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[Page 66]

The Annihilation of Its Jewish Population

Translated by Fanny Pere

Only a few people of the shtetl somehow were able to escape the fate of the others. They wound up in Russia because of the retreat of the Red Army in Luniniets. They bear witness to relate how they lived through and saw with their own eyes the sorrow of the catastrophe as it really took place.

When war broke out in 1939, the Red Army took over the town and there was an immediate decline in the lives of the jews, who were hearing dire rumors which became reality. Depression and fear of death took over. The Soviets had immediately imposed edicts banning all political parties and organizations in the town. Of course, support for Israel was stopped. This moderate control lasted to June 22, 1941, when Hitler launched the attack on Russia.

That same day, the radio announced that the whole country was in a state of war, and German planes appeared in the skies of Luniniets. The alarm and confusion among the Jews is indescribable.

Most Jews of the town decided not to move. The thought of a general annihilation never even entered their minds. Yet a considerable number of young Jews - about 1,000 - tried to get to the Russian border to escape. There they were caught by the Red Army and returned. Only a few were successful in roundabout ways (through forests and swamps) in crossing the borderline of Russia, and were saved.

Thus it was decreed that the entire shtetl would remain in the hands of the murderers. In the beginning of July 1941, the Germans captured the town. On August 18th, they enlisted all males from age 12 to forced labor beyond their strength and the next day all were killed. On the 18th of August, only a few shoemakers and tailors remained from the first annihilation. In a sandy area of the town, all the women and children were gathered in a barb-wired fenced area under the strict watchful eyes of the Germans and were shot. According to one woman who was successful in remaining alive from her wounds in the pit, we know the details of the suffering of these women and children in the ghetto during a whole year, August 1941 - September 1942. Hunger, epidemics, brutality of young children under the eyes of their mother was a daily occurrence. On the day of Elul (holiday), total murder was put into effect - the remnants of the mothers, sons and daughters, and dear grandparents. They were transported to a huge death pit that was dug next to the town near the eyes of all the Christian inhabitants, who used to live with the Jews in peace and quiet for so many years.

Many of the Christians were ashamed of the Jewish plunder that took place - the destruction, the desecration. For another three years the town was in the hands of Hitler. After that, it was taken over by the Red Army. Remnants of the Jews that remained alive in Russian - about 25 people returning - still saw for themselves the shtetl of death, and found the large pit where their loved ones had been thrown into. They decided to fence in the holy gravesite. They worked together for six weeks in this sacred task, in memory of their lost relatives and friends, until they completed the fence. Thus they separated from the defiled earth - our blood was a testament to what took place.

Revulsion and defilement that our eyes had seen were with us as our eyes carried us to our land of Israel.

The rest are names from the shtetl - outstanding people who were victims.

[Pages 67-68]

What My Eyes Have Seen

A survivor's account as told in Hebrew by Rivka Brevde

Translated by Fanny Pere

The Jewish population of the shtetl Luniniets awaited the Nazis with broken hearts and mournful depression. The news by radio that Hitler attacked Russia without a declaration of war terrified all the residents of the town, especially the Jews, who already knew what to expect of him. Anguish and dread seized the population.

The loud hammering and thunderous crashing from corner to corner caused bitter lamentation and questioning from person to person as what should be done. What to do? A portion of the young population courageously decided to escape - some by wagon and some by foot - in the direction of Micashevits, Russia. The escape was not easy. The first ones in line to try were the government employees and their families because they were able to use wagons, but only some, not only the young, were successful in getting space on a wagon. Yet a number of them were lucky enough to reach the old Russian-Polish border, where there occurred an event painful beyond belief to describe. The border was closed by order of the Russian army. There was no other choice as to what to do, they were forced to return to Luniniets or Kazanhorodok. A few escaped and broke through somehow.

Many of the discouraged young people remained together with their parents and were killed with them eventually. There was no escape, no refuge, and the dispirited Jews awaited their fate. Then came rumors from captured Poland that the situation was not yet hopeless, that not all Jews were being targeted to be killed. They were prepared for a catastrophe, a pogrom perhaps, but surely not for complete annihilation. With the entrance of Germany and its assault on the city it was clearly otherwise. Their hatred of the Jews was rearing its head, though the fear of mass killings and plunder was unthought of.

Then came the first command of the conqueror. Every Jew must attach a patch with a yellow circle of seven centimeters and a Star of David on the front and back shoulder of his coat, and is forbidden to be seen on the sidewalks. The Jews gave up walking on the streets at all, as some of them had been shot without any reason. Three days later more commands were ordered and Jews were in the hands of the controllers, being played with like in a ballgame. Decrees were given by the command, such as making Jews gather their money, gold, warm clothes and various other needs the invaders could use.


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