Novohrad-Volynsky (Zviahel, Zvil, Novograd Volynskiy) | Zhytomyr

/ The remaining building of one of the synagogues in Novohrad-Volynsky. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The remaining building of one of the synagogues in Novohrad-Volynsky. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The Jewish cemetery in Novohrad-Volynsky. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The remaining tombstones at the Jewish cemetery. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The remaining tombstones at the Jewish cemetery.  ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Lilia P., born in 1934: “Many Jews evacuated at the beginning of the war, others stayed in hiding within the local non-Jewish population, in the surrounding villages and in the forest.” ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Zoya, born in 1927: “All the shops and kiosks were Jewish. The entire center was populated with Jews. They were religious, especially the elderly.” ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team with a witness during an interview. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The execution site of about 8, 000 POWs and civilians. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Lilia P., born in 1934:”The camp for Soviet POWs was created in 1942, in the yard of the school n°2. The territory was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded. There were watch towers as well.” ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Former location of the POW camp, in which 25,000-30,000 died of hunger, cold and disease, or were shot. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The memorial to 25,000-30,000 POWs murdered in the camp. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team with a witness at one of the execution sites. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Ivan V., born in 1930: “Upon their arrival the shootings started   and the Jews were taken to the pit.”©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The execution site where about 100 Jews were shot. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Former House of the Handicapped grounds where a circa. 200 hundred Jews were murdered. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum MTS grounds where about 800 Jews were murdered. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Forest where about 750-800 Jews were murdered. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The memorial in the memory of the Novohrad-Volynsky Jews murdered by the Nazis. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The memorial in the memory of the Novohrad-Volynsky Jews murdered by Nazi. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Novohrad-Volynsky

4 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Garden (1); Bomb shell near the House for disables people (2); Near MTS (3); Forest (4)
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
About 2,000

Witness interview

Lilia P., born in 1934: “Many Jews evacuated at the beginning of the war, others stayed in hiding within the local non-Jewish population, in the surrounding villages and in the forest. The Jews were exterminated little by little, not all at the same time. The Germans didn’t want to draw attention to them and did everything at night. Back then, at this time the partisans’ units had started to be very active. Many Jews were shot in different places, especially near the hospital (the House of the Handicapped) located on Chekhova street. Today, there is a monument, as well as on the shooting range on the road in the direction of Chyzhivka.” (Testimony n°2567U, interviewed in Novohrad-Volynsky, on March 26, 2019)

Soviet archives

"The extermination of the population was carried out systematically. There were not only shootings in small groups of five to twenty people, but also mass executions in which hundreds of people were killed. For example, in September 1941, about 4,000 Jewish people were shot on the same day (the graves are located in the grove [roshcha] near the Red Army House and in the shooting range).
Various methods of extermination were used: the victims were burned alive, hanged, shot in the back of the head with machine guns, submachine guns, guns; they were also brought into pits and finished off with hand grenades. [...]
In and around the prison, shootings took place almost every day. The night before an execution, Germans from SS units and police officers - all of them drunk - abused and tortured their victims, raped the women.
In the northwest corner of the prison, the entire wall is riddled with bullets; the outer wall of the prison is also riddled with bullets. In the grove near the Red Army House, we opened a pit in which there were mostly women and children of Jewish nationality. The bodies were in disarray; there were more than 700 of them. [...]
The execution was carried out with machine guns. They shot them mainly in the head. The ground was filled with blood and the bodies, completely naked, were covered with a layer of clothing. According to the testimony of Maria Zinkevich, the victims were brought in a truck and stripped naked before the execution. The best clothes were selected and brought back by truck, while the rest was buried in the pit with the bodies.
In the military firing range on the road to Shiiovka, there were three pits containing 3,200 people, shot.
On Krasnoyarskaia Street, in the vegetable garden behind the bakery, in the former silo pit, more than 100 shot people there were buried. According to the testimony of Aleksandr M., an old man managed to get out of the pit during the night and escaped. The victims were brought in groups of two-three people, their hands tied with barbed wire, to the pit to be shot.
The territory of school no. 2 on Franko Street, as well as the area measuring 450x60m adjacent to it, is covered with pits. There are also many pits on the 37x25m plot in the garden opposite the school. The brick wall of the guardhouse located near these pits is riddled with bullets. In these two plots are buried the bodies of about 30,000 people shot and starved to death.
In the fields of MTS [agricultural machinery repair station], Chekhov Street, in the hole of a large shell thrown by the air force, there are about 800 bodies of shot people. In the garden of the house for disabled people, in a similar hole, are buried about 200 bodies, mostly men.” [Act n°1 drawn up by Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on May 24, 1945; GARF 7021-60-305, pp. 10-82]

German archives

"Question: What were the activities of the security unit "EK 4-A" in the temporarily occupied territory of the Soviet Union?
Answer: The whole unit of "EK 4-A", about 80 men, came to Novohrad-Volynsky. Immediately after our arrival in Novohrad-Volynsky, SD officials announced that all men of Jewish nationality had to report to the SD building because they wanted to register them and send them to work. This was a trap because the Jews were arrested when they presented themselves for registration. In total, about 200 people were arrested in this way. All the arrested people remained under police surveillance for four to five hours in the courtyard of the SD building. I myself was among the guards. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was around the middle of July, and that day, around 4-5 p.m., all the arrested people were taken out of the city under police surveillance and shot about 300 meters from the outskirts. I personally participated in the transportation of the prisoners to the place of execution. Both the prisoners and the SD and SS officials walked to the execution site. The shooting took place in the following manner: the prisoners were taken in groups of 20 men and had to stand on the edge of a pit that had already been dug, with their backs to the shooters. The prisoners were not blindfolded. The pit was about 200 meters from where the other prisoners were. The detachment that fired the shots consisted of 20 people. Half of them were members of the SS, the other half were policemen. [...]
Obersturmführer G. was in command of the shooting, he also gave the order "fire". After the shooting of a group of 20 people, the SD officials finished off those who were still alive with machine guns. The SD officials threw the bodies of those who had been shot into the pit, [the victims] were not buried, however the next group - again 20 men - were immediately taken away and shot in the same way. All 200 people were killed. All those shot were men between the ages of 25 and 65. Women and children were not killed. When the shooting was over, the pit was filled in by policemen and SS men, as in the shooting in the town of Rivne. I myself, as well as the entire command that had taken part in the shooting, did not participate in the filling of the pit." [Statement of the accused member of the 9th police battalion, Friedrich E., BArch162-7357, p.64]

Historical note

Novohrad-Volynsky, renamed back to Zviahel in 2022, is located on the Sluch River, 84 km (52mi) northwest of Zhytomyr. The city was first mentioned in 1257 as Vozvyagel and was renamed Novohrad-Volynskiy after third Poland partition in 1795. The first reference to a Jewish presence in Novohrad-Volynsky dates back to the 15th century. According to the census, there were 400 Jews in 1765, 262 in 1784 and 281 in 1787, making up 28% of the total population. During the following decades, the Jewish community grew significantly. In 1897, 9,387 Jews lived in the town making up 55% of the total population. The majority of Jews lived off trade and crafts, working as shoe and cloth makers, tanners, and smiths. The Jews owned grocery stores, dry goods, fish, wine stalls and more. The community had its synagogues, two cemeteries and numerous prayer houses. There were several Jewish schools, one for girls, and one mixed, a cheder school and two Talmud Torah schools opened in 1899 and in 1912 respectively. The majority of the Novohrad-Volynsky, Jews were Hasidic. During the Russian civil war (1918-1920) the Jewish community suffered greatly from the pogroms, as a result of which about 1,000 Jews were murdered, and businesses and houses were plundered. During the Soviet era, several factories opened in the city, and by the end of the 1930s about 1,300 Jews had become factory workers, with artisans uniting in cooperatives. On the eve of the Second World War, the number of Jews in the city had dropped to 6,840, 29% of the total city’s population.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Novohrad-Volynsky was occupied by German troops on July 6, 1941. During the first weeks, part of the Jewish community was able to evacuate to the east. Men of an eligible age were conscripted into the Red Army or enlisted voluntarily. Around two thirds of the pre-war Jewish population remained at the start of the occupation. Shortly after the occupation all the Jews were registered and marked with yellow stars. The extermination of the Jewish community started in late July 1941 and lasted until September of the same year. During the first Aktion, carried out on July 28-30, 1941, 800 Jews were shot in a bomb crater, around the Machine-Tractor Station (MTS) grounds. In the backyard of a house for disabled people, where another bomb crater was located, 200 more Jews were shot. In addition, more than 100 were shot in the yard of a bakery, in a former ditch for grain. Some shootings were carried out by Sonderkommando 4A. On September 12, 1941, 319 Jews, held in prison, were executed. At the end of August 1941, another mass execution was carried out in a grove near the former Red Army Building (Dom Krasnoi Armii). Altogether, there were more than 700 victims, including women and children. The Jews who survived these murder operations, mainly skilled workers needed by the Germans, were rounded up and herded into the ghetto, an area composed of barracks belonging to a linen factory and surrounded by a barbed wire fence. The ghetto population declined steadily during the severe winter of 1941-1942 as terrible living conditions, starvation, and exhaustion took their toll. According to various sources, a number of ghetto inmates fled to the forests north of Zhytomyr, where some of them joined partisan units. From November 1941 to November 1942, a labor camp existed in the city. Able-bodied Jewish men were resettled to work there from Baranivka, Rogachiv, Yarun, and other towns and villages. The prisoners of the camp were used to build railroads. The remaining ghetto population, as well as some captured Jews, were shot. About 25,000-30,000 Soviet POWs were also shot in Novohrad-Volynsky.

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