Svintsyan Partisans

          The heavily forested areas of Lithuania provided refuge for some Jews.  Those who could reach the forests established family camps or became partisans.  In Lithuania, this activity took place in the Rudniki Forest and Naroch Forest (now in Belarus).  Survival was difficult, particularly during the harsh winters.  A poem describes how people sometimes had to live in order to survive:

The Vice Mayor Invites All Former Residents Home

Food often had to be stolen, and people wishing to join partisan units had to bring their own weapons.  Nonetheless, there were eventually more than 50 partisans from Svintsyan.  Among them were Yosef Flexer, Feivl Hayat, Shimon Bushkanyetz, Chaya Porus (now Palevsky), and Boris Jochai (seen here placing explosives by a railroad track near Vilna).

Statement of Boris Jochai on His Partisan Activities
Another who became a partisan very early was Peretz Gerzol, or Greizel, also mentioned in an account by Bernard Drushkin in The Jewish Resistance:  The History of the Jewish Partisans in Lithuania and White Russia during the Nazi Occupation 1940-1945.

           Yitzhak Arad was a partisan too.  Arad, a member of Svintsyan's Rudnitzky family, was born in Svintsyan although his parents moved to Warsaw when he was young.  But in 1939, Yitzhak and his sister were sent back to Svintsyan.  While still a boy, Arad became part of the underground in the Svintsyan Ghetto and later fought with a partisan unit in the vicinity of Vilna.  After World War II,  he immigrated to Israel, serving as Chairman of Yad Vashem from 1972 to 1993.  Dr. Arad is the author of Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka:  The Operation Reinhard Death Camps,Ghetto in Flames: The Struggle and Destruction of the Jews of Vilna, Partisan:  From the Valley of Death to Mount Zion, and Anthology on Armed Jewish Resistance. Additionally he was the editor for The Pictorial History of the Holocaust and The Einsatzgruppen Reports:  Selections from the Dispatches of the Nazi Death Squads' Campaign against the Jews:  7/41-1/43, co-edited Documents on the Holocaust:  Selected Sources on the Destruction of the Jews of Germany and Austria, Poland, and the Soviet Union, and contributed to The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust.  He has also testified in war crimes trials in Israel and been a consultant for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

          Following is a transcript of an interview with Arad about his underground and partisan experiences.

An Interview with Yitzhak Arad
          Mordechai (Motke) Zeidel  was also a partisan from Svintsyan.  His story is at Yad Vashem, where he has served as one of six "Torchlighters," each of whom represents one million of the six million dead who are commemorated each year at the annual  Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Day ceremony. You can watch a YouTube interview with him here:

          Mordechai Zeidel

          More names of Svintsyan partisans can be found at the below site.  (It will be necessary to choose Advanced Search and then put in Svencionys for City of Birth.)

          The Ghetto Fighters' House Query Site

          Another former Svintsyan resident, Leah Svirski, wrote a song that inspired partisans and would-be partisans.
Leah Svirski's Partisan Song    
          A number of Svintsyan residents fought in the Naroch Forest, east of Vilna, alongside Vilna residents, in a partisan brigade led by Alexander Bogen, a Vilna artist. Following is Bogen's account of his partisan days.
Alexander Bogen's Partisan Story


Copyright 2000 M S Rosenfeld