Oscar, aged 12, escaped the ghetto twice and fled into the forests when his native shtetl Novogrudok in Belarus, was destroyed by Nazi killers. However each time he was forced to return to the ghetto, due to the antisemitic and hostile villagers in the countryside. After the 3rd mass “execution” in the ghetto, his father told him he must leave the ghetto and not return. He said “from now on you are no longer a Jew, you have hope and you can survive – gei gezunt a heit”.
Oscar’s older brother Eli had arranged to meet Oscar outside the ghetto in the nearby forest. Sadly Eli never arrived to meet Oscar. Oscar pretended to be a gentile orphan shepherd boy. He spent three weeks sleeping in barns, hay stacks and fields, and travelled some 60 kilometers before he made contact with the Bielski partisans, led by Tuvia Bielski. They took him to their forest camp where his older sister Fruma had already found shelter.
The partisans slept in underground bunkers, zemlankas, on bunks made of branches. They set up workshops to repair weapons, make clothes and resole shoes. They also established a field hospital and supplied services to the Soviet partisans. They carried out retaliatory raids against local collaborators and waged a bloody war against the Germans, derailing trains, destroying bridges and cutting telephone lines.
Oscar was trained to act as a gentile, and to enter the surrounding villages, where he observed German activity and delivered messages to Bielski partisan contacts. He was taught how to blend in with the local population and was instructed what to say and what to keep secret; he was also taught how to climb trees, ride a horse, which trails to take and how to read the tree markings that mapped the secret trails. Instead of fleeing from German convoys, he waved at them as part of his disguise. His most important task was to memorize messages to pass onto partisan contacts. Even though the partisans generally operated at night, Oscar undertook many dangerous missions alone in the German controlled villages during the day.
Oscar and Fruma were among the 1,230 Jews saved by the Bielski partisans and liberated by Soviet troops in May 1944. Their parents Josef and Mina, and brothers Moshe (19), Fivel (14), and Eli (13) were all executed by the Germans and their collaborators.
Oscar made a new home in Australia in 1951.”