On the Eve of The Holocaust
THE LAST DATE: 15 Av, 1942 [July 29, 1942]
I have written extensively about the gruesome events that took place during the five-year war, pogroms and massacres. My writings, The Eternal Ban, Days of Awe, Stories Told by Youth and The Fiery Sunset, which were submitted to the historic commissions in Warsaw, Prague and München not only describe the tragedy of my town, Olyk, not only the tragedy of Ukrainian Jewry, but also the events from Vladivostok to Berlin. As the 15th of Av approaches, it brings along a tremendous feeling; graves open, and I see before me the images of thousands of martyrs, and I hear the sounds of cries of protest. Why? Who can answer that bloody question?
The population of Olyka, together with Jewish towns in Volhyn, swelled with the arrival of refugees fleeing from Warsaw, Lublin, Zamosz and other towns after the German takeover of Poland. Until the German beasts invaded Soviet Russia, all the refugees, including the local residents themselves, were brutally engulfed by the occupation.
Olyka was the target of frightful bombing on July 1, 1941, 70 percent of the houses were destroyed by fire, and hundreds of people were killed. The clear goal of the Gestapo was to annihilate the Jewish population. On July 3, the sadistic beast, Max Tauber, came to town and issued two
orders: anyone going out without a yellow patch would be killed, and anyone not working would be at the mercy of the Ukrainian militias. The residents were transported to various installations: Mitelna, Ferdinand, Yozefina, Pokoshchev, Kharlopa, Glenbock, Nosavitch, and others. In the evening the camp workers returned to the ghetto, where they could find a piece of bread, potato, etc. There were those who paid with their lives. At that time, there was a woman, Rosa Shapiro, who was shot for being caught carrying onions. The famous professor from Warsaw, Louis Tugenthal, was also caught carrying a small bottle of milk at the entrance to the ghetto, but as an example to others, he was beaten senseless, and remained unconscious and injured with swollen eyes for nine days.
On the first of the month of Elul, 1941 [August 24, 1941], Heinrich Koch, the Reichs commissar, issued an order to shoot all males 14 years and older. The Gestapo and Ukrainian militia pretended to call them to work at the Radziwill Castle. The hoax was unmasked when they started bringing in 85 year-old men. Everyone immediately spread out and fled wherever they could.
Attorney Eliyahu Kleinfinger (of Warsaw), the fighter, Yechiel Skrob, and this writer had a major role in the revolt of the 10th of Elul. The aktsia lasted from 7 am to 5 pm, and resulted in the deaths of 683 registered people, in addition to hundreds who weren't registered with the Judenrat and who were hiding in bunkers. The sadist Max Tauber, calmed down the ghetto, promising that this would not reoccur. As long as everyone continued to work with dedication all day long, they would continue to live exclusively off of the 120 grams of bread they received each day.
Eventually, there were four more such aktsias, until the hour arrived. From 4 am on the 11th of Av, 5702 , the ghetto was surrounded by Gestapo forces and hundreds of Ukrainian
militia. Max Tauber appeared in the ghetto at 5 am with a group of helmeted members of the Gestapo, and announced in German:
"Don't worry, you are being relocated to Ingatovka, where you will work and live freely." He stated that each person could take along anything owned, but that by 7 am we would be evacuated, and anyone found thereafter in the ghetto would be shot.
[photo:] The family of Feiga Tsam with Sima and Leibush Zechtser. They were killed in the Holocaust.
The fighter, Moyma Sussel, Yechiel Skrob, attorney Kleinfinger and this writer told the people to stage an uprising. The Judenrat, however,
reacted very strongly. It was time for the evacuation it was 7 am. The remaining 5,673 Jewish pretended to start marching. Suddenly, Max Tauber stopped the march: "You are remaining in Olyka! There's no aktsia. Back to the ghetto!"
Our joy was unbelievable. People started breaking out in songs and praises; couples kissed, and siblings hugged. Some danced and others fainted. People congratulated each other. Hundreds began reciting the Hallel prayer [said in synagogue for holidays and occasions when Jews are saved from destruction]. All those in hiding shamefaced came out of hiding, and then, suddenly
..shots rang out. Over 500 helmeted Gestapo started chaotically running to the Radziwill Castle to obtain "useable Jew" documents.
In those heated moments, the radical arrogance of the courageous fighter, Yitzchak Nokanetshnick broke through, as a kind of electric protest; he approached the with a revolver pointed at the local commissar, and warned, "Jews, don't go to your graves!"
There were 500 men in hiding, including Rabbi Mordechai Landau with 93 men. The "useful Jews" were starved for five days, and then brutally herded to the grave at night. Men were shot, while women and children were clubbed with rifle butts and bayoneted.
The ghetto was totally liquidated on the 15th of Av, 1942.
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