I do not want to tell here about the social and political activities in Rayviets, nor about the big and small struggles between its different organizations. I would only recall the creator of the Zionist movement in the shtetl, a man who came from the Warsaw Cultural Center and established the first Hebrew School in Rayviets, our comrade and best friend Gad Zaklikovski.
Here I would only like to describe the very dark period of the rule of Hitler's murderers in my Shtetl. It started with the one-week occupation by the Soviet Red Army. Their best friends were some local communists, among them children of very good families. Life became worse than before; however it would not have been so bad if it only had ended with the Red Army occupation. Unfortunately, following the Russian-German (Molotov-Ribentrop) agreement, our area was determined to be under the German rule. The Russians had withdrawn from Rayviets. Some Jews had gone with the Soviets; most of them people who had cooperated with the Red occupants and were afraid of revenge. Those Communist activists were the first victims imprisoned in the Russian concentration camps.
The Germans entered Rayviets on Simhas-Toyre night 1939. From this day until the Barbarossa German-Soviet war broke out in June 1941, the Germans undertook small-scale actions, i.e. with fewer killings. They demanded contributions, enforced penalties, snatched people to work, or suddenly came into the town and to shoot a Jew or more. However, there were no big actions or mass slaughters until the great action on Passover 1942. We are still able to remember the names of the murdered and to calculate their numbers at about ten Jews.
|Hershl Faygenboym with
his spouse and daughter
The entire family perished
During this period, when Germans were oncoming, all the Jews would be on their feet. The men would run into nearby villages or hide in hideouts. The women left home and went out in the streets and to the marketplace to learn what the murderers were preparing to do. In each house there was a self-made hideout, in case there was no possibility to evade. However, what hiding places they were! It was impossible to breathe inside. Moreover, the men would spend days and nights there (one who did not experience it cannot imagine how it was possible to spend even a minute there). Often people could not resist, and risking life, left the hole to have some air; more than once the endangered lost his life.
The survivors were people who worked at the sugar factory and the military horses' stables on Bonder's estate. There were those who were provided to work for the Germans as stonecutters, road pavers, and workers loading materials at the train station. Moreover, Jews worked without payment and without food. Indeed some money was paid and little food supplied, but not a Jew had seen it; the SS men and the local helpers took it all for themselves.
Some people succeeded to buy out a legitimate work place. Others arranged themselves to be hired as specialists on important work, and they actually remained home doing nothing. There were also people who hired a poor Jew to go to work in the payer's place. Nevertheless, no special arrangements helped during special actions when the Nazis abducted Jews to work.
As to food for the population, we were entitled to receive food-tickets; indeed, we received food cards from time to time, but never food.
However, we did manage with the nutrition problem; we never had an incident of death from hunger, as occurred in other places. In the proximity of Rayviets, but far from important towns, were many peasant-settlements. It became more worthwhile for the peasants to provide their production to the nearby shtetl than to the big, but distant town.
We did not suffer from special actions as the Jews in other places did during the first time because not many Germans entered our region during the outbreak of the war. This was the reason for Jews from other towns coming to settle in Rayviets during the early months of Hitler's invasion.
The big ruin of Rayviets began on the sixth day of Passover (fourth day of Hol Hamoed) 1942. We practically prepared ourselves for it because we knew about winter deportations of thousands of Jews from Lublin to mass slaughtering in Belzhets. In spite of it, we had a blind hope that God Almighty would save our shtetl from such a disaster. Therefore, lying to ourselves, the Shtetl prepared Passover food and all that was required for Pesah holidays. It was done without happiness. Bad news arrived from the surrounding towns about completely annihilated congregations. Among the killed were many friends and parents of Rayviets inhabitants.
On a beautiful spring day, at three o'clock in the afternoon, the Black unities of Ukrainian murderers, trained to mass slaughtering, surrounded the town. SS men entered the Shtetl after the Ukrainians. They ordered the Judenrat to assemble the entire Jewish population on the market place. Women, men, and children gathered at the meeting place. The guards prevented them from running away with drawn firearms. Another group of murderers passed from house to house and shot to death all the old, sick, and weak persons who could not come to the market, where the selection began. The guards ordered young and able people to gather on the right side, the rest remained on the left. The Black bandits with their Polish assistants conducted those on the right side into the synagogue; the women, the old and the children from the left side were led to the railroad station, 4 (four) kilometers from town. The people enclosed in the Synagogue heard incessant shooting on the way to the railroad station. So became this way a big graveyard without graves. Bodies of murdered women, children, and elderly Jews were lying on every step. In the morning, the SS permitted the road to be cleaned. Some Jews gathered the bodies and brought them on carts to the Jewish cemetery, where they buried the bodies in two big common graves. After few days the graves exploded, they were overcrowded. Therefore, new graves were excavated.
The survivors from the road killings arrived at the train. The guards threw them into the wagons like cattle. The train left the station, and passed Krasnistav on its way to the crematorium ovens in Belzhets. To our misfortune, nobody from this transport survived.
Some of the Rayviets gentiles joyously accompanied their Jewish neighbors on the way to destruction. Another part went to the cemetery to remove clothing from the dead bodies and to extract their valuable teeth. They returned from the graveyard and from the railroad station into town, where they emptied the Jewish dwellings of furniture, clothes, and valuable objects.
Aron's daughter (from Zamost',
perished in Chelm) and Freyde
(now in the United States), born in 1936,
perished Maidanek in 1943
The Germans transported the Jews assembled at the Synagogue to the work- concentration camp in Kreehov, located 8 km. from Sobibor Crematorium. Overworked in abnormal conditions, without suitable clothes, and always hungry, most of the enclosed Jews became weak and sick. All who became unable to work were transferred to Sobibor and poisoned in its gas chambers.
However, some Rayviets Jews succeeded in surviving this action that took place in Rayviets. Some fled from the Synagogue. A part of them were able to find a safe hideout. Some who were officially helped by SS men or by their employers in Bonder's estate, and the very strong, were able to hang on in the severe conditions of the inhuman hiding places.
During the 8 to 10 days after the action, the bandits stopped every Jew who was found. By terrible tortures, they tried to force them to deliver a hiding Jew. However, despite the dreadful suffering, nobody revealed the secret hideouts.
I remember names of families and individuals who were killed after the action:
Lederman Yosel Motl London
Avraham Boym with his daughter
Ahron Leyb Goldman with family
David Teybloomen, who was shot after they threw him out from Meyir Herlikhman's house.
Rotker, Ahron Leybs grandson, was shot to death after he snatched the rifle from his guard.
After this destruction Rayviets remained Judenrein, survived only those who worked at Bodner's place or in the neighborhood.
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