Escape from the Minsk Ghetto to Zorin's Family Camp in the Forest

"A boy called Lania and myself asked to go on a mission to the ghetto in order to bring people out of there [… ] Lania decided to go with a group of people at night and I, with a different group by day. In September 1943, we walked from the ghetto to the forest […] I had some 12 people with me. We walked via the factory where the laborers went, in order to escape from there. Suddenly, at the factory they started seizing people and loading them onto trucks (afterwards, we discovered that they had all been murdered). Those who managed to crawl under the fenced survived. Thus, another 7-8 people joined me."

"Outside the factory grounds, people tried to get away singly. We only walked together when we were outside the city […] While Lania and I were in Minsk, Zorin's unit moved back to the Naliboki Forest […] I decided to wait for them in Gaishche […] 50-55 Jews who had managed to escape from the ghetto gathered together in a storeroom in Gaishche […] On 14 September, I brought the people there myself. We encamped in the village of Antonov, and in the morning, we met up with Zorin."

These were Yekaterina Perchonok-Kessler's recollections about her mission to get Jews out of the Minsk ghetto and lead them to Shalom Zorin's family camp in the Naliboki Forests.

Following the mass murder of the Jews of Minsk on 7 November 1941, Shalom Zorin, born in Minsk, escaped from the ghetto to the adjacent Kvidnov Forest.  There, Zorin joined a partisan unit under the command of his Belorussian friend, Genzenko Semion, and together, they established a Jewish partisan unit made up of escapees from the Minsk ghetto.  As well as fighters, Zorin welcomed individuals and families seeking refuge in the forest.  Contact with the ghetto was maintained via 11-15 year old boys and girls, who also led large groups of ghetto escapees to the forests.

Hinda Tasman-Nachmachik was 14 years old when she escaped from the Minsk ghetto and joined Zorin's group.  She went on four missions to bring Jews from the ghetto to the forest, together with her friend Ida Zuckerman.  Recalling the first time, she relates:

"We entered Minsk with a line of people returning from work […] Zorin had given us a list of whom to take from the ghetto […] On the list were a male doctor, Dr. Zovitzker, a female doctor, Dr. Korzinovka, and 20 youths […] I went to find the people on my list and found them […] I told them to wait for me not far from the ghetto, and to follow me […] Every five minutes, someone else left […]  We were more than 30 people […] Zorin sat on a large stone waiting for me in Staroe Selo, and we arrived."

In late 1943, Zorin's unit, which was then in the Naliboki Forest, numbered some 800 Jews, including 150 children.  Most of them survived.

Yekaterina Perchonok née Kessler was born in Minsk in 1928.  She was confined in the Minsk ghetto together with her father, Yitzhak Kessler, her stepmother Liba and her older sister Riva.  In April 1942, her father and stepmother were murdered in the ghetto.  Her sister Riva was murdered in an Aktion in July.  After the Aktion, Yekaterina escaped from the ghetto, and reached Zorin's group. 

In 1959, Hinda Tasman immigrated to Israel.  Shalom Zorin immigrated to Israel in 1971, and Yekaterina Perchonok immigrated two years later.