I have attached here a translation from Yiddish of a letter that my grandfather, Gershon Katz, sent to his brother Nakhum, living in Palestine, in October of 1944. In this letter my grandfather tells Nakhum what happened to their family and to their Lida community at the hands of the Nazis and their helpers. He writes that they are the sole survivors of their family – that their parents, their six siblings, and their siblings’ spouses and children were all killed in the Holocaust. He wrote this letter when he was 30.
During the war, my grandfather escaped from a truck heading towards Majdanek and joined the partisans operating in the Naliboki forest. As a partisan, he participated in the sabotage of German supply lines, among other actions blowing up five army trains, four of which were carrying supplies and one transporting troops. He then joined the Red Army once it advanced to the area in which his unit was operating. As a Soviet soldier, he was decorated for bravery for pulling to safety his wounded commander while under German machine gun fire.
To the day he died at the age of 83, he kept in the bathroom of his apartment in Tel-Aviv an SS-issued razor and shaving bowl taken from a Nazi soldier that he executed. On occasion, he would use the bowl to shave.
Here is a copy of the original letter, and here is its translation. I have tried to match town names in Yiddish to their equivalent in English, and have transliterated the rest. Some of the sentences, such as the first, are difficult to understand. At certain points I have added punctuation to ease the reading. Note the address that my grandfather used. The letter arrived, notwithstanding. Nakhum kept the letter until he died, after which my grandfather inherited it. My family came across it two summers ago while sifting through his old papers.
Here is a picture taken circa 1918 of my grandfather’s family. My grandfather is the child standing between his seated parents, Yosef and Yehudit. Nakhum, the recipient of the letter, is the boy standing second from left.
During times like these it is important we remember.