On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germanyís attack on the Soviet Union
took us by surprise. At the time, I was living in Myadel, a shtetl situated on
the shore of the Narutz Lake, where I had moved the previous year after marrying
a native girl. The next morning, I left the area with 9 other youths from Myadel
in an attempt to escape the rapidly approaching Nazi Army. With great rapidity
we walked all the way to the Kanhanina train station, and in the last moment
managed to push our way into the very last train car. As it turned out, the
train was to be the last Soviet train to leave the area for some years.
The train was full of soldiers and officers of the Red Army,
as well as some local civil servants for the USSR. There were also some
prisoners of the Soviets who were taken from Vilejka's (aka Vileyka) jail. Also,
some locals (mostly Communists and Jews) who wanted to flee the Nazi occupation
had crowded the train. The young people who came with me from Myadel were Moshe
Hadash, Hirsch Hadash, Yitzhak Alperovicz, Yoshue Leib Yanovsky, Yitzhak Keller,
Shimon Kotzer, Yosef Rubin, Zalman Kaplan, and Nahum Perelman from Dokshitz. We
barely found a spot to stand as the train departed. The ride was very peaceful
until we reached Karlovisziczina, where about a dozen Luftwaffe Foch-Wulfes
appeared. There were no Soviet forces in the area to repel them, so they rained
their gifts down freely upon us. One of their huge bombs exploded right by the
train and derailed the last three cars of the train, including the one we were
To our great fortune, we were not physically hurt, but we were
very anxious since we could not continue on our journey. When we got out of our
car we realized that the rest of the train was long gone. After a moment to
gather ourselves, we decided to walk to Dokshitz, a place where we thought we
would have easier access to cross the border of Poland and the Soviet Union (the
pre-partition border from 1939).
Dokshitz was situated on the outskirts of the border. After
arriving at Dokshitz, we found hundreds and I might not be exaggerating if I
said thousands of refugees by the side of the road. Some came by horse and
buggy, some by foot. They were running back and forth, looking for a place to
cross to the other side and save themselves from the disaster to come. However,
Soviet guards stood with weapons ready at every crossing point. They demanded
that everyone go back, saying that we were all causing unnecessary panic, and
that we must return to our proper places.
We had no choice but to return to our homes, but first I
decided to visit Dolhinov (aka Dolginovo), the place where I was born and
raised. My mother and my married sister with her children lived there, and I
wanted to help them. As it turned out, although I was able to help out many and
save their lives from the hands of murderers, I was unable to save my mother, my
sister, or her children. My sister on the other hand, saved my life from a
certain torturous death at the hands of the Gestapo, as I will tell you later.
Back to my visit to Dolhinov. Shortly after I arrived, on
Saturday the 28th of June 1941, the first German scouts entered the town. They
didn't hurt anyone at first, they just shot at a few farmers. We then decided
that it was time to go back to Myadel, where our wives and children were.
Four young people from Dolhinov walked with me to Myadel. On
the way we didn't see any Germans. We avoided the main roads, sticking to more
out-of-the-way routes and we safely arrived at the village Nyavia, a few
kilometers from Myadel. Here we had to cross the river using a boat since German
planes had demolished the bridge. We saw a few farmers taking out the bridge
debris from the river. After begging, pleading and bribing, we were able to
convince one of them to take us with his boat across the river for a large
amount of money.
At home, my wife and father-in-law received me with great
delight. "The husband and son-in-law has returned," they said. However, after a
few moments of discussion of the situation of the Jews, I realized, "What did I
really achieve? Why did I leave and then come back?"
Forthwith I was told that there was already carnage in town,
and blood was flowing like a river here. As soon as the German troops arrived,
they appointed some local collaborators to take charge of the police department.
Most of the youths in the police force were local Polish people, amongst them
about 20 hooligans and thugs who were full of animosity toward the Soviets, and
showed even greater repugnance towards the Jews. They declared, "All the Jews
were Communists." That statement launched the first event in a series of
tragedies and tortures that I would experience. Immediately I realized that we
must organize young people to fight the enemy, though the road to achieving that
goal was very long and there were many twists and turns on the way to
accomplishing that lofty idea.
At the head of the local police in Myadel, there were two
corrupt, cruel and bloodthirsty goons. The head of the police was Baginisky, and
Koprevicz was his assistant. As soon as the Nazis appointed them to the job,
together with the gendarme of Vilejka they started torturing the Jewish
community, which was totally without defense and had never committed any crime.
In some ways, the local assistants were many times crueler than their German
The First Massacre and Its Victims
One Sunday, in the first weeks of the occupation, two bodies
of prisoners from the Vileyka jail were brought to Myadel. When the Soviets
started retreating from Vileyka, they killed a few political prisoners that they
thought were too dangerous to be taken to the Soviet Union. Those executions of
those sentenced to death were done near the village Ravoni, which was in the
vicinity of the jail. When later the bodies were found, one of the thugs who
found them was from Myadel, and he recognized two of the bodies as of natives of
The locals said, "Who is guilty? The Jews. They were the cause
of these people's imprisonment, and now they were the cause of their death."
They soon organized a majestic burial ceremony that paid great homage to the
deceased in which they made fiery speeches laden with malevolence called for
retribution on the Jews. They also invited some Germans from the engineering
troops that were rebuilding the local infrastructure to take part in the
The Germans who were responsible for the improvement of the
infrastructure decided to exploit the Jews to do the hard labor as slaves. They
started kidnapping Jews and forced them to build the roads. One day for no clear
reason they gathered 22 young Jews from Myadel and ordered them to walk. At the
head of the procession they put the Rabbi and kosher slaughterer (shochet). Soon
after, they started tormenting them and moments later they begun torturing them.
The tortures were executed methodically and brutally. They used clubs and attack
dogs that tore at their victimsí limbs and flesh. I saw everything with my own
eyes, since in all the panic around I was able to escape and hide in a house not
far from this tragic event. I saw an agitated German officer holding a ferocious
dog ordering it to attack the rabbi, who was already too weak to stand on his
feet. The dog pushed him on the ground and started eating his flesh, which was
The killers ordered the other victims to put the rabbi's body,
which was still twitching, on a wheelbarrow and to take him outside of the town.
Others were also tortured mercilessly, and at the end, they ordered the few
survivors who were still able to walk to take shovels and to start marching.
Soon after, they were told to dig holes. When they had finished digging, they
were shot on the spot and buried in the holes that they had just dug. In
outrage, I escaped from my hiding place and took with me Berl Hadash, my
father-in-law, who was also hiding out there.
Days of preparation
I decided that the family must leave Myadel but at that point
I was determined not to take them with me. First, I must go to prepare a safe
place for them in Dolhinov, then I would return for them.
Three people left with me: Hendel Swardlov, Chaia Dimmenstein,
and Sara whose last name I don't remember. When we arrived in Dolhinov, life
seemed very different here. There were Germans and also local police, and a
Polish mayor by the name of Zygmund Volk. He was a local resident who used to be
in business. He treated the Jewish people decently until their bitter end. Also,
the head of the police, Anton Krosovsky, was a decent Christian man. For a
little bit of alcohol you could gain his favor and he would do anything for you.
Here also the Germans ordered the institution of a Judenrat, but during the
first months in Dolhinov you hardly experienced the troubles that the Jews of
Myadel experienced. The Jews of Dolhinov went to work for the Germans everyday,
and in general, at that point of time they were not treated badly.
In September of 1941 we started hearing horrible rumors about
the annihilation of the Jewish communities. Around Rosh Hashanah of 1941 we
heard about the annihilation of the Jews of Zambin, near Borisov. A few days
later we heard of the annihilation of the Jews in Kriyesk and Lagoysk. Early in
October, sometime before dawn, we
heard a knock on our door, and when we opened it, we saw our Aunt Rachel and her
daughter Lyuba. They said that yesterday, in the middle of Yom Kippur, all the
Jews of Plashensitz were taken to the forest of Borisov to be killed. On the
third week of October 1941, we heard that during Simhat Torah, they killed 54
Jews in Kurenitz, which was located 37 kilometers from Dolhinov.
Searching for a way out
Amongst the refugees who arrived after the Plashensitz
massacre was a Jew who was born in Minsk by the name of Leib Mindel. By this
time Leib had survived three German massacres. He came to us for assistance and
we provided him with food and shelter. We had a good reserve of food at that
point and we were always able to find a way to get some more supplies during the
weekly market days.
It wasn't a dilemma for us to allow refugees to reside with
us. Almost all the Jews of Dolhinov helped their Jewish brothers with shelters.
Sometimes we had refugees who stayed with us for weeks. Very quickly Leib Mindel
and I became good friends and this friendship proved itself time and again
during the horrible days to come and later.
Leib was a man full of energy and he had a "take charge" quality, and I felt
that I could always rely on him. We had many conversations in those days and we
realized that it was just a matter of time before catastrophe came to our town.
We decided that, first and foremost, we must find a shelter for the women and
We recognized that as soon as the horrors came, women and
children would be the primary victims, so we had to find a good hiding place for
our family. We secretly started constructing two hiding places; the first was
under the land in the barn of our neighbor Yosef Kremer. We dug a very deep hole
in the soil. It was four by four meters and we made all the walls strong by
using large and sturdy wood posts. We camouflaged the hideout and we were sure
that no one would ever realize that there was a hiding place in this vicinity.
The second hideout we built was inside our cow shed. We used double walls to
camouflage the hideout. In these two hideouts, many people hid during the first
and second massacres.
Our second plan was to escape to the forest, though we had to
delay the escape a few times since the winter that year was extremely cold and
everything was frozen around, so we decided to wait until there was a break in
the frost. This break never occurred.
The atmosphere became more and more ominous. Every day brought
another terrible tale of destruction in the towns around us. On Wednesday, the
12th of March 1942, a few survivors escaped from Ilya and told us about the
harrowing annihilation of their town. About 100 killers came by car during the
night. Early in the morning, all of the Jews were forcibly taken from their
houses into the market. From there they were ordered to walk outside of town and
then they were placed in a stable and were shot inside it.
Now it was clear to all of us that very soon our town would be
annihilated. We decided to organize two dozen young people to escape to the
forest. Since we were overseeing this mission, we gathered about 20 young men to
decide what to do. A decision was made on the 14th of March 1942. Leib Mindel
and I would go to the forest to try to connect with a Christian villager by the
name of Bronka Klaga. He lived in the Kalich forest, which was situated between
Dolhinov and Dokshitz. I knew Bronka as a very honest man, civil minded, and
very capable. I was hoping that if I could get in touch with him he would
connect us with partisans.
The next day we started walking to the forest. We made a huge
strategic mistake: instead of going early in the morning when it was still dark,
we left during the later morning hours. Seeing Jews walking freely made the
Germans and their local aides very suspicious. We did have in our hands a letter
signed by the mayor permitting us to leave. The letter stated that we were going
to the forest to cut trees for the municipal building. We also carried axes and
saws, so we would not raise suspicion, however, we were only able to walk one
kilometer away from town when we heard loud sounds of horses following us.
We looked back and we saw that they were chasing us. At the head was the head of
the police, who was not Anton Kosovsky anymore but a thug who came from Kriviczi.
Sitting next to him on the sled was a German officer. Beside the horses and sled
there were also some policemen on bicycles.
As they came near us they ordered us in Polish, "Stop and put
your hands up!" When they reached us they started beating us. One of the
policemen used his rifle to hit Leib Mindel on his head. He momentarily lost his
consciousness and fell to the ground, and shortly after there was a puddle of
blood encompassing him. All of them turned to me now and started hitting me with
their rifle butts, all over my body, to every place they could reach. I was
lucky that they didn't get my head. Maybe they didn't want me to lose
consciousness as Leib had, so they kept hitting me on my shoulders, back, and
waist. They kept doing it until one of the rifles broke. We later on took that
rifle, during the first attack on the Dolhinov when I was with the Russian
Momentarily they stopped the tortures and had a discussion
between the head of the police and the German who came with them about what to
do with us. They decided to tie us to the sled. They turned the horses back
toward the town and sat back in the sled. We were tied to the back of the sled
and as long as the horses walked slowly, we could run behind. But when they
started hitting the horses, urging them to go faster, we fell down on the ground
and we were pulled along. Hence half-fainted, we arrived at town followed with
the rest of the policemen on bicycle.
The Jews in town panicked when they saw us in such a state. As
we reached the town they put us next to the well and the policemen kept taking
water from the well using a bucket and drenched us from the top of our heads to
the tip of our toes. Since the weather was very cold, we started shaking
feverishly. In this state we were taken to the police station, where two German
officers were waiting for us. These two Germans worked in the communications
unit, building telephone lines. They were infamous for beating up Jews who they
caught walking on the sidewalk (which was forbidden to the Jews), or who failed
to give the proper salute of taking off their hats when they saw them.
As soon as we entered, the two Germans along with the head of
the police started interrogating us, beating us continuously. They kept asking
us questions about our contacts with partisans and any secret meetings that we
had with them. We denied all connections with the partisans and said we knew
nothing. The more we protested we knew nothing, the more they beat us.
Mindel lost his consciousness again and was covered by blood.
I was barely conscious, lying on the ground and praying to God that He would
bestow on me a swift death so I could be saved from this unbearable torture.
While I was on the ground I heard a phone conversation of one
of the Germans with the Gestapo in Dokshitz. He let them know that they had
arrested two Jewish partisans. I couldn't hear the response, but I understood
that we were to be put in the prison to wait for the next day.
By the time they deposited us in the prison cell it was
already dark. The cell was three by three meters and there were two big, open
windows that had no glass but had bars. This night in March was extremely cold.
There was a storm and since the windows
were uncovered we were shaking mercilessly. Our clothes were drenched and we
were twitching like we had pneumonia. Since our situation was so bad, they
locked us there but they didn't put any guards to watch us, they must have been
thinking that we would never be able to escape. All they did was to lock the
door of the cell from the outside.
The cell had only one place to sit. The floor was much too
cold to lie down on. All night we couldn't rest. We hardly had a place to sit,
so we kept changing from sitting to standing positions until it was about
midnight. There was silence everywhere, and all of a sudden we heard steps that
sounded unsure, they clearly came from the outside of our window. I looked out
the window and I recognized my oldest sister, Peshia Riva.
She came near us and asked if we were still alive and if there
was anything she could do. She couldn't stop crying. I comforted her by saying,
"You have no time to cry now, you must do everything possible to get us out of
here. Run home and bring an axe. It would be better if your husband Yerochmiel
(Katz) came to help us."
She ran to the house and after half an hour, my brother in law
Yerochmiel Katz came with an axe hidden in his jacket. He tried to break the
bars but was unsuccessful. He was able to push the axe inside the cell. We took
the small chair and stood by the window. We realized that we were very lucky.
The bars were attached to the wall by heavy nails. So we started disconnecting
the bars one by one, and after a quarter of an hour, we opened a big enough
space to get out.
Immediately we ran to the hideout that we had built in Yosef
Kremer's barn. We entered the hideout and changed our wet clothes. We tied a wet
towel around the head of my friend Leib Mindel, then we lay down on a haystack
and fell into deep sleep. As much as they wished to see us, our household
members restrained themselves from entering the hideout, fearing that someone
would see them. A day passed and only then did Yosha Kremer and my sister Peshia
Riva enter, visiting us the next day during dusk. They told us that at nine in
the morning a Gestapo troop from Dokshitz had entered town to continue our
interrogation. There must have been some turmoil when they found out that the
"partisans" had escaped, since immediately the Judenrat head was called and told
that if the two Jews did not return instantaneously, they would annihilate the
entire Jewish community.
The members of the Judenrat immediately went to look for us
but they couldn't find us since only my family and the Kremer family knew of our
hiding place. The Saturday passed on the Jews of the town with extreme panic.
The Gestapo was in town the entire day, and during the evening they left. For
the time being, nothing happened.
On the 28th of March 1942, the Germans did what they promised. The first
massacre in Dolhinov occurred on that day. Would they have not done it if my
friend and I had sacrificed ourselves? Looking at other towns' experiences, it
doesn't seem like it would have made a difference.
I'm not going to write much about the massacre since I was not
a witness to it, and others who witnessed it can write much more about it. I
only want to say that one fact that must be cleared: the head of this action was
a Brigadier Weiss who came specially from Vilna per the instructions of General
Koba, the head commissar for Belarussia, from his headquarters in Minsk. A few
local Christian thugs joined them.
During the entire day of the massacre, we sat in the hideout
in the barn of Yosef Kremer. With us sat my mother Leiba Haya, my sister Peshia
Riva, her husband Yerochmiel Katz, and their three children. (8 people? But he
people were hiding with them? Also Yosef Kremer's family?)
We didn't know anything of what was happening in town, but we
could hear horrible sounds. We heard the barking of the Germans' orders and the
horrified sounds coming from the people they caught. We heard the steps taken by
Jews who were forcibly snatched to be killed and we heard the shots. Through the
entire day until the evening we heard the shots. At one point we started
smelling burning flesh and burning clothes. Only afterwards did we find out the
details of the killing machine.
When we finally left the hideout, after everything was quiet,
we saw from afar the flames from burning barns. We could also smell burning fuel
mixed with the smell of burning human flesh and clothing everywhere we went. At
ten in the evening we escaped the town on our way to the forest. There was a
ghastly quiet on all the streets of the town, and we trudged amidst this deathly
silence. Among us were Yosef Kremer, my brother in law Yerochmiel Katz, Leib
Mindel and I.
We walked in the direction of the forest Shimkitzetzni. We
trudged through deep snow. Some of the roads we were forced to take were in open
fields. We were successful in not being seen, and around midnight we found
ourselves in the forest. The freezing weather and the deep snow beneath our feet
made our walk very difficult, while the sky was above us looked as if it...
We were too afraid to put up a fire, so we kept walking around
like caged foxes. We were too afraid to sit in one place, fearing that we would
freeze to death, so we walked like that the entire night and the next day. We
were hungry and tired but didn't know what else to do but keep walking. We
couldn't wait until the night hours came so we could return from the forest in
darkness. We were arguing about what to do.
Finally we arrived into a little farmhouse at the edge of the
forest. We could see that there was a little candlelight in the window. We
knocked on the door and the farmer opened it, letting us in. He invited us to
sit down. He pulled down the heavy drapes so no one would see us.
He told us that he visited Dolhinov and the Jews who survived
were now walking around and no one was disturbing them at this point. So once
again we discussed what we should do and how we could survive in this freezing
forest with a man who was sick, his head crushed and bleeding. He didn't get any
medical care and he was becoming more and more feverish. We knew he couldn't
survive in this weather, so we decided that we must return to town for a few
days. Once he healed and the weather improved, we would try again to contact the
When we returned to town, my mother opened the door and let us
in. She told us the horrible story of what had happened and we decided to hide
in the house and to not be seen since we were "unkosher" for both Christians and
Jews. People kept complaining, "If it weren't for Segalchik and Mindel trying to
join the partisans there would have been no disaster." Others complained that we
had made it come sooner, although we knew it was only an illusion that the
massacre could have been prevented.
We decided to hide in the barn. Ten days passed and there was
an order that all of the Jews must move to a ghetto that was situated around our
street, Borisov Street. There were explicit instructions about the location of
the ghetto. Immediately they built a fence around it with a gate. Policemen from
the Judenrat patrolled inside, and the local policemen patrolled outside.
One evening, about 20 young people came to our house to decide
how to escape to the forest. I don't remember exactly who was there, but I
remember Avraham Friedman and his nephew Mitzia Friedman from Postov, both of
them later on were involved in extremely important missions, but we'll return to
that later. Leib Mindel and I said that we should take two other people and
leave the ghetto and the rest would wait to hear from us. When I asked who would
go with us, all of them said they wanted to go.
We had a big problem. How could we go in such a big group? For
such a big group, we needed to prepare supplies, and how would we do that?
Finally a decision was made that Leib Mindel, Moshe Forman and I would go to a
farmer, a friend of Moshe's, for a few days. We would try to connect with
sympathetic people in the area and the weather meanwhile would most likely
improve and the floods caused by the melting snow would subside. When that
happened it would be a better time to take the rest of them, but during the
waiting period they would have to store some supplies, gathering up anything
they could get their hands on.
We left the town on a dark and rainy night. During an early
morning hour we knocked on the door of the farmer, Anatosh, who let us in. He
was very gracious and friendly. He suggested that we stay in the village
bathhouse, which was 300 meters from his house. He gave us a huge loaf of bread,
a stick of butter, and a jug of milk. At ten in the morning, he came again and
told us that we could stay there longer since at that point no cars could get to
the area as a result of the floods and mud. No sort of transportation was
possible here. So long as the snow was melting we could stay there, and once the
situation changed he would find a new place to hide us.
We immediately told him that we didn't want him to think that
it was just the three of us who needed a shelter. We told him that we had left a
group of young men in the ghetto that wanted to get out. He said he wouldn't be
able to take care of such a big group at that point, but he promised to go to
Dolhinov the next day and bring a note from us to our friends. The note said
that on Sunday night, five additional people should join us with food supplies
and that we would take them to the bath house.
The next day, when it turned dark we went near the fence of
the ghetto. Everywhere we walked we saw a fence made of wood and around it was
barbed wire. For a long time we walked around, looking for any place where we
could enter. Finally we found a place that we could enter. Since we had to hide,
we climbed to the attic in our house so no one would see us. During a later
night hour, we went down to send a messenger to tell our friends to come. We
told them of the situation and we decided to take the five people with us along
with food supplies, and in a few days we decided that some of us would return to
the ghetto to get the rest of them, 22 people altogether. The people who went
with us that night were Israel Ruderman, Ruben Kremer, Yosef
Baksht, Eliau Maisel, and Efraim Friedman (?). We walked through the night,
through puddles and little lakes, but fearless since we knew no Germans would
attempt to walk outdoors on such a night.
Once we arrived, we started preparing the place for the rest
of the group. Three days later, on a Wednesday, Anatosh arrived in the early
morning hours and
with great excitement he told us that he had heard from a very reliable sources
that last night a troop of partisans, wearing Red Army uniforms, had arrived in
the village Kamyin. They confiscated large amounts of meat, bread, salt, and
grains from the farmers and disappeared to the other side of the river. He said,
"It's very clear that there is a partisan troop in the nearby area."
We felt as if a fresh flesh and skin coated our bodies. It was
as if we were newborns! We begged Anatosh Zutzman to go and look for the
partisans. We asked him to find a way for us to cross the river Vilja and that
maybe he could find a boat for us. We told him that as soon as we knew the
information, we would be able to leave the hiding place.
We didn't need to beg him for long. He left and the next day,
and at two in the afternoon, he returned, brimming of merriment. Everything he
heard was the honest truth, he said. Every night, the partisans crossed the
river armed with automatic weapons and grenades, and there is already a large
number of them in the area.
In the evening we walked to the ghetto to let the rest of our
friends know the wonderful news. We asked that they all come. The next evening,
only Mitzia Friedman and Eliyau Maysel came with us, but we arranged with them
that at midnight we would get the rest of them out of the ghetto from behind the
barn of Haya Heshka. We would break two or three pieces of wood there and from
there the rest could come. We would all meet in the Russian cemetery. Everything
was planned, but the plans didn't quite work out as we wished.
On the same day of April after we returned to the ghetto, a
large number of cars of the Gestapo arrived at the police station in Dolhinov.
Only moments after deciding on a plan we were told that police and Gestapo
surrounded the ghetto, making it necessary for us to go to a hideout. I decided
differently. I said that we must find a way to get them out. We must look for an
escape route. I left to look for such a place and encountered three friends,
Yehuda Ginsburg, Mikhail Lankin, and Avraham Friedman. Avraham told me that he
had made an agreement with two of the local police, Meltzko and Zakhovicz, who
were now guarding the ghetto, where they would let him escape as soon as the
Gestapo people left. He showed me a break in the fence that he had prepared for
his escape. While we were talking I saw in the darkness two people approaching,
and I heard someone saying in Yiddish, "Avramil, itz geits arous."
I was very surprised but immediately I jumped after them. We
started running and we went for about a hundred meters, when all of a sudden I
said to myself , "What did I do?" I had left my friend Leib Mindel. For some
reason, I didn't think of Moshe Forman or my mother or my sister. All I thought
of was Leib who had gone through so many troubles with me. I stopped and told my
friends that I had to return to the ghetto to get Leib Mindel out. Avraham said
that this was crazy, but I didn't listen. I returned and waited for the police
to pass the opening in the fence, and then entered the ghetto.
I walked quickly through backyards and houses, but no one was
to be seen anywhere. I entered the hideout and yelled, "Get out Leib! I found a
Immediately 12 people left. Leib, Moshe Forman, Reuven Rubin,
Arie Liebske, Abba Gitlitz, and Kelman Alperovicz, Yosef Baksht, Molke Ruderman,
Eliau Mindel, my brother in law Yerochmiel Katz, Mitzia Friedman from Potsov,
and Yehuda Mindel from Plashensitz.
We quickly passed through the backyard into the tract where there was an
opening. We couldn't wait for the police to pass the area, and immediately we
left the ghetto.
We walked toward the bathhouse of Anatosh Zutzman from the village Falian. We
didn't have any food supplies because we had to run fast and we had to leave
behind everything we had prepared. And like this we arrived at the new hiding
Early in the morning we heard loud sounds of gunfire. We
understood perfectly that something awful was happening in town. For three days
they annihilated one thousand two hundred men, women, elderly, and babies. The
hideout that we prepared under Yosef Kremer's barn was discovered and everyone
that was hiding there was shot. Amongst them were my sister and her children. My
mother was saved once more; the killers and their helpers did not discover the
hideout that we made in the double wall in our cowshed. With my mother there
were another 14 people who survived for the time being.
After we found out what the killers did, we were even more
resolute about joining the partisans. We walked to the village Kamyin to
continue our search for contacts with the partisans. Now we knew very clearly
that they were in the area. We entered one of the homes and asked that they
connect us with someone with a boat so that we could cross the river. They told
us where we could find such person and we went to his house and demanded that he
help us cross the river. Since at that point they were already respectful and
fearful of the partisans, he accepted our demands. We had fourteen people with
us; almost all the people who had left the ghetto with us came. He could only
take three or four of us across at a time, so he had to go back and forth to
take us all. The river was about 1 kilometer wide and the waters were rough and
overflowing that day, making the ride rough.
All night we crossed the river, three at a time. Finally we
were all on the other side. Here we felt much safer and with great anticipation
we waited for the meeting with the partisans. One day, when we searched the
Malinkowa Forest for them, a partisan unit stopped us. They yelled in Russian,
"Stop! Whoís coming?" It was clear to us who they were, so we said "We are
friends, we are Jews from Dolhinov."
We were ordered to wait and not to move until the unit
commander arrived. We waited with eager hearts. The commander arrived and was
informed that there was a group of Jews there. He said,
"So you are from Dolhinov? Do any of you know Ivan Matyovich
"I know him very very well," I answered with great confidence.
"And just like I know him, everyone else here knows him because he was our
employer in the sobkhoz."
"Soon you will meet him," the officer told us, and he went
about his business. With our hearts racing, we waited for the exciting meeting.
I knew Timczok as a very warm and loving person. All through the time when Moshe
Forman and I worked in Zviyara sobkhoz, a ranch used to raise silver fox, I
worked as a supplier of feed for the foxes and Moshe was the accountant. Timczok
was not just our manager but he was a true friend. And now they were asking if
we knew him? Tears came to my eyes and when I looked at Moshe, I saw that he was
practically crying from happiness and excitement.
We waited for a few long hours and around six in the evening
we saw three people dressed in green uniforms, coming from afar. As they came
closer we could see that they had Mauser pistols that they wore on their hips in
holsters made of wood. Two of them were looking through binoculars and then all
three came in our direction. When they came about twenty meters from us, we
stood at attention and our hearts were shaking with excitement. Moshe and I
immediately recognized him. He came towards us and shook our hands and kissed
us. I could see that he was extremely excited and he had tears in his eyes. He
was a man with a very warm soul. He was a friend and lover of all people. Many
will tell about all his deeds and forever people of our town will talk about
him, and not only our townís people, but people from the entire area. With his
help, hundreds of Jews were saved from certain annihilation in the shtetls and
the ghettos. Timczok couldnít stop asking about every minute and vital detail.
How were we saved? Which of the people he knew were saved? Who was annihilated
and missing? He was particularly saddened at hearing of the loss of Mikhail
Lankin and his brother in law Chonka. "Takya raviata inimogli spastasa," meaning
such great guys and they couldnít save themselves? It is true that these two
guys were strong and fearless guys but they were not lucky guys. They perished.
For a while we continued the conversation and he asked how
many of us were here. 14 men I said. "Very well," he said. "For now you will be
nearby along with another group of 22 Jews from Dolhinov. We will bring you
there soon. Rest for a day or two, then we will see what we can do with you.
Itís very bad that you donít have any weapons, but we will see. For now we must
part, but we will see you later."
He called the unit commander and told him to take us to the
other Jews in the forest. The commander took us through a path in the forest and
finally we arrived at a place where there were two tents camouflaged with tree
branches and leaves. Near the tent there were two barrels tied to tree trunks
and under them was fire. They were cooking food there. As we came near we
recognized Chana Leib Bronstein, who was stirring the food, and Eliau Maisel was
standing as a guard. I cannot describe our extreme excitement at realizing that
there were other survivors from our town. As I found out that the same night we
left, with Anatoz Tutzman, there was a group of 15 people lead by Eliau Maisel
who escaped the ghetto using the darkness of the night. On the way to the forest
they met with Avraham Friedman and a few other guys, and together they were 22
people. As we were talking, the food was ready to eat. About 15 people ate from
Not everyone had utensils to eat, so we made some utensils
from sharpened pieces of wood and we stuck them in pieces of cooked meat. The
atriad commissar (political officer) distributed the meat to us. This was our
first partisan meal, under the sky in the heart of the woods. It was a true
"picnic" in the midst of nature. The people who we met were Avraham Friedman,
Mitzia Friedman, Eli Maisel, Chana and Raia
Brunstein, Mulke Koritzky, Haya Shulkin, David and his brother Avraham Itzhak
Shuster, Yosef Kremer, Shmeryl Friedman, Hirschel Katz, Goodman and Rubin,
Gordon, Elka Gordon, Velvel Zaev Minkel, Minka Chana Mindel, Etka and Razel
Mindel, and Epelbeim, a refugree from Warsaw.. At night we slept next to them
and we stayed there for a few days.
AMONGST THE PARTISANS
Two days later, in the afternoon, a runner came with an order
that Eliau Maisel and I must immediately report to the atriadís headquarters. We
followed his order and came running. At the headquarters we met the head of the
Nardony Mastitya (the Revenger of the People, the partisan groupís name), "Uncle
Vasya" met us. With him were Timczok, the political commissar of the brigade,
and the head of (something else?) Major Sirugin, a very pleasant and talented
person. We were asked to choose among our group 10 people who knew the area very
well. They said that a unit would go into Dolhinov that night to take control of
it, and they had to have people who knew every corner of the town.
Then ten people would be divided amongst the different units.
They would send five units of partisans, and we would be their guides to take
them to their targets. Moshe Forman and I were going to guide Unit One of Troop
B, which was headed by a Paponov with thirty fighters. The entire atriad
contained one hundred and sixty people.
The five units arrived at the meeting point one kilometer from
Dolhinov and were ordered to wait until 11 oíclock, and at that time they were
to disconnect all the phone lines. All the units were supplied with axes and
saws to cut down the telephone poles and to disconnect the lines. Each one had
an exact destination. One at the entrance of
Kriviczi Street, another on Vilejka Street, one in Dokshitz Street, one in
Vilija Street, and one in Budslav Street. The sawing and the disconnecting of
telephone lines made a lot of noise, which made the Germans realize that
something was happening. They immediately organized themselves in defensive
positions, so we lost the element of surprise and the enemy was prepared.
When Moshe Forman and I arrived at the police station with our
units, we found it empty. After we threw a grenade, we broke in and found the
place clear of any people. We put up lights and started looking. We could see
that the members of the police had escaped hastily. We found hats on one of the
beds, and we also found clothing and shoes and so on. Near the entrance to the 2nd
room of the police station, we found 14 German rifles, amongst them the German
rifle that was broken after they clobbered me with it when I was arrested with
Leib during our first attempt to escape to the forest.
I cannot describe how happy we were to see this treasure of
rifles there. The atriad was very needy of weapons, of which we had a very
limited supply. All of us, the Jews, had no weapons other than my pistol so you
can comprehend how happy we were
to have not only rifles, but German ones. When we got out of the police station,
we could hear constant, powerful gunfire from many directions. One came from the
direction of Dr. Sadolskyís house, the place where a German communications unit
was living. There were 11 soldiers, and at their head were a sergeant and an
officer. As we found out, they were able to gather all the policemen from the
station, about 15 people. All the Germans carried automatic weapons and they
were able to defend the building. When the unit came near the house, they lit up
the area with rockets and they fired on us constantly. In spite of it, a few
units tried to approach the house, but they were not very successful. The other
units decided to retreat and our units also took some losses. Right under my
the politruk fell dead, and another partisan was gravely wounded. I was only
able to shoot a few rounds. First, I didnít have much ammunition, and second I
was ordered to take one of the wounded away from the battlefield. So ended my
first combat under fire, and soon after the operation ended for the rest of
The atriad Nardony Mastitya had lost five of its troops. The
wounded were taken care of except for one gravely wounded man who we were not
able to reach. This operation taught us that it is hard to have great successes
if the enemy is prepared. Also, most of us were not really experienced and had
little ammunition, but in spite of it all it was very successful because now we
had 14 rifles and much ammunition. For us, the Jews from Dolhinov, it was
extremely successful since those rifles were given to those without weapons. So
now Avraham Friedman and I received two excellent rifles. Still, because the
operation didnít achieve all it had set out to achieve, we had to retreat with
the entire Mastitya since we knew there would be an immense German brigade
coming to the area to destroy the partisans. There was no sense in staying
nearby so all the units, including our group, were ordered to get out of the
"Yellow Beach" (zashlati bjerg?) in the forest of Malinkowa and to go east. The
retreat took place the day after operation, starting at dusk. All night, the
troop of Mastitya jumped like rabbits, we jumped in weaving paths so that the
Germans would not be able to recognize where we were going. I must tell you that
just before the retreat, a few hours prior to the departure, all the Jews who
came with us were accepted to the partisan brigade and were divided among
So now we became full-fledged partisans and we started getting
accustomed to the new units. After three days there were rumors spreading all
over the atriad. People whispered that here in the meadow there would be gifts
from Moscow dropped by parachute. Real treasures: supplies for the unit. To tell
you the truth I did not really believe it. I saw it as the imaginations of
dreamers. However, I was very surprised when two days later I was ordered to go
with the radio operator to help him carry the radioís power supply. We went
farther into the thickest of the woods. He took off his load, quickly put an
antenna at the top of a tree and then searched for the proper channel to connect
with Moscow. He received a message that this evening a plane would arrive by the
meadow between Kriyesk and Lagozina and drop presents for Nardony Mastitya.
At midnight we could clearly hear the sounds of a rapidly
approaching plane. After a short time it passed by our forest. It went around
the area where we stood, circling a few times and then it turned back east.
Shortly after, the special unit came from the meadow. As they came near we could
see that many of the partisans were holding heavy
containers on their backs. We were rewarded with ten automatic rifles, two
machine guns, and a large number of (ask brother about this? What kind of
equipment?) bullets for Russian and German rifles. I myself got a little bone:
ten new bullets that were shining like gold. So now I had a rifle and a large
supply of ammunition.
That morning, the atriadís scouts announced that a large force
of Germans had arrived at Lagozina and Kriesk. Immediately we got an order to
move. It took a few minutes for everyone to get prepared. Before we left, Uncle
Vasya made a short speech.
"The agents of the enemy announced to all the headquarters in
the area that tonight we received weapons from Moscow and maybe also extra
units. It seems like the Germans
are going to launch an offensive against us. We must immediately disappear in
spite of the inconvenience and the danger. We are not yet ready for frontal
battles with the enemy, but if we do encounter them, we must listen to the
officers and not retreat in
panic. I am sure that we will all move together as one brave unit, fighting
alongside one another, shoulder to shoulder, until the last bullet."
Immediately afterward, the entire atriad left, one by one, in
one long line through the forest. Obviously the scouts at the head of the line
were armed, as were those at the tail. All day long we walked through the forest
and we hardly used any paths through open fields. At dusk, around six oíclock,
we arrived at Paranalina, in the area near Lagyosk and Plashensitz. We did as
the general ordered when we get to a new base. We settled with each of the
different units. Here the entire troop of Mastitya felt at home. There was much
more safety since we were farther east, closer to the protection of the powerful
The night passed quietly and no one disturbed us, so we could
rest from the long walk. The next day, a small detachment headed by the officer
Mayelnikov, went for non-military operations, meaning they appropriated food
from the peasants for the atriad. We came to the ranch of Borosky in
Sharkovichzina near the town Hatzinzin. As we arrived there we were treated with
great respect. This was the first time where we felt like we were the bosses. We
confiscated many supplies; cheese and other dairy products, flour, grains, all
in large amounts. We harnessed two horses to wagons and filled them with
supplies. We also took five cows and a huge bull, and like that we returned to
the base. We were all in a good mood and we ate as much as our hearts desired.
Not only did we bring back a large amount of supplies, but we started feeling
that we had gotten some revenge over an anti-Semitic landowner. We felt our
self-respect coming back. Here people respected us and treated us like equals.
They gave us important missions. We felt pride as Jews for the first time since
the Germans had arrived.
After three days of rest, the politruk Timczok addressed the
entire atriad. We sat in a circle on the ground in the middle of the forest and
listened to him. "We are nearing an important day, the Day of the Workers [May
1], the day of the Proletariat, the day
of the International Brotherhood of the Working Class. In every place,
everywhere in the world, it is a celebration. This celebration must pass for us
with victories and military achievement against the invading enemy. We didnít
come to the forest to hide from the enemy and to be parasites on the account of
the working farmers, or even the few large ranch owners who recently returned to
the area under the wings of the enemy. We must attack the Germans and the
collaborators in every place that our hands can reach. We must attack the
traitorous policemen and the municipal leaders who are enemies of the people."
At 8 in the morning the next day, I was added to a nit of 12
people, headed by Vlodia Kavilin, a partisan who was fearless and extremely
energetic. Surprisingly he was an alcoholic but in spite of it, a staunch and
brave fighter. He was once an officer in the Red Army. After the war started, he
became a POW of the Germans near Molodechno. He escaped from the POW camp and
Jews helped him when he arrived at Ilia, especially by Shrage Dagan Solominsky.
You can read about it in the Yizkor Book for Ilia. All the people in the towns
around us can tell about his bravery and all his deeds.
As soon as he received the order to head the new unit, he
arranged us in a line and checked each one of us and our weapons. A sniper by
the name of Kozantzov, who was the best sniper in the entire atriad, was added
to our unit (along with his special rifle that he had received from the supplies
from Moscow). I was designated as his assistant, and I received a backpack with
six packages of ammunition. We walked for about two hours, stopping fifteen
kilometers from our base to sit down for a meal. Our aim was to arrive at a
village Toltaki, between Doshkovitz and Lagyoz, about 40 km from Minsk. In this
village there was a huge lumber mill. Originally it was a Soviet mill, but now
it was working for the Germans, and big trucks went back and forth to supply the
Germans with wood. We arrived there hoping to surprise them and give them a
present for the holiday. Our officer Kavilin checked out the place and decided
that we would surprise them on a small hill where we could hide and not be seen.
We waited for about two hours and my hands were burning from
holding the weapon tight. The hour of revenge was coming. Finally, at around 8,
we heard the sound of heavy trucks coming. After 15 minutes we saw two big
trucks loaded with boards. Above the boards there was a troop of Germans sitting
on each. The trucks came near, Kavilin gave the order and we started firing. In
a few minutes we were able to kill all the people in the first truck. They
didn't even have time to protect themselves. Now we waited for the second truck,
which was about 200 m away. Since there were a lot of supplies loaded on it, the
truck moved very slowly and they must not have heard the sounds of shooting.
They stopped when they saw the other truck, but by then it was
too late. They just had time to jump. There were about seven Germans and a
driver, and we were able to get them. Now Kavilin told us to take clothes and
everything we could find from the dead Germans. We took all the weapons and
boots and uniforms. Inside the trucks we found many supplies, as well as food
that had been stolen from the farmers. After fifteen minutes we left with all
the supplies. Before we left, Kavilin shot into the gas tanks and lit them on
Each one of us carried at least 30 kilos of supplies, but we
were very happy and excited. We passed through three villages on our way back
and we proudly showed the residents the "trophies" that we had taken from the
Germans. Since we were wearing German uniforms, a guard unit of the partisans
saw us and mistakenly thought we were Germans. He immediately announced a small
unit of Germans coming near the base. Lucky for us, the head of the unit that
was sent to attack us looked in his binoculars and recognized us. When we
arrived, Kavilin jumped to a saluting position and said, "Commander, your order
was carried out. We burned two big trucks full of supplies and we killed nine
Germans. We took 15 rifles with us, 10 pistols, 940 bullets, 15 pairs of boots,
and 19 backpacks full of other supplies."
Three days later, at dusk, there was a siren in all the atriad.
The scouts had discovered a large number of Germans driving towards the village
Kramnitz. Uncle Vasya ordered us to be ready for action. When night came we
started walking through the fields and forests, and took a defensive position in
a semi-circular formation from west to northeast, and hid behind the forest. We
didn't have to wait long. At six in the morning we saw clear signs of the enemy
moving toward us. Soon we saw about 20 cars, each of them carrying German
troops, about 300 all together. They seemed to be very confident, thinking that
there were no partisans waiting for them in the area. At the head of them was a
villager from Maslitza. The traitor. He was their scout. Following him, they
walked in groups and arrived at about 50 meters from us when we heard the loud,
confident order of our commander, "Ogon!" (Fire).
Gunfire came at them from three directions. They didn't have
time to get ready, and they began to fall like stalks of wheat before a reaper.
It took fifteen minutes and the entire area was filled with the bodies of the
gray-uniformed killers. Very few managed to escape by hiding under the bodies of
their friends. But our job was not done yet. As we were ready to pounce on them,
another large unit arrived with heavy fire. After half an hour we started
retreating, with each unit covering the other. The retreat was done efficiently
and quickly, and there was not one man left behind on the field with the enemy
victims. During the retreat we had only one loss, which was very dear to me. It
was my cousin Mulke Koritzky, a native of Donilovich, the youngest son of my
aunt Frieda. He fell victim to the enemy during the retreat. Honor to the memory
of a young, brave fighter. After we found his body, we buried him nearby and put
a plaque with his name on it to commemorate a lost partisan.
The farmers from the village later told us that the Germans
brought 17 trucks filled with bodies to the school, and they called a special
medic to come and take care of the wounded, but they were not successful. Being
very angry, they caught a few farmers and shot them. Later that night they left
the area and went to Minsk.
Logistics and safety issues made the Revenge of the People
leave the area for other locations. First the atriad had hardly any ammunition
left after the battle, and it became so renowned in the area that we knew that
the Germans would try to get their revenge. So we all left for the east, for the
marshes and everglades around Borisov, Lapal, and Poloczik. On the one hand, we
felt absolutely safe there, but on the other hand, the food supply was very
limited. There was already a huge brigade of partisans in the area by the name
of Staika, and there were members of that brigade from our area. Amongst others
we met our Aharon, Herzl Zuckerman from Kriviczi, the very brave Riva Melamed
and her sister-in-law Ester Sussman from Dokshitz. They all had tales of days of
starvation and the impossibility of finding food in the area. I decided that
staying hungry in the area, I should attempt to check if my wife and baby girl
were still alive in the Myadel ghetto
So I asked Timczok if I could go west, saying that other than
bringing my wife and daughter I would also bring food supplies. Timczok, who was
always worried about our safety, was reluctant, but when he realized that no
tales of danger would prevent me from going, he offered to let me choose any
three men to accompany me and emphasized that I must take every caution in this
mission. So I chose Mitzia Friedman and Yuzik Blachman who was known as the
Estonczik (a native of Estonia, whom many others wrote about), and also a
non-Jewish farmer by the name of Kolke Voroshniko. Our rifles were taken from us
and were replaced by personal weapons. We received three pistols from the Nagan
(Nagan pistols?). One was from Pistolet, and also we received four hand
grenades. We started walking west. After we walked for about 20 km, it was
easier to get food supplies and our morale rose.
After three days we arrived at the old Russian-Polish border
near Dolhinov and we rested in the village Bakunik. From there I sent the
(non-Jewish) farmer Jozef Zraba to Myadel so he could find out the fate of my
wife, my daughter, and my in-laws. He returned after two days to tell me that my
in-laws, wife, and daughter were alive. That evening, we left Bakunik. We
arrived in the farmhouses near Zari and the farmers told us that there were a
bunch of thieves who walked around the area and stole and confiscated supplies
from the local population, pretending to be partisans. We continued towards the
Malishka forest, when all of a sudden we encountered two men. They didn't see us
since we walked like partisans, in a line with our weapons drawn.
When we arrived about five meters from them, we ordered them
to stop and put their hands up. I asked if they had any weapons and they denied
it. I asked Mitzia to check them, and we heard something falling. We looked and
it was a small pistol. Mitzia kept searching them but found nothing else. When
we asked who they were and what they were doing in the middle of the forest,
they said they were looking for a way to join the partisans. We asked for their
names, and one said he was Mleczko from Dolhinov. I looked at him closer and
realized that he was a known killer and a real bad character who took part in
all the actions against the Jews.
We went back to the first farmhouse that had told us of the
"partisans" who had demanded gold and money from the farmers, while threatening
they would burn the houses and kill the people. Although it was 2 in the
morning, we woke the farmer and asked him to identify the men. He said that only
yesterday these men had threatened him, and he recognized the gun we had found
We took them out and discussed what we should do with them. As
partisans we wrote down the testimony of the farmer and his household and
decided to give the men death sentences. We took them to the forest and shot
them, and put our reports on their bodies, and started walking toward Myadel via
Kriviczi. We asked around about how we could go inside the ghetto of Myadel, and
what was going on in town. After a short time we decided that in the evening,
Friedman and Dolshenko should go to Postov, and I with the Estonczik should go
to Myadel. I sent the wife of Stalyuk with a note for my wife that in the
evening time I would wait for them near the Nivisolki cemetery on the outskirts
of town. I gave her instructions that she and her parents and our daughter and
some other relatives should escape from the area and come to a place where we
would wait for them.
After a few hours, the woman returned and told me that that
evening, my wife
and her friend Golda Yanovsky would come along. Our baby was
sick and my father-in-law refused to take her in such a condition, and that he
would stay with her. I also learned that my mother-in-law had passed away a few
weeks ago. I was very sorry that my child could not come, but I was hoping that
in another occasion I would be able to get her out along with my father-in-law.
Around 8 in the evening we waited near the road to Myadel,
when all of a sudden I saw two shadows walking toward our direction. I couldn't
wait and I yelled, "Batya!" For one minute they seemed to be scared, then they
recovered and ran toward us. I hugged and kissed my wife, and immediately we
turned to Niviriyeh. We waited a few days for the return of Mitzia Friedman and
Kolke Dolshenko, and when they returned they had 13 people who they got out of
the Postov Ghetto, among them the sister and brother-in-law of Mitzia, his
brother Hanoch and two other brothers; all together 13. Almost everyone survived
to this day, except for Mitzia and his brother Hanoch. They were killed in
battle in March of 1944. Immediately we left for the east to rejoin our atriad.
Shortly after our return, they organized a big group of Jews
who were designated non-combatants, women, and children, to take them past the
front and deep into the Soviet Union. The group consisted of sick and wounded
partisans, women, old people, etc. Among them was my wife Batya. On September
12, 1942, they left from Biarozvyamast. About 70 people were in this group which
was led by Captain Latishyev. Amongst the people who left from Dolhinov were
Motel Friedman, David and Avraham Yitzhak Shuster, Yossel Baksht, Reuven Kremer,
Leah and Moshe Friedman from Postov, and other Jews from the area. It was not
easy to convince my wife Batya to leave. She wanted to wait for her father and
daughter, and to stay with me, but I promised her that I would soon take my
daughter and her father out of the ghetto.
So the group left. They had to go 1500 km past enemy lines, in
freezing conditions, and with the possibility of starvation, in areas that still
had some fighting, but they made it. I did as I promised to my wife. After three
weeks I went with three other people to Myadel. It was easy to get permission at
this time. Again I stayed with my friend Stalyuk and sent a letter with his wife
to my father-in-law, telling him to give my baby to her to be taken out. At
nighttime they must organize all the Jews in the ghetto and escape to Kunica.
On the road from Myadel to Niviyeri
Stalyukís wife returned home riding on a black horse, carrying
two girls dressed in farmersí clothing. It was my daughter, who was now 18
months old, and the daughter of my brother-in-law, Natashka Istrin, who was five
years old. I couldnít wait to take my daughter in my arms and hug her. When we
went in the house she told me how lucky she was to be able to take the girls and
not be seen. She also gave me a letter from my brother-in-law, Zelig Istrin,
that at 10 p.m. he would bring out all the Jews of Old Myadel.
At 10 pm I left with Mitzia Friedman to welcome the escapees.
It was a dark and rainy night, and there was a non-stop storm. After getting
halfway, we heard loud sounds of people walking and yelled out the name of my
brother-in-law Zelig, who I knew would be at the front of the line. Immediately
the line stopped and once again I yelled, and when he recognized my voice he ran
to me with the rest of them behind him. I hugged my brother-in-law and then we
took the entire procession to Niviyeri. Shortly we were in the village, and only
now do I realize what a huge mission I took upon myself. All together we had 144
people, mostly old and children. The young men and women didnít survive. I
divided them into three groups, one group of 50 I would take east with me
immediately. I would temporarily leave the second group in the marshlands
between Nayivery and Dumosalvia, in granaries. The rest of the people would be
divided for a few days among the loyal farmers, and then the Estonczik would
take them east later on.
At a late night hour I left with my group toward the forest of
Malinovka and Hodaki. Two days after, all the groups who came with me were added
to a group of 150 people that the partisans were taking east, past the front and
into Soviet territory. I decided to leave my little girl with me, and I gave her
to a farmer by the name of Olga Samonik, from the village Bobrova. The group
that left with the Estonczik faced a terrible tragedy. I donít know exactly what
happened. Was it a bad judgment by the partisans who took them? But after two
days of walking, the procession crossed the river Vilya near the villages Kamyin
and Bakonik and decided to rest during daytime, without posting a lookout. Near
them was a Polish shepherd with his flock by the name of Jan Ruzayetski, from
the village Kamyin. When he realized who they were, he immediately went on his
horse to Dolhinov and brought with him the Germans and the police. After a short
time, they arrived while the group was sleeping. They opened fire, and only a
small number from that group survived. Many old people and children perished.
A few days passed and I found out that the atriad was
organizing demolition teams for sabotage missions in the area. I demanded to be
a part of it. The commissar smiled when he heard me and immediately agreed to
let me take part. Once again he asked me to choose three other fighters, so I
took the Estonczik, Kolke Doroshniko, and Mikhail Yitzhak Friedman. On the
evening of October 17, 1942, we arrived by the train tracks between Parafianow
and Krolevshtchizna, near the village Paraplishtz. At ten, Doroshniko and I
approached the train tracks. In minutes we placed a large amount of explosives
on the right side of the track. We returned to our position 50 meters away, with
the detonator and waited for the train. We heard it coming. When it came near we
saw the little light from the first car, and immediately we pulled on the rope
(?) and ran. We heard a huge explosion. We ran for 5 km, running until we
arrived at a village where we went to sleep. We couldnít wait to hear what had
happened. We sent one of the villagers to see the results of our work, and he
came back to tell us that there had been a huge amount of destruction and that
many Germans were killed and wounded. The effect, it seems, was tremendous: not
only had we killed many Germans and damaged or destroyed much equipment, but
railway traffic had also stopped for fourteen hours.
The twenty-eighth of October was a happy day. Our atriad moved
from the Roskovsky forest to near Niviyeri. We put our base near Karikriznovka,
on an island that was known by the villagers as Viyaski Ostrov. I, with my three
friends, along with a group who came from Groboki, settled in the marsh area
into granaries. There were about 10 others from Dolhinov, others went east, but
I was very happy to meet with them.
On the evening of October 31st, 1942, I was called
to the headquarters of the atriad when I arrived I found all the commanding
officers there. I was asked to sit. Sokholov let me know that a decision was
made that part of the atriad would become a national unit that would consist
entirely of Jews, and that I would head that unit. We were given ten rifles. We
already had five at that point, and also three that needed repairs that had come
from Globok. From this point I walked very fast, as if I had extra energy from
somewhere. Immediately I made a list and gathered eighteen people and marched
them over to headquarters. The commanding officers called the names of each one
of the troops and immediately they stood at attention and received their rifles.
They added ten other veteran fighters. All of us were extremely excited and I
swore to myself that my unit would be a symbol and example of loyal fighters for
all Soviet partisans.
I returned to the headquarters and Sokholov, the commander of
Nardony Mastitya, let us know about a big operation that the entire atriad, with
the addition of the new atriad which was headed by Markov, who was still
inexperienced but had a large amount of ammunition and troops. We were told that
the next day, on November 1 at four in the morning, the entire atriad would
attack the Germans near Myadel. Troop A, headed by Sashka from Rozkov, and
guided by me, would enter Myadel secretly through the Niviolsky Cemetery. We
were to quietly capture the German bunker there and incapacitate the Germans
there. From there we had to go to the gendarme and police station in a two story
house, and there secretly and without having anyone discover us, we must wait
for Troop B, which would open fire on the Lithuanian troops who were located in
the two-story home of Alperovicz.
The first part of my mission was to transport the three Troops
of Company A inside the town and try to control the guards without making any
sounds. The town was very quiet, as if everyone was asleep. We didnít even hear
a dog. Our forces went to the locations, we yelled at the gendarmes and the
policemen, "You are surrounded, fascists! Give up!" Immediately they started
shooting with every weapon they had. I saw an armed German coming toward us,
then Dantzov and I shot him. We kept waiting, but others didnít come. All of a
sudden, a messenger came and told us that the commandant of the atriad said that
the third troop must temporarily leave the area. We must take anything that
could be used for burning and go immediately to the house where the police and
the gendarmes were staying, while the other two units covered us. We were to
ignite all the houses in the surrounding area, which would then force the
Germans to get out of there.
I made a quick decision that we didnít need the entire troop
for this mission. I sent Mikhail Yitzhak Friedman and a few men to a nearby
field where they could find bales of hale to transfer to the area around the
house, and then burn all the nearby houses. It took only 15 minutes and the
houses started burning. All of a sudden, I saw that at the top of the church,
the Germans were shooting at the people who were collecting the hay. I commanded
my unit to open fire on the church tower. I then took Biyanish Kuzinich and
another three fighters to put some bales of hay by the church tower to burn it.
Then we entered the outpatient clinic of the municipal hospital that was used
only by the Germans. We took a large supply of medicine, first aid supplies and
dentistry supplies, and then we lit the place on fire.
All the houses around the police station were now on fire, as
well as the church and its tower. All of the units now set up positions
surrounding the enemy, waiting for them to escape the burning area. Shortly they
started running out and we shot them.
Still, the mission was not a complete success. We couldnít
come near the Gestapoís Lithuanian and Latvian volunteers since there was
constant, heavy fire in their area. Their situation made it more difficult to
get to them, for they were in a building that was built out of cinder blocks and
the roof was made out of tile. The building contained 125 killers that had the
best weapons. They shot at us from every window, and even from the basement.
There was one attempt by Company B to get near the house and throw grenades, but
it was a failure and immediately three partisans died from enemy fire. For two
hours we tried, but we couldnít do it any longer since they were able to notify
a unit in Postov that had armored vehicles. At around ten in the morning we
could hear the sounds of their vehicles.
Markovís atriad was waiting for the enemy 10 km from Myadel,
so the first tank was destroyed by the atriad, but the force was too big, and we
knew we must leave immediately. Sokholov announced a retreat of all our forces,
but without panic. Although we had to leave five of our troops who were killed
since there was no time to take them off the battlefield. The minute I heard the
order to pull back, I asked Mikhail Yitzhak Friedman what would happen to the
Jews who were still left in the ghetto. He said from what he knew there were
still about 86 people, 15 or 16 families, whom the Germans used as specialists.
They were made to work for them in jobs like feeding the chickens, cleaning the
horses, and other jobs. I knew that they had a death sentence hanging over them.
Amongst them was my sister-in-law Shosha Hadash and her five children, whose
husband was killed among the 22 young people killed in the first month of the
war. I decided to try to save them. I didnít ask for anyoneís permission, but I
took my two friends, Mitzia and Bianish Kuzinitz, and immediately we ran to the
When we arrived we realized that the barbed wire surrounding
the ghetto and the fence was not cut, so we knew there must still be some Jews
in the area. We broke the barbed wire and the fences with our rifles and jumped
inside. Immediately I ran to the window that was covered with sheets, and with
my rifle I knocked it in and yelled, "What are you standing here for? Do you
wish to die without trying to save yourself? Pretty soon theyíll come here and
slaughter you like sheep!"
I looked inside and saw on the floor many people were lying
down. Some were known to me, some were unknown. "Get up! Run for your lives!" I
yelled. "Immediately run to the marshes of Yarmuling, to the Cemetery of
When they heard my shout they started running and escaping.
The same as I did, some others did at homes nearby. So this is the way the
battle ended. From our side there were five dead from Company B. Amongst them
was one Jew from Minsk by the name of Kissel. We also had 13 wounded. The enemy
had 33 killed and many wounded. Also there were many (an unknown number) who
were killed among the Germans coming from Postov. I felt particularly happy
about the 90 Jews that we had gotten out of the ghetto. I was sure that if we
hadnít gotten them out they would have all been killed. Some of these Jews could
join the partisans too.
During the retreat I passed by a house where a woman who we
called Litovka lived. She was half Polish, half Lithuanian. This house was home
to one of the cruelest families. The day the 22 young men were killed, she ran
all over the streets yelling, "Now the day of revenge on the Jews has come!
Letís kill them all so they wonít contaminate the town!" I couldnít let it go. I
turned back to her house, feeling waves of anger invading my body, preventing me
from following the order to immediately retreat. I yelled to open the door and
she opened it. I shot her immediately. She fell at the entrance of the house,
dropping in a huge puddle of blood. But she was a lucky bitch and she survived.
She was respected and adored by the Germans: they took her on an ambulance to
Vilna where she had an operation to take the bullet out of her limbs.
The next day, all the officers gathered. Koznitzov, the
commissar of the atriad (the politruk), read the order of the day which
expressed the deep thanks to all the fighters that did such a great job during
the battle. Among the first to get special respect was my troop, and I received
a medal, The Red Banner (Flag?) medal. After the war I received it, signed by
the head of the Russian Partisans, A. Golky. On the fourth of March, 1942,
The need to get revenge on all the killers without uniforms
who were running free, people who were our neighbors in yesteryear then who
later became our killers, could not let go of me. So I used every free day I had
to get revenge. First, I asked the commissar to let me find the killers in the
village Kamyin. The commissar said, "If we will spend this time taking revenge,
we will have to punish about 90% of the population for collaborating with the
enemy on the killings. You can go to Kamyin and bring Jan Ruzietski here, but
you must not kill him. All I will allow you to do is to beat them up so they
will remember that they must respect human beings." I understood his message.
I took with me ten fighters, and we arrived at Kamyin around
midnight, but when we knocked on the door of Ruzietskiís house, only an old
woman was there. I found out that now he was not sleeping here, that he usually
slept in Dolhinov. So instead we went to the Novtisky families. They were the
people who took the clothes off the dead people they found in Myadel. When they
opened the door we ordered them to put lights on and to return everything that
they took off the dead Jewish bodies. At first they denied everything, but after
we beat them, they started returning things. They brought from the storage place
behind the oven clothes that were stained with blood, boots of little children,
dresses of women. So we started beating them harder and harder. Three of them we
found out later died from the wounds.
A few weeks later, we got revenge on the killer in the village
of Dubricka by the name Ignolia. His crime was that in the summer of 1942 he
encountered a young Jewish woman from Dolhinov by the name of Reza Musia
Schmerkovicz. She had escaped from the ghetto, and when he caught her he beat
her up, stole her money, tied her up and tortured her. Then he took her to
Dolhinov and gave her to the Germans and the policemen who continued torturing
her until she died. We knew also that his daughter had taken part in the robbery
and the transfer of the Jews to killers. In February of 1943 we knocked on the
door of the killer and again an old woman opened the door and told us that he
was sick. I told her that we had a doctor with us who would cure any illness,
and showed her David Glasser, who looked like a Red Army commissar. Ignolia was
leaning on the oven with his head covered by a wet towel. I ordered him to get
up, but he said he was sick with typhus and could not get up. Menashe Kaye and I
pulled him by his hair and David Glasser started counting while we beat him with
rubber bats while I explained to him why were giving to him this punishment. The
next day we found out that 25 policemen in seven cars came and took the killer
and his daughter to the hospital in Dolhinov but Ignolia died a day later.
In the middle of March, 1943, I was appointed as the commander
of the medical unit, not far from the village Lishinski. In a large house there
they had established a sort of hospital to take care of the wounded and sick
people from the brigade. Dr. Sigelov, a Jew from Minsk, was the medical director
and his helper was Kotler, a Jew who had been able to escape from Dolhinov. I
was given 12 partisans with weapons and we had to take care of every need of the
wounded, from clothes to food to medical supplies.
Everything went fine until May 15, 1943. On that day, we found
out that a large force of the enemy was concentrating in Dolhinov and Kriviczi.
All day long new forces arrived in the area. Amongst them were also Ukrainian
traitors and Vlassoviches (troops headed by General Vlassov, who betrayed the
Soviet Union and took all his troops in the first month of the war in 1942 and
joined the Germans). This entire huge army was sent to take care of the
partisans. So on the 19th of May, 1943, the fight against the
partisans from Minsk to Smolensk to Vilejka, Dolhinov, Kriviczi and Disna and
other places began. We fought fearlessly but finally had to retreat to the marsh
area between Bihimvol and Borisov and Poloczek. So now there were 16 partisan
brigades in the area of Palik and Domzherevicz until June of 1943. Once again we
had a problem of collecting supplies for such a big force.
Before the retreat, on the 21st of May, 1943, we
started pulling back with the hospital from the forest of Lishinski to the area
of Palik. Every day new wounded troops were added. Our brigade, Nardony Mastitya,
took defensive positions on the 31st of May on the left bank of the
river Brazina. The hospital unit with all the wounded was situated on an island
surrounded by the marsh. This was a very convenient place since it was almost
impossible to get here, but once again there was a problem of food. We had a
very small supply, only about 30 kilos of beans and about 20 kilos of dry bread.
On the evening of June 1, 1943, we knew that we had to leave.
The Germans were coming closer and we couldnít stop them. We decided to divide
the wounded and the watchers into three groups. The severely wounded had to be
left in the area, underground with Dr. Sigolov. The second group of lightly
wounded were taken to another island with Dr. Kotler taking care of them. The
third group consisted of the very lightly wounded men who could still walk, and
the rest of the troop that was watching them, went with me to the deepest of the
marshlands. So with me I had ten wounded people who could walk, and a few
others, non-combatant partisans, amongst them my friend Mindel, Leib Schreibman,
and Leib and Israel Rodoshkovicz, and the niece Nehama, a refugee from Sharko
Lish Sitzna. Also coming with us were the two women who worked in the kitchen,
Dora Sussman and Sila Solovyechik. We took with us some of the beans and dry
bread and went on our way.
After a short time we didnít know exactly where we were. We
went inside the marsh without a compass or a map, and with barely enough food.
The enemy shot from all directions, and we were standing deep in water. We
walked to one direction and if we heard shots from there we went in another
direction. We heard shooting in every diretion, and like this we walked for 19
By the fourth day we were practically starving. On the fifth
day we came to an island where there was a lot of grass. So we devoured the
grass (which was very bitter) but it still it didnít stop the hunger. We forced
ourselves to continue walking. Finally, on the 19th of June, 1943,
all the shooting stopped and with help I climbed on a tree to see if we could
see any signs of human life, maybe some smoke. However, I was so weak that I
fell on the ground. Minutes later I said to everyone, "We must continue.
Although we donít know where we should go, if we stay still we will die of
I took a stick to lean on and with all my might I started
walking, and everyone followed behind me. I decided to go where I thought was
southeast. I knew from memory that the river Berzinov was nearby. We passed the
entire day of June 20 like that, and we still didnít find the river. There was a
total quietness in the swamp. It was as if it was a huge, never-ending cemetery.
In the evening we arrived at a very muddy forest, and I thought it must be near
the Berezino River. We sat on the ground and lit a fire and took some dirty
water, boiled it, drank it, and then slept.
Finally, on June 25th, 1943, we came to the area
between Lashniki and Kraznow to the base. We found out that our old hospital in
the forest had been burned by the Germans along with all of the atriadís other
buildings. So now we started building everything anew and gathering all the
wounded. We found that everyone had survived in spite of the starvation.
Everyone in the units of Dr. Sigelov and Dr. Kotler were fine, a few even
recovered and went back to fighting. Now I was busy with taking care of the
wounded. The entire brigade suffered few losses during that bitter battle in the
area of Palik. When they came back I found out that on June 4, 1943, on the
third day of the blockade they managed to break out of the ring of surrounding
Germans and they only suffered a few wounded who were sent to me.
Now that I was the head of the hospital unit, I was pretty
much in control and I could do whatever I wished, so I decided to take revenge
on more of the killers. First on my mind was once again Jan Ruzetski in the
village Kamyin. We found out from the villagers that he could usually be found
in his auntís house in Kamyunka. Early in the morning we found him at home. When
we got to the house his aunt was awake and there was a young man, about 20 years
old, who was sleeping. I asked the woman who he was, and she said it was her
son. I told her that if that was her son, she would be punished too. She started
crying and said that he was not her son, that he was the nephew of her husband.
She said that he was afraid to stay in his village so he slept in her house. I
took a rope and tied his hands behind his back and took him to a villager in
Bakunin and asked him if he knew if this was the guy who called the Germans from
Dolhinov. He and everyone else in the area said that this was the one, so now
that we had no doubt, I said to him, "You can choose your death. If you will
confess immediately we will shoot you. If not, we will cut your flesh off." He
kept quiet, so we took him to the river, to the place where the Myadel survivors
were killed. I gave an order to tie his legs and open his hands which were
blackened by the rope. We threw the other side of the rope on the top of a pine
tree and pulled it up. So now he was tied to the tree upside down. We collected
some of the torn pieces of clothing taken from the Jews killed because of him
that we were still able to find in the area. We gathered some dry sticks lit
them on fire. In a few minutes, he turned into a flaming torch. He was burned
next to his victimsí graveyard. We stuck a document to the burnt pine tree that
said, "Revenge of the People."
A few days later we visited the village Parodnik near Kriviczi.
This was the first visit of partisans in the area. Until then, all partisans had
avoided the area because Kriviczi, which was only 1 km away, had a big force of
Germans and their helpers. After they killed all the Jews in the shtetl, they
used the village as a road to get to the train station at Kanihanin.
Despite the danger we decided we must take care of the
killers, the brothers Mamek Skorot (or Mamek and Skorot?). Avraham Friedman,
Bianish Kuzenitz. Zanka Muhammad, and Dinka Treykovski went with me. We came to
the first house of the village, "Auf machen!" (?) I yelled. Immediately the door
opened and they turned on the light. We ordered them to close the drapes. First
we demanded that he return the gold teeth of Hana Katzowitz, which we knew he
took out of her body with pliers. They tried to deny it, but we kept beating
them. We only beat the two men; the women and children we left alone.
The killers opened graves, amongst them Hanaís, the widow of
Ishaiau Katzowitz and also the sister-in-law of Rabbi Malkiel Paretzi (the last
rabbi of Kriviczi) who was annihilated with the rest of the community in 1942.
The brothers opened the graves of her and her children. We received this
information from Herzl Rodoshkovicz and Aron Shulman from Kriviczi who were also
partisans with the brigade of Kirov.
Now we had to find the killers of the Jews of Dolhinov:
Mikhail Proclowicz and the evil brothers Tarahovitz; men who showed no mercy,
not even to children. We first had to do some investigating about how we could
go to Dolhinov and when and where we could find the killers. Varovka, a villager
who hated those killers, found out that Proclowicz had returned to his ranch in
Dolhinov. Originally he was too scared to stay there, but after a year had
passed and no one had come to repay his evil deeds, he assumed that even the
Jewish partisans had forgotten him. Since neither his house nor his family
members suffered any consequences, he returned to his home after a year of
One clear and cold night in December of 1943, Gershon Yafeh
and Biyanish Kuzinitz and Dimka Traikovsky went with me on a sled. As we knocked
on his window he opened his door dressed in a fur coat and boots. Immediately we
ordered him to go inside with his hands up. We turned on lights, and when he
recognized us he started shaking. He begged us not to shoot him, but he saw that
his death was coming. I asked him how many Jews had he killed and where were all
the possessions that he had stolen from his victims. I ordered him to return
everything, saying, "If you will return all that we want, we wonít kill you.
Weíll just beat you up."
He called his wife and told her to return all the possessions
from the hideout, which heíd buried in a deep hole in the ground, which was
covered with snow. We sent one of our men with her to check on it, and we found
a large amount of robbed possessions about a hundred meters from the house. I
became furious. I yelled, "Confess and tell us how many Jews you killed! How
many mothers asked for mercy for their babies?" I started cursing at him
violently and uncontrollably. I was crazed. "You must take responsibility and
die the death due to an evil and wretched person." I shot him in his head and he
Now it came to the most important mission, the hunt for the
biggest murderers, the brothers Tarhovitz. I had a personal vendetta against
them. The blood of my mother was on their hands. They took part in her killing
and this is how it happened: the day after we raided Dolhinov in 1942, my mother
with the two daughters of Katzowitz, Gashka and Nyakha, escaped from the Ghetto
and walked in the direction Pogost to the forest where we had our base. The two
brothers, together with the head of the police, found out and chased them on
bicycles and were able to find them. They returned them to town while beating
them and torturing them along the way. After hours of this torture, they were
taken near the Jewish cemetery and were shot.
That was not the only murder that they committed with their
own hands. They killed many before and after this incident. I saw with my own
eyes how they chased the family of Shimshel, the family of Shalom Dukshitzi, and
Nehama Levicziís with her children and other relatives. They were tortured and
beaten and I will never forget it. But how could we reach them? They lived at
the very edge of Dolhinov and to reach them you had to go through the entire
town, next to an old stone fortress that was garrisoned by German troops. Like
an angry dragon it spit out fire at all who came near it, and we did our best to
Finally I found an opportunity. In the middle of February of
1944 I was called to headquarters. Yoskov, an officer at headquarters asked me
to get food and other supplies to the headquarters since they were waiting for
very important people to arrive and they had nothing to feed them. It was a
difficult time at that point to achieve such things, but after thinking for a
minute I said to Yoskov, "Thereís only one complicated way I can think of for
achieving this mission. Since there is no food in such amounts near our base, we
cannot do it in one night, but we what we can do is go to Dolhinov and we can
surely find food there. But I must have a group of fourteen to sixteen fighters.
I can take four from my hospital unit, so Iíll need ten to twelve fighters from
headquarters. With such a force we can overwhelm them and bring back a large
amount of supplies."
The idea pleased him so he gave me permission. He assigned 12
well-armed men headed by Major Tzonkov to go along with me and four from my
unit, and left for Dolhinov at six that evening with four sleds harnessed to
fast horses. Around 10 in the evening we arrived in the outskirts of Dolhinov.
After a short visit with Varovka to gather infomation about the town, we left.
At 11 at night we arrived near the large home of the Taharovitz brothers. We put
two snipers facing the center of the town to cover us, and immediately we went
to work. We ordered them to open up the door, turn on the lights, and to pull
down the drapes. Then we made them open up the cowshed and horse stables, which
were tightly shut with heavy iron bars. I ordered six of the troops with me to
take all the livestock out of the cowshed and stable and to herd them in the
direction of the forest. Four men took on the sled all the possessions in the
house. It took us half an hour to complete the job, which included four cows and
six first-class horses. In the sled we gathered bread, lard, flour, salt,
kidneys, beans, and also pillows, blankets, sheets, which had all been robbed
from Jewish homes. Before we left, I ordered the Taharovicz brothers to go
outside. They were dressed only in their underwear and barefoot, and just as
they ordered their victims during the slaughter to run, I made them run in the
freezing winter night.
After we left, about half a kilometer from town, a steady
stream of fire from the fortress came upon us. They shot at us with automatic
weapons, but it was harmless fire. It couldnít reach us since they had no idea
where we were headed. They only heard from the wives of the killers that we were
most likely heading to Pogost. So without much thinking, I ordered everyone to
go on a side road. Immediately we shot the two killers dead. We sat in our sleds
and after shooting in the direction of the enemy, we ran away to headquarters.
So like this I revenged the blood of my mother and many other Jews who were
killed by those evil and cruel men.
When we returned to headquarters, they were very happy to see
the food and the supplies and I was assuming that all was well and like that I
returned to the hospital. However, the next day early in the morning I was
ordered to come to the headquarters of the brigade. When I entered the ComBrig,
the head of the brigade, Pokrovski, and Misonov, commander of another brigade
that was responsible for the area around Kriviczi and Dolhinov was also there.
Immediately I saw they were looking at me in a way very different way than they
had yesterday, and I realized that Misonov came here only for me. I jumped to
stand at attention and saluted, and announced that the commander of the hospital
unit was present as ordered.
"Who gave you the permission to shoot two citizens, peaceful
residents?" Asked the leader of Nardony Mastitya.
"No one gave me permission," I said. Then, after thinking for
a while I added, "My conscience and my need for revenge gave me liberty to do
that. I only did what was my duty, which was to get revenge for my murdered
mother and my people who fell at the hands of those two cruel, evil murderers
who you called peaceful citizens. They killed my mother, my sister and Jewish
brothers. They were wading elbow-deep in the blood of Jews. I had to do it, and
I did it as a loyal son to my mother and my nation."
He called his assistant, Kanzow and ordered him to take my
weapon and put me in a prison cell until the investigation ended. Stoically, I
gave my pistol and under guard I was taken to a prison cell. In the dark mud
house, where three other partisans were held prisoner, my heart was aching, but
I felt complete with all that I had done. I thought to myself, "Even if they
decide to put me under partisan trial, I shouldnít be panicked. I have many,
many good friends among the leaders and I have a large amount of achievements
with the atriad and the entire brigade. Even in the worst case, if for political
reasons or to make an example of me they decide to sacrifice my head and spill
my blood, even then, I fulfilled my duty to my mother and my people. I will not
be afraid. I will look them straight in their eyes before my death."
While pondering that, after a few hours they opened the locks
of my cell and I was called to see the head of the Special Unit, Grishenko, my
friend and comrade since he had been one of the wounded in the hospital of the
brigade. The same as I was liked and looked up to by all the wounded and sick
who we took care of, I was loved and cared for by him, since immediately I took
care of all the capricious needs that the patients had. We smiled, always
wishing to aid them and to lessen their pain. Even before I talked to him, I
felt strongly that he didnít wish me ill and that he would emphasize my
achievements, my service to the people, and my kind regard to the wounded. I
knew that my connections would be my shield and my deeds would be my armor
against the charges. He asked me for every detail and wrote it down in his file.
But before he took me back, he said , "Donít be scared, Segalchik. You must not
be worried. Everything will turn out ok."
Once again the doors were opened and I as taken to the office
of the ComBrig. Here there were about ten of the top leaders of the brigade.
Everyone came to decide what to do with me. Immediately as I entered, a
commissar of the brigade by the name of Propieczko, who was formerly in the Red
Army and was now sent to us from Moscow, started lecturing me about my crime.
"Your crime was very severe as far as the political managing and morals accepted
by us. Even if those men deserved a capital punishment, you were forbidden from
doing it in such a way. The way you did it vilified the image of our cause and
its struggles in the eyes of the population, which is being oppressed by an
invading force. I have no doubt that you deserve the most severe punishment.
Talking truthfully we must put you through a quick trial here in the field, and
I have the authority to give you a summary execution. But when I look at your
past, which is clear of all crimes and I take into account all your great deeds
and achievements in the fight of our Soviet Union, and consider your service to
the brigade of partisans that you belong to, we have decided to forgive your
huge crime with a warning that you must never in the future do what you have
done." Immediately my pistol and the rest of my ammunition were returned to me.
I returned to the base of the hospital and the heavy shadow of
this trial (field trial?) was behind me. I had completed all my personal
revenges against the killers of my people, but I still made a vow that I must
never forget, and that I should think about every move that I made. From now on
I would take care of the wounded, and this is what I did until the happy day of
liberation on the 26th of June, 1944. The day we united with the Red
Army in the forest of Palik.
In returned to my hometown of Dolhinov, which was now "Free of
Jews", together with a few of my fighting comrades. Most of the town had been
burned and there was not one Jew left. In spite of it all, we felt honored and
proud to be there. Everyoneís heart was crying to see the devastation of a town
that shortly before had been lively and full of vitality. It had once excited
our hearts with its colorful character, giving us once-youthful dreamers hopes a
better future, but now it lay under my feet, burnt and silent.
Alone, I walked along the ruins. Nothing was left of my
motherís house except for a few blocks. Like this we walked around, a small
number of Jews, members of the partisans. The Jews who immediately returned to
town were Leib Shreibman, Leibl Flant, Avraham Friedman, Gershon Lankin, and
David Mirman. A few days later arrived Yitzhak Radoshkovicz and David Kazdan
from Plashensitz, followed by others. Already in the first days we organized a
Battalion of Punishment. I was head of it and we looked for the Nazis and their
collaborators. Now it was their turn to run and hide. Leibl Flant was appointed
as head of the police. Many from the gendarme and the collaborators and Gestapo
people were now hiding in the forests. Originally when we recognized Gestapo
people we shot them, but soon the authorities ordered us not to shoot them,
telling us that we would pay dearly for such things. Now everyone had to be put
through a trial, so we changed the system. In Kriviczi there was a prosecutor
from the NKVD so we followed the new orders and brought the criminals and
killers to trials. We had good communication with the NKVD prosecutor, which
made our job easy.
So like this we stood, a few Jews, lonely and mourning, but
also full of anger at our peopleís killers and the collaborators who would
inform on the Jews and incite the killings. We remember and we will remember
until our dying moment, every Dolhinov and local area youth that helped to fight
the enemy and fell in the battle. Amongst them, Mulke Koritzky, Haya Shulkin,
Hyena Shulman, Zalman Friedman, Mordechai Gitlitz, Mordechai and Mina Hadash,
Shimon Gordon, Matityua Shimhovitz from Horodok, Shimon Kiednov from Kriviczi,
Shimon Meirson, Gershon Meirson ,Mashka Dimmenstein, Avraham Itzhak Shuster,
Yisrael Ruderman, Zelig Kuznitz, Mitzia Friedman from Postov, Hanoch Friedman,
Faber Levin from Radishkovicz, Yisraelski from Radishkovicz, Itzhak Einbender
from Kurenets, Binyamin Shulman from Kurenets, Shpreyergan from Plashensitz,
Faber Rodnik from Radishkovicz, David Glasser from Dokshitz, Menashe Kopilovicz.
Honor and glory to their memory. May their souls be melded in the bouquet of
living (?). We must remember them in every memorial, and our revenge also will
be the revenge of their blood. The revenge quieted for a moment the open anger
that boiled in my blood, but late at night, all alone, my soul was restless. I
knew nothing of my wife and my little girl was not yet with me. I wanted to
leave the town, but I didnít know when or where I would go. I still had a duty
there, and I felt that my wife was alive and that she would one day find me. But
only after half a year, at the beginning of March of 1945 was I able to leave
Meanwhile I continued my work with the NKVD in the town.
Slowly there were ten families that returned to town. Some were in Siberia,
others in the center of Soviet Asia. Some of the families never returned. Others
returned and lived in other areas in the area, but Iím sure others will tell
their stories. As they came, everyone had a strong desire to leave the area to
go to Poland, which was a gateway to other destinations. There was an agreement
with Poland and the Soviet Union that anyone who was a former Polish citizen
would be allowed to now leave the Soviet Union to go to Poland, so everyone went
there, but no one thought of staying in Poland. It was just a station on the way
to other places.
I knew that revenge was not a long term mission for me. At the
end of October 1944 (?) I was called to the SlaSoviet, which was the town
committee in Dolhinov. The head of the committee gave me a postcard and said, "Segalchik,
your wife is alive!" With great excitement and with shaking hands I read the
postcard which was written from Stalingrad, and my heart took flight (?). I
immediately answered but didnít receive a response and again we were
disconnected. At the beginning of December of 1944 I finally received another
postcard asking if I was still alive. She was now in Yaroslav and the
communication was easier. I started arranging for her to return. As a worker for
the NKVD I was given permission to go and I brought her back. I found out that
my father-in-law had died in the forest while among a camp of those who had fled
Myadel. My daughter, who I left with farmer friends was returned to me. She was
returned before my wife came so I put Briana Katz in charge.
Briana Katz, a woman in her 70s, was saved from one of the
actions. She succeeded in escaping from town and hid with a Christian woman
farmer in the village Miltzia. She stayed there for a long time, but when the
woman said that she couldnít take care of her anymore, she came to the forest
since she had heard that there were Jews from Dolhinov hiding there. Amongst
them there was her nephew Gershon Yoffe. She was amongst the partisans near
Malinkowa, and she was ready to go with a big group of Dolhinov Jews past the
front lines and into Soviet territory, but the day that they were ready to leave
there was a surprise attack by the Germans. Briana was wounded during the
fighting and was left amongst the bushes in the forest. The enemy did not see
her, and like that she stayed there for a few days.
The partisan atriad retreated during that attack to the forest
but returned after a few days. One of our scouts by the name of Dobiniewicz
found her and told us about a wounded woman in the forest. Avraham and I
immediately went there and found her lying down with a bullet in her leg.
Immediately we brought water and we found some first aid materials from a
farmer. We washed her wounds and took care of her. She said to us, "If you want
to keep me alive and save me, you must return me to a farmer in Miltzia." So we
took her that night on a wagon to that village, and told the farmwoman that she
must take care of her and keep her alive. The farmwoman made the sign of the
cross and swore to us that she would do whatever she could.
After one month we came to visit her and she was in better
shape and able to walk. We took her to our base and appointed her to work as a
non-combatant cook under the supervision of the partisan Saponov, who had been
an officer in the Red Army. And like this she passed her days during the war.
Eventually she immigrated to Israel and had about 20 grandchildren. She died at
a very old age in a kibbutz among loving children, grandchildren,
great-grandchildren, and kibbutz members.
Imprisonment and Trial
Until 1948 I served in the NKVD that was led by Goroshkov. I
as well as other Jews were treated very fairly and with much trust by the
management of the NKVD in the area as well as in Minsk (the Belarus capital).
This allowed us to keep a political reputation that was squeaky clean. On the
other hand, the local militia showed clear signs of anti-Semitism, but our
relations with the NKVD prevented us from experiencing any direct harm from this
anti-Semitism. However, in 1948, Goroshkov left the area when he was appointed
to another post, and Kaviljuk became the chief of the NKVD in our area. He
didnít have a very strong personality or great influence, but he was still easy
to get along with. Since he liked to drink, he delegated most of the jobs to
assistants, but he didnít stay in this position for very long. A new head was
appointed and after that our situation changed. Slowly they started demoting us.
In Minsk, a man from Gruzia (Georgia) named Tzanova, who was an associate of
Stalin and Baria, was appointed to the head of the NVD (Ministry of Internal
Security) and he was responsible for all of the officers in Belarus. He made
trouble for all Jews, but particularly for us, and anti-Semitism flourished
everywhere. At the end, this Tzanova was shot after Stalinís death.
With the change of the political climate, I was fired from my
job in 1948. I was called to headquarters and asked by the chief if all of the
details that I had given when I had to fill out the questionnaire were correct.
Then I was asked when my sisters and brothers had left the country, and I told
him that they had left before the war. I gave him all the information he wanted.
Later he called me in again and said, "Segalchik, youíre fired. The last
instructions we received from central headquarters were to fire anyone who had
relatives outside of the country." Clearly this rule hurt the Jews, especially
those in important positions.
Shortly after that, someone instigated another investigation.
After I built my house in Radishkovicz, people were envious and suspicious. I
saw the house of my father-in-law in Myadel, and as a former partisan I was able
to get wood free of charge. To hire people was not expensive at the time, and
once in a while I was helped by a German POW who worked for us taking care of
horses. Part of the case against me was the abuse of POWs for personal
So, my wish to have a decent home caused me to now be a
prisoner in the Soviet Union. I lost my freedom, I lost my right to be a free
citizen in the state that I gave my life to while fighting the Nazi enemy. After
receiving my sentence in Minsk, I was transferred to a prison in Gormel. This
was only a temporary holding tank. There were thousands of people there,
including many Jews. I was lucky I stayed there for only a short time. From
there I was sent to Arkhangelsk, a town near where the Devina River flows into
the White Sea, to work in a hard labor camp. Afterwards I was moved to another
camp in the area, and we worked very hard. While there, I befriended a prisoner
who was a barber who offered to teach me some basic barber skills, telling me
that you never know when you might need them. We would take and carry wood
pieces from the river in a bridge building project, and sometime later, about
400 prisoners including me were sent to Murmansk.
For a short time I continued on the bridge building operation,
but I decided to befriend the barber in this area who was a nice man. I gave him
a present and he took me to work with him. I worked with him for a year and a
half, so my circumstances greatly improved although I was still a prisoner.
Meanwhile, my wife and my children (now I had a son too) were
left without even minimal financial help. They were about to get kicked out of
the house I had toiled to build. A sole woman with a five-year-old girl and a
three-year-old son. My wife protested and at the end only half of the house was
confiscated by the authorities. They let her stay with the children in the other
half. But how could she supply the children with food and other needs? Here my
loyal friend Leib Mindel helped us a lot. He supported my family through all the
years that I was in prison, and always made sure to send me food at the
different prisons and hard labor camps where I stayed. My friend, Leib Mindel,
could not rest. He kept trying to improve my familyís situation. After much
pondering he decided to approach Timczok, who had a high position in Minsk (some
central planning agency?).
The commissar of Mastitya, a dear friend, saved me. He angrily
questioned Mindel on why he didnít come sooner. Immediately he wrote a request
for a pardon to the President of the Soviet Parliament (the Supereme/Superior
Soviet?) citing my exemplary fighting record while with the partisans during the
Great Patriotic War. He also described all the awards and medals that I had
received. Timczok received a positive reply shortly after and he immediately
called Mindel and informed him of the news. Mindel sent me a telegram and two
days later we received the announcement in the camp. I was called to the head of
the camp on May 1956 and released from the prison where I had been since 1949.
So I returned to my home, my wife, and my children in Radishkovicz. I started
bargaining with the people who lived in the other half of the house and finally
I got them to leave. Again I was a homeowner and I started working, but very
soon we all realized that life there was capricious and that we were always in
danger. There was no future for us there, not in Radishkovicz, not in Dolhinov,
and not anywhere in this area. Not even the place of my birth and uprbringing,
Dolhinov, could keep me there, for at that point I only visited it on days when
there was a memorial to the martyrs.
At the end of 1956, once again there was a permission granted
for people who were residents of Poland prior to 1939 to return to Poland.
Immediately we asked to get permission, but it was not easy. The Belarusian
authorities didnít permits to any Jews in the area until 1958. A few Jews left
from Radishkovicz and today they are in Israel. I didnít want to wait for my
turn so I sold my house in 1957 and moved to Vilna, the capital of Lithuania,
since citizens of Lithuania seemed to have had an easier time in leaving. I was
not able to receive a permit to live in Vilna, so I registered in Novo Vilejka,
which was very close to Vilna. I rented an apartment in the resort town of
I started taking care of the needed passports and papers and a
Jewish friend helped me receive the appropriate documents from the person who
headed the passport division. As you might guess, I had to bribe them. Finally,
at the end of November 1957, we were able to leave Vilna for Poland. We stayed
for one month in the repatriatza point and then we were sent to Vorstlav/Breslau,
where we rented an apartment. To get a free apartment we were supposed to go to
Zinov but we didnít want to wander around.
Finally, on October 20, 1958, we arrived in Israel. It would
be very difficult for me to express the deep emotions I had when I arrived in
the country. A few years later I had a successful farm with cows and other
livestock. With the hard toil of my wife and son we were very successful and I
was able to give an education to my children. It seems like everything was fine.
We were well-established as farmers in the Moshav. It seemed that no dark clouds
would come to our lives. We would see happiness in our children and
grandchildren. But this was not to be. I became very sick, terminally ill. I had
to sell my place and move to a desert climate in Arad. Still, here I will hold
to my country until the last day that is given to me. I will continue
communicating with my partisan friends, my brothers in arms who gathered here.
We will all continue to gather for memorials for the martyrs of Dolhinov,
Myadel, and other towns in the area. We will not forget and deny the past.
It will be alive in our
very beings for eternity and we will plant a seed of its memory that would be
grounded in our children and grand children.