Truth – Legends / A Slap in the Face
At the main post, “Captain Smirnov” – Kostia Radionov, commander of the battalion – came towards us. He congratulated us on joining the battalion and then casually remarked that pistols were not war-like weapons suitable for use in the ranks of the partisans. Chief of the battalion staff, Captain Tzeiko, instructed the escapees from the Ninth Fort to fall out of line and follow him. He placed us in a trench and asked us to hand over the gold we had taken from the fort. We were ten escapees in the trench. Vasilenko was not with us. I came forward and told the chief of staff that during the escape from the fort, we distributed the gold teeth among ourselves, with the intention of taking it to the ghetto as evidence of the murders that were committed in the fort. In the ghetto, I had collected the gold from everyone and handed it over to Chaim Yellin. I added that Vasilenko had been present when this was done and he could confirm it. Captain Tzeiko stared at me and without saying a word left the trench.
Sergeant Anton Bonder entered the trench and asked everyone to open their knapsacks. When he did not find anything that interested him, he told us to leave and help with the digging of a trench where we would be able to sleep.
The first night was spent in a trench whose occupants had gone out on a mission. We were in a bad mood. The arrogant reception with which we were greeted, the searching of our knapsacks and the question of the gold aroused a feeling that I had thought we were free of forever – the feeling of a Jew arriving at the ghetto gate and his bag being examined. This was a slap in the face.
Sunday, January 9. We, the new arrivals, were sent to a site a kilometer away, to chop wood, to saw it and bring it to the base for the construction of a new trench. We also had to bring firewood to the kitchen and the trench opening. We worked until it became dark. Our food consisted of boiled meat and black soup, without salt or bread. There was a separate kitchen for the officers. The cook was Idl Sherman, a blacksmith by profession. Apparently he knew more about tinkering than he did about cooking. Two women helped him who were more occupied preparing little dishes for the more privileged than with the large communal saucepans.