1 Execution site(s)
Leonid C. evokes: “I was grazing my cows when I heard shots coming from the city. There was a lot of smoke. When I returned to town, there was a lot of destruction and the corpses of Jews everywhere.” (Witness N°748, interviewed in Kopyl, on May 16, 2014)
“In autumn 1941, on the order of the leader of the German gendarmerie, a district of Kopyl was surrounded with barbed wire and the Jews were imprisoned there. There were approximately 2,000 of them. We didn’t let them go anywhere, except to work for the gendarmerie. And on March 25, 1942, on the order of the gendarmerie, all the Jews were shot, the elderly, women, children, except some specialists. [Deposition of Smorogd K. for The Soviet Extraordinary State Commission; RG- 22.002M 7021-81]
Kopyl is a small city situated 90 km southwest of Minsk. In 1939, more than 1,400 Jews were living in Kopyl, making up 28% of the total population of the city. Before the war, there were 3 synagogues, and a Jewish high school. The city was under German occupation from 1941 to 1944.
Soon after their arrival in summer 1941, the Germans conducted several shootings of the local residents, including Jews. In July 1941, all the Jews had to move into the ghetto, established in the former Jewish quarter. It was surrounded by barbed wire and guarded. Jews were also brought from surrounding villages. Forced labor, like cleaning the streets, was performed by adults. According to witnesses interviewed by Yahad, it was quite common for the Jews to barter to obtain food.
On March 25, 1942, Germans, assisted by local policemen and auxiliaries from the Baltic States, gathered the Jews into a synagogue where they proceeded to conduct a selection. Specialist workers and their families, more than 1,000 people in all, were sent back to the ghetto. The remaining Jews were shot in a mass grave close to the river that crossed through the town.
On the night of July 22-23, 1942, the Germans and their auxiliaries liquidated the ghetto. But armed Jews organized a revolt, and set the ghetto on fire. A large part of the city was destroyed during the revolt. Around 200 Jews managed to escape, and many of them joined the partisans. The other Jews, killed all over the city, were buried in the same location as the first mass shooting.
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