Project «Voices of Jewish settlements. Vitebsk region.»
פיתוח קשרי התרבות בין העמים של ישראל ובלרוס
Extract from the book by V. Tamarkin «IT WASN’T A DREAM»
“Naturally I had a wish to visit the places, which I described in the book, after the war. I wanted to visit Krasninsky region to make sure I have not invented anything or that it was not a dream. But all this actually happened. My memory retains a lot.
The ghetto… I had heard that word even before the war, when old Jews had been talking about “the Pale”. The word sounded unpleasant, scathing and humiliating.
What happened this time is impossible to describe. Together with all other Jews we were in the ghetto and had to wear yellow Magen David on our clothes. Talking to non-Jews was not allowed and execution was the penalty. We were deprived of all our property and human rights. Anyone could kill a Jew. The humiliated and abused people were dying of beatings, torture, excessive toil, starvation and illnesses. In other words, they were being exterminated. Non-Jews had been warned they would be also shot for hiding Jews. On the other hand, if they reported a Jew, they would get a pack of cigarettes or tobacco. They were also paid a piece of soap, a piece of margarine…
In the autumn more new people appeared in the ghetto: those, who had escaped executions in Krasnoye, Dubrovno, Gusino and other places. After listening to different stories people realized that all the Nazis followed a single plan. No one could understand, however, the reason why Jews were being exterminated. Meanwhile, the Nazi policemen were introducing their new rules…
Once, just as I entered my house, policemen broke in and started pushing everyone outside.
A couple of teenagers were crawling in the middle of the road, which was covered with a thin layer of snow. They were made to crawl without using their arms and legs. If someone moved their limbs, policemen hit them. They found it entertaining…
Then we saw a long, endless column of Jews of all ages, who, despite being constantly hit, were walking slowly and seemed calm.
Thousands of Jews were taken to a hollow to the north-west of Liady. A cold northern wind was blowing. Water was champing under their feet. In the afternoon a carriage from Liady came to the hollow accompanied by armed Nazis. On the carriage we saw men and women who, as the Nazis supposed, had been with the Red Army. Everyone had a plate hanging on their chests with inscription “the partisan”. They were taken to the grave, which had been dug by those teenagers, who had been made to crawl. Then an order of the German command was read out. It stated that those young people had been sentenced to death for the damage they had caused to the Germans. Then the execution began. One German officer used all of his shooting cartridges on Izia Yukhvich. He was shooting while Izik spit blood into his face. Then the officer pushed him into the grave with his boot.
After the execution everyone was taken to the old Jewish cemetery. A table, chairs, two benches and birch-rods had been previously prepared. With wild yells the Nazis separated men, women and children. Women and men were separated into two columns and then flogged with the birch rods. The beaten victims were thrown into a barn. The Germans declared they would let them go if all the Jews gathered a certain amount of jewelry by the following morning. Then they took 29 men and shot behind the new Jewish cemetery.
People, shocked by what they had seen, collected all their jewelry, everything that could be of any value for the Nazis. As soon as the jewelry was submitted to the Judenrat the Germans let everyone out of the barn. That was the end of the first mass campaign in Liady.
It was March. Big snowflakes were slowly falling and, even though the weather was benign, there still were no signs of spring: huge snowdrifts were still lying everywhere. Suddenly I saw columns of people, like a motley stream, flowing out into the streets…
Felling something bad was going to happen, I rushed home. I grabbed Gdalka and Yashenka and ran through the old Jewish cemetery towards Bruyevka but bumped into policemen. They made us return.
It was already dark when we, like herring in a barrel, were pushed into what once used to be a school and locked the door. At first I decided they were planning to set the building on fire but we did not feel anything. People were standing so close to each other that it was impossible to fall. We heard women and children crying and shouting from the hall and classrooms. We had never experienced such horror.
After a while the number of people began decreasing: people could even lie down – there was typhus epidemic in the ghetto and people were dying in large numbers. Soon my brothers were down with it, too…”
The main character of the book was rescued owing to his father but he remained unconscious for a long time…
“When I regained consciousness I remembered my brothers and started crying:
- What’s wrong, son? – asked my father, holding a piece of bread and a bottle of milk in his hands.
- Gdalka and Yashenka are starving there! Do you understand, dad? Starving! – I couldn’t stop crying.
Father could hardly restrain himself from crying:
- You know, Yashenka and Gdalka are gone: on the first day of Easter, on April 2nd, the fascists forced everyone out of the school. The sick were shot near a tank ditch.
It seemed that my heart stopped beating: I imagined for a moment how they were throwing my sweet brothers into a tank ditch… And other bodies falling onto them… Adults killing children because they are Jews!...
From several thousands Jews in Liady only five teenage prisoners were saved by a miracle: Frida Zalmanovna Velikovskaya (Kogan) now lives in Israel with her husband, children and grandchildren. Dora Borisovna Malkina (Kotliar) died in Moscow in 1996; Ilya Samuilovich Fratkin, died in Friazino, Moscow region; Ara Dly lives in St. Petersburg; and I – Vyacheslav Lvovich Tamarkin.”