Truth – Legends / Declarations / Following the publication of the book The Time of Storms and Fights
(Lithuania: Lithuanius, 1993) by Alex Faitelson
The book we hold in our hands has more than 420 pages – memories of a person who went through many experiences during the bloody period of Nazism in Lithuania; a person with a very strong memory. He remembers a lot and he has an ability to create a picture, word-by-word, that comes from his experience, from what he saw and heard, and to put it on paper. Moreover, he found a lot of documents, searching after them in museums, archives, books and periodical publications and he brings proof and complementary evidence, making his story stronger and raising its trustworthiness to the level of a historical source. Dr. Dina Porath from the Tel Aviv University, in her introduction to the book, evaluates it in the following words: “… It is a fascinating and exciting book, rich with details and descriptions of personalities, based on research and documents … The text is accompanied by his wife
Sima’s poems which were written at the hot spot of the events. Undoubtedly this book will contribute to our knowledge and understanding of Lithuanian Jewry and the period of the Holocaust …”
Alex (Alter) Faitelson was a young boy, eighteen years old, when he found himself inside the barbed-wire fences of the ghetto of Kaunas (July 1941). At this place he lost his parents during the "Great Action," the execution carried out by the Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators. He joined and took an active part in the Resistance movement, the Anti-fascist Combat Organization (AKO), forged side arms. Having been forced to work in the Fifth Fort of the former Czarist Citadel of the town, that became an arsenal of ammunition, he endangered his life when he carried hand grenades and cartridges for the AKO to the ghetto. Following the orders that came from the Partisan Movement Center in Moscow, he participated in the march to the Augustovo forests intending to build a partisan base there.
This march failed, Faitelson was caught by Lithuanian police and handed to the Gestapo. The Gestapo sent him and his friends, who were also caught during the failed march, to the Ninth Fort, where the elimination of mass graves and the burning of tens of thousands of murdered Lithuanian Jews and Jews that had been brought from foreign countries and killed there on a mass scale, was taking place. The Nazis tried to do everything to eliminate the evidence of their crimes.
Here Faitelson demonstrated his organizational talents and his ingenuity. He was the force behind the preparation and successful escape of the corpse-burners, and all of the prisoners of the fort: Jews from the ghetto of Kovno, Soviet POWs (Jews) and four non-Jewish prisoners broke out to freedom on the night of December 25, 1943. The author describes this peripeteia in a very thrilling and fascinating way with many interesting details. He and other escapees succeeded in penetrating through the barbed-wire fences to the ghetto. Here the AKO hid them, gave them shoes and dressed them after burning their old clothes that had absorbed the horrible smell of the burning corpses…
AKO had organized the departure of the escapees from the fort on a truck to the partisans in the Rudniki forest south of Vilnius.
The author also writes about his experiences in the forest, the march to the east to bring weapons, and other details of his combat activities.
After the war Faitelson searched tirelessly for documents and information about the destiny of Soviet Jewish POWs (from the fort). He found their relatives in Russia. His book includes information about the corpse-burners, the partners in the escape, who did not succeed in staying alive. The author does not forget to mention other victims of the partisan struggle. In this way, Faitelson honors the memory of those who perished.
Meir Yellin
Folk und Zion
No. 101, January–March 1994
Tel Aviv