Kremenets (Krzemieniec) | Ternopil

Ruins of the Kremenets synagogue burned down by the Germans in early September 1941. ©Photo archive, taken from yadvashem.org Three German air force men humiliating an elderly Jew, summer of 1941.  ©Photo archive, taken from yadvashem.org At the main gate of the Kremenets ghetto, a Jewish boy polishes the boots of Jewish policemen as German policemen look on. ©Photo archive, taken from yadvashem.org The Jewish cemetery of Kremenets. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The complex of the Jesuit monastery built in the middle of 18th century in Kremenets. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Maria N., born in 1927: “Before the war, Jews were in the majority in Kremenets. Most of them lived in the city center where they ran their stores, but there were also Jewish skilled workers, such as tailors and doctors.”  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Gueorgui A., born in 1935: “The Jews were forced to open the pits where the Soviets’ victims had been buried and take out the corpses. They were then shot in the same pits.”  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Fedir V., born in 1929: “The Jews of Kremenets and nearby localities were confined in the ghetto established in the city center and surrounded by a wooden fence.”  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Stepan K., born in 1924: “ The ghetto of Kremenets was very big and there were about two families per house. Once we went there with my father to buy a suit.”  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Nadia K., born in 1928: “The ghetto inmates were taken by truck in the forest, where they were subjected to  forced labor. It was the only time they could get out of the ghetto.”  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Serguei K., born in 1938: “I remember the Jews of Kremenets cutting the trees in the forest under supervision of the German guards.”  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Nina M., born in 1927: “I passed the bottles of milk under the ghetto fence to a Jewish girl. She passed me back sheets of paper on which she’d noted the products she needed me to bring her the next time.”  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Nadia K., born in 1928: “When the Jews were being taken to the execution site, I saw two German trucks in the ghetto. One of them was filled with Jewish girls and another one with everyone else.”  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Edvard V., born in 1938: “I saw the German open trucks with Jewish men, women and children, standing next to the railroad station. The victims were taken to the execution site 100m away and shot on the edge of the pits.”  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Maria O., born in 1929: “During the shootings of the Jews, carried out during two weeks in August 1942, the Germans played music, drank and ate.”  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team during an interview. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The former Synagogue of Kremenets, once part of the ghetto. Today, it houses a pharmacy, post office and telephone services. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The former Kremenets ghetto, burned down after its liquidation. Only one building still remains. Today, it is used as a library. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The execution site of 15,000 Jews from the Kremenets ghetto. The victims were shot in a  long trench that measured a few hundred meters.   There are two monuments, a new one and an old one.  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The memorial plaque in memory of 15,000 Jews shot by the Germans in August 1942. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum A witness pointing out the execution sites of Kremenets ghetto inmates to the Yahad team. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum A memorial dating from the Soviet Union in memory of thousands of innocent victims perished from the hands of the Nazi occupiers between 1941 and 1945. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Kremenets

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Former shooting range
Memorials:
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims:
15,000

Witness interview

Maria N., born in 1927: "At the beginning of the occupation, the Jews of Kremenets were able to continue to live normally. Then, in autumn, the German established a ghetto not far from the town center. It was surrounded by a three or four-meter-high fence and supervised by guards. Non-Jewish locals who used to live on the ghetto’s territory had to move out and the Jews of Kremenets were forced to move in. Ghetto detainees had to wear yellow circles on their shoulders and chest. It was forbidden to approach the ghetto, even in order to bring some food to the starving inmates. One year later, in summer, the ghetto was liquidated." (Testimony N°YIU2618U, interviewed in Pochaiv, on July 12, 2019)

Soviet archives

"The Germans burned down the synagogue, then went house to house to get the Jews sign a declaration stating that they didn’t know who had set it on fire. Then, under penalty of fine, it was decreed that Jews were not allowed to walk on the sidewalks where everyone else could walk. It was decreed that Jews had to wear white armbands and piece of yellow cloth. They [Germans] also declared that Jews had to hand over their gold and pay heavy taxes. When the commission to help Germans army soldiers was created, they used to enter the Jewish homes and take whatever they wanted, at the same time taking advantage of this situation to beat the Jews up. At the beginning of February 1942, a decree was issued by the Germans ordering the creation of a Jewish ghetto. All the Jewish residents of Kremenets were then transferred to this separated part of the town. On March 1, 1942, when the transfer [to the ghetto] was completed, this separated part of the town was surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by schutzmans. The ghetto inmates were given practically no food. As a result, many of them had swollen bellies and died of starvation." [Deposition of Polia Meler, a Jewish survivor, given to State Extraordinary Soviet Commission(ChGK), in 1944; GARF 7021-75-6/Copy USHMM RG.22-002M]

Historical note

Kremenets is located 60 km (37 mi) north of Ternopil. The Kremenets fortress, constructed between the 8th and 9th centuries, first appears in the chronicles in 1227 when Andrew II, the Hungarian king, failed to capture it. Initially part of Lithuania until 1569, Kremenets became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1793, the Second Partition of Poland.

The Jewish community in Kremenets traces back to the 15th century. After being expelled from Lithuania and the town, the Jews returned there in the early 16th century. In 1552, Kremenets had 240 Jews, comprising 10.6% of the population, and by 1629, 845 Jews, forming 15% of the population. Pogroms in 1648-1649 led to Jewish emigration and fatalities. Between 1793 and 1917, Kremenets was under the rule of the Russian Empire. Despite economic challenges, the Jewish community thrived. In 1897, 6,539 Jews constituted 37% of the population. Jews played a crucial role in the town’s economic and cultural life, engaging in trade, artisanry, and the paper industry. There were synagogues, a Jewish cemetery, and schools. Zionist and non-Zionist organizations were active.

After World War I, Kremenets joined the Republic of Poland. In 1931, the Jewish population numbered approximately 7,256, around 26% of the total. In 1939, due to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Kremenets became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Under Soviet rule, Jewish community organizations were dissolved, political parties banned, and Hebrew education halted. On the eve of the war, 4,000 Jewish refugees sought refuge in Kremenets. Before the German invasion, an estimated 12,000 Jews lived in the town.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Kremenets fell under German occupation on July 3, 1941, with only a few hundred Jews managing to evacuate. Soon after, following the discovery of Ukrainians killed by the NKVD, a pogrom occurred. Between 400 and 800 Jewish men were arrested and shot in the prison, accused of the murders, while their belongings were looted. On July 23, 1941, 800 members of the intelligentsia, mainly Jews, were killed by the German Security Police on Krestovaya Hill.

In the weeks that followed, a Judenrat was established, and anti-Jewish measures were enforced. Jews were compelled to wear distinctive symbols, surrender valuables, and subjected to forced labor. The Germans burned down the synagogue, blaming the act on the Jews. After a brief military administration, the town came under German civil administration in September 1941.

By March 1942, 8,000 to 9,000 Jews were confined within the ghetto, surrounded by a three-meter-high wooden fence. Overcrowding, hunger, lack of healthcare, and isolated shootings led to numerous deaths. Before the ghetto’s liquidation on August 9, 1942, 1,200 to 1,500 Jews selected for work were transferred to Bilokrynytsia. The ghetto’s liquidation took about two weeks, with approximately 8,000 Jews, including those from nearby villages, murdered in three main Aktions on August 10, August 14, and August 20, 1942. Victims were taken to the former shooting range of the Yakutsk Regiment, shot in groups, and buried in a ditch. Each layer of corpses was covered with earth and lime chloride. The last ghetto detainees were killed on September 2, 1942, during the ghetto’s burning. Isolated shootings of Jews in hiding and Jewish craftsmen continued over the following months, with a monument erected for the 15,000 Jewish victims on the execution site of the former shooting range of the Yakutsk Regiment.

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