Pogrom Happenings in Stavisht
by Yisrael Rubin
Stavisht is a town in the Uyezd of Tarashcha, near the River Ikaash, [note: in Russian the name of the river is Gniloii Tikich, a branch of the Bug River.] fifty viorst [about 33 miles] from a train station (Belaya Tserkov station). In 1917 it had about 20,000 Christian inhabitants and 6,000 Jews. At present there are about 80 Jewish families, about 400 people. It had one brandy distillery, three mills, a seltzer water factory, various artisans, and commercial enterprises.
Before the revolution the relations between Christians and Jews were neutral, neither friendly nor hostile. In 1905, when there was an outbreak of pogroms in the area, it was quiet in Stavisht. Before the Revolution the following organizations existed: a savings and loan society, a credit union, six cooperative stores, a Talmud Torah, a Jewish school with two grades and a government school with four grades.
In October 1917, on one of the market days, a pogrom broke out led by demobilized soldiers. The textile shop of H. Ulanovski was robbed. The pogrom lasted several hours. It was quelled thanks to the local militia, which played an important role in defending the town.
In November of that same year a band of 18 men entered the town, led by a man named Dabravalski. These were bandits whose only goal was robbery. They demanded and received a contribution of 15,000 rubles, and left after two hours.
In February of 1918, at the time of the Central Council, a band of 200 men burst into the town and took control. At its head was Kravtshenko, from the village of Snizshke. The Ukrainian militia arrived to drive them out, and they robbed several stores.
In 1918 a few thousand peasants from the village of Strizivke began a pogrom against Jews, whom they accused of bringing in the Germans. On the way to Stavisht they killed about 25 Jews; in the village of Strizivke they killed 14 Jews; in the village of Sukhari 67 Jews; and another five on the way. More peasants joined from the village of Tartsitse. At their head was a well known Bolshevik, Grebenko. They took over the power in Stavisht and neighboring villages. They stayed there until August. On August 17 there was a battle between the peasants and the Germans, who drove Grebenko out of town. The peasants killed six Jews in their retreat from Stavisht. Of those killed we know the names of Avraham-Eli Levin and Yitshak Tori.
From that time the town was cut off from commercial enterprise. No Jew could leave town, for the woods and roads were full of partisans who robbed and killed Jews passing through. This was the situation in 1919.
During the intermediate days of Passover 1919 a band of 80 soldiers came into town. They called themselves Bazinevtes. They robbed for a few hours, but their leaders forced them to return to the Jewish population that which they had taken, and they gave back a great deal. On the second day of Shavuot in 1919 a band of 5000 men came into town. This was a unit from Griogrive's militia. The leaders were Yatsenko and Zsheliezniak. They stayed in town eleven days. On the first day there were six Jews killed, of whom we know the names of the following: David Kohen, 20 years old; Yitshak Kohen, 30 years old; Ben Tsiyon Maldavanski, 43 years old; Svirski, 18 years old. They demanded one million rubles, or they would slaughter the entire Jewish population. Only 500,000 rubles could be collected. They also took 30 head of cattle, 30 horses and wagons. Throughout the eleven days they were in town they robbed the Jews, taking whatever merchandise they could find. They murdered the head of the Committee of the Poor, Mordekhai Gutharts, killed two visiting Jews, and raped many women. They arrested ten Jews on trumped up charges that the Jews had shot at them. Thanks to Rabbi Avraham, the rabbi of Stavisht, who risked his life to go to them and mollified them, the prisoners were freed. Zsheliezniak said that they were only against Communists. On the twelfth day they left for Tarashcha, where they were badly beaten by the Red Army and they retreated back to Stavisht. This happened on June 15, 1919. They stayed in town from early morning until two in the afternoon and killed 30 Jews.
They left at two o'clock. A few days later they started to come back to town, but the Jews had learned of their approach and they fled. Most of them fled to Volodarke, Skvira Uyezd, about 18 viorst away. Many fled to Belaya Tserkov and others to nearby villages. The bandits robbed the abandoned Jewish homes in Stavisht and then made their way to Voladarke, where they found the greatest number of Stavisht Jews. Rabbi Avraham went to the leader, Zsheliezniak who had great respect for him. All of the Stavisht Jews were allowed to return home. On their way to Voladarke, the bandits had burned the bridge over the Rasi River. They forced the local peasants to bring boards to serve as a temporary bridge over which the Stavisht Jews crossed on their way home. Zsheliezniak even gave the Jews bread for the journey.
One night in July 1919, the military commissar Karnivski and his assistant Baytshkovski, both born in the village of Flark (10 viorst from Stavisht) and his Red Army unit of 20 men, broke into several Jewish homes, broke the windows, broke down the doors, and robbed and killed nine people. Of the dead the following are known: Sara Royzenblit, 45 years old with two daughters, 18 and 20 years old; Ze'ev Vaynshthein, 40 years old; Beyla Vekslin, a dentist, 50 years old; Ya'akov Ber Zshivotovski. They wanted to burn down all the Jewish homes and they notified the peasants of the neighboring villages that they should come and help them get rid of the Jews. Two wagonloads of peasants came, but ten local peasants opposed them and defended the town. Two days later Commissar Mazali came from Tarashcha to put down the uprising and they too robbed many Jewish homes. Karnivski and his unit came a number of times. One Sabbath he announced that if the Jews did not come to defend themselves against the charge that they had complained about him in Kiev, he would cut off the town. He called the Rabbi, who did not come. The local militia took strenuous measures to defend the town.
On the fourth of Av 1919, a band of 12,000 followers of Zelenovtse came into town. They demanded two million rubles and merchandise. They received 412,000 rubles and 20 head of cattle. They robbed and took whatever was left, whatever had been hidden. They killed two people. One of them was Mordekhai Frenkel.
Before they received the contribution they arrested 30 people, among whom were: Rabbi Avraham, Binyamin Faynzilber, Khlavna Kohen, Shemuel Salganik, Yosef Stepanski, and yours truly. One of the officers took a great deal of money from the Jews in addition to the contribution and did not allow more to be killed.
Rosh Hashanah eve 1919 Dobrovolski and 20 men came into town and demanded 100,000 rubles, threatening that he would kill and rob if he did not get the money. They received 65,000 rubles and did not hurt anyone. However, when the Jewish representatives came to ask that his band not rob anyone he shot at them, but did not hit them.
In November 1919 a group of 16 followers of Denikin came into town. They demanded a contribution. They were given 70,000 rubles. They took a lot of gold and silver and killed and robbed. They raped two women in the Bet Hamidrash and killed a 70 year old woman, Kapatshevski, who was bringing her share of the contribution. In the Bet Hamidrash they took everyone's clothing, examined them, and took everything away, leaving the people naked. They beat them unmercifully. They wanted to chop off Rabbi Avraham's right hand, but he begged and pleaded so much that they did not. Then they were going to hang him on the hook of the hanging lamp, but decided not to. They demanded that food and liquor be brought to the Bet Hamidrash, and as they ate and drank they called out, Long life to the Christians and death to the Jews!
In December 1919, when the Denikins left Ukraine, many militia units came through Stavisht and robbed and pillaged. On the tenth of December a group of 20 men came through and demanded 20,000 rubles. On the 12th of December 1919 40 peasants came with Denikin's militia. They came to the Bet Hamidrash with a note from the commandant, took 50,000 rubles contribution, ten pud [about 360 lbs.] of oats and other goods. On the 15th of December a large group of Denikin's militia came through and robbed the Jews. There were three killed of whom we know the names of two: Reuven Fishlin and Mirashnik. A four year old child, Nathan, was seriously wounded, as well as an old man, Reuven Banin. They hung him up three times, yet he remained alive. They raped many women and set fire to many houses. Three houses belonging to Shalom Tripolski, Moshe Kohen, and Yosef Binyamin Broytman were burned to the ground.
Until April 1920, all was quiet, but even in the relatively quiet times between pogroms the local militia would carry out attacks on Jewish houses and rob them. Then, on the 20th of April 1920, a band of 50 men led by Slipanski and Karavski, natives of the village of Handikha, came from Tetiev. The Jews had learned of their approach and had fled a day earlier. They ran towards Tarashcha, Vinograd and Belaya Tserkov. A few old, sick and disabled people remained behind. The bandits killed 18 people of whom the following are known: Sara Shapira, Avraham Aba Tshubinski. They wanted to set fire to the town, but some of the local Christians did not allow this. They stayed for two days and left. Eight days later some of them came back and robbed and pillaged. There was a man from Stavisht in their group, who had served in the Stavisht militia, and he did not allow them to kill anyone. This time they stayed for three days. A few days later some of them came back and demanded that all the Jews leave within two hours. They brought all the Jewish residents to the Polish commandant and took them seven viorst from town to the village of Krivets and then told them to go wherever they wished. Only the sick and disabled remained in town.
Then the local peasants took advantage of the situation and stole everything possible. There was a Polish authority in town which did nothing to stop them. One eye-witness, Monus Marianovski, had a Polish passport, and the authority told him to leave town saying that they would not be responsible for his life. At that time the bandits killed 18 people, among whom were: Sara Kaplavtsker, Shalom Landsman, and Shelomo Zalman Frenkel. In the Jewish Bikur Holim [hospital] they killed six old women. They killed Frenkel by tying him to a pig, throwing the pig into a cellar and then setting the cellar on fire, burning him and the pig alive.
About eight days after Shavuot, when the Poles left, the local peasants entered many houses and robbed them. It became a bit quieter and a few people returned. Some of the local Christian intelligentsia took part in the robberies. Among them were: Tsherbin, a teacher in the Stavisht four grade school; the justice of the peace, who started a panic every day saying the bandits were coming so that people would run away. The inspector of the four grade school invented a false charge that the Jewish Communists were coming to Stavisht to kill the Christians. They encircled the town with machine guns and the local Christians joined the bandits and pillaged. On one day in June they set five houses on fire.
There are now about 80 Jewish families left in Stavisht. They are extremely fearful and are ready to flee at a moment's notice. The destruction is great. All the stores are closed, there is absolutely no business going on. Most homes are wrecked.
Sh. Rabinovits wrote this for Khlavna Kagan, former member of the Stavisht Town Authority, who could not write because it was Rosh Hashanah.
Traianovski (?) [the question mark appears in the text]
From the Rabbi of Stavisht to the Rabbi of Kiev
[Written in Hebrew]
Stavisht, 5 Elul, 5678 
To his honor the honored and learned rabbi of the congregation of Kiev and environs Rabbi Shelomo Aharonson, the priest of God on high.
We, the representatives of the Jews in Stavisht pour forth our pleas to you, our rabbi, to stand by us in this hour of mortal danger, which is hovers over us, for of the ten measures of suffering which have been inflicted on the Jews of Ukraine in this time of emergency, nine measures have come upon us.
Our isolated town, fifty viorst from the railroad, is in the center of the land where the partisan uprising is happening. About six weeks ago our town was filled with the sound of army boots of the partisans, with Gribinko at their head. They declared a draft of all men aged eighteen to forty. Afterwards they lay a fine upon our town of 15,000 rubles. They were given all of the money and they nullified the draft order. They confiscated much merchandise for which they sometimes paid a small sum. There is almost no shop in town which has not suffered from this confiscation.
In the early period the partisans seemed to be satisfied with taking money and merchandise and did not cause violence and the spilling of blood, because there was a certain amount of discipline imposed by their leaders, to whom we could turn for protection. However now the situation has completely changed. Two weeks ago a group of Germans came to town and the partisans left. On the second day a battle began between the two camps. It started outside of Stavisht but little by little the partisans were forced to retreat into the town and the narrow streets became killing fields. For seven hours without cease there was thunder of rifles and grenades and a rain of fire on the town. Of the Jews there were four dead and many wounded because the bullets of death penetrated the walls into the houses. But our most terrible sufferings began after the battle.
The leaders and some of the partisans retreated and left our area and found refuge on the other side of the Dnieper. However, a large portion of them, peasants from the area, returned to their homes, hid their arms, and posed as peasants going about their work. The Germans could not find them, because their families would not give them up. The Germans stayed in town for five days and as soon as they left, the partisans removed their disguises, took up their arms, and became the rulers. Since they had no leaders, they were simply a band of robbers and murderers. They would gather into bands of ten or more men, lay ambushes on the roads and kill all the Jews passing by, after taking everything they had. Every day one or two dead Jews are brought into town. No one dares to leave for fear of these bandits.
The sources of income have been stopped, and the lives of the residents hang by a thread. The bands are not satisfied with ambush only, but invade the town, band by band, armed with swords, rifles, and grenades; they attack the houses and rob them, enter the stores and take merchandise, then require tribute from the town.
For example, On Sunday, this week, a band of eleven bandits came into town, armed with grenades, and demanded a tribute of 25,000 rubles. After much begging by the rabbi, in tears, they lowered the sum to 15,000 rubles. They gave us one hour to collect the money. Now there is a rumor that they are planning to set fire to the whole town, after they have plundered it. Our small community is in the midst of tens of villages filled with murderers and robbers, armed to the teeth. We are like a lamb ringed by seventy wolves. We are poor and without weapons to defend ourselves. Have mercy, Rabbi, on our unfortunate community, and send us assistance in our time of trouble. Let the authorities know that they must send us a defense force immediately, for death awaits us and our wives and children, horrible death by sword and fire.
We have been informed that a German unit is approaching but will be here only a few days, and afterwards the bandits will again wreak havoc upon us. We ask and plead in the name of one thousand Jewish families for help. Please send us a permanent defense force so that the Germans will not just come in and out for they do nothing to prevent the violence and the robbery.
So says the member of the juridical authority (signature)
So says Yitshak Avraham Haysinski, Rabbi of Stavisht (signature)
P.S. Since the letter has been delayed until today, the tenth of Elul, more dead bodies have been gathered that were found on the roads. Yesterday they found nine dead Jews, five men and four women, near the village Zshidivsko Grebli. In another place there were dead gentiles. Even though the Germans are in town and protect it against attack, the roads are still dangerous.
(Received August 23 1918)
[Note: I have transliterated the names as they appear in text]
Special cable to the Forward from N. Shifrin, Berlin, December 29. I have received the names of over one hundred murdered Jews in Stavisht, Kiev Province.
The following have left behind a wife and four children:
The following have left behind a wife and five children:
The following have left behind a wife and six children:
The following have left behind a wife and one or two children:
Another two dead that I know about:
These are the last martyrs who were murdered by Zshelezniak's band in the big Bet Hamidrash, possibly the last Jews in town.
|1.||Levin, Avraham-Eli||Murdered in August 1918.|
|2.||Kohen, David, 20||Murdered in 1919.|
|3.||Svirski, 18.||Murdered in 1919.|
|4.||Fishlin, Reuven||Murdered in 1920.|
|5.||Landsman, Shalom||Murdered in 1920.|
|6.||Fren[k]el, Shelomo Zalman||Murdered in 1920.|
|7.||Smalier and his wife||(Burned alive in their home)|
|The committee wishes to express its heartfelt gratitude to YIVO of New York for collecting the historic data about our town and giving us the Photostats.|
|The Book Mishpat Hakore|
|Reb Levi son of Eliezer Menahem Spekter
author of Mishpat Hakore.
[This photo is juxtaposed with the title page of book,
January 12, 1961
The meeting was opened by Mr. Rubin. In attendance were Hava Zaslavski, Mr. Rubin, Mr. Palant, Mr. and Mrs. Louie Lipovski, Mr. and Mrs. Golub, Y. Golub.
Subjects under discussion:
It was decided:
(Yitshak) Irving Golub
(Yosef) Joe Golub
Academy Hall, January 12, 1961.
We, the undersigned landslayt from Toronto and Montreal, Canada, greet the honorary president Arthur Schechter and the committee for the wonderful initiative to carry out a project of publishing a book about our town Stavisht. This is a noble and humanitarian undertaking and we were pleased to assist in this project in any way we could.
We have high regards for this task and we thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to participate in the work. We wish you great success in our cooperative effort.
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