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[Page 228]

The Pogroms in Radzshilov [Radzilow]

 

Document from the Regional Historical
Commission in Byalistok [Białystok]
27 June 1945
L. B. 30.

Imparted by Menakhem Finklshteyn, born 1923.
Lived in Rodzilova [Radziłów] until the liquidation of the Jews.
He was hidden for 43 months in the region by various Poles.
Recorded by L. Rotshteyn.

Translated by Tina Lunson

After the entry of the Soviet Army into the Grayeve region in 1939, a certain wave of sabotage against the Soviet authority began. The murder of Soviet officers and officials of Soviet power often took place. After long investigations it was revealed who the bandits were. In 1940 there was a strong, armed partisan band in the forest by the village Bilineh, near Rodzilova. The battle went on for several days. As a result the bands were driven off and many were shot. From the bandits arrested, it appeared that the partisan band was made up especially of local residents who had fled because of earlier acts they had carried out. The big arrests nevertheless did not liquidate the bands completely. The acts of sabotage and the murders still continued.

In the summer of 1941, the chief of the NKVD[1] in Jedwabne was murdered in the woods by the village Glinki. Before the Germans came, people realized that those who carried out the murder were the brothers Bienkovski from the village Romani, Przytuly district.

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The authorities were preparing a new extermination of the secret organization, but just then the war broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union. The arrested bandits got out of jail and the others who were hiding were also on the loose, and they began to work officially with the Germans. Subsequently it was revealed who had carried out the sabotage and the murders. It was also revealed that a secret organization had been at work under the name A. K.,[2] which had been checking in with the Germans during the whole time of the Soviet occupation. They marched to German orders from the moment of the Germans' entry.

On the 23rd of June 1941, Aleksander Layevski, the resident of the village Laye-Avisa, [Łoje Awissa] along with Tadeush Piatrovskin from Rodzilova and others, went out with weapons against the retreating Red Army soldiers who were fighting by the river Biebzshe near Laye-Avisa. They disarmed the Red soldiers, took their weapons and beat them. That same day, a triumph gate was erected in Rodzilova on Lomzhe Highway to welcome the German army. Hitler's portrait was hung on it, along with the slogan “Long live the German Army, who freed us from the cursed Jew-Commune.”

With the arrival of the first German tanks there were civilian Poles who stepped up to help them. So, for example, 18 Red soldiers who were hiding in the rye were uncovered by Videnetsi Piatravskin and Mietshislov Shtsheletski and his brother from Rodzilova. Baleslav Gavetski discovered 7 Red soldiers in the cemetery and turned them over to the hands of the Germans and they were shot by them.

On July 24, 1941 a group of Poles who are known to me – Antoni Kamatshevski, Yozef Kamatshevski, Feliks Moralishevitsh from Rodzilova, got weapons and drove their first tanks through the river Biebzshe in the direction of Trestiny [Trzcianne] in order to circle the fort Osowiec. After taking Osowiec on June 23, the German officers had distributed decorations to certain German soldiers and at the same time money, rewards and written thanks to the above-mentioned persons.

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On the 26th the German authorities distributed weapons to these trusted people in order for them to reckon with the Bolsheviks and the Jews. Their first act was the murder of the Komsomol[3] member Frume Derogai, 17 years old. Those who carried it out were Skrandzki, a tailor and Anton Kapmatshevski from Rodzilova. Declaring that it was a waste of such a bullet, they sawed off her head in the woods near Kolonie Kopanskes and dumped her body with the legs in Bagne.

On the 7th of July 1941 at 3 in the afternoon the Gestapo from Stavisk gathered by car in Rodzilova. At their orders, their trusted people were called together, already prepared to deal with the Jews. They called 1,700 Jews together in the market square, men, women, children and the elderly. The square was circled by the bandits so that no one could escape. Among those driving the Jews together were Yanek Valevski, the so-called “American,” Yanek Mardatevski and Feliks his brother; Henrik Dzetskavski and his brother Yan; and many Gestapo-flunkies. They beat the Jews bloody. Thus, for example, they beat the old shoemaker Artel Lipinski. Blood was pouring from him, he became unconscious. They hung a heavy stone around the neck of the former policeman T. Shtshani. When he fell under the burden the persecutors beat him murderously. There were many such cases. Afterwards they told everyone to sing Moskva-moya and they went around and beat everyone, not leaving out small children and old folks.

After performing these gruesome deeds the Gestapo announced, “We will give you 3 days to deal with the Jews.” They distributed weapons to the bandits and drove away. The executions began. The bandits, armed with machine guns and revolvers, drove the assembled into Mitkovske's barn, which is located near the village Radiviezsh. They nailed the doors shut and poured kerosene on the barn and lit it; when the barn was in flames they drove the captive Jews and forced them to go up a ladder to the roof and jump in; the bandits cut those not following the order with bayonets and threw them into the fire. The few who managed to crawl out of the fire were shot by the murderers who encircled the barn. The singing and the loud shouting of the bandits accompanied the horrifying wails and terrible cries of the unfortunates who were perishing in the fire.

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The spilling of blood was not enough for these creatures. They had a slogan: “Kill off every one.” They started to search out Jews in the whole area. Over three days they found only a couple of hundred Jews. They killed them in a bestial way. They led many of them to the middle of the stable, poured benzene on them and burned them alive. Many of them were shot near the stable, murderously beaten before their deaths. Due to a shortage of ammunition, they allowed the splitting of small children's heads with clubs, or beat them with the club until they were dead. They cut off several limbs from living souls, violating the victims before carrying out their murder. After the fire they went into the stable and tore out gold teeth from the dead bodies.

The pogrom went on for three days, from the 7th to the 10th of July of 1941. On the third day the Germans arrived and tore victims from the hands of the bandits, saying that they had gone too far. One can imagine how the grisly acts appeared when the Germans themselves took it over.

The leaders of the above-described acts of murder were: Brothers: Yozef, Antoni and Leon Kasmatshevski; Ludvig Kasmatshevski later a gendarme; Leon Potshkovski; Aleksander Garlevski and his brother Felek from Turmeh, who got out of jail that year, 1941, on June 2nd; Lasshevitsh; a German policeman Henrik Dzekanski and his brother Yan.

Witness -
Recorder -
Chairman of the Jewish Regional Historical Commission

 

Footnotes
  1. NKVD (Narodny Kommisariat Vnutrennikh Del): “People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs,” in the former Soviet Union under Stalin. This was the predecessor of the KGB. Return
  2. A.K. (Armia Krajowa): Polish Home Army which dominated the Polish resistance campaign against the Nazis. Return
  3. Komsomol: A Communist Youth Organization. Return

 

[Page 232]

The District Jewish Historical Committee
Bialystok, June 14 1946
No 5/46

Reported by Menachem Finkelsztajn
Born in Radzilow, age 22

Extermination of Jews in the Districts of Grajewo
and Lomza in July, 1941

The war broke out on June 22, 1941. Both districts are on the border. The first wave of Germans passed through without causing harm. A week later Polish police stations were set up: Germans and Poles would enter houses. The Germans terrorized, the Poles robbed, Poles asked the Germans what the punishment would be for killing Jews and the Germans answered, “They can be killed with impunity.” A week later the Germans moved on and Poles would enter the houses of Jews at night, torture and rob.

On July 5th, the Polish police surrounded the small town of Wasosz (in the district of Grajewo). Local hooligans went from house to house, murdered those both inside and outside, raped the women, cut off their breasts and smashed little children against the walls. Wives of Soviet commanders were also killed, along with a number of Soviet officials. The fingers of the corpses with gold rings were cut off, and gold teeth were torn out of their jaws; if they found both parents and children in a house, they would first murder the children and then the parents. The pogrom lasted 3 days. This was the time the Germans allowed them to murder and plunder. They dug a hole in the ground outside of the settlement and buried the bodies. About 1200 Jews were killed (some of them came from surrounding areas, because normally there were 800). About 15 people survived and remained in Wasosz until June, 1942. The German police detachment behaved properly, whereas the Poles persecuted as much as possible.

On June 1, 1942 a model farm was created in the village Milewo, located in the community of Szczuczyn and owned by a landowner from Grajewo. Everyone was transported to the farm (together with Jews from surrounding towns – approximately 500 people altogether). Work was murderous from sunrise to sunset with Polish overseers. Children also worked very hard and the accommodations were tiny and the discipline harsh.

On November 2, 1942 they were transported to the village Bogusze on the German border, where there once was an extermination camp for the annihilation of Soviet prisoners of war and Polish prisoners. They remained there until January, 1943 and then sent to their deaths in Majdanek or Treblinka.

In Bogusze there were no houses, so the Jews slept in open fields. People would throw raw potatoes and those who caught one, would eat.

Half of the Jews died right there. The talk is that the Soviet Prisoners who were interned in the barracks were continuously starved. The Jewish person Mroczek from Kolno, now lives in Lomza.

July 7, 1941: Polish hooligans, armed by the Germans with rifles and pistols, burnt about 1500 Jews in Radzilow, Bialystok (100 Jews from Radzilow, 500 from neighboring small towns Szczuczyn, Jedwabne etc.). The pogrom lasted 3 days. 22 Jews hid and survived, among them the Finkelsztajn family (father, mother and 4 children, one cousin who died later – Zina Wasersztajn). The Finkelsztajns hid in the village of Konopki-Blonie, community of Hawiski, in the district of Lomza. The other Jews remained in Radzilow and after one month they were locked up in the synagogue and forced to do hard labor to build a bridge by hauling heavy stones from the river Radzilowka. This lasted 3 weeks. The Jews ransomed themselves by paying the Polish police commander (Kiluk Konstanty). He gave them permission to stay in one of the Jewish houses on Koscielna Street, but they were summoned to hard labor (removing pavement, sweeping streets, cleaning sidewalks), this lasted until June 1, 1942. In the meantime, Kruk, Benjomin, Maraszewski, Szabsaj and others were arrested for communism. They disappeared without trace.

June 1st, everyone was transported to Milewo. Only the Finkelsztajns and Dorogoj, Mojzesz as well as his son Akiva, survived. They died on January 28, 1945, just 1 week after the liberation by the Red army in the village of Itucz, within the community of Radzilow.

 

The Destruction of the
Small Town Jedwabne, July 11, 1941

(3 days as well)

Before the war there were 2800 Jews. They were all burnt in a barn. It was preceded by a parade headed by the rabbi and the ritual slaughterer. The rabbi carried a portrait of Stalin. The Jews carried red flags and when they passed by the statue of Stalin in the market square they were ordered to kiss his feet and raise their voices in his honor. Like in Radzilow, on the second day they went through the ashes and tore out gold teeth from the jaws. About 3300 Jews were killed – 3000 were burnt, the rest were found and killed in the next two days. 302 were left alive. They remained in Jedwabne in 3 houses until February 11, 1942. Due to some Polish provocation (they were accused of hanging anti-German banners), 15 disappeared without a trace.

November 2, 1942, they were taken to Lomza and in the same day, together with the inhabitants of the Lomza ghetto, were transported to Zambrow and then in January, probably to Treblinka.

Rescued: Zyna Cukierbraun and three men (these three are currently in Jedwabne and Zyna is in Warsaw).

Witness: Chairman of the Jewish District Protocol reporter: Historical Commission, Mgr. M. Turek

[Page 236]

Officers of the United Grayever Relief Committee

Hyman Blum, Honorary Chairman
Isador Shiller, Chairman
Irving Klaynman, Co-Chairman
Irving Sapirshteyn, Financial Secretary
Max Cohen, Treasurer
Mrs. F. Mishkof, Recording Secretary

Executive Board

Fannie Abramson
Dr. G. Gorin
Rose Miller
William Margolis
Esther Mishkovski
Alex Sosno
Phillip Sosnovits
Sol Fishbeyn
Helen Fenster
Sylvia Shiller
Sydney Shiller

[Page 237]

From right to left. First row, seated: H. Blum, I. Shiller, A. Sapirshteyn, M.Cohen, F. Mishkovski
Second row: E. Sosne, Ts. Shiller, F.Abramson, A. Vitkovski, Ts.Koehn, I. Klayman [probably should by Klaynman]
Third row: F.Fenster, Dr. G. Gorin, I.Margolis, R.Miller, P.Sosnovitsh, Sh.I.Fishbeyn

 

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