(daughter of Rachel and Ya'acov Kantor)
Translated by Jon Seligman
(Dedicated to our family from Slobodka who perished and to Yasha and Ewa Zelikman, the children of Anna)
I remember that sunny Sunday morning, a day of rest and rosy dreams. During those days, as usual, the radio was on. The speech by the Soviet Foreign Minister, Molotov, caught us by surprise and changed our lives in an instant. Panic did not spread at first as people believed in the strength of the Red Army. We all hoped that the battles would be short and that they would end in a Soviet victory.
Days passed and the information we received was scattered and not encouraging, some tried to flee to the east; collecting what they could carts, bicycles; the youth on foot, some families moving with their children.
My family, who worked with Soviet citizens, organised a truck. My mother, brother, sister, myself and all the other family members loaded some of our processions. Full of hope we set out, but our happiness was short. The police stopped us, order us to exit the truck, remove our packages, as they needed the vehicle for themselves to catch terrorists. Broken and disappointed we returned home. I would like to emphasise that this was not only our experience, some other families (Kurt, Edelson and others) reached the border only to be turned back by the Red Army. During these days, someone ruled the town, kept order, and there was no looting.
A few shells fell on the town, there were deaths and injuries, but it was still unreal. We lived in constant shock and uncertainty. Everything happened so fast, as though in a kaleidoscope.
If my memory doesn't betray me, a few days after the breakout of war, German reconnaissance units entered the town, but ignored the residents. A number of days later we woke to the sound of heavy artillery passing through the town, and to the clatter of the hooves of huge horses. The Wehrmacht entered Braslav with full force. Well built, healthy soldiers with rough features against the background of massive red flags with the swastika at their centre. Fear and hopelessness grabbed us.
I forget the immediate events that followed. I think that the first decision of the Germans was to send the Jews to the swamp. Someone else has doubtlessly written about this and all that occurred that night. None of us believed we would return alive. We heard that the pleas of Kowalski and Dr. Berzki saved all except two. We heard of the terrible murder of the Jews of Jaisi (a Shtetl beside Braslav). Zelig Ullman was informed that in the Shtetl of Borovka in Latvia the Germans drove 200 Jews, children, women, old people, youth into the lake and shot them. After a few days the Jews of Braslav were ordered to the shores of the Drywiata Lake and the women, children, men and outside residents were separated. We were collected thus a number of times, and we were guarded by the Germans with huge Alsatian dogs. Till today I fail to understand the reason for their actions. I especially remember the time groups of Poles, clerks, teachers, and many of the 'good' Polish youth, dressed in their best clothes, gleefully gathered, already hoping it seems for our extermination. It is possible to understand that in their eyes, our death, the death of men, women and children, was for them entertainment. In our home lived two families of refugees from Lithuania who had tried to flee eastwards but their fuel had not sufficed and they had got 'stuck' in Braslav, only to be murdered there, except for a number of people who survived by hiding with peasants in the area.
The Germans, after their entry to Braslav, found enough people who would willingly conduct their criminal dirty work. They were Poles and Belarussians, villagers and residents of the town, who dreamed of looting and murdering Jews. The collaborated with the Nazis up until the disintegration of the German Reich. Few of them refused to be hangmen.
The Judenrat was organised, their headquarters in the Yiddish School opposite our home. The members of the Judenrat would often come to our house as we were well informed on what was happening in the town. On the Polish side a joint Polish-German administration was organised. We were thus between a rock and a hard place, on one side the Judenrat and on the other the local collaborators.
At the head of the local administration was the head of police, a Belarussian, who arrived from no-where and was essentially a puppet. Other persons who received a high positions in the administration were the teacher Pawlik and his wife, who were Volkdeutsch.
The most enthusiastic collaborators were the deputy police chief, Jachinski (see below), the mayor Kowalski and the prison director Szliachczik Volkdeutsch and a sadist. During Russian rule he had fixed typewriters and had lived modestly. With the entry of the Germans he began to show his true nature, his control was unlimited.
I would like to emphasise that at the from the start the Germans were well received by the Christian citizens. Even Dr. Berzki was carried along by the general euphoria and received the Germans with a magnificent banquet at the municipal hospital. This was his big sin. Dr. Berzki hid the family of Usteiv the tinmaker for a long period, and told me personally, when he came to Vilna with his wife in the 50's. After the war, when the soviet authorities arrested Dr. Berzki, all the survivors signed a petition a request to release him. Dr. Berzki tried to aid the Jews. He worked to raise the bread allowance for the Jews. He also risked himself by operating on a growth my mother had after the establishment of the Ghetto.
The Germans exploited the Jews for work, repairs in the workshops, clearing trees at the train station etc. The women knitted socks and gloves and cleaned. On occasions these works were used to humiliate and torture. The terror was indescribable.
After the regular German soldiers left the town, some of the SS hoodlums stayed near the train station with their commander Bucholz. Everyone was scared of him, from his sadism and from his officers baton with which he would strike indiscriminately. Later this platoon moved on. Rule stayed in the control of the local collaborators and a few SS officers. At this time their worst characteristics showed themselves. We were in their eyes sub-human.
During the months I stayed in Braslav there were a number of murders prior to the extermination of the Ghetto. At this time the family of Zelig Ullman, a Judenrat member, were killed. Shlomo the Shochet and Chaim Milutin were killed on the way to the swamp. At the same time Frida Ullman, Beilke Deutsch and Ya'akov Musin were murdered. Also killed were five to six people who were peeling bark from logs. This murder was the basis for my suing of Jashinski for trial.
The family of Zelig Ullman had given jewelry and valuables to a villager, with the hope that the family could conceal themselves at his house in the village. The peasant, who wished to gain all the property, reported that Zelig Ullman had been listening to Soviet radio and had distributed the information. Zelig, his wife and daughter were sent to the prison, to the sadist Szliachczik. They were held there for some time. They were tortures and finally murdered. Boris, their only son, succeeded to escape.
Connections between Jews and Poles were forbidden. A notice concerning this was posted.
The winters of 1941-1943 were especially cold in all the occupied areas. Temperatures dropped to 42 degrees below zero. After the initial victories, came stagnation and the German troops suffered from their unsuitable clothing for the Russian climate. For this reason the Germans demanded that the Judenrat collect warm clothes and demanded a high ransom as a condition to allow the continued existence of the Ghetto. As usual, the Germans promised that with the raising of the value of the ransom of gold, silver and clothes, the chances of the Jews to live would increase. And they said, that the hard working people of Braslav had nothing to fear.
I will always remember the collection of the clothes. Everyone came, bringing warm clothes, furs, sheep-skin coats, hats and gold and silver valuables. Poor families brought Pesach goblets, trays, candelabra, gold coins, earrings etc. These were items they had collected their whole lives as a dowry for their daughters. The richer gave only part of their property. The wife of Bezalel-Ya'akov cried bitterly when they took Caracal fur coat. A lots of items were collected and the Judenrat said the Germans were very pleased. Life continued under pressure, inducement and torture at every step. But people were not discouraged and at meetings would encourage one another. From the front we received encouraging rumours.
Sasha Templeman, who we knew for a long time, would come to us often to tell us that Jashinski has passed him news he had heard on the radio, promising to inform him of any impending trouble. For the information Jashinski received gold, but with time people believed less in miracles and understood that they were living dead.
We knew that the Jews of Latvia and Lithuania had been exterminated by the Germans immediately after they conquered those countries. The brutal murderous measures taken by the Latvians and the Lithuanians were indescribable. To save bullets the murders would cut the throats of small children or would bash their heads on the wall. The adults met a similar fate. In Vilna, Kovno and Riga only a small group of Jews were left in the Ghettos after the massacres. The residents of south Latvia were brought to Dvinsk and killed there. That was the fate of the Jews of Kraslava (Yasha Kraslava was my grand-mothers town and there were strong connections between the Seligmans and Kraslava). After all the Jews of Kraslava were brought to Dvinsk, only one rich and respectable family survived, the Barkan family, who were hidden by the Catholic priest in the church. The condition for their survival was that the family would convert to Christianity. A difficult condition, which they accepted. I am sure that all those who condemn them would have done the same if they were placed in a similar situation. Who could watch their child ripped to pieces. I am sure that God, in his mercy, would forgive them. The Barkan family were Zusia and Loyba, the son Yasha (Ya'akov) 9, Raphaela 6, and Loyba's mother Mrs. Dinerman, a very respectable matron. They were saved.
With time the priest concluded that their conversion would not guarantee their survival, and the area of Braslav was very dangerous. He decided to move them to a safer place. For this he contacted the priest at Plusy. There the situation was less tense. The priest turned to one of the most religious and poorest families, the M. Kizlo family at Smelki, noting that the Barkan's were converts and needed to be saved, noting that they are rich and that if saved would certainly compensate them generously. But not only this influenced the peasant. The main reason for his agreement was his deep religiosity, together with his whole family.
With their agreement the Barkan's crossed the Dvina river at night and were hosted in the village. The mother, Mrs. Dinerman, refused to eat non-Kosher food in the village. As we were related her son-in law decided to bring her to us in Braslav. The peasant Michael brought her to our house at the end of 1941. She was happy to be among Jews. She knitted socks with all of us and was relatively happy. It continued like this till December 1941, till the destruction of the Jews of Jod.
I remember that the action included the 'Schutzpoletzei' of Braslav under Jashinski. People saw the trucks loaded with the possessions of the murdered, returning to Braslav. The murderers, Jashinski among them, sat on the loot, drunk, and sang merrily. It was a terrible reality check after months of hope.
Michael, our peasant, who was always well informed, learnt of the massacre. He was brave and did not hesitate. He came to Braslav and took Mrs. Dinerman. Panic and fear gripped us all. My family asked Michael to take me with him to the village, as I was the youngest daughter and without my own family. Only after time would I understand the noble sacrifice they made. The peasant, a warm hearted open man, did not refuse, and I agreed to leave my loved ones. Till today I cannot forget or forgive myself for my decision.
It was the 24th. December 1941. When it darkened we crept, covered in scarves, to the sled. My brother-in-law Ya'acov Feldman accompanied us to the other side of Lake Noviaty. After a dramatic goodbye he disappeared into the fog with all my dearest, who I would never see again.
I arrived in Smelki on Christmas eve. The Kizlo family, together with the Barkans, waited for us beside the festive table. My arrival was not a surprise as all believed that Michael would want to save another person.
Smelki was divided into individual farms. Each compound was distant from the next. In the village were related members of the Kizlo family. One of them, Josef, was told of our presence. He was an honest good-hearted man. Three hideouts were organised ahead of time by Michael. One was a pit under the cowshed covered with boards aired through a covered opening. Food was brought us during the feeding of the cows. We were there most of the time. The second hide was a concealed room in the house with its own toilet. The third place was in the attic of the verandah with a hidden entry. It was used only during extreme danger. It was cramped and very small.
Our hosts shared with us their last food. The winter was hard, the summer harvest was very poor and it was difficult for them to support us. But there was a more difficult problem Michael's neighbours would visit often and could see the large quantity of food cooking and the smoke coming from the chimney at unusual times. Even the two small children could mention something by mistake. Even the smallest suspicion could arose danger as two families of policemen lived in the village.
We lived in constant fear, hoping to get through the period. This feeling was shared by our host. He received no prize or payment. The end of the war was still not imminent and worse every day he endangered his family who could all be killed because of us.
But, through a miracle, everything went well. The children never chattered even though they knew we were there and even played with us at calmer times when they let us leave our hideaway to warm ourselves in the kitchen during the coldest days.
In June 1942, as we lay in our hide, we heard someone ask our host, Michael, do you need rubbish?, Why? he asked and the other answered, They're killing the Braslav Jews today, there will be a lot of rubbish. These words were spoken by a man called Josef Bozo, the manager of the 'Steshletz' (Sniper) organisation of Braslav. He was originally from Plusy. He would often visit Michael and he was known as a respectable man.
I did not have the right or possibility to shout, wail or even bang my head on the wall. I could only sit quietly in despair. After some time a villager came to visit the grandmother and also spoke about the issue; Jews, cats or rubbish they're all the same. These views were common to 95% of the Christian population. Almost all held these opinions.
The wife of the watchmaker Krzyzanek a Christian family, lived near the Christian witness house (Dom Perpilni?) near the Catholic church, told me, when I returned to Braslav after the liberation, that she had watched from the window of her house the liquidation of the Ghetto. She noted that they brought many Jews and filled the Witness House, placed them under guard where they waited for their fate for three days without water and then they were taken to the pits. She saw the old Rabbi, Reb Abba Zahorie, marching calmly at the head of the crowd on their last way. She also saw my mother Rachel and my sister Fanya walking together. Fanya's husband, Ya'akov Feldman, died later.
We lived between life and death. I suffered from asthma. Sometimes we got medicines through the priest Bilcher. I would lie with a pillow on the mouth to prevent someone hearing my coughing. Walls in these times could hear everything. After some months Mrs. Dinerman got a brain hemorrhage and she became unstable, she shouted that the war had ended and that she wanted to return home. And she endangered us all with discovery. Unluckily she had a further attack and was completely paralysed. She rasped so loudly for three days that Michael's wife and grandmother guarded the entry into the farmyard to prevent anyone hearing her dying. These were terrible times. Finally her suffering ended and she passed away. The grandfather prepared a coffin and buried her at night in the garden. Later her body was transferred to the cemetery in Kraslava.
Life continued. The warning signs used in Plusy helped us a lot. For instance, of police or gendarmes entered Plusy they would hang a white sheet on the building near the church on the other side of the lake. We then would hide in the safest hideaway. It is hard to describe our suffering. The children with us became pale with lack of air, poor food and bad living conditions. But with our suffering we were strengthened by a strong will to stay alive.
Month after month passed, year after year, till 1944 when the front approached. Our fear grew. Rumours spread that the Germans, in their defeat, were expelling the residents westwards and wre torching the villages. Luckily for us, the Germans were caught in a 'pocket' and were attacked from all sides, and were unable to carry out their plot. But in the Dvinsk area the people were moved on. For this reason Michael took in a non-Jewish refugee family. By a miracle they did not discover us. We lay in hiding for days without food as Michael feared to bring us food.
The front moved closer, the Germans prepared defensive lines through the village, but they did not hold and they retreated. The Russians took Plusy. Michael, our saviour, let us come out to the verandah and our presence was no longer a secret. You can understand our terror when the Germans retook Plusy the next day. But there was no longer the fear that someone would turn us over to the Nazis as all understood that the Nazi beast was dying.
The battles carried on for some days, shells fell around us, but no we were no longer scared, liberation was imminent. Soon we met tired Soviet soldiers, dirty but victorious. It is difficult to describe what did we felt upon leaving our cramped airless holes, to breath clean air scented with flowers and fields.
It was August 1944 when the Barkan's returned to Kraslava. The grandmother took me to Braslav, where I met with a small group of Jewish survivors of my town. I found work and stayed in Braslav till 1946. From there I moved to Vilna.
A few more words about the brave and noble family that saved us. It is difficult to describe what we and they experienced over two years and seven months. At times we were all in danger of death, in despair, when we felt all was lost. At times we were ready to drown ourselves in the lake, to stop endangered those good people. But their answer was always that our fate would be their fate.
During the German occupation, probably during the second winter of their rule, the frozen bodies of the Schlossberg family were found on they lake (Yasha the Schlossbergs were related to my grandmother from Kraslava) who had land near Plusy and owned a shop there. The son was an agronomist and the daughter ran the shop. According to Michael, the people who hid them could not keep them any longer and they poisoned the whole family, four souls, and threw the bodies in the frozen lake. The family of Aharon Ziff was similarly poisoned just before the end of the war.
And another detail: a cousin of Michael visited from Braslav. He was also a Kizlo, but one for who celebrated the liquidation of the Ghetto. From our hide I heard how he boasted how he helped the Germans find hiding Jews during the action. I grabbed the Zids by their hair and grabbed a lot of loot, he said.
After the war I took him to court. The trial was conducted in Polotzk before a panel of three NKVD officers. The criminal Kizlo and his family were exiled for five years to Siberia. This trial, and the indictment of Jashinski, I brought because of a deep need for retribution, and I am very pleased with my actions.
The arrival of the Germans was for the Poles, intelligentsia, and lower classes, like the coming of the Messiah. The Germans would deliver them from the pains of Soviet occupation. Many Poles expressed their enthusiasm and willingness to serve the Germans, and organised for them receptions and banquets. Even Dr. Berzki was swept along. Janshinski, who lived through the Soviet occupation in constant fear, was one of the first to welcome the Nazis. I don't know how he succeeded under the Germans, but he was soon appointed Chief of Police.
Who was Jashinski. If I am correct, he was a sergeant in the Border Guards of the Polish Army. With the entry of the Soviets many Polish Army soldiers were arrested. Some of them escaped to Latvia and Lithuania. Janshinski, with help of a local Jew, registered as a labourer and stayed in Braslav. During the first days of Nazi rule the Germans were helped by volunteers who wore a white band on their sleeves. Soon many of the volunteers resigned when they understood what was about to happen and they did not wish to be among the murderers.
Janshinski was two faced. In the first months he did not murder anyone, quite the opposite, he developed good connections with the Judenrat, with its chairman Yizhak Mindel and with Sasha Templeman. The Judenrat was placed in the school opposite us. Often acquaintances would come to our house to meet us and to drink tea. I have only a few memories of this period, except the incident I raised in the courtroom, that in December 1942, during Hanukah, the Jews of Jod were massacred. The killing was conducted by the Braslav Police under Jashinski. We saw the murderers return drunk and full of loot, Janshinski at their head drink and happy.
As I have already described, I hid with a peasant from December 1941 till the liberation. After the war I stayed in Braslav for some time, from there I went to Vilna and later on to Poland. Sima Fisher also lived there. She was related to my late husband and we would meet often. Once, in 1962-3, Moshe Fisher and Boris Ullamn came to the flat and told us that they had given evidence in the trial of one of the Police, where Jashinski had appeared as a defense witness. We decided at that time that we must take Jashinski to trial. After some time Sima and myself were called to the court to identify Jashinski and we pointed him out. The Warsaw press noted that Jashinski would get the death penalty. At the trial a reporter of the Yiddish newspaper Folksteimer Tenenbaum was present and he wrote an account of the trial.
Directly after we indicted Janshinski I sent a letter to Masha and Mendel Meron, to Luba and Eliyahi Schmidt, and to Sasha Templeman in USA asking them for affidavits. I wrote to Israel too to Raichel and Yerachmiel Milutin. Their evidence arrived and was read to court, but was rejected and not taken in consideration.
My situation during the trial was difficult. I was not in Braslav during the massacres. I told the court that among the Jews peeling the bark near the train station was my brother David. I would bring him food every day. One day I saw Jashinski and some other police shooting at Jews who were smoking while working. That was my evidence, which I kept to. I see that evidence as the most important thing I did in my life.
In the book, 'Til Ullenspeigal' the hero of the story avenges the death of his father, the ashes of Klaus always beats in my heart. In my heart beats and will always beat the ashes of those who were so brutally murdered in cold blood.
The trial was delayed a number of times for various reasons. Meanwhile I wrote a detailed account of the period of occupation of Braslav. This was difficult to take for those who celebrated during the plague and welcomed the Nazi occupation. I explained why I had initiated the trial. The article raised a negative response among the judges and lawyers.
The trial was conducted in Olsztin where most of the Polish refugees who had left Braslav in 1946-7 lived. Just before the second session of the trial an agronomist named Kowalski offered me and Sima money, gold and jewelry so that were would rescind the charges. We reacted with anger. Over a number of years they had not succeeded to shift me from my evidence, but now they sent a commission to Braslav to check the site of the incident. They found a witness, a girl who I had never seen, and she gave evidence in-camera. In the court were only the judges, her and me. She acussed me that I had collaborated with the Nazis at Opsa, that I injected Poles with experimental vaccinations, that I had maltreated the Polish population etc.etc. Even worse was that the chairman of the judging panel (which had changed over time) behaved as if they believed the evidence of the girl and expressed his sympathy for her suffering. Kowalski and the other defense witnesses gave evidence on behalf of Jashinski, though they did not dare accuse me like that lowlife.
The trial ended with the acquittal of Jashinski and the chairman of the judging panel noted that measures would be taken against some witnesses. The joy among thirty to forty of Jashinski supporters was great. They had given him character witnesses throughout the trial but to no avail. Only the final evidence turned the scales in his favour.
After the trial I was broken. I feared that they would charge me with perjury. I traveled to the chairman of the Jewish Committee in Warsaw, Mr. Domb. He told me that I had nothing to fear as a trial of that sort would cause international uproar and that they could not afford that.
I would not like that someone would see my actions as an attempt to flaunt myself as a hero. All that I wrote is the truth. That was the reality. I do not see my evidence as something outstanding, I simply followed my heart. That was my duty.
Was it all a misunderstanding?
By our special correspondent S. Tenenbaum.
We were in the District Court of Olsztin. In the corridor outside hall no. 238 some people were in discussion. They remembered earlier times, some decades before, when they would meet daily. These people all came from one Shtetl.
We're starting, please enter the courtroom announced the court orderly. They entered and took their places. The hall was quiet. Stand, the court is in session. The witnesses were sworn in. In the court only a few people stayed. Later the court refilled with witnesses who had given evidence. To the left of the judging panel, guarded by a policeman, sat a tall man with wide shoulders, about fifty years old calm and collected. From time to time he leans to his attorney and tells his something to ask of the witnesses. On his face you can read his thoughts shortly everything will be clear, this is simply a misunderstanding.
Is it really so?
The court session continues. The events took place some twenty odd years before in the town of Braslav, 180 km. from Vilna. Like hundreds of other shtetlach in the Vilna Guberniya the town was inhabited by a few thousand Jews who were exterminated by the genocidal Nazis.
I, your honours, saw it with my own eyes, states one of the witnesses, it was terrible, outrageous, they hit, killed, laughed and then shot
Of the Jews of Braslav, who numbered some thousand, survived after the years of terror of the Nazi occupation only 30 people. Most fought with the partisans.
At the end of 1962 there was a trial in Kiszalin. In the court was Sima Zilberman, Nuita Zelikman of Walbzych, and Michael Vinokorovski (previously Moshe Fisher) of Lodz. They identified one of the witnesses, a person wanted for some time by the authorities, who was the Chief of Police in Braslav, Stanislav Jashinski. The investigation began. An indictment was sent to the District Court at Olsztin.
Does the witness identify the accused?
Of course!, your honour, he was an honest man, he often helped people and we conversed frequently.
Please answer the question, does the witness know where the accused worked?
They say he worked for the police, but I never saw him in uniform, he was affair man
From the Indictment
Stanislav Janshinski is accused that in 1941, after the German occupation of Braslav, he went to serve the Hilterists abd was appointed chief of the local Shutzpoleizei. He is charged with treason, and that he took part in the murder of civilian population, especially Jews.
If the court finds him guilty, wrote the newspaper Glos Olsztynski before the trial, then based in the 1944 law, he should be sentenced to death.
Q: Did the local police participate in the expulsion of the Jewish population?
A: Yes, but I did not see Jashinski among them, the hangings and the murders were conducted by the Germans.
Q: Did the witness see the accused in uniform, did he carry arms?
A: Yes, but .
Q: How did the accused treat the Jewish population?
A: As I have said, the treatment was good, once he told me, during the war, that he was revolted by the shootings, they even said that he hid three Jewish women.
Q: Did the witness see them?
Q: and what happened to them?
A: I don't know, but
He is an honest man, he had a good name, these words repeat themselves many times.
The face of Jashinski woke more and more. He was a policeman, chief of the Shutzpoleizei. He did not deny this during the investigation. According to him, he stayed away from the incidents. It is clear, evident, is this a case of a misunderstanding?
Facts, Facts The witness Nuita Zelikman: It was by the train station, in the first months of the occupation. Among the other people my brother was working. I brought him food. Suddenly, I saw, from a distance .. yes, I state with full certainty that I saw Jashinski. Shouts were heard, curses and shots. Six Jews were killed.
Q: Who else can confirm that?
The witness is quiet. Is it correct? Did the accused shoot or not? In this trial this issue is very important.
The witness Michael Vinokorovski, 46, lives in Lodz, previously known as Moshe Fisher.
The witness: Yes, I was born and lived in Braslav. The accused I knew before the war. He was dressed in uniform with a band of the Shutzpoleizei. Like all the policemen he was armed.
Q: Did he take part in the murder?
A: Which policeman didn't shoot? They all
Judge: Please be accurate facts!
A: I was in the Ghetto during the liquidation, in June 1942, I succeeded to escape, afterwards I hid in the tanners building. I hid there with my sister Sima Zilberman.
She is in the hall and listens through the trial. She is an elder woman and had already given evidence. During the break we walk in the corridor. I'm already tired of the trial, she says. To go through that nightmare again. What do you think, who do you think the court will believe?
The witness: I hid in the attic, there my sister told me that I saw through a crack how they murdered a injured woman, Jashinski shot, she saw him.
Q: What happened next to the witness?
A: I succeeded, your honour, to reach the partisans. I stayed with them till the end of the war. I was in the special unit. I got the order to catch Jashinski for trial, but two weeks before the entry of the Soviet Army, he escaped.
Q: For what did you want to try him?
A: For what exactly I don't know, but
Again there is no clarity. After twenty something years it is difficult to rely on human memory. But who can forget those days, full of nightmares?! Who should the court believe? The circumstances should be checked.
In Israel is a man, named Yerachmiel Milyotin, originally from Braslav, a former partisan his written testimony is added to the indictment, as an affidavit.
The judge reads. The self-confidence disappears from the face of the accused for the first time, and he hides his face momentarily in his hands. Is it going to be ?
I heard of the investigation against Stanislav Jashinski. I lived in Braslav and knew him well. I met him when he worked as apoliceman. He was especially active in the extermination and dispossession of Jews. Alongside his gun he always carried a white baton which he liked to use often. The 3rd. June 1942 is a day fixed in my memory. An afternoon of a summer's day. The Germans and the police led Jews, on that day 4000 Jews of Braslav were murdered, and I succeeded to escape. From my hide I saw Janshinski take my wife and daughter. At one point he ordered them to stop, the procession continued to move, with a hand movement he commanded them to walk, meanwhile he took out his pistol and shot them twice, and then there was quiet. I left my hide, and made my farewell from my dear-ones for ever. After that I joined the partisans and fought with them till the end of the war. I am prepared to give evidence in person.
We listen. The judge reads an affidavit that came from the US during the investigation. Eliyahu and Luba Schmidt and Sasha Templeman accuse Jashinski, but as they did not follow the correct procedures their evidence is not taken under consideration.
A short advisement at the District Court of Olsztin. The chairman, D. Yavarski, the prosecutor St. Warznitzka, came to the conclusion that it was impossible to reach a verdict. It was decided that the accused would stay in jail and that all the documents would be sent to the district attorney in Kiszalin, who had investigated the case, in order to finalise the affidavits. It was also recommended to the office of the chief prosecutor so that he could get further material from the judicial department of Belarus.
For a verdict, we would have to wait.
(Falks-Stima, Warsaw, 20 November 1963, no. 181)
Stanislav Jashinski The Murderer of Braslav Jewry
After WWII the murderer Jashinski was placed on trial. The trial took place in the District Court in Olsztin in Poland. The following are portions of the court protocol of the witnesses. Some were given in the court, while others were presented as affidavits form witnesses from the USA and Israel. All are translated from original protocols written in Polish.
The Evidence of Sima Zilberman
During the war I lived in Braslav. On the 3rd. June 1942, in the early hours, at around three, I heard the sounds of police running Jews through the street. I ran outside in my nightdress. When I saw the actions of the police I got very scared and ran to the attic of our house. With me came my brother Fisher-Vinokorovski. I hid in a cupboard that stood there. After the noise in the street subsided I looked through a crack and saw a women lying in the street screaming, Oi, my intestines have come out. Around her stood a number of police and other people. From time to time shots rang out. With my own eyes I saw the accused shot her with his pistol, killing her. On his lips I saw white foam. I knew him instantaneously. When the Jews were taken for forced labour, during the German occupation, the accused was with the Germans. When the Ghetto was founded in Braslav in 1942, and the Judenrat elected, the accused would come to the Judenrat with edicts from the Germans to provide valuables and fur coats. I met him there and got to know him for the first time. He was dressed in a black uniform. Everyone said that he was Chief Jashinski. Jashinski would come to the Judenrat and I knew him well as I saw him in daylight. When I hid in the attic I told my brother how Jashinski had shot and killed the woman from the Bialik family. At evening my brother and myself went downstairs to change clothes. Outside I heard the shouts of the policemen saying, come, we're going to the Fisher house, they have everything. I don't know who looted the house. The woman who was killed I knew from her voice, and saw her husband beside her. I'm sure that it was her. There can be no doubt or mistake. I'm convinced the accused killed the woman. One day before the liquidation of the Ghetto I saw him take furniture from our house. I saw the accused from the front, not only from the side. I saw his face and the foam on his lips. On our street there were not many people from other nations. Most were Jews. Jashinski with the Germans would come on occasion to the Judenrat. In the Ghetto I heard that by the train station Chazkel Vinoker was shot and killed. He was shot at a distance from the station. At this time they would shot people there almost every day. Ullman was also killed. Emma Milutin said that Jashinski shot her mother and killed her. From the Ghetto 100 girls were expelled on foot to Slabodka. I do not know if Jashinski was present. I saw him when he ran us through the snow.
The Evidence of Anna Zelikman
I was present in Braslav in 1941 in the area of the train station, when the accused Jashinski and other police murdered three Jews Boris Kress, Chazkel Vinoker and another Jew, whose name I don't know but I recognised by sight. At the station were many logs and many Jewish men worked ti clean up the station. My brother David Kantor worked there too, and I would bring him food. It was during the early Autumn 1941, when I brought my brother lunch. He approached me and began to eat. Not far from me I saw three boys sitting on sleepers and smoking cigarettes. Suddenly Jashinski and another policeman ran towards them, shouting and moving them to the side. After a moment they shot them, Jashinski with his pistol and the other with his rifle. If I remember they kicked the bodies and shouted, that will teach the others a lesson. They turned to the other Jews and ordered them to remove the carcasses. Upon seeing this I fled from the place. Jashinski I would see in the street. He ruled the Jewish affairs, and would rush about in the street with a stick in his hand budging Jews from the pavement. The accused had constant contact with the Judenrat. All the residents of Braslav knew that. Jashinski intermediated between the Germans and the Jews. Everyone knew him as Chief Jashinski. Amongst the Jewish population he did not have a good name. Maybe that changed after the liquidation of the Ghetto and maybe that is the reason why some witnesses have given evidence in his favour, but they are not Jews. I was in Braslav till the 24 th. December 1941. After the liberation I returned to Braslav for two years. I did not inform the Soviet authorities concerning the activities of Jashinski because I was mentally broken during this period. I did not even try to get back my mothers inheritance. After that I traveled to Vilna, where I stayed till 1958. In that year I came to Poland and lived in Walbzych.
Jashinski badly afflicted the Jewish population. On the day he killed the Jews he was dressed in civilian clothes, though I do not remember for certain, he may have worn a military coat with a band on his arm. On that day they shot only three Jews. Before that, when they started the humiliations, a few Jews were shot. The Jewish population of Braslav numbered 4000-4500 souls. From that number only thirty survived after the liberation. After the shooting of the Jews by the train station I stopped bringing food to my brother. I was scared. I'm sure that the accused committed the murder. Everyone said that Jashinski had done it. In Christian history we, the Jews, are culpable for the crucifixion of Christ. A Jew is not a Man, they said. Many non-Jewish people from Braslav, knew of the imminent liquidation of the Ghetto and none came to warn the Jews.
The Evidence of Michael Vinokorovski (Moshe Fisher)
During the Nazi occupation I went by the name Fisher. From my birth I had lived in Braslav. The accused I knew from before the war. With the breakout of hostilities he was appointed chief of police and later acting chief.
A few months after the arrival of the Germans, they shot and killed some Jews in Dubene. A Jew named Blacher fled and informed us that the accused together with a group of police, were in Dubene and killed Jews. Blacher told me and some members of the Judenrat. During the first days following the Nazi occupation I saw Jashinski speaking beside the Church. After two days I ran with my sister to a village where we hid. Later we joined the partisans. When we hid in the attic my sister told me that she saw Jashinski shot in the stomach of a woman. Four years later, at the trial of Kolkovski in Koshlin I met Jashinski again. After the trial I sat with some friends, among them the witness Zapolski, in a restaurant. Jashinski appeared and approached me. He took me aside and said that for his actions as Chief of Police in Braslav he had already been tried, and that he had hidden and saved one Jewess. The name of the Jewesses he mentioned I do not remember. To this I answered that I knew that that woman had been killed during the shootings. When I was with the partisans we organised lists of suspects of collaboration with the Germans. Jashinski appeared in the list as the Chief of Police of Braslav. In 1941 I worked near the train station loading logs onto wagons. My cousin Chazkel Vinoker worked there too. We were sent to work by the Judenrat. I do not know if there were Germans there too. The train courtyard was large. At noon of one of the days 5 to 6 people were shot and killed. When the shooting started I ran from the place. I did not see what happened, but Kress, Vinoker and others were killed. Ullman was not killed on that day. He succeeded, by pleading to the Police, to save himself. I participated only a few times in the work near the trains. I used a medical certificate, which I presented to the Judenrat. I did not see Germans near the station and I do not know what happened afterwards.
The Evidence of Anatoljusz Zawacki
I met the accused in Braslav. I lived there from 1937 to 1945. I worked in Braslav as a land surveyor. I knew the accused only from sight. I knew he worked for the police. I do not remember what uniform he wore. They say he was the chief of the local police. I heard nothing against Jashinski. As far as I know, the local police took no part in the liquidation of the first Ghetto. I worked then in the office of the District Governor. One morning, at around 7, I saw the arrival of a group of Germans soldiers dressed in black uniforms with skull badges on their caps and possibly on their arms. I know it was a military unit as some of the soldiers expressed their fear about up coming front line postings. The officer of this unit was Bucholtz. By the train station a group of Jewish men were working. The Germans brought them to work and guarded them. The group numbered around twenty men. He heard that on the platform a number of Jews were shot. I did not see the shootings. I heard that somebody told Bucholtz that one of the groups was not working properly and he ordered them brought to the station. This was told me by the Jews who worked there. Those who were brought to the station, some 10-11 people, were locked in a wagon. At nightfall they were taken from the wagons, taken a short distance and all shot. Children of our family saw it. The following day I met a German who was cleaning his weapon. I'm not doing this for parade, he said, we shot Jews yesterday. That was the only occasion when Jews were shot near the station. I know that a group of Soviet prisoners escaped at the station. Some were returned and shot. This happened after the killing of the Jews.
The Evidence of Michael Laffir
I lived in Braslav from my birth till 1946. I know that Jashinski was highly praised and had a good name in the town. This was noted when he served in the police. He was acting Chief of Police. I heard that Jews were shot near the train station. There was a base there of the German army under the command of Bucholtz. The Germans had an independent police station. Opposite the station were storage rooms and a loading platform. I heard that the Jews did not want to work loading wood and so they were closed in wagons and later shot.
The Evidence of Chalbovitz
In 1944 I enrolled in the Polish Army. Till then I lived in Braslav, near the train station. During the liquidation of the Ghetto I worked in the office of the District Governor near Braslav. We received an order to go with them to the town. When I passed through the town I saw the Germans leading Jews. Near the train station some Jews were working. There was a German base there commanded by Bucholtz. When I went to visit my sister I went past the station. The Germans shot there some 13 Jews. This happened in a swamp near the station, shortly after the front moved further away. Kress I knew, though Vinoker I don't remember. The Jews worked loading wood. The area of the station was closed to strangers. We were not allowed to come nearer. I did not try to approach the Jews.
Evidence of Alexander (Sasha) Templeman (died in the USA)
As I was in Braslav Ghetto during the Nazi occupation, it is my duty to give evidence in the trial of the accused Stanislav Jashinski, who was the chief of police in Braslav during the German occupation and whose trial is being conducted.
Stanislav Jashinski led a reign of terror and sanctioned fear among the Jews of the Ghetto. He would not allow them to buy foodstuffs from the peasants, and imprisoned and beat all those who dared sell the Jews bread and potatoes.
Under his command, people were struck without reason. In December 1941 somebody informed the police that Zelig Ullman, who lived with us in the Ghetto, expressed that the Nazis had suffered some failures and that the Allies would liberate us all. Jashinski imprisoned Zelig and killed him and his family five souls. After a few days I saw Jashinski walking in the Ghetto wearing the yellow boots of Ullman. In June Jashinski caught in the woods five caravans of Gypsy families. They were exterminated we, the Jews, had to dig pits in which to bury them. Some 23-25 people were killed, among them children.
During the liquidation of the Ghetto, Jashinski, armed with a pistol, shot indiscriminately at Jews who fled to take cover. I hid in an attic and with my own eyes I saw how this criminal shot, I saw him catch Yizhak Mindel, who had a child in his arms, and shot them.
Victims of Jashinski included my father, brother-in-law, sister and her children chemists from Slobodka near Braslav. He arrested them, and on the way to the pits shot them. This I learnt after the war on my visit to Slobodka and Braslav.
Is it possible at all to describe and detail the acts of cruelty of Jashinski, a Pole who sold his soul to the Germans, a tried to exceed them in brutality and murder. More than once Dr. Kovlaski, who was the mayor, expressed himself that Jashinski had allowed himself too much. Later they also murdered Kovlaski.
Till my dying day I will not forget the awful murderer and his actions to exterminate innocent people, children and women amongst them.
(New York, 26 October 1963)
SS Commander Brodrik (Affidavit)
On the 6th. August 1947 appeared in the office of the honourary court of Wilzak camp, Templeman Alexander (born 15th. December 1904), at Wilzak, Alteneuhaus, and gave the following affidavit under oath:
In October 1941 I was in Ghetto Braslav (Vilna Guburniya). The SS commander there was Brodrik. He was especially cruel to the Jews. On of my acquaintances, Zelig Ullman, wife and daughter, were shot on command of Brodrik in December 1942 for no reason. A similar fate met another acquaintance, Blochin.
On the night of 2nd. June 1942 began the mass murder of the Jews of the Braslav Ghetto. Over five days 2000 Jews were murdered in the place (4000 murdered, Templeman was not from Braslav and underestimated the number).
From my hiding place I saw how Brodrik commanded the acts of murder. He personally used his pistol. When I left my hide at night I saw many bodies of murdered Jews. From the building of the police were led arrested Jews, arranged in lines, six in each, and Brodrik, together with SS soldiers, brutally hit the men as they were taken to the pits, to death. In the mass murder of the Jews of Braslav, my father, sister, her husband and their children were killed. Of the whole population of the Ghetto only 10-12 people survived. In the Ghetto I lived in the home of the head of the Judenrat, Yizhak Mindel.
Brodrik would talk to Mindel frequently. He would say that after the extermination of the Jews he would leave Braslav. This statement was expressed to me by Mindel himself.
The day after the arrival of Brodrik the Germans prepared pits in a nearby forest. In a short time they filled them with the bodies of Gypsies, prisoners of war and Jews. The Jews sent by the Judenrat to excavate the pits, told that when they arrived at the pits they heard the groans and whines of people buried alive.
In December 1941 Brodrik and the SS soldiers, together with police from Braslav, exterminated the Jews of Ghetto Jod, a town nearby (some 20 kilometres from Braslav). After that action I saw the people returning with packages, happy and merry.
I note an additional witness:
Rives, Yizhak, Munich, a central witness.
I swear under oath the truth of this statement. I realise the results of a false testimony and I am ready to appear before the court as a witness.
Wilzak, 6th. August 1947.
Signature authourised, Wilzak 6/8/1947
Secretary (sign) Chairman (sign)
Prosecuting Department for War Crimes
To the Jewish Community,
Re: War Criminal Brodrik
According to our information, he is in the area of Jana Hasendramria-Meister formally Brodrik, even though his exact address is unknown.
Brodrik participated in the murder of 2000 Jews in the city of Braslav (Vilna Gurburniya) in the month of June 1942, and directed it personally.
We have incriminating evidence against Brodrik, and we are eager to get his address. We are certain that Brodrik is known in police circles in Jana, as he was active for 25 years in the police and gendarmerie of Jana and the area.
We ask you to confirm discreetly his present whereabouts and inform us of his address.
(Yad Vashem archive. M-21 124)
(Yasha according to Yad Vashem the Jews of Braslav were murdered by the Sondercommando 3 of Einsatzgruppen A.)
Concerning our family:
My grandfather, Leibe Seligman, was born in Slobodka near Braslaw to David Meir Zelikman (the spelling was changed when they emigrated to South Africa) and Sara Leah Swarzman of Kraslava. David Meir had at least two siblings - Sara Zelikman and Israel Zelikman. We still have connectings with all the branches, even though all were devastated by the Shoah.
David Meir married twice. The children of his first marriage (the ones we know about) moved to Montreal in Canada. Their descendents still live there and in the US. My grandfather was from the second marriage. The family ran a small grocer shop in Slobodka. The three sons all emigrated to South Africa and their descendents are today in Israel, South Africa, USA, Canada and England. The daughters married. Two moved to Druja and Kovno. The other two stayed in Slobodka. All perished.
Israel stayed in Slobodka. He married Chava Slova Winoker. They had 11 children, most of whom died. Still some managed to escape and their descendents are today in Sweden, Denmark, US and Canada. Anna Kantor-Zelikman was the second wife of Shachno, the eldest son of Israel Zelikman. His first family was killed.
Sara Zelikman who married Shneor Zand of Dvinsk. Their daughter moved to South Africa, the rest of the family staying in Dvinsk. Most were killed, but there is still family in St. Petersburg and other descendents in South Africa, US and Israel.
Zelikman-Seligman family members from Slobodka who were victims of the Holocaust
Sara Leah Swarzman-Zelikman
Chava Slova Winoker- Zelikman
Eliyahu (Elias) Zelikman
Ya'akov (Yankel) Zelikman
Raphael (Falke) Zelikman
Two children Shkolnik
Chaya Malca Nemenchinski
Sadly there were many others from other parts of the family from Kretinga
and Seduva (Shadowa) in Lithuania and Kraslava in Latvia.
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