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Chaye Golding Letters, 1945

Note: These letters are in the Yizkor Book but they reprinted here, separately,
\ because of their uniqueness and importance.

How the Jews of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) Struggled and Suffered
By: Chaye Soika-Golding

The following letter, written in Holland in July of 1945, describes in detail how the Germans tortured the Jews of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and destroyed the entire community. The author of this letter, Chaye Soika-Golding, survived through all the horrors of the German occupation so her accounts are therefore an authentic testimony.

Almelo, Holland, July 22, 1945

Dear Yeshiah Skubelski!

I was overjoyed with your letter. I understand your wish and am answering you immediately, even though telling how the extermination of he Jews came about is not a pleasant mission.

In the very first days of the war in 1939, a chain of calamities had begun to unfold in Szczuczyn. That Sabbath morning all men were required to register. Not knowing what was happening, everyone presented themselves at the marketplace. The Germans registered 300 men and then forced them to the synagogue in the new section. Your brother Boruch Leyzer was amongst them, as well as my brother Isak, my brother-in-law Lipe Chaim, Rozental Zalmen, your cousin Galant and many many others. They were held at the synagogue for one day and on the second day they were brought to Prostken [Prostki, 10.4 miles NNE of Szczuczyn, just to the west of the Prussian/Russian border]; from there further into the heart of Germany. 

Golding Family,
mid 1930's
Back: Isaac Golding
Dora (nee Golding) Kahn; Front: Chaya and her daughter Shulamiske,
and Dora's son

You can imagine what an impact this action had on the remaining families A few weeks later I arrived from Ostrolenke (Ostroleka), where the Jews had also been driven out. The shock was already familiar to us. it was believed that any day the men would return. We collected money, we looked for people with influence, we wrote pleas on their behalf. We made fools of ourselves but all our efforts were like a stone in water. One day we received two cards from the men; there was no news after that. The difficult winter of 1940 fell upon us -- incredible freezing temperatures, just above minus 40 C. There was talk that the Bolsheviks had brought the frost from Siberia. In this horrible freeze they [the Germans] had unexpectedly freed the above mentioned from the camps. The men traveled 5 days on the train. The bread they were rationed was eaten up immediately on the first day. It was a difficult journey. They were not given a single drink of water. They licked the panes from thirst. It was crowded and hot in the wagon. My brother Isak died on the way home. There were many deaths during the trip. And those who survived, what happened to them? It is a horror story for me to recount. 

When the men stepped out of the train the Germans opened fire on them. Turmoil, panic and flight broke out. The majority ran from the scene. Lipe Chaim, together with a large group, escaped and crossed the Russian border near Brisk (Brest-Litovsk). Many of them with frostbitten limbs were taken to hospital there by the Bolsheviks. When they recovered they were sent into Russia, to Archangel. Others, including Boruch and Lavi Sheynberg who later married, went to the shtetl Vlodave (Bledowo) on the German side. Still others struggled through and managed to return to Szczuczyn.

Of the 300 taken, maybe 30 came back. My brother-in-law Lipe Chaim found himself near Brisk (Brest-Litovsk) and wanted to cross into the Soviet Union to be together with his wife and child. Along with others from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) he tried to swim across the river Bug at night. He did not succeed. The border guards did not let them pass -- "spies" was their answer. They tried again the second night. The frost was terrible. Summer coats, tight shoes, deep snow, it was impossible to go any further. With each passing moment limbs grew weaker. Lipe Chaim remained sitting on the frozen river, remained sitting forever. He said vide [12], asked his companions to greet Dora on his behalf, and then froze. The details were told to us immediately following the catastrophe. We left with smugglers to search for the corpse but did not find it.

I do not know what happened to your brother. Your cousin died in Brisk (Brest-Litovsk). Your parents also did not know the kind of death their son had met. Some of those who came back: Koyfman Segalovitch's nephew from the iron works; Kalman Shifrak (now residing in Israel); Binyomin Sosnovski a shoemaker; a great determined young man Zeydke Koshtsiol, the driver, and other strong ones. They told us of their life in the camps. Boruch Leyzer beared up all right unlike Lipe Chaim. Your sister-in-law with the girls left to join their family in Augustow.

These events affected our parents greatly. Your father as well as mine grew silent, gray and weak. The beautiful synagogue and Bes Hamedresh were burned down. Everyone prayed in the new section, in the House of Study. Shabbos and High Holidays your sister would anxiously await your father, and we sisters -- our father. We would meet and wait together. Their steps were slow as with all old folk, and Yehoshue Aryeh, your uncle the Dayan [13] akh! What and old man already, he could hardly make it to the house! So that he shouldn't have to go three times a day to the synagogue -- which was too difficult for him -- he practically would live at the House of Study. Out at dawn, the children would bring him back at night. Repressing the grief, after his lost Isak and such a nephew as Lipe Chaim, my father died in his own bed in February, 1941. Two months later your uncle the Dayan, Reb Yehoshue Aryeh, died. Both passed away as Tsadikim. Both my mother and myself had at least the honor to have talked with him a few days before his death. We had gone to visit him. He had been very close to my mother.

On June 22, 1941, the Russo-German war broke out. The Germans entered Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) with lightning speed. They hung up their swastika flag and pushed on further. The city lay in chaos. Authority passed to the hands of the Poles. This lasted about two weeks. All kinds of rowdies were let out of prison: Dombrovski Yakubtshuk, the well known Polish arrestees under the Bosheviks -- Shviatlovski, chief of the guard and Yankayitis, the director of the school, and others. They were full of rancor for the Bolsheviks and the Jews. Friday night when the entire city slept quietly, the slaughter began. They had organized it very well: one gang in the new section, a second in the marketplace, a third on Lomzher Street and a fourth on the Pavelkes. There in the new section they murdered Romorovske's family (the tailor), Ester Kriger (your neighbor with the youngest daughter), Soreh Beylkeh, Eynikl, Pishke, Yashinski, Mayzler (the head of the yeshivah) -- all in their own houses. Your family saved themselves; on hearing the screams from Ester's house they ran off to the fields. Dan Kaplan the photographer, and Rive's man Tsirlak with child and mother, escaped through the window and ran to the "Vales." At dawn they came to me.

I had been living in Dore's apartment in Reb Yosele's house. The murderers did not come there. They had killed Rozental's children in the marketplace. They had also killed Kheytshe with her six month old child at breast and her older boy Grishen, Beyle Rochel Guzovski with her children, Bergshteyn, Slutske's family, Tevye Sheynberg's children and many more.

On the Pavelkes the mobs murdered Gabriel Farbarovitch with his family and the Bergshteyns. Leyzer Sosnovski was led to the slaughter house and there was told to put his head on the stump; with the machine with which animals are slaughtered they, killed him. My hair stands on end from the grimness of it all.

Later the squads divided up the possessions of their victims amongst themselves. On readied wagons they loaded the corpses and led them just outside the town. The goys immediately washed the bloodied floors including the stones on the street. A few hundred sacrifices had taken place in one night and still, the murderers informed us, the massacres would continue for two more nights.

Those remaining were stricken with fear. What do we do? How can we save ourselves? My mother ran to the priest to beg for the Jews. They offered no help. With Chane Libe Zeml and Salen, I ran to the Polish intelligentsia. There too we found no salvation. My mother with two other women ran after help in Grayeve (Grajewo), they were not let into the town -- curfew. What do we do? Night was falling upon. us. Approximately 20 Germans entered the city -- a field troop. We were afraid to show ourselves before them Then I had an idea: to try our luck with the soldiers, maybe they would help us. With great difficulty we chose a delegation and departed. The group of Germans consisted of soldiers and two officers. In the beginning they declined to help us, "This is not our business, we are fighting only on the front, not with civilians," they explained. However, when I offered them soap and coffee, they softened up. They guarded the city at night and all remained quiet. I with two other women began to work for them, and later we were placed to work in the German headquarters.

And so, in this manner, the pogroms in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) were stopped for awhile.

At the same time similar events were taking place in Grayeve (Grajewo), Vanses (Wasosz), Radzilove (Radzilow) and so on. In Radzilove (Radzilow) all the Jews had been driven into the largest barn which was then lit aflame from all sides. Polish school-children wanted to rescue their Jewish girlfriends from the burning building, but the girls repudiated them and ran back into the flames. The Poles did all this. Such ghastly scenes took place in other shtetlach. Shlafak, Shtabinski in Radzilove (Radzilow), Matis Keyman with his wife and children in Vanses (Wasosz) -- they all had an ugly death.

In our city we were forced to go everyday to the market and tear away the grass from between the stones. Every household had to supply two or three persons. Monday evening (I think it was the 24th of July) instead of leaving the exhausted Jews to rest in their homes, tired from work and sun, they hastened everyone to the new section. A mob of urchins appeared -- children, who pursued them with sticks. People were rounded up from their homes as well. All were forced in one direction. From the new section they were led further to the cemetery (I was not amongst them). It was understood what would take place. One hundred men were chosen; they remained there. The women, children and elderly were sent back home. These 100 men were one by one in the most bestial manner, with axes, sticks and shovels, murdered. Amongst them were Salmon Leyzerzon with his son Meyir, Yeshiah Kokoshka, Lifshteyn, Panush and many more.

Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) stood black in ruin, her Jewish inhabitants sad and desperate. The synagogue and the old House of Study had already been destroyed by the Germans in 1939, and now even the new House of Study was ruined. The entire area beginning from Pinchas Rozen's house as far as Penzuch's house, had been burned out by bombs. The Vansaser Street as well was partly destroyed.

This was the second act In our shtetl. All this was effected by the Poles. In the month of August, a Thursday evening, Merutshkovski the "parson" of City Hall, rung the bell and informed the Jews that the following day they should assemble in the square. A fresh panic arose. That night no one slept. Friday morning, 8:00 a.m., everyone gathered. Men, women and children, and young girls, were placed apart from each other. Officiating were two Gestapo men and some SS guards. The Polish police were very busy running all over, searching through the houses to make sure no one had hid themselves.

In the marketplace they beat the Rabbi Efron, Z.TS.L., and all those whom they had found hiding. The men and young girls were led to Krumer Street. They walked five in a row like soldiers. At the courtyard of Biblovits the guards stopped to shove the elderly men into the grainhouse. Your father was one of them, as well as Yeshiah the rabbi, the ritual slaughterers -- Radziminski, Goldfarb and Tutlman -- and many others. In the storehouse they gathered the younger people: Mashke Guzubski, Zavl Zeml, Chaim Kokoshko, Moyshe Chaim Kulinski, Yankl Denemark, Muki Farber, Dovid Rubinovitch, Moyshe Leyzerzon and all the others. In the third storehouse, a type of stable, they confined the girls Amongst them were: Sorekeh Zeml, Mini Radushkanski, your two sisters, your two cousins and young girls from the sixth grade at school. We women and children remained standing in the marketplace the entire day without a drop of water, without bread, in pain and grief over the spectacle. Chane Libe Zeml received a slap from one of the Gestapo men; she had appeared too bold. "In a few years not a single Jew will remain in this world," he told her, "And don't look so fresh."

Meanwhile the goyim were transporting rolls of barbed wire. There was banging. They were preparing something on Krumer Street. It was already completely dark. Elsewhere in the world for Jews, it was long after the blessing of the Sabbath candles. Elsewhere Jews sat at beautiful tables in lit houses, everyone together -- children, parents... and here was only darkness, blackness. Krumer Street was already closed in with barbed wire. The entrance to the ghetto was through the square, through Biblovits's yard. We saw the men as we passed by. Their hair and beards had been shaven off. A good number of them had been badly beaten -- those who had been found hiding. Many had already been led out and shot. My brother-in-law, Yosl Radziminski, was one of them.

The women went immediately to seize apartments. Your mother, sister and Chaye Soreh Galant with some others, took one apartment together where Moyshe "Tatke" had lived. My family took the best room at Nyevzhidovskin's. In this manner we lived 15-20, even 25 persons in one apartment. Constant conflict, quarrels and fighting.

Those in the storehouses were guarded by the Polish police, simple urchins and German soldiers. Saturday evening some of the younger men were removed: Zavlen, Guzovskin. and Chaim Kukoshka. Almost all the artisans: the shoemakers, the tailors, two blacksmiths, Ruzo the watchmaker, Sholem Motl the painter, two bakers as well as ten to fifteen others, established together a Jewish council and a Jewish police force in the ghetto. These were the men who had remained free. The council was conducted in a strict disciplinarian manner. They were: Yoyneh Levinovits, president; Notke Rubinovitch and Tuviah Granovich, members; Yisroelke Goldfarb, Michal Krushninski, Savitski and Freedman, both Frizers, Lubetski and Leybl Gandi Dorf, as police.

Monday evening the older people were taken away. With them went Berman the teacher, and Itshe Tutleman. During the day I came again to them in the storehouse (because of my work the guard let me in). I gave the Rabbi, Z.TS.L., and others some sugar, sour pickles and pieces of bread. The Rabbi gave me his hand. I kissed it making it wet with my tears. The beautiful Rabbi Efron. In the end they were all taken to the cemetery. The Rabbi was shot. He held a short droshe [14] just before his death. The others were killed. It is difficult for me to write all this. I am reliving the horror. It hurts me, my heart is bleeding.

At the same time, when the men were taken away, the women were crowding themselves in a row before a window for bread. This took place at Biblovits's house, a central point. There was warm fresh bread...

The tradesmen and some of the youngsters were released. Both storehouses became empty. Four women however: Mini Radishkanski, Eni Slutski, Sheyne Mlavski and Yisroelke Alaran's wife, were killed in the yard by the guards. That Friday, when they had driven the Jews into the ghetto, they had also removed the sick from the hospital to the cemetery and there had shot them. Bronervayn Bishberg and Esterzon had tried to hide themselves in the hospital. They had been discovered and were consequently shot in the yard. Young girls from the sixth grade: Penzuch and Lipshteyn's daughters, Rivtshe Sosnovski, Yedidiah's wife--they were all murdered. Yedidiah had been finished off even earlier.

Tuesday, some village farm owners requested girls to work in the fields cutting the harvest, to work in the gardens and so forth. The chief of police along with five or six gentile lads chose the girls. They chose more than 80 women (Gutki Rozental was amongst those chosen) while others went willingly, hoping to bring back with them perhaps a basket of potatoes. They departed and never returned. They had been killed, some by scythes right in the rye fields, others by hoes, and others in the gardens. Your two sisters and your cousins had not been taken. Sorekeh Zeml returned to the ghetto. That day I was also arrested. At eleven o'clock that night I was to be led away, but as you can see I managed to escape.

I have no more strength to write. This letter has taken its toll on my health. I can see your tears and your grief on reading all this. I have no words with which to comfort you. Be strong my dear compatriot. I will tell you the rest the next time I write Yeshiah: I implore you! Write me and tell me where they are now: Boruch Fishl Zeml, Shprintse, Leyeke. What do you know of Eshalon who returned to Russia? Write me everything, send me a Yiddish newspaper. We live here as if on an Island. We do not know what goes on in the rest of the world. There are no books, nothing. We do not understand the Dutch language. We live here in isolation, sadness and defeat.

Perhaps your son will take revenge for his grandfather, his grandmother and all of the people of Israel. I send regards to all those from Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) who had the luck to run away from that cursed Polish land.

Chaye Soika

Almelo, Holland, October 13, 1945

Dearest Yeshiah!

Click on letter
for full image of
one page of another
Chaye Golding letter

Your letter brought us many pleasures. I thank you for everything and we ask you to help us in any way you can, in the future, so that we should be able to come sooner to the Land of Israel. We do not need any material help, therefore you need not send us anything. How enthusiastic you are in helping us; if only we could thank you soon.

I do not know unfortunately, the day or rather the date when your dear father, Z.L., perished. I remember more precisely that it was a Monday evening in the month of August. But which Monday? I believe that it was in the first half of the month. In his group there was also the Rabbi, Beynish Ponimunski, Z.TS.L. The Rabbi was shot. All the others had a different sort of death. The goyim buried them immediately, all in one mass grave near to the gate. Shortly after, when I happened to visit the cemetery I saw the grave. It was a large circle covered with fresh white sand. About one year later the Jewish Council undertook to bring all the corpses for burial in Israel. The goyim disclosed the many places under the city where they had thrown the unfortunate ones. You can well imagine what the wives of all those murdered were re-experiencing at the time. Some of the dead were without heads, hands or feet. Many corpses lay on the Pavelkes. The family Bednarski had rampaged the area so that they could loot the homes.

Kosmovski an impudent man, a murderer, the former post master, was the commander of the Polish Police and forerunner in the massacres Shviatlovski, the chief of the postal service, and Pioter Savtsenka the shoemaker killed Zeydke Bergshteyn's family, after which they moved into their apartment. Donovski, Bogushevski from the new section, Kokhanovski from Barane (Barany), Gardatski Lutek Kshubski, Brilek, Olshevski and many others took part in the indiscriminate killing of the Jews.

You ask about the Polish intelligentsia. The pharmacist Dignarovits was not in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn); before the war he had sold the pharmacy. Of the other Polish illuminati, no one helped; rather the contrary. The Secretary of Reyent Tishko, if you remember him, even took the Rabbi's clothes and had them refitted for him. Furman the tailor did the sewing and said that on the Rabbi's overcoat there were still drops of blood.

My parents ran a store for 40 years, had many customers from all spheres in society. During the second massacre my mother, Z.L., left for Urniyazn, wanting to hide herself in a cellar or a stable. The people there renounced her. Alone, she escaped through the fields to Khoinavi (Chojnowo). There she knew many of the peasants. They chased her immediately from the village. Another Jew had secretly hid himself in the stable of Radzikovski, the secretary of the judge. On discovering the Jew there he informed everyone., whereupon the man was immediately slain with sticks on the doorstep.

This is. how it all looked. Zabielski, the secretary of the parish council, also killed Jews.

About the ghetto:

You asked: How large was the ghetto at Biblovits's courtyard? The ghetto took up the entire Krumer Street, starting from Lafian's house to Urniazhe's yard. Biblovits's yard housed the terrible camp -- the storehouse and the stable. It lasted 5 days until the killers had finished with the death march. Every night it was another group. The rest: the shoemakers, the tailors, blacksmiths, a painter, a tinsmith, a baker and a few youngsters were led into the ghetto. Life in the ghetto was difficult. The Jewish Council did not help the poor people. They only solicited money from those who had. The numbers of the ill-fated. residents of Krumer Street were dwindled by one quarter due to cold, hunger and sickness.

Your mother, may she rest in peace, and sister took nothing out of their old home. They were afraid to go there. Some helped them out with a few clothes and linen. Your mother died a natural death in the ghetto, also your sister Chaye-Soreh; shortly one after the other. My heart aches that I must write you all of this but you desired to know. Shall I comfort you? Shall I comfort in myself? Our fate could not have been any worse. These are wounds which can never be healed.

Your mother, dear Peshke, was also in the ghetto. She stayed together with Sheyne Aronzon at Ziskind's in the small house in the yard where Rakhki would smoke herring. Nothing pleased her. She would receive letters from your brother in Sokolki asking her to come stay with him, but your mother, may she rest in peace, a smart women, said that she did not want to burden her children. She therefore remained in Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) and when the few hundred Jews were led out of the ghetto, your dear mother, Z.L., and sister-in-laws -- Feygl and Peshke -- were also amongst them.

Everyone was removed to Bogushe (Bogusze) near Grayeve (Grajewo). This was a gathering point for all Jews from the entire region; to be exact: Shtutsin (Szczuczyn), Grayeve (Grajewo), Raigrad (Rajgrod), Ugostov (Augustow), Stavisk (Stawiski), Vanses (Wasosz) and so on. There I believe, your sisters met up with your sister-in-laws and children from Ugostov (Augustow) and possibly also with Chaye-Soreh's children. They were already big girls, students in the school in which I worked. At the meetings the teachers used to praise both "Furmanevkes". The older one recited superbly, always exact. She was in the sixth grade by then. My daughter was in the third grade. Our cherished ones, our loved ones, unforgettable children. Why? Why? I cannot control my anguish. I must take a break from writing.

Dearest Yeshiah!

I send you my sincerest greetings and thanks. You are a truly good brother. We will remember what you have done for us in our difficult hour.

No one survived from Farber's. family; neither from the Katsperovskis. Sholem Bergshtayn and his family is also no longer with us. Hillel Ber Sheynberg died a natural death in Vlodave (Bledowo). The others in his family were taken to the camps. Regards to Pishke and the child.


You asked, Yeshiah, what I did at the headquarters:

Yes, I washed and cleaned the floors, I sewed and quilted. Often I would translate from Polish and Russian into German. More importantly I saved with determination and therefore brought home (not all the time) a small loaf of bread. Sometimes I would organize gatherings for the children in their homes at the command post, and for this I would receive, on the side, a box of saccharine, a bottle of vinegar... This was in all the cities, as I learned later, the best position. The most beautiful daughters polished and scrubbed, cleaned for them, cooked for them -- for our bloody enemies -- and it was good fortune, because carrying stones and cement was a lot worse.

During those hot days, when I arrived at work once, the. commander said to me: "The Poles have sentenced you also to death. If you can, run away." It is easy to imagine what his message did to me,. I went out into the yard; there by a washtub stood Dora, Eni Kelson and the Bialystok melamed's [15] daughter Kohn. I gave them the message. I did not deliberate long but put on a shawl, took a basket, and through the promenade garden I escaped onto the Lomsa (Lomza) route and was off. I did not say goodbye to my mother, may she rest in peace, or to my children. A desire had overtaken me -- to run away, to run as quickly as possible. How strong then was my will to live! I had barely made it to the Christian cemetery when some smart alecks recognized me, and with stones chased me back to the city. On Lomzher Street I passed by the command post and there saw Dora. I shouted to her: "They've caught me, remember to be a mother to my children."

They brought me in in handcuffs and after a short interrogation. placed me in a small cell... I cried the entire day. Kozshuch Olshevski the policeman said with "pity" that at eleven that night they were going to shoot me, but he would fire blanks and would give me the chance to escape; in return I should give him a letter to my mother asking her that she accommodate him... naturally, I did not believe him. Horrid thoughts plagued me throughout the entire day -- the children, that they would no longer have their mother was certain, would they at least have their father? At the time Ihad no news at all of my husband and did not know if he was alive. I lay on the bare boards crying. From the neighboring cell I heard someone reciting vide. Through the walls they called to me. It was Eli Dovid Gutshteyn -- the bath-house attendant, Berl Aronzon, Shturmlovske's nephew and a few others. During the night while another group was being taken away, they tried to escape but were caught.

It was already dark in the cell when a policeman summoned me to the office for questioning. "Why did you want to run away? What harm has anyone done to you?" To my great astonishment he ordered a policeman to bring me to the ghetto. It was completely desolate on Krumer Street. My sister Dora still stood by the wire fence. Her face was pale and troubled. She had been waiting for me. Apparently in the course of the day my mother, Z.L., and Dora overturned worlds for me: They had squeezed through the wire fence somehow, ran to the Polish command, to the German command, carried off my father's fur coat, which had been concealed in the hospital, along with other articles and money and bought me from my death. The goyim wanted to be rid of me for many reasons. Because of me, the command, it was considered, had been too soft on the Jews. In addition, I had been a teacher with the Soviets. I had raised my children in the communist spirit... I had been a secretary in the professional teacher's union. I had been very active, attended meetings -- these were later the main reasons for which I decided to leave Szczuczyn.

Dear Yeshiah, this is not the only example, even before the camps, when my life was in danger. Such instances grew more and more frequent. Perhaps as you have written, we will see each other shortly and will be able to talk about everything, especially of Shtutsin (Szczuczyn) our shtetl, once so beloved and dear to us; now we can only curse it. I greet all those from Szczuczyn. Regards from Dora and Soreh.

In the beginning of the war, Vayntsimer's family with our Sorehle had moved to Bialystok. Zalman ran away together with my husband. Avreml remained in Russia. Perhaps you could ask the other Shtutsiners (Szczuczyners), about him? All the others are no longer alive.



12. A confession of sins recited on Yom Kippur or before death. [Back]

13. Assistant to a rabbi, charged with deciding questions of ritual cleanliness and settling minor disputes. [Back]

14. A Jewish sermon. [Back]

15. The teacher of children in the traditional cheder. [Back]

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