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[Page 589]

Partisans - Volozhiners who died in battle

By Hessl Perski

Translated by M. Porat

Edited by Judy Feinsilver Montel

Yishayahu Bernsteyn

Bernstein was born in Volozhin on 1920, son to Avraham and Rivka. He was a hand worker like his parents. The Nazis enclosed him in the Ghetto. He escaped when the the Jews were conducted to the second Aktion. He was caught and brought to the Krasne Ghetto. The Germans stored arms in this Ghetto. Bernstein organized a group together with Tsvi Lunin, Eliezer Rogovin and Mordkhay Kaganovitsh. They began to accumulate arms and to hide them. They succeeded in running away with the arms. The partisan unit which they wanted to join refused to receive them and tried to take their arms. The group did not agree and fought the greedy unit. Finally they organized an independent Jewish partisan unit which was named “ Staritski Otriad”.

Yishayahu was dominated by one sole purpose - to avenge the enemies for the innocent blood. I did not meet him right away. He spent entire days in ambush; he planted mines on the German soldiers' ways. He fell when blowing up a bridge. Not far from the bridge a German post was situated about which Yishayahu did not know. The Germans began shooting at him. He defended himself shooting back at them. He drowned in the river when his ammunition came to an end.


[Page 590]

Miryam Goloventshits

Miryam Goloventshits Miryam was born in 1923 in Volozhin to Leyzer and Beyla. She ran with her parents to Bielokorets hamlet when the Germans occupied Volozhin. There Miryam joined a partisan unit by the name of Stalin.

She was ordered to mobilize additional members to the unit from the Volozhin Ghetto. There the Germans forced her to work in their kitchen. At work Miryam overheard a woman telling a German soldier that she had been sent by the partisans. Knowing they expected her, Mirele Goloventshitz caught a cleaver and crushed his skull.

The day afterwards, Mireleh Goloventshits' body was found near the Kostiol (Polish church) in the market place.

Translator's note: The Goloventshits house with their haberdashery store was located on the other side of the Minsker Street, the street where we lived. The Goloventshits girls learned in the same school in which I learned, Frumke a class lower, Mirele a class higher. Miryam Goloventshits was a real beauty and a very talented girl. She certainly was one of the most beautiful young ladies of Volozhin.


Tsvi – Hirshl Lunin

Tsvi - Hirshl Lunin with his sisters Tsviya and Nekhama

Tsvi – Hirshl Lunin with his sisters Tsviya and Nekhama

Hessl Perski, a renowned partisan describes Volozhin born Partisans who fell with their weapons, among them Tsvi (Hirshke) Lunin, R' Isroel Lunin's son.

Tsvi was born in Volozhin in 1921, son of Isroel and Sheyna Lunin. He ran away from the Volozhin Ghetto. He was caught by the Germans and brought to the Krasne Ghetto. There he worked for a while and was able to buy a rifle. He ran away once more, this time to the partisans. Hirshl joined the unit named Staritski. He was entrusted with the dangerous duty of following German movements and mining their vehicles.

Hirshl, at the head of a Partisan unit, penetrated into Ivianits (20 Km. south of Volozhin). They fought a bloody battle against the garrison and drove the Germans away from the shtetl. Once he was sent with a partisan group to accomplish sabotage acts in the Nalibok forest near Volozhin. The detachment stumbled across a German ambush. During the fight all the partisans were killed. Hirsh remained the sole survivor. He defended himself until the last bullet. In his last fight he was severely wounded. Tsvi-Hirsh Lunin passed away on March 8, 1943.


[Page 591]

Yosef Sklut

Yosef was born on 1915 in the Mijeyki hamlet. He was imprisoned in the Volozhin Ghetto from which he was transferred to the Krasne labor camp. He gathered arms and ran away into the woods. Yosef became a partisan in the Tshkalov Brigade. He was not able to excel in battle, because shortly after joining his unit he was killed by the Unit. And such was the true story. Yosef went to Mijeyki to take his clothes which he had left at his gentile neighbor's house. The gentile peasant complained before the Commissar that Yosef robbed him of his vestments and that now he had nothing to wear. Yossef's self justifications were of no help. The Commissar did believe the peasant. Yosef was shot by the commander in front of the unit.


Mordekhay Kaganovitsh

Mordekhay was born in Volozhin on 1910, son to Zalman and Lea. He was among the first Volozhin partisans. Mordekhay mobilized many Jews to partisan units. He belonged to the Stalin unit, which fought in the Nalibok forests. He fell in battle near the shtetl Baksht in the Bielybiereg hamlet on February 20th 1943 on his way to carry out a mission.


[Page 592]

Our post war visiting Volozhin

By Rachel & Reuven Rogovin

Translated by M. Porat

Edited by Judy Feinsilver Montel

We left Tadzhikistan and came to live in Riga in 1946, and from there we went to visit Volozhin. From the beginning we found out that we had nothing, but completely nothing, to see. Volozhin, the Jewish shtetl did not exist more. I recalled Bialik's “Look around, my friend. Upon your heart are ruins, only ruins”.

On the first day we met our friend Roman Horbatshevski. He told us; with tears in his eyes that being concealed behind a fence he had seen the shtetl Jews going to their deaths. They walked silently, as if they were ignorant of where they were going. “Tell me, Mr. Rogovin, why did they accept the verdict, why did they not resist?” I left the question without an answer.

After some days we met an old friend Mr. Katovitz the orthodox priest from Losk. He was really glad to see us and could not hide the joy that he was privileged to see us alive. He invited us to our common friend the priest Salizh, who asked for the second time the previous question: “Why did they not resist?”

This time I could not restrain myself and answered his question asking other questions:

You don't understand why the Jews did not resist? And the fact that of four million Red Army captives only 3% survived? And why did the Soviet Communists and Commissars that were captured by the Nazis not show any sign of resistance? They knew for sure that they would be exterminated, why did they not fight for life? And the thousands of Polish Officers that were murdered by the Soviet NKVD in the Katyn forest, - why did they not resist? Do you understand it? The answer, your holiness you might receive only from the holy martyrs that were terrorized, humiliated, famished by the Nazis and not only abandoned but usually hunted by their gentile neighbors.

This conversation spoiled even more our gloomy state of mind and we went to the Jewish Grave Yard, in which our dearest were buried. We saw the big common graves. They looked like small grass covered hills. A committee investigating the Nazi crimes was active in Volozhin at the time of our visit there. A grave was opened. Woe to the eyes that saw it. We looked at the murdered. Despite that the flesh was shed from the bodies, we could still recognize some of our friends. We have no words to describe it. For this reason it would be better not to rub the wounds and not add to our already unsupportable pain. We mention a trifle of the hell we have seen and we leave the reader to imagine it. But no matter how horrible one imagines it to be, it would not resemble the dreadful reality our eyes have seen looking at the remains of the Jews of Volozhin Jews.

We visited Volozhin again prior to our Aliya to Israel in 1958. And we went again to look at the common grave. Time had diminished the tomb. The hill sank as though it had been swallowed by the abyss. Our brothers' blood had leaked into the very depths of the earth. But to our sorrow it did not leave any sign and did not overthrow the world's foundations. Life went on as if nothing had occurred. Pigs were burrowing inside the graves of the last Volozhin congregation members, the congregation that lived there for five hundred years. Our mourning of them should never end.


[Page 593]

Volozhin as I saw it in 1945

By Moshe Eliyashkevitsh

Translated by M. Porat

Edited by Judy Feinsilver Montel

MoysheYoodl Eliyashkevitsh  - 1965

MoysheYoodl Eliyashkevitsh - 1965

I returned to Volozhin in June 1945. The first night I spent under the open sky. I did not know who had survived and in which house I could find a Jew. The town was ruined.

The destruction was frightful. The fear rose at night. It seemed to me that each stone screamed to the heart of the heavens. In the morning I went to the cemetery. I will never forget my visit in this holy place, where Yeshiva heads and prodigious leaders were buried in under stone lodges to rest in peace. All was turned into ruined hills. The tombs from the First World War were also destroyed. The local robbers, damned be their name, spared nothing. They broke the tomb-stones into pieces and pilfered them to build houses and to pave their courts.

On the second day I went again to the graveyard. Cows, sheep and other animals pastured on the Graves of the Volozhin Jews and among them of Rabbi Hayim's.

I encountered some survivors, fire brands of the magnificent Congregation: Shayke Lavit, Motl Mlot, Mendl Volkovitsh, Mendl Bakshter, Kopl Kagan, Zelig Dunie's and the Sklut brothers.

I went to see what remained of the town. The Yeshiva building stood in its place, of the three synagogues nothing remained. I could not find a place to pray. There was not a sign of a Hebrew word. I went to Vilna to buy a Prayer Book with phylacteries (I guard the Book with me till now).

I encountered gentiles my schoolmate “ friends”. They did not show any penitence. On the contrary, they asked me: What? You survived? I seemed to be superfluous in their eyes, as a creature without right to have a place in this world.

All the days I walked in the Volozhin streets I was in a secret fear. I was not afraid of the Gentiles, of the local robbers and assassins. The army years, the fights with the Nazis had forged and strengthened my soul and body. But I was afraid of our Kehila's Holy Souls. I walked again to the common brothers' grave on the cemetery. But approaching the place I fainted.

When I woke up, I saw a local Goy standing over me. He asked what I was doing there and drove me away.

I was not able to see more of the heart breaking horror places. Everywhere I stepped I heard voices of crying and lamenting. I'm still waiting with the other voices for God's voice of compensation payments to our murderers and robbers.

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