2 Execution site(s)
Yosif T., born in 1929, remembered: “Jews were brought to a big barn in trucks. It was 20 meters long and belonged to a Jew. The victims were taken inside the barn and shot there. After that, the barn was set on fire. Other Jews were hunted and killed later in the town. In the evening of the same day, I saw carts bringing corpses to the same burning barn. The carts were driven by women. The bodies were thrown in the fire; it was burning for a week or two”. (Testimony n°913, interviewed in Kurenets on June 26, 2016)
"On January 14, 1941 a SS punitive detachment assisted by the local police of Kurenets, headed by the chief of the police S. and the policemen G., selected specialists and their families among the Jews and shot them 1.5 km from Kurenets. After the shooting, the executors pulled out the gold teeth and took the victims’ clothing. In total, that day 54 people, among them 35 men, 10 women and 9 children aged less than 12, were killed.
On September 9, 1942 the Germans exterminated the whole Jewish population of Kurenets. The detachment of SS numbering at 400 people, headed by the Oberleutnant G. arrived to Kurenets. This detachment sealed off Kurenets. All the residents were ordered to stay inside their houses. The whole Jewish population was gathered at one place under the false pretext of being sent to the forced labor. Then, the trucks drove them to the outskirts of Kurenets where they were killed. 600 people were shot and over 200 people were burned alive." [Act drawn on April 13, 1945, by State Extraordinary Commission. RG22.002M. Fond 7021, Opis 83, Delo 8]
«The day of the Aktion, I was in Kurenets, and under the order of the Germans who conducted the Aktion, I went to the assembly point in the periphery. I went there with my entire family – my wife and 4 children. All Jews were gathered there. Everyone was ordered to kneel down and it was forbidden to move or change the position. On the way to the periphery, I noticed corpses of Jews who had been shot on the streets. I recognized the wife of one of the local rabbis (there were two of them). The bullet passed through her head and there was still fresh blood coming out from her mouth. [Later after the Aktion]
A terrible spectacle was conducted in Kurenets. The corpses were wallowing in the streets. The houses – mostly the Jewish houses – were wide open, the windows and the doors were broken in, the valuables were stolen, and the old things dragged everywhere on the floor were stained with blood. I was authorized to come inside my house: everything was destroyed. I found what has left from children’s clothing on the floor. During this Aktion, my wife Shiena and my 4 children were killed. The Jewish cemetery was located in front of my house: the corpses were brought and burned there constantly”. [Testimony of a Jewish survivor, Ruwen ALPEROWICZ, Beit-Dagan, born in 1892 in Kurents, given on April 5, 1967; B162-1298 p.76]
Kurenets is located 106 km north of Minsk. The first record about the Jewish community goes back to the mid-18th century. In 1897 there were 844 Jews in the village, the Jewish population doubled by1921 and numbered at about 1,500 Jews. The majority of Jews lived off of small trade and handicrafts. In 1919 the Jews owned the only pharmacy in the village and 27 shops. There was a Jewish cemetery which still remains today. According to the witness interviewed by Yahad, there were two synagogues: a wooden one for men, and a brick one for women. Jews had their own four-grade primary school, but some of them studied in general school. During the Soviet period the Jewish shops were looted, and the wooden synagogue for men was turned into a Klub. On the eve of the war there were about 1,500 Jews in the village. The Germans occupied the village on June 24 of 1941.
Once the village was occupied all Jews continued living in their houses but they were marked with yellow distinguishing badges in form of the Star of David on their backs. However, all Jews fit to work were subjected to forced labor, for instance digging trenches, and cleaning streets.
According to the witness, one day, all the Jews were told to come into the central square in front of the selsoviet, and to bring their gold and valuables. Those who would bring gold would be taken to work, others were threatened to be killed. Beforehand, the park was surrounded by 10-20 Germans in green uniforms who were armed and had dogs. There were many vehicles around the square, including several trucks. Jews would come to the square in groups of 3-5 people and approached the table one by one. A military officer who sat at the table recieved the valuables which were then put in trucks and taken away.
The first Aktion was carried out on January 14, 1941. This day SS members helped by local police rounded up all specialists and their families, 54 Jews and shot them in pit dug in the forest. According to some historical sources, there were other isolated shootings, but unfortunately, none of the witnesses could confirm or deny this claim. Thus, in the mid and end of March 1942, two shootings were carried out during which 13 and 32 Jews were shot.
The biggest liquidation Aktion took place on September 9, 1942, when 1040 remaining Jews were murdered by an SS mobile squad. First, they were gathered at the central square from where they were taken in trucks to the barn. According to Yosif T., a local resident, this barn used to belong to a Jew and was about 20 meters long. The victims were taken inside the barn and shot there. After that, the barn was set on fire.
The remaining Jews were taken to the ghetto in Vileyki, where they were killed afterwards. The last victims were a pharmacist and his wife; they were shot in a bathhouse behind the synagogue. The prisoners of war were also among the victims in Kurenets. Many Jews, especially young, managed to flee in the forest where they formed partisan units and fought against the Germans.
For more information about killings in Vileyka please refer to the corresponding profile.
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