Izak Lichtenstein Testimony Excerpt
Read a firsthand account about the resistance movement in the Lachwa ghetto.
A Project of the Miles Lerman Center
Excerpt from Izak Lichtenstein testimony, Relacje, ZIH, File 301/2441 (June 5, 1947)
…Already in those days, certain parts of our youth thought about either going to the partisans or organizing a resistance movement. Such a group finally was established by 5 people in the end of April (1942). The following people belonged to this group: Rochczyn Icchak, Chejfec Oszer Lejb, Migdalowicz and me. The tasks for the group were: buying weapons and preparing the youth for resistance in the crucial moment. It has to be stressed that the group had to act very secretly, because we had to be afraid of betrayal from the nearby population as well as from certain Jews in the Ghetto.
After two months the group already consisted of 30 people, amongst them three young children (women?). We didn't succeed in organizing weapons for the group. All the weapons of the antifascists came into the hands of Soviet partisans, which already back then started to operate in our region. We got into contact with the partisans through their messenger Roman Szewczyk from the village of Luban. But they couldn't offer us any help, because they were weak themselves, and also, as it turned out later, because most of them were anti-Semitic. That is why the resistance group didn't have enough power without weapons and we were left at the mercy of fate. Meanwhile our group persistently worked on, preparing everyone for resistance. In the crucial moment, on September 3, 1942, it turned out that all of our work wasn't for nothing.
In the night between the 2nd and the 3rd of September our Ghetto happened to be surrounded by 20 people from the city police. I have to stress that in the meantime the ghettos in surrounding area of Lachwa, such as Miasto Mikaszewicze, Lenin and Hanowicze were liquidated by the Sicherheitsdienst and gendarmerie from Pinsk. In this night after the surrounding of the Ghetto by Ukrainian police we knew for sure that in the morning the Ghetto would be liquidated. Some days before, in our headquarters, I was named commandant of the resistance movement. I decided that the main tasks for our group would have to be to explain the situation to the people, to prepare resistance with all means possible and to rescue most of the Jews. We had a simple plan. Knowing the psychology of the Ukrainian police and the local people, we figured, that their first goal would be to rob the Jewish houses.
Against this background I ordered that preparations be made for the lighting of the houses (on fire) and to appoint one person in every house, who would be responsible to set the house on fire. At that moment, to a certain extent, weakness and vacillation of some members of our committee came to light, who thought that this is not the preparation to liquidate the Ghetto, but rather a surveillance. Certain parts of the Jewish community, and especially those who were hoping, that due to their special knowledge they would not be liquidated, turned against us. I have to admit that back then I almost broke down. Their arguments were so strong, that it was difficult for me to take responsibility for the safety of the Ghetto by a premature uprising against the police. This would later turn out to be the destruction of the Ghetto.
When at 9 a.m. a group of 400 members of Sicherheitsdienst surrounded us, the rescue of the Jews and the resistance became more difficult. At 10 a.m. the liquidation of the Ghetto began. After that, on our order, the posts in the houses set all buildings on fire, which as we thought before distracted the liquidators and gave us the chance to break through the encirclement and save around 500 Jews. From the resistance movement distinguished themselves during the flight Rechczyn Icchak, who killed the first German gendarme with an axe, Chej(n?)ec Cezer killed the second one, his brother Chej Mojsze Lejb fired back against the Ukrainians with a stolen weapon, and also lots of other people defended themselves with axes, with jugs, they beat everyone that fell into their hands. During those actions 1.800 Jews died in the Ghetto and around 350 to 500 Jews escaped into the woods. 7 Germans were killed and around 16 wounded.
Series: Resistance in the Smaller Ghettos of Eastern Europe
Critical Thinking Questions
- What obstacles and limitations did Jews face when considering resistance? What pressures and motivations may have influenced their decisions and actions?
- Are these factors unique to this history or universal?
- How can societies, communities, and individuals reinforce and strengthen the willingness to stand up for others?