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[Page 503]

The Extermination of the Jews in Ivye

by Shifre Margolin (Stotski) of blessed memory

(Authentic Manuscript in the form of a diary)

How did this manuscript come to me?

Right after liberation in the first days of July 1944, when we returned to Ivye--myself, my husband Shmuel and sister Khave--a Christian woman from Khovanshtshizne came to us and related that she had a diary from my Aunt Shifre Margolin (Stotski). The Christian woman said that Aunt Shifre had given her the diary a few days before the liquidation of the Ivye ghetto, while on the way to Borisov (January, 1943). Shifre gave it to the Christian woman so that after the end of the war she could send the notebooks to her sister and brother in America, at an address in the diary.
That same day I went to the Christian woman and received the notebooks, which had been hidden. We carried them with us in our emigration over borders and countries. Arriving in Israel in 1948, we fulfilled Shifre's last will and sent them to her sister in America. After receiving the diary back from America, we placed it in the archive of the “Beys Katsenelson” (in the kibuts Lokhamey hagetaot).

Rokhl Geler (Stotski)


The author of the manuscript began her entries on 12 October 1942, and ended them on 23 December 1942. Despite a few inaccuracies the manuscript has inestimable value, as a record over the stormy history. As is known, the author, along with her two children, were sent out to Borisov, and there killed together with all the Jews from the Ivye ghetto.
We present her diary her here, with small excisions, making an effort to change her style as little as possible.

The Editors


Rosh khodesh mar-kheshven 5702, 12 October 1942.

Dear and beloved sister and brothers, Rokhl, Berl and Arye!

I am writing to you because I want to say farewell to you, because our life is just from day to day, a matter of weeks, and only a miracle could save us. But unfortunately we live in a time in which miracles do not happen. And are we any better off than our brothers and sisters who were shot 5 months ago?

Today our little town Ivye, including the Jews of other small towns that were driven into it, comprises 1,300 souls, while before the slaughter we were 3,700. Right under our eyes, 2,400 [1] were sent to their deaths. Among those were my three sons: Shleymele (age 10), Osherke (age 7), and Yankev-Itsikl (age 2). Also all of Rafoel's [2] brothers and sisters were murdered, and I, with my two children Brokhele (15 years) and Barukh (13 and a half) were saved by chance. Khashke, Meyshe and Meyshele [3] and their families are still alive and ask that I write in their names too, may this [document] remain so it can make clear the last few years of our horrible, hellish life until we will be freed from our suffering and terror.

...As is known, we were under the Soviets for a year and a half, and were already used to them. Everyone had a position and had already made peace with the idea. But one fine morning we were stuck by thunder. The 22nd of June Hitler out-crafted his friend Stalin and attacked. Right on the same day, the 22nd of June and the following day, he burned Grodne, Bialistok, Lide, Ivye. The German military first entered Ivye on 1 July (1941). In the 8 days until their invasion all of us Jews were running around in panic and terror because of the bombings in the outlying towns (Hine, Rafoel's sister, stayed in Vilne and there was among the first murdered.) Then the Germans issued a decree, that all residents should go into their homes, where we stayed until the 22nd of July.

And so the situation took on a normalcy. They permitted the non-Jewish population to rob the Jews for only 4 days. What a horrible scene that was, as the Christian neighbors from all the settlements, who had lived in peace with us all those years, were turned into enemies and routinely emptied Jewish houses, cellars and attics. And if you met up with a “good German” and asked him to help, he shrugged his shoulders: “I cannot help you, because you are Jews and our Fuhrer hates you...” And so the pogrom lasted 4 days. Then the regular commandant arrived with field officers, and took over authority and established order. But the situation was “normalized". All Jewish men up to the age of 65 had to go the various work assignments, and very difficult ones.

At their work, they were beaten by their overseers. So they were beaten, but that is not the point: as long as they could get off with blows. Summer, 6 in the morning, Rafoel and the others had to assemble in the market square for work. How terrible they all looked! Especially, as I recall how Rov Feldman looked, going to work with his torn-out beard. How terrible he looked!

So it went for 4 weeks until tishebov (1941), an apparent year's time. Folinke [a nickname for Rafoel] my dearest, he has been so sad lately. Rumors had come to him that next to arrive would be Gestapo and S.S. men, who clean out each town and shoot Jews, especially those whom the local population points out as communists, Bolshevik hangers-on. We used to eat two times a day, because at first there was not enough. Folinke used to go to work without eating. On that historic day he was up before dawn, roaming around the house. It was shabes. Concerned, I jumped up from bed. My 5 children were sleeping. I sat at the table and questioned him, why had he gotten up so early and why was he running around the house like a lunatic. He was stirred up from a dream, apparently. But I comforted him, since what would not let him sleep was the hundreds of thousands of prisoners that passed under our windows on the main road, hungry, in rags, wounded and stretching out their hands for bread. Finally at five thirty in the morning he went to work and I never saw him again, my beloved!

At nine o'clock a taxi arrived with about ten slaughterers, the Gestapo who murder innocent people. But we knew nothing. Rov Feldman ran through all the streets, saying that all men aged 20 to 60 must gather in the market square. No one knew why, and the rov himself did not know either. I happened to be outdoors, and a Polish policeman I met told me that I should send Rafoel to the market right away. I ran directly to where he usually worked, since my heart told me that this was not good. I got to the place where Folinke usually worked, but he was already gone. He had gone with all the other workers to the market square, even though no one had come to call them to go.

I learned later what had happened there: All the town's men came together. They were stood in several rows and the bandits announced that the rabbis and the ritual slaughterers should go first and should stand apart. Among those was Rafoel's brother Aron-Neyekh the ritual slaughterer, the Ivye Rov Feldman, Rov Meyshe Mayerovitsh the Judge, Rov Avrum Itsik Minkin (Der Peyrush) and others, and they pressed many afflictions on those unfortunates. They told Rov Avrum-Itsik to bring a Talmud, and once he was holding it, they told him to throw it down. Of course he did not do it. They beat him murderously and he did not obey. After that they called out all teachers, shopkeepers, bookkeepers. If someone denied his profession, the Polish intelligents, who were as wild as the pigs and had old accounts with the Jewish teachers, did not let it go by. And the Poles beat Novoprutski over the head with an iron bar until blood came.

Then the Gestapo went through and asked each person his trade. Khaym Ozer Gaskind, my brother-in-law, Rashinke's husband, said that he was a shopkeeper and they drove him into the ranks of the idlers. Then they came to the row with my Folinke. They said that he was white as caulk from fear, seeing how the others had been beaten. Nevertheless, when he stated his trade as stone-etcher and cement-worker they left him alone. But then a local sheygets came along and dragged him into the store, too.

A heavy truck arrived and took away 25 men at a time, away to Stanevitsh, three kilometers outside the town, in the forest. There Lithuanian soldiers were already waiting. They were told to dig graves for themselves and they had to do it and then they were shot. Then they came and took another 25 men. And the car came every twenty-five minutes, until everyone had been murdered. They were allowed only one thing: to cover their eyes with their shirts so that they would not see the bullets. Thus, in two hours, they shot to death 220 innocent men.

Meanwhile here, near the shops, the remaining men were told to sing and dance “ma yofes” [4]. [The first words of a prayer, but here it refers to the practice, historic in parts of E. Europe, of forcing Jews to sing and dance for the entertainment of their Christian overseers.] And the Gestapo, the Hitlerists, sat at a table eating and drinking schnapps. Who could have guessed that at the same time, 220 young lives were being snuffed out...

At the same time, they chose a Judenrat, among whom was our brother-in-law Meyshe Kapald as chairman.

I, along with the other unfortunate women, did not know until the big slaughter on 12 May 1942, that our husbands, brothers and fathers were dead. The local authorities said that they had been sent away to work in the camps of the Third Reich. So, we were a little more at ease, hoping that the war would end quickly and they would return to us. In the meantime we sent messengers. Rumors came from Grodne, from Suvalk, from Warsaw and other cities. Some Polish man invented the idea that they had been sent to Vienna. It was several weeks since the slaughter in Novoredok. We settled down a little. The Regional Commissioner in Lide assured us that he would take care of the Lide area and that nothing would happen to his Jews.

You must imagine what his “good friendship” cost the Jews of the whole region. Lide, Ivye, Vasilishok, Radun, Voronove and Shtshutshin. All the Jews from the smaller towns like Lipnishok, Trabe, Baksht and other small settlements were driven into Ivye. Exactly a year from the time, October 15, Ivye numbered 4,000 Jews altogether. Six families lived in each house. I was driven out of Vilne Street to the market square, and went in with our Meyshele. It was very difficult. But we had bread and potatoes, and we got through with the little children. They made me promise that after the end of the war I would cook them two eggs every day. Imagine how it looked in the Jewish houses, that no Christian could go into a Jewish house under penalty of death.

As I said, the Germans sucked the blood from us Jews. Beginning with the Lide Regional Commissioner and ending with the Ivye functionary Yurke, or Stefan, everyone had to give everything that they demanded. Twice a week taxis came from Lide with orders for the Judenrat. Here ten men's suits, there material to make suits, here leather, there twenty pairs of boots, furniture, napkins, bed linens, gold watches, bracelets, socks, for them and for their families in Germany. The Jews were given a half-hour's time. And if it was not prepared, they were shot. But everything was willingly prepared if only to stay alive, and who knows how they came up with all the things. Those who had been brought in from the other little towns, and had not been robbed, helped very much. Each one taxed himself with everything he had, and by the deadline they had all that they demanded. And we had to stuff the mouths of the Ivye Germans, the police, the local Polish and White Russian police.

Everything that they demanded was precisely fulfilled. Just to have good friends, that is, our fate depended on them. It is self-evident that that was not a flaw. Rather, they did not look very closely at the law, because a strong order, under penalty of death, prohibited Jews from smoking, drinking alcohol, getting married, eating meat or butter or eggs, and so on. So every day they demanded something else and everything was provided them, there was no alternative. Every week, every day, another decree. And we gradually settled down, believing that only Novorodke, Slonim, and other towns were the unfortunate “dead ones” and that it would not happen to us.

[508]One fine morning a taxi arrived with a high-ranking officer, a crazy and very evil man. He usually lived in Oshmene, then became commander in Baksht and Volozshin. Before his coming to Ivye he had given a flat order to shoot some 200 Jewish workers in Volozshin, because he was angry with the Polish mayor there--so he had his Jews killed. You must try to imagine the horror which the Ivye Judenrat felt at hearing that the officer from the taxi had called an immediate meeting of the entire Judenrat. He saw how pale and terrified they were, and that made him happy. He gave the order that they must produce, in the space of a few hours, 56 meters of fabric of the same color, to outfit a stage for a theater production. The time was short and he did not permit any discussion. Chairman Kapald laughed from his terror. The crazy officer questioned him: “What?” he shouted--“You're still laughing? Tell me what that means!” Kapald requested permission to speak for 5 minutes about the impossibility of producing such an amount of fabric when Ivye had been robbed so many times. Kapald was a proper Austrian Jew and made a very good impression on them, and the German was convinced, and allowed them to bring 50 meters of ordinary linen.

Another time he came, called the Judenrat together and demanded that, within ten minutes by his watch, he should receive a small key for his houses, and if not “you will be shot dead”. Luckily someone found such a type of key and brought it to him. And so with countless other cases. Thanks to this, until the great slaughter of 12 May 1942, due to his “khesed” [loving kindness] it was quiet, in comparison with other towns, where for the smallest infraction Jews fell as victims.

Two families, ten people, from Devienishok, which Lithuania had taken, fled to Ivye to be with their relatives. They were allowed to remain for a week's time, after which they were taken to the Jewish cemetery and shot. One of the unfortunates, a pretty young girl, was only lightly wounded. When the police left, she got up and ran away, on the way to her grandmother's house. Blood was running from her head and face, and she stopped in at a nearby house. They called for a doctor. The doctor dressed the wounds and they would have been fine. But the police missed the tenth victim. They took two members of the Judenrat by the hand and took them to the cemetery, and the police shot her. He said, “An order is an order!” The Judenrat with Kapald at their head, was subjected to hundreds of such scenes: Stand and watch and not be able to say a word to help.

But the most frightful thing that happened in Lide and Ivye, I will try to relate and describe. It is how my three little lambs were taken to their deaths, or, how I myself sent them.

Near the end of April there came an order that all the Jewish workers who worked outside the town, with Christians in the countryside, must return home by the first of May. There was a similar order in Lide. No one was given permission to travel outside of the city. We were extremely uneasy. But we did not let ourselves believe, since it had been more than two months since the slaughter in Baranovitsh and it was as though we had forgotten, or become accustomed to the thought of the misfortune they had met. The population began saying that on the first of May they would certainly shoot the local Jews. But as the ostensible date passed quietly, everyone settled down and we laughed at ourselves for our fears. We reassured ourselves that on May 15, they would begin to give workers permission to go out to the countryside.

Meanwhile on May 7 came an order that we must turn in our copper implements. Also, May 10, everyone must shave their heads. We did that too. We called the hairdresser to us and for all the families that lived in the house. I had my five children shaved. Brokhe's braids chopped off, Barukhele, then Shleymele, Osherke and finally my dear two-year-old Yankele. How sadly he looked at me with his wise blue eyes. Oy, gevald, when I think how he looked! Meanwhile Rashke, Meyshe Fiselevitsh arrived and we joked about it...Rashinke! Rashinke! Who could have dreamed that in a few days we would never see one another again!

The next day, going out into the street for some reason, I saw that policemen had arrived on bicycles. About a hundred men had arrived. But friends there calmed me, saying they had come as an exercise. Still I went back to the house agitated. I told my children that may police had arrived. Shleymele and Osherke grasped it at once: “Mame, Mame, let's run to our gentile friends!” But I calmed them, thinking that in the morning I would see what was going on. But in the morning it was already too late. I put them to bed, and cuddled little Yankele close to me and laid the whole night with my eyes open. When I got up at about 3 in the morning and looked out the window, my eyes went black. Only I could not believe, I thought that I was dreaming, and I went outdoors. Dark, bitter, horrible! There was a policeman on every corner, every ten steps there was a policeman. And later, when I went out to the well for water, they drove me back into the house. Even Kapald and the other members of the Judenrat who tried to go into the street, were driven back into their houses by the police. Arrested in our own houses, we awaited our fate, not knowing what was going on.

Shabes, May 9, 1942, a Christian arrived from Lide and related that on Friday, May 8, 5,500 Jews had been murdered there. No one could know when this might happen in Ivye. On May 9 the Gestapo went to Voronove to carry out the horrible execution on the Jews there. On May 10 they were in Vasilishok and Radun. May 11 they would be in Shtshutshin. And in Ivye, we did not have any idea when our turn would come.

In that way we waited out three days and three nights, sleeping in our clothes. And no matter how we racked our brains, we could not think of any way to escape from the town. If you did in fact find one of the corner policemen who was a little better, and who would agree, in exchange for gold watches, to let you slip past him out of town in the middle of the night, he was afraid of the other policemen, who were keeping watch nearby. We could not even speak of making such an attempt. We were located right in the middle of the market place, far from the exit from the city. And so we sat, barred in our houses and awaited our fate. Until Monday May 11 arrived!

What to do? With us in our house there lived several families, craftsmen: a smith, a locksmith, a mechanic, a shoemaker, and other workers' families. Knowing that in Novorodok they had allowed the hand-workers' families to live, I decided to let my smaller children go to the “sorting” and let whatever happened, happen to me and Brokhele. Barukhke declared that he would not leave Kapald. There was no alternative. But my heart was terrified for him, because we had news from Lide that almost everyone from the Judenrat there was shot, so that I was much more certain about the three children that I had given to the artisans. I ignored Shleymele, who was after me the entire time begging me, “Mame! Put me and Osherke in the attic and take away the ladder, hide him, no one will find us!” But I shouted at him, and told him that they would surely search all the attics and cellars. So I signed the death-sentence for my three little lambs, the innocent children! I divided them one each to three artisan families and told them to be happy with it.

I took leave of my children. Brokhele and I went with Meyshele and Rokhle, who had in the same way I had, given her year-and-a-half old son to a “secure” artisan family, running in through a back door to a neighbor in a dark, closed room. We sat for about ten hours, until Khashke [5] came running to tell us that the bloody spectacle was postponed. We were very happy, kissed one another and asked what had happened. We realized that the pits were indeed ready, but the Gestapo were not yet ready with the other towns in the Lide district. Meanwhile the regional commander himself had arrived, and called the Judenrat to the market square and said, “We do not want to frighten you, because there will not be any swindle here. Mainly we will shoot the old and the cripples, about 800 people.” And the house-arrest [6] would last two more days. The Gestapo would come the day after and he himself would return and would see that no wrongs were committed. He whispered in Chairman Kapald's ear that by tomorrow he must collect 1,000 rubles of gold. Everyone who had any, voluntarily gave ten or twenty gold rubles. So that in a few hours the regional commander was given the sum he demanded, with the hope that the decree would be annulled because of it.

I did not want to reconsider what to do with the children, but having another two days, we left it until tomorrow. Today one simply had to take a break from four days and nights of keeping watch. Our exhausted heads must have some rest. Instinctively I was very afraid, my heart was constricted and could foresee no good, without knowing why.

In the night between May 11 and 12, we slept until 5 a.m. Then I heard the noise of motorcycles, which very much unnerved me, although I did not attach a special significance to it. I laid there calmly, until a neighbor knocked on the door half an hour later: “Shifre, why are you sleeping? They're driving people out of the houses into the market! The murderers have tricked us!” I jumped up from bed and ran to the window and there it was happening before my eyes! On the other side of the square, where our ghetto was located there were already a thousand people with small children. As the murderers had ordered. Meanwhile the police were running like evil spirits in all the streets, from house to house, and driving everyone out to the market. I had just jumped into a dress, almost barefoot. The children leapt out of bed without even their shirts, grabbed their trousers and blouses and with terror turned their eyes to their mother--“Mame, where shall I go?” Shleyme separately, and Osherke separately, “Mame, where shall I go?” I glanced at little, innocent Yankele, how he sat in bed with his big blue eyes and did not know the fear of death. I said, “My Yankl, how I envy you! My child! My child!” I was lost, not knowing what to do. Barukhele ran out to Kapald. I told Shleymele and Osherke to take Yankl and go to the neighboring artisans, as we had agreed yesterday. And I did not even think to kiss my dear, holy children. I ran out with my Brokhele and with Meyshele in a hide-out, where 18 people were sitting in a small dug-out. Without air, without water and without food we sat there the whole day and night. And then another day until evening. [7]

What we went through, staying there pressed together, I cannot express in words. I was calm about my children, knowing that they were well taken care of, as children of artisans. But my heart was terrified for Barukh, G” knows.

Brokhele and I were in the greatest danger, because the regional commander had said just the day before: “No one must hide, because it will be worse for them.. There will be thorough searches and whoever is found hiding, will be shot on the spot. Whosever presents himself in the market will live. Only the old and the crippled will be shot.” He had given his German word of promise that nothing would happen to anyone. I had nothing to lose, because without a trade and without a husband (we knew this from the “sorting” at Novoredok and other towns) I was one hundred percent lost, and I had done well to hide. But I had done a terrible thing by sending my three children to such a terrible test! This I can never accept! An eternal sadness will remain in my heart!

Sitting in the hiding place, we heard how the police went in and drove people out of the houses. Afterwards we heard a shot and another shot. They shot those they found hiding in a second house: a small child in a crib, whose mother and father had left in despair and themselves hurriedly hidden in a small pit behind the house. And afterwards a cat chewed up its head and ran around the streets with it...and we heard three more shots. But I was calm about my children. Around noon something like a knife cut through my heart. I did not yet know that it was at that time that they murdered my children! After that I was calm once again. I sat like that as on a hard, jagged place, like a stone, not letting one word escape from my mouth. In our 36 hours in hiding, we heard how barefoot robbers went quietly into the houses and took whatever was left. Police permitted this even at night. These were our brothers! And what is also important, all were shot at once. We also heard how the German watchmen came in at night to turn off the electric lights and one of them said, that he felt that there were people in the house. But they did not look, and they left.

So we sat until May 13. About five in the evening Kapald and Khashke's husband came, and called out for Meyshele (Stotski). Then it was as though I broke down. I understood that it was bad! I did not even go out to ask. I already knew everything. After someone who had gone out to talk with Kapald came back, he told me that my three children, together with those families, had been sent out to death in Stonevitsh! The wolves had torn up the lambs! And Rokhl Geler's lovely boy had met the same horrible fate. She pushed very hard to know what had happened, when we realized. It is difficult to depict it with words. We went back into the ghetto on the pretext that we were carrying in permitted articles, because we were not supposed to be found by our houses. I came into the house, gave Khashke something to drink, and I came to myself somewhat. My sister Khashke and Tsvia, Khone Malakhovski's wife, narrated and described the events of the horrible spectacle of death of May 12 1942:

Near Rashke's [8] house on Bernardina Street, a German was standing and telling each person that they should go by family, show their identity papers, and go where they were told to go--to the right, to the left, or out! Then the families came to Shishke Blokh's house where the chief executioner was standing. A family presented itself, he glanced into the eyes of the man of the family, evaluated something, if it was a big family with small children, or a lot of women, he told them to go straight to the church, to death! Whoever pleased him, they were told to take the wife and children and go to the right, or to the left, which meant: to life! Mainly, if the family consisted of men capable of work, that is to say a man and a wife and grown sons. So Rashinke (Gaskind), Rafoel's sister, was stubborn, and wanted to go to the examination! They told us that Rishele, her 19-year old blossom-beautiful daughter, 17-year old Mire and 15-year old Dovid-Shleyme, had begged during the four-day “house arrest”--“Mame, we want to hide.” There were so many hiding places near them. But Rashinke calculated, No, they will let us live! And they were sent away to death. Khaym-Ozer's sister, Devore, too, with her two small children, were sent off to the pits, and so they went in a string. In the space of three hours the murderers had sorted 4,000 people. The market square was empty and the pits full...even Shishke Blokh and Sheyndl Yankev-Meyshe's, who had come home with her 20-year old son for a visit before the Soviets--had met their death in Ivye!

Even before they had screamed “Get out!” they had to run, in order to avoid the whips of the police, who stood along both sides of the length of Bernardina Street. Meanwhile, those separated out for death were driven to the church and then further on, three kilometers to the pits near Stonevitsh Forest.

But the Lithuanians could not manage to shoot so many at one time. They drove together groups of one hundred men. What happened then is hard to describe. This was all told to me personally by the priest, who was standing in the doorway of the church and observed the scene, as it was near the church that they were jammed together upon each other so that they could not move, a mass of about two and a half thousand people. The despairing people tore the hair out of their heads, ripped their clothes from themselves, wrung their hands. Whoever had money dug it out and threw it away. Christians near the church eagerly gathered it up and held onto it. The priest himself saw it all. A child of one woman was struggling and crying in her arms, and the guarding soldier struck the child in the head with the handle of a hand-grenade and the child fell dead from the mother's arms. People said that Meyshe Fiselevski and Alter Zavodtshhik (Girshovitsh) went mad from terror and walked the three kilometers to the pits arm in arm, singing songs.

Arriving at the pits at Stonevitsh, they took 20 men at a time, who had to undress stark naked, put their things in a small pack, tie it up, and go into the pit where they were promptly shot. And so my sons must have undressed and gone into the pit to die. They were not even shot, that I know! The local Christian police said that all the children were thrown into the pits alive. Oy, G-d, what have You done to us?! Why are you silent about this Ameylek? The children had to lie on the dead bodies and more dead bodies fell on top of them. So the pit was filled with the dead and they suffocated...My heart is really stronger than iron since it did not burst! Oy, vey iz mir! But I will not mention it any more, I will only ask that G” protect my two children Barukhke and Brokhele. G” have mercy! Rashkele and Rishele did not want to undress naked and they were dragged by the hair and driven into the pits. Vicious animals! After each 100 Jews, the police and the Lithuanian murderers snacked on schnapps and sausages at a nearby table...

Those who went to the right and the left to remain alive, were ordered to give up all that they had with them: money, gold, jewelry, watches, and so on. Then they were driven into the market square and the regional commander [9] gave a short speech. He explained that their brothers had been shot because the Jews in Lide had stolen weapons from the Boytn Camp. Secondly, because their coreligionists in America and England, the rich Jews, had started the war. Thirdly, because the Germans simply hate us! Meanwhile, he said, our remaining alive depended on the development of the political situation. He did not promise us life, but meanwhile we remained alive! We must just be respectful, and not heaven forbid break any of the decrees. In his speech, he also called up the special gentleness with which he had carried out the “action” in Ivye. This was only proper, because at dawn as he was just arriving for driving the people to the market, he had called together Kapald and other members of the Judenrat and had received the thousand rubles of gold that he had specified the day before. [10]

None of the Ivye people ran away from the slaughter, except for three girls. After they were sorted out for death,they ran away and locked themselves in an empty house. In the evening the beasts sent out twenty wagons to collect the dead in the street and on the way to the pits, those, poor things, who wanted to save themselves and made one last attempt at which they unfortunately did not succeed! That street was strewn with the dead, whose blood flowed out and soaked through the stones!

After they had dumped out our holy martyrs, the wagons took everyone's clothes from that place, clothes they had taken off and left near the pits, and brought them into the empty stores. And they brought everything out of the empty houses, that had belonged to the families who were shot. Those things in the stores, the German beasts sold half-free to the local population, and the valuable clothes and furniture they shipped to their wives in Germany.

The few survivors (about 1200 or 1300) were driven into a ghetto. Slowly, gradually, we settled down. So we lived for two months after the slaughter, almost to the middle of July, when lightening struck again!

But the terror of life took away the desire for life. Imagine standing each day and looking out to see whether there was a taxi near the police station, or if police were driving around. It turned out that they were just going into the woods later to look for partisans, but in the meantime there was panic in the ghetto. Whoever had a Christian friend went out to spend the night with him. The rest had already given up hope in living and had become fatalists. During such nights no one slept, but stood watch. Our few Jews huddled together like sheep and gave each other advice, what to do, and so it stayed. Several quiet days passed, we calmed down a bit and began to hope that we might survive the war. The regional commissioner in Lide assured us once again that nothing would happen to us. We had no faith in his sweet talk. I have been writing this letter to you for ten days without interruption. I would write out the moods and the horror which we encounter every day since the slaughter, but no paper would suffice.

I have found it necessary to send you our last living greeting. You should take revenge on our enemies for our innocent blood poured out. Take revenge for your sister, brothers and parents! You must not forget! Death to them all, the German murderers! I will write again tomorrow, if we are still alive. First, before we go to sleep, the neighbors and I wish: If only we can see one another the eighth day! Sister and brothers in the whole world, take revenge for our blood!

They have driven all the men from all the regions into the camps around Molodetshne, Krasne, Vileyke, Stantsie, Oshmianke. They took them barefoot and naked out of their beds. Their wives and children were shot or burned and they, the men, were sent off to the work camps.

So, we have very few chances of remaining alive. And we have all resigned from life. But I want very much not to die such a shameful, dog-like death! I would like to take revenge personally, even on the local Polish murderers who are guilty for Folinke's death and also for the deaths of my three innocent children! But it is lost. You are lucky! Today the mood in the ghetto is very heavy. We have word from Lide that they are also terrified, because the regional commissioner has issued new decrees such as, for example, that all workers who are privileged to live outside the ghetto must come back into the ghetto. For being two minutes late to work, the death penalty! So yesterday a certain Halpern was shot for going out from work for five minutes. The Christians in Lide say that a burned-out jail is being repaired to hold the few Jews who will be left after the slaughter that will certainly occur by the new year, and perhaps in a few days.

23 December1942.

I didn't write for a long time. Continual unrest, terror, running to hide. Then a few days of calm. Yesterday, the 22nd of December (1942), the 14th day of the month of Tevet, after six weeks of illness, our dear brother Meyshel (Stotski) died, and is free from his suffering and pain. He died like a saint in his own bed. We mourn him. But only G


  1. Correct, approximately 2,500. Editor. Back
  2. She refers to her husband, Margolin. Ed. Back
  3. She refers to Khashke and Meyshe Kapald and Meyshe Stotski. Ed. Back
  4. This is doubtful. Others who were there do not mention it. Back
  5. This means Khashke Kapald, Shifre's sister. Ed. Back
  6. Translated in text Back
  7. Meaning, May 12 and 13, 1942. Ed Back
  8. Wife of Khaym-Ozer Gaskind. Ed. Back
  9. An error. It was the department leader, Vindish. Ed. Back
  10. This is not correct. The Germans took the same percentage that they took in the other settlements. For the gift of gold, he had just left the families of the Judenrat members alive. Ed. Back

[Page 519]

The Slaughter in Ivye
12 May 1942--A Day Between Life and Death

by Dr. A. Kaplinski / Johannesburg

The writer of this article, Dr. A Kaplinski, was in the small town of Baksht at the outbreak of the German-Soviet war. He was working as a doctor there and in the nearby Jewish settlement of Borisovke. The Jews of those two small Jewish settlements were driven to Ivye and shared the tragic fate of all the Jews of the Ivye ghetto. The author and his wife survived the war in the forests and now live in South Africa.
We present his depiction of the big slaughter with some editing and a few corrections of facts, numbers and dates.
Reprinted from the “Afrikaner Idishe Tsaytung” (28.V.48)


Erev Peysakh, the first of April 1942, at seven o'clock in the morning, a courier arrived from the commandant and demanded that by ten o'clock, everyone must be out of Baksht. According to an order we were to be driven into the Ivye ghetto--thirty kilometers from Baksht. Each had the right to bring along only what they could carry.

At exactly ten o'clock in the morning, the mournful procession began...the wagons with old people and children went in the front, and all the others followed on foot. The Germans went in front of us, and on both sides and behind us were the Polish police. We had very heavy hearts. I was sure that we would never see one another again...my heart was sorely pressed, and one thought bored into my mind: Where did they suddenly find such crazed enemies against us? How had we suddenly fallen so far? Not long ago we had been fully entitled and proud people, and now a company of ragged, hungry beggars, exposed to shame and derision, tortured by yellow insignias of shame.

We arrived in Ivye late in the evening and were divided up by the Judenrat into the already crowded houses. Four families already lived in the house we were assigned to. Together, we observed the first seder of the holiday of freedom, Peysakh...instead of wine we drank our own tears...the happy holiday was spent in mortal fear of the future...

Ivye, which before the war had numbered about three thousand Jews, now contained more than five thousand (including those Jews driven in earlier from Lipnishok, Trab and other settlements). The Ivyer Jews were mourning the 224 victims, mostly intellectuals and youth, whom the Germans had taken a few weeks after their invasion. Everyone already knew that they had been shot and thrown into a pit near the Stonevitsh forest, but did not want to believe it, and a few of the orphaned families held onto the hope that they were still alive someplace in a work camp...

The Ivye Judenrat had to continually collect money, manufactured goods and leather in order to meet the preposterous demands of the German murderers. They established a set of workshops that worked for the Germans and the civilian population. The head of the workshops was Bernard Mlinarski. They naively believed in the German promise that they could purchase life with capable labor.

The few doctors had the difficult assignment of protecting the Jews from epidemic illnesses. Such persons were summarily shot. Therefore the doctors, risking their own lives, hid the diagnosis of typhus from the German authorities. Because of the terrible crowding and poor nutrition, the hygienic situation was catastrophic. Epidemics of skin diseases, eczema and scurvy, broke out. The medical personnel did all they could to protect the ghetto from going under.

About six weeks had passed since our arrival in the Ivye ghetto. On May 8, 1942, masses of police appeared in the market square, doing exercises with weapons. It was suspicious: what was such a big wild band of police doing here all of a sudden? That evening several versions went around. Some said that they were being sent to the front; others said they were preparing to go into the forests to raid the first partisans which had then begun to appear. We went to sleep with heavy hearts. But sleep did not come, the ghetto was awake the whole night.

Quite early, the first rays of the sun were shining in their full magnificence over the ghetto. At five o'clock in the morning, when a neighbor went out to get water from the well, she was met at the door by a black devil, a Polish policeman with his rifle aimed at her chest, who ordered her in a murderous voice to go back into the house. The woman woke us from our half-sleep. Going to the window, we noticed that all the streets and alley-ways were heavily guarded by hundreds of police, armed from head to foot. There was no talk about going out for food or water. Standing at the window there was suddenly a bullet flying past my face, and a second later there was a terrible crack and a heart-rending woman's cry that rattled the stillness of the beautiful May morning. A neighbor [1] ran in to us: “Doctor, save my child!” But, a murderous look from a Polish policeman with his rifle pointed at me blocked our way. I put on my arm-band with the red cross and ran out with the woman, who could barely stay on her feet. In the next courtyard, near the wall, a horrible scene was revealed. A young, picture-perfect girl of 16 was lying in a river of blood, already with no signs of life. The mother told me in a heartbroken voice that her daughter, not knowing what was happening, went out to attend to nature's needs and fell without speaking a word. The bullet had caught her right in the head. Her beautiful curly, golden hair was spattered with blood and pieces of her brain.

Sadly I ran back through the streets and understood that our hours were numbered. In the afternoon special permission was given to some members of the Judenrat and the doctors to go out for urgent business. We felt that terrible misfortune hung in the air. But until the last moment we did not want to believe it. That same evening, a report from a peasant who had come from the road electrified the entire ghetto. He related that all the Jewish ghettos in the whole Lide district were being guarded by thousands of police and S.S. men.

On the third day, May 11, the department officer Vindish called in the Judenrat and delivered the happy tidings that the judgement had been lifted from the Ivye ghetto because they worked well, and they were told to collect 150 rubles in gold. The Judenrat naively believed it, thanked him, and promised to have the money by morning. In the ghetto the news traveled like lightening. People began wishing one another mazltav through the windows. People tried to go out of their houses but the same murderers were standing in their places. It was permitted to go to the wells for water just one hour a day. It was strangely incomprehensible why they did not remove the murderous guards from the Jewish houses. For the first night in five days, we undressed and fell into a difficult sleep full of nightmares.

On May 12, at five o'clock in the morning, we were awakened by the sound of the iron-nailed shoes of the police. Soon hordes of police with whips appeared in the houses, ordering everyone to run to the market, not even allowing us to put on our clothes. People were even running in their underwear, chased with whips. Mothers with suckling children in their arms, old people and women, ran to the market under a hail of blows.

Arriving with my wife I saw thousands of Jews on their knees, surrounded on all sides by machine guns. Just for rising from their places several were shot on the spot.

It was a beautiful May day. The fresh greenness of the nearby fields, and the aroma of the first lilac blooms charmed the air. Everything was awakening to a new life. The birds were singing. And us...about five thousand Jews were kneeling in the big market square, like wild animals, surrounded by hundreds of S.S. Men and Polish and White Russian police who were armed from head to foot. Rifles and machine guns of various types were trained on us--broken, ragged, hungry people, women, children and old people. Helpless, as those condemned to death, waiting for the executioner. Quiet, heartrending crying of mothers, Yiddish-hearted mothers who held in their arms and cuddled to themselves little sleeping Myesheles, Shleymeles, Esterkes, Soreles. Quiet prayers from pious Jews in taleysim pushed through the deathly silence. It was a picture unbounded in its tragedy.

Suddenly we were deafened by the noise of the arrival of three big, covered trucks, which parked near us. Soon we heard wild, drunken laughter from dark persons who were sitting in the trucks. Shouting loudly in Lithuanian. In each truck we could see 30 armed Lithuanian murderers with machine guns, who drank whiskey the whole time, from several big barrels. They signaled with their hands across their throats that our lives would soon be extinguished. We recognized instinctively that these were our executioners. Like a black angel of death they spread their dark wings over the holy congregation of Jews. We felt that our minutes were numbered. Soon a motorcycle appeared, with a high-ranking, coarse S.S. Officer with murderous, blood-tainted eyes. He gave an order that the Jews should follow him. Our feet were shriveled from several hours of sitting on our knees. Our last road began--the mournful road of people who go to their death with their last strength.

A quiet, sad procession, without weeping, half unconscious, moved forward--the holy congregation of Jews--going as martyrs to G-d's name. Quiet prayers were interrupted by the frequent shots from the murderers into several weak people or children who could not go any further. Already there were killed on every side, blood poured from the holy victims. Brave young men broke out of the lines, struggled with the murderers and fell like sheaves under a hail of bullets from the black police. There was a brave youth, Arn Tabatshnik, a son of a pharmacist from Lekhevitsh, struggling with a Polish murderer, a policeman. He bit him in the throat, but the murderer laid him out with a shot in the heart.

We walked not as people, but as shadows of people. Our feet went automatically. The head could not explain. The head felt nothing. But suddenly, at the crossing of two streets, there stood a group of murderers, S.S. officers, the Polish mayor, the police commandant [2]. They demanded identification papers from the passing terrified and tortured Jews. A hundred were ordered directly down the hill to the prepared pits in the near-by forest, only a few were told to go into the neighboring street. Half-conscious we tripped into the alleyway, but a bullet from a hot gun or a lash from a whip regulated the mournful procession as it drew on. It came to my row. I went and already felt as though I weren't really there. Near me my wife trembled and wept hot tears, “God, save us!” “Dear Mame, save our young lives!”

I was wearing my red cross on my left arm, indicating that I was a doctor, but a lash over our heads from a whip and a crack in the air interrupted my wife's trembling. A rivulet of warm blood ran across my face and we went on to our deaths...but in an unbelievable blink of any eye we were fifty meters from the bloody band of murderers. A dull resounding shout in the air: “Doctor, come back!” We had been ordered to go back. It turned out that at the last minute a messenger had arrived and said that they should temporarily leave the Jewish doctors alive. Soon they had conducted us into a side street, where several hundred Jews from the congregation of some five thousand were once again on their knees. The shooting of an automatic cut the air like knives. The murderers had already killed our near and dear ones, with whom we had just been standing in line...choking crying from young people who had just been torn away from their parents. Parents whose children had been torn away from them. A small family consisting of a man, a wife and small children cried for the old mother who had just been torn away from them.

We sat and waited for the secret of our fate. Soon the red executioner appeared, a German S.S. officer, and gave the order that everyone should give up the money and valuables that they had with them. Someone found with things after the order would be shot right away. He screamed, “He's still alive!” A current of hot blood beat in my face. An unbelievable thought flashed by. The instinct for life is so strong in one condemned to death. A young S.S. man with a murderous face and white gloves appeared and delivered a speech: “Your brothers will now be punished for a serious crime against the German authority. The punishment is for taking weapons from the military warehouses in Lide. We, the noble German people, are forced to conduct a war against you, cursed Jews, every twenty-five years. For now you remain alive, but be sure that your life is dependent on the victory of our fronts. Not one of you will remain alive if our courageous army has to retreat by even one step.”

Dismal, depressed, dark shadows of people, we were led under heavy guard into a few small streets: a congregation of barely 1,200 Jews out of five thousand...two kilometers from Ivye, in a nearby forest, the dear and sanctified victims gave up their souls. Going back into the ghetto we met a long caravan of 40 farm wagons with bloodied things from our holy, innocent martyrs, whose blood cries out from the earth: Avenge our young lives cut off. An eternal curse on the bloodthirsty German people and their helpers from other peoples, who killed us and our innocent children in such a gruesome way!

In August 1944 [3], on a quiet summer evening, I was in a position as a government physician assigned to a special commission from Moscow to research the history of the “German War-Crimes”. A group of ragged German prisoners with dark faces had dug up the grave of the martyrs. We stood quietly, thirty or forty individuals who had wandered through forests, holes and fields, miracle Jews, left from the whole congregation of the five thousand Jews of the Ivye ghetto. Heartrending wails from children who had recognized, from her clothing, their grandmother in the pit, tore through the tragic stillness of the evening emptiness. Hot tears ran from our eyes. A fiery sun in flames, red with disgrace, went down on the horizon. Birds stood without moving on the surrounding trees. Yellow sheaves of cut wheat in a nearby peasant's field. A quiet prayer met our kadish


  1. Khashe-Toybe, the wife of Meylekh Blokh, who was killed in the slaughter of the intellectuals. The shooting victim was their eldest daughter. The mother and the other daughters were shot three days later... Ed. Back
  2. Attending the sorting for life and death were: the department head of the Lide district, Vindish; the “master” of the Ivye gendarme, Bayer; the chief of the S.D., Verner; and the mayor of Ivye, the Pole Bialkovski. Ed. Back
  3. According to a second version it was April 1945. Ed. Back


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