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[Page 521]

They Fell on Guard Duty


Devorah Baran
(God will avenge her blood)

Translated by Ala Gamulka




She was born in Kovel. Her father was a manufacturer, a religious Zionist. She was educated in the Tarbut school and later in ORT. She joined “Hechalutz Hatzair” during her school days. In 1938 she went to preparatory kibbutz Borochov in Lodz. She worked there as a seamstress. When it was closed during the war, she joined a group of six members who stayed in Lodz to watch over the embers of the kibbutz and the movement. Central office moved her to Warsaw and later to the agricultural wing of Hechalutz in Tcherniakov. She was one of the most responsible members when it came to her work. She joined a fighting unit of Dror and battled in the “central ghetto” as part of the Hanoch Gutman unit. She died at the age of 23, her gun in her hand, in the battle of the ghetto. This was on May 3, 1943.

(From the book “Destruction and Uprising of the Jews of Warsaw” by Melech Neistat)



There were several fighting units in the bunker. One day, it was suddenly attacked by the Germans. They knew that, inside, there were Jewish fighters and they shouted from the outside:” Get out!” The situation was dire. However, Hanoch Gutman did not lose his cool. He ordered Devorah Baran, a loyal member of our movement, to go our first. He thought the Germans would not shoot her. The Germans were overcome by her beauty and her daring. In one moment, she killed some of them with a grenade that she threw at them. The others ran away, scared. On the next day, the Germans returned and attacked the bunker. They lobbed grenades and ten members, Devorah Baran among them, lost their lives.

(Related by Tzvia Lobatkin in the book “Story of the Ghetto Fighters”, page 191)

[Page 522]

Luba Lederhandler
(God will avenge her blood)

Translated by Ala Gamulka




Luba was the daughter of Tuvia Lederhandler. She graduated, with excellence, from high school and was preparing to make Aliyah.

When the Germans conquered Kovel, Luba stayed in town. The Jews were imprisoned in two ghettos, but she managed to escape and hid in the forests around Kovel, with the partisans. She pretended to be a Christian and served as liaison between various Ukrainian units.

She managed to evade the murderers until July 1944. She lived, as a Christian, with her three friends on Monopoliova Street. She continued her partisan activities and was in touch with the Jewish ones in the Kovel forests.

Two weeks before the Russians conquered the town, Kovel was bombed by them. The house Luba and her friends lived in was heavily blasted and they had to leave.

A vicious Pole recognized her as a Jew and denounced her to the Gestapo. The four young women were shot right then and there and their bodies were thrown into the Turia River.

Luba was 23 when she was murdered.

(From Pinkas Kovel, published in Argentina)

[Page 523]

Leah Fish
(God will avenge her blood)

Translated by Ala Gamulka




She was born in Chorochov, Volyn in 1918. Her parents were religious Zionists. She was an excellent student in a Polish school and had private tutors for Hebrew. She joined Hechalutz Hatzair and organized its branch in her hometown. At the age of 18 she went to the preparatory kibbutz in Grochov. She became a counselor. Several times she decided to make Aliyah, but she listened to her friends at work and in the movement and stayed. In addition to her work in the movement, she also studied on her own.

When the Germans came, she was sent to Vilna and from there to Kovno to work in the Lithuanian branch. She dutifully fulfilled her mission. She even learned new languages. There was still a chance to make Aliyah, but the central office again stopped her. In spite of her deep longing for Eretz Israel, she obeyed. She wandered in the different villages and brought the idea of Eretz Israel to the many young people.

When Lithuania was annexed by Russia, the Zionist movement had to go underground. She traveled to Moscow and went to various offices to obtain a permit for Aliyah. She returned to Vilna and her last letter from there was received in Eretz Israel. Reading her letter, it was obvious that she was heartbroken about not being able to make Aliyah. When it was decided to move sections of the central office to Volyn, she moved from Vilna to Lvov and then to Kovel. The news about her great work was only known in a roundabout way. Her name was mentioned constantly among the active members. Volyn Province was her last place to be active. Members who visited Kovel after it was liberated from the Nazis, found in the synagogue, four names etched in the wall. They knew they were going to die. She was among them.

(from the book “Destruction and Uprising of the Jews of Warsaw” by Melech Neistat)

[Page 524]

Sheindel Schwartz
(God will avenge her blood)

Translated by Ala Gamulka




She was born in Kovel to wealthy, Zionist, progressive parents. They made sure she had a proper general as well as Zionist–Hebrew, education. She studied in Tarbut High School in Kovel and was one of the most capable students. She was active in several clubs in school. This was a quiet, friendly, modest, pleasant person, helpful to weaker students without standing out. She was well–liked by students and teachers and was modestly dressed– almost as if neglected. She was pretty, aristocratic and attracted others with her happy look, her black eyes and her blond curls. She never put on airs. Her face reflected softness, goodness and intelligence. In 1937, when in the seventh grade of the high school, she joined Hechalutz Hatzair in town. There was much opposition to this at home, as her family wanted her to join one of the movements within the school. Hechalutz Hatzair had members who were mostly from poor and working families. She was one of the organizers of Hechalutz Hatzair in her class and she dedicated herself with enthusiasm to all activities. She studied, organized trips, counseled and taught others. Her whole life was intertwined in these activities. When she joined the movement, she wanted to leave school and to go to a preparatory kibbutz. Her parents were against it and she completed her studies with excellent results. On June 11, 1938, two days after her final exams, she went, happily, to the preparatory kibbutz in Grochov. She had difficulty adjusting, from a physical point of view, to the new, communal life. She overcame it and worked in the chicken coop. she spoke lovingly about her chicks. She also participated in the world conference of Hechalutz that took three months. When the Grochov kibbutz received a group of refugees from Germany, she was chosen as one of the counselors. She did her job faithfully and well. She used to read, voraciously, the newspapers from Eretz Israel and listened intently to the emissaries. Her time in the preparatory kibbutz was spent happily and in anticipation of her Aliyah.

On September 1, 1939, Grochov was bombed by the Germans. Still, out of 250 members, not one wanted to leave. They continued their work in the barn, the coop and the fields. Quiet, gentle Sheindel knew how to encourage and strengthen others. She was involved in everything and with everyone. When the central office planned to leave and members were to follow together, she was among those in charge and to organize.

[Page 525]

The walk to Kovel took ten days, on roads bombed by the Germans. They walked at night and hid in the daytime in the forests. They were hungry, their shoes wore out and their feet were injured. She withstood all difficulties and propped others. It was only when she was alone that she burst out crying. These trying days strengthened her and made her into an adult.

In Kovel, the movement had to decide on its next steps during the Holocaust. Emissaries were sent to the Romanian border and members returned to Warsaw to prepare for the underground movement. Groups went to Vilna in Lithuania, hoping to make Aliyah from there. She was the liaison and had to bring messages from the movement, in these dark days, to all parts of Volyn and Bialystok. This was a difficult and dangerous job. To make things easier she registered as a student in the university in Lvov. She had to reach distant villages, to find members of the movement and to encourage them, to organize them and to lead them. She was only able to meet with other members every three months.

In the beginning of 1941, there was a seminar for the active members of the Lithuanian branch, in underground Vilna. She had to sneak through the border and she arrived to give a report on her experiences in the underground in Poland. The people she addressed were preparing to do these activities in Lithuania. In Vilna she said good–bye to members making Aliyah. She was not bitter about not being one of them. “There is no other way”– she explained to the members. She had to be part of organizing the movement in the underground. She was only worried that her friends in Eretz Israel would forget her. During these activities, she was arrested by the Soviets and spent time in prison, in Lutsk, with Yitzhak (Odok) Golobner.

She escaped when Lutsk was conquered by the Germans and she continued her activities in the underground, even during the Nazi regime. It was difficult to maintain contact with other parts– rural Poland. Not much was heard about her activities, but it as known that she had a difficult task. She continued to go from place to place, to bring material. In a Hechalutz letter from Poland of 15 November, 1943, her name is listed among the organizers who fell in Volyn. She was 23 years old.

Members who visited Kovel after it was liberated from the Germans, found, in the synagogue, partially left standing, writings on the wall. Among them, in Hebrew, in a special frame: “Good–bye from the members of Hechalutz who are going to die. We remained loyal to our ideals to the end. Avenge our spilled blood!” Signed– four names: Sheindel Schwartz from Kovel, Leah Fish from Chorochov, Rachel Fogelman from Lachovitz and David Eisenberg from Warsaw.

(From the book “Destruction and Uprising of the Jews of Warsaw by Melech Neistat)

[Page 526]

Yechiel Sheinbaum
(God will avenge his blood)

Translated by Ala Gamulka




Yechiel Sheinbaum was born on December 2, 1914 in Odessa. When he was two years old, his parents, father Pinchas and mother Zlata moved from Odessa to Kovel. There were three children: he, Yechiel, and two sisters. One of them, Orah, is in Kibbutz Yagur, Israel. Yechiel studied in the Tarbut high school and joined Dror (Freedom) in Kovel. He was 16 when he ran away to the preparatory kibbutz in Klosov. His poor physical condition could not withstand the difficult work and he became ill. His father and sister came to take him back home, but he stubbornly refused to leave.

When his time came to serve in the army, he studied diligently the theory of defence and battle and reached the rank of officer. From the army he returned to kibbutz Kovel and he traveled throughout Volyn and Congress Poland. He was organizing branches of Dror in different places. In 1938, he participated in the conference on unification of Dror and Hechalutz Hatzair. In 1938–39 Yechiel lived in Kibbutz Borochov in Lodz. He tried to make Aliyah many times. However, the central committee did not allow it as he was needed for the organizing and educating of the movement. In 1939 Yechiel smuggled members from Poland, conquered by the Nazis, through Volyn, to Vilna. Together with other members he established the Dror branch and dedicated himself, with love, to the education of the children. In 1940, when most of the members of Shachriah Kibbutz were leaving Vilna, the central office decided that Yechiel must stay in place in order to help the remaining members in their work. Then the war broke out. Yechiel continues meeting the members in the Shachriah farm in Volakompa and the Zakrat forest.

[Page 527]

He began to think about becoming a partisan. On September 6, 1941, when we were all exiled into the ghetto, Yechiel said to me: “We must leave today for the forest”.

However, I asked him to join the other Jews going to the ghetto, since we did not have any weapons and we had no contact with the partisans.

We were chased away from Vivolska Street, our home, through Novgorod Street. Suddenly, Yechiel began to sing a pioneering song. Everyone looked at him and think him to be mad… He started to speak to the walking Jews by saying: “Jews, look, understand what is happening to us! Don't believe in miracles!”

11August 1943. After the Kovno–Punary massacre, Yechiel worked feverishly. He convened pioneers to him and he organized them. He was like a commander of a battalion.

On September 1, 1943, at 5:00 am, the Germans suddenly attacked the ghetto. Yechiel was called to action. He gave orders with the quickness and experience of an outstanding military man. He organized groups and brought weapons from cellars and attics. The ghetto was dying. Many Jews, in family groups, were walking to the gate of the ghetto, to the Germans. Others went into hiding.

Yechiel saw all of this. His wife, kneeling beside him related: “He was feverish, his hands were trembling– still he did not give the order to shoot. He was enraged and spoke about Eretz Israel: “If we get out alive today, we will leave tonight for the forest. We cannot wait any longer”.

The Germans completed their task and ran to the street. When Yechiel saw them, he began to fire. He stood erect near the window and was shooting like a madman. The Germans returned automatic fire. A bullet hit Yechiel's neck and stream of blood hit his wife. She had just enough time to close his eyes and to escape. The Germans again attacked the fort, now missing its leader, ransacked the house and blew it up.

Later, when it was silent, when 6 000 of our Jews were gone, we found Yechiel's body. He was lying on a smoking pile of stones. His body was intact, but his yellow face showed the excitement and revenge.

We laid him in a casket and we carried him to the gate. The remainder of the fighters and the entire ghetto paid him their last respects.

(From the book “Jerusalem of Lithuania in Rebelion and during the Holocaust” by Dr. M.Dvorzhetsky, pages 394–398)


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