Oral History

Frank Bleichman describes conditions in and dangers facing a partisan camp in the forests of Poland

Frank was one of seven children born to a religious Jewish family in Kamionka, in the Lublin district of Poland. Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. When deportations of Jews from the Lublin area began in 1942, Frank decided to join a group of Jewish partisans who roamed the forests in search of weapons and food. After obtaining weapons by posing as Soviet paratroopers, they were able to defend themselves against German raids and take revenge against collaborators. They gradually made connections with Polish and Communist partisan groups, and were liberated by the Soviets in 1944.

Transcript

We were about 100 people there in this camp, in the forest, living in bunkers, under very primitive conditions. There were no water, no lights, no sanitary facilities. But, we could, uh, survive, this way, in the forest if they would, they would let us. We were raided, and after the raid we managed to escape unharmed because when we organized every, two of us every day, went to fetch water on the edge of the forest. There was a guardhouse. One day, they went, two of us went to get water, and they overheard German-speaking voices. They came running back, woke us up, and we quickly got dressed because we always sleeping in the pants, and, uh, we sent from our group a messenger to the campsite where the other people were living--we were separated ourself to live near the edge of the forest in order to be able to see what's going on, if any undesirable coming into the forest. In the meantime shooting had erupted. They came running back with empty pails, they were hitting the pails on the trees, was still dawn, dark in the outside, and they came back, I said, "Follow me." I knew the area very well. And we began to run in the opposite direction. When we came to a crossing where was the road was cutting through the forest, we stopped, we slowed down. And we came luckily behind a German machine gun, three Germans were mounting a machine gun, and we were behind them, and luckily the noises from the trees and the birds disguised our footsteps, so we managed to go around them quietly, in, uh, on our bellies, crawled over the main road, and we escaped unharmed. In the evening we came back, made it quietly during the midnight, and the whole campsite was quiet because all of them were dead. We just found many bodies scattered on the ground. All bunkers were blown up. We presumed that many were buried alive. The only thing what we could do then is to pick up those bodies, and bury them. After the burial, we said Kaddish [a Jewish prayer for the dead]. And we swore that we will revenge for those murderous acts.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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