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Tatiana M., born in 1928, remembers : “After seeing the column of Jews passing through the city, I went with my friend to the empty Jewish houses. In several houses, we saw murdered people. In one of them, I saw several elderly soaked in their own blood. I was very shocked as I knew some of them. » (Witness N°833, interviewed in Ozarichi, on September 18, 2014).
Ozarichi is a small city situated 120 km west of Gomel. Before the war, it was a district center as it is today. In the late 1920s, many Jews were organized in artisan cooperatives, as cobblers, tailors and carpenters. Nevertheless, the majority of Jews lived off of small businesses. According to the 1939 census, 47% of the total population was Jewish. The city was occupied by German forces in late August 1941, but before their arrival, a large segment of the Jewish population was able to evacuate farther east.
A ghetto fenced in with barbed wire on a street in Ozarichi was created in October 1941 for local Jews and Jews from surrounding villages. Jews had to perform forced labor like repairing German vehicles. Sometimes Jewish children from the ghetto were sent to the local hospital and it is said that their blood was drawn for German soldiers.
On March 3, 1942, the Jews were taken in a column and were shot in a forest near the Jewish cemetery. According to eyewitnesses interviewed by Yahad, during that day, many Jews were also shot in their houses. The shooting was most likely carried out by a detachment of Einsatzkommando 8. It is estimated that several hundred Jews were killed.
Ozarichi is also known for the three different open air camps that were constructed in swamp areas and where tens of thousands of civilians were interned in terrible conditions when the Germans were retreating.
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