Chortkiv (Chortkov, Czortkow) | Ternopil

The Great Synagogue of Chortkiv ©Photo archive, taken from / Bogdan D., born in 1931: “Local Jews as well as those from the surrounding area were confined in the ghetto established in Chortkiv.”  ©Nikolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum Maria G., born in 1924: “The ghetto inmates were murdered over the course of several Aktions carried out by the Germans.”  ©Nikolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum David D., born in 1927: “During the ghetto liquidation, the Jews were murdered at the execution site located at the former Soviet military airfield. ” ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad - In Unum Bogdan L., born in 1929: “After the ghetto liquidation, the Jewish houses were looted by the Germans and some locals.”  ©Nikolas Tkatchouk/Yahad - In Unum The road taken by the Jews on their way to the execution site at the former Soviet military airfield.   ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad - In Unum At this site, near the Former Soviet military airfield, the Jews of Chortkiv ghetto were killed during its liquidation on June 16, 1943. There is no memorial which indicates the mass graves. ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Chortkiv

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Military airfield
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Over 5,000

Witness interview

Maria G., born in 1924: "A ghetto was established in Chortkiv several months after the Germans’ arrival. All the Jews living in the town were forced to move in. It was surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by Gestapo men placed at 10 meter intervals. The main entrance was in front of the marketplace and the Jewish houses overlooking streets outside the ghetto have been marked with signs reading "No entry!” I used to bring potatoes to the starving ghetto inmates, who were constantly begging for food." (Testimony N°YIU836U, interviewed in Chortkiv, on May 18, 2009)

Soviet archives

"On the night of August 26-27, 1942, gendarmes and policemen arrived in the area where the Jews were settled. They surrounded the whole area and started shooting at the houses. People who ran out of their homes were shot. Many people died that night. The murderers were the Gestapo men, the Criminal Police, the Gendarmerie, the Sonderkommandos and the policemen. We were also taken from our house and brought to the market square. In the moonlight, we could see the tables with refreshments and bottles of wine. Gestapo men and their leader were sitting at these tables. One Gestapo man gave K. some sheets of paper. K. looked at them and said that there were only 2,000 people and that it wasn’t enough. There were also 35 cars and many members of the command staff.
Then, at 4 a.m., the 2,000 people were taken to the prison. On the way, many tried to escape. The Germans opened fire, as a result there were many dead bodies in the streets. When we arrived at the prison yard, there were 800 people standing on the side, where I was with my mother and sister, there were other people on the other site, but I don’t know their number. Later on, I learned from the Jewish council that 300 people had been murdered that night." [Deposition of Zonia Berkovich, a Jewish survivor, given to State Extraordinary Soviet Commission(ChGK), on June 22, 1944; GARF 7021-75-107/Copy USHMM RG.22-002M]

German archives

"I have only witnessed, and was forced to witness, one shooting action. […] When I arrived at the execution site, the shooting had already started. I was ordered to bring a breakfast and plenty of alcohol to the Schutzpolizei commando and our people - of whom I can only recall of R. As far as I can remember, this Aktion took place in late autumn or early winter 1942 – in any case, there was already snow. On the orders of the head of our department – I think it was V. - I left Czortkow [today Chortkiv] with 20 bottles of schnapps and some bread and I got to the indicated place. The site was surrounded by Schupo policemen. About 150 Jews were rounded up inside the enclosed area – this number is not perfectly reliable, I could be wrong. A few Schutzpolizei trucks were parked nearby. There was a pit dug (I don’t remember its dimensions). I could already hear firing from a distance. The Aktion must have been carried out for two hours already. I arrived there about 11 am. I drove the car to about 10-12m from the pit. As I was going down, I saw […] the corpses of men, women and children, all mixed together in the pit. Other Jewish victims were waiting at the edge of the pit, completely naked. " [Deposition of Edward L., Sicherheitspolizei, made in Rodheim, on March 15, 1965, BARch162-5165, p.44]

Historical note

Chortkiv is located about 70 km (43mi) southeast of Ternopil. The town was first mentioned in 1522 as a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The first trace of the Jewish community dates back to the early 16th century. In 1648-1649, however, during the Cossack Uprising, it was completely destroyed. It is only at the beginning of 18th century that the Jews were encouraged to return to Chortkiv and granted economic and civil rights. In 1765, there were 746 Jewish residents settled in the town. A synagogue and a Jewish cemetery were established. In 1772, the town was transferred to the Austrian Empire where it remained until 1918. The Jewish community continued to grow, and according to 1900 census, Chortkiv comprised 3,146 Jews, making up over 61% of the total population. Local Jews were mainly merchants and artisans, running most of the businesses in town, but there were also skilled workers, as well as Jews engaged in agriculture. The Jews of Chortkiv were active in politics, especially in the beginning of the 20th century. Hassidism, which was a dominant religion until the mid-19th century, was then opposed by an important Zionist movement. A Hebrew-language Jewish school was opened. In 1918-1919, the town became part of the Western Ukrainian Republic before being taken over by Poland, except for the short period of the Soviet rule, which occurred in 1920. In 1921, there were 3,314 Jews living in the town, comprising about 64% of the total population. The local Jews, experiencing economic difficulties at the end of the First World War, were helped by their families living in the United States. In 1939, following the outbreak of the war, Chortkiv was incorporated into the Ukrainian Social Soviet Republic as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. At the time, the Jewish population of the town significantly increased due to the arrival of Jewish refugees from German-occupied Poland. Under Soviet rule, Jewish community organizations and institutions were dissolved, private businesses prohibited and cooperatives for artisans organized. Searching for better opportunities, a number of Jews moved to bigger cities. On the eve of war, there were circa. 8,000 Jewish residents living in Chortkiv.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Chortkiv was occupied by German troops on July 6, 1941. The first Jewish inhabitants fell victim to the pogrom that began before the German’s arrival and continued afterwards. In total, over 300 Jews were beaten to death or shot in the prison’s courtyard of Chortkiv by Germans soldiers and locals. The first Judenrat was created at the end of July 1941.  After a brief period of military administration, the town was taken over by German civil administration on August 1, 1941. The Jewish residents of the town, circa. 8,000 people, were killed or deported to the Belzec extermination camp over the course of numerous Aktions, conducted by the Security Police of Chortkiv and the Security Police and SD of Ternopil, with the help of German Gendarmerie and local police, all based in Chortkiv.

Over the course of the first Aktion, carried out on August 25, 1941, over 100 Jews were taken to the nearby forest of Uhryn to be shot. On October 15, 1941, another group of about 150 Jewish members of the intelligentsia, including the Judenrat members, were murdered in so-called "Black Forest" near the Oryshkivtsi village. After that, the second Judenrat was established. The Jews were forced to hand over valuables, to wear armbands bearing a star of David and to perform a forced labor. With time, a number of young Jews fit to work were transferred to different labor camps that had been set up in the area.

By April 1, 1942, the remaining local Jews and those from surrounding villages, circa. 6,800 people, were ordered to move into the ghetto established over six streets in Chortkiv. Overcrowding, hunger, and outbreak of typhus resulted in a death of a number of its residents. Over the course of the Aktions, conducted between August 27 and October 5, 1942, circa. 2,500 Jews were deported to the Belzec extermination camp and about 300 Jews were killed in the town while attempting to flee. At the same time, a number of the ghetto inmates were sent to the Janowska Street forced labor camp in Lviv. Only 2,500 Jews remained in the ghetto in early 1943. Numerous shootings of ghetto inmates were carried out throughout the occupation period in the prison of Chortkiv and two Jewish cemeteries, the old one and the new one. The ghetto was liquidated during the main Aktion that started on June 16, 1943, and lasted three days. The Jewish victims, men, women and children, were taken by truck to the military airfield located on the outskirts of Chortkiv where they were shot in 16 large pits initially prepared for the underground hangars. Isolated shootings of Jews in hiding, including the members of the underground resistance, were carried out until the end of the German occupation. 


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