one of My names My family is from the famous Yeshiva town of Volozhin, well known and esteemed for it method of teaching Talmud. The Yeshiva according to Wikipedia was established in 1809 by Reb Chaim of Volozhin and later taken over by Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin. They called Rabbi Berlin the Netziv. The Volozhin Yeshiva was the place to send your child to during the 19th century if you wanted him to be a Talmudic genius. And yes Volozhin produced a lot of Talmudic geniuses. Not only Volozhin but all the towns in the area of Belarus and Lithuania were famous for their academics and the commentaries and analysis they produced about the Torah and the specifically the Talmud. The learning and commentaries written at this institution affect World Jewry until this day. Rabbi Berlin was born in Mir, Poland in 1816 and died on August 10, 1893 and is buried in Warsaw. My dad Aron Rogowin learned Talmud too. I said dad, " What parts of the Talmud did you learn?. Oh he said , I was in the Yeshiva Ketannah and I learned Baba Kamma, Baba Metiziah and Baba Basra.". I was very impressed that my dad learned Talmud. Also he tells me, an elderly gentleman used to knock on the windows of the homes early in the morning about 4 am and tell people to go say " Tehillim". Jewish Psalms. I said, Dad did you go? He says yes, a lot I was 14 years old and we went to say Tehillim in the morning. Dad I said, " Was everyone in Volozhin frum?. (ritually observant) No he said, a lot of the young went around without Hitlach, head coverings and they did not observe, Shabbos, I asked him. He said , Well, no one worked on Shabbos and the stores were all closed, and no one openly broke the rules, but he said the ' Jewish youth groups, the Zionist one, used to go on picnics in the woods with their friends on Shabbos and carried food with them and some took money to buy drinks from the farmers. So I guess the Haskalah( the enlightment) had came to Volozhin. In 1935 my dad was conscripted into the Polish army were he learned how to shoot and how to ski and traveled throughout Poland. The skills that my father learned in the Polish army essentially saved his life when he was part of the Russian partisan group. My father could shoot. 1935 was a watershed year for the Jews in Poland for a different political reason. The leader of Poland, Josef Pilsudski died. He was known to be a friend of the Jews and kept anti-Semitism at bay. He would not tolerate it. But after 1935 Polish anti-Semitism became more accepted again. By 1935 my dad's sister Cheyna was already living in America. An American came to the Volozhin area looking for a wife and my grandmother Hinda immediately thought of her daughter Cheyna. So the story goes Hinda hired a horse and buggy and took her daughter to meet the American They were married in Volozhin in 1931 and left to Chicago with a short interlude in London where her husband introduced his new wife to his relatives in London, England. Also the worldwide depression had it effects in Poland too. There was high unemployment. My father was called up to the Polish army in 1939 when Hitler invaded Poland. But it was a fast war and Poland was defeated quickly and so he went home. But they lived in Eastern Poland near the Russian border, so when Hitler and Stalin made there non aggression treaty Volozhin became part of Russia. The Russians immediately closed the Yeshivah and turned it into a restaurant, life definitely changed when the Russians came in. The Russians closed down any businesses that were privately owned. It became a style among men at this time to wear Russian boots and I have a picture of my dad walking down a Volozhin street with high boots. Many citizens from Poland in Volozhin who were wealthy had their lives saved by this; because the Russians imprisoned their families and sent them to Siberia and many Jews survived the war because of this. I said, to my mom, " Mom how about your dad Yosef Perski, how observant was he. Well, my mom said, " He was a peddler who sold material in different colors throughout the countryside but always used to carry a Talmud with him in the wagon and study when he had a free few minutes, and at home he was learning too she said. She told me he was a Hebrew teacher before he became a peddler and that is how he came Volozhin, to teach a young girl name Tzirl Dubinsky, that is my grandmother and he taught her and he married her and yes they had 7 kids. So I guess it worked. So I asked my dad, Dad what was your job in Volozhin, he said , Oh , I was an apprentice in electricity, learned how to install electricity and used to go on jobs throughout the city. His dad, Moshe, who I am named after was in charge of a big lumber operation far from Volozhin, near Motel in a village called Michachevitz. It is close to Pinsk Poland which is heavily forested area. He stayed there year around and only came home for Jewish festivals. He worked with cutting lumber and sending it down the river. It was not comfortable for the wife and family that the father was away all the time, but economic conditions necessitated it. He had to provide for the family . Moshe had five brothers and they all lived in Volozhin except one who lived near Novogrodek, the brother who lived near Novogrodek in a town called Lukst and his name was Avraham but he died before the war. He had 4 children. Batya, Shmuel, David and Fruma. Only Fruma survived, because she went to Israel in 1939 as a pioneer to develop Palestine. She married a man whose last name was Grinberg , he was born in Siedlice Poland and they went to a Kibbutz in Israel called GivatChayim. They both belonged to a youth Zionist group in Poland called Gordinia. Fruma had one son his name is Abe he was born on the kibbutz and fought in the 1967 War in Israel, the seven day War. I met him and he lives in the United States. Not one of the Rogovin brother's survived the holocaust. Moshe's wife was Hinda Mordechowicz Rogovin, she had 5 brothers and sisters. Hinda passed away during the war with gall bladder disease. She was buried in Volozhin secretly without the Germans knowing She originally was born in the town of Drevne which is not far from Volozhin. The Mordechowicz family from Drevne was deeply pious and religious. My grandmother Hinda had many brothers and sisters some lived overseas leaving the area in around 1910. Her father and mother were Zelik and Nechama Mordechowicz.from Drevne. Her siblings were Chaika , Fraydelle, Shmuel, Herschel, Itcha, These siblings had a first cousin named Chaim Mendel who lived in Drevna who was married to a first cousin of the Chofetz Chaim of Radin. Mordechowicz again were very spiritually pious. His American cousin's tried to bring Chaim Mendel to Chicago but they never were successful. Chaika moved to the U.S in 1910 and lived in Chicago, Fraydelle moved to South Africa. Shmuel moved to New York, but Hershel and Itcha stayed in Drevna. Her siblings produced many children. However Herschel , my grandmother Hinda's brother had only one surviving son after the war; only because he went to the Mir Yeshiva and they this Yeshiva left on mass first to Vilna than left to Shanghai where they lived out the rest of the war years in China. The rest of the siblings did not survive the Shoah. Hinda's American siblings who left to America and South Africa all had many children Chaika, Shmuel, Fraydelle all had surviving children. Chaika lived in Chicago, Shmuel in New York and Fraydelle in South Africa. My grandmother Hinda was lucky in that 4 out of 5 of her children survived . my dad Aron, his younger brotherZelik and my dad's 2 sisters.Cheyna and Rifka survived. My dad's 2 sisters came to the U.S.A before the war. His brother Zelik and himself survived due to joining the partisan group. But their eldest sister and father, , my grandfather and my aunt were not so lucky .. My grandfather Moshe and his eldest daughter Nechama were shot by Lithuania police collaborators who were sharp shooters outside their home in 1941. The German Einsatzgruppen hired Lithuania and Ukrainian men to help them round up and kill Jews. This was a common practice all over Poland Belarus and Russia. There were also fellow non -Jewish citizens who were residents of Volozhin that were young that participated in helping the Germans kill the Jews. They were Polish citizens in the town of Volozhin who told the Germans where the Jews were, and if they were hiding, where they were hiding. They were paid in food or household goods that were formerly owned by Jews. The biggest main action was on May 10 1942 it was followed by a third action in August of 1942. But prior and after these aktions there were random shooting incidents in the town of Volozhin. In the main action The Germans or Einsatzgruppen set up a table with lots of alcohol and with the assistance of Lithuanians, Ukrainians and Polish citizens of Volozhin the mass shootings started. This action killed the majority of the Jewish citizens. One of my grandfather's brothers was Hershel Leib who was extremely poor and had a horse that was in bad shape, most of the time Hershel Leib's horse just refused to move. It was old and could not walk well. Hershel Leib lived near the river in Volozhin and around spring time when the river flooded so would Hershel Leib's house. But Hershel Leib produced a son called Leyzer Rogovin that was one of the most heroic and bravest fighters in Volozhin and in the partisan. He fled into the partisan after the first Aktion. He also fought in the War of Independence in Israel in 1948. My dad said , Leyzer was afraid of nothing and he was confident that he would prevail in any battle he had with the Germans and you know Leyzer was right. He prevailed. He was well decorated in the Russian partisan. He made one mistake that cost him his rank in the partisan, to be discussed later.
I said to my mom, " Describe my happened when the Germans came in.?" Oh she said they came in 1941 with parachutes and motorcycles and first German soldier that saw her said in German, Du will sein derschossen. (You will be killed.) I guess he knew what he was there for. And yes that is exactly what the Germans did. The Judenrad was formed in October 1941, and they took about 200 Jews to the Cinema, my grandmother , Tzirl Perski was in the group with my mom's sister Shulamath and yes they shot them. They brought them to the outskirts of Volozhin and shot them dead with gunfire. My mom was actually in the group, but the Germans told her, they had to many and that she should go home. She never saw her mother or sister again . Germans or Poles came over to the house and asked by grandfather Yosef for his horse and wagon. He gave it to them. Than several weeks later they came over again and asked him for his horse and wagon. He told them, " I already gave it to you." They said , " You are lying." They took him away and when he came back he was swollen over his whole body. They beat him . My mom said he was lying in bed and crying. The Germans did not guard the ghetto strictly and at times you could escape if you wanted and some people even came in back to ghetto. The Jews were selling the " Goyim" and farmers house merchandise in return for food. Than my mom said it was quiet for a while. The citizens of Volozhin thought maybe nothing would happen. But meantime the Germans took the some of the young people to Krasna near Minsk about 50 km due east of Volozhin to a German munition factory to help the Germans assemble weapons. Many young Volozhiner's were dragged by the German's to work in the munition factory in Krasna . These were the lucky ones, because from Krasna munition factory many escaped to the woods and brought stolen weapons with them. My dad, his brother Zelik, his cousin Leyzer and my mom Zipporah were in this group. This occurred late in 1941 after the first action in Volozhin. After the first action and prior to my mom and dad's leaving to the munition factory the ghetto was not strongly guarded by the Germans, they did not give any indication of what their final plans were. My mom's mother Tzirl had 2 siblings in town. Herzka Dubinsky who had 2 children and Fraydelle Dubinsky Rosen who married Chaim Rosen. Fraydelle had 10 children. Only 1 survived Shloime Rosen born in 1932. Tzirl always gave spare money to Fraydelle to buy false teeth, but she ended up spending the money on domestic needs. She was shot by the Polish police in the town of Volozhin tha was formed to collaborate with the Nazi's . Someone told me first they broke her hands and shot her. My maternal grandmother Tzirl Dubinsky Persky had 7 children and her sister Fraydelle Dubinsky Rosen had 10 , two Jewish women who brought 17 Jewish children into this world destroyed by evil , sadistic human beings. All their children were good and would have been a treasure for the Jewish people and for the world destroyed without reason, with only hate and murderous desire. Shloime Rosen's son Steven recently told me Shloime Rosen was outside when the Germans came to their house and shot his father and youngest brother in front of him. Hertzka Dubinsky my mom's uncle had 2 children one went to Palestine in 1938 as a volunteer but found life too difficult and unfortunately came back to Volozhin, where the family was killed in the second action. The son who tried to settle in Palestine but returned to Volozhin was named Alter Dubinsky he was in the Akion of May 1942. My grandfather Yosef Persky had one sister whose last name was Axelrood, he visited her in 1907 in New York, but did not like New York and went back to Volozhin. My mom said her father always used to tell the kids about how big and exciting New York city was. I guess he was too frum and wanted to return to Volozhin. He made the fateful decision not to attempt immigration to America. I saw his name on the Ellis Island list of passengers and I saw the name of " Axelrood" of the person who he was visiting. He probably thought economically it would be too difficult to survive in the "Treife Medina", and maybe he was too frum and did not want to give up his religiosity. Somewhere in New York there are probably children and grandchildren of this person Axelrood, who I do not know. Yosef Persky was a very frum Jewish person and knowledgeable too. He was Shabbos observant and also always invited a young Yeshiva student to the house to eat on Shabbos whether by evening or by day. My mom said the Yeshiva student's were very religious and they did not look at the women while eating. They only talked to my grandfather and the other men. It is called " Essen Tag" , to eat by day when you invite someone over. My uncle Zalman went to the Yeshiva in another town but he was sent home because he did not regard all the rules of the Rabbis. He was rebellious. It appeared he was not interested in religion. He was always interested in girls and my mom said the girls in Volozhin were always buzzing around him. He was good looking and strong and so was my mother's older brother Eliyahu. All the girls in town liked Persky boys. My mother's sister Sonya also was known for her beauty and she had no problem with trying to find men who were interested in her. The Yosef Persky family was well liked in town and socially well connected. My grandfather used to go around with his horse and wagon with his sons and peddle dyed woolen material to all the surrounding villages to both Jews and non-Jews. He did OK. There were 7 children and so the food once put on the table went fast. My grandmother Tzirl peddled candy in Volozhin, so she had a small business that took in extra income. Most of the Jewish youngsters in Volozhin had music clubs, acting clubs and Zionist clubs and so were always busy socializing. American movies even came to Volozhin and there was a cinema there.. Most of Volozhin's youth were members of various Zionist groups who differed in philosophy and religious observance. In Volozhin, a Zionist Revisionist was popular and his name was Jabotinsky. He developed the Shomer Ha'za'ir group. But a group called Betar was also very strong in Volozhin. Vilna was close by and so many people went to Vilna to buy better clothes or consumer goods or some went to Vilna to visit family or for entertainment. The Yiddish theater was well developed in Vilna. Sometimes around Catholic holidays the young Gentile boys would start fights with the Jewish boys. My mom said her brothers were willing and able and gave back twice what they got. They were strong and not afraid. Meantime back in Volozhin, on May 10 , 1942, the massive action of the Germans in Volozhin killed most of the town's Jewish population along with my mothers and fathers families and really all the Volozhiners. There were approximately three thousand Jewish residents of Volozhin, half the towns population Most were shot in the second action and buried in the sports field in Volozhin. As my mother used to say every day in our house , every day. " Alleman geharket, alle Yidden geharket gevoren. All the Jews were murdered. My grandfather Yosef Perski they say was wearing his Tefillin and Tallis when he went to his death. My mothers brother, Eliyahu, shot running for the fence. The partisan group my mom and my dad were in visited the Volozhin ghetto and tried to get men to leave the ghetto and join them in the partisan. They approached Eliyahu my mom's eldest brother. He refused because he was married and had a boy and a girl. His wife's name was Chaya Messer Persky, she was from a town near Vilna called Postave, Her cousins Rachel Frimmer and a person named Tzukerman who lived in Israel identified her as there cousin and put her name in the Yad Vashem Memorial Book. They knew her husband was my mother's brother Eliyahu. My mom's next brother Zalman ran away from Volozhin because he did not want to be conscripted into the Russian army. L ater my mom found out he married a girl during the war whose last name of Resnick who was from Kiev. She survived the war, he did not. My mom said she does not know what happened to her youngest brother Yisrael Yankel. After the second action on May 10 1942 there was a third action I think in the last week of August. That is when my mother's eldest sister Sonya Persky was murdered. She was known to be one of the most attractive woman in the city and boys loved her and were always around her. She married a man also by the name of Persky, his first name was Simcha. They had no children. Simcha ran away to the Partisan at this time but for reasons unknown Sonya remained in the ghetto. My mom said the German soldiers liked Sonya and used to ask her to give them food, they liked watching her walk. Sonya at the end was murdered in the third action. My dad almost lost his life twice in the Partisan group, in 2 different ways. He took boots off a dead German soldier and gave them to my mother, That is not done in the partisans, all equipment or goods on dead enemies must be turned over to the partisan head. Some of the members of the partisan group started complaining when they saw my dad giving the boots to his wife and started a ruckus. My dad reasoned that he might have a problem. so he took the boots away from my mom and gave them to a male member of the partisan who had no shoes or boots. But the head of the partisan called my dad in for questioning and he was severely reprimanded. Second mistake was when he was a scout and sitting in the trees to detect if any Germans were trying to penetrate the camp in the woods, he saw some German soldiers coming from the distance and left his post knowing they would shoot him on sight . He left his position and ran back to the partisan group.Not supposed to do this in the partisan leaving your post on watch is grounds for the firing squad. They put him in front of the firing squad while my mom Fania as she was called in the partisan was pleading with the commander, frantically begging him not to shoot her husband . Coincidentally just as about they were going to shoot him, the German planes came down and began shooting from the air on the partisan position and they shot the commander who was giving the order to kill my father. The commander was severely injured in both legs and was carried on a stretcher. So the shooting of my dad was averted. My father was one of the partisan personnel who carried the stretcher. After the war was over, the head commander told my father, Aron , your lucky I did not shoot you, if fact I should have. There were many Jewish girls that found themselves in the woods alone in the partisan and they cohabited with gentile Partisan men during the war, but left them after the war was over. My mom emphasized they did this for protection. The partisan as hell for 3 years between 1941 -1944. But in June the Russian troops pushed the Germans back and the area was free. Leyzer who was a well decorated officer in the partisan made a mistake, they were all drinking alcohol and a gentile made an anti - Semitic remark at the table and Leyzer took out his pistol and shot him in the head. The head of the group stripped Leyzer was his medals and told him to leave Russia and go back to Poland, In Poland he joined the Briya were the Haganah or Palmach smuggled him into Palestine where he met his demise defusing a mine in Beersheva incorrectly. Leyzer Rogovin is buried in a military cemetery in Rehovoth Israel and he is considered a war hero. When the war was over in their part of Belarus, my mom and dad went back to their hometown of Volozhin to see if there were any survivors. Other partisaners had the same idea. Leyzer Rogovin was still alive than and in the Russian partisan. So from all the villages surrounding Volozhin like Iventiz, Rakov, Horodok, Vishneva, about 25 survivors came back to Volozhin and lived in an abandoned house with guns at bay and with someone that was a Jewish partisaner watching at night who was armed while the others slept . They were afraid one of the Polish citizens from the town would shoot them. They knew the gentiles, who now lived in all the homes that were previously occupied by Jews were afraid their gain would be taken away. My dad and mom stayed in Volozhin 6 months, thinking maybe a letter would come addressed to Volozhin from a surviving relative but nothing came., so the Jewish organization came to Volozhin and offered assistance to any Jewish family that wanted to leave, my parents asked help to leave. Although Volozhin was now part of Russia, the Russians had made a treaty after the war, that any citizen who proved that they were previously a Polish citizen could go back to Poland proper. First the Jewish organization moved them to a tent in Lodz on the street where my mom said she held on to my infant brother throughout the night because there were rats around the tent. Finally the they transferred all the Jewish refugees to a DP camp in Kassel, Germany where they remained for 3 years. There choice either was go to Israel or if you had a sponsor come to America. My dad had a sister in America who sponsored my dad, my mom, my brother and uncle to come to Chicago. My father had 3 first cousins who survived the war, that were one of the children of my grandfather's Moshe's five brothers. Leyser Rogovin the war hero in the partisans succumbed in the War of Independence in 1948 when he tried to defuse a mine and it blew up. He died in Beersheva. My dad had a cousin Yannie Rogovin who came to Israel in 1960 and lived in Netanya, he had a wife and 2 daughters . I am not familiar where Yannie Rogovin was during the war or who his father was. I met him once on a trip to Israel in 1971. I remember he spoke in Yiddish and was happy to see me and he cried a lot. One of his daughter 's is Chana and is a physician in Israel, sadly her only sister and husband passed away. My father had 2 sisters Rifka and Cheyna who came to the U.S.A before World War II. Cheyna Rogovin Chertow who had 4 children and Rifka Rogowin Marks who married was childless. My father's sister Cheyna Rogovin Chertow and her husband sponsored my parents who were in a DP camp after the war and stayed at their home in the U.S until they were settled. My uncle Zelik, my fathers brother also stayed at his sister and husband's house for 6 months, I think.
My mom and dad had no desire to go back and they did not even want to visit Israel, which I found strange. They just used to say all the time, May 10th 1942. Again and again and again. I asked my mom and dad, what do you think, " Should I visit Volozhin, after all, that is all they really talked about. " They said ' Do not go". My dad I think along with his brother Zelik suffered from Post Traumatic Stress disorder. My dad would get super angry if he heard a glass drop and shatter and he would go into the bedroom and not come out for hours. My uncle also had tremendous anger. I think that was a direct result of their experiences in the war and in the partisan. My mom who was a fluent speaker of Polish before the war, forgot the whole language and only spoke Yiddish.. My mom and dad spoke Yiddish to us in the house until about 7 years of age, then began mixing in English ,than total English. With his sisters, my dad spoke Yiddish as well as with his landsmen friends or DP acquaintances.. He liked speaking in Yiddish. There were several Volozhin families who survived the Holocaust and lived in the U.S., my mother corresponded with about 3 of them. My dad had a friend who survived and lived in Mexico City, his name was Kopel Kahn, my brother visited him in 1970. My dad had a friend named Leyser Meltzer who ended up stuck in Russia and lived in Volozhin until 1992 , than came to Israel. I visited Israel in 2014 and met with Leyser Meltzer's son Shimon and Shimon's son in Israel , they live near Yavne. My mom had a friend named Rochel Golub Weinstein that survived and lived in Los Angeles with her beautiful family. Also my mom had a friend who also survived the shoah of Volozhin and her name was Maryasha Kagan , also from Los Angeles. There was another Volozhin survivor who lived in Norwich, Connecticut who had four daughters and whom I visited many decades ago, I met one of her daughters and talked to another one on the telephone. Periodically, I visited with my mom's first cousin Shloime Rosen who lived in Brooklyn. I will always remember his kindness toward me. There were other survivors from Volozhin who lived in Israel, but my family never visited them or corresponded with them. Some or most survived because they were in the Partisan groups, but some survived because the Russians imprisoned them and took them to Siberian in early 1941, because they were one of the wealthier families in Volozhin, capitalist. I think my dad mentioned there was a family named "Polaks" , they owned the flour mill in Volozhin and they were sent to Siberia and survived the war. Volozhin my mom used to say was a beautiful town, a river ran through it and it had part of city up hill and part down hill, It was super cold in the winter. There were 3 main synagogues in town, and there was a Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church. Many of the Jews in Volozhin were poor, and my mom sad being poor does not mean the same thing here in America as it meant in Volozhin. In Volozhin , it meant you really had nothing. Everybody knew everybody in Volozhin and some had names they gave each other based on some physical characteristic they might have. Like some stuttered or some limped or some could not hear well, so they called them that name in Yiddish. The synagogue and the towns residents helped support the poor in town. She said they lived in the basement of the synagogue in terrible conditions. . There were other towns surrounding Volozhin that shared the same fate, but the Einsatzgruppen slaughtered them on different dates but all around the summer of 1942.. My parents had relatives in these towns, they were Ivenitz, Horodek and Rakov and Vishneva. In 1970 I heard that Simcha Perski who was originally married to my mother's sister Sonya was living in the lower east side in a tall high rise in Manhattan. I called him and he invited me over. When he saw me as I introduced myself as the son of Tzipporah Perski, he broke down in tears and he started convulsing, his whole body started shaking and it would not stop . The crying turned to screams and no one could console him. When he finally stopped crying he took me to his bedroom where he had pictures of himself and his ex-wife Sonya and a few pictures of some of my moms siblings. I will never forget that day.He gave me the pictures and these are some of the only pictures I have of my mom's family. Simcha had a new wife . My only regret as a son of Holocaust survivors is that I did not have an opportunity to live in Eretz Israel. I think it is a sacrifice, but it makes a bold statement. The statement is , " I am a Jew and I will survive as a Jew no matter what it takes and I will protect other Jews and be part of a nation of Jews where we can finally be safe. I look at Volozhin as a microcosm of the Jewish people. When the Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin decided to build the Yeshivah in Volozhin he wanted to teach students the principles of Torah which channel man's energy in such a way as to make a better world. It is clear the German's were at odds with the Netziv or Rabbi Chaim Berlin and Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin its founder.They wanted to destroy the Jews and ultimately destroy the world. It is clear that whoever wants to destroy the Jewish people wants ultimately to destroy the world. How can you explain mass murder to anyone and its effects on their relatives who happened to survive. How do you live with knowing all your relatives were subjected to mass murder and the majority succumbed to it. How do you live with it? How can we be sure that we descendants of Volozhiners can avoid their fate.? My name Hebrew name is Moshe Eliyahu Rogovin, in America I am known as Mark Allen Rogowin, my mother is Tizporah Perski Rogovin and my father is Aron Rogowin, I am a child of Holocaust survivors and this story is based on what my family told me during my childhood.