In 1913, our grandmother, Bessie Rapoport Schechter, left the small shtetl of
Kholmech (in present-day Belarus), crossed the ocean, and entered the United
States through Ellis Island. Her story is recounted in the book, Bessie’s Letters.
In early July, 2001, a researcher and photographer hired by Dan and Bill Schechter
traveled to Kholmech, a town once derided by one of Grandma Bessie’s sisters
as “the back of the beyond.” This trip followed a long period of negotiation,
hampered by distance and a language barrier. We wanted to know what the town
was like today, what had happened to its Jewish population during WWII, and
what evidence of Jewish life–and the history of the Rapoports–remained. In addition,
we wanted photographs taken of the town, and of the Jewish cemetery if there
still was one. Prior to the visit, the researchers had been busy in the State
Archives in Minsk to see what they could learn about our family there.
Herein the reader will find the report, the photographs, and, lastly, the archival
research about our family.
On July 28, 2001, the photographs and the report arrived. The archival results
came several weeks later. All of these can be found in this book. They appear
as I received them, with a bare minimum of editorial comment.
Here is Kholmich in history. Here is Kholmich today. Here is one of your hometowns,
your shtetl. Here is what we learned.