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[Page 186]

The Shtetl Rayvets

By Shmuel Drelichman

Translated by Moshe Porat

Mr. S. Drelichman writes in his book, “Quiet as in Rayvets” that Mikolay Rey, the great Polish poet was born and lived in the place that is now Rayvets. Therefore, the shtetl's name became Rejowiec in Polish (spelled Rayoviets). S. Drelichman added, “The Polish people spoiled with shame the name of their great poet, by assisting the Nazis (and often working alone) to assassinate and to destroy the Jews, their neighbors for hundreds of years”.

ten187.jpg - The Erets Israel Office in Rayvets
ten187.gif
The Erets Israel Office in Rayvets
Founded in 1924: Moyshe Zonesheyn, Abhsh Roieter,
Yankl Eisenshtein, Yechiel Glebhar, Nachman Waks,
Mordechay Foorer

The Rayvets Jews were active and creative in different cultural, public, and political activities. As with the majority of the Jews in Poland, they earned their living by small commerce and artisanship. A small part of the Jewish community dealt with important business and industry. However, for the majority of the shtetl inhabitants, bread earning was a rare event; poverty, destitution, and need were frequent guests.

Nevertheless, as it is told, “a poor congregation does not exist”. Therefore there was in Rayvets a beautiful big synagogue with side rooms, Hassidim small pavilions (shtiblach), and a beautiful and relatively big library. Youngsters were activists in such Zionist organizations as Mizrakhi, General Zionists, the League for Workers in Erets Israel, left and right Poaley Zion, Liberty (Freyhayt), Hakhaloots, Revisionists, Beytar, and professional unions. The young fermented with energy and desired to break out into the great world.

ten188a.jpg - The Jewish Scouts Movement in Rayvets
ten188a.gif
The Jewish Scouts Movement in Rayvets

 

ten188b.jpg - The group Frayhayt in Rayvets (some of them now in Israel)
ten188b.gif
The group Frayhayt in Rayvets (some of them now in Israel)

 

ten189.jpg - Beytar in Rayvets
ten189.gif
Beytar in Rayvets

Samuel Drelikhman wrote in his descriptions of the Nazi murderous actions that once on a snowy Saturday in January 1940, the wild-running Nazis passed from house to house to take contributions. They sought and found money, gold, ornaments, and worthy objects. They drove all the inhabitants into the market square, and ordered them to undress completely naked. Men, women, and children trembled from shame and from cold. The Nazis commanded them to exercise (under the threat of execution)--to fall, to rise, to crawl, and other sporting exercises, during which the victims were beaten by heavy blows.

At this action were killed Reuven Mitsflicker, and others. Accompanied by wild laughs, the wild Nazis passed their “good time” until late in the night.

On a Saturday morning in February 1941, the entire Jewish population gathered at the Beys Hamidrosh for playing (at the time, not only the pious came in the Beys Medresh). Sudenly Gestapo soldiers surrounded the synagogue, and with blows and threats to kill people who did not obey, they ordered the Jews to take out all the books and the Torah scrolls from the Beys Medresh and to arrange them in good German order near the building. Moreover, when Jews refused to set fire to the holy books, an impatient Gestapo soldier ignited them. The Nazis forced the Jews wrapped in prayer shawls to dance and to sing around the burning Jewish Holiness.

Uziel Biderman was the first whom the Nazis ordered to ignite the fire. After he refused, they pushed him into the sanctified cupboard. The shooting pierced the cupboard like a sieve (“reshete”); so were pierced Biderman's garments and shtreiml (Hassidic hat). Nevertheless, he remained alive. “It is a miracle,” the witnesses said.

Mrs. Eiseman, the woman from whom the matches were taken, fell from her feet and died when she was told that her matches had ignited the Holiness. (The Nazis killed Uziel Biderman in the great mass slaughter).

Two months later, the SS men spilled gasoline on the Beys Hamidrosh and ignited it with a charge of dynamite. The great, beautiful shul, the ornament of Rayvets, burnt up, and the Rayvets Jews were not allowed to extinguish the fire.

Armed and shooting SS men with their Polish associates surrounded the town on the fourth day of Passover, April 7, 1942. Nobody could run away. They ordered the town Jews to gather in the market place in fifteen minutes. The inhabitants left their homes, taking with them small bundles with the most necessary things. Some of the Germans guarded the assembled Jews; others, with the Polish citizens, passed from house to house and shot to death the sick, old, and weak, who could not leave their home.

The persons they killed were:

Peshe Fingerhoot
Reyzl Mittlman
Sorke Appletsweig
Yadzhe Plosman with her child in her hands
Gootshe Yayir, the Rebe's daughter, with her two small children (it was impossible to separate the children from their mother after the bloodthirsty murder)
Haya Epstein and others.

The killers enclosed five hundred healthy young men and women inside the Beys Medresh. The majority, headed by Moyshe Mendl Mintz, remained in the market place until the order to march. They were led to the railroad station. Many of them were shot during this “march”, the rest were transported to Sobibor and Belzhets to be burnt there.

More than a hundred from those enclosed in Beys Madresh succeeded in running away by breaking windows. The guardians shot some of them. Those who remained were sent to the concentration camps in Krikhov, from where a small part ran away.

Officially, Rayvets became “Judenrein”; however Polish peasants, young and old, sought and broke into the hiding places. When discovering hidden Jews, the peasants delivered them to the Germans. They killed the victims on the spot.

The peasants themselves murdered Doovtshe Teitlboim.

For some reason, around twenty persons found in Isroel Vorman's ice cellar were sent to Chelm; among them were Motl Eisenberg with his family, Shimon Derlichman, Avraham Derlichman, Feyge and Avraham Finkelstein, and others. Some of them were permitted to work; most were shot to death.

In the Rayvets sugar factory, an opportunity fell to bribe an SS officer. Some dozens of Rayvets Jews had received permits to work legally at the factory. Over time, more and more Jews who left hideouts in the town surroundings became legal workers. Moreover, as it became possible to also bribe some controllers, working power was needed, and the number of Jews employed in the Rayvets sugar industry passed four hundred persons. The Germans enclosed all of them in a ghetto, which they created in a small side street. They surrounded the place with fences of barbed wire and appointed Velvl Blass as the ghetto head.

Germans guarded the camp. Zindl Plum stood at the gate. He was responsible for each discipline breach. The ghetto Jews were led every morning to work and returned at nightfall. They were not paid for their work and they did not receive nourishment. The SS men entered the ghetto often to have fun. Once they ordered the ghetto dwellers to smear their faces with excrement and thus appear in the street.

Berish Shenker told the officer that this was not appropriate for a cultured German and soldiers; that he should be ashamed. They seized him, and when he was freed, they shot him in his back. In such a way were shot and killed:

Moyshe Feldman
Yoske Shpeiseman
Peshe London, with her two children
Motl Mitlman
Reyzl Einstein and others.

Kalmen Blootshitzn succeeded in escaping from Ghetto. When chased, he snatched a rifle from one of the Gestapo men and tried to kill him. However, another pursued the fugitive and shot him.

During the following night, they murdered over thirty Jews, throwing grenades through windows of the dwellings. From a nearby grove the murderers had brought seven Jewish men and women, their hands bound by barbed wire, and tortured and killed them in a cellar. Burying the bodies had been forbidden.

On 22 November 1942, SS men suddenly appeared at the work place, where survivors worked legally. They took out twelve persons and brought them in the nearby grove, where they ordered the prisoners to dig a large grave, and then shot them. Among the victims were:

Avraham Shpeiseman
Berish Youngman
Yidl Hochlerer.
Two of them, Maly Friedland, and another one, succeeded in running away.

Zalman Bornsteyn, who left Rayvets, got wind that Rayvets Jews were working in the sugar factory. The Germans employed him as an mechanic in a workshop. He succeeded in making friends with some SS men, through whom he received knowledge on the destiny of Rayvets Jews. He warned them about oncoming actions. The long trench that was ordered to be dug behind the stable of Kopl Eisenshtadt had been designated to be a grave for all the Jewish survivors. They proposed a large sum of money to bribe the German Major. Nevertheless, he refused, claiming that the entire town knew about it. He could however send them, he promised, to a better place, in Lublin or in Maydanek (he thought, of course, that its purpose was unknown).

The Germans began to liquidate all the ghettos after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Gestapo soldiers entered the Rayvets Ghetto in May 1943. They took all the Jews into freight cars and brought them to Maydanek.

The well-known Zionist activist, Henia Holzbkat, the wife of Simshon Holzblat, fell dead.

Inside the concentration camps were murdered:

Simshon Holtsblat
Yosl Zonsheyn
Moyshe Fingerhut
Yankl Bergman
Avrom Hayim Shafran
Ester Sore Shenker (Zaklikovski), with her children Hala and Dan
Velvl Blat
Mendl Plum
Hanele Plum (in Aushvitz crematorium)
Avraham Shpigel
Toybe Waks and many other of our Rayvetsers
The sixteen survivors, who worked at the Gestapo Headquarters, were ordered by the SS men to dig a grave. The murderers shot them all.

Near the grove on the way to Chelm are lying:

Yosef Ber Eiseman
Pinkhas Varzurger
Efrayim Gevandshnayder
Dvoshe Gevandshnayder
Yosl Birnboym (from Krasnistav)
Avraham Kam
Leyboosh Kam
Ester Eisenberg

The Rayvets Heros and Partisans:

Meyir Bergman their commander
Meyir Ber Mitlman
Lea Rocharg
Sara Yita Shtock
Ahrontshe Fridman
David Zonsheyn
Natan Ratker
Hayim Shenker
Motl Beyl
(The last two passed away)

Rayvetsers who passed away in Ludmir:

Usroel Dantsiger - the active Zionist
Buroch Boim
Avraham Hayim Friedland
Eliezer Brinker

The Rayvetsers who survived the Concentration Camps:

Eisenberg, Yoel and Feyge
Eisenstein, Natan and Pearl
Bornstein, Feyge and Zalman
Bornstein, Wolf
Boym, Frida and Sara
Belik, Shmooel
Bergman, Meyir
Goldfarb, Hene
Groober, Ishayahu
Dobner, Simcha
Waks, Efrayim
Waks, Meyir
Waks, Moritz
Waks, Malka
Waks, Nahoom
Waks, Feyge
Warman, Isroel and his wife
Zamshein, Pearl
Zonshein, Dovid
Zonshein, Haya
Zilberman, Ester
Zilberman, Sima
Zinger, Efrayim
Zinger, Sara
Mitsfliker, Yankl
Mitsfliker, Yakov (Avrahams)
Mitsfliker, Moshe Reuven
Mitsfliker, Shimshon
Paypermacher, Yosef
Fishman, Ester
Fishman, Leybl
Fishman, Simha
Flechtman, Gutshe
Flechman, Yite
Feldman, Hayim Yoel
Tsvern, Getsl
Rosnfeld, Leon
Rotker, Pola
Rochverg, Lea
Shafran, Itshe
Shafran, Moshe
Shnabel, Yehiel
Shnabel, Leybl
Shnabel, Pole
Shnabel, Feyge
Shpigel, Reyzl
Shpigel, Sara
Shpeyzman, Hilish
Shpeyzman, Itshcak
Shpeyzman, Isroelke

There are additional survivors; people who came from other places and countries, not from the camps.

In June 1945, the Chelm prosecutor called some of Rayvets's survivors (among them Zalman Bornshteyn, Yechiel Waks, Yankl Mitsfliker) to identify from photographs the wild SS men (already enclosed in jail) who murdered in Rayvets and its surroundings. They recognized the following SS men: Yeski, Layis, Astar, Peter and others who had been judged.

In February 1945, a group of twenty Jewish young persons, boys and girls, returned from the concentration camps to their home in Rayvets to live there normally. The local Polish people threatened them: “If the Jews do not leave the shtetl in a couple of days, all of them will be killed”. The youngsters, ill and weak, did not dare to begin a struggle with the thousands of armed local Polish Jew-haters. And looking with sorrow at their destroyed hometown, they left their natal shtetl for eternity.

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