Translated from Russian to Hebrew by David Cohen
Translated from Hebrew to English by Eilat Gordin Levitan
From a collection of stories that was edited by V Karof Through Fire and Death, printed in Minsk in 1970 page 350.Minsk, the town where I where I was born, studied and worked, and the town where I was married and raised my son, everything here is dear to me. Every rock, every street, even the cemetery where my relatives were buried. As I grew up the town also grew with me: the first bus that replaced the conquer (train car pulled by horses), the first electric car and the first huge construction of the government buildings. In Minsk lived my friends and my teachers, intelligent people and good communists who taught me to analyze life. And all of a sudden in a matter of days everything changed and became unrecognizable.
I stood with my seven-year-old young son across from a poster with the orders of Hitler announcing the establishment of a Jewish ghetto in the town of Minsk. It was as if I was having a nightmare. Mother why are you smiling, what is written there? the sound of my son's voice awoke me from this faint feeling. Was I smiling? The poster stated that the freedom to walk in the streets of my town was taken away from me I was to live behind a brick wall . Soon after, a new order arrived, stating that I had to wear a yellow tag. In typical German exactness, it gave details what the precise size the yellow tags should be and the correct location of it on our clothes. The area that was designated for the ghetto was small and the little wooden homes could not contain more than the 80,000 who were placed there. Three families lived in each tiny apartment. Hoodlums arrived at night to rob and murder.
The Jews regularly gathered in the Jubilee Square, near the building of the Judenrat. Every hour new German demands (bribes) would be announced, as well as instructions about changes in the ghetto boundaries. The ghetto wall was soon replaced by barbed wire. Nazi officers kept announcing new prohibitions, and at the end of each command, the usual threat: if any inhabitants disobey the orders they will be executed.
With me in the ghetto lived my son, the parents of my husband, the wife of my brother with her two children, my grandmother, and many more distant relatives. The house we had lived in before the war was burned to the ground and with it all of our possessions and clothes. We suffered from starvation, but what were we to do?
Before the war, my brother; Boris Levkovitz, was in charge of one of the hospitals in Minsk. I knew many doctors who worked at that hospital. Sometime after the ghetto was established, two Jewish hospitals were founded on Ospinsky Street. One was an ordinary hospital and the second one was for infectious disease. The order to open the hospitals was given by the Nazis. As they realized that they could not liquidate the entire ghetto population instantaneously, they were fearful that some infectious disease would take root in the ghetto and spread to the town.
The Nazis gave a small amount of food to the workers and the patients. At the hospital, I met with two doctors - Dr Kulik and Dr Freidin - who worked at enlarging the staff of the hospital in order to save lives. To survive in the ghetto, you had to have a job and at that time the head of the work assignment committee of the Judenrat was a traitor by the name of Nachum Epstein. The two doctors wanted to help me find a job but I had no medical skills, so they appointed me as head of catering. My sister-in-law; Yvgenia Levkovitz, became the head clothing distributor.
One morning, on the way to the hospital, I met Boris Dolsky. He used to be a director and actor in the theatre named after Yanke Kupala. Before the war we were on friendly terms with him. I was unhappy to see him because at that point I knew he was head the department of housing in the Judenrat, and in my mind he was serving the Germans In response to his greeting I nodded my head slightly and tried to leave. He delayed me, saying I heard that your father-in-law speaks German. I would like to appoint him as my replacement. I wanted to curse at him and was hardly able to contain myself, but said, My father-in-law will not work for the Judenrat. He would not sell himself for a plate of food.
Dolsky looked at me in surprise and whispered, I thought that you were much smarter, don't you understand that we need our people there?. The war had confused us all. We didn't know any longer if a person was good or bad, who should be trusted and who should be avoided . At this point, I did not know that Dolsky worked for the Judenrat according to the instructions he received from the underground, not the Nazis. He was able to supply members of the newly-established resistance with secret apartments as well as false IDs disguising them as specialists and tailors, carpenters, and shoemakers professions which at that time were escaped the killing actions of the Nazis because they were useful to them.
As time passed, the members of the Jewish resistance started removing people from the ghetto. The Gestapo found a shrewd way to prevent this through collective punishment. If someone was found missing from the work assignments, the Nazis would come at night to his home and kill his family and neighbors (each person received a number which indicated his house number, so they were instantly recognizable).
The resistance found a way to stop the Germans from instituting this punishment. When someone left the ghetto, the doctors in the ghetto would print a death certificate in his name and give it to Dolsky. Dolsky not only signed them as dead but also signed death certificates for active people who lived in the ghetto and worked for the resistance.
Sometimes Dolsky and his people would learn of impending actions from the Nazi commanders and they would warn members of the resistance of the dangers that are about to occur. When the German SD (Sicherheitsdienst) would come to imprison these people they would disappear. For example, shortly before the October celebrations, the first Wachtmeister Richter, who was the commander of the ghetto, casually said to Dolsky; We are planning to decrease the area of the ghetto. He mentioned certain streets that were going to be excluded from the ghetto: Nemega, Ostrovsky and Respublikansky streets. This announcement resulted in an uproar in the ghetto. The brick houses on these streets contained a third of the Jewish ghetto inhabitants. Despite that fact that the Judenrat received no more details about what to do with the people who were living on this street, they started transferring people out of it, but only succeed in transferring very few. We were still very naïve and did not take seriously comments like decreasing the area. In addition, we failed to pay attention to the fact that the Nazis had themselves transferred all their loyal Jewish servants to the POW camp in Shiroka street.
On November 7th 1941, there was a pogrom in the ghetto: the fascists broke into homes and killed some Jews on the spot but most of the people were thrown out of their homes and taken to the warehouses in Ospensky street. The Nazis mocked the homeless Jews by saying this is the street where you will spend your Bolshevik holidays. For twenty-four hours they were held locked in these dark buildings, after which they were transferred in trucks to a town called Totsinky. There the Jews were all shot near open graves and then buried. After the Germans left, the ground still shook for many hours. During the night a few of the buried who had remained alive escaped from their grave and arrived at the hospital. From them, we found out the details of this awful massacre. Close to twelve thousand Jews were murdered on that day. Among them were the wife of my brother and the children Lilitska and Elik, as well as my aunt and uncle Josef and Lyuba Jelbin. Now we were left with no more doubts: it was clear to all that the fate of the ghetto inhabitants had been decided.
During this time I was already connected to the resistance. My gentile childhood friend Zina Gambitskaya brought me soup, or other food to eat, at regular intervals at the fence of the ghetto. To do this, we would simply quickly replace my empty food container with a new and full one. Once, on the way to such a meeting I found myself accidentally in a German recruitment ambush. The Germans stopped many people in the ghetto and brought them to the train station to unload trucks. During the unloading I realized that amongst the containers were boxes filled with bullets. Without giving it much thought, I started filling my empty food containers with bullets. I didn't even have time fill them up to the top when a car came to return us to the ghetto.
During the car ride my bullets made jingling sounds and a young German soldier who sat near me said, what is the rattling sound I hear in your food container?.
I said, its my spoon.
The German started laughing loudly and said, did you imagine that we would supply you with porridge for which you would need a spoon?.
A few days passed and nurse by the name of Yadvyga Shpirer started a casual conversation with me about my plans but then, suddenly, asked my directly, why did you collect the bullets?. I found out that among the people who worked with me were members of the resistance, and that they had reported the incident to the leader of the resistance. Taking such risks made the resistance members trust me, and they began to give me assignments on their behalf.
In the resistance I met wonderful people. The bravery, the ultimate assurance that we would overcome our enemy, and their ideological purity were like sparks in the night that brightened the darkness of the ghetto. I remember an energetic and highly optimistic man by the name of Notka Weinhaus. Before the war, he had been an active member of the Komsomol. He was also the editor of the newspaper that was written for the adolescent komsomol - The Pioneer. I remember him walking the streets of Minsk surrounded with groups of young children, singing patriotic songs. Many people in Minsk knew him, and his eyes were filled with liveliness. In addition, he had a splendid and instantly recognizable hairstyle (blorit). In the ghetto, he lived and worked undercover; his whole being was dedicated to the resistance. He was a member of the central resistance organizers, and was assigned to secretly listen to the Soviet radio (Jews were not allowed to listen to the radio) and follow the situation of the front. So now we started learning of the true conditions.
Nachum Feldman was the head of the resistance in the ghetto. He was a very kind man, had a constant smile on his face, and was a long-time communist who took part in the Russian civil war in 1918-19. He was a great organizer of resistance missions. One of his concerned the Jews who were forced to work for the Nazis in the Gestapo printing house. Among these people were Lana Mysels and Misha Arutsker. They would steal letters and other printing materials and bring them to the ghetto. In this Andrei Ivanov Podprigory helped them. At one point, the resistance decided to establish an underground printing house, and they brought all the printing materials that they collected in the ghetto to town at the order of Issai Kazinic, who was the head of resistance in town. They needed an experienced printing specialist for this job, so the resistance members of the ghetto told of a man by the name of Mikhail Zipzin. He accepted this very dangerous job and started working for the resistance, leaving his family. The printing press was located in Ostrovsky Street, and the resistance now started printing bulletins of information about the warfront that they heard on the radio. Via the bulletins, they also made announcements to Minsk residents. Eventually, Mikhail Zipzin was caught by the Germans and hung.
In the ghetto, I met Abraham Kastelnitz. Before the war, he was an assistant to the manager of one of the most important trests in Minsk. Once, he invited me to visit him, and at his home I met the Jewish artist and poet Moshe Levin aka Ber Sarin and his wife Sara. He later died, but I became very close to his wife during our common assignments for the resistance in the ghetto. Here I met Sonya Kollendsky for the first time, as well as the famous Belarus actor Mikhail Zorof. Despite the fact that I imagined him as gentile and of soft character, he proved himself a brave and determined man during this dangerous time. He was appointed as head of social assistance by the Judenrat. The resistance told him to open a kitchen and distribute coupons allowing needy people to receive food. This kitchen became the center for the meetings of the resistance. They also kept some food here for people who escaped to the forest. Zorof had a very difficult time wearing the yellow tag. He kept saying, I cannot take it any more, I will take it off even if they murder me for it, and planned to escape to the forest. But a day before the planned escape, a pogrom took place in the ghetto and Zorof fell at the hands of the fascists. As he was pushed into the black fascist car he sang loudly the Internazioinal (the Soviet anthem) until the door closed behind him.
The constant terror of death made life in the ghetto very difficult. The Nazis sought not only to physically annihilate the residents but to also to choke any thoughts or attempts of resistance in the people whom they did not assign death sentences. On Nov 20th 1941, a part of the ghetto was surrendered to the Germans again. This time five thousands of the residents of the Tatarskya and Zemkovya Streets were transferred to Tutsinki. Some of these Jews were sick and could not walk and these were shot on the road. As soon as I saw the Jews marching, I ran with my son in the direction of the hospital. From far away, I saw that, in their typically German precision, the Nazis only took the people who had gathered from the two evacuated streets, but not others that they encountered on the road. In safety, I watched in an almost hypnotic trance the procession of the condemned, amongst whom I recognized Notka Weinhaus
Almost daily, the Nazi sadists came up with new punishments. One day they would kill only men, they next day only children, and so on. They forced us to sew a white triangle on our breasts and backs stating the numbers and letters of our apartments. Every Sunday, all the residents of the ghetto were ordered to gather in Jubilee Square. Anyone not present would receive a death sentence. In the middle of the square the fascists arranged some tables the commanders of the SD and the German police would sit at. At first, the German head of the ghetto was Richter, but later Guttenbach took over. During these meetings, the Nazis would announce any new prohibitions for Jews. For example, no Jews would be allowed to walk on the sidewalk, but only in the middle of the street like horses. Now Jews were not allowed to laugh in public and not allowed to make any purchases. Later we were told that we were not allowed to read books, write, or visit friends. But the main order was that if one knew any member of the resistance or partisan who was planning to escape to the forest, one must tell on them to the Germans. They said that all Soviet partisans hated the Jews and would kill them in the forest. They said that in the forest, Jews suffered of starvation and cold and that there would be no more mass killings in the ghetto. The most awful part of this horrific performance would then start. The singer named Gorlik would be forced to sing national songs, and a Jewish band from the Hamburg ghetto (the Hamburg ghetto was separated from the Minsk ghetto and contained Jews brought from Western Europe, mostly Germany) would play music. At first people would listen quietly to the beautiful performances by Gorlik, but these songs from a period of peace and tranquility would tear our hearts and people inevitably started crying. The Germans would then humiliate all the crying Jews. They would stand on tables and laugh at us. But the enemy couldn't defeat the spirit of the Soviet people.
The headquarters of the resistance announced, You must find weapons and prepare yourself to escape and reach the partisans and take revenge on the fascist beasts. As instructed, our people worked in various offices of the Germans in the military units. They risked their lives in stealing some grenades and other military supplies that the newspaperman Josef Mindel arranged in a storage shed in the Jewish cemetery. Nachum Feldman also arranged for such a storage building in Respublikanskaya Street. Gentile comrades from the underground committee outside of the ghetto helped us obtain weapons and transfer people to the resistance units in the forest.
The Nazis learned of the resistance in the Minsk ghetto. Now, after the war, we know of certain Nazi correspondences regarding the ghetto. This is a sample correspondence from the SS commander in the Bellarussian police:
Order no 3: I express my special thanks to Wachtmeister Bruno Filler and first Wachtmeister Otto Gattenbach as well as Wachtmeister Mandel for their brave and courageous actions of imprisoning bands of partisans in April 11th 1942 and April 15th 1942. [Source: Central Archives of the October Revolution.]About a month and a half before this document was written, my father-in-law came back from a meeting at the Judenrat. He was very agitated and said, The members of the SS demand from the Judenrat that they make a list of five thousand people to send to work. It is very alarming because they said that this list should not contain any people who already working in other units. When Dolsky heard this, he did not hesitate and immediately asked in a naïve tone, 'should we include young children and old people in this list?'. 'As you wish,' replied the SS officer. This made their intentions very clear. The members of the underground in the ghetto were sent to warn the ghetto residents of the impending calamity. We suggested to people on March 2nd 1942 that they should either work outside the ghetto, or try to sneak across the barbed wire and find friends who would hide them outside the ghetto.
On that day, when people went to work, the Nazis demanded the five thousand people. Dolsky answered them in a brave tone, saying that all the people in the Ghetto had gone to work. The SS member became enraged and threatened to hang all the members of the Jundenrat. The SS officers started running around the ghetto streets looking for potential victims, but the ghetto was deserted so they took their anger out on the Jewish children in the orphanage. In the early evening hours the General Commissar of Belarus, the infamous Kubbe, arrived at the ghetto. He ordered the SS men to guard the gates of the ghetto. This was the time when Jews sent to work outside returned each night to the ghetto, and so now, upon their return, the Nazis started murdering them. During that day, one of the most important members of the resistance, Moshe Levin, was murdered. When the resistance committee outside the ghetto found out about the massacre they tried to assist the Jews and helped armed groups of resistance members to escape from the ghetto. Amongst them were Nachum Feldman and M. Pruslin.
The Belarussian people who gave us weapons and food supplies, hid us, and even transferred Jewish children to Belarussian homes were like sparks in the night. I would like to mention a few of their names: Mira Gorokhova, Maria Ossipova, Nelly Ravinsky, the Nikitich family, the Voronov family, and the Grasimenko family. We continued with our resistance missions in the ghetto. Nadia Shyster worked for the factory Bolshevik and they destroyed parachutes and other materials of the enemy and stole warm clothes for the partisans in the forests. Another group worked for the oil factory named October. They were able to enter a communication unit of the German military where and steal weapons and planes, as well as destroy their technical supplies. Other missions were not as successful and resistance members were often killed. Such failed operations occurred in a restaurant of the German officers in Minsk. At that point, the awful fascist beast, the SS man Riebe, was sent from Germany to find new ways to kill the Jews of the ghetto. Every night he sent a black truck to the ghetto and the officers inside would kill all the residents of certain homes. As soon as the Jews realized this, they stopped sleeping at night. One day, Riebe ordered the Jewish police to bring the thirteen most beautiful girls for a certain job. They were taken to the Jewish cemetery and ordered to disrobe and then shot. This awful beast is still alive and breathing today instead of sitting in prison. He travels all over West Germany as a witness to the crimes of other Nazis.
At the end of July 1942, I became sick with typhus. At the time, I bled profusely, hallucinated, and would fall unconscious frequently. Once, my seven-year-old son came screaming to me, Mother! The ghetto is surrendered!. My neighbors carried me into a malina (Hideout). A horrible massacre started, lasting four days. It seemed like it was the final liquidation of the ghetto. People felt that even if the SS didn't find us we would die of starvation deep in our holes in the ground. During this action, the Germans used machines that sprayed poisonous gas into holes. General Kubbe personally managed this operation. Of 75,000 Jews who lived in the ghetto, only 8,724 survived. From this point on, we realized that we must escape from the ghetto to survive. The resistance was told to get in touch with the prisoners in the POW camp in Shiroka Street who organized escapes. I collaborated with the resistance. In this operation, Sara Levin, Abraham Kastalinitz and Sonya Kolendsky, who worked in the prison camp, helped me. Kastalnitz was particularly helpful because was able to infiltrate the German headquarters. The German commander of the prison camp, Lacke, saw him as a useful Jew who was collaborating with the Germans. Sometimes Kastalintz was sent with units of POWs who were watched by German guards to distant places to transfer food. Once, when the resistance wanted to send a group of partisans to the area of Rodensk, Kastalnitz was able to transfer them in the truck that belonged to the POW camp. The contact person for this mission was Dora Berson. They waited for the truck outside the camp and the transfer mission was successful.
Sadly, someone reported to the Germans about Dolsky's involvement with the resistance and they murdered him along with his wife and children. My father-in-law became sick with typhus and died, and Mikhail Zorof was killed. Now the resistance had lost its influence in the Judenrat, so I received an order to try to get a job in the department of housing. This was no easy feat, for I needed to ask the Jewish traitor Epstein, who was the head of the employment bureau, for the job. What made this dangerous was that if he suspected me, my life would be over. I came to him and said my job in the hospital was very difficult and that I wanted to replace my father-in-law in the Judenrat. He thought about it for a short time and then laughed.
This is a wonderful idea. You will be the head of the housing committee in the Judenrat. Until now, the bandit partisans had infiltrated this division, but you are only a quiet women, the mother of a child. I think I was registered there as a music teacher. Now, once gain, the classified Judenrat information was in our hands.
One day, I had a visit from Lisa Panis. Before the war, she was a neighbor of mine, but in the ghetto I rarely saw her. She was not connected to the resistance. She stuttered when she told me this story***: In her work place, a workshop in service of the aerial defense of Minsk, there was amongst the German commanders a man by the last name of Schultz. Daily, he would go to the ghetto to take the Jews for work. In the Hamburg ghetto (the ghetto for the Jews brought from the west), he met a young Jewish girl named Lischen and fell in love with her. He decided to save her life. Thus, he secretly contacted the partisans and received from them grenades, machine guns, and other weapons.
I became very fearful upon hearing this tale, fearing it was provocation. Oh, I said. Why are you telling me these things? I have no connections to such goings-on.
She answered, Sonya, don't be afraid, I know you have connections with the partisans. All I want is for you to guide us to the forest.
At that moment, Sara Levin entered the room. Sara lived with me after her family was killed. She said that a German officer was walking around our home.
Lisa said, don't be fearful, it's Schultz. I became enraged, but Sara Levin suggested that we get out of the house and meet him. If this was provocation, she said, everything was lost anyway. But if there was any truth to it, it was the most exciting suggestion.
So we went out and talked to Schultz. We were positively impressed. During that day I got across the barbed wire to my sister-in-law, Lubanisadovsky, who was married to the painter Valentin Makarov. She had a false ID and was able to live outside the ghetto. I informed them of the story and luckily, a contact from the second Minsk brigade was with her and he approved the operation. I could not join this operation, nor could Sara Levin because we both still had missions in the ghetto. Sara Levin's mission was to try to convince traitors from the Jewish police to go to the forest where the resistance wanted to put them to trial. In the morning of the day we planned for this operation I went to the gate to see the outcome. A truck arrived and Schultz showed some papers to the guards saying that he needed a certain amount of people to bring wood from the forest. He had with him a German driver. The truck was covered with thick canvas and I assumed the promised weapons were hidden underneath. On top of the canvas were saws and axes. The people were gathered and put on the truck. Lischen arrived and Lisa whispered to me, Sonya, its not too late, run and bring your son and join us. But I refused because I had other missions to do. I found out that Schultz and his so-called tree cutters arrived peacefully at the partisan unit.
The headquarters of the brigade named Chaklov was headed by a troika. The head commander was M. Gribnov, the Commisar was Kazak, and the security chief D Zorba. They told Kastilanicz and I to go the POW camp in Shiroka Street and to make a list of loyal people who would agree to work for the Germans, as Kastilanicz had already made a plan to escape from this camp with his unit. Kastilanicz was able to convince the wife of the German commander to send a few trucks to the area of Ivanitz as he had to collect some potatoes to bring back to Minsk. He claimed he needed a few people to gather the potatoes, so Kastilanicz, six POWs, and a German soldier guarding them all came. In the front seat of the truck sat a driver and German sergeant. After they collected the potatoes they began the return trip to Minsk. The POWs were able to secretly open the back door of the truck and the potatoes started falling out, and the driver got off the truck. The POWs attacked the guard and the driver and took their weapons and killed them. A unit of partisans that was nearby burned the truck. They wanted it to appear as if the partisans had attacked the truck in the first place, and not the POWs.
We knew that we could not stay in the ghetto anymore. It was too unsafe. We waited for our contact from the brigade, a man by the name of Chaklov, and a young girl by the name of Yocheved. Yocheved arrived; her mission was to sneak two physicians who specialized in surgery out of the ghetto and into the forest, as well as the violin player Jonah Bertz and people who specialized in preparing weapons. She also brought with her medical supplies, communication supplies, and some tobacco. All together, there were twelve adults and three children, amongst them my son and I. We didn't know how we should organize our escape. To go under the barbed wire with such a big group without being noticed seemed impossible. So, finally, we decided to go as a work unit to town, not in the ordinary early morning hours, but at ten in the morning. We choose that hour because we knew that the SS officers and the Epstein people would not be around the gate at that time. Mira Strongen prepared the false licenses that enabled us to leave the gates of the ghetto to work. We gave the licenses to the guard who let us leave, and walked in the middle of the road. At the head walked Yocheved. She walked holding the hand of my son. When we arrived at Respublikanskya Street we encountered Riebe, the most evil SS officer. Waves of heat and cold swept through my body, but he walked by us without paying much attention. I was told that after he found out that we escaped, he screamed in rage and frothed at the mouth, saying, I can't believe that I saw them with that bitch from the Judenrat. When we arrived at Miasnitskiya Street we went to a doctor of high rank who lived there. We wanted to go to his house to take off the yellow tags and house numbers off our clothing, but we could only take off the numbers as the yellow tags would not come off. So we left them on, joking that they were like our war medals.
In the village Ponizny, in the area of Staroye Selo, a partisan unit awaited us.
For another version of this story, read Escape From the Ghetto.
On March 30th, 1943, my sister and I escaped from the ghetto. To explain the escape, I have to go back to November of 1941. In another part of the ghetto, Jews from Germany were brought. A German officer named Willi Shultz who was about 40 years old served there. He fell in love with a young Jewish girl named Elsa who was from Frankfurt on the Maine. He decided to run away to the Soviet resistance with his Jewish lover. He asked her to contact the Russian Jews in the ghetto, who he assumed knew how to get in touch with the resistance. He promised that he would give the group that escaped a truck and a driver. Elsa got in touch with Lisa Perlmutter, a Russian Jewish woman, and they gathered a group of thirty Jews from Russia and Poland who could be trusted with the secret. On that day of March 1943, the German came with the truck and a driver and took all thirty of us. We hid in the back of the truck, and at first we were very fearful that the German officer would betray us to the Gestapo, since we knew such things had occurred. As we left Minsk, we started believing that things would turn out well. The German officer asked who knew how to contact the resistance. We really didn't have a contact but there was one Jew named Motel Toif who knew where to find the resistance. The officer put Motel near him on the front seat and continued on the road. We arrived at the river Patitz near the village Roskovitse, where we found that the bridge that would transfer us to the other side of the river had been burned. We couldn't stay by the river for too long, since we knew the Germans would look for the officer who left with the Jews for work. We decided to send someone to swim across the river to find the resistance. We were lucky that amongst us was Zolya Takorski who used to be a sailor. He jumped into the river with his clothes on and a pistol held in his mouth. After a short time, he returned with a boat. The first person to be transferred was the German officer, and we could see the people of the resistance waiting on the other side . Back2. Yocheved Eiberman Ruventczik wrote her own story in p 371 of the Book of Minsk:
I returned to the ghetto with the address of the Kastelnitz family, and through them I was to get in touch with other people: a doctor, a pharmacist, and a woman by the name of Sofia Sodovskaya whose husband was the editor of a newspaper. I had to bring them first. My father was already with the partisans at that point.
I came to the Kastelnitz family. They told me that I must be careful in the ghetto and I hid with them for four days. Even the Judenrat members guarded me, since they wanted to come with me to join the partisans. On the fifth day, the families arrived. One of the people that came had some papers that said he was allowed to take people to work. So I put a yellow tag on my clothes and we left. The policemen didn't stop us when we left, supposedly to work, at the gate of the ghetto.
Soon after we got out, I took the yellow tag off. I carried a typewriter in one hand, and somewhere I had a small gun hidden. I decided that if someone should catch me as a Jew, I would not fall alive at their hands. I would kill myself.
The people who walked behind me wore the yellow tags with the house number on their clothes, until we reached the point where Jews were only allowed to walk with a superior. Upon reaching that point, everyone hid the yellow tags and continued. I walked at the head; all made up and in my hand held a blonde child, the son of Sodovsky. We pretended to be Polish and when we encountered people, I said some Polish words. The Jews with me were very scared. I calmed them down and we left Minsk through a transport train station. When we arrived there, a German from the train station came to me and asked where I was going. I said that we were going to get some food in exchange for supplies. I could see in his face that he was not the killer type. As time passed, we developed that sense.
I was 16 years old, and he was friendly. It seemed like he was looking for a chance to spend some time with a young girl. He walked with me and we were able to pass by the different guards. The people who walked behind thought I had been caught, so I quickly said to Sodovsky's child in Russian to let them know that this was an okay German. I hinted to the people to go ahead of me, and I walked slowly with the German. He smiled and cracked jokes and flirted with me, and his hand started touching my breast, where I hid weapon. I knew that I was taking a great chance so I said, No, my dear. My mother doesn't allow me to spend time with Germans like this. If you want, I can bring you from Poland some pork and eggs. Here is my mother's address. Please come visit us, and if mother will agree, I will be your lover, but not right now. To my great luck he was not stubborn about this and we parted and arrived two kilometers away from Minsk, where we met the partisans Back
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