by Yakov Druck
Translated by Roslyn Sherman Greenberg
Dedicated to the memory of our friend who died young, our friend and savior, whom we thank that we remain among the living.
Every Jew who experienced the Nazi Hell can tell about his dreadful experiences. These are events that torment us until this day and that are so weird that they seem unbelievable even to us.
When these memories dominate my mind I try, as a countermeasure, to call up memories from that tragic time that would stimulate and strengthen our mental power to go on and survive. I want to write about several of these episodes.
Every day brought terrible news about fresh arrests and murders. People left their houses and no one knew what happened to them. The camp seemed hopeless. One day the Gestapo announced : All Jews between the ages of 16 and 60 must report to the jail near the station and take with them a blanket, a spoon and other small items. Those who don't register will receive the death sentence.
Hearing the horrible news and being afraid of the word jail, we decided to leave Lida. My wife and I and our four-year-old son came to Deveneshuk in one piece where I had worked as a manager-bookkeeper in the Folks Bank. Having a large acquaintanceship both among the Jewish population and also among the Christians from the elite of the city, we successfully integrated ourselves. I got a job in Gemine and life under the German boot went on.
All Jews from Deveneshuk were deported to Voronovo among them, my family and I. We were all put into forced labor and we had to make peace with our fate. Life in Voronovo was not so good. There were S.S. in the shtetl and others, who made life bitter.
May 8, 1942
The shtetl was surrounded by a chain of Germans and armed Poles. Jews mustn't go to work. The panic among the Jews was great. No one knew what would happen. In the evening we learned that there was a massacre in Lida, and more than 6,000 Jews were killed. We didn't want to believe it. Everyone asked why. The Judenrat assured us that it was a lie. Late at night there was shooting. We were scared but we didn't know the cause. At the break of day we saw Jews who had been shot in the fields. Among them was my friend Niane Gradshentchik. They had tried to cross the living chain and escape to the woods. Jews in the shtetl went around prostrate, worried and hopeless.
May 11, 1942
Soon in the morning we heard a hue and cry. S.S. and Zondercommandos drove Jews from their houses. Everyone had to gather on the marketplace. My wife and I, carrying our young son, started off in the direction of the marketplace. There we found ourselves with hundreds of Jews surrounded by S.S. We understood that this game was for the devil. From all sides unlucky Jews came. Those who couldn't come to the marketplace were shot. The high in-laws of our misfortune arrived Windish and Werner. They considered the Jews and gave commands.
The selection began. They drove the Jews in the direction of the highway to Lida. People said goodbye to each other. The two rabbis from Voronovo said the confession of sins before death. By chance, or a miracle, we were sent to the left (Hermanish Street) and thus remained alive. My wife's mother, brothers and sister and close family were killed. They sent us to the Lida Ghetto, provided us with a place to sleep and a place to work and thus life continues.
Jews escaped to the woods. Jews tried to find arms. Without arms, no one had a chance to be accepted by the partisans.
We received greetings and also messengers from the woods. They told us that my friend Ruben Rubinstein was with the partisans. I was pulled into the stream. I wanted to remain alive, to fall in battle like a human being. By various means I succeeded to get a gun with bullets for myself, a pistol for my wife, and also a gun with bullets for my father-in-law and mother-in-law.
The Ghetto was in chaos. Every night groups of young people went out into the woods. Every day partisan messengers came to organize groups and disappear into the night. They didn´t want to take us even though we had two guns and a pistol. My pleas didn´t help although some of the messengers were my schoolmates and friends. Their argument was that children shouldn´t be in the wood. They told me, Leave your child in the ghetto and you can go with us.
We were desperate and worried. Ididn´t give up so quickly and continued my efforts. I remembered my friend, Rueben Rubinstein, who belonged to the partisan Atriad Iskra. Maybe he would help us. I decided to get in contact with Reuben. He knew from the partisan messengers about us, and also about the bargain they offered us and the price we would have to pay in order to extract ourselves from the ghetto. Unexpectedly, Reuben appeared in the ghetto. We met and our joy was indescribable. We cried from joy. I will never forget his first words, Joseph will not remain in the ghetto. We prepared to leave. After midnight we left the ghetto. Reuben , with a pistol in his hand, carried Joseph, and we followed him. We traveled the dreadful distance in peace. It was day already. We came to Dakodove. All around us are partisans, exactly as if there had never been a war. We awoke free and without yellow patches. We arrived in Bielsky´s atriad where together with a hundred men, women and children we lived through everything that Jews in the woods experienced.
July 14, 1944 we were liberated and came to Lida.
Reuben Rubinstein had taken revenge on the Nazis and fought like a hero in that battle. According to his count, he had torn up 17 railroads.
After the liberation we separated. Reuben and his wife went to Argentina, we to Canada. We remained in contact all the time until we received a dreadful message. Reuben died at the young age of 32, leaving behind a wife and two sons. His wife Feigele and the sons, Aaron and Boruch live now in Israel where they built their new home.
May these words of gratitude to you, Reuben, from the survivors, serve as an everlasting memorial to you.
by Miriam Yungman-Slonimtshik
Translated from the Yiddish bySara Mages
When I woke up in the morning of 17 September 1943, I felt that this was the end. Although I was not surprised this time like the previous times, because the atmosphere had been electrified for several weeks. Everyone whispered and talked about the approaching end, and yet did not act. At that time, there were several partisans in the ghetto who had recently returned from the forest to rest and recover in the ghetto. They were exhausted, shocked and very tired after the Germans' hunt. Among them was also Kuba Danziger, a friend of my sister Lizka. Kuba planned to take us to the forest, but the Germans preceded him. When we realized that we were surrounded, father ordered us to dress in our best clothes, and divided the money he had among us (each of us received 30 rubles in gold). We took a bucket with us for water, and no more. Father forbade us to take our belongings and ordered to leave everything at home.
We went outside, and suddenly we felt Lizka and Kuba's absence. After a while Lizka came back and told us that Kuba had found an excellent hiding place (malina), and there's also a place for us. She said that some people we know were already there, and begged, literally begged us to follow her. But father refused. He said that he would not hide, and what will happen to all the Jews, will happen to a Jewish rabbi. But he told Lizka to go and also advised me to do the same.
Mother refused to leave father and I refused to part from them, with the clear intention of influencing my father to do something to save himself, although I did not know at that moment what to offer him.
Lizka went down to the hideout, and I remained standing with my parents among a crowd people who were getting ready to set off. We were ready. The others were busy packing the various objects, and it seemed that all the people of the ghetto were about to change their place of residence and move to another street. We stood for a while quiet and still. Everyone was deep in thought, and suddenly the ghetto came alive. Several wagons loaded with bread entered the ghetto, and this was the significant proof that the Jews would be transferred to a labor camp near Lublin. And why do the Germans waste so much bread on people who are being led to destruction? The people were willingly caught up in every illusion.
After the distribution of the bread we were ordered to line up in rows, four people in each row, and in groups of about a hundred people, with two Germans guarding them in front and behind.
We left in the direction of the train station. Our group was tens of meters long. The bundles, and the babies, in people's hands slowed down the walking pace. The Germans were kind. They did not speed us up and didn't even shoot. The road continued for a long time. On the way I talked with my father. Suddenly I had the courage to talk to him openly. I told him that I wanted to settle the score with the Germans once and for all. I no longer want to depend on their graces. In my opinion, there is no chance, even the slightest, to stay alive and this is our last road. Father agreed with me. While walking, I asked him to remove my yellow patch. I took off the patch for both my father and mother.
When we passed the road that was strewn with rocks, and we rested there for a while, I told my father that maybe we should ask permission from one of the Germans to allow us to relieve ourselves, as others have done (each individually, of course). When everyone will continue to walk, we will remain among the rocks and each of us, as he sees fit, will try to reach our acquaintance that lives nearby. We will meet there and plan our onward escape together.
The plan seemed good to my father, but it was difficult to decide. By the time we finally decided to approach the German, we were ordered to move forward. One important opportunity was missed and I decided to act quickly. I told my father that I was leaving at the nearest turn, and I would wait for them at the Yudizak's house (our acquaintances). I also said that I am sure that they would not leave us, my sister Lizka and me, alone in this world full of evil. My intention was to force my father to act, and so I have done. On the road leading to Koshrova Street (the route of the first slaughter) I got out of the line, turned right and continued on my way. Nobody noticed me. Only my mother, who was walking with us the whole time, and probably didn't hear our conversation since she was immersed in her own thoughts, suddenly felt my absence. She saw me walking a few meters away from her and I heard her calling: Mirizka where are you going? to this day my father's answer echoes in my ears: be quiet, let her go. That was the farewell.
I arrived to acquaintances and did not meet them at home. I only found their nine-year-old son. He saw me several times at their house. He was very frightened, because through their window he saw the groups of Jews being led in the direction of the train. I told him that I would enter the barn and wait until his parents would arrive. I went in and burst into bitter weeping. A little while later (or maybe half an hour) his parents returned. There was no limit to their astonishment and fear. I immediately reassured them that I was leaving and I just wanted them to know, in case my parents will come, that I am at the Shmurgle family who lived about a kilometer away from them.
While the deportation was still in progress, and while the Jews were being led to the trains, I left at daylight on my way to the other acquaintances. My route was parallel to their route, but only at a distance of few tens meters. The Shmurgle's reaction was similar to the Yudizak's reaction.
I don't blame them. I understood their feeling. I told them the whole story from the beginning. They fed me, took me up to the attic where I stayed until twilight. Shortly before sunset I went down. They said that they were afraid to let me sleep there because of their proximity to the train station. They offered to show me the way to the nearest forest where I could sleep. The young daughter walked a few meters ahead of me and I followed her. Before I left I sold them five gold rubles for German money. It saved my life.
Before I reached the forest, a gentile stopped me and said: what are you doing here, Jew, your place is at the train station, they are waiting for you, the train hasn't moved yet, come with me, I will show you the way. I put my hand in my coat pocket, took out all the money that I had just received, and gave it to the gentile without saying a word. He took the money and left me alone.
The Shmurgle's daughter returned home. I continued on my way to the forest. There, I curled up under a bush and prayed for the night to come. It was a night of turmoil. That night the Germans conducted maneuvers nearby, apparently to frighten the Polish population, and fired constantly. I died several times that night. I was lonely, abandoned and very miserable. At dawn I got up and went back to the Shmurgle's house. They were sure that I was no longer alive. I gave them the name of the acquaintances I was thinking of going to, so that they will give them to my parents when they show up. This time I went to a friend of my sister Lizka. She was at work and her parents, who were old and religious, immediately brought me up to the attic. They said that I should wait for their daughter, Yanka, who worked as a secretary at the Polish police. I slept another night in this attic. The daughter provided me with a police form that I filled with my own hand. It confirmed that I had reported the loss of my identity card.
The next day I found myself again in the streets of Lida on the way to the Yakowitz family, my father's friends. They lived at the other end of the city. And here is another adventure. In the middle of the road I saw a young Polish woman stopping a German. She pointed at me and said to him: look, here is a Jewess without a patch. I felt that the German was following me for a long way. Suddenly I turned and no longer saw him. I started running, a run that could have betrayed me, and I arrived through the field to the Yakowitz's house. There, they were afraid to let me in. I waited for a while under the entrance porch steps. They brought me a sandwich and gave me the address of a farmer who, according to them, knew my parents. He lived about 12 kilometers from the city. They emphasized that if my parents escaped from the station, they would surely get there.
I set off with the note in my hand - the route and the farmer's name were written in a pencil. I couldn't risk asking. I had to reach and hit the target immediately. And indeed, I arrived safely. But I did not find my parents.
I was filled with a terrible envy for the serenity that surrounded these peasants. For them nothing has changed. They worked in the fields, raise children, and dealt with all the little things called life. All day I helped them at home, taking care of the children, and almost forgot my terrible disaster. But the cruel reality slapped my face when evening came.
Again, they explained to me that I could only sleep outside because the Germans were wandering in the area. They can be punished for hiding Jews, while outside they are not responsible for me. I slept under the open sky.
A torrential rain fell that night. I sought shelter under the barn's roof. All night I heard dogs barking and shouts in German. This night is also well etched in my memory.
The next day they allowed me to dry off. I left my wristwatch and my good coat with the farmers, and received in exchange an old torn sheepskin and a kind of a big handmade peasant kerchief, and returned to Lida as a peasant. And again, I started to wander around among the acquaintances. During the day I wandered, and at night I slept in the cellars of the destroyed houses. This is how I spent about ten days. Days full of adventures, but also accompanied by the hope of meeting my parents. This hope, as the days went by, dwindled and despair took its place.
One day, when I decided to give my acquaintances a little freedom from myself and remain in the cellar (it was the cellar of the Spozhnikov family, my former girlfriend), I saw at about 11 o'clock several goats grazing upstairs. I shrunk in the corner, as much as I could, to hide from the eyes of the shepherd. But I was not able to. He discovered me and started throwing stones inside accompanied by curses. Suddenly, I saw him running away shouting: police, police. Luckily, at the time there wasn't a single policeman around, and when I saw him walking away, I got out and continued wandering around the city. And suddenly the idea came to me to look for Lizka. I knew that Kuba had a friend who, as a Volksdeutsche, managed the Corona paint factory in Lida, and I went straight to him. He lived inside the factory. Luckily he opened the door and immediately recognized me. He didn't let me in but said that he knows that Kuba and Lizka were already in the forest. He also gave me the address of a Russian gentile woman (that, by the way, also knew my parents), who lived nearby. He said that she would put me in touch with the partisans.
I waited for market day, and then came one of the gentiles who, for a payment (again, five gold rubles), had to bring me to his village which was a partisans' village. I got into the wagon wrapped myself like a gentile, and we drove. But, in the middle of the road there was a problem: we met Germans had returned from an ambush they had set for the partisans. They stopped every cart and asked for identification cards. The farmer froze with fear, but said nothing. I got off the wagon and walked straight towards the approaching Germans. They stopped me and checked what I had in my basket. Only the toothbrush was suspicious in their eyes. One even wanted to take the boots off my feet, but the other said they were too small. For some reason they forgot to ask for my identity card and let me go. The farmer was waiting for me a few hundred meters away, and we continued on our way. In his house I met other people from Lida who wanted to join the partisans. There. I learned that Lizka was already on her way to the forest. She was robbed on the way to the partisans, her boots were taken off her feet, and she was left destitute.
I rested for a few days and decided to return to the city to stock up on supplies that are so needed in forest life such as: salt, coffee, saccharin, etc., and to return to the forest. And indeed, so I had done.
For a payment, the relative of the same farmer took me back to the city on market day. I managed to collect everything I needed. I went to the Guilo family, who at that time had a department store, and they provided me with everything in exchange for some of the things we left with them. However, when I came equipped with all the best to the place from which the same farmer was supposed to bring me back to the village, I realized that he had already left without waiting for me.
I was left stunned and desperate and started to walk in the direction of the village, a distance of more than 30 kilometer from the city. At some distance from the city I was overtaken by a cart in which was a farmer adorned with a white beard who had probably driven from the market. He offered me to join him and sit in his cart. I accepted his offer. After a few questions he recognized me, told me not to be afraid, he knew my parents well and also bought from them. He will bring me to his house where I will sleep, and the next day he will show me the way to Dokudovo, but I should not make a noise because even his wife and sons must not know that I am in the barn.
I slept together with the pigs in the barn. In the middle of the night he brought me milk and potatoes, and in the early hours of the morning, before dawn, he accompanied me a good part of the way, explained the route to me and returned to his home. In the afternoon I was in the village from which I had left two days ago. And then, together with other Jews who were in the village, we looked for a contact with the Bielski partisans in order to reach the Naliboki Forest.
by David Lipa Berkowitz
Translated from the Yiddish bySara Mages
In order to get out of Lida Ghetto and join the partisans, a young Polish man promised to get me a gun for twenty thousand rubles. I trusted him, gave him the requested amount, and in addition to that a leather coat and fabric for two suits. He took the money and the merchandise, tuned to the Germans and informed on me.
The Germans searched for me and miraculously I was saved from a certain death. I left my wife, Kuna Berkowitz, and my four year old daughter Miriam, and arrived in a horse-drawn sled to a farmer's house in a nearby village. I left the horse and the sled there and went to another farmer to hide in his house.
When the first farmer realized that I was not returning, he kicked my horse out of the stable so as not to feed it for free. The horse knew the way to the stable in the ghetto and went there.
When the Jews in the ghetto saw that my horse returned alone, they were sure that the Nazis executed me and released my horse.
When my wife saw that the horse returned alone, she beat palm to palm in sorrow and fainted, because she was sure that the Nazis murdered me.
I hid all night at the farmer's house, and shortly before sunrise decided to find the Iskra Otriad [partisan detachment] in order to join them. In the meantime, a day, and another day have passed, and I befriended the farmer. I played a role, as if I was also a farmer who came from another village, and bought myself a gun
The farmer, with whom I lived, found the hiding place of the Iskra Otriad, and also promised me to deliver a letter to my wife in the ghetto.
I wrote a letter to my wife and asked her to leave the ghetto the next night together with our daughter, and come to the house of the farmer Ivanovich where I would wait for her. I emphasized that she should keep the matter strictly confidential.
When my wife received my letter she thought she received a letter from the afterlife. She, and many others in the ghetto, thought that I was no longer among the living.
My wife, Kuna, read my letter once and twice, and saw something completely unexpected and illogical. She asked the farmer once and twice, and it was difficult for her to believe what she had heard. When she finally realized the truth of the message, tears began to cover her eyes and face At night, after all the neighbors had fallen asleep, she gathered some clothes, harnessed the horse, which caused great fear, to the sled and with courage and risk managed to reach the designated place where I was waiting for her (the guards at the ghetto gate were Jews and they looked the other way). We hugged and cried for joy and my wife started telling me about all the horse's exploits. We quickly parted from the farmer and left for the depths of the forest.
I had the address of a farmer in the forest who was supposed to show me the way to the partisans. After several hours of travel in the forest I arrived at the hut that, according to all signs, should have been the place where the farmer I was directed to lived.
I entered and asked him to show me the way to the partisans' camp. Even before I finished the sentence, the farmer jumped up from his place, as if he was bitten by a snake, and shouted at me very loudly: Leave my house immediately, and if not, I will tie you up and hand you over to the Germans.
I immediately realized that I had made a mistake in the address. I quickly left the hut and several hours later arrived to the village and turned to a farmer, Ivan Maksimovitz, who had connections with the partisans.
The farmer accepted my request to sleep in his house, and in the morning led me to the base of the Russian partisans, to the Iskra Otriad, and introduced me to the commander, Sasha. I asked the commander to add me to his company, and told him I had a gun. The commander agreed to accept me on the condition that I would later transfer my wife and daughter to another base.
In February 1943, the commander called me. He informed me that there is a Bielski town in the forest where women and children are concentrated, and asked me to also move my wife and daughter there.
With no choice, I took my wife and daughter and traveled to the Jewish partisan camp in the depths of the forest, which was called Jerusalem in the Forest by the Jews.
I approached the base commander, Tuvia Bielski, and he agreed to accept me together with my wife and daughter. The three of us survived the Nazis' hell and arrived, some time later, after many mishaps and wanderings, to our final national base - Israel.
by Benjamin Baran
Translated from the Yiddish byRoslyn Sherman Greenberg
In the afternoon of June 22, 1941, I heard explosions of bombs. I thought they were maneuvers. At that time I worked in the printing establishment near the old post office. I immediately ran into the printshop. There was no one there. So I ran over to the railroad, where the Germans had dropped a bomb on a train which was going to Minsk. Jewish football players were riding on it to a match, but they didn't get there. One player was killed. This was STACHEK URBANOWITZ, and many players were wounded. The same day, Sunday morning, a squadron of airplanes flew over and they bombarded from all four sides. The first bomb fell on the Jewish hospital where pregnant women were lying. They were all consumed by fire. I helped carry out of the hospital wounded and half-burned ones. In the meantime, Lida burned like a candle. I almost forgot that I also had a house and I had to go rescue my father and mother. I quickly ran to my house, but my house was already consumed. I met my mother and father, brother and sister, and I asked my mother what I should do. She said to me, Children, rescue yourselves. We are already old people. You are still young. You have to rescue yourselves. My brother and sister were still small children so they remained with my parents. My father said to me, If you stay alive, you should take revenge.
Understandably, this parting from my parents was full of sorrow. Right away, Monday night, I headed off down the road toward Minsk. In a few days, I was already near Minsk. There I stopped in a communal farm. My feet were swollen from walking. Hungry and dirty, I noticed that many people were standing in the road. I ran over and saw that a dead horse was lying on the ground and they were cutting pieces off him. I also cut off a piece of meat and I cooked it in a can. As the water cooked from the horseflesh, I would sip the soup, while it was really hot. The meat was hard as a stone, so I took a knife and cut small pieces so I could eat them. I spent several days there like that. To go to Russia was impossible since the Germans were several kilometers outside of Minsk. I decided to turn back. I met several other people, and we turned back. After 20 kilometers they caught us and took us to a group of others who had been found. Thus I spent a month in confinement. Then I escaped and came to a small shtetl, Baksht. Near this shtetl was the dorf, Borisovka. There lived Jewish peasants. I had relatives there and stayed with them.
A couple of months later they took us to Ivye. I lived on Bernardiner Street there with a joiner who was crippled in one foot.
The Ivye Judenrat ordered me to go to work at the Yoratzishkie railroad station. There I picked over potatoes. I stood on the station when a train arrived from Lida. That was May 8, 1942. A peasant got off the train. I asked him what the news was from Lida, so he told me that they had killed all the Jews in Lida and he advised me to run away.
Ivye in the meantime was encircled by the police. An hour later police from Yoratzishkie came to our group, put us in a machine, and took us to Ivye.
Ivye was empty. You didn't see a person in the street. I went into my house, and everyone came around me and asked what to do. I answered that we had to run away, and everyone agreed with me.
The next morning the Judenrat called together 200 people and ordered them to bring shovels to dig graves. It was understood that the graves were for the Jews of Ivye. Later the 200 Jews came back and told us that they dug out two very large graves.
The first sacrifice was the son of the rabbi. In the morning, 5:00 a.m., the murderers came, called the Judenrat and told them that nothing would happen to the Jews of Ivye, and they could relax.
A day later, early in the morning, they started herding everyone out to the marketplace. One man went around and screamed out that everyone should hold his papers in his hand.
Everyone knelt with bowed heads. That was what the Germans ordered. They herded us to Bernardiner Street. There they sorted everyone: left, right, straight ahead. Straight ahead was to the death.
They directed me to the left. From afar we could hear shooting.
After the slaughter, they gathered us up on the marketplace, and they held a speech for us. As far as I remember, VINDISH from Lida made the speech. He said, In the meantime you remain living.
Those few words remained in my mind. The Judenrat received an order that 160 men were needed in Lida to work at the train station. I was among them. My parents had been killed in the May 8, 1942 slaughter. I already had no one left in the Lida ghetto, and I lived in the workplace together with the people from Ivye. I wanted to run away to the forest. But I couldn't escape from the railroad workplace because those who were with me there still had family in the ghetto. So I had to go to the ghetto, find work, and escape from there.
One day I met a man from Zalodek, BORUCH LEVIN. I told him that I want to go quickly into the forest, but he asked me to wait a few days.
On a certain day, BORUCH LEVIN came to me and told me to wait near PUPKO, the butcher's house. I came to the designated place, and met more Jews there. I had taken with me a gun, and we had two guides with us: NATHAN PUNT and YITZCHAK MANSKY, who had come from the forest bringing a doctor to the detachment. We went out through the Jewish cemetery to the Lidzeike, We crossed the river, and came out in Rosliaki. With us was Dr. MIASNICK with his wife and child, YITZCHAK MANSKY and others. We carried 13 guns, one cannon, one automatic, and hand grenades.
In the afternoon we were already near the Nieman River, crossed over the river and came to the detachment. There I met many people I knew from Zhetl. They welcomed us very warmly. They gave me a tent with four other partisans.
A couple of weeks later a group left with orders to derail a train. I also wanted to go, but they didn't let me because I was still new. When they came back, they brought two guns, two coats and two pairs of shoes.
In the morning there was a raid. The whole area was encircled. The Germans had brought several divisions from the front, about 35,000 soldiers. They captured all the dorfs and shtetlach. There was only one way; to go in a different area. The woods were called Voltsche Nari, in the direction of Slonim. We were led by Captain SENITSKY and BOLAK. We were 2000 partisans, going through rivers and mud and arrived near Slonim. There we stopped in a forest to rest. In the meantime, the raid ended and roads started to be cleared to go back. The rest of the partisans with Captain SENITSKY wanted to go to Voltsche Nari, only the Jews did not agree. They divided into groups. I, together with a group of eight men, went to Arliansk detachment in the old quarter.
I didn't like it there, so I together with someone from Lida, FLEISHER, with his wife, went to the Belitzer family groups. There I met BORUCH LEVIN, NATHAN PUNT and YITZCHAK MANSKY. They welcomed me warmly in their hut, and asked me to remain with them. I didn't give them a clear answer.
When I was several kilometers away, I met partisans from Arlianskis detachment. They had orders to collect all the partisans who the Germans had driven out. Among the partisans with whom I met were: SHOLOM GERLING and ISRAEL BUSEL. They advised me to join their detachment. I didn't agree and I told them that I would remain here with the people from Lida with whom I had left together from the ghetto. ISRAEL BUSEL was angry with me, and SHOLOM GERLING insisted that I should give up my weapon. I didn't want to give up my weapon, but I saw that I couldn't get anyplace with them, since they were two, and I only one, so I gave it to them and remained without a weapon.
By a small fire sat some people from Belitz. I went over to them and asked them if the Nieman River was frozen. They said that sometimes it's frozen, and sometimes not. One of the men from Belitz, ISER BERYL STATSKY, was very interested to know why I ask and what I plan to do. I told him that I wanted to back to the ghetto where I have friends with weapons; we would put together our own detachment. He tried to talk me out of this plan. He couldn't do anything. I was determined. When he saw he couldn't do anything, he took out 100 rubles and gave them to me, saying to one YOSELEVICH, that he should help me cross the Nieman River. MOSHE YOSELEVICH went with me and took me over the Nieman. I went straight as a shot to Lida. I got to Lida at six o'clock in the morning.
It was still dark. When I entered the Polish cemetery, a shout sounded out in German, Halt.
I walked toward him for a long time, and he considered me. I was wearing a long coat, and in the pocket I had a grenade that I had gotten from YITZCHAK MANSKY. I believed that the grenade wouldn't function. Before the German started speaking to me, I threw the grenade and it exploded.
I ran and heard shooting, but I was already far away. I arrived in Rosliak to one of my peasants. When he saw me he became choked up. I wanted to go into the ghetto, but he told me that the day before they had encircled the ghetto and taken out many Jews. Whereto no one knew. They said it was to work. He urged me to stay with him in his dorf, to rest myself, and then we would see what to do. That's how it was. I went to his dorf, Yashkavtsy. I went into his house. I met his mother who welcomed me and told me that there were other Jews from Lida in her house, but they were hidden because there were partisans constantly coming in from the Iskra detachment who were very antisemitic. She took me into a second room and there I saw two men and two women. They were: IDEL NARKANSKY with his wife and BORUCH ZIRMUNSKY (may he rest in peace) with his wife.
The peasant told me that in the Iskra detachment they don't take in any Jews, since they are antisemites. When I asked him what we should do, the peasant told me that in the detachment there was a captain, a very honest person, and that we should speak to him.
At nighttime the Captain came and we were introduced to him. He told us that in his detachment they won't accept us, while there a strong antisemitism ruled. He suggested that we should form a Jewish detachment. We decided that I should go into the Lida ghetto in order to organize a group of Jewish partisans.
I went into the ghetto and told them what the captain from the partisans advised us. Many volunteered, but the next day when we left the ghetto only six men came along. Among them was: POLIATCHEK, TIGGER (may he rest in peace) and MIKA from Zaludek. We left the ghetto and came to Yashkavtsy. There IDEL NARKANSKY was already waiting for us.
At night the captain came to us, and seeing that our numbers were very small, he told us to come to his detachment and he might be able to help us.
They stood us before them and one of them considered each one of us separately. This was Pietke. His detachment had come to the area to derail a train. He finally said that we weren't fighters. But he looked at me and asked if I was a doctor. I laughed and answered, No, I am a miller, a son of a shoemaker. If you need a doctor, I can bring one from the ghetto. He told me that he needed a dentist.
He gave me two partisans and I returned to the ghetto. The ghetto was strongly guarded, and we couldn't get in.
We turned back. In the meantime the Iskara detachment had moved away and I did not meet any of my acquaintances.
Pietke, the antisemite, asked me if I want to go with them. I didn't have any other choice and I went with them. From that place Pietke sent everyone away and I remained with a man from Polemiatshik. We lay down in the woods on the ground to rest. I and the man from Polemiatshik called ourselves the left wing. We were all dressed in white robes in order to blend in with the snow.
Suddenly we heard a toot, and the train came out of the station. In several minutes the train was near us and we heard an explosion, as the earth trembled and it became light in the forest. Pietke had given an order, Shoot. We saw green, red and blue flames. It thundered for ten minutes and then it became still. Everyone started to get up from the ground. I went over to the train and saw how the cars were lying in the ditch.
Looking around in the car I saw a German hiding under a seat. I didn't wait for him to shoot me. I had a bayonet. The railroad car was full of good things. I grabbed as much as I couldcigarettes and whiskey, and ran to the group. I brought them the spoils, and told them that I had ended the life of a German. We went again to the train, grabbed whatever was handy, cigarettes, whiskey, marmalade, and the like.
I shouted out: Lamai Pasodo which in Russian means Break everything up in order that nothing should be left for the Germans. From that time on, among the comrades, I was nicknamed Lamai Pasodo.
by Fishel Bialobroda
Translated by Sara Mages
After I was accepted to the Iskra Otriad [partisan detachment], I first worked as a barber due to my precarious state of health. As my health improved I asked the commander to add me to sabotage operations.
In May 1943, I left with a group of seven people to the Lida-Gav'ya railway line. Six of my friends carried weapons. I was not given a weapon because of my poor health, and was assigned the task of patrolling.
I crossed the river that separated the forest from the railroad. When I found out that it was possible to start the action, I signaled to my friends. They approached me, handed me the explosives and we approached the railroad track. At that moment we noticed in the distance a group of seventeen German soldiers. We immediately hid among the bushes. The Germans passed by us without noticing us, and one of them stood next to me and wet me with his urine.
After they moved away, we heard the whistle from the train station in Gav'ya that announced the departure of the train. I dug under the track, the second inserted the explosive, I tied it to the fuse and a third friend pulled the wire for about 150 meters. I then crossed the river and held the wire.
When the train arrived, I was ordered to let the locomotive and two cars loaded with sand to pass, and then I pulled the wire. An explosion was heard, and eight cars containing over eighty wounded Germans were blown into the air.
The German guard opened fire on us. We returned fire and entered the forest safely. On the way we had to cross the Neman River. We found a cracked boat and five of us entered it. I immediately felt that the boat would not reach the shore. I jumped out of it and continued my way swimming and my four friends drowned. On our return to the base I reported our action and was publicly thanked by the commander.
In 1943, before the harvest, the Germans began a large hunt for the partisans' bases. For this purpose tens of thousands of soldiers, armed with all types of heavy and light weapons, were taken out of the front.
Shortly before the hunt began I contracted a skin disease. I was given five days' leave and lived in the village of Olbovky. Suddenly the landlady came running and informed me that the Germans were approaching. I hurried out of the house and met the poitruk [political officer] Padian. and the partisan Wallia. The partisan company was located in the tiny village (khutor) of Kitarei, and the village I was in was already completely surrounded.
We began to break through the siege ring. The Germans shot us from automatic weapons and threw grenades toward us. Exhausted we arrived in a run to the tiny village of Kitarei. We only found the guard there, he informed us that the company had turned towards Nalibokskaya Pushcha (Naliboki primeval forest) and showed us the road leading there.
But, as we progressed we lost the correct direction. On the way we met the Ginzburg family: the father, mother, two daughters and a son. They knew the way and gave us the right direction.
With the rest of my strength I dragged myself after everyone, my legs already refused to obey me. In the village of Mikolaya, near the Neman River, I was completely exhausted. I stayed in the village and my friends continued on their way. Suddenly, I saw my company crossing the Neman River. I joined the company and the commander sat me in a wagon transporting foodstuff.
In the thick forest of Naliboki we met other companies. After an overnight stay, the next morning, our commander, Sashka Kannava, informed us that since in the place where we are camping we will be expected to have a shortage of food, he decided to break through the German lines and advance to the Lithuanian side, towards Vilna [Vilnius].
At night, we sent a patrol squad in the direction of the Juraciki railroad .The squad returned and said that the railroad could only be crossed under combat conditions.
With no choice our company prepared for battle. I was assigned as a gunner.
I positioned myself 20 meters from the railroad line. Half a kilometer away stood a German guard. Rockets were fired continuously, but the Germans did not discover us.
We stood by the cannons until the entire company crossed without incidents. After that we also crossed.
When we reached the tiny villages ((khutors) behind Zhemyslavl',
the Lithuanians started shooting at us. We did not answer so they wouldn't discover us. We advanced a kilometer from Zhemyslavl' and thought of sleeping in the forest. The rain and the cold penetrated our bones. When we were getting ready for the night's rest, we were suddenly surrounded by the Germans. A shower of shots fell on us from all sides, from cannons and machine guns.
The commander ordered to break through the encirclement ring. Two of us were killed: the head of the special unit and Leah Grodzinski. One German soldier was killed.
After we broke the German chain, which tightened around us, we decided to take revenge on the Lithuanians who betrayed us. The commander sent me, and three other partisans, to burn three khutors, since one of the shepherds told us that the informers came from them. We did not find a living soul in the khutors and set fire to the huts.
We advanced deep into Lithuania, but we could not hold out there because the population was against us. At the same time the patrol squad, which came from the east, informed us that the hunt had come to an end and the German forces are now heading towards Lithuania.
The chief commander gave the command to Vasiliev so that he would move us back in groups to our previous locations. Twenty eight men, under the leadership of Commissar Grishko, remained in order to take revenge on the village of Zhemyslavl'. There were two Jews in the revenge company, me, and the Jew Pozritzky, who was called Chapayev, because he saved the whole brigade during the hunt.
Our task was to find the informers, take revenge on them, and organize another partisan brigade.
At first we entered the town of Zhirmuny to receive cloths. We arrived in eight wagons. At a distance from the town I stayed to guard the eight wagons and the farmers, the owners of the wagons. All the other members of the company entered the town. About ten minutes later I heard the hum of machine guns and cannons. Suddenly one of the partisans came and ordered me to return the wagons and move away. I ordered the farmers to return the wagons. One didn't want to listen to my order, so I shot him in the leg. The rest moved half a kilometer away from the place. I lingered to wait for the members of the company who returned a short time later.
We decided to return to our old locations. On the way we passed by the khutors in the vicinity of the town of Zhirmuny. I and another partisan were assigned to mobilize seven wagons. So we headed towards the khutors. When we just entered the first village, a window opened and a machine gun opened fire on us. My friend was immediately killed and I rushed to inform the company, which stood a distance of one and a half kilometer from the village, about the reception that had been extended to us.
The commander ordered all twenty-seven of his men to return and to surround the villages. After the encirclement, we took all the peasants out of the huts and asked who the shooters were. They answered that at that time the Germans and Lithuanians also came to rob wagons and now they fled.
We took with us ten farmers. We led them to the forest and informed them that if they would not tell us who the shooters were - we will shoot them. They cried and shouted that they are not guilty and that only the Germans and Lithuanians shot. Then, our commander realized that they were telling the truth, so he released them and ordered them to bury our friend. After we returned to the previous base my state of health was poor, and I temporally worked again as a barber.
On a clear day Diamushkin, one of the commanders, came to me and attacked me with insults and disrespect: You don't want to fight, no Jew wants to fight, and that's why I will shoot you all.
I complained before the chief commander, he demoted him to the rank of a common soldier and the sentence was read to the entire company. After that I left for sabotage operations. In August 1943, I left with five other people, including two Jews - Arliuk and Wilensky, in the direction of Lida. The first night we could not get close to the target because of the strict guarding.
The second night we stayed for the right in the village of Borki. Arliuk and Wilensky put the mine under the railroad tracks, moved five hundred meters away from the place, and waited. An hour later the train arrived and four wagons, loaded with food, were blow n into the air.
We started to retreat quickly. There were ambushes around us and a shower of bullets fell on us from all sides. We ran ten kilometers and arrived exhausted in the village of Borki. We found friends there and raised our glasses to the success of the operation.
One day, on my return from a sabotage operation near Lida I met the Christian, Yuzka, who informed on me when I hid in a cellar in Lida. She wanted to run away, but I stopped her and brought her to our camp. She was carrying with her thirty bullets and claimed that she supplies bullets to the partisans. We sent an investigation squad that confirmed my statement that she was a spy. She was held in detention for a month and then she was executed.
Over time we felt a lack of weapons in our camp since we recruited new partisans. In order to obtain weapons, our chief commander used this ruse: he sent six Jewish partisans to the village of Pudzin near Szklana Huta in poor clothing and with inferior weapons. They entered the village and asked to take out all the cows. They pretended to be drunk, asked to heat the bathhouse for them and give them ten liters of vodka. The intention was to cause the Germans' supporters in the village to run to inform on them.
At the same time we laid an ambush near the village. The ambush men noticed that four farmers were rushing to the city to tell the Germans about what was happening in the village. And now, two trucks and eight wagons arrived from the city with the chief of police at the head to arrest the Jews.
When they approached the village, the ambush men opened fire from both sides and killed seven Germans and over fifty policemen. Among the dead were also the four informers. We won a great amount of loot.
The weapons that fell into our hands were enough for sixty-eight partisans.
We captured five policemen, two of whom were veteran murderers who shed the blood of many Jews in Lida. One was shot on the spot. We took four of them to the camp. The poitruk [political officer] Trutkin and I killed two of them.
We left two alive for propaganda among the police. After two weeks they managed to escape. Then, we forwarded a letter to the two officers thanking them for the weapons they provided us. The letter caused both of them to be hanged by the Germans.
After that we learned that the White Poles, the Germans' collaborators, who lived in the village of Dakudava, were plotting to attack us. In order to advance this operation, we set up guards fifty kilometers along the banks of the Neman River. Guards of White Poles stood on the other side of the river.
On a clear day, during the wheat harvest, I heard a rustle
in the camp. The patrol unit announced that the White Poles crossed the river in six places and they are approaching our camp.
Our commander immediately appealed for help to the brigade commander Vasiliev. Since the majority of the brigade was sent to fulfill various duties, we received no help and had to fight on our own. At the same time Vasiliev's patrol squads came to us and announced that the Poles were advancing from four directions. Panic arose in the camp. Then, the commander concentrated his entire camp in another location.
Since I knew that the Jewish family, Baksht: father, mother, son and daughter, were in the nearby village of Altabki, I asked the commander for permission to go and save them. The commander advised me not to go since the village was surrounded. Without considering this I set off.
Like an arrow from a bow I rode to the Bakshet family and asked them to escape together with me. But Bakesht did not want to believe that danger was imminent. I entered the village to see the Commandant of Altabki. Then I ran into a hail of gunfire. I quickly rode back to the Jewish family and together we fled to Kravitch Forest.
Later, I returned again to Altabki to find out the fate of our partisan company. I learned from one of the farmers that they set out for an ambush in the Kravitch Forest. I grabbed a horse and entered the village. Unfortunately I encountered a Polish artillery group who opened fire on me. The horse was hit and fell and I remained lying on the ground. Believing that I had been killed, the Poles stopped shooting at me. I took advantage of this respite and started running towards the forest. On the way I met our partisan company that was advancing towards the village. The Poles did not enter the battle, but threw their weapons and escaped. I threw a German grenade at the escapees.
The Poles escaped to the villages: Vasilievièy and Kryvièy. A Polish company still remained in Kryvièy. They shot at us with cannons. Then we surrounded them and killed thirteen of them. One of them who was wounded shouted that he was a partisan from the Iskra Otriad. I approached him, checked his papers, and it turned out that he was a Polish spy. We took him with us and executed him. The White Poles׆ retreated and left eighty-eight dead.
The loot that fell into our hands was: two cannons, eighty-eight machineguns and eight rifles. The Poles took many of the dead with them. We chased them to the village of Vasilievièy.
Meanwhile, a group of our partisans returned from the sabotage operations in Vasil'yevich, and they managed to take twenty six horses from the Poles and transfer them to the forest. We stayed for three days in Kravitch Forest and then we returned to our bases.
In June 1944, the Germans began a large hunt on the partisans' company. German planes followed us and burned the villages: Dakudava, Pudzin, Norki and others.
Our chief commander ordered to dig deep trenches, and for eight days we lay in these earthen houses.
Once, the Germans burned down the village of Olkhovki. We went out to put out the fire, and when we were in the village the Germans bombed it and we barely escaped into the forest.
When we returned we learned that the Russian army was already in Novogrudok. Our entire brigade was ordered to advance towards Lida. Our company was the first. The vanguard informed that the Russians were advancing towards Lida from one side, and the Germans were fleeing from the other side. On the way, in the forests, we captured 18 Germans. Yashka Grenbel and I led them. Then, Commander Glachau ordered to execute them. I took a machine gun and carried out the order.
When we entered Lida we caught an SS man who was setting fire to the houses with gasoline. I grabbed him, poured gasoline on him, lit a match and let him run until he fell.
In Lida I caught Zayac, a Gestapo man and an informer, and brought him before the city commander. The commander released him so as not to cause panic in the city, but later he was sentenced to ten years in prison and hard labor.
by Eliyahu Damesek
Translated by Sara Mages
(as a partisan)
About six weeks have passed since I left Lida Ghetto and joined the Jewish partisans under the leadership of Tuvia Bielski. I participated in various missions, but I was constantly looking for opportunities to use my profession as a printer for propaganda purposes, since I knew that its importance in the war against the Nazis does not fall short from the partisans' sabotaging actions.
I discussed my plans with another partisan, Moshe Shapira, who owned a printing house in Lida and a few weeks ago came from the ghetto to join the Bielski camp. My plan was accepted by Shapira. We consulted on how to contact the printing house in Lida that worked for the Nazis. How to set up a printing house in the forest that would spread the correct information among the population about the situation at the front and the partisans' actions, to thwart the Nazi propaganda that was spreading false news about the situation.
The plan and its implementation
I turned to the commander Bielski. The company's political commissar, Malvin, also participated in the meeting. They liked the plan, but it was impossible to implement it in our company due to the lack of a radio receiver and the company's constant movement. I asked for permission to leave the camp for a while together with Shapira, and go to the Iskra Otriad which could guarantee more suitable working conditions. Only a few Jews, about ten talented fighters, participated in the Iskra Otriad. Jews, who were unfit for battle, were sent to the Bielski camp.
We left, Shapira and I, accompanied with two other partisans who were sent to Lida Ghetto to take Jews out of there and bring them to the forest. Toward evening we left our camp and a few hours later arrived to the Iskra Otriad. I asked for an interview with the commander and the commissar, because such a matter was within their jurisdiction. At that time they were absent from the camp because they went on a patrol. Half an hour later they came back on horseback and invited my friend and me to a conversation over a glass of drink, as was customary in the forest. We presented them with our plan: to return to the ghetto and take out from there the equipment of a printing house. They agreed and promised their full help.
We left as two partisans from the Iskra Otriad accompanied us on our way. At three o'clock in the morning we reached the barbed wire fence that surrounded the ghetto. The two partisans from our group approached the fence and we waited for the agreed signal that it is possible to enter. A short while later we heard a soft whistle, we crawled closer and crossed the fence.
There was silence in the ghetto. Everyone slept tired after a day of arduous work. We parted, and each went to a predetermined place. I went to my home and knocked with a trembling hand on the window. My mother heard the knocking and asked in a weak voice: who is there? I answered quietly: it's me mother, open for me.
My mother could not contain her excitement and burst into tears. She called her sister to open for me because she couldn't get out of her bed. My aunt opened the door and she also cried. I stood as though I was petrified, but I could not shed a tear. In order not to endanger the whole family I had to leave my home and look for another place. I went to Noah Mordowicz family who lived together with the Badzovski family, and they let me stay with them for the duration of my stay in the ghetto. There is no need to explain that they risked their lives when they welcomed me into their home. This family was ready to leave for the forest, but because of their child they postponed their departure from day to day, until they were suddenly deported from Lida to the Majdanek extermination camp.
On the same day, in the afternoon, Mordowitz's wife went and asked the printer, Yakov Brinker zl, who was forced to work at the printing house, to come and see me. I told him about our role and we made a plan for our mission. In a building, close to the printing house, the Nazis conducted a search. It was the workplace of the electrician Yakov Gorodenchik zl (he later fell in battle as a partisan in the Iskra Otriad), who had a permit to pass freely in the streets. We reached an agreement that Gorodenchik would deliver to the ghetto the packages that Brinker would prepare in a certain location.
We also spoke with an expert locksmith, who worked in the workshops, and asked him to make a press that could be used instead of a printing press. Everyone worked with total devotion according to the plan. Brinker prepared packages and Gorodenchik brought them to his room. In the ghetto several families lived in one room, but Gorodenchik had a small and special room where he lived together with his wife. It was the safest place for our purpose.
After eighteen days of hard work, in constant danger of being discovered and caught by the Nazis, Shapira and I tried to print something. The experiment went well. We decided to end the mission and return to the forest. Gorodenchik and his wife left with us. The rest of the people, who participated in the operation, postponed their departure due to family reasons. Unfortunately they missed the opportunity.
I informed the Iskra Otriad that the material was ready and it is necessary to take it out of the ghetto. On Thursday, market day, a farmer arrived in a wagon. I trusted this farmer according to the signs and the password, and led him to a tannery in which several Jews, who were loyal to the underground, worked. All the material was prepared there in boxes covered with raw hides. The wagon was quickly loaded. Among the packages was also paper. We covered the load with straw and ordered the farmer to drive fast in the direction of the village of Bornos near the Neman River. There, he had to bury the printing materials in the ground until our safe return from the ghetto. I instructed the farmer, that if he felt that the Germans were checking and searching the wagons returning from the city, he should immediately leave the wagon and stand at a distance until the search was over. I said to him: It is better for the Germans to ask the horse and not you from where the printing
material came from. The next day, on Sabbath eve, we were planning to leave the ghetto. I was thinking of taking my mother with me to the Bielski camp, but she was very weak and I was unable take her. She did not want to leave her family. We walked all night until we arrived to the Iskra Otriad. When we arrived at the camp we learned that the farmer had arrived safely at the designated location.
The commander and commissar of the Iskra Otriad were satisfied with our action. Since the otriad was on the move at that time, it was impossible to determine a safe place for the printing house.
The partisans' newspaper
The headquarters of the Iskra Otriad turned in the matter of the printing house to the chief commander of the partisans in Belarus, Major General Platon, whose place of residence was in Naliboki forests. The journey there and back should have taken about two weeks.
A few weeks later, the headquarters of the Lenin Brigade, which fought in the Lipiczany Forest, arrived to the Iskra Otriad. It was headed by Stefan Petrović and Brigadier Boris Bulat. After they had been told that I was the printer, Stefan called me, shook my hand and said with a smile: well then, comrade, we will travel together to the big and dense forests to fight the common enemy. I answered him that I was under the command of the Iskra Otriad. The commander said that the matter would be settled, he has an order from Major General Platon to take me, with two expert workers, to the forest. The two were: Gershon Gaskind and Moshe Shapira from the Bielski Otriad. I told Petrovi ז that I was ready to go anywhere where it would be possible to attack the enemy and defeat it.
After a conversation with Stefan Petrović , a young partisan, dressed in the Red Army uniform, approached me and introduced himself: George Schilov, the future editor of the newspaper Krasnyy Znamya (The Red Flag) that would be published in the Lipiczany Forest.
It was difficult for me to leave the Iskra Otriad, which operated near Lida, and go to the forest far from my family. After a consultation between the Lenin Brigade headquarters and the otriad's headquarters, the commander informed us that we must move with the printing press to Lipiczany Forest. Later, I was invited to lunch and a glass of vodka with the headquarters.
That day I said goodbye to my friends in the Iskra Otriad, and left a letter for my mother with the member Rubinstein (he passed away a few years ago in Argentina).
People were sent to dig, take out of the ground the printing press and bring it to the camp. Then, we left in a group of twenty for the Lipiczany Forest. At the head rode three horsemen who patrolled the road. When we had to cross the Lida-Baranovichi railway, the October Otriad sent towards us an armed group to secure the road.
The Germans guarded the railroad track well. It was dangerous to cross the tracks in daylight. We dared, and crossed.
The Germans undoubtedly saw the large group of partisans from afar, but deliberately ignored them and let them cross.
The October Otriad was not far from the railroad track. We ate and rested there after a night of travel. On the long road we met many partisan companies who left on various missions. We traveled two days and two nights until we arrived in the village of Korytnica, which was in the forest in partisans' area.
The next morning we arrived at the place where the camp of the Lenin Brigade headquarters was located. It was in a dense dark forest surrounded by a river and swamps. There were tents in the forest for the headquarters. At a distance of about half a kilometer from the headquarters' tents, a hut was prepared for us to live in and work. On a small table stood a small printing press which had been parachuted from a plane. The brigade had a radio, a receiver and a transmitter. Through the radio we received news and orders from Moscow and the partisan center. The headquarters transmitted to Moscow about what was happening at our place during the day. A few days later we approached the printing the first newspaper in the forest named Krasnaya Zenamiya. The newspaper was published once a week with news from the radio and other articles. It called the residents in the village, and in the city, to help in obtaining information and in the distribution of the newspaper. Apart from the newspaper we printed daily news from the broadcasts of the Red Army high top headquarters.
Many residents responded to the call and helped in various ways: in obtaining paper, paint, lamps and kerosene. They also helped with the distribution of the newspaper. The newspaper also reached various offices of the Nazis. This greatly upset the Germans. In the newspaper it was printed that the publisher is the District Committee of the Communist Party in Shchuchyn, Belarus. They did think the publisher was the District Committee of the Communist Party in Shchuchyn, and surrounded the town. They took all the residents out of their houses (there were no more Jews in the town), kept them outside and conduct meticulous searches in the houses. In their rampage they destroyed walls, floors, but discovered nothing. Several houses, that the suspicion fell on them, were completely destroyed. The Nazis imprisoned some residents who were released after no evidence was found against them. The search in the town lasted two days.
At that time we sat in the Lipiczany Forest and printed the newspaper. The day after the lockdown was lifted the newspaper was redistributed in Shchuchyn.
The town's Christian residents did not stop telling about the searches for many weeks. They were used to seeing how the ghetto was surrounded, how Jews were tortured and led to the slaughter. But this time they felt the Germans' cruelty towards the Christian, Polish and Belarusian residents, some of whom helped the Nazis and participated in the slaughter of defenseless Jews.
For several months we worked with our small printing press until help arrived from Moscow. Letters, paint, paper and various printing materials came to us in planes.
Since then we started to print the newspaper three times a week. I felt great satisfaction in my work. The headquarters also appreciated our mission. We prevented the enemy from spreading its lies among the population, that the Soviet Union was falling and they will conquer Moscow soon.
We called the population to resist the enemy and refrain from following its orders. We exposed the malicious intentions and the enemy's plans. We informed the farmers that the Germans were preparing to confiscate livestock and various commodities. We called the farmers to take the livestock out into the forest and promised to help them. When the Germans announced the recruitment of the youth to work in Germany, a place from which they would not return, we called the youth to come to the forest and join the fighters.
After I worked in Lipiczany Forest for four months, an order was received from the chief commander, Platon, that only two workers would remain in the place and I have to move to a brigade named after
Marshal Rokossovsky. Six people, and a small printing press, were parachuted in Naliboki Forest. I joined this group and moved with them to the Rokossovsky Brigade to print a newspaper in Belarusian named Vaĺnaja Praca for the Slonim District, and a Russian paper named Za Rudina for the Baranovichi District . The newspaper's editor was an energetic woman named Zania , who wore a uniform and was armed like a front-line combat soldier. A young man named Kuzma, an educator of the communist youth, was destined to be a member of the editorial staff.
We traveled for two days until we arrived to the Rokossovsky Brigade camp in Wilcza Nora (Wolves' Dens) Forest, a distance of about 22 kilometers from Slonim. We arrived to the camp early in the morning. The person in charge of the night watch woke up the brigade commander, and the person in charge Alexei Petrović, who welcomed us with joy. The commander shook my hand in a friendship and told me that he turned to Platon a few months ago with a request to send them a responsible person to do the important work because everything was ready. We were invited for breakfast and then for lunch.
That day I met with the editor of the Slonim newspaper, Vaĺnaja Praca. He showed me a letter from the communist party in Slonim, which operated underground, asking to print the current issue, No. 294, of their newspaper that was published in Slonim before the war. He told me that the Belarusian newspaper will be printed twice a week, and the Russian newspaper once a week. He showed the hut that was built of planks for the needs of the printing house.
I also met the radio operator. She was parachuted a few months before from Moscow.
In the afternoon I was invited for a walk by the man in charge of the brigade, Alexei Petrović, a man about forty years old who gave the impression of being energetic and intelligent. He told me that apart from the two newspapers it would also be necessary to print a daily newsletter for the local farmers because the Germans forbade them to listen to Moscow radio broadcasts, and also to announcements for the population.
I rested for a few days and approached the arrangement of the newspaper, Vaĺnaja Praca. A party was held in honor of the publication of issue No.294 (the first in the forest) of the newspaper. After a few pages of the Belarusian newspaper were printed, I approached the arrangement of the Russian newspaper Za Rudina.
The Russian newspaper did not have a special editor. Several partisans filled its pages with articles on current issues and news from the front. After several issues were printed an editor, a former high-school teacher, was sent from another company. She came with her family. The editor's husband was a major in the Soviet army. The editor took care of the material for the newspaper. She received news from Baranovichi. The Russian newspaper was printed in several thousand copies. Some time later we found a Russian from Moscow who knew how to draw and carve wood. He was brought to me and drew successful caricatures and prepared plates for printing. He drew pictures depicting the German attacks on the villages, the hunting of youth for forced labor, etc. He did not willingly sit in the printing house, because he aspired to fight the enemy with a weapon in the hand, but the headquarters did not let him go into combat operations, because of the fear that the work would cease at the printing house.
I was given assistants who learned the work from me. A Jewish refugee from Lublin, (Philip) Yehiel Granatstein, was sent to help me. When the Germans invaded Poland he fled to Slonim, later he fled to the forest and together with another young Jewish man was in the Rokossovsky Brigade. He quickly learned to print on our little machine.
When the first issues of the newspaper arrived in Baranovichi, and in them the information the newspaper is being published on behalf of the Communist Party in Baranovichi, the Germans enforced a curfew on the city and for several days searched for the printing house and the editorial staff. When they did not find it, they published a proclamation to the population promising the person, who would find the printing house, a reward of one hundred thousand marks. But whistleblower was not found and our printing house in the forest continued to work non-stop.
In case the enemy will attack the camp, pits, in which we had to bury all the printing devices, were ready in the hut.
As an expression of appreciation for my work at the printing house in the forest I received a first-class merit badge, and The Red Star medal.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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.
Lida, Belarus Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2023 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 7 Sep 2022 by MGH