2 Execution site(s)
Evgeni M., born in 1927: “A ghetto was created in Domachevo, it was surrounded by a fence and three rows of barbed wire. Special laws for Jews were established. Then the soltys [mayor/village elder] ordered the Jews into the ghetto. They were not allowed to leave its premises, although some did in secret. They were shot or beaten, depending on who caught them. The Jews worked a lot in the villages. For example, they rebuilt my house. They were paid in wheat. Jews also traded crockery and clothes for food.” (Witness YIU/111B, interviewed in Domachevo, )
“On Sunday September 18, 1941, the Germans surrounded the whole town of Domachevo and began to force the residents out of their apartments. Anyone who was unwilling to leave, especially old people, children, sick and weak ones, were beaten with sticks. All of them were forced into a camp [i.e., ghetto]. More than 2,700 Soviet civilians [Jews] were crowded in the streets. All of them were put into five columns and, while being beaten with bayonets and whips, forced toward a sand hill south of town, near the forest, half a kilometer from the town center. There, at a pit that had been dug ahead of time by the camp inmates, an outrageous shooting was carried out. The people screamed and cried and the terrified children called for their mothers. The weeping and screaming of the unfortunate ones were heard from the distance of 2-3 kilometers in nearby villages. The fascists cruelly slaughtered their victims. They forced them to completely undress, go down into the pit and lie face down. They forced them to lie in several layers. Then, they hurled grenades into the pit and shot those still alive. The Fascists threw the children into the pit while still alive and covered them over with earth. Each time a group of 40-50 people was taken from the general column and was forced towards the pit and shot. Several hundred people succeeded in escaping the shooting in Domachevo, but the Germans found them in the forest and nearby villages and finished them off there. The escapees were caught and tortured to death.” [Extract from the ChGK report from Domachevo- GARF 7021-83-14]
“At the same time three SD staff members arrived in Domaczewo. At that time there was a ghetto with 500 inmates in the town. One day, either in the summer or in the autumn of 1942, the Jews were shot to death. In the framework of this operation, part of the subunit headed by Tsubels, together with the Ukrainian auxiliary police, was sent to surround the ghetto from the outside, while the rest of the subunit was positioned inside the ghetto. There they were lined up in two rows facing each other, thus creating a passageway from the collection point to the pit that was dug just outside the ghetto. All the ghetto inmates -- the men, the women and the children -- had to show up immediately at the collection point. There they had to strip naked and go through the passageway towards the pit. There they were shot, one after the other, at the edge of the pit by the SD members who were present there. The bodies were thrown into the pit.” [Extract from the Judicial proceedings against Adolf Hahn, head of the 1st SS Police Cavalry Detachment, Dortmund, March 22, 1965 - YVA TR.10/1623.2]
Domachevo is a town in western Belarus, in the Brest region. It is very close to the Polish border and located about 50 km south of Brest and 400 km from Minsk. The earliest mention of Domachevo dates back to the 18th century, when it was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was noted as being in the Brest Litovsk Voivodeship. With the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, the town became part of the Russian Empire. It became Polish territory again between 1921 and 1939 under the Second Polish Republic. Domachevo has been a Belarusian town since 1939. Jews first settled in Domachevo in the late 18th century. By the end of the 19th century, the Jewish population was thriving . They had a synagogue and several prayer houses built in the town. In 1897 there were 1,057 Jews in town, about 90% of the total population. Jews mostly worked as merchants and artisans. In 1921, there were 1,337 Jews living in Domachevo, still making for 90% of the total population. But right before the occupation, with many refugees coming from central and western Poland, the number of Jews in Domachevo doubled, with probably about 3,000 Jews living in the town.
Domachevo fell under German occupation on June 22, 1941. During the violent turmoil of the first few days of occupation, several Jews were murdered by the Germans. Half of the town’s houses were also destroyed and many plundered. Shortly after their arrival, the Germans appointed a local police force, a Judenrat and a Jewish Order Service. A ghetto was established within the first few months of occupation. With it came the obligation for Jews to wear yellow badges. The ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire, small and overcrowded. Jews from the surrounding villages were also forced to relocate to the ghetto. Anyone who tried to leave could be shot or beaten. People in the ghetto were not given any food or fuel to heat themselves during the cold winter. Germans and the local police also led frequent raids in the ghetto, abusing and terrorizing the Jewish population. Jews also had to perform forced labor for the Germans: some worked on rebuilding the town, specialist artisans (blacksmiths, tailors, carpenters) had to provide the Germans with what they wanted, and some young Jews were also driven away in trucks to work on road building. According to an account, about 500 Jews were selected in spring 1942 for road building; those who were too exhausted to continue the labor were shot. On September 19 or 20, 1942, a German special detachment arrived in Domachevo. They ordered all the Jews to be gathered at the sports stadium where the Jews were forced to hand in all their gold and valuables and to strip naked. They were then escorted in large groups to a sand hill in the forest right outside of town, where pits had already been dug. The Jews had to lie down in the pit, on top of one another. They were then shot and the pit was closed. The exact number of people living in the ghetto when it was liquidated is not known, but since many had already been moved to work elsewhere, they were probably around 1,000 Jews killed that day in Domachevo. Most of them were elderly, women and children. A dozen Jews were spared as they were selected to be specialist workers. In the days after the massacre, the local police searched for all Jews who had managed to hide and killed anyone they found. Only a handful of them managed to survive the occupation, most of them doing so by joining the Soviet partisan movement. Domachevo was liberated by the Red Army in the autumn of 1944. Out of the approximate 3,000 Jews in town before the occupation, merely a dozen survived.
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