Rakov (Raków, Rakovi, Rakuv, Rakaw) | Minsk

The construction of the Jewish religious school in Rakov was completed in the summer of 1939. ©Taken from eilatgordinlevitan / The local orthodox church. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum The Yahad team during an interview with an eyewitness to an isolated shooting. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum The local Jewish cemetery remains well-preserved. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Jadviga R., born in 1934: “My father and other people threw bread over the fence to the Jews confined in the ghetto. After the execution, the local priest and people prayed for the Jews killed throughout the year.” ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Mariia L., born in 1932: “The Jews were interned in the ghetto, and locals could take them out for work. My parents took a young woman, Berna or Berta, she was about 18 years old.” ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Rufina B., born in 1921: “Before the ghetto was created, about 40-50 Jews were killed at Brasovskiye paseki." ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum The second execution site is located at the Jewish cemetery. The inscription in Belorusian, reads: “Here in 1941, 112 Jews from Rakov were brutally murdered. To the everlasting memory of the victims of the Holocaust.” ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum The witness points out the monument built at the site where the synagogue was located. About 950 Jews were burned inside it in February 1942. (Execution site n°1). ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum

Execution of Jews in Rakov

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Synagogue (1); Jewish cemetery(2)
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:

Witness interview

Rufina B., born in 1921: “At the beginning, the Jews continued to live in their homes, but later policemen forced them out and confined them in a ghetto that consisted of just two houses. It was located on a side street behind the church. The Jews took as many belongings with them as they could carry, and later exchanged them for food. An old Jewish smith, Garbuz, was killed on the spot by a German because he refused or was not able to move to the ghetto.” (Witness n°941, interviewed in Rakov, on August 6, 2017)

Soviet archives

“On August 14, 1941, 45 local Jews were rounded up under the pretext of being taken to work. They were taken to the place called “Urochishche Buruvynua” 2 km away from Rakov. Once there, they were given shovels and ordered to dig pits. Once the pits were ready, 45 people were lined up in front of the pit and shot with a machine gun.
On 21 August, 1941, 14 Jews were shot on the road near Rakov. All the other Jews of Rakov were gathered in a ghetto.
On September 29, 1941, all Jews of the ghetto were taken by truck 2 km from Rakov to dig pits. 105 people were counted, ordered to lie in the pit and shot. The other Jews returned to the ghetto where they were forced to sing and dance.
On February 4, 1942, the chief of police ordered all Jews to take their belongings and assemble near the synagogue to be sent elsewhere. Once they were assembled, they were told to leave their valuables and to enter the synagogue. Anyone who refused was shot on the spot and children who were crying were killed with bayonets. Then the executioners closed the door, poured gasoline and set the synagogue on fire. That day 928 Jews lost their lives.” [Act drawn up by the State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); RG 22.002M: 7021-83-14]

Historical note

Rakov is located on the banks of the Islach river 35 km northwest of Minsk. The first written records of settlement at this location dates back to the 14th century. Back then it belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Jews started to settle down in Rakov in the early 17th century. In 1793, Rakov became a part of the Russian Empire. From 1804 to 1939, the town was owned by the Zdzehovskiya family who developed its industry. In 1843, they established several factories to produce agricultural machines and by 1880, about 16 glass manufacturers operated in Rakov. There were two watermills, a brick factory, and a lumber mill. At the end of the 19th century, branches of various Jewish charity organizations such as “Gmilut Hasadim” and “Bikur Holim” operated in the town. At the same time a Jewish library, Talmud Torah and the Hebrew schools were created in Rakov. According to the census of 1897, 2,168 Jews lived in Rakov, comprising 60% of the total population. As a result of the Treaty of Riga, Rakov became a part of Poland in 1921 and in 1939 it was taken over by the Soviet Union. 928 Jews lived in the town on the eve of the war. They were engaged in small-scale trade and handicraft such as pottery and tile production.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

The Germans occupied Rakov at the end of June 1941. Two months later, a ghetto surrounded with barbed wire was created and contained circa. 1,000 Jews. It existed from October 1941 until February 1942, when the first big execution was conducted. Before the creation of the ghetto, the Germans murdered 112 Jewish men. One day in October 1941, they were assembled under the pretext of being taken to work, but were instead slaughtered at the Jewish cemetery. According to historical resources and villagers interviewed by the Yahad team, on February 4, 1942, about 950 Jews were assembled inside the synagogue situated on the ghetto territory. The synagogue was set on fire with the Jews still inside. Anyone who tried to escape was shot on the spot. Apparently around 80 Jews were not burned inside the synagogue but taken to the cemetery to be shot dead. The witnesses claim that several isolated shootings also took place in the town. The executions were conducted by SS units, assisted by local police.

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