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[Page 215]

2. Witnesses to the Nazi Genocide (cont.)

Novogrudok

Translated by Judith Springer

Mikhail Gurevich: The Germans bombed the city on the second day of the war. The house in which we lived was destroyed by a shock wave -- we jumped out into the street dressed as we were. The Germans arrived at the end of June 1941. They forced 100 Jews out into the street, lined them up, and executed every other person. Fate spared us. On that day, my brother and I were gathering nails at sites of fire, exchanging them for food. In December 1941, Jews were ordered to assemble on the premises of the city court. They locked us up and kept us there during the night. The next morning, I went out into the street and saw gendarmes behind the fence -- it was futile to run. Luckily, some group was forming in the courtyard and I joined it. The streets were extremely slippery with ice. We were given shovels and forced to pour sand on the streets. I worked all day long and observed how, from the court building; trucks with Jews were being dispatched in the direction of the military town. Throughout the day, rifle fire was heard from there. And so, only 2,000 out of the 7,000 Jews, who lived in Novogrudok before the war, survived. My parents and four sisters and brothers, the youngest of whom was four years old, were killed. The remaining Jews were rounded up in the ghetto, which was surrounded by a wooden fence and several rows of barbed wire. They were taken to work in the city.

By the spring of 1942, people in the ghetto found out that partisans had appeared in the forests. I was 16-year old and dreamt about escaping. One day, I found a grenade and managed to bring it into the ghetto, but later I discovered that it had no fuse. I became acquainted with a 35-year old man and we agreed to run away. In the gas mask carrier, with which I went to work, there were a few dry biscuits and a homemade knife. We agreed that I was to be the first to jump over the ghetto fence and wait for my colleague in the bushes. I waited in vain till the evening and was forced to go into the forest alone. I wandered through the forest for several days, starved and frozen. In one of the small villages, I met scouts from the Chapayev Detachment. They said that partisans from the Stalin Detachment would be there the next day. I waited for them till they came and went along with them. On the road, I found a rifle without a bolt. I fought as a partisan for two years and two months and walked hundreds of kilometers. I was active in sabotaging the railroad. I derailed a German train and another six, with other demolition men. I bathed in an ice-hole, came under crossfire, wandered in swamps, and was shell-shocked. Lots of things happened to me, but I outwitted death. People who took me and saved me are lying there, in Belorussian forests. How can one forget this? (Arzamasskaya pravda, February 23, 1993).

Author's note: Novogrudok (Navagrudak, Nowogrudek) -- a town and rayon center in Grodno Oblast, 162 km from Grodno. It was first mentioned in 1252. In the 13th century, it was the center of the Duchy of Novogrudok, in the 14th century, the capital of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Mindaugas, and from 1415, residence of the Orthodox Metropolitan of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the era of Rzeczpospolita, it was the capital of the wojewodztwo. The Jewish settlement here is the earliest in Lithuania and Belorussia -- Jews were mentioned in 1529. In 1623 the Novogrudok community was subordinated to the Brest Kahal. In 1765 a total of 893 Jews lived there. In 1797 the city became part of Lithuanian Guberniya (2,917 Jews). In 1847 a total of 2,576 Jews lived there and in 1897, 5,015 (out of a total population of 7,887). In 1921-1939 it was part of Poland and in 1939, of the Belorussian SSR. From July 4, 1941 until July 8, 1944, German forces occupied it. There were two ghettos in it -- on Peresetskaya Street and Minskaya Street, where, from December 1941 until the autumn of 1943, a total of 10,000 Jews were exterminated. In all, more than 45,000 people were killed in Novogrudok and its rayon. (NARB, f. 861, op. 1, d. 1, ll. 33, 37, and 38; the Affiliate of the State Archive of Brest Oblast in the City of Baranovichi, f. 616, op. 1, d. 70, l. 222).


[Page 216]

Village of Ordat'

Translated by Judith Springer

The family of Girsha Leyzerovich had four children: Zalman, Berta, Basya, and Khaya. Zalman worked as a blacksmith on a kolkhoz, Berta, as a saleswoman in a rural store, Basya, as a teacher in the elementary school, and the youngest, Khasya, in the branch of the State Bank in Shklov. The family lived an ordinary village life and in no way stood out from those around it. The Leyzeroviches were respected and trusted. Zalman married a Belorussian girl, Nataliya. Berta married Fedor Glushenkov and bore him Dina and Lenya. Basya lived with Berta and helped with housekeeping. When the war began, Zalman was mobilized into the Red Army and we had no more news of him. Before the Germans occupied Shklov, Khaya came to Berta and hid in her barn and her cellar. Berta and Fedor with the children hid with their neighbors. During one of the roundups, Khaya could not stand it any longer, rushed out of the hiding place, and ran to Basya. She was killed on the road. The Jew Itsik from Shklov was captured in the vicinity of Ordat'. When he was being taken to the commandant's office in Shklov, upon reaching the middle of the bridge across the Dnieper, Itsik leaped to his death. The threat of an arrest hovered over Berta. She was advised to convert to Christianity and, together with her children, was baptized in a church. Afterwards, Fedor and Berta lived peacefully for some time. The mayor was “buttered up” (won over by bribes -- L.S.).

One day Minin, the chief of police from Gorki, came. He was from a nearby village and knew everyone well. He served the Germans faithfully -- “was loyal like a dog.” Minin arrested Fedor and Berta and took them to the commandant's office in Shklov. But the mayor of Ordat' gave them a good reference. In Shklov, there were also good people, who stood up for them. During the arrest, Minin grabbed something from the “kikes' property”, not intending to return it. He wanted to take the rest as well. In early 1943, he appeared again and took Fedor and Berta not to Shklov, but to Gorki. Fedor's mother quickly followed them. They spent the night in the village of Timokhovka. Those arrested were locked in the cellar of the cottage. A young policeman from Ordat' guarded them. He let Fedor out to have a talk with his mother. They decided what to do in order to avoid the sentence. Everything they had agreed upon the mother did, but it was too late. The next day, the couple was not taken to Gorki, but was executed in the forest behind the village.

Relatives took Berta's and Fedor's children. Aunt Anna took Dina, and Fedor's mother, Lenya. The children survived their parents only by two weeks. Minin came and took them to Orsha where, according to rumors, they were poisoned in a gas chamber. From the Lezerovich, only Basya survived. In Ordat', she hid in the barns of neighbors and came home at night. In the village of Shestaki, Praskovya and Timofey Grakov hid Basya. For this they were arrested and kept in the Gorki prison for two weeks. The police persistently hunted Basya. Twice they laid ambushes at the house of Fedor's mother, where there were six children. If Basya had been caught, everyone would have been in trouble, but she did not come that night. Finally, through the Trutchin family in Ordat', she was able to meet partisans in the village of Kishchitsy. She was accepted into the detachment and, after the liberation, joined the field army. In 1945 Basya was discharged, returned to Ordat', and moved to Fedor's house. She worked in a school and married a Belorussian teacher. Basya worked there until she reached retirement age. Her husband died. It was becoming too much for her to keep house and memories of the past oppressed her. In the country, perestroyka began and the customary ideals collapsed. Basya could not stand all this any longer and committed suicide. The Leyzeroviches are no more, but Zalman's widow, Natalya, lives in Ordat'. Their children continue to live and there are grandchildren. They must remember their history (Mogilevskiye vedomosti, August 1994).

Author's note: Village of Ordat', Shklov Rayon, Mogilev Oblast, the Republic of Belarus.


[Page 218]

Plissa

Translated by Judith Springer

Moshe Tsimkind (born in 1924): Our small town was very picturesque. It was near a lake, which was an outlet to a river, and was surrounded by forests and a pine grove. Plissa was considered to be a pious town -- residents strictly followed the Jewish tradition. They were called Pleshane. Plissa was the name of a lake and of our small town. Pliskin was the family name of our relatives on mother's side. Grandfather was a Torah expert -- he studied in Vitebsk. Our family was comparatively small -- three children. We lived very modestly, but harmoniously. Papa's name was Meir-Ruven; mama's -- Feygele; my older sister's, Rivka. I was the middle child. The youngest was called Berl.

I went to a Polish school and, in the afternoon, to a cheder with all-year round instruction, except for a three-day vacation during Passover. The organizations Hashomer Hatsair and Beitar operated in our town. In September 1939, we were waiting to see whether the Germans or the Soviets would come. One fine day, we saw an advanced detachment mounted on emaciated peasant horses, which did not fit in with the image of the well-fed and well-groomed Polish cavalry. Then we saw tanks so dusty that it was difficult to know to whom they belonged. From the red stars on the helmets, we determined that they were Soviets. We rejoiced. The Germans represented something very scary to Jews. Polish newspapers wrote a great deal about the Nazis' attitude toward the Jewish question. The press was in Yiddish -- we knew everything; but in Russian newspapers, there was not a word about this.

The Bolsheviks launched their propaganda. We thought that liberation from the Polish pans had come. Our parents said that, during the Civil War, the Bolsheviks were half-naked and barefoot, but now they had tanks, tractors with guns, and trucks. For two weeks, the town's windows shook from the flow of machinery. “Necessities,” that is, salt and kerosene, but also bread lines, appeared. There was enough grain in Western Belorussia -- people simply did not have time to bake. Previously, people used to bake themselves, but now flour was no longer being sold. Knowledge of the Russian language helped the older generation of Jews. But, among the Belorussians, there were few literate people. Peasants openly envied Jews: Jews received salaries, while incredibly heavy taxes were imposed on them -- moreover, not in money, as under the pans, but in grain, meat, and so forth. The NKVD began “to operate.”

On June 22, 1941, the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. In a club in Plissa, where I played mandolin and violin in the orchestra, the authorities organized dances and ordered that “entertainment be provided for the people.” Every day the tension increased. Through our town, the “Reds” were retreating from Lithuania. Then the Germans appeared. They felt safe -- they bathed in the lake and played harmonicas. “So far we have not fired a single shot,” they told us. The advanced units did nothing against the Jews. A little later, they began to crack down on them. They mobilized Jews for heavy work and the cleaning of premises, but they did not touch Belorussians. Towards autumn, they rounded them up in the ghetto. They took away their livestock and forbade them to keep even cats. The Germans brutally persecuted Jews who had contacts with peasants, from whom they could buy or exchange food. We hung in as best as we could. Even in Passover of 1942, we baked matzas from the last remnants of flour, but we felt that the end was near.

On June 1, 1942, the town was surrounded and Jews were forced out into the square. I managed to hide in the attic of the Jewish school. I sat there until 11 p.m. Just as I was about to come down, there were shots. It was a moonlit night -- I could have been noticed, but my mind was made up. I took a brick lying nearby and slipped it under my shirt. Should something happen, I thought, I will use it. When I was coming down, the brick slipped out from under my shirt and hit the floor with a thud. Well, I thought, now I will be caught, but the opposite happened. The guard, upon hearing the noise, did not understand what was going on and moved away. Thanks to this, I slipped outside. I set out for the Glubokoye ghetto, which was 20 km from Plissa. In Glubokoye, there was a wool processing factory, where Jews were forced to knit socks and mittens for soldiers. A group of 18 young people got together and decided to run away. In the evening, we hid in the factory and, when darkness fell, we left. We moved through swamps and stayed away from settlements, although we were starving. We met three partisans. They could not take all of us, because they were going on a mission and had no weapons for everyone. They picked those who had served in the army and told the rest: “Go wherever you want!” They took the most experienced people, and we remained like a herd without a shepherd. Everyone scattered in different directions and I remained alone. I headed for Plissa, where Kostya Ivankovich, my classmate, stayed. He was a man of gold. I will never forget him. They hid me for three months. Then it grew colder, rye was harvested. It became dangerous in Plissa and I had to go back to Glubokoye.

In Glubokoye, one could buy ammunition with money. Where did it come from? At a distance of 15 km, there was a railway junction, Krulevshchizna, where prewar Soviet warehouses remained. The Germans forced Jews to bring everything into one place and exploded it -- they were afraid of partisans. Jews, on pain of death, took cartridges, grenades, and fuses and sold or exchanged them for food. Ayzik Bodnev and I collected money and bought warm clothes and weapons. When we were leaving Glubokoye by the main street, fortunately, we did not run into a single policeman. If we did, this would have been the end! Five people, three of whom were Jews, gathered in the forest. The two Belorussians decided to wait a while: “We have wives and children, now it is not the time for us to do this.” Bondev, Genikhovich, and I met partisans. We were happy. A detachment of 50 people, light machine guns, submachine guns -- everything as it ought to be. Lieutenant Medvedev, a Red Army officer, was the commander. The detachment grew and in time became a brigade.

In the spring of 1944, in a group of 10 people, I was sent to raid rear areas. Snow was melting and the flooded roads were impassable, but we had to go in full gear. However, owing to the raid, I once again avoided death. Elite SS units, two regiments, were flung against the brigade's main forces near Polotsk, surrounding the partisans. Many people were killed during the blockade and the partisans retreated with great losses. In July 1944, we met Soviet troops near the settlement of Ostrovets and my forest wanderings ended. After the war, I decided not to remain in the Soviet Union. I went to Poland and from there, to Palestine. But memories have lived on with me all these years. In 1998, at the site of execution of Plissa Jews, I put up a monument with money collected by former Plissa residents in Israel. Let them remember who lived among them and how they met their deaths (Novosti nedeli, Tel Aviv, March 11 and 18, 1999).

Author's note: Plissa (Plisa) -- a village in Glubokoye Rayon, Vitebsk Oblast, on the bank of Lake Plissa near the Mnyuta River, on the Glubokoye-Polotsk highway. It was first mentioned in early 16th century. In 1552 it was a small town. In 1793 it became part of Russia -- a volost center in Disna Uyezd, Minsk Guberniya, and in 1842, in Vilnius Guberniya. In 1897 a total of 366 Jews (out of a total population of 899) lived there. In 1921-1939 it was part of Poland. In 1931 a total of 302 Jews lived there. In 1939 it became part of the BSSR. German forces occupied it from June 1941 through June 1944. On June 1, 1942, a total of 419 Jews were executed. In Plissa and the rayon, a total of 1,676 people died (State Archive of Vitebsk Oblast, f. 2841, op. 1, d. 1, l. 37; NARB, f. 370, op. 1, d. 483, l. 15).


[Page 220]

Pogost-Zagorodskiy

Translated by Judith Springer

Itskhak Yuzhuk (born in 1925): I had three brothers -- the oldest was called Borukh (born in 1922) and the youngest, David (1930) -- a sister, Dvoyra (1935), and Ruvin and I were twins. Papa was the only tinsmith in the okrug (region) and mama, a dressmaker. Grandpa Iona Goldman headed the society of coachmen. Before the war, Jews made up three- fourth of the population of our small town. For the most part, they were craftsmen: shoemakers, tailors, joiners, blacksmiths, distillers of turpentine from pine roots, and traders. The physician, Sukhodolskiy, was a member of the Orthodox Church, while Zelman ran the pharmacy. Children studied in a two-story Talmud Torah stone building, three cheders, and two Polish state schools. Shapiro, Ryabchik, Alter Dolgopolskiy, Piter, Perelmuter, and others taught there. In the center of the town, there was a large, beautiful stone synagogue. Jewish amateur art activities were held and Beitar, Hashomer Hatsair, and other clubs operated. Khatskel Rozenberg, the head of the town, was the owner of a large lake, in which pike and perch were raised for sale in Warsaw. The Bobrov family had a flourmill and a sawmill. Shlomo Krugly was a trustee of the Jewish school, which was built with his funds. Shlomo-Dovid Lerman was the rabbi and Moyshe-Meyer, the mohel. Catholics, members of the Orthodox Church, and Jews lived in harmony.

With the arrival of the Soviets in 1939, the residents' sympathies were divided. Workers, who “got into the administration,” supported the new system. Owners of private businesses and merchants, whose property was confiscated, naturally, were dissatisfied. Talmud-Torah and cheders were closed, the Hebrew language was prohibited, and children were transferred to schools with instruction in Russian and Belorussian. Yiddish was taught once a week and in 1940 was completely abolished. One central synagogue remained. Workers prayed in it in the morning and all the rest, later. There was agitation to convert the synagogue into a club.

When the war with Germany began, the question of departure arose. However, it was impossible to leave, because the border was closed to “Westerners.” Only a few people managed to escape, including my cousin Sender. The Germans arrived in July 1941. They set up a police station at Denenberg's home, where under the Soviets there was a Russian school, and hanged the owner himself. Shvarts, a Russified German, who was sent from Pinsk, became chief of police. Local residents joined the police. I remember Solonevich and two of his sons, the Grushevskiy brothers, Alesha I forgot his family name), and others. Yakov Samokhovets became starosta (village headman) and his son, Leonid, worked as a translator in the camp in Gantsevichi. Senya Voronovskiy was appointed deputy starosta.

Jews immediately felt the change in the attitude of local Slav residents. They were rounded up on the square near the church and forced to look at how Moyshe Pasternak, who had a fight with the son of policeman Volodya Solonevich, was being whipped. Jews were forced to saw wood and clean yards and apartments. Policemen and members of their families could enter any Jewish home and take anything they wanted. Then an order was issued to hand over gold and winter clothes, and a week later, another order -- to hand over dental gold crowns. The entire German propaganda was directed against Jews. In September 1941, a punitive detachment arrived in the town on carts. They grabbed 130 Jewish men and executed them at the cemetery. The leader of the Jewish community, the rabbi, the butcher, and my father (47 years old) were among them. A ghetto was organized at the end of 1941. When Peysakh Proshitskiy (16 years old) and Mordekhay Shifman (25 years old) fell ill with typhus, they were executed. Every night, very young girls were taken to the police station and raped. Then all the men, from the age of 14 on, were taken to the Gantsevichi camp, which was 60 km from Pogost-Zagorodskiy -- about 350 men, among whom were my two brothers. Jews from the small town of Lenin were in Gantsevichi.

On August 14, 1942, the camp in Gantsevichi was set on fire. The prisoners began to run. My two brothers, two cousins (Izrail and Asher Goldman), and I managed to escape. In the morning of August 15, all Pogost Jews were forced out of the ghetto and locked in the synagogue. After lunch, they were herded into the sawmill in the village and executed not far from the road. My mother, Malka, my eight-year old brother David, my six-year old sister, Dvoyra, and my 75-year old grandmother Khana died there. Many were wounded, there was shouting, weeping, moaning, and begging for help all around. But who could help? And they were dying. Only three wounded and naked people managed to get out from under the heap of dead bodies and go into the forest. Among them was my 35-year old cousin, Rivka Goldman (Yesilevskaya), whose four-year old daughter was killed in her arms. The other two were Yudit Tsippershteyn and Feygel Lutskiy, who now live in America. In 1960 Rivka appeared as a witness in the Eichmann trial in Israel.

On the second day after the Aktion, someone reported that another 27 Jews, mainly young people and children, were hiding in a cellar. They were found and executed in Kolya Misherevich's garden. Another 20 Jews ran away from the ghetto and hid in the forest. Those who escaped wandered in scattered groups in nearby areas until the cold weather set in. Our group consisted of 12 people. I remember Yenita Bobrova and her 16- and 25-year old daughters and 18-year old son. We lived in a dugout hole. One day, early in the morning in November 1942, the Germans surrounded us, killing seven people, including all the Bobrovs. We moved to a forest near the village of Bogdanovka, where we met other people from our town.

Towards the spring of 1943, the Kaganovich Partisan Detachment was formed. David Bobrov was elected commander and Shalom Feldman, commissar. The detachment had about 200 fighters -- Jews from Baranovichi joined it. We carried out sabotage activities in the German rear. In the autumn of 1943, Bobrov died of typhus. The detachment was disbanded and made part of the Kuybyshev Brigade. My brothers and I got into the Ordzhinikidze Detachment, which was situated in the forest near the village of Lipniki. I particularly remember the “rail war” in the summer of 1944. Later the partisans and the Red Army approached Pinsk, liberating it by joint efforts. Our detachment was disbanded and the young people were sent to the outskirts of Belostok. There we studied warfare. We were outfitted and sent to the front. My brother Borukh ended up in East Prussia and was killed during the liberation of Riga in the winter of 1945. I was sent to the Central Front, which was advancing to Warsaw. In January 1945, I was wounded near the village of Ruschendorf in Germany, stayed in the hospital until the end of March, and then participated in the capture of Berlin.

In 1948 I was discharged, lived in Pinsk, and got married. My wife, Khana, as a girl, was in a ghetto near Smolensk -- she survived miraculously. During the war, the Germans settled Pogost-Zagorodskiy with residents of Smolensk Oblast. No Jews were left in Pogost -- other people lived in all Jewish homes. A few surviving Jews settled in Pinsk. In 1956 former Polish citizens were given the opportunity to go to Poland. We already had three children and decided to take advantage of this opportunity. We received the documents only in 1958, and in 1959 we were in Israel. My wife and I dreamt about visiting our native places and perpetuating the memory of our relatives. Such an opportunity presented itself only in 1990. I came to Pogost-Zagorodskiy in order to restore the burial places and to put up monuments. I received permission from the local authorities and paid for all construction work. In 1996 I put up a monument in the forest near the village of Borki, where people from my town were encircled and executed. In 1998 I transferred the remains of the old Jewish cemetery to the site of execution in the ghetto and put up another monument. Will, perhaps my, soul find peace now? (Author's archive. Letter by I. Yuzhuk from the city of Rishon Letzion dated November 25, 1999.)

Author's note: Pogost-Zagorodskiy (Pagost-Zagaradski) -- a village in Pinsk Rayon, Brest Oblast. It was first mentioned in 1528. In 1793 it was part of Russia -- a small town in Pinsk Uyezd, Minsk Guberniya. Jews lived there since the 17th century. In 1897 a total of 593 Jews (out of a total population of 846) lived there; in 1920 there were 1,020 residents, including 128 Catholics, 155 members of the Orthodox Church, and 737 Jews; in 1921-1939 it was part of Poland; in 1939, of the BSSR. Before the Soviet-German war, there were 120 households and 1,500 residents. In August 1942, during the destruction of the ghetto, 1,200 Jews were killed.


[Page 223]

Smilovichi

Translated by Judith Springer

Moisey Gorelik (born in 1925): Father, Khaim, worked in the leather artel (cooperative) and mother, Rivka, was a housewife. There were three synagogues in Smilovichi. Our family, like other Jews, celebrated the holidays. The Jewish school operated until 1936 and then it was closed. The Jewish kolkhoz also fell apart. On the eve of the war, the situation was very tense. In 1939 refugees from Poland appeared and every family took in several people to live with it. We took them in and accommodated them as best as we could. On June 29, 1941, the Germans came. These were advanced army units, which stayed in Smilovichi only one day, did not touch any local resident, and left in the direction of Cherven'. Then a local police was organized. Andrey Kureychik, Leonid Artimovich, and Kazik and Leonid Gerasimovich were the first to join it. Kazimir Rak became the chief. Three days later, 50 Jewish men, including our relatives David Kaufman and Khaim and Moshe Plaksa, were arrested. They were executed near the village of Gudovichi on the Mogilev highway.

The chief architect, who built the Minsk railroad passenger station, and his 13-year old nephew were spotted in the village of Dukorshchina. Peasant Pisarchik informed the police and they were arrested, brought to Smilovichi, interrogated, beaten, and hung on a telegraph pole across from the police station. A plaque -- “kikes” -- hung on the neck of each of them. For his “vigilance,” Pisarchik was rewarded with a pair of boots. After three days, an order was given to remove the bodies and to throw them into a hole near the bazaar. Boris Plaksa, Abram Teyf, and Khaim Kafman were ordered to do this and forced to sing the “International.”

In August 1941, in Smilovichi, a ghetto was organized on Zelenaya and Girsh Lekkert streets, which adjoined the Jewish cemetery. Then all the livestock was taken away. On Rosh Hashanah (October 14, 1941), armed Lithuanians came from Rudensk on trucks and surrounded the ghetto together with the local police. People were rounded up at a prepared pit in groups of 50 to 60. In this pogrom, my entire family perished: father, mother, sisters Feyga (born in 1924), Leya (1929), and Mayya (1940) and brother, Zisul (1932). Mayya was thrown into the pit alive, despite her awful screams. I fell unconscious and was buried under other bodies. At night, I regained my consciousness, crawled out of the pit, and went in the direction of Minsk. There I hoped to meet Shimsha Shapiro, mama's brother, whose house was on Ostrovskiy Street, but I did not find anyone. Neighbors told me that, in August, Shimsha and my cousin, Isaak Rozin, were taken to a concentration camp.

On November 7, 1941, there was a pogrom in Minsk. Together with other tenants of the house, I hid in a secret spot. Then I moved to Tankovaya Street near Yubileynaya Ploshchad'. Every day we were taken to the Minsk-Tovarnyy Station to unload railroad cars. In 1942 I tried to join the partisans together with Fima Gimpel and Khaim Kaufman. We managed to get out of the ghetto and went in the direction of the village of Shatsk. After three days of a fruitless search, we returned to the ghetto. Suddenly we lucked out. Katya Perchenok, a courier, who led prisoners out into the forest, lived in the same house as we did. Katya asked Isaak Grinberg and me to look for weapons, clothing, and footwear for partisans, promising to help us. After much difficulty, we got hold of a grenade, a pistol, and some clothes. Two months later, Katya kept her promise. She took us out of the ghetto and pointed the way to the village of Staroye Selo in Minsk Rayon. The Budenny Partisan Detachment was situated there, but it did not accept us. The pretext was that our group included women and old men. The main reason was the fact that we were people of “Jewish nationality.” All that was left for us was to live in the forest not far from the partisans' location. It is not known how all this would have ended if Sholom Zorin had not taken us. The Jewish Partisan Detachment No. 106 was organized in the Naliboki Forest near Ivenets. It had a combat group, which protected the camp, engaged in combat operations, mined the railroad, and participated in ambushes. We were young, terribly happy that we remained alive. What we went through made us closer than relatives. The following friends, who now live in Israel, fought together with me: Nikolay Dulets, Abram Tunik, Maks Konyukhov, and Khilya Gordon (Migdal Haemek); Sara Goland, Berta Gelenson, and Arkadiy Krasinskiy (Natzrat-Elit). Leonid Melamed, Mikhail Gorelik, Abram Teyf, and some others remained in Minsk. Each one has had his own life, but we have not lost contact with each other. (Author's archive. Letter by Moisey Khaymovich Gorelik from Natzrat-Elit dated June 16, 1994.)

Author's note: Smilovichi (Smilavichy) -- an urban settlement (since 1960) in Cherven' Rayon, Minsk Oblast, on the Volma River. The name came from a surname of Baltic origin (Smilga) assimilated into Slavic languages. In the era of Rzeczpospolita, it was a small town in Minsk Wojewodztwo. In the 18th century, it was the residence of the Verkhniy Okrug group of Jewish kahals. In 1847 a total of 1,053 Jews lived there; in 1897 -- 2,094 (out of a total population of 3,133); in 1926 -- 1,748. In 1935-1938 it was a rayon center. From June 1941 to July 3, 1944, it was occupied by German forces, which executed 2,000 residents in the town.


[Page 225]

Smorgon'

Translated by Judith Springer

Fishel Kustin (born in 1928): We lived on Zarechenskaya Street. Mama died in 1939. When the war began, my brother, Yakov, was immediately put into the Red Army. Father and I decided to run away, but we were encircled and forced to go back. My sister joined the partisans. I don't know what happened to her later. The Germans came and moved all the Jews to the ghetto. They encircled the ghetto with barbed wire and put electric current through it. We lived in the former synagogue, repaired roads, and procured firewood. I was short, thin, and weak, but fulfilled the norm like an adult. I remember a supervisor by the name of Schulz, who got into a rage whenever he entered the ghetto. He cursed and yelled. He could stop any Jew, beat, and even shoot him. Father was arrested before my eyes. I shouted and cried, but the German guard answered: “Go away, little Jew, otherwise I will shoot you!”. Five months later, I met my father in another camp.

In September-October 1941, a group of children was transported in railroad cattle cars from Smorgon' to the Zhizhmory concentration camp in Lithuania. Winter did not come yet, but it was very cold. We did not have warm clothes and thoroughly froze. A camp was set up inside the large synagogue, three-level wooden plank beds were made, and hundreds of people were crammed into it. I met there not only Soviet Jews, but also Jews from other European countries. Every day someone died and the corpses were lying among the living. German and Lithuanian guards fired at the prisoners at the slightest pretext. People were taken to work under escort and those who lagged behind were beaten with butts and lashes. If someone fell and could not get up, he was killed. We were building a road -- children worked together with adults. Our legs were frostbitten -- instead of shoes, we had worn-out wooden footwear.

Many fell ill with typhus. I also got sick. No one treated us. I lay with a temperature of +40 degrees and awaited my fate. At that time, a new group of prisoners, among who was my father, was brought to the camp. He was so emaciated and beaten-up that I hardly recognized him. Even now I weep when I remember those moments. September 1942 was very hot. There was talk about the liquidation of the camp. Trucks arrived. Mainly, young people were loaded onto them and driven to Kaunas. There we were separated. Father remained in Kaunas and I, with a group of small boys, was sent to the Kaisiadorys concentration camp. The barracks were dark, cramped, and full of mice and rats. We were taken to dig peat under escort. The norm was 6 cubic meters per person. Hungry and worn out, we worked from morning till evening. In winter, we were taken to procure timber at a distance of 5 to 6 km from the camp. We had to fulfill a norm of 4 to 5 cubic meters. We sawed wood, lopped branches, cut them into short logs, and stacked them. The guards did not let us rest even for a minute. We were poorly fed and had to pick potatoes left in the field and to look for mushrooms and berries. Many died of emaciation.

In September 1943, the “Vlasovites” had too much to drink and began to fire at the German guards, killing the Stabsfeldwebel. He shouted: “Jews, don't be afraid, you are not to blame.” Some “Vlasovites” ran away. The SS surrounded the camp. Others and I were forced to load corpses of the murdered people onto a truck. In October 1943, the SS took away small children, including one-year olds. Their mothers sobbed and tried to hold on to them. The Germans beat them with butts, forcefully snatched the children, loaded them onto carts, and took them to the station. It is not known what happened to them. There were rumors that they took their blood. Everyone cried. In December, the prisoners were transferred to a gefangenlager [prison camp -- translator] in Kaunas, which before that had housed prisoners of war, who were executed. Jews took their place. We lived in a huge stone house together with Polish, German, and French Jews. The guards, men and women, were from the SS. We worked at the airfield, the stable, and the hospital. Some wounded Germans sympathized with us and sometimes gave us some food. Then we were transferred to a camp near the city of Kozlov-Ruda, where we dug peat under the supervision of armed guards with dogs. This was my fifth camp in succession.

The summer of 1944 came, the front was drawing nearer, and partisans were in the forests. The guards were on the alert and alarms became frequent. Reinforcements arrived in August. The prisoners were lined up and the camp chief said that they would be sent to Germany. In the event that partisans attacked us on the road, we would have to lie on the ground and not run into the forest, otherwise they would fire at us. When we were led to the station, a Vlasovite guard, an acquaintance of mine, said that he also intended to run away and would give a signal -- a shot in the air. The column was moving along a narrow road in the forest. Not far from the railroad station, we heard a shot and a shout: “Run!” Some lay down, while many ran in different directions. I also ran with friends, with whom I went through all the camps, beginning with Smorgon'. Some of them live in Israel. They are Naum and Zakhariy Arotsker, Yakov Melikovskiy, Kopel Rapoport, and Iosif Karpel. I met my brother, Yakov, after the war. He was wounded many times, lost his hand, and became disabled. He is now 77 years old and lives in Israel. My brother's wife was also in camps not far from where my father and I were held. Fate has dispersed us, but the past and the memory of Belorussia unite us. (Letter by Fishel Kustin from Brooklyn, USA, dated April 28, 1998. Yad Vashem Archive, 0-33/5378).

Author's note: Smorgon' (Smargon', Smorgonie) -- a city and rayon center in Grodno Oblast, located 260 km from Grodno on the Minsk-Vilnius railroad. It was known in the 15th century. In the era of Rzeczpospolita, it was a small town in Oshmyany Powiat, Vilnius Wojewodztwo. The Jewish community is mentioned in the Pinkas of the Lithuanian Va'ad in 1625. In 1765 a total of 649 Jews lived there; in 1847 -- 1,612; in 1897 -- 6,743 (out of a total population of 8,908). In 1921-1939 it was part of Poland. In 1931 a total of 4,000 Jews lived there. In 1939 it became part of the BSSR. From June 25, 1941 to July 5, 1944, it was occupied by German forces, which killed 3,896 people, including 3,280 Jews, in Smorgon' and its rayon (NARB, f. 845, op. 1, d. 63, l. 30; GARF, f. 7021, op. 89, d. 15, ll. 2, 23-24, 34).


[Page 227]

Stolin

Translated by Judith Springer

Grigoriy Ovsyanik: Towards the beginning of the war, together with refugees from Poland, more than 12,000 Jews gathered in the city. The Germans organized a Judenrat, at the head of which they placed Berger, a Jew from Warsaw. Every month the ghetto population was ordered to pay a tax at the rate of 10 rubles per person. The money was enclosed with a document stating the number of the Jewish population at the end of every month. Under the threat of physical violence, Jews were forced to deliver gold and valuables into the safe of the Gebits Commissar.

The ghetto boundaries ran along Polesskaya (from the river) and Kostyushko streets, Rynochnaya Ploshchad' [Market Square], Uniy Lyublinskaya Street, and westward to the river. Naberezhnaya Street passed in the center. The life of the Jews was agonizing. People died of hunger, diseases, and cold. Hardly any food arrived. Any help could be sent -- in a quantity that could be hidden in pockets -- only through those who went out with the work columns. There was a cow in the cellar of one house in the ghetto. It was hand-fed and very meagerly at that. Therefore, she gave very little milk. The milk was brought to the old rabbi, Perlov, but later the rabbi was executed. On September 10, 1942, Berger, the head of the Judenrat, and his assistants were summoned to the Gebits Commissariat and executed. In the ghetto, people realized that this was a death sentence. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kipur) fell on September 11, on which the Christian holiday “Golovosek” occurred simultaneously. Jews were led to execution in groups of 1,000 In all, there were eight groups. The columns were led from Naberezhnaya Street along Polessakaya Street, then to Rynochnaya Ploshchad', and further along Pinskaya Street to the end of the town. The column made a turn to the right and, through fields, moved toward a huge foundation pit (300 X 100 meters wide and up to 10 meters deep). The foundation pit remained from the prewar period, when the airfield was built. From October 1939 to July 1941, Soviet prisoners dug it for underground hangars.

To the site of execution Jews went with families, holding hands, or placing them on each other's shoulders. There were cases where old men fell on the traffic way, losing consciousness. The patrol that brought up the rear dragged them to the fence and finished them off with a shot to the back of their heads. The head wound was covered with clothing, including the hem of a skirt. The corpses were placed on wagons and dumped into the foundation pit. At the site of execution, people were forced to strip naked and neatly put their clothes in one place and shoes, in another. Then they were lowered into the foundation pit and placed face down one on top of the other. The SS soldiers walked on the bodies and fired from submachine guns. Two girls, with whom I was very friendly -- Khava Turkenich from Terebezhov and Dora Fridman from Stolin -- were killed.

Not everyone died on the spot. At night, the wounded, including very small children, crawled out of the pit. They hid in the forest, at the Catholic cemetery on the road to the city, but they were found and executed. In the fifth column in succession, there were many young people. When they were led before sunset, many began to run in different directions. They had to overcome a distance of 2 km in the direction of urochishche (boundary) Zatish'ye. Firing began. Some of the escapees remained in the field, but many hid. When the Germans picked up the corpses, they found a killed SS man.

Among those who survived was Doctor Roter, one of the refugees, whom the Germans appointed chief physician of the Stolin hospital. During the mass executions, they did not touch Roter or his son. Before the arrival of the Red Army, partisans took the physician into the forest, but he could not take his son with him and the Germans killed him. Today in Stolin, nothing is reminiscent of the fact that Jews made up two-thirds of its population. At the site of mass execution, huge pines, up to 30 meters tall, are growing. At one time, human skulls and bones were lying around. Looters were looking for gold, which Jews took with them to the grave. Now a monument stands at this place. The lesson of the Holocaust must not be repeated. Only respect for people, regardless of their nationality, will make it possible to go on living in this world. May God bless you. (Mezuza, No. 7-8, 1997).

Author's note: Stolin -- a town in Brest Oblast on the Goryn' River, 245 km from Brest. It was first mentioned in the 12th-13th centuries. In the 16th century, it was a small town in Pinsk Powiat, Brest Wojewodztwo, and then a small town in Pinsk Uyezd, Minsk Guberniya. Fairs mentioned in the Pinkas of the Lithuanian Va'ad were held there. In 1765 a total of 408 Jews lived there; in 1847 -- 777; in 1897 -- 2,489 (out of a total population of 3,342). In 1921-1939 it was part of Poland. In 1931 a total of 2,966 Jews lived there. In 1939 it became part of the BSSR. From July 12, 1941 to July 7, 1944, it was occupied by German forces, which killed 9,300 people in the city and the rayon.


[Page 228]

Turov

Translated by Judith Springer

Khana (Goberman) Tsimbel (born in 1929): The family of grandfather Shmoel had 10 children. Papa, Gershun, came from a family of blacksmiths. He was orphaned at the age of 13. Shmoel decided to build a barn, but his neighbor tried to prove to him that this was not his land. Their arguing escalated into screams. Then grandfather fell and died on the spot. A day later, papa's mama gave birth to a girl, Rokhul. My mother, Sulke, was born in Zhitkovichi, which is 30 km from Turov. She was a dressmaker. My parents were not very religious, but observed Shabes (the Sabbath) and holidays. They did this quietly. They got together with other people at someone's home. Father always hid his tallis [prayer shawl -- translator]. One day, while walking on a street, father took me by my hand and pointed to a large two-story building, which previously housed a synagogue and later was converted into a warehouse. I remember a woman who on Thursdays made rounds to Jewish homes, collecting money for the poor so that they might be able to welcome the Sabbath appropriately. Everyone gave money -- each according to his means. Turov was considered to have the most beautiful brides and fellows from other places came to it to get married. Before the war, Turov was densely populated. It had many Jews and they preferred to speak Yiddish. My brothers studied in a Jewish school, whose director was Kantor. When it was closed in 1938, everyone was outraged, but had to keep quiet. Before 1939, the Polish border passed nearby. Turov was a closed city, to which one could come only with a permit. I remember how the passports of unfamiliar people were being checked endlessly -- a search for spies was going on. Border guards on beautiful, tall horses were patrolling.

Jews knew nothing about the approaching war. Evacuation was not being carried out. There was no railroad. There was only one launch on the river, on which parents sent off their children who were drafted. Almost everyone remained in Turov. The Germans arrived on July 15, 1941. These were advanced army units. They did not touch Jews. Members of punitive squads -- pureblooded and cruel -- replaced them. Old Jewish men with big white beards carried heavy wooden buckets. Our cow was in a herd in the village of Dvorets, where father worked as a blacksmith. The peasants treated him very well and often came to him for advice. However, on the first day of the Germans' arrival, they took the cow and kept it. People said that all Jews were taken by force to Lel'chitsy and killed there. Papa's mother and two sisters with their children were killed. Their husbands were on the front. His brother's entire family -- wife and daughter with two small children -- perished. All the members of his second brother's family died. A small boy miraculously crawled out of the pit. An uncle, by accident, found him after the war.

We ran away with hardly any clothes on and walked 200 km through forests to Yel'sk. At night, we saw our soldiers -- they were panic-stricken. In Yel'sk, the last train -- open platforms with iron -- was leaving. There was anarchy, communications were being disconnected, and we were not taken on the train. All the women with children in their arms screamed terribly. By miracle, we got in. It was raining and endless bombs were falling. We lived on what we found in the broken trains on the road -- small pieces of bread and remnants of canned food. When a woman saw my three-year old sister, Polya, without a coat on, she took a blouse off her child and gave it to us. In Stalingrad Oblast, we were put up in houses from which the Volga Germans had been evicted. We were seven families and we lived there until 1945. When we returned to Turov, we saw earth and stones. Before withdrawing, the Germans set it on fire. Many people lived in dugouts.

After the war, very few Jews -- no more than 20 families -- remained in Turov. Yiddish was no longer spoken on the streets -- only at home. No monuments to Jews were put up in Turov and even talk about the Holocaust of the Jews was forbidden. No one returned our property. On one fellow, mother recognized my brother Samuil's suit, which was bought right before the war and which he wore only once. We knew who took our property. Mother went to them and said: “I have nothing against you, there was a war. But there are three children and they are freezing. Give us only a blanket and a pillow.” They gave nothing. Seven years later, a son died in that family and then a second. Only the oldest, Aleksandr, who was already married, remained. His mother sent her sister to us to ask forgiveness. She thought that we cursed them and the children were dying. My mother said that she should not worry -- we did not curse anyone. Things can be acquired, but a killed man cannot be brought back. Aleksandr became chairman of a kolkhoz in the village of Zapesoch'ye, Turov Rayon, and helped my parents.

I had three brothers and a sister. The oldest, born in 1923, was called Samuil. He was capable, excelled in his studies, and completed the 10th grade before the war. At a school assembly on June 22, 1941, he urged the graduates to take up arms and go to fight. In Turov, the army did not take him because of his age -- he was 17 years old. He went to Cherkask and told the military commissariat that he was 18 years old and had lost his passport. He was drafted and was killed on January 18, 1944 during the liberation of Vitebsk. We did not find his grave, nor does his name appear on the city soviet lists as killed on the front.

My second brother, Ilya, also volunteered for the front when we were under evacuation. He went as far as Berlin and became a professional soldier. He now lives in Israel. The third, Lyeva, graduated from a medical institute and worked as a surgeon in Khar'kov. I became a teacher and for 40 years worked in a school, first in Turov and then in Gomel'. My sister, Polina, graduated from an institute of light industry and now lives in Brooklyn (USA). In August 1999, I was in Belorussia and visited Gomel' and Turov. I love them very much, our graves are there (Author's archive. Letter by Khana Tsimbel from New York dated October 21, 1999).

Author's note: Turov (Turaw) -- an urban settlement in Zhitkovichi Rayon, Gomel' Oblast, and a pier on the Pripyat' River, 27 km from Zhitkovichi. It was first mentioned in the year 980 -- the center of the Turov-Pinsk Principality. In the era of Rceczpospolita, it was a city in Pinsk Powiat, Brest Wojewodzstwo. Later it was a small town in Mozyr' Uyezd, Minsk Guberniya. In 1623 Turov's Jews were part of the Pinsk Kahal. In 1765 a total of 316 Jews lived in Turov; in 1847 -- 1,414; in 1897 -- 2,253 (out of a total of 4,290 residents); in 1926 -- 2,197; in 1939 -- 1,528. From July 14, 1941 to July 5, 1944, it was occupied by German forces, which killed 1,792 people in Turov and the rayon.


[Page 230]

Uzda

Translated by Judith Springer

Sima Margolina: Early in the morning of June 22, 1941, my parents went to Minsk to do shopping. At noon, the radio broadcast that the war had started. Towards evening, papa and mama arrived and said that in Minsk there was panic and at the railroad station the killed and the wounded were being taken off the train. At night, artillery cannonade shook the neighborhood. On June 23 began the evacuation of the rayon party committee, the branch of the State Bank, and the post office. Those who had horses followed them. We decided not to move because of our very old grandma and grandpa. Soon many returned, because the Germans blocked the road. A day later, the Germans themselves appeared. The infantry was moving with field kitchens and was followed by cyclists and the cavalry. Strong, bursting with health, they bawled out songs and played harmonicas. Troops were moving day and night. Everyone hid. At the cemetery, the Germans immediately shot Communists who did not manage to evacuate. They seized them as a result of denunciation by local residents. At the courtyard of the hospital, they shot two wounded Red Army soldiers. They took them out into the courtyard in their underwear with hands tied behind their backs. The wounded men yelled out their first and last names in the hope that someone would hear them and tell their relatives. Then they shouted: “Long Live Stalin! Long live Communism!” A board was established, which included Dr. Kruglik, the chief physician of the hospital, and his wife, also a physician. Brel', a former Stakhanovite and shock worker, the foreman of a footwear shop, became the burgomaster. Vikentiya Vitkovskiy was appointed the commandant and chief of police.

A potato stuck in the throat of our cow. Her sides became swollen and she was moaning. The animal was dying. Grandfather rushed to the Germans for help. We became petrified with fear and observed. A German entered the yard, examined the cow, washed his hands in a pail of water, deftly thrust his hand into the animal's throat, and got out the potato. Grandpa shed a few tears of joy. The German asked for a saucepan, poured lentil soup with meat from his mess tin into it, and gave it to us. The German asked whether we were Jews. We said no. He said that Jews were “kaput” and should run away before it was too late. On the third day of the German attack, one soldier disappeared. The Germans announced that, if he did not return to his unit by morning, they would execute 50 hostages (Jews, Belorussians, and Tatars). Relatives gathered near the cultural center on the square and mourned over the unfortunate people. But towards morning, the soldier showed up. He “found” a local girl friend and spent the night with her. The hostages were released.

The first month of the occupation passed. At the end of July, a ghetto was formed: Two streets -- Leninskaya and Proletarskaya -- were allotted for it. During the move, people were permitted to take only the most necessary things. As of the age of 10, everyone had to wear yellow patches. At the end of the town, behind the bridge across the Uzdyanka River, prisoners of war dug out deep ditches. On October 16, 1941, Vitkovskiy gathered a representative of every Jewish family at the Tel'man Club and said that everyone would be sent to Minsk the next day. Jews were ordered to wear the best clothes and to put all their best things and valuables at a conspicuous place. People had a bad premonition, although some trusted Vitkovskiy. They knew him as a modest person and a respectable neighbor. At night, a Jew from Shatsk came running and said that, the day before, Jews were also promised that they would be taken to Minsk, but were killed the next day.

At 5 a.m., the Gestapo and the police surrounded the ghetto. Rumors spread that the Germans would kill only young men. People began to hide them. My father (35 years old) and uncle Boris hid in a shed inside a stack of firewood. Grandma Roza hid us and some neighbors (15 people) in a cellar. Grandpa moved a kitchen cupboard for cover. Then and there, the Germans burst into the house. From the tramping of feet over our heads, we determined that there were five or six people upstairs. Grandpa said that no one lived in the house any longer. A local policeman confirmed this and thus saved us. Grandpa and grandma were taken out into the yard. They could not climb into the back of the truck and were taken to the fence. Grandpa whispered a prayer and then told grandma that there was no God. They were executed with two shots. During the mass Aktion, the German driver fainted. Then and there, a driver from local residents replaced him. I will not mention his last name. He has children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. He died in peace in his own bed and was buried with honors.

After the pogrom, Sashka Zhdanovich boasted about how many Jews he killed. He especially relished the details of the death of young girls with whom he was well acquainted. At dawn, a dead, ghastly silence set in. We moved the kitchen cupboard and, in turns, found our way up. We walked through gardens to the bank of a small river, crossed the small bridge, and headed for the forest. We decided to go to Minsk, which was 70 km away. Out of 15 people, only I survived (from the book by S.M. Margolina “Ostatsya zhit' [To Stay Alive], Minsk, 1997).

Author's note: Uzda -- an urban settlement and a rayon center in Minsk Oblast, located 74 km from Minsk on the Uzdyanka River; known since 1450. In the era of Rzeczpospolita, it was a small town in Minsk Wojewodztwo and then a small town in Igumen Uyezd, Minsk Guberniya. In 1765 a total of 263 Jews lived there; in 1847 -- 1,618; in 1897 -- 2,068 (out of a total population of 2,756); in 1926 -- 1,564; in 1939 -- 1,143. From June 28, 1941 to July 4, 1944, it was occupied by German forces, which killed 5,091 people, including 1,740 Jews, in Uzda and its rayon (GARF, f. 7021, op. 87, d. 15, l. 1).


[Page 232]

Khotenchitsy

Translated by Judith Springer

Mikhail Sosenskiy (born in 1929): Several Jewish families lived here. With the arrival of the Germans, deacon Stepan Leshkevich, as a former officer in the tsarist army who knew German, was appointed burgomaster. He had a family: Two children -- son Daniel and daughter Nina. Leshkevich was a well-read and educated man. At the end of July 1941, a man named Zakhar worked at our mill. One day, when he was drunk, he tore off Hitler's portrait. The Germans arrested him. Zakhar denied his guilt and decided to blame the Jews for everything. He brought the Germans to the mill and pointed to my father, Iosif, and his cousin Izrail Tsimmerman. The Germans arrested them, not letting them even change their clothes. Father was mixing grain and was without boots. One of the Germans said in Polish: “If you could run to Communist meetings, you could go barefoot now”. They took him to town. Suddenly, Leshkevich appeared and intervened: “Whom did you arrest? The Soviets took away their mill and were about to send them to Siberia.” Since he was the burgomaster, the Germans believed him. They released my father and uncle, took Zakhar into the forest, and shot him. After some time, on the eve of an Aktion in 1942, Leshkevich helped the remaining Jewish families to escape into the forest.

After the liberation of Belorussia, Leshkevich was tried as a German collaborator in the small town of Il'ya. Jews from Khotenchitsy spoke in his defense, recounting how he saved the ghetto. This was not taken into account and Leshkevich was sentenced to be shot. This case had a depressing effect on everyone. The authorities treated differently our other neighbor, Mikhail Filistovich from Vyazyn'. Before 1939, there were pogroms and arsons in Vyazyn'. The house of my grandpa Shimon Berman was burned down. Another pogrom was held when the Germans arrived. Uncle Lazar, my father's brother, aunt Genya with two babies in her arms, and grandma Gita (Genya's mother) went to Khotenchitsy. However, when the Germans began to establish a ghetto in Khotenchitsy, Lazar's family was sent back to Vyazyn'. The ghetto in Vyazyn' was liquidated in the summer of 1942. After the shooting, when members of the punitive squads left, uncle Lazar got out of the grave and began to shout: “Jews! Who is still alive?” The bullet only scratched him, hitting his daughter, Etel (3 1/2 years old), whom he held in his arms. His wife, Genya, got up. At the moment of the killing, she took the younger daughter, Khana (1 1/2 years old) in her arms. They miraculously survived. Their children died, protecting their parents with their bodies. They climbed out of the ditch, but had nowhere to go -- it was daylight. When they hid in the straw in the attic of a barn, Mikhail Filistovich, who came to loot, noticed them and began to scream: “Live Jews!” Lazar and Genya were taken from the attic, led to the common pit, and executed. Filistovich boasted about how the Jews knelt and begged him not to give them away. After the arrival of the Red Army, Filistovich was tried and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served seven years and then was included in the amnesty. When he was released, he did not return to Vyazyn', but went to live with his daughter in Lithuania (Author's archive. Record of a talk with Mikhail Iosifovich Sosenskiy of July 4, 1996 in Jerusalem).

Author's note: Khotenchitsy -- a village in Vileyka Rayon. Vyazyn' -- a village and the center of the rural soviet in Vileyka Rayon, Minsk Oblast, on the left bank of the Iliya River, 22 km from Vileyka; known since the 15th century. After the second division of Rzeczpospolita (1793), it became part of Vileyka Uyezd, Minsk Guberniya. In 1897 a total of 601 residents lived there. There was an Orthodox church, a Catholic chapel, and a synagogue. In 1918 German forces occupied it. In 1921 it became part of Poland. In 1926 a total of 137 Jews lived there. In 1939 it became part of the BSSR. From June 1941 to July 1944, German forces occupied it. A monument to 108 residents of nearby villages who died during the war years, without an indication of their nationality, was erected in the center of Vyazyn'.

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