The mayor of the town at that time was a Polish man named Matorose. Some years earlier at the time of the Polish rule he was the head master of the elementary school in Kurenets. Nyomka Shulman was then his favorite student. Nyomka approached him and asked to get a job as a official delivery man and assistant to the mayor. Matorose gave Nyomka the keys to the storage areas where there was supply of salt, gasoline and other goods. Nachoom got a job as a janitor and they both got official papers showing they were allowed to be around the restricted areas.
Nyomka told me to try to contact the non-Jewish residents in the district that were communist sympathizers and to find out if there is organized resistance. The first person that came to my mind was a relative of our housekeeper, Vera. He was the director of a factory at the time of the communists. Luckily, when I went to Vera and explained to her that I was looking for a hiding place for our family, she said she had a relative Andre Volinitz, who was also hiding from the Germans. I knew he would not betray me because we had the same enemy. I went to meet him in the little village Zoletki. He was sitting in a barn holding a rifle and a gun . He told me about himself. He was born in that very village. In 1934 he joined the Communist Party in Belarus and was eventually arrested for his communist activities he was imprisoned for five years. When the Communists took over they made him the director of a factory. Now he was in a similar situation to ours, hiding and trying to connect with the underground resistance in the area. When I told him about our group he was hesitant at first. I was the son of an owner of a store and he could not believe I would want to fight for the Soviets. I explained to him that our common enemy the Germans made all Jews want to join the Soviets in their fight against them. Anyway, in the end he agreed to head our group and to help us become underground fighters. We made an arrangement to meet again at the house of Ivan Shirutzin from Volkoveshtzina. The next day I went to Ivan Shirutzin and asked him how we could get weapons. He told me we could get weapons in exchange for salt and kerosene.
Farmers that were connected with the communists started coming to town and Nyomka that had forged the signature of Matorose gave them big bags of salt. In exchange we got rifles. The problem was how to bring the rifles to Kurenets. The first rifle was delivered by Motik and me. At night Motif Alperovitz and I snuck out of town ignoring curfew hours. we took the very large rifle from the house of a communist farmer, and put it in a nap sack and at 3 in the morning we started back to Kurenitz. The gentiles could not believe seeing us Jews walking during curfew It was a miracle we were not caught. The next day the farmer brought us 80 bullets for the other rifle we had.
Sometime after we distributed the fliers Nachoom had a visit from a young woman, she looked like a typical farm girl. Although she had black hair she spoke and looked like a shiksa. Her name was Berta Dimenstein. She was a Jew from the village Kolofi. She had some underground connection with Ivan from Volkoveshtzina. Prior to the war she was a member of HaShomer Hatzair. She said that she would be our main contact with the underground. She asked to print some fliers for her troop. She told Nachoom that she would come back the next day to get the fliers. Nachoom immediately called Eliyahu Alperovitz, Yitzhak Einbender, Nyomka Shulman and I to get together because he was worried that this arrangement was a trap. We argued a bit and then decided to take a chance and make the fliers. The next day when she returned I was present and immediately recognized her and knew everything was fine. Many years later I found out that Yosef Norman sent her to us.
From then on she met us every few days, she connected us with Motyokavitz, a
communist youth we knew from our school. In September there was a meeting of
the underground in Volkovishtzena. Nyomka insisted that we attend. The code
word was Vlodia. Nyomka took the gun that he had just exchanged
for four salt bags with the main dealer in the area, Kostia from Litvinki. The
meeting took place in the small chapel in Volkovishtzena. Commissar Vlodia the
POW that we helped escape was the main organizer. They were planning to go to
the woods at the end of 1941.
|[Click here to enlarge the picture]|
|A newspaper article written in 1990 in Molodeczno
about the Jewish underground members from Kurenets
We continued with the fliers and searching for weapons. Itzka Rider told us that Bogdanyook, the guard of the train station in Kurenets had a Browning. Nyomka Shulman was becoming our leader. He decided that we would take Bogdanyooks' gun. Afraid to be recognized we sent one of Vlodia's men, Soborov to go Bogdanyooks house. Soborov entered the house and threatened Bogdanyook and was able to get his gun. All the weapons that we acquired were hidden in our house.
The whole month my father was depressed, he could not get in touch with my mother. Then Kopelovitz, a Jew from Kurenets, told us that after the Germans invaded, on their way back to town from the nursing home. Mother died of starvation. They buried her in Ivia. Our beloved mother had joined the group of victims of the Nazi occupation.
My father started walking around the house in deep depression. After we heard the news of 54 Kurenitz Jews killed for being Communists, my father and I had a conversation. He said, Son who knows maybe your way is the right way, they will kill us all. Neither G-d nor the Judenrat can save us, all we are left with is revenge.
Going from Kurenitz to Volkovishtzena and back became more and more complicated
and dangerous. Berta who looked like a Christian, took it on herself to
distribute the fliers that Nachoom printed and Nyomka Shulman and Vlodia
|Noach Dinerstein from Vileyka|
We decided to add some more people to our troop; Chayim Yitzhak Zimmerman and Yankale Alporevitch, two brothers; Salim and Moshe Shnitzer, sons of a family of refugees from Poland who in their escape from the Nazis somehow ended in Kurenitz. Later on we added Shimon, son of Zishka Shimon Meirs' Alperovich, one of the most educated men in town, Shimon became a great fighter but to our regret he was killed just before liberation. Vlodia asked us to see if the Jewish doctor Sorinski would join our group. He agreed and later on he became a doctor for the partisans in the forest.
After the Actzia, where the Germans killed 54 Jews saying that they were killed for being communist the Judenrat warned my father and other parents of our underground members, telling of the threat we posed to all the town Jews by our activities. When we heard about it, we stormed into the meeting with two drawn guns. We threatened to kill whoever threaten our families. This helped and they never directly approached us again. The head of police, Adamovitz thou, told my father that he saw me outside of town past curfew hours and explained how this behavior could cause both mine and my father's death. We decided to be less conspicuous and to use more covert tactics.
On November 1, nine members of Vlodia's troop all of whom had once been POW's, left for the forest. They called the troop Sovietico Belarus, which means for Soviet Byelorussia. The highest officer was Volinitz and the commissar was Vlodia Betinov. They had seven rifles, two machine guns and 3 automatic weapons. Occasionally this group would carry terrorist actions. But at that point, mostly they distributed fliers and communicated with other groups.
The winter of 1942 was a rough, harsh one. With the help of Michael Basilic, we attained a radio and we started getting information from the Soviets. We printed the information and distributed it around the villages. The German EsDe looked every where for the printing place. They never guessed it was 100 meters from the local police and was being generated by Jews. On December 20, 1941 we got the order from Berta to come on the 26 to Kolofi. This was the first general meeting of everyone that was connected to Vlodia.
One of Vlodia's men dressed as a policeman and took Noach Dinnerstein, Eliyahu Alperovich, Yitzhak Einbender, Nyomka Shulman, Yankale Alporevitch and I . We pretended we were prisoners going to work in the Vileyka camp, the partisan was very convincing in his roll as a cop. When we arrived we had to hide for many hours till night time came. All together there were about 40 people at the meeting. They pretended that it was a dance party. Inside everyone was armed. Berta introduced Vlodia as the commissar of the partisan Otriad. Vlodka said we must forget each others names, each one will get a nick name. we would work secretly, and most importantly make sure that no traitors infiltrated our group. We were told to learn how to fight in the same way the red army fought at the gates of Moscow. We elected representatives for Vileyka and Kurenitz. They were Uri Bolshov, Berta Dimenstein, Nikoli Motyokavitz, Vladimir Sovitz and Vlodia Betinov. Assigned to the terrorist missions were Motyokavitz, Sokolov, Bolshov, Zalman Gurevitch (me), Yakov Alperovich and Vladimir Sovitch. For the flier printing and distributing, Berta Dimenstein, Nachoom Alperovitz, Noah Dinerstein and Yitzhak Einbinder and Ivan Shirutzin were assigned. The radio was the responsibility of Michael Baslik. Benjamin Shulman, Vladimir and Uri Shl;kj;l, would be responsible for food clothing and supplies and transferring them to the woods and to also organize a secret youth resistance troop.
On January 20, 1942 Nachoom printed fliers saying, Fellow Belarussian brothers, farmers and teenagers, the red army destroyed the Nazis in the gates of Moscow and threw them west. The fairy tale of the undefeatable Nazis is a lye. The partisans are doing everything to help the red army with its fight against the Fascists. We call unto you to refuse the orders of the Nazis, blowup the bridges, destroy the telephone and electricity, clean the soviet land from the Nazi filth. Death to the Fascist Occupant. Meanwhile Nachoom got a job in the printing press in Vileyka and under the nose of the head of the printing house he was able to print fliers and to steal printing materials. These materials were all transferred to Ivan in Volkovishtzena.
On Feb. 3, 1942 I got an order to blow up the bridge near the grain mill that belonged to Mendel Dinerstein. Yitzhak Einbender, Nachoom, some non-Jews partisans and I crossed the street Vilyeka and continued across the forest and the frozen wet lands and approached the mill. At eleven at night we met with the Kolofi underground members, gave them the explosives and continued to the train tracks. Sokolov connected the explosives to the train tracks, I lined the wire across the trucks to the other side, went down the hill and pulled the wire about twenty meters. We lit the wire and a few minutes later there was a huge explosion. We immediately left. first we went to the synagogue and from there we all separated to our homes. When I got home my father was at the door standing there crying. He asked if I was there I shook my head and said nothing. Another group that was headed by Noah Dinerstein and included Nyomka Shulman and Motik Alporevitch was suppose to do the same operation to another bridge in the village of Ratzke. Both missions were scheduled for exactly 11 o'clock. I didn't hear an explosion from Ratzke and was very worried. But at two in the morning I heard a huge explosion. The next day Nyomka said that the string was not dry enough so they went to a farm and took some shavings of wood to dry the string and that is why the mission was delayed. The Germans never suspected the Jews, they searched the villages and killed some farmers and some ex POW's that they found working for the farmers.
On Feb. 15 we met with Vlodia and a decision was made that on the 23 of Feb, the day of the red army, we would blow up the main storage house of the Germans. Nyomka insisted at first that we take part in that mission. Vlodia objected using the same reasoning as the Judenrat did, that if they catch one Jew belonging to the underground they will immediately kill all the Jews. He said I will agree that you will join us at missions in the fields and villages, but not in town. On Feb. 23, Volinitz people blew up the main storage area that was also used to gather cows to later be sent to Germany. 1000 cows were burned to death. The fire lasted all night and Volinitz people also succeeded to steal a lot of flour, rice and other supplies and can goods. They brought it all to the partisan base.
Noach Dinerstein and I were sent to look for a suitable place for an underground base. We went to Soroka, a Christian friend of my father from the village Ob. We told him we would like to find a base and he promised to talk to a friend of his who was a woodsman. Meanwhile we walked to the next village, Nieke. We approached Old Mullah, Noah Dinnerstein's uncle and asked him to arrange a meeting with the young Jews of the area. We hoped that they would join the underground because they grew up in the woods and knew every trail. Mullah was thrilled and shortly he gathered some young men. They immediately wanted to help. One of them Yerachmiel suggested that he would also talk to some Jews from Kribitz and Dolhinov who worked in the train station Kanahanina.
The forester looked for a suitable place for the base. He went to Nyomka and got some salt for payment for his search but soon after the German's killed the woodsman. Someone must have informed the Germans.
Yerachmiel did go to Kanahanina and he told us how the Jews there were practically starving so we asked Shots from the Judenrat to send them some food. We also encouraged them to escape. Some of them did and later they joined the partisans in East Belarus. Some years later I met two of them. On was Bushka Kalkovitz that I knew from Dolhinov. The other was Motka Bengin who I met at the end of 1944 at the Minsk University. He was a professor of Rhetoric in the low faculty where I was later a student.
Meanwhile, we were collecting weapons and warm clothes in preparation of our departure to the forest. On May 3, 1942 Noah and Berta left for the woods. At the same time they took most of our weapons with them. On May 5, 1942 we were contacted by Xina Bitzon, she was our new intermediary. She said that at this point only three people could go. We decided that Nachoom with his printing press, Eliyahu Alporevitch and I would go now and the rest of the troop will stay under the command of Nyomka Shulman. At night we hid in the woods and only early in the morning, Berta and another partisan met us and took us to join the rest of the partisans. To a camp between Tzintzivi and a little village Zlotki. The forest was very misty and all the zimlankas, (deep in the ground hiding places) were used so we just lied under a pine tree and immediately fell asleep. When we woke up we went to Volinitz and demanded that he give us our weapons. He explained that the Otriad (troop) numbers 30 people and that there are not enough weapons for everyone. Meanwhile he gave us rifles that were not nearly as good as our rifles. At night 16 people went on a mission but they didn't let us join because we were too new. Still while I was guarding the camp I felt great. for the first time since the German occupation I was free. The woods were beautiful. I was not a nobody any longer and now I could revenge
One day Motyokavitz voluntarily went to work for the Germans to be a double agent. He told us of a German patrol of policemen that goes everyday between Vileyka and Luban riding bicycles. We put a unit on the road and when they went through we shot them and took 11 rifles and 4 hand guns and police clothing. The head of the underground was becoming more ambitious and decided to destroy a bridge on the river Villia on the main road to Molodechno. Motiyokevitch situated himself as a guard on the bridge. On the 13 of June everyone in our base but our guards went to the Villia river. We watched as three policemen, Motiyokevitch, Volinitz, and Shetonov, all connected to the partisans, left their posts. Motiyokevitch tip his hat as a signal and from a hiding place two partisans walked out and they were dressed with German uniforms. They walked directly to the bridge. The two policemen from the Molodechno side of the bridge approached the impostors and left only one policeman guarding with a machine gun. Shetonov lifted his rifle and hit him on his head. The two partisans continued walking from the Vileyka side and joined Motiyokevitch. Motiyokevitch and Volinitz killed one of the German guards and threw him to the river. Shetonov jumped the German next to the machine gun but he started screaming. When the rest of the Germans and policemen heard the screams they jumped out of the building. We immediately started shooting. The partisans on the bridge started throwing grenades. We took a lot of weapons from the wounded and killed Germans. We lit the wooden bridge an fire. 15 Germans and Policemen were killed.
We knew that the Germans would not forget that and we should plan for a counter
attack. On the 27th of June we heard shots from about ½ a km
from our camp and knew an attack was coming.
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