Truth – Legends / Doctor Mikolas (Michael) Portnoy
The corpse-burners who had relatives or acquaintances in the Aryan section expressed the wish to go to hide with them. A special group was organized for this purpose. Tuvia Fridman was appointed leader of this group. This was the third group to leave the fort.
The group was given instructions not to turn towards the city immediately after leaving the fort, but to go in the opposite direction and after covering five kilometers, only then to disperse.
Dr. Portnoy, aged fifty-five, belonged to the third group attached to Tuvia Fridman. Walking was difficult for Portnoy. He felt very weak and Fridman was obliged to help him by supporting his arm. When daybreak came, they reached Sargenai. They sat on a hill among the low bushes and decided to hide on the spot until night fell and then to continue on their way. They were some three kilometers from the ghetto and some five from the city center.
Suddenly an armed man appeared with two dogs. Fridman held up his hands and said that they had come from the ghetto and that the man with them was Dr. Portnoy. The man put down his weapon and came nearer. He recognized Dr. Portnoy and asked what they were doing in the neighborhood. The doctor answered that they had left the ghetto in order to get some bread and had decided to remain where they were until the evening and then return to the ghetto. The man told them to go with him, brought them to his house and fed them. But he could not leave them there as German officers and soldiers visited him frequently. He led them to his workers who lived nearby and asked that they keep the group until night fell.
When darkness came, Fridman and Dr. Portnoy turned towards the ghetto. They parted and Tuvia entered the ghetto. AKO found him and sent him with the sixth group to the Rudniki forest on February 2, 1944.
Dr. Portnoy went to the city. He was very weak and stood upright only with difficulty. Passersby made fun of him, thinking that he was drunk, for it was Christmas time. Portnoy was certain that the police would stop him at the Slobodka Bridge over the River Neris but fortunately there were no police at the bridge on that night. He decided to go to one of his patients whose family he had attended for many years. Portnoy crossed over another bridge over the Neman River as this family Zhivikas lived in Aleksot. He found the house, went up to the third floor and rang the bell, but no one answered. He went down, sat on the steps on the first floor and fell asleep. In his sleep, Portnoy felt a light playing on his eyes. He awoke and saw the Zhivikas family standing alongside him. They had returned from a holiday celebration at relatives. Portnoy told the already familiar story: he had left the ghetto to get some bread and decided to wait for morning and then return to the ghetto. They took him into the house and gave him some food. The women told him to flee for he must know what awaited him otherwise. On hearing this, he told them that he had escaped from the Ninth Fort.
One day, Portnoy saw through the window a car with Gestapo men beginning to surround the house. He took out the pill and wanted to swallow it, but at that moment, the teacher Lazauskas came and told him that the Gestapo had not come because of him.
Afterwards, Lazauskas could no longer keep Portnoy in his home as he had taken in the little daughter of his friends and there was insufficient room for the two of them. Doctor Portnoy went to stay with an acquaintance in Aleksot. Shortly afterwards, the Soviet army entered Kovno.