3 Execution site(s)
Halyna M., born in 1930: "From the early morning I heard people crying it was coming from the Old Town. From 6 a.m., the Schutzmann [Note: local police] went to the apartments and houses and began to force the Jews out of their homes. Once outside, they were lined up by fours in a column. Not everyone managed to put on outerwear, so they were undressed or half-dressed [...]. They walked from the Old Town through the Wind Gate near the Cultural House. They were gathered under the pretext of being relocated to Palestine and ordered only to take their most valuable things. The column was very long; it spread from the Cultural House to the corner near the Polish manor, where a three-level building was located. [Note: approx. 1.5 km]. They were taken towards the area of Microdistrict [Zhovtnevyi district], where a ditch had already been dug. In one day, the [Old] Town became empty." (Witness n°635, interviewed by Yahad-In Unum, on May 31, 2008)
“I received an order from Lieutenant Reich to place my policemen in the second cordon; the exact way of placing them was explained by an SD soldier who, afterward, collected the valuables. Our task was to prevent those condemned to death from escaping and to keep the local population, even Germans, away from the shooting site. During the shooting, many Germans, both military and civilians came to watch. When Germans would come, one of the gendarmes or SD soldiers sent them away.
Furthermore, a double cordon was established between the place where the trucks stopped and the place where they [the Jews] had to undress; in that way, the Jews from the trucks were forced through a kind of corridor to the second cordon that, this time, was made up of only Germans and two or three policemen. [...] As soon as the cordon was in place, 5-10 minutes later, Reich arrived along with German trucks full of Jews brought from the ghetto. From three canvas-covered trucks, about 50-60 Jews got down and were escorted by gendarmes, SD soldiers, and Criminal policemen and, later, also by several [local] policemen. They were then taken to the place where they had to undress. This process went on during the entire shooting, approximately until 5-6 p.m., about 12 hours in a row. The Jews who were about to be shot were brought in groups of 40-60 people.” [Deposition of a company commander of local auxiliary police, Zaloga, given to the Extraordinary State Commission, ChGK, on May 17, 1944; RG-22.002M: GARF 7021-64-799]
"The members of the SD foreign service [SD-Aussenstelle] also arrived at the barrack that was cordoned off by us, the gendarmes, and the Schutzmanns. The Jews were rounded-up unexpectedly, without being able to take their belongings, from the barrack by the Schutzmanns. The SD orchestrated the raid. There must have been three or four uncovered LKW trucks. The Jews were loaded on the trucks and taken to the execution site, located about 10-minutes away from the barrack, to the west. I didn’t notice the Jews providing any resistance. None of the Jews were killed during the transport. The Jews screamed as they knew that they would be shot. One Jewish woman threw herself out of the second floor and fell in the yard of the barrack. I remember that she fell on the other Jews queuing outside; she was taken and loaded into the LKW truck along with others. I don’t know if she was injured.
I checked the positions personally and then went to the execution site, in a vehicle that belonged to the Gendarmerie, after two-thirds of the Jews had been taken away. Once at the site, I found Lieutenant Reich and the SD soldiers. I made the following observation of the site: a trench of about 15-20m long and 10m wide had been dug. It was about 6m deep as I remember. Bodies of Jews who had already been shot were lying inside the trench. Half of the Jews who were supposed to be killed were already lying inside the pit. The Jews were brought to the pit by the Schutzmanns. On one side of the pit, there was a slope so the Jews could get inside.
Once inside, the Jews had to lay down facing the ground, one on top of the other and were then shot by an SD man. The SD man shot the line of Jews by firing a bullet in the nape of the neck. The next group had to lay over the previous one. This is why, between each group, a thin layer of soil was thrown from the entrance of the pit until it covered the entire pit. After that, the SD man would walk over the bodies. He fired with an 8mm gun, and other members of the SD unit would pass him the munitions. I remained on the site until the end of the execution. At the end of the execution, the pit was filled in about three-quarters; in other words, three-quarters of the pit was filled in with corpses. […] I think that about 4-5 thousand Jews were shot here. […]I noticed that another member of SD killed babies and children at the edge of the pit and then threw them inside.” [Declaration made by former Gendarmerie Chief, Griese Kom, on October 5, 1960; BArch B162-5071]
Kamianets-Podilskyi was first under Lithuanian and then Polish-Lithuanian rule beginning in the 14th century and remained until it was taken over by the Russian Empire in 1797. In between, Kamianets-Podilskyi was briefly occupied by the Ottoman Empire. Even though Jews were forbidden from living and trading in the city during the 15-17th centuries, there are records of their presence. In 1661, 261 Jews were registered. It wasn’t until 1797 that the Jews were officially authorized to settle in Kamianets-Podilskyi. At that time, 1,367 Jews lived in the city, and two years later, the population had doubled. By 1847 the Jewish community made up 40% of the total population. The majority of Jews were engaged in small scale industry and trade, as well as handicrafts. As a result of tension with the non-Jewish population and to prevent confrontations, Jews were forbidden to acquire properties inside the city or open new commerce from 1833 to 1859. In 1910, 22,279 Jews lived in Kamianets-Podilskyi. There were 33 synagogues, a cemetery, and four private schools.
Throughout Kamianets-Podilskyi’s history, the Jews suffered from different attacks and pogroms starting in 1648; additional pogroms occurred in 1905, 1918 and 1921. As a result, dozens of Jews were killed, and their shops and homes were plundered.
In addition to the main political parties and movements, the Zionists were quite active from 1917 to the mid-1920s. Although, under Soviet rule, they were forbidden along with other Jewish cultural and youth institutions. The synagogues and prayer houses were closed, and their buildings were transformed into the warehouses or Klubs. At this time, fearing the persecutions from the Soviet regime, many wealthy Jews fled the city. Thus, in the 1920s, only 30% of the population was Jewish (12,774). However, by the end of 1939, with Jewish refugees’ arrival, Jews would represent 38% of the total population.
German and Romanian armies occupied Kamianets-Podilskyi on July 11, 1941. Immediately following their arrival, the Jews were registered and identified with armbands bearing the yellow Star of David. The first execution in Kamianets-Podilskyi took place in July 1941, shortly after the occupation, when 60 Jewish men were shot in the Old Town.
The Jewish population of the Kamianets- Podilskyi region was estimated at 100,000 Jews with an additional 10,000 to 12,000 Jews from Hungary, the majority of whom were brought from the modern-day Zakarpattia region of Ukraine. Jews from Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia would also be shot in approximately 80 different aktions.
According to a historian A. Khoptiar, the Holocaust chronology of Kamianets-Podilskyi should be divided into two periods: the first one lasted from July to September 1941, during which about 30 actions took place. The second period took place from April 1942 to January 1943, where 47 aktions would occur. The majority of the victims, about 95%, were killed by bullets, while an estimated 4,000 people were poisoned, drowned, or enclosed in mines. The number of victims who died from starvation and diseases in the ghettos is unknown.
One of the most well-known mass executions, the one that marks the beginning of the extermination of the Jewish population in the Soviet territories regardless of their age or gender, was conducted on August 27-28, 1941 in Kamianets-Podilskyi. During these two days, 23,000 local and Hungarian Jews, including men, women, and children, were rounded up at their homes and taken to the munition warehouses on the outskirts of the town where they were shot by the members of an SS unit and Order Police Battalion 320. After handing over their valuables and getting undressed, the Jews were forced to enter craters that were formed from the explosion of munitions. They were then instructed to lay down, face down on top of the bodies of the previous groups before them. They were then shot in the back of the neck. According to the archives and testimonies, the shooters were drunk during the execution.
In September 1941, the German civil administration took over from the military administration. Kamianets-Podilskyi then became part of the Volhynia-Podolia General District. The remaining Jews were confined into a ghetto created on the grounds of two ghettos: the first one was created in the Old Town and the other in the former military camp, where mainly specialists and their families were concentrated. About 800 ghetto inhabitants, mostly children, and older people were rounded up in the ghetto and taken to the Jewish cemetery and shot in the summer of 1942. The SD and Security Police conducted the execution. According to an eyewitness, another 300 Jews were killed at the same location at the end of 1942.
On November 1, 1942, the remaining 4,000 Jews, including specialists and their families, were rounded up from the ghetto and taken to the execution site at the munitions warehouse. This aktion was conducted by German gendarmerie, the SD [helped by Shutzmanns], and local auxiliary police. The isolated shootings of those Jews who had managed to hide and survive to that point would continue throughout 1943.
In addition to the Jewish victims, Yahad-In Unum has found evidence from the German archives that Gypsies were executed in Kamianets-Podilskyi.
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