1 Execution site(s)
Maria K., born in 1920: "Several executions were carried out at the oil depot. I regularly saw columns of Jews being marched towards the shooting site. A young Jewish woman, Berta, managed to get out of the pit and to come to my uncle’s house. She was naked and covered with blood and dirt. She was injured but the wound was not fatal, so my uncle took care of her and helped her to recover. She was able to survive the war hiding in his house. After the liberation, she immigrated to Israel. In gratitude, she offered my family a dresser, which I still have.” (Testimony N°YIU816U, interviewed in Zbarazh, on May 13, 2009)
"On the night of August 31 to September 1, 560 elderly and ill members of the Jewish population were rounded up in the bathhouse. On September 1, Hauptsturmführer M. and his SS men arrived from Tarnopol (Ternopil), loaded the unfortunates onto two trucks and drove them like cattle to Tarnopol to be exterminated at the mass crimes site in the town of Belzec. […] On September 30, 1942, Gestapo members L., G. from the with the help of the Ukrainian police, sent 260 elderly people to Tarnopol by trucks from where they were sent to Belzec, where they were shot. Over the course of this action (pogrom), dozens of people were killed near the bathhouse. Their grave is in the cemetery. On October 21, 1942, at 4 am, the Schutzpolizei of Tarnopol arrived to carry out an action. They took innocent civilians out of their homes and rounded them up in the bathhouse. Then, Hauptsturmführer M. arrived from Tarnopol, gave an order to load these 1,000 people onto freight cars in order to send them to Belzec via Tarnopol and Lvov (Lviv). It should be noted that by this time stamped workbooks had no longer much value as before and many workers were among the victims." [Deposition of Marian Fravenglas, a Jewish survivor, given to State Extraordinary Soviet Commission(ChGK), on July 3, 1944; GARF 7021-75-4/Copy USHMM RG.22-002M]
Zbarazh is located about 22 km (14mi) northeast of Ternopil, in the historic region of Galicia. The town was founded in the 13th century as a part of Kingdom of Poland. The first mention of Jews dates back to the late 15th century. In 1510, a cemetery was established. Following the expansion of the Jewish community, which numbered 910 members by 1765, a synagogue was built.
The Jewish inhabitants of Zbarazh suffered from the pogroms during the Cossack Uprising of 1648-1649, the Turkish conquest of 1675 and the Haidamak raids of 1708. However, with time, they managed to restore the town’s economy. In 1772, Zbarazh was annexed to Austria and remained under its rule until 1918. By 1890, 3,631 Jews lived in the town, and in 1900, there were 2,896 Jewish residents, comprising about 35% of the total population. Hassidism, which was a dominant religion until the end of the 19th century, was then overshadowed by a significant Zionist movement, which resulted in introduction of Hebrew as the main language of education system. The majority of Jews ran small businesses and were skilled workers, but in early 20th century they began to play an important role in municipal politics. At the end of 1918, for a short time, the town became part of the Western Ukrainian Republic before being taken over by Poland. In 1931, there were 2,870 Jews. In 1939, following the outbreak of the war, Zbarazh was incorporated into the Ukrainian Social Soviet Republic as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. At the time, hundreds of Jewish refugees from Poland found shelter in the town, with the population reaching 5,000 residents during the war. Under Soviet rule, Jewish community organizations and institutions were dissolved, private businesses prohibited and cooperatives for artisans set up. For refusing to get the Soviet passports, a number of Jewish refugees were deported to Siberia on the eve of the war.
Zbarazh was occupied by German troops on July 4, 1941. After a brief period of military administration, the town was taken over by a German civil administration in August 1941. Persecution of the Jewish population started in the first days of the occupation, when about 20 Jews were murdered in their houses. In July 1941, a Jewish Council was created. The Jewish residents were systematically humiliated, forced to hand over valuables and carry out forced labor on railroad construction. Wearing an armband with the Star of David became compulsory.
The Zbarazh Jews were murdered or deported to Belzec extermination camp over the course of several Aktions, conducted by the Security Police of Ternopil, with the help of the German Gendarmerie and local auxiliary Police, all based in Zbarazh. The first Aktion was carried out on September 6, 1941, when about 70 members of Jewish intelligentsia were shot in the nearby forest of Lubianka. In the following winter and spring, a number of able-bodied men were transferred to different labor camps that had been set up in the area.
Deportations to the Belzec extermination camp started in the second half of 1942. Over the course of the first three Aktions, conducted between August 31 and October 22, 1942, about 2,000 local Jews and those from the vicinity were deported to Belzec. Among them was a group of 130 people, initially selected for the transfer, who were killed in the town’s bathhouse and buried in the cemetery. In October 1942, about 2,000 Jews were confined to the ghetto established in the town, from where the last group of 1,000 Jews were sent to Belzec extermination camp on November 9, making up a total number of deportees about 3,000 people.
From then on, the Zbarazh ghetto was enlarged with the introduction of Jewish residents from other locations. Overcrowding and difficult living conditions, including forced labor, resulted in a death of a number of its inmates. The ghetto was liquidated over the course of several Aktions, with the main one being carried out on April 7, 1943. On this day, circa. 1,000 Jews were murdered in the former Soviet military oil depot, located near the railroad station. At the shooting site, the victims had to undress and put their clothing and shoes on two separate piles. Women had their hair cut off. Then, in groups of 10 to 15 people they had to run towards the pit left after the destruction of the oil depot’s containers, where they were killed by the Germans with submachine guns. About 20 Jews were kept alive in order to load the clothes onto carts and fill in the pit after the shooting. They were the last to be shot once the task was completed. The remaining ghetto inmates (several hundred) were killed on June 9, 1943. The isolated shooting of Jews in hiding continued until the end of the occupation. Only about 60 Jews from Zbarazh survived the war. During field research in the area, Yahad only managed to identify one execution site out of six, located near the oil depot.
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