We, a group of girls from our town, came from Majdanek to Auschwitz in the beginning of August 1943. I ended up sleeping together with two girls, sisters from Radzyn, by the name of Lublinerman. After being there for only a few months, the first big 'Selectzia' takes place. Among five blossoming young women and girls who are taken out of our room, was the youngest of these sisters. With great effort and suffering I somehow console the oldest sister Sarah, who would not allow herself to be consoled at all. Since then we became very friendly, virtual sisters.
After some time there was another selection and the barbarians took away the second sister when the Soviet planes were already roaring overhead. The parting was very painful. On that day we could not be separated. With terrible crying she asked at the last minute: Sarah Basheh, I beg of you, never to forget me and may I be the last victim.
That moment remained inscribed in my memory, and I can never forget her words. Wherever I go and wherever I stay they are ringing in my ears. Therefore, I share them with all my Radzyners through our Yizkor Book.
It was night. I lay on the ground with my cheeks burning. A small amount of straw served as my bed. The cold from the earth penetrated my body, but I was hot, too hot. I twitched on the straw as if wanting to get rid of something that was bothering me. I did not close my eyes all that very long night. At daybreak I got up quickly, ran bare foot to the river and washed my hands a bit. My aunt had warned me that it was forbidden to prepare food without first washing your hands. A few minutes later I was standing on a small chair to reach a pot that stood on the stove and to boil up some coffee for breakfast. The house was completely silent. Everyone was asleep. I moved around the kitchen all alone. I was alternately hot and cold. My whole body shook. A pleasant odor rose up from the coffee. Dozens of times I had wanted to taste the coffee, if only one sip, but did not dare. I heard the sounds of the cows from the barn, and I knew that it was time for me to go feed them. However an evil instinct got the better of me this time and I tasted the coffee. It was very tasty and I wanted to taste it again. The coffee was very hot, so I waited for it to cool off a bit. Just as I lifted the spoon to my lips I felt a sudden blow on my cheek and saw stars before my eyes, and I fell down.
I don't know what happened after that. When I regained consciousness I felt a terrible burning pain in my back. I saw that I was naked and I saw black and blue marks on my hands, signs of the blows that I had absorbed. I was happy that I had not felt them at the time they happened and that I had not heard the coarse voice of the father of the Adamovitz family. Tears formed in my eyes and I wondered: am I not a Christian like all the Christians so why do they humiliate me? Why do they beat me when other mothers pamper their children? Really, why do I call Zofiah aunt, why isn't she mother? I did not find any answers to these questions. Even when they took me to church on Sunday and I prayed there for an answer I heard no reply. Once when my aunt Zofiah had guests, I had an inspiration: I summed up courage and asked my question. She laughed and answered: Your mother is in heaven. Then she turned back to the guests. Now that I knew where my mother is I thought: My mother will kiss me too, sometime. My mother now became a divine power. She, too, resides in heaven higher than Jesus himself !
Two years passed. The war had not stopped and the sound of unending artillery fire could still be heard. The Germans wreaked havoc on the inhabitants especially on the Jews. Once, while I was standing behind the fence of our farm, I saw flames. Auntie! I yelled. Christ! What do you want? my aunt answered angrily. I pointed with my hand in the direction of the fire. The aunt ran quickly with me following behind her. I never saw such a terrible sight. The flames were billowing up from the farm of some distant neighbors. Breathing heavily we arrived at the burning farm and could see the Gestapo nearby Damn them! she whispered angrily, They have set the farm on fire. Zofiah was angry that we had come here and she scolded me for having made us do so. The aunt went closer to the Germans and made as if she too was happy about what made them happy. The Germans talked with her and laughed. One of them even took me in his arms and gave me a whole package of chocolate, but I kept looking toward the burning farm. Through the window of the burning house I could see our Jewish neighbor with her small baby pleading with the Germans to save the infant. They made fun of her and promised that they would save her. When she saw Zofiah she began begging her to take the baby. However, my aunt for some reason did not dare to do so. I already knew, even though I was still small, that in such cases you don't ask questions. This was explained to me many times at home. One of the Germans stretched his hand out toward the baby and took it up with his fat hands. The mother thanked the German, now she could die. She stood in the midst of the flames, her hair caught fire and she was one big flame, then she let out a scream, and died. Laughter was the answer of the Germans to her bitter death. Mixed in with their laughter, you could make out the weak sound of the baby crying. I did not dare to cry. I had seen many such scenes and my aunt ordered me not to show any sign of grief. To laugh she said with her German laughter as she herself had just done. We stood for a long time by the farm. The flames died down. One wall was left. The Germans carried on a lively conversation with my aunt Zofiah. They were annoyed that the child was still crying .The German held the baby's legs in his hands. Its head was red and hung down low. It appeared as if they had hung it by its little feet. Suddenly the sound of the German's voice could be heard: Do you want to see a show? This is the right time for it! He went over to the wall that had survived the fire, raised his hand that was holding the infant, and with all his might, slammed the baby against the wall. The head of the child became a mashof >flesh and bones. The crying stopped and the voice that had annoyed those that were laughing was silent.
All that day those pictures flashed before my eyes. One time I saw the mother in the flames. Another time I saw her kissing the baby. At that moment I was jealous of the child. However my jealousy disappeared quickly when I recalled its fate.
It was night. The moon looked as if it had wrapped itself in a black robe inlaid with sparkling jewels. Far, far away I saw a small shinning star that looked as if it was laughing at me. There stood my mother in a snow white gown beaming, while the wind ruffled her fair hair.
* The writer of this item is a young woman who was a child when she was in the Nazi inferno. Her whole family was liquidated, and she was adopted as a niece to by her Christian aunt. The girl herself, as well as her adult and child neighbors, with the exception for her aunt and uncle, did not know that she was of Jewish descent. Return
The outbreak of the war found us in the summer of 1939 on vacation in the holiday town of Nalenchov. My father agreed to join me there after much coaxing on my part. When the first news of the war arrived, panic broke out among the vacationers and they started fleeing back to their hometowns. With great difficulties, and after experiencing attacks by anti-Semites along the way, we arrived at midnight in Warsaw, the place where my oldest sister lived. When the whole family gathered together at her place, my father turned to us: My children, the fire is spreading all over the world; I must go back home (to Radzyn) but you my dear children stay together. We started crying bitterly and begged him to stay with us in Warsaw. My brother-in-law asked him how does he dare at this time and after the bitter experience that we had on our way from Nalenchov to Warsaw, to go back to Radzyn ? All of our pleading was useless and he stuck to his decision: My dear children it is absolutely forbidden and I cannot, at this terrible moment abandon my city! At the last moment we tried to convince him to change his mind by saying that he had not abandoned his city at a time of danger, that it was only by chance that he was in Warsaw with his family. He stuck to his decision not to abandon his Jews whom he had served so faithfully for almost twenty five years. He went on his way together with my brother Yitzchak.
A few days later we found out that our city was already occupied by the Germans. I could not rest for a minute because I knew for sure that the first wrath of the Nazis would be directed to the leader of our community. (Later I found out that they searched for him and demanded that they be told where his hiding place was.) I also knew that my father would force his two sons Zanwill and Yitzchak to flee and to leave him to his fate. My fear was therefore very great, and I decided to return to Radzyn at any price. The main problem was the lack of transportation. However, by chance my sister found out that a carriage had arrived in Warsaw from Radzyn and was planning to return there immediately. My sister contacted its owner and he agreed to take me. That was on Saturday night. Already on my way to Radzyn, I had become acquainted with the Nazis who stopped the wagon after every kilometer and searched it. When they did not find anything they allowed us to continue on our way accompanied by a stream of curses. The trip took until Monday morning.
When I arrived in Radzyn I learned that my two brothers Zanwill and Yitzchak had fled from there on orders from my father and that he himself was hiding there. Menucha, our devoted maid, took me secretly to this hiding place located in a far away alley. After we made sure that that no one was spying on us, we went into a murky room where father was hiding. I realized that the man whom we saw there dressed in the clothes of a woodchopper was my father. He had wrapped his body in a coat that was covered with patches and on his hips had a belt made of simple rope. On his head he wore a wrinkled peasant's turban (Matzyovka) and his face was wrapped in a headscarf so as to hide the disgrace of his shaved beard. My father kissed me and broke out into tears. I tried with all my might to present an indifferent face and encouraged him to flee from the city.
At first I urged him to flee to Warsaw because that was the decision of all my sisters. He refused to do that saying that the children who were there had enough hardships and misfortune, and he did not want to add any further burdens on them. The second possibility, too, to flee to Russia did not satisfy him at first, but after four days of discussion, he agreed to my request that he should cross the border to Russia with me. Those were four difficult days. The city looked to me like an old cemetery. I did not stay even one night in our house but instead stayed with different neighbors and friends From time to time I stole up to our house silently to take out some clothing for myself and my father to wear along the way. First of all I took out the silk robe for the Sabbath and brought it to father's room because I thought that he would not feel right without this garment. (Afterwards when we were already in Brisk and he saw the robe he laughed and told me with fondness: Did you think that the Soviets would invite me to serve as a Rabbi?)
When we were in our house for the last time I suddenly heard the heavy footsteps of a man coming into the room. Where is father? an old man leaning on a cane asked me. At first I was confused by fear and I began mumbling: he is in Warsaw. The man looked at me and spoke to me affectionately: Your name is Sarah isn't it? I ask you to tell me the truth. I am entitled too and must see your father. It was hard to refuse this nice old man's request that, as it turned out later, was Reb Yisroel Vinderboim, an old friend of my father. His sincere desire was to see father for the last time. I cannot describe in words that parting meeting of these two old friends that met secretly. The picture of these two old men who hugged one and other, looked into each others eyes and did not let a sound out of their mouths was engraved in my memory. Reb Yisroel wiped the tears from his face, and without uttering a word, left the room. Now I felt that I could not hold out any longer, I simply could not find the words to comfort father after this dramatic meeting. I just stared at his face that had lost it human look.
The next day we started out. The distance from father's hiding place to the carriage was actually short but in my eyes it seemed very long. Anxiously we walked together until we arrived at the place. This was the first time in two weeks that father had gone out of his hiding place and seen the sunshine. He was very excited when we approached the carriage that was waiting for us together with all the passengers. After some hours of traveling we reached a remote village near the Bug River. Quickly we met a non-Jew, who, in exchange for the little money we had, took us on his boat to the other side. He let us off on the bank and left quickly. We hadn't managed to advance two hundred meters when a Russian military sentry appeared who signaled us with his hand to return immediately. After much begging and pleading he took us to police headquarters and from there we were allowed to continue on our way to our destination, the city of Brisk.
We breathed a sigh of relief when after a number of hours we found ourselves on the train that was taking us to Brisk. It is hard to describe the joy in our hearts. I sat close to my dear father's body and kissed him and both of us broke out into tears that welled up from our happiness and thankfulness to the Almighty for the kindness which he has shown to us so far.
It was Friday. We arrived in Brisk at the onset of the Sabbath. I suggested to father that we go to the home of one of his acquaintances, however he refused absolutely because his appearance was like that of a wood chopper and preferred instead that we go incognito to a nearby hotel to spend our first night in a foreign country there. Somehow the people of Brisk found out that the Rabbi of Radzyn had managed to escape from the claws of the Nazis and had reached there. At the end of the Sabbath one of his old friends, Mr. Luria took us to his house after much coaxing.
And from Brisk we went on to Bialastock. After a few days my brother Yitzchak, who had arrived in Bialastock before us, managed to find work for me at the municipal hospital. He also managed, with the help of the local authorities, to get us a spacious room where we founded a new family nest abroad.
Father went back quickly to his regular routine, overcoming all the hardships, and took upon himself the important task of being the treasurer of our economy .He became friendly with one of the local rabbis whom he had known previously. He also found a group of old friends and acquaintances whom he visited often. Among them he found Mr. Motel Vinderboim formerly from Radzyn who stood out in his devotion to father.
Thus we passed seven months of relative quiet in Bialastock until the famous registration campaign carried out by the Russian authorities. To register everyone had to decide: to stay there as a Soviet citizen or go back to Germany. My brother Yitzchak became a citizen immediately after he came to Bialastock so my father also got a Russian passport. I, too, took the first steps toward doing so. According to the order that was issued, all refugees living close to the German border had to leave. Father, too, planned to do so and got an invitation from the people in Stolin to come to their city.
However this plan did not work out, because meanwhile they began searching for those refugees who had refused citizenship, or those, like me, who had not managed to obtain it. On one day nearly all the refugees were rounded up. I, too, did not manage to avoid the N.K.V.D despite all of my attempts to hide. They dragged me out of my hiding place in the hospital and sent me together with my brother Zanvil, who had recently returned from the city of Gomel where he had heard that father, in Bialastock, had been sent to the transfer point for those being sent to the Siberian forests. When father heard that, he decided immediately to give up his right to remain a free citizen and quickly packed up his meager possessions (in a bag that also contained a few holy books that he had recently managed to purchase anew) and reached the train station to join us and go together to the place of our deportation.
So again we three found ourselves on the train being carried to the distant forests of Archangelsk in the north of Russia. After a journey that took two weeks, under indescribable conditions, we arrived at our destination and were put up, as were the other families, in poor, ramshackle wooden huts, there to begin life anew in a foreign land. Immediately we were assigned to different tasks that were preformed under the supervision of powerful guards. Of course the living conditions were unbearable especially since most of the deported could never get used to the hard work in the forests in such an extreme climate as that of the far North.
Because of his age, father was excused from working and spent most of his time studying the Torah, reading newspapers and books etc. in Russian. It should be noted that he was very well treated by the local authorities and the guards because they knew that he was a Yibraiskeh pope (Jewish religious official). The work supervisors and security guards were impressed with his knowledge of Russian and treated him very respectfully. Our life in the village was relatively quite satisfactory as father's true friends and acquaintances had remained mostly in Brisk and Bialastock and supported him by sending him packages of all kinds of goodies. Therefore we almost did not know what hunger was.
On Purim almost all the residents in the village, especially the senior ones, met at our hut and heard father read the Megillah. Father was very impressed by this event and with tears in his eyes remarked that it was a great reward for him to hear the reading of the Megillah even here in the desolate forests of Russia. (The Megillah itself he got as a present from one of his friends when he stayed in Bialystock.)
One thing distressed him very much when the winter ended: How will we manage during Passover? I tried to convince him that we had no choice here in this foreign country but to make do with a token Seder without scrupulously observing every one of the commandments, especially since he was a sick man, he should not have to suffer from this too. The whole situation bothered him very much but suddenly there was a real miracle: Right after Purim we got a package from Brisk from one of father's friends that contained matzo, raisins for making wine and other foods that were kosher for Passover. The friend had also packed into the package two 'Kosher for Passover' dishes. Father got very excited and said: In this package, I have found a Jewish heart!
However, two months later, when the war between Hitler and Russia broke out and all this aid stopped, and all the connections with the outside world were severed. Now we placed all our hopes on the approaching defeat of Hitler (Cursed be his name!). The relationships at work got worse. The foremen bullied the refugees who were already working under terrible conditions.
Then came the end to forced labor. At the end of August 1941, as the result of negotiations between Russia and the Polish Government in London led by General Sikorsky, an order was published freeing all former Polish citizens who were in the camps. It was declared officially that everyone was free to leave his place and choose any other place to live. Most of the inhabitants were at their wits' end and did not know how to choose a place. My father wanted very much to leave the place and its desolate forests. The reason being that the hardships of the last year had their effect and he felt that his life was drawing to an end and that he wanted fiercely to be buried in a Jewish cemetery and not to be laid to rest in the forests of Archangelsk. Because we had no money we had to postpone our departure until after the holidays.
Here I must relate a very sad happening, if not for which there was a possibility that the lives of father and of our small family might have changed for the better. One day word reached us through one of our village's inhabitants who worked in a neighboring one where there was a telephone that the local authorities had inquired if Rabbi Fine was still in the village. Our acquaintance, who happened by chance to have been in the telephone office answered, for some reason, that we had left the village and its surroundings. In retrospect we were happy with our friend's reply because we suspected that this inquiry was not for our good and maybe was connected with things that had happened to us in Bialastock. Two years later, after father's death, I found out from my brother Zanvil that that inquiry was for our good. This is the story: In the vicinity of a Tashkent and Buchara (My brother Zanvill visited there later) the Polish Regiment of General Anders was organized. One of the organizers was Attorney Marcus who knew father personally and offered him the position of Regimental Rabbi. That phone call was connected with that offer.
We went on our way and after a long trip of tens of kilometers on a wagon, we arrived at the nearest railroad station Following the advice of an acquaintance, we had decided to go to the Caucuses in southern Russia, that being the most suitable place for father because of its warm climate. We hoped that there he would regain his health after almost two years of hardships and moving from place to place. However, the whole matter of the trip was not easy. We spent a couple of days in the station till the train heading for South Russia arrived. Finally we managed, all three of us including my brother, to squeeze into a train heading for the city of Gorky near the Volga River.
Unfortunately, father's assumptions about the situation in the south turned out to be completely true. The trip to Gorky passed with us making many long stops in the various train stations. After the first such delay the two of us were forced to continue on without my brother. He, seeing that the train would be delayed for a long time at the station, went down into the town to buy food supplies for us. Then, suddenly, a signal was given and the train began to move. Father was so terribly upset that I could not comfort him by assuring him that he too would reach safety
However father's health got worse and worse. The inhuman conditions of our journey made him weaker and weaker, and his legs swelled more every day. In this situation, they suddenly informed us that we would have to proceed from Gorky by river transportation in steam boats. Not having any choice, we got off the train in Gorky to look for a place on one of the boats that sailed southward.
The city of Gorky, an important industrial center, was crowded with refugees from all corners of Russia. There was a well based fear that Hitler's troops would soon reach its gates. The nervousness of its inhabitants grew from day to day concerning the many refugees who were looked upon by all as being stumbling blocks in the way of the troops that flowed as reinforcements to the Moscow front. I tried going into a clinic to get medical help for my father and was met by a response that frightened me terribly: How dare you wander around the town at this time? was the doctor's answer. We realized how dangerous it was for us to remain there and lacking a place on the ferry that was about to sail, we were forced to board a tug boat that towed freight, that when father caught sight of it he said: Why that's a coffin! In the boat, between the freight, there were puddles of water that reached our knees. I sat father on one of our bundles while I sat the same way and held on to his two swollen legs that I placed on my knees. This is the way we sailed until we reached the city of Saratov.
The cold and the dampness that flowed up from the river seriously affected father's health. He had the address of a relative who lived in Saratov ever since the end of W.W.1 and from whom we had often received packages when we were refugees in a village in the forests of Archangelsk. Father must have felt that his time for parting from the world was drawing close and he turned to me: My dear daughter, I do not have the strength to continue. We get off here! I tried to convince him that we only had two days left before reaching our destination, the quiet and beautiful city of Naltzik in the Caucuses. There he could regain his strength, but he was adamant. He explained that in Sartov there is a large Jewish community and he would be able to find a place to have a real Jewish burial .I understood his reasoning and gave in.
At midnight we got off the train. We were the only two people among all of the passenger who got off there and we were dragging heavy bundles that I saw as only being obstacles on our long and difficult way. I understood that we were heading to the house of our relative but father decided that he did not want to disturb those people at night and so we waited, standing in the waiting room of the station which was filled to capacity and we could hardly find one place to stand. I finally found one such place for father while I guarded our bundles on the outside.
Early in the morning I went into the waiting room to take father to our relative's house. Father said that he could not go into anyone's house in the condition that he was in without going to a bath house first. I accompanied him to a nearby bathhouse and from there we went to the relative.
The old wife of the relative, the husband was already at work, greeted us cordially and immediately made up a bed for father so that he could lie down on it to rest a bit. It is almost impossible to describe his relative's joy when he returned from work in the afternoon and recognized father. He was very pleasant and good hearted, and even though his living conditions and income were very meager, he gave us one of his two narrow bedrooms and promised to be our host until the troubles subsided. He added: If Hitler, God curse him, does not reach Saratov first.
Despite the relative quiet, father's condition got worse from day to day. I saw all the signs that father would not survive under these difficult conditions in a primitive Russian apartment where terrible cold prevailed and the walls were full of moisture. One of the greatest problems that stood before me was that of heating the room which did not have any heating stove and was heated only by a kerosene cooking stove that also served for lighting. The relatives supplied us with every thing we needed for father, but there was a difficult problem obtaining kerosene at that time. I had to stand on line all night so as to get a small can of kerosene in the morning when the store opened. I remember that on one of the nights when I left the line to peek into father's room and ask how he was coming along, he turned to me and said: My daughter, when you leave the room, please wish me goodbye. He felt that his end was drawing near. I tried to believe that he would somehow still overcome his sickness, regain his health and we would leave Russia and return home. Nothing I ever had to do for father was ever difficult for me, therefore I decided to make every effort to get him into a hospital. That looked like a dream to me as all the hospitals were filled with wounded soldiers and it was impossible to imagine that at such a time they would let an aged citizen enter a hospital. Our relatives too, were not inclined to believe that possible and later, after father's death, I found out why. The private doctor, whom the relatives had once called in for father in my absence, had determined that there was no hope for him to survive. This they hid from me. However because of my great belief that father could still recover, I managed to convince the doctors in the Municipal Health Bureau to accede to my request even though I did not know how to speak Russian. I turned to them with a bitter and desperate cry: Save my father! He is all I have left now that my entire family is in Hitler's hands and you know what that means. They understood my terrible pain and agreed to send an ambulance immediately to move my father to the hospital.
Father was already so weak that it was hard for him to speak. When I told him about the hospital he was surprised and almost could not believe what I told him. He knew that he was going to die. He did not eat a thing because he could not digest even the lightest food. I remember one incident that moved me very deeply: Two days before father was taken to the hospital, at a time when the living conditions were very difficult in Russia, a Jew appeared before us in our house with a slaughtered chicken. He had brought it on hearing in his town that the Rabbi of Radzyn was in Sartov and was very seriously ill. He emphasized a number of times that the fowl was strictly Kosher, If the Rabbi will eat the fowl and the soup he will recover.
When father was taken into the hospital it became known in all the wards where there were many Jewish patients from among the refugees who had been hospitalized earlier. They were interested in his fate until the last minutes of his life. The next morning I was allowed to visit him for only a very short time. However, I succeeded in staying by his bed, which was located in one of the long corridors of the hospital, for three consecutive weeks until his passing despite the ban on being there, especially for a civilian whose identity was not certain.
Father did not survive, and at the end of the Sabbath on the 14th of Kislev he began to expire. My dear father barely managed to say My dear daughter you will get to see good yet. When he could not continue speaking, he squeezed my hand, fell back on the bed and breathed his last breath. His final request was fulfilled when he was buried properly according to the Jewish law in the cemetery of the town of Saratov.
Thanks to my father, who was also my teacher and my spiritual guide on the difficult and complicated road of life I have the privilege, (with the help of my dear husband) to perpetuate my father's memory in these lines, and to thank (as was the sincere wish of my late father) all those who survived everywhere on their interest in the fate of my father at the time of his exile in the forests of Archangelsk.
It happened in the year 1939, a few days before WW II broke out. I said goodbye to my whole family; everyone accompanied me out of the house. My religious mother quietly mumbled a few words. I only heard the word Shomer Yisroel (Guardian of Israel). Father went with me through Warszawa Street up to the bus station. He was silent all the way. There was already panic in the town and I was going home to my husband and children in Galitzia where I lived at that time. I embraced my father, we kissed and I went up onto the bus. When I was already seated in my place my father said: If a war really breaks out, take your family and come right back. At such a time let us all be together, for God's sake.
Fate drove me and my family to Russia. Like abandoned dogs we wandered to all the corners of that great land. However at time of need or of suffering my soul was in Radzyn.
When working in the thick forests of Siberia, I saw my home. When sleeping under the free sky of Kazakhstan I saw the stars that were shining at the same time over Radzyn. In the long hungry months when I saw my children flickering and expiring I heard my mother reciting the Watchman of Israel prayer. We survived because the idea never left us that our home is waiting for us there in the Polish Shtetl together with a father and mother and a place to live and they are all waiting for the lost daughter to turn up.
The day arrived on which tired, hungry, abandoned, homeless and devastated, I fled home. The train snaked its way over the familiar Polish roads, from Stetchin to Lodz and from Lodz to Warsaw, Siedlce, Lukow and to Radzyn.
It was at five o'clock on a glorious May morning in 1946. I stood glued to the train window, my heart almost bursting from excitement. Smaller and larger familiar woods and there is the familiar bridge! There is the crooked path that leads to Bedalna
There was a lot of movement in the train. Some non-Jews got off and I followed them. The wagon with a horse followed along and stopped at exactly the same spot to where my father had accompanied me to six years ago.
I stood there and felt my feet collapsing under me. Where to go to? What is through the ruined Warszawa Street. People approached me who had strange non-Jewish faces and looked at me inquisitively.
I am standing in front of my father's house, in front of my longed for home, in front of the longed for magic that that kept me alive in the Siberian forests, in front of the home of my youth.
The shutters are closed. I guess they are still asleep. It is that house, that yard, that wood shed. There is the street that leads to the orchard and the apple tree that stands under the window and gives off the smell of apple blossoms. Everything is alive and growing as it was before. But what happened? Is there no one left from the big family to take in the homeless daughter? And maybe there is no one left alive from Shia Shabashiner's family?
However the shutters did open and a young Shikse (non-Jewish girl) looked at me curiously. Then an older non-Jewish woman came out and invited me into the house. I became dizzy the minute I stepped into the kitchen. In the corner, where my mother would sit every day praying, there hung a large Christian picture. I left and went immediately to my sister's (Lazar family) house. The printing machines were clattering. All the rooms were filled with boxes of type for setting. The oldest employee must have recognized me because his first words were Payne Zishe! (Madam Zishe) You are alive? He asked me to sit down. I looked around and saw a large mirror that had belonged to my sister and in it I could see the faces, the last despairing and suffering looks of the entire Lozer family.
A non-Jewish neighbor took me into her house and tried to calm me. After which she nonchalantly told me that my father and the whole family had been placed on a wagon on the 18th of November 1943 and sent away to Mezritsh. My father was blind and his head was tied up in a kerchief. However they returned quickly. It seems that on the way all of them were shot immediately.
This made me burst into tears that flowed unceasingly for all those years of hardship, hunger and suffering. Why father did you not take your daughter with you so that we could all be together?
Shattered, I left Radzyn and after a number of days of wandering through various ruined towns I returned to my husband and children in Shtetchin.
I resolved to leave Poland for ever.
An the end of July 1944, shortly after the liberation of Radzyn by the Russian Army, I came back there from Mezritsh on a freight truck and was very happy when it stopped near Tsheplinsky's mill. I believed I would immediately meet Salke Shtarkman and Golde Fal here. Holding my breath, I knocked on the door. My heart was beating rapidly! The door will open soon and Salke will be standing in front of me! We will both be very happy because we haven't seen each other for a long time. Her grandmother, grandfather and her sisters too will be delighted to see me. They will all be anxious to hear about my experience in the Soviet Union. But I will not tell them too much, because I want to feel at home as quickly as possible. The door opens and a non-Jewish girl asks me what I want. What do I want from her? Nothing! She, seeing that I do not answer immediately, slams the door shut in front of my nose, and I remain standing for a while not knowing what to do.
Suddenly it occurs to me: Go into Golde Fal and you will certainly hear about everyone. I go to Golde and knock on the door. The door opens and Golde is not standing there, nor is it her mother, nor anyone else from the family. Again it is a non-Jewess! What has happened here? Where am I? Where are they? I look around the yard. There are some children playing there. I look for a Jewish face but to no avail. I ask myself again: Where are the Jews from here? They lived here for many years, and now all of a sudden everything has disappeared. I think: Maybe they now live in the center of the shtetl itself. I go with my heart beating into the center of the town. The road is the same, so near and familiar, and yet I am frightened. As I walk along, I pass the park of which I was so fond. I spent all my youthful years in that park, but now it stands there so lonely as if it wants to say something very sad. Instead of running back home as quickly as possible and being happy, I suddenly do not want to get there. I want to be far away from my former home.
I don't know how it happened, that while being near the market place where our house was located, I go up instead to Ostroweicka Street. I walk along and see that almost all of the shops are open. The street is very quiet, and there is very little traffic, and I don't see one Jew. What has happened? Where are our Radzyner Jews? I go into one shop and into a second and third one. The shops are still shops, but there is not a Jew in them, only Pollocks. In the end I come into the market place and I think surely there is a Pollock in our shop too. To my joy I did not meet a non-Jew there. A bomb had destroyed our whole building.
I walk on further. Near Yitzchak Gellerman's business too, there stands a non-Jew. Beryl Rubinstein's tavern is the same tavern but Berl Rubinstein does not stand there, now a Christian stands there. The same thing happens at Yossel Sziteh's place. What shall I do? Where can I go? I remain standing and think: where can I find a Jew in the Jewish shtetl of Radzyn? At that moment, suddenly, a thought occurs to me, that I should go up to Kalushinski's and from them I will find out if there is at least one Jew left in the shtetl. I head for Kalushinski's business which is not too far away. I come in and meet Mrs. Kalushinski behind the counter. She, on seeing me, pretends to be very happy.
I am happy that at least you have remained alive, she says. Those words struck like an axe on my head. That means that I am the only one who has remained alive? Yes! That is what it means. I felt that the earth on which I was standing had suddenly started burning under me, and my feet begin to wobble.
I asked: Are there ay other Jews in the town? Only a few she answered. She does not know who they are. She knows only one of them, Meir Turkeltaub. I thanked her and left the shop. To this day I do not know how I managed to continue walking. I started in the direction of Meir Turkeltaub when suddenly I saw a Jew but I did not recognize him. He, seeing a Jewish woman, stopped me with the question: Where are you going? I remained frozen to the spot. Is this really a Jew? I ask myself after so much roaming around in the streets of Radzyn. He asks me again: Are you from Radzyn? I reply: Berl Fretter is my father. Then come with me, he answers.
I gladly go with him even though I don't know who he is. I think about what is happening to me. I thought that I knew all the Jews in Radzyn, and it turns out that the first Jew that I meet I do not recognize. As it turns out later, this Jew was the Radzyner Rabbi's son-in-law. I follow him but am afraid to ask him whether my father is still alive. Somehow my mouth refuses to function, and a terrible fear overcomes me. I am afraid to ask the question: Where are all the Jews from Radzyn, all those who lived here for such a long time and have suddenly disappeared? Silently he leads me to Sarah Fass. The door opens and I see a few Jews, Sarah Fass, her sister and a few others. Seeing me, they all run over and start questioning me. But I do not answer them. What happened to me? I do not know.
When I opened my eyes, Sarah Fass was standing near me. She asked me if I wanted anything. I did not understand her question. What has happened to me? Where am I? Am I lying in bed? Little by little I begin to understand that the few Jews that are here are all the survivors from our beloved shtetl Radzyn. All the others have perished including my father and mother, brothers and sisters, grandfather, uncles, aunts and their children. I realize that I am the only one left alive. There was only one thing I could not understand. Why did I survive?
Two, three days passed. I heard many stories about the Majdanek, Treblinka and Auschwitz extermination camps where the Hitler beasts burned six million Jews whose only sin was that they were Jews. I learned later that my father Beryl Fretter also died in the 'infamous' Auschwitz extermination camp.
While walking in the street one day, I met the wife of the deceased Chomatshevky who was also very happy that I had survived. From her I learned that Vientkovsky, a non-Jewish lawyer, had recently returned from the Auschwitz extermination camp where he was together with my father. Before that I new that my father had been arrested in Radzyn together with seventeen Poles among who was the above mentioned Vientskovsky the lawyer, the former head of the Radzyner Municipal Council, an infamous Jew hater. The Poles remained alive and came back, but without my father.
I come into his house. He greets me very politely. He too is very happy that I have remained alive. Yes, I know what he is so happy about. He reached his anti-Semitic goal: Radzyn is 'Yudenrein' (clean of Jews).
In answer to my question about how my father spent his last days in the camp, he answers me in a very quiet voice as if it was a very normal matter: It was on Sunday that they gathered us into a big hall. We all sat around on benches. In the middle of the hall there was a large table. A number of German officers entered leading my father and a big dog from a wolf like breed. Then the entertainment began for them. My father must fight with this big dog. The play did not last very long, and my father lay dead with torn off pieces of flesh. I did not hear anything further that he told me. I remained seated and saw before my eyes my dear father in a pool of blood with torn out pieces of flesh and with the blood still dripping. His soul expires with the last drops of blood and I hear his final words; Rachel! Take revenge for my blood.
For a long time after that, I wandered around the harvested fields and thought about what to do and to whom to turn. Suddenly and idea came to me: You have nothing more to do in Radzyn! Go to the front line and take revenge for your father's spilled blood and for the blood of all the Jews!
Without even going into my house, I decided to join the Red Army. It wasn't so easy for me to be accepted in the Red Army. But because the Colonel with whom I spoke was Jewish and he understood my desire for revenge and made it easier for me to join the Red Army and I became a nurse.
We were always some 120 kilometers from the front line and pushing forward toward Germany. Our medical unit pushed forward together behind the rest of the army and after a short while we crossed the German border.
On one lovely February morning (1945) we entered the first German village. The streets were deadly quiet. There was not a soul to be seen. The streets were white with loose feathers, devastated houses, and tattered furniture. My heart burst with joy. I thought: this is exactly how our town Radzyn looked after the German beasts carried out their pogrom there. At least let them, too, know in the end, how it feels. Some time later when I saw a park in another German town with children playing, I stopped, amazed, and could not continue moving on. I thought that if I had a revolver I would shoot a number of them right on the spot even though I know that these children were not guilty. I would want the German mothers to feel the pain that our mothers felt when their children were torn away from them and murdered in front of them. I knew that I would be arrested for that, but at least I would have a chance to reveal at the trial before the Russian judges, the whole terrible history of our holocaust. How my heart bleeds for our children. Why did our children not have the right to live and to play? With my head lowered I left the park and the children continued playing.
On May the ninth 1945, about four o'clock in the morning, the army doctor wakes me up, despite his knowing that I am miserable because I have lost everything. He tells me that the war has ended and that there is no more bloodshed. I stand in front of him with my head lowered: Yes doctor, I tell him for me the war ended a long time ago and our blood is not shed any longer our town of Radzyn ended its life a long time ago.
A day later we arrived in Berlin. The Russian flag flutters over the Reichstag. Everyone is dancing and kissing, and the orchestra is playing. Everyone is happy.
But all that does not concern me. I am sad. I see before my eyes the murdered shtetl of Radzyn. I see my father's body torn up by the wolfish dogs. His blood cries out to me: You have no right to be happy. This is not your celebration. I am choked by tears. My heart is torn to shreds. I want to scream from pain, but who cares that my people have been murdered.
I decide to go back to Radzyn. That is still my real home. There are only a few Jews there, but they are Jews. With them I have a common language, shared feelings, one heart. I go in to the Jewish colonel and tell him that I want to go home immediately, and that I have nothing further to do here. He looks at me, and we have a long conversation like father and daughter. He understands me and my feelings very well. He provides me with a troop transport that goes all the way to Lukow. I am overcome by his fatherly concern for me. We part, and he wishes me good luck in the future, but can people like me ever be happy in life?
I find myself for the second time in our Radzyn. I meet more Jews than I did the last time but for them there is no normal life in the town. Everyone knows that, sooner or later, they will leave Radzyn. There are a number of anti-Semitic attacks. One of them ended with the murder of Mrs. Greenblatt, the widow of Yechezkiel Greenblatt (who was already missing both legs). This opened our eyes. We Jews have no reason stay here, and we must take our walking sticks in hand again. We hire a wagon to carry Mrs. Greenblatt to her place of eternal rest in the Radzyn cemetery accompanied by a number of Russian soldiers with automatic weapons in their hands. We almost did not recognize the cemetery. Half the place was plowed up and had corn growing. Cows are grazing on the other half, and there is not a sign of a tombstone. In answer to our question as to why he is pasturing his cows there the shepherd answers: There's good grass here.
With great sadness, we leave the Jewish cemetery for the last time. What once was does not exist anymore. Our return has made it clear to us that we have nothing more to do here. The air is stifling. For years I dreamt about the shtetl, but now everything is strange to us, and we must escape from here.
I wait impatiently at the Bedlano station for the train which will take me, away from Radzyn, my birth place, as fast as possible and forever.
In August of 1944 the battleground came close to Warsaw. We are lying in a bunker some eighteen kilometers from Warsaw. After violent slaughter on both sides of our bunker that lasted for weeks, we manage, despite the great danger, to run away from there and go over to the Russian troops on the eastern side. Many dead soldiers and slaughtered horses lie along the way. We run between fire, smoke, and dust. We see no one. Apparently the troops are dug into shelters.
Approximately a kilometer from the front line we are overtaken by the Soviets, and after interrogation, they send us to Minsk Mazowieke. There we meet the first few Jews who have also just come out of the different bunkers.
Two days later we, my wife and our son and I, as well as my wife's two sisters decide to go to Radzyn. The road back is difficult and all the roads are filled with soldiers on both sides. When we reach Lukow, we decide to get off. At the edge of the town we are greeted by Poles shouting Yastshe szion (They are still alive!). In the town itself we are greeted by Christians yelling: They are coming out of the woods like mushrooms after the rain.
Fatigued and starving from the trip, we found a few Jews who had survived and were wandering around like shadows on the ruins of the town. The first questions we asked was do they know anything about Radzyn? Has anyone remained alive and are any of them in Radzyn? We find out that there are a few, but they do not know their names. Our curiosity grows. We are prepared to go to Radzyn immediately, but the Jews from Lukow do not let us go at night because it is too dangerous.
I slept very little that night. I was burning with desire to get home as soon as possible. In the morning an army truck took us speedily in the direction of Radzyn. The villages between Lukow and Radzyn stood untouched. In the village of Stach where many Jews, including both merchants and farmers had lived, and where Jewish coachmen used to stop to give their horses something to eat and down a glass of whiskey themselves, there was not one Jew left. A little further on we passed through the village of Ulan, where a mill, operated by Jews, had clattered rhythmically. Now it did so without any Jews. We approach the pine forest of Biala from which anxiety echoes. On the left side, opposite the forest, dogs belonging to the peasants can be heard barking from the Polish cabins. Suddenly a thought comes to me. How many Jews tried to hide deep in the forest? How much Jewish groaning and crying was swallowed up by the forest.
The truck takes us further. The smell of freshly cut grain tied up in sheaves shows us that it is harvest time. From a distance we can already see the Radzyn sawmill. Suddenly fear overcomes me. I am afraid that in a few minutes I will see that in my home town there are empty streets with the burnt ruins of empty houses.
The truck stops abruptly by the old theatre. Slowly we climb down from the vehicle, and with the last of our strength drag our feet. Our bodies are exhausted and thin like reeds, we are shadows of human beings. We start moving but where to? Where will the first door open to us?
Along the way I see familiar non-Jewish faces that look at us curiously. I see that their houses stand untouched as if nothing had ever happened: the verandas are green up to the edge of the roof with potted plants standing in the windows. Non-Jewish children run around playing in the streets. A mother calls to one of them 'sinku' ( my little son) and it is hard to imagine that not far from here lay the ruins of Jewish Radzyn where many generations of life have been torn up by the roots. We ask a non-Jew if there are any Jews and we get the answer: There are still more than enough. We walk through the length of Warszawa St. Only non-Jewish faces look out at us from the Jewish houses. We have seen many non-Jews but not one Jew.
A few minutes later we open the door of the first Jewish house, the one belonging to Blumenkoff's. I can only hear the shrieking of names and see the shadows of people kissing and hugging each other. For many minutes no one spoke a word only sobbed mournfully. So I found myself in the first Jewish home in the shtetl, that belonging to the two sisters Zloteh and Sarah Fass, the wives of the Blumenkoff's brothers. The men had perished but the women managed to survive along with their children.
Altogether we were twenty one people there. The darkness moved in and gloom descended on all of us. The street became silent. There is no movement. From time to time gunfire is heard and the echoes of artillery from the Demblin front sector.
There, we, the remnants of the four thousand Jews from our shtetl, sit and tell stories about our experiences. Although the clock shows that it is past midnight, and we are all tired from our trip, we cannot fall asleep. We want to know everything. Under what circumstances had our friends perished? How did every one of them struggle until his final moments?
The loud movement wakes us up after we have just gone asleep. In the blue of the morning, we go out into the street. Masses of soldiers march back from the Demblin front. We become depressed. The non-Jews spread a rumor saying that the Germans have broken through on the Demblin front. We question some Russian soldiers but they remain silent. We begin to think that maybe we will again fall into German hands. However the tension subsides when fresh troops arrive, heading in the opposite direction toward Demblin.
On that same day I go out to look at the ruins. The Jewish streets, Szkolna, Kashiwa, Kotlarska, Kalen, the First and Second Market and almost all of Kozia Street are burnt. Only the outside walls are left from the houses built of bricks, and nothing is left of the wooden cottages. Many places are still smoldering from the firebombs that the Germans dropped as they retreated. I walk along Szkolna Street and remain standing by the house in which I was born; a complete ruin. I continue on and stop as if glued to the earth, by the ruins of the Yiddish School. The memory of all the Jewish children heading here from all directions together with the teachers Freedman and Blechovitz, flashes before my eyes. A bit further on I see the ruins of the house of Benjamin Yoresh Rubinstein a great tailor of second hand clothing ,who was a member of the biggest family in town. There were fourteen children, twelve of them married daughters who had so many grandchildren. But now no one is left.
A few minutes later I find myself standing among the burnt walls of the synagogue and the study house. Where are all the people who used to study here? I wander around some more but the emptiness drives me back to the two Jews who are sitting and waiting for me. The night has brought us together again in the empty hut.
We stayed in Radzyn some time longer and felt more and more uncomfortable. We were waiting for the war to end quickly so that we could leave the cursed Polish soil saturated with so much Jewish blood.
On a nice spring evening, at the end of April, I went by train to Warsaw and from there to Radzyn. On the train, I huddled into a corner so that I would not be not be too noticeable, because, after all I am a Jew. When we finally got close to Radzyn, it had dawned. I remembered how on such spring mornings we used to get up from bed when everything around us was still sleeping and unseen by anyone in the house, slip out and go to the Visnitz Highway. We carried with us books and newspapers. We became intoxicated by the odors that surrounded us and we would sit reading this way in the fields for a few hours.
Now my heart starts beating more rapidly. Will I meet anyone in the town of those who are connected with these memories?
The train suddenly begins to slow down and it stops at Bedlano! Yes that's it. It was only six and a half years ago that I had arrived in Radzyn on foot and tired from Warsaw, where I had escaped from the oncoming enemy. This was the first bloody Sabbath in the town when the German planes sowed death and destruction. I then took my wanderers' stick in hand, parted from my parents and went to the eastern border. Now I am coming back. Will I meet at least someone? The Radzyn station gives little reason for optimism. Where are all the Jewish horse cab drivers? Of course I did not dare ask anyone such a question
The cab that took me from the station stops suddenly in the middle of the town .The streets are silent, and there is no one to be seen. I walk silently as if not wanting to wake up any of my dear Radzyner Jews. I go into Warszawska St. and turn to Sarah Fass' house. Even in Lodz we Radzyners said that there is only one house in Radzyn to which everyone can come to, that of Sarah Fass. There we called it the Fass Collective. I knock on the door and soon find myself shaking the hand of Sarah Fass and a few other surviving Jews. Sarah is like a mother to us all.
Two hours later I am again outside. I walk along my heart beating loudly. Here is that street where my Melamed (teacher) Dovid Chana's, lived. Here is the bakery that belonged to Kovelblum. I am afraid of going any further. It is hard for me to get closer to the house in which I was born and spent my early years. I am afraid of going too close. But maybe someone has remained alive there. I go closer. There is the entrance and there are the two windows through which I looked out at the people strolling by. A bit further on is Yisroelke Saltzer's alley. There too lived his sisters and parents, also Mateh Bashes with her sons and daughters. Everything was so near and familiar. Where did that luscious life disappear to?
I knock on the door of the house where I was born. An old non-Jewish woman opens the door and asks who I am. I answer that I was born in that house. She becomes very excited but does not lose control. She tells me immediately that she has invested much money in redecorating the rooms. She does not forget to praise the Hitlerites who were such fine people. They knew how to maintain order unlike the new Polish government. I could not take it for long and left quickly passing through the store that had belonged to Neche Koppelman (in our building).There I saw a Christian store keeper wrapping his merchandise in the pages of a Gomorra. That is what the reality looks like.
I stayed in the Shtetl only a short time longer, because I could not find any rest. I left there forever.
With the first news about the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, the center of Polish Jewry, the Jews of Radzyn began to understand that what was involved was the liquidation of all of Polish Jewry. At first many Jews believed the German promises that those Jews being taken out of their towns were being taken only to work. The later information confirmed that they were being taken out to be gassed and cremated.
Many Jews in Radzyn began to think about resistance. The forests that surrounded the town and stretched for many kilometers in all directions were suitable terrain for partisan groups. As a result, there was a demand for weapons among the Jewish youth. Weapons became the dream of all the Jewish youth that did not want to go like sheep to slaughter.
In the winter of 1942, the first partisan groups were formed and many Jewish young people went out to the forests. The most important group was organized by Yitzchak Kleinman. They left the town in January of 1943 and dug into two bunkers in the woods between Radzyn and Kotzk not far from the village of Stara Wiesz. Fifteen people were housed in each bunker.
A short time later one of these two groups, with Kleinman in command, went far away to obtain arms in return for money. The plan was that if they succeeded the second group would follow the same course. The mediator for this transaction was a Polish peasant who would receive a lot of money in return for his services. The group obtained fifteen guns for a large sum of money,
The way back was very difficult. During the day they had to lie in previously prepared hiding places, and at night they continued on their way back to the bunker. But when they finally got back they did not find their comrades from the first bunker. It had been blown up by grenades. A little later they found out that the Germans had discovered the footprints that led to the bunker. Thirteen Jews were killed by German grenades that were thrown into it. The two surviving Jews, one Moishe Shtestshinaz and second a fellow from Warsaw were tortured to death by the German beasts.
The Partisan group, led by Kleinman, began operating in that area at the end of February. In their first bold attack, they killed two Gestapo members. In March they attacked a small milk processing plant located on the landowners estate near Stara Wiesz. The director of the factory, a Polish born German ,was shot and barrels of cheese and butter were taken away transported by horse and wagon from the landowners' estate to the forest. The horse and wagon were set free on other roundabout roads so as to cover its tracks.
In that same forest there was another bunker with sixteen Jews from Kotzk. A peasant discovered this and reported it to the Germans. The German gendarmes captured them alive and shot them on the spot. Kleinman's partisan group decided to take revenge on the peasant. One night all the partisans went armed to that peasant's house, locked everything from the outside and set it on fire from all sides. The peasant and his whole family perished in the flames.
At almost the same time they also carried out a very bold attack on the Radzyn- Kotzk highway. A taxi carrying three high military officials was stopped by blocking of the road. They were shot by the partisans and their arms and uniforms confiscated.
Fate had it that Kleinman came down with typhus. He had to go back to Mezritsh ghetto and enter the Jewish Hospital. As part of a campaign to liquidate the Jews in Mezritsh the patients were taken out of the hospital and the Radzyner partisan hero was killed.
Another group of partisans operated in the woods between Radzyn and Wisnitz headed by Liebl Lev and Laizer Pantshak. Many Radzyners were killed in a battle with a group of Germans that took place in the winter of 1943 including Laizer Pantshak. Liebl Lev and some other Radzyners managed to get organized in another bunker. This group operated in that area until the summer of 1944, the summer before the liberation, but this group was liquidated by a group of Polish anti-Semitic partisans from the Armia Krayowa(A.K.).
Many Radzyner Jews fought in various Polish and Ukrainian areas to which fate and circumstances had carried them. In that way Dina Rosenwald took an active part in the Vilna Circle. Unfortunately, I do no have any details about her activities.
Yaakov Puntshak, who was later killed in a traffic accident in Tel-Aviv, participated in many partisan activities that took place in different areas. After the liberation he was decorated by the Polish government for his outstanding acts of heroism. He also played an admirable role in the Polish Army.
The Radzyner Moshe Agman played a leading role among the Ukrainian partisans. The Germans offered a heavy reward for him. He was captured and his body was left hanging for three days.
Thus the Radzyner young Jewish heroes shed their blood in the Polish forests, in the struggle against the German beasts. Their memories will be inscribed forever in the memory of our people.
When the news of the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto reached Radzyn, its Jews began to think about resistance. The first Partisan groups were established in the winter of 1942.
The most significant of these groups was organized by Yitzchak Kleinman. In January of 1943 they left the town and took up positions in two bunkers in the forests between Radzyn and Kotsk with 15 people in each and went away to buy fifteen rifles. The way back was very difficult and took a long time because they could advance only under the cover of darkness. When they finally returned they found that the bunker of the other group had been blown up and thirteen of its inhabitants killed by grenades. The two that survived were then tortured to death by the Germans.
The partisans led by Kleinman began operating in that area and killed two Gestapo agents and later attacked a dairy products plant, killed its director, a Polish born German, and stole some merchandise which they transferred to their comrades in forest.
In that same forest there was another bunker with 16 Jews from Kotzk who were discovered by a peasant and shot by the German gendarmes. Klineman's group decided to take revenge on the peasant and set his house on fire killing him and his whole family. They also carried out a daring attack on the Radzyn-Kotzk highway, blocked the road of a taxi carrying three high ranking military personnel, shot and killed them. About this time Yitzchak Kleinman came down with typhus fever and had to go back to the Jewish Hospital in Mezritsh. He was killed later in an attack on the Jewish community.
In the winter of 1943 another partisan group led by Liebl Lev and Laizer Pontshak battled a group of Germans in the forests between Radzyn and Visnitz. Many Radzyner were killed including Pontshak. Lev and some others fled and took refuge in another bunker. This group operated in this area until the liberation in summer of 1944 when they were liquidated by a group of Polish anti-Semitic Partisans from the Armyia Krayowa ( A.K).
Many Jews from Radzyn fought in various other Polish and Ukrainian areas including Dinah Rosenwald of the Vilna who fought in and around Vilna.
One of the persons most active in the Partisan movement was Yaakov Puntshak who died later in a traffic accident in Tel-Aviv. After the liberation he was rewarded by the Polish government for his bravery. Moshe Agman took a leading role in the Partisan movement in the Ukraine but was captured and hanged.
This is how the Radzyner heroes contributed their blood in the struggle with the German beast. Their memory will be inscribed forever in the memory of our nation for eternity.
Liebl Lev, my brother, was born in Radzyn in 1912. His childhood was spent in the Polish village of Pashki near Radzyn. He went from there to Warsaw where he became active in the labor movement especially in ranks of the leather workers. He was prominent and greatly admired in the Worker's Movement.
All my life I observed my brother Leibl Lev from up close and he appeared like a figure sculpted from bronze. He was honest and courageous in thought and in deed. I would think how come that this modest fellow, raised in a small Polish village, has such a rich inner world, such dignity, such pride? Later, especially in those last months of long dark nights at the end of 1939, those terrible nights of self reckoning, I got to know him even better and deeper and was impressed by his belief, his revolutionary zeal, also by his enormous sorrow for his tortured people.
Therefore, added to the sorrow of losing such a brother, there came the thought: Is it possible that he too allowed himself to be led like a sheep to slaughter? It became a consolation and an encouragement for me when I learned that my wonderful brother maintained his brave and human appearance until the very end; that he was active as a partisan in the Radzyn forest until 1943 and that heroic acts can be attributed to his doing.
This is what Feigele Pantshick, then fourteen years old, told us:
In November of 1942 they gathered together all the Jews in Radzyn in the synagogue and shipped them off to Mezritsh. Two hundred Jews remained behind who worked on German worksites. I, too, remained behind and for a month was together with my uncles Gershon Henich Pantshik, and Herzl Pantshik and their families. At that time, our cousin Leible Lev came to us from the forest carrying a rifle on his shoulder. He had been with the partisans for a long time and he called on all of us to come to the forest. He was courageous and sure that we would survive. He told us that they were a large armed group and they carried out important actions. We decided together with him that he should come to get us before the last selection. At the appointed time, Gershon Henich Pantshik, Laizer Pantshik, Avremele and Beryl Pantshik from Fashke, the two Tunkleswartz brothers and a number of other boys from Radzyn joined him in the forest.
They got a bunker for me from a Pole in village of Branich. There I met Gedaliah Goldwasser's wife. After a short time the Pole moved her to another bunker and some days later he was supposed to move me there. Once, on a Sunday morning, when the Pole went to church, his mother came in to me with tears in her eyes and said: Run away as fast as you can because they want to drown you in the river today in the same way that they drowned that other woman: I cannot go to the other world with such a sin on my soul.
I did not have any money because the Pole had taken all that I had, but I ran away without knowing the way. I ran away to the shtetl of Vahin and from there to the ghetto in Mezritsh. There I met Gershon Pantshik's wife, Chava Katz. She too had been hidden out in a bunker and was driven out by a Pole. Six or seven months later Gershon came back from the partisans and stayed in the ghetto tying his fate to that of his wife and children. He told us a lot about the heroic deeds of our Leible Lev.
From Mezritsh we were deported to Majdanek. There Chava Katz and her younger child were killed. Her older daughter Chanaleh and I were sent to Auschwitz. There she came down with typhus. I did not see her after that. Once when going to work there I met Gershon Henoch by chance. He was in a terrible state, looked like a skeleton and could hardly walk. He asked me for a piece of bread but unfortunately I did not have any. His last words to me were: Hold On!
Zviah Pantshek, Hershel Pantshek's wife, tells: In 1942 our cousin Leible Lev was hidden by a Polish school friend in the village of Pashke. We sent him some food and clothes but he got tired of hiding out so he got in touch with some partisans in the forest and went to join them. A few times after that he came to Radzyn and called on the young people to go into the forest, and many went with him. Before the last call I hid in a bunker belonging to a settler in the town of Brasaveh near the forest.
Leible Lev's group carried out different campaigns at that time. I know a lot about one of them: The group 'led out' two horses belonging to a certain rich peasant called Pashkovski. The peasants informed the S.S. as to where they were and the S.S. caught them near the village of Bialka near Radzyn. A fierce battle ensued in which a number of Germans were killed. Among the Partisans only Laizer Pantshek fell, the others escaped.
Many Polish partisans from the anti-Semitic A.K. Division gathered in my landlord's house. Lying in the cellar under the house I would listen with tense nerves to everything that they said. On a certain day in November of 1943, I heard how the gentiles from the A.K. were drinking and telling happily that they had already succeeded in liquidating all the Jewish Partisans from Pashke (this is what they called the Radzyn partisans after the name of the village in which they had hidden out at the beginning). Our hero Liebl Lev was among those killed. They went on to tell that when they discovered their hiding place in the forest they ordered the Jews to surrender which they absolutely refused to do. A violent battle ensued and all the Jewish partisans were killed by exploding grenades.
This is how my only brother Leible Lev lived and died.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Radzyn, Poland Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2013 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 7 Sep 2008 by LA