1 Execution site(s)
Lidia K., born in 1927: “There were two synagogues, a small one where the Germans set up the Judenrat and a larger one, a one-story building. Both synagogues were made of stone. At school, the children of all communities were together. I remember some of my Jewish classmates, Fella, Nisia, Lebo and Nishto. I don’t know if they are their real names, but that is what we called them. During religious classes we were separated. The Ukrainian children stayed in the classroom with the priest, while the Poles went to another and the Jews to another with the rabbi. Religious classes were held once a week. There was also a church for the Ukrainians and one for the Poles. Under the Soviets, the churches remained open. However, at that time, at school, the teachers said that we should not go to church.
YIU: What did the parents of your classmates do for a living?
W: Fella’s father was a baker, and Nisia’s father owned a warehouse. A three-story shoe store belonged to the Frankel family. The Jews mainly lived in the town center. Only two Jews lived in the outskirts of town, including Elio.” (Witness n°2365U, interviewed in Skala-Podilska, on 21 March, 2018)
"Based on testimonies, the Commission established that between August 1941 and 1944, during the occupation of the Skala-Podolskaya district by the German-Fascist invaders, 2,351 civilians were killed, 3,002 were taken to Belzec, in total, 5,353 people of different ages. Since the corpses were in an advanced state of decomposition, due to their proximity to the surface, exhuming and identifying them proved impossible." [Act drawn up by the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); GARF 7021-75-492; Copy USHMM: RG 22.002,Reel 17, p.332-350]
Skala-Podilska is a town located in southwestern Ukraine. It is 34 kilometers (21 miles) northwest of Kamianets-Podilskyi, which is a major city in the region. Jews began settling in Skala-Podilska in 1570. In 1765, its Jewish population grew to about 362 people. By 1880, the Jewish community consisted of 3,449 people, making up 56% of the town’s total population. From the 18th to the early 20th centuries, Skala-Podilska’s Jews made a living through trade and tenancy. Trade was a popular profession because the town was located on the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s border with the Russian Empire. Jews also worked in the wholesale and handicraft industries, as well as in breweries and flour mills.
Skala-Podilska was a vibrant center of Jewish religious life. The town was home to multiple denominations, including members of the Czortkov [today Chortkiv] and Vizhnitz [Today Vyzhnytsia] Hasidic dynasties. Skala-Podilska also possessed a synagogue known as the Old Synagogue, which was established towards the end of the 18th century. It was destroyed in a fire in 1911. In addition to the Old Synagogue, there were approximately ten prayer houses in the town, most of which belonged to the Chortkiv Hasidim. During the First World War, Skala-Podilska was devastated by Russian troops, who looted and destroyed Jewish homes. After the war, the town became part of the Republic of Poland. During the interwar period, economic life for the Jews of Skala-Podilska became more difficult. The Soviet Union closed all trade with foreign towns on its border, and Polish authorities also restricted movement across the border. These measures severely impacted the livelihoods of Jews who relied on cross-border trade to make a living. On September 17, 1939, the Soviet Union occupied Skala-Podilska. The Soviets banned all private trade and confiscated the wares of Jewish merchants.
On July 14, 1941, the Hungarian Army occupied Skala-Podilska. The Hungarians persecuted the town’s Jews, making them build a bridge across the Zbruch River. They also demanded leather, boots, coffee, and other goods, taking hostages to guarantee payment. In early August 1941, the Hungarians ceded control of Skala-Podilska to Germany. The Nazis ordered the creation of a Judenrat (Jewish Council) and a Jewish Police force. The Germans never established a ghetto in Skala-Podilska. Instead, they banned Jews from entering gentile neighborhoods and marked Jewish homes with the Star of David. By December 1941, the Germans began deporting Jews to nearby labor camps, such as Velyki Birky. At the end of March 1942, Jews from surrounding villages were ordered to resettle in Skala-Podilska. A few days later, the Germans ordered that all Jews from the ages of 14 to 60 were to report to the nearby town of Borshchiv on April 2 to receive identification papers. Hundreds of Jews obeyed this order and traveled to Borshchiv, only to be surrounded by German and Ukrainian policemen. They were imprisoned and later deported to the Stupky and Velyki Birky labor camps.
On September 26, 1942, the Nazis conducted another Aktion in Skala-Podilska. German and Ukrainian policemen surrounded the town and rounded up approximately 700 Jews. More than 30 people were murdered on the spot, and the rest were deported to the Janowska concentration camp. After arriving at Janowska, Jews who could not work were sent to the Belzec extermination camp. However, about half of Skala-Podilska’s Jews managed to hide during the Aktion and consequently survived. Two weeks after the September Aktion, the Germans ordered that all remaining Jews were to report to the Borshchiv Ghetto by October 22, 1942. After this relocation took place, fewer than 100 Jews remained in Skala-Podilska as forced laborers. On March 6, 1943, the Germans deported some of them to Borshchiv, including the members of the Judenrat. In the following months, the Germans and their collaborators would search the town and its environs for any surviving Jews, who would be captured and shot in a mass grave in the cemetery.
From March to December 1943, some young men escaped from Skala-Podilska to join a Jewish Partisan unit that was operating in the nearby forest. At the end of December, the Germans surrounded the unit and all of its soldiers fell in battle. A few months later, the Soviet Union liberated Skala-Podilska on March 25, 1944. Unfortunately, the Nazis recaptured the town a few days later. They occupied Skala-Podilska for two weeks, murdering four Jews. The Soviets recaptured the town on April 6, 1944. Approximately 150 Jews from Skala-Podilska survived the Holocaust.
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