To think over ...

This is a story which I received by e-mail from Irene Newhouse and Ellen Sadove-Renck on 24.12.1998.  Irene and Ellen organize and coordinate the Lida Research Group  (JewishGen).  Lots of people, whose parents, g-parents or gg-parents emigrated from Eastern Europe, or whose family was deportated by the Nazi's (please notice that I talk about Nazi's, and not about Germans), or whose family and friends disappeared in the Goelag-archipel, are now searching their roots.  As lots of information is lost or destroyed, and thousands of villages  and  shtetl  disappeared (f.e. the partition of the lands and the creation of kolchozes by the communists), this is no sinecure.  And that is just what the Lida Researchers (and also other groups) do : they help you finding the places where your ancestors lived  and they help reconstructing their history.  All facts and  great or small histories can help in this matter. Here is the adress of this most interesting group :  http://www.jewishgen.org/belarus/vilna.htm

The story that follows has moved me very deeply, not at least because it is a direct testimony.  It concerns a Jewish family living in the Lida region.  After WW II they emigrated to Israel.  This (hi)story (which remembers us to "Shindlers List"),  proofs a lot of things : in the first place it shows that every nation  has his "good" guys and his "bad" guys, and there is no nation or people that is "better" or "worse" than another one.  And of course, it shows that not all Bolivians are drugbarons,  that not all Germans are Nazi's, that not all Serbs are killers,  that killing four million people is as bad as killing six million people and there is no need to discuss that nor to count them.  And last but not least : we must not forget that WWII made, beside the Jewish people, tens of millions of other victims : Poles, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Russians, Hungarians, Rumenians, English, Americans etc..

They all  should be treated as "equivalent" victims.  And of course the camps were no "Polish" camps, but "Nazi"camps.

 Here comes the story, just as it was send to me, including errors and mistakes.

 

Notes from July 1962 about our hometown.  Sioma and wife - Tel Aviv.

 Almost twenty years since then.  But we remember all particulars.  Such experiences one does not forget.  When the Germans went into Lida, my family and my brother Mitieh's family were there.  We deserted the town.  When we looked around that the Soviet regime said that "no sack of salt will be left to eat", all that were there in Lida still remember, that Soviet representative declared right after the occupation, that the  inhabitants of the area can remain calm and continue normally with their lives.  They can continue with their jobs, selling and the like.  Soon after that, our brewery was nationalized, could work as employees.  Then a tax (actually - a contribution).  One time we paid a large sum.  A short time later came a demand.  We looked around, that it was becoming crowded and there was no place for us.  We knew that in time it would not be just a question of money.  We made up our minds not to wait until they would send us away .

When the Germans came, our entire family, except me and my family, were in Vilna.  Mitieh found himself on PANAR (?)  There began the violence and the family found out, all alone, he went trough the forests.  To where - toward Lida. There it was quiet, they said.

I and my family were in Ponyevezh (Lithuania) and also went through the forests along the Vilna highway, toward Lida, in august 1941, the whole family together at the brewery, in our old appartment.

Now the question was : what next?  In that time in Lida, there were massacres.  However, compared to other places, it was quiet.  The Germans needed to run the brewery and they needed specialists workers.  They asked us to renew our work.  The brewery had to provide beer for army, the nearby sawmill made railroad ties.  A plan was made for 42 workers.  An SS man from the German regime was sent to run the brewery, engineer Yoachim.  He was a respectable German, as one would say, far from the poisonous Nazi ideologues.  He paid the Jewish workers and craftsman.  Under his supervision, life in the brewery was normal.  During the time when there were murderous rampages, in our area, there was like an oasis for the several Jews that worked here.  We remember about Passover in 1942 (a short time before the slaughter).  The idea was to try a Seder.  Mother still lived and we baked matzo in her kitchen oven.  We also got horseradish to make maror.  At the Seder, all 42 workers got together in our appartment and Wechsler conducted the Seder.  For independance, we covered the windows, no "evil eye should bother us".  Our hearts were bitter.  We hoped for better times and the Seder strenghthened our hopes.  Papirmeister's brewery did not produce beer.  Engineer Foreman found that one could manufacture "Melos"?, a product that the Germans wanted.

In the meantime a place was found for Lalke Vilenstein and Krigel with their families.  They were all later killed.  Krigel and his wife were murdered by familiar Christians in Miniata to whom they owed money.  The leader of this was a "folk-german" who in fact was a Polish Jew.  When the Germans found out, he was immediately shot.

On the 8th of May, the "action" began in the Lida ghetto, engineer Yoachim did not let the SD {SS?} people to remove the Jews from here.  He declared that the work was need by the military and that without the workers, everything would be at a standstill.  In time Yoachim was sent to front and in his place came Hanenberg along with his girlfriend Merkel, a sadistic person.  In 1943, Yoachim came to the brewery for beer for his soldiers.  He warned the brewery people that a new "action" was coming and to go into the forests.   There were stories in the ghetto that they were to watch the brewery for a red lantern.  However there was no clear information.

To run to the woods, one would realize that it was not so simple. 

The fateful hour came all at once, September 16th, 1943,  SS men came to  the brewery from Slonim with an accusation that they found that the brewery beer was poisoned.  The first thing was they came to me, my brother Mitieh and the chemist.  The first question was were did we hide the gold and silver that we had.  We said that we did not have any gold or silver to hide.  Immediately there was a separation of the local workers : Jews separate and Christians separate.  The order was not to shoot on the spot.  Thereupon was a Jew wounded with a bullet from Latvian soldiers who came into the brewery shooting.  He was Chaim Azhekovsky.  He received a bullet in his foot.  Mrs. Azekhovsky {perhaps his mother?} who had a small shop, took her 3 year old son, ran across the little stream and ran into the woods.  She was succesful in being saved with the parents of the child and son Joseph and wife and son Khone.  After the war they went to America {this is confusing!!!}.

We know of two who are saved : they were Chaim Poupko and his wife Hinke, who hid out in an attic of a building near a park near Poupko's courtyard.  Chaim jumped out of an attic window into the park and became stuck in the mud.  He waited until nightfall, went into the woods and came to commander Bielsky's camp.  He later went back to the brewery area with a gun (which had been buried and he knew where it was).   His wife came soon after not knowing that her husband was already there.  Besides them - the Pietluk family, whose parents came from Dubraniye, to a known Christian.  After them came their 13 year old daughter who had hidden out separately.  After two days hidden at the Christian, they hid in the woods and came upon Bielsky's camp.  There, they found their 16 year old son.  He had also hidden out with the Dubraniye Christian and alone he went into the woods.  

In ghetto no one knew anything.  They said it was a local thing in the brewery.  The "blockfuhrer" Hanenberg said that they are sending everyone somewhere else to work, "I swear by God and the Fuhrer".  In the mean time they sorted the people, man to the state prison, women to the "Technical Organisation of German Troops".  In the morning they brought us together with the others from the ghetto.  Our group from the brewery were put into a separate train wagon which travelled in an unknown direction in the evening of that day, 17th of September.  And from the ghetto, more than 3000 people were sent in the same direction in the morning.  We had no more illusions about what awaited us.  The outlook was to remain alive - by jumping from the wagon of the train.  This is not an easy thing to do and not everyone capable of doing it.  12 of us jumped and were saved.  My brother Mitieh jumped along with his little son.  When his wife jumped after him, she noticed that her daughter who was to jump, was not with her.  It happened at the last moment, she became frightened and remained in the train..  Stolovitzky, his wife, with a son and daughter.  A Warsaw hairdresser with his wife, and a partisan who had come with us through the woods and ghetto (who was shot by the Russians) - my wife, our daughter and I.

This was near the Mosti Station.  Naturally, we could not jumped all at once and we separated.  We all knew what direction we wanted to run to.  In 8 days, we all met in Bielitzeh.  Chaim Azhekovsky also wanted to jump.  But because of his wounded foot, he could not do it.

Mrs. Poupko tells : On the way, we met an SS-man.  You can imagine our fright.  To our great surprise, he dit not detain us and he calmed us : "Others do this", he said.  But he warned us.  If you can, run away.  Bad times are coming.  He told us about the transports to the west.  He also gave us 3 loaves of bread and let us go.  In a short time we came upon Commander Bielsky's camp..  First we knew, that from the first transport Mrs. Karchmer jumped and was saved (after the war, she went to London where she met her husband, Mark Karchmer.  He had come a few years earlier after long wandering ).  Both - Peace be onto them.

Mrs. Poupko tells : A peculiar episode occured during our wandering after the war, coming to Germany, in Bad Deichnhof, we knew that here was the family of engineer Yoachim, the onetime SS-man of the brewery.  It was found out that he was in an American jail as a war criminal.  After we had consulted with Jewish institutions, we gave an evidence statement at the American military regime about Yoachim's relationship with us.  Other evidence statements came from other people of Lida e.g. Stolovitsky, and shortly thereafter, he was freed.

            DR SHELDON CLARE did the translation.

 

Of course, there are hundreds of that kind of stories, and all very true.  But  they all illustrate my opinion I gave in the introduction.

After reading this story I advice everyone strongly to listen  to Henryk Gorecki's 3rd symphony, the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs"  (Symfonia Piesni Za~losnych), opus 36 (1976).  Or even better  : see the picture : "Gorecki's Testimony" - 1991?- (Henryk Mikolaj Gorecki was born in 1933 in Silesia and an eye-witness).

This film was made for Carlton TV  LWT.  Production : Mike Bluett and Reiner Moritz.

Direction : Tony Palmer.

It is based upon this 3rd symphony.  We see the London Sinfonietta, conducted by David Zinman.  We see and hear  Dawn Upshaw, a wonderful soprano, very well known for singing contemporary works (Messiaen a.o.).  These pictures are merged with documentary shots from the camps, with documentary shots on actual frightful and terrible situations from all over the world, learning us that we learned nothing at all.

For those who do an effort to find and see the film (you will find yourself very well rewarded) :  the soprano sings the original Polish texts :

1st mouvement : Lamentation of the Holy Cross Monastery from the "Lysagora Songs" collection - second half of the 15th century.

2nd mouvement : inscription on the wall of a cell in the Gestapo headquarters, the "Palace", in Zakopane.  The prisoner was a young girl, 18 years old : Helena Wanda Blazusiakowna.

3rd mouvement : folk song in the Opole region dialect.

Eduard Wojciulewicz.