In 1942, Isidore (Izzy) Karten and his brother Hersch, escaped from their village of Swirz to avoid being confined to the ghettos in Bóbrka and Prezemyslany. They escaped into the woods, leaving their father and two older brothers behind. Their brothers Itchie and Hymie joined them later after their wives and children were killed by the Nazis. Eventually, Izzy and his brothers brought their father into the woods, but against their better judgement permitted him to return to his congregation in the ghetto for the Passover holiday. While there, the Germans burnt down the house he was staying in, killing all inside.
The Karten brothers spent their days sneaking into the ghettos and convincing other Jews to escape with them and join them in the woods in order to survive. One of those who joined them was Julia Grossberg. She and Izzy were married in the forest under the supervision of two witnesses and later by a rabbi who joined their partisan brigade.
Izzy, his brothers and other partisans spent much of their time digging bunkers and finding food, medicine, guns and ammunition. They had some help from gentile neighbors who let them know when the Germans planned to enter the woods, so they would move from one camp to another, later returning to their bombed out bunkers, digging them out and reoccupying them.
Sometimes local farmers would notify the Germans where the partisans were hiding, resulting in the death of their comrades. On rare occasion, the partisans would avenge these killings by executing the snitch and sending a warning to the family and other farmers that they would share this fate if they turned a Jew over to the Germans. This warning saved many Jewish lives.
By the end of the war, several other groups had joined the Karten brothers’ brigade which ended up saving more than 400 Jews by the end of the war. Members of the brigade became “landsmen”. They all started new lives and went on to have children to replace those Jewish lives lost during the war.
Izzy and Julia came to New York in early 1946 with their first child Bernice. Later Marcia and Harry joined the family. The couple rebuilt their lives and vowed to never forget the atrocities brought upon the Jews of Eastern Europe. They became benefactors of Yad VaShem in Jerusalem, and together with their children erected the Partisan Panorama memorial in 2002.