2 Execution site(s)
Mykhailo K., born in 1937: “The shooting was conducted by the Germans, but local policemen were present. They were the ones who guarded the Jews while they undressed and then led them to the ravine. One group of policemen made the Jews undress, and another one took them to the ravine in groups.
YIU: Were they forced to undress in groups? If so, how many were they? Five? A dozen?
W: No, they were many more than that. About fifty or sixty people undressed at the same time before being escorted to the ravine. Then, they had to climb down inside and lie down facing the ground. After someone fired with a submachine gun, another group would go down.” (Witness n°930U, interviewed in Zaletychivka, on May 30, 2008)
“We, the undersigned members of the ChGK commission… established that in September 1942 … mass shootings of Soviet civilians took place. The shootings were carried out 4 kilometers from the center of the town, beyond the village of Zaletichevka [today Zaletychivka]. The shootings took place at the bottom of a 15-meter-deep ravine. Before the shooting, the victims of this bestial terror were made to strip naked. The Soviet civilians had to lie down next to each other, then the executioners shot them to death from above in the back of the head with submachine guns. Each time a group of Jewish civilians was made to lie on the top of the bodies of those who had just been killed and the executioners, while treading on the bodies, shot them to death. In this mass grave there lie 3,000 Soviet civilians who were brutally tortured to death by the German occupiers. The bodies were covered with clay, which was taken from the slope of the ravine. […] All the murderers were drunk and, while they were drunk, they abused the women who had been doomed by the fascist monsters to be shot to death. The shooting was carried out under the command of Lieutenant Gashe, the head of the Gendarmerie of the Letichev District. One of the shooters was a German from an SS murder squad whose name it has not been possible to ascertain.” [Act drawn up by Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (CHGK), on June 1st, 1944; GARF 7021-64-800]
Letychiv is a town located 53 km (33mi) east of Proskuriv, formerly known as Khmelnytskyi. The first Jews settled down in Letychiv in the late 16th century. Throughout history, the Jewish community has suffered from waves of pogroms, one in 1648, another in 1664 and in 1919, but it continued to live and prosper. In 189,7 the Jews represented 58% of the town’s total population, with 4, 108 Jewish individuals living there. The majority of Jews lived off small scale commerce and handicraft. During the 1920s, under the Soviet regime, many artisans moved to work in cooperatives. Some Jews worked in agriculture in a Jewish kolkhoz (collective farm). There were at least two synagogues in Letychiv and a Yiddish school. According to local villagers, many Jewish children went to the Ukrainian school alongside non-Jewish children. On the eve of the war, in 1939, 36% of the Jews remained in the town.
Letychiv was occupied on July 17, 1941, after more than a week of resistance and fighting. Shortly after the occupation, about 25 young Jewish boys and men, including the rabbi, were selected and taken to be shot outside the town. The ghetto was established in September 1941. It was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by local police. Although it was forbidden to leave its territory, some Jews managed to go out either to work or look for food. Some Ukrainians received passes that allowed them to go inside the ghetto, either to give food or to ask for service from a Jewish artisan. The ghetto’s population numbered 7,500 Jews at its largest, including Jews interned there from the nearby villages. Any ghetto inmates deemed fit to work were taken to work in a stone quarry. From the testimonies of the survivors, we know that there was also a camp, located just a few meters away from the ghetto, where Jews from Bessarabia, Bukovina and part of Podolia were interned. The population varied from 200 to 1,500 inmates. The camp was guarded by Lithuanian policemen. The camp inmates were used as free labor to work on road construction starting from the spring of 1942. Before the mass Aktion conducted on September 20, 1942, the ghetto was divided into two parts, with the skilled workers being separated from the non-skilled. The non-skilled were shot on September 20, 1942, in the ravine located next to the village of Zaletychivka. Upon their arrival the Jews were made to strip naked, enter the pit in groups of fifty, and lie face down next to each other. They were then shot to death in the back of the head with submachine guns set up above the pit by members of an SS murder squad. In November 1942, the remaining Jews from the ghetto and those found in hiding were killed at the same site. According to the Soviet archives, during these two executions circa. 7,000 Jews were killed. The number appears to be overestimated. These two murder operations were carried out under the command of Lieutenant Gashe, the head of the Gendarmerie of the Letychiv District. The camp inmates were kept alive for a year more, a very unusual situation, and killed in November 1943.
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