HOLOCAUST IN BERDICHEV
GROSSMAN, VASILI SEMYONOVICH
(1905 - 1964)
Soviet Russian writer. Born to a tradional Yiddish-speaking
family in the intensely Jewish town of Berdichev, he moved to Moscow as
a young man and, after graduating from the university, worked for a time
as a chemical engineer in the coal mines of Donbas. His short story " V
gorode Berdicheve " ( In the town of Berdichev, 1934 ) which described
the civil war in and around his home town, earned the praise of Maxim Gorki.
Grossman's most important work is " Stepan Kolchuguin " (1937-1940). a
three volume novel describing the Communist underground before the revolution.
He became famous as the author of " Narod bessmerten " ( The people
is inmortal , 1942 ), the first important Soviet novel inspired by World
His second war novel, " Za pravoye delo " ( For the just cause ), the first
part of which appeared in 1952, was never completed. It was found ideologically
objectionable, because of its underestimation of the Communist party's
role in the forging of victory over Nazism. Another cause of official displeasure,
probably was Grossman's enphasis on such "minor" traits of Nazism , as
the mass extermination of Jews and its strong nationalism. Coming as they
did at the height of Soviet anti-semitic campaigns and the wave of glorification
of everything Russian, Grossman's observations were against the official
Somewhat earlier, Grossman and Ilya Ehrenburg had tried to publish a "
Black book " of documentary evidence of Nazi crimes committed against the
Jews in Soviet territory. The book was already set in type, but as Ehrenburg
points out in his memoirs, its publication was banned by the Soviet authorities.
One volume was eventually published in Bucharest (1947) under the title
" Cartea neagra " with a foreword by Grossman. A copy of the original manuscript
is in the archive of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.
The Black Book:
The Black Book, was prepared under the editorship of Ilya
Ehrenburg & Vasily Grossman. Its purpose is to offer to the reading
public authentic material, not readily available, and to preserve the memory
of our martyrs and heroes untainted by arbitrary and inadvertent distortions.
With each passing day the memory of the tragedy of european Jews, the greatest
crime in the annals of mankind, recedes into history. Few witnesses
and survivors of the Holocaust are still alive, their memories remain vivid;
yet a malicious myth about their experience keeps rising before our eyes,
distorting and misinterpreting evidence, perverting history.
As new generations arise, so grows the incredible ignorance about the tragedy.
Millions of men and women, Jews and Gentiles, are unaware of the
basic facts of the tragedy; many have never even heard the word "Holocaust".
This is a seed of a new disaster.
The Holocaust story should be untiringly told and retold making the world
aware of its lessons. This can contribute to that moral reconstruction
which alone may prevent a repetition of the catastrophe in our hate-and
( Extracted from the Advisory Board statement of
the Holocaust Library)
From the Editors of The Black Book :
The Black Book is the story of the
mass murder of Soviet Jewish citizens perpetrated by the German-fascist
authorities throughout the temporarily-occupied areas of Russia, Ukraine,
Byelorussia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
All the materials which have been included in The Black Book are strictly documentary. These material can be divided into three categories:
of stories and testimonies by witnesses and victims of fascist violence
who escaped from death. Many of the letters were penned by persons who
were executed by the Germans and have been given to the editors of The
Black Book by their relatives and acquaintances.
2) Articles written by Soviet authors. these articles were written on the
basis of testimony, letters, diaries, stenograms of stories which were
made available to the editors of The Black Book. Everything
discussed in these articles, corresponds precisely to the materials upon
which they were based. In some instances the writers talked personally
with witnesses, examined the sites of mass execution and the areas upon
which the guettos and death camps were situated, or were present at the
opening of mass graves and the writing of official records.
3) materials presented to the editors of The Black Book by
the extraordinary commission to ascertain and investigate the war crimes
of the fascist German invaders and their accomplices. These materials consist
of testimony given to the official investigators by persons who directly
organized and carried out the murders, and also of testimony given by witnesses.
In preparing The Black Book for publication, the editors
have set themselves the following goals:
Black Book should become a memorial placed over the innumerable
graves of Soviet people viciously murdered by the Germans fascists.
Black Book is intended to serve as material for the prosecution
of the fascists villains who organized and participated in the murder of
millions of old men, women and children.
Chapter referred to "The murder of the Jews of Berdichev"
Before the war, approximately thirty thousand Jews lived in Berdichev,
where they comprised half of the total population. Although Jews made up
no less than sixty percent of the total population in many villages and
towns in the south-west areas (the former Jewish Pale), and thus comprised
a greater percentage than in Berdichev, for some reason Berdichev was considered
the most Jewish town in Ukraine. Even before the revolution the anti-semites
and members of the "Black Hundred" (1) called it the "Jewish capital".
The German fascists who had studied the distribution of the Jews in Ukraine
preliminary to their mass murders, took special note of Berdichev.
The Jewish population lived in harmony with the Russian, Ukrainian and
Polish population of the towns and neighboring villages. There had never
been any sort of nationalistic excesses in the entire history of Berdichev.
The Jewish population was employed in th factories: the Ilyich Leather-Curing
Factory (one of the largest in the Soviet Union), the Progress Machine-Tool
Factory, the Berdichev Sugar Refinery, and tens and hundreds of factories
and shops that produced, shoes, leather, hats, cardboard and metal products.
Even before the revolution, "chuvyaki" - the soft slippers produced by
the craftsmen of Berdichev - were well known and were shipped to Tashkent,
Samarkand, and other towns of Central Asia. The fashionable shoes of Berdichev's
craftsmen were also widely known, as was the production of colored paper.
Thousands of Berdichev's Jews worked as stone masons, stove builders, carpenters,
jewelers, watch repairmen, opticians, bakers, barbers, porters at
the railroad station, glaziers, electricians, locksmiths, plumbers, loaders,
There was a large number of educated Jewish people in the town: dozens
of senior, experienced doctors - therapeutists, surgeons, pediatricians,
obstetricians, dentists.There were bacteriologists, chemists, druggists,
engineers, technicians, bookkeepers, teachers in the numerous technical
schools and high schools. There were teachers of foreign languages, teachers
of music, women who worked in the nurseries, kindergartens, and playgrounds.
The Germans made their entrance in Berdichev unexpectedly; German tank
troops had broken through to the town. Only a third of the Jewish population
managed to evacuate. The Germans entered the town on July 7, 1941, at 7:00
in the evening. The soldiers shouted from their vehicles: "Juden kaput
!". They waved their hands and laughed; they knew that almost the entire
Jewish population had remained in town.
It is difficult to reproduce the mental state state of the twenty thousand
people who had suddenly be declared outside the law and deprived of any
rights whatsoever. Even the terrible laws laid down by the germans for
the inhabitants of the occupied territories seemed an unattainable bliss
to the Jews.
First of all an indemnity was imposed to the Jewish population. The military
commandant demanded that fifteen pairs of patent-leather shoes, six oriental
carpets, and one hundred thousand rubles be delivered within three days.
(Considering the small size of this indemnity, it would appear that this
was an act of simple theft on the part of the military commandant). When
encountering a German, Jews were required to take off their hats. Those
who did not comply this regulation were beaten, forced to crawl on the
sidewalk on their stomachs, collect garbage with their hands, pick up manure
from the pavement. If it was an old man, his beard was cut off.
The cabinet maker Gersh Geterman, who managed to escape on the sixth day
after Berdichev was occupied, and make his way through the front line,
told of the first crimes committed against the Jews by the Germans. German
soldiers drove a group of Jews from their homes on Glinishchi Street,
Greater Zhitomir Street, and Stein Street, all these streets were close
to the Zhitomir Highway, next to which was located the leather-curing shop.
These people were taken to the factory curing-shop and forced to jump into
enormous pits filled with an acidic extract used to cure leather. Those
who resisted were shot on the spot, and their bodies were also thrown into
The Germans participating in this execution considered it a "joke"; they
were, so to speak curing human hides. The same "joking" execution was carried
out in the old section of the city - that part of Berdichev which was located
between the Zhitomir Highway and the Gnylopiat River. The Germans ordered
the old men to put on their "tallis and tefillim" (2) and to conduct a
service in the old synagogue: "Pray to God to forgive the sins committed
against the Germans". The doors of the synagogue were locked, and the building
was set on fire.
The third "joking" execution was conducted near the old mill. They seized
several dozen women, ordered them to undress, and declared to these unfortunates
that those who managed to swim to the other shore would be allowed to live.
Because of the stone dam, the river was very wide at this point, most of
the women drown before reaching the opposite shore. Those who did manage
to swim to the west shore were forced to swim back. The Germans amused
themselves by watching the drowning women lose their strength and go to
the bottom. The amusement continued until the last woman was drowned.
Another such German "joke" was the story of the death of Aron Mizor, an
elderly butcher who lived in Byelopolsky Street. A German officer robbed
Mizor's apartment and ordered his soldiers to carry off the stolen articles.
He himself remained with two soldiers for some amusement. He had found
the knife the butcher used on domestic fowl and thus learned of Mizor's
"I want to see how you work," he said and ordered the
soldiers to bring in the small children of the neighbor women.
"Butcher them !" the officer ordered.
Mizor thought the officer was joking until the officer
punched the old man in the face and repeated: "Butcher ! "
His wife and daughter-in-law began to cry and to entreat
the officer. At that point the officer said: "You'll have to butcher not
only the children, but these to women as well !"
Mizor fainted and fell to the floor. The officer took
the knife and struck him with it in the face.
Mizor's daughter-in-law, Lia Brazikhes, ran out into
the street, begging passers-by to save the old people. When the people
entered Mizor's apartment, they saw the dead bodies of the butcher and
his wife in a pool of blood. The officer himself had demonstrated the use
of the knife.
The population assumed that the harassment and murders of the first days
were not the results of orders and attempted to appeal to german authorities
for help against such arbitrary violence. The conscious minds of thousands
of people could not reconcile themselves with the terrible truth - that
the authorities themselves, Hitler's government itself approved of these
monstrous acts of violence. The inhuman fact that the Jews had been declared
outside the law, that torture, violence, murder, and arson were considered
natural when applied to the Jews was totally unacceptable to the human
people. They came to the military commandant who was responsible for city
government. Representatives of the German authorities cursed these petitioners
and drove them away.
Horror hung above the town, entered every home, hovered above the beds
of the sleeping, rose with the sun, and stalked the streets at the night.
The hearts of thousands of old women and children fell silent when they
heard the thud of soldier's boots in the night or when they heard German
spoken. Both the dark overcast nights and the nights of the full moon were
terrible, but early mornings, bright middays, and peaceful evenings in
their home time also became terrible. This lasted for fifty days.
On the twenty-sixth of August, the Germans began preparations for a general
"aktion". Announcements were pasted up all over the town, ordering Jews
to move into the guetto set up in the region of the Yatki City Bazaar.
Those making the move were forbidden to take furniture with them. Yatki
was the poorest area of the town, an area of unpaved streets and puddles
that never dried up. The neighborhood consisted of ancient shacks, tiny
single-storied houses and crumbling brick buildings. Weeds grew in the
yards, and everywhere were piles of junk, garbage, manure. The resettlement
lasted three days. People loaded down with packages and suitcases moved
slowly down Byelopolskaya, Maxnov, Grecheskaya, Pushkin, Greater Yuridika,
Lesser Yuridika, Semyonov, and Danilov Streets. Teenagers and children
supported feeble and old people and the infirm. Those who were paralyzed
or who had no legs were carried on blankets and stretchers. From the opposite
direction came a stream of people from the Zagrebalny area of the town,
which was located on the opposite bank of the Gnilopyat River.
People were settled five and six to a room. Tiny hovels were made to accommodate
many dozens of people - mothers nursing babies, the bedridden, and eldrely
blind. Tiny rooms were packed with household belongings, feather beds,
pillows, dishes. Guetto laws were announced. People were forbidden, on
pain of severe punishment, to leave the borders of the guetto. Food could
be bought at the bazaar only after six o'clock, that is,when the bazaar
was already empty, and there was no food left to buy. It never occurred,
however, to any of those who have been moved to the guetto, that it was
only the first stage of a plan that had already been worked out, a plan
to murder the twenty thousand Jews remaining in Berdichev.
A resident of Berdichev, the bookkeeper Nikolay Vasilievich Nemolovsky,
visited the family of his friend Nuzhny in the getto. Nuzhny was an engineer
and worked at the Progress Factory. Nemolovsky related how Nuzhny's wife
cried a great deal and was very upset that her ten-year-old son Garik could
not continue studying in the Russian school.
The bishop of the Berdichev Cathedral, Father Nicolay, and the old priest,
Gurin, maintained contact with the doctors, Vurnarg, Baraban, Blank ( a
woman), and also with other members of the educated Jewish community. The
German authorities in Zhitomir, declared to the bishop that the slightest
attempt to save the Jews would be punished in the severest of fashions
- including death. According to the priests the elderly docotrs in Berdichev
lived in constant hope that the Red Army would return. On one occasion
they were encouraged by the news supposedly picked up by someone on the
radio, that the German government had been handed a note demanding that
it cease mistreating the Jews.
By the time, however, prisoners-of-war brought up by the Germans from Lysaya
Gora had began to dig five dip trenches. The trenches were located in a
field near the airport, closed were Brodsky Street ended and the paved
road to the village Romanovka began. On September the fourth, one week
after the guetto was organized, the Germans and traitors who had joined
their police force ordered 1,500 young people to leave for agricultural
work. The young people made bundles of bread and food, said goodbye to
their relatives, and set out. On that very day they were shot between Lysaya
Gora and the village of Khanzhin. The henchmen prepared th execution carefully
- so carefully that none of the doomed people suspected until the very
last minutes that there was a massacre in the offing. The victims were
given detailed instructions as to where they would work, how they would
be broken up into groups, when and where they would be issued shovels and
other tools. It was even hinted that, when the work was completed, they
would each be permitted to take a few potatoes for the elderly who had
remained in the guetto.
In the few days of life left to them, those who remained in the guetto,
never learned the fate of those young people.
"Where is your son?" someone would ask one of the old
"He went to dig potatoes", the old people would reply.
The shooting of the young people was the first link in
a chain of planned murders of the Berdichev Jews. This execution removed
from the guetto all the young people capable of resistance. There remained
in Yatky mainly old folks. women, school children, and babies. In this
fashion, the Germans were able to insure themselves total impunity in carrying
out the mass execution.
The preparation for the "aktion" was completed. The pits at the end of
Brodsky Street were dug. The German commandant acquainted the mayor,
Reder (a russified German who had been a prisoner during the W W I ) and
the chief of police, Koroliuk ( a traitor), with the plan of the operation.
These persons - Reder and Koroliuk - took an active part in organizing
and conducting the execution. on the fourteenth of Sptember, units of an
SS regiment arrived in Berdichev, and the entire city police was mobilized.
On the night of the fourteenth the entire guetto was surrounded by troops.
At four in the morning, upon command, the SS troops and the policemen began
to rush into the apartments, wake people, and drive them out into the bazaar
Many of those who could not walk - feeble old people and cripples - were
killed by the executioners on the spot. The terrible wails of women and
the crying of children wakened the entire town. People living on the most
distant streets woke up and listened in horror to the groans of thousands
of people - groans that fused into a single wail and shook the soul. Soon
the bazaar square was filled. Surrounded by guards, Reder and Koroliuk
stood on a small hill. Groups of people where led up to them, and they
selected of each group two or three people known to possess certain skills.
Those selected where led to the side, to that part of the square which
abutted Great Zhitomir Street. The doomed people were formed into columns
and led away under heavy guard down Brodsky Street through the old city,
in the direction of the airport. Before forming the people into columns,
the SS men and police ordered that they leave their valuables and documents
on the ground.
The spot where Reder and Koroliuk stood became white with paper - identification
cards, passports, certificates, union cards. Four hundred people where
separated from the group - among them the elderly doctors Vurnarg, Baraban,
Liberman, the woman doctor, Blank, artisans and skilled workers well known
in town, including Epelfeld, an electrician and radio repairman, the photographer
Nuzhny, the shoe repairman Milmeister, the elderly Pekelis and his two
sons, Mikhl and Vulf ( all of whom were masons), the tailors, shoe repairmen,
and locksmiths known for their skills, and a few barbers. Those selected
were permitted to take their families with them. Many were unable to find
their wives and children, who had gotten lost in the enormous crowd.
Witnesses tell of terrible scenes. People, attempting
to make themselves heard in the fear-crazed crowd, shouted the names of
their wives and children, and hundreds of doomed mothers stretched out
their own sons and daughters to them, begging them to pass them off as
their own and thus save them from death.
"You won't find your own family in this crowd anyway
! " the women shouted.
Along with the columns of people on foot, trucks also moved down Brodsky
Street, carrying feeble old persons, small children, and all those who
were unable to walk the four kilometers separating Yatki from the place
of execution. The picture presented by those thousands of women,
children, and old people walking to their own execution was so terrible,
that even today witnesses grow pale and cry when they remember or tell
it. The wife of the priest, Gurin, lived on the street along which the
people were sent to their death. When she saw those thousands of women
and children calling for help, she became deranged and was in a state of
deep depression for several months.
At the same time, however, there were also viciuos criminals who derived
material benefits from this great tragedy. Greedy for profit, these people
were eager to enrich themselves at the expense of their innocents victims.
Policemen, members of their families, the mistresses of German soldiers
rushed to loot the vacated apartments. Before the eyes of the living dead
the looters carried off scarves, pillows, feather mattresses. Some walked
past the guards and took scarves and knitted woolen sweaters from women
and girls who were awaiting their death. By now the head of the column
had reached the airport. Half-drunk SS men led the first group of forty
people to the edge of the pit, and the first burst of automatic-rifle fire
resounded. The execution place was fifty or sixty meters from the road
along which the doomed people had been led. Thousands of eyes watched the
murdered old people and children fall. New groups were led to the airport
hangars to wait their turn to go to the place of execution and receive
Groups of forty people were led from the airport hangars to the pits. They
had to walk about eight hundred meters along the uneven tussocky field.
While the SS were killing one group, the second group of people had already
taken off their outing clothing and were awaiting their turn a few dozen
meters from the pits, and a third group was being brought up from behind
Even though the overwhelming majority of those murdered on that way were
totally enfeebled old people, children, and women carrying babies, the
SS men nevertheless were worried that they might resist. The massacre was
organized in such a way that there were more murderers with automatic rifles
at the place of execution than there were unarmed victims.
The monstrous slaughter of the innocent and the helpless, this spilling
of blood continued the entire day. The pits were filled with blood since
the clayey soil could no longer absorb any more, and the blood spilled
over the edges, forming enormous puddles and flowing in rivulets into low-lying
areas. When the wounded fell into the pits, they did not die from the SS
bullets, but by drowning in the blood that filled the pits. The boots of
the executiones were soaked in blood. The victims walked through blood
to get to their graves. The terrified screams of those being murdered hung
in the air the entire day. Peasants from nearby farms fled their fields
so as not to hear wails of suffering unendurable to the human heart. All
day people moved in endless columns past the place of execution, where
they could see their own mothers and children standing at the edge of the
pit which they themselves were fated to approach in an hour or two. All
day the air rang with farewells:
"Good-bye ! Good-bye ! We'll soon meet again ! people
shouted from the highway.
"Farewell ! " answered those who were already standing
at the edge of the pit.
Terrible wails rent the air: people screamed the name of relatives, last
word of instruction and comfort rang out. Old men prayed loudly, clinging
to their faith in God even in these terrible hours marked by the rule of
Satan. On that day, September 15, 1941, in a field next to the Berdichev
airport, twelve thousand people were murdered. The overwhelming majority
of them were women, girls, children and old people.
All five pits were filled to the brim, and mounds of earth were heaped
above them to cover the bodies. The ground moved as in shuddering breath.
That night many dug themselves out from under these burial mounds. Fresh
air penetrated the loose soil of the upper layers and lent strength to
those who were only wounded, whose hearts were still beating, but who had
been lying unconscious. They crawled in different directions along the
field, instinctively attempting to get as far away as possible from the
pits. Exhausted , and streaming blood, most of them died, a few yards from
the place of execution.
Peasants driving at dawn from Romanovka to town saw that the entire field
covered with the bodies of the dead. In the morning the Germans and the
police removed the bodies, killed all of those still breathing, and buried
them again. Three times in a short period the soil above the graves cracked
open from pressure inside, and a bloody fluid spilled over the edges of
the pits and flowed across the field. Three times the Germans forced the
peasants to heap up new hills above the enormous graves.
We have information about two children who actually stood at the edge of
these opened graves and were miraculously saved. One of them was a ten-year-old
boy by the name of Garik; he was the son of the engineer Nuzhny. His father,
mother, and six-year-old sister were executed. When Garik was brought together
with his mother and sister to the edge of the pit, his mother, wanting
to save him, shouted:
"This boy is Russian. He's my neighbor's son. He's Russian
An SS man shoved the boy aside, and he lay hiding in
the bushes until darkness. He went to the town, to the house in Byelopolskaya
Street where he had lived his little life. He entered the apartment of
Nikolay Vasilievich Nemolovsky, a friend of his father. As soon as he saw
familiar faces, he fainted, choking in tears. He told how his father, mother
and sister were killed and how his mother had saved him. He sobbed all
night, jumping up out of the bed and wanting to return to the place of
The Nemolovskys hid him for ten days. On the tenth day Nemolovsky learned
that engineer Nuzhny's brother was among the four hundred artisans and
technicians who had been left alive. He went to the photographic studio
were Nuzhny worked and told him his nephew was alive. That night Nuzhny
came to see his nephew. When Nemolovsky described the meeting of the nephew
with Nuzhny, who had lost his entire family, to the author of these lines,
Nemolovsky burst into sobs and said : "It's impossible to describe".
In a few days Nuzhny came for his nephew, and took him to live with him.
Their fate is a tragic one: both nephew and uncle were shot at the next
The second person to leave the place of execution was ten-year-old Khaim
Roitman. His father, mother, and younger brother, Boris were killed before
his very eyes. When the German raised his sub-machine gun Khaim,
who was already standing at the edge of the pit, said to him: "Look, a
He pointed at a piece of glass that was glistening not
far away. When the German bent down to pick up the object, Khaim took off
at a run. The bullets of the German gun struck his cap, but the boy was
not wounded. He ran until he fell unconscious. He was picked up, hidden
and adopted by Gerasim Prokofievich Ostapchuk. Thus, he was probably the
only one of those taken to be shot in September 12, 1941 who was still
alive when the Red Army returned.
After this mass execution, Jews who had fled from the town into the villages
sought shelter in the empty guetto. Residents of nearby villages where
the Jewish population was being wiped out also fled to the guetto. Someone
had told them that they could escape death on the special streets set aside
especially for the Jews. Soon, however, the Germans and the police returned,
and new bloody deeds were committed.
The heads of small children were crushed agains the stones of the pavement,
women's breasts were cut off. Fifteen-year-old Leva Milmeister was a witness
to this slaughter. Although wounded in the leg by a German bullet, he escaped
from the place of execution. Between the twentieth and the thirtieth of
October, 1941, searches were conducted for all those secretly living in
areas of town forbidden to Jews. Not only Germans, but also police abetted
by volunteer membres of the "Black Hundred" participated in these searches.
by the third of November, two thousand people had been herded inside the
ancient monastery of the Discalced (Barefooted ) Carmelites. The monastery
was located on a bluff above the river and was surrounded by a thick, tall
fortress wall. The for hundred artisans and technicians (and their families)
selected by Reder and Koroliuk during the execution of September 15, 1941,
were also taken there. On November third these people were ordered to put
their valuables and money within the area of a circle drawn on the ground.
A German officer announced that anyone who concealed valuables would not
be shot, but would be buried alive.
After that, people were led out in groups of 150 to be shot. They were
formed into a paired column, and loaded on trucks. The men were taken first
- about eight hundred persons - then the women and children. Some of those
who had been imprisoned in the monastery looked upon death as a relief
after their terrible beatings, torments, hunger, thirst, and four months
of German brigandry. People joined this line of death without attempting
to delay the moment of death even for a few hours.
One man pushed his way to the entrance and shouted:
"Jews, let me go first ! Five minutes and everything
will be over. What is there to be afraid of? " That day two thousand people
were shot, among them Dr. Vurnarg, Dr. Baraban, Dr. Liberman, Dr. Blank
( a dentist ), and the family of Dr. Rubinstein (also a dentist).
This execution took place outside of town, in the area of the colective
farm, Sakulino. At this new execution, before the very pits, 150 of the
best artisans and technicians were selected. They were taken to the camp
at Lysaya Gora. Gradually the best artisans and technicians were brought
to this camp from other areas. All together, there were about 500 people
in the camp.
On April 27, 1942, all registered Jewish women married to Russians were
shot, as were also children born of mixed marriages. There were seventy
such persons. The camp at Lysaya Gora existed until June of 1942; at dawn
on June 15 the last artisans and technicians, together with their families,
were executed by machine gun, and the camp was closed. Again, at the very
place of execution, the Germans and the police selected sixty of the most
skilled tailors, shoemakers, electricians and masons. These people were
imprisoned and forced to serve the personal needs of members of the Gestapo
and of the Ukrainian police.
The fate of these last sixty Jews was resolved somewhat later. They were
shot by the Germans, during the first advance of the Red Army on Zhitomir.
Thus, following plan, the Germans executed Berdichev's entire Jewish population
- from feeble old people to new-born babies. Out of twenty thousands only
ten or fifteen survived, among them the fifteen-year-old Leva Milmeister,
the ten-year-old Khaim Roitman, and Vulf and Mikhel Pekelis (3) - sons
of the Berdichev mason and stove maker.
In conclusion we present the following lines from the Red-Army newspaper,
"Za chest' rodiny" (For the Honor of the Motherland), January 13, 1944:
"Senior Lieutenant Bashkatov's company was among the
first to break through to Berdichev. Private Isaak Speer, (4) a native
of Berdichev served in that company. By the time he reached Byelopolsky
Street he had killed three German sub-machine gunners. This Red Army soldier
looked around with quivering heart. Before him lay the the ruins of a street
ha had known since childhood. He went to his family home on Shevchenko
Street. Speer learned from the neighbors that the Germans had killed, his
father, mother, and little Boris and Dora. The Germans were still fighting
at Lysaya Gora. In the morning the soldiers crossed the ice of the Golopyat
River and stormed Lysaya Gora. Isaac Speer was in the front ranks. he crawled
up to a machine gun and killed the two gunners with grenades. Speer's leg
was ripped open by a mine fragment, but he continued fighting. Speer shot
one other German and was killed by a hollow-point bullet at Lysaya Gora,
where the Germans had killed his mother. Private Speer was buried in his
home town, on Byelopolsky Street".
- An extreme right-wing organization in the early twentieth
century that supported anti-semitism, absolutism, and carried out pogroms
against Jews and students.
- Prayer shawls and philacteries.
- The details of how the Pekelis brothers survived are given
in the collection, "Murderers of Peoples", vol. II, pg. 129.
- Information on the heroic death of I. Speer is given in the
collection, "Murderers of Peoples", vol. II, pg. 140.
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