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[Page 150]

The Death of a Martyr Chaya Bloch

Translated by Daniella HarPaz Mechnikov

A daughter of a simple Jew – a coachman who swung himself with horse and wagon across the dirt roads around Dokshitz, both summer and winter, in snow and rain, heat and cold. He drove from market to market, from shtetl to shtetl. On the way he would stop in villages to feed the horse [alt. to let the horse out to pasture] and in the meantime would have a chat with the peasants, asking who had a horse to sell or trade, perhaps someone might buy a colt from him?!

More than once, in a winter blizzard, he was stuck in a village overnight. He thus wove friendships with many peasants through the years and felt like a fish in water among them.

It also happened that while wrapping up the deal on a purchased or sold horse they would make a hearty toast, "l'khayim" [to life] and get a little tipsy, and then for a bed on a shabbes evening stretching out in the straw in the wagon, meanwhile humming a tune from Hillel, or a "y'hi ratzon" [Heb., words from a prayer, "let it be God's will"] from Rosh Khoydesh [the beginning of the Jewish month] prayers, sometimes even turning out a "kebikartel". The sun already having set low, people would run late to light the Sabbath candles, as they say – "mit di halobliyes in l'kho doydi" [lit. with the shaft of the cart in the "l'kho doydi" prayer (which is a prayer welcoming the Sabbath). An expression implying that the weeks work hangs over into the Sabbath.]…

Sabbath at home, a strong smell of freshly cooked peppered fish, brass candlesticks with burning candles, the kidesh-khalleh [challah/egg bread that is blessed and eaten as part of the Sabbath ritual] covered with a white Sabbath cloth. The wife – dressed up, with her prayer book in hand, and the two daughters, like roses – all this filled his soul with quaint warmth, a true neshome yesire [lit. an additional soul, which a Jew is said to have (or supposed to have) on the Sabbath].

After prayers truly elevated song left his mouth, real conversation with the angels – angels of heaven, angels of peace, who hovered in the space of his home – guests, who came to pray with the holy Sabbath.

So it went for years and years. Who knows how much more pleasure from his children and grandchildren might have been his destiny, if not for the unforgiving, murderous hand that cut the life-thread of grandfather…

It has already been over two weeks that it has continued, with an incessant deafening noise, the loud creaking, the steel armored tanks, marked with black gloomy swastikas, holocaust and destruction peer out of the hollow long tubes.

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Motorcycles with guns float by with diabolical speed. In them – brown figures in steel armored helmets – the culture-bearers of Nazi civilization which, like an angry river tore from its shores, pouring with lead and fire and overtaking ever greater areas. The ground shook under the weight of the heavy machines, the air became full of terrible roaring of their motors. Groups of rugged bomber airplanes sow destruction and fire. Without end, cars full of stuffed, self-satisfied soldiers and officers float by – armed to their teeth. They drove as if to some happy recreation, a ball, a holiday.

Everything draws to the east, almost without any resistance. No obstacles. The Red Army fled, helpless against the mighty machine, which suddenly, murderously unleashed itself upon with an assault.

Finally the storm is past. Gone onward, far away, leaving garrisons and the new macht [lit. power, i.e., German vermacht] organs here and there. Even Dokshitz had the good fortune to get an SS garrison.

Blunt and arrogant, because of their intoxicating victory, they begin to rule over the subjugate population. One of the methods, the "persuasion" – three people are shot openly, after they are forced to dig their own graves.

A hunt for communists commences immediately, Jews and Soviet activists. Khayke Blokh, the older sister of Khane, is called to report to the Gestapo. Her fate is sealed. She was deputized in the city council during the Soviet occupation. She is pregnant, due to give birth any time now.

Deathly fear consumes the house. Their father hitches the horse and wagon and in the dark of night tries to drive his daughter and grandchild to his peasant friends. Perhaps he might succeed in sustaining her, saving her from death.

But the effort is futile. They drive from village to village, from house to house – but everywhere the doors are closed. He sets forth money, he is prepared to give all that he has, even his horse and wagon – but he can not find a single volunteer. People help with a groan, with a kind word, but nobody will take the risk.

Broken, they turn to go home…

Not seeing any other way, Khayke decides to present herself to the Gestapo. Khane senses what must happen. She looks at her unlucky sister, tears fill her eyes. How long has it been that Khayke has been so happy about

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becoming a mother? How much tenderness and love has been awakened in her towards her tiny bit of a child? As a bird spreads its wings – so did she sit, bent over the cradle, guarding her new joy, singing sweet lullabies. Now she must leave the child without a breast, without protection. No! This will not happen! I will not allow it! I will replace her – Khane told herself. She went to the cradle with determined steps, gently kissed the child and, with the paper in hand, set off in the direction of the Gestapo…

It was a summer day in July. The sun blinded one's eyes with its sharp rays. Khane walked without looking around, as if she was not afraid and did not regret her steps.

The street was empty of people. She walked to the bridge, which divided her birthplace, Slobode from the other part of the shtetl. The Berezine River flowed peacefully east. On both sides, going on foot from the shtetl, the land was covered with a green carpet of grass, softly bending and sprinkled with yellow fuzzy flowers, which opened thanks to the warm sun.

Khane stood still for a while, looking down. Various images from her youth and childhood swam in her thoughts.

There she was, running, a three year old girl, on the same grass with a jump-rope, getting all tangled up and wandering in the smelly tall grass. Now she sees herself bathing with her girlfriends, filling their mouths with water and squirting one another – drowning one another. Now she falls into the river with her clothes on, barely crawling out and running to her mother crying.

Wives and their husbands, Jews from the shtetl, stand before her eyes with siddurim [prayer books] in their hands, shaking and swaying their sins out of their pockets.

Yes, Simkhas-Toyre [lit. happiness of the Torah. Jewish holiday, the day closing the feast of Tabernacles, when the last section of the Torah is read in the synagogues]. With a colored flag standing on a desk in the men's synagogue. Her little hands outstretched reaching to give the Torah scroll a kiss.

All seems so distant to her now. Nervous, uncertain, her thin white fingers twisting her long blond braids… She tears herself from the place and goes onward… She knows what she's going to… Now she passes the building that used to house the local chapter of the club where she used to spend evenings and Sabbaths with friends, boys and girls. After studying in the Polish "Povshekhner" school she hankered after a Yiddish/Jewish word, a little Jewish history. Yes, she remembered, what was she called? If memory serves, it was Dina, Rabbi Eliezer's daughter, Bar-Kokhba's bride. When the Romans captured her she was forced to call her beloved from her captor's prison

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so that he would open the dams of water and thus buy her freedom. She used that fateful moment to strengthen Bar-Kokhba's fighters, calling them revenge, to victory over the enemy, giving her life for the honor of her people. Oh, how much heroism must she have had?

She, though, wanted to live. Life wills itself like that. How much time did she have left?… A white cloud partially covered the sun, a mild breeze stroked her face. She lifted her face, as if awakened from a dream. Opposite her the windows of the Gestapo were already blackened.

*

She turned to the left. A few minutes yet remained in which to enjoy the free air. She breathed deeply, with quick steps went to her onetime school, which was now transformed into a barracks.

There were tall maple trees with white flowers and buzzing bees flew from flower to flower. They were finding sources for their honey collection. She noticed them in particular now. Such small, nothing little beings, attracted her attention. Interesting, when she had learned about them, their love of work, their difficult burden as insects… People are different today… Nobody thinks about the other… She hadn't let anyone support her.. And the child, for what was he guilty?..

With her heart beating, quickly, so as not to be late – she opened the door of the division…

*

A tidily furnished room. Folded in a soft armchair near a green desk, in a shiny, pressed, brown uniform with black swastikas on the sleeves, playing with a cigar with pleasure – sat a tall, lanky blond SS officer. His shiny boots were stuck out of the other side of the desk. He tapped impatiently with one toe of a boot on the other. He kept picking up the phone receiver, grumbling something short and abrupt into it, accompanying each order with a humble glance at the hanging portrait of the mustached Führer…

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-- Oh, such a pretty girl! [in German] – he said, with spirit, when Khane stood opposite him.

With a sharp look he measured her, and with false politeness to her he said:

-- I think, that such a young pretty girl, won't want to risk her life and had better give us accurate information. Who? How much? What are your Soviet activist colleagues' plans? You, as the city-deputy must certainly be well informed… Keeping the truth from us makes no sense. Your communists will never return. Our victorious army presses onward, in a short time all of Russia will lay at our feet…

Khane stood still. Her thoughts worked feverishly. This means that he thinks I am Khayke. Do I really have the opportunity to save her, making it possible for her to raise her child? Encouraged by the thought she totally lost her fear, she felt confident.

The officer stood with his feet apart, one hand in his pocket and in the other his cigar. He waited with tension for her to begin to speak…

-- I don't know – she answered, indifferently.

-- That is a lie. You know quite a bit and very well. Who are your people? Answer quickly! Well, you are not here on vacation. You are in the SS headquarters, we take advantage of all options to get you to talk. Where are all of your communists hiding?

-- I don't know! -- She repeated.

-- You do know! -- He screamed. His face got red, his cheeks nervously twitched. – You will not play games with an SS officer. You cursed Jewess!

His voice got louder and more menacing. The veins on his long throat stuck out, his eyes were slits. As a tiger springs upon its prey he grabbed her by the hair and began throwing her from side to side.

Proudly, with an attentive gaze, she looked at him, answering nothing. Her perseverance agitated him even further.

-- Who are your colleagues? – He roared hysterically, and slapped her face with the force of his whole body.

A red stream burst from her nose and got her whole face wet.

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Seeing her own blood she got even more resolve – not to give herself up. With a mocking look she ordered her persecution and pain.

The telephone rang… An order was requested of him -- The result of the investigation. He ordered her to be thrown in the basement to have time to think.

Pain and misery, angst and anger marked her heart. Hungry and tired… Her feet couldn't stand any longer. Holding herself with both hands against the cold smooth wall, she slid down to the cement floor.

The sun sent its last setting rays through the little grated window, the warm summer day disappeared into a dark night. Dark clouds covered the horizon. No stars, no ray of hope.

Sitting like this her eyelids, as if filled with lead, got heavy and closed themselves…

In the dark unconscious the again saw herself standing in the blooming garden around her home. The flock returns from the fields, it smells of hay and freshly milked milk. A young goat, a white one, approaches the hedge to pluck off some grass, the goat glanced at her. She outstretched her hand – the goat ran away scared. Everything began to grow distant, the hedge, the house, father and mother. As if she was looking from far away, as if through a fog, the sunset became a fiery circle, and departed with blinding speed, leaving behind it a desert, veiled in black smoke… It took one's breath away. She turned, wanting to run away. But opposite her flowed a river, raging and frothing, it spurted and boiled, washing away everything in its way. There they push against one another, the fireball and the water. The earth around is seething. It is burned. And here – a gush… She was awakened from the world of dreams with cold water, back to bitter reality…

And above in the research room, the forty year old son of a Prussian baron was pacing, the SS officer, who was bestowed with many awards for his longtime Nazi activity – would he not be able to break the stubborn will of such a "nothing" Jewish girl? His anxious glances stop at the Führer. It seems that he looks at him with angry suspicion. His eyes get sharper, his brow furrows, and his black mustache thicker and pricklier. The Führer gnashes his teeth, curses and menaces… On

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this we are stuck? So long in officers training, fed with race theory? Press forward by any means necessary and with any amount of work, forge yourself an iron head and a tiger's heart . You are becoming upset and powerless against a Jewish girl?

Ashamed and guilt ridden he stands opposite the portrait. His entire career is in the balance… He would like to be a conqueror, ruling over broad areas around the Volga, Dnieper, to live in a marble palace. Tens of servants serving him, kneeling and bowing…

His daughter would play piano in a white ball gown. All will marvel at her talent. He would show the aptitudes of the superior race… But in order to achieve this he must earn it!… And here, for several days already, he has been unable to make progress. He can not allow this. He must get his, he will make all efforts.

-- Quickly! Bring in the Jewess!

*

Therefore Khane was awakened with cold water.

Her knees quivered, her head burned, her mouth chattered and twitched. She was hurt nonstop with all of the hellish methods of the modern Nazi-techniques: with tongs and fire, with lead and barbed wire, her fingers twisted and broken – but her spirit was strong and unbroken. She was silent and unrelenting.

When she felt that her hour was near, she began talking. And words crept out of her mouth like snakes, cutting, piercing as if with spears. Fiery sparks flew from her eyes.

-- My colleagues are all those who fight against you. You will not always drink our blood. You will be eternally cursed, you murderer! The revenge against you will be big and terrible. There will be another world – and it will bring your punishment, you will be tied to the post, you and your name will be erased from the all names. Your brutal tortures will not scare me, I spit on…

A shot cut off her words…

*

Now, 25 years since then, in the shtetl of Dokshitz – a school has been erected in her name. Every morning at roll call, the name Khane Blokh

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is the first one called. And a chorus of children answers in unison: --

"She fell heroically defending her people and land."

*

Your name, Khane Blokh, will be forever in gold,
Fashioned of sun's rays, in all great days.
You wanted to save a sister and her child:
With your young life and boundless love.
We weep for your youth, when at times
Pain and regret press our hearts
And from the tears, flowers bloom in the valley,
Where birds sing out their song.
With the glow of hatred in the deep blue of your eyes…
The executioner was madly reflected with his sword.
Your eighteen years stood unbending
As black oaks, rooted in the earth.
The enemy did not kill you.
You were not slain, it's a lie!
Your spirit lives and blossoms in full bloom
And escorts and helps us to be victorious…
Your pride sprouts out of every tree
And wafts out of every flower!…
And lights the stars in space,
Shining light upon people everywhere.
Your flesh has certainly long turned to dust
And harsh winds have blown it far away.
Yet all that loves and believes, sings out its pride in you,
Time will never erase the symbol of your courage!
Tzvi Markman / Khatzoor


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Sheynka Markman (Skibin) and Leyb Pollack
in the production of the play "Chasia the Orphan"


[Page 160]

The Heroic Sixteen Year Old Partisan, Iziye Katzovitsh

Translated by Daniella HarPaz Mechnikov

I never imagined that I would have to write the life history of my brother and pass on the story of his heroic death, in his best thriving years, to future generations. His glorious battle and his death in a link in the chain of suffering and valor of the Dokshitz Jews.

In the year 1927, the dentist, Manya and her husband Shmuel Katzovitsh had cause to celebrate: They gave birth to their second son - - Yitzkhok, called Iziye by his parents and friends.

A few winters and summers flew by. Iziye is already attending synagogue with his father. In Dokshitz it was called the "Starosiyeler Shul [synagogue]," in which Reb Leyb, may his memory be a blessing, prayed - - Der Dokshitzer Rebbi [The Great Dokshitz Rabbi]. He, like all who prayed, prayed with great enthusiasm and purpose - - they didn’t even know that they had already fulfilled their obligation.

Many years have passed - - and until now the melody still rings in my ears. Somehow I remember the terror and tragedy of "Yizkor" [memorial prayer remembering family members who are deceased]. Young fathers and sons leave the synagogue. Their close relatives are still living, their time has not yet come.

The 16 Year Old Partisan Iziye Katzovitsh

Iziye is growing bigger and bigger. This is how it was with the gang: The first sign, if you can climb 2-3 steps on the ladder to the attic of the synagogue. The sexton, Reb Alter kept a few brooms, skhakh for sukkes, and several broken benches and lecterns up there, which have been meant to be fixed for years already.

Understand that a father did not allow one to crawl up there, but a few of the gang already climbed up and a few Bar-Mitzvah youth stand below encouraging.

You have really made it, you become a guy [colloquial, you are "cool"], if your father lets you carry the tallis [prayer shawl] bag home from shul [synagogue]. The tallis bag is gentle-soft, a gold Star-of-David embroidered

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on it. It has a familiar smell, comfortable - - as you carry it home, held with both hands…

The second stage is winter. That is when one displays expertise in sledding. There are two slippery spots: 1) On Dzike Street, a long sloping path, which winds from Yehuda-Peysakh’s store past Mendl Zalke’s house. 2) From the beys-hamidrash, near the Starosiyeli and Ladi synagogues. Peyse the shoemaker who lives there, is always angry that it is so icy, and that he might, heavens forbid, fall, while fetching water. Therefore, he often spreads ash on the area – small medicine against the plague.

When winter departs, icicles hang from the roofs, long, like tsitsis, lehavdil [Heb. Lit. to differentiate. Used when listing or comparing the profane and holy.], and when a deft youth hits them with a snowball they fall down with a melodic sound.

Later, water streams in all the streets, all in one direction, to the Berezine River, which empties into the Dnieper.

When the snow is gone, one can play in nut or buttons.

Nuts do not have any special history. They can be divided into Turkish, walnuts, common ones, twins and whistlers – those are the ones that have a little hole and you can whistle with them.

Buttons do have a history, because they were cut off of old winter clothes: the buttons are scratched and crunched. How often they were played with, in the cold in the wind, in the rain. But the children pay no mind. If at all – they are interested in metal or tin buttons. They are not so good to play with, but every child had several of these in his pocket in reserve. There are even some really old ones, rusty "Nikolikes [playful diminutive of the Czar Nicholas’ name]," with two-headed eagles on them [the two headed eagle was a symbol of the Russian Empire and its Royal House]. You could also find a tin button with a star – a reminder of the first Bolsheviks. New Buttons with an Eagle wearing a crown – a brother who served in the Polish army, coming home on leave brought this. Buttons with a helmet and two hatchets – a symbol of the Dokshitz firefighters. The last phase presented buttons with lilies from HaShomer HaTza’ir, from Beitar (with menorah’s). These were our buttons.

Every time had its own Zionist parties in Dokshitz. There were often disagreements, but there were no great rifts.

Iziye studies in the "Tarbut" school and later in the Polish "Povshechne"

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school. After classes he would go to Yisroel-Aaron’s kheyder. He was also a member of HaShomer HaTza’ir. In kheyder he studied Tanakh, in "Povshechne" he often heard, "Zjidi do Palestini" and in the HaShomer HaTza’ir group – about Israel, kibbutz’s, pioneers, Trumpledor. Who knows if the decision to fight for Jewish honor to the end didn’t fall into his head even then… Tov lamut b’ad ameynu, b’ad artzeynu [Heb. It is good to die for our nation, for our land]… and also Samson’s last cry: "Tamut nafshi im Plishtim" [Heb. Let me die with the Philistines]…

Later we will see what kind of strength and courage a little boy from the shtetl Dokshitz showed.

The wheels of history ran on their way. The German-Polish war broke out. The Poles were sweet to the Jews – real saccharine. In their stride – the Russians occupied Dokshitz. After two short years, the Germans came into the shtetl.

Shortly before the outbreak of the war my family moved to Gluboke, where our father was from. Both shtetls shared the same fate. In Gluboke, as in Dokshitz, the Jews were confined in a crowded ghetto. The mass murders of Jews began immediately. In order to achieve speed and efficiency the Germans assigned a Judenrat with Jewish police. In the end of it all, their fate was the same as everyone’s, but in the beginning they thought that they were "one-of-us" in the eyes of the Germans. They solicited various things for the enemy: boots, leather, gold, and dollars. They also organized our going to compulsory work duty.

We spoke about the Judenrat, and I remember Iziye’s timely judgement well: "The Judenrat are not friends of the Germans, except in that they fulfill the enemy’s orders, they are suspect and we should beware of them."

A wave of pogroms swept over all the shtetls. My family managed to avoid the brunt of the first pogrom in Gluboke. In the second – it was ruined.

On the 20th of July 1942 the Germans demanded that all Jews stand in the mark-platz [marketplace]. I, along with a few other people, was held by the Germans outside of the ghetto, working in a printing shop.

At two o’clock Iziye came and told me that mother said: "Run, my child, try to save yourself." He didn’t go to the "platz,"

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but ran away from the ghetto into the field, lay in the rye and came to me at work via back roads.

In the evening we returned to our ghetto dwelling. It was empty. Mother and father were already gone.

The weather on the day of the slaughter was nice and sunny; therefore it was even more terrible to hear the sound of rifles and machine guns in the middle of the bright day. In contrast, the Christian side of the city was quiet. But they were also scared to leave their homes and see the terrible picture of murder…

At three o’clock in the afternoon we suddenly heard resounding footsteps. A police officer was going home. He didn’t carry his rifle over his shoulder, rather in his hand, obviously just having finished his "work." His name was Molinovsky, yemakh-shemoy vezikhroy [may his name and remembrance be erased].

At dusk we returned to the ghetto. I remember two Christian women walking. One of them had a son in the police. She asked the other woman: "Did you take anything?" Apparently she had been robbing the empty dwellings. They saw us at this point and got a little flustered. But one of them, with real impudence, asked: "Why weren’t you there?" Upon seeing the wild hatred one could immediately feel their insecurity and it became easier. May they tremble from our revenge, may it not be born by them easily.

Immediately after this we decided to run away from Gluboke.

But where does one get weapons?

We tried to speak with other guys, but it seems that the rumor spread to the Jewish police.

Once when Iziye fell asleep in a stall, exhausted from work, some police came in and searched around his bed and under his head. Understand that there was no weapon to find, but they took a little money. They were not happy. The police called us a "The Dokshitzers." They claimed that we would be the ruin of the ghetto.

Around then the refugees from Dokshitz arrived in the ghetto. Tuviye-Shloyme Varfman (currently in Acco) was among them. We were very happy to meet one of our own. He told us how he lived for ten days with his brother near Kruleveshtshine, on an island, in the middle of mud.

While on the island he met a young Pole, Lukhovski, who

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lived on a farm on the Krulevishtshine-Dokshitz road, and worked as a brigadier fixing the roads. He could acquire some weaponry for a small price. As it is known, the Germans were initially good to the Poles, later they changed their politics and oppressed and persecuted them. This Christian lived some 20-25 kilometers from Gluboke.

After the pogrom the Germans gave an order to enclose the ghetto in a boarded fence. During the day we searched for a spot where the boards were loosely nailed. We stood and talked until the moment of action when we pushed two boards until they gave way. We replaced the boards and left two stones as a landmark.

At night we escaped with Tuviye-Shloyme through the prepared opening and ran through the fields towards the Kruleveshtshine road. We had to cross the train tracks twice, which were guarded by the Germans and police. We lay in the dark by the tracks and at the moment when we saw that there were no guards there – we quickly ran across.

It took days for us to reach the familiar Christian. We went into the stable and waited for one of them to come. The peasant woman came right in, she was frightened, but Tuviye calmed her down, telling her that her son knows about us. She brought us coffee.

In the evening the son brought a rifle, bullets, and a revolver with 9 bullets.

At night we returned with our weapons. It was easier travelling this time. Our luck was that it was a very dark night, but before Gluboke we stumbled upon a thorny hedge – a long and tall one, around the rye storehouse from the earlier "Zagotzerno" near the train station. Obviously, we avoided and walked around the obstacle more than a good kilometer.

This was my first night walk in a field. My friend used to travel a lot by night before the war, which helped us to orient ourselves on the roads. Also, I traveled to Krulevshtshine and Dokshitz twice during my studies in Gluboke. Then it was just a plain walk. Working in the printing shop I had the opportunity to look at a map of the Gluboke district and I studied it well. This was very useful to me later.

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We brought the weapons into the ghetto and hid them. We decided to escape in the coming days. We worked for the Germans and searched out opportunities to steal a little ammunition.

In the end of the spring, 1942, two young men came to the shtetl: Friedman from Dolhinev and the second guy from Postav. They were already partisans. It was known in the ghetto that we had weapons and people told the two guests. They agreed to take us along, but had other demands. They did not want to take Iziye along because he was little. I told them that I would not go without him. That same night, a group of ten of us left the ghetto.

Little Iziye ended up being a real guy among guys. He was well liked by the other partisans for his boldness and fairness.

Winter, 1943. The partisan movement in White Russia had grown and strengthened. The detachment we were in was over in the Minsk area. We were put in a new "Bolshevik Detachment," near Leavisk. There were 6 Jews in the detachment. Iziye was already 16 years old and counted as an adult.

Near Leavisk was the German garrison, "Kosina." The leader of the "Bolshevik" decided to defeat the garrison. Iziye left with the detachment. A few went as an ambush and a few went to attack the garrison. Iziye was asked to go with the ambush, but he refused and went with the attackers. The partisans were successful in taking over the garrison. Iziye ended up as a heroic youth. During the march to and from "Kosina," it turned out that the partisans discovered, but were not going to carry the heavy machine gun, "Pulimyot." It’s really a good name, "Pulimyot, [Russian lit. machine gun]" but nobody wanted to carry the 24 kilo weapon. Iziye took the gun by himself and carried it a big piece of the way. He told me later: "I decided to show them. They always laugh at the Jews. They are older than I and are really soldiers, but I have to show them what a Jew really is. Secondly, we really needed the Pulimyot.

That’s how Iziye became a "Pulimyotshik [machine gunner]" in the detachment. The comrades began to treat him with respect. They called him "Yuzik," which was easier for them to say.

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Little Yuzik participated in many operations on trains and bridges.

At the end of July 1944, when the Germans felt their end was near, they gathered all of their military from the villages circling the Leavisk forest and wanted to put an end to the partisans.

The partisans knew of this immediately and got a small group together in the forest to hit the bases and the main strength went to the Berezine marshes. The goal was: to tear out of the German ring at night.

Izik asked to come to me, but he wasn’t allowed. They went some 15 kilometers in the forest – quietly and without notice. On the way from Pleshtenitz to Leavisk there was a group of Germans hiding that opened fire on the detachment. Izik was able to get close to the Germans and open fire on them harshly. The partisans were encouraged and crossed over the main road. Many ran away and were lost. The remaining way was even more difficult. They walked between German positions, without food, without water and without leadership.

That is how they arrived at the Berezine marshes near Ziembin.

In Ziembin there mer many Germans and police. They guarded the important bridge over the Berezine. Around Ziembin were large forests and marshes. This was the general headquarters of the partisan group in the Barisov-Minsk district. The Germans bombed the forests and took control over every bridge and road. The partisans lost one another. The commanders and those who had horses continued to tear through.

The fascists made the circle smaller. Izik’s hut was soaked in mud and torn apart. He was left barefoot, torn and hungry. German groups searched and rampaged through the forest.

Suddenly, he saw a group of Germans. He hid behind a trunk of a chopped tree. The end was near. "Tamut nafshi im Plishtim" – he reminded himself [see top of page 162 for translation].

The Germans decided to take him alive, in order to torture him. They neared and he let them. He tore the ring out of the grenade I had given and put on him. When they came to put their dirty hands on him a terrible blast was heard. Iziye’s grenade exploded, killing him dead and of the lowlife – the

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three Germans were killed. The others crawled away. They had never seen such a boy, they will remember him. The Germans retreated and did not want to move further forward.

A couple of hours later partisans passed by and saw the corpse of the heroic Yuzik. A dead German lay next to him…

He remained in the forest and it is not known where his bones are, he never came to be buried in Israel.

May his memory remain forever with the Dokshitz landslayt [citizens of Dokshitz].

Dov Katsovitsh / Petakh-Tikva


[Page 167]

Loyal to the End…

(In Memory of Izzi Plavnik)

Dov Katsovitsh / Petakh-Tikva

Translated by Daniella HarPaz

Izzi’s father, Nokhum, came to Dokshitz before the outbreak of the First World War. The Czarist government expelled him and his family from the village of Kreytzi, where they had lived for generations. Reb Nokhum married Mashe Gulkovitsh in Dokshitz. They had three children.

As a village-Jew and someone who knew the area and forests well, he did some work in the pitch business (extracting tar and turpentine from tree stumps). He was beloved by the peasants, and the shtetl-Jews [i.e., from bigger town, town-folk] treated him as one of their own, even though he was a village Jew. Reb Nokhum was a proud man, a businessman and beloved by all. One could hear stories without end, at night in his home about the once-upon-a-time village life of working the ground, about the fields, the forests and rivers…

This affected young Izzi’s spirit, which already understood that the road back to the Polish, the White Russian village – was closed. And he began on his path of envisioning a life in a Jewish village, in the Land of Israel. It is true that the country is still desolate and almost completely unsettled, but he can see how trees are being felled here, how forests are being cleared, new settlements

[Page 168]

are being created. So, why could it not be possible to achieve this in one’s own land?

He studies in the Tarbut school, one year – in the "Povshekhne" school (folk-school). He would get a beating from Christian children, but he would return the hits – then they would stop bothering him.

He marches into HaShomer HaTza’ir, the strongest youth organization in the shtetl. He becomes one of the most loyal and committed members. Ignoring his mother’s opposition, he travels to do Hakhshara in Tshenstokhov. He knows that the Hakhshara builds him a path to make aliya to Israel and realizes his dream.

The outbreak of the war in September 1939 greets him in Tshenstokhov. After much peril and difficult experiences he finally returned to Dokshitz. A week after his return home the Soviet army arrived in the shtetl. Jews breathed a little easier that the German terror had passed and that the antisemitic Poles would now not dare to raise their heads. The socialist groups were enthused and even grabbed along those youth who were Zionistically inclined. Izzi, however, correctly assessed the situation and knew the relationship of the new government to his movement and to the Zionist idea at all.

…September 1939. A heavy, cold autumn rain falls. From Borisov Street there are long winding rows of tired and wet Red Army soldiers. They are suddenly at the market and further, all the way to Glubok Street. It is 5 in the morning. Several older Jews, with their tallis bags under their arms, let themselves into the beys-hamidrash. They stand a while watching the marching soldiers. From time to time a Jew stands under a roof overhang to get out of the rain. There they are still marching on the "foot-bridge." People hurry to prayers.

Every once in a while they see a young boy cut across the road, in the free space between one military unit and the other. One can clearly sense that he is holding something hidden under his jacket. The Jews recognize him. That is Izzi Plavnik. Yesterday evening he was in the HaShomer HaTza’ir meeting place, he saw the library books scattered on the floor, the newspaper torn off the wall, the "local" looked like another pogrom had hit. Just the flag, the blue and white one with the symbol of HaShomer HaTza’ir on it, was tied with red ribbons to the pole. Izzi didn’t think long. First of all – save the flag. He came to the meeting place at dawn, untied the cloth, lay it close to his heart so the flag would be warm, so it

[Page 169]

wouldn’t feel alone in the demolished place. Now he runs with it, cutting across the path between two troops and knocks on the door of his friend Henekh Frankfurt, on Poltotzk Street. The Frankfurts are still sleeping. He knocks on the window. Henekh comes out and the two lay the fan in a tin container and bury it in the garden – until better times.

The Frankfort Family

Until today the flag of HaShomer HaTza’ir lies buried in the Dokshitz ground, as a witness and symbol of young dreams and of Izzi’s idealism, represented by the flag.

Loyalty to Jewish national values and to his people showed itself first after the German murderers entered Dokshitz. The living hell for the Jewish people began in the year 1941: ghetto, Judenrat, tributes, murders, mass-murders. Izzi’s family was killed. He understands that he can no longer stay in the ghetto. He was able to escape into the forest – and there he led a life of a fighter in a partisan detachment. In a tragic fight with the Germans Izzi fell, weapons in hand.

His life and battle serve as a sign and wonder for future generations.

Dov Katsovitsh / Petakh-Tikva

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