Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki The days of torment began at the time when the German beasts on their march into Russia had occupied the district of Novogrudok. This was the beginning of fearful times of torture and slaughter of the Jews. Under the pretext of making Jews work, they were taken, killed and thrown into prepared trenches. In those horrible times some courageous young men had torn off their yellow patches, shaken off their resignation and doubts acquired in the Ghetto and joined the fight for their lives against the German murderers and their agents. It was not an even fight between the small, badly armed handful against a much stronger enemy. But those brave young men were taking revenge, and paid in a like manner for the spilt Jewish blood. One of the group, which participated in these actions was the Jewish detachment Kalinin under the command of the heroic leader Tuvie Belski and his brother Asoel, who died fighting in Koenigsberg. In the forests, the Bielski detachment was feared by the German murderers and their partners. Bielski brought fire and death to all of those who participated in killing Jews.
Of special importance is the revenge taken on the Belaus family. It was March 1943. The Bielski detachment was stationed for several weeks in a dense forest, taking a rest after weeks of moving from village to village to escape the persecution of the Germans and their collaborators - the village farmers, who helped in the hunt of the small number of survived escapees from the death trenches. The commandant Tuvie sent 10 Jewish partisans led by Avrom Polanski to obtain food for the detachment. The collection of provisions was done as follows: in the evening an armed group would leave the detachment, they would enter a village late at night, put up sentries on both sides of the village, they would then enter the houses of the farmers demanding provisions. The farmers would give them everything they asked for. The partisans would return in the night back to the base. The Bielski detachment was a family group, which consisted mainly of people unable to carry arms including women, children, old people, the injured and sick. The food supply presented difficulties, because only 30% of the members of the detachment carried arms. When Polanski's group gathered the required food, the time came to return to base. They were, however, very tired and frozen after the long night's journey through the forest. They were close to the village of Dobropolye, not far from Novogrudok. In Novogrudok was a large German garrison, which was pursuing the partisans. They decided to spend the night in the house of the family Belaus, who they considered to be reliable and who had a reputation for being honest. They brought with them the carriages containing food. The family received the partisans well. They were served vodka and tasty morsels. The Jews were cold and tired. Belaus made up bunks for them and they fell asleep. The partisans put up sentries and were untroubled. When Belaus felt that he was not observed he sent his son to town to tell the Germans that 10 Jews were asleep in his house. In less than an hour a strong detachment of police and gendarmes arrived. They surrounded the house, killed the sentries and entered the house and killed 9 Jews. Only Avrom Polanski managed to hide in a chicken coup. When the Germans left, Polanski came out from the coup and spoke to Belaus. He told Belaus that his deed would not be forgotten. He did not finish speaking when Belaus's son arrived with an axe and split Polanski's head. Belaus buried the dead not far from his house and assumed that the neighbours did not see the events. To make sure that they would get away with their crime, the family moved to Novogrudok for a few weeks. There was disquiet in Bielski's detachment. Ten partisans had disappeared without trace. Scouts were dispatched to all surrounding villages, but they came back having not discovered anything. By a chance, a group of partisans contacted the family Wiszniewski, who was hiding in a dense forest in a bunker. The Wiszniewskis obtained food from farmers in neighbouring villages. One of those farmers told Wiszniewski all the particulars of the murder by the Belaus family. The information came from a neighbour of Belaus, who saw the events. Bielski sent partisans to speak to the farmer and to get all details. When the details of the events had become known in the partisan detachment, all were most upset. It was particularly upsetting that the family Belaus, which was considered friendly and reliable could betray them. The partisans could not feel safe anywhere among the Belarusians. The commander called for a general meeting. He told of the particulars of the gruesome event. He said that the perpetrators of this event could not be left unpunished. One had to take revenge. The family Belaus had to be liquidated, so that other farmers would know that collaborators with the Germans would not be left unpunished. The house of the guilty had to be destroyed. 'Who will take revenge?' asked the commandant. All hands were raised. The commandant selected 25 partisans and named Eschiel as the leader of the group. He told them to wipe out the family Belaus. Eschiel was liked by all partisans for his goodness and devotion. He supervised the preparations for the mission. As the night approached everyone was ready. A few carriages were prepared and the partisans were on their way. It was a quiet night. They travelled through the forests among tall pine trees. There was a freshness of early spring in the air. After a journey of a few hours they arrived at a crossroad. They stopped, unharnessed the horses and hid them behind the bushes. They arranged themselves in a single line. They were led by Wiszniewski and Eschiel along country lanes and byways. They arrived to a point 400 metres from the Belaus house. They were given an order to lie down flat on the ground. It was quiet. They were tense in anticipation of the action. As they waited they thought of their past, of all those who had been killed families, friends, loved ones. They craved revenge for the spilt blood. Thus past 10 minutes, which felt like hours. Eschiel ordered them to rise. He divided the detachment into three groups. One group was positioned along the road to cut off the exit from the house, the second group surrounded the house to make sure that nobody could escape from the house. At the entrance the experienced partisan Balda was stationed. Eschiel with his assistants Jankelewicz, Friedberg and the scouts Bencion Gilkowicz, Pszenica, Kotlar, Michele, Kemplowski, Nachimowski broke into the house of Belaus, where the family of 14 people lived. Belaus and his sons tried to snatch the rifles from the partisans. There was an intense struggle. Belaus grabbed the barrels of Jankelewicz's and Friedberg's guns and tussled with them. Eschiel run in and killed Belaus. He told the others to lie along the wall and he executed them. Michele, who lost two brothers in the Belaus deceit, did the rest. Eschiel ordered that the house of the treacherous family should be burned down, he fulfilled the revenge and made sure that nothing was taken from the house.
Michele found in the jacket of Belaus a letter from the Gebitscommissar (district commissar) Traub, in which he thanked Belaus for his noble deed. As a sign of Traub's gratitude he exempted him from taxes and gave him 50 German marks. He added that all neighbours should follow the example of Belaus and help to eradicate all Jews.
The house, the barns and the grain stores of Belaus were burned to the ground. The partisans retreated, but on the way they burned a house of another farmer in the village of Brecianka, close to Novogrudok. Having finished their mission, the partisans returned to their base. Next day posters were displayed in the district, describing the events of the previous night and warning the population that acts of collaboration with the Germans would be punished in a similar manner.
From that day on fear and terror had befallen the population of the Novogrudok district. All those who had in mind to inform the Germans were scared off. They were shown that there is a power, which would punish collaborators, and that those who spill Jewish blood would be dealt with.
As he was a commandant of Russian partisans he always went first. He served as an example for the gentiles, who valued him for his readiness to sacrifice all. He succeeded in derailing 23 echelons. Dozens of Germans died in the echelons. The Germans put a high price on Dovid's head, but they did not succeed in catching him. He spread fear and death among the peasants and German collaborators who participated in the extermination of Jews. After the war finished the government bestowed on Dovid the highest decorations and a high government post. Dovid intended to remain in the Soviet Union, for which he fought and risked his life. But other events occurred which caused him to leave his homeland. After the bloody war the residues of the Jewish population could not remain on the ruins of their lives, where every stone reminded them of their losses. They left the towns where they were born and were educated and went without an aim away from home. And with them went Dovid. When I came in my wanderings to Trofaiach refugee camp in Austria I went to the club of the partisans. There I found the former lieutenant with the black crop of hair among the partisans. On a certain evening Dovid with a group of partisans had disarmed and bound all members of the police unit in Trofaiach and released a group of partisans who were arrested by the Austrian police for crossing the boarder illegally. This is how David had immersed himself completely with his bubbling temperament into the activities of 'Bricha' [an organisations for, if need be illegal, emigration] with the aim of forcing open a way for the Jewish refugees to their home in Israel. The partisan refugees didn't require visas and did not recognise boarders in their desire to find a new home.
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki Ivan Vasilevitch Shmatovich, a Byelorussian, was born in Minsk. A broad-shouldered man with a pair of bright eyes and a warm smile under his large eyebrows, Shmatovich was the political commissar of the Belsky Unit. Before the Russian Revolution, he was a railway worker in Minsk. Afterwards, he was appointed secretary of the Minsk railway workers union, and became a member of the Communist Party in Minsk.
In 1941, when the Nazi hordes attacked the Soviet Union and reached the gates of Moscow, Ivan Vasilevitch joined the Red Army as a volunteer. He was sent to study in a school of saboteurs. When he finished the schooling, he was sent to the forests of the Novogrudok region and was ordered to set up partisan groups to fight the Germans.
While travelling through the towns with large Jewish populations, he saw how the entire Jewish nation was being destroyed. This left a very strong impression on him, and he decided to help the Jews. He sought every opportunity to uproot anti-Semitism among the partisans, and he was able to save many Jews, among them Tzirl and Hanya Berkovitch from Karelich, the Kozlovsky family from Ivya, Leah Dinerstein, and others. He saved many solitary Jews who wandered in forests and swamps, and he punished the peasants who mistreated them.
Later the command of the partisan movement of Byelorussia appointed him a political commissar to the Belsky unit, which consisted of 1,200 Jews. He was pleased that he now would have the opportunity to be of help to more Jews. As the commissar of the unit, he took an active part in all the important problems of the unit, and participated in the unit's battles.
The commissar was the only gentile among 1,200 Jews and he was friendly to all of them. He was a member of the unit, and was called by some the gentile Jew! When the Red Army liberated Novogrudok, Belsky divided up the unit: some partisans went to the front to fight the Germans as soldiers of the Red Army, and others remained and worked for the government. Commissar Shmatovich was appointed to the position of a director of the Lida railway network, and lived among the Jews. He met frequently with the Jewish partisans.
The Jews, however, did not want to remain in the towns where their homes had been destroyed. The Jewish fighters, who returned from the front and the forests wounded and mutilated, did not want to live any longer among graves, and could not adjust in those places. They felt uncomfortable in the cities of the dead, and could not rest. Thus many of them fled from their hometowns without any possessions, without roots and with no goals, and set off for wherever their eyes took them. This is how most remaining Jews left the district.
Ivan Vasilevitch, however, remained in his position. His face showed his distress, and he missed his friends with whom he lived through hard times in the forests and in the swamps. He now sat alone in the dark nights in his room and pondered. He could not figure out what had prompted the partisans to leave their hometowns, where some of them attempted to resettle after the war, and to go off to parts unknown with no aims. He could not anticipate or imagine that soon they would enjoy more rights than those they had in the country where they shed their blood.
So Ivan sat alone every evening absorbed in his thoughts, and longing for his friends, the partisans. Where are you now, dear Ivan Vasilevitch Shmatovich? Where are you?
[Dr. Amarant in p.333 The Partisans of Tuvia Belski mentioned also Shmatovich, whom he called Shemyatoviec. He painted, however, a different picture of the Komisar. As many years have passed, it is difficult to know which the true image is. The reader is advised to read both descriptions and make up his own mind.]
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki I remember the day before the second slaughter when I came into the Ghetto. Everyone in the Ghetto was expecting the slaughter. I was trembling all over. I was covered in a cold sweat. Despite of it I remained active. I had only one thing in mind: to take revenge for my parents, sister and brothers. The projectors were spreading light in the Ghetto. Disregarding it, at about midnight I tore off a board from the fence and slid out on my stomach from the Ghetto. I ran away over fields. The whole day I hid in the bushes of the Wselub forest. I lay burrowed in the earth like a mole. I lost the will to live. I was prepared to commit suicide. But the instinct to live had forced me to continue. I had no food and no money. Day and night I hid in stables, one night next to a sheep, another night in a bunker in a barn. I was emaciated from hunger. I did not look like a human. Just two large black eyes stared from my face. My body and hair was infested with lice. The smell of my body was indescribable. With great difficulty I finally reached our friend Tuvia Bielski. The situation in the forest was not easy, because we had no weapons to fight the enemy. My clothes were in tatters and I was almost bare. They sent me with a few other unattached persons like me to the Lipichaskaya wilderness. However, shortly after we had arrived there the big round-up began [this refers probably to the Operation Hermann from the second half of July 1943 to early August 1943]. We were stranded without water. Bullets and grenades were flying all around us. The three injured boys that were with me were panicking and crying. I tried to pacify them, because I was afraid that the noise would be heard by the Germans. When it had become possible to move I went looking for food in deserted dugouts. But I found nothing, not even water. At one stage I lost my way and was wandering from one big forest to another for eight days. I was nearing the end of my endurance. Suddenly I heard voices. I found two young boys. One used to live in the synagogue square and was called Chaimke and the second was Mejerke (he lives now in Israel). I put my arms around them and told them 'my dear children, we will die here, let us move into the forest, perhaps we will meet someone'. The boys did not desert me. We lived on berries. After a time we smelt something. We went in the direction of the smell prepared to surrender and, if need be, die. But we found two Jewish partisans with a loaf of bread and some water. I can not describe our joy. The partisans started a fire and we began to relax a bit. One of the partisans was the son of Naftali Grinkowski. I don't remember the name of the other. They did not desert us. We all got back to the Bielski group. In the group they knew nothing about our dangerous adventures. I remained with the Bielski group and shared its fate. Of the three injured boys two recovered: one is called Elimelach Zamko from Novogrudok the other Notke from Belice, who is now in Canada. They kissed me and thanked me for what I had done for them. But I did not expect to be thanked. I would have been glad to help more people to survive. In the forest we were divided into groups. I was placed in the Chaim Abramit's dugout. We got on well with each other and we fulfilled all duties. A friend of mine from Wsielub, Meshke Reznik had become ill with typhus. All were afraid of catching the disease and left the dugout. I remained with the sick friend and kept changing wet rags on his head to help reduce the temperature. I did everything I could for him when all others escaped. With great difficulty I persuaded those in charge to bring a doctor from another group. The doctor came and told us that the patient was very ill. The patient and I were transferred to a half finished dugout. We had no water or bread. I can not describe my sufferings. I stood nights next to the bed of the patient and changed his rag soaked in iced water. I took off my leather jacket and covered him. Next to us was a dugout of the Aloshke group. I remember the frosty mornings and the trees covered in snow. I remember going barefoot to their dugout and begging for a bit of soup or water. I was thinking: why do we suffer for such a long time? At one time I heard steps over our head. I told the sick: 'Meishkele they are coming to shoot us'. But they were the partisans from my group who remembered my fate and brought a good friend whose name was Chaim Charny. We were so happy we all started to cry. Our voices reached the sky.. I and Chaim dug a well, because nobody would give us water. As we were digging, the dugout, with the patient and Chaim inside, collapsed. Luckily I was outside. I ran immediately to the dugout of Aloshke and I was shouting: 'save my two brothers'. All came to help us and both survived. After all our troubles, after being separated from the world and human beings, the dugouts of the partisans near to us were attacked. We, in our underground dugout did not hear anything. A few days later we heard footsteps and voices shouting 'is anybody still alive?' We appeared and were taken for a few days to an isolated farm. I was asked what was wrong with the patient. I told them that he was injured by a horse. I made certain that nothing else was said. After a time we were told that we must be prepared for an attack. They took me and the patient away to the big forest where we built a new dugout. Everything was quite and peaceful in the forest. We had a chance to recover somewhat. We were moved from one forest to another. I lived in a small hut with Gitl and the daughter of Fania Berkovski. One morning they came and told me: 'the commandant wants to see you'. He said to me 'dear Reizl there is an unattached partisan and there is no one that could help him.' I answered 'if help is needed I am ready'. We were isolated deeper in the forest. The partisan suffered from typhus of the stomach. He was perpetually covered in sweat. I undressed the patient and I tried to wipe him. I cried whilst I was doing it. Though I did all I could I did not save his life. The man stemmed from Eyshishki or Vasilishok. Two of his cousins are alive. One is called Archik and I don't remember the name of the other. Despite of all the troubles, I remained in reasonable health in the forests. I was isolated from everyone except for the trees and wild animals. I was the only member of my family who remained alive. I extend my personal thanks for my life to our friend Bielski.
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki In 1942, after my whole family was slaughtered, I escaped to the forest and joined a detachment of partisans under the command of Bielski. I was assigned to the group Red Reconnaissance. After several trials by fire I was given as a reward a pistol, a short rifle and I was made leader of a group of scouts. Our Jewish detachment was the first organised partisan force in our district and was the first to conduct diversionary actions against the German army. This caused considerable astonishment in all surrounding towns. The Germans offered a prize of 10,000 marks for anyone who would capture Bielski dead or alive. The detachment made it its aim, by the order of commander Bielski, to take revenge on the local farmers if one member of their family was a policeman or helped the Germans to conduct a slaughter, if he robbed or murdered. And seeking revenge we would find the guilty anywhere, even in a concealed hole. As the Russian partisan movement had become better organised, it was decided to reorganise our detachment. A part of the detachment: the elderly, family men and the unarmed were sent to the rear, with Bielski as the commander. The young who were in a physical condition to carry arms and fight were attached to a Russian unit. The detachment would be commanded by Jews. Zisl Bielski was nominated commander of the Jewish reconnaissance and I became the commander of a platoon of scouts. The new detachment was given the new name of Ordzonikidze. Because of the special tasks of my investigations, I endeavoured to win the confidence and friendship of the local villagers by helping them, whenever help was needed, such as lending them horses for field work, distribution of food and protecting them from irresponsible partisans. We made, in time, real good friends, who risked their lives to bring us important news from town.
The reconnaissance of our detachment was praised by the gentile partisans because of our high morals and bravery. My reports were valued by the staff of the brigade. When the Red army returned to our district the whole unit was incorporated into the army. I was the only survivor. All others fell fighting the enemy.
After the war I left Russia and came to Poland, where I met H. Spiter, now the mayor of Rishon Le Zion, Yitzhak Zukerman Antek, Mojshe Kaganovich, Boruch Levin and Bronshtein. We formed one command of PCH (Partisan Chaluts), which organised the departure of partisans to Israel.
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki
They met Russian partisans who taught them how to avoid German patrols, the art of partisan fighting and attacking German positions. The partisans sharpened in them the desire of revenge. A partisan must be fearless, not to be afraid of the enemy and to be prepared to die. The main aim was to kill the German fascists and their supporters. Each of the twenty odd partisans was made to suffer by the Germans. Many members of their families had been killed in a most brutal manner. The survivors were locked up in the Novogrudok Ghetto and were waiting for their death.
The boys in the forest were eager to avenge the wrong doings. They were waiting at the roads for German vehicles and destroyed them. They had seen their murderers bleed and were happy. But this was not sufficient. They were planning, together with the Russian partisans, to attack the German police post in Naliboki. The murderers of the Jews from the townships were stationed there and the partisans were eager to revenge their deaths. The policemen were barricaded in the local church. The township was occupied by the partisans, but they could not get into the church. The partisans attacked from two sides the Russians from one side and the Jews from the other. They were shooting at the policemen from the trenches. Suddenly the policemen stopped shooting, as if they had run out of bullets. The partisans were told to attack and get into the church. The Jewish boys were waiting for this. They aimed to capture the policemen alive, capture them and ask them why they were killing local Jews, who were in the past their neighbours and friends. Suddenly they heard the sound of approaching trucks, which were driven at great speed. The trucks arrived in Naliboki and the Germans started shooting. The bullets rained down on the partisans, who left the trenches and were about to enter the church. They did not realise that the Russian partisans escaped from the township and had left them behind. The policemen in the church suddenly started firing. And than the shooting stopped. The Germans announced through a megaphone: 'lay down your arms and we will not kill you, we will take you back to the Novogrudok Ghetto'. The Germans were certain that the Jews would surrender. They did not believe that Ghetto Jews were able to fight. They must be frightened and would give up the fight. But the Jews had other ideas, though they saw death approaching. They escaped from the Ghetto to avoid death. To go back to the Ghetto to be killed there did not make sense. It was better to die fighting. It was better to see some Germans die. They started to shoot at the enemy. Some German trucks were destroyed. The Jews continued shooting. They were shooting, were silenced and silently they died. Their enemy was manyfold. The partisans ran out of ammunition and died knowing that they did not surrender. The story of the fight had become known among the partisans: some twenty Jews have opposed hundreds of Germans and they did not surrender. They fought to the last- the fight for freedom and justice.
Translated from Yiddish by O. Delatycki In the district of Novogrudek were a number of towns, among them: Karelicz, Lubcz, Delatycz, Iwieniec, Nalibok [Naliboki in Polish] and Cyryn. The Jews in the townships were exposed from the beginning of the German occupation to maltreatment by their non-Jewish neighbours. The neighbours took their cows, robbed their belongings and the Jews became paupers. When there was nothing left to rob they were left in peace. The Germans did not come to the townships and the local hooligans kept clear. However, in 1942, the Germans ordered the liquidation of Jews from the small towns of the Novogrudok district. Four vehicles of Germans and policemen led by high ranking Gestapo officers travelled to the townships. They assembled about 100 Jews in Nalibok. They demanded that the Jews surrender their gold and other valuables. Then all Jews were shot. According to the plan of the Germans, they were supposed to shoot on the same day the Jews of Jeremiche, Derewnia, Korelicz and Lubcz.
The partisan group Stalinec was positioned close to Nalibok in the nearby forests. They wore peasant cloth. They found out that there was a slaughter in the township. They did not have the numbers and the arms to attack the town. The group numbered a few tens of partisans. They prepared an ambush along the way out of town.
On the nicest day of the summer, when the sun was spreading its golden rays on the freshly green fields of early shoots, when the trees spread their waving branches, the earth received the warm bodies of bloodied victims. The Germen murderers were drunk from alcohol and blood. They were filled with joy because they satisfied their blood thirsty appetites. They had no notion that they would pay for their deeds with their blood. They went cheerfully on their way. The shouting and singing of wild men who were ready to demolish the world could be heard from afar in the forest. The partisans, who were hiding from the wild men in the forests, listened to their shouting. Their job was to fight the murderers. When they did not fight they vanished into the forests and hid living in tents, like the ancient people before they knew how to build houses. Their hearts were full of enmity to the violators of human lives. They declared a holy war against those who ejected them from their homes, slaughtered their families and robbed their possessions. Living in the forest they imbued the rustling of the branches and the grass and the croaking of frogs in the muddy marshes.
Suddenly the wild laughter filled the quiet forest. The bloody shouting penetrated their hiding places. In their memories they heard the voices of those smothered to death: 'Take vengeance for the murders, take vengeance for the spilled blood!' The partisans hid in the bushes and readied their weapons. They shot into the vehicles and the bullets hit the confused Germans. The vehicles stopped and the surviving Germans showed no opposition. They said that they were going to take the Jews from the other small towns. The partisans took from the Germans the goods they had robbed and released three Jewish who were taken by force by the Germans. All Germans were shot. The forest was quite again. One could only hear the voices of the departing partisans, who were carrying with them the arms they had captured. They were glad to have won the battle with the 'invincible' foe, who begged them to let them live.
The attack by the partisans was not mentioned by the Germans in Novogrudok. The Germans did not proceed with their plans to kill the Jews in the small towns. They brought the Jews to Novogrudok and killed them in the second slaughter ten weeks later.
[Difficulties have been encountered regarding the above article. The author states that the Jews of Naliboki were killed on the spot 10 weeks prior to the second slaughter which occurred on the 7 August 1942. We can find elsewhere no evidence of this event.
Mention was made by several authors of the presence of Jews from Naliboki in the Peresike Ghetto prior to the second slaughter (see for instance p. 302 'The Ghetto in Peresike' by Frume Gulkovitz-Berger: 'At that time they gathered in the Novogrudok Ghetto all Jews from the surrounding townships such as Nalibok, Iviniec, Lubcz, Karelicz, Delatycz, Naisztot (?) and any other place wherever there was a Jew in a village.').
There was an incursion in Naliboki of the Soviet Stalin brigade on the night of 8/9 May 1943, long after the Jews of the town were dead.]
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