Bilohirya (former Lyakhovtsy, Liakhivtsi) | Khmelnytskyi 

/ Local ambiance. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The location of the ghetto. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The location of the ghetto. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The location of the ghetto. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The location of the entry gate to the ghetto.  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Raisa T., born in 1929:   “One girl would sneak out and come to our house. A little girl, she was from Yampol, she was about 8 or 10 years old, she would sneak out on the side where there was water."©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Nina L., born in 1932: “Together with a friend of mine we watched the execution from the bushes, about 20m away. Then, her mother came and scolded us, saying it was dangerous and made us come home.” ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Nadia D., born in 1930: “All the Jews confined in the ghetto were marked with distinctive badges. Their living conditions were awful. Lack of space, hygiene and drinking water. That is why the typhus epidemic broke out.” ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Mykola S., born in 1930: “Some Jews were forced to do farm work in the kolkhoz. During the beetroot harvest, three Jewish women stayed in our house while working in the kolkhoz.” ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad - In Unum team during an interview. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The execution site of about 2,000 Jews from Yampil, Bilohirsk and Kornitsa murdered here on June 27, 1942 along with the local Jews. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The location of the mass grave where several dozen Jewish inmates from the ghetto were buried. They died from the typhus that broke out in the ghetto. Back then, it was the castle territory. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The location of the mass grave where several dozen Jewish inmates from the ghetto were buried. They died from the typhus that broke out in the ghetto. Back then, it was the castle territory. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The location of the mass grave where several dozen Jewish inmates from the ghetto were buried. They died from the typhus that broke out in the ghetto. Back then this site was a Jewish cemetery. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Bilohirya

3 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Sand quarries near the forest
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Over 2,000

Witness interview

Raisa T., born in 1929:
“Y. U. : Do you happen to remember any names?
Witness : Of course I do. The names of those that I was friends with. There was a family living right across the street. Their last name was Herber. They had a disabled child. Their oldest daughter’s name was Tunya and there was a younger daughter as well, Shiva, she was a beauty. I remember her, they made a dress for her out of burgundy wool, she was younger than me, her sister was older, we used to study together. She had a head full of auburn curls. And that dress…It must have been some kind of a holiday. A Jewish holiday and she was dressed up. And at the collar she wore a bow tie made out of a red satin ribbon. It was so beautiful, and that girl was so beautiful…
Y. U. : What did the father of the Herber family do for living?
Witness : He was a handler. Like in the olden days there were people that made a living exchanging things. They would take eggs and give you fabric. Everything was very expensive. There were very few fabrics available. The Soviet regime had just taken over, and they destroyed whatever there was. That’s how it was. And there was another boy that I played with, we were friends, his name was Musik. He had blonde hair and blue eyes; he was a very beautiful little boy. When they were shot… They say that when they were shooting them, he carried their clothes away from them and asked to be let go. They didn’t let him go. I’ve remembered him my whole life. Our class in school was almost entirely Jewish. Out of 35 students only 8 were Orthodox, Ukrainians. Though it was not the only class in school. There were a lot of classes at the school, about 4.
Y. U. : What did the parents of Musik do for living?
Witness : His father also worked in provisioning. I forgot their last name. When the Germans entered the village, his father was killed. He was killed by a cannon. We were digging the trenches, he was with the Ukrainians. He was in a trench. I don’t know how he ended up in there, in any case they were hiding in that hole.” (Witness n°2794U, interviewed in Bilohirya, on September 21, 2020)

Soviet archives

“In June 1942 the head of the Zhovten kolkhoz [illegible] was ordered to assign 25 workers from the kolkhoz to work for the police of Lyakhovtsy County. I was one of them. On the following day, at 4a.m., we arrived at the police station with shovels; there were 74 of us gathered there on the order of Arkadyi A., the head of the police. Ten or twelve Ukrainian policemen lined us up and took us to a location about 300 meters from the village of Trostyanka, to the edge of the forest where the quarries were located, i.e where sand was extracted from the quarries to repair roads. We were stopped there. A., the head of the police, and [illegible], I don’t know his last name, the head of Gendarmerie took a measuring rod and measured the depth and length of the pit. They forced us to dig two pits. Afterwards they left, and at 2 p.m. Pavel G., the head of the local administration looked at the pits and told us to dig deeper in order to prevent [victims] from escaping. So we then asked him what we were digging the pits for, G. answered that it was for burying various spoils of the war – mines, ammunition etc. At the same time, he ordered us to finish digging the two pits by 8p.m. and then he left. In the evening A., the head of the police, and the head of the Gendarmerie arrived at the site again where we were just about to finish digging the pits. So, the head of the Gendarmerie measured the depth of the pit and ordered us to make the pit two meters deeper, which we did. Only then did we understand that we were digging those pits for the Jewish population. When we finished digging the pits, the Ukrainian policemen who were guarding us in order to prevent us from running away lined us up and took us home, warning us not to tell anyone. We were told to tell anyone who asked that we were repairing roads. […]”[Deposition of a local requisitioned villager Foma Y., bornin 1891 in Lyakhovtsy given to the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission in May 1944; GARF 7021-64-801]

Historical note

Bilohirya, former name Lyakhivtsi or Lyakhovtsy in Russian, is located 89km (55mi) northwest of Kmelnytskyi. In 1793, the village was controlled by Poland and remained under Polish rule until the interwar period when it was taken over by the Russian Empire. The first record of the Jewish community goes back to the early 17th century. The community suffered from the pogroms carried out during the Khmelnytskyi Uprising and the Civil War which left several dozen dead. According to the 1897 census, 1,384 Jews lived in the town making up 25% of the total population, which was also made up of Poles and Ukrainians. The majority of Jews lived off small-scale trade and handcraft. In the 1920s, a kolkhoz [collective farm] was created, and all private workshops were reunited in the cooperative organizations, as private business was banned. Many Jews engaged in the agriculture. On the eve of the war, 908 Jews remained in the town. 

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Bilohirya was occupied by German forces on July 5, 1941. Straight after the occupation, all the Jews were marked, and a ghetto was established. The ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by the local police. Alongside the local Jews, there were Jewish inmates transferred in from the nearby towns such as Yampil, Kornytsia and others. During the existence of the ghetto, the Jews were used as forced labor. According to the witness n°2797U interviewed by Yahad, some Jews, mainly women, were used for farm work in the fields near the village of Yurivka. As a result of overcrowding, starvation, and lack of hygiene, many Jews died. Their bodies were taken to the Jewish cemetery and buried there. During the winter 1941-1942, a typhus epidemic broke out in the ghetto with devastating effects on the mortality rate. Victims’ bodies were buried in a mass grave dug on the territory of the castle, which has since been destroyed. 

 The ghetto was liquidated on June 27, 1942. That day, all the Jewish inmates, with the exception of a dozen specialists, were taken 4km away towards the sand quarries located near the village of Trostyanka. Beforehand, local men were requisitioned to dig the pits.  According to the testimonies collected by Yahad, the execution lasted three days. On the first day, the men were taken by truck to the sand quarries to be shot. Before being taken, they were forced to undress on the square near the ghetto. Women, children and the elderly were shot during the second two days. Contrary to the men, they were forced to undress directly on the site. Once on site, the victims were forced to lie face down, and then shot with machine-guns by members of the Gendarmerie. After the first row of bodies had been covered with lime and sand, the next group of people was placed on top of them, and also shot with machine-guns. The head of the German Gendarmerie of the Izyaslav District, as well as the head of the Local Auxiliary police were in charge of this Aktion. According to the testimonies, about twelve Jewish specialists – artisans and craftsmen, with their families, remained in the ghetto for about two months. They were eventually murdered in at the same site.  

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