Abraham Breski

 

PRUZHANY'sSAINT KEHILA DESTRUCTION SUMMARY

 

Fragments of Abraham Breski's speech in the "Pruzhany and Surrounding Landsmen in Eretz Israel" meetinghappened October 11 1945, in Tel Aviv.

 

PRUZHANY UNDER SOVIET POWER

 

September 1939. Poland population lived calm and serene. Suddenly broke out war with all it'shorrors. Borders extended until most oriental and distant areas. The Nazi hordes came in fast and large steps close to Brest. Many inhabitants of Pruzhany abandoned the city and escaped toward East, and likewise big masses of all areas.

 

But September 19 1939, red army vanguard appeared in Pruzhany and surroundings. Soonsadness disappeared and a relief invaded hearts. The dominant Nazi forces went away and dangerous hours were attenuated. Very soon the inhabitants began habituating to conditions ofSoviet order. In three months were liquidated private products free sale business. From January 1 1940, with the new administrative year, production andtrade passed undergovernment's control

 

Administrative institutions of products supply, education, and social help opened up, . Most ofpopulation was attracted to work in all institutions, and didn't lack work neither sustain for each one, without origin difference who desired to work in productive tasks.Jews were granted free access to all governmental positions, something that didn't happened when they were underprevious domain. This was for them a compensation for life change to which they were used from old generations.

 

Government opened a certain quantity of business, according to specialized occupations: tailors, shoemakers, blacksmiths, locksmiths, etc. Were organized and worked based on cooperative system under government's control.

 

Very soon also came out a reorganization in school environment. Was instituted a ten years school cycle, that included a plan of high school studies. Opened up special schoolseach one in it's local language: Russian, Polish, Byelorussian and Yiddish. Was allowed everyone to choose the school he wanted. Was opened also a high school for adults. In a short time was duplicated the quantity of students in comparison with previous years. Especially increased the quantity of students in higher classes. The school instruction was gratuitous.

 

The two orphans homes , one Jewish that was maintained with Jewish money and American support, and the other Christian maintained by previous system, fused in a single institution maintained by the State. The institution was located in a wide and comfortable place in Dr. Pacevitz St. Children received good feeding, good gear, and a careful and controlled education.

 

An organized net serviced health, and each inhabitant was entitled to medical andambulatory attendance, to call home a doctor, or to go into a hospital. Everything wasfree. Local doctors together with those that arrived from other places were busy attending sick persons. The Urban Hospital,triplicate the quantity of beds. Was opened a hospital for venereal illnesses, and a maternity. The medications were given to very low prices. Was opened a public library with many books in local languages: Russian, Byelorussian, Yiddish and Polish.

 

During Soviet domain many Jewish inhabitants were sent to other areas of Russia, many of them social activists of previous times. Among them, the old Zionist ELIOHU POMERANIETZ and his wife, the old bundists YTZHOK EZRA GLEZER and family, NEIMAN and family, FORER with his wife and sister, and also the family of MEIER MOTIL.

 

UNDER GERMAN RULE

 

Soviet power didn't resist much time.After 21 months, June 22 1941 at dawn, the Nazis attackedlines of red army, and on 23rd. Nazis tanks entered Pruzhany, and with them the misfortune for Jewish population. The Jews staid in their houses, and streets only saw Christians that went to greetnew occupants. It was a day of bereavement for Jews, because they knew that was waiting them.

 

Some days passed and began all kinds of ordinances against Jews.Were attacked their houses, and lootings, blows and humiliation were a daily phenomenon. Among the first ordinances was the "Yellow patch". Passed a short time,and was applied a contribution to all Jews: to give in24 hours 500.000 rubles, 2 kg. of gold, 10 silver kg and 100 couples of boots. Were demanded daily quantities of different elements: pillows, bedspreads, sheets, beds and furniture. Later was prohibited to Jews walking on the sidewalks, and they should walk in the middle of the street. Was prohibited them to inhabit the streets Pacevitz and May 3rd. and their laterals. All Jews moved from that sector of the city. Did not pass much time, and arrived the order of forming a Ghetto.

 

LIFE IN GHETTO

 

September 25 arrived the order to all Jews to concentrate in the ghetto, which was surrounded by following streets: Dombrowska until the bridge, Kobrinska until the bridge, Brisker until the corner where joins Shereshev St., and all internal back streets. This part of the city was fenced with spike wires, and a main hall door was placed between the house of Yudkovsky and the "Rad Kromen."

 

The power designated a Jewish Council (Judenrat) composed by five people, and these couldinfluence more people; finally it was conformed by 24 men. These attracted men of all congregation levels, and they took in charge the organization and general matters. All population's tendencies were represented in the Judenrat. Was created a mutual trust, a will to work in common, and members surrendered Judenrat to collective action. The Judenrat administered practically all aspects oflife in the Ghetto. It was the authority in all social matters, andwere brought many Jews of other cities.

 

The lesson learned during Soviet power was useful. Were not allowed in the Ghetto any private trade, houses were socialized, and a social economy was managed in the whole sense of the word. Thanks to this focus, many difficult situations were avoided. Were not shortage of bread, potatoes or other groceries. All artisans worked in shops that belonged to the Judenrat, and the Judenrat received people's salary that worked for Germans outside of the Ghetto.

 

The quantity of groceries that Germans distributed to Ghetto inhabitants, was very scarce : 200 daily grams of bread for person, some potato, something "more than nothing" of meat. Approximately about 4.000 Jews were brought to Pruzhany Ghetto: 2000 of Bialistok and 2000 of Malech. Shereshev, Henowka, Bielovietz, etc. Even the quantity of Jews of Pruzhany duplicated, nobody suffered hunger. The Judenrat worried about supplying all, and it also introduced groceries to the Ghetto bribing the SS. Not only did not suffer hunger, but rather during a long time they could receive bread and potatoes from local trades, without limitation and to low prices. YTZHOK YANOVITSH headed the Judenrat.

 

He highlighted as honest organizer and surrendered totally to this cause.He was respected by all Ghetto inhabitants. It is also a praise to highlight the honest activity of SHLOIME YUDEVITSH, who worried in getting groceries for the Ghetto, ZAVEL SEGEL who risked his life contacting the GESTAPO, LEIZER SHAYN who worked without rest day and night worrying about all internal questions, VELVEL SHRAIBMAN and ALTER FAYVUSHINSKY, and Dr. OLYE GOLDFAYN who was not member of the Judenrat, butcollaborated in all social tasks with great self-denial.

 

Judenrat should do all demands and responsibilities thatevery day came form military command. A specialized group was always alert, so that in Ghetto deposits were always enough elements to satisfy constants demands. The Judenrat also offered workers and Christians who worked for German army. This way for example, 200 workers were sent for road works near Bielovietz, and the Judenrat covered their supply. The salary of the workers was half of those received by Christians, and they also received blows.

 

Having fun with Jews

 

Of time in time, German soldiers entered the Ghetto, offending, murdering and stealing. Specially stood out the SergeantLEHMAN that used to visit frequently the Ghetto. In one of his visits he and his group forced the rabbi and other old Jews, to dress the ritual mantel (talit) and the phylacteries, and to dance and sing in the middle of the street. He stood and made fun of them, and it seems that this liked him; he repeated it many times until was moved away by means of bribe,by intervention of the Judenrat.

 

Ghetto is surrounded and a decision to commit suicide

 

November 1 1942 was a terrible day. From dawn the Ghetto was surrounded by an unusual watch. Each 15 steps were placed military with machine guns, and nobody was allowed to leave the Ghetto. Were retired permissions given for those that worked outside of the Ghetto. The population of the Ghetto was prey of trembling panic, and understood that something bad approached. It was not possible to make anything, because exit was forbidden. In a state of depression, they waited something bad could end up happening. The doubt increased every hour.

 

The group of intellectuals, doctors, teachers, lawyers, etc. met and decided to commit suicide, for not falling with life in SS hands. The same afternoon, all they with their wives and children arrived to the house of VELVEL SHRAIBMAN, and decided to be poisoned. First they injected children, laterwomen, and at the end men. The destiny was inhouse owner to be the last one controlling that the operation was consummated. It seems to be that the dose was not enough as to eliminate them, because they got asleep but they didn't die.

 

When SHRAIBMAN understood what happened, he lighted the oven,covered the exit of the chimney and filled the house with smoke to suffocate all. He wanted to complete his terrible mission. Meanwhile began to dawn. That night the population did not close their eyes due to the great uneasiness. Immediately to dawn some people came to that of Vice Representative to listen news happened, and when opening the door they discovered the macabre picture.

 

All hurried to aid victims and all were saved of death and lived, except HIRSH NITZKINthe son-in-law of ZELIG GOLDFAYN. Among those that tried to commit suicide were: Dr. OLIE GOLDFAYN, FAIVEL GOLDFAYN, Dr. ROSENKRANTZ his wife and son, Dr. PYCK his wife and children, YOSEL SHRAIBMAN his wife and son, the wife of VELVEL SHRAIBMAN and son, FANNIE POMERANIETZ and her daughter. All these were saved, but were sick during a long time.

 

After some days was moved away strict surveillance around the Ghetto. Were granted exit permissions again, began to provide groceries to the Ghetto, and also sometimes distributed meat. It seemed to be that the Ordinance was annulled, and life returned to regular routine. This was only a maneuver, one of an entire series of the methodology whose objective was to deceive and to torment people.

 

A Jews census

 

A certain day, Nazi commandant informed that he wanted to make a census ofJews in the Ghetto. Therefore they should be formed in the street in lines of10 people. The Judenrat tried influencingthe power through different alternatives, so the census could be carried out by means of the visit to the houses, and it was named especially for this task MISHA BIRNBOIM. He, together with some assistants, went of house to house and carried out a real census according to a properly prepared questionnaire.

 

This material was given to the commandant, but he insisted with his viewpoint: Jews should form lines in the street, he assured that won't happen them anything, and that the only objective was the census.A tremendous fright wrapped the population, but there was not alternative. According to the order, a certain day, all Jews, men, women and children, left to the street and formed ten people's lines. They were this way staying until mid day, when commandantarrived. He passed next to the lines, counted, registered and assured that the quantity of Jews in the Ghetto was of 9976 souls. Then he ordered to move. All felt a relief, and considered that the fright was in vain.

 

Nobody knew the objective of the census, it happened without problems neither humiliation, and nobody imagined that the danger floated in the air. Certainly this was an advance of the most terrible day and of near future annihilation. The life flowed again as it was. Here and there rumors ran about expulsions and slaughters in other places. But nobody could believe it, and they only considered them rumors. The hope was stronger that the doubt. They lived with the illusion that sooner or later would arrive the defeat of the Nazis, and finally liberation would arrive.

 

Partisans, and their visit to the Ghetto

 

Some youths were able to escape from the Ghetto, they hid in the near forests and began to act as partisans. With some frequency they infiltrated in the Ghetto to get groceries and other necessary elements. They also brought news of abroad, that announced nothing good will happen. These youths were the only connection between the Ghetto and the external world.

 

On January 27 1943 at 7pm, two partisans, one being MORDECHAI BER, son of SHLOIME SEGEL, arrived at the Judenrat's office and requested a certain sum of money and a quantity of boots. YTZHOK YANOVITSH promised he would give them.

 

At this moment a Gestapo Official entered, and seeing the partisans, detained them and searched them. He found weapons among their clothes. Whereupon the partisans threw the official to the floor and escaped, together with other people who were in the office. The Gestapo Official stood up, took out a gun and began to shoot. All other people present - trying to survive - escaped through doors and windows. The guard of the office, an old Jew was killed. DAVID ROSACHOVKSY and ZISHE SPECTOR were very bad wounded. Left in the room were, members of the Judenrat: Y. YANOVITSH, V. SHRAIBMAN, SH. YUDEVITZ, A. BRESKY, F. GOLDFAYN, LAYBNHENDLER-LEVITZKY and M. YANOVITSH. The Gestapo Official threatened them with his gun, accused them of being in contact with partisans, and demanded they give him the partisan's names.

 

Ghetto's final

 

In only one hour the Ghetto was surrounded with security guards. An order was delivered: All Judenrat members were to meet at 6am of following day, to listen the Germanís decision. Again, fear panicked the Ghetto. In that sleepless night, misfortune floated.

 

The following morning (January 28), at 6am the Chief of the Gestapo arrived at the Judenrat's building where all waited him. He informed them that inhabitants of several streets, some 2500 people should get ready to travel. They would travel to Silesia to work; old men, children and sick persons would also travel. They could only take small packages and it was suggested that they take their money, jewels and elements of value.

 

Using 400 sleds belonging to the peasants, 6 people were loaded in each sled with their belongings. They were taken to the train station at Orantshitze, one kilometer from Lineve and, from there, to an unknown address (it turned out to be Auschwitz). On each of the three following days, another group of 400 sleds each with 6 people and their belongings was transported to Auschwitz. It was the almost the end of the whole Kehila of Pruzhany.

 

The dates on which the Pruzhany Jewish population disappeared from the Ghetto and were transported to the death camp were the following:

 

First transport:††††† Shvat 24 (Jan. 30.1.1943)

Second transport: Shvat 25 (Jan. 31.1943)

Third transport:†††† Shvat 26 (Feb 1,1943)

Fourth transport††† Shvat 27 (Feb, 02. 1943).

 

In summary, on January 28 1943 the evacuation began. 10.000 Jews who were locked in Pruzhany's Ghetto (6000 from Pruzhany, 2000 brought from Byalistock, and 2000 from the surrounding towns: Shereshev, Heinovke, Bialovietz, Malech, Selcz) were transported to the death camps.On February 2 1943 the operation was completed, and the city of Pruzhany was "clean" of Jews.Another stage of Reich IIIís great sinister plan ended.

 

TRAVEL TO UNKNOWN

 

In the train station Orantshitze (one km. from Lineve), those evacuated were introduced in French load boxcars that tinted the inscription: 40 people or 8 horses. In each boxcar were introduced 120 to 150 people. When they were pushed to enter in the boxcars, many fell killed, and among them MANIE BRESKY 80 years old, mother of who writes this summary. The hardship in the boxcars was terrible. The doors were closed and they were opened up newly after traveling 48 hours at a distance of 800 km of Pruzhany.

 

Man's hand is weak to describe the anguish and pain of the trip. The great hardship of the placeonly allowed to be staying. The old men and children suffocated for the lack of air. Without consideration to the freeze that was outside, the heat inside was terrible. The thirst drained. The cry of children, the groan of sick persons and the sigh of the old men, cut the soul. The scent was unbearable, because physiologic necessities were made in the boxcar.

 

The train moved toward east, and panic attacked all, because circulated rumors that many Jews of Brest, Slonim, Kobrin and other cities were sent toward that address and annihilated . Suddenly the train stopped, and later it addressed to occident. Again lighted the spark of hope, and was thought that maybe wastrue they took them to work to Silesia. They arrived in Warsaw and they continued toward the West: the commandant had possibly said the truth. It was very difficult to support the trip under those conditions. For some snow of outside, some gave their jewels and teeth of gold. Many died in the trip.

 

In some moment the train stopped. The doors opened up in all their width, and people aspired fresh air. It was evening, in half of the forest. Next to the train station was Auschwitz concentration field and extermination. The place was surrounded by SS with machine guns and other weapons, hundreds of dogs and reflectors illuminated the whole area. Were delivered orders to abandon boxcars and to leave belongings inside.

 

Teacher EREZ took with him a small package, and for that reasonreceived sticks in his head until being bloodstained. Also Rabbi DOVID FAIGNBOIM was hit in cruel and brutal form. Nazis ordered men to be placed apart, and women and children apart, at a distance of 100 meters. The separation of men from their wives and children, was accompanied by discouraged screams. ASS mayor went by the lines and pointed out with the hand who may stay in the line and who should pass to another other line. The elected were those younger and stronger.

 

This way was also determined in the case of women; among them they selected those that didn't have children in their arms. When Jews observed that in the selection entered youths and healthy, some people attempted to infiltrate those lines, but if somebody was detected, was hit cruelly. Approximately 300 men and 200 women were selected of each transport that consisted of 2500 people, and of the 4 transports of Pruzhany, 1200 men and 800 women were selected. The remaining, included sick and dead, were loaded in trucks and transported to Birkenau, one and a half km of train station. This was their last terrestrial trip.††

THE EXTERMINATION PLACE

 

Amid a forests of birches ("berezas") there was a white common house that was transformed by the SS in a gas camera. The procedure was the following: men and women that arrived there, were driven toward a wooden hall where they should be undress, and nudes were pushed into the cameras, 2000 people at same time. The doors closed tightly, a SS threw boxes of toxic gas through an opening in the roof and then he closed it.

 

In few minutes the doors opened up, they took out the cadavers, and before being thrown into an enormous grave, they pulled up gold teeth of their mouths, and were shaved the hair of women and children. In the grave they had lit logs, they dewed the bodies with gasoline,and these were burned. This was the normal procedure. The transports that refused to go to gas cameras for the good were punished as follows: they hurtled into thecameras smaller doses of toxic gas so that were prolonged sufferings until the death.

 

It happened this way with Pruzhany's third transport. When arriving to the place, people felt burnt meat scent, and they rebelled. Germans excited the dogs, they whipped them mercilessly, and they caused them a slow agony of three hours.That happened at noon of February 1 1943.

 

This way happened exterminationuntil March 1943, whenbegan to work the bigcrematories that were concluded for that time. The external aspect was the same as it were manufactures, ormodern bathrooms, and people driven theredidn't imagine what waited them, until the last minute. In the big rooms they had inscriptions where was announced that each one should order his clothes and had to tie cords of shoes, to find them easy when retiring of the bathroom. Each one received a towel and a piece of soap.

 

People were driven to an underground room whose door had an inscription: "Bath". When this room was filled, they closed the doors tightly. There entered some 3000 people. Of the ceiling they hung showers, but instead of water, they introduced a toxic gas called "xyclon". This gas bequeathed to Auschwitz in boxcars from Hamburg. After having poisoned the people, bodies were ascended with electric elevators and deposited in the field of crematory , where they pulled up gold teeth, and heads of women and children were shaved.

 

Then they loaded cadavers on trams, two adults and a boy in same tram, and they were sent to the ovens. The heat of the ovens was intense, and the bodies were transformed into ashes in minutes. The ash was buried in graves.It was executed this way until August 1944 when the red army offensive began on Warsaw-Krakow line. Then they began to open the graves and after milling the bones they loaded the ashes in trucks, transported them toward the Vistula, and threw them to the water. The murderers wanted todisappear all signs of their crimes.

 

Most of the work related with extermination was executed by selected Jews. The group was denominated " Zonderkommando ". In summer 1944, 19 Russian were added to the group. The workers of the command didn't remain much time doing this task. After working a short period, were transported to other fields, and therewere exterminated. The workers of the "Zonderkommando" received better food and other things, but nobody offered himself voluntarily; all were forced.

 

Whenbegan to arrive to Auschwitzbig transports with Jews from Hungary, the"Zonderkommando" had 1000 people. In the second half of 1944,stopped these transports. In one of those daysarrived the commandant and chose among the"Kommando " about 300 physically weak men, feigning to transfer them for easier works. They understood the true sense of what awaited them.

 

Whenarrived nazis to take first 100 people, they rebelled and they set on fire the crematory #3. When workers of crematory #1, about 150 together with the 19 Russiansaw the fire, they attacked the SS, dismantled them and to the " Kapo ", a German, and they threw them into the oven. Then they cut the electric cables of the field and of the neighboring field of women. All began to run. Immediately were alarmed the SS of the fields, that were counted in thousands, and a persecution began after those whoescaped. Some 300 people fell for the bullets, and nazis had 10 deaths. The 19 Russian thatstimulated the rebellion, all fell.

 

DESTINY OF ELECTED

Approximately a fifth part of the transports thatarrived to Aushwitz was designated to be transported to work in concentration fields . Was removed them all they had . After being washed in a bathroom, nazis shaved their head - especially to women - , and they gave them ragged clothes and wooden shoes for useof detained, and some worn out clothes. Outside cold was intense. But they didn't have overcoats neither caps.

 

Each person was tattooed a number in the arm with fire. Thebarracks Chiefs, the superiors of people whose destiny was service work, related with detainees in cruel and brutal way . Armed with sticks, they hit everyone whom they found. Who betterhit,was considered more important. People slept on table beds. The food portion was scarce and very bad, and it never arrived complete to the detainees because nazis stole them a part. The first six weeks after arriving to the field they had people out of barracks, in the intense cold and under the snow. The first days fell many, for not being able to support the cold and the blows.††

 

Many got sick, and these were sent to the so call " hospital ". There they didn't offer any help neither food. After remaining there even several days with life, they took them to the gas cameras. Among those that perished in the first days were SHLOIME YUDEVITSH, ZISHE SPECTOR, the teacher LEVIN, VEVE NITZBERG, Dr. SHTRAICHER, ZELIG POMERANIETZ, YOSEF KANEL, SANE KLEINERMAN. The first six weeks fell many of the 1200 men thatwere brought to the field in the four transports of Pruzhany, and even more quantity of women

 

The destiny of women was even worse. They were hit cruelly by detained women inspectors. Many women went voluntarily to the gas cameras. Dr. LIZE MESHENGIZER could not support sufferings and when nazis came to select people to take them to the cameras, she requested to be included. Also requested her own death, the daughter of YTZCHOK YANOVITSH, a 17 year-old youth.

 

When finishingfirst 6 weeks, peoplewas transported toBirkenau camps. There were a great quantity of work camps.The work was difficult and exhausting, from the dawn until sunset. The portion of daily food, was almost nothing: 200 grams of bread, and soup (almost water). Sanitary conditions were terrible. Whencame closer liberation hours, of the 2000 men and women selected forwork in the camps, were alive only100. Among them 10 women. Some of the survivors died hours before the liberation, or in the first days after the liberation, as for example SIAME SELETZKY, OSIE ZELENIETZKY, Dr. CHABOVITZKY, and MOISHE ZUZKOVITSH.

 

Of Judenrat Pruzhany members, survived only two: ABRAHAM BRESKY and ZAVEL SEGEL. Of doctors, only Dr. OLYE GOLDFAYN; perishedall lawyers, teachers and intellectuals. Of all children under 16 years whose quantity was more than 2000, hardly survived asoul.

 

AUSCHWITZ EXTERMINATION CAMP

 

Auschwitz is located since 1939 in Poland- Germany border, near the line Katowitz-Krakow . Just after the occupation of Poland,Germans converted local barracks in a concentration field. The first detainees were Poles and German. In the second half of 1941 entered there Russian war prisoners, and was built a section in Birkenau which was called "Camp II."

 

During field construction perished many Russian.The Camp II in Birkenau was compound of other 6 camps walled with electrified wires. In each field there were 35 barrack without windows, similar to a stable, with capacity for 300-400 people each one. When many transports arrived, in each barrack that had 30 meters long for 10meter wide, were introduced up to 1000 people. To the right of camps, were the crematories. They were four, and each one had 12 big ovens. There also werethe bathrooms and the deposits, where they joined,ordered and registered the quantity of clothes and belongings of people that entered. There also was the concentration camp for women, where 30.000 women werelocated. The SS watched over all the fields.

 

Chord with extermination plan, nazis were prepared to build Camp III that would be that would be big as other two fields together. After placing the barrack, they interrupted the work. This was insecond semester of 1944, when thered army began to come closer to the area.

 

The internal conduction of the camp was transmitted tothe detainees under the control of the SS.There was a Field chief, a Barrack Chief, and theirfunction was cleaning, distribution of food, lists control, etc. In the works was a Chief each 100 people and he was called "Kapo". Was a Workers Chief each 20 people, and his function was to watch over, and to control that orders were performed. They were armed with sticks, and they hit whom they liked. At beginningof 1943, these Chiefs were selected among those that stood out for their sadistic tendencies.Thefield Chief where Pruzhany Jews were detained, was a professional murderer that came from Germany. His sadism and cruelty didn't have limits.

 

Since red army began their offensive , and it achieved victory after victory, nazis weakened Chiefs cruelty . They arrived to such a point that new people of better aspect were assigned instead of the sadists and hitters. Their arrogance began to be dethroned together with the concealment of the sun of Germany.