3 Execution site(s)
Kostyantyn V., born in 1935: “During the entire period they were confined in the ghetto surrounded with barbed wire, the Jews stayed very united. During the night, young men would go to nearby villages and look for food for the children. They would return to the ghetto during the day. I lived just outside Medzhybizh back then. [One day], twelve men, about twenty-six years old came to my garden. They asked me if there was place to hide. I asked them why? Why didn’t they stay in one of the villages?" They answered that they wanted to die with their families. The men [who came out of the ghetto at night] stayed with their families, their children, their relatives until the very last minute. They believed that Judgment Day had arrived, even though this was a myth. Some of them could have run away and dispersed to [nearby] villages. There is a woman in Medzhybizh who hid a Jew during the war. She doesn’t live very far from here. So, there were some Jews who hid. There are also some [who hid] in nearby villages. This story is not forgotten.” (Witness n°615U, interviewed in Medzhybizh, on May 27, 2008)
“From August 21, 1942, until October 31, 1942, German-fascist barbarians cruelly murdered 2,583 Soviet citizens in the town of Medzhibozh: men, women and children. The fascist terror victims were buried in three pits some two kilometers north of Medzhibozh, near the road that leads to the village of Rusanovtsy. After having examined the above-mentioned mass graves, the Commission determined:
The graves were covered with three-quarters of a meter of earth. The bodies were in rows of three and sometimes four, facing the ground, mostly men, but also women and children, completely naked.
The victims were mainly shot in the back of the neck. The bodies sustained injuries in the back, between the shoulder blades, which proves they were murdered whilst lying face down. The bodies of babies were found in the arms of their mothers.” [Act drawn up by Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on June 4, 1944; GARF 7021-64-802, pp.75-76]
Medzhybizh is a small town located 35 km (22mi) east of Khmelnytskyi. Until 1793, it was part of Poland and before being integrated into the Russian Empire. The Jewish community in Medzhybizh is one of the oldest in Ukraine, and dates to the early 16th century. According to the 1571 census, 95 Ruthenians, 35 Jews, and 30 Poles lived here. During the Cossack uprising in 1648, thousands of Jews were killed. However, by 1765, the community had been rebuilt. At this time, 2,039 Jews lived in Medzhybizh. The founder of Hasidism, Israel ben Eliezer Ba’al Shem Tov, lived in Mezhybizh from 1740 until his death in 1760. The majority of Jews lived off trade and handicraft, such as tailoring, shoemaking, hat making among others… From 1,719 in 1847 the number of Jews grew to 6,040 in 1897, making up 74% of the total population. In the early 1900s, there was an active Zionist group here. Until the mid-1920s, there were ten synagogues and six cheders in Medzhybizh, but they were closed under the Soviet regime. In 1926, 4,614 Jews, comprising 58% of the total population lived in the town. In 1930 a Jewish kolkhoz (collective farm) was created.Many jews worked in agriculture, while the artisans moved to work into the state-owned cooperatives. On the eve of the war, in 1939, only 2,347 Jews remained in the town, 52% of the total population.
Medzhybizh was occupied by German forces on July 8, 1941. On July 6, before the German arrival, a pogrom was organized. From the very first days of the occupation the Jews were persecuted and significant religious sites, like Besht Beit Midrash, were destroyed. A ghetto was quickly created. It was located on the Banaya Street, in the poorest area of the town. The ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by local police. The ghetto inmates were subjected to perform different forced labor tasks, like shovelling snow form the street and cleaning. From the spring of 1942, they worked on road construction in a quarry 14 km outside the town. On April 14, 1942, 200 men were transferred from the ghetto to work at the front as slave laborers. On September 22, 1942, the first mass execution was conducted. About 1,000 Jews, mainly women, children and elder people, were rounded up and taken outside the town to the ravine near a place called Rusanovtsy. Any Jew who managed to hide but was found, about 250 individuals, were taken to the castle barracks. After a selection, 80 of them were put aside. while the others were shot within the following two weeks. By November 1942, the ghetto had been liquidated. The selected Jews, 80 to 100 individuals, were sent to the labor camp in Letychiv. According to the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission reports, the Germans and their collaborators murdered 2,588 people in total, in three trenches at the mass killing site.
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