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Vasilishki portion of Shchuchin Yizkor Book (cont.)

Translation donated by Eric Cohen

Translated by Miriam Dashkin Beckerman

The Second Small Slaughter

        May 10, 1942, around 1,800 Jews were murdered and only about two hundred Jews were left alive, temporarily. Those left alive were mainly craftsmen with their families. The twenty percent remaining were herded into the stone Beit Midrash and registered there.

        There were cases in which someone from the Polish population denounced one of the saved ones. As a result, Berl KOPELMAN (SHTANDAR), together with his family, was taken out and shot outside the Beit Midrash.

        Early Monday morning, May 11, around one hundred Jews crawled out of their various holes, freeing themselves for a while. My mother, Etel KRAVITZ, my seven-year-old, Shmulik, and I were among the fortunate hidden ones.

        Herman SENDIK and Dr. KATZ passed on to us the happy news that we need not fear. All the hidden ones would be registered as useful Jews. Who could rejoice? Hearts were broken and crying at the great "churban" that had happened the previous day. There were still victims lying, who had not yet been removed. The whole place was full of blood.

It was quiet in the ghetto. Doors, windows, shutters, everything was wide open. The wind cried together with us so sorrowfully. We were not allowed to mourn for long. An order was issued that everyone who had hidden on the day of the slaughter must assemble immediately near the Beit Midrash.

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Everyone was to be registered for useful work.

        How naïve we were to still believe the German Nazi murderers. Who could imagine that the slaughter of the previous day had not satisfied their thirst for Jewish blood?

        Immediately, all those who had holed up during the slaughter gathered together. Each one of us was ready to do the hardest labor. We were arranged in rows of five, one behind the other. In our five, I stood behind my mother, my young son, and the brothers Mordekhai and Yitzak SVIATOI. We were standing in this way, around twenty groups of five. I shall attempt to name those assembled to the best of my ability.

        The Germans and the Polish police immediately encircled us

        When my son saw how everyone was being encircled and the guns pointed at us, he started to cry loudly. He clung to me with two trembling hands.

        "Mama, I'm afraid. They're going to shoot us. Save us, Mama!"

        "Don't cry, my son. Don't be afraid. It doesn't hurt. You don't feel anything. When the bullets fly, they hit quickly."

        That's how, very quickly, a Jewish mother gave "comfort" to her child.

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        A selection started. Right. Left.

        Suddenly, those assembled started to run in all directions. Perhaps someone will save himself.

        Soon, from all directions, heavy shooting started at those running and those standing. Many fell right there.

        At the last minute, the Polish commandant approached us, YEZEVSKI, and sent me and my child and mother to the right. As I was running to the right, I heard my cousin Chanche KRAVITZ, shouting to me: "Save my child, my Soreleh!!"

        I barely managed to take from my cousin her three year-old child, when she was shot on the spot.

        I hid the child among the living. A Polish policeman, who noticed me hiding my cousin's daughter, ran up to me and threatened to send my family and me to death. After much begging, I tore myself out of his grasp.

        Heartbreaking scenes took place before our eyes. While they were shooting at those at the left, many of them fell to the group though not shot. Yehoshua KOPELMAN's two young boys, Moishele and Hirshele, ages ten and twelve, knelt before Commandant Yezevski's feet and pleaded to be left alive.

        Yezevski got close to them and with two shots to their heads, he silenced them.

        From all sides were heard screams and crying, but the heavy shooting "calmed" everyone. Approximately eighty people were shot in a matter of minutes, there in the shul courtyard. We, the survivors, stood there, leaning against Avraham-Elye SHVETZER's brick wall and with deathly fear, observed the bloody slaughter from very close. One shot hit our group and killed Mones YONAS on the spot. Alte EISENSTEIN fell, wounded. Though she was not killed, she was taken to the pit in the Jewish cemetery. Moishe KOWALSKY's daughter, Batya, struggled fiercely with a policeman, but he shot her.

        When the bloody action ended, all surviving Jews were ordered to move into the ghetto shortly thereafter.

        Those who survived the slaughter of the previous days and the small number from our group immediately started to carry our meager bundles from the old ghetto to the newly established small ghetto. We were broken and in a quandary. Our legs refused to carry us. The only "man" in our family was my seven year-old son. During the slaughter, my husband was outside the shtetl. My child was the first one to use his common sense. He went down to the cellar to gather some potatoes. My mother and I carried it over to our ghetto residence.

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        We trod through the puddles of blood of our close ones, who had so recently been shot.

        Night fell. We somehow "made ourselves at home" in the new ghetto. We sat in the dark, hungry, clinging to one another. Cries of the remaining remnants, lost souls, could be heard. We found ourselves together with the family of Isaac BOYARSKY and his sister Dvorel with her two children in the house of Nachum the glazier on Kranker Street.

        Early the following morning, we were again chased out to work. It was raining. The pavement and the sidewalks were red with blood. On the street tallit were strewn as were Sefer Torahs and Gemaras. The houses in the ghetto stood, still and orphaned. It was quiet in the shtetl. Everything was at rest in the pits on the Jewish cemetery.

        In the meantime, Isaac BOYARSKY got very sick. It didn't take long. He died a "death of luxury, in his own bed. We envied him.

        The gendarmarie granted permission to arrange a funeral for Boyarsky. At the cemetery, we beheld a terrible site. A huge mass grave covered with lime. The covering of lime opened up. The open spaces were filled with blood. It appeared to us that the grave was in motion.

        We stood for a long time and cried, not being able to tear ourselves away from the mass grave.

        Everyday, we were driven to work, some to their trades, other simply to hard labor.

        Very soon, there were rumors that we would be taken to Szczuczyn Ghetto. The rumors were quickly confirmed.

        The remaining Vasilishok Jews were transported to Szczuczyn Ghetto in three groups. The last group of Vasilishok Jews was led to Szczuczyn on August 1, 1942.

        Vasilishok remained free of Jews.


        Those who claim that Jews went to their death like "sheep to the slaughter" were not there and cannot imagine at all the hell of those hours. In our writings, we have mentioned just a few cases of heroism that Vasilishok Jews showed while they were being driven to their death-graves and during the execution itself. The tearing a gun out of the hands of a policeman or running away under a hail of bullets near the mass grave -- as happened in Vasilishok -- were acts of public heroism. In addition to these acts were tens of examples of quiet heroism that nobody noticed and of which no one will ever know. Only a very small number of such cases were later told from mouth to ear. They witness the fact that even in the most frightful moments of destruction, Vasilishok's Jews did not lose their "Image of God" -- worried about near and dear ones -- hoped and gave one another courage and sacrificed themselves.

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         Following are just a few facts that we have gathered about Vasilishok quiet heroes.


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What I Lived Through Outside the Ghetto

        August 1. 1942. Approximately three months after the great slaughter, the remaining Vasilishok Jews were brought to the Szczuczyn ghetto.

        Shortly thereafter, the Jews from the Szczuczyn Ghetto started to be sent to various other places. The Germans announced that those Jews who went voluntarily to the Barisov labor camp were "assured" of their lives. Some Jews allowed themselves to be misled by the German "assurances." True, they were taken to Barisov, but none of them returned.

        Some of the Jews from the Szczuczyn Ghetto were taken to the Lida Todt Lager.

        During all this time, I entertained the idea of running away from the ghetto and hiding with Christians. Since I had a store for many years, I knew many of the Christians in Vasilishok.

        I decided to go to a Christian woman whom I knew, Antonina GABIS, in the village of GLINITZE to see if I could hide at her place.

        Before our departure from Vasilishok to Szczuczyn, she told me that if things got bad in Szczuczyn Ghetto that I should come with my family to her house, that she would hide us.

        One winter Friday, I set out on the risky road to her. It was a frosty day. Deep snow covered the roads. I had gone only a few kilometers when I noticed that I had lost my way. I went into a peasant's hut and asked directions to Vasilishok. The peasant showed me the right way. I, very tired, continued on my way.

        Suddenly, Polish police encircled me. I felt my end approaching. They asked me who I was and where I was going. I replied that I was a Jewish woman from Vasilishok, going to the mass grave to say farewell to my husband and son because I was shortly to leave for Barisov. The Polish police beat me fiercely, pulled me onto a sleigh and took me to the Szczuczyn prison.

        A Jewish woman working in the prison went immediately to the ghetto to tell my daughter and son-in-law what had happened to me. The children immediately went to the Judenrat. With great difficulty and with a monetary bribe, they managed through the Polish policeman YEZEVSKI, already the commandant in Szczuczyn, to free me once more.

        A short time thereafter, my son-in-law, Dr. ALPERT, was taken to Todt Lager in Lida, as the doctor there. A while later, my daughter also was taken to Lida as a nurse. I sought out a Christian from Szczuczyn who, for good pay, took a letter of mine to the Christian woman, Antonina GABIS.

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         I remained alone and resolved that no matter what the price, I must contact the village GLINITZE.

        A short time thereafter, Antonina Gabis came to me in the ghetto. She dressed me in peasant clothes. We both left the ghetto. We went out behind the shtetl where Antonina's son waited for us with a horse and wagon. Late at night, we arrived in Glinitze. She immediately took me into the barn where I spent the first night.

        I hid in the barn for six years. From time to time, I would look out through the cracks in order to see what was going on in the street. It was very cold.

        Some evenings, the Christian woman would take me into her house. She would heat some water so that I could wash myself. I couldn't remain long in the house. They were very fearful because one got the death sentence for hiding a Jew.

        Germans, but mainly White Poles constantly surrounded the village. I always hid among the haystacks. It was much harder to hide from the White Poles than from the Germans. The Germans would come into the village for a short visit. They would gather eggs, butter, cheese, and quickly depart. The White Poles used to hang around all night throughout the village and search every corner.

        My situation became increasingly unbearable. The Christian woman would, from time to time, hide me in her garret on a stack of hay. I could hear the children crying that the "zydavina" [Jewess] brought misfortune on their family. I often begged the Christian woman: "Kill me. I can't bear to see your suffering. I can no longer stand to suffer myself."

        The Christian woman comforted me: "We won't kill you. We have a G-d in heaven. Whatever is destined, that's what will be."

        A while later, the Christian and her husband made a hiding place for me in their cellar pit for potatoes. That is how I hid alive in a disguised grave. In the very frosty nights, they took me into the house. I would sleep on the oven. The Christian's old mother always slept there. She would conceal me with her shoulders when anyone entered the house at night.

        When I got sick and had high fever, they let me sleep on the oven during the day also.

        The peasant family that hid me was a very poor one. The little money that I had given them had long been used up. More than once, there was not even a piece of bread.

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        One day, when I was lying on the oven, a peasant from the village entered the house. He did not see me. Suddenly, I heard him say to my rescuers that there was talk in the village that they were hiding a Vasilishok Jewish woman, the CHANOVEH and her family.

        Hearing this burned black for me. As soon as the peasant left, I begged the Christian woman to find another hiding place for me.

        My rescuer immediately went to another village to a Christian whom she knew three. He agreed to hide me for a short time.

        Antonina's husband was very afraid to transport me to the new hideaway. I kissed his hands, cried and begged him.

        Finally, he concealed me in his sleigh, covered me with straw. That is how I arrived at my new hiding place on Purim 1944.

        Once, again, I found myself hiding in the straw. The Christian treated me very well. I was given food. At night, I was taken into the house. While I was with this Christian, I found out that a few days before, White Poles in the village killed Yankel VOLOCHINSKY's children and Chanan MOVSHOVICH.

        The Christian could not hide me for very long. He told this to the Christian woman in Glinitze.

        One night, I was taken to an acquaintance of mine, a Christian, who was a long-time customer of mine.

        I hid in a "sachran" [hideout] that was in the peasant's house. At night, I would be taken indoors to sleep. One night, when I was sleeping in the house, I suddenly heard a knock at the door. The peasant barely managed to let me down to hide in the sachran just the way I was. White Poles entered the house. They demanded whiskey and port. Meanwhile, they found a fiddle in the house. They started to rejoice in the peasant's hut. They ate. They drank. They danced. I suffered agony. I shivered from fear and from cold.

        The eldest daughter of the Christian took advantage of the tumult and, unnoticed, they down some woolens and something to put on.

        From great fear, the woman of the house became ill. I had to leave the house of my Christian friends.

        Once more, I found myself at the place of my rescuer, Antonina, in the village of Glinitze.

        I stayed in a cold cellar chamber. The wind howled through the cracks and holes. From time to time, I was let in the sheep stall. Among the sheep, I was much warmer.

        The beloved holiday of Pesach 1944 arrived. Just a few years before, I was a housewife with a family and a bright warm home. Now, I found myself alone, abandoned, in hiding. I cried bitterly as I recalled the happy years that would never return.

        The period between Pesach and Shavuot was much easier because it was not cold. I was very weak

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and exhausted from all the tzores I had endured and from the harsh winter.

        One day, Antonina ran up to the garret where I lay hidden. She started to take out all kinds of things that she had put away there. She told me that the Germans were setting fire to the villages and that all the Christians were running away to the forests.

        For me, they dug a hole among the hemp so that I would have hiding place.

        At night, they returned to their houses. I was left to my hiding place in the garret.

        In the village, rumors circulated that the Russians were reaching all fronts and that the Germans were retreating.

        A thought crept into my mind. Perhaps, I will survive the war after all and once more meet my children. I weave dreams. And -- the great, happy day arrived. Antonina told me that many wounded German soldiers were being taken to the nearby hospital. The Russian places were bombing Baranowitz, Lida, etc. The day of liberation was approaching.

        One day, Antonina told me the good news, that the Russians had occupied Lida. Because of great joy, she baked a fish for me. We both cried, emotionally moved from the joy.

        I looked through the cracks of the garret. Many people were running in the village. I found out that these are Vasilishok residents running from the shtetl to the village. They said that Vasilishok is burning.

        At night, I stood and looked at the red sky. I am happy that Vasilishok went up in flames. There are no people--so let there be no houses!

        The following day, the Russians were already in Vasilishok.

        Tearfully, I bade farewell to the Christian woman and her humane family and returned to my destroyed home.


Vasilishok Partisans

        In the days of the mass slaughter, April 10, 1942 [sic], tens of young people took off in all directions, beneath a hail of German bullets. Among those who ran away from the "umshlagplatz" and actually from the cemetery itself were Arke GORDON, Itchke GORDON, Reuven DOLINSKY, Rivka DOLINSKY, Slomke LUBERSKY of Sobakintze, Zuskeh GROJENSKY, Moishe BOYARSKY, Mulke CAMAY, Leizer EISHISHKI, Yitzhak PUPKO, and others from Vasilishok, Zabelotz, and Sobakin youth.

        Some of those who ran away were wounded and perished on the way. Some, after a few days of wandering, returned to Vasilishok ghetto. Some reached peasants whom they knew. Some ended up in the forest.

        The Jews who ran away were the first forest-Jews, the organizer of the Vasilishok partisans.

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         The first ones to run away from Vasilishok reached the Zabelotz forests. There, they formed two groups. One group from Radun ghetto. The second group from Vasilishoker, Zabelatzer, and Sobakintze Jews.

        Not far from the two Jewish groups was a Russian group that was active, having run from German imprisonment.

        Each group worried about itself. Defense was minimal, a few rusty rifles.

        The surrounding peasants, wanting to get rid of the Jews, who came to ask for or demand food, sent Germans after them.

        When the Germans came to the forest, they came up against a Russian group, carrying on a bitter fight with them. The Jews quickly laid themselves low in a "zasodeh", awaiting the Germans.

        After the Germans finished the fight with the Russians, the Germans returned to their "aboz" but here, they were greeted unexpectedly by shots. It was the ghetto boys of yesterday, greeting the murderers of their nearest and dearest.

        Seven Germans fell from the rusty guns. The rest ran away.

        The Jewish groups for the first time felt the sweet taste of revenge. The Jews got hold of more ammunition, boots, etc.

        This victory raised the esteem of the Jewish group in the eyes of the Russian group. The Russians decided to unite with the Jewish groups and to create a united defensive core against the fascist enemy.

        This was the beginning of the partisan movement in Nacher Forest

        During the summer of 1942, the remnants of Vasilishok Jews were taken to the Szczuczyn Ghetto where the Jew of Radin, Zaludok, Rozhanka, and others were concentrated.

        Rumors began to reach the Szczuczyn Ghetto that in Nacher Pusche, there were partisan groups consisting of Jews and Russian.

        At that time, Moishele FOSHTER sent a letter to Lucik VOLOCHINSKY via a Christian. In it, he wrote that he was in

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Nacher Forest fighting together with others against the bloody enemy. Moshele Foshter wrote that he was prepared to help us reach the ranks of the partisans.

        A secret group formed in Szczuczyn Ghetto made contact with partisans in Nacher Forest.

        Members of the secret group were Dr. ALPERT and his wife, Lucik and Chana VOLOCHINSKY, Yentel BOYARSKY, Esther PUPKO, Hirshel and Nachman Yosef TABLITSKY, and Dr. KATZ' father (a Jew from Vilna).

        The group maintained close contact with the partisans and prepared to run to the forest from the ghetto.

        Moishele FOSHTER wrote ceaselessly. He sent information thorough his steady messenger, a Christian woman, MAKAREVICH, that it was best to leave the cursed ghetto and go to the forest.

        On a certain market day in March 1943, the Christian woman MAKREVICH led Lucik VOLOCHINSKY and his family from Szczuczyn. After a difficult night of wandering, they finally met the first Vasilishok partisans. Berl MILLER, Arke GORDON, and Moishele FOSHTER. Together, they went to the Nacher Forest. A short time after, another group of Vasilishokers escaped Szczuczyn ghetto to Nacher Forest. To this group belonged Esther PUPKO-VOLOCHINSKY with her two children, Siomkeh BOYARSKY and his family, LEIBKE GORDON and wife, and Dr. KATZ' father from Vilna.

        Two Jews from this second group, Leibke GORDON and Dr. KATZ' father could not adjust to the difficult forest situation. They returned to Szczuczyn Ghetto and later perished.

        The remainder of the Vasilishok Jews destiny scattered in many fields. A certain number of the Vasilishok Jews were sent from Szczuczyn to Lida Ghetto and to Lida Todt Lager, the local prison.

        The Vasilishok Jews who were taken to Lida established contact with partisans from various forests, particularly with the partisans of Nalibok Forest. In spite of the great difficulties and dangers, Vasilishok Jews prepared to escape to the forest.

        During the Spring and Summer of 1943, the following Vasilishok Jews escaped to the forest: Katiev Shlomo, the brother and sister MUDRICK, Yerachmiel PORTNOY, Leizer EISISHKI, Tankel KUSHNER, Zalman MEDNITSKY, the brothers Peretz STANETSKY, Avraham GERSHOWITZ, Yehuda SHWARTZ, Mordechai SVIATOI, Dr. ALPERT and family, Tanchum GORDON, Efraim KOPELMAN, ZAPALSI, Yakov Shlomo BOYARSKY, Moishele ZABLATSKY and wife, and Esther PUPKO and her children.

        The majority of the Vasilishok Jews joined the Russian partisans and took part in various battles

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that the partisans fought against the hated, bloody German enemy.

        Many of them fell as fighters while carrying out various diversified work.


        The life of a Jewish partisan was not easy. The Jewish destiny pursued them even in the forest. For the most minor misdemeanor, Jews were severely punished. More than one Jewish partisan fell from a Russian partisan's bullet.

        In spite of all the difficulties, Jewish partisans were scattered throughout various forests. The road on which they fought extended from Nieman [river] to Shchareh to various distant places. The trod on foot through the White Russian mud. During the German attacks and in a hail of bullets, they blew up trains and railway tracks.

        Summer 1944, the victorious Russian Army gave a death blow to the fascist German beast.

        At the beginning of July 1944, White Russia was free of the German occupiers. A tiny remnant of Jews, who had miraculously survived, returned to destroyed Vasilishok.

Chana and Lucik VOLACHINSKY, Chaya and Avraham ALPERT

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Life in the Forest

A Forest Farein of the Partisans

        At the beginning of 1943, we found ourselves in the Szczuczyn Ghetto. Our one aim was to escape to the forest partisans. To this end, we established contact with various partisans.

        In the midst of all these preparations, I was taken with another group to work in Lida in the sadly well-known Todt Lager.

        The first few days, I worked there as a regular laborer on the train line under conditions of hunger, cold, beatings, and fear.

        A short time later, I came to an understanding with the Lida Judenrat. Through their help, I started to work in Todt Lager as a doctor.
        My work was a very responsible one and difficult. On the one hand, the Nazi camp leaders demanded that everyone go to work. On the other hand, there were many sick, exhausted Jews who did not have the strength to go to the hard labor.

        To the best of my limited possibilities, I managed somehow to heal the sick and give them an opportunity to free themselves for a brief time from the hard work.

        While I was in the lager, I made contact with people in the Lida Ghetto who, just like me, felt that the only hope was to escape to the forest from the ghetto and join the partisans. Sometimes, I used my Red Cross identification as a doctor to leave the lager. I went to the other end of the city to the local prison in Lida Ghetto.

        In the ghetto, I established contacts with Jewish partisans who occasionally came out of the forest to lead people to the partisans.

        The already spread-out Russian partisans were badly in need of doctors. The Jewish partisan messengers had the special chore of leading Jewish doctors out of the ghetto.

        After coming to an understanding with the partisans, I let my wife, mother, and children who still were in the Szczuczyn ghetto know of my fateful decision. I emphasized that after I arrived in the forest, I would send someone to bring them to the partisans. That day, my wife replied that she did not agree with my plan. We must all go together to the forest escape. Together we live; and together, G-d forbid, we would die.

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         After my wife's reply, I had to abandon my plan temporarily. I began to seek a way to move my family from Szczuczyn Ghetto to the Lida Todt Lager.

        After difficult attempts and various promises, with a group of other Vasilishokers who worked in Todt Lager, I got a permit from the lager commander that allowed us to bring our families from Szczuczyn to Lida.

        In the course of two days, I succeeded in bringing my wife and eight year-old son. My mother-in-law, because of her age, could not be brought along.

        In addition to the families, we also brought various medications to the lager plus food and many gifts for lager leaders.

        My wife and I got a separate cell. We started to live among the gray, cold walls of Lida Prison.

        The thought that we would soon escape to the forest warmed us. Once more, we started to seek connections with the Jewish partisan messengers in the Lida ghetto. Everything was done in strict secrecy. We only told the secret to three people--two Vasilishokers and one Vornovo Jew. The Vasilishok Jews, Asher RACHMILEVICH and Yosef MEDLINSKY showed us much friendship and devotion, helping us a lot in the difficult days. The Voronover Jew, WILENSKY, who lived in Lida ghetto and worked in the lager, helped us a lot in the realization of our plan.

        One morning, this same WILENSKY brought a secret letter from our cousin, Yosef KRAVITZ, who was with the partisans in Lipichan Forest.

        When he discovered that we were alive, he sought means to bring us to the forest with him.

        By chance, the one who brought this letter was a former school friend of mine from gymnasia days -- Yankel DRUK.

        Yankel DRUK was a partisan in Bielsky's Otriad and had come to Lida Ghetto to take out his family. In sending this letter, he informed us through WILENSKY, that in several days, we should be ready. We would lead us to the forest.

        Our surprise was great. We had to decide quickly and arrive as soon as possible in Lida Ghetto.

        Leaving Todt Lager was strictly forbidden. Day and night, a German guard stood watch at the prison gate. To exit or enter the lager, one needed a special permit. Every movement in the Lida streets, without a permit, was punishable by death. We decided to take the risk. One day, my wife convinced an old

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German prison gate guard to allow her to go with our young son to the shoe workshop to repair the child's shoes. The old German knew us very well. Sometimes, he drank some home-brew in our cell. This same German also allowed me to go out to a nearby kiosk to buy a newspaper.

        Finally, we were past the prison gate. We decided, at our own risk, to make our long way to the ghetto. I wore my Red Cross armband on my sleeve. My wife tied a kerchief around her face, pretending that her teeth hurt her. If a German or a policeman stopped us, I would say that I was taking her to the dentist in the ghetto.

        Our son went barefoot, dressed in a fur. We told him to walk at a distance from us, on the sidewalk to give the impression that he was a Christian child. We told him to look at us from time to time. In case we were detained, he was to go in the direction of the ghetto.

        Finally, we reached PUPKO's brewery. From there, we went together with a group of Jewish workers to the ghetto.

        Entry to the ghetto was allowed only for the regular residents. At the entrance to the ghetto stood a Jewish and a White Russian policeman who rigidly controlled those entering the ghetto.

        Our son somehow smuggled himself in among the workers. My wife and I also managed to enter the ghetto without difficulty. We immediately went to our friend WILENSKY, who immediately led us down into a hiding place.

        The following morning, we met with Yankel DRUK in a garret. He comforted us and told us to be ready. Meanwhile, word reached us that the Jewish police were searching for us in the Todt Lager. They generally worked together with the partisan messengers. This caused us earnest difficulties because of a strict order of Engineer ALTMAN, the leader of the Jewish workshops, whom the ghetto commissar had warned that if Jews run to the forest, they will destroy the entire ghetto.

        After many difficult dealings, we convinced the Jewish police that we must not return to the ghetto. We told them that we are "treyfe sehoreh" [unkosher ones] and that they must get rid of us as soon as possible.

        On the evening of September 6, 1943, the Jewish ghetto police and a group of nine Jews, with Yankel DRUK leading, left the ghetto in the dark of night. Yankel DRUK, with grenade in hand, led us confidently and securely. We passed a railway line, cut across the tracks, avoiding the airfields. Germans guarded all those places. We ran and made our way, non-stop, the whole night.

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         Near dawn, we drew near a village that was in the partisan region. There was a partisan post there. In the dark, we did not want to approach the post, lest they shoot at us.

        When it got light, we approached them. Yankel DRUK knew the cooperating patrolman.

        The partisans received us with open arms. We were taken immediately to the barn of a Christian for a rest. There we were given fresh bread and milk.

        That same day, we were sent across the Nieman. We reached the true partisan region, swarming with armed partisans.

        Though our aim was to reach Lipichaner Forest, we were detained because I was a doctor. They needed me in the village of Dakudova .

        I immediately was appointed a doctor in Baltietz Otriad, operating in the district of Nieman.

        We said a hearty farewell to our heroic escape route leader, Yankel DRUK and to the remainder of the Jews, who went on to Bielsky Otriad.

        We started our partisan life.

The Last Action and Our Liberation

        We found ourselves between the rivers Shchareh and Nieman in the Pobyeda Brigade of Commander Bulak. We were surrounded on all sides.

        Germans, Polish police, Ukrainians, Vladsovtzes ---all were lurking, looking for our lives. The head of the partisans decided that we must break through the blockade.

        On September 6, 1944, we left our base and set out on a difficult fighting way. We had to cover approximately thirty kilometers to get to the place where the train was on route and that we had to explode. We led our young son, holding him by the hand. He was already tired, could hardly walk. In the evening, we reached a small forest. We decided to rest there a little.

        Before us lay a river and then the railway that we had to force our way through and across.

        Suddenly, fire came at us from all sides. It seemed that the Germans had sensed us. A command was given: "Na hura."

        The partisans started to shoot the German positions. The explosions of the German mines and grenades of the partisans echoed in the air.

        We ran in the dark. The fire got stronger from moment to moment. Shouts of wounded were heard. The panic was great. We ran and fell, ran and fell. Suddenly, we noticed that my husband was missing. There was no time to think. I ran further with my child. We crossed quite a deep river.

[Page 267 {353}]

        With my last strength, I somehow raised my son to the bank, but I, myself, already lost my strength to climb up on the quite high bank of the river. My son stretched out his childish arms and helped me climb out of the river.

        We ran further. On the way, we passed many wounded and dead. When we passed the railway track, it was already quiet. Daylight came.

        I noticed the wrecked German bunkers. This, the partisans, in a counter attack, attacked and destroyed and demolished.

        Small groups of partisans, among them, many wounded, continued on their march further away from the train line in an eastward direction.

        At the edge of a forest, we noticed armed men. I was sure that these were Vasilishokers. My child and I had no time or energy, by then, to run away.

        Fortunately, it turned out that those were partisans from our Otriad, who had broken through the blockade. As I got closer, I met the commissar IVLEV and commander of our headquarters BULAK.

        My first question was whether they knew anything about my husband, Dr. ALPERT. Our commander, Bulak, answered me in a calm voice: "We know that your husband fell into the hands of the Germans while alive."

        I was dumbstruck. My child started to cry. Deep in my heart, I believed that the commander told me a lie. Commander IVLEV, who heard the commander's talk, said to him: "How can you tell her such a thing? We don't have any concrete information."

        Ten sorrowful days passed in which I heard nothing from my husband. Tragic thoughts overtook me day and night.

        Commissar IVLEV, the partisan BODUSH and BOKSIOR looked after my child and me. They brought me a "Djerushke" with which to cover up as well as some food to eat.

[Page 268 {354}]

        Meanwhile, spies were sent out daily to find out about the destiny of the partisans who disappeared during the night, who had not broken through the blockade.

        On day, while I sat distressed and waited at a "kostior", an intelligence group rode in. They immediately rode up to me and told me the good news that my husband was alive. They had seen and talked with him. From great joy and excitement, I remained stark still, not able to say a word. My son cried from joy.

        It turned out that when forcing their way through the railway line, some of the commanders saw the fierce German fire and issued a command to draw back. More than four hundred partisans returned to their old bases. In the darkness of night and chaos that resulted from the German shooting, my husband lost us and went back together with many other partisans. The retreating partisans split up into small groups that were separated from one another. It took a longtime before contact was established among the groups and the brigade headquarters.

        Meanwhile, we received a command from Moscow to return to the old base. An offensive started. Once more, we had to cross the railway line and the river. During this second retreat, we also had heavy loses--wounded and dead.

        I made my way with my child through water that sometimes reached to my neck. With my body, I protected my child from German bullets. With tremendous difficulty, we tore through the second fire miraculously.

        While crossing, the commissar was ripped apart by a German bullet. During those days, I gave a lot of help to the wounded. As a nurse, I always carried bandages and various medications necessary for first aid. More than once, I gave first aid under a hail of bullets.

        Two days after retreating, I once more met up with my husband. It is difficult to tell how great the joy was. In addition, he came with a great treasure, a piece of bread.

        My husband, Dr. ALPERT, received an order to organize a temporary hospital. A quiet, separate place was found for us on the other side of Shchareh. The hospital was organized there.

        Work was not lacking for us because while breaking through the last German blockade, many partisans were wounded.

        We worked under very difficult conditions. We were short of medicines and bandages. The sick ones were lying on the group in small booths.

        My husband, another nurse, and I did everything possible in order to heal the sick and ease their pain.

        We are one family. Many times, I felt that all the young wounded were our children. We so badly wanted them all to live. During the evenings, they got so lonesome. They expressed their sorrow in songs. I recall one partisan in particular who was badly shot through his leg. He could not walk out his great suffering so he sang. His song of longing carried through the hospital camp. More than once, he brought tears to my eyes with his singing. His songs used to tear me away from reality and carry me back to my past --to what once was -- to the happy childhood days, to the warm home, to father and mother, brother…to the shtetl. Vasilishok that no longer exists…I would weave thoughts of a future. My thoughts did not fool me. The great days of freedom arrived.

[Page 269 {355}]

         July 1944: The Russian army started her great offensive and moved, like flowing lava, over the White Russian plains.

        The German "world conquerors" retreated chaotically westward.

        In the obscure, Godforsaken corner of our hospital, distant echoes reached us from the thundering "katyushkes." No new information came to us. We had no idea that the Russian Army was already in Baranowitz.

        One evening, our partisan guards informed us that not far from us, the Germans were laying a telephone cable. We held a brief conference and decided to leave the hospital immediately, taking the badly wounded to the "schones" that were prepared for them.

        We were situated in a swampy growth and observed the surroundings. Suddenly, we saw soldiers with pointed guns approaching us. At first, we thought they were Germans. Suddenly, we noticed the Russian insignias on the soldiers' hats. This was a "rajvedkeh" of the Red Army of liberation. We ran toward them, fell at their feet, and kissed their boots. We were all given food. We immediately transferred our wounded partisans to their field hospital.

        Our eyes could not believe what we saw. Was it real or a dream? Had an end to the bloody German occupation come? The good smell from the field kitchen, the ringing conversations of the Red Army men, the joy of the surrounding partisans told us that the long-awaited day of freedom and arrived.

Chaya KRAVITZ (Mrs. Alpert) and Dr. Avraham ALPERT

Experiences in the Red Army

        In 1940, I entered the ranks of the Russian Army. I served in Leningrad until the outbreak of war. I got sent to the front in Leningrad until the outbreak of war. I got sent to the front at Talin. There, I fought against the Nazi enemy. They blockaded us--the blockade known as the Great Leningrad Siege.

        We lived in terrible inhumane conditions of cold and hunger. I was swollen from hunger. My condition was so bad that I was sent by plane to the Urals. I got the necessary medical help. After spending a lot of time in the hospital, I was sent to the front once more to Kursk, Oriol, where we fought a bitter

[Page 270 {356}]

enemy. The great offensive began. That is how I reached Warsaw. There, I was lightly wounded a second time. I remained for a short time in the field hospital and then was mobilized back to the front. My aim is to take revenge for our innocent spilled Jewish blood--for my father, my mother, sisters, and brothers.

        We went forward. We crossed the German border. I fought with a light heart on the enemy's territory where we took revenge for our near and dear ones. At Kistrin, at the river, I got sick again.

        After a short time, I rejoined the fighting forces. I fought with all my power and strength: Revenge! With this thought, I crossed the border of Berlin. While overtaking the Reichstag on May 1, 1945, I was badly wounded with eleven wounds all over my body. Once more, I was sent to various hospitals in occupied German. I lay for eight months in a cast.

        Destiny wanted me to live so that I could tell my experiences to all those who want to know of our heroic battle and Jewish suffering.

        I was freed from the army in Buchenwald where the demobilized battalion was stations.

Binyamin STATSKY

After the Liberation

        With deep sorrow, we returned from the forests to Vasilishok, our destroyed home. When we arrived in the shtetl, we found some partisans who had returned: Lucik and Chana VOLOCHINSKY, Moishe Aaron FEIGUS, may he rest in peace, and my mother, Etel KRAVITZ, who had hidden at a Christian's place.

        We, the few miraculously saved ones, clung to one another and lived like one family. We had no homes in which to rest our weary exhausted bones and upset minds. The shtetl was destroyed, burnt.

        Christian homes at the end of the street stand out amidst the ruins -- and the large mass grave in the Jewish cemetery. That is what remained of the Jewish kehillah.

        The Christians of the shtetl dealt well with us. They looked at us in astonishment. Some of them offered us help. We did not accept because we remembered very well their treatment of us during the German occupation.

        The Soviet powers there treated the Jewish survivors with much concern. We were taken into the

[Page 271 {357}]

"Cell Soviet" to sleep until such time as living quarters would be found for us.

        Soon, more Vasilishok partisans returned: Elchick PLATOVSKY, Yachmiel PORTNOY, Dr. KATZ, Yosef STANETSKY, Yankel KUSHNER (who later feel from a Soviet bullet), Zalman MEDNITSKY (murdered by the local Christians), David GERSHOWITZ, Yudel SHWARTZ (live in Israel), and SYOMKEH BOYARSKY (murdered by the White Poles.)

        We, the remaining Jews, wandered around in the destroyed streets and silently asked one another: "Why did we return here?"

        In a short time, we got an order from the Soviet authority to go to Ostrin. There, we were supplied with apartments and work.

        Summer 1945, as soon as the repatriation of former Polish residents started, we left Ostrin and returned to Poland.

        Most of us had one goal in mind: leave the bloody land and settle in Eretz Israel. After difficult wandering, we realized our goal.


Two Letters from Vasilishok: March 1945 and May 1965


        Moishe Aaron FEIGUS is one of seventeen who survived from the shtetl Vasilishok. After the German hordes marched in. The Nazis found good "co-workers" for the destruction of the Jewish population of Vasilishok on the part of the Poles. This is what the letter of Moishe-Aaron FEIGUS, the only survivor of his family, tells us about this.

        The letter from Moishe-Aaron FEIGUS, a victim of the Nazis, wherein he writes with the blood of his heart of the Nazi murders was written March 18, 1945 to his sister Mircheh and his brother-in-law, Dr. A. FOSHTER in Tel-Aviv.

        In the letter he says:

"My dear sister, Mirche, and Asher!

        I received your letter. Reading it, I cried very much. I reckoned that I had nobody left. You inquire who survived from our family. Unfortunately, nobody, just I myself.

        From our shtetl, seventeen survived, I amongst them. As regards our family, our loving unforgettable mother died a natural death, that is to say, with a "luxury death"; when the murderers overran our shtetl, she got sick with the grippe. She died very quickly and peacefully.

        May 10, 1942, the ghetto was surrounded; and all the Jews were driven out to be murdered. In the Vasilishok Jewish cemetery, already prepared was a mass grave of 26 meters long, 6 meters wide, and 3 meters deep. The grave was made with steps. Before going down into the grave, everyone had to lie down. Above them stood a murderer with a machine gun who shot in the head our fathers, mothers, and our dear children.

        Before the murder, a selection took place to the right and to the left. Right -- to live. Left -- to die. 1,750 were selected to die, 410 to live. I believe that my family went to the right because I was a forestry expert. I had forty Jewish workers. I cut down forest trees with them. My loving brother, Leizer, perished on May 10. He was told to go to the right but he got very nervous and shouted: If everyone is going to the left, I don't want to be an exception." He went to his death of his own free will.

        In the Vasilishok ghetto, there then remained 410 persons. Systematically, the Vasilishok Ghetto started to be liquidated. Everyone was taken to the Szcuczyn Ghetto. At that time, I said farewell to my beloved Rocheleh and my dear children, Geninkey and Fraidl. I ran away.

        Regarding all the suffering that we endured, I have not even written you one percent because it is difficult to write about it on paper.

        Mothers, who snuck out to seek some milk for their children, were murdered immediately. The helpers in the murders were all Poles whom we knew, under the masks of White Russians.

        Those who remained alive are Dr. ALPERT, Chayeleh and their son; Elchik PLATOVSKY (the son of Shlomo the cobbler); Yerachmiel PORTNOY; Yudel SHWARTZ; Itze Fishel's from Belitsher Street; Nitzke KABACHNIK; Feiva the baker's son; Zalman MEDNITSKY (Zeidel the cobbler's son),; Lucik VOLOCHINSKY and his wife; YANKEL VOLOCHINSKY; the two sons of Baruch STANETSKY; Avraham GRODENSKY, the horse dealer; Shomke BOYARSKY, who had a water-mill. Those are the ones who had become partisans--and Etel KRAVITZ.

        To the list of survivors, a note is added: Whoever wishes to contact them should write to Dr. A. ALPERT, Mioshechko Ostrino, Vasilishokskyia Region, Grodenskoi Oblasti, B.S.S.R.

Your brother, Moishe Aaron FEIGUS"

[Page 273 {359}]


        The second letter is from a Vasilishok Polish resident Edward NOVOGRODSKY of Kranker Street, written to the family of Dr. A. ALPERT in May 1965.

        We bring the contents of the letter here, translated from Polish.

[Page 274 {360}]

Top PHOTOGRAPH: Lonely solitary mass grave in Vasilishok

Lower PHOTOGRAPH: At the Monument for the Vasilishok Kedoshim in "Yaar Hakadoshim"

["Martyr's Forest" in the Hills of Jerusalem]

[Page 275 {361}]

        " 'Vasilishok is Judenrein. Not one Jew remains in the shtetl.' He adds, however, that in the larger cities such as Grodno and Lida, local Jews can be found, as well as Jews from other areas. Among the teachers, he mentions the teacher KRAWCHIK, who worked as a teacher in Vasilishok for the Soviets during 1940-1941. (He presently is in Grodno.) The writer of the letter greatly regrets the Jewish tragedy and sorrowful destruction by the Nazi murderers.

        The shtetl was partially rebuilt. Peasants from the surrounding area received the Jewish places from the authorities. (There, they built wooden houses.) The praver [steam-powered-mill] of the late brothers BOYARSKY, which gives electrical lighting in the shtetl, is functioning. Where the bathhouse used to be, a dairy powered by steam has been built. During the past year, a bakery has been built that supplies the locals with fresh bread. In the house that was Zeidel PEKOVSKY's is a government-owned food store.

        In that area, a two-story building has been erected for a local shul. From the Beit Midrash, nothing remains. The stone Beit Midrash has been taken apart. The brick one, now, is a cinema and a reading room. One of the most important things that he mentions is the state of the mass grave. One year ago, the local authorities, according to an order from the Central Soviet Authority erected a monument four meters high. The past year, trees were planted around it, a parkette [sic] made from cement where the grave was planted, and flowers. (From this same Edward NOVOGRODSKY, we received a photo of the monument and mass grave. (See page 274 {360})

        On May 9, 1965 -- twenty years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the local school children and organizations visited the mass graves and placed flowers and wreathes there.


        There is no longer any Jewish life in Vasilishok. All that is left is the orphaned mass grave that is gradually being surrounded by peasant huts built where the Jewish cemetery once was located.

Vasilishki Necrology

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