Yehiel, the son of Yakov and Fayge Goldberg, was a fifteen year-old schoolboy when the Germans occupied Pinsk in the summer of 1941. He was one of six brothers and sisters. Yehiel's father was a tailor who managed to make a basic living for his family. He was also active in a Jewish worker's organization that supported the creation of a Jewish State where Jews would be safe.
Pinsk had a Jewish community of 30,000 in 1941, seventy per cent of the total population. Pinsk was a center of Jewish religious movements, the Enlightenment and Zionism.
Under the Soviet-German pact, Pinsk was occupied by the Russians in 1939. The Jews living in Pinsk had little information about the German treatment of Jews living under their occupation, and they felt relatively secure.
The Nazis occupied Pinsk in July 1941, and immediately set up a "Jewish Council" to facilitate their planned murder of the entire Jewish community. One month later, the Nazis murdered 8,000 of the most prominent Jewish men of the city. A few days later, they murdered another 3,000 Jews, including the elderly and children. They buried them in mass graves a few miles from the outskirts of the city. The Germans then began enforcing a series of repressive economic measures against the remaining Jews. They were forced into a sealed-off ghetto in a run-down part of the city. On April 30, 1942, they were given one day's notice to vacate their apartments and to move into the designated area. They were required to leave behind all their possessions except for bedding. The ghetto was horribly overcrowded and lacked adequate food and sanitary facilities.
Yehiel and his family struggled to survive amidst starvation and epidemics. In July 1942, all of the patients in the Jewish hospital were murdered. On October 28, 1942, almost the entire ghetto population was rounded up by the Germans and shot.