Turka | Lviv

The building of the synagogue in Turka. © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum The buildings where the Kommandanture and the Gendarmerie were installed during the occupation.  © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum The buildings where the Kommandanture and the Gendarmerie were installed during the occupation.  © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum The former brick factory, used to belong to a Jew, Moshe Huirsh, where the Jews were detained before being taken to the execution site. © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum The remaining tombstones in the Jewish cemetery. © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum The remaining tombstones in the Jewish cemetery. © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum Vyacheslav M., born in 1933, at the execution site in the Jewish cemetery: “The Jews were shot while jumping inside the pit, in the air,  by two Germans who fired in turns.” © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum Vyacheslav M., born in 1933: “Those Jews who had money gave bribes and paid off their liberty for a while, but at the end they were all executed.” © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum Viktor L., born in 1921: “There were many Jews before the war. Many of them were merchants. Some worked at the local lumberyard along with Ukrainians. There was one Jew, Moshe Huirsh, who owned a brickyard.” © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum Olena S., born in 1929: “The Jews were all taken to the cemetery. First, placed on the edge they had to jump inside the pit one by one.” © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum A class picture from the witness’ album. © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum Ivan Ya., born in 1937: “The Pinkas boys stayed in hiding for a while, but were found and shot dead by the Germans behind a house.  © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum Yaroslav D. born in 1925: “At the cemetery, Jews had to dig the pit themselves. When Jews were shot near the brickyard, local people were requisitioned, basically forced by the policemen, to dig the pit.”  © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum Former Jewish house that still stands in Turka. Today there is a pharmacy inside.   © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum Former Jewish house that still stands in Turka.  © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum Former lumber yard that used to belong to the Erdmann family.  © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum The Yahad-In Unum team during an interview in Turka.  © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum The execution site at the Jewish cemetery. Execution site n°1 © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum The execution site in the vegetable garden where three Jews from the Pinkas family were shot. Execution site n°2 © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum The execution site in the field outside the village of Turka. According to the Soviet archives, about 880 people were shot here in January 1942. Execution site n°3 © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum The monument is in the memory of the Jews from Turka who were murdered by bullets or in deportation during WWII. © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum The monument is in the memory of the Jews from Turka who were murdered by bullets or in deportation during WWII. © Rita Villanueve/Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Turka

3 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Jewish cemetery (1); Vegetable garden (2); Field (3)
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
Over 1,000

Witness interview

Yaroslav D., born in 1925.: ”When the Jews were rounded-up some of them managed to flee and hide in the forest, where they built a bunker. They stayed there. From time to time, they came to the village asking for food. Sometimes, we went there to bring it to them. I used to go as well. I remember my mother prepared me a basket with bread and some eggs that I brought [to] them in the forest. There were about ten or fifteen Jews who stayed in hiding. They were all men, because Jewish women used to hide with the locals. It was not easy to distinguish a Jewish girl from a Ukrainian one; that is why the girls hid in the houses. For men it was more complicated, because they were all circumcised.” (Witness n° 1526, interviewed in Turka, on May 28, 2012)

Soviet archives

“Question: What do you know about the execution of the Soviet civilians by the German occupiers in the town of Turka?
Answer: In January 1942, I worked at the stone quarry along with eleven of twelve people. When I came home at about 6-7pm, a Gestapo soldier arrived by cart to my home and gathered all those who worked at the quarry. Once we were gathered, he took us all together to dig a pit and told us that the pit should be ready by tomorrow 8am. We started to dig, but the soil was too frozen, so we stopped. We came the next morning to the same pit. Besides us two, the Gestapo soldiers also arrived at the pit by truck. They saw that the soil was too frozen and it was impossible to dig. They told us, we were 13, to get inside the truck. Then they took us in the direction of the Grinev hill. Once there, we were ordered to dig two pits, 5x3x2.5. The pits must be dug in two hours. We dug one when the Germans ordered us to leave and to wait for a signal that would be given by a horn. When we heard it, we had to come back. We went back to the village and waited for the signal. [However], it wasn’t given, but instead a German came and ordered us to go back to the pit. When we came back, we saw a bloody pit that was covered with a light layer of soil over the corpses. The pit was still breathing; we could see people still alive. We were ordered to fill in the pit and to hide it with snow. Once the pit was filled in, the Germans ordered us to dig another pit tomorrow. It should have been 6m long, 3m large, and 3m deep. Once the pit was dug, we were ordered once again to leave, and we went to the village and saw how the Soviet civilians were brought by Germans and policemen from the brick factory in the direction of the pit. Among the Soviet civilians, there were elderly people, women, and children. In all there were about 300 people. We could hear the gunshots. When the Germans and police shot all the Soviet civilians, they came once again to take us to fill in the pit. When we arrived at the pit, I saw five people being shot. The victims’ clothes were on a pile near the pit. Germans took it all.” [Deposition of a local villager, P.M., given to the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission in April 1945; GARF 7021-58-20]

Historical note

Turka is located on the left bank of the river Stryi, 100 km (62mi) south west of Lviv. The first records about the Jews in Turka go back to the mid-18th century. In 1880,   2,398 Jews lived in the town out of 4,685 inhabitants.  In 1903, Turka began to flourish when a railway line     connecting the city with Lviv and with Budapest was built, and the Austrian government authorized the founding of an official Jewish community. The majority of Jews lived off of trade and lumber business. They owned sawmills and a brickyard. Others were artisans, such as tailors, shoemakers, locksmiths, and others.  They had their own synagogue and a cemetery, both remain today in the town. Different political movements, such as Zionism and Hasidism were active in Turka.  In 1918, Turka was taken over by Poland. As a result of the attacks from the Russian army, many Jews left the town. Despite the immigration in 1921, 41% of the total population was Jewish.  Another 7,000 Jews lived in the surrounding villages. In September 1939, Turka was taken over by Soviet Union as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. In that time, Jewish political and cultural movements were forbidden. It was no longer possible to do business in Turka as there were no places of work. On the eve of WWII, 10,000 people lived in Turka; half were Jewish.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Turka was occupied by the German troops in June 1941. Shortly after the occupation, the extermination of the Jewish population began. The Jews of Turka were massacred, or starved to death in the ghettos where they were displaced or deported to the death camps.

The first aktion was conducted on October 12, 1941, when about fifty Jews were rounded-up and taken to be shot at the site between the villages Rozluch and Yasenytsya.

The second aktion was conducted on January 8-11, 1942. During a three day aktion about 880 Jews were first rounded –up in the building of the Judenrat [called Kahal by one of the witnesses interviewed by Yahad], and then, they were taken to the field Grinev, located near the brickyard, to be shot. According to the Soviet archives, before being taken to the execution, the Jews were detained in the brickyard and not in the Judenrat building claimed by the witness. The shootings continued throughout 1942. Some Jews were rounded-up and taken to be killed to other towns Drohobych, 115 Jews were deported on August 5, 1942, or Stryi (365 Jews were deported on September 15, 1942). In late August, from 22 to 28, 1942, about 6,000 Jews mainly women, elderly, and children were rounded-up and deported to the Belzec camp.

With the help of the local eyewitnesses, Yahad-In Unum could not only reconstruct the execution process in detail, but also to identify another execution site, located at the cemetery.   The killings were perpetrated by the Feldgendermerie and by the local police.  Before being taken to the shooting, Jews were gathered in one place: either at the synagogue, in the case of those Jews who were shot at the cemetery, or in the lumberyard that used to belong to the Wolf family, in case of the Jews shot in the field near the forest. Once gathered, they were marched to the execution sites under the escort of Germans with dogs. Upon their arrival at the execution site, they were forced to undress down to their underwear. They were then lined up at the edge of the pit in groups of 30-40 people. The shooting at the Jewish cemetery was conducted by five or six shooters who fired with submachine guns. The pits were dug and filled in by the requisitioned people.  Today, there is a memorial to all the Jewish victims from Turka.        

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