1 Execution site(s)
Natalia S., born in 1928, is an eyewitness to the execution. “When we heard the people screaming, we went to take a look at what was happening. When we arrived, we stopped about 100m away. We saw the column of about 200 Jews escorted by two Germans. They walked calmly in groups by families, women, men, children and elderly people. Once on the site, the Jews were stopped not far away from the pit and then in smaller groups they were taken to the pit and shot with submachine guns. Before being shot, the Jews were forced to undress and throw the clothes on a pile. I saw only the first group being shot. Because when they started to fall, I got scared and ran away. My mother, along with other villagers, was requisitioned to fill the pit. She told me that when they finished covering it, the ground continued to move.” (Testimony N°1804, interviewed in Sukhovolya, on August 6, 2013)
“[…]Then, under the pretext of using them to stock food, the pits were dug not far away from the Sukhovol village, in the direction of the village of Rafalivka, about 500m away from the road, on the right side. The pits measured 20m long, 6m large and 3m deep. Then, in groups of 400 to 500 people, they were brought to the market place where they were surrounded by guards. After, a German, the chief of the German Gestapo announced that they were going to be killed. So, they were taken to the site where the pits were, forced to strip naked, get inside the pits in groups of 20 to 30 people and kneel down in a line. A German fired at the nape of the neck with a gun, and the police who remained standing at the edge of the pit, finished off those who were still moving. When the pit was one-third full, the bodies were covered with 50cm of soil and another group got inside the pit. They had to stand on the corpses of the previous group.
In one day, three lines of people, comprising about 1,700 people were shot in the pit. Those who attempted to escape or resisted were shot dead on the spot. The entire families, including men, women, and children were looted and shot dead.” [Deposition of a local villager, born in 1904 given on December 8, 1944 to the State Extraordinary Commission;Fond 7021, Opis 71, Delo 66]
“In spring and summer-I don’t remember the year- all Jews of the district were gathered in the village of Nova Rafalivka. I saw that when I came to the town. At the end of the summer, big pits were dug on the hill “Bakhowa” by the villagers of Sukhovolya, the nearby villages of Sukhovolya, and the town of Nova Rafalivka. I didn’t know why they were dug. One day when the pit was already dug (I don’t remember the date) I was close to my house and working in my yard. I heard noises and screams coming from the direction of “Bachowa””. [Deposition of Elena M., taken on June 12, 1968; B162-7287]
Rafalivka is located about 85 km north of Rivne. The first records about the Jewish community dates back to the 16th century. The town is composed of two parts: the Stara, or ‘old’ and the Nova, or ‘new’ Rafalivka, located 12 km away from each other. In 1847, 644 Jews lived in the town. Due to the newly built railway station, the Jewish population in both settlements grew to 1,054. Jews comprised half of the total population. Between the two world wars, Rafalivka remained under the Polish rule. The majority of Jews lived off handcrafting or trading timber and wood, which became an important business in the 1920’s. Some owned sawmills and shops. There was also a Jewish Tarbut school and three synagogues. The Zionist cultural and political movements operated in the town until 1939, when it was taken over by the Soviet Union and all parties and movements were banned. It is believed that, on the eve of the war, the Jewish community increased from the arrival of the Jewish refugees from Poland. The Germans occupied the town in the middle of July 1941.
Several Jewish homes and stores were plundered and destroyed by the local population during the period between the Soviet retreat and the German occupation. Shortly after the occupation, the whole Jewish population was forced to wear yellow distinctive badges. Although they continued to live in their houses, they were forbidden to leave the town limits and were subject to performing different kinds of forced labor. On May 1, 1942, a ghetto was created in Nova Rafalivka. There were about 2,500 Jews from Nova Rafalivka and surrounding villages, including Stara Rafalivka, Olizarka, and Zholudsk. According to some sources, an underground group was created in the ghetto. On August 29, 1942, the ghetto was liquidated. Approximately 2,250 Jewish inmates were escorted to the forest, located about 3km away from Nova Rafalivka, where the pits had been dug. After being forced to undress, they were shot in groups of 20 to 30 people. According to the account of an eyewitness to the execution interviewed by Yahad, the Jews had to get inside the pit and kneel down. The pit was covered by the requisitioned villagers. Several isolated killings took place in the following days, as those Jews who had managed to hide were found and killed. Only 30 Jews from the prewar Jewish population survived the Holocaust.
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