Derechin (Dereczyn) | Hrodno

/ Nikolai D., born in 1932: “The Jews were taken in to the pit in trucks. A bomb crater was used as a grave. There was a military base nearby that Germans tried to destroy.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad – In Unum Stanislav Ch., born in 1930: “Once the town was occupied and Germans were in power, some Polish Jews were brought here.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad – In Unum The Yahad team with a witness at his home. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad – In Unum The Yahad team on the way to an execution site located near the ruins of the synagogue. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad – In Unum The execution site where the bomb craters were located and where about 4,000 Jews were murdered in July 1942. There are six mass graves at this site.     ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad – In Unum The ruins of the synagogue where several Jews were murdered. According to the archives there were two mass graves.  ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad – In Unum

Execution of Jews in Derechin

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Bomb crater (1) ; Synagogue (2)
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Circa 4,000

Witness interview

Stanislav Ch., born in 1930: “Once the town was occupied and Germans took power, some Polish Jews were brought here. They arrived by train and on foot. They were all detained in the synagogue. A little while later, a ghetto was created. The synagogue was on its territory. After a while, I don’t know exactly when it happened, but one day I saw a column of Jews being led away. I followed them, and saw them digging pits from afar. They dug them in the area where the bomb craters were. I believe they just deepened and enlarged them. All the Jews were then taken and shot there. I could hear the gunshots.” (Witness n°992B, interviewed in Derechin, on September 19, 2018)

Soviet archives

"From the very beginning of the occupation of the town of Derechin, Zelva district, the German-fascist invaders held civilians in a small room and forced them to go to forced labor. There the German monsters humiliated and tortured Soviet citizens by beating them with batons. Often, they killed them for personal pleasure [illegible].
In April 1943, in Derechin, the German gendarmerie and their accomplices killed 150 people in a single day, including babies and elderly people, and buried them in a ravine in the Rodinki Rodziski woods, Mosty district. [illegible]. Then, on June 23, 24, 25 and 26, 1942, at 4 a.m., the center of Derechin was surrounded. and everyone – young and old, male and female, were killed on the outskirts of the village in eight shell holes, six of which were on the outskirts of the village, while the other two were on the ghetto territory, in the village center. 4,100 were exterminated and 67 were taken to Germany as slaves. There were 14 German gendarmes and 70 local police. [The names of the gendarmes and policemen are listed below].” [Act n°13 drawn up by Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); GARF 7021-86-41]

Historical note

Derechin is located 101 km southeast of Hrodno and 73 km (46mi) west northwest of Baranovichi. The first records of the Jewish community date back to the 16th century. In 1921, the town was part of Poland and was taken over by the Soviet Union in September 1939. The Jewish community of Derechin was rather big. In 1921, 1,346 Jews lived in the village. They had a Hebrew elementary school and a synagogue. The Zionists and Bund were active in the town during different periods. The majority of Jews lived off commerce, although many of them were artisans. On the night of July 23-24, 1942, German forces, including the Security Police, the Gendarmerie, and the auxiliary police, came from Słonim and surrounded Dereczyn. Intending to liquidate the ghetto, they began to round up the Jews on the morning of July 24. According to Soviet documents, the shootings lasted from July 23 to July 26, 1942. During the operation, many Jews, who had built shelters for themselves beforehand, were found by the Nazis and killed either on the spot or in the Bliznianski fields. They were later buried in nine bomb craters, some of which lay within the village limits, while the rest were located in the Bliznianski fields.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Derechin was occupied twice by the German forces. The first time on June 27, 1941, five days after the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, and then it was re-occupied on July 1. In mid-July, some anti-Jewish measures were implemented. All the Jews were marked with yellow badges, they were forbidden from using the sidewalks and all men fit to work had to perform forced labor. In October 1941, a group of Jews was taken to dig a pit in the nearby forest. One of Yahad’s witnesses mentioned that pit, claiming that it was never used in the end. By the end of 1941 a ghetto had been created. All the Jews from Derechin and the surrounding area were resettled in the ghetto. Inside the ghetto the inmates were divided in ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ groups, that numbered about 2,000 people. In early March, 1941, or according to other sources, on April 30, 1942, about 200 Jews were shot near the village of Rodziak, north-northwest of the town. After the execution, in May or June 1942, the ghetto was closed, and it was forbidden to leave its territory. At this moment, according to estimations, about 2,800 Jews remained in the ghetto. Due to overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions, many Jews died from disease. The liquidation of the ghetto was carried out on July 24, 1942, by the Security Police and Gendarmerie, who were helped by Lithuanian and Ukrainian auxiliaries, as well as local police. On this day about 2,500 Jews were rounded up in trucks and taken to the former military base, where the bomb craters were, to be shot. During the liquidation, some Jews were shot in the pits next to the synagogue, located on the territory of the ghetto. About 200-300 Jews managed to escape or hide, but many of them were later found and killed in the following days. According to Soviet documents, the shootings lasted from July 23 to July 26. Some managed to escape and join the partisans, including Dr. Yehezkel Atlas. Only about 90 Jews from the Derechin ghetto survived the Holocaust.

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