Kostopil (Kostopol) | Rivne

/ Ivan M., born in 1927: "They were taken in groups from the crowd guarded by the police and they were ordered to undress or they undressed by themselves." © Victoria Bahr/ Yahad-In Unum Yahad team during the interview with witness in Kostopil. © Victoria Bahr/ Yahad-In Unum The former location of the ghetto with the original Jewish house. The ghetto was surrounded with a  fence and a barbed wire.  © Victoria Bahr/Yahad-In Unum A place where the synagogue was located in Kostopil. Today the building was transformed in a convenient shop.  © Victoria Bahr/ Yahad-In Unum Raisa S., born in 1926, “The Jews were taken in groups of thirties towards the pit. They had to stay facing the pit and the shooter shot them in the nape of the neck”. © Victoria Bahr/ Yahad-In Unum Stepan V., born in 1929 : “They were told: "Weg ! Weg! Schnell!". The Jews had to get out of the wagons and went in the direction of the bridge, about 50 to 60m away. They had to strip naked and walk toward the pit .“  © Victoria Bahr/ Yahad-In Unum The execution site of about 5,000 Jews from Rivne murdered in mid-July 1942. It is located in the forest close to the military base. The memorial is located just in front of the mass grave. © Victoria Bahr/ Yahad-In Unum© Victoria Bahr/ Yahad-In Unum Yahad teams with an eyewitness to the shooting at the execution site. Today there is a stadium. The monument is not located on the mass grave. At this place about 480 Jews were shot in mid-August 1941. © Victoria Bahr/ Yahad-In Unum The execution site where about 4,000 Jews from the Kostopil area were murdered during 1941-1942. It is located in the forest close to the hamlet Gayivka which does not exist anymore. The memorial is located just in front of the mass grave. © Victoria Bahr

Execution of Jews in Kostopil

3 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Forest
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
About 13,000

Witness interview

Stepan V., born in 1929, remembered: “YIU: Before the creation of the ghetto, did the Jews continue to live freely in their houses?
Stepan: Yes, they lived in their houses. The Germans looted them, they took all their gold. A commandant made a speech saying that the Jews wouldn’t be shot unless they give their gold! Back then there were big basins where people used to shower. The Jews took some of them, filled them with gold and put them on the cart. Then, they pulled the cart with gold towards the house located on the Pervomayskaya street where this commandant lived. It was a one level building. The commandant went out on the balcony with his big dog and when he saw the pile of gold he said: "Mein Gott ! Mein Gott!". He ordered to open the gate so the Jews could pull the cart inside the yard. Behind this house, there was a Ukrainian cemetery where the Jews who brought the gold were taken and shot. We climbed over the fence and were watching…” (Testimony n°1794, interviewed in Kostopil, on August 4, 2013)

Soviet archives

“Between October 20 and 25, four Germans and about 50 Ukrainian policemen from Kostopol and Derazhnoye, who were the traitors of the homeland, arrived in the village. The police assembled all of the Jews, about 500 people, and took them to Kostopol. The director of the "Stadt-Gutt" wanted to make us believe that we were going to work elsewhere. On the way, some Jews attempted to escape but were shot dead on the spot close to the Nova-Dolina bridge.
At 2pm, we arrived to the place close to Korchevye where three pits were located. The Gebietskommisar with his assistant were there. When we were taken to the pit, the assistant was in front of us and forced us to turn to our left. He paid attention only to those people who were right in front of him. As I was a little on the side and he didn’t pay attention on me, I jumped and knocked him down hitting him on the chest and started to run towards the woods. When I reached the railroads of Nova-Dolina I knew that it was forbidden to cross them, I stepped back and hid in the bushes not far away from the pits where the mass execution was conducted. I saw with my own eyes Jews being shot. I could hear the horrible screams. Half an hour later they stopped. Before being killed they were undressed, then they were forced to sit down facing the pit, and were shot one by one in the nape of the neck and they fell inside the pit. Then, other Jews got inside the pit to arrange the corpses. Once they arranged them, they got out and it was their turn to be shot. [Deposition of a Jewish survivor, Avram V., given to the State Extraordinary Commission in November 1944; RG 22.002M. Fond 7021, Opis 71, Delo 55]

German archives

“Regarding the mass executions in Kostopol, I remember one morning being called by the battalion commandant D. He told me that the Jews were going to be killed the following day and I had to guard the area. I could not manage to avoid this although I asked Dall multiple times. (…) Thus, the following day, along with 50 soldiers, we arrived by two trucks to guard. The Jews had not yet arrived by that time. I saw commandant D. with SS and SD members. An express carrier came, saying that the Jews had been brought. After that, I was grumbled by a chief for not having started to do the job. I explained to him that I had been only ordered to guard off the territory in order to prevent the Jews from escaping and that I was waiting for the SD members who were in charge of the shooting. In front of commandant D., the chief ordered me: “Start!” The capital D. ordered me to make two teams of shooters for the two pits and we had to kill 300 to 400 Jews. During the execution I stood close to the forest. When the shooting stopped, with my soldiers we left to Rovno. [Deposition given by Alfred W., on November 2, 1961; B162-7283]

Historical note

Kostopil is located 29 kilometers northeast of Rivne. The first records about the Jewish community go back to the late 18th century. By 1847, 153 Jews lived in the town and by the end of 19th century its population increased due to the newly built railway station. The majority of Jews were merchants or artisans, like tailors or hat and shoe makers. There were flour mills, sawmills and press oil.  There were three synagogues in the town and Jewish schools, including a private school for girls and kindergartens. In 1906, the town was largely destroyed by fire but with the help of JOINT organization, it was rebuilt soon after.  Between the two world wars, Kostopil remained under Polish rule. Many cultural and religious Zionists institutions operated in the town.  There were many factories, for example a glass factory, furniture factory, brick factory and lumber yards which were owned by Jews. In the fall of 1939, when the town was taken over by the Soviet Union the private businesses were nationalized and many Jewish cultural and religious institutions were banned. By that time many refugees from Poland settled down in the town bringing the Jewish population up to 4,500 Jews on the eve of the war.  The town was occupied by the Germans in early July 1941.  Only 10 percent of the prewar Jewish population managed to flee to the East by that time.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Immediately after the occupation a pogrom was organized during which 6 Jews were killed and Jewish houses and shops were plundered.  In summer or fall of 1941, all Jews were registered and marked with yellow distinguishing patches. They continued to live in their houses but their rights were restricted. They were also subject to performing different kinds of forced labor.  The first Aktion was conducted rather soon, on August 16, 1941 by SD and Security Police unit who arrived for this purpose from Rivne. Under the pretext of being taken for forced labor, 480 Jews, including 20 women, were taken outside the town and shot in the forest.  A ghetto was created on October 5, 1941 and existed until its liquidation in late August 1942.  The ghetto, which numbered about 4,500 inmates from Kostopil and neighboring villages, was divided in three sections: one for male inmates fit to work; another one for women, children and elderly people, and the third one for artisans and specialist. All three parts of the ghetto were fenced in with barbed wire.

The second Aktion was conducted on November 10, 1941, when about 1,400 Jews, mostly women, children, and elderly people, were shot outside the town, 2km away in the forest. The third Aktion was carried out on August 26, 1942, when the ghetto was liquidated. During this Aktion, about 4,000 Jews, including 2,500 from Kostopil and others from nearby villages that are presently integrated in Kostopil.  Supposedly, at the same time, some of the Jews were taken from Kostopil to Lisopil where they were shot. Before the liquidation of the ghetto, another mass execution was conducted in the forest of Kostopil. About 5,000 Jews from the Rivne ghetto were brought by train and murdered in the pits dug in advance on July 13-14, 1942. The Aktion was conducted by SD and Security Police from Rivne.  In all 13,000 Jews were killed in the entire district of Kostopil and only 270 Jews managed to survive the Holocaust. 

 For more information about the execution of Jews in Rivne and Lisopil please refer to the corresponding profile

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