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, 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.
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