David Gleibman-GlobeIn Chapter 2 The Survivors and their Rescuers, we gave the detailed account by Gleibman of the period of his life from the day of the destruction of the small ghetto until the liberation of the town by the Red Army. His was the way of the lone wolf who remained alive thanks to two old Christian women and a young man, Kolya Polikovich. Kolya was the link between the partisan companies and their supporters in the town. He took the armed Jew who had hidden with his relatives in town to the partisans in the forest. Thus Gleibman joined the group in which his Gentile friend was active although it was very dangerous for a Jew to be a member of a partisan group. In those days any Gentile who encountered a lone Jew could murder him or hand him over to the Germans. Among the partisans too there were anti-Semites who exploited every occasion (and there were many) to kill Jews, even though they were partisans. Only the unwavering devotion of a Christian friend could protect Gleibman from these dangers. It was his luck that Kolya was indeed a good friend. Today Gleibman-Globe lives in New York and is an active member of the Friends of Pinsk Society there. He is one of the deputy chairmen of that organization.
Dr. Misha (Michael) TemchinWe contacted Dr. Temchin (who now lives in the USA) for details of his activities with the partisans but unfortunately we received no reply. In the book The Jewish Partisans (Part 2, page 210) we read:
Fani Solomian LotzThis deposition was made to us in Tel Aviv in 1964 and we could check it against various documents of the period. We also have seen the many decorations she received. This is her story: To be exact, I began my underground work in July 1941.
Sashka suggested that I assume the role of liaison with his small group of as yet nonexistent partisans. My job was to receive and transmit information of various kinds about what was going on in Pinsk among the population. I was also to procure a radio set or parts of one, arms and even a camera.
The main thing was to keep out of danger and not to tell anyone, because even in the forest the leaders were secretive, never trusting each other and did not reveal the names of people in town with whom they were in touch.
I was not surprised that he chose me. At the very beginning of the German rule, Sashka, as Komsomol leader from 1940-1941, used to come very often to the Tarbuth School where I was a teacher of physical education
(I was a graduate of the Academy of Physical Education in Warsaw and had taken a postgraduate course in Sweden where I spent the summer of 1939. I had returned to Poland on the 31st of August, a day before the outbreak of the Second World War, in order to take part in the defense of Warsaw). I had urged Sashka for a long time to supply me with thirty pairs of skis because I wanted to train the students in skiing. Evidently he had not forgotten my fight for the skis (which at last he gave me). That is why he presumed that I would also make a good fighter in the future.
For nearly a year, under very difficult conditions, I conducted my individual underground work against the Germans, Polish and 'blue police' and even against the Judenrat until spring 1942.
On one May day, when I was returning to the ghetto, I was stopped by Mikhal Wagner, the Polish policeman who grabbed the tools and trashcan from my hands where he found bits of food (that alone was enough to get me imprisoned) and a few electrical wires, but what was even more important: some magazines with bullets. He dragged me to the police station, to the Gestapo and to prison (see A Young Girl Facing the Gallows published by Sifriyat Poalim, Tel Aviv 1971). I was sure that my end would come on the gallows in the marketplace.
By some miracle I remained alive and returned to the ghetto a few days before the liquidation when 3300 Jews were killed.
On October 27th 1942, one day before the end, I was warned by Engineer Mechnikovski, a veteran Polish communist (later I learned that he was the chief liaison for Pinsk with the forest partisans), not to return to the ghetto. But I did return.
I didn't want to leave my father alone but I left him later on and till this day I have feelings of guilt. I even contemplated suicide after abandoning my father to his death.
Wednesday, the 28th of October 1942, was a quiet day. That was the calm before the storm. I woke up at three o'clock in the morning to the sound of shots. First I rummaged through my things to find my Aryan passport, the safe-conduct of life.
Twice I left the barbed wire, which enclosed the ghetto; twice I hesitated to escape. Twice I returned to see my father standing with an axe in his hand, ready to 'take revenge' for all of us.
It was almost five a.m., the night was over. Every additional moment in the ghetto meant death: I ran to the courtyard of the Judenrat . Thousands of people were crowded together. Suddenly I noticed an open trapdoor in the abandoned home of the dentist Dr. Gottlieb, which was only one meter from the other side of the fence. Without thinking, I leapt into the cellar, closing the trapdoor over me. Some minutes later I heard heavy steps above my head and the sound of a chair being moved. The Germans settled at their posts after checking the cellar door. My luck was with me: they didn't discover me. All day I cried, hearing the screams and the yelling of the Germans: 'Raus! Raus!' That was the longest day in my life.
I knew that I had to leave that hiding place as quickly as possible. At the end of the day the Germans left. I decided immediately to escape to our stable on Nadbrzezna Street where the German research station was located. I hoped that no one would think of looking for me among the Germans and Volksdeutsche.
Long before, I had arranged with Yan Shpinak, our stableman (father-in-law of the Volksdeutsche policeman Wagner) that, when danger threatened, my father and I would leave the ghetto and come to hide in our own stable.
On the morning of 29th October, Shpinak was greatly astonished to find me there alive. But he kept me until the 29th of November 1942, bringing me every morning one hundred grams of water from the river and some remains of bread, which were prepared for the dog. Every day during the first week, he informed me about what was happening in the ghetto. He told me that he even saw the dead body of my father who had been shot in the ghetto in front of his house because he had killed or seriously injured a German with an axe.
At my request Shpinak brought to the stable my previous Inspector of Physical Education, Mr. Zelent, who took my old shoes to be mended: he was really a friend and helped me in those days.
Shpinak wanted to get rid of me as quickly as possible so he made a pair of 'skis' out of two pieces of wood to cross the river Pina but when I reached the river I saw that the ice was not yet thick enough and I had to go back to my loft. Shpinak obviously did not like this at all.
Finally on Saturday, November 29th in the middle of the day, I set out, dressed like a peasant woman going to the market carrying merchandise. I had with me saccharine tablets, soap, scarves, goods given to me by Mechnikowski, to whom I had entrusted my belongings before the establishment of the ghetto.
At the bridge I met a young peasant who wanted to know where I was going. 'To trade in the village,' I answered. He accompanied me to his house and even invited me to stay overnight.
The following day I moved on and reached the village of Perechristye after wandering a long time in the forest. In one of the huts I met a partisan. I explained who I was and asked them to accept me. They promised to come back for me the next day and in gratitude I gave them the highly priced saccharin I had with me. They didn't intend to come back because they ordered the woman, whose husband was a 'blue policeman,' to throw me out, and she did.
There was nothing left for me to do but to enter the nearby wolf-infested forest where I wandered alone in the deep snow for ten or twelve days. Several times I entered some lonely peasant's hut to ask for food and hurried back into the forest. I was so naive that I tried to sing Russian songs out loud in order to be heard by the partisans, forgetting that I might be caught by Germans.
Finally I came upon a path and followed it for hours. Suddenly somebody ordered me to stop. They were two Jews but I remembered Mechnikowski's warning not to join Jews, as they were likely to be murdered in the forest, so I told them that I was a Christian and a Pole. Suddenly I heard the one say to the other in Yiddish: We ought to shorten her by a head's length. (Strange: Germans killed Jews, Poles killed Jews, and even Jews wanted to kill Jews). They took me to their headquarters. I took off my wet garments to dry them at the fire. Unfortunately my coat caught fire and I exclaimed in Yiddish: 'Oy meine shmates brennen my rags are burning, forgetting that I was supposed to be a Pole. At that, the Jews said that I must be a spy set upon the partisans by the Germans but luck was with me again. Somebody among the Jewish group called out: Teacher, what are you doing here? That was a pupil of mine, Weiss from the Tarbuth School who had joined this Jewish unit which consisted largely of Jews who had escaped from the slaughter at Janov-Poleski. When I asked them whether they knew anything about Sashka Berkowich for whom I was looking, they led me to a cart on which I found Sashka's dead body. I felt orphaned as I looked at my slain commander. On the very day when I had been wandering in the forest, singing loudly, the Germans had attacked. Sashka was surrounded and when he saw that he could not escape he shot himself. After the skirmish, his body was retrieved and brought to the Jewish camp.
Mishka Desatnik, the paratrooper, one of the partisan commanders, had come to Sashka's body. Meeting me, he agreed to enlist me in his group, as he needed a nurse. I refused and remained with the Jewish unit. They numbered about fifty, among them two relatives of mine, the Garbers from Janovo. I stayed with them for six weeks.
Later on, we were compelled to divide up into smaller groups and I, together with the Garbers and another two men, made ourselves a shelter in a hole in the ground. We dug a pit for water which we scooped out with flasks (I kept mine until 1972 when I donated it to the Museum of Lochamei Hagetaot) [Ghettos Fighters Kibbutz]. The four men used to go out from time to time at night while I stayed 'at home' and did washing and mending for them.
In those autumn days of 1942, one of our Jewish groups was attacked by some Russian partisans, headed by someone named Mustapha. There was only one survivor, Moshe Eisenstein, who now lives in Haifa.
Not far from us were two other Jewish groups who were bickering all the time and stealing food, meat etc from each other. (They even stole my shoes). There was endless friction and trouble. I couldn't stand it and decided to leave them.
That was a night in January 1943. I reached the village of Korsin in the area controlled by partisans. When they learned that I was a nurse, they took me on a cart to the headquarters of the Kutuzov unit which was part of the Molotov Brigade in the Pinsk Division.
I immediately joined the medical service of the unit. We had no doctor of our own but we were helped out by Dr. Kotel Wlodavski, a native of Janov and a graduate of the Tarbuth High School at Pinsk, who served in the neighboring 'Lazo' unit. Along with my work in the Kutuzov unit I also helped the neighboring Chapayev unit, which consisted of partisans who had fled from German prison camps and were infected with anti-Semitism.
I had arguments with the Kutuzov unit headquarters, above all with the commander, Petya, who did not like the idea that I gave food to the nearby camp of the Jewish refugee families from Janovo. When Dr. Wlodawski suggested that I transfer to the Lazo Company where he was planning to set up a field hospital to serve the three companies, I agreed at once.
In 'Lazo' there were more Jews than in the other companies. The commander's name was Gorbachevski, and the commissar, Konkov, was a native of Pinsk. In a special zemlianka [mud hut] we established a hospital with 18 beds, which served even far away partisan units like Shchors, Dyadya Petya, and others.
Admitted to the hospital were victims of malaria and severe cases of flu. We didn't have many wounded, because in those months there were few encounters and the operations were aimed mainly at blowing up trains and attacks upon small Polish police stations.
I also extended medical aid to the peasants. In exchange, I received food, which mostly I handed over to the camp of the Jewish families.
I took part in organizing cultural activities. On March 8th 1943, International Women's Day, I was asked to deliver a speech at a special celebration. I helped edit and publish a wall newspaper etc.
In April 1943, partisan activities were stepped up because of German reprisals. We had to be on the move constantly. Only when we arrived at the huge Poslawski forest could we hide and set up a new hospital, bigger than the first. I even found normal windows in an abandoned schoolhouse in the neighborhood.
In August 1943 I held a short first-aid course for peasant girls, the so-called 'cow-girls'. Seriously ill patients were sent to peasants' houses where I used to visit them frequently, and the 'graduate cow-girls' were quite helpful!
In September 1943 I met a group of Polish partisans, mostly Polish Ossadniks [Poles living in Belarus] from Belandicz. Their commander was Robert Stanowski, a Jew from Lodz, who lived as a Pole (and tries until today to remain a Pole). I thought I would be more useful to the Polish unit, so I asked to be transferred and the commissar Konkov agreed. I joined the Polish Kosciusko Brigade commanded by Klim.
In that way, in a short time, I became head of the medical service for the Polish brigade in the area. We set up a small hospital of only twelve beds but it was quite well organized.
At the end of October 1943, Dr. Alexander Skotnicki, known by the nickname of 'Dr. Zemsta' (Revenge), arrived from David-Horodok (or David-Grodek). He had served with the Gestapo in David-Horodek as interpreter. They hadn't known that he was a Jew. 'Zemsta' blew up the German command post and then escaped into the forest, taking with him arms and all the medical supplies which he gave to our hospital.
Fighting operations intensified in September 1943, upon the arrival of a number of paratroopers from Moscow, among whom were some Jews: Leon Kassman, known by his Polish name as Stanislaw Yanowski; Bielski, and a Jewish girl called Wanda Mikhalska, whose true name is unknown until today. There were also Marian Cherwinsky, Chanka Brozowska, Ruzga Stefan, Borkowski and others. They brought with them a radio and communication equipment: thus daily contact with Moscow was established. The paratroopers brought us Horizons, a Polish magazine published by the Polish patriots in Moscow. It contained a detailed description of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, so at last I knew what had happened to my mother whom I had left in Warsaw in 1939. I couldn't believe then either in such a disaster or in such Jewish heroism.
On the eve of the anniversary of the October Revolution, large scale mining of trains was undertaken. On December 18th 1942 I took part in a raid on the command post of the Benderov (Ukrainian Nationalists) in the village of Lakhowicz. Four of our people lost their lives there.
Some unbelievable events happened to me on Christmas Eve, 1943. Mikhal Wagner, the 'blue policeman' and Volksdeutsche from Pinsk, appeared in our camp and, by coincidence, I was the first one to encounter him. He who had murdered defenseless Jewish people, had taken me to prison in Pinsk and was nearly the cause of my being hanged, had suddenly decided to join the partisans. With all my heart I wanted to put a bullet through him, but I knew that it was not for me to sentence a German and a Volksdeutsche . He bore the guilt for all the blood of the murdered Jews, and all he brought with him were two rifles as a payment to be accepted by the partisans. In spite of the fact that in Pinsk he had been closely collaborating with the Germans and he was my personal enemy, still I was for accepting him in the Kosciusko unit on condition that he join me in an 'individual operation', to kill the head of the Polish police force, Sologub, who was responsible for a great deal of our suffering.
However when we had only gone about four kilometers, a rider overtook us and brought us the order to return at once. At Headquarters, I was told the whole idea didn't make any sense and the life of a Polish policeman was not worth the risk of the life of someone in the Medical Service. The commissar feared that on the way Wagner would kill me. Somebody else could do the job, if necessary. Wagner tried to get away from me and asked for a transfer to the partisan unit across the river Bug, for which he volunteered. Leon Kassman, whom I had told about Wagner's dirty past, shot him five kilometers from our camp! Kassman, the paratrooper, took revenge for the Jews of Pinsk.
In February 1944 the Germans attacked us from the air, and we had to abandon our zemlianka by day and were able to come back only at night. At this time a serious typhoid epidemic hit our men. The sick who had survived the epidemic were distributed among the villages but the Germans gave us no respite. The front line was drawing near and we had to leave. I intended to use the hospital wagons to transport the seriously ill, but the Commander Klim gave orders to carry straw on them for the horses. I disobeyed him and removed from the village our seventeen ill partisans, the gravest cases. When we arrived at Kuchocka Wola I tried to commandeer horses from the Ukrainian villagers who concealed everything they had. A Ukrainian woman tried to bribe me with a bottle of spirits. I needed the alcohol very badly for the infirmary. After reporting to my commander, I took the alcohol but I took the horses too!
Upon the woman's complaint, Klim, my commander, put me on trial even though I had told the truth. I was discharged on the spot as head of the Medical Service and my machine gun was taken from me. However the health situation was grave: we had over 500 cases of typhoid and a week later, in the village of Sudcze, I was again put in charge of all those suffering from contagious diseases.
At Sudcze we stayed during the month of March and April. On the 5th of May we got our partisan certificates and we started out with the Kosciusko unit to reach the G. H. Q. [General Headquarters] of the partisans at Nowa-Belica, near Gome. Klim, who was an anti-Semite, and didn't like me although he needed me, tried in various ways to prevent me from reaching H.Q. He succeeded only because I suddenly took ill. I came down with typhoid and was taken to the military hospital at Rafaluvka, where I cured myself with drugs I had kept in my bag.
By the middle of June I left the hospital and arrived at H.Q. in Nowa-Belica near Rovno. From there I was sent to Moscow for a parachutists' course. When I arrived there on June 29th, I had a bad attack of gall bladder inflammation--complications from the typhoid--and for two months was laid up in the Moscow army hospital for officers. After that I was sent for convalescence to Sochi on the Black Sea where I stayed for another six weeks.
At the beginning of November 1944 I received a travel permit, as a former partisan, and went to Lublin via Minsk and Pinsk. At Pinsk I found our house in ruins. A few of my possessions I found with the carter Shpinak who tried to deny that he had taken anything (I didn't ask for my belongings).
The only one to recognize me and rejoice at my return after years of absence was my dog Dobrys. Via Brzesc, where I was arrested twice by the Russians, I reached Lublin on November 15th .
David PlotnikDavid Plotnik was born in Pinsk in 1916. His father was murdered in 1920, and for a few years after this tragedy he lived with his mother in the village of Ivanik (her native village), near Pinsk. He studied at the Talmud Torah in Karlin and at other schools. He was a carpenter by trade. After he married Taibele Silverman, they lived on Pulavska Street. Plotnik now lives in New York and owns a factory for office furniture. We shall write of his experiences during the war as recorded in his Yiddish notes, which he wrote in 1946 while a refugee in Italy (My Way as a Partisan from Ural to Pinsk). This is the title of the 196 closely-typed pages in which Plotnik dwells not only on his own activities as a partisan but on the entire partisan organization and the partisan struggle as a whole, emphasizing the part played by the Jewish partisans in the organization. These notes were also published in 1948 in the daily Der Tog in New York. We are unable to reproduce his notes in full, and we have to limit ourselves to those sections that describe David Plotnik as a partisan fighter, and even these in abbreviated form.
“On the 29th of June 1941, I enlisted at the recruiting office at the elementary school on Honcharska Street in answer to a call by the Soviet authorities at the outbreak of the Russian-German war. On the 26th, we started out in the direction of Luniniets. German paratroopers shot at our train from the woods bordering the road. A Soviet general, who welcomed us in Luniniets, told us that all was quiet in Pinsk and sent us back there. On the 28th of June we noticed that the Poles and White Russians had left the recruiting office upon the collapse of Soviet rule in the city. We, the Jews, knew what to expect from Hitler's army and waited patiently at the station for the order to leave with the Soviet army for the interior of Russia. In order to make sure that the Russians would not abandon us at the last moment, we organized ourselves and took turns keeping watch over what was happening.
One of our watchmen told us that day that the Russians were packing their belongings. We asked them to take us with them. The Soviet Officer explained that the situation was absolutely hopeless and that anyone who wished to join the retreating army could do so. On the 29th of June, at four a.m., we left our native town with tears in our eyes and started on our long journey, while the Germans bombarded the train we were traveling in. We arrived in Oryol on the 6th of July, by way of Sarny-Kiev-Bryansk, we were taken to any army camp near the town and for several weeks spent our time undergoing army training and digging trenches and shelters. One day we were told that all the inhabitants of the western zone (formerly in Polish hands) were leaving for an unknown destination. This was the result of a lack of confidence in us on the part of the Russians. After traveling for eighteen days in tightly packed coaches, we arrived at Izhevsk in the Urals. Hundreds of former inhabitants of Pinsk were gathered there, it appeared. We were put into camps and divided up according to our professions. Clothing and food were scarce, and under the severe climatic conditions of the Urals in winter, many fell ill and died.
On the 15th of April 1942, we received news from Moscow that recruiting for the Polish Army under General Sikorski had started. In May the White-Russian Communist Party published a call to join the partisans. I was uncertain whether to enlist, for in spite of the difficult conditions in the Urals at least we were fairly sure of our lives there. However Molotov's speech on the slaughter of the 10,000 Jews of Pinsk turned the tide. Together with Shamai Shuster, also of Pinsk, I arrived in Moscow on the 1st of August 1942 and we enlisted at the headquarters of the White-Russian Party on Komsomolskaya Street. After we had been questioned on our political views and our social background, we were sent to the partisan school near the Novoshino railway station (Gorki District). We were about 1000 young men, including about 100 Jews. We were given an intensive course in explosives, sabotage, camouflage, the building of underground shelters, infantry warfare and parachuting.
On the 10th of November 1942 our partisan group was set up. It consisted of fourteen people, among them one other Jew, Gorelik from Gomel, and three White-Russian girls. On November 15th, each one of us was given a sub-machinegun, two hand grenades, 500 bullets, six kilograms of explosives and foot-rations. Some received rifles and there was one machine gun. The commander received a map with specifications of our route to the Baranowicz area. We headed westwards by train and our route took us through now-quiet areas where battles with the Germans had been fought. After traveling for five days we arrived in Tarapecz, thirty kilometers from the front. Ahead of us lay 180 kilometers that had to be covered on foot. One of our first encounters in this area was with Jews, most of them women, who told us of the terrible Nazi massacres. We had already heard that the Germans had murdered entire populations but we had not heard the whole truth. In the small town of Udaczi, where all the 700 Jewish inhabitants had been murdered, we crossed the Vitebsk-Nevel railroad fighting all the way, and then crossed the Vitebsk-Polotsk railroad tracks.
At the beginning of January 1943 we arrived at the Molotshno-Minsk railroad and here we finally found the partisan camp of Unit 620, named after Chkalov, in the Volozhin Forest. The Commander of the camp was Vladimir Kuznetsov, the Chief-of-Staff Misha Gribanov, and the Commissar Ivan Kosak. We found there about 20 mud huts, a kitchen and a slaughterhouse and we also built mud huts for ourselves. Here for the first time I met Jewish partisans who had lived through the horrors of the ghetto and had witnessed the massacres. There were Jews here from the small towns of Mir, Volozhin, Krosno and others. Here I met Jewish partisans from Mir-Harhas, Galimovskaya, the pharmacist Charny and others. The latter told me about the miraculous rescue of the 300 Jews of Mir by the Jew Oswald who had served there as a German policeman. (Oswald is Shmuel Rufeisen from Zivic in western Galicia, who is now the Catholic Brother Daniel at the Carmelite Mount Monastery on Mt. Carmel in Haifa. Sefer HaPartizanim HaYehudim – The Book of the Jewish Partisans, Part 1, page 469 – N.B.)
The first action in which I took part was the attack on the garrison of the German Army and the police station in the little town of Horodok (Molodeczno district), which did not succeed. Together with another twenty-five Jews, mostly natives of the town and its surroundings, I also participated in the second attack on the town (which did not succeed either). Under the leadership of the commander of the Jewish company, Leizer Rogozin, I participated in blowing up a German train. At the beginning of March 1943 I had my first face-to-face encounter with the enemy when we stumbled on a German and Lithuanian ambush near the Mashany caves on our way to blow up the railroad. We left the Volozhin forests because of a quarrel between our company commanders over girls, and we headed for the Rudminsk Forest, to General Platoun's division of the Komsomoletsk Brigade, named after Kalinin. The Commander was Ratshinski, and his deputy, Moskalov. After a while Shimiyatovitch took over the command.
Our main job consisted of sabotage, mining the railroads and blowing up trains. They agreed to let me participate in these actions only after my persistent insistence at headquarters. Ratshinski ended our angry conversation by saying to his deputy: 'Take him with you, let him be killed there.' At the end of March I took part in the blowing-up of a train near the Niegoreloye station, and in honor of the 1st of May I was allowed to participate in the mining of the Baranowicz-Minsk road, and the destruction of the German cars on it.
On our way to the various actions, I had a few bizarre encounters with Jewish women who tried to pass as Christians and might have had to pay for this with their lives. Once I met two Jewish women from Minsk who had been caught by partisans and accused of spying, and only after I had questioned them for a long time, because I suspected they were Jewish, did they admit their identity and thus were saved. On another occasion I met a Jewish girl, Leah Dinerstein who lived in one of the caves under the name of Lydka Baydak and behaved like a real anti-Semite to cover up. During those days I also had a surprising meeting with a girl from Pinsk, Batya Stolar – who had come to the town from the Lida Ghetto where she had been overtaken by the German Occupation and who lived in the family camp of Tuvya Belsky. As befitting a fellow townsman, I did my best to help her with food and clothing. One day I heard that she had gone to fetch her belongings from the Lida ghetto from where she did not return.”
In the village of Klitaszcze I met a nine-year-old Jewish boy, Maxim Katsman (his father came from Bialystok), who worked as a cowherd for one of the peasants. I took him with me to our company. He remained with us until he fell ill at the beginning of 1944 and was taken to Moscow by plane. In June 1943 we tried to rescue twenty Jews from the little town of Iwie who had remained there after the extermination of the ghetto, as they had very useful occupations. The Jews resisted our advances for they did not want to endanger Jewish partisans. In later actions I took part in the blowing-up of the Gobia railway station and in the attack on a Polish company under the command of Miloshevski. This company had cruelly murdered Jews and thanks to our intervention, it was disbanded.”
In spite of severe attacks of malaria from which I suffered during the summer, I continued to take part in various actions. At the end of August 1943 I was made commander of the sabotage unit of our company. The first successful action under my command took place near the Fardicz railway station. As a result of this action railroad traffic was blocked for three weeks, and I was awarded a decoration. We also carried out a punitive mission against the German-inspired self-defense organization of the peasants in the villages of Zagorie district, Bohudki and Zalesie. The members of this organization had murdered a number of partisans, particularly Jewish partisans. With the coming of winter we carried out extensive sabotage actions of the telephone communications, and between the 23rd and the 29th of January 1944 we sabotaged the railroad three times. I was almost captured alive by the Germans who surrounded us during our sabotage activities in March, and it was a miracle I escaped with my life. At the end of March we entered the little town of Mir and we brought back food and clothes for everyone. As on the other occasions, this time too I shared some of the loot with the family camp at Belski.”
A very impressive military parade was held as part of the 1st of May celebrations that took place in the forest. Among others, I was mentioned by the commissioner Zaruk as a saboteur responsible for the destruction of tens of enemy trains. With the help of an instructor who had come from Moscow, in May we started to use with great success mines known as P. M. S. on the second train. This mine blew up only when the second train went over it. This was the Russian answer to the German tactics of sending a few coaches loaded with sand and stones in front of all supply – or army – transport trains, so as to blow up in this way any mines that had been laid on the railroad track. Two trains were destroyed in our first action with the new mine. The spectacular explosion of the second train made a tremendous impression on the local population. On June I took part in a difficult battle against 600 of the strong Vlasov army near the village of Bereznoie. For the successful sabotage-action on the 22nd of June 1944 on the railway bridge over the Gavia River it was recommended that I be awarded the Red Flag decoration. I had already received the Red Star and War of the Fatherland decorations. At the beginning of July we received an order to destroy the bridge over the Mironka River (near Mir) on the Minsk-Baranowicz road, which was of vital importance to German traffic. I took another five partisans with me, armed with automatic weapons and explosives. About five kilometers before Mir we entered the village Priloki for food and rest. One of the peasants came running towards us and told us that a German force was approaching the village and begged us to leave for fear of a German reprisal on the population. I suggested that we leave the village and ambush the Germans from the nearby bushes. The ambush was completed successfully and the Germans retreated in panic. Six of them, among them two officers, were taken prisoner. We took them to our camp. As I was an officer and spoke German, the commander asked me to question one of the officers. My first question was: 'Why do you fight us?' 'I do not fight you, the Russians, I only fight Jews,' the officer answered. Three times I repeated my question and three times I received the same answer. At last the German understood that he had fallen into the hands of those he was fighting. All six Germans received their due punishment.”
The first half of July witnessed continuous battles between our company and the retreating Germans, with behind them the 'Vlasov' traitors, who were accompanied by members of their families. We dealt with them as fast as we could.”
Our last action as partisans was to put up a bridge over the Nieman River near the Siniawka village. Thousands of partisans from the entire area were recruited for the task, the aim of which was to hasten the Red Army's advance. The bridge was completed in one day, in spite of heavy bombardment by German guns. My role as a partisan ended in the little town of Mir, in the middle of July 1944.”
“The main reason I fought with such valor and without fear was the awareness that I was fighting the battle of my murdered brothers and sisters, of the innocent women and children who had been tortured to death, and that I was avenging the blood of my mother and the Jews of my home town, Pinsk, for the honor of our people.”In M. Kahanovitch's book: Milhemeth HaPartizanim HaYehudim b'Mizrah Eropa (The War of the Jewish Partisans in Eastern Europe), Plotnik is mentioned on pages, 136, 139, 285, 314 and his picture appears in the book written by Shmerke Katsherginski, Ich Bin Gewehn a Partisan ( I was a Partisan ), page 241. In the Sefer HaPartizanim HaYehudim ( Book of the Jewish Partisans ), part I, pages 468-498 in the chapter, “At the End of the Forest” (Mir, Volozhin, Korenits). Many details are given on partisan activities in that area. Although Plotnik is not mentioned there (the editors of the book did not have his notes), his account is confirmed from this additional source.
Aharon KalivachAharon Kalivach was born in Pinsk in 1921. He came with his family to Israel in 1960, after residing in Pinsk from 1945-1959. He now lives in Holon. It is therefore obvious why his name as a partisan has been deleted from the various books, which have until now been published about this period. Only in 1964 we recorded his recollections of the Holocaust in Pinsk and of his period as a partisan. To complete his recollections Kalivach also put his recollections on paper (see Bibliography, number 24). Above, in Chapter Eight of the first part, in the section entitled “The Fate of Those Who Escaped to the Forests”, we have told of the escape of Kalivach and his brother-in-law after the destruction of the ghetto, and of his tribulations afterward, until he reached the region of Pohost-Zagorodsky in April 1943.
“Fortunately, when I reached the forests of Bogdanavka, I met a platoon of Jewish partisans, mostly from Pohost, who bore the name 'Kaganovitch', and were part of the Kuivashiv Brigade, Komerov Regiment – the 'Pinskers.' The Command was entirely Jewish, and the platoon's commander was David Boberov. His lieutenant was Avraham Feldman. His Chief of Staff was Shalom Feldman. The Commissar was Henyk Solovsky (who had reached our region from Lublin). They agreed to accept me to their ranks, but decided not to reveal to anyone that I had arrived without weapons. There were other Jews without weapons, and even women, children and elderly people. In May 1943 I took part in my first action. We were charged with mining the Luninetz-Pinsk railway line. My weapons were two hand grenades and a bayonet. On our return at night from the successful mission, we came through the town of Bogdanavka. The officer ordered me to go to the house of the 'Soltis' (mayor of the town), and request bread. He was a notorious Jew-hater known throughout the region and a man of great physical strength, who knew all the Jews from the adjoining town of Pohorst. The Jews of the town had a 'blood-account' with this man for murdering Jews with his own hands and for turning in Jews to the Germans. Therefore they chose me to go to his house, to ask for bread and to take the opportunity to see if he was at home, and if it would be possible to take revenge on him. I knocked on a window and made my request, and the 'Soltis' wife peeked out and ascertained that a stranger was at the window, and turned to someone in the house. 'Give him bread and let him go' – I heard the voice of a man. I signaled to my friends that he was at home. We surrounded the house and I asked to go in to get the bread. When the woman opened the door, the Pohostians Pasternak, Yozhuk, Kozhushnik and Feldman quietly entered with me. One of them lit a match, to make sure that this was the wanted man, and then the 'soltis' became aware of them, and jumped in their direction, catching two of them, and began struggling with them in the dark, shouting for help from the Germans. 'Bring me the axe,' he shouted to his wife. I jumped on him, stabbing him twice with my bayonet, and silenced him. This was my first revenge.Additional details regarding the Kaganovitz Regiment are included in The Jewish Partisans' Book , Part I (pages 643-646).
The platoon had few weapons; therefore we concentrated mainly on acts of sabotage rather than on attacks on the German garrisons or police stations, which were fortified in response to previous partisan activities. The dynamite that we needed for our actions, we removed from scattered bombs we found which had not exploded. At night we also routinely dealt with bringing down telephone poles. over wide areas. In mining, Hershl Kozhuk excelled. He had been a member of Hashomer Hatsair , and he was killed in one of our sabotage actions. The unexploded bombs grew scarcer and scarcer. In order to prevent the Christian partisans from mocking us for doing nothing, we began to use wedges made from oak wood, which were fitted for sabotage purposes and placed on rail lines. The first heavy wedge we carried twenty kilometers, through swamps and woods and we placed it on the rails of the Malkovitz-Baston line. The train engine, which had been traveling at full speed, hit the large wedge, derailing, and dragging after it eight cars of munitions (confirmation of this description may be found in The Partisans' Book , Part I, page 645).
In the second half of 1943 we were assigned a new commander by Komerov: Shlomo Zamdweiss, born in Sarny, an energetic man and proud Jew. With him he brought significant quantities of dynamite, and we were able to organize for new military actions. In those days a depressing event took place, when our Jewish Commissar, Henyk Solovsky, who was a friend to all of us, fell victim to a rumor by the Christian partisans, and was executed by shooting. His wife, who was in the later months of pregnancy, remained with our unit. In this context I recall, that in one day in autumn, when we were surrounded by Germans, we forged a way through in a narrow line of swamp a kilometer wide. Suddenly Mrs. Solovsky's baby began to cry. This endangered all of us, but no one dared consider killing a Jewish baby with his own hands. After a brief consultation it was concluded that Aharon Yozhuk from Pohost would lead a small group from our platoon in the direction of the farms of the area. A Polish family named Nadlachi consented to take care of the baby, and raised her until the Red Army's entry into the area, when they returned the baby safe and sound to her mother.
In spite of the shortage of weapons, we initiated other actions. We set out for the Malkovich-Luninetz railway line to attack a German guard, who was guarding a group of workers who were loading wood. Among the Germans was the regional Commissar. His new uniform piqued our officer who decided to shoot at him and wound him in the head. But he missed, and that gave the sign for the Germans to attack us with their preferable weapons. Our only machine gun was silent momentarily, when the gunner, Akiva Krugali, was wounded. However, he continued to shoot until he died, and thus opened a window for our retreat. Next to him fell wounded Shlomo Kornzweig from Kobrin. He asked me to keep my distance, so that he could kill himself with a hand grenade. I refused his request, and instead took him in my arms, and under fire all around us, carried him about half a kilometer to the nearest swamps. I sank up to half of my body, with him on me. Fortunately, there were no German dogs around and therefore they didn't find us. After the Germans left, I crawled to dry land and bandaged his wound. I left him with a pistol, in case the Germans were to find him, took his rifle and set out to find help and to move him from that spot. I was unfamiliar with the area and therefore I marked my route with broken branches. From afar I watched a peasant with an ox. I called to him and together with his ox, we went to get Shlomo. We seated him on the ox and brought him back to our camp. Gradually Shlomo recovered.
Toward the end of autumn we moved to the forests of Lipniki. The existence of a Jewish unit did not appeal, apparently, to the command of the regiment. Following the conflict between our Commander Zamdweiss and the Chief of Staff Polkov, Komarov, the Regimental Commander, gave the order to disperse our platoon among the units 'Za Rodino', 'Orzhnikidza' and 'Shzores'. The brigade commander was Michaelovitch. I and a few others from our platoon were selected for the staff guard. As the front approached our region, we were ordered by the 'Kuivashev' Brigade Staff to get in contact with the Red Army. Our route led from forests to Pinsk to the area of Lihishin to the Auginsky Canal in the direction of Pinsk. The entire area was surrounded by Valasov's men. Our fifty men moved heavily, but nonetheless we managed to cover eighty kilometers in three days, including the successful crossing of the Auginsky Canal. Near the farms of the village of Olshansky, we were ordered to spy out the towns of Porcha and Olshansky. I and the Jews Zavin and Udel Oshrowsky took off for Olshansky. The peasants we knew were afraid to speak to us, because only a short time before, the Germans had left, and they begged us to return to the forest.
In the farm where we had fixed to meet with our people, we did not find a soul. The owner said that all of them had returned to the base, for fear of being surrounded, and that we were to do the same. We promptly opened the door, and encountered Germans approaching. They called to us, hoping to capture us alive. In the wink of an eye, we threw hand grenades in their direction and in the ensuing chaos, took off through the back door and started to run. But there also we met with Germans. My two friends, seeing that the situation was hopeless, blew themselves up with their grenades, whereas I continued to run with all my strength through a rain of bullets, toward the forest. I remained on my own in enemy territory.”
Depressed over the death of my friends, I weaved my way to the vicinity of the tenth lock of the Auginsky Canal. During the day I hid with my weapons, which included an S. W. T. automatic rifle, a pistol and a grenade, in the brush along the canal. At dusk I entered the isolated house of the Poles on the dam, and asked for food. While still eating near the window, so as to be able to see the goings on outside, through the twilight I could see a group of German cavalry, approaching the house from the other side of the canal. The dwellers of the house, who had also been watching, shouted 'Germans!' and immediately disappeared. One of the officers dismounted and began approaching the house on foot. Through a crack in the door I followed his progress, and when he reached the door, I pressed the trigger of my automatic rifle. The bullets punctured the officer, and he fell on the steps leading to the door. Before the Germans were able to assess the situation, I escaped in the darkness toward the swamps. My partisan instincts led me along the forest to the farms of Lihishin. That night I walked thirty kilometers. One of the peasants, whom I had no choice but to tie to my belt, led me across, under threat from my pistol, to the main road to Lihishin. Near the village of Vulka-Lobska I came across a platoon of partisans. After interrogating me at their headquarters, they fulfilled my request and lent me a horse, with which I returned at last to my base. My friends could not believe their eyes, because they had been convinced that I was dead. My story of what had surpassed did not satisfy them, and they were suspicious, that I had been captured by Germans, but released for purposes of espionage. I was interrogated by the Commander of the Brigade, and only after some partisans, who had been sent by him to check out the truth of my account, confirmed it, was I released.”
In April 1944 I was ordered to go beyond the Prifet and assist the Red Army, which was then arriving in the area. I was at that time a gunner of a 'Dictiar' machine gun and my assistant was a Jew named Fuhrman. Upon our arrival at the banks of the Prifet it became clear that the river was in German hands. Three whole days we searched for ways to reach the other side – without success. We ran out of food. Starving and exhausted we began to retreat through an area of quicksand. A horse which happened along was literally torn to pieces by us. Like raging lions we attacked the Germans, who were guarding the Luninetz-Lenin railway line, when we crossed it. The villages which we had passed through just a few days before, now lay burnt and empty of their inhabitants. Nor did we find anything to eat there. In the village of Buelaya-Ozero we found only bees' nests. In our hunger we broke into them. The millions of bees which chased us would certainly have killed us, had we not sunk ourselves up to our mouths in the waters of a nearby lake. In the village of Bogdanavka we ate remains of food in the pigsties. Thus we returned to our base.”
The last battle in which I took part was on the Lenin-Pohost road. We were ordered not to let the enemy cross it. All of the Kuivashev Brigade was dug in along the Lenin-Luninietz road and from there we continued to fight until the arrival of the Red Army.”
Shamai (Sioma) Shuster
Sioma was born in Pinsk in 1916. From an early age he worked in the match factory. He was a member of the Leftist Poalei Zion movement. As we have mentioned above in the section on David Plotnik, he left the city on June 28 th 1941 with the retreating Red Army and went as far as Izhbesk in the Ural region. After hearing the news of the liquidation of the Jews of Pinsk (the August 1941 massacre), Schuster volunteered to join the partisans. He passed the sabotage course at the partisan school in Novoshina, and after much hardship, he reached the May First Partisan Unit in the Rodaminsk forest, in the vicinity of the town of Gorodisch near Baranowicz. He excelled as a brave saboteur. His officer Kozlov, who had studied with him at the partisan school, chose him for an important but very difficult job – Head of Supplies, in charge of providing all of the food for the unit. M. Kahanovitch, in his abovementioned book, pages 300-301, writes:
“To the credit of Sioma Shuster are recorded many acts of sabotage and dead Germans. His name appears on lists of those recommended for medals of honor.”To what is written in Kahanovitch's book, may be added the words of David Plotnik:
“In September 1943 Sioma set out from the base on an economic mission to obtain food. Upon his arrival with three of his men near the Karlitz-Horodoshitz road he heard a voice in Russian from the nearby forest, asking who they were. Two men came out of the forest and presented themselves as members of the Molotov Partisan Company. When Schuster and his friends approached them, some tens of people opened fire on them. It transpired that these had been policemen in civilian dress. One of the four was killed instantly. Two succeeded in escaping. Shuster was taken alive. His hands were tied with barbed wire, and he was brought to Horodoshitz. The Germans tried to get him to tell them of partisan movements, after promising to let him live, but he refused the offer with desolation. Then they cut off his nose and his ears, but still they were unable to get any information from him. They killed him slowly with horrible torture.” Twenty-one years after his death David Plotnik wrote of him from New York: “Shuster is deserving of a place of honor in the Pinsk Book. The Jews of Baranowicz who remained alive, will remember without any doubt the sacrifice of this proud Jew, who protected them while preserving his own honor.”
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