This project seeks to collect representatives from all of the Jewish families from the town of Rejowiec, Poland.
Rejowiec - (Rayvits, Rayvitz, Reyovyets, Reyvits)
Chelm District, Lublin Province, Poland
Rejowiec is located about 40 km south of Lublin, close to an intersection of railroads and roads. The village was established in the 16th century by a family of noblemen named Rej, who were active in spreading the Calvinist religion, and established a religious college in the village.
In 1547, Rejowiec received acknowledgement (and privileges) as a city, from King Ziegmund the First (“the old man”), including the right to hold two annual fairs, and an exemption from taxes for 10 years. In the 17th century the owners of Rejowiec changed, a number of times, and the Calvinist College closed. In the 18th century, when the Catholic reaction grew, the remaining Calvinists were repressed.
In the second half of the 19th century, a copper casting factory and two tanneries were established in Rejowiec. The biggest industrial factory in Rejowiec (until 1939) was the glass factory that employed 180 workers. Another large factory, for cement, carried on working even after the world war ended and became one of the biggest cement factories in Poland.
The first Jews settled in Rejowiec in the middle of the 16th century, and at the end of the 17th century, there were nearly 130 Jews. In 1769 the Jews of Rejowiec paid 437 gold coins as head tax. By the middle of the 19th century, the Jews made up the majority of the residents (About 80%).
Most of the Jews of Rejowiec made their living as traders, peddlers, or artisans. In the 19th century and the early 20th century, the Jews also took part in the industrialization of the village and there were some who were employed as laborers in the new factories, but most were employed as clerks. A number of these factories should be mentioned: the copper casting factory, the glass factories, sugar factory, tanneries and sawmills. The cement factory also worked on Shabbat and therefore the Jews did not work there.
There is written evidence of the existence of an organized Jewish community at the end of the 17th century, and the community leaders and shamash are mentioned, but not the rabbi. Possibly the community leaders ruled on day-to-day matters. In the 19th and 20th century, some charitable and mutual aid organizations were active alongside the village committee – “hospitality”, “visiting the sick”, “bridal dowry” and “charity to the poor”.
In the early 20th century, a branch of the “Bund” was established in Rejowiec On the eve of the 1905 revolution, in November 1904, there were outbreaks of anti-Semitic uprisings in the village, but the “Bund” organized self-defense groups of young people, who managed to hold off the rioters.
When the First World War broke out, there were fierce battles in the Rejowiec area. The Russian authorities drove out most of the Jews from the village. There were also Jews who chose to leave of their own accord. The retreating Russians burnt down the synagogue. After the war ended, there was renewed demographic growth in the village and the Jews were once more the majority – about 80 %.
In 1923 the rebuilding of the new synagogue was completed, and it was inaugurated with much joy and celebration. In the period between the two World Wars, the Jews of Rejowiec established Jewish organizations and youth movements. In the local elections to the 20th Zionist Congress (in 1935), 131 of Rejowiec’s Jews, who had bought the Jewish “shekel”, voted. First place was won by “The Israel Workers”, and “The United Zionists” won second place. The longstanding Bund branch continued its activity alongside a large branch of “Agudat Israel” whose members were the majority in the village committee.
In 1924 the rabbi of Rejowiec was Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Yaar, who was still presiding as Chief Rabbi in 1937. The last rabbi of Rejowiec was Rabbi Tchitrinboim (sp?).
In Rejowiec, just as in many other places in Poland, the period of independent Poland began with pogroms against the Jews. In 1917 in Poland, Many Jews were beaten in the village squares, and gangs of rioters ransacked their property. Two years before the start of World War Two, violent riots began again, and led to much economic destruction. Gangs of anti-Semites stood guard outside Jewish businesses and chased away Polish customers.
In June 1938 a building committee arrived in Rejowiec to examine the quality of the buildings. The committee announced that 22 homes of Jews were too dilapidated to live in, and the families who were vacated from their homes were left without a roof over their heads.
During the Second World War.
Rejowiec was conquered by the Germans at the end of September 1939. As soon as they arrived, the Germans began a campaign of oppression and persecution of the Jews, as was done in all of occupied Poland. Jewish property was confiscated, heavy fines were instituted, and hostages were taken. All the Jewish businesses closed, and in effect any means of earning a living was taken from the Jews. Already in the first days of the occupation, Jews were abducted and forced to do humiliating and heavy forced labor. During their work, and also on the way to work and back, Jews were forced to endure humiliation and persecutions. Stealing Jewish property was a common. Soldiers of the German army, policeman and Polish rabble would, from time to time, burst into Jewish homes or stores, and plunder their property.
Sometimes, SS soldiers from Chelm would come to Rejowiec and in the “morning” hours would persecute Jews for their own pleasure, particularly Jews with earlocks and beards.
One Saturday in February 1941, German policemen burst into the prayer house, ordered the worshippers to take the Torah books out into the road, and then burnt them. Worshippers were forced to dance around the fire. Within a few months, the Germans bombed the synagogue and set fire to the prayer house.
After a certain time, Jews who lived in good houses were vacated from their homes, particularly in the center of the city, and were forced to live in the suburbs. Because of this, a ghetto was formed in the village, which existed until October 1942. The ghetto was open, and people could enter it and leave it freely. After about 1300 deportees from Lublin and Krakow was transported to the ghetto, the overcrowding increased and so too did the hunger, and lack of heating during the winter of 1941-1942. Poor sanitation conditions lead to outbreaks of disease. Many of the inhabitants of the ghetto died of hunger and disease.
Using funds from the Jewish self-help organization in Krakow, a public soup kitchen was opened for penniless Jews. By the end of 1941, there were 2,380 Jews in the ghetto. 717 of them were registered as needing meals from the soup kitchen but, the soup kitchen could feed only 350 people.
Transports of Jews from Rejowiec to the death camps began in April 1942. SS men surrounded the ghetto and ordered the inhabitants to congregate within 15 minutes in the market square. Some of the Jews tried to hide but most of them were found by the Germans, or handed over by the Poles. The Jews who were found, along with the elderly and the sick who did not have the strength to present themselves at the collection place were murdered on the spot.
About 2000 of the ghetto residents were marched on foot to the strain station, a distance of about 4 km from the village. On the way they were persecuted and even killed by the soldiers. When they arrived at the station, the Jews were packed in a terrible crush into rail cars and transported to the Sobibor death camp.
After the big Aktion in April, there were about 500 young Jews left in Rejowiec They were housed in the one remaining prayer house, under heavy guard. At night many of them tried to escape through the windows, and a few succeeded, however most of the escapees were shot by the guards. Those that were left, about 300 people, were transported to the work camp at Krikov (a branch of the Sobibor Camp) and were employed in digging and drainage work.
The work was exhausting and the persecution endless. About 30 people tried to organize an escape from the camp but their plan was discovered due to an informant. The guardsmen beat the rebels with cruel blows and increased the guard, but even so, after a while people in the group managed to break through the fence and escape. During the escape 7 of them were shot and killed by the guards.
A few of the escapees reached a Soviet Partisan unit. One of them was killed by a Soviet partisan over a minor quarrel, and the rest spread out all over the place. During the escape one of the girls was captured by the Germans. While she was being cross-examined, she threw sand in the faces of the Gestapo and ran for her life. She tried to find refuge with a forester, after which she wanted to join a Soviet partisan unit by the name of Taras Bolva, but the partisans tried to kill her. She managed to escape from them and was finally absorbed into a group of Jewish partisans. After the war, this girl told her story to the members of the Jewish History Committee.
In April and May of 1942, about 3,000 Jews from Slovakia and Protcatores (Czech Republic) were brought to the ghetto in place of the Jews deported from Rejowiec In October of that year the ghetto was shut down and its residents were sent to Maidanek, except for a small group of workers who were employed by the sugar factory.
In time, other Jews who had escaped during the deportations from Rejowiec and the surrounding areas joined them. In the beginning the Germans did not harm them as their entering the ghetto saved the Germans from having to round them up from the villages and forests. However, after a while they began to hunt down these “illegals”, lead them in groups to the forest, and there executed them by shooting them.
A few dozen Jews also continued to work at the cement factory, as prisoners of war. With the help of a Polish teacher they were able to get firearms and after a shooting battle with the guards, during which some of them were killed, some of them managed to escape to the forests in the vicinity of Zamoshtz. Some of them managed, after many hardships, to get to Hungary.
On the 7th of April 1943, the Germans began to deport group after group of the Jews from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, who were living in the Rejowiec ghetto, to Maidanek. Some of them were sent from Maidanek to Auschwitz. The last group was deported to Maidanek on the 2nd July 1943. Only 16 Jews were left in Rejowiec and were employed as laborers in the local Gestapo headquarters.
In July 1944, when the Polish army began to free the Lublin province and neared Rejowiec one of the SS people murdered these Jews. In 1945, this SS man was caught and stood trial in Chelm. At his trial some of the surviving Jews from Rejowiec gave evidence.
Young Jewish men and women who joined the Partisans, showed great bravery in battle, and after the war the new Polish Authorities awarded them citations for bravery.
After the War, many dozens of Jews, who had survived the camps, passed through Rejowiec. Local Poles who, during the Nazi occupation had collaborated with the Nazis, looted Jewish belongings or took control of Jewish property and threatened them with their lives when they returned. Because of the hostile reception and the threats they received, the survivors left the place.
And then there were no Jews left in Rejowiec.
Written by Tova, from material taken from the following sources:
- Shmuel Dreilikhman from a book written in Bergen Belzen, 1947
- Yizkor Book, Tel Aviv 1956
By Shmuel Drelichman
Translated by Moshe Porat
Mr. S. Drelichman writes in his book, “Quiet as in Rayvets” that Mikolay Rey, the great Polish poet was born and lived in the place that is now Rayvets. Therefore, the shtetl's name became Rejowiec in Polish (spelled Rayoviets). S. Drelichman added, “The Polish people spoiled with shame the name of their great poet, by assisting the Nazis (and often working alone) to assassinate and to destroy the Jews, their neighbors for hundreds of years”.
The Erets Israel Office in Rayvets Founded in 1924: Moyshe Zonesheyn, Abhsh Roieter, Yankl Eisenshtein, Yechiel Glebhar, Nachman Waks, Mordechay Foorer The Rayvets Jews were active and creative in different cultural, public, and political activities. As with the majority of the Jews in Poland, they earned their living by small commerce and artisanship. A small part of the Jewish community dealt with important business and industry. However, for the majority of the shtetl inhabitants, bread earning was a rare event; poverty, destitution, and need were frequent guests.
Nevertheless, as it is told, “a poor congregation does not exist”. Therefore there was in Rayvets a beautiful big synagogue with side rooms, Hassidim small pavilions (shtiblach), and a beautiful and relatively big library. Youngsters were activists in such Zionist organizations as Mizrakhi, General Zionists, the League for Workers in Erets Israel, left and right Poaley Zion, Liberty (Freyhayt), Hakhaloots, Revisionists, Beytar, and professional unions. The young fermented with energy and desired to break out into the great world.
The Jewish Scouts Movement in Rayvets
The group Frayhayt in Rayvets (some of them now in Israel)
Beytar in Rayvets Samuel Drelikhman wrote in his descriptions of the Nazi murderous actions that once on a snowy Saturday in January 1940, the wild-running Nazis passed from house to house to take contributions. They sought and found money, gold, ornaments, and worthy objects. They drove all the inhabitants into the market square, and ordered them to undress completely naked. Men, women, and children trembled from shame and from cold. The Nazis commanded them to exercise (under the threat of execution)--to fall, to rise, to crawl, and other sporting exercises, during which the victims were beaten by heavy blows.
At this action were killed Reuven Mitsflicker, and others. Accompanied by wild laughs, the wild Nazis passed their “good time” until late in the night.
On a Saturday morning in February 1941, the entire Jewish population gathered at the Beys Hamidrosh for playing (at the time, not only the pious came in the Beys Medresh). Sudenly Gestapo soldiers surrounded the synagogue, and with blows and threats to kill people who did not obey, they ordered the Jews to take out all the books and the Torah scrolls from the Beys Medresh and to arrange them in good German order near the building. Moreover, when Jews refused to set fire to the holy books, an impatient Gestapo soldier ignited them. The Nazis forced the Jews wrapped in prayer shawls to dance and to sing around the burning Jewish Holiness.
Uziel Biderman was the first whom the Nazis ordered to ignite the fire. After he refused, they pushed him into the sanctified cupboard. The shooting pierced the cupboard like a sieve (“reshete”); so were pierced Biderman's garments and shtreiml (Hassidic hat). Nevertheless, he remained alive. “It is a miracle,” the witnesses said.
Mrs. Eiseman, the woman from whom the matches were taken, fell from her feet and died when she was told that her matches had ignited the Holiness. (The Nazis killed Uziel Biderman in the great mass slaughter).
Two months later, the SS men spilled gasoline on the Beys Hamidrosh and ignited it with a charge of dynamite. The great, beautiful shul, the ornament of Rayvets, burnt up, and the Rayvets Jews were not allowed to extinguish the fire.
Armed and shooting SS men with their Polish associates surrounded the town on the fourth day of Passover, April 7, 1942. Nobody could run away. They ordered the town Jews to gather in the market place in fifteen minutes. The inhabitants left their homes, taking with them small bundles with the most necessary things. Some of the Germans guarded the assembled Jews; others, with the Polish citizens, passed from house to house and shot to death the sick, old, and weak, who could not leave their home.
The persons they killed were:
Peshe Fingerhoot Reyzl Mittlman Sorke Appletsweig Yadzhe Plosman with her child in her hands Gootshe Yayir, the Rebe's daughter, with her two small children (it was impossible to separate the children from their mother after the bloodthirsty murder) Haya Epstein and others. The killers enclosed five hundred healthy young men and women inside the Beys Medresh. The majority, headed by Moyshe Mendl Mintz, remained in the market place until the order to march. They were led to the railroad station. Many of them were shot during this “march”, the rest were transported to Sobibor and Belzhets to be burnt there.
More than a hundred from those enclosed in Beys Madresh succeeded in running away by breaking windows. The guardians shot some of them. Those who remained were sent to the concentration camps in Krikhov, from where a small part ran away.
Officially, Rayvets became “Judenrein”; however Polish peasants, young and old, sought and broke into the hiding places. When discovering hidden Jews, the peasants delivered them to the Germans. They killed the victims on the spot.
The peasants themselves murdered Doovtshe Teitlboim.
For some reason, around twenty persons found in Isroel Vorman's ice cellar were sent to Chelm; among them were Motl Eisenberg with his family, Shimon Derlichman, Avraham Derlichman, Feyge and Avraham Finkelstein, and others. Some of them were permitted to work; most were shot to death.
In the Rayvets sugar factory, an opportunity fell to bribe an SS officer. Some dozens of Rayvets Jews had received permits to work legally at the factory. Over time, more and more Jews who left hideouts in the town surroundings became legal workers. Moreover, as it became possible to also bribe some controllers, working power was needed, and the number of Jews employed in the Rayvets sugar industry passed four hundred persons. The Germans enclosed all of them in a ghetto, which they created in a small side street. They surrounded the place with fences of barbed wire and appointed Velvl Blass as the ghetto head.
Germans guarded the camp. Zindl Plum stood at the gate. He was responsible for each discipline breach. The ghetto Jews were led every morning to work and returned at nightfall. They were not paid for their work and they did not receive nourishment. The SS men entered the ghetto often to have fun. Once they ordered the ghetto dwellers to smear their faces with excrement and thus appear in the street.
Berish Shenker told the officer that this was not appropriate for a cultured German and soldiers; that he should be ashamed. They seized him, and when he was freed, they shot him in his back. In such a way were shot and killed:
Moyshe Feldman Yoske Shpeiseman Peshe London, with her two children Motl Mitlman Reyzl Einstein and others. Kalmen Blootshitzn succeeded in escaping from Ghetto. When chased, he snatched a rifle from one of the Gestapo men and tried to kill him. However, another pursued the fugitive and shot him.
During the following night, they murdered over thirty Jews, throwing grenades through windows of the dwellings. From a nearby grove the murderers had brought seven Jewish men and women, their hands bound by barbed wire, and tortured and killed them in a cellar. Burying the bodies had been forbidden.
On 22 November 1942, SS men suddenly appeared at the work place, where survivors worked legally. They took out twelve persons and brought them in the nearby grove, where they ordered the prisoners to dig a large grave, and then shot them. Among the victims were:
Avraham Shpeiseman Berish Youngman Yidl Hochlerer. Two of them, Maly Friedland, and another one, succeeded in running away. Zalman Bornsteyn, who left Rayvets, got wind that Rayvets Jews were working in the sugar factory. The Germans employed him as an mechanic in a workshop. He succeeded in making friends with some SS men, through whom he received knowledge on the destiny of Rayvets Jews. He warned them about oncoming actions. The long trench that was ordered to be dug behind the stable of Kopl Eisenshtadt had been designated to be a grave for all the Jewish survivors. They proposed a large sum of money to bribe the German Major. Nevertheless, he refused, claiming that the entire town knew about it. He could however send them, he promised, to a better place, in Lublin or in Maydanek (he thought, of course, that its purpose was unknown).
The Germans began to liquidate all the ghettos after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Gestapo soldiers entered the Rayvets Ghetto in May 1943. They took all the Jews into freight cars and brought them to Maydanek.
The well-known Zionist activist, Henia Holzbkat, the wife of Simshon Holzblat, fell dead.
Inside the concentration camps were murdered:
Simshon Holtsblat Yosl Zonsheyn Moyshe Fingerhut Yankl Bergman Avrom Hayim Shafran Ester Sore Shenker (Zaklikovski), with her children Hala and Dan Velvl Blat Mendl Plum Hanele Plum (in Aushvitz crematorium) Avraham Shpigel Toybe Waks and many other of our Rayvetsers The sixteen survivors, who worked at the Gestapo Headquarters, were ordered by the SS men to dig a grave. The murderers shot them all. Near the grove on the way to Chelm are lying:
Yosef Ber Eiseman Pinkhas Varzurger Efrayim Gevandshnayder Dvoshe Gevandshnayder Yosl Birnboym (from Krasnistav) Avraham Kam Leyboosh Kam Ester Eisenberg The Rayvets Heros and Partisans:
Meyir Bergman their commander Meyir Ber Mitlman Lea Rocharg Sara Yita Shtock Ahrontshe Fridman David Zonsheyn Natan Ratker Hayim Shenker Motl Beyl (The last two passed away) Rayvetsers who passed away in Ludmir:
Usroel Dantsiger - the active Zionist Buroch Boim Avraham Hayim Friedland Eliezer Brinker The Rayvetsers who survived the Concentration Camps:
Eisenberg, Yoel and Feyge Eisenstein, Natan and Pearl Bornstein, Feyge and Zalman Bornstein, Wolf Boym, Frida and Sara Belik, Shmooel Bergman, Meyir Goldfarb, Hene Groober, Ishayahu Dobner, Simcha Waks, Efrayim Waks, Meyir Waks, Moritz Waks, Malka Waks, Nahoom Waks, Feyge Warman, Isroel and his wife Zamshein, Pearl Zonshein, Dovid Zonshein, Haya Zilberman, Ester Zilberman, Sima Zinger, Efrayim Zinger, Sara Mitsfliker, Yankl Mitsfliker, Yakov (Avrahams) Mitsfliker, Moshe Reuven Mitsfliker, Shimshon Paypermacher, Yosef Fishman, Ester Fishman, Leybl Fishman, Simha Flechtman, Gutshe Flechman, Yite Feldman, Hayim Yoel Tsvern, Getsl Rosnfeld, Leon Rotker, Pola Rochverg, Lea Shafran, Itshe Shafran, Moshe Shnabel, Yehiel Shnabel, Leybl Shnabel, Pole Shnabel, Feyge Shpigel, Reyzl Shpigel, Sara Shpeyzman, Hilish Shpeyzman, Itshcak Shpeyzman, Isroelke There are additional survivors; people who came from other places and countries, not from the camps.
In June 1945, the Chelm prosecutor called some of Rayvets's survivors (among them Zalman Bornshteyn, Yechiel Waks, Yankl Mitsfliker) to identify from photographs the wild SS men (already enclosed in jail) who murdered in Rayvets and its surroundings. They recognized the following SS men: Yeski, Layis, Astar, Peter and others who had been judged.
In February 1945, a group of twenty Jewish young persons, boys and girls, returned from the concentration camps to their home in Rayvets to live there normally. The local Polish people threatened them: “If the Jews do not leave the shtetl in a couple of days, all of them will be killed”. The youngsters, ill and weak, did not dare to begin a struggle with the thousands of armed local Polish Jew-haters. And looking with sorrow at their destroyed hometown, they left their natal shtetl for eternity.