Remember Jewish Rivno (Rowno) - Genealogy Group

Pronunciation: Riv-nee

NEARBY SHTETL LINKS: Belz | Dubno | Kowel | Kremenets | Luboml | Lutsk
L'viv (Lwow) | Stryy (Stryj) | Ludmir (Volodymir Volynskiy) | Porcyk | Uscilug | Vladimirets

The main Shtetlinks Page for Rovne is available HERE.

On this page, we capture the testimony of an eyewitness to the mass-killings in Rivne:

"I, Hermann Friedrich Graebe, declare under oath: From September 1941 to January 1944 I was manager
and engineer-in-charge of a branch office in Sdolbunow, Ukraine, of the Solingen building firm of Josef
Jung. In this capacity it was my job to visit the building sites of the firm. The firm had, among others, a
site in Rowno, Ukraine. During the night of 13 July 1942, all inhabitants of the Rowno Ghetto, where there
were still about 5,000 Jews, were liquidated. I would describe the circumstances of my being a witness of
the dissolution of the ghetto, and the carrying out of the pogrom [Aktion] during the night and the morning,
as follows: I employed for the firm, in Rowno -- in addition to Poles, Germans, and Ukrainians about 100
Jews from Sdolbunow, Ostrog, and Mysotch. The men were quartered in a building, 5 Bahnhofstrasse,
inside the Ghetto, and the women in a house at the corner of Deutsche Strasse, 98.

On Saturday, 11 July 1942, my foreman, Fritz Einsporn, told me of a rumor that on Monday all Jews in
Rowno were to be liquidated. Although the vast majority of the Jews employed by my firm in Rowno were
not natives of this town, I still feared that they might be included in this pogrom which had been reported.
I therefore ordered Einsporn at noon of the same day to march all the Jews employed by us -- men as well
as women -- in the direction of Sdolbunow, about 12 km from Rowno. This was done.

The Senior Jew [Judenrat] had learned of the departure of the Jewish workers of my firm. He went to see
the Commanding Officer of the Rowno SIPO and SD, SS Major [SS- Sturmbannfuehrer] Dr. Puetz, as
early as the Saturday afternoon to find out whether the rumor of a forthcoming Jewish pogrom -- which had
gained further credence by reason of the departure of Jews of my firm -- was true. Dr. Puetz dismissed the
rumor as a clumsy lie, and for the rest had the Polish personnel in my firm in Rowno arrested. Einsporn
avoided arrest by escaping from Sdolbunow. When I learned of this incident, I gave orders that all Jews
who had left Rowno were to report back to work in Rowno on Monday, 13 July 1942. On Monday morning
I myself went to see the Commanding Officer, Dr. Puetz, in order to learn, for one thing, the truth about the
rumored Jewish pogrom and secondly to obtain information on the arrest of the Polish office personnel.
SS Major [SS-Sturmbannfuehrer] Puetz stated to me that no pogrom (Aktion) whatever was planned.
Moreover such a pogrom would be stupid because the firms and the Reichsbahn would lose valuable
workers. An hour later I received a summons to appear before the Area Commissioner of Rowno. His
deputy, Stableiter and Cadet Officer [Ordensjunker] Beck, subjected me to the same questioning as I had
undergone at the SD. My explanation that I had sent the Jews home for urgent delousing appeared
plausible to him. He then told me -- making me promise to keep it a secret -- that a pogrom would in fact
take place on the evening of Monday 13 July 1942. After lengthy negotiation, I managed to persuade him
to give me permission to take my Jewish workers to Sdolbunowbut only after the pogrom had been carried
out. During the night it would be up to me to protect the house in the Ghetto against the entry of Ukrainian
militia and SS. As confirmation of the discussion he gave me a document, which stated that the Jewish
employees of Messrs. Jung were not affected by the pogrom.

On the evening of this day I drove to Rowno and posted myself with Fritz Einsporn in front of the house in
the Bahnhofstrasse in which the Jewish workers of my firm slept. Shortly after 22:00 the Ghetto was
encircled by a large S.S. detachment and about three times as many members of the Ukrainian militia.
Then the electric arclights which had been erected in and around the Ghetto were switched on. SS and
militia squads of 4 to 6 men entered or at least tried to enter the houses. Where the doors and windows
were closed and the inhabitant did not open at the knocking, the S.S. men and militia broke the windows,
forced the doors with beams and crowbars and entered the houses. The people living there were driven on
to the street just as they were, regardless of whether they were dressed or in bed. Since the Jews in most
cases refused to leave their houses and resisted, the SS and militia applied force. They finally succeeded,
with strokes of the whip, kicks and blows with rifle butts in clearing the houses. The people were driven out
of their houses in such haste that small children in bed had been left behind in several instances. In the
street women cried out for their children and children for their parents. That did not prevent the SS from
driving the people along the road, at running pace, and hitting them, until they reached a waiting freight
train. Car after car was filled, and the screaming of women and children, and the cracking of whips and rifle
shots resounded unceasingly.

Since several families or groups had barricaded themselves in especially strong buildings, and the doors
could not be forced with crowbars or beams, these houses were now blown open with hand grenades.
Since the Ghetto was near the railroad tracks in Rowno, the younger people tried to get across the tracks
and over a small river to get away from the Ghetto area. As this stretch of country was beyond the range
of the electric lights, it was illuminated by signal rockets. All through the night these beaten, hounded and
wounded people moved along the lighted streets. Women carried their dead children in their arms,
children pulled and dragged their dead parents by their arms and legs down the road toward the train.
Again and again the cries "Open the door!" "Open the door!" echoed through the Ghetto.

About 6 o'clock in the morning I went away for a moment, leaving behind Einsporn and several other
German workers who had returned in the meantime. I thought the greatest danger was past and that I
could risk it. Shortly after I left, Ukrainian militia men forced their way into 5 Bahnhofstrasse and brought 7
Jews out and took them to a collecting point inside the Ghetto. On my return I was able to prevent further
Jews from being taken out. I went to the collecting point to save these 7 men. I saw dozens of corpses of
all ages and both sexes in the streets I had to walk along. The doors of the houses stood open, windows

were smashed. Pieces of clothing, shoes, stockings, jackets, caps, hats, coats, etc., were lying in the street
. At the corner of a house lay a baby, less than a year old with his skull crushed. Blood and brains
were spattered over the house wall and covered the area immediately around the child. The child was
dressed only in a little shirt. The commander, SS Major Puetz, was walking up and down a row of about 80-
100 male Jews who were crouching on the ground. He had a heavy dog whip in his hand. I walked up to
him, showed him the written permit of Stabsleiter Beck and demanded the seven men whom I
recognized among those who were crouching on the ground. Dr. Puetz was very furious about Beck's
concession and nothing could persuade him to release the seven men. He made a motion with his hand
encircling the square and said that anyone who was once here would not get away. Although he was very
angry with Beck, he ordered me to take the people from 5 Bahnhofstrasse out of Rowno by 8 o'clock at the
latest. When I left Dr. Puetz, I noticed a Ukrainian farm cart, with two horses. Dead people with stiff limbs
were lying on the cart. Legs and arms projected over the side boards. The cart was making for the freight
train. I took the remaining 74 Jews who had been locked in the house to Sdolbunow.

Several days after 7/13/1942 the Area Commissioner of Sdolbunow, Georg Marschall, called a meeting of
all firm managers, railroad superintendents, and leaders of the Organization Todt and informed them that
the firms, etc., should prepare themselves for the "resettlement" of the Jews which was to take place
almost immediately. He referred to the pogrom in Rowno where all the Jews had been liquidated, i.e. had
been shot near Kostolpol.

I make the above statement in Wiesbaden, Germany, on 10 November 1945. I swear by God that
this is the absolute truth." -- Hermann Friedrich Graebe

Testified before Homer B. Crawford, AC Investigator Examiner, and Elis. Radziejewska, translator.

Also note: Per Graebe, S.S.-Sturmbannfuehrer Puetz was in charge of the carrying out of the Aktion
at Rowno during the night of 13 July 1942. "I knew Dr. Puetz personally as the Kommandeur der SP
u. SD [commander of the Security Police and Security Service] of Rowno, for I had had several
discussions with him with a view to preventing a pogrom against the Jews [Judenaktion] at Sdolbunow,
Misotsch and Ostrog. Dr. Puetz was introduced to me by the Area Commissioner Georg Marschall. In
addition I definitely remember that a nameplate was fixed on the outside of the door to his office bearing
his name and rank. On the morning of 14 July, I recognized three or four S.S.-men in the Ghetto, whom I
knew personally and who were all members of the Security Service in Rowno. These persons also wore
the armband mentioned above. I cannot recall their names, but, in my opinion, the foreman Fritz Einsporn
must know their names, as, to my knowledge, he corresponded with them."