|The Holy Ark of the Wlodawa Synagogue|
The pages of this documentary book written by more than 120 Jews of Wlodowa from all over the world are a memorial to a Jewish congregation that resided in the city of Wlodowa and its surroundings a modest part of the past Jewish community.
For hundreds of years, the Jews of Wlodowa had built their homes. In the course of time, the Jews prospered in institutions, parties and unions that were found in the rest of the Jewish communities of Poland. The atmosphere in Wlodowa was completely Jewish in the home, in the streets, on weekdays and on holidays. It was not only the scholars that dealt in religious studies but laymen as well after a long day's work, spending time at the synagogues, houses of religious learning and Shtiblech where they studied a page of the Gemora or just recited the Psalms. They were the spiritual hours of the Jews in which their hearts were revived and refreshed. Such were the sensitive and silently beating hearts of the Jews of Wlodowa and the neighbouring villages.
The Jews of Wlodowa kept up an urban social life, founding social institutions, charity institutions and especially educational; Heders and schools. Even in the poorest of houses, mother and father saw to it, above all, that their children acquired the knowledge of Judaism. In the course of time, this passion for knowledge also included secular studies. The education of children was the main concern and ambition of the Jews.
The coming of the railroad brought about a rise in the economic and cultural positions of the inhabitants of the city. The Jews dealt in business and trade and set up ties between the urban community and the rural population. They developed the branch of woodcutting in the surrounding forests and showed great initiation and ambition in the export of wood abroad. This export in time expanded, filling the state treasury with foreign currency and supplying work for
thousands of workers in the city and in the village.
The Jews of Wlodowa also developed an active trade in wheat and fish that spread to all the large cities of the country and even abroad. Along with the economic initiation, the spiritual life of the Jews also prospered. Every Friday at twilight, everyone ceased working and, breath held, listened to the coming of Sabbath the Queen. The blessing of the candles by our mothers was one of our most cherished moments. On the Sabbath and holidays, the streets were silent as if enveloped in holiness and all the houses were in a holiday spirit.
The social activity of the Jews of Wlodowa was seen in all fields of life. The Jews were represented in government institutions and in the city municipality and in every place, they fought against disturbances and limitations. Evil winds began blowing from Hitler's Germany and found a fertile land in Poland. Signs of hard times appeared everywhere. More than once, Jews of Wlodowa were forced to wander and look for a new place for their livelihood. Many of the youths of Wlodowa immigrated to Israel after World War I. They saw their future in the national salvation of the Jewish nation. The immigrants of Wlodowa took an active part in the building of the community and the defence of the land.
In 1939, Poland broke down and surrendered to Hitler's army. The Nazi occupied our area as well. The Poles and Ukrainians, wanting to flatter their conquerors, began to cruelly harass those very Jews who had lived in their midst for hundreds of years. Very few of the population, just several influential individuals, helped the persecuted Jews. The large majority assisted the Germans in their task of annihilation and did all they could to increase the suffering of our brothers.
The Poles and Ukrainians, not wishing to leave traces of their horrible deeds, pursued every Jew in hiding who could testify to their
cruel actions. The blurring of traces in the ghettos, death camps and mass graves in Sobibor, Treblinka, Auschwitz, Babi-Yar, Ponar and Polgin has continued since the war. The suffering and struggle of our brothers has been distorted in a systematic way until this very day.
The memorial book for the Jewish community of Wlodowa is a sign of warning to the coming generations. It is also a trumpet blast that cannot be silenced, calling for revenge for the blood that was spilled on the lands of Poland with the active help of the Polish Nazi.
The task and destiny of this book is not only to recall that which has been forgotten, not only to memorialize those who have died in God's name, not only to light a candle for the pure and holy souls, but to call for prosecution written in letters of fire and blood:
Remember What Amelek Has Done To You!
This includes all the Ameleks of the 20th century; the Poles and the Germans who murder at all times; whose hands are stained with blood; those who continue in their hatred of Israel to this very day.
In this book, the several individuals of the Jews of Wlodowa who had miraculously survived annihilation call forth for prosecution. During days and nights of horror, they wandered in the fields and forests in order to join the Partisans who bravely and courageously fought. They slept outdoors in snow and in frost, suffered from hunger
and disease, saw with their own eyes the deeds of horror. They are living witnesses to the murder which is now being sought to be erased.
Therefore, this is the holy task which is upon us: to see to it that the crimes that have been committed by the Germans and their helpers the Poles and Ukrainians in the ghetto and Sobibor, and in every other place will not be forgotten and not be erased.
At the ruins of the Jewish community in Wlodowa and in the cities and villages of the region, across the desecrated synagogues and destroyed cemeteries, where the bones of our fathers and forefathers lay, the builders of the city we stand with our heads lowered. We are erecting an eternal monument to our martyrs in this memorial book.
In agony and in anger, we will unite with their memories, night and day we will listen to their last call:
Do Not Forget Us!
Let this cry of theirs penetrate into the hearts of our youth. In the present and in the future, let this memorial book to our community be a holy scroll that tells of the suffering of our brothers and that calls us to keep and strengthen the state of Israel as a guarantee that the holocaust will not be forgotten and as a fortress against our enemies.
The will of our martyrs was: remember and do not forget.
The extermination camp Sobibor- which the Germans began building immediately after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, was perhaps the most unknown camp.
The little railroad station of Sobibor was located in a forest about 12km from Wlodowa. Here, two big buildings and a row of barracks were built. Afterwards, another building called the Sanitation Centre was added.
The ghetto was a 10 hectares wood surrounded by 4 walls of barbed wire and the area between the walls was mined. Armed guards stood at the rear gate. From the high guard tower standing every few metres, the whole camp was watched day and night.
Ghetto Sobibor was divided into three areas: two houses for the officers were located in the first area; and in addition, there were workshops for tailors, shoemakers, carpenters and barracks for the labourers of the camp.
The second area contained the workhouses for the classification and assortment of the belongings of the corpses. Here there was also a beauty parlour. It was forbidden at the risk of death for labourers of both areas to enter the third area.
The purpose of the extermination camp of Sobibor, like the camp at Treblinka, was solely for the liquidation of Jews. This meant that they were not mixed camps that included Arians too. It was not a free camp like Oswiencim and Maidanek where you were allowed to write letters and receive parcels and where news from the outside could leak in. Here, there was not even a hospital besides a Lazarett consisting of a deep ditch where old and ill that were no longer able to move unaided were thrown in.
This camp was created for the sole purpose of conducting a quick mass extermination of the Jews. The murdering of the masses had to be worked out in such a way that no problems would arise for the executioners and those responsible for maintaining secrecy. In addition, care had to be taken not to leave any sign of what was done. The torture of the victims was just a sadistic addition of the executioners. It was a free pleasure without any danger as all the possible witnesses were executed as well.
The German service in Sobibor was comparatively small. The system of violence and torment of people simplified everything. The pitiful victims were deceived by the Germans to the very last and ignorant of their cruel fate could not possibly have expected it.
Even when the labourers revealed to the Jews that they were being led to their death, the Jews were more inclined to believe the Germans. The warnings of their brothers seemed to them rather illusory.
Officially, they were told that they would be sent to work in the Ukraine and that here, in the Sanitary Centre of Sobibor, they had just to go through the Entlausung a disinfectant shower.
If not for this blind belief, the people would never have gone with such an indifference towards their own death. They would have attacked their murderers with their bare hands and teeth and would wildly run towards the electrified area in a mad attempt to escape. Even the weak would not have surrendered with any attempt of defence but would have fallen down on the earth clinging to it desperately and could only have been torn away with force. Thus bringing about confusion
and disorder in the precisely run German death factory.
There existed many extermination camps and they could not afford such allowances while World War was its peak. In Sobibor, there were only 20 SS men. The guards were taken from the Blacks as the Ukrainians were known. Russian prisoners from Wlasow and a group of Latvians formed altogether about 300 men. A group of guards stood outside the camp in order to prevent the local population from approaching the barbed wire fence.
Besides the entrance gate bore a sign announcing that anyone approaching the gate would be shot.
In the beginning of 1941, sealed railroad cars started arriving from east and west. These were vans with sealed doors and windows bringing Jews from Poland and Russia exhausted from starvation, thirst and cold. Most were near death and suffering from suffocation and others were already dead. Luxury trains with first and 2nd class cars also arrived and the passengers had only hand luggage signifying that they were rich Jews coming from Western Europe France, Holland, Belgium, etc.
Doors were opened and the people entered the camp. They were immediately divided in groups of men and women. They were made to run and were beaten and the dogs that had been set after them bit and tore at their flesh.
It is very difficult to describe the despair, wailing and howling of people who had been sure that they were going to work and who were suddenly face-to-face with disaster.
One of the survivors of such a transport testified afterwards that the Germans came to the camp for their hobbyhorse-riding in their uniforms with white gloves. They watched bursting with laughter how these agonized people were tormented and observed how the Ukrainians nearly beat to death those trying to approach the well in order to get some water. The most beautiful and
Most elegantly dressed girls were forced to clean the privy springs with their bare hands.
After they had been counted, they were brought in through a gate to the first area. The healthy and strong were set aside for labour. The rest were moved to the second area where they had to strip off their clothes.
In the beginning, personal belongings of the victims were removed to several warehouses. Later, three barracks were constructed. In the first barrack shoes were taken; in the second clothing and underwear and in the third hair was shorn for sanitary reasons.
They were ordered to throw money and jewels into big bowls.
After they had passed these three barracks, they stood naked and ashamed, surrounded by armed Ukrainian guards. They were then divided into long rows and were made to run by whipping them mercilessly. Chaste women who covered their breasts with their hands were pulled out of the roan and their breasts were cut off. Children were snatched from the arms of their mothers and thrown on the earth, kicked to death with nailed boots. The screaming of the wounded children and mothers maddened even those who, by chance, had not been struck.
The way to the Sanitary Centre was stained with blood and squashed with brains of children.
Afterwards, they were moved to the third area. Here again they were told about their journey to work in the Ukraine. But before, they had to take a disinfectant shower and after that, they would be receiving clothing, - a uniform in order to prevent discrimination between poor and rich. Everyone would have the same work.
Although the victims had just now suffered internal tortures, they still believe them. They passed obediently through the long and narrow path between the barbed wire with green branches.
In the beginning, when only two or three transports arrived a day, they used gas. Two Russian tanks stood between the chambers and after
the chambers were filled with people; the tanks set to work and pressed the gas in through pipes. After about 20 minutes, the doors were opened and corpses were removed. A lot were still dying. All were thrown into deep pits with chloride of line poured over then and covered with ashes.
In the course of time, the method of extermination was improved. A special machine was installed that created the gas routing through the pipes directly into the chambers and Sanitary Centre. After a German verified the death of the people, by looking through a window in the roof, he ordered the gassing to stop, the floor opened and corpses fell down into a cellar. There, the labourers loaded them on carriages, removing them to the pits.
The labourers themselves were shot after this service. The doors were opened to let in fresh air, water pumps were turned on to clean the Sanitary Centre and everything started again.
When the number of transports increased to seven/eight a day and the death machine of Sobibor was no longer capable of handling so many, the Germans made the nearby situated Wlodowa an assembly centre and sent to it a part of the transports. The first one came from Kalish with about 4,000 people.
Since then, more and more Jews were sent to this assembly centre. On days when the rate of transports arriving at Sobibor was small, the missing number of people was filled from the concentration camp.
At the end, the turn of the Jews of Wlodowa themselves also came. The SS men acted here like in other places. First they ordered the Judenrat to make a list of all the aged, sick, cripples and poor who were a burden for them. Those were in the first transport from Wlodowa to Sobibor. The second consisted of Jews from Kalish and the surrounding area. All were ordered to the market place surrounded by Ukrainian guards. From there, they had to run to the Wlodowa railway station
from where they were brought to Sobibor by train. Anyone failing to run the 5km to the station was shot down.
On May 23rd, 1943 the last transport with Jews from Wlodowa left for Sobibor. This transport included those lucky few need in the camp and those whom the Germans just plainly liked and also the Jewish Militia that had become superfluous.
Since the people of the last transport knew already where they were being led, they smashed and broke the windows and doors of the cars, jumped from moving trains and escaped into the forest in the midst of a shower of shots. About 200 people got away into the forest in this way.
In June 1943, a very strange transport arrived from Bialystok: cars full of naked people packed like sardines. During the entire journey, they did not even receive a drop of water. In addition, chloride of lime was poured on them. The dead and living had become one clot which was impossible to separate!
The labourers that were sorting the belongings of the corpses did not once recognize the clothes of dead relatives. The gravediggers removing the corpses from the cellar under the Sanitary Centre recognized the corpses of their own fathers, mothers, wives and children. The belongings that were robbed were sent to Germany. Objects of value were sent by the officers to their wives and mistresses. Anything of little value, such as documents, reports and photographs were immediately burnt. Women's hair was packed and shipped to the workshops of carpenters for the use in upholstery.
The death camps worked a full capacity day and night without any interruption. When the hideous screaming of the suffocating was heard from the Sanitary Centre, the Germans let loose a herd of geese they had especially bred for this purpose. The noise that the geese made deafened the voices of the suffocating in the gas chambers.
The Germans desperately tried to keep all
of their doings in the utmost secrecy. Nevertheless, they could not conceal it from the eyes of the public. The huge pits were quickly filled. The corpses, though the chloride of lime was poured over them, started to rot and the dangerous stench of petrification could be smelt for many kilometres in the surrounding areas.
Afterwards, the Germans reopened the graves with excavators and removed the corpses to ovens where they were burnt. Day and night dense black smoke hung over the camp of Sobibor and over the tree-tops of the great forest. The air was poisoned by the stench of the human flesh and burnt bones.
While the corpses were being burnt, the Germans looked for new amusements. Together with the Ukrainians, they threw Jewish women and children alive into the fires.
In March, 1944 the corpses of the Jews of
Wlodowa and Adampol were loaded on to vans and removed to the rural Christian cemetery of Olchowka near Wlodowa. There, combustible material was poured over them and they were burnt.
One transport included Russian prisoners of war and also a Jewish officer called Pazarski. This officer persuaded the prisoners of the camp to organize a revolt. They suddenly attacked the Germans and killed many of them. Some of the rebels succeeded in passing through the barbed wire and escaping into the forest. But most of them were killed by mines and by shooting. From those that had escaped, only a small part survived.
After this revolt, the Germans destroyed the barracks and all the facilities in the Sobibor camp. Thousands were poisoned, slaughtered, shot and tortured by all kind of death methods. Justice rests as does the conscience of the world.
In October 1942 when Jews were forbidden to stay in the country and had to move to ghetto Wlodowa, we came to the city. Here we slept one night at my brother's house. When we heard rumours that there would be an Action, my father made use of his acquaintance with Kosowski, the power of attorney of the Earl of Samoski, and through his interference, my parents, my brother and his two children (his wife had been taken to Sobibor) and I moved to Adampol. There the leader of the labour camp was the German Selinger. The day after our arrival, there was an Action of aged in Wlodowa.
I had already been in Adampol before working as a painter. I worked together with Shmulke Ranes. In the camp, my whole family worked as gardeners or pulled out tree roots in the forest and did all kind of other types of work. Some months after my parents arrived at the camp, Selinger called us Shmulek and me and told us to come at 1:00 o'clock and go to Wlodowa with some SS men to paint some rooms there.
Shmulke, like all other Jews, believed what Selinger had told him as everyone thought he was a good German. They did not realize that he, in his green hat with feathers and shining boots, was the same murderer but wearing civilian clothes.
He took part in Actions in such a manner that nobody could realize his cooperation. He acted cunningly so that the Jews did not suspect that he was preparing new victims for the SS men. If someone did anything wrong, he set the dogs on him dogs that bit until the person bled to death. Not once had I been the victim. The last time he set the dogs on me was because I had the Chuzpe to ask him to send my parents (whom he considered
too old already) to Wlodowa. The dogs bit me and tore up my clothes he smiled satisfied. Why are you crying? These are good dogs and he called them back.
A day did not pass without shooting in Adampol as well as killing of Jews ordered by this murderer. The dogs did not miss Shmulke either and every day they stripped his clothes according to Selinger's commands but Shmulke did not realize his cunning.
As I knew all this, I decided not to go with the SS men to Wlodowa. I hid myself behind the stables and from there I saw Shmulke ascending the car. I remained in my hiding place until the evening when I separated from my family and escaped into the forest.
In the Forest Together With Jews
By this time I already possessed a rifle and bullets that were hidden in the forest. Also, my brother and brotherinlaw had guns of their own which we had bought with clothes and boots that we had succeeded in taking with us.
Having arrived in the forest, I took my rifle and started looking for Jewish partisans. At that time, several groups of partisans armed and unarmed were wandering in the forest. Besides these, there existed two groups that were very well equipped in arms: one consisted of Wlodowa Jews under the leadership of Moshe Lichtenberg and the other, under the leadership of Jechiel.
The first one was concentrated on the area of Adampol and the second one on Akashe. From time to time, the guys of Lichtenberg came to Adampol to see their relatives and returned to the forest.
In the forest I met Jews from Skradeniece
and from Marienka with wives and children some armed and others not. I joined them.
After 8 days, I returned to the camp. Here I heard that the SS men had killed Shmulke after he had finished his work. The son of Grashinski from Adampol found the documents of Shmulke near the Christian cemetery. This was the price for his belief in Selinger.
I returned to the camp in order to provide for my parents and to care for them as best I could. I no longer slept in the camp but in the woods where my brother and brotherinlaw joined me. Sometimes we brought along the parents and the children because we were afraid that the camp would finally be attacked and all the Jews would be murdered.
The Meeting with Moshe Lichtenberg
As every path was familiar to me in the woods, everybody joined me. On the way, we met the group of Moshe Lichtenberg. He gave us meat and bread. I emphasize me first because in the forest it was easier to get meat then bread. He promised to help us as much as possible. But in the meantime, Selinger announced that everyone could return to the camp and would not suffer from any further harm.
After a week, most of the people returned to Adampol. Also, my parents arguing that they could not live in the forest went back together with my brother and brotherinlaw and the children. Come with us so we will be at least some days together, they beseeched me.
I could not refuse their request and so I went with them to Adampol. But I did not spend much time there. My concealed gun did not let me rest and I found myself spending more time in the forest than in the ghetto.
The Slaughter in the Camp
The thing we were afraid of happened one Shabbat Selinger gathered all the Jews in the camp and told them that SS men would arrive and that it would be safer for them to stay in the
palace of the Earl of Samoiski. I, though always more suspicious of his words, entered the palace together with everyone else. Here we waited until noon and nobody came. After some hours, Selinger commanded us to leave and return to camp.
The Jews refused to return to the palace. Some went to work in the fields and some 100 people, among them my family, escaped into the forest. In the afternoon, the SS men arrived and shot all those in the fields. The dead and those that were captured alive were loaded on to wagons and brought to Sobibor. Some succeeded in hiding between the wheat and thus remained alive. They ran back to the camp in the evening taking everything they could with them and returned to the forest.
On 10th Tamoz, 1943 I returned for perhaps the fifth or sixth time to the forest from the Adampol ghetto. I lived there for about a month and a month and a half hovering around with several unorganized groups of Jews from the country and Russian prisoners calling themselves Shastiorka.
This time I came to the ghetto with my brother Jankel, my younger brother Yitzchak stayed with the Shastiorka.
Here everything was quiet and nothing hinted at the imminent action. Suddenly, at about 4:00 o'clock in the morning, I heard shots. This meant that the camp was surrounded and something was going on. I was lying behind the stable watching the Germans dragging Jews women and children from everywhere. The crying and yelling pierced my ears.
They were made to run to the stable where they were shot. When I saw them dragging my parents, I fainted. I awoke when a big dog sniffed me running to and fro suddenly a huge German was standing in front of me with a rifle, kicking and shouting: Aufstehen! (get up). I got up. He took me to his officer saying: look at the thief I caught! The officer replied: beat him….
I went with my hands up. The German told me they would not kill me. At this moment an excellent idea flashed across my mind: Why do you surrender so easily, you are going to be killed save yourself, you have nothing to lose. I suddenly bent my raised arms to the bar of the rifle and in the same breath, seized the weapon. The German threw himself on the earth while I fired on him and fled.
The Germans opened fire and I set off to the woods of Papinski. Two Germans were persecuting me, trying to catch me alive. I threw off my boots and hurled away the weapon and kept on running as fast as I could. My right leg was injured by a bullet but I continued running until I arrived in the forest. At about 11:00 o'clock in the morning, they attacked the forest. As I was covered by the density of the trees, they did not find me. In the night, I left my hiding place and after having walked a big part of the way, I met David Z. Joske Abremel and Jankel Mirk. David was also slightly wounded in the leg.
After spending a night in the forest, we moved close to Adampol in the morning to the place where we had concealed our guns. We took the weapons with us and carried on in the evening to the Ochosze Kaplinitzi. Before we arrived at the Ochoszemy leg hurt so terribly and I was so weak that I was no longer able to walk. David Z and the other three dragged me in a sheet until we reached Ochosze. There they turned me over to the leader of the Tabor (partisan camp) Nachmann Makrasiwka.
On the same Day, David crossed the Bug and that same day, I heard the Moshe Lichtenberg was killed by a Russian.
In the Jechiel Division
After staying two weeks at Tabor, my leg was cured. One day, Jechiel and David Maseike introduced me to the armed group.
When I joined, the group of Jechiel were no longer independent but appended to Gwardia Ludowa headquarters (the National Army)
located in these woods. Jechiel no longer acted on his own but on the advice of the command of the headquarters.
At this time we already had a leader in every village that supported the partisans. According to their instructions, we fetched their food and then it was forbidden to enter the village without their knowledge. They advised us as to how and when to attack the German guards and the wagons delivering food for the Germans. All our actions against the Germans and their aids in the villages were carried out according to their orders.
The first task that I performed under Jechiel's order was as follows: I, Hershel (Politruk), David Maseike and Simcha from Marianka were to do away with some Poles from Marianka. We had often come to their houses and now they started plundering, in the name of the partisans, rich farmers from other villages.
In the beginning, we could not believe the rumours of their deeds and it was difficult to prove anything.
We did not catch them redhanded until one day they attacked the house of the farmer Trolzki from the village of Sabeike, telling him that in the name of the partisans they were to take everything they needed.
This farmer was in favour of the partisans and did us many services. It was due to him that the rumours were proven and thus we executed the sentence.
A Flying Train Next to Sobibor
One winter night in 1943, about 20 people were walking from the woods of Mokoshi towards the railway station of Chelm to Sobibor. The distance was 50km.
The following belonged to that group: Jechiel, Davidkin, Lionka, Simion, Abrashka, Pazun, my fourteen year old brother Davidkin, Butshan, Sigmund and I as well as others whose names I do not remember.
Near to the village of Kossin, we discovered a
Ukrainian policeman standing under a tree. Before he had a chance to question us, we seized him. He revealed to us that in the first hut of the village, his friend and a prisoner were staying. Jechiel and David jumped into the hut seizing the policeman who was armed with a Mauser and whose pockets were filled with stolen gold. We sentenced the policeman accordingly and set free the prisoner. After this operation we forced a farmer from Kopin to take us to the railroad leading to Sobibor. Naturally we first took his address and warned him.
We had with us a 20 kilo mine which we took turns carrying. About 2km away from the station at Sobibor, we came close to the rails and planted the mine in a pit which we had dug. Two people remained on each side forming a wing for protection in case of attack.
The explosion which was accompanied by the yelling and screaming of the heroes of the Herrenvolk released us from the tension of expectation. I saw my comrades in the same state of exultation. We remained lying down for another 5 minutes without moving and then started creeping away from the rails.
When we were safely hidden by the denseness of the trees, the farmer told us to pass through the village of Sarki. We warned him to keep quiet and never talk about this otherwise we had his address. The next day, we read in the newspaper that gangs had attacked the train to Chelm.
Burning the Food Deposits
We left the forest of Mohashi at the end of summer 1943 and were now living in the pit. This was a great pine forest extending from Ochosze Kaplinizi to the forest of Wirk.
Here we made up our mind to destroy the supply yard of Kaplinitzi which belonged to the estate of Adampol.
Here the SS men kept watch over the corn deposits that had been gathered in the last harvest. It was our task to destroy the supply yard and the German base as well and also set fire to the
wheat and oat deposits. Some 30 people set off on this operation with Jechiel as our leader.
10 persons remained at the stores in order to divert their attention so that the others could start the operation.
As soon as the bullets of our guns hit the stocks of dry harvest, high red flames consumed them immediately. As the Germans approached running, we crept away as it had become dangerous from the spreading fire.
At the same moment we heard a terrible explosion from the other side where the German guard was located meaning that the other twenty of us had fulfilled their mission.
The next day an investigation took place but we were 15km away and already occupied with another blow against a food transport that farmers were bringing for the Germans.
We dispersed the sacks of corn on the earth mixing it with dust and dirt thus completely destroying it.
By the way, actions such as these were done on a daily schedule. We did not neglect an operation on any one day.
Because of our daily aggressions, we were forced to be on a constant move. We surprised the Germans in places where they never expected us to attack.
At the same time, we performed another important operation. About 100 people were sent out to demolish telephone poles. We were divided into groups of 3 men for each pole and sawed them down. About 30 poles were thus destroyed during one night. We cut the lines and destroyed the isolaters with axes and scissors. Later we moved onwards and again poles fell.
These actions impressed the village leaders and also later the farmers of the environments we were connected with.
Jechiel's group was very alert while the Tabor of Nachman was rather slack. When we were nearby we could help them but when we were far away, many of them fell victim of the Akawazim (National Army).
Spying Against Germans Agents in Villages and Small Towns
In our daily partisan work, we also fought against Ukrainians and Polish traitors who helped the Germans. We killed the leaders of the villages of Bakwidnitz, Sinki and some other places. Every night we were reckoned with the local Nazi agents. In Krasiwka we put an end to all those opposing us and cooperating with the Germans. Once it was decided to sit in judgement over the farmers of Samolidzca having had expelled the previous year Jews that were hiding in their villages of Halle and Marianka and having delivered them to the Germans.
During a whole year we could not take revenge as the villages of Lubin and its surroundings were crowded with Germans and our forces were very small. But now that our division was strengthened and the number of Germans had decreased, we therefore decided to avenge the blood of our brothers.
We were about 180 armed men approaching the village of Samolodizca and at midnight we had surrounded the village. Every third man knew the names of those he had to extract from their houses. We killed twenty of them that night. Among those killed were some who had known every path in the forest and had betrayed the hiding places of the partisans to the Germans especially those of the Jews. On our way back we also passed through Marianka. There we shot two Andaks and burn all their property for having murdered two of our people of Tabor.
Some weeks before, we had brought 3 women for safety reasons: Feige Hershel, Tuvia's daughter and two girls: Mathel Tuchschneider(?). Everyone was hidden in another place. We warned the farmers that if they caused any harm to the girls we would burn them together with their huts.
Eight days after our action in Marianka, we were told that the Andaks had killed one of our girls. When we arrived there in the evening, we
Found Feige Hershel Tuvia's daughter stabbed to death in the snow. This time, we killed another seven of the murderers.
The War Against Aka and NSS
At the end of 1943 the group of Aka Armia Krojowa (National Army) and NSS Narodowi Sabjonsek Shilsbravinjck (National Organized Armed Forces) gained power. They spread over the forests of Poland and the Wlodowa area and especially around the property of the Earl of Samoiski. The members of the NSS, who had been the rowdiest before the war, had prevented Jewish students from visiting the Universities, had beaten up Jews in the streets, smashed windows and stood in front of Jewish shops preventing Poles from entering with the slogan: From our own to our own.
These partisans were even now attacking Jewish partisans and Jews trying to save their lives in the forest.
We too did not make any allowances and paid them with an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth. We often tried negotiating: Don't attack us and we won't attack you but without any success.
With the withdrawal of the Germans after the defeat of Stalingrad, several groups of partisans crossed the Bug. We joined General Baronowski who was organizing the youth from the villages to come to the forest and cooperate with the partisans. Afterwards, we achieved a big victory over a great German division. In those days, the members of AKA and NSS kept quiet and did not bother us. Our strength frightened them.
Captain Smasta, the Jew
After our great victory in the battle with the Germans near the village of Wirzinski in which General Baronski took part, we were ordered by the Armia Headquarters to move to the forests of Arichova. In the forest near the Sinki village we met Captain Smasta who was in charge of the command and Jechiel became his assistant.
After a fortnight the Sinki village was already in our possession we convened with General Rolo Smirski. He shook hands with each of us and asked how long we had been with the partisans. He slept a few nights in our camp. He then disappeared the same way he came.
Our group with the men of General Smasta consisted of about 600 wellarmed people. For three months, we drifted through the woods with Captain Smasta, attacking the Germans and the NSS men. By this time we held the entire forest as well as the villages. We stopped sleeping in the forest and moved into the dwellings of the farmers.
The leaders of the villages who were in constant touch with us, informed us about the infiltration of German spies into the forest and that one such spy was wandering around in the Arichowa. We immediately found him there and he gave us the names of five other spies and told us where they could be found. We found them disguised as beggars or as shepherds.
Three months later the group of Jechiel split from Captain Smasta who, with most of his people, set off towards the woods of Romblawa bordering on the woods of Janova and continuing to the Carpathians.
Our group which included 60 people went on sawing down telephone poles, destroying food stores and hindering the Germans and their collaborators.
Later on we heard the Captain Smasta clashed with a great German unit near the Carpathians, fighting day and night and while they were withdrawing, members of AKA opened fire thus wounding and killing many of them. Captain Smasta and Wanka Krapitnik (the first who had organized the partisans in the forest of Wlodowa
and Parzew) were also hit by bullets of the traitors. Among the wounded and unwounded returning to us was Berl Mikale, shot in his neck with a bullet passing out through his mouth and Aharon from Parzew, seriously hurt and others whose names I do not remember.
The front at Kobel was broken. The Germans were confusedly retreating to the other side of the Bug. We, of various partisan groups, attacked the withdrawing Germans. General Kolpak succeeded in eliminating the German guards in our region. Everywhere the partisans dominated. One day we heard that the Russian army had conquered Wlodowa. We were overjoyed, singing, dancing and kissing one another.
Wlodowa was taken over without a single shot! The Red Army did not approach across the Bug but through Chelm and all the fortifications along the Bug became useless.
On the same day, we and the TABOR openly moved to Lublin. There, street battles were still taking place. When we reached the first street, we were welcomed with flowers but on the next street, we were shot at by the members of the NSS.
Some days later, Jechiel was sworn in as commander of the Headquarters of the army in Lublin. Some of the partisans joined the civilian army and some the security police.
I was appointed as prison warden where I worked for half a year.
At the end of 1946, I illegally immigrated to Israel which was still under the British Mandate at the time. In 1948, during the Independence War, I joined the Hagana and later, ZAHAL.
During one night in March in 1943, after a few months of preparation, a group of 10 men under the leadership of Moshe Lichtenberg was on its way to the forest. The group contained Jews from the ghetto, from Falkenberg camp and Moshe came from the Adampol camp. These ten: Moshe Lichtenberg, Motel Rosenberg, Jankele Wolk, Moshe Falbmann, Lion Nmaser (not from Wlodowa but escaped from German imprisonment), Asalke Bornstein, Isralke Fisbein and three others, Abarbanel from our region and some others whose names I do not remember were the first founders of the Jewish partisans from Wlodowa.
The men of Lichtenberg purchased some weapons during their preparations. The others were unarmed and remained in town. They moved to the forest after the Judenrein Aktzia. I left the camp Adampol in July 1943. After a lot of wandering, I found the group of Wlodowa.
In the Position
The partisan group from Wlodowa fixed their position in the forest at about 10 or 15km from Adampol.
The forester, Papiski, knew about us and helped us. We drew water from his courtyard. The group already consisted of 40 people. There was also the Pole from Wlodowa with us Wladek Koslowski who had escaped from the Laszinioko (hut of the forester).
The group used him as a messenger between Wlodowa and Adampol. He once went as a messenger to our people at the Falkenberg camp and also brought medicines from the district doctor, Sichowski, who helped the partisans. On his way, he also went to the barbershop to cut his hair
and to shave. When he was already soaped up he saw in the mirror in front of him a SS man saying: Hände hoch! (hands up). He was arrested with his soaped face. Without taking into account that he was armed with two guns and a bomb, he was liberated. He was sent back to the Achasze where the partisans lived. We suspected that he was an agent and informed all the partisans of the region. We searched him quite a long time and did not find him.
In the Battle
Our most difficult task was the supply of food. The Poles hated the partisans and the Jewish partisans in particular. During the night, nearly the entire group went to bring back food. Four men remained in position: I, Hashke, Andsje, Chaja and some other young men among whom Jasha.
We suddenly heard nearby shots. We got up from our places and everyone ran where he could. I entered the bushes. I wounded my hand and leg, but I continued.
After the shots had stopped, I heard a noise among the bushes. I stopped. The steps approached and in the light of the moon, I saw the shadow of Jasha. I was very relieved because Jasha knew all the paths in the forest.
We approached our position. Jasha whistled our slogan whistle and was answered by a similar whistle. When we arrived at the position, all were ready to leave the place. On the way, we learnt the reason for the shots.
When our men had gone to bring back food, they also wanted to visit the forester Papinski, as usual. From far, our four men saw that in the yard a German was standing and washing. Moshe
gave order to enclose the house of the forester and he himself, with some men, went to the German. Hände hoch! he imitated the screams of the Germans. Immediately the German lifted his hands. Another German came out of the house and he was seized. He screamed and was silenced by a bullet. Two other Germans, as it seemed, had heard his shouts and started firing through the windows. Our men fired back and killed them. One German slipped away and disappeared. During this fight, Monik Bornstein was wounded and the son of Abraham Hillel.
After this action we became 4 guns richer which could not be weighed in gold. We also got other military equipment. One of the Germans had a map of the forest on him and our position was marked on this map.
The feelings of revenge which everyone was seized with by the killing of the Germans and the 4 guns, animated our paths. Our courage increased and we became confident that one day the day of real revenge would arrive.
Crossing the Bug
Our situation became worse and worse from day to day. The farmers hated the partisans the shepherds betrayed the place of our position to the Germans and we were forced to rush from forest to forest. One day, 2 Russians Kolka and Waska came from the other side of the Bug. They told us that on the other side, all the villages were already under supervision of the partisans who had an easier life there. They advised us to move to the other side.
We already consisted of 100 men. The group from the Achosze joined us. It contained many from the surroundings of Wlodowa and Russia.
The Russians knew where we could cross the river easily and we went in the direction of the Bug. This time the Russians went astray and we erred through the night. The sun rose and we became confused. One part wanted to return and the other proposed to wait in the bushes until nightfall. The result was that those
Demanding to return had all the weapons including the only machine gun we had captured.
We, a small group most of which were women, remained with 10 guns and three Russians, one of them Waska Kolka had returned. We lay all night between the bushes near Slowitz opposite Domzwe where we saw the German guards.
Towards the evening, 2 Russians said they were going to the next village to bring food. On the way, they met a German patrol and they had to open fire. The partisan withdrew. When they came back they told us about the event and said that we had to fight.
It was clear that the German army would bring forces to assist and we, with our weapons could not start an open fight. We therefore decided to cross the Bug in any event. We left all of our equipment among the bushes and in darkness we entered the river treading in water that reached us up to our necks. The men held the guns over their heads with the bullet reserves. Upon leaving the water, the Germans started to fire on us and throw bombs at us too. They did not reach us and penetrated deeper into the forest.
The Woroshilow Division
The Germans stopped shooting. A farmer came to us in a carriage and told us to make a fire and dry our clothes. He said: You don't have to be afraid of the Germans, you don't see the dogs here….
We made a fire, dried our clothes and in the morning we continued on our way according to the farmers instruction. The way led to Woroshilow division.
Here we learned that every partisan group in the surrounding area was closely connected with the other. The division of meat was handled by the management and there was no need as it was also forbidden to look alone for food.
All the groups were under the supervision of
the headquarter of the partisans and from there we got our orders.
The Woroshilow division received us very friendly and attributed us a place in the forest. Here we waited until the greater part of our group had crossed the river and joined us.
In the meantime, the partisans came to us from Domazive who had been in the Woroshilow division. But not they came without arms. Their weapons had been the property of the division and when they left, they had to give them back.
Among the ten was also my husband originating from Brisk.
After six weeks, a part of our group and other Jews joined us. Moshe Lichtenberg, Motel Rosenberg and Chaim Fishman (Tänzer) were missing; they had been shot by Kolka and his friends who had insisted on getting back the machine guns.
Now we met with other difficulties: the union of the partisans of Brisk wanted many times already to send back the Jewish partisans across the Bug to the Polish side. Finally, we convinced them and we remained on this side. They directed us where to go and to manage ourselves the division.
The Molotov Division
Our leaders were now Waska and Simion Rotenberg from Tomaszowka (he fell later in the Red Army). On the way, we acquired a lot of arms. We passed great dangers but our confidence was now greater than on the Polish side. We had already our own army departments. We walked
In the area of the Karlowski Canal connecting g the Kropetz with the Bug in the Pinski district, the place where the Molotov division was located. We arrived there in the winter 194344.
The leader of the division, Mishke, a very nice man, said that he would divide us into 4 divisions and those who wanted to remain together had to stand aside. We were joined to the following 4 divisions: Shishlowitz, Kalinski, Lusov and Katosowitz.
I was joined to the Shishawski division. There was a strong military discipline that prevailed in this division. There was an airport and planes were coming bringing medicines, arms and taking back those seriously wounded.
For the slightly wounded we had a local hospital. We lived in houses and we had field ovens. We were three Jewish girls: Andsia, Rivka and me. Our task was to guard for 2 hours and then rest for some hours.
I cannot report about all the military action in which the Jews took part in but in all the dangerous actions of the 4 divisions, such as terrorism, bombing of bridges, trains, destroying telephone lines and other actions, the Jewish partisans from Wlodowa took part in the same way.
When the front approached the Germans sent great forces to our area. After a hard fight, we were forced to withdraw and we went in the direction of the front. On April 1944, we met the Russian army. Nearly all the Jewish partisans of Wlodowa were mobilized in to the Red Army. We, the girls decided to wait until liberation of our town.
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