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Rawa Ruska

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Rawa Ruska



Pre war image of Rawa Ruska

Rawa Ruska is located in the Lwow distrit, formerly it was part of Poland, but today it is part of the Ukraine. The first Jews arrived with the founding of the town in 1624, in the 18th Century they were subjected to restrictions and to heavy taxes under the Austrians from 1772.

The town developed as a stop-over on the Lwow – Warsaw railway line, the Jewish population increased from 3,878 to 6,112 in 1910, Jewish trade centred on egg marketing abroad, but they were also prominent as furriers and hat -makers, a Jewish stoneware factory declined with the advent of porcelain utensils.In 1884 a fire destroyed 234 Jewish homes and a Baron Hirsch school was founded in 1892, reaching an enrolment of 200 within six years, following the First World War was reduced by about 1,000.

Devastating fires struck the community again in 1923 and 1932, during the inter-war years the Jewish fur trade developed considerably with markets throughout Poland. The Soviet annexation of Poland which lasted from September 1939 to June 1941curtailed Jewish communal and commercial life, with the German invasion of Russia, the Germans captured the town on the 28 June 1941.

As a foretaste of things to come the local Ukrainian militia immediately executed 100 Jews and the Germans instituted a regime of forced labour and extortion. A Judenrat was established in July 1941 and in the spring of 1942 they were concentrated into a crowded ghetto area.

Shortly thereafter Rawa Ruska, as the county town, was incorporated into the Generalgouvernement, within the Distrikt Galizien, under the control of SS-Brigadefuhrer Dr Wachter. At the beginning of the German occupation there were no anti-Jewish measures in the town, however in the surrounding smaller towns such as Niemirow, Magierow, Sokal and Kulikov, German soldiers together with Ukrainian nationalists organised anti-Jewish pogroms.

German soldiers at Rawa Ruska

As part of increasing anti-Jewish restrictions the Jews were forced to wear armbands marked with the Star of David, premises were marked with a Jewish Star of David and used by the Germans to perform forced labour.

In mid-July 1941 a Jewish Council known as a Judenrat was established with Wastenberg as the President. During this time there was no closed ghetto in Rawa Ruska, Jews were allowed to live anywhere in the town, as they could before the occupation, there were no Gestapo or SD premises in Rawa Ruska but a Krimminalpolizei (KRIPO) office was there. In August 1941 the Germans demanded monetary contributions from the Jews of Rawa Ruska, the advocate Dr Jozef Mandel opposed the Germans’ orders and refused to give them the Jews for forced labour and the money they demanded.

Members of the German Security Services (SD) from Sokal arrived in Rawa Ruska and arrested 15 members of the Jewish intelligentsia, as well as Dr Mandel. He was taken out of the town at night, as the Germans were concerned that the population might resist. As a hostage Dr Mandel was taken to Krakow where he was incarcerated in the notorious Montelupich prison, his niece Erna Weinberger, nee Hartel from Gorlice sent him a food parcel in August 1941. Dr Mandel died in Montelupich Prison from typhus circa December 1941.

The first “aktion” in Rawa Ruska was organised at the end of March 1942, which saw the arrival of SD men from Sokal who combined with Ukrainian police, armed with lists, arrested about 1,000 Jews who were gathered in the square outside the Kripo office in the centre of the town. The “aktion” was conducted without brutality, the arrested people – mainly elderly men and women had no idea what was happening and where they were being taken. They were led to the railway station and loaded onto a waiting train, 100 Jews in every cattle car all of them were deported to the newly established death camp at Belzec.

Jews in the ghetto at Rawa Ruska

From the beginning of 1942 the Jews in Rawa Ruska heard rumours about the construction of a camp in Belzec, but nobody knew of the true nature of this establishment. During the first days after the first mass deportation the Jews were unaware of the fate of the deportees, but a few days afterwards an elderly woman who had hidden in a latrine on the camp grounds escaped and returned to the town and informed the local population of the fate and that Belzec meant death. The next “aktion” took place on the 27 July 1942, when SD men from Sokal, just as before, arrived in Rawa Ruska. Panic spread throughout the town, many Jews tried to hide.

For the first time the Germans forced the Jewish Police to take part in the deportation aktion,” units were organised so that one SD man, one Ukrainian policeman and one Jewish policeman had to control the searches on a single street. People were taken from their houses and hiding places, this time there were no selections and about 2,000 people were arrested, and unlike the first “aktion” which had been conducted quite peacefully, the Jews were beaten at the assembly place and on the way to the Rawa Ruska railway station. The destination was the same as the first transport, the death camp at Belzec.

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   The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2011

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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