PRUZHANY YZKOR BOOK
By Berl Blushtein
Berl Blushtein, inhabitant of Lineve village (near Pruzahny's train station called Arantshitze) survived Nazi's hell. He and his family passed to Pruzhany Ghetto, and then together with other people of the Ghetto, were transported to Auschwitz, where he suffered all type of pains in Nazi's death factories. He lost his family. After many happenings he arrived to Philadelphia, US. The sufferings he survived to, were described by him in 373 pages. These descriptions contain countless important details and they will be - by themselves - good material for a special edition, not only about the destruction of Lineve, but also about the destiny of our near villages. Of B. Blushtein manuscripts, we extract fragment related to the destruction of his native town Lineve. Our intention is to complete the terrible picture of small towns' extermination, those that appear in our Pinkas. In the epilogue are some fragments that B. Bernshtein published in "Canadian Eagle", fragments that are related with its life in concentration fields.
...Was next to the end of month Tamuz 1942. One morning I go to work. I find BERL BROKOVSKY, our collaborator, mounted on his car and horse. I ask him
When I arrived to my work place, YUDEVITSH told me that this day there was not work there for me. That I should go to work to the deposit, as there were needed people. In the deposit worked the accountant OVAL, a homeless of Drohitzin near Byalistock, and YOSEF HELMAN. I should be their assistant. My work consisted on weighing objects, place them in order and weigh them again… YOSEF HELMAN was the brother of BERL HELMAN, server of German Mayor in Pruzhany. Both HELMAN (in fact ELMAN) were in a concentration camp in Austria. OVAL survived and after liberation he was in France (Redactors Note: see in this Pinkas the writings of siblings ELMAN about partisans movements). We knew each other very well from past times.
Around 2 p.m., in Pruzhany's Ghetto was known terrible news . To the dawn, my Landsmen - the Jews of Lineve - were shot. My wife and I cried, we took care each of the other, and we tried to hide our feelings when we were with our children, for not making bitter their life. To the evening, I saw again workers that traveled from Pruzhany Ghetto toward Lineve. Here I listened terrible details about blood bath.
Workers arrived at 6:30. At this hour exactly, finished the slaughter. Murderers were still excited. I could see the transports with Jewish workers, and I asked them if they were of Lineve. They answered that they were of Pruzhany. They weren't bothered. The order was that should be killed only Jews of Lineve, with German punctuality... .Workers didn't know details, they only listened that some Jews were able to escape but criminals killed them all.
The following afternoon arrived to Pruzhany a young man of Lineve, ZALMAN BURAK, son of PINCHAS BURAK. He transmitted details about the slaughter in Lineve, and the anguish lived during last ten days. The second day arrived two young women, CHAIKE LEIZEROVITSY and CHAVA MAISTER. They escaped for miracle of executioners knife , and wondered two days around Lineve. They met a Christian, and he transmitted them the details of the slaughter. This Christian, under the order of Germans, had to bring shovels to cover the enormous sepulcher of the martyrs.
Lineve belonged to Ukraine. There was not German gendarmerie, was only Ukrainian police, but in fact it was a mixture of Poles, Byelorussian and Ukrainian. The commandant was a Christian of Lineve who was called SOTNIK.
In Ukraine all Jews had to work. They cut down trees in the forest, which was a heavy work. The forest was near train station. This area should be protected and safe, so that trains were not assaulted. They cut down the area trees of the forest, toward the station Tevli, in address to Brest.
Besides Ukrainian police, it was in Lineve a German commissary and his assistant. Practically this was the power in Lineve, that belonged to the District of Kobrin. There was seated the commissariat, the GESTAPO, the Gendarmerie and Ukrainian police.
Two weeks before the slaughter arrived to Lineve some members of the GESTAPO, called Jews Chief, and ordered to register the names of all Jews that were in Lineve. They also registered Jews that were (only some families) in the village Arantshitze, one km. of Lineve.
The members of GESTAPO abandoned the place, but ordered that Jews could not inhabit next to Christians. They should pack their things and get ready to move to gasoline deposits area, located one and half km of Lineve, and of there would be transferred to the Ghetto of Kobrin.
Meanwhile they judged a Jew of Lineve to tell false accusations against Germans. The protocol was signed by Christian KUSTIKEVITSH, of Arantshitze. The Jew was LEVY MANKOVSKY, his wife was RACHEL, and had six children. The oldest daughter was 26 years old and the youngest son 12. All were shot.
Jews of Lineve didn't move of their place, and every day they went to work. Was impossible to arrive to Pruzhany, distant 12 km, because Pruzhany belonged to Oriental Prussia and Lineve belonged to Ukraine. Jews waited to be transferred the Ghetto of Kobrin. Two days before the slaughter arrived to Lineve four SS. Jews wanted to know what for they came, but was impossible to obtain any data. Every time was more strictly restricted any movement in the place.
That dawn, before critical moment, told CHAIKE LEIZEROVITSH that she entered the house of family KRONSHTAT, and told them that some murmured that near gasoline deposit "they" dug a very big grave. Mrs. KORNSHAT answered: "these are rumors, in several opportunities were told same histories and were false". Also added that ABRAHAM TZUKERMAN president of Judenrat went out with a couple of horses toward Pruzhany, to transport commissary's documentation. He maintained good relationships with TZUKERMAN, and for granted he would communicate him if something was getting ready to be done.
Certainly the Jew of Lineve frequently went to Pruzhany with documents of local Commissary. That day was - together with PESACH ORLOVSKY - in the Ghetto of Pruzhany, spoke with him and asked about the Jews of Lineve. He was answered that they would be transferred to the Ghetto of Kobrin. They didn't know that only some hours separated them of death. They left Pruzhany at 8 p.m. and at 4 a.m. were shot.
Anyway, continued commenting CHAIKE LEIZEROVITSH, she doesn't agreed with Mrs. KRONSHTAT's answer and went to that of her friend CHAVA MAIZTER, as if her heart were predicting that something was being prepared in the village.
At 2 p.m. happened a great tumult, many cars, GESTAPO, Gendarmerie and Police. They woke up Jews Chief and members of Judenrat. They informed them that all Jews should meet, because they would transfer them to the Ghetto of Kobrin. This news doesn't disturb Jews too much, they already waited for it. They went from house to house with the list that the GESTAPO had prepared, and they gathered all Jews.
The two women CHAIKE LEIZEROVITSH and CHAVE MAIZTER, as they were foreseen the danger, left their houses inadvertently and they hid in wheat fields. They were there until the evening. They listened screams, shootings. Later went by lateral roads toward Pruzhany and they arrived to the Ghetto.
The following was told by youths of Lineve, and by another youth. At 3 a.m. after evicting them of their housings, loaded them in trucks and told them that they were taken to the Ghetto of Kobrin. Each one should gather his belonging, money, and other necessary elements. They were calm since it was they waited for... Just after they traveled first kilometer, saw that were not taken to Kobrin but toward gasoline deposits. They screamed and cried, Jews foresaw death very close. MOISHE ZSHIDEVITSH died suddenly from an heart attack. Siblings EFRAIM and YDEL MANKOVSKY jumped of truck, and later jumped YOSEF son of SHMUEL, but they fell riddled by criminal bullets. Gasoline deposits were walled with spikes wires, and there Jews could no longer leave the place.
In groups of 15 people, Germans ordered them to take off clothes and face death. Other totally convulsed, waited in a line. To children, they didn't shoot them. They grabbed them of the legs and destroyed their heads against posts or against floor. CIVIA ORLOVSKY jumped with her small son in her lap, and they could not pull up the boy of her arms. This way finished Jews of Lineve.
Two weeks before the slaughter, they sent from Lineve to Kobrin a quantity of Jews that were labor qualified. These were SHMUEL MOVSHOVITZ (exterminated later in the crematory of Auschwitz), PINCHAS BURAK (fell in Kobrin), SHIMEN AIZENSHTEIN (fell in Volkovysk), AIZENSHTEIN (fell in the road escaping from Kobrin toward Lineve, faced a hooligan and was stabbed).
Next are the names of Jews of Lineve that were shot in the month of July of 1942, I do not know exactly the day. I give the name of people that I knew and remember, but I can have an error in the quantity of members of the family, neither I included a quantity of homeless that were in Lineve in that moment.
Last two families were shot before collective slaughter of Lineve Jews. This is the summary of our small community. It had same destiny of other Jewish communities. Our simple and humble Jews were exterminated as millions siblings, AL KIDUSH HASHEM (Sanctifying His Name) in all places where cruelly dominated Nazis YMACH SHEMAM VE"ZRICHMAN (erased forever their names and memory).
We survived only a few. We will eternally load the pain and sacred memory of our dear and near families.
A feast in Auschwitz[i]
(A chapter of a detainee's experiences)
This happened in October 1943, when I received ordered by a SS, a blow with a bottle in left cheek leaving it in two, and my teeth were flown. This sign stays until today. To the evening I ran to the hospital in the block 28, with the left cheek in two pieces There I found in a long line, sick persons that needed urgent attention. Some were assisted, and others received green cards to be assisted the following day.
Suddenly was listened an alarm, as everything was announced with the howl of sirens. Orders are orders!. Here you cannot avoid anything. Somebody was lame, other had high temperature, but medical team prescribed they cannot assist him. I and my left cheek was not assisted. The cheek piece hangs and it bleeds. Patience!. There is not alternative. You are sick and you should receive a coupon, otherwise the following day when going to work, they blow you again... If you complain in front of the "Kapo", you can receive an additional one, that is to say some "good medicinal sticks" and "medicinal pushes", and then you forget the doctor and the hospital. I knew all this. Then the following morning instead of going to work, I "made a festival day": Descending below blocks 5, 6 and 7, went right to hospital in block 28, because during the night my cheek worsens, although washing it with my own urine that was the "medicine of concentration camp".
I put myself in a line in which some 100 people already waited. I thought that all sick persons had green cards, and only me was a " guest " without a card. While we were stopped, surrounded us five individuals, block chiefs, the "Kapo" of concentration camp and other bad people . Among them was the chief of block 18 for which all detainees trembled of fear, because in his block they were carried out all kinds of exchanges. A penknife for a portion of food or a piece of bread; bread for tobacco or cigarettes; some potatoes cracks for remains of cigarettes, etc. He responded with blows and taking the " merchandise " for him . All detainees knew him as a very rough person. They began to control us. Those that had green card for the hospital, were left waiting. Those that didn't have it, were taken out of the line. This way we were only some 30 people.
They ordered "enter by five!, go lousy dogs!, you don't want to work and for that reason you come here!"
Next to me walks with hinder KADISH GOLDBERG who has swollen feet. He is of Pruzhany. He survived but I do not know where he is. KADDISH asks: What will happen BERELE? They take us to the crematory in Birkenau.! I tell him. " Do not worry!. Until the crematory lacks 4 km, and before we have to go by hall door of Auschwitz."
We almost always got scared naming the hall door of Auschwitz, and now I have hopes, he will help us. Block chiefs does not hurry, but some cannot walk with their sick feet. We help them grabbing them under the arm. When arriving to hall door, one of block chiefs announces that these who don't want to work, will be necessary to be sent to Birkenau, to the "Sky" command. The Under Chief came out, observed us, and said to his colleagues: "Hi!! These can still work" and at the same time he howls: "Which is the right you have to violate an order, we are those who send people to "Sky" command. I call the "Kapo" of the " wood " section.. He was some deaf . Some and among them KADDISH GOLDBERG, went to the hospital, and me among others went to work to the wooden barrack. This work consisted on not making anything.
Here were seated some 30 people, who take out tip with knives to small wooden pieces… Another group heaps them in small bundles. This is used to light stone coal. Another group cuts wooden pieces with handsaws without edge, of here to there, and the trunk doesn't move. An about 40 year-old man asks me if I am Jew or Pole. I answer. We recognized ourselves as Jews for the number we had tattooed. Which was your occupation at home? asks. I answer him: shoe shiner. He tells me that he was an outstanding doctor, he had his own clinic, and says with pride that among them, in Vienna there was a not Jewish shoe shiner. I add to his words: wooden "cutters" were not in Vienna and for it, now "we ascend our category". Here doesn't exist hierarchy. I feel annoyed for the answer of this "yeke " (TN: nickname for Jews of German culture origin) because even in current situation he highlighted also his German hierarchy.... I would answer him in rude words, but I respected him for his age. I went away to look for another " partner ".
Work in wooden barrack was not very strict. Many were only in turns without making anything. Going for a walk I found another that had a handsaw, and waited to a partner. We come closer and I began to push the handsaw with him, and meanwhile I began to chat. He was Pole, I don't remember what place from. Last three days he worked with swollen feet, in the barrack. He told me: "I was in the hospital and they recommended me to drink little, to eat more, and to maintain feet on high while I slept. To maintain feet on high? I could do this. But to eat more?". "They say...". he begins to speak in low voice, and remains silent.
What do they say? I want to know. "Here in the wooden barrack" he says in low voice, "when they join a great quantity of detainees, suddenly amid the work they close the barrack, SS arrives with trucks, they load all and they transport them to the crematory ". He admits in low voice "I want to escape, but how could I achieve it with my sick and swollen feet". They promised him, continued saying, that would take him today to the hospital to cure him. In that way maybe he could escape of the chimney.
Listening this history, now I understood why work is almost null. I decided that in this group they won't see me any more. At each instant seemed to me as they already were coming with trucks to load us. I had only one idea in mind: I should survive the beasts. It seems that the block chief noticed the left cheek and the open wound. I could finally release working in wooden barrack.
From Death Valley
(Remembrances of an ex D.P.)
We are in " Guzin " the concentration camp two miles apart form central concentration camp " Mathausen ".
We can feel in atmosphere, that we are in front of abnormal facts. Us, survivors' remains, each one with his suffering and illnesses, after the extermination of 6.000.000 of martyrs. During five years of sufferings and Nazi cruelties, we never listen other words of them, but these: "Yude, you will to explode, and if war concludes at 12, at 11 we finish you"....
Now from two days ago are not SS, there is only German defense police (DP). They give turns around their positions, calm and disappointed of victories of their Fürer. During four days, groups didn't come out to work. During evening in all blocks they gather us to "deliver" a talk, they teach us... that we stay calm. Not to provoke. Freedom comes closer. Chats of nazi tellers are no longer as were those of the KAPOS thirsty of blood, or of blocks chiefs, fed as pigs and drunkards. These are liberal people, and we are not "shades" neither " numbers " as they called us. We feel again that we are human beings.
At dusk, there was a lot of movement in the field. Volunteers' groups were created, and gradually they maintained the order. They stimulate us to not demoralize. There was a lot of tumult, and suddenly I felt satisfied. First, I got ten cigarettes some days ago, and for two of them I got some soup of another detainee, and I exchanged three cigarettes for a small package of dry beets. To get bread was not so easy. It was a deluxe article. Then I thought that with dry beets, I could quiet my hunger.
Shots of rifles are not listened. We desired to have some more hours of life to see how arrives freedom, and to see flame in hall door a great flag adorned with flowers or spotted of blood, and be able see it with our moribund eyes.
Block Chiefs walked of here to there, screaming, making observations, but in their behavior a resignation is perceived. They no longer have the power of the SS, and the Kapos don't have work. Some of them thought: there is not whom to discharge heavy claws against the detainees that fell as flies under their blows. It is already lunch hour, and we felt a little better than before. After lunch, we talked, but all surroundings are tense. Something is awaited....
A whirl of languages: Spanish, French, Russian, Yiddish, Pole, Greek, Italian, Czech. Somebody admits a secret: were introduced weapons to the camp. At 4 p.m. we listened a scream that resonated in whole camp:
...Oppel; all enter the Oppel[ii]
I am located in block 6, a two floors construction.. Are here 1600 men.. The Chief orders us: "Soon, enter of ten in a line!"
Sick persons were leaning against the wall. Suddenly while we stopped, we saw some detainees running toward hall door screaming: Hurrah!! We want to accompany them, and the Chief orders us to maintain our place. We didn't obey his order and we leave running toward hall door. We could not still conceive what was happening there. A rebellion or did already arrive American army?.
Afternoon arrived news. American were near the place. I also crawl with trembling steps toward hall door. I listen that American army was already here, and we were liberated!.
I meet CHAIM ISRAEL whom with we went together from Pruzhany Ghetto to Auschwitz. We hug each other and we cry. Yes, arrived freedom, without our most loved relatives and friends whom sanguinary Nazi exterminated.
We walk slowly toward hall door, step pass by step. I was very weakened by forced march of SS from "Winer Naishtat" to "Mathaussen". We walk out, almost without food. Now I understand what for they made it, to spent time, to avoid battle time
When we arrive to hall door, we saw on the tower an American official. And for us, without difference of nations it really seemed a Messiah. A new camp chief was appointed, and German police of defense was with weapons in the hand, but we already looked at them without fear.
Near hall door, two American soldiers controlled all Germans that passed, and these gave up their weapons, that then were thrown in a heap. They gave us weapons that we put on the back. Flags flamed: Poles, Greek, Italian and Czechoslovakian, flags of freedom. All type of flags not being the Jewish one. Nobody of us worried for that reason. We were out and weak. We could hardly crawl, and the tumult burned as water in the boiler.
Field Chief spoke, and expressed that thanks to American army, we were liberated. That each one of us liberated of murderous hands, could return to his work, to his family, and to his home. All, all could return....
All. Only us, Jews, cried. Where is our home, our family?. They pulled up our trunk and roots. Each one of us that survived, is here alive for miracle, by chance. Each one with his miracle, with his individual chance...
Field Chief finished his speech and German defense police gave his weapons to American soldiers, they were placed in line, and this meant that they gave up field control. The multitude pulls up the doors of SS housings, They destroyed fence around the field, and nobody pays attention to chief's orders. The excitation of freedom boiled like oil over fire, and over flew in acts of real savagery. Some groups sacrificed horses, another group brings rabbits of SS stables to cook them.
A Russian has bread in one hand and in the other one a package of margarine. He gives a bite to bread and another to margarine, but with wild hunger! He also screamed: "who has cigarettes might receive my piece of bread". Many hungry observe distantly, and they swallow.. That night I received half rabbit leather, moved away hair and ate some piece. Whole night reigned tumult and screams. On route comes victorious American army, our liberated men extended their hands to receive something of them. They were very good with us, they threw us packages of cigarettes, groceries, chocolates. The following day, were many sick persons and some dead. Harmed them so much food.