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Chapter 4

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

Abyss of Despair

Rabbi Nathan Hanover

Bloch Publishing Company
New York, 5710‑1950

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please
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Chapter 6

 p50  V

The massacres of the holy community of Nemirow

The Oppressor Chmiel, may his name be blotted out, heard that many Jews had gathered in the holy community of Nemirow, and that they had a great deal of silver and gold with them. He knew that the holy community of Nemirow was distinguished for its great riches. It had been a great and important community replete with scholars and scribes, a city full of justice, the abode of righteousness, (but now they have been murdered).

Accordingly, Chmiel sent a leader, an enemy of the Jews, and about six hundred swordsmen with him, to attack this noble community. In addition, he wrote to the city heads to help the band. The city leaders readily responded to aid them with all their might and main. This they did, not so much because of their love of the Cossacks but because of their hatred of the Jews.

And it came to pass on a Wednesday, the 20th of Sivan,1 that Cossacks approached the city of Nemirow. When the Jews saw the troops from afar, their hearts trembled from fright, though they were not certain, as yet, whether they were Polish or Cossack. Nevertheless all the Jews went with their wives, and infants, with  p51 their silver and gold, into the fortress, and locked and barred the doors, prepared to fight them. What did those evil-doers, the Cossacks do? They devised flags like those of the Poles, for there is no other way to distinguish between the Polish and the Cossack forces except through their banners. The people of the city were fully aware of this trickery, and nevertheless called to the Jews in the fortress: "Open the gate. This is a Polish army which has come to save you from the hands of your enemies, should they come." The Jews who were standing guard on the wall, seeing that the flags were like those of Poland, believed that the people of the city had spoken the truth. Immediately they opened the gate. No sooner had the gate been opened than the Cossacks entered with drawn swords, spears and scythes, and some only with clubs, and they killed the Jews in large numbers. Women and young girls were ravished,2 but some of the women and maidens jumped into the moat surrounding the fortress in order that the uncircumcized should not defile them. They drowned in the waters. Many of them who were able to swim, jumped into water, believing they would escape the slaughter, but the Ukrainians swam after them with their swords and their scythes, and killed them in the water. Some of the enemy shot with their guns into the water, and killed them till the water became red with the blood of the slain.

The head of the rabbinical academy of Nemirow was also there. His name was, his excellency, our master and teacher, the rabbi; Rabbi Jechiel Michael, son of  p52 his excellency our teacher, Rabbi Eliezer,3 of blessed memory. He knew the whole of Rabbinic writings by heart and was proficient in all the worldly sciences. On the Sabbath before the catastrophe he preached and admonished the people that if the enemy should come (God forbid) they should not change their faith, but rather be martyred for the sanctification of His Name. This the holy people did. He also jumped into the water believing that he would save himself by swimming when a Ukrainian seized him and wanted to slay him, but the scholar implored him not to kill him, for which he would compensate him with a great deal of gold and silver. The Ukrainian consented and he led him to the house, where his silver and gold were hidden, and the Cossack released him. The Rabbi then left that place with his mother, and the two hid in a certain house all that night till the morning dawn.

On the morrow, the 22nd of Sivan, the Ukrainians searched the houses, suspecting that Jews might be hidden there. The Rabbi and his mother then fled to the cemetery. Thus, should they be killed they would receive burial. But it so happened that when they came near the cemetery, a Ukrainian shoemaker, one of the townspeople, pursued the Rabbi with club in hand and inflicted on him wounds. The Rabbi's mother pleaded with the Ukrainian to be killed instead of the son but the latter paid no attention and proceeded to kill first the Rabbi and then the mother, may God avenge their blood. Three days after the massacre the Rabbi's wife buried him, for in the town where the slaughter took  p53 place the majority of the women were spared, except for the old and feeble who were killed.

It happened there that a beauti­ful maiden, of a renowned and wealthy family, had been captured by a certain Cossack who forced her to be his wife. But, before they lived together she told him with cunning that she possessed a certain magic and that no weapon could harm her. She said to him: "If you do not believe me, just test me. Shoot at me with a gun, and you will see that I will not be harmed." The Cossack, her husband, in his simplicity, thought she was telling the truth. He shot at her with his gun and she fell and died for the sanctification of the Name, to avoid being defiled by him, may God avenge her blood.

Another event occurred when a beauti­ful girl, about to be married to a Cossack, insisted that their marriage take place in a church which stood across the bridge. He granted her request, and with timbrels and flutes, attired in festive garb, led her to the marriage. As soon as they came to the bridge she jumped into the water and was drowned for the sanctification of the Name. May God avenge her blood. These, and many similar events took place, far too numerous to be recorded. The number of the slain and drowned in the holy community of Nemirow was about six thousand. They perished by all sorts of terrible deaths, as has already been described. May God avenge their blood. Those of the holy community of Nemirow who escaped the sword fled to the holy community of Tulczyn, for there, outside the city, was a very strong fortress.

The Editor's Notes:

1 June 10, 1648.

2 Lamentations 5:11.

3 Author of "Shibre Luchoth" (Broken Tablets), Lublin 1680.

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Page updated: 9 Dec 22