« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Col. 1763]

In the Battlefield

by Mule and Leib Troytze

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

 

Sve1763.jpg
Yehuda Troytze

 

After a year after the evacuation, after much suffering, we arrived in Uzbekistan and Kokand. We worked here in a “kolkoz”(cooperative farm) and until they mobilized us into the Lithuanian Division of the Army.

Amongst those were: Yehuda Troytze, Shlomo Tzinman, Moishe Tzinman, Mickah Yofe, Pesach Liber, Zelman Broida, Yacov Abelevitch, Moishe and Dovid Ring, Asher Katz and the writers of this article (Mule and Leib Troytze).

At the outbreak of WW11, in 1941, Yehuda together with his brother Mule and many other young Sventzianers ran away, like: Avrahmke Gubieski, Ruvke and Yankele Abelevitch, Zamke Broida, Asherke Katz, Moishe and Dodke Ring, Shlomke and Moiske Tzinman, Michke Yafe. Some went by transport, others went by foot to Old Sventzian, where they got horses and wagons, and continued their flight. We fled through all the villages until we arrived at the Russian border. Day and night, we didn't eat and we didn't drink, we were under the threat of the bombardments and shootings and frightened of the Polish bandits. At the border we stole horses, and had to run for our lives until Polotsk, where we got on a train, modern and convenient, until we arrived in central Russia. From here we were sent to a village to work in the forests. This was a very difficult labour.

Our Yehuda was one of those that kept the group together, who helped in a time of need, intervened in quarrels. Everyone had a special place in their hearts for him because of his intelligent demeanour and the way he truly sympathized with our dire conditions. He undertook the most difficult work.

[Col. 1764]

We didn't remain here very long, the Germans were quickly approaching and we had to evacuate again, further away.

We ran as far as Tashkent and there they sent us to a village in Kokand (city in Uzbekistan) to another “kolkoz”. One evening, Moishe Gaviser arrived and proposed for us to cross the border, and through Iran, make our way to Eretz Israel. Several ideas arose, the majority were frightened and remained in the “kolkoz”. The older people from the kolkoz were taken into the army, amongst them our dear brother Yehuda. Here he got separated from his brother Mule and was sent with the Lithuanian division to the front to fight against those wild –Hitlerite murderers, the Germans. On the front he excelled and was assigned to a tank unit, in which he became a sergeant.

In a bloody battle he got wounded, they wanted to send him for an operation. He didn't want to leave his comrades in such a difficult battle, so he demanded they operate on him on site; they operated and he returned to the battle on the front lines.

In one of the bitter battles, being the first in the tank division, he encountered a mine and was blown up together with the tank.

In that moment we lost our dear and beloved brother who will remain forever in our hearts.

Honor to his memory!

The 16th Lithuanian division was eighty percent Jewish soldiers.

[Col. 1765]

After a short study course, which took place in Balabne, the division was sent to the Tuler Oblast, around Yosne Polania, the village where Lev Tolstoy was born.

After that the 5th royal guard division tore through the front, the 16th division was sent to her help out; this was a very difficult march. Winter was a very cold one, all the roads were covered with snow, the artillery and the food transports were halted, due to poor access. Finally the food arrived, each soldier got a thin watery soup with a little flour with and 2 pieces of sugar (candies) a day. In this manner we had to survive and continue our painful march.

Also, special airplanes dropped some food packages, otherwise, we would have starved.

Finally we arrived at the Illavsker front, which was around the village of Alexzeievke, where we came across the German army for the first time.

The Germans were trapped near Alexzeievke and we received our orders at to attack the bloody enemy at once. We were starving and exhausted from the long march, from the cold and the snow.

My brother Yehuda was then in the 156th flank of the peoples' army.

[Col. 1766]

He was the commander of a division which had tanks. Because of the harsh winter conditions, because of the snow, which covered all the routes, the tanks weren't able to advance. The Germans noticed this and immediately ordered an attack against our division.

Yehuda didn't give up and advanced with all his strength. His losses were great. This fight was not on an equal one, the Germans outnumbered us and were better equipped. Slowly all our food products and ammunition were depleted. We really didn't have anything to fight with.

On this front, next to Alexzeievke, many of the young Jewish men from Sventzian died, and also, the commander, my dear brother, Yehuda Troyze.

Here fell our dear, holy youth from Sventzian, New Sventzian, Haydutishok, Ignalina and other surrounding shtetls.

Their outstanding deeds were later decorated by the Red Army who praised their will and endurance; how valiantly they fought against those murderous Germans.

All of us, who had the honor to fight alongside them, we will never forget their memory!


[Col. 1765]

In Battle With the Bloody Enemy

Moshe Zinman

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

 

Sve1765.jpg

 

Sunday, June 22, 1941 the war between Germany and Soviet– Russia broke out.

The train from Vilna arrived late because it was bombarded on route. Among those that arrived were many wounded. There was a great panic in our shtetl.

Monday, early on the 23rd, German airplanes flew over our shtetl and dropped bombs on

[Col. 1766]

the small train bridge, that went from Kaltinian to Paneyvesz. The link with Vilna was broken.

We were scared for additional bombardments so many of the shtetl inhabitants scattered to farms on the outskirts, that belonged to Jews; where Chaim Faive Shutan, Hirsh Rutsteyn, Shloime Gubeski and others lived.

Early Tuesday morning some friends came to me

[Col. 1767]

to run away with them together with the retreating Russian soldiers.

In the morning Moishke Zak came to tell us the Soviet deserters along with the police left the shtetl. I didn't want to listen, took my rover and left for Sventzian.

 

Sve1767.jpg
Shloime Zinman

 

On the road I met some friends, who changed their minds and turned back from Sventzian. Amongst them Mole Gavenda, Binyamin Rabinovitch, and others. In Sventzian I encountered those from New Sventzian. Together with my brother Shloimeh, Yehuda and Mule– Nachum Troitze, Abraham Gubeski, Gershon Shep, Ruben and Yacov Abelavitch, Zamke Broide, Zalman Gordos, Moishe and Dovid, Berl Ring, Asher Katz, and Michke Yafe we continued. The officers from the N.K.V.D. helped us get horses and off we went to Polatzker territory.

We rode through Maligan, Vidz, Luski, Yiod, Sharkovszizne. At Disna, the previous border, we crossed over to the Russian side, we went to a kolkoz and spent the night.

In this collective farm the border–police surrounded us and wanted to arrest us. We told them we were escaping from the enemy and we want to help the Soviet Regime in their fight against Hitler and Germany. They released us and we left for Polatsk. We took the train there to Smolensk.

We lost (was killed) Ruvke Abelevitch in Smolensk. From Smolensk we took the train to Bielov Tulsker Oblast, and from there they sent us to a forest where they exported wood. Some of us worked in the forest and the others worked transporting the wood on horses.

After five weeks we had to begin our trek again as the Germans were advancing.

We finally arrived in Tashkent after a long journey by train. Seeing the deluge of refugees lying on the streets near the station,

[Col. 1768]

we decided to continue our journey. We arrived at Samarakind where they sent us to a collective farm. After some time they mobilized us into the Army in it's Lithuanian division.

 

In the Lithuanian Division

My brother Shloimeh, myself, Yudkeh Troitze, Michka Yofe, arrived in the Lithuanian Division at Balachna, near Gorki where we met Chaimke Rabinovitch, Afroike, Berl Guterman, Yitzhak Hellerstein, Kasriel Itzikson. This was the 156th flank, later we found in the 249th flank: Itzke Shloimevitch, Zamke Rudntzki, (from Kimelishak) Israel Portnoy, my nephew, in the 187th flank, Zale Guterman's two sons, Sneur and Dovid, Hirshke Ring, Berel's son Gershke Shep, Yacov Abelavitch and Zamke Broide. Zamke Broide got sick with typhus and died.

In the artillery flank of the Lithuanian Division we found the three Karpas brothers, sons of Shalom: Ezriel, Faive and Hirshe Itzke.

The 16th Lithuanian Division was comprised ninety percent of Jews from the Lithuanian region. Yiddish was the language that bound us. The lead command was comprised of Russian, Jewish and Lithuanian men.

After some military training, they sent us to the front in 1942, we went immediately to battle against the enemy.

My brother Shloime, myself and Yudke Troitze remained together the whole time. I was wounded on the Feb 26, 1943 in both legs. My brother Shloime took me on his back and brought me to the field hospital. Here I got my first medical attention and then I was sent to Gorki.

Through different means , while I was in the hospital, I searched for news of my brother. In the end I learned he and Yudke Troitze fell in battle.

Those from New–Sventzian that fell were : Shloime Zinman, Yudke Troitze, Yitzhak Hellertein, Yitzke Shloimevitch, Zamke Rudnitzki, Michke Yofe, Gershon Shep, Shneur Guterman, Kasriel Itzikson, Hirsh Ring.

Dudke Guterman was dropped by parachute into the forests of Kazian to fight with the partisans , where he later fell in battle. For my fighting at the front I received a medal from the Soviet Regime, loosing both feet.

This is how our Jews of New–Sventzian died with honor against the bloody enemy!


[Col. 1769]

Battles of Resistance and Struggle

Shimon Bushkanyetz

Translated by Janie Respitz

 

Sve1769.jpg

 

The city was already filled with police posts and the roads were guarded to ensure Jews would not run from the military action that was to begin in the morning. This is why we left town at 2:00 in the morning. Through meadows and swamps we avoided the dangerous guarded points. We came to the fields of Tzerklishok and headed towards the town of Lintup. It was a dark autumn night, Shabbat Tshuvah (the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), September 27th, 1941.

Following me were my mother, Khaya and Golda. Carefully, like an experienced woodsman, we came out of the forest at Lintup in order to hear and see the movement around Smolarnia at the highway not far from town.

All was quiet in Lintup, forced labour, yellow badges, so be it… but we walked toward Svir. The walk which we could have done in a day, took us a week, due to caution.

I remember, Wednesday night, Yom Kippur, at the time of Kol Nidre, a mother and son, the guard of the Olshev forest, brought us hot potatoes and buttermilk. The pious woman Leah–Soreh asked: “My dear children, should we fast or not?…Where is God in heaven?” Under the glow of the half–moon we had the traditional meal, as it was essential for our health and wellbeing. We were like stone, without prayer, accompanied by two Christian shadows, which left us late at night.

The last outpost to inform us on what is happening in town, if it is worthwhile to visit or even stay for a short while, was the watermill in Stratze, which still belonged to a Jew named Abrasha, Moishe Gordon's brother–in–law. The Gordon family still remains here, not knowing what to do next.

[Col. 1770]

The winter of 1941–42 we were in Svir. The Jewish community took in refugees as best they could from Sventzian and surrounding towns. Shloime Rabinovitch was the teacher for the refugees.

By the end of winter we were notified that Svir, Mikhalishok and Kimelishok would fall under the Lithuanian administration's governing council. Now instead of the Polish –White Russian liberal police and administration, it would be Lithuanian.

Thanks to our connection to the Sventzian Ghetto and Golda's family, which she had visited 3 times that winter, we decided to move to Sventzian.

 

March 1943

The Ghetto is about to be liquidated. The Vilna police, led by Fried, were in charge of this operation.

The selection: Vilna – Kovno in these last days was in full swing.

The first transports left through New – Sventzian April 1st and 2nd. The transports to Kovno left April 3rd and 4th.

On the last day a delegation came from Vilna: Genz, Dessler, Drazin, Auerbuch. The last one knew Khaya personally. When he saw her he became overwhelmed from the surprise encounter and said: “You can't go…this path leads to death.”

She runs to the train and hears it start to go. She changes direction and runs to the bridge, hoping to find me on the passing train. Luckily, I was standing at the door and saw her waving her hands. Without stopping to think, I jumped off the train and ran to her.

She shared with me what she had been told and I ran straight

[Col. 1771]

to save my mother who was on a wagon transport to New – Sventzian. I found her near the city and took her out. Through side streets we come back to Khaya and I take my mother directly to a Christian friend Balinsky, with the hope he will find us a place outside of town. We both say goodbye to them and leave the city.

We spent a week with the Christian Baltushevitch, near the Blakish forest (owned by: Skrutkovsky). We heard shooting at the nearby cemetery. The Christian told us they gathered all the Jews wandering about from Sventzian and shot them. Among them were: Efraim Shpiz's wife, the daughter of an Orthodox priest from Pravoslav who converted; Khana Gurvitch Nelkin, Yeshayahu Liberman and his wife Eva, Svirsky Moishe and Rokhl (Zaydl) and others which the Christians could not identitfy. Our Christian, a father of 10 children was afraid and informed us he was not prepared to put his whole family at risk and asked us to leave. We then prevailed upon his wife who knew the Christians hiding our mother, to go to them and inquire about her fate. She returned and told us the same horrors they were experiencing were also happening at Balinsky's in the city. They saw and heard how they were searching for Jews, and the punishments given to those hiding Jews. Being honest people, they dressed our mother in peasant clothes and brought her to their family in a village called Vielitchky near Lintup where she sat in a warehouse. Antony Butzyuta, who I knew from before promised his relative from the city he would protect her as much as possible.

We left toward Pushtche, the larger forests where the partisans spent days and nights wandering to and from their bases.

The Christians in the area were my acquaintances from before. Pietrovksy form Vintzentova, Pietrukha from Tzirklishky, Kaziemyakin Ivan Ivanovitch, Shilkis, Gudelshek, Visaky, Rinkian, Kaptarun, Vigodke, and all the villages were familiar to me. I knew who to hide from and who would protect me.

I spent the day in the forest or in an acquaintance's barn. He provided for me without worrying about payment or possible punishment. They all knew if they would betray a Jew, revenge would be taken by the Jews in the forest, armed and organized in the Russia detachments.

A few months passed before we decided to visit mother. At night, in a farmhouse

[Col. 1772]

among the marshes of Kaptarun – Velitshky. The Christian asks us what will be, and how long will this last? With the best intentions, he cannot keep her for long. We promised him we would soon join the partisans in the forest and take our mother with us.

At that place we learned Golda came from Vilna and is in Sventzian being hidden by Christians. I immediately sent her a letter asking her to come to us. There is place in the forest. We will wander together. The forest is big and in danger, every tree is a protector.

My forest address was precise, the Lintup highway – near Vigodke is where we met and recounted our last few months. Golda recounted:

She arrived in the Ghetto on April 4th with the Vilna transport. On the same day they heard shooting from Ponar and the same evening they began to receive the sad news from those who managed to escape. Instead of going to Kovno, they brought everyone to the mass graves in Ponar. Under a hail of gunfire the following managed to be saved: Furman and his wife Lyuba (Mikhlson), Vermeses two children (6–8 years old), Zhenya Zaretsky (Gurvitch) and her little brother, Sholem Matzkin, Zaydl, Lishansky Dov and other Jews from Vidz who were in the Sventzian ghetto whose names are not known.

The Jews from Sventzian in the Vilna ghetto saw the fate that awaited them in Vilna ghetto.

After a few days partisans from Sventzian appeared in the ghetto, which only two weeks earlier had been with us in the ghetto. With cheerful greetings from the forest they told us of a strong, well organized force, among them, many Jews.

Mayshke Shutan, Ishike Gertman, Itzke, Misha –Yitzkhak, Yisrolke Volfson, Mate – Heshke accompanied the groups and led them away. My brother Motke was one of the active collaborators with those from Vidz: Salitan, Yekhiltzik, Bielak.

The Vilna Jewish police greatly hindered this operation. Because Motke disappeared from the ghetto they arrested my father and mother, tormenting and investigating them. The jail on Lidske Street was full with those arrested. They arrested me as well. What saved me was a false identity card with another name. When I was released, the forest representatives promised to take me with them, but when they told me Shimke, my sister Khaya and my mother were in the region of the town, I decided to go find them on my own.

[Col. 1773]

I left the ghetto with Motl Kovarsky's group, going to work in New – Vilayke. From there I took a train to Sventzian.

When I got off the train in New – Sventzian I met Christian acquaintances who told me things were quiet. No one payed attention to who was coming and no one was searching for Jews, since there were none anyway.

For a few months, Khaya, Golda and I wandered in the region. We often visited our mother, taking her from one place to another.

Mother was well looked after. She was fed and lived in a warm house, sometimes too warm, having to stay, most of the time near the large oven in the farmer's house. Me, Khaya and Golda – varied: a barn in a field, a bath in the river or a pond, forest or the district around the familiar villages.

Ivan Ivanovitch Kaziemyakin, Fiedula from Tzirklishek, Pietrovsky from Vintentztova Shilkes, Manula and their colleagues surrounded the forest in the partisan zone. They were the liaisons who instructed the groups where to spend their days and nights according to instruction from headquarters.

When the Gendarmes visited a nearby farm where we were hiding, the Christians helped us go to the forest. Another time, when the army came to the village Rinkian, searching for youth to send to German to work, we ran with them to the forest and hid together.

 

February 1944

Ivan Ivanovitch said to me: “You know, Simke, today's the day. Last night, a group slept at my place led by Black Vaska. With him was Vaska Zubov, who knows you from Sventzian. They will linger near Minelishok, at his parents'. He promised me, if I go with them, they will also take your family to the forest. They will work for a detachment there, where they will be safer than here.”

I listened to my Christian friend and in the darkness of night left with Khaya and met up with the entire group at the Zubars. I explained my situation and promised to come with my weapons the next morning, after I take my sister to my mother and Golda who were waiting for her.

I arrived on time and left with the group toward the train tracks of Vilna – Dvinsk, near Ignalina Kretanky.

Laden with explosives, we all walked past

[Col. 1774]

Sventzian to Rashkutan and stopped near Krasnobarky in Bielanisky at my Christian friend's Mikhael Karla whose house stood beside Kretan Lake. We remained there for a few days. Twice from there we crossed the frozen lake, carrying out successful missions.

The great satisfaction from our first operation is indescribable. Hearing the moans and cries of the Germans we breathed easier feeling the sweet taste of revenge for the innocent spilled blood of our loved ones.

Together with my group we carefully retreated from a hail of bullets from the train guard and lit a flare in order to cause a diversion. “Simke – you are not a Jew – said Vaska the former adjutant of the Markov Brigade – rarely does one of you go first to a giant job and feels, like me, like a proficient saboteur”.

Our group completed our mission. We had one casualty. Sadly, when a second group of partisans came on the same dark road that night, with the same motives, they thought they were shooting at the enemy and mistakenly shot Kirila, the diversion agent of our group.

On our way back, we found horse drawn sleigh in the village and took the corpse of the partisan to the forest to bury him with honour in the cemetery of the “Tchepayev” division.

On a side road, at Pietrovsky's partisan shelter, at the edge of Tzirklish forest, my family waited: My mother, Golda and Khaya. This time I decided to take them to the forest to the base of the division.

Six horses harnessed to a sleigh travelled over the frozen ice of “Narotch”(Narach) to the village of Hatovitch, and from there to the division.

The commander Sidiakin (his nickname: Yasnaya Maria), a true Siberian Russian, a high ranking officer in the Soviet Army, happily received our harnessed transport. He bowed his head when he saw Kiril was dead.

[Col. 1775]

I settled my family in the point where most of the people from Sventzian in the division gathered from the forests near Myadel and Narotch(Narach). A nearby Komsomol base which had been attacked and burned by the Germans now came back to life with the influx of people from Sventzian: Jews from Kurenitz, Myadel as well as Jews from Vilna, not organized in the armed divisions, they received more protection thanks to the newly arrived partisan family which was armed and known by the name “Tchepayev”. Among others in the group were: Berl Gurvitch, Gitl, Dvoyreh, Yekhilkeh Taytz, Khanan Opeskin and Yehuda Shapiro from Podbrodz, Henia Shaytl and Khatzkl Kaltun from Sventzian.

*

Diversion groups don't sit in the forest, they are called to holy work.

Vaske and his group are on their way, laden with dynamite, to the train tracks: Vilna –Dvinsk in the region of Sventzian. The train tracks are always heavily guarded by German patrols every 100 metres. Due to the fierce cold, the Germans walk back and forth heavily dressed. The partisans are dressed less heavily. When they see Germans, they turn around and jump in the darkness over the train tracks and lay the dynamite and detonators.

The operation was successful, we run from the explosion, the locomotive and all the wagons on the side, downhill – head down and feet up…from the sudden tear all around was lit up. The strong explosion awoke the guards who began shooting in all directions, not know where the diversion came from. Watch points were lit in order to find the “criminals”. Flares were shot, mine throwers and other weapons to not cease being fired. Now we have to control our own fear. Our retreat must be sure; we have to be able to quickly hide behind a tree, or a small hill. On the other hand, we are very happy seeing from far the help we have provided for the front by disturbing the transport to and from the front.

Our group annihilated tens of echelons, and thousands of troops and ammunition. We heard the cries of the wounded soldiers and their dying moans from faraway, lying under a tree or in the white snow, wearing

[Col. 1776]

a white jacket to camouflage – our spirits were lifted with the joys of revenge.

*

After our plan was executed, our group went to the trustworthy farmers, rested after a week of difficult work, heated a bath and washed.

We gathered at my friend Mikhael Garla's from Bielanishok, near Lake Kretan, not far from Raskutan. Not far away lived the murderer Nimayke, on a farm near Krasnaborke. We visited him as we were passing and loaded his horse and wagon with Jewish baggage that were in big boxes.

In order to avoid Sventzian we went out to Stanislavove and destroyed tens of thousands of eggs from the gathering point for front needs. Many farmers were killed, and others learned the account was not settled, for their collaboration with the Nazis.

The 8th of March we were back in the forest. It was joyful at the base. Women's Day was being celebrated. The division called “Maxim Gorky”, made up of 10–12 men, performed various folk tunes and played instruments; of course there were accordions.

This took place in an underground structure that was built especially for cultural work and other events. It is hard to believe, if you did not experience it, winter in the forest, in occupied territory, we carried on courageously with our lives and did not fall in despair, and awaited a better tomorrow.

At headquarters there was a special group of writers and poets, cultural activists. Every day – a short update of the latest news from the front. In the forest we received radio news from Moscow. Announcements about our daily operations were printed and distributed among the partisans.

It is hard to believe; we built a hospital for the sick and wounded partisans, operated on and cared for by doctors. Specialists knew their place was in the fighting forest. A dentist, with the help of a peasant's spinning wheel, pulled teeth, cleaned and filled cavities with cement.

A produce – division – men and women, organized a brigade according to their professions,

[Col. 1777]

and carried out useful work for life in the forest. There were tailors, shoemakers, bakers, hairdressers and others who helped the partisans.

The Commissar met us at the meeting point, acknowledged our preparedness and sent us with necessary supplies to the forest. One dark night, we occupied Hatdutciski Road on the corner of Bliakishk, and confiscated from all the Tatars' leather goods. This was used by the partisans to make shoes and coats. On a larger attack we tore out telephone connections, stole 8 horses, confiscated 15 shot pigs, clothing, shoes and boots and in peacefully brought everything to the forest, even though we were few in numbers. They were afraid of the robbing partisans; among them was “Simka” from Sventzian.

The cooperative in Old – Strunoytz was filled with various products prepared for the front. In the light of day, we loaded it on our wagon and brought it to the forest.

*

The Lithuanian village Daukshi, after Nieverishki (5 kilometres from Sventzian) often impeded our operations. The dogs would bark and their guards, in the darkness of night would shoot in all directions scaring the partisans in their search.

After a day of rest in Bielanishok near Kretan Lake, which we swam with ammunition to the train track, we spent a few days on the other side of Ziemiane after destroying 3 German echelons, and decided to rest in the village Daukshi…

In the evening, when it was still light, we approached the village, surrounded by guards so no one would leave, we entered the village magistrate and demanded all the weapons to be handed over to us within a half hour, if not, we burn down the entire village. They immediately gave us 8 guns and ammunition.

We took the weapons and went to the fields, avoiding the city Sventzian, toward the forest. After a night of walking in the region of Komai, we noticed suspicious movement which I almost payed for with my life.

In order to see what was happening, together with Peysakh Magid (a partisan from the Vilna region) who was participating in our march,

[Col. 1778]

I went to check if our whole group could pass through the village. Before we approached they began to fire a round of bullets from a machine gun. We threw ourselves on the ground to avoid the bullets and returned through the trenches on both sides of the road.

Peysakh Magid managed to return to the group, but I lost the group. They thought I was wounded. It was too dangerous to come rescue me. They began their return to base without me. It was announced at headquarters that I was killed. Even if I was only wounded, the Germans would surely finish the job.

For two or three days the division whispered…that Simke was killed. The sad news also reached my family, except my mother.

Nevertheless I had double weapons, an extra gun from the Daukshi robbery, I ran for three days and arrived at the base, and met my family at the horrible moment when a partisan was preparing to tell my mother her son is no longer alive…

*

With lowered eyes and heartfelt prayers and blessings, my old mother, the smart Leah – Soreh said goodbye to the group of partisans which her only son had to leave the forest and begin a dangerous path. She would be afraid when the group would arrive late and miss the time for her “walk” to the railroad track.

Her fear was well founded: the entire way was filled with danger, the diversion work was dangerous. The enemy and death loomed at every step.

Ignoring this, we the diversionists drove the Germans crazy. They placed a guard every one hundred metres along the tracks and we planned accordingly.

In the last minutes before the echelons arrived, we placed explosives along the track and ran back as quickly as possible. The explosions and the flying train cars rang like music in our ears.

*

Arriving in the village Rinkian we met our acquaintance Gutvirt: Neautz Valdek, a friend from earlier times. He received me warmly and asked me to get down from my horse. He confided he had something to show me

[Col. 1779]

in his barn. I went with him and saw with my own eyes two friends from Sventzian: Mikhlson Yokhanan (Yokhke) and Taybe Luria.

They told me about their wanderings, they places they hid. The Christian told them that I pass through often and promised them he would connect them with me at the first opportunity.

Seeing their situation, I told them they can return with me to the forest where there were many Jews from Sventzian , including their nephew Shaul Mikhlson who was serving with me in the same division. They agreed to go with me as they had been waiting for this opportunity. They were tired from wandering and hiding.

Ten days later, when we finished our plans, I went to the farmer Neautz to take the couple to the forest. Unfortunately I found upheaval. Vladek told me that Yokhke went out one night to get a Mauser he had left behind in the village Milvuke, and ran into partisans. When they shouted: Stop! He ran. They shot and killed him.

When Taybke heard from the farmer Yokhke had been found dead, she had no patience to wait for me. She joined a group of partisans passing through. According to him, she was with Pedul in Tzirklishok. I went immediately to find her in that group.

I actually found her. After much discussion I was able to take her way leaving her short gun as compensation.

Taybke came with us to the base in the forest and remained with my6 family until liberation. Today, she lives in Raanana Israel.

The Miadl German Garrison had its boundaries from one side of the huge Narotch Lake and the surrounding forests on all sides filled with partisans. They placed guards at many observation points to prevent an attack from the forest. The garrison was practically harmless, sat as if in a ghetto.

The Germans lived here better than at the front, swimming every day, doing nothing and waiting for better days when a more powerful force would arrive and clean out the forest.

[Col. 1780]

The partisans, to the contrary, were sure they would not disturb. But when a liaison officer announced a Postov garrison was coming to Miadzal to preapare a big blockade of the forest, the headquarters of the Voroshilov Brigade sent out the fighting Tchepayev division to carry out the sentence.

With Sidiakin at the head of the entire division they decided on the village Pasienke as the strategic point to await the German expedition.

Military trucks arrived, led by a tank…

The partisans met them with unexpected fire. The tanks responded with all types of weapons.

We had favourable positions but the commander protected hi heroes and wanted to give an order to retreat.

Krupski fell, Leonid shouted he was running out of bullets from the last disc of the machine gun, Kasarevsky's machine gun was already standing. Tzibuksky is wounded, the situation is becoming serious.

Sidiakin is not shot. He walks from one place to another and suddenly gives a command: “Follow me, “Yasnaya Maria” Abramov! Bikov! Koyre! Up on the hill…Tolstofyatov, Dukshtulsky – lie down in the bushes…Seres! Timoshenko! Near me”…

Sokolov and Leonov, attack the enemy from both sides!

Within minutes, all was carried out under the fire of the enemy's bullets.

“Fire! Yasanya – Maria!”

Sere's machine gun (F.P.O Vilna) and Kuria continued to fire and did not allow the tanks to budge. The self–confidant German and Lithuanian military fell like sheaves, like wild policemen.

The tanks, the Panzers were still shooting, unwilling to give up.

The battle burned on. The partisans crawled through the fire to take weapons from the dead and wounded Germans, and began immediately to work with their found weapons: automatics and machine guns which were badly needed in the forest.

Onward! Commanded Kudriavtsev and stormed Sidiakin.

“For victory!” – shouted the fighters – Forward, forward!

Twenty dead Germans remained on the battle field, five were taken prisoner, rifles, automatics, and two banged up trucks. One truck was driven through the forest to the

[Col. 1781]

“Tchepayev” base by the partisan from Sventzian, Shaul Mikhlson.

Those who interrogated the prisoners were: Yudl Shapiro (Podbrodz) and Yisroel Wolfson (Sventzian).On the first of May 1944 all the partisans celebrated. According to plan, we all left the forest and went to Kobilnik, on the other side of the lake.

The Germans had already left the town because a strong group from the forest burned the town and forced them to retreat. The town was the regular passage to the forest which belonged to the partisans.

We occupied the two main roads from Komay to Postov and from Svir to Kobilnik, considering perhaps the enemy could come and disrupt our celebration. The entire division was at the market place under the loud speakers which played what was happening at the same time in red Square at the Kremlin.

A fiery speech from the Duma was presented by the commissar of our division, calling for battel, encouraging the forest and ensuring victory.

The mood was lifted. We continued the celebration in the forest.

Our diversion group did not return to Kobilnik. Vaske had a new plan.

*

The Red Army was preparing a big offensive in Vitebsk, and commanded the partisans behind the lines of the enemy to cover the entire forest, from the north to the far south and prevent the return of the enemy's army. On June 22nd, 1941 Hitler began. On June 22nd 1944 the Red Army returned the favour. On the night of June 21st all the divisions went out to all possible train tracks and bridges and destroyed them. Special units shot the German guards and captured their weapons. The diversionist (saboteurs) displayed their special talents in these explosions.

In those hot days, after the rail battle, occupied the Baranov forests near New – Sventzian and worked night after night on the Zhemanye the help of fishermen, who in the dark night would transport our loads and await a new operation.

[Col. 1782]

The Germans were afraid to enter the forest in New– Sventzian. They believed powerful forces were in the region, but in fact we were only 5 men: Black Vaska, Vaska Zubov, Kostia, Shienke and me (Simke).

On July 4th we met the first Soviet Army in the forest. Large groups and parts of the enemy's military remained stuck, without any contact. The partisans had to disarm the Germans and send them to military points where special commandos dealt with them. In this operation, Yisroel Wolfson, a partisan from Sventzian lost his life.

We “freed” the Germans from Myadel ghetto. They threw down their weapons. I remember how one tall officer who I interrogated following instructions from headquarters, kept repeating during our discussion: “I want to be with you.. serve you forever”. This Nazi dog wanted to be a Canaanite slave for a Jew.

 

Sve1782.jpg
Coming from the forest – At a fresh grave in Sventzian. Shimon, Khaya and Golda, Moishe Ginzburg and Zalman Motzkin. The granddaughter Leah in the middle.

 


[Col. 1783]

The Great Operation

Yitzchak Arad–Rudnitzki

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Indeed, everything has passed, everything has ended. The previous week, from the day when we found out about the Nazi attack on Russia until the arrival of the first German soldier in Sventzian, was a week filled with events and disappointments. The week passed. We are again in their hands. They have caught me again. I was in their hands more than two years ago in Warsaw. I escaped from them. I crossed borders and dangers. I thought that I had thereby freed myself from them. But no, they have caught me again. Enough, there is nowhere to escape, we must fight and battle with them. But how can we fight, with what will we fight, what are the chances of fighting, what will the future bring… Many questions to which we will not receive an answer – and from whom could we get an answer. We must find it ourselves.

*

I am returning to Sventzian, but to what Sventzian? Where are the Jews of the town? Where is the life, where are the children and old people, where are they all, where are the thousands of the Jews of the town…? I know the answer, everything is known to me. Two months passed from that morning when they informed the Jews of Sventzian that they were concentrating all the Jews of Sventzian and its region in Poligon. Time passed as a dream, a frightful and terrible dream. The escape to Glebokie, the perils on the journey, life in Glebokie, the terrible news of the annihilation in Poligon – news that we did not want to believe, and the return to Sventzian – to what was left of Sventzian. What remained? The “Shul Hoif” [Synagogue Yard] with several tens of wooden houses. A wire fence surrounded several houses. There was a gate with a Lithuanian guard. In all these were several hundred Jews, afflicted with despair and fear.

Where are they taking us? For what purpose? I stood next to the gate of the valley, together with Gershka Bak, for several minutes. Suddenly, a number of Germans burst into the ghetto… And here was me, Gershka, and three other young Jews walking, being taken, but to where? “Gershka,” I whispered, “if we turn to the direction of the Jewish cemetery, we can begin to run and to escape. It is better that they shoot us while running than while standing next to a grave.” No, we did not turn toward the cemetery. They brought us to “Ocharonka.” There, before my eyes, I saw what I was looking for the entire time, weapons. Our job was to clean the pillaged weapons, load them on a vehicle, and transfer them to the train in Novo– Sventzian. They guarded us carefully. A German soldier did not take his eyes off us. It was sufficient for me for the German to turn aside for a brief moment and look outside, and the “Otorzanka” (a short gun without no butt and a sawed–off barrel) was in my pants. I put bullets into my boots in the same manner. I felt that I had weapons. What would happen if they caught us at the end of work or when we returned to the ghetto? What would happen to me? No, it was clear, they would kill me immediately. But what would they do to the rest of the Jews? There was no time to think, we had to work, only that the time should pass. It was difficult to work, difficult to bend down, for the barrel of the Otorzanka pushed into the belly. It seemed to me that the German noticed the outline of the hidden weapon. Time flowed slowly, slowly. Work finished, and they would or would not catch us. But why would they search the

[Col. 1784]

Jews, for they would not dare to steal weapons. They would not think of this. We marched back to the ghetto accompanied by a German. We approached the gate. My tension increased. No, the German brought us inside, and the Lithuanian did not search. I have a weapon… The future appeared rosier to me. This was the first weapon in the Sventzian Ghetto.

Gershka and Dovka were not there. Early in the morning, we heard several shots from the direction of the Jewish cemetery. After a few hours, the ghetto found out that they had taken both of them along with Sarale Lewin to be shot. They were the first victims of our group. The previous three days had passed over us and the ghetto like a nightmare. At that moment, Ruvka had the loaded gun with Gershka next to him, and stated in a trembling, angry voice, “Would it be that there was a German next to me…” The bullet came out and hit Gershka. The shot was heard outside the ghetto, on the Aryan side. The Judenrat informed the Germans of the incident (the information was that two lads went onto the roof of an abandoned house, found a gun there, and the bullet came forth when they lifted it up). The two were arrested. Within a few moments, the entire ghetto knew about the existence of a partisan organization in the ghetto. We knew about the inquisition methodologies of the Germans and the torture that was hard to endure. We suspected that Ruvka and Gershka might break down and inform them [the Germans] of everything. At that time, we were already a group of 15 people, and we all had weapons. The aim was to encompass all the Jewish youth of the ghetto, to arm them with weapons, and to be prepared for the spring, to go out to the forests and to begin the battle as partisans. We were also prepared to fight in the ghetto in the event of a sudden aktion by the Germans. With the news of the arrest of Gershka and Ruvka, and the news that spread through the ghetto of the existence of a fighting organization in the ghetto, it was clear to us that we could not continue in the ghetto. Each of us had to bring their weapons and set out to the forests that very night. Everyone appeared at the designated spot on time, but most of the people of the ghetto came along with us. They all said one thing, “You will go, and when they find out, we will all be killed.” We knew that there was truth in those words. At that time, we thought that the Gestapo would extract the knowledge of our existence from Gershka and Ruvka through torture. Then, if they would find us, they would take other Jews in our place. The choice was before us, we for life and the ghetto for death, or we for death and hundreds of children, women, and ordinary innocent Jews for life. We decided to remain, place ourselves in danger, and not to endanger the others. The weapons were hidden, and each of us waited in our houses for the arrival of the Gestapo. Ruvka and Gershka did what we did not expect. Despite the harsh torture, despite the promises and enticements to keep them alive if they would tell the truth about the source of the weapons and who else in the ghetto has weapons, the Gestapo did not succeed in extracting anything from their mouths. Very few stood and did not break down with the torture of the Germans, but Ruvka and Gershka, 17–year–old youths, stood bravely. The hatred of the Germans and the faith that we would avenge the blood

[Col. 1785]

helped them in their stance. Even as they stood by their grave, next to the group of shooters, they did not break. Thus they fell as heroes…

We marched in a line. In the forest to which we desired the entire time, of which we spoke for months underground, we were in it, breathing the clear air. The aroma of spring was in the air. There was still snow here and there, and lots of mud in the melting snow. We were outside, outside the fence of the ghetto, in the forest. The forest will now be our home, for how long? Who knows? Yes, until the Nazis are expelled from here, until we take our revenge. Several hours earlier, we stood in the ghetto. We gave a final kiss to our dear ones, a shake of a hand, Shalom, who knows when we will see each other again. Goodbye ghetto, goodbye my dear ones, we are marching to fight, to take revenge.

*

The pack was heavy on the back, 12 kilograms of T.N.T. explosive material. How precious was the load, a German train with soldiers and equipment would fly in the air? The weight was heavy, but who thought about this. The rattle of the approaching train could be heard from afar. No, for this one we would not have enough time to place the load. Another one will come. The five of us walked, with the commander of the squad in front, me behind him, and three more behind me. We were all armed with P.P.Sh. sub machine guns, pistols, and grenades, and we had a mine to damage the train.

This railway line was vital for the Germans. It supplied everything for the Leningrad front. The forest ended, and the line was about 100 meters in front of us. We chose a section of the forest that reached close to the tracks, especially since it would be easier to retreat.

We knew about two German bunkers next to the railway line. There was a distance of about 600 meters between them. We planned to plant the mine between them. There was a German foot patrol along the tracks, between the bunkers. We approached the tracks carefully. The squad commander and I were in the center with the load. One person was keeping guard on the right and one on the left. The fifth remained a bit rearward to secure the flank. I climbed the slope of the mound. The place was excellent; if the explosive material exploded, the train would be derailed.

Here are the railway tracks. I looked right and left. No patrol was visible. I placed my ears on the railway track. Noise was heard, apparently a train was approaching. We had to work fast, digging a small pit between the two railway tracks, placing the load of T.N.T. placing the mechanism, covering it with earth, and everything was as it was before. We heard the steps of the patrol approaching. Indeed, a train was approaching. Who would arrive first? We ran backward, in the direction of the forest. The train continued to approach. It seemed to me that there should have already been an explosion. Why did it not explode? Doubts began, perhaps we placed a defective mine, perhaps the mechanism did not work, perhaps… And then a light lit up the entire area, and a powerful explosion was heard. The train flew in the air, and rolled down the slope. Tens and perhaps hundreds of Germans were killed and wounded. Military equipment was destroyed. This was my first train (of 16 that I took down).

*

We marched in silence on the winding road in the forest. The forest was dark even though the sun had not set. The day before

[Col. 1786]

we had marched on the same path, the entire Partisan Otriad of about 100 people. Today, we were only five partisans: Pepka, the unit commander, me his deputy, and three others.

The task was short and clear, to “liberate” Semyonov from prison in the hospital of Sventzian, and extract him from there, alive or dead.

Semyonov fell prisoner to the Germans when he was wounded. He was expert in the negotiations that took place at that time between the Lithuanian partisan commanders and the Lithuanian army forces in the German ranks. This was after the German defeat in Stalingrad, and the Lithuanian collaborators looked for ways to leave the Germans and join the victorious side. There was a suspicion that Semyonov was liable to disclose the details of the business under the pressure of Gestapo torture. The command given to the Vilnius Otriad was to extract the wounded Semyonov from German hands. Yesterday, there was a plan that the entire Otriad would attack and extract him. At the list minute, we found out about a strong Lithuanian force near the hospital, and it was clear that an attack with the force of the entire Otriad would not succeed in extracting him. The five of us volunteered to attempt to quietly penetrate the city and free Semyonov. We took advantage of the daylight hours to approach Sventzian through the forests and groves. It was the middle of the summer, and we had approximately four hours of darkness to extract Semyonov and retreat to the forest. We neared Sventzian about a half hour after dark. Penetrating the town was difficult. We had to pass between two positions, about 100 meters from each other. We heard the Lithuanian soldiers singing and chatting in the positions. The place, with every house and every path, was well known to me. Here was the hospital. Within a few seconds, we liquidated the sentry at the door of the hospital. We knew that Semyonov was on the second floor, but we did not know in which room. We also knew that another sentry, a Lithuanian guard, slept next to the door of the room. We broke into the stairwell, Pepka first, and me after him. We reached the second floor. I turned left, and Pepka turned right. Suddenly, an image in white, a nurse, moved before me. “Where is the wounded partisan?” I shouted to her. Rather than responding, she fell and fainted. I ran into the second room, encountered a doctor, and he responded to me, after being pushed hard with the barrel of a gun into his belly, that the partisan was on the other side of the hall. I turned there and saw Pepka leading a Lithuanian guard with his hands up, and two others were dragging Semyonov. I sneaked upward, and a Lithuanian guard was there, the existence of whom we did not know. Running upward, I lowered all my P.P.Sh. onto his head, and he fell, wallowing in his blood. I exited, and then heard the alarm in the nearby police camp. The retreat was slow, and we had to carry Semyonov by the hand. Each moment, we waited for a pursuer to capture us.

To our good fortune, the police reported that a large force had penetrated Sventzian to free Semyonov. At the moment that the alarm was sounded, they prepared for defense, and did not think about pursuing us. We were again in the forest at the break of dawn, where the people of the Otriad waited for us. Few believed that we would emerge alive from this action. That which the entire Otriad could not succeed in doing was carried out by five volunteer partisans.


[Col. 1787]

The Anger of the Martyrs and Heroes

Shlomo Kovarski

Translated by Anita Frishman Gabbay

 

Sve1787.jpg

 

I survived the gruesome internment of the Vilna ghetto, took part in the fighting in the forests of the Sventzian region and after many years of wandering after the war, through faraway cities and lands, I carried deep within me the heartache of the martyrs and heroes. My heart forever carries this heavy burden. Deep in my memory these horrors will remain with me and will never cease to haunt me.

The spirit of my people haunts me: they are still “swimming before my eyes”, the lost towns and hamlets of the Sventzian region.

It shall haunt us forever and all people as a reminder of our Jewish brethren!

The entire history of the Jewish people is a story of incomprehensible struggles, with strength and determination of enormous proportions, together with the struggle from within for different values. In the matter of a few hundred years in Eastern Europe a large Jewish center developed. Generations came and went, each with its own challenges and its struggles for survival. Each town created their own identity, with its own personalities who were involved with various institutions and community renewal. This uniqueness was produced with their own unique idealism.

This is how the Jews lived in their small shtetls of Eastern Europe, developing their culture and its institutions, leading colorful lives until the “catastrophe” befell them and wiped out years of civilization. This “catastrophe” wiped out 6 million Jewish lives all at once, most of the East European Jewry.

It was not a passive resistance against those Hitlerite murderers, many battles of resistance took place in the ghettos, in the work camp, and in the forests, with devotion and passion.

Small and large groups, organized Jews both for political or for personal reasons, obtained guns and ammunition and carried out these battles.

[Col. 1788]

There was no organized group in Poland, as we know, but many revolts took place. This awoke young Jews everywhere, they took part in these revolts. They didn't want to be led to their deaths, like “sheep to the slaughter”. They wanted to fight with honor. Although their strength was weakened after such terrible living conditions and meager food rations, the Jewish people fought with all their strength to inflict as much damage on the Hitlerite animals as possible. They organized sabotage and divisive activities in these ghettos and work camps that diminished the German military potential.

Many of the young people went to the forests to join the partisans where they fought heroically with much success, inflicting many disruptions against the German war effort. Many ambushes took the lives of our Sventzianer youth who were part of the first groups that went to the forests. They joined the fighting battalions and received much praise and many awards for their heroic battles. They fought the enemy and took revenge against our bitter enemy that spilled the blood of our brothers and sister, mothers and fathers, destroying our people. They risked their lives by going to the Vilna Ghetto, joining the partisan divisions, bringing fighters and many others from the Ghetto to the forest to the bases of the various battalions. Hundreds of Jewish fighters, daily, went to carry out these dangerous attacks to inflict as much damage and carry out their holy duty of revenge for all the spilled blood.

Do not forget! Do not forget! This was the last words of the partisan fighters. This last call until today, remains in our hearts:

Do not forgive these murderers who are still around in the world, the helpers, whose hands are washed in Jewish blood.

Do not forget to tell future generations about the righteous and almighty struggle of the Jews in the most horrific time in the history of the Jews.


[Col. 1789]

The Heroes Who Have Fallen [in Battle]

Translated by Jerrold Landau

 

Hirsch Charmatz

He was born in 1910 in the town of Lyntupy to his parents Yaakov and Malka. He worked in business. His family perished in the slaughter in Lyntupy, on December 19, 1942. He escaped from Lyntupy on the day of the slaughter and reached Sventzian. From there he escaped to the Narocz [Narach] forests with three survivors from his town. This was the area of the Markov partisan brigade. They joined a group of Lithuanian partisans, who took their guns and stripped them of their clothing and boots. They succeeded again to obtain several guns from farmers through various means.

They were accepted into a Jewish brigade that was composed of Sventzian and Lyntupy natives. The brigade leader assigned spying and scouting tasks to the Jewish group. To this end, some of the brigade went out under the command of Avraham Rein to the areas of Lyntupy and Sventzian. They entered the home of a farmer named Birt, who received them cordially, but secretly sent his daughter to inform the Germans in the town of Lyntupy. The Germans surrounded the house and set it on fire. The lads burst outside in a flurry of fire. Hirsch Charmatz was among the four partisans who fell in battle in a desperate act of defense. The others were Leib Gurwicz, Ishika Gertman, and Simka Lewin. That night, their friends returned and buried them in a communal grave. After the war, they were transferred to the grave of the martyrs who were slaughtered in the town.

 

Yisrael Wolfson

He was born in 1926 in Sventzian, near Vilna, to his parents Avraham and Perl. He completed seven grades in the Tarbut School.

During the years of occupation, he visited the ghettos of Postov and Glubokie. He was active in obtaining weapons, and he was in contact with a group of youths in Sventzian who were preparing to escape to the partisans in the forests. He escaped to the forests in 1943 with a group of Sventzian youths, and was accepted into the Markov brigade of the Chapoyev [Tzapaiev] unit, which was stationed in the forests of Kazian [Kažinė].

He was sent by his command to the Vilna Ghetto. From there, he returned to his base with a group of Vilna youths.

Among other things, he participated in the attack on the stationary force of Komai, which ended in a decisive victory with the bombardment of several trains, etc.

He fell in battle a few days after the liberation (July 1944) in a combing operation against retreating Germans.

 

Leib Woliak

He was born in 1916 in the village of Stajetiškė in the area of Sventzian to parents working in agriculture. He was educated in the Tarbut School and was active in Hechalutz.

He lost his entire family in the slaughter that the Lithuanians perpetrated in Poligon during the first months after the German invasion.

He fled to the city of Kažinė. He took advantage of his work in chopping trees in the forests

[Col. 1790]

to search for traces of partisans. A group of Russian prisoners of war to which they joined along with three other youths of Kažinė removed their weapons and stripped them of their clothes. They only succeeded in escaping and returning to Kažinė in the cover of the darkness of night.

After a few weeks, he fell into the hands of the guards who had accepted them as partisans. They brought him to the village of Paltro and ordered him to dig a pit for himself. He hit one of the guards over the head, pushed the second one aside, and sneaked away running wildly. The guards opened fire and wounded him. His friends found him in a pool of blood, transferred him to Kažinė and later to the Vidz Ghetto where he recovered from his wounds.

The third time he went out to the forests with a group of youths and organized a Jewish partisan brigade under his own command, numbering 50 fighters. When the Spartak unit arrived from the east in June 1942, the Jewish group under the command of Woliak was joined to that unit.

He has several successful ambushes and battles against groups of guards and small garrisons to his name. These provided more weapons for the hundreds of fighters who joined the brigade.

Commissar Ponamarov commended the wonderful command of Woliak to the unit after an ambush against an S.S. commander group and guards who attacked the partisan base. Thirty Germans were killed in the deathly fire of the ambush. Eleven were taken prisoner. The booty of weapons and arms was large and variegated.

The Jewish division under his command excelled in the attack of the brigade against the stationary guard of Kažinė. As natives of the town, they served as guides. They surprised 40 Latvians and took them prisoner.

During the time of the German siege on the forests of Kažinė (November 22, 1942), when the unit retreated eastward, Woliak remained with his brigade to protect the unarmed Jews. At the risk of their lives, they obtained supplies and secure places for the Jews during the winter season of 1942–1943. Thanks to him, most of those Jews survived until liberation.

When the Spartak unit returned in the spring of 1943, they granted the Jewish brigade freedom of action against the murderers and collaborators of the population. Thirty murderers whose hands were sullied with Jewish blood were killed in punitive actions, and their farms were set on fire.

His crowning action was the burning of the railway station in the village of Petrovitch and the killing of the local garrison. Other groups had failed at this objective.

Woliak and his group stumbled upon an ambush on their way to one of their actions. All 15 partisans fell after battling against the enemy that outnumbered them tenfold until their weapons were used up.

Ponamarov, the Commissar of the unit, eulogized him as follows, “the best, most faithful partisan, wo excelled as a friend, a partisan, and a commander has fallen.”

He was granted three emblems of excellence after he fell. His memory remains forever etched in the minds of hundreds of Jews who survived the war in the forests of Kažinė thanks to him.

[Col. 1791]

Gershka Bak

Sve1791a.jpg

 

He was born in Sventzian in 1925 to Yitzchak and Rivka. His father was a glassmaker. He completed seven grades in the Tarbut School.

He worked in the Vita–Lager armaments warehouse during the time of the occupation, and took advantage of every opportunity to take weapons and ammunition for the underground youth of the ghetto.

He was injured in the ghetto from a bullet that escaped from a gun in the hands of his friend Reuvke Miadzolski while they were busy digging hiding places in the roof of a house for guns that had been stolen from the Germans. Both were turned into the Gestapo by the Judenrat.

The two of them endured cruel tortures for ten days and nights, and did not give over any information about the underground or the source of the gun.

He transmitted a message through a girl who worked in the police, saying, “I did not disclose anything. I did not turn in anyone.”

They were both shot in the cemetery of Sventzian on May 16, 1942.

 

David Guterman

 

Sve1791b.jpg
Ephraim Guterman, Shlomo Jochelman, Peretz Czepelowicz, Leib Kanfer

 

He was born in Kaltanėnai near Nowo– Sventzian in 1917 to parents who worked in agriculture. He was a graduate of the public school, a sportsman, strong, and a member of the Polish Communist Party. He was imprisoned by the Polish authorities in 1934, and moved to work in Warsaw at illegal Communist publishing after he was freed.

He was in the Polish army at the outbreak of the war in 1939. He participated in battles against the Germans, displayed bravery on the front, and was injured badly. He transferred from the Polish front and reached Russia. He fought in the ranks of the Lithuanian brigade on the Ural–Kursk front. He went through a special course, and in December 1942 or early 1943 parachuted from Moscow – with a Lithuanian brigade – to the forests of Kažinė, where he organized a partisan movement on Lithuanian soil. He was one of the organizers of the Spartak unit, and was appointed as commander of a special division and a sabotage group in one of the brigades of the unit. He carried out numerous sabotage operations resulting in the killing of many Germans. He became known as a hero

[Col. 1792]

throughout the entire area, and was praised by all the partisans. He earned many emblems of excellence.

During the German hunt in the forests of Kažinė, he participated in a desperate battle of 20 people against the superior force of the Germans. Since the group had no other way to retreat, he volunteered to cover those retreating with his machine gun.

His machine gun did not stop shooting until the group succeeded in escaping from the enemy. After the last of the fighters disappeared from the battlefield, he began to run, but he suddenly realized that he had no energy to advance. He realized that he had been wounded badly. He remained alone on the battlefield. His machine gun continued to rain fire on the enemy. He detonated all the grenades that he had with him. They exploded, and several Germans were killed. However, he was surrounded by the Germans at the same time. He did not have even one bullet with him that he could have used to end his life. Wounded badly, he fell into the hands of the enemy soldiers. They brought him to the nearby village, gouged out his eyes, and exhibited him to instill fear.

Death relieved him from inhuman torture.

 

Leib Gurwicz

He was born in Sventzian in 1914 to his parents Kopel and Chava, who earned their livelihood from commerce. His father was one of the 100 townsfolk who were taken by the Germans apparently for labor, but were really taken to be killed.

He escaped from Sventzian with his mother and wife Rivka Feigel, and were saved in Poligon. A daughter was born to him during that time. He gave her over to a Christian acquaintance.

He lived together wish his family in the Vilna Ghetto for some time. From there, they escaped to the Narocz forests. He joined a kernel of a group of Jewish partisans that was organized by Alexander Bogen [1] (the well–known artist, who lives in Israel), having been confirmed by the commander of the unit, Markov.

He participated in many actions, and fulfilled dangerous scouting and spying roles in Lithuania, along with others. They had to cross paths central roads, and railway tracks that were guarded well by Germans.

On November 14, 1943, he was in a group, commanded by Avraham Rein of Lyntupy, who were tasked with following after the movements of the German army on the roads, and obtaining weapons and other supplies. When they reached one village near Lyntupy, they entered the house of a farmer named Birt. He received them cordially, and secretly sent his daughter to inform the stationary force in Lyntupy about the presence of partisans in his house. Germans and Lithuanians arrived in the village after a short while, surrounded the house in which the Jewish partisans were located, and rained fire upon it. The partisans returned the fire, and a bitter, desperate battle broke out. The Jewish fighters attempted to break out of the house in self–defense.

Three succeeded in escaping from the Germans and fleeing to the forest, while four died as heroes. Leib Gurwicz attacked a German machine gunner and killed him. The machine gun stopped, but he fell dead.

Yeshaya Gertman, Hirsch Charmatz, and Shimon Lewin fell along with him.

His mother, wife, and daughter survived, and live in Israel.

[Col. 1793]

Shayka Garber

He was born in 1920 in Sventzian, region of Vilna.

He was a partisan in the Voroshilov brigade, in Markov's unit. He was sent by Markov to Vilna several times for special missions. Due to this, he made contact with the survivors of the Vilna Ghetto, and took several of them out to the forest.

He participated in many battles and actions of the brigade.

In the autumn of 1943, he was in a group that was sent to carry out a mission in Lithuania. When the group was near Kobylnik, it was attacked by soldiers of the Lithuanian fascist army, and he fell in battle as a hero.

 

Yeshaya (Ishika) Gertman

He was born in Sventzian in 1921 to Avraham and Reizel. His father was a shoemaker, and active Bundist.

His entire family perished in Poligon. Alone and forlorn, he joined an underground organization and excelled in “extracting” weapons from the German weapons factories in which he worked. In March 1943, he was with a group of 24 youths who left the ghetto with their weapons and reached the Lyntupy forests. At that time, there was not yet even one partisan unit in those forests. Since there was no possibility in the forests, they set out for the Vilna Ghetto. There, they made immediate contact with the F.P.O. group, which advised them to join the organization in the ghetto. The people from Sventzian only agreed to collaboration with respect to going out to the forests. In the interim, the Jewish police found out that there were Jewish partisans in the ghetto who had arrived from the forests. They traced after them, and arrested him along with Yitzchak Rudnitzki, a member of the Sventzian group. At the police station, the captain, Natan Ring, demanded that they turn over their weapons to the police, otherwise a bitter fate would await them. The two refused to fulfil this order, and the captain summoned the police who beat them seriously over their heads with rubber batons. They were transferred to the ghetto jail, unconscious and bleeding. They were freed after strong intervention from the command of the fighting organization.

After being freed from jail, he left the ghetto and went to the Narocz forests, where he was accepted into the Chapayev brigade, Markov unit.

He was the messenger of Markov, the commander of the Byelorussian unit, to the Vilna Ghetto, with a command to the leader of the Jewish fighting organization to transfer themselves with all of their weapons to the forests.

Several times, he served as a guide to groups that were setting out to the forest.

At the beginning of 1943, he joined the Jewish group headed by Alexander Katzenelbogen (Alexander Bogen, the well–known artist, living today in Israel), which was expected to concern itself with provision of its own weapons. He joined a battle against the Germans who attacked the groups in the village of Melniki, when it was returning from a scouting mission. There, they succeeded in forcefully extracting several guns from Polish farmers.

On November 14, 1943, he was in a group commanded by Avraham Rein of Lyntupy that was surrounded by German forces around Lyntupy. In the desperate battle that ensued, he died as a hero by his own shot after all his ammunition was exhausted, as he did not want to fall alive into the hands of the enemy. Four Jewish partisans fell in that battle, and three succeeded in escaping and returning to the forests.

[Col. 1794]

Shimon and Rachel Lewin

There were born in Sventzian to Menachem–Mendel and Esther. Shimon was born in 1908 and Rachel in 1913. They were saved from the slaughter at Poligon where their parents perished, and escaped together with their younger brother Reuven.

They wandered about among farmers they knew in the area of Gudeliszki until the liquidation of the Sventzian Ghetto. When the organized group left the ghetto, Shimon served as their guide, and as one of the advisors of the first base in the forest. His knowledge of the paths of the area and the forests often prevent armed clashes with police forces who had come to liquidate the first kernel of Sventzian natives – the partisans and Jews. When Rachel got sick and died due to the lack of medical attention in one of the isolated buildings at the edge of a village in the area, the two brothers took her out and buried her at the edge of the forest, without the farmers of the area knowing about it. After this tragedy, the two brothers continued to wander about the area without being able to distance themselves from Rachel's grave.

I recall that when I stayed with my sister Chaya in the bathhouse of the village at the edge of the forest of the farmer P. Shilkis, Reuven and Shimon entered in the middle of the night, also to rest a bit and sleep. They had not dreamed of meeting us or of other people of the remove area in such an abandoned building. They informed me of the death of Rachel, who had been a childhood friend of my sister Chaya.

Later, the two brothers joined the Voroshilov brigade in the forests of Myadzel. They joined the Bogen group. While spying in the area of Lyntupy– Sventzian, Shimon fell in battle along with four of his comrades. They were buried not far from Rachel's grave, and this was after two months.

 

Yosef Rudnitzki

He was born in 1921 to Pesach and Sheina. He graduated from the Tarbut School and prepared to continue.

In the ghetto, he worked at acquiring weapons from the German warehouses in which he worked at forced labor. He was one of the faithful participants in the groups of youth of Sventzian who prepared to escape to the forests and join the camp of fighters.

He left the ghetto with them in March 1943, and joined the Voroshilov partisan unit under the command of Markov. Later, when the Jurgis unit was founded, he joined the Vilnius Otriad.

While on route to fulfil a task on Lithuanian soil, they were attacked by an ambush of soldiers of the Latvian fascist army. Yosef fell in the desperate battle that ensued, thereby avoiding falling into the hands of the enemy alive.

 

David (Dudka) Jochai

He was born in 1926 to Chaim, a tanner by trade. He joined an organized group to go out to the forests as a fighter along with his older brother Boris.

How great was the joy that their father Chaim succeeded in escaping from the death train to Vilna and Ponar, and reached them.

His desire and thoughts for the future, when the war would end, were to not leave his elderly father, and to be an aid to him during his old age. Fate had it opposite. Chaim was bereaved of his son of old age, and he mourned for his faithful son.

[Col. 1795]

While he was alive, he participated in many battles and sabotage actions of the Chapoyev brigade, to which he belonged and displayed bravery. His name went before him.

He fell in battle during an attack on the stationary force and in a combing operation against the Germans.

 

Shalom Mechkin

He was born in 1926 to Yaakov and Leah. He graduated from the Yiddish public school. He continued with his studies during the time of Soviet occupation. He worked at obtaining weapons, and was connected with the group of youths of the ghetto who were preparing to escape to the partisan forests.

The group abandoned young Shalom at the last minute, and he was forced to go with his grandmother Sara–Rivka to the slaughter at Ponar. However, fate brightened for him, and he succeeded in escaping, and in arriving in the forests of Kažinė through his own efforts. He joined the fighters in the forests. He participated in many battles and sabotage operations.

During the German siege of the forests of Kažinė, he was surrounded by Germans, and he fell as a hero in battle.

When the people of Sventzian who were transferred to the Vilna Ghetto saw the partisans from their town marching at the head of the F.P.O. fighting groups which decided to transfer to the forests of fighters, and leaving the ghetto, they too joined the battle to forge a path to the forests. They expressed deep sorrow on not having done this while there was still time, while living in the Sventzian Ghetto. They decided to set out on the paths and roads without direction or a guide.

Many of them reached the partisan base in the forests of Narocz, and even went to the partisan base in the forests of Kažinė.

There were also incidents of opposition, as follows:

A large group reached the river and were forced to cross the bridge before dawn, when suddenly an ambush of strong fire hit them from three sides. Our people returned the fire. Both sides suffered losses. It is unfortunate about those who were lost, and who fell in battle before reaching the forests.

The forests were surrounded by German guards and a stationary force that attacked with cannons, automatic weapons, and even airplanes. The battle was difficult and heavy. The organized partisans prepared for this, and left the dangerous places while there was still time so they could hide in secure places. Our group stumbled into a German guard before reaching the base, and did not succeed in preparing secure spots. It was forced to fight and fall in battle, without selling their lives for cheap. They received full price – a soul for a soul.

We will remember the heroes who fell in battle!

The names of the partisans who fell in battles and other circumstances:

Pesach Goldberg, Pinchas Shulgeifer, Sheina–Lea Shulgeifer, Akiva Numkin, Mordechai Bak, Reizel Bak, Chaya–Esther Rudnitzki, Meir Katz, Gittel Katz, Esther Garber, Beila Michelson, Batya Kowarski, Gita Leifer, Chaim–Leib Gordon, Yochanan Michelson, Meir Swirski*, Berl Solomiak, Chanan Opeskin, Shmuel Bushaknitz, Reuven Miadzolski.

*this is not the same Meir Swirski of Kobylnik [see Kobylnik Yiskor book]

[Col. 1796]

Sve1796.jpg
Pesach Goldberg

 

Told over by Chana Goldberg

Pesach Goldberg was born in 1901 in Lida. He married Ella Szuta in Sventzian. His wife and three children were taken to Poligon together with all the Jews of the Sventzian region. Only he remained in the small Sventzian Ghetto. The Jews sent him with a wagon of bread to those imprisoned in Poligon. At the same time, he helped us leave there.

At the liquidation of the Sventzian Ghetto in 1943, he and his family were sent to Vilna. When the Sventzian youths who had already found their way to the partisans arrived in Vilna with the purpose of taking Jews out to the forest, Pesach Goldberg connected with Shlomo Ichiltchik and Motka Feigel, who took us to the Narocz forests, where Pesach had already joined the Jewish Nekama [Revenge] Otriad, led by Yosef Gluzman [Glazman].

On a certain day, the Germans set up a blockade around the partisans . At the time of the assault, the forward group of the Otriad succeeded in breaking through, and advanced toward the direction of the Kažinė forests. However, they were noticed by the Germans, and were all killed.

Only Pesach Goldberg's daughter Elka survived from the entire group of forty people.

*Shalom Yavnovitch, son of Shlomo Yavnovitch and Raitza Gilinski of Kobylnik, died in the forest on Tuesday August 25, 1943 during the German siege of the Partisans. [see Kobylnich[Narach] Yiskor book. This is the late uncle of Anita Frishman Gabbay


Translator's Footnote:
  1. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Bogen Return

 

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Svencionys, Lithuania     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Binny Lewis
This web page created by Jason Hallgarten

Copyright © 1999-2019 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 6 Nov 2019 by LA