[ An End to Intolerance (Volume 5 -- June 1997) ]

The Memories of
a Former Prisoner

Told by Semen Isaak Lipets
to Students at Grodno School 30

When I came home, I lived in Brigitskaya street, and my wife and my sister were at home. When I entered, they didn't recognize me. For two weeks, I was in bed. Then I began to work. On 2 November, I had to leave my house together with the family and to come to ghetto. A person was not allowed to take more than he could carry in his hands or wheel in a barrow. When we passed through the gates of the ghetto, the soldiers took away the best valuable things we carried.

The gates to the ghetto were in Zamkovaya Street. I was placed with my sister and wife in Bolshaya Troitskaya Steet (now Oleg Koshevoi Street). Before we went there, a barbed-wire entanglement was made around the ghetto. I worked at Industriwerk and this factory was outside ghetto. The owner of the factory made a wicket gate which the Germans didn't know about, and it helped us to leave the ghetto sometimes at night in order to go to the town to find food. Several times I went to the town and over the barbed wire to find some food. Of course it was a risk. If you were seen leaving the ghetto, you would have been shot immediately or hanged. I was a witness when the Germans hanged two men and a woman because they left the territory. Though I worked almost all day long, still I saw some terrible scenes.

Once I saw how Germans shot almost twenty people just for nothing and then didn't allow them to be buried for several days. Among those shot was my teacher.

"Among those shot was my teacher. . . ."

Once the Germans ordered everybody who didn't have work to come to the square in front of the synagogue. Almost a thousand people gathered, and the Fascists began to shoot. How many people were shot at that time I don't know.

In one of the ghetto houses, there was a hospital. The Jewish doctors treated people for illnesses. Though almost all the Jewish intelligentsia were shot during the first days of war, some doctors were still alive. But some time later, the Fascists shot all the patients, as well as all the doctors. They had to be buried in the same place where they were shot.

As it is known already, there were two stages in which the ghetto was liquidated. The biggest was the one which took place on 12 March 1943, when almost all Jews were taken out of the ghetto and were sent to the concentration camps. Still, a lot of people chanced to escape. That is why one more action was taken.

During the night, all the Jews were driven together into the synagogue. Almost a thousand people were there. Then we were walking along Brigitskaya Street. I tried never to get parted from my family because I thought that in my absence they would die. Now I was separated from them, and I knew that we were all going to die, and I made an attempt to escape. It was dark and I managed. I came back to ghetto.

For a month, I chanced to hide myself but was caught and sent to Bialystok's prison. On 13 May 13 1944, I was taken out of the prison together with the other forty Jewish people, and we were promised we would live if we would fulfill a kind of work and would not tell anybody about it. Then they put us into the lorries and took us into the forest near Avgustov (now in Poland). There was a shed in which we lived. In the morning, we were given spades and began to dig. Soon we saw dead people. Then we were ordered to take out the bodies with hooks and burn them in the fire. For two months we did this kind of job moving from one place to another. We were digging also near Grodno.

I remember the burial places near Sobachaya Gorka, in Sekret, and also a very big burial place near the footwear factory. On 13 July 1944, when we finished our "work" in the forest near the village of Grabuvka (seven to eight kilometers from Bialystok), we were gathered together in order to be shot, but someone shouted: "Yati, pit!" which in Jewish language means, "Guys, run away," and we ran away in different directions. I was lucky to escape. After weeks of wandering, I came to Grodno and soon the Red Army liberated it.

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