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[Pages 335-336]

My Memories of Maytchet

by L. Ozersky

Translated by Jerrold Landau

A letter from Winnipeg, Canada

Many greetings to Mr. Nachum Margolin.

I am writing to you, the oldest son of the Ozersky family, the son of Shlomo the Sofer [the scribe's son]. I doubt that you remember me, for I studied in the Slonim Yeshiva and used to come home only on Passover and the festivals. However we were neighbors. We lived in the circle of stores, and your father had a store in the same circle. I was good friends with your Aunt Kroina and Uncle Yona, and especially with their older daughter, who was murdered at Passover time in Majentek[1], where the murderers killed everybody.

That tragic case remains well in my memory, for the next day I made an escape. I went out to the Zarecer forest, and from that time, I never came back to Maytchet. I went to Baranovichi, spent two months in the ghetto there, obtained a gun with 40 bullets, and organized a group of 24 girls and boys. At night, we left the ghetto with 15 guns and eight grenades, cut through the wire, and went out to the forest. Thus, I became the only survivor of our entire family.

I very much want to obtain some information about my family in Maytchet, and when they were killed. If any of you know any details about them, I would be very grateful to know. I observe the yahrzeit of the entire Maytchet community of Shabbat Chazon[2]. I recite Kaddish, read the Haftorah, and give a kiddush for the entire synagogue. I know that my younger brother Chona was murdered in the slaughter before Tisha Be'Av. I know nothing about my father and mother, my sister Malka and my middle brother Berl.

Now, regarding the Yizkor Book, I can state with certainty that you are doing a very important and holy task by perpetuating our dear and beloved martyrs, who were so tragically and cruelly murdered

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in sanctification of the Divine Name in our native town of Maytchet. The traitorous earth of Maytchet should be accursed forever, and accursed shall be the gentile neighbors who helped murder the Jews in order to inherit – Did you kill and also inherit[3]?!... No Jew should return to Maytchet again – this Yizkor Book will be the only memory of our native home and of our dear Maytchet Jews, our parents, brothers, sisters, children, and friends. It will tell about the synagogues and houses of study in which the Jews of Maytchet worshipped and studied for many generations, and about the societal institutions and activists which exemplified the finest Jewish traits of charity and benevolence; about the youth organizations that dreamed and worked to build up a Jewish nation in a Jewish Land, and thanks to which we have indeed attained a strong, independent Israel in the land of our fathers. All, everything, will be perpetuated in the Yizkor Book that will even be a place for the ancestral graves, so that every Maytchet Jew throughout the entire world will be able to remember and weep on the day of the memorial and yahrzeit

A value cannot be placed on the words of the book, and blessed shall be the hands that have carried out this holy work, that is a worthy rectification and elevation for the souls of the holy victims of the unforgettable common grave, as well as for those who survive throughout the world, who will peruse through the pages of the Yizkor Book with holy trembling and remember their fine Jewish origins. Every Maytchet Jew should support this endeavor with writings and money, just as our forbears would write a letter at the celebration of the conclusion of writing a Torah scroll, in order to take advantage of the holy merit.

I hereby submit my writing and my support, and wish you and all of your collaborators a great blessing of “More power to you!”…

Translator's footnotes

  1. Quite possibly the Majdanek Death Camp, although not completely obvious from the spelling of the original. Return
  2. The Sabbath prior to the Tisha Be'Av fast, known as the most somber Sabbath of the year. Return
  3. The accusation of Elijah the prophet to King Ahab after Ahab arranged the death of his neighbor Naboth in order to take over his field. See Kings I 21:19. Return

[Pages 337-342]

Maytchet Natives in Lithuania
During the Period of the Second World War

by Nachum Ben-Arie

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Before I begin to write a few things about the Jews of Maytchet who lived in the independent State of Lithuania and then in the Soviet Republic of Lithuania that was annexed to the Soviet Union, I will preface and describe in a few words the general era that served as an era of salvation for the Jews. During this era, many thousands of Jews were saved and reached safe shores at a time when the Second World War engulfed the world in its full fury. This saving of Jews was done with quiet and wisdom, in a similar manner to the era of the salvation of the Jews of Hungary during the period of the war (1944)[1], which had no small number of similarities.

When Poland was trampled at the beginning of the war, a stream of Jewish refugees began to move to Lithuania, which was an independent republic in those days. Among the refugees were many pioneers and Zionist youth group members who were organized in various party frameworks and many of whom lived in various hachshara [aliya preparation] kibbutzim throughout Poland. The passage from occupied Poland to independent Lithuania was carried out through a variety of means, both legal and illegal.

After the defeat of Poland in September 1939 and its partition between Germany and the Soviet Union that was arranged by the foreign minister of Germany (Von Ribbentrop) and the foreign minister of the Soviet Union (Molotov) eight days before the outbreak of the war, and which specified that Germany would receive the western portions of Poland while the Soviet Union would obtain the eastern portions; Vilna and its environs, among other places, fell into the hands of the Soviet Union. In October 1939, rumors spread through Poland that the Soviets were preparing to transfer the district of Vilna and adjacent regions to the government of Lithuania. Therefore, many Jewish refugees began to move to Vilna with the hope and belief that a neutral country such as Lithuania would serve as their gateway to the wide world. These rumors came to reality on October 27, 1939, when the Soviets transferred all the areas around Vilna to Lithuania and established a closed border between the area of Soviet occupation and Lithuania. The border line ran through the town of Radun[2] on the Soviet side and the town of Eishyshok (Eišiškės) on the Lithuania side. Thus, many Jewish refugees found themselves in independent Lithuania; some whom had arrived prior to the closing of the border, and others who had crossed the border illegally after the closing of the border.

[Page 338]

On Friday, September 1, 1939, when the Second World War began with the German invasion of Poland, I was in the town of Slawków in the district of Zaglębie in western Poland. There, I was a member of the Hamizrachi Hachshara Kibbutz, preparing for my aliya to the Land of Israel. A few days after the outbreak of the war, I, along with several other youths, joined the stream of refugees moving eastward. My aim was to reach my parents' home in Maytchet, and at the end of September, after many tribulations and after I stumbled into the German Army and later the Soviet Army along the way, I reached home.

Maytchet was then under Russian occupation, and, as a Zionist chalutz, I felt myself as a bird in a cage. Then, the rumors that were spreading through Poland about the transfer of the Vilna area and district to Lithuania reached me; and my father, may G-d avenge his blood, advised me to get in touch with my girlfriend – today my wife – who was then at her home in Kovel, and to go to Vilna together with her. Since I did not yet know about the organization of the chalutzim over the border, I hesitated. I considered the situation and came to the conclusion that in the end the Soviets would conquer the entire state of Lithuania, and our situation would then be even more difficult, since aside from being Zionists, we would be considered to be deserters. In the meantime, I worked to solidify the economic situation of our family, and I was accepted at a government courses to prepare workers for co-ops. However, in the latter half of December 1939, after completing the course, which had included no small number of segments on the doctrine of Stalin, concluded, I felt that my place is not with the Soviets, and I decided to do everything I could to leave Maytchet. At that time, rumors spread about sneaking across the border between Russia and independent Romania. Therefore, I decided to set out immediately for Kovel, and to decide together with my girlfriend how to proceed. Indeed, at the end of December I reached Kovel where a surprise was awaiting me: messengers came and informed us that my comrades from the kibbutz were gathering in Vilna, and there was a great deal of activity by the active members of the movement to sneak across the border to Vilna. These messengers gave my girlfriend an address in the city of Bialystok where, as had been said, we would be able to join with the organized members to cross the border to Vilna.

I remained in Kovel for one day as I deliberated and thought about the matter with my girlfriend. Leaving the city had to be done in secrecy. The separation from the family and leaving our parents during such a difficult time was a very heavy factor – and my girlfriend, despite that she had spent more than two years in a hachshara kibbutz, was still connected to her parents and her family. In addition, would we even reach our destination during such a disorderly time? After much deliberation, we received the blessings of her parents and set out. We waited all night at the Kovel railway station for the train to Bialystok. As we were waiting in the railway station we met a friend, also a native of Kovel, who had been with us in the kibbutz and with whom we had made the journey from the kibbutz to Kovel, primarily by foot, after the outbreak of the war. We told this friend about our plans and gave him the address in Bialystok. Indeed, he also arrived in that city a few days later, on his way to Vilna. My girlfriend's parents waited with us at the railway station, and when the train arrived toward morning, we pushed ourselves with difficulty onto the train and set out for Bialystok.

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In the afternoon of that day, we arrived in Bialystok and went to the address that we had. It became clear to us that this was the address of a female member of our movement. In her house, we met other members who had been together with us on the hachshara kibbutz, as well as members of other kibbutzim. They were happy to greet us when we arrived, and our arrival encouraged them and increased the hope that we would all succeed in crossing the border to Lithuania. The members were near despair after we waited a long time for the emissaries who were supposed to come from across the border to transfer additional groups, but were delayed in coming. After a few hours, a member arrived who also had been with us on the kibbutz and was also active in the smuggling operation. He told us of the many difficulties that had taken place in the last few days. It was hard to maintain contact, the emissaries did not return again from across the border, and it seems like crossing the border became impossible – in short, we were out of options. After we dissected the situation, we came to the decision to leave Bialystok immediately and set out for Lida, the closest city to the border. We immediately sent someone to the railway station to purchase tickets, and after we gathered all the members together, we went to the railway station in Bialystok. After a few hours of waiting, the train came and we travelled to Lida.

We reached that town in the morning hours, and went to a synagogue where most of the refugees had gathered. On the way to the synagogue, I saw from afar two girls from Maytchet, and it seems that they were in Lida for the same purpose that I had come to that city. However, since I did not want it to be known in town that I was close to the border, I evaded them so that they would not recognize me. In the synagogue, we again met a few members who had been with us in the kibbutz, and they were also happy about our arrival. All of them remained in the synagogue, whereas I along with an active member of the smuggling operation set out to determine the possibilities of crossing the border. Since we did not succeed in finding such possibilities, we decided to set out toward the border by foot to go to a town or village adjacent to the border, from where we would determine the possibilities of crossing the border. When we set out from Lida we met a farmer who was on the way from Lida to his home. In conversation with him, it became clear to us that his brother-in-law who lives with him smuggled people across the border. We joined up with the farmer and went by wagon to his house, which was 12 kilometers from Lida. His brother-in-law was not at home, for he had not yet returned from his nighttime “activities”. We slept over at the farmer's house and the next morning we decided to return to Lida to bring the people, and we would all wait in the farmer's house until his brother-in-law returned.

Thus it was. We returned to Lida by foot, and took the rest of the members. We were a group of six males and two females. Another friend went with us to familiarize himself with the route so he would be able to utilize it a few days later, since he was waiting for his relatives who were supposed to arrive in Lida. That day was a wintery day – a typical end of December day. A thick snow fell, and we walked in single file with a distance between each person so that we would not be noticed. We reached the farmer's house and waited until nightfall, but his brother-in-law had not returned yet. Since the farmer was concerned about housing so many people in his house, he advised us to go to the house of another nearby farmer. A group of Jews were housed there, together with a Jewish border smuggler, who was a resident of the town of Eišiškės on the Lithuanian side of the border.

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This group had attempted to cross the border the previous night, but they did not succeed, due to a comb-out by the Red Army. We got in touch with the border smuggler, whose name was Shevach, and he agreed that we should accompany him – of course in return for a specified payment. I immediately gave him a sum of money up front, and we agreed that he would receive the remainder after we would cross the border.

That night, Shevach hired two sleds and we set out on the way. We passed through a forest and reached a certain place where he sent the wagon drivers and sleds back, and we continued on foot in single file. Along the way, we had to pass through the main road leading to the town of Radun, however we suddenly noticed horsemen of the Red Army going through the road. Therefore, we lay down in the snow and waited until the road was cleared of the horsemen. Then, we crossed the street and continued along our way until we arrived in the town of Eišiškės toward morning, tired and broken. We were brought to Shevach's house. He informed the people whom he had to inform, and the entire group of about 20 people dispersed to various houses. Two girls of our group were transferred that very day, which was a Friday, by public bus to Vilna. Of course, this transfer was made possible by the use of names and certificates of local girls. The men, I among them, were brought to Vilna on Saturday night by wagons.

Of course, we were not the only ones who arrived in Vilna. Hundreds of male and female chalutzim and other religious youths from chapters of Hechalutz, the Mizrachi movement, Hashomer Hadati, and Bnei Akiva in Poland gathered in that city, as well as religious youth from Germany who had been deported to Poland prior to the war due to their Polish origins. At that time, I remained in the kibbutz absorption center on Kiovska Street. After some time, institutions were activated, houses were rented, and all of the chalutz refugees were distributed according to their former group affiliations. Committees were chosen, and we attempted to enter into an orderly life. Additional members came as refugees also in January 1940, and all of them were absorbed into the kibbutzim. Of course, all of us were registered in the offices of the civic registry, as if we had arrived in Vilna before the day that it was transferred by the Soviets to the Lithuanians.

After we were divided up into various kibbutzim in Vilna, our common livelihood was made possible by various temporary jobs and by assistance from the American JOINT[3]. All of the refugees, without differentiation, received the same assistance. The JOINT organized communal kitchens for the solitary refugees, and distributed various provisions to the families and the kibbutzim. After four or five months, the government of Lithuania issued a directive, according to which some of the refuges had to leave Vilna and move to outlying cities. This fate befell me and other members, and we left Vilna. I joined a Jewish farm 12 kilometers from Kovno, where a kibbutz of our movement existed and we were employed in agricultural work and packing provisions that we received from Jewish suppliers in Kovno.

After a short time, in June 1940, Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union as a Soviet Republic. The regime changed and we succeeded in leaving the agricultural farm while there was still time. The group was separated, and we dispersed in small groups in the nearby town of Godlawo, (Garliava) a distance of seven kilometers from Kovno.

[Page 341]

Our group consisted of four males and one female. The males worked in Kovno. Every day, we walked or drove with saws and axes to Kovno, where we worked at cutting trees, whereas the female worked as a homemaker. Despite the breakup of the kibbutzim and the dispersal of their members to smaller groups, a constant communication was maintained between the groups and the central institutions. We, the members of the kibbutzim, prepared ourselves even for the possibility of persecution due to Zionism, as well as for oppression and imprisonment. The members of the headquarters prepared plans for the eventuality that we might have to go underground. Group heads were appointed, and means of communication were prepared, including a secret writing code for the case of need.

We remained in Lithuania for one year. The first half was in independent Lithuania, and the second half was in the Lithuanian Soviet Republic. During the year, the activities of the Offices of the Land of Israel in Kovno increased. Various central personalities rose to the leadership of the office, including Dr. Zerach Warhaftig[4]. People worked through all means available in order to obtain aliya permits to the land of Israel, entry visas to various countries throughout the world, and other transit visas. I recall that I went to the Japanese consulate in Kovno and left with an entry permit (or transit permit – I do not recall exactly which) to Japan. Hundreds and thousands of refugees did as I did. The Dutch consulate also placed its stamp on passports, permitting the passage to various islands[5]. At a time of need, we had our own “consul” who issued passports, visas and permits of various sorts. All this was done in haste until the set date when all of the foreign embassies and consulates in Kovno were ordered to close their offices and move to Moscow. I was sent to the British consol and received a passport with a permit for aliya to the Land of Israel on virtually the final day.

After the period of the issuance of passports, visas, entry permits and transit permits ended, the principal period of obtaining transit permits through the Soviet Union began. This period was a very difficult and demanding period. We did not act as individuals, for there was no possibility of us working as isolated individuals. To our happiness and good fortune, Dr. Warhaftig stood at the helm of the movement that acted with exceptional dedication, and whose levelheadedness was businesslike and logical. I will mention the following story as an example: We had to bring the list of candidates for aliya, whose names had been certified by the British consulate of Kovno, to the central office of the Soviet underground guard in Moscow in order to receive the permit. There were leaders who were concerned about bringing lists of names to such a dangerous place, but Dr. Warhaftig acted in a levelheaded manner and understood that daringness and bravery were both required, and that if the list of candidates were not presented, it was clear that we would not be able to leave. Even if we were to give in the list, there was a possibility that we would not receive the exit permit or transit permits through the Soviet Union. Finally, we decided to take the risk and present the list of candidates who had been approved for aliya, and to request the transit permits and exit permits. We also added an incidental note that explained that no benefit would accrue to the Soviet Union from people such as ourselves if we would remain and not be permitted to leave.

At the end of December 1940, I received a summons, along with other refugee members, to appear at the Soviet secret police station in Kovno. I remained in the station all night, since many people were summoned there. My turn came toward morning, and I received the awaited transit permit

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and exit permit. We immediately carried out all the necessary actions, and we set out to Moscow under the auspices of the government Intourist Soviet tourist agency. We spent two nights at the splendid Hotel Moskovski in Moscow. In that city, we obtained a transit pass through Turkey from the Turkish consulate, and we then set out by train to Odessa via Kiev.

The train trip from Kovno to Odessa via Moscow and Kiev took four or five days, of which we remained in Moscow for two days. Throughout this brief time we were able to see and get to know a bit the “Garden of Eden” in which we lived, and to our dismay, in which our Jewish brethren still live. This brought us to many tears, of sadness and joy together, in the isolated cases where we had the possibility of revealing to them that we were on our way toward the Land of our Fathers. We were witness to several confessions and expressions of true longing for the Land, which welled up from the depths of the hearts. I recall that at one railway station between Kiev and Odessa, an older woman boarded the train with a basket in her hand containing cheese cookies that she sold the passengers. I was convinced that this woman, whose head was covered in a thick winter kerchief, was not Jewish, and therefore we consulted among ourselves in Yiddish whether we would be able to purchase cookies from her lest they not be Kosher. To our great surprise, the woman understood our language, and when she found out that there were Jews in front of her, she burst into tears and told us that she was also a fellow Jew who kept Kosher, and that her husband was a shochet [ritual slaughterer]. She added, “I wish that I could also join you with my family.” In a parenthetical statement I feel the duty to add and note that her words are accurate even today, thirty years after that meeting, and that the truth of these words applies to the vast majority if not all of the Jews of the Soviet Union

When we arrived at the Odessa railway station, representatives of the Intourist company were waiting for us. They transferred us directly to the port. After the usual inspection, we boarded a Russian ship called Svantia, and set sail for Koshta[6]. This board sailed in a direct line to Odessa-Koshta and we learned later that other members were also transported on the same ship. We spent a week in Koshta, and then set out by train for Syria and Lebanon, and arrived in Beirut. From there, we continued by bus, and arrived in Haifa on January 6, 1941. There, the head of the Aliya Department of the Jewish Agency of that time, Mr. Moshe Shapira, greeted us, blessed us heartily, and wished us success in our new life in our old-new Land.

This episode of aliya to the Land from Lithuania was one of the most splendid chapters in the book of torments that our present generation endured. It was enabled through the faithfulness and uprightness of people dedicated to the public, and was carried out without noise and fanfare – but rather the opposite – quietly and discreetly. Therefore, this episode was not followed by bitter outcomes. It is fitting that the people who worked at organizing this aliya be given appropriate publicity in this episode of salvation – publicity that was not given to them to this day.

Translator's footnotes

  1. Referring to the saving of Hungarian Jews by Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg. Return
  2. There is a footnote in the text here, as follows: This town is known as the residence of Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen of holy blessed memory (1838-1933), the author of the book Chofetz Chaim. Return
  3. The Joint Distribution Committee. Return
  4. Later a Knesset member in Israel. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zerach_Warhaftig Return
  5. Dutch colonies such as Indonesia, Curacao, etc. Return
  6. Seemingly Constanta, Romania. Return

[Pages 343-345]

Maytchet Refugees from Maytchet in Vilna

by Isaac Movshovits (Nir David)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

In 1938, I set out for hachshara in the Rovno Kibbutz under the auspices of Hashomer Hatzair, and I remained there from that time and following the outbreak of the war. The following people of Maytchet were together with me in the Kibbutz: Yitzchak Movshovits, Reuben Rabinovitz, Reuben Bitenski, Moshe Vilkormirski, Berl Kroshinski, Vikna Belski, Chana Boretcky, and Chanan Zukovitzki. At the outbreak of the war, the Soviets occupied the district of Rovno, and the Germans occupied the western district of Poland. The Hachshara Kibbutzim in the west escaped to the Soviet district, and the local Kibbutzim absorbed them and even concerned themselves with providing them with work and food.

Thus was the situation for about three months, until December 1939. Throughout this time, we searched for ways to leave the Soviet occupation area in order to go to the Land. A few went to the Romanian border, and a few even succeeded in crossing and continuing on to the Land, but many were caught and sent to prison. As is known, the Russians annexed Vilna to Lithuania, which was still considered to be an independent country. We saw this as a viable possibility for leaving the country, and groups of chalutzim began to stream in the direction of Vilna. With this we should say that the Lithuanian border was open until October 27, 1939, and anyone who arrived before that date crossed in complete freedom; but after that date, we were already forced to “steal” across the border, with all the dangers involved in that.

In Vilna, the refugees were organized by Zionist party, and the kibbutz members organized by their units. These organizations suffered from difficult birth pangs due to the growing number of refugees who gathered there, and whom the city could not absorb and sustain. However, the JOINT filled the void, and offered them great support. If this was not sufficient, the Lithuanian government did not at all regard the large concentration of refugees in Vilna in a positive light, and made plans to disperse them throughout the entire country of Lithuania under the auspices of population dispersal. As a means of coercion to carry out the plan, they utilized the law that forbade refugees from working, so they forced us to suffice ourselves with chopping trees and sanitation work. On the other hand, Vilna was a major Jewish city with many cultural institutions, and during our free time, we found a warm corner to read. We were also happy to use the Jewish bathhouse for free, for the purposes of cleanliness and to warm up.

In March 1940, all of the former members of the Rovno Kibbutz moved to the outlying city of Wilkomir. There, we rented a large building and began to organize. We founded a carpentry shop for men,

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a sewing shop for women, and we also cultivated a vegetable garden. Chanan Zukovitzki who had completed a degree in agriculture in Ludomir, was responsible for overseeing the vegetable garden, and we were almost able to sustain ourselves from independent work. A tragedy occurred in the month of June – Moshe Vilkormirski jumped into the river and broke his elbow. We took him to the hospital in Vilna where he died after a month. This sad event had a strong influence on the Kibbutz.

At that time, Lithuania was annexed to the body of the Soviet Union, but it retained a certain degree of economic independence. The Russians would send their soldiers there from the front to recover, and they confiscated one of our two houses for that purpose. In that manner, we lived next to them for several months. There were many Jews among them. We often held stormy debates with them on the topic of the situation of Jews in the Soviet Union versus the Russian goal of liquidating Jewish schools and other institutions.

The Russians slowly got organized in the area and began to confiscate the large businesses. The belt around our activities began to tighten more and more, and we were finally advised by the local Communist committee to join them as an organized group. As a reaction to this, the center decided to disband the small groups, so that each could exist in an independent fashion.

In the spring of 1941, the border between Lithuania and Russian Poland became friendly and free, and it was possible to move between the two countries, so I decided to arrange a visit home. I arrived in Mickiewicze without any difficulty, and visited with my parents and my family. I remained there for three or four days, and returned to Wilkomir out of fear of difficulties with the law. When I returned, the eve of the outbreak of the Great War was already felt in the air, and the Russian armies began to move in the direction of the German border. In a lightning quick consultation, we decided to liquidate our organization and return home via Vilna, but the war advanced in a sudden fashion, and there was no longer way of return.

We left Wilkomir in the direction of Russia. Two Russian autos took us up along the way, and we continued to the Russian border via Latvia. There we had a bad accident when one of our cars turned over. We lost our path as a result. Some were wounded and taken to the hospital. My wife and I returned to the border town of Shebezh, where they transferred us to trains and transported us to the depths of Russia. The Germans pursued us, bombed the roads, and make the escape difficult, until we stopped in a kolkhoz[1] and somehow managed to maintain ourselves. After we recovered a bit from the difficulties of the journey, we began to search for a different place close to the border, and the lot fell upon Toshkent.

I reached Toshkent in August 1941, and from there, we were transferred to a kolkhoz in the region of Namangan. Since we were the first refugees, they received as guests. At first, we worked with them in a sewing workshop, and then I set myself up as electrician in a dam building business. After some time, we were drafted into a work group in Tscheliabinsk. There I got sick and was returned to Namangan to recover. After I recovered from my illness, I was transferred to Samarkand where I met Reuben Rabinovitz. We also received

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letters from Chanan Zukovitzki, who was in the Lithuanian Army and worked as a watchman on a medical train. We eventually stopped receiving letters, and found out that he had died in an attack on the train. We also received information that Berl Kroshinski, who had served in the Red Army, was wounded and freed in Ashchabad on the Iranian border.

I was still in Samarkand at the end of the war. When Poland was liberated, it was possible to enlist in the Polish Army and thereby reach Poland. However, in the interim, we received letters from Nieśwież, and we discovered that my wife's brothers and sisters had survived there. We set out for Nieśwież, and then moved the entire family to Lódz, Poland. There, a movement of “smuggling” was taking place, and the end of the transports seemed to be on the horizon. We were transferred to Germany, where I met Vikna Belski. From there, we made aliya to the Land with a certificate in the year 1947.

With all the difficulties and tribulations that overtook the members of our kibbutz, each on his own path, hidden strands remained between the members, who returned and reorganized themselves in Nir David.

 

Translator's footnote

  1. A Soviet collective farm. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolkhoz Return

[Page 346]

Partisans and the Jews in the Forests of Maytchet

by Mark Dvorjetski

Translated by Ariel Dvorjetski and Jerrold Landau

(Meitshet, Meichet, Moichet, Molchadz) was one of the “Jewish towns” of western Byelorussia, that is to say in the eastern district of Poland prior to the Second World War.

The stories of the destruction of the community of Maytchet, the underground movement, the escape to the forests and the participation in the partisans - are very similar to all the neighboring towns near forests in this area of Byelorussia. The town was located next to the Lida-Baranovichi railway line, and was therefore one of the small stops where refugees from Poland settled during their escape from the German armies who had conquered the western sector of Poland.

When this town was conquered by the German armies, it was surrounded by concentrations of Jews and ghettoes: Navahrudak, Navajelnia and Dvorets from the north, Haradzets and the Koldichevo Camp[i] from the east, Baranovichi and Slonim from the south, and Kozlovshchina and Zhetl from the west. All of these centers of Jewish concentration were in a 30-50 kilometer radius of the area. It was also surrounded by various partisan units: Tzorani on the east, Grozny on the north, Soborov, the unit of Dr. Yechiel Atlas, The Povaida (Victory) brigade of Bulek, the Orlianski (Burba-Mavek) brigade, and Kaplinski's brigade on the west.

Maytchet was surrounded by the Maytchet Forests that were known for their beauty, the Horki and Svrotova forests, the Thick Forest (Pushcha Lipichan). The Thick forest (Pushcha Lipichan), Ruda-Jaworska and Dobrobchina forests were about 40 kilometers away, and the Puscha Naliboki was about 70-80 kilometers northeast. There were many partisan units as well as a Jewish family camp headed by Tuvia Bielski.

As a result, the town found itself on a crossroads of the partisan groups. With time, the fact of the existence of the partisan units became known to the Jews of Maytchet thanks to the militant acts of the partisans that had a loud echo throughout the entire population of the area. However, the severe isolation of the Jewish population at all points of concentration prevented the possibility of maintaining contact with the Jewish populations in the areas of settlement, and of course with the partisan units in the forests. However, at a time of straits, when an aktion was impending - that is to say, a partial or complete destruction of the Jewish population of Maytchet, as well as during the period when the murderous deeds were being carried out (as they were being transported to the pits, or during the shooting at the pits), a definitive possibility existed

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for those willing to risk their lives, to escape to the forests of the region. We should also realize that a certain number of village Jews (Yishuvniks) who knew their way around the forests lived in the areas around the town.

The escape to the forests brought with it several difficulties. The Jews with families would go out to the forests to search for refuge, along with their wives, parents and children. In general, they did not have weapons. They would set up hiding places (bunkers) in the forests, and would sustain themselves from what they found in the fields, or what they obtained from going out to the neighboring villages to request food or to engage in barter in exchange for clothing, vessels, valuable, and money. These Jews were known as the “Bunker People”, however, they are also called “People of the Family Camps” in Holocaust literature. By going out to the villages of the district to obtain food, they “exposed” themselves, and caused slander among the farmers of the region and German attacks in order to liquidate the “Bunker Jews” (for example, the liquidation of the Jewish bunkers in the Svortova Forest). The youth would begin to form clandestine groups in Maytchet itself as well as in the settlements of the area (such as in Meidvidzina) in order to forge contact with the partisans of the area and to obtain weapons. With time, this would cause them to be noticed by the independent partisan groups, and later, they would be able to join the fighting groups as partisans.

These two forms of life in the forests were at best unstable, and at worst vagrant. Everyone who went out to the forest would at the beginning live a life of secrecy in the forest without contact with a partisan group (that is, they would be a “Bunker Person”). They would only turn into a partisan after joining a partisan unit. They were “temporary bunker people,” but there were adult Jews with wives and younger and older children, who were never accepted into a partisan unit. They remained in the forests in a permanent fashion until the end of the war or until they fell into the hands of the Germans or a neighboring enemy population. These were the “permanent bunker people.” There were also cases where a Jewish partisan would leave his unit due to the anti-Semitic atmosphere and go out to the forests to search for a more comfortable unit. In the meantime, he would turn into a “bunker person.”

Most of the bunker people perished at the hands oaf the Germans and their accomplices. Sporadic news from these bunkers in the forests reached us from those still left in the town. We can surmise that the number of bunkers in the forest was larger than what is known to us.

The Jewish refugees who reached Maytchet, both from Greater Poland and the Jewish centers in the region, played a significant role in Jewish life of Maytchet during the time when the eastern sector of Poland was occupied by the Soviets following the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement, as well as during the Nazi occupation. Also, a number of Jews moved from Baranovichi to Maytchet, for life was relatively easier there for some time. At the beginning of the winter of 1941, a command was issued by the German army that all Jews in the small towns must move to larger Jewish communities. At that time, many Jews from the villages of the area arrived in Maytchet.

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As heard from Moshe Korn, the Jewish Council (Judenrat) of Maytchet was composed of five people, including two refugees: Erlich of Czestochowa who was appointed by the Germans as the chairman of the Judenrat, and Apelbaum of Suwalki. The rest of the members of the Judenrat were Jews from Maytchet: Yechezkel Ravitz, Leibel Gilerovitz (the wheat merchant), Chaim Shlovski (butcher), (according to Trunk, Yosef Korn was a member of the Judenrat). We also find the name of a refugee who came to Maytchet from Suwalki, Misha Medlinski, among the list of Jewish partisans of Maytchet. He later organized a fighting unit in the Svarotova Forests. On the other hand, a significant number of Jews of Maytchet were hauled to work or fled to Baranovichi, Dvorets, Koldychevo, Lesnaya,, and went on to the partisans in the forests from those places.

The Jewish community of Maytchet endured two partial actions, and then a final aktion that decisively liquidated the community.

The first aktion took place on the 27th of Shvat, 5702 (February 14, 1942). Eighteen Jews of Maytchet (according to others, 22 Jews) were chosen by the local gendarmes and hauled to the other side of the flour mill, at the place of the coal making plant (smoliarnia), and were murdered there.

The second aktion took place on the 18th of Sivan 5702 (June 3, 1942). The approximately 200 people who were chosen to die were taken out to Bordokovshchina via the village of Horodishtch and murdered there

The third aktion, which was the liquidation aktion, took place from the 1st to the 3rd of Av 5702 (July 15-17, 1942). The Germans concentrated all the Jews and chose approximately 300 healthy people, who were hauled to the area around Baranovichi. They were put to work together with the Jews who had been deported from the city of Lida, to build a forced labor camp in Koldychevo. The rest were taken out to be murdered in Chwojnik near Maytchet - men, women, elders, and children. Before that, they were ordered to dig large pits that served as their graves.

Regarding the Forest Jews (partisans and bunker people) from Maytchet, the underground cells, the participation of the people of Maytchet in the partisan units and partisan battles, the acts of treason of the anti-Semitic neighbors, the acts of revenge against the murderers of Jews, and of the partisan heroes in Maytchet who fell in battle activities - there are numerous echoes from several articles in the Book of Maytchet, in the “Lexicon of Bravery,” in the story of Moshe Kahanovitz, in various other books, and in various testimonies relating to that period. Often, these testimonies are missing dates and places, and there are even names of people who are called by their local nickname (for example Moshe Diechs instead of Moshe the son of Deicha Korostovski, Konia Shlovski instead of Elkana Shlovski).

I wish to bring here a summary of the Jewish problems in the forests of Maytchet as describe in all the various testimonies and publications:

Several of the survivors describe the attempts at defense on the night of the liquidation aktion (July 15, 1942).

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At a time when the Germans surrounded the town, the members of the independent defense organization attempted to break through the siege. However, they ran into heavy fire from the Germans, and about ten youths fell. The only survivor was Noach Mordkovski (today in the United States)[1].

M. Korn also writes about that night: The underground people had three guns that were distributed to the former soldiers Noach Mordukovski, Yaakov Margolin, and Chaim Shlovski. A group of Maytcheters wished to break through the forces, but they encountered cross-fire. Noach Mordukovski was only able to shoot one shot with his gun, because he had no bullets. The other guns did not have bullets, and their bearers fell with useless guns in their hands.

Most of these that fled from that group were killed. Only nine people survived[2].

Khonan Shmulevicz tells about the armed group that was organized in Maytchet in the summer of 1942 before the great slaughter. Ruben Bitenski, Noach Mordukovski, Meir Ravitz, and he himself, Khonan Shmulevicz belonged to that group. They had a gun with 50 bullets that they received from a gentile friend, Vitia Kozovei. They lay down with the gun in a field next to the town on the night before the liquidation. Many other people from the town lay down with them that night. When they sensed that they were surrounded by the Germans, they wished to break through the siege with gunshots. However, most of them fell on the spot, and only a few (ten or twelve) escaped. Khonan Shmulevicz succeeded in jumping into the river and hiding with his friend Kozovei. Another Jewish family was there - Tzira Kaplan (Ravitz), her husband and their children[3]). Kaplan eventually joined the “Grozni “Otriad.”

(Apparently the three preceding testimonies relate to the same event.)

They hid there for about two months, and went out to the forests from time to time to search for Jews. He, (Khonan Shmulevicz), Avraham Medlinski, and Elkhona Shlovski made contact with the Zolotov Otriad. The members of the Otriad did not accept them as members of the Otriad, but did help them get organized, and also gave them a commander named Petke[4].

At the time of the aktion of the liquidation of the Maytchet Ghetto, Ziml Stolovitzki went out to the Horki Forest and organized a partisan unit of 60 Jews of Maytchet. They killed two anti-Semitic Nazi spies, in whose pockets were found certificates stating that they served in the Nazi police[5]. The Nazis attacked Ziml's camp in October 1942. Twelve people, including Ziml Stolovitzki, were killed after a stubborn battle.

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Two testimonies, one from Khonan Shmulevicz, and the second from Moshe Ravitz, tell of a group of Jewish partisans who were organized in the Svorotova Forests.

Moshe Ravitz tells that the organizer of the group was Yitzchak Lochovitzki. Among others, the following people were members of the group: Yehoshua Zlotnik, Avraham Lublinski, Freidel Margolin, Chania (Khonan) Shmulevicz, Mordechai-Leib Shmulevicz, Moshe Ravitz, and Elkhona (Konia) Shlovsky. Those active in the group included Abrasha Hanelis (the son of Yaakov), Yitzchak Lakhovitzki, and Elkhona Shlovsky. They would go out to the villages of the area and obtain food and weapons, either “willingly or by force”[6].

Khonan Shmulevicz tells of a group that was organized in the Svorotova Forests, and gives the names of its participants as Abrasha Hanelis, Yitzchak Lakhovitzki, and he himself, Khonan Shmulevicz. He also gives the names of other members of that group: Meirim Boretcky, Meir Hanelis, Zukovitzki, Melech Zukerfop, and David Stein[7].

Apparently, both of the above were describing the same group, but separate activities that were carried out by that group, such as the liquidation of the police station, the removal of the railway tracks, etc.

From Svorotova, the group moved to the Horki Forest where there was a large group of Jews with weapons, organized by Asher Shushan. Other Jews of Maytchet who had escaped from the Dvorets Ghetto were also located there. In the meantime, two partisans who had left a different Otriad joined Petka, and began to plot against the Jews. After taking secret council, they decided to remove them from the path. Meir Hanelis and Yitzchak Lakhovitzki carried this out[8].

A Jewish underground group was set up in the village of Medvinotsya near Maytchet. Among its members were Avraham (Abrasha) Hanelis (Ben Yaakov), Avraham (Abrasha) Hanelis (Ben Baruch), Meir Hanelis, Itzchak Lakhovitzki, and David Ravitz. After about two months, this group was exposed, and policemen appeared suddenly. During the battle between them, Abrasha Hanelis (Ben Baruch) was injured severely and he died of his wounds. Itzchak Lakhovitzki was also captured. He was imprisoned in the Maytchet jail and sentenced to death. When he was being hauled to be put to death in Horodistch via the village of Shnicheshnitz, Lakhovitzki succeeded in escaping from the police[9].

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This was an underground movement which apparently didn't have time to connect with other partisans from the region. According to M. Ravitz, some connections with this underground movement were with two ladies from Maytchet that worked at the Nazi police office, Feigala Boretsky and Chana Belski.

After the Aktion in Maytchet (July 1942), refugee fighters were gathered at the Svortva Forests. They were about 45 people. They established two bunkers. In one bunker roughly 30 people hid, including six who escaped from the Baranovich Ghetto. In the second bunker about 15 people hid, (it should be understood that among these people were Issac Lakhovitski , Moshe Ravitz and others who were mentioned before[10]).

A partisan group from Ruda-Jaworska came to the villages of Svorotva to pick up food, while being chased by the police, who found the first bunker (which had about 30 people). After a bloody fight all the bunker people were killed. Only one woman survived, Tsira Ravitz, who was hidden by a Christian acquaintance, and afterwards moved with the help of Jewish Partisans to the Otriad (Partisan Group) of Tuvia Bieslki[10].

After the murder of the members of the first bunker, the people of the second bunker were separated. Several people moved to Dvorets and joined a work camp (among them Freidel Margolin, Zlata Kaplan with her children and others). Some time after that, the camp was liquidated and all the people of the camp perished. Only a small number of people were able to escape. Moshe Ravitz and Efrim Dubkovski stayed in order to wait for the Partisans from Ruda-Jaworska, who came to pick up food and because of them the police searched the forest and demolished the first bunker. The partisans let them join their group and gave them rifles with bullets. When they reached the location of the Otriad, they were attacked by a large German force. A big battle developed and all the partisans from the surrounding area participated, including the unit that was led by Dr. Yechezkel Atlas. He was critically wounded in this battle and died[10].

According to Moshe Ravitz' account, after this battle, the command decided to separate the forces into groups of 20 people who operated through a central command but were granted freedom of action and planning.[11]

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We will devote here some words to the unit of Dr. Atlas, which operated near the Szczara River, about 40 kilometers from Maytchet, and in which some of the Maytchet people who participated in the critical battle in which Dr. Atlas died.

Dr. Yechezkel (Heniek, known by others as Yechiel) Atlas was a legendary name within the Jewish partisan movements in the Byelorussian forests, and he is mentioned in many testimonies and articles. Dr. Altas was born in Rawa-Mazowiecka (Warsaw Region), in 1913. In 1938 he graduated from the University of Milan as a physician (M.D.) and returned to Poland. After the war began, he escaped with his parents and sister to Lvov (which was occupied by the Soviets), from there to Slonim, and finally settled down at the town of Kozlovschina (about 13 kilometers from Maytchet). In the beginning of Spring 1942 the German perpetrated a massacre in the town and he was transferred as a physician to the village of Wielka Wola, on the River Szczara. After the massacre at the nearby town of Drohichin (26 July 1942), he went to the forests with a young Jewish group and organized them into a Jewish Fighter Group, who was led by Boris Bulat[ii], a Commander of a Soviet partisan battalion. Dr. Atlas and his group participated in many battles and revenge actions, and his name was a symbol of the Jewish fighter throughout all the Byelorussian forests. He fell down in a battle on 5 of December 1942. The unit continued to bear his name even after his death[12].

Moshe Korn tells about groups of youths that were organized in Maytchet, to go out to the forests and join the partisans. He took his mother and brother and went out to the forest. There he met with Litman Litowarski and his sisters[iii], Zelda Gilerowicz, the Shoshan brothers from the village of Dokrowa, and Vita, the daughter of the pharmacist Jacob Dvorjetski[13].

In one of the forests he found Avraham Kaplan, Fraydel Margolin, of the Mlishinski family, Noah Mordukovski and Jacob Shmulevicz[13].

He finally joined the Grozni Battalion, and was destined to fight alongside Baruch Lewin. He succeeded to cross the Neiman River under conditions of mortal danger, and bring back reports from the other side. He was rewarded for excellence for this.[13].

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Mina Levin (Gorski) tells about another group of the Forests Jews from Maytchet. She lived in the village of Ivankovichi (10 kilometers from Maytchet). They remained in the village until 1942. In February the Germans concentrated all the Jews from all the villages in the town Mush, near Baranovich. On Saturday, 19 of Tamuz (July 4, 1942), all the people were deported along with the local Jews, about 1,200 in number, and murdered[14].

Ten of them were sent as farmers to the Paszkowcze farm to work in its fields. They worked in the farm for about half a year. On July 16, 1942 they escaped to the Balushni Forests near Slonim. The ten people (including the Gorski family) remained in the forest for about a week and then separated. The Gorski family (the father, the son Tuvia, and the daughter Mina) wandered around the forests, went out at nights to search for food at other farmers, and lived in a bunker. That was the way they lived for that period till July 9, 1944, the liberation day of that area from the German[15].

 

Revenge Action on a Farmer from Dukrowo

The Maytchet partisans carried out some acts of revenge upon non-Jews that harassed Jews, robbed them, murdered them, or transferred them to the Germans. There was a goal in those actions to frighten anti-Semites, in order to stop them from perpetrating the acts of murder and hatred.

We already described earlier the revenge upon two partisans who joined the “Paetke.”

Khonan Shmulevicz tells that his mother and other family members went to the village of Dukrowo to seek a shelter with the Shoshan group (see above). One of the farmers captured them and transferred them to the German authorities who murdered them. Abrasha Hanelis, Asher Shoshan, Litman Litowarski and others decided to kill the farmer as a punishment. They took him from his house and shot him. Later they burnt the houses and granaries of all those in Dukrowo who worked for the Germans[16].

 

Act of Revenge on a Murderer from Maytchet

The secretary of the “Gemeine” (The Town council) and the mayor (“Woyot”) and his son were capturing the Jews who escaped the slaughter in Maytchet, robbing them and transferring them to the German gendarme. The Jewish partisans in the surrounding area (survivors of the town of Maytchet and Dvorets, who were gathered in the Horki Forests) decided to carry out a revenge action, to kill the secretary and his family members, in order to show the farmers in the area there is a Jewish presence that takes revenge on the murderers of Jews.

The operation was carried out at night on July 25, 1942. A group of Jewish partisans approached the home of the secretary, set the home on fire and began to shoot through the windows

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of the burning house. As a result of this revenge action, the secretary of the town as well his family members were killed. Only a 5 year old girl survived by jumping out a window.

One of the main activists in operation was Moshe Daychs, one of those who escaped the slaughter in Maytchet, (as I was told by Mr. Margolin from Maytchet, his name was Moshe Korostovski, and was called Daychs, in memory of his mother, Daycha[17].)

 

Act of Revenge on the family members of Police commander

Olasik Wola was the police commander in Horodishtch near Maytchet. He transferred Jews for death to the Germans. On April 1942 a group a young Jewish people from Maytchet worked in farm in Wrodokowszyna between Maytchet and Horodishtch. The farm manager was Grynwecki (cousin of Olasik Wola). In the night, young Jews from Maytchet captured him and killed him and his assistant. Among the assassins were: Moshe Margolin, Feigala Boretsky, and Chana Belski[18].

Olasik the police commander in Horodishtch, and Sasha Masaj the Maytchet Commander were known for their ruthless actions against the Jews.

Masaj was arrested after the war, brought to trial before a military court in Baranovich, and sentenced to the death penalty by shooting.

 

The Judenrat in Maytchet and the Underground Movement

We don't have credible testimonies about the Judenrat approach to the underground movement in the Maytchet Ghetto. What did he know about that? Did he oppose the movement or bless it? We found only a few words that the Holocaust researcher, Y. Trunk says that he read a testimony about the fact that the Judenrat member Yosef Korn came during the night before the massacre to the witness (who didn't spend the night at his home as he was afraid of being jailed), and alerted him about the forthcoming danger. He advised the young people not to sleep that night and be prepared for any action “if something begins”[19].

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In the testimony it was described that Moshe Daychs was apparently sent by the Judenrat in Maytchet to buy weapons in the villages (Moshe Korn).

 

Sabotage Attempts on the Railway Lines near Maytchet

Attempts to perpetrate acts of sabotage on the railway lines in the area of Maytchet in order to derail trains were not infrequent.

Sh. Borenstein, Munia Rubalski, Asher Bigdosh, Berek, Yisrael Karpavski, and Avraham Lebkovitz attempted an act of sabotage on the Maytchet-Novojelnja railway line on October 24, 1942. However they arrived there during a time when no trains were passing by (according to the people of the area, this was for two weeks). They waited two more days for a train, then left those railway lines and transferred to an action on the Baranovich-Lida railway line[20].

On the other hand, we are aware of a successful sabotage action on the Maytchet railway line carried out by ten partisans, including Yaakov Granchok, on August 1943. The objective succeeded. The train was derailed, and those who carried out the act were later decorated with the “Warrior of the Homeland” (See what is written about Y. Granchok later on).

 

A Partisan Child from Maytchet

Shmuel Borenstein, who was a partisan in the unit of Dr. Yechezkel Atlas, tells in his story about a ten-year-old child from Maytchet who became a partisan. From the article we can determine that the meeting with the child took place between October 20 and November 7 1942:

Late one night, we passed through some village, and suddenly a small voice of a child called after us, “Partisans, wait!” We stopped. A small child of about ten years old stood on the road. Even though a heavy autumn rain was falling and the cold was very harsh, the child was barefoot and almost naked. He was shivering.

“What do you want, child,” I asked.

“I want to go with you,” answered the child.

The child that we took with us stood frightened next to the door. I called him to the table. The child studied us with great interest. An expression of surprise could be seen in his large, black eyes.

“You are Jews?” asked the child. “I am also a Jew!” He approached the table with unsure steps. These words from the child frightened us. Only now as we looked at his face with the light of the oil lamp could we see that his face was that of a Jewish child.

David was the name of the child who was a candidate to be a partisan. He was from the town of Maytchet. He was miraculously saved from the slaughter perpetrated by the Germans in that town a few months previously. David

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fled at that time to one of the villages in the area that he knew. The farmers fed him for some time, and he tended to their cows in return. All of his relatives perished. David suddenly became an adult who was forced to concern himself with his livelihood. At first he found some sort of sustenance, but his situation worsened from day to day. The Germans threatened anyone who hid Jews with the death penalty, and David began to wander from town to town. The farmers chased him away, and the shepherd lads threw stones at him.

One day, David realized by chance that there were people fighting against the Germans, and they were called partisans. From that time, he attempted to make contact with those people in order to join them. He would wander between the villages during the day, getting a morsel of bread from here or there, after pleading. At night he would stalk the roadways waiting for the partisans to pass by. The child did not imagine at all that any Jews were still alive. How great was his surprise when he realized that those partisans were Jews.

We fed the child. He was very hungry, and it had been some time since he had eaten a satisfying meal.

We continued along our way. I covered the child with my coat and held him on my laps. He grabbed on to me strongly and fell asleep. After a short time, we arrived in our district. We met some of our friends. We told them about everything that happened to us and gave them our treasure, Davidka.

We finally succeeded in somehow escaping the trap… We finally arrived at our place. Before the camp, the person standing on guard was - our Davidka. The child held the gun, double his size, with great importance. Next to him stood Yekutiel Chmelnitzki, who treated him like his own child…[21].

* * *

From what is brought down above, we see the era of revolt and attempts of Jewish uprising in one of the Jewish towns of Byelorussia.

Revolutionary groups arose in Maytchet itself and the nearby villages. It was very difficult to obtain weapons, and the partisan units did not want to take on new members without weapons.

Many people from Maytchet escaped to the forests, especially before, during and after the aktions. The escapees scattered in all the forests of the area. The armed youths would finally succeed in joining partisan units. The old people and those who had to care for wives, parents and children would be left without a partisan framework, and would seek refuge in the forests. They would build “bunkers” there and go out to the farmers of the area to beg for food as a gift or as a barter exchange.

The acts of revenge carried out against the murderers of the area instilled fear upon the farmers and prevented additional acts of murder of Jews.

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Many of the partisans, both natives of Maytchet and those who were in Maytchet during the wartime, were singled out for praise by partisan decorations for acts of bravery. Many of them fell as heroes in battle.

 

Maytchet Jews who Fell in Partisan Battles

I will now include several brief biographies of partisans from Maytchet or who were active in Maytchet who fell during the course of carrying out their partisan duties. The material was culled from the “Lexicon of Bravery,” by looking through the sources mentioned in the bibliographic list at the end of the article:

Meirim Boretcky

He was born in the town of Matychet in 1914. He went out to the forest on April 15, 1942. He joined a partisan unit which later became the Grozny Unit under the leadership of Boris Grozny, a Red Army man who escaped from German captivity. Since he knew the area very well, he assisted greatly in gathering weapons from the population. He and two other Jews were guides for three units, Grozny, Zolotov, and Soborov, which attacked the army stationed in Maytchet (August 1942).

He participated in acts of ambush and derailing trains. He would assist Jews who were not yet organized in units with food, clothing, and weapons. He fell in battle on June 17, 1943 during the large search in the forest of Naliboki, when he attempted to break through the enemy encirclement and cross the Brozka River. His friends found his body on the Neiman River, and he was buried in the Partisan Cemetery[22].

Reuven Bitenski

He was born in a village near Maytchet.

In February 1942, he left Maytchet with a group of youths. A farmer named Kolias who befriended him introduced him to a group of Russian partisans who wandered through the forests of the area. They agreed to accept approximately 50 Jewish youth into their ranks, he among them.

Bitenski often went to the Maytchet Ghetto, where he conducted a collection for weapons, and took out small groups of Jewish youth to set them up temporarily with farmers of the area.

Once, during a visit to the ghetto, he was suddenly surrounded by the police and the German Army. The group that he had put together made efforts to break through the siege. During the confrontation, the Jewish fighters killed two Germans, but at the end most members of the group fell, Bitenski among them[23].

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Vita Dvorjetski

She was born in Maytchet, the daughter of the Maytchet pharmacist Yaakov Dvorjetski She graduated from the high school of pharmacy in Warsaw. She went out to the forests during the liquidation of the ghetto. Some say that she fell in battle; and others say that she died of a serious bout of typhus in the forests, without medical aid. She served as a nurse in the Grishka Unit[24].

Moshe Zilberman

He was a native of Maytchet. He escaped to the forests of the area and joined a group of escapees from the Baranovich Ghetto who were affiliated with the Pogachov Brigade. He and his friend from Baranovich, Izia Osharovski once went to Baranovich to obtain German weapons. There, they encountered a German sleeping in his bed. Zilberman killed the German. They took the weapons that were in the corner, and began to dress up in a German uniform as camouflage. One of the Germans who entered the house opened fire and wounded Osharovski severely. He was taken to the hospital where he died after great suffering. Zilberman succeeded in escaping during the confusion that arose, and he reached the partisan base in the forest in safety.

After some time he was killed by Russian partisans from the Chigankov Unit. The commander of the murderers, Chigankov, punished them by transferring them to a different unit in a far off area[25].

Moshe Medlinski

He was a native of Suwałki. He moved to Maytchet when the Germans invaded. When Maytchet was conquered by the Germans, he escaped to the Svorotova Forests and organized a group of fighters consisting of young Jews who came to the forest from the nearby towns (Maytchet, Dvorets etc.). He helped organize the Grozny Unit, and was appointed as the commander of a brigade in that unit.

His talents were displayed in acts of sabotage. He stumbled into a German ambush as he was crossing the Lida-Baranovich railway line next to the Wygoda station. He defended himself and when there was only one bullet left in his cartridge, he shot himself so as not to fall into the hands of the Germans[26].

David Kantarovitz

He was born in Maytchet. During the war, he escaped from the Zhetl Ghetto on July 15, 1942 along with a group of young people. They went to the Horky and Rohatyn forests.

On July 25, 1942, he participated in a revenge operation carried out by the group against the secretary of the Maytchet council, who turned in Jews who had succeeded in escaping from the slaughter in Maytchet.

He returned to the Zhetl Ghetto with three of his friends in order to remove weapons from the hidden storehouse and transfer additional youths to the forest. That day, August 6, 1942, the ghetto was surrounded, the partisans attempted to break through

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the chain of guards who were holding wooden rods and stones. Kantarovitz fell at the hands of the Germans that night[27].

Eliahu Kubinski

He was from Maytchet. He was one of the organizers of resistance in the town. He fell while attempting to break through the German siege on the day of the liquidation of the ghetto[28].

Reuven Kozlovitz

He was one of the organizers of the rebellion in Maytchet. He fell while attempting to break through the German siege on the day of the liquidation of the ghetto[29].

Meir Rozanski

He was born in 1925 in Maytchet. He escaped from the Dvorets Ghetto to the forests of Naliboki in December 1942, and joined the Kalinin Unit (under the command of Bielski). He participated in all the actions of the unit. He participated in many acts of train derailments along with his friend Yaakov Zingermeister. He enlisted in the Red Army along with him at the end of the war. They passed through the village of Byalolozy in the Kazlouscyna district before going out to the front. Members of a murderous anti-Semitic gang attacked them and murdered them[30].

Meir Romanovski

He was born in 1921 in Maytchet. He worked in the pharmacy of his adoptive uncle Romanovski in the town of Bakshty.

He was transferred to the Iwye ghetto along with the Jews of Bakshty in February 1943. He hid on the day of slaughter in the ghetto (May 12, 1942). Later on December 31, 1942, he was among the 29 members of the underground organization who broke through the barbed wire fence and escaped under a volley of shots to the village of Chrapinevo, and from there to the Moyan Forest, where they set up a bunker.

After four of the activists of the group were murdered by fighters of the Chapayev Unit on February 6, 1942, and their hiding place was discovered by shepherds, he fled with his friends to the Naliboki Forests where they joined the Aleksander Nayevski Unit.

He fell with three Jewish partisans as they returned from laying mines on a railway line around Juraciszki, a few days before May 1, 1943[31].

[Page 360]

David Stein

He was from the city of Maytchet. He escaped from the labor camp in Dvorets and joined the Kalinin Unit. He went out to supply missions when the Germans began the hunt. The group that he joined ran into a German force, and he fell in battle along with four of his friends[32].

***

I will bring down here several details about Jewish partisans who participated in battles near Maytchet and fell in these battles or after them in partisan actions.

Yaakov Granchok

He was born in Derechin[iv] in 1925. He fled to the forests on June 22, 1942, when the ghetto was liquidated. He was accepted into the Abramov brigade of the Bulak Unit in the forest of Lopacin. He joined in all the battles of the unit as a machine gunner.

In August 1943, he went out with a group of ten partisans to derail a train on the Maytchet line. After he shot dead the German who was standing on guard, the partisans derailed the train. After this act, he was decorated as a “Warrior of the Homeland”.

In November 1943, he stood on guard along with his friend Berl Beker in one of the areas of the Roda-Jaworska forests, wearing the uniforms of German soldiers that they had taken as booty from their actions. The commander of the Shubin Unit and his men were situated in the area where the two of them stood guard. The uniforms of those two mislead them. They thought that they were Germans and shot them.

Granchok fell dead and was buried in a military ceremony. His friend was injured[33].

Avraham Lobovski

(“Levaderik”)

He was born in 1924 in Derechin. He served as a machine gunner in the Podeida (Victory) Unit under the command of Bulak. He especially excelled in the battle of Ostrov on July 3, 1942, where they took two Germans prisoner.

He ambushed Maytchet along with nine of his friends on May 22, 1942. He covered for his friends, and they all succeeded to escape. He was captured by the Germans who entered the house of a farmer in which he stayed after he had an operation. He died after a brief battle.

[Page 361]

He was cited for praise three times in the daily roll call of the unit. He received the award of Warrior of the Homeland, First Class[34].

Pinchas Pinus

He was born in 1917 in Suwalki. He was a shoemaker. When the war broke out, he moved to Derechin where the Soviets were in authority.

He escaped from the Derechin Ghetto on June 22, 1942 to the forests of Lipiczan. He joined the unit of Dr. Atlas and was wounded in a battle against the police of Derechin. He participated in many battles and excelled in setting the bridges over the Shchara River at the end of 1942. He was appointed as a commander of a division.

During the period of the hunt, he went to the region of Maytchet with his division to gather food for the brigade. On his way from Maytchet to the base on July 5, 1943, he was attacked by 150 men of the Stralkovchi gang. They pushed back the Russians as they were carrying the bodies of two of their victims, Boyarski and Perlman, and succeeded in exiting the battlefield.

After he derailed four German trains, he was granted the award of Warrior of the Homeland, First Class. After the liberation, he enlisted in the Red Army and fell on the front[35].

Shabtai (Shepsl) Alinburg (Also Nachmanovich)

He was born in Warsaw in 1917. He was a baker by profession. He was one of those active in the anti-Nazi underground in Zhetl and Navahrudak.

He escaped from the Navahrudak Ghetto in 1942 with a group of nine armed youths who had gone out to the Borki Forests (around Stowbtsy) under the command of Yechiel Yoselovitz.

On July 25, 1942, he participated in the liquidation of the secretary of the local authority of Maytchet.

When the news reached the forest that the Zhetl Ghetto was about to be liquidated, he and his three friends David Kantorovitz (a native of Maytchet who is mentioned earlier on page 358), Shlomo Lipmanovitz and Frankel were told to break into the ghetto to take the women out to the forest and bring the weapons stashes to the underground organizations.

He entered the ghetto with his friends on August 6, 1942. However, toward morning, the ghetto was surrounded by the Germans, and Alinberg fell during the battle with the Germans[36].

[Page 362]

***

Aside from the partisans mentioned in this article or whose biographies are included here, A. Chaneles includes another list of partisans who were active in Maytchet, who excelled with their exemplary bravery, and who were honored with military decorations or who fell in bravery:

Kunai (Elkin) Shlovski, Chanan Shmulovitz, Mordechai Leib Shmulovitz, Yehoshua Zlotnik, Yitzchak Lochovitzky, and Leizer Zukovitzki were active in the Grozni unit and some[v] were killed in the area of Maytchet by the anti-Semitic Stralkov (Stralkovitzki) unit. Meir Chaneles received a military decoration as a veteran partisan and was killed by Polish collaborators. Yaakov Margolin, Chaim Epstein and Liza (Leah) Epstein served as machine gunners around Ruda-Jaworska (today the latter is Kovensky in Argentina). Freidel Margolin (today Mckranski in Kibbutz Negba) served in the Grozni unit. Ester Mlishinski (today Lozovski in Israel) was active in the Bielski unit[37].

Text footnotes

  1. P. Mkronski, Book of Maytchet, page 305. Return
  2. M. Korn, Book of Maytchet, page 295. Return
  3. Ch. Shmulevicz, Book of Maytchet page 329. Return
  4. Ch. Shmulovicz, Book of Maytchet, page 329. Return
  5. From the Letter of A. Hanelis in the Book of Maytchet page 308. This story is similar to the preceding story. Return
  6. Ch. Shmulevicz, Book of Maytchet, page 330. Return
  7. M. Ravitz, Book of Maytchet, page 320. Return
  8. M. Shmulevicz, Book of Maytchet, page 330. Return
  9. Moshe Ravitz, On Maytcheters in the Partisans, Book of Maytchet page 320. Return
  10. Moshe Ravitz, Book of Maytchet, page 321. Return
  11. Moshe Ravitz relates that he and another Maytchet refugee returned to the Maytchet area and joined a local partisan group and worked together. They participated in some attacks on railways, roads and bridges, attacking German camps and police stations at the villages. After a brief time they left the partisan group. Moshe Ravitz moved to the command headquarters as the logistician of “Pervomaiskia Brigade” and Avraham Chaneles stayed at Grozni Otriad (M. Ravitz, Book of Maytchet, page 321).
    It is worth mentioning some inaccuracies in M. Ravitz story. According to him all the activities and the battle in which Dr. Atlas died was in the beginning of the winter 1943. However it is well known that Atlas died in December 6th 1942. That means that this story took place at the end of the winter of 1942. Return
  12. Lots of details are told about Dr. Atlas and his Activities as a forests fighter in the book of S. Burstein on Dr. Atlas (two editions); in his article : “Dr. Yechezkel Atlas”, in “Yediot Lochmei Hagetaot” [Information of Ghetto Fighters] number 9-10, pp. 23-28, in the paper of Y. Granatstein and M. Kahanovitz “Yehezkel Atlas”, in Yad Vashem information (“Yediot”) Number 25-26, pp. 35-37, in the book of M. Kahanovitz “Milchemet Hapartizanim Hayehudim Bemizrach Europa” [The War of the Jewish Partisans in eastern Europe] (Hebrew and Yiddish), and “Sefer Hapartizanim Hayehudim' [Book of Jewish Partisans] (mentioned often), in the “Sefer Milchemet Hagetaot” [Book of the Ghetto War] (mentioned often) , in “Lexicon Hagevura” [Lexicon of Bravery] Parts 1 and 2 (mentioned often) , in many testimonies in the archives of that period, and the booklet “Niv Harofe” (“Talk of the Physician”). Return
  13. Moshe Korn, Book of Maytchet, page 297. Vita Dvorjetski, the daughter of Jacob Dvorjetski didn't return from the forest. One of the rumors said that she fell in battle. Other rumors said that she passed away due to severe typhus fever. Return
  14. Regarding the Mush story, read the paper of Dr. Z. Levinbook on the Baranovich Memorial book, p. 511. Return
  15. Mina Lewin (Gorski), Book of Maytchet, page 323. Return
  16. Ch. Shmulevicz, Book of Maytchet, page 330. Return
  17. See a detailed description of this revenge act in the article of Yechiel Yoselvich (In Pinkas Zhetl, p. 404). According that description it could be understood that the following people participated in the operation: Shalom Ogolnick, Bejamin Yorosh, Shefsel Namanovich, Chaim Slomka, Frankel, David Kantarovich, Shaul Sachnovich, Shlomo Shipmanovich, Moshe Daychs (Korostowski), two more lads from Vilna and himself, Yechiel Yosalevich (now living in New York); also, “Lexicon Hagevura”, part 1, p. 61 tells that Shabtai Elenberg was one of the participants at that Revenge act. (Shabtai Elenberg = Shefsel Namanovich?)
    A detailed description of this act is also written in A. Ben Shalom Article “The Meeting and the Attack”, Book of Maytchet, p. 326. He was also participated at that operation.
    Also see a description in: M. Kahanovitz, p. 376, M. Kaganavich, part 2, p. 341. Return
  18. Avraham Chaneles, Book of Maytchet, page 301. Return
  19. Trunk, p. 169. Testimony is located at the YIVO Archive in New York. Return
  20. Borenstein, page 97. Return
  21. Sh. Borenstein. “Plugat HaDoctor Atlas” [The Unit of Dr. Atlas]. Published by Hakibutz Hameuchad. Second edition. Pp. 110-112. Return
  22. The testimony of Mordechai Leib Shmulovicz. P”ChCh [Partisans, Pioneers, and Soldiers], collection 24; “Lexicon Hagevura” Section I, page 85. “Sefer Hapartizanim” page 679. Return
  23. Kahanavitz, pp 342-343, Kaganavitch Section II, 242-243. Return
  24. A. Chanales, Book of Maytchet, page 302. Return
  25. The testimony of Leib Trauba, “P'ChCh” [Partisans, Pioneers, and Soldiers] collection 37; L. Lidovski, Yad Vashem, Manuscript, page 120; “Sefer Hapartizanim”, Section I, page 613; “Lexicon Hagevura”, Section I, pp. 162-163. Return
  26. Testimony of the lawyer Wlintski, “P'ChCh” collection; Kahanavich, pp. 127-290. “Lexicon Hagevura”, Section II, p. 54. Return
  27. “Pinkas Zhetl”, page 404; “Lexicon Hagevura”, page 139. Return
  28. “Sefer Hapartizanim”, Volume II, page 756; “Lexicon Hagevura”, Section II, page 148. Return
  29. “Sefer Hapartizanim”, Volume II, page 753; “Lexicon Hagevura”, Section II, page 148. Return
  30. Leizer Savitzki, “P'ChCh” [Partisans, Pioneers, and Soldiers], collection 7; “Lexicon Hagevura”, Section II, page 117. “Sefer Hapartizanim”, Section II, page 766. Return
  31. Testimony of Goldschmid and Hirsch, “P'ChCh” [Partisans, Pioneers, and Soldiers], collection 70; Testimony of Tania Imber, Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem; “Lexicon Hagevura”, Section II, page 128; “Sefer Hapartizanim”, Section II, page 769. Return
  32. Yafa: “Partizanim”, pp. 66-67; “Lexicon Hagevura” Section II, page 159; Apparently this is the David Stein who was mentioned in the article by Ch. Shmulovitz on page 330 of the Book of Maytchet. Return
  33. Masha Kolkovski-Gornitzky. Questionnaire. Yad Vashem Archives. “Lexicon Hagevura” Section I, page 129; “Sefer Hapartizanim”, Section II, page 129 (where the year of his birth is given as 1927). Return
  34. Seminar Lipiczan: “Lexicon Hagevura”, Section II, page 24; “Sefer Hapartizanim”, Section II, page 718. Return
  35. Seminar Lipiczan: “Lexicon Hagevura”, Section II, page 108; “Sefer Hapartizanim”, Section II, page 744. Return
  36. Mentioned in the questionnaires of B. Jaros: Dr. A. Alptert, A. Magid, Sh. Griling, A. Grachovski, A. Rozovski, A. Savitzki, Sh. Obsievich, Tz. Yoselovski, Kahanavich. pp 340-341. Kantaravich, Section II, 248. “Sefer Hapartizanim”, Section I, pp 671-828. Pinkas Zhetl, pp 404, 418-419. Return
  37. Avraham Chaneles: Book of Maytchet, page 302. Return

Translator's footnotes

  1. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koldichevo Return
  2. See http://jewishpartisans.blogspot.co.uk/search?updated-max=2011-10-05T14:49:00-07:00&max-results=7 which includes story of Atlas, as well as confirmation of Boris Bulat. Return
  3. The names of the sisters were Grunia and Shifra (as confirmed by Ariel Dvorjetski). Return
  4. There are several locales in Belarus which could fit this name. I am not sure which is meant, and I chose the one closest to Maytchet. Return
  5. The original text did not have the word ‘some’. I added the word in, as it is known that both Chanan Shmulevicz and Mordechai Leib Shmulevicz survived the war and lived long and productive lives in the United States changing their names to Charles Samuels and Martin Small. Myrna Siegel, the translation coordinator of this Yizkor Book, had met them both. Return


[Page 363]

Literature of the Community of Maytchet[1]

Shmuel Borenstein, “The Unit of Dr. Atlas,” The story of a Jewish partisan, published by Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 5708 (1948). Two editions (Short form: Bornstein).

Yechel Yoselovich, Revenge on a Maytchet Murder. In Pinkas Zhetl, page 404 (short form: Yoselovich).

Yehoshua Yaffa. Partisans, Tel Aviv, 1951 (Short form: Yaffa)

Yeshayahu Trunk, The Relationship of the Judenrats to the problems related to weapons to be used against the Nazis. From Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust Era. Proceedings of a convention of Holocaust educators, Jerusalem, 1968. Page 169. (Short form: Trunk).

Moshe Kahanovich. The War of the Jewish Partisans in Eastern Europe. Tel Aviv, 5714 (1954). (Short Kahanovich).

Dr. Z. Lewinbok. From the Baranovich Yizkor Book.

Lexicon of Bravery. The partisans and underground fighters in the western districts of the Soviet Union. By Y. Granatstein and M. Kahanovich, Jerusalem, volume I – 5628 (1968). Volume II 5629 (1969).

The Book of Jewish Partisans. The Workers' Library. Volume I –– 1957. Volume 2 –– 1958.

The Book of Ghetto Fighters. The House of Ghetto Fighters and Hakibbutz Hameuchad. 1954.

Pinkas Zhetl. Edited by B. Kaplinski. Published by the Organization of Zhetl Natives, Tel Aviv, 1954. (Short form: Pinkas Zhetl).

Moshe Kaganovich. The War of the Jewish Partisans in Eastern Europe. Buenos Aires, volume I and II, 1952. (Short form: Kaganovich).

N. Kantarovich. The Jewish Resistance Movement in Poland. “Sharon,” New York, 1967. (Short form: Kantaravich).

Testimonies, questionnaires, and manuscripts from the Yad Vashem archives in Jerusalem:

Seminar Lipiczan – Collective memories of the partisans who were active in the forests of Lipiczan.

A dossier of testimonies from: A. Alpert, B Jarush, A. Magid, Sh. Groling, A. Grochovski, L. Savitzki, Shl. Osiovich, Y. Yoselovski, L. Trauba, the lawyer Wilenski, H. Goldschmidt.

Questionnaires: Masha Kolkowski–Groznicki.

Testimonies: Tanya Imber.

Lizer Lidowski: A manuscript in Yad Vashem.

Memorial Articles in the Book of Maytchet: by A. Chanales, P. Mkronski, M. Lewin, M. Koren, Shlomovich, and M. Ravich.

Translator's footnotes

  1. This bibliography (entitled literature), does not have an entry in the Table of Contents, and is apparently a bibliography of the previous chapter. Return


[Page 364]

Death Chronicles of Maytchet

(The Days of Bloodshed of Maytchet)

Translated by Amir Shomroni

September 1st 1939 - Outbreak of World War II
September 17th 1939 - Russian conquest of the area
June 22nd 1941- German invasion into Russia

* * *

 

First Aktion

Saturday, 27th of Shvat 5702, February 14th 1942 –
Murdering 18 (22) people at the Tar Furnaces on the road to Horoszwicicz (Horoshvitzich)

* * *

 

Second Aktion

Wednesday, 18th of Sivan 5702[1]
- Murdering some 200 people in Burdykowszczina (Burdykovshtchina) on the road to Horodiszcze (Horodishtche)

* * *

 

Third Aktion

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 1st – 3rd of Av 5702, July 15th -17th 1942
– Destruction of the Ghetto of Maytchet

*

On July 17th 1942 – 20 Jews of Maytchet were transported to Baranovichi for extermination.
These Jews worked in the farm “Loszniwa” (Loshniva) at the Loszny (Loshny) forest. Some of them escaped.

Translator's footnote

  1. Errata in the book (5712) Return

 

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