1 Execution site(s)
Lyudmyla V., born in 1932: “I didn’t see the shooting itself, but I saw the cart with bodies on it being transported to the Jewish cemetery. This shooting happened shortly after the occupation, all the Jews were taken and shot in the forest of Heletyntsi. In all there were seven men shot. I recognized one of them, his name was Guershko.
YIU: Do you know why these men were shot?
W: I don’t know. Back then I was too little to understand anything. I know that the shooting was conducted by local policemen. The victims were shot in a silo pit, but then transported and buried at the Jewish cemetery. […]
YIU: Do you remember any other names of the Jewish victims?
W: Yes, I remember Genia Samoilovna. She was my teacher at school. Her entire family was shot, but she was spared by a German who used her as translator. She survived the war and told me that story afterwards.” (Witness n°2904U, interviewed in Gvardiiske, on July 9, 2021)
Gvardiiske is a village in Khmelnytskyi region, western Ukraine, located 25 km (15,5mi) southwest of Khmelnytskyi. The town was known as Felshtin until 1945. It was founded sometime in the 16th century and the first record of the Jewish community goes back to the 18th century. In the late 19th century, the Jews represented the majority of the population. Most of them were merchants or artisans. In 1919 the community suffered greatly from a pogrom which left behind 600 victims. According to local residents, there were two selsoviets [rural administration], one Jewish and one Ukrainian. On the eve of the war, about 500 Jews lived in Gvardiiske.
Gvardiiske fell under German occupation on July 7, 1941. According to the Secret Security Service archives, the first executions were conducted from July 1941. That month, 12 Jewish men were arrested and shot outside the village by Ukrainian nationalists. Another shooting was carried out in August 1941, with 150 Jews being shot. In March 1942, all the remaining Jews in Gverdiiske were rounded up in their homes and assembled at the central square of the village. Anyone who refused to go were killed on the spot. Others committed suicide. The Jews were then taken to a labor camp set up in Heletyntsi. They were taken in carts driven by requisitioned locals. Jews - men, women and children alike - suffered for several months in the camp and were forced to work in a sand quarry. Some of the Jews fit for work were sent to other labor camps in the region on the Volochysk-Proskuriv-Letychiv line, working on the DGIV road construction. These camps existed from March until November 1942, when they were liquidated. The Jews who remained in the Heletyntsi camp were all shot in September 1942. They were taken to a pit in the woods north of the village and shot there. Before being shot, the victims had to strip naked, before being shot in groups. According to the accounts of local eyewitnesses, the shooting was conducted by the Germans, most probably by the unit that arrived from Proskuriv, assisted by about sixty local policemen.
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