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Chapter 5

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
let me know!


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Chapter 7

 p54  VI

The massacres of the holy community of Tulczyn

And it came to pass after the evil doings in the holy community of Nemirow, that a band of about ten thousand men, scoundrels, and hooligans, assembled together under the leader­ship of the oppressor of the Jews, Krzywonos,1 may his name and memory be blotted out. They proceeded from there to the holy community of Tulczyn, for there, in the fortress were assembled some six hundred Polish troops and with them were gathered some two thousand Jews. Among the latter were also trained soldiers and seasoned warriors. The Jews and the nobles made a covenant to help each other in the struggle against their common enemy, and took an oath not to betray one another. They reinforced the fort, and, armed with all kinds of weapons, the Jews and the nobles took their posts on the ramparts. Each time the Ukrainians drew near the fortress, the defenders on the wall shot at them with arrows and bullets, inflicting heavy losses on them. They fled from the Jews, and the latter summoned courage and pursued them, killing hundreds of their men.

The Ukrainians assembled again, and together with the villagers and the inhabitants of the nearby communities,  p55 numbering in the thousands and tens of thousands, stormed the fortress. They employed iron battering rams to pierce the wall. With wild shouts and strange yelling, characteristic of the Cossacks, they made a sudden attack on the wall. When those stationed on the wall saw the multitude, their hearts trembled. Yet they continued to shoot from the wall and did not allow them to come near it. This time too, the Jews repulsed them.

After a lapse of several days the Ukrainians took counsel together and agreed to send a peace offer to the nobles in the fortress. They would conclude a truce on condition that the Jewish spoil be delivered to them as a ransom for their lives. This they did, and a message of peace was sent to the nobles in the fortress. The nobles immediately agreed to accept the offer. They sent for the Jews to disarm them on behalf of until all were disarmed. The Jews understood the trickery and wanted to lay hand upon the nobles first, and to rise against them, since they were the first to betray the covenant. But the president of the Rabbinical Academy of the holy community of Tulczyn, the scholar, our teacher and Master, Rabbi Aaron, cried aloud to the Jews: "Hearken, my brethren and my people. We are in exile among the nations. If you will lay a hand upon the nobles, and the Catholic kings will hear of it, they will wreak vengeance upon our brethren in exile (God forbid). Therefore, if our fate be decreed from Heaven, let us accept the judgment with rejoi­cing. We are not worthier than our brethren of the holy community of Nemirow. And may the Almighty  p56 be merci­ful to us in the face of our enemies. Perchance, they will accept our possessions as a ransom for our lives."

And the Jews hearkened to him, and brought into the courtyard of the fortress all their valuables which they had salvaged. No sooner did the Ukrainians enter than the leader of the nobles, Duke Cwierczynski, said to them: "Behold, here is your prize which you requested." And they took all the booty of the Jews. The Ukrainian oppressors then ordered the above mentioned duke to imprison all the Jews, so that their lives would hang in doubt, for they would not know what their judgment might be; whether they would keep their promise or not. On the third day when they were in pain,2 the Ukrainians came to the nobles and asked that all the Jews be delivered to them. Immediately the Jews were shoved out of the fortress, so that the nobles might escape injury. Brokenhearted and downcast, all the Jews walked out. The Ukrainians assembled them in an enclosed garden so that they would not escape. There they remained for a long time.

There were three other great scholars among them. His excellency, our teacher and master, Rabbi Eliezer; his excellency, our teacher and master, Rabbi Solomon, and his excellency, our Teacher, Rabbi Chaim. They exhorted the holy people to sanctify the Name and not to change their faith. All of them replied: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. As there is but One in your hearts, so is there but One in our hearts."

After these things one of their intermediaries appeared,  p57 and planting a banner in the ground, he said to them in a loud voice, "Whoever wishes to change his faith and remain alive, let him sit under this banner." No one answered him. Thus he announced three times, and no one responded. Immediately the gate of the garden opened, and the infuriated mob rushed in and killed a large number of Jews. Approximately fifteen hundred souls perished by all sorts of terrible deaths. May God avenge their blood. Then the Ukrainians took ten rabbis and placed them in prison, in irons, to await their ransom for ten thousand gold pieces. Among them was the scholar, our teacher and master, Rabbi Aaron, the son of the scholar, our teacher and master Rabbi Meier; the merci­ful God keep him and redeem him. The latter was the president of the Rabbinical Academy of the holy community of Lwow, and a very wealthy man, and the Ukrainians knew that he would ransom his son at any price.

After the slaughter of the Jews they proceeded to attack the fortress. And the nobles said to them: "Behold, you made an agreement with us, why do you repudiate your pledge? And the Ukrainians replied: "As you did unto the Jews, breaking your promise to them, so shall we do unto you; measure for measure." When those stationed on the wall began to shoot, the Ukrainians cunningly set the fortress afire, killing all the nobles and countless others. They appropriated the spoil for a prey. The wife and the two daughters of the above mentioned Duke were raped in the presence of their father prior to his death.3 He had been a very  p58 stout man. When he sat in a chair he was unable to rise. One of the scoundrels, a former slave, who served in his flour mill approached him, and, removing his hat in mockery and jest, said: "What does the master desire of his servant?" Then he recalled to him the mistreatment of his serfs, the beatings, and the enslavement and he said to him: "Stand up and I will sit in your chair and be your master." But the Duke was unable to rise. The slave then hurled him off the chair, and on the threshold of his house he brutally cut off his head with a saw. As they did so did God repay them, because they violated the pledge of the Jews. When the nobles heard of this, they were stricken with remorse and henceforth supported the Jews and did not deliver them into the hands of the reprobates. And even though the Ukrainians repeatedly promised the nobles immunity they no longer believed them. Were it not for this, there would have been no escape for the remnant of the Jews (God forbid).

After three days of carnage the Ukrainians announced among the slain: "He that is still alive may rise and need not fear, for the massacre is over." Some three hundred individuals who had sought escape by mixing with the corpses, arose. They were starved and thirsty. Some of them were wounded but not critically. With but the breath of life in their aching and weak bodies, fatigued, barefoot, and naked, they walked to the above mentioned city. The Ukrainian inhabitants of the city dealt kindly with them and sent them away.

After the scoundrels perpetrated the evil in the holy community of Tulczyn they returned home with a  p59 great deal of spoil of silver, gold, and precious stones and diamonds, which they had taken from the nobles and Jews. In addition, they took into captivity many beauti­ful women and maidens, Jewish and Polish, and the ten Rabbis.

When the Dukes and the nobles heard of the evil deeds which the Ukrainians wrought in the cities of Nemirow and Tulczyn they became frightened and a feeling of vengeance, like the venom of a snake, possessed them. They agreed to mobilize all the Polish nobles to avenge their brethren. By order of the Cardinal, the general announced throughout the kingdom of Poland: "He that is an officer, and has his name registered among the King's troops shall enlist for war or send his servant in his place."

Duke Wiśniowiecki, of blessed memory, and his troops were at this time in Lithuania. When he heard what had happened to the Jews in Nemirow he was grief-stricken. For Nemirow was under his rule. Mobilizing his forces, he and his people, some three thousand men, proceeded to Nemirow to avenge the Jews. He vowed that he would not relent until he bathed in the blood of his enemies, the Ukrainians, who destroyed many other provinces, beyond the Dnieper, under his jurisdiction, and expelled the people from his domain. When he came close to Nemirow he sent several hundred troops into the city and they killed a large number of the local inhabitants. After this the remaining Ukrainians deceived the Duke by asking him to send several hundred of his troops to protect the city against the Cossacks and the Tartars. They  p60 promised to support him in his war against the enemies with all their might, and to serve him faithfully from that day on. They took an oath on this. The Duke was pleased with this offer and sent to them many nobles and six hundred of his best troops. The people of the city received them with great honor.

Several days later the inhabitants notified the Cossacks: "Make haste and come here at night. We will open the gates for you." This they did. All the nobles were killed while sleeping in their beds. The Cossacks were then persuaded, for a considerable sum of money, to remain in the city to protect it against additional attacks from the Polish nobles.

When the Duke was apprised of this treachery his heart trembled. He refrained from sending additional troops. Instead, he turned from there to avenge his people on the Cossacks in other places. He went to Machnowka, and killed there and in its environs a large number of Cossacks.

When Chmiel heard that Duke Wiśniowiecki was approaching his camp, and that he had inflicted a great blow on his people, small as his army was, only three thousand men, he delegated his general Krzywonos, may his name be blotted out, together with ten thousand of his best troops to engage him in battle. He instructed him to take the Duke alive, should he prevail. But God helped the Duke and saved him from their hands.

When the aforementioned Duke and his people heard that a large army of Cossacks was about to attack them, and that he was being surrounded on every  p61 side by the Ukrainians, he withdrew from the city in order not to be encircled, and proceeded to Berdyczow. There, resided Tyskiewicz, the Voyevoda,4 who had a thousand seasoned troops. The Duke and the Voyevoda joined forces and with four thousand troops marched close to Poland. They had written to the General, Duke Wladislaw Dominik to send them additional troops to help them, but the latter withheld the troops from coming to their aid. The General had been an enemy of Duke Wiśniowiecki because the people had once preferred the latter to be general, for he was beloved and renowned throughout the land as a mighty warrior. He therefore hoped that Duke Wiśniowiecki would fall into the hands of his enemies.

And the two marched together; the aforementioned Duke and the Voyevoda together with their troops moved up to one mile past the city of Polannoe. The Cossacks and the Tartars were close behind them. Additional troops from the Ukrainian people assembled; altogether, about twenty thousand men. The Ukrainians and the Tartars then besieged the city of Polannoe.

The Editor's Notes:

1 Maxim Krzywonos, ruthless commander of the massacres of Tulczyn and other communities.

2 Gen. 34:25.

3 Hanover deviates from historical fact in this report. The Duke did not have any daughters.

4 Governor of the province.

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