Israel Cheez

The Soviets governed Telechan from September 17, 1939 to June 22, 1941, when Hitler’s army surprised the USSR in a vicious attack.  The local government was then temporarily transferred to the Polish and Belorussian citizens.  After a few days the Gentiles from the neighboring villages burst into the town and started looting the Jewish homes.  The Jews fled to the forest where they hid for about three weeks.  When the atmosphere seemed calmer they gradually returned to their homes.  The returning Jews were treated badly by the peasants, who caught them in the middle of the street, made them undress and left them standing naked.  Out of fear, some families began to live together under harsh conditions.  There was hardly any food and no place to buy some.  This lasted for another three weeks until the first German platoons arrived.

As the home of Alter Cristal was being looted by peasants the German troops ordered them to return their booty.  Impressed by the Germans behavior, two Jewish women, Sarah-Henia, daughter of Shmuel-Avigdor and Rivka, daughter of Josl-David complained to the German authorities about other looting.  The Germans promised to visit the looters' homes and to take action against them.  However, disappointment was not long in coming.  Instead the Germans caught and executed three Jewish young men.  They were the first three victims: Hershel Cohen (son of Asher the shoemaker), Iza Schalachman and Leibe Kostrinski.

The next morning all the men were driven from their homes to the local government yard (Gemine-Wollost) and were ordered to clean the town.  Men were harnessed to wagons instead of horses and had to carry tools and water barrels.  Those who could not carry were beaten to death by the Germans.  After the forced labor, the men were seated in a circle and required to hit their head against their neighbors.  Afterwards they were ordered to sing, shout or imitate various animal sounds.  Those who did not perform to the Germans satisfaction were beaten.  Finally, each man had to throw water on another.  The peasants from the surrounding villages gathered around to watch this spectacle as if it was a circus.  So the day ended with all men being ordered to return the next morning at 8:00AM.

That night no one slept as a result of the physical and emotional maltreatment they had experienced and the fear of what the morrow might bring.  In the morning a car carrying German officers arrived and all soldiers were ordered to stand alert.  Five Jews and twenty-two Belorussian peasants were arrested.  All were led to Sveinta-Wolia Street and shot dead.  Among the five Jews were: Shlomo Gurschtel of Bobrowitch, (a hamlet with 37 Jews approximately 7 miles from Telechan), Esther Neche Gurschel, daughter of Izhak-Shlomo, and three Jews from Sveinta-Wollia (also near Telechan).

By German order a “Judenrat”(Jewish Council) was elected. Two of its members were Avraham Levin and Moshe Kaplan (son-in-law of Shmuel-Avigdor).  The Judenrats first decree was that each Jew must wear the “Yellow Patch” with the Star of David; otherwise they would be shot on the spot.

All this occured just before Tisha Be’Av.  Only Reb Aharon Kobrik, the “Shochet”(ritual slaughterer) went to the cemetery on the holiday.  Everyone stayed home in fear.  Tisha Be’Av was “postponed”.  On Sunday a rumor circulated that on the previous day, the Shabat, that all the Jews of Motele had been murdered.  The son of Israel of Gline, from the Gline village came running explaining that he had escaped after the Germans drove his parents from their house and that they were probably taken to Motele.

That day German soldiers on horseback charged towards Telechan and surrounded it.  Anyone trying to escape was shot.  The Germans gathered up all the gentiles of the village.  Half were sent to dig ditches and the other half were ordered to drive the Jews from their homes.  After the Jews were rounded up, they were led in the direction of the “Hutte”, in the church’s square.  There the men were separated from the women and children.  In groups of about 100 they were driven by bayonets in the direction of the Polish cemetery by the Vasiliev’s estate on the road to the Vulka village.  There they were forced to undress, stand at the edge of the ditches that had been dug by the gentiles and shot in the neck by machine guns, falling into the ditches

A few individuals were lucky enough to escape and survive for a few days.  Most were forced to surrender to the Germans or were caught by the local gentiles who turned them over to the Germans.  Only three people managed to escape and joined a Partisan unit in the area. They were Izhak Karchmer, the teacher, Rachel Scharubska, and myself.  Izhak Karchmer was later killed by the Partisans.

That is how TELECHAN, a Jewish township was devastated and turned into a slaughter valley.  The blood shed by the martyrs is crying to us from afar: DO NOT FORGET US!

[1] Israel Cheez was the sole survivor of the Telechan death pits. This article is the only known testimony that describes the Nazi occupation of Telechan.  This is an edited version of Mr. Cheez’s article that was published in English by the TELECHAN MEMORIAL COMMITTEE, HOLON, ISRAEL in 1986.   It was originally intended to be in the Telechan Memorial Book.

 Next Page:THE WOUNDED COMMUNITY OF TELECHAN (Yehoshua Shklyar-TMB) | Back to: Table of Contents