Rivne (Rovne, Rowno) | Rivne

A group of religious Jews pose outside a building in the Rovno ghetto. © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Sarah (Sally) Light Dr. Aaron Shafer, an opthamologist, sits at his desk in Rovno. © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Sarah (Sally) Light Hechalutz members Kibbutz training  carpentry workshop  Moshe Neuman Noach Szleczynski  Rowne, 1933  © Ghetto Fighters’  House Museum, Israel Photo Archive Hakolective Hachalutzi (The collective Pioneer)  members who could not attend Hechalutz  Rowne, 20 June 1933   © Ghetto Fighters’  House Museum, Israel  Photo Archive Gordonia summer camp  Novostaw (near Rivne), 1937  © Ghetto Fighters’  House Museum, Israel  Photo Archive /

Execution of Jews in Rivne

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Forest/Military base/
Memorials :
Period of occupation:
Number of victims :
About 23,000
Witnesses interviewed :

Witness interview

Antonina R., born in 1926, remembered the shooting of Jews: “It happened in an area of the military city, on the Bila street. Even though the territory was fenced in with barbed wire, I could see the shootings through a hole. The long ditches had been dug in advance. A wooden board had been placed across it lengthwise. The Jews moved quickly across the board and were fired upon. There were women, men and children among the victims. While one group was about to be shot, others waited aside and could see everything. Before being shot they had to undress completely. I think the shooting was conducted by Germans. They were many on the site.” (Eyewitness n°1415, interviewed in Rivne, on April 7, 2012)

Soviet archives

“After a while, the Judenrat received the order to transmit to the Jews who didn’t have the Fachhausweiss, and it was the majority, that they had to gather on November 7, 1941, with the entire families in Grabinka, in the east part of the city. As they were told to take food provisions for 3 days, they thought that they would be relocated somewhere in a camp. Nobody suspected that they would be shot. At the gathering point, all the valuables and food was confiscated. This big crowd was escorted 2km away from Rovno, escorted by SS, to the place called Sosenki. After, the Jews were taken in groups from the crowd to the pits dug in advance. Once there, they were forced to undress. After that, they had to walk naked on the logs to get inside the pit. While getting down, they were shot with submachine gun. After the shooting, the Germans threw the grenades inside the pit. The shootings lasted 3 days and 3 nights, from November 7 to November 10, 1941. The Germans shot 17,500 people in Sosenki.” [Deposition of Haim L., born in 1902 to the State Extraordinary Commission; RG-22.002M. Fond 7021, Opis, 71, Delo 67]

German archives

“I saw the Jews being forced to undress and pass by the tube towards the two or three pits located at its end. From my position, I couldn’t see the pits but I could hear the gunshots, and it was clear for me that the Jews were about to be executed. From the rumors, I know that it was SD commando who conducted the shooting. I think that we left the same evening. But I knew that the executions didn’t finish by that time. The following day, I learned that the members of the police shot dead the Jews on their way to the pits. When we were about to leave I saw some Jews sitting on the roadway. They were invalids who couldn’t move forward.” [Deposition of a member of battalion unit 320, Erwin D., made on September 17, 1960; B162-2891]

Historical note

Rivne is located on the banks of the Ustya River about 300 km west of Kiev. The first know records about the Jewish community dates back to the 16th century.  According to the 1765 census, 881 Jews were living in Rivne.  The Jewish population grew up quickly. Thus, in 1847 there were 3,788 Jews and in 1913, they were already 19,791 comprising 57% of total population. The majority of Jews lived off small scale trade and handcraft. Jews also owned significant numbers of industrial enterprises. There were several synagogues (at least 20 according to one source), a Jewish cemetery, a Tarbut high school, Jewish colleges, and a Jewish library. Variable religious and cultural institution, for instance Zionist movement, operated in the early 19th century.  In 1921, 21,702 Jews lived in Rivne (constituting 71% of the general population), and in 1931 the numbers reached 22,737 (56%). In 1939, the village was taken over by Soviets as a result of Ribentrop-Motov agreement.  From September 1939, the Jewish school and other cultural and religious institutions were closed.

On the eve of the war about 23,000 Jews, including the refugees from the West, lived in Rivne. Rivne was occupied by Germans on June 28, 1941.


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