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Rēzekne and the Holocaust (Shoa)

Churbn Letlan: The Destruction of the Jews of Latvia

by Max Kaufman

This information comes from The Museum of Family History

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(b) Rezekne (Rositten) and Its Surroundings (Zilupe, Ludza, Kraslava, Preili etc.)

The small town of Rezekne, in which about 7,000 Jews lived, suffered great destruction because of the enemy's attacks. In the very first days after it was occupied, a Gestapo presence was established. But the local population did not even wait for the commands of the "conquerors"; it began its "work" immediately on its own initiative. All the Jews were locked up in the town prison and they had to go to work from there. A short time later a small group was taken from the prison to the Jewish cemetery of Rezekne. The local rabbi, R. Chaim Lubotzki, also received an "invitation" from the Gestapo. Instead of reporting to the Gestapo, he went directly to the cemetery. People said that he first went into the mikwe (bathhouse), and then put on his coat and talith. At the cemetery he met his children, among others. He comforted all those who were present and read a chapter of the Psalms. Then he turned to the German and Latvian murderers and assured them that there was no help for it, they would lose this war, whatever happened. Moreover, because of the destruction of Jewry, God's vengeance: would come down on them. Just as he turned toward his children to bid them farewell, a shot was fired. He ended his life with the words, "Schma..." from the prayer "Hear, 0 Israel". All of the others who had been taken to the cemetery were also killed.

It was said that a certain Simka Bersin defended himself with an axe when the Latvians tried to arrest him. He was very strong and with his axe he killed three men. After being overpowered, he was beheaded with his own axe.

Many of the Rezekne Jews were taken from the prison to the Viping forest. There, on Mount Zemena, they died a terrible death. They were thrown into the graves still half-alive, and the local Russian people said that the earth above the graves had continued to move for three more days.

In mid-1944 a commando of thirty men was taken from the Central Prison of Riga to the Rezekne prison. It was bound for the 1005 commando, or base commando. They worked in chains and had to burn the corpses and then clear away all the traces. After they had finished their "work", they themselves were murdered. People told me that my schoolmate lcchok Misroch was among those who died there.

The following incident shows the local people's attitude toward the Jews. A butcher whose shop was in the central market across from the prison grabbed a small Jewish child and literally tore it to pieces, in order to show the peasants who had gathered in the marketplace how to deal with the Jews.

Of all the Jews who were in Rezekne during the German occupation, only two men survived (Israelit). These two men had been hidden by a local Pole.

The roughly 350 Jews of Zilupe were assembled and led by the Latvians to the bridge about two kilometers outside the city. There all of them were killed without exception. Among those killed were the rabbi and the prominent Dreyer, Feinstein, and Aron families. The only person who resisted was David Deutsch, and for this reason the murderers beat him savagely and buried him half-alive. The prominent Lazer family was killed on the road to Tukums. They were burned alive in a synagogue. The children died in various other actions.