Leah Zeltzer Kozlowski nee Sosenski of Natania.
Oct 24, 2008
Leah was born in Ilja on May 15th, 1928 . She is the second oldest daughter
of Shmuel and Chaya Sosenski. Her older sister, Jenia Hinda, who was named
after her paternal grandmother, was born in 1926. Her four younger siblings,
respectively born in Ilja in 1931, 1933, 1936, and 1938, were named Rosa
Sosenski, Tzila, Hirsh (named after his paternal grandfather), and
Chaim (named after his mothernal grandfather). Leah's sister Hinda survived
by escaping deep into the Soviet Union during the first day of the war. She
became a doctor and lived in the Soviet Union for most of her life, although
some of her family is currently in Israel. All of Leah's younger siblings,
alongside her parents and the rest of the local Jewish community, perished
in Ilja on March 18th, 1942.
The name Sosenski, as Leah was told, came from the little town Sosenska,
which is adjacent to Vileika. Leah's grandfather, Hirsh (or possibly his
father), came to Sosenka after receiving some free land at the urge of the
Polish leader Józef Pi?sudski (1867- 1935), who wanted to bring Polish
people to the mostly Belarussian area. Many of then took the name
"Sosensky/i," for the town's name, as part of the agreement.
Leah never knew her paternal grandparents,Chaim and Chaia Hinda, as they
passed away when she was still very young. Her father, Shmuel, was born
circa the1890s. According to the list of those persecuted by the Soviets,
Samuil Sosenski was born in 1892 to Girsh. The family owned a bakery in
Shmuel's brother, Hendel, was born in Sosenka in 1904. Hendel escaped the
ghetto and joined the partisans during the war. He was killed in the forests
near Vilna while fighting in 1943. His wife survived by pretending to be
Polish. She was sent with other Polish women to Germany as slave laborers.
The children and her mother were left behind and subsequently perished.
Ester Kaganowicz nee Sosenski, a sister of Leah's father, was born in
Sosenka in 1908. Esther married Baruch Kaganowicz, who was born in Vileika
in 1906. The family perished in Vileika. Her father's other brother, Leibe
Sosenski, was born in Sosenka in 1902. He was married and had two daughters.
Leah did not remember the names of the wife and daughters. I ( Eilat) was
able to find the information in Yad Vashem. The sister of the wife, Pesia
Norman, gave a Testimony for Leibe Sosenski and his wife: Yente nee Taubes.
Leah's maternal grandmother, Chaja Sosenski, was born in Baturino in 1901 to
Khaim Avraham and Khana. According to the List of those persecuted, Khaya
Sosenski was born in 1898 to Sinder Meir. Meir Sinder was born in Baturino
in 1887 to Khaim and Khana. He was a pharmacist and was married to Zelda.
Prior to and during World War II, he lived in Narve, Estonia. Meir perished
in 1941 in the Shoah. This information is based on a Page of Testimony
submitted on 29-Sep-1998 by his niece. ...
Izchak Sinder was born in Baturino in 1906 to Khaim and Khana. He was a
tailor. Prior to and during WWII he lived in Khotenichi, Belorussia (USSR),
which is where he perished. This information is based on a Page of
Testimony submitted on 15-Jul-1998 by his niece. His wife and kids survived
and came to the US after the war. Leah is very close to them; her aunt
passed away in Florida. Leah would visit them many times in the US and she
speaks very good English.
Leah's grandmother was named Khana/Chana Sinder nee Kaufman. The following
is her Yad Vashem report: "Hana Sinder was born in Oszmiany in 1875 to
Moshe. She was a housewife and a widow. Prior to WWII she lived in
Chocienczyce, Poland. During the war she was in Chocienczyce, Poland. Hana
perished in 1941 in Chocienczyce, Poland. This information is based on a
Page of Testimony submitted on 09-Apr-1956 by her granddaughter, a Shoah
survivor." As stated by Leah, Grandma Chana was a grocer and owned land that
had orchards. She was the widow of Khaim Sinder (there was a large Sinder
family in the Baturino area).They owned many fields and were well off. When
the Nazis arrived in June of 1941, they buried the money in one of the
fields for safekeepings for the hard times to come. In March of 1942, Leah's
family sent her to Chocienczyce to see if the mother's mother, brother,
sister-in-law, and three nephews and nieces had survived. They said
that Chana should stay with them if they were still there. They bribed
a Nazi officer and a local policeman. When she arrived there she found that
the family was badly bitten by the Nazis and locals for their money. They
refused to give any information since they knew that as soon as they have
the money, the Nazis would kill them. The Nazis even wanted to hurt her
cousin, who was only 3 years old, but she carried here away and prevented
them from during so. The grandma died after five days. The girl said that
her grandmother must be buried in Ilja next to her husband, who passed away
some years before. The Nazis mocked her and said that the grandmother should
just be put in the garbage but after profusive crying, the policeman from
Ilja talked to the Nazi officer, telling him that she was from "a nice
family" and he said "Do what you want with the body." She took the
grandmother's body to Ilja with the help of a local farmer,whom they paid.
When she came to Ilja, she discovered that the entire Jewish population was
killed 2 or 3 days after she left.
Leah said that her good non Jewish friend told her that for 3 days the earth
was moving because some of the bodies were still alive. That same girl said
that she watched it all from her window and was a witness to the killing of
Leah's mother, her little sister (age 5), and little brother (age 3), who
were hiding under her mother's dress. She returned to Chocienczyce to be
with her relatives, who worked in the factory for meat products and for
that, the Nazis kept them alive.
David Rubin, who was kept alive as a worker, came running from Ilja and said
that they must escape.
One night the Soviet partisans were able to take over the factory for a few
hours and confiscated much of the product. Leah lived by the forest and was
able to run. The brother of mother were killed alongside the goim who worked
at factory for Naknikim because of Minka, who helped the partisans to take
the factory food.
Leah was sent 2 days before the killing to check on her grandmother. When
she arrived, they were beating the entire family of the grandmother, her
children and grandchildren, as a means of inquiring as to where the family's
gold was hidden. Leah was able to save the life of her little 3 year old
cousin by taking her somewhere else. The grandmother died 5 days later and
Leah fell in front of the Nazi and cried and begged that she should take the
grandmother to the Ilja cemetery to be buried next to her husband. After
humiliating Leah, the Nazi agreed to let her do it; it is a strange thing
but many of the survivors tell of some demands with which they made the
cruelest of Nazis comply. Leah went back to the Ilja cemetery for a short
time in order to bury her grandmother. This was after they killed the Jews
of Ilja. They still kept David Rubin, who worked for them, alive in Ilja.
Yonah Riar was kept alive for two reasons: for his job and also because he
was employed to dispose of the recently deceased Ilja Jews' bodies. They
made David throw all the bodies into an outdoor basement that the Soviets
had built for storing potatoes and such (the Soviet were there from
1939-1941). Yonah not only reported the names to Yad Vashem and the Yizkor
book, he also buried the people. The Nazis made the few young and strong
Jewish men cover the basements with dirt after they burnt it.
Yonah found out that the Nazis were coming for the Jews of Chozentzitz and
was able to escape and warn them. Everyone escaped to the forest except
for one Jewish mother who stayed back out of fear that her two babies could
not survive outdoors. She and her babies were subsequently killed.
Leah spent the next two years in hiding, some of the time at the home of a
non-Jewish farmer. Today she is in touch with his family in Minsk.