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[Page 299]

How I Survived

By Idl Kagan

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

Thank you, my feet (feet of mine?), frozen, bloody, you kept creeping and crawling and you saved me from death. When the war broke out I was barely 12 years old. My early religious education was acquired from the melamed (teacher) Menaker, and was similar to the education of many other children in Novogrudok. Later I was enrolled in Tarbut. But our generation was not destined to study at length because of the outbreak of the war. A few days later, our town was bombarded and our house was destroyed. We moved to the house of [uncle Israel OD] Delatycki, behind the fire station. Four families occupied that house: two brothers Kagan, Sosnowski and Sucharski. We were uneasy, but for the time we were not short of basic necessities. I was working. My job was to remove bricks and stones from the destroyed houses. This continued until the first slaughter, in which members of our family, Moshe Kagan with his wife and son were killed. It was not ordained for my dear uncle Moshe to survive. During the selection process [of those who should die and who, for the time, would be spared] an SS man came running looking for Moshe Kagan to remove him from the group selected to die, because uncle did not finish making the saddle for his riding horse. But he arrived too late; uncle was already taken to the mass graves. But his son was miraculously saved. During the selection a German called out: “who is a motor mechanic?” Berl Kagan, standing among those selected to die, shouted without hesitation: “I and my friend are mechanics”. And for the time he saved himself and his friend Openhiem.

After the slaughter, I continued working with my father as a saddler, and, somehow, we were surviving. My circumstances changed for the worse when I was transferred to the army barracks. The barracks were some distance away, the food was sparse, and I suffered continuous beating from the sadist Makash. He selected me in particular, and I was subject to more assaults than the others. One morning, suddenly, a mob of SS men with machine guns appeared. They selected 50 workers and I was among them. They took us a little distance aside and lined us up to be shot. I turned my head so as not to see the barrel of the machine gun. I felt paralyzed in expectation of the inevitable death. Any second the end would come. But the SS man would not allow me the pleasure of not seeing myself being killed. He came over and hit me with his white glove telling me to turn and face the machine gun. Suddenly a temporary reprieve arrived. A German came running and ordered the postponement of the shooting. It appeared that the reason for the execution was that two boys were found to be smuggling food. They overpowered the German who caught them, and ran away. But at the last moment the Germans decided that in view of the eminent mass slaughter they may as well wait. The approach of massacre was palpable. We were instinctively aware of the smell of death. Too many Jews were brought from the neighboring towns. All available houses were packed solid with people. The over-crowding was life threatening. At that time it was easy to escape from the Ghetto. Why didn't people escape, though everyone expected a slaughter? I could not understand it while I was young. But now I can comprehend their motives. The instinctive desire for families to stay together, the fear of the forests and of the peasants, who were catching and slaughtering Jews, were the reasons for remaining together in the Ghetto. I succeeded somehow to get out of the barracks and to be transferred to the workshops, where I worked with my father. The second slaughter of the Jews in Novogrudok took place in August 1942. I am shuddering every time I think of the horror of it. I remember the selection of children. I did everything to look bigger. I wore father's jacket; I tried to walk on the tips of my toes to look taller. I was successful--I stayed alive. My father, mother and sister also survived. We managed to postpone the death sentence. After the second slaughter, the escapes started. All youngsters were seen whispering to each other and at night they would vanish. A contact with the partisans in the forest had been established and the youth in the Ghetto was getting ready to flee. Ishie Openhiem came from the forest to the Ghetto and chose a group of young men. Among them was my cousin Berl Kagan. At the time of the escape, I was given the task of watching the movements of the guards. The escape was successful. I was looking with envy at the older boys who could escape to fight and take revenge. After Berl Kagan escaped, I was restless in the Ghetto. The nights were sleepless. I was contemplating how to break out as soon as possible. I did not need to convince my parents. Father prepared a pair of good felt boots for me and blessed me with the wish that at least one member of the family might survive. The day had come. It was December 1942. We left through the gate in broad daylight. It was a nice, frosty day. We tore off the yellow patches. We looked at the free world, which was not meant for us. We stole through the town. My heart ceased to panic, knowing that we left the walls of the Ghetto. We stopped to rest in a clump of trees not far from the town, to wait for nightfall. We planned to get to the dogcatcher, where the partisans would fetch us. [Bobrowski, the dogcatcher used his isolated house as a meeting point of the escapees from the Ghetto with the partisans. He was ultimately caught and killed by the Germans. The sole survivor of the family, his daughter, is cared for by the author of this article. OD]. For safety we chose an indirect path via the lake in Brecianka, which pre-war was a popular spot for bathing. As we were crossing the lake, the thin ice broke and some of us fell in. The felt boots absorbed a lot of water. My feet became very heavy. It was very cold. But the desire to live urged me on. I was trying to get to the dogcatcher's house and the thought that the partisans, and Berl among them, would be waiting for me, gave me courage. We made it with difficulties. Alas, it turned out that the partisans had been and left. My situation was tragic beyond belief. My feet were hurting unbearably. They were frozen. I felt that I was loosing my feet. I had to return to the Ghetto. But how could I manage it with my felt boots wet and ice amassed all around them. I looked like a clown walking on high stilts. I could not walk far. The daylight was breaking. It was 6 o'clock. I dragged myself to the road. I was in luck. A farmer on a sledge, with his head wrapped up to protect him from the cold, came by. I slid surreptitiously onto the back of the sledge. He took me to the Korelich Street in town and continued on in the direction of the Court [the Ghetto was in the building complex of the Polish District Court]. I slid off the sledge and found myself among a group, who was out on the daily chore of fetching water from a well for the Ghetto. They surrounded me and let me crawl slowly with the last bit of strength back behind the wall of the Ghetto. They started to take off the felt boots by cutting them into small bits. It was all one piece of ice glued firmly to the skin. With a lot of effort my black frozen toes were freed of ice. They had to be removed by an operation as soon as possible. An operation could only be performed in the Ghetto with a sharp knife. One was held strongly whilst the toes were being cut. You were not allowed to cry out, so as not to attract the attention of the guards. Removing of the toes was not the enough, since the bones were also affected and further cutting was necessary. When the cutting was finished I was left on the slab in great pain. I did not know when my pains would stop. But my greatest enemy were the bed bugs. The plague was frightful. My feet were wrapped in rags and the bugs could penetrate them easily. They were attacking my wounds and biting them fiercely. I could not stand it and I had to scratch the wounds thus opening them. In February Ishie Openhiem came again to the Ghetto and took out my cousin Sheindl Zubarski and her friend Sosnowski. Going through the town they met a Polish girl they went to school with. She denounced them and they were shot. At that time the Ghetto in the Court Buildings was more securely fenced in and guarded. Escape was made impossible. By May 1943 my feet began to heal; my young body was aiding the recovery. I was beginning to move slowly on crutches. I was thinking again of escaping. I envied Pesach Abramovich. He also had his feet frozen during our attempted escape, but his injuries were less severe. He was running around, using his crutches. I kept thinking “when will I be able to run like this?”. On the 7 of May 1943 I was lying as usual on my slab watching the daily roll call in the centre of the Ghetto, where the head count was conducted and the meagre ration of bread was distributed. I did not go to the roll call because I was unable to do so. Suddenly a horrible event unfolded. SS men surrounded the people in the queue and start beating them mercilessly with sticks. I could not watch the scene and buried my head in the cushion. I was thinking fast. I believed that this was the end of the Ghetto – a slaughter. I started to hide instinctively. I arranged the cushions such that the bed looked empty. I could hear machine gun shots – this was the end of our existence. Many thoughts went through my mind. I was not afraid to die, but, if I would be injured in a beating, I would be unable to move. And how would I survive if everyone else would die? But the desire to survive was strong. I buried myself deeper among the cushions. Policemen appeared. They were looking for things to rob. They found mostly rags and threw them on my slab, providing me with a better cover. Hours passed, each one seemed like a year. Suddenly I could hear steps. My dear father appeared in my hiding place. I survived. My father told me that my mother and my sister were lost in the slaughter. We were irreconcilable. There was nothing to hope for. The only question was – when would our end come? Few Jews remained in the Ghetto. Escape was impossible. A desperate plan was conceived – to force our way through a gate and escape. The organisers were proposing to use hand grenades. The night and time for the break out was set. As we waited, the mood in the Ghetto was tense. But what could I do without feet? My father came to see me. He looked terrible – skin and bone. He spoke to me warmly “Idl, my son, I prepared two ropes. When all will escape the two of us will hang ourselves from the rafters. You know, I am sure, that to fall in the hands of the SS will be a lot worse”. I can see still his penetrating look and hear his sombre tone. I said “Father, you did not think of yourself, you decided to remain with me to the last minute”. As it is known, the plan of the uprising was abandoned and changed. It was decided to dig a tunnel and the work began. One morning my father came to see me, his expression was gloomy. He said, “they are sending me to work in the Koldychevo camp”. At the time the Judenrat was reduced to one man. He was selecting the crew to be sent off. Father told me that he begged and implored him, explaining that he had to look after me and feed me – to no avail. The man had no compassion or pity. My father parted from me...forever. He fell while escaping from Koldychevo. I was left on my own and my grief and distress was great. But I was not deserted by all. Efraim Selubski looked after me and brought me a piece of bread. By August 1943 I was beginning to move more freely but I still had to use crutches. The work on the tunnel was nearing completion and the time for the escape was approaching. But I was still moving with difficulty. Would I be able to break out? At last the dark night of the flight arrived. Peisach Abramovich and I were the last to crawl through the tunnel. We waited many hours. We moved swiftly. We approached the exit. It was very dark outside. The sentry sensed something and began to shoot without pause. Peisach and I clung together. We followed the same route we took on our previous escape, via Brecianka, bypassing the town. That saved us. The Germans had taken the shortest route in pursuit of the escapees. We ran the whole night. We forgot our feet. At daylight we hid in some trees. Only now did I feel the pain in my bleeding feet. We were also very hungry. At nightfall we approached an isolated farm house, holding an empty holster of a revolver, and asked for bread and milk. In this manner we crawled for six days. We were hungry and wet, our feet were bleeding. As we ambled on we saw a horse drawn wagon. We hid in the grass behind a tree and tried to see who the people in the wagon were. We could not believe our eyes. They were partisans. A fellow I knew sat in the wagon. We burst into tears. I found out from an acquaintance that my cousin Berl Kagan was alive. We were taken to the unit of Belski. Berl Kagan came that evening. We were very happy. The two of us were the only survivors of our large family. When my cousin saw the condition of my feet he decided that he must remain with me. He left the Ordzonikidze fighting unit and returned to the Belski unit. It was not easy to live with me. At that time there were constant raids. We had to run from one place of concealment to the next. We would find out where everyone was going and we would drag ourselves behind them. When we rejoined our group, we found out that in the meantime the Germans had attacked the group and killed a few Jews. Our aching feet turned out to be yet again our salvation. This happened several times during the raids. We dragged ourselves to the new place, we came late, and we avoided death. After a while we decided to go to the Nalibok wilderness, where Belski's family group was located. After a week's travel at a snail's pace we arrived in the forest. There I met Notke Suborski, my uncle Sucharski and many others. Berl Kagan went on foraging expeditions. In the meantime we remained in the forest without a place to sleep in. It was very cold. Later we managed to find a deserted dugout. Luckily Peisach looked after the supply of food, because I could not walk. When Berl returned he brought fat and bread. This was the life! We ate our fill. I slept well and my feet were healing fast. I became less dependent on others. I threw away my crutches. I became an ordinary being. From that time and until the liberation there was no shortage of food. Berl looked after me. The liberation came and the survivors returned to Novogrudok. And soon we had to face the problems of adjusting to everyday life. I was 15 years old. What does one do, what does one live on? How does one build a new life without a family? The loneliness was depressing. But life came up with a solution for the hardened people. There was a strong feeling of having to escape from the mass graves, from the cursed land, where we were massacred and robbed. I decided to leave. I passed along the well-used route through Germany. I suffered through a succession of operations on my feet. My longing for a home was overwhelming. My cousin in England had invited me to join her in the hope that it would become my home. So I went to England and started rebuilding my life.


[Page 302]

The Ghetto in Peresike

by Frume Gulkovitz-Berger

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

1941-1942-1943

May 1942. A nice spring day. The sun was smiling on everyone, except us Jews. We were forgotten by nature. Over our heads hung heavy lead clouds. We were standing in rows of four in the Korelicz market square. I was standing in the first row with my three sisters. Our father was standing behind us. His legs were swollen. At that time our mother was already dead. She was flogged by the Nazis and died from the wounds inflicted by them. I will never forget it. We were guarded rigorously by the Nazi police, as if we were the worst criminals in the world. We started to walk. We were wondering how far we had to go to get to our grave.

In the evening we arrived in Novogrudok. We were weary, thirsty and hungry. They horded us, like animals, into barns in the Ghetto.

Here we were faced with new troubles, which were indescribable. They sent us to do hard work. The conditions were inhuman. Men were turned into beasts. Our sufferings were greater than those endured by the Jews of Novogrudok, because we did not know anyone. At that time they gathered in the Novogrudok Ghetto all Jews from the surrounding townships such as Nalibok, Iviniec, Lubcz, Karelicz, Delatycz, Naisztot [could not find it] and any other place wherever there was a Jew in a village. A Jewish policeman from the Ghetto had flogged me because I wanted to go to work with a group from Novogrudok. I wanted to go with them because perhaps someone would have pity on me and throw me a piece of bread. On another occasion a policeman caught me entering the Ghetto with a piece of cheese hidden under my dress. I was arrested and put in the lock-up. Such episodes were considered to be trifling.

The second slaughter

One could feel in the air that something was being prepared. The Judenrat had increased the number of policemen guarding the Ghetto to make sure that no Jew would escape. They made sure that the Germans would have the required quota of victims. When my brother Benzion tried to escape to the forest with a group of others, they took away his boots and made every effort to prevent him from leaving the Ghetto.

On Thursday morning the 6th of August 1942, we were walking towards the gate to go to work. We had a feeling that any day they would surround the Ghetto. My niece, a six year old girl, was asking me to take her with me. I agreed and I was successful. The policeman at the gate turned a blind eye. It seemed that there was a little more ease at work. But only a fool rejoices without reason, a minute before death things are easier. Suddenly there was panic. We started to run. No one knew where to run. We heard that the Ghetto was surrounded. My brother's wife and I ran to the military barracks, because many ran in that direction. My sister vanished. In the barracks we passed a selection: some to the right to live, others to the left to die. Those who were selected to die [which included the author of this article] were marched back to the Peresike Ghetto. It was getting dark and the Ghetto was surrounded by Nazis. I went into our barn. My father was standing next to his bunk, shrouded in his Talles and praying Tihilim. I could not comprehend how could a bullet kill such an honest and pious Jew? At that time my sisters were already hidden in an attic. Jehudit, my sister-in-law pulled my arm 'Come, let us go and seek a spot to hide'. I was completely mummified. We left the barn. Where can we find a hole to hide in? We were strangers here. The earth would not open for us to hide. We walked past a few dead bodies. I recognised one of them, a girl from Karelicz, Mirke Jelen. She had the courage to spit into the face of a German. We walked next to the big lavatory, which stood in the middle of the Ghetto. Without a minutes hesitation we chose it as our hiding place. We descended into the filth, which reached to my breasts. Two other women were already there: Ester Menaker and Masza Rabinowicz. We each went into separate corner, so that in case someone should look in he might see only one of us. The night passed without any disturbances. Very early next morning on Friday the 7 August (24th day of the month of Av) we heard the sounds of motor vehicles. The murderers arrived for their victims. I can hear the crying of the children to this day: father, mother where are you, why did you leave us? The children were locked up in the automobiles. The sound of the vehicles had subsided. Next we heard shooting followed by an eerie silence. Four thousand lives had been wiped out. We could hear music in the Ghetto. A loud Nazi voice was heard to say that a sacred job had been accomplished, but the job had to be finished and the Jews in hiding must be found. We heard suddenly human steps and barking of dogs. When the dogs barked it was a clear indication that Jews had been found. They started shooting at us. The first bullet hit Ester Menaker. She did not even make a sound. A bullet tore my dress and grazed slightly my right hand. They probably did not see the other two who were on the other side of the ditch. I heard the murderers speaking to each other: 'if they are still alive they will die there anyway'. They went off to look for other hiding places. We remained in the lavatory for six days without food or drink. Worms were eating our live bodies. Every time someone entered the lavatory our hearts stopped beating. My heart has not fully recovered to this day. On the sixth day they brought back the surviving Jews from the military barracks. Among them was my brother Benzion. The Ghetto was reduced in size and we found ourselves outside the Ghetto. When my brother found out about us he dragged us out of the ditch. It was then that we realised the magnitude of the destruction. Only few of us were still alive. We began to escape from the Ghetto in small groups. My brother was among the first to run. Soon he came back and took us away together with another 25 people. We became partisans. We fought the Nazis for two and a half years and survived to see the liberation as proud Jews.


[Page 304]

Chapters from the Holocaust

 

by Y. Yaffe

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

A. Escaping from the slaughter

Meilach was an American. Under the Germans he worked in the workshops as a locksmith. It was better than working as an unskilled labourer and having to go to a different place every day. In the workshop they established a modus vivendi with the supervisor, he did not make unreasonable demands on the workers. Germans with truncheons never turned up at the workshops. If a German did arrive by mistake, he was usually polite and offered a cigarette. They were not being paid for their work. Meilach was looking for a way to earn some money. He was searching in the fields and was looking for burnt out sawing machines. He would soak them for a few days in kerosene and then take them apart. He would clean the parts. He would reassemble the machine and it would work again. He would repaint the machine and attach to it the burned out legs. When it was ready, he would look for a customer to buy the machine. He would usually find a farmer who would give him a poud of flour and some butter for the machine.

That was enough to feed Meilach for a short period of time and gave him an opportunity to look after work, for other means to earn some money. He was asked once to go to a woman's house behind the Shloss [Castle] mound to repair a sawing machine. He told the woman that he would need to take the machine apart, clean it and make some new parts. But the woman did not agree to pay the price he asked and said that it was not worthwhile to repair the machine. Meilach thought that he should take the job and rely on the woman to pay him, because there was no food at home. He told her that whatever she would pay would be acceptable. Meilach took apart the machine in the woman's house and started repairing it. He took some parts with him to the workshop. He came back every evening to the woman's house. After a few hours work she would give him bread, milk and a piece of butter to take home. The Belarus people, who lived in town were poor before the war. But under the Germans they became rich. They robbed the Soviet stores and exchanged with farmers the goods for food. In time the woman developed a liking for Meilach. She was sorry that he suffered as a Jew. He was a good tradesman, she told him, and he had to work for nothing. And also he was not certain whether he would remain alive. Meilach was a young and handsome man and the young woman started to flirt with him. The machine had been long since repaired, but Meilach continued coming to the woman and she would give him something to eat. When strong rumours started that a slaughter was approaching, Meilach was thinking that he must find a place to hide. He decided to go to the woman. He was in luck. On the way nobody stopped him and there were no strangers at the woman's house. She was initially bewildered. Hiding of a Jew was punished by the Germans with death. He did not say a word, but looked at her attentively. She took him for his hand and led him inside. She said to him 'never mind, for a good deed it is sometimes worth to die, you do not deserve to be killed, you did no harm to anyone. If it will be possible I will save you '. She took him in and held him close. 'I got to like you for your calm, for your black eyes and white teeth, it was just as well that my husband was not home, I could not have you here otherwise'. The night came. The town was as quiet as if dead. At times shots could be heard. The woman came in and told him to be very careful, to lie down and not move. Under the house were rooms, where people lived. Every step would be suspected. The time moved on. In the morning she came in and told him to go to the barn through the house. This way he would not be seen. He got out of the house but could not get into the barn, because a woman was drawing water from the well nearby. When she left, he crawled into the barn and closed the door. He went up onto the loft and waited for the woman to come. The door opened. A man entered the barn. He had an axe and started splitting logs of wood. He could not see Meilach on the loft. The time went on but the man kept splitting wood. Meilach was very cold. His toes were frozen. He was also hungry, he had had nothing to eat since the day before. He was also anxious to know what was happening in town. The man stacked up the split wood and left the barn. After that the woman he stayed with came in with some bread and warm food. She stayed with him while he ate. She made up for him a place to sleep in the corner of the barn inside a big heap of hay. She gave him also a warm sheep skin fur coat. She left the barn. She went out to find out what happened to the Jews of the town. When she returned she told him that the Jews were being crammed into a Ghetto. But a Polish policeman had told her that the Jews would not stay there. Some would go to another Ghetto, but most would go to the pits which were dug for them in the Koshelevo forest. The survivors would be put in a Ghetto in Peresieka.

The woman left the barn and Meilach buried himself in the hay stack. He stretched his legs and covered them with the fur. The quiet was interrupted by the wailing of the Jewish women being led to the Ghetto. Nobody listened to their woes. The streets were empty, people were occupied with their own affairs. The Germans were preparing the slaughter, the Jews were led to the slaughter, and the town's gentile population was getting ready to rob the Jewish homes.

The sky was cloudy, the wind was blowing fiercely and was twisting the snow in whirlers. His thoughts were all muddled. He saw in his mind one group of people which was going to destroy the other.

Meilach began to work out what was happening and was thinking about his next move. It was not a solution, he thought, to remain in a barn close to the centre of the town. The Germans would search and would find him. Also he wanted to be among the other Jews. He spoke to the woman and told her that he would go to the court house, which was where all Jews were taken.

The court house was surrounded by German gendarmes. They did not allow anyone to come in or to get out. Meilach did not know how he got inside. He was certain that he was going voluntarily to his death. In the yard stood the Jews, each one next to his bundle. The Germans were shouting, cursing and hurrying the Jews from one side of the yard to the other. The guards were armed with machine guns. They were laughing at the sight of the disoriented Jews who were running in all directions. 'This is not the behaviour of living people' thought Meilach 'the Germans look upon us as if we were dead, and one can not hurt a corpse. It is allowed to mistreat them and abuse them. Their life must be made unbearable, so they would not think again of escaping, to get away as far as they could to escape death, but they would long for death. There would be no opposition.' He was running from one end of the yard to the other. Everywhere were armed gendarmes who kept them at a distance. He took off his watch and gave it to a gendarme. The gendarme moved aside and Meilach moved to the other side of the house and freedom. The sky was getting darker. As the night approached, the sun appeared briefly. Meilach walked briskly alone through the empty streets. He had to behave in a way which would not attract any suspicion. The gendarmes who were patrolling the empty streets did not stop him. When it was completely dark he reached the house of the woman. The door was opened by her husband, who asked him what he wanted in an unfriendly tone. But the woman got to the door and took him inside. There was a sharp exchange of words between husband and wife. The man was saying that he would not harbour a Jew, because he would not risk his life. If the Jew would not leave he would call the Germans. The woman said that she would not hand over anyone to be killed. They must find a way to take the Jew to the outskirts of the town, where he would have to look after himself. The husband agreed to that. He was certain that the guards placed around the town would catch the Jew. The woman took upon herself to lead him out of town. The husband was opposed to the idea and told his wife that she would be shot together with the Jew. 'Let them shoot' said his wife 'I will not let them murder him in front of my eyes. I would not have it on my conscience that I handed him over to be killed. The man came to hide in my house. You can lead him out of the town, you know the police' she told her husband. 'If you go with him they will let you pass'. The husband spoke to a police patrol near the house and came back puffed up. He did not like the idea of letting a Jew escape, but he found it difficult to oppose his wife. 'You can go' he told Meilach 'the policeman would look the other way'. But his wife did not agree and said that the Jew may be killed on the outskirts by another patrol. She went with Meilach and saw to it that he was well on the way out of town. On the 7th of December after the first cold winter night Meilach was free and moving. The night was dark and cloudy, the sky filled with wet snow which was hanging low like heavy lead. Strong winds were shredding the fresh snow, which covered the ice bound earth. Meilach, who was dressed in light clothing, felt the wind blowing and penetrating his whole body. Barking of dogs could be heard from the distance. Occasional shots were fired in the surrounded town.

Meilach met no one on the way. He did not know where he was going. No farmer would let him into his house. He had to be certain that he would not be seen by anyone. He had to hide but had no place to conceal himself . He was hungry, but had no food. He was cold but could not find a warm shelter. He kept going into the night but did not know where he was going. Why did he escape from his executioners? Why continue this punishment? He would not be able to escape his death. And yet his frozen feet kept moving in the snow, his eyes were searching the empty night and his brain stopped thinking. Let it be what must be. If he would be caught and handed over to the Germans his suffering would stop. But somewhere inside the desire to live was hoping for a miracle. He walked on and on. He avoided villages, where the hamlets were sunk in deep sleep. He went into a small forest of tall trees with bowed branches shaking in the wind. He sat down to rest on a stump of a tree. He took off his boots and rubbed his feet with snow to create some warmth. He put his boots on again. He got up and started to bang his hands against his coat to improve circulation. He felt warmer and intended to continue his journey. Suddenly he heard two quiet voices talking. He held his breath. Having listened intently he recognised the voices of two Jewish people – Leizer the dispatch agent and his wife. They must have escaped from the slaughter and were looking for a place to hide. When he got close to them the woman started shouting loudly. It reverberated in the forest. Leizer told Meilach that they were close to Walewke, 18 kilometres from Novogrudok. He and his wife were looking for a hiding place at a familiar farmer's house. The farmer used to supply them with milk for the cheese factory. Leizer would not take Meilach to that farmer, because the farmer might get scared and refuse to hide any of them. Leizer and his wife went to the farmer who lived close to the forest. Meilach followed them at a distance. On the edge of the forest in an empty field stood a lone house. Meilach watched Leizer and his wife, who were walking towards the house, to see what was going to happen. If the farmer will hide them, Meilach thought, he may be able to join them later. The farmer may let him in for fear that Meilach may denounce him. The night was dark, the wind was bending thin trees and shaking their branches. It was getting colder. He stood at the edge of the forest. He saw a dog running out of the house and barking loudly. A lamp was lit inside the house. Next Meilach heard the loud voice of the farmer. He told the couple that he would not hide Jews, he did not want to risk his life and the lives of his family. The Germans would shoot them all if they would find Jews in his house. Leizer asked him if he remembered the times when the farmer was in need, when Leizer lent him money to build a house, when his cow died Leizer helped him to buy a cow and many more times when the farmer was in need over a period of tens of years. Leizer's wife started to cry and asked the farmer were could they go in the big frost. She was bemoaning their fate and saying that they should not have left the town, but died with everyone else. But the farmer did not budge. He said that he would give them anything, but not risk his life. The farmer's wife gave them a loaf of bread, a jug of milk and a peasant's overcoat. They went back to the forest.

The night was slowly getting lighter. The snow in the forest caught a glimpse of light. The wanderers were looking in vain for a place to hide. Even here death was not far from them. Here among the trees the nature was cruel to them. They were tired and depressed. They broke pieces of bread with their frozen fingers and drank some cold milk. They were less hungry but felt more tired. Their feet were hurting. It was hard to keep their eyes open for lack of sleep. Their bones were aching. They moved deeper into the dense forest, where the wind was not as fierce. They cleared an area of snow, spread the farmer's overcoat and lay down to rest. It started to get lighter. Golden beams of light penetrated the forest. The darkness gradually disappeared. The threesome was restless. They were perused by dark thoughts. The woman dozed off. She dreamed of wolves among the trees. They were hungry and their eyes were burning. They smelt the human breath and they got nearer stealthily. One wolf tore off a human leg, but it did not hurt, because the leg was frozen. Shooting could be heard. The German hunters were running and shooting the wolves and they stumbled onto the sleeping Jews. They started hitting them with their rifle buts. Blood was running from their heads. Meilach was shot in the stomach. They were dragged through the snow. The three of them were tossed onto a truck. They were brought to a big pit full of dead bloodied bodies piled up one on top of the other. The Germans tossed them into the pit. They were among the dead but they felt nothing and suffer nothing. But it was frightening to be dead and covered with earth. Suddenly the woman woke up with a frightful shout and started looking for her wounds. She was feeling frightened and her leg was cold. She was told to be quiet. The farmers were cutting trees in the forest and they might spot them. The woman was shaken by the terrible dream and was swallowing here tears. The forest was filled with noises. The horses were neighing, the sleighs were squeaking, the axes were splitting timber and saws were issuing a mournful sound as they were cutting the timber. The nature was free, the horses were moving freely. Only the three unfortunate Jews had to conceal themselves among the snow covered branches so as not to be discovered, because they were destined to die. The short winter day was dragging on endlessly till it began coming to an end. The last of the farmers had loaded and tied the timber on the sleighs and speedily left the forest. Only one farmer remained. He was still fussing over his load. When all others left, he turned to the forest and the hidden Jews. He gave some food to the hungry Jews. He told them that he spotted them earlier in the day, but did not approach them when the others were there. He suggested that they should follow his sleigh from a distance and he would take them to his home. He asked them to be careful, to make sure that no one would see them. They entered a small farmer's house with low grey walls and a water stained ceiling. On one side stood an old, peeling couch, a slanting table with two long benches on either side. A few white chickens and a brown cockerel were walking on the earthen floor. On the other side of the house, separated by thin boards were a few goats and sheep. Next to the animals were heaped some cereals and grass. The farmer's wife with clogs on her feet, a shrivelled face and bleached dress was busy at the stove. Her husband told here to warm up the house, because they were freezing the whole day in the forest. His wife put in the oven a big pot of potatoes and prepared food for the guests. She served it at the table in a big wooden bowl. Everyone was given a earthenware plate of sour milk to eat with the potatoes. After the meal the farmer brought in a big bundle of straw which he spread on the floor and covered with a dark blanket. The three Jews went to sleep on that bed. They felt warm and well. They were sheltered from the wind and the snow. They were not running away from the Germans. And they slept soundly. In the morning the farmer moved them to a cellar behind the barn, where potatoes where stored. He lifted a large lid and they crawled under it into a small pit. There was no air in the pit and it was hard to breathe. There was a heavy smell of rotting potatoes. It was dark. A few rays of light could be seen through a few cracks. It was not possible to stand, because the pit was shallow. One could only sit or lie. But they were protected by thick earthen walls. They did not feel the cold of the winter. The wind did not blow and the snow did not fall on them. They got used in time to the rotten smell. They were lying most of the time and were waiting for the horror to pass. The farmer's wife brought food during the day: a big bowl of soup, one spoon, and three lumps of black rye bread. The bowl of soup and the spoon was passed on from one to the other. When the bowl was empty it was put to one side and they sat and looked into the dark. In the evenings they came into the farmer's house and breathed deeply. They enjoyed the fresh air and the warmth of the low farmer's house. In the morning their new hideout was ready for them. In the barn, behind a large mound of hay the farmer built a small room underground. Above it he built a platform, which was covered with hay. A small window in the back wall of the barn gave them a view to the outside. They could see through that window the winding road to Baranovichi. Above the platform was a large board, which they could use to walk on. On that level was also a cage for geese with grains and grass inside cage, as well as bowls of water. At night the three of them returned to the house. They would warm up and enjoy some fresh air. In their quarters they had a stock of rusks and water. At night they ate cooked food. Early in the morning they would wash and return to the barn. The farmer would lock the barn and they would not be able to get out. Some days went by. The generosity of the farmer came to an end. He was arguing that the slaughter had finished. The remaining Jews were in the Ghetto. Why don't they go back to the Ghetto? He was a poor farmer and he could not keep them. His land yielded barely enough bread and potatoes for the two of them for the year. He had no money to feed three extra persons. The Jews understood that the farmer was not obliged to sustain them at his expense. It was a great gesture on his part to have saved them and kept them for a time. Leizer took out the paper money he had on him and gave it to the farmer. He told the farmer that he did not have more money on him, but he had some more hidden in town. If need be they could go to town and get it. And so their life continued. The farmer supplied any amount of bread that was required and sometimes a piece of butter. In the evening they ate a meal of lamb's meat. They got used to the confinement and they hoped to survive in that way the war.

Once the air in their hiding place had become unusually hard to breath. They were waiting for the night to be able to get out into the fresh air. But they were not released that night. It was getting dark and the farmer did not open the door for them. They were trying to figure out what had happened. Were there visitors in the house? Why did the farmer not tell them? Maybe somebody found out about them? Maybe the farmer was arrested and they would die of hunger and thirst. They could not open the door by themselves. They could not see anything through the window. They were lying in the darkness and thought of their sad situation. They were hungry and thirsty. They had to do their physical needs on the spot and the air became unbearably heavy. They looked for a solution but could not find one. The night seemed to last for ever. They were reclining in the darkness without speaking. Towards the morning they fell asleep. In the morning the farmer was chopping wood. The farmer passed to them through the window a large loaf of breads and a jar of milk. He whispered to them that the Germans had come and were staying in the other barn. He collected the chopped wood and went into his house. They saw from the window that a German soldier in a green uniform was walking up and down the road with a machine gun. They could hear the neighing of many horses and the sound of a mouth organ. They escaped from the Germans and the Germans came to them. Death was hunting them to every corner of the earth. They could hear the barking of German dogs. The dogs would smell the humans and they would be found. The farmer would die too because of them. They were suffering in the underground, in the stale air, in the darkness. But outside life was running normally as if nothing had happened. The guard on the highway was changing every few hours. The noises from the barn were the same: neighing of horses and the banging of the German boots. They were confined underground and listened with greater heart beats to every noise. It was dark again. And again the door to their hiding place remained closed. They were confined underground for two days and two nights. They longed to breathe a lung full of fresh air. It was difficult to breathe. They became more and more hungry. Their heads were aching. They were continuously thinking but did not come up with anything. They fell asleep again. A night passed in tiredness and pain. More hunger and thirst. The farmer had not been near them. They knew that the Germans were still there. Who knows when they would go away. And when they would leave it would be too late. They would expire from hunger and thirst. Their hiding place would be their grave. They had swollen faces and extended stomachs. They could not move. They were suffering from acute dehydration. Their eyes were looking into the darkness of the cellar and they were waiting for their death as a release from their suffering. Only on the fourth day did the farmer open the door and told them to get out into the fresh air. They could not move. The farmer thought that they were afraid of the Germans. He told them that the Germans had gone. But they still did not move. The farmer got down to them in their pit. He was repulsed by a strong disgusting smell. He came out. When the farmer got used to the smell he removed first the bucket of slops. After that he carried out the three Jews, one at a time. The Jewish woman fainted in the fresh air. She came to with difficulty. They were sick for several days. They could not seek medical help of course. But they gradually recovered and went back underground to hide from the Germans. The farmer was afraid of hiding them any longer. This was because an event occurred which shook the farmer. Before the war in the house of Shimie the barber in Korelich Street served a village girl, who was a nursery maid to his newly born daughter, named Chana. The girl had become very attached to the child. After the village girl got married and moved back to her village she used to visit the child a few times a year. When the woman heard about the slaughters of the Jews she came to town and took Chanelle with her. Chana spoke Russian well and had blond hair and blue eyes. Nobody would know that Maruska was a Jewish girl. They lived in an isolated farm and the child had a chance to survive the war. At one time a group of Germans came and stayed in the farm. The Germans played with Maruska and gave her lollies. Maruska was told to speak only Russian. One day the Germans drank in excess and started boasting of their murders of the Jews. To prove it they had pockets full of photos, which they showed each other. One of them told his story that in Novogrudok a barber jumped on him and wanted to cut his throat. He killed the barber and took a photo of his body, which he showed them. Maruska saw the photo and started crying and calling her father's name in Yiddish. The Germans killed her and the family that kept her. They burned their house. This had become well known and the farmer told Meilach and Leibl that he was afraid to keep them any longer. The farmer took the three of them to Novogrudok where they were smuggled into the Ghetto in Peresike.

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