Staryi Sambir (Staryi Sambor) | Lviv

Staryi Sambir, city view. ©Photo archive, taken from Market place of Staryi Sambir. ©Photo archive, taken from Main street of Staryi Sambir. © Photo archive, taken from / / The former synagogue, where circa. 1,000 Jews were rounded up. ©Sabrina Caputo/Yahad - In Unum Vasyl S., born in 1934: “About 1,000 Jews were rounded  up in the synagogue, guarded by the Germans with the help of  local auxiliary police. Anyone who tried to escape, was caught and forcibly taken back or killed.” ©Sabrina Caputo/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team during an interview. ©Sabrina Caputo/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team during an interview near the synagogue. ©Sabrina Caputo/Yahad - In Unum Myloka Z., born in 1929: “I saw the shooting of the Jewish boys, aged between 12 and 13 years old. Before being shot, each of them was given a piece of candy by a German officer” ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The former Jewish school where Jews were gathered before being taken to the Sambir ghetto in the summer of 1942. The original  building was destroyed and replaced by the one in the picture. ©Sabrina Caputo/Yahad - In Unum The execution place of a Jewish man who fled during the gathering and tried to hide in the witness’s house yard. After being discovered, he was shot dead and his body was buried in a mass grave in the Jewish cemetery. ©Sabrina Caputo/Yahad - In Unum In this street an elderly Jewish man was murdered because he wasn’t able to walk towards the assembly point. His body was taken to be buried at the Jewish cemetery. ©Sabrina Caputo/Yahad - In Unum The Jewish cemetery where about a hundred Jews, murdered on the spot or in the town during the occupation, were buried. ©Sabrina Caputo/Yahad - In Unum The Jewish cemetery, general view. ©Sabrina Caputo/Yahad - In Unum Vasyl S., born in 1934: “They took the family to the Jewish cemetery where all of them, father, mother and their son Moisho, were killed. I saw the shooting with my own eyes.”  ©Sabrina Caputo/Yahad - In Unum The execution diagram of the shooting in Staryi Sambir. ©Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Staryi Sambir

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Jewish cemetery
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
About 100

Witness interview

Vasyl S., born in 1934: "About 1,000 Jews were rounded up in the Jewish school and the synagogue. They were under the guard of the Germans and Ukrainian policemen. Anyone who tried to escape was caught and forcibly taken back or killed. The Jews stayed crammed into those buildings for one or two days, before being transported to the Sambir ghetto in German military trucks. A truck would approach the door, the guards would form a corridor and the Jews would have to climb inside the truck until it was full. They would crouch down and a policeman, armed with a rifle, would ride with them standing behind in the truck. Over the course of two days, all the Jews were taken to the Sambir ghetto in that way. After this Aktion, there were hardly any Jews left in the town, apart from the ones being hidden by Ukrainian families." (Testimony N°YIU2422U, interviewed in Staryi Sambir, on April 26, 2018)

Soviet archives

“[…] A decree stipulated that from December 1, 1942 all the Jews of Sambir, as well as Jews of Turka, Staryi Sambir, Felshtyn [Skelivka today], Khyriv and the surrounding villages, on pain of death, had to move to the Sambir Ghetto, created on a small, barbed-wire-enclosed area on the right side of the Mlynivka river. In fact, by December 1, 1942, the unfortunate people were few. There weren’t many Jews living in the ghetto, where, for lack of space, between 8 and 16 people had to share the same room. A typhus epidemic broke out, resulting in the death of many unfortunate souls. Crossing the ghetto fence was forbidden on pain of death.”
[Act drawn by State Extraordinary Soviet Commission (ChGK), on June 26, 1945; GARF 7021-58-22/Copy USHMM RG.22-002M]

Historical note

Staryi Sambir is located 92 km southwest of Lviv and 19 km southwest of Sambir. The first record of the Jewish community dates to the mid-16th century. At that time the total number of Jews living in the city was no more than 10. However, from the beginning of the 18th century, the Jewish population started to grow. According to the 1980 census, 1,613 Jews lived in the town, making up 41% of the total population. There was a synagogue and a Jewish cemetery. The majority of Jews ran small businesses. However, at the end of the 19th century, as a result economic hardship following the creation of the cooperatives and marketing unions, many of them immigrated to North America. Moreover, during the period of the Western Ukrainian Republic, 1918-1919, pogroms were perpetrated against the Staryi Sambir Jews. At this time Jewish houses were looted, and two synagogues were destroyed. In 1921, there were 1,534 Jews living in town, comprising 35% of the total population. By 1931, the Jewish population remained almost the same, numbering 1,562 individuals. They lived mainly in the town center.

In 1939, after the outbreak of war, the town was occupied by the Soviet Union, after a brief German occupation, following the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Fleeing the Nazi regime, hundreds of Jewish refugees from Poland arrived in the town. A large number of them were deported to Siberia in 1940 for refusing to get Soviet passports. Under Soviet rule, all private businesses were banned, and Jewish artisans were forced to enter the cooperatives. It is estimated, without any exact number available, that on the eve of 1941, circa. 2,000 Jews lived in the town. 

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Staryi Sambir was occupied by German troops on June 30, 1941. By this time few Jews had managed to escape east. According to eyewitnesses interviewed by Yahad, Ukrainian and Jewish police forces were created right after the occupation began, while the Kommandantur was established in Sambir.  For one month, the Jews were subjected to forced labor and had to build the fortifications on the Dniester river.

Several arrests and deportation of the local Jews were conducted by Gestapo members for a month, or more. During the main Aktion, carried out in early August 1942, a large-scale deportation of Jews to the Sambir ghetto, located in a former Jewish residential area, was orchestrated. Circa. 1,000 Jews from Staryi Sambir were rounded up in the synagogue and in the Jewish school [cheder] where they remained locked up. One or two days later, they were transported to the ghetto. The Aktion was conducted by the Gestapo, which had come to the town to carry out the Aktion, and was assisted by local police. Anyone who attempted to escape or was too sick to walk was murdered in isolated shootings. The victims’ corpses were taken to be buried at the Jewish cemetery. According to witnesses, about a hundred Jews were buried at the cemetery.

According to another eyewitness, Mykola Z, a shooting of Jewish children from Holovetsko and its surrounding villages was carried out in the Jewish cemetery of Staryi Sambir. The victims were Jewish boys aged between 12 and 13, taken out of the column on its way to Drohobych. Each boy was given a piece of candy before being executed by a German officer who fired on victims’ neck. 

The isolated shootings of Jews who managed to stay in hiding continued in Staryi Sambir until the end of the German occupation. Only around 15 Jews settled in Staryi Sambir managed to survive the Holocaust.   

From December 1, 1942, the Sambir ghetto was fenced in. The Sambir ghetto Jews were deported to Belzec, to the Janowska Street labor camp in Lviv or murdered over the course of several major Aktions conducted between August 1942 and June 1943.

For more information about the killing of Jews in Sambir please follow the corresponding profile.

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