Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Leon Salomon - June 18, 1990

Joining the Russians


I mean the blockade, it's called blockade, rather, was over. The Germans, you know, they couldn't stay forever in the woods and so on, and we started again. So, when I came back, I, the Jewish Otriad which I belonged was dissolved. I joined a Russian Otriad and by the name Kutuzov, Kutuzov was a German general if you know in the Napoleonic's times. If you recall history, he was part in the success of getting Napoleon out.

That's when, for you the war ended when you were ....?

When the war ended I belonged to this otriad, Kutuzov, a Russian Otriad. There was only two Jewish people belonged there and there was another guy.

Where were you when the war came to a halt?

When the war came to an end? When the war came to an end, we were about 10 kilometers from this town Mjadel, this was a garrison. We had orders to stop the retreat of any Germans from any garrison. We had also orders to dismantle all railroads so they couldn't retreat. So, we surrounded this particular town for almost a week and a half and they did not want to surrender to us, they wanted to surrender to the Red Army, because they knew the fate what's happening to surrendering to the partisans. But after awhile, that town did surrender to us and we took a lot of prisoners, not just Germans, but also local police people who were there. A day or two later the Russian Army came in with the tanks and so on and so on.

And then what did you do? Did you join the Russian Army?

Yeah, after that, after that no, after that our main thing is where to prevent retreating troops to retreat, German troops. In other words, the ball game got now in reverse. Many of the German troops who were caught in between, they didn't have enough time to retreat, they were surrounded, they were going to the woods. And in order, they took the shortcuts through the woods to be reunited with their troops. And so we had open conflict and many of our boys died during that particular period of time. Because we were so sure of ourselves, and secondly, you fighting a war also in the woods and so for two months our job was mainly to clean up the woods from the Germans. After that, I volunteered to the army, I was taken to the army, I volunteered, and I served in the army for, till I was wounded.

Tell me about that.

I was in the third White Russian front. We came to Vilna first as a partisan and from Vilna they send us to Kovno. When I came to Kovno, I was, I had an incident there which I somehow got into the Strafbataillon and this was where I was guarding a warehouse of food and one of the guys says Loyna, that was my Russian name which is Leon, if you're staying at night, we'll have a good time. You know a good time that meant we gonna have a little drink, we're gonna eat and that's that. I said fine, that sounds good. So I was on the first part to guard, so I changed myself for another guy for the last one, oh no, for the second one. And then he came in and I says, "Who's coming?" and he says me, "Be quiet," and before I realized what I'm doing he had the key into the warehouse and he took out a whole bunch of American conserves, you know, cans, you know, can goods. And he took this out, he broke a couple cases, but in the morning they started interviewing what happened, you know, and I was called in and I says first I play dumb, but then the last guy was supposed to take the whole burden on it, because he was a guy about 55 years old, and he was completely innocent, and I am the guilty guy.

This was the third watch?

Yeah, because the third watch is the most responsible for everything because you know each time when the guy comes, the next one, you show him the door is closed, everything else is okay, so you're responsible. So, when they started hammering him so much, I said, I'll tell you what I'll do, give me a half an hour's time, I'll bring you all those things, everything is going to be quiet. He says, "Go ahead." So, I actually confessed the whole thing and I went to this guy and I told him about it, he says, "Durack," which means dummy you, "why did you do that?" And he went away. So they took it for granted that I know where he ran away, that he is a deserter. So after they found him after a while, and we both got for that one month of Strafbataillon, it's either I could have gotten three years of jail, heavy jail, sent to Russia, or one month on the front, which is on a special unit which had a special subject, like bringing a live German and so on, that is called Strafbataillon. So, I found myself in the battalion for a whole month. Luckily I didn't get wounded there and I served my time. But the only way you can get out of there is two things, either you get wounded or you get killed. I got out, I happened to be a month and I was alive and then the third offensive started, this was in East Prussia, the third White Russian front, the general who was in charge of that was Chernyakhovsky, General Chernyakhovsky, as you know he was Jewish and he was ??? twice hero of the Soviet Union. And I was wounded in East Prussia about 30 kilometers from Koenigsberg.

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