- Essie "Eshke" Levine Shor was born in 1925 in Novogrudek, Poland (now Belarus). Her parents Shmuel and Cyril (nee Mendelovich) had a total of 5 children - 2 boys and 3 girls. Her father was a bookbinder by profession. (This profession and Essie's quick thinking remark about it to the Nazis was a factor in his survival of the war.) The economic situation of the family was such that they managed to send the sons to yeshiva but could not afford to do that for the daughters. Essie went to public school. Although antisemitism existed she did have a few Polish friends from school..
- On a Friday in December of 1941, 15 year old Essie was returning home from work. When she reached Shloss Street she noticed an announcement that prohibited Jews from going beyond the town's limits and ordered them to remain in their homes. She rushed home to tell her mother and her older brother Yisroel about it. Her father and younger brother Aron had not yet returned from work. Yisroel had recently had a shocking experience in travelling through a nearby town (Horodyshch) where he found almost all the Jews dead, including his uncle.
- Yisroel made a plan that as soon as his father and Aron would return they should escape to the village of Stankevichi to join relatives there. Mother and the daughters were to follow. Essie's brothers took warm clothes and left. Two hours later when Essie, her mother, and sisters tried to follow they could not leave because Belarus policemen were patrolling the streets. Yisroel and Aron waited a long time for them and then started on their way. They were stopped by two Belarus policemen and turned over to the Germans. They were shot and thrown into a pit. A passing dog was also shot and thrown in the same pit. Yisroel was 18 years old and Aron was 14. (After the war, Essie and her father dug up their bones and buried them in Israel).
- Her mother and sisters (ages 6 and 10) were taken on army trucks and killed. They were among the 4000 people massacred that day. Essie and her father were spared and sent to live behind barbed wires in the ghetto with along with the 700 other survivors of that dreadful day.
- Essie's lot improved somewhat when she was employed to do grueling domestic work for a Polish couple, the Foltanskis. Mrs. Foltanski took a liking to her young worker and risked her own safety by traveling to the ghetto one day to give Essie information about the existence of partisans in the forest . She urged her to escape and save her life.
- Essie, (age 16), with a few others, managed to escape to the forest where she was reunited with her cousins Asael, Tuvia, and Zus Bielski who were the leaders of the group. From 1942 to 1944, the partisan encampment grew from 25 people to over 1200. The Jewish partisans were eventually joined by the Russian partisans who were also fighting the German army.
- Essie learned how to clean and fire a rifle, build and live in underground bunkers and go on dangerous combat missions. One such mission had the partisans facing the German army in open combat. As one of only two women among the partisans who owned and could shoot her own rifle, Essie was also one of the few women who performed guard duty, and went on missions to find food and gather intelligence.
- After liberation, Essie met Jerry Shor who had been an officer in the Polish army. After a brief courtship they were married. She spent three and a half years in a DP camp. During that time Jerry wanted to go Israel and fight but Essie did not want to see any more wars. In 1949 she came to the United States with her husband and baby daughter.
Novogrudek, Poland (now Belarus)
Jewish Partisans - Bielski brothers
http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/ (put DP camps in search box)