TOWN OF SLOVECHNO (GOVERNMENT OF VOLHYNIA)
Pogrom of July 16-19, 1919
I. Testimony of Isaac Goldberg, Aged 23, Teacher and Man of Letters
Until the recent nightmare-experiences, there was no danger in Slovechno for the Jewish population.
The Jewish population of Slovechno consists of forty percent laboring element, workmen; the rest of the Jewish population consists of petty merchants, an insignificant number being large merchants and tanners. The peasants live intermingled with the Jews first a peasant's hut, then a Jew's. Only the center of the town is inhabited mainly by Jews. The Russian population of the town is mostly poor; they have little land and are mainly hired laborers. In recent times the peasants have been working for Jews and thus had dealings with them. Often the peasants furnished hides to Jewish tanners to be worked over. Destitution is great among the peasants of Slovechno; many have no bread. The relations between the peasants and the Jews have been those of good neighbors until the most recent times. The Jews in their economic position were not sharply distinguished from the peasants; there was no striking differentiation as to wealth. The Jews worked just like the peasants; they walked bent over and were tattered and oppressed. When there were attacks of bandits in other places, the Jews of the town (the well-to-do ones, of course) bought themselves off by paying money to certain well-known and noisy, murderous leaders.
From the time when exportation of wares from the town ceased (by regulation of the government), speculation also ceased and many of the peasants were deprived of their earnings and began to hunt for something to earn so as to make a living. This was of significance in the further development of bandit tendencies. Last winter a "Union of Workmen" was formed in the town. When this Union got hold of the power, it began to be avenged for its previous position. The laboring Jews are the most downtrodden element among the Jews. And when it came about that these people got the chance themselves to run factory and government, they revenged themselves by imposing a contribution on the town. The workmen were Jews and the contribution was imposed also on Jews (tanners). Of course, it was Jews who disliked the activities of the Union of Workmen; and yet afterward, when the Petlurists came to the town, the peasants reproached the Jews for not surrendering "their own people" who were responsible for disorders. Thus quarrels of a political nature were started. At first, however, this bore no consequences for the Jewish population. All the time that po groms were going on in the surrounding towns, Slovechno experienced no alarm, and the Jews of Ovruch in their time even found a safe refuge there.
The Russian intellectuals of Slovechno were of peasant stock and Petlurist in their views. They included a surgeon, a teacher, the postmaster, the members of the Executive Committee, the priest, and his son. Accustomed to work for their own race and on their own responsibility, receiving no directions from above, they now fell under the pressure of the Soviet regime, with which they had no sympathy. At the same time they clashed with the Jews as representatives of the Soviet regime, and this created in them a hostile attitude towards the Jews. A month ago a commander of militia who was a Polish noble arrived in the town. With his appearance rumors began to spread that he was an instigator of pogroms. The commander himself tried not to give himself away and to behave very carefully.
On Tuesday evening alarming rumors began to spread in the town, that an uprising against the Jews was being prepared. The Jews were greatly perturbed. Groups of excited people gathered on the streets; numbers of Jews stood outside the houses, discussing the situation in alarm. About nine or ten o'clock in the evening representatives of the Jews applied to the commander of militia asking him to organize a guard, and offering him the services of Jewish guardsmen. The commander reassured them, and declared that he would be able to cope with any outbreak. The Jewish militiamen went out to keep watch, but without any arms. About midnight the commander of militia with the militiamen came forth. The Jews at first were reassured, on seeing the armed men coming out to keep guard. But the militiamen paid no attention to the Jewish militiamen and started out of town, with the commander of the town militia. As they left the town the militiamen fired two volleys. About ten minutes after this there appeared, as if at the word of command, about thirty or forty bandits with ten rifles. They came with cries of "Hurrah, kill the Jews !" and began to break windows. Looting began and continued all night. Towards morning the looting ceased. The Jews came out of their holes and again discussed the situation, and decided to win the favor of the commander of militia so that he should guard the town. The sum of 15,000 rubles was collected, and receiving it, the commander promised to furnish protection.
But Wednesday evening looting began again, and also cruel murders. Not all the peasants took an active and conscious part. Many peasants took things which they most needed, say ing that just now you could take, and that it was necessary to hurry, or next day it might be forbidden. On Wednesday the Jews began to flee from Slovechno; still more left on Thursday, mostly on foot ; it was impossible to get carts anywhere. The Jews walked along with their wretched parcels of whatever things they happened to pick up, the women leading the children by hand. On the way the malicious joy of the peasants over the unhappy fugitives was striking. Only in a few places peasant women shook their heads mournfully and murmured something sympathetic.
Thus Thursday passed. The most terrible thing of all in our town took place on Friday. Other witnesses have already reported this to you. In my opinion young peasants took the most active part in the pogrom. The old men were indifferent to what happened. On Friday I was no longer in Slovechno, but on Friday evening I started back as a volunteer with the first detachment which came to the town. After spend ing the night in Pokalevo we arrived in Slovechno towards morning on Saturday. We could get no carts from peasants on the way, and the men of our detachment were terribly tired. I think that the weak action of the commander of our detachment was responsible for this. He was a sailor, who apparently had no intention of taking energetic action with reference to the peasants. Before we came nearer than two versts to Slovechno our detachment spread out in a chain and surrounded the town with its flanks. In the town we perceived a rather large crowd which began to disperse upon our appearance; only a few of the crowd were caught in our chain ; some of them we shot. The head bandits, whom I know very well, escaped. One we caught with a rifle and afterwards took to Ovruch. In the town we found a spectacle which it is hard to describe. It is hard to believe that this was reality and not a nightmare. Not a living soul on the streets. A herd of cows was wandering about the town; the peasants had turned them loose when they heard that the bolsheviki were approaching; the cows belonged to Jews. On the street broken articles were scattered about, corpses were lying, traces of blood were everywhere. The houses showed external signs of devastation (broken windows and doors); in the yards everything was in confusion; in the houses into which we looked lay corpses, including the bodies of children. In the town I noticed the priest coming out of his house with his daughter. After him I noticed a girl, whom I knew, coming out, with a crazed appearance; at first I hardly recognized her. The priest had a calm and majestic appearance and walked triumphantly along the street with the aspect of beneficence (of his role in the occurrences you probably know from other testimony).
We did not venture to remain long in the town, since we could not rely on our forces, and we abandoned the place. As we were leaving we saw peasants hiding things which they evidently had stolen. When we tried to stop these peasants, the commander of our detachment prevented us from doing so. He even said that in the detachment "Jewish national feeling was too much aroused," and that this was "not appropriate." We could, I think, have soon established order in the town, if we had only met at least a few living people, from among our friends, seeking our aid. We saw no one in the town. A wilderness received us. We saw only bandits, and lost heart from this. The attitude to us of our commander and of certain elements in our detachment still more disturbed us and deprived us of the necessary courage and energy.
To all that I am communicating to you I should like to add a few words about our Slovechno Rabbi, who was killed in Ratner's house during the pogrom. This Rabbi was, in the literal sense of the words, an ornament and a pride of our town. Absolutely everyone loved and respected him. Himself orthodox, he enjoyed the sympathy of all free-thinking people. He was not in sympathy with any pressure upon the conscience and opinions of others. He was a man of broad views, who allowed complete freedom even to his own family, and among the orthodox population of the town his family was the most liberal. This man had an enormous influence, not only among the Jews; even the peasants applied to him to decide their quarrels. He was about fifty years old.
II. Testimony of Y. M. Melamed. Relation of the Peasants to Us before the Pogrom
At the time when pogroms were widespread throughout all Ukraine, our peasants took a quite kindly attitude towards us. They even promised to protect the town from the attacks of pogromists of other villages. After the occupation by the bolsheviks of Ovruch and its canton, they changed somewhat, to be sure, saying that this was a "Jewish regime," but still they didn't touch the Jews. The first anti-Semitic movement began in the village of Tkhorin, where under the watchword "away with communist speculators" they would not admit into the village Jewish widows, who were coming there with pots to exchange them for a piece of bread or potatoes. The matter went so far that during the last two weeks before the pogrom, there and on the road to the village of Begun (four versts from Slovechno), Jews were beaten and robbed of their last piece of bread and their last potatoes, which they were bringing home to their unhappy children. The Executive Committee of the district took no measures to stop these unjust actions.
On Saturday, June 29, on the festival of Sts. Peter and Paul, there was a district convention of all the villages surrounding the town, where there was a discussion of the decree received from Ovruch to the effect that the registration of weights and measures should be transferred from the priest to a department of the district Executive Committee's government. The point of view of the convention was terribly counter-revolutionary and anti-Semitic. All the peasants shouted ^rith one voice that "this is all on account of the Jews," "they want to close the church and remove the priest." Of course there was no idea of admit ting Jews to the convention; they even drove away a Jewish member of the Committee of the Poor, saying "we don't need any Jews." The Executive Committee even then took no measures to pacify the people and explain to them the object of the decree and its real meaning; on the contrary, it hinted at protesting and not accepting the decree. Almost all the peasants left the convention saying, as it were addressing the Jews, "Enough of your commune, enough of your closing churches." On the evening of the same day two Jews (the local druggist and I myself) were delegated to go to the priest and find out what the peasants were concocting. The delegates pointed out to him that the Jews were, so to speak, between the devil and the deep sea, that is, on the one hand we were accused of being spies and counter-revolutionaries (see an article "Struggle with the Jewish counter-revolution," in the communist paper for July 8), and on the other hand we were accused of closing churches and of wishing as communists to "eat free." The delegates asked him to explain to the peasants on Sunday after service, that the Jews here had nothing to do with it, and that the Christians like ourselves should submit to the government. The priest replied that there was no reason to be afraid of his parishioners and that he would explain all this to them on the next day, that is, Sunday. This rather satisfactory answer reassured us a little. Sunday and Monday passed as usual and very well. But Tuesday morning a rumor spread through the town that there would be a pogrom at night. However, there were no actual facts at hand, and we did not take the matter seriously. It was not until evening that suspicious persons were observed on the streets young peasants placed on guard with the militiamen. Besides these about thirty Jews were on watch until one o'clock. At that time the commander of militia began to disperse the Jewish guard, saying he would get along without us. The Jewish guardsmen tried to beg him to allow them to stay. Instead of reply he gave what were evidently signal shots in all directions from the town; and shots were fired also at the guardsmen. The Jews fled through the outskirts, and as they left they saw from a distance bandits coming from all sides and pogromists with rifles, pitchforks, and crowbars. And soon we heard "Hurrah, kill the Jews and communists," and the sounds of broken windows and doors. Indescribable were the cries of women and children, just roused from sleep by the inhuman cries of the bandits and by volleys of shots. From all sides a crowd of peasants poured in, men and women, with sacks, and began to break in doors and loot. Women and children tried to flee through windows and were immediately met by blows and shots. With every minute the horror increased. Here women rushed about with cries of "Where are my children?" here with laughter the "conquerors" carried off trophies; here a woman flogged, there a wounded man; thus it continued till morning. The crowd of looters peasants from the villages of Mozhari, Verpa, Boknevschina, Tkhorin, Begun, Antonovichi, Gorodetz, Petrischi, Listvin scattered, leaving behind them fragments of window-glass, broken doors, and empty homes with beaten old men who had not been able to escape. The Jews who had fled returned with lamentations to their homes. The local peasants ridiculed them and said, "We didn't touch you, but others showed you how to be bolsheviks." The Jews when they came together began to search for their scattered relations. There were found in the town one seriously wounded man, who died on the way to the hospital, and one wounded in the mouth and head ; half an hour later four others were found dead. It is hard to describe the grief which the Jews felt as they buried their victims, who were not responsible for anything, and as they saw at the same time how some of the looters who still remained, continued, amid the lamentations of the wretched people, to "clean up" the remnants of their belongings. After the burial almost all decided to leave this unhappy town and flee to Ovruch. But then provocatory rumors were spread abroad that the same thing was being repeated in Ovruch and that the bolsheviki had abandoned the canton. The day of Thursday, July 16, passed with the departure of several families, taking the remains of their possessions, to seek refuge with peasants whom they knew in the villages, and to hide in their barns. Still the town watched passively while the people's property was being carried off, while the militia was drunk all day long. All the unfortunates could do was to wonder what to do and whether to flee the next night The whole day long peasants continued to alarm them with "advice" to flee, or else all would be killed. The day finished with all in hiding, some in the villages, some in thickets, some with peasant "acquaintances." On Thursday night they again gave the commander of militia 17,000 rubles to guard the town from further attacks. But in spite of this the night was still more terrible than the preceding one. Almost all Jews who were in the villages were killed. The remnants of their possessions which they had taken with them were stolen. Precisely speaking, from the village of Begun eight slain were brought in, two women, three children, and three men; from Verpa, two slain, and one wounded. The militia disappeared. In the town even stoves and furniture were smashed, and they didn't spare so much as an earthenware pot. On Thursday morning at the time of the burial of the above- mentioned victims brought from the villages, the cries of the women and the despair of the men reached horrible proportions. The Jews decided that all, with the Rabbi at their head, should gather in the public square and entreat the bandits not to continue tormenting the town. Some went to the priest to beg him also to take part in the meeting. When all the Jews collected they met the bandits with "bread and salt" and the Rabbi addressed them, asking them either to let us all go alive or else kill us all on the spot, and not torture us one by one. In reply to the Rabbi's speech all the bandits cried with one voice: "This is your commune, this is your Jewish government." The Rabbi again began to weep before them, but got no sympathy. Then the priest made a speech. This speech had a clearly counter-revolutionary and anti-Semitic character. "Although the Jews have deserved all this," he said, "they have issued decrees separating church and state, etc., nevertheless, according to the Gospel, it is wrong to kill even guilty people. However, do as you like." His words stirred up the ignorant masses still more, and all day Thursday they did not cease to plunder what property was left, and they beat up all the Jews they met on the streets. The Jews wandered like madmen about the town, not knowing where to hide at night. They were afraid to flee to the villages, since they had already seen the consequences of that, in the morning, when the slain were brought in from everywhere. Only towards evening they began to quiet down a little, since the local postmaster with some peasants called another meeting at which a resolution was passed not to permit further looting and murders, and ordered the Jews to remain at home, since there would be no more looting and killing. In spite of this the Jews decided to spend the night all in one place, in the second story of the house of a certain Ratner. Until three o'clock it was in fact peaceful. It seemed that peace had been re-established. The postmaster with some peasants kept watch in the town and disbanded some ruffians. Only after three o'clock began that massacre which will always remain in the memories of those who spent the night in the place. Bandits armed with axes and rifles again approached the town, with their chief Kosenko at their head, and at once burst into the Ratner house, where almost all the Jews were. At once they killed five people outright, seriously wounding the Rabbi. The rest fled. Those who spent the night in gardens, hearing the cries and laments of those who were running through the town, began also to run about the streets in a panic, and were met there by a hail of bullets, which killed and wounded many (25). So it went on till 5 A.M. The murderers scattered again, evidently after bullets, but good-hearted peasants said they were going to return again soon, to finish up everything. In the meantime the Jews began to rescue the seriously wounded. Especially they undertook to save the Rabbi, for he was very grievously wounded in the chest. But at this point shots were heard again. The murderers returned. Most of the Jews, seeing this, fled to Ovruch. About thirty or forty people, remained with the wounded, besides those who were hiding in gardens, fearing to fly to Ovruch, because of the provocatory rumors spread to the effect that the bolsheviki had abandoned Ovruch. On the way to the hospital the bandits finished the Rabbi with a thrust of a bayonet, and did the same to other wounded, whomever they met, including women and children. The ruffians met one woman (Kipnis) and raised her four-year-old child in the air on the point of a bayonet, and thrust it through. The unhappy mother got away.
The result of this horror was 62 dead, about 45 wounded, and many who have disappeared without trace so far. Among the dead were the Rabbi and a certain Kiev student Naidich. I wish here to give brief statements by way of characterizing these two persons. Our Rabbi, Reb Boruch, was considered the ornament of Hebrew orthodoxy throughout the entire canton of Ovruch; besides his religious training he was very cultivated in secular respects. All respected him not only as a religious pastor, but also as an intelligent man of the world, and all Jewish society worked in co-operation with him. Naidich was a student of the Commercial Institute, who was spending his vacation in Slovechno, and was cooperating, as an educated young man of the world, to a large extent in the development and extension of enlightenment among the young people of Slovechno. He served as an example to all by the nobility of his soul, his pure morality, and his courteous manners with people. These two victims will remain forever in the memory of all the people of Slovechno, and tears will long be shed over their destruction. The witness of these horrors,
Y. M. MELAMED.
III. Testimony of Hannah Avrum-Berovna Gozmann, Aged 45
On the 15th there were rumors all day long throughout the city about threatening events impending, but most of the citizens treated them lightly and with disbelief. My children and I therefore went to bed calmly (my husband was not at home, he had gone to Turob on business, and has not yet returned). In the town the local militia and a hired guard of honest peasants were on watch. In the night we were awakened by rifle shots. We were not frightened by them, thinking that they were fired by the local guard, which as usual in such cases was frightening the bandits by shots. But hearing wild cries and the sound of broken glass, I at once understood what was up. Wakening all the children, I hastened to get them into the store-room, because there is no glass there and it is safer from bullets. At this time all the windows of my house were smashed by stones thrown by the bandits. No one came into our house and until morning we remained in the storeroom. Going out on the street, I saw many peasant-compatriots. I applied to some of them asking them to grant refuge to me and my children. But all of them, though they were good acquaintances and friends, for some reason refused. By this time reports were coming in, one more terrible than another, about the killing of some Jews, and about what they were getting ready to do. I was afraid to stay over night with the children in my house, and went to my acquaintance Adam Sich (who was afterwards shot by the bolsheviki. I did not find him at home. I urgently begged his wife to let us in. Approximately at midnight the owner of the house, Adam Sich, returned, but soon went away again and until morning kept going out and coming in again. I did not close my eyes all night long; I could not sleep. In the morning I went out into the town; all the frightened people were exchanging experiences about the night with horror and were talking with fear about the next night. Some reassurance was caused by the collection of money among the population for the ringleaders, especially when a considerable sum was handed over to them and they advised all to assemble in Ratner's house. With many others I hastened to hide in Ratner's house; but his daughter-in-law, Yekheved, meeting me at the threshold, said that she herself would not spend the night at home (the next day she was killed in that very house). Therefore I turned back and again succeeded in entreating the wife of Adam Sich to allow us to spend the night in her house. Adam did not spend the night at home; I was told that "he had taken the horses to the field." The next day I learned that the horses had not been taken to the field.
On Friday morning I sent my son, aged 18, into town to find out what the situation was. He soon returned and with horror told me of the death of Grenader and others. (Grenader lay in the arms of the student Naidich, both killed on the square.) We had no time to look around when my Tzalik was already gone; with lamentations, he rushed back to find my other chil dren, my daughter Esther, and her husband Motl. After a short time Tzalik came bringing a cart laden with the remnants of our goods. Putting the children on the load, we started to flee towards Ovruch. As we drove out of the town, we met S. B. Burger with many Jews. They shouted to us that no one was allowed to leave the town and that they had been turned back; we also turned back (at that time the cart upset, and everything was scattered). I took the little children by the hand, and leaving everything, taking only the valuables (silver spoons, forks, cups, etc.), all of which I threw into the nearest garden, I ran, driven from behind by bandits, into the town to find my other children (Esther and Motl). On the way I met Avrum-Ber Portny, much agitated, who told me how all exits from the town were closed, and ran off, observing that many were running to his (Avrum-Ber's) house. With the children, I hastened there, too. It is hard for me to describe what we experienced in that earthly hell. . . . Yes, yes, all the rooms packed full of the Jews of Slovechno, old men, women, children; many had hidden under beds, tables, couches, etc. When the first shot from the street resounded in the house, all, as if at the word of command, lay down on the floor; after the shot followed a violent knock at the closed doors. They were at once opened. Kosenko with a group of bandits appeared. All began to entreat him not to touch them, and offered money. He at first refused, but finally accepted it. Having received the money (more than 40,000) he turned to the assembled Jews with these words: "I gave you a period of two days to get out of here; you didn't go; now I will settle with you." And he ordered them out of the room. First went my son-in-law Motl, then my daughter Esther; the third was I with the baby in my arms. At the exit a cordon of bandits was drawn up, who beat us and thrust at us, hit us with sabres, bayonets and gun-butts. My children Esther and Motl received severe wounds; I got off with one blow with a gun-butt on my shoulder. Before me were my children, all bloody and half dead; behind me, the cries of hundreds of my compatriots, whom the bandits were destroying in Avrum-Ber's house. From all sides they were driving the Jews in dozens to the square. On all the streets the bodies of our innocent brothers and sisters were lying strewn about. I saw a picture which reduced me to stupefaction. I shall never forget it. Among the slain lay the wife of the shames Irka, wounded, and a peasant was kicking her in the head. Oh, my God, can it be that Thou dost not see this? Why is it? Such pictures were repeated many times on that day. We were all collected in one group, the shoes were taken off the feet of all the men, shouts resounded in Russian. At one side two bandits, one from the village of Tkhorin, the other from Usovo, threatened us with chastisement. (Maxim Liukhtan with a gun in his hands stood near us.) I began to beg them not to harm us and promised to give them all our valuables which I had thrown into a garden. They agreed, and we started out (at this time I thought what will happen if someone has stolen them from the garden?). Thank God, everything was still there in the garden. I gave them all the valuables and begged them not to hurt us. One of them gave me three spoons, and said: "Well, take these, perhaps you will remain alive, and you will have something to eat with." But the other instantly tore them from his hand, took everything, and they went away, letting us go free. Happy in our freedom, we started on the way to leave that accursed place. My daughter Esther took off her smock, all bloody, and threw it on me, saying: "Mama, there is no blood to be seen on you, keep that on you, perhaps it will save you on the way." I did not resist, and we went on. I had my baby in my arms, and my children, dripping blood (they were wounded).
At the second verst in the direction of the village of Petrushi we were overtaken by two men who had taken our valuables, with a peasant lad of twelve or thirteen, the boy armed with a gun; and they demanded that we give them all that we had left. My son-in-law still had a silver watch; he gave it to them, plus some tens of rubles which we had with us. We managed somehow to drag ourselves to the village of Petrushi. The peasants refused us shelter, would not give us a cart under any conditions, or take us to the next village, and we, hungry, dishevelled, worn out, as if accursed of God, struggled on farther. Before we had gone one verst to the village of Frankovka, a peasant boy took off my son-in-law's jacket, saying: "Too bad about the jacket, Jews, it is stained with blood;" and, with various yells, taunts and ridicule, he stole it and ran off. (In the course of our journey many peasants accused us of responsibility for a commune, calling us communists and bolsheviks. With difficulty we got to the hovel of a peasant, who lived in the woods five versts from the village of Petrushi. It seemed to us that we were seeing it all in a dream: the peasant invited us to come into his hut and have a meal of soup. We were so thankful to him that we were ready to kiss him for his kind words (excuse me, I forgot to say, when we, after giving up our valuables, went past the house of Kosenko, his mother washed my daughter's wounds with water, saying: "Get away quick, or everything will be lost.") When we had fed on the soup and rested a bit we wanted to go away, but night was coming on, and we spent the night with the peasant. In the morning he hitched his horse and took us deep down into the woods, where there were already many Jews (this was on Saturday). We asked the Jews to lend us a few rubles to reward the peasant, but the latter categorically refused. We thanked him from our souls, and he left us. Among the Jews were some who were afraid there were too many of us. They proposed to scatter out more, and we with some of them started on the way to the town of Luginy. On the way we met peasants who warned us that we might fall into the hands of the gangs of Sokolovsky, who were operating in the region of Luginy. Some paid no attention and went on, but we, fearing that the wounds would fester and wanting to get as soon as possible to some sort of hospital, turned off towards the town of Valedniki. We spent the night in the fields. On the morning of July 7 Ratner's cart picked us up and took us to Valedniki. There I found my son Tzalik, wounded. Having rested for a time, we went by way of the town of Norinsk to Ovruch, where my children got their first medical attention. The children are in the local hospital, while I am in Borman's house.
IV. Testimony of Srul Ber Burger, Aged 53
On Tuesday morning and through the day rumors began to spread in Slovechno that something wrong was in the air, that danger was threatening us Jews. With my whole family, my wife and children, I went to the border of the town, where the Jewish poor folk live; there also live the Jews who live together with peasants. There we spent Tuesday night. When peasants came into the house where we were hiding, the owner, a barefoot, disheveled, tattered Jew, went out to see them; and this took away the peasants' inclination to plunder and kill. Wednesday all day and night my family and I spent in this place. I went out to reconnoiter, and learned of what was happening in the town. My wife, hearing of the alarming situation, didn't want to stay any longer in that house and wanted to move to another place, that we might not all be together, but we nevertheless remained. We hid in a closet, and just sat still, holding our breath. From the city rumors of the murders arrived. So passed the day and night of Wednesday. On Thurs day a meeting was held in the synagogue and money was collected to move the hearts of the peasants. They collected 50,000 rubles, and then invited the young fellows who led the bands to Ratner's house, gave them tea, and divided the money among them. Thursday night we again spent in the house of the Jew on the edge of the town. On Friday morning we came out of our retreat and began to see what we could learn. Alarm and confusion were abroad in the town. Apparently it was impossible to stay. We decided to leave the town. I set off in the direction of Ovruch with my wife and children (ten souls). We decided to let come what would. All the time rumors were being spread that the bolsheviki were no longer in Ovruch. That was why all the time until Friday we had not ventured to leave the town in the direction of Ovruch. Friday morning, as I said, we set out thither. But we were met by peasants with a volley, and started to run back (there were about eighty of us). We were driven into the house of Avrum-Ber, and there some of us were shut up in a bedroom, the rest stayed in the front room. The door into the house was closed. Immediately a company of peasants came and began to break windows and fire through the windows. We lay down on the floor, one on top of another, ten or fifteen people in a heap. A number of peasants entered the house with the peasant Kosenko at their head. Kosenko announced that he was going to kill all of us. Our money was taken away, and then the bandits began to cut down literally all, and to strike us with axes and sabres. Those who lay on top perished; those who lay underneath escaped. Blood flowed over the floor; groans and cries arose. I pretended to be dead, held my breath, and didn't move. At this time those who were in the other room, the bedroom, started to escape through the windows. I didn't know what happened to my wife and children. When the massacre ended I continued to lie there as if dead. Bandits came and investigated me to see if I was alive, and robbed me as dead. It was not until I heard Jewish words that I raised my head; it was Jews who had come to take away the corpses. I asked if I could get up. They told me to roll up my sleeves so that I could help in gathering the corpses. Blood everywhere, and all around the groans of the wounded. I went out with the corpses and laid them in the cart. I laid the body of my sister in the cart. As I did so, I saw with horror a dress I knew too well. I looked close, it was my wife's body. It turned out that she and my children had fled through a window when they began to beat them, and at that moment a young fellow struck her in the side with a bayonet (so my six-year-old boy told me). My wife fell to the ground bathed in blood. The children sat beside her, the very smallest. My wife was still alive, and worrying for the fate of the children; she told them to go away, because they were killing even children. The children were frightened and started to run away, after first giving their mother a drink and laving her with cold water. She died from the severe wound, while the children ran along the road out of town. Jews fleeing from the town recognized my children and took them along. For a long time I did not know about the fate of my children, and only here in Ovruch were they brought to me by refugees from Slovechno. It was, as I just told you, my little son who told me how my wife suffered before her death, and how they gave her a drink and laved her with water. In all the crimes in Slovechno a small group of peasants from nearby villages took part, with Kosenko at their head. They were poorly armed and it would have been very easy to disarm them. At the head of the pogrom-outbreak was the commander of militia, who first took money from us, as if to protect us, but afterwards summoned the bandits by signal and began the po grom, handing over to the pogromists the weapons which were entrusted to him.
V. Testimony of Moishe Feldman, Aged 19, from Slovechno;
Employee of the Forest Department
The pogrom began with us Tuesday night. The first looting took place then. On the next morning we learned that six were slain. The whole day of Wednesday robberies continued in the town. On Thursday again five or six people were killed, but the most terrible day for our town was Friday, when the most fiendish murders and atrocities took place. On Friday morning we came out of our house and fled wherever our legs took us. Wherever we went we were met with shots. The peasants encompassed the town with firing and drove the fleeing Jews into one place. Several hundred of us found ourselves in the house of Avrum-Ber Portny, and there we were all piled and heaped upon one another. It was close in the house, and terror and anguish reigned among us. When a certain peasant (Kosenko, from Slovechno) appeared and declared that he was the head f the insurgent forces, we began to entreat him and offered him money. He answered, that since we had disobeyed his orders to leave the town, he had decided to kill us all. Immediately the firing began through the windows of the place where we were gathered. Then the peasants began to beat us ip; they beat us with whatever came handy, trampled on us with their feet, and threw bombs. How many were killed, it is hard to be sure at present, but very many. Apparently, they would have killed all, but deadly weapons failed the bandits. i myself pretended to be dead and lay thus four or five hours. The bandits investigated me to see if I was alive, and struck me on the leg (my leg swelled up from that) ; then the murderer began to draw off my shoes as from a dead man. The beasts occupied themselves with me and examined me for a whole hour. Feeling the breathing of these people on me, I pretended to be quite dead. I lay there until people came after the bodies of the slain. Under me flowed a stream of Jewish blood; my leg ached. I got up and went with someone else to another house; they pursued us thither and wanted to kill us. Then I went to the cemetery, where they were burying six dead. On the way peasants met us and demanded that we should bury all the slain, "and then we will kill you and will bury you ourselves; we've had plenty enough work with you." "But if you want to live, then go to the priest and ask him to baptize all your sins out of you." Until evening we were busy at the cemetery. We didn't bury all. Many corpses remained at home and in the streets. The summer heat caused a stench of putrefaction from the bodies. Everywhere were pools of human blood. At evening we hid again, since looting and killing were still going on. All the Jews hid, and cowering each in his hole in a cellar or garret or in the bushes, expected death. The town presented a picture of desolation. The pogrom was characterized not only by looting but particularly by destruction of property. In the houses they smashed everything: windows, doors, furniture, table service; sometimes they destroyed the walls. Now there is not a house where the windows and doors are uninjured; they opened up the ceilings and floors; they carried off the domestic animals, all the goods of the Jews. The night of Friday I spent hidden in the grass near a storehouse, and on Saturday morning I left the town.
Записи рассказов пострадавших и свидетелей представителем Отдела помощи погромленным при РОКК на Украине С.С. Каганом о погроме в м. Словечно Волынской губ. в июле 1919 г
22 июля 1919 г
Исаак Гольдберг — 23 лет, учитель-словесник.
До последних кошмарных событий в Словечно не было опасения у еврейского населения.
Население Словечно (еврейское) состоит на 40% из трудового элемента — рабочих, остальное еврейское население состоит из мелких торгашей и незначительное число падает на крупных торговцев и кожевенников.
Крестьяне живут вперемешку с евреями — так изба крестьянская, изба еврейская. Только центр местечка населен евреями. Русское население местечка в большинстве бедное, земли у них мало, и они шли на заработки. Работу последнее время крестьяне имели у евреев и были таким образом связаны с евреями. Часто крестьяне кожу отдавали в переработку евреям-кожевенникам. Нужда среди крестьян в Словечно большая — у многих нет хлеба. Отношение крестьян к евреям до последних дней было вполне добрососедское.
Евреи по своему имущественному положению немногим отличались от мужиков и крестьян; не бросалась в глаза разница состояний. Евреи так же трудились, как крестьяне; шли согнутыми, оборванными и забитыми. Когда были выступления бандитов в других местах, евреи местечка (зажиточные, конечно) откупались тем, что уплачивали известным головорезам, крикунам, вожакам деньги.
С того момента, как был прекращен вывоз из местечка товаров (по распоряжению власти), спекуляция прекратилась, и многие из мужиков лишились заработка, стали искать возможности заработать, поживиться. Это тоже имело значение в развитии в дальнейшем бандитских стремлений. Зимой этого года в местечке образовался Союз рабочих. Этот Союз, когда получил власть, стал мстить за свое прежнее положение. Евреи-рабочие — вообще самый забитый элемент среди евреев. Когда же случилось так, что эти люди получили возможность сами управлять заводом и властью, они в отместку наложили контрибуцию на местечко. Рабочие были евреи, и контрибуция наложена была тоже на евреев (кожевенников). Деятельностью рабочего Союза были недовольны, конечно, евреи, но потом, когда в местечко зашли петлюровцы, крестьяне упрекали евреев в том, что они не выдают «своих» виновников неурядиц. Так создавались некоторые препирательства на политической почве. Но все это на первых порах никаких последствий для еврейского населения не имело. Местечко за все время, пока шли погромы в окружающих местах, не переживало тревоги, и здесь даже находили спасение и приют в свое время евреи Овруча.
Русская интеллигенция Словечно составлялась из выходцев из крестьян (фельдшер, учитель, начальник почты, члены исполкома, священник, его сын — вот их состав). Интеллигенция эта была по своим настроениям, так сказать, «петлюровская». Эти люди привыкли работать самостоятельно, за свою расу и страх, не получая указаний свыше. Теперь они попали под пресс Советской власти — и во время столкновений с указаниями этой власти, указаниями, чуждыми этим людям, и, кроме того, сталкивались с евреями как представителями Советской власти. Это создавало у них враждебное отношение к евреям. Месяц тому назад в местечко приехал начальник милиции, шляхтич-поляк. С его появлением в местечке стали ходить слухи, что этот человек — погромный агитатор. Сам начальник старался не показывать вида и держать себя весьма осторожно.
Во вторник вечером начали распространяться по местечку тревожные слухи о готовящихся выступлениях против евреев. Евреи были в большой тревоге. На улице собирались кучки встревоженных людей, возле домов сидели группы евреев, с тревогой обсуждавшие положение. Часов в 9-10 вечера представители евреев обратились к начальнику милиции с просьбой организовать охрану и предложили ему услуги евреев-вартовых. Начальник успокоил, уверял, что он сам справится со всякими выступлениями. Милиционеры-евреи вышли ночью на охрану, но без всякого оружия. Часов в 12 ночи вышел начальник милиции с милиционерами. Евреи стали было успокаиваться, видя вооруженных людей, вышедших для охраны. Но милиционеры, не обращая внимания на евреев-милиционеров, направились с начальником милиции за местечко. Выйдя за местечко, милиционеры дали 2 залпа. Минут через 10 после этого появились, как по команде, бандиты, человек 30-40 с винтовками.
Зашли они с криками: «Ура, бей жидов», — и стали разбивать окна. Начался грабеж, который длился всю ночь. Под утро грабеж прекратился. Евреи вышли из своих нор, и опять начались обсуждения создавшегося положения. Решили умилостивить начальника милиции, дабы он охранял местечко. Ему собрали сумму в 15 тыс. руб. и он, получив деньги, обещал охрану. Но в среду вечером опять начались грабежи и тяжелые убийства. В грабежах не все крестьяне принимали активное и сознательное участие. Многие мужики брали необходимые им вещи, говоря, что сейчас можно брать и надо спешить, а то завтра запретят. В среду уже началось бегство евреев из Словечно. В четверг оно особенно усилилось. Евреи шли из местечка в большинстве пешком, подвод нигде нельзя было достать. Евреи шли со своим жалким скарбом и случайно захваченными вещами, женщины с детьми на руках. По пути поражало злорадство крестьян,
насмехавшихся над несчастными беженцами. Лишь местами женщины-крестьянки сокрушенно качали головой и что-то сочувственно шептали губами. Так прошел день четверга. Самое же страшное произошло в нашем местечке в пятницу, о чем вам уже сообщили другие свидетели. По-моему, наиболее активное участие в погроме принимали молодые крестьяне. Старики равнодушно относились к событиям. Я в пятницу не был уже в Словечно, а в пятницу вечером я в качестве добровольца выступил вместе с первым отрядом, отправившимся в Словечно. Переночевав в Покалеве, мы к утру в субботу прибыли в Словечно. По дороге мы не могли достать подводу у крестьян, и люди нашего отряда были страшно утомлены. Я полагаю, что виной этому является слабая деятельность начальника нашего отряда — матроса, который, по-видимому, не имел намерения энергично действовать по отношению к крестьянам. Не доходя 2 верст до Словечно, наш отряд рассыпался в цепь и окружил флангами местечко. В местечке мы заметили толпу довольно большую, которая при нашем появлении стала рассыпаться, лишь несколько [чел.] из толпы попали нам в цепь, некоторых из них мы расстреляли. Главные бандиты, которых хорошо знаю, скрылись.
Одного мы поймали с винтовкой и потом взяли с собой в Овруч. В местечке мы застали картину, которую трудно описать. Трудно поверить, что это действительность, а не кошмарный сон. На улице ни живой души, по местечку бродило стадо коров, которых крестьяне выпустили, когда узнали о приближении большевиков (то были еврейские коровы). На улице разбросаны были поломанные вещи, валялись трупы — всюду были следы крови. Дома с внешней стороны носили следы разрушения (поломаны окна, двери, ворота), во дворах везде раскопано, в домах, куда мы успели заглянуть, лежали трупы, были трупики детей.
В местечке я заметил выходившего из своего дома священника со своей дочерью. За ним я заметил выходившую мою знакомую девушку с безумным видом, которую я почти не узнал сразу. Священник имел спокойный и величественный вид и важно, торжественно ходил по улице с видом благоденствия (о его роли в событиях вы, вероятно, уже знаете из других показаний). Мы не решались оставаться долгое время в местечке, так как не полагались на наши силы, и оставили местечко. Когда мы уже выходили, мы видели крестьян, прятавших вещи, очевидно, награбленные. Когда мы пытались останавливать этих крестьян, нам воспрепятствовал это сделать начальник нашего отряда. Он даже говорил, что в отряде слишком «возбуждена еврейская национальность» и что это «неуместно». Мы, я полагаю, могли водворить быстро порядок в местечке, если бы нас встретили хотя бы несколько живых и близких нам людей, ищущих нашей помощи. Мы никого не видели в местечке. Нас встретила пустыня. Мы видели только бандитов, и мы из-за этого пали духом. Отношение нашего командира и некоторых элементов в нашем отряде к нам еще более нас смутило и лишило нас необходимой бодрости и
Ко всему, что я рассказал Вам, мне хочется еще прибавить несколько слов о нашем словеченском раввине, убитом в доме Ратнера во время погрома. Этот раввин, в буквальном смысле слова, краса и гордость нашего местечка. Его любили и уважали решительно все. Будучи ортодоксальным человеком, он заслужил симпатию всех свободных людей. Он был чужд давлений на совесть и убеждения другого человека. Был человеком широких взглядов, который даже своей семье предоставил полную свободу, и среди ортодоксального населения местечка его семья самая свободная. Этот человек пользовался огромным влиянием не только среди еврейского населения, но даже и крестьяне обращались к нему за разрешениями своих споров. Ему было около 50 лет.
Показания Я.М. Меламеда
Отношение крестьян к нам после погрома
В то время, когда на всей Украине распространились погромы, наши крестьяне относились к нам довольно благожелательно. Они даже обещали защищать местечко от нападения погромщиков из других деревень. По занятии большевиками Овруча и его уезда они, правда, изменились немного, говоря, что это, мол, «жидовская власть», но все же евреев не трогали. Первое антисемитское движение началось в д. Тхорин, где под лозунгом «долой спекулянтов-коммунистов» не впускали еврейских вдов в деревню, куда последние ходили с горшками с тем, чтобы выменять за них кусок хлеба или картофель.
Дело дошло до того, что последние две недели до погрома там и по дороге в с.Бегунь (4 версты от Словечно) били евреев и забирали у них последний кусок хлеба и последнюю картошку, которую [они] несли для своих бедных детей. Волостной исполком не принял никаких мер к уничтожению этих несправедливостей.
Первые признаки бандитизма и погромных агитаций
В субботу, 29 июня ст.с, в день празднования Петра и Павла, был волостной сход всех окружающих местечко деревень, на котором обсуждали декрет, полученный из Овруча о том, чтобы метрическая регистрация перешла от священника в отдел управления волостного исполкома. Настроение схода было страшно контрреволюционное и антисемитское, все крестьяне в один голос кричали, что «це все от жидов», «они хотят закрыть церковь и удалить священника». Нет речи о том, что евреев на сход не допустили, и даже еврея — члена комбеда отовсюду выгоняли, говоря, что «жиды нам не потрибны». Исполком и здесь не принял никаких мер, чтобы успокоить народ и объяснить им цель декрета и сущность его; напротив, намекал на то, чтобы протестовать и не принять декрет. Все крестьяне почти вышли из схода и сказали, будто бы, обращаясь к евреям: «Буде вам коммуна, буде вам церковь закрыть». Вечером того же дня были делегированы к священнику два еврея (местный аптекарь и я лично), чтобы осведомиться, что замышляют крестьяне. Делегаты указали ему на то, что евреи находятся как бы между молотом и наковальней, т.е., с одной стороны, нас обвиняют в том, что как
сионисты — мы контрреволюционеры (ст[атья] «Борьба с еврейской контрреволюцией» в газете «Коммунист» от 8 июля нового стиля); а с другой стороны, в том, что мы церковь закрываем и как коммунисты ее «готове исти».
Делегаты просили его объяснить крестьянам в воскресенье после службы, что евреи здесь ни при чем и что как мы, так и крестьяне должны подчиниться власти. Священник ответил, что за его прихожан нечего бояться и что он им завтра, т.е. в воскресенье, объяснит все это. Этот ответ, как довольно удовлетворительный, успокоил нас немного. Воскресенье и понедельник прошли обычно и весьма благополучно; во вторник утром распространился по местечку слух, что ночью будет погром, но фактических данных не было, и относились к этому равнодушно. Лишь вечером на всех улицах были замечены подозрительные личности — молодые крестьяне, вместе с милиционерами поставленные на страже. Кроме них, дежурило человек 30 из евреев до часу ночи. Потом начальник милиции начал разгонять еврейскую варту*, говоря, что он обойдется и без нас. Еврейские вартовые начали умолять его разрешить им остаться. Вместо ответа он дал, как видно, условные выстрелы; на все стороны местечка направлены были выстрелы, также и в вартовых. Евреи разбежались по огородам. Бежавши, они уже издали заметили со всех сторон идущих бандитов и погромщиков с винтовками, вилами, ломами, и вскоре послышалось «ура», «бей жидов и коммунистов» и треск разбитых окон и дверей.
ГА РФ. Ф. Р-1318. Оп. 24. Л. 117-120 об. Копия.
Приговор Волынского губревтрибунала по делу участников погрома в м. Словечно Овручского уезда Волынской губ. в июне 1919 г. Д. Дубницкого и А. Хилевича
31 марта 1921 г.
1921 г. марта 31-го дня Именем Украинской Советской Социалистической Республики Волынский губернский революционный трибунал в публичносудебном заседании в составе:
председатель Трибунала т. Фельдман
члены: тт. Бергавинов и Кумпикевич,
при секретаре Трибунала т. Ратнере, в присутствии члена коллегии обвинителей т. Белецкого и правозаступника т. Аксана,
слушалось дело по обвинению граждан Димитрия Дубницкого, 26 лет, д. Тхорино Овручского уезда Волынск[ой] губ. и Александра Хилевича, м. Словечно Овручск[ого] уезда Вол[ынской] губ., обвиняемых в бандитизме.
Заслушав доклады обоих сторон, показания свидетелей и объяснения подсудимых, революционный трибунал нашел, что в июне месяце 1919 г. в м.
Словечно граждане Дубницкий и Хилевич Александр по предварительному договору и сообща с другими участвовали в погроме, имеющем место в м. Словечно в июне
месяце 1919 г., в котором было около 72 [чел.] убитых и около 100 раненых.
Революционный Трибунал постановил:
граждан Дубницкого Димитрия Даниловича, 26-ти лет, д. Тхорино, Овручск[ого] уезда Вол[ынской] губ. и Александра Исаковича Хилевича, 18-ти лет, м. Словечно Овруч[ского] уезда Вол[ынской] губ. объявить злейшими врагами трудового народа и как к неисправимым и злостным преступникам применить высшую меру наказания, т.е. расстрелять. Приговор окончательный, может быть обжалован в кассационном порядке в двухнедельный срок.