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The Holocaust

 

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Remember the Holocaust of Maytchet

by Dr. M. Dvorzecky

Translated by Amir Shomroni

Remember the Shoah of Israel; remember the destruction and the uprising. Thou shall have them for token and for lesson for years of many generations:

And joined shall be this memory unto thee alway - when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up:

And thou shall betroth unto thee for ever the memory of the brethren who do not exist any more:

And shall be the memory in your flesh, in your blood and in your bones:

Gnash thy teeth and remember; when thou eatest thy bread – remember; When thou drinkest thy water – remember; When thou shall hear a song – remember; When the sun rises – remember; When the night comes – remember; And in the day of feast and solemnity - well remember:

And a house that thou shall build, thou shall leave a breach, that the destruction of the house of Israel shall be alway before thee.

And a field that thou shall plough, thou shall raise a heap of stones - a monument for the brethren who were not brought to an Israel-grave.

And when to the Huppah thou induct your children, thou shall prefer above thy chief joy the memory of the children whom to Huppah shall never be inducted:

And shall be one flesh: The living and the dead, the slain and the remnant, those who are gone and they are not - and the remnants that are escaped;

Hear O, man of Israel, the voice that crieth unto thee out of the depths: Keep not thou silence, keep not silence.

  Remember the Shoah of Maytchet-annotated


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The Soft Whisper of the Haboinik– The Hill of Blood

(For the Memorial Day of the Maytchet Community)

by Ben-Zion H. Ayalon

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

A hushed whisper passes from one treetop to the next and the only answer is the sound of a low wail that gets stronger by the hour, until a great sound of courage and fear fills the whole grove and a stormy wind come up.

In speechless silence, as mourners and the chastened, the trees of the Haboinik that are on the Hill of Blood stand all year long. Since the last groan of a tortured infant from the grave reaching to the sky became silent, there hasn't been another gust of wind to rustle their branches and cause the treetops to whisper. A bird hasn't chirped while flying and a bee hasn't hummed on her honey. When death spread its black wings on those in the grave pit, nothing moved until its desire will be returned to the grove, until the innocent blood is atoned for, the blood that screams from the earth of the “Haboinik.”

But what is one day from two? What is the noise and tumult that passes today in the grove that is different from the past? Have the trees breached their vow and desecrated the oath of silence? Or perhaps the death cries of the murdered lying in the forest erupted in a storm to the heavens, came and didn't move from there until they received a promise of revenge for their blood spilled by animal-men, consolation and repair for the victims who died in the name of G-d (Kiddush Hashem) and the Jewish people.

Indeed, many acts of violence were committed in the pleasant shadow of the trees by cruel, inhumane murderers. Divine commandments and holy human obligations were trampled with a rough foot and desecrations were performed before the eyes of the whole world and no one helped and the day of revenge hasn't arrived although the time has passed. –
Today is Tuesday, 3 Menahem Av, the memorial day for the dead of the community, when the survivors of Maytchet convene to commune with the memory of their holy dearly departed. On this day, when the remainders of the families assemble in the land of Israel for a memorial assembly, those lying in the grave pit will awaken from their long sleep of death and even the trees which accompany them and eulogize them will stop the deathly silence of the forest in order to participate in their memorial. It has become a rule.

Every year, at the set time, there is activity in the forest. From the early morning the holy souls rise from their grave, each soul with its hand on its wound and or its bruise, sitting on the edge of the pit waiting for evening when they will be remembered well, for raising of its soul and for correction (tikun). And when each one's name is mentioned, it immediately rises on high and with one swoop

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reaches the hall of assembly, where it will listen with much satisfaction to the memorial. Every word of praise for its activities in the valley of tears, when still alive, will bring cure to the wound, and each expression of sorrow and every tear will come as relief and comfort to its pain. One by one, group by group, when their names are mentioned, the souls will rise up above the grave pit and fly to the memorial hall – they see but are not seen, floating above and filling the space. When the lights are dimmed and the sound of the Kadish (memorial prayer) said by the people for the widower or for the anonymous child, will be heard in the hall, the boundaries will be blurred. The moans and tears of the living will be mixed with the return of the organs of the holy souls and joined together for a full communing, for the rising of the soul and its correction.

With a shout of endless joy the holy souls return in flight from the memorial to the forest Haboinik, having risen and been corrected, ready to return to the pit where they will rest peacefully in their grave. However, no living soul can achieve the intensity of the pain that is not of this world of those souls that remained sitting on the edge of their pit and their names forgotten by the hearts of the living. Embarrassed and anguished they return after midnight with a quiet wailing to their graves with hope for the next year. And, the trees of the forest, witnesses and guardians of their welfare during the days of the year, take part in the happiness of the “corrected” ones and express their joy with a quiet whisper of their treetops; however they also moan a deep moan from the depths of their trunks for the sorrow of the forgotten ones.

And a secret whisper passes from one treetop to another and receives in response a thin wail all through the night. A humble sound of courage and fear that seized the whole forest and caused a stormy wind, getting weaker and slighter until it stops. The next day the deathly silence returns to the forest Haboinik until the next year and until the great day will come of revenge and repayment.


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Self-defense in Maytchet

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

In normal times, when fear of the authorities existed and stable order prevailed in the land, the relations between the Jews of Maytchet and the gentiles were good and decent. However, sometimes the good order deteriorated because of war, changes in government and other times of unquiet and the gentiles felt that the leash was loosened and then their neighbors and friends organized into gangs to rampage among the Jews.

However, the Jews of Maytchet didn't act the same way as Jews in other places who generally feared the non-Jews and dogs. In the hearts of the Jews of Maytchet, which were made without fear, was found a deep feeling of Jewish honor that they were prepared to defend with courage and even with weapons. In order to take precautions and with the aid of released Jewish soldiers, the Jewish youth organized and established a strong self defense force that knew how to fight back against any attackers. There were occurrences when some gentile friends who respected the honorable stand of the Jews, gave advance warning of the intention of the terrorists to attack. The members of the self-defense group went out early towards them outside of the town and secretly waited and when the terrorists approached they shot at them and drove them away.

And here are descriptions of some acts of courage, in which the Jews of Maytchet used force to prove to the terrorists that Jewish blood will not be shed easily.

Once there was a rumor that in the village of Mitzkovitz the gentiles attacked the Jews living there. Itzye Aharkis, the son of the
medic Korn, immediately took action and together with Yekel Haikis went out in a wagon to aid the Jews who were being held and whose lives were in danger, a few against many. Itzye's son, Ezrial Korn, who due to his young age was not allowed by his father to join the expedition, secretly went out by foot and reached the place by running before the wagon. When the two courageous Jews arrived in Mitzkovitz, Azriel went out to meet them and announced briefly, “I already finished the job, all the violent gentiles are lying beaten and tied up on the ground. There is nothing left for you to do but to put them on the wagon, bring them to town and give them over to the authorities.”

Another action of Itzye Aharkis concerned the wheat merchant Bitenski with whom Itzye was travelling to Slonim to buy wheat. While on their way, far from any town, they encountered an armed bandit, who awaited passers-by in order to rob them. While the bandit threatened them with weapons, the Jews attacked him and demanded their money or they would kill him. But Itzye didn't

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lose control, gave the reins to Bitenski, climbed down from the wagon and quickly took hold of the armed bandit, put him in the wagon and brought him to the police who had been searching for him a long time.

Also during the terrible war of annihilation by the German Nazis and their murderous gentile helpers, there were acts of heroism by the Jews of Maytchet. In cases where it was clear that they couldn't prevail they preferred to choose the way of Samson from the Bible, that is, to kill the murderers even if it meant they themselves would die. In a few other times the Jews managed to escape. Many found a way through the forests joining the Partisans and fought together with them a war of revenge against the Germans and the local murderers who tirelessly searched for Jews until they found, killed and spilled the innocent blood of the Jews.

Oy to us, that the cruel enemy's iron hand reached the proud heroes of Maytchet and slaughtered them. May G-d revenge their blood.

 

The directors and council of the “Folks Bank”
1-Shimon Lahovitsky 2-Yitzhak Gilrovitz 3-Shlomo Shnitzki 4-Dov Romanovski 5- Moshe Belski
6- Chaim Mendelvitz 7- Eliezer Gordon 8- Katriel Likter 9- Leib Gilrovitz 10- Herzl Karolitzki


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My Travails in the Holocaust

by Moshe Korn

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

Due to the fact that the Jewish and gentile populations of Maytchet were mixed, the authorities couldn't find a permanent place for a ghetto. Therefore, the Jews didn't really live in a ghetto but they did suffer from the usual limitations, such as, wearing the yellow badge, prohibition against walking on the sidewalks, etc. and generally attempting as much as possible not to be seen outside.

The Germans didn't stay over in Maytchet; they would come from Baranavichy and Gorodische to institute rules and decrees against the Jews. These included collection of “contributions,” taking of valuables and gold, horses, boots, leather, material – anything the Jews owned, recruitment of people for work, etc. However, they themselves did not go to the homes of the Jews, but rather everything was done by the Judenrat.

The chairman of the Judenrat in Maytchet was a refugee named Erlich from Czestochowa. His deputy also was a refugee, from Soblek, named Apelboim. Local residents were Leib Gilrovitz (a grain merchant), Chaim Shlovski (a butcher) and Yehezkel Ravitz.

It should be noted that Leib Gilrovitz was not religious, but when the Germans arrived he became G-d fearing and followed the commandments. Here is a story about him. He had a brother who was a doctor named Moshel Gilrovitz who escaped to Stolovichi near Gorodishche. And in Stolovichi there was a rabbi who was great scholar. When Leib happened to visit his brother in that town, the Rabbi influenced him and convinced him that only by doing repentance and only by becoming religious would the evil decrees be cancelled.

Immediately after this, the Germans entered the town and wanted to frighten the Jews, as they did in every town, by killing the first victims. They seized a few Jews and told them to take the Germans' bicycles and ride them to Slonim. On their way the Germans shot and killed them. When the Jews had not returned after a few weeks, the Jews in town started to investigate the matter and learned of their terrible fate from the gentiles who came to market. One woman, who went out alone to search for her husband, never returned. Then, R' Avraham-Beryl Korn went to look for them in order to give them a Jewish burial. He found the hat-maker Monya Rabinovitz and buried him in the Jewish cemetery in Maytchet.

After a few days, a regime of forced Jewish labor began. They demanded one person from each household to work – in the estates, in “gamina,” in the police, etc. The rule was very strict

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and after a hard day's work they forced the Jews to lick the hoes with their tongues, as if to clean them, but mainly to abuse and beat them. To avoid the mischief of the Germans, the Jews themselves searched for ways to find work so they could fulfill their work obligation and receive a meager portion of food. The craftsmen were sent to Kadelitzbo – a camp from which no one returned.

After the forced labor rule, a series of decrees were initiated which were accompanied by cruel abuse and ended in murders. On one Friday the Germans came to the town to find horses. They also came to our home and when they didn't find our horse, which was then in Baranavichy, they took a girl and some other people from among the Jewish refugees who were in our home. They took them to Stolovichi and on the way they killed the girl. While on the road they saw the wanted horse that had returned from Baranavichy and seized it. The mother of the girl went to Stolovichi to ask help from the rebbe, but it was hopeless.

On 27 Shvat 5702, Sabbath, 14 February 1942, the local police, headed by Commander Falulihkh, assembled 20 men and 2 women, took them on their own authority and shot them near the tar factory on the road to the village of Horaishvitzitz. Among them were my father, Avraham-Berl Korn, Avraham-David Jokhovitzki – a teacher in the Tarbut school, Alter Harlap, Shalom Rabinovitz, Sonia Tzrulnik, Krabchuk and others. I ran to the Judenrat and turned for help to Gilrovitz and he advised me to saddle up the horse belonging to the Judenrat and travel at night to Baranavichy to the deputy Komissar. Yisrael-Haim Shinovski, who had hidden near the cemetery, joined us and we reached the ghetto in Baranavichy in the morning. The vitza-Komissar contacted Maytchet but it was too late. After this, Falolikh escaped and joined the Partisans and his place as commander of the police was given to Sashka Mashai, the past deputy. The day after his appointment my brother Azriel approached Mashai and asked him if he knew what happened to our father, then took out his gun and drove him out.

Things continued with suffering for a relatively long period; each day had its edicts, its operations and its victims. Bad news reached us from near and far about the slaughter and liquidation of the ghettos, but the tired souls hovering between life and death refused to believe. As long that their souls existed they deluded themselves with a vain hope and carried the burden of the decrees with superior courage - maybe there would be mercy and a miracle would occur and salvation would come soon. But the miracle didn't happen and about May 1942 the police came and took the Jews to dig pits, as if they were needed to store fuel tanks. Digging of the ditches lasted for a few weeks and their hidden purpose penetrated the consciousness of the workers. They even joked among themselves, “this will be my place and there will be yours…”

When the pits were ready, and after the news reached us of the slaughter in Baranavichy and in Gorodishche, the Jews of Maytchet sat and waited with dulled emotions for their day of calamity. Whoever

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still had any strength dug a hiding place in his home or yard hoping that perhaps he might be able to hide from death. Young men who were ex-soldiers organized and equipped themselves with weapons. They stood guard outside the town in order to notify the people of the town about any suspicious activity so they could hide or escape.

On the night before (Rosh Hodesh) the beginning of the Hebrew month of Av, 5702, Wednesday, 15 July 1942, the Germans arrived from Gorodische and Baranavichy and surrounded the town including the Jewish guards and caused panic and frenzy. My mother and two brothers and also the refugees who were in our home went into hiding. My younger brother, Shabta'l, and I started to run but everything around the city was closed – no one leaves and no one enters. During the panic there was a rumor that Chaim Sheine-Malka's (Shlovski) had a number of rifles. We ran toward his house and there they gave 3 rifles to the ex-soldiers: Noah Mordkovski, Yaakov Margolin and Chaim Shlovski himself. From there we advanced towards Dvorzecky's pharmacy and through the yard to the nearby fields. There a crossfire awaited us and only a few of us succeeded in breaking through the siege. They were myself, Noah Mordukovski, Eli Shmulovitz, Chaim Barishinski, Alter Korlitzki and the grandson of Hanna-Sima - a total of 9 got through and all the rest were killed including my brother whom I wasn't able to help.

We ran 6 -7 kilometers until we reached the forest, tired and frightened. When we sat down to rest we realized that the grandson's hand was wounded and Eli Shmulovitz removed his shirt and bandaged the hand.

It should be mentioned that very little was done with the rifles we had and even if we had had more rifles there was no one who could use them. Noah Mordukovski managed to shoot only once and had no more bullets and because of our fear we started to run. The other two were later killed while holding the rifles. When we realized that there was no purpose in carrying an empty rifle, we hid it in the hyssop bushes, and made our flight.

We heard echoes from gunshots all the time and even when we distanced ourselves deep in the forest we heard the sounds of explosives. We stayed in the forest until evening but we feared to remain there lest the wandering hoodlums would find us and hand us over to the Germans. Therefore, we went in the opposite direction and met other Jews from Maytchet who succeeded in escaping. They weren't interested in joining us because each one thought he might be able to hide with a gentile acquaintance. In this way we wandered around for a few days without food until we reached the Dvorets ghetto. We sneaked in among the laborers who worked in loading rocks and in this way we entered the ghetto at the end of the day, to live with them and to plan together a possible escape.

In Dvorets we found the boy, Moshe Daikes who was wounded and full of burns. Others from Maytchet were: Zimel Stolovitzki with his family and his brother Mikal with his wife, Mikal Shmulovitz, Avraham Garbarz (the ritual butcher), David

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Shtein and others. There we also discovered what had happened to the Jews of Maytchet, who were taken out of their homes and from their hiding places and brought to the pits in the “Haboinik” which was near the village of Zahorany and not far from the “Fashistank”. There they were very cruelly murdered and thrown into a mass grave, some still half alive.

The “aktzia” (round up of Jews) lasted for three days, however, most were killed on Wednesday, Rosh Hodesh (beginning of the month) Av, 5702, 15 July 1942. The enemy used the other two days to search for Jews hiding in homes and secret places.

One day David Shtein notified me that my mother and little brother had survived and had just arrived in the Dvorets ghetto. I ran to them and saw a terrible sight. My mother was wearing only a sack and my brother was wounded and they both were in a terrible, horrible state. After they recovered a bit from the trauma, my mother told me the brutal story of what transpired in Maytchet. She and my two young brothers, one was 4 years old and the other was 6, and the refugees who were in our home hid in a hiding place under the floor. The parents of Mashai the chief of police told him that no one from our home had been taken in the “aktzia”

and they should quickly send the police to find them. The police discovered the hiding place and took them all out with threats that they would be thrown into a burning pile of hay and would burn to death. After they left, the police ordered them to remove their shoes and then led them through the town where they had to lie on the ground with their arms outspread. Meanwhile they brought the rabbi from his hiding place and also other Jews and led them all barefoot to the pits. There they were ordered to take off their clothes and jump into the pits on top of the bodies that were already lying there. Mother took the two children in her arms and found a corner to lie down in, covering the terrified children with her body.

The gentiles who were serving the Germans started to shoot at the victims. The older boy was wounded but my mother and the smaller child were not; however, the younger boy's arm was broken from the fall into the pit. After a while they recovered somewhat and crawled to another side of the pit; since the enemy was busy killing Jews on the other side they didn't notice the movement. With superhuman effort they managed to climb out of the pit and started to walk toward the village of Zahoranay in the hopes of finding some clothes to wear. However, they found the young gentile men and women there having a party and quickly ran away to the village of Kalishniki. There, a gentile woman gave mother a potato sack to cover her nakedness and asked her to leave quickly lest the woman be punished for her deed. On the way, a gentile man attacked her, grabbed her by the hair and started to pull her back to the pit. She and the child started to cry for mercy but the evil gentile didn't care about her screams. Luckily another gentile came by and started to argue with first one, saying that once they escaped from the pit they shouldn't be forced to return, and they were released. And so they continued on their way until they reached the forest where mother roamed for a few days with the unclothed child and without food. Finally, one gentile took mercy on her and brought her to the outskirts of Dvorets and let her go. Thus she came here in a state of complete and utter exhaustion.

The supervisor of the Dvorets ghetto was a liberal German, about whom it was said that he had a tendency to ignore the presence of Jews from the surrounding area who had escaped from the slaughter in their villages.

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He also turned a blind eye to the regular rules of discipline in the ghetto and didn't prevent the residents of the ghetto from going out to search for food, etc.

Moshe Daiches, who was apparently sent by the Judenrat in Maytchet to acquire weapons in the villages and therefore was absent from the ghetto on the days of the “aktzia”, also came to Dvorets. And then he learned that in addition to the rifles that his brother-in-law Chaim Shlovski distributed, there were 2 pistols hidden in the home of his mother-in-law, Tcharna Di Bekeren, and despite the danger involved he traveled to Maytchet after the massacre to bring the guns. Also David Shtein, who already had managed once to escape from the slaughter, left Dvorets before the liquidation of the ghetto and joined the Partisans of Bielski and was killed by the Germans who had set an ambush killing them when they went out looking for food. Despite the crowded conditions of the ghetto we were able to find a small attic at one butcher for mother and the boy where they stayed for four months. We received a meager portion of food in the ghetto (watery soup) and other than that we would go out to the villages to work in threshing for the gentiles and brought home a little extra food.

At that time, we organized groups of youth to go out into the forests and join the Partisans. I took my mother and brother and we all went to the forest. There we met: Lipman Litaborski and his sisters, Zelda Gilrovitz, the Shoshan brothers from the village of Dokrovi, Vita the daughter of Yaakov Dvorzrcky. the owner of the pharmacy. Meanwhile mother became ill and couldn't fulfill her duty as a Partisan and I had to return with her and my little brother to the Dvorets ghetto and remained there until the destruction of the ghetto on 18 Tevet 5702, 28-12-1942. On the day of the round-up in Dvorets there was a terrible frenzy in town and the youth who had weapons started to escape over the fence. I also was able to escape from this ghetto for the second time. I took my little brother Leibel and we started running toward the cemetery, but the Germans didn't let people approach the fence. So, we went back and ran in a different direction where I came upon my mother who was crawling with all her strength. In answer to my question, she said that they wouldn't let her into the hiding place because it was too crowded. I stopped running, took her and forcefully pushed her into the hiding place. Then I continued running with my brother. The youth began shooting to try to break through the fence and the Germans returned the shooting; during the frenzy my little brother's hand let go of mine and he disappeared.

I succeeded in climbing into the attic in the Kapelovitz home not far from the fence and hid on the edge near the roof (stricha) where I covered myself with straw and old things that were lying there. From there I heard the sound of gunshots and terrible shouts, and I decided that I would lie there until night and then escape under cover of darkness. At night, I came down from the attic and found a few Jews who were looking for a refuge for themselves. We slowly came close to the nearby fence but the Germans noticed us and opened fire. I returned to my hiding place in the attic until I might be able to escape the next day. In the morning, a German came up to the roof and did a careful search until he found me. He shouted at me to come down and when I didn't he took a stick and poked me until I had to get up

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and follow him. Outside I saw many Jews facing the wall with their hands raised. We were made to hand over any and every valuable we had with us and then we were transferred to the Judenrat building.

There, many Jews who were removed from their hiding places were assembled, among them those wounded by the grenades thrown at them, lone children who had roamed around searching for food, one of them was the daughter of Yonah Mordukovski. The Gestapo entered the Judenrat and demanded that Jews hand over all their possessions before they would be transferred to Crimea on closed trucks that were parked near the building. It wasn't difficult to guess that they intended to bring us to the pits and we talked with each other about preparing scissors, knives and any other tool to cut the canvas of the covered trucks and jump out. Meanwhile, I noticed the cover over the opening to the basement of the building. I lifted it and went inside and others followed. But I understood that the place was not safe, that the Germans would probably search there and take everyone out. I looked around and saw that the beams were made of metal bands; I quickly removed two bricks from the wall and held on to the metal beams and leaned my feet on the opening in the wall. Indeed, the Germans came in and forcefully took all the Jews to the waiting trucks. I remained holding on between the roof and the ground hoping to last until night and then escape.

In the meantime, all the possessions that were removed from the victims were brought there and guarded by the Germans and therefore I couldn't risk going out. The next day police guards took their place and stood there all day. However, I took advantage of the short break when they stole the valuables and went to take them home and then I ran away. Before I left I managed to grab a loaf of bread and a blanket and I quickly ran towards the train tracks. When I reached the nearby forest, I was so thirsty I licked the snow, covered myself with the blanket and lay down to rest. When I recovered somewhat I wanted to continue on my way, but I didn't know the right direction and worried lest I return to Dvorets or the village of Biliadka most of whose residents were policemen. At any rate, I started walking and according to the sound of dogs barking, I knew I had arrived at Biliadka. I hastened to leave the area and travel in a different direction, reaching one farm where I sneaked into the granary and hid among the clover. I lay there all day even when the gentiles came to work there, but they didn't notice me. Toward evening I left and reached a village where I met 2 -3 Jews from the Dvorets ghetto. We entered an empty house, lit the stove and stayed there for a few days but we left the place lest we be revealed.

They went their own way and I continued toward the village of Yatra. On the road I heard that there were Jews in the area so I turned to the forest. Following the footprints there, I reached a hiding place and found there: Avraham Kaplan, Freidl Margolin, the Melishinski family, Noah Mordkovski, Yakel Shmulovitz. The hideout was very small and after a short stay I joined a Jewish refugee from Poland, who during the time of the Russians worked

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in a flour mill and knew about the Partisans who were in the area. We both went looking to join the Partisans. At first, they viewed us with suspicion and open hostility and plotted to kill us and only due to the intervention of the landlady were we saved from death. Yet when we reached the village of Zafaliye and with the help of an acquaintance were we finally accepted by the partisans and even into the “Otriad Grozni” which had previously tried to kill us.

I took part in the activities of the Partisans until the liberation and was lucky enough to fight next to Barukh Levin, the highly praised Russian hero. I actively participated in the operative campaigns, such as: blowing up bridges, derailing trains and attacks on the Germans, etc. When the Russians approached our area and entered the forests of Nalivok, they asked the commander of the Partisans for two fighters to join them in their patrols in order to cross the Neiman river and to bring information back from there. One gentile and I were chosen and in very dangerous conditions we succeeded in bringing information from the other side and were credited with excellence.

After the Russian conquest I was sent by the Partisans to Minsk and from there I returned to Horodishetz, where I was part of a battalion whose role was to clear the area of “pockets” of the enemy. As part of my duty I came to Maytchet and found Mashai, the head of the police during the German occupation, who was guilty of the death of innocent Jews. I arrested him in order to take him to Gorodische but because it was night I transferred him to the building of Yaakov Gilrovitz who would guard him until morning. In the evening the priest came to speak on his behalf and asked for a straw mat for Mashai to lie on. In the morning Mashai's father came and offered to help bring his son to Gorodische I agreed and rode on my horse accompanying the wagon. I handed him over to the authorities with a written accusation; they transferred him to Baranavichy for a court-martial, where I testified as the main witness. He was sentenced to death by shooting.


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A War of Life and Death

(Memories of a Jewish Partisan)

by Avraham Chaneles

Translated by Esther Mann Snyder

In January 1941, in the midst of World War II and the Holocaust, the Ribbentrop-Molotov Agreement was still in force and in our area the quiet before the storm existed. I was still of elementary school age and I studied in the Soborov military school in Baranavichy. However, after a short while we suddenly received the information that the Agreement was abrogated by the Germans who had attacked Russia on July 2, 1941. All the students together with the administration personnel of the school were transferred and moved from Baranavichy to Minsk, from Minsk to Smolensk and from there to Byerazino. We attempted to cross the Byerazino River, but due to violent acts by the Germans who had been advancing after us, we didn't succeed – the commander-principal was wounded and the pupils were left on their own.

My cousin, Meir Chaneles, myself and another few gentile pupils decided to return home. When we arrived in Minsk, the Germans were already in control with all their evil and criminal activities as usual for them. We tried to find our uncle but he had managed to escape beforehand to the Ural Mountains. From Minsk we went to Stowbtsy, where our aunt gave us food and provisions for the journey and told us to run away from the danger awaiting the Jews. We came in during the night and left at night, traveled to Baranavichy and from there to Maytchet. We arrived home during the Succot holidays. We found our parents, a brother and two sisters, our grandmother and cousins, all in one large house in Polvark, four and a half kilometers from Maytchet. The situation was very tense and quite tragic; Jews were being kidnapped for work and never returned. We all waited in fear for what would happen next. We were given provisions and clothes and quickly left since the local police had already learned of our return and were searching for us.

In about January 1942 we connected with the Partisan underground that referred us to a certain “hotor” (farm) where the commanders stayed. We received orders from them: not to travel in large groups and not to stand out, and especially to carry out acts of damage, to blow up bridges, burn grains, etc. Under pressure from the family we tried to stay close to home. During our breaks we buried our weapons and kept our connection with the Partisans a deep secret. In March 1942, they moved our family including us to the ghetto in Gorodische, because there was no ghetto in Maytchet.

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In February, the authorities were informed that Meir and I had weapons and that we were in contact with the underground; they came to inspect us and do a search. The chief of police in Gorodische, Olasik Valla, his secretary Ravinski and a few officers arrived at our home, which was in “Polvark”; when they didn't find us they caught my cousin Abrasza Chaneles and wounded him mortally in the abdomen. They didn't allow us to bring a doctor and he died of his injuries. Another member of the underground, Yitzhak Lakhovitzki son of Shimon from Maytchet, was caught. They arrested him and transferred him to Gorodische in order to execute him but he escaped with the help of the underground and disappeared.

We lived in the ghetto of Gorodische outwardly like the others there, but secretly we continued to maintain our contact with the underground. Our family members who worried about us, and maybe about the whole ghetto, didn't allow us to go about as we wanted. Nonetheless, we would go to Stolovichi, by an underground cave, to carry out destructive actions. Among these activities were also punitive actions against the Germans and their collaborators for their cruelty and inhumane conduct. In April 1942, a group of young Jews from Maytchet worked in the Bordokovshtzina farm between Maytchet and Gorodische. The manager of the farm was Grinvetzki, the brother-in-law of Olasik Valla, the chief of police. After these Jews complained to us about the treatment of the manager, we came at night, caught him and his helper and killed them. In this group were: Moshe Margolin, Feiga Boretcky, Hannah Belski and others. The two girls had cooperated with us previously and brought us weapons and ammunition that they took from the Germans. The group continued to work at the farm.

After the Shavuot holiday, June 1942, the last “aktzia” (round up of Jews) occurred in Gorodishche. At 2 p.m. they took all the Jews out of the ghetto and directed them towards the marketplace to await instructions. My brother Yitzhak, my cousin Meir and I had been working in the horse stables of the Germans. Then, Olasik – the police chief of Gorodische, and Sasha Masai, the commandant of Maytchet, arrived and told us that they had come to take us, supposedly, to bring ethyl alcohol from the factory in Vilna. When we neared the marketplace and saw the crowd of Jews lying on the ground facing down, we understood what was about to happen and we started struggling with our captors. My brother was killed and Meir and I fled. The next day we reached the area of our family's farm, where we wanted to collect the buried weapons, and vigorously continue the underground activities. We enlisted Jews from among the refugees we met along the way and gave them guns. To my joy, my little sister, Hanna'ke, aged 9, came and told us that she had run into Germans who asked her if she was Jewish but she answered no and that she was just out gathering herbs to make medicine for the Germans. They liked her answer and let her go.

Our group grew stronger with more people and weapons and during the war and also during the retreat of the Germans and until the liberation we worked in various “otriadim” and participated in daring and dangerous operations like: attacks on the police, destruction of bridges, derailment of trains, battles and ambushes.

[Page 302]

Germans and collaborators were driven away and wiped out and we took weapons, supplies and other equipment. Among the courageous fighters here is a list of active Partisans from Maytchet and the vicinity who excelled in amazing courage and were awarded military decorations or who were killed in action. Among them were: Konia Shlovski, Hanan Shmulovitz, Mordechai-Leib Shmulovitz, Yehoshua Zlotnik, Itzak Lakhovitzki, Laizer Zukovitzki. Yitzhak and Laizer who took part in “Otriad Grozni” were killed near Maytchet by an anti-semitic unit named after Stralkov. Meir Chaneles was outstanding and received a military medal as a senior Partisan but was killed by Polish collaborators. David Ravitz, Yaakov Margolin, Chaim Epshtein and others were active. Among the Partisans, girls also took part: Liza (Leah) Ephstein, (now Kovensky living in Argentina) who served as a machine-gunner near Yavorskaya Road and caused heavy losses to the enemy, Esther Mlishinski participated in “Otriad Belski” (now Lizovski in Eretz Yisrael), Freidl Margolin in “Otriad Grozni” (now Mckranski, Kibbutz Negba), Vita Dvorzecky was a nurse in the Grishka company and died of typhoid.

 

The workers of the Folks-Bank
1-Shimon Lakhovitzki (manager) 2- Yehoshua Novomiski (bookkeeper)
3-Livka Izralvitz (treasurer) 4-Mordechai Ravitz (clerk)

 

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