There are no longer any Jews in David-Horodok. This is the story of their destruction.
The 17th of Av! Today is the sad day of your downfall, my David-Horodok! Your life was unassuming and full of service; perhaps that is why you were “rewarded” with a quick demise. You went like a pioneer to be sacrificed on the altar for your people. The number of your fortuitously spared sons is small, maybe 100 men who are now widely separated. In bitter spirit we kneel and bow our heads in deep sorrow for you, our beloved unforgettable David-Horodok.
Our shtetl's son, Itzak (Etzl) Nahmanovitch digging a grave to bury the bones of the martyred saints which he found on top of the common-grave.
Our shtetl's son, Itzak (Etzl) Nahmanovitch digging a grave to bury the bones of the martyred saints which he found on top of the common-grave.
Dear martyrs! Fathers and brothers, beloved sons! The 17th of Av is ingrained deep in my heart, never to be forgotten. On that day no smile is seen and joy vanishes from my soul. My mind burns with the realization of helplessness and the lost opportunity for a full revenge.
Rest forever my dear ones. May your holy memory be forever.
Tortured first by seeing your husbands, fathers and sons killed, you had to endure yet more. Through brutal paths you wandered, beaten by your erstwhile neighbors, raped and hungry, brought finally to live another year in a ghetto where you and your dear ones starved and died.
In bitter irony, we—your heirs—had to confirm the date of your final demise, the day the Nazis brought those of you who remained to the same mass grave of your beloved men, from the records of the Nazis themselves. Who else was left to tell of it? You died anonymously, without names to mark your graves, without loved ones to mark your jahrzeit.
Mothers, sisters, young girls and boys, your passing was so needless! Your warmth, your love, your hopes and strivings so ruthlessly cut short!
May God soothe your injured souls with His peace. May He give you the joy and contentment you were denied on this earth.
There was great panic. The Jews were frightened to death. The Horodtchukas were confident. The Soviet authorities in town were agitated.
The town’s youth were quickly mobilized, but not everyone was taken into the army. Those who had unacceptable social status were later released. German airplanes appeared over the town and, although they dropped no bombs, created a terrible panic. The German troops pushed forward with immense speed. This was Blitzkrieg, lightning-fast war. On June 22, 1941, the German armies attacked the Soviet Union and in about three weeks Belarus was entirely overrun.
The Red Army retreated in disarray and confusion. Civilian and military authorities were taken by surprise; they lacked even general orders governing such an eventuality. Stalin had refused to believe Hitler would attack him. There was no plan for the evacuation of Soviet offices or their staffs, much less the civilian population.
The citizens were impressed not so much with the German war machine as the abysmal ineptitude and cowardice of the Communist authorities. Most Belarusan towns and cities were abandoned before the Germans entered. Some major cities remained without a government for up to a week. Cities and towns far from the front became scenes of senseless destruction and violence caused by the fleeing Soviets. There was no plan or system to the frenzied devastation. Livestock and agricultural machinery were destroyed, political prisoners shot or burned in their jails, thousands forced to leave their homes with no place to go.
East of Borisov public buildings and private dwellings were burned while the defense works and barricades stood and were taken over by the Germans. In Minsk, large stocks of ammunition and provisions were abandoned as much as three days before the Germans arrived. Bags full of Soviet currency were moved from the State Bank as far as the stadium and then dropped there. What transportation there was, was used by Party men trying to save their own personal possessions. This, if anything, was Stalin’s “scorched earth” policy.
In David-Horodok too, the Soviet town leaders began evacuating. Hundreds of Jewish youth and entire families fled to the previous Soviet-Polish border near Malishav with the goal of evacuating into Russia to escape the murderous hand of the Nazis. Unfortunately they encountered a strong Soviet guard at the old border who only let those with special permits pass. The remainder were not allowed to cross over, and were forced to return to David-Horodok. The Soviet town authorities were also sent back with orders to remain until the last minute.
The Germans had already captured Pinsk, Luninets, Lakhva and Mikashevitchi, but had not yet been in David-Horodok. The town was in fact without a government. David-Horodok was not captured because it was not near a railroad line or highway. The Horodtchukas could not wait until the Germans came on their own, and sent a delegation led by the feldsher [paramedic] Maraiko to the German military authority in Pinsk, requesting that the Germans speed up their arrival in town. They thereby declared the willingness of the Horodtchukas to work along with the Germans. They wished to make a quick end to the Jewish population of David-Horodok. The delegation returned pleased with the “positive” results they had achieved.
After the return of the delegation, the rumor spread that the Red Army had begun assaulting and repelling the Germans. The delegation was terrified and fled back to Pinsk. Unfortunately in a couple of days the news was proven false, and the delegation returned to the town accompanied by the Germans. The day was July 6, 1941. On that same day the Horodtchukas, led by the above-mentioned Maraiko, the brothers Tonio and Liovo Kosorev, Siamyon Kulogo, the lawyer Ivgeny Yavplov, and others, arranged a meeting under the open sky in honor of the “great historic day.”
The Germans put civil authority in the hands of the Horodtchukas, appointing Maraiko as town mayor and Liovo Kosorev as commander of the civil police. Such delegation of power was typical. The German Army was interested primarily in fighting, and all it sought from the occupied areas was non-interference. So it usually appointed civic volunteers to assume local authority, and distributed military rations to them as a reward.
The Jews of David-Horodok were next ordered to wear Stars of David.
The year 1939 arrived. David-Horodok was taken by the Soviets. Many Jewish refugees from western Poland migrated to David-Horodok to settle. Then in 1940 the Soviets began arresting and exiling Zionists and others. The town shuddered. The mood was strained. Still there was the motto: “All for one and one for all.”
Then July 6, 1941 arrived. The town was captured by Hitler’s troops. Many Jews wanted to save themselves in Russia, but the NKVD and border guards would not let them pass. So the Jews of David-Horodok were forced to remain under Nazi rule. Then began the horror, and the Belarusans showed their murderous side. They began catching Jews in the streets and forcing them to do labor.
Many of Hitler’s troops passed through the streets of the town heading east. A few days later they returned because of the bad roads, intending to find another path through the marshes. In town it was rumored that the Germans had been driven back by the Red Army. This was exploited by the newly-proclaimed mayor, the villainous feldsher [paramedic] Ivan Maraiko, who went to Gestapo headquarters in Pinsk to report that the Jews were spreading the rumors and that the Jews were attacking the German army. This vile slander brought on the bloody 17th of Av [August 10, 1941], about one month after the Germans had captured the town.
In mid-July 1941 towards the end of the week that the Germans had entered David-Horodok (the Germans at this point had been in David-Horodok several days), a rumor spread that the Russians were returning. The Germans retreated along with their town helpers.
The murderer Ivan Maraiko, who stood at the head of the local authorities, fled to Pinsk with his cohorts. When the Germans asked him why he left the town without an organized government, he replied that he had fled because of shooting from the Jews and Russians. Sunday the Germans returned, bringing the murderer and his henchmen with them.
They soon ordered the Jews to wear a white band marked with a blue Star of David on their sleeves.
On July 5, 1941 the Germans entered David-Horodok. Several weeks before the capture of the town, local Christians headed by Maraiko, Kulogo and Latun, may their names be blotted out, succeeded in creating the impression that the town Jews were waiting for the Red Army to return. As a result the Christians received permission from the SS headquarters in Pinsk to handle the Jews at their own discretion.
In August 1941, German SS infantry and cavalry regiments were ordered to clear Polesye’s swampy and wooded areas of the remnants of retreating Soviet units. They preferred the easier task of killing Jews. Thus the first days of Nazi occupation were marked by mass executions or aktionen organized by locals and the Einsatzgruppen, the special sections of the SS delegated with the task of annihilating Jews in their own villages and towns. In the months of August-October 1941, tens of thousands of Jews in the small shtetls of Western Belarus were murdered—in the towns of Hanzevitch, Eishishok, Lohishyn, Luninets, and David-Horodok
On the 16th of Av, 5701 [August 9, 1941], an order was delivered in David-Horodok that at six o’clock the next morning all Jewish men over the age of 14 were to gather at the marketplace opposite the Catholic church, taking shovels with them. It was implied that they would be taken to work. Early the next morning the Jews began assembling at the marketplace, which was surrounded by armed German SS troops and many Horodtchukas. After all had gathered the Horodtchukas spread around town checking for holdouts. The brothers Issur and Hershl Gurvitch, who were found in a hiding place, had their eyes gouged out while being taken to the marketplace.
All those gathered at the marketplace were led away on foot by a strongly armed SS detachment, accompanied by hundreds of Horodtchukas, to Hinavsk, a village four-and-a-third miles from David-Horodok. There the graves had already been prepared. Surrounded on all sides by artillery and machine guns, every single man was shot to death. The cries and the screaming of the unfortunate victims carried through the air and reached as far as David-Horodok.
The gathered Horodtchukas fulfilled a triple mission: They made sure that no one fled from the field. They removed the gold rings, watches, clothing, shoes, boots and even tore out gold teeth. Finally they carried out the job of throwing the victims into the graves, not looking to see if they were really dead or still half-alive. Only two children succeeded in escaping unnoticed from that frightful slaughter. Wandering through the fields they joined a partisan group and thus survived.
The first Jewish victim in David-Horodok was Meir Eliyahu Kushner who lived in the Raditch [Christian area of David-Horodok]. After the Horodtchukas had driven him out of his house, they attacked and murdered him in the marketplace in the middle of the day.
The second victim was Zev Grunye Kunda, a grandson of Velvel the Blacksmith. The gentiles murdered him on Olshonergas [Olshon Street] next to Shlomo Fleishman’s house.
Then on the 17th of Av 5701 [Aug. 10, 1941], the Jewish men were concentrated in front of the church, and sent from there to a place where the Horodtchukas had prepared a common grave. It is very difficult to imagine the brutal acts and savage atrocities that the Horodtchukas carried out against the Jews in the last minutes before they murdered them. They stripped the clothes off the victims, smashed heads, cut off limbs and slaughtered with whatever came to hand: sticks, stones, iron bars and guns. Afterwards they threw the Jews into the trenches and buried them alive. Three days after the mass murder the ground still stirred.
The leader of the pogrom was the feldsher Ivan Maraiko who made a special trip to Pinsk in order to bring back the SS. Before traveling to Pinsk he gathered gold and silver from Jews who entrusted him to hide their valuables.
After the aktion the gentiles began searching for Jews in hiding. The first to be discovered was Avraham Slutzki the Driver and next was Mendl the Bratzker’s son, who had hidden in the garden among the beans. They were both murdered immediately.
Reuven Kalushni hid in the closet of his gentile neighbor Markovitch. He was murdered on the spot and remained there. Baruch Katzman and his two sons were found and killed by Dmitri Puzik. Issur, son of Nissan Gurvitch, had his eyes gouged out by the Horodtchukas and his limbs severed one by one. Yehoshua Zager of Turi, who had hidden in an oven, was pulled out and murdered.
Aharon Slomianski was thrown into the Horin River. Thanks to the efforts of his wife Rachel he was pulled out by hired gentiles and merited burial in the Jewish cemetery.
My two children Bracha and Baruch, who thanks to a gentile woman had fled to the Dubinitz forest, were returned to town by the gentiles and cut to pieces in the middle of the marketplace. My son Yakov succeeded in escaping.
Simha Mishalov hid four months in his own cellar. His gentile maid fed him the entire four months. Then she informed on him, and he was murdered on Greble Street. Before his soul returned to God, he was heard to cry out: “Scoundrels, what are you doing?”
A son of Beryl Shutz, who was dressed like a woman, was recognized by the gentiles and murdered by them.
At the beginning of August, about 50 SS murderers arrived unexpectedly. At 4 o’clock in the morning they surrounded the town and later began their bloody work with the help of the local Belarusan underworld who had enlisted as police. Anticipating abundant booty, they began driving together all the Jewish men. They gathered everyone at the courtyard of the church, achieving their goal with frightful beatings using sticks and guns.
There the Jews were forced to remain on their knees with their hands upraised for an hour until all the houses were searched. Most men who were found hiding were shot to death on the spot. However, that was not the fate of the brothers Issur and Hershl Gurvitch, two healthy and sturdy young men who were pulled out of a hiding place. As they were led away, their ribs were broken and their eyes were gouged out.
After all the men were assembled, they were arranged in columns and led out of town. No one knew where they were going. They presumed that they were being led to work. However the question was quickly answered.
About two miles beyond the town on the Olshoner road, on a hill of sand, the peasants had prepared a freshly dug trench. It was already too late to consider resistance. Besides, in 1941 there had not yet been any mass murders of Jews so that quiet, respectable, decent people could not believe such a thing could happen. But it did happen ... the last word belonged to the machine guns ... and then with a last breath, each sent a curse ...
A policeman tried to pull the ring off the hand of Lazar Rankin, thinking that he was already dead. But the latter was able to raise himself up and spat in the murderer’s face. With a curse on his lips, he fell dead.
And so mother earth took you in and hid you in eternal rest. Honor to your memory, brothers! For your unassuming, difficult but decent lives, the “civilized” world has rewarded you with a “quick death.”
On August 10, at 4 o’clock in the morning, the Jewish part of our town was surrounded. All Jewish men and boys eight years of age and older were brought forsaken and barefoot to the concentration point in the courtyard of the Catholic church—and from there to their last journey.
Yakov, Aba Gartzulin’s son, the only Jew who had been forewarned by a Christian of the fate of those who were being sent away, tried to escape. A murderer’s bullet stopped him, and he died on the spot. All roads were blocked, and there was no possible escape.
From the concentration point, the Jewish men were sent to two common graves, which had been previously prepared. When they came to the ditches, they were instructed to undress and climb down into the ditches where they were shot to death with machine guns. A group of Jews was spared from the murder, and they were used to sort the fallen bodies in the trenches. Afterwards they were also murdered. After the murder, the trenches were filled in by the local people who took part in the killing.
Only a few managed to hide out by various means, but eventually they too met the same horrible fate. Nahman Yanush, Yosele’s son, Itche the Milkman’s grandson, succeeded in escaping through the village of Baroshnye and reached Stolin. He hid in the Stoliner ghetto for a year until he was killed along with the Jews of Stolin.
Yakov Litman, Kalushin’s son, Moshe Alaynik’s grandson, hid for several days until a Christian informed on him. Then the Horodtchukas dragged him to the Gestapo, and tortured him until his suffering was finally relieved by a bullet.
Reb Aharon Slomianski, who had been hidden several days by a Christian, was forced to leave his hiding place because the Christian was afraid his fellow townsfolk would kill him for hiding a Jew. Having no alternative, Reb Aharon decided to return home. As he crossed the bridge, gentiles grabbed him and threw him into the river; he drowned immediately. Thanks to his wife Rachel, who exerted super-human efforts, he was buried in the Jewish cemetery.
Simha, Moshe Aharon Mishalov’s son, hid for two weeks in his cellar but the Christian servant gave him over to the gentiles. They dragged him out of the cellar and murdered him in his house in front of his wife and children.
Issur, Nissan Gurvitch’s son, hid in a clothing closet. The local citizens found him, pulled him out and dragged him into the marketplace. They beat him and tortured him viciously, and put out his eyes. His inhuman screaming was heard from one end of the town to the other. He pleaded with the murderers to end his life.
Reb Kahas, Reb Sander Balahusher’s son, and Reb Moshe, Reb Avraham Baruchin the Khoromsker’s son, hid until 1943 in a nearby village with a Christian peasant. They dreamt that Rabbi Moshele, the Stoliner rebbe was yet living. They crawled out of their hiding place and went off to Stolin. Gentiles killed them along the way.
Reuven, Haim Kalushni’s son, hid in his yard. The gentiles found him, and threw him into the outdoor privy.
Baruch Yossel, Moshe Harzman’s son, hid out somewhere with his two sons. They had nothing to eat, and so they presented themselves to the Gestapo. There they were told that the Gestapo had no liquidation decree concerning them and they could go where they wished. However, the local citizens beat them to death with sticks in the marketplace.
Itzhak, the son of Shlomo the Azdamitcher, remained living thanks to a Christian who hid him after he promised to marry her. When the Red Army returned, he fulfilled his promise.
The feldsher Ivan Maraiko, who had many Jewish clientele, had immediately put himself in the service of the Germans, and he was appointed town mayor by them. From the first day, a terror campaign was waged against the Jewish inhabitants. One of the most valuable men in town, the dentist Itzhak Edel, was shot with his son Gedaliahu on that day.
Aharon Slomianski, a respected Hasidic Jew, was thrown from the bridge into the Horin River. Simha Mishalov and Motl Kviatni hid themselves with their “good friend” Ivan Maraiko, who took plenty of gold and silver for his services. A few days later, Ivan Maraiko drove them out of hiding, ordering the citizenry to kill them. Simha Mishalov was killed before his own house in front of his wife and children.
The Finkelstein family, who were valued by the citizenry—especially the Christian shoemakers—were murdered along with all the other Jews despite their having paid a huge ransom and despite the pleas of the Christian shoemakers to the authorities to allow them to live as “good Jews.”
Rabbi Moshele demonstrated unusual courage and selflessness on behalf of his community. Every day he would come to intercede with the murderer Ivan Maraiko and try to effect the repeal of the decrees against the Jews. Finally he was driven to the slaughter along with all the other men. Wrapped in his tallis and tefilin, he gave a sermon to the doomed Jews before he was killed with them.
Baruch Yosef Katzman and his sons managed to avoid the execution by hiding in the barn. They had provided themselves with food for two weeks, and hoped they could escape into the forest. Two weeks later when the food ran out, they came out of hiding. Afraid to go to the local gentiles for help, they went straight to German headquarters, which were in Yudovitch’s house.
They explained to the Germans how they had managed to hide, and pleaded with the Germans to spare their lives. To their great surprise, they received the following reply, which was characteristic of German “precision:” “We received the command to kill the Jews on August 10. Since that deadline has passed and we have no further orders, we will do you no harm, and you are free.”
As soon as Katzman and his sons went out of German headquarters, they ran into the drunkard and murderer Elia Stavro (Stadnik) on the street. He took an iron bar and murdered them on the spot. It is interesting that the same night of the murder he went berserk, set his own house on fire and was burned alive.
Ezra Solomionek also hid from the slaughter. A couple of days later his neighbor Yasip Dubok (Matusiavitch) discovered him and murdered him.
The “most important” work of the murderer Maraiko was his duplicity against the David-Horodoker Jews, that is, against the patients from whom he had earned a living all of his life. He and his accomplices had hidden iron bars, axes and several revolvers in the Great Synagogue, and then reported to German headquarters in Luninets that they had “uncovered” a weapons arsenal in the synagogue with which the Jews were planning an uprising against the Germans. On the basis of this provocation the Germans ordered that all Jewish men of David-Horodok be killed.
Over 3000 Jews, all the men over age 14, were murdered on August 10. They were buried in large mass graves, which had been prepared ahead of time along the road between Hinavsk and Olshon.
In the last moment before the horrible slaughter, Maraiko pretended to intercede, letting it be known that he was working with the Germans to allow the Jews to ransom their lives with money or valuables. Many of the unfortunate victims believed him and led the murderers to where they had hidden gold, silver, and other valuables. After several crates were filled with Jewish belongings, the Jews were led back to the place of execution where they were killed along with all the others. Maraiko personally took part in the killing, shooting the Jews with a revolver.
It is said that the cries of the unfortunate victims were heard many miles away. The covered mass graves were seen to move for three days because many of the Jews had been buried while still alive.
In the town the second part of the frightful tragedy took place. After the men were led out of town to the slaughter, the women and small children were ordered to leave David-Horodok within an hour. The few men who had succeeded in hiding out and did not go out to the “work,” among them Rabbi Moshele, Haim Moravtchik and others, changed into women’s clothing and went along with all the women and children. However there were Horodtchukas at the bridge checking for disguised men among the women. All the disguised men were recognized by the Horodtchukas. They were brutally beaten and then thrown from the bridge into the river. Thus a group of several thousand women and children set out on a horrible path of wandering, not knowing where to go.
They wandered for two weeks over fields, roads and trails. Not one town would take them in, despite the efforts of the local Jews. Only a few dozen women and children succeeded in getting accommodations with relatives in the surrounding towns of Lakhva, Stolin, and Luninets. The remainder wandered for two weeks, suffering hunger, cold, and the hatred of the peasants who beat and raped them.
During these two weeks all the deserted Jewish homes with their possessions were pillaged. Many Jewish houses were dismantled by peasants from the surrounding villages, who brought the houses back to their own villages in pieces. The Horodtchukas moved into many of the remaining houses.
After two weeks of wandering the women and children returned to the gates of David-Horodok which “deigned” to receive them. It was of course understood that they were no longer permitted in their own homes, and a ghetto was created for them on a few streets where there were gentile hovels. This ghetto existed for a year. In the course of that year more than half the inmates died from epidemics, “accidental homicides,” and starvation. Officially the ghetto inhabitants received three-and-a-half ounces of bread per person per day, but in fact no bread at all was distributed at least two days a week.
The women and children remaining in town were driven out of town by the murderers on the night after the mass-murder. They were not allowed to take anything with them. There were cases where women were driven out of their homes in their nightgowns. After driving the women and children out, the local citizens and peasants from the surrounding villages plundered all the Jewish belongings left behind.
That same afternoon after the murderers had completed their “little job” on the Jewish men, they again went to “work.” All the remaining women and children received an order that they were immediately to leave town. In this particular “holy” work, the entire Christian population took part. Young and old—all like wild specters—went to the Jewish houses with sticks, and drove out the housewives and children with beatings, expecting to rob them of their possessions.
They drove them out of town with beatings and verbal abuse. “Despised Jews,” raged the aroused, looting crowd. Many of them stood at the bridge, checking each Jewish woman to see if they could find a man disguised in women’s clothing. In such a fashion they discovered several men in women’s clothes, including Rabbi Moshele, Beryl Migdalavitch and others, who were beaten viciously by the wild mob and then shot to death. The women and children were accompanied with beatings until they reached the outskirts.
The unfortunates went as far as the first village Khoremsk after which they strayed through the fields—hungry, beaten, exhausted, many of them pregnant or with suckling babies, sick women and old, torn away from their husbands and fathers, desolate and forsaken in a land of wild animals. One of the better peasants would occasionally give them a piece of bread or a potato.
Some of the women went to new towns such as Stolin, Lakhva, Vysotsk and others. There they shared the bitter fate of those Jewish inhabitants. The remainder strayed and wandered over the dirty muddy roads of Polesye. There was constant danger of encountering further mental humiliation and physical abuse.
Autumn arrived with its damp cold weather. Many women and children died on the roads. Every bush and tree along the way knew of their suffering. Finally at the end of autumn, they were allowed back into David-Horodok where a ghetto had been created for them.
Life in this ghetto was appalling. The entire population of the ghetto received twenty-two pounds of bread per day, and most of them had to work for the German army. They were forced to do a variety of jobs. Many working women and children were overcome by hunger and inhuman conditions, and they died. Those that remained hardly resembled human beings. They were isolated, swollen with hunger, encircled by barbed wire in a small part of a filthy quarter, guarded by a murderous police which was headed by a creature with a rotten soul—Liovo Kosorev, may his name be blotted out. He worshipped many gods ... but he was particularly attracted to “shiny buttons,” to officers for whom this beast in the form of a person was prepared to do anything.
After the mass murder, on a cold and rainy autumn day, the gentiles also drove the women and children out of the town. The local citizens chased after them for several miles shouting: “Get out! We don’t need you!” Among the women were several men who were dressed in women’s clothes. One of these was Rabbi Moshele, Rabbi Velvele Ginzberg’s son. The local citizens, who were examining the faces of the refugees, recognized him. They pulled him out and murdered him.
Vigdar’s daughter Leah, Reb Moshe Kalushne’s wife, no longer had the strength to go on with the exile, and she sat down next to Haim Baruchin’s house. She was killed on the spot.
Hiah, Reb Adher Yudovitch’s daughter, seeing what was happening, picked up her child and jumped with him into the Horin River.
Faygele, Baytzl Yudovitch’s wife, and Rivka—Motle Bragman‘s wife—and her daughters remained almost to the end. But as soon as they had given up all their gold and silver, they too were chased to the Greble Bridge and murdered there.
A portion of the exiles arrived at the ghettos of Lakhva, Stolin, and Vysotsk. There they drank their cups of bitterness, and were liquidated along with all the Jews of those ghettos.
Three weeks after the women were driven from town, they were allowed to return into a newly created ghetto, which existed for one year. Afterwards they were sent to the same place where the men had been killed, and there they were murdered.
The [Horodtchukas] soon ordered the Jews to wear a white band marked with a blue Star of David on their sleeves. That same day they took the men “to work” beyond the town. Several hours later we heard shooting from the direction that the men had gone. Who and what, no one knew. We had hidden our father in the cellar and when the gentiles entered to look for men we created an uproar to divert their attention.
That same night in a pouring rain I suddenly heard crying. I saw through the window women and children with sacks on their backs. In reply to my question they told me that all the Jews were being driven across the bridge and out of town. My father quickly put on women’s clothing, and we all stood together in the crowd: my mother, my father, my sister Faigele and I. Along the road we encountered a gentile who was inspecting the crowd and he recognized my father. Words were of no avail. He returned with my father to town.
The rain poured. The women and children were brought to a manor alongside the river on the way to Stolin. The Horodtchukas assured us they would return us home just as soon as they had completed their search for weapons in our houses. Meanwhile the gentiles from the vicinity arrived and began to plunder and grab whatever came to hand. One of them struggled with me, threatening me with a knife if I wouldn’t give him my coat. However I didn’t give it to him and he left.
At night the murderer Maraiko came and took away Rivka, Yossel Yudovitch’s wife, and her two daughters, Molle and Yentl; Leah, Elya Bragman’s daughter; and Malke, Yashe Yudovitch the pharmacist’s wife. He also wanted to take my sister Faigele. “Why should she have to suffer here?” he asked. But I refused to part with her under any conditions.
In the morning Vanke and a band of cohorts drove us off the manor towards Stolin. They shot into the air, pushed and chased us. The older ones could not hold up and fell along the way. When were not far from Stolin, they turned us back toward David-Horodok. One kindly gentile who had known my maternal grandfather, Hertzl Luria the timber merchant, took us away to his farm at the time the others were returning to David-Horodok. I learned later they were crammed into a ghetto in the town, which the authorities had surrounded with barbed wire. According to the gentile’s plan, Faigele and I would work in the field and my mother would stay in the house.
He treated us very well. However, two days later when he went with us into the field a neighbor from the village passed us.
“Now that you’ve been seen, you can no longer remain with me,” the gentile said, “because my life is now also in jeopardy.” He brought us to some relatives on another farm and went alone to Stolin to get yellow patches, which was his usual routine.
When he returned he drove us in his wagon through the forests near Stolin, where he let us off. He took our belongings in his wagon and transported them to Stolin and we walked the rest of the way to Stolin. The gentile refused to take any gift or money from us.
In Stolin, we hid several days with Ester Blizshovsko, but our goal was Sarne. My aunt, my mother’s sister, lived there. We walked to Dombrovitz, and we drove from there to Sarne by wagon. We stayed in Sarne five months until the Germans established a ghetto in the Jewish quarter. It is noteworthy that certain Sarne gentiles did not want to leave the border region of the ghetto. Most of the Jews survived in the ghetto by selling their belongings and utensils. We did not want our aunt to have to support us, so we moved to other lodgings which were provided by the communal committee.
There were several David-Horodokers with us in the ghetto: Golde Finkelstein and her mother Yently, Zelda Finkelstein and her daughter Sara, and Haike Finkelstein with her two daughters Manie and Rive. Golde Finkelstein had her personal problem to add to the general woe. During the days of the Holocaust she gave birth to a daughter on her twelfth wedding anniversary.
All the Jews were required to register on two separate occasions over a six-month period. At the second registration they established a ghetto for recently arrived Jews from Dombrovitz and the surrounding region. Then the killing began. Every day five hundred men and women were transported to the trenches, which had been prepared in the forest outside of town. When our transport arrived at the spot we all began running away from the trenches towards a hill over near Sarne—a splendid target for the German guns.
My sister Faigele was wounded. While running I heard a voice. “Run daughter!” To this day I don’t know if that was my mother’s voice. In any case I never saw her again.
We came to a stream and I washed Faigele’s foot. We spent the entire night alone in the forest, terrified by horrible visions. In the morning we discovered a small house in the forest and went inside. Faigele’s foot had become swollen, so she lay down and quickly fell asleep. I went outside to look around, to try and find some Jews. When I returned to get Faigele, people in the house told me that she had gone with the shepherds. Later I learned from the village teacher that Faigele had been dragged into the woods and forced to lay on the ground while they drove back and forth over her with a bicycle until, with terrible pain and suffering she gave up her innocent soul.
I went off on the pathway crying bitterly until I finally dropped off into an exhausted sleep. A gentile woke me, brought me into the forest and succeeded in finding me a hiding place. Early next morning I set off walking again until a wagon stopped and gave me a ride to a nearby farm. I went into a house and asked for a drink. I found two Jews there. After I ate and drank the Jews showed me the road and warned me to hide from wagons. I went on, but suddenly I heard the sound of an approaching wagon. I quickly hid in the bushes. To my great terror the wagon stopped near my hiding place. My soul nearly left my body before I realized that the wagon contained my friends from the farm. They drove me in their wagon to the family of a Jewish doctor who lived in the forest. I stayed with them for a month. At night we would go to the gentile houses to beg for food, even a dry crust of bread. The trees served as hiding places during the day.
One gentile woman treated me very kindly and invited me into her home once a week. There I would wash my hair. She gave me a cooking pot and some salt, a very scarce commodity. The pot had two advantages. One was that I could eat warm cooked food after wandering for weeks through the cold forest. Most important was that potatoes, which were half-burned when roasted over a fire, could now be eaten entirely without any waste.
Another gentile woman hid me in the forest when the Germans appeared once. Afterwards she brought me back to my friends. One night while we were warming ourselves by a fire that we lit in the forest, a man with a gun suddenly appeared and said, “I am a partisan. We have a wounded man.” By the light of the flames he examined each of us until he came next to me and stared at me. Suddenly we heard a shot and a cry, “Get going!”
Everyone ran away but one by one they returned. The doctor called his daughters to come back, saying that the partisans would “take care of him” if they did not return. Afterwards they all searched for me, calling me by name again and again, but I lay the entire night hidden in the bushes. In the morning I returned to the group. The doctor praised me, saying “You were smart not to come...”
That is how things went for several months until the outlaws, whose leader was Bandero and who called themselves Banderovtzes began catching Jews. At that time the partisans showed up. I begged them to take me with them but they refused. Then I said to one of them, “Finish me off if you won’t honor my wish.” Finally they consented.
After a year of extraordinary suffering and frightful existence, all those women and children still living, including three or four grown men such as Z.B. Velvel Kushner, who the Germans spared from the slaughter of the men because he was an expert in the repair of new machines, were led out on the 28th of Elul, 5702 [Sept. 10, 1942] to the same place where the men were murdered the previous year, and 1100 people were shot to death by the German Police Battalion 306, an arm of the SS.
Thus ended the close to 500-year existence of the Jewish community in David-Horodok.
After the men had been slaughtered, the Jewish women of David-Horodok were driven out of town. A portion died along the way. The remnants that later returned to Horodok were murdered by the gentiles one year later, and were thrown into the same trenches as the men.
The daughter of Rabbi Moshele became a partisan in the Vysotsk forest. She fell in battle. Golde Rachel, Meir Eliyahu Kushner’s wife, hid in the shrine in the village of Khoromsk where she was later killed.
Family of Rabbi Moshele, his soul be blessed
Family of Rabbi Moshele, his soul be blessed
Shmuel Katzman, a son of Leibl Katzman, and his sister moved about in the forest of Orly for four months, The gentiles caught them there and hacked them to pieces.
Nishka, Haim Kirshner’s wife, along with three other women, hid themselves in a stable and that is where they were killed. Leah, Moshe Kalushne’s wife, was killed by the gentiles on the Greble bridge.
So the ghetto existed until the eve of Rosh Hosanna in 1942. On that day, the ghetto was liquidated. All the women and children—the number was no longer very great, no more than 1600 souls—accompanied by beatings from the police as well as a special group of SS horsemen, were driven to the same trench on the Olshoner hill. There everyone was stripped naked and shot to death.
Once again mother earth opened her arms and received for the men their wives and children. Thus was the innocent Jewish David-Horodok taken from the earth and ceased to exist...
A citizen of our town, Yitzchak Nachmanovitch (in army uniform) at the common grave in David-Horodok in 1945, on the fourth anniversary of the tragic end of our friends and relatives.
A citizen of our town, Yitzchak Nachmanovitch (in army uniform) at the common grave in David-Horodok in 1945, on the fourth anniversary of the tragic end of our friends and relatives.
It remains a secret of nature, how much human beauty and dignity, how much love and friendship, how much creative initiative and talent was so cruelly, murderously and prematurely transported to eternal rest. Here thousands of women, men, and children released their pure souls, and under the noise of the murderers’ machine guns sounded their last protest—a curse—a curse on the “culture” and the heads of the murderers, as well as on the leaders and presidents, socialists and democrats, in uniforms and dress coats ... a curse on the heads of those who traveled to Munich, London, Paris or Moscow in white gloves, selling children’s souls and trading in the blood and flesh of innocent people.
Michael Nosantchuk of Rublye describes the horrible events in a letter to his brother living in Windsor. Yakov Nosantchuk gave us two letters to publish. The first letter gives a general overview of the conditions that the Red Army soldier endured, and the second describes the details of the horrible slaughter. He writes in the first letter:
Today is the happiest day of my life. That is how I feel, reading a letter written in my brother’s hand. How many days and nights did I think of only one thing: that you should only know of the dark fate that had overtaken us. Escaping from the dark ghetto, from the murderous hands of the Germans, wandering around in the mud, swamps, woods and marshes alone and forlorn, worse off than a dog, I had only one thought—how can I let my brothers and sisters know? Will someone in my family even know of my death, of what I endured? More than once I wanted to end my life, but remembering you, I encouraged myself. I kept up my hope and, with all my strength, I endured everything. My only aspiration was to get hold of a gun and take revenge. It was not easy for me to decide to join a partisan detachment. From the detachment I went on to join the Red Army. I was in Lithuania, Latvia, later on the front lines outside of Warsaw, and I ended in the darkness of Berlin. I took revenge for our innocent, spilled blood. But the great wound will not heal.
In the second letter, written five days later (January 15, 1946), the writer gives the following details of the bloody slaughter
In 1941 around the 16th of Av (I remember it was a Sunday), the horrible slaughter occurred in David-Horodok. With the pretext that they were being sent to work, all the men were gathered outside of Horodok and shot to death. I was in Rublye at that time unaware of anything. I had a passion for fishing, so I went out to the river. Yakov, our Golde’s husband, sat at home around the table with his fellow Hasidim. I called for him to come with me, but he only joked that he would come later with a wagon to get the fish. I went alone.
Around five o’clock in the afternoon, I heard guns shooting, one after another. I settled deeper into the bushes and waited until someone came from the village. The first to announce the bitter news was the shameless Marko. Just two hours earlier everything had been peaceful. Everyone sat at his work, whether at the forge or at sewing. Suddenly all the men were dead, including Yakov. A short time ago he was telling jokes, and now he lay dead. Why? Fifty-three martyrs were murdered, with Hannahle’s father and Gitle’s husband among them.
Before he died Yakov said a few words. The villagers had taken them out bound together in groups of three into barns, and there they shot them. Soon came the realization that all were gone in Horodok as well.
I managed to get away unnoticed to my friend Avsai in the village of Harisha. The murderers soon realized that I was not among the bodies, and began searching for me. However Avsai knew how to hide me. In Stolin the black SS were not yet active. They had seized only David-Horodok. In Rublye the perpetrators were local gentiles. I received a message from our Moshe Haim, may he rest in peace, that I should come to Stolin. I went there. The unfortunate women of Horodok and Rublye had been driven out of the villages of Harisha, and were robbed of their belongings before their eyes. The gentile Nikolai Pusiks pulled Yakov’s boots off the feet of Hiah, our Golde’s daughter. (Later I saw him while I was with the partisans, and killed him.) The unfortunates then wandered through the Brezno forest. Nowhere would anyone let them in.
The Jews created a communal organization in Stolin, and with much money and sacrifice they worked to allow the unfortunates to enter Stolin.
On the second day of Rosh Hoshana, I sat with our brother Moshe Haim. Suddenly two thugs burst into the house and took Moshele away forever. Three days later we learned that he had been tortured to death. He had been stuck with prods and pieces of flesh were torn from him. On the second day of Rosh Hoshana, 1941, at 12 midnight, he gave up his holy soul in a Stolin jail. I found his body six months later, and buried him wrapped in his tallis, near Aunt Golde’s grave.
Liave, covered with tears, said the graveside Kaddish. Zelig Fishman was with me. He helped me. The face of our holy brother was already decomposed, but I recognized him anyway. Frumke, Ganye, Hiah, and Rachel also came running to help. We made the funeral without the knowledge of the Germans.
After Moshele’s death I began a different life. I became a part of a family of orphans and widows. I would look at the children, especially Avivale, and my heart would nearly break. Aunt Golde held out well, but then the light began to go out. At Hanukkah, she breathed her last in our house. All the Rublye widows wept for her. We made a quiet funeral because the Germans forbade funerals.
But we didn’t have much time to think of the dead. The great burden of all the orphans and widows fell on me. I turned in every direction trying to keep them from starving. We had a minyon in our house. Father, may he rest in peace, would say Kaddish with Liave. The first Kaddish was for the Rublye martyrs, next for our brothers, then for Aunt Golde. Father would say little, just bite his lips and keep silent. Often he would scold the women when they began crying, and then he would begin to shed tears. I was forced to play the role of a hero, but at the same time shed my own tears.
One could not appear on the streets after seven o’clock in the evening. We would sit behind closed shutters. Often Ganye and her children would come through the garden and we would sit together. Not infrequently we would talk about you, whether you knew what was happening here and what you would think when you found out. Thus we sat in the house the entire winter.
On the eve of Pesach, 1942, they drove Ganye out of her house, and then us too. At that time Zelig Fishman, may he rest in peace, gave us considerable aid. Then there began rumors that the Germans would make a ghetto in Stolin. How many trials could we endure? How many tribulations? They were flaying our skin. By the eve of Shavuos the Germans had completed encircling the ghetto with a fence of 15 wires, one post every two or three meters. We received the order to move into the ghetto. It is impossible to describe the picture. Everybody carried what they could—one must live—father, may he rest in peace, took his cane and went into the ghetto. We were assigned a small room—myself, Golde’s son Shia, cousin Yakov’s five-year-old son Michalke and our parents. Not far from us was Ganye with her children and Frumke.
In the ghetto it was forbidden to take anything in or out. The death rate reached twelve a day. People became swollen. I would look at mother’s feet and shutter. We talked of nothing but eating. We found ways of smuggling food into the ghetto. Then came the terrible knowledge that they were shooting all the Jews. We couldn’t believe it. What does it mean? How could they? Small children? Old people? It cannot be!
Until the black day came on the eve of Rosh Hoshana 1942, there had been 7000 souls in Stolin, and all were killed. The graves were prepared. They first stripped naked and then were forced to lie down in the graves and then shot in rows.
I will never forget the last night in the ghetto. I stayed with mother until three o’clock in the morning. We kissed and kissed, cried and cried—your photographs pressed to our hearts, we said farewell to you. Father recited the confessional prayer. Mother bathed and put on clean clothes, preparing for her death. She then drove me out of the house, saying “Go away from us! You will survive. Hide yourself. Don’t stay with us! Perhaps you will be able to avenge us and tell of our fate.”
At that moment I didn’t believe mother’s words; how could I survive when we were surrounded on all sides? I went away with the idea that our parents’ last minutes would be easier if they thought I had survived.
So I left the dearest and most treasured forever. A thousand times I cursed the moment when I left. I often wished that I had lain down with them and embraced them, as all the martyrs did before they died.
I stayed in a cellar with Valyen Malatchnik for 18 days after the slaughter of the ghetto. I thought of everything, looking for ways to get out. My heart told me that if only I could get out of the ghetto, I would know how to get along. I tried to get Valyen to go along with me. However at that time his wife was also alive and in hiding. Others who were still alive included Bela and Nissl Malatchnick, their daughter Bashele, and Shalom Durtzin with his wife and child. Their families were still intact and I was already an orphan. I would meet them at night and try to convince them to find a way to escape with me. They decided to wait for a miracle and remained there.
I began to search for a way out by myself. On the 18th night after the slaughter I groped around in the dark ghetto—doors, windows, all broken; all the houses were vacant. When I thought I had stumbled over the dead body of a martyr, my hair shuddered. I had only one thought—life, life! How can I get out of here?
At that moment, I encountered another living person. I quickly went over to him. I thought that he was another unfortunate like myself, trying to find a way out. How shocked I was to see a tall gentile standing before me—the biggest thief in Stolin (he now sits in jail) and he led me out of the ghetto.
Valyen, Bela, Nissl, Shalom—they were found and shot to death several days after my escape.
Then I began to live my “golden” days—a lone survivor in the world, wandering about. I owe gratitude to Saltis Avdain, Kvadok and Lavonin Malak Mamonovitch—they helped me out until I could fend for myself, that is to say, join a partisan detachment. I will not describe my further experiences; they are not important.
I believe that what I have written will give you a more-or-less clear picture of what happened to us. We have with us here from Rublye Avraham Shulman the Levi’s two sons. They are longing for their Aunt Edel Shulman in New York, but they do not have her address. If you can, dear brother, find out her address from the Rublye people, and let her know about the two boys. Let her write to them at my address.
 Written in 1946 on the fifth anniversary of the destruction of the men of David-Horodok Jewry.
 Weinryb, Bernard D., “Polish Jews Under Soviet Rule,” in The Jews in the Soviet Satellites, p. 352
 Vakar, Nathan P., Belorussia, p. 171
 Editors note: Itzak (Etzl) Nahmanovitch was in the Soviet Union during World War II. Immediately after the war’s end, he visited David-Horodok as a Red Army soldier and saw the destruction of the town with his own eyes. He now lives in the United States of America. His description was written in 1946. At that time he was visiting the German concentration camps, and in September 1946, he published the article “A Home” in the Yiddish paper. We re-publish his description of the Holocaust with small changes. To keep the story of the Holocaust told in this Memorial Book chronological, we have divided the contents of the article into segments.
 Bas-Sheva Lin Kushner was the only Jew in David-Horodok found alive at the end of the second World War.
 Spector, Shmuel, “Jewish Resistance in Small Towns of Eastern Poland” in Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939-46, p. 138
 He visited David-Horodok after the war.
 According to Vakar, Belorussia, pp. 179-180, the following people joined the police: those who wanted a chance to work private revenge on the Communists; others who were keen on getting the privileges of better food and housing, and still others who were sent in as Soviet agents. The Germans welcomed Soviet army officers to the police force and many P.O.W.’s came to serve. At first they were accepted indiscriminately; later they were screened. But it was natural that “many criminals and adventurers, NKVD men and all kinds of scum” slipped in. These were particularly numerous in the political and criminal sections of the SD.
 Lazar Rankin was the one-time owner of a tannery. He was arrested by the NKVD and sent to Siberia. He escaped from the prisoner transport deep in Russia and returned to David-Horodok where he was killed with all the David-Horodoker Jews.
 The versions of the death of Simha Mishalov disagree, but it is impossible to judge which is accurate, so all have been left.
 This contradicts other stories told about Rabbi Moshele, who was supposedly thrown into the river trying to escape. Once again it is impossible to judge which is correct.
 Goldhagen, Daniel, Hilter’s Willing Executioners, p. 271
 The letter-writer is the only one of his family who was saved and one of the few survivors of Rublye, David-Horodok, and Stolin. He escaped in the midst of the slaughter as if by a miracle, joined the anti-Nazi partisans and later joined the Red Army. The letter was published in The Forward by Yakov Nosantchuk of Detroit.
and the Small Print
Updated 15 Dec 2000