1 Execution site(s)
Mariana T., born in 1930, happened to see the mass shooting, “The Jews were taken to the site by policemen, we watched from a little further. When the Jews began to scream, the policemen forbid us from approaching. There were Germans and local policemen. The Jews were taken to the pit in groups. While one group was about to be shot others watched what was happening. Do you understand? They could see everything. But they didn’t try to escape. Only children cried, but the adults were calm. Before get into the pit they were forced to strip naked. Once in the pit, they laid down facing the ground one close to another. So, there was no space between them. They went down into it and were shot. The shooting lasted for at least three days because many Jews went into hiding” (Testimony n°1798, interviewed in Berezne, on August 5, 2013)
“On August 25, 1942 at 4am, the police assembled the whole Jewish population under the pretext of being taken for forced labor. In our apartment besides us there were eight more families, in all 35 people. When the police was coming close to our apartment, everyone hid in the attic above the apartment. My husband, my child and I hid in the basement. The police broke the door and took everyone who was hiding in the attic to the shooting.
On August 27, while we were still hiding in the basement, the police came to our flat to loot the belongings. I recognized the voice of one of them. It was the same who denounced us afterwards. ” [Deposition of a Jewish survivor, Sara L., born in 1914, given on November 21, 1944, to the State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); RG22.002M. 7021-71-42]
Berezne is a village located on the banks of the Sluch river, 65 km northeast of Rivne. The first records about the Jewish community dates back to the late 17th century. In 1765, there were 267 Jews in the town. In 1897, there were 2,765 Jews. There were a couple of synagogues, a Jewish cemetery, and a cheder. The majority of Jews lived off small scale trade by owning their shops or handcrafting. In 1917, a Tarbut school was opened. By early 20th century, the Jews represented almost 60 percent of the total population. Some cultural and youth movements such as Perec and Zionist operated in Berezne and gave their theater performance. In 1939, the territory was taken over by the Soviet Union and all Jewish movements and institutions were forbidden. The Germans occupied Berezne on July 6, 1941.
The Germans occupied Berezne on July 6, 1941. Shortly after the occupation, several Jewish shops and houses were robbed. All Jews were registered and forced to wear distinctive yellow Stars of David on their chests and backs. They continued to live in their houses but were systematically subjected to different abuses and forced labor. In the early fall of 1941, about 300 Jews were sent to the labor camp in Kostopil.
On October 6, 1941 two different ghettos were established, one for the specialists and their families and another for all the others. In all, they numbered about 1,500 Jews. The principal ghetto was surrounded with a fence and barbed wire. The Jewish community was exterminated in the course of several days in one mass shooting. It started on August 25, 1942, and was conducted by an SD unit that arrived from Rivne, assisted by German gendarmerie and local police. During this Aktion 3,680 people, including 3,200 Jews from Berezne and nearby villages, were killed in the fields where ditches were dug by requisitioned people. According to the eyewitnesses’ accounts interviewed by Yahad, the Jews were shot in small groups at the bottom of the pit. Before getting inside and laying down facing the pit, they had to strip down. The adults and children were shot in different ditches. In all, according to the Soviet commission there were five mass graves. About 200 Jews managed to escape during this Aktion. However, over 20 Jews were caught and shot in the forest in December 1942.
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