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Yaakov Eidelman’ story
Today I spoke with Yaakov Eidelman of 20/41 Moshe Sharet Street, Kiryat yam, Israel .
Yaakov was born in Horodok in 1924. He is the youngest son of Gdalyahu (son of Yaakov and Chaia Eidelman) and Zelda ( Daughter of Ben Zion and Rachel Malishkevitz ). His siblings; Feiva Eidlman was born in 1911.
Rachel Eidelman was born in 1913. She was married to Tzvi Shapira and had a daughter; Rivale, born a few years before the war. Chaia Eidelman was born in 1917. Hesel Eidelman was born in 1919. Hesel was the pride of the family. He was smart and a good student. He was also strong and good-looking. He studied in the Mir Yeshiva and was a very devout Jew.
The Eidelman family was a large family in Horodok. A sister of Gdalyahu as well as two brothers, left Horodok c 1911 and settled in America. Recently, Yaakov found a daughter of one of the brothers; Ida Shapiro of Tennessee.
There was also a brother; Israel who lived with his family in Horodok. A sister of Gdalyahu married a brother of his wife; Chaim Leib Malskevitz. They lived in Horodok. Another sister; Rivka, married Burl Leibovitz and had; Chaim and Mula ( born c 1912) and then Feibe, Gdalya and Chaia.
Gdalyahu was a dealer of horses and livestock. There were about 350 Jewish families in Horodok. Yaakov felt good growing up in Horodok. The Jews were in control of the shtetl. The non Jews seemed a bit fearful of them and did not start fights. The Jewish kids went to “Tarbut’ school, were most subjects were instructed in Hebrew. The teachers he remembers are Izkovitz, Segal, Avraham and the “Rabbi”. In the movie that was made by the Shapiro family who came from America ( c 1932) you could see Yaakov and his friend from the Tarbut school wearing the blue uniform shirts and the hats with the seven corners. He also recognized his first cousin, Feive Leibuvitz who perished ( from the entire leibovitz family only the father survived in Sibiria).Yaakov graduated after seven grades and started studying in a Yeshiva shortly before the war started. In September of 1939 Germany attacked Poland. In a short time the polish army was defeated. There was a period of great fear and confusion. When the Jews of Horodok heard that the Soviets are taking over the north east regions of Poland- many sighed with relief.
They knew that they will suffer economically but they felt that physically they were safe. Yaakovs’ brother who was with the Mir Yeshiva- moved to Independent Lithuania ( Shavli) in Lithuania the Yeshiva could continue the studies. Eventually the Yeshiva transferred to China on the way to the U.S.. Hesel was not with the rest of the Yeshiva students. Together with Kur he returned to Horodok, not wanting to live in China were he felt that he could not find Kosher food. Only Yisrael Shparber of both Horodok and Mir came to China and from there to the U.S….
As the Soviets arrived they closed the Tarbut school and people who owned private stores ( most of the Jews) had to form cooperatives or find other jobs. Yaakov attended night classes to learn Russian. Some Jews were sent to Siberia. Amongst them were Leibovitz adult males. His uncle; Berl Leibovitz and his two oldest sons; Chaim and Mula….
On Sunday, June 22nd. 1941 Germany attacked Russia. No one in his worst nightmare could conceive that in a few days- on Wednesday the 25th of June the Germans would already be in Horodok. His uncles family ( Chaim Leib Malishkevitz) left Horodok on horse and buggy only to find that it was too late. The Germans were already farther east, in Minsk, and they had to return.
Shortly after they arrived the Germans collected all the Jews of Horodok. They had them stand in the center of town for many hours without food and drinks. After many hours they were told that they lost all rights of being human. They are not to walk on the sidewalks, they are not to talk to non-Jews, they are not to leave town or walk in-groups of more then 3 . They are not to use any transportation. They are not to be outdoors at nights, and so on…- anyone who is found to be doing so would be immediately killed. From now on they will have to wear Yellow stars on the front and back and be slaves to the Germans and their collaborators. From this day the Jews felt like animals who are hunted. Yakkov felt under great depression and slept continuously for many days. Eventually he had to go to work for the Germans (as the rest of the Jewish men). Since Horodok had no industry, the Jews were sent to fix roads in the region. Since the Jews knew clearly that the day of the liquidation of the community will come soon they started arranging hiding places and made deals with some non Jewish neighbors. They gave them large sums of money and possessions. In return the non Jews promised to help them after they escaped.
In the summer of 1942 Yaakov was taken with a group of about 17 young men from Horodok to the Krasne camp.
The Krasne camp was a forced labor camp near Horodok. A few weeks after Yakkov left the Horodok ghetto was liquidated. Most families ran to their hiding places but most hiding places were discovered and the people were killed. The aunts family was discovered hiding in the Eidelman’ barn, when they refused to come out grenades were thrown and they were all killed. Yaakovs’ parents and brothers were hiding in the basement- their place was not discovered and after a few days they were able to escape and hid in the Krasne camp. Yisrael Maeizel gave large sums of money to a non Jewish neighbor but when he escaped and came to his house the man killed him ( Yisrael Meizels’ brother lives in the U.S) .Yaakov knew that the days of the Krasne camp were also numbered. He heard that the resistance force arrived to the area and established partisan camps in the area. He very badly wanted to join the fight. Twice he escaped from the Krasne camp. The first time he was able to get in touch with the Soviet partisans but they would not take him without weapon. The second time he escaped with Mirim Draboskin ( later of Ashkelom , Israel). A farmer Mirim knew gave them weapons in exchange for large sums of money. Yaakov joined the “Soviestko Belarus” and took part in many important missions. He became known for his bravery. Shortly before the Krasne camp was liquidated Yaakov ‘ brother Feive, his sister; Chaia and two other people ( Hesel refused to go with them, wanting to keep Kosher) ( Eizar Rabinovitz? Later joined the partisans and was killed fighting the Germans) escaped from the Krasne camp. While the sister was waiting Feive went to obtain weapon and find a unit of partisans to join. Since there were many in the Krasne camp who were sick with typhus when the partisans met with Feive they had an order to kill him so illnesses would not be spread. They told him to split and never show his face in this area. The sister meanwhile returned to the camp. It was 3 days before Purim of 1943. The next day the camp was liquidated and all but Yaakov and Feive perished. Feive joined the Zakalov Otriad to fight the Germans.
In the summer of 1944 Belarus was liberated. Yaakov took pert in the march of the Partisans in Minsk. Feive immediately joined the Red Army to fight the Germans in the west. Yaakov and other elite soldiers from the partisans were chosen for a special unit to clear the forests of Belarus. Now the Germans and their collaborators replaced the partisans and Jews and they were in hiding. Sometimes later Yaakov lived in Volozhin with other surviving Jews from the area. He received a letter that his brother was wounded. Yaakov became greatly disturbed, he lost the will to survive. He joined the red Army and was sent to learn driving tanks and other machines. In 1945 he took part in the victory parade in Moscow and drove his tank right by Stalin who greeted him. Shortly after he had a visitor; it was his cousin, Feive Eidelman ( there were 3 Feive Eidelmans in Horodok)- Feive lives in the U.S this days. Later Yaakov found out this his brother; Feive also survived and he now lives in Volozhin. Yaakov was still in the Red Army in the area of Moscow. He was in the airforce in a transportation unit. In 1947 He received two weeks leave and visited his brother in Volozin. In `1948 he was done with his service. He moved with his brother to Minsk. Here they were able to make a good living. Feive married Rachel nee Alterman of Horodok and had two sons ( his son Natan lives in Rishon Lezion) . Yaakov married Raia Kanter of Minsk ( she was in the Soviet Union during the war) They had a daughter in Minsk. More then 100 people survived from Horodok. Most of them left the Soviet Union for Israel via Poland. since they were former Polish citizens most were permitted to go to Poland ( unless they knew secretes of the Soviets) . Yakkov and his family were able to bring their possessions to Poland.
They came with a car and a motorcycle. When they arrived in Poland they sold their possessions and took a plane to Israel. They were placed in a immigrant community in Tiveon. Feive came with his family by boat. They wanted to place the family in Beer Sheva. Yaakov arranged for Feive to live near him in Tiveon. Yaakov did well in Israel. After a short time he was able to buy a route of delivery for Tnuva co-operative specializing in Dairy products.
Yaakov is involved with others who survived from the area. With Ytzhak Regev of Acco ( nee Rogovin) who was also an heroic partisan, they submitted to Yad vashem a list of all the families of Horodok who had no survivors to submit such reports. .
Reports by Yaakov to Yad vashem in 1994;
His father; Gdaljau Ejdelman was born in Horodok, in