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August 26, 1983 - Image 31

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-08-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS





I

"The Pit and the Trap,"
authored by Leyb Rochman
with an introduction by
Aharon Appelfeld, trans-
lated from the Yiddish by
Moshe Kohn and published
by the Holocaust Library
(Schocken Books), is a
chronicle of survival.
The book's title is based
on Isaiah 24:17-18 in which
the prophet predicts a world
catastrophe from which no-
body will escape:
Terror, and pit, and trap
Upon you who dwell on
earth!
He who flees at the report of
terror
Shall fall into the pit;
And he who climbs out of the
pit
Shall be caught in the trap.
"The pit, terror and trap"
are reflected in every page
of Leyb Rochman's
chronicle that he began to
keep while hiding from the
murderous Nazis.
Hidden with him behind
the artificial wall in Felek's
but were his wife Esther,

whom he married in the
ghetto of Minsk-
Mazowiecki before escaping
its final liquidation, her sis-
ter Zippora and friends Ep-
hraim and Froiman.
Felek, the owner of the
hut, was totally blind in
one eye and three-
quarters in the other. A
farmer, his land provided
him with food for one-
quarter of the year; the
other three-quarters he
subsisted "on the pro-
ceeds of theft."
Felek, believed in the
command, "Thou shalt not
murder!" ". . all the per-
suasion of pious Christians
and passionate Polish pat-
riots couldn't convince him
that it was his sacred duty
to murder Jews." He
wouldn't even bring home
some of the goods left by the
killed Jews, though his wife
argued: "The Jews are dead
anyway, so why should
everybody else have their
belongings while they, the
Feleks, have only these
Jews?"

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OPTICAL ,

`The Pit and the Trap' in the Holocaust

By ALLEN A. WARSEN

I

Friday, August 26, 1983 31

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Supervised Children's Program

The other member of the
Felek family was his sister,
Auntie, whom the author
met by chance when the
Jews were still confined to
the ghetto.
Auntie, an elderly un-
married woman, introduced
the author and the other
refugees to Felek who con-
sented to hide them for a
price and for a time.
At first, Auntie was
very friendly to the
people in the hideaway.
She would often say;
"Yes, children, nothing
else in the world matters
to me more. I'm your
mother. My life, like
yours, is in God's hands.
Whatever he does, to you,
let him do to me, too."
But after a time, Auntie-
became taciturn, her
sister-in-law, Mrs. Felek,
began to avoid her hidden
tenants, and Felek "doesn't
give a damn, he's not afraid
of death. He's risked his life
too many times already.
Only, he stammered,
smiled, and turned pale —
something else was in-
volved here. He hopes we're
not offended. No, he's not af-
raid of dying.
"The problem is the dis-
grace, the eternal blemish
upon his family. If he's kil-
led as a robber or murdered
— so what? But if it's said
that he was killed for hiding
Jews, his family will never,
in all eternity, forgive him!"
Felek's wish was soon ful-
filled. The Germans killed
him for committing rob- .
beries and associating with
notorious criminals. He was
not killed for hiding Jews.
Thus, Felek did not dis-
grace his family.
Fearing a sudden
police raid, the group
abandoned their hideout
in Felek's but and hid in a
dugout in Janek's barn.
Their experiences in the
pit, the author thus de-
scribes: "This is our fifth
day in the barn. We feel as
if we were beaten insen-
sible, and our limbs feel
as heavy as lead ... It's
terribly hot ... and stifl-
ing that we can hardly
breathe.
Whenever we open our
mouths to inhale, wetake in
the nauseating stench, and
start to choke. So from time
to time we press our nostrils
against the cracks and in-
hale some fresh air . . . Each
of us does a night of guard
duty. We have to fight hard
to stay awake. The nights
are chilly, but the breeze is
refreshing and soothing.
Only the same gnawing fear
helps us to fight off sleep."
Unexpectedly, by sheer
coincidence, they found the
young Jewish refugee,
Konyak, hiding in a stable a
few yards from their own
hideout.
Konyak told them that
his real name was Yitzchok
of Itche. His father, Khone
Rosenberg, was a tailor in
Kaluszyn, who also did
tailoring for the peasants in
the surrounding villages.
Not surprisingly, young
Konyak has a few acquain-
tances among the peasants
for whom he secretly did

some sewing in exchange
for food.
Itche also told them
that another Jewish fam-
ily was hiding in the
woods. The few Jews
who were hiding in the
Dobre and Wiszniewo
woods were either cap-
tured by the Germans or
murdered by the Poles.
He himself "had been
stopped by old peasants,
young men and even
children."
Having spent 18 months
in the dugout in Janek's
barn (which the author
compared to Joseph's snake
pit), they again felt that
"the noose was tightening
around their necks." In
addition to fearing the
neighbors and the Ger-
mans, they were also scared
of the Polish partisans, who
either killed the Jews or
turned them over to the
Germans.
Consequently, in the
middle of a very dark night,
records the chronicler, they
left the dugout in Janek's
barn and hid in a pit in
Shube's granary.
Remarkably, in the midst
of danger, surrounded by
blood-thirsty enemies, yet
in their hiding places, the
people daily recited their
prayers, and every morning
the women said the "Modeh
Ani" prayer. They thanked
God for "mercifully restor-
ing to them their souls."
In August 1944, Leyb

Rochman and the other
refugees were freed.

Leyb Rochman (1918-
1978) was born in Minsk-
Mazowiecki. Prior to World
War II, he was a_ Yiddish
journalist in Warsaw.

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