The Years 1939 1941
by Mordechai Zeitchik
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
The German attack on Poland happened, as is wellknown, on Friday the 1st of September 1939, at dawn. Since Western Ukraine and Belarus were occupied by Russian army, Lenin, which was located right on the border, was under Soviet rule. This way, the residents of our shtetl and in particular the Jews had the privilege to live almost 2 more years as human beings. The towns and shtetlach located at the West of the Bug River, suffered immediately the bitter taste of the Nazi rule.
Although Lenin was situated on the border and it was thought that the Soviets would march in right away, several days passed until the Soviets actually took over, and during that time the shtetl remained sort of a no man's land.
The Polish official forces did not exist anymore part of them disappeared and part went in hiding, trembling with fear.
During that period of a few days of transition the shtetl was disturbed and tense: the Jewish population was afraid that the farmers in the neighborhood would invade and attack the shtetl (there were rumors to that effect).
The Jewish youth organized and stood guard constantly, particularly during nights. They did not have arms, but they patrolled and watched all the time. Fortunately nothing happened.
As soon as the Soviet forces entered by crossing the river (there were no victims during the occupation) they established a temporary administration and the military forces continued their advance to the West. In only a few days it was not even felt that the town was for 20 years under Polish rule: no Poles, no police, no border guards…
When all this happened, it was considered a great tragedy, but later it was realized that it had been their good luck, since all the inhabitants were saved, survived the war and came back home.
Some of the Jews who had been sent away to the distant camps are now in Israel, some in America and other countries. Who knows, what their fate would have been, had they fallen, like other Lenin Jews, in the hands of the Germans…
Concerning the cultural life it was strengthened to a certain measure. The Drama Club was restored and theater performances and moving pictures were often presented. Also a rich library was established, with a large reading hall.
The shtetl became important in general, since it was made a county seat, where all governmental offices were located. People came from remote corners of the region to arrange their official affairs.
Even the nearby shtetl Mikoshewitz belonged to the Lenin District and all its local affairs were taken care of in the Lenin Offices.
By Yehuda Tziklik
Translation by Yocheved Klausner
A short time after the occupation of Lenin the Germans sent all the Jews able to work to the forced labor camp in Hantzewitch. Since we could not stand the indescribable conditions in the camp, we all fled to the nearby forest. Many of us perished. I and Zev Zavin tried to escape; we went through the mud and arrived in the village Heritzinowitz. At nightfall, we found a group of Partisans, among whom we knew several Christians Rehar Romankes and the Commander Pavel Katowitz from the village Zalyotitz, who had known my father zl. He received me and Zev and soon we left with them to blow up the railroad in the neighborhood. The commander told us, that we should not be afraid and that the operation must be carried out. If we did it, we would earn the right to remain in the Partisan unit. If not we will be sent to join our brothers… loud and clear…
Zev and I swore that we shall die for Kidush Hashem [sanctification of God's Name] and take revenge on the Germans. The commander showed me how to handle explosives and what I was supposed to do. He called a few more fighters, but we, the two Jews, were the ones chosen to be the first victims [lit. the sacrificial hen], we, the troubled and hungry,
who had made it through the mud in Gritzin and walked on the animal trails.
When we approached the railroad at the village of Bastin, where the explosion had to take place, the commander made a speech and then ordered us to go. We had only vengeance in mind, and we did the work: a train of 43 wagons full of ammunition was thrown into the air. Then we returned to the point where the commander waited for us, and he announced that we can remain in his unit.
I could not rest, and the thought of revenge on the German murderers did not leave me. I spoke to the Commander Pavel and promised him heaven and earth at that time the fighters were without good clothes or shoes. I promised to procure clothing and shoes for all and suggested to the Commander to go to our shtetl Lenin, to kill the murderous dogs, who spilled so much clean and innocent blood and to take away from them all that they had robbed. My plan was accepted. The commander connected with several other Partisan groups and they established a unit of about 120 fighters. A few days passed until we acquired the necessary ammunition. Then they called me and Zev to help with the final plan of action. I hadn't known before the commander who headed the operation. He personally appointed me as responsible for the success of the action, and sent me to do the preliminary investigation, to find out where exactly the Germans lived in Lenin. We were a small group. We found a Christian woman, who pointed at the houses where the Germans lived, starting from Barukhi's apartment near Israel Galenson. There was the nest of the murderers they were a strong power in Lenin.
I reported to the Head Commander and he ordered me to lead the fighters to the right places, and if not, he will shoot me like a dog. This was his keyword: shoot you like a dog. I answered him that he can do with me what he wanted, but as far as I know my shtetl and am familiar with its streets, I think that the attack will be successful. He stretched out his hand and wished me well, and gave me 10 armed fighters to lead the way and after us will come the rest of the partisans. We kept in contact until we arrived close to Lenin. My task was to bring the fighters
to the previously determined places. The attack was set to begin at 4 o'clock in the morning, after seeing a red rocket in the sky. Everything was carried out in silence and even the dogs did not sense it. At 3 o'clock all stations were staffed and we waited impatiently for the signal, the red rocket. Finally we began the attack, which lasted without interruption until 8 o'clock in the morning. We received two hand grenades and threw them in through the window into Rodnitzki's apartment, where the German economycommander lived now. After the explosion of the grenades we moved in, and found the treasures of our shtetl: gold, diamonds and so on. I was not particularly interested in all that; only the wish for revenge burned in my heart. I found a machinegun and armed myself.
I could not rest. I thought that some people were still in the ghetto. I told my commandant that I have filled all his orders. Meanwhile bullets flew from all sides, because the murderers defended themselves fiercely. Finally we set all their houses on fire and all the German murderers perished.
I received permission to move freely, and I left the fire and walked toward the ghetto. Near the wall I met a policeman from the Palustewitz village. When he saw me he froze, out of fear. My blood boiled and my machinegun moved him out of my way. Now over the bridge and into the ghetto. Nobody was in our house. But I spotted the priest's wife, who lived near our house. She told me, that over twenty Jews are in Khinitch's house. I went there right away and all surrounded me, glad to see me.
I found Yehuda Schuster with his family, and Nashke's daughter with her little twins in her lap. She cried, not knowing what to do with her children. I gave her my last piece of bread and showed them all in what direction to go. Then Moishe Rabinowitz with his family appeared and began to kiss me, asking me what he should do. I mentioned a place where we could later meet, and soon he left. I helped all of them to pass among the fighters. Then we received an order to burn down all the large apartments.
We burned Hillel Epstein's house, which served as a storehouse for all the robbed Jewish property in Lenin. On my way I met Herman Henkes' brother, a great murderer. I took revenge on him.
Finally, Zev and I went to the graves where our dearest slaughtered relatives rested.
By I. Biegelman
Translation by Yocheved Klausner
On 12th October 1942 the Lenin German police arranged an ambush on the road leading to the Timoshewitz village. Three members of the Girasimowitz Partisan group were caught by German policemen and shot on the spot.
Our leaders decided to take revenge. One hundred armed partisans were organized, headed by our commander Misha. We prepared a plan to blow up the iron bridge and the railroad on the way from Sinkewitz to Mikoshewitz, and kill the Germans and the policemen who were there.
When we arrived at the place, we found that special fighters had already cut the telephone wires, and at dawn we were in our places and ready for the attack.
First was the bridge. Our sniper shot the guard, and then several partisans ran and placed 40 kilograms of explosives and the bridge flew in the air.
Our main force awaited this signal, and attacked the Police Station and all the nearby buildings. The Germans had not expected that. A difficult battle developed and finally the Police Station and the buildings around it were set on fire. Some of the policemen surrendered, but they received their punishment.
A short time after the blowup of the bridge a train full of ammunition arrived, and stopped at a short distance. We received the order to set the train on fire.
Soon the train was in flames and a series of explosions began, which destroyed the burning cars. The terrible explosions of the ammunition continued several hours until they reached the last car. Not even one window pane remained unbroken in Sinkewitz and the nearby Makrawa. The explosions were heard to a distance of 40 km.
Three Jews took part in this operation the writer of these lines, Berl Ginsburg and Boris Kaplan, a young man who died heroically in that battle.
The operation was a great success and we felt we had taken some revenge on the Germans.
By Masha Slutzki
Translation by Yocheved Klausner
You are asking about every one. The men between 14 and 60 years were assembled and sent to a labor camp in Hantzewitz. Only sick people and women with children remained in town, as well as old people like Mordechai Leib, Hillel the Sokowitzer and the rabbi with his 5 little children and pregnant wife. Aharon Neches was the president of the Judenrat; such a dear man like him would he allow the Germans to send him to work?? So he remained home together with Yitzhak Kolponitzki. There were some 15 such Jews in town and all of them were taken to Hantzewitz, where the Lenin Oblast (district) was established. Elyakum was not taken, because he was very weak, and I had to send my 4 grown sons.
Well, so the Pesach Holiday passed until we reached the month of Elul and all the time they had demands; every hour there was another complaint. Two or three times a day they would come to the Judenrat and demand goods: ten blankets, twenty pillows and so on. Meanwhile they would take the members of the committee the rabbi Aharon, Lazebnik and Yitzhak Kolponitzki and ordered that everything should be ready in two hours; if not, they will be shot. Well, you can imagine the sorrow and crying in the streets. Once they demanded ten packs of tobacco, so they called Aharon and asked him to give them the tobacco and they did not release him.
Neche ran through the streets crying, and we all thought that it was our end, but somehow we gathered what we needed and we thought that we will be left in peace. But nothing helped and in the month of Elul the entire community of Lenin was slaughtered.
How did I survive? I shall tell you, but I don't know whether you will understand me. It was like this: Friday at dawn, the second day of Rosh Chodesh [beginning of the month] Elul I was sleeping (woe to our sleep!) and suddenly I heard loud cries from the house of Chana and BaruchYankel. I said: There are lowd cries from Chana's house, they are probably murdering them. I left the house quickly, and I saw your Nechem'ke, wearing a coat, running in the street and shouting: Jews, get up, disaster is here! Everybody ran out of their houses in tears, asking themselves Why do we deserve this? The street was full of people and they began to shout: Women and children first! and everybody began to march in line, and I was among them, with my child and Elyakum. First the murderers chose persons who were able to work and had small families, and they wanted to take David, ChayeSore's brother. But he had a family, a daughter and a grandchild, so he said No, I will not let them kill my daughter so I caught the mother by her hand and I took Elyakum and the child. Then they tore the mother from my hand saying she is an old woman and she can die. So they took us, 28 Jews, to the New Synagogue I and Chaia and Yudel with our families and the rest were children. We were kept in the synagogue until 4 in the afternoon. Two patrols were on watch near the synagogue, to see that we will not escape. Through the windows we managed to see, over Zalman's fence, how they led everybody to the automobiles and we didn't know what happened there. We didn't hear shots or shouts, and we only sat in the synagogue not knowing what was going on.
probably kill us, so why should we go out in the street? The Christians would come to look at us as to some wonder, so when we went to work I would cover my eyes. We lived this way four weeks, until the eve of Rosh Hashana [the Jewish New Year]. It was Friday. At about 3:30 in the afternoon we heard shots in the shtetl. What shall we do? We should certainly not go out in the street, but we had already heard from the Christians that in the nearby forest there are partisans so we figured that there was an attack there. What shall we do? I looked through the window and saw Leibe Yoshke's son, Yehuda'ke, running in the street and as he saw me he shouted: Come with us! They had already killed seven Germans, and the rest ran away. They were setting the shtetl on fire, so we all came out and ran to the woods.
Elyakum lived in the forest one year and two months and died, and some of the Jews were killed, and others, like myself, survived finding shelter in the houses of good Christians. Don't think that all people are the same. We were their slaves, but they risked their lives by keeping us. Hundreds of Jews were saved by partisans as well.
Well, my friends, it is impossible to describe how I survived the fear in the forest. I don't know, if you will be able to read my letter because my eyes run with 4 years of a sea of tears, and I don't really see what I am writing. Perhaps someday I will tell you the end of the forest story.
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