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[Page 124]

Anna (Nuita) Zelikman

Daughter of Rachel and Yaacov Kantor

Translated from the Hebrew / Donated by Jon Seligman

(Dedicated to our family from Slobodka who perished
and to Yasha and Ewa Zelikman, the children of Anna)

Revised Based on Laia Ben-Dov's Translation / Footnotes Added by Jeff Deitch

 

 

I remember that sunny Sunday morning, a day of rest and rosy thoughts. [June 22, 1941, the day the USSR was invaded.] As was usual in those days, the radio was on. The speech by the Soviet foreign minister, [Vyacheslav] Molotov, struck us like thunder on a clear day and changed our lives in an instant. There was no panic at first; most people trusted in the strength of the Red Army. Everyone hoped that the battles would be short, ending in a Soviet victory.

A few days passed, and the news that reached us was incomplete and discouraging. Some people tried to flee to the east, gathering up what they could in whatever was available: wagons and bicycles. The young people left on foot, and in some cases adults accompanied their children.

The members of my family, who worked with Soviet citizens, succeeded in organizing a truck. My mother, my brother, my sister, I and all the rest of the family members loaded onto it some of our possessions. We set out full of hope, but our happiness was short-lived indeed. The police stopped us and ordered us and our possessions out of the truck; they needed the vehicle for themselves --- to catch saboteurs. Broken and disappointed, we returned home. I want to emphasize that this didn't happen only to us; some other families (Kort, Eidelson and others) reached the [pre-1939] border only to be turned back by the Red Army. During these days, some kind of authority remained in Braslav [Braslaw] to keep order, and there was no looting.

A few shells fell on the town, there were deaths and injuries, but all of it seemed unreal. We lived in continuous shock and fear about what was to come. Everything was happening so fast that it seemed unbelievable, as if we were in the midst of a kaleidoscope.

If my memory isn't mistaken, German patrols entered the town a few days after the war broke out, but they only passed through, ignoring the residents. A number of days later, we awoke to the sound of heavy artillery moving through the town, and the clattering hooves of huge horses. The German army was entering Braslav in full force: well-built, healthy soldiers with rough features, against a background of massive red flags with the swastika at their center. Fear and discouragement took hold of us.

I'm unable to remember the events that

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followed. It seems to me that the first thing the Germans did was to take all the Jews to the swamps [around June 27]. Someone else has doubtlessly written about this event and all that happened that night. None of us thought we'd return alive. It was said that [the Gentiles] Kovalski [Kowalski] and Dr. Baretzki [Barecki] saved all of us except for two men [Chaim Milutin and Shlomo Zilber]. We learned of the horrible murder of the Jews of Yaisi (a Jewish village near Braslav).[1] Zelig Ulman learned that in the shtetl of Borovka in Latvia the Germans had driven 200 Jews --- children, women, the elderly and young people --- into the lake and shot them.[2] After a few days, all the Jews of Braslav were gathered at the shore of Lake Driviata [Drywiaty] and the women, children, men and people from other places were separated from each other. We were collected in this way a number of times, by Germans with huge guard dogs. To this day, I don't know why they gathered us. Especially engraved in my memory is the time when groups of Poles gathered --- clerks, teachers, many of the “good” Polish youth --- dressed as if for a holiday, all of them happy and joyful. Already at this time, they seemed to hope for our destruction. It's easy to understand what we were in their eyes: Our death --- the death of men, women and children --- was a form of entertainment for them. In our home lived two families of refugees from Lithuania. They wanted to flee eastward but didn't have enough fuel. They were “stuck” in Braslav and murdered there, except for a few people who survived by hiding with farmers in the area.

After entering Braslav, the Germans found more than enough people who were prepared to carry out all of the criminal dirty-work on their behalf. These were Poles and Belorussians, many villagers and residents of the town, who dreamed of looting and murdering the Jews. They collaborated with the Germans up until the time the German Reich began to fall apart. Only a few of them turned down the chance to become hangmen.

The Judenrat [Jewish Council] was organized, headquartered in the Yiddish school [the Folkshul] that was opposite our home. The members of the Judenrat would often come to our house, because we were better informed than others about what was happening in the town. On the Polish side, an administration was organized to cooperate with the Germans. Thus, we were caught between a hammer and an anvil. On one side was the Judenrat, and on the other were the local collaborators.

At the head of the local administration was the chief of police, a Belorussian who'd arrived from somewhere and was essentially a puppet. Other persons who grabbed high positions in the administration were the teacher Pavlik [Pawlik] and his wife, who were Volksdeutsche [ethnic Germans].

The most enthusiastic collaborators were the deputy police chief, Yashinski [Stanislaw Jasinski] (he'll be discussed below), the mayor Kovalski [Kowalski], and the jail director Shliachchik, a Volksdeutsche and a sadist. Under the Soviet administration, he'd worked at repairing typewriters and lived modestly. With the entry of the Germans, however, he began to show his murderous nature and enjoyed unlimited authority.

I'd like to point out that at the beginning the Germans were received enthusiastically by the Christian residents. Even Dr. Baretzki was swept away by the general euphoria and welcomed the Germans with a splendid banquet that he gave at the municipal hospital. This was his great sin. Dr. Baretzki, who hid the family of [Shlomo] Ustyev the tinsmith for a long period, acknowledged this to me when he came to Vilna with his wife in the 1950s. After the war, when the Soviet authorities arrested Dr. Baretzki, all of the survivors signed a petition, after which he was released. Dr. Baretzki tried to help the Jews. He worked to raise their bread allowance. He also risked his own life by operating on a growth that my mother was suffering from. The operation was carried out in the hospital after the ghetto had been established.

The Germans exploited the Jews for labor: repairs in the workshops, cleaning wood at the train

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station, and so on. The women knitted socks and gloves and worked at cleaning. Sometimes the work assignments were used to humiliate and torture. The terror was indescribable.

After the regular German army soldiers left the town, some of the SS soldiers remained near the train station with their commander, Officer Bucholz. Everyone was afraid of him, because of his sadism and his officer's baton, which he used to hit people indiscriminately. After some more time had passed, this officer and his platoon left the town. The administration remained in the hands of the local collaborators and several SS officers. At this point, the most degenerate characters raised their heads. In their eyes, we weren't human beings but something to be trampled on.

During the months I stayed in Braslav, a number of murders took place before the ghetto was destroyed [on June 3-5, 1942]. At this time the family of Zelig Ulman, a member of the Judenrat, was killed. Shlomo [Zilber] the shochet [ritual slaughterer] and Chaim Milutin were killed on the way to the swamps [around late June 1941]. At about the same time, Frida Ulman, Beilka Deitch and Yaacov Musin were murdered. Other victims were 5-6 people who were peeling bark from logs [at the train station]. This murder was the basis for my lawsuit against Yashinski [in 1962-63].[3]

The family of Zelig Ulman had deposited jewelry and other valuables with a villager outside Braslav, in the hope that they'd be able to hide at his house in the village. The farmer, who wanted to take all of the property for himself, reported that Zelig Ulman was listening to radio news from the Soviet Union and circulating the information. Zelig, his wife and daughter were thrown in jail, at the mercy of the sadist Shliachchik. There they were held for some time. They were cruelly tortured and finally murdered. Boris, their only son, succeeded in escaping death.

It should be emphasized: Friendly relations between Jews and Poles were utterly forbidden. Special notices were posted in this regard.

The winters of 1941-1943 were especially cold in all the areas of the occupation. Temperatures dropped to 42 degrees below zero. The initial German victories turned to stalemate, and the German armies suffered greatly from the cold: Their clothing was unsuited to the Russian climate. For this reason, the Germans ordered the Judenrat to collect warm clothes and demanded a very high ransom for allowing the Jews to remain alive. The Judenrat appointed me and N. Fridman to record on special lists the clothing that was gathered. As usual, the Germans promised that the greater the amount of gold, silver and clothing, the greater the chance the Jews would live. And they said that hardworking people, such as those in Braslav, had nothing to fear.

I'll never forget the occasion when the clothes were collected. Everyone came to show their presence, bringing piles of warm clothing, expensive furs for men and women, sheepskin coats, hats, and gold and silver valuables. Poor families brought Passover goblets, trays, candlesticks, gold coins, earrings and so on. These were items they'd kept all their lives to serve as a dowry for their daughters. The wealthier people handed over only a part of their possessions. The wife of Betzalel-Yaacov [Dagovitz] cried bitterly when they took her caracul fur coat. In this way a very large amount of property was collected, and the Judenrat said the Germans were very pleased.

Life went on, with pressure, extortion and torture at every step. But people weren't discouraged and would try to encourage one another. From the front, we received encouraging rumors.

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Sasha Tempelman, who we'd known for a long time, would often come to us and tell us that Yashinski was passing him news heard on the radio. And that Yashinski had promised to help him and warn of any impending trouble. For such information Yashinski received a lot of gold, but over time people began to lose their faith in miracles and understood that they were the “walking dead.”

It was known that the Jews of Lithuania and Latvia had been exterminated by the Germans immediately after their invasion. It's impossible to describe the brutal methods of murder that the Lithuanians and Latvians carried out. To save bullets, these killers would cut the throats of small children or bash their heads against the wall. Adults met a similar fate. In Vilna, Kovno and Riga, only a handful of Jews were left in each of the ghettos after the massacres. The residents of southern Latvia were taken to Dvinsk [42 kilometers northwest of Braslav] and immediately killed there. This was also the fate of the Jews of Kraslava, a fairly large town [30 kilometers north of Braslav and in Latvia, across the Dvina River].

After all the Jews of Kraslava had been taken to Dvinsk,[4] there remained only one very wealthy and respectable family --- the Barkan family --- who were hidden by the Catholic priest of Kraslava in the church. The condition for their rescue was that the family renounce Judaism and convert to Christianity. This difficult condition was accepted by the family. I'm sure that those who condemn them would've done the same thing if placed in a similar situation. Who could stand seeing their child torn to pieces? And I'm sure that G-d, in His great mercy, would forgive them. The Barkan family included the couple, Zusia and Liuba; the son Yasha (Yaacov), age 9; the daughter Rafaela, age 6; and Liuba's mother --- Mrs. Dinerman, a very respectable matron. They were saved.

After some time had passed, the priest concluded that even their conversion wouldn't guarantee their survival and the area around Braslav had become very dangerous. He decided to move the family to a safer place. For this, he contacted the priest in Plusy [12 kilometers southwest of Kraslava, south of the Dvina River]. There the situation was a bit calmer. The priest in Plusy turned to one of the poorest, most religious families --- the M[ichael] Kizlo family from the village of Shemelki [Szemielki] --- pointing out that the Barkans had converted and must be saved.[5] And also that the Barkans were wealthy and owned a lot of property, and would certainly compensate the family generously if they survived. But these weren't the only things that influenced the farmer. The main reason for his agreement was his deep religiosity, together with that of his entire family: the grandfather, the grandmother, his wife and his two children. Each of them was filled with compassion for all living things, and they were moral people to the depths of their hearts.

With the agreement of the Kizlo family, the Barkan family crossed the Dvina River on a dark night and was given accommodations in the village. The mother, Mrs. Dinerman, refused to eat non-kosher food. As we were related to them, her son-in-law decided to bring her to us in Braslav. The peasant Michael [Kizlo] brought her to us at the end of 1941. She was happy to be among Jews. She knitted socks with all of the women and was relatively content. Things continued in this way until December 1941, until the destruction of the Jews of Yod [Jod a.k.a. Jody, 25 kilometers southeast of Braslav].

I remember that the Braslav Schutzpolizei [police force] under Yashinski took part in that destruction. People saw the trucks returning to Braslav, loaded with the possessions of those who'd been murdered.[6] The killers, Yashinski among them, sat on the loot, drunk and singing merrily. This was a reminder of the frightening reality, after months of anticipation.

Michael, our farmer, who was always well informed, learned of the massacre [in Yod]. He was brave and didn't hesitate. He came to Braslav and took back Mrs. Dinerman. Panic and fear gripped

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us all. My family asked Michael to also take me with him to the village, as I was the youngest daughter and without a family of my own. Only later did I understand the noble sacrifice they made. The farmer, an open and warm-hearted man, didn't refuse, and I agreed to leave my loved ones. To this day, I can neither forget nor forgive myself for my decision.

It was December 24, 1941. When it got dark we crept, covered in large shawls, to the sleigh. My brother-in-law Yaacov Feldman accompanied us to the other side of Lake Noviata [Nowiata]. After a dramatic goodbye, he disappeared into the fog with all my dearest ones, who I never saw again.

I arrived in Shemelki on Christmas Eve. The entire Kizlo family, together with the Barkan family, waited for us beside the festive table. My arrival was no surprise, as all had believed that Michael would want to save another person.

The village of Shemelki was divided into separate farms, each of them far from the next. In the village lived several Kizlo families, all related to each other. One of them, Yosef, was told of our presence. He was an honest, good-hearted man. We had three hiding places, which Michael prepared ahead of time. One was a pit under the cowshed, covered with boards, into which air entered through a hidden opening. Food was brought to us when the cows were fed. Most of the time, we lived there. The second hiding place was a concealed room in one part of the house, with its own toilet. The third place was located in an attic, with a hidden entrance. We hid there only in the most dangerous situations, because it was cramped and very narrow.

Our hosts shared with us their last crust of bread. The winter was hard, the summer harvest had been very poor, and it was difficult for them to support us. But there was a more challenging problem: Michael's neighbors would often visit him for friendly conversation, and they could see the large quantity of food that was cooking and the smoke that rose from the chimney at unusual hours. Even the two small children in the family might let a word slip out by mistake. The smallest thing might arouse suspicion, and in addition two families of policemen lived in the village.

We lived in constant fear, just hoping to survive. This feeling was shared by our host. He'd received no prize or payment in advance from us. The end of the war was not yet in sight, and worse --- each day he endangered the lives of his family, all of whom could be killed because of our presence.

But through a miracle, all went well. The children never gave us away, even though they knew about us and in calmer times even played with us, when they took us from the hiding place into the house so that we could warm ourselves in the kitchen on the coldest days.

In June 1942, as we lay in our hiding place, we heard someone ask our host, “Michael, do you need any plunder? “Why?” Michael asked, and the other replied, “They're killing the Jews of Braslav today, there will be a lot of loot.” These words were spoken by a man called Yosef Buzo, the manager of the “steshelets” [strzelec] (sharpshooter) association in Braslav. He was originally from Plusy. He sometimes visited Michael and was known as a respectable man.

I didn't have the right or the will to shout, wail or even bang my head against the wall. I could only

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sit quietly in despair. After some time had passed, a woman of the village came to visit the grandmother and spoke about the same event: “Jews, cats, rubbish --- they're all the same.” This view was shared by 95% of the Christian population. Nearly all of them thought this way.

The wife of the watchmaker Kshidzianek [Krzyzanek] --- a Christian family that lived near the house of the Christian parish house (dom parafialny) near the Catholic church --- told me, when I returned to Braslav after the liberation, that from the window of her house she'd seen the destruction of the ghetto. She said that the Jews had been brought there and filled the parish house. They'd been placed under guard and held for three days without a drop of water as they awaited their fate: to be taken to the pits. She saw the elderly rabbi, Rav Abba Zahorie, marching calmly at their head during their last journey. She also saw my mother Rachel and my sister Fania walking together. Fania's husband, Yaakov Feldman, died later.

We lived suspended between life and death. I suffered greatly from asthma. Sometimes I received medicine with the help of the priest Bilsher. I'd lie down with a pillow over my mouth so that, G-d forbid, no one would hear my coughing. Walls, in those days, had more ears than ever before.

After a number of months had passed, Mrs. Dinerman suffered a brain hemorrhage and her mental state became confused. She shouted that she wanted to go home, that the war had ended. We were in great danger of being discovered. Unfortunately, after some time she suffered a further attack and became completely paralyzed. For three days she rasped so loudly that Michael's wife and grandmother had to guard the gate at the entry into the farmyard, to prevent anyone from hearing her. These were terrible moments. 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 went on. The warning system used in Plusy helped us a lot. For instance, if police or gendarmes entered Plusy, someone would hang a white sheet on the building near the church on the other side of the lake. Seeing it, we'd enter the safest hiding place.

It's hard to describe all the troubles we faced. The children with us turned pale from the lack of air, poor food and bad living conditions. But despite our suffering, we were toughened by the strong will to stay alive.

Time passed, month after month, year after year, until 1944, when the front began to approach our region. Our fears grew. Rumors spread that the Germans, in their defeat, were expelling residents westward and burning villages. Luckily for us, the Germans became caught in a “pocket,” were attacked from all sides, and failed to carry out their plans. But in the area of Dvinsk, residents were forced to move on. For this reason, Michael took in a refugee family that wasn't Jewish. By a miracle, they didn't notice us. We lay in hiding for long days without food, since Michael was afraid to bring us food at that time.

The front moved closer and the Germans prepared a line of defense that passed through the village. But they couldn't hold their position, and they withdrew. The Russians took Plusy. Michael, our savior, let us come out onto the porch, and our presence in the village was no longer a secret. The next day, you can understand our terror when the Germans returned. But there was no longer the fear that someone would hand us over to the Nazis; it was clear to everyone that the Nazi beast was dying.

The battles in the area continued for several days; shells fell all around us, but we were no longer as afraid: Liberation was

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imminent. Soon we met tired Soviet soldiers, dirty but victorious. It's impossible to describe how we felt on emerging from our cramped, narrow holes into the clean open air, filling our lungs with the fragrance of flowers and fields.

It was September 1944 when the Barkan family returned to Kraslava. The grandmother took me to Braslav, where I met with a handful of the beloved Jewish survivors of my town. I found work and stayed in Braslav until 1946. From there, I traveled to Vilna [about 165 kilometers to the southwest].

A few more words about the brave and noble family that saved us. It's very difficult to describe all that they and we experienced over the two years and seven months. Many times all of us were in danger of death and in despair, and it appeared that everything was lost. Sometimes all of us were ready to go to the lake and drown ourselves in it, to stop endangering the lives of the good villagers. But each time they answered: Our fate will be your fate.

During the German occupation --- it seems to me that it was during the second winter of German rule --- the frozen bodies of the Shlosberg family were found on the lake. (They had land near Plusy and also owned a shop. The son was an agronomist, and the daughter ran the shop.) According to Michael, the people who hid them couldn't keep them any longer. So they poisoned the entire family, four souls, and threw the bodies onto the frozen lake. The family of Aharon Zeif was similarly poisoned just before the end of the war.

And another detail: A cousin of Michael's visited from Braslav. This cousin was also from the Kizlo family, but he was one of those who celebrated the destruction of the ghetto. From my hiding place I heard his boasts of how, at the time the ghetto was destroyed, he'd helped the Germans find Jews who were in hiding. “I pulled out the Zhids [Jews] by their hair and grabbed a lot of loot,” he said.

After the liberation, I filed a lawsuit against him. The trial took place in Polotsk [115 kilometers east of Braslav], before a panel of three officers of the NKVD.[7] They sentenced the criminal Kizlo and his family to five years of exile in Siberia. That trial, as well as the trial of Yashinski, I brought out of a deep-seated desire for retribution despite the cost, and I'm very satisfied with my actions. I've included a report from the trial [of Yashinski, on pages 134-142 of this memorial book].

 

About the Trial

For the Poles, the intelligentsia and the lower classes, the arrival of the Germans was like the coming of the Messiah. They felt that the Germans had delivered them from the yoke of Soviet occupation. Many Poles expressed their enthusiasm and willingness to serve the Germans, and organized receptions and banquets for them. Even Dr. Baretzki was swept along with them.

Yashinski, who'd lived through the Soviet occupation [of 1939-41] in constant fear, was among the first to welcome the Nazis. I don't know how he succeeded in catching the eye of the Germans, but he was soon appointed chief of police.

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Who was Yashinski? If I'm not mistaken, he was a sergeant in the border guards of the Polish Army. When the Red Army entered [in September 1939], many soldiers of the Polish Army were arrested. Some of them succeeded in escaping to Lithuania and Latvia. But with the help of a local Jew, Yashinski was registered as a laborer and remained in Braslav. During the first days of the Nazi occupation, the Germans were assisted by volunteers who wore a white band on their sleeves. It should be pointed out that later some of the volunteers resigned; they saw what was likely to happen and didn't want to be among the murderers.

Yashinski played a two-faced game. In the first months [of the German occupation] he murdered no one; on the contrary, he developed good connections with the Judenrat, with its chairman, Yitzchak Mindel, and with Sasha Tempelman. The Judenrat was located in the school opposite our house. Often acquaintances would visit us to talk and drink a cup of tea.

Only a few memories of this time remain with me, except for the incident about which I testified in court: In December 1941, during the time of the Hanukkah holiday, the massacre of the Jews of Yod took place. The killing was carried out by the men of the Braslav police, under Yashinski's orders. Afterward the murderers were seen returning, drunk and full of loot, with Yashinski at their head, drunk and happy.

As I've described, I hid in the house of a farmer from the end of December 1941 until the liberation [around July 1944]. After that, I stayed in Braslav for some time; from there I went to Vilna and later to Poland. Sima Fisher also lived there. She was related to my late husband, and so we often met. One day, in 1962 or 1963, Moshe Fisher and Boris Ulman came to the apartment and told us that they'd testified at the trial of one of the blue policemen,[8] and Yashinski had appeared as a defense witness. At this time, we decided that we must take Yashinski to trial. After some time had passed, Sima and I were called to the court to identify Yashinski, and indeed we identified him among the men who were presented to us. The Warsaw press wrote that Yashinski would receive the death penalty. At the first trial, a writer for the Yiddish newspaper Folks-Sztyme --- Tenenbaum [sic] --- was present, and he published an article about the trial.[9]

I'd like to emphasize that immediately after we decided to testify, I sent letters to Masha and Mendel Maron, to Liuba and Eliahu Shmidt, and to Sasha Tempelman in the United States, asking them to send affidavits. I also wrote to Israel, to Reichel and to Yerachmiel Milutin. Their testimonies arrived and were read to the court, but they were rejected and not taken into consideration as evidence.

My situation during the trial was difficult. I hadn't been in the [Braslav] ghetto during the general massacre [on June 3-5, 1942]. I told the court that my brother David had been among the Jews who worked peeling bark from logs near the train station. I'd brought him food every day. One day, I saw how Yashinski and some other policemen shot at Jews who'd been smoking while working. This was my testimony, and throughout the trial I maintained it without change. I see giving this testimony as the most important thing I did in my life.

In the book Till Eulenspiegel, the hero of the story avenges the death of his father: “The ashes of Claes always beat in my heart.”[10] In my heart beats, and will always beat, the ashes of those who were so cruelly 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 in Braslav. This was an affront to all those for whom the period had been like a “celebration at the time of a plague” [that is, those who'd welcomed the Nazi occupation]. In my article, I explained why

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From the bill of indictment [of Stanislav Yashinski]

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I had initiated the trial. The article negatively affected the judges and lawyers.

The court sessions took place in Olshtin [Olsztyn, now in northeastern Poland, about 470 kilometers southwest of Braslav], where most of the Polish refugees who had left Braslav in 1946-47 were then living. Just before the second session of the court, an agronomist named Kovalski [Kowalski] offered silver, gold and jewelry to me and Sima Fisher, to get us to change our testimony. We reacted sharply. It's interesting: Over several years, they were unable to discredit my testimony, but meanwhile something happened. A committee was sent to Braslav to investigate the location of the incident. In addition a witness was found, a girl I'd never seen before, and she testified behind closed doors. In the hall were present only the judges, her and me. She accused me of collaborating with the Germans in the town of Opsa [18 kilometers southwest of Braslav], of injecting Poles with experimental inoculations, of abusing the Polish population and so on. The worst thing was that the chairman of the court session (the staff had changed completely over time) acted as if he believed all of this, and in front of the witness he expressed his sympathy and sorrow for the torture she'd experienced. Kovalski and the other defense witnesses testified zealously on behalf of Yashinski, although they didn't dare to accuse me, except for that lowlife.

The trial ended with Yashinski's acquittal, and the chairman [of the court session] noted that measures would be taken against certain witnesses.

There was great joy among Yashinski's friends, about 30 to 40 people. Throughout the trial they'd spoken in his favor as witnesses for the defense, but to no avail. Only the final testimony [of the girl] turned the scales in favor of the accused.

After these events, I was broken. I feared that they were planning to charge me with perjury. I traveled to Warsaw, to the chairman of the Jewish Committee, Mr. Domb. He told me that I had nothing to worry about, because any trial of that kind would cause an international uproar and the Polish government couldn't allow that to happen.

No one should get the idea that I wish to present myself as a hero. Everything I wrote was the truth. It was the reality. I don't see my testimony as anything unusual, I simply followed my heart. It was my duty.
Footnotes

  1. Yaisi (Jaisi) was seven kilometers east of Braslav. According to the story of Shneiur Munitz on pages 399-402 of this memorial book, around 14 Jews were killed in Yaisi on July 4, 1941. Return
  2. According to the Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945, Volume II-B (2012), this was the massacre in Latvia on July 28, 1941 of the Jews of Silene, a village that was known until the mid-1930s as Borovka. On July 28, on the pretext of being moved to the Braslav Ghetto, the Jews of Silene were driven on foot to Lake Smilga, three kilometers southeast of their village, and shot by Latvian nationalists. Elderly Jews and children were taken to the killing site in carts. The victims numbered 186 people in 32 families. Following the massacre, local non-Jewish residents dug four large pits and buried the victims. Silene was located about 23 kilometers northwest of Braslav. Return
  3. The lawsuit is described on pages 134-142 of this memorial book. Return
  4. According to the Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945, Volume II-B, the Dvinsk Ghetto was formed on July 31, 1941. In addition to Jews from Dvinsk, it contained Jews from towns such as Rezekne, Subate and Kraslava.

    Thousands of Jews in the Dvinsk Ghetto were killed in a series of Aktions between late July and mid-August 1941, August 15-20, and November 7-9. Following these Aktions, some 1,000 Jews remained in the ghetto, of whom half then died in a typhus epidemic that began in late November or early December 1941. In May 1942 the ghetto suffered another massacre. In October 1943 the ghetto was cleared, and the remaining ghetto inmates were transferred to concentration camps in Kaiserwald and Stutthof. Return

  5. Shemelki was about two kilometers northeast of Plusy, separated from Plusy by a lake. Shemelki was also 22 kilometers north of Braslav. Return
  6. The massacre on December 17, 1941 of the Jews of Yod (and of the Jews from other communities who had been brought to Yod), is described in survivor accounts on pages 405-437 of this memorial book. Return
  7. Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs): The Soviet law enforcement and intelligence agency that existed from 1934 to 1946, after which it evolved into the KGB. Return
  8. Presumably this refers to the uniform of the local police in Braslav (composed of non-Germans), rather than to the Gendarmerie in Braslav (who were the German police). Generally speaking, blue was the color of the uniforms worn by the Polish police during the war in German-occupied Poland. These Polish “blue policemen” were allowed to operate because the German police force in occupied Poland (the Order Police, or Orpo, whose uniforms were green, and which included the Gendarmerie) was too small to operate by itself. Return
  9. This might refer to the newspaper article that appears on pages 134-136 of this memorial book. That article, however, was written by Tenenblatt, not Tenenbaum. The Folks-Sztyme (People's Voice) was a magazine published in Yiddish/Polish in Communist Poland between 1946 and 1991. Return
  10. Till Eulenspiegel was a figure from German folk literature, dating back to at least the 1500s; there are tales about him in many parts of Europe. In one of them, he had a father named Claes who was betrayed by a neighbor, turned over to the Inquisition and burned at the stake. Eventually Till avenged himself against the authorities for his father's death. Return

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From the Courtroom: Was It All a Misunderstanding?

By Special Correspondent S. Tenenblatt
[written for the Folks-Sztyme (People's Voice) magazine in Poland in 1963]

Translated from the Hebrew / Donated by Jon Seligman

Revised Based on Laia Ben-Dov's Translation / Footnotes Added by Jeff Deitch

We're in the district court of Olshtin [Olsztyn, in what's now northeastern Poland, about 470 kilometers southwest of Braslaw/Braslav].[1] In the corridor outside Hall No. 238, a few tens of people are engaged in a discussion. They're recalling earlier times, some decades before, when they used to meet daily. These people all come from the same town.

“We're starting, please enter the hall,” announces the court orderly, cutting short the conversation. People enter and take their places. In the hall, it's quiet. Again the voice of the orderly is heard: “All rise! The court's in session!” Witnesses are sworn in. In the hall only a few people remain, but later the court will fill again with witnesses who have already testified. To the left of the panel of judges, guarded by a policeman, sits a tall man with broad shoulders, 50-something years old --- calm and collected. From time to time, he leans over to his defense attorney and tells him what to ask the witnesses. On his face, it's possible to read his thoughts --- soon everything will become clear, it's only due to a misunderstanding that he's sitting in the dock as the accused.

Is it really so?

The court session continues. The events under discussion took place some 20-odd years ago in the town of Braslav, 180 kilometers from Vilna [as the crow flies, Braslav was about 165 kilometers northeast of Vilna]. Like hundreds of other towns in the Vilna region, the town had been inhabited by a few thousand Jews who were exterminated by the genocidal Nazis.

“Your honors, I saw it with my own eyes,” one of the witnesses will later testify. “It was terrible, shocking, they beat, they killed, they laughed, and then they fired . . .”

Of all the Jews of Braslav, who'd numbered several thousand, there survived after the years of terror of Nazi occupation --- only about 30 people [sic].[2] Most of them had fought in the ranks of the partisans.

At the end of 1962, there was a trial in Kashlin [Koszalin, in northwestern Poland]. Present in the courtroom were Sima [Fisher] Zilberman, Nuita Zelikman of Valbzich [Wałbrzych], and Michael Vinokurovski (formerly Moshe Fisher) of Lodz. They identified one of the witnesses, a person who'd long been sought by the authorities, the former chief of police in Braslav, Stanislav Yashinski [Stanislaw Jasinski]. An investigation began, and an indictment was sent to the district court in Olshtin.

[Q:] Can the witness recognize the accused?
[A:] Of course! Your honor, he was an honest man, he often helped people and we spoke frequently.
[Q:] Please answer the question, does the witness know where the accused worked?
[A:] They say that he worked for the police, but I never saw him in uniform, he was a respectable man.

 

From the Indictment

Stanislav Yashinski faced the accusation that in 1941, after the Germans occupied Braslav, he had changed sides to serve the Hitlerites as chief of the local Schutzpolizei [police force]. He was charged with treason toward the Polish nation, in that he took part in the murder of the civilian population, particularly Jews . . .

If the court found him guilty, wrote the newspaper Głos Olsztynski [Voice of Olsztyn] before the trial, then based on the 1944 law (according to which he was being judged) he could face the death sentence.

[Page 135 and a portion of page 136]

Q: Did the local police take part in the expulsion of the Jewish population?
A: Yes, but I didn't see Yashinski among them, the hangings and murders were conducted by the Germans.
Q: Did the witness see the accused in uniform? Did he carry a weapon?
A: Yes, but . . .
Q: How did the accused treat the Jewish population?
A: What does this mean? I stated already, the treatment was good. Once he told me, during the war, that he was revolted by the shootings. It was even said that he hid three Jewish women at his place.
Q: Did the witness see them?
A: No.
Q: And what happened to them?
A: I don't know, but . . .

“But he's a respectable man, he had a good name.” These words were repeated many times. The face of Yashinski grew more and more animated. He'd been a policeman, chief of the Schutzpolizei. During the investigation, he hadn't denied it. According to his statements, he'd avoided atrocities. Was everything just a misunderstanding?

 

Facts, Facts

The witness Nuita [Anna] Zelikman: It was next to the train station, in the first months of the occupation. My brother was working there among the other people. I brought him food. Suddenly, I saw from a distance . . . yes, I state with full certainty that I saw Yashinski. Shouts were heard, curses and shots. Six Jews were killed.

Q: Who else can confirm this?

The witness was quiet. Was it correct? Did the accused shoot, or not? At this trial, the matter was crucial.

The witness Michael Vinokurovski, age 46 and now living in Lodz, stands up. Formerly he was known as Moshe Fisher.

The witness [Vinokurovski]: Yes, I was born and lived in Braslav. I knew the accused before the war. He was dressed in a uniform with an armband of the Schutzpolizei. Like all the policemen, he was armed.
Q: Did he take part in murder?
A: Who among the policemen didn't shoot? They all . . .
Judge: Please be specific . . . facts!
A: I was in the ghetto at the time it was destroyed, in June 1942. I succeeded in escaping. Afterward I hid in the building of the tannery. I hid there with my sister, Sima Zilberman.

She [Sima Fisher Zilberman] is in the hall, listening to the trial. She's an elderly woman and has already testified. During the recess, we walked in the corridor. “I'm already tired of this trial,” she says. “To experience the nightmare again. What do you think, who will the court believe?”

The witness [Vinokurovski]: I hid in the attic, there my sister told me that she saw through a crack how they murdered an injured woman. Yashinski fired, she saw him.
Q: What happened next to the witness?
A: I succeeded, your honor, in reaching the partisans. I stayed with them until the end of the war. I was in a special unit. We received an order to catch Yashinski so that he could be tried, but two weeks before the Soviet Army entered the area [in July 1944], he escaped.
Q: For what did you want to try him?
A: For what exactly I don't know, but . . .

Again, there was no clarity. After 20-something years, it's impossible to rely on human memory. But is it possible to forget those days, full of nightmares?! Who must the court believe? All of the circumstances must be checked.

In Israel lives a man named Yerachmiel Milutin. He's originally from Braslav, a former partisan . . . his written testimony was added to the indictment, as the affidavit of a witness.

The judge reads it. For the first time, the self-confidence drains from the face of the accused, and for a moment he hides his face in his hands. Is it . . .?

 

[From the affidavit of Yerachmiel Milutin]

I learned of the investigation against Stanislav Yashinski. I lived in Braslav, and I knew him well. I met him when he worked as a policeman. He was especially active in the extermination and dispossession of Jews. Besides his weapon, he always carried with him a white baton, and he liked to use it frequently.

June 3, 1942 is a day especially engraved in my memory: the afternoon of a summer day. The Germans and the police led out the Jews. On that day about 4,000 Jews were murdered in Braslav, and I succeeded in escaping. From my hiding place, I saw Yashinski leading my wife and daughter. At one point he ordered them to stop while the line continued to move. With his hand he signaled them to keep walking, and then he took out his pistol and shot them twice, and it grew quiet. I left my hiding place and approached my dear ones to part from them forever. After that, I joined the partisans and fought in their ranks until the end of the war. I'm prepared to testify in person. [End of Yerachmiel Milutin's affidavit]

We in the courtroom are listening. The judge continues to read affidavits that have arrived from the United States during the investigation. Those of Eliahu and Liuba Shmidt and Sasha Tempelman accuse Yashinski, but because they didn't follow the required procedures their evidence isn't taken into consideration.

A short consultation takes place in the district court of Olshtin. The chairman, D. Yavarski [Jaworski], and the prosecutor --- S. Vatznitzka [Warznitzka?] --- decided that the matter in its present form couldn't be concluded [that is, it was impossible to reach a verdict]. Accordingly, it was decided that the accused would remain in jail and all the documents would be sent to the district attorney in Kashlin, who'd conducted the investigation, to complete the affidavits. It was also recommended that he apply to the office of the chief prosecutor, to receive additional material through him from the judicial department in Belarus.

For a verdict, we must wait.

(Folks-Sztyme, Warsaw, November 20, 1963, No. 181)[3]

Footnotes

  1. Following the end of World War II, Braslav was no longer in Poland but in Belarus, as the border had been shifted to the west. On page 133 of this memorial book, Anna (Nuita) Zelikman stated that most of the Polish refugees who left Braslav in 1946-47 resettled in Olshtin, Poland. Return
  2. According to the Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945, Volume II-B (2012), approximately 70 Jews from Braslav survived the war. Return
  3. The Folks-Sztyme (People's Voice) was a magazine published in Yiddish in Communist Poland between 1946 and 1991. During part of this period, it was also published in Polish. In the 1960s, one of its editors was Samuel Tenenblatt, perhaps the “S. Tenenblatt” mentioned above as the correspondent. Return


[Page 136]

Stanislav Yashinski [Stanislaw Jasinski]:
Murderer of the Jews of Braslav

Translated from the Hebrew / Donated by Jon Seligman

Revised Based on Laia Ben-Dov's Translation / Footnotes Added by Jeff Deitch

After World War II, the murderer Yashinski was placed on trial [as described on pages 134-135 of this memorial book, in 1962-63]. The trial took place in the district court in Olshtin in Poland [Olsztyn, in what's now northeastern Poland, about 470 kilometers southwest of Braslaw/Braslav]. The following are portions of the protocol of the witnesses' testimony. Some of the witnesses testified at the trial in the courtroom, while others gave their testimony in Israel and in the United States [in the form of affidavits]. All were photocopied from the official protocol of the court that was written, obviously, in Polish.

 

The Witness Sima [Fisher] Zilberman

During the war, I lived in Braslav. On June 3, 1942, in the early hours of the morning, at around 3 a.m., I heard the voices of policemen who were making Jews run through the street. I ran outside

[Page 137]

wearing only my nightgown. After I saw what the police were doing, I became very frightened and ran immediately to the attic of our house. My brother [Moshe] Fisher-Vinokurovski came with me. I hid in a chest that stood there. When the noise in the street subsided, I looked through a crack and saw a woman lying on the sidewalk, screaming, “Oy, my intestines have come out.” Many policemen and other people were there. From time to time, shots were heard. With my own eyes, I saw the accused shoot and kill this woman with his pistol. On his lips I saw white foam. I recognized him immediately. When the Jews were taken to forced labor during the German occupation, the accused was also with the Germans. When the ghetto was established in Braslav in [April] 1942 and the Judenrat [Jewish Council] was chosen, the accused would come to them with commands from the Germans to hand over all valuables, as well as fur coats. I met him there and got to know him for the first time. He was dressed in black. Everyone said this was Officer Yashinski. Yashinski came to the Judenrat many times and I knew him very well, because I saw him in daylight. When we hid in the attic, I told my brother that I saw Yashinski shoot and kill the woman from the Biliak family. In the evening, my brother and I went downstairs to change clothes. Outside I heard shouts from the policemen saying, “Come, let's go to the Fisher house, they've got everything.” I don't know who looted the house. I knew by her voice the woman who was killed by the accused, and I also saw her husband beside her. I'm sure it was her, there can be no doubt or mistake. I'm convinced that the accused killed the woman. One day before the destruction of the ghetto, I saw him taking furniture from our house. I saw the accused from the front, not only from the side. I saw his entire face and the foam on his lips. On our street where we lived, there weren't many people of other nationalities; most were Jews. Sometimes Yashinski would come to the Judenrat, along with the Germans. In the ghetto, I heard that Chatzkel Vinokur was shot and killed next to the train station. He was killed at a distance from the station. At this time, they were shooting people there almost every day. Ulman was also killed then. Emma Milutin said that Yashinski shot and killed her mother. From the ghetto 100 girls were expelled on foot to Slobodka [the day before the destruction of the ghetto on June 3; Slobodka was about 11 kilometers northeast of Braslav]. I don't know if Yashinski was present at the expulsion. I saw him when he ran us through the snow [presumably this means the winter of late 1941-early 1942].

 

The Statement of the Witness Anna Zelikman

I was present in Braslav in 1941 in the area of the train station, when the accused Yashinski and other policemen murdered three Jews: Boris Karas, Chatzkel Vinokur and another Jew whose name I don't know, but I recognized him by sight. At the station were many wooden logs, and most of the Jewish men worked at cleaning them. My brother David Kantor worked there too, and I'd bring him food. It was during the early days of 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 railroad ties and smoking cigarettes. Suddenly Yashinski and another policeman ran toward them, shouting and moving them to the side. After a moment they shot them, Yashinski with his pistol and the other with his rifle. As far as I can remember, they kicked the bodies and shouted, “That'll teach the others a lesson.” Then they turned to the other Jews and ordered them to “remove the carcasses.” Upon seeing all this, I fled from the place. Yashinski I'd meet in the street. He ruled the Jews' affairs; he'd rush about in the street with a whip in his hand and drive Jews off the sidewalk. The accused was in constant contact with the Judenrat. All the residents of Braslav knew

[Page 138]

this. Yashinski was the one who communicated with the Jews on behalf of the Germans. Everyone knew him as “Officer Yashinski.” Among the Jewish population, he didn't have a good reputation. Maybe things changed after the ghetto was destroyed and maybe that's why several of the witnesses have given evidence in his favor, but they aren't Jews. I was in Braslav until December 24 [1941]. After the liberation [around July 1944], I [returned and] stayed in Braslav for two years. I didn't inform the Soviet authorities about the activities of Yashinski because during that period I was mentally broken. I didn't even concern myself with my mother's inheritance. After that I traveled to Vilna [about 165 kilometers southwest of Braslav], where I stayed until 1958. In that year, I came to Poland and lived in Valbzich.

Yashinski did grave harm to the Jewish population. On the day he killed the Jews, he was dressed in civilian clothes; though I don't remember for certain, he might have worn a military topcoat with a band on his arm. On that day, they shot only three Jews. Before that, right at the beginning of the decrees, a few Jews had already been shot. The entire Jewish population of Braslav numbered 4,000-4,500 souls. From that number, after the liberation only 30 [sic] people remained alive. After the shooting of the Jews by the train station, I stopped taking food to my brother. I was afraid. I'm convinced that the accused committed the murder. Everyone said at the time that Yashinski had done it. In the Christian version of history we, the Jews, are considered responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. “A Jew isn't a person,” people said. Many non-Jewish people from Braslav knew that the liquidation of the ghetto was imminent, but not one person came to warn the Jews.

 

The Witness Michael Vinokurovski (Moshe Fisher)

During the Nazi occupation, my name was Fisher. From the days of my birth, I'd lived in Braslav. I knew the accused even from before the war. After the outbreak of hostilities, he was appointed chief of police and later acting chief.

A few months [sic] after the arrival of the Germans, they shot and killed some Jews in Dubina [Dubene, 16 kilometers northwest of Braslav].[1] A Jew named Blacher escaped and informed us that the accused, together with a group of policemen, were in Dubina and had killed Jews. Blacher told me and other Jews who were members of the Judenrat. During the first days of the Nazi occupation, I saw Yashinski speaking beside the church [in Braslav]. After two days, my sister and I fled to a village, where we hid. After that, I joined the partisans. At the time we hid in the attic, my sister told me that she'd seen Yashinski shoot a woman in the stomach. Four years later, at the trial of Kolkovski [Kolkowski] in Kashlin [Koszalin, in northwestern Poland], I met Yashinski again. After the proceedings in court, I was sitting in a restaurant with a group of friends, among them the witness Zapolski. Yashinski appeared and approached me. He called me aside and told me that he'd already been tried for his actions as chief of police in Braslav, and added that he'd hidden and saved one Jewish woman. I don't remember the name of the woman he mentioned. To this, I replied that I knew in fact she'd been shot and killed. When I was with the partisans, we prepared lists of people suspected of collaboration with the Germans. Yashinski appeared on the list as the chief of police in Braslav. In 1941, I worked around the train station loading wood onto freight cars. My cousin Chatzkel Vinokur worked there too. We were sent to work by the Judenrat. I don't know if Germans were also there. The train yard was large. At noon one day, 5-6 people were shot and killed. When the shooting started, I ran from

[Page 139]

the place. I didn't know what was happening, only that [Boris] Karas, [Chatzkel] Vinokur and others had been killed. Ulman wasn't killed on that day. By pleading with the police, he succeeded in saving himself. I took part only a few times in the work near the trains. I used a medical certificate, which I presented to the Judenrat [to forgo further work at the train station]. I didn't see Germans near the station, and I don't know what happened afterward.

 

The Testimony of Antoliush Zavdazki [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 by sight. I knew that he worked in the police. I don't remember what uniform he wore. It was said that he was chief of the local police. I heard nothing against Yashinski. As far as I recall, the local police didn't take an active part in the destruction of the first [Braslav] ghetto [on June 3-5, 1942]. I worked then in the office of the district governor. One morning, at around 7 o'clock, I saw the arrival of a group of Germans in black uniforms with skull insignias on their caps and maybe also on their arms. I knew that this was a military unit, because a few of its members expressed concern about being sent to the front. The officer of this unit was Bucholtz. Next to the train station, a group of Jewish men were working. The Germans took them to work and also guarded them. The group of Jews numbered several tens of men. I heard that they shot several Jews on the train platform. I didn't see who was shooting. I know that someone told Bucholtz a group of Jews wasn't working properly, and he ordered them brought to the station. I learned this from the Jews who worked there. The men who were brought to the station, numbering 10-11 people, were locked in freight cars. At nightfall they were taken out of the freight cars, moved some distance from the station, and all were shot. Children from our family saw this. The following day, I met a German who was standing and cleaning his weapon. “I'm not doing this for parade,” he said, “we shot Jews yesterday.” This was the only occasion when Jews were shot near the station. I know that a group of Soviet prisoners fled from the station. Some of them returned and were shot. This happened after the Jews were killed.

 

The Witness Michael Laffir

I lived in Braslav from the day of my birth until 1946. I know that Yashinski was respected 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 next to the train station. A German army base was there, under the command of Bucholtz. The Germans [also] had an independent police station [in Braslav]. Opposite the station were storerooms and a loading platform. I heard that the Jews didn't want to work loading wood, so they were locked up in freight cars and then they were shot.

 

The Testimony of Chalbovitz [no first name given]

In 1944, I was drafted into the Polish army. Until then I lived in Braslav, near the train station. At the time of the destruction of the ghetto, I worked in the office of the district governor in Braslav. We received an order to go to the town and to bring shovels. I didn't go. When I passed [through] the town, I saw the Germans leading Jews. Near the

[Page 140]

train station, some Jews were working. There was a German base there, commanded by Bucholtz. When I went to visit my sister, sometimes I went past the train station. There the Germans shot about 13 Jews. This happened in a swamp near the station, shortly after the front moved further away. [Boris] Karas I knew, [Chatzkel] Vinokur I don't remember. The Jews worked loading wood. The area of the station was closed to strangers. People weren't allowed to come near it. I didn't try to approach the Jews.

 

Testimony of Alexander (Sasha) Tempelman (who died in the United States)

As I was in the Braslav Ghetto during the Nazi occupation, it's my duty to testify in the trial of the accused, Stanislav Yashinski, who was the chief of police in Braslav during the German occupation and whose trial is now being conducted.

Stanislav Yashinski led a reign of terror, imposing fear on the Jews in the ghetto. He didn't allow them to buy food from the farmers, and he imprisoned and beat all those who dared to sell bread and potatoes to the Jews.

Under his command, people were beaten without reason. In December 1941, someone informed the police that Zelig Ulman, who lived with us in the ghetto, had said that the Nazis would be defeated and the Allies would liberate us all. Yashinski imprisoned Zelig and killed him and his family --- five souls. After a few days, I saw Yashinski walking in the ghetto, wearing Ulman's yellow boots. In June, Yashinski caught five wagons in the forest, containing gypsy families. All of them were killed and we, the Jews, were forced to dig pits and bury them. The murdered numbered 23-25 people, among them children.

During the destruction of the ghetto, Yashinski, armed with a pistol, shot indiscriminately at Jews who tried to escape and find shelter. I hid in an attic and with my own eyes I saw how this criminal fired his pistol. I saw him grab Yitzchak Mindel, who had a child in his arms, and shoot them.

A few days after the ghetto was destroyed, the police were able to catch Jews who'd succeeded in hiding, and Yashinski and his policemen killed them.

Victims of Yashinski included my father, my brother-in-law, my sister and her children --- pharmacists in Slobodka, near Braslav. He arrested them, and on the way to the pits he shot them. All this I learned after the war, when I visited Slobodka and Braslav.

Is it at all possible to describe and detail the horrible deeds of Yashinski, a Pole who sold his soul to the Germans and tried to surpass them in brutality and murder? More than once Dr. Kovalski [Kowalski], who was then the town mayor, remarked that Yashinski had gone too far. Later they also murdered Kovalski.

Until my dying day, I won't forget this terrible murderer and his actions to destroy innocent people, among them women and children.

New York, October 26, 1963

[Page 141]

About SS Commander Brodrik (Affidavit)

On August 6, 1947, Alexander Tempelman (born on December 15, 1904) appeared in the office of the honorary court of Vilseck [Wilzak], located at Vilseck camp, at Altnuihauz [Alt-Neuhaus], and he declared the following under oath:

From October 1941 I was in the Braslav Ghetto (Vilna region). The SS commander there was Brodrik. He was especially cruel to the Jews. One of my acquaintances, Zelig Ulman, with his wife and daughter, was shot on the order of Brodrik in December 1942 for no reason. Another acquaintance of mine, Blochin[?], met a similar fate.

On the night of June 2, 1942 [actually on June 3] began the mass murder of the Jews of the Braslav Ghetto. Over five days, 2,000 Jews were murdered there.[2]

From my hiding place, I saw how Brodrik ordered acts of murder. He personally used his pistol. When I left my hiding place that night to escape the ghetto, I saw many bodies of murdered Jews. From the building of the police arrested Jews were taken out and arranged in rows of six. Brodrik, together with his men of the SS, brutally beat the men and took them to the pits, to death. In the mass murder of the Braslav Ghetto, my father, my sister and her husband, together with their children, were killed. Of the entire population of the ghetto only 10-12 [sic] people survived. In the ghetto I lived in the house of the Judenrat chairman, Yitzchak Mindel.

Brodrik would talk frequently to Mindel. In these conversations, he'd say that he planned to leave Braslav after all the Jews had been exterminated. This statement was told me by Mindel himself.

The day after Brodrik arrived, the Germans prepared pits in the nearby forest. Within a very short time, they filled the pits with the bodies of gypsies, prisoners of war and Jews. The Jews sent by the Judenrat to dig the pits said that when they walked to work they could hear from the pits the groans of people who'd been buried alive.

In December 1941, Brodrik and his SS men, together with police from Braslav, also destroyed the ghetto in the nearby town of Yod (20 kilometers from Braslav) [sic; actually 25 kilometers southeast of Braslav]. After that Aktion I saw the men returning with packages, joyful and happy.

I name one other witness: Yitzchak Rivosh [Rywosz], Munich, Central Committee.

I swear under oath the truth of the above declaration. I realize the consequences of a false declaration, and I'm prepared to appear as a witness before the court.

Vilseck, August 6, 1947

Signed
Alexander Tempelman
Signature authorized, Vilseck August 6, 1947
Secretary (signed)         Chairman (signed)

[Page 142]

Department of Advocacy in Cases of War Crimes

To the Jewish Community,
Leipzig
Subject: War Criminal Brodrik

According to our information, former Gendarmerie-Meister[3] Brodrik is located in the vicinity of Yena [Jena, 60 kilometers southwest of Leipzig], even though his exact address is unknown to us.

Brodrik participated in the murder of 2,000 [sic] Jews in the town of Braslav (Vilna region) in the month of June 1942, directing it personally.

We have incriminating evidence against Brodrik, and we are very interested in obtaining his address. We are certain that Brodrik is known in police circles in Yena, since he was active for 25 years in the police or Gendarmerie of Yena and the vicinity.

We ask that you confirm discreetly the place where Brodrik can be found and inform us of his address.

Signature unclear

(Yad Vashem archive M-21/124)

Footnotes

  1. This is incorrect, as the Germans arrived in Braslav in late June 1941 and the Jews in Dubina were attacked in July, probably on July 19. Return
  2. A footnote in the original Hebrew of the memorial book said here: Actually 4,000 people were murdered; Tempelman wasn't from Braslav and underestimated the number. Return
  3. The rank of Gendarmerie-Meister suggests that Brodrik was a member of the Ordnungspolizei (Order Police, or Orpo), a police force that operated in Nazi Germany between 1936 and 1945. The Orpo was under the administration of the Interior Ministry but was led by the SS. Their uniforms were green. The Gendarmerie (rural police) was one branch of the Orpo.

    When Germany invaded the USSR, Orpo police battalions were formed into independent units and attached to army security divisions and Einsatzgruppen, taking part in mass murder against the civilian population.

    In the Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945, Volume II-B (2012), under the entry for Braslav, Brodrik wasn't mentioned. According to the encyclopedia, at the time the Braslav Ghetto was massacred in June 1942, the Gendarmerie post in Braslav was headed by Otto Haymann. Return

 

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