Rivne (Rovno, Rowne) | Rivne

A group of religious Jews pose outside a building in the Rovno ghetto. © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Sarah (Sally) Light Dr. Aaron Shafer, an opthamologist, sits at his desk in Rovno. © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Sarah (Sally) Light Hechalutz members Kibbutz training  carpentry workshop  Moshe Neuman Noach Szleczynski  Rowne, 1933  © Ghetto Fighters’  House Museum, Israel Photo Archive Hakolective Hachalutzi (The collective Pioneer)  members who could not attend Hechalutz  Rowne, 20 June 1933   © Ghetto Fighters’  House Museum, Israel  Photo Archive Gordonia summer camp  Novostaw (near Rivne), 1937  © Ghetto Fighters’  House Museum, Israel  Photo Archive / Vasyl Y., born in 1924: “The Jews were shot here on the Bila Street. Before that, the Polish troops were stationed there, and after the munition warehouse. They took the Jews to these ancient warehouses where they had to undress.” ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad Oleksiy M., born in 1925, told about his Jewish friends who came to see him from the ghetto in Rivne: “They came on the sly to ask for food and get warm. We gave them some potatoes and bread.”©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Antonina R., born in 1926: “Even though the territory was fenced in with barbed wire, I could see the shootings through a hole.  The long ditches were dug in advance. A wooden place had been placed across it lengthwise. “ ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Yahad team during the interview at the execution site in Rivne. ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The execution site of about 4,000 Jews who stayed in hiding after the liquidation of the ghetto. 80,000 prisoners of war were shot here as well. ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews from Derazhne, Stepan and Kostopil

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Military base/Forest
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
About 15,000

Witness interview

Antonina R., born in 1926, remembered the shooting of Jews. “It happened in the area of the military base, on the Bila street. Even though the territory was fenced in with barbed wire, I could see the shootings through a hole. The long ditches were dug in advance. A wooden plank had been placed across it lengthwise. The Jews moved quickly across the board and were fired upon. There were men, women, and children among the victims. While one group was about to be shot, others waited aside and could see everything. Before being shot they had to undress completely. I think the shooting was conducted by Germans. They were many on the site.” (Eyewitness n°1415, interviewed in Rivne, on April 7, 2012)

Soviet archives

“After a while, the Judenrat received an order to gather all the Jews without Fachhausweiss, -who were the majority, in Hrabinka, in the eastern part of the city on November 7, 1941. As they were told to take food provisions for three days, they thought they would be relocated to a camp. Nobody suspected that they would be shot. At the gathering point, all valuables and food were confiscated. This big crowd was escorted by SS 2km away from Rovno to a place, called Sosenki. After, the Jews were taken in groups to the pits dug in advance. Once there, they were forced to undress. After that, they had to walk naked on the logs to get inside the pit. While getting down, they were shot with submachine guns. After the shooting, the Germans threw grenades inside the pit. The shootings lasted for three days and three nights, from November 7 to November 10, 1941. The Germans shot 17,500 people in Sosenki.” [Deposition of Haim L., born in 1902 to the State Extraordinary Commission; RG-22.002M. Fond 7021, Opis, 71, Delo 67]

German archives

“I saw the Jews being forced to undress and pass by the tube towards the two or three pits located at its end. From my position, I couldn’t see the pits but I could hear the gunshots, and it was clear to me that the Jews were about to be executed. From the rumors, I know that it was a SD commando who conducted the shooting. I think that we left the same evening. But I knew that the executions didn’t finish by that time. The following day, I learned that the members of the police shot the Jews on their way to the pits. When we were about to leave I saw some Jews sitting on the roadway. They were invalids who couldn’t move forward.” [Deposition of a member of battalion unit 320, Erwin D., made on September 17, 1960; B162-2891]

Historical note

Rivne is located on the banks of the Ustya River about 300 km west of Kyiv. The first know records of the Jewish community dates back to the 16th century.  According to the 1765 census, 881 Jews were living in Rivne.  The Jewish population grew up quickly. Thus, in 1847 there were 3,788 Jews and in 1913, they were already 19,791, comprising 57% of the total population. The majority of Jews lived off small scale trade and handcraft. Jews also owned significant numbers of industrial enterprises. There were several synagogues (at least 20 according to one source), a Jewish cemetery, a Tarbut high school, Jewish colleges, and a Jewish library. Variable religious and cultural institution, for instance a Zionist movement, operated in the early 19th century.  In 1921, 21,702 Jews lived in Rivne (constituting 71% of the general population), and in 1931 the numbers reached 22,737 (56%). In 1939, the village was taken over by Soviets as a result of Molotov–Ribbentrop agreement.  From September 1939, the Jewish school and other cultural and religious institutions were closed. On the eve of the war about 23,000 Jews, including the refugees from the West, lived in Rivne.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Rivne was occupied by Germans on June 28, 1941.Within the first two months of the occupation, the town was taken over by German military administration and only in September it was transferred to a civil administration. As it was the regional center many different units were stationed in Rivne and conducted executions in the town and in the other towns of the region.  Thus, the majority of the executions were conducted by the Security police and SD units and assisted by members of Police battalion n°320 and local Ukrainian criminal police. The first executions started immediately after the German arrival. During the summer, about 1,000 Jews were murdered in different places. Once the civil administration was set on, all the Jews were marked with distinguishing badges and were subjected to perform different kind of forced labor. They were systematically forced to pay a big contribution to the Germans. The Judenrat was established as well, similar to many big towns and villages in the region. The first big mass execution was conducted on November 7, 1941 and lasted for three days. During this execution approximately 17,500 to 21,000 Jews who were deemed unfit to work were gathered and taken to a pine forest called Sosenky, 6km away from Rivne, where they were shot in pits dug in advance by Soviet prisoners of war.  The remaining 5,000 to 5,200 Jews were confined in the ghetto, created on December 1941 and liquidated in mid-July 1942.  During the liquidation, the Jews were taken by truck to Kostopil where they were shot. Many Jews, especially younger ones, managed to flee. Those who were found were shot in the fall of 1942 at the military base on the Bila Street along with Soviet prisoners of war. According to the witness interviewed by Yahad-In Unum, the Jews were taken to the place of shooting in covered trucks, they were forced to undress in a warehouse and then had to run towards the pit. There were women, children and elderly people among the victims. Several hundred Jews managed to survive the Holocaust.

For more information about the execution in Kostopil please refer to the corresponding profile

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