10 Execution site(s)
Yosif R. answers the question: "YIU : Were they passenger trains or freight trains?
Y: They were freight trains with two cabooses. There were little windows in the ceiling so they could breathe a little. And they also used these windows to flee from the train. The doors were closed. There were guards in a passenger wagon near the locomotive, in the middle and at the rear of the train. Those who were aware about what was going to happen jumped out of the train. The guards shot at them, creating a cross-fire, but a lot managed to escape." (Witness N°438, interviewed in Rava-Ruska, on March 26, 2007)
"From the beginning of the German occupation of Rava-Ruska city, the ghetto for the Jewish population was created. Several houses in the city center, around the market district, were fenced in with barbered wire. Later, the Jewish inhabitants of Rava-Ruska were asked to move into the area chosen for the ghetto. Moreover, the Germans started to bring Jews from different districts to Rava-Ruska. That’s how about 17,000 people [Jews] of different ages, children and adults, were concentrated in Rava-Ruska. In November 1942, the Germans started slaughtering the Jews living in Rava-Ruska." [Deposition of Mikhail Ts., born in 1903, a factory worker, who eyewitnesses the mass shooting, made on September 26, 1944,RG-22.002M.7021-67/68]
“A blood bath took place on June 1, 1943, in which 10,000 people died. Some were brought somewhere else? The next day, on our way back home from work, we saw many female, male and child bodies in a pool of blood. The Germans murdered all the Jews in different ways.” [Deposition of Emile L., a French survivor from the camp, B162-949]
Rava-Ruska, found in the 17th century, is located about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of Lviv. The first record about the Jewish community dates back to the 16th century. Until 1772 the town was part of Poland. From 1772 until 1918 it was taken over by Austria-Hungarian Empire. Between the two world wars it was under Poland rule, and in 1939 it was taken over by Soviet Union as a result of Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Before the Second World War slightly more than half of the population – at least 7,000 people – was Jewish. Poles accounted for approximately one-third of the population. Ukrainians made up about 15%. The majority of the Jews worked in wholesale and retail trade and as craftsmen. Only a small share of the Jewish population was active in the free professions, such as lawyers and doctors. Many different religious and cultural movements appeared in the middle of 19th century, but all of them were banned once the town was taken over by the Soviets. In that time many prominent Jews, local as well as Jewish refugees from the occupied Western Poland, were deported to the East by the Soviets. German forces occupied Rava-Ruska in late June 1941.
The anti- Jewish Aktions in Rava-Ruska were carried out by the squad of Security Police from Sokal, with the assistance of the German Gendarmerie and Ukrainian policemen. The first executions started from early July 1941, when more than 100 Jews were arrested and shot as alleged Communists. Shortly after that, all the Jews were registered and marked with distinctive armbands bearing Star of David. Those who were fit to work, mainly aged between 16 and 60 years old, were subjected to perform forced labor. By November 1941, 7,400 Jews remained in Rava-Ruska.
The systematic destruction of the Jewish population began in the spring 1942. Thus, on March 19, 1942, approximately 2,000 Jews were arrested and deported to Bełzec. In late July 1942, a second deportation Aktion was carried out during which another 2,000 Jews were deported to Bełzec. However, not all of them were deported. With the help of the local witnesses Yahad-In Unum identified several sites of isolated executions. The victims, who attempted to flee before being forced into the wagons, or on their way, were shot dead and buried on the spot. Those sites remained unmarked until today. Starting from August 1942 an opened ghetto was created in the poorest area of the town. According to the Soviet archives, it numbered about 18,000 Jews, including local and those brought from Nemrirov, Ugnov and Maguerov. Hundreds of Jewish inmates died due to typhus and poor living conditions. In early December, just before the mass execution, the ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire and the Jews were forbidden to leave its territory. The ghetto was liquidated under the pretext of spreading typhus disease place on December 7– 11, 1942. During this Aktion at least 5,000 Jews were shot at the Jewish cemetery, while others, over 10,000 Jews according to the Soviet commission, were taken to the Sidleskiy forest, near the village of Siedliska, today in Poland, where they were shot. During these three day aktion many Jews were shot on the streets of the ghetto. Their corpses were gathered and buried at the cemetery in one of the four mass graves. Some 2,500 were deported to Bełzec in four trains, and several young Jews were deported to different labor camps. The remaining 1,200-1,500 Jews, including those who were transferred from the Velyki Mosty labor camp in May 1943, located 37 kilometers (23 miles) east of Rava-Ruska, were shot around June 8–10, 1943. They were shot in a mass grave in the forest near the village of Borove.
From July 1941 until early April 1942, about 18,000 Soviet prisoners of war were detained in the created stalag, a concentration “Stammlager”, n°325. Shortly after the Soviet prisoners of war were murdered, the French and Belgian were brought at their place. The camp existed until June 1944 when it was disbanded.
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