Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Leon Salomon - June 18, 1990

Partisan Activities

What kinds of activities did you participate in?

I joined this otriad, and this otriad was mainly we had people parachutes, parachute people, from Moscow sent to us. Not just to us, but to many Russian organized groups or otriads, you know, or brigades. And they were instructed, they taught us how to dynamite railroads and the best lesson was to dynamite trees, so we use to dynamite trees, which is works the same way, dynamite the train.

So you were using dynamite?


You were 15 years old now?

At that time I was maybe 16 already, 16 going on 17.

This was all new to you.

Yeah, it was all new, yes.

What was running through your mind during this whole experience now, this was a foreign experience I would think to you, had you ever held a gun before that?

Let me put it this way, it's a foreign experience, but it was a very, shall I say, a happy experience. It finally gave you the tools that you, and the play, that you can fight them back, somehow. It was, let's say, most of those people who were with me, almost 99 percent had lost ones, had seen all the atrocities, I hadn't been the only one. And we use to sit at night many times, make a bonfire, and sing and even dancing the Hora, we made life to be normal as it can be. You cannot be a fighter and grieve over it all the time. In order to have your mind intact, in order to have your morale, you have to have some kind of entertainment, whatever may be the case. We never talked about those atrocities. We only talked how to stick it to them. How can we take revenge on these particular guys. This was our main aim. And so we used to sit and sing and live a normal, as normal as it can be. At night we use to make a bonfire and the reason we use to do that at night, at this particular time, all the woods, all the small farms, all the small villages, actually were under the partisan control. We were a rag-tag, it's true, but we were in the thousands already. Not just, I'm talking Jews, Jews were small percentage of it by that time, but Russian Partisans, White Russian Partisans, in particular when the war was going the other way around, naturally everybody, even those people we had one time escapees from the Russian, they had, it's called Radionawczy. You heard of Vlasov, I'm sure of that. You heard about Vlasov, Russian general, right, in our area we had Radionawczy, which was also a Russian Brigade who wore German uniforms and who were fighting the Russian Partisans and others. And one day it was in the early '43, or middle of '43 rather, as we were in the woods one day, one of their leaders turned over the whole Brigade and they came over on our side and this was called Radionawczy. And so, we were in a position, kind of we could engage with them, not open combat, but ambush combat and even small combats we could engage with them, because we used to get a lot of parachutes from Russia and many of them we took away from the Germans and it was already not just Markos Brigade there, but there were many other brigades around. So, at that time, the partisans were quite strong.

Did you make any friends in there?

In the partisans?

Yeah, in the partisans.

Oh yeah, yeah. Although I cannot remember names, but yes. In fact I have some friends who live here in New York and so on.

Did anyone that you became acquainted with get killed or taken prisoner?

No, nobody was taken prisoner, because the penalty to pay being a prisoner is dead, not just plain dead, but torturous death, so there is hardly, hardly any incidents where a partisan was taken prisoner alive. I know of one particular fact, before I joined the partisans, when I was in this town Costantinova, this was in the winter time, when the Germans had, how do you call it, there were surrounding woods, and one of them they caught was a Russian parachutist, a woman. Her trigger, her hands froze, and they took her alive. And of course, we know only one thing, they took her to the Gestapo in Vilna. From then on, we don't know what happened. We know that it's plain, simple, death, not only a simple death, but a torturous death. So, I would say no such thing. Either, you always save one bullet for yourself or a grenade to kill yourself. There's no such thing to be taken alive.

Is there any armed encounter that you recall above some of the others?

Open armed encounter?

Or even ambush.

No, but I do know of, not particularly us, this was before that I joined the underground, I know of an encounter and I know those people in the families are alive because of this particular encounter, which is worth telling. Like I said before, Mjadel was 20 kilometers from our town, Kobylnik. And many of those people who were trades people, were still taken alive to this particular town, after this town Kobylnik was liquidated, they still took some who were tradesmen or so on to this particular town. And they still had some people left there, a few hundred people left from Mjadel itself, Jewish people. Most of them were trades people. This happened in the early 1942, in the wintertime. A big group of partisans, something like 400 to 500, surrounded this particular town and it was a German garrison, strong German garrison. And one of them, a Jewish guy, and I don't remember the name, but I do know the people who still alive because of them. And I know their names, it's Suriske, and a whole family survived because of them. Not just one family, many, the whole town survived. This particular Jewish guy, while the bing bang was going on strong, and of course the partisans those days didn't have that much ammunitions to fight with, but they made a big hooray, a big tumult, a big noise, so the noise sounded like it's in the thousands of them. And so, with this hooray, with this noises, this guy went into the ghetto, he was knocking in the windows, and he told them in Yiddish, "Yiddin radalvesna." He says, "Jew, Jews, save yourself." And so the whole town was saved because of this particular guy. And, of course, because of this onslaught, but he is the guy who walked into that town and he saved these townspeople. I don't know the name, but I could find out.

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