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Sofia Z., born in 1928, remembers : «I went to school with Jewish children. I remember I had 2 good Jewish friends. There were also concerts and I remember a Jewish girl who sang very well. Everybody got along very well. There were no differences between us. It is a big loss for the village to have lost all the Jews.» (Witness N°799, interviewed in Sverzhen, on June 15, 2014)
Sverzhen is a small village close to the city of Gomel. The village is largely abandoned today because of the radioactive rains due to the Chernobyl disaster. Before the war, the majority of the inhabitants were Jews. The first mention of the Jewish community dates back to the end of the 16th century. There was a synagogue. The majority of Jews were engaged in trade. Sverzhen was occupied by German forces in summer 1941.
According to historical documents, little is known about the fate of the Jews in Sverzhen, and the large share of the information comes mostly from the local testimony collected by Yahad.
Shortly after the Germans’ arrival, the Jews were locked up by the local policemen for a few weeks in a workshop. The building was under police guard. The Jews were shot in December 1941, in a forest next to the Jewish cemetery. The Jews were forced to dig their own mass grave the day of the shooting. They were killed by the Germans, who were aided by local policemen. There were nearly 260 victims.
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