MOSCOW (May. 27)
Tales of Jewish heroism and Nazi atrocities on the Soviet front were told here today by the Soviet Jewish colonel Faivel Michlin and the poet Aaron Kushnirov, both of whom came from the front lines to address the Jewish conference against Fascism which took place in Moscow on Sunday. Kushnirov, who fought behind the German lines, is one of the most prominent Jewish writers in Soviet Russia.
“I have come from the front where the heroic Red Army is sweeping the Nazi filth from our land with a fiery broom,” Kushnirov said. “Eleven months ago I, and many other Jewish and Russian writers and poets, volunteered to defend our native land. We took rifles in our hands but did not forsake our other weapon – the pen. We fought with bayonets and with propaganda.
“In the Fall of last year, when Hitler’s divisions were nearing Moscow, I, together with other Jewish and Russian fighters, was far behind the enemy’s lines. Our group moved through the German rear. We made our way with bayonets and hand grenades. Those were grim and hard days. But surrounded by the enemy, we remained well-organized and disciplined Soviet soldiers. Over the bodies of the enemy we forced our way through the German lines. We continued to strike at the enemy and stood up before German tanks until they all turned back. In this battle we lost our beloved Jewish major Salman Osherov who with great skill directed the artillery fire on the German positions. In this great patriotic war there are many Jews among the gallant soldiers and heroes who are defending our land.”
JEWISH COLONEL TELLS OF NAZI MASSACRE OF VITEBSK JEWS
Col. Faivel Michlin, who participated in many battles on the Soviet-German front, related how guerrilla fighters who broke through the Nazi lines reported to him the horrible scene witnessed by them in Vitebsk, where thousands of Jews were driven into one building by the Nazis and burned alive.
“In this war,” the Jewish colonel said, “it has been my lot many times to pass through land scorched and devastated by the Germans and to see corpses of tortured men, women and children. But the story of the burning of those thousands of Jews in Vitebsk was the most terrible that a human being could ever imagine. The partisan who reported it to me was burning with vengeance as he related the facts. ‘Listen, colonel,’ he said excitedly, ‘in Vitebsk the Germans drove thousands of Jews into the Red Army club and set fire to the building. Do you understand? All of them. Men, women and children. And all perished. Many thousands. Do you hear me, colonel?’
“I heard him. And to hear the details of his report was more terrible than to wait for death. I know Vitebsk and I have visited the Red Army club there on several occasions. I know that the building could hold thousands of people. I listened to the horrible tale told by the partisan and in my mind I saw a picture of fire and heard the shrieks of burning children. The fire in Vitebsk has long since died down, but it still burns in my heart. I have never been to a synagogue, but now every time I read that the Nazis have burned down a synagogue, I feel hurt. Hitler reminded me that I am a Jew.”
Col. Michlin, who is 40 years old, has been serving in the Red Army for twenty-one years. He is a graduate of a Soviet military school. He fought against the Nazi armies on the Minsk front and was later encircled on the Vyasma front, but managed to break through the German line. He is now fighting on the Kharkov front.