2 Execution site(s)
Vladimir J., born in 1932: “After the shootings, Jewish survivors asked me to get boards from the wood shop and help them to dig up and rebury some of the bodies. The bodies that I exhumed were only dressed in underwear. There were men, women, and children. It was terrible. Graves were dug next to the pits where the Jews had been killed. I arranged boards at the bottom and on both sides. The Jews were at least able to have a more respectable grave.” (Eyewitness N°852, interviewed in Lelchitsy, on September 22, 2014).
“In August, 1941, a German Gestapo unit under the command of officer Schwartz arrived at Lelchitsy. They rounded up all the village Jews in the courtyard of a house, from where the Jews were taken to a place named "Zagorie." They were forced to dig deep pits, before being lined up, undressed, and shot with machine-gun. The babies were thrown alive inside the pit. All the Jews of the Leltchitsy, about 750 people, were shot there. The Germans kept about fifteen Jews alive to fill the pit after the shooting, then they were also killed.” [Act of The Soviet Extraordinary State Commission, RG-22.002M. 7021-91-18]
Lelchitsy is a town situated 200 km southwest of Gomel. It was a district center, as it is today. Before the war, there was a significant Jewish population living mainly in the ton center. According to the 1939 census, there were 746 Jews living in town. Most of the Jews were shopkeepers. There was also a big wooden synagogue and a wooden Jewish school. The town was occupied by German troops in late August 1941. About 30% of the Jewish population managed to evacuate before the Germans’ arrival.
Upon the Germans’ arrival, the Jews were able to live in their homes until the beginning of September 1941.
The first Aktion took place on September 5, 1941, when a German punitive detachment came to the town. With the aid of the local policemen, the Jews were gathered in the courtyard of the NKVD building, before being led away in a column outside of the town, near the main road to Mozyr. The Jews were then lined up on the edge of a bomb crater in a field and shot by the Germans.
A second Aktion took place at the end of September 1941, and was perpetrated by the same punitive detachment. According to eyewitnesses interviewed by Yahad, the Jews were gathered in houses in the town center, where windows had been boarded up. Skilled workers and their families were selected and allowed to stay alive. The others were taken to the site in the Zagore area, near a former army ground. The ground was mainly composed of sand and pits had been dug in advance. Unusually, before waiting for their turn to be shot, the Jews had to wait in groups in metallic cages that were originally planned to be used for a zoo. Before being shot on the edge of a pit, the Jews had to undress, and their belongings were taken by the local policemen. The pits were covered by the Jews themselves.
In early spring 1942, during the third Aktion, about forty skilled workers and their relatives were killed in a pit which had been dug in advance. They were taken to the execution site in about ten carts and also had to undress. They were killed by local German gendarmes. Many Jews in hiding were later caught and shot in shell holes. After the first shootings near the military ground, the surviving Jews opened the pits and reburied the bodies of their relatives in graves using wooden boards as coffins. According to an eyewitnesses, Jewish homes were also plundered. The last remaining Jews were shot in summer 1942, along with Soviet citizens, under the pretext of having links to the partisans.
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