On that night, October twelfth 1942, we crossed the railway line again five kilometers away from the explosion. We heard the voices of the railway guards calling each other. We slipped between them and took to the road from Dokshitz to Gleboki; Not far from the farm was a solitary farm belonging to a Pole by the name of Patzvitch - a loyal and trusted friend of Michael Itzchak Friedman. When we knocked on the door and asked to come in the household was shocked. Never before had they seen armed Jews. We openly discussed the purpose for our visit with the farmer and asked that he go tomarrow, with dawn, to Gleboki and give a letter to the Zeevlotzki family (relatives of M.Y. Friedman). His two brothers, Eliahu and Moshe, were in the Gleboki ghetto as well. The farmer agreed to fullfil our wish and added that the Gleboki Jews are leading their life as usual, going to work without German hinderence. He said he visits Gleboki every now and again and even meets with the Solovitchik and Friedman families. The farmer fed us and took us to his son's house which was about two hundred meters away. The next morning Michael wrote a letter to his relatives: "Do not prolong your stay in Gleboki one more hour. Do you not sense the ground burn under your feet? The towns around you are empty of Jews. The Germans have supposably concentrated the experts in Gleboki. This is terrible deceit: your are doomed to death at any moment. Do not waste your time. Come to us, to the fighting partisans. We have weapons and many dead Germans to our credit. We are waiting for you"! At 3 p.m. Patzvitch returned with a letter from Eliahu Friedman and Molia Solovitchik written very briefly: We will arrive at midnight.
And so it was. At midnight exactly we heard their footsteps. Patzvitch let them in and we began a deep discussion. We told them of our sabotage operation at the railway. Rumors about a train derailed and about it's passengers killed and wounded had already reached Gleboki. When we said it was our work, they did not believe us and were convinced only when we showed them the fuse and exploding mechanism. We suggested forming a group of 40 to 50 young men that would leave the ghetto and join us, and asked that they obtain weapons in any way possible. We promised to wait in a certain place from which we would lead them east. Among the present was Molia Solovitchik, an uncle of Michael Yitzchak. When he heard the details of our plan he recoiled: He is a husband and a father to two children and could not possibly take to the forest in the winter with them. The others agreed immediately to return to the ghetto and to organize the young people to leave.
They will leave the day after tomarrow and they ask that we wait somewhere near the town. During the conversation I found out that my cousin, levi Yitzchak Koton, is in Gleboki. I demanded from the two that were returning that they join all people from Dolginov that are in Gleboki. They promised to do so. They left befor dawn and the next day we started towards the arriving. We set the rendez-vous about five kilometers away, in the Wolkolat-Danilvitz, Miadel junction. We met them at 10 p.m. - 14 men and 4 women. In the group, among others, were the brothers Lederman, Eliahu Friedman, Levi Yitzchak Koton, David Glazer, Menashe Kopilovitch, Beinish Kozinitch - all from Dokshitz. Michel Finkelman, Yerachmielke (I cannot remember his last name), Motke from Kazian, Milchman from Gleboki, Yochleman from Hidutzishuk, Pesach Isakson from Radoschkovitz and others. Among the girls I remember two by the name of Sarah - one from Gleboki and the other from Swintzian, Chernitchka from Danilovitch and Tzipka Solovitchik from Gleboki. They brought with them three rifles - one with no handle and another without a sight. They only had two or three bullets for every gun. Nevertheless, the guys were great - brave and daring.
(Out of "The Ghetto War Book" edited by Itschak Zuckerman and Moshe Bassuk, Publisher: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, Ghetto Fighters Home. In the name of Itschak Katzenelson. Taf shin yod daleth, 1954)
The Germans took over the houses one by one, throwing grenades into each window. The fight lasted a few hours, but when the Jews saw the Germans were winning, they took hold of their ready made bottles of Benzine and set fire to the houses. A cloud of smoke darkened the town, The Jews escaped every which way. *
(From materials from the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. Testimony of K. Mirska)
Dokshitz (according to my estimation) numbered 2,100 Jews.
On August 15, 1941, sixty-eight Jews were grabbed and shot in the market. On May 2, 1942, German field-gendarmes came and took 595 Jews, children, women, elderly people, and shot them immediately.
On May 28 the White Russian Police came with Germans and killed the remaining 1,500 Jews. They were held for eight days without bread or water, children were thrown into graves alive.
On February 13, 1942, I left with a group of Jews to the Veliki Luki and Nevel area. There were still 48 Jews in the group: After a long time of wandering in the forests we encountered the brigade that was Stalin's namesake. I was first put in the "Komsomolski detachment" and secondly Pulemyotni group. There were White Russians, Tartars, Jews and others in the Partisan movement. The brigade numbered some 300 men.
Then we started to operate against the Germans. Our first operation was at the IndraI station in Lithuania. We tore out the water pumps there and killed 15 Lithuanian police. On May the 8th, 1943, we went to the Zshabki station between Molodetshne and Polotzk. We took down a transport of 60 wagons with Germans and tanks. All of the Germans and the arms were destroyed. On May 19, 1943, we took down a transport between Krivitsh and Vileyka. One and a half kilometers from the Kniyanigin station we took out a second transport of 28 wagons with military and SS from the 122nd division "Teutn-Kopf". I got 15 Nazis on my own and shot them myself.
On September 8, 1943, we captured a German officer with two soldiers. We shot them.
The relations between the Jewish partisans and the White Russian partisans were very good, we were friendly. I was rewarded with the order of the "Red Fan" and the partisans order "Suvorov" [named after an 18th century Russian field martial] medal of the second degree," a " Za Boyeviye Zaslugi" [Russian: lit. for military accomplishments. I received the "Za Pobedu Nad Germaniyei" [Russian: lit. for victory over Germany] -- medal in the army.
I was a sergeant. When I came to the partisans I was a simple soldier. After the fall of Veliki Luki and Nevel, our brigade joined the troops of the Red Army. As a member of the Red Army I was in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. We left Memel for Elbing, Koeningsberg, Yustring and Berlin. I was an artilleryman in the army, I commanded an artillery gun. Currently I am demobilized.
When the Poland-Germany war broke I was living in Dokschitz. On September 17, 1939 the place was conquered by the Russians, and in December 1939 my family moved to Gleboki.
From 1936 to 1939 I attended a Polish high school in Gleboki, which turned into a Russian high school when the place was taken in 1939 by the Soviets. There were 6 Jewish students in my class. Altogether there were 50 to 60 Jewish students in the school.
On June 22 1941 I received my diploma and that same day, coming back from school, I heard a radio transmission about the war breaking out between Germany and Russia.
On the second day of the war we could see convoys of military and civilian busses heading east from Lithuania and from the western Russian border. Among the fleeing were many Jews from Lithuania and from the western towns of White Russia. In Gleboki people began contemplating as well. Hesitations of this kind were to be found in my family also. In the family were another small brother and a small girl, and the house was very orderly - the decision was not easy.
The old Russian border was 40 to 50 kilometers from Gleboki. At the time of the Russian occupation one was not allowed to cross the old border. Many refugees, arriving at the town of Disna, on the old border, were sent back by the Soviet border guards. If their papers were from Western White Russia, they were not permitted to cross. Only those that arrived with the Russian forces were allowed to cross (Russian clerks, etc.). So there was also a doubt as to the worth of escaping, as it was seen that not everyone was capable of doing so. Some, though, did escape. The Germans began bombing Gleboki and Disna. Gleboki was bombed on the fourth day of the war on June 26, 1941. Civilian quarters, and not military, were bombed.
On June 28, 1941 the Germans entered Gleboki. The next day they set up their "Feld Comandantur" (local military headquarters) in our house, as it was big and in a central place. The family was not yet thrown out. The Germans took most of the house and the family stayed in a back room.
The next morning, on June 29, a German soldier came with a gentile neighbor, age 15, asked for my bicycle and took them. A few days later the "Feld Comandantur" was moved. A new unit - Geheime Feld Polizei - showed up in town. They were a secret military police. They arrested five Jews, among them a doctor named Gheler and an ex-businessman called Ghitleson. They vanished and nothing was heard of them since. No German authority answered as to where they were or what happened to them.
A rumor in town said they were executed outside the town. This caused shock in town, since these people were not communists and were badgered by the Bolshevicks as well. The Jews explained that they were arrested because they were Jewish. It was hard to believe that they were executed for no reason whatsoever.
The Germans put up signs from the "Feld comandantur" which says:
1. Wanted people for local police. It was noted that the candidates should be after military service and know how to handle firearms.
2. All Jews are to wear a white band on their left arm.
Many Jews had cows for domestic uses. German soldiers went to the grazing area, asked who the shepherd was, where were the cows that belonged to the Jews, and they were confiscated for army use.
Not all Jews wore the white bands immediately. The Germans had not yet learned to recognize the Jews by sight. Ten days later the Germans set up a Judenrat (a Jewish council) made of three people. Among them, the merchant, Lederman, and Rubashkin the shopkeeper. The next day it was said that all Jews age 14 to 50 are to gather and fix the road.
The Jewish men were gathered in the central square. A Jewish interpreter stood near a German sub-officer. They demanded a military file. One of the Germans brought a machine gun, placed it facing the file, loaded the gun and began playing with it in front of the people. The people were divided into small groups and every group went off with an armed soldier. Some went to mend the road leading to the town, and others went 500 to 700 meters with the group. If a small defect was found in the road, the German would order a large part of the stones to be taken out and fixed with stones brought from afar. This was before noon. After a lunch break of half an hour, I was sent with a large group to mend the road leading to the town. On the road were German convoys. They understood that the workers were Jewish and shouted: "Juden, Du habst dem Krieg Gewollt" ("Jews, you wanted the war"!) - well, there you have it". This was shouted even by officers. Others laughed: "Das ist das derweilte volk" ("These are the chosen people")
Finding a small defect in the road, the Germans would order a quadrilateral hole dug, large rocks to be arranged on it's bottom, medium sized rocks over them, and small ones on top of that. In another hole they would order an opposite order of work. Sometimes they would order a pile of rocks to be moved from one side of the street to the other and arranged in geometrical shapes, without any explanation. The work went on this way for quite some time.
One day I was sent to the high school, where two weeks before I had finished my studies, to do some cleaning work. The place was a communications center, and there were many cars with telephone switchboards. One of the German guards, a communications man, ordered me to straighten a hole in the ground. When I finished, he said the hole was not straight enough and I had to redig it. The German shouted that all Jews were pigs and that they should all be killed. He moved his hands as if loading his gun and ordered me to dig again saying it was to be my grave. Another officer needed some benches moved to an assembly room and saw me. He sent me to do this and so I was saved.
Rumors circulated in Gleboki that in nearby towns Jews were murdered by the Germans and the local police. Most local police were Polish. They suffered under the Russian occupation and accepted the Germans liberators. The orders, documents and bulletins of the local police were all in German and Polish.
Convoys of Russian prisoners began marching through the town, all in chains. There were tens of thousands. Their clothes were torn and many were wounded. The Germans escorting them had sticks with which they would beet them ceaselessly. Among the prisoners, according to their uniforms, were air force soldiers, artillery men, young people - nevertheless, they did not object, although the Germans were few. The first rows of prisoners would have the bicycles and equipment of the Germans, and even these were beaten for no apparent reason. Sometimes, the prisoners would be put into Jewish synagogues to sleep. Since their clothes were torn, they would wear a Talith and parchments of the Torah. There could be seen on the streets soldiers wearing pieces of the holy scriptures and Taliths on the streets. Apart from the prisoners going to the jails, there were groups of Russians with no German escort. These were former Russian prisoners that had escaped from jail.
Two days before Yom Kippur, the Germans decreed that they were creating a ghetto for the town Jews. Notices were posted saying there should be distinction between Jews and non-Jews so that the Jews could not influence the non-Jews. To this end were allotted a few streets at the end of town and gentiles living there were evacuated and installed in the empty Jewish houses.
It was announced that Jews were not allowed to by groceries and to sell things. At that time a Jewish police was organized and the white band was exchanged for a yellow star of David, the diameter of which could not measure less than ten cm.
One star of David on the chest and another on the back. Jews were not allowed to walk on the sidewalks outside of the ghetto, nor walk in couples. Walking was permitted only single file near the tip of the sidewalk. Sometimes, the Germans leading the Jews to work would force them to sing Soviet or Jewish songs.
The local police and the German authorities demanded furs, diamonds, boots, fabrics, silver and gold from the Judenrat. They promised that in return for this bribery, the Jews would come to no harm. The Judenrat and the Jewish police knew where to find these things and demanded them. My family, having worked as dentists and denture makers, had gold as well. At first, they asked for 150 gold Rubles, and later for 300 gold Rubles. According to the Judenrat, the gold was given to the Germans and the local police.
The Jewish police did not wear the yellow patch. They had a white band on their arms, which showed: "Juden Polizei".
In the beginning, the Polish police would get friendly with the Jewish police. They would drink with them and blackmail them. Sometimes the Jewish police would be cruel to Jews for not being on time for work or not filling the bribe quota. The Germans, talking to the Judenrat, convinced them that the Jews will be given autonomy, and that this suffering is only because of the warlike acts. The Germans would often point to the map of Russia and said they would conquer Moscow quickly, two weeks at most. They understood it was difficult to take Russia in winter, and so everything had to be finished until winter. Looking at the map, they would always be amazed to see that after Moscow they would still have much more, and would ask if it is cold in Siberia.
Retreating, the Russians took with them thousands of prisoners. The people saw the huge quantities of men in the Russian jails. Some of these convoys, led by N.K.V.D. jailers, were bombed by the Germans on the way and would disperse. Some prisoners joined the German police. Near Gleboki, was an ex-monastery called Berezowich. Under the Russians it was a jail. The Germans made it a prisoner camp. The prisoners were held outside - in the cold and rain, with no food. At nights they would be shot with sub-machine guns and killed by the thousands.
A month after the beginning of the war I was sent to work in a printing press. A German brought in a text for green propaganda leaflets, saying all the Soviet marshals are imprisoned. At the end, in brackets, it said that whoever presents this leaflet is a "deserter" from the Russian army and as such, will be treated well by the German authorities.
A few days after the printing I saw a group of prisoners led by a German and some held the green leaflet. One of the Germans hit a prisoner although he had a green leaflet. There were no cases of escapees from the prisoner camp, although the prisoners were young and healthy. Some of the prisoners appeared in town. Most were Ukrainian. One of them, a Russian citizen, but of German nationality, was released. These were well dressed, ate well and walked unescorted.
Organization of the Gleboki Ghetto.
The Judenrat oversaw the accommodations of the Jews in the ghetto. Many families in each room, of course. The ghetto was made up of two parts, a large one and a smaller one, where it was more crowded, of course. Before, the poor Jews lived there and some gentiles. Now, the gentiles were moved to the Jewish houses that were emptied. Fencing the area allotted for the ghetto was commenced. A number of streets were blocked across by a high wooden fence. The two ghettos were connected by a narrow corridor. Not far from the German-Polish police station a gate was made in the fence. This was the only entrance or exit. On the inside stood a Jewish policeman and on the outside a German.
The Judenrat and the Jewish police were in one of the houses. In the cellar was a prison for Jews that had not gone out for work for some reason or Jews that did not pay the bribes.
In the house facing the Judenrat, the Germans allowed a 10-bed hospital to be set up... for a population of more than 7000. All Jews were given yellow identification cards, since the text was the same given to the general population. Under nationality there was a blank, under religion there was "Mosaisch" - The Moses religion, and in brackets was written "Jude" - Jew.
The Germans had no office inside the ghetto, nevertheless, they constantly walked around. If a Jew met a German, he would have to stop and take off his hat until the German passed.
In the fall of 1941, Gypsy wagons were brought into the Gendarmerie yard. The Gypsies were brought with their women and children. The Germans laughed at them and called them "wald juden" - the Jews of the woods. A rumor spread that they were to be put in the second ghetto with the Jews. To prevent this, the Judenrat asked for another bribe quota for the Germans. It turned out that the Gypsies were shot with their women and children before dawn. This event caused severe shock to the Jews as it was not clear why the Gypsies were shot. It only went to show how cruel the Germans were.
Every morning groups of Jews would set out to do forced labor. The winter began, it snowed and the Jews were forced to clean the snow from the roads as the German transportation could not pass.
Jewish refugees from all the small towns around Gleboki began arriving in the ghetto. They told of the horrible slaughter going on. In most cases the Jews would be told that they were being transferred to a bigger ghetto, and to pack their belongings. They were told of the concentration areas. The ghetto was surrounded by German and Polish police and from the concentration areas they would be led to pits dug ahead of time.
At the end of the fall, on October 1941, a German, civil authority arrived in Gleboki. Gleboki was decreed the center of the county - " Gebiet", and in Gleboki was the " Gebietskomisariat" - the civil authorities.
The administration men wore the uniform of the NAZI party, with a red band and a swastika on the arm on a white background. The Jews thought, that with the arrival of a civil government would stop the violent harassment. Actually, the Gebietskomisariat's men would take to the surrounding towns to organize the Jewish slaughter.
There was a "Religion, Nationality and Jews" department in the Gebietskomisariat. It's chief was a German called Havel. Often, Havel would invite the head of the Judenrat - Lederman, or the head of the Jewish police - Yehuda Blank, and demand a bribe. Sometimes, he would arrange matters in the work of the Jews.
Among the Gebietskomisariat's men was a German named Witwitzki. He was a circus performer and resided in Gleboki as a Pole. As it turned out, he was an under cover German. He knew, personally, many people from Gleboki, and was one of the organizers of the slaughter in Dokschitz.
In the beginning of the winter (the end of Dec.1941 - beginning of Jan.1942), there was a change in the Germans' attitude toward the Poles. The official language ceased being Polish and became Bialorussian. The police was also renamed The people's Bialorussian police. They received black uniforms with a gray collar and gray sleeves.
Arrests were begun among the Polish population. Former land owners were arrested and even priests. Between the ghetto and the Berezowich camp was a "Stalag" (Stabiler Lager - a permanent camp) and near it a grove called Borok. Deep pits were dug there, 3 to 4 meters deep and tens of meters long. The stalag prisoners killed or frozen to death during the night would be brought there. Also, in the morning, they would kill all the suspects arrested the day before, and they would bury them all in one pit. I was told this by the Jews working in covering the bodies of the murdered.
The First Slaughter in Gleboki
On the second day of Passover in 1942, I awoke in the morning and saw havoc in the ghetto streets. I lived on the outskirts of the ghetto. The family dressed in a hurry as heard they were arresting people in the ghetto. The arrested were taken from their beds early in the morning and led to the Borok grove. Two people, trying to escape were shot immediately. The local Bialorussian police would enter a house, take out a number of people, without any order. Germans stood in the streets, and as a large group gathered, they would count off a hundred, and take them to Borok, where they were shot. During the arrest, the local police was also violent to the arrested, they beat them with the buts of their guns. It should be noted, that policemen that had drunk with the Jewish police the night before, were also cruel to the Jews. Among the killed was a Jewish policeman. It seems there was a German decision to execute a hundred men exactly. On that day, some people did not go out to work. When the Judenrat complained to the Gebietskomisariat, they pretended that the whole thing was the local police's doing and promised it would never happen again. To prove this, they released the arrested men that had not yet been killed and before the evening, even some of the dead men's clothes were returned to the ghetto.
The next day, life went on at the ghetto as if nothing had happened. Only there were more widows, orphans and bereaved parents.
In the beginning of spring, end of April, beginning of May 1942 I saw many wounded men wearing rags around the ghetto. These were people from the town of Sharkowshtshisna. It seems, that during the slaughter in this town, some people, men, women and children managed to escape to the forests. Some were caught by local farmers and handed to the local police station where they were immediately shot. Others, with the help of Polish or Bialorussian farmers (the population was mixed), or without them, managed to hide. The Germans understood that they were unable to catch all of them and so announced that escaped Jews returning to the Gleboki ghetto would come to no harm. Jews began to leave the forests and to come to the ghetto. They looked injured, flee bitten, swollen. The Jews in the ghetto understood what would happen to someone trying to escape and hide in the forests. The Germans wanted to put all the escapees back into the ghetto and achieved another goal: They scared off potential runners. These, saw the ones returning, and were frightened.
Since the Germans wanted to organize a Bialorussian civil government, they needed many forms. They did not have paper, or did not want to give paper to the local government and began taking packs of Polish and Russian forms from the archives and sending them to the printing press. I was put in a group whose job it was to bring the packets and sort out the papers according to size. We would print on the back side. We would print receipts and forms for the local Bialorussian councils. Most of the men in the press were Jews, only one Christian worked there.
The press was situated a kilometer away from the ghetto and we would come there every morning. Then, the workers were allotted a house near the press and could not return to the ghetto as they began working in shifts. I could see my parents in the ghetto only once a week. The press workers were given a small salary to sustain themselves. They would buy groceries from the neighbors.
Since there was an austerity regime in the occupied area, they needed tens of thousands of food stamps. These, too, were printed in the press. Most of the work was forms for the local councils. I got the job because my grand-father had a printing press and it's workers helped me get in.
The forced labor the Jews had to do during the winter was mostly shoveling the snow off the roads and cleaning for the Germans, since German convoys would constantly pass through the town and sleep there. Also, they worked as porters at the train station and in the slaughterhouse.
In the press where I worked, we printed also identity cards for Jews and non-Jews. Many non-yellow forms were passed on to Jewish acquaintances in the ghetto, so that they would have "Aryan" papers in case they escaped. Sorting out the papers, we found packets of Christian birth certificates and baptism certificates which were also passed on to Jews. One Jew succeeded, with one of these birth certificates, to escape from the ghetto, set himself up in Vilna, and wait out the war. Today, he is living in Israel.
When the Jews went to work they would take with them (Unseen, of course) clothes, rings, watches and other valuables.While working they came into contact with gentiles to whom they would sell these for money or food.
The Jews' contacts with the P.O.W.'s were limited to the mutual forced labor. The Germans tried to prevent mutual influence. The only place where Jews met with P.O.W.s was the Borok grove, where the wagons full of "Stalag" dead would be brought.
The majority of the population was hostile, but there were, nevertheless, cases in which the horrors of the Germans and the executions of non-Jews generated revulsion especially with orthodox gentiles, and there were cases of aid. Many Christians would say to the Jews: "Run from the ghetto, you'll be killed in the end." Though this was but advise, and not a willingness for real help. Only with the deterioration of the Polish-German relationship, specially after the founding of a Polish government in exile in London, did the Poles incline more to help the Jews. They, themselves, were persecuted by the Germans.
The Polish minority was small and the population was mainly Bialorussian.
There were no political parties, trends or youth movements. Neither did schools, "haders", yeshivas, studying or lecturing exist. However, there was a religious culture, religious manners. On Sabbaths, we would go to prayer before work, if it were possible and even in the most difficult of times, one prayed in one's house. Matzas were baked from leftover flour, in a symbolic way.
In the town of Dokschitz was a family by the name of Bloch. They had three girls, of which Haya was older and Hana a younger. Before the outbreak of the war, Haya married and conceived a child. She was a member of the local council ("Deputat") during the Russian occupation. Two weeks after the place was taken by the Germans, the police, already organized by the German representatives in the area, decided to arrest all those active in the old regime and to execute them. The policemen came to the Bloch home and asked for Haya. The young Hana understood immediately what they were after and said that she was Haya. They caught her, tied her up, tore her clothes and took her naked through the town. After a long night of torture, she was executed. (Now the highschool in Dokschitz is named after her. In times of celebrations and festivities, she is remembered as one of the schools heroes, having given her life for the life of her sister and son. The story was told by survivors from Dokschitz).
There were a few contacts through local gentiles, in exchange for a lot of money, or through Judenrat representatives from other ghettos whom the Germans forced to come to the county center. There were no contacts with the outside world. All radios were confiscated. People did not receive news papers and knew nothing about what went on in the country and in the world.
The Children in the Ghetto
Little children were also force to wear the yellow patch. It was a gloomy sight, those five-year-olds with a patch. There were no kindergartens or schools. No medical aid was given save the small hospital which only operated for a short time. Only a small number of Jewish doctors took care of the ghetto children. The children were the ones who suffered most from the terrible conditions and the hunger. Children over the age of 12 were force to do hard labor and children under 12 suffered from the fact that their parents worked and could not care for them.
All kids looked old for their age because of the troubles they went through and the worries they had, specially the girls, wearing long, torn, black dresses and black head covers.
In the town lived two or three families that had converted to Christianity decades before the war. They lived like Christians, but were put into the ghetto nevertheless, in the end of 1942. However, with the help of Christian friends, they disappeared from the ghetto and remained alive.
Rebellion, Underground and Partisans
There were a few escapes to the forests from Sharkowshtshisna, and later some returned because of German promises to the Judenrat that the returning would come to no harm. People escaped from adjacent ghettos as well, but the Jews were forced to return because of threats and lack of help from the local population. Once, escapees from a ghetto met a group of Russian escaped prisoners. The Russians robbed the Jews. Also, the prisoners threatened the Jews that they would kill them if they tried to join them so they wouldn't lead the Germans to them.
At work, exchanging merchandise with the neighbors, a rumor circulated that groups of Red-Army soldiers appeared in the forests. They were reputed to be well dressed and well armed (meaning not prisoners, but real soldiers). The soldiers promised the population that the day was near when the Red-Army would be back. They even paid for the food they received from the people. The population's attitude towards them was reserved, but sympathetic. The reason for this was the evident continuation of the war and the cruel treatment of the Germans.
My friends at work and I received a verification of this rumor when the Germans posted announcements and pictures of "bandits" still at large, with a German threat of killing anyone helping them. The Germans published propaganda against the partisans. Articles about German victories against the partisan groups, etc. The result was quite contrary to German expectations: The population understood, and so did the Jews in the ghetto, that an armed underground movement was forming.
One day, late in May 1942, I was standing not far from the press and I noticed a fellow who, by his looks, was not Bialorussian. He asked me about my work, the situation in Gleboki, etc. I understood I was talking with someone in contact with the partisans, and although I suspected that he could be a German police spy, I took a chance and told him what went on. He asked me for a number of papers proving a place of residence, a sort of substitute for the German identity cards. I gave him what he wanted and he promised to return in a couple of days. He also hinted about groups of armed men lurking by. He said if I happened to run into them I should say I was a friend of Fiodor's. The man did not reappear but I decided to obtain a weapon and run away from the ghetto.
The Second Slaughter in Gleboki
In the beginning of June 1942 a group of Germans arrived in Gleboki. 10 to 12 men from the security services. Their uniforms were different that the ones of the army. They wore black ties and there was a sign of a skull on their hats. These were professional killers, executioners. It was noted that even the German soldiers and police treated them with fear. The policemen told the Jews that these new ones had limitless rights and could do whatever they liked. A rumor circulated that they came to exterminate the ghetto. They often visited the ghetto and the Judenrat. Once, when they left the ghetto in armored cars, the rumors were that they exterminated a ghetto in a small town. They drank large quantities of wine and gave the clothes of the murdered also to the police and to people who took part in their parties. A few days later, they left the town, not hurting the place. The locals breathed again, relieved, but not for long.
On June 16 they were back and on June 19th when the Jews were waking up for work, a group appeared in the ghetto and ordered the Judenrat to gather all the Jews in the market outside of the ghetto, near the Jewish cemetery for a count. The Jewish police announced this and hurried people out to the streets with their children and small bundles of valuables and food. In this time there were many who had built shelters and hiding places in the ghetto but the majority had no time to use them, and many did not know of their existence.
That day, June 19, 1942, at 10-11 a.m. the workers being near the press, I heard shots and bursts of machine guns and I understood what went on. The town was ghost like. No one dared go out.
At 4 p.m. my younger brother, Itzchak arrived at the press and said that the whole family had gone to the so called count. My mother told my brother to run away and come to me.
Towards the evening I returned to the ghetto by a side road through the fields to see if anyone was left of my family. On the way I met two women holding big bundles, speaking Polish with each other and telling each other about what had happened. I recognized one of them for I had gone to school with her son. This son was one of the policemen in the local police. It seems that the son knew beforehand what was to occur and advised the women to profit from the Jews' things. When she saw me she was shocked for a minute and then started to scream: "Why didn't you report with the rest of the Jews?" I did not answer and walked away.
When I arrived in my parents house in the ghetto I found the door open. The apartment was empty. A neighbor came in and said she was also in the "count". There was a German sitting at a table. Everyone had to pass in front of him and he separated them right and left. The group on the right was told they'll be going to Borisov or Warsaw to work. From this big group small groups were taken by German and local police and by S.D. men to the Borok grove - and from there the shots were heard. More than three thousand people were executed on that day.
The next day the Jews were ordered to go to work and when back they told that the German employers pretended innocence saying: "What is going on with you, this police really isn't good"! But in most cases the Germans were crueler. They beat the workers saying they would soon be next. The bodies of the dead were left uncovered for two days and after covering them, a wagon was brought with clothes to the Judenrat. The clothes were distributed among the needy. Many recognized their relatives' clothing. Among the local police, one of the most inhuman was my neighbor, Taragonski.
How I Came to the Partisans
About a week after the second slaughter I met an acquaintance, my age, from the town of Dokschitz. His name was Shlomo-Tuvia Warfman (today residing in Israel, in Akko). He told me he escaped from Dokschitz after hiding in a cellar for a few days. Then, he reached a small grove among the swamps. Not for from it stood a lonely house and in it lived some well-to- do farmers which supported him.The son of the farmers, who knew my friend and me since before the war, worked as a foreman on the road in Gleboki. The Poles, at that time, also suffered cruel treatment from the Germans. They helped Warfman with food and clothing. I found out that I knew the family as their son, Stanislav Lochovski, went to secondary school with me. It so happened that a couple of days later I was walking from the ghetto to the press to work, I met Stanislav and greeted him. The pole was shocked, it seemed, but said to me: "Come to me, bring some money. I have arms for you". I told Warfman about this and we decided to go from the ghetto to Stanislav and ask him for weapons.
One rainy night, my friend and I took a board from the fence, left the ghetto, and put the board back so as to not be found out. We went out towards the swamps, to the secluded house which was 15 kilometers away. We went according to a map I had found in the press and had memorized before. We went through fields and crossed the railway. This was very dangerous as the railway was heavily guarded. After midnight we reached the house. The Poles opened the door and had us enter the attic of the stable. In the morning, they brought us coffee, milk and food (this was the first time in over a year that I ate a regular meal). During the whole day we remained in the stable. Before sundown the family brought a rifle with one bullet and a revolver with nine bullets. Stanislav said that the gun belonged to one of the "Blue Division" (volunteer Spaniards, helping the Germans). He found the gun on the road.
We had with us only a small sum, three hundred Ruble. However, we said it was all we had and the family gave us the weapons. We were left with no money.
We stayed at the farmer's house all day long and at night we returned to the ghetto. On the way back, near the ghetto, we were lost because of the dark and we stumbled upon the barbed-wire fence. The guard, it seems, noticed us and ran towards the noise, but we hid among some nearby bushes. When the guard returned we went on. We reached the ghetto gate and found the two stones we had left as a sign near the loose board. We returned to the ghetto the same way we had left it. In our house we had a cellar where we hid the weapons. The men of the house, seeing us return, were frightened to see the weapons. We warned them not to say a word to anyone. The absence from work and the overly populated neighborhood near our house caused the rumor to reach the Jewish police. I hid the weapons in a better place and moved back into the house near the press. My brother and I slept in the storage room near the house outside the ghetto. Although I had to go to work, I did not since I knew we would be running away in a few days. In the Jewish police it was decided to quietly confiscate the weapons and to, somehow, get rid of us, saying the Germans could destroy the whole ghetto because of us (although the Germans did this without reason anyway).
Once, while my brother was sleeping, two Jewish policemen came, took him to the Judenrat cellar, beat him and demanded he give the weapons. He said he knew nothing. He was released after 24 hours and I was called to present myself. I let it be known that I would not come and that if, indeed, they tried to arrest me, I have in my possession a hand grenade... The Judenrat men were scared the Germans would find out about the weapons and backed off. So, except for the Germans, the Judenrat and the Jewish police also became our enemies. They interfered and threatened at any attempt to revolt or escape from the ghetto.
In July 1942 two Jewish partisans arrived in the ghetto: Zalman Friedman from Dolginov and M. Friedman from Postawy, after having resided in Dolginov in the time of the Germans. Since it was known in the ghetto that Tuvia, my brother and I had weapons, these partisans were also told. They invited me to the ghetto and said they belong to a partisan group and were sent by there leader to obtain false papers, watches, money and leather for boots and shoes.
They also said they would be willing to take in some young Jews in case these had weapons, as this was a imperative condition with the partisans.
The commisar of the Soviet partisan regiment was a Russian named Ivan Mitveivitch Timtchuk, a friend to the Jews. The envoy, his helper, was a young Jew by the name of Abraham Friedman (now living in Hulon). The partisans agreed to take me and Tuvia, but would not take my brother who was only 15 years old. I talked it over with my brother and we decided that I would go alone and when I reach the platoon, I would ask the commander, in person, to let my brother join. The partisans agreed to take my friend, Milchman Zalman, although he did not have a weapon. We acquired some money and at night, left the ghetto - a group of about 10 men, most armed, and some being relatives of the Friedmans'. We reached a small village where a partisan contact man lived, hid there during the day, and during the night arrived at a swampy area near the Nevery Kriganovka village where we found about 25 Jewish partisans and about 600 Russian partisans with their leaders. Platoon equipped with arms, guards and a reconnaissance patrol. Sort of a small regiment of partisans,wearing rags but with a high moral and ready to fight. Some were commanders that had hidden in the forests or in the villages since the beginning of the Nazi occupation. Some escaped from jail. Some wore German uniforms and uniforms of the local police. The regiment doctor was a Jew from Minsk, Stcheglow, a major. There were nevertheless partisans who laughed at their Jewish peers, but the influence of the doctor and the commisar were a restraining factor.
Moreover, many Jews knew the area very well as well as some of the locals, and this was a valuable asset to the Russian partisans since they did not know the area nor the people although the attitude towards them was friendly. The partisans told of successful ambushes and raids from the past - winter and spring 1942. I remember a story about a successful ambush near the town of Ilia. A convoy of about 40 local police was destroyed there. Also, there would be groups of saboteurs leaving from this regiment to blow up German trains.
Companies from that same regiment would take off at night to a distance of 30 to 40 km and blow up bridges on roads and destroy small police stations. The regiment had many contacts in the villages. The food and horses were obtained in the villages. Sometimes the Germans would murder the whole family of a collaborator with the partisans. The raids were very quick. They were done after careful planning and far from the main base in order not to have the Germans suspect the place.
The regiment had a special unit of about four men, a sort of interior/exterior security service. In the beginning of the operations they would pass quietly through the villages, since there were many informants to the Germans. When the regiment grew and there was a need for more supplies and wider reconnaissance, it became impossible to hide the existence of the regiment (it's name was "The Avenger"). The informants in the towns post a serious threat to the existence of the unit, and after an informant informed, German formations would storm the villages. Of course, the searching was useless, since by the time an informant reached the police and by the time the German police was organized, the partisans were tens of kilometers away. Finally, the regiment commanders found an ingenious solution. They gave an order to pass through the villages at night, cause a ruckus, to "make an impression" and to show off to the natives as if there were many more partisans than there actually were. To show they were a force to contend with. Many of the partisan contact men and agents were sent to local police stations with news of partisans. This attained two objectives:
B) Cases were invented, and five or six informants would come from different directions to confuse the Germans.
The Germans could do nothing and did not know which direction to take. The German leaders would become angry and started beating on the informants, some of them being real informants with genuine information. In a short while the Germans themselves stopped the flow of informants and prevented themselves from receiving any information about goings on. Indeed, the partisan regiment began moving around freely even in the day time. The partisans had exact information as to German police movement. The Germans were forced to move only in large group for lack of information and fear of ambushes.
I know of a partisan ruse using two Jews. Two Jews were sent in the morning to Swir village, 2 km from a strong police station. They pretended to be drunk, badgered the local and asked them for money and Vodka (there was a standing order in the regiment which forbade robbing and mistreating the local population). One of the villagers, a collaborator with the Germans, ran off to Swir to say that two Jews are terrorizing the village and it would be easy to capture them. The Germans, hearing this, were raging. They mounted their horses, some without saddles, and laughingly planned how they would torture the despicable Jews. At that time a partisan ambush of more than a 150 men with machine guns lay on both sides of the dirt road.
When the commander saw the informant run towards the town he was happy and said: "We did it!" Even the partisans were not aware of the plan and the patrol unit wanted to shoot or arrest the man running to inform. A half hour later the group of horsemen came to capture the Jewish "bait". Twenty of them were killed immediately by the cross fire from the ambush. The company commander was Markov, a local Russian married to a Jewish woman. The "bait" was his idea. The incident and it's enormous success, as well as a catch of weapons and equipment, and the bait idea made the Germans a laughing stock in the whole area. This happened in spring 1943.
The German cruelty towards the local population, like the execution of hundreds of villagers (there were no Jews left in the area), the burning of whole villages and houses with their residents (the Germans would force the locals into a house and set fire to it with them inside), caused the population to rebel against them. The partisan regiments changed from hundreds of men to brigades of thousands. There were areas of hundreds of square km where the local authorities were not German. The Russian army command sent hundreds of paratroopers with automatic rifles and radios to the German rear in order to strengthen the partisan movement and train it. It reached such proportions that there was a temporary air field in the German rear where even Russian planes would land. This occurred from the end of 1942 to the middle of 1944.
A special emphasis was put on local propaganda. Airplanes with military equipment also brought newspapers and bulletins. The partisan leaders would hold assemblies in the villages to explain themselves to the locals.
Near the swamp area was a small Jewish town near the Narotch lake. There was a Jewish ghetto in this town made up the town Jews and Jews from nearby towns until November 1942. There was also a gendarmerie station in the town and a platoon of fascist Lithuanians was stationed there. It was decided to attack the town and exterminate the gendarmerie and the fascists. The Jews in the partisan regiment were concentrated in one platoon, the third platoon. The commander of the platoon was a Jew by the name of Jacob Sigaltchik (today living in the Magshimim settlement in Israel). It was decided that during the attack on the town, the ghetto would be released. The attack took place on the night of November 9, 1942.
Not all the fascists were killed, but some were, their positions were burned and above all - the ghetto was released. Thanks to this, about fifty people were saved, most of which are living in Israel today.
After the releasing of the ghetto, the Jews were settled in the heart of the partisan area and remained there until the place was liberated. In December 1942 the partisan leadership decided to organize an underground press. I was sent, together with a group of partisans, to the Gleboki ghetto, to break in during the night and obtain the necessary materials for printing. I knew the place and also knew what to take. The operation was handled with a quiet entry to the town and the goal was reached.
In the beginning of 1943 hundreds of newspapers and leaflets appeared within a radius of hundreds of kilometers. It should be noted that in 1943 local policemen and Ukrainian fascist troops also began defecting from the German service. They went over to the partisans. The regiment succeeded in many ambushes, in putting mines on transportation routs and on railways, and in attack on German posts. In the summer of 1943 the Germans planned an all out attack between Kursk and Oriol. On orders from the general headquarters, all partisan regiments took to the railways and blew them up all during one night. The partisans called this "the rail war". In the midst of the German attack on the Russian army, their transportation was cut off from Brest (The Polish-Russian border) to Smolensk, a distance of about a thousand km. This caused the Germans a stoppage of supplies in the midst of the attack.
In the summer of 1943 I found out that there were still about 2000 Jews left in Gleboki. With the permission of my commander, a group of Jews, including my brother, was taken out of there. These, later fought with the partisans. My brother, despite his young age, was a brave warrior and was greatly appreciated by the partisan commanders. Many of the Gleboki ghetto people got hold of weapons. Some ran to the forests and when this was known to the Germans, they decided to exterminate the ghetto. They did not enter the ghetto for fear of resistance, as the residents had weapons, and so surrounded the ghetto and bombed it with fire bombs. The houses were built of wood and the ghetto went up in flames and with it went it's people.
The Germans understood that the partisan movement posed a strategic threat to them and so took out of the front lines a few divisions and besieged wide areas. They would burn the villages to impede the partisans from receiving food.
They bombed the forests with fire bombs, but thanks to the partisans' vigilance and knowledge of the area, they succeeded, in most cases, to break through the ring, before it was tightened. Small groups would be left in the forest in order to deceive the Germans. They would make much noise and convince the Germans that they had the main force.
In a German "purge" during May-June 1944 my regiment broke through a German ring. My brother was in the leading part, while I stayed with a small group, within, to create a deception. The regiment, indeed, broke through but suffered heavy losses and scattered (the order was to reassemble near Borisov, next to Zambino, on the banks of the Berezina, in case were were dispersed). The single groups were caught over and over in German ambushes and reached a new gathering place without leadership, without food, with wounded and sometimes - without weapons.
I was told by one of the partisans with my brother, that the Germans surrounded them in the forest. My brother was already hungry and barefoot for a few days and when he understood the Germans might catch him he began shooting at them and, by doing this, of course, showed where he was located. When he ran out of ammunition, he laid down on a hand grenade and when they came to capture him alive, he himself up with them.
Inside the German siege, our group shot from many different places in order to lead the Germans into the forest. The group moved from location to location and stayed near the Germans at all times, however, the Germans could not capture us. They shot in the forest in complete chaos, for fear of the group, but doing this they showed us where they were.
Two days later they understood their mistake and the forest was in utter silence. The partisans from the deception group decided two days later what this silence meant. I was sent with another partisan on reconnaissance. We walked in the forest parallel to the road and checked 5 km. We found nothing suspicious. We tended to think that the Germans had left. When we returned we found fresh footprints of German spiked shoes. My friend left the road and entered the bushes while I began to check what was happening. When I turned around I saw three Germans sneaking behind me, one of them only three meters away with his hand extended to grab my gun. I jumped to the side and ran between the bushes. The Germans fired, entered the forest and kept running. Our group heard the shooting and thought my friend and I was shot. I lay in the mud, among the bushes, until evening, and at night joined my group.
A few days later the Germans discontinued the siege for the following reasons: The Russian attack on the German army was developing; There were rumors about a second front and about the ally invasion of Europe.
In July 1944 the German army began it's retreat. Many of the German police and other Germans remained in the forests and were surrounded by the partisans. So the roles were reversed. The Germans went into Russian captivity by the hundreds. They feared partisan captivity which meant - death. I saw hundreds of Germans take to the streets with their hands raised, asking army units to imprison them. The Russians were so sure of their victory that they did not even bother capturing them, and only showed them the way east towards any town, where there was a garrison to handle them.
The Russian army was very humane to the German, despite the partisan anger and the population which demanded lynching.
The commander of the local gendarmerie and a local German, part of the German police, were caught near the town of Miadel. The Russian army command tried them publicly. Locals whose family was tortured and killed by these two testified against them. They were hanged after the verdict was announced. The locals came in masses and clapped when the verdict was read. A number of local Jews, back from the forests by now, did not attend. It is said that two Jews, there, were in tears seeing these murderers swinging from a rope.
1944. When the Russians liberated the area, many people joined the Russian army, but many partisans were offered posts with the local authorities. I had no family left and so joined the Russian army. After a short training, I was sent to the front lines and took part in the Visla river crossing and the battles for the release of Shlesien. Together with the regiment, I took part in the Oder-Nisse crossing and in battles in Poland and Czechoslovakia, near the city of Glatz, in the battles of the Sudeten land - and so I arrived in Dresden in Germany. Across the river we could see the ally armies. The war was over but despite the German surrender, there were Ukrainian and traitor Russian Platoons (from the Vlassov army) still fighting. My regiment took part in the extermination of these bands. I stayed in Germany for a short amount of time and them returned to Russia. At the time the Russo-Japanese war had begun, but my regiment stayed in the Kaukas.
I fought with the Russian army from 1944 until the beginning of1946. I received medals and a high honors from the Russian army for my diligence in fighting the Nazis and for fullfiling my duty. On the way from Germany to Russia my regiment passed through Auschwitz and I then saw the piles of ashes and bones, the shoes, the glasses and ruins of the gas chambers and ovens.There were other Jews in my regiment, some of which had excelled in fighting the Germans. An artillery regiment was attached to my regiment under the command of a Jewish major by the name of Kaplan, holding the highest honor of the Russian army - a golden star and the title: hero of the Soviet Union.
In the times of the ghettos the best characteristics of the Jewish nation turned against it. Jews are very attached to their families and so many fathers and sons, having the chance to escape - did not. In many cases partisans came back to the ghetto to die together with their loved ones. The Jews, out of their revulsion of murder, did not believe in a massacre of one people by another. Arriving in Israel and to other countries after the war, the compensations began. The Germans had a condition - only those who did not actively fight them, would be compensated. Because of the financial distress and the need for these compensations, many Jews Hid the fact that they actively resisted the Germans. A national asset is so lost. The asset of the documentation of Jewish heroism and their fight against the German murderers.
I was released from the Russian army in 1946. I studied and worked until 1958. I married a Jewish girl who had, together with her brother, took part in partisan attacks. We gave birth to a son, named after my father. I finished my studies in Russia, and worked as a high school math and physics teacher.
In 1957 an agreement was signed by Poland and Russia allowing Poles and Jews, former Polish citizens to immigrate to Poland. I moved to Poland and immediately requested to immigrate to Israel. I arrived in Israel on January 31, 1960. Since 1961 I work in a high school in the name of Y.H. Brener in Petach-Tikva.
Body of the paper clipping:
One time Ghetto - murderer sentenced to death in Poland.
Vienna, Austria, June 17, (ITA). Stephan Komolka, the one time commander of the Facist White Russian Police in the Polish city of Dokshitz was sentenced to death in a Polish court today. Komolka particcipated in the mass killings of Jews in the Dokshitz Ghetto.
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