Yizhak Vodovoz Testimony

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Source: Yad Vashem, file # 03-3432
Translation from Yiddish by Zipi Akerman, Israel.




Yizhak Vodovoz




6 Toledano st., Petach Tikva, Israel


1913 Volpa (Bialistok region)

Year of testimony:



  1. The remarks in parentheses are the translator's.
  2. Some names are written as they sound, since he wrote them only in Yiddish and the right spelling is not included.


Yizhak Vodovoz Testimony




I was born in Volpa. The Jews called it Volp. They lived mainly from fishing, timber and agriculture. 900 Jewish persons lived in Volpa. A few were rich traders.
Most of the [agriculture] yield was sold in the Market Day.
Life with the non-Jews was quite for generations. There was almost no anti-Semitic events.

There was a Jewish bank, who gave loans to local merchants and small [home] industry.
Paltiel Biyerski was the head of the community, later on Shlomo Biyerski replaced him. Rabbi Segal was the religious leader.
There were several Batei Midrash. Children learned at Cheders [elementary schools], and part of the older young learned in [Polish] public schools. The reacher ones learned at the [Hebrew] Gimnasy, Grodno.

There were several Zionist organizations - Shomer Zair, Chalutz etc. The young wanted to go to Hachshara [preparation in order] to emigrate to Israel later on. From time to time Zionists partie's representatives came to the village to tell about the Chalutzim's life in Eretz Israel. A few emigrated to Israel prior to the war.

My uncle was a tailor, my mother was selling fish. I used to help her as a young boy, thus I new all the roads in the Shtetle: this helped me during the war, as a Partisan. I studied to be a carpenter. First I worked for a local shop, and later on I had my own shop. I never joined any organization.

In 1935 I was called to the Polish army, and I server at SWALKI as D.A.K.. From time to time I arrived to Orlev Hime. It was easier for me to cross the war, due to my experience as a Polish soldier .

I served 2.5 years [in the Pol army] and returned back to my shop, but I also helped my old parents with the fishing.
I knew well the environment within 300km distance, including the forests and off ways. I used it [later on] as a Partisan to walk partisans in ways the German didn't know.

The German entrance to Volpa

On July 1, 1940 the German entered Volpa. Befor they came in they put the village on fire, and almost everything was burnt. There was no place to stay - some Jews stayed in the basement of their destroyed houses. The German promised the Jews that they'll not get any [further] hurt, but later on we understood that this is not the case. The local [non Jews] accepted the Germans with flowers.

The German troops came in, and they announced the establishment of the Yudenrat, with Feishe Robinson. Shlomo Bayersky was the Yudenrat leader, I can't recall more names. The Yudenrat organized the Jewish people life. They prepare list of workers, and every person was [forced as a] hard labor worker for the German.

Some Christians show friendship signs and helped the Jews with products [food supply]. Others show their real face and added troubles to the Jews.

Just before Sukot of 1942 the German suddenly organized potatoes and vegetables supply to the Jews from the surrounding farms [or villages], and told us what amount of potatoes the Jew must purchase. We didn't understand the change in the German behavior. In normal times we didn't consume such [large] amount of potatoes. This was a German trick to deceive the Jews.

On November 1, 1942, Sunday morning, there was a sudden fear [voices] in the village: the German announced that all Jews must stand up in the main circle [village center] with their belonging. Many soldiers and policemen suddenly appeared in the village. The Yudenrat also joint it. We felt that the destruction is approaching us.

We tried to make up a decision how to behave. A few planned to escape and not show up in the village center, but the majority [decided to show up and] put their hand on destiny. Every family tried to keep together, but anyway we didn't believe that the German will slaughter all the Jews. The Yudenrat leaders even came to discuss [options] with my mother, who was an old and smart merchant. The Yudenrat president said: "Golda, you know all the forests and fields around the village, can we prepare some [shelter] in the forest?" - -but it was too late. The village was already surrounded by the Germans.

On Monday, November 2 1942, at 5:00 AM, the German came in. I was working for a Christian Kazimierz Grabicki who lived 3 km from the village, he was a good Christian and helped the Jews with [supply of] flour, potatoes and meat. He also helped the Rabbi of the village with products [supply]. He said to me: "I'll support you to the last minute, as much as I can".

Another Goy, Litwinowcz, from the neighbor village of Volp, cut the Rabbi Segal beard. He dumped the Darshan's [speaker] bed out to the street, and said that he'll kill them [him and the Rabbi ] first "because they are the leaders of the Jews".

I was sleeping on a sack of straw, on top of a table. Then came Litwinowcz and said [to my owner] that he will not allow any Jew to work in a Christian's shop, and he threw my sack to the mud. My owner said that he will not accept him as a boss, and he'll follow that only if the German will tell him so. I swear to myself [NEDER] to take revenge of this Goy, if I stay alive.

On November 2 1942 about 30 Germans marched us out of our village to the village of Wolkowysk, via the forest of Klebaniza. In some cases mothers has left behind their children [trying to save their life], for example Zlaske Krashevitsh has left behind her 7 years old daughter in the camp. So happened to Mrs. Vinigrad who left behind asleep her 15 years old daughter.

David Zaretzki was working as a animals feeder for a Goy. He returned to the village after all were already deported, so he was not sent to Wolkowysk, but rather he was murdered in Volp.

The German have separating the old people from the others, saying that they want to arrange a "elderly house", since they are not to be deported to Wolkowysk. A group of about 60 men and women who were not very old were sent to the public bath and murdered.

We [all the rest] were all marched to Wolkowysk. All bags were left behind, since it was heavy to carry with us. Children were carried on wagons.

We arrive to Wolkowysk at around 7 PM, and we were put into the shelters [large dig out holes in the ground], which had no roofs. It was very cold and we didn't know what to do. There was no food or water. We were lucky to be marched through the village of Ros: the local Jews [who joined us to Wolkowysk] were allowed to take anything they wanted, so they brought flour, potatoes and even wood [for fire]. As a result we could also enjoy some of these products.

The situation was very bad: disease spread fast, only few doctors were with us, and people preferred not to say they're sick since the German killed them immediately. We stayed several weeks in this camp. We were there Jews from several villages. Then the deportation began: first the Jews from Piski were sent, then Ros, Wizajny, Lyskov. It was a mess, people started to run away. The Volp Jews were the last ones. This was three days before Hanuka 1942.

During the weeks we stayed in Wolkowysk the young were taken to work. There were rumours that we'll be sent to the new camp built in Pietruszowice, which will have better conditions. Apparently it was a camp for Germans who were brought from the front for some rest.

I escaped some 15-20 milesfrom thecamp, but it didn't succeed, though I knew the area well since I was traveling to work.

Epshtein, a Jew from Wolkowysk, was a merchant of glass and tissues together with Alter Leves. He was giving a lot of Tsedaka [charity] to the poor ones. Everybody knew him in the village. When the German arrested him, everybody helped to bribe the German [to release him], and we all were praying Tehilim [Psalm chapters]. The German promised to release him. Later on he was [working for] the Hevra Kadisha [cemetery worker], and he carried me out in dead bodies wagon, and helped me get out of the camp.

They put me in a sack, together with another young from Volp names Solkes and Aaron Kapelushnik from Wolkowysk cemetery. We were waiting till 4 AM and then we started to march. We marched via Studbietz and it was very cold, we saw a group of Goyim, but they didn't noticed us.. At 5 Am we arrived to Klabeniza [forest]. I arrived to Grabizkin, knocked on the door and told him that I have two other guys with me waiting outside, and that there are more in other farms. I told him that we cut the fence of Wolkowysk camp [to escape]. He took us to the [horses] feed yard, told us to dig a hole in the ground beneath so [we can hide and] he can give us food. When he was feeding the horses he would drop us some food, so it looks like he's feeding the horses [thus nobody knew we're there]. We left to the forests after a few weeks.

In the forest I looked for places that my mother was traveling, since I knew that there are some guys there who escaped from the Germans. I couldn't find any of them, since they were hiding very well. The Germans were searching them with dogs, they even found the fireplace they made, but didn't find them. They lived in the woods, where two hills were covered with ever green trees. During the winter time they moved to the fields, since the Christians were coming to cut woods in the forest and they were afraid to be caught [by the Christians]. 15 people could not guard a field of 5-10 km.

We were a group of 9 people, plus 6 in the surrounding farms who shared with us the news they had. I was the only Jew, all the rest were Christians.

This is how I joined the group: one Goy stole some liquor drinks, and the Germans were after him. He joined Soviet soldiers who escaped the camp before the war and were left in this area. He was their guide [and teaches them how] to go to places that food could be found. In the beginning it was difficult to get food, since the Christians told the Germans immediately. Then, as we entered the farm we started ringing the bell, and we forced the Goy to put his house on fire. We had guns, but they had more power [than us]. In every farm they had guns and even grenades.

The group leader, Siewka Strok, from the village of Babrie, was dealing with liquor drinks, the Germans were after him but he escaped through the roof and out to the forest. The Germans shoot him but missed him. He joined [a group of] several farm guys. He used to get into a farm and kill the Germans. In our village he came in, first cut the telephone wires, then he put on fire the Germans houses, the warehouses, and the dairy barn . We sent the Pole Saltis [?] to the water, so the Germans will not suspect his cooperation with us. They were looking for us, and we were sitting just next to their window, but we were hiding so they couldn't find us.

One time, just before Pesach, we went to the road to Wolkowysk, 3-4 km from Volp. Our guys were sitting from both sides of the road. I was sitting close to the farm so I could catch a Goy, if we are disrupted in our job. I walked the people to the forest, when there was firing from the other side. We had two guns and we fired from our side. There was a big fear. The Christians with the horses began running away, and we started moving toward Danilide in order to tell them not to go to our area, when suddenly two Germans came toward us. About 30 Germans who came from the front were in the farm, in order to keep the railroad. We started beating them [the two Germans]. Rodziak, a Goya lady, killed the two Germans at once. We took their guns and went to Zaskavin. Some found a horse to ride, the rest walked. [We walked in] a deep sand. We arrived to the forest of Zamkaver, where we met a group of young Goyim, who were our guides to killing Germans. The Volp Policeman said that if we touch the farm they will not let us cross it.

Then we entered Daminishki, I had a Kozak hat from Kovna so people will not recognize me, but the Goyim did recognize me and told that I was the guide [of the others]. We caught Litwinowcz and took him to the Klabanitza forest. He begged that he know me and that we're good friends, but this didn't help him.

Every day we stayed in another place. In Luny and Daminishki we did several sort of things. We were a single group, but we did big things. Afterward the Atriad from Bialaviez Pushte [??] heard about us and they were looking for us. They said: "who are those Jews putting German houses on fire?".

One time we were sitting next to the village and we heard that they Goyim are gathering. We planned to put it on fire. We gathered some 1/2 km from the village, then we took from one Goy some kerosene and diesel, so it is black [smoke]. The Goyim went to gather, and we went to do our job. In our way back we met the Saltis [?], we put him into water so he'll not be suspected in cooperation with us.

500 meters from the railroad were bunkers that Germans used to check the rails using dogs. We poured tobacco [on the rails] in order to mislead the dogs sense, and this is how we succeeded to stay close [to the Germans].

Afterward our leader was Szczepanow, he gave us people as mauch as we needed, and he directed them the way to go. We always walked 5 [people] ahead and 5 [people] after them.

Once, a 13 years old boy came from Bialaviez Pushte , his name Bayerrski, from Evie (he lives today in Kfar Saba). I gave him my place and boots. Many Germans gathered there, and they tried to catch the spy [?] from the Partisans, they went near to us but didn't find us. That time I already had new boots and fur - all new.

We came to Navatialki, and were beaten much. I returned to Wolkowysk. I wanted to start working again, but it was very difficult to cross [?]. We left to Tsherlany and ruined the liquor factory. The Germans in Skidel found our spy and we lost him.

The Germans came into Knizshwatz, gathered all the Christians and put them all and the village itself on fire. This happened because a Goy from the village joined the partisans and was hiding Russian guns, he was free and they couldn't reach him. He joined us at Atriad. [At this time] we were 15 people, we went to Barisavshteshine were he blew up into pieces the Germans and took everything they had. We used to go together, and we completed each other's knowledge on the roads and directions. We left to Bialaviezsh, [distance of] 300 km .He and me were the first [in the marching line]. He had to cross railroad, there were no Germans there. But there were forests on both sides of the road, and the Goyim knew that if they shout [for the Germans] we would kill them or tie them [?]. In Bialaviezsh we were already between our people, no need to fear any more.

I was dismissed [from the Russian Army] in 1944 in Skidel. Then I left to Wolkowysk were I re-united with my friends and group. I worked for some time in a mill, and then I was a guard in the NKVD. The officer was a good man and a friend of the Jews. When I told him that I want to leave he let me go.

In 1946 I arrived to Stchetshin, Poland, where I worked as a driver.

I arrived to Israel in May 1950. I started working in Asbest company and few other places. Today I live in Petach Tikva, 6 Toledano st.

I live with my family and I have a carpenter shop.

In 1956 I married Leah Kimchi.


Mr Izhak Vodovoz died in 1975. His wife and family lives in Israel (2002).



Click on the photo for a larger version

Yizhak Vodovoz (left), Eli klein, Avraham Fechter (former partisans), Warsaw, 1945

Yizhak Vodovoz , Warsaw Holocaust statue, 1945

Copyright (c) 2002, Avi Ariav
Used by permission of Lea Vodovoz, Israel, April 2002

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