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A unique story from the history of World War II.

Studying archive materials in a republican archive of Belarus, I have recently come across some pages. So far, I haven’t met anything of the kind in either archives or publications. I began reading them and was completely absorbed. The discovered materials had information about saving Jews at the end of 1942-beginning of 1943, when “final solution to the Jewish question” was coming to an end. A group of six partisans headed by the political commissar, Nikolai Kiselev, took 218 Jews to the Big land from the enemy’s rear area, thus saving them from the inevitable death. Among the people saved, there were residents of the shtetls of Vileika region-Dolginovo, Knyagino, Buslovets and others, the residents of the shtetls of Minsk region- Pleshchennitsy, Logoisk and others, as well as Minsk residents.

Николай Яковлевич Киселев.
Nikolai Kiselev.

The first document is Kiselev’s fact sheet to General Lieutenant Ponomarenko, Central Committee Secretary, the head of the Central staff of partisan movement. The fact sheet has a stamp of the military unit (the unit number is unreadable) and the date - 26 January 1943. It may be supposed that the stamp belongs to the unit where Kiselev’s group crossed the front line.

The fact sheet says that after the beasty pogroms of the Hitler’s soldiers in a number of settlements of Vileika and Minsk regions and in Minsk, the Jews who survived escaped to the woods. Poorly dressed and hungry they were hiding in the woods not far from the partisan units “Mstitel”, “Borba” and others. The commandment of the units decided to gather all the Jews. There were 270 people with several prisoners of war among them. On 16 June 1942, Kiselev was told to form a unit of those who could fight. The rest were formed into a group. He was to arrange the armament for the unit and provision for the unit and the group. According to the fact sheet, the prisoners of war were later included into the partisan unit.

Autumn began. The unit and the group of Jews were having hard time. “The people were shoeless and had no clothes,” reported Kiselev. There were 35 elderly, women and children, aged 2 to 12. All of them had to be provided with food, and the unit had to fight with the Germans and the police for minimal provision.

Little by little, the unit began to get the armament. In autumn they had 16 rifles, one sub-machine gun, about 5 thousand rifle cartridges and 16 hand grenades.

"Campaigns for provision had to be carried out daily and in great numbers to feed all the people”, wrote Kiselev. The officers commanding of the abovementioned partisan unites assigned to Kiselev to take the Jews to the Big land. General Lieutenant Ponomarenko approved of the assignment. Soon the long march began across the territory seized by the German authorities, military administration, police, gendarmerie, military units and detachments.

They moved at nights. The tragic crossing lasted for several weeks. The people were in danger several times. In June 1943, all 218 people reached the Soviet forces. They were given all the necessary help and taken to Bashkirskaya ASSR.

Apart from Kiselev’s fact sheet, the archives have a letter written by the saved Jews and sent to Ponomarenko.

The letter touches everyone to the heart. The people express their gratitude to Ponomarenko and six brave partisans who escorted them.

Unfortunately, the further lives of the partisans couldn’t be traced. There’s every likelihood, they were sent to one of the military units.

Let the memory of them live forever! Might anyone know anything about Kiselev and the lives of the saved Jews?

Professor Arkady Leizerov

Jewish settlements in Minsk region

MinskBerezinoBobrBorisov DolginovoDukoraDzerzhinsk Ivenets Myadel NesvizhObchuga Pogost Rakov Seliba Slutsk Svir Uhvaly Vileika

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