those who were shot. The murderers shot them with dum dum bullets. This bullet leaves only a small hole where it penetrates, but tears a hole of twenty centimeters when it explodes inside and anyone wounded by a bullet like this is torn to ribbons.
The Gentile was stuck dumb and was seized by trembling and tears streamed
8. Extermination Of The Women
My aunt arranged a hiding place. An elderly Gentile neighbor agreed to put me up in his cow shed’s loft filled with straw. And this is how the first Saturday night passed. The next day, the above mentioned Gentile consented to go into Motol again to see what happened there and if there remained any men and what was done to the women. Reuven and I lay there all day, watching with despair, waiting for the return of the Gentile and to hear his report. The day stretched out for us without end. Every slight noise filled us with fear. Every dropping leaf frightened us, hearing approaching steps raised the hair on our scalps. I did not even notice from nervousness that I was chewing the straw all the time. Reuven lay there crying without pause and I had no words to comfort him. At six in the evening we hard the sound of weeping. It was of the elderly Gentile woman in whose loft we had hidden. She cried and told us of the destruction of the town and how the Germans shot all the Jewish men, and how the Germans gathered all the Gentile children, giving them candy and sweets and ordering them to search in the gardens and hiding places for Jews concealing themselves. They spread out at once and began to search and would announce on finding a Jew: Sir! Here’s a Jew! Those that were found were immediately order to strip off their clothing and give them as a prize to the child finding them. After that, they were brought to a courtyard of the main street and there shot and buried in place.
At the time all the men were gathered in the marketplace before being killed, all the women, children and babies were confined in the synagogue and the adjoining Polish school in the marketplace square and all the windows and doors closed to suffocate them. I later learned that the Nazis did not think of exterminating them at the time, because the orders were to exterminate only the men. But a Polish prostitute - a well known whore - named "Malishbashkah" intervened. She invited the German officers and after entertaining them for some time and praising their actions to clear the town of the hated Jews, expressed her surprise that the Jewish women were still alive and encouraged them to continue to clean the town. Together with this, she sent on the same Saturday, two Poles to Molodovo, seat of the high commanders to lobby for the removal of the despised Jews from the town. There, it became known to them that the high command was in Jonava. I know from survivors that the prostitute Malishbashkah bragged how she got the Germans to exterminate also the women, because the local commanders had no such order. The two messengers returned with a "permit" to clean the town from the lice ridden Jews and the two came after midnight on Saturday night waving before her the extermination document.
There are no words to describe the agony of the women and children as they were locked in under horrible overcrowding in the heat of the blazing Summer and there is no way to put on paper the horror that passed over them during their last day on Earth. The overcrowding was so awful that there was no place to sit, even for a moment. The children and babies cried without stop asking for a little water to revive them. Many fainted in their mothers’ arms who could not help them. All their physical needs had to be carried out while standing. The stench was suffocating. There was so much moisture from their breath and sweat that the outer walls of the building were moist as after a heavy rain. Some women wounded themselves and the wet the dry lips of their children with their blood.
On Sunday at eight o’clock in the morning the doors holding them were opened. All the women and children were taken out and stood in rows. The women arranged themselves by family, i.e. mothers and their children, grandchildren, sisters, aunts and in-laws. The sight of them leaving the house was horrendous. The fallen faces, the wild hair, eyes red from crying and lack of sleep, their collapsing knees from the awful standing. The children breathed with difficulty because their life was nearly extinguished after the exhausting and suffocating day.
They were led to the place by the murderers, limping, broken, crushed. Upon leaving the city on the way to the village "Kalil", they were divided into two groups. One was led to the square between the hills where horses and animals were buried, the second was brought to the village "Zamushah" to the right of the windmill that stood behind the city. There ordered to strip naked, kneel down to the ground and chew the grass. Anyone not carrying out the order was cruelly whipped. And as they were kneeling to the ground, the first shots of the camouflaged machine-guns in the area rained down on them. As if they all spoke with one voice, the great eternal cry of our people burst out "Hear O’ Israel!" The mothers pressed their children to their breasts and hugged them and with the final cry "One" a final terrible silence settled on the place. The Black Gang jumped on these martyrs searching for rings and earrings, gold teeth, watches and other jewelry. They did not spare the dying and turned them from side to side to see better, and those still alive were killed without mercy by the hobnailed books and with hoes brought to bury them. Many were thrown alive into the pit.
This was told to me about my Aunt Pearl from the village Zaziryah who was only wounded in the leg when they shot her and she gathered the rest of her strength and crawled for more than a kilometer along a ditch and distanced herself from the killing place. Unfortunately, an old Gentile on his way to join in the killing noticed her. He jumped from his cart, at once grabbed and loaded her into his cart and brought her back to the open pit and there ended her life with sledgehammers and hoes.
Within the pile of body, the mob found a single child of Hershel , alive and well in his mother’s arms, because his mother protected him with her body from the murderers’ bullets. Then, a German soldier approached and with one blow from his rifle but, he shattered his skull.
After they finished covering the pit with dirt, the German soldiers got up and sang their despised song "When The Knife Drips With Jewish Blood" and rode their horses over the pit to wipe out any traces of the murder and returned to town.
At the same time a group of German soldiers gathered children from the age of
six to ten, all from Nishtut, and led them in the direction of the windmill to
the pit that was not yet filled from Saturday. This was told to me by Avigdor
Chernomortz (son-in-law of Leebah., son of Yishayahu). He was hidden in a corn
field at a distance of 150 steps from the killing pet and saw with his own eyes
what happened to the martyrs and innocent children. Among them were three of
own children. When the group of children were brought, they were ordered to
arrange themselves in two rows and were told they were going to be
As the attention of the children was directed towards the photographers, the
machine-gun opened fire on them. The poor children hugged each other, kissed
another and began to run in all directions. They shot them one by one like
frightened rabbits and threw them into the pit, and ordered some from the crowd
to fill the pit with dirt.
9. Finishing Off The Survivors
The murderers gaily whistled while returning to town and began to finish
their satanic task of clearing the town of Jews. Methodically, they searched
house by house, going into every nook and cranny, and anyone that fell into
their hands was shot in the house or in the courtyard and buried in place. Many
fell into their hands during the cleanup and there was almost no home without a
death. And here is a list of people that found their eternal rest in their
yards: Benyamin Gotanski - Shmarchuk’s son, Menachem Tubianski in Chaim
garden, his brother Aharon Tubianski who was hiding by a Christian acquaintance
and upon hearing that his wife and children were killed returned to his home,
went up to the attic, hung himself and was found that way and was buried in his
yard. Moshe Chaim Cheej of the Tzdokis family was buried by the river. He was
hiding by the river bank. The Gentile children while scattering to search for
hidden Jews, found his hiding place and called for a Nazi to eliminate him. He
pleaded before them that he was a good shoemaker and that he was willing to do
any job placed before him. He groveled in the dust of the Nazi’s foot and
his shoes. But, the Nazi ordered him to rise and go, and as he went behind him,
the Nazi sent a bullet to split his head and smashed it and tore it to ribbons.
That is how he found his final rest in the yard of Abba Benner, son of
Rachel-Leah. In the yard that once belonged to Meril Koppels and later to
Dalogin the druggist, Yisrael Lib Jabinski and Yosef Menachems and someone else
who I can not identify found their final rest. In the vicinity of the Jewish
school, in a place called "Pilnah" ( a type of small, thin channel of water)
the final resting place of the butcher Reb Berel’s (Dov) son-in-law, in
courtyard that once belonged to Chanan the shopkeeper and afterwards, belonged
to Mordechai Kot ( known as the Black). In Gorodishich the druggist’s
once belonged to Shalom the doctor, were buried two men and a girl. It became
known to me that the two men were refugees from the town of Kondaniah and the
girl was the daughter of Mordechai, son of Shmuel Hersh (the blacksmith).
Pinski was at one of the gardens near the ancient cemetery on the riverbank.
Yosef Yojok, the caretaker of the Denishtut Synagogue and his wife were shot in
their home and found their final rest in the synagogue courtyard near his
and during my last visit to Motol after the War, I visited his grave. It was
difficult to find because the Gentiles did not respect his remains and seeded
the entire courtyard with flax. In the yard of Leebah Greenfeld, who was Chayah
Feigel’s daughter were laid to rest important women known for their
activity in town, and the were: Rivkah, wife of Reb Mordechai Gotanski
(Layzarus) and her daughter Nechamah Dolinko
Leebah Niditch with her husband, the only one of all the men that had the
privilege to die and be buried with his family. In the other courtyard next to
the previously mentioned one, the elderly mother of Yehoshuah Portnoy found her
final rest. Even in the yard of Yehoshuah Kroyitz, Avraham Maporitcha, an old
Jew was laid to rest who was shot in bed. He ended up in Motol after another
town. And there are many other yards where many graves can be found.
All day Sunday, my friend Reuven Mishkin and I lay in the attic of the Gentile in the village of Tishkavitch. My aunt came to us in the middle of the night. Her face was reddened from crying and she told us horrifying news from Motol. She told us of some Jews escaping to the swamps where the hay was harvested between Saforvah and Mintz and some escaped to the Molodovo forest. Some of them passed by the village of Tishkavitch and went to her house and asked for bread and they confirmed to her the slaughter in Motol, and that the Nazis intended to come here and also warned her to flee and hide herself in the Mintz swamps. One of them was barefoot. She showed them the way and they went, and it seemed to her that he was Mordechai Natan Chimerinski Malyosh). She handed us some provisions in a small bag and also some clothes and instructions to continue in the same direction that the Jews turned towards and we separated in tears.
We went. Our knees were weak. A leaf falling would freeze our blood and we felt like someone was chasing us. It was a pleasant Summer night. The stars were bright, but their light did not shine on us. There were not created for persecuted Jews, frightened to death. As we passed the village, we crossed the river until we reached the crossroads. After agreeing on a decision, we turned left and continued all night until the break of dawn. At the end of the path were piles of hay and small patches of forest. We entered the forest and I fell helplessly onto the ground. My friend Reuven was very anxious and absolutely did not wish to sit. He went back and forth for several hours until his steps created a path as if was created over a period of many days. Suddenly, we heard shots in the distance. We then crouched down and began to clarify to ourselves the directions of the shots and where we were. We rested only for a moment. We felt that we were burning up with thirst. We began to crawl on all fours to some ditches at the forest edge. Meanwhile, we noticed some small walnut trees. We arrived at a small ditch full of water and drank our full even though the water was stagnant and yellow, and on our way back, we picked some nuts that were not yet ripe because it was before their season, and we came to the first place that seemed to be able to serve as a hiding place. That is how we spent the first long day of our wanderings. Not a living soul was to be seen in the whole area. The Gentiles celebrated their victory over the Jews and they rolled around drunk in their villages or were busy looting and did not go out to their fields.
Slowly we realized that during the night we were wandering around in circles and had returned to the same place only from the other side of the village. As the day turned to dusk, we planned how to return and enter the village without crossing the main road and without crossing the bridge that certainly had a guard posted in front of it. But all our plans came to nothing because we knew no other way and we wandered almost the entire night until we returned to the bridge and finally crossed it. Suddenly, we heard the sound of a moving cart. We rushed and quickly covered ourselves with some crops at the side of the path and intensely listened because we knew that it was forbidden for civilians to be traveling at night. The cart seemed to stop at the bridge and a voice shouted out, "Halt! Stop!", a beam of light spread out from a flare and lit up the entire area. We managed to dive down and lay low. These were men of the civilian police of Motol who had permission to wander and search for escaped Jews whose numbers might have reached up to four or five hundred. They informed the guards at the bridge that they had searched all night and saw no one.
Only after the flare was extinguished, we began to crawl on all fours, returning the way we came and as if pursued by terror itself we began to run with all our remaining strength until we separated ourselves by several kilometers from the bridge, and only then did we start to walk at a regular pace. And again we wandered to and from all night and part of the day until we arrived at the forest. Our feet failed and it was already dangerous to walk during daylight, so we decided to stay in the forest for the day. Before entering the forest, I began to take precaution and cover any steps so that nobody could see that someone entered the forest here. At first, I reversed my steps as if I was leaving the forest. To do this, I passed by a ditch which I did not have to pass at all. I covered up my footprints entering the forest with dirt from my hands and made several paths some distance so they could not find my track. My friend Reuven took no precautions and did not reply to my request to do what I did and he directly entered the forest. After resting a bit we walked and found a clearing where hay seemed to have been harvested and we lay down from exhaustion and fell asleep there. We slept there for some time. Suddenly we were awakened by the voices of people. We listened carefully and heard a voice speaking Polish. My friend Reuven wanted to stand up and follow the speakers. He was sure, he said, that these were Jews. I held him down and whispered to him that if they were Jews we could follow and then call out to them. But he did not listen to me, he stood and began to go in the direction of the voice. I stayed on the ground, observing all of his movements. Before walking even ten meters, I saw him dive to the ground and sign to me to continue to stay down. My blood froze. We stayed down for about fifteen seconds without knowing what happened, but I understood that death was very close. Reuven began to crawl towards me until he got close and said to me", Do you know who they were? These were the murderers that killed our loved ones." They were with bayonets and rifles ready to fire; they were mounted and going in the direction we came from. I rebuked him for not listening to me and covering his tracks which they apparently discovered and which brought them to here and he agreed with a nod of his head.
During the entire day, we did not move from our place. Planes flew above our heads so low that they scattered the hay stacks all over. That is how we passed the day and also the night and all of the next day. The hunger afflicted us very much; we could not eat much of the nuts that were still not ripe. We came to a decision to reach some place and decide what to do in the village from which we left and maybe get some food.
We armed ourselves with clubs as we decided that if we met someone with ill intentions we would attach them and deal with them, and we left the forest in the light of day on Wednesday, 13th of Av. 8 We went by a field being harvested and turned towards the harvesters because we so much wanted to know where we were. When we go close, we saw that the harvesters were women and one saw us and shouted "Zhid idot!", Jews are coming, and they fled in panic. We did not know what to do - to continue or go back, but the hunger afflicted us and urged us to continue going no matter what! And then we noticed a cart standing far off on the side of the road next to the forest and it was full of hay. We approached it and there was a Gentile, about forty years old, standing and handling the hay. When he noticed, he immediately grabbed his pitchfork and aimed it at us shouting "don’t come near or I’ll stab you!" We began to speak to him from far off, but he did not want to reply. But when we began to plead that he answer us and tell what happened in Motol and the village, he consented to open up to us and told us that three hundred Germans came to Motol and the village and they gathered the civilian police and dispersed to search for escaping Jews hiding in the forests and swamps, but until now it was known who had been caught. Only two women and a child were shot yesterday in the village and the husband escaped. They were buried on the river bank. During our conversation, it became known to us that one of the women was Itkah Hatishkavitchait. So he told us that my aunt and her children are still alive. When we asked him to grant us some food, he answered us that if we would move away from him he would leave something of what he had on the side and we could pass by and take what he left as if by chance. I asked him to also give me a bottle so I could supply myself with clean water for drinking. He returned a positive reply to this and actually kept his promise. One the side of the road we found a little food and a bottle. When I asked him the reason for his strange behavior and why he held his pitchfork all ht time on our direction, he answered us that he was being carefully since the Germans ordered that anyone doing anything for a Jew would be killed. Therefore he was doing this as a cover-up so they would not suspect him of offering help. Also, because he read notices warning the public not to get too close to the Jews since they were bitter and likely to attack anyone and kill him. Even though he did not believe this because the Jews are warmhearted, but it is better to be careful and we are two, while he is only one. To our question where he comes from, replied that his is from the village of Dostoyvah and that all the Jews fled from there to the forest and although nobody was taken, all their property was stolen. We thanked him for his kindness and interrogated him on different paths and where they led to and finally we took an entirely different path so that he would not know where we turned to. By twisted paths and super human efforts we arrived back at the village of Tishkavitch and entered the Gentile’s house where we first hid. He hid us in the first hiding place and warned us to be careful also of the villagers. Since they had their fill of Jewish loot and were afraid of a returning Jew demanding his property back, they were likely to hand over any Jew they could get their hands on to the Germans or eliminate him themselves. He continued on to tell us that in the town of Jonava, the Germans eliminated during half a day all the Jewish men and left the women live and only two women were inadvertently killed and from there the death squad went to Pinsk.
My aunt also returned with her sons to the Gentile. At night she told me that
her daughter Itkah and her child were killed and her son-in-law managed to
escape from a hail of bullets that missed him. She also said that the two sons
of Mordechai Zaditovski, the blacksmith were in the swamps. Her son spoke with
them and they confirmed the news of the killing of all the people from Motol
warned them to keep in hiding. The Gentile told us of the known
Black Gang that chased Yehudah Cheej (Bergmans) with a pitchfork trying to stab
him for not wanting to hand over his boots, but he escaped to the forest. He
went on until he met a Gentile farmer from Motol who told him of one of the
town’s Gentiles killing a Jew while escaping through his yard. He was hit
head with a metal bar. After a while, it became known that the Jews was Moshe
Cheej (Demah). The Gentile brought us food from the supply that my aunt left
with him before her escape, and he sat and spoke with us and told who stole the
aunt’s property, livestock, cart etc... We finished eating and made plans
where to go because we could not stay here. One of the aunt’s sons joined
became our "eyes" to lead us in the journey, because he was an expert on the
area. We also decided on a meeting place if we stayed alive. We went to the
place where we first hid and on the way we discussed how to defend ourselves
however that may be. That is how we stayed in the swamps for an entire week. My
aunt’s son would go out with us from time to time and put his hand out to
Gentile passerby’s and get some food to sustain us. Some Gentiles would
with the crack of the whip or a stick without giving anything, among them were
those who we knew as always being quiet. During those days we met with the aunt
and her second son several times. They were in the area of their village.
Table of Contents | Next Page
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Motol, Belarus Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2023 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 09 Aug 2001 by OR