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Chapter 9
 

The Destruction of Pinsk Jewry
According to Enemy Records


In the final report prepared prior to the trial of war criminals involved in the massacre of the Jews of Pinsk, the prosecutor summed up the period of the ghetto in the town, as follows:

In the Pinsk ghetto, which was established in May 1942, some 30,000 Jews were crowded. Until October 1942 there were no more large-scale aktions against the Jews. On October 27th, 1942, Reichsführer of the S. S. Himmler gave the following order:
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Secret
To the Supreme Commander of the S. S. and Commander of the Police in Ukraine S. S. Obergruppenführer and Police General PRUTZMANN.


Kiev
The Headquarters of the Wehrmacht informs me that the region of Brisk-Gomel suffers increasingly from gang attacks, which bring into question the need for additional troops.

On the basis of the news, which has been reported to me, one must regard in the Ghetto of Pinsk the center for the movement of the gangs in the region of the Prifet marshes.

Therefore I order, in spite of economic considerations, the destruction and obliteration of the Ghetto of Pinsk. 1000 male workers may be spared, in the event that the operation allows for this, to be made available to the Wehrmacht, for the production of wooden prefabricated huts. These 1000 men must be kept in a well-guarded camp, and if security not be maintained, these 1000 are to be destroyed.

Signed, H. Himmler
(The above document is located in the Documentation Center in Berlin, and is cited also in Dr. Yosef Kermish's article: “Enemy Sources Tell of Jewish Heroism,” in Issues 6-7 of Yad Vashem News, from January 1956.)

The wheels of the Nazi machine began turning with their customary satanic efficiency, and after two days – on October 29th at 4:00 in the morning, special death squads arrived in Pinsk.

Of the preparations and the activity of these squads at the time of the massacre of the Jews of Pinsk, we have the operational report and summation of the officer in charge, which is brought in its entirety in the final report of the German prosecution, as stated above. This report was found among documents seized by the Red Army, in the 15 th Regimental Police, and was first published in Davar [Israeli daily newspaper] on February 6th , 1944, as a telegram sent by Iliah Ehrenberg via the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in Moscow.

The full translation of this document was published in Davar on November 15th , 1953.

This report was also published in the Russian book Damning Documents , Part II, pages 34-6, Moscow, 1945 and following is the text:

Report of Conclusions from Experience

[1 KB] Click here to extend the picuture After the order to set out immediately was changed, on October 27th, 1942 the company received the order to report on October 28th at nine o'clock in the evening to Kobrin. The company reached Kobrin by car as ordered, and from there was ordered to proceed to Pinsk, reaching the western approach to the city at 4:00 a.m. on October 29th, 1942.

In a consultation which took place on October 28th, 1942 in Pinsk at Commander Kursk's office, an agreement was reached that two platoons, the 2/pol. 15 and R. A. 2 (mounted), would close off the city from the outside, while 10/pol. 15 and 11/pol. 11 less two platoons was to engage in searching the ghetto.

On 11/pol. 11 less one platoon (which would be excused from the searches in the afternoon) were charged with the tasks of guarding the concentration place; ensuring the deportations to the place of execution, which was approximately four kilometers' distance from Pinsk; and sealing off of the execution site.

In the latter task during the aktion, men on horseback were used. This was very effective, as at the time of the attempted escape of 150 Jews all the escapees were apprehended, even though a few of them had managed to reach a distance of a few kilometers.

The ghetto was sealed off at 04:30, and it became clear that owing to the early encircling, which was carried out in secret, the closure was completed quickly, and the Jews had no chance of escape.

According to the orders, the search of the ghetto was to begin at 6:00 a.m. Because of the darkness at that hour, the beginning of the search was delayed by half an hour. The Jews, who had meanwhile observed the activity, in large part gathered in the streets on their own initiative, and with two policemen, it was possible to collect thousands of Jews within the first hour at the gathering place.

When other Jews saw the direction of the march, they too joined the group. Therefore the S. D. officer was not able to sort the people at the gathering place, because of the large crowd, which had suddenly appeared (according to the plan they had been scheduled to process 1000 to 2000 people on the first day). The first search ended at 17:00, without incident. On the first day nearly 10,000 were executed. During the night hours the platoon waited on call at the soldier's club.

On October 30th , the second search of the ghetto took place; on the 31st , the third search took place; on November 1st, the fourth. Altogether 15,000 Jews were brought to the concentration area. Sick Jews, including sick children, who had been left behind, were immediately put to death in the ghetto. Altogether 1200 were killed inside the ghetto.

This all proceeded without incident, with one exception. After being promised that Jews who had hidden gold in the ground would be spared, on condition that they inform the police of the hiding place, one Jew came forward and claimed that he had hidden a large quantity of gold. A policeman accompanied him to the hiding place. Since the Jew kept hesitating, and demanded that the policeman accompany him to the attic, the policeman returned with him to the concentration place in the ghetto. There, the Jew refused to sit on the ground with all of the other Jews, who were ordered to do so. Suddenly he attacked one of the riders, grabbed his rifle and his stick and started attacking the rider with the stick. Only by the intervention of the other members of the platoon was the attack aborted. As there was no way of using guns in the incident, the man was hit on the head with an axe, and fell to the ground. He was killed on the spot.

On November 1st at 5:00 p.m. a platoon was used to place an external seal on the ghetto, and Mounted Unit number 2 was ordered back to base. No other extraordinary incidents took place.

On November 2nd, 1942 at 8:00 a.m. the platoon was released from its special duty in Pinsk and was ordered back to its base. The unit arrived at 1:00 p.m. in Kobrin and resumed all its posts.
Conclusions
  1. It is essential to give the platoons carrying out the actions of the searching: axes, spades, etc., as it has transpired that almost all the doors were closed and locked and it was only possible to break them down by force.
  2. If there is no visible entrance to an attic, one must take into account the possibility that people are hiding there. It is necessary to conduct an exacting search of every attic, and when required – even from outside.
  3. Even if homes have no cellars, many people hide in the narrow crawl space between the ground and the house. These places should be broken into from outside and searched with the aid of police dogs [in the days of the aktion in Pinsk the dog “Asta” was extremely effective in the searches]; or one should toss in a hand grenade, which in any case causes the Jews to come out of their hiding places.
  4. One must check with a sharp instrument all around the outside of the houses, since countless people hide underground in well-concealed holes.
  5. I hereby recommend the use of youngsters to discover these hiding places, using security to prevent their being killed. By this means good results have been achieved.
  6. No experience was acquired during the sealing action.
Signed, Saur
Hauptmann of Schutz-Polizei and Brigade Commander


The commander of the second platoon of Police Battalion 310 of the 15th Police Regiment – Hauptmann (Captain) Helmut Saur was born in Bremen in 1914 and currently resides in Nürnberg-Fürth, on 6 Stiller Winkel Street. He works as a clerk in a store. The judicial proceedings against him took place in 1964 and he was set free on bail, because he had already been jailed twice. In his interrogation he denied that his companies had killed sick people and children. Its role was – he said – to surround the ghetto, go through houses and bring Jews to the central gathering place. He had told his soldiers to tell the children that they were being taken to work.

“Saur's description in the above report” – says in his final summation Prosecutor Dr. Arzt – “was confirmed in its entirety by the Jewish witnesses.” And to be sure the testimony, which we have brought above in detail, served as damning evidence against Saur and all the other criminals involved in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews in Pinsk. Eyewitnesses traveled to Germany in order to testify in trials against the criminals.

This military report, which reports the cold-blooded mass murder in the style of “Lessons from a Military Action,” sheds light on the horrible state of the Jews of Pinsk: whether in their attempts to escape; whether in a face-to-face attack of one Jew against a Nazi rider; and whether in the digging in of “countless Jews” in their hiding places, in order to delude the enemy and avoid his satanic plot.


Know the Murderers!
Following is additional evidence from the Germans who participated in the murder of the Jews of Pinsk.

Ernest Bigalk related, that he had worked under Saur and had taken part in the action in the framework of the company, which had surrounded the ghetto from outside (most of the German witnesses for some reason served in companies who were outside the ghetto, not inside it…). In his opinion, the combing of the ghetto was carried out by…S. D. people. He had entered the ghetto after the external closure was removed, had seen in the streets the bodies of children and adults who had been killed, but did not estimate their number as 1200.

Following a further interrogation, he admitted that members of his company had also participated in the internal search of the ghetto. Bigalk is currently a supervisor in the Berlin Judicial Service – Spandau.

Walter Rüberg, who had served in the armored company of the 15th Regiment, had tried to reach the execution point in his vehicle, but had been sent back by S. D. people. En route he had seen groups of about 100 people each, mostly women and children. Among the marchers were also women carrying dead children in their arms. Several of them had tried to throw themselves under the wheels of the armored vehicle in which he was traveling; therefore he was forced to stop and wait until they had passed. Leading the groups were the “Schupo” (Schutz-Polizei). Rüberg is now Commander of the Criminal Police in West Germany.

Waiter Wilhelm Rohne, who currently lives in Berlin-Neuaholen, took part in the search, witnessed dead bodies in the streets, but did not shoot.

Kurt Segner, now in Berlin-Stieglitz, was in an armored company. He had seen people being led to the death pits by the Green Police and S. S. men with dogs. En route they had shot men and women who lagged behind and, with their boots, had pushed their bodies into ditches at the side of the road.

Erich Hirsekorn, who lives in Berlin-Rodov, had seen the aktion through the ghetto fence, and had been embarrassed at the sight of the behavior of the “Green” Police. He had seen dead bodies in the streets and a group of some 150-200 Jews, being led in a certain direction. The police also had had dogs, who had awakened in him particular fears. His officer, Kokot, disapproved of the punishment of the Jews and ordered his men not to visit the ghetto out of curiosity. Hirsekorn is currently a building consultant.

Below we will bring a partial list of collaborators in the annihilation of the Jews of Pinsk.

The commanding officer of the 15 th Police Regiment was Emil Kursk, who was born in Rawel, Estonia in 1893, and died in 1944.

Eight months after the destruction of the ghetto, over which he had commanded, Kursk was removed from his position. It turned out that his wife Helga nee Feldhoin (born in Tallinn, Estonia) was part Jewish of the first degree. At the time of this writing she resides in the United States.

Other staff of this battalion, who remained alive at the end of the War, thus far have not been located. Battalion 306 was the second battalion of the 15th Police Regiment. Its commander was Paul Landwehr (born 1906, died 1945). His adjutant was Captain (ober-Lieutenant) of the Schutz-Polizei Heinrich Plantius (born 1914), who today serves as head Commissioner of Frankfurt/Main. Another staff officer in this company was Eckstein, who also, like Plantius, today holds the rank of captain in the Frankfurt Police.

Commander of the third company of the 306 Battalion was Captain Johann Josef Kuhr (born 1916), who today serves as Commissioner of the third ward in Frankfurt. It is known that a few years ago he attempted to organize a meeting of his former soldiers, but not many took part.

To this same company also belonged: Platoon Officer Heinrich Gross (born 1911). He currently lives in Frankfurt. Platoon Commander Gerd Kurze is now a government supervisor in Frankfurt. According to his last testimony, the following served together with him: Fritz Jeuschede, now a police officer in Frankfurt, and Scholl, now an officer in the security police in Frankfurt. His substitute was Hans Huth, now a clerk in the Frankfurt Police. Also serving with him were: Kleina, now a clerk in the Hessen Police, and Heinrich Lamm, currently an officer in the Frankfurt Police.

Wilhelm Friedrich, Max Brinkman, who currently lived in Bad Neuhoim, was in the same company and testified that he had taken part in the sealing action prior to the liquidation of the ghetto of Pinsk. But he had heard from residents of the area that between twelve eighteen and thousand Jews had been shot to death there.

Battalion 310 was the third battalion in the 15th Police Regiment which took part in the action in Pinsk.

The 2nd Platoon under the command of Helmut Saur, who wrote the report on the action, published above, was part of this battalion. Its Commanding Officer was Major Bruno Holling, who died of his wounds in Russia. His adjutant was Edward Psotta (born 1908), currently a wholesaler-merchant in München.

The 2nd Mounted Police took a most active part in the liquidation. Its commander was Major Wilhelm Hofmann (born 1908), who lives in Hamburg. In his investigation, he admitted seeing dead women and children. His adjutant was Otto Migge (born 1906), who currently resides in Blauenberg/a. Elbe. The platoon commander of the 1st platoon in this battalion was Wilhelm Vestring (born 1908) – currently Chief of Police in Hamburg. He was arrested in 1961 and testified that he took part in the external sealing-off of the ghetto, and did not see any attempts of Jews to escape, but did hear, from within the ghetto, screams and crying of people being taken from their homes.

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Group of Pinskers
on a Martyrs's Grave

The Security Police (Sicherheitspolizei) and the S. D. played a decisive role in the murder of the Jews of Pinsk. The man in charge from this institution of murder was Gruppenführer (General) S. S. of Ukraine Dr. Max Thomas, who died after the war under an assumed name. The Commander in Pinsk was Sturmbannführer (Major) S. S. Dr. Pütz, who killed himself in 1945.

To this arm of the Nazi armies in Pinsk also belonged:
  1. Wilhelm Rasp, now residing in München.
  2. Criminal Police Superintendant Kall-Eiel, today Hans Dohman.
  3. Heinrich Geigenscheder – who now lives in Gilching.
  4. The driver Patik, born in Brin.
  5. Adolph Petsch, from Sudetenland, who confessed that he took part in the mass murder of Jews, and by his own hand shot at between 6000 and 7000 Jews (according to Maariv , Israeli daily newspaper, from September 18th, 1962).
  6. Msyk, born in Breslau.
  7. Willy Birkel from Ludwikshaffen.
  8. Halbek from Kaiserslautern.
  9. Josef Wagner, a German from the Volga region.
  10. Gocy, from Rheinland.
  11. Koch, also from Rheinland.
The final six in this list are wanted by the West German Police and have not been located. Also still missing are: S. S. Police Regional Commander Tesmann and Gendarme Commander from the same office: Pokenhans. At the end of summer 1962, Josef Kuhr, Heinrich Plantius, Rudole Eckert and Adolph Petsch, were all arrested. Their trial will take place in Frankfurt. The details regarding the Civil Authorities and their head, Regional Commissioner (Gebietskommissar) Paul Gerhard Klein and his lieutenant, Alfred Ebner, have been given above in the chapter dealing with the establishment of the civil authority in the city. [98]
 

Additional Material


This material is not included in the original sections on The Holocaust and the Revolt.

Newer material on Nazi German activity in the Ghetto of Pinsk appears on the website:

http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Belarus/PinskGhetto-YalkutMoreshet.htm

Pinsk Jews in the Ghetto: Current State of Affairs, by Nachum Boneh, translated into English by Thia Persoff

An article from Yalkut Moreshet , Number 64, November 1997, Mordechai Anilevicz Study and Research Center, Israel.

From another volume of the Pinsk Memorial Book, Mr. Boneh has added the following material regarding the outcome of the trial of some of the murderers from Pinsk:


The Trial of Seven of the Murderers of Pinsk Jewry
In our work “The Holocaust and the Revolt” which was published in the Pinsk book, volume II, pages 323-388, we have detailed in chapter nine the “Destruction of the Jews of Pinsk According to Enemy Documents” (pages 350-353).

Much of the material in this chapter we took from the final report of the prosecutor, Dr. Arzt, from the Central Office for the Research of the Nazi War Crimes in Ludwigsburg, which was written in preparation for the trial of the war criminals who had been involved in murdering the Jews of Pinsk.

In this above chapter there is a list of thirty-six of the Nazis involved in the murders, but only seven of them stood trial before the Court of Grave Crimes in Frankfurt.

The preparations for the trial took ten whole years, from 1961 to 1971.

Sixty-seven files burst with damning evidence, which was gathered from the testimony of some 200 witnesses – from the USA, USSR, Canada, Poland, Israel and other countries.

In Israel the testimony was recorded in March 1962 before the Chief Justice of the Tel Aviv District Court, Dr. Nathan Ben Zakai. Those testifying were: Manya Shenberg, Aryeh Dolinko, Golda Galetski and Chayah Sherman. That same month Avraham Perchik testified before the Justice of the Peace in Haifa. In April 1962 additional testimony was taken in the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Tel Aviv.

In 1964 the following went to Germany to testify in court in Braunschweig, West Germany: Aryeh Dolinko, Manya Shenberg, Tamar Kobrinchik, Chayah Sherman and Avraham Perchik.

An investigating judge from the court in Frankfurt traveled especially to the USSR in order to record testimony for this trial.

The trial itself lasted fourteen months, from September 1971 to February 6th, 1973.

The seven who stood trial were:

Alfred Ebner, age 59 (the age given here of the defendants is their age at the end of the trial). He resides in Stuttgart. His occupation is salesman.

He served as regional Deputy Commissioner (Gebiets-Kommissar) in Pinsk from September until the total annihilation of the ghetto in December 1942.

According to the testimony, as published in the present work, in Volume II, Ebner was the acting Commissioner and of his doings many details are known.

He was presented at the trial as the main defendant, who had planned and carried out the destruction of the Jews of Pinsk (and as one who shot many Jews with his own hands).

His attorney claimed at the trial, that Ebner was ill to the extent that he was unable to stand trial, and he presented a medical document to prove his claim.

In its verdict the court decided that Ebner had “played dumb and therefore the trial procedures against him were delayed. The psychiatrist who examined him stated that this act on his part may end at any time.”

It should be mentioned that Ebner enjoyed his freedom during all the days of his investigation and of his trial, in exchange for DM 200,000 bail. The other defendants also were free on bail of between 10,000 and 25,000 Deutsche Marks.

Adolph Petsch , age 68. He resides in Budenheim in Hesse. He is a skilled worker. He served in the Nazi Security Services (S. D.).

He refused to speak in court, and the prosecutors were forced to use his own testimony in previous procedures, where he admitted to killing, together with others, 7000 Jews, children, women and men, each separately by a bullet in the head. “My officer ordered me to shoot – he claimed – actually, I had doubts about shooting innocent people, but I said in my heart, that we must carry out the order of the Führer, because we have been chosen to kill the Jews, and we must carry this out. I didn't think about what would happen to me, were I to refuse to shoot.” Also he was accused of assisting to kill an additional 12,700 Jews at the death pits.

In the verdict, it was said that “the court had considered a life sentence for this defendant,” but instead he was sentenced to only fifteen years imprisonment. Petsch will not serve his fifteen years in prison, for “health reasons.”

The five other defendants mentioned below held, until the beginning of the investigation against them in 1961, high-level jobs as police officers: three of them in Frankfurt, one in Hamburg and one in Düsseldorf.

Heinrich Gross , from Frankfurt – was a platoon commander in Company 3 in the 306th Battalion, of the 15th police Regiment. He himself shot one Jewish woman. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

Heinrich Plantius
– age 58, from Frankfurt. He was an adjutant in the headquarters of Battalion 306.

For helping to murder 16,200 Jews in Pinsk in October and November 1942, he was sentenced to four years in jail.

Rudolf Eckert , from Hamburg – assisted in the murder of 18,200 Jews and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Heinz Dieter Talz , from Düsseldorf, as an officer in Battalion 306 helped to kill 8000 Jews. He was sentenced to three years' prison.

Johann Kuhr – 57, from Frankfurt, was an officer in Company 3, Battalion 306. For assisting in the murder of 16,200 people and for shooting six Jews with his own hand, he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

All of the above were not allowed to serve in a public capacity for a period of five years.

The lawyers who defended the accused, brought the usual defense of diminished responsibility, because they had just been following orders, “whereas the generals who gave these orders are still free in Germany and enjoy fat government pensions.” As to our clients – said the defense attorneys – the cruel Nazi regime had broken their backs.

The jury rejected the claim of the defense that the accused had been in danger, ostensibly, for their lives, had they refused to carry out the orders.

“The error of the defendants was” – says the verdict – “their assumption, that they had to carry out the orders. Their actions were in such a major degree beyond any law or justice, that even a man with limited faculties as the accused Adolph Petsch, could comprehend this. Their collaboration in the cruel murder of children, women and men is partnership in crime.”

The court based its leniency in the punishment of the accused on the grounds that each of them “had a misguided opinion regarding the carrying out of orders, and they carried them out with certain resistance – some with more, some with less.”

Also they took into account the suffering of the defendants during the ten years since being arrested, when they had been suspended from their jobs and their positions.

Almost all of the newspapers of West Germany totally ignored this trial, which was one of the larger trials against Nazi war criminals ever held in Frankfurt.

The exception was Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which published detailed coverage of the trial and of the sentencing. The above information on the trial is based on twenty-four photocopied articles from this paper's coverage and on a few articles and news items that appeared in the local Israeli press regarding the trial.

– Nahum Boneh, Pinsk , volume I, Part 2, pages 494-5.


Chapter 10

 

Survivors and Their Rescuers


On the 14th of July 1944, the liberation forces of the Red Army entered Pinsk. Of the entire Jewish community of Pinsk, seventeen (!) haggard and afflicted Jews came out of their hideouts. They had hidden under floors or in attics for almost 650 days and nights, hungry and thirsty and terrified of the death that had threatened them at any moment.

These were: Malkah Finkel Shenberg and her nine-year old daughter Renya, her brother-in-law Mark Shenberg and his friend Sioma Yelinsky – these four appeared from a common hiding place. Four others who had hidden in an attic all this time were: Tamar (Tema) Garbuz Kobrinchuk, her six-year old son Hayim; her sister-in-law Fira Silverman Yantzman, and her 16-year old son Lolek (who died of tuberculosis a few months after liberation).

Six persons came out of another hiding place: Milya Ratnovski Cohen and her mother Zlata Ratnovski; the baker Yisrael Cooper, his wife Chavah, his daughter Sonya and his brother's daughter Chayah. And these came out having hidden separately all this time: Chayah Sherman, David Gleibman-Globe, Gutka Fuhrman Feldman. Everyone who had survived in hiding alone had his own miraculous story of his escape from death. Their rescuers were Christian men or women who had risked their lives to save Jews.

It was very dangerous for Christians to hide Jews, for this offense was punishable by death. There were various reasons for this behavior on the part of the Gentiles: some of the rescuers were driven by pure human conscience, out of a sense of human responsibility, or because of former friendship; some took advantage of the situation to improve their own financial status by taking over anything of value the hidden Jew possessed; some continued hiding Jews for fear of the death penalty imposed on Gentiles on the discovery of the hidden Jews in their home. Such Gentiles were few and could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Apart from a few exceptions, such as the Pravoslavic priest, who had donated his gold cross at the time of the gold tax, and the other Gentiles we shall mention below, the entire Gentile population waited passively and even happily for the extermination of the Jews and the opportunity to steal their possessions.

Though the Germans had published an order, some time before the ghetto was destroyed “not to touch government property on the threat of death,” the Christian inhabitants of the town hoped that, in spite of this order, they too would get their share of the loot after the official German looting. We would, therefore, do well to mention the names of the rescuers when we describe the miraculous saving of the survivors, in grateful recognition of those few exceptional Gentiles. Unfortunately we are unable to give a full account of everything that happened to all the seventeen. The stories that are related here however tell us something of what happened to the survivors.


Malkah (Manya) Finkel Shenberg

Malkah (Manya) Finkel Shenberg tells us the following story:

“Together with my eight-year old daughter, Renya, I lived in the ghetto near Lahishinska Street between Bolotna and Zavala streets. We set up a hiding place together with four other persons. We had succeeded in hiding ourselves [2 KB] Click here to extend the picture for two weeks after the destruction of the ghetto but for lack of food and water we were forced to leave our hiding place. Towards evening, dressed in my late husband's warm coat, I went out into the street with my daughter.We passed through alleys and backyards and reached our house on 30 Karmelitska Street. We had had two houses there – the one in the backyard was in ruins and empty, and we went there first. But my daughter, who only weighed ten kilograms and looked like a child of five, was exhausted, and therefore I decided, towards four p.m., to go to the second house at the back of the street where our Gentile neighbors lived. When I knocked at the door, the dogs in the house started to bark. Nina, the twelve-year-old daughter of our neighbor, Shura Dohmatska, looked out of one of the windows. When she saw us, she opened the door. 'What is the matter with you,' the mother said to us angrily, 'do you want to bring death on our house?' 'Don't be afraid,' I answered her, 'We'll stay here just for the day, and when it gets dark we will leave. Just give us some water and a piece of bread.' She gave us water and bread, and disappeared. When she came back after a few minutes, she told me that my brother-in-law, Marek Shenberg, had already been hiding in the cellar for several days. He had managed to hide and had escaped from the column of people who were led to their death on the day on which the ghetto was destroyed. She went down to tell him we had come. (Marek Shenberg was killed in a car accident in Europe in 1955).

“Both of us went down to the cellar and remained there. After the destruction of the small ghetto, Marek's friend, Sioma Yelinski, came to our hideout (he is currently living in Germany). He was taken there by Dohmatska, at the request of Alek, Sioma's Polish friend. From the month of January 1943 the four of us stayed there.

“So as to camouflage the cellar, the Gentile woman destroyed the part of the house above it and placed all the rubble over it. The part of the house that remained intact was divided into two parts: Dohmatska and her two daughters, Nina and three-year-old Lolya, lived in one room and the kitchen; and German officers occupied two other rooms, with a separate entrance. Dohmatska would take the clothes we had given her to keep for us and exchange them with the peasants for food. She supplied us with potatoes, bread and water. On holidays she would try to add something to the 'menu' from the leftovers from the German kitchen where she worked.

“Alek, Yelinski's friend, was a contact man for the partisans, and in September 1943 he brought two pistols to our hideout to enable the two men to join the partisans. Marek and Sioma also stole two grenades from the officers' quarters. One day two Gentiles came to lead them to the forest. When they were about to cross the river the two ordered them to strip naked. Marek and Sioma understood that these men intended to rob them of their clothes and arms and to kill them. After a fierce struggle with the men, Marek and Sioma fled and returned to our hiding place. Marek was badly wounded and I took care of him until he recovered.

“In March 1944 the Germans discovered a partisan camp in the woods near Pinsk. My address, which had been given to the partisans by our contact man, was found among the papers in the camp. The Germans came to Dohmatska's house to look for us. Nina, her daughter, who was alone at home, started to cry and said that there were no Jews in their home, that she hated them and that, if they were to come, she would immediately hand them over to the Germans. The Germans of course searched the house. Luckily Nina was clever and placed the dog and her puppies so that they were above the cellar entrance, and our hideout was not discovered. We were determined to use the pistols and grenades we had, were we discovered by the Germans. After a few quiet days, we returned to the cellar where we remained for about another four months. Before their retreat, the Germans set fire to many houses in the town and among these was the house on 30 Karmelitska Street. Somehow we managed to get out of the cellar of the burning house and hide in the backyard. Three days later the Russians arrived.”

Chaim Tamir

[3KB] Click here to extend the pictureTamar (Tema Kobrinchuk nee Garbuz, Ramat Gan, gives the following account:
“On the night of the 27th of October 1942, I woke up to the sound of shooting and together with all the inhabitants of the ghetto I went outside. Holding the hand of my four-year-old son, I ran in panic, trying to find a place to hide. Suddenly I heard the voice of my mother Chanah calling me. I went to her. 'Go into the cellar, and I shall remain and, if necessary, give up my life for yours', she said to me. She pushed aside the cupboard that covered the entrance to the cellar and we went down. I heard the cupboard being replaced. In the cellar there were many people. We lay down, prepared for the worst to come. After a short while, we heard the Nazis shout: 'Everyone out!' I heard one come in and ask my mother 'Where are they, all of them?' and she answered: 'They have already left.' He told her to come outside with him and everything became quiet again. We hid in the cellar for three days. On the fourth day we again heard the Germans approaching our hiding place. When they discovered us, they started to take the boards out of the floor and pulled some of the members of our group out. I, my son, and my sister-in-law, Fira Silverman (of the Tantzman family, now living in Ramat Gan), and her 14-year old son Lolek, pushed with all our might and succeeded in crawling under the furnace installations. The Nazis continued to threaten that they would throw grenades into the cellar if we did not come out. I whispered to my sister-in-law: 'Better to be shattered to pieces by a grenade than to fall into their hands'. And so we remained where we were. The Nazis went away with their victims and their loot, and for the next weeks we lay under the furnace. We ate some rotten vegetables that had been left in the cellar and often went out at night to search for breadcrumbs near the house. We gave to the children whatever we found.

“One day, about two weeks later, we heard a Jew praying in the house above us. 'I think it is your father', I said to my sister-in-law. She went up cautiously and indeed it was her father, David Tantzman. Apparently he had been hiding in the firewood shed all the time, and had fed himself on sugar. He had lost his mind from so much suffering. We took him into the cellar by force, but he insisted on going back to the house the next day, and laying down on his bed. We heard the voice of one of the men who came to search the house and who handed Tantzman over to the Nazis. They took him outside and shot him. The next day we heard the local Gentile people under the supervision of the Nazis, going through the house and emptying it of all its contents. We heard them say: 'I never imagined that the Jews would leave so much behind. We'll come back and search the cellar tomorrow; they have probably hidden all their valuables there.'

“We knew that this time we would be discovered and we decided to leave our hideout. I thought of trying to reach the Christian Medianovski, who had been the supervisor of my job in the harbor during the ghetto-period, and whom I knew to be a decent and honest man. With the faint hope that he would agree to hide us, we left the cellar early in the evening. We groped around in the dark, stumbling over corpses and objects strewn all over the street. All of a sudden we heard people talking. These were Poles and Nazis. We hurried back to the cellar. The next evening it was a Saturday; we ventured out again. We were lost, not knowing where to turn. My four-year-old son saw our confusion and said: 'Mother, I'll show you how to get out.' He took us to the fence of the ghetto. Here was a low tunnel, which the children had made when they had played in the ghetto. We crawled through the tunnel and found ourselves in the old cemetery. From there we went out into Zavalna Street. On the way we decided that, if Medianovski was not at home, we would shut ourselves in the privy in the backyard and wait for him there. But when we came to Krayevska Street, where he lived in a two-story house, we saw a light in his apartment on the second floor. We climbed the stairs and I knocked on the door. Medianovski himself opened the door. Upon seeing us, he began to tremble with fear. He let us in and bolted the door. A few minutes passed before he calmed down and started to question us: Where had we been until now and what had happened to us? While he was talking to us he prepared something to eat. We fell upon the food and devoured it. 'Now', he said to us, 'climb up to the attic and sleep but tomorrow evening you will have to leave the house. Any Christian who hides a Jew in his home is liable to be tortured and shot. 'This week for example', he continued, 'a Christian was caught hiding Jews. The Nazis dragged him out to the marketplace and tore him to pieces.'The next day Medianovski had visitors who had come to discuss the trading of Jewish property, and he was unable to contact us. The following day he went to work and when he returned in the evening, he came up to us and told us that we must leave because our staying there was a death sentence for him. I answered him: 'If you throw us out, I'll go and tell them that we hid with you for two weeks.'The man started to march up and down the room, smoking one cigarette after another. Finally he decided: 'In the meantime you can stay here, but at the first opportunity I'll take you somewhere else.'He never got that opportunity and we remained in that attic for about twenty months. These were months of everlasting suffering, because of hunger, cold and dirt. Our main food consisted of potatoes, one every two days. Worst of all was the feeling of insecurity, the fear for our lives and the fear that Medianovski himself might lock us up or kill us. My son, who was then four and a half, cried of hunger and this endangered us all. I would grab him and try to shut his mouth. Quite often I scratched his face till the blood started to flow. Three times Medianovski tried to grab the crying child and strangle him, and with the little strength I had left, I warded him off and saved the child. The day we saw armed soldiers marching down the street, we did not dare to believe that they were really Russian soldiers. Another half a day went by before I gathered the courage to go into the street. I met two soldiers and stood in front of them perplexed. I saw that they too were startled, and they asked me, amazed, 'Who are you?' 'A Jewess', I answered. One of them said: 'Now the whole world is open to you'.”

Chayah Sherman (Tel Aviv) tells us this story:
“My father was the manager of the tailor-workshop in the ghetto. On the 22 nd of December 1942, the day before the destruction of the small ghetto, the Germans took back the clothes they had given us to sew, and which were not yet ready. This was a sign that our end was imminent. When darkness fell my father took me out of the ghetto to Albrekhtovska Street, where Bronislav Niemotko waited for me and took me to his house in Unitska Street. Niemotko had come to Pinsk from a village near Bialystok in the days of the Russians, to study at the auto mechanics' school, and he remained there when the Germans came. He was the son of a peasant and the Germans put him in charge of three plots on which vegetables were grown for the army. He lived with a Gentile family and next to their house stood the abandoned house of Feldman with a vegetable garden in the yard. One of the Jewish women working in the garden had set up a hiding place in that house but she lost her life in the last action while on her way to the hideout. Niemotko put me in there and gave me a daily ration of food. In February 1943, my brother came to our hiding place. Not long before the destruction of the small ghetto he had tried to reach the partisans, but was attacked and robbed on his way to the forest and had to return to town where he hid for some time in the old bathhouse on Brovarna Street. From there he came to me. He stayed with me for two months. The house we lived in had been marked for demolition. My brother tried to reach the partisans again and we lost track of him. I went to live in Niemotko's room, no longer in hiding. Together with Bronek I intended to join the partisans, but I wanted an Aryan identity card. I cut my picture out of a photograph to prepare the desired identity card. Unfortunately the photographer had been a student at the same high school and recognized me. He informed the police but we were warned in time and I hid with a Polish woman for a week. During this time Niemotko rented a new apartment with a separate entrance and I moved in there. I sat in the room without every going out and read books that Niemotko borrowed from a Polish lawyer (who was quite surprised by the number of books he read). Finally I received an identity card from the peasants in the name of Helena Sholomitska, for identity cards of the peasants had no photographs.

“One day a Polish policeman came to the room by chance and found me but he did not hand me over to the Germans. He advised me to move to a village and we went to the peasant who had furnished me with the identity card. This peasant was associated with the partisans but he refused to take us to the woods to join them. He even tried to take the identity card away from me – but he failed. We returned to town in May 1944 and rented an apartment in a distant neighborhood beyond the railroad track. It was dangerous to be in the town and after two weeks we moved to the village of Lubel, to the home of a charwoman who had once worked for us. There we heard the news of the liberation.”

Milya Cohen nee Ratnovsky – Ramat Gan
She is the only one of the survivors whose story has been written by her rescuer, Zofia Fiodorchenko, and it was printed in the Jewish paper Volksstimme , and published in Warsaw. In the issue of the 15th of April 1958, in the column entitled “They Who Rescued,” Fiodorchenko describes the life of Milya and her mother and her story is confirmed by Milya's account given here.
“Zofia Fiodorchenko, a pious Christian woman, about 70 years old, had worked in our home for many years. When the Germans came we had to discontinue all contact with her because any contact between Gentiles and Jews was strictly forbidden. The woman went to work at the bakery shop and, in spite of the prohibition, helped us in exchange for money or valuables, so as to avail herself of liquor of which she was very fond. The day we moved into the ghetto she pinned the yellow patch on her clothes and helped us move our belongings and some firewood. While we were in the ghetto I worked at the polyclinic. On these occasions I would drop in at Fiodorchenko's house on Marshalka Fosha Street and eat to my heart's content. We came to an agreement that, when the time came, we would hide in her home, my mother, the late Zlate (who died in Ramat Gan in 1962) and I.

“Four days before the destruction, a friend, the wife of the baker Cooper, told us of the pits in Dobrovole and of their hideout in the house of a Gentile who, when the time had come, refused to keep his promise. We asked Fiodorchenko to agree to hide the four members of the Cooper family in addition to the two of us. Cooper bribed her with liquor and cigarettes and she agreed to our request. We divided the cellar in Fiodorchenko's house into two parts, and hid ourselves (six persons) in the concealed part. A friend of Fiodorchenko's, Elshbieta Baranovska, also lived in the old woman's room. We gave her some valuables too (a watch and a ring), and the two of them looked after us. We were given hunger rations twice a day: a little soup and a piece of bread.”
 
“I had a very difficult time,”
Fiodorchenko writes in her account in the newspaper,
“I cooked and baked bread for myself and for the six people in the cellar. I had the additional job of washing underwear for the Germans to prove to my neighbors and acquaintances that I lived only on my earnings. Once there was a knock on the door at 3 o'clock in the morning. 'Those are policemen,' I said to Baranovska. And I was right. First of all a big dog burst into the room. All of a sudden something unexpected happened. Our cat, who had just had a litter of kittens, jumped out of the wicker-basket in the corner of the room and scratched the dog's eyes. The policemen had great difficulty in chasing her away from the dog. Without paying attention to what was going on in the room, they took their dog and left.

“A few months later the Gentile women started to ask us to change our faith, saying that they could not agree to hide Jews but only Christians. They kept pestering us with their demands until the 9th of August 1943. On that day their priest calmed them down and told them to take care of us even as we were, and he would bear the responsibility for the 'sin'.

“We went into a high cornfield, but we could not go on hiding there so we went back to the stable in the backyard of Fiodorchenko's house where we remained another four and a half months. At the end of December 1943 we returned to the cellar. The old woman, Baranovska, could not keep from telling her son, the policeman and his family about us and our hideout. To our surprise they did not inform the Germans. Our situation improved somewhat when they started to bring us some knitting to do: this was a source of income for us. With the money we earned we were able to pay for the food and the medicine needed for the frequent illnesses we suffered as a result of our terrible living conditions.

“About a month before the liberation, an intensive search for partisans was made in the town. The policeman, Baranovski, warned us in time and we succeeded in fortifying the hideout and concealing it more adequately. After the liberation we kept in touch with the two women. The Cooper family took care of Fiodorchenko, and my mother and I helped Baranovska. Until the day she died we sent her parcels and after her death we paid for the tombstone on her grave.”

David Gleibman-Globe (New York) writes about this period in the course of his account in the chapter below: “Alone in the Partisan Divisions.”
“Now that I had a pistol and bullets I felt more secure. I knew the Germans would have to pay dearly if they caught me and that I would not fall into their hands alive.

“When I was looking for a shelter I remembered two old Christian women of about seventy who had helped some Jews in the first days of the massacre in August 1941, Antonina Skrabchevska and Stanislava Tshegotska who lived on Vodoprovodna Street. In the evening I knocked on their door and entered. Amazed to see me, they asked me about the members of my family and how I had managed to survive. They shared my sorrow. I told them that it was already late and that I couldn't walk on the streets. And anyway I had nowhere to go. But if they would hide me, I would provide them with the means to obtain food from the clothes and things I had hidden which would be enough both for them and me. When I had assured them that no one had seen me coming to their house, they agreed to let me sleep there.

“I had given many valuables to the Gentile Kosakevich for safekeeping. He had formerly been a clerk at the municipality. Under the German occupation he was in charge of the leather factory where I had worked. Luckily the man lived nearby and I had no difficulty in reaching his house in the evening. He became agitated when he saw me and told me that the Germans had been looking for me after they had realized that I had escaped. His brother-in-law started to shout that I would bring disaster on them, and that I had to leave the house immediately. I took out my pistol and said that I was not alone, that they had better give me my things and that I intended to fetch them at intervals, not all at once. (I was afraid to hand over everything for fear my protectors would deliver me to the Germans when I was no longer of any use to them). My words had their effect. I was given some of my valuables and I took them to my hideout. The next day one of the sisters exchanged them for large quantities of goods, including a piece of butter, which was something extremely rare at the time. I promised them that they would lack nothing if I remained with them.

“I built a temporary hiding place behind their clothes closet and later went down into the cellar. I built a double wall of boards where I could lie in case of a search, or any other danger. From time to time I would go to Kosakevich and fetch some of my things. One night there was a knock on the door. I quickly ran down to the cellar. After the visit, one of the sisters came down into the cellar and told me that the visitor was her nephew, Kolya, who was being pursued by the Germans. He was leaving for the village of Ochowa where he hoped to meet the partisans. Probably, she added, he would soon return. I begged her to let me meet him when he returned. When I talked to him, he promised to find out if the partisans would agree to take a Jew with them, and that he would give me their answer within a short while. His surname was Vlihovich.

“On his next visit he brought me a positive answer. He dressed me in peasant's clothes and we drove to the village in his cart. For two days I waited at his uncle's till the partisans came and took me to their commander. I was questioned extensively. They began to trust me only when it transpired that one of the commissars whom I happened to mention was a member of that partisan group. 'We shall take advantage of the fact that you know German and that you are an old inhabitant of Pinsk', their commander said.

“The first task they gave me was to take a radio battery to Pinsk to be recharged. I tried to explain that I was well known there and that this might endanger the mission but they would not listen to me. With Kolya and another man, I drove out in a cart with the radio battery in a peasant's basket. I arrived at the house of the old sisters. I brought them meat and other food, and that same evening I got in touch with the member of the Underground Movement to whom the commander had directed me. He was a factory worker who was to refill the battery at his place of work, 'I can only do that at night,' he explained to me, 'and therefore it will take a week.' I did not tell him where I was staying. On the day in question I sent Kolya's mother to fetch the battery. She also told Kolya, who came to fetch me in his cart the next day. Kolya told me the commander had ordered me to remain in Pinsk until I received new orders, and that I was to translate Goebbels' articles appearing in the German newspapers and to give him news of the movements of the German army. I obtained newspapers and information about the German battalion in the town with the aid of my landlady. The messenger who came from the partisans would receive the completed material from me.

“At that time one of Vlasov's companies was stationed in the town, and for fear of discovery I was quickly removed to the village. Three weeks later I was taken back to town. In June 1944, about a month before the liberation, I was saved at the last minute when I jumped, just in time, into my hiding place in the cellar, when four Germans came to live in the house. They remained there only three days and during those days I never left the cellar.

“That same month there was a house-to-house search for partisans. In the house next to ours, the Germans caught two peasants from the vicinity who had come to sell food. All their attention was directed towards that house. The landlady tried to persuade me to move from the cellar to the stable in the backyard. But I refused for the Germans were outside with their dogs. Again I was saved.

“A short time later the Day of Liberation came. The Polish family with whom I had hidden moved to Poland too, and I helped them there. When my landlady died, I saw to it that a tombstone was put up on her grave.”

In other accounts there is mention of another few Christians who aided Jews. The stories are similar, though not always the same, of those who survived the 620 days of the German occupation after the destruction of the ghetto in the town itself.

Yehoshua Neidich (Tel Aviv) tells us about a worker at the plywood factory, Volodya Dregach: “In the first weeks after the destruction of the ghetto, Volodya helped me and a group of eight other Jews go into hiding. For about two weeks he supplied us with food until our place of hiding was discovered and we had to leave.
“A Christian girl called Dunya lived on Vodoprovodna Street. She was the girlfriend of one of the boys and agreed to help us only after he promised to marry her after the war. We stayed in this place until May 1943 when we joined the partisans.”

Tsila Dolinko (Petah Tikva) tells us the following story:
“On the evening of December 22nd 1942, my husband Aryeh and I decided not to return to the ghetto from our place of work at the Polish printing house on Kosciusko Street (formerly Gleiberman). At the end of the day we marched back in line, as usual, under the supervision of the Polish escort. At a certain spot we left the column and hid ourselves. The Polish medical practitioner ( feldsher ), Martiniak, agreed to let us spend the night in his storeroom on the corner of Bernardinska and Albrekhtovska Streets. When we returned to the printing house early the next morning, we heard that the small ghetto had been destroyed during the night. As we had no other place in which to hide, we decided to go up to the attic of the stone building of the printing house. Once there had been a Jewish carpentry shop there, but everything had been destroyed, the windows shattered, and we had no protection against the cold and the snow. The ground floor of the building housed the Polish Courthouse. There the Gentile woman, Barbara Makheyska worked as cleaning help and caretaker. We had no choice but to go down and tell her our secret and thus put our lives in her hands. This simple woman, who was a pious Christian, did not disappoint us. For six weeks she shared her bread, so expensive at the time, with us. Every night she led us down to the heated rooms of the courthouse and gave us boiled soup, prepared from beans or pearl barley which I can still taste today. Then she would bolt the door from the outside and take the keys home with her. We slept in relative safety until daybreak. Her son and daughter knew nothing of our existence, for she did not trust them.

“After six weeks, in the month of February, we started to fear the frozen river would thaw, and we decided to cross the river right then and there and find a way of joining the partisans. Only on parting did Makheyska ask us our names. She brought us a loaf of bread and gave us the address of her new apartment saying “If anything bad happens to you, come back to me.” She accompanied us to the river and watched from a distance to make sure we were not followed. After the Liberation we returned to the ruins of Pinsk, as liberating partisans. We found Makheyska and were overjoyed to see each other. Unfortunately we could not pay her back all she had done for us but we kept in touch with her from Israel, writing her letters and sending her parcels regularly – small recompense for that simple woman of such noble and superior character.”

Fani Solomian Lotz (Tel Aviv) gives the following account:
“When we heard the first shots at two o'clock in the morning before the destruction of the ghetto, I tried to get to the small church on Albrekhtovska Street to hide there. When I approached the church I saw that a projector [spotlight] had been placed on the bell tower and that the Germans were already sitting beside it. Then I tried to get to the District Hospital on Bernardinska Street but in vain. Next to the building of the Judenrat, I crawled through the fence and tried to reach Albrekhtrovska Street. The German guards caught me and to my surprise they did not shoot me but took me back to the ghetto. I returned to my father but he sent me away again. Holding an axe in his hand he said it would be better if everyone were to look after himself. I went out again and reached the backyard of the Judenrat where hundreds of Jews had gathered. When I saw the crowd of people in the yard, I crawled through the fence to the nearest house, that of the dentist Gottlieb. I jumped into the cellar and shut the trapdoor over myself. All day long I could hear the action in the ghetto.

“When it was dark I went out and, through Brovarna Street, reached the backyard of our house near the riverbank. I climbed into the attic of one of the stables in the yard and hid there. In the morning Jan Shpinak, the coachman, came in as usual to feed the horses. He was in charge of the sewage department of the municipality and the horses were his responsibility. I went down and asked him for food. He promised to help me but he only brought me something to eat in the evening. He told me how the second day of the action in the ghetto had passed and added that he had heard that my father had killed a German with his axe when they came to take him.

“For about a week Shpinak took care of me, but when the small ghetto was established, he suggested I move there. I refused. I tried instead to get in touch with Engineer Mechnikovski, who was a friend of mine from the days of the Russians. I went to him in the evening although he lived near the Police Chief Sologub. I was given a warm meal but I could not stay there, for his wife was pregnant. I returned to the stable.

“During the next four weeks I also visited Dr. Dametski, the prison doctor. I knew him as I had worked with his sister. I had left some of my things with him while I was still in the ghetto. Dr. Dametski lived on Krayevska Street and I would get there by way of the railroad track – that is to say I circled the whole city to get there.

“I had also entrusted a few things to Zielinski who was in charge of the Sanitation Department of the municipality. I worked in his department as a street sweeper and I worked as a cleaning woman in his house in exchange for a few potatoes. Zielinski and his wife were in no hurry to return my things to me: 'Why take them back? You'll be killed anyway…'

“Zelent, the supervisor of health education, a graduate of the Polish High School in Pinsk, had worked with me when I was a temporary teacher at the Jewish High School in the days of the Russians. When he found out my whereabouts, he brought me money and took my shoes to be repaired.

“At the end of November, however, Shpinak told me to leave the stable because his relatives, among them his German son-in-law, the policeman, Mikhal Wagner, suspected him of hiding me. I asked him to make skis for me from a board of wood so that I could cross the thin ice on the frozen river. Unfortunately the ice melted that day and I returned to the stable. Shpinak insisted that I leave; the next day, the day of the fair, and luckily a cold and windy day too, I left. I crossed the bridge and safely reached the other side of the river. I went to the village of Perechristye, to join the partisans in the Zawiszcze Forest as Engineer Mechnikovski, who was their contact man, had directed me. I had a Polish identity card under the name of Helena Shchbatsevitch, which I had prepared while still in the ghetto.”

******

Let us say in conclusion that there were probably other cases of Jews who were helped by Christians but they never came to our attention, and therefore we could not publish them here.

These few rays of light of which we have written, emphasize even more the heavy darkness, which descended upon the Jewish population, doomed to death in the ghetto.

Exceptions prove the rule – and the rule was, that the Gentile population, which had lived together with the Jews for hundreds of years, betrayed their neighbors disgracefully and joined hands with the Nazi destruction machine, whether actively or passively. The local Christians, too, wanted the blood and property of the Jews and the part they played in the most terrible crime in history – the murder of one third of a people – will never be forgotten. On the Day of the Liberation, after three long years and ten days of the murderous regime of the Nazis in Pinsk, the seventeen orphaned survivors stood beside the huge mass grave of the thousands of Jews of the community of Pinsk and Karlin, the blood-stained earth burning their feet, and the spirit of doom howling in their ears: “Lift up your feet from this place!”

Jewish Pinsk has been wiped off the face of the earth, and its history of hundreds of years has come to an end and is no more.
 

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