1 Execution site(s)
Liudmila O., born in 1935: “As soon as the Germans arrived, the Jews had to gather on the town’s central square every day. A Kommandantur official walked out with a list and called their names one by one. Then they were told that they would be moved to another town further from the bombings where they could continue living their lives. They believed this and prepared for the deportation which was arranged for a specific date. They were told to take their belongings and work tools with them. I don’t remember when exactly it happened because back then I was very little. I believe it was either in the autumn of 1942 or 1943. So, on that day, the Germans passed by each house where the Jews lived and made them leave the house and get inside the carts that were passing by. Everything happened calmly. I even saw a friend of mine, Valia, who lived on the Oktiabrskaya Street. She was among the Jews taken to the shooting. As you can imagine, instead of transferring them to another village, they were taken to be shot. The Jews only understood that when they saw the pit.” (Witness n°172R, interviewed in Pustoshka, on July 2, 2011)
“In February 1942, following the order of the town commandant, all the town’s Jews were rounded up by the police and relocated to the older [part of] Pustoshka, in specially requisitioned apartments. The day after the round-up, the Jews were taken [from the apartments] under guard to a swamp between the older part and the newer part of Pustoshka, in the direction of Filistovo village. When the Jews reached the pit there, they were shot in groups of 15 people by submachine-guns and machine-guns. People who were still alive, or wounded were thrown into the pit alive and buried. The children became frightened and tried to escape but dogs were set on them. The dogs caught the children and tore their clothes from them. Then the Germans threw these children into the pit alive. 58 Jews were shot by the Germans that day.” [Deposition of Anrdey Artetskiy, who was born in 1890 and lived in Pustoshka, given to Extraordinary State Commission (ChGK), November 20, 1944; GARF 7021-20-21]
Pustoshka is a village located on the Krupeya River, 191 kilometers (119 mi) southeast of Pskov. The first records of the Jewish community date back to the mid-19th century. There was a temporary ban on Jews living there from 1882 to 1903. The Jewish population of Pustoshka increased with the development of the old Kiev – Saint Petersburg Road and later from the construction of a railway line to Moscow. In 1913, 1,500 people lived in Pustoshka, the majority of whom were the Jews. They were mainly involved in commerce and handcrafts. The town had two brickyards, one tar plant, bakeries, mills, all owned by Jews. In 1919, a kindergarten for 50 Jewish children and a Yiddish primary school were opened in the town. In 1925, Pustoshka was granted the status of a town. In 1926, 931 Jews lived in the town, comprising 57% of the total population. However, due to the immigration of Jews to bigger cities to search for better opportunities, the Jewish community decreased and numbered only 308 members, or 12% of the total population, in 1939.
Pustoshka was occupied by the Germans on July 16, 1941. Before their arrival, many of Pustoshka’s Jews managed to evacuate the town. According to the local witnesses interviewed by Yahad, the Jews continued to live in their houses at the beginning, but they were marked with the Star of David on their chests and had to present themselves for an daily roll-call at the Kommandatura. In February 1942, a ghetto was established in Staraya Pustoshka, the older part of the town, where the remaining Jews were interred. It was an open ghetto, and the Jews were able to leave its territory to look for food or perform forced labor. The ghetto was liquidated in early March 1942. On March 3-4, 1942, the ghetto inmates were taken to the swamp between the older and the newer parts of Pustoshka and shot to death in groups of fifteen. Before being shot, they were forced to undress, according to the local testimonies. Those who were wounded but remained alive were also thrown into the pit. Jewish children who tried to escape from the murder site had dogs set on them. According to the Soviet archives, 58 Jews were murdered that day, however some testimonies report that there were around 70 victims.
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