5 Execution site(s)
Anton L., born in 1925, describes the shooting: “It happened in the summer of 1942, I guess it was August, just before the harvest period. At noon, when I was grazing the cows, I saw a column of about 30-40 Jews being marched from the center of the town towards the execution site. They walked calmly. There were men, women and a few children. They were taken along the paved road and then turned to the right where the pits had been dug in advance. The pits were dug not far from Christian cemetery. I could see what was happening because I was grazing the cows just across the road, about 50m away from the pit. Once there, all the Jews were lined up on the edge of the pit, facing the pit and the shooters shot them in the back. They fired with an automatic weapon. I can’t tell you what it was exactly because back then I was just a kid, and I didn’t know the difference between different guns. But when they fired, the Jews fell directly into the pit. Those who fell down at the edge were kicked into the pit.” (Testimony n°2175, interviewed in Pohrebyshche, on November 15th 2016)
«The commission, composed of the members of Soviet public organizations as well as local inhabitants and medical stuff, started the exhumation of the bodies from March 16 to 26, 1944, which allowed them to conclude that:
1. 23 bodies were discovered in four mass graves located in the public park.
2. 1761 corpses were discovered in two mass graves located in the pine forest; […]
8. 25 corpses discovered close to the village of Gopchitsy.
9. 40 corpses in the ravine close to the Catholic cemetery.
10. 56 corpses at the place called Cherneche.
11. 150 corpses behind the market place, close to Machine Tractor Service […].
The medical experts noticed that among the victims there were elderly people, women and children of both sexes. They also found traces of torture on the bodies of the shot victims. Some of them had their hands bound with wire behind their backs. Many children had smashed skulls. The victims were shot in the nape of the neck with guns or automatic guns. [Act made by State extraordinary commission, on March 20th 1944; RG.22-002M: Fond 7021, opis 54, delo 1253].
“On October 18th 1941 a German commando unit came from Vinnytsia and Kozyatyn to Pohrebyshche in ten vehicles. The commando, composing of at least 40 soldiers from the Gestapo, with the help of local gendarmes, sealed off the town. After having searched all the houses, they assembled about 1300 Soviet civilians in the building of the former district military commissariat. From there, the detainees were taken by vehicle to the pine forest where they were shot in the pits that had been dug in advance. Over the following days, after October 23rd 1941, the town was cleaned up one more time. Another 400 people were arrested and shot in the pine forest after that. Later, 1,761 bodies were discovered in the two pits. Some of the victims were buried alive.” [Final report, B162-7376 p.2.]
Pohrebyshche is a town located 64km northeast of Vinnytsia. The first record of the Jewish community dates back to the beginning of 17th century. Over time, the Jewish community suffered severely from the pogroms of 1648-49, 1730-1760s, 1919. Many Jews were killed and their shops and houses were looted. By the end of 19th century, the Jews represented 40% of total population, with 2,494 living in the town. The majority of Jews lived off of small businesses, running textile shops, grocerie stores, and garment shops. Others were artisans. Under the rule of the Soviet Union, many Jews worked in small industries when private trade was forbidden. Many cooperatives were created at that time, including an agricultural cooperative which cultivated beats. During the 1920s, there was a Jewish council, Yiddish school and other cultural organizations. There was a synagogue and a cemetery. Due to relocation to bigger cities, on the eve of the war there were only 15% of the town’s population was Jewish. In 1939, many Jews from Poland fleeing the Nazi regime settled down in Pogrebyshche. Pogrebyshche was occupied by German troops on July 22nd 1941. Some of the local Jews had managed to flee by that time, but the majority (80%) stayed in the town.
Immediately after the German arrival, all Jews were marked with the Star of David and forced to work. Under the military administration, two anti-Jewish Aktions were conducted. In August, about 40 Jewish men accused of supporting of communists were shot by the Security police. According to the archives and local testimonies, the biggest mass shooting was conducted in two parts. On October 18th 1941, the shooting of about 1,300 Jews unfit to work, mostly elderly people, women and children was carried out by Einsatzkommando 5 in the pine forest 2km away from town. Those who managed to hide were rounded up and shot in late August, about 400 to 500 people. The local eyewitness interviewed by Yahad provided several details about the executions as he was forced to go and watch the execution along with the entire local population. According to him, the execution was carried out with the help of the local policemen who finished off those who were still alive. Three or four days earlier, under the pretext of the relocation to the Vinnytsia ghetto, all the Jews were gathered at Jewish school. On October 20th, the military administration was transferred to a civil administration and a small ghetto was created for the remaining Jews. This remained until its liquidation in June 1942. It was guarded by local police. Due to the lack of food, and inhumane living conditions, many Jews, especially elder people, died in the ghetto. During its liquidation, the fourth Aktion, about 500 local Jews were shot at the site close to the Machine Tractor Service. They were shot by an SD mobile squad which arrived from Berdichiv to carry out the execution. The fifth Aktion was conducted in August 1943, during which 150 Jews were shot behind the market place, close to the Machine Tractor Service. Isolated shootings of Jews in hiding were conducted on a regular basis throughout the German occupation.
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