Truth – Legends / Anatoli Garnik’s (Rogovetz) Confession

*(Anatoli Was registered as Anatoli Rogovetz at the Ninth Fort)
The group that remained in the Ibenai forest began to dig trenches. Garnik went to look for a friend who had lost his way. He tells:
“I got lost in the forest and, despite many attempts, did not find the way back to the group. I encountered a guard in the forest and fled northward. With sundown, I left the forest for the village of Ibenai, some sixteen to seventeen kilometers from Kovno. Near the end of the forest, I discovered for quite a long stretch the footprints of nailed boots and dogs. And went in the opposite direction. When it became dark, I went into a nearby house to drink.
"The householders told me, in Polish, that not long before that, a prisoner of war in similar uniform to mine, had passed that way. They gave me bread and a side of ham for the way, and I left them.
"I found the footprints of a single person who had been walking aimlessly. I followed the footprints. After that, I found three kinds of footprints leading to some farm. And there they ceased. I continued northward. I wanted to see the danger from close up and avoid it. The neighborhood was familiar. I had worked here at a farmer’s and would travel back and forth on this road. When I reached some two kilometers from Vandzhiogala, I turned right, crossed the road and went out towards the river, walking on the thin icy surface. I hoped to find my farmer. I would be prepared to pay as much as was demanded to harness a horse and take me far from the place where the chase was going on. I could no longer walk fast. My feet were scratched and my boots hurt.
"I found my former farmer in the village, in the street. I talked to him. He could not at that moment satisfy my needs, but promised me that in two days time, he would take me to Ukmerge. He arranged a hiding place for me under the roof of the barn, brought me felt boots (and I wore them instead of mine), and some food and drink. I fell asleep from sheer weariness. In my sleep, I heard the firing of an automatic weapon: not far from the place, a hunt was going on. [This was Sankin’s group crossing the Kovno-Vandzhiogala highway when they fell into the hands of Nazi pursuers.]
"I stayed with that same farmer for two days, rested a bit. The pains in my feet were forgotten and I started on my way. The wife of the farmer saw me. She took me into the house, gave me milk to drink and said: 'Anatoli, go away from here quickly, there is a hunt going on and patrols are wandering about at night.' Her father began to warn me that he would go to the police. I shouted at him and announced that I was leaving.
"At night, I went to the forest which I already knew, and turned northward. I had to go eastward, but as I was not certain that I would succeed in crossing the front line, I hoped that close to the front, I would come across some partisans. The rivers were still not frozen, and I decided there to go as far as Ukmerge and to cross the bridge there.
"Walking at night, I found my way according to the stars and also asked the inhabitants how to proceed. I went in the north-eastern direction. I passed a number of settlements but did not go into any. I passed the settlements of Sheta, Troskavo, Pagiriai, Sisikai. Some two kilometers from Ukmerge, I turned left and went on the Ukmerge-Utena road. There I was taken some distance on a sleigh and then went by foot through the fields to the village of Vidishkiai where there was a bridge. But afterwards, when I was on the road, I encountered German cars. I looked across the river which was still not frozen and crossed to the opposite side.
"In one of the villages I found a map. I marked out a route, noted the important points and went south-eastward. I passed through the settlements of: Ovanta, Moletai, Labanoras, Vilna, New Vilna, Rudamina, Turgeliai, Tarasovshtchina, Tropi, Yuratishki, Ivie. This was the route. I did not enter any of these settlements. At Startchenat, where I had stayed before, I already knew that partisans reached the place frequently. I was also told there that at Berevo or Baksht I would find their headquarters.
"I was afraid to fall into the hands of a single partisan as I was well dressed and had valuables in my bag. I realized that I should go straight to headquarters.
"On the way to Nikolaievo, in the farms of Mishutchiansk, I went into the house of Liksha, a farmer and a friend, to ask the way. We began to speak and he told me that if I continue walking, I would find the partisans. At the same time, he showed me a group of riders and said: ‘Here are your partisans.’ I told him to call them inside and he ran over to them. Apparently this was Gubi’s patrol group from the ‘Tchkalov’ battalion. Without waiting for his return, I jumped outside and went over to the partisans. Gubi told me to wait until he returned. After some minutes, a group of saboteurs arrived from the vicinity of Baranovitch. From them I learned about the partisans and their bravery. Now my desire to fight the Germans and destroy them was aroused. It seemed to me that there was nothing that depended on human strength that I could not do. Clearly, not everyone could be a saboteur or a scout, one needed experience, but one could achieve this. Not everyone could be a hero but one should aspire to it. One could also be a hero in everyday life. I believe that I will not be in the latter category. I am shrewd and resourceful and that is what a partisan needs. As for daring, I do not know. Life has still not presented me with a dangerous situation in which one can only be saved by willpower. The composure I displayed when I was taken to be shot, is not daring in my eyes, but I still have something of this quality.
"In the army I was a good sniper, I could go long distances, I was parachuted from the air a number of times, I am used to difficulties. I believe that these traits are essential for a partisan and would help me to carry out my functions. However, should it happen that in the course of a battle, I should have to sacrifice my life, then a hero’s death is more precious than a life without a purpose. Man is mortal, his actions are immortal.
"With this I end my confession and I am certain that the partisans will accept me into their ranks as an equal among equals. In my actions, I shall try to clear myself of all the blame that has been ascribed to me.
(Signed) Garnik”
The Special Department which dealt with Anatoli Garnik was not satisfied with his confession in writing. He was interrogated with excessive severity. The following is the report of the interrogation:
Interrogation Report held on 8.2.44
The prisoner Garnik Anatoli Jefimovitch was born in Odessa, in 1915.
Question: When did you turn from being a Jew into a “Ukrainian”?
Answer: From my first day as a prisoner 14.10.41, I registered as a “Ukrainian” when I was in the Sixth Fort in Kovno.
Q: How could you go out to work for a householder from the prisoner's camp?
A: The Germans permitted many inmates from the prisoner's camp to work for rich Lithuanian farmers. I also wanted to go to work and succeeded. I worked for the farmer for ten to fifteen days in all. I was then returned to the camp.
Q: When you were with the householder, you could have escaped, crossed the front line and fought Germany again. Why didn’t you do so?
A: I did not run away because I was frightened. The population [Lithuanian] would hand over the prisoners.
Q. When did you arrive at camp ‘F’ and how long did you stay there?
A: I came to camp ‘F’ from the householder on 4.6.42.
Q: When the Germans began to select Ukrainians from the camp, were you also chosen?
A: Yes. I was attached to the general selection of Ukrainians, they came to camp ‘F’.
Q: In your evidence of 3.2.44, you claim that you arrived in camp ‘F’ from the householder in December 1941, that you were approximately 1500 souls. Now you say that you reached camp ‘F’ on 4.6.42. Why do you not give a correct answer to this question?
A: I am answering correctly. I came to camp ‘F’ on 4.6.42, 1500 Ukrainians came in December, 1941. I gave this as an example, for everyone died of hunger and the cold.
Q: When and why were you arrested and in jail, and how long did you serve and how were you released?
A: In June, 1942, someone wrote about me that I was a Jew. Commander of camp ‘F’ called me, I do not know his name, and with the help of a translator, he asked me ‘Your nationality?’ I answered ‘Ukrainian.’ Second question: ‘What religion?’ I answered: ‘Russian Orthodox.’ Third question: ‘Your profession?’ I answered: ‘Cable worker.’ Afterwards he asked me if I had any business dealings. ‘No,’ I answered. He asked: ‘Are you a Jew?’ ‘No,’ I answered. And he asked further: ‘Are you circumcised?’ ‘Yes,’ I answered. He asked, 'why?' I answered that when I was fifteen, I was operated on because of an illness. I was not asked anything further and he left me alone. On the following day, I was ordered to collect my belongings and a German led me to the central prison of Kovno. That was on 13.6.1942. The official in the prison who filled out my personal questionnaire, informed me that I was a Jew and he entered it on the questionnaire. The following day I was transferred to the Ninth Fort.
Q: When you were at the Ninth Fort, why were you always left behind and the newcomers who were brought, were shot?
A: We were left as a group of eleven people. Our work was to bury those who had been shot. This group was always maintained. The Germans did not want to uncover their crimes.
Q: You worked digging up the bodies of those who were shot from their graves and despite the strict control and the small number of workers, the Germans tied you in chains. Why did they do this?
A: The Germans tried to keep the work of digging up the bodies and burning them in utter secrecy and in order to prevent anyone from escaping, they would tie us in chains every day from 7 A.M. to 1600 hours, at which time they would remove the chains.
Q: In your evidence of 3.2.44, you claim that when the gendarmes came to you on the evening of 25.12.43, you answered the question, ‘When can we wake you tomorrow?’ with ‘Not early.’ That is, you arranged the order of the day yourselves. Explain what was the reason for this?
A: The question was not put to us but to the cook who was awoken in the morning. On a normal day, this would be at 5 A.M., on Sunday at 6 A.M. Only on such a day – a holiday – it could be 7 A.M.
Q: Mention all your relatives who lived in the Soviet Union.
A: My wife, Garnik Shara Grigorievna, born in 1914. I do not know where she lives, but in 1941, she went to her relatives who live at No. 17 Bolshaja Ordinka Street, Apartment 4.
Recorded correctly according to my statement, and read by me (Garnik)
Interrogator: Head of the Tcheka Operations Group, Lida District – Major of the State Security Services (Valeri)
February 8, 1944
Printed in three copies
On February 14, 1944, Anatoli Garnik was transferred to the headquarters of the Byelorussian partisans on the order of the aide to the chief of staff, Comrade Genenko. The following are the accompanying letters sent with Garnik to headquarters:
“Strictly confidential.
To the aide of chief of staff of the Byelorussian partisan movement, Comrade Genenko. Special announcement.
On January 29, 1944, a military patrol of the partisan battalion ‘Tchkalov,’ of the ‘Vperiod’ (Forward) unit, in the Nishutchiansk farms in the vicinity of Ivie, detained citizen Anatoli Yefimovitch and brought him to the unit’s camp.
On January 31, 1944, Garnik was arrested and kept under guard. During the investigation, his valuables were taken from him, and recorded in a separate document, which at the first opportunity will be sent to you to the Defense Fund. While in custody, Garnik personally recorded his evidence on the basis of prepared questions, on eighteen pages, of special events he remembers, on nine pages with attached sketches.
On February 8, 1944, Garnik was interrogated on the basis of special questions. We attach the report of the investigation on four pages.
During his detention, Garnik was under the authority of our agency. We had agent ‘N’ observe him. Agent ‘N’ could not characterize his personality after three days of observation. Garnik expressed himself freely to agent ‘N’, but in any case it was impossible to come to any conclusions as it was impossible to check his actions.
Garnik has special traits: very sly, quick-witted and friendly. All of which makes our treatment of him difficult and we had to get rid of the agent on February 9, and release Garnik.
During the interrogation, Garnik gave us some very important information of value to the state. Here is a direct witness who carried out the last orders from Berlin to dig up and burn the corpses of those who were shot and buried in pits at the Ninth Fort, a branch of the Kovno prison.
His evidence reveals the Germans’ method of eradicating the traces of their crimes. The uncovering and burning of their bodies was carried out in utter secrecy. The number of workers executing the work was limited. When the work was at an end, the workers were killed. In view of the importance of these statements which Garnik can still give you details of, and after receiving your instructions, we are sending him to you with the documents.
Addenda: 1. Garnik’s written evidence – 18 pages.
2. Report of the interrogation on 8.2.44 – 4 pages.
3. Special events remembered by Garnik – 9 pages.
4. List of valuables taken from Garnik.
Assistant representative at the central headquarters of the partisan movement attached to staff of the commander in chief and central committee of the Communist Party in the Baranovitch district.
Head of the Chekaist operative group of the Lida district,
Major of the Security Services.
No. 10011
3 copies”
Strictly Confidential
During a search through Garnik Anatoli Yefimovitch’s possessions on January 31, 1944, the following items were taken from him:
1. Five gold rings.
2. A gold ring with a precious stone, plated in platinum.
3. Two gold earrings with precious stones.
4. Dental caps, bridges and dentures of precious metal, of undecided quality – 33 items weighing 150 grams.
All these will be sent to your address to be handed over to the Defense Fund.
Commander of the Byelorussian partisan movement in the forests of Nalibok, Platon – Major-General V.Tchernishov, ordered the transfer of Garnik to the “Big Earth” – that is, to Moscow.
Three people were brought to the airfield in the Ivenetz forest to be sent to Moscow: two senior officials of the Byelorussian police and Anatoli Garnik. During a German attempt to storm the airfield, the three were shot by the airfield guards.
The thought that Garnik was shot as a traitor gave me no peace. In May, 1964, I flew to Minsk. After continued research into the archives and military museums in Minsk, as well as conversations with former partisans, I decided to turn to the Historical Institute attached to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Byelorussia. The following day, the director of the archives, Anatoli Aleksandrovitch Kuzniaev, gave me a thick file with documents relating to German murders in Byelorussian territory, among which I found the report of Garnik's interrogation. On page228  of the material, it clearly stated that he was “shot as a traitor to the homeland during an attempt to escape. Major General V. Tchernishov."
I flew to Moscow and found Garnik’s relatives. They gave me his wife’s address. She lives in Ordshonikidze. She has a daughter and two grandchildren who live in Sachalin. Her husband is an officer.
After the victory over Nazi Germany, thousands of released army members and liberated prisoners of war began to return to their homes. Shara would sit for days on end, late into the night, on the balcony of their apartment on the fifth floor and watch the returning soldiers, in the hope that Anatoli was among them. But he did not return. Worn out and weary from too much hope, she deteriorated into despair and depression. When she had lost all hope of seeing Anatoli again, she jumped from the fifth floor. She was taken to hospital but remained alive. I told her the tragic story of Anatoli’s fate in my letters and, later on, sent her the document clearing Garnik’s name.
Shara Grigorievna Garnik died in 1995. Her daughter Larissa and her husband, and their older daughter Liuba and her family lived in Chechnya. Liuba’s husband, an officer in the Russian army, fell there in a battle with terrorists. Larissa and her husband and Anatoli’s oldest  granddaughter Liuba and her three children, Svetlana, Dimitri and Vladimir, immigrated to Israel from Chechnya in 1998 and live together in Netanya. Larissa’s second daughter Genia remained in Russia with her family. She visits Israel frequently.