Death of Faye Schulman; Fight the Nazis with a rifle and a camera
On August 14, 1942, just seven weeks after German troops invaded Soviet-occupied Poland, they slaughtered 1,850 Jews from a shtetl named Lenin near the Sluch River. Only 27 were spared, their skills deemed essential by the invaders.
Among the survivors were shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, blacksmiths, a barber and a young novice photographer named Faigel Lazebnik, who later in marriage would become known as Faye Schulman.
The Germans enlisted her to take commemorative photographs of them and, in some cases, of their newly acquired mistresses. (“Better be good, otherwise you’ll be kaput,” she recalls a Gestapo commander warning her before, trembling, she asked him to smile.) They thus spared her from the firing squad to because of their vanity and obsession with bureaucratic record keeping – two weaknesses she would end up exerting against them.
At one point, the Germans mindlessly gave his film to be developed which contained photos they had taken of the three trenches in which they, their Lithuanian collaborators and the local Polish police strafed Lenin’s remaining Jews, including his parents, sisters and younger brother.
She kept a copy of the photos as evidence of the atrocity, then later joined a Russian resistance guerrilla group. As one of the only known Jewish partisan photographers, Ms Schulman, through her own graphic archives, debunked the common narrative that most Eastern European Jews went quietly to their deaths.
“I want people to know there was resistance,” she said Foundation for the Education of Jewish Partisans. “The Jews did not go like sheep to slaughter. I was a photographer. I have pictures. I have proof.”
Ms. Schulman, who emigrated to Canada in 1948, continued to offer this evidence, in exhibitions of her photographs, in a 1995 autobiography titled “A Partisan’s Memoir: Woman of the Holocaust”, and in a 1999 PBS documentary. , “Dare to Resist: Three Women Face the Holocaust. “
She recounted her life in Eastern Europe before WWII and how a motley band of Red Army stragglers escaped prisoners of war and Jewish and Gentile resistance fighters – including women – harassed the Germans behind the front lines of the Wehrmacht in forests and swamps. of what is now Belarus.
“We faced hunger and cold; we have faced the constant threat of death and torture; on top of that, we have been confronted with anti-Semitism in our own ranks, ”she wrote in her memoir. “Against all odds, we fought.”
She died on April 24 in Toronto, her daughter, Dr. Susan Schulman, said. Ms. Schulman would be 101 years old.
Dr Schulman said his mother had not been in contact with fellow supporters for years. “She was the youngest,” she says.
According to the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation, as many as 30,000 Jews joined resistance groups on the Eastern Front during World War II; only hundreds still live.
Faigel Lazebnik was the fifth of seven children born to Yakov and Rayzel (Migdalovich) Lazebnik. His mother was a caterer, his father a fabric merchant. Records indicate that her date of birth is November 28, 1919, which would have made her 22 in August 1942. But in her memoir, she wrote that she was 19 at the time, which would have made her year of birth 1922 if born in November. .
The Lazebniks, who were Orthodox Jews, lived in Lenin (named after Lena, the daughter of a local aristocrat, not the Bolshevik revolutionary) in what was then Poland. Faye had apprenticed to her brother Moishe, the city photographer, since the age of 10 and resumed his studio at 16.
In September 1939, after signing a non-aggression pact with Hitler, Soviet troops crossed the Stulch River and occupied eastern Poland, including Lenin, just 16 days after the Germans invaded the country from the ‘Where is. By August 1942, Nazi Germany had broken the treaty, declared war on the Soviet Union and pushed further east, drawing Moscow to the Allied side.
Ms Schulman realized that among the photographs she was processing for the Germans in August were images of the bodies of her own family members. “I was just crying,” she said the Memory Project, a Canadian historic preservation program. “And I – I lost my family. I am alone. I am a young lady. What should I do now? Where am I going to go? What should I do? “
The Germans ordered her to train a young Ukrainian woman as an assistant, but she stalled, knowing what would happen when she was no longer considered essential. After Soviet partisans attacked the city in September, she fled with them.
“From now on, my bed would be the grass, my roof the sky and my walls the trees,” she said. His rifle has become his pillow.
Because her brother-in-law had been a doctor, the partisans welcomed her, even as a woman and a Jew, into the Molotov Brigade and made a nurse here, providing her with rudimentary materials and tutoring by their full-time doctor. , a vet.
“The key to being a supporter was not to kill but to keep the wounded alive,” she said, “to bring the wounded back to life so that they could continue to fight and end at war.”
When the guerrillas attacked Lenin, she retrieved her camera and darkroom equipment and began chronicling the Resistance. Developing a movie at night or under a blanket, she captured intimate views of partisan underground, including a poignant moratorium on anti-Semitism at joint funerals of Jewish and Russian supporters. She recorded a happy reunion of supporters who were surprised to find that their friends and neighbors were still alive.
Ms. Schulman remained with the brigade until July 1944, when the Red Army liberated Belarus. She reunited with two of her brothers, who reintroduced her to another partisan, Morris Schulman, an accountant she had known before the war.
They married later that year and lived in Pinsk, Belarus, as decorated Soviet heroes. But after the war, they left for an internally displaced persons camp in West Germany, where they smuggled people and weapons to support the movement for an independent Israel and made plans to emigrate themselves to Palestine under British control.
However, when Ms Schulman became pregnant with Susan, the couple decided to move to Canada instead. After arriving there in 1948, Ms Schulman worked in a clothing factory and later hand-tinted and oil-painted photographs. Her husband was employed as a laborer, then worked in the clothing factory as a cutter before the couple opened a hardware store. He died in 1992.
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Schulman is survived by a son, Sidney; one brother, Rabbi Grainom Lazewnik; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
The hundreds of photos she took during the war and kept when she moved to Canada will remain her legacy, said Dr. Schulman. And among the few other personal effects that Ms Schulman was able to bring back from Europe was her Compur camera, the folding bellows model she had used in August 1942. She treasured it, her daughter says, but she apparently never used it to take another. photograph again.