Varvarivka | Zhytomyr

/ Inside a typical Ukrainian house, Varvarivka © Victoria Bahr – Yahad- In Unum Melania B., born in 1925, was requisitioned to cover the pit while she was working in the fields: “When the policemen brought us here, the Germans had already left. There were two pits full of Jews.”© Victoria Bahr – Yahad- In Unum Melania B. points out the location of two pits she was forced to cover along with other villagers. As it was a sand quarry, it was very difficult to cover the pits with shovels, so the policemen requisitioned a tractor. © Victoria Bahr – Yahad- In Unum Yahad team during the interview in Varvarivka © Victoria Bahr – Yahad- In Unum

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Execution of the Olevsk Jews in Varvarivka

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Place called ‘Tserkovnaya ploshad’
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
900

Witness interview

Melania B., born in 1925, remembers: “I was in the fields, about to harvest the potatoes, when the police came. It was the last day of the shootings. They requisitioned local people to cover the pits and I was also taken among others. When we arrived at the site, the shooting had already finished and there were only police there. The Germans must have left by that time. When I looked at the pit, I could barely stay conscious. There were two pits full of Jews and several children, who were still alive, were crawling over the bodies. The bodies in the pit were in a pile, but they were dressed. I guess they didn’t force them to disrobe before the shooting. When I came closer, I noticed a Jew was still alive under the body of his dead mother and I wanted to take him with me, but the policeman didn’t let me do that. He finished him off with a shovel in front of me…Then, we started to cover the pit with sand.” (Witness n°1632, interviewed in Varvarivka, on April 23, 2013)

Soviet archives

On November 19, 1941, the German detachment and the members of Polisskaya Sich murdered the Jewish population. They brought the Jews towards the pit, fired with submachine and machine guns and threw them inside, without verifying that they were all dead. There were men, women, children—the majority of them were thrown in alive. The facts were confirmed by several eye witnesses of this tragedy as well as by the conclusions of experts who opened the pit. [Act Of Soviet Extraordinary commission, drawn up on May 31 on the execution carried out in Olevsk, 1945;RG.22.002M.7021-60/287]

Historical note

Varvarivka is located 115 km from Zhytomyr. We don’t have any information about the Jews in Varvarivka, according to the witnesses, there were no Jews living there. All of the Jews lived in Olevsk. According to the 1926 census, there were 2,916 Jews living in Olevsk. The majority of Jews lived off of small trade and craftsmanship. The Jews lived in the center of town in houses located close to one another, while the Ukrainian farmers lived outside of town. There were four synagogues. The German occupation began in early July 1941.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

From the archives, we know that from July to October 1941, several pogroms were organized by Ukrainian nationalists from Poliska Sich. Beginning in November 1941, the Jews from Olevsk were rounded up and imprisoned in different places. According to Yahad’s witnesses one of the places was a former hospital building and another one was near the synagogue and the center of town, behind the Catholic church. On November 19, 1941, during the liquidation action all the Jews were taken in trucks to Varvarivka.  In total, according to the German archives on the Olevsk district, 2,500 people were shot, hung or killed in another way from August 1941 till December 1943.

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