This week's Yizkor book excerpt on the JewishGen Facebook page

Bruce Drake

“Verdict Without Appeal” is an entry from the diary of Dr. P. Czerniak in the Yizkor book of Antopol (Belarus). It is a chapter that drips with bitterness, born of the author’s indignation about the fate awaiting himself and other Jews, but also the very in-your-face insult of living life as someone deemed inferior to a “pure-blooded” former classmate who had risen in the world despite his incompetency.

Dr. Smirnov had been a bad student in high school but went on to become director of health services for the region after attending a university where the Czerniak had been refused. “When the Germans arrived, he became important - a man with Slavic Aryan blood in his veins and a diploma in his pocket. It did not matter much what he had, or did not have, in his brain.” Czerniak lived in the ghetto, but “whenever something happened in the hospital, which Dr. Smirnov did not know how to handle, he would come running out of breath to ask my help.”

Czerniak, who had been left alive because there were no Christian doctors in Antopol, writes: “Why is this absolute nonentity now a free physician in control, even though it is clear that the distance between him and the Jew-dog is the distance of long years of evolution of the human species on earth? Why, after all, is he sure of his life and is entitled to it, while I am sure of death and am not entitled to live?”

As the two of them walked together one day, Smirnov answered the question.


Bruce Drake

Silver Spring MD


Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel

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