2 Execution site(s)
Eva Ya., born in 1928, was taken to the ghetto by mistake: “I was hiding in the basement of my aunt’s house. Then Lukash, the executioner, came to her house and saw my coat that my aunt had thrown on the potatoes. I didn’t have time to take my coat with me when I was hiding. I was crawling through the tunnel to the basement. He started to ask whose coat it was. And then they found me. They took me in a car to the Kirovsk prison. I remember how they threw me like a ball from one side to another. I was then brought to the Bobruisk ghetto. In the ghetto, people lived with their families. The place where the ghetto was located was called “Yeloviki”. It was made up of lots of small houses.” (Testimony N°698, interviewed in Kirovsk, on July 20, 2013)
“I witnessed the shootings from the very beginning when they had just started. It was during the autumn of 1941, when a covered truck stopped near our house and the Germans forced civilians to climb out of it. When everybody had climbed down, they shot them all. These shootings were perpetrated every day, in the early morning and at night, and lasted during the years 1941, 1942 and 1943. The graves were located 1km from Bobruisk. There were 50 graves 30 metres long, 5 metres wide and 5 metres deep.” [Deposition of witness, taken on May 26th 1945, by the State Extraordinary Commission. RG22.022M/7021/82-1]
“In Bobruisk, 12,000 to 15,000 Jews were shot. On the first day of the Aktion, 2,500 Jews were shot, including men, women and children. I assisted with this execution along with other officers. We received an order to assist with this execution by a circular or a phone call. It was in April or May 1942 and it began at 6 o’clock in the morning. It lasted the whole day, with some interruptions, because some shooters went crazy and needed to be replaced. The convicted people were brought to the site on foot. They were forced to dig the pits themselves, about 10 to 15 of them. They were then forced into the pit in groups, where they had to kneel down before being shot with an automatic gun to the nape of the neck. We then poured covered them in lime, and another group got inside the pit and kneeled down in a line.” [Deposition of a civil administration officer Reinhold G. made on April 24th 1959 in Munich; B162-3337, p.6]
Bobruisk is located 110km southwest of Mogilev. Since 1795, it has been a regional centre. The first records on the Jewish community date back to the end of the 16th century. In 1789, 281 Jews lived in the town. The number of Jews increased and reached 29,704 by 1892. In 1923, the Jews represented 54 percent of the total population. In 1910, there were 32 synagogues, several cheders, several Jewish colleges, a Jewish hospital, a library and a cemetery. The majority of Jews were merchants and lived off of small scale trade. From the end of 19th century, the Jews were engaged in logging and selling wood to the southern regions of Russia. Many Jews worked at the numerous small factories that operated in the town, such as a glass factory. At the beginning of 20th century, a Jewish publishing house was opened in Bobruisk. In 1920-1922, the Jews suffered two pogroms. As a result many Jews were killed and their houses and shops were looted. During the 1930s, synagogues and other religious institutions were closed. Due to migration, the Jewish population dropped to 35 percent of the total population. In 1939, only 26,703 lived in the town. The Germans occupied Bobruisk on June 28th 1941.
Immediately after the Germans arrived, all Jews were registered and marked with yellow badges in form of the Star of David. All of their valuables, including fur coats and money, were confiscated by Germans. The Judenrat (Jewish council) and a local Belarusian police were established. The ghetto was created rather quickly, within the first month of the occupation. The ghetto’s inmates were forced to perform different kinds of hard labor, such as railroad construction, and were subjected to regular abuse, robbery, and rape. Many Jews were shot randomly inside the ghetto. By December 1941, all of the Jews had been exterminated.
The first execution was conducted in late September or early October 1941 by Einsatzkommando 8. Over the course of several executions, about 2,205 Jews were killed in the town and nearby areas. The biggest mass execution was conducted in September by an SS unit. During this Aktion, about 7,000 Jews were killed at the nearby airfield. On November 7th-8th 1941 (according to some sources it started on November 6th), during the liquidation of the ghetto, 5,281 Jews from the ghetto were taken by truck to the village of Kamenka, located 9km away, where they were shot in three mass graves that had been dug in advance by POWs. Before the shooting, they were forced to undress. The shooting was conducted by Einsatzkommando 8 and a police battalion, assisted by local police. On December 30th 1941, over 2,500 Jews, including certain artisans who were purposely spares, as well as the Jews who attempted to hide, were taken in trucks to the killing site and murdered.
In order to hide the evidence of their crimes, the Germans conducted Operation 1005, which involved the exhumation and cremation of Jewish victims’ bodies. This lasted from autumn 1943 to January 1944.
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