THE ROAD OF SUFFERING
Wanderings And Hardships During The Holocaust
Haya Volkon (Pinchuk) (Haifa)
When the Germans occupied Russia on 22 June 1941, I wrote my parents in Glinna
to come to Rokitno so that we could go together to Russia. Since they did not
reply, I went with my brother, Israel to Glinna to take our parents with us.
They refused to leave saying that the war would not last long and the Germans
would not reach us. When we parted, my father shed tears and said that he and
my mother will be alone and abandoned in their old age. I could not watch them
suffer and I decided to stay in Glinna. My brother was advised to escape
since, according to all the rumors, the Germans abused men, especially those
who had worked for the Soviets. My brother Israel parted from us and went on
his way. However, he returned ten days later because all the roads were
already blocked by the Germans.
It was quiet during the first three weeks under German occupation. Soon gangs
of criminals from nearby villages were formed. They demanded from the Jews
their belongings. One day, a Folksdeutch (German Pole) called Ratzlav, arrived
from Rokitno. He was accompanied by twenty men from the glass factory (Huta).
They were going from village to village inciting the Christian population
against the Jews and they stole anything that came their way.
The situation worsened from day to day. We were afraid of attacks on our
houses and we slept away from home every night. I remember one Shabbat eve
when the table was set and the candles were lit. Suddenly we heard that in
David-Horodok the peasants had killed Jewish men even before the Germans
arrived. They were now going wild in the area and slaughtering Jews. We were
shaken by the news and everyone went to the forest. We spent the night there.
Three frightening months passed. One day a peasant told us that all the Jews
of Vitkovich were exterminated. At first, it seemed that they would be allowed
to leave the village. However, they were soon chased and tortured. Their
hands and feet were broken and they expired with terrible suffering. Now the
criminals were preparing to come to Glinna to exterminate the Jews.
When our family heard this terrible news, we left for Rokitno. We went to live
with Asher Schwartz. This is where we had stayed during the Soviet occupation.
When the ghetto was formed and the yellow star had to be worn, we moved to
Yudel Kleiman's house in the new town. The ghetto was divided into
two sections and was spread over Pilsudsky Street in the old town
and a few streets in the new town. We did very hard work. Some of
the young women were employed in a cooperative located in the old synagogue.
They knitted sweaters and did sewing for the Germans. We were taken to work
from the new town to the old town in the middle of the
road. We were not permitted to walk on the pavement. At times we even went to
dig ditches and to bring lumber from the forests.
Life in the ghetto became more difficult and bitterer every day. Hunger
plagued us especially those who had not hoarded food and who did not have
clothes for bartering. It was possible to get food from the peasants in
exchange for clothes. We had no choice but to eat weeds and wild flowers. All
kinds of stems were cooked, especially poison ivy nettles. We were tormented
by the hunger.
In the first roll call by the Germans we were gathered in the market square
across from the new synagogue. We were led to the abattoir. The Poles watched
us with a smile of pleasure spread on their faces. After this roll call, as
well as the next one, we came back home. We were broken and dejected because
we knew it was the end.
On August 26, 1942, the SS gave an order for us to present ourselves for a
third roll call in the market square across from the synagogue in the new
town. This time it was a comprehensive roll call. It included children,
the elderly and the sick. At first we stood scattered. However, soon the
order came to stand six abreast men and women separated. My sisters and
I stood near our mother. The Germans, including Sokolovsky, chief of police,
were going back and forth in the square. At times the chief of the Ukrainian
militia would appear, speak quietly to Sokolovsky, and then leave.
The members of the Judenrat mingled among us and calmed us by telling us we
would soon be going home. However, troubling swings told us it was not time
for optimism. Sima Zaks, who stood near us, asked for water for her children.
It could not be done. We waited for a long time. We found out later that the
reason for the delay was that the train taking us to Sarny had not arrived.
My mother, always full of confidence and hope, encouraged us saying that in two
weeks we would be praying the Rosh Hashana service in the synagogue across the
road. We must not lose hope because there is a great G-d up above and he
delivers salvation quickly. However, suddenly we heard shots fired by the
Ukrainian militia. We saw armed officers approaching us from a street next to
the synagogue. When we saw the killers, terrible screams erupted and many of
us began to run.
Sokolovsky pointed his pistol and yelled in Polish: Don't run or I will
shoot. My mother held my hand in hers and said: Come my daughter!
Let us run away. The end is near! That moment we were bombarded by a
shower of bullets. I managed to run with my mother to Noah Rafalovich's house.
Somehow, I dropped her hand. I threw a coat over my head and I ran without
looking back. On the way I saw many wounded, but I did no stop. A powerful
force was propelling me forward, through backyards and fields until I reached
the forest. The escaping Jews, 600 or so, were running mainly on the street
leading to the forest. Most of them were caught by the bloodthirsty police
officers. Here and there, young children ran without mother or father, scared
and exhausted. They fell on the road. I will never forget the image of a
young boy, about four years old, who ran after us yelling: I am Malka's
child. Take me with you! No one paid any attention to him. We ran like
In the forest I met Haike Horman (She died a year later in the Osnitzek
forest), Tzipah Wax and her family, Motel Kramer and his two children, and
Feiga Brach. We sat down and listened to the screams echoing from town. When
my head cleared and I understood what was happening, I could not forgive myself
for abandoning my mother to certain death as I was saving myself. To this day,
my heart is heavy with guilt.
We walked five kilometers away from Rokitno into the forest. Towards evening
Motel Kramer, Tzipah Wax and her family and Feiga Brach decided to return to
town. They hoped that those who remained alive would be allowed to live in the
ghetto. This had happened in other towns. They did not think they could
survive in the forest. Haike Horman and I and two Jews from Karpilovka went in
the direction of Karpilovka. On the way I went to a peasant's house to ask for
clothes to guard against the cold. At the door I met Hershel Gornstein's wife
with her baby girl. She was begging to be allowed inside the house. I did not
receive the clothing I was seeking and I continued to walk parallel to the
narrow railroad tracks. We were depressed and frozen when we arrived in
Karpilovka. We went to a peasant's house where we were given bread and hot
potatoes. The peasant's daughter commiserated with us and cried about our
bitter predicament. She brought Haike and me to the barn to sleep. At night
she came and told us that Jews were hiding in the house. I was shocked to find
my two brothers-in-law Sender Golovey and Yechiel Trossman. With them
were Issachar and Moshe who was wounded in the leg (he was wounded in the
market square). Haike Horman, too, found her sister Sarah with her husband
We could not all stay there. Therefore, we continued on the road. We met
other Jews and we entered the forest. On the first night we discovered how
cold it could be and how difficult life was without any possessions. Danger
We began to search for partisans. When we were still in Rokitno we heard that,
near Brezhne, ten days before the extermination, they had attacked partying
Germans. They killed 30 of them. My brother-in-law, Yechiel, decided to go
with his children, Issachar and Moshe, to look for his wife Ita and his
daughter Miriam. Before the extermination they had agreed to meet at a certain
peasant's house. He was hoping to find them there. He invited me to join
them. I thought I would be a burden to them and I parted from him. I joined a
group, which included my brother-in-law Sender. It was difficult to say
good-bye. My heart told me we would not meet again.
Yechiel stayed with the children in the forest and I walked away from them.
From time to time I turned my head and looked at them. Suddenly, the children
shouted: Wait for us. We don't want to part from you. Let us go
together! We continued in the direction of Brezhne, through the forest,
any which way. Two days later we noticed footprints of spiked boots. We
realized that partisans had walked there. We asked the peasants where they
were and they said they were in the area. We decided to send a delegation of
three men to look for the partisans. We were a group of 19 people waiting for
their return. We anxiously waited for two days and feared for their
well-being. One night we heard rustling in the forest and we soon saw our
delegation of three together with the partisans. They wore Red Army uniforms
and had a red star on their caps. We were unbelievably elated. Some of us
hugged them. They urged us to start walking since there was a long road ahead
of us. We had to reach camp before daybreak.
In the morning we reached the tents and we saw uniformed men and women. There
were some Jews among them. Some were officers. I particularly remember an
officer, a woman from Odessa called Sima. Most of the partisans had come from
the forests of Briensk (the hub of partisan activity). They numbered about
100. We were well received. They gave us hot food and medical attention.
Slowly our sense of confidence returned and we felt like human beings again.
We were ready to fight the Nazi beast.
After we had a short rest, General Medvedev spoke to us. He promised to help
us and to set up a special camp for us so that we could defend ourselves. For
a while we were part of the larger camp. The elderly were assigned to do
housekeeping chores and the younger ones were given arms. The women cooked.
When we arrived we found a few young men from Brezhne that we knew from earlier
days. We were 150 Jews including 13 children. One of the women was a
kindergarten teacher. Haya Gitelman and her husband sewed children's shirts
out of parachutes. We waited for an airplane that would take the children to
Moscow. A temporary runway was prepared, but the plane sank in the mud and we
could not get it out. The pilots took out the ammunition and the medicines and
the plane was set on fire. Of course, it was no longer thinkable to get the
Two weeks after the extermination, Moshe Golbey, Shoshana and Shlomo Grinshpan
arrived in our camp. Shlomo told us he had seen my father, Avraham, and
Hershel Shteinman in the forest. They were too old to join the partisans.
Unfortunately, I was not able to see my father. He and Shteinman were caught
near Osnitzek and killed. It was three weeks after the slaughter in Rokitno.
One evening, all the Jews in camp were gathered. General Medvedev appointed
three Jewish officers to supervise us. We were given ammunition: 18 guns, two
wagons harnessed to horses, and enough food to last for a few days so that we
would not have to raid the villages and annoy the peasants.
As soon as we covered a distance of 15 kilometers from camp, the three Jewish
officers disappeared. They did not believe that, burdened with the elderly,
the young and the sick, we would be able to reach safety. The parachutists who
had accompanied us went back to camp to seek advice as to how to proceed. We
waited for them in a very dangerous area. We were close to the German stations
and we had to be absolutely silent.
In our group we had a doctor from Brezhne with his wife, sister-in-law and his
two children. One child cried constantly because of mosquito bites, lack of
food and the cold. Some members of the group went over to the doctor and asked
him to keep the child quiet because he was putting us all in danger. The
doctor replied: Take the child. I cannot keep him quiet. Do with him
as you wish. Let us not all be lost! The people bowed their heads and
returned to their places.
When the advance people returned with the commander we were all assembled. We
were warned, in case of capture, not to give any details to the enemy. The
commander said they could not help us defend ourselves. We were to do it on
our own. We could stay as a unit or we could disperse. Some of our group went
off on their own. They were caught by the Germans and killed. About 40 of us
remained. We decided to continue as an independent partisan unit. Our leaders
were Yitzhak Shapiro, Yechiel Trossman and Yechiel Freger (still with us).
We continued to advance. A few days later, we were joined by three Jews from
Koritz Moshe Gendelman (Uncle Misha), his son Simcha and his nephew.
Uncle Misha joined the command. In one of the forests near Rokitno we met
Rachel Hammer who was all alone. We invited her to join us. However, she
refused saying she was used to being there. We parted from her in great sorrow
and we left her alone in the forest.
On the way we had to cross a bridge near Osnitzek. It was well guarded by the
Germans. In those days, trains would pass through every twenty minutes. They
were used to transport stolen Jewish property. We had to cross the bridge
between trains. If we ran into guards, we had to eliminate them. We waited
for two days in the forest. Our people surveyed the area to decide on the
right moment to cross the bridge. Indeed, we were successful. When we had
gone a few kilometers from the tracks we sat down to rest.
Early in the morning we saw a peasant arranging a pile of fodder. Some of us
wanted to eliminate him so he would not tell the enemy about us. However,
since we were Jews who had pity on him, we only warned him to say nothing. One
should not feel pity for cruel people. The peasant informed on us.
From a distance of 200 m we suddenly heard shouts: Stop! Stop! A
shower of bullets fell on us. We began to run. Some of us stayed in place to
defend those who were retreating. The Germans and the Ukrainians did not dare
come closer. They believed we had a larger force.
We were separated from the unit and we roamed the forest aimlessly. We did not
know how to go back. When we retreated we had left our parcels. One contained
a picture of the family of Yechiel Trossman. The Germans immediately posted,
in Rokitno, a reward for the capture of Yechiel. We walked towards the
villages of Blizhov and Glinna. The situation in the new area was even worse
than in the partisan camp. We discovered that Uncle Misha remained independent
with 15 men. We were forced to break up into small groups so that the peasants
would not be suspicious. Also, if something happened, we would not all be
I will never forget those days. They were extremely difficult days of
rain and cold. The peasants did not allow us to come near their house and
tried to avoid us. When we approached a house to ask for bread, they would
meet us with axes and send their dogs after us. One rainy night I went to the
house of a peasant I knew, to find out if anyone in my family was still alive.
I saw him on his knees praying devoutly. When he got out and saw me he began
to shout at me for coming there. He said: G-d ordained that you die.
Go and give yourselves up to the Germans. You will not be able to escape from
the verdict of G-d in heaven.
From then on we began to wander aimlessly in the forest. As the cold weather
worsened from day to day, we lay under the stars on a bed of wet leaves. One
evening we reached a hamlet not far from the village of Toupik. Yechiel and
Moshe went to the house to beg for food while I stayed outside with Issachar.
Suddenly we heard rustling in the forest. I whispered to Issachar: We
are lost! When those approaching heard my whisper, they began to run
away. I understood they were Jews and I called to them: Don't run away.
We, too, are Jews! When they came closer I saw my sister Rivka and
Motel Shapiro. We called out each other's name in disbelief. I told her that
Sender and Moshe were alive and in the area. Rivka had been told that I was
killed in Sarny. I was told, by a peasant, two days earlier, that Rivka had
been killed by Lithuanians with a group of Rokitno Jews. Rivka told me that
Ita and Miriam were near Blizhov. We went to the place where my sister was
staying and there we found Shimon Gendelman, Aharon Perlov and two brothers,
Moshe and Mordechai Chechik from Toupik. That night Shimon Gendelman, Perlov
and one of the brothers went out to search for food. The peasants caught
Shimon Gendelman and the young man from Toupik and gave them over to the
police. Perlov fought them off and fled. (The peasant who informed on
Gendelman and the young man from Toupik, for 2 kg. of salt, was killed by Asher
Binder when he was with the partisans).
The next day we parted again from Rivka. She stayed in place and we left to
meet Sender and Moshe who were in the area. We continued to wander towards
Blizhov because Yechiel hoped to meet his wife Ita, and his daughter, Miriam.
We arrived at a hamlet near Blizhov and we spoke to a peasant. Rivka said that
he had information about the Jews located near Glinna. We searched fruitlessly
for a few days. We settled in the forest near the road from Glinna to Blizhov.
We were successful in finding Ita, Miriam, Henya Kutz and her daughter. We
were overjoyed. That night we decided to go back to Blizhov because the
peasants were kinder there. Yechiel and I went over to a peasant in the Hmel
hamlet to ask him to tell anyone who asked about us that we were in the Blizhov
area. When we came in at dawn, the peasant told us that my brother, Israel was
there. My grief was unspeakable when I saw Israel swollen with hunger. We
went back to the forest intending to remain together without parting. However,
the next day we found out that Yehoshua Olisker and his family from Glinna were
caught and killed. For security reasons we had to separate. I remained with
my brother Israel. Yechiel and his family with Henya Kutz and her daughter
returned to the Blizhov area.
One night we crossed the Stviga River near Glinna. Israel carried me on his
back because my shoes were torn. We sat on the other side of the river across
from our house in Glinna, which had been taken over by the Ukrainian police.
We were alone, hungry, shoeless, frozen and petrified. We watched our home,
occupied by strangers, but we could not reach it.
One night, the woman in whose barn we were hiding came and told us that the
Soviets had arrived and had conquered the area. I understood her to mean
partisans. Israel also confirmed that the partisans took over the area and
destroyed the police holdings. They spent three weeks there. However, when
the German advance forces came they retreated after a bloody battle in the
village of Gloshovitz.
When the German forces appeared in the area, we were obliged to escape into the
forest to a place called Island of Wolves. The Germans went
through all the settlements killing and burning. They especially took revenge
on all those who supported the partisans. We stayed in the forest. The cold
was unbearable. We lay on snow under the stars. This cruel cold caused the
death of my brother-in-law Sender. He became weaker and one night died in my
sister Rivka's arms.
At that time, Rachel Shuster, who was blind, joined us. Her sister Ethel and
three children were saved from the Berezov ghetto. When the Germans entered
their home to take them out, Rachel jumped, with two children, out of the
window and she escaped into the forest. The peasants saw the hand of G-d in
this escape and helped her.
In March 1943, the German forces came again to the area. They stayed for 18
days. We were very careful not to be caught by them. When we were on the
Island of Wolves, 3 Shtundist brothers from the Hmel hamlet fed us. They
brought us information about the movement of the Germans. They endangered
their lives many time to save ours.
A short time later the Germans left the area and were no longer to be seen.
However, they still bombed the area. In the spring, life was a little easier
and we went to live with one of the peasants from the Hmel hamlet. Partisans
came into the area. Kovpek with his large army passed through on the way to
the Carpathians. Local detachments were formed. The Kotovsky detachment
provided propaganda material. We joined the Kotovsky partisan detachment of
Sovorov. One of the outstanding members of this detachment was Zvi Olshansky,
chief saboteur and right-hand man of the commander.
From time to time, the Germans bombarded us because the peasants told them
where we were located. They were never successful in hitting us. At the end
of 1943, the Nazis were losing the war. We felt our redemption was near.
Unfortunately, I had an infection in a wisdom tooth. My mouth was completely
shut and I had high fever. There was no one who could pull the tooth. One of
the peasants tried to pull it out with pliers, but was unsuccessful. I was
near death for three weeks. My condition was very serious. It was suggested
to have my throat cut open to install a pipe for breathing. I refused. After
lengthy treatments I had surgery under the tooth. The pus was drained and I
When the Soviets liberated the area, the partisans left. Israel joined them.
We went back to Rokitno. We found an empty, destroyed town. Jewish voices
were no longer heard. Every street, every house and every corner reminded us
of our dear departed souls. The loneliness was oppressive. Our only hope was
to find a way to leave the place. A while later we received a letter from my
brother in Russia. He informed us that he had gone there in 1941 with the Red
Army. In February 1945, on his way to the front, he visited us. The day after
he left Rokitno, my brother-in-law Yechiel went out to battle the Banderovtzis
in the village of Decht. He never returned. Two months later, on April 19,
1945 my brother Shalom died. Our only hope was to make aliyah and to join the
remainder of the family. We left Rokitno for Poland. After much wandering, we
arrived in Israel in 1948. I still managed to see my brother Baruch who was a
soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. He died defending his country in 1948,
two weeks before the ceasefire.
The Road Of Suffering
Bronia Lifshitz (Kogan) (Givatayim)
On the eve of that fateful day, we knew that, the next morning, we had to go to
the market square. My mother Sheindl had a bad feeling. Her heart told her
the end was near. She prepared us for judgment day and told me and my sister
Bella to save ourselves. We did not need to worry about her. Our neighbor,
Fanya Klorfein, told my mother off for panicking everyone. There was no basis
for it. She felt that since the first two roll calls ended well this one would
also be like them. My mother was not convinced by these worthless consolations
and she could not sleep. We did not sleep a wink all night and we prepared for
judgment day. One cannot describe the suffering we went through that night.
Jews have always consoled themselves with the saying: Even when a sharp
sword is placed on a person's neck, compassion is still possible.
However, the coming extermination was so certain that we could not console
ourselves with this saying.
In the morning we put on our best clothes as if we were going on a festive
outing. (It turned out that these clothes saved us because they kept us warm
and also served as an exchange for food). I stood near my mother and my sister
and near us stood my aunt, Esther Cherpichnik. When the police arrived, my
mother began to sob and said: Children, they are coming to kill
us! She pushed us and said: Run, my children, run. Save
yourselves! To this day I feel the push on my back. My senses were
blurred. I began to run frightened and lost my mother and sister. I later
found out that my mother ran to a peasant called Claudia. She had stored some
belongings there. I was told that the woman informed on my mother to the
police and that they took her back to the market square. My sister with her
two-year old son in her arms escaped to a peasant called Stankevich and hid in
his garden. She, too, was taken back to the market square.
As I ran between the bullets, I was caught in an iron bar sticking out of the
fence. I do not remember who freed me from this trap. I do remember that I
continued to run with my last strength. I reached the forest where I met
Aharon Lifshitz, the three Golubovitz brothers and a few others. We walked
together. A troubling question filled my head: Where is my family? What was
their fate? I felt guilty because I had saved myself. I very much wanted to
return to Rokitno to die together with my mother and sister. However, the hope
that in spite of everything, they had managed to escape from the market square,
kept me from performing this desperate act.
We walked a whole day without any food or drink. Towards evening we found a
well of dirty water. Felix Golubovitz took off his hat, filled it with water
and gave us a drink. We heard that in the village of Budki-Borovski there were
good peasants who hid Jews. We went there and we came to Liucik Zalevski.
When I arrived I asked the good man to go with me to the village of Borovey.
We had hidden goods there at the home of the priest's brother. We left at
night. The road was very difficult. He was afraid to be caught by criminals
who roamed the area. Zalevski went back and I stayed alone in Borovey. I was
separated from my group. When I came to the priest's brother, he and his wife
began to threaten me. They told me to leave immediately because they were in
contact with Germans who visited them regularly. They were prepared to give
back some of our belongings. However, they wanted me to leave immediately. I
cried bitter tears and I begged them not to abandon me because I did not know
how to reach a place where I could find Jews.
They told me that their farm hand would accompany me. I took two suits and
some cloth and we were on our way. We came to his house and I stayed in the
attic a whole day and half the night. At midnight the man came and told me the
time was right to be on our way. Later on he stole the suits and cloth. I was
suspicious from the beginning and when he reached the forest he stopped and
said: You are on your own from here on. It was pitch black
outside. With tears in my eyes I begged him not to leave me. I did not know
the way. How could I walk in the dark? Wild beasts could attack me or the
killers would find me. He answered stubbornly: If you are not tired of
your life- run now! I was covered with a blanket to protect me from the
cold. He took the blanket from me and in cruel voice repeated: Run
now! I asked him to give me back the blanket because I could freeze in
this extreme cold. When he heard my begging he took out an axe, put it to my
forehead and said: If you wish to stay alive, do not ask me for
anything. I was afraid that he would fulfill his threat and I escaped.
I sat down in the thick of the forest and I wept silently. I resolved to wait
At daybreak I arose and began to walk. I did not know in which direction to
go. I saw railroad tracks and I said to myself: If I cross them I may cross
the border. I am already lost. I should go wherever my feet carry me. I
suddenly discovered houses. I passed a few of them because my heart was
beating hard. Eventually, I stopped at a house. An inner voice whispered to
me: Go inside and you will be safe. I traversed the fence and I
saw a huge scary dog. To my great surprise, he opened his eyes, looked at me,
but he did not budge from his place and continued to doze. When I knocked on
the door a petrified peasant came out. He was totally surprised. How did the
dog remain silent and allow me to enter? It was something unusual. I was
worthy of coming inside the house for that reason alone.
The peasant offered me a meal. I told him my story and he was in shock. He
told me not to be afraid. He was a Shtundist and the Shtundists love Jews. He
promised to accompany me at night to my destination. I lay all day hidden in
the yard. At noon he came with a bible and read a few chapters to me. He saw
me as a mysterious figure. His frightening dog only spared spirits and miracle
workers. The fact that the dog did not bare his teeth proved that it was a
sign from G-d that I should live.
While I was hiding in the yard the Ukrainian police conducted a thorough search
in his house. This too was a sign from above because he originally had
intended to hide me in his house. He only changed his mind at the last minute.
At night he went with me to Budki-Borovski and brought me to Yuzik Zalevski's
house. He was renowned as a savior of Jews.
Zalevski accepted me willingly and arranged a hiding place for me in a potato
cellar. He hid me in a crate that resembled a coffin. I shrunk myself into
this living tomb. There was no air and no light and I thought I would faint. I
called for help. Zalevski came immediately and found me unconscious. He took
me out of the crate, rubbed my temples with snow until I came to. As soon as I
felt better, he put me back in the crate because it was dangerous to be seen in
daylight. At night I would come out for a breath of fresh air. I lay in this
coffin for three months. I was certain that I would come out a cripple.
One day Yuzik came to me and said: You can come out. The partisans came
and they are accepting members into their ranks. Go to them and they will
receive you well. After three months of darkness I thought daylight was
a miracle something from a distant world. I felt as though, for the
first time in my life, I was seeing this precious light. It bothered my eyes
and I had difficulty adjusting. I was very happy because I was fortunate
enough to see the sun again and to breathe fresh air. Great elation overcame
me. In my heart there was hope that if I was fortunate enough to come out of
this darkness into daylight, I would also be free again.
I joined a group of Jews hiding in the village and we went together to the
partisans. However, they only wanted a few men. The women were not wanted. I
had no choice but to return to Zalevski. The situation had worsened. Germans
and Ukrainian militia had appeared in the village looking for partisans. He
asked me to hide in the forest until the storm passed.
In the forest I met Avraham Eizenberg, the Burd brothers and Niuska Kokel. We
were dirty and very weak. We could not stand up. We fell after walking a few
steps. We wanted the end to come. Death seemed to us the redemption from
unspeakable suffering. Avraham Eizenberg brought us potatoes and other food.
We broke our fast and we slowly recuperated.
One day the happy news came. The Soviets were coming closer to our area. A
few weeks later we were free. The enemy was defeated. Rokitno was liberated
and we could return as free people. In January 1945 we returned to Rokitno. I
looked at the terrible destruction and I saw what was left of our Rokitno where
we had spent our best years.
My Experiences In The Years 1942-45
Asher Rosenstein (America)
Ala and Larry Gamulka
The escape from the market square in Rokitno was in such confusion and so
sudden that it is impossible to concentrate on details. I remember only that I
was holding the hand of Godel, Pinie Fuchsman's younger son and we ran not
knowing in which direction to go. Running out of Rokitno, we were three by the
time we reached the forest. The older boy, Yakov, was also with us. Suddenly,
a peasant came out from behind a tree holding a pitchfork and began to shout:
Jews! Jews! We began to run again and he followed us yelling:
Where are you running cursed Jews? May the devil catch you! We
ran without stopping until we collapsed exhausted under a tree. Fear and
hunger did not permit us to waste time thinking and we continued to run until
We wandered for two days and two nights until we reached Zolovey, the village
from which both the Fuchsman boys and I came. Our hope was that our former
neighbors would help us and feed us.
The Fuchsman children, who were very hungry, decided to go to a peasant called
Trachim, with whom their parents had left their belongings for safekeeping.
Trachim did hide them, but he immediately went to the police to inform that he
had hidden two Jewish children. It did not take long for the murderers to
arrive and to shoot them on the spot. They also shot their uncle Modrik (the
husband of Hava Modrik who is now in Israel with her children). This was the
first chapter in the story of the Zolovey escapees who hoped to be rescued by
their former neighbors whom they had known for many years.
I went to Evelyn, my close Polish friend. We had a child, Kalman, who was born
shortly before the war began. Evelyn hid me in a barn filled with hay. Even
though it was a safe place, I knew that Evelyn and her family would sacrifice
their lives rather than give me away.
While I was hiding in the barn Evelyn brought me terrible news. My parents
escaped the slaughter and came to Zolovey. The killers arrested my mother and
my sister Haya and were holding them in the police station. They announced
that they would wait until my father and I will be caught to decide our fate.
My father did not hesitate for a moment and he gave himself up to the killers.
It must be understood that these killers were local boys who used to constantly
eat and drink in our house. Their parents were life-long neighbors of our
family. My mother and father begged them to allow them to escape into the
What was the answer? The killers led them out of the village in the direction
of Rokitno through the forest. All the way my father talked to them and asked
them to, at least, spare my sister's life and allow her to live. He told them
to shoot in the air, pretending to shoot at us.
The killers of Zolovey, Adam and Trachim Turgansky and Pavel Djukovsky were
drunk from killing Jews and took pleasure in killing more. A few kilometers
before Rokitno, a horrible tragedy befell my parents and my sister. My sister
begged to be shot first so she would not see her dear parents killed. They
were killed in a small forest. Their bodies were not buried, but were left for
wolves to drag through the forest. (The fate of my parents was told to me by a
local peasant who had been given all the details by the killers).
After liberation, I collected their bones and hid them hoping to give them a
proper Jewish burial. Unfortunately, it was not possible to do it because I
was drafted into the army.
After the slaughter of my family, the killers came to look for me. They knew
that Evelyn would be the first to know where to find me. When they arrived,
Evelyn went out to meet them. With guns in their hands, they asked her:
Where is your Asher? Her answer was: You can search for
him. You must understand that if I had been found, Evelyn and her entire
family would have been burned to death.
Two of the killers took pitchforks in their hands and began to hack away in the
hay to see if I was hiding there. They reached all the way to the wooden
boards above me. I was lying there really without breathing. Suddenly, the
pitchfork hit my hand. The pain was unbearable, but I managed not to cry out.
The killers gave up the search when Evelyn begged them not to mess up the barn
since her stepfather would kill her when he would see it. They shook off the
hay from their bodies, took their rifles and went into the house.
When night fell, I crawled out from under the hay and I hid under a cross in a
Christian cemetery. That night I escaped into the forest and eventually I was
hidden by a local peasant on an outlying farm.
These were terrible times. The winter was hard and bitter in all respects. It
was easier for me because Evelyn brought me food and clothing. I also knew
what was happening in the area.
In spring, when the partisans began to show themselves, I joined them and
stayed with them until I was drafted into the army. While I was in the forest
and later with the partisans, I remained in contact, through Evelyn, with her
uncles, especially Lavren. He was a Pole on whom I could depend. He also had
some guns. I planned my revenge on the killers of my family and many other
Jews from the area with his help.
I was informed that the killer Adam Turgansky would attend a party with some
girls in a specific place in the village. Lavren, the other uncle and I
planned to visit him at the party. We, the three men, disguised ourselves and
with handguns we entered the house where the party was held. The hero, who
took part in the Jewish tragedy, the pride of the Third Reich, hid himself
under a bed. When the gun was pointed at him, he crawled out, pale with fear,
and begged us to spare his life. We took him outside and shot him several
The locals gave him a fine funeral. They put into his grave everything he had
taken from Jewish homes. The other two killers, when they heard of their
leader's fate, became very cautious and seldom showed themselves in the village.
I tried to catch them in various ways, but I was not successful. On the other
hand, they, with the help of the Germans, killed Evelyn's uncles who had helped
me to kill Adam Turgansky.
Years later, Pavel Djukovsky was found living a financially secure quiet family
life in Poland. He was arrested and sentenced to seven years in prison. The
third one, a cold-blooded killer, disappeared off the face of the earth and
could not be found. He used to boast that when he shoots a Jew, he jumps for
The years spent with the partisans and in the army were full of bloody battles.
I was twice wounded on the Byelorussian front. Our unit was one of the first
to march into East Prussia and took part in the toughest and bloodiest
campaigns. When I was wounded the second time by shrapnel, I lost
consciousness and awoke in a hospital where I recuperated until the end of the
After the war, I found my Evelyn and my son and we left Poland for America
where we sill reside.
The Struggle With The Horrors Of Life
By Ita Trossman (Pinchuk) (Ramat Gan)
When the Jews of Rokitno were assembled for the third counting, many deluded
themselves with the hope that it would be similar to the previous two and that
there would be a good ending. There was a refugee tailor in town that arrived
from Warsaw during the Soviet occupation. He managed the tailors' artel. He
came over to my husband Yechiel and whispered to him that the Germans had
already packed all the cloths and materials and they were taking them out of
town. This is how he surmised that the Germans had decided to liquidate us,
since on the previous occasions the goods had been kept in place. I told my
parents what the tailor had related. Nahum Katzenelson of the Judenrat shouted
at me: Don't create a panic! Nothing will happen and soon you will all
The Germans lined us up alphabetically. Since my name began with a
T, I stood in the last few rows. A few minutes only after the
soothing words of the Judenrat member, the Ukrainian killers from the
Shutz-Politzei swarmed all over us and began to strafe us with machine guns.
A great panic arose and in this general confusion I took my three-year old
daughter, Miriam, in my arms and I fled to the forest. I went into Zavienko's
garden and there I found Dina, Nachman Blizhovsky's wife, her mother Sarah and
her two daughters. A few steps further, I saw Haike Grinshpan lying dead with
her head crushed. I climbed the fence and went into the forest. I was
immediately captured by Stefan of the Ukrainian police. He aimed his rifle at
me and was ready to shoot. I begged him: Don't shoot! If you want me to
return to town, I am ready to do it immediately. The policeman turned
his head and saw escaping Jews. He began to chase them and left us alone. He
was certain that we would return to town. I used the situation to my advantage
and I ran into the field where I lay down till evening. In the dark I went to
see Prochtor, a non-Jew. He took my clothes with the yellow star and exchanged
them for an old coat.
When I left him I hid in the bushes not far from the road, to hear what the
locals were saying about the fate of the Jews of Rokitno. I heard one telling
his friend that 80 Jews were killed in the market place and that the others
were taken to Sarny. I understood that it would not make sense to return to
Rokitno. In spite of this, Mordechai Kramer and his two sons, and Rachel
Barman put on their yellow stars and returned to town. They thought the
killings were over and that no more Jews would be killed. However, it was all
in vain. The killers found them as they entered town.
Suddenly, I heard dogs barking in the forest. It was 3 a.m. I went in that
direction and I met Henya Kutz and her daughter Hindel. Finding them
encouraged me and from then on we wandered around together. We were 5
kilometers from Rokitno. We had to move every half-hour because the police
were after us. The blueberries staved our hunger and we drank dew in the
fields to slake our thirst. As we walked we heard the Rebbetzin Raykale
begging: Take me with you!
In the morning we met Shimon Gendelman and Yentel Greenberg (Henya Kutz's
sister) who joined us. On the way, we met Jews from Rokitno who were
petrified. Near the outskirts (Hutor) of Ilova we found, in the bushes, Haim
Turok and Shachnovski. We met Rachel Tochman, her husband and two daughters
and we continued together.
Not far from the outskirts (Hutor) lived a local by the name of Michel Kanonich
who was a family friend. When we were in the ghetto, he brought us food in
exchange for clothes. He would tell us that in times of danger we should run
to him and he would hide us. When I came to Ilova, I met Yakov Greenberg and
his wife Zlate, his brother-in-law Shlomo Rekkes and his two daughters, and
Yentel Potroch and her child.
I approached the house quietly and I called to him: Michel. He
opened the door and took us in. He gave us a pitcher of milk and some bread.
I asked about my husband Yechiel. He told me that the day before he had slept
in Karpilovka at his uncle's house, but that now he did not know where he was.
Michel hid us in a bush near his house. We hid there for 4 days and the good
man gave us hot food daily. One night it was pouring and we had to find a new
shelter. Michel took us to the threshing shack. The forest guard had warned
Michel's children that if he found Jews there he would burn the whole village.
To their credit it must be said that although they knew about us, they did not
give us away.
However, we had to find a new hiding place because there was a hunt for Jews in
the outskirts (Hutor). The forest guard chased us and overtook us. We
threatened him that our husbands were partisans and that they would avenge us.
He let us continue out of fear for himself.
We had to cross a river. We did it diligently. We reached the forest guard in
Kovila. He gave us the bad news that on that day the two sons of Pinie
Fuchsman had been killed. He took us into the threshing shack and in the
morning he told us to follow the canal where we could meet other Jews.
That day there was a downpour and we could not leave the place. We spent two
months alone in the forest - two women with two little girls. No one helped us
because we were a burden to others. When there was no more food and we were
near starvation, we left the girls alone in the forest, we crossed the river
and we went to look for food.
The peasants had pity on us and they filled two sacks with bread and cabbage.
We returned laden and tired, but we lost our way. We were certain that beasts
had attacked our girls. We sat on the wet ground and we cried. We cursed our
Suddenly, an old man appeared, as if from heaven and told us: Don't cry.
Come and I will show you where your girls are. We found them and from
then on we carried them on our backs, as if they part of our bodies. Our
bodies protected them.
One of the miracles that I cannot explain was the conduct of the girls. Under
ordinary circumstances, when a three-year old girl is left alone in the thick,
scary forest, she would die of fear. This was not the case with these two
girls. They were as mature as any adult and they understood well the dangerous
situation in which they found themselves. They never cried. They were neither
afraid of the dark nor of the forest animals. They became very close. One
took care of the other. They were totally devoted to each other. What courage
they displayed! When I discovered that my husband was alive, I went from one
place to another to look for him. We were chased by some local peasants who
told us to stop. My daughter said: G-d for bid. If the killers
overtake us we will throw ourselves into the river and we will not give
ourselves up to them. The girls developed an excellent sense of
direction. As soon as they traveled on a road, it became a part of their
memory and they always knew how to return. They never lost their way.
In our wanderings we reached a thick forest. The trees were tall and dense and
they formed a natural defense wall. Nothing from the outside could penetrate
them. Wolves howled and birds of prey flew over our heads. We were scared
that we would be attacked by wolves. We did not sleep at night and we made
sure the fire did not go out. We piled branches and we lay on top of them.
Every rustle frightened us. One night we heard a hissing near our heads and I
saw a snake lying near me. We fled with the girls.
Two months after we had come to this horrible place, Nachman Blizhovsky and
Baruch Perlovich arrived to tell us that Shlomo Grinshpan had told them that my
husband Yechiel and the children, my sister Chaya and Moshe Golovey were alive.
We went to search for them and we found them between Blizhov and Glinna.
Yakov Wolfin, the brother of Henya Kutz, went into the village of Hrapon with
his wife Dvoshke and his son Nachum. The peasants in Hrapon did not want to
shelter them and told them to go to Berezov. There they were put to death.
Pessi, Henya Kutz's husband, managed to escape from the ghetto, but he was
killed in Karpilovka with a group of 30 Jews. Her son, Aharon and her father
Shaya, 83 years old, were killed in Sarny.
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