I was born in year 1922 in the town of Dokshitz in the Vilna District. My parents were musicians. Our family included five children and our parents; all but one of which were slaughtered in the Holocaust. This one brother survived because he served in the army and afterwards stayed to live in the town of Tashkant. Later, he moved to Poland.
We studied in town. I finished seven years of learning in 1935. Later, it was difficult to continue studying and I stayed at home. When the Red-Army entered the town in 1939 I began to work at the local post office. My father, being a musician, could not find enough work, and so I helped with the household income. When the Germans entered the town in the summer of 1941 I quit the post-office job and tried to escape to Russia. During our escape we met officers of the Red-Army who ordered us to return immediately to the town and to our jobs - They did not believe us when we said that the Germans were close to our area.
So I worked at the post office until the last moment, and helped running the branch. I stayed and work that whole night and in the morning, the Germans entered the town.
The Germans started making trouble. immediately entering the town, with the help of the cooperating Poles, they began to steal property and put fear into the population.
I remember an evening when we sat so terrified as to not even take our clothes off. Suddenly - a knock on the door. We were forced to open the door, since the Germans would forcefully enter if their knocks went unheeded.
The door opened and a German soldier entered accompanied by a Polish cooperator. They demanded we give them boots, clothing and other things. We kept the good clothing hidden and gave them the rest. When they saw the boots on out feet, they ordered us to shed them and hand them over. That same night, they were back for a cock which they had seen in the yard. Then, the German aimed his pistol at my father, pushed him against the wall and said: "You are a Jew, and as you know, Jews do not live among us". We remained rooted at these words and we understood that our end was near. Meanwhile, they took the cock and left. For fear of death, we went to our relatives' house - we could not stay at home. The rumors about what the Germans were doing to the Jews caused us tremendous fear. This lasted about three months until Dokshitz was made into a ghetto.
The Murder of Jews in Dokshitz
During the evenings I had talked about before, when the Germans visited our house, they killed Scheinman the shoemaker. They then came to the house of Rabbi Laib Shainen (our neighbor), took him outside to the yard, put his head on a brick, and with another brick they hit his head until blood spurted out. By a miracle he stayed alive for a short time after that but in excruciating agony.
The Death of My Father
Some time after the incident with the cock the Germans took seven Jews, one of which was my father. They said they were looking for a communist, but actually it was not the name or occupation of the man that they were really interested in, but the number of persons. They had to show their officers that they had carried out their orders.
My father's name was Israel Friedman and in the town there was another man by the same name who was politically involved. They looked for this man and when they heard that my father had the same name, they took him with no further questions.
The S.S. soldiers took the seven Jews, held them for three days, shaved their heads, led them to an area where they were forced to dig their own graves , and shot them on September 16, 1941.
They also forced other people to do hard labor such as digging graves and trenches.
We suffered from a shortage of food stuffs. We had flimsy relations with the locals, and those who still had things to sell, sold to us what little they had.
We wore yellow patches on our clothes and we were forbidden to walk on the sidewalks. We also had to take our hats off for every German soldier.
The Ghetto in Dokshitz
In the winter, in the end of December the Dokshitz ghetto was formed. The Germans appointed a managing council to the ghetto -"Judenrant". The head of the Judenrat was Ya'acov Butwinik.
The Judenrat fulfilled the Germans' wishes without being abusive towards the Jews.
The ghetto was made up of a few streets. Life was difficult as each house was filled with fifteen to twenty people. The ghetto was guarded on the outside by Polish and Russian cooperators, but not from the inside. We'd go to work in groups and it was very difficult to bring food into the ghetto. I remember a cold winter, when we had nothing to warm the house with. We looked for a way to light the stove. My younger brother sneaked quietly into the market, to buy wood. He was very frightened and careful but was found by the guards. He made a deal with a Polish farmer to bring his wagon with the burning wood into the ghetto. A guard walked behind him, he was arrested and taken to the police station. They held him for over half a day and we were worried sick. We ran to the Judenrat and he was finally released after receiving 25 lashings with a rubber stick. He barely made it to the ghetto. His entire body was covered with blue marks. I shall never forget this. A group of people got organized to leave the ghetto and my elder brother was one of them., The escape was canceled when everyone was made to understand that the whole ghetto would be exterminated in case of escape.
The Germans continued in demanding all valuables from the Jews as well.
The Extermination of the Ghetto. The First Action.
On the eve of Passover, 1942 the Germans began the extermination of the ghetto. They killed fifty to sixty men in this first act.
They gave an order with specific names and murdered them in Dokshitz. The main grave was near the old Jewish cemetery. I did not know who the first killed were.
The Extermination of the Ghetto. The Second Action.
The second extermination act took place on "Lag Ba'omer" (the 33rd day of the Omer) when 50% of the ghetto residents were murdered. The Germans went from house to house and gathered the Jews from wherever they found them. Those who hid in the pits and the bunkers stayed alive for the time being. The ones gathered were taken to a German officer. He picked out the ones who were fit to work and spared those. There were not many.
I hid in the cellar. We were twelve people there. My elder brother and his wife and the Shapiro family. My mother was in another building. We were separated while running away. The Germans and Russians searched the cellars and bunkers and took out whoever they found. They also reached our hideout. In the house where we hid lived a fellow who worked with the local police. He had a sister who remained in his house and he asked the police to spare her life. They demanded that he show them where she was. He had no choice and showed our hideout. The Germans ordered everyone out or else they'd shoot everyone. We all came out and we were taken to the classification area. One step before the final slaughter.
I Am Saved From Death
I was taken to the place where the German officer stood. My elder brother, who was a tailor, was sent with his wife back to the ghetto I stayed there with my younger brother. We told the Germans that were the brother and sister of the man he just sent back but to no avail. He would listen to nothing. We worked but had no papers to prove it. Nearby stood a policeman with whom I went to school. He knew that we were working and convinced the German to let us go. The German believed him and we were sent back. From this place, where the classifying was done, the rest of the Jews were taken to the pits and were killed.
There were people brought to the area that tried to hide or to run away - maybe a miracle shall occur. They began to lift the floor boards in order to try to hide under the floor. The Germans saw that the number of people was too small. They found the hiding place and pulled people out by the hair. They beat them with rubber Sticks so much that I do not understand how they managed to stand up. Finally they killed everyone.
In this action more than 50% of the ghetto residents were killed. From the pits we returned to the ghetto. The situation calmed a bit but we were still very scared. Later I succeeded in seeing my mother who was in another bunker which the Germans did not as yet discover. We stayed together for a while.
The Final Extermination of the Ghetto
At the end of May, 1942 the S.S. men arrived and surrounded the ghetto. The Jews began again to hide in the bunkers, but this time the Germans knew about it in advance, found everyone and took them. At this time I was all ready out of the ghetto.
My Hideout at the Polish Gentile's Place - Borisovitch.
I had some acquaintances among the Poles. A Polish gentile, Borisovitch, helped me by employing me at his restaurant during the ghetto period. I asked him to let me work for him during the extermination. He took pity on me and agreed, and thus saved my life. On the night before the final slaughter I went to the restaurant where I worked and hid in the attic. I stayed there a few days and nights while the extermination went on inside the ghetto, and later managed, with difficulties, to move into Borisovitch's house.
During the slaughter, my mother and two brothers were murdered. Borisovitch did not fear the Germans and was not worried that I'd be found with him. He had two sisters and an old mother, who did not even know what went on in town. His sister gave me support and strength. She helped me not to lose my mind.
Borisovitch decided to save me. He hid me in a closed room and his sister would bring me food. The Germans did not especially search the Polish houses and did not imagine that the Poles could hide Jews inside the village. The Germans would enter the house, but not to search, only to find a place to rest. The greatest fear was from the neighbors.
I hid with Borisovitch during a year and three months. I lived in comfortable conditions with a humane treatment from his family. Later, some partisans by the name of Razionovtzi arrived in town. They set fire to the parts of town where the Germans resided and thus killed them. This happened in August 1943.
At this time I came out to the town and made contact with the partisans.
My Stay with the Partisans
When the partisans entered our house I told them I was a Jew and I would like to join them. They answered that they had no time to take me with them but instead they would bring me to their Headquarters and there they would decide what to do with me. I was taken to the H.Q. in a village near Dokshitz. In the H.Q. they were surprised at how a Pole managed to save a Jew and they thought I was a spy. They did not take me in since I was without a weapon and also a girl. I was left in the village of Kromivitch with a Russian peasant so that I could help her with the farm work. I was there for six months until the winter.
After a short time I heard of people from our town that were with the partisans. One of them was Zelik Tilis, who was in a different brigade out of our area.
In the village where I was, there was a second brigade by the name of Zelesniak, where Zalman Kramer fought. He helped me very much in all ways and especially to leave the house of the Russian peasant where I suffered for lack of food.
Thanks to him I joined the partisans. Not his brigade, but the brigade named after Kotozov, where Zelik Tilis also fought. This was because in the brigade of Zalman Kramer there were many antisemites who would not accept women and of course not weaponless. So I will never forget the help offered me by Zalman Kramer in these hard times. In the beginning with the partisans, I worked in the Kitchen.
After a short while we were surrounded by the Germans. Just before this took place, I came down with typhoid. I lay in the partisan hospital (a tent), near Polcek with high fever. I was sick for a month and when I finally got well, the Germans attacked from all directions. We had to escape from this area to a swamp area where we lay for a few days. the people were separated. Many were lost and many died. During the attack I was with a group of partisans. We had no choice but to break the siege by fighting the Germans. We were lucky enough to break through but only a third were left of the partisans and the rest were killed.
Until the siege I had no weapon because there were not enough for everyone. I was wounded from shrapnel that is in my body to this very day.
Freedom - 1944
After the siege we came back to our former place. We were there for some time until we heard the front nearing. A short time later we were released in July 1944.
We had nothing to go to Dokshitz for. The whole town was burnt and not one Jew was left. We stayed out of Dokshitz in a town by the name of Dolginov.
Some time later, the post office was opened in Kravitz where Borisovitch worked. He was also the manager of the post office in Dokshitz before the war. He heard that I stayed alive and together with other girlfriends, he called me back from the partisans. I started working at the post office.
I worked there until 1945 when I was taken to Moladechna. There, I worked a short time, was released and moved to Vilna.
In June 1946 I married Yosef Paran. After the wedding I quit working. My husband was a photographer and we lived in Vilna until we left for Poland in 1957. We settled in Lignitz where we lived a year and eight months.
We arrived in Israel in 1958. My husband, my two sons and I settled in Beer-Sheva.
(In Memorium to the Heroic Partisan Yidl Yessen)
Yidl Yessen was born in 1914 in Tumilovitsh, in the Dokshitz region. He and his entire family lived in the village of Dzedszhin until 1942. When the German army occupied that area, the Jews from Dzedszhin were gathered into the Dokshitz ghetto.
Yidl succeeded in getting out of the ghetto before the first slaughter. He hid with peasants that he knew. It was there that he received the joyous news that his wife and mother saved themselves as well and were hiding in the Gluboki ghetto. He succeeded in getting in there and took his wife with him. Both of them got set up in a partisan detachment. As one who was born in the village and grew up in the region near the Berezinaz River, he knew the area well. The leaders of the partisans chose him as a navigator and as a liaison officer with the peasants. His deliberate, calm, cold blooded and calculated nature always aided him in carrying out his missions. A measured speaker, he always considered and listened first, thought about the issue and later spoke his opinion.
In December of 1942 Yidl arrived once more in the Gluboki ghetto. This time to take out youth and arms. When the Jüdenradt heard about his trip, they were ready to extradite him to the Germans. He was successful in escaping back to the partisans, taking with him Leybele Rapaport (today in Israel) and his sisters Shifra and Rokhke (the latter a nurse, today in America).
Yidl wanted to save his mother. He sent liaisons to the Gluboki ghetto several times until he succeeded, in March 1943, in seeing her. Every day she would go do manual labor with other Jews, to the Krulevshtshine train-junction-station, 18 kilometers from Gluboki. A peasant woman awaited her there and led her away into the forest.
In that period I was with Yidl in the forest. His sister Itke, his brother Leyble, Mendl (the grandson of the Jewish ritual slaughterer of Dokshitz ) and Sholem-Ber Freedman.
Our group encountered a German army unit in the village of Zashtsheshle, in the Haloybitsh region, in January 1943. A bitter
battle ensued. That is when Yeshayahu Sosman fell (born in 1910 in Dokshitz ). Under the hail of bullet Yidl carried out his dead body and buried him in the village of Rotshni, in the Dokshitz region, in the sandy earth at the shore of the river.
Earlier Yidl had taken part in a partisan action against the German garrison in Dokshitz together with Sosman. They burned down a steam mill, which had served the Germans. Sholem-Ber Freedman was wounded in that action.
In February 1943, the Germans carried out a blockade against the partisans. Their guide was Anton Trus, a brother-in-law of the Dokshitz police commander, Komulka. Trus, from Dokshitz, like his brother-in-law, gave the Jews a lot of troubles and their bestiality, at times, advanced the German murders. In the Rotshne village, Yidl stood at an observation point in a garret; just as he noticed the Germans approaching he pointed his rifle at Trus and laid him out dead. Yidl's joy was great that he had succeeded in taking revenge on such a criminal and then he escaped from the Germans.
In the evening, on May the 1st, Propelitsh and Krulevshtshine. The train traffic stood still for three full days on such an important route for the Germans as the Krulevshtshine - Molodetshne-Minsk train route. Yidle also set up the destruction materials. He knew that in the village of Zamoshe, two kilometers from the well-armed and guarded garrison in Krulevshtshine, the advancing Red Army had entered and thrown weapons in a well. Additionally, the area was not far from the Germans and Yidl succeeded in getting the weapons and separating the explosive materials to use in blowing up the train tracks.
In the beginning of 1943, near the Aszure in the Holubitz Pushtshe, food and arms were air dropped, sent from Moscow. We were marched into the partisan group that carried the name of its commander, Piyetya Tshorni (later, it came to light that he was a Jewish boy by the name of Peysakh Shvartz.) Our assignment was to find out details about those stationed in the area German garrisons, transports that left to and came from the front, the numbers of divisions and names of the officers. Thanks to Yidl we were successful in getting a contact with the train depot supervisor in Krulevshtshine and with several of the men who linked the cars together. From them
we received almost daily useful intelligence and information, which were very significant for us.
Thanks to that connection we were able, at the end of May 1943, to lay a mine under a platform on which there were German motorcyclists. 9 of them were killed.
What a circumstance now, after so many years, to recall all of the heroic acts of Yidl Yessen. I remember that in the month of March, 1944, we got an order from the other side of the front to put together a plan of the shtetl Gluboki, the positions of machine guns, rifles, tanks, numbers of German soldiers, etc. Thanks to our contact with a representative of the police commandant, with whom we met in the village of Ivanovshtshizne, as well as with the neighborhood commissar's secretary and the old engineer, Shklenik, we go the plan of the shtetl and the necessary intelligence. It came to be in the following way:
We needed to take the plan from a Christian near Krulevshtshine. It was a light night that was laden with danger for Yidl and me. Despite this we arrived safely at the designated place. We were also hungry and it was decided that we would not stay hiding there, rather go get a bite to eat in the village of Lipove. It later came to light that there were Germans hiding there, whose assignment it was to grab "a tongue," meaning&endash;a living partisan. Because of the lightness of the night we did not see them, hiding behind the little houses, when they did see us quite well and let us go undisturbed into the village. We knocked with certainty on the window of a house. All at once the nearby stable, covered with a straw roof, caught on fire from German shots and the area became bright as day. We decided to escape through the house and tore off the door&endash;but German soldiers awaited us there with drawn rifles. Yidl with his gun and I with my machine gun, opened fire, tore through, jumped out through the window and ran. Once again, Yidl's cool blooded nature caused us to be saved. He yelled to me, "Don't run to the swamp, let's go towards Krulevshtshine." It later turned out that the Germans were waiting all around the paths to the swamps where the partisans had their bases. We would have certainly fallen in their hands, if not for Yidl's cool calculations.
In the beginning of April 1944, Yidl got sick. I was successful, after much difficulty, to bring
him the one doctor who was among the partisans Lekakh. He quickly determined that Yidl was sick with Typhus. Just then the big German siege and encircling of the partisans began, the so-called Ushatz Blockade. In such attacks we used to just gather ourselves in an area near a German garrison and purposefully wait out the difficult times there. But now we couldn't carry out our trick, because Yidl was sick.
The Germans brought tremendous military force from the front to that blockade and together with general Vlasov's soldiers; they made the circle around the partisans smaller, bombed them from the air and ground artillery. Many fell and were sacrificed. There was no other way out other than tearing through the blockade, notwithstanding the high price of sacrificed lives. Colonel Rodyonov led the breakthrough of the blockade because the partisan leader of the Ushsatz region left everything and escaped from the critical area by airplane.
Rodyonov gathered all of the machine guns and automatic weapons and thanks to their concentrated fire, they were able to break through the German encirclement. The colonel himself was seriously wounded and later died. That man, Rodyonov, who had served under Vlasov serving the Germans, was stationed in Krulevshtshine and sneaked over to the partisans--and as he had in Krulevshtshine he did in Dokshitz, kill many Germans and their accomplices. It was an important act of revenge for us Jews against the offenders.
On the 4th of May 1944, at one o'clock in the afternoon, in the village of Rembo, the partisan Yidl Yessen fell in a heroic death. Although he was weakened by illness, with gun in hand he took part in the battle against a German division. He fell in battle like a dear soldier of the Jewish partisan-army in the terrible years of the Second World War.
May his memory be honored.
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