Approximate location of partisan activity.
Born on February 27, 1923, Rae Kushner was the second-oldest of four children in Novogrodek, Poland. The city had a thriving Jewish population, comprising just over half of the town’s 12,000 inhabitants.
Soviet troops entered Novogrodek in September of 1939 after the Soviet Union invaded Poland. Though the Russians took away the Kushner business and home, life under Soviet rule was relatively tolerable. Then, in the summer of 1941, the Nazis invaded Poland at the start of Operation Barbarossa. Though rumors of mass killings had reached Novogrodek by that point, few Jews actually believed that the Germans would carry out such atrocities.
Following several massacres, the remaining Jewish population was forced into a ghetto. Rae lived in
the city’s courthouse with her family and nearly approximately 600 other Jews. Rae's mother and older sister were killed in a subsequent massacre on May 7, 1943.
Before long, Rae, her father and younger sister were among only 300 Jews left. These remaining Jews managed to dig and escape through a 600-foot tunnel during the nights, using special-made tools in the workshops and hiding the dirt in the walls of buildings.
When completed, the 600-foot tunnel was only large enough for one person to crawl through. Upon emerging from it, the escapees were met with gunfire, darkness and disorientation.