Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Aida Brydbord - Part II
We heard the ghettos were being liquidated. In the summer of '42 a group of people from ghetto Pruzhany went out to work at Linovo, 12 kilometers away. They told us that the Jews of Linovo were taken and killed.7 Among them were my sister Esther and her family. The Germans pretended that they were taking everybody to work but they took them to a special place and killed them. The Germans promised Mr. Siegal of our Judenrat that our ghetto is very valuable to them because Pruzhany is on a strategic line between Warsaw, Baranovichi, and Moscow. But it looked like our safety wouldn't last too long.
In 1942, two partisans came into our ghetto. One was a Jew, Josef Friedman; one was a Christian. Josef Friedman was originally from Bereza Kartuska. They came to talk to a group of young people in our ghetto who had already tried to organize a group. We didn't know about the partisans but there were people who were willing to escape the ghetto. They tried to bring in pieces of rifles, pieces of shells, bits of ammunition, and slowly assemble them for a future date, to escape from the ghetto. News was travelling very quickly that the Germans will finally liquidate the ghetto and kill us. Those people came to talk to the group and they gave us advice and they told us where to go in case we want to escape.8 I heard about this from my boyfriend. He told me: "Two partisans came and I want to go away. My younger brother is also going." My mother was crying so much about our leaving that I felt I had to stay. The reaction of the Judenrat was terrible. They said, "You will ruin us! The minute the Germans know that a group of people went to the partisans, there will be absolute disaster!"9 My boyfriend's brother, Tuvia, was fifteen years old. He went with the first seven boys to the partisans. They took ammunition and food and they left.
My boyfriend, Paul, was coming to visit me and he was talking to me. You know how young people are, secretive. No one else knew anything about what was going on. We were whispering because everybody lived in one room. Paul's friend asked me one night, "Why do you let Paul get mixed up with all those people? Why are you in it? See to it that he should withdraw from the group and not have anything to do with them." There was a second group which formed to run away from the ghetto. It was boys and a very few girls, mostly young people. But in this particular group there were a few elderly men. We took them because they knew the surrounding area. We didn't have any leader. Every night Paul was assembling ammunition in the cellar. Because he and others smuggled it in, he was a valuable part of the group. He told them, "I want my girlfriend to come with me."
We got married on our last day in the ghetto, January 27, 1943. We had to register with the Judenrat so they should know that we are a couple. We got a piece of paper. There was a rabbi from a shtibel for Huppah-Kiddushin. There was no meal, no wine, nothing. Just to shtell the Huppah and mazel tov and that's all. I had a small ring. We didn't have any gold rings any more because in the ghetto the Germans took every piece of gold away from us. Everybody had to give their gold away. How do you make sure that people are honest and bringing all their gold? You make a room dark. You put out a Sefer Torah and light two candles. The head of each family has to go in to this room and swear that he or she gave away everything that they had. Some religious men were there to see it. I think my father was even there. The head of the family, the father or the mother, said, "Dos vos ikh hob und dos gib ikh eikh aveck." (this is what I have and this is what I give you). Everything was done spontaneously, without any reason or rationalization if it's wrong or right. Things were done on impulse.
Within a week, we had to run away. It was the last days of January 1943. The Germans surrounded the ghetto and they said tomorrow everybody has to be ready with a little package. We are going to the railroad station, 12 kilometers away. They said they would take us on sleds and bring us to the railroad station.10 That's when our group decided to escape. I went to the house where I lived with my parents. I told my parents I didn't want to leave them because I am the young one and I could supply them with food and everything. "I don't want to leave you!" My father said to me, "You are running away. You are not coming with us on the sleds. You will be the one who will survive and tell your sisters in the United States how we suffered." I said, "But I want to go with you." "No", he said, "You are not coming." Those were his last words to me. I ran away from the house and I saw the Germans at the beginning of the street coming to the house to pick them up. I ran away to another street. Meanwhile, Paul sent out a man to look for me. He took me to the hiding place where there was a bunker. We hid in this bunker for the day. At night we went out; the streets were empty. My parents went on the transport and they were taken to Auschwitz. They perished like everybody else.