In The Ghetto and In the Forest (click on title to see entire article)
In June 2014, Harold Minuskin self published the English translation of his cousin's
autobiography, In the Ghetto and In the Forest. His cousin, Kalman Minuskin, was only 12
years old when the Germans occupied their predominately Jewish town of Zhetel.
Short Summary of Book
It is sometimes hard to believe what a 12 year old boy accomplished during a time when
his town, and Europe was under the grip of the German murder squads during World War
II. This book is an inspiration to children who quickly assume adult responsibilities in times
In the ghetto of our small Belorussian town, my family and I shared the same hiding place
with my cousin, Kalman and his family. The cleverly disguised hiding place saved our
lives when the ghetto was liquidated. When we subsequently escaped into the Belorussian
forest, our families again shared the same camps and camouflaged underground shelters
reserved for women and children and those too old to fight.
However, even at the age of 12, Kalman was determined to participate with the Jewish
Partisans against the Germans for the loss of his 2 younger brothers and other family
members during the liquidation of our ghetto. Kalman had blond hair and easily disguised
himself as a local shepherd boy. He was able to spy on the Germans for the Jewish
Kalman was on his own for many days at a time while he gathered intelligence
information about the Germans. He slept in concealed places in barns, or outdoors well
hidden from everyone. If caught, he would be shot on the spot. The fact that Kalman would
return to the Jewish Partisans with valuable intelligence information on a continuous basis
was an amazing feat of courage for a 12 year old.
Kalman's information helped the Jewish Partisans conduct successful ambush operations
against the Germans, to obtain food, medical supplies, weapons and ammunition and also helped
defeat German strongholds.
The book includes details of Kalman’s escape from the ghetto and descriptions of several
Jewish Partisan battles against the German forces. There is also a section devoted to
Kalman’s mother’s memoirs. In those memoirs she tragically tells how she was unable to
hide her 2 younger sons in order to save them during the liquidation of the ghetto.
From the original approximately 3500 Jews of Zhetel, 350 managed to escape
to the nearby forests. Only about 150 survived for over 2 years to be liberated by the
Soviet Army in the fall of 1944. The Minuskin family, including Kalman, his younger
brother, his parents, my parents and my younger brother, were part of that 150.
Kalman passed away in 2008. In 1992, his niece, Galit Minuskin, translated his memoirs
from Hebrew to English. I published this English translation from Hebrew with the help of
my relatives and the Center for Jewish Studies at Arizona State University (ASU). I also
annotated the book with some of my own childhood memories.