Larry Lavitt

In the Vale of Killing

The Book of Ludvipol, English translation from Yiddish by David Mivasair
[translation of the text beginning on page 98]
Yehuda Raber

The idea of publishing a book about the history of our town, Ludvipol, from the time of its conquest and during the conquest, has been with me for the past several years, since the day that I escaped from the Vale of Killing in the courtyard of the Polish Kaserkatin that is next to Ludvipol, when I jumped over the fence and left behind all that was dear to me, my father, two sisters, and younger brother, and my brother Gershon's wife with her 15-month old son ; my mother who had been killed next to the house, and my wife Devorka who managed somehow to escape from the rage of the murderers and then was murdered in the forest of Nemilya. Ever since that very day, I feel tight in my soul because I escaped and left the others behind, and I have horrible nightmares every night even until this very day. I dream of those days when we labored to establish institutions of Hebrew education and culture and raising funds for the Zionist causes, together with the activists Yitzchak Raber (z"1), Laybl Etstein and others. Most of the dreams are from the time of the Nazi conquest. German or Ukrainian murders surround me to capture me, but I manage to escape.

The town of Ludvipol was a typical Jewish town, overflowing with communal life. As best as I can remember, the first to spread the Zionist idea among the youth was the late Mendel Schwartzman, who was known in Israel as Mendel Shachori. He studied in the Teachers' Seminary in Vilna. When he came back home for vacation or holidays he used to gather us together and tell us of the new homeland in which lived Jews who worked the land and spoke Hebrew. He organized the "Korei ha-Tzair" (Young Readers) in 1919, whose goal was to spread the Hebrew language. With our last pennies we'd buy Hebrew books and created a small library. Through the initiative of the teacher Siegel, a theater l overs' group that put on plays in Yiddish. Among the members was Yehuda Shachori, who was known then as Yudel Schwartzman. This was the first core group that started an active, alert Zionist movement, which later was to include 90% of the youth, both older and younger, and was organized in various organizations, such as "HeHalutz", "HaShomer HaTzair", "Gordonia", and in the later years also "Betar" which enrolled not a few members in our town.

I remember still the great joy in our town when the elementary school was dedicated. It was the first building erected by the contributions of parents and various donors who were involved in the forests in the area, such as the Mlop brothers and the firm Brurman-Zukerman, who gave contributions in the form of wooden building materials. I remember how we worked as volunteers on constructing the school. I remember the excitement on the Culture Committee over the school, that became one of the most beautiful buildings in our town, and which because of its great value and weight, was the cause more than once of crises and arguments amongst those who were involved. Nevertheless, it was very pleasant and offered us spiritual nourishment, which, in that little town, was of great worth.

Life went on as usual, Jews made aliya to Eretz Yisrael , there were those who went to other lands of the diaspora. The Soviets arrived at our town in 1939 and all the public life of our town quieted down, the Zionist and the cultural life. A black bitterness descended upon every Zionist activist, and some adapted themselves to the new line. With great pain we saw our dear school turn into a club for spreading propaganda for Communism, whose sharp claws we already recognized, I remember how once my younger brother YankeIe z"l came after his lesson in Communism, which promoted hatred for Hebrew culture, and told us how Mendel Sonnenzohn had turned into an anti-Zionist. Not long ago he spoke only Hebrew and now he had corne out against the Hebrew language. I could not reveal to him my conversations with Mendel Sonnenzohn, in which he [p. 99] poured out the bitterness of his heart over our fate: now that we had become captives, and who knew what would be done to us Hebrew and Zionist activists in the future.

Many members of the [Zionist] youth movements became active in Komsomol and were fingered as traitors. We were forbidden to ask for work, and forbidden to wander around without work. Whoever did not work did not earn the daily allotment of bread and in our identity papers, which were put out by the militia, was written paragraph 11 regarding those who were not loyal to the regime, that we would be exiled to Siberia. However, when the Soviets fled our town at the beginning of the war, we found in the archives of the NKVD a list of all the Zionist activists, who were designated as not loyal. It seems that in the short time they had, they simply didn't manage to exile us.

We thought that we'd escaped. We couldn't imagine that right behind us stood a demon far more enormous and terrible -- this was Hitler, may his name be blotted out, and his poisonous gang.

Still during the time of the Russian regime, a number of Jews arrived in our town from different areas of Poland which had been conquered by Hitler's armies in the war with Poland. They told us about forced labor, looting, and the complete trampling of any respect for Jews. This was nothing at all compared to what was to happen to us. When we learned that the Russians had fled in confusion before Hitler's armies, great fear and trembling seized us all. And, two days later -- this was in the second half of July, 1941 -- we came to realize just how impossible it was for the Soviet forces to stand up to Hitler's murderers. Russian soldiers wandered around in our town, dressed in tatters barefoot and hungry. Without any command structure, they stood around in the street and asked for food. Fear seized the Jewish population.

Anyone with a breath of life accompanied the Russian army in its retreat. Others, upon seeing the hungry soldiers, decided to remain in place, for they thought it better to die of hunger than to die on the road. Among those who stayed were my family and myself and many other familes. The only ones who, were young people and families who had been given some kind of vehicle by the Soviet regime so they could fulfill some task for the regime.


The Germans arrived in Ludvipol in three columns. The first column from the direction of Koretz, the second from Kostopol, and the third from Mezhiritz. When we learned of the German advance on our town, preparations were begun to welcome them with delegations from every religious and ethnic group. The Ukrainians" who only yesterday were active in the Soviet regime went out with a white flag in their hands and were greeted with cheers by the first column of the army of murderers. Next to them went the local Poles -- every religion with its own priest. The Jews did not know what to do. If they did not go out, it could be interpreted as traitorous. If they did go out, this too had possibly lethal dangers. Nonetheless, a group of men was organized, with Rabbi Akiba Vazon z"l and Yitzchak Kuperbond at its head. As the column of murderers approached and realized that Jews wanted to greet them, they spit on the delegation, shoved them aside and rained upon them serious blows. This was a bad omen for what was to come.

And, in fact, right away the German murderers brought in Ukrainians and Poles who broke into our homes and stole and destroyed many valuable possessions. They answered our cries with blows, with clubs and with anything they could get their hands on. Most the houses [p. 100] were emptied of goods and the people who lived in them fled to nearby villages, thinking that they would be able to save themselves by doing so. But, to their great disappointment, there was no end. From the moment the German foot trod on Ludvipol, everyone became openly hateful of us and even said that our end had finally come.

Some of the Ukrainian and Polish Christians, who feared what would happen in the future, stood passively aside with out saying a thing. Those who still felt a shred of pity toward us, were afraid to say so. This went on for about two weeks of looting and complete denigration, until the German army crossed beyond eastern Ukraine. Then came the "civilian" authorities, dressed in military uniforms. This was the military gendarmerie, whose cruelty knew no end. Every day they would drag us to all kinds of degrading labor for the sole purpose of depressing our spirits and suppressing our sense of self-worth.

[this is the end of the first full paragraph on page 100)

The headings of other sections in this article by Yehuda Raber are:
p. 100 Forced Labor
p. 101 Transfer to the ghetto
p. 103 Paving the Admovka Road
p. 104 The End Approaches
p. l05 Rounded Up before the Annihilation

The last paragraph on p. 106 tells how Yehuda Raber's mother was murdered, something that Carol Shapiro has told me. It reads:

I managed to find out that an 8-year old Ukrainian boy found my father hiding in the attic and called to his father who was working on the road, and how, despite my father's pleading, he called another Ukrainian and they made him come down. My sister Raisele z"l told me that while she also was hiding in the attic she heard how one of the murderers demanded our mother to hurry and come, and after her pleading fell on deaf ears, a shot rang out. Apparently she was killed next to the house, because they never took her to the killing place.

Similarly, I learned from Markel Forshpan, that they took my wife, Devorka, along with his family in a group of about ten, of which four managed to escape, among them my dear Devorka, z"l. This motivated me to escape so that I might be able to help my Devorka, if indeed we might manage to survive. We sat next to my father along with my sister, my brother Yankele and the wife of my brother Gershon with her 15-month old son [p. 107) and we contemplated our fate. As I have already told, the group that was organized to escape was caught and everyone of them had returned to their families. Suddenly, I heard a sound like someone jumping up and going over the fence, which we were sitting only several meters away from, and then right away I heard another jump. I began to crawl over to the fence, and on the way I woke up some people who had fallen asleep, among them Mattitiyahu, the wagon driver, and his son, who was always ready to go to battle against an entire village of thieves, and now only yelled at me about my having disturbed his sleep. He was completely apathetic to the entire affair. But he was not the last to fall into apathy.

p. 107 Escape from the Slaughter

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