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Avenging Her Family's Murder

Zinoida Ginzburg was born in 1926, in the town of Palczin the Minsk district,

and when the war broke out, she was a high school student. Before the age of

sixteen, it was her fate to see how the Germans led her parents and her two

brothers out of their home and murdered them, together with other Jews. When

she saw the Germans approaching her home, at the very last moment she jumped

onto the little roof, hid there, and through a crack she watched the atrocity

that was being perpetrated at the central square in Dolhinov, the town in

which her family was living at that time. A third brother, who had been

wounded in battle at the beginning of the war, was in the hospital in a

distant village. After the mass murders took place, an orchestra began to

play marches, while a number of Jews who sur! vived, were ordered to remove the

corpses and to clean the square of the spilled blood. This event left a deep

and painful scar in her heart all her life, and despite her young age and

solitariness, she swore to avenge her family's murder. At nightfall, she fled

to the marshes, where she hid for a few days, without knowing where to turn,

and pressed by hunger and loneliness, she started to wander from village to

village, while contemplating her situation and future. At the end of 1942,

she alighted upon a group of partisans, amongst whom was a non - Jew whom she

knew from her place of birth, and he took an interest in her, took her to his

base and introduced her to his commander. She later learned that this

partisan group was called Mestitel (avenger), and was led by a Russian

officer, Sokolo! v. In a forest setting, amongst young armed people, her

aspirations to take revenge from the Germans grew stronger, and she was given

a quick course in the use of weapons, and was soon integrated into the group,

serving at first as a scout, since she did not look Jewish, and also knew the

German language very well. She dressed like a village girl, reaching many

places from her base, and gathered important military information.She not

only brought this information back to the partisan commander, but also

participated in the partisan responses - blowing up railroad tracks,

storehouses, bridges, etc. As a native of Palczynce, she served as a guide to

commander Sokolov in a planned raid on the town, and the attacking group was

divided into three separate units, and after a twelve hour trek in the snow

and 30 degree below zero weather, they arrived around midnig! ht at their

destination; they stormed into the town with blazing machine - guns and

shouts of "Hurrah!", and approached a large building with a large

concentration of Germans, who defended themselves desperately, shooting as

they were jumping out of the windows. The town was captured, but the partisans

suffered many casualties of dead and wounded, as did the Germans.Engraved in

her memory was a difficult action in the winter of 1943, when they were

ordered to attack the Germans in the town of Kustinbitzi, about twenty

kilometers from Vileika, who had resided in the ancient church. The mission

was to blow up the church and its inhabitants and to liquidate the priest,

who had collaborated with the Germans. For some unknown reason, the church

building did not collapse, despite the explosives, and they therefore were

forced to engage the German forces in a very! tough battle before the enemy

was eliminated. Ginzburg, despite the losses, had a special satisfaction to

see the Germans that she personally shot at, die.In her unit, there were

three young Jewish girls, all of whom shared the same fate and destiny. Their

parents had been murdered by the Germans, and so they shared a common

purpose. Towards the end of 1943, headquarters summoned Zinoida to

participate in a special scouting mission, far from the partisan base. She,

her Jewish girlfriend Selva, and nine men, constituted the group, to be led

by the Russian partisan Veizbirzki.Dressed as a village girl she "walked"

around the surrounding villages, until she reached the train station in

Vileika, and she gathered information on the movement of the army, the

trains, war equipment, tanks, guns, and even overhead conversation among

soldiers about the war. At night she would return to the partisan location

and transmit her informatio! n to the commander, and every few days she

traveled to the brigade headquarters, escorted by a colleague, to hand over

the accumulated information, plus an account of her impressions of the

conversations she had heard.Her reports were considered valuable and useful,

and in this capacity she worked from October 12, 1943, to June 26, 1944. One

day the group was advised to return to its base, as the fighting front was

coming closed, and a few days later, reports reached them that the Germans

were encircling the forest, and the brigade was ordered to be on the alert.

The battle with the Germans began - amidst the German gunfire, they were

exhorted to hold on to their positions, and not to retreat. With nightfall,

the shooting ceased, and it became clear that the partisans had sustained

losses in dead and wounded, and at midnight the order was given to the

partisans to disengage themselves from battle with the Germans and to retreat

deeper into the forest. In the morning, German bombs were dropped on the area

and they were closely combing the entire forest, and soon they met other

partisan groups belonging to the brigades, who were seeking ways out of the

forest. The siege continued many days until the Red Army liberated them.

Courtesy of:

Simon Wiesenthal Center

Los Angeles, CA 90035