MEMORIES OF THE IVYE GHETTO
THROUGH THE EYES OF A 16 YEAR-OLD BOY
By: Elimelech (Misha) Melamed
On June 22, 1941, the German army invaded the town of Ivye.
That same morning, the Soviet Foreign Minister, Molotov, made his famous speech in which he announced that Nazi Germany had treacherously invaded the Soviet Union. The Red Army went on the defensive and war was declared.
I was 151/2 at the time and I followed what was happening with great apprehension. Towards the end of that week, the town of Ivye was bombed by German planes. On June 30th, German troops entered the town, and the next day the Germans ordered all Jewish men to report for hard, physical labor. I worked at cleaning German Army cannons and I was witness to the abuse meted out to teachers from the Hebrew Tarbut school.
On August 2, 1941 (Tisha B’Av), the Germans ordered all the Jews, aged 16 to 60, to report to the market square. Then, for about 6 hours they selected 220 men - spiritual leaders, teachers, pharmacists and communists (with the exception of doctors), who had been marked by Polish collaborators, loaded them on trucks and executed them, only a few kilometers from the town, near the village of Stuneivitz. At that time, we did not know that they had all been executed, since the Germans claimed that they were being transported to work in the West.
In September 1941, the Germans announced a "Jewish residential area”.
The 12th of May, 1942 was the most awful and tragic day in the history of Jewish settlement in Ivye. In the morning, they assembled all the Jews in the square once more, mostly women, old people and children. I was with my family: my father, Dr. Izak Melamed, my mother – Emma Melamed, my grandmother on my mother’s side – Sarah Krishtal, my older brother – Efraim (Fima) 19 years old, my sister – Aviva, 7 years old and myself, 16.
In the distance we could hear the sounds of shooting from machine-guns and rifles.
All our property and that of the other families had been collected by the Germans and we were concentrated into the Ghetto, surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. After we settled in, the Polish police burst into the Ghetto and grabbed about 50 youth, including my brother Efraim and myself. They gave us spades and under heavy guard, they led us in the direction of the Stuneivitz village. There, a terrible sight was revealed to us. About 2,500 naked bodies of women, men and children were lying in pits. Some of them,
still showing signs of life were shot in cold blood by the Polish and German police. I recognized some of the victims - friends, neighbors and their children. The shock was enormous. We were ordered to cover the pits with chlorine and earth. At dusk, we returned to the Ghetto, broken and exhausted.
Escape From the Ghetto
An underground organization was formed in the Ghetto, headed by Moshe Kaganovitz, my father Dr. Izak Melamed, Moshe Stotzki and Kalmanovitz, Deputy Commander of the Jewish police. The aims of the underground were: to obtain weapons, to make contact with partisan units in the forests, to try to escape from the Ghetto, to join the partisans and to fight and take vengeance on the Nazi enemy. Young people, myself included, joined the underground with great enthusiasm.
On December 31, 1942, the Germans surrounded the Ivye Ghetto. Already experienced and frightened, my brother and I decided to go into hiding together, in a trench in the ground at our neighbors. In common parlance, this hiding place was called a "melina”. At midnight I left the hiding-place to discover what was happening in the Ghetto. Patrols of Germans and Polish police marched along the fences. A few minutes elapsed between each patrol, during which it would be possible to try and crawl under the fence. This I told to those who were hiding and most of them decided to try to escape from the Ghetto. A group of 12 people managed to crawl under the fence, in groups of 2-3 people each time.
We started to walk in the deep snow and we reached the village of Mishokovitz. One of the girls who was with us lived in this village and knew the residents, and my mother knew a village woman called Marila. The group dispersed into different houses in the village and we – my mother, my brother and I, entered Marila’s house. At first she was very frightened, but afterwards she calmed down. After we had given her money and gifts, she agreed to go to Ivye to find our father, Dr. Melamed, who had remained in the Ghetto. (Father, my sister and grandmother had hidden in another hiding-place in the Ghetto, and when we fled we were unable to find them.) Mother asked Marila to tell them to try to escape and join us.
The following day, January 2,1943, they arrived. Father told us that on the night that the Germans surrounded the Ghetto, about 400 additional people managed to escape, some of whom were armed.
The first meeting with the Partisans
After a few days stay in Mishokovitz, we moved to the larger village of Mikoleyev. A former patient of father’s offered to hide us until the end of the war. We politely rejected his offer and asked him to help us meet the partisans who were in the vicinity. A few days later, 5 partisans of the Stalin Brigade arrived, led by Yasha Horoshiyev, the Company Commander. Efraim and I immediately joined his company and father was appointed the head doctor of one of the Stalin Brigade battalions.
After a short training period, I received a rifle and 50 bullets. I thought that I could avenge the horrors which had been perpetrated against my people and I was prepared to lay down my life in the fight against the Nazis.
A large number of the youth who escaped from the Ivye Ghetto on the night of December 31 joined various partisan units, which operated in the Naliboki Forests. Many joined the Jewish Bielski Battalion and the majority of them actively participated in the struggle against the Nazis and their collaborators. They excelled as scouts, saboteurs and section and platoon commanders. Some of them died in battle.
My brother Efraim was killed in the line of duty as his battalion’s scout, in battle against the Nazis during the siege, at the end of July 1943. He was 20 years old at the time of his death.
May his memory and the memory of all the fallen, be blessed.
In December 1967 I was invited to Maintz, Germany, to serve as a witness against Leopold Vindish and Rudolph Verner, the perpetrators of the Ivye massacre.
Rudolph Verner died in prison and Leopold Vindish was sentenced to life imprisonment.