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[Page 56]

The Holocaust

Of 3,000 Eishishok Jews, most of whom were murdered by the defiled, only some few dozen survived. Some of the latter have already come to Israel. From the stories told us by those who were “ snatched from the fire” we have compiled this chronicle of the destruction and terror which befell our beloved. The nightmarish scenes of the Jewish life in the town during the three months of the Nazi occupation till the day of slaughter, flash before our eyes. Eishishok was one of the few towns that the Nazis and their satellites vent their furor upon during the first months of occupation. Our pen has no strength to describe in full the horror and enormity of disaster which hit the Jews so suddenly. Only a fragment of the of the whole is described here, in the notes of the survivors who reached Israel.

The authors of these notes were eye-witnesses to all that happened to the Jews until their last day. They continued living lives of hidden “ conversos” in the homes of “ good Goys” who agreed, for huge sums of money, not to betray them to the Nazis and their Polish and Lithuanian collaborators. At a later period, once the Jews ran out of money, the “ good Goy” cooperated no longer and they were forced to flee to the forests and join the partisans there. With them, they led a life of fear and danger but were at least encouraged by the feeling that they were fighting their enemy with arms and revenging the slaughtered.

The stories presented here are truthful; they are not exaggerated nor poetically adjusted. We read here the truth in all its horrible and horrifying simplicity.


[Page 57]

The Last Days of Eishishok

Shalom Ben Shemesh (Sonenson)

During the last years before the Russian and German occupation of Poland in 1939, the anti-Semitism greatly increased. Attacks on Jews walking through the streets of Eishishok became frequent. Drunken thugs, most of whom came from out-of-town, dared stand by the Jewish shops and forcefully prevent the entrance of Christian shoppers. On market-days the thugs, including some who wore uniforms of Polish students, assaulted the Jews, injured them physically and damaged their property. A venomous propaganda was launched against the “ blood- suckers of the Polish people” and there were cries of “ Jews go to Palestine!”,” wait cursed Jews, your fate will be like that of your German brothers, we will kill you without Hitler!” The Jews dreaded the Market Day on Thursday. If the day ended with some tavern windows smashed and only a few beatings, the Jews would thank the Heavens for their mercy. The atmosphere became more and more tense. Then the town's own Goys, who previously had few gleeful spectators, began showing signs that they too were willing to participate in the “ holy” war against the Jewish “ reign” in the town.

Thus the Polish people and leaders were too busy fighting the war against the “ internal enemy” to have the will or time to anticipate the real danger from the west, where the enemy was insolently and openly preparing its arms and en-joying the confusion which overcame the Poles.

So when the Nazis invaded Poland on Sept 1, 1939 and captured more than half of the big country in a matter of days, it came as a dreadful surprise for both Poles and Jews. The danger of war had been much discussed but neither the leaders nor the people really believed that Hitler would dare carry out his threats.

The notorious Polish arrogance and the exaggerated faith in the strength and courage of the “ splendid” Polish army and its great commander, the Marshal Ridz-Smigli (whom Pilsudsky himself had named as his successor and deputy) - blinded the Poles from seeing their economic and military weakness of Poland, divided and wasted by party fights and peoples' quarrels.

The rapid conquest of Poland and the disintegration of its army stupefied the Jews too. They had hoped that the army would prevent the advancement of the Nazis and hold out till the allies came to the rescue. With the approach of the Germans, the Jewish population was stricken with mortal fear. Their hearts dreaded the worst - and were not mistaken.

Treachery appeared from all sides. The “ folksdentsdien”, the Ukrainians, the White Russians and the Lithuanians - all gleefully watched the defeat of hated Poland and the bitter end anticipated for the Jews.

The Goys of Eishishok showed their hatred of the Jews and their pleasure at the fate awaiting them, though no one could have foreseen the immensity of the holocaust about to hit millions of Jews so rapidly.

On the 17th of September, 1939 troops of tanks and armored cars of the Red Army entered the town. Initially, rumors spread that the Russians had come to save and assist their Slavic Polish, brothers against the common enemy - the Teutonic beast. But all illusions and hopes quickly proved groundless - the bitter and bare reality was soon exposed.

A Revolutionary council (“Revkum”) was founded in the town and headed by the communist Haim Shuster, a native of Eishishok. Its first decision was to prohibit the various Zionist organizations in the town and transform the Hebrew reactionary school to a proletarian Yiddish school. The Eishishok Bourgeoisie children were expelled in shame from their school which was intended only for children of the “ working” and “ oppressed” classes.

But the Communist rule did not last long. A month later, the district of Vilna including Eishishok, became part of the “ friendly” state of Lithuania and the Lithuanian rule substituted the Russian. This year, 1939-1940, was the year of light preceding the darkness.

The Communists and their families left the town together with the Red Army which remained in the big cities only. The Zionist groups renewed their activities and the school became Hebrew again. The Jews adjusted quickly to the new government and business flourished. Connection with the Lithuanian Jews were renewed after a forced severance of over 20 years.

Eishishok, situated close to the Lithuanian White Russian border, served as a transit station for thousands of refugees who escaped from Russian and German occupied Poland. The refugees smuggled over the border at time in mortal danger. But when they arrived at Eishishok, they found there a brotherly hand ready to help them. Eishishok's committee to aid the refugees was organized, headed by the community's Rabbi, Rabbi Shimon Rozovsky, may he rest in peace. This committee provided the refugees with money and “ kosher” documents and sent them to the capitol, Vilna.
The Rabbi's house was full of devoted community workers and the town's streets were full of authors and biblical scholars. But this era of splendour did not last. In June of 1940, Lithuanians entered the Russian Soviet pact and the reign of the local Communist Jews, in all its terror, returned. This time they were harder. Arrests and persecution began. Zionism was prohibited, Hebrew was declared a “ reactionary” language and the shops of the “ big bourgeoisie” were confiscated and their owners had to find other employment. Among the confiscated shops were Abeliov's, Kyuchevsky's, Koppelman's, Veidenberg's and others, (Abliov became a blacksmith, Markel Koppelman - a clerk in a Vilna pharmacy, etc.). Merchandise was scarce and prices soared, searches and fines became daily incidents. But most of the Jews seemed somehow to manage also under Soviet rule. The Black Market flourished.

A Communist party was established in the town, headed by Libke Ginunsky, an Eishishok girl, who served a five year prison term under the Poles on account of her Communist beliefs. The “ Komsomol” was headed by the Communist Reuvaleh, son of Shmuel the Shoemaker (nicknamed Di “ Bolvitzke”).

Life became increasingly more difficult but the Jews comforted themselves with the fact that Jew-haters were forced to conceal their feelings and mainly because they had been spared Hitler - the undiscriminating Jew hater.

And then the Russian-German war broke out. Already on the second day of the war, the 23rd of June, 1941, Nazi troops entered the village. The Russians retreated, offering no resistance. The Vilna-Bialystok Road crossed Eishishok, and the German invaders' march through the town lasted two weeks. There was a steady stream of tanks, cars, canons, and military personnel of all kinds which continued day and night. The immense force proceeded in three columns, heading east. The window panes trembled from the sounds of the heavy wheels. The Jews dared not emerge from their homes. Seized with deathly fear they sat behind their closed blinds and doors listening to the echoes of the triumphant Nazi march and the joyous shouts of the Goys lining the road sides and hailing their “ saviours” from the “ Judo-Communist” rule.

When the huge stream decreased and only the German troop remained to guard the town, the Jews emerged to the streets, with faces pale and eyes expressing despair and fear of the future.

The German army had not yet harmed the Jews. They only declared contemptuously “ The Jews will go away from here”, and the Jews did not yet comprehend the meaning of the sentence. A division of the Ministry for Public Works, which was founded by Todt, came to the town. Eishishok's decree was issued ordering all men 16 to 60 years old to report and register for work. Any evader who would be caught-would be shot. The work involved repairing the road. Leading from Eishishok to Vilna. Each work day lasted 14 hours, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. One half hour break was allowed for lunch. The pay was 50 pfennigs. Since the work site was 10 km away from Eishishok and one had to report there before 7 a.m., the men set out at 5 a.m. and returned at 11 p.m. The guards were “ folksdeutsche” that is Polish citizens of German origin, who had settled in Poland hundreds of years before but once the Germans took over, they betrayed Poland and resumed their “ German” identity. These people were horrible sadists who surpassed the Germans in their cruelty. They tortured us in various ways. After an exhausting day's work, when we were hungry and tired to the bone, we were forced to perform military exercises- to strip naked and beat each other to the defiled merriment of our guards… the officer Weber surpassed the others in cruelty.

Two weeks later a new military commander came to town. He summoned Rabbi Rozovsky, may he rest in peace, to his headquarters (the Kyuchevsky house) and ordered us to organize a 12 member Jewish committee (Juden Comitat).

“You cursed Jews are responsible for all wars, and therefore you must pay a high price-and you certainly will” He ended his barking order and ordered the Rabbi to leave his presence immediately. Rabbi Rozovsky gathered the men in the synagogue and informed them of the order. There were no eager volunteers for this duty. It was decided to choose the members by lot. The names which came up were Avraham Kaplan - who served as chairman, S. Sonenson-deputy chairman, Yehuda Dvilansky, watchmaker Zelig Sevitzky, Itzi Mendel Yurkansky, Yosef Michalovsky, Ephraim Karnovsky,(son in law of Bara Yankil Reznik, the last chairman of the Eishishok community before the war) Hanan Michlovsky, Mordechai Kaganovitz, Markel Koppelman and others.

Some days passed and a troop of border guards came to the town instead of a military troop. Torture began. The committee was ordered to prepare big boxes and inform the Jews to bring all their jewelry and silver and gold coins to headquarters. This booty was put in the boxes and sent to the “ fatherland” - Germany. New orders were issued daily. They demanded cigarettes, wine, cakes, eggs, butter. All orders had to be supplied by the committee within a few hours or days. Delays were paid for by murderous beatings. The Lithuanian police eventually also came to town, headed by the murderer Ostrovaskas and the committee was thenceforth obliged to fulfill the greedy demands of both Germans and Lithuanians.

The German border-guards maltreated us with various tortures; their sick and sadistic minds invented new methods daily. They frequently robbed us, the committee members, downstairs, set their dogs on us, rushed us to headquarters several times daily for trivialities and fired their guns above our heads for amusement.
On the Saturday, Rosh Hodesh of Elul, the Germans and their Lithuanian assistants, seized a group of men, led them to the river near the bridge on Vilna Street, forced them to bathe, fully clothed, in the river and then to roll on the road in order to clean it of dust. Finally they set their dogs on them and drove them home.

One day they gathered 250 bearded Jews in the market place. They arranged them in two rows and ordered them to pluck out each other's' beards. The wretched victims were surrounded by the defiled sadists who made sure no one was cheating. The whips whistled and mercilessly lashed at heads and bodies. The scene was accompanied by the wild laughter of the murderers and village Goys who had gathered to watch the amusing spectacle

One day when Mordechai Kaganovitz and myself had come to headquarters we were ordered to strip to our waists and climb up to the roof. Fire engines of the fire department were brought and my brother Hoshe was ordered to direct torrents of water upon us to throw us off the roof. We held on to the tiles and chimney with all our strength. Our arms froze and our fingers became paralyzed from the cold and effort but we managed to hold on. After half an hour of wild laughter of the Germans and Goys we were allowed to descend and we fled home.

Before leaving the town, they robbed us of everything. They stripped the schools of decorations and took the ancient candlesticks. They broke the benches of the synagogue and burnt the books of the public library in the market place.

They desecrated the cemetery by breaking the gravestones. They destroyed the bath house and the Mikveh. The Teutonic vandals showed their face. Eventually, the rule over the town was transferred to the Lithuanian police and the latter expressly showed that they surpassed the Nazis in cruelty and hatred for Jews.

Peasants began to spread rumours that towns were emptying of their Jews and that the Jews were being murdered in Masses. These peasants suggested the Jews turn their goods over to them rather than let the Lithuanians enjoy the spoils. “ Your end will come anyway” they said in feigned sympathy. But we did not want to believe these terrible rumours. We deluded our-selves that we, perhaps, would be saved. The catastrophe would not reach us, we hoped. Our will to survive was very strong. We believed the oppressors would take all our belongings, starve us and torture us, that the weak would not withstand the torture but that the strong would survive. We held with all our strength to the board of life floating precariously on the waves of hatred and suffering. Only a small number realized the truth and said “ We are all lost”. No one will survive this hell. One of these was Rebbe Shimon Rozovsky, may he rest in peace.
When he was informed that many Jews hid money, jewelry and valuables with their Christian acquaintances, he called the community leaders and warned them not to hand over any more of the remaining goods to the Goys.

“You will cause the Goys to be your deadly enemies if you hand over the rest of your goods. They'll be the first who will want to get rid of your to enjoy the spoils”, reiterated the wise Rabbi but no one heeded.

Each of us hoped in his heart that he would be saved and therefore wished to protect what remained of this belongings for his life after the war. And the boiled chilling rumors of the extermination of Jews of the adjacent villages persisted. When we learned of the slaughtering of the Jews of the town of Aran we sent a reliable Goy to check out the rumour. The latter returned and told us that the streets of Aran were still full of unburied Jewish bodies rolling in the dust. Yet many of us still refused to face the appalling reality and tried to continue the life of illusion and unfounded hopes.

The Rabbi again gathered the community leaders and told them: “ Jews, you see our end is approaching rapidly… G-d did not want us to be saved. Our destiny has been decided, and we must accept this. But if we must die-let us at least die honorably. We must not hold out our necks like sheep brought to slaughter. With the money we still have, let us buy weapons and protect ourselves till our last breath. Anyway our money is worthless. We must not go to slaughter like a flock of sheep! Let us die but take the Philistines along!”

Ephraim Karnovsky supported the rabbi but Yosel Veidenberg attacked him in fury: “ You want war? Your want to bring destruction on our whole community and on all the Jews” Each day a miracle might still happen and we will be saved-we must not give up hope.. What is our strength when compared to the enemy's? You don't care”, we told Ephraim Karnovsky “ you are a stranger here-but I tell you, they want only to plunder our money and possessions-they will not butcher us all!”

Opinions were divided and the meeting ended with no decision taken and no preparation made. Meanwhile the Lithuanian commander, the murderer Ostrovakas announced that if we would give him 1000 rubles in gold he would protect us from the destruction awaiting us.

This roused more hopes and illusions. No gold or silver coins remained but gold rings and jewelry were quickly collected and demanded as “ ransom” to the murderer. Hope and fear mingled in our hearts.

On Sunday, Rosh Hashana eve of 5702 (1941) Wolf, the district commander in Vilna, issued an urgent order that the Jews hand over to the police, during that day, all their money and good clothing.

The order stated that if money or valuable clothes would be found in any house, all the family members would be murdered. The committee realized that the, end had come.

And indeed, the day of judgment had arrived. We, the committee members, went from house to house that evening advising everyone to escape. But where? We ourselves did not know-each person must find some hiding place and escape as best he could. The main thing was to escape for time was running out. That same day the Jews of the towns of Olkeniki and Selo - about 1000 people in all -were brought to Eishishok and put in the stables near the “ Gemina” in the village of Yurzdiki.

They were told that they were on their way to Eishishok where they would live in a ghetto. Next morning, the first day of Rosh Hashanna, all the Jews of the town including their children and babies were ordered to gather in the two schools and synagogue. Any person found in his house would be shot on the spot.

Many Lithuanian policemen - another big troop of Lithuanian and German soldiers and recently arrived - went through the houses to check whether any Jews remained. I decided not to go to the school. My house stood at the edge of the village and I decided to escape. All that day the members of my household and myself hid in the stable amidst boards and sacks. We heard the murderous shouts of the policemen and the cries of beaten children. At eight o'clock that night my wife, my two children and myself escaped through the fields till we reached the “ Sanidvor” forest. There we found Shlomo Kyuchevsky, his brother in law Yefim Shifel, Reuven Kalyeko and his brother in law Leib Kovensky with this wife, children and elderly father, Aita Shishka, (84 years old). We decided to divide into two groups, one of which would head for Voronova and the other for Radun. Both towns belonged to Belorussia. had no ghettos and in both the Jews still had some freedom of movement. My family and myself reached Radun. We later learned that 490 people had escaped from Eishishok on that day. Most were killed by Germans, Lithuanians and native peasants. Bluma Michalovsky.and her sister were shot on the Lithuanian-Russian border, not far from Radun.

They were given a Jewish burial in Radun - the lucky ones! The graves of the rest are unknown. We sent a Goy from Radun to Eishishok to find out what was happening there. Only some days later we learned details of the dreadful tragedy from the Jew who succeeded to escape.

During the two days of Rosh Hashanah, 4000 Jews, men, women and children, were locked in the two schools and synagogue with no food or water. They also had to relieve themselves inside. On the third day of Tishre they were taken out of the buildings, arranged in four rows and led to the animal market on Radun Street.

The rabbi and the cantor led the procession. The cantor loudly recited the Vidui(the confessional prayer before death) and the whole community, weeping and crying, echoed the prayer. The death procession included the Olkeniki Jews who had been brought from Yurzdiki. There was no escaping. The market place was surrounded by German and Lithuanian troops. The crowd of Jews stood there all night. Daybreak dawned on the fourth day of Tishre, 5702, the last day in the lives of those thousands of people. From afar, the Jews saw Goys walking in the direction of the old cemetery with spades in their hands.

At 8 a.m. that morning, the Lithuanian police commander Ostrovakas chose 250 of the youngest and healthiest men and took them in an unknown direction. Each hour they took another group of men. To calm the agitated crowd, the Lithuanian hangman brought a forged letter from Leib Minkovsky, written in Polish. It read, “ We are in Seklotzky yard preparing a ghetto for you. Do not fear. My wife, and I are waiting for you.”

This letter raised hope again in many hearts so no objection was made when 250 additional men were taken. At 4 p.m. no men remained in the crowd, all had been butchered by the wild beasts in the old cemetery. Next morning, the Thursday, the same was repeated with the women and children.

The butcher Ostrovakas dressed in a white apron and wearing gloves was constantly
on the scene in the old cemetery. With his own hands he shot children and threw them, while still alive and quivering, to the pits prepared by the native Goys. This was told to us by a Goy who was witness. But the rabbi's torture was not over yet. He had to drink his cup of agony to the last dregs. On the order of the sadistic butcher Ostrovakas, the rabbi was to be present in the cemetery all the while to witness the destruction of his community. Only at the end did the murderer have pity and shoot him and thus deliver the last Rabbi of Eishishok from this defiled and miserable world

 

eis065a.jpg
HaRav HaGaon, Naftali Menachem (Hertz-Mendel) Hutner, son of the rabbi, R' Yosef Zundel, who was a judge and a rabbi in Eishishok after the death of his father - he was also the last judge in Eishishok - gentle and noble - modest and virtuous

 

eis065b.jpg
According to the testimony of survivors from Eishishok, who arrived to Israel, only these two tombstones, that the defiled hand of the Nazis didn't touch, remained in the new cemetery in Eishishok. They're the tombstones of thousands of martyrs from Eishishok who weren't brought to a Jewish grave

 


[Page 67]

In Hiding

Yaffa, daughter of Moshe Sonenson (10 years old)

…when the Lithuanian policemen broke into the Jewish houses to hurry the Jews to the School buildings, my brother Itzhak and myself hid in the storage hut for wood in our yard where we lay all day. We heard the scoldings and curse of the policemen, the shouts of beaten Jews and the cries of children. My father had escaped the day before but my mother with my one year old brother could not escape. She also didn't manage to reach the storage hut where we were hiding and so was taken to the synagogue. Before leaving my father told us that if we managed to avoid the policemen we should escape to a Goy who was a good acquaintance of ours, who would hide us. When evening came, and the village was quiet we left the hut and made our way through the fields and gardens to the house of Yashka Elyashkovitz who was a worker in our tannery.

His house was located at the edge of the village. He received us kindly and dressed my brother in the clothes of a Christian boy. There we found the children of David Moshtzenik, the girl Mira, her younger brother Meir and some other Jews. Yashka calmed us and we fell asleep from tiredness and fear.

Towards morning the Goy woke us and transferred us to the house of another Christian, located at the end of Pigs' street. I began to cry and demanded to be taken to my mother. All explanations and pleadings were to no avail. The Goy agreed to take me to the synagogue. On the way we met a Lithuanian policeman who told us that Christians were forbidden to walk the streets at that time. We had to return to the worker's house where I spent the whole day crying.

In the afternoon a young Christian came and told us he had been sent by my father to take us to him to the village “ Dumbliyeh”. That night the Christian put me on his shoulders and took me and my brother, who was dressed in the attire of a Christian shepherd, to Dumbliyeh. There we found father and the family of Sarah Kabatznik. For five days we hid in a barn belonging to a peasant lady who was an acquaintance of ours. At night she brought us food. During the day we dared not expose ourselves. On the sixth day, the Christian lady told us that she was too scared to hide us any longer for fear we would be discovered on her ground. She transferred us to her brother's house in the village Poradun.. At his house we saw many stolen Jewish articles brought from Eishishok, among them our own brass menorah. The peasant told us that all Eishishok Jews had been killed.

We did not trust him and we decided to leave his house. At night my father, brother and myself made our way through fields and woods to the village Vasilishok, considered part of Poland, unlike Eishishok which was considered Lithuanian. We found refuge in the house of a Polish acquaintance. But he demanded that my father go register with the police - or else he would be too afraid to keep us in his house. The police chief there was a pole by the name of Smigola, a real Jew oppressor who ordered my father to jail for coming with no license from Lithuania.

Once Smigola spotted me bringing my father a bottle of milk. He became very angry and smashed the bottle. He drove me away with curses and threats. Only 10 days after being jailed was my father freed due to Jewish efforts and a large ransom.

Meanwhile we learned that mother and the baby had safely reached Radun. My mother disguised herself as a Christian and with the help of a Christian acquaintance, who said my mother was her sister, was allowed by drunken Lithuanian police to cross the border. But shortly after that, one of the policemen began to suspect and chase her. When my mother apprehended the danger, she threw the baby beneath a hay pile and herself hid in a second one. When the policeman saw no one he returned to the town. My mother emerged, took the baby who luckily had not cried, and reached Radun.

We arrived at Radun where a ghetto had been established, and there found my mother and brother. One day the Germans spread the rumor that the Russians were coming and pretended to pack their belongings and prepare themselves for flight. A few moments later, we heard sounds of shrieks and shooting. The Germans surrounded the ghetto, gathered the Jews in the marketplace, selected the young and healthy, and shot the rest on the spot.

We hid with 16 other Jews in an attic waiting for the end. Suddenly the baby began crying and we were struck with deathly fear. Surely the Germans would hear the baby and discover our hiding place! The Jews began whispering among themselves while mother tried to breast feed the baby but the poor thing would not calm down and only cried louder. The whispering increased and one Jew said - we must “ silence” the baby; 16 adult lives were more valuable than the life of one baby. Mother was paralyzed and froze and did not answer. The Jew took an article of clothing and threw it on the crying baby. It's cries ceased…we sat there frozen. Mother fainted.

Next day the remaining Jews were gathered together with those caught by the murderers. Anyone above 50 was shot. The rest had to bury them in a mass grave and cover the bodies with limestone.

After that things quieted down a bit. The searches and killings stopped. We descended from the attic and lived with the survivors in the Ghetto. On the day the surviving Radun Jews were transferred to the Lida ghetto, we managed to escape with some other Jews to the village Kurkushani where a Goy acquaintance of ours hid us for a large sum of money. This peasant dug a big pit in a pig pen, covered it with boards and on the boards heaped sacks and potatoes. We lived in that pit for a whole year, my father, mother, brother Itzhak, a girl from Olita and myself.

When we ran out of money, my father, disguised as a peasant ,went with the Goy to Eishishok took money from a hiding place on our house and gave it to the Goy. After that, the Goy became more and more impudent. He demanded more money for the potatoes he fed us daily and threatened to betray us to the Germans if we did not hand over all our money.

The pit was horribly smelly and suffocating. Our diet consisted nearly solely of potatoes and turnips.. and when we ran out of money the Goy made us leave. At night we returned to the village Lebetznik where we found Uncle Shalom and his daughter Gitele. We lived there for another year in a pit which we dug in a storage house of a peasant acquaintance whom we paid well. And once again we were forced to leave our hideout and escape to the forests. We joined the partisans who began appearing at that time. We lived there in danger and suffering till the Russians came and we returned to Eishishok. In an attack by Polish partisans, my mother and her baby were killed. My father was arrested and sentenced to eight years imprisonment due to a false charge of the Goys. I reached Israel with my Uncle Shalom who became an Israeli citizen.

I hope to see my father again and my brother Itzhak who remained in Russia - here in our country.


[Page 70]

With the Partisans

Rachel Potchter

When the Germans came to Eishishok all economic and public life came to a halt. Shops were closed and houses bolted. Initially no one dared leave his house. Everyone sat behind the locked doors and blinds with the fear of death in their eyes. When steps were heard approaching the house, the heart stopped beating.

During the first weeks a ceaseless stream of Hitler's soldiers passed through the town day and night. Tanks and cars of all kinds streamed through like a wide river. Even when the stream of soldiers ended and the town quieted down, people dared not emerge though walking outside was permitted till 6 p.m. Jews, of course, were not allowed on the sidewalks, only in the channels alongside them and had to wear the “ yellow patch” on the tack and chest. But who felt like walking outside meeting a German or a Lithuanian policeman and being abused? People went outside as seldom as possible and then only when absolutely necessary to bring water from the nearby well or to go on the forced labor of the Germans.

Peasants from the vicinity no longer came to town to buy or sell their pro-duce. Anyone caught buying from or selling to a Jew was punished. But food was not a serious problem since every house had supplies of flour, sugar, potatoes etc. prepared back in the days of Russian occupation. The poor were provided for by neighbors or the Jewish Council. Jewish neighborliness and brotherhood in need were revealed in all their beauty. But the terrible unknown future depressed the spirits and the evil tidings carried by peasant acquaintances, which stole their way into Jewish homes, made hair stand on end with fear and desperation. The synagogue and schools were closed even on Shabbat. People dared not congregate to draw comfort and strength from each other. The terror of the German and his cruel collaborator, the Lithuanian policeman, had struck us all. On the fourth day we were taken out of the school in rows and led together-men women and children, to the new horses market on Radun St. Till the last moment many deluded themselves that the Lithuanians and Germans were setting up a ghetto. It was inconceivable that we were actually being led to slaughter…

When the Lithuanian commandant arrived, Yosel Vydenberg approached him and asked what he planned to do with the Jews? In response, the commandant ordered him to head the group of healthy men who were later led in an unknown direction. We thought they were being led to work. We did indeed hear gun shots from afar but thought they were only intended to frighten. We did not yet realize the horrible truth. The Goys who went to see what was being done with the Jews came back and told us they were being led to the old cemetery and shot there. But we did not even believe them….And each two hours the policemen came and took another group of men…

Towards evening only the women and children remained. Evening came. Hundreds of women and children lay down on the ground in the horse market yard in a state of hunger and total exhaustion. The horrible naked truth was exposed. We had no strength even for tears. We lay there stunned and paralyzed awaiting daybreak. In the middle of the night a peasant who was a good acquaintance of mine, stole through the boards of the fence which surrounded the market and told me, Aitka Kaniuchovsky and Shoshanna Yurkanesky: “ If you want to live - escape immediately before the light of day”. We decided to escape. My two sons and myself (my husband had been killed that day) along with Aitka and her two sons, Shoshanna arid her son and another girl moved a board in the fence, escaped through the opening and were on our way: The police guards were far away from us.

The good peasant led us to the village of Dutzishok to the house of another peasant who was also a good acquaintance of ours. He fed us and we sent him to Eishishok to find out what was happening there. He returned and told us that there were no more Jews in the village. I decided to go to Benyakoni since the peasant was afraid to keep us in his house. There I found my two sons.

Later Haikel Kanichovsky, his wife Gutta and their two sons joined us. When the Germans ordered all Jews in the vicinity to assemble at Voronova, to the ghetto about to be set up, I decided not to go. My heart told me that a ghetto spelled certain death. Despite my family's objections I decided to disguise myself as a peasant, return to the Eishishok vicinity and find refuge at one of our peasant acquaintances with whom we had ties of friendship and business for years….and so I did. Dressed as a G and barefooted I went on my way. I reached the Eishishok vicinity and in a field there, I met a Goy who was a good acquaintance of ours. I told him of my intention. He too advised me against entering the ghetto - he told me to fetch my sons while he would think of some plan and place to hide us.

I returned to Benyakoni and succeeded in transferring my children disguised as peasants. This peasant was a “ sultis” and on authority of his servant, the Germans and Lithuanians came and went freely in his house. His house therefore was not a possible refuge for us. A Jew, days later, came and told us that the “ Bagmina” (the village committee) suspected him of hiding Jews. He was very sorry but he could accommodate us no longer, his life was in danger! According to the “ law” a peasant caught hiding Jews was sentenced to death.

It was the beginning of November. The earth was already frozen and snow had already begun falling…Where should we go? I remembered that we had some acquaintances in the village of Yurtzishky. I begged the peasant to lead us to this village and point out to us, from a distance, the house of my peasant friend. This would spare me the search for the house and the danger such a search could entail of falling in the hands of policemen or anti-Semitic Goys. He agreed. On Sabbath morning we left and made our way through forests and fields until we reached the outskirts of the village. From there the peasant pointed out the house we were looking for. I knocked on the door and the peasant came out. When he saw me he shouted in amazement: “ Good G-d! They told me you too were killed!” He took us in his house, fed us and hid us in his pantry for a few days . But since his house stood on the road he suggested transferring us to his sister who lived in an isolated house in a big forest far from the highway.

We accepted his generous suggestion gladly and gratefully. At night we set out for his sister's house, located about two kilometers away from the village, hidden in the thick of the forest and hence not at all visible from a distance. Her house was clean, beautiful and new and our hearts were gladdened. She welcomed us warmly. She was a wise and good hearted woman but poor. The monetary question did not disturb me. Before the war we had hidden a large amount of merchandise from our store in the homes of many peasants. Many debts owed to us were also outstanding.

In exchange for the merchandise, paid for by honest peasants, I was able to obtain enough food and also pay the peasant woman for our food expenses. To my request that we be allowed to spend at least two weeks in her house, the woman responded: “ You can stay as long as you like, the war will not end so soon…”

We stayed for six months at her house. During the day we all remained in one room, and hardly emerged. Nevertheless inhabitants of the adjacent village began whispering that the woman was hiding Jews and we felt we must continue our wanderings in search for a new hideout. We decided to dig a pit in the forest and hide there.

In June of 1942, my sons and I dug a pit 1.20 meters deep and 2 meters wide and set up a stove of stones. We lived in that pit for eight months. When it rained the pit filled with water and we had to dig another pit somewhere else in the forest. In the second pit we lived for seven months. We obtained food through the peasant woman who did not know the location of our second pit. It was I who always approached her. We knew the truth of the proverb “ Happy is the man who is constantly afraid”. We uprooted a hollow tree, erected it on the entrance to our pit and entered the pit by sliding down the hollow.

In the forest I met a Soviet soldier who was also in hiding. He helped us a great deal in finding food which had become hard to obtain. White Polish partisans appeared in the forest. These fought not only the Germans but also and mainly against the Red Partisans. Their hatred of the Jews was boundless and any Jewish partisan or refugee who fell in their hands was killed on the spot.

We realized the situation was becoming unbearable. Food was hard to obtain and we could not approach the village since most of the peasants supported and assisted the White partisans. We therefore decided to try to reach the “ Red” partisans, among whom, we heard, there were many Jews.

My elder son decided to try his luck at locating these partisans. After many attempts, he came upon a troop of Jewish and Russian partisans. When he told them of our plight their leader agreed to accept us.

One dark night, it was already the beginning of 1944, we took our few belongings and set out. We entered the “ Podborze” forest. White partisans appeared in that forest and we were in great danger. To our luck we met a reconnaissance group of Russian partisans and told them who we were and of our wish to join them. They demanded weapons and would not let us enter the forest) without any. After much pleading and when we showed them the note the partisan leader had given my son they agreed to let us enter the forest. On the way we were stopped by hidden and well camouflaged partisan spotters.

“Do you have weapons? No? And money, do you have? Also not? In that case we cannot let you join the partisans”. They agreed to accept my elder son but not my younger son or myself. We did not agree to these terms. We would neither move on nor return. We lay on the snow for six days. The partisans brought us food. One day a Jewish partisan girl came to us and told us in the name of the Partisan commandant to go to the “ Visinche” forest. I told her there were White polish partisans in that forest.

“I refuse to go there! If he wants to kill me-let him kill me here. I don't care about anything!…” Finally I “ won” and the three of us were accepted to the partisans. I was employed in the kitchen, my elder son in the reconnaissance troop and my youngest, in the spotters. So we were “ useful” after all. To our luck, Russian planes brought weapons at that time, and in a quantity sufficient for every- one so the partisans resigned themselves to the fact that we had come weaponless and penniless.

We stayed with the partisans for four months till July of 1944. When the Russians liberated us we reached Vilna and from there we returned to Eishishok. We lived in Eishishok with the other survivors till the big attack of the Polish partisans. In that attack, Ziporah Sonenson and her child were killed. My elder son, driving in a car to Vilna to bring our belongings back to Eishishok was also wounded in his right leg by White partisans and after an illness which lasted nearly a year-he died in Lodz. My younger son and myself, left the valley of death, the Poland soaked with our blood, and after many plights, finally reached our homeland.


[Page 75]

From a Prisoner's Camp to a Partisan Troop

Shneor Glembotzky

When the Polish-German war broke out I was stationed with my regiment in Vilna. I had been in service for a year at the time. My regiment and others were transferred by train west to Warsaw. But the frequent bombings by the “ Luftwaffe” forced us to leave the train cars several times a day and hide in the woods and fields. As we were traveling with no protection we were at the mercy of the German pilots. On the third of September we finally reached Siedlce but from the east, the direction we had come from, streamed the stunned and beaten Polish troops. The hasty and frightened retreat of the Polish army had begun. Its commanders had “ lost their heads” already during the first days of war. Each regiment or rather each company, mindful of its own interest, followed its own plans and proceeded where it wished. Weapons of all kinds were scattered on roadsides. The German army which advanced into Poland from all directions, assisted by numerous fifth columnists, surrounded whole troops and took them into captivity. The situation was utterly chaotic. We threw away our guns, split into groups and each group attempted to find its way through the forests to its village. Not far from the city Wyszkow our troop, consisting of approximately 200 men, was surrounded by the German army and taken prisoner. But on that day a big troop of Polish cavaliers appeared on the road and the Germans fled to the woods. We continued on our way and were taken captive again. We succeeded in escaping again. The fourth time we were taken captive by a mechanized troop and imprisoned in the prisoners camp at Siedlce, near Warsaw, where many thousands of Poles were held. We lay there on the ground for six days without food. The Germans paid us no attention and showed no interest in us. The badly wounded lay moaning and died. Officers and soldiers in torn, filthy clothes, hungry and lice infested, rolled on the cold ground cursing out loud.

Our hearts were struck with bitterness and despair. The terrible and shameful defeat combined with the hunger, cold and filth needed a scapegoat to provide an outlet for the anger and bitterness. The Jewish soldier served as a target for the fury. Anti-Semitism exposed its evil face. Phrases of brotherhood and friendship voiced at the outset of the war, when the Poles demanded all minorities to combine forces and save the common fatherland, were now forgotten.

Beatings of Jewish soldiers, curses, offenses and accusations that Jews had caused the war and Polish defeat increased constantly. The Germans did not intervene. On the seventh day of our arrival, we were loaded on freight cars and transported to Kenisberg and there divided into groups according to race: Polish, Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Jewish.

The guards of the camps were “ folksdeutschen” - Polish citizens of German origin who declared their German identity and surpassed even the real Germans in their cruelty towards the Jews.
Polish prisoners attacked the Jewish prisoners, a few hundred in number, seized their boots and clothes, leaving them in their underwear. The days were cold and the nights colder. The first snow had already begun falling. We were not spared beatings.

The food ration consisted of 200 grams of bread a day. Berke Kaganovitz and Yona Tavshunsky were in the same troop with me. Two weeks later we were loaded again on freight cars used for transportation of beasts and taken to a village called “ Klein Deksin”. From there to the prisoners camp we proceeded on foot. We passed a German farm on the way. A German boy was standing there beside the fence holding two apples. Berke Kaganovitz left the line, snatched the two apples and returned to the line. The boy began shouting and the guards began shooting but Berke mingled with the other soldiers and was not detected. Those two apples shared among us were our only food for two days. After two hours marching we reached the camp. A representative of the German sanitary committee was standing at the gate. We were ordered to undress in the cold; it was 25 degrees below zero. The medical orderly dipped a pen in ink and gave us injections against typhus! This was their preventive medicine against typhus! The next day we were dressed in clothes which were mere rags.

Our work consisted of cleaning the roads or constructing huts. We rose at 6 a.m., organized ourselves and then were divided into work groups under the supervision of armed Germans. We worked till 6 p.m. The food ration consisted of 200 grams of bread a day, occasionally a little margarine and at noon turnip soup containing no fat. The Jews were given the most difficult and vile jobs.
The German citizens treated us brutally. Each step we took was accompanied by a stream of beatings, kickings and cursing. With sticks, rifle butts and kicks they beat us to amuse themselves and satisfy their sadistic instincts. In that prisoner camp we met the photographer Leibovitz, the son of the teacher Shaul Lidsky, Leizer Stutsinsky and Meir Shimon Politatsky.

One day several hundred prisoners were taken to clear the road of snow for a military procession. Yona Tavshunsky was beaten by a German policeman and in the evening he died of the beating and was buried in the cemetery of the camp. There were several dozen dead daily.

A year passed in this manner. Then the Germans announced that soldiers of Lithuanian citizenship could return home. By bribery, Leizer Stutsinsky obtained Lithuanian citizenship and returned to Eishishok.

Leizer's success made us all want to try our luck. On the second day after Stutsinsky had left the camp, when the German in charge of our row of huts asked which of the soldiers were Lithuanians, Meir Shimon Politatsky replied: “l am! I am an Eishishok native and Eishishok is part of Lithuania”, “ What is your name?”, the German asked. “ Meir Politatsky”, he answered. “ A Jew?” “ Yes.” “ Good. Come with me Jude!” He was taken to a hut and left there. We did not know what happened to him and were extremely worried. In the evening, the door of our hut was opened and a body thrown inside. The body lay there on the ground, seemingly lifeless. Only when we bent over and looked into the face we recognized Meir Politatsky… he looked terrible. He was blue and swollen all over. His eyes were invisible for his face was swollen with wounds. We could barely revive him. He later became ill with epilepsy….Thus the Germans punished a Jew who “ dared” request release from a prisoner camp. Meanwhile Lithuania was annexed to Russia. Lithuanian soldiers were no longer released and our last hope of escaping the Germans through that channel vanished.

From Germany we were taken to Poland to Biala Podlaska. Politatsky was released after the visit of a committee for the treatment of the ill. Berke Kaganovitz and myself decided to escape the camp to one of the adjacent villages still inhabited by Jews. Jews were forbidden to use trains or buses but freedom of movement by carts or by foot was still permitted. Assisted by Belorussian soldiers who had some Christian acquaintances in the vicinity, we disguised ourselves as Jewish citizens, sewed the yellow patch on our clothes and thus reached Lukow. We there found work at a Jewish carpenter.

When Jews were ordered to work for German employers only, the Jewish carpenter found us work as apprentices in the carpentry of a German acquaintance in need of workers. The German was happy to find such cheap, nearly free, labour. I was an experienced carpenter and the German was very satisfied with my work. Thanks to him we escaped five “ actions” (Jewish liquidation operations). When the number of Jews in Lukow dropped to a few dozen, the German told me: “ Listen Jude, you've got to leave Lukow - they say that soon Lukow will be “ Judenrein”. I can't hide you any longer, and I feel sorry for you. You're a good worker and an honest Jew. Go to Mezritz, there are still many Jews there.” We thanked him and Berke and I set off for Mezritz. The Jews and German supplied us with a little money and clothing. We hid in the forests by day and continued our journey by night. We were of course, disguised as Christian peasants and we obtained food from peasants on the way. On the third day we suddenly encountered a Polish policeman who demanded that we accompany him to the German police station in the nearby village for an investigation. We were in great danger.

The policeman did not believe we were Poles! We made a show of agreeing to go along with him but when we reached a thicket - Berke suddenly attacked him, grabbed his gun and killed him. We fled to the forest but having heard the shot, the Germans appeared, and seeing us running they began shooting at us. Berke was hit and he fell only a few metres away from the forest. He did not get up. I was luckier and managed to reach the forest. I ran with all my strength. The sun had meanwhile set and the Germans apparently did not want to follow me into the forest. All that night I ran. I entered another thicker and bigger forest and hid there for three days, living off forest berries. In the evening of the fourth day I left the forest and finally arrived to Mezritz. There I became friendly with a soldier prisoner serving as head of the Jewish police. He supervised the big store of murdered Jews' clothing and allowed me to sell to the peasants as many clothes as I liked, purchase weapons and go to the forests. At that time, partisan groups appeared but no one was allowed into the forest without weapons.

I collected some thousand rubles from the sale of clothes and purchased a revolver. The peasants had loads of weapons from when the Polish army had retreated. At that time a Jewish partisan messenger came to Mezritz to enlist Jews with weapons and take them to the forest. Since I possessed a revolver he took me along with ten other Jews. Our troop was headed by the partisan leader known by his nickname “ Piri”.

Our numbers increased. Many Russian prisoners transferred by train to Germany, jumped through the train windows or through holes they forced in the car floors and fled to the woods. Some of them succeeded in reaching the partisans uninjured. But there was a severe shortage of weapons. We decided to confiscate the pigs of rich peasants in nearby villages, distribute them among the poor peasants in exchange for information on which peasants had weapons. This plan worked successfully. We obtained not only guns and grenades but also machine guns. Our numbers reached 800, 300 of whom were Jewish. We obtained food from the villages in the order and amount we imposed on them. We assumed an increasingly military form. Service units such as cooking, sanitary, etc. were organized and we became bold enough to openly confront Germans stationed in the big villages. We were informed that a German troop of 15 men was at the Voronitz estate. The head of the estate was an S.S, officer, A troop of 40 partisans was dispatched and they surrounded the estate on all sides. It was an unexpected attack. The Germans were killed and their weapons taken. As time went on and our operations increased, we contacted Moscow. Airplanes were sent carrying supplies of weapons, food, radios, money, chocolate, etc. A group of saboteurs, headed by the renowned partisan “ Uncle Petya”, was organized to blow up bridges and destroy railroads.

Once I was sent, with two other Jews, on a sabotage mission. Our assignment was to blow up the train rail near a village about 40 km away from our base. At night we approached the village. From afar we heard sounds of music playing and dancing. We entered the first house at the outskirts of the village and the peasant there told us there were Germans in the village. We returned to the rail, dug a pit, placed the explosives and blew up the rail. We returned safely to the forest.

Such sabotage operations and surprise attacks on German stations in the villages or on military units on their way to and from the front, increased daily and the Germans were forced to transfer who battalions from the front to reinforce security of the railroads, roads and their guard stations.

But we did not only have the Germans on our hands. White Polish partisans appeared in the forests and they fought us with greater hatred than they fought the Germans. We fought back and gave them the treatment they deserved. Their hatred of the Jews and Communists was boundless. Any Jewish partisan captured was tortured to death. We too killed the White partisans when we caught them. Once when our troop was returning from a sabotage operation, and passing close by a village, they shot at us from an ambush. Piri, the head of our troop, was killed. We decided to teach them a lesson and make an example of them so others would be too afraid to try any tricks. At night some of our troops surrounded the village and set it on fire. Anyone trying to escape was shot and killed. No one survived from this village and no house remained standing.

The partisans war was a war of life and death. We took no prisoners-anyone captured was killed following interrogation. The Germans did the same when they caught a partisan. If one of us was severely wounded and it was impossible to carry him to the forest or save his life-he would shoot himself to avoid falling in the hands of the cruel enemy.

When the Russians returned in 1944 and liberated Poland, I joined the regular Red Army. I returned to Biala Podleaka and was there assigned as chief of the department of criminal offenders in the District Police. I served there for half a year till I felt that I could no longer stand being in Poland. The chief of Police hinted to me that I must leave for there were many complaints about me from the personal vengeance. I took on the White Poles (of the “ Armia-Krayova”) and the other anti- Semetic hooligans who had showed excessive cruelty to the Jews under the German rule. I understood him. I also had a strong desire to leave Poland which was soaked in so much Jewish blood. In a Russian military car I crossed the border and entered Austria. From there I reached Italy and then Israel.

 

eis082.jpg
The committee of the soup kitchen for the poor and its staff of volunteers. It was founded during the German occupation in World War I (1916), and provided hot meals to hundreds of the city's poor in Eishishok

 


[Page 82]

The White Partisan Attack on Eishishok

Alter Michelovsky

After Lithuania was annexed to Soviet Russia, I served for four months as Militia commander of Eishishok. When the Germans entered the town, I was of course forced to go into hiding for I did not manage to escape with the Red Army, as it was, much of the Red Army in Lithuania had fallen prisoner.

A few days after the Germans arrived, they caught Avraham Krishilov, Yehuda Lev Solominsky and his wife, Manos, son of Yosel Belechrovitz and nine other Jews, took them outside of the village and killed them.

I hid in the Jewish cemetery. At midnight I went to the house of Yehuda Mendel Kremen and knocked on the window. His wife came out, gave me 1000 roubles, some shirts and peasant's clothes and told me to escape quickly for I was being searched for high and low.

That same night, disguised as a peasant, I set out for Voronova, 24 Kilometers away from Eishishok. I arrived there safely. From there I went to my sister Mina who lived in Dzevinishok.

When all Dzevinishok Jews were ordered to move to the Voronova Ghetto, I returned to Voronova. On May 4, 1942, the Ghetto Jews were assembled in the marketplace at the center of the town. Bent on our knees, we remained there, with no food or water, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Then, Lithuanian punitive troops came and divided the crowd into professionals and non-professionals. When I replied to the question of the police-chief that I was a watchmaker, he said “ Well, for the time being you will live”. I was told to stand on the right, while a huge crowd of non-professionals designated for slaughter, was gathered on the left… Before our very eyes the police- men attacked the crowd and displaying the barbarity of wild animals, seized the little money the Jews had, their rings, watches and other possessions. Meanwhile the peasants had finished digging the long pits. Then those unhappy people were forced to lie in the pits. Those who lagged behind or tried to resist were beaten with rifle butts and whips. When all the people in the pits were arranged “ in the typical German order and methodology”, they fired the machine guns positioned behind the Jews, and, their horrific rattle silences the cries of the Jews. The murdered and wounded Jews were covered with earth by the peasants. Puddles of blood spread over the whole market square around the awful pit, and we were standing there witnessing the scene. I will never, ever forget that awful sight.

When the slaughter was over, the Lithuanian district commander approached us and announced “ All Jews are Communists and responsible for the war. Therefore they were killed. This will be the fate of all the Jews in Europe. You will remain alive for the time being. We have need of you !”

The survivors, amounting to 60-70 people, were led, on foot, to the Lida ghetto, which was strictly guarded by Germans and Lithuanians. The latter proved to be even crueler than the Germans.

Rumors had meanwhile spread that there were Jewish partisans in the nearby forest. A movement rose among the youth of the ghetto to steal out and reach the forests. We know that those who remained in the ghetto were doomed, be it to a slow or quick death, all would surely die! But without weapons no one was accepted in the woods. Partisan messengers succeeded in stealing into the ghetto and they began enlisting people. I bought a gun for 30,000 rubles from a young Christian boy who visited the Christian lady assigned the task of delivering the cakes baked in the ghetto for the S.S. officers. I dismantled the gun, hid its parts in my trousers and one dark night, by cutting the barbed wire surrounding the ghetto, escaped with 100 others to the woods. The wood we escaped to was the big forest Naliboky, where, according to our information, the partisans headed by the brothers Beilski of Novogrodek were operation. During the day we hid in the forest and at night we continued our journey. We crossed the river Neiman not far from a German post and in the forest we met partisan guards of the Beilski group. We were brought to the camp and accepted as members. We all possessed weapons. In our camp there were several hundred partisans, all Jewish, among them women and children who prepared food, cleaned the clothes, and took care of the camp necessities.

Our assignments were attacks on solitary German and Lithuanian guards, exploding railroads and bridges and other acts of sabotage. Peasants found to be traitors or informers were liquidated. Food was received, or rather taken, from the peasants in the villages from which we operated. Our history during the more than two years spent in the forest, is described in Beilski's book “ The Jews of the Forests”.

When the Russians returned, I went back to Eishishok. There I found Shalom Sonenson, his brother Moshe and his wife Zipporah and their children, the family of Zirl Yurkansky and Sara Kabatznik.

I enlisted in the N.K.V.D. troop which operated in Eishishok and the vicinity to purge the area of the Hitler collaborators and the White Polish partisans who we had learned to know during our “ hot” “ encounters” with them in the forests. Moshe Sononzon and myself, thirsty for revenge, belonged to an armed unit which, while pretending to search for Germans and traitors took reprisals on the evil Goys as they richly deserved.

We terrorized the Goys. We collected many articles and clothes robbed from Jews we had known and made those goys pay, if only a fraction for what they had done to us and our children. We also caught Germans who had fled in small groups to the woods during the big retreat, and “ framed” them. Once we captured six Germans, one of whom was an S.S. officer. Moshe Sonenson, myself and some other Jews took them to the cemetery where the Eishishok Jews had expired in terrible torture. We placed the officer to one side and told him: “You will remain alive!” “ Yes, since I have a wife and sons in Germany”, he said and a flicker of hope lit his extinguished eyes. The rest of the Germans stood pale, trembling with fear.

We did not prolong settling our account with them. A volley of bullets was fired and the contaminated bodies rolled on the ground by the big mass grave of our brothers. A small revenge for their crimes. “ Now its your turn, dirty murderer”, Moshe shouted. The officer was pallid with terror and realized that his end had come. He threw himself to the ground and started kissing the earth at our feet, crying and whimpering: “ Good Jews! Pity me - I have a wife and children, I did you no wrong.”

“You have a wife and children, do you?” Moshe shouted,” and we, didn't we have wives and children? You had no pity for our families and all that was clear to us- you filthy murderer! You want to live?! You won't live - you'll die like dogs!” While he was speaking he lifted his rifle butt and smashed the skull of the loathsome German. He then raised his hands , and cried in a terrible voice, “ Here, my hands have spilled this defiled blood! For the sake of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters-for my baby son who was strangled by unhappy Jews—because of you, you murderers, you scum of the earth!…”

Thus, we continued to terrorize the “ German collaborators” and those who had “ enjoyed” the spectacle of Jewish murder. The Russian army had meanwhile left the village on its way west and only three militiamen remained in the village. Rumours reached us that a group of White Polish partisans were preparing to attack us while the Goys of the village were expectantly waiting for a sign to destroy us. We were informed that the attack was to be launched one night soon. These rumours reached us through those few Goys who had remained human and who welcomed with joy the return of the Jews, their good friends from before the war.

A Russian captain passed through Eishishok and we told him of the danger awaiting us and we requested that he dispatch troops of soldiers to the village. He tried to allay our fears by saying we had no reason to fear for our lives for under Russian rule such a predicament was impossible. He then continued on his way.

We all decided to gather in the house of Sonenson which was a brick house. That night the calamity struck, eight White Polish partisans, accompanied by a mass of the native Eishishok Goys, surrounded the house and started shooting. We defended ourselves bravely and prevented their approach. But we ran out of bullets and the crowd broke in the house. I jumped out the attic window to the garden behind the house. There I found Moshe, son of Marayshel Yurkansky, and we both fled to the river behind “ Pigs' Street”. All night we lay among the bushes. When morning came and the partisans had returned to the forests, we went back to the town and heard of the calamity. Moshe Sonenson , his wife Zipporah and their year old baby daughter were hiding in the room. They recognized the voices of some local Goys - the pharmacist, the medical aide, and others. Zipporah said: “I will go out and beg for our lives, they know us. The pharmacist used to come to our pharmacy. He was father's friend… Maybe they will have pity on us and our baby…They will find us here anyway!” Moshe agreed. No sooner had Zipporah opened the door and faced them, than they shot her and her baby, killing them on the spot. The Goys left the house after plundering and ravaging everything.

We ran to Radun and brought a troop of Soviet soldiers. A search was held in the Goys homes and we found many of our belongings. 50 were arrested, A few days later the partisans attacked the prison at night (the prison was the house of Kyuchevsky ) and freed all the prisoners. All night there were gunshots between the attackers and the soldiers who dared not emerge from the house in which they were fortified.

Slowly, life returned to normal. Most of the houses were in one piece, though windows and doors were missing. Goys from “ Pigs Street' or “ Nyaar Plan” returned and occupied the better houses. Polish shops were opened and Polish craftsmen, tailors shoemakers, etc., came and replace the Jews that were gone. On Thursday, market day was held as usual. Peasants from the vicinity came to buy and sell and we often recognized the Jewish fur or coat they were wearing.

Our hearts ached to see how life went on even without the Jews as if the liquidation of the thousands of Jews, who had filled the village with their bargaining and love of life - was a normal and natural phenomenon!

We felt we could not return to the life as it had been. The hatred of the Goys for us was fierce and unconcealed and we decided to leave our home town - the town which was the cemetery of our dear and loved ones. The police officer also hinted to me that I should leave soon because the Goys were planning to prosecute us for “ taking the law into our own hands” — which in Russia constituted a grave offense.

I did as the officer advised, I left Eishishok, went to Vilna and from there I crossed the border and made my way to Israel in the well-known way - the Haapala.

 

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