Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Manya Auster Feldman - August 11, 1998

Partisan Operations


They were strictly doing roads and railways. So they've always worked around them. By these rails um, were bonfires that they had lit, the Germans while they work. It was in the winter, it was--no, it was--yeah, it was around April, May. It was still cold outside. So they had fires going. And uh, and they had barracks there where they slept near the railway. When we came there, I and the, and the and the guide were assigned to one point. They'll go and they'll put the dynamite and they'll start running. And this will be our gathering point. And from there we'll run back. Okay. So um, we came. And they're--all the, the, the partisans that were all my friends, they had their dynamite and they started, they started working on them. But their matches got wet because it was so foggy, they couldn't use--they couldn't light. So they started grabbing the hot coals. In the meantime there was a commotion and the Germans heard that there's--something was going on. So we ran out shooting. When they started shooting, the guide said to me, "Oh, I'm not staying here. I'm going to get killed. I'm running." I said, "But we have a, we have our order. We have to stay here. This will be our gathering point." He said, "No." And so I ran after him, luckily, because when I was started running, a German was chasing me and I saw the bullets crossing--I saw the fire crossing. I saw the fire crossing. He was and he was yelling "Halt!" He was very near me. And I came to a ditch. And there was a tree. And I, I crossed the ditch. I ran. And when they came to the ditch, they stopped. Well, we're all, all the, the partisans came back. They were--we had one casualty, one was killed. But they did a lot of damage. They did dynamite the railway. For two kilometers they dynamited the railway. So that this Jewish Otriad got already a good reputation, that the Jews are also fighters. Otherwise they laughed at Jews, because Jews, Jews cannot--don't know how to fight. But that was already May. Around June, July, they um, the, the officers on top came to a conclusion that it's not a healthy thing to, to um, keep a uh, group of Jews. We have to disperse them. Because there was a case of one guy, his wife became--unfortunately, she became pregnant in the forest. So he wanted to get a little bit nourishment from our Jewish group. So he went to a farmer and asked for some honey. Somebody from the Vlasovists spotted him and, and they turned in his name to the um, higher echelon and they, they killed him. They shot him. They took him out and he was like a, a this was the time when Stalin already gave an order not to touch the, the local population. They were assisting the partisans and nobody should uh, do uh, should rob them. So they, they--he was also served as an example. By that time we decide--they decided to disperse us and they dispersed us in different gentile groups. Some of the old people and the, the children and women they left behind. And we stayed--we were, we were assigned into a different uh, mixed group, Jewish guys and gentiles. And um, we were doing our work the same like in the, in the other partisans. I was, I was assigned to wash their clothes and the cl...how do you wash clothes that is like um, um, what do you call the sacks are made of--I forgot that, that, that uh, material um, burlap. Burlap. When you wash burlap, it becomes like a piece of uh, tin, you know, it's, it's terribly--it gets hard. They had an awful lot of lice, so they had--you had to cook that burlap in big pots of water. And there were no soap. So we were using ashes from fires that softened the water. So I had to--I was using this, I was using my hands to, to, to drag out the clothes or...and I had wounds all over. I had like holes in my hands and it was burning. That was one sack. Then, then, then they considered me to be a very excellent worker and they promoted me to work in the kitchen, to cook the food for them. So I had to get up four o'clock in the morning and cook their soup. And our group was about uh, I would say about eighty people and we lived like this, doing all kinds of damage to the German fronts and uh, uh, all kind of uh, uh, explosive uh, jobs. And we stayed until in April of nineteen...no, not in April, in July of 1944, we were liberated. The, the, the Germans were already pushed back. The, the, the Russians were chasing them back into Germany. We were liberated in Pinsk.

In Pinsk, near the swamps?

Near--yeah, near--it was a big city. And I was assigned to work for the NKVD, the security, the Russian security. I worked there--oh, that was another episode in my life that I didn't have any food. They paid us, but there was nothing. They couldn't buy anything. I was really hungry. I was, I was, day and night. I had to work there until one o'clock at night in a building where it was a um, uh, where nuns are, are uh, what do you call--where nuns are um, monastery, monastery. All of a sudden I'm lacking words. A monastery. And it was built from cement. And they--there was no heat. Sitting until one o'clock at night in, in temperature below zero, being hungry. There was another holocaust. You know, it was, it was, it was terrible. It was very hard.

B...before we talk about the liberation, let me ask you to go back for a second.


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