On September 26, 1943, 232 of concentration camp prisoners used the underground tunnel they were secretly digging for several months to break away. It is one of the most famous acts of Jewish resistance to the Nazis in the occupied Europe. On October 11 the meeting-requiem, devoted to the 75 anniversary of the escape was held on the territory of the Museum of Jewish resistance in Novogrudok. The descendants of the prisoners and Novogrudok residents came to pay tribute to the escapees’ courage and the great desire for freedom.
In August 1942, a labor camp was established in Korelichskaya Street. The Nazis executed half of the ghetto’s population in May 1943, according to testimony from survivors. There were only 232 Jews left. They were the last Jews in Novogrudok.
The descendants of the former prisoners came from all around the world to honor the memory of their loved ones. The first time in 77 years Zipora Erez came to the land of their ancestors. Zipora was born in Novogrudok and moved to Russia before the invasion. Her foster father, Nathan Yankelevich, ran through the tunnel. Nellie Azhukhovska (Tsauber) came from Israel. Her father Mordekhai and the brother Leo dug a tunnel and escaped through it. Nelly’s husband Alex, who also survived the Holocaust in Romania, and her son Eli arrived in Novogrudok too. In 60 years the son and daughter of a former Bielski group’s partisan Israel Yankelevich returned to their native land. Shushan Dalman was born in Novogrudok. She studied in the Russian school till the fifth grade and moved to Israel in 1960. Her father was taken to the camp, but he managed to escape and became a partisan of the Bielski group. Her mother Shifra was also a partisan in the Bielski group. Zinovy Belsky from St. Petersburg came to honor the memory of his cousin Tuvia Belsky. His aunt Zelda Belsky was also in the ghetto and later in the partisan group.
The meeting was attended by the Chairman of the Novogrudok District Executive Committee Mr.Anatoly Markevich and the Chairman of the District Council of Deputies Mr.Sergey Misharin.
– Today we are here to recall the events happened 75 years ago in Novogrudok, said Anatoly Markevich. — War is always a fear of pain and terrible victims: children remain orphans, and parents turn grey before their time. During the Great Patriotic war Novogrudok land lost more than 45 thousand of the civilian population. A terrible page in history was the Holocaust. But people didn’t break, people didn’t obey, and began to fight. Jewish resistance is the example of this.
The descendants of those who crawled through the 600-foot tunnel and ran into the neighboring woods, as well as the descendants of the Bielski group partisans came to Novogrudok to pay tribute to the memory of the prisoners of the Novogrudok ghetto. One of them was Betsy Cohen from Israel. She has been studying the history of the Novogrudok ghetto and searching for the descendants of former prisoners for more than ten years.
In memory of 232 prisoners who made the most massive and successful ghetto escape in Europe, the participants of the event lit candles. Dozens of candles were installed on the Memory Wall next to the name plates of the ghetto escapees. Flowers were laid to the Memory Wall by the participants of the meeting.
photo by Anastasia Petrova
translated by Helen Chal