3 Execution site(s)
Maria L., born in 1932: “The trucks by which the Jews were brought stopped on the road outside the [Jewish] cemetery. First, two Jews got off the truck. They didn’t have any belongings with them. They were the ones who would dig the pit. The area where the pit should have been dug was shown to them by the policemen who stayed on the site watching. The Jews continued to dig the pit in groups of two. They took turns. This lasted for a while. During this time, the locals started to gather near the cemetery fence wondering what was going on. Once the pit was dug, the Jews were shot in groups on the edge of the pit. Those Jews who dug the first pit weren’t shot immediately. Once the first pit was full they were forced to dig another one.” (Witness n°2786U, interviewed in Novolabun, on September 16, 2021)
Labun, modern day Novolabun, is located about 85km (53mi) north west of Khmelnytskyi. Today the prewar village of Labun is divided into four small villages. In the beginning of the 17th century, it was part of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, but in 1793, was taken over by the Russian Empire. The first record about the Jewish community goes back to the early 18th century. In 1867, there were three functioning synagogues. The majority of Jews lived off small scale trade and handcraft. In the early 1920s, a Yiddish three-year elementary school was opened. In 1934, a Jewish kolkhoz was created, and all private workshops were reunited in the cooperative organizations, known as artels. In 1923, there were 952 Jews living in the village.
Labun was occupied by the German forces in early July 1941, after the bombings and the fights between the retreating Red Army and the Germans. According to the available historical sources and the testimonies, the anti -Jewish actions started right after the occupation. According to the Yad Vashem website, based on survivor’s testimonies, a group of elder Jews were publicly humiliated on the day of the Germans arrival. They had their beards cut off and were forced to clean German vehicles and boots. Supposedly, the photographs were taken at this moment. The first mass shooting was conducted on August 14, 1941, when about 80 Jews, mainly men, were gathered under the pretext of being taken to the forced labor and taken to the Berezhanskyi forest, located 2km away from Labun, where they were executed. Before being killed they dug the pits by themselves. Another shooting which included women, children, and elder people was conducted on August 29, 1941. On this date, after having gathered them at the village square, the group was transported by truck towards the Treshanskyi forest, where they were murdered. These shootings were carried out by a SS unit. The remaining Jews continued to live in the village under the condition they paid ransom to stay alive. Those who didn’t have money were taken to the Jewish cemetery where they were shot. On this day, according to the local testimonies, the group was first gathered at the central square, and then taken in the canvas covered truck to the cemetery. One truck made several round trips. The Jews were shot one by one on the edge of the pit that was dug by the Jews. According to the witness n°2786U, the shooting was conducted by a policeman, confirmed by the Jewish survivor’s testimony, although the witness n°2788U claimed that they were ten German shooters who conducted the shooting. It is possible that the two witnesses saw different executions conducted at different moments in the Jewish cemetery. A group of Jews from Grytsiv and Starokostyantyniv were taken by the village in the direction of Polonne. Supposedly, about 170 of them, the weakest ones, were shot in the forest near Labun while others were taken to Polonne alongside the local remaining Jews. Supposedly, this happened in the fall 1941. On June 25, 1942, these Jews were murdered along with local Jewish inmates.
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