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Alla I., born in 1926, remembers: “The day of the shooting, I saw a policeman accompanied by a German soldier entering the house of my Jewish neighbors. Another German soldier came to our house. My father began to speak in the Jewish language because he knew it and thought that it was easier to be understood in it. The German soldier then thought that my father was Jewish and took him away, violently. Later, when my father found himself gathered near the ravine with the other Jews, we shouted that he was Russian. The Jews also shouted that he was Russian and he was then released by the local policemen.” (Eyewitness N°861, interviewed in Khoyniki, on September 26, 2014)
Khoyniki is a small city situated 90 km southwest of Gomel. It’s a district center as it was before the war, even if the city was much smaller. Before the war, a significant part of the population was Jewish, the majority of whom lived on Sovietskaya Street. Many Jews were craftsmen and storekeepers. There was also a wooden synagogue. The city was occupied by German forces during summer 1941.
According to historical sources, little is known regarding the fate of the Jews in Khoyniki. But thanks to local testimony collected by Yahad, it was possible to determine the primary steps of the events. A part of the Jewish population was able to evacuate before the Germans’ arrival.
Until their deaths, the Jews were able to live in their own houses. The shooting took place during summer 1941, when a German punitive detachment, helped by the local police, entered the houses of the Jews and gathered them, in a violent manner, on the main street. Then, the Jews were shot in a natural ravine that contained some water inside of it, outside of the city. According to eyewitness recorded by Yahad, around 40 Jews, including babies, were lined up and shot directly inside the ravine.
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