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Translations by Khane-Faygl Turtletaub

Donated by Arleen Shapiro Tievsky

Yizkor Book

About twenty-three
Jewish communities
in the
Neighborhood of Sventzian

Sventzian, New-Sventzian, Old and New-Dugelishok,
Ignaline, Lingmian, Kaltinian, Duksht, Podbrodz
Lintup, Kimelishok, Haydutsishok, Stoyotsishok,
Meligan, Jikevinesh, Palush, Gaviken, Vidz, Kozyan,
Koblinik, Niementshin, Postav, Yadi, Myori

Book Committee

Shimon Bushkanyetz

Moshe Michelson

Shakhne Akhyasaf

Avraham Krill

Sender Kowarsky

Eliezer Levin

Editor: Shimon Kantz

Cover and illustrations:
Alexander Bogen

Assistant Editor:
Heshl Gurvitz

Yisroel Gurvitz, Esq.
Dr. Khanokh Drutz

Illustration Showing Menorah - Alexander Bogen

Sventzian REGION



Editor: Shimon Kantz

Published by “Irgun Yotz'e Aizor Sventzian b'Israel,” Tel Aviv, 1965

My eye tears, doesn't stop, because there is no cessation . . .

Book of Lamentations [3.49]



In the book before us we commemorate the martyrs among the people of Sventzian who died such terrible and horrible deaths that there are no mortal words to honestly describe their suffering.
        There were twenty-three communities, and they are no more.
        In blood and fire they fell and ascended to heaven, but their memories live on in our hearts and will live forever in the hearts of future generations.
        Don't be silent and don't forget us [they demand]!
        We, the few survivors, approach with fear and trepidation the building of their eternal memorial.
        We tried to write chapters on the life of the town encompassing work and creativity, materialism and spirituality—an exciting time in all its aspects and in all times.
        Each succeeding generation continued [to be a link] in the chain of the Jewish life in these shtetlach.
        Multi-faceted Jewish life developed roots and grew here.
        The future generations will find in this book, as in all memorial books dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust, a witness to, and mirror of, what happened in the European Diaspora before the great Holocaust and before every vestige of Jewish life was erased in it.
        We, the few who were privileged to join the builders of our homeland in the land of Israel, felt that we had the sacred obligation to establish an everlasting memorial to our communities. We didn't rest and we were not silent until we finished this work, this sanctified work.
        We carry in our hearts the images of the fighters and the rebels who expressed the desire and the strong will to exist of the entire nation; and we present line by line, document by document, all the evidence of the heroism of the youth in the area of Sventzian.
        With great care we collected materials confirming the Jewish resistance to the Nazi murderers in the area of Sventzian—materials about the heroism of Jewish fighting units in various battlefields, about their struggle to stay alive. Their struggle, their relatives' struggle, their nation's struggle.
        We will light an eternal light of remembrance of the martyrs and innocent victims, their courage, their devotion, and their dedication.
        This book will be a memorial monument so that they may be remembered forever.

Photograph of Sventzian Memorial Plaque
in Har Tsion in Jerusalem


God full of mercy, judge of widows and father of orphans

Please don't be silent and restrain yourself from avenging the blood of Israel

Which was spilled like water. Grant peace under Your * wings for the martyrs and innocent ones

Who dwell in the shining heavens among the thousands of holy ones

from the area of Sventzian

Men, women, boys, and girls, who were murdered

And slaughtered by fire, by drowning, by strangulation, by being buried alive

All of them holy and pure

                                                Let not the earth cover up their blood!

* The word is Shekhina , which usually refers to the feminine aspect of God. Trans. Back


by Mordechai Bartana

And father approaches me: Oh, my son! Oh, my son!
And I reply: Here I am. But who calls? Your voice is so distant.
And my father says: There's a scream in my heart,
But I don't know how to express it. We both are being led to the slaughter.
But who will be sacrificed I don't know.

And I reply: There is fire in my blood. I am ready to be sacrificed.
Who will be the scapegoat for the great sin?
For so many generations I have been walking and wandering,
And I don't hear G-d's voice, and I don't see [any sign].
My father, oh my father! My fear is too great to bear.
We will sacrifice the offering, but G-d's hand is not there to receive it.

And my father said: The depths of your questions sadden my soul.
The crescent moon over our heads will accept the offering.
But there is an ancient echo in me that shines like a great sun.
G-d will appear over the offering
And I replied: My father, oh my father, forgive my stupidity.
Because suddenly I don't know which one is the child.
Who here is me and who is you?
Both lights and profound darkness are inside of me
And mixed together in my eyes are horizons and borders,
Today in tomorrow, the future in ancient times.
Here we are. Both led under the crescent moon
Like sheep to the slaughter.
Why only us? Why does He always choose us?

And my father said: Nights and days I prayed over you,
That you would outgrow me and we would be able to walk together.
My son, only the offering of the best and the first.
G-d Himself will choose the sacrifice in the dark night.

And I replied: My father! Here I am, and I will go, but my soul is low,
Because I still don't understand why this is and what is the reason.

And my father bent down to me and his tears fell both on my hand and on his hands--
And together we will go.

* The binding of Isaac. Trans. Back

We Will Remember

the souls of millions of our brothers and our sisters, who were cut off from the land
of the living, the thousands who were murdered in the fields of Poligon by the hands
of the filthy murderers, who are not even worthy to be called human beings.

We will remember
the heroes who raised the symbol of uprising and consecrated
the name of Israel when they fought among the partisan units in the Lithuanian
Brigades in the forests and in the front lines all over Europe.

We will remember
the simple Jews and the scholars, the glory of humanity, from
the old to the young, the righteous and the precious, those who gave charity and did
good deeds, lovers of humanity , dedicated souls.

We will remember
the brilliant talents, the dreams, their hopes and their soul's
longing, their great ambitions, their love for the people of Israel and the land of
Israel, their faith and their heroism, their hatred and enmity toward those inhuman

We will remember
the synagogues and the study houses, the social institutions of
charity and mercy, the publishing houses and the institutions which carried on the
holy work of the people and the land.

We will remember
the cemeteries and the graves of our fathers and the fruits of
their loyal devotion.

We will remember
all of those who were destroyed and cut off at the roots by the
hands of all kinds of bestial foes, some by fire, some by drowning, some by
starvation, and some by thirst, some by the sword, and some by strangulation while
they were still alive, and some in the gas chambers. All of them were tortured and
tormented to death. They gave their lives for the sanctification of God.

We will remember -- and not forget!


        If I wanted, as a historian, to present the broad picture, a detailed depiction of the history of the people according to the microcosm, and if I wanted, like a writer, to compose an epic about the world that disappeared, to describe in different hues what is exposed to view, that which is hidden, and that which is hinted at, I would without hesitation, think of the area of Sventzian as an appropriate example. The area of Sventzian contains all of the major components of the fate of the Jew in the past generation; all the forms of their physical existence and spiritual life found their expression in the communities of the areas of Sventzian: the struggle for complete civil rights, their fight to be recognized as an independent nationality in all special fields of life. In the community, and in the culture, in language, and in education, in work and in remuneration for work. The disintegration of the community and the birth pangs of new worlds were felt in a painful way. The Holocaust erased the area of Sventzian completely. In the same way that hundreds of other Jewish communities were removed from the face of the earth.
        There was definitely something special about the communities of the area of Sventzian as compared to the other communities. In the past, the area of Sventzian stood out on the map of the Jewish Diaspora. It was unique, and its influence spread far beyond its borders.
        The Jews of the area of Sventzian were working-class people. They worked in all kinds of trades, making everything that they needed to live at that time. They were millers and bakers, tailors and shoemakers, blacksmiths, wagon drivers, etc. Jews there also worked in jobs related to forests and irrigation. They earned their bread by the sweat of their brow and praised God for his kindness.
        Their modest and honest life was a source of power and strength for the Jews in the area of Sventzian. Every Jewish settlement in the area of Sventzian had its tough Jews, Jews who stood up to the Gentiles of the area during market days.
        But the spiritual level of the Jews of Sventzian and the surrounding area was based on emotional connections that were characteristically Jewish. In this area of the country, the Jews built for themselves an insular Jewish world. Indeed, from an emotional and spiritual aspect, the Jews here felt that they were in a world of their own. The style of life and the rhythm of life, both in the house and on the street, were truly Jewish. In the synagogues, the Jewish spirit reached high levels; but at the same time, the education of students was not limited to formal education. They always kept on studying on their own.
        Many were influenced by the Khassidic Movement. They invented melodies, created dances, and wrote stories of their wonderful rebbes. The majority concentrated on following the righteous path and the duties of the heart as well as the duties of man in this world. *
        Out of their will to live and the struggle to survive, political parties and political movements arose in Vilna and Warsaw. Many different voices were heard in those days in the communities of the area of Sventzian: calls to return to Zion and calls for victory for the proletariat inciting revolt by words and actions. The elderly nodded in disbelief, but the young received these calls with enthusiasm. They gathered around the various movements. They built schools in which the language of instruction was Yiddish or Hebrew.
        The young people were educated in these schools and took part in the social life and in the efforts to build and create all the areas of community life, cultural life, and national life. During the era of the Nazi occupation, the youth rose to protect the honor of their people and their people's spirit when they saw that the Nazis intended to drown the soul of the Jews in the blood of those who were killed.
        And if it will be that your son will ask you, “How did it happen that the entire nation went like sheep to the slaughter?” you will answer him, “It wasn't so. Open this book and read in it. Here are the people of the area of Sventzian. They fought a heroic fight in the areas around Sventzian, Novo-Sventzian, Kaltinian, Ignaline, Haydutsishok, and they deserve to be recognized, glorified, and admired for their heroism in the partisan forces, in the Lithuanian Brigade, and in other Russian fighting units. You will read here descriptions of battlefields, ambushes, bombing of transportation lines in strategic places, of enemy sieges, and the capture of Germans, of revenge operations against people who cooperated with the Nazis, the murderers of the Jews.
        May it be God's will that this book succeed in casting light on the history of the Jews in the area of Sventzian, on their economic life, religious life, community life, and national life, all of which returned to us the thing most precious for every nation--our own sense of self-worth.

Shimon Kantz

* The Path of the Righteous and The Duties of the Heart are titles of books which emphasize the beliefs of the Musar Movement. Trans. Back


Remember What Amalek Has Done to You

        In the course of hundreds of years, the Jews built their home in Sventzian and the surrounding cities, and in time there developed a completely full Jewish life with all of the institutions that existed in the largest Jewish settlements in Lithuania and Poland.
        Unfortunately, they left no archive which could provide historical material to preserve for eternity the history of that flourishing existence until the time of its complete destruction. Approaching this material, therefore, could have proved to be too daunting. It could have proved to be too much to compile the histories of those towns which had so few survivors. Here too, however, can be seen the great virtues of the Jews of the Svintsyaner region. The extraordinary desire to memorialize this era of destruction, together with the yearning for the lost, destroyed world with its truly Jewish lifestyle, nourished and inspired dozens of ordinary people who never aspired to become writers. They understood that the job of researching and describing our not-too-distant past belonged not only to historians, philosophers, and writers. The sacred goal of erecting a monument to their former homes encouraged them to take up their pens and themselves describe their vanished Jewish town. They wrote about the life of dozens of generations, their habits and their customs, their faith in the Torah, Khassidism and the Enlightenment, Socialism and Zionism.
        The anguish and suffering, the abyss of evil and violence, that their eyes must have seen; the pain of millions of innocent, tortured martyrs--unnerved them and opened their silent lips and made them talkative.
        And a truly wonderful thing happened, that the work of simple people created a picture of the developmental process of each of the Jewish settlements in the region of Sventzian. Their familiarity with everything about which they speak helped them. That they had once taken part in all of the problems that they treat, cultural, social, and economic. After all, these idealists, who fought for nice Jewish life were members of the synagogues, evening classes, libraries, and drama groups, banks, cooperatives, and interest-free loan funds.
        It is clear and understandable that in most of the sketches and treatments in this book, one hears the cry of the mourner. In the memoirs, everyone will hear the tone of the eulogy and elegy, the wailing after the cruel destruction. Those who helped erect this monument commemorating the twenty-three decimated Jewish towns, the Holocaust, as well as the general tragedy of the Jews in Europe, are bound together by their personal tragedy, by their yearning for their relatives and friends.
        That is why perhaps, here and there, one will find repetitions of description and reiterations of similar ideas, events, and people. But one completes the other and creates a more complete picture of the kind of life they led, with its disappointments and its achievements.
        Everything together tells how much we have lost, how great and, in fact, inconceivable the loss is.
        The bearing witness of those who, by a miracle, remained alive describes with suggestive clarity the whole gamut of pain and death in the ghettos, in Poligon and Ponar, and one can see that the Germans did not succeed in leading the Jews of the Svintsyaner region to complete moral death. Except in occasional instances, the atmosphere was not poisoned with thievery and robbery or scenes of Jewish cruelty or indifference to the suffering of one's brothers.
        In contrast, there is a rich chapter of heroic resistance and struggle, describing the fight that the heroes of the Sventzian region put up against the German executioners. It is not merely a coincidence that the dynamic Jewish life of the town produced so many exalted figures as Moishe Shutan, Ishike Gertman, Berl Jochai, Yitzhak Rudnitsky among others, who threw themselves into the partisan struggle against the armed forces of Hitler's Reich with legendary strength, courage, endurance, perseverance, and selflessness. The Shutans, Rudnitskys, Gertmans, and hundreds of others engaged in open combat with the murderers, became heroes and helped to drive the vandals off Svintsyaner soil.
        The most heroic chapters of the history of the Jews in Poland would describe the large part played by the young people of the Svintsyaner region in the partisan army.
        The benefit of a full-blooded settlement with a rich cultural life, and the traditions of a Godly life, formed the characters of the youth of the Sventzian region. They were resolved not to permit themselves to be led astray by the Nazi murderers and not to permit themselves to be led to their deaths without resistance. They were pervaded by a fiery desire to take revenge for the deaths of their brothers and sisters. They were inspired by the great human desire for self-preservation and the desire for a future, and so they were not alone in their stand against the great, armed enemy. With tremendous selflessness and exemplary devotion to the general good, they managed to get through to the Vilna Ghetto, from which they led hundreds of young people into the woods, young people who then joined the partisan armies.
        The greatest qualities of the Jews of the Sventzian region were discovered in those days of great horror. The stories of heroic struggle are told with such fervor that in some places it takes one's breath away. They are pervaded with the spirit of holiness, of the sanctity of God and the sanctity of our people.
        A characteristic of everything that is told in this book is the warmth with which it is conveyed. It is the warmth of the Jews in the cities, the towns, and the villages of the Sventzian region, which those who remained alive preserve even in the farthest reaches. Here one of its finest representatives must be mentioned, Heshl Gurvitz, without whose help of all kinds and passionate will this book would not have been created at all. In addition to his deep sense of responsibility, he is also possessed of drive and boldness, zest and zeal. Everything that he wrote exudes a love for the surrounding towns of the Sventzian region, with which he always remained in close contact in those times that it glowed with Jewish culture, education, and economic aid, as well as after the war, when he sat in Tel Aviv deeply worried about the refugees. He devoted time and energy to organizing real help for them--in any way he could, even thinking up the great idea of creating a memorial book, which he nurtured with great love and devotion, with assuredness and tact, with warm determination and a feeling for all the threads which bind him to those around him. The blessed characteristics of the best ethnic Jewish person of the Sventzian region were revealed. From his earliest childhood, he tied his future to that of the common Jewish people. And even later, in the writing of, asking for, and gathering together their memoirs, he deeply felt the need to bring out the special light of the simple Jewish person of the little towns so that the future generations would have a good idea of the beauty that was killed
        Directing the gathering of the material and bringing it to press, Heshl dreamt of encompassing the whole Vilna region to which he was so bound throughout the years of social activism. But his strength failed him, and he concentrated all of his energies on the Sventzian region and in so doing earned our deepest gratitude.
        We, who merited to be saved from that great conflagration, have ever before us that age-old warning which has remained etched for us with letters of fire and blood:

         Remember what Amalek did to you -- the Amalek of the twentieth century!

Shimon Kantz

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