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[Page 310]

Chapters from the Holocaust (cont'd)

B. The second slaughter

by Y. Yaffe

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

The Ghetto was divided into twelve blocks. Each of the twelve members of the Judenrat was responsible for his block. In the evenings a member of the Judenrat would come to his block, call everyone outside and check to see whether anyone was missing. He warned us that if anyone was absent everyone in the block would be held responsible. Everyone would be shot if someone escaped.

There were among us people that honestly believed that if one would work and remain in the Ghetto he would be spared and, therefore, they were on the lookout for people who were getting ready to escape to the partisans. They would report such people to the Judenrat. And immediately camp policemen would come and take away the suspects boots or put him into the lock-up for the night.

All roads were leading to the slaughter. In the Ghetto was a big empty space. 'You can grow there cabbages for winter' said the German Stadtsleiter [city leader] to the Judenrat. 'Who is expecting to survive to the winter?' replied searchingly one member of the Judenrat. 'Of course you will live if you will be loyal and work well' assured the Stadtsleiter. Next day the Jewish workers dug the soil and sowed the cabbages for winter. The sun warmed the growing leaves, which were getting greener. In front of the lean, despairing faces of the Ghetto Jews green leaves of hope were growing under the blue sky. They seem to say: 'you will live, you will survive'. One day the leiter came to the Ghetto and stood next to the green, growing cabbages and said 'Dumme Juden [silly Jews], they hope to be here in the winter' and he laughed.

They began to remove Jews from their places of work. The skilled tradesmen were supposed to be given new certificates. But those who were unskilled did not receive the certificates. This meant that they were no longer required, that they had no right to remain alive.

People began to approach members of the Judenrat and non-Jewish supervisors. They tried to gain acknowledgement as qualified tradesmen and to get a work certificate. Every day more workers were relieved of their duties. Previously there was a shortage of workers. Previously the Judenrat was looking for an excuse to explain the shortage of workers. But at that time many people without work were circulating in the Ghetto.

The first of August 1942

The qualified tradesmen, who previously worked in various German institutions, were transferred to the German military barracks. The others continued working, doing the same jobs as before. It was assumed that the tradesmen were engaged in doing urgent skilled work for the army. It turned out that they were doing unskilled work. A few times per day they were subjected to a check and they were asked their age, their trade, and the number of years they had worked in their trade.

Next day all those that were sent back from the barracks were given other work. Their names were inscribed on a list. They were told that they would be engaged as permanent workers in the barracks.

Suddenly there was panic in the Ghetto. The Gebiets commissar was driven past in his car. People were hiding in their dwellings. Small children were hidden out of sight. But the commissar did not enter the Ghetto. He went off and half an hour later he returned to town. People tried to explain his secret mission, but no one guessed that he went to Litowka, 3 km out of town, where he decided on a spot for the burial of the victims of the second slaughter in the sandy ditches.

The fourth of August

Six hundred Estonians arrived at the military barracks. They travelled in light family cars, cleanly dressed with well fed faces. They were not front line soldiers. Why did they come to Novogrudok? They refused to speak to Jews. They were ill tempered, bad men. They were unapproachable and looked down on everyone.

The fifth of August

The slaughter was about to take place. The Judenrat stopped denying that the slaughter was imminent. Yet they prevented people escaping from the Ghetto. They were controlling the sleeping quarters. People were running inside the Ghetto this way and that and were seeking advice. The Judenrat maintained that they knew nothing. They were waiting for Daniel, who did not return from the Gebiets commissariat. The last group of workers returned to the Ghetto. The parcels they brought with them were not searched. The policemen were busy trying to find places to hide their families. Late in the evening Daniel returned to the Ghetto. He held in his hands the yellow certificates, which would be distributed to the workers in the morning before they were to leave for work. He was tired and in a bad mood. He was busy the whole day sorting out from the lists, according to German procedure, the names of Jews who would be spared. He did not care about the others. In the German Gebiets commissariat, behind closed doors, a game was played with Jewish lives treated as pawns. The Germans relied on Daniel to do the sorting. They trusted him to be the signatory on the certificates which would grant, for a time, the right to live. He did not sign any additional certificates. He was afraid that people would run away and there would not be the required number of victims. He kept back, just in case, more than 200 certificates for the wives of the tradesmen, who were supposed to be allowed to live. In the event he did not issue those certificates in time. The wives were slaughtered.

The night came. The black sky covered the last red swaths of the sunset. A silence fell over the Ghetto, as if the martyrs got used to being dead. Many were standing on the threshold of oblivion, of death, yet, somehow, they became indifferent to it. The slaughter was expected for months. And now it had finally come. The night had snuggled the Ghetto into a deep sleep. The last night before the slaughter.

The sixth of August

Jewish policemen separated one group of workers from the other. Those that were working in the military barracks went first. Those who were working in the workshops were given yellow work certificates. The rest was kept in the Ghetto. There was a heavy feeling in one's heart. I was saying farewell to the eight months I had spent in the Ghetto, to my life, to all my years. We, the remaining two brothers of my family, were separated: one went to the military barracks the other to the printing shop.

My wife and our nine month old child remained in the Ghetto. The child would certainly be killed. My wife should receive a workers certificate and should be transferred to the tradesmen's Ghetto. I was certain of that arrangement. We had to go to work and I could not remain in the Ghetto any longer. I ran for the last time into the barrack. I saw the smiling eyes of my child. I was aware that I saw them for the last time. I felt helpless, a father that could not save his child. The Germans decided that the child must die and there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I did not take leave of my wife, because I thought that we would see each other after work.

A few hours passed. Suddenly a disquiet spread in the town. The Germans, the police and the Estonians went to the township of Zetl, where they participated in the slaughter. The Jewish police was given an order not to allow anyone to leave the Ghetto. They took up positions, with rubber truncheons in their hands, along the fence of the Ghetto and cut off the exit of the women and children, who wanted to join their husbands and fathers.

The atmosphere in the Ghetto had become tense. The police were hitting the women and losing control of the situation. A group of gendarmes was stationed not far from the Ghetto. They kept guard on the roof of the Peresike synagogue, which was the highest point. The guard saw the disturbance in the Ghetto. The gendarmes moved in and surrounded the Ghetto. They shot anyone who attempted to escape.

In town a few hundred Jews were milling around not knowing where to go. Some of them went to the new workshops, where there was a big cellar. They gave some money to the foreman of the workshop who let in about 50 workers to the cellar and blocked the door. At 12 o'clock the Polish supervisor told us that we had to wait in the workshops till they would come to take us back to the Ghetto.

Jewish workers were going back to the Ghetto. They were released from work earlier. We told them not to go to the Ghetto, which was surrounded by German gendarmes. “Where should we go?' they asked “we will die anyway, we have nowhere to hide'. They walked slowly away from us. I looked at them and I wondered. People were prepared to die as if it was natural. At the same time people were running around the town as if they were poisoned mice. Some slipped into a cellar of a ruined house. They disguised the entrance. They sat there for a few hours and went off to look for another hiding place.

In the evening a group of about twenty policemen had come into our tannery. They surrounded us with rifles at the ready. We were led outside under guard. They led us through the empty streets. At the door of the workshops they checked our certificates and they allowed us to go inside. The night was a nightmare. We looked at the sky, which hung threateningly over us. We sat in the darkness and tried not to think. I lay on the bare concrete, with my head resting on the concrete wall and was asking myself: 'Am I alone? Where are my brothers? Where are my wife and my child? What do they think of now? How long will I suffer? How many slaughters will I survive? How many times will death threaten me? Will I have to witness the total destruction of the Novogrudok Ghetto? Will I continue to live on the verge of life and death?' I thought that I would rather be among the dead and feel nothing. I looked at the black sky and the heavy clouds which were moving slowly through the darkness. My thoughts were obsessed with one subject - death. The morning woke me from my short sleep. Someone stepped on my foot and I woke up. I assumed a strange pose, sitting on my feet and thinking hard. I was looking at the day. Why did the sun rise? For the Germans to see the people they were shooting? For us to see and feel our destruction? I looked unseeingly at things around me. I looked and I saw nothing. We walked around the workshops and kept asking each other whether they heard anything. We did not want to hear the answer. We did not want to know that the Ghetto was dead.

Hours have gone by. We tried to tell ourselves that it all was a wild dream. We were trying to escape from our thoughts. We wanted to push away from us the thought that our dear ones were dead. That we were now alone. But one cannot escape reality. Seventeen Jews were brought alive from the Ghetto into the workshop. Three and a half thousand were dead.

In the workshops

The Germans who brought the 17 people from the Ghetto stood by the doors and turned us out into the yard. We thought that they would check our certificates, to find out if there were among the tradesmen escapees from the Ghetto. It turned out that they intended to organise a search for small children. On the previous day some fathers smuggled their small children into the workshops. They were hidden in the cellars under mounds of felt boots and leather coats. With all men standing in the yard the Germans dragged the children from the cellars and threw them onto the truck. The fathers were standing helpless and were trying to hold back their cries of anguish. The Germans found over thirty children and they took them and put them over the dead bodies of the martyrs from the Ghetto.

The seventeen people from the Ghetto told us the gruesome stories of the death of the Ghetto. Chaim Ajzykowicz, the chairman of the Judenrat, told us that all the people were removed from the Ghetto onto the street. Man and women were separated. The children were taken straight onto trucks and driven to the ditches. All Jews had to lie on the ground with the faces down. Over every third Jew stood an Estonian with a gun and beat them and kicked them with his feet.

Trucks came. They were loaded full of people, who were taken to the ditches. At the gate the Germans made Bursztyn, from the employment office, stand and witness the gruesome execution. They told him that he has to tell the Jews from the workshops what he had seen. It took five hours for all the Jews to be transported to the ditches. At one stage the chief of the German hospital appeared in the Ghetto. He suddenly realised that the Jewish doctors and pharmacist would be killed in the Ghetto and he came to save them. He took them to a separate house and told them to wait till the end of the slaughter. At the end, he brought them to the workshops. He also brought the chairman of the Judenrat, who he presented as a doctor. But all the other members of the Judenrat and the police perished. It did not help them that they were the ones who did not allow anyone to leave the Ghetto. During the slaughter they forced all Jews to go out onto the street. The Germans promised to save them, but they did not keep their word.

The policeman Altered der game (that was his nickname) was determined to survive no matter what. He found Jews hidden in the cellars. He even found and expelled his wife and children from a bunker. e even HThe chief of the Gestapo promised to keep him alive. 'You are a brave man' he told him. 'Now come with me and you will see how it is done'. He took him to the ditches in his car, but Alterke did not come back.

Chan and the shoemaker were going to the workshops, where he could have been safe, but he did not want to survive without his wife and children and he went back to the Ghetto. But he could not find his family. The Germans took ten people from the Ghetto to the ditches to help to drag the dead bodies. Chanan went with them. When they came to the ditches the site was so terrible that Chanan jumped in alive onto the ditch with the dead bodies and waited for a German bullet. And yet he survived.

Above the field with the ditches was the highway. This was where the trucks unloaded the Jews. They were told to undress and crawl on all fours to a ditch. Some did not want to undress, particularly the women. Some were beaten to death. The others had to crawl over the dead bodies. Most were shot before they got to the ditch. A group of Jews was given the job of dragging the dead to the ditches to make room for other victims. The clothes of the dead were gathered and loaded onto trucks. The clothing was taken to a store where the Germans looked for gold and jewellery in amongst the garments.

When the massacre was finished all participants, about a thousand of them, gathered in the empty Ghetto. They drank vodka, ate food and had a feast. An orchestra was attached to the group and played for them. The Jews who were hidden in the undiscovered bunkers in the Ghetto heard the music.

More than a thousand Jews worked in the military barracks, of whom more than half were to be massacred. The man who was going to do the selection was a certain Moscalov, who was the supervisor of the barracks. He spoke politely to every Jew and promised to put him down on the list of the living. Naturally he was going to do it for some consideration.

In the evening the Estonians arrived back after the slaughter in Zetl. All Jews were made to stand on the parade ground. Moscalov took out a list and started calling out names. Those selected stood in a separate group. There was a distance of 100 metres between the groups. One group was designated to live for the present and the other one to die. In one group was a father in the other his children, who were selected to die. Two brothers were in different groups. Initially they thought that perhaps there would be changes. After all Moscalov was paid. But Moscalov made fools of them. More then 500 were selected to die. Some from the group that was designated to die tried to run to the other group. The Estonians opened fire and those selected to live were removed from the ground. Those destined to die were confused and started running in the direction of the Estonians, who opened fire. The Jews wound their hands around the guns, they put their arms around the necks of the Estonians, one was scratching and throttling an Estonian even after he was dead. There were about 100 dead strewn on the ground. The others were taken to the Ghetto.

Those that were selected to remain alive were locked up in stables. The door was closed and those inside were immersed in complete darkness. The small windows provided no view. During the night one could see before the minds eye pictures of the frightful happenings of the day: how one left the family behind in the Ghetto and went to work, one hoped to save one's life, the sorting to the left and to the right, the parting of those who were allowed for the time to live and those who had to die, the blood flowing on the hard ground, blood of children, of parents, of friends. One could see, but one was not allowed to move or make a sound. One could see the bandits who were shooting, but one had to stand as if one's hands were tied. One could not attack the murderers and tear them to pieces, because of the urge to remain alive. One submitted to the murderers and was led by them to a stable. One had a wild urge to avenge the evils. The thoughts were compelling, but the body was welded to the spot. There was no talk, because everyone was ashamed of himself. There was no peace, and the stronger one confined the pain within, the more it hurt and the greater was the fear of tomorrow. Nobody wanted to be killed, but the feeling was that one would be killed. These thoughts were destroying one.

The people in the stables were waiting for the morning. They were mummified. They felt the pain in every particle of their bodies. The body was aching. The night was endless. They had to lie sleepless and listen to the monotonous whistling of the guard. The morning arrived cold and bleak. A grey light penetrated through small windows and we could see each other. This gave one an idea of how one looked himself: black and emaciated.

The stable was locked. There was no access to a lavatory. A corner of the stable was used for that purpose. We had to tolerate the frightful stench for almost 3 days and nights. We were not fed. Even water was not supplied. In the beginning we kept quiet. We did not want to speak to the Estonian guards. In time we could not stand it any longer. We stood at the small windows and begged for water. The Estonians demanded gold. Some people still had wedding rings on their fingers. They took them off and gave them to the Estonians, who brought a few buckets of water. We drank the water from the buckets in turn. The Estonians looked through the small windows and laughed. Later they demanded watches for water. They took the watches, but gave no water. They just looked in and laughed. We were lying thirsty, hungry and weak. We were afraid to think of what may follow. We were sorry that we were still alive. It was obvious that the Germans were trying to kill us by denying us food and water. We were going to expire in the stinking stable.

But we were wrong. On the third day the door of the stable was opened and the Jews were taken to the workshop Ghetto. There were assembled all the Jews that had survived. They were 1240 of us.

The Ghetto of Peresike

Two days after the second slaughter the Germans had plans ready for the third slaughter. They formed two Ghettos: one for the tradesmen, for Jews that were working in the workshops, where they also lived and a Ghetto in Peresike for Jews who were working in town. It was clear that the Germans would slaughter next the Jews from the Ghetto in Peresike, and those who worked in the workshop would be spared for a time.

After the second slaughter 550 people were selected and taken under guard to the Peresike Ghetto. The people who remained in the workshops took their final farewells from us. We had been looked upon as if we belonged to another world. If they could remain alive a little longer the war may end. On the other hand we were those who were about to die. We were walking surrounded by Germans and policemen. From a ruin a man appeared with his eyes showing fear, his face yellow, his cheeks cadaverous. It was obvious that the man had not eaten or drunk for several days. He ran alongside us and wanted to join us. The Germans noticed him and shot him. They left him lying on the ground with blood spreading around him. We went on and I thought: the Jew was hiding for the last four days. He lived in fear but was hoping to save himself. But death was waiting for him. We walked on past the remains of ruined houses. We noticed a Jewish boy who slid around a corner. He wanted to approach us. We were in a panic. They were sure to shoot him. We began waving at him, indicating that he should hide. He did not see us. A German raised his hand and the column stopped. There was dead silence. The German and the boy looked at each other. Not a word was spoken. The boy stood in front of the German like an offending child in front of his teacher. It lasted a second but it seemed an eternity. 'Weiter gehen' shouted the German and the boy went with us into the Ghetto. Why did the German shoot one Jew and spared the other? I thought that that was not clear even to the German. It just happened. In the first instance the murderer had a blood lust and in the second instance the lust was satisfied. A little later a policeman came leading a Jewish woman with a small child in her hands. A German shot with his revolver the child in the woman's arms. The woman fell with a frightful cry and the child, all covered in blood, slid out of her hands. The child remained on the road and the mother walked on with the rest of us.

We came to the fence of the Ghetto which was made of long boards of various colours and looked like an army made up of various people. The fence surrounded the houses where the Jews were kept and separated the Jews from the rest of the world. The fence hid some people. Those who were guarding them were united in their will to rob and murder. They were aiming to spread their might into the world around them.

We walked into the Ghetto through a small door in the large fence. A woman was lying dead in a door of a house. She was found in a hiding place and was shot on the spot. Close by a few more bodies were lying. They too were hiding in bunkers. I went into a house. The air was heavy with stench. Three men died in a hole under the house. They were too frightened to leave their hiding place and died there. Each of us went to the house he had previously lived in. All was in great confusion. The doors and windows were open, clothing was spread about. Everything signalled death. The houses were empty. Some died where they lived. We sat on the hard bunks and bemoaned those fallen.

The Ghetto was reduced in size to half. The fence was shifted and the Ghetto was now reduced to twelve houses. The houses outside the fence were empty. They smelt of death. All was empty. Inside the Ghetto a few people were moving about aimlessly. No one bothered to clean up, to arrange things. Autumn spread its rainy gloom. The air was full of moisture and clouds. The dark sky had swallowed the sun and its warmth. The earth was immersed in mud. A swampy spread, which would never dry out again.

With the first light the Jews were driven to work. The Germans did not look upon the Jews as people who would live much longer, but as tired out horses, which were about to die and every last drop of strength must be forced out of them. The Germans had become used to flogging Jews for no reason. They just lowered the stick and broke somebody's hand. Most Jews were depressed and defeated but in some a feeling of resistance awoke, to oppose the tormentors. We were standing on the threshold of annihilation so some developed a desire to escape. They hoped to save their lives by escaping from the Ghetto to the forests where they could fight the Germans.

Some were prepared to go any length to postpone their death. There was also the desire for revenge for the killing of many. The last survivors of the Ghetto would take their revenge. Some had a desire to became a partisan and have a weapon. They would travel and attack German convoys. They were debating among themselves and some escaped from the Ghetto. There was no Judenrat in the Ghetto. The Ghetto was eliminated for all practical purposes. It was changed into a work depot. There was one Jewish policeman and three members of the Judenrat in the camp. They did not exert any authority and did not attempt to flog the inmates. They knew that when the Jews would be killed they would die with them. The members of the Judenrat did not interfere if anyone decided to escape to the forest or to keep arms. They were helpless, confused people, who were on the margin of death. They were hoping that the partisans would take revenge for the spilled blood. The Germans had power over everything.

Rosh Hashanah [New Year] fell on a Sunday and therefore there was no work. We assembled in the houses and many prayed. They were the last prayers of the last survivors which were about to die. Some remembered the past and compared it to the present in astonishment of how things had changed in such a short time. The past had vanished together with the future. The tree was torn together with the roots. Only few branches held few leaves. People were summing up their existence on the last Rosh Hashanah of their lives.

But even that was interrupted – there was no time to rest, no time to think about one self. One had to be always in fear of death. The Germans entered the Ghetto and ordered the Jews to assemble on the square. A Belarusian woman, carrying a loaf of bread, walked past the Ghetto. A Jew jumped the fence and approached the woman. The Germans arrived suddenly and found the Jew outside the Ghetto. Such a transgression was punished by death. The Germans took the Jew back into the Ghetto and tied him to a tree. After, they took him with them and he was never seen again. The Jews were lined up. They were all there, no one was missing. The Jews were made to march past a young man, who looked every Jew in the eye. He pointed at a 15 year old boy, who was removed from the line. The Germans took him with them and left the Ghetto.

The 15 year old boy tried to save himself. He escaped from the Ghetto and was wandering in forests and byways. He knocked on doors of farmers asking for bread. In this manner he survived a few weeks. He slept in the fields, behind trees. When he heard that some Jews survived the slaughter he returned to the Ghetto. In one of the houses where the Jewish boy came asking for bread, lived the young man who recognised him in the line up. He was treated well in the house of the young man. They fed him and allowed him to sleep the night. They had pity on him. Some time later the boy took a watch from a friend in the Ghetto and went back to the farmer who treated him well to exchange it for bread. He returned to the Ghetto. The farmer told the Germans about the young man and came to the Ghetto to identify him.

The only way to survive was to escape to the forests. Several men had gone to the forests and they let it be known that they were safe. Some came back to the Ghetto and took with them their friends. This was done surreptitiously to avoid a mass escape, which would put everyone in danger. Others wanted to go to the forest but they did not know how to find the partisans. A few did escape by themselves and managed to find the partisans.

Preparations were made by a larger group led by the Charnes of an escape to the Lipichanski wilderness. One night they made the escape and a group of others followed them. A fight began among the escapees. A German patrol arrived and started shooting. Some managed to run back to the Ghetto, others managed to escape. Yoel Lis with his wife were shot behind the Ghetto. The Belarusian neighbours had stripped the bodies naked and removed their gold teeth. The Germans did not allow their bodies to be buried for four days. We thought that the Germans would slaughter all survivors of the Ghetto. But the Germans had their own plans and the escape did not cause them to change them.

When the number of the escapees reached 100, the Germans replaced them with the same number of Jews from the tradesmen's Ghetto. They were mainly older and weaker people.

The family Gafkin consisted of 7 people. Before the first slaughter they found a hiding place. In the second slaughter the mother of the family with three children were killed. The father with a 17 year old daughter and a 15 year old son remained alive. Father escaped to the forest and told the children that he would rescue them as soon as possible. The time of hunger and pain dragged on. The boy and girl worked for the Germans. They were frequently flogged. In the Ghetto they were lonely. No one took them under his wing. They decided to go in search of their father. After the first snow fell they escaped one night and went off. They did not know the way. They hoped to get to Sluchovich, three kilometres from town, to a farmer who was an acquaintance of their mother. The farmer received them well and promised to hide them for a few weeks till he would find out where their father was. The children were happy. They gave the farmer the small amount of money which they had on them and went to sleep. They were awakened by the German policemen, who the farmer brought from town. They were taken back to town and put in a cellar in the jail. Four days later they were hung.

Because there were many escapes, the Germans put a strong guard around the fence. They were patrolling day and night. Not far from the Ghetto, in the highest house in the area, the Germans posted some gendarmes. At night a reflector lit the Ghetto and the surrounds. They shot, using a machine gun, at every suspicious movement.

[The difficult story finishes abruptly in the Pinkas. We know of no reason.]


[Page 319]

C. The final wandering

by Y. Yaffe

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

Regardless of the fact that all were depressed and subdued, the Jews of Karelicz, Lubcz, Iweniec and Derewnoe were preparing for the happy holiday of Shavuot. Though the Germans had taken the cows which belonged to the Jews, the wives managed to obtain cheese from the gentile neighbours and they fried bliny (pancakes). After all, Shavuot is supposed to be a happy holiday. For a moment a long forgotten spark of hope arose in the depressed hearts. Perhaps in time conditions would change and it would be possible to celebrate happy Jewish holidays. No matter how difficult the situation was, the Jews were hoping that things would change for the better. Little children were gathering flowers in the meadows. The parents cleaned as best they could, the dresses they wore – the festive garments were either taken away by the Germans or were long since exchanged for bread. The under garments were washed and dried. All was ready for the holiday. But they were also prepared for wandering, the last wandering before death. The order came suddenly and was short: within two hours all Jews from the townships were to be ready to walk to the Novogrudok Ghetto. One was allowed to take the clothing that one was wearing. There was great panic and crying. Some did not believe that they would be taken to the Ghetto. They thought that it was a lie, that they were being led to their death. Some escaped into the forest and took their fate in their own hands. Parents were searching for their children. Others were anxious to seek advice from their friends. People were packing bags with their belongings and tying the bags to their bodies in preparation for the expulsion. They were leaving their houses with the bags on their backs. Some looked back at their houses and recalled the years of work they had put into their upkeep. They thought of all the memories that were connected with their houses, which they were now leaving forever. Outside of the townships the Jews were surrounded by a number of armed policeman, led by a few Germans. The next order was: children under the age of 12 would be taken to a home for children, which would be established next to a monastery. The policemen moved in swiftly among the Jews and forcibly took the children. Mothers were crying, children held on to their parents. But the devils have done their work. Parents had to part from their future. Children were removed from the arms of their parents. The roots were destroyed. And they, the lone people, would have to perish in isolation. The Jews left their township and a day later all the children were killed. Before leaving, all parcels were checked by the Germans and all better items were taken away from them. The Jews looked in silence at the homes they were leaving. They lived and worked in the towns for hundreds of years. They developed and grew in prosperity. And suddenly they were separated from their homes and their mode of live. They walked on sandy roads, through wide fields to an unknown future. They were aware that they were going to their death. They would have to suffer for a few months on this earth, but they would finish up in a mass grave.

Early flowers appeared in the fields. The trees were covered in leaves. The sun was warming the earth. But humans were succumbing from pain and heart ache, from the difficult road and the heavy load on there backs. The policemen did not permit them to stop for a rest. They were beating them with rubber whips. They told the Jews to drop their parcels and accelerate the pace. People were hurried and they were losing their strength. One of them stopped and was unable to go further. He was resigned to face the worst. A policeman came over and shot him. He was left lying on the road. They were hastened. The Germans allowed 4 hours to get from Iweniec to Lubcz. In Lubcz the local Jews were assembled and made to join the others on the track to the Novogrudok Ghetto. All had to be done in the manner proscribed by the Germans. One township had to join the next in the race to perdition. The Jewish population of Lubcz, a little fewer than 2000 in number, was divided into two groups: the younger group of more than 600 men was sent to work on the roads. After all other Jews were expelled from Lubcz, the road workers were transferred to the village of Berovich. They were housed in a big barn. They lived there for a few days. Later the barn was surrounded by Germans with automatic pistols and all Jews were shot*. The rest of the Jewish population of Lubcz was led to Novogrudok. The group of walkers was enlarged and the walkers intermingled. They were interested in finding out from each other how they were expelled from their homes. Towards the end of the day the policemen got tired of urging on the Jews on and the rate of progress slowed down. They were even permitted to sit and rest a few times. They passed several villages. The local population came out of their houses and expressed their sympathy to the expelled Jews. Some dared to give the Jews a loaf of bread. When the policemen did not object, the whole village came out with gifts of food. All this happened without interruption to the walk. It started to get dark. They approached an estate of a land owner. The Jews were put into the barns. The Jews laid down on the bare floor and slept. This was the night of Shavuot, when in the night the sky opens up and angels come down and shed a light on the Jews who conducted midnight prayers and received the Torah. Now the Jews were banished from their townships. Their synagogues were closed. The Torah was torn and ravaged. All night the Jews rolled from one side to the other on the hard ground. They thought of the disturbed holy day. They regretted their disturbed life, they looked on to the dark skies for an answer, but they found no answer. The world was deaf and dumb to their sufferings. The sky was covered in a cloud like armour to make sure that the tragedy of the Jews would not be seen or heard. Next morning they were awakened early and were made to walk again with the same brutality as the day before. Those lagging behind were flogged and cursed using the crudest words. Finally they arrived at the Ghetto. The gate to the Ghetto divided the policemen from the Jews. The policemen remained in the free world and the Jews were locked up in the Ghetto. They lost their freedom forever. They were fatigued, broken people, dusty and dry, weary and apprehensive. They dragged from their backs their parcels and lay down on the bunks. They rested their weary bodies on the parcels and looked around them at the Novogrudok Ghetto Jews, who were used to living in the Ghetto. In my mind I compared them to the Jews who were banished to Babylon and sat on the bank of the river longing for Zion. The Jews from the small towns never expected that they would be expelled from their homes, locked up in a Ghetto and ultimately killed. There was no room for the newly arrived in the houses of the Ghetto and the Germans ordered that they should move into the barns, where the farmers kept their horses. 'Won't the Jews freeze in the barns in the winter' the members of the Judenrat asked the Germans. 'It is summer now, in the winter you won't need the barns' they were told. They were implying that in the winter the people in the barns would not be alive. In the mean time the newcomers were trying to make some arrangements in the barn. The first night was spent sleeping in their clothing on their parcels. Next day boards were delivered to the Ghetto. The Jews made up double bunks and each one had a corner where he could sleep. Numbers were given to each location in the barn. If one was looking for someone in the barn he could find him if he knew the persons 'address'. Gradually people got used to the work and to the life in the Ghetto. One could do with 120 gram bread, to queuing up for a litre of thin soup and be prepared every day to die in a slaughter. And the more one was oppressed the more one wanted to live. Some wanted to believe that they would survive all the dangers and repressions and would live as free human beings. There was also a keen interest in the political news. The news from the fronts reached the Ghetto and the Jews were delighted to interpret them in a manner which would favour them. They believed that the Germans would be defeated and they would be liberated. In reality threats to the existence of the Ghetto were approaching. The second slaughter came.

Nochim from Karelicz was among those who were against escaping to the forests. Why suffer in the forest, be exposed to cold and want, to be in a constant fear of death. Either way no one would survive the Germans. It was easier to die in the Ghetto. He was among the first who went to work for the Germans. He worked devotedly. 'One must obey German orders, we cannot help it, they have the strength.' One early morning he jumped over the Ghetto fence, went into a near by garden and stole a head of cabbage. A policeman saw him and asked him why he was on the wrong side of the Ghetto wall. Nochim pointed at the cabbage, which he held in his hands. 'Get over the fence back into the Ghetto' the policeman ordered. When Nochim was on the fence with one leg in the Ghetto the policeman shot him and his dead body fell into the Ghetto. The policemen gathered and laughed. For them it was a matter of little consequence to shoot a Jew, as if it was a hare. The Ghetto was immersed in mourning and depression. Snow began to fall. The cutting winds of the late autumn were blowing. The life in the Ghetto became harder by the day. It was difficult at work. In the Ghetto hospital were workers with broken hands and feet and injured bodies. The Ghetto was fastidiously guarded making an escape difficult. The workers were taken to and from work by an armed guard. And where could one run? The partisans were not coming any more to rescue people. All were depressed and despondent. They looked and behaved like people much older than their age. They were waiting every day for death. They behaved like people suffering from tuberculosis, who spat out the last bit of saliva together with their lungs. Some were waiting for their death as a salvation. The severe winter penetrated the bodies. Their boots were in tatters and they could not be repaired. Their clothing that was torn when cutting timber, clearing snow and carrying bags and timber could not be replaced. The wind blew through the holes onto the bloodied bodies and wounds caused by German whips and sticks. The food was bad and getting worse. There were days when the Germans did not issue bread. On some days the Jews were not allowed to bring water from the well outside the Ghetto. On such days soup could not be cooked. But flogging was never spared at work and after work. Whenever a German met a Jew he had to flog him for no reason at all. The time of the slaughter was approaching and the Germans wanted to display their sadism. Soon there would be no Jews and they would have no one to flog and kill.

The time of the slaughter had arrived.

The third slaughter
The 4th of February 1943

Early in the morning when it was still very dark, the ditch in Great Brecianka was ready to receive the remaining 500 Jews from the Peresike Ghetto. The whole road from the Ghetto to the ditch, a distance of less than 2 kilometres, was lined with armed policemen and Germans. In the yard of the Ghetto the group of workers was lined up, just as they were doing every day, to make it look as if they were going to work. If someone was missing they went to fetch him. The Germans did not shout, but were patiently waiting till the whole brigade was counted accurately and walked to the other side of the fence. There tens of armed policemen took over. They surrounded the workers and instead of leading them to the town to work they took them in the opposite direction to the ditch. A few minutes later a second group left the gates of the Ghetto. They had no idea what was happening. When they realised that this was their last walk it was too late to attempt to escape. Some attempted to run. They were shot and remained lying where they fell: black stains in the white snow. Later the farmers collected the bodies and took them to the ditches. The last group of workers in the Ghetto realised that the Jews were being taken out of town. Forty people hid in a bunker in the Ghetto bake house. The Germans looked for the missing people. They searched scrupulously the 12 houses and pushed their bayonets into the earth. They discovered the bunker. Before full daylight all people of the Ghetto were dead. A few who managed to escape were turned over to the Germans by farmers. Only two people saved themselves. They joined the partisans in the forest.

* The current information (July 2005) is that the slaughter of the road workers from Lubch (Lyubcha) occurred at Malyie Vorob'evichi of the Ostashino Soviet, a village on the east side of the river Ossa, 10km due south of the township of Delyatichi. According to Botvinnik, in “Monuments of Genocide', 635 people were killed on the 8 August 1942 i.e. a day after the second slaughter in Novogrudok (information supplied by Tamara Vershitskaya, director of the Novogrudok museum). These figures are in broad agreement with those quoted in the above article. After the war the Soviets erected a monument on the site, on which the number of killed was stated to be 950 and the date 8 August 1942. A new monument was erected in May 2005, due to the generosity of a friend from Novogrudok. On it the number of killed is stated to be 635, but the date of the execution is given as 3 July 1943.

[Page 322]

D. The tradesmen's Ghetto

by Y. Yaffe

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

The workshops were housed in two large brick buildings. All surviving Jews in the Ghetto were tradesmen. The farriers were 'on top of the heap'. The Germans had penetrated deep into Russia and winter was approaching. The German army urgently needed fur coats. They feared that they would freeze in the blizzards without them. A few dozen Jews set to work and were pulling thick threads through the eyes of the large needles and attached one piece of fur to another, they shaped pieces of fur to form sleeves, attached pockets and collars. And the heap of fur coats grew by the day. A German truck took them to the front line. The Germans were satisfied and the Jews hoped that because of the need for fur coats they may survive the war. The shoemakers made felt boots, hard, compacted felt boots with thick leather soles. Their fingers ached from pushing needles through the thick leather. But they thought that their suffering was necessary to save their lives. And there was another benefit, every now and then they were able to trade in a leather sole for bread. In another room worked the skilled tailors. Their customers were slim, erect Germans with well pressed, brown trousers and highly polished boots. They wore well fitting jackets made of good quality textiles. They were well fed and had smiling faces. The customers were all members of the SS. Suits were made for them from textiles stolen from Jews and were made by the best, yet unpaid, Jewish tailors in the Ghetto. The shoemakers worked also for the population of the town and for the farmers. The best shoemakers made lacquered shoes and chevron boots for the German women. The German women with their upturned noses and silly eyes, the upstarts, the servant girls, who suddenly had become wealthy, were showing off their importance in front of the Jewish tradesmen. Having learned their behaviour from their men, they abused and often beat up the Jewish shoemakers when the shoes did not meet with their approval. The saddlers made saddles for the German horsemen. They were producing belts from hard, twisted leather. They formed the seats of the saddles and decorated the edges with nickel, which shone and showed up the horse and the Junker riders, when they went riding in the evening, after a day's torture and killing of innocent people. Carpenters and clickers, furriers and tailors, knitters and corsetieres all were locked up and were likely to die. The machinery was issuing monotonous sounds and the people became also monotonous. They worked all day and they thought that each day may be their last. The Ghetto was surrounded by a high fence of barbwire and on the other side policemen walked up and down. They were watching the Jews and made certain that no gentile would make any contact with them. The Ghetto was locked up. The Jews worked there and lived there. This filled them with fear, because it made an escape impossible. All the captors had to do was to surround the Ghetto and shoot everyone. One hope was that the war would finish with a German defeat, but they feared that the Germans would kill them in the last minute. Perhaps, they thought, the war would continue, and a miracle would happen. The Jews of the Ghetto were busy every day. The process of working, of creating, occupied their minds. As it would be expected of experienced tradesmen, they endeavoured to produce good quality work. Evenings were occupied with looking for food. There was business going on in the Ghetto. The policemen, whose job it was to see to it that the Ghetto was isolated, had business dealings with the inmates of the Ghetto. One could buy near neigh everything, if one had the means. But the cost was high. As a result, some were well supplied and others where hungry. Some had become apathetic and spent their free time playing cards in a secluded corner. A few were engrossed in chess and looked for a way of defeating their opponent. Most of the people were circulating in search of news, any news. Everywhere there were people standing around and talking. The main concern was, naturally, how to survive the Ghetto. When the Jews were taken to work outside the Ghetto and could move around more freely, they did not think of escaping. They thought that when they would hear of an approaching slaughter they would escape without difficulty. In the tradesmen's Ghetto the conditions altered. The Ghetto was surrounded day and night by policemen. A group was being organised for the purpose of escaping to the forest. Among them were a few who had been previously partisans in the Lipichaskaya wilderness. They returned to extract friends from the Zetl Ghetto and were trapped during the slaughter. Some survived and were transferred with other survivors to the Novogrudok Ghetto. They could not get used to the life in the Ghetto, to sit in a cage and wait for their death. They longed to return to the forest, to the freedom. They arranged an escape three days after the second slaughter. Tevel Leibovich, a partisan from Novogrudok, had a brother in the tradesmen's Ghetto. He managed to smuggle into the Ghetto. He had a gun and two grenades. His aim was to free his brother. In the evening the mall in the Ghetto was jam-packed with people. At that hour the last gentiles were leaving the Ghetto fence taking with them the items they had exchanged for food. The policemen smoked and chatted amongst themselves. They were satisfied with events of the day. They managed to make a lot of money by trading with the Jews. The go betweens took a rest after a busy day. They sold to their customers all the food they smuggled in and they were enjoying the fresh air. The ordinary folk walked hither and thither and spoke of nothing in particular. Suddenly all stopped and people whispered to each other. A partisan penetrated into the Ghetto. He got in under the barbwire, with a revolver in his hand. He looked searchingly at everyone in the square and disappeared behind the first door. Those that knew him spoke to him, the others looked on. Everyone looked at him and every word he said was passed on from one to another. He came to fetch his brother, but his brother was afraid to leave. 'I would be also be afraid to go' declared a curly tailor of leather pelts, who had in his lapel a big needle with a thick thread attached, to let everybody know that he was a tailor of pelts. 'I am afraid of going to the woods, but if I had a brother, a partisan with a revolver and grenades, who would come to fetch me, I would immediately leave the Ghetto'. Having spoken, he took out the needle and stuck it in his other lapel. But the brother did not seek advice from the tailor. Everyone was curious to know details of the event. 'I am not the Tevel you used to know' the partisan said to his brother 'if you will come with me, all will be well, but if not, I will shoot you here'. The brother had become apprehensive and agreed to leave the Ghetto. In the mean time others approached the partisan and asked him to take them out of the Ghetto. Each had his reasons for asking the favour – one was a friend of his fathers, the other went to cheder with the partisan, yet another helped the brother of the partisan in need. It was important to get ready in a hurry. They had to leave before sunrise. The partisan did not intend to spend the night in the Ghetto. The night was quiet. The dark sky spread over the Ghetto. The people sat in the houses. The police guards were huddled in a corner and spoke to a few Jewish girls to pass the time. At the same time about 20 people had, one after the other, bent the wires of the fence and left the Ghetto. They went in single file with the partisan in front holding his revolver. The others followed and became more encouraged as they went. The people in the Ghetto were convinced that the escapees were caught and shot. If anyone else attempted to escape he would meet with the same fate, they argued. But they did not have to speculate for long. The partisan returned to the Ghetto and told them that all who escaped settled in the forest. Some had already participated in the struggle with the Germans and all were well. He took with him a second group from the Ghetto and disappeared with them in the darkness of the night. A few other parties left. They too got away in the same way as the others. They slid out silently under the wires. The Jewish girls would deliberately chat with the policemen to distract their attention.

A stormy night came. Dense clouds were blown across the sky, as if they were humans escaping from the Ghetto. The Jewish escapees pressed their shrunken bodies to the earth, to make themselves less visible as they slide under the wires and crawled over the field like nocturnal animals. The sky had become lighter and threw a bland, matt light on the dark bodies, which were crawling on the dark earth. The grass under them was rustling, and, slight as the sound was, it was heard in the still night. A car appeared from nowhere and cast a strong light on the escaping Jews on the field. The police shot a few rounds in the direction of the Jews. There was a shout. The car moved on and it was dark again. The escapees took quickly the injured Jew into a house. The policemen who went to look for the injured were distracted by a crying woman, who pretended that she was hurt by her husband. After that incident the police guarded the Ghetto with greater intensity. Escapes through the Ghetto fence came to an end. The gate to the Ghetto was always locked. The policeman in charge of the shift kept the key to the gate. One evening someone approached the policeman and offered him a watch for sale. The policeman put the bundle of keys on the bench and picked up the watch to inspect it. Berger the locksmith came over and took a wax image of the key to the gate. The policeman returned to the gate and Berger made a key to fit the lock in the gate. Next day a group of 11 men was keeping close to the gate by walking next to it back and forth. They chatted with the policeman and waited for a suitable moment. Mendl was the comedian of the Ghetto. He knew how to entertain people: he would perform tricks, walk on his hands, dance on one hand, pretend that he was blowing smoke from his eyes and he could roll around on the floor like a ball. As he was performing the carpenters would laugh and the laughter could be heard in the street. The policemen were curious to find out the reason for the laughter and they came into the workshop. The policeman who held the keys was among them. This was the opportunity for a group of Jews, including the locksmith, to get out of the Ghetto and lock the gate. At the head count in the evening 11 people were missing. No one knew where they were. Guarding of the people in the Ghetto had become stricter and it was practically impossible to escape. To add to the difficulties of escape winter arrived. No one could imagine how it would be possible to survive in the forests during the winter. Most gave up the thought. A few 13 and 14 year old boys, however, managed to get out from the Ghetto, strayed in the deep snow in the fields, knocked on the doors of a few farm houses, but no one let them in. They met a few Jewish partisans, who told them to go back to the Ghetto and bring their friends with them. They came back with frozen feet and gave up hope of saving themselves by running away from the Ghetto. The policemen became stricter, they did not allow access to the farmers who brought food for sale. The supervisors have become more demanding. They cursed them and beat them at work. They were not allowed to go outside the dormitories at night under the threat of being shot. Lighting of fires in the dormitories was prohibited. All of these were known signs that a slaughter was about to take place. The younger captives in the Ghetto were eager to escape. They knew that they would die so why not cut the barbwire and attack the policemen. Some might succeed and be saved. But the women were frightened and said that they were opposed to actions that would lead to a certain death. Some of those that would stay in the Ghetto may survive, they argued. But those that would take suicidal measures were certain to die. The arguments raged for a few weeks. In the mean time they watched each other. The members of the Judenrat took advice from a number of inmates, having selected the more prominent people. It was decided that each person had the right to attempt to save his or her life, provided that in doing so the lives of others would not be endangered. An uprising in the Ghetto would lead to certain death of all. Of all suggestions the plan to dig of a tunnel had become the preferred option. This would allow all people to escape in the night. The workshops were in a house facing the street. The living quarters were in a barn, which used to be as a wood shed. Three levels of bunks were built into the walls. Two people slept on each bunk. Outside of the barbwire fence there were fields. There were no houses. They started to dig the tunnel in the living quarters. The tunnel was to extend under the nearby field. The whole Ghetto, under the leadership of the Judenrat, participated in the work. The Judenrat previously opposed escapes from the Ghetto, but they realised that now they were likely to be killed with the others. The only remaining alternative was to escape to the forests.

February 1943

The Jews of the tradesmen's Ghetto were deeply shocked by the news that all Jews of the Peresike Ghetto had been killed. They realized that now their turn had come. This knowledge had urged them on to build the tunnel faster. On a certain clear night the full moon had risen in the sky. It spread its light onto the fields, onto the barbwire, leaving dark shadows on the fields. The policemen had moved away from the Ghetto wires and a human shadow slid inside. The Jews of the Ghetto led the arrival inside and hid him for the night. Next morning a truck delivered a load of boards to the carpenter shop. Waldrich the supervisor looked for people to unload the boards and ran into the new Jew. He ordered the Jew to work, but he refused and hid in the sleeping quarters. The Judenrat involved themselves in trying to resolve the problem. They offered Waldrich money to silence him. But Waldrich insisted that the unaccounted for Jew must give himself up. Next day he threatened that he would report the matter to the Germans. Later Waldrich spoke no more of the matter. The Judenrat was astonished that he did not ask for money to keep silent. They began to suspect that the new arrival was a spy. He was too busy moving about everywhere including the area where the tunnel was being built. He tried to go to places where he was told not to go. The suspicion had increased when during an inspection by the Gestapo he did not attempt to hide, as if he did not fear the Gestapo. He behaved as if had found out enough and was waiting for the Gestapo to arrest him so that he could pass on the information. Despite of all appearances, the Judenrat endevoured to save the stranger's life and locked him up in a cellar. When they brought him food, he insisted that somebody else should try it first to make sure that it was not poisoned. This was taken to be the best proof that he was guilty. In reality nobody thought of poisoning him. They asked him why he was snooping about everywhere and was behaving as if he wanted the Gestapo to arrest him. They searched his belongings and found nothing. They opened up the straw mattress on his bed and found pieces of paper with German writing on them: about the living conditions in the Ghetto, about the commercial dealings with the Ghetto police. They asked him why he became a German spy. He answered that he was taken to be slaughtered, they showed him the open ditch and said: 'you will die in two minutes unless you agree to be our agent in the tradesmen's Ghetto. When that Ghetto will be liquidated you will be transferred to the Ghetto in Wilno and the Warsaw Ghetto and you will be kept alive'. He agreed to collaborate with the Germans. But he could not remain alive in the Ghetto. He was killed by the Jews and was buried there. The Germans demanded from the Judenrat that the Jew who had smuggled into the Ghetto should be surrendered to them. The Judenrat answered that the man was not allowed to enter the Ghetto. He came in through the barbwire and, it seems, he left through the wire fence. It was suggested that the Germans should ask the Ghetto police, who guard the Ghetto day and night. That was the end of the matter. The Germans killed Burshtein, a young, capable youth, who negotiated with the Germans on various matters. He was the only one who was not killed during the slaughter in the Peresike Ghetto[1]

. Suddenly they came and arrested him. They tried to find out from him secrets from the Ghetto. Why was the stranger murdered? Why do the Jews buy arms? But he remained silent. After the liberation the following writing on the wall was found: 'I suffer, but I keep quiet. I will be killed, but I will say nothing'. Burshtin was arrested with Ruve Shabakovski, who was a locksmith. He worked in the army camp, where he stole arms and brought them to the Ghetto. They searched him and found a revolver. He was kept in the prison for a time, where he was shot later and buried in the prison yard.

The fourth slaughter

The 500 Jews in the tradesmen's Ghetto were divided into two groups. Better tradesmen were given an additional ration of 100 grams of bread. Early in the morning the Jews were made to stand in a line with the better tradesmen separated from the others. They were given their ration of bread and all went to work in the workshops. On the 7 of April[2]

the night skies began to light up slowly as if wakening from a heavy sleep. In the cool of the early morning people half asleep got up from their warm bunks, put on their clothes and hurried outside. There Reuter of the Gestapo was waiting. He was unperturbed and deliberate. His eyes were lit with a cynical smile. He was happy that he managed to deceive the Jews. He was running around the square with the rubber whip in his hand and was shouting at those who were late. The better tradesmen were standing in a separate row. He read out their names from a list and sent them to the workshops. He ordered the others to remain in the square. He left the Ghetto in his car. The policemen in a frenzy surrounded the Jews. The commotion was fearful. The Jews were running in all directions. Some managed to get through the barbwire and to get into the workshops. The policemen ran through the sleeping quarters and dragged out a few people, who were hiding and the whole group of 350[3]

persons was led out of the Ghetto. They were taken a few hundred metres from the Ghetto, on the other side of the road, where there was a big ditch left from a clay excavation. The police shot them their. Those who were left in the Ghetto could see through the windows the execution of their children, wives and mothers. Two people could not bear it and committed suicide. This was the last stage of the German annihilation. They did not bother to take the Jews out of town. They did not bring their einsatzgruppe [unit whose only duty was mass executions] to kill Jews, the local police, which was made up of local Belarusians, had learnt how to do it. Along the road, right next to the ditch, farmers travelled, workers went to their jobs and the police did nothing to hide their crime. It was done in town for everyone to see.[4]


[Page 327]

E. The tar and pitch factory in the village of Karnyshi

by Y. Yaffe

Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki

In the village of Karnyshi, 7 kilometres from Novogrudok, lived just one Jewish family, the Wiszniewski's. They had a pitch factory. Night and day the oven was burning as they were extracting pitch and turpentine from the tree stumps. Boba Bejle Reine was particularly active. She was a spirited woman. Apart from the factory, which they managed, they also leased the pitch factories near Ivie and the villages of Berdivki, Yaryn, Stanievicz and Martsivil. She educated her male children and grandchildren in the Yeshiva and sent the girls to the gimnasjum [Polish high school]. Her daughters Tzipe and Leje she married off to Rabbis: Reb Mojsze Lipa Brodna, who was a Rabbi in Tnievo, next to Pinsk and Reb Mendl Erlich, who was a Rabbi in Latvia. Itzchok Ber Wiszniewski, the son of Bejle Reine, was learned in religious subjects. He always carried with him a chapter of Techile min Moyel. He studied a 'page Gemorah' with an'eiver oirach' a man of learning who spent a night in their house. The family was at peace with their gentile neighbours. The farmers were proud of the Jewish family, who lived among them. Some of the farmers worked in the pitch factory and helped with working the land.

Itzchok Ber was 72 years old when the Germans came to Karnyshi to take the Jewish family to the slaughter in Novogrudok. He told his children to run and hide in the woods. He said that he was old and was not able to save himself. The children ran and Reb Itzchok Ber went alone to Novogrudok. He asked the German policeman to take him to the lavatory. There he hung himself, using his belt. This was the only suicide in the December 1941 slaughter. The other members of the Wiszniewski family saved themselves. Initially they were hiding in the forest and later they came to the Ghetto in Novogrudok and were working in the army barracks. The Ghetto was never at peace. The talk was always about the next slaughter. In the summer of 1942 the Germans abolished the Ghettos of Lubch, Delatych and Korelich and brought all Jews from those towns to Novogrudok[5]. At that stage a group of six people was formed: Benzion Movshovich, Ada Ziskind, Judl Ostashinski, two Jews from Karelich and Mojshe Wiszniewski, who undertook to lead the group to the Nalibok wilderness. They obtained arms and they contacted a partisan group in the forest. Behind Shchors they blundered on to a unit of policemen. Four escapees managed to elude them. Wiszniewski with another escapee got to a Russian partisan group in the Nalibok wilderness. The Russian partisans have disarmed them and accused them of being German spies. With great difficulty and daring they managed to escape from the Russian partisans.

At the time of the second slaughter in August 1942 all other surviving Wiszniewskis were in the Ghetto. Since a slaughter was expected, the Wiszniewskis dug a bunker under the house they stayed in the Ghetto. The men worked in the military barracks and the Germans selected them to remain alive. The Polish supervisor in the barracks asked Nachama Wiszniewski to help him prepare a list of the Jewish workers, both of those that were selected to live and those who will die. She refused, which meant that she chose to die. She left the barracks and went to the Ghetto. On the way she met someone and asked him if there were news and should she escape. He told her that she should go to the Ghetto, because nothing was going to happen. He was the one who prepared the lists for the Germans and he new that all those who will be in the Ghetto will be killed. When both of them returned to the Ghetto the man's mother shouted at him that he should not allow anyone to escape from the Ghetto, because there required quota will not be fulfilled and they (meaning mother and son) will be killed too. At the same time Mirl Wiszniewski was wrestling with a policeman who tried to prevent her from getting under the fence and escaping. He asked her if she had gold. Instead he got a ringing smack on the face. Before the policeman recovered, Mirl was on the other side of the fence. She escaped to the forest of Karnyshi. There she met her brother Mojshe, who got there from the Nalibok wilderness.

The second slaughter

All those that were in the (Peresike) Ghetto were led to die and buried in the ditches in Litovka. The bunker which the Wiszniewskis made, was full of people who were hoping to save their lives. Breathing in the bunker was difficult and a number left the bunker. Among those who got out was an asthma sufferer, who betrayed the rest, so that no one would survive.

In the Ghetto were Germans who were searching for Jews in hiding. Shoshe Golde, the 54 year old mother of the Wiszniewskis, went out of the bunker. Before she left she said goodbye to her children. It was difficult to breath in the bunker. Thirst and hunger were acute. But the Germans were still in the Ghetto. Somebody died in the bunker. They took him out at night and left him in the Ghetto. Fania Wiszniewski left the bunker, found another hiding place, covered herself in torn regs and did not move. The Germans were coming and going but they did not see her. The Germans found the bunker. They opened the hatch and ordered everybody out. Those that got out were killed. Rosa and Nachama Wiszniewski pressed themselves into the darkest corner of the bunker in remained. After the slaughter 1200 Jews from the surroundings of Novogrudok remained alive, but not for long. The Germans declared that sooner or later they will kill all Jews, as Hitler ordered. The surviving Wiszniewskis went back to the forest and were hiding. They were hiding not only from the Germans but also from policemen, the farmers and partisans. Only a few farmers, who supplied them with food at night, knew that they were hiding in the forest. On one occasion, when they returned to the bunker they were hiding in they found it destroyed by the Germans, who found out where they were hiding. They built in the winter another bunker and spent there another winter. Later partisans came more often to see them, because there were more of them in the forests. When ten Bielski partisans were killed, Mojshe Wiszniewski served as a guide. He led a group of 25 partisans to the house of Belous. The partisans took revenge for the spilled Jewish blood. Before the liberation they joined the unit of Ordzonikidze, where they saw the coming of the Soviets.

After the liberation Aba Wiszniewski was killed on the Baltic front.

Footnotes

  1. There were two people from Peresike according to the above article, counting the spy for the Germans. There must have been others, though few in number, who escaped and survived with the partisans. Return
  2. The date of the fourth slaughter given in the above article is wrong. It took place on the 7 May 1943. Return
  3. A difficulty arose in trying to translate the expression 'drit-halbun hundert' [see below] used to describe the number of those killed in the fourth slaughter. Several opinions were sought. The prevailing opinion was that this expression meant 350. If this is correct, a contradiction has arisen. On the memorial gravestone erected on the mass grave of those killed in the fourth slaughter the number of killed is given as 250. The number of Jews in the tradesmen's Ghetto before the fourth slaughter is generally assumed to have been 500. The number of Jews in the Ghetto after the fourth slaughter was given by various sources as 250 to about 300 [see eg. the article on p.287 'How 300 Jews saved themselves']. Those were the Jews who escaped from the Ghetto through the tunnel. After the war Jack Kagan took a count of the post-war survivors who escaped through the tunnel. He came up with the figure of more than 170 [including himself]. A number of people died in attempting to escape and later under various other circumstances. Return
  4. It may be of interest to compare the above description of the fourth slaughter with that in the article on p.287 'How 300 Jews saved themselves'. Return
  5. The roundup in the summer of 1942 involved a number of other towns, see eg. p. 302

    The Ghetto in Peresike' in which it is said: 'they gathered in the Novogrudok Ghetto all Jews from the surrounding townships such as Nalibok, Iviniec, Lubch, Karelicz, Delatych, Naisztot and any other place wherever there was a Jew in a village'. In Lubch about a quarter of the population was taken away for road work and slaughtered at Malyie Vorob'evichi. According to Botvinnik, in “Monuments of Genocide', 635 people were killed on the 8 August 1942 i.e. a day after the second slaughter in Novogrudok. Return

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