Shumyachi (Shumiachi) | Smolensk

/ Raisa B., born in 1931: “Children, the elderly and the sick who couldn’t walk were placed in trucks and brought to the pit. The trucks approached the pit with their rear end and unloaded [the victims] without shooting them.” © Thomas Cecchelani  /Yahad-In The Yahad – In Unum team with the witness during an interview. © Thomas Cecchelani  /Yahad - In Unum The building where according to the witness agricultural Kommandantur was installed. © Thomas Cecchelani  /Yahad-In Unum The building where according to the witness military Kommandantur was installed. © Thomas Cecchelani  /Yahad-In Unum The remaining tombstones on the former Jewish cemetery. © Thomas Cecchelani  /Yahad-In Unum The remaining tombstones on the former Jewish cemetery. © Thomas Cecchelani /Yahad-In Unum Execution site n°1 located behind the brickyard where about 400 Jews from the ghetto were murdered on November 18, 1941 © Thomas Cecchelani  /Yahad-In Unum Execution site n°2 where according to different sources 7 to 16 disabled children.   © Thomas Cecchelani  /Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Shumyachi

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Near the brickyard (1,2)
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1943
Number of victims :
About 400

Witness interview

Raisa B., born in 1931: “[…] Y.U.: When the Germans approached, did any people evacuate from here?
Witness: Certainly. Evacuation was announced immediately. The party apparatus was [evacuated]. It was even announced that those who wanted could send their children to the rear of the front. But none of the mothers did that, although vehicles were provided for that purpose. Evacuation of Jews was also announced. Part of them left. Some of them came back later, others settled in other places. Whole families evacuated. Vehicles were offered to them.
Y.U.: How was the evacuation announced, by posters or by going to the houses?
Witness: The leadership of the district was guiding people. I don’t remember how… It was made by radio. They announced the assembly point where the vehicles were waiting. They [the leadership] were guiding people almost till the end.
Y.U.: Were many vehicles provided for the evacuation? Two, three or more?
Witness: There were more vehicles. I didn’t see them myself, because my mother didn’t let me go there. But I heard others speaking that there were enough vehicles to bring away those people who wanted to leave.” (Witness n°908, interviewed in Shumyachi, on August 20, 2019)

Soviet archives

On November 18, 1941, a special German unit arrived in vehicles and stopped in the yard of the MTS (Machine Traktor Service) where Gavriliuk’s office was located. The disabled children were transferred from the orphanage were placed next to this building. On the caps of these Germans there were skull and bones signs. After having fired at the chickens in the Gavriliuk’s yard, they moved the truck as close as possible to the entry of the building where the children with limited abilities were detained. Then, they started to throw them [the children], almost undressed, inside the truck. When all seven children were in the truck, they were taken on the outskirts of Shumyachi, in the direction of the brickyard. Before the children from the orphanage were taken, one of the Germans had forced himself into Gariliuk’s office and threatening with a gun, he had gathered us in one room and forbade us from looking through the windows. Later, the orphanage children taken by Germans were shot. On the same day, on November 18, 1941, all the Jewish population of Shumyachi, about 400 people, were shot as well. […] Some Jews managed to survive and continued to live in the nearby village, but in the summer of 1943, these several people were arrested and shot.” [Deposition made by Dmitriy Y., born in 1874, to the State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); RG.22-002M: GARF 7021- 44-635, p.42-46]

Historical note

Shumyachi is a village located 120 km (74 miles) southeast of Smolensk. The village is known as a Jewish settlement that appeared in the late 17th century. Throughout its history Jews were the predominant population. In 1921 there were 2,500 Jews in the village.  The majority of Jews lived off agriculture, while some were merchants and artisans.  In the 1930s the town had a Yiddish elementary school which later was transformed into a Russian one. On the eve of the war only 21% of the population was Jewish due to emigration to the biggest towns.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Shumyachi was occupied by the Germans on August 1, 1941. By this time almost half of the prewar Jewish population managed to evacuate to the East.  Shortly after the occupation, all the Jews, with the exception of the kids, were registered and marked with distinctive badges on their backs and chests.  In October 1941 a ghetto was created on one of the streets once all the non-Jewish population was moved out.  The Jews fit to work were made  to perform forced labor, like cleaning rubble from the streets. All the inmates from the ghetto were executed on November 18, 1941, by the Einsatzkommando 8 who arrived by truck from Roslavl for this purpose. According to the Soviet archives there were 400 people, while the Einsatzgruppe B report mentioned the number of 320 Jews. On this day, they were taken by truck near the brick factory and shot.  On the same day, besides the Jewish inmates from the ghetto, from 7 to 16 disabled children from the orphanage, were killed as well in a clay pit not far away from the brickyard.  The few Jews who survived the ghetto liquidation by hiding in nearby villages were caught in July 1943 and also shot.

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