Sharkovshchina (Szarkowszczyzna, Sharkaushchyna) | Vitebsk

Jews at work in a shoe factory in the Sharkovshchina ghetto, 1942. ©USHMM, courtesy of Mark Fintel / The house of Vladislav L., a witness of the shooting in Sharkovshchina. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Vladislav L., born in 1933, remembered five or six Jews coming to his shed. They were women with children. They stayed there up to a week. His mother took them food.  ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Stanislav T., born in 1932, an eyewitness of the shooting. His house was 700 meters from the shooting site. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Fedor B., born in 1928, went to see the grave in the evening following the shooting. He saw dead bodies piled up randomly. There were children and teenagers among the victims. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team during the interview with Vladislav L.  ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Fedor B. pointing out the execution site of over 800 Jews in Sharkovshchina.  ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Sharkovshchina

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Meadow near the river
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
Over 800

Witness interview

Vladislav L., born in 1933: “When the shootings started in Sharkovshchina in 1942, many Jews escaped and hid in the surrounding villages. Once, five or six of them came to hide in my shed. They were women with children, no men were among them. They stayed there up to a week. My mother prepared food and for them, but I never talked to them. Later, the Germans announced that all Jews had to go to the Glubokoye ghetto and that they would later be taken to England in exchange for POWs. The Jewish women who hid at our house believed it and went to Glubokoye. They never came back.” (Testimony n°878, interviewed in Sharkovshchina, on May 11, 2016)

Soviet archives

Once the district was occupied, all Jews of the region were confined in the ghetto of Sharkovshchina, which numbered about 1,600 inmates. The Jews were subjected to different kinds of abuse by the Germans, as well as forced to perform hard labor. All their valuables and precious items were confiscated. They were arranged in columns when being taken to work. They received 100g of bread per person per day.

In May 1942, the Germans surrounded the ghetto and started their brutal Aktion. Over 800 Jews, men, women, elderly people and children, were tortured to death and shot. […]” [Act drawn up by State Extraordinary Commission; RG 22.002M. Fond 7021, Opis 92, Delo 224]

German archives

"My parents, 5 brothers, 5 sisters and I lived in Bildzugi [Bildyugi] before the war. 280 Jews lived there. We continued living in our houses until the end of 1942, when several Jews were killed. We had to perform physical labor. At the end of 1942, some small Jewish communities (such as those from Germanovichi and Novaya Pohost) were relocated to the ghetto of Sharkovshchina. Meanwhile, some Jews from the ghetto were taken to be executed in Yody. We stayed in the ghetto until June 18, 1943. A resistance was organized and was headed by David Pinczow, Shaim Orlik and Salomo Zimer. Special guards were appointed and a barbed wire was put to protect them from danger. A thousand of Jews managed to escape on June 18, 1943 in anticipation of the police order to seal off the ghetto. About 800 stayed in the ghetto. They were killed. Among the fugitives, about 200 were captured. 6 weeks later, the representative of the Gebietskommissar, […], authorized Jews in hiding to move into the ghetto in Glubokoye. About 500 Jews returned there and were assassinated along with the Jews from Glubokoye during the Aktion carried out in August 1943. Thus, the remaining 4,000 Jews were killed. One week before the Aktion carried out in the Glubokoye ghetto, I joined the partisans. They were located in a barrack in the forest which belonged to the Spartakus brigade, 4th division. Only 2 of my sisters and I survived from our family.” [Report of a Jewish survivor, Chaim Ben Berek Orlik about Sharkovshchina; B162-1294 p.74]

Historical note

Sharkovshchina is located 205 km west of Vitebsk and 190 km north of Minsk on the banks of the Disna River. The first records of the Jewish community date back to the mid-19th century. In 1897, there were 1,007 Jews living in the town. In the 1920s the Jewish population significantly decreased due to the relocation and pogroms carried out by Cossacks in the region. In 1921, there were only 615 Jews left. According to a witness, the Jews lived off small trade, but during the Soviet period, they were forbidden from doing commerce and their shops were nationalized. Many Jews were artisans, such as shoemakers, tailors, or tinsmiths. There were two Jewish schools in the town, a two-storied synagogue, Jewish shops and a Jewish tavern. On the eve of the war there were about 1,500 Jews living in the town. Sharkovshchina was occupied by German forces on July 6-9, 1941.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Immediately after German occupation, all Jews were registered and marked with yellow distinguishing badges. They had the Star of David sewn on their chests and backs. Over the course of the first month of the German occupation, any Jews capable of organizing resistance as well as those accused of being Soviet activists were killed.

The ghetto was created during September-November 1941 and interned over 1,700 Jews from Shakovshchina and nearby villages. It was located close to the river bank. According to a local witness, the ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire and consisted of about 15-20 houses. It was guarded by the local police and the Jews were forbidden from leaving its territory. All prisoners, including children aged as young as eight were subjected to work on the construction of the bridge, or cleaning the streets of snow or other types of hard physical work. Many Jews died in the ghetto due to bad living conditions and disease.

The fist mass execution was conducted on June 18, 1942 by  the German police assisted by local police. The Aktion took place during the morning. Several dozen Jews were killed by bullets or with grenades inside their homes, while others, about 700, were escorted in groups of 30 people from the ghetto to the execution site located near the butter factory on the bank of the Disna River, where they were shot. The distance from the ghetto to the shooting place was 400-500 meters. Circa. 1,000 Jews managed to flee during this Aktion, but about 300 of them were recaptured and shot on the spot. Their bodies were gathered by local men, and transported to the execution site along with the Jews who had been killed inside the ghetto. The mass grave was filled in by requisitioned locals. About 500 of the escapees, who went out of the hiding because the Germans promised them that their lives would be spared, were taken to the ghetto in Glubokoye where they were killed in August 1943. Only 60 Jews from Sharkovshchina managed to survive the Holocaust.

 For more information about the execution of Jews in Glubokoye, please, refer to the corresponding profile.  

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