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[Page 357]

Four graves of our fathers

by Miriam Ninkovski

Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil

Hertzel son of Shalom Efroimski

There are four mass graves around the edge of our town-- brothers' graves. Trees, bushes, wild flowers and grass grow, fed by the blood of the martyrs, who were murdered in all possible manners. You would think that the martyrs finally found their rest in the mass graves. But no. the killers, who, together with the Nazis, murdered the innocents, still come, dig and rob the graves, throw out the bones with no feeling of guilt or remorse.

All that is left today of our blood-brothers are the graves. The town, with which we were bound with all our hearts, the town that was the source of many of our precious memories, has changed its look: the market place with its row of shops in the middle, the spine of the Jewish life in town and the source of our livelihood, changed its face; ruins remain, the shops are empty. Flowers are growing in the square. There is a flowerbed, with Lenin's statue on the centre. [Since this story was written the row of shops - rad kromen - was removed. So was Lenin's statue. Only the name of the square was kept, it is still called the Lenin square]. Quiet at the market, no rush, no dash, no more Jews with worried faces, and fear in their eyes. The market awakens only two days a year for parades: the First day of May and the Seventh of November. Then a big crowd is assembled in front of the leader's statue. You seek in the throng familiar, dear faces, warm eyes of brother, sister, mother, father, but in vain. Strange eyes look at you, apathetic, hard, full of hate and derision. The synagogue square (shul-hoif), its low houses, a place of Jewish poverty, the noise of the children in the “cheders”, the Jews wearing “kapotes” and long beards, Yeshiva students, their faces pale and the fear of God in their eyes. Where are they all? The ruin of the great synagogue stands as a memorial to them all. [This too was removed. On the ground, emptied of every scrap of the Jewish past, a public lavatory was erected.]

Rachelow, where the tradesmen and the shop keepers lived, that big trench that in autumn and spring became a bog and you endangered your life going down or climbing out of there. It is no more. It is now a field. There is no remainder of Rachelow. It was erased from the face of the town.

Only one place in Novogrudok did not change its face. It was a place loved by the youths. The most popular place for Saturday stroll - the Shloss barg (Citadel Hill). It is still standing there today, observes the town, and listens to the strange language of the new inhabitants. The ruins guard every ancient engraving cut on its walls. There are now new engravings in a new language, but the old walls keep their silence. [The remains of the towers on the Shloss barg have been allowed to deteriorate markedly further and are in danger of total collapse. They may be beyond repair.]

This is our town today, a town that was a stepmother to us in days of troubles and in the holocaust. We have got no place in it today. That is why I am happy that I left it and came to Israel. Today when I look here at the people from my hometown, the few who escaped the claws of the Nazis, my heart overflows with pride and joy. Most of us did not dream in our small town to achieve all that we did achieve in our free land. I see our people, the citizens of Israel, as a large oak tree branching out, a tree that stood at the crossroads, beaten by blizzards and storms, which tried to grow, but could not. Its leaves were torn, its branches broken; it was ripped out of the Diaspora. But it sprouts now new roots in its own land. It did not despair and it is still fighting for its right to exist on our land, the motherland, for generations to come. Strong be the hands of our sons - the builders.


[Page 357]

People of Novogrudok After Liberation

by Yehoshua Yaffe

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

Less than a year passed since the last Jews had escaped from the Ghetto through the tunnel. Most joined the partisans in the forests. There were a few Jews in the Novogrudok prison. At the last moment, just before the Germans ran away, they killed the prisoners. The Russian army had expelled the Germans from the occupied lands. Novogrudok was rid of the German bandits.

We, the Jewish partisans entered the town as victors. We should have been happy that we had at last got rid of the enemy. But we were desolate. We came back to a house of death. We were not met by friends. Most of them were long since dead. In the first days after liberation we saw ruins and mass graves. We looked at the soil that held so many young lives consumed with their past and their future.
We walked in empty streets. On both sides were foundations of houses concealed by grass. Those were the ruins of the houses of those whose lives were cut off for eternity.

Gentiles, who were unconcerned about the slaughters, occupied the Jewish homes that were still standing. They became rich having acquired Jewish possessions. They met us, the survivors, some with grief, but most with hostility. Some were afraid that our goods and chattels, which they had robbed, maybe taken from them.

We moved as shadows that came from the world beyond and we were grieving every night and day. Our wounds reopened. In front of our eyes we kept seeing the pictures of torture and death. I spent hours sitting on a stone of the old synagogue in thoughts and contemplation of the past: of the cheder and school, of stories that were told about the old synagogue in the days of our great grand fathers. The Germans tore chunks from the old synagogue building, but they did not demolish it. It was still there with its walls torn apart. One could still see words on the bleaching walls. Over all this there was emptiness. There were the sad memories of death and fear, of destroyed houses, small children torn to pieces, of crying, of hoarse shouting, dishevelled women and depressed men, who kept hoping to survive. A nightmare of thought, a vortex of memories and one did not remember that in the end the enemy was defeated. The world of the enemies survived, but ours vanished forever.

Five of us, all orphans, moved into an empty house in Shloss gus. The hinges of the doors were broken, all windows were missing and we were all sad. We had no table, chair or bed to lie on. We lay down on the floor and slept the night.

Early in the morning, a girl walked by and looked in through the non-existent window. 'Are you Jewish?' she asked, speaking Polish. She came inside and started to cry uncontrollably. She said that she had not met a Jew for the past two years. They thought that she was Polish and this was how she survived. Where were her parents, her family? They must be dead, she told us. She did not know where they were buried. She stemmed from Volkovysk. She ran away during a slaughter and came to Novogrudok. She knew that she must hide her past. She told them that she was Polish and that her father was a high-ranking officer. Because of this she was escaping from the Germans. She arrived in the village of Sunchicy, three kilometres from Novogrudok, where she worked for an old Polish farming woman. They gave her documents and she stayed in that village for the rest of the war. Her friends were Polish girls and she went with them to church. She had to get used to their way of living.

The sun came up and it had been warm. The light shone into our room, as if it was listening to the story of the girl. She had a horrible experience, not unlike the story of the Moranos in Spain in the middle ages. Every night she had to pray to God with a cross in her hands. Every Sunday she had to pray in church. She had to walk through the ruins of the town, where Jews once lived. But there were no Jews left. She was thinking of her future. What will become of her? Will she be separated for ever from the Jewish nation? Will she have to hide her Jewish roots for good? After the liberation she returned to Judaism. She felt lonely and isolated, but glad that she had taken of the mask off her face.

A few weeks later some Novogrudok Jews came back from Russia. They were soldiers from the Russian army and they wanted to return home, but they found a house of death, all were dead and the township was in ruins.

There were several people who were in the same situation as us. We decided to join together and consider what to do next. We all came to the same conclusion: to leave the cursed land, to part from the ruined town, to leave behind the mass graves of the two slaughters and go to the land of Israel. We looked for the last time at the place that had been Novogrudok. We said goodbye to the past, to the story of the Jewish demise and mourning and we went on our last journey to Israel.


[Page 359]

Novogrudok partisans who fell in action

by Dr. S. Openhaim

Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil

Hertzel son of Shalom Efroimski

Finished the "Tarbut" school in Novogrudok. Was a member of a pioneering youth movement. Worked as an apprentice in a bicycles repair workshop. He was known as a courageous fighter who went on dangerous missions. Hertzel was close to the commander Tuvia Belski. He fell in the village Khrapenevo in December 1942 at the age of 18.

Arie (Laibke) Volkin

Son of Sara Volkin (who was a milliner). Finished "Tarbut" school in Novogrudok. One of the best and bravest in the forest. Despite his young age, he became a fighter. Fell in Khrapenevo in December 1942. He was 18 years of age.

Yitzchak son of Natke Leibovich

Worked as a barber in town. His father was a horse trader and they knew the countryside well. Was one of the brave and daring fighters in the forest. Fell in Khrapenevo in December 1942. He was 23 years old.

The three partisans, mentioned above, were in a house of one of the villagers at Khrapenevo near Iviya, with Tuvia Belski's wife and her brother Grisha. In a sudden attack the Germans murdered all except for Arie Volkin, who was taken alive, tortured by the Nazis, but did not betray his friends. [This episode is described briefly in the article "Outside the Ghetto" by Luba Rudnicki on p.246.]

Aba Volfovich

From the village Rabniki near Novogrudok. He was on a mission (zadacha in Russian) transporting supplies from a train. Was ambushed and killed in December 1942. Was 30 years old.

The brothers Avraham and Reuven sons of Faivele Eliyahu Polonski

They were horse traders and knew well the surrounding country and the peasants. Were among the bravest in the unit. They fell together in March 1943 in the village of Dobro-Polia (?) near Novogrudok. Avraham was 22 and Reuven 18 years old.

Yehoshua Ostashinski

Finished school and worked as a tailor in town. Was a cousin of the brothers Polonskis and fell with them in Dobro-Polia in March 1943. Was 19 years old.

Eliezer, son of Yoel Chaitovich the paver (brukirer).

Finished school in town, was in the "Betar" movement and worked as a barber. Fell In Dobro-Polia In March 1943 with the brothers Polonski and Ostashinski.

The four fighters, mentioned above, stayed overnight, after an action in Dobro-Polia with a villager, whom Polonskis knew. The partisans felt secure, because the house stood outside of the village. When the partisans fell asleep, the villager sent his son to Novogrudok, who returned with the Germans. They murdered the partisans. Avraham Polonski managed to hide during the attack. When he came out after the Germans departed, he asked the villager why he did it. The villager killed him with an axe.

David Zilberman

The owner of a printing press in Novogrudok. Fell in May 1943, when he was ambushed. He was 50 years old.

Zvi Zilberman, his son.

Worked with his father in the printing house, was a unit commander and an instructor. Fell with his father in May 1943. Was 26 years old.

Moshe son of Mordechi Berkovich

Finished the "Tarbut" school. Was in the pioneering youth movement. Worked in a workshop repairing bicycles. Among the bravest in the unit. Relative of Tuvia Belski. Fell with the Zilbermans in May 1943, Was 18 years old.

Those three partisans, together with the second son of David Zilberman, Yosef and Michael Kvak, were returning from a mission to see a villager, whose son was a policeman serving the Germans. The son promised that he will take Mrs Zilberman out of the Ghetto. On their way back, the three partisans were ambushed and murdered. Yosef Zilberman and Michael Kvak escaped and returned to base. [David's daughter, Malke Zilberman, who was at the time in another partisan group, told a slightly different story. However, there is agreement on the number of partisans who participated and died in this action.]

Movshovich

Finished school and worked with his father on the land. Fell at the beginning of 1944, when he was standing guard near a house in a village, where a few partisans slept. A villager's son (who was a partisan in a Russian unit) attacked him from the back and murdered him with an axe. He wanted Movshovich's rifle. Movshovich was 18 years old.

Zvi son of Natke Leibovich

He was a brother of Itzchak Leibovich, who, as was described above, was killed in the village of Kapinyeva. Zvi was a courageous partisan. He fell on the day of the liberation [8 July 1944?]. He was 20 years old.

Mark Epstein

Son of the " Feldsher" (assistant physician).
Fell on the same day. Was 17 years old.

Sara Gershonovski (Sarale the Shneiderke)

Fell on the same day. Was 48 years old.

Those three partisans fell on the day of liberation, an hour before the Red Army arrived. A group of Germans came upon the partisans' camp in their flight from the Soviet army. There was a battle and 10 partisans were killed. The other seven partisans were not from Novogrudok.

Zvi Plotnik

Worked as a brick layer (moierer). Worked most of the time for the villagers outside Novogrudok. Was in the forest with his son Yerachmiel. After liberation he was enlisted into the Red Army and fell at the front. He was 35 years old.

Yerachmiel Plotnik

Came to Israel in 1946. Was in Kibbutz Ramat-Hakovesh. Fell there in 1947. Circumstances unknown.

David, son of Shmaya Bruk

His father was a barber. He finished "Tarbut" school, was in a youth movement, and was a good partisan. After the liberation he joined the Red Army and fell at the front. He was 19 years old.

Asael Belski

Brother of the commander of the partisan unit, Tuvia Belski. He was in charge of a unit which protected the camp and secured supplies for the camp. He was among the first to carry out the most dangerous operations, nothing stood in his way. After liberation was enlisted in the Red Army and fell at the front. He was 35 years old.

Michael, son of Shlomo Zamkovy

Studied in the Polish high school in Novogrudok. In the forest he was a brave and daring partisan. After liberation worked in Lida as a clerk for the Soviets. Fell when he was working in one of the villages outside Lida, killed by the Poles. He was 20 years old.

Yishiayhu (Shaike) son of Nisl Zamkovy

Studied at the Polish high school in Novogrudok. Was a good partisan. After liberation was enlisted into the Red Army and fell at the front. He was 21 years old.

Zalman Troitski
Son in law of Avremke Izraelit

Had a grocery store in the market square. Was in the forest with his 14 years old son. After liberation was enlisted into the Red Army and fell at the front. Was 35 years old.

Natan (Natke) Sucharski

He was a plumber [blecher] and had a workshop. He was active in the trade union movement. After liberation returned to Novogrudok. Died after an operation. He was 48 years old.

Mordechi (Meme) son of Israel Cherny

Finished school. Was in the pioneering youth movement. Was among the first to leave the Ghetto. He was in a unit of Jewish partisans. Fell at the beginning of 1942 while fighting German guards in the town of Naliboki.

Ben-Zion son of Avraham (Avremke) Movshovich

Was a student and among the firsts to leave the Ghetto. Was ambushed by Germans on the road to Naliboki at the beginning of 1942.

Ada daughter of David Ziskind

Was the wife of Dr. Yosef Shapiro, fell with Ben-Zion Movshovich

Yehuda son of Avraham Ostashinski

Was among the firsts to leave the Ghetto. Fell in Lipichanski forest.

Avraham (Avremke) son of Itzchak Yaakov Rakovski

Finished "Tarbut" school in Novogrudok. Was active in Hashomer-Hatsair movement. Worked as an electrician. Was in the Ghetto in the court building. He operated an underground radio, which supplied news from the outside world. He was one of those who organised the digging of the tunnel, through which 300 (250?) Jews escaped from the court building. He found himself in a non-Jewish partisans' group and excelled in his courage. After liberation he was enlisted into the Red Army and fell on the at the front. His sister, who survived the war, received on his behalf a medal, which was conferred on him by the Red Army.

Zvi (Hershele) Gurevich

He belonged to the movement "Fraihait". He was a tailor. He left the Ghetto through the tunnel. He joined a non-Jewish partisans' group. After the liberation he was conscripted to the Red Army and fell at the front.

Yosef Razevski

He was a tailor and escaped from the Ghetto through the tunnel. He joined a non-Jewish partisans' group. He fell in a battle with the fleeing Germans.

[There are 39 dead listed above, of which 17 were partisans from Novogrudok, who were killed by the Germans (often betrayed by villagers) or were killed by villagers. Seven partisans were killed in the Red army, after the liberation. One partisan is listed as killed by the Poles after liberation. It is hard to know how comprehensive the above list is. It is known that the Poles were responsible for a number of deaths of Jewish partisans. For instance, on the night of the 17 of December 1943 a Stolpce unit of the AK has killed 12 Jewish partisans of the Zorin detachment. It is not known if any of them were from Novogrudok. One thing is certain - the partisan movement, particularly that of Belski, saved many lives.]


[Page 361]

Such were the Jewish partisans

by Y. Yaffe

Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil

Asael Belski

Before the Holocaust, Asael and all the Belski family lived in the village of Stankiewicze {Polish spelling]. Belski's partisan unit was created mainly due to the efforts of Asael. He thought that it was his obligation to evade the Germans. His village was isolated. Germans did not intrude often and it was possible to hide in the adjacent forest, if they did appear.

Asael knew well the roads and trails that connected the villages. All peasants in the area knew him well, because they used to come to mill their grain in Belskis' flourmill in Stankiewicze. He had to leave school and work in the flourmill from an early age, because of his father's ill health. He was a quiet modest man, loved work and was ready to help anyone. His good character stood him in good stead in troubled times. At first he hid on his own, close to the village of Stankiewicze. His brothers joined him later. Before the first slaughter in Novogrudok, he assembled all his family, approximately 15 people, and hid them in the homes of friendly peasants.

Next the Belskis joined a group of Russian partisans lead by Victor [Panchenko?], to fight the Germans. In the meantime Tuvia, their oldest brother, arrived from the Lida Ghetto; he was tall and broad shouldered, full of initiative, courage and a warm Jewish heart. He accepted the task of the leader of the partisans'. Tuvia was the commander and Asael his loyal helper. He carried out any undertaking with devotion and precision. He took part in scouting, fighting and negotiating [with the Russian partisans]. He was the commander of the punishment unit and, in dangerous conditions, completed perfectly his assignments.

Everyone loved Asael and put their trust in him. They were glad to participate in battles under his command. It was a pleasure to scout with him or just to be with him. He was a loyal and pleasant friend. By the end of the summer of 1942 the first groups from the Novogrudok Ghetto joined the Belskis. Everyone feared the Germans. Jews, who were roaming in the country, were captured by Christians and delivered to the Germans. The art of being a partisan was not familiar as yet. Asael and his group fought bravely. They also took revenge on Christians who betrayed Jews to the Germans. As this became known the peasants did not dare to assault Jews any more and even helped them to find their way to the forest.

In November 1942 the Belskis with Victor's Russian partisans ambushed Germans on the Novoyelna-Novogrudok road. Asael was the commander of the Jewish unit. Scores of Germans were killed and many weapons were captured on that occasion. The weapons were used to equip the fighters from the Novogrudok Ghetto.

There was a second battle in November under Asael's command at the railway station Naziki on the Neman-Lida line [station Naziki could not be found on the map. There is a station Yacuki on the Novoyelnia-Nemen line]. It was a fierce battle with the Germans, who were dug-in in a bunker that guarded the station. It ended successfully.

The third action involved setting fire to granaries, where grain destined for Germany was stored. All of these operations created a favourable reputation of the Jewish partisans and helped other Jews to be accepted in Russian partisan units.

The fighters and non-fighters all loved Asael; he befriended the fighters and was like one of them. But he was also a friend of the non-fighters. He noticed the good qualities in every person. “We would not always be like Gipsies in the forest”, he said, “after liberation every one will return to his profession or trade and will be successful, even if he was not a fighting partisan”. He was the first in a battle and the first to aid the injured. “There is no need to fear death, we will die anyway”. sooner or later. Our aim is to fight the Germans and their collaborators, who hate us. We have to avenge our brethren's blood. I am not interested in tomorrow”. he said.

He was glad to go on an operation to punish a Belorussian family, for betraying to the Germans Jewish partisans, who were visiting their house. He killed them with his own hands. “Jewish blood is not cheap”. he shouted and set fire to them and their house. He used to remind himself of that punishment operation to calm his aching heart.

Asael was a brave loved man, who always went out and returned from actions with his partisans safe and sound. He survived the forest, joined the Russian Army and fell in the war against the Germans in a foreign land. Blessed be his memory.

Arie Volkin

Arie came to the forest at the age of 18. He was a child when his father died. The obligation of providing for the family fell on his mother, who was too busy to take good care of him. She was a milliner. He received his education at the Polish State School and studied Jewish subjects with private teachers. The prophets and their visions did not attract him. I was his teacher for half a year. I taught him Isaiah and Yecheskel. We were reading the phrase about the end of days when the lamb and the wolf will live in peace together. He erupted “It will never happen, the goyim hate us to death”. Every day he had to wrestle with non-Jewish children at school, and among them he learned that you have to fight back. He got beaten, but he could give a good beating too and the Christian children knew not to mock him with their call “zyd”, like they called other Jewish children. When the Germans came, he worked in their camp. The German soldiers liked him, he was a good worker, cleaned the horses and the stables. They let him clean their weapons, take them apart and put them together again; this knowledge helped him in the forest. While working with the Germans he saw death every day. Every day people were shot and he got used to that. It was a familiar occurrence for him to see how scores of people were buried in ditches. After the second slaughter in Novogrudok, he escaped from the Ghetto. He was searching till he found Belski's camp. He was a good partisan and had no fear. On occasions he went back to town and entered the Ghetto, right under the noses of the Germans. He was successful in accomplishing all sorts of missions.

In the ambush that the Belski's and Victor's partisans set on the Germans in the forest of Koshelevo, he fought like a lion, killed a German and took his sub-machine gun, which he used as his own weapon.

He was a scout and the first in every action, until the bitter morning in December 1942, when a few hundred policemen surrounded the “chutor” Khrapenevo and opened with machine gun fire on a dozen Jewish partisans, who slept there [according to another account there were 3 Jewish partisans in the “chutor”: Efroimski, Leibovich and Volkin, as well as Belski's wife and her brother Grisha. Belski, in his recollections, considered the event a major setback and mentioned more victims]. The fight was fierce with no hope of survival. Arie Volkin, shooting through the window, used his sub machine gun to the last bullet and was wounded.

He was the only one to be taken alive by the Germans; they brought him to the Novogrudok jail, tortured him but he did not utter a word, he knew a lot but said nothing. He endured tortures for a few weeks and when they realised that they would not be able to extract anything from him they hanged him in the Novogrudok jail. God will avenge his blood.

Eliyahu Yavnovich

Was born in 1908 in the Nasvich farm, 10 km out of Novogrudok. He completed primary school and later learned to repair sewing machines at Meme Gorodynski in Novogrudok and worked at the “Singer” company in Lida. In the summer of 1942, he was brought by the Germans from Lubch to the Ghetto in Peresike, he survived the slaughter of August 1942 and immediately after escaped to join Belski's unit.

Eliyahu was an educated man with an inherent intelligence. He was self-taught, read a great deal and studied at night after a day of hard and strenuous work. Eliyahu was well mannered and a pleasure to talk to. He had a vast general knowledge; and was among the few who brought some culture and knowledge to the forest.

As a mechanic, he was among those who repaired and cleaned the weapons of the unit. He was a capable partisan with a military knowledge and became a group leader after the division of Belski's camp into two, when the unit “Ordzonikidze” was established.

As a leader of his group, he was meticulous in supervising their duties such as: guarding, scouting and fighting.

He was serious and devoted, and was liked by his men. He insisted on order and discipline and fought for equality in the group. He was always ready to help. He was a good fighter and a good friend. With his help many left the Lida Ghetto. He instructed them and cheered them up in times of danger or crisis.

On the fatal day, he went with another partisan for a special operation in the village of Zeshirialnik, a group of policemen appeared in the village. When they heard about the partisans they surrounded the house and sprayed it with bullets from automatic guns. There was no hope of surviving. Eliyahu was wounded in his leg and could not escape. He came out of the house and hurled a hand grenade. He was killed but during the explosion the second partisan managed to escape to the near by forest. After his death he was awarded by the units' commanders a bravery medal and was promoted to a higher rank. God will avenge his blood.

Eliyahu Ostashinski

Eliyahu Ostashinski was born near Selib. He married Rachel Berman, the daughter of the blacksmith. The blacksmith was known for his strength. Eliyahu was a blacksmith too. He served before the war in the Polish Army and was promoted to sergeant. He was among the few in Belski's unit who had proper military training and a rank. He had many acquaintances among the peasants and it made his escape from the Ghetto easier. He joined Belski's unit together with his wife. He became an instructor of the partisans and was a unit leader. He put a lot of work into the training of partisans, from the use of a rifle to battle exercises. He took part with his men in fighting the enemy and in scouting operations.

His unit brought food supplies to the camp. During all his time in the forest he was busy, planning and organising operations, carrying them out with success. Quiet, polite and loved by all of the people in the camp and those in the fighting units. Two days before we left the forest, a few hundred retreating Germans, who were fleeing from the Russians, came near the camp, they overcame the guard and entered the camp. [Some other sources maintain that in the euphoria of the impending liberation the camp was not guarded, resulting in 9 or 10 deaths.] Eliyahu Ostashinski organised the defence and with a small group of fighters fought the Germans, it was a short face-to-face battle and he was killed. God will avenge his blood

The brothers Zuchovitski

Moshe Zuchovitski was born in 1922 and his brother Nisan was born in 1924. Their father Aharon was a “S.T.M.” [?] writer and had a small grocery store, their mother was a dressmaker. The children received a traditional religious and national education. The influence of their education on them was noticeable in the forest.

They were quiet, decent, helpful fellows and were liked by all.

Moshe Zuchovitski was a brave partisan and an excellent fighter. He felt bitterness and hatred towards the Goyim who helped to kill and rob their Jewish neighbours, and was full of hate of Germans. Only one thing motivated him – revenge. He did not fear for his own young life, took part in the hardest of the battles, and went to the most dangerous places to take revenge on the Germans. He took part in many operations in the Belski unit and later in the group “Ordzonikidze”. After liberation he joined the Russian Army with his brother Nisan. Both fell on [the] German soil. God will avenge their blood.

Chayemke Bloch

Chayemke Bloch was born in 1930 in Novogrudok. His father was a shoemaker. He studied at the “Tarbut” school. The Germans separated him from his family, sent his parents to death and he was left solitary and lost but with a strong will to live. He survived the second slaughter [too]. He heard talk about people who were escaping the Ghetto; about something happening outside, he followed the actions of the underground in the Ghetto. Watching someone escaping the Ghetto he followed by running after him. He hid for three days, when he returned to the Ghetto he found out that all his relatives were killed. He was starving and pleaded with his acquaintances and strangers for food, he wanted to live. There were people who helped him, gave him a piece of bread and comforted him, as he was one of them.

There was no safety in the Ghetto. Many knew that their days were numbered. In a week, in a month they will also be killed.

People escaped to the forest, they hoped to survive there, Chayemke was among them, and he was 12 years old, the only child among the partisans.

In the forest they took pity on him [too], befriended him, washed his clothes, gave him food and he obeyed everyone. He used to say that at home he was a good boy too, and helped his mother and father, and the partisans loved him. We moved from forest to forest, we walked at night, sometimes 50 km and more and Chayemke with us. He was alert and not tired, carried water, cut wood, lit the fire and helped anyone who asked him for help. He was a partisans' helper, their apprentice, cleaning their rifles. He wanted to stand on guard and hold a rifle, hoping that he would grow up to be a good partisan and even take revenge on the Germans. He went through a difficult winter in the forest, but later in the summer it was easier. He was given a job to be one of the keepers of the horses. One morning, at dawn, when we were in the forest of Yasnyeva near the Neman, the Germans attacked the camp from a few directions with hundreds of policemen. Chayemke was killed. We escaped from the forest, and when we met again on the other bank of the Neman for a head count, Chayemke was not with us. He was left dead in the forest of Yasnyeva, and his desire for revenge was not fulfilled. God will avenge his blood.

Shlomo Stoler (Keidrel)

Shlomo Stoler was born in 1926 in the town Korelichi near Novogrudok. His father was a hawker, he went from village to village selling haberdashery and kitchen utensils to the peasants. Though Shlomo was a very talented boy, he had studied very little. He finished only a few classes of the Polish Primary School. At a young age he left school to help his father provide for his big family. Together they went from village to village during the week and before Saturday they returned to their poor family in the small town with their profit.

In July 1942 the Germans brought the Jews of Korelichi to the Ghetto of Novogrudok. Most were killed there in August 1942. Only a few escaped, among them Shlomo Stoler and his brothers. For months they were roaming the villages around their town, he knew the area and the peasants knew him and took pity on him. They let him sleep in their granaries, and in the morning they gave him a loaf of bread and a bottle of milk and sent him on his way. So he roamed till winter. Almost no Jews were left in the area, and the peasants were afraid of the Germans or did not want to hide a Jew. Then he found out about the Belski units. But unfortunately the Belski's camp was divided into many groups and these groups were hiding in different places and it was difficult to find them. When an acquaintance brought him together with his cousin to the Yankelevich group, Yankelevitch rejected him. I stood guard then and heard their conversation. “Why are you so stubborn” he asked “you have got a house underground, my father had a nicer house then you and they still drove him out of his house and killed him, who knows if soon someone will drive you out of your hut”. The boy did not know that it was a prophesy, after a month the Germans raided our huts in the middle of the day, and we all escaped.

Shlomo Stoler was accepted by the Abramovich group where he had an uncle. From the first day you could see that he was a devoted and energetic fellow, used to hardship, to cold and complicated situations. He matured and became a courageous and disciplined partisan. He revealed all his skills when we were in the Pushcha Naliboki and all the area was full of Russian partisans. There were 1100 Jews in Belski's camp and it was hard to provide for all of them. He was the leader of a group of 20 people, they roamed the Korelichi area and took from under the Germans noses grain and meat to the camp.

I went with him a few times and saw how well he operated. He was a very modest and practical person; he knew that everything should be endured until the time when the Jews would be able to come out of the forest. After the liberation he reached Italy and was in the camps for a couple of years. With the outbreak of the Israeli War of Independence, he heard the “old man's” (Ben-Gurion) call, he came on a boat to Israel and immediately joined the army. He fell at Latrun, as our state was established. Blessed be his memory.

Yaakov Slutski

Yaakov was born in 1914 in Korelichi. His father was a farmer, he had cattle but his main occupation was growing cucumbers. Yaakov studied in a Polish school. A private teacher taught him Yiddish and Hebrew. When he grew up he learned mechanics and became a mechanic in the flourmill in town. He loved reading and solitude, talked little and thought deeply. With the elimination of the Ghetto in Korelichi he was brought to the Peresike Ghetto. At the beginning of 1943 he escaped to the forest and joined the Belski's camp. He was a good partisan, tall, broad shouldered, and healthy and loved to work. He never avoided an action, the hardest of missions were given to him. Though he had no weapon he always came along, never afraid, possibly apathetic towards life, as he said. His aim was to get his own weapon. Once at a peasant's farm he found a dismantled rifle with no butt, he borrowed some tools from another peasant and made a butt, he never worked in carpentry before and said: “My rifle is not beautiful – but it shoots”. It was his till he moved to a Russian partisan's unit and there he received a sub-machine gun and a pistol. He helped a lot with the building of the bunkers in the forest and the organising of the camps when we moved from place to place.

He was a bachelor forlorn and lonely. He had no one from his family. He befriended lonely people like him, and helped the weak that could not go to the villages to fend for themselves and therefore their situation was worse. Eventually he became disillusioned with the inequality in Belski's camp. It started when the Lida people arrived in the forest, and silver and gold were to be found in the hands of forest people and the commanders. He befriended Nachman Kirzner the son of the milliner Shmerl Kirzner from Novogrudok. He was a student at the Warsaw Conservatorium, and he also disliked the arrangements in the camp. When people came from the group of Alexander Nyevski to ask who wanted to move to their camp they were the first to volunteer.

Yaakov Slutski became a professional saboteur. He made the bombs, mined the roads and the railways and was known as the best in the battalion. On the fatal night he went with three other partisans to mine the railway. Due to human error they detonated the bomb too early and all of them were killed. He was known among the partisans as a brave Jewish fighter, partisan and a courageous and efficient saboteur. God will avenge his blood.


[Page 364]

My brother Meir

by Yaakov Rudnicki

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

Meir was born in 1912 in Novogrudok. Even as a youngster he was distinguished by his modesty, goodness and niceness. He was a quite boy, easygoing and good hearted. As a pupil in the gimnazjum [Polish high school] he taught children from poor families without expecting payment. In 1939 he graduated from the faculty of history of the university of Wilno. After the Soviets arrived he was made director of a school in the Slonim district. In August 1942 we escaped from the [Novogrudok] Ghetto and were looking for a hideout in the depth of a forest. We met partisans who were in the process of setting up a unit. The main problem was to obtain arms. A Jewish partisan gave us our first rifle. Meier was standing guard with the rifle when an enemy bullet killed him. I dug his grave in the village of Khrapenevo, not far from the river Neman. I put a big bolder on his grave. From Israel my thoughts turn to the distant grave of my brother Meir. Honour his memory.

[A much more detailed story of the escape from the Ghetto and the events
in Khrapenevo is given on p.246 'Outside of the Ghetto' by Lyuba Rudnicki.]


[Page 365]

To the memory of my father
Asael Bielski, z"l

by his daughter, Asaelah

Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil

A

You live with us wherever we go,
Whatever and wherever we think, you are with us.
I did not have the privilege of meeting you because
You were the first with ideas and the first for action:

The first in loving the forest and life of freedom,
To live, and to fight readily the enemy with clear eyes,
Not to be led like a lamb to the slaughter.

B

And when the mob rioted, saturated with hatred, and thirst for blood,
You rose as a father to the elderly, to women and children,
You collected the weak and those lagging behind,
Guided your stooped and sore brothers and sisters.
Paved the way through the thicket of ancient forests
And eternal swamps.
Led them on the road to life and freedom.

C

You loved every human,
Extended your hand to all who asked for it,
Found a cheering word for the distressed and dejected,
Shared your last piece of bread with the hungry,
Therefore you were loved by all, near and far,
Therefore those who knew you will never forget you.
Therefore you are always with us.

D

You were the first in danger and battle.
A model to all who followed you.
Every action, every deed was a mission to you.
Confident, you stepped towards the last battle,
And fell, with pride in your people.
You fell and rose in the memory of your friends.
Your past hometown community,
And your people.
Let your name be among all the names of the heroes
From Jehonathan and Shaul to Bilski Asael.


[Page 366]

How does Novogrudok look now?

by a townsman

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

A few days ago a met an old acquaintance of mine, who had returned recently from Novogrudok where he had been visiting a friend. I was, naturally, curious to find out about the current state of my home town. I showered my friend with questions about the town and the surrounds. My questions concentrated on three topics: how does Novogrudok look now, what are the present living conditions, and how are the few Jewish survivors in town.

Novogrudok had changed considerably in the 17-18 years since the war [1962-63], my friend began, not just has the town changed, but also the surrounds. The district [oblast'] administration was moved to Baranovichi [this occurred in 1939], a town which had since grown considerably. Novogrudok remained the centre of the sub-district [rayon] (the polish name was powiat). The population had increased (I was told) and numbers now 20,000 inhabitants. This is due to the big influx from the villages. There are big market days on Sundays in the square of Korelich Street, just past the mound of Mendog. They are not, however, the markets as we knew them in the past. There are few horse driven wagons, mostly lorries, and one can not see the old time typical peasant in lapti [slippers woven from sapwood of the pine tree]. You should know, he adds, that the surrounding country-side changed considerably, there are almost no private farms left. All farmers work in kolkhozes.

This is how the new, alien town looks, unlike the old Jewish Novogrudok. The town was destroyed and the new town changed its face and not just metaphorically but in reality. You remember, my friend said, that the centre of the town was destroyed and now looks different. The market place is empty. The long row of shops [rad kromen] no longer exists. The water pump is also gone. It used to produce a characteristic scraping noise in the summer and there was an ice rink around it in the winter, making it a challenge to walk over it with a bucket of water without spilling it. Today it is a big square filled with fir trees. The area where the Mickiewicz Street used to be, all the way to the Sienizyc and Korelicz Streets and Racewle [Rachelo] is a big park in the middle of which is the restored house of the poet Mickiewicz, which is now a museum where visitors come, mainly from all parts of Belarus. On the side of the market place which did not burn down, there are two department stores: one in the house which used to belong to Kiwelewicz and the other in the group of houses between where the pharmacy of Leizerowski used to be and the corner of Grodno Street. The town is growing on the peripheries. There is growth on Slonim Street in the direction of Skrydlewo, also in the space between Slonim and Grodno Streets, down Bazylianski Street in the direction of Pereseka. The famed Yiddish Street was almost completely burnt out. After the war a few houses were rebuilt. The synagogue square is dead. The walls of the ruined great synagogue are reaching to the sky. It is a symbol of the eradicated Jewish life.

The Jewish community in Novogrudok number at present 80 to 90 persons. They are mostly newcomers from other towns who work as officials. Of the original Jewish population 20-30 people remain in town. Dr Gordon, Pinczuk 'the ginger watchmaker', a colourful person from before the war and from the younger generation Eilowicz and a young Wolkin. Nobody is interested in creating a communal Jewish life. They are occupied with their own work. Nobody is concerned with the state of the Jewish cemetery, where many of the grave stones have been removed and used for building materials. The city administration is considering using part of the area of the cemetery for other purposes.

At the mass grave of those killed by the fascists, which is in Pereseka, on the way to Litowka, there is a small grave stone, actually a stone taken from the Jewish cemetery. Another mass grave in Skrydlewo is overgrown and is difficult to get to. And that is all, my friend finished.

It is painful and sad when one looks at the Novogrudok of today and remembers the past. Life goes on in the usual way, the Zamok [castle] stands as before with its old walls, and young, alien children play on the mound, laughing and shouting. Busses filled with people drive past, hammers are beating in the new factories and the trees are waving merrily in the city park. But lonely and forlorn stand the walls of the ancient synagogue, a painful monument to the 400 year old Jewish settlement, a community of famous rabbis, pious students, communal workers and simple, hardworking Litwaks with good souls.


[Page 367]

The Conclusion

by the editors of Pinkas Novogrudok

Translated from Hebrew by Aviva Kamil

With the conclusion of the Pinkas we regrettably attest that we did not present all that Novogrudok gave to our fathers, their fathers and to us. The town was for hundreds of years a refuge and a home for Jews, who knew the Torah, education and a simple life.

We are grateful to all, among them the dear elderly people, who put pen to paper to write about the town and preserve for eternity its past: its Rabbis, its scholars, the Chasidim and Mitnagdim and above all the majority of the community, the ordinary Jewish working people, the tradesmen and labourers.

But, mainly, the Pinkas was written to tell about the floods of tears and blood in the chapters on the Holocaust and of the heroism of our people. Be blessed you the survivors from the valley of death, you who joined us to tell about your horrific experiences in those horrific days, the years of extermination, and the displays of heroism inside the Ghettos and above all in the forests with the partisans.

We thank all, in Israel and the Diaspora, who contributed to these precious memories of cherished mothers, fathers and children of Israel who were erased from the face of the earth by murderous hands.

Blessing to all, among them the Relief Organization in the name of Alexander Harakavy in the U.S.A, which contributed part of its resources towards the publication of the Pinkas.

We say farewell to you, friends, in Israel, the U.S.A and everywhere else in the hope that you will appreciate our effort. The editors, who faithfully prepared the material, edited it and arranged it for printing, were few, and we ask the forgiveness of the very many of whom we did not know of because of lack of information, and, therefore, their names and life-stories are not included in this book.

On behalf of all of you we express our thanks to the workers of Achdut Print in Tel-Aviv who made an effort to make the Pinkas worthy of its name.

And, again, we remember the splendid personality, Edna Kagan, who faithfully and generously helped with the preparation of the Pinkas but did not live to see its completion. Her soul is bound in the pages of the Pinkas.

We remember also Dr.Eliezer Yerushalmi, who was the main editor at the beginning of the composition of the Pinkas and died an untimely death never to see its completion.

Let the Pinkas be a testimony, a document and a brotherly covenant to all Jews of Novogrudok and the surrounds.

And let this covenant last for years to come.

And last: very recently we received from a faithful friend the following dreadful description: Novogrudok today, the gentile (Goyshe) town, blossoms. What about the Jews? 90 are left. And the mass graves? Weeds cover them. So, we will repeat and say to ourselves and to our descendants' -Yzkor! (Remember).

The Editors of Pinkas Novogrudok

[At the time the Pinkas was translated - 2003 - the condition of Novogrudok could not be described as blossoming. Other, far less favourable, words come to mind. In 1999, out of the 6000 Jews, who lived in town pre WWII, there were 3 Jews who were born in Novogrudok and less than a total of 30 Jews in all. There is one improvement - the four mass graves have memorials erected and the surrounds are well kept, due to the generosity of Jack Kagan of London. The murderers succeeded - Jewish Novogrudok is no more.]

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