2 Execution site(s)
Zoya K., born in 1933, half Jewish:
“Y. U. : How was it announced that the Jews had to wear the distinguishing badges? Were posters put up around the town?
W: Yes, there were posters everywhere. The German Gendarmerie was installed, as well as the Ukrainian administration. They announced that yellow circles must be put on the Jews’ clothes. While the Jews still lived in the center, I would play with the Jewish children. One day we were playing, and when I came back to play with them the next day, they weren’t there anymore. They had been shot. That’s how it was.
Y. U. : Which language were these posters in?
W : In Ukrainian.
Y. U. : Do you remember what was written on them?
W: No, I don’t. When the war started, my mother didn’t let me go out, she was afraid for me. She bribed someone at the local Ukrainian administration to make a fake passport for my father [who was Jewish]. His last name was Rodstein, and she made them change it to Rushtyn, to sound more Ukrainian.
Y. U. : Did she have your father’s passport changed before the Germans’ arrival?
W : No, the Germans were already here. My father was hiding for a while in the attic, then with my mother’s relatives in different villages. But other villagers knew that he was Jewish, so he had to change hiding places quite often, and at the end, he came back home. Not far away from where we lived, there was a camp of POWs. Local women would go there and claim that some prisoners were their husbands or brothers. So, the Germans would let them go. Some of them got married with these women and stayed in the town. That was the case of our neighbor. He was former POW who was released, but he kept working for the Germans. He would often come to our house when I was alone and kept asking questions. All this time my father tried to get in contact with the partisans. Finally, he did. A man was supposed to come to pick him up at 5a.m. But instead, at 3a.m. someone knocked at the door. They were Germans accompanied by this neighbor of ours. My father was arrested and taken to the prison where he spent about a month. We used to take him food there. One day, he was taken for interrogation by the SD. My mother knew what that meant. She asked our neighbor to take me to see him. That was the last time I saw him. He was all covered with blood; his clothes were torn by the dogs. Three days later my mother went to bring him food, but she was told that he had been taken to Proskuriv [today Khmelnytsky]. Afterwards, people told us that he had been shot and showed us the place where it happened. He was shot near the wheat warehouse. Along with the Jews, POWs and Gypsies were shot there as well. (Witness n°871U, interviewed in Starokostyantyniv, on January 11, 2010)
On May 20, 1942, the Germans ordered the Jews to gather with their families at 6am near the power station. They were driven to the field near the cavalry barracks. Seven specially guarded men, in whose houses arms had been found, walked in front of the rest. When they reached a warehouse in the square, these seven men were hanged as spies and partisans. The rest were surrounded, the specialists selected out, and the others ordered to undress completely. [The Germans] then ordered the people to run over a plank placed above a pit. While running, they were shot by machine gun. The injured were not shot to death. Later in the evening, the pits containing people who were still alive were covered with earth by the Ukrainian police. Later, children found gold coins, dollars and Soviet money at the murder site. The victims’ clothes, as well as their possessions from their empty flats, were taken to the Kommissariat. The Germans received the most valuable items while the rest was sold at auction. Until December 1942, the Jews living in the ghetto suffered raids by Ukrainian policemen and Germans and were taken to the SD and the police. They were gathered a number of times in the square, where some of them were shot on the pretext of having broken the rules. Over time, such meetings, so-called “Kapellas,” were held every Sunday. On Sunday, January 9 , the Jews were taken outside the town to the anti-tank trenches. [Act drawn up By Soviet Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on March 24, 1944: GARF 7021-64-815]
“After the German troops entered Starokonstantinov Jews were employed to clean the barracks. Since the Jews did not report for work, the military authorities had to round up the Jewish labor force early in the day. The Jews were impertinent and even refused to work. Out of about 1,000 Jews recruited for field work, only 70 appeared the following day. Moreover, it was established that the harvesters had been sabotaged. Finally, the Jewish Council of Elders spread the rumor that the Russians were advancing again, whereupon the Jews publicly threatened and abused the Ukrainians. Finally, it was established that Jews were conducting a flourishing trade with stolen cattle and goods. In reprisal, the First SS Brigade carried out an action against the Jews, in the course of which 300 male and 139 female Jews were shot.” [Operational Situation Report USSR No. 59, August 21, 1941; From Yitzhak Arad, Shmuel Krakowski and Shmuel Spector, eds., The Einsatzgruppen Reports (New York, 1989), p.100.]
Starokostyantyniv is located on the banks of the Sosh River 107km (66mi) northwest of Vinnytsia and 46km (28mi) northeast of Khmelnytskyi. The first records of the Jewish community date back to the 16th century. By 1629, there were 130 Jewish families making up about 25% of the total population. It was considered the second largest community in the Volhynia region. The Jewish community suffered from four waves of pogroms conducted throughout the 17th, 18th and early 20th century. By the end of the 19th century, the Jews represented 60% of the total population, numbering 9,212. The Hasidism movement was very important in the village. The majority of Jews were artisans or lived off small-scale trade. Some Jews owned their own small businesses or industries. In the 1920s, a Yiddish school was opened and operated until the early 1930s when it was closed by the Soviet regime. There was also a synagogue, but it was closed as well. On the eve of the war, 4,837 Jews lived in the village comprising 33% of the total population.
Starokostyantyniv was occupied on July 8, 1941, by the units of the German 17th Army. Less than 5% of the prewar Jewish population had managed to flee the village by that time. Some Jewish men were drafted to the Soviet Army. Shortly after the occupation, a range of anti-Jewish measures was implemented. For example, all the Jews were marked with yellow circles, forbidden to use the sidewalks, and subjected to perform heavy labor whenever needed. The Jewish community of Starokostynatyniv and nearby villages was murdered over the course of several Aktions conducted from July 1941 to November 1942.
The first execution was conducted in July 1941, shortly after the occupation. During this Aktion a group of 20 Jews was selected and shot 2km away from the town close to the forest. The second shooting took place on August 2, 1941. On this day, circa. 1,500 Jews were ordered to gather at the central square. After a selection, 489 Jews were taken outskirts and shot in the anti-tank ditches near the forest. Another 150 Jews were executed on August 18. On September 2, 1941, another Aktion was conducted, this time by the Police Battalion 304 who murdered 500 Jews in the same anti-tank ditches near the forest.
In late August or September, a ghetto was created. The non-Jewish population who happened to live on the ghetto’s territory was evicted from their houses. The ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by the local police. At the beginning of its existence the ghetto, it contained circa. 5,000 inmates. According to some historical documents gathered by Ukrainian historian A. Kruglov, only craftsmen were allowed to leave the ghetto wearing a black strip across the yellow circle. At the beginning of 1942, the ghetto was moved to the area close to the forest due to overcrowding.
The biggest mass execution was conducted on May 20, 1942. On this day, circa. 6,500 Jews from the ghetto were shot along with Jews brought in from the surrounding localities. The shooting was conducted by the SD and SIPO squad, accompanied by the German gendarmerie and local auxiliary police who were in charge of rounding up the victims. All the Jews were first gathered in the center near the power station, and then taken to the warehouse, or also known as ‘red’ barracks, located not far away from the Machine Tractor Service (MTS) where they were forced to dig a pit. Beforehand, a group of specialists and their families were selected and authorized to go back to the ghetto. Once the pit had been dug, the victims were shot in groups of ten with submachine guns. During the Aktion, several dozen Jews were taken to the ghetto from Hrytsiv, Ostropol, Stara Synyava and Polonne. The shootings continued systematically over the summer of 1942. The Jews and non-Jews were gathered regularly on Sundays at the kolkhoz, where a few people, including the non-Jews, were murdered publicly as a warning.
The ghetto was liquidated at the end of November 1942, when all the Jewish inmates were gathered and marched towards the forest. Upon arrival, the Jews were shot in small groups in the anti-tank ditches. Before the shooting, they were forced to undress and lie down in the ditch, before German and Ukrainian policemen shot them with rifles and submachine guns. According to the estimation, circa. 4,000 Jews were shot during this Aktion.
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