From the papers of the late Elimelech Benari, contributed in 2005 by his son, Shmuel.
Edited for clarity, slightly reorganized, headings added, by the Page Coordinator.
Eulogy For The Jews Of Kletz
Fifty years have passed since that bitter tragic day when the Jews of Kletz were concentrated into the market square. They were divided into two groups. One group, with about 2,000 Jews, was led into the Kalte Shul, the large synagogue of the city. They were pushed inside and the door was closed on them. The rest, about 4,500 Jews, were led to the sand mines (stone quarries) at the end of Neshvez Street. The Jews took their clothes off in these ditches. They were old people, young people, youth, children, and babies. They were brutally murdered and in cold blood.
Here with us on this Memorial Day (Askara) are people who witnessed that tragedy: The partisan Yosef Shepeyorko Borisovich who excelled as a fighter in the battles against the Nazis, and the partisan Nissan Israelevich who was one of the fighters in the illustrious Kovpak units.
We, the survivors of the Holocaust, bear witness with great sorrow' that, on the day of this huge tragedy, the sun hid and didn't want to look at this great monumental, atrocity. The sky, above those martyrs, didn't shed a tear. The world around was silent.
After the murder in the ditches, the remaining 2,OO0 Jews, who had been previously concentrated in the large synagogue, were taken out. After a short time, they were imprisoned in the Ghetto compound which was located in the big Shulhoif Yard and, the streets surrounding this Yard. They 1ived and existed in this Ghetto in overcrowded conditions, impoverished and with shortages of basic commodities, until the 22nd of July 1942. On this day, the Ghetto was surrounded by the Nazis and their supporters. They fired indiscriminately into the area of the Ghetto.
The Kletz Jews did not give up. They returned the fire with the few arms that, they had -- stones and axes. A tin of kerosene was prepared in every house. The Jews set fire to the houses in the Ghetto in order not to fall into the hands of the bestial enemy
Alter Mierovich, a partisan who took part in this struggle, describes these last minutes of Ghetto Kletz in his book Kletz:
At four clock in the dawn light of the 21st of July, the police surrounded the Ghetto on all sides. The adults took up positions and threw an avalanche of stones, which had been prepared before the battle, at the murderers. Every man, in his heart, felt: The enemy will not destroy us so easily. It is better to die fighting in the Ghetto than be massacred.
Hundreds of Jews broke through the walls of the Ghetto and tried to escape. Unfortunately, only a few of them survived. They joined the Partisans and continued to fight the Nazi beast and to takr revenge for the martyrs of the Holocaust. Some fell in battle in Russia and a few reached the Berlin Gates.
Y'heye Zichram Baruch
Blessed Be the Memory of the Fighters
Mien Stetele Kletz
For 500 years, Jews have lived and existed in your area. They were 70% of the total population. In the center of the market, was the Saltzkromen. The farmers of the area came here to buy supplies and sell their wares. These shops were destroyed by the German Nazis. Today, there is a Memorial Park in this place. In the park, there is a memorial stone in memory of the Belo-Russian and Jewish martyrs and a tombstone for the Red Army soldiers who fought to free Kletz from the invading Nazis.
The market square, shops, municipal buildings, medical buildings, pharmacies, restaurants and the rest of the services needed for a modern city are situated around the park. There are the shining streets around the same sun that didn't appear on that day. Jewish Kletz was a place in which Jews lived a cultural, communal, traditional and religious life. The inhabitants were artisans, business people, intellectuals, artists, and philosophers. There were social services and a clinic for those who couldn't afford medical care.
There were five schools representing all the streams of Jewish thought. There were six synagogues and a community building. The youth were affiliated with youth groups from all parts of the political spectrum.
This whole world disappeared. It was destroyed and obliterated from this earth. The German Nazis murdered our people using a preconceived plan in a pedantic and devastating fashion. This liquidation was perpetrated due to the fact that they were Jews.
Now we are here again. To our great sorrow we have come to consecrate a Mass Grave. Jewish History has known persecuation, pogroms, gas chambers, and “execution trenches”. But The Eternity of Israel Will Survive. Four thousand years of Jewish History proves that we will continue to exist. We returned to our ancient homeland after 2000 years of exile. We have reestablished our country. We built it with the sweat of our hnds and we sacrificed the blood of the holocaust survivors and their sons.
We call upon all peoples to witness what we have written on the memorial stone. Never again. Let's return to the same freedom and brotherhood of men to men. We extend a hand in brotherhood to all peoples, to all religions, and especially to the Belo-Russian people, who encompassed many hundreds of thousands of Jews.
We have a special request to the citizens of Kletz. Kletz began its history over 1000 years ago. For 500 of those yeares we lived together in peace nd harmony. Kletz had not previously known internal strife. We, the few survivors --the sons of Kletz, born here --turn to you. Please help safeguard and protect this memorial. This tombstone, which has been raised for our parents, our brothers and our sisters, is a part of Kletz history. It will then be a place for us to come on the high holidays and in grief and sorrow, to visit and honor our parents' grave.
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Last Updated: HDN 01-May-2005 16:50
Copyright © 2005 Henry Neugass