2 Execution site(s)
Yaroslav K., born in 1918: YIU: How was it announced?
Witness: The Jews were told to take the most necessary belongings and to leave their homes and go to Peltevna.
YIU: But how exactly were they told to do that?
Witness: You shouldn’t forget that there were Ukrainian police. They went from one Jewish home to another to transmit the order. The Jews had to leave their homes without taking much of their belongings and then go to Peltevna. You know, it was a tragic moment. No matter that they were Jews, Poles or Ukrainians, it is very difficult to talk about that.
YIU: Was the ghetto fenced in with barbed wire or wooden planks?
Witness: Yes, it was fenced in with three rows of barbed wire. There were surveillance posts everywhere. It was very difficult to escape from that place. Moreover, it was very well guarded.
YIU: Where was the biggest entrance gate to the ghetto?
Witness: From the side of the Zhovkivskyi district. The remaining area of the ghetto was surrounded with three rows of barbed wire. There was only one entry.
YIU: How were the different executions carried out?
Witness: Usually, the Jews were shot during the night. They were brought by truck to the Yanivskiy cemetery to be shot. This is the location where the majority of the executions took place and where there is the largest number of mass graves. The pits were located close to one another.
YIU: Why were they taken to Yanivskiy? Why did that choose that location?
Witness: First of all, because it was located close to Klepariv. And second, because it was a calm place. As you know, Yanivkiy is located in the hills. There were many ravines, and it was calm.” [Witness n°737, interviewed in Lviv, on January 8, 2009]
One day my family and I were displaced to the Janowska camp along with an additional 5,000-6,000 prisoners. When Rokitna recognized me he pulled me and my sons aside. The majority of those who were brought there were then taken to Belzec, while the others stayed in the camp. Rokitna appointed my wife to work at the kitchen for the SS. My wife worked there during the day, and at night she got permission to come back home to stay with the kids.
The schedule at the camp was the following: at 4:30 am the people on duty announced the “call” in the barracks. Then, the prisoners went out into the yard and lined up. The SS took the weakest prisoners to the middle of the two lines of barbed wire when they remained without food or water for three or four days. I happened to witness several times when camp prisoners were shot close to the sentry boxes, as the food was distributed, for having asked for an extra portion of soup. The victims’ corpses were piled up alongside near the canteen’s windows, in a garbage pit, where they remained for two or three days. Sometimes there were already 150-200 corpses in the pit. People ate close to the corpses. It is important to say that the most often used method of killing was “the death race”. This race consisted of the following: during the call, the SS made the inmates run close to them. If they noticed someone running slow or limping, he would be shot on the spot.
In the summer of 1942, an orchestra was created in the camp from the professors of the Lviv conservatory; which included Shtriks, Roman, Shats, Yakub, and Vilich. This orchestra played in front of the Kommandantur twice a day; at the moment of departure and returning from forced labor. They were also forced to play during the mass executions. One had said that the orchestra members were killed during the camp liquidation.” [Deposition of Moisei, a Jewish survivor, given to the State Extraordinary Commission, in 1944; RG.22-002M: 7021-67-137]
“We used to uncover the graves where there were people who had been killed during the past three years, take out the bodies, pile them up in tiers and burn these bodies, grind the bones, take out the valuables in the ashes, such as gold teeth, rings and so on, and separate them. After grinding the bones we would throw the ashes up in the air so that they would disappear, replace the earth over the graves, and plant seeds so that nobody could recognize that there was once a grave there. In addition to this, they used to bring new people, new victims, and they were shot there also, undressed beforehand, we had to burn these new bodies too. On Tuesday, June 29, 1943, two hundred and seventy-five arrived; they were shot with a machine gun in groups of twenty-five. After the first twenty-five stepped into the pit and were shot, the next twenty-five followed. […]
We had to make up songs and sing while we were going to work. The Burn Master who would march in front, he was clothed like a devil, he had a special uniform with a hook in his hand and we had to march after him and sing. Afterward, we were also joined by an orchestra which would play as we sang and accompany us on our march to work. We were told that after eight to ten days we had to be exchanged, we would be shot and another group would come. So when visiting SD men came over to the Death Brigade and asked us how long we had been there it was forbidden for us to say that we had been there longer than six, eight, up to eight or ten days - no longer. " [Deposition of Leon Wells (Wieliczker), a Jewish survivor and a worker of the SK 1005, given at Eichmann’s trial in 1961; B162/29309, 351-362]
Lviv is located 470 kilometers west of Kyiv and 341 kilometers southeast of Warsaw, on the southeast border with Poland. The first record of a Jewish community dates back to 1340. Then the town had become a major transit and trade center. In 1550, 352 Jews lived within the city and 559 in the suburb. The city was home to Orthodox Jews and Karaites. There were two separate synagogues, ritual baths and one cemetery for both communities.
By 1648 the Jewish community grew to 4,800 people comprising 25% of the total population. During the next centuries, the local Jewish community was involved in trade, local and international, particularly in cattle, food, and leather, and handicraft. In regard to business affairs, there was large tension between Christians and Jews.
In 1772 Lviv was taken over by Austro-Hungarian Empire, becoming the administrative center of Galicia. In 1792, 11,765 Jews lived in the city and by 1800 there were 13,302. At this time four schools for boys and one for girls were built. Several social and ideological movements, such as Haskalah and Hassidism were created. The Zionists appeared later, in the 1780s. According to the 1820 census, 17,931 Jews lived in Lviv making up 38% of the total population. About half of them were involved in small-scale trade, about a quarter worked in crafts. Some Jews owned distilleries, breweries, restaurants, and coffee houses. However, the majority of Jews lived in poverty until 1868 due to trade and residential restrictions. By 1900 the Jewish population reached 44,258 residents.
Between the two wars, Lviv was under Polish rule and became home to the third-largest Jewish community in Poland. In 1939, as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the town was taken over by the Soviets. In April 1940, hundreds of Jews were deported to Siberia after having refused to get Soviet passports. All Jewish cultural and religious movements were banned and Jewish activists were arrested. The interwar period was marked by an alarming increase of anti-Semitism among Poles and Ukrainians and the discriminatory policies of the Polish government, and then there was also cultural and economic development in the city thanks to the local Jews. On the eve of the war, some 150,000 Jews lived in the city, including refugees from western Poland. The city was occupied by the German army on June 30, 1941.
During the first days of the occupation a pogrom was organized by Einsatzgruppe C. As a result of misinformation, that supposedly Jews were responsible for thousands of victims being tortured and murdered by the NKVD in Lviv prisons before, the local population murdered between 2,000 to 5,000 Jews in the course of three days. In addition, approximately 2,500-3,000 Jewish men were shot by Einsatzgruppe C with the assistance of the local police. In late July 1941, another pogrom, known as the “Petlura Day” was conducted, in which another 1,000 Jews were murdered. In August 1941, eastern Galicia was attached to the central government in Poland, and the German authorities introduced many repressive measures, such as the obligation to wear armbands bearing the Star of David and the confiscation of Jewish property. The small executions continued throughout the summer and were conducted in different places; in the woods to the east of Lychakivska street, in the Lysynychi forest, or in the Pyaski sand quarry near the Janowska camp. The Lviv ghetto was created in November 1941 in the northern part of the city, in the Zamarstyniv and Klepariv districts, near the railway line of Lviv-Ternopil. In an area where 20-30 thousand people used to live, the Nazis resettled 138 thousand Jews, of which about 80 thousand of them, were forced to move from the “Aryan” part of the city. Before being taken to the ghetto, the Jews passed through a selection. Those who were considered fit to work were sent to the ghetto, while children, the elderly, and the weak were sent to the Belzec killing center. The Jewish prisoners were subjected to perform labor for the Wehrmacht, particularly in clothing manufacturing and construction. It is estimated that only 3,000 Jews worked in the factory that belonged to a Berlin industrialist, Schwartz. In September 1941, the Germans set up a network of factories to service the needs of the Army on Janowska Street, today Taras Shevchenka Street. By the end of October, about 600 Jews worked there and the factories were transformed into a closed labor camp, known as the Janowska camp, which later became a transit camp, and by mid-1943 was transformed from a concentration camp into a death camp. In mid-May 1943 alone, over 6,000 Jews were murdered in the sand quarry, called Pyasky, located behind the camp. According to the historical sources, the total number of murdered prisoners inside the camp is estimated at 35,000-40,000, while the total number of the inmates who passed through the camp is estimated at 100,000. The local Jewish population was not only exterminated in and around Lviv but were also deported in large numbers to the nearest death camps. The first large scale deportation was carried out in March 1942, at the same time as the deportation from the Lublin ghetto. Over 15,000 Jews, mostly the elderly, women, and children, after having been gathered at the Sobielski school, were taken to the railway station and deported to the Belzec killing center. Besides the “aktions” organized by the Nazis, the inhuman living conditions and epidemics prevailed in the ghetto.
On June 24-25, 1942, another execution was carried out in the sand quarry, when about 1,200 Jewish inmates from the ghetto were taken to the Janowska camp after the selection 1,080 were murdered.
In addition, a large scale execution, known as “The Great Aktion” took place in August 1942 and lasted two weeks. Within these two weeks, an estimated 42,000 Jews were murdered either within the city, at the Belzec camp, or in the SS-run Janowska camp. The deportations continued during the winter of 1942-1943. In January 1943, approximately 24,000 Jews were still alive inside the ghetto, although the real number of the Jewish prisoners was probably higher. In yet another execution, 10,000 Jews were murdered, the ghetto was transformed into a work camp, known as the Judenlager, or Julag, which according to the Soviet archives numbered 8,000 Jews and existed until June 1943. During its liquidation, the Germans met some resistance. Only a few managed to escape through the sewer system.
In June 1943, as part of the Aktion 1005, the mass graves at the Janowska camp, as well as in the Lysynychi forest were opened. The bodies recovered from the pits were burned, and their ashes were either buried or scattered in the fields, in order to hide any evidence of the Nazi crimes.
According to the archives about 200,000 civilians, the majority of whom were Jews, as well as prisoners of war from the Red Army and other countries were murdered in Lviv under the German occupation. It is estimated that approximately 1, 000 Jews from Lviv, less than 1% of the pre-war population, survived the war. According to the diary of David Kahane, a synagogue rabbi, the Greek Catholic Archibishop of Lviv, Andrei Sheptyts’kyi, saved as many as 150 Jews by hiding them in his living quarters.
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