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Escaping From the Ghetto

Levi Koton was born in Dolhinov, one of the Jewish townlets in the Vilna

area, where Zionist activity was widespread, and although he was a member of

a large and not well to do family, he attended the local Tarbut school, a

school that was not free. After the German conquest, the townlet's youth

began to contrive plans of flight into the forest, but they were confronted

by a problem of conscience- is it morally permissible in such dangerous times

to abandon parents and younger siblings? He was seventeen years old at the

time, but his mother implored him to escape and try to save his life, by the

time the Germans arrived for the second killing of the Jews of Dolhinov.In

April, 1942, he decided to implement the idea of escape, and he and his

friend Aharon Alpervitz, an eighteen year old, who was living with the Kuton

family, left the house one night, without ! informing Levi's parents, and made

for the ghetto fence, removing a board from the fence, they peered out, and

left through the opening. During the daytime, they hid, while at night they

wandered, and after a week, plagued by his conscience that he did not say

goodbye to his father, he returned home, only to find that the Germans had

taken him to be killed.The pain that he did not say goodbye to his father

left a deep scar in his heart, and together with Pesach Isaacson, a refugee

from the Bobroisk area, he went to the Glebokie ghetto, where some of his

relatives lives. In the summer of 1942, with a seven member group, they left

the Glubokie ghetto for the nearby forests, and after a few days of trekking,

they met a group of partisans, who were on a mission.

Joining the Partisans

They were well received by the partisans, who requested that some return to

the Glebokie ghetto, a distance of 100 km., to bring back some Type face.

This assignment was given to Levi and Aharon, who returned to the ghetto,

located a family that worked in a print shop outside the ghetto, with

permission of the Germans, and they began to collect letters of the alphabet.

Through carelessness, Levi's task became known in the ghetto, and so when Eli

Friedman approached him about joining the partisans, he accepted him.

Liberating the Ghetto in Midzel

With the guidance of Friedman, they joined the partisan group, known as the

"Avenger", in the Midzel area, and this was in the fall of 1942. A Jewish

group, under the command of Segalchuk also born in Dolhinov, which was part

of the "Avenger" squadron, decided to attack the townlet of Midzel, destroy

the German command there, eliminate the German sentries, and to liberate the

Jews in the ghetto. They blocked the road for possible German reinforcements,

and engaged the German solder-guards in battle, while Levi ran to the

ghettofence and summoned the Jews to break out of the ghetto, and repair to

the forest.At first, the Jews did not know what was happening, and even

suspected that this was a German operation, but soon they realized the

situation, and the flight to the forest began. Levi felt a great

satisfaction, for they succeeded in saving the survivors o! f the Midzel

ghetto, who numbered eighty people. The battle continued, and not far from

the ghetto there was a church, upon whose tower there sat German soldiers

blazing away, thus complicating the destruction of the headquarters.To

counter this, Yitzchok Radoshkivitz from Dolhinov, approached the church,

with two heapfulls of straw and set them on fire near the wooden door of the

church. Shooting from the tower ceased, and they emptied the German supply

depots- considering the few casualties suffered by the partisans, the mission

was a complete success. The headquarters of the Germans in Palchintsy and

communities in its environs were also the victims of the partisan

"actions."There was also much activity on the Polotzk-Leningrad rail lines,

sections of which were blown up, thus hamperin! g the transport of troops and

equipment to the forest. In the summer of 1943, Levi participated in an

action, where a long train filled with troops and equipment was blown up.One

day, during the summer of 1943, Levi was summoned to Brigade Headquarters,

where he found ten partisan fighters who had proven themselves in various

operations, and his was a special operation, requiring decent attire, clean

automatic weapons, and a strict order not to shoot without a command to do

so. The leader was Commissar Timchuk, who rode a horse, and alongside him was

an unknown officer, also on a horse.They marched tens of kilometers, under

much tension, but rested along the way, and the next day toward evening,

Timchuk explained the purpose of his mission- he was meeting with the traitor

Radyonov, under whose command, thousands of Russian soldiers defected from

the Red Army, and were responsible for killing Russian soldiers in behalf of

the German enemy. The mission was crowned with success, and an agreement was

signed with Radyonov, who was joining the partisans with all his Russian

soldiers, so that together they would smite the Germans.An appreciable number

of women, children, and old men, who had fled the Midzel ghetto, were joined

by individuals who were wandering in the forest, and a total of one hundred

and fifty people became known as the "Citizen's Unit", under the command of a

Russian, marched for weeks through the forests in an eastward direction, and

succeeded in crossing the German battle lines and reaching Soviet dominated

areas. Some of those saved, are today citizens of the State of Israel.Levi

Yitzchak Kuton was awarded a citation for achievem! ents in battle. Courtesy of:

Simon Wiesenthal Center

Los Angeles, CA 90035