- Jack Sutin (born Izik Sutin) is the son of Julius and Sarah Sutin. He was born December 4, 1923 in Stolbtsy (Belorussia), where his mother was a dentist and his father was an art student who also worked as a dental technician. Shortly after Izik's birth, the family moved to nearby Mir, where Julius and Sarah separated after a few years. Izik was educated at a gymnasium in Baranowicze. During this period he became a committed Zionist and made plans to settle in Palestine, but his papers did not come through before the German invasion of Poland. During the first years of the war Izik attended a Soviet school in Stolbsty, where he met his future wife, Rochel Szleif. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, the Sutins were forced into the Mir ghetto. Izik was pressed into forced labor repairing roads. The Sutins narrowly escaped a German action that took place in Mir in the fall of 1941 by hiding temporarily in the home of a sympathetic Polish farmer, who had been a former dental patient. The remaining Jewish community was then moved into a nearby castle (Mirski Zamek). Some of the younger people who were confined to the castle, many of whom were Zionist youth members, began to plan an escape. An opportunity arose when they learned that a Jew named Oswald Rufeisen had infiltrated the local German military police. He passed information and arms to the group. When Rufeisen sent word that the liquidation of the Mir ghetto was set for August 13, 1942, the group set their escape for August 9. Izik was among the first to leave the castle; his father followed the next day. In all, approximately 300 Jews succeeded in escaping from the Mir castle. Once in the forest, Izik organized a small band of partisans. His shelter was a small bunker in which he set aside room for Rochel Szleif. Izik had a premonition that she would join him despite the fact that the two had lost contact.
Rochel Szleif is the daughter of Lazar and Cila Szleif. She was born in 1925 in Stolbtsy, where her father was a prosperous businessman and her mother, a dentist. Rochel had two younger sisters, Sofka and Miriam. In August 1941 Stolbtsy was occupied by SS units. Shortly thereafter prominent Jewish residents, including Rochel's father, were stoned to death in a mass grave. A ghetto was then established in the town and Jews were forced to wear the yellow star and report for forced labor. Rochel was sent to work in a sawmill on the outskirts of Stolbtsy. In the autumn of 1942 Rochel's mother and sisters were taken out of the ghetto and shot during an action which targeted the ghetto's non-working population. Left alone, Rochel fled with a girlfriend. They swam across the Niemen River and ran into the woods on the opposite shore, where they met a group of Russian partisans who agreed to shelter them in exchange for housework. The Russians, however, abused the girls and they ran away. While on the run they met a Jewish partisan named Fania who belonged to Izik Sutin's partisan unit. She told Rochel that Sutin was expecting her and brought her to him. For the rest of the war Rochel and Izik remained in the forests, where they lived in a common-law marriage. Soon after the war the couple was remarried in a Jewish ceremony and left the Soviet Union for Germany. For the next several years the Sutins lived in the Neu Freimann displaced persons camp, where Izik worked as a camp administrator and photojournalist for the Landsberger Lager-Cajtung. The family immigrated to the U.S. in August 1949.