KARTUZ-BEREZA 1993 YZKOR
By Yehuda Vilechik
In this memoir I want to describe how those most beloved people in the city of Kartuz Bereza died. I am the last person that saw everything, and I am alive. Yom Kippur after the beginning of WWII was on a Tuesday, the Germans entered Bereza while the Poles escaped. The concentration field was closed. Yosef KAMINETZKY, a Polish guard, was placed on guard and the other Poles escaped.
People of our area foresaw what was happening. They broke open the doors with iron bars and killed KAMINETZKY. After several days the Germans reached an agreement with the Russians, and the Germans abandoned the town. Russian entered it and immediately revised who, of the inhabitants, was in charge of the situation. Very quickly, they were convinced that it did not made sense to fight for their ideals because, in the end, the Jews would “change their skin” (convert). Many Jews were arrested, others escaped with Poles, and many were sent to Russia. The Jews lived this way in Bereza until Germans invaded Russia in June of 1941.
The Germans conquered Bereza without difficulty. Immediately a " Judenrat " was named. Its members were: 1) GODEL PISETSKY, 2) NAPHTALY LEVINZON, 3) YACOV SHLOSSBERG, 4) MEIR RASHINKSY, 5) YAKOV OSHER FRIEDENSHTEIN, 6) YAKOV MOSHKOVITZ, 7) ENACH LISKOVSKY, 8)FISHEL BEIZER AND 9) YECHIEL URBACH. The Judenrat worked in the house of YOSEF SIMCHA.
The German authority ordered all Jew to wear a yellow patch. Those who did not wear it would be shot. Then they demanded the delivery of a quantity of workers to clean houses. FISHEL BEIZER was in charge of workers' and their jobs. The Ghetto extended from the Ulany Mezushe street until that of SHLOIME VAINSHTEIN, where there was a closed hall door. It was forbidden for Jews to leave this place.
I worked with YACOV SHLOSBERG. The Germans built a house for their soldiers and we made the door locks. Then I made "black works". YTZCHAK KARALIF, YAKOV MOSHKOVITZ, MOISHE TUCHMAN and SIMÓN KOBRINSKY (who had a gentile woman) worked with me. The person who was in charge of our work was not Jewish; his name was Gavin. One day he was sent to the battlefield, and they put another one in his place.
In exchange for our work, we received 250 grams of bread each day. One day, the Germans began to demand objects of value from the Jews: leather, rings, jewelry etc. Jewish police demanded those objects and they searched for them in the houses. Members of the Jewish police were SHMUEL GOBERMAN, YAKOV GLAZER and ASHER the butcher's son-in-law. If the policemen found what the Germans demanded they gave it to them, and if they did not they sent two people to Pruzhany to exchange for other things. Those two people were ENACH LISKOVSKY and YECHIEL URBACH. Then the Germans demanded an exact and detailed list of Jews that were in Bereza. They sent the specialized workers to Ghetto A.
The first day of the month of Av, the SS surrounded Ghetto B. At dawn, they loaded people in closed boxcars and they transferred them to Bluden, and then to Brona Gura where they were annihilated. There were Russian prisoners in the barracks in Bereza. They were forced to dig the graves and, after doing so, they were shot. The boxcars that arrived to Brona Gura had two doors, one in front of the other one. The Germans opened the doors and they ordered people to jump into the graves. As they did so, the murderers of the SS shot them. Our beloved families were annihilated this way.
I should highlight that I was not in Brona Gura, but I know the whole detailed truth because some people, among them MELECH TUCHMAN, DAVID SLOIMKE SHILES, the son-in-law of GLAZER, and PESEL daughter of the hat maker of Shereshev, were able to escape from the valley of the death, and returned to Kartuz Bereza. I spoke with them and they told me everything. Pesel escaped from the Ghetto A with her small baby in her arms. One day an order was sent to Ghetto A and SHMUEL PALAK of the Jewish police went to her house and he took her, her husband and the baby to a field beside the church, and there they were shot.
Until the invasion of the Soviet Union by the Germans, the Russians ruled Bereza and, if a Russian inhabitant was harmed, then all Jews were hated for it. At certain times, Gentile workers transported firewood from the Michalovka forest. If they saw Jewish partisans there, they immediately told it to the SS.
One day, the SS came to the Ghetto and all Jewish workers were taken in front of the Judenrat. They were: 1) YOSEF BERKLEIT, 2) YOSEF MINKOVSKY, 3) brothers YOSKE AND LEIZER GLAZERMAN of Bluden and 4) the siblings VELVEL AND MOTEL BENIOMIN RABINOVITZ. The SS, the Judenrat and the workers went to the home of YOSEF CHOMSKY. The following day 20 other workers were brought to the Judenrat. The residents of the Ghetto got suspicious and began to hide; for this reason HERSCHEL BEIZER (blessed his memory) could not find any more specialized workers. The Germans got angry; they opened a grave beside the church, and they shot not only Jews of the town but also of the towns of the surroundings like Malcz, Selcz and nearby villages.
The first annihilation of Jews of the Ghetto B happened on July 15 1942. They were about 1,000 Jews in Ghetto A still alive. I was among the 200 Jews of the Ghetto A who the Germans sent to forced labor on July 16, 1942. We spoke among us in Yiddish. Our intention was that Jews hidden in basements, bunkers and any other hiding place, could listen to us and understand that there were still Jews in the town. When we went by the house of HERSHEL VELVEL LIUBASHEVKY, the father-in-law of YTZCHAK GOLDBERG, we heard a voice from the basement say, "Jews, survive"! We kept in our memory the number of the house and we continued our task. Also, in the house of YOSEF CHOMSKY, we heard the voices of Jews that requested help. They also requested help at the house of the Rav TROP and of ESTER RESHES; we registered it all in our memory.
When we returned from work we hurried to inform to the Judenrat, The following day when we left to go to work, we went together with Jewish policemen to the house of LIUBASHEVKY and we took out of there the wife of LEIZER FISHELZON, the Rav MORDECHAI FLOTZKY, and his daughter-in-law of Kosovo and their two small children. From an attic in the house of Chomsky we took out MORDECHAI KAPLAN and his wife. In the attic of the house of the RAV TROP we took out ARIEH GLAZER, his wife and their two children. In the house of RESHES we took out MEIER FRIDMAN together with his wife and their children. We gathered them in our work group, and then they entered the Ghetto.
After three days of this first action, we bribed our companion and we went in search of hidden Jews outside of the city. We found other six Jews who had hidden themselves among the high grasses of the fields, and among them was the old man MORDECHAI SIMANOVSKY (he was the oldest man in the ghetto) and also YAACOV LEIB PORTNOY. We brought them to the ghetto before December 15, 1942. We worked until that date, and there was not any further activity.
My wife and children were in Pruzhany for several weeks. On September 14th, I arrived in Kartuz Bereza to take my two sisters from the Ghetto. That same night the GESTAPO together with White Russian and Lithuanian policemen surrounded Ghetto A on all its sides. Inside the Ghetto, a terrible tumult arose, and each one looked for some way of surviving. The workers were no longer there because they were sent to their working positions.
In one of the encounters, I asked SHLOIME VAINSHTEIN, “What is your opinion of the situation"? He answered, "I am no longer anybody, am I liquidated"! He knew what awaited him. Siblings HUBERMAN, MOISHE TUCHMAN and LEIZER KOLODNER escaped to the forest. I transferred my wife and children to the Ghetto of Pruzhany. When Germans surrounded Ghetto A, I, with great difficulty, was able to take them out of there.
Bereza had already burned and I escaped to Malch. On the road, I found ABRAHAM GAZ of Bluden and CHAIM BALEBAT. We arrived in Pruzhany. The following day YACOV ZALMAN and the 'black" ASAF joined us. We were there until Jewish partisans arrived. They killed some of the SS, but the German caught us. The Germans transported my wife and I to Auschwitz together with YAAKOV ZALMAN and YOSEF LASHTEIN. On the road other Germans surrounded us and shot us. My wife, my children and my wife's family died. Only YUDKE and I lived, two saved logs, a murmuring ember. My hands tremble and I am not in condition to write about those terrible days.
Yehuda Vilechik immigrated to Israel in 1949 and he established his home there. He lives in Kyriat Motzkin. Yehuda was saved twice. The first when he left one day before the liquidation of the Ghetto of Kartuz Bereza. Then he spent some years in Auschwitz, the camp of extermination, (the testimonies are in the files of Yad Vashem) and was able to survive! Vilechik gave living and fresh testimonies in 1947, in Germany, to CHAIM RABINOVITZ. The testimonies were written in Yiddish. At the request of the Publisher, the writer and poet NOACH PENIEL also of Bereza translated them to Hebrew.