Bila Tserkva (Belaya Tserkov) | Kyiv

/ Musia G., born in 1938, a Jewish survivor: “My mother managed to evacuate. My brother and I were supposed to evacuate the next day. But the Germans arrived and we had to stay in Bila Tserkva.” © Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum Musia G., born in 1938, showing family pictures to the Yahad team. © Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum A family portrait of Musia, her brother Avram, her father, mother and grandfather. The grandfather was shot in the Crimea. Her father perished at front. © Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The former marketplace in Bila Tserkva. © Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum © Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The former Jewish synagogue. Today there is a technical college in the building. © Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum The memorial in the center of Bila Tserkva in memory of Jews murdered here during the war. © Les Kasyanov/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Bila Tserkva

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
3rd site near marketplace (1), 7th military site (2); 5th military site (3)
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
About 5,000

Witness interview

Fenia R., born in 1914: “P.D: Do you remember if the Germans rounded up the Jews here for the shootings?
F.R: Yes. One day, on my way back from the market, I saw some Germans armed with submachine guns and dogs escorting around a hundred Jews to be shot. Among them I recognized our paediatrician, Zelkina. I shouted to her “why you didn’t listen to me!”. This woman was throwing bricks at the Germans. She answered me: “they will do the same thing to you [non-Jewish population].” A very good friend of mine was Jewish. She was a very beautiful woman. Her name was Roza. She used to work in the shoe shop. She was also among these people being led away to the execution. I told her: “Rozachka, why didn’t you leave?”. She answered me: “My husband is Ukrainian, Boichenko his last name, I didn’t think they would shoot me.” There were also children from the orphanage, about fifteen of them.
P.D: Do you remember where exactly the Jews were shot?
F.R: At the sites n°3, 5, near the covered marketplace, and 7.
P.D: Why did they choose those locations?
F.R: Practically, the sites were located near the POW camps. POWs were in charge of digging the pits in which they [the Jews] were shot. Once the pit was filled in, the ground continued moving.” (Witness n°95, interviewed in Bila Tserkva, on August 5, 2004)

Soviet archives

“When I was working on the Seventh Site, on many occasions during the period between May 22, 1942 and July 26, 1943, on Fridays and Tuesdays, I saw Gestapo [men] bringing hoards of Soviet people in trucks wearing only their underwear from the fenced off part of the camp [POW camp], to a fenced off site near the camp, and shooting these people on the edge of a pit that had been dug for this purpose. Among the doomed there were children, women, and elderly people. Each time, 30-40 people from a single truck were shot. I heard the frenzied cries of the dying people during this bloody massacre. Only Germans perpetrated the massacre. A total of about 4,500 people were killed there.” [Deposition of Adam Ye., born in 1914, given to the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on January 5, 1944; GARF 7021-65-241]

German archives

“Then Blobel ordered me to have the children executed. I asked him, “By whom should the shooting be carried out?” He answered, “By the Waffen-SS”. I raised an objection and said, “They are all young men. How are we going to answer to them if we make them shoot small children?” To this he said, “Then use your men.” I then said, “How can they do that? They have small children as well.” This tug-of-war lasted about ten minutes. I suggested that the Ukrainian militia of the Feldkommandant should shoot the children. There were no objections from either side to this suggestion. The Wehrmacht had already dug a grave rather far away. The battalion truck was used to bring the children to the execution site. The children were brought along by a truck. […]
Q: Who gave the order to shoot?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Did you go to the site where the children were shot?
A: No, I only went twice to the shooting range where the adults and the first group of children were shot. One of my men made me come the first time because there was a lot of blood flowing near the killing site.
Q: You said that Ukrainians must have shot the children. Someone had to give them an order to do so?
A: The Feldkommandant did.
Q: How many children were shot?
A: During the negotiations we mentioned 26 children. (…)
Q: Did you admit that the second group of children was actually shot?
A: I was personally present during the shooting of 26 children.
Q: Who have the order to shoot?
A I didn’t say a word at the killing site. My only task was to supervise the shooting. Blobel gave me an order, at the moment when he held a knife at my neck. (…). I went to the woods by myself. The Wehrmacht had already dug the pit. The children were brought in by truck. I had nothing to do with the technical procedure. The Ukrainians were standing around shaking. The children were taken off the truck. They were shot on the edge of the pit in that way so that they fell into it. The Ukrainians did not aim at one part of the body. They [the victims] fell into the grave. The wailing was indescribable. I shall never forget the scene for my whole life. I find it very hard to bear. I particularly remember a small blond girl who took me by hand. She was shot shortly after. The grave was near some woods. It was not near the shooting-range. The execution must have taken place in the afternoon at about 3.30 or 4.00. It took place the day after the discussions at the Feldkommandanten [field commandant’s office […].” [Interrogatory of an SK4a member, Belaya Tserkov Teilkommando’s chief, August Häfner, given in Darmstadt on May 31,1965; BArch B162-5652 p.316 / 204 AR-Z 269/60 Vol. XII p.2909]

Historical note

Bila Tserkva is located in the central Ukraine, 75 km (47mi) south-west of Kyiv. The first records of the Jewish community go back to the late 16th century. In 1646, about 100 households out of 800 were Jewish. The community suffered from different pogroms conducted in 1648 and 1703 where the majority of the Jewish population was killed. After that the Jews started to settle down again in the town and by 1765 the community had reached 1,475 Jews. The community increased to 6,665 in 1847, and 18,720 in 1897, comprising more than a half of the total population.  The majority of Jews at that time were involved in grain trade and sugar industry. Many of the Jews were artisans or lived off small scale trade. The Jewish community continued to suffer from pogroms carried out in 1905 and 1918-1919. In 1922, there were 18 synagogues in the town, a cemetery and a dozen Jewish educational institutions including pedagogical and agricultural schools. In the mid-1920s, many Jews moved out from Bila Tserkva to the newly created Jewish agricultural settlements, colonies, in the Kherson region. In 1926, 15,624 Jews lived in the town, making up 36% of the total population. Under the Soviet Union, in the 1930s, many educational, cultural, and political institutions were closed. The artisans were forced into the cooperatives, and private businesses were nationalized by the State. According to historian A. Kruglov, 9,284 Jews lived in Bila Tserkva on the eve of the war, making up 20% of the total population.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Bila Trserkva was occupied by the Germans on July 16, 1941. Only a small proportion of the Jewish population had time to evacuate. The Jewish men of eligible age were drafted to the army. Shortly after the occupation, all the remaining Jews were registered and marked with yellow Stars of David.  They were also forced to perform different tasks. The first shootings of the Jews suspected of being communists were conducted during the first days of the occupation. Circa. 5 Jews (according to another source between 17 and 30) were shot in one of the basements of the Brum trade premises. The Jewish community of Bila Tserkva was exterminated at four different locations in the town: in the Shkerivsky forest, and in the third, fifth, and seventh military areas. The shootings were conducted by members of Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C and by Ukrainian auxiliary policemen throughout 1941-1942.

The majority of the Jewish community was murdered during the first mass execution conducted on August 19-22, 1941, during which between 4,000 and 5,000 Jews were summoned for registration. Those who showed up were rounded up and taken in small groups to shooting range in the vicinity of the Soviet POW camp on Aleksandriyskii Avenue to be shot, known as well as 3rd military area. The shootings continued for several days. On one of those days circa. 90 Jewish children were shot somewhere in the forest outside Bila Tserkva by Ukrainian auxiliary police after German soldiers refused to execute them. The children had been detained beforehand in the basement of the school in terrible conditions. The second mass execution took place in the second half of August 1941, when at least 1,000 Jews were taken to the Soviet POW camp on Krasnoarmeyskaya Street, where they were shot in an area known as the 7th military base. The isolated killing of Jews from the nearby villages and children from the mixed families continued at this location throughout 1941 and 1942. It is impossible to determine the total number of Jews who were shot to death at the 7th military site. Later, Stalag 334 was created nearby. Up to 300 Jewish POWs were killed there. Those who survived the August massacre were mainly skilled workers and their families, and were resettled in a building where they continued to live before being shot in turn. In the autumn of 1943, in order to hide the traces of their crimes, the bodies of the victims murdered at the 7th military site were dug up and burned during Operation 1005.

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