Parafyanovo (Parafjanava, Parafianov) | Vitebsk

Execution of Jews in Parafyanovo

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Memorials :
Period of occupation:
Number of victims :

Witness interview

Maria V., born in 1936: “Y.U.: What happened to the Jews living here during the war?
Witness: They were killed. They were forced to gather in one house. Then, they were taken from that house. Maybe, it was a synagogue, perhaps something else. I was a small child of seven years; what could I understand? So, they [the Jews] were driven from the house down the road, driven to the ditch. They were forced to dig a ditch. They [the Jews] dug it, and they were shot. It was not the Germans who shot them. It was, how can I say it? It was “soltys”, “soltysy”. How were they called then? I don’t know what they were called then, but long story short, they [the Jews] were shot, and that’s it. It was scary. The grave was moving for two days and nights, and maybe for three. Some were falling dead, and some were falling [while still] alive. It was very hard. Even to me, though I was such a child, I had what, seven, eight years, not even eight; I had seven years back then. It was a terrible sight to behold. I wouldn’t wish for anybody to see. And we were curious, we, the little ones, would run over to take a look. Now the grave is moving.” (Witness n°1071, interviewed in Parafyanovo, on November 13, 2019)

Soviet archives

“On May 30, 1942, German gendarmerie came to the Parafyanovo railway station from Glubokoye. Early in the morning, under the command of Gebitskommissar Ebeling, the gendarmerie members brought, by force, the entire Jewish population of Parafyanovo to the ghetto created in town. Once everyone was gathered, men, women, older people, and young children were placed in the Klub prepared (Note: not legible) by the prisoners and under the direction of Gebitskommissar Ebeling, and Kommandant Bentz from Parafyanovo. With the German gendarmes’ assistance, they started to force the Jews out of the building in groups of fives.
Each [Jew] was completely undressed. While being forced out, the older people, women, and children were violently beaten with rubber batons and weapons’ butts. When the wife of Gendel Aronovich Levitan was taken on the street to be undressed and beaten, I saw a puddle of blood at the same location, where I was beaten as well with a rubber baton before I fainted.
All Jews, including the older people, and children were confined together in a camp [the Klub building] and were then taken to be shot at the Parafyanovo execution site. When we arrived at the site, an execution must have already happened, we saw a pit that had been dug in advance. The gendarmerie forced people to line up near the pit, and then they started to shoot with submachine guns. The last ones started to run in different directions,[…]” [Act drawn up by the Soviet Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on March 30, 1945; GARF 7021-92-214]

Historical note

Parafyanovo is located in the Dokshitsy district on the Galyadza River bank, about 130km (81 miles) north of Minsk. The first written mention of Parafyanovo takes place in the 15th century. In 1773 when the village became part Russian Empire, many Jews settled here. They would build their houses close to the railway station. Most of the Jewish residents were involved in small scale trade and handicrafts. According to a local witness, the Jews had a prayer house in the village. On the eve of the war, 265 Jews resided in the Parafyanovo.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Parafyanovo was occupied in early 1941, shortly after the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. According to some historical sources, the first victim murdered by Germans was a Jew, Aaron Levitan. The remaining Jews continued to live freely in their homes until the creation of the ghetto in late 1941-early 1942. The ghetto was created on two of the streets where the majority of Jews had lived previously. The Jews from surrounding villages were also moved into this ghetto. 

Jews fit to work were subjected to perform forced labor at a sawmill during the entire existence of the ghetto. The ghetto was liquidated in late May 1942. According to different sources, the large execution occurred either on May 29 or May 30, 1942. During this Aktion, the ghetto prisoners were rounded up and either taken to the fire station or, according to the Soviet archives, a Klub, under the pretext of being displaced to another town. 

While confined, they were forced to hand over all their valuables and to leave their best clothes. Once all of the Jews were gathered, they were taken outside the village. Even though there were already pits used as a dump by locals, the Jews were forced to make them deeper. Once the pits were ready, the victims were shot in small groups at the pit’s edge.

After the execution, their bodies were covered with lime. According to the archives, the execution was conducted by German gendarmerie, although a witness interviewed by Yahad (YIU/1070B) claims that the Germans didn’t shoot, but only took pictures. Supposedly, the local police took part in the shooting. Isolated shootings continued for a week after the mass execution. Many Jews managed to hide during the first raid but were discovered by local police afterward. A small number of Jews managed to flee into the forest and were able to join local partisans.

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