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[Page 205]

Destruction and Heroism

 

 

In Memory of the Martyrs of

NOVOHORODEK AND THE ENVIRONS

(=Novogrudek - AB)

(L-R): Selib Lubtch Karelitz

 

[Page 206]

I Am the Last

by Frumeh Gulkovitch-Berger

Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer

I remain the last to remember.
These thoughts torment me at night.
The fires of the great number glow.
The pain in my heart becomes deeper.

Here before me move freshly dug pits,
The horror of the murdered sisters, brothers.
The ground smoked, the surroundings were silent
And the little children – have remained only a number.

I look back. I see that day, that hour.
So bright and beautiful, but suddenly – war is here!
There is soon a commotion in the town.
One person runs, another weeps, and people pack their bags.

We hardly passed through that dark and frightening night.
Day has already come, gloomy, with a new power.
A power of the wicked, a power of robbers.
And the whole town already has another look.

They drive the Jews out of their houses.
The Christians, our neighbors, dance outside.
They take away our possessions
And spit in our faces, insult us rudely.

And the Gestapo men are already here with an order:
The Jews must wear a patch. It must be yellow.
Every day there's a new decree.
Can we forget the “spectacle”?

They led Alter Srebrenik around on a rope,
Driven like a dog. They “marched” him through all the streets.
I can't forget the terrible moment
When shouts were heard – “It's on fire! ”

The holy books – the Torah scrolls – in flames.
Two refugees in the Holy Ark, shot together.
Everyone is already standing in rows in the marketplace
Driven out of the town – to the last “march” – we go.

I'm the last to remember where my house was,
The people for whom I had a great love.
Where are my sisters, brothers, friends ?
Where are my mother and father today?


[Page 207]

Jewish Partisans
(Unrhymed translation)

by Frumeh Gulkowitz-Berger

Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer

At that very time of dark despair
A bright idea shone forth: “resistance”!
The dense forests will become our barracks,
We'll swear allegiance to the tall trees.

The dark night will protect us.
It won't be a struggle of equal sides,
Nor can our strength be measured by the number of our fighters,
But a death with dignity is also a great victory!

Our heart is desolate, but our body is filled with comfort
Because this is the day of fulfillment – the hour of revenge.
But also the hour of fate, when it is not certain
Where the cruel whirlwind will carry us away.

Because this is not a fight of equals –nor one of integrity either,
But a fight of a lamb which is up against a slaughterer.
But the lamb has suddenly changed into a lion,
With guns in our hands – we believe in a better tomorrow!


[Page 208]

The road of suffering

by Malka Pomerchik

Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer

The Russians entered Korelitz, at the outbreak of the German-Polish fighting, and began operating in Soviet style. First they “nationalized” the large buildings, then closed down the stores and set up one large shopping center. Immediately a shortage of commodities occurred, and long lines queued up for supplies. Everyone was put to work in cooperatives. I became a teacher in a Russian school, teaching German and working with the Fourth Grade. My prominent position in the town placed me in danger, and I left at the first opportunity for Russia, along with my husband, sister and brother-in-law, and one brother.

On the way, we became separated but managed to reunite and reach Tashkent, where we spent the war years. Returning to Korelitz we found there but a handful of Jews - too tired to move away. We went on to Austria, hoping to proceed to Eretz-Israel with Aliya Bet, but our child was too young. We had to wait until after the War of Liberation. Eventually we settled in Kfar Saba.

Among the Jews who survived and remained in Korelitz were Sadieh the leather worker, Motel with his son, Zelda with her husband and Michael – just 8 Jews. They didn't want to move away and I couldn't convince them to leave. I went to Toretz to stay with my uncles, who remained alive and fought with the partisans. We stayed there until I gave birth. Two weeks later we left for Poland in order to continue on our way to the Land of Israel. I succeeded in convincing my uncles to go along with us.

We arrived in the country on May 31, 1949. En route, we stopped in Austria, thinking that we could go to Israel sooner illegally. However, because my child was so young, we were unable to travel to Israel illegally. We had to wait until the War of Independence was over. Then the borders were open and we came to Israel and settled in Kfar Saba.

The elementary school in Korelitz

[Page 210]

In Peace and In Days of War

by Dov Cohen (Berel Kagan)

Translated from the Hebrew by Ann Belinsky

Despite the fact that I am not a townsman of Korelitz, but from Novogrudek - I was connected to Korelitz by strong family ties, because my grandmother's house (on my mother's side) was there. The house of my grandmother, Hana-Gittel Gurevitz, stood on the banks of the river, some distance from the center of the town, on the way leading to Mir. My mother, Shoshka Kagan, was born Gurevitz, so she was from Korelitz and many of her family were from there and among them are etched in my memory: my Uncle Yoskeh Gurevitz with his wife Breina Feigel (nee Londin); my Aunt Malka Kapuchevsky. I did not know my grandfather, Dov Gurevitz, as he died before I was born. A big photo of him always hung in our house and in my mind's eye I always had a vision of his image as that of Dr Herzl, with his imposing figure and honor.

During my youth I would travel a lot to my grandmother in Korelitz and every trip was an adventure in my mind, which left me with pleasant feelings in my heart, youthful impressions - for many days.

Travel from Novogrudek was always with the wagon-driver Hillel, whose wagon was carefully padded with sweet-smelling fresh straw. A grey-white mare was always tethered to the wagon, and she also was always brushed and clean, an intelligent horse who knew and understood the soul of the wagon driver. One word from Hillel was enough to move or stop the horse or make any other movement. And thus I sit on the wagon making its way via the gentile villages so well known to the driver, who would vary his journey with jokes and clever stories. In order to show me “Who is Hillel the Wagon-driver”; the farmers working in the fields receive the blessing of Hillel - “Pomahi-Buch” (God be with you), which are faultily expressed from his mouth (on purpose, in Yiddish) “ein broch” (a plague upon your head!) and the farmer answers “Spazebo” (thank you) and Hillel laughs wholeheartedly. My grandmother's house was an old house and appeared quite wretched from the outside, a low and crooked house with a straw roof that was changed at the end of its days to a tiled roof. But the inside of the house was warm and clean. Part of the house was even without flooring. Surrounding the house was a large vegetable garden of five dunams. From this garden my grandmother made her living.

In my grandmother's house was an attic that did not have regular steps leading to it, but rather an old shaky ladder that stood there. A story comes to mind that connects the attic to my Uncle Yoskeh. The story was familiar in my grandmother's house about my uncle Yoskeh's courage: it happened in the days of the First World War. Uncle Yoskeh was a youth who hid in the attic out of fear of the work enlistment by the Cossacks who were in the town. And here it happened that a Cossack came to look for people to work and in his search he came to the attic and tried to climb the rickety steps of the ladder to the attic. Yoskeh, who sat above and saw that all hope was lost, made a courageous decision: when the Cossack reached the top rung, he pushed the ladder, causing it to fall with the Cossack. The man was frightened and didn't understand what had happened. The people in the house told him that there had always been demons and ghosts in the attic and none of them ever entered it. This influenced him and he left. And thus Yoskeh was saved from the work enlistment and from the hands of the Cossack.

When I grew up a little, I tried to understand Uncle Yoskeh, to get details of this nice story and its veracity, but he always brushed me away with a movement of his hands, as if he didn't put much importance on these things.

Stories of this kind which I heard in Korelitz during my visits there added double charm to my love of Korelitz and the stories remained with me as something special and mischievous from the spirit of youth in this place.

The Faivelevitz family lived next door to my grandmother. Because they were such good neighbors, they felt as part of the family to me. We only knew the nickname of the head of the family - “Mika”; with a short beard and a short, busy wife whom he was afraid of. Mika had two sons, one - Ezra - was a big youth who would feed me with strange stories and even tell me secret love stories, but I was still young and didn't understand much about these matters.

* *

*
The second period in my life connected to Korelitz was the terrible period of the Second World War, the time of destruction caused by the war whose dimensions we could not estimate at its outbreak. I had grown up and was already a man and with the outbreak of the war every man and every Jewish family began to make an account of the situation - where to escape? - where to hide “until the danger is past”? But the danger did not pass until almost everything was destroyed. In our family in Novogrudek we began to make secret plans and think - Where would it be safer? In a small place or in a large city? And thus it was decided in our family to send a delegation to Korelitz: My uncle Yankel Kagan, my cousin Idel Kagan and I made our way by foot via winding paths to Korelitz. We arrived at my grandmother's house after a terrible night of walking and evading the German guards. And the next day we were taken out by the Germans, together with all the Jews of the place, to the market square. The square was full of the German Gestapo troops and the SS and their assistants - people from the local police who, with blows and abuse, placed the Jews in close-packed rows. Youth, women and old people whose faces all expressed fear and helplessness. And here the Germans now also bring the local Rabbi. His intelligent face was shining opposite the large assembly, as if to imbue them with hope, belief and courage. When I looked at the proud Rabbi with his majestic appearance, I understood his look, as if he were giving a fiery speech to the bewildered and wretched audience; his face reminded me of the many years of history of the Jewish people, years sown with torture and persecution and.hope. I was stopped in thought by a reading by one of the town notables at the order of the Germans. He read a prepared list of the town notables who were ordered to leave the rows and move to a special place which was assigned to them, and no-one knew where it was safer: between the rows of people who were ordered to go to the assigned place, or in the tightly-packed rows that remained as they were. The Nazi troops do not stop at this: after reading the list, they move among the close-packed rows with kicks and abuse, pull out more people and push them towards the people who had just been moved, and now the Rabbi joins them. After this satanic show is over, the Germans disperse the rest of the crowd with blows and shouts.

All these people who were removed from the rows according to the list were transferred overnight to imprisonment in the cellar of the synagogue of the town, and the next day moved to Novogrudek. There they were shot and executed the same day, near the forest.

We left Korelitz the next day and returned to Novogrudek and I never returned to see Korelitz again.

I met up during the war years with townspeople of Korelitz in the forests of the partisans in our struggle against the Germans and all excelled in their courage in the bloody war with the Nazis and in their determination to avenge the spilled blood of their brothers and families.


[Pages 212-225]

On the Brink of Destruction

by Ben-Ir
[This is a pen name =“A son of the town” HS]

Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer

When the Soviets came into our small town, they took away the merchants. Since we had a hardware store, where I worked, I quickly went into painting. The wealthier merchants were taken away.

There were few house painters in Korelitz, and as I had begun working as a painter, I was needed and was kept employed till the last minute. That is how I was saved and wasn't taken away to Russia.

When the Soviet-German war broke out, the Soviets ran off. Things were chaotic in the town, like in a time of war.

We heard that the Germans were getting closer to our section. There was a panic. Each person was thinking of a way to save himself. Many people ran off to Russia, including my brother Gavriel and myself. On the road between Mir and Stolptzi, we met many people in vehicles or on foot. There were many wounded and killed. The Germans pursued us. We were told that they were burning bridges and destroying the roads so that we wouldn't be able to return to Korelitz or reach Russia either. We decided to go back.

The Germans came into Korelitz at the end of June 1941. For a few days there was no law and order. The Christians would come with bags and wagons and rob and beat Jews. It didn't matter what we gave them. They robbed Jewish property and everything we had toiled for.

The Germans set up headquarters in Yosef Bernstein's house. The commander of the station was Kasperovitch, a Christian from Korelitz. Later he was replaced by Strashke and after Strashke was Drutshke. They supported the German armed forces. The names of the Germans were Birkhoff and Ehrhardt. The SS people were stationed in a second brick house under the command of Hentshike. He was a bloodsucker. I don't remember the names of the others. They beat Jews with murderous blows.

They quickly ordered the Jews to form a Jewish Council. The Jewish Council was in the rabbi's house. Rabbi Viernik was forced to be the head of the Council. He had the cooperation of Shimon Zelavianski, Moshke Kivelevitch and Baruch Shimshelevitch. The secretary was Lipke, a refugee.

The Jewish Council received orders. The first – a contribution: gold and other valuables were to be delivered to them. In case these items were not furnished, everyone would be killed. Jews brought whatever they had. This was repeated several times. When the SS men would come for the contributions, they would beat the rabbi.

A ghetto was set up in a short time. The remaining Jews in Korelitz were all concentrated in a two-storey house which belonged to Lifschitz. There were several more houses near that house. It was very tight. We slept on the floor or in a bunk bed, one over the other.

Several families from surrounding villages such as Faluzhe, Maitset, Palinoi, Shepetnitze and Mondzin were brought to our ghetto.

People were not allowed to bring any food with them. They were starving, yet they shared whatever they had with one another. They began to get used to this life.

A short time later, all the men were ordered to assemble at the market place. Many men escaped the blows of the Germans by working in near-by places like Prizhnevitch or by working in small villages without pay – which was better than being beaten.

The day the men were ordered to go to the market place (in July or August), I was in Pritchenievitch, a small village, 3 km from Korelitz. As I was working, I suddenly heard that a woman had come and had fallen. This was Dvashke Ganzevitch. She said: “Children, men, run quickly to town, to the marketplace because if one man is missing, all the men will be shot.” Her children, Moshe-Dovid and Itze-Berl, were also working with us. All of we who were working in Pritchenievitch, ran quickly back to town. All the men standing in the marketplace were lined up against the stores. Germans and policemen with guns were standing all over. We were also put into the lines.

About 10 to 15 minutes later, a German SS man began reading from a note which the Christian boys had handed him. He said that the men whose names he would call out were useful Jews who were needed and that they would remain alive. All of those who were called out by name were seated on vehicles.

I remember that Michel Shuster, a wigmaker, whose son Reuven was a young boy, was not included in the list and, as the 105 men whose names were called out would remain alive, the father begged the German to have pity and also take his son for work because he was capable and useful. The German answered that he didn't need him because he was still young.

The 105 men were taken to the study hall. The others who remained standing in the market place were beaten and dispersed.

The 105 men were then removed from the study hall and taken to Novogrudek, where they were murdered.

When the 105 men were still in the study hall, Henke, Velvel's daughter, wanted to look at her husband through the window and say good-bye to him for the last time. She was shot at and wounded. Rivke Slutzki was also wounded.

Christians would come to the Jews in Korelitz and bring regards from the Jews who had been taken away. They told the Jews in Korelitz that these Jews had nothing to eat and were asking their family and friends to send them food and other things. The Jews in Korelitz collected the little they had and sent it to their husbands and children. This, however, was a lie. The Christians would steal the food and other things for themselves because, as we found out, the 105 men had been shot at once near the barracks.

Besides causing unbearable hardships and giving beatings, the Germans also organized several transports. Three transports of Jews were sent to the camp in Dvoretz. This was a “T.A.D.T.” (German firm) camp where people worked.

In addition, Jews were also transported to the ghetto in Novogrudek.

Exactly how many Jews lived in the ghetto, I can't say. I think there were about 300. The ghetto was surrounded by a barbwire fence. Policemen under the supervision of the Germans served as guards. These were White Russian policemen wearing German uniforms.

I remember one instance: 2 refugees who came to Korelitz asked the Germans whether they could travel to the “third realm”, i.e. to Bialistok. They were taken for spies and brought to the study hall. The rabbi was brought in and the two were shot. Then their bodies were placed on a bed sheet and buried together. The Rabbi asked the Germans to place the man separately and the woman separately, but precisely because the rabbi requested this, the two were laid to rest together. This was either at the end of 1941 or the beginning of 1942.

In November or December 1942, the final transport of Jews was carried out and Korelitz became cleansed of Jews, “Jüdenrein“. This last transport was also taken to the ghetto in Novogrudek.

I want to add to the barbarism of the Germans. When the two Jews were shot in the study hall in the presence of the rabbi, the Torah scrolls, tables and benches were also taken outside. They grabbed the rabbi, pulled him by his beard, beat him and burned everything. Then the rabbi was taken to the synagogue yard, where there was a well. The water was drawn with a chain. The rabbi was ordered to draw water with a bucket. Then they tormented him by spilling water over him until he fell down.

Finally, the rabbi was accused of being a communist and was taken with a group of “communists” to Novogrudek and shot with the group near the barracks.

Little remained of the Jews' possessions. Individual, familiar Christians would come to the wire fence and bring a small loaf of bread, an egg and take the last of what the Jews had. I was working as master painter outside the ghetto. What I earned, I managed to bring into the ghetto, and one person shared with another the food which he could obtain through indirect ways.

I ran away from Korelitz to the camp in Dvoretz a few days before Korelitz became “Jüdenrein”. I did so because I heard that one could escape from the camp in Dvoretz and join the partisans.

It wasn't so easy for me to get into the Dvoretz camp. I came to a forest in the daytime. The camp was guarded by policemen, so I couldn't get into the camp during the day. Suddenly, I saw a couple of boys from afar. I recognized one of them: Yitzchak Stoler's son, who was a carpenter and worked in Dvoretz. I called the boys over with my hand. They came closer and I asked the boy I knew to transmit a few words to his father from me. The boy ran off at once. I waited and looked through the trees. From afar, I noticed Yitzchak Stoler walking with an axe and a saw. When he came over to me, we both wept. I told him what troubles I had experienced and how I had gotten there.

We both cut down a tree and together carried the tree into the camp on our shoulders. This was proof that we were both returning from work. He was familiar with the Dvoretz camp. As soon as I was inside the camp, I was locked up among all the other workers. Yitzchak Stoler took me around and registered me in his group of carpenters so that I would get a little more groats and a piece of bread.

I was in the Dvoretz camp several months. Exactly how many Jews were in the camp, I can't say because I was there only a short time and escaped to Novogrudek in the summer of 1942.

In Novogrudek I worked as a master painter. I was taken to work under guard. I remember that I worked in a church and the priest would give us a piece of bread, a few eggs, a small chicken. He helped us in whatever way he could. This kept us alive: me, my brother Gavriel and our mother.

When we had been in Novogrudek a short time, mother said to us: “Children, try to escape. Maybe one of you will survive so that a memory of our family might remain. I'm sick and can't go with you.”

We escaped to the ghetto in Pereshke. One day we went with a group in search of water. Coming to a place of water, we hid among the bushes. When everyone left, we stayed there thinking of how to escape.

We escaped and reached some Christians near Novogrudek. We wandered through villages, asking for a small piece of bread. While doing so, I was wounded by a German airplane and also by some policemen.

One day, as we were wandering about, I met some young fellows from Korelitz who were partisans in Bielski's unit. They were Bentshe Gulkovitch and Chaim Avramovitch. Seeing them, a new world opened up before me. They took us with them to Bielski. There, Dr. Itler treated my wounds for the first time and I slowly regained my strength.

I was put into the ranks of the scouts. In time I was ordered to be the commander of the scouts. I myself wasn't capable of giving any orders. I would always carry out the mission myself.

Bielski called me over and said he didn't want me to go out on missions alone, but I told him I didn't want to be a commander. I refused to be a commander but stayed in the ranks of the scouts.

We carried out all kinds of missions. Once, we even went around Korelitz.

The unit numbered 1,200 people, all Jews. There was little to eat and there were also few armed men because most of the armed men were placed in Ordzhenikidze's unit. The majority were women, older men. There were in all 120-150 partisans with guns. We were in the Nalibok forest where there were many units. It was very hard to get food. Besides, we weren't allowed to take anything around our section. We had to go to outlying places, closer to the Germans.

We went into Ogrodnik (a village) one or one and a half km from Korelitz. We immediately noticed the priest and the veterinarian. Our men, who were standing outside, didn't think anything was wrong. They took wagons and loaded them up with whatever they could. As we left with 10 wagons full, the police in the yard began shooting at us. We hardly escaped alive, and we left everything there.

On the way back, we went into villages because we were ashamed to return to our unit empty handed. We brought back a great wealth of provisions. When we got back, we told Bielski what had happened. He admired our heroism and was glad that we managed to get away safely.

— Besides partisans, there were also White Poles in the Nalibok forest.

The Germans set up a blockade and I received an order from Bielski to go and see who was in the area. We were always in contact with Christians who would give us news. I went out with Chaim Kravetz and Barke Rubizhevski. We rode slowly and came to a Christian. Before entering a village, we would stop at the first house and find out whether there were any Germans in the village. The Christian told us that everything was quiet in the village and that there were no Germans. We went in further and we were suddenly caught in a storm of bullets. This killed the White Poles.

I remember an instance when Bielski called the group of scouts which I was leading and said that there was a peasant in the village of Izveh who was informing the Germans where Jews and partisans were hiding. Our task was to wipe out the whole family.

We went there. Our group consisted of the Lubavitch brothers, Ben-Zion Gulkovitch and Yisrael Salanter (as he was called among the partisans). I knocked on the Christian's door. The Christian's wife opened the door. We left our horses in the forest. The Christian woman and her two children were the only ones in the house. She said that her husband wasn't home. We told her that we were good friends and that if she needed anything she couldn't get because of the war, we would bring everything for her. She replied that they wanted to build on, and that if we could bring a saw, she would give us whatever we wanted. When we bring the saw, she said, her husband would also be there and we'd have a good drink.

We said goodbye and promised to bring what she needed. We went back to the forest, got on our horses and rode to Stankevitch, to the home of a Christian. We asked him for a saw and promised to return it. He gave it to us. We got back on our horses and left.

We returned to the Gentile woman and I again knocked on the door and knocked on the windowsill with the saw. When you hit something with a saw, it makes a ringing sound. When the Gentile woman heard the sound of the saw, she quickly opened the door. Again the woman with her two children were the only ones at home.

Two of our group of partisans remained standing on the street as guards to make sure the Germans would not attack us. Four of the partisans came into the house: the Lubavitch brothers, Yisrael Salanter and myself. We told her that everything was perfectly fine, but that we'd like to talk to her husband. Seeing that everything was ready, that we brought the saw which we had promised, she opened the window and called her husband.

Each person in our group was assigned a task in advance so that we each knew what we had to do. Yisrael Salanter was to kill her husband. Michl Lubavtich was to kill his wife. I - one daughter and Zalman Lubavitch, the other daughter.

The husband came in. Yisrael Salanter went for his gun. The man was healthy and strong and began wrestling with Yisrael. They both fell down in the middle of the house. Seeing what was happening, I wanted to shoot him with my gun, but I was afraid I might kill Yisrael instead. I turned the gun over and hit him over the head with the wooden part. The wood broke. He let go of Yisrael who took out his pistol and shot him.

The woman begged us not to kill her. She would give us everything she had, but money meant nothing to us. Michl shot her. I shot one daughter who was hiding in bed, and Zalman Lubavitch shot the other daughter.

When we went out of the house, we let the horses and cows out of the stable. Then we set fire to the house and stable. We left a note: “A person who collaborates with the Germans deserves to die like this.” We got on our horses and went back to our unit. Our act of revenge against that family caused a great panic in the villages. Christians were afraid to inform the Germans where the partisans were moving around. It was a little better for us; it was easier to be in the forest.

Bielski sent out a group of partisans with good guns to perform an operation, and the group carried out what they had to do. This was done during the day and they couldn't go back to their base during the day because the Germans were moving about on the roads. They (the partisans) came to a peasant's hut. His last name was Bielorus and was known to the group. This was a group of the best men in the unit. They left their wagon in the yard. The Christian gave them a fine welcome. The group was exhausted and they lay down to rest.

The Christian's daughter asked to go out to milk the cows. They let her leave. After all, they knew the Christian and she went out. Novogrudek wasn't far away and she informed the Germans.

Germans arrived, surrounded the entire hut and killed everyone. A miracle occurred when Polanski hid in the henhouse. (Christians had big ovens, beneath which was the henhouse.) Seeing that everything had become quiet, he crawled out of the henhouse and called out to the White Russian, who was standing there alarmed, seeing everyone lying there dead.

— “What do you think? We'll keep quiet about your part in this?”

As soon as he said this, the Gentile took an axe and killed him, too, the last of the group of Jewish partisans.

Not far away was Vishnievski's group, which found out about this. Bielski called together the unit and announced that we shouldn't move about in the villages.

One of Vishnievski's group came and said that he knew where the group was killed. There were the two Bielorus brothers who informed on the Jews and, on account of them, the group of partisans was killed.

The Bielorus family knew that we wouldn't keep quiet, so they moved to Novogrudek and their hut remained empty. Later, Bielorus returned to his hut, seeing that the partisans were no longer coming into the area (and that was due to Bielski's order) and fearing that their crops would die if their fields weren't cultivated because it was now summer.

Vishnievski's group found out when he came back and warned us. A group of 25 men was selected including myself. Pesach Friedberg and our commissary were in our group. Bielski's brother Asael was the leader of the group. The group had to take revenge.

On our way to the Bielorus house, we found out that a boy from Korelitz was killed when a Christian informed on him. The boy was running through the villages and stole a bucket from that Christian. The Gentile went to the ghetto in Novogrudek. They lined up the Jews and the Gentile had to identify the boy. He in fact recognized him (I don't remember the family name, but I knew they came from Korelitz) and the Germans shot him. We received an order from Asael to burn down the house and kill the Gentiles. We carried out the task before going to the Bielorus house.

When we came to the Bielorus house, Bielski gave an order as to who was to go into the house and who was to keep watch to make sure that no one would attack us.

I was among those who were to keep guard on the street. When our men knocked on the door, no one answered. They forced the door open and found Bielorus. In his pocket was a letter of commendation, praising him for informing on a Jew for which he was entitled to receive a certain sum of money from the district commissary of Novogrudek. They took the letter and wrote a protocol as to why they had come and were carrying out the sentence. Then they shot the whole family and let the cows and horses out of stable before setting the house on fire.

On the way back, we left notes on all the posts explaining why we carried out the act of revenge against the two Bielorus brothers and their families. They were being paid back for having turned the group of partisans over to the Germans. The Christians for the surrounding places were now frightened. We instilled fear in them.

When the Germans began running away from the Baranovitch - Lida roads, Bielski sent out a group of 12 spies who were to blow up the highways. Yudel Levin, Alek Pshenitze, Bentshe Gulkavitch, the two Lubavitch brothers, Niame Berkovitch and others. I also belonged to the group. Yudel was the mine layer.

We did our job and wanted to return to our base. We rode in single file, one behind the other. I was the first. When the road was already in sight, we heard: “Stoi! Kto yedzhie? (Stay there! Who is going?) Password!” We didn't have a password. We thought they were Christian partisans, but they were White Russians who worked together with the Germans. We didn't even manage to speak out when they opened fire with a hail of bullets.

Yehosha fell off his horse at once and I also fell off. The others who were behind us managed to turn their horses around and ride off.

I couldn't see where I was. I slowly began dragging myself on the ground and how surprised and happy I was when I noticed the group which had gone about half a km ahead. Having noticed that I was missing, they were waiting for me. They put me on a horse and we rode further on.

We came to Victor Pantchenko's unit. This was a group which had originally worked together with Bielski's unit when they had begun to organize. We stayed with them. They would take our horses and ride around. They told us that the day of liberation was getting closer.

We didn't plan to stay with them much longer. Yudel Levin told me that there was only one way out: to ride closer to Novogrudek.

Once in Novogrudek, we went up to the cemetery. Yudel himself was from Novogrudek and was a photographer by trade. He called to me:

— “I don't know if I'll have another opportunity, so I'd like to take a look at my house and see who's living there.” There was a Christian in the house who was also a photographer. Yudel asked him if he knew who he was. Yudel then introduced himself and said he was the owner.

— “You know what? Take our picture!” The Gentile took out his camera and took our picture in the yard. I still have the photo. Then the Christian invited us into the house and asked if we would like to eat. He told us: “Children, run away because Germans are moving around the streets, if you want to live.”

We believed him. We got on our horses and rode off. We reached the forest, where we heard from the partisans that these were the final hours of the occupation. We would soon be liberated. We rode on further to our unit. I was first and Yudel was behind me. I had a Russian rifle which I carried across my chest. My horse was small. It was a summer day. We were riding along the sands in the forest. In the distance, I noticed a line of Germans moving along. Yudel wouldn't believe me. He said there were no Germans in the forest.

[Page 223]

Jews from Korelitz in Italy

 

This was actually a group of Germans walking one behind the other, 3-5 meters apart. When I got closer to the Germans, one of them aimed his rifle at me and wanted to shoot me. Out of great fear, I sat on the “strumianes” which one rides on a horse (?) and, with a movement of my finger, I said in Russian, “Don't dare shoot!”

I don't know whether it was my luck, but the German put down his gun. Yudel and I quickly jumped off our horses. The German remained there and the others went on ahead. I shot at the German but my gun jammed and wouldn't shoot. Seeing this, the German ran into the forest.

We, Yudel and I, stood there thinking what to do. I didn't want to go ahead. I didn't want to be hit by a German bullet. We went back and on the way we met many Christian partisans. We stopped them and told them that Germans were moving around and that they shouldn't go any further. We selected a group of 40-50 men. We then decided to go and capture the Germans because we were now a stronger group, but we didn't meet up with any.

We returned happily to our unit, but a misfortune occurred. When the Germans were running through the forest, the partisans were ordered to go and chase after them. A battle ensued during which 10 partisans lost their lives.

— We were liberated in June, 1944. We gathered together and Bielski spoke to us. Our joy was indescribable. Russian soldiers were already in the forest.

As was said, our unit (Bielski's) numbered 1,200 men and, the men remained alive, in fact, thanks to Tuvia Bielski and his brothers. Jews who had escaped from a ghetto, a camp had an address, a place to come. It was very important for them. Christian partisans used to capture Jews who were fleeing and shoot them. When Bielski's unit was formed, however, things were different. You had to settle accounts with him.

We came to Novogrudek. Bielski called together all the partisans and said we could go wherever we wanted to. All the Christian partisans who remained alive were sent further on the front. When Bielski was asked where the partisans from his unit were, he answered that they should have asked him that question earlier because he had disbanded the unit and each of his men went on his way and he didn't know where they were.

After the liberation, I began to think what I should do next. I went to Korelitz to take a look at the place where I was born and where my family had lived. I found Christians who had come from Russia living in my house. I introduced myself as the owner of the house. They explained to me that they weren't at fault. They were settled there. I was there together with Gulkovitch.

I couldn't stay in the house any longer. After all, my mother and little brother had lived in that house. I didn't meet anyone. I left the house. The Christians gave us a small loaf of bread for the way and more food. I met a Christian lady in Korelitz who recognized us. I asked her if there were any Jews still in Korelitz. She answered that there were a few: Zelde Stoler, Sadia Gertzovski (“der rimer?”), Motl Ushechovski and Michael Kogan (the fur coat maker). These were all that were left in Korelitz. We met with them and had a good cry. We regretted the fact that hardly but a few individual Jews remained alive out of such a population in Korelitz.

We said goodbye to Korelitz and returned to Novogrudek, where I sought ways to escape.

I went to Lodz. It took time but I found ways to go to pre-state Israel. I went from Lodz to Germany, from Germany to Austria, from Austria to Italy, where I met former partisans. I met with Kavenski, who wanted to transfer his work-place over to me. I created the first “kibbutz” (group) of partisans in Aqua Santa - later Anzio Nettuno. I served on the committee. I maintained contact with the “Joint” and provided food for the group.

In 1947 I was sent to Germany. I travelled together with Yashke Mazavietski and David Plitnik. In Germany, we had to organize groups of Jews who were to go to Israel while the war was going on. I worked in the so-called “illegal immigration” to Israel.

When I returned to my “kibbutz” in Italy, I no longer found my group there. In 1947, I was sent to pre-state Israel.

I went to my sister's home. I immediately began looking for work.


[Page 226]

The Ghetto
(Unrhymed translation)

by Frumeh Gulkowitz-Berger

Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer

Hitler's Nazis seized our areas
And began at once to rule in an inhuman way.
They built ghettos with high walls for Jews,
Tortured, murdered and burned them in ovens.

A high wall with barbwire,
It was forbidden to go out, just like from a prison.
Guards above, guards all around
And those inside - were destined to perish….

The Nazis drove everyone behind ghetto walls:
Old, young, also bride and groom in love.
The suffering was terrible behind the walls.
The rulers from Hitler's country were pitiless.

Where is the work, where is the work document?
They tricked us.
Jews dying of hunger, torment and filth
Every day there are dead - by the dozens.

(continued on Page 267)


Bread in the Ghetto
(Unrhymed translation)

by Frumeh Gulkowitz-Berger

Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer

Why is this so, tell me, world —
A piece of bread should be dearer than gold?
A slice of bread to calm one's hunger
A small loaf of bread which one looks upon as a wonder.

“Bread, bread, I'm so hungry — it gnaws at my heart”.
I hear a little girl say to her mother.
“Oh, my child! There's no bread to eat in the ghetto.
Maybe tomorrow will be better - meanwhile, just try to forget.”

Oh, bread! Today you're my dream and my goal in life.
A small piece of bread to eat and be satisfied, that's my aim.
And once, when the day wasn't so bright,
I was lucky enough to get a little flour.

But carrying the little bag so the policeman wouldn't see,
You can't conceive what a risk this was to one's life.
Because for a potato many people had already paid with their lives.
So what kind of punishment would the murders give for bread?

It was my day -the policeman overlooked me,
My father was at the bunk bed, reciting another psalm.
My sisters had already prepared the kneading board.
Who would have thought that the evil hour had arrived?

The oven is heated, the flour already poured.
It's rising on the kneading board. The bread is kneaded.
But suddenly a shout is heard outside,
The ghetto is already surrounded by murderers, Alas!

They put out the flames in the oven.
The dough is rising above the rim of the board.
There are no more hands to bake the bread.
Everyone is lying in the Seresik pits - dead!

And the bread on the kneading board on the bunk bed remained an orphan,
Just as it felt that you, too, were driven away.
So tell me, world, how can you see my pain?
My people have been destroyed! Tell me, what happened to you?

 


[Pages 228-231]

Memories of the Ghetto

by Frumeh Gulkowitz-Berger

Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer

 

This happened in the small Jewish town of Korelitz, between Novogrudek and Mir. Dear, warm-hearted Jews with a long and distinguished pedigree lived there.

When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, Korelitz was occupied by the Soviet government. Everything in Jewish life changed at once; it was no longer the same as before. But Jews adjusted to the new conditions. We went on living with hope and confidence.

Suddenly, this, too, was destroyed. That was on June 22, 1941, when Hitler unexpectedly attacked Soviet Russia. A hell on earth began for the Jews in Korelitz as it did for Jews in other places as well.

From the start, we were driven into a ghetto in Korelitz. I was there with my mother, father, my three sisters and a brother. Our misery was great. There was no limit to our suffering and pain. In that same year, 1941, local Nazi collaborators headed by Britchkovski beat up my mother and she died from her wounds. I will never forget this…

*

In May 1942, when a bright spring day arose over God's world, all the Jews were driven out onto the market place in Korelitz. I was standing in the first row with my sisters: Grunia, Faygel and Brayna. My father, Shlomo, was standing next to them. He could hardly stand on his swollen feet.

All at once, the Nazi murderers with their local “helpers” began driving the Jews onto the road. The “march” was accompanied by beatings and insults, with (soldiers) standing around with guns fixed at us, ready to shoot. The day dragged on like an eternity for the Jews.

“At night, we finally came to Novogrudek. Tortured, exhausted, hungry and thirsty, we were driven like animals into the stables of the Pereshik ghetto, where there were also Jews from Novogrudek and other small towns: Lubtch, Ivenitz, Nalibok, Shelib and others. A long chain of endless suffering and pain began there for every one of us.”

Thursday morning, August 6, 1942, we pushed and shoved our way to the gate to go to work. (We already had the feeling that the ghetto would be surrounded by Nazis in the coming days.) My 6 year old niece asked to be taken along. I managed to do so only because the policeman pretended not to notice. For some reason, this day at work was a little freer. But don't rejoice, foolish person. A minute before dark becomes easier…

All of a sudden, there was a commotion. We started to run. We didn't know where we were running. News reached us that the ghetto was already surrounded. My brother's wife and I began running to the barracks because the others were running there. I didn't see my sisters any more. There we underwent a “sorting” - this one to the right, this one to the left - to life or to death.

Those selected for death were driven back to the Pereshike ghetto. It had already started getting dark. The ghetto was already full of Nazis. I was back in “our” stable. My father was standing beside his bunk bed, wrapped in his prayer shawl, reciting psalms. My God! How did one bullet kill an honest and devout Jew? I will never forget how he looked at me…

My sisters were hiding somewhere in an attic. Yehudit, my sister-in-law, pulled me by the hand, “Come, let's go and look somewhere for a hiding place.” I myself was strangely motionless, like a stone. We went out of the stable. Where could we find a hole to crawl into? After all, we were strangers there. The ground would just not open for us and hide us! We passed by a few people who had been killed. I knew one of them, a girl from Korelitz, Merke Yellin. She had the courage to spit in the face of a German.

We passed by the large outhouse which stood in the middle of the ghetto. Without a minute to think, we went inside, and that became our hiding place. We dropped down into the filth which came up to our chests. Two women were already lying there: Esther Menaker and Mashe Rabinovitch. We sat in all four corners because, in case someone heard our breathing, we wouldn't all be seen at the same time…

The night passed quietly. On Friday, August 7 (24 Av), we heard the sound of cars. The murderous beasts were coming for their victims. The cries of little children still ring in my ears today.

“Daddy, mommy, where are you? Why have you left us?” The children were locked in the cars at once. The sound of the cars diminished as they drove further away. Soon shooting was heard and then it was quiet. Four thousand lives were cut down.

Music was heard in the ghetto. The resounding voice of a Nazi was speaking. He said they were carrying out a sacred task which they must complete - searching for the remaining Jews in their hiding places.

Suddenly, we heard steps of human beasts and dogs.

The dogs began barking and it became clear to them that Jews were there. They began shooting at us. The first bullet hit Esther Menaker. She didn't even let out a sigh. A bullet tore off a piece of my dress and slightly grazed my right hand. The Nazis apparently didn't see the other two women on the opposite side. I heard the murderers say to one another that if they're still alive there, they'll die anyway. And they went further on, looking for hiding places.

We lay in the filth of the toilet six days without eating or drinking. Worms were eating our bodies voraciously, and whenever someone entered, our hearts stopped beating out of fright. I still have a weak heart to this very day.

On the seventh day, the surviving Jews were brought back from the barracks, and among them was also my brother Ben-Zion. The ghetto was made smaller and, that being the case, the outhouse in which we were hiding was now outside the ghetto.

When my brother found out about us, he dragged us out of the cesspool. It was then that we saw the great disaster. There were so few of us left, you could count us on the fingers of your hand.

We began escaping from the ghetto in groups. My brother was the first to run away with a group. He quickly came and took us out of the ghetto with 25 people. We became partisans. We fought against the Nazis for two and a half years and lived to see the liberation as proud Jews.


[Pages 231-234]

Under the Yoke of the Nazis

by Ben-Zion Gulkowitz

Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer

Every Jew who lived through the German occupation has very much to relate about the sufferings and frightful days when one's life was constantly in danger. To this very day I cannot understand the miracle of my survival.

Right after the Germans came into Korelitz in the summer of 1941, they began to issue decrees: they confiscated Jewish property, drove the Jews out of their homes and sent them to perform slave labor. None of us could believe that our small town would become “Jüdenrein”, cleansed of all Jews. Who could imagine that Jews who had lived in the cities and towns for hundreds of years would be uprooted from their homes and killed in the cruelest way.

The first decree began when the Germans ordered all the men to line up in the market place. They selected 105 men, especially young people, according to a list which the Christians drew up. The Germans said that they were taking these people to work, but the Gentiles later told us that they were all shot to death not far from Novogrudek. My name also appeared on the list, but I ran away from the town just in time before the police came to get me. They searched in all the corners of the house while, at the same time, stealing whatever they liked. I was then saved from a certain death.

Among the 105 victims was my father-in-law, Avraham Karelitzer, the first victim from our family. Whenever the SS men came to look for Jewish victims, the local “bandits” would point me out, but I managed to elude them.

In the summer of 1942, the Germans drove all the Jews out of Korelitz and herded us into the Pereshike ghetto in Novogrudek. It was then that we realized that this would be the end of our suffering and torment. We felt that our situation was hopeless. We were despondent and waited for the end to come, but the impulse to live was great, and each of us had to take revenge on the enemy of the Jewish people. Many young men carried this idea around in the ghetto. I spoke to a group of friends about escaping into the forest around Nalibok because news reached us that there were partisans in that area. I no longer remember the names of each of each one in the group, but Dovid Lifshitz from Korelitz and Bentshe Movshovitch were among them.

I don't know who revealed to the Jewish council that I was organizing people to escape from the ghetto and that I was the leader of the group. They watched my every step. At night they took away my boots so that I couldn't go out with the group. As a result, the fellows escaped without me. The group did, in fact, reach the Nalibok forest and met up with the partisans from Stalin's unit, who were called the “Stalintses”. A Jewish group was organized in that unit under the direction of a Jewish lieutenant, Smolenski. The commander of the “Stalintses” promised that if the Jewish partisans excelled in combat, they would be taken into his unit.

Meanwhile, many Germans with their collaborators came to Nalibok and gave chase to the partisans. The commander of Stalinsk unit ordered the Jewish group, which numbered 20 partisans, to go into the church, make an ambush and put up resistance to the Germans. A bitter fight ensued. The Jewish partisans fought heroically to the last bullet, but they didn't receive the help that was promised them. Dovid Lifshitz, of blessed memory, from Korelitz was among the heroes who fell in battle. (Later, when I was a partisan around Nalibok, I heard this from the “Stalintses”.) This sad news reached the Jews in the Novogrudek ghetto. The watch was strengthened. The second slaughter of the Jews in the ghetto took place soon after, on August 1, 1942. This was the first and last slaughter for the Jews of Korelitz because nearly all of them were killed then.

On the sixth day after the slaughter when I was brought back to the Peresheke ghetto from the orchard, I saw the great disaster. When I found out that there were no open ________ in the ghetto, I ran in search of them, hoping that someone of my family was saved. It is hard for me to report how many dead, suffocated persons I dragged out of the _______, but I didn't find anyone from my family. I suddenly heard that someone was asking about Ben-Zion Gulkovitch. It was a Jew from Lubtch who told me that my wife Yehudit and my sister Fruma were lying in the filth in the toilets. I immediately jumped over the ghetto fence and ran to save them before the police found them. I dragged them out with much effort. They were living skeletons - and we were the only remnants of our large family. My sorrow is three-fold: the sorrow of a father who lost a child, Chayele, my dear, little daughter who was hardly three years old; the sorrow of a son and brother who lost his parents and sisters; and the great sorrow of a Jew of whose people, thousands of souls were murdered. In that slaughter alone, thousands of Jews were killed.

Seeing what awaited us - those of us who were still alive - I again began looking for a way to escape from the ghetto and take revenge on the enemy of the Jewish people.

At that time, a group of people got out of the ghetto and reached the forests around Mokretz. A few days later, another group got out and I went along with them. Yehudit and Fruma remained the ghetto meanwhile. When I reached the forest, I found a group of Jews consisting of about 40 people. This was actually the beginning of a Jewish partisan unit which eventually grew to 1,200. Most were Jews, escapees from the ghettos: Novogrudek, Lida, Dvoretz and others. This was the Jewish unit of the heroic commander, Tuvia Bielski.

When I had been in the unit a few weeks, we were given guns to make an ambush on the Germans on the highway. Later, I went to Novogrudek to take my wife and sister out of the ghetto as well as a few more Jews who wanted to go along. My partner was Yitzchak Reznik from Novogrudek, who was very familiar with the roads. I took out a group of 25 people from the ghetto. It's easy to imagine how difficult it was for us to get into the ghetto and later to get out. Several people in the group were left hanging on the electric wires or left dead by the fence as the Nazis were shooting.

I remember that it was hard for me to talk Yoel Meyerovitch into going along with us. We had to actually drag him out of the ghetto. He had become so apathetic and dependent.

I was a “razviedchik” (spy) in the unit. My task was to find out where the enemy was located and to report back to the command. All partisans from Korelitz took an active part in all assignments. Many women would stay at the posts. We often waged difficult battles with the Germans and the White Russian police. At every turn we avenged the innocent blood that was shed of our murdered families. We seldom spent the night in the same place where we had been during the day. The young partisans who served in the combat group also had to provide food, clothing and weapons for the unit. I won't expand on the time I spent in Bielski's unit as these things are already well known and much has already been written about the partisans' activities by other comrades.


[Pages 235-244]

The Experiences I went through
in the Second World War

by Mordechai Mayerovitch

Translated from the Yiddish by Harvey Spitzer

Prior to the Second World War, I lived in the small town of Ruzhanke for many years. When war broke out between Russia and Germany on June 21, 1941, there was a great panic in the town. Many Jews ran away from the town in order to go further east. I, too, left with my two older sons. On the way, a Russian truck driver let us sit up on his truck, but when he ran out of gas, my sons went back home on foot and I continued on towards the small town of Mir. My third son, who was then a pupil at a trade school, also returned home.

On the first day of the war, the Soviets captured 7 German parachutists as they made their descent. They were shot and then hanged. A few days later, when the Germans came into Ruzhanke, the local Gentiles told the Germans that the Jews had shown the Russians where the German parachutists had landed and one of the Gentiles, a Polish woman, a big anti-Semite, informed the Germans that many Jewish communists lived in the town and that the Jewish communists had taken part in the murder of the German parachutists. The Germans thereupon selected 72 Jews, young and old. They were taken out behind the town, severely tortured and then shot. The Germans shot both my sons at that time - one was 20 years old and the other - 18.

The Germans tied up my father-in- law, Yona the Tailor, an 85 year old Jew who could no longer walk, and pulled him over the ground to the pit. Then, at the time of the slaughter, the Germans drove all the Jews in the town unto the market place. The Germans went into the Jewish homes and took whatever they liked. A few days later, the Germans again shot several Jews whom the Gentiles indicated as being active on behalf of the Soviets.

In the autumn of 1941, the Germans drove out all the Jews in the town to Shtutchin, and on May 6, 1942, a great slaughter took place in Shtutchin in which the Jews were killed. My wife and youngest son were murdered in that slaughter.

As I mentioned earlier, I separated from my two older sons forever and with great difficulty trudged to Mir on June 26, 1941. The roads were filled with Jews carrying bags and little children in their arms. German planes flew low over their heads, shooting at them with machine guns. There were many dead and wounded. People wore out their feet from walking and were left stuck on the road. They were hungry and thirsty. They couldn't get any bread and could hardly drag themselves to a well on account of the very hot weather for a drink of cold water. People would collapse, exhausted, unable to go any further. The Germans came quickly and shot those lying on the ground right on the spot.

When the Germans came into Mir, Russian soldiers were still in the town. Both sides began shooting at one another. The Germans threw incendiary bombs and many wooden houses caught on fire. In panic, people ran into the fields naked. Many Jews were left without a roof over their heads. Many Soviet soldiers were killed while retreating and a large number were taken captive.

A few days after the Germans came into Mir, a local police force was organized and the Gentiles began settling accounts with the Jews. I saw that nothing good awaited me in Mir, so I decided to go to Korelitz, my native town. On the way, however, the Germans captured me and brought me to a camp where there were many Soviet prisoners of war. People soon realized that I was Jewish, and the Gentiles began tormenting me. They began to hit me over the head and I collapsed in pain. They spilled cold water on me and stood next to me and laughed. I suffered a lot at their hands. Later the camp was liquidated and I managed to get to Korelitz in great distress.

The hooligans were already behaving wildly in Korelitz. Every night the local Gentiles would enter Jewish homes and rob Jewish property. There were several robust Jewish boys who got together and offered resistance. There was a lot of fighting. Later, when the Gentile young men became town policemen, they did whatever they wanted to the Jews. They would hit them and rob them.

Once they came into the home of Dovid Niselevitch, the tailor and beat him up severely. They threw him down on ground and forcefully tore out his gold teeth. He fainted from the intense pain. They spilled cold water over him and carried out all the valuable items from his house. Afterwards, they went into Yoel Mayerovitch's house on Ziemlianker Street in the middle of the night. They gave him a severe beating and he was ill a long time afterwards. Only thanks to the fact that he was physically in good shape was he able to endure what he went through. Yoel Mayerovitch later ran away and joined the partisans. He survived the war and now lives in America.

Every day the Germans forced the Jews out to work. They had to collect in one place all the broken machinery that was lying on the roads. And when they would come home exhausted after their hard work, various hooligans would come into their houses. They would beat and rob them. One of those in particular, Bratchkovski, behaved wildly in Korelitz. The Jews suffered terribly from him.

At the end of 1941, Germans from Novogrudek came into Korelitz and ordered the rabbi and several other Jews to form a Jewish Council. Then we were ordered to wear a yellow patch on our chest and shoulders. The Germans threatened to shoot us if we didn't obey this order. The Jewish Council was forced to carry out all the orders from the German authorities. Every day there were new troubles: the Germans ordered the Jews to hand over all the gold items they had in their possession. The Jews were threatened with the death penalty for not carrying out the order. The Germans took and sent away to Novogrudek everything the Jews handed over.

A few days later, SS men came and ordered all the men - young and old - to assemble on the market place. The Germans selected 100 men from those assembled. The ill and elderly were locked up in the study hall. A large number of policemen guarded them and no one was allowed to give those locked up anything to eat. When a woman approached a policeman she knew with a little package of food, he shot her legs and she was left a cripple.

The next morning, vehicles came and took away the 100 men in an unknown direction. Later, familiar Gentiles came to Korelitz and related that they saw the Jews working and that the Jews asked their relatives to send them money and quilts because they were dying of hunger and sleeping on the streets. Naturally, everyone sent whatever they could with the Gentiles. This was repeated several times. The Gentiles would come and trick the Jews into giving them money and things. When the Jews in Korelitz asked the Gentiles to bring some kind of little letter from their relatives, they answered that the Jews were afraid to write. That was, of course, a big lie. The truth was that the 100 Jews were soon shot and we didn't even know where they were buried.

Familiar peasants from the area would often come to the Jews in Korelitz and suggest that the Jews hide various valuables - money, gold, merchandise, household items - with them. “Anyway”, the Gentiles claimed, “when the Germans kill you, rather than having your possessions remain with the Germans, you should give it to us”. “Besides”, the Gentiles said, “if you manage to survive the war, you can take back your possessions.”

On August 15, 1941, many Germans drove through Korelitz and stopped in the town. They immediately went into Jewish houses, pretending to be looking for guns, but stole the best things during their search. Using the pretext that they were looking for guns, they stole Jewish property. A woman from the town of Lots, whose name was Chenke, went to the Germans and asked whether one could go to Lots. She was with a man and an 8 year old boy. The Germans threw them into a cellar where they were kept a half a day and then shot. The same Germans ordered the Jewish Council to send for the town rabbi, Rabbi Yisrael Viernik, and 10 more men. When the rabbi and the 10 men came, the Germans ordered them to carry out to the street all the Torah scrolls, prayer shawls, prayer books and the furniture from the synagogue. The Germans then set all of this on fire. They also wanted the rabbi to lie on a bonfire to be burned, but they realized that this would take too long. There was a well not far from that place. They wanted to throw the rabbi into the well, but since the well was not deep and the rabbi was tall, they didn't throw him in. Therefore, they tormented him immensely. The Germans tore out his beard together with his flesh. He was bleeding profusely. Besides, they played a game: they threw his beard into the fire. They said that if the beard remained lying on the fire, they would also lay the rabbi on the fire and burn him, and if the wind blew the beard away, they would free the rabbi. The wind blew the rabbi's beard out of the fire, and the Germans freed the rabbi.

The Jews carried the rabbi, who was all covered with blood, home. Then the Germans brought a group of Jews who had been locked up in a cellar to the fire and wanted to burn them. As they were being led to the fire, however, the Jews managed to run into the synagogue. The Germans caught them in the synagogue and shot them on the spot. The next morning the Germans took the rabbi away and brought him to Novogrudek, where they tortured him in jail and then shot him.

No synagogues remained in Korelitz. The Torah scrolls and books were burned. The Jews would assemble in homes and pray in secret.

I saw that nothing good awaited me in Korelitz and that the town was on the point of death, so I decided to go to Novogrudek, a bigger town where more Jews lived. I walked only at night because I was afraid to be seen during the day and besides it was forbidden for Jews to go from one place to another. If a Jew was caught on the way, he would be shot at once. I reached Novogrudek with great fear. It was Friday, August 29. The city was burned. I went into Shlomo Glezer's home. He let me spend the Sabbath with him. Just that Sabbath morning the town was in panic. All the Jews were ordered to assemble in the market place. The Gentiles selected about 50 men, ordered them to dance and while they were dancing, the Gentiles shot them. Gestapo SS men were standing by, playing harmonicas and laughing while watching the Jews performing their death dance.

I realized that I wouldn't be able to arrange my life in Novogrudek either, and since there was no place for me there, I went back to Korelitz. On the way, I met a Gentile who asked me if I was Jewish. I told him my situation. He introduced himself as a Russian major by the name Kuznietsov Mikhael Mikhailovitch. He was staying in the village with many Russian prisoners of war. They were working with the peasants and were organizing a unit of partisans. He took me to a village called Kriniak, gave me a false document attesting that I was a Russian by the name Aleshkevitch Aleksai Vasilevitch, born in Vitebsk, a mute, and a tailor by profession. He arranged for me to work for the village elder's wife who was also a seamstress and who was also from Vitebsk. She told everyone that I was her mute brother. I told the major everything I heard and saw about the Germans. He lived in another village, Slaboda, with the partisans' staff. The major would often come to see me and I would give him information. And so I pretended to be a mute Gentile tailor.

I was once called to the Russian partisans' staff where there were big anti-Semites. They took away my false documents and told me that I could no longer live in the village and that I had to back to Korelitz, where there were Jews. They told me I should make weapons and organize a group of Jews who would be ready to go out to the partisans in the forests.

I went back to Korelitz, to the home of the chairman of the Jewish Council, Shimon Zalivanski. He was a very good person. He wanted to register me, but Lipkan, the secretary, in no way wanted me to be registered. I told the chairman what my goal was in returning to Korelitz and that, in case of a massacre, I would be able to be very helpful thanks to the partisans. The chairman gave a gold watch to the registrar of the administration and I was finally registered and given a document. Work was arranged for me as a tailor with Velvele Kozak. Of course, I was in contact with the partisans. They used to come to see me and I would transmit information to them.

We organized a small group in Korelitz and we wanted to leave and join the partisans. We did our best to make weapons. It wasn't hard to get out of the ghetto, but we took into account the fact that if we escaped from the ghetto, the Germans would kill all the Jews because the Germans had applied a law of collective responsibility regarding the Jews. If one Jew escaped, they would all be punished. These are the people who belonged to the group besides myself: Moshe Shiling, Dovid Lifshitz, Bentshe Gulkovitch, Itche Hilert, Helena Kalita, a woman, and also another Dovid Lifshitz, who was free. Partisans would come to him and we were thus in contact with them.

There were only two Germans in Korelitz: the commander and another German. The police, however, caused the Jews much distress. In the town there was a Jew from Lodz, a refugee, named Liebhaber. He spoke German very well. He served as an interpreter for the commander and had a great influence on him. The German commander did not allow the Korelitz police (which consisted solely of local Christians) to behave wildly. The policemen realized that the Jewish interpreter was informing on them to the commander. One night in November 1941, a policeman woke him from his sleep and said that the commander was calling him. When Liebhaber got dressed and went to the commander, the policeman shot him on the way. The policeman's name was Britzkovski.

A young Gentile fellow, Yuzhik, worked for the shoemaker, Avromel Balitnitzki. Yuzhik was a policeman. He once came and arrested the shoemaker's daughter whom he brought to the police station, where she was tortured and violated. She was later shot to death in Novogrudek.

There was a miller in Korelitz, Alter Serebrenik, who was hiding in a village at the home of a Gentile. The police conducted a search and found him. They tied him to the back of a horse with a rope and drove the horse through the town, dragging Alter on the ground. This was in December, 1941. Then they took him to the river, chopped a hole in the ice and pushed him into the water tied to a rope. They submerged him in the freezing water several time. Later he was again dragged through the streets, covered with blood. He was thrown into a stable with horses where he lay unconscious all night long until he was nearly frozen. The Gestapo men came in the morning and were happy with the way the police had dealt with Alter Serebrenik.

There was a 20 year old man, Mordechai Dushkin, in the town. He was healthy and robust, a butcher's son. Whenever the Gentiles would go around robbing Jewish property, he stood up against them and they were afraid of him. Now the Gentiles availed themselves of the opportunity to get revenge and they took him behind the town together with Alter Serebrenik and shot them both. Alter was already anyway a frozen piece of wood. The police took a boy, Yosef Chalib, and told him to dig a hole and ordered him to throw Alter Serebrenik and Mordechai Dushkin into the hole and cover them with dirt. The boy refused. A policeman hit him over the head. Then the boy struck the policeman over the head with the spade and cried out: “Your end will be the same as ours!” Thereupon, the policeman shot him.

The Germans forced us to do the hardest work. They ordered us to load a big truck up with hay in a half an hour and if not, they threatened to shoot us. We loaded the truck and then they ordered us to pull the truck by ourselves, but we in no way could move the truck. Thereupon, the Germans with the Gentiles began beating us with sticks and pushing us, but we still couldn't move the truck. And thus they tormented and beat us the whole time.

At the beginning of December 1941, they already began making the surrounding small towns “Jüdenrein”, cleansed of all Jews. In Turetz, for example, they took half the town's Jews away to the cemetery and ordered them to dig their own graves and shot them. One woman managed to run away from there. She came and told us what had happened.

At the end of 1941, the Germans went away with the police for a few days. No one knew where they had gone. Later we found out from the Gentiles that very many Jews had been killed in Novogrudek. Many Jews in Korelitz had relatives and acquaintances there. We wanted to know what happened in Novogrudek, so we paid a Gentile and asked him to go there and find out the truth about the situation because Jews were not allowed to travel from one town to another. The Gentile came back and brought a letter from a Jew in which he wrote the truth about what had taken place in Novogrudek. We found out that the Jews were driven out of their homes into the street. A selection was conducted. Those with a trade were taken to the former Polish justice building, and the others were shot behind the town. Heartrending scenes were played out at the selection. Children were separated from their parents, husbands from wives: one to live and one to die.

In February 1942, the Germans ordered the Jews to make a ghetto. They had to leave the main streets and move into a few houses. Many families were crowded into each house, and each person could take only what he or she could carry. Up to 50 people lived in each house. They slept in beds with three levels, one person above the other with a 40 cm entrance. They lived in tight conditions and in hunger. Children would ask why the Gentile children were free to go around while they were locked up. The Gentile children would go by the ghetto and tease the Jewish children. They would say that the Jews would be shot anyway. People wept at first, but they slowly got used to their troubles.

Workshops were set up for all craftsmen outside the ghetto. Gentiles would bring a ticket from the administration and the craftsmen had to do everything without money. Other Gentiles, however, would throw in a piece of bread, a potato or something else before going to work. We suffered great distress. We were forced to go out in the intense cold to pull cars which got stuck on the roads. We were beaten with sticks while doing this. When we had already dragged out the cars, the police ordered us to bring water in our hats and wash the tires. Next we had to lick the tires with our tongues and then we had to lick their boots with our tongues. On the way back to the ghetto, the Germans ordered us to undress to our shirt and sing Russian songs. But we sang instead: “When will the redemption come?” and “May the Messiah come already!” This is how we returned and worked again. Many people fell ill. I myself lay in bed four weeks with pneumonia.

 

The Liquidation of the Korelitz Ghetto

In May 1942, the Germans summoned the members of the Jewish Council and ordered them to draw up a list of workers who would be sent to work in Novogrudek, women and children as well. We realized that they weren't sending us to work but rather to be killed. People stubbornly refused to go. We were already organized at that time and had some weapons and we made preparations to go to the partisans. However, every morning and every evening they would count the people and if one was missing, everyone was threatened with death. We therefore refused to run away to the partisans out of fear that all the Jews in the ghetto would have to suffer on account of us. There were good people in the Jewish Council and in the Jewish police, and meanwhile they hadn't drawn up the lists.

Several weeks went by and the Germans again summoned the Jewish Council and ordered them to make Korelitz “Jüdenrein” in three days. And if the Jews refused to leave willingly, they would all be shot. There was no other choice. We packed our belongings and started out. At the same time, the Gentiles from the villages were informed that the Jews of Korelitz were going to be taken away to Novogrudek. The Gentiles hurried to Korelitz like locusts and began to trade with the Jews. They exchanged things. The Gentiles loaded their wagons full with Jewish possessions and went home.

The place of assembly was at the market place. Every man was ordered to stand in line, together with wives and children, each next to his family. The children asked where they were being taken and wept. Many Gentiles were standing there, laughing. They were happy about the misfortune of the Jews. The Jews had the feeling that they were parting forever with their beloved town of Korelitz. No one had any illusion that this was the final hour of the Korelitz community.

The elderly and ill who lay in bed and couldn't go to the market place were shot in their homes. We had to carry the dead to the cemetery and bury them. After the fresh victims were laid to rest, the order came to leave Korelitz. Darkness descended on the little town. People wept and some even fainted. They said goodbye to their little town where they were born and raised, to the small town where they had lived their whole life and were now leaving forever.

When the mass of people started to move, some tried to return, but the police pushed them back and threatened to shoot.

Thus we were the living witnesses to the destruction and end of the glorious, old Korelitz community. This was at the end of May 1942.

We walked a whole day in very hot weather 21km to Novogrudek. It was already night when we arrived there. We were taken to the ghetto in Pereshke. It was dark. We could hardly see one another. It was pouring and we were soaked to the bones.

We stood in the street like this for a long time. Then we were taken into the stables.

 

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