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THE FIRST DIVERSION

by Isaac Kowalski

The resistance headquarters decided to carry out its first diversionary action in Vilna (Vilnius) in the beginning of June, 1942.

A partisan, Witka Kempner, was sent out on a three-day reconnaissance mission. It was her task to find out the most suitable and effective place, time and method for such an action. Witka dyed her blond hair still lighter and left the ghetto. The few people who knew of her assignment were, it must be admitted, extremely nervous. Everyone realized the tremendous risk to which the entire ghetto was subjected in case a single ghetto resident was caught with a mine in hand. However, the risk had to be taken.

Moshe Brauz, a former Lithuanian officer, who was one of the very few Jews who had attained officer rank in the small Lithuanian army of the prewar period, was one of three persons entrusted with carrying out this diversionary action. The other two were Witka Kempner and Izke Mackewicz.

Moshe Brauz had previously been ordered by the U.P.O. (United Partisans Organization) to become a member of the ghetto police. As a vice- commissar, with his police armband on his sleeve, he escorted the other two out of the ghetto gates, supposedly taking them to a forced labor assignment for a German unit. When they had gone some distance away from the ghetto, all three removed their yellow patches; Brause (Brauz) also took off his police armband. Then they set off for the township of Vilki (Vilkija), some eight kilometers from Vilna (Vilnius).

At that time there were as there were no sabotage partisan units in the area, and this was the first effort of its kind.

After they waited in hiding for two or three hours, the favorable moment arrived, with the approach of a large transport train rushing soldiers to the front. When the transport came near enough to the partisan ambush, Moshe Brauz pulled the cord which set off a tremendous explosion, derailing and turning over dozens of cars.

The three partisans saw a huge burst of fire from exploding ammunition and heard the screams of wounded German soldiers.

Brauz and the others kissed and embraced with joy and quickly withdrew deeper into the woods. Soon after that they returned to the ghetto by roundabout ways.

Our scout learned later from nearby peasants that more than two hundred German soldiers had been killed, and an ever larger number were wounded in the first sabotage action carried out by the members of the U.P.O. - Jews confined in the Vilna (Vilnius) ghetto.


Note from Sara Karn:

"I kept in contact with Herman Joselson until his death on November 4, 1995 (the same day that Rabin was shot). I presume that you would like to know who I am and what binds me to Yanishkel (Joniskelis) since I was born in Tavrig (Taurage).  It is a long, long love story.

"I was engaged to Moshe Brauz on June 10, 1941, and we were to be married in August. The rest, as you have read, was a sad and terrible ending to our plans for happiness. I hope that by telling the story now in English, that he and the others who fought for and lost their lives will be remembered".

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