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[Page 186]

Under the German Occupation

Sara Hinda Movshovich

Translated by Sara Mages

The Germans entered Divenishok on Monday (May 24, 1941) after the outbreak of the war against the Soviet Union. It was quiet on Wednesday. As usual, in the morning of that day my father went to pray in the synagogue. The Germans, who passed convoy after convoy through Wilner Street, saw the Jews praying through the synagogue's windows. They broke into the synagogue, seized the Torah scrolls, spread them across the road, drove their tanks over them and tore them to pieces. My father opposed the removing of the Torah scrolls and the Germans wanted to kill him. Fortunately, Pyotr Shimansky, who lived across from the synagogue, entered the synagogue and asked the Germans to leave him alone. “He is a decent Jew – he said – please leave him alone”. Shimansky brought my father home. We were already very anxious for the fate of our father because Meir Zalman came running to us earlier telling us in a tearful voice: “Your father is no longer”…

One of the Germans noticed that the Red Flag was hanging over the school building. Out of panic, Yekutiel Ziz'mski, who was the school principle, forgot to remove the flag from the flagpole. The Germans set fire to the school building and with it also two synagogues went up in flames.

The Germans advanced towards Subotnik where heavy fighting took place. Later, convoys of Russian prisoners began to flow toward Dowichitzki Street, and there, in the graveyard they eliminated them.

 

An unusual case

When the Germans entered, all the thugs raised their heads and started to harass the Jews.

From day to day conditions in the streets became more and more dense. At night, shouts were being heard from the homes that the thugs broke into. Truskevich, the well known robber, seized two hand grenades and ran to throw them on the Jews, but a Polish policeman prevented him from doing so. The robber harassed Gutka, the daughter of Yankel A. At night he was knocking on the door and making scandals. She was forced to flee from Divenishok.

A gang of robbers joined together under the leadership of Truskevich, Myopglen and Wazyock. Night after night they broke into the shops and robbed the merchandise. This gang also killed Gedalia the blacksmith (Itza Binyamin's son-in-law), and a woman and a boy from Vilna who were hiding in his house. At nightfall the whole town was immersed in the fear of death.

The praise of Zalman-Leib Lib, leader of Divenishok's Judenrat, should be noted. He has done a lot to ease the life of the town's Jews. He knew good German and used his personal charm to influence the Regional Commander. He used his influence and asked for help against the atrocities committed by the gang members. One day, a group of Germans arrived to town, brought the gang leaders to the market – and shot them. This was an exceptional case: Germans shooting gentiles because they robbed Jews.

Once, next to the police station, Zalman-Leib noticed that three refugees from Vilna were being loaded on a truck accompanied by beatings. They were two Yeshiva students and a teacher from Ivia who were hiding in town. Zalman-Leib knew well what was waiting for these Jews. He approached the German commander and promised him a pair of boots if he would release the Jews – they were released.

We suffered in particular from a German communication unit that was stationed in the village of Vasilishok on Dubizishok Street. Every Friday they were given a leave and came to Divenishok to have fun. To humiliate the Jews they collected the young people in the market, ran them through different exercises, threatened them with their firearms, and didn't spare punches. The Judenrat was forced to answer to their demands and give them ransom money.

Despite the difficult life, the town's people were united and mutual aid was their main concern. My husband David and my brother Eliyahu carried rye on their backs to the flour mill, a distance of 2 kilometers, to grind flour for the poor. My sister Leah baked bread and distributed it to the poor

 

In friendship and brotherhood

In Voronova we lived with the town's cantor. There were 3 rooms in his apartment.

The cantor and his family lived in one room, we lived in the second and another family in the third – all together 19 people. The men were taken to force labor without pay, all of us lived from the sale of the clothes that we brought with us and waited for the future with anxiety.

Somehow the winter passed - we lived in friendship and brotherhood and shared everything that we had.

On May 9, the ghetto was surrounded by German and Polish heavy guards. The local farmers gathered with their axes and pitchforks and closed the city. The cantor prepared a shelter in his home, and on the day of the killing 58 people crammed inside. Among them were his mother and his sister. Shmuel Sharon, his father, was hiding in another bunker.

Doctor Gordon, who arrived to Voronova together with the people from Divenishok, also lived with us. He had a permit to walk freely even during the liquidation of the ghetto. He informed us of what was happening outside. After noon he knocked on the wall and said: “get out slowly, the Germans registered the names of those who remained and I registered yours”. After we came out a policeman harassed my father, who was wrapped in his Tallith and Tefillin, and wanted to arrest him. My brother Eliyahu bribed the policeman and saved my father.

 

My brother joins the partisans

After a two week stay in Voronova we were transferred by train to Lida. Here they housed us in a barn on Klodna Street together with other families. I slept next to the family of Yona Tener, Binyamin Dubinski's uncle, from Stashiles. They ere rich and helped many. His wife Alta approached me and said: ”Sara Hinda, maybe you need something? Maybe money? Take, don't be shy!” she helped me and also others in need. There was also a family from Traby with us, a husband, wife and daughter, she also helped them and kept them alive. She also helped Lizrka Avraham Meirs and his family. She was a dear soul, a real “angel from heaven”.

We stayed in Lida's Ghetto for 13 months, and there history repeated itself: work quotas, threats and new decrees to humiliate and oppress the Jews. Meanwhile, my brother Eliyahu left for Bielski's Otriad [partisan detachment] and returned every once in a while to take Jews out of the ghetto. I seriously debated what to do because I didn't want to leave my sister Leah and my old father in the ghetto.

 

In the Bielski partisan detachment

My brother visited Lida's Ghetto three times and for various reasons we were not able to leave with him. But, on the fourth time he took us out of there. My brother was already known in the ghetto as a trustworthy man who was familiar with all the winding paths that led to the partisans. And indeed, on the same operation my brother was able to take 86 people from the ghetto. Bielski received us well and also cared for the elderly and the children. Those who were capable of carrying weapons joined the fighters, and the rest stayed in the family camp. We lived in huts and everyone tried to help with the household chores.

It was early August 1943. The German Army and the Belarusian police started the most extensive hunt for the partisans. According to various estimates their number reached forty thousand. The Germans removed large forces from the front and directed them to the fight against the partisans. The Germans wanted to secure the Wehrmacht's withdrawal routes, and decided to eliminate the partisan at all costs. This roundup was the largest throughout the German occupation. Besides Naliboki forest they also surrounded Lipiczanska and Novogrudok forests.

The whole camp was placed on alert. Dziencielski was ordered to take the responsibly for the families, and retreat with them inside the forest. The gunfire got closer and indicated that the enemy was attacking from the rear. Seven hundred people were running in the woods – women, men, fighters and people without weapons. We sought refuge and retreat, but the enemy blocked all the roads.

An order arrived from the brigade's headquarters to retreat in the direction of the dense forests of Naliboki Pushcha [primeval forest]. The Pushcha was a continuous virgin forest hardly ever trampled by human feet and with large swamps. There were dry islands between the swamps, like “Krasnaya Gorka”, but it was only possible to reach them during the winter. We set off and walked in a single file. First in line were those who carried the children because the swamps deepened as we progressed. The Germans rained machine-gun fire and mortar and their voices echoed in the woods. People moved forward through the swamps, in the meadows, and between tall grass that hid the movement – they were tired, hungry, barefoot, exhausted and thirsty. At rest time people tied themselves to a tree with a rope or a strap and dozed a little.

After ten days of wandering we finally arrived to a dry hill in the Krasnaya Gorka area.

Food ran out quickly but the Germans encircled us from all sides and the access to villages was blocked. Due to the hunger many started to show signs of bloating.

The shooting stopped several days later, and people started to return to the old camp. The road was very difficult. Most of the people were infected with ulcers and sores from eating grass, and barely dragged their feet. The women were on the verge of despair and collapse, but the will to live was so strong that we overcame all these hardships. The condition of Bella, my brother Eliyahu's wife, was the most difficult. She was left alone without her husband who went to fulfill an important task: to bring Jews from Lida's Ghetto. She carried her baby in her arms in the boggy swamps and her suffering was unimaginable.

My brother Eliyahu came back to us after the siege ended. We were together until we were liberated.

 

After the liberation

After the liberation I lived in Ivia. On a Thursday, Divenishok's market day, I traveled to Divenishok with a farmer (the Tatars who lived in the area sold seeds). I arrived to the market, sat by the pump, and cried for my bitter fate. My heart shuddered when I saw a lot of people walking peacefully in the market. Farmers from the nearby villages were engaged in trade, and gentiles replaced the Jews in the stores. The world functioned as usual, as if the Jews had never existed there.

Most of the town was burnt. When I went to investigate how it happened, this was explained it to me: There was a large concentration of heavily armed White Poles in the vicinity of Divenishok. Their leader was Jacek, the cobbler from Subotniki Street. When the Germans retreated a battle developed between the retreating Germans and the Poles. There were many casualties in this battle. The Poles buried their dead in the market in front of the church, and indeed, a large cemetery is located the market square. In the heat of battle the Germans torched the town and it almost burned down.

When I passed the market the gentiles looked at me with astonishment, they didn't believe that Jews were still alive. Barsolka Staskes, the well known thief who lived in my father's house, approached me and said to me in Yiddish: “Surke, are you still alive?”

He took me in his hand and led me to our house. I didn't enter because I didn't want to increase the great pain that was infiltrating my whole being. I returned to Iwye and lay for two weeks with a high fever.

Our decision was made: to leave the field of slaughter and immigrate to Israel. And indeed, shortly after we traveled to Poland and from there to Israel. I arrived to Israel together with my husband David and my two daughters, Henya and Hedva. I live in Motza Illit near Jerusalem.


[Page 190]

The Forest Was Our Home….

by Sholem Bronshtaynn

Translated by Sara Mages

I studied in the Heder with the teacher Leyb Arye. He slapped his students on the cheek and also beat them with his fists. I also studied at the Russian School which was in front our house. At the age of 17 I started to work in my grandfather's smithy. After I got married I lived in Aran which was half way between Vilne and Grodne. About fifty Jewish families lived there. It was right next to the border with Lida. Lithuanian Aran, where five thousand Jews lived, was located across the border. In Aran I was independent in my smithy. My wife's name was Miriam. We had four sons.

[Page 191]

When the Second World War began, and the Germans occupied Lida, they arrested my two sons, the eldest, 18 year old Tzvi, and the second, 16 year old Yehudah. They led them to Alita and shot them to death.

About a month later, they rounded up all the Jews from the area in the synagogue in Lithuanian Aran. The synagogue was filled to capacity. For lack of space they also filled the square in front of the synagogue with men, women and children and erected a barbed wire fence around it. In this way they held us for two days without food and drink. At times, the guards only brought a little water for the children. I shudder as I remember what took place in the synagogue: crying, shouting and wailing, women tore their hair and slammed their heads against the wall. It was a shocking tragedy. Two days later, they began to chase us in the direction of the forest where they prepared pits in advance. I, and several other young people, agreed that we wouldn't walk like sheep to the slaughter. Suddenly, we started to shout “Hurrah!” and escaped from the lines. Many fell and died and many got caught. I managed to escape to the forest and by indirect routing arrived to the village of Pakolishok. There, I entered the home of the widow Garishevich who kindly received me and put me in the barn. My wife and my two young sons perished on that day together with of all the Jews of Aran.

The next day, I sent the widow to my Lithuanian friend, Jonas Wilczyńskas, in the village of Kasheti. She took eggs with her and went as if she was going to exchange them for salt. In this way she reached my friend and told him that I was staying with her. That evening he came to me, brought me food and clothes, and at my request took me to my relatives in Marzikanza Station. I stayed there for two days and was forced to flee together with my relatives, to Drosknik. A refugee aid committee was still active there.

*

I stayed in Drosknik for four months. Suddenly, the Germans surrounded the city. I felt that the end was near. I, along with seven other young men, crawled to the wooden buildings which were built on stilts and used for convalescence and recreation. We huddled under the stilts and spent the whole night there. The next day they took all the Jews, loaded them on freight cars, and led them to annihilation. After the Germans began to scour the city to search for fleeing Jews we divided into two groups. Four ran in one direction and got caught by the Germans who killed them on the spot. I, along with three other young men, escaped in the direction of the forest and managed to get away. Fortunately, two in our group, especially Heshil who was a merchant in this region,

[Page 192]

knew the area well. He brought us to a farmer who was his acquaintance and he gave us bread and onions. After an overnight stay at farmer's house we searched for a way to reach Dowicz Forest because, when we were in Drosknik a man told us that his son was there. The farmers from the area showed us the roads that the partisans crossed. We hid, waited, and indeed, they arrived and we joined them.

We sat hungry and barefooted and winter was approaching. Luckily, I found out by chance that it was quiet in my hometown, Divenishok, there were no attacks on the Jews and life carried on as usual. I decided to return to my parents' house - and so I did. There, I found only women, my young brother, Zalman Yosef (who now lives in Hadera), fled with the Red Army for fear of the Germans. My brother-in-law Antek was hiding in the forests from the Pole, Durniak, who was from the village of Dowitshok who wanted to kill him because he was the manager of his flour mill during the communists' days. I found all of them confused and scared. They feared Durniak's young son who from time to time appeared in my parents' house and brutally beat my elderly mother and my sister Zirka, Antek's wife, with a thick stick, shouting: “Where is Antek hiding?” If you don't tell me - I will kill you here, on the spot. Since my arrival, Durniak's son stopped coming to us. I activated the smithy and in this way I supported the family.

*

It was quiet in the town throughout the week but we were especially anxious on market day, on Thursday, when all the farmers from the area gathered in town and used the opportunity to attack individual Jews. To this day I can't forget the case of Meir “Der Warsawer” who was attacked by several Poles and Germans. They beat him with great cruelty until he lost consciousness. His face was torn and he was bleeding.

At the same time we welcomed to our home a young couple from Vilne, Yitzchak and Liza Gogodzinski, who escaped from the ghetto and didn't have a place to turn. They spent seven months with us. They moved to Voronova with us and managed to survive. Now they are in Israel.

When we moved to Voronova I felt that the situation was very bad, but I didn't want to leave my family. And indeed, one day the Germans surrounded the ghetto. I knew what was going to happen and waited nervously for the evening. At nightfall, I crawled on my stomach, managed to get away through the guards, and made my way again to Dowicz Forest.

[Page 193]

After a lot of effort I joined the partisans in Dowicz Forest with one prayer in my heart: to avenge the spilled blood. My first task was - to get a rifle. I remember that a rich Jew from Aran entrusted his property with a gentile. We decided to take the property from him. We, ten partisans, went to him and demanded the property. The farmer resisted us with force so we killed him on the spot and took the clothes. We exchanged some of the clothes for rifles and returned to the forest.

At first, we were assembled in the forest in groups, Jews and Russians apart. Each group operated as it saw fit and cared for its needs. After a large number of Russians arrived to the forest and the partisans' forces increased, an order arrived from Moscow to consolidate the groups. A Russian politruk [political commissar] joined our group and tried to unite us together with a Russian group. He left us to make the arrangement - but didn't return. One of the partisans killed him on the spot.

Later, probably under Moscow's command, a Russian lieutenant came to us with seven other Russians to organize the groups into detachments. He was our commander. Thus began the organized work of the partisan detachments - and the forest became our home until the end of the war. In the forests we suffered greatly from the hunts, which were conducted by the Germans and the Lithuanians, and later from White Poles. These gangs murdered Stankvitsh and his staff sergeant, Leybkeh, a young Jewish man from the town of Olkenik.

A year and a half later, while Stankvitsh was still alive, an officer named Davidov came to us. He was a Russian Jew who was parachuted by Moscow to strengthen the partisan movement and report on events in the occupied territories. It was a very special intelligence mission. A radio station, with which he was in constant contact with Moscow, was also at his disposal. Davidov sought excellent partisans at his disposal. I also joined when I found out that Lipa Sokolski left to join Davidov. In this manner a detachment of 12 men was organized under Davidov's command. We were happy with the change of command because Stankvitsh was an anti-Semite and sent the Jews on the most dangerous missions.

Davidov was in constant contact with Moscow. Soviet planes arrived to us and brought weapons, explosives and medicine. When a plane was about to arrive we lit three bonfires in an agreed order so the pilot would know our location. We left for action almost every evening. We blew up train tracks and toppled telegraph and electric poles. Twenty men left for this mission.

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I carried the explosives to the destination. After every successful mission we drank “L'chaim” in Davidov's company.

*

In this way the time passed until the end of the war. When the Germans started to flee, Davidov ordered us to scour the forest and search for Germans. We undressed those we caught and killed them. When the Red Army arrived, Davidov thanked us for the joint work and expressed his appreciation for our operations. Davidov was a wonderful commander, he was loved by all the partisans and we parted from him with great sorrow.

We arrived in Grodne after we parted from Davidov. There, I was appointed director of a brick factory. Sometime later I returned to Aran. There, I worked at the police station together with Lipa Sokolski. Our commander was Binyamin Rogovski (he passed away in Haifa). In our service we managed to find several Lithuanians who collaborated with the Germans. Among them were two policemen who participated in the liquidation of the Jews of Aran. These murderers were sentenced for long prison terms and returned to Aran after they served their sentences. Our loved ones - would never return…


I Was Left Alone and Isolated

by Shulamit Fuchs

Translated by Meir Bulman

 

The First Days of German Occupation

The Lithuanians were very quick to destroy Jews and begin their despicable work on the first days of German occupation. Most of the towns in the Vilne area were part of the Lithuanian Republic. Our town was on the border but was part of Belarus, so Jews from Vilne and the surrounding area sought shelter in Divenishok. A large stream of refugees came to Divenishok and the residents did their best to assist with housing and documents. The Judenrat[1] was particularly successful at assisting in obtaining forged documents for the refugees.

Ra'aya Sutskever stayed in our home, as well as an intelligent woman from Vilne with her brother. The woman and her brother stayed for six weeks, relocated to Yashuny, where they perished. Dr. Gordon from Navaredok also stayed with us. We hid him for a long time in our cellar and after that I bribed the head of the town council to allow him to stay with us. Dr. Gordon joined the partisans in the woods and survived. He is now in Russia.

 

In the Voronova and Lida Ghettos

With the directive mandating expulsion to Voronova, my husband Herman, my daughter Lilly, and I relocated there. The Germans allowed my husband to open a pharmacy at the nearby town of Kalelishok to serve the local peasants. We stayed there for only six weeks, at which point we were returned to Voronova. There, we experienced the horrors of the Nazi massacre. From there we were transferred to Lida with the rest of the Jews.

Our situation in Lida was quite bad. My daughter became ill and was taken to the hospital. With the help of a nurse at the hospital I sent a letter to the Lithuanian teacher Pauleitiss in Voronova, with whom we had left many valuable objects–– furs, and gold jewelry–– to send us help to save our daughter in exchange for our valuables. But the teacher, instead of sending help, informed the Germans that my husband the chemist was preparing gas to poison the Germans. SS men arrived in our home and arrested him. I approached Zalmen Leib Lib who was a member of the Lida Judenrat, and he arranged a meeting with the Gvits Commissar himself. When I entered I presented him a golden ring with a half–carat sized diamond – an inheritance from my husband's parents – and requested the release of my husband. “Your husband is accused of a political crime and not a financial one,” he told me, “so I cannot release him. I would be risking my own wellbeing.” He took the ring but did not release my husband, who was torturously executed.

After liberation I returned to Voronova, and in a nearby village I located the teacher with whom we left our valuables and asked him to return my belongings. “Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?” [1 Kings 21:19]. He expelled me from the home. I approached the NKVD to complain, but the Soviet police did nothing on the matter.

 

Escape to the Woods

My daughter perished in the Lida ghetto. I remained alone and isolated, and so I decided to leave for the woods. On that occasion, Leyzer Meir from Bilitza arrived at the ghetto. He knew my brother Tsvi and when he saw me he said, “You're Tsvi's sister; I'm willing to take you to the woods.”

And indeed, on a March day, 12 of us departed the Lida ghetto. On the way we encountered a German patrol and split up. The Germans captured some of the people and returned them to the ghetto. Only six of us evaded capture. We then met partisans on a mission who asked us for a password. Instead of telling them we were Jews from the Lida ghetto, we ran. They, of course, opened fire. We hid in a grain field.

I accompanied a tailor from Lida whose wife and two children waited in a nearby village. I joined him, and in the evening we reached the partisans' area. There, I met my brother Zelig and his friend Yitzhach Segal and another young man named Yeshayahu. My brother introduced me as a doctor and the peasants approached me for medical help. I gave one of the peasants a medication for worms and it helped immediately. In return we received bread and pork.

From there we continued to the village of Narodovitsh,[2] where we met Max Stavitski from Warsaw. He was a nice man, quick, and with a great sense of direction. He helped us a lot. We continued our wandering with him along the Neman River. The situation turned dangerous since the Germans began establishing police stations throughout the villages. We found some family camps but did not join them. We searched for partisans, so we might seek revenge against the Germans. Once a week we would go searching for food. We had no weapons so at night we would knock with a stick on a peasants' window, to scare him, and yell, “Partisans! Give food!” The peasants would throw us bread, potatoes, and sometimes meat. We obtained one gun, but to be accepted as partisans we needed at least one more. Max helped us buy parts, from which we assembled a haloshykke – which is what we called a rifle missing its butt. We then began to search for partisans.

 

The Orliani Otraid [3]

We met partisans at a village [where they were] leading wagons filled with food, and they said they were willing to accept us. We boarded the coaches and traveled for a while without reaching a destination. It seemed suspicious and we asked for a reason. They said it was a mobile otriad without a fixed location. I told them we did not have shoes and were not able to constantly walk. My brother Zelig, Max, and I left them at Dimiantsove Village.[4]

At the village, one of the farmers whispered to us that on the right side of the Neman were staying troops from the Orliani Otriad–– to guard against White Poles crossing the river. We crossed the Neman and turned ourselves into the guards. We then waited for the commander who would determine our fate.

We stayed in the cold and rain for three days until the commander appeared. An unpleasant event occurred, which nearly cost me my life. One night, I felt I must go bathe in the Neman. It got dark and I could not find my clothes or the way back and had to wander naked in the woods all night. Adding to my misfortune, there had been a fire there not long before, and the area was full of soot: the trees were burnt and were frightening. In addition, swarms of mosquitoes attacked me and stung me mercilessly. I wept bitterly over my fate and wanted to die. Only the next morning was I able to find my way back. My brother did not recognize me because I was all blackened.

The commander accepted us to the otriad. My brother Zelig and Yitzchak Segal were placed in the combat squad and I was sent to work in the kitchen. We stayed there six months. Once, as I passed by headquarters, I heard an officer say, “Why do we need that girl with the green pants?” I understood something was about to take place.

 

Expulsion from the Otriad

Our fears came to fruition. One day, all the Jews in the otriad were gathered and were told the otriad had received special combat [orders] demanding much effort, so all the Jews are being expelled. Their weapons were confiscated and they were told to go wherever their eyes would take them. We were at a loss for ideas; where would we go? What could we do without weapons? How would we get food? How would we defend ourselves? A single German could destroy us in the blink of an eye.

Rumors reached us that a Jewish commander had parachuted into the forest for a special operation. He was of high rank and the partisan command centers respected his opinion. The officer's name was Davidov. We wandered the woods for a few days and found him sitting with three other officers around a birch wood table, eating canned food. We poured out our hearts to him and told him how our brothers in arms had abandoned us. I could not contain myself and began crying.

Our pleading touched his heart and there were tears in his eyes. “Wait a bit,” he said, “I'll call Moscow to ask for guidance.” A bit later he returned and sent a runner to the commander directing him to return the weapons to the Jews. “I have a special role for you,” he told me, “we have a central hospital for the various partisans in the forest run by two doctors. That is where you will work.”

The weapons were returned to the Jews, and commander Panchenko was relocated. Suddenly, a command arrived to send a unit to the Grodne woods, where the situation was dire and especially dangerous. Many Jews were sent on that mission, including my brother Zelig.

 

At the Hospital in the Lipnishok Woods

Every otriad was accompanied by a doctor who handled small scale issues. For larger–scale incidents which required dangerous operations and at times amputation, [patients] would be evacuated to the central hospital. The hospital was well hidden at the center of the Lipnishok woods. There was no direct path to the hospital. The injured were brought to an agreed upon spot and from there transferred to the hospital. Even the partisans were not aware of the hospital's location. Supplies and medicines were also placed at a distance from the hospital.

The hospital stood atop a hill surrounded by a swamp and there was no path to it. If needed, a small wooden bridge would be placed above the swamp, supplies loaded and the bridge then dismantled, so there was no direct contact with the outside world. The partisans knew there was a central hospital somewhere but did not know its location.

Two doctors ran the hospital: the head doctor was Dr. Miasnik from Lida (now in Brooklyn, United States) and the second was Dr. Rakover (who now serves as a head doctor in a hospital in Jerusalem).

The hospital was constructed as two bunkers with semi–separate rooms. One bunker served as a surgery ward and the other was for contagious diseases, ran by Dr. Rakover. Most of those hospitalized by Dr. Rakover had typhus or STDs. The Germans would send the partisans young women who had dangerous STDs to infect them. In our camp, three such women who admitted they were sent by the Germans, were executed.

Dr. Miasnik greeted me very kindly. Turned out we were old friends; he operated on me in Lida while it was still under Russian control. I lived in the same bunker as his wife and daughter until the last weeks before liberation.

I worked in the surgical ward under the guidance of Dr. Miasnik. Working conditions were very poor. Medicine and surgery tools were scarce. Once, when the situation was particularly dire, I went out with a partisan unit to search for medicine. We entered a pharmacy in a small town not far from Zhetl, tied up the pharmacist, and took all the medication. Each unit was obligated to supply us a certain amount of food and medication. The food would be left at an agreed upon spot three kilometers from the hospital and we would carry it on foot through the swamps to the base.

 

The Surgeries

Surgery was usually conducted at night since battles took place at nighttime and the wounded were brought to us immediately.

Surgery was done in the most primitive manner. Dr. Miasnik directed the bunker doors dismantled and placed them on thick wooden planks on which the wounded would be placed. Once, the doctor had to perform a surgery without anesthesia; surgery had to be performed immediately and we could not find anesthetics. The doctor proposed the patient bite my hand during the operation so he would not feel the pain. Surgery was successful even in those conditions since Dr. Miasnik was a very gifted surgeon.

Towards the end, our situation improved monumentally, thanks to the tight bond developed with Moscow. Russian planes would drop food and drugs for us. Every parachute contained 100 meters of silk which we used for clothing needs.

A radio station was established nearby, which was in constant contact with Moscow and informed it of the events on our end. In severe incidents, we would summon planes to transfer the injured to Moscow.

In addition to his difficult work at the hospital, Dr. Miasnik served the area villages, whose residents were allies, and provided us with much assistance. He would travel to the villages a few times a week and would cure, dress wounds, and operate. He was summoned for every urgent need and he never refused.

Sometimes we would work 20 hours a day. Surgery was performed at night and I would prepare the instruments and medication for operations. There was also a need to administer injections, change bandages, and carry food from afar.

Work was difficult and exhausting, but also very satisfying. While bitter battles were being waged between Germans and partisans, and gunfire echoed near us, we did our work as usual. We were afraid of being discovered, but believed our blessed work was saving lives.

 

Liberation

Two weeks before liberation, we dismantled the hospital, as we feared the Germans while retreating via the woods would surprise us. I was handed a few wounded people and was told too care for them. Those were such tough days for me; I was alone in the woods with the wounded and had to care for them and for myself. Fortunately, their conditions improved after a few days and I was able to search for Dr. Miasnik and join him. I found them after wandering through the woods for two days and stayed with them until liberation.

After liberation I arrived in Shutchin and got a job at a pharmacy. My salary was extremely low, winter was approaching, and I was wearing rags. Incidentally, a soldier offered me some morphine shots. I purchased them, then resold them on the black market, and bought shoes. The NKVD learned of the incident and came to arrest me, so I hid at a nearby village for a while. From there I traveled to Grodne and prepared for departure to Poland. I received an exit visa and crossed the border in 1945.

I was so fortunate to receive the visa quickly. Otherwise, I would have been arrested and would have spent many years in a Russian prison. Many partisans met such a fate, despite their heroics against the Germans.

I lived in Lodzh for some time and worked at a pharmacy. I then illegally crossed the border to East Germany. We were arrested there but released the next day. From there we continued to West Germany. I made aliya after staying at a refugee camp for a while.

 

Editor's Footnotes
  1. Jewish Councils mandated by German orders in the occupied communities of Eastern Europe during WWII Return
  2. The location of this town has not yet been determined. Return
  3. An otriad is a detachment of partisans Return
  4. The location of this village has not yet been determined. Return


[Page 200]

From Partisan Unit – to the Palmach Brigade

by Michael Dubinski

Translated by Marion Stone and Meir Bulman

My father, born in Radin, married my mother Chaya Rivke (nee Rogov) while he was still teaching Hebrew in Kalelishok. Afterwards he moved to the Benakani train station, where he owned a leather shop.

 

We Decide to Escape to Russia

At the start of the War, the Red Army retreated by way of the railway station. The Germans, who had discovered this route of retreat, dropped many bombs over the railway station, but not even one Russian aircraft appeared in the sky. Pulitruk was positioned outside and fired toward the planes with his revolver, shouting Grodi we Krastach a Glawa we Kostach[1] (the chest is decorated with medals of heroism but the shoulders have no head).

A group of nine men and one woman was organized and we decided to escape to Russia riding bicycles. During the escape we passed by Kalelishok, and by early evening we reached Divenishok, where we slept overnight at my uncle's, Yosef Dubinski. The following morning we turned eastward and approached the Volozhin area. From dugouts near the cannon cells, Russian soldiers promised us excitedly that the Germans would not be able to pass here. Suddenly from behind us some German cyclists, and a few light tanks, burst through. The Russians began to flee over the wheat fields for their lives as the Germans cut across after them, slaughtering them with their machine guns.

I threw myself into a channel by the roadside and kept my head to the ground. The bullets flew above my head with threatening, shrieking sounds. After some time the shooting stopped and the girl who was with us, Dinah Rabinovits, informed us that what had happened to us wasn't a bad thing since the Germans didn't harm civilians. We went to the road and sat by the edge of the road. We watched how the Germans concentrated the Russian soldiers into a group, shouting at them and hitting them with their rifle butts. The City of Volozhin was already burning.

We decided to continue with the Germans toward Russia, believing that the Russians would stop the German attack. We went on our way when suddenly some Poles attacked us and began to curse and hit us. They took our bicycle. We managed to escape them and continued on our way by foot. After some 10 km the German tanks turned off the road and on to a side road. This was caught our interest, but we continued along the main road as far as the fortified Russian posts guarded by a large force.

I reported to the Soviet officer about the German force that had diverted to a side road in order to surround them. After he understood the new situation that had been created the officer ordered his soldiers to prepare for a planned attack from the estimated direction.

The Russians were still busy with their preparations to pre–empt the attack as a battle developed, and within minutes the Russian soldiers scattered hurriedly and frightened, in all directions. I stood in amazement at what I saw since the Russian force was ten times stronger than the German force.

We continued eastward. As we progressed toward Minsk the chaos grew. On the way we met thousands of refugees, and scared soldiers without weapons, escaping to Minsk, and among them thousands of criminal prisoners who had been involved with constructing fortifications at the front.

From time to time German planes appeared and sprayed a hellish inferno over the scared crowds of people. Every explosion left hundreds lying by the roadside.

After a week of wandering we saw Minsk burning in the distance. We moved closer towards the city even though it was already in German hands with a curfew was in place. The blinds of some houses that were not on fire were shuttered, and doors were locked. We found a house that was open and went inside, but German soldiers appeared and wanted to see our documents. We had no documents so we explained to the Germans that we were Poles and that the Russians had been transporting us by train to Siberia when the Germans had saved us by bombing the train. Our explanation satisfied them and they left us alone.

We found an uninhabited house; it seems that a Jew had lived there who had managed to escape, because we discovered religious books. Some of our group stayed to sleep there and with the other men, I went out to look for food. At the destroyed train station we found carriages loaded full of sugar lumps and we grabbed them, filling our backpacks with them.

One morning we discovered two Russian soldiers and an officer hiding in the attic. One of the soldiers was injured. We dressed his wounds and we brought the three of them downstairs. We gave them new clothes and sugar so that they could continue their journey eastward and avoid arrest.

We were in the town for a week when the Germans hung announcements instructing Jews over age 14 to present themselves to the commander in the town centre. Communists and NKVD were to go to a special camp by the river. Most of us obeyed the order, but my brother Nachum and I, and another pair of brothers refused to show up, and we continued eastward. Afterwards I heard that they were all killed, apart from Dinah Rabinovitsh, who managed to get to Voronova, but then she was killed with her parents.

We crossed the Berezina River and reached a kolkhoz,[2] but the members refused to take us in. They gave us some meager slices of bread and directed us toward the tractors parking area of the kolkhoz. There we met Russian soldiers who were hiding. We stayed with them for a week and a half until Germans suddenly appeared. In order to avoid being discovered we hid in piles of straw in the granary. The Germans were trying to find us and poked their bayonets into the hay. A terrible cry came from one of the soldiers who had been hit by a bayonet. As a result we showed ourselves. The Germans assembled us and took a census. They put us on to trucks and transported us to a wooded area near the command camp where we stayed until the following morning. A German officer along with two Ukrainian collaborators appeared and they began to interrogate us.

The soldiers were immediately put together on one side while the officers were put to a different side. We were taken to Minsk together with the soldiers; the officers stayed in place and apparently were shot to death. We feared that our Ukrainian interrogators would discover our Jewish origins and so we repeated the same “story” which we had fed to the Germans in Minsk.

In Minsk we were attached to a convoy of captives being taken in the direction of the river. Afraid that we were being led to our deaths I was able to convince my brother to leave the line at the first opportunity and run. We managed to evade the guard's watch and joined a group of civilians moving in the opposite direction. The two brothers who were with us in Minsk refused to leave the line and they disappeared; we never saw them again. In town we were told that Germans were murdering Jewish ‘communists’ and that the river was running red with blood.

 

Return to Divenishok

We decided to return home and left Minsk westward. During daylight hours we hid in the forests and survived on black grains and pieces of bread that we received from farmers. During nights we continued on our way until we reached Divenishok. My uncle Yosef had already left town on his way to rescue his son who had been arrested for being a Zionist and was being held in the Lokishki Prison. The Germans caught him while on the way and murdered him in Lipuvke,a suburb of Vilna.

The following day we continued to Kalelishok. My grandfather was out of his mind with joy because he had thought that we were no longer alive. I stayed at my grandfather's house until we left the house to go to Voronova.

On one of the Shabbatot[3] shooting was heard in the town. We were afraid for my grandfather's fate since he was at the synagogue. Polish police took Jews out of their homes to the church square. Afterwards they brought Jews who had been praying in the synagogue. The anti–Semitic Priest pronounced his verdict and the policemen hurried to fulfill his instructions. They took one Jew from the line, harnessed him to a cart, placed a non–Jewish woman, a Jew hater, on the cart, and she whipped the man's back to force him to pull the cart up the hill. He could not take the load and fell, and he couldn't get up again.

The other Jews were forced to run the length of the square back and forth by being hit with rifle butts. Whoever fell was subjected to further blows. These Jews were bleeding and helpless, but the police continued their cruel abuse.

While I was running alongside the twins, my Aunt Roykhl's sons, I sensed a policeman standing about to hit me. I glanced backwards while running and saw that the policeman was a former friend who had sat with me on the same bench at school; I had helped him with his lessons. I called his name. He recoiled, stopped, looked at me, and told me to step out of the row. I told him that I would not step out without my family. At my assertiveness, he took out my grandfather and my aunt and set us aside–– as he constantly continued to hit Jews. This horrible performance lasted for two hours, which seemed to us an eternity. In the end, the beaten, bruised, broken and exhausted Jews were expelled to their homes, crawling on all fours.

When we returned home my grandfather told us about what had happened in the synagogue. As soon as the Polish police had appeared in the synagogue they had begun to shoot in all directions in order to frighten the Jews.

To worsen matters, they began to torment the parishioners. They forced them to open the ark and take out the Torah scrolls, spread them in the yard and dance on them, as they hit those who were not quick to fulfill their orders. A few hours later I went to the synagogue and saw Torah scrolls scattered in the yard, stained in the blood of Jews.

After our expulsion to Voronova, I met with my parents and moved in with them.

 

The Extermination of Vilne Jews

Jews from Vilne escaped to Voronova in hope of finding refuge, but the Gestapo gathered them one winter day in the movie theater and executed them after holding them for three days without food or water. I watched that event in horror from the roof of my house. In the morning, the Jews were ordered to dig trenches, and in the afternoon two cars arrived loaded with Lithuanian murderers joined by Polish police and assisted by the Germans. Jews were ordered out of the movie theater and organized in rows. My blood froze at the sound of horrific screams. The murderers dealt indiscriminate blows to women and children. The Polish police officers, well known for their cruelty, whipped in every direction in merciless bloodlust. I will never forget it.

Rows of Jews were led under heavy guard to a small patch of forest near the train station. The Jews were forced to unclothe and stand by the pits. They were shot and fell into the graves they had dug.

The Lithuanian murderers completed their work with their hands soaked in the blood of Jews, and with a song. They walked through town happy and joyful singing hateful venomous songs towards Jews and yelled anti–semetic slogans.

One day on my way back from work I encountered a horrifying scene. A wagon was being led loaded with a murdered woman and two children, their blood dripping along the street all the way to the cemetery. The horrific scene shocked me and I decided to investigate the matter. I found out that not far from where we lived there lived a Jewish man, a member of the underworld, whom the Germans decided to execute. The man probably managed to escape, but his wife and two small children were captured and murdered immediately, tossed like animal carcasses on a wagon which led them to the cemetery.

On the day the Jews of Voronova were exterminated I was working with a group of Jews on the water pump (wudu kachka) at the train station. Suddenly we heard shots from Voronova. The Gentiles told us the Jews were being killed and the ghetto being dismantled. Fortunately we were unguarded and immediately organized a group of eight friends who decided to escape to the woods in the Kalelishok area. The group was led by a young cobbler who traveled in the villages repairing shoes and was familiar with the area and its residents.

 

Bogoslav the Pole – A Righteous Gentile

We walked all night and reached a dense forest. The forest keeper was Bogoslav, who later helped us and rescued us from difficult situations. He was a righteous Gentile and helped us without expecting anything in return. He shared his last piece of bread with us and eventually paid with his life for helping us. The White Poles executed him on charges of collaborating with the Jews.

Bogoslav showed us hiding spots in the forest, and gave us a weapon and trained us in using it. We survived on left–overs we found, and potatoes brought to us by peasants.

One day police officers came to Bogoslav's home and conducted a thorough search, claiming that he was hiding Jews. After they found nothing to prove his guilt the police officers left. Bogoslav took his dog and after he verified he was not being followed, reached us, and warned us to leave immediately so the police would not soon discover us. After thanking him for his faithful help, we left the site for the Almpina Swamps, a large swampy area which was untouched by humans where we often hid.

As Fall approached we could no longer stay in the swamps. The cobbler led us to a poor farmer who lived in a lone hutur (small village) who agreed to host us over winter. The farmer had visited my parents in Lida Ghetto and they gave him gold in exchange for sheltering us. I remember the farmer had an eldest daughter who had many suitors. When they appeared the dog would bark, and we hid in fear of being discovered.

At nights we would go out to gather food for us and the farmer. I once came to Kallelishok and entered grandfather's house; the Gentile living in it cast me out.

One night we entered a farmer's home basement as we searched for food and to our surprise discovered a large barrel of pickled cabbage. We knew if we could get the barrel to the Gentile we were staying with we would solve the food problem for the entire winter. In a joint effort we took the barrel from the basement and rolled along the river bank, on the ice, a road of over 10 km. The operation was a success and we brought the barrel to our host. It was a very difficult operation which lasted the whole night.

In the Spring, we left the Gentile and returned to Bogoslav the forest keeper. A shepherd probably noticed us and reported to the police. In the evening we heard horsemen approaching us and left running towards the swamps to hide. A month later we returned to Bogoslav to take the kitchen utensils we had left behind as we ran. He told us the police had paid him a visit and assaulted him for hiding Jews.

 

The Sheep and the Wolf

All summer long we were in the swamps and hid in dense shrubbery behind a mighty, nearly uncrossable river. We discovered a spot where a tree had fallen across the river and we would climb on it. Passage was especially difficult at night and we had to illuminate our path to avoid drowning. That place served as a safe and comfortable hiding spot despite the difficulties.

Every time the guys went out to search for food I feared they would not return, and would be startled by rustling leaves. One time when I stayed alone I heard footsteps and saw two approaching spotlights. I hid behind a tree to examine the situation. I then heard intense running and dragging as the sound and light came closer. After a few minutes of terrible fear the light disappeared. When my friends returned I told them what happened and they calmed me, and promised it could not have been humans.

For safety reasons we searched the area the next morning. Less than 50 meters away we found a dead sheep, skinned and half–eaten. Apparently a wolf had hunted it and dragged it to safety. When he sensed my presence he was frightened and left the prey behind and vanished.

We were amazed that the wolf was able to skin the sheep so skillfully, beyond human capabilities. We cleaned the rest of the meat, rinsed it, and began cooking it. Much to our surprise, the meat softened only after two days of cooking.

 

How We Obtained Weapons

We knew we could not survive for long without weapons. One Gentile, as revenge against his neighbor, told us that his neighbor owned two quality Polish rifles. We went in a group of eight men to take the weapons. We reached the farmer's house at night and a few men remained outside to guard the men who entered the house carrying sticks resembling guns. We read an “order by partisan headquarters” which we wrote before we left. It said in Russian that he must give the rifles he owned to the Partisans. The Gentile shook in fear, denied he had weapons, crawled on the floor, and begged for his life. We attempted to influence him in any way to tell us where the weapons were, but to no avail. Even after sustaining an assault he continued saying that he had no weapons and was being framed. We took him out to the yard, bound his hands and legs with the rope from the well, and immersed him in water repeatedly, but he did not relent. I proposed scaring him with the lives of his wife and children. We placed his wife and children in the house and locked the door. We tied the farmer to a tree so he could watch his family burn. “After that,” I threatened him, “I will kill you with this grenade I am holding.” After he saw us approaching the house to burn it down he broke and fearfully announced he would hand over the guns. He led us to the swamps behind the village where the guns were hidden in a hollow tree; they were two new Polish rifles, still with grease. “Go to my brother who lives in a nearby hutur and he will give you 140 bullets.” We thanked the Gentile and did so. We divided the guns among us and rushed to Bogoslav who then taught us to shoot.

Later, it turned out the Gentile was a leader in the White Poles movement and I have a reasonable suspicion he had a hand in the murders of my parents and family.

After we obtained weapons we felt safer and went on a counter–punitive operation against a farmer whose son had killed a Jewish man. In an area village there was an intelligent Jew from Vilne who posed as a Crimean thinking he would save himself that way. One day the Jew went out to graze sheep. The son knew the Jew had a pistol and asked him to show him the gun. The man did not suspect a thing and handed it to him. That naiveté cost him his life as the Gentile shot and killed him immediately. The story upset us and we went to punish the farmer, and to kill his son. We did not find the son at home and the farmer himself begged for his life. We gave up on our intention to burn the house so as not to alert the Gentiles. We broke and shattered all the furniture in the house and did much damage.

One day, a group of young men from Voronova appeared and were looking for weapons. We learned that at the intersection of Benakani, Kallelishok, and Oshmene there had been an intense battle between Russians and Germans, and many Russians had fallen and were buried with their weapons. At night we reached the spot with the men from Voronova, dug among the bodies, and extracted gun parts from which we were able to construct functional guns. We divided the weapons among us and parted ways with he Voronova group.

 

Partisans Took Our Weapons

In the fall, the men from Voronova reappeared asking for more guns, claiming that Russian partisans had taken their weapons. Of course, we could not oblige them so we refused. They tricked us: when we parted ways they asked that some armed men accompany them to the nearby forest. We agreed. Now the lowlifes attacked us and forcibly took our weapons. They fired warning shots in the air and left. Those men brought us double trouble: they not stole our defensive weapons, but they had also disclosed our location to the Gentiles with the shots they fired. Thus, we had to leave our devoted and loyal benefactor and search for another hiding spot in the middle of winter.

My grandfather had deposited his belongings with a Gentile. My cousin Shlomo Olkenitski and his brother the cobbler came to the Gentile to request that he replace the weapons taken from us. The Gentile greeted them nicely and invited them to return. A few days later they went to the agreed upon meeting place but were never seen again. Later we learned that the Gentile had set a trap for them and invited Lithuanian policemen. When the men appeared, the policemen presented themselves as Russian partisans and tried to discover the hiding spot of the entire group. The men recognized the trap and wanted to leave. The Lithuanians stopped them and murdered them in the Gentile's yard. Six months later we came at night and burned his barn. We could not storm his house because he opened heavy fire.

We learned from a Gentile that Russian partisans were searching for Jews to recruit. We asked the Gentile to introduce us. A short while later the Gentile announced, on behalf of the Partisans, a meeting time at his house. We arrived on time and found four Russian partisans. They chose four men among us who had good guns, placed them on a sled, and said they were going on an operation, promising they would return and take us all to Rodnitski Puscha [Ed. Note: Forest].

After a short while the guys came back to us discouraged, and without weapons. They had been brought to the property of an anti–Semite and were commanded to each separately enter the home. When they entered they were each disarmed and commanded to leave. A year later, when I was at the Borba Otriad, I recognized them and tried to move against them, unsuccessfully.

 

The Death of my Brother Nachman

Before the disbandment of the Lida ghetto, I sent a Gentile there to transfer my parents, Aunt Sheinelle, Aunt Mosya, and her daughter. They hid with kind Gentiles, first the Gentile with whom we spent the first winter, and later, when the situation turned suspect, we transferred them to another Gentile who lived in a secluded hutur[4].

We visited them occasionally and brought them food. On our way to one of the visits, I, my brother Nachman, and some other men entered a bathhouse at the edge of the forest intending to wait until nightfall to visit my parents and aunts. The winter was heavy and the snow reached our waists. As we waited we cleaned our guns. Unfortunately, my brother Nachman could not dislodge the cleaning rod stuck in his barrel. He went outside to heat a wire so he could burn the rod. Suddenly, a single shot was heard from the direction of the forest. I immediately sprang up and ran towards the door; heavy fire rained on me from the forest. The shooters, White Poles, told us to hold our fire, and promised no harm would come to us.

We knew very well what would happen to us if we submitted. Horrifying rumors had reached us about the torture and inhumane torment inflicted on Partisans captured by the White Poles. We had heard of dismemberment while their captives were alive, of white hot metal into the eyes, of fingernail and toenail removal, of placing genitals in the mouth of a nursing calf, and other varied and strange tortures the White Poles' sick imaginations produced.

Four of us remained in the bathhouse: the cobbler, my friend Avraham Levine, a man from Kallelishok, and I. We decided to fight to our last bullet and not surrender under any conditions.

I called to my brother Nachman but did not hear a response. I understood that tragedy had befallen him; he was hit. I discovered his body outside and attempted to crawl to him, but hellfire rained on me from the forest.

We returned fire and tried to crawl towards the house where my parents and aunts were. Crawling was exhausting, since the snow was deep, and we had to attach the guns, our only protection, to our bodies since we feared they would get wet. We moved with significant difficulties, but the White Poles followed closely behind. I concluded that if we could not stop them we had no chance of escaping. I turned back, took out the only grenade I had, and threw it behind me with all my might towards the estimated source of the gunfire. I heard a tremendous explosion followed by terrible shouting, and then total silence. Apparently the grenade surprised the Poles who thought we had more grenades and stopped attacking us.

 

The Night of Horrors

We crawled to the Gentile's house where my parents were hiding. I saw my parents and aunts pacing nervously in the yard. They knew what was happening and feared for our fate. We suspected an ambush was set and decided to leave. It is fortunate we did so because we later learned that the sons of that Gentile were White Poles, and had not immediately murder my parents and aunts because they thought more Jews would be coming to them and they could finish them all off at once.

We took advantage of the darkness and began running into the forest. Our feet sank in the snow and we occasionally had to stop to extract those who were stuck in the heavy snow. My heart ached at the sight of my Aunt Mosya, pale as a ghost, as she dragged her little daughter with her remaining strength, my thin father, whose face was white and lips blue, his eyes blazing with the fire of life. My kind, dear mother crying and silently whispering, “God, why have you inflicted this upon us? How have we sinned? We have become a mockery to the nations and our lives and blood abandoned!” I led the group with a heavy heart, pressing the rifle against my chest with all my might and biting my lips in pain and anger.

At dawn, after an hours–long fearful run, we were exhausted as we reached a lone house at the edge of the woods. It was the home of the wyat (city council chairman) who was well acquainted with my family. He invited us into his home, gave us milk to calm us, and proposed we stay with him and build up our strength. He directed us towards the barn so that we would not be discovered.

The wyat seemed suspect to us and we did not trust his words. We constantly looked through the cracks of the barn to see what was happening in the yard.

It was not long before we heard voices approaching. Murderers began entering the yard on foot and on skis. Their numbers increased and reached about fifty. Our rescuer greeted them at the entrance and they saluted him as he invited them in. Not much time passed before we heard singing voices.

We sat still in the barn and expected the worst. We were prepared to die, but determined to fight, and charge the largest possible price for our lives.

After they drank to intoxication, the murderers left the house and began shooting into the air for entertainment. They then fastened their skis and prepared to travel. The homeowner showed them footsteps in the snow and sent them towards the footsteps to confuse them. After they left he came to us and instructed to escape quickly because his guests would most likely return to his house after they had given up on their decoy search. Much later we found out that man was the head of the Polish gangs and it [his conduct] remains a mystery.

At nightfall we left his house. We walked for some time before reaching a Gentile's house, who agreed to let us stay a few days. Throughout our stay there we were very concerned about being discovered. After much consideration we decided to go to Kallelishok and hide with Gentile friends.

To not attract extra attention, we divided into two groups. My parents, aunts, my friend Avraham Levin, and I, hid with a Gentile who was grandfather's neighbor in Kallelishok. The cobbler and two young men, and one woman, hid in a hutur one kilometer from the town.

A few weeks later we heard shots from the direction of the hutur. We had a bad feeling. Indeed, the gentile visited us that evening and told us our friends were compromised and attacked by Lithuanians. According to him, a lengthy battle took place. Our friends defended their position for some time and even struck a Lithuanian policeman. Their attackers had to bring reinforcements just to thwart their escape and managed to beat them only after their ammunition had run out. They then brought them out to the yard and killed them.

We knew then that we must leave this terrible place, and the farmer we were staying with encouraged us to leave his house. Avraham Levin and I went to search for a hiding spot. We ran towards the woods, but the winter was very cold and we hesitated for some time. On our way we met a Gentile acquaintance who agreed to host us until the end of the winter.

We learned that this Gentile was with the White Poles, and after staying for two days in a small, suffocating room we feared for our safety. My aunt Sheinele, Avraham Levin, and I went to search for another hiding spot. My father Shmuel, my mother Khayeh Rivkeh, my aunt Mosya and her daughter, Avraham's wife, and his eight–year–old son remained at the Gentile's house.

 

The Murder of My Parents and Family Members

The night was dark. We managed to reach fifty meters from the house before heavy fire was opened on us. We ran towards the woods and lost Sheinelle on the way. We later learned she hid with a Gentile who had previously worked with us, but the murderers tracked her footsteps and tortured her in an attempt to extract our hiding spot. She knew her torturers personally and pleaded for mercy, crying and begging, but to no avail. She was terminated after grim torture.

The murderers killed all the Jews in the house other than my father, who managed to escape under cover of darkness. He wandered among the Gentiles for days and was not harmed because they hoped he would bring them to me, and they could kill us both. After a few days, when they had given up hope, they killed him in a peasant's yard. Hid body was abandoned to forest predators, again in the hopes that I would come out to bury him and they would capture me as well.

Avraham Levine and I escaped through the woods towards Soletchnik. Freezing temperatures and heavy snow enclosed the woods. We dug under the snow with our fingers and lay in the holes like forest animals for a week with no food or drink. We were shocked by this tragedy and apathetic about death.

Sometimes when I think of the past I ask myself where I found the physical and mental strength to survive those days. To lie in the dark forest and survive on ice after all of my loved ones had been cruelly slaughtered. I answer myself that the drive to survive came from the desire for revenge and not let the flame of life be extinguished, in spite of our enemies threatening to destroy us; this was stronger than everything.

When exhausted by hunger we exited to search for food, and once we found some, returned to our dens. We lived like that until the spring arrived. Whilst wandering through the woods we met some young men and women from Voronova, including Elisha Hershovitsh. We returned with them to Almpinner Bloteess (the Swamps in Almpina), a spot where Jews never went and an ideal location for survival.

Our friend Elisha Hershovitsh began to suffer from intense scabies. We could not watch him suffer so we risked our lives one night and snuck into Dr. Melinovski in Kallelishok. We got an ointment from the doctor which saved the man's life.

 

To the Partisans in Rudnizkia Pushcha[5]

As the noose of the White Poles gradually tightened around us we decided to join the Partisans in Rudnizkia Pushcha. There were five of us, three men and two women. Only Avraham Levine and I had guns. One night we lost Leah Pupko from Voronova; four of us remained. We later learned she had exited the woods and Gentiles murdered her.

After weeks of wandering we reached the Partisans' location. Two partisans on observation duty led us to Commander Wasilniko, a Russian Jew and engineer by training who greeted us well. I was placed in a combat unit and participated in all battles involving the unit. There was a polanka (clearing with vegetation) in the forest where aircraft would drop weapons and explosives. I once went out to fetch food and received an order to bring a cow back to base. In one of the villages I stole a white cow from a peasant. When the Partisans saw the cow they mocked me, “a white cow can be seen at night from kilometers away; it will give away our location to the Germans.” I covered the cow in mud and we arrived safely to the base. To this day, 30 years after the fact, when I meet the Nyunke[6] brothers and Yitzchak Telerent[7] from Vilne, my brothers in arms, they ask me, “Say, Michael, how is your white cow doing?”

 

The White Poles Occupy Vilne

Our first meeting with the Red Army was very emotional. We received an order to join them and move towards Vilne. We reached a forest near Vilne and stopped there. We heard a gun battle from the city and the Soviet officers told us that there was a battle between Germans and White Poles who had surfaced to occupy Vilne before Russia got control of the city. The Russians patiently waited at the edges of the woods so both sides would attrit one another and then they [the Russians] could enjoy the fruits of victory.

At the height of the battle some high ranking Russian officers appeared including the famed writer Ilya Ehrenburg. We told them what things the White Poles had committed against us and requested permission to enter the city and take revenge. We were denied. Ilya Ehrenburg told us that the actions of the White Poles were well–known, and that their day of retribution was approaching.

After the battling ceased we received an order to enter the city. At the entrance to the city the White Poles greeted us wearing white bands on their sleeves, holding a red–white flag, smiling and happy, as if to say, “Look! We have conquered the city.” My blood boiled. I wanted to avenge the blood of my family and the blood of all Jews, but we received a strict order to not harm them.

After the Red Army gained control of Vilne we received an order to concentrate all the White Poles in a forest near Vilne, under the guise of enlisting them in the Wanda Wasilewska[8] army. We fulfilled the order enthusiastically; we knew what it meant. A few thousand Poles were gathered in the woods and a large NKVD force surrounded them. The Poles began to understand that they had been set up and attempted to escape, but to no avail. They were loaded onto cars, led to the train station, placed on train cars, and sent to an unknown destination.

 

In the Russian Militia

After the city was liberated I was appointed Secretary of the First Division of the militia and served as an interrogator of atrocities committed by White Poles. We captured many Poles who had hidden in the woods and pestered Soviet convoys. I did my best to retaliate, and although they begged for their life, I was fortunate to be able to take revenge.

While I was in Vilne I was appointed as translator for the Red Army Special Division, and accompanied the conquering army to Konigsberg, where we interrogated men of the SS and Gestapo. In one of the prisoner camps we located the commander of the Stutthof death camp and terminated him. In that role too I tried with all of my might to pay back the enemies of our People: many found their way to Siberian work camps.

 

Aliyah

After the war ended I traveled to Poland, and after much difficulty, reached Israel. The British captured our immigrant ship and expelled us to Cypress. I reached Israel with a forged passport at the height of the battle and was enlisted in the Third Palmach Battalion. For two consecutive years I served an active role in the War of Independence.

After I was released from the Palmach I established a home and family. I currently live in Tel Aviv with my wife Esther and my only daughter, Rivka'le. I am very thankful to God who has brought me here.

 

Editor's Footnotes
  1. Original expression is in Polish. Return
  2. A Russian collective farm Return
  3. Plural of shabbat Return
  4. Typical Lithuanian peasant cottage. Return
  5. Rudnitki Forest Return
  6. In the original text this name is spelled: nun–yud–vov–nun–kuf–hey. Return
  7. In the original text this name is spelled: tes–lamed–resh–nun–tes. Return
  8. What may be meant here is the ‘Halszka Wasilewska’ army since this is the Wasilewska sister who was and active combatant for the Polish side. Her sister Wanda was a novelist and activist. Return


[Page 215]

I'm The Only One Left From My Family

Yeshayahu Wolfowitz

Translated by Sara Mages

I was born and raised in the town of Kollishok, a distance of about 12 kilometers from Divenishok. Around 20 Jewish families lived in that town. Naturally, this settlement couldn't function independently and therefore it had tight communal ties with Divenishok. I had a family connection with Divenishok: Hirshel the cobbler from Wilner Street was my uncle, and for that reason I visited the town frequently.

The conquest of the town by the Germans caused a sharp turn: we lived in fear not knowing what the day would bring. And indeed, immediately on Shabbat Shuva, a number of Polish policemen took all the Jews to the market and laid them in rows while others used the opportunity to steal valuables that they found in the Jewish homes.

Chaim Traub, who was the head of the village council, was harnessed to a wagon and the wife of Smulni's village leader was placed inside. She forced Traub to pull the wagon up the mountain, lashing him hard with a long whip. Chaim Traub pulled until he weakened and fell. They forced us to crawl back and forth, and when they realized that we were completely exhausted they ordered us to crawl back home.

On the next day, a number of Jewish women went to the Police Chief to complain about the act, but he, as if to complete the measure of bitterness, answered them rudely:

“You're lucky I wasn't there at that time. I would have poured kerosene on all of you and burned you alive”.

Kollishok's Jews were ordered to move to Divenishok three weeks before Divenishok's Jews were transferred to Voronova. All that time I was staying with my uncle Hirshel the cobbler. However, before long, the Kollishok and Divenishok Jews were transferred to Voronova.

Before the liquidation I worked together with 30 other young men in the forests in the vicinity of Stashiles. Every night the forester in charge of us returned to sleep at his home. One evening, when he didn't return, we thought that something was going to happen. To investigate the situation we sent a young Polish woman to Voronova. She told us that the ghetto was surrounded by soldiers and the Jews were digging pits. We decided to escape immediately, and each one of us went on his way. I returned to Kollishok and started to associate with the gentiles until I met Avraham Goldensky.

Avraham and I left to seek help from a farmer who at one time sold us his crop. For many years this farmer supplied potatoes to the Jews who lived in Lipufka, a suburb of Vilne, and they sold them to the shops. When Vilne's Jews were transferred to the ghetto, a few of them were allowed to supply potatoes and flour to the ghetto.

In the Vilne Ghetto I was able to evade all the Aktziot – coincidence or good fortune helped me. When the ghetto was liquidated I found shelter in a pit under the bath-house in Stephen Street. After a few weeks stay in the pit, the gatekeeper discovered us and reported us to the Germans. I was captured and transferred to a work camp in Kalwariski Street, Vilne. It was one of the last labor camps to exist in Vilne. 150 Jews worked there overhauling and painting automobiles.

About two weeks before the end of the war, Gestapo men came and killed all the Jews on the spot. My friend Moshe Zhukovsky and I were lucky: we hid behind the oven's vent.

Moshe woke me in the early hours of the morning and ordered me to leave the place with him. His mother, may she rest in peace, appeared in his dream and told him that someone will find us in our hiding place. We left our location and moved to an adjacent room that was already searched by the Germans. This is how both of us survived and saved from the fate of the other Jews who were caught and shot in the yard.

As evening fell, we slipped from the place and hid in the forests in the vicinity of Yashny. After liberation I worked in Benakani. There, it became known to me that Pinkowsky, the notorious Police Chief, was in a Grodne prison. I announced that I wanted to appear as a witness in his trial and my request was granted. I testified about all the atrocities that his officers committed, and his answer to the women who came to complain before him. After a brief discussion he was convicted and the death sentence was to be carried out in Voronova.

We traveled to Voronova in the district headquarters' car that escorted Pinkowsky and another Polish policeman who murdered Resnic's son from Lida. We arrived to Voronova at ten in the morning and made our way directly to the market. Two gallows were already standing in the center of the market. After the sentence was carried out, the bodies were left hangings for a number of days, so the gentiles will see and know the fate waiting to the opponents of the regime.

I didn't want to stay any longer in a country awash in blood. I traveled to Poland and from there I immigrated to Israel. In Israel, I was inducted to the Israeli Army and fought in the War of Independence.

I was the only one left from my family. My father Reuven passed away before the German entered. My mother Rivka, my married sisters - Batya, Henya and Sheine, and my unmarried sister Chana, were murdered by the Germans. My brother Yisrael managed to escape from Lida Ghetto and hid among the farmers, but as far as I know, he was murdered by them.


[Page 217]

Where Are All of Them? Where?…

Tzvi (Hirshel) Kryzovski

Translated by Sara Mages

On the second day of the war between Germany and Russia, that is to say, in the morning of 23 June, my father organized all the active people in our town - more than 50 people, to prepare wagons with horses to carry their baggage, and drive in the direction of Oshmene. On the third day we arrived to the town of Rakovi near the Russian border. We hid in the forest because German airplanes bombed us. We weren't able to continue on our way because the border was closed. We turned in the direction of Radoshkovits where the border police commander, my father's friend, was stationed. But, when we were informed on the road that the Germans were already in Radoshkovits – we returned to Rakovi.

The road was completely blocked with wagons, burnt cars and refugees who filled the whole area. We weren't able to advance, and we also didn't know where to go because everything was burning around us. My mother was in one wagon, the family of Ajzik Lewin in the second, and we walked.

When my father realized that we reached a dead end, he told my mother: “try to return home, the children and I will walk to Russia because I prefer to die from a Russian bullet than a German bullet”.

My mother returned to Divenishok and hid with Chaim Gershowitz. From there, she traveled to her family in Ivia and perished there in the ghetto. My sister Keila returned to Vilna and perished there together with her husband's family. We moved in the direction of Rakovi and on the way we lost our father. According to what Meir Yosef Itzkowitch told us, our father got stuck between the Germans and became ill on the road. My brother Kalman took care of him and they managed to reach Krasnei Ghetto. There, he suffered from hunger and deprivation until he was killed together with all of Krasnei's people.

We advanced through the forest in an easterly direction. On the way we met two young Russian men and women who escaped from prison and returned home. We waked with them for ten days. We gave them money and they bought us food and milk in the villages. One day they stole a horse and a wagon from a farmer and escaped – and left us alone. We moved forward alone until we reached the city of Mogilev. There was a lot of confusion in the city. With difficulties we made our way to the train and traveled.

After a two week journey we arrived to the Tambov region. From there, they sent us to the city of Penza where we worked in a peat mine until we were inducted to the Lithuanian Brigade in 1943. There, we worked in the headquarters' restaurant until we were liberated. Immediately, on our first opportunity we traveled to Vilna.

 

My visit to Divenishok

After the war I visited Divenishok twice, the first time in 1950. I wanted to see my birthplace, the place where I spent my childhood. The town left a depressing impression on me. All the buildings were burnt, and here and there the protruding chimneys shouted the destruction. The silence reminded me of the stillness in a cemetery. I went to see our house, but to my sorrow I didn't find anything – only a few pitiful bushes stood here and there. The farmers recognized me and said: “Here is Kryzovski's son …look what the Germans have done to you”…and the expression of hypocrisy reflected from their faces.

On the occasion of my immigration to Israel I was forced to visit Divenishok again in order to obtain documents. It was in 1971 – meaning, twenty one years later. This time great changes took place. Beautiful brick houses with large windows, surrounded by lawns and gardens, stood where the Jewish houses used to be. There were streets and buildings in the area across from the church. The local municipality gave its residents the Jewish building plots for free, and also long-term loans so they could build houses in town. No wonder that the town was being built in a fast pace. My heart ached with pain when I saw Divenishok without Jews. I stood stunned in the market, looked around me, and my heart was crying, Where are all of them? Where?…


[Page 219]

Days of Hardship and Suffering

by Tsvi Ahuvi (Lev)

Translated by Meir Bulman

When I was four years old, I was sent to Kalmen Shepsel's kheyder on Subotniki Street.[1] He was a grey–bearded, tall, slender man who wore two pairs of glasses one on top of the other due to his poor eyesight. His unique appearance and the whip which he was always holding struck fear in us, his students. Occasionally we would sneak out of kheyder and run to Yozhke the peasant, who was an admirer of Jews, and pick ‘beralakh’ [berries] from a large tree which stood in his yard. After that I transferred to the kheyder run by Shaul der Forber [the dyer] (Shaul, Lipkunski's father–in–law). The kheyder was at the front of the house, and in the back room there were two barrels which were used to dye flax threads for the peasants' wives. Every time his wife would summon him to open paint boxes we would sneak up behind him and blow on the paint, which of course caused Shaul's beard to be painted in various colors, which thoroughly amused us.

From Shaul's kheyder, I transferred to Aryeh Leyb Engle's cheder. He was considered the best Torah instructor in town, and in his kheyder they already studied Mishnah and Talmud. He had a very talented daughter who sat behind the wall (it was forbidden for girls to study with boys) and listened in on the classes. When we the boys could not explain a chapter in the Bible, an answer echoed from behind the wall.

After that, Bet Sefer Va'ad was established in town. Classes took place in the synagogue. It was a novelty in town because the school, run by Zalmen Merlinski, also held classes on secular subjects such as Hebrew, mathematics, and history. The school existed until 1915.

After that school closed, I learned with Rabbi Yosef Movshovitsh's son at the Reines Yeshiva. My teachers were Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yakov, who later became a rabbi in Traby. I studied there for only two years because the yeshiva closed due to a lack of funds. My parents wanted to provide me with a professional education so I was sent to Ort in Vilne.[2] I studied there for a year before returning home.

From all the events in my childhood the big town fire of 1912 left the deepest impression. I was a student at Leyb Aryeh's school. On Thursday, which was market day in town, we suddenly heard shouting on the streets. We exited the kheyder and saw frightened people quickly moving their belongings to the fields behind the synagogues. The fire spread everywhere and peasants took advantage, stealing what they could. Since I was young I was tasked with keeping an eye on our belongings behind the synagogue. I remember that I stood guard for a very long while. Night fell and Yehoshua Zandman appeared. He yelled, “Who has a match to light a cigarette?” I handed him the match and when he saw there were jelly jars near me he ripped the paper off one of them, stuck in three fingers, and began licking them. He was probably very hungry, but it was very funny to me, and I remember it to this day.

During the Polish period, I worked in forestry. After I married I ran a turpentine business, meaning we extracted turpentine from burned pine roots, [in a place] which we called the smolarnye[3], and shipped it abroad. My factory was on Graf Omiastovsky's manor, 15 kilometers from Divenishok. The factory was quite profitable and I made a nice living.

 

After WWII Erupted

In 1939 the Polish military was defeated in a matter of days. Poland was divided between Russia and Germany, and the new border went through the Bialystok area. We were in Russian territory.

Immediately after the Russians entered, all Positronic (Polish Police) documents were burned publicly in the market. Afterwards, Russian airplanes appeared and dropped olatkess (leaflets) in broken Belarussian which said, “Because the Polish government escaped, citizens have requested that we liberate you.” We began grasping the meaning of a communist regime; the lie was self–evident. The Polish government escaped because of the assault by the Red Army, nobody invited the Russians, the Polish cried a lot when they first saw the Russian tanks. The Russians simply invited themselves.

The Jews greeted the Russians with a mixed feeling of happiness and sadness. The words of Rabbi Tayts expressed their feelings, “It is better the Russians are here. We might have to give up some of the religion (frumkeit) but we will stay alive.”

Immediately following the Russian invasion, the factory was confiscated and turned into a cooperative. Scarcity increased in town. The gentiles would gather on market day and curse the Communist regime but could not do more. Arrests increased and the regime instilled fear in the populace.

While I worked at the Klevits I developed a bond with the Graf Omiastovsky's forest manager, the nadlishnitsi Casimir Stotsky.[4] The fate of whether I would work at the Klevits factory was then in his hands since the Graf respected his opinion. One day after the Russian invasion, a peasant brought me a note from Stotsky which said, “Local peasants broke into my house, robbed everything I owned, stripped my wife and I naked and expelled us from the house. Please, Tsvi, save us!” I immediately sent a coach and clothes and brought him and his wife to my house.

Casimir Stotsky and his wife stayed in my house a month before the NKVD suddenly appeared and arrested him. A few days later his wife was arrested too. Years after, I learned a leshnik (forest guard) named Bogoshovitsh informed the Russians Stotsky was hiding in my house, as revenge for once having fired him.

A month after the incident, as I walked with my son Khetzel to bring the horse to pasture, a few policemen appeared and asked me to accompany them to the Gmine (city council building). When I asked what the concern was, I was calmed and told it was a minor issue. I had a bad feeling, and I asked for permission to go tell my wife, but the policemen refused, saying I would return home soon anyway.

I was brought to the gmine where I was thrown into a truck and covered in canvas. I was brought to a ranch named Vonzdova, a 12km distance from Divenishok, and placed in a restroom where I spent the night. That was my first lesson in Communism.

When I did not return home my wife was shocked. For two whole days she ran around, for two days, before Krizovski, who was then the mayor, told her I was arrested and was at the Oshmene jail. My brother immediately traveled to Oshmene to rescue me, but his efforts were unsuccessful.

The next day I was interrogated. At first the interrogators were courteous. I was asked why I sheltered in my home the USSR hater, the nadlishnitsi Casimir Stotsky. I told them the whole truth, I said he was my friend and that my income depended on him, I told of how the peasants tormented him and chased them to the forest naked. I tried to explain that my actions were not political in anyway, but purely humanitarian. My arguments were ignored, and the interrogators became increasingly hostile. One of the interrogators shouted at me, “Do not hide behind the veil of a humanist! You are a Polish fascist, just like your friend Stotsky!” I realized that evil had befallen me and I was done for. After two days of interrogation and torture I was transported to the Oshmene jail.

 

In Oshmene Jail

In Oshmene I was placed in a dark and crowded cellar. People stepped on one another's feet and there was no air to breath due to the overcrowding. There was no room to sit, and of course, no space to lie down; at night we dozed off while standing. People fainted and fell, but the Russians did not notice those minor details and treated us like animals. The food we received was a slice of black bread and balanda (bland vegetable soup). After a few interrogation sessions I was transferred to the jail next door. There I found many acquaintances, including Shatsigloski who owned a flour mill in Mogovian,[5] the mayor under the Polish Zvedsky, the Dach brothers, Rabbi Sorotzkin and his son Elkhanan who wanted to cross the border to Lithuania and were captured when they left Ben Zion Schneider's house, Vasilsky the teacher's father, and other notable Poles from Divenishok and the surrounding area.

Conditions in that prison were intolerable. Overcrowding was unbearable. The rooms were crowded beyond capacity in three story cells. The passageway was also full of mattresses. There was barely any air to breath and we almost suffocated. He who found a space by the window was happy. I stayed in that place for three months, and that whole time we did not change underwear. We suffered much from lice and inadequate food which included bland soup in which lone groats periodically floated.

 

On the Road to the Labor Camp

After a three month stay in Oshmene prison we were taken to the train station in Sol and transferred by train to Minsk. We stayed in the Minsk prison for a week. There I met many people from Vilne, including the notable lawyer Tchernikov who always appeared at trials as a defense attorney in favor of the communists, Count Diamont who was Countess Milvsky's attorney, and others.

In that jail, we were finally permitted to bathe. We received old and patched clothes, and after we dressed we were taken out to the streets of Minsk, so its residents could see us. Here, a court notified me I was sentenced to ten years imprisonment and would be serving my term in the infamous Pitma Labor Camp.

The road to Pitma was accompanied by endless suffering and torture. We were transferred by train for two months. We waited at stations for long periods of time and lived on very harsh food and sanitary conditions. Dry toast and meager small fish were our food, and our suffering was unbearable, but there was no one to complain to. I prayed that God give me the strength to withstand the suffering so I can return home to my wife and children. After an exhausting journey, tired, hungry, and full of lice we reached Ural, a city that was used as the center for transferring prisoners from all over Russia. At Ural prisoners were divided into the various labor camps in Siberia.

 

Pitma Labor Camp

After a few days journey, we were brought to the infamous Pitma camp, which contained 300,000 prisoners. The conditions in the camp were very harsh, the regime strict and severe, and the work was backbreaking labor: tree–clearing in the bitter cold which at times reached forty degrees below zero. Thousands of prisoners died in the thick woods and the sound of their final shouting echoed into the distance.

To this day I cannot understand how I, the weak Jew who never did physical labor, broken and depressed, managed to clear centuries–old trees.

To my astonishment, I met at Pitma camp the nadlishnitsi Casimir Stotsky, who I was jailed for. His situation was monumentally better than mine since he worked in his profession as a forest ranger and I had to work as a low–level laborer.

Conditions in the camp were especially worsened after the war between Russia and Germany began. The small food portions were reduced to miniscule, and if not for my wife's help, who sent food packages and clothes, I would have died. I remained at Pitma camp until 1943, thanks to the pardon which all Poles received after Russia recognized the exiled Polish government.

From the moment we received the pardon we refused to work, despite warnings by our superiors. We heaved a sigh of relief and once more began to feel like humans, since up to that moment we had been humiliated, tormented, and tortured like slaves, at times even worse than that.

From Pitma we were transferred to the halfway camp Yardova with our clothes and other belongings and then were sent to Dsalel–Abad in Uzbekistan. When we arrived there we were told we would be accepted to General Andreas' army and were guided to Kramina.

The officials at the Polish headquarters in Kramina immediately accepted the Poles who had been with me in Pitma, but I was refused admission due to my Jewish origin. I feared I would miss that opportunity to leave Russia, in addition to the famine which Uzbekistan suffered at the time; many Polish refugees died of starvation and lack of shelter. In the Polish army, on the other hand, the soldiers received ample food and sugar packets, cocoa, and American cigarettes which were then priceless.

Fortunately I encountered a Polish officer at headquarters, a longtime acquaintance who owned an estate near Divenishok, and I was accepted to the Andreas army on his recommendation.

We stayed a year in Uzbekistan and finally the happy moment we were waiting for [arrived]: we received an order to get in cars and cross the border to Iran. From there we were transferred to Iraq. In 1943[6] part of the Andreas army arrived in Gedara. I was very excited and happy I had finally managed to reach Israel and I asked for permission to meet my relative Natan Kaplan. The meeting was very exciting and I decided to desert the Andreas army.

After a while, we were transferred with the army to Gaza. A group of 12 men decided then to desert the Polish army. One evening we took our guns and traveled to Tel Aviv. We hid for a while with Khayeh Garvy and then relocated to Ra'anana where we handed our guns to Hagana man Wasserman.

At that time, I learned of the tragedy: my wife Devorah of the Deltishki family and my three children Khetzel, Moshe, and Tanyeh were murdered at the Voronova ghetto.

Now, after many years of suffering, I am married, and my wife Yafa and I have three children, Uri, Ruti, and Nekhma.

 

About My Family

My father David Moshe Arye Leyb's was from a family that resided in Divenishok for many generations. He was a man of the people, kind and traditional. He was always alert to the suffering of others and he was generous towards the needy and suffering.

My mother, Tanyeh, was a native of Ilia but acclimated to our town very well. My mother was very energetic and ran the household wisely. Our home was open to guests who wanted a rest or a warm meal.

My mother was a woman of valor, her hands full of work, and alert. She was full of energy and she always smiled. Many of the area nobles came to dine and rest with us. My mother also gave charity anonymously, and like all mothers was devoted to the family and religiously observant. My parents had five children: the eldest Zalmen Leyb, me Tsvi, and three sisters. The oldest sister married in Olshan to a son of the Voronovsky family. All but her daughter Feige perished in the Holocaust.

The second sister, Rivke, married Velvl Schwarts, a kind Jewish man, a Torah scholar, and an admirer of scholars.

The third sister Tzileh married Hershl Arkin in the town of Subotnik and perished with her husband and three children.

 

Editor's Footnotes
  1. The text refers to Kalmen Shepsel Krizovski. Return
  2. A system and network of vocational training schools. Return
  3. A tar factory. Return
  4. The word ‘nadlishnitsi’ is spelled as follows in the text: nun–aleph–daled–lamed–yud–shin–nun–yud–tsadek–yud. The meaning of this word is not yet known. Return
  5. This place has not yet been found on a map. Return
  6. The year given in the text cannot be correct. Return

 

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