Velyki Zhvanchyk | Khmelnytskyi

Hanna S., born in 1923: “One day the Jews were gathered and taken to the field where they were shot. I didn’t see it by myself but people said that they had to climb into the pit and lie down facing the ground.” ©Guillaume Ribot /Yahad – In Unum Pavlo Ch., born in 1931: “We were poor, and Jews were rich. We had nothing to wear back then. After the Jews were taken, my aunt found a scarf on the road. She picked it up and wore for a long time. We were poor, do you understand?!” ©Guillaume Ribot /Yah Oleksandra T., born in 1922: “One Jewish woman threw her baby into our yard. My mother picked him up, but the German saw it and beat her with a baton.” ©Guillaume Ribot /Yahad – In Unum Oleksandra G., born in 1922: “Even children were killed. Local Ukrainian woman offered keep the children of a Jewish woman, but she answered that she preferred her children to die with her.” ©Guillaume Ribot /Yahad – In Unum Ivan P., born in 1922, was requisitioned to dig the pits. ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad – In Unum The Yahad team during an interview in Velykyi Zhvanchyk. ©Guillaume Ribot /Yahad – In Unum Ivan P., born in 1922, on his way to the execution site where about 1,224 Jews were murdered. ©Guillaume Ribot /Yahad – In Unum Ivan P., born in 1922, with the Yahad team at the execution site. ©Guillaume Ribot /Yahad – In Unum One of the three mass graves at the execution site in Velykyi Zhvanchyk. ©Guillaume Ribot /Yahad – In Unum The execution site of circa. 1,224 Jews in Velykyi Zhvanchyk. ©Guillaume Ribot /Yahad – In Unum

Execution of Jews in Velykyi Zhvanchyk

3 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Field
Memorials:
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims:
1,224

Witness interview

Pavlo Ch., born in 1931: “Before being shot, the Jews were forced to undress. They undressed in the beetroot field not far from the pits that had been dug in advance. Two pits had been dug during the night. One pit for the Jews from Zhvanchyk, and another one – for the Sokolets Jews. There was a third pit, but it was dug later. The Jews who had been found in hiding were shot in that one. So, once undressed, the Jews approached the pit and had to climb down into it using the small stairs made from dirt. Once inside the pit they were forced to lie down facing the ground and shot. Once the first layer was full, the following groups had to lay over the bodies of the previous groups, and so on. They were put like crayons in a box. Many of those who were still alive suffocated over the weight of the bodies. The shooting lasted the entire day. There were many Jews here. The German who fired was drinking alcohol. Some of Jews managed to escape but they were found and shot later.” (Witness n°695U, interviewed in Velykyi Zhvanchyk, on August 22, 2008)

Soviet archives

“The annihilation of the innocent Soviet civilians by the German-Fascist bandits was carried out in the towns of [Velikiy] Zhvanchik and Sokolets on September 1, 1941. From June 2 to June 8, 1944, the State Extraordinary Commission of the County, in the presence of medical experts - doctors from the Minkovtsy County hospital conducted an excavation of the graves and a medical examination of the bodies exhumed from the burial places of the Soviet civilians murdered by the Germans, and established the following: 1,224 bodies were found 500-600 meters southeast of Velikiy Zhvanchik town, near the northern edge of the Sokolets Forest, in three graves measuring 8 x 8 x 3 meters.” [Act drawn up by Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) in June, 1944; GARF 7021-64-802]

German archives

“From the wireless report of the Higher SS and Police Leader South to Command Staff Reichsfuehrer SS. Police Battalion 320 was operating in Zhvanchik and in Sokolets (both places are located about 30 kilometers northeast of Kamenets Podolsk). Results [sic]:…. 380 Jews were shot to death by Police Battalion 320.” [From the report from September 1, 1941; B162-2876 -2929]

Historical note

Velykyi Zhvanchyk is a small town located 47 km (29mi) south of Khmelnytskyi, and 35 km (22mi) northeast of Kamianets-Podilskyi. The first record of the Jews dates back to the first half of the 18th century. By 1897, the community numbered 638 individuals, making up 21% of the total population. In 1926 they numbered 615. The majority of Jews lived off small scale trade or handicraft. Under Soviet rule, the Jews were forced to join the cooperatives. In the 1920s-1930s there was a Yiddish school. There is no information regarding any synagogue, but from the accounts of the local villagers interviewed by Yahad, we believe that they had a prayer house and, for big holidays and other occasions, they would go to Dunayivtsi, where a bigger Jewish community lived.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Velykyi Zhvanchyk was occupied by the Germans in the mid-July 1941. Shortly after the occupation, the entire Jewish community was registered and marked with yellow distinguishing badges. The first mass shooting was conducted on August 31, 1941, by the 320th Police Battalion. On this day, according to German archives 380 Jews, or 1,200 Jews according to the Soviet archives, were assembled at the marketplace and taken to the forest located close to the village of Sokolets, about 8 km away from Velykyi Zhavnchyk. Anyone who could not walk was shot dead on the spot or thrown onto a cart that was unloaded directly into the pit. Two pits had been dug during the night by the requisitioned people. According to the local eyewitnesses interviewed by Yahad, before being shot, the Jews were forced to undress, climb down into the pit, and lie facing the ground. The shooting was conducted by a single German shooter who was drinking. Any Jews who managed to hide during the August murder operation were confined in the ghetto created shortly after the Aktion. The ghetto inmates were subjected to forced labor. In June 1942, the remaining Jews of the town were murdered at the same location outside Zhvanchyk close to the Sokolets forest, in a third pit. A small group of Jews, circa. a dozen, was taken to the Dunayivtsi ghetto and murdered there, along with the ghetto inmates, on October 19, 1942.

For more information about the murder in Dunayivtsi please refer to the corresponding profile

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