Russians Do Not Permit Any Bransk Jews in the Forest HeroicDeeds by Bransk Youths
It becomes quite evident after the events of the last few months of 1942 how and through whom all those who were hiding with Christian acquaintances, or who found themselves near the villages and in trenches, perished and about which the Christians knew. These were the Bransk Jews whose possessions, many of which were quite substantial, were given away to the Christians who had been their acquaintances for many years.
We must note that those who were hidden by the Christians, usually at a high financial cost, were separate from the rest of the Jews of the ghetto. There was no longer any communication between those who were in hiding and the others who had fled. Possibly they felt more fortunate because their Christian acquaintances had taken them under their wing.
Regretfully, those who had been hidden were the first victims. The Christians, with their thirst to inherit Jewish belongings, robbed and murdered their victims in the most brutal ways, showing no pity. They wanted to ensure that there would not be anyone who later could claim the stolen possessions they had acquired.
The category of people who were hidden in the trenches in the ghetto perished because they were betrayed by
spies, by Polish policemen. All of them during these two months November and December of 1942 were murdered.
There were others who owned nothing, so they ran to the forest, not entrusting their lives to anyone and living from whatever they could find. Later on, there came to the forest those who had already been robbed of their possessions. A natural bond and warm friendship developed among them, like brothers of one family. However, this did not develop easily.
Firstofall, there were those who felt the forest was theirs and complained about why was everyone coming there? The first problem was that there were Soviets who had fled to hide in the forest to escape German capture, as well as a number of deserters who were also hiding in the forests. They did not permit Jews in general in the forest. At the first opportunity, the Soviets who had fled took clothing, shoes and everything the Jews had and left the Bransk Jews naked in the greatest frosts.
And this is how those who fled from the ghetto were faced with a third enemy: the Germans in the town, the Poles in the villages and the Soviets who stole from them and lived off these stolen items and who were always drunk. The end was that the Russians were littlebylittle murdered by the Germans, because with their behavior they didn't possess the foresight to be watchful. They slowly fell into Nazi hands.
Eventually it became possible to form a tie with the remaining Soviets, forging a friendship thanks to little Hershele Rubin and Maishe Rubinshteyn. However this did not come easily.
Hershele Rubin, a 17year old youth, small and skinny, was Yankl Shimon's grandchild. He was very goodlooking and intelligent, a wellread young man. He was friends with my younger
son Ozer Trus. They were two friends who were wellinformed sympathizers of the progressive workers' idealism.
During the ghetto days Hershele collected weapons which he received from a German soldier friend, Heinz, a Communist. This Heinz advised the Jews to arm themselves with weapons and flee to the forest.
By the time the Bransk ghetto was liquidated, Hershele and his sister Dore, were already in the forest and wellarmed. There in the forest he meets his school friend, Maishe Rubinshteyn. Hershele decides he will shoot all the Soviet deserters because they do not permit Jews to enter the forest. Maishe Rubinshteyn, Yozefinekh's (?) grandchild, does not agree with this plan. He says they have to make an attempt for a good outcome. Maishe Rubinshteyn warns the Russians to avoid little Hershele, that he is heavily armed and a good shooter. They were very afraid of Hershele. The result was that they became friendly and dubbed Hershele ‘the brave Ershko.’ This led to closeness between the Russians and the Jewish groups in the forest.
Hershele does not sit idle. He always keeps his revolver close by and uses it quite often. The whole area is now aware of the little Hershele. The Germans place a price on his head. Hershele receives support from the Polish intelligentsia, from the teachers, from the priest. They bring him food and weapons, ammunition. Following his example they all seek to find weapons. The gathering point is in the Polish smentarzsh (?) and is also where the Polish supporters meet.
He spreads fear across the entire area. He stands on the BielskBransk road and shoots at those riding past. He spreads propaganda among everyone, urging them to take a stance and confront the enemy. Branskers ridicule him.
Hershele goes to the village of Markeve, eight kilometres from Bransk. The Germans had set up a school in Markeve where they trained hunting dogs in helping to capture Jews in the forest.
Suddenly Hershele attacks the dogtraining school. The guard
Hershele shoots all the dogs. Panic ensues among the Germans. Hershele becomes even more popular in the area.
Polish weddings would take place during carnival time. German gendarmes would be invited to these weddings as honored guests. Hershele says: We suffer without food, wander around like dogs and they conduct celebrations and bring the Nazis in as guests. No, this will not happen. He organizes a group to do something about this. Such a wedding was going to take place in the village of Poplov at the home of the Pole Zarski. The group makes its preparations. They come out of the forest across the river to Poplov, not yet encountering any guests. The door is guarded and they make a toast with a good drink, enjoy a good meal and then they pour kerosene over the wedding finery and prepare the baked goods to take back with them. Hershele says to the parents that ‘this is because you invite the German gendarmes to your celebrations. This is only a warning. It will be worse the next time.’ You understand that the guests were closely guarded by the pointed revolvers. The door was locked from the outside. They leave this place and head back to the forest through different ways.
The gendarmes arrived at the wedding ten minutes later. The following day it is known throughout the area about Hershele's work. No more German gendarmes were ever again invited to Polish weddings. He had taught the Bransk Jews how to handle firearms, and to watch out for themselves. However, he himself was not careful and this brought him to an early and untimely death.
During the summer cutting time he is betrayed. Poles discover that he is in the village of Polyetl. A large number of gendarmes arrive. They attack him. Hershl's pistol jams, and as he stands facetoface with the enemy he could not even take revenge for anyone. He falls dead along with his sister Dore.
The Polyeteler Christians bury them with great respect in the village of Polyetl near Bransk.
Honour their memories
|Hershele Rubin in the Forest|
Hershele's death led to better ties with everyone in the forest. In addition, they now saw they must not be in a village but only in the forest.
Jews who had held themselves aloof now get together, and now make communal hidingplaces (trenches). Arrangements are made for food to be supplied for everyone.
Murders in the Villages The same hunt continued in the villages. If anyone was caught in the field, he would pay with his life.
In the spring of 1943 there were several Jews hiding in the village of Smurle. The Smurle Christians tied them all up and brought them to Bransk. The following were shot:
Kive Sashin, 24 years old,
His wife, Blume
Alyh Sashin, Kive's brother, 19 years old,
Nokhum Shroyt's girl drags herself to the village of Olyentsk at the beginning of the winter of 1943, hands and feet frozen as well as her nose and entire face, begging to be taken to the Germans. The Christians do not want to do this. They see there is already nothing left to take there. They take her to Toptcheve to the gendarmes. The girl begs them to shoot her and they oblige.
Maishe, Vigder Katsev's grandchild, 6 years, is found in the village of Zalyeshe. A Christian captures the little boy, takes him to the gendarmes in Toptcheve. They take him with them to the forest, carrying a shovel with them with which to bury him. In the forest they shot into the air, told the little boy to flee, and told him not to return to this area. The boy disappeared. According to certain Polish rumors, he was murdered.
Berl Shroyt, AvrumMeir the painter's, escaped the ghetto, hiding somewhere in fields and forests, when finally at the end of summer 1943, he is captured by Poplover Christians. He no longer had the possibility of escaping the troubles he has endured. He is brought to Bransk and the gendarmes shoot him near the river where he is buried.
Berl Okon, Khaim Burak's sister's son, a very fine young man, escaped from the ghetto along with two sisters, Khava and Leah. They hid in the area near Klikhe, Ploneve, Alyekshin, endured much from the Germans and Poles. At the end of 1943, Berl set out to find some food. He wandered into an attack. He hides in a cellar, but suddenly gendarmes appear there, capturing him and taking him to Alyekshen [sic]. MCG Berl is shot at the wall of Pilinske's barn by the gendarme Shumanski. He was buried there.
Berl Tabak, Asher Damsken Shnaider's soninlaw, 30 years and seven
Vishink Jews, names unknown, are murdered in the village of Myen near Bransk. The murderers are unknown to this very day.
In the Rutker Forest in the heavily wooded Rutker forest a group of Jews was in hiding in a deep trench. The Pole Skavronek from the village of Rutke noticed the trench and came with gendarmes, pointing it out. The gendarmes blew up the trench with handgrenades. This same hidingplace became the grave for the following:
Maishe Orlyansky, Yenkl Zavl's son 45 years,
Frume Arlyansky,[sic] Maishe's wife, 42 years,
Zelde their daughter, 10 years,
Khaike their daughter, 7 years,
Hershl Orlyansky, Yenkl Zavl's son 47 years,
Itche Yenkl Pribut, Lazer the blacksmith's son 37,
Maishe's 5 year old child, name unknown
A special investigation confirmed that the Pole Skavronek had discovered this hidingplace. A complaint to the prosecutor through the Bialystok Jewish Historical Commission, Number 4/47, accordingly, was filed.
Pyetrask Many Jews died near the village of Pyetrask by the murderous hand of the Pyetrask village magistrate by the name of Pyetrashke. There were two hidingplaces there.
Yosl Ptak, a shoemaker, 27 years old,
Zavl Ptak, a tailor, 24 years old,
Mendel Shlifke, a wheelwright, 33 years old,
Lazer Rifke, Yankev Maishe Rifke's son, 21 years old,
The village magistrate Pyetrashke discovered both hidingplaces and brought gendarmes. Pyetrashke orders the victims to come out. They are shot and are buried in their trenches. Their clothes are taken by Pyetrashke as a reward for his work.
The Ptak brothers were discovered at the beginning of winter, 1943. The other two were discovered in the spring of 1943. Pyetrashke was responsible for both of these in the same murderous manner.
A complaint to the prosecutor was entered on January 7th, 1947 to the Historical Commission, Number 6/47, accordingly.
Christians from the village of Lyendive did not give the Germans the pleasure of shooting Jews. They did this themselves by their own efforts. Why give the gendarmes the pleasure. The war is in full swing. The Nazi army must be supplied with meat, butter, tobacco, tea. Let the gendarmes concentrate their efforts on the transports. They will take care of murdering the Jews themselves. The Armia Krajowe was supposed to fight against the Germans, but instead devoted their efforts to murdering Jews. The following were the victims of the Lyendiver beasts:
Khaim Raibak, Shaye Afrikaner's son, 70 years old,
Shepsl Broyzman, Shepsl Treger's grandchild, 17 years,
Lerman dentist, 42 years,
Lerman's wife 40 years,
Stelye Lerman, their daughter, 18 years.
Ten Jews from the village of Sakole, names unknown.
A Warsaw girl, name unknown.
A Tchekhenovtser boy, name unknown.
It is known that a Pole by the name of Plonski was one of the band.
In the forest, Lyendeve was called Slaughterhouse. Yes, the gendarmes had good coworkers.
Zaluske Leybl Itche Krinsky's son, the hatmaker, was hidden in the village of Zaluske. In the spring of 1943, a Pole by the name of Aldikhovski captured Leybl. Leybl defied him. The Pole hit him over the head with an axe and he falls into an unconscious condition. He is taken to Bransk to the gendarmes. He is shot at the mountain and is buried there. The Pole Aldikhovski, for his work, receives Krinsky's clothes and a halfkilo of sugar.
A complaint is filed in the Historical Commission 17/47 accordingly.
Rishke Tsuktlyer, Ben Tsiyon the lame teacher's daughter was noticed as she was walking from the village of Shvirikh to the village of Zaluske during the summer of 1943. The Christians set out to capture her. She had already spent nine months in the fields, was hungry and weak. Naturally she did not have any more strength to run, so she was quickly captured by the wellnourished drunk Christians. They bound her and she begged and cried, but regretfully, they brought her to the gendarmes. They took her shoes off and she was shot near Leyzer Katsev's cellar. The Christians also received the reward of a half kilo of sugar. This was now the usual prize for capturing Jews. Up to this day, it cannot be confirmed who the Christians were who participated in this instance.
Sheyne Volkavitch, Pesakh the miller's grandchild, Maishe the quilter's daughter, 22 years, was hiding together with Maishe and Perl Penkherzh in a trench. Some kind of argument took place there and Sheyne leaves the trench. She goes to the village of Glinek to meet Jews in the forest near Bransk. She knew that her cousin Yisiroelkele is somewhere in the forest. This is summer 1943, She is captured
by a Glinik Pole, is brought to Bransk to the gendarmes. They beat her mercilessly to force her to tell them where and with whom she had been the entire time. Sheyne did not reveal anything despite having been chased out of the hidingplace. She did not betray anyone. She was made to run a gauntlet as punishment, shot and was buried there. Honour her memory. This is true heroism.
Itche'ele Burak, 13 years, Leybl Burak's youngest son, fled the ghetto, wandering about in fields, forests and villages. He was very capable of finding food for himself. He met his uncle, Velvl Burak, and they were together for a certain length of time, and Itchele was able to find food for Velvl and himself.
Something occurred that Velvl allows his nephew to leave. If Itche'ele had been able to reach the Bransker in the forest, he would possibly survived. However, he hid in the area between KersnaveKalnitse. Summer time he lay hidden in the corn stalks. A gendarme standing high up in the Kersnover [sic] windmill noticed him with his binoculars, aimed his revolver and shot him. Itche'ele lies in a pool of blood, in the corn stalks.
His uncle Velvl later comes to the forest and survives.
Rumours abound that the Bialystok ghetto has not and will not be disturbed because of various reasons. They wanted to believe it was true, so secretly a group of Bransk Jews organized for the purpose of reaching Bialystok ghetto where the Jews live. This was at the beginning of 1943. The group consisted of:
Shimon Rubin, 35 years, Shtyopke's son,
Khaitshe Shimon's wife, 29 years,
Shimon's two year old son,
Mair Rubin, 40, Leyzer Rubin's son,
Menukhe Rubin, Mair's wife, Elke Rive's daughter,
Mair's two children
Zelig Kestin (Kuptchi Zhelozes), 23 years,
Maishe Khaim Dobrovsky, Batker the teacher's grandchild, 22 years,
Niske Nudelman, Itchke (Zalisher's son), 26 years,
Blume Kasarsky, was married to a cousin, an American,
A Pyekuter youth who had lived in Bransk for several years.
The group found a wagon and make an attempt to reach Bialystok.
In the area of the Pyetkever forest, they are betrayed by someone. They are met by Germans and everyone is shot.
Khatskl the ritual slaughterer's son 16 years, is in hiding in the area of KlikheVoytke near Bransk. He is captured by Christians, taken to Bocki to the gendarmes. In Bocki he is shot.
The two sisters Finklshteyn, Avikhe's grandchildren and the wife of PesakhYosl Taptchevsky with her three year old child are somewhere between Kersnove and Kalnitse. Because of a report by a Christian Bablyevitch from the village of Mervizne near Bransk, in the summer of 1943, the gendarmes attack the area and the above are shot there.
At the same time, a Kersnover Christian, Yanek Stepanoves brings the Germans to the trench hidingplace between the village of Kalnitse and Kersnove, where the following are hiding:
Bentsl Rubin, YoslShimon Farber's son, 21 years,
Khone Piekucky, 16 years, Babtche's son,
Leybele Yentchman, Bertche Yentchman's son, 8 years,
Two Visaker Litovsker Jews, names unknown
All are chased from the trench and shot. Their rotted clothes are taken by Janek Stepanoves as a reward for his work. He throws all the bodies back into the trench and that is where their grave remains.
Excerpt from the Historical Commission 10/47 accordingly. Complaint against Janek. 9/1/47.
In the month of April 1943 there is an attack in the area of the swamps on the way to the Rutker forest. There were Germans and Polish
police. This was possibly the result of a betrayal. They are following the scent of the hidden Jews. Shooting breaks out from both sides during which Dovid Pribut, 55 years, Shmulye Poplover's son falls dead from a bullet. Leybl Sashin, Yosl Pribut and Elye Yentchman succeed in fleeing during the shooting. This is now the second time Elye Yentchman has managed to run away.
A couple of months later in 1943, a second attack takes place in the same area. The bandits come to a trench with Jews. As a result, Leybl Sashin 22years, Ruven Katsev's grandchild, falls dead and the wellknown Poale Tsiyonist Elye Yentchman, 44 years old.
|Elye Yentchman his wife Dvorke and son Dovidl|
With the death of Elye Yentchman the entire account of the Bransk Jews on the way to Treblinka is lost. He was the only Bransk Jew who had fled from Treblinka. He had much to tell. He did not live to tell the world the facts of the BielskBialystokMalkinTreblinka trip that he knew. He took this story with him into his deep grave. Honour his memory. Elye Yentchman, courageous fighter, Bransk hero!
Yosl Pribut, 15 years, was only wounded in his hand. He fled to Bransk Bendige to the river. The Germans met him with bullets. Yosle hides in a cellar with potatoes. The Germans search for him and cannot find him. They demand
of the Christians that within a halfhour they turn him over. However, thanks to the help of the Christians, they did not find him.
At night, with the help of a Christian, Pilinske he made contact with the group of Bransk Jews in the forest. His brother Khaim Velvl Pribut, was there. They healed him of his wounds. He remained with the forest group. However, he perished later. About his death in later chapters.
Exhausted and Weakend Bransker Die By this time almost all were so starved and exhausted that there was no longer any strength left to survive the terrible suffering. Many died a natural death in the forest and in the field and not from direct gunshots by the Germans or Poles. They simply passed away.
I tried to gather the facts but not everyone is mentioned here.
ElyeMoshe Menashe's 19 years dies in the forest at the end of 1942. He was unable to endure the two months of living in the forest. He is buried by Maishe Oskard and the Ptak brothers. They were still alive at that time.
Gedalye Krinsky, hatmaker, approximately 43 years, dies alone in the swamps between Poplov, Alyekshin near Bransk, frozen. No one knows if or where he is buried.
Leybl Kamen 20 years, Yudl Galise's middle son dies from a wound he had sustained from a rusty nail that was used to make a new trench near the village of Patok. The trench they were in was noticed and so they had to make another. This was summer, 1943. His brother Maishe, with the help of Perl Penkherzh buries him in the field near Patok.
Avrumele Gradzhinsky, 55 years, Itche Gimpl's son dies in his trench, hidden near the village of Dominove. Avreml was there with his son 15 years old, nicknamed Gril. The Christian who had taken their money to bring them food once in five days, saw
that the money was running out and stopped bringing the food. Avreml died of hunger. His son buries him near the village of Dominove. The 15year old boy, after his father's death, lost his mind. The Christian, two months later, brought him to Bransk to the gendarmes. He is shot in the horse market.
Zelig Rozen 46 years, a blacksmith, Dovid the blacksmith's son was somewhere in a trench with his son Pesakh, near the village Luvishtch near Bransk. He was already swollen [from hunger] for the two months prior to his death. His son Pesakh, 20 years, buries him in the forest near the village.
And so ended the lives of the Bransker who had fled, been captured, shot, murdered or died swollen from hunger pangs.
Footnotes (Rubin Roy Cobb)
Heroic Battle of Rokhl Tcheslyak and Bobtche Rubinshteyn Armed
Partisan Detachment Formed, Death Sentence Carried Out on a Betrayer
At the beginning of 1944 the situation of the small number of remaining Bransk Jews in the forest greatly worsened. The Polish armed bandits of the Armaia Krayowa attack and create much trouble.
There is a spontaneous organization of a defense detachment. The time was ripe for the formation of this detachment. The Nazis are pushed back by Russia. There is already grass growing on the Nazi graves in Stalingrad.
The members of the Soviet underground still keep their distance.
Thanks to Maishe Rubinshteyn a friendly atmosphere developed with the Soviet underground members, those who had previously not permitted any Jews in the forest. There are frequent encounters between the Soviets and the Jews. No longer are they taking away the Jews' weapons.
Possibly the news from the front which reports Soviet victories had something to do with this.
Maishe Rubinshteyn later worked his way up to become the secretary of the forest detachment at the Komsomol.
After the liquidation of the Bialystok ghetto on August 15, 1943 new people show up in the forest, among them
Yankev Povritske, a Bialystok attorney, Alek Gzushevin, former head of the academic youth in Warsaw, Mates, a Bialystok poet. Several also came from Tchekhenovtser. Abtche Lifshitz, Shloyme Oks grandchild, and his Polish friend Gravazh, who later becomes one of the murdered by the gendarmes.
At the same time the Polish bands gain strength. We receive reports of mass murders of Jews.
A Bialystok girl Edye Katz, is found in the village of Hodishove badly wounded by the Polish band, with the name of Hanul Shmirtch. Hershl Lype and Khaim Vrobel take her to them and devote themselves to her recovery. They got medicine for her, you understand of course that money made this possible. It took five months until she regained her health. She later married Hershl Lype. They now have a fine son.
Edye Katz and a group of others had run away when they were on the road, as they were being taken with everyone else from the Bialystok ghetto to Treblinka. They slowly made it to the Bransk area near the village of Hodishove where they settled into a forest trench. The Polish Armei Krajowa, bandits discovered the trench and threw hand grenades into it. Everyone died.
Khaim Vrobel the Kevlyaker went to bury them and found Edya Katz still alive. He took her with him. His efforts were not in vain.
The activities of Khaim Vrobel consisted of helping to supply the Jews in the forest with food and medicine as well as clothing and shoes. He also helped to find hidingplaces.
The following fact is very characteristic. At the end of 1943, wintertime, Khaim Vrobel finds in the village of Hodishove a 9 year old Bialystok girl, Stella Tcheslyanske. She too, jumped from the train while it was on its way to Treblinka. The little girl crept about in the forest alone. Khaim took her with her feet frozen, with him to his hidingplace. Several Christians had pointed the little girl out to Khaim. He clothes her.
She recovers and becomes accepted into the Bransk group under his guidance. They suffer great difficulties from this child during the time of attacks. Yet Stella lived through everything. She is now in Palestine. Khaim misses her as if she were his sister.
Khaim Vrobel, Kevlyaker earns the greatest respect for his heroic and devoted work under such difficult circumstances.
A little Jewish girl of about twelve years shows up in the village of Olyentsk near Bransk. Christians encountered my son Leybl and told him that somewhere a young girl is wandering about. Leybl arranges with the Christians to leave the girl on a certain day near the well. At the correct time my son Leybl Trus, Maishe Ber Pelkhovitch and Shloyme Olentsky show up at the well. The little girl, sick, was standing at the well, feet frozen. They take her to the forest. Her name is Lube Frank. She was born in Kovne [Lithuania ] and found herself in the Bialystok ghetto. She was being taken to Treblinka, and on the way she fled. She wandered about alone until she came to the Bransk area. They give her clothing, medicine
and help. She becomes a member of the Bransk group, helped by my son Leybl Trus with food, clothing and medicine. She survives the war, and is now with her relatives in Australia.
She wandered into the Bransk forest and was rescued.
For the purpose of being more secure, they are divided into small groups and take off in different directions in the forest and field, carrying small firearms.
There is a betrayal at the end of 1943. A Shvirider Pole by the name of Dnyestor, the watchcommandant of the village of Shvirid brings Germans to a hidingplace which is between the villages of Shvirid and Olyentsk. The following Branskers were in the trench at that time: Maishe Kleinot, Elber the shoemaker's grandchild, Leybl Pav from Tchizhev, who had lately lived in Bransk, Binyomin Pribut, 18 years, Shmulye Paplaver's grandchild, Rokhl Tcheslyak, 18 years, , Itskhak the porridge maker's grandchild and, Babtche Rubinshteyn, the Yozefiner's grandchild.
The Germans order them out of the trench. They respond from within the trench with a hail of bullets upon the Nazis and Dnyestor. After a couple of hours, they run out of bullets. There is nothing more with which to defend themselves. The men make an attempt to flee and fall dead. There remain in the trench
only Bobtche Rubinshteyn and Rokhl Tcheslyak. The Germans approach the trench, throwing hand grenades in Rokhl Tcheslyak and Bobtche Rubinshteyn catch the hand grenades and throw them back to the Germans.
|Rokhl Tcheslyak Yitzkhak the porridgemaker's daughter|
Bobtche had already lost one hand. They do not give up. The betrayer Frank approaches with bundles of straw, throws them into the trench. They are burning bundles of straw. The fire and choking smoke force Bobtche and Rokhl'n to come out of the trench and they are shot.
There are five heroic Branskers lying at the edge of the trench, young Bransk martyrs. They defended themselves bravely and fell as heroes.
This incident forces everyone to look for ways to respond to this mass murder. At a consultation, the Soviet underground workers recommend a death sentence to be carried out on Dnyestor'n, the betrayer. There is unanimous agreement in favor of the death sentence. The best workers volunteer. The commandant of the detachment Radzin, Pyetke, Nikolay Tsigan and two who are unknown. On a Shabbos evening, when it was still light, they enter the village Shvirid, find Dnyestor's house, and go in with a grand
greeting. They take out a paper and ask who is Franek Dnyestor? There was a neighbour in the house. He becomes frightened as this means death, so he immediately points to him: This is Franek Dnyestor.
Why did you throw burning bundles of straw into the trench? Why did you bring Germans to the hiding place? I will not do this anymore, Franek answered. We will ensure that you do not do this anymore, the detachment members say. Franek, there is a death sentence handed down to you by the partisan detachment for you to be shot. They instruct Franek to sign the death sentence. The neighbour also signs.
Pyetke then rewards Franek'n with 5 bullets. Franek Dnyestor falls onto Pyetken who throws him off his body with his foot.
The commandant Radzin warns that no longer will betrayers be tolerated.
Radzin says to Franek's wife that she should bring her children up in a better way than the one their father led. He says goodbye and they leave. (Excerpt from the Historical Commission in Bialystok. )
The next day this information about the sentence has reached everyone in the area. The local press makes an uproar. The Soviets and the Jews are murdering innocent people of the Polish population. The residents of the villages are frightened. Some of them say it was a good thing, Franek should not have told on them.
After Franek Dnyestor's judgment and death, the Poles did not capture any more Jews. They did not try anymore.
In the village of Glinyek a group of Soviet organizers from the detachment asked a gentile for bread. The Pole raged, threatened he would bring Germans to them. You understand that he is immediately dead. This resulted in the beginning of respect for the partisans.
Two days after the death sentence is carried out on
Franekn, the partisan detachment was once again organized. They formed new ranks with political commissars and an official recorded journal. They put in place an armed watch at specially designated areas that were always changed when necessary.
They also put in place planned methods on how to obtain food. The detachment had already been in existence, but it had not worked as an organized entity. It was especially important to reform their methods of obtaining food. Up until that time they went out for food individually, each for himself, not in an organized fashion. Anyone who was capable found food.
According to the explanation in Velvl Golde's letter, he writes the following: when winter fades and when it became somewhat warmer we, had to leave the peasant's house where we had been staying, my sister and I. We went to the forest. I was very frightened. I crept around the entire day thinking that I could possibly find some Jews. I found no one. Several weeks passed this way. Occasionally we got food from Lyenshnikes whom we knew. It was impossible to be with them. During calm periods they were very friendly. Now they were totally different people.
Eventually I did find Jews. They brought me to Leybl Trus and I was there for a long time. I joined the partisans and I was given a rifle. The first day I went with Leybl to the village to get food. The Christians gave me whatever we asked for from them. They had respect for me and my rifle. The rifle was what counted.
Right after fleeing the ghetto we went to ask for food. There were those who did give something.
The Polyeteler lord would always bring food for the Jews. The Germans had murdered his eldest son and therefore, he was good to Jews. Adelye Shteiynmanave always brought food for Gitl Yozefyner and the children who were in the forest.
In 1939 the Germans murdered many Christians in the village and therefore they were a bit friendlier.
Pharoah's Third Plague Maishe Berl Pelkhavitch was from the village of Povikre, of late he had lived in Bransk and was always with my son Leybl. They came to a Christian by the name of Dankevitch, in the village of Polyetl to ask for food.
Dankevitch says to them: ‘What, you are still alive? There are Germans in the village.’ He tells his son to lock the door and he immediately runs to the German gendarmes. Maishe Berl and Leybl run away from there before the Christian boy even made a move. The boy lay sick for several days. He could not come to himself due to having been frightened.
Sometime later the Palyeteler lord told Maishe Berl'en that Dankevitch was bragging to all the Christians how he had frightened the two zhidkes.
Maishe Berl decides to seek revenge on Dankevitch'en.
In the winter of 1943 Maishe Berl is living in the forest. There is nothing to do. There are plenty of insects, so he scoops them up and places them in a little container. Now he has to figure out where to put them.
At the beginning of the evening he goes to this same Dankevitch'en. He greets him with an
extensive ‘good evening’. Dankevitch is perplexed. ‘You are still alive Moshke?’ Dankevitch asks. ‘Yes,’ Maishe Berl replies. ‘and everything is alive with me.’ Get out of here, for if you don't I will bring the Germans, says the gentile. Mr Dankevitch, give me a little piece of bread, Maishe Berl begs. Go, go, get out of here he yells with fury. I only want to see the clock, Maishe Berl answers. The clock was hanging on the wall over the bed. Maishe Berl opens his little container, releases the living insects onto the bed. And this is how he got revenge with Pharoah's third plague on Dankevitch'en.
Upon my return from Russia I met with the Polyeteler nobleman and he told me this story while laughing, how Dankevitch scratched himself and cursed Maishe Berl'en.
There were now other methods used to find food. At first they went to steal food, and then lately, they obtained food using weapons.
Mulye Rekhelzon, Dvora Dine's grandchild, was the specialist. He kept a record of the fattened sheep and calves and pigs. Why take small skinny ones if they can get big fat ones so it would be enough for everyone. Yes, he was a specialist first class. But he depends only on stealing. He does not carry weapons because it is safer. He would do the slaughtering in the barn, make portions for each group separately, and for himself and his group, he would take the smallest portion. There are more sheep, so they will take more a second time. This is what he would say. However, he did not forget to leave the feet, the head and the innards for the Christians leaving a note: ‘this is for your work in making the calves and sheep fat.’
Dovtche Olyentsky Voitek's, was a real artist. He would go to get food for the detachment. He never broke a lock. He would crawl in through a window at the Christian's house, take the little key, open the barn, or the stable, take what he wanted, lock the stable and creep into the house, hang
the key on the wall. This was safer because the Christian did not notice what was missing and they could come a second time.
The best method was using weapons, demanding and receiving bread, meat and other food.
Then another method was to steal from other villages. Then do the same thing in other villages, never in the same village again. This was easier.
New Misfortune Armaia Krayowa this was supposed to be a Polish army, helping the war effort and partisans against the Germans. They returned from the Russian provinces. But they attacked and murdered Jews.
The Jews who were in the forest were safer because they were grouped and wellarmed. However the ones who were still alive and hiding in or near villages were now becoming victims of the Armaia Krayowa bandits.
The news reaches the forest.
At the end of 1943 and the beginning of 1944, in the village of Soltsye, the following were murdered by the A.K.: Yoske Smurtchik 56 years, Leyzer Katsev's son, Keyle Smuztchik, Yoske's daughter 25 years, Yoske Smurtchik's son 30 years, whose name I do not know. He was Motl Rhymer's soninlaw, and Motl Rihmer's four sons in the same village.
Meir Valtchinsky 28 years,
Yankev Voltchinsky, 23 years,
Shimon Voltchinsky, 21 years,
Yosl Voltchinsky 16 years,
These same bandits murdered in the village of Kersnove Khaim the baker's (Khaim Katlavitch's ) youngest son, 16 years, name unknown , Yoske Katlavitch, Khaim Baker's eldest son 27 was only wounded.
In the village of Rutke, at the end of 1943, the Polish bandits with the help of gendarmes, murdered Maishe Shuster 23 years, Dovid the blacksmith's grandchild, Baylke Faynsod's 20 year old girl, Alter Katsev's grandchild.
In 1944, in the village of Prushanke, there were murdered the brothers
Shloyme the peacemaker's two sons, Yankev Halpern 45 years, and Shaye Halpern 38 years, the group discovered them and both had been murdered by Christian acquaintances.
In the summer of 1944, just a few days before the liberation, there were murdered in the village of Koshive by the same group Avrum Gadobrosky, 40 years, Alter the red head's son. The investigation revealed that the young Christian of the village of Koshyev, Krososki, was the murderer.
Also in the Bransk forest during the summer of 1944, the attorney Gzshebin from Lodz and Mates a wellknown Bialystok poet were murdered, as well as an unknown Jew from Keltz. They had all been sick, unable to help themselves.
|The only picture of the forest group, Dovid Olyentsky on the left, is alive Yankev Olyentsky Dora Rubin and Maishe Kleinat perished|
All these stories of the new sort of murders of Jews near Bransk served to bring those who remained even closer together all the remaining Jews who were alive. They formed larger groups with everyone armed. They became closer to the Russians. Their number in the forest increased substantially.
Everyone learned the trick of obtaining food for all
one communal pot. Every night they go to obtain food, not to steal or beg, but to take it with weapons. They prepare stocks of potatoes so as not to have to go to the villages so often.
There are rumours of an imminent attack. Everyone evacuates to another forest. They look around and discover that Dovid Vigotsky is missing. Naturally, they now understand that he has been captured. They decide not to leave until they will rescue Dovid. They formulate a plan. They spread out on the road from Glinik to Bransk to wait until they will lead Dovid out. It is already daylight, 8 in the morning, 10 in the morning, already midday. No one is being led out. Someone shows up with a report that Dovid is already here. Where was he? Dovid tells them that as they were evacuating from the forest, he cooked something to eat. He was tired, so he lay down to sleep and slept for sixteen hours. This shows how united they were. Everyone had agreed to risk their lives to rescue Dovid and not to run away from this place despite the great danger.
Footnotes (Rubin Roy Cobb)
This was the official name of the Bransk Jews in the Soviet detachment.
They taught methods of resistance and showed the Bransk boys and girls how to use the weapons. They battled spies who were always to be found in the forest, searching. They found out about an episode where a large number of armed men questioned the shepherds about the partizanke.
It later turned out that these had been Ukrainians vlasovtses, Hitler's collaborators.
They arrange a permanent watch. Pavel Radzin, an educated and much respected Russian was the commander. His work was of much use. However, there was no communication with other groups of partisans. Even though they knew there were other partisan detachments, but communication between them did not exist.
Resistance On the 8th December 1943, a German group led by the infamous Shumanski attacked the Bransk forest. As the group approached the trench, they opened fire. Vanye Zhubater, the Russian takes aim and shoots Shumanski and the German flee.
A road is being built from Bransk to Drogetchin. The foreman, a German, was a bandit, Vanye Zhubater arrives in the middle of the day, at the end of 1943, shoots the foreman before everyone's eyes. He instructs
all the workers to place their shovels on a hill and everything is burned.
Lube Goldberg a Tchekhenavtser young woman from Alt Shtot, is hiding in the Bransk forest with the Bransker partisans. At the attack on their trench on the 8th December 1943 she shows how brave she is. Lube Goldberg stands in the trench and is visible from the waist up and she is shooting. While Vanye Zhabate shoots, she prepares more weapons for him. She hands them to him and shouts bravely: shoot, Vanye while using the automatic pistol herself and directs Vanye. In March 1944 Lube Goldberg is transferred to another detachment near Bocki. Because she is a good typist, her name is wellknown in the partisan headquarters as a brave young woman. She survived.
However, in a nearby trench there were the Jews: Maishe Oskart, (sic) MGC Khaim Velvl Pribut and Yosef Pribut. They left their trench during the shooting. Maishe Oskard and Khaim Velvl Pribut fled successfully. Yosef falls with a wound to his leg. The Germans threw him into the trench, blowing it up with hand grenades. And so this is how the brave Yosef Pribut fell. Twice he had escaped death and now he has perished.
(Excerpt from the Historical Commission 17/46 accordingly)
On 28th March 1944, the trench near the Bransk forest was attacked. There were seven Bransk Jews hiding there: Hershl Shpak, his daughter Brokha, Leybl Trus, Yisrael'ke Brenner, Dovtche Olyentsky, Maishe Berl Pelkhavitch and Yokheved Golde.
Brokha Shpak notices a dog from afar. She tells this to the others. They laugh at her. How does a dog come here? However, they are already shooting into the trench. They fire 70 rounds. Everyone is covered with the earth which falls into the trench. Their eyes are covered with sand. They hear footsteps overhead. Is this now the end? The little Yisrael'ke Brener grabs the revolver from Dovtche Vaytek's hand and shoots all seven rounds. The Germans flee. They must now run away from this trench in case larger groups of Germans appear. We ask: Everyone alive? ‘Yes,’ They stick a hat out of the trench. No one shoots at the hat. Leybl Trus is the first to leave the trench, followed by everyone else. It was terribly hot in the trench so everyone was in their underwear. It is cold in the field because of the snow and frost. There was no talk of taking any clothing with them. They ran naked to Christian acquaintances, and then Yisrael'ke Brener notices that he had been wounded. There is a trail of blood behind him.
They barely dragged themselves seven kilometres to a second forest, met with another group of Jews and Russians. Yisrael'ke's wound is bandaged. At night they return to the trench and take their clothes.
After such incidents a group of Jews and Russians decided to go through to the front. The offensive of the Russian army is underway. The front was near Orshe Vitebsk Kovel. On the road near the Bialovizher forest they encounter the spies from the Soviet partisan detachments and tell them to go back to the Bransk forest. They promise to communicate.
(Excerpt from Historical Commission 19/46 accordingly)
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