Victims of the Porozow Ghetto

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The article on this page was written by Romuald Sokolovskiy and appeared in 2007 in Свислочская газета (Svislochskaya Gazeta). The translation was provided by Porozow native Stanislaw Grygorowicz, whose many contributions to this website have been invaluable.

English Translation

 

During its centuries of history, Porozow has survived many shocks. Its population has decreased during wars and epidemics, but then increased afterwards. This has happened many times.


In 1940s, the town had about 3,000 inhabitants, one third of whom were Jewish. They were not land owners, but rather provided services to the populace. Jankiel Kolodicki (Yankel Koloditski) was the owner of a mill, of which were two in Porozow. Szmuil Karasik (Shmuil Karasik) owned a factory, and Jews owned two blacksmith shops.

Original Russian

 

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The owner of one was Lejb Chaim (Leib Chaim). People who have lived there a long time remember them as outstanding blacksmiths. Once Lejb Chaim sharpened an axe, you could use it to shave. The Jews also had two drugstores. Among them were doctors, tailors and cooks. Munka Mejszka (Munka Meyshka) was a coachman who had two horses and delivered goods from Wolkowysk, Bialystok and other places.

 

There were two synagogues in Porozow. Both burned down during the war, but the one that had been built of stone was rebuilt and adapted to use as a warehouse. It still stands.

Among Porozow Jews were some very famous figures. One of them was Mojsze Awigdor Alszel (Moshe Avigdor Alshel – or Amiel,1882 – 1945). Born in Porozow, he was elected the chief rabbi of Tel-Aviv in 1936.


Also born in Porozow was the mother of the Jewish theater Ester-Ruchel Halperin, later Kaminska. Her father was a cantor in the town, and thanks to him she loved music. Her wonderful voice caught the attention of an actor in the Jewish theater named Abraham Izaak Kaminski, whom she married. Today the Jewish theater in Warsaw is named for her. Her daughter and son followed in her footsteps. Since 1937, her son has lived in Israel, where he is a famous composer.


Tygodnik Wolkowyski (a weekly newspaper published in Wolkowysk before the war) announced in 1933 the death in Porozow of a 106 year-old Jewish man named Icko Kickun (Itsko Kitskun). He had all of his teeth up to the last minutes of his life. At the age of 80, he received a letter from his father asking for help and complaining that he had forgotten the old man. Icko answered, “ Dear father, I can not help you, because I am elderly as well. So I suggest you ask my grandchildren. Maybe they will help you.”


When 1941 came, the situation of the Porozow Jewish community changed dramatically. A ghetto was created. It was located between the present-day streets Kolas (Я. Коласа), Lesnaya (Лесная), Sportivnaya (Спортивная) and Lenin (Ленина) and was immediately enclosed with fences of different heights taken from gardens and other places in the town. They erected it themselves. A check-point was built as well, and there were always policemen on duty there. You could leave the ghetto only with a pass, and any Jew found outside the ghetto without such a pass would be shot immediately. Young people were put to work, for instance, clearing the fields of stones. Periodic raids to find people from other ghettos took place. They were also shot. Until November, 1942 – the time of the liquidation of the ghetto – many desperately sought shelter outside of it. However, most such people could not be saved, although there were some attempts.


The coachman Munka Mejszka was hidden first by Siemion Szalkiewicz (Semyon Shalkevich) and then by Dominik Sokolowski, at whose home the man was discovered and shot. In fact, the Jew had been hidden by Dominik’s brother, but the brother was married, and the “family council” decided to sacrifice the single Dominik, who had not returned from the death camp. Siemion Szalkiewicz was liberated by the Americans, and he went to the U.S.A., where his family moved as well.


Before the liquidation of ghetto, about twenty elderly Jews were shot at Demidowki (2 km. from Porozow). Among them were two young girls from Bialystok. The rest were riding in carts with a few personal items they were taking to Wolkowysk. We can only imagine what happened to them later - it is very probable they were killed in Oswiecim (Auschwitz).

After the war, among the hundreds of Porozow Jews, only a few reappeared - about ten people in all.

© 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011  Scott D. Seligman