Truth – Legends / About a friendship one of the sixty-four

There were sixty-four of them … Sixty-four courageous ones, who were able to escape from the “death factory” created by the Fascist invaders in the Kaunas Ninth Fort…It was in fact an impossible escape, stunning in its organization, its bravery and the teamwork of the prisoners.
 Alex Faitelson, one of the organizers of the escape from the Ninth Fort, has now taken on himself a considerable and magnanimous task. He decided to collect as much material as possible about each and every member of this nigh on legendary escape. And he has been able to bring to light more than one heroic escape of the Great Patriotic War (World War II), to demonstrate the bravery of the Soviet people who, under the most difficult circumstances, would not be defeated.
 I was put in touch with Faitelson through a letter received by the publishers from Vitali Nemionov, a Muscovite. In this letter he expresses his heartfelt gratitude to the former inmate of the Ninth Fort for news of his father, who fell in the uneven struggle against the enemy, for introducing him to Soviet Lithuania, and tells of how a warm friendship came about.
 Vitali Nemionov’s father and Faitelson met in the Ninth Fort. It was here that Nemionov was brought from the camp for Soviet prisoners of war at Kalvary, at the beginning of November 1943. They were placed in adjoining cells.
 The Fascists ordered Nemionov, an army doctor, to burn corpses. He was appointed to be in charge of a team of “firemen” and he was given the task of counting corpses. Some weeks before the escape, Nemionov registered 12,000 victims who had died at the hands of the Fascists. This catalogue, whose contents were an indictment against the Fascists, he kept secretly concealed on his own person next to his chest. 
 Nemionov, whose German was excellent, and dressed in a German army uniform, was to lead a group of prisoners out of the fort and by way of the forest to the partisans. As is now known, the escape succeeded, but some of the escapees were caught and killed. Amongst them was Nemionov.
 “This was a real Soviet patriot, who, weapon in hand, wanted to avenge people’s sufferings at the hands of the Fascists,” Alex Faitelson says of Nemionov.
 But having made a special trip to Moscow, Faitelson did not want to go back empty-handed. He recollected that, when they had been together in the fort, Nemionov had told of his brother, a well-known radiologist. So he decided at least to search for him amongst Moscow’s medical profession. But it transpired that in 1950 he, too, had passed away. 
There was still the opportunity of checking with the Information Bureau. There were a lot of Nemionovs in Moscow and many had the same name and patronymic.
 “I covered the whole of Moscow, all in vain,” Faitelson tells. “Just before my return home, I decided to pay a visit to the communications department on Kirov Street, where they let me have a telephone directory. There were seven Nemionovs in it. I phoned one of them. He said that he knew a doctor called Nemionov, who had lived in Liuberz before the war. He had vanished without trace during the Great Patriotic War. Recently, they’d come across his son, Vitali. I left my address and telephone number just in case, and were they to meet up with Vitali, would they please ask him to telephone me in Kaunas…”
For a moment Alex Faitelson fell silent, as if he had lost the thread of his account.
 “Several days later there was a telephone call from Moscow,” Faitelson went on. “It was a man named Vitali Moiseyevitch Nemionov. My pulse racing with impatience, I asked where had his father completed his higher education, this being the surest sign that it was the right man. I heard the words, 'In Germany, at the university in Heidelberg…' Yes, no doubt about it! This was indeed the son of the man whose fate I had shared…
 "In a few words, I told him about his father’s successful escape from the Kaunas Ninth Fort, of his heroic death in an unequal battle with the enemy, and then asked, would Vitali write about his father and himself."
The first letter from Vitali Nemionov arrived soon:
I remember very little about my father (I was five when he went to the front), but those who knew him, said he was a kind, sensitive, educated person.
What I am writing to you about him stems largely from my mother’s reminiscences (she died in 1954), and those of his brothers, his  Up until the war, he had been assistant director of the head of the public health department of the city of Liuberz, dealing with medical treatment, and then went to the front as a volunteer.
I remember how mother and I went to see father off, when he left for the front, how we went to the city’s health department, which was in the main square. That’s where the volunteers collected. There was a vast crowd around us. People came up to my father, said something to him, embraced him. That was the last time that I saw him…All that we had at home was a photo of my father in uniform, and on the back it said, “To my dear children – from papa,” and it also said that it was issued on September14, 1941 to army doctor of the second degree M. S. Nemionov as evidence that he did indeed serve in the ranks of the Red Army as head o   the medical service of the 841st artillery regiment in the 258th rifle division…
Vitali Nemionov wrote that since 1955 he has been employed in the Moscow Gas Trust. While working, he studied all the time. He had worked as a fitter, skilled workman, engineer. At present he is section head. A member of the Communist Party. He has a son and daughter.   After that first letter, there came a second and a third. When Faitelson met Vitali near the Sokolniki metro station there was no need for introductions. Vitali and his father were as alike as two drops of water. Only, naturally enough, younger…
Last summer the Nemionovs visited Kaunas. They met the friends who had shared his father’s fate, visited “death factory” No. 1005-B, as the Fascists named the Ninth Fort in their secret correspondence. Those were very emotional experiences. Vitali saw, with his own eyes, what his father and other Soviet patriots had to suffer. He visited Paneriai, Pirchupis, walked in the steps of the partisans in the Rudniki forest, and took home with him from Lithuania a great love and the sincerest feelings of friendship for our part of the world and its people. Representatives of two generations were united in a lasting friendship.
 This is what opened up and came out from the search for just one former prisoner of the Ninth Fort. 

P. Mikutzkas

Correspondent of the Lithuanian Republican newspaper Tiyesa

September 10, 1957