Surviving the Holocaust with the Russian Jewish Partisans
Cohen, Dov; Kagan, Jack
Two cousins relate their experiences with Bielski's partisan brigade in war-torn Russia during the Second World War. Natives of Novogrodek, part of present-day Belarus, they describe Jewish life before the Holocaust and furnish a most moving account of how a thriving and prosperous Jewish center was decimated by the Nazis and local collaborators. Initial joy when their hometown was taken over by the Soviet Union disappeared when the Germans ran the Russians out of town and started implementing policies to eradicate all Jews and anything Jewish. Dov (Berl), the elder of the cousins, whose account comprises the first section of the book, lost his immediate family in the early days of German occupation and escaped from ghetto life in November 1942 to join the partisans in the dense forests of the area. He joined the Kalinin brigade and spent the rest of the war fighting the Germans and Russian sympathisers. Jack (Idel), seven years his junior, remained in the ghetto with the remnants of their once-large family. After a failed attempt in December 1942 to escape to reach the partisans - in an episode which nearly cost him his life - Jack joined an escape effort from the ghetto in September 1943, successfully reached the partisans as a member of Bielski's partisan brigade and was reunited with his cousin. This second section features many original documents from Russian archives and elsewhere, about the partisan bands' structure and their activities. The authors provide a unique view, not only of actual incidents, but of how two different people react to events and experiences. Updated in this second edition by a new preface and appendix, this is their story: a tale of tragedy, courage and triumph.