Horodysche (Gorodishche, Horodishtch, Horodyszcze, Horowidisce)/Lutsk | Volyn

Five Jewish young women in Lutsk in the years before WWII. © Ghetto fighters house archives The Lutsk synagogue © Wikipedia Old Synagogue of Łuck in the early 20th century © Yad Vashem Photo Collection Children on the streets of the ghetto © Yad Vashem Photo Collection Ghetto street in Lutsk following an Aktion, 1942. ©Wikipedia Young Jews possibly being taken to the labour camp © Yad Vashem Photo collection Two camp guards supervise a group of Jewish forced laborers from the Wisznice ghetto while they stand in line for food at the Horodyszcze labor camp. ©  United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Eliezer & Jenelly Rosenberg A Jewish woman and girl stand in the doorway of a wooden barracks in the Horodyszcze labor camp. ©United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Instytut Pamieci Narodowej Possibly a member of the German Order Police near the mass grave at Gurka Polonka (Execution site close to the sugar factory, not far away from Horodyshche and Polonka). The photograph was taken shortly after the murder operation. © Yad Vashem Photo Colle / / Petro G., born in 1904: “Before being killed the Jews had to undress completely. They threw the clothing on a pile on the ground. Then, in groups they had to walk onto the plank”. © Guillaume Ribot /Yahad-In Unum Maria, born in 1923, and her sister in the background, used to bring food to the Lutsk ghetto. She brought milk to her family’s acquaintance, Rivka. Rivka was executed along with other Jewish inmates in August 1942. © Guillaume Ribot /Yahad-In Unum Ivan V., born 1929: “The Jews used to say that the Germans began by murdering them but would end by murdering us”. © Ellénore Gobry/Yahad-In Unum The former location of the labor camp on Krasne Street. Today, there is a residential building. © Guillaume Ribot /Yahad-In Unum Site of the former sugar factory. The execution site is located not far from this location. © Guillaume Ribot /Yahad-In Unum The Yahad team, along with a witness at the location of the shooting. © Ellénore Gobry -Yahad-In Unum The active Jewish community of Lutsk takes care of the memorial to the memory of the 25,000 Jews from Lutsk murdered here. © Ellénore Gobry /Yahad-In Unum At the execution site of about 25,000 Lutsk Jews murdered in 8 mass graves  during several aktions conducted by the Nazis © Ellénore Gobry /Yahad-In Unum The execution site, where a large trench measuring 150m long and 6m wide was dug. According to the Soviet Archives, there were eight trenches. © Ellénore Gobry /Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews from Lutsk in Horodyshche/Polonka

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Near the sugar factory
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:

Witness interview

Ivan V., born in 1929: "When I came, I saw the children and the women forced to undress. The women were ashamed and did not want to remove their clothes. They were hit with the butt of their rifles. Then they told them to go to the edge of the pit, and they executed them. In the chaos, some fell into the pit alive. They tried to get out but were shot in the head." (Eyewitness n°1482, interviewed in Horodysche, on May 6th, 2012)

Soviet archives

"On December 11th, 1941, all of the Jewish population of the town, and they were about 20,000 Jews, were confined into a ghetto, a closed area. The Jewish inmates could take only the belongings they had time to take, while the remaining belongings were looted or lost. On August 19th, 1942, the extermination of Jews started. The Jews were forced into about fifty trucks and transported to the place called Gurka Polonka, behind Gnidava, where they were shot. The Jews that went into hiding were shot on the spot if they were found by the local police or German gendarmerie. It was like this until August 22nd, 1942. Only one group of Jews, about 100 people, were spared. They were mostly specialists, nurses, and doctors. They were confined in a labor camp in Lutsk, located on Kyiv street in a former [illegible word], where they worked under the guard of the local police until September 1942. […] Afterwards, they were exterminated in the same way as the previous group." [Deposition of a local resident, Georgiy D., born in 1893, to the State Soviet Extraordinary Commission; RG.22-002M; 7021-55-7]

German archives

"[…] Horodyshche was about 8km from Lutsk. I was there in the summer of 1942. I remember there were between 80 and 100 Jews gathered in a camp, and they were doing farm work for the Germans. I think that at the end of 1942, the extermination of the Jews from the town started. During the night, they were taken outside the city and shot. I think I am the only survivor of the Horodyshche camp. I stayed in the camp for a couple of months. The Sonderführer was a German […]. "[Deposition of a Jewish survivor Ben Zion P., given during the trial; B162-3879]

Historical note

Horodyshche is a village in western Ukraine, about 8 km southwest of Lutsk. According to a witness, there was one Jewish family in Horodyshche. There was a much larger Jewish community that lived in Lutsk, the administrative center of the Volyn region. Lutsk is located on the banks of the Styr River in the northwestern part of Ukraine. Between the two wars, Lutsk was under Polish rule. In 1939, Lutsk was annexed by the Soviet Union. The first records of the Jewish community date back to the early 15th century. The Jews suffered from several waves of pogroms conducted between 1648 and 1649 and between 1919 and 1920. In 1662, almost half of the population was Jewish. In 1802, there were 1,297 Jews in the village, and it climbed to 5,010 in 1847. In 1897, there were 9,468 Jews in Lutsk, comprising 60% of the population. Most Jews made their living on small-scale trade and handcraft; some owned food and beverage factories, pharmacies, or hotels. Several political organizations, the Bund and the Zionists operated in Lutsk in the 1920s and 1930s. There were several Jewish schools, including Talmud Torah, Yeshiva, and one high school. However, under Soviet rule, all Jewish organizations were forbidden, and institutions were closed. In 1939, about 16,000 Jews (40% of the total population) lived in Lutsk. In 1941, the Jewish population reached almost 20,000 as many refugees from the West settled in Lutsk. The German army occupied Lutsk on June 26th, 1941. Less than 5% of the prewar Jews managed to flee the town by that time.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

From the historical sources we know that the victims murdered near Horodyshche were native to Lutsk. The majority of sources refer to this site as Hirka Polanka; however, during our field research, we found that it is located close to the modern-day neighborhood of Polonka, closer to the village of Horodyshche. This is why Yahad identifies this execution site under the name of Horodyshche. Anti-Jewish measures were implemented immediately after the German occupation. Before the Soviets retreated, the NKVD shot approximately 2,800 prisoners, including Ukrainians and some Jews. The next day, a pogrom was organized by the Germans, who accused the Jews of murdering these first prisoners. The locals participated in the pogrom, during which several Jews were killed. On June 30th and July 2nd, 1941, two major aktions were organized by Sonderkommando 4a with additional Wehrmacht units participating. Roughly 1,460 Jews were taken to the Lubart Castle, where they were murdered. Shortly after, a Judenrat was established, and a Jewish police force was created. All Jews were registered and marked with yellow distinguishing badges on their chests and backs. Jews were also forbidden to walk on the sidewalks and were subjected to additional humiliations and abuses. In October 1941, a labor camp was created outside Lutsk in the Krasne neighborhood. Some 450-500 Jews fit for work were relocated there. In mid-December 1941, a closed ghetto was created in Lutsk, which numbered about 16,000 Jews from Lutsk and nearby villages. In the ghetto, the Jews had to perform different forms of labor, such as cleaning the streets. The Jews also had to pay contributions in clothing, money, or valuables consistently. The liquidation of the ghetto took place from August 19th through August 23rd, 1942, by German civilian authorities and German police assisted by Ukrainian police. During the liquidation, between 15,000 and 17,000 Jews were taken in trucks to the eight pits close to the sugar factory and were murdered. These pits were located not far from the village of Horodyshche. According to an eyewitness of the shooting, the pits were dug by Jewish men the night before. The shooting lasted the entire day as the Jews were shot in groups. According to some witnesses, the Jews were shot at the edge of the pit, while others stated that they had to walk onto a wooden plank put across the grave. It is possible that during different days different methods of killing were implemented. There was a commander who gave the order to fire. Approximately 300 Jews, consisting of specialists and medical workers, were spared during this Aktion and shot at a later date at the same place. Before the liquidation of the ghetto, hundreds of Jews went into hiding, but the majority of them were caught and were also brought to the pits to be shot. Only a handful managed to survive. On December 12th, 1942, over 500 specialists held in the camp on Krasne Street, who were later brought to the former school building, were shot during an uprising organized by the inmates. According to another witness interviewed by Yahad and with access to archival pictures, it was discovered that there was another labor camp located in Horodyshche. This camp might have held between 80 and 100 Jews. It is believed that the inmates of this camp were shot by the Germans in the spring of 1943, in a field close to Hirka Polanka.


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