1 Execution site(s)
Iaroslav B., born in 1933: "Jewish doctors and Jewish policemen had to stay in so-called "free camps", while other Jewish men were confined in the labor camp, which existed from 1941 to 1943. They were subjected to forced labor working on road construction. Under guard of policemen, they had to break the tombstones of the Jewish cemetery in order to build this road. The guards forced them to sing: "Our dear Hitler taught us to work"." (Testimony N°YIU829U, interviewed in Ozerna, on May 15, 2009)
"On July 1941, German soldiers arrived in the village of Ozernoie [today Ozerna] by truck and carried out a round-up, over the course of which 180 Jews were arrested, including Dr. Oleksander Litvin. Being a Jewish woman myself, the very next day, on July 5, early in the morning, I left in the direction of Staroie-Ozernoie where I saw the Jews digging a pit for themselves at about 200 meters north of Ozernoie. The doctor, who was a party member, was immediately tortured. His stomach was cut open, he was beaten and then shot. After that the others were shot too. Only one of them was left alive to fill in the pit. Once the pit was filled in, he was shot as well." [Deposition of Dora Bliavisht, a Jewish survivor, given to State Extraordinary Soviet Commission(ChGK), in 1944; GARF 7021-75-98/Copy USHMM RG.22-002M]
Ozerna is located about 16 km (10mi) southeast of Zboriv and 22 km (14mi) northwest of Ternopil. Ozerna was first mentioned in the 16th century as a part of eastern Poland. In 1772, the town was transferred to the Austrian Empire as a part of the Kingdom of Galicia, where it remained until 1918. The first trace of the Jewish community dates back to the late 18th century, with 955 Jews recorded as being settled in the town. From then on, the Jewish population started to grow. According to the 1900 census, Ozerna comprised 1,195 Jews, making up over 20% of the total population. Local Jews were mainly merchants and artisans, most of the businesses in town, including grain mills and oil presses, were run by them. There was a synagogue, a Jewish cemetery and public elementary Jewish school. At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish community of Ozerna started to decline as many residents, fearing pogroms, moved to bigger cities like Ternopil, or immigrated abroad. Consequently, in 1931, Ozerna was home to circa. 700 Jews, comprising about 11% of total population. As the economic situation was unstable, the majority of Jews were small plot-holders and worked the land. Zionist organizations were active in 1920s. At the end of 1918, for a short time, the town became part of the Western Ukrainian Republic before being taken over by Poland. In 1939, following the outbreak of the war, Ozerna was incorporated into the Ukrainian Social Soviet Republic as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The exact number of the Jewish residents of Ozerna remains unknown, but according to Yahad eyewitnesses, there were between 100 and 200 Jewish houses on the eve of the war.
Ozerna was occupied by German troops in July 1941. After a brief period of military administration, the town was taken over by German civil administration in August 1941. Anti-Jewish Aktions started shortly after the occupation began. Over the course of the first Aktion, conducted during the first days of July 1941, 180 Jews were arrested and taken to the outskirts of the town, where they were forced by German soldiers to dig their own pit in which they were subsequently shot. The synagogue was burned down at the same time. According to research results, their corpses were later reburied in the Jewish cemetery.
Over the following weeks, the Jews were ordered to hand over valuables and wear armbands bearing the Star of David. A number of local Jews as well as some from the surrounding area were confined in the labor camp created in the town center. It was surrounded by a barbed wire fence and guarded by local policemen. Inmates were subjected to forced labor on road construction and repair. Isolated shootings of its detainees were conducted throughout its existence. A number of Jews, mainly the wives and children of the camp’s detainees, were later transferred to the Zboriv ghetto. At the same time, two other so-called "free" camps were organized in the town, one for women and another one for skilled Jewish men. Their inmates could move freely around the town.
In August 1942, about 300 Jewish residents of Ozerna, in all more than 2,000 Jews from the Zboriv district according to the Soviet archives, were deported to the Belzec extermination camp as a part of a large-scale deportation conducted in the Ternopil region in 1942 by the Gestapo.
On July 23, 1943, as the front was approaching, the remaining Ozerna Jews, between 260 and 800 people, were taken to the Jewish cemetery to be murdered. Three camps were liquidated on the same day by the Germans. The women were the first to be shot, followed by the detainees of the men’s "free" camp. The Jewish workers from the labor camp were the last to be executed. They were taken to the shooting site by truck, each victim carrying a log of wood, which would be used to burn the victims’ corpses after the execution. Today there is no memorial to mark the mass grave at the Jewish cemetery, which has not survived.
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