Life in the Forest
We were in the forest for one year. There was an incredible story every day. Nothing was simple; nothing was less than an open miracle.
We heard the screaming and yelling of families who were caught by the Nazis in the forest. The Nazis combed the forest because they knew that Jews were hiding there.
As soon as we got to the forest, two Nazis spotted us and screamed out, “Halt!” We were instructed to line up. My uncle was strong and he said to us, “Girls, don’t be afraid, mir gein tzum Tatte. It takes just a second and you will be in Hashem’s hands.”
As we stood there all lined up, waiting to be shot, one Nazi said to the other, “You know what, let them go, let them suffer, we’ll get them two months later when they are starved. Go run along in the forest.” It was such siyatta diShmaya. We had one more minute to live!
The forest was not a friendly place. We heard shooting and crying. Night was approaching. We turned around and began to run. We found a ditch in which we settled down, and then my uncle said it was time to say the Haggadah shel Pesach. My uncle had brought along with him a Siddur from the ghetto and he began to say the Haggadah. We were three little girls who had never experienced a Shabbos table, let alone a Seder. We had no idea what my uncle was saying; but my uncle said to us, “Just keep saying the two kapitlach Tehillim that you know by heart. If you will say it you will be connected to Hashem. He is the Father and he takes care of everything.”
We settled down and our uncle covered us with twigs and leaves. My uncle used a shovel to dig a bunker because he knew we couldn’t exist with this setup for days on end.
No sooner did he finish when we heard thumping sounds. It was the sound of deer running on top of the bunker. We had never seen deer before and to us little girls it was frightening. He calmed us by saying, “You need not fear four-legged animals. Only the animals with two legs, the Nazis, can harm us.”
How did you survive in the forest?
That Pesach night we were injected with hope; and it is with that hope that we were able to function. That Pesach night, as my uncle said the Haggadah, he instilled in us the bitachon that there is a future for the Jewish people; and just as Hakadosh Baruch Hu saved us in the past, He will save us again.
It was spring and we were in the bunker that my uncle dug. At the entrance to the bunker were roots of a tree that we pulled down as camouflage. We spent most of the day in the bunker. At night, my uncle and mother would go to the homes of the gentile people who lived around the forest to get some food for us and then walk back to the bunker.
One day, my uncle said to us, “It is no longer safe to remain in the bunkers. During the summertime there are hunters in the forest who may come upon us and discover our hiding place.” His idea was to find a way to leave the bunker during the day and return at night.
My uncle came upon a wheat field. The spring wheat was about 10 or 12 inches tall. He instructed the three of us to lie down on either our stomachs or our backs. Whichever position we chose, we would have to maintain for the rest of the day. He took two strands of wheat and tied them around us. We were not allowed to talk, move or giggle; the Nazis were out looking for us. He was afraid that the wheat would sway and the Nazis would notice and spot us. The sun was beating down, and our bodies were blistering from the heat, but we were not allowed to communicate. At night my uncle would untie the wheat and we would try to stand up. Our skin was full of blisters and it was very painful. In this manner we would return to the bunker.
These survivors’ memoirs are being compiled by Project Witness.