by Hanoikh Davidovich Ginzburg
In 1940 I graduated from Lvov medical institute and began working as a doctor in Sventsiany. Today it is a small town on the territory of Lithuania. Why did I come back to Lithuania from Lvov? I was born in Vilno in 1915, and then lived in Sventsiany, which is 80 km from Vilno. There I attended a Jewish school, later a gymnasium, which was later closed due to lack of funding. So I came back to work in my home country.
Germans invaded Sventsiany on the first days of the war. First I was in a concentration camp called Novo- Sventsiany, which was located 12 km away from town and to which Germans brought Jews from Grodno, Sventsiany and small villages. After spending six days there I managed to escape and later turned out in Sventsiany ghetto. Most of the Jewish population was in the concentration camp, while the ghetto consisted of Jews-specialists, who the German army needed. Rahil Rudnitskaya, Izhak Arad’s sister, registered me as her husband (Izhak was an Israeli general, later head of Yad Vashem).
In 1942 German commandant’s office sent me to Vidzy ghetto, which is today a village in Braslav region. The ghetto had typhus epidemics. The place was mainly populated by old people and women and was created for quick liquidation. However Germans dreaded the typhus would spread. Of course, they were scared for their lives and that was the reason why they sent for a doctor. Sventsiany ghetto had four doctors and I was the only one who did not have a family because my parents and four brothers had died in a camp. I got a reference, which stated that I had been sent to Vidzy for typhus liquidation. I went voluntarily. I knew that the sick were executed.
The ghetto was surrounded by a high fence, however it was not guarded and the entrance was free. Life was comparatively decent; it was possible to buy groceries from local people. This lasted till the autumn of 1942.
The head of the Jewish community was Lipa Levin. He was in charge of medicine, which was acquired in the city pharmacy. So, I had enough medicine.
Jewish craftsmen were still involved in their work, the rest of the people were used for physical work, extremely hard and sometimes useless and humiliating.
The ghetto region was populated only by Jews (around 1,500 people); Belarusians and Poles were made to leave. There were only a few people who had typhus, about 10, and we managed to isolate them.
In the November of 1942 the police forces started arriving from Ukraine and Lithuania. We did not know what to expect from them. Supposedly the aim was to liquidate the ghetto. Later people started saying they arrived to fight the local partisans. However, I did not trust that. I made a decision to leave, because the tension was growing and everyone was expecting the worst. Therefore I left on November 22nd to my friend Igor Tyminsky, who lived near Vidzy. We used to attend the same school. I came and said that I would prefer not to stay in the ghetto on such days. He listened to me and said: “Sure, you can stay”. His father invited me for dinner and also invited me to stay at his place. It turned out that not far from their house there was a peat extraction unit, where ghetto Jews had to work, mostly young and middle-aged men. At night they were planning to escape and join partisans. So I said: “I will go with you.”
I did not mention anything to the Tyminskys and told them I was going to bed. Then I left. I put my medical diploma into a bottle and buried it in the ground. I found it after the war.
Nobody knew the way to the partisans. At 2 a.m. someone started shooting at us and our group (there about 15 of us) was scattered. Later we formed groups of 5-6 people and went on. We walked all night long and found a partisan brigade headed by Prudnikov. That was a special unit, which consisted of security officers. They said they did not need a doctor, neither did they need any people and advised us to join “Spartak” unit, headed by Ponomarev. I was the only one who was allowed to stay in the unit. The rest of the men were told to find weapons first. I never saw them again.
There were very few Jews in that unit. But that was easily explainable, because the unit would not accept anyone without weapons. Where could those people, who escaped from ghettos, find weapons? After the war one of the Jews from the unit worked as a deputy minister in Minsk, and later lived in Polotsk.
I was in the unit until November 23rd, 1943.
I worked as a doctor in a partisan hospital, the only one in Rossony region. There was enough work to do and different patients to deal with. I remember a young woman, her last name was Strui. She used to be a deputy before the war. She told me she had had a special errand to run for partisans and had her legs frostbitten when crossing the front line. It was followed by gangrene, so the patient needed amputation. The hospital did not have an amputation saw and I had to amputate both legs with a regular saw. She found me in the 80s and wrote me a letter. She had artificial limbs made and her life was going well. She often thought of me.
After the war Hanoikh Davidovich Ginzburg lived in Grodno, working as a doctor. He was the one who helped re-establish the Jewish community in Grodno at the beginning of the 90s.
The interview was recorded in 1992.