1 Execution site(s)
Mykola S., born in 1925: “The Jews were constantly beaten and humiliated by the Germans, they had to wear Stars of David on their back and chest, and had to perform forced labor, notably at the train station and building electrical posts. They didn’t get anything to eat, and people were forbidden to buy anything from their shops. There was a famine in the ghetto.” (Witness n°YIU/647U, interviewed in Balyn, on August 13, 2008)
Balyn is a small village in the Khmelnytskyi region, western Ukraine, located about 25 km (15 miles) north of Kamienets-Podilsky. It was founded sometime in the 15th century. Jews started to settle In the village in the 18th century, but the community remained relatively small until the end of the 19th century. In 1897, 357 Jews lived in Balyn, comprising 22% of the town’s total population. A synagogue was built in the village around the same time. Most Jews worked as artisans during 19th century. In the 20th century, before the war, there was also a Jewish kolkhoz and many Jewish grocery shops. There was only one school in the village, so Jewish and non-Jewish children went to school together. During the Russian Civil War (1918-1920), there was a pogrom carried out in the village. Before the war, in 1926, there were 293 Jews living in Balyn.
Balyn was occupied by German forces on July 10, 1941. As soon as they arrived, they appointed a starost and organized a local police force. The Jewish population immediately began to be persecuted. According to witnesses, the Jews were forbidden from leaving their district, essentially creating an open ghetto in the village. Anyone found outside the ‘ghetto’ was shot. They had to wear yellow patches on their back and chest and were forced to work for the Germans. They were robbed of their valuables and gold and villagers were ordered not to buy anything from their shops, depriving them of any means of income. They were not given any food and soon suffered from famine.
In the summer of 1942, a group of Jewish men fit for work were selected and then sent to a camp in Kamienets-Podilsky for forced labor. Later, in September 1942, all remaining Jews (mostly women, children and elderly people) were gathered on the main square and taken by foot to the execution site outside the village. A pit had already been dug by requisitioned locals. According to a witness interviewed by Yahad, the rabbi and his family were short first. After taking off their clothes and jewellery that they had to put on a pile, the Jews had to line up in groups of 5 to 6 people on the edge of the pit, before being shot. The mass grave was filled in by the same villagers who had to dig the pit. After the shooting, some of them stole the Jews’ belongings. In the village the Jewish houses were immediately looted by local villagers, and some of them moved into them with the starost’s authorization.
In all, between 150 and 250 Jews were murdered in Balyn during the occupation. Today, there is a memorial dedicated to the victims, marking the location of the mass grave.
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