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2 Execution site(s)
Vera P., born in 1937, remembers: “Once the Germans arrived, the Jews were not able to continue with their small businesses. Their life became complicated. They were forced to move into the ghetto which was surrounded with a fence. Some Russian families whose houses ended up in the ghetto were forced to move into the Jewish houses and the Jews moved into the Russian ones. The fence was built by the Jews as well as pits in which the Jews were shot.
YIU: How long did they Jews stay in the ghetto?
W: Not too long. I remember bringing them some food. And after two weeks, they were taken to be shot.” (Eyewitness n°723, interviewed in Volozhyn, on April 23, 2014)
Volozhyn is a town located about 75km (47 miles) north west of Minsk. On the eve of WWII, 3,000-3,500 Jews lived in the town. The Jewish community was large, with its Jewish cemetery and a synagogue. There was a Yeshiva school, « Tree of Life », founded in 1803 by the Rabbi Hayim Volozhyner. Most of the Jews lived off of trade and crafts. From 1939 to 1941, as the territory was overtaken by the Soviets, the Jewish population increased as Jewish refugees arrived from occupied Poland. The village was occupied by German forces on June 25, 1941.
Two weeks after the Germans’ arrival, all the Jews were registered and marked. According to Yahad’s research findings, a closed ghetto was established in August 1941 and was located on the Zelyony Plats Street. The Jews were subjected to different types of forced labor. During the German occupation of Volozhyn, there were several anti-Jewish aktions during which about 2,000 Jews were murdered . The first aktion was conducted in August 1941, during which 45 Jews were murdered. At the end of October 1941, another action was conducted at the sport stadium. According to the historical sources about 200 Jews, mostly men, were killed that day. Vera P. (witness n°723) happened to be an eyewitness of the shooting. According to her memories, the Jews were forced to dig the pit for themselves and were then shot at the edge of the pit in small groups. Another eyewitness, Arkadiy Y. (n°722) gave some significant details about the Aktion conducted on May 10, 1942 by SS members. On this day, about 1,000 Jews, including women, men and children, were gathered in houses that used to belong to Polish soldiers, and shot inside them. According to Arkadiy, before entering inside, the Jews had to undress to their underwear. They were brought to the house in groups of fifteen and formed a line outside, waiting until a German with a submachine gun, who remained at the window, gave them the to enter. From the historical sources, we know that about 1000 Jews were murdered in that way. After the shooting, the houses with corpses and some Jews still alive inside were set on fire. The last Aktion took place in August 1942, when the ghetto was liquidated. The SD members, accompanied by German gendarmes and local police, surrounded the ghetto and shot down many Jews in the streets. Others were taken and shot in the barn. Afterwards, it was burnt down.
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