1 Execution site(s)
Iaroslav P., born in 1933: “The barracks in the Tovste ghetto were made of wood and surrounded with barbed wire. The ghetto was fenced-in, but it wasn’t guarded. The Jews could go out and in freely, because they were marked with yellow Stars of David. There was a kitchen inside the ghetto, so they could cook. The ghetto itself was located on the manor grounds that used to belong to a Polish noble. As far as I remember, the ghetto existed for four or five months. Besides local Jews there were also Jews brought in from Hungary and nearby villages. Many Jewish inmates died of typhus. Their bodies were buried at the Jewish cemetery.” (Witness n°2350U, interviewed in Podilia, on March 15, 2018)
"The Jews were taken out of the ghetto in groups of 500-600 under the pretext of being taken to work, but instead they were shot at the Jewish cemetery on the edge town. As for the camps, [the Jews] were held in appalling sanitary conditions; as a result, they were dying by the hundreds from disease and exhaustion. (...) In Tluste, the main execution site for Soviet civilians was the Jewish cemetery. The ones taken to the shooting had to stand on a plank in the middle of the grave and crouch down. They were then shot in the back of the head. Babies were thrown into the pit with their mothers and shot with machine guns. Sometimes, there were still people alive in the pit: they were covered with earth [as they were]. Around 6,000 people were shot in the Tluste Jewish cemetery alone. "[Act drawn up by Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); GARF 7021-75-107/ USHMM: RG 22.002M]
“Question: How many Aktions were carried out in Tluste [Tovste], by whom, when? What happened to the Jews arrested? Did you attend an Aktion yourself?
Answer: I don’t remember how many Aktions were carried out here. I remember four or five, in 1942 and 1943. They were massive and very bloody. Each time, a few thousand people were arrested. During one or two Aktionen in the 2nd half of 1942, the Germans deported the arrested Jews to Belzec. During the other Aktions in 1943, the Jews were shot on the spot, i.e. at the Jewish cemetery, in pits that had already been dug. These Aktions were led by the Czortkow [Chortkiv] and Zaleszczyki [Zalischyky] Gestapo. Local Ukrainian policemen assisted them. (…)
I personally experienced an Aktion in the summer of 1943. I saw T****ek take an active part. The Aktion lasted all day. The arrested Jews were rounded up in the market square and taken in groups of 20-30 to the Jewish cemetery, about 300m away. They were shot in ready-made pits, as I’ve already mentioned. I didn’t see the moment of the shooting, but I heard the shots. At the start of the Aktion I was found by the Germans in a bunker with 30 people in it. I was taken to the market square where the arrested Jews were gathered. While I was in the market square waiting to be taken to the Jewish cemetery, I saw how the Germans from Czortkow, led by a man called T****ek, took a group of Jews to the execution site in the Jewish cemetery. I don’t know whether T****ek was the leader of this bloody Aktion, which claimed the lives of around 3,000 Jews. Shortly before the end of the Aktion, in the afternoon, the representative of the Judenrat, Dr. Avermann, arrived with an unknown German. The latter gave the impression of being a high-ranking Gestapo officer. He was watching the Aktion unfold. The Jews sat in the square with their hands clasped over their heads throughout the Aktion. The slightest movement was threatened by a bullet.” [Deposition of Deposition of Zwi Koch, born in 1905, in Tluste, A Jewish survivor, given in Beit Dagon on November 30, 1965: BArch BAL B162-5169 p.28.]
Tovste is located 80 km (50mi) south of Ternopil. The first record of the Jewish community dates back to the 17th century, and probably much earlier. The town was mainly populated by Jews, who represented more than a half of the population throughout its history. The majority of the town’s Jews lived off small scale trade and handicraft, such as shoemaking, tailoring, glass working, tanning. In the 1930s, a central power station and a number of factories were built and run under Jewish ownership. The community had several synagogues, a cemetery, and a Yiddish school, opened in the 1920s. The Hassidic and Zionists movements were active in Tovste, and had several branches. During the interwar period, the town was under Polish rule, and was not taken over by Soviet Union until September 1939. During the first half of that month, Tovste was an important crossing point for refugees from western Poland who were trying to reach the Romanian border. Many Tovste Jews, as well as refugees, were expelled or deported to the far regions of the USSR, mainly Siberia, for refusing to cooperate with the Soviet regime. According to estimates, circa. 2,000 Jews out of a total population of 3,000 remained in Tovste on the eve of the war.
Tovste was occupied by German troops on July 7, 1941. Even though many pogroms were organized by local populations in nearby villages, the one in Tovste was aborted thanks to the intervention of two priests and some prominent Ukrainians in positions of power. With the arrival of Hungarian troops on July 10, 1941, all the Jews were registered and marked with armbands. At this moment, circa. 2,000 Jews from Hungary were brought to Tovste. Three weeks later they were transferred to Kamianets-Podilskyi where most of them were murdered. The German administration took over Tovste in September 1941. From then on, on a Judenrat and Jewish police were created, all the Jews were marked with white armbands bearing the Star of David. Jewish men aged from 14 to 60 were subjected to different kinds of agricultural labor. From September to December 1941, several deportations to labor camps in the Ternopil region also took place. In November 1941, for example, 150 Jews were sent to Kamenka, and another 120 were sent to Velyki Birky in March 1942. In 1942 the German authorities conducted two deportation Aktions. The first one took place in August 1942, when 300 Jews were deported to Belzec, and another one on October 5, 1942. Circa. 1000 Jews, including some Jews from Zalischyky who had been moved to Tovste, were deported to Belzec. During the deportations, hundreds of Jews were shot on the spot or while attempting to escape. Their bodies were later buried at the Jewish cemetery. Jews from Horodenka, Hinkovsi, and other nearby villages were moved to the Tovste ghetto created sometime during the summer of 1942. The main murder operation took place on May 27, 1942. That day, circa. 3,000 Jews were assembled in the market square. Later, they were taken in groups of 200-300 people to the cemetery where they were shot. The Jewish men left behind to fill in the pit were shot afterwards. Some 800 Jews, who were trying to escape from the Germans, were murdered in the streets. The murder operation was conducted by the Security Police from Chortkiv. On June 6, 1942, another murder Aktion was conducted as many Jews managed to hide or escape during the previous one. On this day, another 1,100 Jews were rounded-up and murdered at the cemetery. Over the course of the next days and weeks, hundreds more were found in hiding, captured and killed. Several dozen Jewish laborers who worked on the plantation remained in the ghetto until July 1943 when all the Jews were either killed on the spot or moved to the Chortkiv ghetto.
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