Marked for Destruction

  • July 21, 1942
  • Preparations for battle
  • Gasoline/kerosene  to ignite their homes
  • Machine  gun mounted on synagogue roof

           By July 21, 1942, news of the destruction of nearby communities reached the Nesvizh ghetto and the underground prepared to fight.  A machine gun was disassembled by two women, who worked in German storehouses and smuggled it part-by-part into the ghetto, and showed boys how to reassemble and fire it.

             Three days earlier two letters in Yiddish were penned by Mordecai Heesheen who gave them to a Christian acquaintance.  He agreed to mail them to friends of the Heesheen family after the war was over.  It took 57 years for the letters to reach the hands of Shalom Cholawski in Israel who had led the uprising in the Nesvizh Ghetto.  Dr. Cholawski recently published them.

            Mordecai, his wife and three children were refugees from another town who had dragged themselves into the ghetto.  Here is one of his letters: My dear ones, I’m writing the letter and I don’t know into whose hands it will come.  I’m giving it to an acquaintance with the addresses of our friends.

            I’m writing this letter on July 18, 1942, a day or number of days before the “Aktion.”  We’re in a ghetto with yellow patches on our clothes.  About ourselves and our suffering – there are no words to describe and no time. We can see Death directly with our eyes.  We’re going to die knowing that the world’s enemy will lose the war and that there will be someone who will avenge.

            Until now, we few were forced to cover partially the graves along the terrible road in which people who are still alive tremble with tremendous suffering…. Is there anything more frightful than this, when they throw a person into the fire…or when they throw hundreds of children into a ditch and bury them alive in front of their mothers’ eyes?… And the mothers are forced to see all this!

            To this day I remain in Nesvizh with all the family. In Baranovichi, my mother, of blessed memory, went out of her mind and threw herself into a well.

            Already we have become hardened like stone so that tears don’t flow.  We are waiting for Death like a rescuing angel, in order to be free of the miseries, from the shame…

            We’re in Nesvizh and hear how each day a city is annihilated.  And now it’s our turn, today or tomorrow.  We sleep dressed in our clothes with the children so beautiful and fortunate, and wait for Death.

            My Hershel is a handsome young man, taller than I, proper, wise and talented.  Yehudit-ke is a beautiful girl, taller than her mother by “half-a-head.” Oh, how lovely she is.  And last and dearest is Shlomo-le – delightful lad, precious and sweet…

            Oh, woe unto me, woe unto us!

            To the Christian who will mail this letter, I promised that you will reward him with a gift so that he will send the letter after the war.

            Yours, Mordecai Heesheen

            July 18, 1942

[Mordecai and his family survived the “Aktion,” but were later murdered on their way to the nearby forest or in the forest itself.] (Cholawski, “Two Letters....,” 155-156)