THE MASSACRES OF TETIEV
(1) Evidence of Five Witnesses
The massacres of Tetiev commenced on March 26, 1920. At 3 p.m. some shots were fired on patrols in the town. The Commissar with his small detachment of red soldiers withdrew from the town. Seventeen men with Kurovsky at their head made their entry. Tchaikovsky, the Chief of the Militia, joined them with his men and they all started killing the Jews and setting fire to their houses without showing mercy to anybody.
Life could not be saved by any ransom. When large sums were offered the bandits took the money and massacred just the same. Not one person noticed by the bandits escaped with his or her life. The Jewish population has been hiding in cellars, in houses and in the synagogues. In one synagogue 2,000 persons sought safety. The bandits set fire to it and nearly all perished, a very few only escaped death. The witness who told us these facts stated that in all perhaps ten persons were saved, for whenever anybody jumped out of the window, he was instantly shot at. In one single cellar there were seventy persons, and they were all massacred. The number of killed exceeds 3,000 and all houses without exception were burned. The witness himself was in hiding in a cellar until Thursday morning. The cellar which contained nine persons in all, was then set on fire. When the smoke became suffocating the refugees left the cellar and found no bandits, but a local rough, Daniela Gergely, having noticed them went after them and killed two out of tbe nine. The witness and the others who were with him at the time then took refuge in another cellar where many sick persons were hiding. They remained there until Friday morning when the bandits broke into the cellar und robbed them of all they had. It was only thanks to a Russian neighbour, Lemar Levtchenko, who hearing the cries, came to their rescue, that at least their lives were saved.
After these events Kurovsky, who signed himself "Ataman Mazepa," issued an order forbidding any further massacres looting and incendiarism. On Friday night the harness maker, Levtchenko, took the witness and several other men into the shop of a Russian named Invalidov, where they stayed the night. On Saturday morning the witness was able to leave his hiding place, and, taking advantage of a moment of quietness, proceeded towards the synagogue. But he found that of the synagogue nothing remained except walls blackened by fire and a few charred bodies which it was no longer possible to identify. All around the place hands, feet and other human remnants were seen. Some local inhabitants began to come out into the streets so twenty Jews met, and having gathered the human remains and bones, intended to proceed towards the cemetery. But immediately there was a new panic. The massacres were resumed, and everybody again fled. On Sunday morning a detachment of Red soldiers from Pogrebichtche appeared and killed some of the bandits. The Jews who were hiding then commenced to come out again. The Red army took away all the Jewish survivors with them to Pogrebichtche. The report drawn up by the revolutionary Committee of Pogrebichtche contained the names of 1,603 Jews from Tetiev then at Pogrebichtche. On the road to Pogrebichtche these unfortunate refugees had a terrible time. They had to run most of the way under a hail of bullets which the bandits sent after the Red army. Many old men and children became exhausted and remained on the road, where the bandits afterwards shot them dead. We can give the names among others of Israel Tcherkis, Bobe Kalimag and Have Schwartz. Several children were trampled to death by the fugitives in the panic.
In the synagogue that was burned down was also the local Rabbi, Simon Rabinovitch. He was hiding in the loft of the synagogue. When the building was already in flames the Rabbi left the loft and placing himself by the reading desk recited psalms until he lost his reason, and began dancing and shouting incoherent words. At that moment some bandits entered the synagogue. Some of them were of opinion that he should be left alone, but others insisted that he was anyhow the head of the community and that he must be put to death, and so they despatched him.
At that moment there were still several men in the synagogue who were alive. The bandits demanded money of them. Thereupon one of the survivors, Joshua, the printer, made a collection and handed the money to the bandits. The bandits took the money and immediately killed Joshua and the rest of those who were still alive in the synagogue.
These facts were told us by a boy of 14, Welwel Kligman, who was lying under the victims in the synagogue and who managed to escape through a window. Shots were fired after him, but he was not hit.
THE MASSACRES OF TETIEV
(2) Report of Ch. Kuperschmiid
About the middle of March, 1920, in the village of Telebrentsy, rural parish of Tetiev, Kurovski, Ostrovski, Tchaikovski and other former Petlura officers, acting in conjunction with the Cooperative Union of Tetiev and the District Bank, which subsidized them, organized a band of twenty-five men. From there that band went to the neighbouring villages of Mikhailovka, Dzviniatcha, Dolgolevka, Zbarkhovka, Kochel, Roudoie-Selo, and Kachperovka; by that time it numbered forty-five men, who then attacked the township of Tetiev.
The officer Tchaikovski, who had remained at Tetiev on secret service, managed to be appointed chief of the Soviet militia. In that capacity he knew the paroles, and having removed the sentries stationed by the Commissar, he conducted the band right up to the Commissariat, surrounded it and opened fire. One of the bandits threw a bomb which hit the frame of a window and then fell back and wounded the man who threw it; he happened to be one Alexander Sagatuk, a native of the village of Telejentzy. This accident enabled the Red soldiers to beat back the attack of the bandits.
Next day the band again attacked Tetiev. The Red soldiers, not having sufficient men to offer effective resistance, especially as several of them went over to the bandits, were compelled to retire. After taking possession of Tetiev the bandits met to hear an impassioned address bidding them to massacre all the Jews, young and old, from infants of 2 to greybeards of 90—that would be their only way to secure peace. The address was delivered by Ostrovsky, a former Petlura officer. Raising two fingers he made all those who heard him take an oath that they would not spare a single Jew, and would not be seduced by any money.
After Ostrovsky's speech the bandits dispersed throughout the township and began a veritable orgy of murder, arson and looting. Without mercy they burnt and massacred everybody. In the synagogue all the lofts were full of Jews trying to hide. The insurgents surrounded the synagogue, set it on fire and let no one escape.
The following incident is typical. A Mr. Peker, who was very popular among the peasants, escaped from the burning synagogue. The bandits got hold of him and were going to cut him up with their sabres when some peasants came to his defence. Kurovsky, the head of the band, approached and said, "He may be the best of them, but since he is a Jew, he must be killed." And Peker was cut up into pieces.
All those who took refuge in the synagogue were burnt alive. Those who attempted to escape were killed with sabres, with rifles, with pitchforks or clubs. Infants were tossed up into the air and their bodies dashing against the pavement squirted blood on the murderers. Small children had their eyes put out. Patrols of soldiers were placed specially to stop and kill any Jews who managed to escape. Over a radius of several miles mounted patrols rode about for the same purpose. To this day hundreds of corpses are lying about in an advanced stage of decomposition in the neighbourhood of Tetiev.
A detachment of Red soldiers arrived from Pogrebichtche and was able to save some 1,500 Jews. The remainder, numbering more than 4,000, were killed to a man. There had been about 6,000 Jewish inhabitants in Tetiev.
On April 18 we were able to obtain the following information from a survivor who had remained at Tetiev all that time. Where Tetiev formerly was only ruins remain. Hundreds of corpses are scattered all over the little town; some were done to death by sabres and others burnt alive. The wells are all full of corpses. The bandits searched most carefully everywhere, and when they found in a cellar or similar place a Jew more dead than alive, or a sick child, they were killed without mercy. The Chief of Staff, Averko Kurovsky, a former Petlura officer, is a native of Tetiev. Through Tutunik Petlura charged him to form a corps and to march on Kieff. His second in command was Komashenko, a former schoolmaster of the village of Rossoshek. Michael Shiiatoshenko, and Elias Tchaikovski, officers commanding the cavalry, also are former Petlura officers. The insurgents had the active support of the Bank of Tetiev and of the local Poles.
The witnesses have set their signatures to attest the above facts.
(Here follow the signatures.)
Contributed by Stephen N. Roth
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