AMONG POLISH-LITHUANIAN JEWS
By Jacob Mestel
A Chapter of the War News from a Jewish Officer
In a little village next to a Jewish town called Bresk, the Gentiles left with the Russians, and, it has been told, left behind in the fields a lot of corn and potatoes. The Jews carried the goods, little by little, but couldn't find a merchant; on the German side are a lot of big merchants with rich supplies, but the Germans didn't allow any goods to be brought over the border that they established between German-occupied territory and Austria. "Do you mean that my daughter could bring something over from the German side?" So this old Jew asks me to ask the commander for a permit for wood. Before he used to be a woodcutter in the forest, and now our commander has put him in charge of the chopped wood. And he gets a permit for each cord of wood. Besides, his charming daughter has succeeded in being allowed to open a small store for the soldiers. "Girls accomplish everything "But be assured, "uncle", that your daughter is a young child, and officers are young men. "What can we do?" sighed the Jew. "One needs to make a living. I will see a penny from all your troubles. In the meantime, all I have are slips of paper."
Because of the strict military censorship, in my reports, I could only use the first letter of the places where our army was stationed. In time (35 years passed), the names were simply forgotten. "Maybe by going over to the German side, I want to help." "Oh, God forbid" he shivers, as if he were being burned. "With them?" God forbid! "A lot worse." For the smallest thing they send you to jail. When will this end?
The German border goes so far, that the Germans take a whole transport of eggs that was earmarked for the officer's kitchen in Pruzany. They claim a make-believe accident of 600 krone, for the 10,000 krone that the eggs cost. "They say that something was stolen by unknown perpetrators at the post." thus the German command explains it. Our people do not believe too strongly their explanation. But it could possibly be.
We are standing by for a new offensive, and different people started showing up, who are not sure of the "post and the train." One must be very careful. I, in my detachment, am ordered to make sure of the train line that is Baranovitch to Maladetchna. In the vicinity of my new location are three villages - actually only the tombstones from them; everything around is burned or broken. There isn't a live human being around. It's actually the best place to hide for deserters, Russians and those who steal from the destroyed houses and barns and take everything away of what remains. We give out circulars to the people there to let them know that as soon as you report a stranger in your vicinity, the "innocent' peasants stay quiet. And if somebody comes to complain, they are shot by their own people. We must strengthen our watch, and often comes a bloody battle with the thieves, who hide in the very thick woods. In order to control my watch and to get acquainted with the vicinity, I often ride on my little horse, or I take a walk. From the destroyed house in one of the villages, you could hear the cry of a child. In a corner of the house, I notice, by the shine of my flashlight, a small peasant girl. "Why are you crying, my child?" I ask her in my broken Russian, and I hand her a small piece of chocolate. "My mother and grandmother went to the field to look for potatoes." "Well, that's good, there's something to eat." "There is something to eat." she sighs. "But when God will help and we get rid of the Zedofsky trouble." "From what Zedofsky trouble are you talking about?" "From their trouble. He is a Jew. My mother and grandmother say it, and everybody says it. They're all Jews. Even our commander is a Jew. That means me. Now I know what they think of us.
Going back to the border between our forces and the Germans, I notice a transport of cows that our soldiers already took. I stop the transport. "You know, of course, that you may not transport them." I question the frightened Jew who is driving. "Of course I know." (He is sure of himself) "But our commander allowed me to do it."
"Where is the permit?" "The commander of the 2nd company tore it up." "What a strange story!" I turn the whole transport around to the nearest guardhouse, and I call up on the phone, and I speak to the commander... "Why did you pick up the cows?" "The Jew had permission." The other burst out laughing. "That is what Lieutenant Umishna ordered, to bring over the cows, in order that I would be able to gather them. Now we are going to share, and make sure that they are provided with milk and meat for several weeks."
The fighting morale was inherited from my comrades...it's no wonder they have more on their minds of having a good time than being on the front. On the next day, I received an invitation in the field by the Red Cross in Pruzany. An officer from the neighboring company comes by in his auto and takes me along. The younger officers dance with the nurses, and then form an orgy with champagne, and they then improvise a familiar cabaret, in order to deceive the "naive Jews". Suddenly, there is a crash like a hundred bombs exploding, and there is panic...."screaming women" run off like from a sheriff. The officers take their revolvers, and the infantry come out with their charging bayonets - and it ends up with laughter. A drunken artillery officer allowed his cannon to be fired, just for the fun of it. And then they went back to the drinking, and, afterwards they go all over the city to "have a good time" with the pretty Jewish women.
"First lieutenant, sir," the darling Helena, with the innocent blue eyes, implores me. And she asks me to give her a permit to travel to Malch. "Why do you need to go to Malch?" "Because tomorrow is Purim and the young men are presenting a Purim play, "The Selling of Joseph." "The Selling of Joseph!" I get angry. "I didn't even know that it is already Purim." "Good!" said I. "I will go along." I made out the permit, and in the morning we would be going to Malch.
In the little town, the only thing that was left was the new church. Everything else was burned or destroyed from the shooting. The marketplace shows some signs of stores, but now empty with peeled off walls. At every stall, there are dozens of women; there is men's clothing and young fellows, who warm themselves at heating barrels in partnership. "What do you have to sell?" I go into one stall. "Whatever you want!" Suddenly there is excitement in the narrow stall. Right away, others start running in; I should ask for something they should sell me. And I am doing business not only with half the businessmen in town. They bring from everywhere from different stores, and, I choose (on the suggestion from my officer-friend) an iron pot, a frying pan, a lamp, some glasses and a package of cigarette paper. "Shall I say 80 kopeks for a glass?" Two Russian girls are talking to each other. "Tell us, don't be ashamed!" I smile and give them 30 rubles. And the change I give to a partly dressed young man who is shivering from cold by the door. "Give it to your mother, do you hear?" a Jew calls out after him. "Can one find a piece of kosher meat?" asks Peretz. "Meat?" the Jew looks at him in wonder. "We haven't seen any meat in a year." "So how do you survive?" "The Gentiles left a little bit of corn, some potatoes in the field, and we gather it together..."
"I have chocolate!" a Jew runs in out of breath. My Peretz gets red in the face. He gets upset suddenly. He has sold our own chocolate earlier. "Good," I said. "I will buy. But only the pretty young lady can eat it." Suddenly everybody is happy. "And where can we have the meal?" the know-it-all from the town asks. "I think," he says while he chews on his little beard, "at Tzerulnik's place. It's a good place. "Can you get something there?" "You can get anything in his place. He gets whatever from wherever." "Come again!" the hungry people say, while they accompany them throughout the town. "You're going to have a big monument."
Tzerulnik, with his dear wife, welcome us in a very friendly manner in their half-destroyed house. I am sure that they are going to give me their whole Purim meal, even the (casserole) with sauce, and they don't want to take any money from me. And beg them to accept a small gift for their heartfelt young daughter. Suddenly, the town caretaker runs in, Rabbi Beth, and asks if he could come to speak to the head officer. "About what?" I wonder. "About a community matter." "What do I know about your community?" I remain puzzled. "We have heard," the caretaker equivocated. "Jews have said, 'Maybe you could do something for our community.'" I wonder how fast the town started "ringing" with me. But, to help out, to be with the Rabbi, I don't want to go; there's not enough time. So I say through the caretaker that I will write about it to the Rules Committee in Lublin. In the meantime, let the eager Jewish people put together a committee to which I will turn over the first packet of German marks. As a beginning, I will get from that town commander a promise that he will take over responsibility from the action group.
Now we are riding to the Purim evening. Far from the town, in a wooden building, they made a stage from planks on barrels. The dear children, with happy faces, go from row to row, in order to see better and are not even afraid of the soldiers' shining bayonets, used to keep order. Jacob, our Father, in a Hasidic coat with a Galician velvet overcoat and a reddish beard, cries out: "They surely clawed Joseph, and before his eyes, he called out, 'Joseph, the Righteous, in hole with a deathly fate," said in such a lively Lithuanian Yiddish, that your eyes fill with tears. And both young and old, the happy dear children, taken with bright Jewish dreaminess, in a twinkling of an eye and rejoice with so much wonder. Enough of the matter of the fresh war.
" A hamantasch, children, a ruble for a hamantasch!" Girls bring homemade hamantaschen, poor souls, which was worth, in the blink of an eye, two and three rubles apiece! What then is there to do with a pack of paper money with which the Army treasury flooded us?
Yesterday, I stayed overnight at the commandant's place, and, early in the morning, I went back to my post. Young men and women go into the forest making tar for our Army. Two kroner a day they get for it. I recognize among them almost all "twelve tribes" (of Israel) from the past. The train conductor who takes them to work is well disposed and makes jokes with a young girl "in bloom", whom he throws darts at with his yearning stares. "You like her?" "In the village (shtetl), lieutenant," he laughs, embarrassed, "there is nothing to be done." My horses beat out the rhythm in the muddy snow, and in my ears sound the sweet tunes of the Purim-shpiel (Purim play) in M. (Malch?) Twice a week, I send there my servant with packs of sugar, tea, coffee, marmelade, kerosene, Zweiback, with which I can thank them for the Jewish delight, which they gave me at the Purim feast. And the Jews there reward me that way with blessings from tired and sighing men's hearts.
RABBI ZALMAN SENDER
Son of Hannah Shapira and founder of the Malch Yeshiva
(May his memory be for a blessing!)
by M. Tzinovitz
The Gaon Rabbi, Zalman Sender, son of Hannah Shapira, was born in 1851, in Niasvitch (?) in Minsk Province; his father, Rabbi Jacob, son of Rabbi Moses the Cohen (priest), was a quiet Jew and a great and knowledgeable scholar. For a long time he was head of a Yeshiva, the town Yeshiva in Lida. Rabbi Jacob's father was Rabbi there; he was the son-in-law of the well-known Gaon Rabbi Chaim Valazshiner.
Rabbi Zalman Sender was even from his childhood years known as a great genius. The beginning of his education he received from his father, and, when it was known that the father's Torah wasn't enough for him, he sent him out to learn in Valanzshiner's Yeshiva. They say that when he was only 9 years old, he asked his father, the head of the Yeshiva, a question that he (his father) could not answer. His father cried, and, as was told by Rabbi Isar-Yehuda Unterman, the chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv, from whom Rabbi Zalman Sender sought his whole life an excuse for the question , the answer to which he could not find.
In Valazshin, the young Zalman-Sender learned from his nearby Rabbi Jascha-Ber Soloveitchick, one of the well-known Gaonim (leading Rabbis) for generations. He learned there together with Jascha-Ber's son, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchick, who afterward became one of the eminent Rabbis in Russia. He studied in Valazshin, even after Rabbi Jascha-Ber left Valazshin and became the Slutzker Rabbi. (This chapter was taken from the Hebrew "Memory Book, Tel Aviv, 1951)
While still young, Rabbi Zalman Sender began to be known as a great scholar, and he became a son-in-law of one of the known great men from Kavrin, Rabbi Jascha Minkes (Sheinbaum). He got 3,000 rubles (a legendary sum for those days, 90 years ago)and was a guest at his table. While he stayed at his father-in-law's, he dedicated himself to learning, and he established a continual interpretation with the Rabbi there, the well-known Gaon Rabbi, Meyer Marim, who became famous, thanks to his celebrated book on the Jerusalem Talmud. There he became friends of a young man, Rabbi David Vilavski, born in Kobrin, with whom he had a conversation about Torah. This particular young man became very well known in Rabbinic circles, because of the Jerusalem Talmud.
A short time later, the material and spiritual position of Rabbi Zalman Sender got worse... His father-in-law died, and that made his depressed material situation worse. He felt like a "person on his way down." Spiritually he was lacking in giving the right environment for young people to whom he could relate, to whom he could be innovative, to interpret the Torah in a new way. Spiritually, he really felt alive, with the visits in Bresk, where the Rabbi was then Rabbi Jascha-Ber (Soloveitchick). He also visited and talked Torah with the well-known Gaon Rabbi Jerucham-Yehuda-Leib Perlman, who was Rabbi in the highly regarded towns of Seltz and Pruzany.
Rabbi Jerucham-Yehuda-Leib was in awe of the knowledge of the young Rabbi Zalman Sender, and they used to write to each other about Torah subjects. Their closeness was not broken up, even when Rabbi Jerucham-Yehuda-Leib accepted a position of authority in Minsk, and he became renowned in the world as the great Rabbi from Minsk. This great man used to express himself, that from Minsk to Bresk, there isn't another who can compare to Zalman Sender, from Kobrin, the great interpreter of Torah
MALCH BETWEEN BOTH WORLD WARS*
* The following was given out to the survivors from the death camp in Auschwitz,
and it was written down by Samuel Applebaum.
by Shmuel Chamsky
Our little village (shtetl) began to build itself up again after the destruction from the First World War and began to look up again also, not like before the year 1914, but still the look of a Jewish settlement. In 1926, the Great Synagogue was rebuilt - in the same size and height as it was earlier, also in the same style. It was in order to write down the real contribution before the building of the Synagogue, given by the rich contributor, Fely Stasovitch, who gave a pretty goodly gift of lumber before the construction. Also they built a house for the Rabbi near the Synagogue. This was something new, for the first time in the history of our Congregation, that they built a congregational house for their Rabbi. Until then, the Rabbi's family lived in a rented house. In addition, they built the mentioned house of study, called the Yeshiva house of study. The small house of prayer, or what they called "the new one", which stood near the Great Synagogue on Baruch Street, was never finished. They started the learning anew, the upbringing of the new generation, which, during the years of the war, was abandoned. And they opened up classrooms, a class for the youngest children, conducted by Rabbi Yitzhak-Leib Lazarovski, a teacher from the area. A Jew named Wolf organized a class in one of the rooms of the House of Learning
With older children Moshe-Leib had studied the Chumash (5 Books of Moses) with Rashi commentary, and the First Prophets.Rabbi Mordecai Applebaum took the same place as before the war - teaching the Torah, the Prophets and the other Writings, Hebrew and Gemara (The Talmud). After his death, with the same level of students, the young Joshua Nisselbaum, who went through a course in pedagogy in a seminary in Vilna, conducted classes. He had organized the class in a room in the House of Study.Rabbi Hirsch Sterniak, a Talmud student of Rabbi Simon Skop, a good follower of his learning system, who, in the educational world, knew Rabbi Shimon's system, learned Gemara (Talmud) with grown children. Kalman Gersh gave lectures in Yiddish on beauty time to girls. The Rabbi gave a talk in the Sh. S. Organization. Rabbi Reuben-Leib studied with Jews "The Study of Jacob" and a brief study of "The Table Prepared" (Book on Jewish Living) in the big House of Study.
They took Rabbi David Dinofski in 1924 to Piatnitze, a little town near Lomzhe, from where he actually came, in time, to Malch. In the Rabbi's chair, instead of him, they took a younger Rabbi from Slonim, Rabbi Benjamin Zav Kagan (may his memory be for a blessing), and this particular Rabbi in truth could not measure up to the present-day Rabbis, the great ones, who were ordained on the border of the community from Czarist Russia, who made the name of Malch famous in the world. The new young Rabbi thought that Malch was good enough. He was respected and he conducted with all the branches of the Jewish life in the shtetl (town). He did everything to strengthen the religious belief of the Jewish congregation.
The new Polish regime was courteous to the population which was 90% Polish and 10% (Jewish and White Russian). Under the wings of the Polish culture, they organized a "folk-school" of seven grades. The school with Polish as the chief language was obligatory. Once a week, a priest would come and give religious lessons. At these lessons, the Jewish children would leave the classroom as there was no obligation for them to attend these Catholic lessons. The school was organized by Itzhak-Meir Varshavski in his lovely newly-built house. In 1927 on Councilary Street there was built a special house, a folk-school, a two-story modern building. The school existed until the breakup of the Polish regime at the end of summer, 1939.
The civil government found itself in the hands of a police guard of the Council, which was built on the same place where the Council stood before the war. That institution was called the "Gemina" which was under the supervision, of a Pole from the Staraste ("Police Guard"), which ran the Bureau. As a police guard, there were 7 or 8 Polish Christian police under the command of a Polish commander. The civil government would come into Kartuz-Bereza, where there was a civil court. The criminal cases were handled in Pruzany. There was a state in crisis also in the era of the Russians.
The Pruzany command was modernized in the firemen's voluntary organization. They organized the young men as a volunteer group. The new tools for firefighting were found in a wooden barn in the market place behind the white building, the same place that used to be called the Pruzany Sorei. This particular organization, whose members were in uniform, along with their needs, served as a sort of entertainment for the whole town. The sanitary condition of the town was sharply improved. The waterworks were opened again, which were weakened from the war. One was found in the marketplace and the second opposite Rabbi Lazar-Chaim, the kosher slaughterer's house. The latter was closed in 1915, while ceding to the Russian Army. Now it is around that well that they made a cement wall, instead of the wooden one.
Besides the appearance of the town became prettier. In the streets, there were planted new rows of trees like the "Allayim" The bathhouse again became operational in a normal manner. The market was open again. A medic was sent for again, a Polish one, a nurse whose name was Rudin. He lived with Baruch, the feather merchant in the big house. The town paid him a subsidy per month; the wealthy paid him 10 zlotys (Polish money) a month, while those less able paid 5 zlotys. There was also Meir Rabinovitch who cared for the sick. He had no medical diploma, but he possessed provisional knowledge in medicine theory and practice. There was a pharmacy that opened in Rachel Fruma Scheinberg's new house. The first years the pharmacy hired a Pole; then the pharmacy got a Jew from Vilna named Tatarski. They started a clinic, managed by women, owned by Nachman Kayler (Nachman Ares). This particular organization supported poor sick people with medicinal help. There was also a lodging fraternity, in which young people from both sexes used to watch sick people at night.
The activity of the Chevra Kadusha (those dedicated to the dead), in all this time was not broken up, but was reorganized. These particular members of the Chevra Kadusha were the owners...Israel Tchook, Aaron-Nahum, the butcher, Chaim Goldstein and Chaim Galperin; they would be involved in bringing the dead to the grave and handling financially the affairs of the cemetery. There was also an organization for women. On the 15th day of Kislev (in the year 2000 it would be December 12th), was the day for the Burial Society. The members of the Society - both sexes-fasted and said the special prayers for the day (Selichot). After the evening service, there would be a feast, the "Taanit" and the prayers for that Society were definite as a repentance in any case. This was done, in case perhaps there should happen an obstacle while performing an action of true charity, perhaps once through them, God forbid, and overcome the true honor.
The date of the 15th of Kislev was, you know, chosen by all the congregations; they were also congregations in our area where the fasts and feasts were celebrated on that Tuesday of the Torah reading portion ("And he lived"), that is, already after Chanukah. In the prayer books, in part, there were printed the Selichot prayers for the 15th of Kislev, and in another the Selichot for the Burial Society, the charity of truth, without a definite date, that is.
When the Austrians and later the German in 1915 took our town, our only Shochet (ritual slaughterer), Rabbi Lazar-Chaim Kaplan was left in fact in a work camp, and, for a period of time, the people were left without any meat. Sometimes, people brought some fowl for slaughter for a very sick person. Also, fowl was available on the eve of Yom Kippur; they atoned with money.
With rebuilding again in Malch, there actually was also the question of the Shochet (ritual slaughterer). Rabbi Chaim-Lazar was a Jew who was really a follower of Torah and was God-fearing. He was respected and admired by everybody, but his age did not allow him to perform his slaughtering and also his function as a circumsizer. The town brought a young slaughterer, mohel and cantor, Rabbi Michael. He really showed he was able to function; he was truly competent. Rabbi Chaim-Lazar died in 1926. Rabbi Michael took over his functions as slaughterer, cantor and mohel until the Nazi expulsion from Malch in Cheshvan (November) 1941, when the fate of the whole Malch community was sealed.
The function of the prayer leader on the Holy Days (between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur), besides the cantor, were handled by Benjamin-Zav (may his memory be for a blessing), the sexton of the Great Synagogue, Rabbi Jacob Sokolov and Rabbi Itzl-Nahum Pomerantz, about whom it is worth writing. Itzl-Nahum was a "tent dweller" who studied in the Malch Yeshiva from the time of Rabbi Zalman Sender and Rabbi Simon (may their memory be for a blessing). He was a great scholar and possessed great knowledge, knowing Talmudic commentaries, therefore being highly rewarded. Therefore he possessed a successful serenity. He alone also spoke honorably; he had a quiet, sweet voice. He couldn't speak out loudly a word, but at the Musaf (concluding) service during the holy week (Days of Awe) from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur, he really overwhelmed everyone with the nice davening (praying) in front of the congregation. Besides davening while standing, he was also a shofar blower. And his father was employed in a business with raw leather, laundry, wax making and others. His wife was daughter of a known scholar, the head and leader of the famous Hebrew School of Reb Aaron-Jacob (may his memory be for a blessing). Reb Itz-Nahum was truly one of the intellectual figures of Malch until the Holocaust.
The economic life began to come alive. The whole economic circle of shops were opened (25 in all); craftsmen began again to work according to their expertise. There began to function the old mill and a new steam mill was built headed by the leaders, Samuel Rosenbaum, the old miller, and Moshe-Aaron Winograd. In 1924, a Jew came from Bialystok, with a Hebrew name, "Kav-Venaki". He opened up a
Also a charity treasury was organized, which began to give out loans, in small installments, free of interest. The Rabbi was the one who gave out the loans. Also helping were Jacob Applebaum, Joshua Giselbaum and Samuel-Mordechai Rubenstein. The bookkeeper was Kalman Gersh. At first, the office of the Free Loan Society was at the home of Tsalke Jacob Zelig. Later it was moved to a room in the synagogue.
I would like here to mention a tragic case with the murder of the woman, Rachel-Reva, who was a shopkeeper from her youth. Her husband, Reb Abraham Zlatzagora, a learned Jew, died in 1917. Of her 5 children, 3 daughters and 2 sons, she remained with her youngest daughter, Beila. The oldest daughter, Yentel, went away to America in 1920, already with family. The middle daughter, Vichne, already earlier in 1910 or 1911, had gone to America. The oldest son, Reb Nisl, became religious willingly; he studied in the Radomer Yeshiva, was given Smicha (ordained as a Rabbi) and took the Rabbi's chair in a White Russian congregation, close to 1914. The younger son, Mordechai, went to the oldest brother. The oldest daughter stayed with the youngest daughter, Beila. After the war, Rachel-Reva, together with her daughter, opened up the store again. The daughter died right away. The old lady was left alone, but she did not stop from keeping up the business. Her energetic output was not hindered. She built a big house in Reb Edelheim Averbuch's Place (who died in Minsk and whose children never came back to Malch.) In that same house, she lived alone. In a spring evening, after Passover, in the year 1932, Rachel-Reva was murdered. It was learned later that the murderer was a Gentile shoemaker from Malch. He was a cripple with a wooden leg. Because of that, the investigators followed the trail of the murderer. The discoverer was a police officer, Baravetski. The murderer was sentenced to 15 years in prison. After her death, the store remained empty under the supervision of Itzl Buchalter and Iches Nisselbaum.
With the understanding of the way of the new blood-curdling Polish government, it was still possible to carry on the community affairs. Right after the Balfour Declaration (where the British promised a homeland for the Jews in Palestine), they organized groups of Zionist activity of every kind. First the youth organized itself. There were the Shomer Hatzair (a young Zionist leftist organization), the Hechalutz (pioneer group) and Betar (a revolutionary group). Among the public workers were Benjamin Weinstein, Samuel Mordechai Rubenstein and Moshe Glaser; the latter pushed his way with his individual ability, based on cultural knowledge. Unfortunately, he died very young. The exact meeting place of those groups was at Reuben, the blacksmith's place, in his house. They brought the group of "hachshara" (those training to go to Palestine) from which they later made Aliyah to the land of Israel. Some of us even went into farm preparation in Grochow, near Warsaw. The curtailment of Aliyah (beginning in 1936) did not allow us to travel. For us we had until 1939 to make Aliyah; Chinka Miskin and Aaron Dubinsky had gone in 1936. Organizational programs, very active and dynamic, held on until September, 1939, when Hitler's Germans invaded Poland. The dark chapter in all of Europe , which had developed tragically for all the Jews, began. Our Malch also was not able to get out from the matter.
With the idea of the German invasion into Poland, Malch also received the bombardment of the German planes. They also bombed the railroad station (Pavlovitz), two kilometers from the town; also Kutnovitch Station (5 kilometers away). Suddenly, they received an order to mobilize the reserve troops; besides, they took the blacksmith without any consideration of his age. The reserve troops were sent to Bresk; our blacksmith, after being held for a few days, was sent home. The firefighters formed themselves to guard constantly against fires, ready for whatever happened in the bombardment fires, and put them out.
The fall of Poland at the front brought out an anger and an uncertainty. Only a few days later, the heads of the town were evacuated with all the government institutions. There only remained a very small military garrison that was quartered in the government building. They soon lost touch with the central military command and ruled according to their will. In that situation the people were forced to take their fate in their own hands. They passed a form of mobilization of the young people, and they created a protection organization. The arming of this particular organization was not a problem. When the army itself had run away, to obtain armaments was easy. Both Jews and Christians belonged to the self-protection organization. They carried out their duties faithfully. From time to time, in order to scare whomever we needed, we shot into the air. The shtetl, at that time of inner troubles, was saved from robbery and fires, from all directions.
A couple of weeks after the outbreak of the war, there began to circulate rumors that the Red Army was planning to march to the West. Quickly, the rumors began to be confirmed with the facts. On that day, when that became clear, at the same time the Polish Army fled, and the protection organization threw out the Polish military garrison, which had been stationed in the Malch headquarters.
About a hundred Polish Christian men, all armed, surrounded the headquarters. A delegation went off to the commander with the demand to surrender, and the director of the Polish garrison, anticipating the arrival of the Soviet Army, was willing. After the surrender of that stronghold, with its military inventory, the Polish garrison was given the opportunity to change into civilian clothing and move wherever they wished, except that other Christians could not have the pleasure of pulling off the epaulets of the Polish officers. The protection organization had several times sent units to the street to find out if the Russian Army was coming. Finally, they came across a Russian company marching in the direction of Kobrin. A delegation had an understanding with the leadership of a unit who was willing to send a small military group to Malch. After a short visit to the town, the group withdrew.
A few days later, on a Tuesday afternoon, the Russian Army, equipped with all the arms and tanks, marched into Malch; the Soviets came in from the direction of Minsk. At their entry, there wasn't neither much of a battle, nor too much shooting; but there was some gunfire when they observed that there were Polish soldiers running away. The people in the town received the Russians with jubilation. People were hoping that the Nazis wouldn't come to us and that the Russians would establish peace and order in our area after the days of fear, panic and uncertainty.
At the same time, we brought our blood contributions; on the front, Henoch Freedman (Joseph-Jacob, the stitcher"s son), Shlomo Lev (a son of Eliezer Kazlani Rabbiner's daughter). Both were soldiers in active service in the Polish Army. From the reservists fell Aaron-Nachum (son-in-law of Kasbas). From the ten Jews of Malch, soldiers of the Polish Army, prisoners who fell into the hands of the Germans and were put into a Concentration Camp, at Biale-Pablask, only one returned alive (his name was Aaron Goldstein, Chaim, the trucker's son), who now lives in Canada. The few who were imprisoned by the Russians were sent home.
THE SOVIET POWER IN MALCH
The Russians were received like liberators with a warm "welcome". They made greeting speeches, and with their mood, it gave us courage. The Soviet Army division was quartered in Malch; billets of ten in each home in the town of Kabakia, five kilometers from Malch. The first order was to give up the arms, and this particular order they obeyed immediately, both the Jews and the Christians. Immediately came an order to form a town organization, that was called a "Soviet Council" (Malch was considered a village). The population of Jews and Christians gathered in a large synagogue, where they picked out a council which consisted of a president "Stritch:, and a secretary, "Kapintchik", both Christians. This particular power had at its disposal a few policemen, Christians from Malch; from time to time, there came the NKVD (Soviet intelligence) to look things over.
Right after the first week, they closed all the stores. The Soviet officers and soldiers made a mess of the stores and bought out all merchandise at whatever price was asked. It was impossible to get any new merchandise, and the stores, having no choice, closed down. It was believed that the citizens, Joseph Applebaum and Jacob Youngerman, had hidden some merchandise, and they were arrested. After holding them for a few days, they freed them. All in all, the economic system was molded into the Soviet way. They organized a cooperative that had the necessary products for first use. In the white building in the middle of the market, the organization was put in order by Mottel Linafski. Each family received a book, where they listed the number of people in the family, to get the necessities from the authority itself. They also created many trades, the tailors in Moshe-Leib's house; and shoemakers in Joseph Linafski's house; the blacksmiths in a different location. The carpenters stayed independent, because they were too small in numbers to form a group.
The Malch courtyard didn't have a lot of free space. The biggest part of it had already been sold by a former owner, "Sveda", to the surrounding Christians. The rest of the land was parceled out to the Christians and Jews. The Kabaki courtyards (of Felias) were transformed into "Selchozen" (collective village of well-off people). In Kabaki the brewery was running.
The Russians started to establish themselves in the zone. They started to build aerodromes; they exploited the forests around Pruzany, and besides in the famous "Bialevetshe Paschte". One of the most important projects was the Dnieperski Canal, a water canal which connected two rivers, the Dnieper and the Bug, and they had to go through Kobrin. To all these enterprises they sent workers; those who were not engaged in combat.
Also in the schools and cultural environment, they introduced the Soviet system. They also included the private schools, and the schools of the national minorities (first of all the Jews). The former civic building was transformed into a school; they put controls on the different gatherings at discussion evenings. They used to bring films and have dance evenings.
In the Jewish life, no changes occurred. Until then, in the synagogues, learning went on like in the good old days. The meat, as much as it could be controlled (the powers allowed the Jews to live), was prepared according to Jewish law (Kashruth). In all the Jews were not hindered in following their Jewish customs.
Thus things continued for a period of time in the 22 months, until July 1941, when the Nazis broke their friendship pact with the Soviets and fell upon the local administration. Quickly we saw the Nazi bestiality. The last dark chapter of the holy community of Malch began.