Moritz Peltz (Pelc in the Polish spelling) was born in 1919 in the village of Wierzbica, Lublin voivodship. In September 1939, when World War II began, he was in Warsaw, where he was taking his examinations to finish high school. Moritz returned to his family, and, after serious arguments about what members of the family should do, he, his brother Fishl, and his cousin Yosl fled to the Soviet zone of occupation of Poland. He settled in the village of Verba, about 16 kilometers southwest of Dubno, in Volhynia, now part of Soviet Ukraine. With the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, Verba was occupied by the German army.
In the fall of 1941 a ghetto was established in Verba. In March of 1942, a day before the Nazi murder operation in the ghetto, Peltz fled to the forests. He spent the period from March 1942 to April 1944 in the forest, part of the time in a shelter with some other refugees, part of the time with Soviet partisans, and the last part, after his partisan unit was routed by the Germans, hidden by Czech colonist farmers living in Volhynia.
After the latter area was taken over by the Red Army in April 1944, Peltz returned to Verba. The next day he went to a Soviet conscription office (voienkomat) and asked to be drafted into the Red Army because he wanted to continue fighting against the Nazis. The official at the voienkomat was amazed: "Until now, not one of the locals have volunteered for the Red Army,'' 1 He sent Peltz, as a very special case, to the chief of staff of the Red Army unit that was in Verba. The commander proposed that, instead of going to the front, Peltz serve on his staff. Peltz agreed, and within a short time, was appointed head of the voienkomat – not an easy assignment since the local Ukrainians were reluctant to serve with the Red Army, preferring to join the rabidly nationalist Ukrainian Insurrectionary Army (the so-called Bandera army), that fought against the Soviet regime.
In a short time, the local Soviet command declared that the Bandera army was the main problem in the area, and made Moritz responsible for the formation of special units to fight local Bandera gangs. The commanders' main argument was that, as a former partisan, Peltz knew the area and, therefore, would be able to take an active part in the suppression of anti-Soviet partisans there. The plan that Moritz proposed to suppress the Banderovites was accepted and, in 1945, he was awarded a medal for his contribution to this effort.
In the summer of 1945, after the end of the fighting in Europe, Peltz declared his desire to "repatriate" to Poland. The commander of the staff was shocked, noting that Peltz's intended act was a crime not only against the Soviet Union, but also against Peltz himself - because Poland was an antisemitic country. However, he did not arrest Peltz, as the would-be emigrant feared, but dismissed him from army service.
Peltz did repatriate to Poland, but then used that country as a transit point on his way to the Land of Israel. In May 1948 he arrived in Israel, where he then took part in the Israeli War of Independence.
All of his family perished during the war: his parents and three of his siblings – in Poland, and his brother Fishl – in the Soviet Union.
Mordecai Peltz died in Jerusalem in 2013.
- 1. Mordekhai Pelz, Shover shtika: Masa hisardut, Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2009, p. 78.