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History of the Grayeve Ghetto (cont.)

 

Nakhman Rapp and Shmuel Kaminski, behind the shul.

In this place rest a number of murdered Jews. Here also the young engineer Kirshboym was horribly murdered.

The overseers over the Jews in the shul were the Poles, Davidovski and Stanishevski and volunteers from the Polish underworld who had served in the Polish militia, Yankovski Yanek, a well-known knifer in Grayeve and elsewhere. These overseers had to accompany the Jews every morning to their work in various places. Of course, the first assignment for the overseers was to beat the Jews with rubber truncheons and iron bars. After the Jews had worked all day without food, at hard inhuman labor, they were led back to the “theater” (shul). Arriving at the “theater,” the Jews saw an inscription over the door, “Camp for Internees.” It was clear that capturing the Jews and installing them in the theater was not a game for a day, but that the Jews would not be going back to their homes so quickly.

The women of the arrested Jews gathered around the theater and brought food for their husbands, sons and fathers. For a bribe the Polish hooligans took the food from the women and later distributed it among the arrestees according to their discretion. The arrestees sent the utensils back except for the bottles, which they kept to do their natural functions into.

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In the evening Gestapo men came in and made merry with the tormented Jews. Once they selected two old men and ordered them to kiss. When the old men kissed, the Gestapo beat them because they were kissing one another. When they stopped kissing, the Gestapo beat them because they were not kissing. So it went on for seven or eight days. By day, work under the most difficult conditions; by night in the shul, endure all the torments, humiliations and blows.

On the tenth of August 1941 the German commandant issued an order that in the space of three to five days all Jews must be concentrated on Dolne Street (Bathhouse Street). The Poles who lived there got an order to move out of there. The men who were arrested in the shul were permitted to carry or cart their things. But not all had the opportunity to move all of their things. The old Pole Antony Shelanzshek (Konopska Street) tells about a case in which the Jew Yoysef Gurovski, his neighbor for many years, worked with him for two days moving the Jew's things on his wagon. The Christian did not want to move everything, “but, when he paid me what I wanted, I carted his things into the ghetto, tipped over the wagon on Dolne Street and headed home…” What he called “what I wanted” one can presume. From that, one can also understand that the Jews took the creation of the ghetto with a little hope of rest from the side of the Polish underworld. The men who had been arrested in the shul and who had been temporarily allowed to carry their things into the ghetto were arrested again and put into the shul.

For the Polish hooligans Stanishevski and Davidovski and their helpers who had oversight over the Jews in shul, just torturing the Jews did not suffice. They sought to make a profit from their business. To that end they heard that among the arrested Jews there were some communists. The picked out twenty men from among the Jews and the hooligan Davidovski let out a shout: “A plague! These are communists!” They separated

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the twenty Jews behind a barrier and did not allow them to go out to work along with the other Jews. The first two days the women of the “communists” did not know what had happened with their men. They brought food for their men to the theater as before. The Polish guards took the food, but did not give it to the arrestees. The latter went hungry for two days. But later, when the women of the arrested “communists” knew about the fate of their men, is when the “business” began. They went running to the hooligan Davidovski and bribed him, so that he would allow the arrested husband or son back into the working lot and take him out from among the communists, as that would mean a certain death.

And so the hooligans changed the arrestees dozens of times; let those go, took these into the communists and back again, taking from the women the last that they possessed.

At the denunciation by the Polish hooligans Davidovski and Stanishevski, the Gestapo issued a decree, and once in the morning the hooligans took the group of “communists” out, led them off, and none of the other arrestees in the theater knew where to. Only on the second day did people find out that they had been taken to the Kosherov Forest and shot.

There were also cases when the sentenced ran away and tried to hide, but the spies reported them and they were brought back to the “theater.” When one of the runaways fell into the hands of the hooligans Davidovski and Stanishevski, they would take everything he had and promise him that they would not give him up, but then they would come at night and murder him.

Of the group that they took out of the theater from time to time and shot, the names of the following Grayeve Jews have been mentioned:

  1. Shleyme Zilberman
  2. Yoysef Abramski
  3. Shimen Abramski
  4. Leyzer Grinshpan
  5. Mordechai Striev
  6. Hersh Bukhbinder

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  1. Shaul Bronervayn
  2. Khaym Yudl Kletski
  3. Barash Kopl [or Kopl Barash]
  4. Leybl Segalovitsh
  5. Sholom Segalovitsh
  6. Elye Kohn
  7. Berl Sudker
  8. Stolnitski

These are some of the Jews who were shot in the woods in the time between the 1st and 25th of August, 1941.

On the 26th of August 1941 the Gestapo gave the order to arrest the women who had worked in government positions during the Soviet rule, and young women who belonged to the “komsomol” [a communist youth organization]. On that day the Gestapo arrested 40 Jewish women and girls. In the evening, when the arrested men were coming from work, the Gestapo and Polish militia were waiting for them at the theater and sent them right off to the horse market. The Polish hooligans from the “voluntary” militia jeered at the Jews, forcing old and young to dance over the pits that had been dug there. That torment went on for more than an hour. After that the Gestapo ordered the Jews to stand in a row and the Polish hooligans pointed out anyone that they did not like as a communist. Among the “communists” they pointed out was the old ritual slaughterer Meyshe Mendl Mishkovski. Of course, the whole bloody game was well prepared in advance by the Gestapo. The hooligans pointed out the old slaughterer as one of Stalin's good friends.

They divided off about 80 men and led them separately under heavy guard back to the theater. In the morning the Gestapo, to make fun of them, organized a “court” for the 80 men plus the women, about 120 people. The “court” lasted for two days. The Polish voluntary militia signed a paper saying that all the accused were communists. The “court” sentenced them to be shot. Hearing the sentence some of the young men leapt from the second story window in the gallery (one of Berish of Ridzever's [Rydzewo] sons, and others) and were killed on the spot.

Gestapo members tortured the sentenced Jews frightfully the whole night after the

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“court.” They hit them over the head with bottles and mortally wounded many of them. The Poles dragged the wounded down to the cellar and killed, then threw the dead bodies into the cellars of the burned-out houses near the shul.

That night was one of the most horrible for the arrested Jews. All night the Polish hooligans and the Gestapo dragged the old people into the cellars of the shul and bestially murdered them. The intent of the German criminals was that in the morning when they took to communists to be shot, the population, so to speak, would see that these were “real communists” and not some old Jews for whom communism could never have had any draw.

On the 29th of August a group of Jews was brought out to the Ruder Highway. In the evening coming back from work the Polish overseers, instead of going to the “theater,” took the Jews to the Jewish cemetery and let them wait there. In a few minutes three automobiles full of Gestapo soldiers arrived and they indicated that the Jews should dig a pit with an area 60 meters wide. The Jews already knew very well that this was a mass grave for the 120 Jews, brothers and sisters, who were sentenced two days ago in the “tribunal” of drunken scoundrels and bloodthirsty Gestapo troops. The Jews did not want to dig the grave. The Gestapo started to beat the Jews murderously with their rifle butts and the Poles with the sticks that they held in their hands. Those who did not want to dig were promptly shot on the spot (which happen to the old Zoyrekh Elkon's son and others).

When the mass grave was ready, they led the Jews back to the theater. The drunken Gestapo tortured the sentenced Jews the whole night. They set upon the Jewish women like wild animals and raped them, thereby causing them the greatest torment. The short letter which the eyewitness survivor Mayir Kletski (now in Paris) found the same day in the shul, in the room where the arrestees spent their last moments, gives witness.

Here is what the murdered Sore Meyek wrote:

“Not enough that we must leave this world, they also raped us. The entire thing was carried out by the Gestapo men and a few Polaks. Jews! Take revenge for us and for our shame!”

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“The superior race” showed very vividly what it was capable of. Marrying a Jew was called a “race crime,” for which one could receive the death penalty, but raping and torturing Jewish daughters that one may do.”

Surviving witness Mayir Kletski tells about how the 120 Jews sentenced for communism were killed:

“At ten o'clock in the morning (August 30) they took out more than a hundred men and women, those sentenced to death for communism. Accompanied on both sides by Gestapo and Polish voluntary militia, as well as a large part of the Polish population going along the sidewalks with smiles on their lips, the Christians said, “There will be some fewer Jews…” All the Jews had to go into the pits themselves. When they were all in the grave the machine guns played and our dearest and most beloved went off into eternity…”

The 1st of September 1941 at ten o'clock in the morning the Gestapo assembled all the Jews in the area of the horse market. The civilian German town commandant arrived and delivered a speech to the assembled Jews in which he ensured that now, after exterminating the communists from among the Jews, the Jews would be able to live quietly in the ghetto, where they would have their own administration with their own leader.

As leader of the Jews in the Grayeve ghetto, the Germans on the spot appointed the Grayeve Jew Zalmen Sutker.

 

The Ghetto in Grayeve

Now everyone knows why the Germans created the ghettos for the Jews in Poland; the intent was to concentrate the Jewish population, cut them off from the surrounding world in order to make easier the carrying out of the criminal “end goal” of the Hitler murderers: to completely annihilate the Jewish population. But because of the German hangmen the situation before the creation of the ghettos had come to such a head, that in

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many towns the Jews naively believed that with the creation of the ghetto they would have peace, would be secure against incitement and provocation from the local anti-Semites.

After the town commandant Geis read for the assembled Jews the decree about the creation of the ghetto for the Jews, he immediately nominated a “Judenrat” [Jewish Council] that would have to manage all the affairs of the ghetto residents, relative to the German powers. Nominated were:

  1. Zalmen Sutker, president
  2. Popovski, secretary
  3. Itsik Voislavski, member
  4. Tenenboyn, member

The Jews, thinking that this would really be a representative that could do something for them, chose from their side the Grayeve Jew, Leyzer (Leyshke) Grosman.

The first two orders that the “Judenrat issued on the first day of its existence were characteristic. The first order was – at the order of the German power – to clean up the theater (shul) where only last night the arrestees had been tortured to death. The “Judenrat chose 25 men and women with brooms and pails and sent them into the theater, to the place of the horrible bloodbath.

The surviving witness Mayir Kletski, who took part in the cleaning of the theater, provides a picture of how the building looked one day after the murders:

“The walls were sprayed with blood, like in a slaughterhouse. We had to completely wash off the blood; there should be no trace of our dearest ones. The room where the sentenced women spent their last minutes looked like the aftermath of a pogrom: torn-out women's hair was scattered across the floor along with various torn clothing and papers. We searched among the papers and found the letter which Sore Meyke had scribbled before her death (cited above, Nachman Rapp-N.R.) Weary after a day of torturous work, we could not go to sleep, but came together in the courtyard and mourned the memory of our nearest and dearest…”

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The second order from the “Judenrat on the same day was to set up a guard around the whole ghetto in order to protect from the provocations on the part of the local hooligans from Davidovski's band.

The guard consisted of youths “armed” with sticks and flashlights. It is superfluous to say what kind of front the “guard” had against an attack by organized hooligans, armed ones at that. But it did give a bit of alarm security.

After a few days the “Judenrat,” at the order of the Germans, created a “labor office.” The “Judenrat” appointed Itsik Voislavski as the chief of the “labor office;” secretary, Liuba Fabilinska. At the demand of the Germans, the labor office of the “Judenrat” assembled Jewish workers for the German firms. The work was inhuman, 14 to 18 hours out of 24. The price of a workday was one (1!) Mark.

Jews went out to work without a guard, only with a passage permit issued by the German office.

Along with the labor office the “Judenrat” also established a Jewish militia. Members of the militia were:

  1. Karbovski, commander (an attorney from Lomzhe)
  2. Mayir Kletski, deputy
  3. Berl Khilare
  4. Ruven Nayman
  5. Shleyme Gumovitsh
  6. Itsik Zsharkovski
  7. Tevl Oz-Yashirs
  8. Yosl the blacksmith's son-in-law
  9. Yoysef Markus
  10. Meyshe Solvatitski
  11. Shleymke of the blind woman

(There are no reports about how exactly the Jewish militia conducted itself in relation to the Jewish population in the ghetto. Being far from the place of these afflictions I do not feel entitled to make any sort of conclusion in one direction or another. I also do not feel entitled to bring forth any merits and good works of the Grayeve Jewish militia which were enumerated for me by the surviving witness, former deputy commander of the militia Mayir Kletski (as he represents himself as such). Bowing my head to the suffering that the latter went through, I think of him

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as an involved party whose evidence one cannot accept without criticism. This question will have to be left closed and so we will not mar our conscience with it in relation to our tormented brothers and in relation to the history.)

In the economic sense the Grayeve ghetto was not the worst. One can say that for the time of its existence the ghetto did not starve. Of course, the devilish plan of the German murderers was thought through to the last detail in this area as well: the Jews should see, as it were, that they were cared for, so that they did not lack [food] and would not try to run away from the ghetto. But there was something else.

The German power allowed the peasants from the surrounding villages to take foodstuffs, peat and wood into the ghetto. The peasants, who drove in to the market on the appropriate days, simply drove their wagons into the ghetto, not even setting foot in the general market. On those days they set up their wagons in the narrow streets of the ghetto just as they had set them up at a fair, and the Jews bought everything they needed. A paradoxical situation was set up because of it: the Jews who were locked in the ghetto with seven locks participated in the world, had more food than the Polish population that was free. And the Poles had to purchase their needs from the Jews in the ghetto. Naturally this caused some bad blood among the rabble, who said that the zhydes were like the cats, there where you don't need them; they always land on their feet. But in truth it was a well thought-out game in German propaganda. It let them show the Polish population that the “zhydes” take everything for themselves and if they were exterminated there would be enough food for the Poles.

Under the “Judenrat” there was also an active “group to keep the ghetto clean.” The leader of that group was the Pinye Suraski. Other workers in the group were: Avrom Grinberg, Sholom Zaydnberg, Goldberg, Berl Kletski and Yehude Grinberg. They cleaned up all the areas and dried out the swamp to the east of Dolne Street and sowed everything with vegetables. Almost every Jew had prepared some potatoes, wood, carrots, beets and other greens. The only hope was not to be driven out of the ghetto, or one would experience a defeat like that of Haman.

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The “Judenrat” also opened several workshops for the use of the ghetto. A ghetto bakery was opened to provide bread for the Jewish population. The bakery, which had once belonged to Yoysef Bialistotski, opened on Dolne Street. The manager of the ghetto bakery was Yankev Shidlo. A food store was opened too, under the management of Avrom Tenenboym. There was also a shoemaking workshop active in the ghetto that worked for the population for cheap prices.

About two weeks after the creation of the ghetto, the “Judenrat” suddenly received an order from the German town commandant to pay one million Marks into the treasury at city hall. This was a huge blow to the poor ghetto. The order also stated that if the sum was not paid, all the Jews would be sent out of the ghetto. Fear gripped the impoverished population. With no choice, they sold their last possessions to their Polish neighbors and were just happy that someone would buy them. “The poor have sold their pillows and all their furniture. The richer have bargained hard, but in the end they paid their part.” (Testimony of M. Kletski)

But the belief that one would get through everything overcame the fear of dangers near and far. Despite all the troubles the ghetto was full of optimistic belief in the nearing defeat of the enemy.

A very important factor in the economic life of the Grayeve ghetto was the good relationship of the surrounding village settlements with the Jews. The local peasants were very happy selling their produce to the Jews. So, for example, a group of Jewish boys (Dovid Bunkovski, Burakovski, Khaym and others) went out of the ghetto at night and brought fish from the nearby village of Totshelova [Toczyłowo] and shared or sold it to the Jews in the ghetto. The peasants, who were allowed to take potatoes and wood into the ghetto two times a week, would hide chickens, fats and even whole calves in their wagons. The Jews in the ghetto were not allowed to keep cows and fowl. Yet there were always a few cows and a lot of chickens in the ghetto. All this was thanks to the help from the peasants from the surrounding villages.

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The eyewitness M. Kletski also tells about a Polish woman[1] from Grayeve who used to come to the ghetto three times a day and sell and practically for free distribute food for the Jews in the ghetto. And later, when the Grayeve ghetto was liquidated and the Jews there were driven to the camp in Bogushe, that same woman came as before and brought produce. In the proper evaluation the dealings of this noble, very brave Polish woman must be mentioned.

The Grayeve ghetto lived for one year in those circumstances, the circumstances of punitively hard labor and the struggle for a piece of bread, of keeping the spirit alive on one side, and of deep belief in overcoming the enemy and experiencing his defeat on the other side. Until the 1st [sic] of November 1942, until that day, when the German hangmen decided that they could do away with the little remnant of Jews from our town, until they had completely used up the material, economically and physically.

 

The Situation in Grayeve

On the 11th [sic] of November 1942 the Germans carried out the dispatching of the Jews from the Grayeve ghetto. In the night of November 11th, the ghetto was surrounded by Gestapo thugs armed with automatics, who did not let anyone escape from the ghetto. To the people who had to go to work at 4 in the morning the Gestapo laconically said, “You've already worked enough” and they brutally pushed them back from the barbed wire, into the ghetto. Soon it became known in the ghetto that something was happening. People tried to run away, but the guard of Gestapo did not let anyone out until it got light.

When it was light, the Gestapo came into the houses and amid blows and screaming chased everyone out to the plaza near Hershl Viernik's. When all the Jews were assembled with their packs and children on their shoulders, the Gestapo drove the Jews off by foot in the direction of the village Bogushe (border village between Grayeve and eastern Prussia).

Although it was already late autumn that day was very warm and the exhausted Jews could not carry with them all the things that they had hurriedly put together. All the things that they could not carry they tossed away along the highway that leads through Bogushe Street. The entire way to Bogushe was strewn with Jewish poverty. Under a hail of blows from rifle butts and sticks, with wailing and weeping, the multitude of Jews arrived at Bogushe camp.

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The camp in Bogushe had earlier served as an internment camp for Soviet war prisoners. The German butchers had tortured tens of thousands of Soviet soldiers who had not had time to evacuate, due to the sudden military attack by Germany. The fields around Bogushe were sown with the gigantic mass graves of the Soviet soldiers tortured in the Bogushe death camp.

The camp comprised a field fenced in with wire. On the area of the camp barracks had been “built,” that is to say that deep pit had been dug and covered on top with a roof. Inside there were plank beds for the internees.

The Grayeve Jews arrived in the camp at about 11 in the morning. Until noon there was no order at all. In the afternoon, people were brought into the camp on foot and in wagons, Jews from all the surrounding towns: Shtutzin, Raigrod, Vonsosh [Wąsosz], Rodzilova [Radziłów], Trestiny [Trzcianne], Ogustove [Augustów], Bialybzsheg [Białobrzegi] and from the villages around Ogustove, from anyplace where there might still be any Jews. It was clear that now the Germans were proceeding with the complete liquidation of all the ghettos in the towns in the Byalistok province.

The first three or four days the imprisoned Jews were not given anything to eat. Each one ate what he had managed to bring with him from the ghetto. Only on the fifth day did the German power, at the determination of a camp commandant, create four kitchens which were supposed to feed the over 7,000 interned Jews. As commander of the camp the Germans appointed the former head of the Grayeve “Judenrat” Zalmen Sutker.

In the kitchens they cooked potato soup four or five times a day. Each person received a half-liter of watery soup per day. Each received 100 grams of bread. The people were so hungry that they besieged the kitchens, tearing through the potato peels and devouring them uncooked.

A group of people were assigned to work on the highway around Prostken. They considered themselves the luckiest. Going outside the ghetto they had the opportunity to

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buy a piece of bread, for cash or for gold. The survivor Kletski tells it this way:

“A group of 15 to 20 men went around Bogushe to their work. That was good for them because through their work they encountered Poles and for gold, watches and other valuables they could get bread and bring it into the camp and sell it. The best runners were the family Kaminski (Nakhtshe the butcher). Five or six of their family went out. During the two months of being in the ghetto they became very rich in gold and dollars because people paid a couple of dollars for a kilo of bread.”

On the basis of this testimony one can get a clear picture of the situation of the Jews in the camp. If a kilo of bread cost several dollars it is very clear that very few people had the several dollars. Second, as from 7,000 internees a total of 15 went out to work it is clear that they could smuggle bread into the camp, but only for an insignificant number of people.

After two weeks in the Bogushe camp the Gestapo gave permission to 15 people from the camp to go into the ghetto, take from the cellars the potatoes that the Jews had set aside for the winter, and bring them into the camp. Groups from the camp went to the ghetto three or four times. Survivor M. Kletski, who also went to the ghetto with a group, relates how the ghetto looked after two weeks after the Jews had left it:

“One time I succeeded and I went into Grayeve, under guard by three soldiers from the Wehrmacht. We arrived in the ghetto. The ghetto looked like the aftermath of a pogrom. The houses had been robbed, the streets full of feathers. You could see Jewish holy books scattered around on the pavement. Poles had already settled in to the nicer houses. We went into the courtyard at Peysakh the baker's and found a seyfer toyre [Torah scroll] lying there, ripped apart. We took several wagonloads of potatoes from the cellars and our work was done. There was a baker there, the name I don't remember, (it was the baker Yan Shenkievitsh N.R.) who sold us a six-kilo loaf of bread and not at a high price.”

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There was very high mortality in the camp because of the terrible hunger and filth. Each evening they laid the dead bodies in a pit and in the morning took them to the camp cemetery, which was the cemetery for the Russian prisoners of war who had been in the same camp a year before.

Every one of the interned Jews was subject to the sentencing of the Gestapo murderers. We were told how the Grayeve Jew Shaye Leyb Kanapsko, an invalid from World War I, was murdered. Suddenly one morning a Gestapo thug came into the camp and called this Jew out of the barrack. The invalid Shaye Leyb surmised that his end was near. With tears in his eyes he said goodbye to his friends, took from his pocket his leather gloves which he always wore because of his rheumatism and gave them to his son-in-law Leybl Sharfshteyn, and said to him, “Take them, I don't need any gloves, the world will soon end for me.” He went into a prepared pit and with one shot the Gestapo thug put an end to his life.

On the 15th of December a “selection” took place in the ghetto. The Germans pressed together around 5,000 people in separate barracks. It was announced to these people that in the morning they would be sent to a camp in Silesia to work. Characteristically, a rumor had already gone around among the Jews that the Jews were being sent to Treblinka and Maidanek [Majdanek] to be burned in the crematoria, but if that was certain, no one believed it. So the largest part of them assigned “to Silesia for work” accepted indifferently the news of their deportation. The transporting of the people took place in the usual German way; with frightful blows and shooting on the spot, the people were chased from the barracks into the road to Prostken to the train station. The roads were soaked from the autumn rains and the crowd, weakened, could not get their footing. But the murderers were in a hurry. Those who remained in the rear were shot on the spot. The entire road from Bogushe to Prostken was lined with victims. In the morning the camp rulers ordered the Jews still in the camp to clean up the dead from the roads. On that day they collected 200 corpses and brought them to graves in the camp cemetery in the village of Bogushe (near the camp).

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The entire transport of 5,000 Jews – among them the camp commander and former head of the “Judenrat” in Grayeve, Zalmen Sutker and his aide Leyzer Grosman – were taken to Treblinka and killed in the crematoria. To this day no one knows of even one single person from that transport who was saved.

After the deportation of the transport of 5,000 Jews, about a thousand people remained in the ghetto. The German murderers, thinking it through and calculating in their criminal goals, wanted to create the illusion among the remaining Jews that for them, for the remaining ones, there was no imminent danger. They put the people into the better barracks, cleaner, and they even improved the “food.” The survivor M. Kletski even tells about one case in which they brought geese and other birds shot by a party from the Prostke pasharnia [chicken coop], for the internees to eat. It was said that they might “maintain” the internees a little, mending, so to speak, and afterwards, together with their families, send them to a camp to work. The Germans then nominated an Ogustove Jew as commander of the camp and a week later ordered him to prepare the Jews for the road.

On the 2nd of January 1943, the Germans ordered the Jews to pack up and be ready to move out in the morning. In the morning – that is on the 3rd of January – the last Grayeve Jews left, forever, the Bogushe camp. Tightly packed in the wagons the Grayeve Jews traveled from the Prostke train station through Byalistok, Warsaw, Treblinke…

When the train went past Treblinke and did not stop there, a ray of hope awoke in the unfortunate ones. They did not know at the time that there were other death camps besides Treblinke. The Grayeve Jew Yankev Shidla assured his brothers, “Jews, if we are going past the Treblinke hell we will survive.” Sadly this was a false hope.

The train arrived in the death camp Birkenau (Bzshezshinski) in the middle of the night. As soon as the train came to a standstill it was assaulted by S.S.-men with automatics in their hands that chased the arrestees out of the wagons. Anyone who tried to take

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anything with them, even a piece of bread, was shot on the spot. A selection was conducted right there. A hundred young men were selected, and the other 900 men and women were packed into heavy trucks and taken directly to the crematorium.

On that same day the ovens of the death camp Birkenau swallowed up forever the last trace of the Grayeve community of Jews…

 

So it was

Extinct, as after a horrible flood, Grayeve was left without Jews. From every corner, from every bit of soil, rises a quiet thick cloud of just-forgotten Jewish blood: the low hills around the village Pshekopke; the muddy water of the little Kosherove River; the ruins of the houses on Shul Street; the murder-cellar in the shul; the enormous camp cemetery in Bogushe – all these places have forever locked in themselves the remembrance of a community of Jews on Polish soil.

The earth laments in Grayeve. The birds in the Greek-Orthodox garden sing a sad song. The sun is embarrassed to look on the fresh graves, because when she warms one of the graves with her glance, a stinking scream goes up from the pit, from the tortured innocents who curse the world, curse the sun, for shining on the enemies. Then the sun hides, ashamed, and a thick damp fog spreads itself over the town like a great veil of sadness and the town seems as though she wants to sit shive[2] at the foot of the green hills…

There is no light in Grayeve, so the dark characters crawl out from their lairs, creep and sniff; is everything done now? Is there yet some place, or someone that has evaded them? They creep over the villages and forests in search of hidden Jews. And when they don't find any, they search in all the narrow holes until… they get into the Bogushe camp…
That which I tell you here happened a month after the “emptying out” of the camp in Bogushe; when on the soil of Grayeve and around it there was not one Jewish life to be found.

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A part of the Jewish cemetery.
There is not one gravestone there. Houses are being built there.

 

The entrance to the cemetery before the war

Several Polish hooligans from Grayeve's rich underworld had made a visit to the Bogushe camp. The barracks were empty, and much of the wood had been stolen by the local peasants. The hooligans had searched, ransacked, who knows what? They were probably digging for Jewish gold, that legendary “Jewish treasure” that every Jew “must” have. Suddenly they hit upon something soft or hard, who knows, but it was covered up; they quickly removed the earth around their feet and were astonished: a grave had opened before their eyes, a pit, in which there were two living corpses. The clothing on the two survivors was already rotting, only the boots were still whole. The One God knows how the two Jews had succeeded in concealing themselves from the curse and maintained themselves for a whole month in the pit. When the hooligans, the “gold-diggers” realized that two zhydes were still alive, their “patriotic” pig's blood was inflamed in them. They dragged the two Jews out of the grave. They ordered them to

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take off their boots (they could be put to use!), ordered the two Jews to embrace and with one shot put holes through both skulls. The two Jews were Velvl Videnski and his young wife! (Testimony of Polish worker Yan Kolski.)

Now the “Jew-free” Grayeve could rest, no more Jews in Grayeve…

But:

It would still take long, very long, for the Grayeve earth to rest. Long, very long, would sleep be taken from the eyes of those in Grayeve who helped in these great crimes. The torment of the murdered women and men, fathers and sons, would rob their peace for a long, long time. Death angst would befall them in the nights and black depressions would torment them by day for the commission of their dark work. The curse that our martyrs threw out in the last moments of the existence would follow them forever, until it would destroy them from under the heavens.

Then the blood of our martyrs will be at peace.

May their souls be bound up in the bond of life.

 

Footnotes
  1. With great respect: we would like to honor the brave Poles who helped Jewish Grayevers despite the risk to their own personal safety. They will be remembered for their acts of kindness, courage and humanity. May their memories be a Blessing and their souls bound in the bond of everlasting life. Return
  2. shive: Jewish mourning period of 7 days, observed by family and friends of the deceased. Return

 

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