1 Execution site(s)
Anatoliy V., born in 1932 :
“Y. U.: And what happened to the remaining Jews?
Witness: The remaining Jews were rounded up at one location. The place was the same barracks. They were gathered there. And they worked. I remember that in winter they had to shovel the snow. They would carry it, put it on the sleds and pull it away.
Y. U.: And did you witness the round-up? How did it happen?
Witness: Of course I did. They were gathered from all over the town. All the Jews who remained in the town were gathered in these barracks. We saw them working, pulling the sleds, being beaten by police. We saw everything. And later, they were taken to the outskirts of the town where they were forced to dig a big pit in which they were shot. Today there is a small memorial there, in the memory of the people who were shot. There were children, elderly people, everyone! All the men, all the women, all the children were shot there. It was our policemen who shot them.” (Witness n°374R, interviewed in Opochka, on September 5, 2012)
“According to the depositions given by the residents, it was established that upon the Germans’ arrival in July 1941, the German fascist forces arrested the entire Jewish population that lived in the town of Opochka and its district, numbering 107 people, and confined them in a concentration camp.[Note: ghetto]. In the camp, the Jews were starved to death and forced to perform heavy labor. In March 1942 they were all shot to death on the outskirts of the town of Opochka. In the autumn of 1943, the bodies were exhumed and burned by the Germans.
The interrogated resident of the town Varvara S. Kotenko said:
“In August 1941, under the order of [illegible], all the Jews living in the town of Opochka were arrested. About 100 Jews were arrested. Some of my acquaintances were among them: the Veinsteins, three of them, the Vishnevskiys, 2 people, Berta Libgot, Lilia Gessel and her 7 or 3 relatives, the Kulmas and others. All the arrested Jews were confined into a three-storey building where they stayed until March 1942. During this time the Jews living in the nearby villages were also arrested. By March 1942, about 150 Jews had been arrested. They lived in terrible conditions. It was very cold and dirty in the rooms they inhabited; they were starving to death. The elderly people and teenagers were forced to do heavy physical labor. As a result of such conditions, many Jews didn’t make it through and died.” [Act drawn up by Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on November 29, 1944; GARF-7021-20-18]
Opochka is an urban locality located on the banks of Velikaya river 130km (81 mi) south of Pskov. There is no exact information about when the first Jews started to settle down in the town. According to the local witness interviewed by Yahad, many Jews moved from Leningrad [modern day Saint-Petersburg] in 1905 as it was dangerous to stay in the city. There was no precise street where the Jews lived. They lived alongside and mixed with the local non-Jewish population. The majority of Jews from Opochka were either merchants or artisans. There were doctors and lawyers among them as well. The Jewish community had a cemetery and a synagogue half destroyed and abandoned today. There was no Jewish school. All the Jewish and non-Jewish children went to the same school. On the eve of the war in 1939, 293 Jews lived in Opochka, comprising less than 2% of the total population.
Opochka was occupied by Germans on July 9, 1941. By this time many Jews had already managed to evacuate. It is estimated that circa. 200 Jews remained in the town at the moment of the occupation. According to the historian Martin Dean, shortly after the occupation a number of Jews were killed at the Jewish cemetery. In August 1941, the remaining Jews of the town and its vicinity were gathered in a ghetto created in the half-burned barracks. During its six-month existence, the ghetto inmates were forced to carry out heavy physical labor, like cleaning and shovelling the snow from the streets. Starting from November 1941, isolated shootings of the ghetto inmates began. On March 9, 1942, the ghetto was liquidated and the remaining 100 Jews or more were taken to the forest outside the town and shot in the pit dug by the Jews themselves. In the autumn of 1943, in order to hide the traces of their crimes, the Nazis dug up the bodies and burned them. This operation in known as Operation 1005.
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