Home Shtetl Life Holocaust Landsmanshaftn History Photos Videos
Maps Trips Surnames Researchers Links Guest Book Contact

Berel (Dov) Wasersztejn Holocaust Testimony

Translation from Yiddish of the Original Testimony

Preface:  Berel was born in Radzilow in 1917, survived the Holocaust, and died in 1990 in Frankfurt, Germany.

 

Voyev. Historical Commission [The seal says Warsaw]
Bialystok

The Development of the Partisan Organization in the Bialystok Ghetto
Told by Berel Wasersztejn at age 30, born in Radzilowa, lived in the Bialystok ghetto
Recorded by E. Shtayman.
Bialystok, June 5, 1945


After the pogrom of Feb 5, 1943, that is after the first action in the Bialystok ghetto, there occurred the first split in the resistance organization which had already existed in Bialystok in small strictly secret groups from the month of December 1941, and which had as their task the organization and training of the youth in the battle against Nazism.

Berel Wasersztejn, 1933 and 1970's

       

The aforementioned pogrom showed the majority of the youth how the existing resistance organization is impractical and worthless, because every battle that the Jews will take on in the ghetto will end with fiasco [disaster].

Therefore, they faced the critical necessity to come up with an effective fight against the enemy, that is, organize partisan groups that will go into the forests and plan their battle from there.

The first organizers of the new faction were Wasersztejn, Berel and Gershuni, Shlomo.

Wasersztejn, while already a part of the resistance organization, had already come to the decision to go to the forest, and had also planned it with the secret support of two participants of the committee of the organization -- Yodita and Yuzhik. At that time three groups went out, a total of 15 men, that were in the forest from the 10th of the 1st [month, January] till the 25th of the 1st [month, January] in the year 1943. Because of the hard winter and their poor preparation for the conditions, they were forced to return to the ghetto. Wasersztejn, however, remained convinced that the partisan way is the only course for the Jewish battle-ready youth.

Shortly thereafter, there occurred the pogrom of February 5. Shlomo Gershuni was one of those who also came to the conclusion about the necessity of a partisan-movement in the ghetto. To the organization work was also drawn T. Yodita who, as mentioned, gave financial and moral support to the first pioneers in the forest. Also because of the activity behind the scenes of her co-workers in the committee of the resistance organization, years of the work was reduced.

In the month of March 1943, the first meetings of the faction were held. The first meeting took place at 40 Jurowiecka in the house of T. Yodita. It was decided to re-organize the groups of the new faction, and get right to the plan to go out into the forest. And at the same time to conduct a broad explanation [exploration] effort in all the circles [groups]. A linkage was developed with the Soviet representatives in Bialystok.

Berel's return trip to Radzilow
in the 1980's, standing next
to the Memorial to the
Holocaust victims

One of the Bialystok partisans (later living in France) and his wife, both of whom went with Berel on the trip

       

Right away a radio program was arranged which made it possible to get oriented in the political and practical situation, and communications were developed for the groups. The commander/leader of the news messages was Meyer Mutchnik, who knew several languages and was especially outstanding in the precision and the feasibility of the entrusted messages.

Also drawn into the organizational work were Myata Kubarevski and Fanya Mitch, who were especially excellent at every realm of the work.

Through friend Kubarevski, a link was forged as military instructor with friend Dr. Shimon Datner, the former teacher of M. Kubarevski. This Dr. Datner, about whom we will write later, played one of the most important roles in the future development of the partisan organization in Bialystok, actively working together in all fields with his wife, Ruzheh, his 19-year-old daughter Mika, and the young 13- to 14-year-old little daughter, Leela.

In the first few weeks of its existence, the organization managed to get some arms, partially brought into the ghetto by their own comrades, partially obtained from a private group that had also talked about going out to the forest and who joined the newly founded organization. All in all, the organization at that time had 12 guns and 2 revolvers.

To carry out all the transactions at the entrance and the gate, such as bringing in arms, leading people out, and so on, the organization drew in to its work the already known machers [big shots] under the pseudonyms "the giant and the barefoot one." These two played a meaningful role in the life of the organization.

The committee of the new organization decided that friend Wasersztejn together with 8 comrades would be the first to go to the forest, and there to prepare the spot for the rest of the comrades. They made all the necessary preparations. At the beginning of April they left the ghetto. Because of poor orientation, instead of arriving at their intended direction in the woods, they landed up near Suprasl by Wasilkow. Here they were forced to stop because it was almost daylight. For a whole day they remained on a German place under the indirect shelling from the Germans who were practicing. The Germans were even a few times 30 miles from the hiding group. But thanks to their good condition [position] they were not discovered. On the second night, the whole group arrived in Suprasl.

In the course of 5-6 days, they located an appropriate neighborhood [section] in the woods near Lupawi, located water sources, which is one of the main problems in the woods, and became acquainted with the area, and then sent out their liaison friend Kurtzgar Baranzshitzka [the original spells it both Kurtzgar and Kurtzgarn and they are left that way accordingly throughout the text] back to the ghetto to bring the second group into the forest. Friend Kurtzgar, from Radzilow, was known as an energetic and eager woman, and she had an Aryan appearance which was so suitable for the assignment. But it turned out differently. Four hours after leaving friend Kurtzgar, about 9:00 am, the group was working on arranging the camp for the new group and suddenly there was heard the sound of an oncoming wagon. The wagon stopped and the voice of friend Kurtzgar called out Berel! (Wasersztejn). It immediately became clear to the group that friend Kurtzgarn was detained by the Gestapo and she takes them to show the location of the group. Realizing their situation, the comrades managed to run away [escape] even in the face of the shouts "Stop!" and the shooting by the Germans. Two remained lying in the nearby bushes and saw for themselves friend Kurtzgarn and the Germans who searched for the hiding place.

The group decided to turn back to the ghetto and to go out to the woods after the people would be better organized, trained and armed. On the way back to Bialystok, they were again shot at by the village Ogrodniczki, but there were no victims.

After the return of the group to the ghetto, there began a strengthened work in the organization and it took on the form of a true partisan movement. At the head of the work stood the above-mentioned friend Dr. Datner - Syata. As mentioned, Dr. Datner began his work in the organization as military instructor, preparing the comrades for going out to the forest. Towards that end, lectures took place at 7 Belamtatshabska [correct Polish spelling unknown] at which Dr. Datner taught the comrades how to handle arms. Besides the military schooling, Dr. Datner gave the comrades the comprehensive partisan training. In a short period of time, the private living quarter [apartment] of Dr. Datner was converted into a partisan headquarters -- here took place the meetings of the committee, from here the orders and decrees of the organization went out, here was the arsenal of arms and equipment of the comrades. But not only the apartment of friend Datner was entirely in service of the organization. Not only friend Datner gave himself entirely to the movement. In carrying out all the historically important responsibilities, his wife Rosa participated actively, his daughters Mika and Leela -- his wife as a qualified nurse brought many uses to the organization. About her dedication and willingness in this work, there is as witness the case of a go-between, his nationality was Russian, who was wounded on his way going on a mission from the forest to the city. As soon as the wounded man arrived in the ghetto, friend Datner took him to her home, gave him assistance, and helped him until he was fully recovered. Everyone is aware how much danger this kind of attention had for the entire family. Friend Datner behaved like a revolutionary and fulfilled her duty till the end. (The go-between is still alive today, his name is Mishka Bunglazik). Also, both daughters of Dr. Datner participated actively in the work. The little 13- to 14-year-old Leela even as a child understood the importance of her father's work. She was outstanding in terms of her extraordinary talent and ability. All the important meetings took place in her presence, she knew in detail everything that was going on and what was planned, and nobody in the world could get a word out of her -- sometimes she was more discreet than the adult comrades. The little Leela frequently carried out the task of a contact person in the ghetto with the greatest boldness, cold bloodedness and responsibility of an adult.

In the month of May 1943, it was decided that a group of 15 men would leave the ghetto and go to the forest under the leadership of Dr. Datner. On the evening of May 24th, around 10:00 o'clock, all those who were armed with rifles and equipment left the house of Dr. Datner and went to the ghetto fence. In the front went a group of three persons with the well-known leader, the "giant." Behind them was the entire group and in front was friend Datner. The group went out through the fence on Jurowiecka Street and in a little while when they were not so visible, the group went on. When the group passed Smolnad Street, a vehicle with lights on suddenly drove through, and the whole group had to throw themselves on the ground so they shouldn't be noticed. When they got up, the group went on in the opposite direction. Comrade Datner decided that it made no sense to go on and he went back into the ghetto together with his people. Then he noticed that three friends were missing -- they got lost in the dark. Friend Datner decided to go out again by himself through the fence to look for them. During that time the German watch had left but friend Datner had been noticed. Analyzing the situation, friend Datner drew out his big Belgian pistol and shot at the Germans a whole magazine of shots. Right away, you could hear calls "help, help" -- one person was badly wounded. (Later he died of the wounds). At the same time, the three comrades who had remained on the other side of the fence also started shooting. From all sides, Germans came running to help the patrol and friend Datner had to pull back. With one leap, friend Datner was on the other side of the fence -- that means inside the ghetto -- and started on his way to his home. Here waited for them the Secretary of the organization, Yodita, and all of them together effaced all tracks [traces] of a search. For the sake of security, Dr. Datner and friend Wasersztejn slept over at 19 Bialostoczanska Street at the house of a friend from the organization, Myanek Broker. They stayed there till the afternoon. On the second day there was a lot of unrest in the ghetto because the Gestapo leader (well-known murderer) Freedel wanted to investigate what happened but he got no results. The remaining friends from behind the fence during the course of the day also came back into the ghetto, having buried their arms outside the ghetto.

Some days later on June 3rd, the same 15 men went out in three groups of 5 each and arrived safely at the agreed-upon place in the Suprasl woods, where the partisans of the Bialystoker ghetto originated.

In the ghetto, the organizational work continued beyond the partisans. Bombs and mines were made in the ghetto environment or purchased from the Germans of the 10th division of the Polish Military. At the end of June in the process of making mines, three comrades died, among them Syama Kubarevski and Mashka Goldberg and a red-headed student from the communications people between the ghetto, city, and forest. New groups were organized, trained, and led out into the forest. The work in the ghetto was led by friend Kurtzgarn, Yudita, Kubarevsky, Fanye Mitch, Meyer Mutchnik. In the course of three months, another three groups went out to the forest, a total of 15 men.

Shortly before the liquidation of the ghetto, at the end of the month of June 1943, there occurred a joining together of the previous resistance organization, the new faction of the partisans, and all the other Zionist and other organizations. The coordination took place in the ghetto and in the forest.

In the course of this time, all the rest of the existing ghetto organizations came to the conclusion about the necessity of going out into the woods as partisans.

Unfortunately, no positive results of this coming together came about.

In the year '43, the 15th of July, there began the actual full liquidation of the Bialystoker ghetto. A small portion of the remaining friends of the partisan movement was not successful in escaping the ghetto. Some of them heroically fell taking part in the self-protection uprising in the ghetto. With the liquidation of the ghetto, the chapter of the organizational work of the partisan movement in the ghetto came to an end.

Witness       (signed name)____________
Recorder    (signed name)___________
Chairman of the historical commission     (signed name)___________

                (SEAL)
                (Jewish Historical Commission)
                Warsaw

Additional Material:
The Radzilow mill was owned by the Finkielsztejn/Wasersztejn family
The Story of the Photo Below:
-  Dov's son did not have a photo of his father from before WWII. Surely that was because Dov had fled Radzilow, and because of the circumstances of his survival in Bialystok.
- Saul Sosnowski from Argentina first found my Szczuczyn web page in the year 2003, the town his father came from, and gave me the information about his ancestors. His grandmother's maiden name led me back to Wizna, and I was able to connect him to the Gostkowski family tree of Amnon Even-Kesef as a result. Saul's Szczuczyn photos were scanned and many were added to that web page.
- Six years later Saul is going through more of his mother's papers and finds two additional photos, both taken in Radzilow. All the previous photos were Szczuczyn ones. He sends it to his Gostkowski relative in Israel asking if the lady next to Avraham is his mother Rywka, thinking this is possibly a Gostkowski photo, and knowing Amnon's mother was indeed named Rywka. After all, the photo is dedicated "To Rywka for eternal memory, Dov Wasersztejn" in Hebrew. But it is not that Rywka. Saul doesn't recognize anyone besides his own father in the photo.
- The photo is dated "Radzilow, June 5, 1933"
- Could this just happen to be the same Dov Wasersztejn of this story? How many different Dov Wasersztejn's could there be in Radzilow? The year on it also fits perfectly, since Dov would've been 19 in 1933. I send the photo to Dov's son, who confirms his father is the man in the second row. The two other brothers also seem to be in the photo, bearing striking resemblances to photos taken of them later on in Israel (see below).
- It would appear that Avraham Sosnowski and Dov Wasersztejn were friends. How this photo got to Avraham, no one knows. Who Rywka is, no one knows that either. Avraham's connection to Radzilow? None that we know of, other than he surely had friends and distant relatives, given the geographic proximity between the towns. A majority of Radzilow families had branches and connections in Szczuczyn. Who was in the other Radzilow photo he found? That is not known either.

Radzilow, 1933

Berel's father

Joszko Wasersztejn
Died before WWII,
Radzilow

Berel's mother

Chana
(nee Finkielsztejn) Wasersztejn
Died before WWII,
Radzilow

Berel's brother

[Most likely Chaim Yitzhak] Wasersztejn
Went to Israel,
Before WWII

Berel's brother

Sholem Wasersztejn
Went to Israel,
Before WWII


Document Copyright   

Editor's notes or definitions are entered in [brackets].
(Parentheses) in the translation appear here as they appeared in the original text.
Translated from Yiddish by: Rebecca Patt. Edited by: Jose Gutstein.
Translation Copyright 2020 by Jose Gutstein.

My thanks and appreciation to Dr. Eleanora Bergman at the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw, Poland,
for granting me permission to use the original document.

   Return to Holocaust Section; Return to Radzilovers, Part 2