We were all moved from our living quarters at the school to the attic at the
factory. That evening the policemen came from Kurenitz, they set with us and
told us detail of what had occurred in Kurenitz during the slaughter. Some
times, they were somber and serious, other times they were mocking and making
fun of us. They told us about Chaiale Sosensky, Donia's daughter. The policemen
knew her well, she used to work at the restaurant that they ate at. They
claimed that they gave her a choice to save herself, however she answered that
the town's fate is her fate. They told us of the speech she made. She cursed
the German murderers and she prophesized that judgment day will come soon and
then they will have to pay for their evil did.
They told us of the Jews who were dressed with their talits, they jumped in the fire saying a prayer before the Germans had a chance to shoot them.
They said that Chaim Sozkover jumped on the policeman that came to get him and started choking him but the other policemen shot him on the spot.
We sat there all broken, we could not stop crying.
The next day Yankale, the son of Artzik Alperovitz, came to the farm area with other partisans. While the other partisans were waiting in the forest, Yankale looked for his younger brother Shmuel who was a shepherd, Shmuel was with the cows in the pasture. When he found him, he told all the Christians who worked in the fields near the pasture that the partisans would kill them if they'll tell anything to the Germans. He took his brother with him. The Christian shepherd, who worked with his brother, kept the secret the entire day. And when he returned with the cows that evening he told the Germans that Shmuel just walked away, saying he was going to Kurenitz to look for his mother.
Now I should tell about Yankeleh heroic stand that occurred a year earlier.
Artzik Alperovitz [middle row on the right]
with some of his surviving children and grandchildren
On the day of the slaughter of the fifty-four, a day that the Germans claimed was solely to be rid of communists in our town, Merrill Alperovich (Artzik's wife), and all her children were taken to be killed. When the parade of the Jews, who the Germans took to be slaughtered, passed trough Kosita Street, Merrill and the younger children managed to escape and hide in one of the gardens. Yankeleh and one brother were taken to the killing field near the Jewish cemetery. While Yankeleh was already standing in the pit and the German officer was ready to yell "fire!", Yankeleh ask the officer that was in charge of the killing if he can ask a question. The officer allowed one question, Yankeleh said; "before my execution I have a final request, I would like to know for what crime I Have received a death sentence? Is it because I am Jewish? Or is it because of a suspicion that I am a communist?"
Yankeleh brave stand in his grave, surprised the officer, he answered; "you are about to be killed, as the rest of the people here, for being a communist!"
"If this is the case against me" said Yankeleh "I would like you to ask the many Christian villagers who are standing here, to bare witness. They can all testify that in the soviets days the communist broke our family and sent my father to Siberia. Having such bad experiences how could I be a communist? The officer turned to the villagers that were standing there with a shocked look on their faces, they all nodded their heads in agreement.
The officer said, " if this is the case you are free to go"; Yankeleh said, "I ask that my sick young brother who is as innocent as I am should be released" – The officer must have liked Yankeleh stand, he let both of them go. Shortly after the brother died of natural causes and Yankeleh joined the partisans and became renowned for his bravery and commitment. When the war ended, he received many high commendations and medals.
Back in the Luban farm, After Shmuel's escape I was assigned to take Shmuel's job as a shepherd. Shortly after a Christian man from Studyonka by the name of Ivan, came to us (Jews) he gave us a letter from Yankeleh in the letter he urged us all to escape and come to the forest.
We liked the idea of escaping, but to accomplish it with the entire crew seemed impossible. Single people could have escaped easily, however we all felt responsible for each other. We knew that the Germans would take revenge on the Jews that stayed.
Some of us were reluctant to leave a place that had relatively decent conditions for a life of fugitives in the forest. Still most of us knew that we are not safe here, so we all came with ideas, we decided to jump the policemen who routinely came to visit us during nighttime. Some of our guys were very strong we could easily disarm the police and take their weapon with us to the forest. Our plans of escape kept being delayed.
One day I received a package from my sister who worked in the Vileyka camp. A Christian woman brought the package. In the package, I found a shirt, one pair of pants, a jacket that the police would ware, it was missing all the buttons. In addition, I received a note. The note said that father was in Vileyka but she (my sister) is not able to see him. She asked if I knew where our mother was. At this point, I did not know, later I found out that my mother ran to our designated hiding place in Shachna Stoller's bathhouse on the morning of the slaughter. She was shot while running. Father who was a strong man was taken that day to Vileyka to work for the SD.
While I was working in the pasture two Christian men kept urging me to escape to the forest. One was an old farmer from Luban who kept asking why I was still here. He pointed out the way to the Pushtza, the deep in the forest hideout of the partisans and many Jews. He gave detailed instructions how to get there, I said nothing but I kept repeating to myself the information. The other Christian man was the shepherd who worked with me, he was always very concerned for me, and he was constantly telling me I should escape.
The rainy autumn turned to winter, the ground had frost in the morning I had no shoes and I was walking around barefoot, a Christian man felt sorry for me and gave me a pair of shoes with wooden soles.
One freezing Sunday morning, Donia Sosensky stood outside our living quarters,
cooking lunch for the crew on a fire pit.
|Dania Sosensky with wife, Chana
and their surviving children after the war
Donia's wife, Chana baked bread the entire day to be later taken on the road. Motka from Molodechno worked every night in the factory until almost midnight. When he found out that we were planing to escape that night, he refused to go, fearing that we will leave without him. He said that he was sick and he could not go to work.
Donia approached me, he explained the situation, and asked me if I would replace him. I knew that I would have to work until eleven at night, then a policeman will take me to the Christian mechanic sleeping place in the farm. If I were to walk alone in the farm after it turned dark, I would be most likely shot. I agreed to go with one condition, that anther no circumstance they are to leave without me. Donia agreed.
I went to work, I cut wood and put it in the furnace, I brought water from the well and put them in the boiler. A few moments before 11 I fell to the ground holding my stomach curling up, shaking and screaming as if I was in great pain.
The two policeman who were watching me, asked; "What is the matter with you?" As if with the last of might, I whispered that, I have horrible stomach pains.
One of the drunken policemen said mockingly "I will shot you with a bullet and then the pain will subside". I begged them to let me walk to my room to get medication, and to not force me to sleep at the designated place were I would be in pain for the entire night, unable to get medication. They said; "Go to your room if you want to, anyway you would be shot on your way there". It was a very dark night, a rainy and snowy night. I crawled all the way to the fence. I jumped the fence by the road to Vileyka and ran a cross the road and hid in a ditch, waiting a few minutes, to make sure that none was following me. When I realized that none was pursuing me, I decided to check the place to make sure there is no German patrol in the vicinity. I got out of the ditch and walked in the fields in a distant of a few dozen meters, then I returned to the main road and walked towards the inn. I carefully checked that there was no watch, patrol or blockade around the inn. When I found out that there wasn't, I entered the inn.
It was close to midnight, our room was pitch dark. I felt in the dark, I soon realized that everyone was asleep, they all woke up when I touched them. The windows were covered with blankets so we would be able to light a match without being seen from the outside. Everything was already packed. We had saws, axes and other tools that we used in our jobs. We took everything with us. I carried an ax and a package that belonged to Donia and we started walking.
It took us three hour to reach the house of Ivan the Christian man from Studyonka who was helping the Jews, when we got there, we felt much freer.
He took us to the forest. Months past, and one evening we came to the village
Tallatz. When we entered one of the homes, we met the Christian mechanic from
Luban. He immediately recognized me, he joyfully kissed and hugged me saying,
"You tricked the police. You truly tricked the police". He told me
that immediately following our escape, early in the morning, many SS policemen
arrived from the Vileyka headquarters to capture us to be killed.
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