2 Execution site(s)
Vladimir J., born in 1932, remembers : “After the shootings, Jewish survivors asked me to get boards in the woodshop and to help them to dig up and bury certain bodies again. The bodies that I exhumed were only dressed in underwear. There were men, women, but also children. It was terrible. Graves were dug next to the pits where the Jews had been killed. I arranged boards at the bottom and on both sides. Then, the Jews were able to have a more respectable grave.” (Eyewitness N°852, interviewed in Lelchitsy, on September 22, 2014).
“In August, 1941, a German unit of the Gestapo managed by officer Schwartz arrived at Lelchitsy. They gathered all the Jews of the village in the courtyard of a house and from there the Jews were brought to a place named "Zagorie". They were forced to dig deep pits, then they were lined up, undressed, and shot with machine-gun. The babies were thrown alive inside the pit. So all the Jews of the Leltchitsy, about 750 people, were shot there. The Germans kept alive about fifteen Jews to fill the pit after the shooting, then they were also killed.” [Act of The Soviet Extraordinary State Commission, RG-22.002M. 7021-91-18]
Lelchitsy is a city situated 200 km southwest of Gomel. It was a district center, as it is today. Before the war, there was an important Jewish population living mostly in the center. According to the 1939 census, there were 746 Jews living in town. Most of the Jews were storekeepers. There was also a big wooden synagogue and a wooden Jewish school. The city was occupied by German troops in late August 1941. About 30% of the Jewish population managed to evacuate the city before the Germans’ arrival.
Upon the Germans’ arrival, the Jews were able to live in their own houses until the beginning of September 1941.
The first aktion took place on September 5, 1941, when a German punitive detachment invaded the city. With the aid of the local policemen, the Jews were gathered in the courtyard of the NKVD building. Then, the Jews were led in a column outside of the city, near the main road, to Mozyr. The Jews were lined up at the edge of a pit formed by a bomb crater in a field and shot by the Germans.
A second aktion took place at the end of September 1941, and was perpetrated by the same punitive detachment. According to eyewitnesses interviewed by Yahad, the Jews were gathered in houses of the city center, where windows had been boarded up. Skilled workers and their families were selected and allowed to stay alive. The others were taken to the site, called the Zagore area, near a former army ground. The place was made of sand and pits had been dug in advance. Unusually, before waiting for their turn to be shot, the Jews had to wait by group in metallic cages that were originally planned to be used for a zoo. Before being shot at the edge of a pit, the Jews had to undress, and their belongings were taken by the local policemen. The pits were covered by Jews themselves.
In early spring 1942, during the third aktion, about forty specialists and their relatives were killed in a nearby pit, which had been dug in advance. They were brought in about ten carts and also had to undress. They were killed by local German gendarmes. Many hidden Jews were later caught and then shot in shell holes. After the first shootings near the military ground, surviving Jews opened the pits and reburied the bodies of their relatives in graves that used wooden boards. Then, according to eyewitnesses, the Jewish houses were also plundered. The last remaining Jews were shot in summer 1942, along with Soviet citizens, under the pretext of having links to the partisans.
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