Translated by Yaacov David Shulman
by Amir Gilboa
Translated by Yaacov David Shulman
The entire night, stars fell onto my lap
And weary beyond words, I laughed alone into the night, happy.
Thus sleepy and fantasizing, firmaments painted my eyes and eagles plunged to the depths.
Then I opened my eyes to the dream. Little Yossi came and redeemed the song, and he soared and sang.
The voice of the turtledove is heard in the land, and upon the buds of the morning, the rain streams, blue.
God, God, all of the valleys were then filled with water,
Oh Yosi, oh Yosi! I sent my whisper with the end of the night upon the face of the pond
Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman
Yitschak Vaynshteyn was the author of the account The Destruction of Radzivilov, the only documentation of the annihilation of the community of Radzivilov.
When transmitting his testimony, Vaynshteyn repeated events that were already written in The Destruction of Radzivilov, but in it he enhanced and expanded his earlier account, particularly in the last section of his eyewitness account, which deals with the period that will be now presentedthe events after liberation.
Before the war he was a merchant who managed large ventures and was a respected resident of the town of Radzivilov. He was well educated even though he did not finish his higher education. During the years of Russian occupation, he did manual labor.
He was astute and practical, which served him well during the catastrophic days because then his only ambition was to survive in spirit and help his family survive. In his testimony, he recounts in detail how he was able to save his life and those of his wife and children from the flames of death.
During the entire Nazi occupation, he did not seek a comfortable position on the Judenrat or with the police, even though he was offered such positions many times. His response was characteristic when Viderhorn, the first Judenrat chairman, asked him to become chairman in his place: All my life I have been a giver, not a taker. I don't want to be a tool of the Gestapo; I can't take the last slice of bread from the Jewish people. As an example of his charactersomething Vaynshteyn did not want publishedhe told me that when his younger brother Sunye came to him and confided that he wanted to join the Jewish police to make his life easier, I gave him three solid slaps and said to him, Don't cast your lot with this snotnosed gang, and don't ruin your yourself or stain our family name. In retelling this incident, he was overcome with emotion and began to cry, and it was some time until he recovered. During the Russian occupation, he worked as a purser, so he was familiar with the rules of taking liberties with their rules and he knew of the bitter penaltiesbeing deported to Siberia with his family as white bears, saboteurs.
But thanks to the war that broke out between Russia and Germany, he remained in Radzivilov.
Vaynshteyn was one of the distinct and rare persons who survived the Radzivilov ghetto. Fortunately, he wrote everything he could about the life and destruction of the Radzivilov community in 1948. Now he can hardly remember anything at all. Recording his testimony was a tremendous effort. During my many meetings with him, I could only catch a glimpse of the polite man who had generated such fervor.
In taking down his testimony, he asked me to read back everything that had been written down, and he checked everything carefully to see if it was as he had stated.
The last time we met, we lingered on matters that involved the liberation of the Radzivilov ghetto. He had come from England, where he has a son, and he has a son in Israel. Should I ask him his plans for the future? He said, Right now, I am planning to attend ulpan, and after that I will think of a plan.
Yitschak Vaynshteyn's Testimony
In The Destruction of Radzivilov, I have already written down at length my life and my memories of life in the Radzivilov ghetto during World War II, so I will now only briefly touch on this subject.
I was born in Kremenets in 1907. In 1922, my family moved to Radzivilov. My father was a wellrespected Jew who managed large businesses. Between the two wars, we had a flourmill and a good income. My father was progressive, and he gave his children an enlightened education. During my childhood, I attended cheder, and after that, until World War I began in 1914, I studied at the primary school in Kremenets, and after that at the High School of Commerce. I completed high school at the Ukrainian school and I continued at the universities of Lvov and Cracow, studying mathematics and law. I greatly regret that I was unable complete my studies because I had to return to help my father in his business. In 1926 I opened a writing equipment and haberdashery store in Radzivilov. The business developed until World War II broke out in 1939. In 1933, I married Batye Goldenshteyn of Brody. In 1936, my son Yosef (the one in Israel) was born, and in 1938, my second son, Shimon (now in England). During Polish rule, until 1936, the Jews in Radzivilov made their living, as they did in all the towns in our region, in trade, as artisans, everyone according to his profession. After 1936, there was a wave of antiSemitism throughout Poland, and our situation changed for the worse. The Polish government opened stores and pitted the Poles and the Ukrainians against the Jews. But there were no outward excesses.
When the war between Poland and Germany broke out on September 1, 1939, we knew that Poland could not hold out against the German army. Waves of refugees began to stream to Radzivilov from western and central Poland. Daily, we feared the appearance of the Germans. To our great relief, the Russian army entered Radzivilov on September 19, and the Jews breathed a sigh of relief.
Life under the Russians
When the Russians took charge, they immediately began nationalizing all the large businesses, mills, factories, and more. Immediately, I assessed the situation, and I began to hand over the store without waiting for it to be confiscated. I went to work in the Soviet cooperative as a purser and later as an accountant. My store was taken over by the Soviets and managed by a Ukrainian by the name of Tushakovski, who was a black marketeer, and he sold a lot of my merchandise, from which he profited greatly.
Before the war, a woman by the name of Manye Vaynshteyn worked for me as a clerk. During the Soviet era, she was an activist, and she was appointed to the committee of the professional union. She was aware of both the extent of his black market dealings and how much merchandise was in my store. She tried to expose his actions, but he did not stop what he was doing, and eventually my entire stock was sold off.
In all the Soviet institutions, only certified leftist proletariats, Jews and Christians alike, worked. Immediately, there was a severe shortage of food and clothing, and there were long lines everywhere. The community was naturally not very pleased with this arrangement, but it was clear that this situation was much better than life under the Nazis. At least we were alive.
When the Soviets issued identity cards, they did not neglect to classify people according to their class, and those classified as bourgeois were in danger of being deported to Siberia at any time. My father and I were classified as bourgeois, so we were fired from our work. With no choice but to try to become a proletarian, I went to work at the mill as a laborer. I worked there with my brother Sunye until the war between Russia and Germany began.
Life under the Nazis
On June 22, 1941, war broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union. The German army advanced and drew close to Radzivilov. The Red Army panicked and fled, and terror descended on the Jewish population. Everyone began to flee on horses, on cars, and on bicycles. But the Germans were already blocking the roads.
On the July 19, the Germans conquered Radzivilov. The Ukrainians welcomed the Germans with great joy. They were immediately allowed to govern the local town administration, and at its head was Mateyko, who claimed that he himself was an ethnic German. The Ukrainians became lawless, confiscating property from the Jews and showing the Germans which houses had goods to steal. They also handed over names of Jews who had aided the Soviets. And thus began the reign of terror. Among the first victims was Manye Vaynshteyn, whom I mentioned previously.
The First Decrees
The Germans set up a local government administered by the Ukrainians and gave them farreaching authority. At the beginning of Jul,y representatives from the Dubno region came to structure the local authority in Radzivilov, and they immediately began to issue antiSemitic decrees. All Jews were ordered to wear a white strip of cloth with a blue star on their arms. All Jews were forbidden to leave Radzivilov without permission. Failure to observe these laws was punishable by death.[**]
The Russians advanced and captured the village where my family and those of Semigran and Kiperman were hiding. The village changed hands seven times. There were many casualties on both sides. When we heard Russian being spoken, we ran out. The Russians enlisted me to bury the bodies, but the young Christian who was working with me fled. Afterward, I got word that my family was looking for me. I asked the Russians to let me return to my family, and they let me go, but it was very difficult to reach my family because the Germans were still holding their defenses and they were firing on anyone who was in the area. I asked the Russians if I could ride with them in a wagon, because I had no strength left in me to walk. But they refused. Stricken with fatigue and hunger but calling on my last measure of strength, I reached the place where my family had been. But there was no one left. Instead I found partisans, who were waiting to see who would succeed in the last battles. They wouldn't let me stand outside to call attention to them, so they made me come inside. I learned that my entire family and everyone else had gone on to Radzivilov. Although I was exhausted, I finally got to Radzivilov, which was already in Russian hands. Near the Great Synagogue, in an abandoned apartment, all the survivors of Radzivilov were gathered: Semigran and his family, Kiperman and his family, Treybitsh, Sheyndel Zats, Oks, and a niece, Feldman. Each day someone else returned.
The same management that was in place before the war returned to Radzivilov. They enlisted all of the men as firefighters. They were also deporting Ukrainians and Jews to Siberia. I was afraid of deportation, so I met up with a young Ukrainian who had been a friend of my brother's before the war and who was now the head of the finance department to ask him if he would hire me, but he put me off, saying, I can't hire anyone who was a 'bourgeois' to work with me in a Soviet department. I went to the party secretary, he overruled him. With this, I started working in that office. After a few days, they wanted to send me for training in Cracow. I agreed only on the condition that my family be moved to Rovno, and they agreed. After I passed the course, which lasted three months, I returned to my family in Rovno, and there I began to work in the regional income tax department. We were moved into an apartment that had once belonged to a Jewish family. I lived there until the repatriation. I was in Poland until 1945, and then I moved to Germany. There I worked in a camp, in which there were 2,500 refugees. I was elected to a committee of five judges tasked with mediating conflicts among the refugees and other administrative tasks. We had no connection with the Germans.
In 1947, I went with my family to England. We settled in Nottingham, where I worked as a miller. After that, I opened a business. In 1953, my wife died at the age of 50. My oldest son went to Israel in 1956. My younger son remained in England. In 1961, I immigrated to Israel.
by Yitschak Vaynshteyn
Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman
Radzivilov was situated between Lvov and Rovno. It once belonged to the Kremenets district, but during Polish rule, it belonged to Dubno. Its population was 6,000, of which 3,300 were Jews. Most Jews were involved in commerce. Peasants from the surrounding areas would come to sell their produce and at the same time return home having bought their basic necessities. Jews also owned the flourmill and sawmill, and employed Jews as their workers. In addition, many different kinds of craftsmen sold their products at the markets or fairs in addition to the usual daily sales.
Cultural and social life focused mainly on the Zionist movement and its various factions and parties. The main groups were Pioneer, Youth Guard, and the Revisionists. The children were educated either at the Tarbut School or at the Polish national school There was also a Talmud Torah in which many children received a religious education. There were many synagogues and study halls, and of these one must mention the Great Synagogue[*] It had two rabbis who served the congregation, three ritual slaughterers, and other clergy.
Until 1935, the economic situation was generally stable, although that year it began to change for the worse because of the Polish government's economic policies realpolitikwhose goal was to wrest the bulk of commerce from Jewish ownership and to transfer it to Poles. The Poles opened stores that could be used to boycott Jewish stores and merchandise, offering deferred payment terms of up to 15 years (!) for any account. In this way, the Poles could destroy the Jews' way of life in the town and in its vicinity and prevent them from enjoying influential positions. About all this, the Jews could only say that it was not so badthat is, until the war between Poland and Germany broke out.
On September 1, 1939, Germany began its blitzkrieg of Poland, and Poland's defenses were immediately broken. The Germans swiftly cut off all transportation routes in the country. Thus, the multitudes fleeing the terrors of the assault were trapped on the roads and highways with no chance to get to safe places. Actually, there was no point in fleeing because the Germans were steadily advancing everywhere.
The Red Army entered the war on September 19, after the Germans had reached the outer parts of eastern Poland. On the same day, the Red Army reached Radzivilov with little opposition from the Poles. The Jews there breathed a sigh of reliefthey had been saved from the Nazis' claws.
With the entrance of the Soviet government, the order of life in town immediately began to change new times, new songsand naturally the first to suffer under this new era were the Jews. First, they banned all shops, and in their place they imposed a central cooperative with 10 branches and another 30 in the surrounding villages. Thus they nationalized the flourmill, the sawmill, and the rest of the factories, whose Jewish owners were classified as bourgeois by their special office for identify permits so they had the mark of Cain as far as any government office or workplace was concerned.
Every school in town was closed, and only one school with 10 grades was opened in their place. All the children attended. They also established a library and a debate club.
The town they created was administered by a central Ukrainian authority in Kiev, although the civil authorities were stationed in Rovno.
Here it is noteworthy to relate the following event: when the Red Army entered, the Ukrainians followed them in proudly, waving their national flags when the Soviets recognized samostayne Ukraineindependent Ukraine. But how disappointed they were when the army took the flags from their hands and dissolved their community!
In early 1940, the Soviets began to construct a road from Kiev to Lemberg, and a large portion of the population worked on it. Ironically, at the beginning of the German attack on Russia, the Germans used this road to their great advantage.
In the meantime, the Russians had begun to deport the area's Polish residents to Siberia and the regions bordering Finland. The Polish government had been aiding the settlement of Poles there after World War I in order to expand its influence. Thus the Soviets began to deport these undesirables, and among them were 12 Jewish families: Balaban, Vas, the Milder brothers, and others. In 1946, these families returned from their exile in Siberia.
But almost all the women returned without their husbands. According to one exile, Dr. Zayontshkovsky, the husbands were sent to jails in Dubno and Kiev, but their fates are unknown.
On June 22, 1941, everyone began to feel that the situation was about to change. Molotov's speech on the radio, airplanes flying above the town's skieseverything heralded ill. It was quite clear: the Germans were frustrated in their attempts to defeat their enemy, the British, so they turned their forces against Russia.
The Germans advanced on two fronts: Czernowitz and Sokal near Lembergthe intention was clear: seal off the advancing pincers of the huge army in Galicia. The Soviets fought resolutely near KremenetsBrody, and they were able to extract the army and its weapons piece by piece. Part of the army also retreated near Radzivilov. All the routes had been blown up by enemy fire, and there was no way for the residents to escape. Only the party officers and their clerks fled with the retreating Soviet army. Some tried to escape on horses and wagons, but they were forced to turn back because the advancing enemy armies were so swift. Only a few government agency workers succeeded in taking shelter with the fleeing armies, but they had to leave their families behind, and they alone were saved from death. Of the hundreds of young people who were sent to labor camps by the Soviet government, only a few returned (among them Siunye Vaynshteyn) from the camps, which were more than 250 kilometers from their home. But they were only to share in the bitter fate that later took everyone.
On the June 29, we heard Nazi boots marching on the roads to Radzivilov. And we were filled with terror…
Forgetting what they had pledged the day before, most of the Ukrainians changed sides immediately and created a triumphal arch for the holy procession. They welcomed the Germans with shouts of joy, calling them our redeemers. They showed all the platoons of soldiers occupying the town where the Jewish homes were and encouraged them to take whatever they wanted.
To prevent rioting and general lawlessness, a committee was put together, with Mr. Viderhorn as the leader. The committee contacted the governing authorities and discussed how best to handle the situation; all requests were filtered through this committee, which would judge how best to execute what was required, because there was no reason for random looting and robbery. This committee eventually became the Judenrat.
Already at the beginning of July, the Commissioner of Labor in Dubno appointed a commander in Radzivilov along with a few SS officers. The Jews immediately sensed how cruel the governing officials would be to them. The first antiSemitic orders were proclaimed:
On July 15, a group of Gestapo officers approached the Ukrainian committee and asked them to prepare a list dangerous Jews. The Ukrainians immediately drew up a list of a few Jews who fit that description and also provided an additional list of a few wealthy Jews. For some reason, they later reduced the first list to approximately 18 persons. These were the ones the Ukrainians wanted to destroy because of personal vendettas. These Jews hid money and various precious personal objects because they saw this as a pretext for confiscating and stealing their property. Zalman Levitin, Shimon Marder, Manye Vaynshteyn, Duvid Vaser, Ester Groysman, the Chomut brothers, and others were included on this list.
That same morning, the Gestapo unit marched these Jews out with shovels and ordered them to dig a large pit in the Brody forest not far from the BrodyRadzivilov railroad. When the pit was dug, they ordered the Jews to run forward quickly… From afar the shots and the cries of despair rang out…
These details were reported by Leyb Rakhentses, who was one of the diggers.
The next day, a group of Ukrainians entered the Great Synagogue. They grabbed the Torah scrolls, threw them outside, and then set them on fire. They then dragged out Rabbi Yitschak Lerner, of blessed memory, and forced him to prance around the flames. At the head of this group of Ukrainians was a 19yearold named Kashuba.
From that day on, they began to round up Jews for slave labor, mainly to dig trenches to lay the LvovKiev telephone cable. Germans commanded these brigades.
On August 15, the Jewish committee was reorganized, and it was now called the Judenrat. Viderhorn resigned his position on the grounds of conscience, because he could not fulfill such a heavy responsibility. In his place, Yakov Furman, a man without any conscience, a sadist who in cold blood cared only for his own skin and his relatives without a thought for anyone else, was appointed the new Judenrat chairman.
On August 27, the Gestapo unit undertook the second review of us. The orderall orders were accompanied by a threat of deathwas issued to everyone, young or old, healthy or sick, without distinction. All were to assemble in the market square within two hours. Everyone was compressed into Valdman's courtyard, which was 10 x 60 meters in size, none of us knowing why we were gathered there. Before we gathered, we were ordered to leave our houses open.
The gates closed, and soldiers with machineguns sprang out as if they had come from out of the earth. Terrible panic erupted; crying and wailing was heard from all sides as people began to prepare themselves to be separated from each other and murdered.
Valdman's courtyard was situated near the KievLemberg road. Just then a caravan of soldiers was passing by on the road. A vehicle suddenly pulled up, and a highranking officer got out. He called the head of the Gestapo unit to him, spoke to him for a few minutes, and then drove on. The situation immediately changed for the better: the gates opened, and we were marched out in rows to the marketplace and handed over to the Ukrainian militia, led by Misha Zaleski, and from there to work details.
When we returned to our homes after the work detail, we found them empty. Platoons of Ukrainians rounded up local peasants with the city council's agreementand these peasants loaded up wagons with whatever they wanted. It was robbery carried out in broad daylight.
A few days later, it was announced that the Jews were to bring all silver, gold, and other precious objects they owned to the city council. Because of Viderhorn's efforts (he was the translator), the Germans agreed to allow people to keep their wedding rings. The Jews stood in organized rows in front of Kitas's house with the rest of their property and handed it over with trembling hands: candelabra that had been in their families for generations, silver forks and spoons, golden boxes, gold earrings, and all kinds of ornaments and jewelry, all the while telling themselves that doing this would save their souls from their slayers.
However, open robbery did not end there. Each day different groups of soldiers would freely enter Jewish houses and take whatever leftovers appealed to them, whether pots, household items, laundry equipment, or even clothing. Nor did the Ukrainians go emptyhanded, because they were good at imitating the Nazi thieves.
Unfortunately, we have to report that our Judenrat served us Jews badly. It organized its own police force, which not only carried out the Germans' terrible decrees but also extorted whatever they could from the Jews on behalf of the Germans, the Ukrainians, the labor brigadesand also for themselves. Truth be told, the Judenrat and its police force were all too ready to sell their people for execution if doing so would save themselves. But in the end, their fate was no different from that of their brothers whom they extorted and sold into their murderers' hands.
In October 1941, the Ukrainian committee issued a decree forbidding Jews to own any animals, horses, or sheep, under penalty of death; but they could sell their animals to the Ukrainians, although it was perfectly clear from the start that the exchange would be at half the price.
On December 20, an order was issued from Dubno to switch from wearing armbands to wearing a round yellow patch on the left side of the chest and the right side of the back.
The aim of the Nazi conquest was clear: destroy the Jews economically, suppress them, and humiliate them morally and spiritually. And after that, liquidate them physically. Once there was nothing left to take from the Jews, they were ordered to hand over their wedding rings. The distress grew even greater. Hunger began in the Jews' homes. Only then did we organize a committee to help ourselves, without telling the Judenrat.
The commander of the work brigades from Dubno, Hamershteyn, was concerned because no Jew ever opted out of the compulsory slave labor brigades. These brigades included skilled workers, whom he sent to labor camps in Vinnitsa. Thousands of Jewish tradesmen from all over Ukraine were there. Hamershteyn imposed the responsibility of selecting the men on the Judenrat.
And this last matter was just a cruel act for those who were sent: they were promised that they would be replaced with others after six weeks. If only they knew what a lie this was. Among those who were sent were Avraham Vaynshteyn the electrician, Volf the tinsmith, and others.
At first, no one heard from them at all, and no one even knew where they were or whether they were still alive. After a while, we managed to connect with them through a man from Vinnitsa, so letters and a bit of food were sent with him. One letter that came back reported that there had been a large fire and that only the camp remained standing intact. It was clear that the great fire meant that the all the Jews there had been exterminated and that only the Jews in the camp survived. This was in June 1942. Porochovnik, who was there and survived, reported that the camp existed until 1943. One day, in the early morning, everyone in the camp was marched out and organized into rows. They told every tenth person to step aside, and the rest were murdered.
On March 5, 1942, about 80 peasant wagons from the surrounding area appeared. The Dubno district governor was also there, accompanied by the local police and police from other areas. Fear gripped the Jews, because they thought there would be another selection of men to send to the labor camps, and they began to hide if they could. Later that day, it quickly became clear that this was not going to be just an organized robbery … the police began going house to house confiscating anything that was still valuable to them. In this action, the head of the Ukrainian committee, Mateyko, also took part. He was a sadistic man who discovered that he had some German grandmother in his family and proudly adopted the identity of an ethnic German.
The Radzivilov Jews were extremely depressed. There was the news of the Germans advancing into Russia and also the murder of most of the Rovno Jews, a city that could be in Israel, as well as most of the Jewish communities in western Ukraine. There no longer remained one shred of doubt about their future … This was the situation after the first 10 months of the Nazi conquest.
My brother Siunye and I, along with seven other Jews, worked in the sawmill that had once belonged to Yakov Boym. We suffered many hardships there at the Ukrainians' hands, led by Yurchenko and Filip.
On the second day of Passover, we learned that the Dubno Jews had been concentrated in a ghetto. This information made the already tense situation even more strained. Many believed that we also would be transferred to the Dubno ghetto. But when we saw paths created and fences being erected and topped with barbed wire on streets where Jews lived, we perceived that they were preparing a local ghetto for us. The Great Synagogue was in the fencedoff area.
On April 9, the order came for all Jews to go into the fencedoff area within two days. The Jews began to drag their worthless belongings, as if the household junk and rags they still held on to were like refugees, too, after all the looting.
Our neighbors, the Ukrainians, saw the Jews being imprisoned in the ghetto and took great interest, taking account of everything that remained, which would eventually come into their hands.
The division of the ghetto from the rest of the surrounding area was very narrow, and the houses nearby were small and desolate. The Great Synagogue was used as a warehouse for the army, and Jews were forbidden to take care of it. It wasn't only Radzivilov Jews who were forced into the ghettoall the Jews from surrounding villages were squeezed into it, and so the number of Jews in the ghetto reached 2,600 souls. The Judenrat assigned the living quarters to the detainees after reserving a few buildings for itself. Gardis's and Dubtshek's large buildings were excluded from the ghetto, as if they wanted to make the ghetto even more crowded. We were forced to organize bunks, one on top of the other, to allow space for everyone to sleep. Many slept in attics, sheds, storage areas, and the like, and for the sick and little ones, there were small houses. For each person, a space of 1.8 meters, including toilet facilities, was allotted.
The ghetto was divided into two parts. Two gates on opposite sides led from Railroad Street between the two parts of the ghetto. The first part ran the length of Railroad Street to the Grebli near the Slyunevka and ended at the Ikva River, and its width was from the old Brody Road to Hospital Street. The Ukrainians who were evicted from this area got to move into good houses that had belonged to Jews.
The second part of the ghetto had a peculiar shape. It ran the entire length of Railroad Street and continued to the Dubno Pozhumkis route; crosswise, it ran from the Dubno road to Hospital Alley.
There were also a few gardens in the ghetto. There was no water shortage, so we started to organize gardens, sowing and planting vegetables in the hope that we would reap them when they grew.
Early on, we were not starving because there were all sorts of ways to smuggle bread and other basic goods into the ghetto. For example, Betsalel Tishelman, whose job was to hand out the meager portions of bread that the murders threw at the JewsI think about 200 grams per personwas able to bribe the Ukrainian bakers to throw in a few more loaves so that there was a little more to eat. Also, the Jewish guards got involved in business with Ukrainian guards, and as a result there were a few more basics to eat. Also, with government approval, we sawmill workers would bring a wagon with wood shavings into the ghettoand we would hide food in it.
At first, anyone could live wherever they wanted in the ghetto, but soon enough, at least a week later, an order was issued that those Jews who were productive would have to live in the second ghetto, and the unproductive ones would remain in the section near the river.
The productive workers received a permit signed by the labor commandant from Dubno, Hamershteyn, and also by the Ukrainian committee, headed by Mateyko, who took care of handing these out. Very soon we learned that any Jew in Rovno and other cities who was not a permit holder was put to death, so those who did have these permits were relieved, because they and their families could hope to survive. Riots erupted as people became more desperate about getting a permit from the Judenrat and Mateyko, who drew up the lists according to his own greed and who was himself responsible for delivering them to the Labor Ministry in Dubno. The Judenrat demanded a lot of money as a bribe for dredging up each permit and assigning ita bribe that certainly went to Mateyko. And so it was that many laborers who worked in significant places did not get work permits, and people who worked in completely unimportant places did get work permits. Nothing could be done about this state of affairs, in which Jews were stealing other Jews' professions. There were only 400 permits for some 2,600 souls!
After the last distribution, it was much more crowded in the second ghetto, and there was more space in the first ghetto. Residents near the river felt that their days were numbered, but the Judenrat kept them close so none of them would ever go over to the productive side…
On May 27, 1942, we heard rumors that all the Dubno Jews had been killed and that not one had a work permit. That is, all the worthless workers were killed.
Not far from the city, there was a Russian prisonerofwar camp. The prisoners were put to work at all sorts of jobs. When they marched past the town, they looked starved, eager for cigarette butts that they collected from the ground they walked on and taking the murderous lashes they received for doing this from their Nazi guards. We discovered that these prisoners had been brought here to dig large pits about two kilometers from Radzivilov.
The Nazis liquidated the Jews in the lands they conquered with various methods. For example, in the Russian lands, where the Jews could not flee with the Red Army, Germans would slaughter them right then and there, using all available means. So it was in Kiev, Kharkov, and other cities. In western Ukraine, the murderers first exterminated them without bothering to leave any records. After that, they began to concentrate them in ghettos and destroy them officially in actions, meaning taking them out of the city and slaughtering them in huge pits prepared beforehand. But in the general government in the Polish area, which before the war included Galicia and its capital, Krakow, they mainly transported Jews to killing centers with gas chambers.
Nevertheless, the situation was perfectly clear, and there was no room for delusion. Anyone who was able tried immediately to find a place outside the ghetto, mainly in work camps, where they thought they would be safer. It was awful during the nights because everyone was forced to return to his or her home. Certainly no one could sleep peacefully, listening for any noise from the outside.
And then came the evening of May 29, 1942.
The day before my brother Siunye and I got a work permit with the help of the manager of the sawmill, Tushakovski. We were living with our parents on the side of the ghetto near the river. When we got the work permit, we asked to move to the second ghetto with my wife and two children, but this put me in jeopardy because of the intervention of the Jewish police. Finally, I got to move to the good side of the ghetto, the side where everyone was content, or such as it was. I found the people very nervous, preparing hiding places, and some succeeded in not returning from their workplaces to their houses so they could sleep outside the ghetto.
At four in the morning, we heard the rumblings of soldiers marching on Railroad Street. We saw nearly 30 SS troopers approaching the ghetto gates, and beyond them marched the Ukrainian local police and other outoftown units. They surrounded the ghetto, and we immediately heard echoes of shots and wild shouts calling Juden raus!, Jews outside! The storm troopers ran from house to house and with terrible beatings dragged out the wretched souls, who cried and howled in terror. The murderers herded everyone into the Great Synagogue courtyard. As they were forcemarching people, they separated the men from the women and children. The elderly and sick who could not walk were shot right then and there and hauled into wagons. This was the fate of Yisrael Genzelman, Viktoria Zakhs, and others. Afterward, they moved the men out in packed rows toward the railroad station. In the first row were Rabbi Yitschak Lerner, Fishel Margaliot, Shmuel Vaynshteyn, Yisrael Reyf, and Hirsh Linder. The Ukrainian police utilized every brutal means to speed up the marching of those condemned to death. Many were bleeding from being struck, and many were weakened along the way. Among them were Leyb Kozulchik and others. These last ones were shot immediately and thrown into wagons that were following behind.
At first the men thought they were being marched to the railroad, and they mustered some hope… But when they began crossing the tracks, they saw that they were being led to the right, to the west of the city, near the village of Radzivilov Gais. There, large, deep pits about 50 by 20 meters had already been prepared for them.
All the nobles of the town and its vicinitypowerful government officialscame to this killing operation: the government representative in Dubno, High Commander Hauptman; Hamershteyn, commandant of labor; SS commander Kramoda; SS Sergeants Bandler and Lubling; Chairman of the Ukrainian Committee Mateyko, Head of the Ukrainian Police Gritsishen; Representative of the Ukrainian Command Volyniuk, also called Ohida; and others.
The circle around the wretched victims grew smaller as the killers drew closer to begin their slaughter, shouting viciously and lashing out with whips. They forced the wretched people to take off their clothes and stand naked. Then they prodded them toward the open pits, where more SS troopers fired on them with a storm of machinegun fire. The victims fell directly into the open pits like bundles of grain after the harvest… Many of those who fell into the pits were not shot or were shot but not killed. The earth then covered them all, and those who were still alive were smothered. Only one Jewish boy managed to lift himself out of the valley of death; he hid naked among the tree branches.
Meanwhile, the women and children were still being held in the Great Synagogue courtyard by the Ukrainian police. Cries and moaning tore their hearts. Among them was a young unmarried woman named Liuba Tishelman, who had a permit. But she didn't want to be separated from her parents, so she joined her fate with theirs. They sat on the ground like sheep near their butchers, waiting to be slaughtered…
At eight in the morning, their doom was sealed, their fate the same as that of their husbands, sons, and brothers an hour before. They saw signs of blood as they trudged along the same route that their loved ones had taken earlier. When they got to the killing site, they saw two pits, one covered over and the other empty, lined with lime. They had no doubt about what this wasit was only too clear to them. Shouts and wails went up to the heavens, but the gates of mercy did not open… The halfnaked women wailed horribly and cried bitterly. A few went mad, such as Mrs. Krips, who clutched her children in her arms.
The armed and cruel beasts, masquerading as men, easily dominated their victims, killing them in cold blood, filling the empty pit with their bodies, and then covering them with dirt. After they carried out their mission of murdering helpless women and children, the killers went off to eat, well pleased and congratulating themselves heartily. While eating and feasting, they made an accounting of their killing, and they all attested to it. The account was of the death of 1,549 Jews from Radzivilov and Brody, all accomplished by noon. After that, the SS leader entered the second ghetto and ordered the Judenrat to hand over 1,000 cigarettes to the murderers. The Judenrat immediately set out to carry out the order and fulfilled the demand for cigarettes.
After that, peasant wagons came to the ghetto with the victims' clothing. On Mateyko's order, the clothes were put into Rabbi Yitschak Lerner's house and locked up there.
Even though not a soul remained in this section, the first ghetto, it was still under guard. A group of people from the second ghetto was sent to clean up the blood and erase all traces of infamous slaughter, especially in the streets and courtyards. I was among those sent to clean up. At the first opportunity, I went to the place where my parents had been living. I looked for them in the hiding place I had prepared, which was covered with shavings I had brought from the sawmillit was in vain; I did not find them… The thread of their life had been cut just a few hours before, and they found themselves in the vast common grave on the west side of the forest near the village of Gai Leviatinski.
Among other things, I should say that during the liquidation of the first ghetto, two Jews were in the hospital. One was Zelig Vitser. The hospital manager, a Ukrainian woman, hid them and did not hand them over to the Gestapo.
Peasants said that even on the third day after the mass killing, the earth shook, blood seeped out from the common grave, and a river of blood flowed into the cavity of the forest.
Some 40 people managed to escape from the mass murder, a few because they had not returned to the ghetto from work. Among these were Gelman Rudman, Binyamin Geler, and YakovMoshe Goldenberg, who worked with me in the sawmill, and Sore Karsh. The last two were saved and survived.
The situation in the ghetto worsened day by day. Despair and depression shadowed those who went out on the work brigades in crowded rows under the Jewish police's or the Ukrainian guards' watch. They would march in the middle of the road because Jews were forbidden to walk on the sidewalks.
A tailors' cooperative had been founded well before the action in order to increase the ranks of productive people so more work permits could be received. They occupied the Kits house outside the ghetto. Yakov Shtern and Yosef Stirt managed the work there. According to an order issued by Mateyko, the cooperative was supposed to produce work only for nonJews. Women also took part in the work there, and in this way they could get permission to leave the ghetto.
My wife was able to get work as a UkrainianGerman translator with a Christian lawyer named Gorski. He would also send her to the post office with messages. Once, the translator from the SS office saw her and recognized her from her yellow patch. He brought her to the SS office, and there Officer Krauze gave her a vicious beating as punishment for walking outside the ghetto.
Rumors were circulating about the organization of another action for children who were still alive. So people began hiding children. Secretly, I took my son, aged six, to the sawmill and hid him between the boards. My wife took our younger son, aged four, with her. Often I had to escape with my son by climbing a fence out of the city.
Our nerves were very tense and our spirits extremely thin until a voice rose, floating on the wind, that seemed to push us onward.
On June 5, 1942, the labor minister of Dubno, Hauptman Hamershteyn, came to the ghetto to take workers to a labor camp in Rovno. About 40 people were sent there, but only one, ChalivkiSalop, survived. He said that they stayed in the closed camp near Rovno the whole time. One day, they were guarded by the Ukrainians and SS. They were marched out of the camp and murdered. Afterward, we found out that a few miraculously survived.
On June 25, the SS killers, the same ones who had participated in the action, returned to Radzivilov. They entered Valdman's restaurant, sent for the Judenrat, and demanded a handout from them in exchange for protection over the next three to four months. These murderers also spoke fluent Russian.
Thus far, the victims' clothing had been kept in secret. Mateyko ordered the Judenrat to sort the clothing left from when the victims had been forced to undress and to select the best to be handed over to nonJews. The Judenrat dealt with this over a period of a few weeks, checking all the sewing. I recognized my father's trousers on one of Mateyko's deputies.
At the same time, there was an epidemic of many illnesses. On the one hand, there were shortages and overcrowding, and on the other, unsanitary conditions that caused the outbreak. Water was also lacking, because the main pump operated by Kuperman had broken a while back, and in addition there was a large break in the line that brought water there.
The destruction of Volhynia's Jews quickly accelerated on all sides. We have already recounted the actions, that is to say, the partial liquidation of the Jewish population at various times. But now people were beginning to speak of a total liquidation. The cities and villages of Volhynia, which had once bubbled over with Jewish life, were about to become Judenrein, that is, swept clean of Jews.
Mrs. Veber reports that on July 14, 1942, she traveled on an Aryan permit to Kremenets to see her sister Fafi. They were both married to doctors. There, she saw 11,000 Kremenets Jews being moved toward the Dubno suburb to a killing field, where they were exterminated.
At the same time, a group of SS troopers entered our town and entered the ghetto with a local SS trooper unit and the local Ukrainian police. They conducted a search and loaded up wagons with any remaining foodstuffs. Now it was clear that we no longer had any hope, because they were behaving exactly as they had everywhere there had been a complete liquidation. We started to look for places to hide in our time of trouble.
We found many hiding places with the peasants who had already amassed a great deal of Jewish property when the Jews were ghettoized. Our concern was to acquire enough food to last for a few days. A few people sent their families to these types of hiding places first, and then they themselves planned to flee to these places at the last possible moment. It must be said that the market for these places was very brisk, and those who had a trusted peasant also had to be tough and strong enough to settle the business. Some were also involved in forging false permits: changing signatures, copying various passes, and forging identitiesand so it was a very courageous person who could get these kinds of things into the ghetto and use them to pass to the Aryan side and fit in there.
My family and I got such an Aryan identity card in the name of Ivan and Marye Ivaniuk. But many people could not bring themselves to leave the ghetto. Many did not know how to secure a hiding place for themselves. And many were selling places just to give them over to the Germans. The vile, miserable Kashuba, who had forced Rabbi Yitschak Lerner to dance around the pyre of Torah scrolls, also informed on his friend Mazye Fudim when he recognized him in Lvov. So not all holders of false Aryan papers survived, but there were nevertheless a few men and women, such as Tsiril Karmer, Sluve Karmer, FinkelshteynBatlin, Bele Boym, Yehoshue Goldgart and his wife, Frume Feldman and her family, Chane Kozulchik, and others.
At the same time, the young people got word of an organization that was rebelling against the murderers so that people would not be led like sheep to the slaughter. They argued, among other things, that we had nothing left to lose; it was better to die bravely, with honor. Some called us to take revenge on the murderers, to become partisans, escape to the forest, and take up arms against both the Germans and the Ukrainians. The biggest advocates of this movement were in the tailors' cooperative. They would gather in Cholianka's house after work in the evenings and argue among themselves about the concept and how to make it work. The distance from the city was far, opposition among the population of the surrounding area was great, but greater still was opposition of the Judenrat and the Jewish police, as well as Viderhorn, who all still believed that we would remain alive. They argued that bloodshed would only cause the complete devastation of the ghetto. But the most difficult hurdle was the need to leave behind those family members who could not be taken to the forest.
Out of hatred of the Judenrat led by Yakov Furman, Motel Valdman, and Yakov Sherer, and their Jewish police, with Muntag and Sirota, the Jews crowded into young Rabbi Duvid Rotenberg's hall, which was located in Chardinik's house. Both the observant and the nonobservant would come to pour out the bitterness in their hearts in prayer during the Days of Awe. The prayers were cried out with such bitterness when the unetaneh tokef was recited and they turned with a broken heart to the One who sits in the Heavens: … Master of the universe, pour out Your anger on them so that they will be banished from your world by the hands of the mortal king of the distressed.
If we have sinned, forgive us now according to our ancestors, do not forsake the surviving remnants of this generation and the congregation who says Kaddish to remember the holy ones who suffered and were murdered. Who will say Kaddish for all of them if you will not rescue and save us? These reflections, openly expressed or said without moving the lips, were in the minds of everyone who came to the synagogue.
During Sukkot, two lists were put together and written on parchment: the first, the victims of the liquidation of the first ghetto, and the second, those who remained in the ghetto but whose lives were very tenuous. They were placed in hermetically sealed glass jars and buried near the synagogue for eternal memory, that there once was a Jewish community that was annihilated by the Nazi German government, may its name be erased, in 1942.
At the end of September, we learned that the Russian prisoners of war were again digging pits in the same place, the western forest. Again despair and deep anguish took hold. Many people did not wish to undergo the terrible suffering that the prior victims had endured, and they decided to determine their own fate. They began searching for poison, whether arsenic or cyanide, and to leave the accursed land of the living as quickly as possible. The Nazis shored up the guard around the ghetto, and it was now impossible for anyone to leave, because they knew that many were trying to escape. Just a few hours before the awful closing of the ghetto, I managed to escape with my child, and after me, so did my wife with our second child. We ran to the ruins of the first ghetto and hid in the attic of a shack whose door was locked.
The pursuit of fleeing Jews began. The Ukrainian police exercised beastly cruelty on everyone they caught and returned them to the ghetto beaten and bleeding. However, a few managed to shelter in Brody, an area considered to be in the General Government, where there were still Jews. Just a month before, they had conducted the first action, in which 3,000 Jews were transported in closed train cars to the gas chambers in Belzec. In the same action, my wife's parents and her brother, Dr. Mikhael Goldenshteyn, perished. Those who escaped from the ghetto and managed to hide from the Ukrainian murderers' eyes during the day crossed the forest at night and reached Brody at dawn. Many were felled along the way by the murderers' shots, and that is how the Kostye MesBurshteyn, InspektorMarder, and other families died. Dr. Chaset and his wife made it to Brody carrying their dead children in their arms. The way to Brody was terrible.
After we came down from the attic in which where we were hiding, we went to a peasant we knew, who was living in the first ghetto. I have already said that when this part of the ghetto was liquidated, the property was given over to peasants to live in. The peasant would not let us enter his house. But he showed us how to cross the ford so we could get to Brody, because the bridge was guarded by the Ukrainians and border guards.
Near the ford, I encountered Rabbi Duvid Rotenberg and R' Yochanen, Rabbi Y. Lerner's soninlaw, and his family, about 15 people in all. I explained to them that they were endangering themselves by staying there, because they could fall into the murderers' hands at any moment. But they decided to stay there, hiding among the trees. So I went on, wading into the water first to determine its depth. The water was up to my neck. I returned, lifted the children in my arms, and crossed over. Then I returned for my wife and did the same. We could not continue on foot because our clothes were soaked, so we courted danger by staying in the village of Leviatin, which we had to travel through. At that moment a Ukrainian woman came upon us, saw our desperate situation, brought us into her shed, and covered us with clothes and straw. A day of dreadful fear passed for this kindly Christian woman, because Gritsishen the murderer was in the village looking for Jews trying to escape. We were lucky, as he did not find us. The woman asked us to leave immediately because she was so frightened; but her husband, a railroad worker who had returned from his work, convinced us to stay until the evening, and then he would guide us through the fields to the place where we would have to cross the ford again. He also gave us half a loaf of bread for the way.
We crossed the ford again, but this time it was narrow and not deep, and although we were wet, we continued to make our way in the dark toward Brody. We saw a Hungarian soldier standing guard on the railroad tracks, but we managed to evade him by hiding among the trees. Toward dawn, we got to Brody safely.
My older brother Avraham, whom the Judenrat sent to the Vinnitsa labor camp as an electrician, left his wife and his two children, Ronye, aged 15, and Yitschak, aged 13, in our care. He even sent me a letter from the camp begging me to look after them. But I was quite unable to do very much for them. Of course, I did as much as I possibly could. I managed to place them as family members whose father had been sent to work in a peat mine 8 kilometers from our town, near the BrodyRadzivilov border and not far from the village of Sestratin. I warned them to flee to Brody the instant they heard bad news from the ghetto, which was some 6 kilometers from their work. When the holocaust drew near, my brother's wife Ester ran toward the ghetto to her house, which she had left only a few days before. It was clear that no one could leave the ghetto any longer. My younger brother had trusted a school friend, Homera, from the village of Batkov. He sent him everything he had left and then went to him with his wife and inlaws. I warned him, telling him that it seemed to me that this gentile didn't want him, just his possessions, but my brother trusted him and didn't listen to me. We parted in the rainy night. After the liquidation of the ghetto, the friend's uncle reported him to the Ukrainian police in the village of Berezhtsy in the Kremenets district.
We found Jews living in Brody in their own houses, along with other families who had been evicted from their houses, which were on the city's main streets. We, that is, my wife and children and I, decided for safety's sake to set ourselves up in different places. We would not go outside so we would not be apprehended by the Radzivilov police, who were certainly looking for Jews from Radzivilov. So it was when the police recognized Rozenblum, and they dragged him through the streets back to the ghetto and smothered him with antiJewish posters until he died. Afterward, it became clear that this was an act of revenge against the antiHitler posters that were found the grain warehouses, written by the Jewish workers there. Rozenblum was in charge of the work there. Workers in his group were not found during the destruction of the ghetto; they were hiding in the warehouses. Afterward, they were revealed and killed there.
Six days after our escape from the ghetto, the bitter end came; the ghetto's complete destruction occurred on June 10, 1942.
During the ensuing days, solitary refuges began to come to Brody, and they described the final days of life there. There were also Christian messengers who brought us details of the liquidation. We learned that days before the destruction, the manager of accounts in the tailors' cooperative, Yosef Stirt, committed suicide, but not before burning all the money and receipts.
On October 5, we in the ghetto learned that the murderers of the first ghetto were again gathered in Valdman's restaurant drinking schnapps and planning the operation. It was well known that schnapps was a great aid for those who were planning slaughter and murder. In this restaurant, the murderers welcomed everyone who was eager for this moment: the police, ethnic Germans from the surrounding area, and everyone else who wanted to asslick the Germans and to prove their devotion to the Nazis by beating up Jews and murdering them. All of them now received rubber clubs, guns, and gas …
The situation in the ghetto was now completely different. This time, there was no distinction between the Judenrat or the Jewish police and the plain Jews. All the illusions of those who had hoped that they would overcome the wickedness and bypass the final liquidation intact and healthy were dissolved. There was not one person left who did not search for a place to hide in attics and basements, running like mice from pursuing cats. The only contented person was Zalman Goldshmid, who hanged himself in his own house… People organized into groups to commit suicide by injecting poison into their bodies. The leader of this group was Dr. Veber, who injected poison first into Rokeach Dubtshek and his wife, Sashe Boym and her son, Duvid Margulis and his wife, and finally his only son, his wife, and himself. The sick people died immediately, after an hour. But many suffered greatly.
Peasants reported that as in the earlier action, the men and then the women and children were forced along the same route.
Many were killed on their way to the pits, hauled into wagons, and then thrown into the open pits. Also, as before, there were two pits. But for some reason the killers decided to bury everyone, some 900 souls, in one pit. Apparently about 300 people somehow managed to escape during the final days. But about half of those who did were caught and then murdered, and their bodies were transported to Vasil the shoemaker, who buried them. He also brought additional bodies of escapees for burial, such as the body of Rive Goldshmid, Libov Zamberg, and others.
There were also reports that the Germans brought the translator Viderhorn and his family in a special vehicle and offered him the opportunity to escape. But he refused and told them that he preferred to die with all the Jews. A former Austrian officer stood with his family and all the rest of the Jews beside the open pit and, in an act of defiance, said Kaddish in a thundering voice and recited the Shema, and the mothers held their children tightly to their heart and howled bitterly. The killers ordered everyone to undress and then immediately began to push everyone into the open pits as they shot them with machineguns. The victims fell one on top of the other, pressing those who had already fallen deeper, and anyone who was still breathing would surely be suffocated by someone who had been murdered and fell on top.
Having completed their work, the murders again returned to Valdman's restaurant to drink and stuff themselves. Again they made an accounting900 murdered Jews, the last remaining Jews of the Radzivilov ghetto. The town of Radzivilov was now Judenrein, free of Jews.
Thus was the Jewish community of Radzivilov destroyed by the Nazi murderers in 57025703 (1942).
by Avraham Blum (New York)
Reported by Yitschak Rudman
Translated by Elizabeth Kessin Berman
(13 Sivan 1942the Destruction of the First Ghetto)
I go and you will go with meeverything according to the heavenly will. These were Rabbi Itsikel's last words as he was led by his Gestapo killers to the slaughtering place along with 1,200 women, children, and elderly people.
To this bloody spectacle, where wild beasts preyed at every turn, as he was forced to wear his ceremonial garments, clad in a long silk coat with a fur hat on his head and wrapped in a prayer shawl, he marched silently with measured steps on his way as if to perform a blessing ceremony, and near him were Fishel and Duvid Margulis and the brothers Itsik and Nechemye Grins, who were also on their way to the Eternal.
The rabbi marched proudly, his face solemn as he walked to welcome the Divine Presence, and his lips were filled with prayersprobably even as I walk in the shadow of death, I will see no evil because You are with me. Or perhaps an objection was on his lips, because he and his flock were being led to slaughter, and the One who sits on high was silent: The Judge of the world will not do justice.
When they arrived at Leviatin, there were already two huge, wideopen pits ready to engulf them. The Ukrainian killers ordered them to undress and go down into the pits. There was a spray of machinegun fire and death screams, as all the shouted orders of the killers' commanders blended with cries of the Shema. And the bodies of our dear ones, breathing and still choking, became dust.
These 1,200 souls had been brought from the first ghetto, whose walls were in Starvek. The second ghetto was located on Butcher Street.
It lasted another six months after that; miraculously, a very few took shelter when the second ghetto was destroyed. Some of the very few who escaped were able to report these words.
Four Jewish families are now in Radzivilov (1951), which is now under Soviet rule. Perhaps we may still hear of their circumstances one of these days, but for now these are the final regards from the city of our birth.
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