Drohichyn (Drogichin, Drohiczyn, Drohitchin, Drahitschyn, Drahichyn) | Brest

A picture in the 1930’s from the mixed school. Valentina L. is in the picture as well as many Jewish children.  © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum / Former Jewish cemetery, now a park in the center of the village. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Former Jewish cemetery, now a bus station. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Former Jewish house. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Valentina L., born in 1925: “ Jews from the ghetto were shot on the edge of a pit. It was close to the railway station. Then, some time after the shooting, the grave was still moving. “ © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Viktor L., born in 1930: “In Drohichyn, Jews lived in their neighborhood. They had a synagogue and two cemeteries. Most of them were craftsmen and traders.” © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Entrance of the ghetto. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum The Yahad-In Unum team during an interview with a local witness. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Execution site #1. Wasteland close to the railway station and the cemetery where 3,000 Jews were killed and according to the archives, probably 816 non-Jews as well. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Execution site #2, Locality “Zalessie,” a former Jewish cemetery destroyed by the Germans. 250 victims (Jews and non-Jews). © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Execution site #3, very close to the former jail wall. 150 victims, Jews and non-Jews. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews and non-Jews in Drohichyn

3 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Wasteland (1) ; Place called “Zalessie” (2) ; Jail (3)
Memorials :
Period of occupation:
Number of victims :

Witness interview

Valentina L., born in 1925: “Jewish shops were closed. At the beginning they still could stay at home but were daily forced to work. I saw them every day. They were brought in a column to build roads. There were, each time, 50 men and women guarded. They had to wear yellow fabric on their clothes. Then they were gathered in a ghetto close to the synagogue.” (Witness n°961, interviewed in Drohichyn, on September 7th 2018)

Soviet archives

“In the center of Drohichyn, close to the jail, Germans have prepared a cemetery in which they brought a lot of inhabitants by groups. At the cemetery entrance, Germans released their dogs on people. They tore pieces of their bodies off. Then, Germans threw some of the victims alive in the graves and shot them with a pistol. After that, they threw the rest of them in. […] In the center of Drohichyn, 250 meters far from the Jewish cemetery in the locality ‘Zalessie’, I saw Germans bringing wounded people by trucks and throwing them in graves. Some of them were dead but others were still alive. But Germans threw them all in the graves and covered them with a layer of earth. My apartment was 300 meters away from this cemetery and when it was possible I watched these terrible actions.” [From the statement of a Drohichyn inhabitant, Irina L., made between October 30th 1944 and November 2nd 1944. Extraordinary State Commission. GARF 7021-90-28]

German archives

“Question: “What do you know about the Drohichyn ghetto evacuation?”
Answer: “During the Drohichyn ghetto evacuation, our group had to manage a part of the external cordon. Then we had to comb the ghetto to find hidden Jews. We found some old men, women and children. A Jewish woman came to me to inquire if I could save her in exchange for a valuable ring. I brought this woman to a SD man standing close to a pile of jewelry. He threw the ring on the pile and brought the woman to the rest of the Jews. Then the SD member of our company transported the Jews to the execution site.
The execution site was in a field, where a week before, a mass grave had been dug. I couldn’t see the execution from my point of view, however I heard the gunfire. To my estimation, the field was 1 km away from the ghetto. Before, we used this field as a sports field. So I already knew that the mass grave was here before our arrival in Drohichyn. Our entire company took part in this intervention. To my memory, the Aktion was carried out in the morning, one day in September 1942, and lasted a day.” [Questioning of Augustin H., member of the 306 battalion, regarding the evacuation of the Drohichyn ghetto and the killing of the Jews. ARZ 393-1959. Volume 9 – p.2]

Historical note

Drohichyn is located 103 kilometers (64 miles) east of Brest and 70 kilometers (43 miles) west from Pinsk.  The first records of the Jewish community go back to the second half of the 15th century. The number of Jews increased quickly in the early part of the twentieth century due to the opening of a railroad station. On the eve of the Second World War, there were 4,500 Jews living in Drohichyn. The Jewish population accounted for the majority of Drohichyn’s population. Jews lived in the center of town, especially in the streets: 8 March, Brest and Shevshenko. Each community had her own school but a mixed school also existed. There were 2 synagogues.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Drohichyn was occupied by the Germans starting on June 25th 1941. Two weeks later, they closed the Jewish shops and forced the Jews to wear yellow patches on their clothes. At the same time, Jews who lived in villages around were forced to move into town. From September 1941, the city was taken over by a German civil administration. This new administration instituted new anti-Jewish measures such as forced labor, a ban on walking on sidewalks, reading newspapers, and leaving their houses without authorization. A Judenrat was also elected to make the collection of valuables and gold easier. Almost a year after the German arrival, on April 1st 1942, all the Jews were moved to two ghettos, one for “useful Jews” and another one for “non-useful Jews”. 1,700 Jews from the latter ghetto were transported by train on July 25 1942 and shot in Bronnaya Gora alongside Jews from other nearby cities. Then, on October 15th, 1942, the former ghetto was liquidated. On this day, 3,000 Jews were brought close to the railway station by groups of 100, not far from the cemetery, and shot to death. Before being shot, they were forced to undress. The forensic expert assessment from the Soviet archives gives the number of 3,816 people murdered and buried in this mass grave, including 895 men, 1,083 women and 1,638 children. Some of the victims could also be non-Jews. There were also two other sites of execution. There is no information about the nationality of the victims (whether they were Jews or not.) The first site was close to the jail where 150 people were murdered. The second site was in the locality “Zalessie” on the outskirts of the city, close to the Jewish cemetery where 250 people were murdered.

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