Rozhysche (Rozhische, Rożyszcze) | Volyn

/ The Jewish cemetery in Rozhysche. © Ellénore Gobry -Yahad-In Unum Mykola B., born in 1926: “my cousin was previously requisitioned by Germans to dig the pit. He told me that most likely the Jews had been killed there. They started to bring them on Sunday at 6am.” © Ellénore Gobry/Yahad-In Unum Daria T., born in 1924: The Jews were confined into three houses. The houses were fenced in with barbed wire. It was about 1,5-2m high.” © Ellénore Gobry -Yahad-In Unum Zinaida L., born in 1932, remembered seeing a pregnant woman among the Jews being taken to the shooting. © Ellénore Gobry -Yahad-In Unum Yahad’s team during the interview with the witness at the local bus station. © Ellénore Gobry/Yahad-In Unum Mykola T., born in 1927: “The Jews were brought from the ghetto to the execution in trucks. I did not see the execution but, while I was grazing my cow, I could see several trucks passing by.”    © Ellénore Gobry -Yahad-In Unum The diagram of the execution site drawn by an eyewitness to the shooting of Jews in Rozhysche. © Yahad-In Unum The actual execution site of about 3,870 Jews in Rozhysche. The monument is located 200m away. © Ellénore Gobry/Yahad-In Unum The execution site of Jews located at the territory of the former Jewish cemetery © Ellénore Gobry -Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Rozhyshche

2 Execution site(s)

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

Witness interview

Daria T., born in 1924, remembers: “The Jews did not stay in the ghetto for a long time. The Germans and the Ukrainian police guarded the ghetto day and night. They could not go out from the ghetto. There were some Jews who managed to obtain food out in the village. They went on the sly to their acquaintances to ask for food but in the event that they were caught, they could have been shot dead on the spot. Then, one day the trucks arrived and took them away. After I heard from the adults that they were killed.” (Testimony n°1472, interviewed in Rozhyshche on May 3rd, 2012)

Soviet archives

“In the morning everyone wanted to go home. When we were allowed to leave the site, we left quickly, but at about 11 a.m. the police came again and took some people, including me, back. I approached the pit, where Jews who had been already been shot to death were laying; they were lying face down and naked. Near the pit stood two tables, one at which an executioner who […] was drinking vodka and eating a snack was sitting, and another nearby where a Gendarmerie man was sitting. The latter ordered the people to undress and to take off their rings. Some of the young girls asked him to allow them to remain in their underwear, but that bandit replied: "You will die the way you were born.” In groups of 20, the people were forced to lie in the pit face down and the two executioners, who were so drunk they could barely stand, passed along and shot the victims in the napes of the neck and when they did not fire properly they went back laughing and shot a second time. […] The shooting lasted for 2 hours.” [Deposition of a requisitioned local resident, Naum Sch., born in 1888 in Rudnya, who was forced to dig and to cover the pit given to the State Extraordinary Soviet Commission (ChGK) on February 2nd, 1945; RG.22-002M; 7021-55-11]

Historical note

Rozhysche is located about 20 km of Lutsk. The first records of the Jewish community date back to the 18th century. By 1897, the Jews were the majority as they represented 83% of the total population. During WWI the town was burned and almost everyone fled. However, after the town was rebuilt, some 2,686 Jews lived there by 1921. Between the two wars the village was under Polish rule. The majority of Jews was artisans or lived off small trade. There were a few factories owned by the Jews before they were nationalized by the Soviet regime. There were two synagogues and a Jewish cemetery. There were many schools, such as Talmud Torah, and a Yiddish-language CYSHO school. Several Zionist movements operated in the town until 1939, when Rozhysche was taken over by the Soviet Union as a result of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, and all religious and cultural institutions and movements were banned. According to the estimation, there were about 3,000 Jews on the eve of the war, including the Jewish refugees who arrived from the occupied Poland.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

The Germans occupied the village on June 25th, 1941. Immediately after the Germans’ arrival several anti-Jewish measures were implemented and the killings of Jews took place. 10 Jewish men were killed several days after as a punishment for a German killed and the Jewish houses and shops were looted by the locals. During several executions, conducted in July, hundreds of men, elder and some women, were supposedly killed outside the town. The Jewish police and Jewish Council were created. At the same time, all Jews were forced to wear the yellow distinguishing signs and to perform the forced labor. The next mass execution was conducted in October 1941, when 603 Jews, were murdered.  The ghetto was created in fall, supposedly after this execution, however some sources give another date, which is February 1942. Based on the witness’ accounts that the Jews stayed for about one year in the ghetto, Yahad believes that the ghetto was established in fall 1941. The ghetto numbered about 4,000 inmates from Rozhysche and nearing village. According to Martin Dean the ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire, however the local resident interviewed by Yahad who happened to pass through the ghetto several times did not remember seeing any fence. While being confined in the ghetto the Jews continued to paid ransoms, and being subjected to forced labor, for instance work at the linen factory, clean the streets, or road repair, as well as were victims to systematic lootings by the local Ukrainian police. On August 10th, 1942, the members of Judenrat were shot. And 10 days later, on August 22nd, 1942, the ghetto was liquidated. On this day, those Jews who were not able to go into hiding, were rounded-up on trucks and taken to the sandpit, 3km outside the town, where they were shot in groups. The sandpit was dug by the requisitioned local residents. The Jews had to disrobe completely, to lie down at the bottom of the pit in groups of 20 and then they were shot to death with machine-guns.  All executions were conducted by SD unit who arrived from Lutsk and they were assisted by German gendarmerie and local police. During the following weeks the Ukrainian police continued to search for the Jews in hiding. The majority of the escapees from the liquidation were shot afterwards at the Jewish cemetery.

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