Lyubar KehilaLinks



Lyubar, Ukraine

4955' N /2745' E
205 km WSW of Kyyiv, 47 miles WSW of Zhytomer,
37 miles W of Berdychiv, 17 miles SE of Polonnoye





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Efim ZEIDENBERG's "It Was in Lyubar"
Translated from Russian by Rita ZAPRUDSKY


No. 8 June 1997


The small town of Lyubar is situated in a beautiful location on both sides of the river Sluch, 80 kilometers west of Zhitomir.

Five hundred years ago the Jews from Lyubar used to pray in a wooden synagogue built in 1491. At the beginning of the 20th century, in this small village, were nine synagogues, a Talmud Torah, a Jewish theater, a Jewish hospital, a Jewish school and 116 small stores. There were many craftspeople, educated Jewish people - doctors, teachers, actors, musicians.

In Lyubar lived 7,000 Jewish people. The revolution had given them the opportunity to live where they wanted, to study (many of them left Lyubar), and books and newspapers were published in Yiddish.

In 1938 I graduated from the 4th grade in the Jewish school and my parents moved me to the New Lyubar Ukrainian middle school. My parents thought that if I were knowledgeable in both Ukrainian and Russian I could enter any university. In the same year the Jewish school was closed. Fourteen years old I graduated 7th grade and WWII started. The war took 50 million lives and 6 million were killed because they were Jewish. On the 22nd of June fascists bombed fuel tanks and homes. Not all the people were able to evacuate. There was not enough transportation to evacuate and people did not have the money and some of them did not have permission to leave their jobs. Many just walked out from the town but then they returned back, because they found the roads were closed by the German paratroopers. Some of them did not leave because they didn't believe that the Germans would kill them.

Near Lyubar for several hours the people heard the shooting and the bomb explosions. My parents and I and my sister were hidden in the basement of a brick house of our neighbors, Aaron and Meyer BALKE. When the shooting ended the fascists on their motorcycles entered the town and started to rob the Jewish homes. On July 6, 1941 Lyubar was occupied. In a few days all the despicable low-life and bandits wore Politsai uniforms and their commander was a teacher from the school, F. U. KEYAN. The burgomaster of the town became a German language teacher, KUDEMOV.

In the center of the town the Germans erected signs where the Jews could not walk and starvation started. Children from the ghetto began to sneak in houses where the Ukrainian, Russian and Polish people lived and tried to barter clothing for food. But the Politsai caught them and took everything away. Many Ukrainian people wanted to give food to their friends in the ghetto but the Politsai didn't let them come close.

Saturday morning, August 9th, they assembled 300 men, which they had previously used in labor, and brought them to the village Urovka, on the outskirts of a grove Ladeva Velshana. They wanted them to dig a pit and by the end of the day they shot all of them and threw them into this hole. Among those killed was my father Meyer Itskovich ZEIDENBERG.

Insults were continuing. At night drunken Politsai forced open the doors of Jewish homes and robbed and beat the occupants. The little town was appalled.

We had a cow, which in the morning I used to take out to graze on the outskirts of the ghetto on the bank near the river. On September 13th of 1941 when I came to the river I heard open shooting coming from the town. I stopped the cow and started to run to the village Karan. With me was my friend Sheka who was my age. We hid in a meadow among the tall haystacks. But we heard screaming and crying people which were being taken from their homes and taken to a place where they were killed. In the second part of the day everything was quiet. We saw them pillage the homes and depart to the neighboring villages. It was understandable that all the Jews of Lyubar had been killed.

The next day in the morning after losing my mother, sister and all of my relatives, Sheka and I headed toward Ostropol where Sheka's relatives lived. In this town the Jews were still alive but we understood that the same fate will happen to them as what happened to the people of Lyubar and we decided not to stay. We walked but did not know where we were going. In the village of Provalovka we were stopped by a peasant. He was without one leg. He promised to bring something for us to eat. The peasant went into his house and came back with a rifle and he drove us into a shed and he locked the door. When night came we pushed the door and through the small crack we escaped. Someone saw us but we ran to the cornfield and hid. The field was surrounded and the people found us and put us back into the shed with a sentry outside. The next day they took us and a woman, Pesya from Lyubar, to the Lyubar police. There were fifty Jewish people assembled there already who had run away and had been caught. We were all locked in a school building and we were placed under guard and taken to do labor. Everyday they found other escapees and brought them to the school. We slept on the floor on rotten hay. No one fed us but we were beaten and they killed some of the people just for fun. Then they transferred us to a building, which used to be an orphanage, and we were under surveillance.

All the Jewish homes had been emptied. I found an opportunity to walk into my home but nothing was there. On the floor were pieces of china and torn pictures. There were no mementos for me to take. All my family and relatives (23 people) were killed near Peschane. On September 13th nearly 2,000 Jewish people were killed and buried in the pit where sand was taken from. And I remained alone.

We had one acquaintance, a friend of my father's, Fredl KOLTUN, who also lost all of his family. He was a milliner. He used to take me to work with him like a helper. Tailors, shoemakers and milliners used to work in a building where there had previously been a recruiting office. They were used to sew uniforms and make shoes for the Politsai. They let the children go out to obtain food from acquaintances. But we were warned that if we did not come back they would kill the adults. In the last days of October, before we finished out work, the Politsai from Chudnov came and took us to an orphanage home. No one was allowed to speak to us as we left. That evening we were not killed because they couldn't collect all of the Jewish workers. They held us in a couple of rooms and we slept on the floor which was covered with rotten hay. On the last evening we were put together in one room and the Politsai asked us to kneel. Drunken policemen insulted us and beat us. Young women and girls were raped. They cut the nose off a Jewish baker by the name of Lev. We all understood that there was going to be an end for all of us but we did not talk about it.

We lived on the second floor. One night I sat near an open window and I decided that I needed this window to run away. So I went down the drainpipe and ran away. The Politsai did not see me leaving. In the morning all the inhabitants of the house (250 people) were killed. It was how all the Jewish population of Lyubar was humiliated (about 3,000 people). Most of them were women, children, elderly, sick and invalids (they were defenseless). Among them were the mother and sister of a Jewish poet, Aaron VERGELES.

After I ran away I came to the village Glezno, which was 10 kilometers from Lyubar. Over there lived an acquaintance of our family, Uchem and his wife Baselena. They let me in their home and I washed and changed my clothes. They fed me and hid me in a cattle barn because they were afraid of their neighbors. It became cold and frost appeared. Uchem and Baselena gave me warm clothing, some food and suggested that I go to the East towards the front line. I followed their suggestion, although before the war I had never left Lyubar and had never seen a train. I came to the railway station in Pechanovka and I continued to walk along the side of the railroad tracks. In the distance I saw the smoke of the train approaching. In this way I walked until I entered Kiev. It was winter but the Dnepr was not covered with ice yet. I couldn't get to the other side of the river because there was no ice and the bridge had been demolished. The pontoon bridge was being watched by the Politsai. I lived in Kiev for a couple of days near Pecherskoy Lavre in a cell given to me by a single monk who gave me shelter and never asked me any questions about myself. But I felt he knew who I was.

In Kiev there was starvation and I decided to go to the western part of the Ukraine because in the small town of Varkovichy lived my mother's sister - Aunt Sarra OSOVSKAYA. It was difficult to find houses for me to sleep at night but homes were found and in these houses I learned that not all of the Jews were killed in Western Ukraine. I decided to walk along the railroad tracks. It was very hard to find food but mostly I ate frozen beets and I hid from the Politsai and the Germans. I was scared, hungry and fearful that I had no hope to survive but I reached Varkovichy. The ghetto had barbed wire surrounding it but the security was lax and my Aunt Sarra was not in this town.

I went to the town of Jornovo, the town was a few kilometers from the highway between Rovno and Dubno. I went to one of the houses and asked them for permission to sleep there that night. I told them my name was Fyodor Mikitovich ZAKHAROV and I used my initials (ZEIDENBERG Efim Meerovich). I told them that I had run away on my way to a German labor camp. They allowed me to stay overnight and in the morning the owners, Vasil and Katya GOROBETS, said that I could remain and help them and they in return would give me food. They were good to me but I was afraid to sleep at night because I worried that in my sleep I would speak Yiddish.

It was a difficult time because during the nights Bandera (bandits) used to come to this town and they agitated the people and told them not to give bread to the Germans. In the daytime the Germans came and asked the people for bread. Most of the people hid when the Germans came to the town. But the Germans took the cows, horses and pigs and they promised to burn the community if they were not given bread. They burned a couple of the streets.

The Bandera told us that soon the Germans will be defeated and that is why they are so furious. Many times the owners and I hid in a ditch in the garden. The ditch was dug and camouflaged by the owners.

In this condition I lived from January 1942. In September of 1943 guerilla fighters went through the town. Many prisoners of the war, who were laborers to the people, left with the guerillas and those who remained began to escape because they were fearful that the Bandera would kill them.

I started to make my way to the East. I went along the railroad tracks through Polesye. My fellow travelers were different people. Through the forests I came to Chernobyl and from there in November of 1943 I was in Kiev, which was free from the Germans by this time.

After the war ended I went to Lyubar and I found out that besides me that the people who had run away from the ghetto and survived were Polya KANTOR, Esther GOLTSMAN, Fishel SHMAIGER, his sister Anya SHMAIGER-KIYANOVSKAYA and Boris SHRAER. The Jewish small town had disappeared. The survivors for fourteen years asked the government to place a memorial on the site where their relatives and countrymen had perished. But I will tell you about this story later.

In 1972 on the site where the people were killed a monument was erected and it was inscribed "To the Soviet People - Victims of Fascism 1941-1945 years". In 1990 above this inscription on the granite monument they chiseled a Mogen David. It is all what remains from this Jewish town. And also there remains the old Jewish cemetery with the overturned and broken matseivas (Hebrew head stones). This cemetery was overgrown with a thicket and on this site was built a gas power station which regulated the flow of natural gas.

I want this story to be a lasting memory of the innocent victims who were killed and lie on the outskirts of Lyubar in the sandpits in the groves of Peschany and Ladeva Velshana.

We who survived should save our roots in the hope that our future generations will inherit this responsibility. Let the All Mighty save them from the grief that we experienced.


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