Chaim Ben Israel (Goldberg)
MEMORIES OF MY CHILDHOOD IN MY VILLAGE KARTUZ BEREZA
In memory of my brother ITZCHAK ARIE (LEIBE GOLDBERG), wife and children. In memory of my aunt CHANA MUSHE BLUSHTEIN, her sons BENIE, SHLEIMKE, SHOIKE and AVIGDOR, their wives and children. In memory of my aunt ROCHEL and my uncle YACOV OSHER FRIDNSHTEIN and their children MOSHE, NIOME, LEAH (LEIKE) and SIMCHE, their wives, husbands and children. In memory of my aunt CHAIA and my uncle MOISHE ALEXANDROVSKY, their daughters TZIRL and REITZE, their husbands and children, exterminated during the Shoah.
May their memories be blessed.
In one of springtime days of 1988 the painter MOISHELE BERNSHTEIN invited me to his house in Tel Aviv. When I arrived, I met many people from my village Kartuz Bereza, among them MOSHE TUCHMAN, SIMCHA NOSETZKY, ABRAHAM POTAK and others. The reason for the meeting was to make some changes on the organization "Survivors of Kartuz Bereza in Israel" (some members of the Council moved from Haifa to the center of the country).
At that meeting I took the post of Council member, in order to keep alive the memory of that little community whose Jewish majority was exterminated during WWII, by nazis and their local helpers, polish and byelorussian.
We emigrated to Israel in August 1933, and until the aforementioned meeting, I had been lived in Israel about 52 years. I was convinced that with the rich experience on direction and organization I acquired in Israel (I'll describe it next) this would be another little post additional to volunteer duties I carry out. I rendered clandestine services to the "Lechi" group in Tel Aviv and Haifa. The British were searching for CHAIM GOLDBERG but I changed my identity. I moved with the Jewish brigade under the name of MOISHE KARPUSHIK. Then I received the identity of KARL FLIKSTEIN and was transferred to Jerusalem. There I met my partner SARAH BABIOF, mother of my sons: the Vice General Dr. YTZHAK BEN ISRAEL and Dr. YAKOV BEN ISRAEL.
In Jerusalem I was put under arrest, and British military court convicted me to 10 years of prison. After 4 months I got to escape from jail.[i] British didn't know I was carrying lent identity cards, both during my duties at the brigade and in jail.
From time to time they went around my parent's house to arrest CHAIM GOLDBERG. With the founding of the State of Israel, I joined Israeli Defense Forces "TZAHAL" and served there for 20 consecutive years. I took important duties on Air Forces and I ended my service as lieutenant colonel. Later I was elected as representative to Local Join Council in Ramat Ha'Sharon[ii] and, at the same time, to the council of "Solel Bone Constructions"[iii]. In this duty I was General Secretary of the Council[iv].
Given my experience as Organization Director[v] I didn't hesitate to take the duty at the Survivors of Kartuz Bereza Society. Many times I asked myself how much time I should devote to this issues and I never knew it, since in the first meeting at MOISHELE BERNSHTEIN's place, everybody was looking at me, and the memories of my little village sprang, in the morning, evening and night. My childhood days and all Jewish life, all destroyed by nazis hands.
I addressed to my fellow citizens and we all decided to build a living monument through the publication of a book, and to keep for ever what was used to be the Jewish life in Kartuz Bereza.
Our emigration to Eretz Israel
I was "Bar-Mitzva" old when we moved to Eretz Israel. I remember very well a few months and days before our trip, our best neighbors came over and tried to dissuade my father about his plan. "Reb Isroel", they said, "arabs kill Jews in Eretz Israel, and you're traveling there? Perhaps you can delay your trip for a while?" My father was obstinate and constant, resolute in his conviction, specially for my mother's influence. He wouldn't listen and he answered: "I'm not traveling for myself nor for my wife; I do it for my children!"
My father was a modest man. Together with Rabbi UNTERMAN who was later Chief Rabbi of Eretz Israel, he studied Torah at the Yeshiva in Malech and then he was "Chafetz Chaim"s "ZTZL" (blessed be his pious memory) disciple. He qualified as rabbi but he didn't really practiced that duty.
I have always been proud of my father and I liked his intellectual ability. From all his activities in his life, the most intelligent was his obstinate decision of emigrating to Eretz Israel.
I remember how we loaded the packages up the carts and we traveled with a great number of inhabitants of the village to Bluden train station. Of course there were my brother YTZHAK with his wife and kids, my brother LEIBE and AVIGDOR. AVIGDOR managed to go to Eretz Israel with "Hechalutz Hatzair" movement. The others were exterminated with Jews of town.
From Bluden we went to Warsaw accompanied by my brother YTZHAK and my cousin SIMCHA FRIDNSHTEIN who died in Bereza because of a German bomb in 1941. We stayed in Warsaw a few days and again we took the train to Constanza in Romania, and there we boarded the ship. After sailing a number of days, we reached Haifa. Here my brother ZVI was waiting for us, as he had arrived in Eretz Israel some days before, and he had sent the certificates for us. He came with a truck in which we loaded our belongings. We arrived in our first house placed in Hertzl street, Tel Aviv.
What kind of Jews are these, that don't speak yidish? As I said before, when I was the age of Bar Mitzvah we came to Eretz Israel. From our first house in Tel Aviv I started walking up and down, trying to understand the life style and the future of the first Hebrew city. And here I saw kiosks, and newspapers in Hebrew letter at the entrances. Since I had studied at Tarbut school I was supposed to be able to speak Hebrew; I got closer, I took a look and read the newspapers trying to understand, but I couldn't. What's going on here? Isn't this the language I studied?
At dusk my brother ZVI came home and he explained those papers were written in Ladino. I have to confess until that moment I hadn't known anything about Ladino language, nor the Jews in Spain, nor eastern communities, because I was sure every Jew in the world spoke Yiddish. Otherwise, how could they possibly be Jews?
YECHUTIEL MINKOVITZ's Cheder
As I said before, I was a pupil of the Tarbut school, but I have to say that, between second year and last year in Tarbut before emigrating, I attended 4 years the YECHUTIEL Cheder and the Talmud Torah. The truth is I was very satisfied of studies at Tarbut. Teacher Lis taught Hebrew, even writing and reading. We were proud because we knew the language spoken by Jews in Eretz Israel, and each one of us hoped to emigrate there someday and speak Hebrew.
One day, a Saturday evening, I was visited by my friend, my neighbor's son, who was studying at the Cheder. My brother LEIBE, who was attending a Yeshive out of the city then, was celebrating Shabbat at home. Suddenly my brother said in front of my father: "Come, I'd like to evaluate your knowledge". Dad nodded his head and we both, the neighbor's son and I, got ready for the "test". My brother LEIBE opened a Pentateuch spontaneously, and he ordered to me: "Read this!" I could read Hebrew very well, but I hadn't the experience on reading an original Pentateuch with musical stresses, until I reached a four-letter word, which is the tetra gram, and I wasn't able to read it. It was evident I could hardly stammer. My brother gave the book to my friend saying: "Read!" and he showed his great knowledge, reading it all correctly. LEIBE didn't say anything to me and smiled. I didn't understand then. Only later I understood I wasn't really qualified in Torah studies, and that's why I was sent to the Cheder instead of Tarbut school. The day after, my mother took me by the hand and brought me to Rabi YECHUTIEL's (MINKOVITZ) Cheder, on May 3rd street. I studied there about 2 years. I remember very well his full belt and the scents coming from the kitchen, since there wasn't a door between the kitchen and our study place. I remember well the mathematic and polish lessons taught by rabbi's sons when they came back from high school outside town. One of them was Prof. ABRAHAM MINKOVITZ who died in Israel.
The environment of Rabbi YECHUTIEL's Cheder wasn't any different from others in Eastern Europe. From the morning to dusk we were sitting at our places, praying or studying. We used to begin the day with morning prayer, and at night evening prayers. We had no breaks, and there's no doubt we didn't know how to play as children. We brought our food from home, and if somebody forgot to bring it, he had to ask a little to a fellow. The toilets were outside, in the courtyard. I remember one time LEVIK asked permission to leave, but he immediately returned crying: "The cock's looking at me!"...
During my study hours at the Cheder, mom was working at the store. She came back from work very late, and then she started preparing dinner (who would think then about refrigerators or civilized resorts like that?) I was tired from studying and other children's pranks, I used to fall asleep and I had to be awaked because dinner was the only "important" meal of the day for family, and the house's "youngest child" was forced to feed properly.
I didn't like the Cheder nor the Talmud Torah, after having tasted a modern and nice school like Tarbut. Four years later I was enrolled in Tarbut school and I studied there until we emigrated to Eretz Israel. When I try to remember the deeds of those days, regarding my education, my conclusion is this: had they discussed at home what my studies place should be, the same way other political issues were discussed, this four years episode at rabbi YECHUTIEL's and Talmud Torah would have been avoided.
My brother and his opinions
My father, Reb ISRAEL HA'COHEN GOLDBERG and my mother YOCHEVED (YENTE) MOLTZADSKY had 7 children, and were according to their birth date: ITZHAK (YTSHE), ZVI, AVIGDOR, ARIE (LEIBL), OSHER, PNINA (PESHKE), and me, CHAIM, the youngest.
Dad passed away in good old age, in Tel Aviv. He was a modern religious man. He knew his children very well and knew about their opinions, but he never talked about politics to us. We knew he was an Eretz Israel supporter and lover. After his death, mom told us (she died in old age too, in Tel Aviv, and was buried beside my father at Kiryat Shaul) that father supported every year the ZABOTINSKY movement, and he always voted for him. On the contrary of our father's opinion, my brothers held popular ideas of Jewish street.
My oldest brother, YTZHAK, was familiar to "Ha'poel Ha'mizrahi" movement (religious non-extremist workers). He devoted most of his free time, to the KKL. He was appointed by town authorities to be part of KKL Committee in Kartuz Bereza.
YTZHAK was the first to get married and constitute a home. He had two children. YTZHAK, his wife and children were killed in the Holocaust.
ZVI, my second brother, belonged to "Betar" Movement. He kept the ideology of this movement, even before our emigration to Eretz Israel. He was member of Betar settlement in Rosh Pninah.
My third brother AVIGDOR was conquered by communism. This happened during his education at Technion (polytechnic) in Vilnus. Later AVIGDOR had a Zionist tendency and joined the "Hechalutz" movement. After several years of preparation, AVIGDOR emigrated to Eretz Israel as soon as we left there.
My fourth brother ARIE (LEIBE), because of whom I was sent to the Cheder, was studying Torah. Later passed to be a Yeshiva pupil. I don't know what political party he belonged to, but I'm almost sure it was Agudat Israel.
ARI was also taken by Holocaust. My oldest son is named YTZHAK ARI after my two brothers exterminated in Holocaust.
My fifth brother ASHER began his political career in "Ha'shomer Ha'tzair", then moved to Betar but he was faithful to Zabotinsky's ideas, even in Eretz Israel. British put him under arrest and deported him to the detention camps in Africa.
It's possible to find many pages regarding my sister PNINA in the book "Fighters for Israel Freedom", by NATAN YELIN MOR, commandant of nationalist political party. During a certain period she was the link in underground movement. Me, the youngest of the brothers, on that period was pupil, and I attended discussions, specially on Saturdays eve, as soon as the "Kiddush" (TN: wine's blessing) ended and during bread blessing, I didn't say a single word. PNINA didn't really take part of discussions until I arrived in Eretz Israel; I made my way by myself. I want to emphasize the "arguments" at GOLDBERG's weren't just "academic", I mean, not only in a verbal frame.
My brother AVIGDOR who was qualified from Technion of Vilnus was the electrician of our town Kartuz Bereza. One of our neighbors, once was very angry with brother AVIGDOR because he had put the electrical wiring over his house's roof, over "his head". Because of this, an argument started and this neighbor started to throw stones until he broke our house's windows.
Another "real" scene on electrical matter, happened a few years later. MENACHEM BEGIN had to deliver a speech in our town. Then he wasn't already Prime Minister of Israel, nor commandant of underground movement "Etzel" (national military organization), yet a famous and prestigious speaker. People of nationalist movement Betar decided that his speech would be made in the "Synagogue of the Rich people" of our town. Everything was arranged very carefully. The day came, and that night the synagogue was crowded. BEGIN began his speech and suddenly... "TRACH!!", lights went out. A tumult broke out, but he continued the speech in the candlelight. Everybody knew AVIGDOR was to be blamed, since he was in charge of electric installation that night at the "Synagogue of the Rich people". Betar people knew it too, but they had no evident proofs. Arguments broke out and MOISHE FRIDNSHTEIN had to defend him with his own body. "Betar" people informed on this to KUZIRSKY, the only policeman in town. They asked for AVIGDOR to be arrested. KUZIRSKY came over but since they had no proofs, he wasn't put under arrest.
The disabled beggar
It's funny, but most of my memories are related to several places: the synagogues of town, the study houses, the river surrounding the town, the concentration camp, and specially the Market place. At the beginning, our house was placed in Market Place and Broida street, beside the "Holy Synagogue". Then we moved to the other side of Market Place on May 3rd street, beside the Great Synagogue. I remember I used to come with mom and dad to visit my grandparents and uncles FRIDNSHTEIN. Their house was located on the route, on TABULITZKY street, beside the synagogue called TABULITZKY. Uncles ALEXANDROVSKY were living beside the great synagogue near the "chasidim's sthibl" (study house).
Dad used to attend the "Synagogue of the Rich people" placed on the intersection of the route and Cemetery street. I envied my older brothers, specially on the festivities, when they were wearing their best clothes, they got on the pulpit and blessed the parishioners by the "Birchat Ha'cohanim" (Cohen's blessing in his priestly role). I wasn't old enough and I couldn't do it...
On free time, without study obligations, I used to make all kind of childish pranks with friends of my age, near the synagogue, in the river, and on Thursdays at the market.
I remember the disabled man, leg-less, with the wooden crutches at his side, sitting in a corner of the market, yelling, crying, and begging for a coin in White Russian language. Merciful people, gentile in general, used to give coins to him, asking: "Pray for IVAN", "Wish STEPHAN good health"... He crossed himself and promised... Many years later, people said he was a Jew... I don't think that's true.
I remember monthly fair, tens of gentiles were drunk, left the market area on their carts, leaving a dung carpet...
"The Angel of Death"
I remember there was a big row at Market's square. People pushed each other, and they ran to other side of Broida street. I was about 4 o 5. I didn't know the reason, but I ran with them too. When I got closer to AIZIK GLAZER's courtyard, I saw a man hanging between the attic and the roof. I didn't know people used to put nicknames according to the place people came from, or to a suspicious episode in their lives. There were persons in town named "Krasnaburka" or "Kabaki", after the villages they were from. Others were called "Niures", "Kuske", "Vidre" and also "Angel of Death" (BENO, a boy of my age, went to school with me and one day he drowned in the river)
"I don't know what to do", said one of the presents when he saw the immobile body. "He's already dead". And he added: "He must be taken down". "He'll go to hell!", yelled another Jew. All this event terrified me. I wanted to run away, but curiosity instinct caught me. So I stayed. Somebody brought wooden planks and the man called "Niske, the angel of death", slowly took the corps down on the planks, and then he slid it down. I was shaking from fear, I didn't know what to do. Suddenly someone cried: "Children, go home!". Then I made up my mind to leave. My house was four houses far. I left, but the terrifying view hunted me long after. I would wake up at night crying, and when my parents asked me "what happened", I said I had seen with my very eyes the way the "Angel of death" took the dead to hell...
I almost drowned on the river
I owe my life to YOSEF MOSHKOVITZ (he died in Israel) and YDL SHOLSBERG. This episode was related to Yasolda river which passes through our village. I was then about 10 years old, and one day we decided to take a bath in the river. The bath in the river was a quite simple thing. We didn't need a bath outfit nor toilets at the bank, nor towels to dry off. Very simple. We took off all our clothes and we got into the water. Some could swim, but most of us, including myself, couldn't. Suddenly one of our young men suggested me to get on his back in order to cross the river. It made me happy and I agreed at once. I got on his back, I made a face like I was driving a car (which was something unknown in our village), driving it up and down. My friend swam until the middle of the river heading to the opposite bank. Suddenly he warned: "I can't make it anymore!" and, having not thought about it, he threw me from his back. I couldn't swim, and felt those were last moments of my life. I cried and other friends were staring in the bank seeing how little CHAIMKE got on his friend's back, to the other side of the river. Just then YOSEF MOSKOVITZ and YDL SHLOSBERG were passing through by chance. They went there in order to do some footing and lose weight, because they had to turn up at the recruitment office of polish army. When they heard the screams, they undressed and threw into the river to save me.
The concentration camp
Kartuz Bereza was known because its concentration camp for political prisoners, most of which were communist. They worked in and outside camp, far from the eyes of town inhabitants. Sometimes we saw them and we wanted to get closer, and have a few words, but policemen didn't allow to do so. I saw them close only once. That was one May 3rd, the polish Independence Day.
The procession for the Independence Day celebration had to pass through our town , and the commandant complained because the streets weren't clean enough. Then he sent prisoners to clean and wash the streets where the parade was going to pass. Prisoners were tied to carts, as if they were oxen, and they carried brooms in their hands. From our house a few meters from the road, I could see how they were carrying out forced work. I didn't understand how this could be possible. I just stared at prisoners' faces, and once the "No trespassing" notice was removed, me and my friend went to the road. Everything was clean, washed, polished, you couldn't find a single trace of dirt.
Mi little village Kartuz Bereza. Childhood memories come up to my mind. I'm looking at the picture of First Year in Tarbut school in town. We were 23 pupils and teacher LIS is in the center. I find myself very easily and my friend SHIMON GARBER who emigrated to Israel in 1935 as well. But, what's the name of the other 21 souls? Who of them remained? Or maybe they were all exterminated by the nazis and local helpers, at Brona Gura or other places? Only a few persisted, and many, many of the names and anecdotes about the town will be forgotten, for I doubt this all will be ever known.
Ytgadal Ve'Ytkadash Shmei Rabá (Be Sanctified His name)...... (prayer in deceased's' memory)
 ' This way we escaped toward the battle front" Ed. Ha'midrasha Ha'Leumit, 1979, page 272
 "Who is who in the Sharon", personalities and facts. Ed. "Who is who in local communication media", 1989, page 136
 "Economy Personalities Encyclopedia", Ed Ythak Lis, Moshe Maor, 1982, page 76.
 "Who is Who in Israel, Jew world personalities" Ed Laor, Tel Aviv, page 62
 "Men of Achievement, 1988" International Biographical Center, Cambridge, England, 1971, page 7
[i] ' This way we escaped toward battle front" Ed. Ha'midrasha Ha'Leumit, 1979, page 272
[ii] "Who is who in the Sharon, personalities and facts. Ed. "Who is who in local communication media", 1989, page 136
[iii] "Economy Personalities Encyclopedia", Ed Ythak Lis, Moshe Maor, 1982, page 76.
[iv] "Who is Who in Israel, Jew world personalities" Ed Laor, Tel Aviv, page 62
[v] "Men of Achievement, 1988" International Biographical Center, Cambridge, England, 1971, page 7