Kurenets (Kurenitz,Kureniec) | Minsk

Nursery School run by Rashka Shulman c.1931. ©Taken from eilatgordinlevitan.com/kurenets/kurenets.html The local youth movement. ©Taken from eilatgordinlevitan.com/kurenets/kurenets.html Chaia Stirel Alperovitz, born in 1910, perished in the Holocaust in 1942. ©Taken from eilatgordinlevitan.com/kurenets/kurenets.html Rafael Kagan (1882- 1942) was a cantor and a shochet in Kurenets. He perished during the Holocaust. ©Taken from eilatgordinlevitan.com/kurenets/kurenets.html Several gravestones remain at the Jewish cemetery today. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Yosif T., born in 1929: “In the beginning, the Jews lived in their homes, but were forced to wear yellow stars on their backs. No ghetto was created. The Jews were forced to work and dig trenches.” ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum The list of 1040 Jews murdered in Kurenets. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum The execution site of 54 Jews murdered on October 14th 1941, located in a small forest between the road and railroad. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum The location where the 1040 Jews were burned in the barn. The majority of them were shot first, while about 200 were burned alive. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Local ambiance. A Soviet-era side-car. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Kurenets

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Forest/Barn
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
54/1040

Witness interview

Yosif T., born in 1929: “The Jews were taken to a big barn in trucks. It was 20m long and belonged to a Jew. The victims were taken inside the barn and shot there. After that, the barn was set on fire. Other Jews were hunted and killed later in the town. In the evening of the same day, I saw carts bringing bodies to the same burning barn. The carts were driven by women. The bodies were thrown in the fire and it kept burning for a week or two." (Testimony n°913, interviewed in Kurenets on June 26, 2016)

Soviet archives

"On January 14, 1941 a SS punitive detachment, assisted by the local police of Kurenets and headed by the chief of the police S. and the policemen G., selected skilled workers and their families from the Jewish population and shot them 1.5km from Kurenets. After the shooting, the executioners pulled out the gold teeth and took the victims’ clothing. In total, 54 people, including them 35 men, 10 women and 9 children aged less than 12, were killed that day. On September 9, 1942, the Germans exterminated the whole Jewish population of Kurenets. A SS detachment numbering around 400 soldiers, headed by the Oberleutnant G. came to Kurenets. The detachment sealed off the town. All residents were ordered to stay inside their houses. The entire Jewish population was then gathered together under the false pretext of being sent to carry out forced labor. Then, trucks moved them to the outskirts of Kurenets where they were killed. 600 people were shot and over 200 people were burned alive." [Act drawn on April 13, 1945, by State Extraordinary Commission. RG22.002M. Fond 7021, Opis 83, Delo 8]

German archives

"The day of the Aktion, I was in Kurenets under the order of the Germans who conducted the Aktion. I went to the assembly point on the outskirts of the town. I went there with my entire family – my wife and 4 children. All the Jews were gathered there. Everyone was ordered to kneel down and it was forbidden to move or change the position. On the way to there, I noticed corpses of Jews who had been shot on the streets. I recognized the wife of one of the local rabbis (there were two of them). The bullet passed through her head and there was still fresh blood coming out from her mouth. [Later after the Aktion]
A terrible spectacle was conducted in Kurenets. The corpses were left in the streets. The houses – mostly the Jewish houses – were wide open, the windows and the doors were broken in, all the residents’ valuables were stolen, and the old things dragged everywhere on the floor were stained with blood. I was authorized to come go into my house, but everything had been destroyed. I found what has left of my children’s clothing on the floor. During this Aktion, my wife Shiena and my 4 children were killed. The Jewish cemetery was located in front of my house. The victims’ bodies were taken there and burned, constantly”. [Testimony of a Jewish survivor, Ruwen ALPEROWICZ, Beit-Dagan, born in 1892 in Kurents, given on April 5, 1967; B162-1298 p.76]

Historical note

Kurenets is located 106km north of Minsk. The first record of the Jewish community goes back to the mid-18th century. In 1897, there were 844 Jews in the village. This number had doubled by 1921, with the Jewish population numbering circa. 1,500 individuals. The majority of them lived off of small trade and handcrafts. In 1919, the Jews owned the only pharmacy in the village and 27 shops. There was a Jewish cemetery, which remains today. According to one witness interviewed by Yahad, there were two synagogues: a wooden one for men, and a brick one for women. The Jews had their own four-grade primary school, but some of them studied at the general school. During the Soviet period, the Jewish shops were looted, and the wooden synagogue for men was turned into a Klub. On the eve of the war, there were about 1,500 Jews in the village. The Germans occupied the village on June 24, 1941.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Once the village was occupied, all Jews continued living in their homes but they were marked on their backs with yellow distinguishing badges in form of the Star of David. However, all Jews fit to work were subjected to forced labor, such as digging trenches and street cleaning.

According to one witness, one day, all the Jews were told to come into the central square in front of the selsoviet, and to bring their gold and valuables with them. Those who were able to bring gold would be taken to work, while the others were threatened with death. Beforehand, the park was surrounded by 10-20 armed Germans in green uniforms with dogs. There were many vehicles around the square, including several trucks. Jews would come to the square in groups of 3-5 people and approached the table one by one. A military officer who sat at the table received the valuables which were then put in trucks and taken away.  

The first Aktion was carried out on January 14, 1941. That day, SS members, assisted by local police, rounded up all skilled workers and their families, 54 Jews in all, and shot them in pit dug in the forest. According to some historical sources, there were other isolated shootings, but none of the witnesses could confirm or deny this claim. According to some sources, two shootings were carried out during which 13 and 32 Jews were shot in March 1942.

The biggest Aktion took place on September 9, 1942, when the 1040 remaining Jews were murdered by an SS mobile killing squad. First, they were gathered at the central square from where they were taken to a barn in trucks. According to Yosif T., a local resident, this barn used to belong to a Jew and was about 20m long. The victims were taken inside the barn and shot. The barn was then set on fire.

The remaining Jews were taken to the ghetto in Vileyki, where they were later killed. The last victims were a pharmacist and his wife; they were shot in a bathhouse behind the synagogue. POWs were also among the victims in Kurenets. Many Jews, especially younger detainees, managed to flee to the forest where they formed partisan units and fought back against the Germans.

For more information about killings in Vileyka please refer to the corresponding profile. 

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