DEATH WATCHED [i]
(stories of a partisan)
Death watched each step. May be destiny will give me the happiness and will be able to see my daughter? In the darkness of the night, when we ascend toward the highway, distressed me only one thought. There is not another alternative. My forces are drained. I should go again to the Ghetto.
In Pruzhany's Ghetto lived 11.000 Jews. I arrived there at the end of December. Cold was very intense, but I saw that Jews used only light clothes, because Germans had stolen them their coats, and to many people also the only quilt which covered at night an entire family, in a house without heating. Hunger was untenable. Suffered it in particular children and old men.
We organized in the Ghetto a hospital and there worked Drs. OLGA GOLDFAYN, ROZENKRANTZ AND CHAVOVETZKY. With biggest self denial and responsibility, they assisted sick persons inflamed by hunger. I worked as nurse in this hospital. We took charge of gathering clothes, medications, groceries. Dr. OLGA GOLDFAYN frequently said: "Why are we trying to save these unhappy people? Anyway our destiny is sealed, won't it be better to allow them to die naturally"?. I also knew our bitter destiny, but I decided not to surrender and fight until last minute.
During Spring 1942 began to be created in the Ghetto an antifascist organization. The organizers were shoemaker YTZHAK SHERSHEVSKY, teacher YOSEF CHAZAN, AARON GOLDSTEIN and me. We put on as objective to provide weapons to the youth, and transfer them in small groups to join partisans. We were able have around us most of Ghetto youth. Outside the Ghetto, were barracks where Ghetto Jews worked. There, our youths were able to obtain all kinds of weapons, also parts of old shotguns, in synthesis, to get in any way weapons to introduce them to the Ghetto. When they returned of work, the control of Germans in Ghetto's entrance was extremely severe. In spite of death penalty danger if was found that somebody had weapons, smuggling continued and we got a great quantity of ammunition.
During this summer we joined weapons, and our people - little by little - got to be trained to use them. Shoemakers sewed boots for future partisans, and doctors gave medicines to nurses that were in the forest.
My room was the meeting point of our people. I distributed the weapons, and indicated them the way to arrive to the partisans. Men and women passed to the forest, 50 youths, most of them equipped with automatic weapons. Groups were integrated by 7 or 8 people, and each group had a guide that knew well the area. The Ghetto was surrounded by a fence of thick spikes wire. They crawled on the stomach under cut wires. It was not an easy task because surrounding us watched German sentries, and frequently reflectors illuminated night darkness..
November 1 1942 the Ghetto was surrounded by Germans. Outside the Ghetto, next to the fence fascists bet with automatic rifles in their hands. They took us out of the houses, counted us, and ordered us to return to our homes.
In all Byelorussia were made these actions, cruel slaughters of Jews. Of all towns of our area, were transferred Jews to Treblinka and Maidanek death fields. We knew that awaited us the same destiny, it was only postponed, and came close the hour of our end.
January 27 1943. We saw in Ghetto's entrance doors hundreds of the peasants' sleds. The city was divided in areas and were taken out for neighborhoods, every day another neighborhood. Jews designated to extermination were transferred to Oranthsitze train station . Here were loaded in boxcars and sent to Maidanek and Treblinka death fields[ii].
My friends OLGA GOLDFAYN, PYK, CHABOVETZKY. ROZENKRANTZ and my cousin STEPHEK, came out the first day.. Dr. GOLDFAYN as we found out later, was able to escape.
The day determined for my death transport was January 30. I joined - before that day - around me a group of people and I proposed them to pass over Ghetto's fence and survive. We sewed a disguise with linen white as snow, and began to crawl. Germans shot us from a near distance, and threw hand grenades. Of 50 people survived 14 (TN: In this opportunity she didn't escape).
The following day arrived again to the Ghetto the damned sleds. I was staying in middle of the street, the disillusion ate away my heart. I waited in my line to be transferred. Suddenly came near me a young woman called VERA BAROVSKA, and told me quickly: "Hurry, call other four people, My friends of the anti fascist organization prepared a hiding place for ten people; five are already there, look for other four. Every minute is important. Come soon"!. Me, CHAZAN, siblings SHERMAN, and SHERESHEVSKY left after her.
We arrived to the house were lived family AIZNER. There, under the basement was a hiding place. Just as told us VERA BAROVSKA that was house owner's sister, family AIZNER prepared this hiding place during many months and was dedicated to anti fascist organization. This delicate people was worried for those that Nazi murderers would retaliate. They didn't want to use this hiding place for them, because they had small children and they were afraid that cry of children could put in evidence the place. Mrs. AIZNER requested to her husband to stay, but he didn't accept. He didn't want to come off of his dear beings.
In the hiding place were prepared a kind of rough old beds with bed clothes. On the table were diverse groceries, fat and drinks that could supply ten people during 6 months. On the walls hung coats.
We hardly entered this bunker, covered the door with straw, and immediately we listened steps. Steps of boots on our heads and screams of children... Were Germans that pushed family AIZNER toward the sleds.
We stayed in this hiding place during 11 days. During this time, Germans entered several times in the house and they controlled the basement entrance on our heads. Once, when Germans began to shoot on the floor of the basement, VERA had a hysteria attack. I covered her mouth, to drown her screams.
The tenth day silenced everything. We didn't listen more steps. No any movement. At night, we send two of our people to see what happened up. They achieved, in certain place, to cut the spike wires fence, and prepare it so that we can leave the Ghetto.
The following day at night, all our group, covered with white mantels, left the hiding place... We crawled for the empty streets of the dead city... .We got to cross Ghetto's fence. We walked whole night to arrive as soon as possible to the place where partisans were. We didn't achieve it. The day began to be clear, and we entered the mount; we remained laid down over the snow, immobile the whole time. For luck, arrived the blessed night, our faithful friend.
At night we saw that were coming sleds in the distance. I come close to them and there were seated four armed partisans, three byelorrusian and the Jew YOSEF FRYDMAN, a youth of Kartuz Bereza, whom a short time ago I sent from the Ghetto to the forest with the partisans .
FRYDMAN led us to a small house in the forest. There I found other Jews of Pruzhany that could survive thanks the antifascist organization. The commandant of Jewish partisans, YAKOV ROZENBOIM, transmitted me the contact with the leader of the antifascist organization in Byelorussia, YOSEF URBANOVICH.
I began to work in the redaction of the secret newspaper " Zarodino " (for homeland). We wandered of place in place, we sometimes remained in villages or forests, in refuges, barns, or attics. During nights, we left the "printing", and entered to the shanties of the forest for a bath, to eat something, and to doze a little. Our small newspaper (two pages) called the population to fight. We also transmitted the victories of red army, and about Nazi's cruel acts.
We obtained every day news of Soviet agency, and we distributed them in special editions. We also encouraged and stimulated depressed people. When we received information about German intentions of sending punishment expeditions, we also announced it in our newspaper for population's benefit. I wrote notes in the newspaper, corrected, and paged. I learned how to typewrite . Each redaction collaborator should make four people's work. The situation forced us to be editors and printers.
One day, the liberation of Byelorussia began. I decided to go to the village Razmarky to that of family RADKIEVICH, because I missed much my daughter. I arrived to the village at night. With the heart panting, trespassed shack's threshold. In the bed slept a sweet baby, a beauty . I left her when she was one year old and now I have for me a four year-old baby. I took her in my arms, she woke up, and my hearings listened the magic word: Mum!. For sure she didn't refer to me...
OLIE RADKOVICH began to convince her to go for a walk with the "aunt". But WANDA (my daughter was called this way) came off my arms with a scream: "I won't go with a strange aunt! She has a shotgun"!.
I drove my daughter in a rural cart, on Germans plagued roads. She didn't stop to scream about "the strange aunt with the rifle". I had tight the finger on gun's trigger . Her screams could open suspicion, and I decided to put an end to her and my life, and not to fall in German hands.
Almost as a miracle we arrived without any inconvenience to our partisans group. It was June 15 1944. Then for the first time we found in the forest the first group of espionage of red army.
We were transformed in free people.