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The Story of Yakov and Fruma nee
By Binyamin Shafir (Shishko)
Translated from Vol.Y.Book page 486, by M. Porat
Yakov Lifshitz born in Rakow in 1907
Yakov Lifshitz was born in Rakov on April of 1907. His father had past away, when Yakov was only ten years old. Despite the family financial difficulties Yakovs' mother was able to send him to study in a Yeshiva. Yakov studied the Torah very proficientlyÂ but preferred general secular studies. He left the Yeshiva after studying there for a couple of years and continued his education at a Russian School in Rakov.
In 1925 Yakov was admitted at the Vilna Technical School. Since early childhood he was attracted to Mathematics and the exact sciences. Is great interest in the science field helped him to do well inÂ the Technical High School. After 2 years of study in Vilna he transfered to the teachers Seminary that was directed by Shmuel Tsharno. After graduating Yakov was nominated as the head of the Rakov Tarbut School. After one year of work there he left for Volozhin, where he was received to head the town Tarbut Primary School (1931)., together with school managing he taught Mathematics and physics, he taught both subjects in Hebrew.
Translator's note: Each Friday Yakov would gather all the students and read before them chapters from Sholom Aleykhem in Yiddish (Sholom Aleykhem nee Sholem Rabinovitsh is famous for many works such as the Tevye stories-on which Fiddler on the Roof was Based-a novel Stempenyu about a Jewish klezmer)
I mostly rememberÂ "Yossi peysi dem Khazn's" - the wonderful story about the Russian Jews exodus to the New World. We were enchanted by the Yiddish writer's stories read by our teacher in our mother language. In Tarbut Schools' we did not learn Yiddish at all. Another event I remember is that with my ten years old classmates, we were invited to our teachersÂ apartment on Vilna Street in Volozhin to hear some classic music. The young coupleÂ Lifshits achieved great honor in the childrens' eyes since they were able to buy a real, one of the first gramophone's in the Shtetl with selection of Yiddish, Hebrew and classical records. At this very memorableÂ event for me, event that took place some seventy years ago, we heard the famous Chaikovski 's "Nut cracker".Â
Yakov since his youth was a devout Brit Tumpeldor ;"Beytar" member (a Zionist revisionist movement), . Consistent in his opinions Yakov defended ardently his revisionist points of view. In Volozhin he found a wide scope to his public activities,
since the majority of the young and older people of Volozhin were at that point of time Jabotinsky's supporters (Zev Jabotinsky 1880-1940 established the Revisionist Zionists in 1925 and sponsored a more assertive and non-socialist approach to the rebuilding of the Jewish homeland.)
His political opponents, as few as they were, made his public life difficult. But we don't need to recall the long forgotten rivalries, as the sagest of all did say "as you loved and hated, so also passed your jealousy".
Yakov did manage the School with talent and skill. during the first year he established a four grades School, at the end in the 1938/39 year he was managing a standard for that time primary school of seven grades.
For eight years Yakov stood as guard of the Hebrew education in Volozhin until the Soviets came on September 1939. The new rulers took out his creatve spirit. Yakov became deeply depressed. One day the Soviet Inspector invited him for a meeting and instructed him to change the system from the Hebrew language education for all subjects to a old style "Yiddish school"
"per the parents demand" they claimed. They appointed a new head of the school, a Jewish woman from the Soviet Union. The education was stricktly programmed by the communist regime.
During the Soviet rule (1939- 1941)Yakov's spirit was burnt out. The Germans invaded the area in 1941 and burnt out his soul and body.Pages about the Holocaust,
By Fruma nee Shulman Lifshitz (Gapanovitsh).
Extracts from Yiz.Vol.Book p. 554, translated by M. Porat
Chayale was born in Volozhin on April 24, 1936
and Shoshanale Lifshitz born in Volozhin on July 7, 1933
and their father Yakov Lifshitz born in Rakow in 1907. They Perished in Horodok
After the Soviets occupied Volozhin, I returned to town from Ivianits to teach Yiddish in the Hebrew School which was turned into a Yiddish Primary School. In 1940/41 it became a Russian School, the Polish School was turned to a Belorussian and the Polish Gymnasia (high school) to a Russian High School.
In June 1941, at the eve of the German occupation, our family lived in Leybe Berman's house. Our girls, Shoshanele and Hayele, both born in Volozhin, we sent to my parents Alter and Fayga Shulman in Radoshkovitsh to pass there the summer vacation. When the Nazis invaded our country, most of the Soviet citizens who lived in Western Belarus ran away towards the old border (Poland/ Soviet Union pre 1939). It was located right in the outskirts of Radoshkovitsh, so my husband Yakov Lifshitz and I decieded follow them. We took the way to Radoshkovitsh by foot to join my parents and our daughters. We walked the entire night. Yakov became totally exhausted. He stopped near the shtetl. I entered Radoshkovitsh alone. I only met my father there.. My mother, sisters Bracha Shulman and Heina Berman and her family, brother Israel Shulman and both my daughters had run away to the hamlet Ordanka, which in normal days served as a summer resting place. Radoshkovitsh was overcrowded by refugees from Poland and Lithuania. Meanwhile, my husband recovered and arrived in town. We went to Ordanka, from where we took our daughters, and continued with them on our way, this time to Horodok, where Kheyne my elder sister lived.
I went twice to Volozhin. I took some of the clothing we left there to exchange for food for the girls. I had the opportunity to secretly enter the well guarded ghetto through Pinches the smith's workshop, which stood near the Ghetto fence. I met there Sonia nee Dubinski Berkovitsh the daughter-in-law of my aunt Keyle nee Shulman Berkovitsh. (sister of my father Alter). They were astonished to see me. They were told that our entire family had been killed.
I returned to Horodok, where mass-slaughter survivors from Volozhin and Molodetshno just arrived. The Germans established a small concentration work camp in Krasne, a crossroad junction midway between Molodetshno and Radoshkovitsh, where able Jews from Volozhin, Mir, Lida, Novogrudok, Horodok and other places were brought to maintain the railroad. My husband was among them. When we separated I told him
"Our fate, mine and the girls is already determined, but you will survive because you are regarded by the German as an efficient Jew" -
So was our naÃ¯ve opinion that working for the Germans will keep us alive.
Every week some of the workers were allowed to go and bring food from Horodok into the Krasne camp.
My little six year old daughter caught a bad scurvy gums illness. Mr Ratskin the Judenrat head pitied me and arranged for Yakov a special permission to come for a visit in the Horodok ghetto.
The bitter end of the Horodok ghetto arrived at the Shabbat that Yakov spent with us, on July 11th 1942.
The Jews of Horodok and the vicinity did not sense the oncoming danger. Their last sleep had been a sleep of the just.
Tha next morning at an early day break hour the Gestapo and its local assistants intruded the Ghetto to take out the Jews.
five persons lodged at our home.
There were three hiding places. The hideout in which I concealed myself with my little girls was discovered by the local police after the action had already passed.
Mr. Ratskin, who was an elderly man, could not sustain the strangling atmosphere in the small hidding place. We assumed that the action had already passed and he was obliged to go outside. His going out had provoked our hiding disclosure. They shot at Yakov and killed him on the spot.
Afterward the murderers gathered all the Jews they found into the square to be selected. Those they found able to work were transferred to the Krasne camp. The old ones, invalids and children were sent to death. Among the sentenced to die was also Fruma, Tsivya Tsart's mother. She had been beat bestially, until she was covered with blood. The Germans enclosed all of them inside a barn, shot them and burned it.
translator's note: (as Fruma told me this evening)
In this barn, 900 Horodok Jews found their tragic fate, along with Fruma Lifshits's mother and her five grand kids, among them Shoshanele and Hayele Lifshits. Yakov had been shot by one of their Horodok gentile neighbors. Fruma witnessed her husband's death and had seen the bestial murderers throw away his body.
This memorial tombstone was erected in the 1990s near the site where 900 Horodok Jews were slaughtered. The plate on the left side (written in Hebrew) is dedicated to Yakov Lifshitz and to his daughters Shoshanele and Hayele.]
I was expelled to Krasne. Heyne my older sister was enclosed in the Krasne Concentration camp, and my younger sister was placed with me in the Krasne Ghetto. There I met people from Volozhin, among them Yosef Tabakhovitsh and his wife Elke nee Shaker. Tsviya Tsart dwelled beside me and my sister on the same planks. It was impossible to safeguard any hygienic conditions, and a typhus epidemic broke out. As a result, the three of us were hospitalized in a house outside the Ghetto. and we were "privileged" to be inspected by the Gestapo physician. He used to oversee the patients and determined by his cane movement which person to carry out to the "bath house" i.e. for execution.
After my bout with typhus I was very feeble, so Father would endanger himself by infiltrating from the camp into the ghetto to bring some grains to fortify my body.
We were brought into the "bath house". The Germans examined our withered bodies, but in some way our fate was not yet decided. Thanks to my poor health status I was released from work for a few days. I used this time to seek food for my hungry friends in the Krasne Ghetto.
Once I went to search for food with my brother in law and with Ester Rogovin from Horodok. We went into a neighboring hamlet to gather some bread. On the way back we came upon guards from the German Police. When they passed near us we distinguished red bands on the Germansâ€ forearms, they were actually Russian partisans who had fought a German unit the day before. They had won the battle, took the German uniforms and wore them. We talked to them and they agreed to take Jews who would carry arms and escape from the Krasne camp.
We returned to the Krasne camp and told everyone the exciting news. We found ways to secretly buy rifles. One day a group of us was able to cross the rails and join the partisans. They accepted us thanks to efforts made by Eliezer Rogovin from Volozhin who was already with them.. A new unit was founded by the name of "Staritski" within the Tshkalov brigade. We met some Volozhiners in the forest, among them Feygele Perski, Hirshl Rogovin, Ishayahu Lieberman and Pashe Perski wife of Simha Perski. I was transferred into a partisansâ€ arms repair workshop after a little time, where I worked until liberation on July 1944.
From time to time bitter fights occurred between German forces and partisan units. The hardest German attacks broke out in July 1943. During this period many partisan garrisons existed in the forests of Belarus. In order to fight them, the Germans organized the Vlassov army, named after the famous Russian traitor General Vlassov. Those units were composed of Belarus, Kazakhs, Lithuanians, Ukrainians and other anti-Semites, all of them Hooligan-murderers. Their first mission was the destruction of hamlets and farms near the forests. The fate of the peasants in those hamlets was not much better than that of the Jews. Many Christians ran to the forest. The Germans opened an offensive on the forest, by heavy shooting, shelling and setting fires. We were obliged to disperse. Kopl Kagan, Peshka Potashnik, her brothers Yehuda and Yosef, my brother-in-law Berman, and I found a hideout from which we got out just in time to meet the liberating Red Army.
Together with Peshka Potashnik we went through Krasne and Horodok into Volozhin. I decided to leave the shtetl where each stone was impregnated with blood of our dearest. The Soviet authorities proposed to me that I teach in a Belarussian school. I refused as I was not ready to teach youngsters who willingly assisted the Nazis in murdering Jews. I crossed the border to Bialostock in Poland. But here in the Land of the Jewsâ€ extermination camps, where the A.K.(Armiya Krayova), blood thirsty anti-Semites awaited us, I could not stay.
I continued my wandering. From Bialostock I went to Lublin, and then with a Zionist refugee organization, I went through Czechoslovakia to Hungary and Romania. After the victory in 1945 we did not want to remain in a Communist-ruled country behind the Iron Curtain. With the assistance of the Zionist Organization, we crossed the border to Austria and then went on to Italy. We passed a "Hakhshara" near Barry, and then we waited to go to the Land of Israel. The British Government had refused to deliver the certificates permitting our entry into our Land, so we went to Israel with the Illegal Aliya. Along with 170 other Jewish refugees many of them were sole holocaust survivors of entire families.
We boarded a small boat.
I arrived in Eretz Israel on September of 1945.
Shulman, Alter and his wife; Fayga - FRUMA'S PARENTS
their daughters: Heina (Berman) and Bracha - FRUMA'S SISTERS
their sons: Hanoch (killed serving in the Polish army) and Israel
Shulman - FRUMA'S BROTHERS all perished in the holocaust
Fruma had a brother ITSKHOK. He was in the States during the war.
I talked with Fruma nee Shulman. Fruma was born in Radoshkovichi about 93 years ago. She told me that when she was growing up in Radoshkovichi there were three Shulman families in Radoshkovichi and she is related to two of them as both her mother and her father were born Shulmans. Her father was Alter Shulman and her mother was the daughter of Shaya Shulman. Her mother had uncles and brothers in Pennsylvania. There were two brothers and two sisters of her mother, one that she met in New York was RASHA FIDELHARP (?). She also said she had relatives in Miami.
Clockwise: Keyla Berkovitsh nee Shulman (fruma's aunt) ; Avrom Berkovitsh;
Their son Yakov Berkovitsh with his wife Sonia (born Dubinski) ;
Their second son Isroel Berkovitsh