Albert Russell

"Freedom doesn't come free. You've got to fight for it."

Name at birth
Avraham Rubenstein
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Name of father, occupation
Zev, Building contractor, repaired homes. My father died in 1939 before the war started, probably of cancer.
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Chaya, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and five sons: Sol, David, Yitzchak, Avraham (me), and Srulik (Israel). I came from a very religious family
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
My three older brothers and me
In 1941, the Germans came to our city.  I was twelve years old.  We were told that all males between the ages of 13-65 had to report to work on the railroad, for the Germans.  We didn’t trust them and my brothers and I ran away to the woods.  
We returned home later that night.  Later on, members of the Judenrat, the Jewish Council appointed by the Nazis, came to our house.  They said that everyone had to report for work or else all of the town’s Jews would be killed.  Our mother said we had to listen.  But instead, we ran away to woods taking her with us.  
After a while, the Germans came looking for us in the woods.  We were surrounded and they started shooting at us.  They killed my mother and my little brother.  My brother Sol was shot twice in the arm.  
I went to a farmer and got some shirts for bandages for my wounded brother.  He kept passing out; I fed him snow to keep him going.  I carried him for four months through the woods.  Finally, he was okay.        
We joined the Jewish underground in the woods.  There were more than eighty of us Jewish partisans.  We were known as the “Khiller Group” after one of the men whose last name was Khiller.  We were in the woods near Wlodoba, Poland.
We bought rifles and were later helped by the Russian underground.  We operated from 1941-1944.  Russian POW’s escaped into the woods and we were together with them.  We would go out at night mining bridges and would blow up German trains.  We were supplied with mines from Russia.  They would drop armaments as well as ham and vodka; Russian paratroopers helped train us.
I was a little punk, but I had so much guts!  I didn’t have one penny, my gun was my life!
We were freed by the Russians.  
After the war ended, my brothers went to Israel but I did not.  I always did what was right for me.  I was sixteen years old, I was a kid.  I had no education, no money, no profession – what would I do in Israel, dance a hora? 
I didn’t want to fight anymore.  I went to Germany, I made a little money.  Then I went to America.  After a time, I brought my brothers and their families over to America, thirteen people altogether.
I met Ben Gurion three times.  He was trying to convince the partisans that they should move to Israel, the majority did go.  We helped build the State of Israel.  
I was a sheriff in a county in Poland after the war.  I made documents – passports and other documents to send Jewish boys to Italy then onward to Israel.  I would transport these Jewish boys from Poland; I would say that they were under arrest and would take them across the Italian border. 
Where were you in hiding?
We were in the woods near Wlodoba, Poland.
When did you come to the United States?
1949; I lived in Germany for two years before coming to the United States
Where did you settle?
I landed in Boston
How is it that you came to Michigan?
I wanted to go to Chicago or Los Angeles but I could only find a train to Detroit so I went to Detroit
Occupation after the war
Contractor and home builder
What do you think helped you to survive?
Courage. If we had leaders instead of rabbis, I think 90% of the Jewish people would have survived. Jews thought the rabbis were G-d. The rabbis told us to keep reporting to Germans. There were smart, educated people who should have seen the storm coming.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Freedom doesn't come free. You've got to fight for it.
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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