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'.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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