Porozow in the Wolkowysker Yizkor Book

Home ] Up ] [ Wolkowysker Yizkor Book ] Nazi Crimes Commission ] Yad Vashem ] Jewish-Zionist Community ] Jewish Colonial Trust Assets ] Priest of Porozow ] Miscellaneous Holocaust Records ]

Dr. Moses Einhorn's publication in 1949 of his Wolkowysker Yizkor Book not only provided a comprehensive picture of the history of the Jewish community of that town and the fate of its Jews; it also included several chapters on events during the German occupation of the neighboring towns. Further information about the book is available here.

 

One chapter, "The Incidents in Porozvo," tells in seven pages of the fate of the approximately 600 Jews living in the town in 1941. That chapter, in the original Yiddish, is reproduced here. The translation of it that appears below is the work of Jacob Solomon Berger, who undertook the monumental task of translating and republishing not only the Einhorn book, but two other works on Volkovysk: Hurban Volkovysk (1942) and Volkovysk (1988). He graciously gave permission to reprint his translation of the Porozow chapter here. Anyone interested in purchasing this work, or his other translations of Yizkor books from Zelwa, Dereczin or Zamosc is welcome to contact him via e-mail.

 

The entire table of contents of the Einhorn book, and the translations of a few of its chapters can be seen elsewhere on the web by clicking here, and to search for a list of locations where you can find the entire book, click here.

The Incidents in Porozow - English Translation

 

Based on the Information of Dr. Marek Kaplan

Dr. Marek Kaplan, the son of Shmuel Kaplan, came to Porozovo under the Russians, in the year 1939, and became the chief physician of the hospital in Bogudenka, about a half mile from Porozovo. The hospital was put in place in an old palace of the nobility. There were seventy beds installed there. – Dr. M. Einhorn.


Porozovo had within it a small Jewish community of approximately six hundred people. There were four large streets there, and a couple of smaller streets. Most of the Jews were workers, and small businessmen, and there was also a small number of farmers.

The Incidents in Porozow - Original Yiddish

 

Clicking on the image will yield an enlarged view of the page.

 

The condition of the Jews was not particularly good under the Russian regime. All the workers joined collectives, and this is how they made a living. The small business people were, however, severely impacted by these events. Their stores were shut down, and they didn’t know what form of livelihood to pursue. By contrast, the circumstances of the few farmers was not altered at all. They continued to work as they had in the past.

These circumstances persisted in Porozovo from the end of 1939  to approximately June 22, 1941, until the outbreak of the war between Germany and Russia. The Jews of Porozovo found out about the German attack against the Russians at 12 o’clock, noon on June 22, 1941. That day though, passed by peacefully.

On Monday, June 23, one could then already sense a heavy movement of Russian military around Porozovo. The people were very upset by that day. One did not know where one stood in the world.

On the morrow, Tuesday June 24  the first German transports appeared in the area. From the outskirts of the town one could hear the exchange of fire between the German and Russian armies.

On Wednesday morning, heavy fire started outside and around the town, as well as inside the town itself. A large fire broke out, and a large part of the town, from the Volkovysk Gasse to the river, was burned down, including the Schulhof, the old and new Bet HaMedrash, the Community House, and many other houses. Approximately one-fifth of the town burned down on that day, even though on average, there were not many Jewish dwellings in that area. Out of fear, the Jewish population hid themselves, and the fire was not even fought. This was the first taste of German brutality tasted by the Jews of Porozovo.

The German soldiers ran amok all over the town. In their desire to take revenge for the strong resistance put up by the Russians, they fell upon the Jewish neighborhood and made a wreckage of it. Many Jews were shot on that day without any reason given. Among them were the Khananovich family, including their grandson (two years old), Isaac Novick, Kulakowski and others.

It continued this way for the entire day of Wednesday, during which time the Germans wrecked the Jewish neighborhood of Porozovo. During the night from Wednesday to Thursday, however, the Russians again regained the upper hand, and after a longer battle, they re-entered the town from the Novy-Dvor side.

On the evening of the following day, Thursday, a new German command arrived with a military detachment, and once again drove the Russians out of Porozovo.

The Life of the Porozovo Jews Under the Nazis

The town now really passed into German hands. A young German lieutenant, the senior officer of the local German army detachment, set up his residence in the home of the priest, and issued his demands from there. The Jews of the town were immediately ordered to wear white armbands and a yellow Star of David.

He set up a local Christian administration, with Radivinsky in charge. Myedver was installed as the secretary.

The Jews were ordered to set up a Judenrat. Unfortunately, no one wanted to participate in it, because everyone knew the dismal consequences tied up in this involvement. Finally, Lev the Baker was designated as the head, and [A]vigdor Trop – his deputy. One week later, the German commander left Porozovo, and the real authority for a period of several months was the Polish Burgomaster Radivinsky. The relationship of the Polish administrative leadership to the Judenrat was more or less satisfactory. During the course of the three months from September to November 1941, the Jews of Porozovo, on average, lived peacefully, despite the fact that their economic circumstances were straitened, and the news that they received from the outside was disquieting. During the first week of their occupation of Novy Dvor, near Porozovo, where approximately fifty Jews lived, the Germans drove out all the Jews to Pruzhany.

A German police station was created in Porozovo in October 1941, in which there were from 4 to 6 policemen. They occupied themselves principally with sending packages back to their families in Germany.

The Judenrat, in the meantime, was able to buy its way out of many decrees by bribing the town administration. In November 1941 the first government commissar arrived in Porozovo, who distinguished himself even more than the others in his ability to accept bribery at every turn and opportunity.

This was the way it stayed for about six months. Decrees were issued against the Jews, but the Judenrat would buy off the command, and one would resume daily life. The news coming from other towns in the area, such as Slonim, and the towns further to the east, like Zelevianka, that were on the border of the Third Reich, were however, very disquieting. During this time, more and more refugees came from the vicinity. It fell to the Judenrat to buy off the command, and obtain permission for them to remain in Porozovo.

Circumstances, however, changed at the end of the summer of 1942, when the first commissar left Porozovo, and a second commissar took his place, who also took bribes, but despite this caused the Jews a great deal of trouble.

Two weeks after his arrival, he forcibly drove all the Jews out of their houses one night to the marketplace, and during that time, conducted a search of the Jewish houses with the objectives of trying to find partisans. By this means, he emptied the houses of all their valuables.

Two Jews were also shot that night – the Dyer and a second person, from Slonim. After this search, which was conducted by the Germans with the cooperation of the Polish police, the Jews were permitted to return to their homes.

A week later, all the young people in the town were arrested. The young people were kept in jail for a week, and a number of them were severely beaten. Thanks to the intervention of the Judenrat with bribes, they were ultimately released.

At that time there was no ghetto in Porozovo, but all the Jewish craftsmen were compelled to perform forced labor for the Germans, ten hours a day. They worked on the new road that the Germans were building between Porozovo and Volkovysk. The Judenrat was compelled to provide 25 young workers to work on the road between Volkovysk and Zelva.

Already at that time, the end of the summer of 1942, rumors were heard about a Jewish ghetto for the Jewish population of Porozovo, and despite the fact that this decree was dependent on the commissar, this time it could not be averted. The ghetto was created along the full length of two small streets, between the Kosciolna Gasse and Zapolye, and then by the Novy Dvor Gasse. All the Jews of Porozovo were then ordered to concentrate themselves there. Despite the fact that the population was not very large, the area was entirely too small for everyone. The overcrowding in the ghetto was entirely too great. There was not enough for everyone to eat, and the sanitary conditions were very bad.

It only took a month, and symptoms of disease due to hunger and bad hygienic conditions began to manifest themselves. Almost all the capable workers were working on the roads, and it was nearly impossible to bring in any additional food into the ghetto.

The Expulsion of the Porozovo Jews

On October 30, a notice spread throughout the town that the Germans had hired five hundred wagons from the Christians for the coming Sunday night. The wagons were readied in the nearby villages of Podoroisk and Lisokovo. This notice did not in fact upset the Jewish populace of Porozovo, because they could not imagine that in driving them out of the town, that the Germans would resort to using wagons.

At three o’clock in the morning the head of the Judenrat was summoned to the commander of the local police, along with the Rabbi and Dr. Marek Kaplan. An order was read to them according to which all the Jews in the Volkovysk area were to be brought to one camp for work purposes. Everyone is permitted to take along food for two days, work clothes, two sets of underwear, two covers and all valuables, such as gold and jewelry. The order was for the Jews of Porozovo to gather in the space of a couple of hours, that is to say, by six o’clock in the morning, on the marketplace.

And that, indeed, is how it happened. At the appointed hour, the entire Jewish population of Porozovo was gathered with their packs on the marketplace. After the people had stood for three hours in great cold, they were taken in rows of five, at ten o’clock in the morning, and driven in the direction of Volkovysk. The old and the sick, who could not go, remained behind in the town. Mothers and small children were permitted to ride in the wagons.

Approximately 50 people remained behind in the Porozovo ghetto (the old and the sick). Of these, approximately 30 were brought to Volkovysk a couple of days later, and the rest were taken by the Germans to the Novy Dvor Forest and shot.

 The March to Volkovysk

The march to Volkovysk - almost half of the way, no one was permitted to stop and sit for even a minute. The men were driven brutally with staves, and under a hail of gunfire. The train extended for a length of between two and three miles.

When the womenfolk could no longer continue under their own power, the Germans beat the mercilessly. However, when a majority of the people began to stop, the commander ordered that the weaker be permitted to ride on the wagons, because he could see that he could not get them to move any faster by beating them, and his order was to get the Jews to Volkovysk by a designated hour.

In the end, the marching Jews arrived in Volkovysk at ten o'clock in the evening.

There, they were driven into the barracks. To overseer of the barracks was the "Baker with the Adam's Apple."

Dr. [M]arek Kaplan remained with the Porozovo Jews for a period of two weeks. He then fell ill, and he was taken to the hospital in the Volkovysk bunkers. This was November 16.

A short few days later, at the end of November, the Jews of Porozovo were sent out from the Volkovysk bunkers on the second transport, and all were exterminated. It was in this way that nearly the entire Jewish population of Porozovo was wiped out, except for those few who managed to save themselves by joining the partisans.

It was possible for Zaydl Trop and Fishl Khananovich to remain behind with the seventeen hundred others in the Volkovysk bunkers. They were later sent from there with the final transport to Auschwitz. Khananovich and Zaydl Trop remained in the Auschwitz labor camp together with 280 people from Volkovysk, but both perished in the camp.

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