The End of the Piaski Jewish Community

by Maxime Rafailovitch
Piaski was never in Lida District.  In fact, it's south of Lida, not that far by US standards, but far enough.  However, as of now (2004), Piaski lacks a KehilaLinks site, so we post this eye witness document here in hopes we can soon pass it on to the webmaster of a Piaski KehilaLink.

     After my escape from a prisoner-of-war camp I had been running from one Jewish ghetto to another.  In September of 1942, I found myself in the ghetto of Piaski, Whiterussia.  The Jews there were very good-looking, mostly strong and healthy.  There were a few synagogues and schools in the town.  One night the ghetto was surrounded by local guards and their helpers.  Gradually, as the weeks passed, the situation in the ghetto
became desperate.
     Starved and tormented Jews of this small town begged the guards for bread and milk for their children.   After all, not long ago these “guards” were their neighbors and some Jews had close relations with the local Christian population.  Instead of showing compassion these guards cursed the Jews and menaced them with their rifles.  The mob, standing outside the wires, ready to loot, mocked the Jews and threw stones at them.  Almost everybody in this town knew each other.
     One early and sunny morning a group of Germans arrived.  They ordered the immediate evacuation of the ghetto.  Women with children and disabled people were assembled in the old school and promised transportation.  The rest would have to walk some twenty kilometers to the camp in Wolkowysk.  Since I did not have shoes I ran into a house to see if I could find a pair of boots.  When I came out the ghetto was empty so I tried to escape but a guard saw me and started shooting.  As I ran near the old school I heard terrible screams and pistol shots.  The Germans and the local guards were killing those Jews that had been promised transportation to the camp.
     Finally I joined the other Jews going to the Wolkowysk Concentration Camp.  The Germans and the guards kept shooting and shooting.  The Germans had a small truck with heavy machine guns.  We Jews had to run and many among us were left dead on the beautiful road we traveled. 
     The camp was just a place of murder.   Within a few months tens of thousands died of starvation and disease.  The horrible latrines were full of dead people many of whom I knew from school and work.  The family of Yitzhak Shamir perished in this camp.  After a few months I escaped this living hell and, after much hardship, joined a Russian outfit.
     Two years later, while on my way to the West, in an infantry unit, we passed through many small towns and villages of White Russia.  There were no signs of Jews.  The Jewish houses were occupied by local people concerned only with their hard lives.

Copyright © 2004, Maxime Rafailovitch
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