Sharkovshchina (Szarkowszczyzna, Sharkaushchyna) | Vitebsk

Jews at work in a shoe factory in the Szarkowszczyzna ghetto. Date: 1942 © USHMM, courtesy of Mark Fintel / The ambiance of the house of Vladislav L., the witness of the shooting in Sharkovshchina. © Jethro Massey-Yahad-In Unum Vladislav L., born in 1933, remembered five or six Jews came to his shed; they were women with children. They stayed there up to one week. His mother collected some food and brought it to them. © Jethro Massey-Yahad-In Unum Stanislav T., born in 1932, is the eye-witness of the shooting. His house was 700 meters from the shooting place. © Jethro Massey-Yahad-In Unum Fedor B., born in 1928, the same evening after the shooting went to see the grave. He saw dead bodies piled up without order. There were children and teenagers.© Jethro Massey-Yahad-In Unum Yahad team during the interview with Vladislav L. © Jethro Massey-Yahad-In Unum Fedor B. showed the execution site of over 800 Jews in Sharkovshchina. © Jethro Massey-Yahad-In Unum

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Execution of Jews in Sharkovshchina

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Meadow near the river
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
Over 800

Witness interview

Vladislav L., born in 1933, remembered: “When the shooting started in Sharkovshchina in 1942, many Jews escaped and were hiding in the surrounding villages. Once, five or six of them came to hide in my shed. They were women with children. There were no men among them. They stayed there up to one week. My mother prepared food and brought it to them, but I have never talked to them. Later, the Germans published the announcements that all Jews should go to the Glubokoye ghetto and after they would be taken to England and exchanged for prisoners of war. The Jewish women who hid at our house believed it and came to Glubokoye. They never came back”. (Testimony n°878, interviewed in Sharkovshchina, on May 11, 2016)

Soviet archives

Once the district was occupied, all Jews of the region were confined into the ghetto of Sharkovshchina which numbered about 1,600 inmates. The Jews were subjected to different kinds of abuse by the Germans, as well as forced to perform labor. All their valuables and precious items were confiscated. While going to work they were arranged in columns. They received 100g of bread per person per day.
In May 1942, the Germans surrounded the ghetto and started their brutal aktion. At this moment, over 800 Jews, men, women, elderly people and children, were tortured to death and shot. […]” [Act drawn up by State Extraordinary Commission; RG 22.002M. Fond 7021, Opis 92, Delo 224]

German archives

«My parents, 5 brothers, 5 sisters and I lived in Bildzugi [Bildyugi] before the war. 280 Jews lived there. We kept living in our houses until the end of 1942, when several Jews were killed. We had to perform physical labor. At the end of 1942, small Jewish communities (for instance from Germanovichi and Novaya Pohost) were relocated in the ghetto of Sharkovshchina. Meanwhile, some Jews from the ghetto were taken to the execution in Yody. We stayed in the ghetto until June 18, 1943. The resistance was organized and it was headed by David Pinczow, Shaim Orlik and Salomo Zimer. Special guards were appointed and a barbed wire was put to protect them from danger. A thousand of Jews managed to escape on June 18, 1943 in anticipation of the police who wanted to seal off the ghetto. About 800 stayed in the ghetto. They were killed. Among the fugitives, about 200 were captured. 6 weeks later, the representative from Gebietskommissar, […], authorized the hidden Jews to move into the ghetto in Glubokoye. About 500 Jews returned here and were assassinated along with the Jews from Glubokoye during the Aktion carried out in August 1943. Thus, the remaining 4,000 Jews were killed. One week before the Aktion carried out in the Glubokoy ghetto, I joined the Partisans; it was a barrack in the forest which belonged to the brigade Spartakus, 4th division. Only 2 my sisters and me survived from our family.” [Report of a Jewish survivor, Chaim Ben Berek Orlik about Sharkovshchina; B162-1294 p.74]

Historical note

Sharkovshchina is located 205km west from Vitebsk and 190km north from Minsk on the banks of the Disna River. The first records about the Jewish community dates back to the mid-19th century. In 1897 there were 1,007 Jews living in the town. In 1920s the Jewish population significantly decreased due to the relocation and pogroms carried out by Cossacks in this region. In 1921, there were only 615 Jews. According to the witness, the Jews lived off small trade, however, during the Soviet period, they were forbidden from doing commerce and their shops were nationalized. Many Jews were artisan, such as shoemakers, tailors, tinsmiths. There were two Jewish schools in the town, two-storied synagogue, Jewish shops and a Jewish tavern. On the eve of the war there were about 1,500 Jews living in the town. Sharkovshchina was occupied by Germans on July 6-9, 1941.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Immediately after German occupation all Jews were registered and marked with yellow distinguishing badges. They had the Star of David on their chests and backs.In the course of the first month of German occupation, the Jews capable of organizing resistance as well as those accused of Soviet influence were killed.

The ghetto was created during September-November 1941 and numbers over 1,700 Jews from Shakovshchina and nearing villages. It was located close to the river bank. According to the local witness the ghetto was fenced in barbed wire and consisted of about 15-20 houses. It was guarded by the local police and the Jews were forbidden to leave its territory. All Jews including children aged from eight were subjected to work on the construction of the bridge, or cleaning the streets from the snow or other type of hard physical work. Many Jews died in the ghetto due to bad living conditions and diseases.

The fist mass execution was conducted on June 18, 1942 by German police who were helped by local police. The Aktion lasted one day from the morning till the midday. Several dozen Jews were killed by bullets or with grenades inside their homes, while others, about 700, were escorted in groups of 30 people from the ghetto to the execution site located near the butter factory on the bank of the Disna River, where they were shot. The distance from the ghetto to the shooting place was 400-500 meters. About 1,000 Jews managed to flee during this Aktion, but about 300 of them were recaptured and shot on the spot. Their bodies were gathered by local men, and transported to the execution site along with those Jews who were killed inside the ghetto. The mass grave was covered by the requisitioned locals. About 500 of the escapees, who went out of the hiding because the Germans promised them to spare their lives, were taken to the ghetto in Glubokoye where they were killed in August 1943. Only 60 Jews from Sharkovshchina managed to survive the Holocaust.

 For more information about the execution of Jews in Glubokoye, please, refer to the corresponding profile.  

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