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Postwar portrait of two of the few female Bielski partisans who carried weapons.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 49714

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    Postwar portrait of two of the few female Bielski partisans who carried weapons.
    Postwar portrait of two of the few female Bielski partisans who carried weapons. 

Pictured are Esther (Essie) Shor (a cousin of the Bielski brothers) and Itka Ass.


    Postwar portrait of two of the few female Bielski partisans who carried weapons.

    Pictured are Esther (Essie) Shor (a cousin of the Bielski brothers) and Itka Ass.
    Nowogrodek, [Belarus; Baranovichi] Poland
    Variant Locale
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Esther Klug

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Esther Klug

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Esther Klug (born Esther Ass) is the daughter of Yaakov Menachem and Baila Ass. She was born on June 5, 1928 in Nowogrodek, where her father owned a bakery. Esther had three older siblings: Itke (born July 17, 1924), Rochel, and Yosef (born February 15, 1927). The family was strictly Orthodox, and Itke studied at the famous Sara Schneirer Beis Yaakov in Krakow for three months. Following the start of World War II, Nowogrodek fell under Soviet occupation. Then, shortly after the German surprise attack on the Soviet Union, German troops entered the town on July 3, 1941 and some months later established a ghetto. The family worked outside the ghetto in surrounding farms. The women worked in the fields, while Joseph and his father took care of the horses supervised by a Czech in the German army. On December 7, 1941 the Germans rounded up the Jewish community and brought them to a courthouse. They then selected some 400 Jews to be killed. The Ass family stayed in one room. When the Germans came to their room, Yaakov and Yosef's Czech supervisor stood nearby and told the soldiers that he had already searched that room and there was no one there, thereby saving their lives. About nine months later the Germans conducted a second Aktzia on August 7, 1942. A policeman who had known the family for years and visited their bakery offered to help. Rachel, her best friend and her friend's mother and two brothers hid in the cellar of police station under the policeman's protection. The rest of the family hid separately in the barn of the Czech supervisor. The policeman betrayed the Jews he had promised to protect and informed on them in exchange for five kilos of sugar; Rochel was carried off carrying a book of psalms and killed. The rest of the family survived hidden in the barn by Joseph's Czech supervisor. The Czech finally saved their lives a third time help Yosef purchase a gun in exchange for his parents' wedding rings so that he could join nearby partisans. Yosef was the first member of the family to escape to the partisans. His mother, Baila left next. Each left the ghetto, supposedly to get water, removed their identifying badge and fled. When Yaakov, Esther, and Itke left the ghetto together in September 1943, a group of 15 or 20 other Jews followed them. They went to the woods on a raft led by Itke and reunited with Yosef and Baila. Yosef participated in partisan activities and once even killed a Nazi with an axe. Itke also carried a weapon and was one of the only armed women in the camp. Esther and her parents remained in the base camp living in a dugout bunker covered by grass. Yaakov, who had been a baker before the war, managed to bake matzah in the woods for the Pesach holiday in 1944. Once when the Germans attacked the Bielski base, Itke who had left to get food for the family, became separated. Yosef also became separated from the rest of the family. For at least a year, Itke lived with Jewish and non-Jewish partisan groups and worked as a nurse in a hospital at another base in the woods. Despite the obstacles she faced, she managed to keep kosher and observe the Sabbath. Because of her dedication to her faith, Polish partisans later called her the Swieta Partizanka (saintly partisan). Her mother constantly asked people who came to the base camp whether they had seen her. Eventually Itke found her way back. Yosef contracted typhus while in the woods and was found in ill health and covered with snow. In July 1944 the Soviet army liberated the region, and the Ass family together with the other partisans returned briefly to Nowogrodek. Baila sold groceries in train section. There, she met an orphan, Chana Chamanovitch. Chana had escaped with her father, brother and sister to Bialystok. After they rest of the immediate family were killed, she survived in hiding. After realizing she was Jewish, Baila adopted her, and Chana joined the family when they fled to the west. They eventually made their way to Austria where they came to the Bad Gastein and Salzburg displaced persons' camps. Itke worked there organizing religious schools for girls, Bnos. Esther and Chana attended the Hebrew Chaim Nachman Bialik School. Chana managed to contact relatives in Boston and joined a children's transport to the United States. The Ass family then emigrated from Bremerhaven, German to the United Sates in November, 1948. Esther later married Moishe Pinchos Klug from Nisko who survived in Siberia. Itke married Rabbi Pinchos Lerner and Yosef married Rivke Bedansky from Vilna who had survived as a young child in a convent.
    Record last modified:
    2009-08-24 00:00:00
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