Recorded by Michel Potasnik, from Abraham Yocelson and Abraham Bina Gordon
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
In August 1942, Abraham Yokelman together with a group of 10 Jewish friends left the Glukokie Ghetto. They went to the forests nearby Myadel, where they met up with the Partisan Otriad Mastityel which means Nekama(Revenge). There were dozens of Otriads(divisions) and together there were about 1500 people in the forests. The number of Jewish Otriads were comprised of about 300 people, who came from the entire region.
They came from Dolhinov, Danilevitch, Postov, Kurenitz, Kobylnik and other towns. The mission of these Otriads, that stretched from Minsk to Postov, was each unit to undertake their own campaign(attacks) against the German enemy, to cause as many casualties and disruptions to the Germans as possible so that they had limited access to the shtetls and destroy all German garrisons in the area.
The main focus of the Jewish Partisans was to rescue their fellow Jews, that were still alive in the ghettos. That was the first offensive was against the German military garrison in Myadel, which was organized by the Jewish Otriad called Diada Vosiv. This took place November 4, 1942, when the last 85 Jews were still locked up in the Myadel ghetto and their first mission was to free them. About 2 months earlier, about 100 Jews escaped from the ghetto to the forests and enlisted to fight with the partisans. Their main goal: free the imprisoned 85 Jews. The garrison was destroyed, the Jews were freed and the ranks of the Otriads were enlarged.
In the same month of November, 1942, Abraham Bina Gordon arrived in our Otriad. He brought with him guns, and mainly, he had strong personality and the will to fight, which became an inspiration to the others. After the liquidation of the Postov Ghetto in December, 1942, the people from Haydutishok came to our Otriad to fight with us: Gershon Berenstein, the brothers Leib and Velvel Katcherginski, Tanchum Gordon, Israel Rudnitski and Sholem Shapiro.
In the same month, we went to destroy a division of German gendarmes on the way to Kazistshe, near Postov. The group of 5 Partisans included Abraham Yocelman and Abraham Bina Gordon. It was such a successful attack, and they managed to take away many guns and ammunition. Many gendarmes were killed.
In the winter of 1943, the Otriad moved their headquarters closer to Minsk. In March, we attacked the market in the Flaznianer region, where there was an automobile transport full of German soldiers that were being sent to the front and we carried out an attack with great precision and success.
|Abraham Bina Gordon|
The military transport was almost destroyed.
In the spring, the Otriad returned to the district of OldVileika, with another plan to attack the garrison at Luban, 7 kilometers from Vileika. The Geman military which was comprised of Ukrainian combatants suffered a terrible blow and and the Jewish fighters were a force to be reckoned with. The Jewish partisans were now wellknown and admired by the Jews in the region. The Jewish partisans surrounded the ghetto, which housed a liquor factory, and emptied their entire stock. Also, 100 cows and horses and many food products: a great victory and especially important, the bounty, which was a dire necessity for the hidden Jews in the forest. Abraham Gordon took part in dozens of such attacks, and thanks to his excellent skills and leadership. He took credit for blowing up the large bridge and the Lubiner Germans no longer had contact to Vileika.
July 21, 1943, Abraham Bina Gordon, was part of a group that struck another ammunition and German military unit, between Podbrodz and Galadnia. After blowing up another railroad station, they encountered another German unit on horseback. They were chased and eventually they made their way to the town of Baltzik, between Lintup and Konstantinova. There they hid from the Germans who were pursuing them and hid in a farmhouse to rest, thinking the Germans lost sight of them. Tired, they sadly fell asleep, but the Germans followed their footprints and found them in their hideout. The Germans started shooting and the Jewish partisans jumped out of bed, quickly dressed, and reorganized themselves. They killed 6 Germans, but 3 of them(Jews) were wounded and they quickly returned to the forest.
In the same month(July), the Jewish Otriad blew up the railroad line MoledechnoPolotsk. In August 1943, a group including Abraham Gordon blew up the railroad near Krivitch, that brought heating fuel to the front.
September 1943, the Germans planned to destroy the corridor from east to west that the Partisans were using. They laid down explosives all along the way, but the Jewish Otriad still managed to attack them. The Germans were defeated, the whole time they were shooting blindly. The skilled Partisans shot 50 Germans, and took 50 as hostages.
Another attack on the Germans by Jewish partisans in Ludvinova, on the border of the Kurenitz railroad terminal and the intersection of Krulevetzchnina and Moledechno took place, where a large German detachment on a train was destroyed. Gordon's group also blew up the Sonoker(Sanok) bridge and murdered the entire Germans detachment.
April 24, 1944, the same group blew up another German patrol that was bringing wood from Galadinia to Lintup.
May 7, 1944, the same group blew up a patrol between Podbrodz and NewSventzian. going through the town of Dvorzani, between Podbrodz and Kobylnik
Abraham Gordon and his group encountered a group of WhiteRussian police and a bitter struggle enfolded. 4 police were killed, 6 were wounded.
January 1944, the same group planned an attack on the German garrison at Varlov, between Dokshitz and Lepl. The plan succeeded, the Germans suffered great losses, many were dead and many wounded.
In February 1944, the Germans began their massive blockade against the Jewish Partisans. Many lengthy battles followed and bitter fighting
between them, many casualties occurred on both sides. Abraham Yocelman who took part in all these attacks excelled in his devotion to the cause. The struggle was face to face combat, everyone fighting for his life. Shalom Shapiro, the much loved Haydishoker, fell in one of these horrible battles, which was carried out by the German garrison from Komai.
Summer 1944, the Russian army entered the Sventzian region, freed the region and requisitioned the partisans to join the Russian military.
Translated by Janie Respitz
Jewish people, rise up and fight!
Too long have we been oppressed;
We won't be slaves, our rights we will claim,
And we will never, never forget.
Too long we've been slaves, dejected, depressed,
The enemy has gained much profit from our work,
Everyone says that we Jews are cowards,
Now is no time to dance or to sing,
Fearless and brave, we march, forward on,
But should the foe's strength prove greater than our own,
Written when the partisan group left the Kovno Ghetto for the Rudnitzker Forests, 50 Kilometers from Vilna.
Leah Yosef Flexser
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
November 1943: I found myself in the Vilnius Otriad of the Lithuanian Partisan Brigade. The commander, Kazimir, called our commissar to his headquarter to give the order to blow up the German military unit at New Sventzian and disrupt the communication system at Sventzian. He chose 6 men, myself, Faivel Chait, Moriak Siniak, Miska Galobov, Rozes.
We quickly made preparations for our departure. We packed our backpacks with bread, and especially explosives, we inspected carefully the bullets and dynamite and when everything was in order, we departed for this dangerous mission. Shortly after, we began dragging ourselves through the muddy woods, leaving behind us our zemliankes(holes in the ground covered with grass and twigs used as shelter), our fellow partisans and the forests: all our familiar surroundings. We were heading toward the mouth of our enemy, some 70 kilometers away. A road full of enemies and many hardships.
What do you think?I ask Faivka, is the commander Fumfetitch actually joining us in this attack? This was the first time he joined another division.
No one ever questioned the commissar before. We never saw him partake in any of the major attacks. Would he find an excuse not to join us?
We arrived sooner than expected at the town of Vileti, near the Baranover woods, and at the very last minute our commander made an excuse that he had to remain in the village. We were put under the command of Rozos and ordered to proceed further.
The commander wished us luck and a safe return. Then he vanished between the small houses of the village. Rozos was an energetic lad, bold and nimble, but his weakness was he liked to drink. When such a major offensive was to take place, we had to hope for the best. Meanwhile we went further. By the evening we crossed through 10 kilometers of the Baronover woods, which were between Haydutishok and Postov. We didn't stop to rest, we went single file passing all the shtetls along the way, we had to make sure not to be seen by anyone.
When daylight approached, we sought out a hideout for the day, there were no forests in sight. We trembled from the cold. We were dreaming to find a place even for a few minutes to warm our cold bodies. We soon approached a small house and knocked on the door. Oy, children, oy, beloved ones, a peasant greeted us, you are surely tired and cold. But this is a tiny shtetl and the neighbour! Do you understand me? We decided to continue on, on the edge of a small wooded area we found a hut. The owner received us warmly, and even made us tea and gave us something to eat: we drank and ate and warmed our tired and frozen bodies.
The old woman brought us straw and made us a place to sleep. We placed a watchman by the door and fell down into the hay, like we were dead, into a deep sleep.
Lunchtime the owner woke us up and invited us to lunch with him.
Lunch is ready and there is also a little brandy!
In the evening some Lithuanian guests arrived at the owner's house. Seeing us and Rozos, we talked with them and things got friendly. He (Rozos) took out his gun and wanted to show them how it was made. He wanted to show off and shot in the air several times. The woman and child got frightened and stated to cry. This started to make everyone uncomfortable. It was dark out, so we decided not to linger here any longer. We started our trek again. The roads were difficult, it was hard to cut through the fresh snow. Saniak had torn boots and couldn't continue. Rozos decided to get some boots in town. One stupidity followed another!
We approached a house which was set apart from the others, lit up with high steps, tall windows and a tin roof. As it appeared, we came across the richest peasant of that town, the American as he was called. Before we were able to explain the reason we arrived here, he knew very well the Partisans needs , several litres of samorgon were already set for us on the table, as well as food. Moriak's eyes began to sparkle as he looked around, and Rozos couldn't believe his good fortune. Rozos didn't wait for an invitation, and before long was sitting at the table with his group. Just Faivka understood the need to be suspicious and worry for our lives.
They want to kill us! these neighbours, Faivka said angrily, and went outside to keep watch. We remained seated and ate and drank with great appetite.
From the samorgan our heads became heavy, our bodies relaxed. We all knew that Rozos
asked the peasant woman for hay and a place to sleep. I and Faivka, with clear heads, knew we had enemies!
Taking orders from the commander, who was not thinking straight and responsible for the whole group, did not sit well with us.
In the morning our watchman woke us up alarmed: Get up, the Germans are in town! Quickly we got up and snuck out of town to the forests. This was a forest that was not good protection: thin and sparsely forested so the light penetrated easily. We ran through quickly, reached another peasants house, and again asked for shelter till it got dark outside.
He told us a search team of Germans from the Haydutishok garrison were in the area and searching for Banditsas they called us. The Germans were told no one was here and therefore left the village.
We calmed down a little, and we had to make a plan to leave as soon as possible without anyone seeing us. But it was already too late, the Germans appeared out of nowhere: running to the forest was impossible, the Germans were going to attack us here, in this house! We took out our grenades and decided to rescue ourselves. The Germans encircled the house and opened fire on us. The bullets made holes in the house, and the house started burning. The roof was also burning. The shooting escalated and the burning planks were falling on us. We ran out of time to think, our end was near! The 5 of us were lying on the floor next to the door. Rozos screamed, jump! As I was next to him, it fell on me to initiate the first attempt! I had no choice, with a rifle and a grenade in my hand, crouching
I jumped through the door, and a hail of bullets came towards me. I suddenly felt a bullet hit my foot, on all fours I managed to drag myself through the snow to the pit 50 meters away. As long as the Germans were focused on me, my friends managed to escape from the burning house, and soon joined me in this small pit. What will become of us? What shall we do? Our lives were in great danger!
The Germans, letting down their guard upon seeing such a small group, started shouting Hoorah, hoorah!, slowly approaching our pit. Upon Rozos' orders, we took out and threw our grenades and started shooting. Several were killed, the others got scared. This small miracle gave us renewed hope to rescue ourselves and time was of the essence. Minute by minute, we were still at great risk, our bullets were running low. We had a few guns, but the Germans had machine guns. We needed to prove a point!
We noticed that the Germans left a small part of the forest unprotected and we decided to make a run for that part through the field. Rozos got up. He was the first. Quietly we got up and I got another bullet in my foot. The pain got worse and the blood was flowing in my boot.
Meanwhile I saw Moriak, also wounded. I received a third bullet. This time on the right side. I was overcome with weakness and I could hardly move. I was in deep despair and thought I would not survive and begged Moriak, who was behind me, to shoot me so that I would not be captured alive.
A few minutes later, Rozos received a head wound. Moriak yelled to me to continue. I gathered my last strength and crawled on one hand and foot. Our luck continued to worsen. Bullets were flying, but missing their target. Under the hail of bullets we crept further until we reached the small river Loschiska, we jumped in, holding our rifles over our necks, where we remained until nightfall. We knew this village and the river very well, as we had often visited this region. Nightime arrived and we found a shed nearby and quietly made our way. I could barely stand. Moriak was a sight, bleeding, making me feel not as bad. We thought we heard sounds, we lay still. 10 minutes seemed to us like an eternity. We thought the beasts had left.
Finally it became silent! We had survived! We had no where to go, no where to hide. To gather our strength took great effort, but we managed to arrive at a small hut, near the Baranover forests and begged, once again, for shelter. We were hungry, weak, our wounds were not bandaged, but we had survived! What about the others? Where were they, dead or alive?
In the morning, like a ghost from the cemetery, Faivka Chait showed up and we learned about the fate of the others. He told us, when he saw Rozos dead, us wounded, they remained in the pit and would vowed to fight till their last drop of blood(end). He suffered endlessly, his machine gun jammed, he saw a little water in the pit and crawled on his knees It was deep enough to immerse himself and hide, just his head was above the water and covered with small twigs, he
waited for the right time, with a grenade in his hand. The Germans were attacking Miska and Siniak, and from his hideout he saw them killed; it suddenly became quiet and the Germans thought everyone was killed. With a wounded hand, swollen, Faivka lay still in the water till evening, and with all his strength left his spot when there still a little light. At night he left for the Baronover forests. On the way, passing the village to find a scout to lead him, he was told that a bloody battle took place only four hours earlier in which the Germans surrounded and killed 6 partisans.
After many days of wandering, we arrived at our Otriad base and we found out, that the commissar, Fumfetitch was put on trial: how he tricked us to stay behind and why he wasn't on the mission with us! The outcome was that only he alone, should have led the mission and to lead our group to battle.
Three more times he went with us to Sventzian with 15 kilograms of explosives, the fourth time, he went out and blew up the train station.
He was demoted from a commissar to a regular partisan.
Also, interesting, was the fate of Moriak. Two months after we were saved, we learned that he was put on trial in a village, found guilty and was shot to death.
This is how only 2 from our group survived, myself and Faivka Chait. This is the story, that I decided to name: Only two of us survived.
by Rivka Kovarski-Gordon
Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay
In 1943, short of deciding what to do when the Vilna ghetto was to be liquidated, the F.P.O. (Partisan Organization in Vilna Ghetto) had a decision to make: to fight the Germans in the ghetto or leave for the forests and to fight the Germans alongside the other partisans.
Two reasons for not starting the fight in the ghetto: their were few guns, and most of the Jews were against the F.P.O. They thought that life in the ghetto would remain quiet if the partisans didn't interfere. If the F.P.O. would start to fight, they would have both the
Jews and the Germans against them. Therefore they decided to go to the forests. September 1943, I decided to join a group with 30 others to go in the direction of the Narach Lake. We arrived in the evening in Subota by the cheap houses. Our scout, a Sventzianer, Moshe Shutan met us there. He came from Sventzian, sent by the Sventzian partisans to lead us. He was very brave, as he had to make the trip Narach-Vilna, and Vilna-Narach, where death lingered with every footstep. Four days we were on the road,
As we travelled only at night, resting by day. Moshe Shutan knew the roads very well, so after 4 days, we arrived without incident.
|Motel Kovarski - The Partisan Scout|
Motel Kovarski was born in New-Sventzian, his father was Noach and his mother was Chaia. Later the family moved to Vilna. In 1940 he got married in New Vileyka and when the German military arrived in 1941, the Jews of the region and New Vileika were scattered to a nearby hamlet of New Vileika, Vilutshin.
The first day they took the strongest men to a field. They started to dig pits, and when they were ready, the German and Lithuanian bandits took the Jews to the pits and shot them.
Motel was amongst the first group, he started to run. Others saw, and started running as well. The Lithuanians started chasing them and shot them. Motel knew this region very well, so he managed to escape and find a Christian friend and found refuge in his cellar. Laying in the dirt, he thought, if they capture me, he would rather drown himself than surrender. After spending the night, the peasant woman brought him into the house, washed him, fed him, dressed him in men's clothing and led him to the Vilna ghetto.
Knowing the ghetto well, he organized two groups with guns, and led them out. Cunningly, he led his group to work in New Vileika, and from there he led them to the Narach woods.
His wife and child were murdered in Vilutshin. He didn't want his father to remain alone, so he was sent to Estonia with the others. His father Noach was killed in a work camp in Estonia. When the Germans began their retreat, Motel together with other Jews from Vilna and surrounding shtetls were sent to Germany, and he then finds himself on the famous cemetery of the Jewish people(concentration camps).
Translated by Janie Respitz
Twenty years now separate us from the Second World War. It is not surprise that even those who participated have forgotten many details. Dates, names of places and names of friends from the front escape me. Together with that, we have forgotten
episodes, some important, serious, and useful to present a broad, clear historical work about the Lithuanian Division during the Second World War.
It is also clear as day, that everyone that experienced the war and survived experienced the entire journey with the Lithuanian Division is a book unto itself. Our goal is
to eternalize in this memorial book of the Sventzian region, the participation of Jewish youth in the ranks of the regular army, the heroic episodes, the heroic deaths of our friends from the towns on the battle fields, in the ranks of the Lithuanian Division against Hitler's Germany. They were perhaps the first and most heroic in the battles against Hitler's army.
Sventzian. Saturday night, June 21st, 1941. On Vilna Street behind the Orthodox Church an outdoor dance party was underway, organized by the Soviet authorities for the youth. Young couple were twirling to the tunes of the Levin Brother's Orchestra on the round dance floor. It smelled of fresh pine resin, and some would trip on the planks of wood. Shloimeh Lifshitz, the active volunteer used all his free time to help organize choirs, drama clubs and orchestras for sheer entertainment. He was the head of the Regional club. When the dancers stopped to catch their breath, Shloimeh Lifshitz announced that the next day, June 21st, a concert will take place in the village Kochonovke, down by the lake about 5 kilometres from Sventzian. That night the dancing went on until 10:00. The sky was covered with thick black clouds. With the sudden change in weather all the dancers and observers went home.
No one even thought, the black clouds and angry wind were signs of a horrible destruction that was approaching over our heads. No one, on that evening thought about the arrival of a horrific national tragedy. The worst in the history of the Jewish people.
Sunday, at dawn when the sun was rising, the first victims from our region fell as a result of Hitler's bombing. The morning train from Vilna to NewSventzian brought the first casualties of Hitler's bombs.
Not considering the unexpected and surprising news, the Sventzian authorities ordered to carry out the plans for the concert. The string orchestra had been rehearsing songs for the concert. At the exact same time Molotov, officially on the radio, announced the unexpected attack by Germany on the Soviet Union, we left for Kochonovke. Understandably, the concert did not take place. No one was in the mood for song and dance. The authorities were waiting for orders from higher up. From the first minute, all the connections were cut.
By the afternoon the first refugees from Lithuania were marching through Sventzian toward Polotzk. Large Lithuanian truck and buses were filled with Jews, especially young people. They brought the first reports: The Germans were chasing at great speed, through Lithuania to Russia, destroying everything on their way.
From Sventzian to NewSventzian, from Ignalina to Daugelishok, from Podbrodz and Kaltinian, Tzeikin and Kimelishok, from all the towns and villages where there were Jews, they made groups of sisters and brothers, relatives and friends, and sent them east. Parents were telling their children to run, some children dragged their parents along. It was a horrible, crazy mishmash. People ran forward, some turned back. In rovers, wagons but mainly on foot, people ran, really ran. Vidz was burning, Disne was heavily bombed. They ran forward, out of breath towards Polotzk. Many of our friends stopped in Polotzk like unwanted elements. Everyone received a bullet, now not from above, but from below, from the NKVD. We all turned around, and miraculously continued running to Vitebsk.
In Vitebsk, our town troops looked at themselves, at their nakedness. Where to, and what next? The Germans are on their way.
Train cars filled with coal, with wood. Our guys sat on the roofs and they were scattered throughout cities deep inside Russia. Some in the Tatar Republic, some in the Ural region, but the majority went to Uzbekistan with the thought and calculation that for us who were naked, the warmer regions of Russia were better, perhaps we will not freeze. Within a few weeks, many of us were dispersed thousands of kilometres from home.
By the end of 1941, the beginning of 1942 the mobilization of the Lithuanian division began. Many refugees, including the writer of these lines went to the military command and asked to be sent to the front. Everyone wanted to participate with a weapon in his hand in the fight against the German murderer.
There were regions and places where the soldiers came to the local authorities and asked to volunteer in the Lithuanian division (Reuven Muller for example), those who did not have their geographical bearings, and until it became clear, worked in a labour camp. In Gorkov province, in a town called Balachna,
the 16th Lithuanian division was formed. Thus began the gathering of Lithuanian citizens, refugees, the majority called up according to an official summons. There were many who came on their own free will, directly to the headquarters of the division.
In quarantine in the registrar's headquarters friends who had been dispersed in the days of the bombing were reunited. With great joy they hugged, kissed and shared stories of their experiences.
At headquarters, Shmerl Maimon from New Sventzian, a Lieutenant, sat on the distribution commission. Every day, new transports would arrive. A new division was formed of three infantry regiments, an artillery regiment, anti tank division, military engineers and other support units. The people obtained military knowledge with great enthusiasm. Military preparations came at a fast tempo. They often went out for tactical training. Out in the field we realized 80% of the soldiers were Jews from Vilna and other Lithuanian cities. There was also a large percentage of Jews among the officers. There were some small divisions where 99% were Jews and the commands in exercises, theoretical and practical, were given in Yiddish.
That summer was very hot. Military preparations were hot and intensive. Who would have believed, there in Balachna Gorkev province, after a day of difficult military training, Lithuanian military units wearing Red Army uniforms would march and sing Zionist songs. This is how it was. It was a proud message to the world that we were present and ready to fight with courage.
In August 1942 the division received orders to be prepared to march toward battle. Our marching route was: Balachna, Gorky, Moscow, Sierpuchova and Tula.
The Germans had just been chased out of Tula. The houses were still smoking. There were barricades and installations on the streets of Tula against tanks. Here we saw, for the first time destroyed cities and villages wiped off the earth. We stood in the region of Tula, in the historic town of Yasnaya Polanya, where Leo Tolstoy is buried. Everything was burned and smashed.
This was the exact time the Germans were preparing their great offensive against Moscow. The 16th Lithuanian division was complete and ready for battle.
In December 1942 the division
Joined the 3rd army Bransk front. At this time the fighting began in Stalingrad. Then we received orders to go out to the first line. In the village of Sukmanova they handed out winter equipment and off we went.
It was a difficult winter, freezing cold and lots of snow. We could not see the roads. From the 14th 19th of February, for four nights, we walked 70 km a night towards the front. These were incredibly difficult marches. Passing burnt villages, dying German soldiers, burning tanks. The city Ruski Brod had been wiped out.
Lagging behind was the commissary unit together with the most important things you need in battle: nourishment and ammunition. The decided place to begin our fight against the Germans was the Alexeiyev region. (old Economichne, Ivanovka, Protasova). One day before the battle, when some members of the unit were hiding in an open field, the Germans greeted us with a bombardment from 20 airplanes. There were some wounded and killed.
The Germans were strategically well placed on a hill which they covered in water so it would freeze, become icy and hard to reach. This was a strategically important point. We found ourselves lacking food and bullets. When our division was ordered to begin our attack on the enemy, they were at a great advantage with their strategic position and ammunition. During this bitter struggle our units displayed bravery. For 6 days we stormed the enemy's position. On the 28th we received an order to reinforce and take a defensive position.
In the battles we suffered serious losses. Fighting heroically, those who fell were Yehuda Troytze from New Sventzian, Shaleh Bank from Ignalina, Yikhasriel Itzikson, and Mulka Shapiro. Leybke Kovarsky, Avremke Vilkomirsky, Ziske Shapiro, Khayim Avintelsky, Dovid Gurvitch and Shimon Gurvitch were seriously injured.
In the months that we stood on the defensive line, the battles continued. Day and night we warded off German attacks. There would be 46 attacks per day. Besides this we would carry out intelligence operations. We studied the German units, how many there were and their locations. We brought back prisoners' tongues.
During the abovementioned time, the 16th division belonged to the front led by General Rokosovsky of the 48th army of General Romaneneko. This was one of the most important and terrible time. The Germans brought forth their very best, the newest mechanized equipment, and the best airplanes. The Lithuanian division remained in Panskoye, Nikitovka and the Alchovka region.
When the difficult battles began in the air and on the ground, it was like one big fire. This was part of the large German offensive on Moscow. Here is where they received their first serious blow.
Until July 23rd 1943, the Lithuanian division held strong, and even advanced 120 km. They succeeded in freeing 60 inhabited areas, received many trophies, obtaining 12 large warehouses of weapons and chemical equipment, fuel and more. On their way to the village of Litva the Lithuanian division was sent to the reserves.
Many Jewish boys were injured in these battles. Others fell heroically. Quite a few were from our area. Their names will be mentioned in a separate list.
2018 fighters were rewarded for their heroic deeds with orders and medals. The majority were Jewish boys and girls.
The 12th of August, 1943. The division was on a break in Tula: in the forests around Tchtokino and Yasna Polina. Units were completed with men and technical equipment.
We were visited by a Lithuanian dance and song ensemble. How happy was I when I
recognized Taybele Kuritski among the dancers and singers. With her lovely voice, she filled the hearts of the soldiers with joy and courage. Taybele was also happy to be with us, the familiar surviving compatriots. We sat with Taybeleh on the railroad tracks (the ensemble lives on the train), cooked kasha in a military pot and remembered the not so long ago past. We remembered those who were killed in our division. We talked about the vague news we were hearing from our one time homes.
From October 6 23 the division fought every day.
On the 28th of November we were on the Nevel highway in Vitebsk. There were difficult battles with the German motorized detachments. All the detachments of the division joined the battles and the Hitlerites were chased further west. On the way to Gorodok (White Russia), they were surrounded by a large German force. This ended another well planned encirclement by German forces on the White Russian front.
Around July 20th 1944 the division arrived in the Sventzian region: Tveretch, Ignalina, and surrounding towns and villages with very familiar roads, forests, fields and lakes.
It was dawn when our unit walked past Ignalina. The sun was just rising and with sleepy rays, touched all of us. Even in the most difficult and worst minutes of battle against the Germans, our hearts did not pound so hard and we did not feel as nervous as we did now, on the sandy, quiet road to Ignalina at daybreak.
I walked behind the wagon pulled by two
German horses. It seemed they were heading toward Dukstas, deeper into Lithuania. Here was the slaughterhouse of Ignalina. The town was now behind us.
I ran to my commander. He was far from poetic sentiments. The years on the front hardened us physically and emotionally. We would often think: How could we ever drink tea from a glass again? How could we complete a sentence without cursing at least four times?
I really don't know, how in that moment I found these words to say to my commander: This sandy town , which you see surrounded by lakes, is where I spent my earliest years, wrote my first poem and fell in love for the first time…allow me, Comrade commander, to spend a few minutes listening to the dead silence of the town of Ignalina.
I received a half hour and two companions. At first I rejected the requirement of having companions. I felt a moment of weakness. My heart was beating loudly.
The main thing, Kolya and Nikolai two young friends from Ivanova in the Lithuanian division accompanied me. We quickly walked through the yellow sand of Ignalina. When we came to the wooden cottage that was once the Yiddish school, I just stood there. The doors and windows were boarded up. I soon noticed, the cottage, from bottom to top was wrapped in black cloth with black crepe. I was evidentially hearing voices. My ears were ringing with voices of children, with whom for six years, within these four walls, played and studied with me. I heard laughter and crying, a horrible cry and sighing…
I removed my rifle from my shoulder, shot in the air and stood at attention. Without saying a word, Kolya and Nikolai did the same. Apparently, the expression on my face told them everything.
I caught a glimpse of Yisroel Noyakh's lake, its still glimmer. From where did the white swan come? Nervously, the swan began to move around in the middle of the lake, as if he lost something, as if he was searching for something, as if he was lost. Until this day I can't explain where the swan came from a symbol from tranquil beauty and gentle innocence?
We quickly moved on. We walked through the market place. I saw our old house,
our nest. We stood in silence. My heart that had hardened like steal and stone began to soften. Thoughts were racing through my head. I was remembering Friday nights and Saturday nights. The days of Pesach, celebrating Simchat Torah in the Hasidic shul and Yom Kippur at the other shul; frosty nights on the balconies of the wealthier homes. Stormy discussions between Yiddishists and Hebraists. It was if a fast film was playing before me and my head was spinning. I felt like I was about to fall. Beards clean shaven and with long beards. Weddings, circumcisions, Bar Mitzvahs. Poverty and joy accompanied by town jokes.
Years of life ran by in seconds. The town was dead. There was not a Jew in sight.
An unfamiliar Christian passed by and looked at us with fear through his glassy eyes. Who knows, maybe he is also guilty of this dead silence that now rules?!
What do you know, dear friends, comrades, Kolya and Nikolai about the vibrant life that once cooked in this small town of Ignalina?
We don't move on, we don't run. Just one more look at the glass porch. This is where the first songs were composed together with our first loves .Time passes and I feel my heart is going to explode.
The silence in Ignalina was broken by the three shots from our guns with which we honoured the dead. Honour to my nearest and dearest!
We arrived in the region of the city Shavl, practically without any conflicts. The destruction we found on our way depressed us. The will to fight became stronger in all of us, to take revenge on the murderers of our people. Our commander Lisenko was killed near Shval. He was buried with the Oder Hero of the Soviet Union. He said to us: You are on your turf comrades, keep it and take revenge!
Binyomin Zelikovsky excelled as a hero in all the battles of our division. It is not for nothing his uniform was decorated with Orders and medals. But it was fated, as we battled across the Dubiseh River, an enemy's bullet entered his heart. His grave is not far from the bridge, over the Dubishe River on the highway Shavl Kielmi. Chasing the Germans from Shavl, where a bitter battle took place due to the strategic railroad to Riga, we saved a few Jewish families. Tired and hungry, they appeared as if they came out of a grave. These Jewish families made use of the little time we
remained in Shavl, awaiting further orders, and helped us with whatever they could. Dovid Ravitch from Maligan brought laundry for the rescued families, Mitzieh Ushpal gave up his bread, and Reuven Muller brought whatever he could find as did others. Everyone ran to the division and tried to help.
The next step for our division was to rescue Zhemaytiye and Klayfedeh. The Hitlerites used their largest tanks, the Ferdinands and the Tigers, large detachments of aviation.
With tremendous bravery, all the German attacks were defeated. We went forward, capturing entire divisions with German prisoners.
In October the battles began over Klayfedeh and the highway between Tilzit and Klayfefeh. The famous tank division named for Herman Goering and the Tilzit military school were there. Other motorized military divisions were there at the same time as the Lithuanian division.
On October 31st, the division received the Order of the Red Flag for bravery in the battles at that time at Klayfedeh Tilzit.
|Hirsh Ushpal Hero of the Soviet Union|
At this point many soldiers and officers received high rewards, Orders and medals. The highest honours, the Order of the Gold Star and Hero of the Soviet Union was given to one of the fighters in our division, Hirshke Upshal from Daugelishok in our province. Our division was now named the Klayfedeh Division.
Two more Jewish soldiers who received the Hero of the Soviet Union title should be mentioned: Shuros and Vilensky.
From our entire division there were six who received the highest Order and title the Golden Star and Hero of the Soviet Union. It is worth pointing out that out of the six there were: one Ukrainian, one Russian, one Lithuanian and three Jews.
Hirshke Ushpal ran away from Daugelishok to a Tatar village in Kazian, with a brief stop in Vitebsk. Most of those who escaped our town went to Vitebsk. They attempted to find work digging peat, or carrying sacks of food from warehouses. The quick attack by the Germans made it impossible to stay there for long.
One in the Tatar village, Hirshke threw away his torn shoes, and put on their national clothes: but the shoes were made from hemp and tied with cloth bands always fell off his feet.
During the fighting in White Russia, being always among the first, Hirshke Ushpal was badly wounded. It took him a long time to recover. When he returned to his division he threw himself with even more bravery and devotion into the attacks on the front.
At night, as soon as we buried our canon and lay down to rest an alarm suddenly sounded: the tank unit of the The Goering Division attacked our canon! This unequal fight In the middle of the night was struck down. When it got a little quieter, everyone wondered how we survived? At dawn, we suddenly heard the German language and saw Germans standing nearby in disguised coats. It did not take long before we turned our canon on their group and shattered them. A panic ensued among the Germans. Taking advantage of this we turned our fire on the German tanks. Some of us were wounded and Hirshl Ushpal took on the responsibility of servicing the canon. Three remained beside the canon. They threw grenades and shot. They shot at the large tank detachment and the troops who attacked us. Before the battle ended we received a command to aim our fire at another sector. The command was carried out and bullets began to hit the heavy tanks. They were destroyed.
Hirshl Ushpal remained with few bullets and no contact. Everything was torn apart. In the middle of the night the German spies snuck over to our canon. He didn't stop to think and with a bullet from the canon ended this attack. In the morning he saw the results from this shot dead Germans!
For three days he burned German tanks with his canon and filled the area with dead Germans. On the fourth day help arrived.
His reward for this battle Hero of the Soviet Union.
No the journey continues to Latvia.
The Lithuanian division captured positions near Kurland. This is a swampy, muddy region, without roads or highways. We had to build roads from wood and planks in order for a truck to drive through. These were difficult months of fighting with a bitter enemy who did not want to surrender, even after capitulation.
Siomkeh Shultz (the husband of Giteleh Brumberg form Ignalina) was sixteen and a half years old when they stole his last bag of rags from under his head. This was in Tashkent, the end of 1941. Tired and hungry he lay down on the asphalt near the train station with his bag under his head, an old jacket by his side.
When the sun rose and he awoke, his bag, jacket and documents were gone. The Uzbekistan militia investigated. With his broken Russian he explained he was a refugee from Lithuania. It took time until they figured out what was Lithuania and where was Lithuania. The miracle was, they knew a Lithuanian agent who was looking for citizens for the Lithuanian division. Shultz was more than happy to meet the agent and join the Lithuanian division.
He was assigned to the antitank division. During the fighting it became evident that not only was he a good fighter, he could also lead. In 1944, on the Shalv front, Shultz was sent to intensive officer's course. As an officer, Siomkeh arrived in Kurland.
It was a cold night when Shultz met up with his front comrades. The antitank canon stood on the front line fully ready. His comrades received him with great joy. He had not received any orders. It was pouring rain and impossible to get to headquarters. He spent the night
In the trenches. He did not sleep. Spies from both sides make use of such rainy nights. Siomkeh went out to look around and check up on the soldier guarding the canon. The guard had fallen asleep. He pointed out to him how on such nights, anything could happen and he must be aware of every rustle.
Shultz remained with the guard and suddenly heard a rustle, not a usual sound. He noticed of group of twenty Germans a few metres from their canon. He quickly began to fire at them with everything they had. Upon hearing the shots, his comrades ran out of the trenches. The German did not succeed. Shultz received another Order for this effort.
Leybl Teitz was the commander of an antitank canon. This was in Kurland. The Germans opened fire on his position because his canon
was always on target, always shooting, never even lifting their heads. Under such fire, the servicemen ran away. Leybl Teitz was left alone.
Allow me to quote from a high placed official about his bravery. In the fourth session of the highest Soviet council in the Lithuanian Republic, General Major Matziuskos said:
Comrade Deputies, I would like to tell you a few facts about bravery which our soldiers and commanders displayed fighting in our Lithuanian division. While in Kurland, Comrade Teitz displayed great bravery as the commander of a canon. His group, with the canon, grenades and automatic weapons, defeated 4 attacks by the enemy.
After that, the Germans brought in their Tiger tanks. Comrade Teitz bravely fought them as well. Even after he was seriously wounded, he continued fighting and succeeded in destroying two Tigers.
Dying from his wounds, Teitz said: I carried out my last order.
He continued to talk about these heroic acts at the Central Organ of the Lithuanian Republic.
In the newspaper Soviet Lithuania, August 4th, 1945 the following appeared:
Four horrible attacks by the Germans were warded off by the Commander Comrade Teitz and his unit. Seriously wounded, Teitz did not leave the battlefield. Displaying great bravery he destroyed two more German tanks.
Sergeant Leyb Teitz from Sventzian never saw his last order fulfilled. The high Order Fatherland War First Rank was sent to his family in his memory.
Victory Day was celebrated in the mud of Kurland. Early morning, May 9st, 1945, they began to receive phone messages from infantry units saying that German were flying white flags on their rifles.
Shooting started from both sides
with coloured rockets. The Germans capitulated! Victory and the end of the war!
Here are the surviving members of the Lithuanian division from our town: Khaim Svintelsky, Zalman Gurdos, Shimon Gurvitch, Hirsh Ushpal. Some came out not wounded at all. The rest were wounded a few times while others had pieces of iron and shrapnel in their hands and feet.
They all received honours: medals, Orders, words of gratitude from general headquarters. Each one fought with his unit as a hero. Each one brought honour to his people and revenge for those killed. Today, I believe the majority of surviving Jewish fighters live in Israel.
A List of the Heroes Who Died in the 16st Lithuanian Division
From Sventzian: Ginsburg Abba, Leyb Kovarsky, Yisroel Tzikinsky, Hirsh Vilkomirsky, Leyb Teitz, Olke Gurvitch, Shloimeh Katzizne, Dovid Gurvitch.
From NewSventzian: Yehuda Troytzeh, Shloimen Tzinman, Zalman Broydeh, Yitzkhak Shmulevitch, Zalman Rudnitsky, Gershon Katz, Dovid Guterman, Mikhael Yaffe, Hirsh Ring, Shneur Guterman, Kasriel Itzikson, Yitzkhak Hellershteyn, Pesakh Liber.
From Ignalina: Gedalyahu Brodsky, Shaleh Bank, Mula Shapiro, Gershon Segal, Leyb itzikson, Khaim Yosef Fraydenzon.
From Daugelishok: Hirsh Berman, Yisroel Abelevitch, Meir Kesl, Grisha Bas.
From Lingmian: Binyomin Zelikson.
From Maligan: Yitzkhak Glezer.
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