Motol (Motal) | Brest

/ Mikhail S., born in 1931: "I am only talking about those who were shot close to our house, the ones I saw being led away. I was grazing my cows at that moment.” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum Afanasiy D., born in 1920: "The execution didn’t last long. There weren’t many Jews. The pit was 20m long. The majority of elderly people and women were shot dead on the spot where they were found.” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum Yekaterina M., born in 1931, was an eyewitness of an isolated execution of five Jews killed in the center of the village. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum Andrey R., 1933: "The Jews were gathered in the school building in the early morning. At noon, all the men were led away in the direction of Osovnitsa, while the women and elderly people remained inside the school.” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum Ivan, 1913: “The Germans entered each house and forced the Jews out. They separated the men and women. They didn’t fire. There was an order not to in the case of Jews trying to flee. Anyway they had nowhere to go”. © Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum Andrey  G., born in 1925: “The Jewish men were gathered in a barn first and then led away in groups of fifteen to the pit.” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum Yahad’s team with a witness during an interview. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum Olga R., born in 1921: “The women and the children were shot along with the Jews who were found hiding. There wasn’t any pit. They were shot on the ground.” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum Stepan Sh., born in 1935: “The local villagers were requisitioned to dig and fill in the pit after the execution.” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum This is the execution site, located in the forest near the village of Osnovnitsa, where 1,400 Jewish men were killed in two mass graves (four pits according to the archives) on August 2, 1941. Execution site n°1. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum Execution site, located near the village of Osovnitsa, where according to witnesses about 500 women and children were executed on August 2, 1941.. Execution site n°2. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum According to the archives 1,500 women, elderly people and children were killed at this location in 1942. It was located near the kolkhoz known as "Gay". There is no memorial. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum Undocumented execution site of 32 women. The execution site is located in the town of Motol. There is no memorial. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum The picture of a class in front of a school in Motol. From witness’ personal archive. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum La imagen de una escuela judía en Motol. Del archivo de testigo personal. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum /

Execution of Jews in Motol and in Osovnitsa

4 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Forest (1); near the kolkhoz, "Gay" woods (2); Behind the Jewish cemetery(3); Street near the houses (4)
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
Over 3,000

Witness interview

Andrey R., born in 1933, an eyewitness of the shooting of Jewish men: “The Jews were lined up in a column in groups of four. They were guarded by Germans on both sides and at the rear of the column. They were led to the barn. The Germans took around twenty Jewish men and forced them to dig the pit. They dug the first one, because the second one had already been dug by requisitioned villagers. My father, who was a Desyatnik back then, was ordered to find people to do the job. When I came to the site the first pit had been already been filled in, and the villagers were about to dig another one. Once the pit was ready, the shooting began. The Jews were taken from the barn in groups of fifteen. The execution site was about 2km away from the barn where they were gathered. Once on site, the Jews had to line up on the edge of the pit and before being shot with sub machine guns.” (Witness n°208, interviewed in Motol, on August 13, 2008)

Soviet archives

"The Jewish men were told that they would be taken to another town for forced labor. However, they were taken to the village of Osovnitsa. They were taken to a field located 500 meters east from the village in groups. The Jews who were waiting their turn were ordered to sing. Once there, the men had to get undressed and before being shot in the pits. During the shooting, all of the Jews were forced to kneel. Each pit measured 25 meters long, 3 meters large and 2 meters deep. That day, the Germans killed 1,400 men." [Act drawn up by State Soviet Commission (ChGK) after the liberation; RG22.022M:7021-90-27]

Historical note

Motol is located in western Belarus, about 40km northwest of Pinsk and 145km east of Brest. Motal is the birthplace and childhood home of Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel. The first records of the Jewish community date back to 17th century. According to the 1806 census, there were 152 Jews in Motol and by 1897 it population had reached 1,354, comprising 32% of the total population. In 1921, 1,140 (26%) lived in the town. The majority of Jews lived off small-scale trade and handcraft. Small industry started to develop in Motol at the end of the 19th century with the establishment of two candle workshops, three blacksmiths, a mill, and a butter factory. There were two synagogues in the town and a heder. A Zionist movement operated in the town until 1939 when it was taken over by Soviet Union. According to an estimation, on the eve of the war there were about 3,000 Jews living in the town.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Motol was occupied by German forces in early July 1941. Shortly after the occupation, all the Jews were marked with white armbands bearing the Star of David. 12 Jewish men were selected and transferred to Ivanovo. Their destiny is unknown, but most probably they were shot dead along with the local Jews. One month later, on August 3, 1941, the first execution took place. The entire Jewish population was gathered at the market place and divided into two groups. As a result of the cross referencing of different sources, including archives and testimonies of the local witnesses recorded by Yahad, some 1,400 Jewish men were taken outside Motol towards the village of Osovnitsa, located 2km away, where they were first confined into the barn, and then taken to the pit in groups to be shot. According to the act drawn up by Soviet archives, the remaining 1,600 Jewish women, children and elderly people were taken the same day to a place called Gay, where they were shot. However, by comparing different depositions and testimonies, we found out that some women were taken to Osovnitsa, and locked up in the barn as well. They were shot along with the men. The remaining women, it is difficult to establish the exact number, were first confined in the school building along with children and elderly people, and then, one or two days later, were taken to the place called Gay, located close to the kolkhoz n°2, to be shot. They were shot on the ground and no pits were dug. Any Jew who wasn’t able to walk was shot dead on the way to the execution site. Some Jews who managed to hide and survive the first execution, if found were also taken to Gay to be shot.

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