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[Page 46]

The Quest for Rescue in Occupied Territory

Translated by Judith Springer

Nazism declared Jews to be its direct antipode -- the embodiment of physical and moral deformity dangerous for all mankind by virtue of their religion, national character, and historical fates. It called for their total liquidation. Ideological, political, economic, and cultural measures, initiated long before the beginning of World War II, served this purpose. “The final solution of the Jewish question” was supposed to be the result. The policy of genocide was elaborated in detail and the destruction machine was so perfect that, seemingly, it did not leave hope for rescue. However, reality disappointed the expectations of the Nazis. They did not foresee the Jews' will and ability to resist and the attitude of other nations, which did not remain indifferent to the fate of the doomed.


[Page 46]

Life in the Ghetto, Trial by Hunger

After the first pogroms, most of the Jewish population was imprisoned in ghettos. Hunger tormented people more than fear. They got used to fear and it became duller, but it was impossible to get used to hunger –- people wanted to eat even in their sleep. The inmates were doomed to semi-starved existence. They were made to work without pay, or were given a ration half the size of the lowest norms for forced labor. In the summer and fall of 1941, in the Minsk ghetto, specialists received only 30 percent of their earnings. In Molodechno, local residents were provided with ration cards for bread, sugar, salt, flour, meat, and fat -- while Jews, only for bread and flour. In Glubokoye, the weekly ration per worker was 330 grams of bread, 80 grams of meat, which was often spoiled, and 50 grams of cereals.[1] In Pinsk, in contrast to the non-Jewish population, which was supplied with ration cards for meat, cereals, salt, fat, vegetables, and potatoes, Jews received only bread. The grain harvest from burned food warehouses, gardening, and domestic animals supplemented the ration. They cooked nettle and grass. When potato peelings (”lupiny” in Belorussian) came their way, they considered themselves very lucky.[2]

By what means could one prolong his existence? At first, for a few hours, Jews were allowed to make purchases -- with the exception of butter, meat, eggs, and milk -- at the bazaar. Later, contact with peasants was prohibited categorically. Despite this, help continued to arrive. Local residents helped, first of all, “their” Jews -- those who were married to Belorussians or Russians and, thus, were their relatives –- as well as former fellow villagers, neighbors, friends, and co-workers. The rest relied on barter, which was also dangerous. To deliver provisions to the ghetto territory was not a simple matter. At checkpoints, policemen subjected everyone to a thorough search. In a number of places, bags were filled with flour and cereals, and thrown over the barrier. In other ghettos, carpenters, returning from work, carried axes stuck into hollow logs, in which they hid butter and fat. Sometimes peasant women wore six-pointed stars on their sleeves, which were mandatory for Jews, and brought provisions into the ghetto. In Vitebsk, Sof'ya Ratner (72 years old) received clothes and food from Nadezhda Shidlovskaya (Vrublevskaya), who had worked at her house as a domestic for 15 years.[3] In Glubokoye, everyday peasant Shebeko secretly delivered milk to the sick mother of the Rayak brothers, and peasant Grishkevich, cabbage, potatoes, and other vegetables, to tailor Shames and shoemaker Gitelson. Aleksandr Khatskevich recalls that, in the fall of 1942, he and his mother arrived in Minsk on a mission for the partisans. Along the entire barrier of the ghetto, notices hung: “Entrance Forbidden. Violators Will Be Shot!” Up until the beginning of the war, in the Yubileynana Ploshchad [Jubilee Square] district, acquaintances and friends -– the Jewish Rupert and Tunik families –- had lived with the Khatskeviches. Aleksandr's mother, taking some provisions, decided to find them. She crawled under the barbed wire of the ghetto. After an hour and a half, she returned, saying that she did not find them. She exchanged bread, meat, and eggs for a pair of calf-skin boots. They entered the ghetto in this way several more times. In March 1942, the school building in Lyady, Dubrovno Rayon, Vitebsk Oblast was enclosed by two rows of barbed wire. Wooden towers with machine guns were placed at the corners. The only ones that could leave the ghetto were agricultural workers and the dead –- for burial. Hunger and typhus mowed down people –- every day 10 to 15 corpses were removed. According to V.L. Tamarkin's testimony, peasant acquaintances gave his father bread, boiled potatoes, and even milk.[4]

Before the war, Asya Mlynskaya worked as a pediatrician in Minsk. Having found herself in the ghetto together with her family, she used to go secretly to the city, to the parents of the children she had treated. Everyone gave her what he could: potatoes, bread, cereals, and, from time to time, a piece of lard. When such visits became especially dangerous, the parents, in turn, came to the ghetto fence and handed provisions over to “their doctor”.[5] Before the war, Mikhalina Leshukevich from Zaslavl' Rayon took care of Golda –- the youngest daughter of Professor Aron Levin and his wife, singer Faina. At the outset of the occupation, the mother and children landed in the Minsk ghetto. At that time, the father served in a Soviet frontline hospital. Mikhalina secretly helped the professor's family, often bringing provisions to the ghetto. Nikolay Shchasnyy from Ratomka in Minsk Rayon brought provisions for his acquaintances –- the Al'peroviches, Pliskins, Katses, and Bogdanovs; Aleksandra Grzhibovskaya, for Ol'ga, Ida, and Yakov Lyampert-Tsimerov; Lidiya and Adam Petrovichi, for Faina and Valentin Rozovskiy, and so on.[6]

For such “crimes,” the guilty were beaten. In other cases, they could pay for them with their lives. Mariya Pekarskaya from Pinsk was taken to the police several times. She was interrogated and threatened with execution for throwing food over the ghetto wire. In September 1941, the Pinsk gendarmerie received a report on the arrest -- near the city shipyard –- of Iosele Grabovestkiy, who transported 64 kg of flour and 16 kg of grain hidden in a hay cart.[7] People hiding a pinch of salt, or a piece of soap, were beaten to death. In Tolochin, a teenager who stole a can of food was hanged on the gate of the starch plant. In Glubokoye, the police and the gendarmes beat up Zalman-Vul'f Ruderman's wife for hiding two eggs, and Aron Glozman and David Plisin, berries. For attempting to bring a rooster into the ghetto, Sholom Tsentsiper was shot. In March 1943, a search was out for Zalman Fleysher on the charge that he bought a piece of soap in the village. When Zalman ran away, Kern, the chief of the gendarmerie in Glubokoye, arrested the first Jews who came along. Mathematician and linguist Leyvik Drisvyatskiy, his 18-year old son Khlavne, and Lipa Landau became responsible for Fleysher's “sins.” In June 1942, the latter had already been shot once, but he crawled out from under the heap of corpses in the pit, wandered through forests for a long time, returned to the ghetto, and became the victim instead of Fleysher.[8]

Being in a desperate situation, Jews found in themselves the strength to help Soviet prisoners-of-war. In the summer and fall of 1941, numerous columns of prisoners were led through Minsk. Their route passed through the ghetto territory in the direction of the Polish Calvaria Cemetery. The admission department of the former BSSR People's Commissariat of Health was located at the corner of Ostrovskiy and Vitebskaya (formerly, Nemigo-Rakovskaya) streets. Rural residents used to come there for examination and treatment. When the war began, everyone dispersed, leaving documents and clothes. Three teenagers –- Mark Tayts, Zinoviy (Zyama) Rapoport, and Lev Lapkes -- opened slightly the wicket gate of the communicating yard and, if the guards did not have dogs, urged people from the column to come in. They supplied prisoners with documents, clothes, and some food and, through the ruins, led them out to the other side of the street. The fact that the soldiers had shaven heads, looked haggard, and easily passed for patients was of help. A few dozen people were saved in this way.[9]

Jews hid wounded Belorussian and Russian partisans in ghetto hospitals. They sewed six-pointed stars on their clothes and changed their names in documents: Stepan became Khaim, Andrey became Yankel, and Taras –- Leybe. When they were cured, they were taken back to the forest. Jews helped save prisoners-of-war from camps. In the Krivichi ghetto, several people were whipped with rods for helping five prisoners-of-war. In the village of Bervecha, the Kozliner family (eight people) was shot for bringing bread to Soviet prisoners-of-war. In Minsk, Red Army Captain Leonid Okun' preferred the ghetto to the concentration camp. His two colleagues –- Ivan Babushkin (intelligence officer and saboteur, posthumously became Hero of the Soviet Union) and Daniil Kudryakov –- got into the ghetto regularly, wearing yellow patches. They spent the night in Boris Khaymovich's home on Zelenyy Pereulok [Green Lane], hiding from the Gestapo.[10] Locksmith Gedaliya from Minsk saved Senior Lieutenant Semen Ganzenko, whom he brought in a garbage can from the concentration camp on Shirokoya Street to the ghetto territory. Ganzenko was safely transported to the forest, where he headed the Budennyy Detachment. Naum Fel'dman, one of the leaders of the ghetto underground organization, became the commissar of that detachment. In a short time, the detachment grew into the Ponomarenko Brigade.[11]


[Page 48]

Demoralization of the Prisoners

The urge to survive required huge moral and physical efforts. The constant danger, hostile environment, malnutrition, loss of contact with friends, death of relatives, and unknown future broke people's will. Having no strength left, some lost hope and committed suicide. A particularly grim event occurred in Gorki, Mogilev Oblast. In the morning of October 10, 1941, during the Aktion, Khana Gurevich, not able to withstand the sight of Jews being beaten by members of punitive squads -- with the words “I will not let the skunks torment my child” -– strangled her own daughter, Mirra.[12] In Krivichi, when in April 1942 the Aktion of the ghetto liquidation began, Girsh Tsepelevich drank poison, which he kept by him constantly. The Jew Gerchik from the hamlet of Yedy in Braslav Rayon was well known in neighboring villages, where he procured scrap material. To one person he brought a harness, to another, a ploughshare, and to still another, paint. When the war began, Gerchik thought that he had many friends on whom he could rely. He left the ghetto, but no one took him in. The Belorussians asked him not to be offended. They explained that they were afraid. One day Gerchik began to cry, saying: “It seems that I will have to go back to the ghetto.” On the same morning, he was found hanging at the Jewish cemetery.[13] In Tolochin, on the eve of the ghetto liquidation on March 13, 1942, Dr. Fishkin poisoned his wife, two children, and himself.[14] In Pruzhany in November 1942, under similar circumstances, 47 Jews took poison and died. In Orsha, when members of punitive squads arrived, 20 old carpenters locked themselves in Eli Gofshteyn's house on Pushkin Street, poured kerosene on it, and set it on fire. When the house was enveloped in flames, prayers for the dead were heard. For a long time, it was prohibited to bury the burned corpses.[15] In Baranovichi on December 17, 1942, after the Aktion, policemen with dogs found a hiding place with 15 prisoners in the ghetto. Dr. L.S. Nakhimovskiy, N.Z. Sigalovskiy, and his wife, who were among them, took potassium cyanide.[16]

Sometimes people's nightmarish experiences paralyzed them. In Klimovichi in 1941, after the murder of blacksmith Khaim and his oldest daughter, only his wife and young son remained alive. Belorussian neighbors offered to help the wife hide, but she answered: “I can't! They died here and so will I.” In the end, they too were discovered.[17] There were many examples of Jews preferring to die together with their relatives at the moment of danger. In October 1941, Lida and Rita Aksel'rod, who had recently left in search of provisions, were warned by local residents not to return to the ghetto –- Jews were being taken out for execution. The girls dropped their potato bags and rushed to where their parents, Nokhim and Ginda, remained. The police, not determining their nationality by their appearance, tried to stop them. “But we are Jews!”, the sisters begged and were allowed to join the column of the doomed.[18] In Lyakhovichi, the gendarmes seized Leya Levit, the wife of dentist Borukh, and took her in an unknown direction. Her husband was convinced that she was killed and the next day came to the gendarmerie, asking to be shot. Borukh was taken for execution behind the church and was shot in the trenches. Later it turned out that Leya was alive. When she found out how her husband had acted, she voluntarily went [to the gendarmerie] and made the same request. She was shot and neighbors buried them together.[19] In Baranovichi, in the winter of 1942, policemen twice asked tailor Meir Pertsovskiy to leave his wife and children and join a group of specialists. When he categorically refused, he was killed together with his family.[20] In the hamlet of Vishnevo, Volozhin Rayon, local residents offered to save Doctor Podzel'ver, but he refused, not wanting to leave his wife and daughter. It was impossible for all of them to escape.[21]


[Page 50]

The Quest for Rescue

Success always depended on the assistance of the local population. Sometimes this occurred on the eve of, or during, an Aktion. On December 31, 1941, people were being shot in the Senno ghetto, Vitebsk Oblast. Only Antsel' Fridman was able to save himself. When the prisoners were being marched to the execution site, he ran away, reached the village of Yefimovshchina, and knocked on the door of the first hut. He was lucky: In this hut lived a single woman, Zosia (her last name is unknown), who hid Antsel' in her cellar for a whole month and then helped him link up with the partisans.[22] Misha Shmel'kin, who escaped from the Minsk ghetto after the pogrom in March 1942, found shelter with peasant Borshchuk on a farmstead near the village of Morozovichi in Ivenets Rayon. The boy pastured the cows and sheep and in the winter played the fiddle at village weddings. He lived to see the end of the war, returned to the city, and reunited with his parents. In Liozno, during the Aktion on February 23, 1942, Velvl Chervyakov was hidden in a lavatory whose door was nailed down from the outside. In Lida in May 1942, Fishel Belobrod was wounded and pushed into a pit where he was left for dead. When he regained consciousness, he saw that the members of punitive squads had gone to bring a new group and there was no one around. The pit was deep. Fishel piled the bodies of two dead persons one on top of the other, climbed on them, and got out on the surface. Friends in Lida received him, helped him undergo surgery, and transported him to the partisans.[23] Great courage was required of parents who decided to leave the ghetto with small children. The Novik family left the Zel'va ghetto in Grodno Oblast with three children aged 4, 6, and 8 years. For two and a half years, they wandered through forests and villages and they survived. A relative of artist Manet and her 7- and 10-year old daughters survived the war in this way.[24]

On March 5, 1942, Jews in the Obol'tsy ghetto, Tolochin Rayon, learned about the Aktion in the neighboring hamlet of Smoly'any, Orsha Rayon. They immediately resolved to flee. At midnight, 60 prisoners under the leadership of Semen Iofik got out of the local school, where they were kept, and seized policeman Linich, who stood on guard. The escape was successful. Aron Levin, Moysha Amburg, Leonid Svistunov, Leonid Kogan, Polina Levina, Khana Iofik, and Khana Svistunov fought in the Leonov Brigade; Zhenya Levina, Vera Iofik, Valya Avrutina, Girsh Kagan, and others, in the Zaslonov Brigade. At the end of May/beginning of June 1942, the Nazis executed the remaining 100 Jews in the Obol'tsy ghetto.[25] In the fall of 1942, Kleyner from the village of Luchay near Dunilovichi hit a German who stood at the post, grabbed his submachine gun, and ran away from the ghetto. During the third pogrom in Volozhin in 1943, Grigoriy Sklyut put up resistance during arrest and also escaped. In February 1943, Manya Temchina from Slutsk, together with her entire family, was being taken in a tarpaulin-covered truck to be executed. Despite the fact that two armed escorts sat in the back of the truck, the girl made a razor cut in the tarpaulin cover and, while the truck was traveling at full speed, jumped off it. For five days, Valentina Zhuk and teacher Sulkovskiy hid her in Slutsk, and then she fled to the forest.[26] In Krivichi, 336 out of 420 Jews died –- only those who joined the partisans were saved. Eleven women worked in Slobodka, which is 2 km from Krivichi. They deceived the German guards and fled to the forest. In June 1942, Miory Jews (80 out of 779) embarked on an escape. At the same time, several Jews from the Sharkovshchina ghetto managed to hide. In January 1943, taking advantage of the dark and the weakness of the guard, 208 Jews ran away from the Jewish camp at the saw-milling plant in Novyy Sverzhen'. The Nazis were unable to detain the runaways and most of them survived.[27]

Some Jews were saved owing to a prompt warning by neighbors. In Klimovichi, on the eve of the Aktion of November 6, 1941, a group of Jews was herded to work at the railroad station. They were released from work earlier than usually, returning home without guards. An old woman named Stukaylo told them that Jews were being shot in the city. Etta Natapova and her girlfriends spent the night in the field, and in the morning went to find out what was going on. A neighbor did not let them into the building. They hid in the bathhouse. Another neighbor brought them something to eat, but asked them to leave. They spent the second night in a haystack, where the owners caught them, creating a big uproar. Etta's father, Moyshe-Gdales, took off his suit and gave it to the peasants so that they would let them go. In Pleshchenitsy in the fall of 1941, 70-year old Shmuel Dovid Kugel' was returning from work in a group of four Jews. Near the hamlet, they were warned: “Run into the forest immediately, the Gestapo is taking away Jews.” Owing to his old age, Kugel' did not keep up with the young and sat down at the edge of the forest in the rain until dark. At night he made his way home, hoping that his wife had managed to hide somewhere near the house and was waiting for him. However, the cottage was shut with someone else's lock. Acquaintances helped Kugel' go to Dolginovo, where mass executions were not yet being carried out. Not long before Passover of 1942, trucks with Gestapo men also arrived there. Kugel' was hidden in an attic and, through the cracks in the roof, saw the beating of 1,800 Jews.[28]

In some instances local residents from among the Folks Deutsch saved Jews. In Minsk, Mikhael Parnikel', brigadier of the railroad depot, hid Sof'ya Gerzhidovich, a distant relative, in his house on Gromadskaya Street. In the village of Olmyany, Stolin Rayon, Blauman took the daughter of his Jewish acquaintance, Blezhovskiy, into his home as a domestic, explaining that his teacher wife was often sick and he needed help. With the arrival of the Germans, Blauman went to work for the SS and no one touched the girl. When the Red Army offensive began, Blauman left with the Germans, having first transported the girl to the partisans. She survived .[29] In Borisov, Mikhael Raykhman hid his wife, Khyena, in a secret place at home and then was able to take her to the forest. This did not always help. In Orsha, Schwarzkopf, a local German, had a Jewish wife. She was not sent to the ghetto, but when the ghetto was liquidated, she, too, was executed.[30]

However, not everyone was prepared to flee. Some people in the ghetto thought that an absolute execution of orders would enable them to survive everything and to live to see liberation. In Novyy Sverzhen' -- three kilometers from Stolbtsy -- in the fall of 1942, there was a Jewish labor camp, which serviced the German rear. The prisoners realized that the end was predetermined and that they had to leave for the forest. The camp was divided into three groups. About 40 people argued that they should flee immediately. Among them there were Jews deported from Germany, refugees from Poland, and some young people. The flight had to be prepared, because without preliminary arrangements and without weapons people died on the road. The second group thought that they should flee with families. The third was completely against the flight, fearing that the anti-Semites among the partisans would not accept them into a detachment, or would find a way to finish off Jews on the sly. Gershl Posesorskiy, Ezriel Tunik, and Yakov Shpigel' were able to establish contact with partisans from the Molotov Brigade and to prepare an escape. It took place in February 1943, as a result of which more than 140 Jews from Novyy Sverzhen' were able to leave.[31]

However, for the majority rescue was temporary. In Tolochin, on March 13, 1942, about 2,000 Jews perished and only two fled. Gutman Aleynikov (19 years old) hid in a drainage pipe under a bridge, where he stayed for two days. There a local peasant discovered him and called the Germans. Beylya Aleynikova (65 years old) hid in the ghetto under an oven. At night, she made her way out of the ghetto and, over the snow-covered field, to peasant Ivashkevich, but died of a heart attack. In Yurevichi during the winter of 1942, Khaim Kofman took off his fur coat, threw it at the feet of the policeman who was about to execute him, and handed him his watch. When the latter began to examine the loot, Khaim threw himself into the icy water and under fire swam across the Pripyat' River. He hid for several days, but was discovered and shot. In the hamlet of Il'ya on March 16, 1942, the pit with bodies of executed Jews was doused with gasoline and set on fire. Flames quickly enveloped the surface. Then and there screams and curses were heard, coming from those who themselves had jumped into the pit, pretending to be dead in order to save themselves .[32] In the village of Borki on the morning of June 19, 1942, when the doomed were being grouped for transportation to the place of execution, a young girl, Zel'da Gordon, suddenly began to scream and ran in the direction of the lake. Others followed her. Members of punitive squads opened fire and within half an hour the entire field up to Borki itself was strewn with corpses. Those who refused to go toward the pit were tortured cruelly. Samuil Gordon tried to hide in a house in the village. He was caught by the neck and dragged on the street until he died.[33] In Mozyr' in 1943, teacher Liza Lozinskaya tried to hide. When the Germans found her, they dragged her to the market square, tied her to the telegraph pole, and practised knife throwing on her.[34] After savage treatment in Rakov, Genya Mil'shteyn was found in the field, brought to the ghetto, and thrown into a burning house.[35]

We do not have statistics on the flights of Jews from ghettos. However, we must not lose sight of the fact that these events were authentic and that in the course of time they could turn into legends. To evade detention, fugitives had to hide their ethnic origin, invent a new name and past, and get as far away as possible from the places where they could be recognized. Next, they needed to obtain false documents (identity cards, birth certificates, school or medical affidavits, and passes), which would prove their non-Jewish origin, and to secure means of livelihood, housing, and employment.

Those who decided to flee had to cross the ghetto boundary. This could be done in several ways. The most prevalent was to leave through the gates in labor columns with false documents (waybills, invoices, orders for work for the needs of the German administration, and so on). One could make a hole in the wire barrier –- the security system had its weak points. In some cases, the inmates built a tunnel. In the Slonim ghetto, in the carpentry shop at Shelyubskiy's apartment, they dug out an underground passage, which they entered through a closet and down a ladder. The passageway led to the Polish cemetery. In July 1942, 12 inmates successfully used it during the Aktion. In the Minsk ghetto, there was a similar passageway, leading to the Jewish cemetery. However, to break out of the ghetto did not yet mean survival. The Germans, not without reason, reckoned that the Jews would have nowhere to go. Their specific outward appearance and speech, the absence of documents, unfamiliarity with the area, physical exhaustion –- these and other circumstances doomed them to death. When the police suspected that the caught person was a Jew, they demanded that he recite the phrase “large grapes grow on Mount Ararat” and, if he did not burr his “R's,” they took off his pants. In the summer of 1942, Tolya Rubin managed to get to the non-Jewish district of Minsk. There were many Russian teenagers on the street. They saw him and began shouting: “Jew, Jew, come here! Give us gold, or we will kill you!”.[36] Not all local residents were prepared to undertake the risk of helping fugitives -- sheltering them for one night, feeding and keeping them warm, and showing them a safe route. The great tragedy of their situation was exemplified by the fact that in frequent cases Jews, who had miraculously survived executions, saw no recourse other than to go back to the ghetto.

One needed extraordinary instincts in order to determine which peasant hut was safe to enter and which was not. It was exceptionally difficult to change a Jewish accent. Before the war, many Jews lived in the countryside and the okrug. They were blacksmiths, tailors, shoemakers, land surveyors, paramedics, bookkeepers, and teachers. Belorussians were on good terms with many of them and even became related to them. Despite this, the most that the majority of the local population did was not to give them away and help them flee to the forest. To hide Jews at one's home was too dangerous. Usually, the poor -- old people without children, the landless, and widows –- fed Jews, or permitted them to spend the night (in a hut, barn, hayrick, or bathhouse). An even greater luck was to find shelter with a gentile, who agreed to make a hideout in his house, or nearby. The place had to be hidden from everyone, including neighbors.

In Borisov in 1941, Aleksandr Dubrovskiy hid in his home Mariya and Zina Rol'bin; Pavel and Zosya Bulay hid Anna Skums and her son, Valentin; Vasiliy Verzhbolovich hid Veronika Samtsevich; Yevgeniy and Yevdokiya Lukinskiy –- Polina Ausker. In Danilovichi, Dyatlovo Rayon, in November 1942, Vanda Skuratovich-Anishkevich hid a Jewish family –- Iliyaga and Sonya Slavyan, their son Arye, and their daughter Basya –- in the basement under her house.[37] Vasiliy Nesterenko provided shelter to Jews from Brest, helping them obtain documents with “Aryan” names and link up with the partisans. Tsilya and Boris Pikus, Mikhail Shusterman, and others were saved in this way. In the village of Kryshichi, Kalinkovichi Rayon, which consisted of more than 100 households, the Kofman and the Karchev families found shelter. There were no informers in their village, even though a police garrison was located only a few kilometers away. Yuliya Borisenko, a mother of five, hid Boris Kofman, sharing her last with him. Once the Nazis appeared unexpectedly, and his protectors barely managed to hide him in a trunk, where he almost suffocated.[38] In the fall of 1942, Nikolay Lagodich hid his neighbor, Nakhemiya Konkovich, in a cattle shed, burying him in hay. This despite the fact that Germans lived in his house at that time. He brought him food in pails and then transported him to the partisans. After the war ended, Nakhemiya came back from the forest and again knocked on the door of the Lagodich family. The Lagodich home was burned down and everyone lived in a dugout, but they found a place for the Jew. Soon he left for Palestine.[39] Local residents saved Jewish prisoners-of-war. In Borisov, Vanda Mozheyko hid prisoner-of-war Isaak Rivkind, and Yelena Shul'ts hid Yakov Meylakh and Zeev Krivoshey.[40]

Every story of rescue is unique. Fugitives went through trials, which at any moment could end in tragedy. Success depended on age, endurance, intuition, resourcefulness, or, simply, a fortunate combination of circumstances. Anna Krasnoperko from the Minsk ghetto was being led to execution in the general column together with her parents and a baby. Mentally they were prepared for any circumstance, which would help them survive. They tore the patches off their chests, although they could not take them off their backs: The guards who walked behind them would notice. On the left side of Opanskiy Street, a cart was moving toward the column. When it was parallel with the prisoners, Anna's mother pushed her daughter and granddaughter Inna out of the general formation. They jumped on the cart and the peasant whipped the horse, driving off at breakneck speed. Shots and screams were heard from behind, but the cart sped away instantly and the pursuers remained far behind. During one of the roundups, Roza Lipskaya and her son Felix were detained and pushed into a mobile gas chamber. Seizing the moment, men kicked the door very hard from the inside, the sentry fell, and all those who were inside the truck jumped out and ran away –- they managed to save themselves.[41]

In February 1942, Abram Mazelev and Ayzik Kagan were working in the forest when they learned about the pogrom in Rakov. They ran to Kuchkuny, where forest ranger Konstantin Romanyuk helped them. He fed them and kept them warm, but hesitated to let them stay at his house. Abram and Ayzik went to Gorodok and then to Radoshkovichi, where at that moment members of punitive squads were carrying out an Aktion of liquidation. Mazelev climbed into the attic, but Kagan was seized. The Germans promised to spare his life if he gave them his savings. Having taken all his valuables, they shot him. Then they began going up to the attic to get Mazelev, but he jumped down, was lightly wounded, and pretended to be dead. When it was dark, he fled to the forest, where he wandered in search of partisans until the spring of 1942. In the forest, Mazelev met Abram Mil'shteyn from Rakov and Khaim Perskiy from Volozhin. They were hungry and went to the village of Staryy Rakov, asking for food. The son of peasant Goloveshko, on whose door they knocked, killed Mazelev, but Mil'shteyn and Perskiy managed to escape. Peasant Milyashkevich from the village of Girevichi agreed to hide Perskiy and made a hideout under the stove in his house. However, Perskiy could no longer take everything that was happening to him, “sank into melancholy,” and died in the shelter. Of the three, only Mil'shteyn survived. He found partisans and was accepted into a detachment, where he fought until the liberation of the republic in July 1944.[42]


[Page 55]

Organized Escapes

Organized escapes connected with the arrival of a guide were the most successful. In the Minsk ghetto, an underground committee, which maintained communications with the partisans, directed this. The candidates were selected beforehand. These were either young people who had proven themselves in underground work in the ghetto, or specialists whose skills were needed in the forest –- doctors, armorers, bakers, radio technicians, typographers, and others. Yuriy Tayts, who had been taken out of the Minsk ghetto, became the chief physical therapist in the Minsk partisan zone. In Stolin, during the mass execution of Jews, the Nazis did not touch Dr. Roter, who worked as the chief physician of the hospital. Later the partisans took him to the forest. Dr. Zibtsiker directed the medical service of the Budennyy Detachment. Miriam Kerzok was the doctor of the Parkhomenko Detachment of the Chapayev Brigade. Doctors Lifshits and Alperina and student-medics Solomonchik and Yakubovich treated the wounded of the Chkalov Brigade.[43]

The story of Dora Retskina's rescue is quite extraordinary. After the flight from Gorodok in Vitebsk Oblast and the destruction of the ghetto in Molodechno, the large Retskin family hid in the Krasnoye settlement. Avraam Retskin, who already was in a partisan detachment, persuaded a guide to take his relatives to the forest. When he came for them, it turned out that all of them had typhus. Only his sister Dora stood on her feet and was brought to the forest. In the detachment, Dora also fell sick. The brigade commissar ordered that she be “isolated.” This threatened the girl with inevitable death. Avraam and Iekhiel' Okun', his platoon commander, rushed to Brigade Commander Mikhail Gribanov with the request to intervene and revoke the order. They suggested that the sick girl be taken to an island among the swamps. They would set up a tent and take care of her. The brigade commander agreed. Avraam and Iekhiel' took turns in taking care of the sick girl, cooked brews from cranberries, forest berries, and grasses for her, and nursed her to health. There, in the Naliboki Forest, Iekhiel' and Dora became man and wife.

The guides who came to ghettos to take the inmates to the forest were not always reliable. At times, they were impostors. Fedor Turovets, a liaison from the partisan detachment near Rudensk, came to the Minsk ghetto with the offer to transport people wishing to go to the partisans. He led such a group 10 or 15 km from the city, took away the people's clothing and valuables, and left them to the mercy of fate. With his gun he threatened those who attempted to resist. The people were forced to return to the ghetto, and on the way back some of them fell into the hands of the police. In this way, Lyuba and Asya Kaganov, Genya Fel'dman with her son, and others perished.[44] In March 1942, Ostashonok, a former captain of the Red Army, came to the Minsk ghetto, promising to lead out 25 members of the underground. On the way, they were ambushed and almost all of them perished. As it became clear later, Ostashonok was a traitor.[45] Serafima Stavitskaya reported that her older sister worked as a maid in a German institution. There she became acquainted with a person who promised to transport her to the partisans for a reward. Serafima's aunt gave her a gold watch and her sister's friend, Fanya, several gold coins. Having led the sisters to the edge of the city, the “guide” received his pay and left the girls in the forest, saying that people would come for them. Only by nightfall did they realize that they had been tricked. On the road, the fugitives met partisans dressed as policemen -- they were on a mission. Among them was an acquaintance of Stavitskaya. With his help, the girls were set up in the village of Porech'ye, Pukhovichi Rayon, which was buried among forests and swamps.[46] In Pinsk, Dr. Ioselevich and Dr. Nisenzon asked Dr. Dylevskiy, the district physician (not a Jew –- L.S.), to help them to leave, paying for his services in gold. Dylevskiy knew well that they would be brought back, but took the valuables anyway.[47] The false guides had different fates. Sometimes, as was the case with Captain Ostashonok and Fedor Turovets, they were exposed and even shot, but most often they went unpunished.

Jews who had no Semitic features performed the role of guides. Most often they were women, teenagers, and 10- or 12-year old children (Bronya Gammer, Sima Fitterson, Fanya Gimpel', Roza Rubenchik, and others), who aroused less suspicion. They came to the ghetto, lived there a few days or even a week, waiting for the formation of a group, and then led out several dozen people at a time. Stopping places and passwords were known in advance. Misha Levin led 15 people to the partisans in the forest, Alik (Al'bert) Mayzel', 32 people, and Lenya Melamed, 35. By the end of October 1943, almost 2,500 people were transported from Minsk alone.[48] But danger awaited ghetto inmates from every direction. In the hamlet of Domzheritsy, Begoml' Rayon, in December 1941, gendarmes arrested 15 Jews (women and children) who had fled from the hamlet of Mstizh. In the village of Zarech'ye in April 1943, a police patrol killed upon arrest four Jews. On one of them, Khaim Gol'dberg, they found a pistol.[49]

Helping Jews involved great risks not justified from the standpoint of practical expediency. After the execution in Kossovo, Brest Oblast, in the summer of 1942, Yefim Rusetskiy gave shelter to 28 Jews. For two weeks, he hid them in leather tanning pits covered with metal vats. After the pogrom was over, he led them to the forest. For this Yefim, his wife, and three children were shot.[50] Ol'ga Mushinskaya from the village of Al'ba in Ivatsevichi Rayon hid the Reznikov family –- Shmuel, his brother Movsha, and the latter's wife and children. Pretending to be cutting firewood, she went to the forest and fed the escapees. Upon denunciation by a forester, the Reznikovs were discovered and shot and Ol'ga was crippled by the Gestapo.[51] During the Aktion in Surazh on August 2, 1941, Tat'yana Sidorova tried to save Sof'ya Borovskaya's six-year old son. For this, the Germans pushed Tat'yana into the general column of Jews. Only the intercession of neighbors and acquaintances, who vouched that Sidorova was Russian, kept her from death.[52] In Galinki, Stolin Rayon, mass Aktions began in September 1942. Asher Soshnik and his relatives asked Ul'yan and Mariya Kasperovich for help and the latter provided them with food and clothes and led them to swamps. Toward the end of December 1942, they transported three more Jews to the swamps. For this, the police burned down the Kasperovich house. In the village of Borouchino, Adol'f and Mariya Statsevichi hid Jews from neighboring hamlets, fed them, and helped them as much as they could. When this was discovered, Adol'f Statsevich was hanged in Glubokoye. Forest ranger Markevich saved Jews from Belostok and Grodno. His wife and daughter helped him in this. In the winter, the Germans stripped the Markeviches naked and tortured them in the forest, but the latter did not give anyone away. In the village of Skirmuntovo, Koydanovo Rayon, there was a transshipment point, through which Jews went to the partisans. Jews were hidden in large barns there. The Nazis found this out and surrounded the village. They rounded up all the residents (more than 280 people) into a barn and burned them alive.[53] In 1943 they burned the settlement of Gorovatki in Dunilovichi Rayon, where the family of Bronislav Zelichonok lived. Zelichonok saved Yankel and Khinda Gordon and their children, Abram and Lyuba.[54]

In some cases partisan formations liberated ghettos, but they did this indirectly, while carrying out operational missions. In June-July 1942, the Shchors Detachment helped 170 Jews escape from the Slonim ghetto. In August of the same year, partisans of the Pavel Pronyagin Detachment smashed the German garrison in Kossovo and liberated 200 Jews. Several dozen people from the Dyatlovo ghetto were liberated after an operation of the detachment under the command of Ye. Atlas. In the fall of 1942, the Zhukov Detachment attacked the police garrison in the hamlet of Novyy Sverzhen', rescuing 500 Jews, about 200 of whom joined the partisans. Another detachment liberated Jews in Myadel' and helped transport them across the front line. In August 1943, a detachment under the command of Rodionov saved a group of Jews in the town of Glubokoye, and so on. At the same time, the partisans had limited capabilities and the rescue of the civilian population was not their top-priority mission. Partisans experienced great difficulties, including frequent blockades, and repelled attacks by members of punitive squads, which were reinforced by regular units from the front.

In the winter of 1941/1942, during the attack by the Soviet 3rd and 4th Shock Armies, the “Surazh Gates” opened up. This was a 40-km gap in the front line between the cities of Velizh and Usvyaty at the juncture of the German Army groups North and Center, which were controlled by the forces of the 1st Belorussian Partisan Brigade. The partisans used the “gates” to obtain weapons, ammunition, equipment, food supplies, and medicaments from the Red Army. Soviet counterintelligence sent sabotage groups to the German rear. Partisan detachments were withdrawn for reorganization, but the civilian population, which had managed to save itself from members of punitive squads, was evacuated only occasionally. At the same time, the partisans rid themselves of the ballast of family camps, which fettered their operational activities and made them vulnerable.

In August 1942, partisans of the “Mstitel'” [Avenger] Detachment (the “Narodnyye mstiteli” [People's Avengers] Brigade) formed the marching detachment “Pobeda” [Victory] (Commander Kiselev and Chief of Staff Kolesnikov) to pass through the Surazh Gates. It consisted of more than 150 people, mostly Jewish mothers and children, old people, and Belorussian peasants, whose homes the Nazis burned in retaliation for harboring Jews. At that time, the Germans had begun a blockade of partisan forests. The fugitives hid in swamps and moved only at night (15 to 20 km), avoiding large population centers. They drank swamp water and ate grass, berries, and mushrooms. Their clothes were torn to shreds and almost nothing remained of their footwear –- they wrapped their feet in rags. After crossing the Berezena River, the detachment was joined by a column of young people mobilized by the partisans for the Red Army. Yakov Sagal'chik and Avraam Klorin confirm this in their account of how several hundred Jews, who had survived in the ghettos of Kurenets, Dolginovo, and Postavy, at first found refuge in the forests around Lake Naroch'. Later, in September-December 1942 and January-February 1943, they were moved out and taken across the front line in the area of the Surazh Gates. On the whole, the partisans' motives for helping Jews escape from the occupied territory still need to be clarified. Most probably, they did this for Jews as part of the Soviet civilian population subjected to repressions, not because they, as Jews, were the main target of the genocide. Jewish refugees –- women, old men, and children -- were defenseless and unfit for battle. By that time, the Nazis had already liquidated most Jewish men.[55]


[Page 58]

Aid and Rescue of Jews by German Servicemen

Cases of rescue of Jews with the participation of soldiers and officers of the German Army remain isolated. People who dared to take such a step faced risks and, when exposed, had to be punished. The motives for such conduct differed. Some Germans saved Jews with whom they got acquainted during joint work and established friendly relations. Others did this out of hatred for genocide. Still others used to socialize with Jews in their homeland. And there were some who did this in a moment of an emotional impulse, when they witnessed mass murder, and so on. We shall present several characteristic examples.

During the liquidation of the ghetto in Borisov in October 1941, Polina Ausker (Lukinskaya) hid in the attic of her home with her younger (5- and 11-year old) brothers. On the third day of the pogrom, they were discovered and taken to Razuvayevka near the Borisov airport. At the pit, before the execution, an Austrian officer, at whose house she mopped the floors, recognized her. He took away the girl from police chief Kovalevskiy, who led the Aktion, vouching that he knew her as a Russian. He put her in a car and drove in the direction of Minsk. At 20 km from the city, he dropped off Polina, saying that he could do nothing more for her, and suggested that she search for rescue on her own. The girl was lucky. In the village of Serebryanka near Smolensk, the Lukinskiys gave her shelter and their last name.[56]

In Klimovichi, Mogilev Oblast, during the Aktion on November 6, 1941, Faina Manevich ran out of the garage where Jews were rounded up while the pit was being prepared. She captured the sympathy of an elderly German and was able to talk him into helping her. The soldier let her pass between his rifle and his arm. (Germans and policemen took turns in guarding the Jews. When the latter were on duty, it was impossible to pass.) Toward evening of the same day, young people, who were sent to work in the morning, began to return to Klimovichi. Usually, policemen brought them to work, while the Germans watched them. When the work ended, a young German took aside a 15-year old Jewish girl, Alla Levina, two of her sisters, Lyuba and Basya, and two girlfriends, gave each of them a loaf of bread, and said: “Don't go home, your relatives are no longer there. If you want to live, go wherever your feet take you. We did not see you and don't know you.” When it got dark, they left. Snow fell and their footprints were visible. Policeman Osmolovskiy, on a horse, caught up with the girls and demanded gold. He brought them home. There was still some freshly baked bread in the oven. Alla opened the potato bunker: “Here is your gold!” Osmolovskiy took the girls back to the Germans in the city. In the commandant's office, they were searched and led to a house facing a small garden near the old bank. The small room was crammed with people. Some prayed, some cried, and some pulled their hair. Policemen guarded them. They threw one roll of bread to all of them, as to dogs. In four days, the people were sorted out for different jobs. They were moved to a large Jewish home, which was totally empty –- people slept on the bare floor. At night there were no guards, but the Jews were told that, if anyone escaped, they would be shot. In the morning, the policemen counted the people and told them where to go. Alla worked all the time at a fire station, milked cows, strained milk, and mopped floors. German officers, Czechs, and others, who were present there, told her: “You are young, you have a long life ahead of you, why don't you run away? You will be shot!” A few days later, an SS command arrived to execute the Jews and Levina resolved to escape. She survived and got a second life.[57]

Construction mechanic Erik Porfshteyn witnessed the liquidation of Jews from Czechoslovakia, who were brought to Baranovichi at the end of June 1942. He was born in Warsaw, but lived in Prague, where he was captured and sent to Baranovichi. He was saved by a German called “Janek,” who until 1939 had lived on former Polish land. This person guarded the ghetto and took Porfshteyn out of it. Then “Janek” brought Erik and Abram Reznik, a resident of Baranovichi, to the apartment of Roman and Sof'ya Malinovski, an elderly Polish couple, who lived across the railroad station. From there the prisoners fled to the Naliboki Forest, where they met partisans. In 1944 Porfshteyn went to Poland. Another story of rescue in Baranovichi is connected with the name of Tsal' Goronovskiy (born in 1925), who at the end of 1941 was brought to the Koldychevo concentration camp. At formation policemen brutally beat the arrivals. A German storekeeper, Jerun, interceded for the youngster and took him out of the general line. He gave tobacco to Tsal', who exchanged it for bread. In January 1944 Goronovskiy escaped from the camp in a group of 90 people.[58]

Fishl Rabinov completed a trade school and began to work as a communications mechanic in the Western River Shipping Company in Pinsk. When the war began, the city was occupied within several days. During the Aktion in August 1941, he survived by accident, because he was on the neighboring street, but his two brothers were shot. In May 1942, Ober-Lieutenant Gunther Kriel was appointed to the water transport complex. During their joint work, Fishl and the German officer developed a friendly relationship. Kriel did not share Hitler's policy and promised his support. He suggested that the young man change his last name to Rabtsevich and take the name Pyetr. Then he prepared new documents and introduced him to Lieutenant Friaf from Kiev. When the liquidation of the ghetto in Pinsk began at the end of October 1942, Kriel summoned Fishl and hid him in his apartment for more than one month. Then he handed him a written authority for a mission, drove him to Brest, and put him on the train to Kiev. There Lieutenant Friaf met Pyetr-Fishl and did everything as he promised. After the liberation, Rabinov retained his new last name.[59]

In the Minsk ghetto in the fall of 1942, the labor exchange sent Mark Mlynskiy, together with his son Boris, to work in a warehouse, to which the Germans brought books from libraries, museums, private collections, churches, synagogues, and other places. School textbooks, journals, fiction, and ancient folio volumes, each weighing 10 or 15 kg, were mixed in the piles. The sorting brigade included eight people who knew foreign languages, had academic degrees, and were instructors in higher educational institutions. Captain Alfred Richel from the staff of Reichsleiter Rozenberg was in charge of operations. The most valuable publications were taken to Germany. In a conversation with Mark, Richel told him that he considered the murders of Jews to be inhuman and had nothing to do with them. He attributed his membership in the National Socialist Party of Germany to his unwillingness to go to the front. He emphasized that, as soon as he spoke out, he would immediately be degraded and sent to a penal battalion. During the pogroms in 1942 and 1943, Richel several times helped the Mlynskiys survive, keeping them at the book warehouse. In the spring of 1943, Mlynskiy's father was arrested during one of the roundups in the ghetto and perished. In the summer of 1943, Boris fled to the forest and joined the partisans. After the liberation of Belorussia, he fought in the active army and, when the war ended, lived in Leningrad.[60]

The chief of the German automobile repair shop at Komarovskaya Square, from time to time, fed Boris Khaymovich and Yevsey Shnitman from the Minsk ghetto. One day, he did not let them into the ghetto, saying that men would be rounded up. He took them into a nonoperating shower room and hid them for the night. Rudolph Jan, an officer from Vienna, saved Riva Ayzenshtadt. On the eve of one of the pogroms in the ghetto, he let her spend the night in the basement. After the pogrom on March 2, 1942, new labor columns were formed in the Minsk ghetto. Two of them were sent to the Luftgau-Kommando (flying unit) located in the former Government House on Lenin Square (now Independence Square). The first consisted of the “Hamburg Jews,” as the Jews deported from Germany and other European countries were called, and the second, of Jews born in Belorussia. Ilse Stein was appointed leader of the first column and Liza Gudkovich, of the second.[61] They worked on the heating of the Government House. Trains with peat and firewood arrived on a railroad siding. The prisoners unloaded them and delivered fuel on trolleys to the boiler room. For this they received 200 grams of bread and a skilly made from horse meat. Captain Willi Schultz was in charge of work organization. He fell in love with Ilse and promised to obtain two passes on condition that Liza and Ilse would leave together, because the latter did not know Russian. Liza was supposed to be the “sister of the deaf and dumb girl.” But he was not able to get the passes. Then Schultz proposed another alternative. His friend, a pilot, came on a mission to Minsk. He agreed to transport the girls across the front line. However, this did not work out either, because the pilot was urgently recalled to the front. Then Liza decided to take advantage of her acquaintance with Sergey Gerin, a liaison from the Minsk underground. He promised that the partisans would accept the fugitives together with Schultz. However, he demanded that Schultz find a truck in order to transport 25 people from the ghetto, pretending that he needed them to unload railroad cars with cement near Rudensk. Schultz found a three-ton truck and prepared accompanying documents for 12 women and 13 men as was agreed with members of the underground.[62]

On March 30, 1943, the tarpaulin-covered truck drove up to the labor exchange on Yubileynaya Ploshchad. In the truck, there were 25 people, including Ilse's two –- 19- and 8-year old –- sisters (by that time, Ilse's father had been shot and her mother had died of typhus), as well as five people, whom Gudkovich, as the organizer of the escape, was permitted to take. The other candidates were selected by an unofficial committee. The men were armed and, in the back of the truck, two professional drivers were in readiness. The destination: villages in the partisan zone –- Rusakovichi, Gorelichi, and Kobylichi. After Rudensk, Schultz moved to the driver's cab. He was an elderly Austrian drafted under total mobilization. They drove through the village of Dukory. The bridge across the Svisloch' River was blown up and they made a detour. There was a German post on the temporary bridge. The guards explained that the truck would not pass, because there were potholes before the bridge, and pointed out another route –- to Shatsk. The truck drove off, skidding in the mud. The prisoners crawled out of the truck and began to push it, but they were exhausted and did not have the strength for that. Schultz summoned peasants who were repairing a bridge nearby. They drove through Rudensk -- the final point on the route indicated in the documents -- picking up speed in order to get through the fortified railroad station. They drove up to a settlement. The bridge across the Ptich' River was blown up –- the village of Rusakovichi and a forest were across it. The river was wide. This was the boundary of the partisan zone of the 2nd Minsk Partisan Brigade (Sergey Ivanov, commander of the Stalin Detachment). Ice floated on the water. There was a boat on the opposite bank. Zolya Tokarskiy jumped in the water and brought it in. The fugitives began to be ferried in groups of five people. No sooner had the last group sailed away from the bank than German submachine gunners appeared, shooting as they ran. But it was too late –- everyone survived.

Schultz did not come empty-handed to the partisans. Then Minsk was bombed. In October 1943, he and Ilse were taken to Moscow. For some time Schultz and Ilse lived in an NKVD dacha in the village of Malakhovka near Moscow. He was 46 years old and she, 18. Then they were sent to Vaupshasov's special-purpose detachment, where they were separated. Ilse was expecting a child. It was suggested that she go to Birobidzhan. She did not know Russian, but spoke a little Yiddish. She gave birth to a boy who soon died. Ilse worked as a cutter at a garment factory, married, and in 1953 moved to Rostov-on-Don, where she gave birth to a daughter. In August 1985, the newspaper Vecherniy Minsk published a letter signed by Ilse Stein. Thus, after 40 years, a reunion with the other escapees took place. In 1991 it was reported that Schultz had been sent to work in a camp for prisoners-of-war, where he died of meningitis. Ilse Leopol'dovna Stein herself died in April 1993.[63]

Situations that arose spontaneously can hardly be included among cases of rescue, even though they led to the preservation of Jewish lives. Sof'ya Kogan remained alive after the first pogrom in the Minsk ghetto on November 7, 1941. She was already in the car when a German soldier took her out, saying: “You have blue eyes and light hair, Jewish women don't look like this…” Grigoriy Dobin was listed as a shoemaker in the shop at the police battalion of the concentration camp on Shirokaya Street in Minsk. Prisoners were brought there from the ghetto everyday. In addition to shoemakers, there were tailors in the shop. On November 20, 1941, German soldiers cordoned off the ghetto. Dobin tried to explain that he had to go to work, showing his pass. An SS-man, who stood in the cordon, asked: “Do you have a wife?” “I do,” answered Dobin. “Then go home, don't go to work today.” He stressed the word “today.” On that day, labor columns were shot.[64]


[Page 62]

Rescue of Jews by Christians

Some members of the Orthodox Church, Catholics, and Baptists participated in the fate of Jews. Some were guided by religious convictions and others showed human sympathy. Priest Ivan Strok in Borisov took Tolya Shakhvalov into his family. In Minsk, Anton Mitrofanovich Ketsko, Presbyter of Evangelical Christian Baptists, organized patronage over children's homes Nos. 2 and 7. Seventy children were secretly brought there and registered under Russian last names. The believers brought clothing, footwear, and food products. Donations were collected in Minsk, Baranovichi, Slutsk, and Stolbtsy. Parishioners Rapetskiy, Skuratovich, Yevtukhovich, Kanatush, and others helped Ketsko. Nina Adamovna, the wife of Presbyter Ketsko, prepared food, which she brought in pails on a yoke in order not to arouse suspicion. They searched for medications for the sick, distributing them to families. When the Nazis came to make an inspection, they hid children with a pronounced Semitic appearance. In order that their total number match the number on the list, the believers brought their own children. According to the testimony of Anna Velichko, a nanny at Children's Home No. 1 in Minsk, the children's hair was dyed and, when the Germans appeared, they were crammed into storerooms and vegetable storage sheds, and in the summer, into the tops of potato plants. Virtually all of them were baptized and registered in parish books. They also wore crosses. This gave them the right to receive a food ration card. Church attendance and participation in prayers and church singing were mandatory.[65]

Believer Manya Semenovich, who before the war worked as a nanny in a Jewish family in Minsk, took in Mirra and Ella Mishulin, who became separated from their parents. On June 23, 1941, their father was drafted into the army and the girls' mother was told that the children had been evacuated from the sanatorium. She took her recently-born baby in her arms and left with relatives to the east. However, the children could not be taken out of Minsk and they were alone in an empty apartment. Manya got up early in the morning, locked up the children, and left to beg near the church. Parishioners gave her, as to a beggar, pieces of bread, potatoes, and a little money. This charity was sufficient to keep the girls from starvation. When neighbors, who had moved to Jewish apartments, began to demand that Manya take the children to the ghetto, the three of them left Minsk. Manya changed the children's names to Galya and Nina. They wandered through villages and later returned to Minsk. There Manya registered the girls in a children's home under her last name, Semenovich, pretending that they were the daughters of her brother arrested by Bolsheviks. They safely lived there until liberation.[66]

The Marchenkovs, who were believers, helped Borya Gal'perin. In the morning of October 5, 1941, members of punitive squads arrived in Shklov. Boris ran toward the Dnieper –- this was his only chance for rescue. He reached the village of Staryy Shklov and knocked on the Marchenkovs' door. They fed him and then hid him in tall, dense weeds. There he spent the day and at night they let him into the barn. This lasted for five days. Then Ivan Marchenko put a cross on Borya's neck and wished him a safe trip. Floriya Budishevskaya, a Catholic woman from Zhabinka, saved Roman Levin. She pleaded that he be handed over to her to weed her garden. Then she put an icon on his neck, gave him food, and showed him the road to the front line. Levin survived, but Budishevskaya was shot for this.[67] In 1942, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jews of the Stolin ghetto were annihilated. Only several medical workers, who were employed in the local hospital, servicing the entire rayon, remained alive. Dr. Genri Rid, his wife Eva, and three-year old son Sasha lived in an auxiliary room of the hospital. Dr. Poznan'skiy, his wife Genya, veterinary Akharonger, and his wife were together with them. All of them began to prepare to flee. Frantsisk Smortsevskiy, a Catholic priest at the Stolin Church, agreed to help. He obtained a baptismal certificate for Eva. On November 26, 1942, it was reported that an SS detachment arrived. For five days, the fugitives hid in the hut of forest ranger Kiyovskiy, who then led them to the home of Baptists Stepan and Agapa Mozol', not far from the village of Khotomel'. In the middle of February, the partisans accepted the Rid family.[68]

Monakhinya Chubak in Pruzhany gave her acquaintance, Dr. Ol'ga Gol'dfayn, a liter of vodka and 300 German marks in order to bribe guards and to flee from the ghetto together with her son. Gold'fayn took advantage of this in January 1943. Ranya Kevyurskaya, a novice at the monastery, brought a cart. They left for Bel'sk and then by train to Belostok. From there, again on a cart, they drove from one church to another in Dombrovo, Sokoly, and Mokiny and then traveled by train to Lovich, where Chubak's relatives lived. There the women spent 16 months. All that time, none of the neighbors knew that Jews were hiding next to them. When, after liberation, Ol'ga Gol'dfayn and her son returned to Pruzhany, people were frightened, believing that they came from the dead.[69] In Rakov, nun Yekaterina, who was called Sister Katarzyna, gathered Jewish -- together with Polish and Belorussian -- children. There was a shortage of provisions in the children's home. Katarzyna was friendly with Priest Ganusevich, who traveled through villages and tried to persuade the residents to take orphaned children. Such children were converted into the Catholic faith and this gave them a chance for rescue.[70]

Despite the scale of the genocide, the Jews did not resign themselves to the fate prepared for them, were not passive, and fought as they could for survival. It was almost impossible to overcome the conditions in which they were placed on the occupied territory. Despite the isolation from the external world, hunger, and emotional shock, they looked for a way out. At times, rescue came from where it was the least expected, including the participation of German servicemen, Folks Deutsch, and Christian believers. Experience in the relationships among people during the Holocaust gives an understanding of the intransient value of life and shows the general level of human values accumulated by mankind.


  1. Belorussian State Archive (BGA), f.370, op.1, d.655, l.5; f.409, op.1, d.6, ll. 15-16; Aviv, No. 3, 1997. Return

  2. Ye. Rozenblat and I. Yelenskaya, Pinskiye yevrei, 1939-1944 gg. [Page Pinsk Jews, 1939-1944], Brest, 1997, p. 104. Return

  3. Vit'bichi, October 30, 1993. Return

  4. Sovetskaya Belorussiya, October 24, 1993. Return

  5. B. Mlynskiy, Stranitsy zhizni vremen Katastrofy [Pages of Life in the Times of the Holocaust], Hadera, 1998. Return

  6. Author's archive. Return

  7. Ye. Rozenblat and I. Yelenskaya, op. cit., p. 134. Return

  8. Chernaya kniga [Black Book]. Edited by V. Grossman and I. Erenburg, Kiev, 1991, pp. 200-202, 207, 210. Return

  9. Author's archive. Letter of Mark Tayts from Jerusalem, September 15, 1998. Return

  10. David Gay, Desyatyy krug [The Tenth Circle], Moscow, 1991, p. 206. Return

  11. E.G. Ioffe, Stranitsy istorii yevreyev Belarusi [Pages of History of the Jews of Belarus], Minsk, 1997, p. 147. Return

  12. YVA, P-21/3, 66-68, p. 138. Return

  13. A. Shul'man, “Vanished Like Ashes into the Sky,” Mishpokha, No. 3, 1997, p. 71. Return

  14. Affiliate of the State Archive in the City of Orsha, f.162, op.7, d.2, l.3. Return

  15. Aviv, No. 2, 1996. Return

  16. V.P. Sherman, Baranovichskoye getto. Koldychevskiy lager' smerti [The Baranovichi Ghetto. The Koldychevo Death Camp], Baranovichi, 1997, p. 17. Return

  17. Jewish History and Literature: A Collection of Essays. Edited by Moshe S. Zidovetsky, Vol. II, Part 2, Rehovot, Israel, 1992, p. 869. Return

  18. A. Rosenbloom, Pamyat' na krovi [Memory Sealed in Blood], Petakh Tikva, 1998, p. 61. Return

  19. Yu. Rafes, Dorogami moey sud'by [The Paths of My Fate] Baltimore, 1998, p. 84. Return

  20. B.P. Sherman, op. cit., p. 17. Return

  21. Yevrei Belarusi. Istoriya i kul'tura [Jews of Belarus. History and Culture], Issue II, Minsk, 1998, p. 169. Return

  22. Vitsebski rabochy, March 16, 1994. Return

  23. YVA, M-33/710; GARF, f.7021, op.86, d.42, l.9. Return

  24. BGA, f.389, op.1, d.4, l.23. Return

  25. G. Vinnitsa, Slovo pamyati [Word of Memory], Orsha, 1997, p. 29. Return

  26. YVA, M-33/1136; GARF, f.7021, op.89, d.4, l.24. Return

  27. BGA, f.389, op. 1, d.4, d.845, op.1, d.64, l.2; f.370, op. 1, d.483, l.15. Return

  28. Jewish History and Literature, p. 869. Return

  29. Mezuza, Minsk, Nos. 7-8, 1997, p. 10. Return

  30. Spasaya obrechennykh [Rescuing the Doomed], Borisov, 1994; Narodnaya gazeta, June 9-11, 1994. Return

  31. Yevreyskiy kamerton, May 19, 1999. Return

  32. YVA, M-33/1139; GARF, f.7021, op.89, d.6, l.46. Return

  33. Chernaya kniga, pp. 212, 260. Return

  34. Mozyrskiye novosti, December 20, 1943. Return

  35. YVA, M-35/182; GARF, f.8114, op.1, d.964, l.263. Return

  36. A. Ruvin, “Pages of the Past,” in the book Moy put' v Izrail' [My Path to Israel], Jerusalem, 1977, pp. 100, 102. Return

  37. YVA, Collection of the Righteous Among the Nations Department, file 4675. Return

  38. Sovetskaya Belorussiya, October 5, 1995. Return

  39. According to the materials of the Embassy of Israel to Belarus. Return

  40. Author's Archive. Return

  41. David Gay, op. cit., pp. 202, 241. Return

  42. YVA, M-35/182. Return

  43. I.A. Insarov, “Medical Cadres of Partisan Units in Belorussia,” Zdravookhraneniye Belorussii, No. 7, 1972, pp. 46-49. Return

  44. NARB, f.1, op.4, d.647, l.5; Grigoriy Rozinskiy's archive, Petakh Tikva. Return

  45. YVA, file 0-32/18 (4). Return

  46. L. Koval', Kniga spaseniya [Book of Rescue], p. 293. Return

  47. State Archive of Brest Oblast, f.2135, op.2, d.136, ll.43-44. Return

  48. L. Smilovitsky, “Minsk Ghetto: An Issue of the Jewish Resistance,” Shvut, Tel Aviv University, Nos. 1-2 (17-18), 1995, p 178. Return

  49. BGA, f.391, op.1, d.33; f.389, op.1, d.4, l.36. Return

  50. Sovetskaya Belorussiya, 1994, January 28. Return

  51. Ibid., 1986, April 6. Return

  52. YVA, M-33/449; GARF, f.7021, op.84, d.3, l.36. Return

  53. GARF, f.8114, op.1, d.958, l.206-208. Return

  54. Yevreyskiy mir (USA), September 23, 1999, No. 383. Return

  55. Izvestiya, Moscow, March 1, 1995; Sefer ha-Partizanim ha-Yehudim [Book of Jewish Partisans], Vol. 1, Merhavia, 1958, p. 462; YVA, Testimony of Yaacov Segalczyk, 1628/63; Testimony of Avraham Klorin, 3185/265-K. Return

  56. Chernaya kniga. Edited by Vasiliy Grossman and Il'ya Erenburg, Tarbut, Jerusalem 1980, pp. 360-361. Return

  57. Jewish History and Literature, pp. 868-871. Return

  58. B.P. Sherman, op. cit., pp. 22, 49. Return

  59. Fishl Ruvimovich Rabinov got married in Kiev. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. After many years of efforts, he found the family of his rescuers in Germany. Gunther Kriel died in 1979. According to his wife, during the war he saved several other Jews. Documents on conferring on him the title “Righteous among the Nations of the World” were sent to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. See: Aviv, No. 2, 1998. Return

  60. B. Mlynskiy, op. cit., pp. 43-45. Return

  61. Before the war, Liza Gudkovich (born in 1917) worked as a heat engineer at the El'vod Power Station in Minsk. Her husband, Abram Panes, was a violinist with the Belorussian State Philharmonic –- L.S. Return

  62. After the escape, Sergey Gerin was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, from where he was transferred to Mauthausen. In 1945 he returned to Minsk and in 1950 died at the age of 34 –- L.S. Return

  63. Author's archive. Recording of conversation with Raisa Gitlina (Epshteyn) in Jerusalem, September 5, 1993; Vestnik (USA), Vol. 7.1, No. 9 (111), May 2, 1995, pp. 24-29. Return

  64. D. Gay, op. cit., pp. 196, 199. Return

  65. Archive of the KGB of the Republic of Belarus, inv. No. 35625, d.1919. Return

  66. Yevreyskiy kamerton, January 9, 1998. Return

  67. Zarya, Brest, October 25, 1991. Return

  68. According to the materials of the Embassy of the State of Israel to Belarus. Return

  69. Chernaya kniga, op. cit., pp. 220-224. Return

  70. Author's archive. Return

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