1 Execution site(s)
Klavdia K., born in 1929: “My father was a blacksmith. One day, they came to get him and said, "Take your shovel and follow us." In those days, we didn’t ask. Once the order was given, we had to obey. When my father came home, he said, "What a pit we dug! So many Russians were brought in to do it! We dug huge pits! I wonder what they plan to do in them." At the time, no one knew anything. Even the Jews only realised what would happen when they were taken by the road [to the ravine]. That day we [the children] were grazing our cattle next to this ravine. People came running. "They’re taking the Jews away! They’re taking the Jews away!" [they shouted]. We climbed over some trees to see [what would happen]. Once up there, a German or a policeman started shooting at us with a machine gun. We jumped out of the trees. Where to go? The field had just been plowed; the last tractor furrow was deep. [Bending down], we walked into that furrow, and we found ourselves in front [of the execution site]. In order not to be noticed, we laid down some pieces of earth, and watched through small gaps in the earth. That’s how we saw everything. The Jews were taken away, and they started to shout at them. I didn’t quite understand what was being shouted at them, but I understood that they were being told to strip completely naked. The Jews started to undress. Two girls tried to give something to a German so that they could keep their nighties on, no matter what happened next. But he wouldn’t let them. They started to beat them, their nighties were torn off, and they were left naked, like all the others. […] They fired with a machine gun, and all the Jews who were on one of the steps fell down. Then they shot the Jews on the other step. To make it short, the heads fell in the middle.” (Witness n°713U, interviewed in Derazhnya, on August 26, 2008)
“In July 1942 a labor force comprised of Ukrainians was organized by the German-Fascist authority collaborators to dig pits in order to prepare for the shooting of the Jewish residents. Before the murder operation of the Jewish population, Soviet civilians Samuil Tsipris and Isaak - I don’t remember his last name, got out through the wire of the ghetto in order to check if pits had been prepared for the shooting of the civilians; at that time, they were caught by policemen P*** and R*** who took and shot them to death near the brick factory of the town of Derazhnya. Three months later a murder operation of the Jewish residents in which several Germans and over 200 German-Fascist collaborators participated began. They beat, forced to strip naked, robbed, and shot to death these Soviet civilians. I can confirm several facts, for example. The policeman R*** took a child from a woman, her name was Tsilya Basin and killed the child, [then] took money and gold from her and then killed her. […] The murder operation was carried out [as follows:] the above-mentioned Ukrainian policemen took Jewish men, women, and children in columns from the ghetto and led them near the brick factory of the town of Derazhnia, where they forced them to strip naked and shot them to death. In most cases the children were thrown into the pit alive. After the murder operation, all property that had been left, namely: valuables, furniture, food products, money in gold, was taken by the local authority to the German authorities. Most of the property was taken by the German Fascist authorities to an unknown destination, while the rest was divided between their collaborators. All [Jewish] houses and furniture were allocated by the German authorities for disposal by the local authority. [Deposition given by a Jewish survivor Mikhail Shpilberg, born in 1915, to Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on May 25, 1944; GARF 7021-64-797]
Derazhnia is located on the banks of the Vovk River, 42 km (26mi) east from the regional center Khmelnytskyi, today Proskuriv. The first records of the Jewish community date back to the mid-18th century. With the development of the railroads, many Jews came to live in the town and their community continued to grow. By 1897, the Jewish community numbered 3,333 members, making up 68% of the town’s total population. The majority of Jews lived off the commerce facilitated by the railroads. Some were craftsmen while others worked in the kolkhoz (collective farm) established in the 1920s. In 1923, there was a Yiddish school. On the eve of the war, in 1939, 41% of the total population was Jewish.
Derazhnia was occupied by German forced on July 11, 1941. A small percentage of Jews managed to flee before the Germans’ arrival. Shortly after a ghetto was established. According to the mandatory registration of Jews, 1,848 Jews remained in Derazhnia. Besides the local jews there were also Jewish inhabitants brought in from Volkovyntsi and other nearby villages. All the Jews were forced to wear a Star of David and were not allowed to leave the ghetto’s territory unless to got to work. The ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by local police. On September 20, 1942, the ghetto was liquidated. On this day, about 1,500 Jews - mainly women, children, and elderly people - were taken to the ravine outside the town to be shot. The Aktion was conducted by the German gendarmerie with the help of local police. Once at the site, the Jews were forced to strip naked, climb into the pit and lie down facing the ground, on top of the bodies of the previous group, before being shot with a bullet from submachine gun. Before the shooting, skilled workers were selected, 200 of them were sent to the Letychiv labor camp, while others were resettled in a small ghetto. According to the accounts of the local villagers interviewed by Yahad, many Jews managed to hide in the basements or behind false walls. Those who were found were shot in late September early October 1942 at the Jewish cemetery along with the remaining skilled workers. According to the Soviet archives, 270 Jews were shot to death there.
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