1 Execution site(s)
Mikhail Ia., born in 1926: "The ghetto was created a couple of months after the Germans’ arrival. I saw it because I was passed by that area many times on my way to town. The ghetto was fenced in and guarded. It was forbidden for the Jews to leave, and they were all marked with a yellow Star of David, so the Germans could distinguish them easily in the streets. One day, they were all rounded up and taken away. I heard that they were shot in the pine forest in the pit. The night after the shooting, a friend of my father, Zelik, came to see us to ask for my father’s help. He had run for about 12 km completely naked, because he escaped from the pit. First, my father hid him in the hay stock inside the barn. Then he dug a hole in the ground 6km away where a sort of a hiding place was organized. My father would bring him food for a while, but then someone denounced him, and he was killed." (Witness n°151B, interviewed in Volchin, on April 11, 2009)
"On September 22, 1942, a group of nine Germans, together with twenty policemen, carried out the mass shooting of the Jewish population of the villages of Chernavchitsy and Volchin. 497 (four hundred ninety seven) people were killed in total. After the commission uncovered the mass graves, examined, and took photographs of the corpses, collected witness testimonies and documents, it concluded:
In the afternoon of the above-mentioned day the Jewish people who were in the camp of Volchin were ordered to take their most precious possessions with them and to assemble to be sent to the town of Vysoko-Litovsk. However, when the possessions and those unable to move due to their old age and malnutrition were loaded onto carts, the fascists took them 200 meters from the village of Volchin, in the direction of Vysoko-Litovsk, to the place where there were pits from which gravel had previously been extracted. There the shooting was carried out. Even though those doomed to death were women, old people, infants, and teenagers, they were ordered to strip naked. The shooting was carried out in small groups of three to five people. Anyone who resisted was beaten and thrown into the pit half dead. The Germans grabbed the young children by their legs or arms and shot them point-blank. The German-Fascist occupiers shot [the Jews] in small groups, while individuals were beaten with rifle butts before the eyes of the rest of the people awaiting their death. When they [the Germans] had murdered everyone, they took their possessions and buried their bodies in the mass grave.” [Act drawn up by the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); RG-22.002M/7021-83/12]
Volchin is located 34 km (21mi) northwest of Brest. The first Jewish community was established in the first half of the 16th century. Previously part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, in 1795, the village was joined to the Russian Empire. From 1918 until the Second World War, Chernavchitsy was within the borders of the second Polish Republic. From September 1939 until June 22, 1941, the village was under Soviet rule. According to the 1897 census 588 Jews lived in Volchin making up 95% of the total population. The Jews made their living from small trade and artisanship, mostly in tailoring. In the early 1920s, the population of the village was only 190 people, almost all of whom were Jews. On the eve of the war approximately 500 Jews lived in the town.
Volchin was occupied by Germans on June 22, 1941. Shortly after their arrival, a Jewish council (Judenrat) was created. The Jews were subjected to different abuses, robberies, and forced labor. Some isolated killings took place. A few months later a ghetto was created and a group of Jews from Chernavchitsy was taken there. The ghetto was surrounded with a fence, and barbed wire from the river. It was guarded by local police. Under the pretext of the future relocation, the inmates of the ghetto were gathered and taken to the gravel pit, 200m away from the village, where they were murdered. The action was conducted on September 22, 1942. According to Soviet archives, 497 Jews were killed, including 102 Jews from Chernavchitsy brought to the Volchin ghetto shortly before the shooting. Once on the site, after having been forced to strip naked, the Jews were shot on the edge of the pit in groups of five. According to recorded testimonies, some Jews refused to strip naked or approach the pits. They were beaten and thrown into the pit half dead or shot on the spot and then thrown into the pit. According to a German report, a few Jewish craftsmen were kept alive in Volchin after the execution and were shot a few weeks later.
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