| Subscribe | Press Room | Store | Friends | Contact Us

Written Accounts

Article about the killing of Jews in Rēzekne Article about the killing of Jews in Rēzekne Haaretz, October 24, 1944

5,000 Jews were murdered in Rezhitsa [Rēzekne]
Moscow (Jewish Anti-fascist Committee, Ha’aretz Special Service).
Before the war the Latvian town of Rezhitsa (Rēzekne) had 6,000 Jewish residents among a population of 25,000 people. In the years that preceded the war the town grew and took pride in its many new buildings. Now Rezhitsa is unrecognizable. Four days before the Red Army marched into the town, German vandals set more than 70 percent of all the town’s buildings on fire. The main streets have became ruins.
Of the 5,000 Jews who remained in the town when the Germans invaded, only 3 were saved: Moti Tager, a 5-year-old boy, survivor of the murdered Tager family (his nurse Varushkina saved the boy); 57-year-old Chaim Izraelit and his 16-year-old nephew, Yakov Izraelit. Chaim and Yakov Izraelit were saved by the Polish Matusevič family, who sheltered them in their attic throughout the war.
The remaining Izraelit family members tell a horrifying story about the suffering and torture of the Rezhitsa Jews:
The Germans entered the town on July 3, 1941 and, on the fourth, started persecuting the Jews. All men from 18-60 years old were rounded up in the market’s square. 1,400 Jews were attacked and imprisoned and, on the same day [actually the next day], the strong and healthy among them were shot. Among the victims were Baruch Veksler, 35 years old; Mitya Mantoifel, 35 years old, Mordechai [Mordukh] Gassel, 30 years old, a pharmacist who swallowed poison before he could be shot. 18-year-old Yosl Silno tried to escape by swimming across the lake, but was hit by the Germans’ bullets and drowned. Before the shooting there were also brutal beatings.
After the first mass murder the fascists tortured dozens of Jews to death every day in the prisons. The prisoners were forced to bury the murder victims [in the Jewish cemetery]. Two survivors remember the event as follows: several Jews volunteered to bury Chaim Lotz, who died after being tortured in prison: among them were Yakov Izraelit’s brother Khanon Izraelit, Zuterman, Bash (a refugee from Riga) and a butcher from the [Latvian town of] Malta. After the burial the Germans shot and killed Khanon Izraelit and the ritual butcher from Malta, and ordered Bash and Zuterman to dig graves for them. The killing continued throughout July and August. Similar criminal acts were carried out in houses where Jewish women and children remained. Jewish houses were attacked every day. The Germans raped David’s Kuklya’s 17-year-old daughter in front of her mother. The girl died the next day.
The fascists burned all the synagogues in town. When an old Jew tried to save a Sefer Torah, a German kicked him in the stomach and the old man died immediately.
The Germans did not spare 25- [sic, for 75]-year-old rabbi Chaim Lubotski. At the end of July the fascists came to take the rabbi. He refused to come with them. “Tell me where to go, and I will go there myself,” he insisted. He was ordered to go to the Jewish cemetery. The Germans brought ten more Jews there, and murdered them along with the rabbi. Before his death the rabbi said: “Our end has come, but every one of your crimes shall be avenged…” then he started saying the confession [that a Jew says before his death]….
When the cemetery was filled with bodies, the Germans moved their killing site to the Anchipanski [Ančupani] Hills, five kilometers from the town. At that location they shot to death 18,000 Soviet prisoners of war. Over one hundred Jews were murdered at the Yaskivski [Leščinska] Mill.
The women’s turn came on the day of Tisha b’Av. The Germans forced their way into the houses and took the women and children to prison. Many of them were taken directly to the cemetery and shot. Twenty women were taken to a brothel and were shot a day later.
Horrifying sights took place at the prison. In the morning the executioners would pass through the cells and take several children at a time. The poor mothers begged, screamed, and fought the Hitlerists, but to no avail. The children were loaded onto trucks, taken to the cemetery or the hills, and buried alive.
On August 23 all the women from the prison were taken in 33 trucks to the Anchipanski Hills and were shot. Only a few Jews remained alive in Rezhitsa after this killing: the tailor Lotz, the tinsmith Treyzon, the brothers Yizhak and Zalman Peyris, the tanner Kopilov, the engineer Mulya Lifshits and his father Zalman (who died later at the age of 85). In 1943 they were also murdered. Before the Red Army arrived, the Germans exhumed and burned the bodies.
B. Hertzbach