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Belated RIP Fay Schulman


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Six weeks late on this obituary. RIP Fay Schulman


Faye Schulman Dies; Fought Nazis With a Rifle and a Camera  She joined the Resistance brigade after her family was executed and used her photographs as proof of German barbarity and Jews’ determination to fight back.


By Sam Roberts

May 28, 2021



Faye Schulman (then known as Faigel Lazebnik) as a member of the partisan Resistance in Eastern Poland in 1943. Many of the fighters were, like her, Jews. “Jews did not go like sheep to the slaughter,” she said. “I was a photographer. I have pictures. I have proof.”Credit...Faye Schulman, via Second Story Press


On Aug. 14, 1942, a year after German troops invaded Soviet-occupied Poland, they massacred the last 1,850 Jews from a shtetl named Lenin near the Sluch River. Only 27 were spared, their skills deemed essential by the invaders.


The survivors included 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, their newly acquired mistresses. (“It better be good, or else you’ll be kaput,” she recalled a Gestapo commander warning her before, trembling, she asked him to smile.) They thus spared her from the firing squad because of their vanity and their obsession with bureaucratic record-keeping — two weaknesses that she would ultimately wield against them.


At one point the Germans witlessly gave her film to develop that contained pictures they had taken of the three trenches into which they, their Lithuanian collaborators and the local Polish police had machine-gunned Lenin’s remaining Jews, including her parents, sisters and younger brother.


She kept a copy of the photos as evidence of the atrocity, then later joined a band of Russian guerrilla Resistance fighters. As one of the only known Jewish partisan photographers, Mrs. Schulman, thanks to her own graphic record-keeping, debunked the common narrative that most Eastern European Jews had gone quietly to their deaths.



Mrs. Schulman, standing third from right, with fellow partisans during the war. Credit...Faye Schulman, via Second Story Press


“I want people to know that there was resistance,” she was quoted as saying by the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation. “Jews did not go like sheep to the slaughter. I was a photographer. I have pictures. I have proof.”


Mrs. Schulman, who emigrated to Canada in 1948, continued offering up that proof, in exhibitions of her photographs, in a 1995 autobiography titled “A Partisan’s Memoir: Woman of the Holocaust,” and in a 1999 PBS documentary, “Daring to Resist: Three Women Face the Holocaust.”


She recounted her life in pre-World War II Eastern Europe and how a ragtag band of Red Army stragglers, escaped prisoners of war and Jewish and gentile Resistance fighters — including some women — harassed the Germans behind the Wehrmacht’s front lines in the forests and swamps of what is now Belarus.


“We faced hunger and cold; we faced the constant threat of death and torture; added to this we faced anti-Semitism in our own ranks,” she wrote in her memoir. “Against all odds we struggled.”


She died on April 24 in Toronto, her daughter, Dr. Susan Schulman, said. Mrs. Schulman was believed to be 101.


Dr. Schulman said that her mother had not been in contact with her fellow partisans for years. “She was the youngest,” she said.



Mrs. Schulman’s brother Kopel Lazebnik, third from left, had brought food to a Jewish civilian camp. Credit...Faye Schulman, via Second Story Press


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 are still living.

Faigel Lazebnik was the fifth of seven children born to Yakov and Rayzel (Migdalovich) Lazebnik. Her mother was a caterer, her father a fabric merchant. Records list her birth date as Nov. 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 birth year 1922 if she was born in November.


The Lazebniks, who were Orthodox Jews, lived in Lenin (named for Lena, the daughter of a local aristocrat, not the Bolshevik revolutionary) in what was then Poland. Faye had apprenticed to her brother Moishe, the town photographer, since she was 10 and had taken over his studio when she was 16.



Jewish and Russian members of the Resistance were buried in a single grave in 1943. Credit...Faye Schulman, via Second Story Press


In September 1939, after signing a nonaggression pact with Hitler, Soviet troops crossed the Stulch River and occupied Eastern Poland, including Lenin, just 16 days after the Germans had invaded the country from the west. 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.


Mrs. Schulman realized that among the photographs she was processing for the Germans that August were images of the bodies of her own family members. “I just was crying,” she told the Memory Project, a Canadian historic preservation program. “And I — I lost my family. I’m alone. I’m a young girl. What shall I do now? Where shall I go? What shall 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 town that 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. Her rifle became her 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 her a nurse, providing her with rudimentary equipment and tutoring by their full-time medic, a veterinarian.



Mrs. Schulman reunited with her brothers Kopel, left, and Moishe, right, after the Red Army liberated Belarus in July 1944. With them was a fellow partisan, Morris Schulman, her future husband.Credit...Faye Schulman, via Second Story Press


“The main part of being a partisan was not the killing but keeping the wounded alive,” she said, “bringing the wounded back to life so they could continue fighting and bring the war to an end.”


When the guerrillas raided Lenin, she recovered her camera and darkroom equipment and began chronicling the Resistance. Developing film at night or under a blanket, she captured intimate views of the partisan underground, including a poignant moratorium on anti-Semitism during a joint funeral of Jewish and Russian partisans. She recorded joyous reunions of partisans who were surprised to discover that their friends and neighbors were still alive.


Mrs. 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 a fellow partisan, Morris Schulman, an accountant whom she had known before the war.


They married later that year and lived in Pinsk, in Belarus, as decorated Soviet heroes. But after the war they left for a 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 to British-controlled Palestine themselves.



Mrs. Schulman in an undated photo with the Compur camera she used during the war. She later emigrated with her family to Canada. Credit...Faye Shulman, via Second Story Press


When Mrs. Schulman became pregnant with Susan, though, the couple decided instead to settle in Canada. After arriving there in 1948, Mrs. Schulman worked in a dress factory and later hand-tinted photographs and painted in oils. Her husband was employed as a laborer, then worked in the dress 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; a brother, Rabbi Grainom Lazewnik; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.


The 100 or so photos that she took during the war and preserved in her move to Canada will remain her legacy, Dr. Schulman said. And among the few other belongings that Mrs. Schulman was able to bring from Europe was her Compur camera, the folding bellows model that she had used in August 1942. She treasured it, her daughter said, but she apparently never used it to take another photograph again.

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1 hour ago, cardboard_killer said:

At one point the Germans witlessly gave her film to develop that contained pictures they had taken of the three trenches into which they, their Lithuanian collaborators and the local Polish police had machine-gunned Lenin’s remaining Jews, including her parents, sisters and younger brother.

Please don't lie. There was no help from any Polish police, because there was simply no such help in these areas. Poles, just like Jews, were then massively killed in these areas by the German occupiers and their Lithuanian helpers. Please correct this false information. During the Second World War, Poles did not take part in the extermination of the Jewish population. Not only were they themselves the victims of mass murders, they were also the most committed nation in saving the Jewish population. Which nation has the most representatives of the so-called Righteous Among the Nations. On January 1, 2019, the number of people honored with the title from Poland was 6992, the largest number of all countries, although only in Poland there was the death penalty for helping Jews. Many Polish citizens were murdered by the Germans for helping Jews.






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1 hour ago, =L/R=Rafcio said:

Please don't lie.


Please direct your ire to the New York Times and the author Sam Roberts.

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Just now, cardboard_killer said:

Please direct your ire to the New York Times and the author Sam Roberts.

But you are the one who publishes the false content on the forum. You need to know some history to publish something on this topic.

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Just now, =L/R=Rafcio said:

But you are the one who publishes the false content on the forum. You need to know some history to publish something on this topic.


The story is based on an eyewitness account. I do know some history. The 1920-1939 Polish government was harshly anti-Semitic. The Poles were the victims of the Nazis, but some Poles collaborated even while most did not. It is a complicated problem, but denying it happened is not the answer.


I am a US citizen. The USA committed genocide on many Native American tribes; it also enslaved millions of Africans, sentenced to a lifetime of servitude, rape, and violence. I can recognize those things, try to atone for them, and still love my country. Mostly because I understand that my country is not an extension of myself. I am responsible only for my own moral decisions, not the actions of others, even when they claim they represent me or are doing things for my benefit.

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