2 Execution site(s)
Halyna B., born in 1937: “Y. U. : Did you see the start of the shooting or had it already started when you arrived?
Witness : I don’t know if it was the beginning or the end; I only saw the shooting one day. I was playing in the yard when a huge truck drove by. There were 10 soldiers sitting in it, maybe 8, but not less. They were holding rifles with long bayonets that shone in the sun. They were sitting on both sides of the truck, and in the middle, there were women and children, maybe there were men, but I remember well the women. They were screaming, one black-haired woman tore her hair. This truck quickly drove past the gate and turned to the road that led to the pit. And from there drove a similar truck; there were also soldiers with bayonets in it, but there was no one else. There had been several trucks like this. I climbed onto the fence (translator’s note : the witness shows in gestures what the fence was like). There was a board, and I stood on it, holding on to the acacia, and I watched what was happening. My neighbor climbed up a tree; others were looking that way too. Then he [executioner] turned around and fired a burst in our direction, bullets whistled over our heads. A shout went up, my aunt, my neighbor and others took us and locked us up at our houses. They said that if we stayed we’d be shot. Apparently, he [executioner] could see us and he didn’t want us to watch. Or maybe one of the soldiers saw us and told him to shoot so we wouldn’t look. I don’t know how many days it [execution] lasted, but people said they [the Jews] were taken there for several days.” (Witness n°2713U, interviewed in Monastyryshche, on November 6, 2019)
“The mestetchko [shtetl] was encircled by the Germans, and at around 6am the round-up started. Besides the Germans, there were Hungarians, Romanians and local Ukrainian police, among whom some former komsomols. All of them had their hands in blood […] The Jews were gathered at the marketplace. They forced everyone out of their houses, even the dying paralyzed elder people. Mothers held their babies in their arms. The babies kept crying because they were suddenly woken up. […] Later, several Jews were called according to the list. After, we found out that they were all specialists and artisans. […] I heard my name and I stepped forward. The police pushed me aside, beating me with rifle butts towards the previously selected group. I thought that my death was near. We were taken to the Klub building, where we were locked up. All other people, who remained at the [market] place, were taken towards a big ravine located on the outskirts of Monastyryshche. A big pit of about 60m wide had been dug in the ravine by the local villagers during the night. The Jews were taken [in groups] toward the pit, where they were shot by the Germans and khohols [sic: pejorative name for Ukrainians]. Some young [Jews] attempted to escape but they were shot dead on the spot. […] Only from our shtetl about 1,000 Jews were murdered on this day.” [From a survivor Nikolay Zadernovski’s deposition, Excerpt taken from A.Kruglov, A. Umansky, I. Schupak, Holocaust in Ukraine, Dnipro, Tkuma, 2016]
Monastyryshche is located 220km (137mi) southwest of Cherkasy and 50km (31mi) northwest of Uman. The first record about the Jewish community goes back to the second half of the 17th century. In the course of history, the community suffered from different waves of pogroms, for instance in 1648-1649, 1733-1734 and 1918-1920. However, the community grew. It represented more than a half of the total population in the beginning of the 20th century. Monastyryshche became one of the centers of the Hassidic movement. Rabbi Mordechai Rosen was the leader of the Hassidic movement. In the 1920s, a Yiddish school was opened. Under the Soviet rule three kolkhozes [collective farms] were created. The majority of the Jews were artisans or workers. Some of them lived off the small-scale trade. On the eve of the war, 74% of the population was Jewish.
Monastyryshche was occupied by the German forces on July 22, 1941. According to the local testimonies the Jews continued to live in their houses until late spring 1942. They weren’t marked, but they were not able to sell in the shops and work. In the spring 1942, a certain number of Jews from Terlytsia, Sarny, Tsybuliv and Lukashivka were displaced to Monastyryshche where they were placed within the local Jews.
The execution of Jews started with a mass execution conducted on May 29, 1942, by Germans who, according to the deposition of a survivor, were helped by Romanians, Hungarians, and local police. On this day, all the Jews were forced out of their houses and gathered at the marketplace. After a selection, about 120-140 Jewish specialists were taken to the Klub while the remaining Jews, according to different archives there were several hundred to 5,000, were taken towards the Burlakov forest where a pit had been dug in the ravine. According to the testimonies, the Jews were taken to the execution site by truck. Once there, all the group, about 25-30 people, was forced out of the truck, undressed and shot at the edge of the pit. The shooting was conducted by a dozen Germans .
The second execution was conducted in September 1942, when about 120-140 Jewish specialists were shot. They were buried in the pit dug in the field. The third execution of the remaining specialists was conducted on August 20, 1943. In all, about 400 artisans who had been spared in the first two massacres were murdered.
According to Ukrainian historian A. Kruglov, the figures given by the Soviet archive is overestimated, while the figure given by the German one is underestimated. According to him, about 3,600 Jews were murdered in Monastyryshche under the occupation.
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