Voloviţa | Soroca

Entrance to the Tailors’ Synagogue, Soroca (now in Moldova), ca. 1920. ©YIVO Photo Archives / Grigori V., born in 1930  “During the war, I saw two columns of Jews being brought through the village by Romanian soldiers. There were men, women and children in each column. They were more than hundred people.”© Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum Tamara B, born in 1931:  “When we saw the column of Jews passing through the village, we would give them bread. They were shaking while eating it, they were really starving."© Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum Grigori V., born in 1930, brought the YIU’s team to the execution site of about twenty Jewish men killed in Volovița forest during the Romanian occupation. Execution site n°1© Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum Ilie G., born in 1929:  “A transit camp for the Jews was established near Volovița, in Alexandru cel Bun. The Jews in the camp were starving. I went there once with my father. We threw them potatoes and beetroots”© Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum The location of a transit camp for Jews established in  Alexandru cel Bun near Volovița. The property used to belong to a local forester © Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum The road outside Volovița where the column of several hundred Jews stopped for the night.© Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum Grigori V., born in 1930:  “The pit was about 4m2 and it was deep. Soldiers present on the spot measured the dimensions of the pit and put several stakes in the ground to show the requisitioned men where to dig.”© Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum Mass grave of about twenty Jewish men shot by Romanian soldiers in  Volovița forest. There is no memorial on the site. (Execution site n°1) © Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum The burial site where the bodies of those who were shot dead or died on their way through Volovița. The exact number of victims was impossible to establish.  (Site n°2) © Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Volovița

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Forest (1) ; Field (2)
Memorials :
No
Period of occupation:
1941-1944

Witness interview

Grigori V., born in 1930: “One day I saw a column of Jews passing through the village. More than a hundred of them were guarded by Romanians on horses. Some of the Jews were carrying some bundles but those poor people didn’t have anything to eat. Romanian soldiers didn’t let the villagers approach the column. I managed to throw a piece of bread to one Jewish man. He gave me his belt in exchange (…) Everyone in the column was on foot a part from one pregnant woman. She was lying on a kind of a wheelbarrow that was dragged by several men. She was in labor. She was helped by four women. She was screaming but the column didn’t even stop. The column was marching in direction of Soroca. The Jews were executed in a ravine located on the outskirts of Soroca (…)”. (Witness N°184, interviewed in Volovița, on November 22, 2014)

Historical note

Volovița is a commune in Soroca District, in north eastern Moldova, on the border with Ukraine. It is composed of two villages, Alexandru cel Bun and Volovița. Before the war, the village of Volovița was mainly inhabited by Moldovans. There were only two Jewish families living in Volovița. One of them owned a bar and shop. The Jewish families were went by the names of Buium and Mayer. One of the oldest and largest Jewish communities in Bessarabia resided in Soroca, located 9km north of Volovița. In 1930, 36% of the total population in Soroca was Jewish. The majority of Jews were involved in agricultural activity, growing tobacco, grapes, and other fruits. There was no synagogue or cemetery in Volovița itself, but there were several in Soroca.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

After a year of Soviet occupation, the district was reoccupied by the Romanian army in July 1941. By that time, some Jews had already been either deported by the Soviet administration or had left by of their own accord. It is difficult to estimate the exact number of the Jews who left with the Soviets, but according to the Moldavan Archives [RG25.003M, Roll 654, Folder 13] about 6,819 out of 61,000 population of the Soroca district fled. This was the case of one of the Jewish families of Volovita, the Buium family. After the war the father came back and worked in a brewery. Those who stayed behind were displaced to transit camps, where they died from hunger, lived in inhuman conditions or were shot during the mass shooting. Those who didn’t die were sent to Transnistria. Dozens of Jews who couldn’t walk or were too weak were shot on the spot and buried alongside the road. Many of those execution sites remain unknown until today. According to Grigori V., born in 1930, members of another Jewish family, the Mayers, were arrested in their house and taken by Germans shortly after the occupation. They never returned. They were most probably confined in one of the principal transit camps of Vertiujeni, which numbered about 23,000 inmates in August 1941, according to the report of the Chisinau Gendarme Inspectorate. All the Jews from the Soroca district were rounded-up and taken to the three camps: Vertiujeni, Alexandru cel Bun and Rublenita. From time to time, the inmates from the smaller camps were transferred to the bigger camp of Vertujeni. For example, on August 16th 1941, 1,600 Jews from the Alexandru cel Bun camp and 2,000 from the Rublenita were transferred to the one in Vertujeni. The displacement of Jews within the district was confirmed by YIU witnesses and field research in the area. Thus, the witnesses interviewed in Volovita, recall that during the war, two columns of Jews passed through Volovița. They were guarded by Romanian soldiers on horses. Each of two columns contained 100 to 300 people: men, women and children. They were walking on foot, carrying small bundles. The first column came from the direction of Floreşti and went in the direction of Soroca. Jews who were too weak to move forward were either shot dead or left behind, and were later buried by requisitioned local men in a field on the edge of the village. According to Ilie G., born in 1929, the rest of the Jews from this column spent a month in a provisory transit camp established in Alexandru cel Bun near Volovița. Later on, the Jews were shot in a ravine at the outskirts of Soroca. The second column stopped in Volovița for the night. With the help of the local witness, Yahad - In Unum managed not only to discover that an isolated shooting took place in Volovita, but was also able to find out the details of the execution and the location of the execution site, which is without memorial to this day. From the column, about twenty young men were arrested and brought to a stable by the Romanians. While the Jewish men were waiting in the stable, ten premilitaries from the village were requisitioned to go to the forest and dig a pit. They dug the pit under the surveillance of German and Romanian soldiers. The pit was big and deep, square-shaped and about 4m2. At night, once the pit was complete, the 20 Jews were brought and shot inside it. A few decades ago, the bodies of the victims were exhumed.

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