Pryluky (Priluki) | Chernihiv

/ Ambiance in Pryluky, which used to be an industrial town with large plants and smaller manufacturers © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum School building n°4 was the center of the Priluki ghetto, where local Jews lived from September 1941 to May 1942 © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum All the Jews from the ghetto were killed on May 20, 1942 in the Pliskunovka Ravine  © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum The place where a well used to be located. Many non-Jewish locals were thrown into it, still alive. © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum Mykhailo M., born in 1928: “A German with red hair gathered all the boys, including me, and made us kneel down and pull down our pants and lift up our shirts to check if someone was Jewish. We stayed in that position for about half an hour.”   © Kate Korn Yevguen K., born in 1926; “All the Jews were forced to wear armbands on the left arm bearing the Stars of David. After a while, they were confined in the school building and were forbidden to go out under any pretext.” © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum Vasyl Y., born in 1929: “We were watching the scene for about one hour. When we arrived, the shooting had already started. The Jews were lined up in groups of 15 at the edge of the ravine, facing the shooters.” © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum The Yahad team with the witness on the sites, reconstructing the stages of the crime. © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum Monument to civilians, killed near the Pryluky prison during WWII © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum

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Execution of Jews in Pryluky

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Ravine
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1943
Number of victims :
About 1,500

Witness interview

Mykhailo M., born in 1928, recounts, “I saw a column passing by the road close to the school building where they were detained. The weather was nice. Most likely, it was in spring. The column moved slowly, escorted by guards in grey uniforms.
YIU: Were they Germans or local police?
W: I don’t know who they were. I just remember that they had grey uniforms.
YIU: Did the Jews have their belongings with them?
W: No, they didn’t. When they reached the bridge, all the Jews were forced to sit down. At that moment, I guess they understood what was going to happen and started to cry. One Jewish boy, 13 years old, jumped off the bridge and managed to flee through the kitchen gardens. The guards with dogs were looking for him everywhere. I remember a German with red hair gathered all the boys, including me, and made us kneel down and pull down our pants and lift up our shirts to check if we were Jewish. We stayed in that position for about half an hour.” (Testimony n°1972, interviewed in Pryluky, on November 23, 2015)

Soviet archives

“Starting in January 1942, the mass shootings began. By that time, the lists of Jews, members of the communist party, Komsomol, and members of the administration had been drawn up. The first shooting took place in January 1943. The commission opened the mass grave, which held 1,872 corpses. The pit measured 16m x 6,5 m and 3m in depth. There were several layers of corpses. On the top layer, there were women’s and children’s corpses. The second execution was carried out on March 16, 1943. The second mass grave numbered 450 corpses. This mass grave is located on the territory of the municipal prison. It measures 5mx3m and 4-5m in depth.” [Act of the Soviet Extraordinary Commission, drawn up in 1943 ; RG 22.002M: Fond 7021, Opis 78, Delo 37]

German archives

“There are still 1,210 Jews living in the Feldkommandantur Zone. They are particularly numerous in Priluki. As the Jews had to be given food and the sanitary living conditions in the Jewish quarter are extremely bad, we appealed for the quickest implementation of the Jewish question. Moreover, the partisans were very active in Priluki, even more active than elsewhere in the Ortskommandantur Zone. It is not illegitimate to conclude that the Jews had links to the partisans.
…In the case of the eventual extermination of Jews by SD units, one needs to pay attention to the fact that the shooting takes place during the night or at dawn in order to prevent the population from hearing or witnessing anything…” [Activity report of FK 197 from April 4, 1942; B162-7899, p.10]

Historical note

Pryluki is located on the banks of the Udai River, 128km northeast of Kiev. The first record of Jewish settlement dates back to the 17th century. The Jewish population increased with time and by 1910, it numbered 9,355 Jews. Jews lived in the town center. They worked in retail stores and some had management jobs. Pryluky used to be an industrial town with large plants as well as smaller manufacturers. Back then, Jews owned four tobacco factories, two flour mills, and two small oil refineries. But there were also many craftsman workshops. There was a Jewish cemetery, several synagogues, and schools, including Hebrew school. By the end of the 19th century, two private theatres existed in the city, called Jewish and Intim, which belonged to the Bukler family. The Jewish population dropped dramatically in 1918-1920 due to massive emigration and pogroms. In the 1920’s, all the large enterprises were nationalized and the majority of Jewish institutions were closed. A Jewish kolkhoz named “New way of life” and a Jewish collective farm, “Noviy Pobut,” were established. On the eve of the war, there were 6,140 Jews living in Priluki comprising 17% of the total population.

The town was occupied by German forces on September 18, 1941. More than half of the prewar Jews managed to evacuate to the East by that time. 

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Immediately after the Germans’ arrival, all the Jews were forced to wear armbands bearing the Star of David and were subjected to different kinds of forced labor, like cleaning, repairing or digging trenches. They were deprived of all their rights and work opportunities. All contact with non-Jews was prohibited as well.

Around January 1942, a ghetto was established in the two school buildings. The ghetto area was fenced in with barbed wire. The biggest execution was carried out on May 20, 1942 during the liquidation of the ghetto by the SD-Sonderkommando Plath, the same that operated in the Poltava region, helped by local police and German field gendarmerie. Many Jews native to other villages in the district, for instance Polova, Ladan, and Linovitsa of Priluki County and from Kharitonovka, Podol, Radkovka and Malaya Devitsa were brought and murdered in Pryluky. The Jews were taken to the ravine close to the prison, where they were shot. According to the witnesses interviewed by Yahad, before being shot, the Jews were forced to take off their clothes. Apparently, the children were not shot but poisoned and thrown in the pit. At a different time, from October 1941 till September 1942, an unknown number of Jews were murdered close to the local prison along with non-Jewish locals. 

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