Family memories of victims, survivors
Irit (Malberger) Aminof lost most of her family in the Holocaust – all she has left is pictures from their life in Vileyka, Belarus. Memorial journey to the life of Jews in the 1920s and 1930s, some of whom managed to immigrate to Israel
Ahead of Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day, I visited the home of Irit and Aharon Aminof in Afula, where I we presented with old photos of Irit's relatives, most of whom failed to escape the Nazis and were murdered in the Holocaust.
All we have left are those pictures. We looked through the albums, and Irit told us about her relatives – elderly, young people and children – all of whom suffered a terrible fate. Here's a peek into the album of Irit's mother, with Irit's comments.
A. My grandfather's grandfather – Yekutiel Ben Shlomo Keiles (his eldest daughter Ester – Rachel Keiles – Kaliko, was my mother's grandmother) was born in Bialystok in eastern Poland, in 1840. He was a blacksmith in the new city, Nova.
In 1912, Yekutiel Keiles was among the "non-Russia" Jews who met the authorities' criteria and were allowed to vote for the Russian parliament, the Duma, as one of the Jews' representatives. He died of an illness in 1927, after the death of two of his daughters that year. Yekutiel had six daughters and two sons, and three others whose names appear in the records of the Polish archive of Bialystok and who I didn't know about.
B. My grandfather's grandmother, Masha Bat Israel Keiles (the wife of Yekutiel Keiles. Her eldest daughter, Esther Rachel, was my mother's grandmother) was born in Bialystok in the middle of the 19th century and died in the 1920s. She had six daughters and two sons and three others who I didn't know about.
C. My grandfather's father (my great grandfather) Leib (Aryeh) Ben Hirsch Kaliko (the husband of Esther Rachel Keiles-Kaliko, my mother's grandmother) was born in Bialystok around 1860 and worked as a weaver. After the death of his wife Esther-Rachel, he immigrated with his young daughter to America (around 1925) following his two sons (Yerachmiel-Robert and Israel-Izidor) who immigrated before him. He spent the rest of his life in New York, where he died. He had five sons and two daughters.
D. My grandfather, my mother's father, Shimon Kaliko. The eldest grandson of Yekutiel Keiles (the eldest son of Esther-Rachel Keiles and Leib Kaliko of Bialystok). He was born in Bialystok in 1885 to a family which had been living there for generations. As young man he worked as a skinner in Smarhoń, near Minsk. He was active in the Bond – the Jewish laborers' movement – and was sent to prison for subversive socialist activity against the czar. In jail he met his future wife (my grandmother), Chaya Bella Norman of Vileyka, Belarus, who was also active in the Bond movement. They married in 1908-1910 in Smarhoń. (His eldest daughter was my mother, Nechama Kaliko, who was born in Smarhoń in 1912).
During World War I, my grandfather was expelled with his wife and three small children, along with the rest of Smarhoń's Jews. They were forced to march from Smarhoń to Minsk. There, they lost their three children in one day following a rubella (or measles) plague which spread among the refugees. Shimon and his wife, Chaya-Bella, fell into deep grief. Even before the end of the war, he reached Kazan (the Tatarstan capital) in search of his eldest daughter (my mother, Nechama Kaliko), who escaped with her grandfather and aunts on a train from Vileyka (in Belarus) to Tatarstan during the expulsion.
In Kazan he has another son and daughter (Zvi-Hirschel, 1916, and Tzipora-Feigel, 1918). After several years in Kazan, he moved with his family to his hometown – Bialystok, where his family lived – a great tribe of the Keiles and Kaliko family members. Their seventh son Gershon was born in Bialystok in 1920.
Due to difficulties providing for his family, they moved in 1926-7 to his wife's hometown – Vileyka, under the Vilna Governorate, on the Belarus border. My grandfather and grandmother, Shimon and Chaya Bella, refused to flee the town on the day the Germans entered – June 22 1941, believing that the enlightened Germans would not hurt them. According to testimonies, my grandfather, Shimon Kaliko, was burnt alive along with the other men of Vileyka, while they were imprisoned in the local jailhouse which was set on fire. My grandmother and her small grandson were apparently thrown into pits outside Vileyka and shot in the same method which was customary in the areas surrounding Vilna, and in all of Belarus and Lithuania.
E. My grandfather and grandmother, may God avenge their blood, Shimon Kaliko from Bialystok and Chaya Bella Norman from Vileyka, on their wedding day in Smarhoń 1908-1910. They were both murdered in Vileyka on June 22, 1941 with their small grandson.
F. My mother, Nechama (Kaliko) Malberger, in 1930 in Vileyka, Belarus.
G. Shalom Norman (the brother of my great grandfather, Kalman Norman) and his daughter Hannah Heine Norman, in Vileyka. Hannah perished in the Holocaust.
1. From left to right: The young Chaya Bella Norman (later Shimon's wife), her brother Nathan Norman and two cousins in Vileyka, the summer of 1904. Her brother, Nathan Norman, immigrated to the United States in the first decade of the 20th century, lived in Los Angeles all his life, founded a large insurance agency and was an amateur painter. Chaya and the cousins were murdered in the Holocaust.
2. The Norman girls (the family of my grandmother, Chaya): 1 – Chaya, the eldest sister, 2 – Besel (Batya), 3 – Menuha, 4 – Heine, 5 – the mother, Feige Meirovitch-Norman, 6 – Batsheva, the only one who stayed alive. She immigrated to America in 1919 and married Yaakov – Jack Aizenshtat of Minsk, and lived a rich life in Boston. She died in 1965.
3. Farewell photo of my mother, Nechama (standing on the right), on the eve of her immigration to the Land of Israel, 1933. Her brother Gershon (standing next to her), her sister Feigel, the parents Shimon and Chaya – were all murdered.
4. Józefów on the Vistula (my father's town), August 1933. On the eve of my parents Nechama (Kaliko) (1) and Israel Malberger's (2) immigration to Israel, they posed for a photo with Hannah (3), my father's sister, and her husband Aharon Klaiman (4) and the younger brother Aharon Malberger (5).
Avraham and the two small siblings were sent to America, to their father (my grandfather) and lived there till they died. Hannah and her husband, Aharon, perished in the Holocaust with their little boy, Shefsel Klaiman, in the town of Ozarow near Józefów, on the Vistula.
5. My aunt, Tzipora-Feigel Kaliko, March 10 1938. The photo was sent to my mother in the Land of Israel, and on its back Feigel wrote, "A memento for Nechama and Israel from Tzipora." Tzipora joined the partisans in the forest of Vileyka and was murdered there with her husband, Yehiel Lieberman.
6. My uncle, Zvi-Hirschel Kaliko, and his friends. Hirschel was murdered during his service in the Polish army by the Nazis or Russians. There is no information on his death. He sent this picture to my mother (Nechama Kaliko) to the Land of Israel. On the back of the photo he wrote, "For my brother and sister (my mother and father Israel and Nechama Malberger) as an eternal memento from me Zvi, Vileyka, August 5, 1930." (Zvi can be seen on the left while in Hashomer Hatzair movement).
7. My grandfather and grandmother Shimon (1) and Chaya Bella Kaliko (2), with their children: Zvi-Hirschel (3), Tzipora-Feigel (4) and Gershon (5), at the entrance to their home on May 10, 1936. The picture was sent to my parents' home in the Land for Israel as a commemoration.
Zvi, an officer in the Polish army, was murdered by the Russians (or Germans). Tzipora, a partisan, was killed in the forests of Vileyka, while Gershon managed to escape on the last train into Russia and immigrated to Israel with his family in 1960.
8. My mother's three siblings: Zvi-Hirschel Kaliko, Tzipora-Feigel Kaliko and Gershon Kaliko at the entrance to their home in Vileyka on May 10, 1936.
9. My aunt Tzipora-Feigel, my uncle Gershon Kaliko and their cousin Feigel Sobol in Vileyka in 1937. Tzipora and Sobol perished in the Holocaust, Gershon survived.
10. My aunt Tzipora-Feigel, my uncle Zvi-Hirschel and my uncle Gershon, in the fall of 1938, near their home in Vileyka. Gershon is the only one who survived the Holocaust.
11. My uncle Zvi-Hirschel Kaliko (first from the right) in the Polish army uniform. On the back of the photo he wrote, "To my parents, brother and sister, from Zvi-Hirschel, Maladzyechna, April 18 1938.
12. The Sholem Aleichem School in Bialystok, in 1921. My mother Nechama Kaliko (1) in the third great, the teacher Mrs. Sturmakevitch (2).
13. Graduation from the Sholem Aleichem and Ansky schools in Bialystok, 1926. The teacher (1) and my mother Nechama (2).
14. Hashomer Hleumi ("National Guard") cell in Vileyka, 1930. The Kadima group: 1 – my mother, Nechama Kaliko, 2 – Heine Norman (cousin), 3 – Rochale Greenhaus, 4 – Chasya Greenhaus, 5 – Sara Hopstein, 6 – Leah Lapidot, 7 – Batya Kolbak. They all immigrated to Israel and maintained close ties with my mother all their lives.
15. Members of Hashomer Haleumi committee in Vileyka, 1931. From right to left: Daniel Persky, Chasya Greenhaus, Zvi Alfirovitch, Sara Hopstein, Levy Tov, and my mother – Nechama Kaliko.
16. My mother and her cousin, Heine Norman, in Vileyka 1932. Members of Hashomer Haleumi movement, both immigrated to Israel in the early 1930s, lived in Jerusalem all their lives and maintained a close relationship.
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