Valozhyn (Volozhin, Valozhyn, Wolozyn) | Minsk

/ Local ambiance © Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum Jewish cemetery in Volozhyn © Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum Former Jewish house remaining from that period © Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum The location of the house where the Jews were shot and burned. Today, there is a new house built at the same place. © Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum Vera P., born in 1937: “I remember the Jews were forced to dig the pit by themselves. It was at the soccer field. After, they were lined up at the edge of the pit and shot.” © Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum Arkadiy Y., born in 1930 : « The ghetto was established some time after the Germans’ arrival. It was located on Zelyony Plats Street. All the Jews from the villages nearby were brought here.» © Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum Arkadiy Y., born in 1930, points out the location of the house where the Jews were shot and burned, some of them were still alive. © Victoria Bahr- Yahad-In Unum Yahad team during the interview © Victoria Bahr - Yahad-In Unum The memorial to 3,000 Jews murdered during different aktions in Volozhyn, located at the Jewish cemetery. © Victoria Bahr- Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Volozhyn

3 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Houses / Sport field / Jewish cemetery
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
2,000

Witness interview

Vera P., born in 1937, remembers: “Once the Germans arrived, the Jews were not able to continue with their small businesses. Their life became complicated. They were forced to move into the ghetto which was surrounded with a fence. Some Russian families whose houses ended up in the ghetto were forced to move into the Jewish houses and the Jews moved into the Russian ones. The fence was built by the Jews as well as pits in which the Jews were shot.
YIU: How long did they Jews stay in the ghetto?
W: Not too long. I remember bringing them some food. And after two weeks, they were taken to be shot.” (Eyewitness n°723, interviewed in Volozhyn, on April 23, 2014)

Soviet archives

“The extermination of the population was conducted in different ways, from mass executions, burning on fires to burying the victims alive. An eyewitness to these crimes, Buriak Mikhail Adreyevich, told the following: in August 1941, the armed Germans gathered some Jews and ordered to dig a pit. Once the pit was dug all the Jews were forced inside the pit and shot. On this day 45 Jews were shot dead, others were buried being only wounded or even alive.
In September 1942, the German punitive detachment confined about 1,500 Jews into a ghetto. Then, the ghetto was cordoned off and about 1,000 Jews were selected and taken to be shot. The shooting was conducted not far away from the village of Vishnev. They fired with rifles, guns and machine guns. If someone attempted to escape the German guards shot them dead on the spot. The small children were thrown into the pit alive, it was a kind of entertainment for Germans. Germans killed everyone who tried to escape." [Act n°2, drawn up by State Extraordinary commission (ChGK) on June 13, 1945 in the town of Volozhin, RG-22.002M/ 7021-89-4[]

German archives

"With the support of officers of the local gendarmerie post and the local police, the ghetto was surrounded by the command in the early morning on September 5, 1942. The Jews were forced to leave their homes. One could hear the cries of women, the screams of children and the scolding of the members of the command. Gunfire could be heard from different houses. Those Jews who were too sick, too young or too old to go outside were shot dead on the spot. Some Jews were as well shot on the streets for resisting, not understanding orders or not immediately following them or attempting to flee. Soon the streets, yards and gardens were covered with corpses.
In the course of the morning about 800 Jews were gathered in the smithy of the Kreis-Industrie-Kombinat. This building stood at the corner of the Oktyabrskaya and Shcherbina Streets and bordered with the river of Wolozynka. On the way there, and finally in the workshop itself, the Jews were beaten indiscriminately with rifle butts and whips and kicked with boots. The building was soon overcrowded. It was a huge chaos. The narrowness was unbearable and the children’s cries were indescribable.” [Report, B162/1304, p.141-146]

Historical note

Valozhin is a town located about 75km (47 miles) north west of Minsk. The first records about Jews date back to the 16th century.  In 1766 there were 383 Jews and by 1921 its number increased up to 1,434.  The Jewish community was large, with its Jewish cemetery and a synagogue. There was a Yeshiva school, « Tree of Life », founded in 1803 by the Rabbi Hayim Volozhyner.  Most of the Jews lived off trade and crafts. Until 1939 the town was under Polish rule and in September 1939 was taken over by the Soviets as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.  From 1939 to 1941, many Jewish refugees arrived from occupied Poland. On the eve of WWII, 3,000-3,500 Jews lived in the town. The village was occupied by German forces on June 25, 1941.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Two weeks after the Germans’ arrival, all the Jews were registered and marked. According to Yahad’s research findings, a closed ghetto was established in August 1941 and was located on the Zelyony Plats Street. The Jews were subjected to different types of forced labor.  During the German occupation of Volozhyn, there were several anti-Jewish aktions during which about 2,000 Jews were murdered . The first aktion was conducted in August 1941, during which 45 Jews were murdered. At the end of October 1941, another action was conducted at the sport stadium. According to the historical sources about 200 Jews, mostly men, were killed that day. Vera P. (witness n°723) happened to be an eyewitness of the shooting. According to her memories, the Jews were forced to dig the pit for themselves and were then shot at the edge of the pit in small groups. Another eyewitness, Arkadiy Y. (n°722) gave some significant details about the Aktion conducted on May 10, 1942 by SS members. On this day, about 1,000 Jews, including women, men and children, were gathered in houses that used to belong to Polish soldiers, and shot inside them. According to Arkadiy, before entering inside, the Jews had to undress to their underwear. They were brought to the house in groups of fifteen and formed a line outside, waiting until a German with a submachine gun, who remained at the window, gave them the to enter. From the historical sources, we know that about 1000 Jews were murdered in that way. After the shooting, the houses with corpses and some Jews still alive inside were set on fire. The last Aktion took place in August 1942, when the ghetto was liquidated. The SD members,  accompanied by German gendarmes and local police, surrounded the ghetto and shot down many Jews in the streets. Others were taken and shot in the barn. Afterwards, it was burnt down. 

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