Motol (Motal) | Brest

/ Mikhail S., born in 1931: "I am talking only about those who were shot close to our house, the ones I saw being brought. I was grazing my cows at this moment.” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum Afanasiy D., born in 1920 : «The execution didn’t last long. There weren’t many Jews. The pit was 20m long. The majority of elder people and women were shot dead on the spot where they were found.” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum Yekaterina M., born in 1931, was an eyewitness of an isolated execution of five Jews killed in the center of the village. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum Andrey  R., born in 1933 : « The Jews were gathered in the school building from the very morning. At midday all the men were taken in the direction of the Osovnitsa village while the women and elder people remained inside the school.” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Y Ivan, born in 1913: “The Germans entered in each house and forced the Jews out. They separated women and men. In case the Jews tried to escape, the Germans didn’t fire because there was an order not to. Anyway they had nowhere to go”. © Nicolas Tkatchouk/ Andrey  G., born in 1925: “Jewish men were first gathered in a barn and then from there taken in groups of fifteen to the pit.” © Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum Yahad’s team with a witness during an interview. © Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum Olga R., born in 1921: “The women and the children were shot along with the Jews who were found in hiding. There wasn’t any pit. They were shot on the ground. ” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum Stepan Sh., born in 1935: “The local villagers were requisitioned to dig and fill in the pit after the execution.”   ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum This is the execution site, located in the forest near the village of Osnovnitsa, where 1,400 Jewish men killed in two mass graves (four pits according to the archives) on August 2, 1941. Execution site n°1 ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum Execution site, located near the village of Osovnitsa, where according to the witnesses about 500 women and children were executed on August 2, 1941.. Execution site n°2 © Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum According to the archives 1,500 women, elder people and children were killed at this place in 1942. It was located near the kolkhoz called "Gay". There is no memorial at this place. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum Execution site of 32 women, undocumented so far. The execution site is located in the town of Motol. There is no memorial on the site. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum The picture of a class in front of a school in Motol. From personal witness’ archive. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum The picture of a Jewish school in Motol. From personal witness’ archive. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Motol and in Osovnitsa

4 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Forest (1); near the kolkhoz, woods called "Gay" (2); Behind the Jewish cemetery(3); Street near the houses (4)
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
Over 3,000

Witness interview

Andrey R., born in 1933, an eyewitness to the shooting of Jewish men: “The Jews were lined up in a column in groups of fours. They were guarded by Germans from both sides and at the rear of the column. They were taken to the barn. The Germans took some twenty Jewish men and forced them to dig the pit. They dug the first one, because the second one was dug by requisitioned villagers. It was my father, who back then was a desyatnik, was ordered to find people to do that job. When I came to the site the first pit had been already filled in, and the villagers were about to dig another one. Once the pit was ready, the shooting continued. The Jews were brought from the barn in groups of fifteen. The execution site was about 2km away from the barn where they were gathered. Once on the site, the Jews had to line up at the edge of the pit and shot with sub machine guns.” (Witness n°208, interviewed in Motol, on August 13, 2008)

Soviet archives

"The Jewish men were told that they would be taken to another town for forced labor. However, they were taken to the village of Osovnitsa. Then, they were brought in groups to the field, located 500 meters east from the village. The Jews who were waiting their turn were ordered to sing. Once there, the men had to get undressed and were shot in the pits. During the shooting, all of the Jews were forced to kneel. Each pit measured 25 meters long, 3 meters large and 2 meters deep. On this day the Germans killed 1,400 men." [Act drawn up by State Soviet Commission (ChGK) after the liberation; RG22.022M:7021-90-27]

Historical note

Motol is located in Western Belarus, about 40km northwest of Pinsk and 145km east of Brest. Motal is the birthplace and childhood home of Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel. The first records about the Jewish community go back to 17th century. According to the 1806 census, there were 152 Jews in Motol and by 1897 it population had reached 1,354 Jews comprising 32% of the total population. In 1921, 1,140 (26%) lived in the town.  The majority of Jews lived on small scaled trade and craft. Small industry started to develop in Motol at the end of the 19th century with the establishment of two candle workshops, three smithies, a mill, and butter factory. There were two synagogues in the town and a heder. A Zionist movement operated in the town until 1939 when it was taken over by Soviet Union.   According to the estimation on the eve of the war there were about 3,000 Jews living in the town.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Motol is occupied by German forces in early July 1941. Shortly after the occupation all the Jews were marked with white armbands bearing Star of David. 12 Jewish men were selected and displaced to Ivanovo. Their destiny is unknown, but most probably they were shot dead along with the local Jews. One month later, on August 3, 1941, the first execution took place. Beforehand all the Jewish population was gathered at the market place and divided in two groups. As a results of the cross referring different sources, including archives and testimonies of the local witnesses recorded by Yahad,  some 1,400 Jewish men taken outside Motol towards the village of Osovnitsa, located 2km away, where they were first confined into the barn, and then in groups taken to the pit  to be shot.  According to the act drawn up by Soviet archives, the remaining 1,600 Jewish women, children and elder people were taken the same day to the place called Gay, where they were shot. However, by comparing different depositions and testimonies we found out that some women were well taken to Osovnitsa, and locked up in the barn. They were shot along with the men. The remaining women, it is difficult to establish the exact number, were first confined in the school building along with children and elder people, and then, one or two days later, were taken to  place called Gay, located close to the kolkhoz n°2, to be shot. They were shot on the ground, there were no pits dug. Those Jews who weren’t able to walk were shot dead on the way to the execution site. Some Jews who managed to hide and survive the first execution, if found were as well taken to Gay to be shot.

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