A Vil­lage Named Dow­gal­ishok: The Mas­sacre at Radon and Eishishok

Avra­ham Aviel; Atalya Broide, trans.
  • Review
By – May 11, 2012
Blessed with a nat­ur­al nar­ra­tive flow, Aviel limns an idyl­lic por­trait of the Jew­ish agri­cul­tur­al vil­lage where he grew up, its neigh­bor­ing towns of Radon and Eishishok and the col­or­ful inhab­i­tants who lived there — all or almost all, Jew­ish. Their days were mea­sured by the rhythm of the sea­sons, the ser­vices and goods need­ed by the towns­peo­ple, the hol­i­days, and courtships. This qui­et and sim­ple life was marred from time to time by rumors of pogroms. As Nazi pro­pa­gan­da against the Jews grew, so did Poland — with its reli­gious fanati­cism — grow restive and ripe to launch phys­i­cal demon­stra­tions of its anti-Semi­tism. Aviel describes how the Red Army joined the Ger­mans in crush­ing Pol­ish resis­tance and occu­py­ing the towns, but the sol­diers were friend­ly. As Jew­ish refugees entered the town on their flight to Rus­sia, how­ev­er, there was much bru­tal­i­ty com­mit­ted, main­ly by the Lithua­ni­ans, against Jews who were caught try­ing to cross the bor­der. Even­tu­al­ly, a ghet­to was formed and those who could, escaped to the for­est. Sep­a­rat­ing, they avoid­ed death, but Aviel’s moth­er and broth­er were not so for­tu­nate. The rest of the book describes the strug­gle for exis­tence as they tried to gauge the sit­u­a­tion regard­ing which forces were advanc­ing, the Ger­mans or the Rus­sians. Some of his father’s farmer friends helped them to sur­vive in the dugout bunker they had made in the for­est. Some who had joined the Russ­ian resis­tance fought in the for­est. Imag­ine search­ing for bod­ies after the Ger­mans had left an area and rec­og­niz­ing friends and some­times fam­i­ly. The fact that any­one sur­vived was a mir­a­cle, but the wish to tes­ti­fy was strong, and act­ed as anoth­er impe­tus to hold on a lit­tle while longer. A strong­ly , but grace­ful­ly , writ­ten testimony.
Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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