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May 29: Radziwillow

May 28, 2015

PH2009031201262Fifteen hundred Jews were rounded up and slaughtered by the Nazis and Ukrainian paramilitaries in Radziwillow, Ukraine on this date in 1942. A group of five hundred young men led by Asher Czerkaski then broke out of the ghetto and reached the surrounding woods, but the great majority were soon hunted down and murdered. Fifty managed to reach the ghetto of Brody, but they, too, were later murdered. A Jewish community had existed in Radziwillow since the end of the 16th century, and had established contingents of the Bund and the Zionist movement by World War I, when the civil war between Ukrainian nationalists and the Bolshevisk brought heavy casualties to Ukrainian Jews. By 1939, when the Stalin-Hitler pact brought the city under Soviet rule, the Jewish population exceeded 3,000. When Germany invaded the USSR, groups of Jews retreated with the Red Army, but most were turned back at the old Soviet-Polish border and returned to Radziwillow.

“In October 1942, Anna [Oliwek] was just 18 years old when she fled the western Ukrainian town of Radziwillow with only the vaguest idea of where she was going; just 18 years old when she walked into a Nazi occupation headquarters with little more than an improbable tale and a facility for language; just 18 years old when she deceived the Nazis into believing her masquerade as the daughter of a German mother and Ukrainian father.... Within a month of escaping certain death in Radziwillow at the hands of a Nazi-led local killing squad, she had secured herself a job as a translator for the Wehrmacht’s military police, a sensitive position, a position of trust, a position reserved for a member of the German Volk, the German people.” —Steve Luxenberg, Annie’s Ghosts