Presiding Judge: And you – how old were you?
Witness Aviel: I was between fourteen and fourteen and a
Attorney General: And your brother Pinhas?
Witness Aviel: My brother Pinhas. We passed several
dreadful hours. We didn’t know what to do. I myself – I
was then the oldest in the house – tried to hide my
brother and my mother, and those who were together with us
in the house, in the attic. I covered them with boxes and
old rags, and went downstairs, alone, to see what was
happening. I had hardly got down from the attic when I
heard a terrible sound of many motorcycles and shouts.
Q. Who arrived on the motorcycles?
A. Germans arrived from the direction of Lida in
battledress, equipped with automatic weapons, actually
dressed as if they were at the battle front. Their
uniforms were different from those we had seen. It was
more or less the same uniform as worn by those who had
come to kill the forty refugees from Lida. I went
outside. At the entrance to the house I saw that a crowd
of Jews were walking from the end of the ghetto and were
being forced along the road leading to Grodno – the same
direction in which the groups had gone with the spades.
We knew that this wasn’t going to end well. At that
moment several Germans entered the house. One stood at the
exit while the remainder spread out into the rooms and
began chasing out those who hadn’t managed to
conceal themselves. Each one passing through the opening
would receive a blow on the head from a rubber truncheon,
and would fall down. I didn’t want to receive a blow. I
jumped quickly on my own, bent down and managed to get out
without receiving this blow, and I joined the crowd that
was being led in the direction along which the earlier
groups had gone.
Q. Tell us more about what was happening on that road.
A. I joined the crowd of Jews. I tried to hold back in
order to see what was happening to the family, whether
they had discovered them or not. I thought that I would
wait and see, so that if they found them, at least I would
join them. To my misfortune I saw that my mother and my
little brother, my uncle and other Jews were amongst those
whom they had found. My little brother told me that they
had given him cruel blows, and we walked together in the
direction in which they were taking us.
Q. And did other Jews join you on the way?
A. Other Jews joined us on the way. They removed more and
more Jews from every house. And they joined the throng.
Q. How many were you?
A. About one thousand.
Q. How many altogether were there in Radun?
A. About two thousand souls, of whom one thousand were in
Radun before the War and one thousand were Jewish
refugees, some of whom had arrived from the ghettos of
Eisiskes, Orany, and Olkeninkai, those who had managed to
escape the slaughter that had previously taken place in
the Lithuanian zone.
Q. So that there were one thousand of you walking?
A. We were one thousand walking.
Q. Did you find yourself next to your mother?
A. I walked with my mother – we walked together, mother
Q. Your mother in the middle and your brother and yourself
on either side?
A. Yes, I was on her right, my brother on her left. This
is how we went.
Q. What did your mother say?
A. Say: “Hear O Israel.” Let us die as Jews.
Q. And so the congregation walked on, saying “Hear O
A. Yes. I repeated it after her, but unwillingly. I felt
an inner resistance to it. They brought us to the
marketplace in the centre of the village, they forced us
to kneel with our heads bent downwards. We were not
allowed to raise our heads. Whoever did so received
either a bullet in the head or blows with sticks. Of
course, on our way there
we saw that anyone who slackened his pace was shot on the
spot. We sat in the centre of the village for about an
hour, perhaps more – I cannot estimate the time
accurately. They addressed us. I didn’t follow what they
were saying to us there. I was thinking: how is it
possible to escape, how is it possible to get out of this?
Afterwards they made us stand up and led us outside the
town towards the cemetery a kilometre and a half away.
When we neared the cemetery, roughly about a hundred
metres away, they took us off the road, made us kneel down
again with our heads down. We weren’t allowed to raise
our heads nor were we allowed to glance to the sides. We
only heard shots from the sides. Since I was small I was
able to lift my head a little without being seen. I then
saw, in front of me, a long pit, about 25 metres long –
perhaps 30 metres. They began to lead the Jews, row by
row, group by group, towards the pit. They made them
undress, and as they mounted the embankment, rounds of
shots were heard, and they fell into the pit. I saw one
case of a Jewish girl who put up a struggle; she did not
want, under any circumstances, to undress. They struck
her and she, too, was shot.
Q. Children, women?
A. Children, women, family after family. Each family went
up together. At that moment I noticed a group of Jews who
were digging the pits. Since I knew that my brother was
also amongst the group…
Q. Were these the first ones?
A. The second. We didn’t see the first ones. We didn’t
know what happened to them.
Q. Which of your brothers? Pinhas?
A. My brother, Pinhas. I peered to see if he had remained
alive, and I noticed that he was there. At that moment
there welled up within me the desire to join him, for
there had always been the idea that at least one of us
would remain and would be privileged to “ueberleben,” (to
come through alive) so that he would be able to tell the
story if he survived. I didn’t consider it very long – I
said goodbye to my mother. I began jumping over the heads
of those sitting near me. I jumped and fell, jumped and
fell. I didn’t care what would happen. And so, I don’t
know how, by some miracle they didn’t notice me. I
managed to reach the edge of the road at the rim of the
ditch. I lay down and was afraid to get up and continue
lest they notice me. Standing near me at that moment was
Zelig, the carpenter of the town. He was a skilled worker
and worked for the Germans in the Gestapo. He held a
special certificate providing that he had to remain alive,
he and his family.
Q. A work permit?
A. A special work permit. Altogether there were ten such
men who had certificates at that time. He was holding
this certificate in his hand and wanted to take out his
family whom he had noticed in the large group being led to
their death. At that moment a German came up to him, and
thrust a revolver in his neck. I heard a shot. He turned
dark all over, and continued saying: “I have a
certificate.” The German fired another bullet into him
and he fell down near me, half a metre away. I waited a
little and then continued
crawling back to the road. I succeeded in reaching the
group which was part of those digging the pits. At that
moment a German approached and asked me: “Who are you,
what are you doing here?” I had a certificate to the
effect that I was a sort of locksmith. I said to him: “I
am a good locksmith, I am a blacksmith,” and he went away.
I remained there, lying down. I went forward towards my
brother and I joined him in this group.
Q. What happened to your mother and your little brother?
A. My mother was killed – she was shot together with all
the other Jews in the pit.
Q. And your brother Yekutiel?
A. He, too, together with her, on that same occasion.
Only afterwards did I learn that I had been the only one
who somehow managed to escape from that situation.
Q. You returned to the village with the group?
A. We heard the shots, they kept on firing. We saw groups
being led away. They took them away, a distance of 100-
200 metres in the direction of the village. We remained
lying down, we didn’t know what our fate would be, whether
they were keeping us in order to cover over the pit or
not. Afterwards they took us back to the village. We were
a group of approximately 90-100 persons. And so we
returned to the deserted ghetto. We knew that there was
no one at home, but nevertheless we went to the house
where the family had been previously, some hours
beforehand. We took a siddur prayer book), phylacteries,
and a piece of bread that happened to be there. We left
the house and walked over to join those Jews who still
remained alive, those who had been digging, so as not to
be so alone.
Q. On the morning following the slaughter you were ordered
by the Germans to report again for work?
A. They immediately drew up a register. They registered
us that day – all those who had been in the group which
had been digging. We were registered. The next day they
issued orders to us right away to go out to work. I began
to work as a locksmith. I requested another Jew who was a
locksmith to take me with him to work, since I had
apparently managed to save my life with that certificate.
Thus I worked for a few days, two or three.
Q. What did you do after these two or three days?
A. We returned, we were alone, we sat there, crying.
There was nothing to do. We decided that we had nothing
more to do in the ghetto. We could no longer look at the
faces of those who had shot our dear ones. We couldn’t
look at the paths which were drenched in blood, and we
resolved to escape from the ghetto. We hoped that perhaps
Father was still alive. We didn’t know whether he had
succeeded in escaping or not.
Q. Your brother Pinhas and you fled to the forest?
A. We left for the forest.
Q. And some days later you met your father?
A. Yes. We wandered around, alone, in the forest for a
few days, we managed to make contact, we learned that
Father was alive and then we joined him.
Presiding Judge: Where was he at that time?
Witness Aviel: He had succeeded in fleeing from those who
had to dig and who had revolted; they were fired upon and
he managed to escape. At the time about 17 persons, who
had revolted and had succeeded in escaping, were saved.
Q. Was he alone in the forest?
A. He was alone in the forest. There were not yet any
Jews in the forest at that stage. It was only after the
slaughter that Jews began fleeing to the forests. Until
then there was not a single Jew in the forest. The three
of us wandered around in the forest.
Attorney General: Afterwards your father was killed?
Witness Aviel: Yes. But first my brother Pinhas was
killed. Q. In the battles of the partisans?
A. There were no battles at that time. We went to
establish the first contact with the partisans who were
then beginning to organize themselves. This was on 10
Heshvan 5703 ( 21 October 1942).
Presiding Judge: Who were these partisans?
Witness Aviel: They were Jewish groups. In our area there
were, as yet, no partisans at all. In those days, Jews,
and others as well, who had moved around in the ghetto,
began leaving; the younger ones, also adults as well as
women and children, left for the forests. In this
courtroom there is a woman whose family, Schlosberg, also
fled to the forest, and at that period there were no
partisans at all. We organized ourselves into small
groups of two or three persons, first of all, in order to
preserve our lives.
Attorney General: Was this a region of many forests?
Witness Aviel: It was a region of forests.
The first operation the Jewish partisans carried out
against the Gestapo was roughly two weeks after the
slaughter, an operation by young Jews. Some of them have
survived. In Haifa there is a man named Rogowski who took
part in this operation. They went out and, at a short
distance from the pit, they laid an ambush for the
gendarmerie which was in the village, for the Gestapo head
of the town – if I am not mistaken he was called Kopke;
they managed to wound and also to kill some of them. One
Lithuanian lad, was called Yudka the Lithuanian, who was
also a member of this group, was the only one to fall in
this engagement. Later on, on 10 Heshvan, when we were
Q. In what year?
Q. This was still 1942 – when we were moving around
amongst Gentiles, we knew we would not be able to exist,
although it could be said generally that the population
was especially friendly to us, they knew us from our
village – this was in the vicinity of the village where we
had lived previously –
they knew us as honest Jews, we had good relations with
them, they were ready to help, to give us food and
clothing, but this was not necessary, for the Jews sold
their clothes and bought food. However, they were afraid
to let us into their homes, although there were some cases
when they did so. For a certain time I, too, was staying
with a non-Jew his name was Ancilowitz – who accommodated
us for a few months. And I must stress that, during that
time, the Germans came to his home – I saw them and we
thought he might hand us over, but he stood up to this
test. This was after my brother had already been killed.
Q. What was the test? You said they stood up to the test.
I should like to understand what would have happened to
him if he had handed you over?
A. They would have burned him together with his family and
all his property, his children and so on.
Q. If what?
A. If they had found Jews in his house. He would have
been killed, destroyed. No trace of him would have
remained. And, naturally, in such circumstances people
were afraid to take us in. Still there were some who even
gave us support and help.
There were three of us, my father, my brother Pinhas and
I. I went out with my brother Pinhas to establish contact
with the partisans and to get to the dense forests, for we
knew that in these surroundings we would not be able to
last long. There were smaller forests near us. And in
our village, next to our house, in the middle of the
night, at approximately 1.OO a.m. – evidently people had
informed on us – on the corner behind the house about
twenty or twentythree Germans and policemen awaited us.
When we were about one metre distant they pointed the
muzzles of their rifles at us. We started to flee. My
brother fell on this occasion. I managed to escape. Then
I decided to go to Puszcza.
Attorney General: Was this a dense forest?
A. Yes. It was the scene of quite serious partisan
resistance. It began with the Jews. Afterwards we were
joined by Russians who had been prisoners and who were
with the peasants. We also had arms, part of which we had
bought and part we had seized. My father still remained
in the vicinity of the village of Dowgaliszuk, so that he
could be a contact in case of need. He also had
difficulties in walking at that time. I set out for
Puszcza with a party of seven men. I came to fetch him on
two occasions, but he still did not want to go. Only
afterwards, about a fortnight later, I heard that all in
that area had been killed, after they were betrayed.