Parafyanovo (Parafjanava, Parafianov) | Vitebsk

From the family album of a local witness. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum A group photograph with local villagers and some Germans who stayed with the locals during the occupation. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum / A photograph of Maria V., born in 1936, and her parents. In the photo Maria is 7 years old. (According to the witness herself). ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Yanina V., born in 1935: “We had a lot of Jews here. When the railroad was built, the Jews started building their houses near the train station. They had many homes there.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum Maria V., born in 1936: “My parents had such a good relationship with the neighbors, that when Rafalson was killed, her hair turned all grey in just twenty four hours.” ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad - In Unum team during an interview. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The location of the ghetto created in late 1941- early 1942. It was a Jewish residential area. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The location of the ghetto created in late 1941-early 1942. It was a Jewish residential area. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum The memorial to the Jewish victims murdered in Parafyanovo during the occupation. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum A field where approximately 117 Jews were murdered. ©Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Parafyanovo

1 Execution site(s)

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

Witness interview

Maria V., born in 1936: “Y.U.: What happened to the Jews living here during the war?
Witness: They were killed. They were forced to assemble in a house, before being taken away. Maybe it was a synagogue, perhaps something else. I was only seven, what could I understand? So, they [the Jews] were driven from the house down the road, driven to the ditch. They were forced to dig a ditch. They [the Jews] dug it, and they were shot. It was not the Germans who shot them. It was, how can I say it? It was “soltys”, “soltysy”. What were they called then? I don’t know what they were called then, but long story short, they [the Jews] were shot, and that’s it. It was scary. The grave was moving for two days and nights, and maybe for three. Some fell in dead, and other fell in [while still] alive. It was very hard. Even to me, though I was just a child, I was what, seven, eight years old? Not even eight, I was seven years old back then. It was a terrible sight to behold. I wouldn’t that on anybody. And we were curious, us children, we ran over to take a look and saw the grave moving.” (Witness n°1071, interviewed in Parafyanovo, on November 13, 2019)

Soviet archives

“On May 30, 1942, the German gendarmerie came to the Parafyanovo railway station from Glubokoye. Early in the morning, under the command of Gebitskommissar Ebeling, the gendarmerie members brought the entire Jewish population of Parafyanovo to the ghetto created in town by force . Once everyone was assembled, men, women, older people, and young children were placed in the Klub prepared (Note: not legible) by prisoners under the direction of Gebitskommissar Ebeling, and Kommandant Bentz from Parafyanovo. With the German gendarmes’ assistance, they started to force the Jews out of the building in groups of five. Each [Jew] was completely undressed. While being forced out, the older people, women, and children were violently beaten with rubber batons and rifle butts. When the wife of Gendel Aronovich Levitan was taken on the street to be undressed and beaten, I saw a puddle of blood. I was beaten with a rubber baton as well, before I fainted. All Jews, including the older people and children were confined together in a camp [the Klub building] and were then taken to be shot at the Parafyanovo execution site. When we arrived at the site, an execution must have already happened, we saw a pit that had been dug in advance. The gendarmerie forced people to line up near the pit, and then they started to shoot with submachine guns. The last ones started to run in different directions[…]” [Act drawn up by the Soviet Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on March 30, 1945; GARF 7021-92-214]

Historical note

Parafyanovo is located in the Dokshitsy district on the banks of the Galyadza River, about 130 km (81 miles) north of Minsk. The first written records of Parafyanovo date back to the 15th century. In 1773, when the village became part Russian Empire, many Jews settled there. They would build their houses close to the railway station. Most of the Jewish residents were involved in small scale trade and handicraft. According to a local witness, the Jews had a prayer house in the village. On the eve of the war, 265 Jews resided in the Parafyanovo.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Parafyanovo was occupied in early 1941, shortly after the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. According to some historical sources, the first victim murdered by Germans was a Jew, Aaron Levitan. The remaining Jews continued to live freely in their homes until the creation of the ghetto in late 1941- early 1942. The ghetto was created on two of the streets where the majority of Jews already lived. Jews from surrounding villages were also moved into this ghetto. 

Jews fit to work were subjected to perform hard labor at a sawmill during the entire existence of the ghetto. The ghetto was liquidated in late May 1942. According to different sources, the large execution occurred either on May 29 or May 30, 1942. During this Aktion, the ghetto prisoners were rounded up and either taken to the fire station or, according to the Soviet archives, a Klub, under the pretext of being relocated to another town. 

While confined, they were forced to hand over all their valuables and to leave their best clothes. Once all of the Jews were assembled, they were taken outside the village. Even though there were already pits used as a dump by locals, the Jews were forced to make them deeper. Once the pits were ready, the victims were shot in small groups on the edge of them.

After the execution, their bodies were covered with lime. According to the archives, the execution was conducted by the German gendarmerie, although a witness interviewed by Yahad (YIU/1070B) claims that the Germans did not shoot, but only took pictures. Supposedly, the local police took part in the shooting. Isolated shootings continued for a week after the mass execution. Many Jews had managed to hide during the first raid but were discovered by local police afterwards. A small number of Jews managed to flee into the forest and were able to join local partisans.

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