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[pp. 159-168]

All that I experienced during the day of Annihilation

by Rasia (nee Dudman) HaYisraeli

Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan and Gil Benjamin Villa

When World War II begun in 1939, I was not living in my birthplace, Vishnevo. I resided at the house of my aunt Grunia (nee Lubchensky) Svirsky, who lived in Svir. Already in 1933 my father transferred me to Svir. My mother was very sick and became paralyzed. My father wanted to be near her in the hospital in Vilna. She was taken there by my father so she could receive treatment from the finest specialists. My parents decided that to leave me in Vishnevo with just hired help was a bad idea, since I was only 4 years old, so they determined that the most suitable place for me would be with my aunt Sonia, a very gracious and loving woman.

On June 28, 193, when I was exactly five years old, my beloved mother passed away. From then on my aunt took a more permanent custody of me. I lived with my aunt, uncle and a cousin of mine by the name of Zelda. Zelda, much like me, became orphaned from her mother and also resided in my aunt Grunia's house.

1941

I was only 13 years old when the Nazis entered Svir in 1941. In one year I found myself at the mercy of the hand of cruel fate. I became separated from my relatives, in a world filled with the anguish of the days of the Holocaust. I still hadn't experienced much of life, and already the main question that I was focused on was “What will my fate be? Will I find a way out of this trap?” Constantly, when I stood at Death's door, I whispered a prayer to my mother in her grave asking her to protect her youngest child from the bitter, brutal environment that encompassed me, from the storm that constantly whispered “eradication” to me.

The day that Chaim Avramson came to me to write this chapter, the images of days of the Holocaust kept flowing in my head and my eyes became red from the tears. I let my eyes tear without stopping, reasoning that maybe it would bring me some redemption. When there were no more tears and my eyes dried, shivers came to my body, and an electric shock rushed through my limbs when I recalled that era.

I will start my story from the day my cousin Zelda was sent to the labor camp in Zazmir. The Nazis ordered the Judenrat in Svir to send them a hundred Jewish youths to the camp in Zazmir. The Judenrat gave them a list, and amongst the names on the list was the name of Zelda. My uncle and aunt had arranged for a hiding place for Zelda as soon as the Nazis entered Svir. She was hiding in the house of a Christian acquaintance who agreed to take care of her in exchange for a huge amount of merchandise that my aunt and uncle gave him from a store they owned. When Zelda didn't show up in the designated place, the Judenrat threatened my Uncle Zelig Svirsky who was already imprisoned at that point, that he would be sent to Zazmir instead of Zelda. Grunia, who was very confused, decided to bring Zelda back from her hiding place.

Zelda walked out of the house to the place where all the people who were sent to the work camp were gathering, and when the door was shut behind her, we all ran to the window, to watch her go away. All of a sudden, my aunt Grunia started sobbing uncontrollably. “What did I do by my own hand? I gave her to the killers!” Then she fell fainting to the ground.

Weeks passed but the Jewish people of the ghettoes were still naïve and hopeful that nothing bad would happen to them, although there were many signs that showed eradication was coming soon. During nights, many of us couldn't sleep, we kept asking each other, “What will tomorrow bring?” The young people, the ones who still had some energy and who still had a very strong survival instinct, kept looking for ways to be saved. The situation in the ghetto in Svir was morbid; the prospect of escape was very slim. The ghetto was like a tightly shut cage. In spite of the danger, a few were able to arrange for hiding places in the villages around the town. I remember the fall of 1942. One day, when it started getting dark and the ghetto was completely silent, I sat with my uncle Zelig by the lighted oil lamp. I recall how greatly I wished on that awful day to feel his hand petting me and to see his warm expression when he looked at me. My aunt Grunia was very busy preparing bags. She filled them with food supplies for us to take when at a moment's notice we would need to escape. We knew that the most perilous times would arrive.

In front of us there was a Torah book. I remember that my uncle kept turning the pages until he reached a passage and he started reading it aloud. “And your life will be hanging across from you and you will be fearful day and night and you will not believe that you will survive. In the morning you will say, `Who will give me evening?' and in the evening you will say `Who will give me morning?' And your heart will be fearful from what your eyes will see.”

I listened to his recitation and my heart was not with me. There was one question in my head, “How were they able so many years ago to describe a day just like today?”

I was trembling and my uncle kept crying. At one point he started petting me and then he stopped his reading and said to me, “Rashinka, you must move out of here. You should live with one of the farmers in the village Melina where we prepared a hiding place for you. You must be saved. You must know that these days of hell will one day end and a savior will come.”

Once again he opened the book and continued to read, “And God will take you out of your imprisonment, and will collect you from all the nations where you were spread.”

When he finished reading he shut the Torah book and once again talked to me.
“Our doom doesn't need to be your fate, my child. We already lived our lives. It would be easier for us to die if we knew that you would be saved, and for you the gates of a better world will open. A world spared of evil. You have a brother and a father in Eretz Israel who await for you, and maybe you will be able to one day tell a world that is indifferent at the moment, what had transpired here.”

My aunt Grunia hugged me, with tears in her eyes, finding some way to have a little bit of a smile on her face. She was whispering to me phrases that sounded to me like words of praise.

“You will survive. Your life will be pure and clear of all evil. We in our deaths be sacrificed and bequeath our days for your life. You must find reserve of energy and strength and courage to survive. You have one guiding purpose now: you must survive. Here I prepared for you a backpack with a small sidur. It will keep you in the difficult road that you will face tomorrow when the Christian man will take you.”

I couldn't listen to them anymore. Not even for one minute was I ever able to think in the slightest way that I could abandon all my beloved people who were so dear to me and leave them to their fate. I cried and screamed in the room,

“I will go with you where ever you go!”

The Jews of Svir were expelled to the ghetto of Michlitzuk, which was used as a concentration ghetto for a few towns that were already annihilated. That was in the fall of 1942; about three thousand Jews were crowded in a small place that contained the ghetto; the crowding was unbearable. Here we couldn't even receive the little help that once in a while our Christian neighbors in Svir gave us. Quickly this ghetto was also closed and the Jews had two choices, either to go to ghetto Vilna or ghetto Kovno. It was a very tough choice. Although we were supposed to have no communication between the different towns, we still received some information about the fate of people taken to Ponar near Vilna. It was very clear to us that “going to ghetto Vilna” would most likely lead to our deaths in Ponar, consequently many of us decided to go to Kovno. At the last moment we found out that there was one other solution: we realized the people who had relatives in the camp in Zazmir were allowed to move there and be with them. We fell in this category since Zelda was there. As we later found out, most of the people who went either Vilna or Kovno were all taken to the same place, directly to Ponar where they were all immediately killed and nothing was left of them.

In Zazmir we found Zelda. After a long time where we knew nothing of her fate, we found out that she was working on paving the roads, together with all the adults, both men and women. Since she was already acquainted with many people, amongst them “the altsta”, they arranged for my aunt and uncle forthwith to work in the kitchen and I was put in the Kinder Brigade.

At that point in time, the Jews who originally lived in the town of Zazmir were already annihilated and we (the Jews who came from other ghettoes) lived in the synagogue that stood empty of all its Jews who prayed here for many generations. We lived in the synagogue, each family slept on a different bunk. The filth was unbearable since we were so crowded. We lacked even the minimal conditions that we found in the prior ghettos. My uncle refused to eat the food in the kitchen and out of solidarity we also avoided the food, but Zelda was always taking care of us. She endangered her life and jumped across the fence to the camp of the Christians and there she exchanged some clothing materials we still had from the old store for food. As smart as she was about getting food, she was also very clever about hiding my aunt and uncle every time there was a killing action in the camp. She also helped Leah Dudman, who was together with us in Zazmir when she became sick with typhus.

As I told you before, even when I was in the Svir ghetto my aunt and uncle made an agreement with a Christian to hide me in his house, the same as he did with Zelda. But I was very attached to them and refused to leave. My fate was tied to their fate, but the hand of fate separated me from them all of a sudden. I became very sick and my condition was horrible. In the camp there was a Jewish doctor and he immediately suggested sending me to the Jewish hospital in Kovno where they still had some medicine and some of the best Jewish doctors.

Somehow they found a connection to a German officer who agreed to take me there for some payment. When I was checked they found out that I had a bad infection in my gums. The doctors took out some of my teeth and pain subsided. I was in the hospital for about two weeks and one day I received a letter from Grunia. There was some way of contacting the people of different camps. She told me that if I felt better by Monday I must go to the area near the Movie Theater where some Jews from Zazmir and Svir were located after they transferred to the Kovno camp. She told me that there by the movie theater the German officer would be waiting for me and he would take me back to the Zazmir camp. I did as she ordered me and at the hour I was told I left the hospital for the Movie Theater.

To my great shock when I arrived there the German soldiers surrounded theater. As I later found out this was the time of a big action of killing of Jews in the Kovno camp. SS soldiers surrounded many streets and the Jews were forced into the airport, the new concentration place. About 2000 people were caught at that point and sent to the airport, but they were still lacking some to fulfill the quota. So now they surrounded the theater and took away anyone who they encountered from the area. I knew nothing of this, but to my great luck, while I was waiting a woman came to me and told me about the situation. As it turned out she had also just left the hospital. She suggested we leave the area before someone caught us. I listened to her and we succeeded in escaping from the guards, but since we didn't know the streets we fell from one guard station to another. As soon as we were seen they took us to the airport where there were thousands of Jews ready for a transport.

The woman who was with me somehow succeeded in escaping from the Germans, but I was taken with the rest of the Jews to the transport and from then on I was left all alone, a girl of 14. There was a great pandemonium in the area. The Germans separated families, men to one side, women to another and children to a third location. I moved myself into the women's group and shortly after we were all pushed into a freight train. As we later found out we were taken to Estonia.

When the train car started moving I all of a sudden realized the horrible situation we were in. Now I was totally alone. I sat in the car and cried. Like me, none of the Jews in my freight car were able to converse or care for each other's predicament. Everyone was busy with his own tragedy.

After two days of travel we arrived in Estonia. Here we were in a tightly shut camp under heavy guard. We were ordered to immediately give up all our valuables. They searched our clothing and if anyone had anything that he kept, they would receive 40 lashes. In spite of all of this I was lucky and I was able to hide some jewelry that was sewed into my coat and for some reason they didn't search my coat well enough to find it. At the end everything was taken from me when I arrived in Auschwitz. There we were ordered to stand naked and they looked more closely. But meanwhile the jewelry I was able to hide was psychologically a little helpful to me in my loneliness and sadness.

From September of 1942 till December of 1943 I was in the camp in Estonia. Every morning we would work in the forest, 30 km from the camp. Two at a time we would put wood planks on the trains. It was much too heavy for me, especially since the food I was given was a very small amount. One piece of bread and a little bit of soup each day. In the morning we would wake up very early and we would get coffee and bread, and when we returned to the camp after a day of work we received a little soup. I became weaker and weaker and I could hardly pull my legs along.

At one point everyone became sick with typhus that caused us diarrhea and very high fever. I also became sick but since the hospital was very crowded and the sick people had to wait until someone died so they could take their place, I continued going to work with a very high fever. Finally there was a spot in the hospital and I was taken there. In the hospital we didn't receive any food, and like the other sick people we survived only because of the medicine. It was awful days, dark days. The darkest I experienced in all the days of the Holocaust. I lay on a wooden bunk with very high fever, with constant diarrhea that left me with no energy.

After two weeks my fever finally broke, and I started healing, but I could not go to work since I was so weak. The person who was responsible for sending us to work was a Jewish woman and she gave me permission to stay there for a little longer. Meanwhile the front came near us and the camp was closed. The people who were healthy were sent on foot to another place, and the sick people were put in a closed freight train and were taken, as they told us, to a sanitarium. One of my friends warned me that I must not go with the sick, that there was one sentence for them: annihilation, there was no sanitarium. But I had no choice. I was so weak and lacking of any energy. I became a skeleton. There was no way I could walk, so I went to the train deciding to endure whatever the rest of the sick would.

On the way many of the sick died right before our eyes. Others lay there dying. In this condition we traveled for four days until we reached Riga. There they stopped the train and threw out everyone who died or was in a dying condition and we continued on our way to an unknown place. Through the days of travel no food was ever given to us. We all fed ourselves with the little bit of food they gave us when we went on the train. But the worst was they never gave us anything to drink. So we saw God's grace in the ice that was building up on the train that a certain person realized its saving qualities and started licking it with his tongue. Immediately we all gathered around the frosty portals as if they were lakes in a hot desert. But since there were so many people who gathered near them it was hard to reach, but still once in a while I was able to lick a little bit and it saved my soul.

After nine days we arrived but it was no sanitarium, it was Auschwitz. We were taken to the crematorium. At first we had no idea what place we had come to or what this building was until some Jews who worked there approached us and said, “ Jews, no matter what, you are going to be taken to the crematories. This is the reason you are here. If you have anything valuable, please give it to us.” One of them came to me and warned me whispering, “Little Maidele (girl-child), you must know that anyone who is sick has one fate, so you must pretend that you are healthy and able to work.”

I thanked him for his advice and did whatever I could to appear healthy. The transport contained about a thousand people, and from them the Germans chose forty-two women and twenty-something men who were sent to a workplace. I was chosen among the women. Next to me stood the wife of one of the teachers from in Svir, Engel who was originally from the town of Ivye. At one point he studied in the yeshiva in Vishnevo and later married a woman in Svir. The Christian people of Svir murdered Engel during the time when the Russians left the town and the Nazis did not arrive yet, in a very torturous way. They took him out of his house and tied him to a wagon that was harnessed to a pair of horses and made them run through the streets of the town until all his bones broke. His wife and children were with me through all the ghettoes and camps until we arrived in Auschwitz. When she saw me with the people who were sent to work she called me, “Rashinka, don't go with them. They will make you work very hard. Come with us, they promised us a sanitarium.” She was with her children as the rest of the transport's passengers were immediately sent to the crematorium and not the sanitarium as they were promised.

I, along with the 41 other women who were chosen, was taken to a bathhouse. After we were dressed in striped prisoner's clothes we were taken to an office where they put numbers on our arms and from then on I was never called by my name, only by my number, 75613. From there they sent us to a relay camp in Birkenau, which was part of the Auschwitz camp. Here there were prisoners from every nation speaking every language, all working very hard. But while people of other nationalities and religions didn't wait for a death sentence or experience selection and the sick among them and the weak among them were sent to a hospital, the Jews expected at any moment to be sent to the crematories. And anyone like me who despite all of this was able to survive and see the fall of the evil ones, may their names be erased from memory, saw it because of a daily miracle that occurred.

The shadow of death floated on top of us the entire time we were there and a look of uncertainty of survival was clearly seen in everyone I met there. When the group of women I was with entered the barracks, the women who were there asked us, “Where are you coming from?” we pointed to the outside, to unspecified places. They started shaking and said, “That's the crematorium” and pointed out at the smoke that was rising from the tall smokestacks. Their eyes reflected tremendous fear from that thing that was seen from afar.

The barracks were very much like the ones in Estonia. They were divided into bunks three stacks high, but it was cleaner here. There were several roll calls. In the bath house they shaved us. They didn't give us anything to cover up our bald heads. They didn't give us any socks, they took our shoes and instead we received wooden sandals. This was January of 1944. It was an Arctic Polish winter that froze our blood vessels and while they kept imposing on us to participate in roll calls outdoors, they never let us come near each other to try to get warmer. We were also not allowed to stomp our legs to try to get a little warmer. Whenever they noticed someone who was moving out of her place to come near her friend, they would hit her with a rubber bat. The rubber bats were the most used tools around there. They kept hitting us as if we were chased animals.

About a month later we were taken out of the Birkenau camp to Camp B. Here we were sent to work. I was put in Block Number 8. I was very lucky that the block alsta felt sorry for me and let me stay with two other girls who were about my age to work inside the block. In Auschwitz there was a children's block and something very strange occurred there. Many days they would send thousands of children to the crematoriums and a few of them would be taken out of the line and would survive for a short time. They would put them in the children's block and here they received better standards than usual: butter, white bread, meat, and other things. And all that was done for unclear reason, after a while they would be put in the crematories.

When I think of the annihilation of the Jewish children, and I am talking about more than a million children, my heart breaks and I am not ashamed to once in a while relinquish my arid description here. I yell, “God of revenge, send your anger down so that they will be walking like lepers away from the family of nations for all eternity. For the blood of my pure young sisters and brothers!”

The block alsta who felt very bad for us was able to receive some food from the children's block. In our block there were Jewish women from Holland. Many of them were sick. When they found out we had received children's food they would exchange some of the black bread they received for white bread. I must say the privilege we experienced could have destroyed us. When the Germans found out that Meinder Yarika, the block alsta, had three young girls, they ordered her to transfer us to the children's block. She came to us and notified us. We knew as well as she that if we were transferred there we could be taken to the crematories at any minute. She had a very deep struggle within herself knowing that if she didn't follow the order she would endanger her own life. She paced back and forth around the block, while we stood there very fearfully watching her struggles. All of a sudden her face lit up and she approached us and put two motherly hands on my shoulder and then my friends' shoulders, and said, “No, I won't give you to be destroyed. I will transfer you to the older people.”

She took us to the block of the older people and together with them we worked there with the shoes that were gathered in the camp. The factory was about 2 km away and every morning when we left for work there was a brass band that would play. All the musicians were Jewish and they used the band to make us more enthusiastic and to produce us with more energy for work. This was one way they used to hide the truth of what was going on here from the outside world. The same band would receive all the transports that were later sent straight to the crematorium. As soon as a train would transport the people who were sent directly to die, they would start playing and singing Jewish afrailaks or a German march as if a very respected person were arriving. Once in a while the transport people would be very surprised and started feeling some hope until the crematorium gate would open and swallow them forever. The transport would arrive filled with people, old, young, babies, women… day after day in front of our eyes and the crematorium' smokestacks kept billowing smoke day and night, night and day. Anyone who experienced it in his eyes and in his blood can't ever be like other people again. Even if he survives by some lucky coincidence, there is no way it can ever be forgotten.

As days passed our feelings gradually became numbed. The cruelty and the abyss of death that stood with open mouth ready to swallow us at any minute were overwhelming. We began to ignore this more and more, there was a freezing of all feeling, but even during the period of feeling frozen alive that took control of us, once in a while something would still shake us to our core. One morning we went to work as usual to the playing of the band. At the head walked the Commandant Maria, a German woman known for her cruelty, who once in a while would beat us with her rubber bat on the head of one woman or another, and yell, “Sing, Jews!” And we would do as she ordered. All of a sudden, one of the death trains passed by us, which was a very common sight at Auschwitz, and without paying much attention I lifted my eyes and saw behind one of the barred windows, a very young woman dressed in her wedding dress with a veil on her head as if she had just been kidnapped from under the canopy of her wedding party. She stood there very, very pale, with two big eyes and a panicked yet curious look. My frozen heart all of a sudden started beating faster, and I started shaking. My eyes started tearing with pity for her, for her and for all of us. All of a sudden I felt the whip hitting my back and a scream, “Juden, singen!” It was the voice of our Maria and I sang…

In November of 1944 we were transferred to another camp in Auschwitz. When they walked us to the new camp, it was in the direction where we knew stood a special block for women on whom they did experiments, Block #10. Once in a while we would see these women and they always walked around very pale and like ghosts they were practically fainted-looking and lifeless. Very few of them survived their ordeal and the ones who did ended up physically damaged for the rest of their days. So when they took us we could see the block and we became very fearful they were taking us there, but then they turned and took us to a nearby block. Here they opened up a sewing enterprise and we started working there in the night shift.

Every morning when we returned from work they would hold a roll call in front of the Commandant, which always took a long time, and only after that were we allowed to go to our barracks to sleep. One day they woke us up for a special roll call. When we came out we saw that near our block a stage was put up and on both sides of the stage were two posts with nooses. They did a roll call of eight thousand people. The head of the camp made a speech, pointing to the gallows and said that this would be the fate of each one who is in the camp. On the stage they brought two young Jewish girls, one by the name of Rozka Robota and her friend. They walked with their heads high, straight to the gallows. All they were able to say was, “Revenge!” before the executioner put their heads in the nooses and pulled them, dropped the trap door. We were forced to stand there and look at them until it was over.

When we were finally let go to our barracks, I put my head deep in the sack (which served as a pillow) so I could take away the horrible sight, but it just kept coming to me. The heads of the two women who were hanged. And what was their crime? We were told that they had worked in a factory for explosives where a few guys also worked, and they were able to take out a little explosive material from the factory, which they transferred to Jewish people working in the crematorium to blow up the place. It's true that we did hear one day the sound of explosives. As we found out, there was only a small amount of damage done to the crematorium, but they had to pay with their lives after the Germans investigated and found out all the Jews who were involved in this action.

In the camp there were also Jewish women who were used as clerks. Amongst them were some who were called Die Lauprines. They were like messengers. Their job was to transfer orders from place to place. Since the job required communication with the Germans, they were dressed better and they got a little more food, and they had a special block. Their block was named by us the Block of the Nobility. Amongst these women was one by the name of Mali .One day she disappeared from the camp. Together with her disappeared a German soldier who we heard was a Communist. After looking for them two weeks, the SS found them in a restaurant about 20 km away from the camp.

We never found out what we did to the soldier (though we can imagine), but the Jewish woman Mali was brought to the camp. Once again they called us out to stand outside, and once again there was a stage and next to it gallows. And once again we heard the head of the camp make a speech about what they would do to us, and before he was done with his speech, the Jewish woman Mali who stood next to the gallows surrounded by soldiers, took out a razor and started slashing her wrists. We saw her blood spilling on the ground, and she continued making cuts, screaming, “I will not die by your filthy hands!” She even had a chance to push and slap one of the Germans and then she fell, fainting.

It's hard to describe the shock of the Germans who were there. Immediately they took her from there while everyone was standing in shock, until they released us to go back to our barracks.

We were in constant fear of selection, and it was enough that someone had some kind of rash. Any rash and we would be in absolute panic that they would see it and take us to the crematorium.

As the front came near Auschwitz in the beginning of 1945, we were taken to the Camp Rabinsbruch in Germany. It was in the midst of winter, and in the distance of hundreds of km we did in foot. The only personal supply that they gave us was a blanket, which we used at night. At any place where we arrived we would lie down two by two and cover ourselves with two blankets. But the winter was so cold that many died on the way. The ones who could still walk would walk on top of many frozen bodies. Thousands were walking and after a week of walking, only a few hundred reached Rabinsbruch. Here we were put in huge, dark, and depressing barracks and from there we were not sent to work anymore. For days we were just lying on the wooden bunks in those barracks and we conversed only about one thing. “Will we be lucky enough to get out of here alive and to see the day of peace that must be coming very near?” We somehow knew that the German defeat would be total. We knew it and the Germans did admit to it; you saw it in their faces, but still they didn't let us go.

Today I know that at the beginning of 1945 the whole world was planning to celebrate the day of peace and all of us were still under deep horrible fear and we still saw the sword hanging over our heads and threatening to kill us. Even here in Rabinsbruch there was a crematory, and since they didn't send us to work we were very fearful we came here for one purpose, and that we would be sent to the crematory at the last minute. But somehow it didn't happen.

The Allies came very near. We were transferred to Malhof a camp near Berlin, and this was an open camp, like a big ranch, but very crowded. We got very little food and everything was disorganized. We were there a very short time as the Allies drew nearer and we could hear explosions nearby. They took us Tauha, and other places; until we were released they kept us on the road to unknown places. It was as if the soldiers guarding us had no idea what to do with us.

It was already April of 1945, the spring was in full bloom and forests were all blossoming. We saw the rich, beautiful nature of the country of the Germans, may evil come to them always. But we were just exhausted. I walked with my eyes practically shut and I was lifeless and a friend of mine carried me. We continued walking with no aim it seemed, for about two weeks. No food was given to us. We just ate whatever we found in the forest. Once in a while we were even able to cook something since we had a few containers from whatever we found in the forest. The ones who had a little more energy and courage escaped in the forest and our numbers became less and less every day.

Also, the Germans who guarded us kept disappearing. They ran away too. The ones who were still guarding us were in constant fear of falling into the hands of the Russians or Americans. The situation was almost tragicomic. When the explosions became worse and worse, they would practically hide under our dresses. The pandemonium grew and the regime that had held us in a tight vise seemed to be crumbling before our eyes in a total defeat.

Even though the situation was hopeless for them, some of the soldiers would still shoot at any of us who would lift something while walking, to eat. Even on those last days, many of us still died on the way, and then one morning, it was the 25th of April, a date that was deeply engraved/inscribed in my head, we found ourselves with no guards. As dawn came in the forest we saw only one German soldier. He was shaking as if he was a leaf in a storm. He let us know that 2 km west of here we would find Americans, and 2 km near Leipzig we would find the Russians. He announced, “You are free, and you can go where ever you want. To the Russians or to the Americans.” He ended it by suggesting we should go to the Americans. At first we didn't believe him. We thought he was crazy. But when he realized we didn't trust him, he approached us again, “If you promise that you won't shoot me, I'll take you myself to the American camp.”

So we promised him and walked to some German village. The villagers received us very happily and very graciously. They cooked food for us and gave us milk and after a short rest we left the village and soon we found the Americans in front of us.

Finally.


[pp. 168-170]

For my brother Zalman Dudman Dudayi
the son of Aron-Zvi and Miriam Dudman

Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan and Gil Benjamin Villa

My brother was born in Vilna on August 12, 1925. He was educated in Vishnevo and had a very tough childhood. When he was 7-1/2 he lost his mother, and in 1936 he immigrated with his father to Israel. His education was in a children's home in Ramatgan;, from there he studied in Bilu in Tel Aviv and from there he went to the agricultural school in Mikva Israel. When he finished his studies in 1942, he joined the Palmach (the army). Everyone loved him; both the people who commanded him and the people he commanded. Since he was honest and easygoing and brave, he went through every dangerous situation with modesty.

In 1945 he was released from the Palmach and returned to Tel Aviv, but continued participating in defense missions. 1946 was a very important year. I arrived in Israel, his only sister who survived the Holocaust. It had been ten years since we had seen one another. Ten awful, dark years for me. The first meeting symbolically was in the dark. Maybe he chose it so he wouldn't see the tears that kept coming. The meeting was very special. We spoke the entire night as if a dam had been opened, so was his heart and his soul opened all of a sudden. Since that day we were very, very loving and close to one another. Here for the first time he told me that he wanted to have a large family with many children and to fill their lives with love.

He always tried to hide his activities in the Chagana, which was dangerous, so I won't try to stop him. During those days he continued his education and in the evening he would go to the university in Tel Aviv. He was especially interested in botany. He was planning to go to the US to continue his studies, but fate dealt him another hand. One day he was stopped by the British and sent to Rafia. After a month he was released but now his dream of studying had to be delayed. As a member of the Palmach, he immediately, with the first troubles in 1942, volunteered for service. He had excellent military skills and took part in the Battle of Yazu, and later on would take missions to protect the food that was sent to Jerusalem when the city was blockaded. When the road was closed he found himself without much to do. He transferred himself to a special brigade that fought in the area of Haifa. His spirit was very good until his last days.

Defending his country filled his whole being, but it seems that just before the last battle he felt something as if his heart told him that these were his last hours. The entire night he talked with his commander, telling him about his childhood, about his mother's face that he remembered less and less, about his little sister that just returned from hell, from Auschwitz; and how he must support her and be a friend and advisor to her. The next day, on the 15th of April, 1948, he was at the head of the brigade that fought to free Haifa.

It was a very tough battle. They fought from house to house, and finally when it seemed like Haifa was freed, he was shot and killed. That day he was brought to his eternal rest to a military cemetery in Haifa. His death was a terrible shock to his father, his relatives, and all his friends, and to me, his only sister who for a short time had light in my life. I met my brother again, and when this light darkened, days of mourning without salvation came.


[pp. 170-171]

Near the Grave of Our Brothers

By Noah Podbersky

Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan

As soon as we returned from the forest as the war concluded, we stood somberly by the brotherly tomb that contained the bones of our dear ones, and our hearts anguished as if mountains of sorrow were pressing upon them. Echoes of the lament of the tormented, and the throes of the demised, our beloved who were snatched to be slaughtered and plowed in your earth, reverberate for generations to come, Vishnevo.

The blood of our sisters and brothers is crying to us from your land. "Vow!" shout beloved people and shudder the nations of the world, “reiterate and incessantly disclose, so the mother earth will never forget the deeds of the executioners (hangmen); that the world will never forget what was done us”. Will they recall? Will the world retain it? Do the ones who are provided on this day a knife in their grasp think this in their heart?

Vishnevo, one of thousands of Jewish shtetls that the foe, may his name be erased from all memory, pulled out from its roots; the enemy that shattered you on its way to conquer the world. Here on this narrow footpath, Kerve Street, whose name is emblematic of its essence, the concourse of blood. The Nazis pushed and shoved the next of kin of our kindred while they were bewildered, numbed and almost deceased. They took their last steps holding hands and saying, "Shma Israel." Hero Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.

And here, at the edge of Kerve Street across from you, near the wall of the unfinished building, the wild brutes who feigned to be mankind, put their victims, rows behind rows with their faces to the bulwark. They commanded the beloved to crawl on their knees and here they shot their necks, one after the other and discarded them in the fire. Numerous of them jolting between life and death, and another yet alive. It's a summer day, the world radiant all around us and the sun shining and flowers all shimmering, encompassing us in multitudes of colors; and my heart is dwelling on the ice cap.

The Nazi torment terminated. We too, took certain revenge. But who can meliorate from the torment that the remnants experienced? The vestiges that lost everything that they cherished. Who will heal their wounds? The laceration of the ones who walk here, isolated with everlasting anguish in their hearts? With a grief that nevermore will be assuaged, with heavy hearts, we departed the ossuary and forever said goodbye to our dear ones. How long will this grave linger in its plot? A year? Two years? And then this land would be plowed and all things would be as if it never arose. Hush, my heart. Alive.

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