Chereya (Czereja) | Vitebsk 

/ The remaining tombstones at the Jewish cemetery. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad –  In Unum The Yahad team at the cemetery in Chereya. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad –  In Unum The Yahad team at one of the mass graves. Back then there was a silo pit that as used as a mass grave once the first pit was filled in. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad –  In Unum The memorial located on one of the mass graves. Back then it was a pit dug using explosives. In all, 800 Jews were murdered in two mass graves in March 1942. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad –  In Unum A panorama picture of the execution site with the memorial. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad –  In Unum A panorama picture of the execution site where a group of ten or twenty elderly people were shot. Their bodies were buried in the mass grave along with the other victims. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad –  In Unum The road taken by the Jews to the execution site.  © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad –  In Unum Vladislav S., born in 1935: “They were driven here in an armed convoy with dogs. Outside the village there was a pit, the Jews were shot on the edge of the pit and thrown into it.”© Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad –  In Unum Vladimir M., born in 1931: “The Jews were killed in March 1942. March 5th. It was really freezing that day. About 30-40 degrees below zero. You couldn’t go outside.”© Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad –  In Unum Dmitri P., born in 1932 : “The Jews were forced to repair the road that passed by the lake. They weren’t guarded while worked. There was no need because they obeyed the Germans orders.” © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad –  In Unum Sofia D., born in 1926: “One Jewish woman of about 70 refused to go and wanted to hide inside the house, but she was beaten to death.”© Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad –  In Unum

Execution of Jews in Chereya

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Silo pit (1); Ditch (2)
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:

Witness interview

Vladislav S., born in 1935: “Y. U. : Do you know where exactly Jews were exterminated in Chereya ?
Witness: I know one place on Zamkovaya street, the other place is here on Halnevichskaya street, near the orthodox cemetery. The village was surrounded, though nobody tried to escape. Some must have hidden and survived. But that was rare. The majority of them were marched in rows of four along this street. Entire families were there. The pharmacist was offered the chance to survive without his family, but he refused. They were driven here, surrounded by an armed convoy with dogs. Outside the village there was a pit, the Jews were shot on the edge of the pit and thrown in. Some were dead, some were still alive…. There was some movement inside the pit. That was their fate. I saw it with my own eyes, how they [Jews] were marched along this street. In winter, some people went to the pit to look for valuables. But most of the population empathized with the Jews.
Y. U. : When Jews were taken down the street, were there only men on the group? Were there women or children?
Witness: All of them were there. There were whole families.
Y. U. : Did they have anything with them? Did they have any bags or suitcases?
Witness: Most of them weren’t carrying anything. They already knew where they were going and why. It was not a secret to them.
Y. U. : Did they have some special signs on their clothes?
Witness: I didn’t see. But as far as I remember, they all were marked.” (Witness n°1026B, interviewed in Chereya, on October 9, 2019)

Historical note

Chereya is a village located 104 km (65mi) southeast of Vitebsk. The first Jews started to settle there in the second half of the 18th century. In 1766, 399 Jews lived in the village. By 1880, the Jewish community had grown up to 1,292 individuals, making up 62% of the total population. The majority of Jews lived off commerce, forest exploitation and handcraft. The community had several synagogues, prayer houses and a cemetery. Under the Soviet regime, the number of Jews decreased due to immigration as many moved to bigger towns. Consequently, by 1926 only 1,098 Jews lived in Chereya. 

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Chereya was occupied by German troops on July 5, 1941. Contrary to other localities in the region, the Chereya Jews continued to live in their houses until early March 1942. However, all the Jews were marked, forced to carry out hard labor and were forbidden from interacting with the local population. On 5 March 1942, the Germans carried out a series of mass executions, killing most of the local Jews. That day, all the Jews, except for those who had managed to go into hiding, were rounded up at their homes and taken to the square in front of the Selsoviet [rural administration] building. Several Jews who attempted to escape were shot on the spot.  According to the local witness n°1027B, a group of ten or twenty elderly people, too weak to walk, were selected and shot near the building on the ground. The remaining Jews were marched outside the village to be shot. According to the accounts of the local witnesses interviewed by Yahad, the Jews were shot in two pits. The first pit was dug with the help of explosives because the ground was frozen. The first pit was not big enough for all the victims, so a silo pit was used as a second grave. The Jews were shot in groups of ten or twenty on the edge of the pit. After the shooting, the pits were filed in by requisitioned villagers. Three or four days later, a group of four Jews who had managed to hide during the main mass execution were found and shot dead, allegedly by the local police.

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