October, 1942

Dear Cousin Tamara,

                 My brother and I spoke one day while we were in the forest, with about 100 jews saved.  He said “ We cant save these people. How many mouths can we feed? Where can we get this food, find areas for all these people to sleep? We can’t do this Tuvia! Its impossible.”  From that moment on I tried to stop taking more jews into our camp, but these jews were family and friends. I could not refuse.

        I wasn’t just saving these people so I could be known for doing great deeds. I just wanted these humans to be free from the ends of a riffle. I told these people that if they chose to be in the forest, they'd live free, like human beings should.  And if you decide to live with my family then you must fight. And if we die,  at least we die trying to live. We stand together as humans not animals nor slaves.  It was my duty to save these people from the corrupt world outside the forest.  And if these people didn’t like my rules they could leave and I could still save many others.

        I had to make these people believe that they could survive by getting food from nearby farms, killing animals, stealing medicine and ammunition from German soldiers. Living like savages is better than living under German control.  I hope I could provide shelter and enough food for these jews to live.  It will be hard but I must do it or we will all perish like my family of jews in the ghetto.

 

Wishing you love, Tuvia
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Danielle Hancock


Journal

 When my brothers and I heard that the regional Soviet partisan commander, General Platon, was coming for a visit, the people set to work to clean and beautify the camp in the Naliboki Forset,the  Platon arrived at our camp on 31 December 1943, with an entourage of forty people, mostly from the Kutuzov group , who acted as his personal guards. They were from Russia and their modern equipment was the envy of the entire camp.

While Platon came to our command hut, the rest of his entourage toured the camp. We treated the guest to a meal with the best of our products: sausages, pickled meats, stuffed cabbages and of course schnapps (vodka).
            We first entered the large light-industries building. Matitiyahu Kabak, a lawyer, called the group to attention. Platon made some conciliatory remarks and told the people to get back to work. We moved from group to group, and the General was astonished at the industriousness and dedication of the workers. Esther Goroditzskaya, from Stolavitzi, was responsible for the twelve women and two sewing machines that continually hummed. Platon shook her hand and asked about the conditions, the way of life and the food. He did this with every workshop leader.
            They all praised me, the commander. The hat makers sat close by, and Platon spoke with Leibovitch, the foreman. He spent some time with the saddle makers and told the foreman that every saddle made in the camp was like ambushing the enemy. The shoemaker's workshop employed twenty-two people, and he saw a number of rifles hanging on the walls. Kolchak, the foreman of the shoemakers, described how the shoemakers kept their weapons close to hand twenty-four hours a day. There were four hairdressers workingm, and Platon invited the chief hairdresser to make a working visit to his headquarters. With this he finished meeting with the first group of workshops.
Platon started the second round of visits with the tailors. Shmuel Kagan from Novogrudek headed a group of eighteen tailors. Platon was surprised at the quality of the goods. He was even more surprised when he met the watchmakers. They were working on many watches. Pinchuk, the foreman, explained that they did work for many people in the region. This concluded our visit to the workshops.
            Then we went over to meet with the three people in the metal workshop. Oppenheim the foreman was also a watchmaker, who had been wounded during the German attack on the Zavilovo forest. He had been on guard duty at the time and was seriously wounded. There were many weapons under repair, from rifles to machine guns, and submachine guns and they were assembling new weapons from spare parts.
            Then we went to the carpentry workshop where Netta Huberman from Mir was in charge. Here we manufactured the stocks for the rifles and submachine guns, and windows and doorframes and other articles. Outside the workshops there was a large wooden tank that served as our tannery. We had six such tanning tanks. Mordecai Berkowitz was in charge of the four blacksmiths and we prepared the charcoal ourselves. We simply burnt trees in the forest. Even the bakery supplied us with large quantities of charcoal.
            At the time of our visit, Bashitz the blacksmith was busy manufacturing the upper parts of rifle breeches, very delicate work indeed. This made an impression on Platon and he asked for more information about the work.
 Then Platon interjected: "Many breeches Comrade, to attack the German fascists!"
We stopped next to the empty jailhouse, and the visitor wanted to know if there was anything else to see in the camp.
"No", I told him, "these are the flowers. The fruit is still to come."
            I took him to see the tannery, where Orkovitz from Baranovitch was in charge. His assistant was Muksay, and they worked with a dozen people. There were six wooden tanks full of hides. With the final product we produced soles and other leather goods. Platon was amazed at the ingenuity - and all within the confines of the forest.
Then we moved to the bakery where the ovens were full of bread. Mordecai Gershovitz from Lida, a noted baker, was in charge, but Platon was even more surprised when he saw our sausage factory. So I said to him, "Visit us often and we will be glad to share our bounty with you."
            From there I took our guest to show him our food stores, where we had a three-day supply of bread, meat, and two kilograms of rusks per person. Small bags of dried produce were hanging on the walls. The guest sampled several of the products.
            Then we moved on to the soap-making workshop, and he requested that we send soap to his headquarters. From there we went to the slaughterhouse. There were two ritual slaughterers, Rabbi David Brook from Novogrudok and an old man from Varnuva. They had prepared the knives and they deemed them completely kosher.
We moved to the flourmill and met with the miller Reznick. Finally, the last stop - where we witnessed the production of resins from the barks of the fir trees for use in the tannery. Shmuel Mikolitzky from Novogrudok was the expert in charge of the process.
"Is it possible that you are making vodka here?" Platon asked.
            Then we moved on to the hospital, where we met with Dr. Hirsch, who complained to Platon about the difficult conditions and the lack of medical supplies. Platon promised that with the next supply aircraft he would send them parachute silk and more medical supplies. There were two other doctors with us at the time, Dr. Lepkovitz and a woman, but I cannot remember her name; there were also twenty nurses.
            Then we returned to our staff hut where Platon spoke for half an hour, promising help, and praising us. He then requested that I ride with him to visit Sokolov. He also insisted on seconding me to his staff, to stop all further interference and improve relations amongst the groups.


Bielski Journal