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[Page 343]

The Battle of the Partisan Reuben Rubenstein

by Yakov Druck

Translated by Roslyn Sherman Greenberg

Dedicated to the memory of our friend who died young, our friend and savior, whom we thank that we remain among the living.

Every Jew who experienced the Nazi Hell can tell about his dreadful experiences. These are events that torment us until this day and that are so weird that they seem unbelievable even to us.

When these memories dominate my mind I try, as a countermeasure, to call up memories from that tragic time that would stimulate and strengthen our mental power to go on and survive. I want to write about several of these episodes.

Summer 1941

Every day brought terrible news about fresh arrests and murders. People left their houses and no one knew what happened to them. The camp seemed hopeless. One day the Gestapo announced : “All Jews between the ages of 16 and 60 must report to the jail near the station and take with them a blanket, a spoon and other small items. Those who don't register will receive the death sentence.”

Hearing the horrible news and being afraid of the word “jail”, we decided to leave Lida. My wife and I and our four-year-old son came to Deveneshuk in one piece where I had worked as a manager-bookkeeper in the Folks Bank. Having a large acquaintanceship both among the Jewish population and also among the Christians from the elite of the city, we successfully integrated ourselves. I got a job in Gemine and life under the German boot went on.

December 1941

All Jews from Deveneshuk were deported to Voronovo – among them, my family and I. We were all put into forced labor and we had to make peace with our fate. Life in Voronovo was not so good. There were S.S. in the shtetl and others, who made life bitter.

May 8, 1942

The shtetl was surrounded by a chain of Germans and armed Poles. Jews mustn't go to work. The panic among the Jews was great. No one knew what would happen. In the evening we learned that there was a massacre in Lida, and more than 6,000 Jews were killed. We didn't want to believe it. Everyone asked why. The Judenrat assured us that it was a lie. Late at night there was shooting. We were scared but we didn't know the cause. At the break of day we saw Jews who had been shot in the fields. Among them was my friend Niane Gradshentchik. They had tried to cross the living chain and escape to the woods. Jews in the shtetl went around prostrate, worried and hopeless.

May 11, 1942

Soon in the morning we heard a hue and cry. S.S. and Zondercommandos drove Jews from their houses. Everyone had to gather on the marketplace. My wife and I, carrying our young son, started off in the direction of the marketplace. There we found ourselves with hundreds of Jews surrounded by S.S. We understood that this game was for the devil. From all sides unlucky Jews came. Those who couldn't come to the marketplace were shot. The “high in-laws” of our misfortune arrived – Windish and Werner. They considered the Jews and gave commands.

The selection began. They drove the Jews in the direction of the highway to Lida. People said goodbye to each other. The two rabbis from Voronovo said the confession of sins before death. By chance, or a miracle, we were sent to the left (Hermanish Street) and thus remained alive. My wife's mother, brothers and sister and close family were killed. They sent us to the Lida Ghetto, provided us with a place to sleep and a place to work and thus life continues.

Winter 1942

Jews escaped to the woods. Jews tried to find arms. Without arms, no one had a chance to be accepted by the partisans.

We received greetings and also messengers from the woods. They told us that my friend Ruben Rubinstein was with the partisans. I was pulled into the stream. I wanted to remain alive, to fall in battle like a human being. By various means I succeeded to get a gun with bullets for myself, a pistol for my wife, and also a gun with bullets for my father-in-law and mother-in-law.

The Ghetto was in chaos. Every night groups of young people went out into the woods. Every day partisan messengers came to organize groups and disappear into the night. They didn´t want to take us even though we had two guns and a pistol. My pleas didn´t help although some of the messengers were my schoolmates and friends. Their argument was that children shouldn´t be in the wood. They told me, “Leave your child in the ghetto and you can go with us.”

We were desperate and worried. Ididn´t give up so quickly and continued my efforts. I remembered my friend, Rueben Rubinstein, who belonged to the partisan Atriad Iskra. Maybe he would help us. I decided to get in contact with Reuben. He knew from the partisan messengers about us, and also about the bargain they offered us and the price we would have to pay in order to extract ourselves from the ghetto. Unexpectedly, Reuben appeared in the ghetto. We met and our joy was indescribable. We cried from joy. I will never forget his first words, “Joseph will not remain in the ghetto.” We prepared to leave. After midnight we left the ghetto. Reuben , with a pistol in his hand, carried Joseph, and we followed him. We traveled the dreadful distance in peace. It was day already. We came to Dakodove. All around us are partisans, exactly as if there had never been a war. We awoke free and without yellow patches. We arrived in Bielsky´s atriad where together with a hundred men, women and children we lived through everything that Jews in the woods experienced.

July 14, 1944 we were liberated and came to Lida.

Reuben Rubinstein had taken revenge on the Nazis and fought like a hero in that battle. According to his count, he had torn up 17 railroads.

After the liberation we separated. Reuben and his wife went to Argentina, we to Canada. We remained in contact all the time until we received a dreadful message. Reuben died at the young age of 32, leaving behind a wife and two sons. His wife Feigele and the sons, Aaron and Boruch live now in Israel where they built their new home.

May these words of gratitude to you, Reuben, from the survivors, serve as an everlasting memorial to you.


[Page 348]

In the Partisans' Area

by Benjamin Baran

Translated from the Yiddish byRoslyn Sherman Greenberg

This piece is titled "In the ranks of the partisans" in the English table of contents of Sepher Lida, where it occupies pages 348 to 351.

In the afternoon of June 22, 1941, I heard explosions of bombs.  I thought they were maneuvers.  At that time I worked in the printing establishment near the old post office.  I immediately ran into the printshop.  There was no one there.  So I ran over to the railroad, where the Germans had dropped a bomb on a train which was going to Minsk.  Jewish football players were riding on it to a match, but they didn't get there.  One player was killed.  This was STACHEK URBANOWITZ, and many players were wounded.  The same day, Sunday morning, a squadron of airplanes flew over and they bombarded from all four sides.  The first bomb fell on the Jewish hospital where pregnant women were lying.  They were all consumed by fire.  I helped carry out of the hospital wounded and half-burned ones.  In the meantime, Lida burned like a candle.  I almost forgot that I also had a house and I had to go rescue my father and mother.  I quickly ran to my house, but my house was already consumed.  I met my mother and father, brother and sister, and I asked my mother what I should do.  She said to me, “Children, rescue yourselves.  We are already old people.  You are still young.  You have to rescue yourselves.”  My brother and sister were still small children so they remained with my parents.  My father said to me, “If you stay alive, you should take revenge.”

Understandably, this parting from my parents was full of sorrow.  Right away, Monday night, I headed off down the road toward Minsk.  In a few days, I was already near Minsk.  There I stopped in a communal farm.  My feet were swollen from walking.  Hungry and dirty, I noticed that many people were standing in the road.  I ran over and saw that a dead horse was lying on the ground and they were cutting pieces off him.  I also cut off a piece of meat and I cooked it in a can.  As the water cooked from the horseflesh, I would sip the soup, while it was really hot.  The meat was hard as a stone, so I took a knife and cut small pieces so I could eat them.  I spent several days there like that.  To go to Russia was impossible since the Germans were several kilometers outside of Minsk.  I decided to turn back.  I met several other people, and we turned back.  After 20 kilometers they caught us and took us to a group of others who had been found.  Thus I spent a month in confinement.  Then I escaped and came to a small shtetl, Baksht.  Near this shtetl was the dorf, Borisovka.  There lived Jewish peasants.  I had relatives there and stayed with them.

A couple of months later they took us to Ivye.  I lived on Bernardiner Street there with a joiner who was crippled in one foot.

The Ivye Judenrat ordered me to go to work at the Yoratzishkie railroad station.  There I picked over potatoes.  I stood on the station when a train arrived from Lida.  That was May 8, 1942.  A peasant got off the train.  I asked him what the news was from Lida, so he told me that they had killed all the Jews in Lida and he advised me to run away.

Ivye in the meantime was encircled by the police.  An hour later police from Yoratzishkie came to our group, put us in a machine, and took us to Ivye.

 Ivye was empty.  You didn't see a person in the street.  I went into my house, and everyone came around me and asked what to do.  I answered that we had to run away, and everyone agreed with me.

The next morning the Judenrat called together 200 people and ordered them to bring shovels to dig graves.  It was understood that the graves were for the Jews of Ivye.  Later the 200 Jews came back and told us that they dug out two very large graves.

The first sacrifice was the son of the rabbi.  In the morning, 5:00 a.m., the murderers came, called the Judenrat and told them that nothing would happen to the Jews of Ivye, and they could relax.

A day later, early in the morning, they started herding everyone out to the marketplace.  One man went around and screamed out that everyone should hold his papers in his hand.

Everyone knelt with bowed heads.  That was what the Germans ordered.  They herded us to Bernardiner Street.  There they sorted everyone: left, right, straight ahead.  Straight ahead was to the death.

They directed me to the left.  From afar we could hear shooting.

After the slaughter, they gathered us up on the marketplace, and they held a speech for us.  As far as I remember, VINDISH from Lida made the speech.  He said, “In the meantime you remain living.”

Those few words remained in my mind.  The Judenrat received an order that 160 men were needed in Lida to work at the train station.  I was among them.  My parents had been killed in the May 8, 1942 slaughter.  I already had no one left in the Lida ghetto, and I lived in the workplace together with the people from Ivye.  I wanted to run away to the forest.  But I couldn't escape from the railroad workplace because those who were with me there still had family in the ghetto.  So I had to go to the ghetto, find work, and escape from there.

One day I met a man from Zalodek, BORUCH LEVIN.  I told him that I want to go quickly into the forest, but he asked me to wait a few days.

On a certain day, BORUCH LEVIN came to me and told me to wait near PUPKO, the butcher's house.  I came to the designated place, and met more Jews there.  I had taken with me a gun, and we had two guides with us:  NATHAN PUNT and YITZCHAK MANSKY, who had come from the forest bringing a doctor to the detachment. We went out through the Jewish cemetery to the Lidzeike, We crossed  the river, and came out in Rosliaki.  With us was Dr. MIASNICK with his wife and child, YITZCHAK MANSKY and others. We carried 13 guns, one cannon, one automatic, and hand grenades. 

In the afternoon we were already near the Nieman River, crossed over the river and came to the detachment.   There I met many people I knew from Zhetl.  They welcomed us very warmly.  They gave me a tent with four other partisans.

A couple of weeks later a group left with orders to derail a train.  I also wanted to go, but they didn't let me because I was still new.  When they came back, they brought two guns, two coats and two pairs of shoes.

In the morning there was a raid.  The whole area was encircled.  The Germans had brought several divisions from the front, about 35,000 soldiers.  They captured all the dorfs and shtetlach.  There was only one way; to go in a different area.  The woods were called Voltsche Nari, in the direction of Slonim.  We were led by Captain SENITSKY and BOLAK.  We were 2000 partisans, going through rivers and mud and arrived near Slonim.  There we stopped in a forest to rest.  In the meantime, the raid ended and roads started to be cleared to go back.  The rest of the partisans with Captain SENITSKY wanted to go to Voltsche Nari, only the Jews did not agree.  They divided into groups.  I, together with a group of eight men, went to Arliansk detachment in the old quarter.

I didn't like it there, so I together with someone from Lida, FLEISHER, with his wife, went to the Belitzer “family” groups.  There I met BORUCH LEVIN, NATHAN PUNT and YITZCHAK MANSKY.  They welcomed me warmly in their hut, and asked me to remain with them.  I didn't give them a clear answer.

When I was several kilometers away, I met partisans from Arlianskis detachment.  They had orders to collect all the partisans who the Germans had driven out.  Among the partisans with whom I met were: SHOLOM GERLING and ISRAEL BUSEL.  They advised me to join their detachment.  I didn't agree and I told them that I would remain here with the people from Lida with whom I had left together from the ghetto.  ISRAEL BUSEL was angry with me, and SHOLOM GERLING insisted that I should give up my weapon.  I didn't want to give up my weapon, but I saw that I couldn't get anyplace with them, since they were two, and I only one, so I gave it to them and remained without a weapon.

By a small fire sat some people from Belitz.  I went over to them and asked them if the Nieman River was frozen.  They said that sometimes it's frozen, and sometimes not. One of the men from Belitz, ISER BERYL STATSKY, was very interested to know why I ask and what I plan to do.  I told him that I wanted to back to the ghetto where I have friends with weapons; we would put together our own detachment.  He tried to talk me out of this plan.  He couldn't do anything.  I was determined.  When he saw he couldn't do anything, he took out 100 rubles and gave them to me, saying to one YOSELEVICH, that he should help me cross the Nieman River.  MOSHE YOSELEVICH went with me and took me over the Nieman.  I went straight as a shot to Lida.  I got to Lida at six o'clock in the morning.

It was still dark.  When I entered the Polish cemetery, a shout sounded out in German, “Halt.”

 I walked toward him for a long time, and he considered me.  I was wearing a long coat, and in the pocket I had a grenade that I had gotten from YITZCHAK MANSKY.  I believed that the grenade wouldn't function.  Before the German started speaking to me, I threw the grenade and it exploded.

I ran and heard shooting, but I was already far away.  I arrived in Rosliak to one of my peasants.  When he saw me he became choked up.  I wanted to go into the ghetto, but he told me that the day before they had encircled the ghetto and taken out many Jews.  Whereto no one knew.  They said it was to work.  He urged me to stay with him in his dorf, to rest myself, and then we would see what to do.  That's how it was.  I went to his dorf, Yashkavtsy.  I went into his house.  I met his mother who welcomed me and told me that there were other Jews from Lida in her house, but they were hidden because there were partisans constantly coming in from the “Iskra” detachment who were very antisemitic.  She took me into a second room and there I saw two men and two women.  They were: IDEL NARKANSKY with his wife and BORUCH ZIRMUNSKY (may he rest in peace) with his wife.

The peasant told me that in the “Iskra” detachment they don't take in any Jews, since they are antisemites.  When I asked him what we should do, the peasant told me that in the detachment there was a captain, a very honest person, and that we should speak to him.

At nighttime the Captain came and we were introduced to him.  He told us that in his detachment they won't accept us, while there a strong antisemitism ruled.  He suggested that we should form a Jewish detachment.  We decided that I should go into the Lida ghetto in order to organize a group of Jewish partisans.

I went into the ghetto and told them what the captain from the partisans advised us.  Many volunteered, but the next day when we left the ghetto only six men came along.  Among them was: POLIATCHEK, TIGGER (may he rest in peace) and MIKA from Zaludek. We left the ghetto and came to Yashkavtsy.  There IDEL NARKANSKY was already waiting for us.

At night the captain came to us, and seeing that our numbers were very small, he told us to come to his detachment and he might be able to help us.

They stood us before them and one of them considered each one of us separately.  This was Pietke.  His detachment had come to the area to derail a train.  He finally said that we weren't fighters.  But he looked at me and asked if I was a doctor.  I laughed and answered, “No, I am a miller, a son of a shoemaker.  If you need a doctor, I can bring one from the ghetto.” He told me that he needed a dentist.

He gave me two partisans and I returned to the ghetto. The ghetto was strongly guarded, and we couldn't get in.

We turned back.  In the meantime the Iskara detachment had moved away and I did not meet any of my acquaintances.

Pietke, the antisemite, asked me if I want to go with them.  I didn't have any other choice and I went with them.  From that place Pietke sent everyone away and I remained with a man from Polemiatshik.  We lay down in the woods on the ground to rest.  I and the man from Polemiatshik called ourselves the left wing.  We were all dressed in white robes in order to blend in with the snow.

Suddenly we heard a toot, and the train came out of the station.  In several minutes the train was near us and we heard an explosion, as the earth trembled and it became light in the forest.  Pietke had given an order, “Shoot.”  We saw green, red and blue flames.  It thundered for ten minutes and then it became still.  Everyone started to get up from the ground.  I went over to the train and saw how the cars were lying in the ditch.

Looking around in the car I saw a German hiding under a seat.  I didn't wait for him to shoot me.  I had a bayonet.  The railroad car was full of good things.  I grabbed as much as I could–cigarettes and whiskey, and ran to the group.  I brought them the spoils, and told them that I had ended the life of a German.  We went again to the train, grabbed whatever was handy, cigarettes, whiskey, marmalade, and the like.

I shouted out: “Lamai Pasodo” which in Russian means “Break everything up” in order that nothing should be left for the Germans.  From that time on, among the comrades, I was nicknamed “Lamai Pasodo.”


[Pages 363-6]

My Road To The Partisans

By Yocheved Resnick

Translated by Roslyn Sherman Greenberg

In 1943 I decided to run away to the partisans in the woods with a group from the Ghetto. The plan was not successful and we were brought back to the camp Biala-Vake.

The Jewish police-commandant hit me extremely hard and ordered me to give up [the names of] all those who belonged to my group. After two days of torment, my fate was decided: hanging. The execution was to take place in the camp on Sunday, at eight o'clock in the morning.

The Jewish police-commandant who was in charge of my custody would get drunk every time he had me beaten. He made the last sporting spectacle in the evening and said ironically, “These are my last blows. Tomorrow you will become free on the gallows.” Drunkenly he fell asleep. His assignment was to keep me from committing suicide.

Beaten and exhausted I fell asleep on the hard narrow boards. What happened is unbelievable. While sleeping, I had a dream. My old father stood at my head and woke me with these words: “Get up my daughter, you were always so heroic. Why did you resign yourself so quickly? The boards on which you are lying are over a hollow. The boards are light to pick up since they are not nailed down. When you get underneath, you can move the soil which covers a tunnel that leads to the woods. From there go toward “Sarak Taatr”. The first person you will meet will rescue you. Get up quickly.”

Exhausted, I pulled myself out of my sleep, and looked around with frazzled eyes. My guard slept with a heavy drunken snore. Still tired, I fell back on the bed and slept again. But once again my father appeared and this time he cried more loudly, “Quickly, the hours are short. Soon it will be day and all will be lost! I want to have a surviving descendant. Get up more quickly.”

With fright I awoke again, quietly picked up the boards from the plank cot, slowly crawled down and covered myself with the boards. I crawled like a cat to the specified place, scratched the soil with my nails and found an exit to the woods. The first things I saw were the moon and the stars. But when I wanted to stick my head out I heard footsteps. It was a Lithuanian policeman, a night watchman from the camp. When he turned back I quickly freed myself from the hole and ran into the woods.

I tore off a piece of my shirt, bound it around my head like a kerchief and started to walk in the right direction. Christian boys and girls were also walking on their way home from their nightly diversions.

When I arrived in the colony, a door of a house opened and a Christian girl, Sonja, who knew me well (they used to drive milk to the work-camp) saw me and let out a cry. She believed that I was already dead and this was a ghost. She wanted to run away.

I called out, “Sonja, save me!” Without thinking, she took me into an animal's stall, where she found a hole that had been prepared earlier to hide various things. Quickly she propelled me into the hole, laid boards on top and placed the animals above. Thus I was buried alive.

“God, why do I have to endure so much?,” was ripped from my heart. For what and because of what did I have to run away? Wouldn't death be preferable to all this suffering? Out of one grave and into another. True, there was a little air to breathe, but how long can one survive like this? Suddenly I heard the voices of those who were seeking me.

The men who were supposed to carry out the execution, came to the gallows. Not finding me, they ran in all directions to search for me. I heard Sonja's conversation with the policemen. She showed them a direction in the woods where she saw me running, and she said she was going to report it to the police. She acted like a helper who was going to help them find me in the woods. I don't know how long they searched for me. Fainting and tired I fell asleep in the grave. If Sonja did not come back and save me, my life would have ended in that sleep.

Afterwards, when she had fed the policemen and gotten them drunk, and they had turned back to the camp, she came into the stall, drove the cows away, removed the straw and the boards, and took me out of the grave half-dead. She took me into the house and washed me a little, fed me, and pushed me up on top of the oven and covered me with rags. Thus passed the first 24 hours.

Before sunrise, when night and morning struggled with each other, she took me out of the house deeper into the woods and gave me food for the whole day. In the evening I would go back.

Once at night I went into a farm through a back door. I crawled over to a cow and sucked the milk with my mouth like a calf. Thus a person can sometime change into an animal.

Afterward I crept up to the loft in the hay and covered myself with the odorous grasses. I planned to sleep there until just before daylight. While I tried to sleep, I was awakened by a conversation between two peasants who worked on the farm. One said, “Why are they still playing with the last Jews? When they get rid of them, life will be a lot easier.”

It seemed to me with each rustle that the devil was coming to me in the form of a man. And in this manner the day stretched like a year. When I lived through the night, I left the farm hungry.

There is another episode that I want to relate. At the same Sonja's farm there was a doghouse with a dog – a wild animal! When he saw a stranger, it was fearful the way he tore at his chains, and his barking could be heard for kilometers. Every night I would come to this dog, pet him, and share his food that they carried out to him. If a Jew was cheaper than a dog to the Germans, the dog knew me as a friend and allowed me to come near him and licked me with his tongue. Perhaps when I could tell the dumb dog my troubles, he instinctively sympathized. Thus my days and nights passed and stretched out. During the daytime in the woods and at night in the fields, eating raw potatoes, grain stalks, etc.

Walking one day in the woods, a shadow seemed to appear among the trees. I followed the shadow to a certain place where the shape of the shadow was revealed to me: a Jewish girl, who, just like me, was fighting for her life. She was quite young. Her parents, who lived in the neighborhood, had been killed by the Lithuanians. Until a short time earlier, she had been hidden by some peasants. When the situation became more dangerous, the peasants advised her that for her own good she should be in the woods, not in the town. We hugged each other, pledged ourselves to the other with tears. I, a mother of lost children; she, a child of lost parents, that fortune brought together. As hard as life was, the acquaintanceship cheered us a little. We had someone to talk to, to cry with, and to comfort.

Our common dreams were to find a way to attach ourselves to a partisan unit with the help of one of the peasants from the town who belonged to the partisan group, and through my savior, Sonja's, father. I was sure that not far from the neighborhood a partisan unit would be found, together with my husband. I was disappointed, however, when I heard that a part of the unit was beaten, and a part went away to an area further away.

The summer came to an end, the nights became colder, and in the meantime we didn't see any end or solution.

One evening when we came into the town, I knew from a peasant of a certain “Malina” where Jews were hidden. With the help of a peasant, we came to the place and met some Jews we knew, some of whom we were together with in the camp. Among them was also the family of the doctor whom I helped to get out of the Vilna Ghetto. Neither the plea of the peasant nor my tears helped. They threatened to murder me if I wouldn't leave that place. Going back into the woods I told my friend, “See, Goldke, the trees are more friendly than people. They hide us, protect us from the rain, and help us fight for our lives.” Several weeks later we learned that White Poles, called “A.K.”, had uncovered the bunker where the Jews were hidden, and had murdered everyone.

With the help of friends among the peasants there came to us news about battles of the German army on the Russian front (Stalingrad). This was the main factor that brought closer the liquidation of the ghettos. This also strengthened and encouraged the partisan groups to combat the enemy.

The movements of the partisans, who sent out groups for diversion night after night, were heard through the woods far away for kilometers. These groups, that entered the towns, that were closer to the cities, to get food for the camp's battalion. Going back, doing their work, protected by the woods, they loved to sing. Their voices, that resounded and echoed in the woods, came to our ears. They led us toward them and we wanted to meet and enter their area.

One evening hearing the sounds, it became clear to me that one of the partisan groups was coming nearer to the town. It was not so easy to meet up with these people, especially for a woman. I positioned myself in the shadow of a tree in order to observe who these people were, which partisans, and where they were going. Luck was with me. One of those going out of the group noticed my shadow standing under the tree, and cried out, “Hands up!” My blood became like jelly in my veins, and I put my hands up. Seeing a woman, they were ashamed, and holstered their guns.

Suddenly, one of them cried out. In the middle of the shout was my name. He had been a Russian captive who worked earlier in the town near the camp where we were. I often had conversations with him about going into the woods. Now he was a commander of the group. He was very friendly to me. After listening to my experiences in the woods and the circumstances that brought me here, he told me, “ In our Atriad there are no women,” but he would take me along and bring me to a Jewish partisan unit which was not far from them. “You have to stay here and wait at the same place until we come back and take you.”

It can be understood that I took the offer. It was my goal. Afterwards when they left the place, we jointly, together with my friend, started to work out a plan so that she could come with the second transport. We came to the conclusion that she should stay in the neighborhood and she would endeavor to join the partisans with the first group.

Before the day broke we heard footsteps and horses and wagons in the woods, as well as the sound of barking dogs. It wasn't easy to part with my companion and friend Goldke, and my heart was choked up.

From that moment a new epoch began in my life. With the first rays of the rising sun, we approached the base. Then they took me into the area where the Jewish unit was under the command of a certain woman commissar – a girl from a Jewish family from Vilna – Chiena Borovsky.

My escorts left me by the first sentry post and went away. This was in the Rudnick woods, the very same woods where I hoped to find my husband. My problems didn't end with this. When the sentry let headquarters know of my arrival, an interrogation started by the commanders above me, wanting to know how I remained living and was able to run away from the Germans, and how I got here.

After a short interrogation, the Atriad Commissar decided not to let me into the Atriad. In spite of the intervention of the partisans who knew me, and my own pleas, it was impossible to change her decision. Her verdict was to take me out deep into the woods and leave me there. When I pled with her and said, “Isn't it much easier to sentence me to be shot than to wander around lost until I fall alive into the hands of the Germans?” To that, she gave no answer. Her sentence was carried out.

Under the escort of two partisans, one of them Altman, (now in Israel, working for the Histradut), the second Motke (I don't remember his family name. He was killed after the liberation), I was taken in the middle of the night into the deep woods. My escorts walked behind me silently and cried. It was certainly against their will and convictions.
After they had fulfilled the order, they parted with me like friends and with tears left me there.

I don't know how long this lasted. Maybe the twinkling stars woke me and urged me to go back. Like the Jews leaving Egypt were protected by a cloud and were led by a pillar of fire, I began to go back led by the moon and the stars and driven by an inner strength. How long I walked thus, I don't know. Trees after trees disappeared behind me, and when night started to wane, and on the far horizon light started to show, I suddenly found myself at the same post and the same place from which I had been taken away. Until today I don't understand how I went. It was a wood – which not only I, but perhaps my great-grandfather had never been in – where wild animals get lost or come to their destination thanks only to their instincts, strong eyes or sense of smell. And maybe I myself was already changed into a wild animal.

When the guards noticed me, they were startled by this phenomenon. Once again, my request to come back was considered by the staff. When the commissars ordered me to leave that place, I let them know my feelings. “I am not going away again. Either take me in or shoot me!”

My stubbornness together with the intervention of the Atriad doctor and other friends, softened the heart of the commissar, and she decided to let me in. This was in August 1943. From that time on my life changed. In a short time I influenced them to bring in my compassionate friend from my former life.

The partisan Atriad was located near the Lithuanian-Russian border. In this same woods there were other Atriads, Christian and mixed. Ours at that time was a completely Jewish one, and comprised mostly of those rescued from the Vilna Ghetto. The travails and battles against the bestial Hitlerism resulted in uniting everyone. The enemy bullet soaring in the air doesn't know whom it will hit. The frequent partisan victories and the German defeats on all fronts, healed the internal wounds and united all sides.

Also in my own life changes occurred. As hard as it was for me to be accepted by the partisans, now two partisan Atriads were fighting over me. Probably it was due to my warmth and dedication to friends, for not being lazy and my good economical habits, for encouraging partisans assigned to battles, and treating them like a mother coming back in a healthy condition, and like a nurse when in a wounded condition. It was never hard for me, whether during the daytime or at night to clean their wounds, heal them with my tears, and still their hurts with kisses.

First then, when my partisan life normalized itself, a great longing for my family began. Through various ways I searched for contact with my husband. Each time I thought that the way was near. In reality however it was very far. I would receive different reports, but in that situation such greetings were only in theory. The reality was that five minutes after speaking with a person, he found himself among those whose life ended. Yet every greeting and every word left a bit of hope. Maybe, maybe we will yet meet!

Many of the friends, who came from that neighborhood and who had brought me greetings, fell in our area. Many of the friends with whom I sent back my greetings took them with them and fell in the woods. And life went onů.

One day I was called to the staff headquarters. To my surprise I met there one of the Hollanders, who had been the guard from Vaker workcamp together with the son of the Polish commandant, who didn't care about a single Jewish life. They didn't come into the woods by their own desire. They were on a manhunt and had fallen alive into the hands of the partisans. When I saw him my blood boiled. Here was the murderer who had in my sight shot a Jewish girl in the camp, the murderer who had with mockery laughed at me when I was arrested by the Lithuanian police and was brought back to the camp. I felt more than one murderous kick from him on my body.

“Koszick, do you recognize me? Do you know who is speaking to you? Do you remember when you led the Lithuanians to search for me in the woods?” When he answered, “No,” I gave him two blows which immediately left their marks on his teeth and his nose, and he opened his mouth. “Resnikova, why are you hitting me?”
“I am hitting you for myself, for my acquaintances, for all who you hit murderously and killed, and they couldn't stand up for themselves.” I lost my human qualities and changed into a beast. I wanted to tear him into pieces with my teeth. However, I was restrained by my companions who said, “ We will give you the honor after the interrogation.”

The investigation went as follows: What caused him to go into the woods? Who sent him and what were the German movements in Vilna? There was no talk about the camp or the ghetto. They had already been liquidated.

After the investigation I had the honor to drive him into the woods with a couple of blows where our companion partisans were already waiting for him by an open grave. Two volleys were heard which ended his career. When his body fell into the grave, I felt a heavy load was freed from my hurting heart, and satiated a portion of my thirst for revenge.


[Page 367]

Battle and Revenge

Menakhem Resnick

Translated by Phillip Frey

July-August, 1943

Our partisan group numbered eighty some men, most without weapons. We could only move at night. We tried, by the arrival of morning, to get to a place where we would be protected, not just from the Germans, but also from the peasants, who in large measure were far from being our friends. We reached our goal. After breakfast exhausted as we were we fell away to rest, leaving a watch, which changed every two hours. So- until sunset, when we again resumed our journey to the Nieman (river).

Late at night we passed by one side not are from Lida, on the other side it was 3-4 kilometers from Vasilishok. With the morning star we made it to the Nieman in the area of Zshetl-Ivie.

With the help of peasants, who lived near the Nieman, because of their good will or out of fear, we succeeded in crossing the Nieman with their boats. First there, on the other side, we found ourselves in an entirely different world. In the daytime we could also move freely. We set out in the direction of Slonim.

Arriving at a certain point we were taken over by one of the commissars from Bulat's brigade, who divided us into different otriads. This was July-August, 1943. From this time on a new life begins for us.

The partisan-life was a free one. The bases were in the forests and in large measure the partisans concentrated themselves in the villages both in daytime and at night. Every otriad was assigned to its region, which also had to feed it. In exceptional cases, with the permission of the commander, other otriads might be able to be fed. Battle –operations were carried out by all otriads, understandably, after communication with the higher authorities.

The otriad, which ruled in the region, had its commandants, who organized the villages for logistical purposes.

The peasants used to execute the commands of the commandant. The commandants also had control over the partisan groups who were marching through, checking on their battle orders and giving timely advisories for logistical and battle-operations. Also using the peasants certain intelligence activities about German movements were carried out..

After a short time, being attached to an otriad of Bulat's brigade, I was nominated as commandant over the villages---along the Shtshare(probably=assigned sector), which belonged to the otriad.

It was not difficult for me to acclimate, both as a partisan of the forest and as commandant over the peasants. I was assigned an assistant, a young man from Radun named Kaplan.

While riding one time through the villages I encountered several Jewish young men without weapons. After I talked with them it because clear, that they were coming from the direction of Vilna. I received no joyous report about the Jews remaining there from them. The lads were from Grodno. Two brothers were named Pave and one Kaminski, who were thanks to me accepted into the otriad. I am unacquainted with the fate of the brothers Pave, Kaminski by contrast is now living in Israel.

Because of my logistical leadership in the villages and also the broad intelligence-work, I became beloved by my commanders and even also by the captain Sienitski, who was far from being a friend of Jews.

At a convention of all the commanders in the Lipitshaner Pustshe, my commander openly praised me mentioning my name, Resnik. Coincidentally Dovid Boyarski was also there, my wife's nephew, who was one of the guardians of the plenipotentiary. Hearing my name, he went to him asked for information about me, informing him at the same time, that Reznik from Lida is his uncle. Getting the answer, which confirmed, that it was me, through his intermediation he sent me a letter, which surprised me. Firstly, I became aware, that a nephew of my wife remained alive and indeed I became aware, that my wife was alive and was located in the Rudnitsker Pustshe. He had received this information from Jews, who had wandered over from that area and were located nearby.

From that moment on I sought opportunities to link up with my nephew David. Finally I succeeded but unfortunately when I reached him he was ill with a lung inflammation.

He couldn't speak much. He told me, that he received the information from someone, who was located with the family-group from Zshetl.

I also managed to reach him. And the report was awful: they found her wandering by herself in the forest, her feet bound in rags, that was one report. I received a second further report from partisans, who passed through my area. They related more detailed information, that she is located in a partisan-otriad in the Rudnitzker-Pustshe, and that to all appearances, matched the reality.

I began to strive via my authorities to be able to bring her to my otriad. The permission was given to me with specific diversion-conditions which I obligated myself to carry out.

Three Jewish lads from Vilna were detailed to me: Mayer Droyak (is found now in America), Tsodok Postomski (was in the Red army perished at the front after the freeing); the third(I no longer recall his name)fell as a partisan three months before the freeing There were also two Russians.

We crossed the Nieman at night. On the other side the White-Polish

Bands ruled.

At the nearest village we took a peasant along as a guide. He was supposed to lead us to a specific forest-colony., which according to our information was linked to the Leninsk Kosomol-otriad, which was located in the Natsher Pustshe. Late at night we arrived at the colony. We spent the night in a barn, and with the arrival of the second night we were supposed to cross the railroad-line.

At nightfall, the peasant, our guide, accompanied us till we had to cross the train tracks, which were guarded by German village guards.

I wish to note here, that this was the place where the last Jews from the Lida ghetto leaped off the train, who were being transported to Maidanek: the brother Siame and Mitke Pupko, Moltshodski, whom I encountered previously in my mission.

Traversing a few kilometers we arrived at one of the more distant colonies, which were designated in the plan for our march.

Entering the house, after knocking at the door and asking for food, which we received without problems. Finding a pair of shoes, which stood next to a bed—without their owner—I become a bit suspicious. To my questions about where the owner of the house was, I got no immediate answer. Only when I pulled on the shoes on my feet and the woman received a slap from one of my accompaniers, the man came down from the attic in reponse to her shout. He came straight to me. He called my by my family name which I had lied about. He opened the closet, took out a black fur coat with an otter collar and said to me:

"Put it on, it belongs to your brother-in-law Shimon Boyarki."

I immediately recognized the fur coat. I made every effort not to break down.

He took out a bottle of whiskey, sat at the table with me and related details of how my brother-in-law had left the clothes. The clothes had remained. My brother-in-law, however, had for a long time not been amongst the living.

After we had marched forward several kilometers I began to feel bad and developed a high temperature—possibly from great excitement, which I had experienced encountering my brother-in-law's clothing. Despite my request that those accompanying me should leave me behind in the forest and continue on their way, they did not agree. They carried me several kilometers till we reached the nearest colony. After a short inquiry there, and agreement with a peasant, they carried me into the barn, covered me and went alone into the forest.

At night my friends took me out and we continued on our way, nearing the Natsher Pustshe. In one of the small cottages, which were found in the forest we hid ourselves, in order to acquire information about the Leninsk Komsomol otriad and the general situation.

In the cottage there were two you gentile girls: their father worked for the German police, but was also a liason-man for the partisan-otriad. Thanks to him we received certain information. Peasants especially in this area were active in the partisan-ranks. Via the older gentile girl, Maria, information was acquired, that the Leninsk otriad took a beating in a raid by the Germans and White-Russians. It evacuated itself to another area and it is not yet known where it was located. Small groups are still found in the pustshe, the situation in this area is very tense: they advise us to be cautious and to not remain here for long. We decided to remain overnight.

With the dawn's arrival I went into the barn. I because so surprised, that among those who were rescued in the barn was someone from Lida, a son-in-law of Yakov Katshanski, the Kaminke butcher and two girls from the Vilna area. Understandably, I took them along with us and went away deeper into the forest.

A bit further into the forest I encountered a wounded Jew from the Leninsk Komsomol-otriad. I became better acquainted with the situation through him. I immediately established contact with a peasant, who had undertaken to transport then wounded man to the Rudnitsk pustshe, where the nearest base was. The peasant gave his promise not for money, but as one bound to the partisans. Thanks to the partisan, with whom I was acquainted and my wife as well, when we were still in the Vilna ghetto, my wife indeed became aware, that I was alive.

A day later I determined to press on in the same direction from the Rudnitsk Pustshe. After two nights travel we arrived at a colony not far from that base. How astonished we became at dawn, not looking at the fact, that the neighborhood was one I was well-acquainted with and knew, that these were partisan crossroads, we came upon Polish A.K.-Partisans who “greeted us” with shots.

After a short fire-exchange in which we lost one of our friends, both drew back and left losses behind. Understandably, I did not reach my goal and we started going back, in the direction from which we had come.

In the course of that very night we reached one of our colonies in the Vasilisk area, we passed the day there and with the arrival of the second night we got nearer to the same place not far from the Rushanke rail line. We also succeeded in cutting across the highway and entering into those forests. The march back was easier than getting there.

Again we passed the day and the next night gave us the opportunity to cross the Nieman. The area there was familiar. Here I was forced to part from those men, whom I had taken with me, and I turned back to my base.

January-July 1944

The situation at the fronts changed continually. Daily we heard of defeats for the Germans.

Each night we used to hear the Russian bombardment of German military objects and bases. But with every improvement at the fronts the situation in the forest became worse.

The largest portion of the otriads in that area, as, for example the Orlanski otriad in the Lipitshan forest, the Leninski-brigade, were struck from the direction of Slonim. There, where Bulat's brigade was, after a two-day battle at the Shthare(probably=our assigned sector), we decided to pull back. Together with all the others we were pushed back in the direction of the Slonim-Baranovitsh highway, where we were encircled from all sides. There I again encountered Dovid Boyarski and his otriad.

After a battle, which cost tens of sacrifices, we all concentrated ourselves to the rear and then continued our march in the same direction. After two entire days we entered the area of the ”Pervo-Maiskaia Brigada”. They received us, assigned us villages for temporary sojourn. The villages assigned to us were settled by our groups. The ordering of the watches in the villages were executed by our unit. Further posts lay under the scrutiny of the May-First brigade. I give this special emphasis, in order to show how much anti-semitism ruled in the partisan-ranks.

In a village, near a forest, where our staff situated itself, Jews were placed on watch in two directions. In one direction stood lad from Deretshin.

They were two brothers, both in my company. I was then in the service of controlling the guard-sentries. At 12 midnight, when my commissar and I visited the sentries all was in order. Entering the house, having not yet appeared to be ending our conversation, the official of the intelligence-unit and others with a rifle in hand entered and showed us, that it was a rifle taken-away from our sleeping patrol, whom they left in place together with their own patrol. I recognized the rifle immediately, which I saw in the hand of the shocked lad. We again went out to the place, put another in his place and brought the lad into the village.

After a short conference among our staff his fate was sealed with no investigation:--to be shot: the lad was locked in a barn upon which a watch was placed. No one knew about the sentence and no one could have imagined such a harsh sentence. When I asked the lad how this could have happened, he related to me: he heard approaching steps of riders. He took the rifle off his shoulder and held it ready in his hand. Straining himself to hear the night-echo, he heard the sentry who stood before him, had detained the riders, asking them the password. He had clearly heard their answer, since it was not far away.

Two minutes later the same stood near him. After checking them one of them turned to him with a request to show him his gun, and he never got it back. I said to him: A severe punishment can be in the offing for you and according to my opinion you need to run away, as long as no one knows about the sentence. The Jewish Belski-otriad is not far away. There you are sure with your life. It appears that the fate of the brother, for whom he feared, kept him from making his move.

Two times we attempted, with the help of acquaintances, to influence the commander to spare his life. He did not refuse while drinking the “Samogon”(=Russian home-brew or moonshine). And we believed his assurances.

Quite early the next day we started to march back to our older bases. Marching till we were quite near to a village, a peasant came toward us, who had a short conversation with out commander. Immediately thereafter came the command: “halt”.

The whole otriad stopped. The commander rode up to the lad, took him out of the row, lead him a little way into the field, and commanded him to face him. The commander turned to the lad and said:

“Say goodbye to your brothers and friends: You have betrayed your unit with this, that you gave your rifle away. The sentence is that you be shot!”

He took out his revolver in cold-blood.

A report was heard and a red streak appeared on his throat. The lad ran twenty meters away. He turned and shouted out:---Liar, shoot!

The lad took two more bullets in the head and fell down.

A hysterical outcry tore out of his brother's mouth:

---I do not believe, that there are heavens, were there such, they would have opened themselves because of the painful scream

No one dared to come close to the dead man, to remove his clothing and boots, despite that the commander had requested it. The only one, who remained with the dead man, was the gentile, who had the job of burying him. We marched further, bearing with us the pain and suffering of the day. At nightfall we stopped at a village. Here too watch posts were established, near and far from our partisan group. Again I went out at night with the same commissar to inspect the posts. I came upon the horses who were calmly chewing the grass. Not far off two partisans lay sleeping sweetly…they were not Jews. Cautiously we came near to them. Cautiously we tried to take the automatics out of their hands , which had their straps wrapped around them. One awakened and thereby disturbed us. My commissar chewed them out for their lack of caution, that such a case could bring harm to the otriad. I was certain that they would both be arrested, and their sentence would be fatal. But after two days had passed I approached the commissar with the question: Why was a Jewish lad shot without any underlying investigation and here in this case, not even a light penalty was given? After asking this question I was immediately summoned to the commander, who demanded a confirmation. When I confirmed it, he said to me: “You are accusing me of race-discrimination”. As a reward for this I received twelve hours of standing under a tree—without eating and without water. I accepted it and endured it.

So the Jewish partisan-life appeared in the Russian ranks. There is much more to write here. I believe that historians will unearth the truth, that Jews fell heroically, and commendations on their account were received by our ostensible friends, non-Jews.

I order to wipe out witnesses out of fear of revenge, when the liberating army stood at the gates of the forest, the brother of the lad from Deretshin was shot without any cause.

On one special day, seeking a way to go over into a different area, we observed tanks near to the forest We were preparing to receive them with gunfire, but after further observation we saw the flags with hammers and sickles. We threw kisses one to the other, crying out of joy, and taking no account of what further awaited us.

The tankers dismounted and mixed together with us. This took place near to Kozlovstshine (Slonim area), July 13, 1944.

In the Soviet Army

I willingly entered into the Soviet army and was assigned to the 22nd Red Guard Division which carried with it the flag of victory over Stalingrad and of a row of heroic battles.

I will never forget those days with my march through the Jewish “shtetlach” (little towns). My first entry into Zshetl where we still found dead, warm Jewish bodies, who at the last minutes before our stepping into the place where shot in the prison.

Lida!—the city where I passed a fourth of my life, I could not recognize it.

True, the ruins, bullet-riddled and burnt, were cleaned-up. No person was to be seen. On May-Third Street, not far from our house, I succeeded in giving a note to Yakubovski, a neighbor of Ribatski's bakery and asked him, despite my being certain that my request could not be carried-out, to tell those Lida Jews who had remained alive, that I was alive.

The march continued further in the direction of Bialystock-Wolkowisk. We went through the city of Wolkowisk in the daytime. A Jewish city without Jews! Here and there still remained like a gravestone a sign with a Jewish name on a few houses. Here we stopped. The Germans had dug in in Bialystok. Several Messerschmits used to appear over us dropping bombs, in order to disturb our march and to enable the retreat of the Germans.

I remember a picture, that was tied to the Russian war-propaganda.

We were shown a film where we saw villages past Wolkowisk, which are being left by the Germans.

A German breaks into a peasant house, seeks food and is disturbed by the crying of a little child lying in a hanging cradle. We see the German running the child through with his bayonet. Blood runs onto the ground.

After the film burnt cities were shown, Kiev, Kharkov and Zhitomir, how the Germans leaving the cities had shot a burnt thousands of people, whose bodies are seen lying in the streets.

Between the two above-mentioned, Stalin appears with outspread hands, one to the west and one to the east, with the slogan: “See what the enemy did to the east and what he is doing to the west! Death to the Germans! Strike the Enemy!”

July 14, 1943

We are near to Bialystok, near Svislotsh. The departing Germans have blown-up the bridge over the river and we were forced to halt. Near the Shtetl stood an old watermill, the bridge blown-up. The streets—sowed with dead bodies, wound Germans, Vlasovtshes, Ukranians and also civilian population.

We halted not far from Bialystok. 6 men we were lying in a Polish cemetery and far off we could see a car with Germans, who were laying mines. They could not imagine, that lurking so near were lurking intelligence agents of the Russian Army.

Upon our shout: “Hurrah” with shooting, they began to run away right onto their own mines.

When we came closer, I found among the dead and wounded, a wounded man, whose clothes and face testified, that he was of high military rank.

First of all I took his “Mauser” away from him. This short weapon was much loved by the German officers. Unbuttoning his gun-belt his hand leaped to his trousers pocket, which I watched apprehensively, searching in his pocket I found a closed pocket-watch, holding it in my hand I read pain and fear in his eyes, and this made me even more apprehensive. Then I opened both sides of the watch. On one side a swastika was engraved with the inscription: “Heil Hitler. Blood and Earth”. On the second side the picture of his wife and two children was fitted. Twice he stretched out his hand and asked for the return of his watch. I stood there close to him and did not look at him. My eyes were poured into the picture of his wife and children.

My friend, a lad from Baranowitsch, didn't think very long and his Finnish-German knife pierced the breastbone of the German.

Our division was prepared for the entry march into Bialystok. Suddenly near to our ranks a loud explosion was heard. A smoke cloud together with earth that had been upheaved mixed itself in the air. When the air cleared a bit, I found myself on the ground amidst several dead and wounded. I tried to stand up and help them, but first now I observed, that I could not stand up. Both of my legs had been shot-through, splinters had penetrated my body. German fliers had shot-up the area and a battle developed between sky and earth.

At dusk the shooting was interrupted. Medics appeared and cleaned up the place: Dead separate and wounded separate, who were carried away on medics' wheeled stretchers into the barn and into peasant houses not far from the place. In one of the cottages, on the ground, with straw underneath me, I was lying. First there I saw, my rotner(probably=able) commander, also severely wounded.

Our pains were stilled by morphine injections and we were evacuated further.

In a village, 15 kilometers from there, in a forest, the severely-wounded were sorted for further evacuation and the lightly–wounded remained in that place.

Transport movement was very difficult. Train-transportation was not yet possible. They carried us on peasant carts to a hospital to be operated upon.

After the operation, I first of all examined myself to determine if I had remained a cripple from the war. When I saw, that I still had my own legs, I forget my pain out of great joy.

IN THE HOSPITAL

Life in the hospital was monotonous. Every day wounded were brought and every day dead were carried out.

Near me my commander lay, a Siberian from Novoroseysk. My final conversation with him has remained like a wound in my heart. When he felt poorly he said to me:

“Max, when I die, write my wife and child concerning the circumstances of my death for the fatherland and for freedom. Write where I am buried.”

I asked for my hand, that I would carry out his wish. I promised him, gave my hand, and added at the same moment: “Sergei, about you there is someone to whom to write, but about me? If there is a God in heaven, it is only to him.”

On the morrow a second person was lying on his bed. He had taken his love and pain with him to the grave.

The medical hospital-personnel were mostly Jews. The general relationship was good. The doctors took interest in my past experiences. For hours at end they sat at my bedside and listened to story about the mass death of Jews at the hands of the Germans in the captured areas. The grief and suffering they kept chocked-up inside, swallowing the tears perhaps together with blood, because for the sake of appearance, they could not display it.

One a certain day rumors reached us, that all severely-wounded were to be evacuated deep into Russia. Medical evaluations took place of the sick and wounded. In conversations with friends, who knew, that I was just 30 kilometers from my city, they could not understand my indifference.

After conversations such as these a longing awakened in me. Whole nights long I thought about by what means I might attain it, to take a look at the ruins of the burnt city, the cemetery without gravestones.

On the next day I made efforts to talk to the hospital administrator, a Jew. I told him about my entire past. I described the city in its glory before the German occupation., and now a city, that had swallowed up thousands of sacrifices. I implored him to help me find an opportunity to visit Lida, perhaps among the dead I might find a living member of my family,

He quieted me: “first of all you must think about the condition of your health, which you must guard. At the first opportunity, when I will agree, that your health-condition is satisfactory, I will make an effort to fulfill your request. The first thing I have to do is, to exclude you from the candidate-list for evacuation. This I promise”

My request was fulfilled. I continued to remain in the same hospital. After a few days of medical treatment, foot-assistants (crutches), and a nurse taught me to walk a little.

From that moment on I felt myself a person like all others. On one lovely summer day, that carried me down to the hospital garden and the set me down amongst the sick on the grass. Suddenly my eyes encountered someone from Lida, who stood not very far away. Our eyes met and a wild cry tore out of me: “Yesyerski!” My body shivered as if an electric current had passed through me. Out of great excitement I fell over.

Slowly he came toward me. He looked deep into my eyes, apparently, I had changed considerably, so that he could not recognize me.

Suddenly he sat down on the ground and encircled my head with both his hands. My face became wet with hot tears. I had not felt such tenderness for a long time. With a muffled voice his lips whispered, barely audibly, the word “Resnick”.

This same Yesyerski, the blacksmith's son, lived on Kaleyova-street, a former neighbor of our ours, whom I had not just once encountered- (once) before the war, on an ordinary weekday when I was at work, dressed in his best Sabbath-holiday clothes, going to the small synagogue on Kaminke, accompanied by his father and other family members.

The second time, in the heat of the catastrophe of the Jewish extermination by the Hitler-beast, I encountered him by accident in the forests, not far from Slonim. I received regards by him from Lida, his encounter with those left alive whom he recalled.

Now- our third encounter.

When we both calmed down a bit, my first question was: From where did he come and where was he going? He told me in abbreviated-fashion how he had remained alive, his return to Lida, his encounter with those who had remained alive and now—the work as a policeman in the Soviet police in Lida.

From him I became aware, that out of the entire Lida Jewish community, there are now seventy some survivors, among them is also my wife.

The day passed, the sick were carried upstairs—and I amongst them—again on the same plank cot. And when the light was extinguished, my thoughts were not turned-off. As if on a screen pictures of Lida in her prewar glory passed through my memory. I saw the same city in flames and people running in panic looking to save themselves. Pictures passed before me of the German entry march, of the slaughter, and amongst the fearsome pictures echoed Yesyerski's last words: “about seventy survivors”.

I strained myself in the darkness to see their faces, which were familiar to me from before the war, in my ears resounded the sad-melody of “Lamentations” (Editorial Note: recalls the Roman destruction of Jerusalem-read on the Fast of the Ninth of Av), “AiKhA” , “AiKhA”—How could it be” that the splendid Jewish community had been destroyed?!”


[Page 373]

At the Front

Yitskhok Rubinowitz

Translated by Phillip Frey

Beginning of July, 1944, after the freeing, I came together with my partisan-unit to Novogrudek. From there I came to Lida, I handed in my gun to the Voyenkomat, and within two weeks mobilized myself into the Soviet army., From Lida they brought me to Baranowitsh and from there to Bobroisk. There they schooled us and sent us off to the front, behind Warsaw, where heavy battles were going on.

I fell into the first White-Russian front and onto the line of the chief –march of he Soviet offensive: Warsaw to Berlin.

In one of the battles I was severely wounded. Unconscious they brought me to the hospital, where I lay for several months. January 1945, before the start of the great Soviet offensive on Warsaw, Alongside the Vaisl (river) I was discharged from the hospital. I returned to my unit, where the preparations were beginning for the engagement. New reinforcements came. My detachment found itself on the bridgehead south of Warsaw.

We began to encircle Warsaw/As a result of this maneuver the Germans left Warsaw. I was awarded the medal “for freeing Warsaw”.

After heavy battles we took the Polish cities: Konin, Kolo, and left Poisn behind us, where the Germans were encircled. After a bloody battle we entered the large Polish city Kalish, and near Zbonshin we crossed over the old Polish-German border and pressed onto accursed German soil. Later, after a storm, we entered the German city of Landsberg. Reached the river Oder, we crossed the river over the ice and took a bridgehead on the west bank, north of the city and the fortress Kistrin.

In the month of March we took part in the street battle for the city and the Kistrin fortress. There the Varta river enters the Oder and there were numerous underground military factories. I was awarded the medal for 'valor”.

On April 16, 1945, the crucial attack on Berlin took place. After difficult and bloody battles on the 22nd of April we arrived in the suburbs of Berlin. The unceasing street battles began. We battled fiercely for every house with the S.S. detachments. On May 2nd Berlin capitulated. On the morrow our detachment could see the Reichstag. We moved further west. The last battle was fought near the German village Parchen, near the town Gestin near the Elbe river. There we encountered the Allied military forces.

On the 9th of May, in a little forest we celebrated the day of victory over Nazi-Germany.

I was awarded the “ Order of the Battle for the Fatherland,” with the 2nd rank medal for “Conquering Berlin” and with the medal “For the Victory Over Germany 1941-45”.

In mid June, 1945 the American detachments left the regions of Saxony-Thuringen and we entered them. We arrived at the city of Naumberg. At that time the Soviet power-organs began the process of denazification in the Soviet zone. We, who were sacrificial victims of the Nazi beast, were detailed to these organs, which occupied themselves with this. I was very proud of this, and wholeheartedly devoted myself to this work.

We used to arrest former S. S.-men, Gestapo-people and former military persons of high rank whom we brought before the courts. It was simply impossible to believe, that for me, a Jew, who during the occupation time was far worse than a dog in the eyes of the Germans, the former supermen used to remove their hats.

Instances also occurred, when the former lawbreakers, in the course of the arrest, would open fire with revolvers. I remember, at the end of 1945, in the city of Naumberg, we arrested at his residence the former Oberbefelshaber (Superior commander) of the German occupation army in Denmark during the years 1940-1942. I can't recall his name. So I served in Germany till the beginning of 1947 and later in Russia.

In the summer of 1950 I returned to my old hometown Lida. Immediately as I descended from the train, I went straight to the Lida street, near the river Lidzayke, where our house stood before the war. And there were passed my joyful childhood years amidst family and friends. I ascended to the place, went to the hillock overgrown with weeds, which remained of all that was in the joyous past, tuned my face to the desolation and cried intensely, as never before, in the course of the many years of pain and suffering.

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