Kosava (Kosovo) | Brest

/ Viktoria D., born in 1930: "As soon as the Germans arrived in the village, the Jews had to stitch a yellow star onto their jackets, on their chests and on their backs. They weren’t allowed to walk on the sidewalk.". ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad – In Unum The castle in Kosava. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad – In Unum Shastolo G., born in 1938, showing the Yahad team the execution site where several Jews who failed to wear a Star of David were publicly executed. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad – In Unum Shastolo G., born in 1938: "The Jewish inmates were forced to work every day. It was hard work and they only received a 200g ration of food per day. A lot of them died of hunger or exhaustion". ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad – In Unum The location of ten mass graves where about 3,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad – In Unum

Execution of Jews in Kosovo

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Castle grounds
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:

Witness interview

Ielena M., born in 1918: "The ghetto was created shortly after. It was fenced in with barbed wire. It was guarded by the Jews themselves; the Judenrat members and some Jewish policemen. There weren’t many Germans in the village, only about twenty. We were allowed to go into the ghetto, it wasn’t forbidden. When I passed by it on my way to the fields, I stopped to talk to my friends. We would talk through the barbed wire, that is why I know that the ghetto was fenced in. We could also bring them food or give them some work to do. For example, I asked a friend of mine to make me a dress for Christmas. I brought her fabrics and she made a dress, which I paid for. The Jews could work inside the ghetto, but they didn’t have the raw materials because it was impossible to buy them. That is why they didn’t have much work and survived as they could." (Witness n°158B, interviewed in Kosava, on April 13, 2009)

Soviet archives

"In the summer of 1942, I don’t remember in which month, the Germans organized a pogrom in the city against the Jews. To begin with, all the Jews were forcibly rounded up and surrounded with barbed wire. Then a plan for the extermination of the Jews was drawn up at the Kommandantur. Near the property of Marachevshyshina, on the Germans’ orders, the peasants of the neighboring villages dug a large pit 20m long and 20m wide. Fifteen vehicles of SS troops were requisitioned to transport the Jews from the city to the pit. The Germans also forced me to serve as a driver. I also transported the Jews from the city to the pit. The policemen ordered the Jews to line up inside the barbed-wire fence. The Jewish craftsmen, like carpenters, shoemakers, were separated from the other Jews and put in a separate row and taken to work in the town of Slonim. The remaining Jews were forced to lie down in the trucks on their bellies, one on top of the other, in groups of 20 or more. The Germans beat them the whole time. Those who turned their heads were beaten to death by the Germans with rifle butts on their heads. I made three round trips from the town to the pit and all the three times I drove a truck full of Jews. When they got to the pit, the Jews were ordered by the Germans to get off, to lie face down on the ground, and then in groups of twenty they had to undress and jump into the pit. Anyone who refused to do so was immediately executed. One Jew, whose name I don’t remember, was beaten there, near the pit, still alive, with a rifle butt to the head by a German who pulled out his gold teeth. Once undressed, the Jews were ordered to lie face down in rows in the pit and the Germans shot them in the head with their automatic weapons. When the first group was shot, another group of twenty climbed into the pit and was shot. The shooting continued all day long, from morning until evening, and the pit was filled in with bodies lying in rows on top of each other, face down, without clothes." [Deposition given by a local villager of Polish nationality Zigismund K., born in 1902 to the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (GARF) in 1945; GARF 7021-83-19]

Historical note

Kosava is located 176 km (107 mi) northeast of Brest and 80 km (50 mi) southwest of Baranovichi. The first records of the Jewish community date back to the 16th century.  According to the 1847 census, there were some 985 Jews in Kosava. By 1897, 2,028 out of the 3,092 total population were Jewish, making up 65% of the total population. Most of Kosava’s Jews lived off small-scale trade and handicraft. In between the two world wars, the town was under Polish rule. However, in September 1939, it was taken over by the Soviet Union. Under Poland it was renamed Kosów Poleski. In 1921, the town’s population was 2,433, including 1,473 Jews. There were many active Zionist and aid organizations, including the Tarbut school. The Jewish community had a cemetery and a prayer house. 

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Kosava was occupied by German forces on July 1, 1941. A Jewish council (Junderat) was immediately established after their arrival. All the Jews were marked with yellow armbands and subjected to forced different.  For instance, a group of 300 skilled Jewish men were rounded up and taken to Slonim for labor. Event though the ghetto was officially created in the summer of 1942, many Jews from the surrounding area were brought to Kosovo. According to estimates, circa. 2,000 Jews remained in the town at the beginning of the occupation. In June 1942, three ghettos were created: one for skilled workers and their families, another for the old and infirm, and a third for the families of those working in Slonim and other labor camps.  On July 25, 1942, a murder Aktion was conducted. On this day, the majority of the Jews were rounded up at the ghetto and taken to the castle grounds to be shot. Dozens of Jews who had managed to hide during this Aktion continued to live in a smaller ghetto until August 1942. Those who didn’t join the partisans, mainly elderly people and the infirm, were shot in the town. Today, there is a memorial at the shooting site.


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