2 Execution site(s)
Vyacheslav, born in 1927, recalls: “Once, when I was in the woods with my future wife and friends, we were walking in the forest when we heard screams and crying. We saw trucks arriving. They were only women and girls in these trucks. We hid and stayed, watching everything. We were about 70 meters away from the pit. I remember that there were only women and girls among those people who were brought. Some women and girls were raped. I heard, I guess it was a daughter, asking why they were raping her mother; and another girl, asking why they were raping her sister, and then, we heard shots. We could not see everything very well because we were too far away from the place, but we could hear everything.” (Eyewitness n° 2137 interviewed in Polonne, on July 23rd, 2016)
Polonne is located 83km west of Zhytomyr. The first records of the Jewish community dates back to the early 17th century. The Jewish community suffered from four waves of pogroms conducted throughout the 17th, 18th and early 20th century. By the end of the 19th century the Jews represented almost the half of total population, numbering 7,910 Jews. The Hasidism movement was very important in the village. The majority of Jews was artisans or worked at the local porcelain factory. Some Jews owned their own small businesses. In the 1930s, a Jewish kolkhoz was established. There were Jewish and Polish schools, but they were closed and converted into Russian school. There was also a synagogue but it has been changed into a Klub. On the eve of the war, 4,170 Jews lived in the village comprising 30% of total population. The village was occupied on July 6, 1941 by the Germans. Less than 5% of the prewar Jewish population managed to flee the village by that time.
Immediately after the Germans’ arrival, all Jews were registered and marked with yellow Stars of David on their front and the back. The first execution was conducted one month later, in early August, 1941, against 19 Jews who were accused of being communists. The 23th of that same month, 113 Jews suffered the same fate. The execution was carried out by German Security Police. A third execution was conducted against 2,000 Jews who were murdered on September 2nd, 1941. The victims were rounded up, forced into trucks, and brought to the execution site, located in the forest. Before being killed they were forced to undress and their golden teeth were removed. On September 15th, about 50 Jews were taken from Polonne to Lyubar where they were murdered by a German police battalion.
After the first wave of executions, a ghetto was established in October-November, 1941, and it existed until late June, 1942. The ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire and consisted of several barracks. The men fit to work were brought to they quarry by Ukranian police guards and forced to perform manual labor. In the middle of February 1942, several Jews were brought to the Polonne ghetto from Poninka. Apparently, they were murdered in Poninka along with the Polonne Jews on the 25th of June, 1942, during the ghetto liquidation of Polonne. That day, 1,270 Jews were shot dead by the German police who arrived from Shepetovka. Prior to the liquidation, some 15 Jewish men and women, all from Polonne, were relocated to the ghetto in Shepetovka. They were most likely killed afterwards.
For more information about the execution in Lyubar and Poninka please refer to the corresponding profile
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