After the war they got married
Barely a week after the death of Rabbi Yudkevski, the police liquidated the Lintup ghetto. We were told that all the Lintup Jews would be transported to Svintsyan. We immediately considered all the options and succeeded in creating a work camp where the useful Jews could be held and put to work. Since the shtetl offered for this purpose the saw mill, the smolarnia [place where pitch is burned], several courtyards, and the woodcutting operation in the nearby woods, out of all the town's Jews the productive element that remained alive was around 100. The rest were transported to Svintsyan.
Life in the camp was extremely hard. People were beaten and chased and sometimes struck with truly murderous blows. One time some Jews were harnessed to a wagon and ordered to pull it to the railway line. When one of them paused a moment, the Germans whipped him with sharply pointed rods. Nevertheless, some Jews endured and persevered and it was perhaps only thanks to this camp that they survived. In a short time, though, all our illusions ended and the work camp was liquidated.
The reason for the liquidation of the Lintup work camp was as follows: on the night of the 18th-19th of December, 1942, a group of Russian partisans unexpectedly attacked the Lintup woods. They set fire to several important military objectives and for several hours engaged in a tenacious battle with German troops. We were sitting in the camp and with delight saw all of Lintup on fire, and flames coming from our enemy. Revenge sprang up in our hearts. We knew well that we would soon pay dearly, but nevertheless we were gratified and didn't think about what the morning would bring.
At dawn our camp was surrounded by the Lithuanian police, who began to shoot at the workers without a goal or a warning. The first to fall were Yosef Rudnitski and his brother's son. The police chased us straight into the open field, where peasants with sleighs were already waiting for us. They packed us in like cattle and drove us toward the forest. We hadn't gone even 200 meters before we saw long narrow graves. We instantly realized what that meant for us.
Not far from the graves were masked gunmen. We couldn't get out of the sleighs and there was an onslaught, a hail of bullets. When I saw the first victims fall, I started shouting to everyone to run. I made a break from the sleigh and with all the strength I possessed I leaped and set off running into the woods. Bullets were flying over my head. I ran and fell, ran and again fell. Finally I found myself deep in the woods. I was so exhausted that I simply could not move from the spot. I burrowed into the snow and decided to rest for a while. I began to catch my breath and think about what to do next.
When it became very still and I didn't hear any more of the terrible sounds of shooting by the villains and the cries of their dying victims, I got up and walked deeper into the woods. I walked without a goal and without a path until I arrived in a little village. There I discovered that in addition to me, a few other Jews from the Lintup work camp had survived. I found there in the woods Abram Rein, Moshe Gilinski, and Hirshe Kharmats.
Together we went back to the site of the horrible murders and there, by the fresh mass grave, we swore to take revenge for the spilled blood. Then we decided to go to the Svintsyan ghetto. But I separated from my two friends and told them that first I wanted to go and find out whether any of my family might still be alive. What I had in mind was that possibly some of them had been taken in by Christians in the area. I asked here, asked there, but no one had any news about the members of my family. So I decided to head for the Svintsyan ghetto too.
I was feeling deeply discouraged and bitter and didn't even notice that I was walking along the main highway just as in the former good times. By the time I realized my mistake, it was already too late. Directly ahead of me three large trucks filled with German soldiers suddenly appeared. I started to run into the woods, but they saw me and sprayed the woods with a hail of bullets.
Luckily they didn't want to go further into the woods. I covered myself with the branches of a pine tree and stayed there for several hours, not moving from the spot. Meanwhile a thick snow fell and completely covered me from my head to my feet. Probably the snow saved me since it covered my tracks.
When it became quiet, I stood up, shook off the snow, and set off walking again. After some time passed I oriented myself and went in the right direction to find my way to Svintsyan. I followed the route through the night and arrived at the Svintsyan ghetto.
To my great happiness, in the ghetto I found my daughter Basya and son Leybele, who had been wounded in the leg. At first my only thought was to go into the woods and join the partisans there, but my children wouldn't let me. My son was wounded and unwell and my daughter was so completely exhausted she couldn't take another step. So by necessity I too stayed in the Svintsyan ghetto. But I could feel the unrest among the young people, who wanted to escape into the woods and take revenge on the brutal enemy. Mikhelson felt the same strong unrest that I did.
In the end 27 young people left the ghetto and went into the woods. The group would have been a lot larger if we hadn't been deluded by the Vilna commandant Gans. He made a special effort to come to our ghetto in order to assure us that the Svintsyan Jews were not in danger. He said we would be taken to Vilna and Kovno and placed in various work camps. People let themselves be convinced. There were even some optimists who saw a good sign in the fact that the liquidation of the ghetto would be carried out by Jewish police instead of by Germans or Lithuanians.
I hadn't the slightest confidence in Gans and tried extremely hard to convince my children to leave the ghetto and hide in the woods with me. They simply would not come to the same conclusion. In the end it came down to all of us being transported to New Svintsyan. Special railroad cattle cars were waiting for us there. My intuition instantly told me that these cars would take us not to life but to obliteration and extinction.
At the very last minute we succeeded in getting away from the railway station. The following people escaped with me: Moshe Gilinski, Abram Rein, Hirshe Kharmats, Ber Fisher from Heydutsishok, and one other person, Khaim Leyb from Svintsyan. For the next three weeks we wandered around the woods, fields and villages. Wherever we would spend the day, we would not stay the night in case they came looking for us. So there was a practical purpose in our wandering.
We decided to lead our lives as partisans and survive by our wits. Near Strunvits we broke into a large dairy that provided dairy products to the German army. We smashed all the machines with a hatchet and ruined all the prepared dairy products.
Through a Christian I tried to establish contact with my children, who at that time should have been in the Vilna ghetto. She brought back the horrible news that they had never gone to the Vilna ghetto, that the entire transport had been murdered on the edge of Paneriei [the Ponary Forest south of Vilna].
From that time on my sole thought was to find all possible ways and means to take revenge. With my entire soul in a furor I threw myself into battle and together with my friends, went back to the Lintup area to find all the peasants who had helped the Germans. We set fire to their houses, stole their sustenance, and most importantly, their weapons. In a short time we were well-armed and the entire area was afraid of us. Because of their fear we prolonged our activity there. Then we began to search for a way to join the regular partisan detachment.
At this time Hirsh Kharmats became seriously ill. He had an abcess that required an operation. I myself had to conduct the operation. We hid in a barn and there I cut out the abcess with a razor blade. When he recovered, we were contacted by the partisan organization. Eventually we were accepted into the Suvorov detachment of Markov's brigade.
Meanwhile the regular Soviet Army came closer to our district. This was in the first months of the year 1944. We received an order to blow up all the bridges and railroad lines in order to make a normal retreat more difficult for the enemy. We were supposed to make sure that the Germans would have no way to take back their plunder with them to Germany. We carried this order out with accuracy, happiness and enthusiasm. We felt that with each kilometer that the Red Army came closer, they were bringing to us Jews, more than to everyone else, blessed freedom.
Finally the long-awaited moment arrived. The regular Soviet Army took command of our area and expelled the German forces. We were free.
In the first days we couldn't accustom ourselves to the new situation. We didn't know what to do or where to go. We knew that our homes were destroyed and that we would not find anyone alive there. We also could not imagine being face to face with the neighbors who had spilled Jewish blood and taken part in theft and the actions.
Finally we decided to go to Lintup. Our hearts wanted to fantasize that perhaps we would find someone there of our families or friends or acquaintances.
I returned to Lintup together with Moshe Gilinksi and Abram Rein. There we found Frume-Basya Rudnitski with her two nieces. They were all that remained of our Lintup Jewish kehile.
The groom is a grandson of Anton Chernyavski, a gentile who saved Basya Rudnitski and her two nieces,
Notes by Irene Mauber Skibinski
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