A man who likes to lie is like someone sinking in the mud. The more he lies, the deeper he sinks.
Three partisans failed to return from a partisan action intended to acquire food for their unit. Their story is told by Professor Sara Ginaite-Rubinson in her memoirs, Atminimo knyga (The Book of Memory):
“The energetic shooting by the enemy was directed towards the little bridge over the river and towards the partisans, who did not stop crossing the bridge. Our partisans returned fire. The cows and the horses, with their carts laden with goods, began to scatter in all directions. The enemy, the Polish 'white' partisans, lay concealed in the cemetery and fired at us. While racing over the bridge, Peisach Gordon and Itzchak Segal fell and died. Masha Endlin, who had just arrived, was lost somewhere. The machine-gun disks sank in the river. After losing three partisans, we returned without food, despairing and disappointed, to the base." (p.148)
This very same action was written about by Nehemia Endlin in his book On the Partisan Fighting Route. Below is an extract:
“On December 30, 1943 a group was put together to organize food, headed by Misha Trushin, a lieutenant among the prisoners of war. My wife Masha and Chaya Shmuelov volunteered. The road led by Vishintzi, Kaletanz, towards Novostrelzi. On the way to Kaletanz there was a rivulet crossed by a little bridge, close to the cemetery. On the way back, when they were laden with goods, they fell into an ambush of Polish farmers who had positioned themselves in the cemetery and opened fire in the direction of the bridge. Peisach Gordon was shot and killed, and the others scattered and crossed the stream through the water. Misha Trushin and some of the partisans opened fire at the ambush. It was of no importance because the attackers did not come out, nor did they give chase to the group. Their intention was to drive off the partisans, leaving behind them their food and animals.
"Shooting in the dark in the direction of the well-armed concealed attackers could have created a target for them to return fire against us. In the meantime, our people were in confusion. The machine-gunner Meishe Rubinson and his deputy, Eliezer Zilber, lost the machine-gun magazine. My wife was left caught on a branch, and no one came to help her. Itzchak Segal got lost and threw away his SOT automatic rifle. Peisach Gordon’s body was left on the bridge. A sad end to the campaign, and we returned to the base empty-handed, having lost people and weapons…
"The commander and the commissar vented all their anger on Meishe Rubinson and Eliezer Zilber for losing the magazines and bullets. Given the company's meager armory, this was a serious and sad blow. The two of them were sent to find the lost ammunition, which of course they were unable to do. On their return, they announced that Peisach Gordon, Masha Endlin and Itzchak Segal were dead. In this way, apparently, they wanted to prove to the commanders that they had been to the place."
Nehemia Endlin continues: "It was the night of Sylvester. That evening I was on guard by the HQ dugout. In the dugout they were welcoming in the new year, and as appropriate to partisans, they were drinking home brew and having a good time, even though the day before they had lost three men and weapons. The commissar came out to me late at night and told me that Masha had died near Kaletanz. I answered that we were fighting a just war and that no one could be certain he would come out of the struggle alive.
"We reached the target and the commander posted a guard on both sides of the village. They were charged with letting no one in or out without a password. The action took place in the village. Everyone was warned not to take anything, even something of no value, from the farmers other than food.
"The food raid was crowned with success. On the way back, Meishe Rubinson wanted to show me the grave of my wife Masha. When we reached the little bridge over the rivulet by Kaletanz, we came under heavy fire from the cemetery. We did not panic, and quickly took the food and livestock across, by the bridge or through the water, while the partisans covered us by shooting in the direction of the attackers. Thanks to this exchange of fire, Meishe Rubinson was saved from the unpleasant task of finding and showing me my wife’s grave…
I was sent to the ghetto to bring fighters to the forest.
"One day Velvl Shavlan, a member of the underground fighting organization in the ghetto who worked for Liptzer in the Gestapo brigade, came to me and brought me a note he had received from a Jew who had come from the Vilna Gestapo brigade. The note was written by a woman called Mery Ezerhovitz to a family in the ghetto by the name of Rostovski. The handwriting had looked to Velvl to be similar to that of my wife, and he decided to bring the note to me.
"Masha described in brief how she had fallen into the hands of the Vilna Gestapo. When she had freed herself from the thicket by the rivulet by Kaletanz her partisan comrades were no longer around. She was caught by armed Polish farmers, who already held Itzchak Segal. The two of them claimed that they were Jews who had lost their way, when they heard the exchange of gunfire. As they were unarmed, the Poles believed them.
"The Poles did not know what to do with the Jews they had captured, and gave them to the Vilna Gestapo. There, they were interrogated and not found guilty of anything other than being 'Jews who had gone astray' – and they were sent to a Jewish work brigade.
"I showed the letter to Chaim Yellin. He immediately instructed David Markovski to take the opportunity of sending my wife 500 marks and clothes. The two of us, Chaim and I, went to Liptzer. He received us as honored guests, with coffee and rolls. I asked him, as the person in charge of the ghetto on behalf of the Gestapo, to get my wife out of Vilna and bring her to Kovno. We set him a stay of one month.”
They brought Masha to Kovno and Nehemia took her to the forest.
In May 2000, in the Russian State Military Archives in Moscow, I found a document with the code number 504-2-7-18, and this is an extract from this document:
“ From the telegraph agency to the Security Police and the SD
Kovno Security Police, in telegraph No. 404 of January 13, 1944, at 16:34, from S.-
To the commander of the Security Police and the SD – Ostland - at Riga
Re: Notification of events in Lithuania
On January 5, 1944, around 20:00, two armed criminals were arrested in Smiltinai, Lapes region – 857 – in the course of one-time action. These were two Jews who had escaped from Kovno ghetto.
Commander of the Security Police and SD – Lithuania – in Kovno.
Colonel SS and Colonel Lieutenant of the Police.”
The two Jews who were arrested were Itzchak Segal and Masha Endlin. Read about it in the story on the fate of Shmuel Chananovitch.
After liberation the former prisoners in Kovno ghetto and the partisans Nehemia Endlin and Meishe Rubinson lived in Vilna in a shared apartment. But they never became friends and they never spoke to each other.