Shepetivka (Shepetovka) | Khmelnytskyi

Center of Shepetivka, 1920s. ©Taken from jewua.org The streets of Shepetivka. Pre-revolution time. ©Taken from jewua.org A cheder in Shepetovka. Picture courtesy of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust ©Taken from jewua.org A synagogue in Shepetivka. ©Taken from jewua.org / Natalia D., born in 1932: “While being confined in the ghetto all the Jews fit to work were taken for forced labor. Men were taken in groups of 15-20 to the farm or cleaning works.” © Victoria Bahr/Yahad-In Unum Vasyl B., born in 1926: “I saw the pit after the shooting. It wasn’t filled in immediately. The bodies weren’t arranged and the clothes were thrown in the grave.” © Victoria Bahr/Yahad-In Unum A local witness with Yahad’s team at the entrance of the former ghetto located at this place. © Victoria Bahr/Yahad-In Unum Entrance to the camp of the Soviet prisoners f war. © Victoria Bahr/Yahad-In Unum The execution site in the Tsevukha forest, outside Shepetivka. © Victoria Bahr/Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Shepetivka

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Woods
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
About 4,000

Witness interview

Vasyl B., born in 1926: “Immediately after the occupation, many Jews were brought here from the surrounding villages, like Oleksyntsi, Shepyntsi and Velyky Hlybochok. Later, they were all displaced to the ghetto which was fenced in with barbed wire. They moved to the ghetto by themselves taking only the most necessary things. The fence which was built by the Jews themselves and some requisitioned local men was about 2m high. It was strictly forbidden to leave ghetto’s territory. The entrance was guarded by local police. If someone was found outside the ghetto he was shot dead on the spot. All the Jews were marked with yellow distinguishing patches on their clothes, so it was easy to recognize them.” (Witness n°1791, interviewed in Shumsk, on August 3, 2013)

Soviet archives

«The regime was severe. The inmates could circulate inside the ghetto only on certain hours. The gendarmes would come twice per day in groups of five or six armed with rubber batons. During such visits all the Jewish population had to be present. They took as many children and elders as they wanted, from ten to fifteen, and shot them in front of the synagogue. Once back from forced labor the parents found their children dead, rushed to their corpses and cried. The children were buried inside the ghetto, in front of the synagogue.
In winter, during the frost, the police forced lightly dressed women outside to unload the iron. They worked for 14 hours in a row. Almost all of them came back with frozen hands, feet and faces. […]
Just before the liquidation of the ghetto, the Gendarmerie took the best furniture. The ghetto inmates had to pay big amount of money under the pretext of paying taxes. One part of the ghetto, the majority of who were women, children and elder people were shot during summer 1942. The Germans spared only specialists and other workers.
In the evening on the eve of the execution the gendarmes gathered all the population and proceeded to selection. Those who were selected were locked up inside the synagogue. In that way they were tormented until the last moment, because they knew that the following morning they would be killed.”
[Deposition of a local doctor O.Stetsyuk, given to the State Extraordinary Commision (ChGK) in May 1944; RG.22-002M:7021-64/818]

German archives

“An Aktion against the Jews was conducted in the forest near Shepetovka. There were many big bomb shells in the forest. As a Kradmelder [translator’s note: motocycle driver], I had to to present the drivers’ report to the chief of the unit. For this reason I went to the bomb shells. […]
The Jews were brought with the covered LKW trucks. They were crammed inside like the box of crayons. Thus, when the LKW trucks arrived, the Jews, including men, women, children, babies and elder people were taken to the bomb craters. The victims were marching admirably calmly. There weren’t any attempts of escaping. The remained standing at the edge of the craters facing the pits. The victims were killed at that place with a gun in the nape of the neck by several members of the unit. After a gunshot the victims fell inside the pit which was about 2,50m deep and 6-8m in diameter. During the execution I was standing at a certain distance from the bomb shells, about 20-30m away. But I need to mention that I wasn’t present during the entire execution. I had also to transmit some other information. [Interrogation of Paul W., during the trial against the Police battalion n°45; B162-6666 , p.3]

Historical note

Shepetivka is located 100 km away from Khmelnytskyi and 270 km east of Kyiv. The first record about Jewish community goes back to the end of the 15th century, however the majority if not all of the community was destroyed during Khmelnytskyi uprising in 1648. By 1847 the community was reborn and numbered 1,042 Jews, and by 1897 it represented almost the half of the total population, 3,880 Jews lived in the town. Before 1917 there were seven synagogues and four cheders. The majority of Jews lived off small scaled trade or were artisans. Once the town was taken over by Soviet union all the synagogues and religious institutions were closed. On the eve of the war 4,844 Jews making up only 20% of the total population lived in the town. Shepetivka was occupied by Germans on July 5, 1941. By that time about 1,500 Jew managed to evacuate leaving behind 3,200 Jews, according to Martin Dean.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Shortly after the occupation all the Jews were registered and marked with yellow distinguishing badges. The first masse execution took place on July 28, 1941, when about 800 Jews, mostly male, were rounded up under the pretext of being taken to forced labor, were taken to the forest to be shot. The aktion was conducted by Reserve Police battalion n°45. On August 23, 1941, and September 1, 1941, the same battalion shot dead 61 and 45 Jews respectively. The ghetto was created only December 1941 and numbered not only local Jews, but also those who were forced to move from the nearing villages, for instance Sudilkov. The ghetto consisted of three streets and was fenced in with barbed wire. Due to overcrowding and poor living conditions, typhus broke out. Many Jews, especially elderly and children died. According to the sources, there were several isolated killings of the ghetto inmates during all its existence. On June 25, 1942, another large scale execution was conducted against 2,500 Jewish inmates, mainly children, women and elder people. On this day, the victims were taken on trucks to Tsvetukha forest outside the town to be shot. Before being shot they were forced to strip naked and then in groups of three or four were lined up at the edge of the pit. The remaining 500 Jewish specialists and their families were shot on September 10-11, 1942, at the same execution site.  Besides the Jewish victims, there were non-Jews who were shot at the same place.

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