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[Pages 371]

The Soviets Entry in September of 1939

The Germans and soviet divided the territory of Poland. Our area was annexed by the Soviets.

With the arrival of the Soviet Russians (Sept. 17, 1939), the Jewish situation changed. All Zionist parties and groups were officially disbanded. Jews had to adapt to a new way of life. The Socialist system was established. Merchants and owners of businesses had to search for other ways to earn a livelihood.. Shortly they found new professions. For the Postavy Jews the Russian occupation came as a great relief. They greatly feared the Germans. After the soviets entered Anti-Semitism was “officially” disallowed. When the Soviets came with all their might they were hoping now that they would avoid the war and also avoid German-Nazi domination.

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The Arrival of the Germans

The sudden German attack on the Soviet Union took place on June 22, 1941. German planes flew low over the shtetl and bombed the area before we even had a chance to realize what was happening to us. The panic that spread in the shtetl was indescribable. Many Jews fled east to Russia. The roads were dark with thousands of Jewish men, women and children. We awaited a miracle but it never came to us, most did not make it to safety.

The fate of the Jews who remained in Postavy was even worse. The local hooligans came out of their hiding places as soon as it was known that the Germans were coming and began beating and robbing Jews. The hatred of the local Christians towards Jews became even more virulent than it, had been previously, before the Soviet occupation.

The First Victims

The first thing the German troops did after entering Postavy was to take 50 Jews hostage. They lined them up with their faces to a wall, their hands behind their backs. they aimed with machine guns at them They informed the entire Jewish population that if a Jew were to harm one German soldier, they would shoot all 50 Jews. Fortunately, the Jews at this point got off with only a fright. The 50 Jews were freed after a short time.

The Germans did commit some murders on the 1st day. Gershon the carpenter's son, was standing near his house watching the German army pass through. For no apparent reason a German officer ordered that he be taken and shot. His father, who saw through the window that his son was being marched off, ran to the officer and begged him to release his son. The German ordered that the father be taken also. The other 3 children, who were watching, were also taken. They were all taken to the Christian cemetery, and shot.. This took place at about 4:00 P. M At the fence of the Christian cemetery.

That same night two Christians informed on a group of Jews, saying that they were communists. They were Velvel Friedman and his 2 sons;

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Moshe and Yaakov. They were all shot and a son-in-law, Zelik Chodosh, Ole Shuvitz, the midwife, Chava Shapiro of Vilna Street, Zelig- Itze's daughter and a Russian lawyer. The police and the Gestapo agents took them all out of their beds in the middle of the night. The women and children weren't harmed. They were all taken to Zalman Cepelevitz's house and there imprisoned in a dark cellar. They were kept there until the following evening. Afterwards, to the accompaniment of music, they were taken to the outskirts of Vilna Street, where they were all shot.

The Germans did not tell anyone that they were shot. They said that they were sent to Germany for forced labor. The Christians who dug the pit in which they were all buried, told the Jews that they were shot. Permission was obtained to give them a proper Jewish burial only 4 months later, after paying heavy bribes.

A short time later the German forces took a few more Jews. They were Chaim-Elye Tzepelovitsh and Weiner's two sons-in-law, Leibe Reichel , the brick-maker, and Misha Zaslavsky.

Each day brought new victims and new rules set against the Jews. Jews couldn't walk on the sidewalks. They had to walk in the middle of the street like livestock. If a Jew happened to walk

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on the sidewalk, he was immediately shot.

Jews wore two yellow patches on which there was a Star of David. One patch was over the right breast and the 2nd on the shoulder.

Translator's notes:

Yaakovs' son, Meir Bar Shalom nee Friedman survived and lived with his wife Shulamit in Kvuzat Yavne. Also see story of Dvora at the end. Two other sons; Avraham Ytzhak and Chanoch died as heroes. They were partisans. His wife; Ettel nee Shulman perished

Yaakov Leibe Reikhel was married to Yokheved nee Khodosh. His granddaughter survived and lived in Kibbutz Naan but it could be another Reichel- there were many Reichels in Postavy.

Moshe Zaslavski was born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1892. He was a metalworker and married to Sonia nee Shnitzer. During the war was in Postawy, Poland, his daughter survived.

Incarcerating the Postavy Jews in the Ghetto

All Jews were crammed into a sealed Ghetto during August 1941. During that month about 2,000 Jews were driven into the Ghetto. It was located on Barzilan and Dvortzov Streets, and one side of Braslavsk Street. It was sealed off with a fence of 3 meter high. At the top of the boards there were 3 layers of barbed wire. A wide gate of about 3 meters was erected at the entrance to the ghetto. Polish police guarded the gate. The home of Shmuel-Shlomo Rabinovitsh, the blacksmith was near the gate.

The order to enter the Ghetto was given by the police at 6:00 A.M

The Jews were given 6 hours to move. In other words, by 12 noon, no Jew was to be found walking outside of the Ghetto. Entering the Ghetto, everything had to be left behind. Only a small hand package was allowed. This “package” contained objects that would serve as “furniture, clothing, bedding and food”.

They ordered us to set up a Judenrat committee that would serve as a “go between” the Jews and the Germans. The members of the Judenrat were the dentist, Rubenstein, Michael Toibesh, Shimon Lubotzky and Pesach and Shia Shubitz. They also organized the Jewish police to guard the Jews from inside the ghetto.

Four or five families lived in each room In the Ghetto. They slept wherever they could find a spot. In some of the rooms there wasn't even enough standing room. Filth was excessive in all the dwellings. All sorts of diseases spread in the ghetto rapidly. Food consisted of 100 grams of bread a day per person. Each one was also given a plate of watery soup.

All men, women and children were marched off by the Germans to do their duties in the forced labor troop. Jews would start working each morning at 7:00. They worked until 4:00 P.M.

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They would load and unload wagons, plow fields, sweep and clean and do all the hardest and filthiest jobs. When Jews left the ghetto in the morning, no one believed that he would return to his family, that he would see his dearest again. Before leaving for work they would all bid each other farewell. They would kiss and embrace.

Besides the filthy labor, the Germans set up workshops for knitting, baking, upholstery, tailoring and others All the residents of the ghetto worked as slaves to the Germans; even 13 year old children.

Each day brought new victims. Each day someone failed to return from work. It took little for the germans to kill Jews. Some were killed for trying to bring some kind of food into the Ghetto. If during inspection at the Gate, someone was found with a piece of bread or a potato under his shirt, he would be brutally beaten and then stabbed to death on the spot.

hly375a.jpg A street in Postavy [23 KB]
A street in Postavy


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