1 Execution site(s)
Ievstafi O., born in 1934: “After the Germans arrived, the Jews of the village were all led away in a column to be shot. I remember some of my Jewish friends were among them, Motia and Leiba. I followed the column to the execution site, the Jews were escorted by SS. Once they arrived, the Germans forced them to undress then shot them all.” (Witness YIU/967B, interviewed on September 10, 2018 in Posenichi)
“In the surrounding area of the town of Pinsk, the Commission discovered mass graves of the victims of the fascist terror: in cemeteries near the village of Posenichi, Kozliakovichi, the domain Dobraia Volia and in the Jewish cemetery. In the cemetery 500m away from the village Posenichi, 7 km away from Pinsk, the Commission discovered 16 graves, four of them 2x17m, three of them 10x15m, five of them 20x25m and four of them 5x10m. […] A camp and ghetto, which occupied an entire part of the village, was created in Pinsk for the Soviet citizens doomed to execution. In August 1941 and October 1942, the German-fascist invaders took under escort more than 2,000 Soviet citizens from the ghetto to the village of Posechini, where all the people doomed to death were forced to undress down to their underwear, after which they were put in groups inside the ditches. They were stacked face down in a row and shot in this position. Those trying to escape death by running away were shot with a machine-gun, the wounded were hit with blunt objects, and then all the corpses were carried into the ditches by others doomed to the same fate, children were thrown alive into the graves.”[Act n°1, drawn up on April 24, 1945 by Soviet State Extraordinary Commission; GARF 7021-90-24 p.2]
Posenichi is a village in Pinsk district, Brest region, southern Belarus. It is located less than 10 km (6mi) from Pinsk, and 170 km (105mi) east of Brest. Previously part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Russian empire and Poland, it has been a Belarusian town since 1939. There is no record of when the Jewish community first settled and started to develop in Posenichi, but in nearby Pinsk, the first records of Jews date from the beginning of the 16th century. Before the war, a significant part of the population of Pinsk were Jews (a third of the total population according to a witness). They owned some shops, had their own prayer house, school, and cemetery. There was also a mixed school where both Jews and non-Jews studied.
German forces took over Posenichi at the beginning of July 1941. They settled in some of the villagers’ houses. Soon after their arrival, they rounded up all the Jewish men they could find living in the village. 17 of them were taken directly from their house and escorted to a field by the Germans. They were told they were going to be taken for forced labour but in reality, they were made to dig their own mass grave. They were forced to line up next to it and were shot, their bodies falling in or pushed into the mass grave. Around the same time, Jews from Pinsk were also taken to a place in or just outside Posenichi to be shot. It is unclear how many victims there were during this Aktion, or if it happened at the same location as the aforementioned execution. It most likely did. After the execution of the Jewish men from Posenichi, the Jewish women and children were subsequently all rounded up and deported to the ghetto in Pinsk, which was established in spring 1942. The Jews’ houses in Posechini were then robbed by some of the locals and sold to other villagers. The Pinsk ghetto was liquidated from late October to mid November 1942. Thousands of Jews were taken from Pinsk to Posechini to be shot at the same location as the previous execution of the Jewish men from Posechini. 8,000 Jews, mostly women and children, were shot in Posechini. Hundreds were killed each day for over two weeks. Group after group, Jews were taken to the field, forced to dig their own graves and undress, and shot. Once a mass grave was full, the Jews had to fill it in before digging another one. Between 12 and 16 mass graves were dug. Before the Germans were forced to retreat, they opened some of the mass graves to burn all the bodies and therefore destroy the evidence of their crimes. This was part of Operation 1005, a secret operation whose objective was to destroy all evidence of the mass killings. A witness interviewed by Yahad recalled how they exhumed the bodies, put them in barrels and set fire to them. They then filled up the empty graves with earth and flattened the ground with machines to conceal all traces of them. This lasted for several days. The witness remembers the smell of corpses burning and claims the ashes were sent to Germany to make fertilizer.
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