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[Page 357]

David Boyarsky z”l

By Yitzchak Ganuzovitch

Translated by Sara Mages

The heart refuses to believe that David is gone.

Through the mists of time and place I see him when we studied together at “Tarbut” school in Lida, and he is a talented, dynamic, devoted to others and honest boy.

 

 

It is fitting to say, that the traits of character that stand out in childhood will mature with the forging of a person's maturity. The positive, enlightened and the beautiful turn into wonderful and rare virtues of the soul, and these were the virtues, and spiritual assets, of David.

David was born on 15 May 1924 to his father Shimon and his mother Tziva. In his childhood he received a Hebrew Zionist education, and absorbed this spirit at his parents' home, at school, and the ranks of “Hashomer Hatzair.”

The Second World War broke out while he was still in his youth, and his share was the horrors of war, the fear of the Holocaust and the partisans' battles. His parents, and his younger sister, were murdered by the Nazis together with all the martyrs of Lida. As a brave and spirited fighter he penetrated, from the partisan company in the forest to the ghetto, risking his life to save Jews and bring them the message of freedom. He tried to get his sister out of the clutches of death, but this step went wrong at the last moment.

In 1945, he arrived in Israel ready for action and help. He participated in the War of Independence, the Sinai War and the Six Day War.

With his own hands, on his own initiative and talent, he established a mechanical locksmith and developed it into an independent and established factory.

He passed at the prime of his life on 6 Iyar 5728 (4 May 1968).

Humility and honesty were the hallmarks of his personality and way of life. The fruit of his work and economic knowledge joined in him together. Grace of good manners was spread in his contact with people, with friends, nice manners and deep and balanced life wisdom. He was always ready to help others, with effort, money, advice and a kind word. A word that is said casually in the flow of a conversation between friends, and it is like a signpost that shows the possible direction. His whole being expressed love for humanity and help for others.

David had a great love for the country, love in the heart that covers the fragments of shadows. He knew how to find the right side in everything and noticed the greatness in every achievement.

The heart refuses to believe that David is gone.

To his family a devoted and noble husband and father was lost. To his friends and admirers, a loyal and distinguished friend.


[Page 357]

From the partisans' war to the War of Independence

By David Boyarsky z”l

Translated by Sara Mages

1 May 1942. I woke up as usual. My father's voice urged me to hurry because it was a matter of life and death to get to work on time.

My father worked in the military camp together with seventy-nine Jews and hundreds of Poles. They had to repair and arrange the weapons left by the retreating Poles and Russians. My sister worked in a workshop for leather goods and I worked as an apprentice in a welding workshop. I hurried to say goodbye to my father, I managed to look at him and my heart sank. Worry and fear nested in me and gnawed at my heart, as if I sensed the disaster approaching our home.

I arrived on time. I started working on repairing a lock. Some of the workers left for outside work. Half an hour later I heard whispers and several workers started to stare at me. When I approached them they became silent. I understood that a disaster had happened. I immediately ran to the department where my sister worked. From a distance I saw her standing and crying. When I approached her she told me, through a soft sob, that our father and all the Jewish workers were arrested at their workplace.

I returned to the workshop and started to work, but the distress was unbearable. The question, is this the bitter beginning, popped into my mind.

The day lasted like a year. I finally got home. My mother still did not know about the disaster that befell us. She stood in the kitchen and prepared our meal. Suddenly she looked at me, and with a questioning look she begged me to tell her what happened. I couldn't open my mouth and say a word. My mother understood and started screaming in pain because my father has not yet returned from work. I approached her, hugged and kissed her, this was the last kiss, and told her about my father's imprisonment.

As we found out, all the Jewish workers were arrested by the Gestapo immediately after they arrived to work. The Polish workers, who smuggled weapons out of the place, were afraid that the Germans in charge of the military camp

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would conduct an inspection and discover what was missing. That's why the Poles informed on the Jewish workers whose hand was in the smuggling.

From a Polish policeman we learned that the Jews were taken to the municipal prison. The Judenrat promised to take care of the matter. Voices and promises were heard in the street that the matter would be resolved.

The local Germans handed out work certificates to all their Jewish workers, but the atmosphere in the ghetto was not very encouraging. Rumor followed a rumor. We received reports of acts of violence and killing. We heard of massacres being carried out in smaller towns near our city, Lida. Everyone walked in fear and anticipation of what was to come.

And now a week has passed, and no news has arrived from my father, except for promises that everything is done for their release.

On 8 May 1942, I woke up to the sound of clanking metal tools. I slept soundly because I was extremely tired after seven sleepless nights. I looked through a crack in the window, and clearly saw the German soldiers who had taken up positions around the ghetto. I immediately understood that “the end is approaching.” The rumors were not for nothing. I woke up everyone in the house. We hurried to get up and get dressed, because immediately we heard loud knocks on the door and rude shouts calling people to leave the houses immediately. We left the house without taking anything with us.

Almost all the residents of the ghetto gathered in the street. We were instructed to organize in groups of five and move towards the forest. The road was not far to the three pits that the Nazis prepared for the martyrs of our city. We lived in the section of Piaski Ghetto and the pits were not far from there.

From a distance I noticed that the Germans, for whom we worked, were conducting a selection among the ghetto residents. A large part was sent to the right side and a very small part was taken and sent to the left side. Those taken to the right side were severely beaten with the rifles butts. When I approached the hill, on which the murderers and also the Germans in charge of our workplaces were standing, I took out my work certificate. I was asked who were the two women standing next to me, I pointed at my mother and my sister as my wife. Suddenly I heard a shout - links schnell (fast to the left), and started running fast and with all my strength with my family, my mother and sister, towards the small group that was standing not far from the hill. We passed a distance of a few meters, when suddenly two Germans from the units performing the despicable and criminal work appeared, and began to separate us. They started to drag my mother to the right side. I started to run after her as the Germans were beating me with their rifles butts. Suddenly, I saw that my mother turned her head back and said: “my dear children, go back to the left side, it's a better over there, don't worry about me, you are still young and you have to live, I have already lived a little…” We, my sister and me, stood as if we were petrified and followed the last footsteps of our beloved mother, our young mother.

Another blow on the broken body, and another drag, and we were on the left side together with a small group of over one hundred survivors of Piaski Ghetto. Kneeling, with our heads between our legs, we remained motionless until the order came to stand and lineup. We were led to what was left from the two parts of the ghetto, Koshrova and Postovsky-Chladne. On the way we heard the first fatal shots towards our martyrs, our loved ones, our parents, our brothers and sisters who were led to the binding.

About 1230 Jews remained from the three ghettos. We were concentrated in Postovsky-Chladne Ghetto.

Our family survivors: my grandmother who was saved by her eldest son Moshe, my sister and I, we moved to my aunt Chaya's house. The beds still contained the warmth. We were shocked. A heavy anguish fell upon us and a burning insult in our hearts. I was unable to eat. My sister, Mina, was completely changed. She did not talk to us, stopped eating, and only repeated and said there is no point in such a life.

Slowly some of us began to recover. The feeling of revenge took hold of me. It captivated all my thoughts to find a way to avenge the spilled pure blood. Many ways of revenge came to my mind. I was ashamed, and devastated, that I would not be able to carry them out because I was a 17 year old boy. Revenge spurred me to be and to act, to look for ways to carry it out, and so I met the people who organized the departure from the ghetto.

We started to prepare weapons for ourselves and looked for a way to join the partisan companies.

We worked vigorously and passionately. Some of us stole broken and burnt weapons from the army camp and we prepared it for action.

We waited impatiently for the day we yearned for, the day of revenge. The first groups began to leave the ghetto. Since I had a short barreled rifle, and my sister had a pistol, I thought I could go out to the forest with my sister. My sister lost all interest in life and claimed that only death would free her from everything. My friends advised me to leave the ghetto alone because she might change her mind. It was hard for me to say goodbye to my beloved sister, but the feeling of revenge carried me and spurred me to action. I left the ghetto in April 1943 together with a large group under the guidance of Reuven Rubinstein z”l. He led us on a short and secure path.

We arrived at the Jewish partisan company whose commander was Tuvia Bielski. I felt wonderful, I was a free man, a soldier with a weapon in his hand that can kill prey animals on two, and avenge the spilled blood of my people and family.

Several months have passed. I got into the swing of things. The first thing we had done was to supply food for the entire company that more than half of it consisted of unarmed women, old men and children. We were attacked several times. The first attack was in the camp in the vicinity of Juravelnick where Moshe Svayto, who was among the organizers when he was a policeman in the ghetto, was killed. He fell on his watch before the Germans attacked the camp with great force. Thanks to our commanders, who knew the forest very well, the company was divided into sections, and the losses amounted to three or four people.

The battle was conducted by: the commander Tuvia Bielski, his brother Asael z”l (who was later killed in the Russian army) and his brother Zus who was the patrol commander.

At the beginning of September 1943, when I returned from one of the operations - I met several residents of the ghetto who asked me: why I left my sister and I don't take her out. Indeed, I could have taken my sister out of the ghetto together with me in April 1943, but, as I said at the beginning of my words, she was in a severe shock after losing our beloved parents. Her whole thought was: how to get to our parents - that is, to death that would redeem her from all her sufferings. When I left the ghetto she refused to go with me. Her friend, Moshe Markevitch, who was among the first organizers of the underground in Lida Ghetto, said to me: go, and maybe over time she will change he mind, miss you and follow you. However, I began to think how to return to the ghetto and get her out because rumors spread that Lida Ghetto was going to be liquidated.

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I returned to the company and asked for permission to return to Lida Ghetto in order to take my sister out, and maybe a number of Jews. I took with me two grenades and a pistol, and left at night. But, I lost my way. I walked around almost all night and did not get out from the thicket of the forest. Only early in the morning, when dawn broke, I saw that I was in the opposite direction of the ghetto and I wouldn't be able to enter the ghetto because it was already daylight, and there was also a guard. I decided to move as fast as possible to the city center, where the burned houses stood, and hide. I knew that groups of workers leaving the ghetto for work had to pass through the area. I decided to join them and enter the ghetto. And it was my luck, because that night the ghetto was also surrounded from the outside by a heavy and strong guard. I didn't have to wait long in the abandoned house, because at seven o'clock in the morning I heard footsteps approaching me. I peeked through an open window and saw a group of Jews approaching in my direction. It was a group of Jews who worked for the Germans and took care of their horses. Among them was my uncle, Yeshayahu Movshovitz z”l. I left in their direction and when my uncle and others saw me, they panicked. I said that I will go to work with them and no one would check. My uncle had two yellow patches - on the left and right side - he removed one patch and I wore it on my back. I went to work with them, and worked until half past twelve when they returned to the ghetto for lunch. In this manner I entered the ghetto. And this - as I emphasize - was my luck, because otherwise I would not have been able to enter the ghetto.

I entered the house and told my sister, and also to her friend, that we must leave the ghetto as soon as possible. She did not agree, and only after begging and threatening she said to me: “well, this time I will do you a favor.” We decided to leave the ghetto on the third night.

On the second night - when I slept in the attic.- I couldn't sleep in the apartment because I no longer had any certificates - early in the morning I heard a noise that reminded me of the noise of May 8, about a year ago when the slaughter was carried out. It seemed to me that I was dreaming, but I opened my eyes, peeked through the attic and saw that the Germans had already surrounded the ghetto with great force.

I went downstairs and woke up all the inhabitances of the house. In the apartment, where my sister lived, was also the Chemerinsky family, a couple with two sons and a daughter (one of the sons lives in Kfar Saba, Israel), and I woke everyone up. I also entered the other room where several other families lived. I told them: “Gentlemen, the ghetto is surrounded, there will probably be some kind of action here, you have to get up and get ready.”

At six o'clock in the morning Germans, riding motorcycles, entered the ghetto. They scattered in several places on Chladne Street, and announced loudly: “All the residents of the ghetto are being transferred to Poland to work. They must take some clothes, bedding and food for a few days, until they arrive at their workplace, and there they will receive the food they deserve.”

At this moment the whole ghetto rose to its feet. One prepared a bundle of clothes, the second beddings and the third food. There was a lot of movement and everyone started to leave their apartment in order to get to the place of concentration. I left without taking anything, because my only thought was: how to leave the place and escape. I did not wear the yellow patch, because I understood that the Germans will not look for those who do not wear the yellow patch, who has a certificate and whether someone is fit or not.

By chance, at that time there were several dozen other partisans in the ghetto who came to take out people, medicine and various items. I saw them, we walked around, talking and everyone thought of escaping.

Suddenly an order sounded: to get closer to the ghetto gate. I saw that the Germans were coming with dozens of cars. The moment the residents of Lida Ghetto saw the cars, it affected them emotionally and psychologically. A huge panic began, and an escape to side streets. I saw how the Germans were preparing their weapons in order to take control of the situation.

At that moment I saw the heads of the Judenrat, Alperstein and Altman, approaching the commander who was probably among those in charge of the action. I did not hear the conversation between them. I only understood that they told him that the Jews want, and request, to walk to the train station. I saw this officer conferring with his friends, and suddenly the cars left the place.

A command sounded to organize in groups of five, and the last march from Lida Ghetto began. They exited the gate, passed the ruins of Kruposvka Street, advance from the right side of the train station, around, because they did not want to move this camp through the city center, maybe they had a reason for that, and the march turned towards the train. I searched for a narrow street so that I could escape. I decided that it was better to be killed in the street - and not enter the train car. I did not think much. When I saw the narrowest alley, I told my sister that I was escaping and “if you see that I succeeded - meaning that you would not hear any shots - it is a sign I was able to escape. Try to escape too, and I will wait for you until morning at a farmer we know who lives three kilometers behind the city.”

I took two steps forward and climbed the sidewalk. It was quiet all around, a sign that they did not notice me. The Polish residents of Lida walked on the sidewalk. They looked at me and for some reason they also did not react. With quick steps I entered the alley and felt that I had been saved. I took the pistol in my hand and began to move forward, until I came out into an open field. From there I continued into the forest and arrived at the farmer's house and waited for her all night.

I waited until morning, but my sister did not come. I started walking in the direction of my company. I returned to the Bielski Otriad and realized that I had also lost my sister since she would no longer be able to come. The feeling of revenge awakened in me with greater vigor, and I began to look for a way to move to a Russian partisan detachment, in order to fight more and revenge more.

The opportunity was given to me a few weeks later, when an order came to all the companies in the vicinity, that each company should set aside two or three fighters in order to transfer them to Puszcza Lipiczanska in the vicinity of Zdzieciol-Slonim. I was chosen with another fighter named David Brook, a native of Novogrudok who was later killed as a solder in the Russian army, in the front in the vicinity of Bialystok.

In October 1943 I arrived in Puszcza Lipiczanska and there I was transferred to the Voroshilova Brigade. The brigade commander was the famous Pietka Bezruski. I joined the company named after Kalinin. It was not a big company, it only numbered about 140 fighters, but all of them fought with top quality automatic weapons. In this company I met two others from Lida. Moshe Konofko who was a policeman in Lida Ghetto, and Avraham Krupski who was also a policeman and one of the activists and organizers in Lida Ghetto. All together

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there were eight Jews in this company, among them also Moshe Konofko's father who took care of supplies, horses, cows, food - and was a kind of a supply commander. In this company we began to go on missions and take revenge. We embarked on mission of mining trains, mining bridges, ambushes, and everything that was involved in the war against the Nazis and their helpers.

We never thought we would stay alive. We never imagined it. It was only a matter of time when the day would come when we would be killed. But our decision was determined that we would not be killed the way all the Jews were killed, who were taken to the camps or to the slaughter - but we will fall on the battlefield.

The year 1944 brought us more hopes, even though the situation in the area became extremely difficult. The Germans put a siege on us, which was one of the most difficult, but at the same time we received all kinds of newspapers, and news from radio Moscow, that the Russian army was advancing with giant strides, and was getting closer to us more and more every day.

The Russian commanders' attitude towards the small group of Jews in the company was satisfactory, even though there were also a few anti-Semites among them. The positive attitude towards us was due to our fighting spirit. They saw that we were not cowards and maybe even surpass them in courage. Then, they sometimes told us, with an ironic laugh, that we do not resemble Jews, or that we are not Jews at all, because it is not suitable for a Jew to be a fearless combat fighter. Our behavior served as a role model. We have taken on all kinds of dangerous missions. There were days when we wandered for consecutive nights on the road, and when everyone was at the threshold of exhaustion, they placed one of us on guard because they knew that he wouldn't fall asleep and the Germans wouldn't surprise us.

At the end of April and the beginning of May 1944, the Germans conducted a great siege and hunt for our puszcza [large forest], and surrounded us on all sides. We gathered together and looked for a way to break through the encirclement ring. In order to surprise the Germans, we arrived through swamps, in difficult roads, to the “tract.” It was a road before the new roads were paved in Poland. It was called: “Bialostozky-Wilenski-Tract.” It was a rough dirt road in our jungle that once was used for wagon traffic. We didn't know that the Germans surprised us and they were on the other side of the “tract.” They cut the trees in such a way that it would be difficult to break through, and those who managed to get through would encounter them.

Of course, we didn't know that. Then, we numbered about eighteen thousand partisans. When we reached the unpaved road we learned that the Germans were standing in front of us equipped with heavy weapons. We couldn't retreat back, not to the right or to the left since we were surrounded. We could already hear the shells exploding around us. There was only one way - to break through the blockade.

When it got dark, we approached this road. At first we fumbled, we thought we might be able to - by surprise - to pass quietly. But it was not possible. The Germans opened fire at us. It was a deadly fire. The headquarters had no choice, after the number of wounded and dead was increasing, but to charge forward. Then a command was given in Russian: “For the homeland! For Stalin! Forward! To break the blockade!”

And with shouts to the heavens we began to break through the blockade. I passed the tract and passed the bunkers. I saw the mortars' muzzles spitting non-stop fire, and fell into a trench. They dug a trench and filled it with water. Later, when I crossed the trench, I started to climb on the cut trees and in this way I progressed. It was dark and we ran in disarray, since it was impossible to maintain any order.

It wasn't until early in the morning, when the dawn broke, the real and most brutal battle began. As soon as we passed the German bunkers, they started shouting that we surrounded them, and started running away with us. In this way groups began to form: 100 partisans - 200 Germans, or 300 Germans - 50 partisans and a close combat began. Of course, those who were lucky to be in a larger group of partisans - then the partisans had the upper hand.

After this bloody battle in that took place in May 1944, we started to advance. The headquarters and the patrolmen began to gather all the fighters according to companies. After a formation and tallying, it became clear that approximately 1000 partisans perished in this brutal battle, among them about 100 Jews.

A young Jew from our company, a machine gunner, had two lieutenants, tall and sturdy Russian. The machine gun was wounded in the battle, shell shrapnel hit his head. His head was split open and he was abandoned by his two lieutenants. After we got organized, we began to scan the area and look for the wounded. We found him unconscious, with his machine gun and the two spare disks that were in the lieutenants' hands. The young man remained disabled to this day. It was one of the heroic displays of our Jewish young men, who did not fall from the Russians, and maybe surpassed others.

The Germans raided all our camps, burned them, and announced by leaflets they scattered from planes, that they managed to eliminating all the partisans' cells in our vicinity. The Germans left the place, and two weeks later we returned to our camps in the same area we were in before. We began to regroup, and life began to return to its normal course again.

I would like to mention the hospital which was right by us, by our company, and our brigade guarded it. The hospital was under the management of Dr. Miasnik, a well known doctor from Lida. Before the siege several hundred wounded, and seriously wounded, lay in the hospital and it was impossible to take them with us. The hospital was underground and well camouflaged, and an order was given to leave it with its doctors and staff. A platoon from our brigade, the Voroshilov Brigade, was set aside to guard it.

When we returned after the siege, the first thing was to see the fate of the hospital. To our great joy the hospital remains as we left it. It was so effectively camouflaged that the Germans could not find and discover it. Of course, there was a supply of food for a long time and also medicines. To our great joy we found all the staff, the doctors and the comrades who over time healed. The magnitude of the joy cannot be described.

Together with Dr. Miasnik and Dr. Recovery (today a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) worked registered nurses and a practical nurse that now lives in Israel. Her name is Rivka Damesek (her husband, Eliyahu Damesek, printed the leaflets that appeared the forest).

In the meantime the Russian army was advancing and the time of liberation was approaching.

I started thinking again: maybe a miracle will happen and we will stay alive. And the willpower to live returned. I will not say that we got enough

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revenge since there is no payment, and no sufficient revenge, for everything the Nazi beast has done to our people and our holy loved ones.

The Red Army advanced by leaps and bounds. At night we saw how they bombed the big cities like Baranovichi, Lida and the environment.

And now, an order came from the main headquarters that each brigade will occupy a section close to the road, because the Germans had begun to cross our territory. We settled in the vicinity of Zhetl. We lay down, wandered around and talked. Suddenly, we heard from the direction of the village to our right, at a distance of 6-10 kilometers, the sound of tanks. We were sure that these were the Germans' tanks and the Russian army tanks would come after them.

Our commander sent two scouts to see what was happening in the village, which force was there and if we could attack them. My friend, Alyoskha, told me how he approached this village. He was not sure if it was a German force. Suddenly, he heard words in Russian. He still couldn't believe what he had heard and thought that maybe these were Ukrainians, or the Vlaso army[1] that fought alongside the Germans. But, as he got closer, he realized that these were Russian army tanks. His dash back to inform us and the headquarters was crazy. When they arrived we couldn't get out of them what they wanted to tell us, when they started shouting Krasnaya Armiya! (Red Army), we realized that a rather large armored brigade of the Russian army was in the nearby village.

The whole brigade stood up and started running in the direction of the village. Of course, the headquarters stopped us, and after a while sent representatives to the village and, of course, the company commander, Bielski in person.

Later, the tanks got closer to us and arrived at our ambush site. In this manner we united with the Red Army without any harm and in a satisfactory and good way. It was in July 1944.

The next morning we entered the villages and the garrisons where the Germans stood for two and a half years and harassed us. This was the most famous and the difficult military garrison: “Ruda Jaworska.” It was built of reinforced concrete, and inside it were tanks and heavy guns. It was impossible to blow it up and destroy it despite our incessant attempts. When the Germans left, and we entered, we realized why we couldn't stand against them.

The next day we already settled in the villages. All kinds of rumors spread that we would be sent to the cities, to take up all kinds of positions - in the police or in the civil service. But, the next day an order came that we should continue to fight. We joined the Russian army as we were - with our clothes and our weapons. We immediately took positions near Vawkavysk. The battles started again, and from my company two dear young Jewish men, who fought with me as partisans, Moshe Konopka from Lida and David Brock -a healthy young man, fell near Bialystok.

I arrived in Bialystok and injured my leg at the train station. They started to transfer me from hospital to hospital. To my great joy, in all the hospitals that I have been to most the doctors, and the directors, were Jews. I arrived as far as the city of Gorki, but we did not stay there for a long time, only a month, because the front got closer and already reached Warsaw. Then, an order was given to transfer all the hospitals closer to the front, meaning, west.

After many wanderings we arrived in a small train station, Nowojelinia. I immediately started thinking about which way to get there, to see if maybe someone from my family remained in Lida.

I didn't sleep all night from excitement, my leg was still in a cast all the way up and I walked with crutches. But I couldn't stop thinking on how to get to our city, see what is happening there and what was left. A day or two passed. A show featuring Russian soldiers took place in the hospital hall. The show was over. I had no reason to rush. I was already tired of sleeping. I remained among the last. And suddenly I saw another figure standing in the distance. Our eyes met. Of course I didn't recognize him, he also did not recognize me, but we were attracted to each other. When we started getting closer I saw before me a friend from my town. He was in also my area, among the partisans, in the same forest, and his name was Zev Kamionsky. He also went to the front and was wounded. Of course, the meeting was very exciting, we hugged and kissed. He told me that the hospital director is a Jew, and they say that he is a good Jew. He even told me that the doctor released one of the partisans. Later, I learned that the man who was released from the hospital was my uncle, Resnik. He told me: we should talk to him maybe he will be able to arrange something for us. We decided not to waste time.

The next morning we decided to enter the office of the hospital director who was in the rank of a major. I don't remember his name. We walked to the door, knocked and heard the word “enter” in Russian. We entered. I saw before me a typical Jew with grey hair, and a beautiful radiant face. He looked at us in astonishment, maybe he already felt that we were from among his people. I did not think how to speak, and what to say and the word gut morgen (good morning) in Yiddish burst out of my mouth. When he heard gut morgen, he literally jumped out of his chair. Vas? (what), he answered, Yidishe ḳinder? (Jewish children). He walked to the door, locked it with a key, and started hugging us and asked: “from where, and what.” We told him everything that happened to us. He asked us: “what is your request?” We answered him: “we know that our immediate family has perished, but maybe a cousin, or an uncle, were left, and we want to reach the city.” He turned to my friend and said: “you can because you can walk. But, after all, you are in a cast.” I answered him: “it's nothing, worse things have happened to us.”

He stopped talking and turned pale. Put both his hands into his curly hair, did not answered and did not speak. We understood that this matter was not within his authority. My friend turned to me and said: “David, let's get up and go.” Suddenly, he erupted in rage shouting: “Children, they slaughtered millions of our people, they slaughtered and killed as many as they could, also those who helped us. If we do not want help each other, who will help us? Go to bed sons, rest, I will arrange it for you.”

A few days later we received an order: to enter and get new clothes and food stamps for quite a long time. Afterwards, we received a permit that we are traveling to the city of Lida to receive medical treatment. We must report to the recruiting office, from there we will be sent to the hospital to receive treatment, and then each of us will return to our unit.

We returned to Lida and found a burnt city. About twenty five families remained. I met my aunt and uncle Resnik, and a short time later

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my cousin, daughter of Yeshayahu Mowshowitz, also arrived. He gave his two daughters to a Christian - to a good friend to look after them - and he himself wanted to join the partisans, but he was not able to. Two weeks later Mowshowitz' little girl also arrived. My uncles, Resnik, lost their two children - one perished in the forest and one perished in Lida Ghetto.

Later I started looking for my brother who was recruited in 1940 to the Russian army. To my great joy, a month later, after many efforts, I received the first letters from him.

I received medical treatment and the leg, more or less, healed. And the organization began again. A brigade that included Abba Kovner, Nisan Resnik, Chaim Lazar and dozens more, left from the vicinity of Vilna in order to leave Russia, to arrive in Poland and from there to Eretz Israel.

As for me, I did it with a heavy heart, almost unwillingly, since I did not want to part with my dear brother, the only one I had left, but my aunt, uncle, and also my friends, influenced me to travel.

And so the wanderings began again. We stole borders, arrived in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Romania. In Romania we gathered in kibbutzim, and when the Brigade[2] arrived in Italy, we started to pass back through Hungary, Austria, to Italy. I was among the first to arrive in Italy. And from there among the first, in the first illegal immigration ship, “Berl Katznelson,” I arrived, after hardships and great sufferings, to the homeland, to our country, on September 1945.

When I got off the ship I immediately joined Kibbutz Beit Zera. Unfortunately, I did not find my way in the kibbutz. I could not adapt to the life. I only blame the hardships that I have been through. Only after I returned to a normal life I began to feel what I had lost. I left the kibbutz, arrived in the city, joined the “Haganah[3],” and participated in the War of Independence. When Jerusalem was left without food and water after the Jordanians stopped the water line, I was sent as a welder to lay a temporary water line to flow a little water to Jerusalem. I was among the first and among the last in this mission. The line was transferred through the Burma Road[4]. Later, I was transferred to the Signal Corps and was released in 1949.


Translator's Footnotes

  1. The Russian Liberation Army, also known as the Vlasov army after its commander Andrey Vlasov, was a collaborationist formation, primarily composed of Russians, that fought under German command during World War II. Return
  2. The Jewish Brigade was a military formation of the British Army in the Second World War. Return
  3. Haganah (lit. The Defence) was the main Zionist paramilitary organization of the Jewish population in Mandatory Palestine between 1920 and its disestablishment in 1948, when it became the core of the Israel Defense Forces. Return
  4. Burma Road in Israel was a makeshift bypass road between Kibbutz Hulda and Jerusalem, built under the supervision of General Mickey Marcus during the 1948 Siege of Jerusalem. It was named for the Chinese Burma Road. Return


The partisan Leib Orzechowsky

By M. A. Guer

Translated by Sara Mages

The partisans of Tuvia Bielski called him by the name “Liebke Katsap[1].”

He was twenty five years old when he survived Lida Ghetto. The idea of escape came to him after the great slaughter.

After the terrible massacre of Lida's Jews, Leib Orzechowsky escaped from the ghetto with two of his friends: Yakov Starodworski and Abrasha Levitt, and they arrived at a farmer's house in the village. There, they learned of the existence of a Russian partisan company in the forest near the village. They arrived to the company, and told the commander that they want to take their wives and children out of the ghetto. The Russians answered them in the negative. But, precisely at that time, Zeisal Bielski, brother of Tuvia Bielski, was there. He arrived at the place with a group of Jewish partisans for reconnaissance missions.

When Zeisal Bielski learned about the three Jews who escaped from Lida Ghetto, he called them and said: “Come to us, and you can also bring their wives and children to our camp in the forest.”

In this manner the three escapees arrived at the Tuvia Bielski partisan brigade. Since Leib served in the Polish Cavalry, he immediately received a horse at his disposal and became one of the outstanding fighters.

Because of various acts of heroism as a horseman he was given the nickname “Liebke Katsap.” But, “Liebke Katsap” couldn't stay in the forest. He knew that they were waiting for him in Lida Ghetto to come to the rescue. And indeed, a few weeks later he secretly entered the ghetto together with Yakov Starodworski and they took out of the ghetto the first group of fifty people.

Among the survivors were also women and children, among them a three year old boy, Moshele' Pupko, that “Liebke Katsap” had to carry on his shoulder the whole way (today Moshe Pupko lives in a kibbutz in Israel).

Among the elderly was also Shmuel Pupko, a Jew of about seventy and his wife Keyla.

“Liebke Katsap” brought them all unharmed to the partisan camp under the leadership of Tuvia Bielski.

Two weeks after the first rescue operation, “Liebke Katsap” decided to try his luck for the second time. He left in the direction of the ghetto together with Reuven Rubinstein, but, this time, it was not easy for him to enter the ghetto.

Also this time he managed to gather a group of Jews, youth, women and children. He took them out of the ghetto at night and brought them to the partisan camp. The rumors about Leibke's penetration into the ghetto, and his rescue mission, spread quickly among the surviving Jews in the ghetto.

In his third penetration into the ghetto Liebke was wounded by a bullet fired by the Nazis who discovered him. Liebke ran twelve miles, as his wounded arm was bleeding, until he reached the hut of a farmer who bandaged his wound. But he did not give up. At midnight he returned to the ghetto and managed to take out another group of Jews. Chaim Rumshinsky (today in America) and Liebke Magad, also managed to save and take out another group of Jews.

After the fall of the Nazis, Leib Orzechowsky (together with Izik Manski - currently in America) was the first to enter the destroyed Lida. He did not find a single Jew in the city.


Translator's Footnote

  1. From Ukrainian кацáп (lit. “he-goat”), invoking an image of a stereotypical Russian man with a goatee beard. Return


[Pages 363-366]

My Road To The Partisans

By Yocheved Resnick

Translated by Roslyn Sherman Greenberg

In 1943 I decided to run away to the partisans in the woods with a group from the Ghetto. The plan was not successful and we were brought back to the camp Biala-Vake.

The Jewish police-commandant hit me extremely hard and ordered me to give up [the names of] all those who belonged to my group. After two days of torment, my fate was decided: hanging. The execution was to take place in the camp on Sunday, at eight o'clock in the morning.

The Jewish police-commandant who was in charge of my custody would get drunk every time he had me beaten. He made the last sporting spectacle in the evening and said ironically, “These are my last blows. Tomorrow you will become free on the gallows.” Drunkenly he fell asleep. His assignment was to keep me from committing suicide.

Beaten and exhausted I fell asleep on the hard narrow boards. What happened is unbelievable. While sleeping, I had a dream. My old father stood at my head and woke me with these words: “Get up my daughter, you were always so heroic. Why did you resign yourself so quickly? The boards on which you are lying are over a hollow. The boards are light to pick up since they are not nailed down. When you get underneath, you can move the soil which covers a tunnel that leads to the woods. From there go toward “Sarak Taatr”. The first person you will meet will rescue you. Get up quickly.”

Exhausted, I pulled myself out of my sleep, and looked around with frazzled eyes. My guard slept with a heavy drunken snore. Still tired, I fell back on the bed and slept again. But once again my father appeared and this time he cried more loudly, “Quickly, the hours are short. Soon it will be day and all will be lost! I want to have a surviving descendant. Get up more quickly.”

With fright I awoke again, quietly picked up the boards from the plank cot, slowly crawled down and covered myself with the boards. I crawled like a cat to the specified place, scratched the soil with my nails and found an exit to the woods. The first things I saw were the moon and the stars. But when I wanted to stick my head out I heard footsteps. It was a Lithuanian policeman, a night watchman from the camp. When he turned back I quickly freed myself from the hole and ran into the woods.

I tore off a piece of my shirt, bound it around my head like a kerchief and started to walk in the right direction. Christian boys and girls were also walking on their way home from their nightly diversions.

When I arrived in the colony, a door of a house opened and a Christian girl, Sonja, who knew me well (they used to drive milk to the work-camp) saw me and let out a cry. She believed that I was already dead and this was a ghost. She wanted to run away.

I called out, “Sonja, save me!” Without thinking, she took me into an animal's stall, where she found a hole that had been prepared earlier to hide various things. Quickly she propelled me into the hole, laid boards on top and placed the animals above. Thus I was buried alive.

“God, why do I have to endure so much?,” was ripped from my heart. For what and because of what did I have to run away? Wouldn't death be preferable to all this suffering? Out of one grave and into another. True, there was a little air to breathe, but how long can one survive like this? Suddenly I heard the voices of those who were seeking me.

The men who were supposed to carry out the execution, came to the gallows. Not finding me, they ran in all directions to search for me. I heard Sonja's conversation with the policemen. She showed them a direction in the woods where she saw me running, and she said she was going to report it to the police. She acted like a helper who was going to help them find me in the woods. I don't know how long they searched for me. Fainting and tired I fell asleep in the grave. If Sonja did not come back and save me, my life would have ended in that sleep.

Afterwards, when she had fed the policemen and gotten them drunk, and they had turned back to the camp, she came into the stall, drove the cows away, removed the straw and the boards, and took me out of the grave half-dead. She took me into the house and washed me a little, fed me, and pushed me up on top of the oven and covered me with rags. Thus passed the first 24 hours.

Before sunrise, when night and morning struggled with each other, she took me out of the house deeper into the woods and gave me food for the whole day. In the evening I would go back.

Once at night I went into a farm through a back door. I crawled over to a cow and sucked the milk with my mouth like a calf. Thus a person can sometime change into an animal.

Afterward I crept up to the loft in the hay and covered myself with the odorous grasses. I planned to sleep there until just before daylight. While I tried to sleep, I was awakened by a conversation between two peasants who worked on the farm. One said, “Why are they still playing with the last Jews? When they get rid of them, life will be a lot easier.”

It seemed to me with each rustle that the devil was coming to me in the form of a man. And in this manner the day stretched like a year. When I lived through the night, I left the farm hungry.

There is another episode that I want to relate. At the same Sonja's farm there was a doghouse with a dog – a wild animal! When he saw a stranger, it was fearful the way he tore at his chains, and his barking could be heard for kilometers. Every night I would come to this dog, pet him, and share his food that they carried out to him. If a Jew was cheaper than a dog to the Germans, the dog knew me as a friend and allowed me to come near him and licked me with his tongue. Perhaps when I could tell the dumb dog my troubles, he instinctively sympathized. Thus my days and nights passed and stretched out. During the daytime in the woods and at night in the fields, eating raw potatoes, grain stalks, etc.

Walking one day in the woods, a shadow seemed to appear among the trees. I followed the shadow to a certain place where the shape of the shadow was revealed to me: a Jewish girl, who, just like me, was fighting for her life. She was quite young. Her parents, who lived in the neighborhood, had been killed by the Lithuanians. Until a short time earlier, she had been hidden by some peasants. When the situation became more dangerous, the peasants advised her that for her own good she should be in the woods, not in the town. We hugged each other, pledged ourselves to the other with tears. I, a mother of lost children; she, a child of lost parents, that fortune brought together. As hard as life was, the acquaintanceship cheered us a little. We had someone to talk to, to cry with, and to comfort.

Our common dreams were to find a way to attach ourselves to a partisan unit with the help of one of the peasants from the town who belonged to the partisan group, and through my savior, Sonja's, father. I was sure that not far from the neighborhood a partisan unit would be found, together with my husband. I was disappointed, however, when I heard that a part of the unit was beaten, and a part went away to an area further away.

The summer came to an end, the nights became colder, and in the meantime we didn't see any end or solution.

One evening when we came into the town, I knew from a peasant of a certain “Malina” where Jews were hidden. With the help of a peasant, we came to the place and met some Jews we knew, some of whom we were together with in the camp. Among them was also the family of the doctor whom I helped to get out of the Vilna Ghetto. Neither the plea of the peasant nor my tears helped. They threatened to murder me if I wouldn't leave that place. Going back into the woods I told my friend, “See, Goldke, the trees are more friendly than people. They hide us, protect us from the rain, and help us fight for our lives.” Several weeks later we learned that White Poles, called “A.K.”, had uncovered the bunker where the Jews were hidden, and had murdered everyone.

With the help of friends among the peasants there came to us news about battles of the German army on the Russian front (Stalingrad). This was the main factor that brought closer the liquidation of the ghettos. This also strengthened and encouraged the partisan groups to combat the enemy.

The movements of the partisans, who sent out groups for diversion night after night, were heard through the woods far away for kilometers. These groups, that entered the towns, that were closer to the cities, to get food for the camp's battalion. Going back, doing their work, protected by the woods, they loved to sing. Their voices, that resounded and echoed in the woods, came to our ears. They led us toward them and we wanted to meet and enter their area.

One evening hearing the sounds, it became clear to me that one of the partisan groups was coming nearer to the town. It was not so easy to meet up with these people, especially for a woman. I positioned myself in the shadow of a tree in order to observe who these people were, which partisans, and where they were going. Luck was with me. One of those going out of the group noticed my shadow standing under the tree, and cried out, “Hands up!” My blood became like jelly in my veins, and I put my hands up. Seeing a woman, they were ashamed, and holstered their guns.

Suddenly, one of them cried out. In the middle of the shout was my name. He had been a Russian captive who worked earlier in the town near the camp where we were. I often had conversations with him about going into the woods. Now he was a commander of the group. He was very friendly to me. After listening to my experiences in the woods and the circumstances that brought me here, he told me, “ In our Atriad there are no women,” but he would take me along and bring me to a Jewish partisan unit which was not far from them. “You have to stay here and wait at the same place until we come back and take you.”

It can be understood that I took the offer. It was my goal. Afterwards when they left the place, we jointly, together with my friend, started to work out a plan so that she could come with the second transport. We came to the conclusion that she should stay in the neighborhood and she would endeavor to join the partisans with the first group.

Before the day broke we heard footsteps and horses and wagons in the woods, as well as the sound of barking dogs. It wasn't easy to part with my companion and friend Goldke, and my heart was choked up.

From that moment a new epoch began in my life. With the first rays of the rising sun, we approached the base. Then they took me into the area where the Jewish unit was under the command of a certain woman commissar – a girl from a Jewish family from Vilna – Chiena Borovsky.

My escorts left me by the first sentry post and went away. This was in the Rudnick woods, the very same woods where I hoped to find my husband. My problems didn't end with this. When the sentry let headquarters know of my arrival, an interrogation started by the commanders above me, wanting to know how I remained living and was able to run away from the Germans, and how I got here.

After a short interrogation, the Atriad Commissar decided not to let me into the Atriad. In spite of the intervention of the partisans who knew me, and my own pleas, it was impossible to change her decision. Her verdict was to take me out deep into the woods and leave me there. When I pled with her and said, “Isn't it much easier to sentence me to be shot than to wander around lost until I fall alive into the hands of the Germans?” To that, she gave no answer. Her sentence was carried out.

Under the escort of two partisans, one of them Altman, (now in Israel, working for the Histradut), the second Motke (I don't remember his family name. He was killed after the liberation), I was taken in the middle of the night into the deep woods. My escorts walked behind me silently and cried. It was certainly against their will and convictions.
After they had fulfilled the order, they parted with me like friends and with tears left me there.

I don't know how long this lasted. Maybe the twinkling stars woke me and urged me to go back. Like the Jews leaving Egypt were protected by a cloud and were led by a pillar of fire, I began to go back led by the moon and the stars and driven by an inner strength. How long I walked thus, I don't know. Trees after trees disappeared behind me, and when night started to wane, and on the far horizon light started to show, I suddenly found myself at the same post and the same place from which I had been taken away. Until today I don't understand how I went. It was a wood – which not only I, but perhaps my great-grandfather had never been in – where wild animals get lost or come to their destination thanks only to their instincts, strong eyes or sense of smell. And maybe I myself was already changed into a wild animal.

When the guards noticed me, they were startled by this phenomenon. Once again, my request to come back was considered by the staff. When the commissars ordered me to leave that place, I let them know my feelings. “I am not going away again. Either take me in or shoot me!”

My stubbornness together with the intervention of the Atriad doctor and other friends, softened the heart of the commissar, and she decided to let me in. This was in August 1943. From that time on my life changed. In a short time I influenced them to bring in my compassionate friend from my former life.

The partisan Atriad was located near the Lithuanian-Russian border. In this same woods there were other Atriads, Christian and mixed. Ours at that time was a completely Jewish one, and comprised mostly of those rescued from the Vilna Ghetto. The travails and battles against the bestial Hitlerism resulted in uniting everyone. The enemy bullet soaring in the air doesn't know whom it will hit. The frequent partisan victories and the German defeats on all fronts, healed the internal wounds and united all sides.

Also in my own life changes occurred. As hard as it was for me to be accepted by the partisans, now two partisan Atriads were fighting over me. Probably it was due to my warmth and dedication to friends, for not being lazy and my good economical habits, for encouraging partisans assigned to battles, and treating them like a mother coming back in a healthy condition, and like a nurse when in a wounded condition. It was never hard for me, whether during the daytime or at night to clean their wounds, heal them with my tears, and still their hurts with kisses.

First then, when my partisan life normalized itself, a great longing for my family began. Through various ways I searched for contact with my husband. Each time I thought that the way was near. In reality however it was very far. I would receive different reports, but in that situation such greetings were only in theory. The reality was that five minutes after speaking with a person, he found himself among those whose life ended. Yet every greeting and every word left a bit of hope. Maybe, maybe we will yet meet!

Many of the friends, who came from that neighborhood and who had brought me greetings, fell in our area. Many of the friends with whom I sent back my greetings took them with them and fell in the woods. And life went on….

One day I was called to the staff headquarters. To my surprise I met there one of the Hollanders, who had been the guard from Vaker workcamp together with the son of the Polish commandant, who didn't care about a single Jewish life. They didn't come into the woods by their own desire. They were on a manhunt and had fallen alive into the hands of the partisans. When I saw him my blood boiled. Here was the murderer who had in my sight shot a Jewish girl in the camp, the murderer who had with mockery laughed at me when I was arrested by the Lithuanian police and was brought back to the camp. I felt more than one murderous kick from him on my body.

“Koszick, do you recognize me? Do you know who is speaking to you? Do you remember when you led the Lithuanians to search for me in the woods?” When he answered, “No,” I gave him two blows which immediately left their marks on his teeth and his nose, and he opened his mouth. “Resnikova, why are you hitting me?”
“I am hitting you for myself, for my acquaintances, for all who you hit murderously and killed, and they couldn't stand up for themselves.” I lost my human qualities and changed into a beast. I wanted to tear him into pieces with my teeth. However, I was restrained by my companions who said, “ We will give you the honor after the interrogation.”

The investigation went as follows: What caused him to go into the woods? Who sent him and what were the German movements in Vilna? There was no talk about the camp or the ghetto. They had already been liquidated.

After the investigation I had the honor to drive him into the woods with a couple of blows where our companion partisans were already waiting for him by an open grave. Two volleys were heard which ended his career. When his body fell into the grave, I felt a heavy load was freed from my hurting heart, and satiated a portion of my thirst for revenge.


[Page 367]

Battle and Revenge

Menakhem Resnick

Translated by Phillip Frey

 

July-August, 1943

Our partisan group numbered eighty some men, most without weapons. We could only move at night. We tried, by the arrival of morning, to get to a place where we would be protected, not just from the Germans, but also from the peasants, who in large measure were far from being our friends. We reached our goal. After breakfast exhausted as we were we fell away to rest, leaving a watch, which changed every two hours. So- until sunset, when we again resumed our journey to the Nieman (river).

Late at night we passed by one side not are from Lida, on the other side it was 3-4 kilometers from Vasilishok. With the morning star we made it to the Nieman in the area of Zshetl-Ivie.

With the help of peasants, who lived near the Nieman, because of their good will or out of fear, we succeeded in crossing the Nieman with their boats. First there, on the other side, we found ourselves in an entirely different world. In the daytime we could also move freely. We set out in the direction of Slonim.

Arriving at a certain point we were taken over by one of the commissars from Bulat's brigade, who divided us into different otriads. This was July-August, 1943. From this time on a new life begins for us.

The partisan-life was a free one. The bases were in the forests and in large measure the partisans concentrated themselves in the villages both in daytime and at night. Every otriad was assigned to its region, which also had to feed it. In exceptional cases, with the permission of the commander, other otriads might be able to be fed. Battle –operations were carried out by all otriads, understandably, after communication with the higher authorities.

The otriad, which ruled in the region, had its commandants, who organized the villages for logistical purposes.

The peasants used to execute the commands of the commandant. The commandants also had control over the partisan groups who were marching through, checking on their battle orders and giving timely advisories for logistical and battle-operations. Also using the peasants certain intelligence activities about German movements were carried out..

After a short time, being attached to an otriad of Bulat's brigade, I was nominated as commandant over the villages---along the Shtshare(probably=assigned sector), which belonged to the otriad.

It was not difficult for me to acclimate, both as a partisan of the forest and as commandant over the peasants. I was assigned an assistant, a young man from Radun named Kaplan.

While riding one time through the villages I encountered several Jewish young men without weapons. After I talked with them it because clear, that they were coming from the direction of Vilna. I received no joyous report about the Jews remaining there from them. The lads were from Grodno. Two brothers were named Pave and one Kaminski, who were thanks to me accepted into the otriad. I am unacquainted with the fate of the brothers Pave, Kaminski by contrast is now living in Israel.

Because of my logistical leadership in the villages and also the broad intelligence-work, I became beloved by my commanders and even also by the captain Sienitski, who was far from being a friend of Jews.

At a convention of all the commanders in the Lipitshaner Pustshe, my commander openly praised me mentioning my name, Resnik. Coincidentally Dovid Boyarski was also there, my wife's nephew, who was one of the guardians of the plenipotentiary. Hearing my name, he went to him asked for information about me, informing him at the same time, that Reznik from Lida is his uncle. Getting the answer, which confirmed, that it was me, through his intermediation he sent me a letter, which surprised me. Firstly, I became aware, that a nephew of my wife remained alive and indeed I became aware, that my wife was alive and was located in the Rudnitsker Pustshe. He had received this information from Jews, who had wandered over from that area and were located nearby.

From that moment on I sought opportunities to link up with my nephew David. Finally I succeeded but unfortunately when I reached him he was ill with a lung inflammation.

He couldn't speak much. He told me, that he received the information from someone, who was located with the family-group from Zshetl.

I also managed to reach him. And the report was awful: they found her wandering by herself in the forest, her feet bound in rags, that was one report. I received a second further report from partisans, who passed through my area. They related more detailed information, that she is located in a partisan-otriad in the Rudnitzker-Pustshe, and that to all appearances, matched the reality.

I began to strive via my authorities to be able to bring her to my otriad. The permission was given to me with specific diversion-conditions which I obligated myself to carry out.

Three Jewish lads from Vilna were detailed to me: Mayer Droyak (is found now in America), Tsodok Postomski (was in the Red army perished at the front after the freeing); the third(I no longer recall his name)fell as a partisan three months before the freeing There were also two Russians.

We crossed the Nieman at night. On the other side the White-Polish

Bands ruled.

At the nearest village we took a peasant along as a guide. He was supposed to lead us to a specific forest-colony., which according to our information was linked to the Leninsk Kosomol-otriad, which was located in the Natsher Pustshe. Late at night we arrived at the colony. We spent the night in a barn, and with the arrival of the second night we were supposed to cross the railroad-line.

At nightfall, the peasant, our guide, accompanied us till we had to cross the train tracks, which were guarded by German village guards.

I wish to note here, that this was the place where the last Jews from the Lida ghetto leaped off the train, who were being transported to Maidanek: the brother Siame and Mitke Pupko, Moltshodski, whom I encountered previously in my mission.

Traversing a few kilometers we arrived at one of the more distant colonies, which were designated in the plan for our march.

Entering the house, after knocking at the door and asking for food, which we received without problems. Finding a pair of shoes, which stood next to a bed—without their owner—I become a bit suspicious. To my questions about where the owner of the house was, I got no immediate answer. Only when I pulled on the shoes on my feet and the woman received a slap from one of my accompaniers, the man came down from the attic in reponse to her shout. He came straight to me. He called my by my family name which I had lied about. He opened the closet, took out a black fur coat with an otter collar and said to me:

"Put it on, it belongs to your brother-in-law Shimon Boyarki."

I immediately recognized the fur coat. I made every effort not to break down.

He took out a bottle of whiskey, sat at the table with me and related details of how my brother-in-law had left the clothes. The clothes had remained. My brother-in-law, however, had for a long time not been amongst the living.

After we had marched forward several kilometers I began to feel bad and developed a high temperature—possibly from great excitement, which I had experienced encountering my brother-in-law's clothing. Despite my request that those accompanying me should leave me behind in the forest and continue on their way, they did not agree. They carried me several kilometers till we reached the nearest colony. After a short inquiry there, and agreement with a peasant, they carried me into the barn, covered me and went alone into the forest.

At night my friends took me out and we continued on our way, nearing the Natsher Pustshe. In one of the small cottages, which were found in the forest we hid ourselves, in order to acquire information about the Leninsk Komsomol otriad and the general situation.

In the cottage there were two you gentile girls: their father worked for the German police, but was also a liason-man for the partisan-otriad. Thanks to him we received certain information. Peasants especially in this area were active in the partisan-ranks. Via the older gentile girl, Maria, information was acquired, that the Leninsk otriad took a beating in a raid by the Germans and White-Russians. It evacuated itself to another area and it is not yet known where it was located. Small groups are still found in the pustshe, the situation in this area is very tense: they advise us to be cautious and to not remain here for long. We decided to remain overnight.

With the dawn's arrival I went into the barn. I because so surprised, that among those who were rescued in the barn was someone from Lida, a son-in-law of Yakov Katshanski, the Kaminke butcher and two girls from the Vilna area. Understandably, I took them along with us and went away deeper into the forest.

A bit further into the forest I encountered a wounded Jew from the Leninsk Komsomol-otriad. I became better acquainted with the situation through him. I immediately established contact with a peasant, who had undertaken to transport then wounded man to the Rudnitsk pustshe, where the nearest base was. The peasant gave his promise not for money, but as one bound to the partisans. Thanks to the partisan, with whom I was acquainted and my wife as well, when we were still in the Vilna ghetto, my wife indeed became aware, that I was alive.

A day later I determined to press on in the same direction from the Rudnitsk Pustshe. After two nights travel we arrived at a colony not far from that base. How astonished we became at dawn, not looking at the fact, that the neighborhood was one I was well-acquainted with and knew, that these were partisan crossroads, we came upon Polish A.K.-Partisans who “greeted us” with shots.

After a short fire-exchange in which we lost one of our friends, both drew back and left losses behind. Understandably, I did not reach my goal and we started going back, in the direction from which we had come.

In the course of that very night we reached one of our colonies in the Vasilisk area, we passed the day there and with the arrival of the second night we got nearer to the same place not far from the Rushanke rail line. We also succeeded in cutting across the highway and entering into those forests. The march back was easier than getting there.

Again we passed the day and the next night gave us the opportunity to cross the Nieman. The area there was familiar. Here I was forced to part from those men, whom I had taken with me, and I turned back to my base.

 

January-July 1944

The situation at the fronts changed continually. Daily we heard of defeats for the Germans.

Each night we used to hear the Russian bombardment of German military objects and bases. But with every improvement at the fronts the situation in the forest became worse.

The largest portion of the otriads in that area, as, for example the Orlanski otriad in the Lipitshan forest, the Leninski-brigade, were struck from the direction of Slonim. There, where Bulat's brigade was, after a two-day battle at the Shthare(probably=our assigned sector), we decided to pull back. Together with all the others we were pushed back in the direction of the Slonim-Baranovitsh highway, where we were encircled from all sides. There I again encountered Dovid Boyarski and his otriad.

After a battle, which cost tens of sacrifices, we all concentrated ourselves to the rear and then continued our march in the same direction. After two entire days we entered the area of the ”Pervo-Maiskaia Brigada”. They received us, assigned us villages for temporary sojourn. The villages assigned to us were settled by our groups. The ordering of the watches in the villages were executed by our unit. Further posts lay under the scrutiny of the May-First brigade. I give this special emphasis, in order to show how much anti-semitism ruled in the partisan-ranks.

In a village, near a forest, where our staff situated itself, Jews were placed on watch in two directions. In one direction stood lad from Deretshin.

They were two brothers, both in my company. I was then in the service of controlling the guard-sentries. At 12 midnight, when my commissar and I visited the sentries all was in order. Entering the house, having not yet appeared to be ending our conversation, the official of the intelligence-unit and others with a rifle in hand entered and showed us, that it was a rifle taken-away from our sleeping patrol, whom they left in place together with their own patrol. I recognized the rifle immediately, which I saw in the hand of the shocked lad. We again went out to the place, put another in his place and brought the lad into the village.

After a short conference among our staff his fate was sealed with no investigation:--to be shot: the lad was locked in a barn upon which a watch was placed. No one knew about the sentence and no one could have imagined such a harsh sentence. When I asked the lad how this could have happened, he related to me: he heard approaching steps of riders. He took the rifle off his shoulder and held it ready in his hand. Straining himself to hear the night-echo, he heard the sentry who stood before him, had detained the riders, asking them the password. He had clearly heard their answer, since it was not far away.

Two minutes later the same stood near him. After checking them one of them turned to him with a request to show him his gun, and he never got it back. I said to him: A severe punishment can be in the offing for you and according to my opinion you need to run away, as long as no one knows about the sentence. The Jewish Belski-otriad is not far away. There you are sure with your life. It appears that the fate of the brother, for whom he feared, kept him from making his move.

Two times we attempted, with the help of acquaintances, to influence the commander to spare his life. He did not refuse while drinking the “Samogon”(=Russian home-brew or moonshine). And we believed his assurances.

Quite early the next day we started to march back to our older bases. Marching till we were quite near to a village, a peasant came toward us, who had a short conversation with out commander. Immediately thereafter came the command: “halt”.

The whole otriad stopped. The commander rode up to the lad, took him out of the row, lead him a little way into the field, and commanded him to face him. The commander turned to the lad and said:

“Say goodbye to your brothers and friends: You have betrayed your unit with this, that you gave your rifle away. The sentence is that you be shot!”

He took out his revolver in cold-blood.

A report was heard and a red streak appeared on his throat. The lad ran twenty meters away. He turned and shouted out:---Liar, shoot!

The lad took two more bullets in the head and fell down.

A hysterical outcry tore out of his brother's mouth:

---I do not believe, that there are heavens, were there such, they would have opened themselves because of the painful scream

No one dared to come close to the dead man, to remove his clothing and boots, despite that the commander had requested it. The only one, who remained with the dead man, was the gentile, who had the job of burying him. We marched further, bearing with us the pain and suffering of the day. At nightfall we stopped at a village. Here too watch posts were established, near and far from our partisan group. Again I went out at night with the same commissar to inspect the posts. I came upon the horses who were calmly chewing the grass. Not far off two partisans lay sleeping sweetly…they were not Jews. Cautiously we came near to them. Cautiously we tried to take the automatics out of their hands , which had their straps wrapped around them. One awakened and thereby disturbed us. My commissar chewed them out for their lack of caution, that such a case could bring harm to the otriad. I was certain that they would both be arrested, and their sentence would be fatal. But after two days had passed I approached the commissar with the question: Why was a Jewish lad shot without any underlying investigation and here in this case, not even a light penalty was given? After asking this question I was immediately summoned to the commander, who demanded a confirmation. When I confirmed it, he said to me: “You are accusing me of race-discrimination”. As a reward for this I received twelve hours of standing under a tree—without eating and without water. I accepted it and endured it.

So the Jewish partisan-life appeared in the Russian ranks. There is much more to write here. I believe that historians will unearth the truth, that Jews fell heroically, and commendations on their account were received by our ostensible friends, non-Jews.

I order to wipe out witnesses out of fear of revenge, when the liberating army stood at the gates of the forest, the brother of the lad from Deretshin was shot without any cause.

On one special day, seeking a way to go over into a different area, we observed tanks near to the forest We were preparing to receive them with gunfire, but after further observation we saw the flags with hammers and sickles. We threw kisses one to the other, crying out of joy, and taking no account of what further awaited us.

The tankers dismounted and mixed together with us. This took place near to Kozlovstshine (Slonim area), July 13, 1944.

 

In the Soviet Army

I willingly entered into the Soviet army and was assigned to the 22nd Red Guard Division which carried with it the flag of victory over Stalingrad and of a row of heroic battles.

I will never forget those days with my march through the Jewish “shtetlach” (little towns). My first entry into Zshetl where we still found dead, warm Jewish bodies, who at the last minutes before our stepping into the place where shot in the prison.

Lida!—the city where I passed a fourth of my life, I could not recognize it.

True, the ruins, bullet-riddled and burnt, were cleaned-up. No person was to be seen. On May-Third Street, not far from our house, I succeeded in giving a note to Yakubovski, a neighbor of Ribatski's bakery and asked him, despite my being certain that my request could not be carried-out, to tell those Lida Jews who had remained alive, that I was alive.

The march continued further in the direction of Bialystock-Wolkowisk. We went through the city of Wolkowisk in the daytime. A Jewish city without Jews! Here and there still remained like a gravestone a sign with a Jewish name on a few houses. Here we stopped. The Germans had dug in in Bialystok. Several Messerschmits used to appear over us dropping bombs, in order to disturb our march and to enable the retreat of the Germans.

I remember a picture, that was tied to the Russian war-propaganda.

We were shown a film where we saw villages past Wolkowisk, which are being left by the Germans.

A German breaks into a peasant house, seeks food and is disturbed by the crying of a little child lying in a hanging cradle. We see the German running the child through with his bayonet. Blood runs onto the ground.

After the film burnt cities were shown, Kiev, Kharkov and Zhitomir, how the Germans leaving the cities had shot a burnt thousands of people, whose bodies are seen lying in the streets.

Between the two above-mentioned, Stalin appears with outspread hands, one to the west and one to the east, with the slogan: “See what the enemy did to the east and what he is doing to the west! Death to the Germans! Strike the Enemy!”

 

July 14, 1943

We are near to Bialystok, near Svislotsh. The departing Germans have blown-up the bridge over the river and we were forced to halt. Near the Shtetl stood an old watermill, the bridge blown-up. The streets—sowed with dead bodies, wound Germans, Vlasovtshes, Ukranians and also civilian population.

We halted not far from Bialystok. 6 men we were lying in a Polish cemetery and far off we could see a car with Germans, who were laying mines. They could not imagine, that lurking so near were lurking intelligence agents of the Russian Army.

Upon our shout: “Hurrah” with shooting, they began to run away right onto their own mines.

When we came closer, I found among the dead and wounded, a wounded man, whose clothes and face testified, that he was of high military rank.

First of all I took his “Mauser” away from him. This short weapon was much loved by the German officers. Unbuttoning his gun-belt his hand leaped to his trousers pocket, which I watched apprehensively, searching in his pocket I found a closed pocket-watch, holding it in my hand I read pain and fear in his eyes, and this made me even more apprehensive. Then I opened both sides of the watch. On one side a swastika was engraved with the inscription: “Heil Hitler. Blood and Earth”. On the second side the picture of his wife and two children was fitted. Twice he stretched out his hand and asked for the return of his watch. I stood there close to him and did not look at him. My eyes were poured into the picture of his wife and children.

My friend, a lad from Baranowitsch, didn't think very long and his Finnish-German knife pierced the breastbone of the German.

Our division was prepared for the entry march into Bialystok. Suddenly near to our ranks a loud explosion was heard. A smoke cloud together with earth that had been upheaved mixed itself in the air. When the air cleared a bit, I found myself on the ground amidst several dead and wounded. I tried to stand up and help them, but first now I observed, that I could not stand up. Both of my legs had been shot-through, splinters had penetrated my body. German fliers had shot-up the area and a battle developed between sky and earth.

At dusk the shooting was interrupted. Medics appeared and cleaned up the place: Dead separate and wounded separate, who were carried away on medics' wheeled stretchers into the barn and into peasant houses not far from the place. In one of the cottages, on the ground, with straw underneath me, I was lying. First there I saw, my rotner(probably=able) commander, also severely wounded.

Our pains were stilled by morphine injections and we were evacuated further.

In a village, 15 kilometers from there, in a forest, the severely-wounded were sorted for further evacuation and the lightly–wounded remained in that place.

Transport movement was very difficult. Train-transportation was not yet possible. They carried us on peasant carts to a hospital to be operated upon.

After the operation, I first of all examined myself to determine if I had remained a cripple from the war. When I saw, that I still had my own legs, I forget my pain out of great joy.

 

In the hospital

Life in the hospital was monotonous. Every day wounded were brought and every day dead were carried out.

Near me my commander lay, a Siberian from Novoroseysk. My final conversation with him has remained like a wound in my heart. When he felt poorly he said to me:

“Max, when I die, write my wife and child concerning the circumstances of my death for the fatherland and for freedom. Write where I am buried.”

I asked for my hand, that I would carry out his wish. I promised him, gave my hand, and added at the same moment: “Sergei, about you there is someone to whom to write, but about me? If there is a God in heaven, it is only to him.”

On the morrow a second person was lying on his bed. He had taken his love and pain with him to the grave.

The medical hospital-personnel were mostly Jews. The general relationship was good. The doctors took interest in my past experiences. For hours at end they sat at my bedside and listened to story about the mass death of Jews at the hands of the Germans in the captured areas. The grief and suffering they kept chocked-up inside, swallowing the tears perhaps together with blood, because for the sake of appearance, they could not display it.

One a certain day rumors reached us, that all severely-wounded were to be evacuated deep into Russia. Medical evaluations took place of the sick and wounded. In conversations with friends, who knew, that I was just 30 kilometers from my city, they could not understand my indifference.

After conversations such as these a longing awakened in me. Whole nights long I thought about by what means I might attain it, to take a look at the ruins of the burnt city, the cemetery without gravestones.

On the next day I made efforts to talk to the hospital administrator, a Jew. I told him about my entire past. I described the city in its glory before the German occupation., and now a city, that had swallowed up thousands of sacrifices. I implored him to help me find an opportunity to visit Lida, perhaps among the dead I might find a living member of my family,

He quieted me: “first of all you must think about the condition of your health, which you must guard. At the first opportunity, when I will agree, that your health-condition is satisfactory, I will make an effort to fulfill your request. The first thing I have to do is, to exclude you from the candidate-list for evacuation. This I promise”

My request was fulfilled. I continued to remain in the same hospital. After a few days of medical treatment, foot-assistants (crutches), and a nurse taught me to walk a little.

From that moment on I felt myself a person like all others. On one lovely summer day, that carried me down to the hospital garden and the set me down amongst the sick on the grass. Suddenly my eyes encountered someone from Lida, who stood not very far away. Our eyes met and a wild cry tore out of me: “Yesyerski!” My body shivered as if an electric current had passed through me. Out of great excitement I fell over.

Slowly he came toward me. He looked deep into my eyes, apparently, I had changed considerably, so that he could not recognize me.

Suddenly he sat down on the ground and encircled my head with both his hands. My face became wet with hot tears. I had not felt such tenderness for a long time. With a muffled voice his lips whispered, barely audibly, the word “Resnick”.

This same Yesyerski, the blacksmith's son, lived on Kaleyova-street, a former neighbor of our ours, whom I had not just once encountered- (once) before the war, on an ordinary weekday when I was at work, dressed in his best Sabbath-holiday clothes, going to the small synagogue on Kaminke, accompanied by his father and other family members.

The second time, in the heat of the catastrophe of the Jewish extermination by the Hitler-beast, I encountered him by accident in the forests, not far from Slonim. I received regards by him from Lida, his encounter with those left alive whom he recalled.

Now- our third encounter.

When we both calmed down a bit, my first question was: From where did he come and where was he going? He told me in abbreviated-fashion how he had remained alive, his return to Lida, his encounter with those who had remained alive and now—the work as a policeman in the Soviet police in Lida.

From him I became aware, that out of the entire Lida Jewish community, there are now seventy some survivors, among them is also my wife.

The day passed, the sick were carried upstairs—and I amongst them—again on the same plank cot. And when the light was extinguished, my thoughts were not turned-off. As if on a screen pictures of Lida in her prewar glory passed through my memory. I saw the same city in flames and people running in panic looking to save themselves. Pictures passed before me of the German entry march, of the slaughter, and amongst the fearsome pictures echoed Yesyerski's last words: “about seventy survivors”.

I strained myself in the darkness to see their faces, which were familiar to me from before the war, in my ears resounded the sad-melody of “Lamentations” (Editorial Note: recalls the Roman destruction of Jerusalem-read on the Fast of the Ninth of Av), “AiKhA” , “AiKhA”—How could it be” that the splendid Jewish community had been destroyed?!”


[Page 373]

At the Front

Yitskhok Rubinowitz

Translated by Phillip Frey

Beginning of July, 1944, after the freeing, I came together with my partisan-unit to Novogrudek. From there I came to Lida, I handed in my gun to the Voyenkomat, and within two weeks mobilized myself into the Soviet army., From Lida they brought me to Baranowitsh and from there to Bobroisk. There they schooled us and sent us off to the front, behind Warsaw, where heavy battles were going on.

I fell into the first White-Russian front and onto the line of the chief –march of he Soviet offensive: Warsaw to Berlin.

In one of the battles I was severely wounded. Unconscious they brought me to the hospital, where I lay for several months. January 1945, before the start of the great Soviet offensive on Warsaw, Alongside the Vaisl (river) I was discharged from the hospital. I returned to my unit, where the preparations were beginning for the engagement. New reinforcements came. My detachment found itself on the bridgehead south of Warsaw.

We began to encircle Warsaw/As a result of this maneuver the Germans left Warsaw. I was awarded the medal “for freeing Warsaw”.

After heavy battles we took the Polish cities: Konin, Kolo, and left Poisn behind us, where the Germans were encircled. After a bloody battle we entered the large Polish city Kalish, and near Zbonshin we crossed over the old Polish-German border and pressed onto accursed German soil. Later, after a storm, we entered the German city of Landsberg. Reached the river Oder, we crossed the river over the ice and took a bridgehead on the west bank, north of the city and the fortress Kistrin.

In the month of March we took part in the street battle for the city and the Kistrin fortress. There the Varta river enters the Oder and there were numerous underground military factories. I was awarded the medal for 'valor”.

On April 16, 1945, the crucial attack on Berlin took place. After difficult and bloody battles on the 22nd of April we arrived in the suburbs of Berlin. The unceasing street battles began. We battled fiercely for every house with the S.S. detachments. On May 2nd Berlin capitulated. On the morrow our detachment could see the Reichstag. We moved further west. The last battle was fought near the German village Parchen, near the town Gestin near the Elbe river. There we encountered the Allied military forces.

On the 9th of May, in a little forest we celebrated the day of victory over Nazi-Germany.

I was awarded the “ Order of the Battle for the Fatherland,” with the 2nd rank medal for “Conquering Berlin” and with the medal “For the Victory Over Germany 1941-45”.

In mid June, 1945 the American detachments left the regions of Saxony-Thuringen and we entered them. We arrived at the city of Naumberg. At that time the Soviet power-organs began the process of denazification in the Soviet zone. We, who were sacrificial victims of the Nazi beast, were detailed to these organs, which occupied themselves with this. I was very proud of this, and wholeheartedly devoted myself to this work.

We used to arrest former S. S.-men, Gestapo-people and former military persons of high rank whom we brought before the courts. It was simply impossible to believe, that for me, a Jew, who during the occupation time was far worse than a dog in the eyes of the Germans, the former supermen used to remove their hats.

Instances also occurred, when the former lawbreakers, in the course of the arrest, would open fire with revolvers. I remember, at the end of 1945, in the city of Naumberg, we arrested at his residence the former Oberbefelshaber (Superior commander) of the German occupation army in Denmark during the years 1940-1942. I can't recall his name. So I served in Germany till the beginning of 1947 and later in Russia.

In the summer of 1950 I returned to my old hometown Lida. Immediately as I descended from the train, I went straight to the Lida street, near the river Lidzayke, where our house stood before the war. And there were passed my joyful childhood years amidst family and friends. I ascended to the place, went to the hillock overgrown with weeds, which remained of all that was in the joyous past, tuned my face to the desolation and cried intensely, as never before, in the course of the many years of pain and suffering.

 

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