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[Pages 69/70]

The Way of Life


8. Tuczin's natives talk about their city

Translated by Sara Mages


a. The city, its residents and their livelihood

by Dov Neger

An ancient town on the Horyn River, a distance of about 20 Parasangs[1] from Rovno. The population was a mixture of Jews and Ukrainians, and in the last twenty years a Polish minority was added to them. In 1897 the town numbered 3,753 residents of which 2,535 Jews (according to Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary). In 1920 the estimated the number of Jewish families was 1,000, but the number decreased because of migration from the town. In 1939 the number stood at approximately 700 families. The town was surrounded by Ukrainian agricultural villages, forests and rivers – a rich agricultural area that delivered its products to Tuczin, and employed Jewish shopkeepers and brokers. The Jews' main livelihood was small trade and shops, forest business, factories for fabric and leather, and various crafts in town and around it. There were about ten factories in Tuczin where German and Ukrainian workers worked until the war of 1914-18. In 1915, due to the war situation, the German workers were expelled from their places and it was necessary to replace them with Jewish workers, and so the Jews penetrated the factories and held jobs there. The relationship between the Jews and the Ukrainians were always not good and not bad, but the relationship of fair neighbors - they lived in peace and didn't hurt each other. The economic situation of Tuczin's Jews was generally good, but deteriorated during the Polish rule because of trade competition and the imposition of heavy taxes.

Most of Tuczin's Jews were Hassidim and belonged to various Hassidic dynasties: Turiysk [Trisk], Olyka [Olik], Brezhna, and a few belonged to Makarov and Stolin. The Hassidic spirit dominated the town but it wasn't jealous at the “Haskalah”[2] spirit that penetrated it. There were charitable organizations in town and a number of synagogues that were located in a centralized area: The Great Synagogue, Beit-Hamidrash, the house of prayer of the Turiysk Hassidim, the Kozatzki Synagogue, and others. Each synagogue had its own traditions and customs, and the Gabaim[3] ruled it in the usual order. The Great Synagogue building was considered to be ancient, and the palace of the landowner (the owner of Tuczin's land) was also an ancient building. For the High Days Jews from the neighboring villages came to town to pray with the community and live among Jews.


b. My Town Tuczin

by Zushia Rotelman (Kfar Sirkin)

More than thirty years have passed since I left Tuczin and immigrated to Israel, but I was hardly in town a number years before that because I left for few periods of training in a “Hakhshara”[4] kibbutz. But I remember the town, and in my imagination it still exists as it was. It is inconceivable that such a thing could have happened, that all the houses will be erased and the life in them will be destroyed. I remember all the quiet, precious hard working Jews, and all the extensive families who lived in each house. In many homes parents lived with their children, who already established their own families under the same roof, and thereby they didn't separate from their parents also during the Holocaust.

Our little town with a large number of Jews, was considered to be a town that most of its residents belonged to the Zionism movement. The immigration to Israel started in 1921. The first immigrants were Goldstein Gershon (Ramataim), Schneider Simcha {Petah Tikva), Goldstein Avraham-Asher (left Israel) Presman Neta (died in Givatayim), Spoznik Shaul (left Israel), Kligman Eliyahu (lives in the country). Many others immigrated after them, but I won't mention all of them.

I remember the Zionist movement's activists of my time, and they are: Eliezer, Shmuel Agres, Sheinfeld Michael, my father and others. They devoted their hearts and souls to plant the Zionist idea in the hearts of the townspeople, and handled all kinds of general issues that have arisen in town. We also had youth movements like: “HeHalutz Hatzair[5], “Freiheit[6], “Gordonia[7], and a chapter of “Hashomer Hatzair[8] that I also belonged to.

There were also schools, “Khedrim”, “Tarbut” School, but the primary school was “Powszechna”, the Polish Elementary School where most of the town's children studied. There were a number of classes in “Tarbut School”, and if my memory serves me, the home of the Kleinman family served as a hostel. The teachers in this school were Kashtan, Kuperminitz and others. Most of them didn't manage to immigrate to Israel, only Kuperminitz did, but he was killed during the riots in Jaffa. The teachers pushed the youth to join the movements, and it is necessary to mention the elementary school teacher, Regish, who helped us a lot. In addition to the schools there were also “Khedrim” where all of us studied when we were little. We studied there until the late hours of the evening and in the winter evenings we returned home with a lighted lantern in our hands. The teacher Horenstein, who gave private Hebrew lessons at his home to small groups of young people, will be remembered here for the better. I also remember all the social activities and the various fundraisings that took place in our town, and how the town's residents responded generously, each according to his ability

I will not forget the town's synagogues that were almost concentrated in one location, like “Beit-Hamidrash”, the “Kloize” and the “Kozatzki” small synagogue. I remember walking to the synagogue on the Sabbath, holidays and festivals. On Sabbath eve, fathers and sons dressed in their Sabbath clothes, started to stream for

[Pages 70/71]

the “Kabalat Shabbat” [welcome the Sabbath] prayer. And how beautiful was the sight of the burning Sabbath candles and the tables covered with white tablecloth that were seen from each house. They waited for the return of fathers and sons for the evening festive meal. In most cases the mothers also joined on Saturday morning. I can't describe the holidays and express the feelings of the town's Jews during the holidays. I can't explain the congregation's anxiety on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when they were overcome with fear and terror. On the other hand, the holidays of Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot were holidays of pure joy, and everyone celebrated them according to his ability.

Great was the joy on Simchat Torah and the unwinding from the “Days of Awe” was substantial. When the Shacharit [morning] prayer ended in the synagogues, a number of Minyanim [9] scattered to private homes with Torah scrolls. They read the Torah portion, finished the prayer service, drank wine and blessed each other with the blessing of "L'chaim" and next year in Jerusalem. In these Minyanim everyone elected friends or neighbors that they wanted to be the Gabami in the new year. The Zionist Minyan gathered at the home of Bril Fuks, the father of Batya and Blumka Biber who live in Israel.

I remember a lot of things and I'm sure that they will be recorded by the townspeople in this Yizkor Book. But I can't express my feelings on these pages. It is heartbreaking that these things should be written in a memorial book for the Jews of our town who are no longer alive.


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The “Halutz” Kibbutz in Tuczin at the home of Freida Kleiman, 1933


c. From 1928 to 1935

by Yisrael Gurfinkel

In those years my father was the leader of the Jewish community and the head of the town. As I recall, there are still a number of Jews like Levi Fuks and others, who probably remember those times better than me, and what my father has done for them until he was able to get them out of Poland.

I was a child at that time and I remember these cases.

One day a number of Jews were caught with brandy producing cookware, a criminal act according to the Polish law which carried a long prison sentence. My father made great efforts until he was able to get them out of Poland. They made it to Israel. A similar case happened in 1930 when a Jew from Kripa was caught on Friday eve. He was called Moshe the old. He was caught with all the equipment for cooking alcohol. My father informed Shmuelik the Jew's son, that his father was caught, and Shmuelik managed to release his father from the hands of the security force.

Once, the security service personnel came to our town from Rovno. My father knew who they were going to search for alcohol and tobacco. I, as a child, ran to these people to inform them about the upcoming search. The same thing was about taxes. My father informed the people who weren't able to pay their taxes, to give them time to remove the valuable items out of their homes before they were confiscated.

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In 1941, the Russians arrived to town and sent all the rich people to Siberia. I remember the efforts that my father invested to bring one of the families back, the family of Aharon Briman. But their fate was the fate of all the Jews who remained in town.

In 1941, I left the town and joined the Red Army. I took an active part in the Second World War against the Germans. I served in the army for five and a half years, three of them in the battle front.


d. Mix memories

by Yitzchak Gilberg

In this book we want to remember and lament our little town Tuczin in the Rovno district of Western Ukraine near the Horyn River. It was destroyed and almost completely burned and its Jewish residents were exterminated, murdered, and buried alive by the Nazis and their Ukrainian helpers during the great Holocaust of 5702 and 5703 (1942-43). There was a town Tuczin but it no longer exists. It was precious to us, we were born there, studied and spent our childhood days there. Only yesterday you belonged to an extensive family of father and mother, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, but now you are alone like a sheep in a field without a shepherd. Sometimes you stand and ask yourself: Is it true? Did all of this happen in the progressive world of the twentieth century?!...

Twenty years have passed since the great tragedy in Europe that also included our little town Tuczin. Against our will we must admit that this is the situation. Tuczin no longer exists for us, but as long as there are few survivors, who were miraculously saved, we continue to live with the unforgettable history of our native town Tuczin. Our memories will remain deep in our hearts and we will keep them for eternity. Tuczin was an ancient town and its old cemetery testifies that it existed for hundreds of years.

Our little town had, like the rest of the towns around us, schools, synagogues and Zionist movements: “Hashomer Hatzair”, “Gordonia”, “Betar”, “HeHalutz” “Mizrachi”, “Freiheit”, and also all the aid societies: “Bikur Cholim” [visiting the sick], “Gemilut Hasadim” [mutual aid society] and the like. There were Jews like Baruch Bernstein who directed “Bikur Cholim” not to be rewarded with a prize. There were also a number of Jews who managed the bank of “Gemilut Hasadim” without a salary so those, who were unable to pay received free medical care or medication. Laborers or just Jews, who need a small loan in small interest free payments, also enjoyed the bank of “Gemilut Hasadim”. There was also “Talmud Torah” where the children of the needy studied for free, and a small Yeshiva where a few young men from the Tuczin area studied. Tuczin's Jews supported these institutions with their meager abilities. In addition, there were also people who helped in secret, like “Hachnasat Kallah” [helping poor brides to get married] or just giving financial help to a needy family. There were always Jews who were willing to go to the government institutions to take care of issues and to obtain licenses from government officials.

Tuchin's Jews helped each other like one big family. In the past our town suffered all sorts of misfortunes like Khmelnytsky, Petliura, and many cruel decrees. But the evil decree that Hitler and his aides, May their names be blotted out, imposed on the Jewish people during the Second World War, to totally destroy and annihilate young and old, small children and youth, was the cruelest.

May the memories of the glorious days that are curved in our hearts be recorded in this book so we can tell them to the generations to come, and Tuczin's name will not be forgotten.


e. Childhood memories

by Luba Arye-Katsav

I was a few months old when I arrived with my parents to the borders of Tuczin. In those days there were not paved roads in the place, except for the road connecting the entry and the exit from the town. The rest of the streets were dirt roads that were full of mud most of the days of the year. The city was divided into the new city where the Jews lived, and the old city where the gentiles lived. The new city was divided into an urban section and a section called “Zamed”, where the Germans and Poles lived.

I remember an incident that was typical to the composition of the population in the “Zamed”.

Two partners, who were brothers, lived in front of the small bridge across from the church. Once they quarreled with one of our friends and one of the gentiles attacked him, wounding him in order to instill in him a respect for the Pole. Within two hours our young men gathered with knives, brass knuckles and other tools, and waited near the well. When the gentiles arrived and started to smash Wallach's windows, we attacked them with special courage and blood was spilled that evening. The attackers fled and we kept our honor.

Another memory comes to my mind, and this time from one of the market days that took place on Mondays:

A gentile from one of the villages turned over a number of carts that belonged to Jews who brought merchandise. A panic and a retreat started, and the Jews who were trying to escape were beaten from all sides. When the matter became known to Agre's son, he came to the street with two of his friends, and they started to beat the gentiles and break their heads. We were delighted when the gentiles started to escape in their carts after our young men showed that they knew how to keep their dignity.


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f. Childhood days in our town Tuczin

by Sara Greler

One of the most beautiful periods of a person is the period of his childhood: the home, the school, and the movement's chapterhouse. These are all the milestones that give us the beautiful picture of a childhood

In this manner I also see the period of my childhood in our little town Tuczin. With tears in my eyes I remember my father's house which was full of warmth even during the snowy cold winter days. I loved my father as a father and respected him more as a person. And so for mother of blessed memory and my stepmother, who paved the first road of my early life.

The school was my favorite place during this beautiful period of my life. I spent the hours of my beautiful life with my classroom friends: Nechama Katsav, Zisi Kalmuski, Asher Agres. Tzvia Zeitzik, and Zepi Feldman. Together with them I spent my free time in “Hashomer Hatzair” chapterhouse. I remember them and see them one by one as if it was yesterday. I see the school's big yard and the classrooms. I remember, and it is difficult for me to forger my friends that only yesterday I played with in the school's yard.

Among others I remember my difficult separation from my father's house, from my uncles, my cousins and my friends. It happened after I finished elementary school, when I traveled to my aunt's house in Kostopol. It was the first step in my escape from the Nazi enemy.

With tears in my eyes I will finish the memories of my short childhood. The pictures of my childhood stand before me, I see my parents of blessed memory, and my friends who were not rewarded to immigrate with me to Israel.

May their souls be bound in the book of life.


g. Memories from Tuczin

Dedicated to the memory of my mother of blessed memory

by Batya Kentor- Halperin (Afula)

I was born in Tuczin to parents who weren't rich and didn't have a specific profession or a source of income, according to the custom of those days when work was considered to be an insult. When I was very small it was time for my father to serve in the army, and my parents sought for ways to avoid the service. My aunt in America demanded him, and my mother was left with two little children and without a source of income.

At that time the First World War broke out, the borders were closed and the mail service was cut off. Mother worked in all kinds of hard jobs to support her children until the fury passed and until father's desired help will arrive. Finally, the first letter arrived from my father who suffered severe absorption pangs in a foreign land. As an orthodox Jew with a beard, he had to stand to the ridicule of people and wasn't able to get a job. In 1930, after many hardships, mother decided to go to America and eighteen years later she came to her children in Israel. Now the lot fell on me to lament Tuczin the cradle of my youth. I grew up there, was educated there, and I even dreamt of seeing her again. But, to my anguish and sorrow, the hand of the reaper was raised upon her, and her beloved pleasant Jews were destroyed at no fault of their own. I bring up the sacred memory of a few precious figures from our town that their loss is difficult for all of us.

R' Yitzchak Asher of blessed memory, the town's rabbi, a silent humble old Jew with a large family. The income that he received from the community was very small and wasn't sufficient for the family. He accepted everything with love, never complained to the townspeople and didn't ponder about God's virtues.

Yisrael Leib Gershon's was one of the town's wealthiest residents. He had a rough wool processing plant for peasants' clothing. The farmers knew that his work was good, that he negotiated with trust, and came to him every year to buy his merchandise. He lived a life of dignity and comfort with his family, and enjoyed the appreciation of the townspeople.

Eliezer Schatz, a bright dignified figure, a loyal Jew, and a good Zionist. He was the owner of a flour mill in a village seven kilometers from the town. The village's farmers earned their living from their work in his mill. He tragically died on the road.

Motel Waxman, a carpenter who earned his living from the labor of his hands, he worked faithfully and lived with dignity.

Zelig the tailor, an expert craftsman whose work was magnificent. He lived with integrity and dignity.

The town was built on two plots. One was called “Schtat” and the other “Zamed”. There were beautiful buildings in the “Zamed”, a garden of fruit trees, manicured gardens, a beautiful avenue of acacia trees, and a river for boating. There was also a villa there that belonged to the “land owner” with a sign: “The entrance is forbidden to Jews”.

The area, of course, was Ukrainian and it was very dangerous to go there. The young gentiles threw stones at the Jews, and the elderly stood on the side enjoying themselves. We felt the hatred bubbling in their hearts, and we knew they were waiting for the day when they will be able to plunder and loot. And what we feared of came to us - they robbed and murdered the Jews, and now they live in our homes that they plundered.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Parasang - An ancient Persian unit of length, varying from two to four miles Return
  2. “Haskalah” - The Jewish Enlightenment Movement. Return
  3. Gabai – (pl. Gabaim) - a person who assists in the running of a synagogue. Return
  4. “Hakhshara” – preparation - agricultural institutes similar to kibbutzim where Zionist youth. Return
  5. “HeHalutz Hatzair” – The young pioneers. Return
  6. “Freiheit” or “Dror”- liberty in Hebrew. A Zionist Socialist youth movement. Return
  7. “Gordonia” – a Zionist Youth Movements. The movement's doctrines were based on the beliefs of Aaron David Gordon. Return
  8. “Hashomer Hatzair” – The Youth Guard – a socialist-Zionist Movement. Return
  9. Minyan (pl. Minyanim) - a quorum of ten male Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations Return

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