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[Page 337]

M. M. Gershenhaus (Israel)
[photo: Moshe Mendel Gershenhaus]

The crying and wailing of Jewish children

        In 1942 the Germans sent me to work at the Radostova labor camp (Radostova is a village about 10 miles from Drohitchin). After spending six months at the camp, a confidential source told me that our loved ones in Drohitchin had been killed by the Germans. Shortly thereafter, the German murderers heard that there were still a couple of dozen Jews in the camp, and they came to kill us. One fine morning, German SS troops arrived in Radostova with Ukrainian police who cruelly outdid the Germans, and came to the house where my Jewish friends and I were living.

        Suddenly, one of my friends cried out, “German SS are surrounding us!” Whoever had feet and strength headed for the forest. The Germans, however, had already surrounded us, and opened fire from all sides. Despite the hail of bullets, we kept running, thinking that whatever the case, it was better Red than Dead. If we were to die, it was better to die from a shot in the back than to be captured alive by the Germans.

        As we got further into the forest, we didn't hear any more shooting, and I started looking around for my friends. Behind me were other Jewish children, among whom were my cousin Shepsel Kravetz and a married couple from Kolonia, David and Zvia. (Kolochevsky, Zvia's maiden name was Tennenbaum. W.) We all gathered together in one location and discussed what we should do next. We were twelve people, men and women. We appointed Shepsel and David as our leaders and spokesmen, and we headed further into the forest. Suddenly, we ran into two Christians on horseback; they asked us where we were going. We were all stood silent like rocks, and David worked us the courage to respond with a smile that partisans had attacked the Germans and were shooting at them, and that since we didn't know what to do, we decided to escape and hide in the forest. They gentiles left immediately, and we continued on our way.

        Finally, we made started making plans how we would live in the forest. The first night we went into the home of a gentile, got something to eat and continued on our way. After two nights of wandering in the muddy, dark Lechovitch forest, we came to an abandoned peasant hamlet (a farm in the middle of the forest) where we encountered six more Jewish girls. We were altogether eight people [sic].

Death hunted them from one place to the other

This is how we spent eight days in the forest, suffering from hunger and cold, until the first snow started to fall. We then decided it was useless and dangerous to continue going further into the forest. We decided to make an earth house in the ground and remain there for the winter. After an entire night of digging and working, we dug out a ditch. The next day we rested, and the next night we placed a cover of branches and thorns on top, and placed fallen trees on top of that so that no one would notice that there were people living in the ditch. Inside we made ourselves a real palace.

[Page 338]

        G-d helped us out some more, and we found two pits filled with potatoes in an abandoned hamlet. Some peasants had abandoned the potatoes and escaped because of fear of the partisans. We brought a lot of the potatoes to our earth house and dug another ditch where we kept a fire burning because we ran out of matches. This is how we spent our first difficult winter in the ditch, staying alive with 3-5 baked potatoes a day, and we finally got used to living there. We just prayed that no one would kick us out of our palace.

        That dark moment finally arrived. We sensed danger in remaining in our hideout, and we fled deeper into the forest. We wandered in the forest for a few days and nights until finally we decided to return to our earth house and the potatoes. We walked silently in single file, and we suddenly noticed two sleds coming toward us. The men in the sleds saw us too. We all started running into the forest when we suddenly heard someone yell ”Stop!” in Russian. The noise of machine gun fire echoed in the air, and the bullets, which shone in the darkness with various colors (they were phosphorus bullets), rang in our ears. However, we kept running and didn't stop. After we ran for a while, we stopped to see where the rest of our group was. I only saw one little boy named Tsadok and six little girls. The rest were lost somewhere. The eight of us continued running until we came to an open field where there were haystacks. We went to lie down in the haystacks and soon fell asleep from fatigue.

(The people shooting were actually partisans in hiding. W.)

[photo:] Drohitchin children by a haystack in Lasintsa]

Help! A little water, I'm burning up!

[photo:] Yisrael and Gershon Kan-Tsipor, perished. May G-d avenge their blood!

        Children of Michla Kleinman-Kreines are in Israel

        We continued sleeping for 24 hours, a full day and night. When we awoke the next night, we were frozen into pieces of ice. We had nothing to eat so we chewed pieces of ice. We stayed in the haystacks for one day, then another, and were scared to go anywhere. On the eighth day we felt that we weren't going to be able to survive much longer. We were totally exhausted from hunger and cold.

        On the eighth night, Tsadok became delirious and started screaming, “Help! Some water! I am burning up!” He could be heard from one end of the world to the other. We were all very weak, and couldn't do anything for him. Then poor Tsadok passed away after suffering tremendously. He died from hunger and cold.

        The next morning, with tears and wailing, I started asking the girls to let us leave that place since we would all die there. However, it was too late. The girls couldn't move from there. There were two sisters (I forget their names). The younger one was half-dead, and the older one still had some strength to save herself. However, she said that she wanted to die there with her sister.

        Only one girl, Esther, was able to be persuasive, and with her last bit of strength she got out of the ground. We took the clothes off of the dead Tsadok and put them on Esther, who was almost naked. We left the other girls, promising to come back to save their lives.

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