Not As Lambs to the Slaughter
By: Michael Atkin
Memories of a 10-year-old partisan of the Rokosovski Brigade,
Globoki and Vileika Forests, Vitebsk Area, North Belorussia
The Jews did not go as lambs to the slaughter.
We do not know about all the rebellions, and not every blow against the Germans and their collaborators has been documented.
Besides the large and well-known rebellions, whose participants survived to tell their stories, and about whom books have been written and films produced, besides those, there were thousands of small rebellions, some even by individuals. The details of some of them we will never know since those who carried them out were killed shortly after the uprising. We do know of thousands of cases of children and young adolescents, who fought in the ranks of the underground in the ghettos and survived. They escaped to freedom, to the forests, to the ranks of the partisans.
I, Michael Atkin, son of Chava Kaminski and Menahem Mendel Atkin, am only one of those survivors.
My twin brother, Haim Shabtai, only 10 ½ , remained there.
At that time I had great strength and a strong will to live. After two years under German occupation I decided: "I will leave here, I will move on, I will escape, I will survive and continue the lines of the Atkin, Kaminski, Kavkuk, Tchuchman, Geller, Hodosh and Balent families.
Our lives in the Globoki Ghetto in the Vilna district were suffocating and harsh and we suffered from hunger and thirst. While the children of the rest of Europe were going to school, we were denied the right to education. In the Globoki Ghetto, where 8,500 Jews from ten neighboring towns were brought, three major massacres of the Jews (Aktions) were carried out, as well as other murders.
In the Ghetto each family received a single small room for six people. Without even the most elementary sanitation, the prisoners were forced to relieve themselves outside, either in a corner on the street or in the woods.
One of the attacks on the Germans occurred in Krolvashetsina, my hometown. The attack was carried out by people from the Globoki Ghetto. About 50 of them had been sent to work on maintenance of the railway tracks. 15 Germans, armed with machine-guns, automatic rifles, grenades and thousands of rounds of bullets, guarded them.
The Jewish workers were armed with 8 grenades, 10 rifles and 150 bullets. These Ghetto dwellers also had knives, rocks, wooden sticks and iron bars ("lom” in Russian) which they used to raise the railway tracks in order to repair them. These Jewish forced laborers attacked their guards and killed them. Suddenly, the townspeople saw dead Germans, and Jews killing, Germans fleeing and Jews chasing them – an unforgettable sight.
When they completed the job, the Jews equipped themselves as best they could and turned to the forests to join the partisans, armed with weapons and ammunition. The German Ghetto guards had to collect the bodies of their comrades and bury them in Globoki.