Berman’s Branches
Barbara Hacker Berman
Articles - Escape from Volozhin

Escape from Volozhin

The Rogovins and the Bermans were from Volozhin. Reuven (Rubin) was a family name. While I cannot prove it, I believe these Rogovins are related to our Rogovins. Regardless, their escape from Volozhin during World War II is an inspiration to all. Below is from an article written by Rachel and Reuven Rogovin.

We fled Volozhin at night, four days after the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. The day before, we arranged our valuables in our neighbor’s cave. We left town empty handed. Our son, Grisha, took his bicycle. Reuven left wearing slippers. Good friends persuaded him that in soft slippers the walking would be easier. After some kilometers of stone road, his slippers were torn exposing the bare flesh of his feet.

We felt better when we arrived at Mizheyk. Here we met many horse-drawn carts. Many friends had left town before us and wanted to hear news of home. They all (except Rachel and Reuvin) decided to go back to Volozhin. They went back directly into the lion’s muzzle, into Nazi hands. All of them were murdered.

At night we arrived at the 1939 frontier. We found there a crowd of refugees. But the military guards closed the passageway and forbade passing it.

Having no choice, we returned to a town we had passed, Rakov. A friend advised us to try the frontier passing in Volma, 15 Km from Rakov. To our sorrow, this was also blocked. At noon we heard firing and saw people advancing on carts eastward. We succeeded in passing the frontier.

We arrived in the town of Dzerzhinsk. After some days of travel, we were not able to advance any more. We rested perplexed and not knowing from where help might come. It appeared in the form of a gentile boy riding on a horse. He was ready to exchange the horse for Grisha’s bicycle. He agree. We harnessed the horse to an old cart and travelled to Mstsilave, where a mobilization office was in operation. It announced that all men under age 50 should report to military service. I (Reuven) reported myself and was quickly nominated as Political Supervisor of the third battalion in the Soviet Red Army. (Note: The Red Army was at that time an ally of the United States.)

I obtained two hours leave to bid my family farewell. We did not know where our fate would move us. We agreed that should be survive, we would meet at my aunt’s home in Stalinabad, now Dushanbe, in Tadzhikistan. Rachel and Grisha did arrive in Dushanbe. They were provided an apartment, Rachel got a job, and Grisha went to school.

I participated in many Crimea battles. I was wounded in Sebastopol and wound up in the hospital. There a wounded officer, who was hospitalized with me helped me find my family. Two months later, I was strong enough to leave the hospital and join my family.

At age 15, Grisha volunteered into the Red Army. At the end of 1942, he was heavily wounded. (There was no written information regarding 1942 and 1946. I assume Grisha recovered and they lived in Dushanbe until 1946.)

We left Tadzhikistan and came to live in Riga in 1946, and from there we went to visit Volozhin. There was nothing to see. It did not exist anymore. We went to the Jewish Grave Yard, in which there was common graves. They looked like small grass covered hills.

A committee investigating the Nazi crimes was active in having the graves opened. Woe to the eyes that saw it. We looked at the murdered. We have no words to describe it.

We visited Volozhin again prior to our Aliya (moving) to Israel in 1958. And we went again to look at the common grave. Our brothers’ blood had leaked into the very depths of the earth. But life went on as if nothing happened. Pigs were burrowing inside the grave site.

Our mourning of them should never end.

Hero of the Underground

As above, I do not know for sure if Eliezer Rogovin was related our our Rogovins. The name “Eliezer” is certainly common with our Eliezer. But this I do know....he was a hero of the resistance. Below is his story told by M. Porat.

Eliezer rogovin was born on May 5, 1922, to Toybe and Tzvi Rogovin. They were a modest working class family. However, they were concerned with knowledge and decided to give their most talented son a strong Hebrew education.

In 1941, immediately after entering Volozhyn, the Gestapo enclosed the entire family with all the towns’ Jewish in a tiny Jewish Ghetto. On the day of the Ghetto liquidation, he was able to escape to another vicinity. He found his way to the resistance and joined in the partisans’ ranks. He was in The Tshkalov partisan unit. Eliezer excelled in fighting the Germans. He was awarded many medals. He was even awarded the most prestigious decoration, the golden star, as Hero of the Soviet Union. In 1943, he was designated to be a Lieutenant and as a sapper unit commander. His main duty was to wreck the railways and to damage the military German trains.

In one of his encounters with the Germans, the enemy was much stronger. Eliezer decided not to retreat and to fight them until the final bullet. The battle lasted for a long hour. He was wounded, but he continued fighting. When some German soldiers drew near him, he tossed a hand grenade and killed two of them.

Eliezer was hospitalized for two months. When he was healed, he returned to the battlefield. In the Nalibok forest, he isolated, surrounded and defeated a German unit.

After the liberation of Volozhyn, Eliezer was appointed as the head of the secret service in the area. He executed a German corroborator who was responsible for his family’s extermination. Later, he joined the Soviet Army and fought in their ranks all the way to Berlin.

When the war ended he left the Soviet Union for Poland. In Lodz he joined the Gordon Zionist movement and took the “Habra”--escaping way. He was active in Jewish refugee camps in Salzburg, vienna and Italy as an instructor and Hebrew teacher. In Italy he joined the Irgun Tsvayi Leumi, a Zionist group. He went to Israel, illegally, and was expelled by the British to Cyprus.

After spending a year in Cyprus, he was permitted to enter Israel. He joined the Israel Army, as a mining officer. He excelled in his duties.

Near the end of the Independence war battles, Eliezer volunteered to dismantle mine fields in the Negev. He was killed at a mine explosion in the Beer Sheba area, December 26, 1948. He was buried in Rehovot.