1 Execution site(s)
Elisaveta K., born in 1914: "All the Jews were confined into the ghetto that was set up in the town’s Jewish district. It was surrounded by a three-meter-high wooden fence topped with barbed wire. I remember the Jews being taken to a sawmill to perform forced labor. Between 50 and 100 people, men and women, were marched in a column guarded by policemen in dark blue uniforms. The Jews walked in silence, some of them were crying. Despite the fact that they were starving, they were not allowed to take any food offered by people in the street." (Testimony N°YIU1790U, interviewed in Shumsk, on August 3, 2013)
"When I arrived at the execution site, I saw three pits there. The first one was 30 meters long, 5 meters wide and 3 meters deep, the second one measured 3X3 meters and the third one was 4 meters long, 3 meters wide and 3 meters deep. The first big pit had already been filled with corpses across its entire length, to a depth of about 1 meter, and about a quarter of it had been covered with earth. Two other pits were still empty. We were between 30 and 40 workers gathered there when we saw a group of about 200 - 250 Jews being led to the site and forced to strip naked. After that we, the workers, were given order by the Gendarmerie Commander of Shumsk, P. (a German) to move away for some time. We moved away from the pit to a distance of about 150 meters, where we laid down on the hill watching all the Jews undress. Afterwards, naked, they were lined up in rows of four and moved towards the pit, two rows at a time. Then, they had to go down into the pit using the stairs and lay down facing the ground. Next a muffled sound of gunfire could be heard. In 30-40 minutes, all the Jews were killed in one of the small pits, which was then partially covered with earth." [Deposition of Vladyslav S., a requestioned local villager, given to State Extraordinary Soviet Commission (ChGK), on October 9, 1944; GARF 7021-75-15/Copy USHMM RG.22-002M]
Shumsk is located about 90 km (56mi) northeast of Ternopil, in the historic region of Volhynia. The city was founded in the 16th century as a part of Kingdom of Poland where it remained until the end of the 18th century, before being taken over by the Russian Empire. The first mention of Jews dates back to the first half of the 18th century. In 1897, there were 1,962 Jewish residents, comprising about 87% of the total population. By 1921, when Shumsk was returned to Poland, 1,717 Jews lived in the city. They were mainly merchants, engaged in the grain and lumber trade, while some were artisans and skilled workers, such as school teachers and doctors. Hassidism was the dominant religion, but the Zionist movement was active during the interwar period. The Great Synagogue, built in 1781, was one of five synagogues of Shumsk. In 1939, following the outbreak of the war, Shumsk was incorporated into the Ukrainian Social Soviet Republic as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Fleeing Nazi-occupied Poland, hundreds of Jewish refugees found shelter in the town. A number of them, though, were deported to Siberia in 1940. On the eve of the war, there were over 2,000 Jews living in Shumsk. Just a few Jewish families were able to evacuate to the East at the beginning of the German occupation.
Shumsk was occupied by German troops on July 3, 1941. After a brief period of military administration, the town was taken over by a German civil administration in September 1941. A German Gendarmerie post and Ukrainian police unit were established in Shumsk. Persecution of the Jewish population started during the first days of the occupation, when several Jewish residents were murdered in a pogrom conducted by locals. The following months were marked by the implementation of anti-Jewish measures. Wearing distinctive symbols became compulsory and trading was prohibited. The Jews were forced to hand over valuables and carry out forced labor such as repairing roads, carrying out agricultural work and clearing snow.
By March 12, 1942, local Jews alongside those from nearby villages, over 2,000 people, were enclosed within the ghetto established in the Jewish quarter of Shumsk. It was surrounded by a wooden fence topped with barbed wire. Ghetto inmates were forbidden to leave its territory, except for some Jewish craftsmen, who were subjected to forced labor in the workshops created outside the ghetto. Overcrowding, hunger and widespread diseases resulted in a death of a number of its detainees. The ghetto was liquidated over the course of an Aktion conducted between 12 and 20 August, 1942, by Security police and SD from Rivne, with the help of Gendarmerie members and local policemen. The first 11 victims were murdered on the night of August 8, 1942, while trying to escape from policemen who surrounded the ghetto. On August 12, 1942, as soon as three pits had been dug on the outskirts of the town, several hundred meters behind the orthodox cemetery, 1,792 ghetto inmates were rounded up near the synagogue before being taken to the execution site in a column to be shot. According to research results, the bodies of the victims that had been killed on their way to the execution site were loaded onto carts that were following the column, and taken to the mass graves to be buried with other victims. The Aktion continued over the course of the following days, as Jews in hiding were captured and killed at the same location. The last ghetto inmates were killed on October 1, 1942, including those who were spared in order to clear up the ghetto territory. Altogether, 2,432 Jewish victims were executed in three separate pits, located near the Viliia River. Just a few Shumsk Jews managed to survive the Holocaust.
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