Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Aida Brydbord - Part I
During the first few days they didn't mistreat us too badly. They called us to the marketplace and they announced that the Jews are the biggest enemies of the people and that the Gentile people should have nothing to do with us. Within a week or two they said that all the Jews are supposed to wear round yellow circles on the front left side and in the back of their clothes.
One day they called my father in. My father was a very educated man. They asked him to be the head of the Judenrat in Linovo.1 He didn't want to. He said that he is too old and that he wouldn't be able to send another Jew to do whatever they'll demand of him. After this, my parents decided to move to Pruzhany, and lived in the ghetto there. In Pruzhany, Mr. Janowicz,2 who knew German very well, was chosen to be the president of the Judenrat. He was a Zionist and a wealthy man. Another man, Siegel,3 had lived in Danzig. He came to visit his parents in Pruzhany and was stranded there when the war broke out. He was the spokesman to the Germans because he knew German very well. Rabbi Mandelbaum was not an official member of the Judenrat. He was very smart, very intelligent. His word was taken into consideration when any decisions had to be made. Dr. Goldfein, a woman doctor,4 was also on the Judenrat. She was responsible for medical services. Her husband was also a member of the Judenrat.
The ghetto was formed three or four weeks later. The Judenrat had to carry out German orders: to see that people are going to work when they are called, to dig ditches, to go to a farm to dig potatoes, to clean the streets. There was barbed wire all around the ghetto, with a gate. We could go in or out only when a policeman was standing there checking us. We were counted when we walked in or out. When we walked in we were searched. There were two Jewish and one German policeman, or a Polish policeman appointed by the Germans.
I did all kinds of work, cleaning toilets, washing floors, cooking for the Germans, milking cows, chopping wood, going to the farmer to dig potatoes and working in a hospital. People my age tried to work outside the ghetto because the farmer sometimes let you have something. We tried to sneak in a potato or maybe a handful of greens or a little bit of butter or something like that. We didn't get paid by the Judenrat because the Judenrat didn't get paid by the Germans. The food in the ghetto was very poor quality. There was a lot of sickness. TB was a constant killer.
I remember working in the hospital in the ghetto.5 It was originally a Polish Gymnasium. The doctor in charge was Dr. Goldfein. The head of the laboratory was Dr. Avram Treger. He taught me how to use the microscope and to detect TB and other diseases. A lot of people died of TB because conditions were very poor. You have to understand that in one small room, seven or eight people lived. There weren't enough beds. Bathrooms were outside. Sanitary conditions were absolutely terrible.6
I had a niece. She was five or six years old. Do you know what children played in that environment? They played "Germans", Farbalten zach, hidin from the Germans. The Germans are coming. Where shall we hide? That's what children played.
The shul also moved into the ghetto. Rabbi Mandelbaum was the head of the shul. People went to daven. The religious Jews went every morning and every evening. Everybody tried to observe Jewish holidays any way they could.
The Germans gave us some food. You had to stand in line to have your little bit of milk, some flour and whatever you could try to get. We exchanged things with the natives through the wires as long as the Germans weren't watching us. You gave them a blouse, or you gave them a dress and they gave you some butter or a chicken. There was a shohet (ritual slaughter) in the ghetto, so you could kill a chicken and have some meat. As a matter of fact, once, in the middle of the night, they smuggled a cow into the ghetto. My house was on the edge of the ghetto near the wire. They put regular shoes on the cow to disguise its footprints. The shohet slaughtered the cow in the middle of the night. We already had customers and everybody was begging for a little bit of meat. By the next morning there was no sign that the cow had been in the ghetto.
In the ghetto the situation changed slowly. People were brought to Pruzhany from all the small villages, and even from bigger towns. More and more they asked the Judenrat to send people to outside work, to Arbeitslager, from which they didn't return. Sometimes people volunteered for the Arbeitslager because conditions in the ghetto were so bad. They didn't have anywhere to sleep. They had to sleep on the floor. I was living with my parents and my aunt and my uncle, five in a tiny little room. We had two beds and a sofa and a little stove. This room was our bedroom, our bathroom, our toilet, our eating room, everything.