by David Friedman of Vilna
Hirshke Atkatz arrived at the front one day late. It was hard for him to walk, and he remained behind us. When he approached me, I asked him.
Hirshke, what are you dragging with you on your back? What is in your sack? If there are extra things that are too heavy for you, discard them.
What are you saying?! How can I discard the tools for fixing watches? How will I work after the war? He did not merit thus. May his memory be a blessing.
Tall, thin Meir Pogir excelled among those who sang in our group. He also excelled in shooting. He was one of the better marksmen.
At the beginning of March 1943, we advanced in an attack, marching side by side. Suddenly he was hit by a bullet and was seriously wounded. He uttered a few words with difficulty: Remove from my pocket photographs of Jonava as a memorial.
I was standing beside him like a stone, not knowing what to do. My hands were not listening to me. The command was heard: Advance!
Thus, with tears in my eyes, I left behind my dying friend. The command knows no mercy.
May his memory be blessed.
Moshe Goldschmid (Moshke the Potato) reached the rank of Division Commander in the army.
We were in a trench. Above us there was a barrage of shells. Nobody dared raise his head. Suddenly the information was received that the field kitchen arrived, and we should come to get food. Moshe collected the food utensils from everyone and prepared to go to get the food. I tried to stop him: Wait a bit, perhaps the fire will abate. I will somehow sneak through, he answered, My soldiers do not need to starve.
Thus did he slither away, never to return.
May his memory be blessed.
In March 1943, we conducted a fierce battle against Hitler's soldiers. The cold was bitter. Mountains of snow piled up in the trenches. The shooting did not let up even for a moment. The nerves were tense. The German trenches were about a kilometer from us. The path was along hills and valleys.
After several days of battles, we, the group of soldiers, received permission to go to rest in the nearby village, three kilometers from the front. We were to return at 4:00 a.m. Of course there was almost no trace left of the village. We found a destroyed storehouse full of soldiers sitting and warming themselves next to bonfires.
Shmuel Schneider from Anykciai and Bentze Rashkes were in our group. At 2:00 a.m. there was a heavy snowfall, and within a short period, everything was covered with snow. We were forced to move on with the clear knowledge that it would be easy for us to lose our way and fall into the hands of the Germans. Rashkes was determined to return no matter what. We attempted to convince him to wait until dawn. We did not succeed in convincing him. He went himself. At 4:00 a.m., I went along with Schneider. We walked slowly in the deep snow and got lost. Suddenly we saw a German guard from afar. To our good fortune, he did not notice us. We began to run back to the village from where we came. We only returned to our unit at 7:00 a.m. along with the field kitchen.
Bentzke Rashkes was not there. May his memory be a blessing.
Berko Aiker reached the rank of lieutenant. I was not in his unit. By chance I met him in our training division in Balciunai. He was at the hospital there, as was I. In June 1943 we traveled again to the front under his command. He quickly endeared himself to the soldiers, and everyone wanted to fight in his division at the front. However, when we arrived at the front, we separated, and I never saw him again.
He did not succeed in coming to the victory and the liberation. May his memory be blessed.
Wounded, I was brought to the front in the city of Yelcha. I immediately began to search for natives of our city. To my great joy, I found Shlomo Kanovich. We were together the whole time, and of course we discussed Jonava a great deal. We recalled all sorts of events that took place, and pondered a great deal about what was the fate of all those that remained, where are they, and whether they are still alive?
All of this transpired as enemy airplanes flew over Yelcha and the hospital day and night dropping bombs. We were together for a month. My wound healed and I returned to the front. I parted from him with tears in my eyes as we wished each other that we would meet in our city after the victory.
Kanovich is also living in Vilna today.
I was once again in the hospital in Ivanova. One week before July 21,1944, the commissar of the hospital came to me and said:
You are the only one here from Lithuania. We have a tradition here of celebrating the date of the joining of each republic to the Soviet Union. Since Lithuania joined on July 21, I am hereby inviting you to appear and to tell us about that day. After that there will be a concert.My response was that I was not used to making speeches, but I was prepared to play Lithuanian folk songs on a mandolin.
The celebration took place in the hospital. I played verses of Lithuanian folk songs. After the applause, I was asked to do an encore. I stated that I would play a Jewish dance, the Hora. I had never played with such enthusiasm. The chords of the mandolin trembled, and there were tears in my eyes. Again, there was a thunderous applause
|The soldier Shlomo Berzin among those who perished
by Tzvi Levin of Frunze, Russia
During the years of the German occupation, 1941-1944
(A brief account.)
|Hirsch Levin, one of the important organizers of the Jewish resistance movement in the Kovno Ghetto 
In December, 1941, with my initiative, I organized a clandestine meeting in the ghetto with the representative of the Communist underground (Galperin). At this meeting, the foundations for the united underground of the Kovno Ghetto were laid. Its members were Zionists and Communists.
Between 1942 and 1944, I was a member of the leadership of the underground organization. I carried out the following actions:
As I was told by those who had been among the directors of the ghetto, Keitel searched for me until the last day, and nicknamed me Levin the leader of the gangs.
January 24, 1971
More on the activities of Tzvi Levin in the Kovno Ghetto
One morning in August 1943 - as is related by Moshe Segalson, the director of the smithies - my friend Tzvi Levin, one of those close to the Altstenrat  of the Ghetto, entered my office in the smithy. He said that he must discuss a very urgent matter with me That which is being discussed here must remain a complete secret, he said. I thought that you already knew about the new movement A complete unity of all streams, from left to right, has been achieved. Our goal is to organize an armed mass whose task would be to conduct war against the bloodthirsty enemy What we want from you is the following - first of all, to dress the men and women as needed; second, to collect money from the workers of the smithies I thought about this a great deal, I took into account all the dangers and obstacles, but it was inconceivable that any obstacles and dangers should prevent the salvation of a portion of our young brothers and sisters. All of us must be prepared to give up our lives This is the straight path (in the original: wirdikste, that is the honorable) that we must follow. I took everything into my conscience. This was solely for the benefit of the surviving the Jews of Lithuania, and for the benefit of the entire Jewish people. Every opportunity of resistance must be seized, especially when one is talking about a battle of honor
A meeting with Tzvi Levin and Chaim Yellin took place two days later in my house. They brought me the first request for 40 people They told me that by the end of that year, they were to have 300-500 people going out (to the forests, to the partisans - the editor) Everything was more or less ready a few days before the time. I informed Tzvi Levin.
Thus far was the testimony of Moshe Segalson.
Tzvi Levin played a very important role in the communication between of the council of elders (Altstenrat) in which he was the representative of the Revisionists, and the representatives of the underground.
At first, he joined the committee responsible for carrying out the transfer to the ghetto. Later, he was a member of the communal council for salvation and resistance of the underground organization in the Kovno Ghetto. Since he was one of the leaders of the Revisionists in Lithuania, he served as their delegate in Matzok (Zionist Council of Vilijampole, Kovno, or Center of Veteran Zionists of Kovno) around the time that he left the Soviet prison. Along with two other members of Matzok, he participated in long clandestine meetings with Irina Adamovich - the trustworthy and experienced contact woman with the Jewish underground of Poland, who was sent by the leadership of the FP'A (Fareinikte Partisaner Organizatzia - the united partisan organization of the Vilna ghetto). She recalled his name in her words of testimony.
Tzvi Levin was one of two representatives of Matzok who were appointed to conduct negotiations with the members of the
Anti-Fascist Organization regarding joint activity and uniting the fighting forces in the ghetto. An agreement was signed and a joint command was formed to stand constantly at the helm of the activities. Tzvi Levin, one of the two signatories of the protocol of the agreement, was among those appointed.
He was forced to disappear along with other activists of the organization when their arrest warrant became known. On April 4, 1944, members of the Altstenrat were arrested for failing to carry out the command of the Germans to arrest the Altstenrat member Tzvi Levin, who was among the finest of the AYK'L (General Jewish Fighter's Organization).
From the book History of the Underground by Tzvi A. Braun and Dov Levin, published by Yad Vashem.
Efraim Zilberman of the United States, who sees himself as a owing a debt of gratitude to Tzvi, wrote to use the following:
I have great satisfaction that when I escaped from the ghetto one week before its liquidation, I took Hirschel with me. We were in hiding for four weeks with a Lithuanian, about 14 kilometers from Kovno, not far from Kacergine. We were liberated together on August 1, 1944, when the Soviet Army reconquered Lithuania.
While he was still a student, Hirschel stood at the head of the Revisionists in Jonava. Later, he served as the chairman of the Revisionist Party of Kovno. When the Soviets entered, he paid dearly for this. He was arrested and imprisoned in the Yellow Prison, and his family was deported to Siberia. When Hitler's armies entered, the Russians did not have a chance to take the pro-Lithuanian prisoners with them. Hirschel and other activists were freed from prison. His period of freedom was brief - only until the establishment of the ghetto. However, even when he was in the ghetto, he found no rest.
In the continuation of his words, Efraim Zilberman confirms the aforementioned words regarding Tzvi's many activities. He concludes by stating that we are permitted to be proud of this Jonaver.
In memory of Yehuda Zopovich
We conducted weapons training in the dwellings of the collective Under the direction of the vice police chief of the ghetto, Yehuda Zopovich, who was appointed to the leadership corps in training - these are the words of testimony of one of the survivors of a partisan group who tells about the preparations for going out to the forest. Similarly, Yehuda played a central role in the ghetto police. He also played an active role in the Communal Council that was established for obtaining financing and property.
At the end of March 1944, 140 policemen were taken to Fort Nine for interrogation. After questioning, the acting chief Yehuda Zopovich and the police supervisor Ika Grinberg were brought for interrogation. They were ordered to reveal information about the ghetto, and in the process, they were beaten with deathly blows.
Yehuda was interrogated by the S.S. man Keitel, who was expert at dealing with ghetto liquidations and taking care of Jewish resistance movements. They were interrogated about the terrorists in the ghetto, arms caches, hiding places, etc. They were tortured harshly, but they withstood to the test.
When he and Ika were returned to their cell, they were beaten in a more serious fashion, and they were bleeding. Zopovich's head was broken. However, the interrogators did not obtain anything from their mouths. They stood with their stubbornness and were silent.
When the handsome Y. Zopovich was returned to his cell after the first interrogation, he appeared as a broken old man, and his friends barely recognized him. Our youthful lives are lost, he told his friends, Let us die as brave men and let us not expose the bunkers in which thousands of pure children are hiding. Let our consciences be pure before death. Then he sat among his friends and sang his beloved song, A burning flame surrounds me.
He was murdered along with 40 other guards, including the entire cadre of commanders and his brother, police officer Meir.
The conduct of Moshe Levin, Ika Grinberg, Yehuda Zopovich, and their friends bore wings, and their names spread with reverence throughout the residents of the ghetto, who to that point had no appreciation for the police since they did not know about their activities behind the scenes.
From the book History of the Underground by Tzvi A. Braun and Dov Levin, regarding the fighting organization of the Jews of Kovno during the Second World War. Also from The Book of Jewish Partisans, published by Sifriat Hapoalim, Volume I.
by David Rubin
|Chuna the Partisan
Several of our townsfolk stood at the head of the underground organization of the Kovno Ghetto. They excelled in the organization and in battling against the Nazis.
The first, who was renowned for his bravery and organization talents, was Chuna Kagan. Weapons training activities took place in his dwelling. The weapons cache was located in his home. He was among those who accompanied the members of the ghetto to the partisan units in the Rodnitzki forests. He would return to the ghetto and continue in his publicity work on behalf of the struggle against the Nazis.
Meir Leib Goldschmidt (Tsoref) was a member of the leadership committee of the organization of ghetto fighters. He excelled in publicity in all circles of the fighting force. Exercises in weapons practice and partisan fighting took place in his home.
I also joined the underground through Meir Leib. I practiced with a Czech gun in his house.
His wife Sonia was also active. She moved to the Lithuanian side and dedicated herself to the saving of children and in procurement. She met her death through the bullets of the murderers as she was returning from a task of salvation.
One of the heads of the fighting organization was Miriam Lan, who headed a division of the underground organization. She went on many missions outside the ghetto. She maintained contact with the partisan heads in the forests of Augustova and Jonava, and endangered her life to save ghetto fighters. She participated in many actions against the Nazis, and joined the partisans in the forests of Rodnitzki.
Leib Solomin parachuted in from the Soviet Union to organize the partisans in Lithuania. He set himself up in the forest of Jonava and commanded the first partisan units that were established on Lithuanian soil. He participated in many activities in his war against the enemy, and inflicted many losses on the Nazis and their helpers. Solomin himself was seriously injured in battle, and remained handicapped throughout his life. It should be noted that he did not want to connect with the underground in the ghetto, and did not conduct joint activities with it.
Many others natives of our city excelled in the war against the Nazi enemy when serving in the Red Army.
We express our esteem and honor for the brave heroes who fought alone against the powerful, evil enemy, and fell in battle.
A committee of six members stood at the helm of the Anti Fascist Organization of the Kovno Ghetto. Miriam Lan of Jonava was one of them.
Miriam Lan was a Communist activist with underground experience. She joined one of the Communist groups that were set up and were active in the Kovno ghetto during the autumn and winter months of 1941.
During the attempts to forge connections with the partisan bases, Miriam Lan, as an activist of the Anti Fascist Organization was sent out to the forests of Jonava. The messenger did not return to the ghetto, and for a long time, her fate was unknown. Later it was verified that she joined the Solomin group (He was a Jewish paratrooper and partisan commander).
When the Russians entered Vilna, Miriam Lan was given a security mission: to take a stand along with two other people at the crossroads, to stop anyone entering the city, and to search after suspicious people
Based on the book on Jewish partisans and the history of the underground.
In Memory of Shmerke Valonas
His true name is not known to this day. Valonas was his nickname. He was born in Jonava, Lithuania in 1922. He escaped wounded from the Jewish area of Dvinsk (Daugavpils). He hid with farmers. Germans exposed him there. He defended himself and shot at them until he used up the last bullet in his gun. When his ammunition was finished, they captured him alive. The brought him into a house and put him under guard. After a few days, when his energy returned, he attacked the guard, felled him, and fled through the window. He hid once again with farmers. On account of his Aryan appearance, handsomeness, and fluent command of the Lithuanian language, they took him for a Lithuanian. Therefore, he received good and dedicated care. When he recovered from his wounds, he escaped from the German hospital. He arrived in the Kazian Forests and was accepted into the Lithuanian Brigade at the beginning of 1943. There he was appointed as the head of the division of the Kostas Kalinoskas brigade.
Shmerke was a veteran partisan and a commander. Valonas became famous already before he came to the forest.
Shmerke Valonas commanded a group that included four other Jews. When they went out to activities, they took along a certain gentile who related to Jews with denigration and curses. Their first action was the bombing of a train that was traveling toward the front. They destroyed it, along with many soldiers and heavy weapons, including tanks. They did not suffice themselves with this. They burnt down a large dairy that served as a supply base for a nearby German garrison. They sawed down forty telephone poles.
They encountered an ambush on the third night. Were it not for the leadership abilities of Valonas and the level-headedness of the fighters, probably none would have survived. After an exchange of bullets and fierce firing, they succeeded in breaking through a path for themselves. The only one who lost his resolve and did not even attempt to shoot was the gentile Savka, who acted as an observer on behalf of the command.
He was killed by the partisans from the Lithuanian unit when they attempted to confiscate his and his friends' weapons.
Based on the book of Jewish Partisans, volumes I and II, published by the Workers' Library, Kibbutz HaArtzi of Hashomer Hatzair.
by Shmuel ben-Menachem (Deitz)
The Yeshivas were disbanded when the Russians entered. My father Mendel, the Rosh Yeshiva, and I became shoemakers. We worked in Slobodka where Grandfather lived.
We hurried to Jonava when the war broke out. When the bombardment began, we hid in Itzka Zalonker's cellar. During a lull we were able to see what was taking place outside. We saw Rashkes leaving his yard and being caught by a German the first German that I saw in my life. The town began to burn. All of Breizer Street was in flames.
We left Jonava and set out for Kovno. Along the way we stopped to sleep over in a bathhouse in a village. The nationalist Bendits, or the Lithuanian Nazis as we called them, came in the morning and chased us out of there.
We arrived in Slobodka. The young people, myself included, were arrested and brought to the synagogue in Kovno. Our first command was to raise our hands so that they could see our watches, which they removed from all of us. After three days without food we broke out. Since there were no guards, we escaped. We returned to our families in Slobodka.
Our area of residence was annexed to the ghetto. We set up a hiding place under a pile of wood in a storehouse in the yard. We thereby succeeded in getting through the first aktions.
My father and I worked as night guards in the airfield before the large aktion in October. When we returned through the gate in the morning, we did not succeed in hiding, and we were forced to stream toward the concentration field with the entire community. Our family was divided into separate groups. We were nine children. All of the family members were sent to the Ninth Fortress. I, my sister Chaya Fruma, and my youngest brother Yitzchak remained from the family as people fit for work.
The youth began to organize in the underground. I sold my sewing machine and purchased a revolver. I joined the organization of religious Zionist youth (The Brit Zion Organization (ABZ). At the head of the organization stood Avraham Melamed of Slobodka, today a member of the Knesset and Avraham Rapopski of Jonava, who lived in a religious commune in the ghetto without any family.
Later we began to dig hiding places. The commune dug the first hiding place. At the same time, we began to forge connections in order to go out to the forests. When the underground received information that an aktion was about to take place, we decided to send out several groups in different directions. After two days all of them, consisting of approximately 100 people, were arrested by the Gestapo, with the exception of one who succeeded in escaping.
The entire population was certain of a German victory, and therefore was active in giving over the enemies of the Germans into their hands. Collaboration between the Lithuanians and the Germans began to flourish when everyone became confident of a German victory. The gentile concluded that his neighbor would turn him in when the time came.
Then the underground began to operate.
We made attempts to connect with the Russians the Starovirs who were residents of Shpinan. However, the Germans were following them so closely that any attempt to connect with them was futile.
We continued to train. The region of old Slobodka became separated from the ghetto. We had to uproot ourselves and crowd into the ghetto, but we decided to remain in the bunker with the hope that we would succeed in forging connections with the ghetto and enlist a trustworthy gentile to complete the unfinished structure atop the bunker.
To our sorrow, the Lithuanians exposed us due to our tracks in the snow. We had to uproot ourselves. At night, Yehuda Zopowitz reached us along with a group of police, giving us the weapons of the underground! (The policemen of the ghetto were almost all members of the underground). They took us out from the burnt bunker (which was exposed), and brought us peacefully, along with the moveable objects that remained after the Lithuanian pillaging following the exposure. This was the bunker of the Yeshiva.
The bunker of the commune had been exposed a day previously. They transferred to our bunker that very night, and they transferred to the ghetto together with us.
I worked at shoemaking in one of the workshops of the German guards in Kovno. We maintained connections with the general underground, and began to organize for our exit to the forest.
I realized that I would not succeed in going out through the Zionist underground, who were discriminated against with respect to going out to the forest. Therefore I turned to the Communists and went out with them.
The following is the continuation of the story from the History of the Underground by Tzvi A. Baron and Dov Levin, published by Yad Vashem.
Shmuel Deitz was a member of the religious Irgun Brit Zion faction in the Kovno ghetto. He came into contact with the Communists after the childrens' aktion in order to join a group of fighters that went out to Kazlu-Ruda.
On May 4, 1944, Ira Berman returned to the ghetto and took two other people with him, Yerachmiel Berman and Shmuel Deitz. On the way, Ira fell into the hands of an ambush of Lithuanian police. His two friends succeeded in reaching a small partisan unit that was in the organizational phase. This was a group of fighters from the Kovno ghetto that called itself Kochargin and conducted joint activities with a local Soviet paratrooper brigade.
In June, Sh. Deitz was sent to the ghetto to bring new fighters. The third group, consisting of eight people, also stumbled into an ambush. All perished aside from Shmuel Deitz.
The following is Deitz' story about the second and third groups.
We went out on the Sabbath through the gate I and Rachmilke Berman. Irka waited with Maria Laschinski one of the most trustworthy of the Christian intermediaries who lived near the ghetto. I had two revolvers, one of which I had obtained from the Communists as a trade for my sewing machine. Rachmilka did not have a gun. The directive in the event of combat was that we were forbidden to use weapons within 100 meters of the ghetto fence. We slept in the Christian cemetery
We set out for that aforementioned Christian woman on Sunday morning. Irina Berman was there. She had a small gun and Yerachmiel took the parabellum gun. We set out on our way. They both walked together and I walked behind them out of caution. Along the route that day, the gentile recognized Yerachmiel and shouted: Jews!. We hid in one of the groves and waited for about an hour until we saw that they were not pursuing us. We began to walk on a second rater road toward Garliava. When we passed near one of the houses in one of the villages, a 5-7 year old boy stood and shouted; Bendiates! I noticed that that house had a telephone connection. After we walked two more kilometers, a Lithuanian on a bicycle caught up with us. He placed the bicycle next to the telephone pole, as if to inflate the tires with air, but I noticed that he was following after the first two who were walking
According to our agreed upon sign (a whistle), they left the path and waited for me between some bushes at the side of the road. I told them about what had happened, and we realized that the matter was very serious. Since there was no place to escape from there, we began to guard the area around and waited for what might happen. Yerachmiel was the commander. Nothing happened for an hour. We continued to advance in the direction of Garliava, and when we crossed the train tracks we saw that there were unusual preparations with armed people at the edge of the village. Strong and sustained fire was opened against us as we approached within 500 meters of Garliava.
We retreated and returned to the train tracks. Yerachmiel had lost his compass along the way. We ran for five kilometers into the forest and did not know how to leave. We saw a secondary road along our way and we went along it until we entered the village of Papliva on the Pliva River. Since we wished to find out where we were, Irina decided to endanger herself. She turned to the first farmer that she saw along the way. She presented herself as a student who had gone out on an excursion, and asked for directions to our destination. The gentile showed us the way, but after we went for about 500 meters, he caught up to us on his bicycle and apologized to use for showing us the wrong direction. We went along with him, and when we passed his house again, his wife and son were standing there. They invited us to sleep over with them, since the day was ending. His name was Antanas Kontziatis, a guardian of the forest.
We had no choice. We entered his house, with the attitude of let us honor him and suspect him. We set up the night into three watches, with each of us taking one watch.
After we went to sleep, the neighbors came to summon him, complaining that a wild animal was destroyed the field. Then we saw him take a hunting rifle and go out with them. We opened up the locks and waited for what was might happen. After some time he returned and went to sleep. We were calmed, and continued with our watchful guarding. In the morning after we ate, he hitched his wagon and took us to the main street. He would not even take a coin from us, even though we urged him to do so.
From there we continued on foot at the edge of the road in the same formation (I remained 500 meters behind them). We were about seven kilometers from the village in which we were supposed to forge connections with the partisans. Lula Berman was there (Irina's sister). A truck with Lithuanian guards caught us, and stopped when it reached the first two. At that moment I saw that Rachmilke aimed his rifle and shot them. They caught Irka after a struggle. Rachmilke escaped to the other side of the road. I was afraid that they would comb the forest into which Rachmilke fled. I fled to the other side of the road, and entered into the forest to a depth of several kilometers. I waited for three hours, and when I saw that they were not pursuing me, I returned to the main road and continued to go on the road until I reached the village of Pazliai. I knew that we were supposed to meet at the fifth house on the left of the road. However, when I reached the village, I found out that there were two entrances and two houses. I waited a bit in order to identify the correct house. Suddenly a 17 year old girl came out of the Lithuanian village, looked at me and asked me if I knew an actor by the name of Berman. I realized that she was searching for me. She brought me to the nearby grove I met Yerachmiel Berman in the grove who told me that he fled and arrived through a side road. We went to the house of the contact at night fall, where several partisans and Irka's sister Lula were waiting for us. We slept in that house. Then they took us to the nearby forest (several kilometers from Kozlu-Ruda). There I met Meir Silber. The partisans did not wish to keep him. They claimed that he was not able to be a partisan. There were several other Jews there, who came to us in a non-organized fashion. I remained there for about a month. Pechkis, who had been the police chief during the Russian era, was the commander, and he was still in a state of getting organized. Therefore, there were not yet any actual actions. We obtained food from the area. One day I received an order from Pechkis to return to the ghetto to bring more people. They sent Meir Silber with me to return to the ghetto. Before that, we took his personal weapons from him.
We set out in the morning. We continued along the main path and walked along the railway tracks. We passed close to the path upon which we had the incident with the bicycle rider. We saw a new wagon approaching with a man in uniform inside. Meir said to me, This is one of the forest guards, but I recognized that this was the police chief himself. At that point, he was already very close and there was no point in escaping from him. He stopped next to us, pointed his gun and asked, Where are you going? I responded that we were going to our relatives in the village. He said, Wait! At the moment that he jumped off the wagon I pointed my gun and pulled the trigger. Aside from the sound of the trigger, I did not hear anything. The bullet was a dud. When the police chief saw the gun he decided to back off. Since my gun did not work, we both escaped into the nearby forest. I lost Meir Silber when we entered the forest, and to this day I do not know what happened to him. I looked for him, for he had no weapons (I had six bullets). However, I did not find him. I saw on the map that I could exit to the main road through the forest. When I exited to the road a volley of bullets rained upon me. I heard Here he is in Lithuanian. I crawled away as the bullets were flying over my heads. After 200 meters I entered a hole and disguised myself with branches. I exchanged the bullet in my gun and waited for what was to come.
The police combed the forest and one of the policemen came within four meters of me. I realized that he was going as if a demon was compelling him, as if someone was saying, You will not harm me, and I will not harm you. The tip of my gun followed him until he disappeared from my eyes.
I later came to Miria Leshchinski, and he signaled the ghetto. I entered the ghetto that night and they told me that they would tell me when they would give me some people (this was a few weeks before the liquidation of the ghetto). I went to the bunker of the Communists at their underground headquarters which was near the Christian cemetery on Bruliu Street. Along the way I met two captains of the ordnungsdienst, Arnstam and Grossman. They wanted to capture me, but I managed
to escape from them. One day I received a command to return to the underground. I was given eight more people. Now there were orders (in contrast to the previous ones) to go only at night. We did not have any more weapons.
Traveling at night was difficult from a practical perspective. We worked according to the well-known policy: We took a person in every village who accompanied us to the next village. In one village, after we took one of the gentiles, someone apparently alerted the local police. We heard people running and shouting in Lithuanian, Hands up. Since this was an ambush, we spontaneously dispersed into the wheat fields. I heard intermittent shots, and to this day, I do not know what happened to the rest of the youths. I lay down for two days in the wheat, for I knew that they were searching for us in the area. I had a gun and a pair of tefillin (Before I went out, I had an argument with Dimka Galperin, who did not permit me to take tefillin and a watch with Hebrew letters. Nevertheless, I took the tefillin).
I decided not to return to the partisans, but rather to go to the farmer Antanas Konchaitis in Paplivia. I called him outside and told him the entire truth. He told me that he had realized this already at our first meeting, for I was wearing worn out boots and riding pants, and the gun in my pocket stuck out from them. One of the reasons that I decided not to return to the partisan unit was that they did not agree that I could bring my sister and three year old brother to the forest, whereas this gentile had promised to bring them from the ghetto. He brought me to the forest which he guarded and put me in a hiding place that he had made to hide the meat and wheat from the eyes of the Germans. One week later he went to the ghetto and got in touch with the Lafa factory. There he told my sister to prepare herself, for he would come to get her in a week. When he came two weeks later, the ghetto was in flames.
Leib Solomin, who was appointed in August 1942 by the central committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party in Moscow as the secretary of the underground faction of the Kovno city and region, parachuted into that region along with a group of young Lithuanian Communists. They set up a partisan base in the forest around Jonava.
Solomin's partisan brigade functioned under relatively easy conditions. The population in the villages around Jonava was almost all Russian, and Communist influence in this region had always been strong. When the Germans entered, the Lithuanian nationalists took revenge on these Germans and perpetrated a slaughter. There was barely a house which was not affected by such deeds of slaughter. The majority of these Russians were from the Starovir sect, which was a religious sect in Russia. They were known as a stubborn people, and the Lithuanian atrocities did not subdue them. On the contrary, they rejoiced at every opportunity for revenge, and they willingly helped the partisans who appeared in the region. They also resisted the enticement to turn in Solomin in exchange for 60,000 marks.
(From the History of the Underground by Tzvi A. Braun and Dov Levin, published by Yad Vashem, page 256.)
by Efraim Silberman
After a series of aktions in the Kovno ghetto in the fall of 1941, culminating in the large aktion of October 28, life began to return to its usual course. Many worried about the fate of their dear ones in the ghettoes of Vilna and Siauliai. Word of aktions came from those places as well. The details were not known, for mail connections were forbidden to Jews. Unconfirmed rumors arrived from time to time. The council of elders of the Kovno Ghetto began to search for ways of maintaining a connection with Jews in other cities, first and foremost Vilna and Siauliai. This was no simple matter, and fraught with great danger.
At that time, I worked in the group that was putting up bunks and doing other work in the Kovno railway station. One day when I returned from work, I was summoned to come to the general secretary of the council of elders, the lawyer Yisrael Bernstein. He explained to me the importance of setting up an illegal postal connection between the ghetto and Jews of other cities. Since I worked in the train station, He wanted me to try to get in touch with one of the railway officials who could be trusted, so that mail could be transferred from the Kovno Ghetto to the ghettoes of Vilna and Siauliai, and mail could be brought in return. I promised to look into the matter.
It took a month until I succeeded in finding an honest and trustworthy railway official who would take it upon himself to transfer the mail every ten days. I came to the council of elders with the news. I informed them that the matter was arranged and that letters could be prepared. Thus did the illegal postal connection begin in the Kovno Ghetto in December 1941.
I received two sacks of small letters from the council to the council and individuals in the ghettos of Vilna and Siauliai. I hid the mail as I went out to work, and set out for the railway station with a feeling of pride that this day I was engaged in an important task for the benefit of the ghetto. I met the aforementioned railway official at exactly noon. I gave him the sacks and we agreed that he would bring mail from there in another ten days.
I waited for that day impatiently. Indeed, at the set day and hour, the railway official approached me and quickly gave me letters from the Siauliai ghetto and sacks of letters from the Vilna Ghetto. He informed me that he could not transfer mail to Siauliai due to technical difficulties. I waited impatiently for the end of the work day. I returned to the group in the ghetto with satisfaction. I went straight to the council and gave the mail to Y. Bernstein.
The lawyer Chaikin and another official Yuter were also occupied in postal matters. We continued exchanging letters between the Kovno Ghetto and the Vilna Ghetto for six months.
One day, when I brought sacks of mail with me, the middleman did not appear. I decided to not bring the letters back to the ghetto for fear of a stringent investigation. I hid the sack in the shed in which I worked, with the hope that the intermediary would appear the next day. He did not appear, but when I went to get the sack, I did not find it.
I arrived in the ghetto in the evening full of despair, and I informed the council men about the disappearance of the sack. Y. Bernstein sighed and said: We must wait a few days to see what will happen. He attempted to calm me. The next day when I returned to work, a Jewish policeman approached me and told me that I was summoned to come to Serbovitch. Yosef Kaspi-Serbovitch was the only Jew in Kovno who worked as a steward with the Gestapo. He was the chief of the ghetto guard.
It was clear to me that the sack fell into the hands of the Gestapo. As it later became clear, the sack was discovered by a German driver and was turned over to the station police, who transferred it to the Gestapo.
When I entered into Serbovitch's office, I immediately saw the letters on his desk. He asked if I had hidden the letters in the shed. I answered him, Yes. He informed me that he had been ordered to arrest me, and that the councilmen would also be arrested for conducting illegal activities.
I answered him that the mail was my private initiative and that the content of the letters was solely family matters. I told him that if he were to imprison me, I would never see my wife and children again.
My words made some impression upon him. He said, I will do what I can. He told me that the councilmen were guilty, but that he could not change the command of the Gestapo. He must arrest me.
He brought me to the confinement room. After a few hours, a Jewish policeman brought me to the council. There I was brought in to a special meeting of the entire council headed by Dr. Elkes. Serbovitch was also there, who received a written affidavit about the entire matter of the letters. I must confess that the steward Serbovitch related to the matter with a Jewish heart. The deliberations lasted until 5:00 a.m. In order to mitigate the seriousness of the matter and to prevent innocent people from becoming victims, I took full responsibility upon myself. The affidavit stated that I gathered and transferred the letters with my own initiative, and the councilmen did not know anything about this.
After the meeting, Dr. Elkes approached me, took my hand and said, You performed a holy task for the ghetto. You acted with honor and pride. I will do everything in my power for you.
I parted from them all, and the policeman returned me to the confinement room. From there I was taken to the Gestapo early in the morning by a Lithuanian policeman. When I left the ghetto I had the feeling that I would never again see my family or the ghetto.
When I was brought into the Gestapo office, I saw the murderer Rauka next to the table. Serbovitch was also there, who pointed me out as the letter man. Rauka looked at me with his murderous eyes and aid, Are you the bearer of the letters? I did not answer him. Rauka ordered the Lithuanian policeman to take me to the Yellow Prison on Mitzkovitch Street. Serbovitch gave me a pitying glance and disappeared into another room.
A half an hour later I was already sitting in cell 54 in the Yellow Prison. I met five other Jews there who told me that a cleansing of the Jewish prisoners was conducted every ten days. They were brought to the Ninth Fortress. It was a rare occurrence that a Jewish prisoner was sent back to the ghetto. This did not improve my spirits. The five prisoners were very depressed and starving. They received scanty food rations, and they were forbidden from receiving food packets.
The first night in jail passed without sleep. I recalled all of those occasions when I looked death in the eye. I had the feeling that no more miracles would take place with me. I did not believe that the council of elders would be able to do anything for me.
The next night, the iron gate was opened, and I was surprised to see the lawyers Bernstein and Chaikin, as well as Yuter. Our meeting was emotional. I understood that with their imprisonment, the matter had become very serious. The only one who had not lost hope was Bernstein, who placed his hope in Dr. Elkes who said he would go the next day to deal with our matter with the Kovno Gestapo commander Jager.
Eight days passed in jail. On the seventh day, three of the five who were in jail at the time of my imprisonment were taken out. The inspector said that they were taken out for interrogation. However, they did not return to their cells. Six of us remained in our cells. We feared the awaited cleansing. We were afraid of every rustle of the door. One day the jailer gave me a note. He commanded me to read it and to destroy it. With trembling hands I opened the note and read.
Remain calm. We are doing everything for you. There is hope that you will all return to the ghetto.
When several days passed without a cleansing, we began to hope that perhaps a miracle would occur.
Thirty difficult days passed in the jail cell. We received no additional information about our fate. Then the heavy door slowly opened, and the jailer read a letter with the names of the four of us. He commanded us to take our belongings and follow him. Our hearts were trembling. We were standing in the long corridor. I asked the jailer, Where are they taking us? I don't know, was his answer. When we entered the jail office, the official told us that we would return to the ghetto that day.
We kissed each other with tears in our eyes. At that moment we all felt that the Slobodka Ghetto enclosed with its barbed wire fences was for us freedom.
(From From the Last Destruction), Munich, December 1948. Edited by Y. Kaplan.
by Zalman Rochman
I was born in Vievisin 1914 to my parents Michael and Feiga Ribel. We moved to Jonava in 1916. We lived in the Alley of the Marketplace (the Alley of the Rabbi), opposite Rickless' house, in the house of Ovadia. Father was a wagon driver, who brought merchandise to shopkeepers. The floor of the house was made of red loam. We would sprinkle yellow sand on it in honor of the Sabbath.
I studied along with my brothers Yehoshua and Aharon in Yavneh with the teachers Preis, Alter Kagan and others. Later I moved to the Yeshiva in the Kloiz of the Peddlers. From there, I went to the Ohel Moshe Yeshiva in Slobodka. In Jonava I also studied in the cheder of Yankel the vinegar maker.
In the days before Passover, I would work in the matzo bakery in the evenings so that I could purchase clothing and continue with my studies. I continued thus until 1929. Our sister Sarale, who worked in the store of Meir Goldschmid, helped us with our tuition expenses. My brother Aharon, who studied in the Knesset Yisrael Yeshiva in Slobodka, excelled at his studies. However, since it was difficult for both of us to continue, I decided to learn a trade.
I Became an Upholsterer
I began to work in upholstering with Mottel Gurvitch. I worked there for three years without a break, but I left there as a first class tradesman. This also saved my life in the ghetto. Therefore, I love my trade, and I continue with it here in the Land.
I went to work as an upholsterer with Koppel Reznik. I earned a good living and assisted my family.
After I completed my service in the Lithuanian army in 1936, I moved to Shaty [Shat/Seta] and opened up an upholstery shop, and later a furniture shop. The Soviets took my workshop and store from me in 1940.
In 1940, when businessmen, manufacturers, Zionists and activists started to be exiled to Siberia, I fled to the town of Pastovys about 100 kilometers from Vilna, along with my wife Rachel, who had come there from Kovno for our wedding about two months previously.
When the war broke out, we set out on a journey along with all of my wife's family members, with the aim of going deep into White Russia. However, since the Germans caught up to us, we decided to return to Pastovys
Miracles During our Flight
Along the way we had to pass through the town of Krivichi. Our troubles began there. The Poles arrested us, put us in jail, and tortured us, beat us, and pulled out our hair, thinking that we were Communists. We deflected this accusation by showing them our Tallises and Tefillin. The next day they informed us that the men would be shot and the women would remain in jail. However, the captain of those Poles sufficed himself with the booty that had come into their hands our wagons and all of our belongings. He brought us into a house and promised us to come the next morning to take us out of the town on the condition that I would give him my gold watch. Thus it was he kept his promise.
We continued along our way to Pastovys along with other family. We stumbled upon three gentiles who told us that we were Communists and therefore were guilty of death. However, they were apparently afraid of us, for we were a large group. Along the way, German captains passed by us. We saw that the gentiles stopped them and pointed us out to them. They returned, blocked off our route and asked us who we were. We told them. They gave chocolate to the girls and told us to hurry up, for the Germans must pass. This was miracle number two for us.
They Searched For Me
We returned to Pastovys. The Germans came in the evening and took my wife's grandfather and uncles. They did not enter the room in which I was sleeping. They were taken out the next day to be murdered. We found this out a half a year later.
Three months after we arrived, the Jewish Street was turned into a ghetto. Three families lived in one room. We were taken out to forced labor every day. We were divided for work amongst the farmers. I worked in pressing hay, cutting trees, cleaning streets, and other such tasks.
Once a Polish policeman came and asked about me. The workers advised me to leave. I wanted to move to a ghetto in a different town. I went to ask the advice of the Jewish council and it became clear that they were looking for a professional. They told me that that the district representative issued an order to repair the seat of his car. They sent for a cobbler, but he did not know how to complete the repair. The representative threatened that if the repair were not completed within a few days, he would kill 100 Jews. Indeed, I completed the repair to the satisfaction of the representative, and the decree was cancelled. The representative instructed that I be sent to the forestry enterprise, where I was given three square meters of firewood, worth a large amount.
A short time later, a command reached the Jewish council that I must open an upholstery shop outside the ghetto, where I was to work for the Christian population who would be sent there by the authorities. Five elderly and weak Jews worked with me. They were sent by the Jewish council in order to complete the quota of 60% employment in the ghetto.
To the Partisan Gatherings
One day a Pole came to me, took me aside, and told me that he had met several times with Jewish partisans. I begged him to help me get in touch with them. He came back about a month later and brought a letter in Yiddish from the partisans Michaelicha and his brother Zalman Friedman of Dolginov. They requested that I act kindly with the bearer of the letter and organize youth and weapons to send to agreed places outside the city. From there they would be brought to the forests. The situation was not easy; nevertheless we succeeded in organizing groups and sending them to the designated places. They reached their destination.
I received the final letter from them in October 1942, which stated that I was to arrange an additional group and come along with it, since they had heard the news that the Pastovys ghetto was about to be liquidated. We were told to bring as many weapons as we could. We obtained weapons from the locals in exchange for objects and gold. I kept the matter secret. I only told my wife and family members the night before we were to leave the ghetto.
We were a group of 42 people. All of the men were armed. The Jewish ghetto police did not want to let us leave. They kept one girl behind. We threatened to open fire, and the ghetto would suffer from this. Then he let us all leave the ghetto in small groups. Outside we removed our yellow patches, and went to the gathering place. The Jewish partisans were waiting for us there. They took us in wagons for a distance of 20 kilometers from the ghetto. We remained for two days in an empty village near the seashore at Naroshetz, in the Nivra Forests. From there we were taken to the gathering places of the partisans. The men joined various groups, and the women, elderly and children were to be smuggled across the border into Russia. My wife and her parents remained with me.
The partisans were mainly Russians prisoners who escaped or soldiers who had gotten lost. They were about 10% Jewish. The commander of the unit was Markov, a teacher and Communist from Zhebenchian. We obtained weapons by sudden attacks on the Germans, or searches in the villages. We also thereby obtained our food.
Once we went to the village of Sloboda, near the town of Dunilovichi. The commander told us to enter the house of one of the farmers and to find the guns that he had. We entered the house at night. We were three Jews: Nachman, Kopel, and I. We demanded that he give us his guns. He denied that he had any weapons. We took him out to the yard, tied him up in a rope, and lowered him into the cold water of the well; but he did not admit to anything. When we raised him up he told us that he had already given the weapons to another unit, and that a stranger was staying with him who is liable to report the
entire matter to the Germans, and that he would be punished. We entered the house and woke up the man. The two partisans from Pastovys who were with me interrogated him. He was an anti-Semitic priest. We took his gun from him and brought him with us. Along the way he was asked to confess how he tortured the Jews of the ghetto. He admitted his atrocities hoping that we would set him free. However, we decided to kill him. We tied him to a tree and shot him.
At the beginning of 1943, the Germans brought in garrisons to fight against the partisans and they surrounded the forests. A command was issued to scatter about into small groups to escape the trap. I was in a group of 15 Russian partisans. My wife was in a different group. Once our group stumbled upon a guard of Germans, Lithuanians and Ukrainians. A few members of our group fell in battle. I and seven Russians were left. That night we met in a region that contained a large group of partisans. The next morning Markov commanded us to move 300 kilometers to the east, to the region of the cities of Vitebsk and Plock. We went there in wagons and set up a fortress for ourselves in the forest for five or six months. Our group at that place had about 200 Jewish fighters, in addition to groups of old people, women and children who worked at various supporting services.
The Commissar Jurgis and the Captain Mendel Grun
During the months that we were in the new place, a Lithuanian unit was set up from a Lithuanian division that was parachuted in. The commander was Kazimir and his second in command was a Jew who was nicknamed Jurgis. This was Ziman, the editor of the Tiesa newspaper in Vilna. He came to my commander and requested that I be transferred to the Lithuanian unit. I was sent to the city of Dokszyce where I participated in some battles.
The Commissar Jurgis once asked me to accompany him to greet some new partisans who were about to be parachuted in. They lit bonfires in an open field as a sign that they had arrived by parachute. He spoke to me in Yiddish along the way. Only then did I realize that he was a Jew. From among the partisans that were parachuted in I recognized a youth from Jonava, Mendel Grun, whose parents lived in the market square. He was wearing captain fatigues. We were together in the group for approximately three months.
One night we were sent out to a specific action. There were five other Lithuanians and two women with us. We stumbled into a German garrison along the way. We stopped at a distance of approximately 100 meters from them. We asked who was there. They answered in Lithuanian: A Lithuanian guard. We responded in Lithuanian that that we are also Lithuanian guards. We agreed to put down our weapons, and the two sides met. Since we were more numerous than them and we were well armed, we surrounded them and took them to our command as prisoners. After an interrogation it became clear that they had conducted joint activities with the Germans. After we kept them in prison for three weeks, we took them and gave them over to the appropriate authorities.
As time went on we were commanded to move westward, to our former gathering area. There I met my wife, but we were forced to separate because I had to continue along with my unit.
Once Mendel Grun told me that he wanted to organize a group of partisans to go to Vilna, a distance of 100 kilometers, in order to bring Jews out from the ghetto to the forests. I was invited to join. I refused, and also advised him to put off this plan for the time being, for it was fraught with great danger. He did not listed to my advice, and set out with a group of 20 people. Along the way, they ran into German army units. A battle broke out, and he did not return from there. Another Jew and four Lithuanians were killed. The rest fled and returned to us.
Our main activity was to place dynamite on the railway tracks upon which army trains passed with weapons for the front. We also destroyed shipments of wheat and meat that the farmers sent as a tax to the occupying authorities.
When I returned to the place where my wife was, I found approximately 500 Jews men, women and children from the from towns of the area: Kornitsa, Dunilovitchi, Pastovys, and Eiikes. I asked Commissar Jurgis (Ziman) to form a Jewish unit. He pushed off my request and turned the matter over to Commander Kazimir. The commander answered my request, and asked me to organize men and women from among the refugees, to furnish them with arms, and to appoint a Lithuanian Jew as their commander. The commander was Shapostineitis of Mariampol, a former member of the Maccabee. His second in command was Tovia Gelfer of Vilna (today in Ramat Gan). I remained in my unit.
The Jewish unit conducted successful actions, and the Lithuanians were satisfied. As time went on, we organized small groups of Jewish partisans who went out to Vilna to bring Jewish youths from the ghetto to the forests to join the aforementioned group of Mendel Grun. Yosef Gluzman of Kovno arrived in the first group. When he arrived, he was put at the head of a 12 person group which conducted various operations.
We Did not Believe that the Liberation was Drawing Near
At the end of 1943, the Germans once again surrounded our forests. We again dispersed into small groups. Yosef Gluzman went with his group in the direction of the railway track near the village of Sloboda. Battles broke out there in which many groups of partisans took part. They attempted to sever the track. I was also in one of the groups. At night I met Yosef Gluzman. He advised me to go in the direction of the region that was abandoned by the Germans. I advised him to join our group and not to go in the direction which he advised. He did not agree, and we parted. I and my group found refuge with a Byelorussian family whom we knew, who told us to go in a different direction in which there were no German guards. We thereby succeeded in breaking through the siege and returning to our place. We heard echoes of shots along the way. This was an exchange of fire between the Gluzman group and the Germans. The entire group, which consisted only of Jews, was killed in battle.
We arrived in the village of Zazaria in 1944. A farmer told us that Soviet army units were two kilometres away. We did not believe that the liberation was so close. I went in the direction that the farmer showed me, and we encountered a soldier of the Red Army. When we came to his unit, we told them that we were partisans.
I cannot describe in words joy at this meeting.
One of them accompanied us to a base where Jewish refugees were gathering. When we appeared there, and they saw the Red Army soldier, they burst out in tears of joy, as if they saw the Messiah. Some people fainted.
Our task as partisans had ended. A command was issued the entire unit should go into one of the towns of the region and impose order until the arrival of the regular army.
Kazan was in my area. We remained there for 15 days. Many people joined units of the regular army. Many others were liberated, including me. I met my wife, and we traveled to her town. We remained there for three months. From there we moved to Vilna. In 1946 we arrived in Lodz, and from there we went to Stettin on the way to Germany. We went to the French occupation zone and then to the American zone.
In 1949, I, my wife and four year old child arrived in Israel. We settled in Raanana, and I resumed my occupation of upholstering.
As I look back, it is hard for me to believe that my wife and I spent three years as partisans.
Now we merited and arrived in Israel. We returned to normal life, which was our reward for everything that we had endured.
by Noach Stern
Set the agony afar,
Pick the pace
Go forward with a foot on the clod of earth oh valiant Hebrew.
Lad and youth,
Without fear or trepidation,
Go the thoughts of anger and rebellion.
We were orphaned
Set the agony afar,
5703 / 1943
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