Oral History

Alisa (Lisa) Nussbaum Derman describes a dangerous journey to reach partisan territory in the Naroch Forest, Poland

Lisa was one of three children born to a religious Jewish family. Following the German occupation of her hometown in 1939, Lisa and her family moved first to Augustow and then to Slonim (in Soviet-occupied eastern Poland). German troops captured Slonim in June 1941, during the invasion of the Soviet Union. In Slonim, the Germans established a ghetto which existed from 1941 to 1942. Lisa eventually escaped from Slonim, and went first to Grodno and then to Vilna, where she joined the resistance movement. She joined a partisan group, fighting the Germans from bases in the Naroch Forest. Soviet forces liberated the area in 1944. As part of the Brihah ("flight," "escape") movement of 250,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors from eastern Europe, Lisa and her husband Aron sought to leave Europe. Unable to enter Palestine, they eventually settled in the United States.


Twenty-eight people left, among them were women, too--I wasn't the only woman. I was the youngest, that much I'll, I'll say. I was the youngest in the group. The first night when we came out with, uh, we went out of the ghetto and as a, as, as a group of going to work. We came into the outskirts of town. We were hidden in a little for... in a little, uh, uh, wooded area, hardly, hardly wooded enough not to be seen. Um, there were shepherds with, with a flock, uh, we took them with us, we kept them the whole day. We did not harm them. We blindfolded them and we kept them there. And when night came when we left this little forest, we let them go home and we told them under no circumstances are they to tell that they were in the woods with some Jews, because they will be punished severely. We showed them that we have weapons. And we left. We walked with these men that took us, that supposedly knew the road, and they got lost. They had no compasses, only by the, by, by the sight. They, we, we tried to go with side roads so we would not be seen and identified. But as we were going on the side roads we only got lost. We got lost and we had to cross a railroad tracks, on the other side of the railroad tracks, so we decided to go on the main road where Germans were traveling. And every time, he told us, we see approaching cars with lights to drop in the ditches and to hide. And one by one we crossed the railroad tracks while German guards were standing, every time the guard would turn to the back towards us, one of us would slip out. Twenty-eight people had to cross, and imagine the danger. And all of us crossed safely. We came part of the, the way when it begin, begin to, to get light we were running--not walking, but running--to hide. The day we hid in a little forest, we started out walking again, and we had problems again. Uh, the road wasn't so, so clear to them. They came back from the forest, somehow they knew their way but they had to maybe change their way, they took another road, and two nights in a row we were lost. They never lost their cool. They always kept us, us, uh, convinced that they know what they're doing and they will bring us in the safe place. And we had the total confidence, the total confidence in these two young men. Finally, they decided, um, after, after the, the second or the third day, they decided to, to take farmers to lead us, to be our, our leaders. And the farmers knew, knew the way. And we told them to bring us to the next stop, they told them to bring us to the next stop. And the farmers listened, the farmers listened, and brought us to the next stop. They were cautioned not to give out the Jews, uh, that this is a pack of Jews the farmers knew very well. And somehow we made it. We had to cross two rivers, and one river a farmer took us and we were all walking all the way up to our, up to our waists, some of them did not know how to swim, they worried they would drown. And we made it, the farmer said the river is not, is not very deep, you will make it. And he was right, we were made, we made it. We came to cross the big river, the, the Viliya, and, um, the Germans were standing guard on the, on, on the, um, bridges, and when they heard the splashing of the water from so many people walking they began shooting at us. Fortunately, their aims were poor, I mean, nobody was killed. And we crossed and finally, finally, the two leaders start taking wagons with, with farmers wagons, and they put us up on the wagons, and we traveled on wagons already. Until we came to what's so-called, uh, partisan territory, where there was a tremendous number already of partisans, and it was safe. This was partisan territory, so it was safe.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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