Breine nee Kur Rabinovitz Story
Breine was born in Horodok in 1916. She is the daughter of Rivka nee
Volozhinski from Volozhin (Rivkas' mother was from the Bunimovitz family
of Volozhin). Breines' father was Mordechai Kur who's' father was a
well-respected scribe (writer of Torah books) in Vileyka; (Yehoshua
Koor). Rabbi yakov Landu Z"L ABD Bnai Brak wrote about Yehoshua
Kur in the Yizkor book for Kurenets; '
Amongst the shoemakers I
must tell about Moshe the Shoemaker from Dolhinov Street. He was a spiritual
Jew and would read with excitement from the Torah. HE was also a Kaidanov
Hasid. His father was Reb Yoshua, the writer from Vileyka. The son of
Moshe, Shlomo Chaim studied Torah in our minyan, and when he arrived
at the age where he would be taken to the army, he escaped and went
to London. His last name was Koor and from what I heard he became a
Hazan in one of the synagogues in London, where he later passed away
I received emails form other members of the family;
Wonderful to hear Breines story
My grandfather - Shlomo Hayim, son of Moshe and cousin of Breine had
family both in England and in Russia
Shlomo Hayim had 4 children
Marie - married name Coleman - Stephen's mother
Henry- my father
Hanna - married name Mather
Lily/Leah- married name Broza
I moved to Israel from England about 25 years ago. I live in Efrat about
20 minutes from Jerusalem but work in Jerusalem and commute every day.
I have an elder brother Shlomo who lives in Petach Tikva near Tel Aviv
and a younger brother Jonathan who lives with my mother in Netanya.
My parents came to Israel in 1983 to retire. My father passed away in
My cousin Danny Koor has been in contact with you, and has sent me all
the details he has received from you so far.
We share the same grandfather Shlomo Chayim, or Solomon Koor as he was
known in England. My late mother Marie, and Danny's late father Henry
were brother and sister, together with 2 surviving sisters Hannah and
The family lived initially in the East End of London, moving to Notting
Hill in the 1920's, where
my grandfather eventually became minister of Notting Hill Synagogue
until he died in May 1946.
Back to Breine story...The parents of Breine came from very respected
religious families and a matchmaker arranged their marriage as the custom
of Jews c 1900. The relatives from the groom side said that Rivka did
not come to the marriage with the appropriate dowry but she had other
qualities to compensate for it. The oldest boy; Avraham was born in
1910, Eliezer was born in 1922 and there were two sisters; Dishka and
Eliezer was "Talmid Chacham" a Yeshiva "Bachur".
A distant cousin; Arie Shevach remembers that there was a time when
Eliezer had to serve in the Polish army c 1937. He was station near
Krasne and the rabbi of Krasne ordered the family to prepare Kosher
food for Eliezer and he would deliver it to Eliezer everyday. Arie was
about 12 years old and was getting ready for his Bar Mitzva and Eliezer
helped him with some of his studies. .
After the Soviets took control of the area in September of 1939 and
instituted a communist rule in the area Breine.'s oldest sister who
owned a coffee store in Horodok knew that she would be classified unfavorably
as 'capitalist" so she moved to Vileyka. Vileyka, one of the region's
main towns, became an important place for the Soviet municipal authorities
and She worked for them.
When the German invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 The Soviet
officers and official evacuated the area and crossed by trains the old
border (the pre 1939 Poland/ Soviet union border) . Some of them insisted
that Breine's sister, along with other Jews in the town who worked for
the Soviets, leave with them because they knew what the impending German
invasion would mean for them. (in some cases the Soviet officials actually
pushed Jews they encountered around town onto departing trains without
leaving them a moment to return to their homes and families. One Jewish
woman, Dora Rabinovitz told me that that she came to Vileyka to work
that day wearing a light summer dress and, by chance, carrying a picture
of her family in her pocket. She was pushed onto a train and sent to
the cold of Russia for more then two years and was the only member of
her family to survive E. D)
Breine.'s brother Eliezer was studying in a yeshiva in Poland. In 1939,
when the area was given to the Soviets the whole yeshiva received illegally
acquired papers from the Japanese ambassador in Lithuania. With these
papers, the residents of the yeshiva were allowed to immigrate to China
before the German invasion. In China, Breine.'s brother contacted their
other brother back in the area of Horodok who subsequently traveled
all the way to China so as to bring him back to Poland, where he would
later perish in German hands. (He might have never left for China, his
brother might have taken him from Lithuania back to Horodok the Soviets
would never let anyone without papers go all the way to China and back
the papers were very very hard to obtain)
During the German occupation Breine and her family first went to a former
Christian neighbor and asked him to hide them. However, because they
had previously given him their possessions for safe keeping, he was
loathe to the idea of saving those who may later ask for his newly acquired,
albeit on loan, goods. So, when they asked to be let in, he threatened
to kill them
Breine and her family escaped the killing of the Jews in Horodok and
went to Krasne. Threr was a large German camp in Krasne and they needed
many Jewish workers and the Kur family as many other Jews assumed that
the Germans will keep them alive as long as they weorked for them. Breine
worked with other Jewish women and children to lay new train tracks.
German soldiers routinely routed out and murdered Jews who were weaker
or more feeble than the rest. The food given daily to the Jews who worked
for the Germans consisted of one piece of bread with marmalade, and
on occasion, a soup made from discarded potato peals. Often, the garbage
of non-Jews was served to the Jews as food. Once, Breine saw the German
soldiers throw a live dog into the soup they were serving and then forced
the Jews who had witnessed the event to eat the soup. At another time,
a Jewish child returned to ask for an extra helping of soup. Instead
of granting his request, the German soldiers put the child into the
boiling soup. On one occasion, she spotted some mouldy bread in the
garbage and treasuring it, picked it out of the trash, eating a little
and saving the rest for her family. Some German soldiers saw her and
abused her for taking the bread.
There was one Jew from Horodok who would tell the Germans which Jews
were wealthy, in hopes of being spared by the soldiers. Nevertheless,
he was later killed by the German soldiers Breine and her family thought
that the Germans needed them as workers so they worked very hard because
they thought it would be their ticket to survive. At one point they
realized that they should go into hiding in a hidden ditch they had
dug for that purpose. Many Jews resorted to living in ditches to escape
the Germans. The ditches varied in size - some holding five, others
ten, and still others, up to twenty people. While they were in hiding
in the ditch and fearful of the German soldiers they knew were near,
one of the young girls (about 10 years old) in the ditch with Breine.
and her family started crying for water. A man in the ditch started
choking her to silence her. Breine prevented him from killing the girl
by pushing him away and placing her hands over the girl's mouth. The
young girl is now a doctor in the U.S..
They had large amounts of gold and while hiding out in the ditch, they
decided that the best thing to do would be to offer the wealth to the
Germans in return for a promise of security. B was on her way to deliver
the gold and solicit such a promise when Zemitre, a Christian from the
village, came to her and challenged the logic of her mission. He said,
"Are you crazy? Why are you going back to them? They're killing
everyone .LOOK AT THE FIRE, YOU JEWISH BROTHERS ARE BEING BURNED RIGHT
NOW" He then took B. to his barn and hid her in the area used for
storing hay, where she remained for a week.
B.'s family didn't know what had happened to her after she left the
ditch. Although everyone left the ditch while B. was still missing,
her family, because they were worried about her whereabouts returned
to look for her. Tragically, her family was killed upon their return
while the rest of the people who had left the ditch survived.
A neighbor of the Christian who had saved B. had also taken the risk
of hiding a fugitive Jew. When the other neighbors found out they attacked
and killed him, and burnt down his house. After this incident, B.'s
host was afraid and forced her to leave. For a time she hid where she
could, moving from place to place, and eating what she could find, including
grass and garbage.
One farmer who was out searching for eggs in his yard discovered B.
in hiding. He immediately knew who she must be. Terrified, she told
him that she knew the location of a large quantity of gold and promised
to lead him to it, should he chose to spare her from the Germans. The
farmer told her to that he did not need her gold, he will help her but
she must wait. Since this occurred shortly after they slaughtered the
Jews of Krasne, many of the bodies of the Jewish community were left
outdoors in different areas were they were killed. The Germans were
worried that disease would spread yet they did not want to touch the
remains. All their Jewish slave workers who would usually
be send to clear the area were killed by them so they ordered the local
population to get rid of the budies. The man that Briene encountered
was ordered by the Germans to clear the area. Breine was certain that
he had gone to fetch German soldiers. However, after ten minutes the
farmer's wife appeared and offered B. a bowl of soup and a spoon. B.
hadn't eaten in a long time, and ravished with hunger, drank the soup
straight from the bowl. The farmer's wife cried to seeing her desperate
B. stayed with the farmer and his wife, living exclusively in their
barn for one week. She remained in hiding in the barn because there
were many Germans in the area. She was never allowed in the house. Later,
they made her a nanny to their children, although she continued to sleep
in the barn. Most of the neighbors were never aware of her because of
the lengths that B. and the family went to in keeping her presence a
Through rumors that had spread among the non-Jewish farming residents
of the area, Isaac Noll, a Jewish member of the partisans, found out
that there was a Jewish girl surviving alone in the area. (B. remarks
that it was amazing that the residents had not yet turned her in). Isaac
asked them where they could find her and they told her Maruska Kamarouski
had her staying with him. Before the German troops began slaughtering
the Jews, many young Jewish men realized what was about to transpire
and escaped deep into the surrounding forest where they joined forces
with partisan groups already established by Soviets, and especially
former Soviet prisoners of war who had been treated as badly as the
Jews under the Germans. Together, they began ambushing and killing German
soldiers. Much of the local population was afraid of the partisans because
the partisans made it clear that anyone found collaborating with the
Germans would be killed.
When B. initially tried to join the partisans they would not accept
her because she came empty handed. However, a younger first cousin of
hers (his father was the brother of Breine's mother), Mayer Vol (previously
known as Volojinski) ambushed a German and stole his weapon, which he
then gave to B. so that she would be accepted in by the partisans. Now
this cousin lives in Windsor, Canada.
Breine. returned armed to the partisans, who let her in, and B. became
a member of the Atriad Staritsky. This group of partisans hid out in
the forest between the towns of Baranovic and Volozhin, remaining closer
to latter. B. stayed in the forest for one and half years. After staying
for awhile with the partisans she came to understand that the Germans
were losing the war because, for the first time, she had access to radio
broadcasting, and in 1944 they began seeing Allied planes fly overhead.
Breine didn't fight with the partisans, but facilitated their goals
in other ways, tending to the livestock and helping out with the cooking.
After the war she received medals for her participation in the resistance,
but hadn't killed anyone and so felt as though she didn't deserve them.
Breine felt that Jews and Soviets alike were treated equally within
the partisan ranks and generally, got along well. She does recall one
instance, however, when a Jew by the name of Fole Parovsky went to town
to find food with two Soviets, and never returned. The two Soviets claimed
he had been killed by German soldiers. However, one partisan by the
name of Jaunsh didn't believe their story and started investigating
only to find that the Soviets had killed Fole. The partisans had a trial
and found one of the Soviets guilty. He was subsequently killed. B.
can only speculate on his motivation, but believes it may have been
anti-Semitism. However, this was a rare case.
In the evenings, the partisans would make communal fires and sit around
and sing together. They would sing so loudly and happily that B. would
be afraid that the German soldiers would find them. However, her cousin
Isaac reassured her that they were too scared of the partisans to come
to the forest that was controlled by the Russian partisans.
Once the partisans caught a German soldier. This particular German soldier
was a special target of their anger because he carried with him numerous
photographs of Jews he had killed, (They used to send the pictures to
Germany) They ordered everyone to watch while they killed him. Breine
covered her face, refusing to watch. However, her cousin chided her,
telling her she was crazy to feel any sympathy to Germans who mercilessly
killed so many Jews.
There was a woman named Yokha Rubenshik from Minsk who was a partisan
member. When the Germans packed the Jews into train cars to be killed,
she and her siblings where among those on the train. Yokha, realizing
what their fate must be, pushed her younger brother out of the train.
He eventually survived the war and became a dentist. She survived because
she worked for the Germans and then escaped. Later, she joined the partisans
and was sent by them back to Minsk where she recruited twelve more Jews.
Together, this fugitive band removed their stars of David and escaped.
However, while they were escaping a German soldier came by. Yokha approached
him and spoke to him Russian, knowing that he would recognize her Yiddish
accent if she spoke in German. She acted very self-assured and invited
the German to eat with her. She emphasized that she had ham to eat and
told him to meet her at a particular place and time later that evening.
Meanwhile, the other Jews escaped.
Towards the end of the war, when the Germans were clearly losing, a
boy from Minsk named Moshe managed to round up thirty Germans who thought
they were surrendering and would be made POWs.
When the commanders told the partisans that the area was free of German
troops, forty Jewish partisans decided to re-enter the city of Volozhin,
the closest town. Upon returning they found that many homes and been
burnt down and destroyed. Also, this town, previously famous for its
large Jewish population had been repopulated by Christians. When the
Christians saw that Jews were returning they began to weep and were
afraid. However, the group of forty Jews were still scared to disband
and live separately, and so they re-occupied only three houses in the
town. Because there were so few Jews that had survived the war, this
group of survivors became like family to one another.
It was while staying in this house that B. met her husband to be. He
had spent the war as a soldier in the Red Army in Russia, although he
was originally from Breine's hometown of Horodok. As soon as he heard
that his home region had been freed by the Red Army, he boarded a train
and returned. When he had left for Russia he left behind a wife and
two children, who were to perish in the Holocaust. His first wife's
name was Blumke, she was a beautiful woman (one of her brothers survived
the war and lives iin Israel). Because of her beauty, the Germans wanted
to take her to work for them and send her children to be killed, but
she insisted on accompanying her children. Everyone knew this story
about Blumke and her children and so were able to tell her husband what
had happened when they eventually met up with him upon his return.
Breine's future husband returned to find Christians living in his old
house. As soon as they saw him, one of the Christians went to look for
an axe with which to kill him. Understanding what they were about to
do, Breine's future husband jumped out of a window in the house and
went for the Soviet police. After this incident, he was too afraid to
ask any Christians about what had happened to his family, and couldn't
find any Jews in the town. However, he did eventually learn that there
were a few Jews living in Volozhin.
When he arrived in Volozhin and met B., he immediately asked her to
marry him. Since B. had come from a religious family she had never looked
at another man before him. After getting married they stayed in Volozhin
for one year and began selling things from a horse and carriage. Breine's
first son was born there. However, like all the other Jews living in
Volozhin, B. and her husband wanted to leave.
All of a sudden, Breine's sister who had traveled on a train to Siberia
before the German invasion, returned. Her sister had written a letter
to a Christian neighbor named Yokobovsky inquiring about her family.
Breine happened to return to Horodok with her husband to visit and was
given the letter. She responded to her sister's letter from Kemarov,
Siberia, writing that the rest of the family had died, but not to grieve
because she was still alive. Upon getting the letter, her sister fainted
and was taken to the hospital where she spent two months. After recovering,
she returned to Volozhin with a Jewish man she had met in Siberia, and
lived with Breine. and her husband.
Shortly after they arrived in Volozhin they decided to leave for Germany.
From Germany they believed they would be able to travel to other countries.
They had terrible associations with the town of Volozhin and the surrounding
area and couldn't wait to leave. However, when they arrived in Germany
they found themselves marooned in refugee camps for a year and a half,
which, compared to other fellow refugees, was a short time. As refugees,
however, they were allowed to stay in real homes and apartments, which
had previously been inhabited by members of the SS.
Part of the problem was that no country wanted to accept them. Although
they received free food and goods from the U.S., they were barred from
emigrating there. B.'s husband said he didn't want to go to the U.S.
anyway and preferred instead to move to Israel where he felt there would
be more of an assurance that what had happened to them in Poland would
Eventually they were able to travel on a ship named the Queen Anna Maria
to Israel. In Israel they lived first in a refugee camp named Binyamina
in very difficult conditions in tents. Later, they settled in Brandeis
in Israel. .