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[Pages 525-559]

Chapters of Life as A Fighter with the Resistance

By Avraham Friedman in Cholon, Israel

Translated by Eilat Gordin Levitan

*A comment by the editor; based on an interview by Bulak and Rozka Korchak form “Moreshet,” the Foundation to Commemorate and Publish Information in the name of Mordechai Anilevich.

I saw the first light in my hometown of Dolhinov in 1918. I was raised by my mother Chana and my father Meir Leib Friedman Z”L. As most of the Jewish children my age in Dolhinov, I studied in the Hebrew School Tarbut, and graduated in 1935. The financial situation at home prevented me from continuing my education. I was compelled to join my father so we could support the large family. Our family included 8 souls. We were six children, and I was the second oldest. I was only 13 when my mother passed away in the year 1931.

A few years after I joined my father at work, my father passed away. In 1937 I was the only adult left at home to take care of the small children. Since my oldest brother had to leave Dolginovo for his business. My grandfather, who lived in town, took care of us with much love and care, and I joined him in his blacksmith's shop. At first I worked with him in his workshop, and later, when the Soviets came to the area (1939), they closed the shop and the Soviet authorities hired us. It was still more then eighteen months before we encountered the real horrors of the war in our area.

At first on September 17, 1939, the entire area became part of the Soviet Union. There was a civil authority established in town. My grandfather and I started working as blacksmiths for the new Sovhoz. The head of the sovhoz was a non-Jew by the name of A.M. Timczok. I worked there until the middle of 1940. During that year I turned 22 and it seemed that I matured a lot that year. As the Soviets arrived, I saw new opportunities opening for me and I realized that my future didn't belong in the blacksmith's profession.

The Soviet authorities and the Red Army organized a school for auto mechanics in the town of Vishneyova in the region of Baranovich. I traveled there and was tested and was accepted to study. This was some time at the end of 1940. We started the school in the beginning of 1941, so as the war started between Germany and the Soviet Union in June 22, 1941, I was stuck in Vishneyova.

Escaping On Out Of the Way Roads

Pandemonium spread in town as soon as people found out about the invasion, two of my colleagues in school and I decided to walk to Minsk. Naively we thought that Minsk, which was the capital of White Russia, would be a safe haven for us and there the Red Army would organize and beat the Germans swiftly. Not in our worst nightmares did we imagine the devastation that would soon unfold amongst the ranks of the Red Army and the civil population.

Together with two guys, natives of the town of Oshmany, we walked toward Minsk. On the way we rested at the outskirts of the town of Rakov (a mile away from the old 1920-1939 border between Poland and the Soviet Union). Here we met other Jews from the neighboring towns who were fleeing the Germans. They attempted to enter Minsk and from there to go east deep in the Soviet Union away from the battlefields. While we were all discussing the situation, all of a sudden, people from Horodok arrived, and they had a horrible tale, saying that the Germans already controlled the town. We refused to listen to them and continued on our way, but as we came closer we found out that they were telling the truth. The German regular army was already in the town of Rakov. This took place on Wednesday, the 25th of June, 1941, the fourth day of the war between the Soviet Union and Germany.

At this point we found no alternative but to stay in Rakov and the next day we would continue. The Germans, during that day, ordered all the people (not just the Jews) to gather in a central location in Rakov. After standing there for three hours, they divided us, Jews on one side, Christians on the other. While they were separating us, I encountered two young people who I knew. One was from Molodechno, the other from Rakov. They were caught as soldiers in the Red Army and were now put among the POWs. There were many, many confused Soviet stragglers who had gotten lost during the initial turmoil. Despite the fact that my two friends were in civilian clothes, they were recognized as soldiers of the Red Army and were immediately killed. Although there were other POWs who were split into Jews and non-Jews, the Jews were forthwith killed.

The name of my friend from Rakov who was killed was in front of my eyes was Yitzhak Yitzhaki, the other one from Molodechno, I don't remember his name. We were held together with the other Jewish men from Rakov in the central market until evening came, and then they let go of all the Jews and everyone returned to their homes. I went to sleep in Horodok, and the next morning a few people who arrived there from Smorgon suggested we all go to Smorgon. I agreed and together we left. After a long, tiring walk, we arrived in the town Gotkovich, between Molodechno and Smorgon. We were exhausted so we decided to stay there. We stayed there for two days, and I pondered my future and decided to leave the other guys and walk to Dolhinov. I thought it would be better to be with my family during the hard days to come.

Two of the guys from Smorgon decided to join me. We first went to Molodechno on the way to Dolhinov. All of a sudden I encountered a herder of horses and cows who studied with me in the course for car mechanics in Vishneyova. It was June 30, 1941. He said, “Stop, don't go to Molodechno. They are collecting all the Jews and planning to kill them.” He said that he knew that already many had been killed. We listened to him and immediately fled deep into the forest to bypass Molodechno and continue on.

The next morning we went to the road and found out that the main force of the German Army had not arrived yet. We walked during the second week of the war, on the first and second of July 1941. We passed about 19 kilometers, out of the 37 kilometers that would take us to the road between Kurenets and Dolhinov, we arrived at the tiny town of Koshtinevitz, where there lived few Jewish families. We found the Jewish homes had been destroyed, and there were rumors that the local Christian people had been responsible for the destruction. We didn't ask any questions and immediately continued on our way, but shortly we found out that there was no way to avoid the “negative elements”. We encountered three Christian people who had worked with me when I worked in the sovhoz that Timczok managed. They were carrying sacks, planning to loot from the Jews. From afar they recognized me and started running toward us. We ran very fast to avoid them. All of a sudden we heard a shot. We saw a German army car following us and shooting. I was wounded. we had no choice. We stood at the side of the road, lifted our hands in the air. At the point where the Germans arrived, the three who chased us also arrived. They started shouting to the Germans, “They are communists, Jewish communists.” The three Germans stood in front of us with weapons drawn ready to shoot, and I thought that this was to be our end. All of a sudden a German Oberkebbel came by. He seemed like a very compassionate person. Surprisingly he treated the Christian men very negatively and ordered them to go away. He told the other Germans soldiers that they should let us go.

So like this I arrived in Dolhinov, beaten up through my entire body. Immediately I went to the hospital to get first aid. I received first aid from Doctor Kottler. Despite the fact that he was very fearful that the German authorities would say that he aided a soldier of the Red Army, he took good care of me. and as soon as he was done I went to my grandfather's house, where I recuperated from all the troubles I encountered on the road.

Struggles and Search for a Savior

Finally I was at home. My body was still wounded and all my limbs were hurting, and they put gauze on my wounds. Three days passed and I was still lying down, very fearful, thinking that if the Germans and their helpers saw me wounded and bandaged, they would be suspicious that I was a soldier in the Red Army who had fought against them and I would receive some more blows. So I contemplated how I could get out of this predicament. Slowly my friends found out that I had returned, and they came to visit me. For hours we sat talking, wondering what we should do, or what we could do.

One day, when a few girls came to my room, they announced that some German was entering the house. Everyone ran and hid, but I couldn't go anywhere. I stayed. He came in and greeted me with the common greeting, “Gutten Tag.” Surprisingly, he immediately started talking to me as if we were friends, without any arrogance. He asked if he could get some milk, and after I gave him some, I realized there was some kind of chemistry between us and he felt some kind of closeness to me. I never found out who this man was, but since that day he kept coming to visit us. He would come and visit with my friends and I and talk about different issues. Sometimes he would stay with us all day until evening came. His presence and his conversation with us pushed me as if a burning fire had been lit in me to find ways to save myself. Already at that point I thought of a way to organize the Jewish people and to find a shelter, hoping that there was a way to save the souls of many of my friends and family. I felt a strong need to hear what was happening in the world. I couldn't believe the stories of the Germans, who said that they had already conquered Moscow and everything was lost for us. I had a strong desire to listen to the news on the radio, but radios were not to be found, since already before I arrived, all the Jews had been ordered to bring their radios to the Gmina, the police station, as ordered by the Germans.

One day I had a visit from Mulka Kuritsky, a native of Donilevich (Dunilovichi ) who moved to Vilna some years before the war (he had relatives in Dolginovo). He was a technician of mechanical, electric, and radio. Together with his friend David Shuster, he now was forced to work for the Germans. He knew where all the confiscated radios were stored since he was the one who initially put them there. On the day when he came to visit me the Germans ordered the Judenrat to bring a radio for them. Since the Jews had no radios left, he secretly went to fetch a radio from the stash of the confiscated radios, I decided to go with him and take another radio for us. Now a small group of my friends, among them my cousin Mitzia Friedman and his brother in law; Shimon Shapira, who escaped from the town of Postov (Postavy) and came to Dolhinov, joined us. We would listen to the radio every day. My cousin Mitzia Friedman later was killed during the partisan battles in 1944, and his brother-in-law Shimon Shapira survived and lives in Canada.

Mulka Kuritzky fell in battle with the Germans in 1942. David Shuster lives with us in Israel in the town Ashdod. Other people would come once in a while to listen to the radio. One time a non-Jewish friend of mine, a guy from a Polish background by the name of Vlodia Maslovsky came by (we did not tell him about the radio). His uncle, a man by the name Vulak was appointed burgermeister (mayor) and he suggested that his nephew become a member of the local collaborator police. Vlodia was friendly with many of the Jews and as in the past he would continue his friendly relationship. He spoke German, Yiddish, and even knew some Hebrew, and had no desire to work in the police that was collaborating with the Germans. He came to us to ask for advice and I suggested that it would be good for us Jews if he was amongst the German collaborators so that we could get information from him about what things were about to occur, so I encouraged him greatly to join the police.

I don't remember if it was at the end of July or the beginning of August 1941. One evening we sat and listened to the radio broadcasts from London, and we heard a speech in Polish that announced the details of a new agreement between the British government and the Polish government in exile in London. This was the speech by General Shikorsky. Immediately we wrote the details of the speech and we made many copies that we secretly left for the Polish collaborator police. We wanted them to know what the government in exile was doing, and know that the war had not ended, and that there was a fight for the liberation of Poland. Despite the fact that we knew them all and that we recognized that many of them were unfriendly toward us, and that they collaborated fully with no hesitation with the Germans, we were sure that they could not ignore this information as patriots of Poland. We left one for Takovich, who was the secretary of the police, to the policeman Vlodia Maslovsky who was our friend, and Maletzko the policeman.

My sister and other young girls worked for the Germans at that time. Mostly they cleaned the police station, and we used the girls to sneak the materials into the station. When Vlodia found his pamphlet, he immediately realized that this had been my doing. He came to me and asked where I had gotten the information after confronting me that I had to be the one who did it. I answered that I had communication with some Polish teachers in nearby villages and they had told me that, but I don't know if he believed me. I later suggested that he should get a radio. He was very excited and accepted. I asked him to help me and during that evening Mulka Kuritzky and I together with two policemen, Takovich and another one, took a radio to his house. From then on we would come to his house to listen to the news. This sharing of the radio assisted us later on, since that evening, Vlodia, Takovich, and a third policeman became our confidants. We started thinking of ways of communicating with the underground. The three collaborators felt uncomfortable about serving the Germans. They were patriotic Polish and wanted to do something about it, so one day they came and suggested that they would give us money so that we could buy weapons and start a partisan unit containing both Polish and Jewish people. We spoke about the need to go to the forest, but at this point it was only talk. This plan never materialized.

All this occurred during the first months of the occupation, in July, August and September of 1941.

Meanwhile there were rumors that the Germans were planning to erect a ghetto for all the Jews in Dolginovo. Although these rumors actualized only six months later, after the first Action, but for me it was enough to hear even a hint of it to understand that it was like a seismograph alerting us about the danger to come. I was aware of the evil that was coming that the Jews of the town would be annihilated. Despite the German commissar's promises to the members of the Judenrat that the murders of Jews being killed in small number every few weeks were merely isolated incidents, and that in the future things would be organized and the Jews would work for them. I was not delusional and I clearly foresaw the annihilation. As soon as the rumors of the establishment of a ghetto spread, I had a strong desire to leave town and go to the small villages of the area amongst my good non-Jewish friends, where I felt I could survive. But from the very beginning I understood that this could not only be to save myself. I must save as many as I could. At the end of October of 1941, I left with my cousin Mizia Friedman for a village where the brother of Takovich lived. I told Takovich and his friend as well as my other friend that I didn't see myself living in a ghetto and I am going to search for ways to save as many people as I can.

I stayed with Mitzia in that village with the brother of Takovich for two weeks. I tried to find a way to save people, but I couldn't find any clear solution.

The Quiet before the Storm

We returned to Dolhinov at the end of October 1941. It seemed like everything was fairly unchanged. All the Jews of the town except for the old and the women who had young children worked as slaves for the Germans and their collaborators. The members of the Judenrat were responsible for the work schedule. They sent the different labor forces to where they were needed, and tried to make the life of the Jews a little easier. If someone was arrested, they tried to obtain his release by giving gold and expensive presents to the Germans, and usually they succeeded. They did their work with dedication and self-sacrifice, but the problem was that they believed too much in the power of gold. They thought that they would always be able to buy the hearts of the enemy. I couldn't believe that even for one minute. I never forgot my troubles during the first days of the war, the picture of the annihilated Jewish communities in the towns around the old border area near Rakov always came to my mind.

As 1942 arrived we started hearing information about the systematic annihilation of Jews in towns in what used to be the northeast part of Poland, in towns near and far from us. The information came more and more frequently, and I knew that we couldn't wait for a miracle. Eventually this bitter cup would be cast on Dolhinov, and all the power of gold could not save the Jews. So in the middle of March of 1942, 20 friends of mine came to my house. Amongst them was Mulka Kuritsky, Mitzia Friedman from Postov (Postavy), Gershon Alperovich, Eli Miyasel, David Shuster, Yakov Segalchik, and others who I cannot remember. We knew that we must escape to the forest, and that we must collect “warm” firearms as well as cold weapons (axes, knives, clubs, iron items), and food supplies. I said that we must do it collectively and divide the jobs among the different people and find a common ground since we all had different ideas of how this should be accomplished.

Here I would like to mention my friend Gershon Alperovich, one of the bravest and most dedicated friends among us. Shortly after, tragically, he was not amongst the living. He was murdered by one of the German S.D. Here I would like to give some details of his murder.

When the Soviets arrived, Gershon worked for the Soviet authorities in a responsible position. The Polish and the farmers in the area didn't like it, and as soon as the Germans arrived they wanted revenge. They gave his name, but it took some months before they found an opportunity to get rid of him. A few days after we met at my house he was sent by the Judenrat for some job in the nearby area. He was with fifteen Jews. Amongst them were my two brothers. They worked in a village where one of the villagers recognized Gershon and informed the Germans. The police from one of the towns came and imprisoned the entire group. They were all told to take their clothes off and they searched them. After they searched them, they gave them their clothes back and they were sent back to work except for Gershon. He was taken back to town since they found in one of his shoes a ribbon that the policemen would wear. He carried that for emergency situations. One of the girls who made those ribbons for the policemen gave him one. So now, as soon as he arrived in Dolhinov, all beaten, he was shot and killed.

Sadly, if the Judenrat had had even a few minutes to talk to the police, he would have been saved since they were willing to pay a large sum of money for his release. But it was not to be. Let these few lines be a memorial for him. So like this we lost one of the bravest and most talented men among us. Ten days passed without us doing anything constructive. We continued meeting and listening to the radio, especially the broadcasts from London and Russia. Not only the Polish and German news, but also the English news. Only rarely were we able to receive news from Moscow and Leningrad, but still we found out that they were organizing some partisan activities in the areas of Minsk, Smolensk and Bobrojsk. One day we were filled with excitement as we heard some whispers from the villagers who said that partisans came near and there were explosions in the train station of Knahinina near Kriviczi. Our eyes lit up and we were very ecstatic. We clearly realized that the partisans had arrived in our area, and immediately it made us search for a way to contact them. It was as if a holiday had arrived in our neighborhood. We looked around for information to find out if this was true.

With all the excitement we still had a problem that many of the young people had been sent to other towns. Sometimes young boys and a few older people were sent for days to Vileyka. At first we were told they were sent to work there but we later found out they were shot to death. Sometimes people would return, but they would be beaten up and wounded. People were sent there and many times they wouldn't return. This phenomenon continued.

One evening we sat in our house listening to the London radio. I heard a knock on the door and didn't know what to do. I was with Mulka, Mitzia, Shimon Shapira, and some women. At first I thought we were found and I hid the radio. I opened the door and two drunken men came in. One was a Jew and the second a Polish policeman. They announced that in the morning I must go to the Judenrat and from there to travel together with 20 other Jewish guys to unspecified location. The next morning I was there together with 20 other people. We were told that we were going to the front. Nobody wanted to go, and the Judenrat tried to prevent it from happening. My friend Vlodia Maslovsky came to the Judenrat and demanded that they not send me, and the Judenrat almost agreed to that, but when the others found out I was not going, they said, “If Friedman is not going, then I am not going.” I was too worried that the Germans would find out and that this would end badly so I said that I would go. So everyone went with the German guards, and I was appointed responsible for the rest of the group. We sat on a sled and we crossed the old Polish-Russian border. I was very happy to see that the German in command was sympathetic and he treated us with good manners. When I asked him where we were going, he told me that a truck that was filled with oil and other materials was stuck in the snow and that we were to go a long distance to get the truck out. When we arrived we saw that the truck was deeply stuck in the snow. I suggested that I take three German soldiers and together we could get the truck out. I took them to old Soviet Kholhoz and asked the villagers for 20 horses. We took the horses and when we returned to the place, the rest of the Jews had cleared the snow from around the area of the truck, and we tied the horses to the truck, and we were able to get the truck out. That night the entire group, together with the German guards, stayed for the night in the old Kholhoz and the next morning we arrived on horses in Dolhinov.

Days of Blood

Two days after the killing in Vileyka, on the 28th of March 1942, there was the Action in our town. I will not tell about the details of the Action, where 1500 Jews of our town were annihilated. Since many others have written about it, I will only tell about what I experienced during that time.

I knew nothing of it, but during that night, S.S. soldiers who were assigned for the killing arrived with the gendarmes from Vileyka and many other collaborating police from the nearby communities. Already in the early hours of the morning they started the killing. They went from one home to the next and took the Jews out. Many of the Christian population helped them and showed them the homes of Jews. I was in deep sleep and knew nothing of what occurred. My young brother woke me up and told me of what has transpired. He announced that the Germans had started the killing, and immediately I jumped outside and saw Jews running in panic, not knowing where to hide. I took my aunt and her children, my brother and my sister, and a few neighbors in the direction of where the Christians lived to the house of my friend Vlodia Maslovsky, and the policeman Takovich. When we asked them to shelter us, they were too afraid. They said they could hide me but they were afraid to hide such a large group.

So immediately I ran with the group to the area of the empty barns of the Christians. I broke the doors of one of the barns and the entire group entered. I locked the door. I didn't stay there, I went on top of the roof of a certain house and took off the hay and I jumped inside. I lay on the roof and could see a lot of what was happening in town. I didn't know what had happened at that point to the group I locked in the barn. In this area there were many collaborators, and since they knew me well they looked for me, but they couldn't find me. Late at night I climbed down from the roof and went to the policemen. Two fearful nights I passed at the house of the Polish policemen. I was very fearful about the fate of my brother and sister, my aunt and her children, and the neighbors that I had hid in the barn. After two days passed I left my hiding place. When I walked through the streets on the way to my home I encountered many bodies still lying where the killers had got them. When I arrived at the house, I saw that all the Jews I hid in the barn had survived. The owner of this barn eventually found them and let them go, and didn't give them to the Germans. They didn't eat for two days at that point, but they encountered a Jewish family, the poor family of Rishka Leib Wulwuls' (as she was called), who gave them food and water and saved them.

Slowly people started getting out of their hideouts in the basements, attics, bunkers, and other hiding places that they had built. The Germans informed the Judenrat that now there would be no more Actions and that everyone who had survived to this point would live together, work for them, and no one would be disturbed. At this point I knew that this would not be true, but what choice did we have? We were ordered to collect the bodies and bury them. Together with all the survivors I helped gather the bodies and brought them to a brotherly grave. This site of horror will not leave my memory until my last day on earth. I will not forget this. Like this the first action in Dolhinov was done. 1500 souls were killed, amongst them entire families, and we the survivors became lost shadows living in the memories of the dear ones we lost. We walked around with no purpose. How could we ever overcome this torture and agony? Only a few were able to still think of fighting, and I was among them. I couldn't accept it. I must survive and have revenge.

The Ghetto

After we collected the bodies and buried them, we were told that we would all be moved to a ghetto. All the Jews were ordered to leave their homes and to take only minimal provisions—a few clothes, bedding, and a few food products and we were all to go to the ghetto. There was one street, Borisov, where the ghetto was located. I am sure that the Germans were already planning the second Action, and for that reason they decided to collect the Jews in one very small and narrow area, so that it would be easier to annihilate them when the time came.

The Jews also tried to learn from the first experience, and as soon as they arrived they built hiding places in their new homes. I, as I told you before, would not go to the ghetto, and after talking to my friends, I went to look for a place to hide. I went to the village where the brother of Takovich lived. At that point I knew there was a partisan unit, but I didn't know how I would contact them. When I returned to Dolhinov a week later, I found out that there was a fence around the ghetto. I joined the workers who built the fence so together with Yakov Segalchik we would be able to make certain areas in the fence from which people could escape. We tried to make some sort of camouflage for the areas that would avail us to escape. The Judenrat announced that the Germans were asking us to establish a Jewish police inside the ghetto. The job would be to watch the Jews from the inside and also to distribute the food that the Germans provided. Outside of the ghetto there was a Polish police that contained ten young people from the town who guarded the fence. A few days after I returned to the town, there was an announcement that the Germans had arrived in town. I don't remember if it was the S.D. or the S.S. or the gendarmes from Vileyka, but they told the Judenrat that they wanted cigarettes. Beryl Baruk collected the tobacco but there was hardly anything left for them to barter with, and I knew that this was very bad. I wanted to escape from the ghetto.

Later that evening we found out that the Germans and collaborators surrounded the ghetto. I knew that this was our last hour and that we must leave. If we did not, we would not have another opportunity. I encountered Yakov Segalchik, but I didn't even have time to tell my brother to join me. Together with Yakov we went to the house where we had built an exit and we took out the bricks that hid the exit. As soon as I stuck my hand out, I saw that there were two Germans near the place, so this was not to be, so we walked around the fence and arrived into the synagogue. In the dark I saw the Polish police who stood guard by the fence, but I couldn't identify which one it was. But he recognized me and asked me in Yiddish, “Where are you going?”

I answered him, “I don't know what to do.”

He told me, “As long as I am not replaced here, you can leave, but after I am replaced, there is nothing I can do.”

He told his fellow guard, who turned out to be Takovich, the secretary of the local police. I informed him of what we were planning to do. At that point there were other Jews in the immediate area who wanted to join us, and Takovich agreed that this would be a good time to leave. So immediately about 10 left the ghetto to head for the fields. It was April 29 of 1942.

During that night, the people who left with me were Yakov Segalchik, Moshe Forman, Mikhail Lankin, Yehuda Ginsburg, Kalman Salim, Reuven Kramer, Ariel Leibe Rothstein, and Shimon Alesh. All of us separated, and I went deep into the forest. I went to a villager who I knew where I spent the next night and the day after. During three days, the 29th, the 30th of April and May 1st of 1942, the killers and the collaborators wreaked havoc in Dolhinov. At one point I decided to check the situation with the brother of Takovich, and I went on my way to his village and I passed by an isolated bathhouse. For some reason I entered the bathhouse and I heard talking. I recognized the voices of my neighbor, the three brothers Abba, Beryl, and Elie Moshe, the sons of the tailor Mendel Kuznitz. There was also their brother-in-law and another guy. They told me that they ran away during the Action, and the fourth brother stayed in the hiding place with other people. The Germans and other people found the hiding place and told the Jews to come out. Only a few came out. The other stayed there and the killers started shooting the hiding place. Their brother was wounded. We talked for a while, but then they decided it was unsafe there since it was too close to the road. They looked for a better hiding place, and I left for Takovich.

The next day, three of us went to Takovich's. When we arrived there we decided we should check what is happening in town. Takovich contacted his brother and told him where we were located, and asked him to find out what was happening in Dolhinov. He told us that we must wait a few days before returning. When we returned once again we found bodies spread everywhere and we found out that our Christian neighbors and friends from yesterday were now robbing and looting everything they could find. I went to the place where my grandfather's house used to be and I encountered some Jews, amongst them a woman who was badly wounded. She was 70 years old and no one could help her in her last minutes. She had stayed there like this since the day of the killings. That day she finally passed away. (the writer' sister perished) There were only a few Jews who survived a few who the Germans chose because they had useful professions. There were a few dozen who hid and who the Germans didn't discover.

Once again I collected all my friends, the ones who returned to see what had happened to their dear ones. We were 21 altogether, including Dr. Kottler. We knew we must leave, but once again an argument ensued. “How should we organize the departure and where should we go?” Dr. Kottler suggested we walk to Minsk where he had many acquaintances, that during the Soviet times had been his patients in the hospital. But he insisted that we should go in small groups. We decided that we would first send five people to check the roads, but everyone objected, saying that they wanted to join. I saw as my duty to take everyone, so I suggested they go to the forest, and Dr. Kottler, Mulka Kuritsky, and I with my cousin Mitzia would join them a few days later. I told them that we had to take care of our food supplies since we couldn't find food to sustain us in the forest. We could not ask the villagers to give us food since there was a chance they would give us to the Germans. They all agreed to stay in the forest while I, with my cousin Mitzia and M. Kuritsky, went back to town to collect all the food we could. The people who went to the forest were Shimon Shapira, Chana Brunstein, her brother Yosef Kozinitz, the brothers Enshel, Meir, and Shimshon Meirsom, Reuven Kramer, Ariel Rothstein and Shimon Alesh, Chaia and Aida Shulkin from Kuznitz, Eliyau Maisel, Yosef Baksht, and Avraham Yitzhak Shuster. After two days, two of the Meirsom brothers came back and demanded that I not forget the group in the forest. They were suspicious that my plan was to go with Dr. Kottler to Minsk. I told them not to worry that I would go to the forest with them to check on the situation and to let the others know I would not leave them. We went there that evening. It was about 7 km away. As I arrived I took with me four of the guys to find a better hiding place. From a far we could see a large thick forest and we knew that this was a good place to hide. We walked for many hours and started familiarizing ourselves with the different paths. After 24 hours we found a good place that was surrounded by a swamps and rivers. This was near the right bank of the River Vilya, near Kaminanya. To be more exact, between Shniki and Ragozina. The new hiding place lifted the spirits of my friends greatly. I left two people there and the two others came back with me to inform the other group where to go. We also contacted a hiding place in Karolin, where we knew that two Jewish families were hiding, the family of Gitliz the Blacksmith and Rafael Sasonsky and his family. We informed them that if the situation would become dangerous, they should contact us and we told them how to find us. My friends got the rest of the group and I returned to Dolhinov to finish the mission of collecting food supplies. I was never really able to finish the mission because two of my friends encountered the partisans and they returned telling me that the partisans were looking for me and that I must immediately go to the forest.

With the Partisans

The meeting with Timczok.

The story my two friends told me was amazing. So eagerly for a long time had I looked for the partisans to no avail, and here by accident it finally happened. When they told me the partisans knew me, I couldn't understand how. Here is what they told me: When they looked for a good place to cross the River Vilya, two partisans stopped them. When asked who they were, they said they were Jews from the town of Dolhinov. The partisans knew of the killing that had happened in Dolhinov a few days earlier, so they said to them, "Where did you work during the Soviet times?” They said they had worked in the Sovhoz Service for Timczok. Immediately the partisans took them to their leader, who turned out to be Timczok. He asked them to give all the details of the people who survived and as soon as he found out I had survived, Timczok asked them to locate me and to immediately bring me over. Clearly I instantaneously left and came to Timczok. As I found out, the partisan atriad headed by Timczok was still being organized, looking for a permanent base from which to coordinate resistance operations.

That day they decided on a place, and I, together with three other members of the group, came to the forest and met with Timczok. He came to us with two other partisans, who were sent from deep in the Soviet Union. Each one had a pistol in a holster that they carried on their shoulder, and our hearts shook with excitement because we had never seen such weapons. After seeing so many of our brothers killed and giving up hope that we could find the resistance, here they stood in front of us, so happy to see us. At this point we were still not confident enough to ask him to join his atriad. We decided to wait for a more suitable time because we still didn't have weapons, and we heard rumors they would not take anyone who did not have weapons. At this point Timczok wanted to find out what was happening in Dolhinov and other shtetls in the area. Although they had general information they did not know any details. They also wanted to find out information about the movements of the German army in the area and the numbers in their ranks. They asked me to return to town to find more information about the Germans and their collaborators, their numbers as well as the weapons they possessed and also what homes they occupied, and where they were concentrated, and any other details I could find.

I immediately realized that they were planning some kind of action in Dolhinov, and when I asked I was told that they were planning to attack the town. During that night my cousin Mitzia and I returned to town. We looked for Mulka Kuritsky who still worked for the Germans as a technician. Many times he would be working for the Oberfehr (the head German force?). I told him what information I needed and he drew an exact map of the house with all the details of the different rooms and the numbers of windows in each room. . Also the amount of oil they had as well as the different weapons and where they posted guards, where the collaborators were guarding, and many, many other details. As it turned out, once he gathered the information, he went to the house of Vlodia Maslovsky where he drew it up. At this point we didn't tell Vlodia what Mulka was drawing. I only asked Vlodia to go to the forest with us, without telling him about the partisans yet. I knew the Germans liked him very much and that he could be of great help in our mission.

The Raid on Dolhinov

It seemed that the Germans had found out about the mission, since Vlodia didn't meet us. When we were still there, talking to him, he was called by the police and he had no choice but to leave, though he promised to ride his bicycle back to meet us after a short time. So we stayed in the forest and waited and waited, but he never showed up.

The next day, the raid on Dolhinov started. Twenty-one Jews from Dolhinov were automatically added to the atriad and divided amongst the various units for this mission, though we were not yet officially members of the atriad yet. If we analyzed the mission from a military point of view, there were some failures. The organization was poor, and many of the fighters didn't have experience. This was truly the first true battle that the atriad took part in. There was a lack of experience with regards to keeping it secret, and the enemy found out that something was about to occur, and on the last minute they brought weapons from other bases, replacing rifles with automatic weapons. We did not know this information. Also, there were strategic mistakes about where to put different units, and there was no good communication between the units, and certain groups did not follow their instructions to open fire at midnight. They were so eager to start and to be the first to fight that the mission was uneven.

The unit that Segalchik joined had the most weapons, but for some reason their Politruk mistook the sound of fire thinking that the partisans from the other unit had already took control of the German positions. Fearing that his group would not take active part in the fight, he immediately told them to move forward and open fire. He was mortally wounded and with him was wounded the main shooter (sniper?) of the unit. On the other hand, my unit was waiting for the right time to be called to open fire without moving, and by the time we got the order, the Germans had already buttressed themselves in a house and it was impossible for us to take over. But for us, the Jews in the unit, it was a very successful mission despite the three or four people among the partisans that we could not retrieve. We were able to get weapons and other supplies that the Polish police had dropped as they fled. Another thing, we ran to the ghetto and told the Jews that they should run away. We said that now they had no choice. It was a sure thing that the Germans would get revenge on the Jews for helping the partisans. I don't know how much it influenced them, but I do know is that 150 people escaped and arrived in the forest.

Two or three days after this mission, what we felt would happen happened. On the 21st of May, 1942, the Germans annihilated the last three hundred Dolhinovers who were under the illusion that their professions and skills would let them survive.

The First Guerrilla/Sabotage Missions

A few days later, we were still staying outside the atriad's base. We were not yet officially accepted as members of the partisans. Timczok came to us and asked for two volunteers to be guides for a unit of saboteurs. They were planning to set explosive on the train tracks and to blow up a train that was filled with military supplies that were going to the front.

Everyone was quiet, and then I stood up and said I was ready to go wherever they wanted. Yosef Baksht (today –as I write this-- he is one of the few Jews who still lives in Dolhinov) also volunteered. I suggested that each one of us go with a different unit. Although others didn't volunteer, Timczok was very sensitive to our feelings and understood that we were all so exhausted and lacking in spirit from all that we witnessed, so he announced, “Nevermind, but rest a few days. You will take care of yourselves, get some rest, and then you will be good fighters.”

Timczok took us back to base for more instructions. Already, that evening, we left with a few partisans to go to the designated area. The train tracks between Vileyka and Kanahinina. The train was on its way to Poloczek. We came to the place and put explosives in a few areas. We tried to also put some explosives in another area, but we were unsuccessful. We were running out of time, so we had to quickly retreat. On the way back to the atriad, we blew up all the dairies in the villages that we passed through, for it seemed that they were supplying the Germans with milk. When wee originally went on the mission, I had no weapon, but Major Simkov, who belonged to that unit, gave me his weapon. This mission made the

Name of the partisan unit very renowned in the entire region.

Immediately when we returned the rest of the 21 Jews from Dolhinov were divided amongst the different units. I joined the Second Roda (Company?). [All the people who escaped from Dolhinov during the night of our attack on the town were now in a family camp near the partisans.

It was now July of 1942, and there were many old people, women, and children living nearby the partisans, and we felt obligated to help them with food supplies. We did everything we could to help all the people who had escaped from Dolhinov. There were even some Christian families there since during the Soviet times they had been members of the Communist party and now were fearful of the Germans. When I talked to the Polish families, they told me about a Christian woman by the name of Aviyetchik who was hiding in her home a Jewish doctor from Globoki with his wife and child. I do not remember his name, but the wife's name was Rachel Shperber from Globoki. Later on, I found out that the collaborators told the Germans. The Germans came. The Jewish young son, I am told, though very charming and pleading for his life, was killed along with his family as well as the family that sheltered them.

In a short time, more and more families came to the area from other towns. They came from Krivicz, Ilya, and Kurenets and other places where the Jewish communities had been annihilated. They walked around unsuitably dressed for life outdoors and starving. Life in the forest was very difficult for them. The headquarters of the partisans knew that they must do something about solving this problem, so after some deep discussions, they decided to move them past the front and deep into Russia. But for now they had other issues to deal with.

The Atriad “Revenge” (Atriad Narudny Mastitel)

I would like to say something about the history of Narudny Mastitel. During the months of November and December of 1941, a partisan unit started organizing in the Minsk area. This troop contained Jews, Byelorusians and Soviets from Russia. They left for the forest and this core unit was the first group that became the Revenge Atriad of Uncle Vasya, which was our Atriad.

Later on, they moved to the forest area of Pleshensitz-Lagojsk that was near Dolhinov, and that is where built their central base and began to prepare to fight the Germans. Later on this became the central base for almost all the units that started in the eastern part of Belarus.

The last month of 1941 and the very first month of 1942 were dedicated to organizing and training for the fight, and shortly thereafter they started their missions against the German enemy and their collaborators. The winter of 1942 was extremely difficult. The forest was entirely frozen and it made the fight very difficult. Also there were many disadvantages that they faced. There was a lack of ammunition as well as appropriate winter clothing. Also, the fighters were not chosen appropriately—They were not cohesive unit- they were more chosen according to their political habits, for example if they were Communist Party members, and many of them were not really fighters. Also, from the very start, the Germans were able to plant their collaborators and spies amongst them. Some of them were very clever and were able to disguise themselves, and they kept giving information to the Germans. The enemy knew much about the movements of the unit as well as the number of Jews and other information.

In my opinion there was a large percentage of Jews among them, about 60 to 70 percent. Sometime around the beginning of February of 1942, the Germans attacked the base. The people were not ready and the Germans, who knew a lot about where the guards were, were able to kill many people. Some who were wounded and others escaped came near our area, Kaminiya, Lashinsky, and Raguzina. These people became the seed for our atriad that became bigger in time.

In the meantime, the cold winter resulted in many of the people getting frostbite, and they could not be used in battle. In spite of this, people kept coming to join them. In every town, where people found out about the partisans, some would come to join. Eventually there was a partisan unit in the area of Ilya that was headed by Kavalkin, who was a Soviet officer who had been a POW. He escaped from the Germans with the help of Jews, and eventually he became involved with the Revenge Atriad. There was also another person in our Atriad named Kisilov whom many others mentioned. He was originally from the Ilya unit, and they were also joined in the middle of February of 1942 by another unit that came from Minsk that had been organized by Minsk. In March, another unit arrived from Minsk, and also put a base in the area. For that reason, the bases in our area Kaminya-Lashinsky and all the way as Pleshensitz-Lagoyshk forest became thee area where the Revenge Atriad was located. In May, 1942, when we came, the atriad had 450 people.

Even in May of 1942, they could not shake the memory of the original attack of the Germans. They were always fearful that there might be other spies amongst them. This suspicion caused some very tragic events. In May of 1942, a young Jew came from Minsks. He was about 18 years old. I don't know the details, whether he escaped from the original atriad when the Germans attacked, or what were the details of his leaving the atriad, but in a field trial he was found guilty as a deserter and shot to death.

Eventually it became the brigade called Narudny Mastitel. It was divided into different units. There was Atriad Borba, and there was Atriad Shtromboya. Each one had its particular duties.

One day the headquarters announced that all the family camps, together with all the partisans who had been wounded or had frostbite or were unsuitable for fighting would be taken past the front. This was organized with an agreement with the Red Army and the central Soviet authority. From then on, they all started busying themselves with preparations for their departure.

Also, Timczok chose some of original 21 people to go as guides and defenders. Among them were some Jews from Dolhinov, the brothers Meirsom, the brothers David and Avraham Itzhak Shuster, Reuven Kramer.

Everyone that was supposed to go was organized in a special base. There were more than 400 people who went to walk more than 1000 km, amongst them families, POW escapees who had been wounded, and also people who froze including the original partisans from Minsk. At the head of this mission, Kissilov, our unit's head, became the leader. Also, Victor Vladishev. The people were divided into two groups, and each one headed a group.

They decided that they should leave at either the end of July or the beginning of August of 1942, and everything was ready for them to go. I, together with my cousin Mitzia Friedman, was assigned to a different mission. At the beginning of July of 1942, when I was still with Kissilov and Vladishev, an officer came from the headquarters and notified Kissilov about a mission that must be done immediately. He put a map on the table and pointed to Borisov and the area east of Minsk, and said that he wanted to send scouts to check the roads and bridges since they were planning on putting explosives there. He said that the area was strategically important since it was near the main road to Smolensk by the river Berezina and the Dniepr on each side, and the entire area of Bobrojsk.

So the bridges in this area were strategically very important. After giving us very detailed instructions, I, together with Kissilov and another person, were told to go scout the area. We had two weeks to do our mission, so during the first week of July we left and the first night we slept in one of the villages in the area. The next morning we arrived in the village Vobrova in the Pleshensitz area. IT was during the Soviet times it was a Kholhoz. This was the very edge of the partisans' area of control. There was a partisan unit 3 km from the village. On the other side, there was a German unit. We looked for the head of the village, but it was very rainy so we had to enter one of the houses, and that's where we spent the night. We had guns and grenades. The owners of the home and the neighbors didn't know who we were and did not ask questions. Clearly none of them knew I was Jewish, so I Was very surprised when a man wearing a Red Army uniform came directly to me and said, “I am Smolnik from the Atriad Borba. My wife is Jewish. She is here with our children. She is a physician, and I think it is very important for her to join the partisans.”

I don't know how he figured out I was Jewish. He was very helpful and showed us a shorter route to the area that we were supposed to scout. When we got to the bridges, many of them had been blown up by other partisans.

We tried to find more information about the people in the area, hoping to get some of those who worked for the Germans to work with us.

A Surprise Attack on Our Base in the Forest

One morning we walked out to the sounds of gunfire. The Germans had come to the forest with strong force, with artillery. From what I Remember, it was during the last days of July of 1942. This German attack took place through the entire area of the base in Barbarova in the Pleshensitz area until Ragozina in Lashinsky. At that time, in the base of the Atriad Revenge near Lushinsky, there was only Unit #3 and another unit that had just arrived from the front. That unit was supposed to guide the people who were going into Russia. Amongst them was a Jewish guy from Vileyka, David Kopilovich. All the other units were at that time taking part in different missions away from the base. Relatively speaking, this surprise attack resulted in very few casualties, but very certainly, during the attack on the village Barbarova, the Jewish doctor, the wife of Smolinsk, was killed as was another Jewish girl, one of our partisans, Chaia Shulkin from Dolhinov. They were going to leave for Lashinsky, readying themselves to go with Kissilov to Russia at the time they were killed. I never found out what happened to the children of the doctor. There were others wounded amongst the troops, but none else were from Dolhinov.

This attack prevented me from doing another mission that Timczok appointed me to, which was to get weapons. It also delayed the date of the big group's departure from the area. It was clear that they must add more people from the fighters to protect the refugees. From our people they added Yosef Baksht, Israel Ruderman and his sister, Ariel Rothstein, Itzhak Einbender from Kurenets who later became a hero of the Soviet Union, Binyamin Schulman from Kurenets, Nahum Alperovich from Kurenets and some others I don't remember.

Of the original 21 who left Dolhinov with me, only a few were left now, amongst them Mitzia Friedman, Yakov Segalchik, and a few others. Segalchik was together with three others,Moshe Forman, Gershon Yosse, and Leib Mendel from Pleshensitz who now lives in Minsk. The Germans in the surprise attack made the people in the family camp very worried. They escaped through the woods to different villages. When I arrived in the village Barenikova,I found many of them, and an order was sent out that they should all return and come to the place near Lishitzky where Kissilov and Vladishev were waiting for them.

When we returned, we found that a few from Dolhinov had been wounded, including the sister of Chaia and Bruska Katzovitz, and also an old woman who survived and later lived in Kibbutz Dafna with her daughter. I took care of them as much as I could, but obviously the old woman could not take part in the walk. So I took her to the village Milicha, where she had hid on a previous occasion amongst the villagers. The young girl was helped by her family members and she still went on the long walk despite her wounds.

I sent the old lady to Milicha with another guy.

After they all left, all 450 refugees, in August, two months later, the old lady returned from Milicha. The guy who was with her had been killed by the villagers. Now that she came to us, we made her the cook for the atriad.

Saving Jews from the Ghettoes of Myadel, Postavy, and Globoki

We found out that most of the people were successful and arrived safely in the Soviet Union. We continued with daily missions, such as setting explosives and attacking small German units. We would wait for German trucks to come and ambush them. I went with a few people to buy weapons in the area of Borisov all the way Bobrojsk. This mission was very successful and when I returned I became an assistant to the commissar of the brigade, A.M. Timczok.

Since the surprise attack by the Germans was mostly a failure, the partisans felt more confident and went out on more and more missions. There were many missions where they destroyed the roads, and the partisan units became more enlarged and went farther and farther to Baranovicz and Biyalistock and others to Witbesk in the north.

In September of 1942, I told Timczok that my two brothers were in the ghettoes of Postov and Globoki, and the wife and daughter of Segalchik were in the ghetto in Myadel. I suggested we get them out of there and try to save other Jews from those ghettoes. Timczok was did not object to it. His only condition was that it should take only three days since our unit was planning to move away from the area.

My cousin Mitzia and I, Yakov Segalchik and the Estoncik (a Jew from Estonia who was very famous among all the survivors in the area, whose real name was Yuzek Blachman—he was a real brave guy and helped transfer many Jews from the towns of the ghettoes, from Kriviczi to Ilya to Kurenets, and also Dolhinov, Myadel, and Globoki. He arrived everywhere). He was always walking in the forest and that is how we encountered him. He planned many transfers of Jewish people past the front. HE somehow always knew how to escape from the Germans. Anyway, the four of us left, and when we arrived at kanihanina near Kriviczi, we went on horse and buggy. We left it behind and walked to the Narutz forest. When we arrived, we split. Segalchik and the Estoncik went to Myadel, and Mitzia and I went to Postov. We avoided going in the ghetto in Postov, fearing that someone would tell the Germans about it and they would catch us, so I sent a note using a villager who knew my brother and I. I notified them that they should organize as many Jews as they could and wait somewhere on the road for us. We waited for hours for the group from Postov, but no one arrived.

As we later found out, it was a very dark night and for some reason they were half a kilometer away from us, waiting. Mitzia suggested I fire so they would know where to find us. As it turned out, this firing only made things more difficult, because the people thought that the Germans were waiting for them, and they hid in the trenches on the road. We waited a little longer but we had to return to kanihanina. As it turned out, my brothers and others who came had heard us while they were lying by the side of the road. But my youngest brother recognized my voice in Russian, but they were too fearful to yell for us and we did not see them

The next morning I went back to where to the farmer who delivered my message and asked him what had happened, but he didn't know. We went back to Niviyeri and found out that Segalchik already went to the ghetto in Myadel but was not yet able to organize the Jews. Still this was very important because many of the Jews in the ghetto were excited by his brave entrance to the ghetto and started organizing to leave the ghetto. I think about fifty or sixty people eventually left the Myadel ghetto.

I gave the people of Myadel certain addresses and eventually they were organizing to also go to the Soviet Union. While walking, they encountered my brother and 13 other people who left Postov. Although they had kept looking for me, when they found out that I had left, they decided to join the people from Myadel. Eventually my older brother found me but my younger brother continued to walk with the people from Myadel on to Russia.

My older brother joined the partisans, as did some villagers from the nearby village and some POWs who escaped from the Germans. Although we were originally going to leave the area, we decided to stay until spring. As the partisan force enlarged, there was more need for information and there was a need for some kind of newspaper to explain different aspects of the resistance. Originally it was enough to just have pamphlets but now there was a need for real printing. Timczok decided that we should send some people to Globoki to confiscate the printing press with all the tools and to transfer it to the forest. I wanted to volunteer for the mission but Timczok refused, saying he needed me, so he sent my brother and my cousin Mitzia. They succeeded in getting into the Globoki ghetto and in getting in touch with my other two brothers who were there, and four other people who escaped from Postov but whose names I don't remember. I know that two of them fell in battle and two others are here in Israel. My brother and cousin succeeded in getting them out of the ghetto and a few other young people from Globoki also left. They were also able to confiscate a printing press with all the other equipment and brought it to the base in Lagojsk, where they started printing a paper.

My brother was able to do it after contacting a Jewish guy who worked for the Germans in the printing press that had originally belonged to a Jew. This guy, Dov Berl Katzowitz, is today a math teacher in Petach Tikvah. He was the man who really made it happen. It all took place in the beginning of January 1943. Amongst the people who were then assigned to print the paper were Moshe Forman and Gershon Yoffe from Dolhinov, Shimon Shapira, and a woman who was a chemist (?) from Postov, and others who were non-Jews. Most of what was written came from the Jews and was edited by the Jews. Other than the newspaper, they also printed pamphlets and flyers encouraging resistance.

My brother went to Globoki a few more times and was able to take more Jews, amongst them my wife. There were others who were encouraged by his visits and were able to escape during the night. Eventually a big group of young people and families from Globoki, Myadel and other towns in the area were organized. At that point the headquarters decided to organize Hanokem, a special Jewish atriad meaning “The Avenger” near Niviyeri. They thought this atriad could contain all the people who had recently arrived. Yakov Segalchik was appointed as the head of this unit,. [p. 553]

The newly arrived escapees from the ghettos of Dokshitz, Globoki, and Myadel and other towns in the area joined the new unit, and they eventually became the best unit in the area. They performed special missions that no one else could, and they did wonderfully in all the missions they took upon themselves. But tragically, this unit broken up because there was a non-Jew from Globoki who pretended to be a Jew and he was really an agent of the Germans. As soon as they found out, they put two Jewish guys to watch him, but they fell asleep and he escaped. People chased him and he was caught, but the traitor said during his trial that he gave his guards gold and they let him escape. One of the guards admitted that he fell asleep, which allowed the guy to escape, but the other guard did not give any proof that he didn't take the gold. So all three, the traitor and his two Jewish guards, were executed and the entire unit was dispersed to other partisan units. Segalchik then became the head of the hospital unit and the chief administrator of the hospital. This took part in the first months of 1943.

Changes in the Front

The Partisans Enlarge Their Numbers

Starting in the middle of September of 1942, changes occurred in the war front. The German offensive in the center and north, in the Ukraine and the Volga fronts lost its earlier momentum. The attempt to quickly conquer Crimea and Kavkaz (southeastern areas?) were not successful. The towns in those areas kept passing from one hand to the other, until everything froze in this front, also during the autumn of 1942. At that point it was clear that a large counter-offensive by the Soviet Union would soon come.

One evening at the end of September 1942, Radio Moscow announced the Red Army was pushing the Germans in the Ukraine and along the Volga. Large concentrations of troops were sent to the area, towards Stalingrad, which the German Headquarters saw as a primary objective to capture. On the other hand, Stalin announced that the Red Army must hold on to it no matter what the costs.

The German defeat at Stalingrad was huge, and a renewed sense of optimism appeared on the Soviet side. It seemed the Germans could be defeated now, and the partisans were more confident.

From the end of 1942 until August 1943, The Avenger atriad was stationed in Lida. As the partisan movement became enlarged, there was a need to improve the moral quality of troop

All the partisan units at that time were somewhat disorganized, as they simply took randomly on whoever came along and put them by chance in units that were created at the time of their entrance, and the troops seemed to have very little cohesiveness. This was also the case with the Communist Party from top to bottom. There was a bad experience when they first established the partisans with the people who came out of Minsk in the last months of 1941. A decision was made, to really check on the people who had enlisted in the different units, so as to make sure there were no criminal elements or traitors who were planted there by the enemy. They wanted to find the most talented, loyal, and capable people. So Timczok took on this responsibility.

New Partisan Units

As the second-in-command to the commissar, Timczok chose the new commanders, some of whom were Jews from Globoki and other towns in the area, and also a few women. The printing press and the newspaper were also moved to the new area that Timczok commanded. My two brothers, my cousin Mizia, and my wife, and two other friends came to the new unit with us. Timczok was not satisfied to just work for the party; he also established new partisan units, a new Atriad by the name of Bolshevik. It took five or six months and they became a brigade. In this short time, the Bolshevik Atriad contained more than 400 fighters, amongst them 30 Jews. The Bolshevik Atriad became very appealing to many partisans. Even a rector of the University of Minsk, Professor Libikov, joined. We had people who came all the way from Lithuania. In this atriad we stayed until the end of August, or maybe the beginning of September of 1943.

The area that we had been in before, between Poloczek and Minsk now had other partisan units. The Markov Brigade and also demolitions units headed by a man by the name Litpbitzky. I was sent to that unit to meet Litbitzky to find out about his loyalty. I would like to point out that for some reason I was always sent out on jobs of communications. Although Timczok would always complain to headquarters that he didn't like them to send his assistant, but they always sent me because they knew I had good connections with the farmers as well as the townspeople.

One time I went along with some people from Niviyeri to see the area. On this mission I had my brother, Mizia, my wife, Tsipilevich from Postov who died a few years ago in Israel, and four other people who were not Jews. After spending a few months there for this mission, I returned to the brigade.

They sent me on many other missions, many times despite the protests of the commissar. It seemed that for any mission that needed deep analyses, or were more sensitive or more complicated, they liked to send Jews. They believed that we were better able to communicate with the locals, and we were planted in different areas to gather information. I think in general, culturally speaking, the Jews tended to be better off or more sophisticated than most of the other partisans. Timczok, who knew many of the Jews very well, used that aspect to send them on missions that needed higher leadership quality. He was very warm and loving and caring, and his warmth would be spread all around him. He was a good listener and quickly understood the motivations of people he met, and he had good analytical skills. First and foremost, the soldiers under him and the people above him respected him as a friend, not just a leader, and I in my heart will always be filled with warmth and admiration for this man, Timczok and all his missions to save people. Many people owe their lives to him.

Autumn of 1943

The momentum changes that started in 1942 didn't stop; they continued through 1943, despite the fact that there were a few retreats by the Soviets here and there. Also, the partisans at certain occasions needed to retreat, and there were times that they faced German blockades, but finally when the summer attacks by the Germans failed, more intense attacks by the Soviets started. The constant advance of the Red Army and its victories in the front continued in 1943. The defeat of the Germans in the front of Korsak (?) and the scared retreat of Hitler's brigades caused the head of the German Army to fortify themselves in smaller areas to stop the Red Army. They decided that they must clear the partisans using any means, beginning with long blockades, and then chasing them until they could be annihilated. They did this because they didn't want the partisans to attack them as they retreated.

Not only did they bring forces from the front to fight the partisans, but they also called up the Reserves, and any people they could find. So on the 17th of May, they started attacking all the partisan bases. It took two or three weeks, and the partisans retreated but in a most organized way. During the retreat they fought and killed a lot of Germans.

The Germans then decided to tighten their blockade and to prevent any food from arriving, and to prevent the partisans from getting to villages where they could find food. They wanted to starve the partisans.

During the third week of June of 1943, a few partisans were able to break through the German blockade, and they were able to get the River Berezina, and past it to the east, where they regrouped for a counter attack. This forced the enemy to escape without finishing their mission.

Still, in certain areas the Germans started another attack. They used the large area they held in the Ukraine and Belarussia as a starting point for other conquests. Amongst the German brigades there was the brigade of Radyonov, a Soviet officer who joined forces with the Germans. Radyonov, as well as his second in command, began to fear their fate and knew they were most hated by the Soviets for their treachery. The Red Army wanted to destroy them and the partisans kept trying to kill them from every side they could. So they were stuck in the middle of the area that the partisans controlled, in the area of Bihomel-Poloczek. One day, Radyonov and his headquarters decided to open a secret connection with the headquarters of the Red Army as well as with the civil authorities with the intent of leaving the Germans and returning to the Red Army. This communication lasted for weeks, and it ended with Radyonov and his entire brigade returning to the Red Army. Since he used to be a very high-ranking officer, he now insisted that his brigade should have control of the area of Poloczek to Warsaw. Obviously the Soviet authorities did not agree with this demand since they were suspicious of his aims, so the headquarters decided to send us, Commissar Timczok and all of his closest aides, I amongst them, to oversee this brigade. This occurred in either September or October of 1943, and lasted through the whole of 1944.

With the Radyonov Troops During Missions

As soon as Timczok received orders, we left together. My two brothers, my cousin Mizia, and a few other people and I arrived in the headquarters of Radyonov and started planning how to watch over this brigade.

In February-March of 1944, we found out that in the headquarters of Radyonov there was a spy who kept giving information to the Germans. He was the head of the unit Nastalinich Stavan (???). The investigation, the trial and the execution were all done according to the rules of the army.

Our other duties included joining attacks and setting up ambushes. We were also responsible for getting food and supplies. In November-December of 1943, there was a concentrated attack where many Atriads attacked the enemy lines. Finally, the Ukraine was released from the enemy and the Red Army continued towards Galicia. In the middle of February of 1944 the Soviets gained control of the area Vahalinia. Every day more towns and villages were liberated and the Red Army kept marching towards Polsia and Dashtinsk from one area, and to Lavov from the other side. These victories gave new energy to the Red Army.

They then started towards Minsk, the capital of Belarus. We were ordered to go towards Minsk, to the road between Witbesk and Lapel. The Germans were watching the road, they had a large force in the area. Together with other brigades we broke the German blockades and arrived near the Minsk front. Other than our unit, there were eight other partisan units. There was Kotosov, there was Zlania, also two brigades from Smolensk, and others. The Germans fought very hard on this road and especially at all the crossroads. We fought day and night until the end of 1944.

At this point once again the Germans started a new blockade. They thought they could use their new bases in their lines of defense as bases for future attacks all along the shores of the Naiman and Vilya and Berezina and different tributaries in the west and the east of Belarus, as well as the Dvina and its tributaries to the Baltic. Their strategy was to make a very tight blockade. There were 28 days of blockades which started in the third week of May of 1944 and lasted until June 23. At the end we received an order to break the blockade at all costs. Many partisans jumped forward towards the Germans but they would not retreat. The partisans were now starving and didn't have sufficient ammunition. The Germans put the partisans under constant fire. Even when Minsk was liberated on June 3, 1944, the Germans did not let go of the blockade. But finally, the constant wave of people who came towards them succeeded in breaking the blockade, but many died and many more were wounded. In June 23, the Red Army started another attack after Minsk was liberated, towards all the other towns in the area. Finally the partisans were freed from the blockade and were able to get some rest. Even the headquarters of the commissar got rest—we were given two days. Timczok sent me with four or five other people to look for all the people who had been dispersed during the blockade. There were six or seven other people from other units, amongst them even a woman and a child who wanted to get to the old brigade near Witbesk. I also wanted to find my two brothers from the Mastitel brigade, as well as to find out what had happened to Yakov Segalchik and the hospital that he commanded. I was successful, and the next day I was able to find the leader of the Mastitel brigade and all the people of the commanding staff. From there I found out that my brothers had survived, and that Segalchik was able to retreat with the hospital and all the supplies.

I went with a troop of scouts from that place to Poloczek, all the way to where our base used to be, but we found an empty base. All the headquarters and the troops had moved to Postov. We tried to follow them, but the Germans defended the train tracks, and as soon as we tried to cross they opened fire. So we had to return and try it again. It took only two days and the Red Army arrived, which was in the end of June of 1944. I continued with them and we conquered Dokshitz. We kept going forward, to Pablinnik. Finally we encountered a truck filled with weapons that had just returned from the front. It took us to our base in Postov, and our mission now was to liberate Postov and the entire surrounding area. After a few battles, Postov was liberated and here we united with the Red Army and fought together for this region. We the partisans were on one side and the Red Army came from the other. Here I became sick with typhus and this is where my story ends.

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