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Vasilishki portion of Shchuchin Yizkor Book (cont.)

Translation donated by Eric Cohen

Translated by Miriam Dashkin Beckerman

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Under German Rule

The German Attack on the Soviet Union

         Sunday, June 22, 1941. The news that the German Army had attacked the Soviet Union spread like lightening. The German Soviet War had started.

        Terror struck the shtetl. The Christians immediately fell upon the "raymag" (regional warehouse) and started to steal the contents from there.

        A great cloud covered the city. People gathered in groups and discussed the tense situation. That Sunday night, nobody slept.

        Going out in the street at 4 a.m., I already saw posters being pasted up from the "Military Mobilization Unit" who called up certain age groups for conscription. Predawn, they already started distributing mobilization notices to homes. Eliahu Liyusik also got a notice to register at the unit.

        The mobilized ones started to gather in the local Russian school (previously Povskeckne) at the point of mobilization. Here, one had to go through a medical examination and then sent to military camps. Hundreds of people, Jews and Christians, gathered together, each with a pack on their shoulders. Women accompanied the men with tears, children kissed their parents. The destruction was great. Nobody knew what the future held and where he or she was going. At the same time, peasants of the surrounding villages and Christians from the shtetl robbed Soviet businesses and positions.

        At the assembly place, there were more than a thousand recruits. One bomb fell near "boina" [the slaughterhouse] and one on the gardens not far from the people who had come to enlist. As soon as the bombs exploded, all the mobilized ones ran in all directions, never returning to the point of mobilization. That is how the Russian mobilization started and came to an end in Vasilishok.

        Meanwhile, the Russian Party heads and executives captured and mobilized cars, wagons, bicycles, and started to head to Vastok in the east.

        Some Jews worked for the Soviets in various positions and correctly assessed the situation. They escaped together with the Russians.

        The robbing that the peasants did increased. By now, they had already robbed private property from the Russian officials who had escaped and also from Jewish homes.

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In the Grip of the Germans and anti-Semitism

        In the streets, anti-Semitic slogans and threats started to be heard. Jews already feared going out on the street. In this fashion, the pogrom mood continued until Wednesday, June 25, 1941. At noon, the first German Military Intelligence entered Vasilishok.

        The Christian population celebrated joyfully. Some greeted the Germans with flowers. There were some Christians who immediately ran to turn in the Jewish population.

        Immediately, after this, the German Army started to march in. Some came to a shop in the shtetl; and some marched on. Germans asked how far it is to Moscow. When they were told how many kilometers, their answer was: "In two weeks, we'll be in Moscow."

        With the army, the German Commanders established themselves in the priest's home. The commander immediately assigned women to jobs. The women had to sweep the streets, wash and clean the houses where the German military were quartered.

        Later, they took all kinds of skilled workers and other workers for forced labor. They found work for all.

        From the first days, the commander started to hunt for former communists.

        The first victim fell--a Christian from the shtetl, who had worked as a writer in "Gar Soviet" during the Soviet stay. He was arrested and shot immediately.

        At the same time, many Poles brought the commander lists of tens of Jews from the shtetl who had worked for the Soviets in various capacities. Even a wagoner--all were reported as Soviet officials. If a Christian had a grudge against a Jew, he ran to the commander to turn him in.

        Handing Jews over became a daily event.

        Immediately on the first day, the commander organized a Police Assistant Unit. Tens of Poles and White Russians volunteered to serve the Germans.

        A search started for undesirable communist elements.

        Friday, July 26, 1941, after a Christian boy had been shot, seven Jewish men were caught and arrested on the assumption that they were communists. The first Jewish victims were

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         These innocent victims were driven two kilometers from the shtetl and short. They were buried in one common grave. All these Jews left families at home, wives and parents.

        Much later, when a Judenrat existed, he got permission to bring the first seven victims to a proper Jewish burial in the Jewish cemetery.

        This slaughter was the beginning in the long chain of murders of the Vasilishok Jews.

        The blood had not yet gotten cold in these first victims, than the Germans were already looking for fresh ones.

        At the order of the former Polish official, Shmigira (this Pole played a sad role in the history of the torture of the shtetl Vasilishok), a Jew by the name of Nachum GORDON was taken--accusing him of being a communist. GORDON had a wife and children. He was kept under arrest for a whole week. During this time, the police-helpers stole money and valuable from the GORDON family, promising to free him in return. However, this did not help.

        On a certain Friday evening, Nachum GORDON was led out behind the bathhouse; and the police shot him. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery.

        From day to day, the chutzpah increased from these police assistants. At that time, there was a decree given that Jews must wear a yellow armband on the sleeve of their left arm. If a Jew was caught without a yellow armband, or if it was not in the right place, that person would be beaten murderously.

         Jews were "fortunate" if they escaped simply with a beating and with being confined "to bed" for a few days.

        The police-helpers entered Jewish homes, demanding gold and jewelry. If not, they would be arrested. The Jews knew how these arrests could end. The police did not leave the houses empty-handed.

        One day, the German Commanders left the shtetl. The only ones in charge were the Polish Police-helpers. One Wednesday, a transport truck with Germans arrived. They immediately went to the Police Courtyard (near the tailor Pinchas ZANECHANSKY's house).

        All at once, the Germans scattered among the Jewish homes. The Jews started to

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run away. The police caught eleven Jews (among them one woman who was later freed.) The men were put on a transport truck and driven in the direction of Lida.

        The wives of men made their way to Lida, let it cost them lots of money, sent Christians, but without result. None of the men ever returned. The names of those victims are


        The local Poles played a role also in the murder of these Jews.

        The victim, Reuven TZESHLER, was a watchmaker. A Polish watchmaker snitched on him. Polubinski was his name. He lived on Belitzker Street.

        TZESHLER got along very well with his Polish professional colleague. As soon as the Germans entered, TZESHLER hid watches and various tools of the trade at his "friend's" house, the Polish watchmaker.

        Wanting to put his hands on this Jewish property, the Pole turned over his Jewish competitor.

        Polish Police-helpers were bossing the shtetl until the new Commanders arrived. The new Commanders stayed in the courtyard of SHWARTZ.

New Bosses--New Tzores [Aggravation]

        The new Commander called up twenty men, the finest balebatim of the shtetl and ordered them to form a Judenrat.

        Everyday, new decrees appeared. Instead of the yellow armbands, Jews had to wear yellow patches on the front and back. Jews were forbidden to walk on the sidewalk.

        The Police-helpers became the regular police. They were dressed in black uniforms with white insignias on their left sleeve with the inscription in German and Polish: "Police."

The Judenrat

        The Judenrat functioned from the home of YOMAS. The members of the Judenrat were

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Herman SENDIK, Yakov KAUFMAN, Kalman KRAVITZ, Alter VENZOVSKY, Yonas MONES, Moishe BASS, Mordecai LIPSCHITZ, Chaim-Berl GORDON, Dr. KATZ, and others.

        The Judenrat had to carry out all the German decrees and orders. They had to supply Jewish workers at every call.

        All needed Jewish workers -- commanders, police, 'pritzim' (landowners/aristocracy), and peasants.

        The police chased the Jews to work.

        The reward for the work was -- beatings. And the beatings were given at every opportunity, for finding a beet or a carrot and just like that, for no reason. In the shtetl government, there was a special section for employment, led by the former official Vagit SHMIGIRA. For half a mark, every Christian could buy a Jew for a day's work. The shtetl government made a business out of it. There were times when the goyim were dissatisfied with the Jews, who were sent. They cursed and beat them. Some goyim were more humane. They gave food to their Jewish workers and even gave them food parcels to take home for their families.

        One day, the commander's office had to be supplied with nice furniture, bed linens, dishware, and antiques. Another day, they demanded boots, fur garments, material and other valuables.

        As payment for these supplies, Jews got more and more decrees.

        In the evening, going outdoors was forbidden. On Sunday, it was forbidden for a Jew to be seen outdoors at any time. At night, it was forbidden to burn lights on at home. This last decree gave the police an opportunity to break into Jewish houses, to break windows, as an excuse. They claimed that they saw lights on inside. This, again,, gave them an opportunity to force the Jews to hand over gold and money.

        The Judenrat knew who had to be bribed. With great difficulty, they bribed to save a few Jews.

The Polish Police Commander

        The policeman YEZEVSKI played a tragic role in the Jewish destruction. During the Polish rule, Yezevski was a military man, an officer. He was sent to Vasilishok in order to train Polish youth. He organized the "Sheheletz."

        When the Soviets entered the shtetl, YEZEVSKI ran away. They exiled his family. When the Germans marched in,

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YEZEVSKI returned to the shtetl and became the Polish Police Commander.

        It was a sad moment for any Jew who fell in Yezevski's hands. He shot several Jews with his own hands.

        At that time, the Jewish population numbered around two thousand souls. Everyday, a thousand Jews had to be supplied for work.

        Elderly, sick, and children was not taken into consideration. It was too bad for the Judenrat if they failed to supply the decreed number of workers in time.

        One Sunday, when the Jews were still allowed on the streets on Sunday, some Jews went as usual to friends, some to the Judenrat because they wanted to see people after a hard week of work and tzores. On their way, they met a group of Lithuanian soldiers, who were assigned to the German commander. The Lithuanians murderously attacked the Jews with beatings. Afterwards, they went to the commander and reported that the Jews had attacked them. This aroused the brutish blood of the remaining Lithuanians both towards the Judenrat members and other Jews. They had to pay a large sum of money in order to put the whole matter aside so that the Lithuanians would not bother the Judenrat further.

        One day, a fire broke out in the home of Reuven ORLANSKY on Grodno Street. His home went up in smoke. During the fire, a wall and part of the roof of ORLANSKY's Polish Christian neighbor, Zolik, caught fire. The Christian used this opportunity to go immediately to the commander, claiming that the Jews had purposely set fire to his house. This Christian, Zolik, demanded that the Jews should build a new house for him or pay a large sum of money as compensation. After long and difficult negotiations, the Judenrat gave Zolik many valuable items plus three thousand rubles for damages.

        One day, a military man was riding his motorcycle, speeding through the streets. He ran over Dr. Avraham ALPERT, who was on his way to visit a patient. From the collision, both of them fell and were severely injured. The injured military man was immediately taken to the hospital while the Jewish doctor was taken home. Dr. Alpert suffered not only from the terrible wounds but he was also afraid that he and his family would be shot. Sure enough, Christian witnesses were found to confirm that the "Jude" had done it on purpose, in order to kill a German officer. The distress in the shtetl was terrible. After much effort, the Jews succeeded in proving to the German commander that the Jewish doctor was not guilty in this case.

        That is how the nightmarish days continued. No day passed without its tzores, without its decrees, without blood or without tears.

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         There was a special Kommando in the region to dish out punishment. They carried out many murders in Szczuczyn and other shtetlach around us.

        In Vasilishok, we called this punishment Kommando the "Boid" [Covered Wagon] because the murderers came in a truck covered with a white tarpaulin.

        As soon as the "Boid" appeared, a great panic fell upon the shtetl. People hid in cellars, in garrets, and in various hiding places.

        The "boid" used to ride over to the Police and hand over a list of undesirable Jews to the Germans. When there was no list, the police would randomly grab Jews. The "boid" never left the shtetl without victims. The "boid" came only from Szczuczyn, its premises.

        The first case of murder was when the "boid" came across the Jew, Moishe REIZELS, on the outskirts of the shtetl. The mayor had sent him on a mission to a destination seven kilometers from the shtetl. He went there with a permit from the mayor. (Without a permit, one was not allowed to travel from place to place.) Moishe REIZELS was already on his way back, two kilometers from the shtetl, at the village of CLEBANYE when the "boid" met him. At the request of the Germans, the Jews, with assurance, showed them his permit. The Germans mockingly tore up the mayor's permit and shot the Jew on the spot.

        The Christians informed the Judenrat that near the "magilkes" lays a shot Jew.

        A few days later, the "boid" drove to the Judenrat and demanded a list of teachers, rabbis, and shochets.

        Upon receiving the list, they immediately required the Judenrat to bring these people, saying that they have something to discuss with them. Some of these people hurriedly started. The teacher, Nachum BERKOVICH, was not at home. His own wife went looking for him all over the shtetl and found him with much difficulty. BERKOVICH went to the Judenrat where the teachers and rabbis and shochets already had gathered.

        The "boid" took them all five kilometers from the shtetl on the road to Novy Dvor and shot them all. Those who were shot were the rabbi of the shtetl, Rav Eliahu EISENBUD (age 73), teacher ZIMLEVICH (age 45), teacher Nachum BERKOVICH )age 30), and the shochet of Sobakintze (age 60). Rav Eliahu EISENBUD was beaten mercilessly before his death. Families survived all those who were murdered.

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        Not long after that, on a Tuesday, the "boid" came once more. This time, they went to the police and demanded a list of all the Jewish families whose husbands had run away with the Russian in their retreat from the shtetl and the families whose men already had been murdered by the Germans.

        Once again, there was a rush by the police, with YEZEVSKI at the head. The police started to pick up one family after another. A small number managed to hide.

        The families, including the children, were driven to the Jewish cemetery of the shtetl and shot on the spot. Even a sick, dying woman was brought, together with her young child.

        Those who perished are the LAM family (five persons), Batya GORDON and her ten-year-old daughter, Frau STEIN (wife of principal of Yavneh School) and her daughter, and a woman with a child who had been under the care of Henoch MILLER.

        Before the execution, the Judenrat ran and begged for mercy from the local German commander but it did not help at all. The Punishment Kommando of the "boid" was not under the jurisdiction of the local authorities. They did whatever they wanted.

        On a particular day, the commander notified that they were leaving Vasilishok. They still managed to do enough harm but finally left the shtetl.

        Once more a panic erupted among the Jews for who knew what might happen next? Who will come? People were "used to" the commander. They were more or less "known" for how they could be bribed.

A New Plague--Gendarmerie

        In a few days time, a stable of gendarmerie with a chief arrived in the shtetl. The gendarmerie stayed in the same quarters (at SHWARTZ's). The premises had to be freshly decorated with new furniture supplied, new bedding, etc.

        And once more, new decrees. One of them was forbidding davening.

        The High Holidays of 1941 arrived. In spite of the strict laws, Jews assembled in private houses for "minyanim". One minyan was at the home of Reb Mordechai Ber PUPKO. Reb Mordechai-Ber, an observant Jew, never missed davening in his whole life. The surrounding neighbors davened in his house, together with the other householders.

        Rosh Hashanah, in the midst of the davening, the police suddenly arrived. Like wild animals, they tore through the house. The furor was great. All those who had come to daven were arrested and driven through the streets in their kittels [men's white linen robes] and tallit.

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On the way, the police beat them. When they were brought to the station, the Jews looked like living dead. After much hard effort by the Judenrat, and for a large bribe, the poilce freed the Jews.

Polish Police Also

        A similar case occurred when the Polish police attacked a minyan on a weekday. The Jews were driven out of the house. Moishe PUPKO (Rav Motya-Ber's son) was commanded to don his tallit and tefillin, take a Siddur in his hand and, in this fashion, walk behind a dead horse that was being taken away on a wagon. Moishe PUPKO had to follow the wagon while praying and singing.

Ghetto

        The fall of 1941 arrived. Rumors started to spread about a ghetto. People interpreted this in many ways. They ran out in the streets where they expected the ghetto to be. There they arranged for rooms with friends and acquaintances. Some Jews gave their last valuables to the Christian people whom they knew so that they would hide them. Others exchanged things for food. They wanted to prepare sustenance. The police grabbed people with bundles, held them, and beat them. They paid money and were somehow set free. All this so that they should not be turned over to the German gendarmes.

        One Friday, a Christian wagon drove up to the former iron and metal dealer, Yehosha KOPELMAN. KOPELMAN wanted to give this Christian whom he knew some iron to hide. A Polish policeman, BOZER, noticed this and immediately told the German gendarme. The Jew was immediately arrested. KOPELMAN was held under arrest for two days. Early Sunday morning, he was led out near the Polish 'magilkes' to be shot. Two Jews held him under the arms. He was shot. The two who accompanied him buried him on the spot. KOPELMAN's wife and children ran after him the whole way and saw from a distance how the Germans shot their husband and father.

        The Judenrat attempted to postpone the decree of the ghetto but nothing helped. One day, the Judenrat was called and told to prepare a place for some two hundred Jews in the nearby villages: Zabeloch, Sobakintze, and other smaller places. A few days later, the Jews were brought and put into houses on Kromker Street where the ghetto was to be. Then, the Judenrat was commanded to form the Jewish police. The Jewish police consisted of twenty men.

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For a good price, the Polish police promised not to beat or rob the parcels of the Jews, on the day that they would be led to the ghetto.

        At the end of November 1941, the final order was given about how to go to the ghetto.

        On the day that the Jews were to be drive to the ghetto, many police from the surrounding shtetlach arrived in Vasilishok. They strictly guarded the streets.

        The procedure for going into the ghetto was "simple." Gendarmes went to each house, accompanied by police and magistrates. Each Jew could take along only what he himself could carry.

        The Jewish house with its remains was immediately boarded up through the magistrate appointees. The Jew could take nothing else from his house.

        The Jewish policemen led the Jews, with their packs, to the pre-appointed places in the ghetto.

        The ghetto consisted of half of Kranker Street, Foiler Street, the Shulhoif Lane and half of Vilna Street.

        The Germans issued a strict order that the Jews must not return or show their faces in their former houses. A few Jews, in spite of the order, tried to reach their houses and save something of the valuables. They paid for this with their lives.

        Because of this "sin" on the first day of the ghetto, the following were shot: Faiche SHWARTZ, a Sobakintzer Jew and a seven-year-old boy from EISHISKI.

        The life of the Vasilishok Jews was hard enough before the ghetto but now the situation got much worse. Previously, every family had their own quarters. In the ghetto, five housewives had to use one kitchen--five families with children and just one bedroom. The crowding led to frequent quarrels. The Judenrat had a new job: to control and regulate the quarrels and fights among the Jews in the ghetto.

The Mass Murders Begin

        The day after entering the ghetto, the "boid" came again from Szczuczyn. They drove into the ghetto with the excuse that they were going to examine the sanitation of the ghetto. Suddenly, they encircled Shmuel DELATITSKY's house and chased all the people out. They were led to behind the stone Beit Midrash were sixteen men, women, and children were shot. Those who perished were

        The execution was gruesome. Some people started to run away. They were pursued and caught, tortured frightfully, trod upon and then shot with bullets that tore the bodies apart.

        Afterwards, the murderers cold-bloodedly went to the Judenrat and notified them that there were sixteen bodies shot in the garden. They were commanded to bury them, not in the Jewish cemetery, but on the spot where they were lying. The victims were torn to pieces. Only one child was laying peacefully, like in a sweet sleep.

Fresh Victims

        The bloodbath of the sixteen had not yet been forgotten when, a few days later, five more Jews were arrested. They had sneaked out behind the ghetto to look for something to eat.

        Four of these five arrested were shot the very same day. The Polish police carried out this murder, with the commandant YEZEVSKY at the head.

        Those shot were:

Frau Yentel BOYARSKY was freed.

        Each passing day, the situation in the ghetto grew worse. Those remaining alive prayed for their death. The food reserve ran out. Clothes tore. People were chased to work. Death lurked at every step.

        Once, the "boid" again drove to the police station. The police immediately ran into the ghetto and grabbed five Jews, just passers-by, among them one member of the Judenrat. They handed them all over to the German murderers.

        In the yard of the police, they were shot immediately. The following is a list of the victims:

Life continued.

        And -- once more the "boid" came. The Police policemen ran like wild animals to the ghetto to grab victims. The policeman, SHACHOVICH, from Klibania, sadly remembered for his well-known murderous acts, entered the house of Isaac BOYARSKY (Chanan KRAVITZ also lived there) and commanded the two men Isaac BOYARSKY and Chanan KRAVITZ to accompany him. The wives pleaded with the policeman, kissed their hands. Finally, for a lot of money, he freed the two men. Meanwhile, other policemen grabbed six Jews and brought them to the commandant where they were shot immediately.

        The names of those shot were

        This was the last attack by the "boid" bandits.

        The Szczuczyn command left Szczuczyn and was led away, closer to the front.

        The ghetto breathed somewhat easier. Weeks passed without victims. Hope increased.

The Last Slaughter [Shchita]

        On May 8, 1942, many Germans rode into Vasilishok, together with Lithuanian policemen. The ghetto came under close watch and encircled. The Jews felt that a great danger is approaching.

        The Judenrat tried to calm the people, but to no avail. The panic was enormous. On May 8, nobody went to work.

        Two gendarmes came to the ghetto and "ordered" valuables in the Judenrat. Every minute, fresh rumors spread, one worse than the next. Tension grew. That night, nobody slept.

        Shabbat, May 9, immediately in the morning, people scurried around to learn anything, to look for advice. Very early, an order was issued: Gather all the gold and money and hand it over to the Germans.

        Some of the Jews did as ordered. The others destroyed their money.

        During the entire time, shooting was heard in the ghetto. It was the police, shooting at those who tried to escape. Around ten a.m., another order was issued: No Jew may leave his house. The Judenrat people may appear in the street as well as the Jewish police.

        Immediately, shooting started in the ghetto. On the threshold of their houses fell Chaim Asher KOPELMAN, a Sobachintzer woman, and many others.

        In the afternoon, the gendarmes called up two wagoners, Hirschel TABELITSKY and Moishe ZABLOTSKY. They ordered them to bring benches and table to the gendarmarie because the following day, they were to have a grand ball. … Upon returning to the ghetto, the two wagoners said that at the Jewish cemetery, the shtetl's peasants were digging large pits. They also said that there would be a mass murder and only tradesmen would be allowed to live. The mayor, SHMIGIRO, and the ghetto leader, VOLKEVICH, were sitting in the gendarmarie and preparing lists.

        Some Jews wanted to get themselves out of the ghetto by force. Some tried to bribe the policemen who were guarding the ghetto but were unsuccessful. Every attempt ended with victims.

        Sunday arrived. The 10th of May, 1942 was the saddest day for the Jews of Vasilishok. The night of Saturday/Sunday, no Jew in the ghetto slept. Pious Jews recited Psalms and prayed for mercy, waiting for a miracle but, no miracle came.

        Sunday at 10 a.m., the police and SS started to chase the Jews out of their houses toward the place near the Judenrat. There, the selection took place. As they were chased to the Judenrat, many were shot on the way. From all the hurrying, commotion, and fear, some lost their children. The corner of the selection faced Vilna Street. Between the courtyard of Yone MONES and Reuvin TSESHLER's courtyard, stood the Polish mayor, SHMIGIRA; the commandant of the Polish police, YEZERSKI; the leader of the labor-force, VACHKEVICH; the head of the German gendarmerie, VINDICH of Lida's "Gebitz Commissaria"; and an entire 'suite' of high SS and SD officers, who came to carry out the mass slaughter.

        At the selection, families stood together. Each family was asked for their name and occupation. Then, the order came: "Left! Right! Right to life and left to death. Those who were directed to the left were herded with beating to the cemetery.

        On both sides of the road stood armed SS and police, ready to shoot at anyone who attempted to escape. There were cases where familes were split up: some to the right and others to the left. The closest ones said farewell for the last time--under a hail of beatings.

        Around two hundred remaining alive were brought together near FEIGUS' courtyard, among them the writer of these lines. From the distance, the living ones saw how hundreds of Jews -- women, men, and children -- were driven to their death. Some tried to run away but were unsuccesful. A very tiny number did succeed. Very quickly, heavy shooting started that continued for many hours. The shouts and cries of the victims carried to the center of the shtetl.

        Night fell. The living ones were taken to the Beit Midrash.

        Motl STOLIER and his son-in-law Yankel BESHANSKY returned from the village where they had been working on the day of the slaughter. Their families already had been chased out of their house. They had managed to hide themselves in the garrett of their house.

PHOTOGRAPH: At the Monument for the Vasilishok Martyrs,
in "Yaar Hakdoshim [Martyr's Forest] in the Hills of Jerusalem

        From the garret, Motel STOLIER saw how the Jews were being chased and beaten. Among those destined to die, he saw his wife Gushke and his daughter. He hung himself on the spot.

        Feigele ROSENBLUM, seventeen-years-old, and Freydke MUSHENSON, twenty-one years old, went crazy at the mass graves.

        The bloody action of May 10th cost approximately one thousand, eight hundred Jewish lives.

Chana and Eliahu VOLOCHINSKY


Between Life and Death

        During the selection in the gruesome slaughter day, my mother, sister, and I were sent to the left by the German murderers, that is to say, to death.

        We were herded to the prepared mass graves in the Jewish cemetery. The German murderers encircled us. Shooting, crying, and screams could be heard on all sides.

        Not far from the cemetery, my mother said to me: " My child, run away. I implore you! Don't go into the grave while still alive."

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         That was the last time that I obeyed my mother.

        I ran through the fields in the direction of the forest. Moishe, the Cossack's son, a cobbler, ran before me.

        The Germans opened fire on us.

        The Cossack's son fell down beside me, wounded. I also fell down because of fear and exhaustion.

        The Germans thought I was dead and stopped shooting.

        Slowly, I recovered. Near me, I noticed a scattered bundle of straw. I shoved myself toward the straw and covered myself with it somehow.

        I heard shooting the whole time. It was the innocent victims being murdered. I thought that all the Vasilishok Jews had been shot.

        The day passed. In the evening, the Germans and the police left the place with a happy song..

        As soon as it got dark, I carefully moved away from that horrible place.

        After walking for two hours, I came to the village of Artzeshi, I knocked at the door of strangers, a Christian house and asked for some water and a piece of bread. The Christian gave me both.

        Daybreak came when I approached a nearby forest. I hid in the forest for two weeks. During the night, I would go to various Christian homes to get something to eat. Most of the time, they gave me a piece of bread, something cooked and sometimes even a good word.

        The third week, a Christian told me that some Jews remained alive in the Vasilishok ghetto. I had already become fed up with struggling in the forest like an animal. I also felt a great longing for fellow Jews.

        On the first day of Shavuot, I entered the ghetto.

        Together with the remaining Vasilishok Jews, I went through all the stages of the destruction -- ghetto, Szczuczyn, and Todt Lager in Lida.

        Seeing no end in sight to the Jewish tzores and that no chance existed to remain in the ghetto, I together with four more Jewish boys, ran to the forest.

        After much difficulty and long wandering, we reached Beilsky's Jewish Otriad in the Naliboker Forest and lived to see the day of liberation.

        Naturally, until I lived to see the day of liberation, I once more endured tens of day and hundreds of hours between death and life. I do not have the courage to once again relive those horrible days and hours of suffering and pain…One wants to forget the terrible nightmare of murder and destruction.

Yehuda SHWARTZ


[Page 246 {332}]


Three Times I Saved My Life

A. A Vileiker Laner [?]

        One summer day in 1942, a group of Germans rode into the Szczuczyn Judenrat demanding one hundred workers to be put at the disposal of "Todt Lager" ( a German construction company that carried out work for the front using Jewish slave labor: railway lines, bricks, trains). The list of the one hundred workers included my brother and me and the following from Vasilishok: Leibke LEIBOWITZ and family; Shimon GORDON and family; Chemke KAPLAN and wife; Moishele RACHMILEVICH, Shmiel ORLIANSKY and his brother-in-law Yosef MEDLINSKY; Eshel BESHANSKY; Moishele KRAVITZ and his son, SHALEVER, and others. We were led to the Rozhanka train station where we were packed onto freight cars that were supposed to take us to Lida's Todt Lager.

        I, personally, was glad that we were taken to Lida. First, because there were rumors circulating that the Szczuczyn Ghetto was being liquidated and that everyone was being taken to Borisov to a camp lager, far from our home. Second, from Lida, it was much easier to make contact with partisans. However, we were quickly disappointed when we noticed that we passed Lida station and that we were being taken further away under strict guard. We became very worried. People started to talk about jumping from the train, but my instinct told me not to take this dangerous step, but to wait.

        At dawn, we arrived at the Veilika Station. There, Germans were waiting for us -- and some were taken down at Veilika. The rest were taken to the Krasna Station, seven kilometers from Vileika. My father-in-law, Yitzak PUPKO, and I were left in Vileika with others from Vasilishok. We were shoved into wooden barracks that formerly had been used as storage rooms for grain. There, we found approximately 700 Jews from Baronowitz, among them, Losia SCHWARTZ (Alter SCHWARTZ' son) -- barefoot, naked, and hungry. He told us that they had been brought a few weeks before from the Baronowitz ghetto. They were gathered up suddenly, while going to work and had not even managed to tell their families.

        The following day, we were led to work, to lay a railway line from Moldechne to Minsk. The work was very difficult, accompanied by beatings from the German superintendent. We worked from dawn to nightfall. When we returned from work, totally exhausted, beaten and hungry, we ran to get a bit of watery soup that the kitchen had prepared. The hungry workers shoved to get the bit of warm watery soup all the sooner. A hail of bullets greeted them.

[Page 247 {333}]

         A few days later, I chanced to succeed in getting to work painting for the German front officer. He seemed to like me. Beside painting and decorating, I polished his shoes and the brass insignias until one could see one's reflection in them. I also heated and kept the ovens going. One day, I discovered that Jews were being sent to our ghettos to gather winter wares and food for the workers. I decided to talk to the front officer to convince him to let me go to Szczuczyn for food and clothing for our workers. I achieved this permission with much talking and bribery, as did Eshl BESHANSKY, a dental technician.

        We arrived in Szczuczyn on Yom Kippur Eve. Everything was dark and closed. When I knocked at my living quarters, everyone was scared and did not want to open the door. Finally, Dr. ALPERT and KATZ opened the door. The joy was indescribable because everyone thought we were long dead. In the morning, I gave a report to the Judenrat and asked them to prepare everything that we were sent to bring because we had to return in three days time.

        My thoughts started strongly to dictate to me that I leave the lager as quickly as possible and go to my family even though the situation had somehow improved for the time being. I continued my work and kept asking the front officer to let me return to my wife and child. After much pleading, he freed me at the price of my sending back boots and other valuables with the soldiers.

        I returned to the Szczuczyn ghetto with the decision to escape to the forest as quickly as possible. The "lagers" Vileika and Krasna were liquidated shortly thereafter and all workers there murdered.

B. After the Big Slaughter

        Here, we shall return and tell briefly how, after the great slaughter in Vasilishok, we were transported to Szczuczyn.

        The few hundred "useful" Jews who remained after the great slaughter in Vasilishok were taken to the stone Beit Midrash.

        There, we were all registered. A new list was made of "useful" Jews. Windisch and the Field Commissar of Lida carried out the registration. Suddenly, Commander YEZEVSKY and some police appeared. They led out the family of Berl KAUFMAN (Shtander) from the Beit Midrash and shot them. The screams of the wife, who pressed a young child to her heart, were indescribable--eternally, eternally that picture will stand before my eyes and remain in my memory.

[Page 248 {334}]

From the Beit Midrash, we were sent back to our houses to spend the night. My wife Chana, our child, and I remained out of a total of twenty-five people, who lived together with us in that house. All kinds of pictures and thoughts tortured us all night. Barely surviving the night, I went outside in the morning. Nobody had slept that night. People came out of hiding and feared being shot. We also were afraid. In the Beit Midrash, there was a notification that whoever hid an escapee from the slaughter would be short. Some of the Judenrat tried to bribe the German and police in order to protect all those who were hiding from the slaughter.

        An order came from the German gendarmerie to gather in the Beit Midrash where everyone would once again be registered. All were told to move into the newly formed smaller ghetto that consisted of one side of Kranker and Foiler Streets. The following day we were again chased to work. My brother-in-law, Yitzhak PUPKO, and I returned to work at our painting and decorating jobs as before. In our house on Belitz Street, we painted large suitcases for the Germans. These were sent to Germany, packed with Jewish things, stolen after the slaughter.

        We were not kept in Vasilishok for very long. After six to seven weeks, we were notified that the ghetto was being liquidated. Everyone would be sent to Szczuczyn. The transfer to Szczuczyn was in three groups. The local authorities, as follows, decided: SHMIGIR, YEZEVSKI, the commandant and VADKEVICH, the one in charge of Jewish matters.

        I belonged to the first group. At the beginning of June 1942, we were assembled near Mendel the leatherworker's house where everything was all ready for the departure. Suddenly, YEZEVSKI approached me and sent two other families and me back to the ghetto. All the rest were sent to Szczuczyn under heavy police guard. As they approached the "magilkes", they were told to dismount. The wagons and the things were taken away. The people were herded on foot to Szczuczyn in a hail of beatings.

        Those who remained in Vasilishok started to run to SHMIGIR and YEZEVSKI to try to bribe them so that the second groups bundles would not be taken from them. For good payment, they agreed to this. That is how my brother-in-law, Yitzhak PUPKO, and I, with our families, were safely brought to the Szczuczyn Ghetto at the end of July. In Szczuczyn ghetto, we organized a small group for the purse of escaping into the forest, hoping that maybe some would manage to save themselves. In the meantime, I received a letter from Moishele FOSHTER about his life in the forest. He advised us to be prepared to run away.

[Page 249 {335}]

C. Running Away from the Ghetto to the Forest

        One day, a Christian by the name of Makarevich arrived at my workplace in Szczuczyn. He lived seven kilometers from Vasilishok in a hamlet. He had a second letter from Moishele, [saying] that we should run away from the ghetto as soon as possible because we would soon be liquidated.

        I quickly ran to my group. We discussed whether or not to run away. I decided to postpone my running away for a few months. The peasant women departed with that decision and told us that in a few weeks, she would come to take us. On the way, she was stopped by a German patrol that made her return to Szczuczyn because, at night, civilians were forbidden to travel. The Christian woman remained overnight in Szczuczyn. The following morning, she again appeared at my place of work, outside the ghetto and pleaded with me that we should ride off with her.

        At that moment, the decision was made to run off to the forest. I quickly left my workplace, ran to my wife and child, quickly pack a few old garments in a bag and the essentials for our child. My mind was working feverishly. The plan was ready. I took my wife and child in the direction of the bath house that was outside the ghetto. Chayele KRAVITZ worked there as did Dr. KATZ' father as those responsible for the bath house. They helped us in our escape. There, in the courtyard, the Christian woman was already waiting with a wagon. My wife quickly dressed like a peasant woman, took our child in her arms and sat down on the wagon. I followed with a container of paint and a paintbrush; the alibi in case we were stopped was I was on my way to work.

        On the outskirts of the city, I tore off the yellow patches, put on peasant apparel, took the reigns from the Christian woman, and became the driver. It was our good fortune that it started to rain and snow. This made our travelling easier. I don't know how many hours I drove on with the wagon. More than once out of fear, my heart stood still. One thing I know. Because of that action, we remained alive.

        We arrived safely at our appointed destination at the home of the Christian woman, MAKEREVICH, and remained there for several days. In a few days, Moishele and Arke GORDON came as well as another few partisans. They took us to the "Nacher Pushckes" where we joined the partisan groups. I quickly acclimated myself and started to look for a way to make my way back to Szczuczyn ghetto so that I could bring my sister Esther and her children. Together with the CHERNIAK brothers from Szczuczyn, we went back to the ghetto where we remained two days in a closed cellar until we were able to take out the people we had sought.

        In the forest there, we also had difficult moments of fighting for our lives, but those were moments of struggle and revenge.

Eliahu VOLOCHINSKY

[Page 250 {336}]

I Escape from the Slaughter

        Three days before the slaughter in the Vasilishok ghetto, the watch by the Polish police, the Lithuanians, and the Germans became very strict.

        In order for them to make merry and to cast a fear in the Jews, they shot randomly into the ghetto, without a specific target. From these shots, there fell, at that time:

        On Shabbat, May 9, 1942, the police chief YEZEWSKI shot Chaim Berl GORDON and his young son Isaac. First, the murderer used Chaim-Berl as a Judenrat member, sending him to collect gold and other valuables.

        After Chaim-Berl gave YEZEWSKI the things he collected, he brought him back to the ghetto. As he approached his house, YEZEWSKI let Chaim-Berl go n front and shot a bullet into his shoulder.

        Chaim-Berl's son, Isaac, who, through the window noticed YEZEWSKI pointing his gun at his father, opened the door quickly so that his father would be able to enter quickly. YEZEWSKI's second bullet hit Isaac in the stomach.

        The unfortunate mother, Nechke GORDON, was not long separated from her loved ones. The following day, May 10, the same destiny awaited her and her remaining two children.

        My little sister and I were sent to the left on the day of the slaughter--to death. All those sentenced to death were first put face down at the Judenrat on Vilna Street. Movement was forbidden. Beside me lay Kalmen KRAVITZ. At a precise moment, he raised his head. He immediately got a blow on the head with a gun and remained motionless forever.

        When we were brought to the Jewish cemetery, we were ordered to undress--naked--and take our things to one place. A great panic ensued. Some people started to run away. Arke GORDON socked a German in the face and was the first to run away.

        The seventeen-year-old Laike BENKIN grabbed the gun from a policeman and wanted to shoot him. Unfortunately, she did not know how to use ammunition. Another policeman shot her on the spot. The heroic Jewish daughter fell with the gun in her hand.

        The Germans and their helpers kept on shooting the innocent victims. Children were thrown in the two large pits while still alive.

[Page 251 {337}]

Suddenly, my mother shouted to me: "Run, my son. You will remain alive!"

        I ran wherever my eyes took me. I felt shooting behind me. I felt that I was wounded in my leg but I continued to run. I ran and fell. I ran in the direction of the Aratish Forest. I could hear a motorcycle chasing me. I was being shot at. With my last bit of strength, I reached the forest.

        The Christian woman, FILANOVICH, from OSTROVIEC let me into her house and gave me first aid. She contacted Dr. ALPERT's wife, Chaya, and got a few bandages and some medication for me.

        The Christian woman hid me in a pit in the forest; and my leg healed. When I regained my strength, I thank the woman who had save me and made my way further into the forest. Very soon, I met up with the partisans.

Leibke EINSTEIN

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