As written by Leo Slawin, Edited by Jeremy Slawin

Early Years – 1930s

I was born in 1931- in a shtetl (small town) called Dunilowicze, in the Northeastern part of Poland.

The town consisted of approximately 2000 gentiles and 1000 Jews. There were three synagogues, one Rabbi, a mikve (ritual bath) – a bath house, 2 shochets – a Rebbe (Hebrew Teacher)

Our immediate family consisted of my older sister, Bosie Chave (Batie-Eva), my mother Soshke (Sonia), my dad Irme (Jeremiah), my mother’s mother Bube Bayle-Gesie (B.G.), and her Father Zeide (grandpa) Ohrn (Aaron).

As I understood then, most Jews were no allowed to own land- hence most Jewish families were involved in commerce as storekeepers or as crafts people—like tailors, shoemakers, and there was one medical doctor and a pharmacist.

Bobe B.G. and Zeidi Ohrn grew up in a Dorf (small farm community) called Sloboda about 12 kilometers from Dunilowicze. B.G. had 12-14 children, most of whom died at a young age except for two—my mother and her brother Moise-Leib.

I was told that Zeid Aarn and B.G. were cousins and that was given as a reason for their children’s’ untimely death. My mother and her brother Moshe-Leib both grew up in Sloboda.

My grandparents were small merchants and my grandfather had a good relationship with his Polish neighbors. Later, when they moved to Dunilowicze and opened a larger store, their good relationships continued. Business prospered as they kept taking in more and more varied merchandise until they became the second largest store in town.

They built a house next to the store and later when my parents got married in 1928 they built another house behind their main house for more privacy for the young couple.

The store clients were both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews used to buy mainly staples like flour, oil, sugar, butter, and their children used to buy halva and cheese for lunch on the way to school.

The Gentiles were mainly teachers and other employees of the city administration who would buy household goods and personal items such as socks, stockings, etc.

Most gentiles lived on salaries so they would request credit until their monthly paychecks arrived, and my mother gladly gave them credit. However, when the end of the month came around it was always my mother who requested payment, while my father used to hide behind the counter. The same thing happened when the inspections came around to check for violations in the store.

Economic times were pretty good in the middle of the 1930s. By and large most Jews were middle class. We also had a fairly large number of very poor people. The community tried to make sure that they were not hungry or had a place to live—nevertheless we always had beggars with “Torbes” bags over their shoulders begging for food.

One particular young lady who must have been 15-16 years old used to come to us every week. Once I remember she asked for a herring, and when my father hesitated she added “chots on a kop” (even without a head). So my dad used to find a few herrings without a head and give them to her.

We had three schools: a Polish schools, a Yiddish school, and a Tarbut, a Hebrew language school. Most gentiles attended the Polish school. Most Jews attended the Yiddish school where Yiddish was taught in the morning and Polish in the afternoon. Many Jews also sent their children to Cheder, where a Rebbe taught (Hebrew Text), Chumesh (Bible), and Gemora (Jewish Law). The Tarbut school was attended by some Jews who were Zionists and were preparing to make aliyah (emigrate) to Israel to reclaim the Jewish land.

Fridays used to be an exceptional day for us—it was spent in preparation for the Sabbath. The school was shortened. My dad and I would then rush to the general bath house to scrub and clean ourselves. My mom and sister would have gone some other time. Then we would run with boobie B.G. to buy a chicken, live carp and a Hecht (Pike) for Gefilte fish. then my booby would bake the best “milchike bulkes” – cinnamon rolls, and challe.

On Friday late afternoon my dad used to attend to customers in the store. The kitchen was not far from where he worked. Boobie B.G. would take out the fresh cinnamon buns from the oven—the aroma would filter into the store. Dad would then quickly get rid of the customers, grab my sister, and run into the kitchen to get two fresh rolls, and with a round can of sprots (in oil) in his hand leave the house. All three of us would run across the yard into the new house, open the can of sprot and have the tastiest snacks ever.

When sundown approached we would close the store, wash up, and change into our Sabbath clothes and run to Shul. During the evening meal Zeide Aaron used to get the head portion of the carp as a symbol of the head of the family.

Life in the shtetl in the mid 1930s was pleasant except for three factors:

1) Anti-semitism was practiced by a farily large number of the Gentiles. Our next door neighbor (on the right side) was a Gentile family. I used to play ball in the street in front of our houses with his older son. Whenever he would get mad at me he would scream, “Szidy do Paleshine”—translated roughly – you Jews don’t belong here, go to Palestine. Many of my Jewish friends told me they heard this expression frequently

2) Medical crises were abundant. The single doctor was helpless to treat certain medical conditions. My aunt Malke, my father’s sister-in-law, although she lived in Dockshyce, wound up in Dunilowicze with Typhoid Fever. She hovered for months between life and death until she finally miraculously recovered.

I developed whooping cough—my father took me to the countryside in the summer and they concluded that that was the only remedy. It took a very long time for me to get rid of it.

Once I developed a hard swelling under my chin that kept growing and growing. The doctor couldn’t stop it—it came to a point where I stopped eating. Zeide Aaron coaxed me to eat by giving me one Zlote equivalent to an American Dollar, for each teaspoon I swallowed. This continued for a long time.

My grandmother’s friend, Chake Gendel, kept telling everybody that the only remedy is to apply “compressen tun zuyman” – hot compressors made out of flax seeds. In desperation my parents began to use her suggested remedy. After a week or two the swelling began to subside and I was saved.

It took a while for me to recuperate. In the meantime my Zaidy Ohrn accumulated a bundle of silver slotys. He then approached me and asked me if he could borrow the Zlotys. I trusted my Zaidy so I have him all the Zlotys.

We also spent happy summer in Dunilowicze. The town had two large lakes. One of the lakes was 1.5 blocks away from us and we would spend many afternoons catching flies and using them as bait to try to catch small “plotkes”- bass. Manny summer evenings my father used to take me to the river about half a kilometer away to wash and bath ourselves. It was an isolated spot, where the water was clear and the sand along the edge was smooth.

My dad was very concerned about us getting sick. One of his fears was that while we played we would sweat too much, catch a draft, then a cold, then pneumonia, etc. This fear was very real as far as he was concerned.

One warm summer evening he decided to go to the river to our special place about a half a kilometer away. While we were on our way I became very excited about cooling off in the river. As we approached the river I started running to get there faster. He became very agitated about that. I committed two cardinal sins—I ran and created a sweat and jumped into the cool river without resting. Either I did not hear or did not obey his order to stop. He did not go into the river, took me by the ear, and marched me home. He put me on a hard bench in the foyer and took off his belt and let me have it. It was a pretty painful experience, and I cried for a long time. I remember it to this day. It was my only spanking that I remember.

Later when I told him that I did not deserve such a severe spanking he shot back that if I didn’t deserve it that time, it was for a time before that when I deserved a spanking and he didn’t do it or for the future that I may deserve it.

Once I was sitting outside the store on the stoop. My parents were inside the store attending to customers. Suddenly I saw a very big horse and carriage pass by. I was very excited that such a big horse could exist. I quickly ran into the store yelling, “Pa-pa, I just saw a horse passing by- so big, bigger than you!” The customers were startled and everyone had a big laugh.

On the way to the river we would pass small vegetable gardens. One evening we were passing a garden full of carrots. I asked my father how many tsimes (carrot pies) could be made from those carrots. We both got a good laugh.

We also spent a lot of time with our neighbor’s children, the Linkovskies. Their father was a Kosher butcher and they had four children all older than us. They were not too well off. Their house did not have a wooden floor. My sister and I always washed to eat dinner with them. They did not have individual dishes for everyone, so their mother would put herring and baked potatoes on the table, and a large bowl of borscht in the center, handed everyone a spoon and all eight of us dug into the bowl and loved it.


My father “irme” Jeremiah grew up in a shtetl 33 kilometers from Dunilowicze called Dokshytze. As a young adult he tried to make a living by trading in orchards. He would bid on an orchard of apples and pears before the fruit was ripe and later in the fall tried to sell the ripe fruit to retail stores.

His father was a carpenter; They had seven children and carpentry did not generate enough income to support the family. So they bought four wool teasing machines to supplement their income. It still wasn’t enough. My dad related that they were always hungry. His oldest brother Simche would try to buy my dad’s cooky from him.

As soon as the older children reached adulthood, they left home. The three older children, Simche, Mendel, and Rachel went to Russia—all three survived the war.

Every summer when school was out my parents sent us to Dokshytze for a month. We used to go by horse and carriage. It used to take us a whole day, from early morning until nightfall to cover the distance of 33km. We always used to stop to buy cherries from the farmers.

We also looked forward to playing with our young cousins Yitele around age 6 and her younger brother Kapele, both of whom were children of my father’s younger brother Chaim and his wife Rachel. Another brother Manes and his wife Malke had two children, a son Sholemke and a daughter Sonele. His sister Golde and husband Meyer had two girls, Rodele and Pesele. All of our cousins were younger than us.

My father’s parents, Booby Matle and Zeide Nochem Leib, their children Manes, Chaim, and Golde, and their spouses and children all perished in Dokshytze. I was told by survivors of the Dokshytz ghetto that all Jewish children were collected by the Nazis and taken to the pit and killed months before the adults were shot. Over 4300 Jews perished in the Dokshytze Ghettos.

The Russians come to Dunilowicz Sept. 1939

In September 1939, the Russian army under Stalin invaded Poland from the East. As the history books tell us (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer), after Nazi Germany occupied Czechoslovakia in March of 1939, Hitler turned his attention to Poland.

Poland was weak militarily and was no match for the mechanized army of the Third Reich. Poland had a treaty with France and England required each to come to their aid should a country invade them. The thinking was that France and England might come to Poland’s aid but the Nazis didn’t want to fight on two fronts simultaneously, East and West.

Hitler sent Ribbentrop his foreign minister to Moscow in August of 1939 and he and Molofov the new foreign minister of Russia concluded a non aggression treaty with a secret provision to divide Poland in half. And so after Hitler invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939—he took the Western half within a week or two—Russia followed and occupied the Eastern half next.

Communist Russia came to our town. Since our store had two hired employees, we automatically became “burzuys?”. Burzuys were slated to be deported to Siberia and their possessions confiscated. Our store was invaded by the local proletariat police and they helped themselves to anything that they liked.

My parents were actually happy about this looting by the Communists because they thought that the sooner they became poor proletariat- “one of them” – the less chance of deportation to Siberia. Several prominent Jewish families were deported to Siberia along with Gentile “kulaks”, prosperous land owners who employed other people on their farms.

My parents asked us to join the Pioneers, which was the “Communist Youth Organization,” and wear a red tie for all to see. My mother joined a popular choir under a famous local director Avrom Gurwicz while my dad got a job in the post office “Sielski Pismonosec.” Delivering mail to the countryside on a bicycle, the lowest position in the post office.

Our efforts seemed to have worked. We were not deported. Later, we often thought we should have run to Siberia—more Jews survived in Siberia than those who were left behind.

As I mentioned before, my mother’s brother Moshe-Leib survived his childhood. He wound up in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, one of the 16 Russian Republics. He got married in Minsk and had two children, a boy and a girl. Moshe-Leib worked in a bank as a supervisor in Minsk. My mother had found out in the early 1930s that he lived there and wrote him several letters from Poland. At that time Minsk was part of Russia under Stalin. Moshe Leib answered one of my mother’s letters but did not answer subsequent letters.

When we became part of Russia in 1939, Moshe Leib’s wife, who had a serious heart condition, and children, teenagers by then, visited us in Dunilowicze. She told us that in 1937 one of the clerks in the bank who wanted his job wrote a letter to the NKVD (predecessor of the KGB) that he is a spy and sent information to Poland, a foreign country. (Ed. note: I get what he is saying but this paragraph needs to be clarified)

One night in 1937 the NKVD knocked on their door, woke him up, asked him to get dressed and come with them. They wanted to talk to him. He was never seen again. The wife and the two children perished in the Minsk Ghetto. Moshe-Leib died in a Russian prison.

Invasion of Russia by the Nazis

At the end of June 1941, less than two years after the Russian army marched into the Eastern half of Poland, Nazi Germany attacked Russia. The Russian army was caught by surprise and within two weeks the German mechanized divisions marched across the Eastern half of Poland and deep into Russia.

After our town was occupied, the Nazis sent in an official by the name of Hicks to administer affairs in town. Immediately a group of young Polish collaborators joined the police force and soon the persecution of the Jewish population began. A series of proclamations were posted on the walls:

  1. Jews had to wear large yellow starts of David in front and in the back on their clothing so that they could easily be identified.
  2. Jews were forbidden to walk on the sidewalk.
  3. Jews could not own property; machinery and other imported items were confiscated.
  4. All able bodied Jews were forced to work for the Reich—to produce food and other necessities needed to support the occupation and the state.
  5. Food was rationed
  6. Payment for labor was non-existent

Each declaration was followed by a sentence: “if you are caught violating these orders the penalty is “veren sie geshossen” – you will be shot.

A Jewish individual by the name of Yudke lived on our street. He was about 60 years old. He was poor and lived by himself without a family. One day, very soon after the occupation, the Polish collaborating police came to his apartment, took him to the police station, marched him to the Jewish cemetery and shot him unprovoked. This was done to terrorize the Jewish population, to show the Jews that they could do anything to them that they wished.

A “Yedenratt” was organized at the direction of the Nazis. This Yedeuratt consisted of a group of 10-15 young local Jews who were sort of representing all the Jews of the Ghetto. Whenever the Nazis or police wanted something done, they called in the representative of the Yedeuratt and passed the orders to the Jews through them.

Once, the Polish police decided to have “some fun” with the Jews. They called over the Yudeuratt to deliver a dozen or so Jews to the police station. One of the 12 or so people chosen by the Yudeuratt was my father. He was then around 37 years old. Our family theorized that the reason he was chosen was because my family had no strong arm members and my father was not an aggressive individual. All the 12 people chosen were quiet, unassuming individuals. Each individual was forced to undress and they were lashed with rubber trunches. After an evening at the police station, my father limped back in agony and shortness of breath to our house.

My mother helped him get undressed and we all saw deep blue stripes oozing blood all across his back. We ran to the “ludownie” ice house, brought ice and spent the entire night putting ice packs on his back, wondering whether he would recover, while dad was sobbing in pain. It took a long time but miraculously he improved.

At other times the police requested young Jewish ladies for “entertainment” purposes. I heard rumors about those activities but I was too young to comprehend what was going on.

During that period before the Ghetto, soldiers from the German army were frequently stationed in our yard, to rest for several days before they moved on East to the Russian front. Some of them were friendly. I remember two soldiers, when they found out that we were “Yuden” Jewish, asked us why we did not run away with the Bolsheviks. They informed us that “Deutsche Machen Yuden Kaput.”

Well, it was much too late for the warning. In any case,, the period between the Nazi attack and the occupation of our town was only a day or two. About 70 young Jewish men and several women from town hopped on trucks of the remnants of the retreating Russian army and left with them. They were basically officials of the Russian administration. It would have been impossible for families with children to do so.

In the meantime, my parents and grandparent tried to hoard food, basically potatoes, from the farmers secretly.

Toward the end of 1941, around October-November, an order came that all Jews of the shtetls had to move to one street—Parchener “Gesele” (small street). I would guess that it contained about 1/5 of all the homes where Jews lived. The street ran along the lake on the right side; the left border was the main street. A wire fence was constructed to separate the Ghetto from the homes on the main street. It had two gates and ran about 1/3 of a mile.

My family—dad, mom, Boobie B.G., Zeide Aaron, my sister and I wound up in a small house that a Gentile vacated. It consisted of one room and had a wooden floor where the beds were and a table to eat and no floor, just sand, where the kitchen was. After we moved in another family arrived at the door and told us they have no place to go and so they moved in the same smaller room. That family was Velvel Woolf and Rochke Gordon and their two children 6 year old Annette and 4 year old Kusiel.

We also secretly transferred some potatoes and flour to bake bread.

The house had a small yard and a small shack stood in the corner of the yard. It was filled with old broken furniture up to the ceiling.

After the move to the Ghetto was completed, an order came for all the Jews to gather in the central square of the town in front of the Catholic Church. When all the Jews of the town stood in the central square we suddenly heard and then saw a few trucks with S.S. personnel moving to the square. A rumor spread among us that this is the end—we were all going to be killed right there.

They surrounded us with automatic rifles and started counting us. After the count they announced that they will count all the Jews once a week. Should one Jew be missing (other than those who die) they will shoot a certain number of Jews—I don’t remember the exact number. I don’t remember the result of the first count, but the last count before the Jews were killed was 888, I remember that number clearly.

All male adults and some children in the Ghetto had to work in the fields. My father used to take some gold rings or other valuables with him to work and exchange it for ½ a kilo of butter or cheese or other food items. He would then smuggle the items into the Ghetto. We would then divide the items and put a name on each item. Each one of us would be told, “you can eat it in one day or stretch it until the time the next food item is obtained.”

That winter, the winter of 1941-1942, was very cold. We kept warm by keeping our coats and shoes on and we slept with them.

In the Ghetto we passed the time as best we could. There was no school for the children. We were always looking to secure sustenance and were worrying about what would happen to us next.

My father knew how to read the Torah—he was a Bael Kora—He and my grandfather attended the synagogue praying for a miracle, hoping for the “Geula” redemption. The Rabbi ordered to pray “Ovinu Malkeinu,” a special prayer, on a daily basis and Zeidie Ohrn, my grandfather, used to tell me that if I “bentsch di Lvone” pray to the moon monthly, no evil will happen to me. I really believed him.

My grandfather Ohrn used to smoke, the urge to smoke was so great that when spring of 1942 came, while still in the ghetto, he created a little garden in the yard and planted tobacco plants. He actually harvested the leaves in the fall and enjoyed smoking them for a few months.

As the summer of 1942 came we heard terrible news—this news had shaken me so much that I never spoke about it. We received information in the summer of 1942 that my young innocent cousins in Dokshyce were torn away forcefully from their parents, taken by cart to the cemetery and shot. That kind of cruelty was beyond comprehension.

I am forcing myself to put this on paper so that future generations would learn and remember the vile means the Nazi Extermination Machine would go to eradicate all traces of the Jewish people.

Several days ago I re-read the last will and testament of the evil Adolf Hitler, the butcher who started it all. Even on the last day of his wretched life, he writhes and raves against the Jews. The only thing that kept me going all these years is the fact that Hitler and his henchmen were eliminated from this world. Nothing gives me more satisfaction then reading Book Six: the Fall of the Third Reich in the Book “The Rise and Fall of the German Reich” by William L Shiner.

Later on in the summer of 1942 we kept hearing that one by one, the surrounding shtetls were being liquidated. My father then came to the conclusion that the Nazis will come soon to liquidate our Ghetto. So he confided in me that we must try to save ourselves. He came up with the idea to dig a hole in the middle of the shack in the yard secretly at night. We actually were aware that it was futile and hopeless anyway, but my dad kept insisting “what do we have to lose.”

Night after night we went to the shack, closed the door, and went to work. First, we cleared a spot in the center, piling up the old furniture on the side. Then we both started digging, putting the dug out sand in a pail and spreading it on the rest of the floor evenly. Eventually we dug a hold about 8 feet by 5 feet, and about 6 feet deep (estimate). We placed boards about a foot below the surface for a ceiling and refilled it with sand. We left a small opening to enter and leave the hold. We then fitted a box over the hole and filled it with sand and placed it over the hole. We also made some small openings in the ceiling for air to come in. We then piled back the old furniture on top of the hole.

On that fateful morning, we know it was a Saturday, we think it was November 22, 1942, it was still dark when we heard shots. Several people ran past our house yelling that that the Ghetto is surrounded and that they came to kill us. Later we learned that the Nazis had a deliberate policy to plan their “actions” to liquidate the Jews on the Jewish Sabbath or Holidays, when the Jews were more relaxed and thus would be less likely to resist.

We ran out of the house as dawn was breaking. We spotted a few shadows running across the frozen lake and heard more shots. We ran inside our yard, desperately trying to find a way to escape. Suddenly my dad had to run to the washroom, but he came back very quickly. I kept thinking how I would feel when the bullet would hit me.

Suddenly in desperation, my parents whispered, “let’s run to the hole.” Mom grabbed my sister and I—we then ran over to Boobie and Zeidie and urged them to come to the hole with us. They both hesitated and then my Zeidie Ohren said, “You run to the hole and try to save yourself- you are young. As for us, we are too old. We will meet our fate here.” Mom made another attempt to convince them to come with us, but they refused.

We had very little time to think, so the four of us ran into the shack, closed the door, lifted the entrance to the hole, jumped into the hole, and dad covered the hole with the box we previously prepared.

Inside the hole we did not really talk much- we were run with fear. I myself did not think that we were going to make it. I just thought that we were postponing fate for a day or two.

All through Saturday we just sat there. We didn’t hear much. When night fell my parents realized that in our haste to run to the hole we neglected to take water and bread with us. I am not sure if it was Saturday night or Sunday night but my mother suddenly told my father to remove the box and open the entrance to the hole. She then stuck her head out to listen for sounds.

When she didn’t hear any sounds, she crouched low and ran across the yard to the house, entered the house, grabbed a pale of water and a loaf of bread that was laying on the counter, still untouched, and ran back with those two items to the shack. When we got the water and bread dad cautioned us not to finish it all in spite of the fact that we were by then very hungry and thirsty. At that point he was not sure how long we would have to stay in the hole. When mother came back to the hole she told us that she did not see anybody but she saw several houses from a distance on fire.

On the 3rd day, Monday, we suddenly heard a hissing sound and felt smoke. We suddenly heard earth shattering screams—female screams, children’s screams and men’s, then we heard loud shots nearby and then silence. After a while we realized that a house in the Ghetto close to us was on fire.

There were rumors in the Ghetto that a number of Jewish families built double walls , they called it a “Schron” a secret hiding place should the Gestapo search for Jews. It seems that the Gestapo had left the town and the Polish collaborating police took over to finish the remaining remnants of the Jews, and they decided to flush out the hiding Jews by setting the Ghetto on fire. Many houses inside the Ghetto were on fire, for some unknown reason our shack was untouched.

My dad then decided that we must leave our hole, otherwise we will be discovered and shot like our neighbors. The water and bread was almost used up, and Monday night had too many fires and too much police activity. Tuesday night was quiet, but he was afraid to go, I think because the moon was shining.

When Dad looked out Wednesday night, he saw that the weather was stormy, heavy clouds with a howling wind. He thought that we would have a better chance to avoid detection in such a night, besides we had no choice.

Our yard bordered the fence of the Ghetto, so we crawled to the fence next to the shack and slowly one by one crawled through the wire. We then ran along downhill a small field that was part of the firehouse compound (the firehouse was located across the street from our house where we lived before the Ghetto). We then crossed the street across our old yard downhill towards the river. The edge of the river was somewhat protected by short trees—we turned right and ran along the river towards the bridge.

As we approached the bridge we saw a policeman walking back and forth with a rifle or a strap behind his shoulders. We carefully went under the bridge trying desperately not to make any sudden noises such as crushing dry branches at the river’s edge. We passed under the bridge without incident.

About 70 to 100 yards past the bridge, while running along the river, we were passing a Jewish home whose family had to leave when the Ghetto was created. Suddenly a Polish woman ran out onto the porch and started screaming in an extremely loud voice “Policia- Szydzy ucikaja.” —“Police! Jews are escaping!” My mother recognized her as Mrs. Prokopovicz, a fairly close neighbor who lived with a husband in a small house that was part of the Ghetto.

My mother ran toward the porch up several steps and beseeched her “Mrs. Propokovicz- To yest Slawin” that we are the Slawins, your neighbors. She ignored my mother and kept yelling. My father then screamed “let’s run, follow me” – all of us took off with all our strengths, if we separated we’ll meet “Wu mir flegen sich Bodn” where we used to go bathing in the summer. We ran until we became exhausted, perhaps half a mile or more along the river. We heard no shots and nothing happened. If one believes in divine providence, it happened right here. Apparently the strong howling wind picked up Mrs. Prokopovicz’s voice and carried it away from the bridge. We, who were behind her, heard her screams for several minutes but the guard who was in front of her apparently heard nothing.

When we were sure that nobody was pursuing us we stopped and tried to decide what to do next. Then my mother remembered a Gentile family who were customers of the store and whose farm was about 2 km from Dunilowicze, not far from where we wound up.

Daylight was approaching and we were desperate to find a place to hide. Somehow mother found the farm and knocked at the door. The farmer opened the door and was very surprised to see her, but was also very scared. He knew that there was a strict law that anybody who helps Jews in any capacity will be summarily executed. He told us to go to the barn and should the Nazis find us he would claim that he didn’t know that we were there. He brought us a hot meal in the barn kept us for two days and then asked us to please leave because it is too close to town and he was afraid that we will be discovered.

Before the war when Dunilowicze was part of Poland, the authorities instituted a market day. On that day—I believe it was on Tuesdays—the surrounding farmers used to arrive in town and go to a designated field, unhitch their horses and wagons or sleighs, and sell their produce. They then would buy necessities and other items from the Jewish stores.

Because my mother grew up in a farmer’s village in Sloboda, my mother and grandparents knew a lot of farmers. They were not only old neighbors but also friends. These farmer friends, when they came to the market on Tuesdays, would first stop at my grandfather’s. They would open their torbes or satchels, unpack their food, and have lunch in my grandmother’s kitchen. I used to watch them eat and drink some vodka; some would rest up before going to the market.

My mother remembered one farmer who was more friendly than the others. He lived in a farm area called Zosina—not far from Sloboda where my grandparents lived. She remembered the name Anushkevitz. That area was on the other side of Dunilowitcze and much further into the woods, about 10-12 miles away. My mother thought about that area because it was deeper into dense woods and more isolated—police, or German soldiers would less likely enter that area and the farmers might be more receptive to helping us. She also thought about Anushkevitz the farmer but didn’t know where his farm was.

When the first farmer asked us to leave, we gathered our belongings and some food that the farmer gave us to have along the way and set out in the cold winter night. My father asked us to walk in one row, each one of us placing the shoes in one track. My father, who by now acquired a set of “Laptsies” walked the last one and covered our tracks in the snow with the “laptsies.” Laptsies are oversize footwear made out of woven rope. Because of their very large size the wearer would be able to put lots of rags around his feet and legs with the laptsies keeping those rags in place.

We made a 180° circle around Dunil passing first the second lake then across the fields owned by the “Graff” (Large Landowner before the war) to the outer edge of the lake near the Ghetto, a circle of over 5km. Just to reach to the other side of town before our trip to Sto Zosina area could begin. All night long the wolves were howling—the only other voice we heard was our feet meeting the frozen snow.

While we were walking our main concern was watching for moving shadows, men or wolves, but mostly men. We were walking very slowly. Dawn was again approaching and we realized that we could not reach the area of Zosine before daylight.

My mother then remembered another farmer by the name of Breskin in the area. We knocked at several farms asking for bread and at the same time inquiring discretely where certain farmers lived. One of the names one farmer mentioned among several others was Breskin. We quickly went there and knocked at his door. He recognized my mother and told us to go to his bath house. Many of the more prosperous farmers had detached bath houses where they would pour water on heated stones to create steam saunas to go there occasionally. He later brought us a hot meal and food for the day; then he handed us extra food and asked us to leave when darkness came. He was petrified that we might be discovered on his property.

Finally we arrived at the vicinity of Zosine—my mother recognized the area from her younger years. She was aiming for the Anushkevitz farm but she didn’t know where to find it. She used the same method as the night before. She knocked at the door of several farms and asked for some bread and then casually and discretely inquired about who lived on that farm or on the other side, etc. As soon as one mentioned Anushkevitz she decided to go there.

We knocked at the door and a lady in her fiftees answered the door. She introduced herself as Celine Anushkevitz and knew immediately who we were. She asked us to come in and bemoaned the fact that we were frozen stiff and hungry. She also expressed her deep sorrow about the fate of the Jews in Dunilowicze. She was Catholic and deeply religious. She immediately started to cook a hot meal for us—I distinctly remember eating the hot soup. I also remember noticing dark pieces floating on top of the soup. I immediately recognized them as pieces of fried bacon. They tasted odd to me for I never ate fried bacon before, so I tried to avoid them. I surmised later that in her eagerness to make something tasty for us she added the fried bacon, and I immediately liked her.

We asked her about Mr. Anushkevitz and she told us a tragic story. One night some time ago, her husband woke up in the middle of the night because he heard a noise in the yard. He looked out the window and saw an animal running in the yard the size of a calf. They had a young calf in the barn so he thought the calf must have gotten loose. He went to the door, opened it, and stuck out his hand and tried to lure the “calf” closer to him so he could catch her. Well, this so called “calf” happened to be a wolf, and the wolf bit his hand. I don’t know whether they knew about rabies or if there were no facilities to treat rabies in the area, but he just tried to nurse the wound. He wound up with rabies and died soon after.

So she was a widow. She also had two daughters who lived with her—Bolesia, about 16, a tall wiry slim girl, and an older daughter Wanda, about 18, who was not as tall and a little chubby with a pretty round face and blond hair. A son Yuzik who was about 22 was in and out of the house; he was medium height and athletic. Another son Vitus lived on a farm about 1 km away. He had 2 wives and a number of children.

After the meal and after we warmed up she asked us to go to the barn and stay there. During the day they brought us some food in the barn and talked to us. It seems that they were very poor and that they could barely make ends meet. Celine had a loom that made thread from flax or wool and the girls used to knit sweaters, gloves, socks, anything that came along and sell those to the farmers.

My parents were worried that soon she would ask us to leave like the other farmers.

Here I have to digress a little:

As I mentioned before, we had a general store before the war. One of our very important customers who did business with my parents was the Catholic Father in town. The Catholic Church was a prominent institution in town. Most gentiles from our town and the surrounding areas were members of the Church. In fact, the land just in front of the Church was used for the weekly count of the Jews. They also owned lots of active farmed land—the Father supervised a large group of workers in his compound.

Just as the Germans were entering town, even before they established order, my father requested of the Catholic Father that he send over a cart. He loaded up that cart with many of our possessions including a hand sewing machine, a very valuable item at that time, sacks of rice and flour that we secretly stashed away from the time before the Bolsheviks arrived.

Several years ago I was privileged to listen to a “Dvar Torah,” a discussion of a portion of the Torah, with a prominenet Rabbi Theodore Yerushalaim Jungreis, Rebbetzin Rebecca Esther Jungreis’ husband, of blessed memory. Abraham was taking his son Isaac to mount Moriah to be sacrificed to God as ordered by God. The Torah states “On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place “merochock” afar off.

The question arose why the word “merochock” afar off was used. Did they mean to tell us that Abraham had good eyesight? The answer is no. they meant to convey to us that one has to live his life always with “merochock” thinking far off into the future, and not just the present moment. As I look back I keep thinking that my father was that kind of person, always thinking ahead.

So we postulated that the Anushkevitzes were struggling to stay afloat and that they certainly could not feed another four people for a very long time aside from the fact that they were in mortal danger should we be discovered. Celina and her daughters were very brave. We explained to Celina and the two girls that perhaps we could help them, and us, to survive the winter. My father wrote a note to the Catholic Father identifying ourselves and explaining to him that four of us survived the liquidation. He then asked him to please give the lady bearing this note our sewing machine and as much grain that the sled could carry.

Wanda went to the Father, went to a private room and secretly handed him my father’s note. As she related later to us, when he read the note his face became white and he started hyperventilating. He then went to his warehouse supervisor and ordered him to put the sewing machine on the sled and to give her anything else that she wants.

After she came back with a lot of provisions, in order to hide us more effectively, they decided to dig a hole under the bedroom floor and cover the hole with the bedroom floor boards. They moved us from the barn to the house.

The farm was in the middle of a field. The door of the house was always locked. We stayed in the house above the hole in the bedroom and whenever people were approaching we would run quickly to the hole.

At the beginning of the stay in the house the Anushkevitzes decided my name should be changed. My parents called me “Srolik” diminutive for Israel, which was my real name. The mother Celina and the two daughters decided if they called me “Srolik” and some stranger overhard them it would immediately become clear that Jews are in the house. So they gave me a new name “Lyonka” a true Russian name. Everyone started calling me “Lyonka” which somehow turned into “Leo”. Since I didn’t want to lose my real name “Israel” it officially became “Leo Israel Slawin” or for short “Leo I. Slawin”.

Celina was a very fine and concerned person—she was deeply religious and very sad. Her face reflected the burden of their poverty and the risk of hiding Jews.

The girls, Wanda and Boloris, on the other hand used to go to parties on weekends and became very mischievous—engaging us frequently in restling? maches?

They also helped cook our food, wash our clothing, and stood guard at the window at night so that we could go outside for fresh air.

Vitus, their eldest son and the one with two wives and a number of children, was an alcoholic and in addition he was a blabber-mouth. He never lacked for a word and his mouth never stopped moving, so it was decided early not to tell him anything.

Yuzik, the 22 yr old son, was more stable when sober but on occasion he would get drunk on the weekend. He was married and lived 30 km away and was a frequent visitor. He knew about us. He was a very friendly guy and he had a horse and visited with us frequently. A few times during the winter he got stone drunk on weekends. We were petrified that he would blurt out about our secret place to strangers, but he never did.

Vladzia was an older sister. She was married and lived away. Once she insisted on coming to stay with the family over the weekend. That weekend we stayed hidden under the floor the entire time. Wanda and Bolesia tried to lure her out of the house so we could leave the hole and refresh ourselves. They finally did go to visit a neighbor and we got some relief.

The above happened in the winter of 1942-1943. It was the gloomiest time for us. The German army was deep into Russia—almost on the outskirts of Moscow, the Russian capital. They reached Leningrad to the North and the River Volga, deep into Russia to the South. The population in Poland expected Russia to fall at any moment.

Europe was occupied by the Nazis—England was expected to fall any minute as well. The German U-boats were sinking the English ships and everyone expected the Nazis to be victorious.

Early on the farmers were not unhappy about the German occupation. They despised the Bolsheviks, since they worried the Bolsheviks would confiscate their land and make “Kolknozes” meaning a collective farm, the holding belief being that all property should be held in common.

Some farmers were not too unhappy about the elimination of the “rich” Jews and it was not beyond those people to inform the German authorities about hidden Jews. Besides, for every Jew that was handed over to the Gestapo, a reward of 16 puds of salt was given to the farmer (1 pud = 16kg). Salt was an essential item to the farmers because there was no refrigeration during the summer.

In fact, in the spring of 1943, we found out that two Jews—husband and wife, Chaike Garber and Yechiel Garber, two of a group of four from Dunilowicze who knocked on a farmers door and were grabbed by several gentiles to be handed over to the Nazis for a reward. When the other two of the group, Liebke Zendel and Moishke Zepeleviz, managed to run away before getting caught the Gentiles had second thoughts and let the couple go. So it was extremely important that nobody should know about our hiding place.

Inside the house all of us spent the time working. One always kept an eye on the outside, watching for anybody approaching the house. The others were knitting- mother, my sister, Basia, the two Anishkevtiz sisters were always knitting. I also learned how to knit the simpler patterns. They were getting wool yarn and making sweaters, gloves, hats, scarfs, and socks, payments were in barter exchanges of chickens, other meats, butter, eggs, and other essentials produced by farmers.

Two problems were developing as the winter wore on. One was the fact that too many items were being produced. Some farmers were getting suspicious about that much knitting being done by the two Anushkevitz sisters and their mother.

The other problem, more serious, was flour. The grain that Wanda brought from the Catholic father had to be converted to flour before it could be baked into bread. The flour mills were usually housed on private farms where a top stone had to be turned by people. It was not mechanized and it was a labor intensive, tedious procedure. Aside from the fact that Wanda and Bolesia found it difficult to make the flour, the frequency of their visits were creating rumors that they were hiding Jews.

We tried to reduce our consumption of bread even though that bread was our main food and sustenance. They bought potatoes and other vegetables to subsidize our food intake. Nevertheless Celina and the girls were getting nervous and were hinting that we should really leave.

Around the end of February or the beginning of March 1943 an event occurred that changed the world. A farmer found a leaflet in Russian in the woods in the snow. In the leaflet the Russian high command informed everyone that a German army of 285,000 soldiers and their mechanized equipment under the leadership of the German Field Marshal Paulus surrendered to the Russians in the Battle of Stalingrad. The leaflet stated that it was the biggest defeat of a German army in the entire war. The leaflet further stated that now the Germans will never succeed and they will be defeated.

It urged the Russian population in the occupied areas to obtain weapons and organize a resistance. It urged the people to ambush the delivery of supplies to Germans on the Russian front.

It is noteworthy to mention that when the German army attacked Russia in the summer of 1941 the Russian army was not eager to fight. The Russian population, at least the majority of them, welcomed the German “liberators” from the brutal Stalin dictatorship.

Things, however, didn’t turn out this way. After occupying large areas of Russia, Hitler issued an order to eliminate the intelligentia, the educated class. They allowed several million Russian prisoners to die of frost, infections, and starvation. (p953) They also moved young able bodied Russians forcefully to Germany for slave labor. The suffering of the Russian people was more severe than under Stalin.

The entire Russian population soon mobilized for war with the Germans—by the time of the Battle of Stalingrad came about a year after the initial attacks, they were producing 1200 heavy tanks, T34 a mouth (p917) and throwing them into battle. The German officers were shocked and surprised at the heavy resistance they faced by a new aggressive Russian army.

Right after that the attitude of the population began to change. A resistance movement- partisans- began to form. Collaborators were getting scared.

By April of 1943 the rumors that Jews are hiding in the Anushkevitz farm was very strong so we decided to leave. By then the snow had begun to melt and we moved into the nearby woods. We constructed a hut in the deepest part of the woods about 3 km from the Anushkevitz farm. We placed vertical posts into the ground, created a floor, about 2 feet from the earth, and a roof. The hut had many branches attached to the walls to camoflauge.

We had a small fire going nearby and sat around it to keep warm. At night we used to go begging for food, but now we were less afraid of the farmers turning us in.

Soon after we moved into the woods we came across the four Jewish neighbors who escaped from the Ghetto, about whom I mentioned before, Yechiel and Chaike Garber, a married couple, and another one Leibke Gendel, a man in his fifties, and his daughter Dishke, and another neighbor of ours Moishke Cepelevitz. Yechiel and Chake was the couple that was briefly kidnapped and let go after Moishke Cepelevitz and Leibke Gendel managed to escape.

Leibke Gendel originally escaped the slaughters of the Dunil. Jews with his daughter Dishke, a fourteen year old girl. We knew these people well from the Ghetto. As Leibke Gendel told us that soon after Nov. 22, 1942 after their escape Dishke, the daughter, developed frost bite on the toes of one foot. It was getting worse so he took her to Glemboke, a shtetl 33 km from Dunilovizce and about 40 km from where they were. Glemboke still had a Ghetoo. They were not yet liquidated. A farmer drove her to Glemboke and she walked into the Ghetto with the workers. She checked into the Jewish hospital in the Ghetto and they were able to cure her frostbite.

When Leibke her father got word that she was cured, he secretly hired Yuzik, Wanda’s older brother, who in a horse and sled to Glemboke, and picked up Dishke and brought her to her father. Yuzik received Leibkes fur coat as payment. One has to admit that the Anushkevitz family were brave people.

The fourth person Moishke Cepelevitz had a tragic story to tell us. When we headed for the hole and left our grandparents in the yard to meet their fate, we didn’t know what happened. Moishke filled us in as to what happened to the Jews of the Ghetto.

There was a big empty barn in the middle of the Ghetto. It belonged to a Gentile who moved out to another part of town. As Moishke told us, the SS people with semi automatic rifles together with the collaborating Polish Police systematically hearded all the Jews into that barn.

Moishke Cepelevitz, his wife, and four young children were forced into the barn with most of the Jews from the Ghetto. An SS trooper with a semi automatic rifle stood on a small hill nearby. The door of the barn would open and several Jews were forced to run to the center of a small field where they were shot one at a time. In order to avoid seeing his 6 year old son David and his other children shot, Mr. Cepelevitz had run out of the barn early and as he ran a bullet caught his ear and his face was covered with blood. He ran and fell onto the pile of corpses and the SS trooper left him for dead. As night fell, he shook off the bodies above him and he fled across the frozen lake.

As the weather got warmer more and more partisans with rifles were showing up in the area. We heard that about 50 miles away to the Northeast inside Belarus great numbers of partisans were organizing and were setting ambushes on the highway attacking German supply columns and blowing up trains. Towards the end of the summer of 1943 there was a rumor that a German Division was organizing an encirclement of the woods to catch and destroy the pesky partisans.

By that time we discovered several more Jews who had escaped from the Ghetto. One of them was Itze Chone Goldman, a man around 50 years old. When Itze Chone heard that the Ghetto was surrounded on Nov 20, 1941 he and his 7 year old son Simon started running across the lake. He was being pursued by the Polish police shooting at them. Here Itze Chone clamped down and couldn’t continue with the story. Bit by bit it came out later. The boy was wounded on the lake. Either the little boy died in his arms or he managed to bring him to a bath house on the other side of the like and he died inside the bath house.

Before the war Itze Chone was a wood merchant. He would buy a few wooded acres, cut down the heavier trees and sell the wood to the lumber mill in town. He knew the country side around town intimately. He was a leader of a group of 10 survivors of the Ghetto. One of the people was an attractive woman in her thirties by the name of Breine. She was one of our school teachers before the war. Breine and Itze Chone both survived and became husband and wife.

By fall of 1943 the farmers were talking about the Germans massive troops to comb through the forests. Itze Chone suggested that we move closer to Dunilowicze where he knew a good hiding place rather than move deeper into the woods.

By that time we were a group of 15-20 people. We moved at night as he suggested. About 3 km from Dunilowicze we came upon a deep ravine. We dug a tunnel starting from the slope, enough room for 20 people. A farmer nearby by the name of Yesterowitz helped us get food and water. This farmer also hid a family of four from the group.

We took supplies to the tunnel covered the entrance with branches and stayed there for a week or so. The Germans never came to our area. When Mr. Yesterowicz came and told us that the Germans had left the area we came out of the tunnel.

We did not hear of anyone getting killed by the Germans in the immediate vicinity.

The winter of 1943 was approaching and we decided to split into smaller groups. So about 10 of us, the four in my family, the Gerber couple, Leibke and his daughter Dishke, Moishke Cepelowitz, and a few other formed our group. We went back to the original area around Zosina.

One cold afternoon we were sitting around a fire not far from the edge of the woods trying to keep warm. Our minds were occupied thinking about how we were going to survive that winter.

All of a sudden a man appeared around 55-60 years old, gray hair, a little on the stocky side, and with a red face. First he did not say anything, he just went over to the place where we kept our water, took some pots and filled them with the water, and started dousing out the flames. We ask him what’s going on and he said, as he was dousing the flames, “Winter is coming. You are not staying here, you are coming with me.” After he extinguished the fire, we gathered our bundles and followed him.

His name was Ivan Krivenky. He lived on a farm about 1 km from where we were sitting. He took us to his farmhouse where we met his wife Katia, a lady resembling my booby BG but a little younger. The farm consisted of two apartments.
They had a young son Peter, around twenty, who had recently joined the partisans; he was a strong happy good looking friendly man.

When we got to his farm he pushed us into his house. They occupied the right side of the house. It consisted of one large room. When you entered there was a large stove immediately on the left. Opposite the stove was a table where they did the cooking and the eating. The rest was a bedroom, living room combination, there were no walls in the room, just a few beds. That was the room he pushed the 10 people into. Some of us including myself slept on the stove; it was the warmest place. The rest slept on the floor. The people who lived on the left side of the house, a couple, were upset and not happy at all.

The situation about Jews was much safer than in 1942. Partisans armed with rifles, some automatic guns, grenades on their belts were frequently coming in and out of the house. Some used to sleep there also on the floor and rest up. They used to bring butter and meat and other staples.

The Krivenkies owned two horses, a cow, and they raised chickens and pigs. I used to help feeding the pigs. All of us in the house tried to help. Some worked the fields as needed, others especially the ladies were busy in the house.

Ivan was a great man with a golden heart. He used to tell me stories about the Russian Tsar in past years and constantly bemoaned the terrible fate that befell the Jews. He also put me on the smaller horse and let me ride it without a saddle.

If Ivan was a fine person, his wife Katia was even more so. She worked very hard to make sure that everyone was warm and had enough to eat. Once I developed a toothache that wouldn’t go away. She told me to get on the stove and put my cheek to the warm bricks and keep it there. I suffered for several days, my cheek got swollen, and then the pain began to subside.

Katia and Ivan also had two married daughters, Vera and ? They each had several small children. They lived 30 km away. I don’t remember ever seeing them but Katia was always talking about them.

The partisans had radios and they informed us what is happening on the front lines. Spring of 1944 brought satisfactory news. The German army was busy on the Western front defending the “motherland.” The United States entered the war against Japan and Germany soon after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. With help from the United States, England was able to thwart the German invasion of its territory. The United states also provided crucial support in neutralizing the deadly German attacks by their U-boats on their supply lines.The German cities and its industrial capacity were being decimated by massive bombing attacks.

The Russian army on the Eastern front was getting stronger and bolder. The Land Lease program initiated by the United States helped to resupply the Russians with needed materials and essential goods and transportation trucks.

When the German army attacked Russia in June of 1941, the Russian army had 270,000 motor vehicles, trucks and other vehicles to provide supplies and ammunition for the front troops. 60% of those vehicles were lost in the first two weeks of the war. In addition, the German luftwafe? were eliminating the remaining trucks as they were approaching the front. The Russian front was in imminent danger of collapse. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill were alarmed.

The Land-Lease Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in March of 1941, originally providing war materials to Britain and continued to provide essential help to the USSR.

Roosevelt ordered the entire US industry to go on total war production—tanks, planes, trucks, ammunition, new ships all for the war effort. Also, the President instituted a Lend-Lease Program in 1941 to send to the allies whatever they needed and as quickly as possible. They began sending Sherman Tanks, Heavy Studebaker trucks, jeeps, ammunition, and food. The supply ships were landing in the Southern European ports not occupied by the Germans, the trucks unloaded and moved by land across Iran to unoccupied Russia for a distance of 2000 km.

The manuals of how to operate those vehicles and tanks were printed in Russian. 6000 vehicles per month were needed but the US were sending 10,000 or more per month. The Americans filled the inside compartments of the tanks with chocolate, vodka, and cigarettes with notes in Russian that we are with you all the way to victory. This was a great booster for the Russian morale.

After the battle of Stalingrad in the early part of 1943 where over 300,000 German troops were eliminated, Hitler prepared a new offensive- a tank offensive. he assembled all the tanks he could muster- Tiger tanks and Power tanks- as he was determined to break through once and for all and eliminate the Russian resistance. This battle became known as the Battle of Kursk. 300 American Sherman Tanks from the Lend Lease program participated in that battle.

Marshal Lukov, the Russian commander, mentioned in his memoirs that the Russian Rockets, also known as the fearsome Ketushes, were mounted on the American Studebaker heavy trucks, trucks that were so powerful that they did not get stuck in the mud, trucks that were given to Russia in the Lend Lease program. Incidentally the Battle of Kursk also became known as the graveyard of the German tanks. A total of 450,000 vehicles were sent to Russia in the Land Lease Program.

The Germans on the Eastern front were continuously losing men and armor. There was a rumor that the Russian army will soon liberate us. The partisans were busy blowing up railroad tracks at an unprecedented level.

I personally was secretly worried what would happen when the front lines would be passing us on the way back to Germany. Many of us were walking around, somewhat excited and expecting that soon we will see the collapse of Germany and the Nazis.

On June 20, 1044, the Russian army on the Eastern front attacked suddenly with such fercity that the entire German front collapsed. Within 2 weeks they marched through the territory of Western Russia, through Eastern Poland, where we were located, and also crossed the 1939 Polish border deep into Poland. We got word that our shtetl was liberated somewhere around the end of June 1944.

The front that we all dreaded never materialized. There was a rumor that several German stragglers appeared in the woods, tired and demoralized, but I don’t know what happened to them.

We started dancing and jumping for joy, kissing everyone, hugging our Russian saviors, saying goodbye and starting walking towards Dunilowicze. When we entered Dunilowicze the gentiles were looking at us, dazed as though we came from another planet. I don’t recall anyone running up to us or hugging us.

About 37 of us survived out of 888. My sister Basie, my parents and I were one of three families, and four of the 37 survivors.

The Ghetto in Dunilowicze was by and large gone. Most houses were burned to the ground. Many other Jewish homes were burned. Our new house that my grandparents built was gone. We were told that the house was dismantled and moved to Germany. The frame of our old house was still standing but the adjacent store was gone. It was liveable. Most Jews who came back found empty Jewish houses and moved in. We moved into a house on the other side of the river.

The Russian authorities quickly came to town. There was a Russian prosecutor, mindful of the fact that Stalin was still dictator, and Communism was still in charge of our lives, we shortened our celebrations and started thinking of how to survive. My father got a job in the post office. My sister and I went to school, and I sorted mail after school. My mother joined a singing choir under the direction of a survivor Avrom Gurwicz. The choir became very popular and eventually took first place in a competition in Minsk.

We were not happy in Dunilowicze after the war. The overall population was not friendly toward the Jews. It was hard to make ends meet.

Once a man came to my father, a survivor from the Ghetto. I didn’t know him. He asked my father to go with him and help dig out some watches from a hidden place. They went there quietly and dug under a “pripetsik” oven. Eventually they dug out two large glass jars filled with watches. The man gave my father a watch and left. My dad also went to the priest to thank him for the grain and sewing machine that he gave to Wanda.

We were apprehensive while living under a communist dictatorship. Criticizing anything and anybody remotely related to the government authority was severely punished. The “NKVD” secret Russian Police was very active and life was strained.

Then we found out that there was a law that allowed all inhabitants that resided in the former Polish territories to leave and move to the new Polish territory. A new Polish state was created in one of the conferences between Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin prior to the collapse of Germany. It was agreed then that Russia will take the Eastern half of Poland while Poland will be compensated by getting a slice of Eastern Germany.

As former Polish citizens we decided to take advantage of the new law. We packed our meager belongings and took a train to Poland. We wound up in the city of Lodz.

Lodz was a large modern city before the war with a vibrant and large Jewish population. Very few Jews survived.

When we arrived in Lodz we became known as “D.P.’s” or displaced persons. Many survivors from Russia, the Baltic states, Southern Europe, and Eastern Poland wound up in Lodz. Many Jewish charity charity organizations from the US were helping the refugees. Also “UNRA” the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation organization helped the survivors.

We were assigned a small apartment in Lodz, Ulica Pilsutskego #8. The apartment house housed many other refugees like us.

A man came out to greet us and my father recognized him immediately as Reuven Moishe Lewitan from “Porplesht” a village near Doksyctce where my dad was raised. He had lost his wife and a teenage son and now he had a new wife Esther and a beautiful infant little girl Asne later known as Arlene. Reuven Moishe was a very strong man; he grabbed our packages and ran up the stairs with them to our assigned apartment.

We helped each other while in Lodz and later we met again in the US in Brooklyn. They had two beautiful daughters in the states in Brooklyn, NY. We have remained close friends up to this date. The parents- Reuven Moishe and Esther are now gone but the daughters all married and are all raising beautiful families. Here is another family who cheated Hitler.

In the meantime in the fall and winter of 1944-45 the Russian occupation authorities were dismantling the German factories. They used any means available to take those factory parts back to Russia, one of those means available were large barges along a canal between Berlin and a previous large German city Stettin. That city was now part of Poland and they renamed it “Sczeczin.” The barges used to take factory parts from Berlin and unload the parts in “Sczeczin” to be taken further to Russia. The barges were empty on the way back to Berlin. The German pilots of those barges were not getting much pay for their work so several Jewish organizations supplemented their pay with American products from case packages—staples like sugar, Crisco fat, dried fruit, and most importantly “Amerikanish Cigaretten” or American cigarettes.

From Lodz we took the train to Sczeczin and after waiting a few days an empty barge became available. We then went to the barge at night and headed to Berlin on the canal. We passed many ships going in the opposite direction loaded with German factory parts.

We arrived in Berlin in the American Zone, jumped out from the barge on a quiet afternoon, took the “U-ban” transit train to Schlachtenzee, a gathering point for all the remnant DPs.

Schlachtenzee was a large DP camp filled with survivors from the Holocaust. They came from all corners of Europe. There were thousands of people. There were many Jewish organizations. These were groups from Betar, Lickud, Shomer Hazair, Mizrachi, Aguda, Dror, most of these groups were getting ready to leave for Israel. There were other groups, smaller groups, who had relatives in the United States or South America.

We registered with the American Authorities to start the process of going to the US. My father’s first cousins left Poland for “America” before the war started. They wound up in Brooklyn, NY. One of them was Sam Rosof who became very rich. They say he built a section of the NY subway system. My father wrote a letter to another cousin Ike Rosof of 181 Jeffrey Street in Brooklyn asking him to send us papers.

In those days of 1945-46 in order to be allowed to come to the US, two requirements had to be met: 1) A certificate that a job would be available for the head of the family after arrival and 2) the adults have to pass an interview with the CIC (Counter Intelligence Corps) that meant that one could not belong to a subversive organizations such as communism that seek to overthrow the American government. We received a certificate from cousin Ike immediately. As far as the CiC- you had to wait your turn until they investigated you or until they are ready to call you for the interview.

Shalchtenzee in Berlin was a resettlement camp. We had to make room for new arrivals so they transferred us on military trucks to the American Occupation zone in Bavaria, to a town called Bad-Reichenhall. Bad Reichenhall was in the Bavarian Alps about 30 km from Bechtensgarden, Hitler’s residence. Bad Reichenhall contained army barracks so we wound up with several thousand survivors in a a place called a DP camp. There were many such campls across Bavaria, most of the residents waiting to be re-settled but some choosing to stay in Germany.

We were assigned a one room apartment, the bathrooms and showers were in the hallway, common for the entire floor. There was no work to earn a living. We received some rations from the UNRA such as powdered milk, chocolate, bread, and other staples.

My father, having experience with merchandise, started a small business. He started buying up left over items from the rations such as chocolate, powdered milk, cigarettes, and sold them back to customers from the camp.

My mother used to walk to town and sell many items to the general German population. The biggest items in demand were American cigarettes, powdered milk, and chocolate. These were barter payments for shoes, clothing, and other household necessities.

In the summer she would walk out to the countryside and buy seasonal produce from the farmers depending on the season such as strawberries, cherries, and later in the summer and fall apples, peaches, etc. put them in small paper bags and sell them to customers from the camp. After a few months we had a nice business going.

Soon after we settled in our apartment we were told by the Yudeurat that a couple, husband and wife, had to move into our room and that our room could accommodate another couple. We were afraid of the husband, since he mentioned in one conversation that he killed a man in an argument. We then suggested that we will put up a partition and divide the room in half even though we were 4 people and they were two. That’s what we did.

Our primary reason for staying in the DP camp was waiting for clearance from the CIC to go to the United States.

My sister and I soon joined aclass to learn English in preparation for our moving to the United States. There were no other subject taught in the camp. I did not want to apply to a German school. I did not feel comfortable to sit next to the Hitler Youths who tried to eliminate me.

I wanted to do something with my future. I heard that there was a vocational school in Munich run by an organization called ORT, a Jewish trade organization. So I went to Munich about 130 km by rail and joined many young people like me, survivors. They were teaching only trades, so I chose dental machanics. I understand now that it was a mistake. It was not run on a high level, very rudimentary instructions.

I also spent a lot of time in the library where I was introduced to the New York Times. Every paper I ever read had a phrase “According to the NY Times” or “The NY Times reports” etc. I was very anxious to read directly from the source so I could decide for myself what is or not true.

In general in Munich I made many friends, friends that I never had since 1941. Some of these friends wound up in New York and so we kept our friendship for many years. Some of those friends passed on but several of those are still close to me, like Carl Rosenblath, Al and Meona? Pilchick and several others (Kubsh) Tzatsik, (Ed. note: not sure what the end of this sentence is)

While we were in Bad Reichenhall a fine gentleman was instroduced to my sister—they fell in love and my sister got married in Bad Richenhall in 1949. The gentleman Isaac Jesin and his mother were survivors. His mother passed away while they were in Germany.

When my sister got married she was no longer eligible to come to the United States with us. She was taken out of the line to be interviewed. She would have to file new papers with her new husband and move to the end of the line.

They eventually moved to Paris where they had a baby boy whom they named Paul in 1950. They decided to apply for Canada instead of waiting on line for the US.

Our time finally came. We passed the CIC interview and the three of us were cleared to go to the United States. We were moved to Bremer Hatten, a port city on the North Sea and placed on an empty troop carrier called the General Holbrook. We were about 1000 people.

Every able bodied person had to become useful on the ship. They asked for volunteers who have a knowledge of English. When I raised my hand they assigned me to the officer’s kitchen. I was buttering bread and making myself useful in the kitchen. The officers were treated like royalty- white tablecloths, silverware settings, waiter service, etc.

Many people on the boat developed sea sickness but I and my parents managed to cross the ocean unaffected.

For some reason we landed in Boston and had to take a train to New York City. We wound up on a pier on the Hudson river—we were celebrities—we were interviewed by various correspondents about our experience. A cousin and her husband came to pick us up in an Oldsmobile, not the one Ike Rosoll who signed for us, and took us to an apartment on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, NY. That apartment belonged to another cousin who went to Memphis to visit her daughter for a week.

My first night in the states I was up all night and was very apprehensive. First, the sirens were wailing on Ocean Parkway and I thought dreadful things were happening. Second, I was thinking are we going to get a place to live, etc.

In the morning a slim neat looking teenager, a few years younger than I, a son of a coursin Eli Hochman came and took us a few blocks away on East 4 Street for breakfast. We had a scrumptious breakfast and we were introduced to more cousins. His blond younger sister Elaine, a young lady around 14 years old, their mother, a cousin Mary and her husband Jack.

After breakfast my cousin Eli took me to the barber and they gave me a short haircut so I would look “more American.”

HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Association, helped us get our own apartment on West 7 Street in Brooklyn and paid our rent until my father got a job. As it turned out I got a job first—I was hired as a shipping clerk for a drug company in a section of Brooklyn called East New York. Soon my father got a job as a sexton? and “Bael Korah” (Torah reader) for a synagogue called Bnai Isaac on Ave O in Brooklyn. With tips from the congregants he was making $40 a week.

While going back and forth to my job as a shipping clerk I observed high school kids going to school in the morning. I used to get very sad and upset thinking that I would wind up being a shipping clerk all my life. So I went to my father and told him that I wanted to quit my job and go to regular school. My dad said if you want to go to school, you can quit your job and we will support you.

So I quit my job and went to the office of Lafayette High School to try to register. I missed several years of school and I was older than the average high school freshman so they gave me credit for my rudimentary English and I promised to catch up by taking courses in two summer sessions.

I managed to do well and based on my high school average I was admitted to CCNY, formerly the College of the City of New York. I was admitted to the class of ’55 but by taking double summer sessions I graduated in August of 1954.

I planned to apply to Dental School so I joined the Cedaucet Society—pre professional society.

My fellow students at City College were friendly and helpful to me. They coached me on how to increase the chances of being admitted to dental school and get good references. I joined the Carnation Sale Committee and became president of that charity drive in my junior year. One professor in biology chose my dissection for display to future classes, so I received a good recommendation from him. That plus a B+ average got me into Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery.

Dental School was first somewhat challenging. I received a P- in my first test in Histology in my freshman year. Pharmacology in my second year was also a challenge; however, the professor of pharmacology allowed me and another immigrant student a few extra minutes to finish the test. After that I enjoyed my dental school experience especially the clinical part of dentistry.

In the last two years of dental school we practiced in the clinic on real patients. I enjoyed it a lot and had lots of fun with my patients. One particular incident comes to mind: I had constructed a full upper and lower denture in the clinic on an edentulous patient. I was very careful to do everything right. When my patient came back for his appointment a week after I delivered the dentures and I asked him how he feels. He was very excited, for the first time in months, he related to me that he was able to chew on a steak and the teeth felt wonderful. As it was customary I called over my provessor/supervisor to check out the dentures. He took the dentures from my patient and started examining them carefully. Dr. Miller, the professor, called me over and started explaining to me why these dentures are not good. he pointed out that a certain tooth should have been placed 1 mm to the left and another tooth should have be rotated 1 mm to the right. My patient was watching what was happening and panicked, thinking that the professor would require that I remake the dentures. He then leaned over, grabbed the dentures out of Prof. Miller’s hands, jumped out of the chair and headed for the door and in the process he yelled “Fuck the millimeters! I want my teeth.”

In the meantime, my sister, who got married and had a baby before our interview with the CIC, was stranded in Europe. So they decided to try for Canada. In order to enter Canada, no interview was required but they needed an affidavit that a job was available for her husband. So my mom went to Toronto and found two distant relatives in Toronto who came from Dokshyce where my father was born and raised- the Weinsteins, Robert and Lilly. They signed the affidavits and my sister, pregnant with another baby, her husband, and their 1 year old boy Paul wound up in Toronto.

While I was in dental school, I met a beautiful young lady from Toronto, a daughter of Robert and Lily Weinstein, the same couple who signed a job for my sister. As she told me, she like me for two reasons: 1) On our first date I took her out to Casa Loma—dancing, instead of a movie and 2) She liked my hands—I had slender long fingers instead of thick shorter ones—go figure.

I had my own secret reasons why I liked her so I found myself so I found myself commuting on weekends from Columbia University on 180th st. Manhattan to Toronto. I did that even though I was reluctant to go from Brooklyn, where I lived, to the Bronx for a date. We got married in Toronto in 1958 and my wife is still trying to change me.

After a year of residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in the city I opened a general dental practice in Brooklyn in 1959. I enjoyed my practice of dentistry. Most of my patients brought a smile to me when they came—only very few brought a smile to me when they left. I retired from the practice of dentistry in October 2009.

Ever since we came to the United States, my mother, who retained knowledge of the Russian language both oral and in writing, tried to get in contact with our Russian rescuers. After Stalin died and the Russian dictatorship loosened up my mother was able to contact our rescuers.

Yuzik, Celina’s son needed a heart operation and asked for money; my mom sent it to him. We found out that Celina? had died and Wanda was married with children and lived in Minsk. Her sister Bolesia developed diabetes—was single and lived in Minsk. We all sent them money on a regular basis.

We also requested Yad Vashem in Israel to recognize Wanda and Bolesia as righteous Christians- they did and send them monthly checks.

The Krivenkies, Kafia and Ivan have passed on.

The New York organization Jewish Federation for the Righteous under the direction of Mr. Stanley Stahl have been sending Wanda and Bolesia monthly checks.

In 1962, at the age of 58, my dad had two severe heart attacks. He was never sick before that. He survived both attacks and lived for another 22 years. He died in 1988. A year before he died he was taken to the emergency room at Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach with another severe heart attack. I flew in from New York to Miami Beach and went straight to the hospital to se him. He was under oxygen but still was able to talk.

We had a quiet conversation where he took my hand and whispered that I should not worry about what will happen to him. The main thing was that we cheated Hitler and I should just think of the beautiful family he is leaving behind. That is satisfaction enough for him. He died of complications from a stroke a year later.

All these years until 1999 I was not able to share my grief with anybody. My experiences about my Holocaust years were locked inside me. Whenever I came in contact—visually, in movies—my anxiety and palpitation? was overwhelmed and I would walk out of the theatre.

Then in 1999 I was contacted by Ms. Stanley Stahl of the Jewish Federation for the Righteous. She asked me to write a brief description of how I survived the Holocaust and precisely how Celina Anushkevitz and her daughters helped rescue us. They were considering honoring Wanda at the Waldorf Astoria in 1999 for their fundraiser event.

At first I was reluctant to cooperate with them. Just the thought of putting it on paper and verbalizing our experiences was creating severe anxiety in me.

Mr. Stahl explained to me that the survivors are getting on in years and many of them are moving on and it is important that we let the younger generations know what happened to us before it is too late. They should know so they could tell their children and grandchildren. She also explained that there are certain donors who are willing to help these poor gentiles with substantial amounts of money.

Gradually I started to put my experiences on paper and sent the essay to Ms. Stahl. She called me back to tell that it is on. They sent a video crew to Minsk and recorded Wanda in the woods where we spent our time in 1942-1944. They also sent a crew to Toronto where my sister, my mother, and children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, and 1 great great grandchild lived. Together with my family constituted more than 55 people.

The organization brought Wanda and her daughter Anna Marinka to New York. I met her with a basket of flowers with my wife and daughter Brenda for the first time since 1944. Wanda and her daughter Marinka stayed with us for another week, met my family and left for her home with many presents and a considerable amount of money.

My mom was able to attend the fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria for Wanda, albeit in a wheelchair with limited hearing and limited eyesight. She went back to Toronto but she was losing ground. She stayed at my sister’s house with an aid while my family and me visited frequently. She eventually lost her eyesight due to glaucoma, became bedridden, but never complained. She passed away peacefully in (date) just a month short of 100 years.

As I look back at the past I feel peaceful that first and foremost, as my parents expressed, that I “cheated Hitler.” I have a wonderful family, my beautiful wife Gloria, my daughter Corine, her husband Jerry and children Robert and Natalie, my son Kevin and wife Jordana, and their three children Jeremy, named after my father, Eden and Bailey, and my daughter Brenda Greiff, her husband Lance and their three children Sarah, Jordan, and Emily. Together with my sister’s large family in Toronto we count over 55 people (Ed. note: count exact number)

I feel at peace with the fact that the Nazi’s Third Reich was finally defeated and that the perpetrators of such evil have their just end. However, that pain inside that I have for those millions that perished at the hands of the cruel Nazis will stay with me forever.