Rakov (Raków, Rakovi, Rakuv, Rakaw) | Minsk

Execution of Jews in Rakov

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Synagogue (1); Jewish cemetery(2)
Memorials :
Period of occupation:
Number of victims :

Witness interview

Rufina B., born in 1921: “At the beginning the Jews continued to live in their houses, but later policemen forced them out and confined them in a ghetto consisting of just two houses. It was located on a side street behind the church. The Jews took as many belongings with them as they could carry, and later exchanged them for food. An old Jewish smith, Garbuz, was killed on the spot by a German, because he refused or was not able to move to the ghetto.” (Witness n°941, interviewed in Rakov, on August 6, 2017)

Soviet archives

“On August 14, 1941, 45 local Jews were rounded up under the pretext of being taken to work. They were brought to the place called “Urochishche Buruvynua” 2 kilometers away from Rakov. Once there, they were given shovels and ordered to dig pits. Once the pits were ready, 45 people were lined up in front of the pit and shot by machine gun.
On 21 August, 1941, 14 Jews were shot on the road near Rakov. All the other Jews of Rakov were gathered in a ghetto.
On September 29, 1941, all Jews of the ghetto were brought by truck 2 kilometers from Rakov to dig pits. Then 105 people were counted, ordered to lie in the pit and shot. The other Jews returned to the ghetto where they were forced to sing and dance.
On February 4, 1942, the chief of police ordered all Jews to take their belongings and gather near the synagogue to be sent elsewhere. When they were gathered, they were told to leave their valuables and to enter the synagogue. People who refused were shot on the spot; children who were crying were killed with bayonets. Then the executioners closed the door, poured gasoline and set the synagogue on fire. That day 928 Jews lost their lives.” [Act drawn up by the State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); RG 22.002M: 7021-83-14]

Historical note

Rakov is located on the banks of the Islach river 35 km north-west of Minsk. The first written records about the settlement at this place date back to the 14th century. Back then it belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Jews started to settle down in Rakov in the early 17th century. In 1793 Rakov became a part of the Russian Empire. From 1804 to 1939 the town was owned by the Zdzehovskiya family who developed its industry. In 1843 they created several factories to produce agricultural machines and by 1880 about 16 glass manufactures operated in Rakov. There were two watermills, brick manufacture, and a lumber mill. In the end of the 19th century branches of various Jewish charity organizations such as “Gmilut Hasadim” and “Bikur Holim” operated in the town. At the same time a Jewish library, Talmud Torah and the Hebrew schools were created in Rakov. According to the census of 1897 2,168 Jews lived in Rakov comprising 60% of the total population. As a result of the Treaty of Riga Rakov became a part of Poland in 1921 and in 1939 it was taken over by the Soviet union. 928 Jews lived in the town on the eve of the war. They were engaged in small-scale trade and crafts such as pottery and tile producing.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

The Germans occupied Rakov in the end of June, 1941.  Two months later a ghetto surrounded with barbed wire was created and contained about 1,000 Jews. It existed from October 1941 until February 1942 when the first big execution was conducted. Before the creation of the ghetto the Germans murdered 112 Jewish men. One day in October 1941, they were gathered under the pretext of being taken to work, but instead were slaughtered at the Jewish cemetery. According to the historical resources and the villagers, interviewed by Yahad team, on February 4, 1942, about 950 Jews were gathered inside the synagogue situated on the ghetto territory. The synagogue was set on fire with the Jews inside. Those Jews who tried to escape were shot on the spot. Apparently about 80 Jews weren’t burned inside the synagogue but were taken to the cemetery to be shot dead. The witnesses claim that several isolated shootings also took place in the town. The executions were conducted by SS units, assisted by local police.

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