1 Execution site(s)
Stepan M., born in 1928: “Y. U.: Do you remember the first time the Germans arrived in Skalat?
Witness: It was in the middle of June 1941. Should I continue? The first time the Germans arrived in the evening. I didn’t see them arrive, it was my brother-in-law who saw them. He came to my house and said that the Germans had arrived. They came on motorcycles, it was the intelligence service. They told other Germans that the Russians had left, after that all the Germans arrived. First they started to search houses looking for the Jews, because the intelligence service already knew where they [the Jews] lived. They killed the [Jews] they found. There are water towers here and that was where their bodies were taken. Then the Germans left as the front line was advancing behind them. The Germans, the fighters at the front, started to catch the Jews and shoot them. Later a pit was dug... (witness resumes) A pit was dug here and some [of the murdered Jews] were buried there. The remaining ones, I remember, about 700 people, were taken from the ghetto that was located here, to the pit that was over there. Near that pit… there were four Germans. There was one [German] in front, the two others were on two sides [of the column with the Jews] and there were also the dogs. There were also two Germans at the back, I think. They led them to this pit. They said it was to shoot them. We were young, 14 or 15 years old at the time, so it was interesting for us and we followed them. But not until the end because they didn’t let us get close. When we go to Gorodnitsa, there was a tree there and we climbed it to watch what was going on. The Jews were forced to undress. The pit was long, there was a plank, they were forced to march onto the plank and then they were shot with machine guns. Some people fell inside alive, including children. They were forced to undress. The clothes were put to one side, and they were taken there. What are you still interested in? (Witness n°782u, interviewed in Skalat, on May 7, 2009)
"At about 3 pm Moscow time, 500 people, women, children, elderly people were taken to the place where we had dug the pit. When the column was 100m away from us, we were told, the 22 people who were digging the pit, to get out and go 20-25m away from the pit, to lie down towards the opposite side of it. If anyone raised their head to look at what was going on, they were shot. The 500 people were forced to undress, those who refused to do so were hit hard with sticks, guns, and rifle butts. The cries of the women and children were terrible, heartbreaking. Along with this crowd of people came 100-120 Germans and their collaborators from the Ukrainian police armed with rifles, submachine guns, and machine guns. They brought groups of one to six people to the edge of the pit and shot them with rifles or machine guns. The children were thrown alive into the pit. While doing this, the Germans laughed, shouted "Hurrah", applauded. All the victims were thrown into the same pit, one on top of the other. When the Germans finished executing this crowd of innocent people, we were ordered to stand up and "tidy up" the pit, because on one side there was a mass of corpses, and on the other side there were empty spaces, so we had to level it all out. The pit was alive, people were moaning and moving, people were relatives. Then we were ordered to level the surface of the pit, those who refused were beaten. Since people were still moving in the pit, the Germans told us to stand at the other corner of the pit, while they shot straight into it. Then we dragged the bodies from one side to the other (in the pit itself), the bodies were still warm, still alive.” [Deposition of a local villager Iakov P., Jewish, born in 1903, given to the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); GARF 7021-71-12, pp. 96-97]
Skalat is a town located in western Ukraine. It is 32 km (20 miles) southeast of the city of Ternopil. Jews began settling in Skalat during the 16th century, and in 1765, the town’s Jewish population increased to 686. In 1772, the Habsburg Empire annexed Skalat from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The town’s Jewish community continued to grow during the 19th century. In 1870, 2,552 Jews lived in Skalat, making up 56% of the total population. During the Habsburg period, the Hasidic movement was very popular among Skalat’s Jews. Other movements, such as Zionism and the Haskalah, also enjoyed support. Additionally, Skalat was home to a magnificent synagogue known as the Great Synagogue. It burned down towards the end of the 19th century and was rebuilt in 1895. Following World War I, the Habsburg-led Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved and Skalat became a part of the newly-established Republic of Poland. During the interwar period, the town’s Jewish community made a living through handicraft, retail trade, and commerce. In 1921, 2,919 Jews lived in Skalat, making up 49.1% of its population. On the eve of the Second World War, 4,800 Jews lived in the town. In September 1939, the Soviet Union occupied Skalat. It would remain under Soviet control until the summer of 1941.
On July 5, 1941, Nazi Germany invaded and occupied Skalat. Soon after they arrived, the Nazis began persecuting the town’s Jewish population. Many German and Ukrainian organizations were responsible for oppressing Skalat’s Jews and orchestrating anti-Jewish Aktions. The German Security Police (Sipo) played a major role, as did members of the Nazi Criminal Police (Kripo), Order Police (Schutzpolizei), and local Ukrainian Auxiliary Police. On July 19, 1941, the Germans ordered the Jewish community to pay them 600,000 rubles within five days. Additionally, the Nazis forced Skalat’s Jews to form a 12-person Judenrat (Jewish Council) in mid-July, which was reorganized into a 10-person body in August 1941. The Judenrat was forced to assign 200 to 300 Jews to perform various jobs for the German and Ukrainian authorities on a daily basis. The Nazis also pressured the Judenrat to provide German officials with clothes, dishes, and furniture from Jewish households. From August 1941 to August 1942, no large-scale anti-Jewish Aktions took place in Skalat. During this period, hundreds of young and healthy Jews were sent to work in nearby villages and labor camps, such as Maksymivka, Velyki Birky, Novosilka, Kamenki, and Yahilnytsya. On August 31, 1942, the Germans orchestrated the first major Aktion in Skalat. They ordered the Judenrat and its Jewish Police to round up over 500 elderly Jews, who were taken on trucks to Ternopil and were later deported to the Belzec extermination camp. On October 1, 1942, the Germans ordered all of the Jews living in the area surrounding Skalat to move into the town by October 15. They then established an open-air ghetto, which consisted of run-down houses in the town’s poorest district. The Germans organized another Aktion on October 21 and 22. German and Ukrainian policemen, with the help of the Jewish Police, rounded up approximately 3,000 Jews and deported them to Belzec. The Germans and their collaborators also murdered 153 Jews in the town. On November 9, 1942, the Nazis organized a third Aktion in which about 1,000 Jews were rounded up and deported to Ternopil. While most were later deported to Belzec, 100 people were sent to the Hlybochok labor camp.
During the spring and summer of 1943, German Sipo forces, Ukrainian policemen, and members of the Jewish Police conducted several Aktions in the Skalat ghetto. They shot approximately 700 Jews on April 7, and on June 9, they began liquidating the ghetto. That same day, the Germans and their collaborators captured and killed about 600 Jews, with some being sent to a labor camp in Skalat. On June 16, 50 Jews were rounded up and shot at the cemetery. Following the Aktion on April 7, a man named Mechel Glanz and other young Jews began meeting in secret to organize an armed resistance movement. They gathered small arms and grenades, but the German authorities learned of the group’s activities and murdered them when they liquidated the ghetto.
The Holocaust devastated Skalat’s Jewish community. From 1941 to 1943, approximately 7,000 Jews from the town and surrounding areas were killed. About 2,500 were murdered in Skalat itself, while over 4,500 were deported to Belzec. By the end of the Second World War, only about 200 Jews from Skalat and the surrounding area had survived the Holocaust.
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