Postwar portrait of Joseph Goetz standing outside.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 06891
1946 - 1949
- Photo Designation
DISPLACED PERSONS/RETURN TO LIFE -- DP Camps/Postwar Communities -- Italy -- Other
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Susan Medwied
Postwar portrait of Joseph Goetz standing outside.
- Joseph Goetz (step-father of the donor, born Eli Gulst; February 23, 1923) was the son to Joshua and Zelda Gulst. Eli was born on February 23, 1923. He had one older sister Golda (b. 1918), and five younger siblings: Josef, Mendel, Ena, and Samuel. The family lived in Dabrowa (Nowogrodek), Poland, a small Jewish farming community outside of Szczuczyn. Joshua Gulst was the village's tailor. The family was Orthodox and Zionist. Golda and Joseph actively participated in Zionist youth organizations and were preparing to go to Palestine when the war began. Eli attended public school and then a yeshiva. He returned to Dabrowa in 1939 to help his family and start farming. At the start of WWII Dabrowa fell under the Soviet occupation, but on June 22, 1941, the German army invaded the Soviet controlled Poland. Eli tried to escape to the Soviet Union, but was forced to return to Dabrowa. When he returned, the Germans allowed the farmers continue their planting. But after the harvest in October of 1942, Polish police surrounded the village and deported the Jewish families to the Szczuczyn ghetto. All of the Gulsts moved there except for one sister who was living about 40 kilometers away. She is presumed to have perished during the Holocaust. . The Gulst family lived in Joshua's step-brother's house with three other families. As a skilled tailor serving both Jews and Poles, Joshua was granted a permit to work outside the ghetto. On May 8, 1942 ordered everyone to stay in their home. The following day, they conducted a selection dividing family units into four groups. After the selection was completed, SS Officers surrounded the square and started firing upon the largest group. The Gulst family was in one of the smaller groups and was spared. They returned to a different part of the ghetto later that night.
Sometime in July 1942, Eli was sent the Lida Labor Camp where he worked on the railways at a nearby station. His cousin Yuda was also in the camp. He had been a cabinet maker and did wood work for the camp. Yuda was able to convince the guards to let Eli work with him instead of at the railroad station. Yuda had lost his wife and three children in the ghetto. While he was at Lida, Eli saw his brother Josef (13 years old) and his brother Mendel (10 years old) on a train heading to Maladzyechna, a camp in modern day Belarus. It is assumed that they both died there.
In December of 1942, Eli, Yuda and 14 other men from the labor camp and the nearby ghetto escaped and made their way to the forest. The men from the camp had convinced their guards to let them spend the night in the ghetto and said they would return in the morning. That night in the ghetto, the group dug a tunnel under the fence and escaped with a few handguns, two grenades, and 1 sawed-off shotgun. The group was ambushed on the way to Naliboki Forest. Separated from the rest of the group, Eli and his two companions thought they were the only survivors, but when they arrived at the meeting point in the Naliboki Forest, they discovered that the entire group had survived. There were many small groups of people in the forest including escapees from camps and various ghettos, along with Soviet soldiers who could not make it back to the Soviet Union before the Germans closed the boarder.
Lieutenant Stankevitz, a Soviet solider, organized many of these smaller groups into a Jewish resistance group. They sought revenge by cutting down telephone wires and disrupting communications as much as possible. The group also started mining military trains with some type of explosives. The German army heard of the group's efforts and tried to ambush them, however, the resistance group ambushed the small group of German soldiers first and killed eight of them. Only one resistance fighter died. As the war continued Soviet forces started to drop equipment into the forest in an effort to help the resistance groups. In 1943, Eli estimated 10,000 people belonged to the resistance group. Eli was wounded twice during ambushes and resistance missions, and his cousin Yuda was killed in an ambush by a group of Lithuanians.
Eli learned on September 1, 1943 that the Lida Labor Camp and the nearby Szczuczyn Ghetto were being liquidated. A man from the resistance group returned to the Szczuczyn Ghetto to see if he could get more people out, when he was rounded up and put on a train. He managed to escape, return to the forest and report on what he saw. Joshua and Zelda Gulst and their youngest son Samuel were on their train car. On September 17, 1943, Joshua, Zelda, and Samuel Gulst were burned on their arrival at Sobibor Concertation Camp.
At the end of July, Eli returned to Szczuczyn. For a year he worked with the KGB rounding up collaborators while also looking for his family or any survivors from his village. Soon after the end of the war, Eli and a group of his friends left the Soviet Union with forged papers. He traveled under the name of his brother Joseph (which he permanently kept) He and his friends went to the Foehrenwald displaced persons camp in Germany. They stayed there only for a short time and then continued on to Italy with the goal of making their way to Palestine. The group boarded a ship in Genoa, Italy but were later turned around by British cruisers. Joseph spent three years in an Italian DP camp before coming to the United States sponsored by a woman from his village who had come to the United States before the war.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Susan MedwiedSource Record ID: Collections: IRN 526641
Record last modified: 2016-09-27 00:00:00
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