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Yakov S. Holocaust testimony (HVT-1840) interviewed by Chaya Mʻeiri and Anita Tarsi,

Oral History | Fortunoff Collection ID: HVT-1840

Videotape testimony of Yakov S., who was born in Slonim, Poland in 1920. He recalls attending Jewish schools; pervasive antisemitism; Soviet occupation in 1939; studying in Lʹviv; returning home to help support his family; working in Białystok; German invasion in 1941; returning home; anti-Jewish restrictions; Polish friends turning on them; ghettoization; forced labor; being caught in a round-up for a mass shooting; being left for dead in the grave; tunneling out at night; returning to the ghetto; his brother advising him not to tell anyone what happened; joining the underground with his brother and a friend; smuggling weapons, clothing, and medicine; hiding when the ghetto was liquidated in June 1942; leaving the ghetto with his family, seeking Soviet partisans; acceptance into the partisans with one brother and sister (the rest of his family was killed later); armed forays against the Germans; Jews being killed by partisans; his brother's death; improvements after the arrival of soldiers from Moscow; destroying railroad tracks; liberating Kossovo; separation from his sister when they entered Pinsk with Soviet troops; enlistment in the Soviet military; fighting in many battles until arrival in Berlin; deciding not to kill German children despite wanting revenge; being wounded; hospitalization; and crying for the first time, having realized his losses.

Mr. S. recounts reunion with his sister; returning to Slonim; helping Jewish refugees go to Germany; arrest in Potsdam; torture; refusing to confess to espionage; imprisonment in Torgau, then a camp in the northern Urals; forced labor; conditional release after ten years to Qaraghandy; pardon in 1957; participating in Zionist activities; agreeing to marry a woman so she could leave for Poland with him; living with her in Rīga; the Soviets refusing to allow them to leave; their daughter's birth (he adopted her son); being allowed to leave for Israel in 1966; his wife's death three years later; and remarriage in 1971. Ms. S. details partisan and gulag life; Jews seeking and assisting each other in Soviet prisons and camps; retrieving bones in Slonim to bury in Israel; his happy life in Israel; reluctance to share his story with his children; and attributing his survival to luck and circumstances.

S., Yakov, 1920-
Ramat Aviv, Israel : Beth Hatefutsoth, Nahum Goldman Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, 1989
Interview Date
March 9, May 25, and November 23, 1989.
Soviet Union
Slonim (Belarus)
Lʹviv (Ukraine)
Białystok (Poland)
Kosava (Belarus)
Pinsk (Belarus)
Berlin (Germany)
Potsdam (Germany)
Ural Mountains (Russia)
Qaraghandy (Kazakhstan)
Rīga (Latvia)
2 copies: 3/4 in. dub; and 1/2 in. VHS with time coding.
Cite As
Yakov S. Holocaust Testimony (HVT-1840). Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library.
View in Yale University Library Catalog:
Record last modified: 2018-05-29 11:53:00
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