« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 258]

The Slaughter

by Eshke Shor Levin

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

Those who survived the first slaughter did so each in his own way. I was at the time 15 years old. It was a Friday in December 1941. I was working in the court house grading potatoes. When I went home through the Shloss [Castel] Street, I noticed an announcement which said that Jews were prohibited to go beyond the town's limits. They must remain in their homes. I went home quickly and told my mother and my older brother Isroel about it. My father and younger brother Aron had not return as yet from work. My older brother had recently had a shocking experience. He, together with some young men, was sent to lead cows to Baranovichi. On the way they stopped in Horodyshch where he went to visit an uncle. On the way back he wanted to call in to see uncle again. Unfortunately almost all Jews of the town, except for a few, were dead. He returned to Novogrudok three days later. Isroel said to mother that as soon as father and the younger brother would come back, the three of them should escape to the village Stankevichi, where there lived an uncle and aunt with their family. When father and the brother came back the brothers dress warmly and departed. We promised to follow them. The brothers stopped in Ravniki to wait for us. Unfortunately, when we left the house two hours later we could not leave the town, because Belarus policemen were patrolling the outskirts of the town and we could not go further. My brothers waited for us until Saturday morning. At 5 o'clock they started on their way to Stankevichi, but two Belarus policemen stopped them and transferred them to the Germans. They were shot by the Germans and their bodies were thrown in a pit. The Germans shot also a passing dog and tossed him into the same pit. The older brother Isroel was 18 years old and Aron was 14. My father and I dug out their bones after the war and buried them in Israel. The rest of the family which included my two younger sisters, who were 6 and 10 years old, was taken to the court house. My mother, though she knew the likely outcome, urged each of us to look after ourselves and try to survive, so that at least some member of the family may remain alive and remember. Urged on by mother, I started to look for a way to save myself. My first thought was to pretend that I was dead, but I saw that they shot a girl from Baranovichi, and had loaded her dead body onto a truck, which was taking people to be shot. I changed my plan. I pleaded with them to let us live because father was a bookbinder. I was hoarse from my shouting, but nobody listened. I said to the family to let us try to delay our departure on the trucks.

Half an hour later the chief of staff arrived. He saved the furriers who had worked for him. At that moment I took on courage and walked over to the chief of staff. Acting like a child, I put my arms around him and asked him to let us live because my father was a bookbinder, and he would be useful. He answered that they could use father. I turned to my family and told them that they will let us live. A couple that stood close by me asked me to tell the Germans that they were my parents, because my parent would not hear me. They were probably right, but at that moment a miracle happened. The chief of staff said in a loud voice 'Bookbinder, come here!' A silence ensued. My father was totally disoriented with the change in events and came over without my mother and sisters. The man who was organising the slaughter noticed the confusion, came over and hit my father with the butt of his revolver. My father bled profusely. Having seen that, the chief of staff sent a German soldier to take us into the court building, where those who were left to live were assembled. On the way to the court building I tried to kiss the German who was leading us and I asked him to save my mother and the children, but with no result. A second German saw me and was shouting 'Rassenschande! You will be shot, you Jew'. This brought my hope to save the rest of my family to an end. We were taken to the door of the court house, where the Jews, seeing the condition of my father, were reluctant to let us in. Apart from us nobody from the court yard was saved. [But see the story of the furriers above. See also p.299 'How I survived'.]


[Page 259]

The First Slaughter

by Sima Yanos-Portnoy

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

It happened on the 5 December 1941 on a cold winter morning. The earth was covered with a white blanket of new snow. All men and women who were able to work assembled, as ever, at 6 AM, ready to go to their jobs in various parts of the town. The place of the assembly was next to the Judenrat, which was on Kabak's land (which was the surname of the owners). All those assembled had divided in groups and were waiting for their escort. Our escort was Mojshke Miller. We were working in the military barracks about 4 km from town. We walked to work on the highway singing, with no military or police accompanying us. Mojshke was leading us. But this time it was different. Kabak's land was surrounded by armed gendarmes with the rifles aimed at us. Every group of workers was conducted to their place of work by a guard of a few dozen Belorussian policemen and gendarmes. This is how we arrived in the barracks. In the court yard they divided us in groups. Each group was sent to their place of work. We were warned not to hang about the barracks and not to walk to buildings other than the one we were working in. The whole day there was a strange silence in the barracks, as a quiet before a storm. There was no usual singing heard from the building where men and women were working. Suddenly there was ringing of a bell, which interrupted the quiet. We were all waiting for it, because it announced our lunch. This time nobody walked to the room where we ate, we ran. Everybody assembled in the room except for Mojshke Miller, who was usually the first. Today he was missing, and that increased everybody's curiosity. We were anxious to know what was happening in town and in our homes. We did not have to wait long. The door opened and Mojshke, pale with his head down, appeared. The room was suddenly quiet. Everybody's eyes were turned in his direction. But Mojshke had nothing to say. He only knew that something was going on in the wood next to the barracks. The forest, which was usually quite, was filled with sounds of picks and axes felling the trees and digging the earth. Many men were working in the wood, but nobody knew of the purpose of their work. Mojshke told us that he saw several wagonloads of axes, picks and shovels on the way to the wood. He was looking for a possibility of contacting the people in town, but this was not possible. Suddenly we heard the marching of feet. We all ran to the windows. A group of Poles with shovels, axes and picks were marching to a song. The looked at us and smiled. Some even laughed loudly. As they passed our windows, some were making signs in the direction of the woods and were laughing. Others, however, were marching past with their heads down, as if they did not want to meet our eyes. Mojshke went out to speak to them. His aim was to find out something from an acquaintance. We remained in the room. There was silence in the room. Nobody thought of work. Everybody thought of the families at home. We were watching the door with impatience. Some minutes have passed. They felt like hours. Mojshke was back, but he had no news. He was told by the workers that they were preparing pits and they thought that they were for the prisoners in jail. A little time later a group of Jews and non-Jews surrounded by soldiers and Belorussian police marched past in the direction of the forest. Some time later some shooting was heard, followed by a silence. Soon after we heard the footsteps of the soldiers, who conducted the prisoners. One thought did not leave our mind – how is it possible that for such a small number of prisoners 150 diggers were required. Mojshke went away again. Though the lunch break had long since finished, nobody came to tell us to return to work. Shortly thereafter, Mojshke arrived and took me and two other girls to his room. He told us that only we could find out what is happening at home. He asked: are you ready to do it? We undertook the mission gladly, though we knew that escaping back to town would be very dangerous. To go to town in working hours was punishable by death. We started immediately. The snow in the fields was covered by a layer of ice and it was very slippery. Walking on the highway was much easier, but we preferred to walk in the field because it was much safer to do so. We were running on the ice. We fell frequently and our feet were bloodied. Often, to avoid something suspicious on the horizon, we had to crawl on our stomachs and hide behind a bush. As soon as we could we resumed walking. It was difficult to know how long it took us to get to Kabak's land. We came tired and sweaty to the Judenrat. As soon as we opened the door we were met by Kabak, one of the leaders of the community. He saw us running in the fields. Without asking what happened he met us with some Russian swear words. “Where did you come from? You were at work!” He shouted. And when I told him that we were sent by Mojshke Miller to tell them what we have heard and seen in the barracks, he slapped my face. He told me to be quiet and not to raise a panic. At that moment somebody arrived from town. When he saw us he exclaimed, “Why are you sitting here? Go and see what is happening in town. All the walls are covered in large posters. They are creating for us camps, but only for those able to work. And what will happen to the rest of us? It is also prohibited to leave our dwellings from 6 this evening till tomorrow morning.” And added whilst sobbing “And anyone caught after hours will be shot”.

All this happened on a Friday. The news made a great impression on Kabak. He asked us to get into the house, to sit down and rest. He went out and came back with some water. He mast have noticed that I was on the point of collapse. He left us and went to another room to retell all he heard. We did not have to wait long. The door opened and Mojshke Izraelit entered. He looked troubled by what he was told. He said to me: “Sima, I know you well and I can depend on you. You still have work to do. Each of you should go in the direction of your house. Tell everybody you pass what you told us. Don't overlook a single house. We were on our way before he finished speaking. The streets I walked through were empty. A copious snowfall covered everything in a white blanket. The first house I entered belonged to Mojshke Izraelit. His wife met me. I told here in a few words the horrible news and a ran further. The next house belonged to the family Shteinberg. As I entered I met Chane Shteinberg. She was feeding her two daughters. I repeated my story and asked her to contact the verger of the synagogue in which her family prayed. By the time a visited a few more houses it was very late. At home they were waiting for me anxiously. They were very worried. I told them everything, but it was too late to do anything. We could only stay at home and see what tomorrow would bring. There was a silence in the house. The Sabbath candles were providing the only pale illumination. Suddenly a wild cry penetrated the still of the night. Somebody was running outside of our window. Suddenly there was a shot followed by rapid steps. We jumped up from our seats as if were pursued by somebody. We opened the front door and ran outside, not thinking of the danger. We crossed the street and went to the house of our friends. They were frightened by our appearance. They told us to run quickly back to our home. We walked quietly back whilst looking around. After we got safely back, we heard again steps and shots. We locked the front door, returned to our seats and remained sitting as if mesmerised. We were awakened by a thump on the front door. My sister went to the door. We heard a command to open the door or else they will shoot. They spoke Polish. When we opened the door three Polish youths with rifles in their hands pushed their way in. They looked at our pale faces and the humble surroundings with ironic smirks and shouted “have you strangers here” and without waiting for a reply, screamed, “we will be back, and if we will find here strangers you will all be shot like dogs”. One of them held a fur coat. He said with a smile “a Jew woman lost it while she tried to run away, pity that our bullets did not catch her”. With those words they left the room. We locked the room. At that moment we were sized by a panic and we shook like a leaf. Every sound from the street made us fear that the Poles had returned. I don't know how long we were anxiously sitting that night. A knock on the door woke us up. A pale sun was shining through the windows. I opened the door. It was Gershonovski, a member of the Judenrat. He came in and behind him came two gendarmes. He set at the table, took out a long list and started reading. The two gendarmes stood by the door. He read a long tale. At the end he read out the names of my sister Nusia, her husband Shmuel and my brother Lon'ke. He told them to take food for three days and go to the buildings of the district court. When they asked what will happen to me he answered with a shout “she will remain here, in the house till they will come to fetch her”. My sister and my brother-in-law began asking him to do something to make it possible for me to join them. He did not answer. My brother started speaking German to not create a suspicion of the gendarmes. But he did not budge. At that moment one of the gendarmes came over to him, pushed him aside, grabbed the list from him and added my name. “Dummer kerl” [silly man] he said to the member of the Judenrat, “she could (be assumed to) be your wife”, he added, pointing at my brother. They left us and we started packing a few belongings. We took them and some food and left the house. It was a frosty morning, everything around us was white. The street was silent, one can only hear the creak of the shoes on the snow. Every now and then one could see some people with packages on their shoulders. We were living at the time in Peresike. The closer we got to the town the more people we saw in the streets. Some had packages on their shoulders, others pulled a packed sledge. Some even took a small table, others a folding bed. A dense pack of old and young women and children were moving to the district court buildings. The walking were surrounded by soldiers with helmets and rifles. Dozens of trucks followed the ill-treated Jews. Music was playing and photographers were taking photos right, left and center. One could hear crying of children and wheezing of old women. The walk continued without an end. It seemed that the notice specifying people able to work was overlooked. Everybody was in the long march, young and old, able-bodied and sick. Everybody concluded that to stay back meant death. Walking gave a hope of life. It took many hours till all arrived at the appointed place. There everything was filled to the brim. There was no room for the people who came, and definitely not for the packages that were dragged in. We were pushed one on top of the other. The cries of the children and the groans of the old were intermingled with the shouts of the German soldiers, who were trying to push everybody into the inadequate space. They were shouting, cursing, hitting and shooting. People were dying like flies. Suddenly a bang was heard and the dense crowd pressed forward. It would appear that a fence which was surrounding the ground was broken. By 10 o'clock at night all were in the buildings. Somehow families managed to keep together. Children tired out by the ordeal were asleep. Early on Sunday morning, when it was still dark, I was called to go to work in the barracks. Outside I saw groups which were ready to be taken away. After work, instead of taking us back to the court buildings to rejoin our families, we were divided into groups of women and men and taken to separate buildings. The doors were closed to prevent us leaving. It turned out that the SS man who was in charge of our working party made the arrangements to try and save us. Next day they told us that after work we would be taken back to the court buildings. But when we were not allowed to have, as usual, breakfast before work, we knew that something was wrong. We were very disturbed. Each of us had somebody in the court buildings, someone a wife with children, somebody else a brother, a sister, a mother, or a father. We were all disturbed and wanted to go back. Every hour seemed like a year. We moved aimlessly from room to room. We tried to think of a way to communicate with the men, to try to find out if there were news from town. About 12 o'clock, Jasha Leizerowski arrived. He told us that he and Mojshke Miller were looking for a way of contacting our superior Stabs lieutenant Reuter. But they were as yet unsuccessful. They contacted the head of the barracks. After a long discussion he promised to provide a military escort to take us to our families. Jasha left, but promised to return when he had news. We were sitting in a dark locked room till 6 o'clock at night without food. Only then were we taken under a strong guard back to the district court. On the way Mojshke told us that he had succeeded in contacting the head of the barracks. However, the head asked him to use his influence to keep us quiet and remain where we were until he would send for us. He could not explain why he was of the opinion that this would be better for us. When Moshke kept insisting, he shouted in the telephone “verfluchte Juden” and put down the receiver. It seemed that it was only now that he sent the military to take us back. We arrived at the yard of the court house at 8 in the evening. It was dark and peaceful all around. A faint light shone from some windows. There was a strong guard patrolling the surroundings of the buildings. The guard conducted each of us to the room were our families were. Having come into the room where my family was. I did not notice any changes. The room was stuffy and noisy. All sat on their bundles and argued loudly. All from the district court and the people who remained in town were assembled in the building of the Polish Nazaritanki school. All women and children were taken, even from the building of Judenrat, where their husbands were removed in the first days after the Germans arrived. The whole night we sat and talked about all we had heard. With the first light we were told that our troubles are only starting. It is difficult to describe what happened next. Old men were shaving their beards, women were painting their hair using coal and thir lips with red paint to try to look younger. There were battles to acquire a man, because of the rumour that single women would be first to be killed. But not every bachelor wanted a woman. The commotion continued till the morning. On Monday they led out every group separately, each family together into a big room. There was a commission of three people. The Gebiets kommissar Traub with his two deputies started the selection. Each person had to open their mouth to show their teeth. Each person had to state his occupation. At that point, Traub would indicate if the person was to go to the left or to the right, which is to die or to live. Those ordered to the left had to deposit all their possessions in a large box as they were leaving the room,. Our family was among the last. We stood the whole time at the window and saw all that occurred outside. Trucks were prepared. Each group as they appeared, was dragged like sacks to the truck. They unfortunate victims were abusing the murderers, shaking their fists and shouting “don't imagine that you will not pay for this”. To us they shouted “you will live, take vengeance for us”. At that moment I saw the wife of Krantz with her son and daughter and some other women. All of a sudden they started to dance on the trucks. They probably became deranged from fear. One truck after another was moving off. The selection continued till 4 in the afternoon. We went through the same procedure as the others, but somehow we remained alive. We sat till Tuesday morning, when they collected all men and took them to Peresike to prepare a camp for the survivors.


[Page 263]

Slaughters

by Chaim Kraviets

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

I worked in my trade for the Russians in the “Gospishchpromtorg” [State Food Industrial Commerce]. I was delivering meat from the slaughter house. When the Russians started retreating, everyone tried to snatch something. I kept the horse I used in my work and I left for my parent's home.

I said to my mother OBM “Mother, I will run away to Russia. Who wants to go with me?” My brother Hertzl replied “I am going with you.” But my mother said “My children, it was a great hardship to bring you up, and now, in my old age I may have to depend on help from strangers. Chaimke, my son, don't punish me. If it will be our fate to die, lets die together.” I obeyed my parents and I did not run away. I left the horse to have a feed in the field. I put a chain around its neck and fastened the chain to the ground. I said to my family “We will remain here. They say that the enemy is closing in on Minsk.” Next morning I could see some people standing next to the horse. I ran over to them. To my astonishment, they were the murderous Germans. I came over and I told them that I have a family with a father and mother and I need the horse to nourish them. “Don't take it away. It is our sustenance.” I begged them. “Are you a Jew?” they asked me. I said that I was. Without hesitation they gave me a beating. Now I knew how we stood. I wanted to get away, but they did not let me. They told me to untie the horse and come with them. They told me that they will give me in exchange another horse. They took me to the Cemetery lane. Their headquarters and transport offices were there. They were camping in a big orchard. They passed me on to another murderer. He said to me “Du verfluchter Jude. You wanted to have a war. I will show you what a war means”. I thought “Here I am, I wanted a horse to help my parents and this will be my end. I will never see my family again.” He put me to work. I had to pull by hand grass to feed the horses. I had no option and I started working. I pulled a bundle of grass and fed four horses. I was returning with the escort to pull more grass. When I returned with the new bundle, the first bundle was eaten. At that stage the Germans had shown their true face. One of them took a leather belt and started beating me. It felt as if my bones were made of rubber. They kept it up. One of them said to me: “You must work faster. When the last horse begins eating, the first horse must still have grass to eat.” He hit me with his boot and shouted: “Work quicker”. I was so severely beaten that I felt nothing. I was pulling the grass and they continued beating me all over my body. I heard somebody say: [in broken Polish/Russian] 'serves you right, you Jew”. They were two Poles. The German asked me: “who are they?”. Without hesitation I answered: “Jews”. “Jews?” asked the German in astonishment, “come quickly here”. The two argued that they were Poles. The German asked me: “what are they saying?” I had nothing to lose: 'they say that they would like to help me pull grass”. They were made to do the work and received the same treatment as I. They kept saying “Not Jews, Poles.” But the barbarian payed no attention and kept up the beating. As it happened, a German who spoke Polish was passing by. The Poles turned to him and told him that they were Poles and not Jews. The German told our escort to release the Poles and pay them for their work. I was barely able to stand on my feet. A German called Hans approached us. He said to my escort: “when you will finish with the Jew give him to me”. By then it was two o'clock. I was in pain all over and hungry. The escort took me to Hans and said: “Here is the Jew”. Hans showed me a black caldron and said to me: 'this must be polished clean”. He sat himself next to a tree and started polishing his saddle. Two loaves of bread were laying on the tree. I asked him: “May I have a piece of bread?” At that moment his horses came to the tree and ate the bread. When he saw that, Hans cried: “My supper”. He decided that he would shoot me. He put me up against a tree. I said to him “It is not my fault”. I was lucky that I got off with a beating. I was sent with an escort to fetch water for washing the caldron. The water pump was at the cemetery. I had to go there and back several times, but he kept shouting that the caldron was dirty. The escort got tired walking me back and forth and said: “Go by yourself and make it quick”. I went to the water well and from there I crawled into the bushes, having left the bucket at the well. In fear, I managed to escape home. I was unrecognisable, because I was black from the beating I received. I was filled with fear: I was afraid that they would come to fetch me, because they knew where they took me from. I had to hide. Next morning they came from the Judenrat to take us to work. Everyone had to return to his previous work and his name had to be entered on a list. I told them: “I am already on their list” and I showed them my body. They did not answer, gave a deep sigh and one said to the other “let's go”. From then on I was careful.

In the forest

I heard that they were looking for people to work in the forest. I was glad to go to the forest because there I would not see the faces of the murderers and the workers would receive a bread ration. Kushe Nochimovski and his son Hertzl worked with me. Kushe found it hard to split the timber and his son was a boy. I was helping them and they gave me some of their food ration. We worked together for a while.

The 100

One day after work I went to the Judenrat to get my ration of bread. Sholem Lubchanski appeared suddenly. He was out of breath. He said: “Do me a favour, we received an order that we should provide 100 persons for work and only 98 turned up. Come with me”. I answered him: “How can you expect that from me. I have just returned from a day's work. Recruit those who did not work today”. He did not answer, went into the Judenrat and said to the bookkeeper Pressman: “I can not find 2 persons”. Pressman answered: “Come on, I will come with you. Now you have 99”. Sholem said: “I am coming too”.

They had to assemble in front of the jail in Slonim Street. When they came they counted 100 persons. The doors of the jail opened and the jailers pushed them into the jail using sticks. They were never heard of again.
After the war in 1945 I was in Lodz [a large town in Poland]. I met by a chance an ex policeman Gancik, who was at the time the chief of the jail. He told me the following: when he saw Sholem Lubchanski among the hundred he said to him: “How come you are here. This group will be shot tonight. You get out. I will let you out and you bring me somebody else as a replacement. It can be even the 'scarecrow” [the nickname of the feeble minded water carrier], but I have to have the right number. Lubchanski answered: “No, if that is my fate, I don't want anyone to replace me”. (the policeman respected Lubchanski because he fought in the first world war in the Polish legions). At two o'clock in the morning a death squad arrived with machine guns and the prisoners were told to undress. When Lubchanski realized that Gancik told him the truth, he turned to him and asked him to save him. But Gancik told him that it was too late.

There were many such occurrences. The Germans would say that they were looking for workers, but they used to shoot all assembled. The unhappy families believed that their relative was sent somewhere to work. The wives used to talk. One wife would say that she heard that on the highway to Horodyszcz our people were working. The other heard of our people were working on the Korelichy highway. The wives would have parcels prepared to send to their husbands. But it was all in vain. Their husbands were shot on the first night after the arrest in the shrubs around Skrydlevo. The women waited for the time when they would share the fate of their husbands.

The slaughter in Horodyszcz

An order was given that the Jews must relinquish their cows. The first consignment of cows that was exacted from the Jews was taken to Baranowicz by several Jews including my brother Berl. A non-Jew was in charge. When they passed Horodyszcz they saw lorries taking Jews to be slaughtered. We had in Horodyszcz a big family: two sisters of my mother and cousins. My brother Berl had a chance to farewell the cousins, because, as they were led to the lorries, the road was blocked by the cows. They could see each other well. They only bowed their heads. They were told that they are being taken to work. As Berl was walking back from Baranowicz, he saw that most of the Jewish population was missing. Only a few Jews were held in the Ghetto. No one could get near them. When he returned to Novogrudok he told the parents that Horodyszcz was finished. Mother cried uncontrollably. She had in Horodyszcz a large family. My father said: “Let us all pray, some of us have gone earlier the others will follow later. You are crying for them. Who will cry for us?” My mother cried; “My sons wanted to go to Russia and I opposed it. It is my fault. If they had run away they would be safe. And now, because of me they will perish”. I arrived in time to hear mother speak. When my mother saw me she kept on repeating that it was her fault that we did not escape. “My children, a fire from hell is burning around us. The murderers will finish us”, she kept on repeating. I was very sad to hear the news and I tried to appease my parents.

Running cows to Baranowicz

I asked my brother Berl: 'tell me how you were treated on the way to Baranowicz, because tomorrow I am going to do it.” He was trying to mollify me and told me that the work was not fearfully bad. In the morning I went with other Jews to Baranowicz, where we arrived safely. We saw there terrible things. Prisoners of war were led from work. On the side of the road women were standing with parcels in their hands. They cried “Our children are somewhere in the same situation. Maybe another mother will have pity on them”. They were tossing parcels to the prisoners. The Germans were preventing them from doing so. If a prisoner stepped out of the ranks to catch a parcel he was punished or shot. The women who were tossing the parcels were also maltreated. At times the Germans shot at them. We saw it all. In that moment we were even more afraid. With luck we got to the railway station. Next to the station were big military barracks. Our foreman reported to the senior murderer that we brought a transport of cows. The German sent the prisoners of war to load the cattle into the rail trucks. The sight of the prisoners frightened us – they all looked like skeletons. They walked with difficulty. As they got to the cows they fell to their udders and sucked the milk. Their guards were pushing them away and beating them. They made them load the cows into the carriages. At that moment we had an opportunity to give the prisoners pieces of bread. We did it, though we knew that we had a long way to go back and not sufficient food for our journey.

We were told that we can now return home. We had to be careful on our way back to arrive safely. My family was very happy to see me back. I returned to my job in the forest. I was happy that I would not have to look at the faces of the murderers. And so some time passed.

The first slaughter

The murderers had decided to erase Novogrudok. One day a non-Jewish neighbour approached me. He was digging graves in Skridlewo. He said: 'they are going to kill you all. We are digging graves for the Jews. Many Gestapo soldiers had arrived”. My wife OBM said “You run away. They will not touch women and children”. This was the 16th day of Kislev. The snow was piled up high. The roads and fields were impassable. I thought that I would ask my parent's advice. As I approached, I noticed that in front of their house was a guard. I went in to the house of Itzchok Nochimovski (Factornik). He was a learned Jew, whose advice would be of value. I told him what was in store for us: they were digging graves and many murderers were arriving. He said: “My advice is to run”. In his house were his two sons: Jankl with his wife and six children and Motke. Their father said: “Jankl, Motke, run.” Jankl answered: “What will I do with my wife and children”. “Run” answered Reb Itzchok “later will be to late”. I returned home and said to my wife “Get dressed and we will run”. “How can we run in the fields with a small child in the deep snow?” answered my wife, “you run, they are looking for men”. There was no time to waste and I said farewell to my wife and one year old son and I ran. With me came my brother Berl and Reb Itzchok's Jankl and Motke.

The death of Reb Itschok Nochimovski and his daughter

As soon as we came onto the field and started to walk on the snow we were noticed by the guard, who started shooting at us. We were close to the house of Nochimovski. When he heard the shooting he came out to see if they were shooting at us. At that moment a German approached him and shot him. His daughter Sonia started to shout 'they are shooting at our father”. As soon as she opened the door the German shot her to. Nobody else ventured outside.

Next day, it was a Sabbath, the Jewish population was herded in the court buildings and the bodies of Reb Itzchok Nochimovski and his daughter were left lying in front of the house.

We were hiding in the house of a farmer. His neighbour came in and told him that the bodies of Reb Itzchok Nochimovski and his daughter were left lying in the street. Their clothing had been stripped off them and the dogs were tearing their flash. We heard it all and we felt enraged.

The farmer told us that the Germans left a few Jews alive. My brother and I went back to Novogrudok. The sons of Reb Itzchok went to Zetl, because they knew by then what happened to the rest of their family. We wanted to go back home in case some member of our family survived. We did find our brother Hertzl and sister Peshe, who was married to Hershl Friberg. Before the slaughter we were a family of 5 sisters and 4 brothers. Alas, the sister and brother who we met after the first slaughter did not survive for long. They were killed in the second slaughter. When my brother Berl and I retuned to Novogrudok we decided to part. I told him that I would go on the highway and he should go through the fields. If something untoward should happen we should not be together. And that is what we did.

When I walked next to my father's house, I saw our non-Jewish neighbours removing contents of the house. The table was carried by a neighbour who I would have never suspected capable of doing so. My heart was racing with rage, but I could not do a thing. Later, when I was a partisan in the forests, I and my cousin Josef Borecki have evened the account with this neighbour. We left him alive, but he could not sit at the table ever again. We spared him so that he could tell everyone that one can not spill Jewish blood and remain unpunished.

Back in the Ghetto

In the Waliker street Jews were riding on German horses. With them was a supervisor. Michl Lejbovich took care of two horses. When he noticed me he said: “you can ride on one of the horses and you will be able to slip into the Ghetto”. As we were riding he told me of horrible tragedies. I was siting on the horse stock-still. I entered the Ghetto with the other workers. I could not find a place to sleep. I went to the Jewish police to ask them where I could sleep. They told me that I could sleep anywhere I could find a space. I wanted to be close to my last sister, who, as it turned out, had only a short time to live. There were three levels of racks, but everyone was occupied. But there were very kind hearted people and they helped me. They were: Judl Lewin, Isrolik Jankelewicz, Jankl Angelewicz, his wife Chana and Zamkowy with his wife and son. They allowed me to put a bed in the kitchen. This was a very noble thing to do, because the kitchen was used in shifts through the night. I will never forget the goodness of Mrs Angelewicz and Mrs Zamkowy. The help given to me and my brother (who in the mean time also came into the Ghetto) can never be forgotten. Chana Angelewicz would give us a portion of her food. We were reluctant to accept it, because she too did not have food to spare, but she insisted. She told us: “Please don't worry. If you will be able to get some food you will share it with me. You came into the Ghetto with nothing.” My sister Peshe had a six month old baby and I wanted to help her too. But I had nothing, I had not even a shirt to change, nor had my brother. Mrs Angelewicz said to us; “Don't be ashamed, take of at night your shirts and I will wash them.” She would help every needy person. I implore you, remember for ever the names of Mrs Angelewicz and her husband. People would say to Angelewicz: “Look, Jankl, your wife does not look well, she does not sleep at night.” But Jankl used to answer: “Never mind, if we will survive, the people will return the favour.” He was never angry. If he would find a butt he would give it to us. He did not smoke. He told me how to obtain a shirt. “Dovid Tabakovski is sorting clothing left from the dead in Kowalski street at the nuns. Every day he is going with others to sort the clothing and if you will ask him he will arrange it.” I followed Jankl's advice. I spoke to Dovid Tabakovski. I asked him: 'take me with you for two days, so that I will be able to take some undergarments for me and my brother.” He replied: “Wait for me at the gate tomorrow morning, I will take you with me.” Next morning I went with him. My first task was to change my underwear. When I had a look around I shuddered. Everywhere were parcels of the best clothing. People took with them their best possessions when they were leaving their homes, because they did not know that they were going to be exterminated. All this had to be sorted for the Germans. I went into a corner to change my underwear. As I was getting dressed I saw a German looking at me. He asked me: “What are you doing here Jude.” I was scared to death and I answered that something fell into my boot and I was removing it. “Be quick about it verfluchter Jude” he muttered and he hit me in my face. I was glad that I got away with a small punishment. I went back to work. I was content that I had on me two sets of underwear for me and for my brother. I was looking for something else to take to use as a bed sheet. Rummaging among the clothing I found my fathers bag for his Tfiln. On the bag was father's name, surname and his date of birth. I froze. After that I did not need anything any more. I only took the Tfiln bag back with me to the Ghetto.

Smuggling meat into the Ghetto

I had to begin to think how to obtain food. Lebke Lis was a hero. He managed to trade in the Ghetto. He told me: “Why did you let yourself go? Come with me. I know of a farmer who has a cow, which he wants to sell.” We got out of the Ghetto at night. We got to the farm, purchased the cow and slaughtered it on the spot. The farmer gave us his horse and cart to take the meat back to the Ghetto. When we got to the boundary of the Ghetto we started tossing the meat over the fence. We heard a call “Halt”. Lis said to me “Let's run”. I answered that if we run the policeman will shoot at us. “Let us stand still” I said. And he agreed. A policeman approached us and told us to raise our hands and asked us what we were carrying. We told him that we had a piece of meat. I started to appeal to his conscience. And with luck we got away with it. Naturally we had to pay for it, but we were happy to survive. We lived through a frightening moment, but if we did not risk it, people would die of starvation. This was not the only time we risked our necks.

Before the second slaughter

People were brought from Lubch, Karelicz, Iwieniec, Nalibok and some other towns. The luggage, which the Germans permitted the Jews to take, came on horse driven carts. When the people arrived at the Novogrudok Ghetto in Pereseka they were very depressed and afraid. They were exhausted from the trip. An order was given to collect the luggage from the carts, but the farmers decided on the way on a requisition. Everything that the farmers liked they kept. As I was passing by I heard a woman with two children begging a farmer: “please give it back to me, as you can see, this is all I have got”. The farmer did not listen to her and hit her with the whip. The children were crying: “Mother, lets go”. The same was happening on the next cart. My heart was aching. I thought “no matter what the consequences would be, I must speak to the man in charge”. This is what I have done. He asked me where did it happened. I showed him the farmer. He walked over to him and gave him a beating. Seeing it, the other farmers stepped back from their carts and all possessions were recovered.

New punishments were devised. The Germans with the police were standing at the gates of the Ghetto and were waiting for the workers to return. They were looking for people wearing high boots. They took them to one side and told them to take off the boots. People were entreating: they will remain barefoot. In answer they were beaten. One man wearing boots, Jeshye Kevelevicz, was smart – he cut of the uppers. Later he laughed – “you should be wise to them”. Having seen all the punishments I decided to flee.

First attempt to flee

Before fleeing I wanted to help the family Szwarc to escape – Aron, Ester, Lilie, Dine, because Mrs Szwarc saved me in the past. She gave me a hiding place when I needed one. I discussed frequently escape with Aron Szwarc. He told me that the only place to go was the Naliboki wilderness, he knew there every bush. But it was very difficult to get there and whoever tried was caught on the way. I thought of another way. I told Lilie Szwarc, their daughter, my plan. She told me that I would be caught. “Don't do it”, she said. Regardless I persisted. Over the road from the Ghetto lived the farmer Ludski. He had a horse which he kept day and night in the paddock. I slipped out from the Ghetto at twelve o'clock at night and I got to the horse. The plan was to ride the horse for about 10 km to a farmer I knew and ask him if he would be prepared to hide us when I would come to him with a few people. Obviously, we would pay for it. I took the horse and led him by the chain. I was thinking that this is wrong, somebody will hear the clanging of the chain. Ludski, who slept near by, started to shout: 'thief, stop you Jew”. I had to let the chain go and run. The reflector above the Ghetto was searching, and if I would be caught in the light I would be finished. The guard was standing on the road and he shouted “Arms up”. I put up my arms and started to laugh. I don't know what made me laugh at that time. The German asked me “Why do you laugh?”. I could not answer him in German. His assistant, the policeman, asked me. So I told him: “He is running around and shouting that I wanted to steal his horse. What do I need a horse for, when I can not feed myself?” 'so why do you laugh?” asked the German So I told him that I was in his paddock with a girl and I frightened him and he is shouting “Catch the thief”. This was translated to the German. He was interested in the girl. The policeman was pressing my leg. I knew what he meant and I promised him a reward. Ludski was chastised by the German who told the policeman to look for the girl. He told me to return quickly to the Ghetto. It is difficult to describe my feelings at that moment. At the gate I left for the policeman enough money to buy a litre of schnapps.

Escape from the Ghetto

I could not sleep that night. Next morning people were going to work knowing that on Friday there would be another slaughter. I had a word with Aronczik Szwarc and I told him of my adventures overnight. He suggested that I should hide in the cellar of the damaged house of Czyz in Sieniezyc Street. He said that he and his family would join me. I did not like the suggestion and I told him that I would go to the cellar if I could not think of a better solution. And I started to think of a more secure place. I went in to the office of the Jewish police. The policeman in charge was Meier Kafelman. He was a butcher by trade and a good man. He was trying to help everyone in any way he could. I said to him: “Meierke can you advise me what is to be done?” He answered: “Why are you afraid, only old people and children will be slaughtered, but workers will not be affected.” I said: “You believe them but I don't. I want to run. I hope that you will not prevent me doing so.” “Don't be silly, run, if you must. The main thing is to avoid being caught. But I think that you are foolish to risk under these conditions.” I parted with him saying that I prefered to be shot from the back, rather than the front. I don't want to witness it when the old people and the children will be loaded into trucks. No, I am leaving the Ghetto. On leaving the Ghetto I met Dr Bergner [also spelled Berkman and Bergman in other articles – see p.246 “Outside of the Ghetto” by Luba Rudnicki] and Mrs Dr Ziskind. They asked me where I was going. I told them: “Where my eyes will lead me”. They were allowed to go outside of the Ghetto, because, as doctors, they had a permit. I decided to walk with them to the centre of the town. I parted from them when we reached the pharmacy of Leizerowski. Above the pharmacy lived a non-Jewish woman, an acquaintance of mine. She worked for me in the past. I went up to see if she could help me. But when I opened her door I was dumb founded – a policeman sat there. The woman winked at me and I did not lose my head. I asked her for some water and I told her that I came to the pharmacy for a prescription, but I have to wait for it. The policeman invited me to sit down and have a drink. I thanked him. I was happy that he did not arrest me. I started to walk to my home in Zalatuche, where many local people that I grew up with lived. Perhaps one of them would help me hide. But where ever I went I was told the same thing: “We are afraid”. Now I was sorry that I did not go to work with my sister Peshe and my brother Hertzl, who went to work in the military barracks. They were deluded. They told them that the work in the barracks was for those who were able to do the work. They will survive. My brother in law Hershl Fridberg managed to arrange a transfer to the barracks with a great deal of difficulty. I remembered that in the Soviet days I was of considerable help to a christian woman. Perhaps she will be willing to help me now? Mrs Michalski lived in Kowalewski Street and going there I met Aronczik Szwarc's daughter. She was working in the convent. I asked her what her plans were. She told me that here father was going to fetch her. I went into the house of Mrs Michalski and asked her he she would hide me for a few days till after the slaughter. Naturally she was afraid. She told me that if they would catch me in her house she and her children would also die. I started to appeal to her conscience and reminded her of what I did for her. I said: “You can see that now my life is in your hands.” She did have pity on me and told me to hide in the stable. She asked me to be careful, so that no one would notice me. She said that she would bring me some food. I asked her if she would permit me to hide a girl. She agreed, but urged me to make certain that nobody should see me. I went into the convent. I was happy. I said to Lilie Szwarc to come with me quickly because I had a hiding place. “No” she told me “I have to take my father with me, without him I am not going anywhere”. I told her that I would go to meet her father because there was no time to waste. She agreed. I went and saw Szwarc running towards me. I told him of my proposition and he took both my hands and said “My G-d guide you.” He told me that he was going to hide in Seniezyc St in the cellar of a destroyed house. He said that if we will survive we should meet in the cellar and he ran off, because his wife and young daughter Dina were in the Ghetto. Somebody informed on them. They were taken back to the Ghetto and they shared the fate of all others. I went back, happy that Szwarc permitted me to take his daughter with me. When I told her that I had father's permission to take her to the stable, she came with me. We got into the stable without being seen. On Thursday night Mrs Michalski came into the stable and brought us food. She said that the Ghetto was surrounded. It was permitted to get into the Ghetto, but whoever would attempt to get out would be shot. She also told us that Moishe Izraelit's wife was outside the Ghetto and was looking for somewhere to hide. She was prepared to pay handsomely for a shelter, but nobody was prepared to help. She was shot in the street. Her corpse was stripped of everything. A lot of gold was sawn into her garments. Next morning Mrs Michalski brought the news that the people in the Ghetto were lying on the ground, were being raised ten at a time and loaded into trucks. The trucks were taking them in the direction of Litovka. Lunchtime she came to tell us that all was finished. In the evening she told us that the shooting had stopped. If a Jew is caught he is taken to the jail. She repeated the news on Saturday morning: they were catching Jews and taking them to the jail. I thought of staying for another few days before leaving. Suddenly, at 11 in the morning two young shepherds walked into the stable and started playing. Suddenly they decided to climb up onto the hay stack, were we where hiding. I told Lilie that they would see us, but I had a solution. I would throttle them. It would not be difficult. But Lilie did not let me do so. She said no, there was too much dying. The boys were nearly at the top of the ladder. I asked them if they had seen me go into the stable. They said that they did not. I did it to make sure that Mrs Michalski would not be accused of hiding us. We all entered the house. When she saw us she was very frightened. She was afraid that the shepherds would know that she was hiding us. But I put her mind at rest. I said: 'they saw me enter the stable without your permission”. Mrs Michalski started crying and whimpering “Oh, you are going to your death, why don't you leave your watches with me”. Lilie Szwarc took off her watch and gave it to her. But I did not give her mine. I told her “Perhaps my watch will still be of use to me”. Before we left I asked Mrs Michalski not to let the shepherds go too soon. We removed the yellow patches and we went outside the town in the direction of Horodyszcz. Not far along the way there was a young forest and bushes. We saw from the distance that a policeman was going into the bushes with a girl. I thought that that would be our end. I said to Lilie: “Now you have to help me or we will be finished”. I gave her my pocket knife and said: Hold it in your hand. If the policeman will stop us and tell us to go with him we will obey him. But we will not go far, I will attack him and I will manage to overcome him. And you stick the knife into him wherever you can”. Lilie saw that that was our last chance. But the girl was our saviour. She kept kissing the policeman and asking him to leave us alone. He let us go.

We were happy. We did not go into the bushes but found another way, to try and mislead the policeman. When we were out of sight of the policeman we got back to the bushes and made our way to Nachodka, where a Jewess who converted to Christianity lived. Her name was Manie Firkes. I knew her well because she used to come to town before Pesach to work in a matzo factory. When her husband saw me he said: “You had better go, because I expect that any day they will take away my wife and the children. They are killing all descendents of Jews even to the tenth generation”. We did not know that he was hiding Arie the carpenter's brother in the bushes. We stayed till the evening. Ostaszinski came and we began feeling better. Ostaszinski said: “I have a dress of my wife's. Perhaps we should go to another farmer and he may hide us for my wife's dress”. We realised than that he had lost his mind. Then he said: “No. How can I give up my wife's dress when that is the only one she has. No, I must leave you and take my wife's dress back to her”. And he did go off to look for his wife and his son.

I went to a friendly farmer's wife who kept us for more than three months. In that time we suffered hunger and cold and a lot of fear. But we were restless. We were anxious to find out who among us survived. We sent the farmers wife to the Ghetto in the court house. The farmers were allowed go to the Ghetto on market days and order goods to be made for them. She returned and brought us the news that from the family Szwarc nobody survived. From my family, brother Berl was alive. He was working in the saw-mill. On the next occasion she went to the saw-mill with a letter. That night he came to me in the loft and we were together again. My brother was not with me long and he went to Bielski. I heard no more from him. After three months a sister of the woman who kept us was arrested. The woman who kept us came to us in a panic and said that we must run, because any time now we would be arrested. We had very little. All the gold rubbles, except for a 20 rubble piece, we had given to our hostess. In the evening I was thinking of leaving. The land lady asked me if I wanted to meet another Jewish person and his son. Indeed I did. “Who is it?” I asked. “He is the son in law of Garkave” she told me. I was very glad. It was my cousin. When we met we cried with excitement. We went out of the house and went together till we came to a fork in the road. My cousin said to us “Go in good health in one direction and I will go in another”. We realised only then that a single person can hide more successfully than several people. Lilie was crying bitterly. “As you can see. Just one cousin and in such a moment we must part”. I tried to calm her down and explain the reason for the parting. I found farmers that I knew and we hid in one place one night in another for two nights. And thus we moved about for a considerable time.

The first reprisal

Ivanke, Firke's husband said that if some time should pass and they would not take away his wife and children, we could come back. We could stay for a time. Lilie Szwarc said that she had not the strength left to run around, to wander. “Let us go to the converted woman for a period of time.” I did not feel like going back there, but I had no alternative. We arrived back at the converted woman's and I told her husband an untruth that we were sent to him by the otryad [detachment, meaning probably Bielski's group] for a rest cure. We knew that he was poor. We would give him money for bread and a good overcoat. He agreed. I still had a 20 rubble gold coin, one 5 rubble coin and gold worth 15 rubbles. I thought “What will happen now? I have to exchange the 15 rubble gold for three 5 rubble pieces to remain flexible. I gave him the 15 rubble's worth of gold for him to exchange. As soon as I gave him the money I was sorry, because I knew him of old as not an honest man. But, so be it. If we trusted him with our lives we must trust him with our money. I said to Lilie Szwarc “You will see, he will not return today. He will come back tomorrow and will say that he lost the money”. This is what happened. He came back next day, with his hat missing, bloodied and he said to me “Kill me, because I don't have your money”. I felt like killing him, but Lilie would not let me. She said “Let's run away from the thief. I am afraid that he betrayed us to the Germans”. I said: “Ivanke, you know what you have done. You took away the cane from a blind man. This was my last possession. What are we to do? And perhaps you told the Germans that you have Jews at home.” He answered that he did not remember. He drank with policemen. Perhaps he said something about Jews. There was no time. I had to run away, because there was danger in his house. But before I went I told him “Remember Ivan, you shod a Jew in lapti [crude peasant's sandals]. But you made a big mistake – a Jew does not wear lapti. Tell me Vanka, which is a safe way for me to flee?” “I don't know” he answered, “go were your sense dictates”. “Ivan, tell me, where is the police waiting for me, so that I can go another way”. But all he would say was “go whichever way you like”. We did not wait long and left his house. We knew that behind every bush a policeman may be waiting for us. And even if we survive, we had nothing to sustain us. With G-d's help we managed to get through untouched. We went to a farmer where we stayed for three months. One day Jews from the Bielski detachment arrived, among them my brother. They said that they came to see how I was getting on. I told them the story about Ivanke. Isrolik Jankelevicz, the commander of the group said: “Let us go to him and we will teach him how to behave”. And all fellows said: “Good, we will deal with him”. In the group were a number of men from Novogrudok – Michl Leibovicz, brothers Polanski and others. We went to Ivanke and they gave me a gun. We got to Ivanke. “Open up” we shouted. “Who is it” he asked. “Open quickly” we answered “or your house will be burned”. Ivanke opened the door in fear and he spoke to me in a subdued tone. 'take my cow or a pig or both”. But I did not need anything because if you are armed you can take anything without money. The boys shouted at him “Get dressed quickly we will teach you to steal money”. I told them: “Don't shout” and I said to Ivanke: “You did no harm to anyone only to yourself. Wake up your children and say goodbye to them”. He was begging us: “I did worse things in my life and they did not shoot me.” We did not let him speak too long. 'say goodbye to your children and your wife” we told him. He said to his wife: “You are of their blood, ask them not to shoot me. How will you manage with small children?”. And he said to his children: “Your father's life is in the hands of Chaim. Ask him to let your father live, because you still need him”. But there was not much time left, because we could move in the night, but were restricted during the day. We said to him briefly “Ivanke, say goodbye to your family. You have deserved your end with your deeds”. You can imagine the tragedy of that moment. He was certain that he was going to die. We said to the children: “Extinguish the light and stay inside because we will shoot if you don't obey”. We went out into the street and I asked Ivanke: “Where should we shoot you, if in the bushes, let's go to the bushes.” When we got to the bushes I said to him: “Do you think that Jews are killers? Do we shoot people for money? Never. Go home and tell your children that Jews don't kill for money”. “Now tell us who in the village robbed Jewish goods”. Isroel Jankelewicz had written down all addresses which Vanka gave us. When he finished Jankelewicz said: “Go home and be a father to your children and a husband to your wife”. Ivanke did not believe that we were letting him go. He said: “I know that as soon as I turn around you will shoot me in the back”. “Go home and find out who was robbing Jewish goods.” And Ivanke went. His children were very happy.

A short time later Lilie and I were partisans in the forest. I was sent frequently to fetch food. We called it a task (zadanie). I had no problems with that. I would go first to Ivanke, who would point out to us everyone who was robbing the Jews. He also helped to find meat and other food. He would benefit too. We would always leave something for his family.

Lilie Szwarc became my wife and we have two children, a boy and a girl.


[Page 272]

Under the German whip

by Sula Rubin-Wolozynski

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

Initially my work was to sweep the grass in the destroyed, burned streets of the town, which was under the German whip. My parents still worked in their profession as dentists. My sister worked in the hospital. After a while, I obtained a job at the German cemetery. I anticipated at all times that we would be ultimately killed. My one thought was to escape and not to wait in the Ghetto. Alas, my parents did not understand me and thought that I lived in a dream, under the influence of the romantic writers. They accused me of thinking that a fly can fight an elephant. In the summer [7 August] of 1942 the second slaughter took place. I managed to take my sister with me to work at the cemetery. We were taken from the cemetery to the military barracks where they sorted us into two groups: one to live and the other to die. One group was standing close to a forest the other next the buildings. I soon realised that we, who were close to the forest, would be killed. I took my sister by the hand and we ran to those who were standing close to the buildings, disregarding the Germans who were shooting at us. And we survived. At the barracks we were kept in stables for three days without food or water. There we were subjected to all sorts of physical and moral degradations. In the end they chased us through the streets to the buildings of the district court, where we found our parents. We were the only family which, so far, had survived. In the court house I decided not to go to work but to escape to the forest to Bielski, and later bring my parents and sister. I knew of Bielski from the partisans, who returned to the Ghetto and from the posters in town, which promised a large sum of money for Bielski's head. The only way of escape from the Ghetto was by way of the water pump, where we were led in small groups, guarded by the Belarusian police, to fetch water. My friend Jarke Tiles and I agreed to tear off the yellow patches, wait for the time when the two policemen were busy trading with the Jews and slip out. We went unnoticed through the gardens to Brichinke and from there onto the Wsielub highway to Litowka.

Some one informed on us and we were caught not far from the Litowka forest. They flogged us with whips and took us to the town's police station, which was manned by Belarusians and a few Poles. In charge was a local man by the name of Gonsior, who was a client of my parents. He asked me where I was going and did I want to stay at the police station or be taken to the German gendarmes. I answered that I was looking for food and I would like to be transferred to the gendarmes. I just could not look at the policemen among who were my fellow pupils from the gymnasium [Polish high school] and I did not want to give them the pleasure of shooting me. They took us to the command post. It is difficult for me to describe my feelings. My throat was dry and constricted with fear. But I tried to think that perhaps this time I would remain alive. I was not a hero, but my friend and I decided not to cry and not to beg to be spared. The main thing was not to change our story that we going to find food. We had to make sure that we did not mention the name Bielski or the names of our gentile contacts. We wanted to maintain a certain pride and not be in despair. I was troubled by the thought that my parents and sister knew what happened to me and knew how I felt, but they could not help us. After a delay we were transferred to the gendarmerie. We were fortunate, Meister Wolf, who had the reputation of being a fair man, was in charge. Usually Miller, a known Jew hater, led the gendarmerie. Meister Wolf asked my friend to wait outside. He asked me to sit down and spoke to me at length. He was a rotund, older German with pink cheeks and blue eyes. I wondered how a German murderer could have such a pleasant face. He told me that he believed that we were going to buy some food and we did not know where the partisans were. He told me in confidence that he had a Jewish wife and a son in England. He knew my mother during the First World War. It was a real piece of luck to meet him in our circumstances. He promised that we would be unharmed, but he had to work out a plan so that the others would not know about it. He had to send us first to jail. After a day or two, when a truck would be taking prisoners from the jail to be shot behind the barracks, we would be on the list of those to be shot. But on the way we would be taken of the truck and conducted back to the court house. As I was going out he asked me with a smile: 'Did you really go for food? Don't worry, you will survive the war. Will you spare my life if you catch me somewhere when you will be a partisan? Don't answer and don't deny it but think about it. Life is like a wheel: today it is you and tomorrow it could be me'. The old, smart German knew where we were going. They took us to the jail and put us in a small room with some dirty straw on the floor. We were frightened, hungry and doomed to die, because we could not believe a German. I told Jarke what the German promised me. We cuddled each other and waited. A face appeared in the small window in the door and my name was called. It was my friend Avreml Iwiniecki, who was arrested some time ago for Rassen Schande [race disgrace], because he visited his gentile girl friend. He was caught and arrested. He brought us bread and water and wished us luck. On the second day they assembled us in a group to be taken for execution. Around us were people in a state a fear. We too did not believe that we may be saved. And yet we thought that perhaps… At that moment the adjutant of Meister Wolf, named Boyd, appeared. He called out our names. I took Jarke for her hand and we both went out the gate. He led us to the court house. I opened the door of our barrack and saw my parents and sister. Suddenly the barrack was filled with laughter, shouting and questions. I noticed that in my absence my mother's black hair had turned to grey. My father too looked older. As I looked at them I thought that I could not stay there. It was better to die than to have an existence like that: to sit and wait for the end in a barn with forty bunks. A short time after my return they counted us and sorted us in the yard behind the court house. I was afraid of that procedure and I hid under the bunk in a small hole. My sister told me that the gate in the fence surrounding us could be opened, because they had made a duplicate key. I begged her to escape with me, but she refused, because she worked as a cleaner in the police station next to the court house and if she disappeared our parents would be shot. She did not want to risk it. It was late in 1942. There was no time to lose. I did not see my father, but my mother did not want me to go. I just left the barn, waited till the policeman walked away from the gate and I left. I crossed the street and got to the small forest opposite the court, on the way to Gardielovka. I could hear the voices of the Jews and the Germans in the yard of the court. The snow creaked underfoot. After I reached the forest I decided to wait till dark and than go to Litovka to the house of the gentile who served as the contact with the partisans. Sitting in the forest I noticed shadows of people under a tree. To my joy they were four people from the court house, who left in the same manner as I did. I was more encouraged, it was better to be in company than alone. This time I got to Bielski. Three days later I joined the partisans. This was the start of a new phase in my life which lasted till the autumn [early July] of 1944. My parents were killed in May 1943 in the last mass murder of the Jews from the court house. My sister Rita left the Ghetto through the tunnel in September [26th] but she did not get to me and I don't know to this day what happened to her.

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Novogrudok, Belarus     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Lance Ackerfeld

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 7 July 2006 by LA