2 Execution site(s)
Anonymous, born in 1922, remembers: “W: The ghetto was at the center of town: it spread from the church to the river, and from the current post office to the river. The Jews were gathered in this area. Before the war, a bigger village might have had five to seven Jewish families; they were not numerous in the villages. In our village, for example, we had only one, our neighbors. Once the Germans arrived, all the Jews were transferred to Rohatyn.
YIU: When your neighbors in the village were moved to the Rohatyn ghetto, did they move themselves? Did the Germans come to your village and force them to move?
W: They went by themselves. We had very good relations with them; they were very good neighbors, so we respected each other. During the holidays they didn’t work, they didn’t even make a fire. They asked me all the time to do this for them, and for that they gave me some tasty food as a thank you. They left by themselves – it was in October 1941. Before they left, there was an episode: someone threw a grenade into their house; it was not functional, but still, they were afraid, so they asked my advice on what they should do, and I advised them to move to Rohatyn. We did not know if Germans would come and kill them, so they decided to move to Rohatyn. I knew who threw the grenade into the house, because before the Germans arrived, there was NKVD and Russians in the militia, and two Russian agents stayed in the village when the Germans arrived and they pretended to be Ukrainians Nationalists. So they had weapons and grenades, and put on armbands. When the real Ukrainian nationalists learned of this, they killed them.”(Testimony n°2095, interviewed in Rohatyn on June 11th, 2016)
“On March 20th, 1942, the first massacre of Jews was organized in Rohatyn. About 3,500 Jews from Rohatyn were killed outside the city. They had to undressed entirely, stay on a footbridge over the pit and after they were shot. 3,500 people mentioned above were residents of Rohatyn and refugees who came to Rohatyn from other places in 1939. Around August 20th, 1942, the second Aktion was organized during which 1,500 people were sent to Belzec. We still do not know what happened to them, because no one came back alive.” [Deposition of German Vol, a Jewish survivor, taken on February 17th, 1945. RG 22.002M. 7021-73-13]
“We were ordered to dig large pits outside Rohatyn, near the brickyard. We thought it would serve as protection against air strikes. There were two pits each 2-3m deep. The largest measured 100x100m or x150m. There were many Jews who dug the pits because the ground was frozen. On March 20th, 1942 - I think it was a Friday - an Aktion took place there, organized by the Gestapo unit from Stanislav. Around 8 am, I was forced out of my apartment and taken to the marketplace by Gestapo soldiers wearing armbands with the inscription "Exterminator of Jews". There we had to lie down facing the frozen ground. After that, the Jews were transported in groups in several trucks. I waited until 5 pm and was also driven to the site of the shooting. Once on the site, I saw a river of blood flowing from the pit. Gestapo men were standing on the edge of the pit. On the way, I saw Hans K. behind a board or a stone to protect his uniform from blood. There was also blood in the pit that was already almost full of corpses. Some of the corpses were dressed, others were naked. When I reached the pit, I slipped on the blood-soaked ground and fell into the pit. I was mistaken for of the dead and was not shot. In all, 24 Jews, who were not wounded or just slightly wounded, survived in the pit during that Aktion. As the pit was not covered with soil at night, we were able to get out of that mass of corpses.” [Deposition of Moshe Nashofer, a Jewish survivor, taken on May 10th, 1962; B162-25601]
Rohatyn is located 60 km north of Ivano-Frankivsk. During WWI, many Rohatyn Jews were evacuated to Austria, Bohemia, and Moravia, where they lived in evacuation camps. In August 1914, Russian troops organized a pogrom in Rohatyn. They set fire to the Jewish quarter, arrested and deported 570 Jews to Russia. In June 1915, the city was won back by the Austrians. In 1918-1919, the West-Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR) was proclaimed, and Jews began to return to Rohatyn to rebuild their homes. During the existence of the ZUNR, the Rohatyn Jews maintained neutrality. The Ukrainian authorities cooperated with the Jewish police and the “Jewish National Committee of Protection from Military Disasters.” In June 1919, Polish troops took control of Rohatyn, and it became a part of Poland. In the 1920s and 1930s, branches of various Jewish parties and organizations operated in Rohatyn; there was also a drama and sport clubs. They lived off trade and handcraft. In 1939, there were 8,100 inhabitants in Rohatyn, 3,250 of them were Jewish. In September 1939, Rohatyn, as part of Western Ukraine, was occupied by the troops of the Soviet Union. More than 3,000 Jews remained in the town on the eve of the war.
Rohatyn was occupied by the Germans on the 2ndof July, 1941. The witnesses’ testimonies recorded by Yahad completely confirm the historical documents. Immediately after the Germans arrival, the Jewish council was established and a local police was created. In August 1941, a ghetto was established in Rohatyn. According to the local witnesses, it was located behind the greco-catholic church and fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by the local police. The Jews were forbidden to leave its territory. They had to wear a white armband bearing the inscription “Jude” on it and to perform forced labor. In 1941, the ghetto numbered 6,500 Jews and by fall 1942 another 5,000 Jews from nearby villages, such as Burshtyn, Bukachivtsi, Bilchivtsi, were resettled on its territory. Due to the overcrowding and terrible sanitary conditions a lot of Jews died of hunger and epidemics. According to the historical resources the Jewish community of Rohatyn was murdered in the course of four major Aktions which were conducted by the Security Police assisted by German gendarmerie and the local police. The first Aktion was organized on March 20th, 1942, when about 1,800 Jews were rounded-up from the ghetto and gathered at the market place. They had to stay there, lying down on the snow, from 8am to 2pm. After that, they were taken by truck to the pit, located near the railroad station in groups of 250 people. The specialists and their families were seperated and send back to the ghetto. On September 21st through September 22nd, 1942, the second Aktion was carried out against 1,000 Jews. During two days 700 Jews were sent to the Belzec death camp and 300 were killed on the spot. The third Aktion was carried out on December 8th, 1942. During this aktion 500 Jews were killed on the ghetto territory and buried by the local villagers near the hospital, and another 1,400 Jews were deported to Belzec. The ghetto was liquidated on June 6th, 1943, when about 2,500 Jews were rounded up and shot at the Jewish cemetery. In all, between 4,300 and 5,000 Jews were murdered and 2,000 more were deported to Belzec.
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