Sarny | Rivne

Anna Z., born in 1941: ‘Locals hid Jews within their families, although the Germans warned them that if they hid any Jews, their whole family would be killed.”© Guillaume Ribot /Yahad-In Unum Paraskovia B, born in 1926:”The Jews were forced to move from their houses to the ghetto. They were also marked with yellow distinguishing badges on their chests and backs.”© Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum Yahad-In Unum’s team interviewing one of the witnesses in Sarny.   © Guillaume Ribot  /Yahad-In Unum Maryna P., born in 1912:”The ghetto spread all over the entire city. It was fenced in with barbed wire and there was one entrance that was guarded by the policemen.”  © Guillaume Ribot  /Yahad-In Unum Buildings in today’s Sarny that used to be part of the ghetto.  © Guillaume Ribot  /Yahad-In Unum According to the testimonies, this football field used to be the site of Jewish and Polish cemeteries  © Guillaume Ribot  /Yahad-In Unum Anna Z. showing the execution site to Yahad-In Unum   © Guillaume Ribot /Yahad-In Unum The execution site of the Sary Jews. © Guillaume Ribot  /Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Sarny

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Near the forest
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
About 14,000

Witness interview

Anna Z., born in 1941, recalls: ‘Locals hid Jews within their families, although the Germans warned them that if they hid any Jews, their whole family would be killed. The local people were afraid, but they helped the Jews anyway. That is how a few Jews managed to survive. There was a Jewish woman who hid in a village nearby. Her name was Kisiel. She survived the war. After many years, she returned to thank the woman who saved her life. “(Testimony N°549, interviewed in Sarny, on January 4th, 2008).

Soviet archives

“At the end of August, we were displaced in groups of 300-400-500 people from the ghetto to another place. Once there we noticed that all the Jews from the Sarny district were confined here. The first day, we did not know what would happen to us, but the following day, when the Germans started to take the first groups of Jews to the forest, we understood that we would be killed. One of the inmates detained in the camp with me had scissors that we used to manage to cut the barbed wire behind a post. We escaped despite the machine gun and rifle gunshots fired by the German and Ukrainian police”. [Act drawn up by the State Extraordinary Commission ; RG.22-002M : Fond 7021, Opis 71, Delo 70]

German archives

“The Jews who were taken to the forest had to undress 50m away from the pits. Then, they were led by Germans to the pits where they had to lie down on the Soviet citizens who had been shot beforehand. An unknown German fired at the victims with a submachine gun. There was one German at each pit. After a while, the accused saw men and women being killed in different pits as well as about 30 prisoners digging a new pit.” [Questioning protocol of the accused Ivan B., drawn up on July 16th, 1947; B162-7287, AR-Z23/1964 p. 349]

Historical note

Sarny is a town located 83 km northeast of Rivne. The establishment of the railroad station prompted the first settlement of Jews in 1903. After World War I, the Jewish population in Sarny numbered 2,808. It increased to 3,414 in 1931. In 1937, there were already 4,950 Jews living in the town. Tarbut school and many other Jewish institutions were disbanded when the Soviets arrived in 1939. Many Jews who arrived from western Poland as refugees were subsequently accused of being anti-Soviet activists and were shortly displaced to the East. On the eve of the German occupation, approximately 6,000 Jews lived in Sarny. 

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Germans occupied Sarny on July 5th, 1941. Shortly after the occupation, the Jews were marked with the Star of David in the beginning and then with yellow distinguishing badges.  All the Jews fit to work were forced to perform hard manual work. A closed ghetto was established only in early April 1942 and existed for about five months.   It was fenced in with barbed wire and numbered not only local Jews but also those who were displaced from the nearby villages. According to some sources, there was another ghetto for craftsmen and their families. The living conditions were terrible and, as a result, many Jews died. The witnesses interviewed by Yahad claim that the villagers were prohibited from selling food to the Jews. At its peak, in late August 1942, about 14,000 Jews resided in the ghetto.  The ghetto was liquidated on August 27th, 1942, by the Security Police and SD who arrived from Rivne for this purpose. On this day the Jews were taken in groups of 400-500 to the pits dug in advance near the forest, 1-2km from Sarny.  According to the witnesses interviewed by Yahad, there were 3 pits on the site, dug by Jews themselves. Some Jews organized a diversion by putting the houses on fire and attempted to escape. Several hundred managed to flee, but many of them were recaptured by the police and shot shortly after. During this aktion, 2,500 people were killed on the spot, 1,000 died in the burning buildings and the remaining Jews, about 13,000, were murdered in the pits.

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