Saturday, December 29, 2007
"Ich Bin Ein Kovler"
See the pic in a YIVO periodical
Read the Kovler Yizkor Book
Before I begin let me thank two very special Yidden, one who wishes to remain anonymous, and the other that hasn't asked for anonymity so I'll go ahead and thank him by name. The first would be the anonymous one who showed me the book, "Admorei Malchus Beis Chernobyl" where the story is mentioned and the photo is featured. I had seen it a few years back but never allowed myself to buy it, with the fifty dollar price tag being the culprit here. The book is a treasure trove of both history and pictures of all Rebbes of the Chernobler dynasty, and I mean ALL, and there were MANY. The work that went into assembling it must've been mind blowing as well as back breaking. Reb Nochum Moshe Twersky (The Rebbe pictured here wearing the Tallis) was the son of Reb Velvele Rachmistrivker, and hence the Brother-In-Law of Reb Chaim Meir'l of Vizhnitz, who was Reb Velvel's Eydem. Reb Velvel was a son of Reb Yochonon Rachmistrivker, son of Reb Mottele Chernobler, son of the Holy Reb Nochum Chernobler, Talmid of the Baal Shem Tov and Mezrticher Maggid and author of Me'or Eynayim. Many thanks to Reb Yitzchok Twersky of Queens the co-author of this great piece of history, for sending me the picture of Reb Nochum Moshe'le HY"D.
The accounts and descriptions of the death of Reb Nochum Moshe'le vary, and are very much in doubt as of now, at least for me. Alfasi in HaChassidus MiDor LeDor has him listed as dying at the hands of the Nazis Yms"h. He does not elaborate, but that's to be expected, since there are Hundreds if not Thousands of such deaths during WWII. In the Kovler Yizkor Book, linked above, there's a mention of his death at the hands of the Nazis and their Ukranian helpers Yms"h. The Jews of Kovel were herded into 2 ghettos after the Nazis invaded and held there for a year's time. On the 17th of Sivan 5702/1942, a beautiful summer's day, the Yidden of Ghetto One were told to assemble in Brisk Square in the city's center under false pretenses, after being promised by the Roshei HaKohol that no harm would befall them. The Roshei HaKohol were lied to by the Germans, of course, and had no idea of the massacre that was about to take place. RNM was aware of their fate, however. He was killed AK"H with the Yidden of Ghetto One, not before speaking to the assembled. His words differed from those of Reb Elchonon Wasserman HY"D somewhat, in that he made no mention of the fact that they were Korbonos and should have only holy thoughts so as not to make their Korbon Pigul as REW did, although he did call for Achdus and for them to be Sameach that they soon will be Tachas Kanfei HaShchinah. RNMT was bemoaning their fate, and the fact that there never was a generation like theirs, a generation that would have nobody to say Kaddish for them. He made mention of the fact that the children, Tinokos Shel Bais Rabbon etc. Shelo To'amu Ta'am Cheyt, what was their sin? why were they going to be massacred too? He made mention of the beautiful summer's day, and how ironic it was that this was their day of being massacred like that. Quite contrasting speeches.
A totally different account is made in the above-mentioned book Admorei etc. They bring the picture but add a very terrifying note to the occasion. In an account related to the co-author by Rebbetzin Eichenstein of S. Louis, a niece of RNMT, she tells of a regiment of Russian Soldiers that entered Kovel and pitched camp there, and the general invited RNMT to come and bless the soldiers - I guess it was a mixed group of Jews and Gentiles. He told him to also don a Tallis for the special occasion, which RNMT did. At that event there was LeHavdil a Catholic Priest as well, since Kovel was seemingly a Catholic town that was inhabited by ethnic Poles, and one can clearly see that the Rov's table was pushed back so as not to be parallel with the Priest's "Chas Vesholom." RNMT begins to bless the soldiers when suddenly the General shouts "Ready!" "Aim!" "Fire!" and RNMT is shot on the spot and killed by a hail of bullets! One can clearly see how the two soldiers on the extreme bottom left of the picture have two fingers raised as if to count down to a "number three." The other soldier has his bayonet raised as if to pounce on an enemy combatant; he seems to be the only one like that. There are many reasons why I don't see this story as actually happening. Yes, he blessed the soldiers, but he wasn't killed at that time. Yet, for some reason this is the story that Rebbetzin Eichenstein tells, which I find very odd.
The soldiers are not post WWI Russian; I say that because Russian soldiers didn't wear such helmets and uniforms. If the soldiers that killed him were Russian they then needed to be Czarist soldiersAfter the Revolution the Russians didn't invite Rabbis to bless their troops, and the uniforms don't look post WWI Soviet. Besides, after WWI Kovel was part of Poland, which would mean that the troops would need to be Polish. Judging from the Rov's age I would say that the photo was taken later in life, around WWII. I doubt that the Polish Government invited Russian troops to visit their towns Stam. This was Poland between the two World Wars, there were no Russian troops there. I have yet to figure out who got Kovel in the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, was Kovel in Russian Poland or German Poland? Either way Shtimt nisht di Mayseh. For the first two days after hearing the story about his execution I could not get it out of my mind. The fact that I could not verify the story elsewhere did put a damper on it, but still I feel a newfound connection to Kovel and Reb Nochum Moshe'le, as well as to Reb Velevele Trisker of Kovel, HY"D. I feel like I too am a Kovler....
(The massacre of Kovler Jewry - page 1)
(The massacre of Kovler Jewry - page 2)