4 Execution site(s)
Olena R., born in 1935: "A year after the Germans arrived, when the weather was fine, the locals said that the Jews were going to be taken to the shooting. Curious, I went to see what was going on, and that’s when I saw a column of around 300 Jews, men, women and children, being marched down Pershotravneva Street. The column was escorted by numerous armed policemen and a few Germans. Several Ukrainians, both children and adults, watched the Jews pass. A Rabbi, dressed in a long toga, walked in front of the column with an opened book, reading something out loud. The Jews carried their belongings with them, weeping. The guards kicked anyone who fell, telling them to get up and keep moving. The column turned towards Monastyrska street, which led to the forest not far from the hospital, about 1 km from my house. Sometime later, I heard shotguns coming from the forest, but it didn’t last long. After the shooting, my mother and I went to the town market. Many Jews continued to live in their homes. However, some went into hiding until the end of the war." (Witness n°2849U, interviewed in Khmilnyk, on November 13, 2020)
"At 5 a.m. on June 12, 1942, the entire town of Khmelnik on the Buh side was surrounded by Germans, who had arrived the day before, and Ukrainian policemen. The Germans chased the women and children from their homes and took them to the police station. There, police chief Ia** waited with a list in his hand. His deputy Sch** called the families on the list. As the families approached, Sch** selected the children and those unfit for work. The latter were brought into the yard and confined into a stable. The mothers themselves had to take their children to the executioner and hand them over. Mothers unwilling to part with their children were violently beaten with batons. Local policemen also helped to bring children, the elderly and those unfit for work into the yard. I begged a policeman to let me go, but he beat me. Black canvas covered trucks bearing skulls arrived in the square. Then we, the people remaining in the square, were taken to the other side of the river. As for the people selected and locked up in the stables, the children were loaded onto the carts, while the women and elderly were taken to the pine forest where they were shot. That day 360 people were shot. We were locked in a courtyard. We saw the executioners coming back after the shooting, their hands and boots covered in blood." [Deposition of a Jewish survivor, Maria Rubinstein, given to the State Extraordinary Commission, in April 1945; GARF 7021-54-1249 copy USHMM RG 22.002]
Khmilnyk is located on the southern Buh River, 59 km (36,6km) northwest of Vinnytsia. The first record of the Jewish community dates back to the 16th century. It was almost destroyed during the Khmelnytsky uprising in 1648. By the mid-18th century, Jews had resettled in the town. In 1897, some 5977 Jews lived in the town, comprising half of the total population. According to the census of 1921, lived 5908 Jews in the town, accounting for 77% of the population. The majority of Jews lived off small scale trade and handicraft. They had two synagogues, a cemetery, and a Jewish school. During the Civil War, the Jewish community suffered greatly from the assaults at the hands of different actors, which left behind dozens of victims. During the 1930s, small private businesses were forbidden, and the Jews had to turn towards agriculture or form cooperatives. In the late 1930s, all synagogues were closed, but the Jews continued to pray in their houses. In 1934, a unique therapeutic radon water was discovered in Khmilnyk, as a result the sanatorium business started to develop. On the eve of the war, over 65% of Khmilnyk’s total population was Jewish, not counting several hundred Jews living in the nearby village of Uhrynivka, which today is part of Khmilnyk. In 1939-41, Jewish refugees from Poland settled in Khmilnyk. Overall, the Jewish population was about 6,000 people by the summer of 1941.
Khmilnyk was occupied by Romanian and German forces on July 17, 1941. The town remained under German occupation. Shortly after the occupation, all the Jews were registered and marked with white armbands bearing a Star of David, which was later changed for a yellow patch. Jews fit to work were subjected to forced labor. Other anti-Jewish measures were also implemented. Jews were forbidden from walking on the sidewalks and buying goods at the market, for example. The mass murder of the Jews began shortly after and lasted until June 1943. The first mass murder operation took place on August 12, 1941, when the Germans executed 229 Jews, mainly elderly men, and the intelligentsia. According to other data, 360 men were killed, including a rabbi in the pit located by the Berdychiv-Ulaniv road. In the fall of 1941, a ghetto was created. It was located in the old town on Shevchenko Street, on the bank of the Buh River. Many Jews were brought in from other localities too, including a large number of people from Ulaniv. The ghetto inmates were subjected to forced labor. The two largest murder operations took place in the forest near the village of Uhrynivka, today part of Khmilnyk. On Friday, January 9, 1942, early in the morning, the Jews were rounded up from their homes and taken to the execution site. Anyone who attempted to escape or hide was shot on the spot. At the site of a former Soviet military base, under heavy frost, they were told to undress before being shot on the edge of the pit. According to the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission, on January 9, 1942, between 5,800 and 6,300 Jews were murdered. We believe that this number is overestimated and includes all the victims killed in the woods near the former military base next to the village of Uhrynivka. The murder operation was repeated one week later, on January 16, 1942. Before the second massacre, the Nazis separated skilled Jews and their families, while the rest were killed at the same site in the woods near the village of Uhrynivka. The Soviet State Extraordinary Commission estimated the number of those killed during this Aktion at 1,240. The skilled Jews, along with their families, were resettled in a smaller ghetto located on Shevchenko Street. On June 12, 1942, the Nazis declared a “new registration” of Jews, during which 360 women and children were separated and later murdered at Uhrynivka. The Khmilnyk ghetto was liquidated in two murder operations, on March 3 and June 26, 1943. The operation of March 3 was conducted under the pretext of another registration. The ghetto was subsequently reorganized into a labor camp, in which the 340 remaining Jews were placed. In both cases, the victims were brought to the woods near Uhrynivka village by truck. Today there are monuments at each execution site.
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