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The Struggle to Survive (cont.)




The Slaughter in Kurenets

Three days prior to Rosh Hashanah 1942, the Christians people came by and told us the most horrible news. They told us about a slaughter of the Jews who were left in Kurenets, they said it occurred at the end of Myadel Street. At first, we refused to believe them. We had heard rumors like this before, and later the rumors would be disproved. However, to our horror this time, it turned to be the bitter truth. We still had with us letters that we had received from our relatives and friends in Kurenitz from a day or two prior to the slaughter. We took the pages out and cried. We kissed the letters that were written by our dear ones, and we could not continue working. We were shocked and deeply depressed. A short time later, they brought carriages full of clothes and other belongings of the Jews of Kurenets. Our wives were ordered to separate them into men's clothes, women's clothes, children's shoes, etc. Occasionally, they would recognize clothes that belonged to their beloved relatives. Nevertheless, the watchman did not allow the women to show any signs of depression or desperation while working. How they were able to continue their job? Where did they find the spiritual strength? The little children also found out about the horrible occurrence.

On that night, no one slept. It was a night of mourning. We cried and we tore our clothes. We pulled the hair out of our heads. We sat on the ground and mourned our martyrs. People who were left single with no families said, "We must escape immediately. Now, it is very clear what the Germans are planning, and anyone who refuses to escape will stay here to be hung." Nevertheless, some of us said, "winter is coming. Where will we escape to with little children?" Others tried to console themselves by saying that the Germans were building a big theater and that they would need us for at least six months so we should stay here until spring and then try to escape.

It was a night of tears and desperation until the morning came. We went to work, but we were like human shadows. A few survivors from the slaughter in Kurenets came to Vileyka. They Stealthily hid in the Zsinstand camp. It was more complicated to reach our camp inasmuch as it was watched carefully.

One day, around noon, I entered the barn to take some water to boil. All of a sudden, I heard a strange noise from the roof. At first, I was sure it was a cat. However, when I kept hearing the sound, I guessed that it wasn't a cat, but a person. I called, "Who's there?" I thought that someone was trying to commit suicide so I went out of the barn to let other people know. Gitel Kapelovitch, the wife of David the tailor, stopped me and said, "Don't run anywhere." She started whispering to me that her sister, Dvushka, the wife of Eliyahu Chaim Alperovich, was brought here a few days ago by Ingeleh Byruk, a gentile from Kurenets who saved many Jews. He hid her in his carriage under a pile of hay for a few days, and now she was concealed here and no one knew of it. Dvushka came down from her hiding place crying and begging me not to tell anyone. Maybe later she said she would convince Shuts to let her stay. Dvushka was beautiful, with all the prettiness of a Jewess. She sounded so naïve when she said this. I said, "Dvushkaleh, don't stay here. Run to the forest. Find people who will help you and you will survive. For the love of God, don't stay here." My heart was crying inside. As if to mock, she was blossoming in her beauty. After a while, Shuts took her to work as a cleaning woman. A short time later when she left to work outside the camp, some of the Kurenets inhabitants recognized her and immediately informed the Germans that she had escaped the slaughter and that she was with us illegally. One evening, two killers from the SS entered the camp. They found her and took her, the next day she was released. We were very happy to see her among us. We said, "Dvushkaleh, you must run out of here immediately." "Where will I run," she begged with tearful eyes, "My face will be a testament that I am a Jew anywhere. I must stay near my sister. I am already lost." The next day, the two killers returned. She cried and begged for mercy. She was held in prison for two weeks, where she was tortured by every killer. Later, together with Itka Chadash, she was shot by the killer, Gravah, behind the jail.


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Kurenets 1937
Standing second from the left; Dvushka nee Kopilovitz, the wife of Eliyahu Chaim Alperovich
(standing next to her) with his parents , sister and niece.



The gun

To pretend that we were gentiles was almost impossible for most of us. Most looked Jewish. Despite that, I decided to take my chances and to take off my yellow tag of. To conceal the Jewish star that were sewed on the front of the clothes and on the back, to dress in typical clothes of farmers in our area. To secretly leave the camp and get in touch with some Christian acquaintances. Whenever I would plot it and start getting apprehensive of the idea, I would consider the aim of my mission and then my fear would subside. Finally, I was able to accomplish it. I left the camp in attempt to get weapons in preparation for the escape to the forest. I knew the roads very well. I was able to reach the home of one Christian acquaintance of mine who lived in Vileyka and he promised me to buy me a weapon.

Many times I returned to his home and each time I returned to the camp very depressed because he would delay giving me the weapon. Every time he would raise the amount of money, he wanted for it. Finally, he took me up to his attic and gave me the "supplies". With excitement, I started kissing his hands. He was not satisfied with just kisses and asked me to give him some leather for boots, the only break he gave me was that I could give him the leather on a later occasion. He put the gun in a rag and tied it around my leg in case someone would check me. My heart was beating with happiness and excitement and in great spirits, I returned to the camp.

Of my secret, I only told my friend Yosef Zuckerman, and his eyes lit with happiness. However, both of us had no knowledge of weapons. I knew that Hertzel Alperovich used to serve in the army, so I was sure that he would know something about weapons. How shocked I was when Hertzel told me that you could not even try the gun because it locked the barrel with bullets.

My heart broke. My spirit was lifted again thanks to Kopeleh Specter who was an absolute genius and in his hands, the gun became lethal. He fixed the gun according to the exact rules. Now all I needed were bullets. Therefore, again I started running around looking for the correct bullets amongst my Christian acquaintances. Finally, I got three bullets.



The annihilation of the Zsinstand camp



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Chanale Rabunski,
sister of the author


A short time prior to the slaughter in Kurenets, the governor of White Russia, Koobah, came from Minsk to "visit" our camp. He was the one who was responsible for the destruction of the Jews in Belarus. He came on a foggy, rainy day. All of a sudden, we were surrounded by Belarussian police, and they took us back to the camp. At that point, we were all sure that they were going to kill us. It was impossible to run away – running was a sure death. Each one of us started counting our sins to ourselves. All of a sudden, Shuts announced, “Everyone go to work. No one stays in the camp.” Hastily, everyone started running to their workplace – the carpenters to the carpentry, the shoemakers to the shoe shop, etc. Only I and my brother to the lie, Gershon from Rakov walked around aimlessly not knowing what to do. All of a sudden, I remembered that there was still one dead fox in my sleeping place, so immediately I ran through a side alley to my room, took the leather, and tried to return to the work area. When the women saw my face and my fearful running, they suspected that I took my weapon and was planning to kill Koobah. All the women stood in the door front and prevented me from leaving. They started checking me and begging that I must not do it, they feared for their children's life. It took a lot of explanation to calm them down and to prove to them that I had only returned to fetch the leather for my job.

When I returned to the work area, the group of killers entered. Amongst them were Koobah and the commissar for our area, Schmidt. They were followed by guards. Everyone was armed as if ready for a battle. At once, I turned the fox around to the inside and the smooth skin to the outside. I put it on a piece of wood and with a knife, I started working the skin. Our nervousness became fear when we heard the sounds of their creaking boots. All the workplaces were very busy. You could hear the sounds of hammers, saws, iron, etc. I was the last one to be visited. Koobah looked at me and at what I was doing with a look of great disrespect. He listens to my explanation of what I was doing. My heart died inside until we finally reached the blessed moment and they left. Now I could sigh with relief.

The results for our camp were only our great fear, but Koobah gave an order to eliminate the camp of Zsinstand. A few months later, on Saturday in November early in the morning before we even left for work, two young girls came to us running. One was the sister of Shalom the tailor from Kribitz, the other was Hashka, the daughter of Israel David from Kosita Street. Their hair was all messy and their eyes were turned around and strange with fear. They were talking in very confused order and crying hysterically. They told us what had happened in their camp. The night, when it turned dark, the killers had taken all of the children out of the camp on trucks. They were taken to the forest near the Jewish cemetery and all the children were murdered. Again, everyone in our camp started crying.

I had a particular part in this tragedy. My only sister, the baby of our family, Chanaleh. We could hardly walk to work. The carpentry was on the second floor, they could see through the window the black smoke from the direction of the Jewish cemetery. Again, people talked about escaping. The people who were single announced, “We are going to escape, we are getting out of here immediately. Today we are going to run. We are not going to perish because of the families here who believe the Nazis. Look at the smoke,” they yelled, “Look and see. This is your own blood burning here. What are you waiting for? Very soon, they will bring their clothes for us to sort. Who is going to sort your own clothes? Who?” Some of the family people said that they were right, but still among us were true professionals who believed that they were needed at least until Passover.

The Germans were building a theater and our work was necessary they said. These people would not let us run. They threatened us that they would stop us by force saying that if we escaped, everyone that stayed would be annihilated. Secretly some people managed to escape on that Saturday since that day the watch was not very careful, the guards were busy preparing for Sunday celebration. So on that day, about twenty escaped, amongst them Chetskel (Charles Gelman) Zimmerman, Tuvia Kopelovich, Moshe Lazer Torov, Chalvina Torov, Shimon Zimmerman, and Riva Gordon Zimmerman. Everyone thought that the German revenge would come soon. Women started calling to their husbands, “What are you sitting for? Run and escape with them. We must save whoever we can.” We dressed the children with the few clothes that we had and stood ready as if we were standing in the train station with our little bundles. All of a sudden, Shuts came and said, “It's fine, the governor said that nothing bad would happen to us since we were useful Jews." Shuts continued saying that he thought we would manage to save ourselves through this war. We didn't really trust those promises. We knew that those were lies, but we were very fearful to escape on a winter day with little children. Therefore, for now we decided to stay.

On Monday, all the women were sent to take the clothes, the shoes, and other belongings from the Zsinstand camp. They came back from their work destroyed emotionally. We felt as if the gates of pity and the gates of revenge were forever locked for the Jews. We were broken people and had no means to do anything to control our fate.



We become gravediggers

Many days past since the annihilation of the Zsinstand camp. Time seemed to crawl very slowly. However, in our heart we started feeling a slim hope that maybe we would be lucky enough to See Spring, and then, if God wishes, we would be able to escape. The news from the front was encouraging. Now, the Germans were busy with the killing of their own collaborators, they were killing Polish and other the German sympathizers. They would even bring priests to the Vileyka jail and there, they would kill them and put them in a common grave. Other “important people” who saw themselves as German patriots and who continuously killed Jews now were being killed by the Germans. Therefore, now some of the Christian citizens started feeling that the Germans were treating them as "Jews" and they must do something against them. Still, we were very depressed with only a slim hope.

One day, I with seven other men was called by Shots, it was a very early morning hour. I did not have any time to say goodbye to my wife and son. I could find no way of escaping. We were surrounded by Belarussian police, who were armed with machine guns, dressed in black clothes with gray straps tied to their sleeves. They ordered us to take shovels for digging. We were sure that our end was coming that they were taking us to dig our own graves. As usual, they made us work in pairs going in the direction of the Jewish cemetery. We immediately realized that that is where they were taking us, and Yitzkale, who was my partner, could hardly walk. I whispered to him, “Itzka, if they ordered us to dig our own graves, we must escape. When they shoot us, at least we will be running. We shouldn't just accept our death quietly.” We all told each other to do this whispering to each other. Gershon from Rakov, my business partner, said, “With my shovel, I will kill at least one of them. I will cut him into two from up to down. And then I will die.” Clearly, he would have been able to do this even without a shovel, just with his hand since he was so strong.

The local Christians were looking at us smiling and the Belarussian police were laughing saying, “Say hello in heaven to the rest of the Jews.” They brought us near the Jewish cemetery where they had killed our sisters and brothers, the citizens of Kurenets. Two of the police walked away to look for something and they ordered us to sit on the ground. The three other police stood around and said, “Anyone who tries to escape will be immediately killed.” Our teeth were shaking although the day was not cold and there was little rain and fog on the ground. They ordered us to get up and start to dig. One of us said, “Why are you torturing us? If you wanted to kill us, do it right away.” A policeman from Vileyka, someone, who used to be a shoemaker and learned his job with one of the Jewish shoemakers, started cursing us very dirtily. He ended is "speech" saying " first you must put in the ground the bodies of the Jews from the annihilated Zsinstand camp. Now, there is a danger of disease spreading to Vileyka", then he continued, "Your turn to die would come later."

The horrible sight is very difficult to describe. I don't think anyone has the strength to describe the details. Still today, I see it with all its horror constantly. There was a broken bathhouse in the area. In the chimney, which was all broken, there was a skeleton of a man that must have tried to hide there and was shot right there? All around the field were torn parts of bodies eaten by dogs and wolves. There was a cloud of black crows that covered the area. It looked like the plague of locusts had arrived. We had to fight them to get to the area. The smell was unbearable. The police let us tie something around our noses and mouths. There was no way we could work but the police said that they would kill us if we did not work. “We will bring other workers and they will bury you too,” they said. They started hitting us with their rifles so we returned to the job. Deep in our hearts we knew that our horrible job was a "mitzvah" since we were bringing to Jewish burial our dear ones. With our last might, we started collecting whatever was left of the bodies and put them in the hole that we dug. Here and there, we could identify from the clothes that were left some of the bodies. I could recognize Velvel Markman from Smorgon Street. He was saved from the slaughter in Kurenets and later reached the Zsinstand Camp. He begged to get a job there. I recognized him because he was a big man and I knew his coat and his color. I knew that my darling sister, Chanaleh, would be there. I thought that maybe I would find her body and I would bring her to a Jewish burial. I looked among the clothes. I also recognized another Jew from Smorgon. His name was Simon Danishevsky. At one point, he had worked with me as a painter. I recognized him by his short fur coat and his rubber boots that were full of paint. I buried him and continued looking.

All of a sudden – Chanaleh, my Chanaleh – her body was without a head or arms. I recognized her from her blue coat. The coat was torn and full of blood. I also recognized her belt. I couldn't control myself anymore. I fell to the ground and held to what was left of her body. I started tearing my clothes and ripping my hair out and cried with horror. My friends tried to separate me from the body. The police knew what was going on and understood that I was going insane so they took me away from the burial area and put me lying on the ground. My friends continued without me. I was so destroyed that when we returned I could not walk. They had to support me. This is how we returned to the camp. The news that we brought that day was like salt on our open wounds.



The escape

There were many arguments among us. Opinions were divided. Some of us wanted to force our manager, Shuts, to discontinue his career working for the Germans and together with us to find the means to escape to the forest. It was very difficult for us “employees” to convince him that the killers were not going to keep us alive for our hard work. The truly professional people supported such opinion that they will be saved and refused to escape. (All of them did perish one day prior to the Russians freeing the Vileyka district. They left a note inside a wall where they begged us to say the Kaddish after them). After horrible arguments, we managed to elect a committee for the escape. The members of this committee were Mordechai, son of Havas Alperovich, who now lives in Israel; Hertzel Alperovich, may he rest in peace; Yosef Zuckerman, who now lives in Israel; Kopel Specter, may he rest in peace; our manager Shuts; Yonah Riar, from Ilya, both live in Israel; and I. The mission seemed very difficult. How would we be able to get the women and children out? Some had ideas, but they seemed impossible to accomplish. At that point, we got a message from the people who had escaped on the day that they annihilated the Zsinstand Camp. They told us that we should immediately try to escape, that to stay in the camp means to wait for death. They also said that we must get weapons. In the forest, we would need weapons. They sent the messages through a farmer from the village Neyaka, 20km from Kurenets. We called the farmer “The Beard”. He had a long brown beard that was much groomed. He wore laptzas on his feet. He would usually wear a huge coat, and on his neck, he wore many crosses. He was very calm and relaxed with a generous face. He had sparkly blue eyes. For us he was a saving angel. He would bring us news from the battles in the front, and would give us hope telling us stories about the partisans. His motto was, “You must escape. In the forest you will survive.”

We kept sending with him things that we wanted to safe keep. For us this was a miracle. This rare occurrence to find such a Christian man. He would sneak into our camp endangering his life each time. Danger could come from anywhere for him. We started preparing to go to the forest in full force. We prepared double souls for our boots we made them from the blankets. We started sewing warm clothes and underwear and we made duffel bags with sewing kits and anything else that could help us for life in the forest. We were preparing as if we were going on a long journey. Through that time, we were constantly worried that someone would leave prior to the set day and then the rest of us would be annihilated. People were particularly worried that I would go prior to the set day. Even my little three-year-old son would beg me, “Take me to the forest. I also want to survive.” He would say that every time I would wear my jacket to go to the Christian homes to talk to one of them about our plans. My heart was crying inside when I heard him beg. Each time I had to convince him that I was leaving but that I would also return.

Shuts was now convinced that hard labor would not save us. He knew very well that most of the people in the camp were planning to escape. Still, I was worried to let him know that I had weapons. However, I knew that he had good connections with a German native that hated the Nazis so I talked to Shuts and he talked to the German man. Eventually, the man sent me through Shuts sixty bullets for my gun and another gun for Yosef Zuckerman. To find a German behaving like this was unheard of. He was always telling us, “Escape to the forest. The time of defeat for Hitler and his murderers is coming soon. Escape to the woods. Here, you won't survive.” Yonah Riar from Ilya also got a gun, but when we finally escaped, he had no time to get hold of it.

Spring was approaching and the air was getting warmer and our hearts filled with good hopes. We all watched the tree branches to see signs of blooming. After a day of hard labor, hunger and fear, we would all gather at nighttime and all we would talk about was escaping and planning how to get the children and women out. The main thing that working against us was the fact that Vileyka was situated in a geographic area that was very hard to escape. A large portion of the town was surrounded by the river Vilya. From the north, the train tracks were constantly watched by the Germans. Moreover, that was the only way we could the large forests surrounding Kurenets.

During the slaughter in Kurenets, Gravah collected some Jews and brought them to the yard of the jail were he was living. There, he arranged them according to their profession to work in a big wooden barrack. With them were some laborers from the towns of Ilya, Krivitz, Smorgon, Oshmena, Voshenva, and other towns. There were professionals he brought to be used for his project. There were about thirty people, all single with no children. Among them were a few women. We knew of them being there, and they knew of us. They wanted to get in touch with us therefore occasionally they pretended that they did not have tools and they came to our camp to borrow tools. This way we knew of what was going on with them.

I remember at one time on Sunday morning the bell rang for us to go to work. We were all prepared for inspection. We were all sure that Shernogovitch was coming. His terrible name was known to every Jew in Kurenets. He was responsible for dozens of killings. When we saw that he was approaching, we all ran. However, when he came close, we realized it was not Shernogovitch, but it was Meir Alperovich son of Zalman and Reshka daughter of Yuda Alperovich. When he saw us running, he started yelling to us in Yiddish. We surrounded him and started asking, “How is it that you are wearing Shernogovitch clothes? How could you be a policeman for the Nazis?” Meir told us that yesterday the Germans murdered Shernogovitch, the collaborator, and for some reason, they ordered him to take the clothes off the body and to wear them. He ended his tale saying "maybe we would be lucky and revenge all our killers. Hopefully, I would be lucky enough to also bury Gravah the Horrible."

Gravah was eventually killed by land mines while he was strolling in his carriage with his wife and child. The mines were put there by the partisans. Just like our connection with Meir, we met other Jews who wanted to escape. They also waited for spring. Their situation was much more difficult than ours. They had less freedom, less food, and more torture. Still, some of them managed to survive. At one point, they brought to Vileyka huge number of Jews from Branovitz. They were all men who were survivors from many different slaughters in the area of Branovitz. They told them that they were taking them to Russia for productive work but they brought them here and they all lived in one big barrack near the train station. The barrack was originally built as a barn for produce by the Russians. They only put a little hay on the ground and that was how they lived. They gave them very little food and no sanitary help. Many diseases spread amongst them. People died every day. The Germans would also kill a lot of them. Their main job was cleaning the tracks, putting supplies on the train, and taking supplies off the train. We had some communication with them, but it was very difficult. We could only meet them when we were sent to the train station to take some coal. There we would have a minute to tell them, “Escape to the forest.” We quickly told them the forests and villages where they could find Jews and partisans. We tried to help them in any way we could, giving them cloth to bandage their wounds. They also, like us, had different opinions. Some thought that they should continue working, and others thought that they should immediately escape. However, every day some of them would die. At the end, only very few managed to escape to the forest. A few of them survived.



The fate of the professionals

In Vileyka, itself, outside of the camp, there were a few families who were useful Jews. There were three brothers with their families. There was Malahshekvitz, who was a soap maker; Shmookler, who used to sell metal but now became a glass blower; Shimshelevetz, a dentist who survived the war and lived in Russia; Yashteshev the veterinarian, with his wife, sister, and child. They lived in their own homes with their possessions, but they had no illusions. They knew that their day would come. They helped us as much as they could. If it were not for Malahshekvitz, we would not have had one piece of soap to wash. The brothers gave us leather, and the veterinarian also helped us. They were in touch with many Christians and they would tell us of what was happening in the world.

Other than these professional people, the Gentiles did not know some professions. On that account some Jewish people who were herbal medicine makers worked for the Germans. From Germany came merchants who established a factory for pharmaceuticals. Among those people were people who were saved from the Kurenets slaughter. Among them were Gershon Ayeshevsky, his wife and children; Cantor and his father-in-law Mendel Canterovitch. Originally, they all escaped to the woods but they could not withstand the difficult conditions there so they returned to Vileyka. We were very bitter when we thought about that. For us, the forest was the ideal, the aim of our desires. Here they came and destroyed the image of our idea. We still kept in touch with them. The letters that The Beard would bring us from the Kurenitzers said one repeated thing, “Bring weapons. Bring bullets. Go the forests and save your lives.” When we would read the letters, we would shake from excitement. Everyone was looking for bullets. Each time, prior to The Beard's arrival, Hertzel Alperovich would take two pieces of wood with a deep space between them, and there we would hide bullets. Once the bullets were in, we would cover the sides and put dirt on it with mud so that no one could see that it was recently disturbed. Then, we would take it to a place in the yard of the hospital that was next to our camp and put it on the ground. The Beard would go all over the yard, as if he was looking for junk and he would take our wood with the bullets together with other junk to bring to our brothers in the woods. We would call the wooden plaques, the Tablets of Revenge. We did not have much chance to send such merchandise because it was very dangerous and it was hard to get bullets.

Spring was coming and we sat there as if we were sitting on hot coals. Each day seemed to us like a generation. The three brothers from Vileyka knew that their end was coming. The students already knew their jobs, so they decided to escape to the woods. They left with a lot of possessions, clothes, money, and valuables. They had many acquaintances in the villages around and we all were very envious of them. We were very worried that day, thinking that the Germans would punish us for their escape. However, the incident passed with no problems. To their homes their assistants entered. The fear subsided. Now we were very happy that they escaped and we were telling each other how they had weapons and how they were so strong and that they contributed a lot in the fight since they knew the villagers.

Not many days later, we were all shocked. The oldest of the brothers came to our camp dressed as a farmer so no one would recognize him. We found out that he came as a messenger for his brothers to beg the killers to let them come back. He came to beg for forgiveness for him and his two brothers saying, "We did a foolish thing. The police told us that they were going to kill us, but now we know they were joking, we are sorry for what we did and come to ask for forgiveness and to let us be come back". We saw him as totally insane and we would have done right by his brothers and family if we had killed him immediately before he went to the authorities. If we had done so, we may have saved the rest of his family.

Although there was some truth about the difficult life in the woods, to us it was nonsense. We spit in his face and warned him not to do it. Despite the difficulties in the woods, he was better off there. However, he refused to listen. This was used as a big enforcement to the people who were against going to the forest. They said, “Look. Those strong brothers with their connections could not withstand the conditions in the forest, so how could the rest of us do it?” We answered that the day of death would come here and that we would not stay here waiting. We would escape to the forest. The Germans were very happy with this incident saying that the Jews would not be thinking anymore about going to the forest.

They let the three families return to their jobs. When the three families left, they took with them Yosef Norman, but he did not return with them. He had found connections with Jews and partisans in the forest. He survived and now lives in Israel. Some days later, Shimshelevetch, the veterinarian, was taken out of his home to be transferred to the Zsinstand camp, but he succeeded in escaping and survived. After a few weeks, the Germans killed the brothers who returned with their families.



The day of escape

It was Wednesday, 18 March 1943. It was a clear and crisp day. At noon, the sun was very hot and some of the snow started melting. Drops of water melted off the roofs, and the ground was full of puddles. You could see some of the dark earth and this was a sign of the approaching spring. Good smells of spring were all around us, which healed our hearts and filled us with a renewed will to survive.

We watched with envy the local Christian citizens walking around freely enjoying the splendor. Here we were imprisoned waiting to be slaughtered.

Some urge, I did not know where it came from, made me not go to work. I stood strong against Shuts and did not go to the train station to put the coal for the hospital as he ordered me. I stayed only in the hospital yard to help with taking down some things. For some reason, I just could not be useful that morning. All I could think about was our "Tablets of Revenge" (the wood planks with the bullets) that were lying at the edge of the yard of the hospital. I was intently waiting for The "Beard" to come and take them. I was looking all around searching for him, and the rest of the workers did not understand my nervousness. Only Shmuel Ashkenazi, the son of Sipka the widow, knew the secret and would answer the people who were questioning my strange mood saying, “Leave him alone. He is not healthy today.”

Finally, at noon, I found The Beard inside the camp. I did not know how he entered the camp without me seeing him. He brought a letter telling us to be ready to escape this coming Saturday. The letter said that across the train tracks their would be carriages to take the women and children, and a young Christian women would come and help us escape. Our hearts were filled with excitement and we wanted to dance with happiness and to kiss the feet of our savior. Grandfather, may he rest in peace, would say he was the spirit of Elijah. We kept blessing him and thanking him, but we knew that he should not stay for long. I said my goodbye and told him I would see him in his home next time. He got out using a side alley and I returned to the job. My heart was beaming with excitement. I could not wait for evening to come to let the rest of the people who were working in other areas the good news. The Beard was walking around the yard taking all kinds of junk, among them the Tablets of Revenge. It seemed like everything was fine so I returned to the camp through a hole in the fence. With me also Shmuel Ashkenazi. We were ecstatic, but very quickly everything turned upside down.

The tale goes like this… There was someone in the camp that knew the secret of the tablets, and he told the secret to his wife. Naturally, she told another woman about the secret. When The Beard took the junk and left the yard, they saw that a Belarussian policeman approached him and took him in the direction of the German police. Here in the camp, people were sure that the beard was arrested. The woman who knew the secret of the tablets could not control herself. Full of fear, she ran to her room, gathered her children, and started screaming that any minute the Germans would come and kill us. Not only this, but she ran to the area where the carpenters were working and told them the awful news. Immediately, everyone panicked. When Shuts heard this, he got his gun and suit and ran. Shmuel Ashkenazi and I were paralyzed. We did not know what to do. At first, I wanted to tell them to calm down, but soon I realized it was like a big wave that was going sweep me with it if I did not save myself. I ran to my wife and yelled, “Rosa! Quickly take the child and run to Navashevah.” Navashevah was a Christian woman who promised to help us in our time of need. Her family was very helpful to us prior with encouragement and helped us getting weapons. I took the weapon and had no time to take all the bullets, only the bullets that was in the weapon. I put the new boots and the short fur coat on, but the rest of the clothes that I had prepared, I had no time to take. I could not forget my loyal friend Yosef Zuckerman who helped me so much, so I quickly ran to his wife and told her to run with my wife to the Christian woman. Yosef was at that point busy painting not far from the camp. I was afraid to run to him using the regular road, so I jumped over the fence to let him know.

In the paint shop, I found Eliyahu- Moshe the painter, and he told me that Yosef went to get paint. I told him to immediately escape. I returned to the camp to see if Yosef was there. There, my wife Rosa told me that Yosef, his wife and son, had already escaped. They wanted to take her but she waited for me. I said for her to take the Jewish signs off herself. While talking, I started taking all the signs off her clothes and ordered her to immediately run. My little son was begging me to take him with me. I was surprised at my decision for them to run alone, but I realized that this was the best way since if we went together on a working day it would cause more suspicion. Soon, I said to myself, we would meet at Navashevah's house. I walked on the sidewalk with my hands inside the fur coat holding the gun. I thought that if someone stopped me I would immediately shoot him. The people of the camp spread all over. While walking, I met Yitzchak Alperovich, his wife Batshevah, and the two children. Yitzchak was walking holding a shovel as if he was going to work, but how foolish it looked going to work with two babies! I walked by them and without stopping I said, "Are you taking a leisure journey or are you escaping? Hold each child and run to separate areas. Don't walk together.” I walked by our first living space where I had been so tortured. The place where my sister, Chanaleh, was taken to her death. From afar, I saw a group of German soldiers doing some physical exercise. Should I return? No, I decided to continue thinking that they would be too busy with their exercise to pay attention to me. I arrived at the house of Navashevah, the Christian woman. I stood by the gate at her yard but to my surprise, it was locked from the inside. From the house, I heard the pleading voice of Navashevah. She told me that there was no way she would let my wife in when the Germans were standing across from her yard. This could have caused death to her home. She suggested running to the forest and surely, she said I would find my wife there. While saying this, she locked her shutters.


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