...I was born in Dokshits into a family of five children and after I was eleven years old, my father died and our mother remained without any means of support.
I was sent to Vilna to my mother's sister to be with them and I went to school there a few years. When I was thirteen, I started learning a trade in order to support myself and also to help my family. One of my uncles had a bakery and I decided to go there and learn the trade and that's how I started earning a living and also sending it to my family.
In 1930 my oldest sister traveled to Israel, then Palestine, and after four years the whole family – my mother, two sisters and a brother traveled to Israel, and I was left alone because I was not allowed to leave because I was being recruited for the army. In 1948 my brother Arye, may he rest in peace, fell in the defense of Jerusalem in Latrun.
In 1939 when the Germans attacked Europe,…the Lithuanians and Russians mounted a pogrom. I then decided to escape to the village of Ilya where my father's sister , Shyna Koplovitz, was, and there I stayed until June 1941 when the Germans entered Ilya and then started the trouble.
In our village were more than 1,000 Jews, several synagogues, Hebrew schools, private teachers of Cheders [traditional school for young children], Hebrew and Yiddish libraries, all sorts of parties, Zionist groups from Betar [right wing] to Shomer Hatzair [left wing]. There were skilled workers and all sorts of stores. The parents of my friend, with whom I escaped to the forest, had a flour mill.
They put us in the ghetto. Every day we had to present ourselves, like slaves, at the market at 6 a.m. and our services were chosen for all sorts of hard labor. We only received 300 grams of food for the day. Aside from that they would order us to bring tons of shoes, warm clothing, gold. If we didn't provide it by evening, the Germans took people and shot them.
One day the Gestapo came and gave us the order to leave the houses and report to the market place – men, women and children. I started running and by chance entered the bakery. There was a Russian POW who hid me in a hideout in the attic. The Jews were taken to the outskirts of town, where open ditches were prepared. They told everyone to undress and stood about ten men and women at a time, and machine gunned them all.
After the terrible slaughter I went out of the hideout and met Shraaga Dagani. He now lives in Israle… He too had escaped from the slaughter. We didn't know what to do, and decided to escape to the forest. We were roaming around without food, afraid to go to the farmers to ask for provisions. But we had no choice, so we started going to the property of farmers outside the village. In the village the dogs would start barking, and then they knew that there were Jews and would alert the Germans. The farmers would give us a piece of bread and a bottle of milk that would last us for a few days. We hid in a deep ditch in the woods and they couldn't find us.
That was how we were wandering for five months until deep into autumn. We realized that winter was coming and we were without a roof over our heads and without proper clothes. It was at that point that we met Safonov, a Russian lieutenant, who was captured by the Germans, but escaped from there and became active in the partisans. We too wanted to join the partisans because the winter of 1942 was coming and it was 40 degrees beyond zero. He was like an angel from heaven. He brought us warm clothes and sometimes bread. After a certain time he helped us to be accepted to the partisan unit. In the forest were several groups of Jews, who had fled from the massacres and were hiding in different places. He helped them too. These Jews could not approach the farmers themselves, because many of the farmers were collaborating with the Germans or were likely to kill the Jews themselves. He also organized the Jews to manufacture leather for shoes from the skin of slaughtered cows. And he took an old Jewish woman on the pretext that she was going to cook for him, and so saved her life. Safonov was also the angel for the Jews to whom he would bring potatoes, bread, and sometimes a piece of meat. He helped them clandestinely so that they would not die of hunger and of the frost. He also helped other Jews get accepted by the partisans in addition to us, because among the Russians there was no shortage of antisemites who didn’t want to accept the Jews into the partisans. They used to say that the Jews were cowardly and lazy, and that they only wished to hide behind the Christians' shoulders, and not fight.
After the war Safonov made a fence around the ditches where lay 600 Jews, and he forbade the Christians to have their horses and cows graze there. This year he also built a memorial with a Star of David….