One of the most gruelling, if not compelling Testimony’s on the human disregard for another human life which has ever been delivered anywhere by anyone, has been afforded to us all by a Woman, and not just any Woman. For Rivka Yosselevska is a Jew, a Mother, a Daughter and a Grandchild, and such is the delivery of the atrocity she describes, the suggestion of any humanity that supposedly civilises us is put into question.
Her vivid memory, of the scene in a ravine close by to her home in Mizoscz, delivers her terrifying account and shakes the very bedrock of the term humanity. For me, nothing accosts my sense of humanity more than the thought that any human being can so disregard another Human Beings life, they steal it, take it away from them or destroy it. Given the gravest depravity ever witnessed in all of History, The Holocaust provides ample proof that humanity has been mortally scarred by what we have come to learn of its passage through our time.
So while I relay barely an essence of what Rivka has borne through her life as a Survivor, No one, and I mean absolutely No one must see in The Holocaust other than the condemnation for those who committed these crimes. That the very shameful display of disregard, intolerance and even indifference to the Jewish struggle, and not just for life, but for the entirety of Jewish existence itself, marks this single episode as one amongst the many we have even as yet failed to identify.
Here I stand before History though, to attest to what the shameful disregard for human life must look like and what the 6,000,000 Slaughtered Jews would resemble on any given day and within any place of extermination and annihilation. We should have no place within that shameful delivery of atrocity upon atrocity, other than as the final witnesses to the descent of all humanity into that abyss, as accusers of the perpetrator’s. What I present here, the evidence of just one dark scene, so despairing, is at Mizoscz in the Volhynia, close to Rovno, Rowne.
This depiction though is merely a fraction of what is contained within that overall abyss which swallowed not just 6,000,000 Jews but what civilisation represents and culture here denegrates. Mizoscz is a town of some 2,000 Jews, in existence as a Town for Jews since the 1700’s and which soon became 1,700 Jews as with the arrival of the Germans on June 27th. 1941, 300 Jews moved to the Russia side of the border. Life for the Jews here was not to be a pleasant one and accounts of atrocity are as similar as they were to be found, wherever the Germans entered into a Shtetl, Village, Town or City where the Jewish People sought to reside.
The Hitlerite search for Lebensraum was the camouflage by which The Final Solution of The Jewish Question would be led. There were pockets of Jewish resistance in the Town and these were continuous, and depending on the application of its interpretive meaning, or which one wishes to give to it, set the Jews of Mizoscz on a headlong confrontation with the German capacity for cruelty, bitterness, assault and Jewish death. But, what flared in the Ghetto on October 14th. 1942, was open and direct but was swiftly quashed by an Einsatz detachment which left 200 Jews Dead.
The remainder of the Jewish People of Mizoscz, mostly Women and Children and the Elderly were taken to be Slaughtered in a ravine that was close by the sugar factory outside the town on the way toward Rovno. Here, and in the depths of deep despair, Rivka Yosselevska holds out a human hand to assist a fellow human being who is almost crushed by the weight of the crimes that have been cascading down upon her. But please, while you must be prepared to be disgusted or repelled by what Rivka has to inform us of, kindly save all that will disgust us for those who stood over the Jews and perpetrated these most despicable crimes.
What history has taught us, in what has been our civilising influence for more than 10,000 years, stands before us now in this ravine. It is a crime which desecrates the very terms of any humanity, and in the most vicious, callous and depraved atrocity ever to be recorded, it is presented. Its very record, which Rivka delivered for posterity, remains as a warning that has been little heeded over these past 80 years or so. However, that the very atrocity was delivered by human beings against fellow Human Beings, which is striking enough, in its retelling here, the requirement of Jewish Survival is met.
That is what is deserving, in that it is a Jewish Surviving Human Being who recognised the ultimate importance in informing us. That the Testimony to human endurance and capacity to Survive, which belongs to Rivka Yosselvska, is not only to credit a Woman, a Mother, a Daughter and a Grandchild who is also a Jew who Survived, but for any Jew who Survived at all against all odds and intentions.
“..We were told to leave ..houses ..to take with us only ..Children. We were always used to leaving Ghetto at short order ..because very often they would take us all out for a roll call. Then we would all appear. But we felt and realised that this was not an ordinary roll call ..but something very special. As if ..Angel of Death was in charge. ..place was swarming with Germans. Some 4 to 5 Germans to every Jew. ..They already took all we had. ..And thus ..Children screamed. They wanted food ..water. This was not ..first time. But we took nothing with us. We had no food ..no water ..and we did not know ..reason. ..Children were hungry and thirsty. We were held this way for 24 hours while they were searching ..houses all ..time ..searching for valuables. In ..meantime ..gates of ..Ghetto were opened. A large truck appeared and all of us were put on to ..truck ..either thrown ..or went up. ..they were counted. They entered ..Ghetto again ..and searched for every missing person. We were tortured until late in ..evening. Those for whom there was no room in ..truck were ordered to run after ..truck. l had my daughter in my arms and ran after ..truck. There were mothers who had 2 or 3 Children and held them in their arms ..running after ..truck. We ran all ..way. There were those who fell ..we were not allowed to help them rise. They were shot ..right there ..wherever they fell. When we reached ..destination ..People from ..truck were already down and they were undressed ..all lined up. All my family was there ..undressed ..lined up. ..People from ..truck ..those who arrived before us. There was a kind of hillock. At ..foot of this little hill ..there was a dugout. We were ordered to stand at ..top of ..hillock and ..4 devils shot us ..each one of us separately. ..They were SS men ..four of them. They were armed to ..teeth. They were real messengers of ..Devil and ..Angel of Death. ..When I came up to ..place ..we saw People ..naked ..lined up. But we were still hoping that this was only torture. Maybe there is hope ..hope of living. One could not leave ..line ..but I wished to see ..what are they doing on ..hillock. Is there anyone down below. I turned my head and saw that some 3 or 4 rows were already killed ..on ..ground. There were some 12 People among ..dead. I also want to mention what my child said while we were lined up in ..Ghetto ..she said ..Mother ..why did you make me wear ..Shabbat dress ..we are being taken to be shot. and when we stood near ..dug out near ..grave ..she said ..Mother ..why are we waiting ..let us run. Some of ..young people tried to run ..but they were caught immediately ..and they were shot right there. It was difficult to hold on to ..Children. We took all Children not ours ..and we carried them ..we were anxious to get it all over ..suffering of ..Children was difficult ..we all trudged along to come nearer to ..place and to come nearer to ..end of ..torture of ..Children. ..Children were taking leave of their Parents and Parents of their elder People. We were driven ..we were already undressed ..clothes were removed and taken away ..our Father did not want to undress ..he remained in his underwear. We were driven up to ..grave ..this shallow. When it came to our turn ..our Father was beaten. We prayed ..we begged with my Father to undress ..but he would not undress ..he wanted to keep his underclothes. He did not want to stand naked. ..Then they tore off ..clothing off ..old man and he was shot. I saw it with my own eyes. And then they took my Mother ..and we said ..let us go before her ..but they caught Mother and shot her too ..and then there was my Grandmother ..my Father’s Mother ..standing there ..she was 80 years old and ..had 2 Children in her arms. And then there was my Father’s Sister. She also had Children in her arms and she was shot on ..spot with ..babies in her arms. And finally my turn came. There was my younger Sister ..and she wanted to leave ..she prayed with ..Germans ..she asked to run ..naked ..she went up to ..Germans with one of her friends ..they were embracing each other ..and she asked to be spared ..standing there naked. He looked into her eyes and shot the 2 of them. They fell together in their embrace ..2 young girls ..my Sister and her young friend. Then my second Sister was shot and then my turn did come. We turned towards ..grave and then he turned around and asked ..Whom shall I shoot first. We were already facing ..grave. ..German asked ..Whom do you want me to shoot first. I did not answer. I felt him take ..Child from my arms. ..Child cried out and was shot immediately. And then he aimed at me. First he held on to my hair and turned my head around ..I stayed standing ..I heard a shot ..but I continued to stand and then he turned my head again and he aimed ..revolver at me and ordered me to watch and then turned my head around and shot at me. Then I fell to ..ground into ..pit amongst ..bodies ..but I felt nothing. ..moment I did feel I felt a sort of heaviness and then I thought maybe I am not alive any more ..but I feel something after I died. I thought I was dead ..that this was ..feeling which comes after death. Then I felt that I was choking ..people falling over me. I tried to move and felt that I was alive and that I could rise. I was strangling. I heard ..shots and I was praying for another bullet to put an end to my suffering ..but I continued to move about. I felt that I was choking ..strangling ..but I tried to save myself ..to find some air to breathe ..and then I felt that I was climbing towards ..top of ..grave above ..bodies. I rose ..and I felt bodies pulling at me with their hands ..biting at my legs ..pulling me down ..down. And yet with my last strength I came up on top of ..grave ..and when I did ..I did not know ..place ..so many bodies were lying all over ..dead people ..I wanted to see ..end of this stretch of dead bodies but I could not. It was impossible. They were lying ..all dying ..suffering ..not all of them dead ..but in their last sufferings ..naked ..shot ..but not dead. Children crying
..I could not stand on my feet. Germans were gone. There was nobody there. No one standing up. I was naked ..covered with blood ..dirty from ..other bodies ..with ..excrement from other bodies which was poured on to me. When I was shot I was wounded in ..head. I have a scar to this day from ..shot by ..Germans ..and yet ..somehow I did come out of ..grave. This was something I thought I would never live to recount. I was searching among ..dead for my little girl ..and I cried for her ..Merkele was her name ..Merkele. There were Children crying
but they were all smeared with blood and one could not recognize ..Children. I cried for my daughter. From afar I saw 2 women standing. I went up to them. They did not know me ..I did not know them ..and then I said who I was ..and then they said
..So you survived. And there was another woman crying ..Pull me out from amongst ..corpses ..I am alive ..help.
We were thinking how could we escape from ..place. ..cries of ..Woman ..Help ..pull me out from ..corpses. We pulled her out ..her name was Mikhlya Rozenberg. We removed ..corpses and ..dying people who held on to her and continued to bite. She asked us to take her out ..to free her ..but we did not have ..strength. And thus we were there all night ..fighting for our lives ..listening to ..cries and ..screams and all of a sudden we saw ..mounted Germans. We did not notice them coming in because of ..screamings and ..shootings from ..bodies around us. ..Germans ordered that all ..corpses be heaped together into one big heap and with shovels they were heaped together ..all ..corpses ..among them many still alive ..Children running about ..place. I saw them. I saw ..Children. They were running after me ..hanging on to me. Then I sat down in ..field and remained sitting with ..Children around me. ..Children who got up from ..heap of corpses. Then Germans came and were going around ..place. We were ordered to collect all ..Children ..but they did not approach me ..and I sat there watching how they collected ..Children. They gave a few shots and ..Children were dead. They did not need many shots. ..Children were almost dead ..and this Rozenberg woman pleaded with ..Germans to be spared ..but they shot her. They all left ..Germans and ..nonJews from around ..place. They removed ..machine guns and they took ..trucks. I saw that they all left ..and ..four of us ..we went on to ..grave ..praying to fall into ..grave ..even alive ..envying those who were dead already and thinking what to do now. I was praying for death to come. I was praying for ..grave to be opened and to swallow me alive. Blood was spurting from ..grave in many places ..like a well of water ..and whenever I pass a spring now ..I remember ..blood which spurted from ..ground ..from that grave. I was digging with my fingernails ..trying to join ..dead in that grave. I dug with my fingernails ..but ..grave would not open. I did not have enough strength. I cried out to my Mother ..to my Father. Why did they not kill me. What was my sin. I have no one to go to. I saw them all being killed. Why was I spared. Why was I not killed. And I remained there ..stretched out on ..grave ..3 days and 3 nights. l saw no one. I heard no one. Not a farmer passed by. After 3 days ..shepherds drove their herd on to ..field ..and they began throwing stones at me ..but I did not move. At night ..herds were taken back and during ..day they threw stones believing that either it was a dead woman or a mad woman. They wanted me to rise ..to answer. But I did not move. ..shepherds were throwing stones at me until I had to leave ..place. I hid near ..grave. A farmer passed by ..after a number of weeks. l was with them until ..very end.” Rivka Yosselevska.