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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.
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.
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Record last modified: 2012-08-23 15:16:00
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