3 Execution site(s)
Dmytro M., born in 1931, was an eyewitness to an execution of Jewish women from Vinnytsia: “I had been watching the execution for about an hour. With my friend, we climbed up a tree and watched what was happening about 500m away from the site. They brought only women, they were Jewish. They didn’t have to undress. They were lined up directly at the edge of the pit and shot in the head.” (Witness n°2636, interviewed in Zarvantsi, on September 5, 2019)
“On September 19, 1941, the mass shooting of 15,000 members of the innocent population of the city of Vinnytsia was carried out. The population, mostly women, old men and women, and small children were taken to the Pyatnichany forest, where they were shot with submachine guns. The people were driven by trucks to the pits naked and then shot in groups. When the trucks were approaching, loud screams could be heard from far away. Both the dead and those still alive were thrown into the pit. The small children had their spines broken. The pits for those to be shot were prepared in advance. On that day the shooting was carried out from 5 am to 4 pm.
On April 16, 1942, about 10,000 innocent residents of the city of Vinnytsia were herded into the stadium. The old men and women, women, children, and men unfit for work were taken to the Pyatnichany forest, forced to strip naked, and shot with submachine guns. The Hitler soldiers were driving the columns of several thousand women, children, and the elderly into the forest. People were shouting and exclaiming: "Long live Stalin," "Take revenge against the executioners for our blood," "We are dying but children will avenge us," etc. The very old people were whispering prayers. There were so many to kill that they had to stand for several hours naked in the cold awaiting their death. Before the shooting the German barbarians went wild, striking the people in a row with sticks, whips, and rifle-butts. The clothes and shoes of the victims were taken to the courtyard of the municipal trade administration located on Lenin Street, where the best clothes were distributed according to instructions from the trade department of the city administration.” [Deposition of Lev Shayn, given on May 5, 1944, to the State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); RG.22-002M: GARF 7021-54-1236]
"On September 2, 1941, I received an order to receive a surrender in the municipal garden of Vinnytsia, with the 4th unit of Landesschützenbataillon 783. I had to carry out the order on September 4, 1941. They mentioned that they would register the Jewish population of the town. I established the necessary positions on the appointed day at 4:30 am. At 5:30 am Jews, including women and children, arrived on foot in rows of six singing Russian songs. The Jews had to pass by the table and disrobe completely. They had to hand over the valuables and put them on the table. The clothing was thrown on a pile. After that, they were forced to stay 2m away from the pit, without any exception, women and men included. Once they were lined up, trucks arrived with Waffen-SS and Feldgedarmerie soldiers. They were armed with submachine guns. Each soldier was appointed to a group of ten Jews: they killed them with such willingness that it seemed that they had been trained for that. When the first row fell inside the pit, the victims from the next group had to prepare themselves. The men from the group had to pour some lime and put some soil inside the pit. Then, they had to undress and go towards the pit that had been prepared by them. Even small children aged from 3 months to 14 were killed. The massacre finished at 4 pm.” [Deposition of Erwin Bingel, BArch B162-5264 p.217]
Vinnytsia is located about 200km (120 miles) southwest of Kyiv. The first record of a Jewish presence dates back to the early 16th century. In the mid-17th century, several dozen Jewish families lived in Vinnytsia. As a result of attacks and murders conducted against the Jews in 1648, and then again in 1743 and 1750, the population was almost annihilated. By 1767 the Jewish population was revived and numbered 691 people. In 1847 there were 3,882 Jews in Vinnytsia and by 1897 11, 689 Jews lived in the city making up almost 40% of the total population. In 1905 and again in 1919-1921 the Jews suffered another wave of pogroms with fewer victims.
The majority of the Jews worked in the craft industry; as tailors, shoemakers, and in general commerce. Under Soviet rule, many Jews were engaged in clerical work at governmental positions or in factories. In the early 20th century there were two major political branches, the Zionists and the Bund. Additionally, so-called anti-Zionists were active as well. In 1910 there were 17 synagogues, as well as several professional and elementary education institutions for men and women. However, in the 1930s many cultural and educational institutions were shut down or transformed into governmental institutions. At the same time, many Jews were arrested and murdered during the campaign known as the “Great Terror”. On the eve of the war, 36% of the city’s population was Jewish. By the time Vinnytsia was occupied more than half of the Jewish inhabitants had managed to evacuate.
Vinnytsia was occupied by the Germans on July 19, 1941. At this time, according to the Martin Dean Encyclopedia, approximately 18,000 Jews remained in the city. Until October 1941 Vinnytsia remained under German military administration. On October 20, 1941, it became part of Generalkommissariat Shitomir. One of the first measures undertaken by the military administration was to register all Jews and mark them with armbands bearing the Star of David. They were subjected to perform a different kind of forced labor and pay contributions. A Jewish council and local auxiliary police were created.
The first execution of Jews in Vinnytsia took place no later than July 29. During this execution about 146 members of the Jewish intelligentsia were shot by Security Police at the brick factory, on the western edge of the city. The second execution was conducted on September 12, 1941, when about 1,000 Jewish youth were shot behind the village of Sheremetka, today Pyrohovo. The two largest mass executions were conducted on September 19, 1941, and April 16, 1942. According to different sources during these executions, 10,000 Jews were shot, although the Soviet archives claim they were about 15,000 which we believe is overestimated. During the first mass aktion, carried out on September 19, 1941, the Vinnytsia Jews were rounded up from their homes and taken by truck to the Pyatnichany forest, where large trenches were dug in advance by Soviet prisoners of war. When they arrived at the site the Jews were forced to hand over their valuables and gold, strip naked, and were then shot dead. It is believed that children were thrown into the pit alive. At the same time, the Jews who lived in the Zamostye area, on the right bank of South Buh (Bug) River, were rounded-up on Kotsyubinskiy street, and then taken to a brick factory in Tyazhilov, once located on the eastern outskirts of the city, and today is now part of Vinnytsia. They were murdered after having been separated into three groups: women, elderly men, and children. These aktions were conducted by members of Einsatzkommando 6, different Police Battalions, and local auxiliaries.
On December 5, 1941, the remaining Jews were ordered to gather at the stadium under the pretext of the future resettlement into a ghetto. The Jews were registered and sent back home. On April 16, 1942, they were required to report to the stadium again. Once gathered, they were taken to the same execution site in the forest to be shot. Approximately 1,000 skilled workers were spared. Half
of them were incarcerated in a labor camp created 2km away from Vinnytsia near the village of Zarvantsi in May 1942. The other half were deported to a labor camp in Zhytomyr. There they were used for various works projects, including the construction of Hitler’s "Werewolf" forward headquarters near the village of Stryzhavka and the DG-IV road construction. They were executed when there was no need of their services.
There was a Soviet POW camp in the area. Several hundred Jewish prisoners were murdered there in the fall of 1941. In addition to the Jewish prisoners of war, non-Jewish prisoners of war, forced laborers, and patients from the mental asylum were murdered in Vinnytsia during the German occupation.
For more information about the killings in Zarvantsi please refer to the corresponding profile
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