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

Bruce Drake

Accounts of Jewish holidays in Yizkor books often fall in one of two categories. In one, there are many wonderful and reverent descriptions of what the holidays represented and how the Jews in the towns of Eastern Europe observed them. The other category is far less joyful: remembrances of holidays which Jews struggled to observe in concentration camps, holidays on which Nazi aktions were carried out, holidays that came and went in the face of impending death.
This week, Jews celebrated Shavuot, one of the joyous (rather than solemn holidays) in which they offer thanks for the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai and the annual reaping of the wheat harvest, and celebrate with dairy foods.
But in the region of Novogrudok (Belarus) the pall of the Nazi occupation cast its shadow over Shavuot. As recounted in a chapter in its Yizkor book titled “How I Survived,” the Jews of the town — although “depressed and subdued” by their subjugation — felt a spark of hope with the advent of this happy holiday. All was made ready, even though people of the town “were also prepared for wandering, the last wandering before death.”
And so it came, starting with expulsions of people from their towns, carrying all the memories of the homes which they knew they were leaving forever.
“They thought of the disturbed holy day. They regretted their disturbed life, they looked on to the dark skies for an answer, but they found no answer. The world was deaf and dumb to their sufferings. The sky was covered in a cloud like armour to make sure that the tragedy of the Jews would not be seen or heard.”

Bruce Drake
Silver Spring, MD

Towns: Wojnilow, Kovel

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