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Eternal Testament: Memoirs of a Partisan
by Yakov Segalchick.
Transliterated By Eilat Gordin Levitan
Invasion of Amalek
On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germanys 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 on.
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 bosses.
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 Myadel.
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 ceremony.
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 victims 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 bleeding profusely.
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 children.
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 partisans.
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 says 18
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 partisans.
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 way out!"
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 place.
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! Whos 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 Timczok?"
"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 towns 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 couldnt 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 couldnt 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. Its very bad that you dont 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 each barrel.
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, Gershon
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 atriads 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 groups 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 oclock,
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. Sadolskys 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 feet,
the politruk fell dead, and another partisan was gravely wounded. I was only able to shoot a few rounds. First, I didnt 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 them.
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 didnt 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 different units.
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 radios 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 atriads 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 oclock, 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 Red Army.
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 didnt 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 fire.
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 on them.
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
Stalyuks wife returned home riding on a black horse, carrying two girls dressed in farmers 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 couldnt 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 didnt 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 dont 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 couldnt 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 didnt 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 didnt 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 didnt 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 couldnt come near the Gestapos 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 couldnt 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.
Markovs 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 didnt ask for anyones permission, but I took my two friends, Mitzia and Bianish Kuzinitz, and immediately we ran to the ghetto.
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 theyll 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 Nivisolaiki."
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 hadnt 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! Lets kill them all so they wont contaminate the town!" I couldnt 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, #982516.
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 Ruzietskis 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 couldnt 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 didnt 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 days.
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 didnt 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 dont know where we should go, if we stay still we will die of starvation."
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 didnt 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 atriads 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 aunts 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 victims 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 Hanas, 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 wandering.
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 wont kill you. Well just beat you up."
He called his wife and told her to return all the possessions from the hideout, which hed 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 dropped dead.
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 Leviczis 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 avoid it.
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, "Theres 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 Ill 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 couldnt 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 shouldnt 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 didnt 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 , "Dont 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. Everyones 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 mothers 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 peoples 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 didnt 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 town.
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 Im 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 didnt 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 couldnt 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 didnt 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 didnt 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 Stalins 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, youre 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 enterprises.
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 familys 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 didnt 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 didnt permits to any Jews in the area until 1958. A few Jews left from Radishkovicz and today they are in Israel. I didnt 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 Volokopa (?).
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 didnt 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 always be alive in our very beings and we will plant a seed of its memory that would be grounded in our children and grand children...