« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

The Last Fight

[Page 317]

The Struggle of Life

by I. Kaplan

Translated by Philip G. Frey

(Translator's note: Place names below are transliterated into their Yiddish renderings)

In the ghetto there awakens a thought of revenge and of saving one's life, each one according to his personal opportunities. A commerce in arms with certain peasants is initiated in the ghetto, who extract much money from Jews. Other Jews with money attempt to purchase a hideout with certain peasants. Others run away to the ghettos of other areas, because of certain false rumors, that in those areas no Jews will be annihilated. Other rumors are spread, that the Jewish craftsmen, who work in the workshops under the leadership of engineer Altman, will also remain alive.

A notion arises about running away into the forests to the partisans.

At that time the partisan organization was still weakly organized and there was not yet a secure linkage to the ghetto.

Several groups went away seeking a linkage with the partisans and within a week they returned in tatters and disarmed. Russian partisans had stripped them, disarmed them and driven them back to the ghetto.

Rumors spread that in the "Natsher Pustshe" (virgin forest in an area called Natshe), in the area of Radun, there are found partisans, amongst whom are Jews, so rumor had it. In my workshop I observed how workers were making certain weapons parts, or were cleaning bullets. At this time there was no organization, but each one took part in a group, which interested him. Shortly I also joined a group that had a contact with partisan groups near Lida.

The partisan group named "Iskra" was situated in the villages Dakudave, Pudzin, Vasilevitsh, Olikhovke, Burnas, and other villages near Lida. The group consisted of Russians who had run away from captivity, and also from the prisons, into which they had been sentenced for various offences, and a number of White-Russians from those villages. These same partisans also used to undress Jews, take away their weapons and drive them back into the ghetto.

This was the appearance of the partisan movement at that time. Later the situation changed for the better and Jews were also admitted into the otriad (Russian = official partisan detachment) "Iskra".

On the second shore of the Nyeman, Novogrudek quarter, the Belski brothers had, who lived not far from Novogrudek and knew the area well, had decided not to go into any ghetto. They went out into the forest near the old glassworks and little by little they attracted friends and acquaintances. Thus was created a partisan group of several hundred men. Later Jews from the Lida ghetto linked up with them, and a wandering began in Belski's otriad.

As I mentioned earlier, groups had begun to organize themselves, in order to go away into the forest to the partisans. One did not know about the other. Everything was made very conspiratorial. Every early morning we would become aware, that this one or that one had gone away into the forest. Even their closest kin did not know.

In the beginning several partisans came at night and took away Dr. Miasnik together with his wife and daughter (today in America). There was joy in the ghetto. It was felt, that a way to battle and revenge was opening. Velvl Krupski and Bela Golombievski, z"l (Hebrew: zichrono (m) l'bracha = May his (their) memory be a blessing) went away. A little later they sent for Dr. Golombievski and wife. The butcher Eliyohu Ilutovitch with his family, who perished in the village, Dakudave, went away.

The movement within the ghetto to go out into the forest grew. On one night a group of approximately 40 Jews went out, under the direction of Leybke Oshekhovski, "L:eybke Katsap" (today in America). Borukh Levin (from Zsheludke) went away from the Lida ghetto. He battled heroically and took revenge on the murderers, and finally was awarded the highest Soviet award for excellence, "Hero of the Soviet-Union". Dr. Kivilevitsh and his sister Shulamis went away (today in America), Dr. Gordon with his wife Assia, Leybish Ferdman, Dr. Tenenboim, Dentist Tavritski (today in America), Zerakh Orluk with the Sheakhovitsh family, Kalman Basist with his family (today in Israel). Partisans often came into the ghetto seeking various articles and took several people away.

I, myself, left late. I came to already organized partisan-groups. I had close contact with the commander of the Jewish police, Leyzer Stolitski, with the engineer Altman and Alpershteyn. When they realized, that I was readying myself to go away from the ghetto to the partisans, they called out not just once and warned, that if I leave the ghetto, after V. Krupski had already left and we are the chief artisans, there could, God-forbid, be a tragedy for the Jews in the ghetto.

In order to calm us, those who labored in the workshops, Altman turned to the commissar Hanweg and told him, that uneasy rumors are heard in the ghetto, that danger is in store for the ghetto. Therefore he wanted to call an assembly of the workshops, in order to calm us. His explanation was short: "Jews, Your life is dependent on your work, if you work diligently, you will "continue to be alive".

[Page 318]

Jews were ecstatic, and Altman said to me: "Nu Kaplan, did you hear? Now already will you remain calm?" I answered him: " I heard that "continue", that means for the time being we can remain calm, but when the tragic day will come the area-commissar will be no where to be seen. I also warned him, that he should not dare to disturb anyone in his marked-out path.

That which was anticipated did indeed happen. The "continuing" lasted 4 months, and they made the ghetto "Judenrein" (German = cleansed of Jews), transported the Jews to Maidanek.

Several days after the speech of assurance by the commissar, our group left the ghetto. I, my wife Ida, Ruven Rubenshteyn (died in Argentina), Yakov Grodzshentshik together with his bride, Soreh Shapira (fell as a Partisan), the family of Khasie Bedzovski (today in Canada). Shmuel Senzan had returned to the ghetto after a raid and perished, and several other Jews, and also A. Dameshek, who already a partisan had been in the ghetto for 18 days, in order to set up a printing plant to print a forest newspaper with news from the front. All of the equipment for the printing plant was sent away by day with a peasant, whom the partisans sent for that purpose, and we exited the ghetto that very night.

After a night's journey we arrived in the vicinity of Dakudave – waiting in a place where there was a small peasant house. As dawn began we were met by partisans from the group "Iskra", armed from head to toe, dressed in Soviet clothing. One could hardly believe, that in the course of one night, being sentenced to a certain death, that we should find ourselves free and be able to take vengeance upon the cruel murderer.

They decreed, that the housewife was to provide food and drink, and soon a table was prepared with whiskey and lots of food.

They divided us up. Part remained in "Iskra", the remainder were sent to Belski. A. Dameshek remained in "Iskra" just for several days. Later, an order arrived from general Platon , that A. Damashek together with all the equipment for the printing plant must travel to the partisan-headquarters of the Luptishanske Pushtsheve (Polish = virgin forest).

The assignment for the group "Iskra" from the partisan movement was diversionary acts: blowing-up trains, bridges, disrupting telegraph-nets, mining roads, burning economic concentration-centers and lurking after Germans. The partisan Heshl Berdovski occupied himself with the preparation of explosive-material at the hotel "Dagmara"., which sat in a solitary house in the woods, separated from the group. The group of diversionaries would get their share of explosives and march off to work. They used to bury it under the rails and set a detonator. Each diversionary would deploy mines after his own fashion-one with a rope, another with a battery, another used the pressure of a locomotive and others with a "Shamfal" (in context means booby-trap, "Falle" is German for trap).

Every diversionary favored constantly proceeding in an accustomed fashion by which he had already succeeded in blowing-up a train, and where he was acquainted with the area. I, for example, went to blow-up trains near Gavie, between the iron bridge and the station. There was a high place there and it was lovely to see how the train overturned and fell into the valley.

The Ginsburg brothers from Ivieh, Mordechai (today in America) and Betsalel, z"l (fell in Dakudave after freeing himself from the forest), Leybish Ferdman (in America) Zerakh Arluk (in Israel) were outstanding diversionaries who had to their credit many blown-up trains and other diversions.

In "Iskra" there also two Jewish doctors and two nurses. The other Jews were excellent partisan-fighters.

After being in "Iskra" for several months, the Germans made a raid on us with great force. They wanted to sweep the forest clean of partisans. Because of the raid contact with the ghetto was interrupted. There were also partisans, who returned to the ghetto and spread false rumors, that none of us were still alive. We were driven-off with great losses in the areas of Bieniakon, Voronove and Trikel.

Our otriad "Iskra" arrived in the Noliboker Pushtshe, fording the Nyeman and Berezine, without having anything to eat. Being chased by the German and having no prospects of acquiring food we forced our march on and we arrived near Yuratzishak. There was a garrison of Germans in Zshemeslave.

It became day and we could go no further. We remain resting in a little woods. We set a patrol on all four edges of the woods, and we, out of exhaustion, fell asleep.

Suddently – an outcry: "Germans!" We bolted upright and ran off, and the commissar for special operations, Boris, stood up in the direction of the outcry – he was immediately hit by a bullet and fell dead. At the same moment fire opened up from all directions. The came so close that Sorele Grodzshentshik was taken alive. I looked like I wanted to shoot and the commander of "Iskra" saw what I was about to do and cried-out: "One man by himself in the field can't carry on a war".

[Page 319]

Returning fire together with the commander and Tsherkov, a machine-gunner, we ran until we reached a marsh where we could stop, because the Germans did not venture deep into marshes. There we saw, that our group had run off in different directions, and very few remained.

We remained in that vicinity for a short time. Bit by bit we drew ourselves back into the old routine, leaving a wounded partisan there with Mashe Shevakhovitsh as nurse, and several other partisans to guard them so they should not come to harm. They were all killed.

Anti-Semitism raged and reached the highest peak. In "Iskra" we were no more than ten Jews. We called for a meeting with the staff and related what was taking place, requesting from them that we might build a separate entity. The commander asked me: "In what did we sense the anti-Semitism, and who are the anti-Semites?" We answered: "Everyone without exception." The partisan Tiger pointed to the adjutant Valodke and he charged that the first time, when he came out of the ghetto he had disarmed him, pulled his boots off, took away his revolver, shot after him and drove him back into the ghetto. After that things calmed down a bit.

The attitude of the Russians toward the Jews depended on the time. When things were bad they yelled: "Why the devil do we have to help the Jews?"

Brigades were formed out of the partisan groups. Our brigade was called by the name Kirov. In this brigade there were 6 otriads: "Iskra", "Red October", "Oriol", "Balteyets", "Za Sovetskoyu Bielorusiu", and "Ordzshonikidze" with a Jewish group and Russian commanders.

A foreign group of partisans passed through our area from the otriad "Bolshevik" – on their way from the village Vasilievitsch and Pudzin they encountered the partisan Velvl Krupski together with Bela Golombievski. Recognizaing, that they were Jews, they robbed them, took away their weapons and shot them.

Near Lida, on the other side of the Nyeman, Polish partisans organized themselves, calling themselves "Armia Krayova". They assisted the Germans in fighting the partisans.

Our situation because more serious and difficult. Our partisans also fell by the hands of the Polish Partisans. After a while two partisan brigades organized themselves: "Kirovska" and "Tshapayevska", who carried out attacks on the Polish partisans and quieted them down a bit.

The Yankelevitsh family, Rivke Radzivanishki, Nomik Levinson andYehuda Dagutsky were hidden in the Dakudave manor. Not far from there the family of Elihu Elutovitsch were also hidden. They were all murdered in a dreadful fashion.

At that time I was in the village at a Christian watchmaker's, in order to prepare an electric mechanism for a mine. We were having a hearty shot of whiskey. Suddenly I heard shouting and shots being fired. I made my escape behind the barns, and ran away from the village on the way to Pietry, and I arrived in the village Burnas. There I encountered our entire "Iskra" group, which had begun to ford the Nyeman. It was no easy thing. I saw that Sonia Shevakhovitch's (today Arluk) little boat had overturned and she fell into the water. Zerach Arluk saved her and led her to a peasant's house in order for to warm herself and to dry her clothes.

We, ourselves, never saw our own sufferings nor did we feel them, because of our striving to keep alive. But on the other side of the Nyeman peasants stood wringing their hands while observing the sufferings of the partisans. The White Poles captured the village of Dakudave and we could no longer enter the village.

(page bottom,left: hand written certificate (note hammer and sickle seal) likely in Russian: Caption in Hebrew: "Karacteristika" (Certificate of character) to Dr. Broina Kiblovitz, who served as company doctor and participated in battle activities.)

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Lida, Belarus     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Carol Monosson Edan and Osnat Ramaty

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 18 May 2005 by LA