Mizoch (Misozc) | Rivne

/ At the entrance to the town of Mizoch. ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad -In Unum Volodymyr B., born in 1924: “The Jews fell over the dead bodies. They were forced to undress, almost until naked, and then they had to walk over the previous group and at that moment they were shot.”©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad - In Unum The former sugar factory near which the Jews were killed. ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team with a local witness in the ravine where circa. 3,500 Jews were murdered. ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team reconstructing the crime scenes with a local witness, Volodymyr B., and the available archival sources: “Three Germans conducted the shooting, two inside [the pit], and one on the top”©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team with a witness at the execution site of Jews in Mizoch. ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad - In Unum The execution site of circa. 3,500 Jews murdered here by the Nazis during the war. ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Mizoch

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Ravine near sugar factory
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:

Witness interview

Volodymyr B., born in 1924: "Once the Jews had been gathered with a few belongings, they were taken in groups of 30 or 40, from morning until evening, to the execution site. They were led there by a German at the front, and two other people who followed behind. The Jews were aware of what was going to happen to them. They walked calmly, without resisting. They threw their belongings, money, jewellery into a river on the way to the killing site. Once at the site, they were divided into groups. The Jews waited in groups for the end of the previous killing, on the edge of the pit, so that they could not see the massacres taking place. The Jews were forced to undress in the pit and then to lie down on the bodies of the Jews from the previous ’layer’.” (Witness n°574U, interviewed in Mizoch, on January 10, 2008)

Soviet archives

"In 1942 I served as a head of the Bilashiv village rural council (selsoviet) and on October 14 of the same year, up to 200 policemen encircled the town of Mizocch and took 1,500 Jews to the ravine under guard, located about 300 meters from the sugar factory. They handed them over to the Gestapo from Rivne. The Gestapo [men] stripped the Jews naked, and then the naked Jews -- threatened with weapons -- were forced into the ravine in groups of five or six, mainly in families – fathers, mothers, and children; they ranged in age from nursing infants to elderly people. They had to lie in the ravine facing down, and then were shot to death in the head with machine-guns. The 1,500 [Jews] who had been brutally tortured to death by the German occupiers were covered with earth, and on the second day [i.e. October 15] other groups of Jews [a total of] 800 were killed using the same method. [The remaining Jews] were caught in hiding in small groups, and they were also killed at the site, this lasted until 1943. In the winter, the Jews were also stripped naked before being killed. In total, 3,500 Jews were tortured to death by the German occupiers in that ravine. The main people responsible for this crime were from the Gendarmerie [German rural order police] [a man whose] last name was Otto and someone who last name was Hill, but I don’t know his first name or military rank. The belongings of the Jews and their valuables, such as gold, were shipped to Germany before the killing of the Jews.” [Deposition of a local villager Miron S., born in 1902, given to the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); GARF 7021-71-59]

German archives

“June 8-9, 1965: […] On October 14, 1942, the ghetto in Mizoch was liquidated in the same way [as in the town of Zdolbuniv] by the SD and 700 Jews were thereby murdered. The cordoning off of the ghetto proceeded here also on orders of the defendant Paur by the rural police, namely by [men from] the rural police station of Mizoch and by local Ukrainian auxiliary policemen. The defendant Paur was present at the mass-murder operation. In the case of possible resistance, he brought several officials from the Zdolbuniv rural police station with him. It turned out that there was no need for the use of those officials. During his stay in Mizoch, the defendant Paur visited a shooting site located outside the locality and, for some time, observed the execution.[…]” [From the verdict against Josef Paur, former commander of German rural police in Zdołbunów District and Otto Koeller, former deputy Gebietskommissar of Zdołbunów; BArch 162/4691]

Historical note

Mizoch is a town located in northwestern Ukraine, 26 km (16 miles) southwest of Rivne, a major city in the region. Jews began settling in Mizoch during the 18th century. During the 19th century, some of the town’s Jews owned oil, sugar, and felt factories, as well as sawmills and a flour mill. Mizoch’s Jewish population spanned all socio-economic classes, and some became members of the Bund and other Jewish socialist organizations. Zionism was also a popular ideology, garnering support from both socialist and religious Jews. However, the Hasidic movement exerted the most influence over Mizoch’s Jewish community. Before the Second World War, there were three Jewish religious institutions in the town: a beit midrash (study hall), a Hasidic prayer house, and a large synagogue. By 1897, Mizoch had a Jewish population of 1,175, comprising 44% of the total population. The First World War caused great hardship for Mizoch’s Jews, as did the Russian Revolution, which sparked many pogroms against them. The impact of these two conflicts caused the town’s Jewish population to decline. By 1921, approximately 845 Jews lived in the town out of a total population of 1,247 people. That same year, Mizoch was ceded from Russia to the newly established Republic of Poland. Unfortunately, in September 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland and occupied the town. By June 1941, Mizoch’s Jewish population had increased to over 2,000 due to vast numbers of refugees fleeing from German-occupied Poland. However, the Soviets deported many of these new arrivals to Russia. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, about 300 Mizoch Jews fled alongside the retreating Red Army.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

On June 27, 1941, German forces occupied Mizoch. Two days later, local Ukrainians carried out an anti-Jewish pogrom orchestrated by Germans that killed several people. The German military stopped the violence and ordered all Jews to follow a curfew and wear white armbands emblazoned with a blue Star of David. Jews were also forced to step down from sidewalks when encountering a German and were banned from public areas. During the German occupation, many Ukrainians abandoned their Jewish friends. This behavior worsened when the Nazis established a Ukrainian Auxiliary Police force in town, which was tasked with persecuting and robbing the Jews. Soon after they arrived in Mizoch, the Germans established a Judenrat (Jewish Council), which subsequently created a Jewish Police force. In the summer and fall of 1941, the Jewish Police collected money, valuables, and other goods from Jewish families to give to the Germans. The German authorities also forced Mizoch’s Jews to carry out forced labor, such as farmwork, construction work, removing snow, and washing the clothes of wounded soldiers. In the spring of 1942, the Germans declared that a ghetto would be established in Mizoch. All of the town’s Jews, as well as those from surrounding areas, were ordered to move into the ghetto. This process was likely completed by June 1942. The Mizoch ghetto held between 2,500 and 3,500 people. It was located in an old part of town that bordered the market square and the Stubla River. It was an open ghetto with no walls and was loosely guarded. Remarkably, there was no starvation inside the Mizoch ghetto, as Jews were allowed to move in and out to do business, trade goods, and buy food. However, these conditions were short-lived. From October 13 to 14, 1942, the Germans and their Ukrainian collaborators liquidated the Mizoch ghetto. A force composed of German SD personnel, Gendarmerie, and Ukrainian Auxiliary Policemen blocked off and surrounded the ghetto. The perpetrators herded the Jews to the market square. In the late afternoon, the Jews were organized into a column and marched to the edge of town to a knoll located across from a sugar factory. There, they encountered a 2-meter-deep (6.6-feet-deep) mass grave that had been prepared beforehand. The Germans and their collaborators forced the Jews to undress, walk into the grave in small groups, and lie face-down before being shot. The massacre continued into the night and during the following day, as people who tried to escape were captured and shot in the mass grave. While the Nazis were conducting their Aktion, some Jews resisted by starting a fire in the ghetto. Those who started the fire hoped that it would cause enough confusion to allow large numbers of people to escape. While the fire did allow many Jews to flee, most of them were recaptured and murdered in the mass grave. Sadly, the fire killed approximately 200 Jews, most of whom were caught in their hiding places. Only a few Jews managed to survive the Aktion and the fire by hiding in nearby forests, joining the partisans, or being hidden by gentile friends. When the Red Army liberated Mizoch on February 6, 1944, the survivors returned only to find their homes reduced to ash and their community devoid of life.

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