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[Page 377]

From the archives of the newspaper “Ainikait”

Translated by Yelena Gorina

Edited by Rochelle Kaplan

Translator's Note: Ainikait (also spelled Einigkeit) was the publication of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the Soviet Union. The JAFC has an entry in Wikipedia.

Leo Kvitko. “He is 23 Years Old.” In Gomel oblast, German propaganda leaflets declared that “the leader of a terrorist group, the Jew Samuil Rochlin, has been hanged, with God's help, on the main square”. Authorities invited the public to look at his body. In reality, Rokhlin was derailing two enemy trains carrying troops and ammunition. His first actions ended night-time railroad traffic between Gomel and Zhlobin. After that Rokhlin began organizing daytime raids. Rokhlin would appear suddenly, and, in front of the stunned guards, run to the railroad track, place a mine in front of the moving locomotive, run back, and drop flat on the ground. A terrible explosion would shake the air, while Rokhlin was running to the woods and escaping among the trees before the Germans could start shooting at and chasing him. This is what the staff of Kotovski Partisan Unit writes about him: “Lieutenant Samuil Rokhlin is an excellent soldier. In a battle for the village Peresviannoe, he, already wounded, demonstrated courage, fearlessness, and initiative. The Unit commanders nominated him for the Order of the Battle Red Banner.”

Rokhlin's group derailed 22 trains with troops and ammunition, destroyed 8 trucks and 8 tanks, and liquidated up to 1,000 German soldiers and officers. Out of 22 trains, Rokhlin personally mined 13. In July 1943, the unit commanders nominated him for the Order of Lenin. Samuil looks younger than his age. Not tall, slim, with a rosy peaceful face, he looks more like a cooperative society accountant. But his reserved words, “Not much to talk about,” and his heavy strong sunburned hands show immense stamina and great fearlessness. Rokhlin was born in a little village, Anufrievo in Mogilev oblast, on the kolkhoz “Red Star” where his parents worked on the collective farm's Jewish team . At the beginning of the war, he fought on the border, and after his regiment was crushed, Samuil with his four Russian comrades, escaped into the woods and formed a partisan group. His two sisters and nephew also fight the enemy in the partisan group; his older brother is in the Red Army and is always on the frontline.

Honor to the people who raised such brave sons! With this spirit they will win over all their atrocious enemies.

October 26, 1943

Translator's Note: Lev (Leyb) Kvitko (circa 1890-1952), . A prolific Yiddish writer best known for his children's poems. He lived in Russia, Ukraine and Germany, and then returned to the Soviet Union where he became a prominent Soviet writer. During the war he was a member of the Presidium of the Jewish Antifascist Committee (JAC) and one of the editors of the newspaper “Ainikait.” As a member of JAC, he traveled to the territories liberated from Germans and collected stories from Jewish survivors. In 1944 Leyb Kvitko went to just-liberated Crimea and reviewed the possibility of settlement of Jews returning from evacuation.

With the beginning of Stalin's anti-Semitic campaign in 1948, the Jewish Antifascist Committee and the newspaper “Ainikait” ceased operating. In January 1949, authorities arrested Lev/Leib Kvitko and other members of the Antifascist Jewish Committee, and accused of spying and anti-soviet propaganda, Zionism, and nationalism. After a fabricated “hearing” in court, Lev was shot to death on August 12, 1952. In 1955, the Soviet commission secretly cleared Lev Kvitko and the other executed members of the JAC. This fact became public much later. (from )

An English translation of one of his poems is online. Lev Kvitko has a Wikipedia entry.

Solomon Gorelick – Hero of the Soviet Union. He was a cheerful guy from Bobruisk, a singer and tank driver, beloved by his family. Gorelick was originally a mechanic during the Finnish war. He appeared in various places, got into a burned out tank, and returned it to service within a few days. Later Solomon became a tank driver.Once, his tank caught fire in battle, and he barely made it out. WW II found Gorelick in Lvov. For a long time his family had no news from him; they were evacuated from Bobruisk to Omsk and all communication cut off. Solomon and his tank were fighting near Moscow. His tank caught fire. He drove his blazing vehicle into enemy lines, destroying[1] many Germans. As long as his hands moved, he shot Germans. That is how the soviet Bar Kokhba went down fighting.

Aaron Gorelick had two sons. The older, Josef, gave his life for Leningrad, and the younger, Solomon, died for Moscow.

No date is recorded.

Translator's Note: In the “Winter War” with Finland, the Russians used a British tank replica, which was vulnerable, flammable, deficient in winter and required constant maintenance. Although Russia won this war, the Soviets lost 2300 of 3000 tanks. The Finns had 30 tanks, and inflicted casualties mainly by throwing Molotov cocktails. [When I was a senior in high school, we had a Finnish exchange student, who had heard from older members of his family, that when they faced the probability of Soviet invasion, asked, “Where will we bury them all?”-IN]

Gorelick died near Belgorod on October 22, 1941. In his last battle, he smashed 3 mine canons, 8 regular canons, a few dozen trucks and horse carriages. He is buried in a mass soldiers' grave near Belgorod, on which a monument was raised in the 1980s.

[See Wikipedia articles on the war in Finland. The Simon Wiesenthal Center web site has an entry for him under “Solomon Gorelik”].

M. Lapidus. Jews who build fighter aircraft. In a discussion with Alexander Wasserman, Chairman of the aircraft industry Trade Union of the USSR, I learned that we have a number of Jews - workers, engineers, plant directors, who put their efforts into producing more aircraft, engines, and equipment for the front. One is Israel Levin, who started working at an aircraft factory when he was young, in 1927. He began as a student, became a mechanic, and showed managerial talent. Assigned to be a team leader, he then obtained a master position. Then he was drafted into the Red Army, and placed in an aviation regiment. The former mechanic advanced , becoming deputy director of the plant. Later he became director of another plant, and finally led plant number 292, the most distinguished in the aircraft industry. Soldiers from the Guard Unit came from the front to award this plant a gold embroidered red banner for winning the socialist competition among aircraft plants. Authorities awarded Israel Levin The Order of Lenin.

The head of another aircraft plant is young but gifted director Mark Gorelick. In August, this plant was noted among the best in the collective. Jews and non-Jews alike work in a friendly, harmonious manner.

August 27, 1942.

B. Mark. Jews in Soviet industry in 1941-1943. A large number of Jews work in the Soviet defense industry, especially in aircraft building plants. In one plant whose director is Mordechai Gorelick, 25% of the workers are Jews. The same is true at the factory producing trench mortars (lead engineer: N.Shapiro). More than three thousand Jewish workers, mechanics, and engineers from Lvov, Moscow, Krakow, and Leningrad are working at the largest ammunition factory in Kazakhstan. Thousands of Jews are employed in the machine gun and tank production industries. Everyone knows the names of Stakhanovites[2] Semen Braslavski, Leib Levin, and Haim Berlin . During two years of war, Jews have shown themselves to be good inventors, industrial designers, foremen, and workers. Marten's furnace, where Abram Ratner is a foreman, is considered the best in the Soviet Union. A pig-iron shop headed by Solomon Shulman is among the leading shops in the Soviet Union. You can meet Jews in the coal and gold mines. Jewish evacuees and local Jews from Bukhara are working together in the coal mines of Kirgizia. Sulamif Zilberstein, one of the first at the construction of the gigantic pig-iron plant in Ural, helped build the hydroelectric plant on the Dnepr. Aronovich, an engineer, built the largest metal processing plant in Ural. Many Jews- engineers, mechanics, and workers - are constructing new hydroelectric plants in Ural and electrical plants in Uzbekistan. Jewish workers and engineers from Bessarabia, Bukovina (parts of Moldavia), and Poland built a big ammunition factory in one of the cities on the Volga.

From 1941 to 1943, workers formed hundreds of co-op production organizations in different parts of the Soviet Union. The local administration of the city of Krasnoarmeisk on the Volga helped Jews evacuated from Kiev and Riga organize a textile production co-op numbering 1500 people. In this organization people speak Yiddish, Latvian, Russian, and Ukrainian. A similar co-op was created in Kokand with one of its leaders Bunimovich from Uzbekistan). This co-op grew from 800 to 2000 people. Among them are a few hundred Ukrainians and Uzbeks. A number of co-op organizations were formed by Jewish evacuees in Tadjikistan. In Aschabad there is a big textile co-op , with one of its leaders Simon Tavrovski; this co-op is considered the best in Turkmenistan. Several textile co-ops were created in Fergana (Uzbekistan). Many Jewish textile workers from Kiev are working in the Aschabad co-op which had only 300 Tadjikian and Russian workers before the war. Under the leadership of its chairman Chaim Potaschnikov, this co-op continuously produces over its quota. There are many co-op organizations of tailors in Saratov, Barnaul, Zlatoust, Baschkiria, Chuvashia, Mordovian Autonomous Region, and in Ural. In Alma-Ata, a large group of Jews from Kiev, mechanics and carpenters, makes military carriages for the front. Another co-op produces field kitchens. In one city on the Volga, watchmakers evacuated from Zhitomir, Berdichev, and Vinnitsa, make clocks for war airplanes. Others make cameras for reconnaissance airplanes.

June 19, 1943

I. Katsnelson. “Ambassadors of a red-bannered Baltic.” A small fleet of war ships entered the Moscow River to celebrate Navy Day in the capital. One ship commander is third rank captain Efraim Goldstein; Menashe Sverdlin is a commander of armored vessels. Goldstein came from a poor Jewish family. His father and grandfather worked all their lives in the small town of Loew, on the junction of the Soj and Dnepr Rivers. Generations of Goldsteins ran a passenger ferry across the rivers. Efraim helped his father, loved the river, and dreamed about the Navy. But in the Tsars' time, Jewish children were not accepted in the Navy schools. Only after the October Revolution could the boy fulfill his dream. First, he worked in the Gomel plant “Metallist” and becoming a good mechanic. A few years later he signed up for the Red Army and was transferred into the Navy, to a torpedo boat. Efraim graduated from the Navy school and became an officer of the Baltic fleet. In battles he showed himself a skilled and decisive commander, an expert in torpedo attacks. He fought alongside Heroes of the Soviet Union Abram Sverdlov, Uschev, and Starostin. They torpedoed and sank enemy ships in Finland and Riga's bays, participated in the liberation of Tallinn, were engaged on the Lubava – Koenigsberg line, and crushed the enemy in the Lubava “pocket.” In Mogilev, fascists killed Goldstein's brother, engineer Zalman; his other brother Shevel returned from the war disabled.. Goldstein himself was wounded twice in battle but never left his ship. From childhood, Efraim loved Jewish music and always carried a record player and records with him. He shared the joy of victory with his wife Dvoira and son Senderel, who came with his father to the Moscow celebration. The boy enthusiastically described 16 days on the torpedo boat while traveling through the rivers Neva, Sver, Scheksna, and the Moscow-Volga Canal on the way to Moscow.

On the deck of another battleship I met another commander, Menashe Sverdlin. A son of a tailor from Vitebsk, Menashe was a mechanic at a large Leningrad plant. He wanted a naval profession and entered the Navy school. He saw combat from the first days of the war, and participated in successful raids. His ships convoyed transports from blockaded Leningrad to Kronshtadt. His armored vessels enabled the Soviet Navy to approach enemy communications. (This material was delivered to Toronto, London, Tel-Aviv, Havana, and Sofia).

July 25, 1948


Notes

1.World War II news reports in the Soviet Union always used “destroyed” instead of “killed” when referring to enemy casualties. Return
 
2.Stakhanov was a coal miner who produced 10 times his quota. From then on, people who greatly exceeded their work quotas were called “Stakhanovites”. Return


[Page 382]

Table of the dynamics of the change
in the Jewish population of Belorussia
from the 18th to the 20th centuries

Transcribed by Irene Newhouse and Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky

Year of Census Total Population Jews Per cent of Jews
1766-1811 5,037,000 62,800 not given
1838-1847 4,956,600 225,725 --
1897 6,380,000 915,200 14.3
1914 7,515,100 1,250,000 not given
1921 1,634,200 not given --
1926 4,983,900 407,000 8.16
1 Jan 1939 5,568,994 329,395 23.95
22 Jun 1941 10,528,000 980,000 9.3
1942 7,828,600 not given not given
1943 6,937,900 -- --
1944 6,293,600 -- --
1945 6,264,800 -- --
1946 6,540,000 -- --
1950 7,709,000 -- --
1959 8,054,648 150,054 1.2
1979 9,532,516 135,450 1.42
1989 10,452,000 111,789 1.06
1994 10,346,000 100,000 0.96
1999 10,100,000 70,000 0.69

Table compiled by the author from these sources:

Data from 1897 taken from the 5 Byelorussian provinces (guberniya): Grodno, Vilna, Vitebsk, Minsk and Mogilev. In the years of the First World War (1914-1918) and the military intervention (1918-1920), casualties among the Byelorussian civilian population made up, apart from natural deaths (117,600 people), 1,376,200 people. In total the number lost at the front – 106,600 people; including those above the normal death rate – 445,200 people; emigrated – 122,000 people; deported to other districts in the former Russian Empire – 246,000 people. Reduction in population from a declining birth rate was 456,000 people. After the signing of the Peace Treaty in Riga (March 1921) the territory of Byelorussia included 6 districts (uezd) formerly in Minsk province (guberniya) covering 52,300 square kilometers with a population of 1,300,000 people. Present-day Vitebsk, Gomel, and Mogilev regions (oblast) were transferred to the Russian Federation. In 1924, the BSSR consisted of 18 districts (uezd) of the former Vitebsk, Gomel, and Smolensk provinces (guberniya), which had predominantly Byelorussian population. Data for 1926 tabulated according to “Ukrupneniya” (Increase in Belarus' territory) from the Russian Federation, at the time excluded Rechitsa and Gomel districts (rayon).


[Page 384]

Nine Aspen Stakes

by Yanka Kupala

Tranlated by Judith Springer

There are nine, nine aspen stakes
They desecrate my Belarus.
There are hundreds, thousands of them --
My angry and painful tale will be only about those nine.
The murderer is raging ferociously, he does not slumber.
Intoxicated with human blood, he is rushing
To pave all lands with innocent corpses,
The furious Fuehrer is a vampire and a bandit.
From a deserted highway, the robber
Spread his pillaging all over Belarus.
He keeps my people shackled in jail,
Turning my beloved land into a bonfire.
Till the night, Jaegerstrasse in Berlin is full of
Pockmarked prostitutes with Aryan blood,
In patterned blouses embroidered in silk,
Torn off our maidens by a band of beasts.
Belorussian maidens, songs of the land,
A cruel executioner cut out your breasts.
Father blinded in a time of evil,
Mother shot in the hut by fascists...
Germans took out my Belorussians,
Germans took out my Jews,
Grey-moustached people of Belorussian land,
Innocent people, close to me, my kin.
There were nine of them, SS men with full bellies,
Hitler's lackeys, nine dogs.
There is no salvation from German bandits,
Only the dawn rises, like a beacon, over the ravine.

An order: "Jews, dig a hole here!"
Jews are digging, not knowing for whom.
And, with their own hands, they dug a hole,
A grave-prison for themselves by order.


The cannibals' order: "Into the hole, Jews!
And you, Belorussians, cover it faster!"
Only hot dry winds are whistling all around
And animals are haunting the swampy brushwood road.
Belorussians and Jews stood next to the hole.
They froze... all stayed still like poles...
"Grab the shovels, you backward morons!
Do you want to follow the Jews into the hole, you pigs?"
Fascists killed my Belorussians,
Fascists killed my Jews,
Grey-moustached people of Belorussian land,
Innocent people, close to me, my kin...
But soon the time of reckoning came,
A partisan detachment avenged all.
And it drove nine aspen stakes deep
Into the grave of the fascist beasts.
The prediction of doom to the enemy is not unfounded,
Grave ravens are in the sky for a reason.
Oh, Belorussian land! Oh, my beautiful land!
Your sons will bring you freedom!

1942


[Page 386]

To the USSR Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee

by M.G. Kel'man

Translated by Judith Springer

To eradicate the sting of anti-Semitism, with which the fascist serpent poisoned the people's masses

July 30, 1944

German fascism was preparing to attack the Soviet Union not only by means of military equipment, but also with the poison of wild chauvinism, which it injected primarily into the empty souls of its tin soldiers -- these blind executors of the will of big and small fuehrer. Fascist conquerors tried to permeate with it the entire soil in the countries they occupied. The invaders brought innumerable victims and sufferings to all the peoples of our Union. However, the Jewish people, in addition to these sufferings, feel a deep sense of moral injury, which weighs heavily on their souls. This sense of injury stems from the onslaught of anti-Semitic persecution, evil, and mass annihilation unleashed by the occupiers and their toadies -- an onslaught unprecedented even in the history of the long-suffering Jewish nation. Owing to historical peculiarities, the Jewish masses are the first to be affected by all major national upheavals, which cost them much blood and many tears. Hitlerites, first and foremost, attacked Jews, which brought them considerable material benefits. Their bloodstained hands immediately got hold of the property of those exterminated. On the other hand, by means of massacres of Jews, they tried to arouse the base instincts of national strife among the native population and thus to weaken its capacity for resistance.

Surrendering to mass psychosis, Jews sometimes lapsed into self-negation, seeing a national trait in every improper act of their co-religionist. Others withdrew into a narrow circle of alienation and bitterness. Can we consider the tragic fate of Jewish masses to be a separate and untimely issue when the fate of all nations is being decided on the fronts of the Great Patriotic War? It is urgent that an authoritative, invigorating, and explanatory statement on Jews be heard in our country through a powerful mouthpiece of public opinion -- the Soviet press. The anguished hearts of Jews are waiting for this statement, which will be a healing balm to them. True, a certain part of Russian society does not need such a statement. Another, very small, part is awaiting actions and will not be moved by words. But among the overwhelming majority of the Russian population, this statement will find fertile soil and will promote fraternal coexistence with all the small nationalities of our Union. We firmly believe that the victorious peace, which is not far off, will bring Jews consolation and happiness. We do not doubt that the Soviet Government will take practical steps for a political and labor system for Jews dispersed by the winds of war throughout the Soviet Union. However, psychological training of the masses and moral support are needed right now. The "inviolable Union of free republics" extolled in the state hymn will admit the Jewish nation into the family of equal nations, despite all the intrigues of Hitler's myrmidons.

M.G. Kelman, physician
Kuibyshev, 259 Samarskaya Street

GARF [State Archive of the Russian Federation], fond [collection] 8114, opis [inventory] 1, delo [file] 137, list 380-382
.


[Page 387]

About L.Smilovitsky's book,
“Holocaust in Belarus.”

Translated by Lena Gorina-Black

Until now, there have been no modern historiographic non-subjective scientific studies of the Holocaust in Belarus in 1941-44. They became possible only recently, when historians were able to get access to archival materials. I am greatly impressed by the knowledge of Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky, his ability to work with the original documents, and objective approach in elucidating the tragic events in the life of Belarussian Jewry.

Dr. Shmuel Krakovsky,
Yad Vashem Archive Director

 

The history of the suffering of the Jewish people in Belarus is not written yet. More than half of the millions of Nazi genocide victims ask us to tell the truth about their fate. Leonid Smilovitsky became a pioneer in the studying the history of the Holocaust in Belarus, the cradle of Eastern European Jewry. His research is a successful attempt at new ways to analyze the documents consolidated with the personal stories of people who miraculously survived in the occupied territories.

Dr. Josef Rav, editor in chief
Journal Ialkut Moreshet,
Journal of the history of the Holocaust, Tel Aviv

 

The strength of this book is in the enormous amount of new factual material, in its analysis and generalizations. The author skillfully explored the depth of the problem. The language in the book is simple and clear. Admirably, the young author.\, who was born after the war, accurately shows the life, atmosphere, and feelings of people long gone. The rich bibliography shows the diversity of the resources. This book will attract the attention not only of researchers but, of everyone who is not careless about the fate of German genocide victims. Dr. Smilovitsky is paving the way for his colleagues in Israel and abroad who are studying the fate of Soviet Jewry in the occupied territories in Belarus.
Itshkak Alperovich, Department Chief
Memorial Beit Volin, Gevataim

Dr. Smilovitsky,s work provides new perspectives on many aspects of Nazi policies and their methods toward the “final solution” of the Jewish question in Belarus. We see how Jews move from suffering to armed resistance, showing examples of genuine courage. With great confidence, the book investigates the topic of anti-Semitism among the local population and partisans, a topic banned even now in post-Soviet historiography. It recounts who saved and who betrayed, the fate of Jewish children including children of mixed marriages, the relationship of Jewish and non-Jewish spouses. As a person who lived through the war I can tell that this book came out truthful and enlightening.

Dr. Itskhak Arad, Head of the Board of Directors,
Memorial Institute Yad Vashem,
Jerusalem

 

This book is important not only for Israel, but also for Belarus, where Jews are still deprived of knowledge about their past. Despite opened access to the archives, post-Soviet historians are not ready to present the events accurately. Thus, the work of Dr. Smilovitsky makes a significant contribution. His talent as a researcher and expertise in Belarussian historiography allowed him to fill many gaps in Holocaust history.

Dr. Shalom Cholavsky,
An organizer of the Nesvizh ghetto rebellion,
A commander of a Jewish partisan group,
One of the founders of the kibbutz Ein-ha-Shofet

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