1 Execution site(s)
Orysia K., born in 1931: “One year after the arrival of the Germans, during the harvest, I saw a column of Jews made up of men, women and children from the yard of my house. They came from Pidhaitsi and were heading towards a hill opposite my house. Several other villagers were watching them. At the time, visibility was good, and the terrain was clear. The column was led by Germans in green uniforms. Some of the Jews were on foot, while others were transported on about 20 carts. The column stopped on the road, the Jews had to get off the carts and were forced to undress down to their underwear. Then they were put in a column, in rows of three, and transported on foot up a hill. They were all taken to a natural ravine about 20 meters long and 2-3 meters wide. From there, they were taken to the pit, which was smaller than the ravine, in groups of 3-4 people at a time. I could see them leaving, but since the pit was on the opposite side of the hill, I couldn’t see the victims being killed. However, I could hear a lot of shooting. The execution lasted 2-3 hours.” (Witness n°2541U, interviewed in Stare Misto on December 3, 2018)
"A mass grave was found in the Jewish cemetery southwest of the village Pidhaitsi. According to the testimonies of T**** Elena, B***** Zislav, T******* Vladimir and other inhabitants of the village, a shooting of Soviet civilians took place there in September-October 1942. The shooting took place as follows: the victims were brought to the cemetery in groups of 5 or more people, stripped naked and shot one by one with a pistol. The shootings were directed by a member of the Gestapo G***. In all, there are 300 victims." [Act drawn up by State Soviet Extraordinary Commission on October 25, 1944; GARF 7021-75-10; pp. 11-12]
Pidhaitsi is a city located 45 km (28 miles) southwest of Ternopil, in Western Ukraine. The first traces of a Jewish community in Pidhaitsi date back to the 15th century. Indeed, several ancient Jewish graves date back to 1420. In 1519, the city was granted the privilege of holding trade fairs and developing commercial activities. This measure favored the development of the local Jewish community. In the 17th century, the city was prosperous. It was inhabited by Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Jews and Armenians. Each community had its own religious buildings. It was during this period that the large main stone synagogue was built. Two other houses of prayer were also located near it. In the 18th century, many local Jews began to practice Hasidism. Two Hasidic synagogues subsequently appeared to the east of the main synagogue. In the 19th century, the city’s economy was boosted by several measures. In 1820, the city was allowed to hold new trade fairs. In the early 1870s, it regained its city-status. In 1887, a school and a hospital were established. Consequently, at the beginning of the 20th century, more than 3,000 Jews lived in the city. This economic and demographic growth was then reinforced by the construction of the Pidhaitsi-Lviv railroad in 1908. Nevertheless, during the First World War, a large part of the city was ravaged by the fighting. During the interwar period, the city was integrated into the Polish territory. A Jewish school was in activity and several Zionist organizations were popular among local Jews. In 1939, of the 7,000 people living in the city, 3,200 were Jews. In September, the city was integrated into the USSR under the terms of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact.
Pidhaitsi was occupied by the Wehrmacht on July 4, 1941. As soon as the occupation began, the German authorities created local Ukrainian auxiliary police to assist the German police and the Gestapo. They also established a Jewish council and a Jewish police force of about ten people. In the autumn of 1941, the Jews were first removed from their homes and relocated to the city center in small houses. In early 1942, this area was fenced off and turned into a ghetto. Between 4,000 and 6,000 Jews were confined there. The Jewish and German police were responsible for its surveillance. The local residents were still able to exchange goods and food with the Jews in the ghetto. During the existence of the ghetto, shootings of small groups of Jews inside were regularly conducted by a German unit from Ternopil. Members of the Jewish council were responsible for the reburial of these victims in the Jewish cemetery. At the same time, several isolated executions of Jews took place in the surroundings of the ghetto and the town. In the autumn of 1942, about 300 Jews from the ghetto were shot and buried in the Jewish cemetery. In the summer of 1943, the liquidation of the Pidhaitsi ghetto began. On June 6 and 8, two mass shootings took place in the nearby villages of Stare Misto and Zahaitsi. In both cases, the Jews thought they would be relocated, to the Ternopil ghetto, for example, and so had taken their belongings with them. The German authorities requisitioned local residents and their carts to help transport the Jews to the two shooting sites. In Stare Misto, this was in a field. In Zahaitsi, it was in a stone quarry on a hill. Between 2,000 and 4,000 Jews were shot in these mass executions. Moreover, in the case of the execution in Stare Misto, an attempt to escape by some of the Jews present in the column led to the immediate shooting of a hundred people. After these two mass executions, the requisitioned locals had to take the Jewish goods and belongings to an empty house near the ghetto in Pidhaitsi. Between 1942 and 1943, in addition to these executions, several thousand Jews passed through the Pidhaitsi ghetto and were deported to the Belzec death camp and the Ternopil labor camp. In June 1943, following these mass shootings and the last deportations, the ghetto was closed, and the city declared Judenfrei ("free of Jews").
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