2 Execution site(s)
Sofia S., born in 1934: “The Jews were killed in several steps. First the men, then the women and children. It all happened near the Iaselda river. I saw part of the shooting, it lasted several days. The Jews were brought to the execution place under guard and had to undress. They were lined up and an entire group was shot on the edge of the pit. I don’t know how many of them were in each group, but I know some were not killed right away and managed to escape the mass grave and hide in the village. I never went back to that place.” (Witness YIU/966 interviewed in Pinsk on September 10, 2018)
“Near the village of Khomsk, the German monsters burned women, elderly people, and children alive after pouring fuel on them. According to the inhabitants of Khomsk, 193 civilians were burned alive.”[Act n°5 drawn up 30th October – 2nd November 1944 – GARF 7021-90-28, p.6]
Khomsk is a village in the Drohichyn district, Brest region, southern Belarus. It is located approximately 120 km (75mi) away from Brest. The first written mentions of the town date back to 1518. In turn part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Russian Empire, and Poland in the interwar period, it has been a Belarusian town since 1939. There was a large Jewish population in Khomsk before the war, about 1,300 Jews out of a population of around 2,000 people. There was a relatively big synagogue and a Jewish cemetery. Jews did not live concentrated in one neighborhood but all across town. Most of them were merchants and owned shops, but there were also tailors, cooks… All the children went to the same school, so all ethnicities and religions were mixed. Under the Soviet administration beginning in 1939, all rich families, some Jewish ones included, were deported to Siberia: the kulaks. No kolkhoz was set up however.
Khomsk was taken by German forces on June 25, 1941. This was a punitive squad and so their arrival was brutal, they killed many people, notably women and children. A witness Yahad interviewed remembers how the Germans killed her sister’s baby. Some partisans had warned the villagers the Germans were coming and many of them hid. Some less fortunate people who did not manage to hide were killed. The Germans set up a new administration, with a starost of their choosing and a local police force. They sent some young adults to Germany for forced labor. As for the Jews, they were all rounded up in a ghetto in Khomsk as soon as the Germans arrived. According to a witness interviewed by Yahad, the Jews were forced to wear yellow patches on their clothes. In early August 1941, the Germans decided to liquidate the ghetto. First, they rounded up all the men and led them outside the village, not far from a canal. They had to give up all their valuables, undress, and line up next to a pit in groups. They were all shot and buried in one mass grave. The women, children, and elderly people were next and all shot over the following days in the same fashion. They were all buried in another mass grave. Locals were then requisitioned by the starost to properly fill in one of the mass graves as the bodies had not been covered enough. About a month after these executions, some Jews from Cherechevo were brought to Khomsk and shot at the same site. They were buried in a third mass grave at the same site as the women and children from Khomsk. This execution only took a day, as there were only circa. 40/50 people, according to a witness interviewed by Yahad. In total, between 1,300 and 2,000 Jews were killed in Khomsk, the town’s entire Jewish population was effectively exterminated. In 1943, another German detachment arrived in Khomsk, some witnesses say they were SS. Soviet archives indicate many were burned alive, with the Germans pouring fuel onto their victims and then setting them on fire. Witness accounts confirm the Germans started fires, but rather indicate that they killed civilians inside their homes and then set fire to houses, or simply set fire to empty houses. According to the Soviet archives, 193 villagers were killed in this punitive Aktion.
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