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Kopel K. Holocaust testimony (HVT-3772)

Oral History | Fortunoff Collection ID: HVT-3772

Videotape testimony of Kopel K., who was born in Lakhva, Poland (presently Belarus) in 1926, the third of four children. He recounts his family's orthodoxy; briefly living in Sinkevichi; returning to Lakhva in 1930; his father's successful businesses in Chalanyets where they spent their summers; attending Hebrew school; joining Betar and other youth groups; antisemitic vandalism of their home; Soviet occupation in September 1939; attending a Soviet school; confiscation of the family businesses; his father's arrest and deportation in 1940; German occupation in July 1941; formation of a Judenrat (one brother became a secretary) and police (his other brother was a member); learning of mass killings in nearby towns from escapees; forced labor; frequent beatings; ghettoization in 1942; assignments repairing rail tracks in Luninets; his brother organizing a group to smuggle food; learning the ghetto would be liquidated; warning Itshak Rokhchin, an underground leader, who obtained permission from Dov Lopatin, head of the Jundenrat, to revolt; escaping during the uprising; hiding, then joining other escapees; walking to Sinkevichi to seek partisans; learning one brother had been killed by partisans; assistance from many non-Jews who had known his father; traveling to Baranovichi then Chalanyets; working in his father's former mills; his father's former employees treating him well; fleeing a German offensive with six others in March 1943; being wounded (three of his group were killed); hiding in the forest; witnessing Germans burning homes and barns in Chalanyets and other villages, many with residents inside; and his father's childhood friend caring for him.
Mr. K. recalls joining a partisan group led by a family friend (he tended the cattle); lying about his age to join another unit as a fighter; frequent attacks on German installations and supply lines; Soviet airdrops of supplies; fighting hostile Ukrainians with Soviet units; receiving a letter from his father in November 1944; enlisting in the Soviet army; executing draftees who refused to serve; fighting with a tank division in many locations; attending officer training school; continuing to fight until May 1945; completing officer training; rejoining his unit in Suprasl; attending synagogue in Białystok; informing on a former collaborator; planning to desert to emigrate to Palestine; entering a Deror kibbutz in Bytom with help from two soldiers in the Jewish Brigade; traveling to the Rothschild hospital displaced persons camp in Vienna, then Windsheim DP camp; forming a Betar kibbutz; traveling with four others to Paris; illegal emigration to Paelstine from Trets in February 1947; interdiction by the British; imprisonment on Cyprus; release in February 1948; joining the Irgun; his father's arrival in 1950; marriage in 1953; and the births of three sons. Mr. K. discusses not knowing how he managed to survive at such a young age; his goal of taking revenge and killing as many Germans as possible beginning at age sixteen; trips to Lakhva beginning in 1990 to visit his brothers' grave; organizing a monument at the mass grave; and planning a ceremony on the fiftieth anniversary of the uprising. He shows a ghetto map and photographs.

Author/Creator
K., Kopel, 1926-
Published
Tel Aviv, Israel : Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, 1995
Interview Date
March 30, April 7 and April 16, 1995.
Language
Hebrew
Copies
2 copies: 3/4 in. dub; and 1/2 in. VHS with time coding.
Cite As
Kopel K. Holocaust Testimony (HVT-3772). Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library.
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View in Yale University Library Catalog: http://hdl.handle.net/10079/bibid/4366833
Record last modified: 2016-11-08 13:04:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/hvt4366833