Historical Background

During the interwar period, about 600 Jews lived in Rafalowka, accounting for approximately one-third of the townlet’s population. Some were petty merchants and artisans, a number owned a sawmill, and still others were wholesalers. The community boasted a savings-and-loan association, a Tarbut school that taught in Hebrew, a cultural center, and chapters of Zionist parties.

During the era of Soviet rule that began in September 1939, many Jewish refugees from central and western Poland settled in Rafalowka.

The Soviets retreated from the area on July 4, 1941. A Ukrainian administration and police force were established in the townlet. Its agents looted Jewish property and drafted Jews for forced labor.

The Germans entered Rafalowka in late July 1941. They forced the Jews to remit ransoms and set up a Judenrat, which included representatives from two nearby Jewish farming hamlets, Olizarka and Zoludzk.

The Rafalowka ghetto was established on May 1, 1942. Jews from Olizarka, Zoludzk, and villages in the vicinity were brought in, raising its population to approximately 2,500.

In July 1942, sixty Jewish forced laborers were murdered outside of the townlet.

On August 29, 1942, the Rafalowka ghetto was liquidated, and 2,250 Jews were taken to pits on the road to Suchowola, where they were murdered. Dozens escaped to forests and villages, where Polish peasants and Ukrainian Baptists assisted them. Some young people formed fighting units and later joined the Soviet partisans.

About thirty of Rafalowka’s Jews survived.