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The Story of Batia nee Sosensky Kramer
Batia was born in Dolhinov in 1925 to Refael (son of Shimshel and Bat Sheva Sosensky) And Chaya (Chayke) nee Alperovitz (daughter of Yosef Binyamin Alperovitz and Chana Yochved nee Isikson*?) I called Batia who lives in Ashdod, Israel on 11- 16- 2003 and I am posting here what she said; My mother Chayka nee Alperowitz was born c 1892 to Yosef Binyamin Alperovitz who was a very learned, extremely respected in the community and pious man. I remember that my mother said that her mother (Henia?) died and her father later married a very elegant and kind woman by the name of Hinde *(I am not sure which one was Chana Yochved nee Isikson) The stepmother was a very devout mother to the children of her husband. My grandfather was a teacher of Hebrew religious studies. How do I know that? I was a very spoiled girl and I hardly ate, my parents were very worried since I was very slim, so they would send me to the shtetl Myadel, which was situated next to a lake, hoping that the beautiful location would improve my appetite. There I would stay with a family that the head of the household studied at my grandfathers' cheder. The man would say how special my grandfather was (one of their sons survived the war and now lives in Toronto) I would also visit my fathers' sister: Rachel/ Rochka and her husband, Myazel (Moshe?) Levinson who had family in Kurenets and Zaskovitz, and the children in Smorgon. I loved visiting them in the much bigger city, they would spoiled me greatly!!! They lived across from the church on Pilitzar Gravarzkia Street, I still remember the organist playing music in the church. The family perished but during the war father met their son; Avramel somewhere after we crossed the front and arrived in the Soviet union, He must have joined the red Army since he later perished. Father also had a brother; Yakov Sosensky whose wife was Beyla nee Kuzinitz (The sister of the husband of my mothers' sister; Michle nee Alperovitz Kuzinitz) lived with his family in Dolhinov (Childen; Leyzer, Shalom, Ela, Chana, Chasia Sosensky the entire family perished). I remember that when I was about eleven years old our family went to Kurenets to attend the wedding of his son. Father had a sister Ester who was never married. Ester was handicapped and some years before she died she moved from Dolhinov to Smorgon to live with her sister Rachel Levinson who took care of her. There were also two brothers and a sister who went to America. Many years ago the sister and her daughter visited us in Israel but the second day after they arrived they received a phone call from the family that they must returned immediately since something tragic happened to the son. They missed the huge party we prepared for them and we did not see them since. My mother was sent to Smorgon to attend Gimnasia (academic high school) this was very unusual at the time of the early 1900s, especially for a girl. We had two pictures of my mother with her girlfriends in the Gimnasia and together with a third picture of my mother alone I made sure to take them when we had to hastily escape from the Ghetto. The pictures were with me in Karolyn and later when we escaped to the woods. At one point I let my brother; Yehuda carry it in his backpack one time in the woods the Germans surrounded us and started shooting. We left our belonging, including the backpack, and ran for our lives. So my mothers' pictures were lost forever..by the way, Yehuda who is three years younger then me (born 1928?) lives near Mazkeret Batia in Israel, and every year he travels to Dolhinov. One year the family collected $700 to put a beautiful gravestone on my mothers' grave in Dolhinov. Yehuda has searched many times the large Jewish cemetery in Dolhinov for the graves of the grandparents but so far did not find them. At the third house from us lived my mothers' sister; Michla Kuzinitz (between our houses lived Bushka and Chaya Katzovitz with their mother and step father Forman and the Bruk family) My mother, as her sister Michle was very beautiful, The sisters deeply loved each other and were very attached as we were attached to our cousins , people would say that they never witnessed such devotion amongst sisters. Michles' children were; the oldest Bluma who married Zelig and moved to Postov were Zelig designed shoes. During the Soviet period they returned to Dolhinov and perished there. Tears come to my eyes when I remember the last time I was with them. In the ghetto, before we left to Karolin with father, shortly after the first actzia (massacre where hundreds of Jews were killed in Dolhinov) Zelig was selected by the Germans as a professional who is needed for the war effort. Being selected was seen as a ticket for survival for him as well as for his wife and children. Since everyone knew at that chances of survival. Are very slim and all they could hope for was that at list one family member would survive, my father said that they should take my sister; Sima who was six years old, and save her as their daughter. They agreed but Sima refused to go with them she cried and insisted that we should take her with us- WHO KNEW THEN WHAT WAS THE BEST FLIGHT FOR SURVIVAL!!!!! Next after Bluma came Chana (born c 1915) and then her brother Yosef Binyamin. Then Rachel, Mindel who was my age (born 1925) and Shulem about three years younger then Mindel. Only Chana and Yosef Binyamin Kuzinitz survived the war. The rest perished with their wonderful mother, Michle. From my mothers side we had relatives in Dolhinov. We had cousin by the name of Lifshitz who was the head of the Bank in Dolhinov. We also had a relative by the name of Baruch Exelrod Who had a small hotel. The sister of Baruch lived in Vilna and mother used to go to Budslav (18 Kilometers from Dolhinov) and from there she would take a train to Vilna to buy material for the fabric store that she owned in Dolhinov. Since the travel at that time took some hours she would stay with the relatives in Vilna. The daughter of the relatives, Sarale , would visit us and her uncle in Dolhinov. There was also an uncle of my mothers' who lived in Dokshitzy There were also relatives in Holbotzy that I remember going with my family to visit. My mothers other four brothers moved to America many years before. Ytzhak/ Isador, Shmuel, Gdalia and Perl Alperovitz/ Alpers. I remember my mother getting letters from her brothers in Boston but my cousin Chana nee Kuzinitz says that my memory is wrong since I was so young (she is ten years older then I) and the letters were from Salem, mass. After Chanas' father died the brother Ytzhak/ Isador send his widowed sister and her six children money on a regular basis. My father was well of. He owned a bakery and was very involved with the Polish Shlechta (well to do class) as well as the Polish and Belarusian middle and lower class (later, during the war this fact saved our lives many many times). My mother was a very good businesswoman, father was more permissive in his deals and would let people take merchandise without paying. Father was especially generous with the fabrics that were used for making suits for bridegrooms (At that time ready-made clothes were not popular). People used to say, "your father married many couples". We used to have a Polish housekeeper by the name who lived with us and I was very attached to her. After she married a very handsome Polish man that turned to be a useless drunk she lived near my school and I remember how my friends would question me why I always wanted to go to her house for lunch. In general I did not feel much anti-Semitism in Dolhinov prior to the war. Our family was religious but not extreme, the man in the family didn't dress according to the religious custom. My mother and her sister had regular seats next to each other in a good location in the Main synagogue as well as another synagogue. At home we spoke Yiddish and Polish later we spoke Russian. We all knew Hebrew as well as the local Belurussian language that was spoken by the farmers in the area. It sounds much like a Russian Dialect. My home was a worm Zionist home my father belong to a Zionist party and my oldest brother Yosef Binyamin Sosensky was a member of the Zionist Youth movement, "Bitar" (a more right wing non Socialist Youth Movement whose leader at that time in the area of Vilna was Menachem Begin) We used to have a Keren Kayemet box in our house were we put money to donate for Eretz Israel. Every week a certain man from dolhinov would come to collect the money. I remember how I used to envy the people that I, with the rest of the Jews of Dolhinov, accompanied for their last walk to the train to take them to Eretz Israel!!! Amongst the lucky people were relatives of my father, the Riar family. My brother Yosef was born in 1922. He attended the school "Tarbut" all subjects were taught in Hebrew in the Tarbut school. He graduated sometime before the soviets arrived (September 1939) . After the Soviets arrived our stores were confiscated and father was appointed as head of all the bakeries in the area and Yosef helped him with the accounting. I attended "Tarbut" school (David Shinyuk, David Ginsburg, the beautiful sister of Avraham Fridman were in my class) and later the I attended the Polish school (I don't know why I was transferred). I made a good friend with Maritzka Patruzkia, a Polish (non Jewish girl who still lives in Dolhinov and we are still in touch, I call her on a regular basis. I told her about the delegation of natives and families coming from Israel and she arranged for the celebrations in Dolhinov). In 1939 my happy carefree childhood was gone forever. There was a pneumonia epidemic that spread in Dolhinov and my beautiful mother as well as her cousin Lifshitz fell victims. My life stopped at that moment. Together with my brother Chanoch (AKA Gantzy Hande) who was a few years younger we refused to go to school. For many months I did nothing. I did not join Youth movements or have vigorous social life as all my friends did at that time. My sister; Sima was only four years old when my mother became sick , and there was a different Polish woman who took care of her as the rest of the household, but I didn't like her and after I told my father he replaced her with a Jewish girl from a very respected family who recently became orphaned and had to support her young siblings. In September of 1939 the Soviets entered the area of Dolhinov and shortly after my mother died. Dolhinov was not far from the old Russian / Polish border on the Polish side since 1920. The Soviets did not like the petit Bourgeois class, but my father was lucky, and after they seized his shops, they appointed him as head of all the bakeries in the area. My brother Yosef and I took night classes in Russian. A non Jewish man by the name of Timzok (Later he became the main savior of the Jewish remnants of Dolhinov who escaped to the forests, amongst them was my family.) Was appointed by the soviets to an important position in Dolhinov. I would like to name another Christian man, Ivan Senkovitz , He is 90 years old now and still lives in Dolhinov, he helped many jews and saved the life of Batia Liberman. On June 22 of 1941 the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in a surprise attack. It took but a few days and the renowned Soviet Red Army collapsed in the area of Belarus, and the Soviet authorities left the area across the old Polish/ Soviet area not far from Dolhinov. My brother Yosef had friends who immediately took their bikes across the old border , 7 to 8 kilometer from Dolhinov. Before they left they asked Yosef to go with them. Yosef asked that we should all go but my father said that it was impossible to go with five children and Yosef chose to stay with us in Dolhinov. The other guys went and survived the war. Amongst them was my husband to be; Reuven Kramer , the only survivor of his entire family. Shortly after the Germans arrived in Dolhinov and took all legal rights from the Jews. Unlike other places in the area they did not put us in a ghetto for the first 10 months. However to walk freely in the streets was very dangers (Jews were not allowed to walk on the sidewalk or use any transportation) Already in the first weeks a large number of Jews arrived from Pleshntziz (just on the Soviet side of the old border) were the German brutally massacred the Jews they found as soon as they arrived there. We took a woman to live with us and her son lived with Chanas' family. They survived the war, they were amongst the first to run to the forest. At times we also hid in the forest but life was hard and when winter came it turned to be the coldest winter in years and people returned to Dolhinov. I remember that I used to pray to my mother in the cemetery to save us from the hell around us. My brother Yosef was sent to work with the German Army, in the communication troop, as a translator since he could speak both German and Polish. Yosef had good relation with some of the Germans in the German army and they notified him that shortly there would be a massacre of all the Jews in Dolhinov. Yosef was able to reach Dolhinov and take Sima, Chanoch and I to hid us at the house of a friendly Polish family in Zari by the name Batzrenka. They agreed to hide us children, despite knowing of the death sentence that would be also be given to them if the German found that they are hiding Jewish children. Yehuda refused to leave our father. Together they hid behind double wall that they build in our house and watched the awful massacre from an opening in the wall. Children were killed brutally. One young girl ( a cousin of Yechezkel Gultz) was cut to half by a saw, Jews went crazy and one woman danced in the street. A few were conned by the Germans that if they would tell where other Jewish families are hiding they will spear their family. It was all lies. The Germans killed them all when they came out of the hiding. My fathers hiding place was not found out. A few days later my brother sent a Christian man to check Dolhinov and he came back and told us about the horrible massacre but said that the Germans who organized the massacre left the area and the Jews who survived came out of their hiding back to their home. Sima, Chanoch and I walked to Dolhinov. On the way we stopped at the hospital were the Jewish Doctor Kotler was working and with him was working the righteous Christian man Ivan Senkovitz. Ivan went to Dolhinov before us to make sure that there are no Germans on the road. Shortly after we returned they moved all the remaining Jews to a small area. A ghetto that was enclosed by barbed wires. I told father "Why did we returned from Zari to be killed here?" I felt so bad for my sister Sima who lived only six years and experienced such hardship, She hardly remembered mother. My father knew that our chances of survival there were very limited and with his connection with the Polish Shlacta was able to get a job in Karolin attending the cows and horses. Here there were only Polish people headed by Zibolski who worked for the Germans. The Gultz family whose father was a Smith also lived there. Each family received one small room and there was only one small house for all the Jewish families who lived there. Jews were never paid for the work during those times but we were able to get food from our non Jewish friends from before the war. At one time my father was sent to work for the Germans in the Knahanina camp but he was there only for a short time. After a few months, during the month of May there was a second actzia/massacre in Dolhinov as a German troop approached Karolin to take us all to be killed we were notified by the Polish people especialy Zibolski, and were able to escape to the near by forest. There we found others from Dolhinov and Plashntzitz who lived near the partisans. Many of the young men and woman from Dolhinov joined the Partisans with the help of Timzok their leader. I must write about the special character of Avraham Fridman who saved many Jews from Dolhinov. Sadly, Avrahams' sister who was my good friend was taken by Avraham out of the house to run with him to the forest. While he was gathering more Jews for the escape she was caught by the Germans and their local collaborators and killed. Avraham wrote his story in the Yizkor book was he was too modest and did not tell about all the heroic things that he did fighting the Germans and saving many Jews from the area from sure death. Some days we had to beg for food when we lived outdoors in the forest. Other days the partisans would give us small amount of food. One day my father notiched that a huge Jewish man was taking shares of other Jews for himself and he aproched him and told him to give the food back to the Jews that the food belong to. The man started a fight and pushed my brother Chanoch who was standing near my father, my brother fall on the near by train tracks and was badly wounded. Timzok, as the other partisans, decided that Older men, women and children and others who could not help the partisans, should be taken east, 1500 kilometers away passed enemy territory, passed the front into areas that were controlled by the Soviet Union. My brother Yosef did not want to leave us and let us walk without him but Timzok convinced him to stay with the partisans. He said that anyway all that will reach the Soviet Union and we appear of age would immediately be enlisted in the Red Army and sent to the front for most certain death. He said that he might as well continue fighting the enemy with the partisan's troop. My cousin Chana, nee Kuznitz, her brother Yosef, her mother in law and her sister in law walked with us as well as other people from Dolhinov, some with young children. In the forest we were also with the Chevlin family and Shmaryahu Fridman and Rivka Kramer from Krivichi. We walked for many days in enemy territory. Some days we walked ten to twenty Kilometers, but when we found out that Germans are near by we hid. I remember that one time we were walking by a river and Yosef Kramer who walked near us with his two young children had a lot of problem with his young daughter, Berta who was crying loudly. Since the Germans were very near Yosef in order to save the rest decided to throw her in the river. Berta cried, " I want to live don't throw me". Shperber who walked near them said to her father Yosef, " if you harm her I would not recognize you any more". Both families survived and some years ago during the wedding of Berta, her father Yosef announced " We are the parents of the bride but I am calling on the true parents of the bride who saved her life, Mr.and mrs. Shperber, to come to the stage" There was not one dry eye of the many Dolhinovers who were present. Back to our walk. After we crossed the border the soviets took all the young men to serve in the Red Army put all the rest of the families on fright trains that took us for a long trip all the way to Kazachstan near Tashkent. During the many days on the train people talked about the final destination and wander "Do they have potatoes in Kazachstan?" the answer was "No" and people left the train in the next station. Others found out that it was very hot there and decided to leave in the next station. A few families from Dolhinov left when we arrived to Sorozink. They were sitting in the train station and a Jewish woman (Shifra Gordon of Sorozink per chaims' story) approached them and asked, "Where are you from?" Since Dolhinov was a small and not well known one of the women answered "Vilna" for some unknown reason another woman said "No, from Dolhinov" The woman was in shock, she asked them to wait for Chaim Brunstein from Dolhinov who was working as a dentistry technician in this town. The people from Dolhinov told the woman that sitting in the train that left the station were the mother, sister and wife of Chaim. (the wife; My cousin, Chana nee Kuznitz Bnronstein) The woman informed Chaim of the news and he ran to the station and found out the number of the train. When the train arrived to Zakmet My father, Rafael (Fula) Sosensky, was looking for a way to warm his sleeping kids. He heard a nock on the train window and a voice said " Don't you recognize me Fula? I have been chasing your train for five days" It was Chaim Bronstein! My father took him to our car and woke us up. I refused to wake up saying to my father "It must be a dream" we did not know what had happened to Chaim who was taken by the Soviets since June of 1941 and not it was the end of 1942! Chana, Her mother in law and her sister in law Raya, left the train to Sorozink. We stayed and went all the way to near Tashkent.