(Supplement to the history of Kobylnik (Naroch)

Since September 21, 1942 there were no more Jews in Kobylnik. On this day the last 120 Jews were massacred. In this manner the German fascists and their local collaborators put an end to the Jewish community of Kobylnik, which existed for hundreds of years.

It is not exactly certain when Jews first settled in this area. Based on excavations at the Jewish cemetery, it is possible to assume that Jews lived in Kobylnik in the 17th century. Based on data from previous generations, a permanent Jewish community, although a small one, existed in Kobylnik during the war of 1812. At the beginning of the 19th century a decree issued by Czar Alexander the First forbade Jews to become involved in agricultural business. Jews were forced to leave the villages and relocate to small towns. Jews relocated to Kobylnik from Verenki, Melniki, Molchani, Sluki, Posynki, Cherevki, Yanevichi, Balashi, Kupa and other villages. Families coming from the villages were identified not only by their family names but also by the names of the villages they were coming from.

The Jewish population of Kobylnik by the end of the 19th century grew to about 100 families (600 people), which amounted to half the town’s population. The Jews were craftsmen, such as tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, blacksmiths, tinsmiths; they served local landowners; kept stores (shops), sold fish, furs, and agricultural products. With these products they served the local population, and were productive elements of the community.

Beginning at the end of the 18th century, Kobylnik, like the entire Western Byelorussia (which belonged to Poland), became part of Russia. Jews in Russia were circumscribed and oppressed. By the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century pogroms were visited upon Jews with the support of the government. In those years hundreds of thousand of Jews left Russia, including some from Kobylnik; the majority immigrated to the USA.

It should be noted that the most numerous families from this area were the Narotskys, Khodos’ and Gordons. One of those who immigrated to the USA (in the year 1900) was Aaron of the family Khodos (in English Cohodos), whose sons became well known and were influential people in the American economy.

A book that was published in 1977 described the history of this family. The first part of this book is devoted to Kobylnik (with a translation into Russian). A grandson of Aaron Khodos was Bill Khodos (William Cohodos) who lives in the state of Michigan, and who has been in touch with me for many years. He is interested in Kobylnik and the preservation of Jewish tombstones.

Bill, who is 90 years old, like other surviving grandsons and great grandsons of Kobylnik emigrants, remember their roots, despite the fact that they were born and live in the USA. Some of them visited Naroch and the restored Jewish tombstones (cemetery and brotherly graves), and consequently spurred others to do the same.

Among those who left Kobylnik for the USA in 1912 was also Narotzky (Harry Narotzky) who for many years headed the "Society of Kobylnik Emigrants" in the USA. This society provided material help to Jews in Kobylnik until the year 1939. A son of Aaron, Norman Narotzky, a well-known artist, lives in Barcelona, Spain. We are staying in frequent contact. Norman’s young daughter visited the Naroch area in 1992.


From 1921 untill 1939 Kobylnik and surroundings (Western Belarus) belonged to the Polish government (Zone of Vilno , District of Postavy). In those years I spent my childhood in Kobylnik. As a consequence, the history of those years I remember as an eyewitness or as it was related to me by surviving emigrants. How did Jews live in those years? The prime economic and cultural center for all little towns of the area was Vilno (now called Vilnius). Vilno was connected with Postavy by a stone covered road, which passed through Kobylnik. To travel to Vilno and back, with a stop in Kotlovka, took five days by cart or sled. Later a bus became available once a day. There was also a narrow gage train from Kobylnik to Lyntup, where after a transfer one continued to Vilno.

The population of Kobylnik in those years reached about 1000, among them 350 Jews – 65 families. The majority of Jews were in business, traders or shopkeepers. Kobylnik was also a center of the fish business. Jews were providing fishermen with required gear and purchased their fish, which was sold in Vilno, Warsaw and Lodz. My father David Swirski was involved in this business. There was a close relationship with the fishermen, as if they were true relatives.

The fishermen were from the village of Nanosy, who came to our town and were frequently guests in our house. A witness to the close relationships is Olga Rolitsh with whom I am in contact even today. Jews bought from farmers on market days (Tuesday in Kobylnik, Monday in Postavy and Thursday in Myadel) furs, livestock, eggs, poultry, mushrooms, and berries, and sold hides, tar for carriages, haberdasheries, footwear, fabrics, etc. Jewish families were owners of the town’s millhouse (Yavnovich), the pharmacy (Gole), and a silver fox farm (Gilman). All Jews, like the rest of the population, were relatively poor. It should be noted that the town had neither electricity nor a central water delivery system in those days. All necessities were located on an adjacent yard (outhouse; water well). The sanitary conditions were fairly poor. Many families lived below the poverty line. Those who were more prosperous helped others of inadequate means. The local population was constantly receiving some help from people who have relocated to other countries.

Several of the town’s Jews were fishermen in Naroch. There were also those who leased gardens and land for agricultural purposes. One such person was Michael Milkhman who lived with his family in Valai (near Kusevishtsheny), cultivating 16 hectares of land. Many had their own houses with small gardens, which supplied vegetables. A few families, including our own, owned a cow.

Jewish children attended Polish schools. There was also a Jewish school, where children learned the ancient Jewish language, Hebrew, and the Bible. The Jewish community of our town lived in close fellowship. There was a special loan society for mutual assistance; and a synagogue where people prayed daily and on Sabbath; and a bathhouse that was attended on Fridays. There was also a Zionist Organization, where the younger generation was represented.

Our grandfather’s generation was quite religious, and all of them wore beards. Our fathers tended to shave and many of them strived for a general education. The younger generation hoped for obtain a higher education.

The second part of the 1930’s was marked by increasing anti-Semitism in the whole of Poland, including our area. The local population was agitated and urged not to buy anything from Jews, or trade with them in any fashion. Part of the local population, although not too many, actively supported these actions and participated in instigating actions against Jews. One could frequently hear the expression "Jews go to Palestine".

It should be noted that the year 1934 must be recorded as a year of "bloody Libel". A woman from a neighboring village walked into a forest. Her 9 year old son followed her. She ordered the boy to go back home. Evidently the boy got lost and failed to come home. The woman turned to the authorities for help. After a few days of searching, the boy was found dead in the forest. Rumors were immediately disseminated, directed against Jews. The main rumor was that the Jews killed the boy in order to use his blood for baking Matzo for the upcoming Passover. A wave of malicious rumors enveloped the town’s Jews. The Postavy police got involved. An established commission determined that the boy died of hunger and the low temperature in the forest. Notwithstanding the commission’s finding the disorderliness in town continued for several months, until a second commission from Vilno arrived and confirmed that the boy’s death was not caused by a forceful act. Slowly things quieted down, thanks to the better more progressive and more cultured part of the town’s population. It is worth noting that the majority of the local population of towns and villages continued to maintain normal relations with the Jews.

For Jews, particularly the younger generation, there was no future in these areas. Notwithstanding the difficulties encountered in those years, 16 girls and boys succeeded in immigrating to Palestine (now Israel). They became the founders of the community of emigrants of Kobylnik’s Jews in Israel.

In September 1939 the Germans ended the relatively short period (1921-1939) of Polish independence. Poland was partitioned between Germany and the Soviet Union. On September 14, 1939 the Soviet Army entered Kobylnik, and was met with open arms as a rescue force, and a hope for a better life. The new regime imposed many changes.

Anti-Semitism was prohibited by law. Jews received rights of citizenship equal to anyone else. The better educated Jews became members of the established government administration. Jewish children were taught like children of the general population, in a Russian school. Possibilities to obtain an education opened up, which previously was impossible to achieve. We became pioneers, and we liked it. Summer camps for pioneers near the lake Naroch became accessible to us. Simultaneously, the new regime prohibited Jewish children from attending a synagogue on Sabbath and on holidays. I remember when the director of our school chased the children from the synagogue. Parents could not resist it, it was understood that they would be threatened. Some whole families that were considered harmful to the new authorities were shipped to Siberia. Private stores closed; even though there were inadequate supplies of clothing, footwear and groceries. The Jewish school was closed as well as the Zionist Organization and the society for mutual assistance.


Like thunder from the blue sky came the attack by Germany on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941. The German army moved eastward with unimaginable speed and ease. The streets of our town were full of soldiers of the retreating Red Army, and refugees. Autos, military units, loaded horse drawn carriages, people, everything moved east.

According to information from refugees of Western occupied Poland, the "special" treatment of Jews by Germans became known. It was necessary to escape. But, escape to where? How does one move with children and old people? People rationalized as follows: "if it is meant to die, it is better to do so at home". And therefore the Jews of Kobylnik, with sad and melancholy faces sank into wearisome anticipation. With the prevailing mood Jews faced July 27th when the first German reconnaissance troops arrived. Within six days a significant number of German troops arrived in town. At that time an organized police force consisting of local citizens came into being, who were ready to accept the new power and diminish the rights of Jewish citizens. Non-Jewish citizens met the Germans with joyous anticipation. Krugliak Avsiuk who knew a little German was the key welcomer. The Jews immediately felt the hostile attitude of the new power.

In the first days of the occupation Jews were prohibited from walking on sidewalks, visit the marketplace, or leave their houses in the evening. Every Jew was obligated to wear on their chest and their back a yellow Star of David in order to be easily identified from a distance. Everyone was obligated to work every day as directed by the local authority. Everyone was ridiculed physically and morally. There were local people who were deriving satisfaction from watching how the Jews were beaten, insulted and humiliated. Forced labor was imposed on adults as well as on youngsters (children). I was barely 14 and I was forced to work every day on a variety of jobs. We sawed wood; built a road near the town of Sheremetovo (15 kilometers), fixed a road at the village of Gluboky’s Creek, picked potatoes, and executed any request by the Germans or local authorities. I especially remember the cleaning of snow from the road at the village of Vareniki (8 kilometers from town). The winter was a cold and difficult one. We worked no less than 14 hours a day, without warm clothing, food or rest, with ridicule and mockery by onlookers. We returned home at night, walking eight kilometers against the piercing cold wind. For our work we received neither pay nor food.

Jews stopped coming out of their homes, they stopped turning on lights at night to avoid attracting attention; they lived in total isolation. Only through gardens at night did they try to stay in touch with neighbors, and with those local residents who, despite the potential punishment for contact with Jews, continued to sympathize and help. So far as foodstuffs are concerned each person handled it in the best way they could. We stayed and lived in our house, near our garden, but without a cow that was taken away from us. In the basement we still stored vegetables, but good people provided other essentials at night. For this they usually received in exchange shoes or clothing.

In our family there were six children; I was the oldest. The youngest brother was born 10 days before the start of the war. Mrs. Vertinskaya provided milk from time to time in the dark of night for my breast-feeding brother. She earned our greatest gratitude (we are still in contact with three of her grandchildren, two of whom live in Naroch).

At first nobody fully understood the German attitude toward Jews, and it was truly hard to comprehend why the local population offered the Germans such ready assistance. It is true that the people were completely impotent vs. the arbitrary local authorities. Yet there was no response to the question "for which sins are Jews being punished?" Jews lived in Kobylnik for centuries, with the belief in Moses and tradition of their ancestors. During all those years there was no record of Jewish community drunkenness, robbery, fights, divorces, not to mention murder. Jews lived an honest and generous life as taught by the bible, and helped by their admirable nature. We knew, however, that over the millennia Jews experienced discrimination, insults and ridicule in many places.

Soon the first murders took place. On July 2nd fifteen communists were arrested and shot, four Jews among them. Shai Veksler — the tinsmith, Shimon Tsofras — the hairdresser, Boris Solomon — the teacher, Khaya-Rivka Gordon — the housewife. Ultimately they were brought and laid to rest on the Jewish cemetery.

The following mockery of the town’s Jews occurred on July 12, 1941. Police forced a group of Jews to take out of the synagogue all holy books and Torahs, in order to burn them in the center of the marketplace where a group of curious onlookers appeared. The police poured ignitable material onto the books, and ordered the Jews to set them on fire. Nobody agreed to do it although they were beaten, particularly the young Rabbi – Leib Makovski. Two of the curious bystanders lit a candle and set the fire. The fire instantly spread to the top of the heap and the holy books were converted to a handful of ashes. Surreptitiously, at night the Jews collected the holy ashes and buried them.

A good example of some help given to the Jews was the behavior of the Russian Orthodox Minister. He lived on the left side of Postavy Street, not far from us. My father entrusted the minister with some of our domestic valuables for safekeeping, including an old marble clock. Somebody reported about it to the police, who arrested the minister and transferred him to Vileika. We never saw him again. Later it became known that he was questioned and tortured but did not admit or betray anyone. He is in Heavenly Kingdom.

Into our town came in, mostly at night, single refugees from Lithuania who succeeded in escaping during executions carried out by the Germans. They told us how Jews were mercilessly exterminated. It became clear what we could expect. It is worth noting that in Lithuania the local German collaborators were particularly cruel toward the Jews. At that time there was talk about the possible annexation of our area by Lithuania. This unsettled the Jews as well as many local residents who considered the Lithuanian authorities to be antagonistic and cruel. The attitude of the Germans became more hostile particularly after a German military official was killed, for which the Germans retaliated by killing hundreds of innocent farmers.

On October 5, 1941 a special German military outfit arrived in Kobylnik and began to arrest the town’s Jews. Vantzekovich, the mayor of Kobylnik, prepared a list of Jews and identified them as communists. Fifty one Jews were arrested. Another twelve were sent to excavate a pit near the Catholic cemetery, for an obvious purpose. The following statement was made by one of the twelve people who dug the pits, and who eventually became a resident of Israel. "This happened at 3 o’clock in the daytime. Those rounded up were led on Vilenski Street to jail, where they were forced to take off their shoes and upper clothing. Khaika Botvinik with a nursing child implored the police to spare her child. In response the policeman grabbed the baby and smashed its head against a tree. The trembling body was thrown into a pit and Khaika, the mother, was shot dead. Shooting started…. People were falling dead, the wounded were shot again or buried alive….Shlomo Yavnovich succeeded in crying out with pain in his voice to the twelve people: "Jews avenge for our spilled blood" Zelik Narotzky attempted to escape. He succeeded in running about 50 meters when a bullet cut him down. Yankel-Beinish Greenberg who was among the twelve could not contain himself and began hysterically cursing the killers; for which he was shot and thrown into a pit".

Among the twelve was Afroike Kravchinski (subsequently an Israeli resident, 1924-1995) in front of whom his entire family was shot: his mother, his father, four sisters, grandmother Rivka and grandfather Moishe-Zelik Khodos. This tragedy remained with Afroike for his entire life. The remaining eleven Jews, who were certain that the same fate awaits them, were forced to fill in the pit. Why then were they allowed to return home? Nobody knew.

Eyewitnesses later related that the pit was still moving the following day. Into the pit were thrown quite a few wounded. It was extremely difficult for the Jewish community to survive the first massive murderous killings. It left a great spiritual trauma. There was no doubt about our future destiny. Hopes for a rescue disappeared. Only pain and suffering remained…

From the eastern front no gunfire was heard for some time. German radio was stating that they had a series of victories on all fronts. Bitterness and despair followed us; we could not even cry; our anger and curses were aimed at the Germans and their collaborators. Fortunately there were people who were spiritually strong and did not give up. The most prominent among them was Sholem Yavnovich who was the head of our community. Through him the local authorities transmitted all orders and demands to the Jewish community. After some time Sholem succeeded in getting permission to transfer the killed to the Jewish cemetery. I remember this awful picture when the grave was opened and people began to bring out the dead bodies. This was accompanied by sobs. We the young ones helped the older people. Throughout my life I remember the "last meeting" with my best friend, Yuda Gantovnik whom I took out of the pit. We buried all 52 coffins on the eastern boundary of the Jewish cemetery in the presence of our entire community. Their names of the buried are:

--Moishe Botvinik; his wife Khaya, son Joseph, and breast feeding child Sholem

--Alter Weiner; his father Israel, wife Feiga, son Yakov and daughter Sarah-Rivka

--Meier Gantovnik; his wife Gita, son Yuda.

--Raya Gilman; Menashe Gilman

--Abraham Gordon; sons Yuda, Aaron, Shail-David, daughter Rachel. The parents of Abraham — Izaak-Yankel Gordon and wife Grunia

--Yankel-Beinish Greenberg

--Itzhak Kravchinsky; wife Khaia-Basia, daughters Sarah, Rachel, Raisel, Khaia-Liba and Nekhama

--Frida Levitan; sons Abraham and Israel-Meier, daughter Feiga

--Leib Makovsky — Rabbi; wife Liba, son Abraham

--Zelig Narotzky; wife Keila, son Velvel, daughters Beila and Dvora

--Leia Tsofnas; son Leibka, daughter Sarah

--Feivel Shapiro; wife Leia, son Leibka, daughter Sarah

--Shloime Yavnovich

--Moishe-Zelig Khodos; wife Rivka

--Mina Khodos

--Potelik — Rabbi (guest).

All of Everlasting Memory.


Winter arrived with unwelcome cold and hunger. The German military units were advancing. Hope for a rescue was diminishing. The Germans ordered the Jews to collect and deliver to the district commissariat in Vileika: clothing, footwear, furniture, money in golden rubles, in short anything of value. The Jews gave anything that was possible in the hope of saving their lives. These goods were loaded onto 25 sleds. Representatives of Kobylnik’s Jews were supposed to accompany this shipment. Since only a part of the "order" was collected, it was reasonable to assume that the accompanying people will not return. Two volunteers came forth. They were Khona Dimenstein (whose only son Leizer succeeded in going east at the beginning of the war) and Shalom Yavnovich, a single man, who was head of the Jewish community. Fortunately it happened that in Vileika they were beaten up and sent back to collect the part they failed to deliver.

At the end of April 1942 massive murders of Jews took place in the town of Krivich. Three refugees from Krivich came in secretly at night to Kobylnik with the hope of finding a hiding place at a relative of Khona Dimentstein. A man who cooperated with the Germans noticed them. Khona and his wife succeeded in hiding themselves, but the refugees were arrested as partisans (freedom fighters) in a Jewish home. The Germans also took five other hostages: Khaim Reider. Yoshka Yablonovich, Ryvka Steingard, Itzka Yavnovich and Israel-Bine Berger, and they ordered Khone and Esther to show up at the police station. Only Esther showed up. They freed Itzka Yavnovich, but all hostages, the three refugees and Esther were shot at the Jewish cemetery. Two of the hostages, Reider and Steingard were married and had children. The police decreed that the other family members be killed. They arrested Reider’s wife, Ida, daughters Slova (10 years old) and Esther (8 years old), the wife of Steingard — Khana, daughters Reisel (10 years old) and Khava (8 years old). They were kept in prison for days. We heard their weeping and begging for mercy. The women and children were also shot at the Jewish cemetery. All were buried at the "eastern section" of the cemetery.

In those days people prayed and begged God to allow them to die of natural causes. Three representatives of our community’s older generation died like "normal" people. They were envied… Among them was my grandmother, the mother of our mother, Riva Gordon, Azriel Yablonovich and a close friend of our grandmother, Sima-Hinda Berger.

The following attack by the Germans occurred on July 17, 1942. That day they caught and  terribly beat, on the presumption of a connection with the partisans (freedom fighters), Yosef Khodos, David Gliot and Abraham Goldzeger as well as members of their families: Yosef’s wife Beila with daughter Khaia, and three year old son David-Hirshel and the one year old daughter Yenta. (The execution of the children I described in the book "Kobylnik").

Small partisan groups appeared around the Naroch forest in the summer of 1942. Some single Jews from surrounding towns, who succeeded to escape execution, joined them.

Among them Myadel Jews, headed by Yosef Narotzky, Zelik Estrin and Michael Patashnik (refugees from the town of Hodutishki) established contact with the partisans, particularly with Yakov Segalchik from Dalhinov. In addition, they succeeded in obtaining secret data from one German, that in two days, on Monday, would arrive a penal (punishing) detachment in Myadel for the final destruction of Myadel’s and Kobylnik’s Jews. Several Kobylnik Jews and I worked at that time in Myadel, as demanded by the authorities. There was neither time nor an opportunity to inform Kobylnik Jews about the gained information. At night on Saturday, the largest part of Myadel’s Jews, I among them, a total of 80 people ran in the direction identified by the partisans. The way pointed toward the villages of Bakunki and Lesniki, south of Dalhinov. The partisans were already there. That night the Germans and their police became inebriated making it possible for us to walk away without being noticed. At night with little children carried by hand the people walked 15 kilometers to the village of Nevery. There we rested a while and then divided in small groups and moved on. This way we started our forest wandering, which deserves a separate description.

Some of the people died in the forest, others marched at nighttime to the east, still others remained in partisan units. Time has shown that some distinguished themselves as partisans, among them Meier Khodos , Herzel Gordon, Khaim Steingard, Peretz Krupski, Abraham-Itzke Khodos, Geshel Krukov (died on 4/17/1943) and Khaim-Osher Gilman (died at Koenigsberg, now Kaliningrad, as a member of the Soviet Army). I was among the partisans who crossed the front line in November 1942. I was then 15 years old.

On September 21, 1942 the last mass murder of Kobylnik’s Jews took place. The same day the remaining Jews of Myadel were also killed. During the gathering of Kobylnik’s Jews onto the market place, some succeeded in hiding or leaving town. All the rest were herded into a public house, which was close to the local church. The windows were boarded up, and the police and Germans surrounded the house. Tevia Feitelman attempted to escape but was shot at once. The same day a few families were released among whom were special workers that were needed by the Germans. Among the released was also our family. The released families were transferred to Myadel and settled in the Ghetto. The remaining one hundred twenty people were executed at dawn of the following day. A witness was Leibel Solomon, the only one who succeeded in escaping (he lives in the USA). When the doomed were led to their execution, several people attempted to run to the bridge spanning the local river. German bullets met them all. Solomon was lucky. The people were brought to a prepared pit in the same area of the Catholic cemetery as in October 1941. All were extremely exhausted and worn out, without hope of rescue or will to live. Nevertheless, there were some who loudly condemned the killers and threw at them shoes and stones. All were killed… Thrown into the pit and covered with earth.

Names of the killed on September 21, 1942:

Yuda-Leib Einbinder (Rabbi), wife Malka.

Mendel-Leib Alsfein, wife Gisia.

Shepsel Berger, wife Nekhama, son Moishe, daughter Khana.

Rasia Weksler.

Leiba Gilman, wife Ida, daughter Leia.

Mera-Liba Glet

Beila Goldzeger, son Menakhem, daughters Sarah, Raisa and Khana.

Samual Golfman, wife Khana, daughter Sonia

Abraham-Leib Gordon, wife Khia-Misia.

Fruma Gordon, daughters Nekhama-Dvora and Sheinka.

Mina Greenberg, son Leiba, daughter Khana.

Moishe Gershator, wife Tamar, son Shloima.

Barukh Danishevski, wife Menukha, daughter Sarah, sons Abraham and Izaak.

Rivka Dimenstein, daughter Esther-Feiga.

Beila-Dobka Kirmelishky

Khia-Sarah Klumel, daughter Gita.

Aniuta Klumel.

Izaak Klumel, wife Rivka, daughters Beila, and Shulames, son Abraham.

Khana-Dvora Krivitzky.

Keila Krivitzky, sons Benny and Izaak.

Dina Levitan.

Liba-Malka Lifshitz, daughter Freidel.

Shepsel Lishnatzky, wife Rachel, sons Shmuel-Hirsh and Itzka, daughter Bella.

Khaim Leizerovich, wife Liba, daughter Dvora.

Izaak Mashitz (Rabbi), wife Tzita, son Shmuel-Hirsh.

Michael Milkhman, wife Mina, son Dodik, daughter Yokhka.

Aaron-Leib Narotzky, wife Breine-Tsherne, daughters Khia and Beila.

Khaim Narotzky.

Rivka Solomon, sister Khana.

Ita Todres,

Hirshel Toronchik

Tevia Feigelman, wife Khia-Sarah, daughter Rachel.

Leiba Khodos, wife Asia.

Freidel Khodos.

Dina Tsernotsky

Ishua Tsernotsky, wife Rivka, son Eli.

Freidel Tsernotsky, sons Yankel and David.

Khia Tsernotsky.

Gdalia Tsernotsky, wife Sarah-Rivka, daughter Yokhevet.

Reisel Steingrub.

Basia Shneiderovich, son Itzka, daughters Sarah and Khia.

Merl Yablonovich, daughter Tsifka.

Zlata-Esther Yanovsky, daughter Gitl.

Gnesia Yanovsky

Merl Yanovsky, daughters Sarah, Rachel, and Leia.

Feives Yanovsky, wife Sarah, daughter Khia-Liba.

Khaim-Yankel Yanovsky, wife Sarah-Rivka.

Eli-Yoska Yanovsky, wife Reisel, daughter Keila, sons Abraham and Menashe.

On November 1, 1942 partisans attacked the German garrison in Mydel. As a consequence about 70 people were liberated, among them my family. Together with the partisans they ran into the forest.

The fate of Kobylnik’s Jews who were resettled to Vileika was awful. At night between the 6th and 7th of November 1942 all were burnt alive in two local bathhouses.

The names of those killed in Vileika:

Shaul Gordon, wife Doba, son Yakov, daughter Feiga.
Esther Greenberg.
Yakov Danishevski, wife Dvoska, son Khaim, daughter Bella.
Izaak Kaganovich
Abraham Kiyevsky, wife Khaya-Sarah, son Itzik, daughter Taibka, and son Hirshe-Mendel.
Israel Krykov, wife Khia, son Leiba.
Khaim Shpitz, wife Liba, daughter Sonia and Dvoshka.
Yosif Steigard, wifa Basia, daughter Binia, son Yankel.
David Yavnovich, wife Bunia, sons Barukh and Leibel.
Michael Yavonvich, wife Matla.
Ishua Yavnovsky.
Shleime-Leizer Yavnovski, wife Khaya-Rivka, daughters Esther and Rached, sons Israel and Izaak.

Three persons, Ilie-Moishe Gordon (perished in the forest in 1943), Osher Krykov (1915-1995) and Israel-Leib Gordon (1920-1950), were rescued and went into the forest.

Some Kobylnik Jews, miraculously rescued from mass killings, found hiding places with people who risked their own lives by hiding and feeding them. Particularly distinguished among them were Yosef Tunkevich, Ian Valai, and Adolf Zelubovski. They hid Osher Krykov, IzaakTsernotsky, Khona and Hirshel Dinershtein, Shaul Kaplan, Khaya-Liba Tshernotsky, family Friedman, Froike Kravchinsky, Shalom Yavnovich and others.

The national memorial of the catastrophe and heroism —"Yad Vashem"— in Jerusalem (Israel) recognized these devoted people, rescuers of Kobylnik’s Jews, as "Righteous Gentiles of the World". Their names are inscribed on the Wall of Honor in the alley of the Righteous. Credentials and medals were given to their descendants.

Jews that were rescued went into the forest. They lived over 20 months in mud huts or dugouts in the Russokovski dense forest and later on the other side of the forest swamps called Haravy.

Hunger, cold, lack of elementary sanitary conditions led to diseases. Not everyone survived. Women and children had a particularly difficult time. But all suffering was done with the hope for eventual survival and liberation.

In the fall of 1943 as a result of the German blockade of partisan units, the following people were killed:

Sholem Yanovich
Matla Gilman
Nekhemia Karenetsky
Family Kovarsky, father Yosef, mother Asia, children Boris and Raia.

Some people rendered inestimable help to the Jews from the villages of Russaki, Stariniki, Andreiki, Sloboda, Stakhovtsy, Kolodino, who supplied them with potatoes, bread and cabbage.

My father’s friend from the village of Nanosy, Peter Rolich, supplied the family with a sack of peas, which at that time was a priceless gift. It is also worth noting the help rendered by the family Talaiko from the village of Kolodino. It is now thirteen years that we, the emigrants from Kobylnik, are in contact with the descendants of the erstwhile helpers.

The "forest epoch" came to an end with the liberation of Naroch on July 4, 1944. Exhausted and worn out the surviving Kobylnik Jews, after the long travails, returned to their town to discover a heap of ashes in place of their houses. They all congregated near the brotherly graves and subsequently at the larger cemetery, and cried for the perished relatives and friends. A few good people of the town met the Jews gladly, like people returning from another world, and supplied them with temporary shelter. Petkevich’s mother gladly received my parents and their children in their small house beyond the bridge. Some Jews settled in Postavy, and others transferred to Vilno (now Vilnius).

Approximately 375 Jews lived in Kobylnik until 1941. Three hundred and twenty were killed during the German occupation. Fifty two escaped and remained among the living and another six succeeded at the beginning of the war to move east and survived in the Soviet Union.

In the period between 1945 and 1960 thirty people resettled to Israel, the remaining emigrated to the USA, Canada, Germany, Sweden, Poland and the USSR.


Kobylnik’s Jews arriving in Israel were warmly met by immigrants from our town who succeeded in settling in this area before WW II. They were only 16 people. We knew all of them well and we established with them warm and friendly relations.

In 1950 we founded the "Society of Kobylnik Immigrants". Once a year we meet to pay homage to those who perished during the German occupation, to remember the departed in peaceful times, and simply to exchange news. Immigrants from Kobylnik consider themselves as a friendly family, and share both joyous as well as sorrowful news. This tradition has been extended to our children and grandchildren.

The initiator of the society’s creation was Itzhak (Izaak) Gordon (1915-2003), who settled here before the war. Itzhak was very devoted and we all owe him a debt of gratitude.

In the first year of the society’s existence we began to collect material for a book about Kobylnik’s Jews. It was published in 1967. On the 50th year of the society’s existence we added immigrants from Myadel and formed a joint society.

I dreamt for many years to visit my original hometown. This became a reality in 1990.

It was not easy to walk again in my youth’s pathways. We visited the Jewish cemetery that was overgrown with brushwood, had lopsided monuments, abandoned and forgotten brotherly graves near the Catholic cemetery. From some upper part of graves protruded human bones as if a hand was extended with a request for help…

Over the years Kobylnik grew three fold compared to its prewar size. The name of the town was changed to Naroch. Very few people now remember and fewer know that for the past three centuries Jews lived in this town, and that their end came on September 21, 1942…

It was very touching to meet with long ago classmates and old acquaintances. Among them Adam Atsenovich, Zoya Dergatch, sisters Zelebovsky, Tcheslav Kasparevsky, Shura Kulgavchuk, sisters Petkevich, Yanek Spasibenko, Elena Tunkevich (Edelis), Renia Tshebotar and others. At that time there still lived a man who rescued Jews, by the name of Yan Valai. Meeting him was particularly touching and memorable.

Upon return to Israel, I proposed that our "Society of Immigrants from Kobylnik and Myadel" restore the Jewish cemetery and the brotherly graves and turn them into historical monuments. My proposal was accepted enthusiastically. The restorative work took almost two years. A stone wall was built around the cemetery with a gate at the entrance. From the Postavy Road to the cemetery an asphalt road was built and the brotherly graves were transformed into worthy appearances. An analogous job was performed in Myadel.

On September 12, 1992 we held a solemn gathering at the brotherly graves, dedicated to the mournful event at the 50th anniversary of the execution of Kobylnik’s and Myadel’s Jews. Representatives of emigrants from Kobylnik and Myadel came from Israel and the USA, and several hundred local inhabitants attended the event. Two local clergymen, the orthodox minister Georgy Mitko and the priest Avgustin Kratkovsky delivered very moving speeches. I also gave a speech.

Two years ago our society created a monetary fund aimed at preservation of the Jewish monuments in Kobylnik and Myadel for many years to come.

In August 2003 I and my wife and other members of my family, including our daughter Osnat and grandchild Gilad, visited Kobylnik. The days were spent with our friends from Naroch whom we will long remember. A second and third generation of emigrants from our town and we will continue to maintain this unusual connection with our old hometown.



May 2004

Haifa, Israel

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