Translated by Selwyn Rose
[Translator's comment: All footnotes and explanations are the initiative of the translator unless mentioned otherwise.]
Aizia Wassermann was born in Mezeritz in 1919. His parents became wealthy while he was still a child and were considered so among those of standing in the area. They acquired the Tackser House which, because of its size and luxuriousness was conspicuous in town and became a small palace. Aizia was educated in the local school and was also an active and dedicated member of the local Betar branch. At the age of thirteen, he entered the Polish government Gymnasium in Rivne (Rovno, Róvne, Równe). It was there that he first encountered antiSemitism in all its nakedness and from that moment, he became an ardent Betar activist and began to influence his father into liquidating his business interests and immigrating to Palestine. With the outbreak of the Second World War, the Russians entered Mezeritz and began to nationalize all the assets of everyone and it was known that we were destined to be sent to Siberia. His father managed to save a significant part of his capital and through the timely advice of a Soviet officer, he moved the family to Dubno. There, he found work and no one knew of his past.
The German conquest found the Wassermann family ensconced in Dubno. When the first command of the Germans was to order all the Jews to wear the yellow patch, Aizia rebelled and went to live with his Polish friends the Yugilevych family.
When the Germans began to mobilize the citizens for forced labor in Germany (before the liquidation of the town's ghetto), he, and two members of the Yugilevych family,…
…escaped to the forest. They acquired arms and lived by the weapons. Slowly they were joined by some other rebellious people and when their number had increased to fifteen men, they stopped accepting any further people.
When the Dubno ghetto was liquidated, the platoon began armed militarystyle operations against the Germans and their collaborators. The Soviets tried to contact them and the underground Armia Krajowa (Home Army, AK), also sought to have the group join their force but they remained independent. They were light travelers and wherever they were during the day, it was never where they slept at night. Because of their strong connections with the population, so hostile to the Germans, it was easy for them to follow, and investigate their movement causing the Gestapo many headaches through their activities. From the forests of Dubno, they moved to the forests near the village of Kamienna Góra, fortifying themselves there on a cliff called Duma.
Winter was at its height. After three whole days of nontop snow, the universe was covered as if with a white sheet. A freezing cold penetrating wind swept over everything. Not a human soul was seen on the streets of the village and the streets glowed brightly and shone white in the sunlight. The villagers remained closeted in their homes keeping their fires wellfuelled.
Thick dark gray smoke belched from the chimneys and from the windows and doors leaked the aromas of cooking and fresh baking,
The Only Son of the Wassermanns is not with His Parents
That same hour, the Wassermann family sat in the warmth of the cellar of the Polish family Umanski, waiting for the husband to bring them some hot tea, a little food and some news to calm their souls. They remembered their home with its spaciousness and comfort, light and warmth and gave thanks to Gd for providing a roof over their head in these troubled days, a time when the whole area Rivne, Dubno, Zdolbuniv (Zdolbunov, Zdołbunów) and Ostrów were defined as Judenrein, and all the Jews exterminated without leaving a single trace of their existence. The oillamp, casting its dim illumination brought up memories of the good old days when they spent the winter evenings in their home in the company of friends and acquaintances, seated round a table full of delicacies and thinking that the gold and jewelry they possessed would suffice them for at least ten years. Until then…….
One thing only guided the peace of mind of the Wassermann family their only son Aizia refused to hide and wait patiently until the anger passed. The moment the Germans invaded and the Jews were ordered to wear the yellow patch, he obtained a firearm and escaped to the forest. Up until the liquidation of the Dubno ghetto, nothing was heard of him. Only later, when they survived that liquidation, they heard that their son was alive and that he was leading a small, courageous band of partisans. They also met with him and since then he would occasionally visit them.
When he came to visit them, he never spoke to them of his activities with the partisans, of his fight with the Germans or the help he gave to Jews in the forest. It was only from Christians and Jews from Mizoch (Mizocz, Mizotch) and Dubno, who would occasionally meet in the forest, did they hear of the fearless spirit of their Aizia and the reputation he and his group had gained among the German outposts scattered around the region and the punishments they visited upon those in the population suspected of collaborating with the Germans or refusing to assist the hiding Jews.
Three days previously, he was expected to visit them but he had not arrived. His parents consoled themselves with the thought that it was because of the heavy snow and fierce cold. Nevertheless, the householder told them in the morning, that after rather a bloody battle with the German Gendarmerie, in a nearby village, in which all the Germans were killed and their weapons taken, Aizia and his band escaped to the forest near Kremnitz.
Aizia's mother, Beyla Wassermann, sensed that something tragic had happened to her beloved son and she asked her soninlaw, Moshe Meizlish, who was married to her daughter Malia, Aizia's sister, to go out at night from his hiding place and find out exactly what had happened to Aizia.
The agreed knocking on the door to the cellar scared the dwellers inside. The father, Yosef Wassermann, opened the door. The houseowner entered bearing bread, hot tea, meat fat and even some vodka.
The householder would supply their needs through a secret panel while the door was used only when it was necessary…
…to convey something verbally. He told them that the Germans were making extensive housetohouse searches for Aizia and his partisans. They plan to visit this village either tonight or tomorrow morning. There is no doubt that their search will be exacting because someone had whispered to the Germans about the connections of the family to the Jews. Therefore, it was best for all of them to leave the cellar for a few days until the searches were finished. He had already prepared a suitable hiding place for them in the nearby forest and when it gets dark, he will take them there. Yosef Wassermann gave the villager a suitable present and the plan was agreed between them that when the Germans approach he will lead them to the hiding place he had prepared for them; immediately after the search the farmer's son will bring them back to the cellar.
The villager left and the Wassermanns sat down to eat. Grief pervaded the cellar and sorrow gnawed at the heart; again a life of wandering, again a life under the stars at the mercy of the wind and snow with the threat of death hovering over their heads…
Moshe, who was to leave the cellar at night to find out about the fate of Aizia, prepared for himself something to eat on the way, some camouflaged clothing, a little money, matches and candles and waited impatiently until the residents of the village all went to bed.
The Farmer Leads Them to the Forest
Suddenly they were frightened by the shouts of their neighbor, Kraschitzka, whose voice had penetrated the cellar; they could hear clearly that she was saying: The Germans are already in the village, they are looting and beating and burning. Run and save yourselves!
Before they even had time to grasp what was happening, they heard the urgent knocking on the door. The farmer entered angrily and told them to follow him quickly because the Germans were only three houses away.
Halfdressed, confused and frightened the Wassermanns followed the farmer out towards the forest. The farmer ran, with them following. They were gasping for breath, falling over from the belongings they were carrying and from the effort but rising up and continuing to run.
When they got into the thick of the forest, close to the hidingplace, Moshe separated from them and went off in the direction of a nearby village to find out the reason for Aizia's non appearance on the agreed day. Moshe's watch showed that it was still early eight in the evening and it was dangerous to be wandering around at that hour, with the Germans in the vicinity. He slowed his steps, gazed round about him and sat down somewhere comfortable to rest for a while and plan his next move.
He barely had time to take one breath and relax when in the silence of the frozen forest, he heard worrying shouts. It seemed to Moshe that the voice was known to him. He jumped up and stood erect, tense and all ears but the shouting…
…was not repeated did he imagine it? Did his excited state of mind mislead him? No, no it can't be! Yes, he heard it definitely, with his own ears, the frightened voice of his wife? He hurried his steps and hastened in the direction of the shouts. At a distance of twenty meters or so four figures were running towards him. Moshe stopped behind a large tree and looked at the four escaping figures. He identified among them the tall figure of Uzbek, the escaped Russian deserter, who worked for the owner of the cellar in which they stayed. Moshe sprinted down the path and found a place from which he could see but not be seen. He immediately identified all the remaining figures. The man with the club in his hand was the houseowner who had led the family to the supposed new hidingplace. The older boy, Vladek ran on the left of his father with a hatchet in his hand and the third figure was the soninlaw of the homeowner from the nearby village.
Moshe backtracked towards the hidingplace in the forest. A few meters from where he had parted from his loved ones he found all of them with their skulls smashed in. It was all understood and clear….
The murderers returned home happy and satisfied. The liquidation of the hated Jews went off without a hitch and without resistance. Only one or two screams were let out by the victims. Umanski had not yet washed the blood off his hands and face and had already run to the cellar in which the murdered family had hidden. Like a wild predator leaping on its prey, he fell upon the suitcases hidden under the beds. He upended them on the bed and his head swam as he beheld their contents: gold and silver coins in quantities he had never seen in his life, jewelry such as were beyond his imagination and clothes of a quality unbeknown to him and such as he had certainly never worn in his life. He closed the cellar and secured it with a lock and a bolt, went upstairs, washed himself and changed his clothes. Immediately after that, he called to his worker and the rest of his family to come and sit and enjoy a glass of vodka to celebrate the removal of the Jews from the house. They were all overjoyed at the riches that had fallen upon them and as an added pleasure that no one else except the neighbor Kraschitzka knew anything about it. Every member of the family, the neighbor Kraschitzka and the servant, Uzbek, received some profit from the property of the Wassermanns and the promise of some of the clothes. Only the old father failed to take part in the celebrations and sat unhappily in the corner. It is true he agreed that because of the danger to them all it was better to get rid of the Jews but it was enough to get them out of the house and be satisfied with their property. For murder there is no atonement, even the Germans will find no penance from Gd. Thus he spoke to his son. But the son stood his ground and claimed that if they had just robbed them of their property and left them alive, they would never have a moment's rest; who knew when they could suddenly appear in the future when times had changed and demand their property back. Now he can stay safe and secure and undisturbed.
Aizia a Leader of the Partisan Platoon
Tired and exhausted but deeply satisfied, Aizia and his men returned to their base on the cliff in the forest. Their operation this time was a resounding success. The German unit in town surrendered to them with almost no fight. They slew the guard before he managed to make a sound. When they entered the building they occupied, they caught the unit completely unprepared, sprawled on their cots and without their arms within reach. After only verbal resistance, their hands were tied, their arm taken together with their money and documents and the rest of their property and taken to the depths of the forest. There, they were put on trial, their participation in the liquidation of the ghetto investigated, their robberies of the civilian population, conquest of a country and condemned to death. They were a pitiful lot as captives, begging for their lives, cursing Hitler, appealing to the mercy of the partisans, swearing they had never harmed the Jews but their guilt was known and they were all shot.
From the foodstuffs that the partisans took from the Germans, they prepared for themselves an excellent meal that they finished off with pleasantscented cigarettes they found in the desk of the garrison's German commander. This time they lay down to sleep without setting up even a nominal guard; they simply closed the door, blocked by three hefty sandbags and fell into a deep sleep. Only Aizia was somewhat restless and in spite of his fatigue was unable to fall asleep. Strange and bad thoughts troubled him and feelings of homesickness for his family unlike anything he had experienced previously attacked him. The snoring of his colleagues angered him and he got up, dressed and went outside.
From too much drinking, added exhaustion and lethargy in all his limbs from the hard efforts of the evening, he had a bitter taste in his mouth and felt a slight dizziness in his head. All around was a threatening silence. The thick trees hid not only the partisan's camp but also the heavens and the snowcovered fields.
Aizia strolled among the trees and reached the open fields. The fresh, cold air drove away the fatigue and also the dizzy feeling he had disappeared. He, stopped, drew out of his knapsack his pistol, laying the cold metal along his forehead and his cheek, examined its function, fed a round into the breech and strode out along the way. A large grey rabbit sped across his path in the twinkling of an eye and disappeared into the forest. The skies were clear and a full moon shed its light as it floated between the scattered clouds and shone on his worried, agonized countenance. The nights of Canaan are beautiful, cool they are and clear, he suddenly began to hum. What a lovely night! he said aloud, to himself. In normal nights like this he would harness two horses to an upholstered sleigh, climb aboard with his girlfriend and gallop off in pleasure, while now… The nights of Canaan are beautiful, cool they are and clear, they are without doubt he mused to himself in pleasure when I get to the Land of Israel, I will miss these skies on more than one occasion, the pure white snow and the thick forests. And when, in his visions, he would be there, he no longer recalled his present situation, his status and function and even the homesickness…
…for his parents melted away but their images appeared before him intermixed with events and visions that were brought to mind.
He decided that tomorrow he would go to visit them; he will visit them and demand that they move to a hiding place close to him. Aizia did not know that he will never see them again and will not be able to attend to their interment.
The Vengeance Exacted for his Butchered Parents
For a bird of the air shall carry the voice and that which hath wings shall tell the matter. And even before Moshe had time to tell anyone of the traitorous murder, the surroundings already knew that the Wassermann family had been murdered by the owner of the very cellar in which they had been given refuge, out of greed for their money and property. The news of the crime was brought to Aizia without delay by two Poles from his group who told him of the despicable deed by two of their own compatriots.
The vengeance and style of the punishment to be meted out was already formed in his heart and he asked for three volunteers from among his men for the execution of his parents' murderer and his helpers. The entire platoon volunteered in spite of the danger and difficulties involved. Aizia chose from among them two early members of the group, his good friends the Yugilevych brothers, Poles from Dubno and his girlfriend, Anda. On separating from the group, the friends swore they would never lay down their arms until Hitler had been defeated and the people and their freedom from bondage realized. He delegated himself as his own replacement expressing his supreme confidence that he and his companions would return safe and sound, parting from them affectionately.
It was six in the evening when the four partisans left their encampment in the forest and made their way to the village where lived their target.
After a march of two and a half hours, they stopped about half a kilometer from their destination. Anda was sent forward to scout out the village and report. She returned and announced that the villagers were mostly asleep and that she could detect no sense of preparedness or special awareness, nor any signs of the presence of the police or Gendarmerie. After a brief consultation, they decided to enter the village without delay or hesitation. They advanced carefully with Aizia carrying a machinegun, the senior Yugilevych a Luger and a grenade, his brother armed with a submachinegun and ammunition and Anda a pistol with a lovely silver butt taken from a German officer on one of their raids. The murderer's home stood at the edge of the village, a little isolated but wellbuilt and defended structurally. The younger Yugilevych knocked on the window and shouted in German to open the door. When a voice came back questioning why they were being bothered so late at night, he replied that he had been informed from a reliable source that in this house Jews were being hidden and they were here to search the house. The houseowner replied that there were no Jews in there and while opening the door, that he would have liquidated them himself. When he saw Aizia standing there, he fainted.
The entire household was dragged out of their beds, were stood in a row in front of a wall and were made to answer questions. The farmer who had fainted had recovered, denied…
…everything and began to beg for his life. The investigation was short and cruel. Aizia heard from the murderer a description of the killing and the motive for perpetrating the killings. The worker, the Uzbek, was shot first and after him all the rest. Only the old father of the murderer was left alive. Afterwards, gasoline and other inflammable liquids were poured out over and in the house and the structure burnt to the ground with all its contents.
The Meeting with the Gestapo Commander in Dubno
The following day the entire area was riddled with anxiety and fear. The Jews hiding in the adjoining villages fled to the forest or more distant villages. The fear of Aizia and his platoon fell upon everyone who had blood on their hands or guilty consciences due to suspicion of collaboration or informing. The Germans also woke up and sent a large and powerful Lithuanian unit to the area.
In the meantime, stories and legends spread from mouth to mouth concerning the heroic and wonderful deeds and military successes of the partisans against the Germans. Clearly, this was not pleasant for the Germans and they determined to catch him at all costs and when they failed to do so, they tried guile, suggesting a meeting between Aizia and the Gestapo commandant of Dubno to discuss the conditions under which Aizia would be willing to disband his unit. According to many stories that spread around Dubno and the surroundings, between the survivors of Mizoch and also among the Germans themselves it can be assumed that Aizia did meet the Gestapo commandant of Dubno and told him that he will not lay down his arms until he has avenged all the blood that had been shed of his people and that he lives to see the destruction of Nazi Hitlerite Germany.
How he managed to go free from such a situation is not known: it is said that the platoon was holding a hostage of great importance. The Germans said that the Commandant didn't approve of the murder of the Jews and was secretly very much against Hitler. I heard from a Ukrainian from Mizoch that a platoon of partisans stood guard over the two of them throughout the conversation and that this prevented the Gendarmerie from getting to him…nevertheless, the fact that there was such a meeting between Aizia in the office of the Gestapo in a town the size and importance of Dubno is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt because he was indeed a partisan of exceptional courage and insufferable to the Germans. These stories only reinforced their determination to liquidate him.
The Last Battle in which the Heroes Fell
Determined searches were launched throughout the whole region of Vohlin after Aizia and his platoon. Large rewards were offered for any information that went towards his discovery and whereabouts. And serious punishments were laid upon villages that allowed them entry. But none of it helped. In fact, the attacks by the group increased and became ever more severe. Once they caught two German policemen and forced them to march along the streets of the village shouting: Hitler is a farce…
…Afterwards they made them dress in tattered clothing with the yellow patch on them and sent the men to the village. In broad daylight, they fell upon a convoy that was carrying stolen property from the citizens and returned everything to the villagers. Later on, they stopped killing the Germans immediately but simply defamed them and belittled them and set them free. The fear of being attacked by Aizia's partisans spread throughout the region and they were determined to be rid of him at any cost.
By chance, or perhaps by informers, the Germans discovered his whereabouts toward the end of summer 1944: a farmer, bringing supplies to his base was caught by the Germans on his return from there and they forced…
…him to take them to the platoon's hiding place. There are those that say that it was all by chance and a misfortune and others that say it was an act of treachery. Whatever the truth the hidingplace was discovered. A large, strong force of Germans was mobilized and brought to the place where a long hard bloody battle took place. The Germans suffered tens of casualties in that last battle and even so were unable to subdue the partisans entirely until they brought in some artillery pieces and captured the stronghold.
The Partisans fought to the bitter end and the last man. To this day, they are remembered by the villagers and farmers of the area and all the Jewish survivors of the Dubno ghetto, Mizoch and the area with admiration and deep respect and pride for the name of Aizia Wassermann.
May his memory be for a blessing.
Translated by Selwyn Rose
Apparently, there were: 2 synagogues, one from the year 1700 after the census and the second of about 1850. 34 Batei-Midrash and Steibles (built in the 19th Century). A cemetery from 1750; an old people's home from 1856; a hospital from 1845; a sick visit society from 1890; a library (culture) established in 1923; a private Hebrew gymnasium (Jewish?) named after Dr. Margalit, 1922.
A municipal library (1925), Theatrical group (1915), Artisans' supermarket/storehouse (1923), Traders' Bank (1910).
The Community owned: synagogues and Batei-Midrash, a hospital, an Old People's Home, an Ort educational center for orphans, and a complete row of houses of community owned properties. A Beit Ha-Midrash, and about fifteen prayer-rooms and all the Torah scrolls were destroyed by fire.
The Germans entered Dubno 25th June 1941.
- Until the Nazi invasion: The Ukrainians started bullying and robbing the Jewish people and their homes before the Nazi invasion.
- During the days of the Nazi authority: (The date of the invasion, the first anti-Jewish edicts and laws. The taking of hostages, confiscations and other seizures. Ghettoes (open and closed), tortures, the forced shearing of beards, stigmatization, forced labor, transfer of Jews to other locations and the opposite; pogroms, executions, plunder. How was the final destruction implemented? [the date]).
On the 28th June 1941, the order was published to wear a white arm-band with a blue Star of David.
On the 30th June 1941, 23 Jews were snatched from the street among them Hershel Rosenfeld, the Rabbi and Father of the Rabbinic Court of Dubno, age about 70, Avraham Eisenberg aged about 45, Doctor Shimon Kagan, aged about 43 (both active Zionists), Meir Geker aged about 30, Khotiner aged about 30 (two Communist supporters), Doctor David Kagan, a Zionist and others. They released Doctor Kagan through the intervention of the Polish priest; the rest suffered torture and terrible beatings. They were shot on the 3rd of August 1941. The remaining Jews were detailed for the hardest and dirtiest of work.
Starting on 10th December 1941, The Judenrat was required to supply 1000 men each day for forced labor.
On 29th July 1941, 83 Jews were snatched from the streets among them was Michael Ing, aged about 42, Moshe Gilburt aged about 45, Feldman aged about 40, Milman aged about 35 all of them important merchants. They were shot to death.
On 19th August 1941, an order was issued to wear a yellow patch.
On 21st August 1941, nearly 1075 Jews were dragged in among them just 3 women and that same day they were all executed by shooting.
On 22nd November 1941, an Aktzia took place, collecting property: all valuables and food. The Aktzia affected only the Jewish population according to the registered location of their homes.
On 1st December 1941, fur- and other warm winter-coats confiscated.
On 20th and 21st December 1941, the Aktzia of collecting valuables from the rest of the refugees who had not until then been plundered, was completed.
On 1st April 1942, a closed ghetto was created for the Jews of Dubno.
On 27th April 1942, an unruly, wild Nazi Aktzia took place during which 4000 Jews were liquidated (3800 in pits and 200 in the ghetto).
At the end of May 1942, the Nazis brought into the ghetto about 200 professionals from the villages of Varkovychi (Warkowicze, Varkovitchi) and Ozeryany (Oziran).
On 5th October 1942, the Nazis performed another Aktzia in which about 4,000 Jews were murdered (about 3500 at a distance of about 3-4 kilometers from Dubno alongside some hay-stacks. Hundreds were killed inside the ghetto. After the Aktzia, there remained alive 373 souls (of them 10 excellent professionals and a few counselors).
On 24th October 1942, the last Jewish settlement was liquidated.
The relationship of the non-Jewish Polish and Ukrainian population towards the Jews was decisively hostile and full of hatred.
There was no organized form of resistance in town.
Identified in Yad Va-Shem under the tag 1219/65 Jerusalem
The Central Historical Committee of the liberated Jews of America.
Translated by Selwyn Rose
A Jewish gymnasium. Synagogues and Batei-Midrash. Old People' home. Day-care center. Hospital. Cemetery. All political parties and organizations. Labor and professional unions.
A revival of Jewish culture under the Soviet regime.
The destruction of Jewish entrepreneurship, Jewish high schools were opened.
The Historical Society of Landsburg.The date of the Nazi invasion. The first anti-Jewish laws. The taking of hostages. Enforced contributions. Confiscations, the ghetto (open or closed), tortures, cutting of beards, distinguishing markings. Forced labor. The transfer of Jews to other places and vise versa. Pogroms. Liquidations. Plundering. How was the community finally destroyed? (Date).
On 25th June 1941 the Nazis entered the town. They took hostages. 100 thousand rubles ransom. The plundering of gold and silver and other valuables. The wearing of a yellow patch from 17.10.41. The initiation of a closed ghetto, the forced labor of men from the age of 13-15 until the age of 65.
- There was an Aktzia on 21.7.41 when 20 Jews were shot to death.
- The second Aktzia was on 21.8.41 when 1000 Jews were shot to death.
- There were two economic Aktzia on 5.3.42 and 23.3.42
- The creation of the ghetto 2.4.1942
The largest Aktzia took place on 27.5.1947. Nearly 8000 Jews were executed. They were buried in an air-strip close to town and the Jewish cemetery.
- The last economic Aktzia in the ghetto (the theft of all foodstuffs), took place on 16.7.1942.
- The liquidation of the Jewish ghetto took place on 5.10.1942 (more than 3000 Jews were murdered), and buried in the air-strip and the cemetery.
- On 23.10.1942, the last 150 Jews, hiding in bunkers were executed.
- The attitude of the non-Jewish population and its activities.
The Ukrainians behaved towards the Jews worse than the Nazis and were responsible for actively perpetrating virtually all the Aktzias. The Poles and the Russians were no better.
- Did the local Jewish population organize any resistance?
- How many Dubno Jews remained alive?
- No more than 250 souls.
- By unknown means
- By various strategies, some in Russia.
- Some were hidden by the Czechs some in the forests.
- Known personalities: (Name, age, profession, fields of activity, date of demise).
No persons of prominence or specific public activity are known.
Translated from the Yiddish.
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