« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 610]

A Miraculous Rescue

Batia Kremer (Ashdod)

Translated by Janie Respitz

Donated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

My earliest memories go back to my childhood when they built the “Tarbut” school which I attended. Later I went to the Polish school until 1939 when the Russian military freed our region. That is when they began evening courses and we all began to study the Russian language.

In 1939 my mother died leaving 5 small children at home. The only luck we had was that our father became everything to our family, father and mother. This is how we were raised until the outbreak of the war between Russian and Germany. That is when more troubles began and in 1941 when we learned the Germans were already at the gates of Dolhinov, many of the youth began thinking of leaving Dolhinov. We were unfortunately had the “honour” to receive these murderers in Dolhinov and in less than one week Yosef Katz was chastised by the Germans. He was the chairman of worker's cooperative of cutters and stitchers and Khaim Presman and Lodzhe Eidelman. They took them to the road to Vileyke and shot them there.

Our father Rafael Susansky was hidden and I would go every evening with my brother to visit him. The police would to come to us every night saying they were looking for moonshine.

Later, the “Judenrat” was organized and they would busy themselves with all the Jews of the town. The “Judenrat” sent my brother Yosef Susansky to work as an interpreter for the Germans who worked on the telephones. He worked there during the first slaughter and on that day he went

[Page 611]

a German to the town of Dolhinov. When they arrived in town they approached a Christian woman and asked what was going on in town. She told them the situation was not good. They were slaughtering and burning Jews. Yosef went to the new marketplace and found, near the synagogue, Moishe Perlmutter wrapped in his prayer shawl, shot to death. The German immediately turned his horse around and said to Yosef: “take my military coat and take a side road to Zar. I'll go to town and check the situation”. The German tried to find someone from our family at the market near the church. Nobody was there. When the German returned to Zar he told Yosef there was no one from our family.

Together with my brother Khanokh and my sister Simaleh, I hid in Bandarenko's hayloft. That same day Yosef came to us and told us that none of our family were at the market place because my father Rafael and my brother were hiding between two walls. Hiding with us in the hayloft were Khane Bronshteyn and her brother Yosef Kuznitz, now in America.

After the first slaughter the entire family of my aunt Mikhla and her children survived in hiding at our house. After 2–3 days I returned to town. When we got to the hospital we met Dr. Kotler. He sent a peasant to town to check the situation. The Peasant returned to say all was quiet. We went. When we arrived we were overtaken by a shudder. We did not find one living person. It appeared everyone had been shot. We were the only ones alive. We saw: bloodied streets, destroyed homes and more.when we left Zar for Dolhinov my brother Khanokh remained with Yosef. When I went with my sister toward

[Page 612]

our house, we were dressed like to Christian girls and when we entered our house we found our father and our brother Yidl. We went to our aunt Mikhla and found the whole family. However many relatives were killed in this first slaughter.

Right after the first slaughter they began to arrange a ghetto on Slobadke Street. The German that went with Yosef to Dolhinov said a few days later: “Yosef, they will eventually make all the Jews kaput. Take my revolver and go quickly to the partisans”. And that is what happened. He took the revolver and headed toward the partisans in the forest.

Christians saved us by taking us out of the ghetto to Karolin where there was Niezabitovksy's palace and remained there until the Germans learned there were Jews there. Miraculously we received news that the Germans were coming to look for us and we managed to escape to the forest. When night fell we crossed the river and later joined partisans in the forest where we found my brother Yosef, Avreml Friedman and others.


[Page 613]

My Immigration

Leybe Dimentshteyn of blessed memory

Translated by Janie Respitz

Donated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

 

(Fragments)

The following pages from the deceased Leyb Dimentshteyn, of blessed memory, were taken from a long exhaustive letter – written to relatives and people from Dolhinov in Israel – back in October 1947. Everything was still fresh in his memory; hearts were bleeding from suffering.

 
The editors
(23 –10–1947 D.P Camp Hertzig Germany)

 

Troubles Chasing Troubles

The 22nd 1941 the Nazi storm began. With shattering power the German armies attacked Soviet Russia from all sides. By the time we arrived at a decision by the third or fourth day the German units had already captured our town.

There was nowhere to hide – not in our houses or other hiding places.

Three days after they entered our town, 36 Jews were arrested – young and old – and were confined to a certain shop at the marketplace, accused of being Communists. If the Communists would not surrender all the prisoners would be shot. The families and relatives of those arrested tried everything to free them. They tried everything they could.

[Page 614]

They even went to the Holy Ark in the synagogue, visited graves at the cemetery and finally asked the Polish priest to intervene – a very good, liberal man and a friend of the Jews.

At the time there were German officers in the priest's house. His intervention actually helped; the officers received 4 bicycles, 2 pairs of boots and 3 watches. The prisoners were freed – after they were arrested they were beaten without stop for 24 hours. By 10 o'clock at night these unhappy people went home.

Two days later, a penal – group from the S.S arrived and settled in the “Tarbut School”. They received a list from the town council of all alleged members of the Communist Party and they arrested Efraim Kirzhner, Golda the seamstress' husband, a well–known Christian from Minsk Street and a Christian from the village Yashkubke and a Jew from Pleshtzenitz. They were all brought to the barn of the priest from Proslavne[church], given shovels and ordered to dig their own graves. Immediately after they were shot. The deputy police brought 10 Jews to cover the grave. The murderers also forbid the removal of the dead from that place. Fear and terror increased from day to day. It was now clear to all what the Nazi killers were capable of.

Soon after, 10 – 12 German military telephone operators settled in town. Jews were ordered to obey their every command; clean their things and shine their boots, clean their quarters inside and out, as well as their cars. They had to provide wood for heating, clean the snow from the sidewalk and bring clothes for their “whores” that they partied with.

A few days later the deputy police brought a group of Jews to an area at the town's Jewish cemetery where there was already previously prepared posts with barbed wire to surround the area. No one could

[Page 615]

conceive what his meant. Someone suggested they were building a penal – camp for Jews and Communists from occupied Russian territories; someone else asserted it was a place to keep cattle. In the end it was for prisoners of war from the Red Army, brought there starving, sick and wounded under the open sky. Jews were ordered to dig a long canal to the river in order to draw water to drink. The POWs drank the water from the canal and also did their “business” there.

A German unit of soldiers and officers came to town one night looking for and requisitioning boots. Town farmers pointed out two Jews who were leather merchants before 1939 – Ayze (Yehoshua) Katz and Khaim – Yitzkhak Presman, may his death be revenged. Unfortunately neither had leather or boots to give them; as a punishment they were thrown in with the prisoners of war. In the morning, together with all the POWs from the penal – camp they were sent toward Kurenitz. On the road they were shot with a crowd of prisoners. In truth, the members of the “Judenrat” tried to free them but unfortunately without results. Their families put their lives in danger in order to bring their bodies to town for a Jewish burial.

A few days later, in the middle of the night new victims were arrested. Germans – led by deputy police according to a list – arrested Lodzhe Eidelman, Khane – Raykhe Yafe and another woman (I believe it was Tzipe – Malka's daughter) and two Christians. All 5 were confined to the store belonging to Polie Sosensky for 24 hours without food or drink. Once again the “Judenrat” tried to free them by various means of intervention and valuables. Even though the murderers promised to free everyone by 10 o'clock at night, they did not keep their promise. At the fore mentioned hour they placed them all in a truck, drove them to the outskirts of town and shot them.

[Page 616]

Troubles and edicts continued daily; nobody knew what tomorrow would bring. And then came a new edict – a new “position” for “women” – for “whores” who “devote their time and gentleness” to the Germans. Within three hours they had to supply modern shoes, ladies' coats and silk stockings as well as gold watches and rings. The situation was miserable; it was impossible to satisfy all the German “appetites”, and the desires of the local police. Whatever anyone had, had been stolen. And so with great effort and pleading the “Judenrat” managed to get the order postponed for 4 days.

The autumn months of 1941 passed; December also passed and January 1942 began. There were heavy snows and it was very cold; in the houses and outside. Every day 300 Jews or more were sent to work; cleaning snow from the roads – God forbid the Nazi trucks would get stuck in the snow! Jews often had to pull trucks out of the snowbank during a snow storm. 85 Jews had to walk on foot 64 kilometres – to pull out trucks on the road to Vitebsk – near the town of Lepl.

A short time passed, a week maybe more; yet another horrible order, a catastrophe! The police commander came to the “Judenrat” with a command form the S.S in Vileyke; they had to send 40 young people to Vileyke to work. The “Judenrat” held a meeting to decide who to send, and decided to provide them with warm clothing and valuables; perhaps they could bribe their way out of being shot. Everyone without exception sent them off with a prayer. Many shed a tear and sighed a painful sigh. Four days later Ozer – Ber Alperovitch went as a messenger from the “Judenrat” to Vileyke to bring food for everyone. This exceptional

[Page 617]

warm and loving man took this mission upon himself not to spare any effort and save the 40 young children. He told everyone to prepare useful valuables to distribute to the children. When he arrived in Vileyke he could not even approach the children. They were working with the S.S and Gestapo. He gave away the food and was not discouraged by the hardships. The document from the German Commandant helped a bit; he began to negotiate to free the kids.

At night he was back in Dolhinov and early the next morning returned to Vileyke – taking with him prepared merchandise. To the great joy of their families, he returned home with the children. They were all beaten and wounded – some on he head, others hands and feet, but alive. The joy in town was interrupted by a tragic incident: only 39 returned. One of the children – the son of Shprayregn – was killed by the S.S commandant together with his mother. Only 7 of them survived the war. The others were killed with the rest of the community.

Beginning of March 1942 another group on Nazis arrived with an order to the “Judenrat”. The Jews must place all of their fine furniture in the marketplace. At the same time they had to bring 500 eggs and 50 chickens. In the event this will not be delivered, there will be severe consequences. What was to be done? Jews brought out a bit of furniture and ran to the Polish priest. He helped provide the eggs because by now the Jews had none. The murderers left this time too.

 

Horrific “Actions” of Mass – Murder

Two days before Pesach, the 28th of March 1942 we lived through the first mass slaughter perpetrated by the Nazis, police and collaborators from the Polish and White Russian Christian towns and villages.

[Page 618]

At 6:00 in the morning the murderers began non–stop shooting. Soon the crying and screaming was heard as well as abuses from the killers. Hearing the artillery, my wife Feygl and I went up to the attic of our house to hide. We lay there all day and night until 7:00 in the morning. The murderers carried out their horrific acts from 6:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night; even though we heard it was quiet, we remained in the attic. We heard everything and saw a bit through the slats. Collaborating murderous peasants opened our door a few times looking for Jews. They took a few chickens and left believing there was no one there.

The next morning I heard someone drawing water from the well outside across from us. Looking out through a slat I saw Sonia, the wife of Gurevitch the tailor. She was one of the chosen specialists. We came down from the attic and heard from her the murderers had already left. Suddenly the commandant of the police appeared before our eyes and shouted at me: “What? You are still live? How? I saw you among the Jews which were shot”. I quickly understood he mistook me for my 2 brothers in the group: my brothers were gone!

A few minutes later he made me pick up 8 corpses which had been shot in the street, not far from our house. It made me very sad that I could not grasp who these victims were. I ran toward the synagogue, corpses were lying around. I didn't know what was happening to me…my heart was jumping out of my skin. A frightened cry startled me: “Uncle, uncle! I have been left alone!” my niece Taybl, my brother Yermiya's daughter called out trembling…she told me about the frightening terrors. How they took away my two brothers Yermiya, her father and Yakov with their wives and children, my sister Soreh with her daughter.

[Page 619]

She told me how they dragged Yosef – Khaim the butcher in his prayer shawl and phylacteries and others as well. Tell me dear G–d! When and where did I do something bad? What was my crime that I was punished to bury all my loved ones? However, as long as one in alive one must do all that is possible to protect human Jewish honour which the murderers trampled on with every step. We took tools to dig up the frozen ground to bury our martyrs and G–d himself was silent.

All that happened to us was not enough: the pain and suffering did not leave us alone. Soon came the order for a ghetto. All the Jews must be concentrated in a locked, separated, enclosed ghetto, which Jews had to fence in themselves. From my house – where the “Judenrat” meeting took place – a delegation was sent to the commandant of the police in order to convince them to stop the beatings…we offered him boots, good suits and other things. But this did not help; the commandant refused to intervene saying he already had enough things. He showed them a room filled with stolen boots which were removed from those killed in the attack and stolen from Jewish homes after they were taken to the ghetto. They were commanded to leave everything behind. The beatings did not stop; al the Jews went into their homes in the ghetto behind the fence.

The earlier experiences convinced everyone that the murderous “game” with our life was ending. Looming death could arrive at any second. A member of the “Judenrat” Bere Bruk knew the S.S and Latvians arrived in town and were planning a new slaughter. Jews gathered at the “Judenrat” to kiss and say goodbye, crying bitterly over their dark fate and knowing, they would probably never see each other again. People ran to their homes to hide in prepared spots – before the last hour.

A bitter nervous night passed filled with worries.

[Page 620]

When it became light, the German executioner with his helpers and followers began their mass– attack to kill…From our hiding place in a small hole – overcrowded with 18 people – we heard and saw everything taking place. We heard the shouts and cries of the dragging out of Yosef – Khaim the tinsmith's family, the ritual slaughterer's family and others, under the unending fire of guns, machine guns and canons. Together with me in the hole were my wife Feygl and our daughter Sonka, Kapl's Raizl and her three daughters, my sister's son and his wife, Taybele, the only survivor from my brother Yermiya's family – Yermiyahu Sverdlin and a woman from Pleshtzenitz. The air underground in the hole was dense and suffocating. It was difficult for everyone to breathe. He lay practically naked sweating profusely. Writing about all of this today to you, it is impossible to understand how we did not suffocate.

We lay there in fear for our lives for three full days. On the second night around 1:00 things suddenly quietened down a little. The shooting, abuses, supplications and cries for help stopped. The exhausted murderers paused to rest…Raizl's children asked if we could open the door to catch a bit of fresh air. After two days in the hole we opened…My wife Feygl and Raizl's daughters went out. They found bread and a bit of water and brought it back to our hole. Since it was completely quiet they went up to the attic to stretch out their bones and rest a little.

Five o'clock in the morning things got bad again; the murderers renewed their horrific work. Young Christian boys from towns and villages began uncovering hiding places and discovering Jews. Shooting resumed as well as moans and cries of the unfortunate. The boys also went up to our attic, dragged out the women and handed them over to the S.S who shot them on the spot. We continued to lie in the dense, suffocating hole paralyzed by fear of death.

[Page 621]

Another day and night passes, from the 1st – 2nd of May 1942. On the fourth day Henke, Hirshl Kapl's entered our house and called for me: “Leybe. Leybe! Your beloved wife Feygl is lying shot at the entrance of the house!” I recognized her voice, opened the small door and crawled out…I fell…not sure if I fainted…I was not used to standing on my feet, everything around me was spinning…everyone as well. We stretched out on the bare ground and lay there for a short while until it became possible to breathe normally and enjoy the fresh air.

Waking up and opening my eyes I saw the dreadful and cruel massacre and its victims. In pools of dried blood lay Feygl, my devoted wife and Raizl's two daughters. A little further lay my nephew. In the street near my neighbours' Nokhem – Moishe and Shaul Khaya – Heshke's – dead – small and big, Jewish men and women and also children. Hours and days pass; we dig graves for our loved ones under silent skies…World! Where are you?! This is how the few remaining from our community buried the victims of the horrific slaughter which raged for three days.

For the next few days and nights we did not return to our house. We gathered at Hirshl Kapl's place together with them. Sitting one evening drowning in our troubles we heard two shots. We thought this was our end…we heard complaints and concerns from Niamke Rier and Abba Itche's (Gitlitz) who spoke to the shooter, a German. He categorically ordered them to surrender 3 Jews, two men and one woman. He had to shoot them with his own hands…he saw them going with the Gestapo pointing out Jewish hiding places.

(From German) “Yes! It is true I am a German” he said,

[Page 622]

“I have a father and mother like all people…I am a human being! I have not had any rest from this for five days…”

The “Judenrat” promised to bring him the three aforementioned the next morning.

In order to avoid trouble they really brought the three the next morning to the “Judenrat”. But they did not hand them over to the German. They were confined to a cellar. Understandably they were accused and probably received a few blows…but not what they deserved…restraining them from talking about it.

For a long time the story with the conscientious German was told among the few surviving Jews. Even in the forests Jews who escaped from the surrounding areas talk about it.

The following pages of the letter describe the wanderings of Leybe and his family through villages – from one farmer to the next and through forests – after they escaped from the ghetto and town. Two months alone in the forest with two girls. Meeting partisans and receiving help, later a detailed account of his march over the front lines deep into Russia with all the experiences until arriving in Novosibirsk.

 

Returning to the Free World

By the summer months of June and July 1944 all the Russian territories occupied by the Germans since 1939 were freed including our region and our hometown Dolhinov. There was a longing to return to our destroyed home. Together with a few other wandering Jews, I made an effort to go home.

Suddenly I received a telegram from Minsk. My son Zelig informed me he was alive and well in Minsk. Tears poured from my eyes, I cried from immense joy…My son Zelig is alive! I remembered the conditions in which I had to leave him sick and alone in the forest,

[Page 623]

near a partisan base. I needed nothing except to return quickly to our region to see him. A long delay occurred in travelling with an echelon to Minsk as there were battles against bands of murderers. It took us three weeks to reach Minsk – through villages and destroyed Jewish cities and towns. Whereever you looked you saw signs of destruction, blood and fire. From Minsk, with great effort, we travelled on foot and by wagon until we arrived in Dolhinov. Standing with individual Jews, lonely branches from our community tree, we looked at our home. My Zelig was already with me. Everything around us was empty and destroyed. Who can describe what I saw? Everything disturbed and burned. Three houses stood on Borisov Street. The Germans demolished them. All around were graves of Jews and suspicious Christians. Everywhere, human bones were wandering in the sand. Cut down trees and desecrated tombstones at the cemetery…everything is orphaned like the mass grave of all the martyrs!

Once again I opened my eyes…it was clear: there was nothing to build on! There was no life on the graves! Again the ground was burning under our feet. We had to leave. A group of around two quorums of Jews left. I went with my people to Poland. We remained in Lodz for 6 weeks, crossed the border illegally and made it to Berlin. There we began a new, normal life. We were treated humanely; we ate like people and we breathed freely without fear. And in reality? We waited. After a short while UNRRA brought us to Herzig. Our future? Hard to answer. The Land of Israel where we wanted to go was locked. England won't let us in. we awaited an affidavit from my relatives in America. It was our fate after so many rivers of blood and fire…we are going to America with the hope that the Land of Israel will become a Jewish state. I should be fated to come there and leave my bones in the established state!


[Page 630]

Wandering – In Dolhinov Far From Home

Lipe Miller of blessed memory

Translated by Janie Respitz

Donated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

(Fragments)

The author of the following fragments is a refugee (escaped from Zhiradov region in Central Poland) back in 1939. He arrived in our region and worked for the Soviets as a forest inspector near the village of Repishtzi (about 25 kilometres from Myadel). After various transformations and wandering, many problems and much suffering, after the death of his wife (shot by the Germans on a hill in Myadel) he arrived in Dolhinov. He survived the slaughter and left for the forest – first with the partisans and later in the regular service of the Red Army – until the end of the war.

We express our gratitude to the “Organization of the Wounded in the War with the Nazis” for providing us with the following fragments.

 
The editors of this book

Running From the Chase to Remain Alive

Nazi “Amusements and Playthings”

In the nearby town of Brusi I knew a teacher who was a Pole, under the Soviet regime of 1939 we had a mutual respect. His house was stood outside the village. My wife Esther, may she rest in peace, told me to go to him saying “perhaps he is not a Hiterlite” as all the other local Poles. Maybe we can finally understand what was going on around us. Maybe we should run away?! Surely the teacher would tell us the truth” my wife said – “Surely we will know if what the peasants are saying is true and the Germans are annihilating Jews…”

[Page 631]

One afternoon before the sun set I went self assured to the teacher's house. Through the window I noticed: the teacher was alone at home. Slowly, I opened the door and asked to enter. “Come in!” he replied. With my heart beating loudly, I went in. We went straight to a smaller room. Soon his wife came in. She covered the windows and spoke abruptly: “I am more frightened by the people of Brusi than the Germans”. The teacher told me, there are placards in the village, we must capture every Jew that appears and hand them over to the police for arrest…and he continued:

“This is what I hear twice a week in Myadel, Jews are completely debauched! They must not even show themselves in the streets – only for work for the Germans. Even looking out of the windows is forbidden…anyone caught looking out the window should be beaten. The beatings are done by the gendarmes as well as by many other wild animals. I would have never believed it. It is written on every Jewish house in large letters “Notice – it is forbidden to enter the house…” in the middle of telling this “happy story” two armed Germans entered with knocking and with saying hello and said with gall: “we want to drink tea”.

“It will take a half hour” said the teacher's wife. “It doesn't matter…we'll wait” they replied.

Willing or unwilling we obey the two Germans; the teacher took me by the hand: it is too dangerous, you have to go…a few metres from the house stood a wagon with two horses. From far we heard squeals, moans and cries. As we approached we saw a full wagon, with bloodied Jewish children thrown in live calves. Blood ran through the slats of wood like slaughtered calves. The Germans explained: “Their parents

[Page 632]

were taken away by train. The crying children are being taken to Vileyke – to the gendarmerie…” the children don't stop crying. They are murderously beaten with a whip by killers who are shouting: Calm down you cursed ones!

I said to the teacher: “I am in no position to go back into the house with them[the Germans]. I could not sit with them at the same table!” I returned home; I did not tell my wife what I saw with my own eyes.

The next morning the teacher and his wife came to us in Repishtzi. They told my wife everything. “When innocent children – said the teacher's wife – are considered criminals, the Germans will pay dearly for this! They will eventually be punished! We will never forget they did this and they will never be forgiven”!

The teacher and his wife left. My wife lay on the bed all day and cried…it was impossible to calm her down.

 

A Fallen Leaf – Chased by the Wind

Today is Sunday, the 3rd of December 1941.It is very early: yesterday Khana the miller's[daughter] left for Myadel – newly orphaned – after a long argument I had with her. She did not want to go without my orphaned Menakhem, without his mother.

Khayla[male], my Belorussian friend – took Menakhem at night to him, he was afraid to take me and I understood…on the way he told me how in the morning he met the whole procession…the miller – my wife, the miller and his wife – all three had their hands chained to each other like hardened criminals. They had to remove their rings from their fingers. My wife was ordered to remove her pelt[fur]. The officer took it away, certainly to send to his “whore” in Germany…they shot them on the spot and took them away. Khayla[?] and Menakhem went into the house. He felt badly that his father must

[Page 633]

remain outside in the cold…he kept his suffering to himself. I went deeper into the forest worrying what I would do if they[partisans] would not take Menakhem?!

When it became light I went to the discussed place; Menakhem was already waiting for me saying that Khayla brought him and would soon return from church. Not long after Khana arrived with a letter and said: Menakhem would rather go with her [even before I opened the letter.] This is what they wrote to me:

Dear Miller! We will take good care of your son. The Germans left a written command with the civil police to capture you alive at any price! Leave this place as soon as possible. Your photograph is hanging in the police station. Send the children away. Leave! It is dangerous for you and for all of us! God should protect you and continue to help you!

It was not easy for me to part with my son and Khanaleh the miller's. Menakhem controlled himself admirably and did not cry. I watched them for a long time until they disappeared down the mountain. Until I could no longer see them. How long would it be before I would see Menakhem again? Will I ever see the brave Khanaleh again?! Thanks to her stubbornness, they were also looking after my son. I went back deeper into the forest. I could only leave late at night. I was familiar with the forest and every road from the town. I could go either through Myadel or over the frozen Lake Miastra.

I thought about it for a long time: finally I decided to go through Myadel and avoid as many villages as possible. I had to protect myself more from two legged human – animals than from four legged ones…it was said and done: I was already on the road…getting closer to town. The freezing cold night crept into all my limbs; I was hungry, I wanted to eat. My loaf of bread was completely frozen,

[Page 634]

I could not take a bite. I put a piece near my chest to warm it up a bit, maybe it would soften. It was pitch black and suddenly, a snow storm.

I quickly crossed the bridge and went out on the Myadel – Vilayka highway. There are thick forest on both sides. I entered the forest; all my steps are covered with falling snow. I'm feeling a bit safer. I lay down near a tree, rolled and smoked a cigarette – I rested and thought: tomorrow, before sunset, I will be in the Viltchi forest. I will remain in the forest until nightfall. I will go to a village Pamarovshtzine to a forest ranger I knew – Danilo. I had enough bread and tobacco for a few more days…what will happen next? Late at night I went to Danilo; everyone in the village was asleep. Quietly and softly I knocked on the door. Danilo let me in through, what he called a “forest window”. His wife got up; she cooked a soup and I warmed up. After, we both went out through the window to the bath near the forest. Danilo told me he was also afraid; there were many Germans and police looming around. They were looking for two former Soviet militia who were hiding. He told me to be careful. The police and Gendarmes in Vileyka were also looking for me,

Danilo went home warning me not to believe anyone and not to let anyone approach me – just to be certain. He will try to help me as much as he could; he promised he will come to me two to three times a week deep in the forest. I went deeper into the forest; meanwhile two nights and a day passes. It became intolerably cold; I'm hungry and can't eat; my mustache is frozen and I can't open my mouth. I made a fire to warm up and defrost my mustache.

Five – six days passed since he left; today is the 6th of February 1942. He will be back around the 15th.

[Page 635]

I have already changed my location twice. I do this every few days to stay safe. The cold does not cease. It is horribly cold! I begin to freeze, my fingers are numb! I rub them hard with snow. On my feet I'm wearing shoes from hemp wrapped in rags. I really feel the frost. My beard and mustache are frozen together. Besides the cold I feel the little animals – the lice are eating my body – I haven't change my underwear in three months…Day and night I hope it will soon be summer. Every day there is less bread from the 15 pieces Danilo gave me, which I put in a pot in the snow to thaw.

Days and nights pass; I wait impatiently to hear from Danilo and I am confused about the time he should come…am I losing my memory? Time and events get mixed up…the Germans shot my wife. When and where did this happen? I don't know, I don't remember…

Another freezing night; cold and frozen I sit by the fire and wait. Suddenly, I see Danilo from afar.

“I've been looking for you all night” said Danilo.

“You don't ask me anything?” he continues. “Your son is well, he is together with a certain Segalovitch. It is quiet in Dolhinov…once in a while they catch a Jew who did not go to work – they beat him – the police are well paid… I didn't tell your Misha everything about you. I told Segalovitch the truth. When Misha heard he began to cry”. He also told me I needed to go further away. Things were becoming more dangerous. Germans were already at the first stretches of the forest. Someone told them I was wandering around the forests. “Listen to me, Miller!” he said “Segalovitch told me I should absolutely convince you to go back to Dolhinov. There are still Jews there,

[Page 636]

who have escaped from Russian towns where the Germans annihilated practically everyone. Individuals who were saved came to Dolhinov…”

He left.

Day was dawning; I was once again alone with my thoughts: “There's nothing to think about, I must leave…there is no reason to remain here…it's the beginning of March and I still have two more difficult winter months. I will not last in the forest. I want to be close to my orphaned Menakhem…” this is how I struggled all day with my thoughts and over thinking. “I'm going! To Dolhinov. Danilo! I want to help bring about the downfall of Hitler and his collaborators!” I took the pack of things he gave me. I dress like a villager… “I'll protect myself at every step!” I now look completely different: a thick villager's shirt, a jacket tied with a rope; new hemp shoes and my feet well wrapped in new rags; an old fur cap and a trimmed short beard with a straight mustache…ready for the road…

We parted. He was already heading home. It was already daylight. I stayed in t he forest until nightfall.

 

A Life Installment in Dolhinov

A “Guest” in Town

Finally I arrived in Dolhinov. It was a new place to live for this wanderer. For how long? Who knows…this is how I finally made it to my new place. Danilo's cousin who knew me from Repishtzi took me in the middle of the night to a Jewish home in Krivitch. He did not go in with me: he just opened the door and said: “this is your person. Make sure he gets to Dolhinov”. A quorum of Jews

[Page 637]

sat in the house, gathered together to pray. They gathered every day at dawn before going to work.

Those gathered to pray trembled with fear; the Germans will soon come to take them to work. If they see me, a stranger, everyone's life will be in danger…I felt they did not want me. There is the highway to Dolhinov. The road is straight”. One of them added: “you won't get lost”. “Go in good health and don't bring us misfortune” others added. “It is still very dark, I can't see the road…just show me where Sholem Polisky lives” I asked. Nobody answered and no one was willing to go with me. The fear was great…having no other choice I left alone to find my friend. Sholem did not recognize me; when I told him I was Lipe Miller from Repshtzi, he cried bitterly. His wife also cried looking out the window – to make sure no one was coming. They were ashamed to show me how scared they were, but I saw their glances and faces. His wife offered me a hot cup of tea. I was very cold. I wanted to drink and warm up a bit, but their painfully frightened faces stopped me.

I did not drink and left their house in the direction they showed me. Day was dawning; I crossed the bridge. I left with the highway. There was a great animated movement of walkers, sleighs – all heading to the market in Dolhinov –as if there was no war. Only I was walking sad and wrapped up in my thoughts. I tried not to be seen…wandering on! Why and where to? Did I do something bad to someone? No, I never hurt anyone. I am merely a Jew, escaping from Hitler's horrific Amalek!

“Sit down Uncle!” – some one tore me from my drilling thoughts; a peasant smiled at me warmly and invited me to ride on his wagon. I was not so happy
[Page 638]

with the peasant's kindness; I feared his questions about where I was from and why am a travelling in these parts? He could probably sense that I am a Jew…the biggest crime! Yet I couldn't refuse the ride. Of course the questions started and I tried calmly and coldly to answer. My village clothing helped hide my true identity. When we arrived in town, I thanked him, got down from the wagon and disappeared.

Due to the Star of David sewn on his clothing I knew it was a Jew approaching. He appeared to be very hungry – risking a walk on the street – I thought – what a great danger walking outside on a market day. I went up to him:

“I am a Jew. Could you please tell me where Segalovitch lives?”

“I don't know…leave me alone”, was his answer and he ran away from me. Another Jew came by.

“Excuse me!” – I stopped him – “my little son Menakhem is with Segalovitch, I just came from the forest; I beg you, please show me where Yakov lives?”

“Now I know you are really a Jew” – he jumped at me – “I know your boy”. All three of us stood in a corner behind the house. “Go into the synagogue meanwhile, I will soon come to you…you have nothing to fear…there are only Jews there – escapees from towns across the border. That is where the murderers carried out their business”. I went into the synagogue.

He soon came and showed me where to go; he took a few steps and made me swear – in the event I meet a German or a policeman – I won't call him. We could both fall into thishorrible situation – not long passed

[Page 639]

and we both went peacefully to Segalovitch. We went into the house and only Liba – Khaya was there – Yakov's mother ( I did not know her previously).

“Where is Menakhem?” I asked with anxiously – “ I am his father” – I said as I trembled. “Don't be afraid!” was the answer – “he will be here soon. Sit for a while. He went to say the memorial prayer fro his mother”. A few minutes later, Menakhem came in with his prayer book in his hand. When he saw me, he started to cry. Everyone else cried too… outside neighbours told him “your father is here” and came in the house with him.

 

A Spoonful of “Living the Moment”

My first night in Dolhinov I slept at Segalovitch's. The following morning he sent me to the commission which looked after finding lodging for new arrivals – people running away from nearby Russian towns.

“Menakhem is staying with us” declared Yakov –“My mother wants Menakhem to absolutely, without fail, to say the mourner's prayer for his mother every day”. Yakov's wife gave me two yellow Star's of David to wear on my outer clothing, while shedding tears.
I said goodbye to everyone, including Menakhem and left to my assigned lodging – at the home of the widow Peshke Gintzburg and her 4 grown children. He house was comprised of a small room (an alcove) and a large room; an oven was standing between the rooms – but actually took up most of the small room. It warmed the big room as well, but most of the heat was in the alcove.

This woman did not stop complaining about our Jewish fate, maintaining many times that the Germans will certainly kill us all – some earlier some later…the severe punishment inflicted by God

[Page 640]

was already sealed. Even if someone could escape this fate – bribing with gold – he is only fooling himself…”Yes, you didn't freeze enough in the forest, you have to freeze at my place too…” she said to me.

This is how my first day passed in my “new apartment” – sitting around with everyone on the beds. Menakhem came to me for a “visit” and later went back. “You should at least be happy with the fact that your son is neither hungry nor cold” said the woman, “Nu, whoever can will try to live life as he did before the war”.

Dusk, the time between sunrise and sunset had passed. It was dark in the street. It was dark in the house. Evening hours all over were calm and quiet; everyone sitting on the beds chatting. I survived the day on my bread ration from the commission. I was ready for night. I stand beside the oven to warm up a little before I go to sleep. It is so cold outside that even the alcove is not warm enough…”it's extremely cold…can you hear the nails on the roof clattering? – asks the widow, the mother of the children, in a whisper.

We talk and talk and she talks the most. She tells mostly what's happening; 10 Germans are always in town – they are called telephonists. If you don't bother them they don't bother you. If they come across a Jew, they beat him. Meanwhile they have not entered our houses…everything they need they get through the “Judenrat” and sometimes with the help of the local civil police. The “Judenrat” always has to supply them – every request and demand. The town had to dress them from head to toe; even pelts, warm hats and boots had to be supplied, not only for them but also for their women, playmates – whores.

[Page 641]

Finally I entered the large room. My sleep bench moved as close to the oven as possible; my village clothing that Danilo gave me in the forest was under my head as a pillow. My body was half covered with a pelt – I put my feet up to the oven. This is how I slept in the cold room – dozing on and off – my first night in my new “apartment”.

Around 12:00 I went to eat lunch at the place assigned by the committee. I had to cross the entire market place. The mother, my landlady, gave me a lecture on how I should handle myself as I go; under no circumstances should I go on the sidewalk – and walk only on the pavement in the middle of the road. If I see a German I must remove my hat, bow down to the ground, then slowly get up and continue on my way. If a German calls me, I must not run away; I must get closer to him and stand straight until he tells me to go…

I arrived in peace without meeting a German. I actually ate a good lunch, but I won't go there. This is what I decided. I will be satisfied with the bread I receive from the committee. I told this also to my landlady. “When you pass the yard – you'll find the house of Mayzel the ritual slaughterer” she told me, “Jews gather every evening to pray – you should go there too. You'll hear all the news. Maybe they'll find another place for you to eat so you won't have to walk through the market. His son Elye is the chairman of the committee”.

“No and no!” was my answer. “I won't go anywhere to eat. I have enough bread. I won't look for any lunches. The first German to see me on the road will shoot me. I will not under any circumstances bow to him…I ask you, should I bow my head just for a good meal? Tell me please!” No answer. She remained silent.
[Page 642]

The same evening I went to the ritual slaughterer. I needed a change of atmosphere. Behind curtained windows about 20 Jews were gathered. Between the evening prayers they chatted about politics as in the old days – as if they had no other worries… the situation of the Jews and how we were facing grave danger – [was not even mentioned]…everything was “living the moment”, as the moments were flying by: they discussed “politics and strategy” – how far away were the Germans? “Soon they will take Moscow…” and other bits of plain silliness.

Before I left, the ritual slaughterer's wife asked if I would come back in the morning. I asked where her son was and she said he would come late. He must prepare bread for all the new arrivals. I could see him in the morning. Meanwhile from all those gathered no one showed any interest in me: not one asked where I came from. Really. I was not the only one in town. There were many Jews not from Dolhinov, but I hoped for something…I went back to the house, spent another night in the cold room – on the narrow bed. I slept worse the second night than the first…I went back to pray at the ritual slaughterer's; a few Jews were already there waiting to begin. “Not everyone can come in the morning” said Reb Sholem Mayzel – we have to go to work and arriving late endangers your life!” He handed me a prayer shawl and phylacteries and we began to pray. After the morning prayers the slaughterer's wife asked me to chop some wood. It was Friday, the Sabbath eve; she had to cook and bake Challas. She then invited me to eat. I chopped the wood and carried it into the house. The woman then gave me food. I tried to eat but couldn't…I told her I could not eat. “At least drink some coffee” she said offering me a glass of coffee, awaking her son Elye – she wanted him to get up. I drank and looked around; in the house and in the kitchen one can feel it was almost the Sabbath.

[Page 643]

My thoughts and memories were suddenly disturbed by Reb Sholem: “Please come in and help us welcome the Sabbath. I want you to eat the Sabbath meal with us”. I promised I would come and went home. “What do you have for the Sabbath?” I asked my hostess.

“So far I have nothing…” was the reply. “I still have to get bread from the committee”.

Through the window I hear a noise. “What's going on?” I asked frightened.

“Every time the Germans pass through everyone is afraid…who knows if this will be our final hour?” Was the answer.

“We never know why they are coming. This is what happens to us every day until we know what they want”.

 

The Illusory Carefreeness

Friday evening I went to them to greet the Sabbath. Jews were already gathered sitting and talking “politics”. No one mentioned what had happened that day in town.

The ritual slaughterer called everyone for prayers. He began to chant but you could barely hear his voice. Everyone tried to pray quietly. The prayers ended and people wished each other a good Sabbath! Everyone went home. Reb Sholem reminded me again not to leave. His son Elye asked me: “why did you not came to Goldshmid today to eat? You would have enjoyed a good lunch”. “Enjoy, not enjoy” – I said – I can't and don't want to bow down to Nazis walking down the street or receive a beating. Bread is enough for me…already 8 months I eat very little and I'm alive. The cold room where I sleep is worse than not having enough food. I still haven't warmed up from the forest…let this be the worst thing I must endure!...

[Page 644]

Reb Sholem gave me and Elye a sign to stop talking. Germans were standing outside the window – he pointed to them silently. Elya took the small lamp and put it under the table. “We may break the Sabbath if our lives are in danger. We may…” Whispered Elye's father. We sat down to eat. Quietly he recited the prayer over the wine; we only saw his lips moving. We ate quickly and again I was asked to remain. Reb Sholem took me to a corner where it was better to observe the Germans – to see if they were still hanging around. An hour passed without danger, and they left. We returned to the table and Sholem's wife served tea. “This should be our biggest torment…” she said – we can now talk quietly.

“I wanted to ask you something, Rebbe, could your town bribe the murderers? Didn't Jews in other towns pour out gold? And then they were killed and wiped out? Can Dolhinov be the exception?” I waited for an answer. The ritual slaughterer thought in silence…I could not be silent. I don't stop asking: “Is it not worthwhile looking for other ways out? Don't let yourself get in to illusory carefreeness. Think deeper, Reb Sholem! The danger is frighteningly close…it's a general responsibility, but also yours Rebbe! There are 2500 Jews in town…we have to save their lives! The forests which I and Segalovitch know can hide tens of thousands of Jews. We must flee, we must escape: with the gold we'll give the Germans we could buy food…”.
Reb Sholem remained silent: my questions remained unanswered: we made the blessings after the meal. We stood up. I went home. “Sleep” – I lay down a chased another cold sleepless night.

Saturday morning I went for morning prayers. Again we sat (behind covered windows like always), Jews gathered to pray and talk. I began to feel a bit more comfortable

[Page 645]

and joined the general conversation.

Finally they began to pray: we finished the morning prayers. The weekly portion of the bible was read and the closing prayer was recited. After prayers everyone left quietly. Only those who lived in the house remained. The ritual slaughterer invited me to the table. We sat around a beautifully set table and made a blessing on a bit of whisky. In the middle of the blessing Reb Sholem began to cry…he cannot observe the Sabbath as he used to! He began to lecture me: that I have very little faith…one must believe. Until now we fasted every Monday and Thursday. Now he wants to fast four days a week…”Rebbe!” – I said – “I'm sure that in all the surrounding towns people recited psalms and fasted”.

The following day, Sunday evening – after working on the Vitebsk highway with 50 other men I went to the ritual slaughterer to hear news and to find out if things were calm in town. The Harness maker, whose place at work and name I took, came over to me quickly and asked me how things worked out. After I replied he said quietly: “I heard everything you said yesterday. Everything is true, but is so scared to leave everything and run away. When we leave everything will be stolen. You Miller, don't have anything to lose”. “Yes!” I answered – “I have already lost all my belongings, but that doesn't upset me…goods – if we are alive – we can always replace. But when you losing lives is the saddest! They don't come back”.

They finished the evening prayers. I remained sitting with a few other Jews. Sholem's wife served us tea. During our conversation someone entered and said: The Judenrat heard through its messengers that all the surrounding towns including Vileyke, Ilya, Dunilovitch, Pastov, Kobilnik as well as Sventzian are almost gone…practically “Judenrein” cleansed of Jews…all those present were in shock and depressed. Sholem Maysel let out a deep sigh from his heart…everyone – like stone.

[Page 646]

Missed the Last Deadline

Menakhem Leaves

I came home and told the mother and daughter that the next morning I had to report to the Judenrat. I knew I could not get out of it; no going there – meant bringing on the police or a direct intervention from a German. The widow and her children did not stop asking: What does the Judenrat want from me? I don't know what to answer. I just tell them of my decision to return to the forest. Despite of the cold I must leave with my child; there is no reason to stay. I advise the widow and her children to run away. In the forest we will not die of hunger. There are friendly villages where Christians give bread and potatoes but don't like to talk a lot. Suddenly I was overcome with fear: perhaps there was an “informer” in the “Judenrat”? Perhaps something I said at Reb Sholem Maysel's house?...maybe I was called because of that!

After a sleepless night I ran in the morning through back streets to Segalovitch. It seems to me he should know more. His uncle is, in fact, is the chairman!... I enter the house and tell Yakov my fears. He advised me to go to the Judenrat and then come to him until evening. “Don't pay too much attention to this idle talk at Reb Sholem's.”

We ate breakfast. Yakov left to the Judenrat. Menakhem tells me not to go to work; he will come to me every day. He told me – when there is nobody at home – every night he hears banging and digging in front of the house. It seems they are preparing something…I went straight to the Judenrat- with a piece of bread in my pocket – ready for any event. They could send me somewhere for a few days or weeks or perhaps I will never return. On my way I meet a few others who were asked to come. I calmly told them; I understand this has something to do with the conversations at the ritual slaughterer's.

We all went to the chairman on our own.

[Page 647]

The first one came out without saying a word and ran away. I asked him: “What did he want?” – he quickly said: “You will soon find out…” the rest did the same thing. Finally I too went in. A German, may his name be blotted out, sat beside the chairman. After writing down my personal information the chairman ordered: tomorrow at 6 o'clock in the morning I must be ready to go to Vileyke.

Menakhem begged me, tried to persuade me not to report to the Judenrat and not to go to Vileyke…Yakov has been saying for a long time that the Judenrat has been sending young men and boys to Vileyke and no one ever returned. I listened to the warnings of my son and told him not to come to me in the morning. I will hide all day.

I did not sleep all night. I did not even doze. At the crack of dawn I quietly went and snuck into an abandoned stall. I remained there until evening and returned to the house. They told me a representative from the Judenrat with the police took people from their homes and sent them to Vileyke. I did not wait long and went to sleep… I could not fall asleep…I lay on the bench and thought…

Early in the morning Menakhem came running in. When he saw I was alive he cried tears of joy.

“Father!” – He said – “neighbours told me they found you and sent you away…today is Thursday. Maybe on Sunday we should leave for the forest? We cannot stay here. They are always capturing Jews and sending them to Vileyke and shooting them there…we must leave!” a neighbour suddenly entered crying. Two trucks with Germans were in the market place…Jews were running, not knowing where…”What does one do?” she asked wringing her hands.

“Menakhem, go eat. I will come to you a little later. Maybe we will wait until Sunday…today's German game does not please me…let's hope I'm mistaken!” Menakhem left. I went back into

[Page 648]

the house. The widow and her children did not stop asking: “what does the German activity today at the market mean?” I did not know what to answer, but told them there will not be a good outcome.

I went to Menakhem. On my way my decision to leave Dolhinov became stronger and validated.

“Menakhem, tomorrow morning you will go to Krivitch, to Sholem Paliskin who you know from Repishtzi. Don't go to pray tomorrow morning. Be ready, I will accompany you for a bit. I will come there on Sunday. It is better if you go alone. No one will ask where you are going. When I get to you, we will go directly to the forest.”
The same evening I went back to Sholem Mayzel's to hear if there was any news. Someone heard from a sure and competent source that there will be a prisoner camp in town; Germans will place patrols on the roofs. Another person said – they are going to build a fortress, Germans with binoculars are observing all around…I stand during the evening prayers and look around at all present; a horrible fear can be seen on all faces…however, nobody is in a hurry to do anything. People were leaving it up to “promises and assurances”.

At the home of the widow where I was staying, no one could sleep. We all sat around the oven in growing fear from minute to minute, until the morning. However the night passes calmly. By morning the cold let up a bit; it began to drip from the roofs. I went immediately to Menakhem. He was waiting for me, ready to leave. We headed toward the road to Krivitch. Showing him the route on the straight highway I told my son again what he should do when he arrives. My ten year old son was alone on the road. He took his first steps to escape the German murderers.

[Page 649]

I stood there watching until I could no longer see him. It was a Friday, the end of March 1942. On my way back I went to Segalovitch to hear if Yakov had something to tell me. He was not here. As earlier, Yakov's mother was there. When I asked where he was she told me he would be returning very late. I decided not to wait. As for my decision about Menakhem, she told me I did the right thing. “Who knows what will happen here, and what will happen to us?” She ended with a big sigh, almost crying. I went home. I didn't even have a chance to sit down on the bed in the alcove when I neighbour called me in – she wanted me to see something…from the window, I saw from afar, Yakov and Leyb with packs on their backs – in “full uniform”. The police commandant had a long whip in his hand, whip training and shouting: “Fall! Stand up!” He leads them to a puddle of water and again the same…they dunk in the water again and then were taken away. “Not good” I said. “Don't worry too much” – said the neighbour – “they will soon bribe them with gold…” “Bribe, no bribe, we have to get out of here. This should not happen! This can't and will not happen in the forest!” – was my response. The day passed. I returned to my house. The mother spread a tablecloth on the table and place her two brass candlesticks. “Are you going light candles now?” I asked interested – “I have never seen you light candles before”. She looked at me and answered: “I had no candles…but today I received a gift, two candles. I will light the candles…I won't hide them. During the week we can sit in the dark. It is dark anyways…” she lit the candles and covered her face with her hands, mumbling the blessing and suddenly she let out a moaning cry – she could not be quieted or soothed…

Slowly the mother calmed down; she asked for forgiveness,

[Page 650]

because of her I did not go to pray. I told her I did not have the desire to go… “if so, Miller, eat with us now” – she asked – “I received two breads for the Sabbath today. They gave me a bread for you as well”. I glanced at the table; there were two breads covered with a holy Sabbath cover. “Dear Miller”- the mother said “don't resent it if I ask you to make the blessing over the wine. It's been a long time since I've heard it…and maybe it will be last time…everything is possible with the Germans. If Yakov wanted to go, as people are saying, something is cooking. Obviously his uncle the chairman told him something. He would not tell you or me anything. Make the blessing on the wine now!” she said. “Since there is a second bread on the table, I will certainly make the blessing” I replied.

I made the blessing. Once again the mother and her daughters sat and cried. The older daughter gave everyone a plate. My eyes are wondering: what is this? The mother said she gave away a pillow and received a bag of buckwheat…this is what we will eat to honour the Sabbath. After supper I lay down on the bench in the large room. I could not sleep. I could not stop thinking…about Menakhem. About Bronke…where could she be?

Saturday morning I went to pray; Jews were already waiting to begin. It was quiet. No one wanted to talk. Nobody spoke about the looming danger…a Jew came in and told me last evening he received regards: Menakhem arrived safely in Krivitch. Elye Mayzel asked me: “You already sent your son away?” “Yes, after the search on Thursday I was afraid it is very close…” I answered – “I will also take him out of Krivitch…”

[Page 651]

A Large “Action” a Slaughter!

The Sabbath passed quietly and calmly. Saturday night also seemed calm…Sunday was also calm. As mentioned above, on Friday I already decided, and promised Menakhem that on Sunday I would leave Dolhinov and come to Krivitch. This did not happen; I had the idea to talk to the harness maker – perhaps he and his small family would leave town.

Once again, Sunday night I lay down on the hard bench in the large room, planning all my steps to leave Dolhinov, on my way back to the forest. I believed I would be able to realize my plan without any disturbances…

A loud bang on the door tore me from my bed. Our neighbour shouted in fear: 'Woe Jews! The slaughter has begun…” everyone was now awake and stood not knowing what to do. I dressed quickly in my Christian villager clothes and ran out shouting: Escape! You could already hear the screams in the street. I witnessed Jews being captured and dragged from their homes by the German two footed animals and their collaborators, Christians from the town. Men half dressed, women still in their night clothes and crying children were chased on to waiting trucks and driven away. Germans stood on the roofs with machine guns shooting anyone who tried to run. It was noisy. Cries for help and screams of pain were getting louder…but I continued walking toward the highway to Krivitch, trying to leave town. A few village peasants walked after me peacefully. They were escaping partisan attacks. They abandoned their horses and wagons on their way to Vitebsk. Dressed in my peasant clothes I looked like one of them.

[Page 652]

The peasants headed in another direction; I continued on my own on the road to Krivitch. It was impossible to go any further. There were bullets flying everywhere…over my head. My life was in danger! I began to head back… I had to return to town.

I went back as I had no choice. I had no idea how or where to hide…all around, even on the side streets were armed Christian civilians with knives, sticks and irons – making sure that no Jews would escape and be saved. I approach the market place…”Be careful, pay attention!” I hear someone call out to me. No one was standing beside me…I understood it was my internal alarm warning me: it was hard to discover who I was…screams of the unfortunate are resounding throughout the town. Jews are being dragged from their homes and hiding places…Christians are stealing and plundering. Many Jews are already at the market, there are Germans everywhere; trucks packed with Jews drive away and return empty to finish the job.

I ran away to the narrow, small streets. I looked into a few homes, Jews – no longer there…I was overcome by fear. I wanted to shout in this deserted place: empty houses that a few hours earlier were filled with people worried, but still hopeful, believing they would live to see better times…I hold back my cries. I stood beside a small shop. There was a ladder. I didn't stop to think. I climbed up to the attic and removed the ladder. I quickly buried myself in straw beside a wooden wall with large slats. I was able to see everything through the slats.

Among those waiting at the market was a woman holding a small child in here arms. A German grabbed the child her and threw it through a window into the empty covered market.

[Page 653]

The unfortunate woman sadly ran after the child. The German beat her with his gun… “My child, my baby!” – She screamed. Her screams drilled and perforated in my brain for a long time.

This is how the German wild beasts behaved that entire Monday. I lay deeply buried in the straw the entire time and watched everything…a frosty wind blew through the slats. I was overcome by the cold…

The Jews of Dolhinov waited for mercy which did not arrive. They delayed and postponed every deadline…this is how death and its last “convulsions of life” extinguished the old, deep-rooted Jewish community.

 

My Departure from Dolhinov and Krivitch

It was evening, then morning, it was Tuesday morning; I was still buried in the straw and afraid to come out. Suddenly I heard rustling in the shop under me and a voice calling out quietly in Yiddish. Through the slats I saw two Jewish boys and a few men come out from a corner. They gave everyone bread. “Give me a piece of bread too” I called from above. The boys told me the murderers were gone. But we still could not go out. They will find out about us.

From the other end of the attic I heard moaning… “Who's there?” I asked quietly. No one answered… “A Jew, for sure!” this I was sure of and went closer. I removed the straw covering and saw an old woman…she had no strength to speak. She pointed silently to the bread I was eating. She too wanted to eat. I shared my bread with her. Slowly she calmed down and came to herself. “I heard you come up

[Page 654]

and move the ladder” the woman said to me. “I did not have the strength to remove it. God sent you to me…if the murderers had seen the ladder they would have surely come up…” Meanwhile the boys returned and said we could now come out of hiding but we must be careful keep an eye on the street.

I came out of my hiding place in the attic and wanted to go to Segalovitch. In order to reach his house I had to pass through a few streets at a time when police were still wandering around. In order to avoid them I went into a Jewish house. A few Jews were sitting there including the chairman of the “Judenrat”. According to new orders, all who remained had to register anew with the “Judenrat”. When registering, everyone had to leave something for the police – like a nice piece of soap, cologne etc…no one could register without a “Gift”. If you did not register, you were sentenced to death…

The “Judenrat” also demanded a “Gift” from me. I had nothing…but my explanations did not help. I told them I had been a refugee since 1939 and had nothing. Even my announcement that by Sunday I will no longer be in town as I was leaving for the forest did not help. I remained unregistered…

I left the “Judenrat” disappointed and embittered, not knowing where to go and with whom to speak. There were new signs ordering all Jews in town to enter the newly built ghetto within 24 hours, which by Sunday would be totally enclosed. The next day, Wednesday morning, all the remaining Jews were ordered to bury the victims of the slaughter. The tragic, sad burial took 2 days, from darkness to darkness.

During these few days I went from house to house and asked peopled to come with me to the forest.

[Page 655]

I took the responsibility and made the commitment to find food there. I explained that the ghetto is just another step towards the full liquidation of the Jews of Dolhinov. I managed to organize a group of 16 boys during the Sabbath and decided – Sunday at 10:00 p.m we will leave for the forest. Included in our group was a father with his two grown children, a son and a daughter. We decided to meet at the bakery outside the ghetto. One person was only allowed to bake there. By Sunday the 16 boys regretted their decision with the excuse that is was still too cold in the forest…

Finally Sunday arrived. All my preparations to leave Dolhinov were done. I got a loaf of bread, cigarettes and matches. I was very happy that I was adhering to my decision, but I was impatient…the day seemed too long…it was already dark. I was already at the bakery, our decided meeting place. The baker hid me in his attic as the police were mulling around, and God forbid they see a stranger…he promised he would call for me at exactly 10:00. It didn't take long before the father and his children arrived at the bakery and hid. I told them the boys were not coming.

We wait impatiently for the coming hour. Finally the baker calls. It is already 10:00. Outside it is raining and snowing. It is very windy. Everyone has his sack with bread. We thanked the baker and said our goodbyes. The father, a pious Jew, said the prayer for the journey. We went out against the wind that whipped our faces with rain and snow. It was completely dark, we could not see a thing…we had to hold hands. Slowly, step by step we passed through the small back streets. It was very quiet. Even the dogs were silent due to the bad weather. We were now on the road to Krivitch. We had to cover 17 kilometres over night – before light.

[Page 656]

We rested for half an hour and continued on in the darkness of night. We had to arrive before dawn. We passed the last village were only one kilometre away. We were almost at the bridge over Servitch; we were very, very close. It was pitch black. Water and icicles are dripping on the bridge. We can't see anything and we don't even know if the bridge is guarded and free to cross…to the right of the bridge there was a hill. We went and deliberated. Should we cross in the dark and maybe meet a guard or wait to see what's happening on the bridge. The father's advice was to wait.

We came down from the hill and were back on the road. We did not see anyone on the bridge. “Everyone, quickly together!” said the father. We crossed the bridge quickly. Suddenly – as if from underground a Christian with a loud voice shouted: “Jewish partisans! Catch them!”. We ran faster and entered a Jewish house. The Christian chasing us was already in the yard running around like a mad man. He wanted to catch us. The Jew in the house asked: “What do you want? You are bringing tragedy to us! If they capture you here they'll kill all of us”. We left the house and went into a cellar. Young Christian boys noticed us from the bakery across the way and locked us in to the cellar. From all around we heard them shouting “police!”. There was nothing left to think about; we ripped of the straw roof and ran. Each in another direction. I ran into a bathroom and threw my hat off. I went from there into the Krivitch market place.

The Jews of Krivitch had heard what happened in Dolhinov and also knew of our escape. At the market I met my friend Sholem Paliskin with a few boys. He motioned to me that I should quickly go into his house. Soon I lay hiding

[Page 657]

under a bed in his house and waited. Menakhem woke up, saw me under the bed and began to cry. “Don't cry Menakhem” – said Paliskin's wife- “from now on you will be with your father”. He calmed down and Sholem came in from the street.

My thoughts were racing. I knew the gentle, energetic boys from Krivitch as well as the Paliskin family would not rest until they could help us. “Of course the police are well payed…if they would have seriously searched, they would have found us. This will perhaps make the rest of our journey easier”. I can't relax. I could not forget for a minute the heavy burden of worry and responsibility with regard to the Paliskin family. Their fear because of us caused me physical pain. “Because of me, God forbid, an entire family could be killed!”.

His gentle wife sat on the floor beside the bed where I was hiding. She read my thoughts and comforted me. She invited me to the table. “It is after all Pesach in the Jewish world! And we live however…” Due to fear I did not want to go to the table. “I'll eat under the bed…it is not possible to sit at a table with curtains and in Krivitch, I know, windows can't be covered…” they moved the table to the bed. Meaning, we should eat together…that's how we ate. The food was mixed with tears, Menakhem could not eat, he is surprised…two boys came and called me from under the bed. They told me the father and his children were being looked after. As soon as it gets dark, they will wait for me at the last house – on Myadel Street on the right side.

Sholem added a few words and advised, that when it gets dark, me and Menakhem should go out and wait in a ruined house, which is separated from the rest. We must leave Krivitch late at night… this is what was planned,

[Page 658]

the three others – the father and his two children. Meanwhile time flew by. It was soon night but it was not yet dark. We were waiting impatiently for darkness! “It was the appropriated hour!” – said Sholem looking outside to check if anyone was there. It was quiet all around. It was completely dark. We said goodbye. His wife kissed Menakhem with tears pouring down her face. We set out on our way.

We found the ruins and sat with our legs crossed in a corner. We will wait until flames from all around will be extinguished. That would be the sign that everyone was asleep, even the police. “Have we been sitting for long?” asked Menakhem. “In the forest and everywhere we go, Menakhem, I will always call you Misha” – was my reply.

I was once again in the cold, dark outdoors. It was raining hard; step by step we passed the houses. We already crossed most of the big street…suddenly a cry: “Stop, stop!” as well as a few shots from a gun. “I was not afraid!” I took Menakhem by the hand and took wider, faster steps. The shouts and shots are far behind us. No one is chasing us. It is quiet. At the end of the street was a small forest. We wait there. I leave Misha waiting and go back to the house to the three that were supposed to be waiting for us. I whistled three times – no one came out. I waited a little longer…I can't wait any longer…I quickly returned to Misha. “They were frightened by the shooting and ran away” – said Misha – “we will certainly meet them on the road. They have nowhere else to run”.

We continued on; we went through the large thick forests that stretches long and far…Svatke forests, Pushcho Vilaysko – villages such as Ulsevitze, Pomarutch, Brusi and Uzla as well as Repishtzi. I felt at home in this region. All the roads and paths were familiar. We walk quickly. The rain is falling harder. A Flood! We sat down under a tree so the rain would not beat our faces…

[Page 659]

We no longer had to fear the German and his followers. Slowly day began to dawn. We walk on. We are soaked from head to foot. It is dripping from us like from a roof…it is simply hard to walk…we are now not far from a farm house. “We can warm up there a bit” – said Menakhem – “we can dry off and maybe have some warm soup. Poor White Russians live there; good people…they will not do anything bad to us”. After a short time: “Father, we must find a gun…we will also be partisans”…and we finally made it to the first farmhouse in the forest.

A few weeks and months passed. The sad news reached us in the forest: Jewish Dolhinov as well as Krivitch were no longer. I found a gun…me and my eleven year old son Misha are now partisans…I go on missions; I carry out “economic payments” as well as military duties. A fighter, a partisan! I am helping in Hitler's defeat! It is now time for revenge! For my loving dear Esther! For Khanaleh, for Khaneleh's parents, for Myadel! For Dolhinov and Krivitch! The tenth generation should not forget –Revenge!

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


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


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

  Daŭhinava, Belarus     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Binny Lewis
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 16 Aug 2019 by MGH