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[p. 305]

Struggling & Wandering
(From Grodno to the Partisans)

By Feivel Wolf

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

The “Big Action” (Slaughter) in Grodno

I would leave the Grodno Ghetto every day to work in various places. Escaping was very easy, because the Jewish section foremen were the leaders and there was no special guard. The majority worked for Kaletzki of Fershtat; the firm was named “Getreider Commerce.”

One day in January 1943, the cleaning of the great shul (synagogue) in the ghetto began. Everyone understood that there would be a transport.

One Shabbas, the same month, I overslept and did not go to work. If I had not overslept, I would not, as I had resolved, have come back to the ghetto. I walked around the entire day. At five in the evening I went to Lola Shternfeld. On the way a Jewish policeman caught me and demanded that I go with him – he needed me. I began to beg him to leave me because I had just come from hard labor. My talk hut gehelfn vi a toitn bankes (helped like cupping a dead person, i.e., was useless) and he began to pull me forcefully. Would he leave me alone? A miracle happened to me! The place was slippery and I fell with him.

A second policeman arrived during our wrestling. I thought both would take me. However, the other one motioned to the first one, “Leave him alone, the stubborn one - come!”

This policeman knew me from Lola Shternfeld's; because he had been there. I did not go to her. I ran back, because the policeman who had helped me told me that I should run away. I ran into the courtyard where I lived at Abrahaml Farasha's and hid on the roof of a shed, because people were being grabbed, just men; for what – no one knew. At twelve midnight I went into my room and felt my fingers were frost bitten.

Early in the morning we learned that the Jewish police had caught 300 men to unload coal cars at the railroad. After finishing the work, they were locked in the same cars and in two days were sent away in a transport with 5,000 more Jews.

The next day, early Monday, going to the gate was strictly forbidden. Gestapo and S.S. men surrounded the ghetto. Groups of S.S. men with machine guns stood near the barbed wire every few meters. The ghetto was quiet, a ruin. We waited to see what the night would bring. Abrahaml Farasha busied himself with something for several days in the house of his mother-in-law, Abraham Bontz's mother, and I did not attach any importance to this.

The electricity was turned on at six in the evening. Now one was sure that we were being taken to the transport because it was forbidden to turn on the electricity. At exactly eight in the evening, Wise and Streblow came in on a sled and began shooting a machine gun. They shot 12 men on the central street (on Y. L. Peretz or Troyce Street).

The show began in about fifteen minutes. Abrahaml shut off the electricity and locked up the house. I saw that everyone there was doomed. At the end he came over to me and told me to go into the bedroom with him. There under the bed we lowered ourselves to the cellar, where 20 men sat. Small children began to cry. I saw that there was no place for me there and in ten minutes I left, took a quilt from the bed and went up to the attic.

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The frost reached 30 degrees. Through the small attic window, I watched the Jewish policemen driving groups of men, old and young, women and small children into the shul. Later they were driven to the gate of the ghetto – the small children in autos and the rest on foot.

It became quiet at four o'clock in the morning. I went down from the attic to the hall. I jumped from the last step of the ladder and landed on a person's feet. This was Yosem, the pharmacist from Amdor and his son. He recognized me and we talked. A hard knock on the door interrupted our talk, “Open up, open up!”

We were quiet. Again the voice asked us to open up. His wife and mother were below in the cellar. “We can go out into the street,” he said. “The transport is already full and no more are needed.” I opened the door and became fearful; it was a Jewish policeman.

“Do not be afraid, it will be quiet until night!” he told us. And at nine o'clock Wise would talk to us and the Judenrat about what would happen next.

Escaping from Grodno

Right at the start of the day I went out into the street to seek advice on how to escape. Immediately I met Dovid Sisken, who promised me great luck. He, one of his sons and his sister-in-law, all four of us, would go to the village of Simerenke, where a sister-in-law lived who had converted. For money, a place for him to leave was ready - through a house that had an exit on one side out of the ghetto on Dominikanska Street, and on the other side where the Christians lived. However, I didn't believe that I could depend upon him and in a few hours I went away seeking another way. Sarnacki of the Judenrat still saved his pride by slapping people in the middle of the street.

Before long, I encountered Yankl, Ruchka's son, Chaim Lipman, Berl, Basha's son, Motl and Dovid Weisman and one of the Bukhs – all of Amdor. And all were looking for a way to flee together.

The night passed. Jewish police again grabbed people, street by street, for the transport. We all, seven men, isolated ourselves at the Kosmane's on Vilenski Alley. We had hatchets, knives, and iron bars. If the Jewish police took us, we would put up resistance. Yankl, Ruchka's son and Chaim Lipman went into the Kosmane's cellar. The other five, up to the attic.

It was quiet all of Tuesday. However, when it got dark, people were again caught for the transport.

All seven of us spent the night of Tuesday into Wednesday sitting in Kosmane's cellar. On Wednesday, the day was again quiet. When it got dark, again there were seizures. On the night of Wednesday to Thursday, the Jewish police were looking for ways to save themselves, because at the train, Wise had thrown many policemen in the railroad cars and sent them away together with all of the Jews. The night of Wednesday to Thursday, all seven of us did not leave each other in the Kosmane's courtyard, because two young Grodno men had promised us that they would lead us out of the ghetto.

At four in the morning a handsome, daring Jewish policeman approached us, not from Grodno, but from Plotzk – and asked, “Who can take me with them? I will lead all of you out of the ghetto.”

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Yankl, Ruchka's son said: “I can.” He knew a widow near Skidl, who loved him. And he had previously stayed with her for three months. The policeman thought this was possible and asked us to be prepared, and at six in the morning he would lead us out.

We all shaved, in order to look human on the Aryan side and at exactly six we left. The policeman first, I second, Chaim Lipman third. It did not even take a minute and we were on the other side of the barbed wire. Afterward, we crawled through a hole not far from the bridge on Vilenske Alley.

With several large strides we were on Dominikanska, and from there we went quickly through Huvera Street to Brigidske, and in ten minutes we were at the Slabodker Market. From there we took the Skidler highway out of the city.

On the way we encountered gentiles who carried shipments of wheat, cattle, pigs and sheep to Grodno, and looked at us like wolves. Yankl, Ruchka's son, and the policeman fled to the left of the highway, and we, six men, to the right.

We reached Nieme through Raves, where a village that none of us knew the name of, stood on the other bank (later we learned that it was named Szydowszczyane). It was risky to cross the river because it was not frozen everywhere. I broke a small tree, made a long stick and with it in my hand, I went first, step by step; cautiously, we went this way, one 10 meters from the next, and with each thrust at the ice, I thought I was under it. The gentiles came out of their houses to look. We all thought they would grab us and take us to the Germans. However, when we were across, they scattered among the houses.

Wandering - Homeless

From there, we went through forests and fields, arriving at the Zarubiczer colonists in the evening. Each of us had left something there - someone a cow, someone a wagon, someone furniture and someone ordinary things. None of them allowed us into their homes. Motl Weisman received half a loaf of bread and onions from his colonist.

All of the gentiles closed their doors in the Zarubiczer village and did not let us in. We began to go to farmhouses to try to get something to eat. Maybe something could be found in the stables. In one of the farmhouses we disbanded. Lipman and I kissed and I left for Krynek. Thus began my long wanderings. I spent the night in a barn, but did not spend the day there.

In a few days, during the evening, I arrived in Kowali, 2 kilometers from Spodville, 9 kilometers from Krynek. The gentiles there were White Russians, strong patriots of communism, who never bothered any Jews. Many suffered with the Germans, who shot their young, cultured and class-conscious people. There I breathed easier. My intention was to learn what was happening to the surviving Jews of Krynek and if I could go to them and remain until the summer.

I decided to go to Zina Elizorowicz, the wife of the village magistrate Aleksander Elizorowicz, one of the best people in that area, who had to hide from the Germans. Zina gave me a very friendly welcome, fed me well, let me dry out my wet things and showed me a stable where I could rest for a few days. Secondly, she would go to Krynek to Pani (Mrs.) Roitberg, her best friend, and see her husband there and tell me what was happening there.

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The information that I received through her after a few days was that at the beginning of the week, early Sunday, 200 Jews were taken away by foot to Sokolka. She learned nothing of my brother, Itshke. Her friend Pani Roitberg, who was to come to her in the village at the last minute, as had been agreed, did not have time to flee.

Zina further explained that three Jewish young men, Peretz Pruszanksi, his brother and another man, fled to the barn of a gentile from Krynek. The gentile noticed them - pretended that he did not - and betrayed them to the Germans. While they were being led out of the barn, the gentile asked that he be given their boots, and they were led barefoot over the snow to the Christian Black Hundred (a Russian anti-Semitic, conservative, nationalist group founded at the beginning of the 20th Century) and were shot there.

I met a second good friend in Kowali, Zina Zamirowski, who warned me that, for God's sake, I should hide and not entrust my life to anyone in the village. Several from the village itself, she said, who are hiding Jews here, lekn oif nisht kein honik (do not lick honey – i.e., could not be trusted).

Incidentally, she told me a story about a person from Krynki, Khatzkl “Telya,” who let himself be convinced by the Germans that they would make him a non-Jew. And he worked with them and revealed all of the secrets he knew of what was happening among the Jews. Last Thursday, he was told to put on good clothes, and the peasants who came to the market were told to watch, so that they could see him being led to the church to convert. He was converted at the Polish cemetery.

In short, I had to escape from Kowali, too, and here first began my actual wandering. There is not enough space here to write it all – I will be satisfied with telling something about the more remarkable “lodgings” and experiences.

One of the subsequent places to which fate brought me was to Aleks Antoshewicz, 2 kilometers from Spodville, from whom I hoped to learn a little about my brother Itshke who remained in the Krynki Ghetto. This Aleks had been friends with Iser Zak and Hershl Dworetskin of Groise-Brestowic for years and prepared in a barn, under some wheat, a pit to hide them. They actually fled from the Wolkowisker lager and went straight to Aleks. However, because they were careless, they fell in to the hands of the Germans and were brought to Klein-Brestowic.

Today, how great was my surprise as it was revealed that my brother Itshke was alive and had been hidden by Aleks in the pit. I was so moved by my meeting with him, Itshke looked very different from me – fresh and well dressed.

I could not stay with the commendable and friendly Aleks and I remained for a time nearby. My brother Itshke was forced to leave the place because a “parobik” (a hired agricultural worker) worked there. Incidentally, he was not on friendly terms with his boss, and had threatened to teach him a lesson for hiding Jews. Therefore, Itshke went to a widow, Yeruliczykhe, in Spodville.

Our situation in Spodville was terrible, too, although only a few people knew where we were hiding. The Christian who had bought our house from the Germans sniffed and searched for where we were hidden in order to catch us and give us to the Germans.

On the first of March, we spent the entire day in the field between rocks 2 kilometers from Aleks's. That Christian discovered us here. He explained that he had gone to the woods searching for stumps to dig up for heating and did not mean, God forbid, to do anything bad to us.

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The next morning, 8 Germans and 4 Polish policemen ransacked Aleks's house, the stable and barn; they were looking for us there. The same night we went to Kowali and hid in the stable of a good gentile. However, we could not remain there for long.

A few days later, gentiles, who were our good friends, told us that the mood toward us was very bad. Four young gentiles from Spodville took the opportunity to come with guns at night to rob the local colonists, ostensibly speaking Yiddish among themselves and calling each other by our names. They even raped several young, pretty gentile girls – on our account, because the victims thought this was our work. It was demanded of the Spodville magistrate that he give us up. Our friends advised us to go somewhere else until the crowd calmed itself. Therefore, we left at the end of March for Firowszczic with a good gentile, Szmigin.

At night, he showed us the direction to go where, in the nearby bushes in the swamp, we would meet five Russians, who were hiding from the Germans. Perhaps they would take us in. We went there, walked around and, at first, did not notice any people. Then my brother, who had very good hearing, heard the sound of coughing. From that we guessed they were in a hut of hay, and that is where a group of bandits was found. One of them crawled out and began questioning us; who are we?, who knows us?, and who do we know? And we told them that we were Jews; and he asked if we knew Beilya of Podbyaiki. When it was shown that we did know her; he called her out to us. We began to speak Yiddish; but he did not let us continue because suspicion could be aroused among the Germans and the local neighbors that Jews could be found here and that would bring raids.

Immediately the remaining five bandits came out against us and with guns in their hands demanded that we leave the area. Nevertheless, they permitted us to stay there for several days.

During the same week, the partisans (civilian resistance fighters) caught two Germans in Olekszic. They slaughtered them with bayonets and threw them under a bridge. The local gentiles ordered the bandits to leave the area for several days because raids were expected. My brother and I, left for the Kowalker Forest.

In the evening of the first day of the Russian Easter (Passover), we arrived in the village of Badsziki and went into a house, where we were taken in with extraordinary hospitality and were well treated. We were invited to in while we were in the area, and a razor was brought for us to shave. We really wondered about this. In the morning we learned what had led to this exceptional hospitality.

Two gentiles had driven into Grodno and met a German. One gentile had taken off his hat for him; the second, however, who sat in the back bundled up in a hood, did not. The German ran to the wagon and slapped him. However, it was not a person, but a covered up slaughtered pig. The gentile took out a revolver and shot the German and escaped with the wagon and the pig.

Therefore, the Germans took twenty-five men, Polish intellectuals including doctors, teachers and priests, from Grodno to be held until the guilty party could be found. They declared that if in the course of 24 hours the guilty one did not come forward they would be shot. And the men were, indeed, killed.

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The Poles had begun to get a taste of Hitler's rule. We, too, had already begun to feel it during our search in the local villages.

In seven days we went back to the swamp. We had enough there to sustain us. The bandits all wanted to live with Beilya. She, again, lived only with one of them, and he would come to eat with us every day. Therefore, the rest had complaints about us.

First I would visit someone in a village and this person would not want to give me any bread. I would warn him that when the Germans left, I would not forget, and that he should take that into consideration. And such a warning would help.

In July 1943, the bandits left to get food and on the way met regular partisans and later left with them. They did not want to take us with them. Itshke and I left for the Spodville area to hide in the fields, and Beilya stayed alone in the swamp. Later the bandits again returned there and summoned us and promised that they would soon leave with the partisans and would take us with them.

In the end they left on a beautiful Sunday and did not take us with them. In the evening, Itshke, Beilya and I, crawled into a stall and went to sleep. During the evening I woke up. Beilya was not there. Suddenly I heard a shout and spasms. I woke up Itshke and we left. We saw that Beilya lay drawn out on the ground and that her bandit was choking her and hitting her over the head. We tried to save her; he began to shout to his bandits and warned them that we were speaking Yiddish. Talking to him did not help. In the end he told her to go with him. She wanted to take her things, but he yelled out that she no longer needs things. She sobbed and he dragged her away with him.

We both immediately fled the spot and hid for the entire day among the bushes. At night we went out in the direction of Spodville. First the bandit sprang out from under a bush with a gun in his hand and demanded that we raise our hands. However, he did not bother us and to our question of where Beilya was – he had dragged her away at night – he claimed that he later fell asleep and she had run away.

We went on our way and before daybreak arrived between Badszike and Kowali in the field of Tiotke (Auntie) Zamirowski.

The entire time, my brother had carried around the idea of going to Bialystok, because there were still 30,000 Jews there. We told this idea to the Tiotke. She was truly against it. However, my brother was deeply bothered by the fact that we had to hide from the Russians. And we could no longer hide in their area. As a result Tiotke's son went out riding among the gentiles. They often came from Bialystok to find out what was happening among the Jews. He returned with good news, that the work was not difficult and that they explained that the Germans would no longer bother them.

My Brother Leaves

The Tiotke's son brought us a razor, a good jacket and a hat from the house, and my brother and I said goodbye and kissed and he left for Bialystok. He promised me that if it was peaceful there, he would let me know, and that he himself would come back to take me there. It was Tuesday, August 10, 1943.

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Around August 20th, the Tiotke berated me for permitting Itshke to go to Bialystok. The liquidation of the Bialystok Ghetto began on the 16th. The Jews had staged a rebellion and the gentile wagons were not permitted to go into Bialystok. From day to day we waited for Itshke; perhaps he would save himself. However, he never came.

Until late in the autumn I would hide in the fields among the peas, stones and potatoes. Three times a week I would come to Aunt Zamirowski and take food from her. It began to snow and I walked around barefoot and had great difficulties. I could not remain in the barns because of the raids. Again I went to the swamp and there I met three young gentiles from Kowali and we stayed with them. Later I met one of the bandits, who we had been with earlier. This one happened to be one of the good ones, and he had wanted to take us with them to the partisans. He promised me that they would soon arrive with their commander and then I would go with them.

I Join the Partisans

A considerable amount of time passed. His commander agreed on March 16, 1944, to take me with them, if I would be the leader. They tested me and were persuaded that I really did know every place in that area. First, the commander, a 22-year old gentile, talked with me and, incidentally, asked me, where had I hidden my gold? All Jews are rich! I had to explain to him that I was not from the rich; that I came from a nearby village. I told him the truth about which gentile was holding my things and that he would not give them back to me. And we took many times their worth from him and I became rich with a pair of boots on my feets and a complete set of clothes on my back.

kry311.jpg - (Feivel Wolf) Decorated Krynki Rebel
(Feivel Wolf)
Decorated Krynki Rebel

I went with them to an aktsia (action) to blow up the Baranowicz-Bialystok rail line and I helped them locate an alcohol factory not far from Spodville and we blew it up along with the Germans. Nevertheless, the partisans again left me alone, with the explanation that they were going to an area where Jews were hated and when they returned on March 24th, they would take me with them to the Lipieszan Plain. I lamented this greatly after I had helped them so much.

And after eight days they came back and took me with them.


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Krinki Partisans

The Editor

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

A group of young people, the majority from Krinki and the rest from surrounding towns, who after the liquidation of their cozy communities found a temporary place of refuge in the then “calm” Bialystok ghetto. They were the first to leave from this ghetto and go to the forests, in December 1942, to lead partisan activities against the German murderers. Their commander was the Krinker Moshe Slapak (“Maxim” was his partisan name). He had served in the military and had seen action.

“The group's base, that consisted of 17 to 30 people, was in Lipovy-Most, fifteen kilometers east of Krinki.” This is from the book “Sefer HaPartizanim HaYehudim” [“Book of Jewish Partisans”] (about the Jewish partisans, Volume One, Published by “Workman's Publishing House” with the help of “Yad Vashem”, in Rehavia, 1958). “They prepared mud huts for about forty people and they were even better armed than most of the other partisan groups when they started their activities.

During its short existence, the entire united group managed to carry out several daring raids. They attacked several small police stations in the area and managed to disperse several German guard posts and to take weapons from their sentries.”

“Maxim” chose to enlarge his group and lead the negotiations and organized another company to leave the Bialystok ghetto for the forest. But just then, at the end of January 1943, the Germans surrounded the base of “Maxim's” group. A battle broke out in which the numerically superior and better armed Germans were forced to retreat, dragging with them six dead and a number of wounded. One partisan also managed to take the rifles of the dead Germans.

”But it was clear that the Germans would come back with a larger force and they had to abandon the base,” continues the “Sefer HaPartizanim HaYehudim” [The Book of Jewish Partisans]. Meanwhile it appeared that the commander, “Maxim,” was severely wounded and would not be able to go. In order not to be a burden to his comrades, “Maxim” shot himself.

“The news about this battle spread throughout the whole area and made a great impression on the peasants. Secretly they would tell one another that “magnificent” strong Jewish partisans were active in the area. The sighting of a Jewish armed partisan in a village became commonplace and this helped other Jewish companies to form in the forest. But the “Krinker” group had ceased to exist independently after four of its youngsters were burned alive by the Nazis during a raid on a village.”

The participants that we know of in “Maxim's” partisan group, besides himself were the following Krinki young men. Moshe Mulye Nisht (a son of Shlama Feyvel), Mulye Weiner (a son of Moshe'ke Shmuel “Americaner”), Mulye Bashevkin (a grandson of Naranishtik), Yudel Levin, Nyanye Rabinovitch (a son of Leybl Rabinovitch) and Moshe Weiner.

Of the few who survived some, including Mulye Nisht, joined another company with which “Maxim” negotiated. In February 1943 they left for the Suprasler forests and the Izover Massif.

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“Not concerned about failure,” writes Moshe Kachanovitch in his book about the Jewish partisans in Eastern Europe, published in 1954, “more groups of young men and women came to the Suprasler forest from the Bialystok ghetto and from surrounding towns. In the Summer 1943, they all got together and created the Jewish “detachment” “Foroys” [In Advance], at the head of which was the commander “Sasha” (Yeshy or Yonah Sokhatchevski) and the Krinker Rivka Shinder-Voyskovska who was one of the organizers of the uprising in the Bialystok ghetto, as “commissar” of the brigade.”

The especially difficult conditions in the area, especially cruel in winter and the lack of weapons, made their activities very difficult and caused great losses. Commander Sokhatchevski was killed and a dumdum bullet badly wounded Rivka Shinder-Viskovska during a battle with the Germans in 1944. Her wounds were deep and the inside of her hand was smashed. Because of the terrible conditions, her wounds became infected and she was in danger of being poisoned.

A Soviet airplane quickly evacuated her and she was taken to a Moscow hospital where she was laid up for eight months. She was presented with a lot of military decorations by both the Russian and Polish military leadership.

“Not taking into consideration the heavy losses,”it is further told in “Sefer HaPartizanim HaYehudim,” the “Foroys” detachment carried out an important raid under the leadership of the Krinki partisan Abrahmel Krutsevski (Lipe's). The echo of this raid resounded far and wide. They blew up the electric works in Krinki. This lightening strike was precisely prepared in great detail. The needed information was delivered by the young women of the Bialystok Anti-Fascist League. The German guards at the electric works were astounded by the sudden attack. They threw down their weapons and tried to run away but the road was blocked. The electric station was destroyed entirely. They took weapons from the Germans and anyone who put up a fight was killed. The partisans managed to leave the shtetl in peace and in the dark, except for Abrahamel Krutsevski who was killed during the explosion.

“The next day large signs were hung in the streets of Bialystok and in the towns and villages in the area about the “crime” that happened the night before in Krinki.”

Shmuel Geler: More about Moshe Slapak and his Krinki partisan group[1]

A son from a middle class family, a graduate of the “Tarbut School” [Zionist Hebrew school], Moshe Slapak joined the ranks of the Communist youth at the age of about sixteen. At the same time he studied by himself and was deep into the works of Marxist and Communist theory. He spread their belief among the Krinki youth with great enthusiasm. In secret clubs in “Masuvkes” in the Sholker forest, he taught Communist thought and propagandized their efforts.

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Just like a lot of others, Slapak truly believed that these ideas would save the world from oppression, exploitation and need. With time Moshe Slapak's ideas spread near and far in the region and led him to the poor White Russian villages where he distributed his literature and organized secret cells. He took part in the Party district meetings in Grodno and Bialystok.

His activities were not hidden from the watchful eyes of the Polish “defensive.” Slapak had to leave Krinik and live “underground.” He wandered around with false papers, hiding out in Grodno, Bialystok and other places. Despite the threat of danger he continued his Communist activities.

In 1930 he was arrested in Vilna during a surprise raid on the Communists and was tortured in the cellar of the Police secret police. Despite being tortured Slapak did not break and did not give up his comrades. According to the verdict he was sentenced to six years in Lukishker prison and after his release he returned to Krinik. Although in terrible physical shape, he still believed in Communism for which he had given up his best years.

In 1939, with the arrival of the Russian army, Slapak lead a union of Krinki partisans and was very active in Communist communal life. But with time the Soviet rulers demoted him. Their reason was that the Polish Communist Party was full of Trotskyites and provocateurs. They no longer had confidence in the loyal, faithful Communist – Slapak.

At the outbreak of the German-Russian war in 1941, Slapak, together with a group of Krinki young people successfully escaped to the Bialystok ghetto. He was in the underground movement and led a bitter dispute concerning the way to fight against the Nazi murderers. The majority felt it should be carried out in the ghetto. The Krinkers, with Slapak and Rivka Shinder at the head, thought that they should flee to the forest and there, together with the Russian partisans, fight again the cruel Nazis.

Slapak left the Bialystok ghetto leading twenty people (mostly Krinkers) in December 1942. His headquarters was located in an ideal, strong, well-guarded bunker in the Lipovy-Most forest.

The Krinki group was disciplined and took only bread, potatoes and necessities from the peasants in the area. Slapak had issued a strong order not to steal anything. To make it look like they were Russians, the group was dressed as Red Army soldiers and carried Russian weapons, but the peasants knew that they were Jews.

As soon as the Krinkers were organized in the forest, Moshe Slapak sent two armed messengers to Bialystok so that they would lead Jews from the ghetto to the forest. When the Suprasler partisan group arrived, Slapak first of all supplied them with food and then posted three of his fighters to watch and protect their bunker.

Slapak sought to make contact with Russian partisans and he was successful in establishing contact with partisan commander “Alexander,” a Russian officer. Slapak planned to get more Jews from the ghetto to enlarge his group and take revenge on the bestial Nazis.

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Peasants worked at felling trees in the area of Slapak's base. The tracks in the snow showed that partisans were hiding in the area. On the 10th of February 1943 the guards arrived on the run and said that a group of civilians with arms were entering the forest. There were about fifteen armed people at the base. (The rest were on various missions.) Over two hundred armed “Vlasovtses” (Veisgvardeyshe Russian Black Hundreds, lead by General Vlasov), local policemen and Germans opened fire from all sides. Slapak with his small number of fighters took up the uneven battle. The shooting lasted several hours. Moshe Slapak was badly wounded in the stomach and died in the hands of his own Krinki fighters when they had carried him into the bunker. Three other fighters fell as well.

Ten Germans and their helpers paid with their lives for the attack. This was the first fight with the Germans in the Bialystok forest.

After the losses of the first fight, the group dispersed. Some went to other partisan groups and most gave up their lives fighting the Nazis.

Partisans and Krinki fighters; Jews and their unity

Besides the above mentioned Krinkers from our cozy shtetl who were active in partisan ranks, listed below are the names of those from our shtetl who served as Jewish partisans.  These are the people that we know of:

  1. Beyl'ke Shuster-Greenstein who together with her husband, turned up in Minsk after they fled Krinki during the retreat of the Russian army. While in the Minsk ghetto, they came in contact with Russian partisans who were active in the Staroseler forest in 1942 and joined their ranks. Beyl'ke escaped and also excelled.
  2. Feyvel Wolf escaped from Kelbasin camp and later, after wandering for a long time, turned up in the Spring of 1944 in a Russian partisan group that was active in the forest.
  3. Abrahamel Soyfer fled from Krynki to the east during the retreat of the Red Army. He was captured by the Germans along with Soviet soldiers and succeeded in escaping. While wandering in the forest in 1941, he met up with a Russian partisan group and joined them. He had carried out a secret mission in the Krinki ghetto. The Germans captured him as he was leaving the ghetto with a package of medicine for the partisans. He was “interrogated” and should have died, but thanks to Jankel Kozoltchik, the commandant of the Jewish “ordenungs-dienst,” he was saved.
  4. Shmuel Geller, when the Red Army started the Second World War, was in the eastern part of Poland and traveled at first to Ivye and later to Lida. He fled the Lida ghetto in 1943 with a group of Jews and went to the partisans in the Galiboki forest. He was a partisan in the Kalinin Detachment, Kirov Brigade until liberation in June 1944.
  5. Shlama Avnet (Avnet “the blond”) was in Aushwitz death camp in 1944 and planned to blow up the crematoria. He was killed carrying out the mission.

[p. 316]

A Krinker “organizes” a Passover Seder in a German concentration camp.[2]

At the beginning of 1943 Jews from the Krakow ghetto had to move to a larger camp in the town of Plaszow that had been prepared on the land of its destroyed Jewish cemetery. The more active and wealthy Jews who were employed in the surrounding factories prepared to arrange their own camps in their factories. The Jews helped considerably with money for the expenses of building material, and after a long, hard workday they also labored overtime to build the barracks. This was how two such camps were put up. One of them was for “kabelverk” [cable work].

These camps were ruled by the so-called “verkshutz” [security]. It was made up mainly of German people who turned a blind eye to much of the social and cultural life. So there were celebrations Friday night and on various Jewish holidays in the “cable factory.”

The spirit of the celebrations was Moshe Smuelovitch, may his memory be blessed, who came from Krinki. Until the war broke out he was a teacher of Jewish subjects in the Krakow Hebrew High School named for Dr. Chaim Hilfstein. He was very well liked by the students and popular in the city. As proposed by Dr. Hilfstein, who at the time of the occupation was chairman of the “Jewish Social Self-Help,” Professor Shmuelovitch was appointed head of the distribution of medications and food that was sent to help the camp.

This made it possible for him to move around the camp, stay in touch with prisoners and organize all kinds of gatherings. From these the Seder night was especially remembered. It was organized in a women's barrack and there was a table covered with matzahs and wine. Professor Shmuelovitch then carried on a deep comparison between the difficult afflictions that Pharoah put on the Jews in Egypt and the situation of the prisoners in the camps.

At the end of 1944, the prisoners were sent to other camps. Moshe Shmulovitch was killed on the 22nd of January 1945 in Guzen, when after “disinfecting” the naked prisoners were held for several hours in the freezing cold. His fifteen-year-old only son Uri, who was with him in the cable camp, was a survivor and arrived in Israel with a group of child immigrants. He later graduated from Haifa Polytechnical and is currently an engineer at the Weizman Istitute in Rehovot.

kry316.jpg - Exhumation of the martyrs who were
 murdered during the slaughter of Passover Eve, 1943
Exhumation of the martyrs who were murdered
during the slaughter of Passover Eve, 1943


[p. 317]

Exhumation of the Krinki martyrs[3]

By Shmuel Wolf and Heschel Eizen (one of the shoyhet's [ritual slaughterer] sons)

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

Due to the initiative of fellow Krinkers in Bialystok, the help of the Jewish District committee and financial aid from the Krinker landsmanschaft [association of fellow townspeople] in America the exhumation took place. A brigade of Jewish workers, under the leadership of Krinker Shmuel Wolf and Heschel Eizen, began the exhumation of the martyrs on the 10th of December 1947. The two mass graves were on Shmerl the Kotler's [boilermaker, teakettle maker] square, on Bod Gesl [Bath Lane] in Krinki which had become a place to throw garbage.

This is where they were shot, Friday Passover Eve 1943, during the round up of old people in the ghetto. Thirty-nine of the nicest and most religious Jews in the shtetl headed by the Hasidic rabbi.

They had dug down a meter when they saw two rows of dead bodies. In the first row there were fifteen people and in the second, nineteen. All of them were dressed in their clothes with the yellow patch. Some had Hasidic skullcaps on their heads, some with eye glasses. The Hasidic rabbi was recognized due to his long kapote [long, black coat worn by orthodox Jews] and skullcap. Lying in the grave with the thirty-four bodies were two older children.

About three meters on the side, they found the second grave where five women lay separately.

The funeral was held Thursday, 27 Kislev 5707 – the 11th of December 1947 at half past two in the afternoon at the Jewish cemetery in Krinki.

[p. 318]

The roster of the victims. The victims of the bloody Passover-eve

Of the thirty-nine victims of the bloody Passover-eve who were exhumed it was possible, due to volunteers from several communities and lists, to put together the following list of thirty-three names and some nicknames.

The twenty-eight men

  1. Reb [Mr., or term of respect] Shmuel Lev, the Hasidic rabbi (“the geler”) [blond]
  2. Dayan [Judge in the Jewish court] Reb Leyb (Leybke) Segal
  3. Heykel Alian (owner of a restaurant)
  4. Moshe Alekshitzer
  5. Heschel Okun (“Heschel the Meshores”) [Servant]
  6. Sender Aronovitch (“Sender the Pupeks”) [navels, gizzards]
  7. Hershel Aronovitch (one of Sender's sons)
  8. Meir Blokh (Meir “mantzes”) [little bits]
  9. Abraham Brevdeh (a Hasid, manager of the “Hakhnoses Orkhim”) [Sabbath shelter for poor wanderers]
  10. Pinie Gendler (Pinie Munie Feygel Yehushe's)
  11. Velvel Veinach (the Valker) [preparer]
  12. Benjamin Veyrach (Naome Ide's)
  13. Abraham Lopate (Abrahmke “drales”)
  14. Moshe Lapate
  15. Mosheke Lev (“maziks” [mischievous, clever, daring] Chana the baker's husband)
  16. Motke Levin (the tailor, “the horbultchik”) [hunchback]
  17. Shmuel Levin (Munie Khsrial's, a sexton in the synagogue)
  18. Muntchik Wolf (the blacksmith)
  19. Jankel Wolf (Aaron's son, Muntchik the blacksmith's grandson)
  20. Natanovitch
  21. Henoch Nakdiman (one of the sons of Hertzke from the leather factory)
  22. Mones Potchevutski (a veneer storekeeper)
  23. Alter Kaplan (“the Hon”) [rooster]
  24. Monie Yakov Kaplan (a leather manufacturer)
  25. Daniel Kaganovitch (“the Hoykher”) [tall]
  26. Motl Kravetski (Shmuel and Bashke Spodviler's son)
  27. Rabkin
  28. Sender Shafir.

The five women

  1. Eylin (old Mendel's wife)
  2. Chana Alekshitser
  3. Okun (Heschel Okun's mother
  4. Shoshke Lascher (Shoshke Rachel Matske's, the egg dealer)
  5. Feygel Nakdiman (Israel Hertzk's wife)


On the Ruins of Jewish Krinki

My Shtetel, Krinki

by Sarah Fel-Yelin

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

My little shtetl Krinik, an image in memory –
Hardly dimmed in the mist of years;
My father and brothers, home and my garden –
Is there still a trace remaining there now?

Gray years of destruction and war,
With a slaughterer's knife they tattered our nation;
In ashes somewhere the family remains,
Never gathered from the flame of the Nazi animals.

I spun a thread of sorrow and hope,
In search of names of dear ones, not found;
Still further and further the search renews
Among the liberated remnants of hell.

And I am back in the shtetl
The destruction, the bleak depressing sight;
At the market place – a ruin with scraps,
In the obliterated little streets my eyes search.

There is the well, the trees, the house,
I yell with a quivering voice:
“The trees!…My father on the day –
of my birth –
Planted five trees sixty years ago!”

And here is the house, the balcony, the garden,
A strange family lives there now;
As if feverishly I touch a board, a stone –
As if by an open grave I am choked with sobs.

They stand there without words, the Polish neighbors –
“Yes, yes, they did not spare anyone,
Troubles and terror also boiled up for us,
But the lot of the Jews was horrible”.

In my heart hammers beat, my heart bleeds,
I think I feel my father wherever I turn,
In the smell of the air – his blood, his tears,
In every little stone and every grain of sand, he is.

As if from a funeral, I look back
At my home and at the green trees:
At a shtetl with Jews, factories and stores,
Remains at the end an illustrious name.

The death of Krinik is written in the record,
Its fighting spirit remains its legacy;
Its heroic stand until the last day, to the bitter end,
The courage of our martyrs lies heavy
On the scales.

My little shtetl Krinik, an image in memories –
Bloody destruction, terrifying years;
Of our nearest and loved ones nothing remains,
Only a family gravestone: five green trees.

kry318.jpg - Traveling to Krynki - from Sokolke
Traveling to Krynki – from Sokolke


Footnotes

  1. The details about Moshe Slapak from the Bialystok ghetto and from the forest where given by partisan “Leon” from the Suprasler partisan group Return
  2. From Dr. Michael Weichert's memoirs. Return
  3. From documents at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw Return

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