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[Pages 375-382]

The Liquidation of the Postov Ghetto

The bloody day of the inhalation of the ghetto occurred on Dec. 25, 1942, 3rd of Teveth, 5703. About 1,500 Jews were still alive in the Ghetto at the time. At 3:00 A.M. of that night, the Jews heard muffled voices. Immediately there was an order from the police for everybody to vacate the Ghetto. Children were awakened. Everyone became extremely frightened. They knew what it meant. They were ordered to line up in rows of 4. This time old and young, men, women and children were lined up. The Germans ordered everyone to march to the railway line. While crossing the railroad trucks, it was clear to everyone that they were being led to the slaughter. A few Jews used the darkness, they began to run to different directions. Others Jews followed them. The Germans began firing at everyone from all sides. The weak ones amongst the Jews, who couldn't keep up the speed, were instantly shot.

Very few Jews arrived alive to the huge pit, which had been prepared earlier by the Germans and their local assistants. This mass grave was filled later with the corpses, which were spread all about. This common grave of all the murdered Postov Jews is to be found on the other side of the railway line at the end of Bazielan Street.

hly375b.jpg A street in Postavy [26 KB]
A street in Postavy


[Pages 377]

The Survivors of the Postov Ghetto

Motel Katzavitsh – in Postavv
Moshe Katzavitsh – in Postavv
Abraham Roichman and wife in Israel
Moshe Roichman and wife in Israel
Raya Roichman (now Eisenman) in Israel
Abraham Friedman in Israel
The child, Tzipora Golomb (parents perished) in Israel
Fanye Tzepliovitsh and 3 children - In Postov.
Devora Friedman - in North America.
Rivke Friedman in Postov.
Tzipe Friedman in Postov
Pese Friedman in Postov
Yitzhok Barkman in Postov
Yaakov Foigl in Postov
Yoel Veksler and his wife Nechama - in North America.
Chaim-Ber Veksler & wife in North America'
Rivke Veksler in North America

[Pages 378]

Partisans of the Postiv Ghetto

Zalman Roichman tells:

Abraham-Mitze Friedman, a Postov partisan, was in Dolhinov, a shtetl not far from Vilejka, when most of the Dolhinov Ghetto was annihilated. He and another, Shimon Shapiro, managed to escape from the Dolhinov Ghetto and attached themselves to a Soviet partisan group in the forest led by Tymzok. (For more information go to the Dolhinov Yizkor book to Avraham Friedman Story). Shortly afterwards they began to search for ways to save Jews from the Postov Ghetto. After 3 days of steady wandering he arrived in Postov Ghetto. The news that he and other partisans were in the Ghetto spread promptly. They simply could not believe such an accomplishment, until it was ascertained that this hero was in contact with the Judenrat, and had asked them to let all able-bodied, fighting Jews out, so that they could go to the partisans and carry on the fight against the German murderers. The Judenrat refused. They argued that it must be either the entire Ghetto or no one. Since he couldn't take all, he left the Ghetto, taking only his sister, Leah Shapiro, and her 3 year old child, Shlomele, and his brothers, Moshe and Henech Friedman.

But Abraham-Mitze did not stop there. He undertook a difficult journey of hundreds of kilometers till he reached a Christian acquaintance, who had connections with partisans. He asked him to take a letter to his friends in the Postov Ghetto. This Christian, named Naumtship, who lived in a village between Postov and Kabilnik, carried out his request.

When we got the letter, we organized a group and sent them into the forest. In this group were: Michall-It;ze, Zalman and Abraham Friedman., Milke Zaslavsky, Chaya Ruchman, Devora Friedman (Gordon) and Abraham Ruchman. They met at the designated spot and from there went into the forest to the partisans. Abraham Ruchman went back into the Ghetto to await news from the group.

hly378a.jpg Leib and Moshe Katzovitz with their mother Rachel [18 KB]
Leib and Moshe Katzovitz with their mother Rachel

 

hly378b.jpg Chaim Zalman Izikson with his family in Postavy [12 KB]
Chaim Zalman Izikson with his family in Postavy
- they all perished

In this way several weeks passed. Once this same Christian came running and asked that I hide him so that no one would meet him. I worked for Rache Estrin, outside the Ghetto, where there had once been a bakery. I hid him away there and he gave me a letter from Abraham-Mitze Friedman. The letter read as follows: "I await you a week from Wednesday at the same spot as previously. This was 6 km. from Postov and you had to pass through the Jewish cemetery. The partisans received word that they are ready to liquidate the Postov Ghetto, so come immediately since you may be too late to save your lives if you wait."

I only told the men about this letter. On the 2nd Wednesday, I also told the women about the contents of the letter, and told them to prepare to leave. In a half-hour we were all finished with our preparations, and armed, we left the Ghetto. First we tore off the yellow Shields of David, which the German murderers had ordered us to wear, sewn to our clothes on both sides. Afterwards we cut the barbed wire fences, removed three boards from the barrier, and carefully, with great difficulty, we managed to save ourselves, only a few days before the Postov Ghetto was completely annihilated.

The following were in the group: Zalman the tinsmith and his wife, Reizel from Heidutzishok (now in America). Zalman, Nachman, Abraham, Fanye and Rachel Roichman; Tzvia and Feigele ( One year old old) Golomb; Dobe Shapiro; Sonia, Leah and Gese Zaslavsky; Chaval, 'Czipe and Fechke Friedman; Chaim-Eliyahu Katzovitsh; Nehama, Zlatke, Esther and Mindel Gordon. With this, the work in Postavy of the heroic partisan, Abraham-Mitze Friedman, ended. There simply were no more Jews left in Postovy. There was no one left to save. Abraham-Mitze Friedman died a heroic death during the unequal battle against the German murderers. This occurred in September, (I don't remember the day) 1943. May his name be remembered forever.

Nachman

When the young partisan,-Nachman, (His father was the gravedigger in the Postovy cemetery.) came to me to request that we take him along to the forest. I asked Zalman, the tinsmith, about it. Zalman agreed to take him only on condition that he brings arms with him. Nachman answered that he had arms, and with this statement he told the following story: "At the start of the War, as soon as the Germans entered the shtetl, I noticed a German lying near our house. The German was still breathing. I immediately took an axe and killed him. I buried him in the Jewish cemetery together with the arms which he carried." He told no one about this, not even his parents. I went with him to the cemetery and saw with my own eyes what this young Nachman had actually done.
after prolonged effort, we arrived to partisans camp in the forest. Nachman allowed me no rest, asking that we return close to Postov to search for escapees from the Ghetto. We went in groups of threes: Nachman, one Kopel from Baranovitsh (who died in the forest) and I. When we came to a village, 10 km. from Postov, we went into the house of a Christian to warm ourselves a bit. Warming ourselves and having something to eat, we asked the peasant if he knew something about the Postovy Ghetto. He didn't answer. To the question as to whether he knows anything about where to obtain arms, he also didn't answer. When we assured him that no harm would come to him he told us about a non-Jew who had hidden arms in a well. When we came to that peasant's house, we first asked if all that were present were with us. Afterwards we began to talk about the arms. At first he denied everything. But when we took him outside, tied him and lowered him into the well near his home, he begged that we spare his life and he would give us the arms. As this was happening, he told us that a stranger was among those in his house, whom he didn't know, and that he couldn't be sure that that one wouldn't inform the Germans in Postov that he had had partisans in his home.

Right off we went back into the house and asked the stranger to get out of bed and show us his documents. When he dressed himself and put a large cross around his neck, Nachman recognized him. He was a Postov priest as well as a German spy who used to look for partisans as well as Jews in the villages, he looked for Jews who had fled from the Ghettoes. He had a revolver as well as documents proving he was a spy. We took him with us. Riding out a few kilometers., we promised to let him live and return everything to him, provided he told us something about his "good deeds". This person began telling us about how he had had no small part in the murder of the Postov martyrs, as well as in other Ghettoes. Of course we quickly felt the urge to take at least a small bit of revenge on him. But we disagreed among ourselves as to who should have the privilege to kill such a disgusting priest-spy-murderer. We drew lots and it was young Nachman who was actually able to taste some sweet revenge.

Nachman was not satisfied with this alone. He still wanted us to go to Postov. Perhaps we would still find someone there. But when we came to our liaison officer, Naumtshik, he warned us not to take the risk because the danger was great and the entire area filled with many German murderers. There was suddenly a banging on the window of the peasant's house in which we were sitting. The peasant led us out the back door to the bath-house, thinking it was Germans. It was a groundless fright. It turned out to be an escaping Jew, Clendl Tzepelovitsh (son of Zalman), who had saved himself from the Postov slaughter and banged on the window searching for a haven. He told us in detail about the destruction of the Postov Ghetto. He said that his mother and sister, PJylime, had also saved themselves. They were about 20 kilometers away. Nachman went with him immediately to the place and brought them back to us. All of us then went further. On the way we met three other survivors: Leibke Einhorn (later killed as a partisan); Yaakov Foigl (a tar dealer now in Postov); Yitzhok Barkan (also in Postov for a while and later in Israel). A11 were naked, barefoot and hungry. In a nearby village we were able to get clothing and food for them. In this way we brought them into the forest to the partisans. There, the heroic young Nachman fell courageously, after a prolonged battle with the Nazi murderers. This occurred October 25, 1943.

Dvorah Gordon nee Friedman wrote from the U.S.

I was born in the small shtetl of Postavy. It is located not far from Vilna. Five days after the war started, my father, my grandfather, and my brother were murdered. On June 27, 1941, they became the first victims in our town. Shortly after they were killed, all the Jews of Postav were put into a ghetto. I was there for about three to four months, and then my cousin Avraham Mitzia Friedman arrived from the forest. He told us that we must prepare ourselves to leave the ghetto and join him in the forest. Clearly, we found ourselves in a dilemma. People said that our leaving would endanger their situation, and the Germans would punish them. The Judenrat did not allow us to leave the ghetto and go to the forest. My cousin, who was a partisan, threatened them and said that if they prevented us from leaving he would shoot in the air, and his partisan friends who were hiding in the Jewish cemetery would come to his aid. He did not mean this, but he wanted to scare them so that they would let us leave the ghetto. Finally, the Judenrat released a list of fifteen people who they permitted to escape.

The committee of the Judenrat took out some of the wood pieces that surrounded the fence of the ghetto, and helped us get out. Before my cousin left, he told us where we should meet him, but we did not know the roads there. We walked for about five hours but could not find him or his friends. Here we were, a group of fifteen people, walking by the dawn's light like a herd without a shepherd.

Not knowing where to go, we decided to go into a tunnel to wait for the partisans, hoping they would come and get us. As the day arose, we could hear from afar sounds of horses. When we looked, we saw that a carriage was approaching with two passengers. We were too afraid to talk to them. Later we found out they were partisans but we missed our chance. Morning came and we knew we could be seen by the light of the road, so we left and hid by the light of the nearby forest. In my group was my uncle Abrasha. Originally, only my brother and I left the ghetto; my mother and two sisters had stayed in the ghetto. I came to my uncle and said that soon we would be found here anyway, so we may as well go back to the ghetto to get my mother and sister. At first he refused to go back but finally agreed.

I put a kerchief on my head, and together the two of us went to town. On the way, I met some Christian neighbors of ours who went to the town's church.

Immediately, they recognized us. I decided to go to the smith, whose daughter had been my classmate. It was Sunday and he was not working, but he asked that we leave his house, as we were risking his life as well as his family's. I said, I only had one question: was the ghetto liquidated? He said that no, Jews were still alive. Before evening came, we passed by our old house and saw that there were ten Jews praying in our house as if someone died. They were in shock when they saw us. They said that the Judenrat had said that the fifteen people who had left were killed, and that they would bring to the ghetto the heads of all the people that were killed. I think that they just wanted to make Jews fear to leave the ghetto and also make the Germans believe that they had not condoned the escape and were opposed to it.

We stayed in the ghetto for two months before my cousin came again and asked whether the Judenrat would let another group of Jews leave. I decided I would not go to the forest without my mother and sisters, so we all left together. When we reached the forest of Nieve, we met with the Jews who had been there for a while already. They looked horrible, their faces were blackened from soot. We were still very clean and had brought with us soap, towels, shoes, and some clothes to change into. Everyone looked at us as if we had “arrived from America”.

It was very hard to get used to the forest. I remember the first time my mother boiled potatoes; they became red and were very salty. My mother said she would never get used to life in the forest or food here. My mother said to Vanka, a non Jew who lived near the forest, "I will bring you everything I have brought from the ghetto. In exchange bring me a pail of water, which I will use only for drinking for the three of us." The guy started laughing at her, saying, "you must get used to life here. you are in the forest. what do you think!? you think that we should build a well for you here?" He brought us some dirty water.

Slowly, we started to get used to this bitter life in the forest.

Winter came and it become cold, but in our group there was no man who could build us a zimlanka, so we built a tent from pine tree branches and lived there until spring. We made a bonfire under it, which we kept continuously burning, and we spent the majority of the day huddled around it. We also cooked food over the bonfire. In the tent with us lived a young woman from Vilna who used to be a classmate of mine. When we fell asleep she stole our potatoes and threw them in the bonfire to bake them, and then ate them. Every morning we would find that a few potatoes had gone missing overnight.

One time, Myra, the girl, fell asleep by the bonfire. She was so exhausted she did not notice that her jacket had caught in the fire, and a few minutes later, the entire tent had burned down. Everyone became enraged and started yelling at her not only for burning the tent but also for stealing the potatoes in the past. After a time, her cousin came and took her away with him.

When we could not take the cold anymore, and our clothing could no longer protect us from the elements, Mother told our cousin, who had come, that she no longer cared about her fate, as long as she could die in a clean bed. I told her that the road was very dangerous and that we did not know how to even get out of the forest, but Mother was very stubborn and insisted that we return to the ghetto. We started walking out of the forest, but, to our great luck, a group of partisans came forth. Among them were a few Jews we had known who asked her “Riva, where are you going”?

She said, "we are going home to the ghetto. We cannot take life in the forest any longer." They answered, "your home is here in the forest. There is no other place for you. Mother explained that we had no zimlanka, as the rest of the Jews did, and that this was the reason we were leaving the place. One of the partisans called me aside and said, "Dvorele! Have pity on your mother and yourself. I haven't the heart to tell her, but the Postav ghetto is no more. There was a slaughter there; there is not one Jew left alive there." I said to him that I did not have the courage to tell this horrible news to my mother, so we agreed to tell her that there was a huge snowstorm now but that in a few days they would come back and take us to the ghetto.

So we returned to the forest. Those Jewish partisans helped us a lot, bringing us flour, potatoes, and clothes. We slowly got used to forest life, as the rest of the Jews there had. Now we were faced with other problems, the main being the blockades we would have to run to distant places every time there was a blockade,. People would not let us join them to look for food in the villages. Since we had no men with us it was dangers for us to look for food alone.

The fact that we were a group of women only made life in the forest unbearable. There were no men to defend us, and it was very difficult for women to survive alone. I remember one incident having to do with potatoes.

The rest of the in the forest went during the night to take some potatoes. They did not let us know that they were going, and they refused to take us with them to the village when we asked them to join, so we decided to just follow them. When they left, we snuck into the potato cellar. When we descended, we found people already there, and we were not able to all fit inside of it.

Mother said, "Children, I will go into the hole and bring back potatoes." she went down and filled a sack with potatoes, but could not lift it to come back up with it. We yelled to her that she should just fill the sack half-way and then give it to us. Meanwhile, the cellar had emptied. Only my sister and I remained above, while Mother was below. We tried hard to lift the sack out, but it was cold and our hands were frozen and we could not get it out. Morning came, and we were very fearful that farmers would come and find that we were robbing them of their potatoes. We were also fearful that a Soviet partisan would come and kill us, so finally we decided to let go of the potatoes and get Mother out of the hole. It took more than an hour - finally, we were able to take her out and she was empty-handed, so we cried bitterly that we had lost such a treasure of potatoes. I will never forget the picture of us standing and crying by this hole.

The Typhus Epidemic

Summer came, and a new problem arose. A typhus epidemic took place in our camp. Many of us became sick, amongst them my sister and I. Clearly, there was no medicine and no doctor amongst us. A few people died; every morning, we prayed that god would bring a miracle and we would recover. If not a miracle, at least we hoped to be allowed to die peacefully and not fall at the hands of the Germans, who we had learned were planning a big blockade to find the partisans. My poor mother would walk every day to a nearby village, from where she would bring some dark bread and a few beans to eat.

One swelteringly hot day, Mother came to the house of a farmer in this village, and the owner of the home gave her something cold to drink that they called 'Kvas' here. Made from dry bread and water, it tasted very bitter. They would put a little piece of dry sourdough bread in a large container filled with water, and, after a few days, a sour drink would result. Mother asked that the woman would give her a bottle of the drink for her two sick daughters who were in very poor health, so it could give us strength. The woman answered her that she would be happy to give her all the liquid that she had, if she had any container where she could put it. When my mother started thanking her effusively for this great present, the woman said, "Don't thank me. I prepared this drink but no human being wants to drink it. Even the pigs in the barn refuse to taste it. It turned too sour." The next day, my mother returned to this village with two pails in her hands, which she filled with the thirst-quenching drink. The entire way home, she could not stop crying, thinking about how awful our situation was, and that now we are happy to receive a drink that even the pigs did not want. Lucky for us, we recovered from the typhus without any medicine or doctor, all thanks to this bitter 'Kvas' from the village.

Yoel Wexler wrote from the U.S.;

By the end of the summer of 1942, all the Jews of Postavy were condensed in a small ghetto. The ghetto area was tightly guarded from all directions. Our living circumstances were deplorable. We, a band of ten men who were veterans of the Polish army, decided to do something. We got together and established an underground Jewish unit in the ghetto.

Our main mission was to defend the Jews in the ghetto and try to arrange for their eventual escape to the forest.

When we approached the Judenrat and demanded to receive aid from them, in order to enlarge our underground band and plan an escape, their refusal was unequivocal.

We had to let go of the idea of organized underground in the Postavy ghetto.

I decided to build a secret shelter for my family and some of my friends. It was clear to me that a day would come that we would need such a place.

Clearly we had to build such a place in total secrecy, only two other family members took part in the construction. The "Sakharon" was build under the ground, the entrance was dug in the back yard of our house in the ghetto and a tunnel was dug in the direction of the fields. I constructed a few air chimneys and camouflaged them with shrubbery, so the hideout was unnoticeable from the outside. We buried a large amount of food in our shelter, sufficient for many days.

When we realized that the ghetto is about to be liquidated we ran to our shelter. We were a group of a dozen people. We stayed underground for nine days. We had no idea what was taking place above the ground. As time passed and we started running out of food we decided to check the area outside the shelter. When we came out we found the area clear of Jews. We knew that a group of dozen Jews would immediately be discovered and decided to split to units of two or single people, and ask the local farmers to hide us on their properties.

All the units were able to find shelters amongst the local farmers. After short time tragedies befall upon us, the very first occurred to my parents. The farmer who gave them shelter went to the Germans and reported them. The German arrived and killed them on the spot.

I was hiding together with my wife; Nechama. Winter arrived and it was a particularly cold winter. The farmer who gave us shelter refused to risk his family any longer and ordered us to leave. We found out that the Glebokie Ghetto is still standing and since we could not find any shelter we decided to go there by foot.

During the walk in the snow Nechamas' feet froze, as soon as we arrived in the ghetto Nachema was taken to the hospital and her left foot was amputated.

As spring of 1943 arrived Jewish partisans started coming to the ghetto and urging us to escape. My friend Zalman Fridman came to the ghetto from the Neyever forests and took me with him back to the forest. In the Forest I met some of my old friends- amongst them were Ytzhak Barkan and Boris Gruniman. Later I met with Hirshka Gordon.

I left Nechama behind in the Ghetto. Nachama was there until the fall of 1943- on the day of the liquidation and horrible slaughter Nechama escaped and arrived in the forests of kazan.

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