Pages From The Zabludow Yiskor Book:

Zabludow; Dapim Mi-tokh Yisker-Bukh , editor: Nehama Shavli-Shimush, Published by Former Residents of Zabludow in Israel, 1987 (Hebrew) Translation from Hebrew by Ziva Rosenhand
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The Old Synagogue of Zabludow: 1635-1939, a Model by Moshe Verbin, Kibbutz Yakum

Holocaust Chapter

 

Our Ruined Zabludow- and It’s Martyrs
By Shmuel (Muli) Bernstein

 I’m asking forgiveness from you, holy souls… your spirit and memory are lying in the soul of each and every one of the Holocaust survivors.

Forgive me, if I’m not going to be able to give strong impressions to your inhumane suffering, and to your heroism! A man is unable to tell all that you went through in those last moments of your life, and what the human animals did to you… honor to your memories!

In May 1941, I was called by the Soviet regime to do six weeks of reserve service. I left our town Zabludow that seemed as it was in generations; the youngsters were happy, loved to sing; new government, new life, new songs; my wife Channah, and my son Elik, accompanied me to the bus.

 

The first war victims. In our unit there were a few people from Zabludow. In the morning, when the Germans opened their blitz was campaign and attacked unexpectedly, Shmuel Ruppa, Meir Perelgut, and Avrahamel Korovski, among others, died. Kopl Levine survived along with me; he was with me for a few days, I was an officer. Levine, who had a weak character, was lacking initiation, I protected him as much as I could. He was killed in Volkovisk-Baranovisk line, while I, on the other hand, was captured by the Germans, along with thousands of soldiers during the battle around Minsk. The Germans gave an order that people will gather into groups according with their nation: Jews, Russians, Polish, Ukrainians, etc. I joined a group of Russian officers. They put us in a big barn and I felt the whole time an inner impulse to run, because I had the feeling that they were going to turn me in as a Jew. In the corner, where I lay down in the darkness I dug a hole underneath the fence and made a bunker. Suddenly an unexpected thing happened. A fire broke out. I don’t know who started it, the Germans, or someone inside; heavy smoke spread in the barn; we heard shootings from all over, I succeeded in crawling through the bunker, on my stomach until I got to the bushes and then I continued through the fields to the woods. I took advantage of the darkness, I ran until the morning, and I distance myself from that place. During the day I laid in a hole in the woods and once in a while I checked around to see in which direction there was any village.

I ate berries that I found in the forest, and some green from the fields. I wandered at night and tried to go around the villages; that’s how I arrived, exhausted to Zittle. On a dark night I knocked on a door of a house that stood in the edge of the town. Coincidentally a Jewish family lived there. They took me in with fear in their eyes, but when I spoke Yiddish it calmed them down. On that night they burned my Army uniform in the oven and gave me civilian clothes. I stayed at my hosts for five days.

I lingered in the town for three days, when I saw that the traffic was lessening, and also that civilians were driving in the roads I started on my way in the direction of Slonim-Horodok-Zabludow. The adventures of my trip are very cruel and unique episodes. In Horodok I found a few people from Zabludow and got very sad regards from our town. They told me that Zabludow was burnt to the ground by the Nazis, they also told me about the victims that were killed during the air raid and that part of the citizens were expelled and part ran away and scattered in different places: Bialystok, Narba, Narabaka. I couldn’t figure out what happened to my family, I decided to go to Zabludow; I went through Zeshdna forest, when I got closer my heart started to pound heavily. After all it has been only one month since I left my family: mother, father, brothers, my wife that was a companion in my life. Channah Bendetszon, and our blooming son, Elik; I want to know what happened to them.

I stopped by the house of Birche Bartnovski, the smith. Darkness, night. From far away I see a burnt town. The whole area was empty, only the edge of the Catholic church and the round dome of the Pravoslavic church were erected. I knock on the door of my good acquaintance Birche, that his house survived the fire. I waited a minute, from the inside I hear movements and then cries and children’s sobbing. I feel a deep sadness. The door is open, in front of me Reba Baker’s wife stands, a moment passed until she recognized me. She is telling me, broken and filled with tears; two days ago the Germans took Virche from the house, they took him to the bridge by the river near the house and shot him in front of his wife and their three children.

A few days later I found my family in Bialystok.

I would not write about the life in ghetto Bialystok, where I was a witness to its eradication. Other famous, talented authors like B. Mark, Dr. Detner, Risener, and others already did it.

About ten days continued the first chapter of the destruction of Bialystok Jews. The second chapter was five months later, and was finished with the declining of those Jews. Then my whole family was killed, my wife, my son, and my mother.

I was saved in the struggle for life, when death is waiting for me around every corner.

After the riots in Bialystok I was sent with a group of craftsmen to East Prussia. I was there for two years; I waited day by day for death to come, as simple as it is. In spite of it all, I stayed alive.

I will not tell about the suffering in the concentration camps, about thousands of people from different nations that were killed, and I will not tell about the bloody field, and about the destruction and tortured basements and all the horrible things that my eyes saw. This is a different story. This doesn’t touch Zabludow.

After the liberation when I came back to Bialystok in March 1945, full of pain, I found that the whole ghetto area was erased. Around there was deadly quiet and ruins. I’m walking between the ruins, and I got to a place that once used to be 10 Yurovitski St. I lived there before the Holocaust, with my dear wife Channahle and my blond haired son, that didn’t even live to see five springs. Nothing was left from these dear people. Were killed: my mother, my brother Leible, the carpenter who was the librarian in Zabludow’s library, and my twin brother Moshele the tailor. Now I’m standing on a pile of weeds, on sand and bricks… the heart is shrinking, tears are washing my face- there is no memory for their existence…

I left in an army car to Zabludow. In front of my eyes I see the town that was destroyed. All that was left are green fields, weeds: in the edge of the field there were some scattered huts, and also a few huts near the Pravoslavic church.

I meet a few ‘Goy’ [gentile] acquaintances. They are looking at my as though I came from another world. One of them hugged and kissed me. They told me that there are two Jews in the town who hid and got out of their hiding place. I found them in a small dark room behind the church, Yosele Levine and Shimon Levine.

At night we slept in the small room, we are three herded Jews and survivors of the Jewish community of a whole town. Before we went to sleep we closed the door and the shutters very carefully and each one of us checked it’s gun because there were still some white soldiers in Poland that were looking after individual Jews who survived the Holocaust.

We stayed for two days in Zabludow, then we moved to Bialystok. In Zabludow there is not one Jew left. It is ‘Judenrein’, pure from Jews.

The wind blew the ashes of the Zabludow Jews who burned in Treblinka. Hundreds of thousands were killed in different ways, and there was no trace to their existence.

We, who survived have to keep in our heart forever their holy memory.

Shmuel Bernstein moved to Israel, blended nicely with his job, and socially. Until the end of his life he was the pillar of the small Zabludow community in Israel, and also was a liaison between them and Zabludow’s expatriates abroad.

May their memory be blessed!

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