At that time I had a work permit as foreman and mechanic, employed by the city's electric company. I installed radios in the homes of German high-ranking officials, repaired those that were out of order, kept the telephones of the SS and Gestapo in condition, even repairing the telephones of the telephone "experts." All the German high officials knew me. I had received my work-permit from Obermeister Lengel, and on it was printed permission for me to go about the city and environs during holidays, Sundays, in the evenings, and other curfew times. It was not easy to get such a permit from the Nazis. My Gentile neighbors regarded me with respect, as an "intimate" of the authorities, and a privileged person. I did not make use of my privileges at all. Never at any time. My beloved family did not let me go out in the daytime, and certainly not at night, warning me that I might meet up with a drunken Nazi hoodlum, who upon seeing my yellow patch, would harm me. Possibly my devoted family was right.
I went out to find out what was going on and to find out the reason why the Jewish police had warned us all to stay home. What lay in wait for us now? But I returned almost immediately, for I had seen armed Gestapo men running through the streets, together wiuth their bloodthirsty comrades, the Lithuanian killers. It was easy to guess what was happening: "ACTION." In order to protect the population from epidemics, contagious diseases and other illnesses, the Nazis had issued a decree that all old and sick as well as crippled Jews should be shot. The local German soldiers were given a free hand to stretch the law as they saw fit. That was all they needed. The wild mad-dog Hitler fiends stretched the law and intensified it, in every possible way. They shot Jews--men and women, young and healthy, if at the moment they didn't have their permits with them; if they found an error in the passports or other documents, or if the face of the Jew displeased them. They ran from house to house, searching all the rooms, looking under beds, and in the beds. Woe to the Jewish man or woman who could not get out of bed that day. They were shot then and there. Thirty-five men and women, innocent victims, were slain on that fatal day.
Among the martyrs, I remember the following: Mone TASHMAVSKY, unknown to me; Leah PUPKO, wife of Joseph PUPKO; Rebecca (?) of Konvelishak; Hannah KAPLAN of Wilno; Liebe LANDA, wife of Mordecai LANDA, Saletchnik; Joshua LEVINE, tailor, from Biniakan; The Mute, from Diveneshak . The others from Woronowa and provinces, not know. The Jews who had false papers were also slain. As is known, a small number of Jews had gotten Aryan papers, which enabled them to live outside the ghetto, until they were betrayed. The Jew with such papers was shot together with his whole family. One of the martyrs that day was the unknown young man called Stanislaw WOLMAN, a doctor, who lived in Wilno at Bosatchkawe 18. He had been in prison in Woronow, and had been told beforehand that he would die. On the back of his photograph he had written his name and family, address, the date and place where he was shot. A moment before his execution he tossed the photograph out of his pocket. He lies buried in a mass grave with thirteen others in the Woronow Cemetery. That terrible day will remain forever graven in the memories of the survivors of Woronowa.
By means of various tricks, chicanery, hoaxes, the crafty Nazis cheated the Jews out of their belongings, their valuables such as gold and jewelry, and in the end lured them into a trap, and after long days and nights of tortures, murdered them together with their families. The Nazis spread a rumor that the German industrial enterprises need skilled workers, craftsmen and artisans, who would be well paid and could come and go as they chose. Tens of thousands of Jews from the outlying towns rushed to apply for work. The Nazis used the same tactics in the ghetto. They sent in false witnesses who had so-called "true" letters from Jews who were now in White Russian territory, describing the good life they were enjoying, with plenty of food and freedom. The desperate ghetto Jews were lured into the trap. The truth was, that the Jews who had left were in many cases massacred. There were some among us who warned against the Nazi swindle, agitating Jews to organize, arm themselves, and go into the forest to resist the enemy and fight to the last. Unfortunately, these agitators were few and their urging fell on deaf ears. The infamous Germans, from the first moment of occupation, struck roots among the Jewish populace. With their devilish promises they lured more and more of us to death.
Almost all of Lithuanian Jewry had by that time been liquidated. The next-in-line were our neighboring towns of Diveneshok, Soletchnik, Biniakan, Konvelishak and others. The Jews of these towns tried various expedients to become residents of our so-called White Russian community of Woronowa in the belief that it would be spared the fate of the Lithuanian towns. A drowning man grasps at a straw....
A delegation from these towns was sent to confer with the Hanveg, regional commissar of Lida--and his Chief of Staff, Windisch. The delegation was as follows: LIEB; Hirsh SCHMID; YUTAN; and KOTLIAR from Diveneshok; Katriel RABINOWITCH from Biniakan; Samson LEMELMAN from Soletchnik; Aaron ROGOW from Konvelishak, and others. Hanveg and Windisch were bribed with a large sum of money, plus gold and other valuables. They gave Jews permission from the above towns to re-settle in Woronowa.
On a bleak, frosty, winter day in December Jews from the towns of Diveneshok, Konvelishak, Soletchnik, Biniakan, Yashin left their homes--the homes where they had lived for many years, which their ancestors had built with so much toil, sweat and devotion, over which the Angel of Death had now spread his black wings and was sowing death and destruction--and wandered to another place, which also threatened their lives, over which also hovered horror, cruelty, pain, terror and persecution. We welcomed our unfortunate brothers and sisters with open arms, shared with them our food and our homes, did not care that their arrival forced us to live in cramped quarters. During the meeting with Hanweg and Windlisch to prevail on them to allow Jews to resettle in Woronowa, these Nazis said to us: "In case it becomes too crowded in Woronowa, and the laws of cleanliness are not observed, there will be an Action in which the old, the sick, and children will be liquidated." They did not actually use the word "liquidated." What they said was "Aussiedlen" --"Resettled"--which means Death. They were assured that the women of Woronowa kept spotless homes, and there would be no epidemics. Then they granted the request.
The anguish of the resettled Jews was indescribable. Their faces reflected the specific pain that Jews have always suffered, all the grief, isolation and ruin that has been our fate. We all wept when we welcomed them. We comforted them, saying that from now on their fate was automatically linked with ours. From this moment on we all shared the same rights. We encouraged them, urged them not to lose hope, in the belief that ultimately the rule of evil would be destroyed, and we would be privileged to see the salvation of the Jews.
The Jews were overwhelmed by a psychotic obsession to secure themselves with a good "place" to work, to be employed by a high ranking Hitler official, or at least a civil servant. A small number of our boys and girls managed to get jobs in the SS, Gestapo, commandant, group leaders, etc. It was very advantageous to work as a foreman, servant to a civilian official of lesser rank, or at worst for a Gentile policeman. These policemen were usually recruited from the town's peasant underworld, drunkard and thugs. In the past, they were identified as follows: "There goes the son of Yeroshka the drunkard. That's the grandson of Arainke the thief. Klemke the shepherd's son-in-law." It was for these degenerates, now Nazi policeman, that a dignified Jew, starting from the rabbi, synagogue warden, communal leader, respected householder, down to the poor working Jewhad to take off his hat twenty meters away.
When, on a foggy day, Meyer GAL did not remove his hat upon meeting the policeman--Yeroshke's son--the latter, together with a group of his cronies, the unfortunate Meyer was hauled into police headquarters and beaten so brutally that he had to spend a month in bed, unable to move. Such incidents occurred several times a week. The "insubordinate" Jew was savagely punished, and to top it off, in order not to be betrayed to the Gestapo, had to provide the policeman with a pair of new boots or a suit of clothing. The Jewish Police were not spared either. Without so much as a "by your leave" they would be thrashed by the police hoodlums. In general the power of the Jewish Police (Ordnungsdienst) was limited, minimal, and their authority was insignificant. Their main function was to supply the Nazi authorities with the required quota of workers; various tools, supplies, and furniture; and see to it that the rules of cleanliness were enforced, taxes were paid, and to keep the Jewish populace informed about the cruel edicts, laws, and sudden "searches." After "liberating" the Jews from their horses and livestock, they also freed them from the obligation of worrying about "transport" and supplying meat to the authorities. Despite the weak influence and helplessness of the Jewish functionary and policeman, a large number of Jewish young men were eager to join the Jewish police force, which was a voluntary service. However, the Judenrat was very cautious about the credentials of the applicants, and thoroughly investigated their background: and past activities. For this reason the young men of the Jewish police force were usually recruited from the upper strata of society.
The Jewish Ordnungsdienst had its own court, so that Jewish disputes would not fall into the hands of the Gentiles. The judge was the young attorney from Divenishak--Moshe LUBETSKI. From time to time we heard disturbing tales from neighboring cities, that the treacherous Jewish police informs on our unhappy Jews, their brethren, the so-called "strangers" blackmail their victims, and it is whispered that they have surrendered thousands of Jews to be murdered by the Nazis. And, above all, it was confirmed that they hindered the glorious Partisan Defense Movement. In many Jewish towns the Jewish police were open visitors of their people, perpetrating criminal, lawless deeds. They were the cause of thousands of innocent lives being lost, and of great moral and material suffering.
On the other hand, the Jewish police of Woronowa maintained top ethical and moral standards and behavior. They worked for the benefit of the Jewish population; maneuvered cleverly in threatening situations; respected by the Jews. ZALBERG, the Chief of the Jewish Police; his spokesman Isaac OLKENITSKI and their assistant Moshe SALZ of Divenishak were always tactful, always ingenious, and we could rely on them in times of peril for our sometimes helpless Judenrat.
When for example Chaim DUBOIANSKY or Chaim the Mute's son, volunteered for the Jewish Police he received a firm "no." in reply. Chaim always caused trouble for us at work. He sabotaged our efforts, broke tools, hindered us in every way, so that the jobs which the Nazis ordered should not be completed. We sent him away and did his share of the work.
Once we were working together with Chaim on the estatecalled Stanova of the lord Partasewicz. Chaim decided to set fire to the property. He was concerned mainly with destroying the dairy, which supplied butter, cream, and milk to all the German hospitals in our region. We were afraid of the consequences, and stopped him from executing his plan. Recently, the Judenrat refused to get work for him. He carried two loaded revolvers in his pockets, and sometimes, on his way to and from work in the forest, he would fire into the air --just for fun. He urged us to organize for the defense against the invaders, and was ready to supply us all with firearms. He urged us to form a partisan group of fighters against the barbarous Nazis. "Come to the forest, brothers!" he cried. "I will supply you with everything you need. The peasants will give our families food and shelter. If not..." he pointed to the firearms, "they will die! I have some friends among the Gentiles who have buried a whole arsenal of arms. We will organize. We will kill any Gentile who refuses to give us his ammunition....Don't wait any longer, now is the time. Come to the forest...They plan to kill us, we'll die anyway. First,the Jews from Wilno, then from Lida, and now us...Our permits won't save us. We'll have our own partisan group, all the firearms we need. We'll terrorize the Gentiles, they will wash our feet and drink the water...Come, boys, let's organize. We'll attack the Hitler troop transports and destroy them....we'll blow up bridges, barricade the roads, destroy all communications.
We'll ruin everything the Nazi need...Let us avenge the blood of our brothers, defend Jewish honor, and if we must die, let's do it with dignity, like heroes, and not go like sheep to the slaughter. Come, before it's too late!" To our misfortune, we didn't listen to Chaim DUBLIANSKY's heated appeal and call to sacrifice. We had no faith; we were skeptical of his idealism.
During the early days of the occupation we did not believe, were unable to imagine, did not want to imagine, that the bestial, degenerate Nazis would mercilessly massacre innocent people, old people, women and infants only for committing the crime of being a "Jew." Later on, when the bitter truth was brought home in reality, when we witnessed the atrocities of the destructive beast, we decided to repay blood with blood, bloodshed for bloodshed. Masses of Jews ran to the forest, organized partisan groups, attacked the enemy, killed many of his men and avenged Jewish bloodshed.
Prosperous Jews, envying Jews from the big cities, emulated them by obtaining Aryan papers for large sums of money...but they did not use them. They could not take advantage of them because they did not speak fluent Polish and did not have the lordly, big-city manners that could have helped them pull it off. If they were caught, it would have been disastrous. They spent stressful days and sleepless nights until they got the "lucky" document, but once they had it they didn't know where to hide it. They would conceal it under the ceiling, in the attic, pushed it in the stove or under the floor.
Chaim DUBLIANSKY didn't rest. He kept warning us. "Cowards! Come to the forest, they're going to kill you anyway if you stay here. You are goners! Have pity on your precious children. Save them. My wife doesn't want to go to the forest with the children by herself. Come, I'll get you all the supplies you need. We'll be a strong force and ruin the Nazis!" We didn't pay any attention to Chaim, the former safecracker, black market dealer, trader of stolen horses, who had a prison record of fifteen years. Not one person gave him any moral support to his courageous, promising, full-blooded plan.
"After all," we said, "he'll bring down a catastrophe on us and our families. If the SS finds out we are done for." At that time, we had no leaders who could influence us and convince us, make clear to us our fatal destiny, so that we would have no other recourse but to look for a way to save ourselves. Many, many more of us would have survived! The Nazis would have suffered many losses. We laughed at Chaim's sincerity. Worse, cast them off like poison. We would not let him speak. Let the survivors, the remnants, judge him and hand down a verdict about Chaim's idealistic goal. There is no doubt we could have done wonders and saved a large portion of our people. We did not listen, and fooled ourselves. Shortly after he died.
The Nazis issued a decree that Jews must bring to their state bank all their gold, jewels, precious articles, silver, money, foreign currency. For disobeying--death. A Jew was forbidden to possess more than three hundred Russian rubles. The Jews of Woronowa obeyed. They sacrificed a part of their belongings. A gentile neighbor of Chaim DUBLIANSKY informed the SS that he had hidden a gold watch, which he carries in his wallet. Two infamous police hoodlums visited Chaim DUBLIANSKY, and demanded the gold watch. Chaim pointed to the door, saying: "You, together with Hitler and all the other Nazis will lie swollen for a long, long time before you get any gold watches from me." That was all that was needed. A resounding slap echoed in the air. Unafraid, Chaim seized one of their rifles and beat them with the butt over their vile heads. Then he threw them, bleeding, into the street. A crowd gathered. Chaim vanished. The SS arrested his wife and three children, and announced that if Chaim doesn't show up within twenty four hours his family would be slain. That evening Chaim appeared before the SS. His family was freed.
The SS knocked out all of Chaim's teeth in the Woronow jail, then transported his half-dead, massacred body to Lida. It was said that he committed suicide by cutting his wrists with a razor blade that he had found by accident. His wife immediately found out about his death. Thus ended the life of the heroic revenge-seeker Chaim DUBLIANSKY. His oldest son recited a heart-rending Kaddish. Obviously his father had taught him the holy prayers, had reared him as a Jew. Satan seemed to hover over Chaim's family, for they also suffered a tragic end. On May 1st, 1942, in the morning, a group of SS and police broke into the home of Chaim's wife, on the pretext that she showed them the belongings in the closet, cellar, attic and barn. She showed them the dresses in her closet and then walked ahead of them down to the cellar to surrender her possessions. On the fourth step a well-aimed SS bullet struck her dead. Her still-sleeping children were dragged out by their shirts into the courtyard and shot. When the still-breathing children and their mother were being carried to the cemetery, to their eternal rest, the entire sidewalk was drenched with their innocent, holy blood. Every Jew who watched this sight, cried out in his heart: MAY THE EARTH NOT COVER THEIR BLOOD!
With aching hearts we looked at our children. We were constantly despondent and indecisive. Should we or should we not take our fate in our own hands and flee with our families to the woods? We were not aware of our approaching end; we did not realize at the time that our destruction was imminent, was rushing toward us. We were deluded by rumors, different versions of events.
"We are surrounded!" My pale, terrified wife Rashe came into the house. We are lost! The SS and the Police have surrounded the town!" It was the morning of May 8th, 1942. We ran to the windows and sure enough, our houses were surrounded by troops of SS and Gentile police. Our hearts began to pound; dark, awful, gloomy visions filled our minds. SS men ran about the streets; warned us not to leave our homes and not to stand by the windows. All workers were sent home or told not to come in. Because I had a permit, I could move about freely. I went to the electric works. An elderly SS man angrily commanded me to go home, because today or tomorrow was our doomsday, our day of reckoning. Nobody is allowed to be outside. When I asked what it was all about, he told me there would be a strict check of all documents. Some Jew-communist-spies had run away from jail and they must be caught at any price. All Jews will be searched and controlled and segregated. The honest, industrious ones would be freed and the suspects would be shot. "How refined these Nazi fiends are," I thought. "They always manage to find an excuse. They are so adept at deception, that they have pulled the wool over the eyes of the world." I went home and told my family what had happened.
"What did you expect the Nazi to tell you?" said my sister-in-law Chane. "That they're going to shoot all the Jews?" Our Gentile neighbors, who had eaten our bread, worn our clothes, lived in our homes, now offered their services--every one of them--to the Nazi killers. All the Gentiles organized spontaneously against us, and could hardly wait for the moment when we would be annihilated. These German "servants" were greedy for Jewish possessions, houses, fields, clothing, furniture, etc. And their hopes were fulfilled. At the present time, there is not a trace of Jews in Woronowa. It is a usual reaction that in times of crisis one cannot think logically, but grasps at a straw, believing false assurances and deceptive promises. It was really remarkable. A day before the massacre, the Regional Commissar of Lida and his Chief of Staff called in the Judenrat, and told them there would be a thorough investigation of the Jewish populace; that the sick, the old, the weak and crippled would be shot because they were incapable of working. The Judenrat must prepare fifty liters of whiskey (first class) for the control-brigade and table settings for 250 men. For this "good news" they asked for five suits of clothing, five pairs of boots, and 50,000 Russian rubles. Within a half hour the clothing, shoes and money became available. Through the Judenrat, they told the Jews not to despair; and that the Fuehrer would save the world.
The Jews were overjoyed. They embraced and kissed, wept with happiness that only the sick, the crippled and the old would be shot. A large number of Jews and their families had been hiding in the bunkers the past few days since we had been surrounded. When they learned about this "joyous miracle", that only the sick, the old and the crippled would be slain, they all emerged from their hiding-places and dressed in the Sabbath garments to prepare for the ensuing march. Old men trimmed their beards dressed up as for a holiday in white collars; others shaved in order to look younger. Grandmothers adorned themselves, put on powder and cosmetics in order to look young and capable of working. As far as I remember, the following came out of their bunkers: Chaim Wolf RUDNIK, son of Elimelech RUDNIK, and family; Nahum KUZNETS (son of the driver Nahum) and family; Benjamin LEVINE and family; Meyer SHMERKOWITCH, son of Samuel HIRSH, by the river; Abraham EDELSTEIN, the miller, from Biniakan-Brazhets; the lacemaker Esther from Biniakan with son, daughter & grandchild; Abraham PUZEIRISKI and family; Israel DUBINSKI from Bastun, and family; Leah OLKENITSKI, wife of Moshe OLKENITSKI and two children; and Moshe'le KAGAN from Wishnewe. Of all these, the following survived the massacre: Meyer SHMERKOWITZ and his wife Nehama, the daughter of David; Lipe PUPKO. But they perished in Lida. The others all died in the massacre on May 11, 1942.
The "refined" criminals, the Regional Commissar of Lida and his Chief of Staff stationed two hundred peasants outside the town to dig a mass grave for the victims. Besides the two hundred that had been mobilized, one hundred peasant volunteered. These monsters, these "Yurkes" and "Petrukas" wanted to inherit the victims' clothes, shoes, coins and sometimes a gold piece.
Esther LICHTMAN, the wife of the president of the Lida Judenrat, was a boarder in my home. She was the sister of my brother-in-law Reuben and the daughter of Solomon Joseph EISHISHKI. Her husband, Alexander LICHTMAN and the entire Judenrat of Lida were brutally murdered toward the end of March, 1942, for allowing the so-called "aliens" from Wilno and Lithuanian provinces to take refuge in the ghetto. The members of the Lida Judenrat were: Attorney TSIDEROWISC; Attorney KERSHNER, Dr. PUPKO, and others. The honorable Alexander LICHTMAN had welcomed the "wandering martyrs", the Jews from Lithuania, to the Lida ghetto, had given them food, living quarters and clothing. He and his comrades paid dearly for rescuing these people, at least temporarily, from death, although death hovered over us all every moment. Mrs. LICHTMAN had two children, a daughter Shulamith and a son Hanina. On Sunday, the day before the massacre, the seven-year-old Hanina kept running to the clock on the wall, calculating how many hours we had left to live. When in the evening he found out that only the sick, old and crippled would be shot, he said: "Why should the sick be killed? I was sick, too, and then I got well. The Nazis have some nerve."
We exchanged glances, bit our lips; and tears filled our eyes. During the encirclement, we did not sleep at night. Monday morning, May 11, 1942, our whole family jumped out of bed, startled by the commotion of twelve trucks racing through the town. We saw SS men, Gestapo and Lithuanians hiding inside the trucks. They stopped in the marketplace and summoned the helpless Jewish police with their chief, ZALBERG, and made a speech, announcing that for the sake of the Fuehrer's victory, there must be an Action against the Jews. The Jewish police must assist them in every way. All Jews must be driven out of their homes, and beaten, nobody is to be spared because it is war; and the Nazis must win. After the Action, there will be peace. The Jewish Police must obey the commands, maintain discipline, be dignified and cooperative. They ran from house to house and drove all the Jews to the marketplace. We all went, in our holiday attire, dressed up, shaved, with clean faces. They lined us up. The urge to live is overpowering. My twelve-year-old son Eliezer, standing beside me, said to me: "Papa, why should I go to the marketplace? I'll run into the village, maybe friendly peasants will give me shelter if I work for them." With lightning speed he slipped out of line and stepped onto the sidewalk. The Nazis detained him, asked where he was going. He said he was a Pole and was going to his teacher. They believed him and let him pass. He reached the nearby village of Boyari one and a half kilometers from the town, where two armed Gentiles, volunteer policemen, stopped him. This police force consisted of various Gentile hoodlums, thieves, drunkards, knife-wielders, other underworld figures, who had been promised a share of Jewish property. Amateurs by the hundreds volunteered for the police force, ready to beat, torture and kill Jews. These two Gentiles knew my son and drove him back to the marketplace. "Today you belong in the marketplace, Zhidku (sheenie). Today you Jews will all be taken care of."
Every cloud has its silver lining. Those who had fled, who were wandering about, were found on the back roads and murdered. My son was returned to me and my wife;and I were happy to have him back with us. There were 2,700 men, women and children in the marketplace from Woronowa, Divenishak, Soletchnik, Biniakan and Konvelishak. We all sat on the ground, motionless. Of the rest of the Jews, about 500 had gone to the forest during the "encirclement" after paying large bribes. The others were hiding in bunkers in the town, in an attic or camouflaged cellar. Among them was our honored cantor-ritual slaughterer, Rabbi Judah KANAFKA with his wife and four daughters, who today live in Linz--the American Zone in Austria. We estimated that about 200 had hidden. In addition, a small percentage of Jews were at work in Bastuni, Stanova, Yanishvtsizne and in the forests at the time. Seventy-five men were at work at the time.
The marketplace was surrounded by countless Gestapo men, who in order to terrorize us and increase our panic, from time to time shot to death an adult or a child for allegedly rising from the ground and trying to escape. There were also machine-guns of various calibers. The Jews were ordered to sit motionless. The least move was punishable by death. The savage shouting, moaning, hubbub and shooting affected our already-weakened nerves. The tension was unbearable. Several groups of three hundred men, women and children, had already been herded to the place of execution, which was in the direction of Lida. On the way they had to undergo "segregation" by the murderous committee. Then they had to walk through two lines of Gestapo, SS, Lithuanians and police. The victims were beaten with rifle butts, poles, clubs and rubber whips. Every Jew in the death march was beaten, blooded, half-conscious. These unfortunates, our brothers and sisters, obeyed the commands of the fiends without protest and without resisting. As though paralyzed, they stumbled toward their graves. Some of the Jews in the marketplace, when their turn came to be driven to the death march, tried to retreat deeper and deeper into the crowd, so as to prolong their lives by just a few more minutes. But this "trick" did not succeed. They were not spared. The last-remaining groups were not even segregated. One of the senior officials howled: "Enough garbage"; and the Jew were driven to the execution place at full speed.
I cannot forget the faces of my Jewish neighbors: Isaac TROTSKY, the son of Jacob Moshe, with his wife and four children; Israel LEVINE of Konvelishak with his wife, son and daughter; Moshe LUBETSKI of Divenishak; Mrs. Shoshe CHARMATSCH of Biniakan with her two sons. The son of Isaac TROTSKY fled to the forest at night and joined the partisans. He died fighting the enemy at the end of 1943. All around me sat my neighbors, in a cold sweat, their eyes extinguished, as though the sun was no longer reflected in their eyes and no longer shone for them.
The Gestapo ordered families to group together. A small child asked to relieve itself in the field opposite. "Do it right where you are, under you," was the brutal reply. "It makes no difference, you will soon be kaput." An example of high culture, noble German humanitarianism.
Moshe LUBETSKI, the young lawyer from Diveneshok, disguised himself as a Christian and together with the Gestapo ran about driving the Jews from their homes to the marketplace, hoping to make a break for it at the last house. But he was recognized, caught; and he was taken to the marketplace to be shot, led there demonstratively as an example to the others. But he slipped away from them into the mass of people seated on the ground and came over to our group. He told us about his failure to get away. White foam covered his lips. In order to change his appearance, he had shaved his moustache, and changed his hat and jacket. The Gestapo and the police searched for him, but could not find him.
Then it was our turn. But luck was with me, because my Obermeister, who knew me, said to the committee: "This is the chief mechanic of our town. I need him." Bellek, the Lieutenant Major and leader of the Sonderfuehrer called: "This is our architect, master builder, we need him." Together with my family I was driven to join the select. Sitting on the ground in Germnishke Street, we heard the resounding shots of the death-dealing machine guns...These were the bullets that felled and sent to their graves our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, wives, children, relatives, friends--saintly, precious, unforgettable. Their cry of "HEAR O ISRAEL" pierced the air and split open the heavens. At the words "THE LORD IS OUR GOD,
THE LORD IS ONE," they breathed their last and gave up their souls. One thousand, eight hundred and eighty-five Jewish saints---men, women and children, died a martyr's death at the bloody hands of the Nazi blackguards.
It must be noted here that many Jews, after having paid large sums to the Nazis during the "encirclement" were paid off by them with bullets, behind the houses in town. Some of these were: Sarah GERSHENOWICZ and her daughter Chasye; Benjamin GRODZENIK, the son of Henoch; Benjamin KAPLAN and his wife; Leyzer KATZENELENBOGEN, a young man from Olkenik; the wife of Berl KARKLINSKI and her two children (from Eishishok) and others. All these martyrs are buried in scattered graves in the fields outside the town. GOD SHALL AVENGE THEIR BLOOD!
We who were left alive--about eight hundred--were taken back to the marketplace and registered. Thirty peasant carts were filled to the brim with the clothing of the martyrs: linens, shawls, coats, shoes. The peasants showed them to us, bragging. The Lithuanian savages rode into the marketplace and celebrated --drinking whiskey. The brutal Nazis and Lithuanians had forced our unfortunate brothers and sisters to make orderly piles of their clothing; and then had driven them naked to their graves. The young Dena KUDLIANSKY cried out to the: "Shameless murderers! It's not enough for your animal instincts that you are killing us...your vile, wicked system will make you lose the war! You've already lost it! I spit on you!" And she spit into the faces of the Gestapo men. The girl was flogged to death by the rifle butts.
Two young men, NAFTOLI, the uncle of MINTZ from Diveneshok, and Meyer ZHABINSKI of Woronowa resisted so fiercely that they knocked out two teeth of one of the Gestapo men. They were both beaten to death with clubs, sticks and truncheons. Other Jews also spit in the faces of the Hitler brutes and threw rocks at them. The German and Lithuanian henchmen tortured the young men by stabbing, inflicting such suffering that they begged for death. Every case of the slightest resistance, every man who tried to defend himself or beat the savages off, was bestially liquidated.
Windisch, the chief of staff of Lida, made a speech to those of us whose lives had been spared and were sitting in the marketplace: "Jews, for thousands of years you have made war against the German people, trying to destroy by any means at your command. For hundreds of years we have been sharpening our swords to fight you; and now the time has come. You will drown in your own blood. As you can see, innocent people are dying too, such as small children, the old, and women. But that is your fate. We, the noble German race and our Fuehrer, will not rest until we do away with you. In the meantime, Jews, the select few among you are still alive. You must be obedient, work for the benefit of our German people. If you disobey our laws and rules, not a trace of you will remain. You must work diligently and hard, because our Fuehrer must be victorious. We will feed you; the larger families will stay in Woronowa as of now. The smaller ones will go to Lida, Krasna, and other places. I am sure, Jews, that you understood everything." We didn't even have the strength to catch our breaths, to sigh. We had no more tears left--we were dried out. We listened to the assurances of this German hypocrite and swindler, the "superman" of the higher race. We remembered the lies he had told yesterday in his oration just before the massacre, when he swindled us out of money and clothing. Today, he put on a different face and talked differently.
German so-called naive criminal despotism stretches far and wide. Deceived by various pretexts and ruses, our brothers and sisters were lured and entangled in the net, going voluntarily, not stopping to reconsider, and recognize the vile, savage face of the enemy, so they would realize the scope of the criminal, merciless, shameless villain--the Nazi degenerate. Thus, again and again, we were deceived by the "cunning" German beast. Thus, our noble Jewish nation was annihilated by various means. The rest were driven into the ghetto.
At seven in the morning, we waited with our knapsacks and bundles in which we had packed food and clothes, ready for the march to Bastuni. A large proportion of Jews had paid large sums to get a job, find a "place" to work and be able to remain in Woronowa. It must be noted that according to the rules, Woronowa should by this time have been "Judenrein," and the foolish, naive begging for favors from the lord was of no avail. Nevertheless, there were a number of Jewish mediators who promised to negotiate with the Polish lord in return for huge bribes. They also promised to talk to the mayor, secretary, director, instructor or any official they could get hold of on behalf of the Jew who was looking for a secure position. There were plenty of candidates eager to remain in Woronowa. Their Jewish brothers took away the gold pieces they had worked so hard to save without a "thank you", without saying a chapter of Psalms.
Five or six large families remained in Woronowa temporarily. Among them were Alter ABRAMISKI with his whole family; Isaac EISHISHKI and his family and a few more privileged characters. The rest were all resettled. It was sad and lamentable to watch our Gentile neighbors, after we had vacated our homes and were waiting in line to march off, already occupying them and running like mice into all the corners. Everyone of us regretted that we had not burned down our homes of the day of the massacre. Better that the fire should destroy our precious homes than that the filthy dogs and swine should desecrate them. Jews realize their mistakes too late.
After the miserable march to Bastuni, when we were driven by the SS and police with whips, and a large portion of the knapsacks and valises were tossed away on the road, we were herded into cramped, dirty coal cars--one hundred twenty men in each. Half-suffocating from the crowded conditions, we finally arrived in Lida. At the depot, we were put into the hands of big divisions of police, SS and Gestapo. We were under the impression that we would be taken to the Umschlag-Platz. After another march of an hour and a half, we were brought to the Lida ghetto. The surviving Woronow Jews consisted mainly of craftsmen, such as carpenters, smiths, shoemakers, tailors, electricians, mechanics, farmers and some menial laborers. Every rabbi, without exception, as well as other members of the clergy, engineers, lawyers, were all slain. Huge families, mainly of women, were killed. The vicious Hitler rulers had calculated that they would rule over us for many years; and therefore, they left about thirty percent of workers to serve them. Jewish refugees from Woronowa suffered tremendously in Lida. They were crowded into tiny rooms, without food, did the most difficult work. The hardship was indescribable; and with their last ounce of strength, they tried to adapt to their situation so that they and their families could survive, outlast the terrible times.
The Woronow Jews, together with Jews from neighboring towns, lived in Lida Ghetto until September 17th, 1943, as resettled inhabitants. On that last, sad day, our holy, beloved brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, and children--all Woronow refugees--were taken away to Maidanek. Together with other Jews--they were gassed. Thus perished our holy Woronow Jewish community. May the God of our fathers avenge their blood!
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