1 Execution site(s)
Nadia Y., born in 1930, an eyewitness to the shooting: “When the Jews arrived at the killing site, they were stopped not far away from the pit. Then in groups of about ten people or so… I didn’t count them… they were led to the edge of the pit and shot. Before being shot, they were all forced to undress. My father and I could see everything from about 60m away.
YIU: What you were doing there?
W: We were just passing by, my father and I. We were on a cart. I don’t know exactly, but I think we were going to the town center.
YIU: Were there Germans and policemen at the site?
W: Yes. The majority of them were Germans, but there were also some local policemen. I still remember the names of some of them. But as far as I remember, it was the Germans who pulled the trigger. Once all the Jews had been shot, all their belongings were gathered and stocked in the village. The local police told to the villagers that they were free to go and find take whatever they wanted. Being a child, I went there as well and took some matches and a thread. When I brought them home, my father yelled at me and told me to go put them back.” (Witness n°2616U, interviewed in Pochaiv, on July 11, 2022)
“In July 1941, at the beginning of the occupation of the Pochayev district by the Germans, Gestapo men arrived in the village of Pochayev. With the indications of the traitors to the Fatherland, D. [illegible], who worked under the Germans as a district chief, P.L., who worked for the German Kommandant as an interpreter, 120 men of Jewish nationality, residents of Pochayev were arrested during the night. Thirty of these men were taken with shovels under the guard of three German soldiers armed with machine guns and 12 policemen to Belaya Gora [place] which is 3 km from Pochayev in the direction of the town of Kremenets, where they were forced to dig a pit supposedly for burying the Germans’ dead horses. At 2:00 pm, once the pit had been dug, the police chief M., the German soldiers and drunken policemen brought the other ninety men to the pit. There they made them lie down in the pit, as well as the other thirty who had dug the pit. Then four German soldiers with machine guns started shooting at the prisoners. The policemen and the Germans shot these innocent citizens in the head or in the back of the head.
One of the victims, named Skulskin asked the German Kommandant to shoot him but not his son, to which the German replied, "we reserved the same fate for all of you". All the policemen and the Germans laughed a lot.
The savage execution carried out by the Germans and the traitors to the Fatherland ended at 4:00 pm.
In August 1942, a battalion of German soldiers arrived in the village of Pochayev. With the help of the District Kommandant and the police, led by the chief of police M., they carried out the total extermination of the Jewish population, including men, women and children. The Jews in the ghetto were transported under heavy guard to an anti-tank ditch at the exit of the village of Pochayev on Lipovaya Street, behind the Polish cemetery. There the Germans ordered them to strip naked. Then, without distinction of age or sex, they led them to the edge of a pit where they shot them with machine guns or rifles in the nape of the neck. We could hear women and children screaming throughout the village. People from the village were requisitioned to fill in the pit.” [Act drawn up by Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on September 23, 1944; GARF 7021-75-11]
Pochaiv is located 101 km (63mi) north of Ternopil. It was founded in the 15th century and is home to one of the most sacred Eastern Orthodox holy sites, the Eastern Orthodox Monastery (Lavra). The first records in the chronicles regarding the town date back to 1527. The prosperity of the monastery began in the second half of 17th century thanks to the activities of Hegumen Iov Zheleza (1602-1651). From 1730, the Pochaev printing house began operating, which printed 187 books. The Lavra is rich in murals, sculptures, ornaments and is visited as a site of healing. During the interwar period, the town was under Polish rule, but in 1939 it was taken over by Soviet Union. The first records of the Jews date back to the 18th century. In 1768, about a hundred Jews lived in the town. By 1897, their number increased, and they represented 72% of the total population. The majority of them were merchants and traded with the monastery or the pilgrims. In 1873, there were two synagogues in Pochaiv. By 1921, following the pogroms of 1919, the Jewish population had decreased to 1,083 Jews, comprising only 47% of the total population. Many of them left the town seeking a safer place to live. On the eve of the war, it is estimated that about 1,000 Jews still lived in the town.
Pochaiv was occupied by German forces on June 30, 1941. The killing of the Jews started one week later. On July 8, 1941, about 106 Jews, members of the Youth Communist Party, were rounded up, imprisoned in the police station and later, after being tortured, taken to be shot in the nearby forest.
In the summer – early September all the Jews were marked with the Star of David. A brothel was established for Germans, employing 20 girls aged 18-20. In order for their daughters to not be taken, parents had to pay a bribe. Jews were systematically robbed by the Germans and local police. In January 1942, a ghetto was created. It was surrounded by a wooden fence with covered with barbed wire. The Jewish inmates, mainly men, were forced to perform hard labor, such as road construction or cleaning. The ghetto was liquidated on August 12, 1942, according to some historical sources. That day, the German Security Police and SD arrived from Ternopil. The Germans and local police subsequently gathered all the Jews at the entrance of the ghetto. After a selection, the victims were taken in a column towards the cemetery, where a pit had been dug. Once on site, the Jews had to undress and were shot on the edge of the pit in groups of five to ten people. About 30 Jewish artisans selected during the gathering were left to clean the ghetto. They were shot shortly afterwards in a separate mass grave.
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