In The Revolt
All sources and footnotes are included in the body of the following text.
In Chapter Ten of the first part we related the doom of the last remnants and
the fate of those who escaped from the little ghetto to the forest. We have no
information about those who escaped from Pinsk into the woods previously. From
various sources we were informed about plans to break out, but, as far as we
know, nothing came of them. Thus only a few of our compatriots were able to
share in the holy task of revenge on the murderers.
Therefore, following our clues, we examined other writings about the Holocaust
and revolt and gleaned from it any references to natives of Pinsk who were
active in the struggle against the Nazi foe.
Our main source was
The Book of Jewish Partisans, published by Sifriat Hapoalim, Merhavia, 1955. We also used
The War of the Jewish Partisans in Eastern Europe
by Moshe Kahanovich, published by Ayanoth, Tel Aviv, 1954.
What we have is a list of no more than twenty names.
We shall list the partisan units to which they belonged, and state the role
they played in the fighting Jewish underground and in the uprisings in other
Nine of them served in the same unit, named after Voroshilov, commanded by
Fyodorov and later by Major-General Biegma in the forests of Polesia.
There were seven others serving in various units:
Yehoshua (Shaya) Gurevich;
Golda née Sherman Galetski;
Tsila neé Feldman Dolinko;
Among those who fought in the Jewish fighting underground and participated in
the uprisings in other ghettos were:
Dr. Misha (Michael) Temchin in the Polish partisan units, in the forests of
Vishkov, near Lublin;
Fani Lotz nee Solomian who served in the Kutuzov Company, Molotov Brigade in
the Pinsk Division, and later in the Lazo Brigade and in the Polish Kosciusko
Unit - in the forests of Polesia;
Moshe Feldman, partisan unit in the Zamoyski woods;
David Plotnik, Chkalov company no. 620, and later in the Kalinin
Komsomolets Brigade of Major-General Platoun, in the forests of
Aharon Kalivach, Kaganovich unit, Kuivashev Brigade (the Pinsk
later in the Kirov unit of the same division;
Shamai (Sioma) Shuster, of the First of May Brigade, Rudminsk forests in the
neighborhood of Horodiszcze, in the Baranowicz district.
Shlomo (Salomon) Entin: in Vilna and in the units that fought in occupied
Fruma (Frumke) Plotnitzki: Warsaw and various other places in occupied Poland;
Hannah (Hanche) Plotnitzki: in many places in occupied Poland, in Bendin and
Nissan Reznik: in the Jewish F.P.O. (Fareinikte Partisaner
Vilna, and later as a partisan in the woods of Kazian.
Polesia Partisans' Base
The Jewish Partisans' Book)
The Region and its Population
Polesia the land of the great swamps is dissected by streams and
rivers of the Prifet. Among the marshes are plots of arable land. The
population is sparse and backward, and engages mainly in raising cattle for
meat, in working small plots of land for its own needs, and in selling wood
from the forests. During most of the days of the year, the villages are cut off
by the swamps. Only in wintertime [when the waters freeze], the season of ties
with the outside world, the Polesian peasant sets forth on his sled with a few
head of cattle, wood and wooden utensils to the town, to sell his produce. With
the proceeds from the sale he supplies his basic needs, such as: salt,
kerosene, matches and salted herring. Large estates and forests in Polesia
belonged to Polish noblemen, who did nothing to develop the region.
The Jews and their Neighbors
These wetlands, on the banks of rivers and their tributaries, comprised the
habitat where generations of Jews grew to devoutness, to culture and
Jewish education, and to national awakening in the Jewish youth, which was
centered in Hebrew schools and pioneer youth movements.
The majority of the population of the towns were Jews, who, in addition to
retail trade, engaged in skilled labor. Among these towns, the Jewish
was blessed--and no small part of them were connected to the lumber industry
by the forests of the region, which were its greatest natural resource.
The economic structure of Polesia and the history of its development were not
conducive to good relations between the Jews and their neighbors. The Jews, who
were often agents of the estate owners or leased the lakes for fishing or dealt
in lumber, were mostly middle class and were therefore the recipients of all of
the animosity of the peasants toward the estate owners, and toward the reign of
In Times of Transition of the Government
With the arrival of the Soviet regime, varied and positive change came to
Polesia, but the contempt toward the Jews remained and was even amplified.
Strong peasants, who hated the government for fear of collectivization,
the Poles the
(Poles settled in the area in the 19
century), regarded the Jews as the factor who, thanks to the change of regime,
had benefited and had become more established under the Soviet system.
Many among the local non-Jewish population welcomed the Nazi occupation. Their
first activity during the occupation was looting the Jewish homes. Many young
people joined the Byelorussian Police and other military organizations set up
by the Nazis.
A small portion of the Jews of Polesia took advantage of the retreating Soviet
troops to escape to parts of the Soviet Union; of these, some joined the Red
Army. Only a very few escaped to the forests and joined in founding partisan
units in Polesia, following the wave of extermination which swept the area in
the summer and autumn of 1942.
A Base for Partisan Warfare
Polesia has ideal terrain for partisan warfare. By the middle of the month of
July 1941, the eastern part (which between the world wars belonged to Soviet
Russia), was already organized in partisan groups, who armed themselves with
weapons left behind by the retreating Red Army. Most of the villages in the
area became neutral, whereby the Germans came by day, and the
partisans by night. Large tracts of land were sterilized and partisan control
was declared. The Germans were forced to set up camps in the larger towns,
where they dug in and armed themselves heavily.
In the spring of 1942 units and groups of partisans passed from eastern to
western Polesia, in order to contact the disparate partisan groups and in order
to fortify them and train them for the larger actions. At the same time Komerov
moved to the region of Pinsk-Lenin-Zhytkovitz and established the Pinsker
Brigade. Also arriving in the area were the Kapusta and Lenikov
(Batia) units and the renowned units of Kovpak.
In the area of Sernik-Vysotsk in the forests of Svorichevitz, in southern
Polesia, the Fyodorov (of Rovno) Units worked together with the staff of
In Polesia there were family camps and a few Polish battle platoons, among the
latter the Kosciusko units with their Commander Moshe Satanovsky.
Polesia served as a base for partisan paratroopers who dealt in sabotage.
Mostly these groups camped at the border between the swamps and the dry areas,
with the dry areas serving as their field of action and the swamps as
their area to withdraw to, for maneuvers and for shelter.
Many Jewish partisans fought as
members of Russian partisan units. On the land of Polesia there was no
partisan unit, which did not have Jewish fighters, and the latter were among
the bravest and the first to fight. As well
there were individuals and groups of Jewish fighters.
Jews in the Forest
Nature did not pamper the fighters in the forest. However, the people there
knew how to adjust to trying conditions. After a night of activity or
patrolling, in wintertime, the group would return to the forest before dawn,
not far from the field of action, spread out over the snow, and sleep, in those
times when fatigue overcame the cold and damp. On autumn nights, the group
often did not have anything with which to cover the ground.
, mud huts built for habitation, served the partisans when they were more or
less permanently in one place. In regions where there was relative security,
the fighters were allowed to enter homes and rest for a few hours. With the
arrival of spring, water and mosquitoes arrived in abundance, which was
unbearable. Boils were common. The crowding in the mud huts contributed to this
epidemic, and there was no available remedy.
With the spring also came typhus. In the event of this disease, the usual
procedure was quarantine. There was a great shortage of medicines and doctors.
Among the medications were many of Polesian origin: various leaves, dried
seeds, etc. The role of the doctor was in many cases filled by a nurse.
Adjustment to the conditions in the marshes was not easy. Food had to be sought
in distant places. Economic activity in a distant region sometimes required a
week or two. The partisans had to tighten their belts. They especially lacked
bread and salt.
There were days in the forest when people ate food cooked without salt. If
there was any somewhat legitimate property belonging to the fighters, it was a
salt pouch, which was even smaller than the tobacco pouch. The salt
pouch and the tobacco pouch were guarded along with the weapons and ammunition
and remains of souvenirs from home.
On occasion unlimited meat was allocated with potatoes but without salt and
bread. Therefore the people collected all sorts of seasonings and vegetables,
such as garlic and onion.
In order to find meat, it was necessary to wander far and wide. En route were
vast stretches of swamp. Here and there, on better plots of land, stood the
sparse villages of Polesia.
There was indescribable poverty. The peasants' principle source of livelihood,
their beef, was confiscated by both the Germans and the partisans. There were
peasants whose last cow was taken following a desperate struggle, and they were
then linked as partners in one cow, which was left to two or three families.
There were unwritten laws regarding friendly peasants according to the
testimony of Golda and Shalom Galetski which forbade taking a pregnant
pig or their last cow.
No wonder that an economic expedition of the partisans had to pass through many
villages over a wide area, until they supplied their requirements.
The Condition of the Jews in the Forest
In these horrible conditions, in which the partisan way of life existed, the
state of the Jewish partisan was several times worse than that of his Christian
comrade. And in comparison, the condition of the Jews in the family camps
To the Christian partisan awaited one principal danger: from the cruel and
merciless German enemy. To the Jewish partisan, and even more so the unarmed
Jew in the family camp, lurked, in addition to the danger from the enemy, two
additional dangers. The greatest of these was the danger from the Christian
population, either individually or in organized groups, known as
(self defense), and white gangs (
, etc.). The lesser of these threats but still very real came
from the Christian partisans themselves, many of whom were openly anti-Semitic.
There were even groups who specialized in murdering Jews, such as
. Among the officers of the partisans at all levels were many anti-Semites.
Because of these conditions, there was an unbreakable rule, that no unarmed
person would be accepted to the ranks of the partisans.
In his book Melekh Bakalchuk relates: The Jews had escaped from their
towns in the last hours before the massacre, and of course had not made
contingency plans for weapons of self defense and attack. Upon their approach
to the forest, most of them were murdered by peasants. During the first months
after the destruction of the ghettos and until the second half of 1943, a great
number of unarmed Jews in the forests were lost.
The Jews reached the forests with their families by a simple logic: there was
no apparent way to survive in the forests; they did not have weapons; and there
was at that time no partisan movement in the region, with the exception of
isolated groups of escaped prisoners. But if their fate had been sealed in any
case, it would be preferable to die together with their families.
Among these Jews were those who assembled and established the family camps,
which eventually reached 15,000 souls in all the area of partisan activity in
In some towns, as in Pinsk, the Jews were deceived until their last minute. The
difference was in the fact that the Pinsk ghetto was sealed hermetically and no
one succeeded in escaping, despite the efforts of some tens of young people
[see following Chapter 7].
In the small towns, the Germans did not succeed in preventing the escape of
many from the valleys of death. We will recount some of these cases:
In Lakhva Some 600 Jews out of 2300 escaped following an armed uprising
on the day of the destruction of the ghetto. Approximately 120 of these made
their way to the forest, the remainder having been murdered in cold blood by
the peasants of the area.
In Berezov near Stollin some seventy Jews out of 200 being led to the ditches
In Sernik 272 people out of 1000 Jews, who were surrounded in the market
In the last analysis, a few thousand were initially saved but only a few
hundred made their way to the forest.
In Chapter 8 we have related what happened to some of the Pinskers who escaped
to the forests. Such was the fate of a group of eighteen Jews, who had escaped
from the small ghetto in the direction of Kobrin, and after failing to find
shelter, turned back, but only three of these reached Pinsk alive: Avraham
Perchik, Baruch Friedman and Golda Sherman Galetski. All the others, some of
whose names are mentioned in Perchik's testimony: the Kuperman brothers,
Berezenboim, Yankele from Ivanika were murdered en route by members of
the local population.
Such was also the fate of Shmuel Korobeinik, while his brother-in-law Aharon
Kalivach was miraculously saved twice from being killed by peasants, and
managed to reach the partisans.
From among these survivors the Jewish partisan units began.
We will write in detail the biographies of the partisan unit, to which nine
Pinskers mentioned herein belonged, which typifies the annals of partisan units
in general, and of Jewish partisan units in particular.
In the story of the unit, we will relate the biographies of nine of the sons of
Sons of Pinsk in One Partisan Unit
A group of young people from Sernik, who had left the ghetto on the day before
its destruction on September 28th, 1942, organized the unit named for Voroshilov in the region of Svorichevitz.
Eventually, nine from Pinsk were absorbed into their ranks, together with small
groups of escapees from the ghettos of Pohostartshne, Morotshno, Horodnoia,
Breznitz, Vysotsk, Vlodimerets and Dombrovitza.
The young people had begun with contacts made among them while still in the
ghetto of Sernik, under the initiative of Feivel Glazer (Chairman of the
movement in Sernik), with Missiura resident of the village of Vychuvka
(five kilometers from Sernik), who had served in the Soviet police. Missiura
was in contact with Ephraim Bakalchuk (cousin of Melekh Bakalchuk), who in the
Soviet era had served with him in the same police station, and whom he had
befriended during their work together.
Missiura promised weapons to the group of young Jews. According to the plan,
the young people were to leave the ghetto on the eve of the massacre, surround
the Germans together with Missiura, and release the Jews from the town. However
the promised weapons did not arrive. The peasants, owners of the weapons,
hardened their hearts at the last minute, when they could smell the scent of
pillage and theft of the Jews' property.
Missiura and Ephraim Bakalchuk were in hiding in one of the isolated farms.
Following a period of wandering about, the Sernik group gathered together,
along with Melekh Bakalchuk of Pinsk, and decided to make contact with
Missiura. From one of the peasants they acquired one hunting rifle, and with it
a few other small arms.
This was a Jewish partisan group, albeit small, but organized and partly
Melekh Bakalchuk was born in Sernik, but most of his years had been spent in
Pinsk, where he had taught at the Tel-Chai School and at the Tarbuth High
School (gymnasium) in Karlin, and where he had married the daughter of the
hotel owner, Eizenshtein of Koszciusky St.
His wife and daughter Fela died in the ghetto.
He was miraculously saved and reached the Svorichevitz forests near the town of
his birth, and joined the partisans, as one of the first members of the Jewish
units in the region.
Despite his advanced age (he was in his fifties), he carried out important and
vital roles as we shall see.
After the war he lived in Austria and became one of the leaders of the
survivors' organization and editor of the newspaper
in Yiddish (Revival in English, or
in Hebrew), which, for lack of Hebrew typeset, was printed in the Latin
alphabet. He was also one of the founders of the Jewish History Committee.
Melekh Bakalchuk visited Israel and settled in South Africa, where he wrote his
Zichronot fon a Yiddishen Partisan
Memories of a Jewish Partisan
) which was published in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by the Centrale Farband fon
Polishe Yidden in Argentina Bicher-Seria (Book Series) Das Polishe
Yudentom, Volume 135. There he also edited the Yizkor (Memorial) book of
Chelm. He died in Johannesburg in 1961.
In the neighboring area roamed a group led by Shalom Galetski (today husband of
Golda Sherman), who had left for the forest from the village of Svorichevitz in
June 1942. This group numbered eight people. With wooden weapons they would
wait in ambush along roads and confiscate food and supplies, which were en
route to the Germans. As a precaution they would cover their machine
gun with a raincoat. Eventually they were able to acquire two hunting
rifles and one German pistol. Galetski testifies that the first rifle was
acquired when the partisans were crossing the Horin River near Vychuvka, and
the second, with 5 bullets from a Pole near the village of Duba.
Following the extermination in Dombrovizta a few Jews from that town joined
them; among these was Baruch Mankowsky, who had been a merchant in the villages
and was familiar with the neighborhood and the forests. They met up with a
group of Serniki people. These separate groups remained in close proximity, and
cooperated in carrying out actions.
There were additional small clusters of Jews who with nightfall would go forth
to find something to eat. While passing through the forest they would seek
signs of Jews. "Yiddish is being spoken here! they would whisper to
each other. In these meetings the strings were tied, to connect the various
groups spread throughout the great forest, to one Jewish community.
A Conference of the Forest Dwellers
At the end of October 1942 a conference of residents of the forest
was convened, which was attended by members of all the troops. In this
conference the wandering Jews traded information and debated the problem of
obtaining arms. Members of the organized group related how they were able to
acquire weapons from the villagers, empty-handedly. They repeatedly emphasized
the means for caution while guarding and while on the move, even from good and
familiar peasants. And indeed the secrets of the forest became a sacred matter.
Jews captured by the Germans endured extremely cruel tortures but the pact of
Jewish brotherhood prevented them from speaking any words, which would reveal
the hiding places of their brethren.
In one of the days of November 1942 a peasant left one of the farms of Butov
for the German Regional Headquarters of the region of Stollin and told of
concentrations of unarmed Jews in the forests of Svorichevitz. The next day,
through the fog, lights could be perceived in the forest. From the direction of
the guards a few shots were heard along with the cry: Germans!
Directly there began a frenzied retreat and search for hiding places.
Concurrently a group of partisans under the leadership of Popov, from the
forests of Livshei, passed through the forest. These partisans opened deadly
fire, totally surprising the Germans, who had not been prepared for resistance.
They, humiliated, retreated, leaving their casualties behind. At the end of the
battle the partisans remained for a few days, and helped the Jews collect food
and clothing. Among the partisans were three Jews: Joseph and Baruch Fleishman
(from Yanov Pinsk) and Alik Abugov, a native of Odessa, and officer in the Red
Army, who had escaped from prison camp in Kovel (currently residing in Tel
The meeting with the Jewish groups in the forest awakened sentiments of Jewish
identity, and Abugov decided to join the Jewish armed resistance, and convinced
three Russians from his unit to join the Missiura group. These were Anatoly
Korachkin Commander of a platoon in the Popov Unit, Sergei Korchov
Major in the Red Army, and Nikanorov.
An Organized Partisan Unit Is Established
Sergei Korchov was selected as commanding officer of a small Jewish unit;
Missiura, Alik Abugov and Ephraim Bakalchuk became members of the general
staff. In charge of reconnaissance were Abugov and Mankowsky.
The four fighters from the Popov group brought encouragement to the Jewish
group. After the arrival of the Fyodorov (from Rovno) Units to the region,
Korchov was transferred to command the brigade, and Missiura was chosen as
commander of the unit. The members of the Jewish unit, which was known as the
Missiura Unit, though it remained small in size, proceeded to work in earnest.
The condition of the scattered Jews living in the forest weighed heavily on
them. They set out to collect food and clothing for a group, who had begun
organizing as a family camp in the vicinity of the fighting unit. This camp
remained almost nonstop under the auspices of the Jewish fighters, who saw to
their needs for protection and for sustenance.
The first actions of the unit in the area, though small in scale, had the power
to gradually alter the attitude of the population towards the fighters. Every
report of a punishment action against a peasant who refused to give food to the
partisans, would spread like wildfire in the villages. The peasants began to
respect the partisans. And so it was said, that when news spread of a villager
from a neighboring town who had cut the veins of two Jewish teenagers, Alik
Abugov and a few companions went to the man's house that very night, took him
outside, and shot him on the spot. Such speedy and harsh reprisals worked to
discourage many from acts of murder, betrayal and informing. At times, daring
and the element of surprise worked no less than weapons themselves.
From the Actions of the Unit
The annals of the actions of the unit are long and laden with battles and
casualties. We will mention a few of these:
With the increase in armaments the unit expanded and took hold among the
inhabitants of the region. The Jewish fighters trusted Missiura. They saw in
him a modest peasant and a good man, a fighting man, of progressive outlook. He
had been a political prisoner in the days of the Poles. Missiura himself liked
the Jewish fighters and preferred to accompany them on military missions. The
status of the Jewish fighters in the unit was strong. Their rights, the rights
of being first and the rights of battle, were preserved during the entire
existence of the unit. Toward the end of autumn 1942 the unit numbered one
hundred and thirty men, of whom over eighty were Jewish, mostly from
In an attack on policemen in the village of Vychuvka during a wedding, Berl
Boberov was killed, and Leibel Turkenitz was seriously wounded.
The priest from Svorichevitz was caught in Ozirsk after being followed, was
brought to the forest, and became a partisan contact.
During a foray to Sernik, collaborators and murderers of Jews were executed.
An attack took place on the German headquarters in Vysotsk and a radio was
An alcohol manufacturing plant in Dombrovitza was sabotaged and totally
About 100 head of cattle were removed from Lopatin, a farm near Koniukhi.
An attack was carried out on a police station in Lubishevitz, approximately
twelve kilometers from Pinsk.
Twelve rifles were taken from the village of Julkin.
The unit had a Jewish doctor, Dr. Baruch Ehrlich, who had been taken by the
partisans from the hospital in Dombrovitza, and brought to the forest; and two
nurses, Tamara Graubart of Pinsk and Mathilda Hoyna, a native of Poltosk, both
of whom had reached the forest after the liquidation of the ghetto in Stollin.
They had remained alive thanks to the German Regional Commissioner, who had
removed them from the death walk upon the demand of the local hospital
administrator, who had had need for them as experienced nurses. They knew that
their day was near, and contacted a peasant whose daughter was hospitalized at
their place of work. When he arrived to release her, they fled with him. By day
they lived in the forest, and by night in the peasant's house. One day
Ephraim Bakalchuk happened upon them, and he brought them to the cabin of the
Tamara Graubart was a nurse by profession who had arrived in Pinsk at the
beginning of the thirties with her husband Graubart the teacher, who taught at
the Borochov School, founded by the Poalei Zion (Left) Party. Like her husband
she too had been active in the political party. We know that her husband died
in the Lvov ghetto, and she, who had for some reason remained in Pinsk, later
moved to Stollin, and from there as related herein to the forest
together with Nurse Mathilda Hoyna.
Propaganda and Information
Among the first steps of the unit was disseminating propaganda and information
in the villages. The appearance of a fighting force in the forests and its
regular military activity against German targets, prepared the surface for the
absorption of the partisan propaganda. Still, this was no easy task. The
peasants had great fear of the partisans on the one hand, and of German
retribution on the other. In meeting Jewish fighters in the forest arose yet
another fear, because of the looted Jewish property, which could be found in
their houses. Against the fear, the hatred and the ignorance, which prevailed
in the villages, it was necessary to do combat orally and in writing.
Melekh Bakalchuk, who stood at the center of these activities, relates in his
book, that On one Sunday [he], accompanied by some other fighters,
organized gatherings in five (!) villages and spoke to them: at ten in the
morning in the village of Julkin before 600 residents; at one in the
afternoon in the town of Nichtov before 400 residents; and later at the
following: Ostrova, Pareh (700 participants attended the meeting) and
However it was generally difficult to organize meetings in the villages,
because most of the partisan activities took place at night. Therefore
information was mainly dispersed by printed or written posters. In the
beginning a few copies of the poster were printed by typewriter, and later, by
printing press. This action brought a response, and individual people, loyal
people of conscience with a history of political commitment, and simply honest
people, joined the partisans or began to serve as loyal contacts with people in
Upon their arrival in the forest, Aryeh and Tsila Dolinko joined the work on
Aryeh and Tsila Dolinko
Above, in chapter ten (Survivors and their Rescuers), we related
how Aryeh and Tsila Dolinko were
saved. On February 14th
1942 they left Pinsk, via the frozen Pina River, after hiding for nearly two
months in the attic of their benefactor Barbara Makheyska as related by
Dolinko in his book (Bibliography, #1). They had in their possession one pistol
and a few bullets. Their destination was the forest, but they didn't know just
where to go. They tried to find this out from some of their acquaintances among
the peasants. They stayed in Vylatich twelve days; in Ostrava, a couple of
days; and in Vychuvka, ten days. Luckily, they were well received in all these
places. In Vychuvka they happened upon the commander of the partisans, who
directed them to the command post in the town of Svorichevitz. On their arrival
there they met the Pinskers: Melekh Bakalchuk, David Gasman, Baruch Friedman,
Avraham Perchik and Golda Sherman.
During their reception by Commander Missiura, he told them that he already had
in his hands a recommendation of them from Bakalchuk (This fact Bakalchuk also
recalls in his memoirs). Aryeh, who was a printer, was co-opted by Melekh
Bakalchuk to the group dealing with propaganda and information. Tsila began
working as a cook in this group, and in her free time from the kitchen,
assisted him – as she was a teacher by profession in translating from
Russian to Polish and also in the work of printing itself.
One day on a Russian plane bringing arms to the forest, a small, primitive
printing machine with lettering arrived. This printing press was
housed in a wooden suitcase on a cart. At any moment of danger it was quickly
packed and ready to go.
Type for the printing press was lacking to arrange a whole leaf of newsprint at
one time; therefore it was necessary to do each page separately, and so on. One
should know that all this work was done outside in rain, wind and cold.
At the same time the group was attached to the Brigade Headquarters, which was
located in the village of Dubroisk. For some time Aryeh was assisted in the
work of typesetting by Vira Yevseieva, who had parachuted into the forest in
June 1943 together with Ignazi Baspromni. Baspromni had been sent from the
Partisan General Staff in Moscow to be managing editor of printed matter and of
two newspapers which had begun publication:
(Red Resistance) in Ukrainian, and
(Red Flag) in Polish.
The first issue of
appeared in the month of July 1943 while they were staying at the estate of
Lasitsko. During their month there two more issues of the paper and also the
first issue of the Polish paper were published. Yevseieva was then transferred
to a different unit, and Aryeh remained the only printer and dealt not only
with preparing the papers for printing, but also with designing posters, with
Tsila assisting him in printing.
Bakalchuk notes in his book that we succeeded in printing a series of
publications under these conditions only thanks to the dedicated work and
idealism of Dolinko (page 225). In another place in his book Bakalchuk
tells of the conditions of the printing work in the forest: At the edge
of the forest of Plater in Volhynia was the village of Litinsk where we were
staying. It was still dark outside. Dolinko took out his suitcase with the type
to print the news from the radio broadcast that night, which I had written down
and prepared for printing. Suddenly a German attack began. Fedia, the editorial
wagoner, ran to collect the horses. Lyova [Aryeh] Dolinko quickly repacked his
suitcase and put it on the wagon (page 247).
The publications appeared in approximately 1000 copies and some thirty
horseback riders delivered them to the area of dispersal of the partisans.
However they did not settle only for this, but also began publishing propaganda
material in German, which was brought to the cities and distributed among the
Germans. For his dedicated work Aryeh received a B medal from the
partisans and was a candidate for the Red Star for excellence.
Tsila was also a candidate to receive the partisans' medal.
In the newspaper
from Moscow, #17 of 1945, the Dolinkos and Melekh Bakalchuk were recognized in
an article on the partisans' brigade to which they had belonged. Their partisan
life ended with the liberation of the town of Rovno in February 1944, following
a final battle in which they had taken part the day before, near the town of
The Dolinkos currently reside in Petah Tikva.
The surroundings of Svorichevitz became a plainly partisan area, covering
hundreds of square kilometers, where the fighters moved about freely by day and
by night. The peasants were not allowed outside their villages. The Partisan
Headquarters were nearby, and the red flag flew over the town. Few Jews arrived
in the forest during 1942 and '43, among them the last remaining survivors of
the ghetto of Pinsk, whose names we have mentioned in the meeting with them of
Aryeh and Tsila Dolinko in the forest.Of the tormented journey of three of
them, Golda Sherman, Baruch Friedman and Avraham Perchik, who traveled together
from the small ghetto in the march from Pinsk to the outskirts of Kobrin and
back again and later to Svorichevitz, Avraham Perchik recalls:
In those days I was about thirty years old, and before the war, had
worked as an expert in lumber (broker) for Moshe Schmidt. Miraculously I was
added to those left to live at the time of the liquidation (see above Chapter
7, in the part entitled Last Selection). In the small ghetto,
together with a group of friends, I had planned to go out into the forest, and
among eighteen of us, only three returned to Pinsk as related
elsewhere. (Golda Sherman Galetski also mentions this attempt in her testimony:
see above Chapter 8, in the section The Fate of Those Who Escaped to the
Forests). On our way back from Kobrin, I became separated from the
group, and on the night of the 23rd of December, 1942 arrived tired and worn out
at my former place of work outside the ghetto. With the help of the elderly
guard there, I hid in the attic. The following day the guard came and told me
that the Jews of the small ghetto had all been executed. The next night I asked
a Christian acquaintance of mine for food and shelter. She agreed to give me
some food, but on condition that I find another hiding place, not at her house.
I hid in the basement of the home of Chertok ('Petko') the tailor, and stayed
there for twenty days. At night I would come to the house of the Christian
woman, and sometimes to the house of another of my Christian acquaintances, on
Yasieldovska Street (Reb Zorech's Alley). There I found out that Baruch
Friedman, from whom I had been separated on our way back to Kobrin, was in
town. With the help of the Christian man, I met with him the following night.
He filled me in on what had happened to him on his way back, and told me that
Golda Galetski and he were hiding together. Because Golda's feet were freezing,
we moved her to my hiding place. After five days we found that the river had
frozen solid enough to enable crossing, and we took off. During the next four
days we walked through the marshes and reached the area of Morotshno. From one
of the farms we found out that there were partisans nearby. And that very night
we were witnesses to the burning of an estate in Morotshno by them.
In the village of Pareh we met some Soviet partisans. By chance, on their
way through the vicinity, they had encountered some German soldiers, and had
battled with them for several days. The partisans arrested the three of us and
interrogated us. After their investigation, they gave us a note addressed to
the partisan group at Svorichevitz, and we left to go there. It was not easy to
get their permission to let us join the fighting unit, and originally we were
placed in a transit unit in the town, whereas the fighters were in the
Perchik was later officer of one of the companies of the unit, and took part in
all of the unit's battles until the Day of Liberation in Rovno.
In his book Bakalchuk relates: At the time of one of the battles, Perchik
was wounded. However, he did not leave the battlefield, and while wounded
continued to fight (page 95). Perchik now resides in Haifa.
During the years of wandering and fighting Baruch Friedman was Perchik's
partner in the journey and the struggle from the days of the small ghetto.
Friedman currently lives in the United States, and the few details we have
brought herein were related to us by Avraham Perchik.
He had lived in Pinsk in Rovietska Street and had worked in the family trade
carpentry. Through all the difficult times Baruch proved to be a
dedicated friend, and particularly this was evident during the days fraught
with danger, between the escape from the small ghetto until they reached
Svorichevitz, as related above. In the partisan unit, he excelled in his
bravery and in his willingness to help whoever was in need.
Winds of Anti-Semitism
With the arrival of spring in 1943, the dangers increased. In the towns there
were numerous murderous fascist gangs, drafted from among the peasants. The
Germans had commenced accelerated activity to attack the partisans and the
populace located in their vicinity. The enemy also infiltrated the area of the
partisans. Peasants from the villages and prisoners from beyond the Bug River
found their way to the partisan forests. As a matter of fact, the flow had
already begun in the days of Stalingrad. But owing to the difficult winter
conditions, there had been a break until spring. Among these people were no few
who had taken part in the killing of Jews, including traitors and German
agents, who had led attacks on Jews in the forest.
In the Missiura unit the numbers of non-Jews grew. So did the tensions within
the unit. A young partisan named Vaska arrived to the company. Within a few
days he befriended some of the members of the staff and was named officer. Very
soon the Jews became aware of his corrupt nature and opposed this choice, and
even threatened to disobey orders of the staff. Following warnings and threats
the staff removed him from his position, but gave him other serious missions.
One day he murdered a Jew from Horodnoia. Vaska was arrested and executed.
After his death it was determined that he had been a German agent.
Among the unit's general staff the differences grew. Sergei Korchov tried to
remove Jews from some of their positions of command. Mainly the incitement was
vented toward the people in the family camp, who were called by the Russian
The unit's Commissar Plozhnikov adamantly argued against the rights of
wandering of unarmed people together with the fighters. However, upon
this right depended the fate of the family camp. Hence the Jewish soldiers
continued to give them critical aid in food and clothing in spite of the
opposition. To General Biegma, who arrived at that time from Moscow, and took
over command of the unit, feelings of national discrimination were foreign.
This fact served to soften somewhat the hardened attitude of the Russian
partisans toward the Jews.
To the area of Svorichevitz and surrounding areas the Fyodorov Units arrived,
and established strong ties to the Missiura unit. It wasn't long before the
Jewish unit was attached to the Fyodorov Brigade and was given the name: the
Voroshilov Partisan Unit. The members of its command were as follows:
Commanding Officer, Missiura; his Deputy and Head of the Saboteurs, Ephraim
Bakalchuk; Chief of Staff, Yermolenko; Commissar, Plozhnikov; Head of
Intelligence Services, Alik Abugov; Culture and Propaganda, Melekh Bakalchuk;
Medical Doctor, Dr. Baruch Ehrlich. There were six units in the brigade. With
the arrival of the Jewish unit, there was a refreshed atmosphere and enhanced
organization and discipline, which held the anti-Jewish inclinations in check.
The Conference of Representatives of the Partisan Units
On March 12th, 1943 a conference of representatives of the units of the region took place at
Dobrovesk. To this Weird Conference, as Melekh Bakalchuk refers to
it in his book, he devotes an entire chapter entitled The Partisan
Congress (pp. 148-162). Members of the delegation from the Voroshilov
unit were: Missiura, Yermolenko, Plozhnikov and Bakalchuk. The conference did
not excel in parliamentary procedure, but the atmosphere there was festive and
very encouraging. One could sense the immense power which the partisan units
had amassed. Following the opening remarks of General Biegma, the units'
representatives reported on their activities. The report on our unit, I
myself presented relates Bakalchuk. I told them how our
first Jewish partisan unit was established, how Jews had been able to collect
weapons starting out empty-handed, and how they had fought against the
fascists, the police and the Germans. I emphasized that attached to the unit
was a camp of Jewish families, still unarmed, and that among the latter were
children and elderly people.
Many accounts of heroism were heard at this conference and Bakalchuk recalls
many of them in the above chapter. Many among the stories were edifying, and
afterwards they were shared among the units.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in the Forest
This conference united and encouraged the souls of the participants; likewise,
about one month later, the excitement was great, upon receipt of the news of
the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Jews in particular were excited. The survivors
of the ghettos in the forest had thought that they were the last remaining Jews
in the occupied countries, and that the Jews of Poland had long since been
liquidated, as had been the Jews of Volhynia and Polesia.
Melekh Bakalchuk recalls: On one of my visits to the brigade headquarters
I spoke with General Biegma about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The general told
me «This is the greatest anti-German uprising in this War in Europe, this
is the actual opening of a second front, not initiated by the Allies, but by
Jews condemned to death.»
The partisans in Missiura's unit met. They were told of the uprising. The
hearts of the Jewish soldiers in the Polesian forests were full of joy and
sorrow. Tears and pain choked them, as Russian partisans all over Polesia
applauded the martyrs of the Warsaw ghetto.
The soldiers of the Jewish unit took part in constant military activity. The
unit was renowned as one of the exceptional units in the entire area. The
region of the Svorichevitz forests was entirely under the control of the Jewish
fighters. From this base groups of saboteurs would set out for distant regions
to sabotage railways, to ambush the enemy and to destroy police stations. The
military action grew with the aid in munitions provided by Fyodorov to the
unit. The veteran soldiers and founders of the unit became known for their
military successes. Most of the actions were carried out by small bands of men.
This form of warfare seemed very effective, as the fighters were mainly armed
with automatic weapons and hand grenades. The Jewish partisans took revenge on
collaborators and murderers of Jews.
In May 1943 the Banderovts and Bulbots made their mark on the region. On one
night they butchered seventy-five people in the family camp near Vychuvka. That
very night the partisans attacked the gang and repaid them in kind. Among the
Jewish dead was the nurse Mathilda Hoyna, killed while treating the wounded of
the family camp. Bakalchuk sums up in his book, that Beginning in the
second half of 1943, when weapons arrived from Moscow, almost all of the Jews
who were able to carry weapons from the family camp, joined the partisans,
leaving behind only the elderly and children. The order from the Partisan
Command in Moscow was to provide defense to the family camp and to take care of
all its needs.
In the Struggle against Anti-Semitism
In those days orders were handed down from the General Staff (in which at that
time were two anti-Semites, the Commissar and the Head of Staff) to discharge
ten Jewish women, who had served in the unit from its earliest days. These
young women had maintained their personal integrity while serving in the unit,
faithfully executing their jobs in essential services to the unit.
The rationale for the discharge order was that their presence weakened the
fighting spirit of the men. Missiura actually did send his own wife and
children away, however they had a safe place to live or hide in, unlike the
young Jewish women. In protest some of the best Jewish men left the unit. They
stayed for a while near the family camp, watching over the residents and
assisting them. Missiura sent Dr. Baruch Ehrlich to negotiate with them, but
Alik Abugov demanded as punishment the firing of Chief of Staff Yermolenko and
Commissar Plozhnikov. Abugov never returned to the Missiura unit, although he
did maintain close contact with it later on, while serving as Chief of
Reconnaissance of the Brigade, a post which he filled with great ability, until
the Liberation. Baruch Mankowsky and others eventually returned to Missiura's
unit. The ten women returned to their posts in the unit.
The Battle of Perekalia
The enemy is restless. From the left bank of the Styr River he has
attacked groups of partisans on the move and at camp. The Brigade Headquarters
has decided to deal a blow to the places of concentration of the enemy in the
villages of Perekalia and Morotshno. The Missiura unit was ordered to
deliver the decisive punch in this action in cooperation with other units. One
night they crossed the Styr by boat and set out through fields in the direction
of Perekalia. Contact with the other units was established as planned and the
battle plans were coordinated. Avraham Perchik writes: The attack began
at dawn. The German forces were strong and their defensive positions were
secure and well fortified, because the village was on a hill, while the
partisans were below on a plane. At first the Germans were not able to
withstand the partisans' attack and retreated, suffering heavy casualties.
Afterward the Germans attacked the fighters who were vulnerable on the plane.
Unfortunately, the other partisan units did not join the fight according to
plan, writes Bakalchuk in his book (page 184). The Voroshilov Unit, most
of whose members were Jews, remained alone on the battlefield. The order to
retreat was given. For a distance of a kilometer and a half lay an open field,
and retreat was difficult in the extreme. In this battle Feival Glazer,
the founder of the Jewish unit and one of the best of its fighters, was killed.
Wounded in both legs, he remained lying in the field. He shot himself in the
stomach, fearful of falling into the hands of the enemy, but still he fluttered
between life and death. So in accordance with his request, a retreating fellow
partisan shot him. In this battle several veteran fighters were lost, including
David Gasman of Pinsk.
Perchik relates: We were a group of partisans, among us David Gasman; we
lay side by side, shooting. Suddenly a bomb exploded nearby. I called to David,
but there was no response. I called to Feival Glazer, and he said to me in a
weak voice: 'Avraham, tell them about us, how we took revenge for the spilt
blood of the Jews'. He took out his weapon and shot himself, to avoid falling
into the hands of the enemy.
All who remember David Gasman praise him as a man of fine qualities. Avraham
Perchik has this to say: David was born in Pinsk and lived on Nadbrzezna
(Riverbank) Street, near the technical school. He was a persistent fighter in
the unit; in battle he was aggressive; always in front of his eyes was the
blood of his butchered brothers. Hours I would sit with him in the forest and
we would be silent – silence which spoke beyond words. Bakalchuk (in his
book, page 91) says: David was a brave and ambitious fighter. He had been
active in the Communist Youth in Pinsk, while it was in its underground
period. Shalom Galetski adds: In the Battle of Perekalia I saw how
Gasman took the rifle of a dead partisan, and in the storm of battle, ran and
crawled with two rifles in his hands rather than let these dear weapons fall
into the hands of the enemy. These were the last moments in which I saw him
alive. To our regret we were unable to find a photo of him to publish in
Golda Galetski Nee Sherman
During their retreat from the village of Perekalia the fighters reached the
banks of the Styr. One of the men announced that Anatoli Kurachkin had remained
wounded in the field. The officer hesitated to order retrieving the wounded
man, because the battlefield was still under fire. A sad silence fell upon them.
Then Nurse Golda Galetski as it is told in
The Jewish Partisans Book
stood up and in a quiet and forceful voice said: 'It is my duty!'
Immediately she left the group and went to the wounded man. Bombs fell around
them. Golda brought the wounded man to the forest. This brave act, as well as
her other responsible acts in battle, won her praise from the command and the
appreciation of the fighting men. She was one of the first three members of the
unit to receive the Partisans' Second Class Medal.
Earlier we have told of the torturous journey of Golda (together with Perchik
and Friedman) from the ghetto to the forests of Svorichevitz. Upon her arrival
she met her former leader from the Gordonia Youth Movement in Pinsk: Shalom
Galetski, who had been one of the first partisans. He helped her to join the
fighting unit. Shalom, who was born in Svorichevitz, had arrived in Pinsk at
the age of thirteen, and had completed his studies at the technical school. A
few months after their meeting in the forest, Golda and Shalom were wed, and
withstood great difficulties as a result, so much so that in September 1943
they were forced to move to another unit (of Shoshmarov) of the same brigade,
where they fought until the Liberation.
About six weeks after Golda's arrival in the forest, Dr. Baruch Ehrlich and
Nurse Tamara Graubart organized a course for nurses. Golda volunteered to take
the course together with three Ukrainian girls and they completed it in six
weeks. At the end of the course there was an exam, in which each nurse had to
demonstrate how to give an injection. The Ukrainians did not agree to let Golda
give them an injection for her demonstration, so without hesitation, she gave
herself a shot in the thigh.
The Galetski family lives in Givataim, near Tel Aviv.
The Young Jewish Women in the Partisan Units
Melekh Bakalchuk writes in his book: Generally the Jewish women who asked
to be accepted to the partisan units met with great difficulties. The partisan
staff were of the opinion that women were not suitable for the work involved
and that the losses would outweigh the gains. Most of the young Jewish women
lived in the family camps. Only a small number were allowed to join the
partisans. Even so every Jewish woman yearned to be able to fight with weapons
in her own hands.
Those women who lived in the fighting units stood as sentries at the
entrance to the forests, and many gave their lives. They lay in ambush, carried
out raids, blew up bridges, served as cooks, did laundry, were translators and
secretaries of the military staff, and treated the wounded and sick.
We have mentioned in this chapter the nurse Tamara Graubart from Pinsk, the
nurse Golda Sherman-Galetski and Tsila Feldman-Dolinko. Below, we will describe
the activity in another partisan unit of yet another nurse from Pinsk: Fanny
Lotz nee Solomian. These are four women out of the twenty-one partisans, of
whom we will write in this section. Their crucial role in the health services
of the partisan units in which they served, protected them from those dangers
faced by many women in the partisan movements, simply for being women. And
Bakalchuk adds in his book: There were officers, who accepted women to
their units under disgraceful conditions. Women who accepted these terms had no
choice, because in the family camps they were hungry and they were
Near the town of Duba, in the forest, were 300 survivors of the Poles in the
region, most of whom had been slaughtered and whose villages had been turned
into piles of dust by the Ukrainian and Russian residents. Melekh Bakalchuk and
Shalom Galetski were sent to them with one mission: to encourage them, and
especially the young people, to join the Kosciusko Polish Partisan Unit,
commanded by General Moshe Satanovsky, who had parachuted into the region.
However only twenty-five joined the unit; the remainder stayed behind to tend
to their herds of cattle, which they had brought with them from the villages.
Not many days passed before the Balakhovts attacked them, in a brutal bloodbath.
The Jewish Unit Adds Soldiers
In the month of July 1943 the Brigade received the order to move together with
the brigade commanded by General Biegma to the forests of Dubnitzk in the
district of Mozyr, bringing with them munitions.
The Jewish Voroshilov Unit remained in place to guard the partisan area, and
despite its being there alone, held its own among the many enemies surrounding
it. In those days of all days, the Jewish saboteurs augmented their activities.
The propaganda activities were also increased, both at meetings in the villages
and in pamphlets and posters and in the forests where every morning the
partisans listened to the news on the radio.
At that time Dr. Baruch Ehrlich and Tamara Graubart established a field
hospital in the forest.
Toward the return of the brigade from the forests of Dubnitzk and in order to
insure the safe transfer of the munitions, the Jewish Unit was charged with
building a bridge over the Horin River. 150 wagons were enlisted from the
peasants for the movement of this precious cargo. The bridge was erected under
the leadership of Shalom Galetski a difficult and complicated task,
considering that the German garrison was camped only three kilometers from the
site of the bridge.
But the entire exercise was successfully executed. Biegma together with members
of his staff came to visit the Jewish unit's base. While there, he was updated
on the activities of the unit and he presented decorations for excellence to
the fighters. With the return of the Brigade, battle activity grew. Following
the attack by the Jewish unit on the town of Horodnoia, the Germans were forced
to evacuate it. The partisan force in the vicinity of Svorichevitz at that time
numbered about 2000 men, and the Jewish unit numbered 400.
From Dubnitzk instruments and printing materials arrived. In the Brigade
Headquarters the decision was made to expand the propaganda program and to
publish in three languages Ukrainian, Russian and Polish. This mission
was assigned to Melekh Bakalchuk and Aryeh and Tsila Dolinko, who had already
carried this burden for months.
In the autumn months of 1943 the Brigade moved out in order to go to the
forests of Dubnitzk. Near the Horin River next to the village of Litinki a
battle with the Germans took place, ending with the total victory of the
partisans. While the brigade was camped in Oziri saboteurs worked on the
Sarny-Rokitna-Olbask rail line. In the forests of Dubnitzk the Jewish unit was
entailed with the vital task of guarding the landing field, through which the
partisans maintained contact with Moscow.
With the progress of the Red Army, orders were given to the Brigade Command to
attack the home front more and more. Once again it was time to move and to
cross the Horin River, engaging in battles and enduring bombing by the enemy.
During January 1944 orders were given to move again toward the town of Rovno,
to block and to hit at the retreating Germans, and to liberate towns and
villages. During this campaign the Jewish unit grew until it numbered 500 men
and women. Together with the Brigade, the Jewish unit moved via Rafaluvka to
the vicinity of Tsuman.
Yehoshua (Shaya) Gurevich
With this Brigade another Pinsker made his way: Yehoshua Gurevich. In Chapter 8
above, in the section on The Fate of Those Who Escaped to the
Forests, we quoted from Gurevich's testimony, how he lived with his
friend Hershl Boberov for four months in the frozen swamps (see Bibliography,
no. 8). Three Russian partisans who discovered them co-opted them, and
within a short time their numbers grew to ten. This was a lone group in the
forests without contact with others.
In one of their actions near Plotnitsa, Hershl Boberov fell, and Gurevich
remained the only Jew in the group. When additional people joined them, they
all joined the Missiura Unit.
Shalom Galetski recalls, that indeed there had been a small group in their
unit, but after a short time, their officer Vlodia Kovalchuk with Dikovitsky
organized a special unit and Gurevich was, apparently, a member so that
Galetski was not in contact with him.
Gurevich was born in the village of Vulka, lived all of his years in Pinsk, and
was a blacksmith by profession. We have told of him above because he had been a
member of the group of gravediggers in the pits at Dobrovolia at the time of
the liquidation of the Pinsk ghetto, and he had remained alive without being
able to explain how himself.
In 1945 he came to Linz, Austria. There he met with Melekh Bakalchuk, who wrote
down his impressions. These pages have come into our possession. We do not know
the present whereabouts of Gurevich and therefore were unable to obtain his
The Battle of Tsuman
On the banks of the Styr River the partisan groups who had come out of the
forests united. Scouts on horseback patrolled the routes through the streams,
the swamps and the lakes, and the woods. Behind the scouts came wagons
accompanied by men on foot. In the forests of Tsuman it was necessary to forge
a path through the swamps. Snow fell incessantly. During rest periods
snowdrifts covered the men, who lay alongside the roads. Near Antonuvka the
partisan column met scouts from the regular Red Army. The progress of the
column made way for the army and a large wedge was formed, which cut the enemy
forces in two and closed on them from the rear. After a bloody battle partisan
artillery captured the town of Tsuman, where a German armored force had been
Melekh Bakalchuk, who describes in his book this journey and the battles in
detail, relates among other things the shock which the Jewish unit
experienced, when, in the town of Vladimirz, they found the homes of the Jews
intact and shuttered. When they opened and entered them, they found that all
the household belongings, the cupboards, the dishes were in the same condition
as when the residents had been taken from the ghetto to the death pits. This
was a bizarre finding, the likes of which we had never encountered among the
ruined towns along our route (page 274).
In the final stage a race began to reach the town of Rovno. The Command decided
to take part in the liberation of the town and to cooperate in the decisive
battle. Not far from Rovno the partisan column was spread out along tens of
kilometers. The officers lost contact with their units, and there was a danger
of disintegration of the camp. Before the column reached its destination, which
was to surround the Germans, the latter had retreated. The partisans met up
with the Soviet Armored Corps, which was on the move in the outskirts of Rovno.
The first unit to reach the outskirts of the town relates
Melekh Bakalchuk in his book was the Jewish Voroshilov unit, and
it engaged in battle with a German platoon in the streets of Rovno. The Jewish
partisans were brave and heroic in conquering the town, and paved the way
against the Nazi murderers for the entire Brigade.
This was February 4th, 1944. The Jewish partisans, among them eight from Pinsk, marched with the
victors, but were broken and depressed at the sight of the empty town, which
had lost its entire Jewish community.
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