Never forget: Our relatives who died in the Holocaust
Firing squads amid the marshes of Pripyet
Pinsk, Belarus, which was in Poland before World War II, was occupied by the Nazis on July 4, 1941, just 13 days after the German attack on the Soviet Union began. At the time, an estimated 26,000 to 40,000 of Pinsk’s 80,000 population were Jews.
These included Chana Anita Levik’s aunt Malka Kagan Kolodny; Malka’s husband, Moshe Kolodny; their four adult children, Itzhak, Meyer and Avraham Kolodny and Henke Kolodny Rabinovich; and Henke’s husband, Mordechai Leib Rabinovich.
Aug. 4-7, 1941, the Nazis controlling Pinsk rounded up 7,000 to 11,000 Jewish men and shot them on the outskirts of town at large pits dug for the bodies.
Many of the survivors were forced to work in factories and workshops to help the Nazi war machine and for gentile families.
Creation of a ghetto, fenced in with barbed wire in the worst part of town, was ordered April 30, 1942. On May 1, 1942, the surviving Jews of Pinsk, more than 20,000, were relocated into the ghetto, where life was marked by starvation, beatings and shootings.
Then on Oct. 28-29, 1942, the elimination of the Jewish population of Pinsk was started. The ghetto was surrounded, and a few dozen skilled workers were separated from the rest of the population. Over the next three days, nearly 20,000 were marched in columns to the Karlin cemetery or the Dobraya Volia estate about 4.5 kilometers northeast of town. There they were shot or axed at ditches that had been prepared in advance.
An estimated 143 surviving skilled workers were forced into a smaller ghetto surrounding the Karlin yeshiva. On Dec. 23, 1942, the Nazis surrounded the “little ghetto” and murdered everyone at the Karlin cemetery.
Yad Vashem: The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem has on file pages of testimony indicating the following were victims of the Holocaust:
These four pages of testimony were submitted to Yad Vashem in 1956 by a man identified as a nephew of Moshe and Malka and a cousin of Avraham and Meir Kolodny. He was Israel Kosovski of Kiriat Binyamin (adjacent to Haifa), Israel. In response to the question on the testimony form about place and circumstance of their deaths, in each case, Kosovski wrote: "All I know is that they are not alive." Attempts to contact Kosovski or his kin have failed.
Yad Vashem also has on file copies of the Nazis’ census of the Pinsk ghetto. I don’t know exactly when this census was taken, but it was done after the Nazis had established a Judenrat, the local puppet Jewish council that helped run the Pinsk ghetto. The census lists showing Kolodny and Rabinovich families are overwhelmingly composed of women, children and old people, so the census was probably taken after the massacre of the men on Aug. 4-7, 1941. A factor that complicates genealogy research is the practice of some of the Nazi census takers to sometimes arbitrarily assign Jewish first names of Chana, Sara and Estera to many of the females.
Among the Rabinoviches was one identified as Chaya Rabinovich born in 1908 who was a housewife employed by the city administration. Because of the similarity of her name to Henke, also known as Henye, this was most likely her. Chaya is listed at the same address as two children, Sara, born in 1936 (age about 6 and Elieser, born in 1938 (age about 4). If this was Henke, then she had named her children for her maternal grandparents. (A less likely possibility to be Henke was an Estera Rabinovich born in 1913 who was a nurse at the Jewish hospital.) Henke's husband, Mordechai Rabinovich, is not listed in the Pinsk census. He was probably already dead.
There are more than 30 Kolodny’s listed in the ghetto census, but the names and ages don’t match the names of Moshe and Malka’s children. (Judging from the pattern of names listed, the census taker for the Kolodnys appears to have been more precise and deliberate in recording accurate information than was the one who did the Rabinoviches.)
Very few Jews survived or escaped the massacres in Pinsk. By the time Russia’s Red Army had liberated the town on July 14, 1944, only 17 Jews were found alive.
After World War II, Chana Levik Fischer’s mother, Dweira Mindla Kagan Levik, tried to learn the fates of her relatives from the International Red Cross and the Jewish Agency, but they had disappeared.
For more information, see the book "Pinsk: The Story of the Jews of Pinsk, 1506-1942" by Wolf Zeev Rabinowitsch and the Web site http://www.pinskjew.com/e/frame.htm
A letter from Argentina
Translated from Yiddish by Alex P. Korn.
Avraham Kolodny might have been able to escape the Holocaust if he had stayed in Buenos Aires, Argentina, instead of returning to Pinsk. Here is a letter he sent to his relatives in the United States when he was just a young teenager:
B. Aires September 12, 1928
To my very beloved Uncle Avremelle [Morris (Avram Moishe) Cohen] and his wife and to my very beloved Uncle Shomil [Samuel Cohen] and to my very beloved Aunt Rochel [Rachel "Ray" Kagan Friend]:
You should all live long and be healthy.
I want to inform you that I thank the Creator that I am healthy and that I am working. I sell sweets in the street near a school to children. I don't wander about, but rather I stand at a single spot, that is, with a small table as well as a small box in which are 10 classes of chocolate, nougats, candies, as well as chocolatino pastilles [chocolate drops]. I earn, thank G‑d, my livelihood, and I have purchased a new suit. It cost me 50 pesos, ready‑made. G‑d should be thanked for this.
For what reason have I not written any letter to you all this time? Because I did not have your address. I had written home, and they sent me your address. I have no more about which to write. All of you should stay healthy.
From me, your faithful nephew, who hopes to hear all good things from you,
From me, Avraham Kolodni
I send very warm regards to Uncle Moishe [?] with his children. I send very warm regards to Uncle Asher [Steinberg?] with his wife and children. I also send very warm regards to Avremelle's children. Please answer.
Sr. F. Fainstein
for A. Kolodny
2165 Lavalle Street