Slavuta (Slovita, Slawuta) | Khmelnytsky

/ / The Yahad team with the two witnesses during an interview in Slavuta, 2010. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad – In Unum Anna Z., born in 1927 with her husband: “The ghetto was so overcrowded that some Jews slept outside in the yard.” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad – In Unum Anna Z., born in 1927: “Once I came to the ghetto to give some potatoes to the inmates because they had nothing to eat. When the policeman saw me throwing the potatoes over the barbed wire, he started to fire in my direction. I got scared and ran away.” © David G., born in 1921, a Jewish survivor who was drafted into the Red Army. His mother was murdered at the end of August along with other Jewish women and children in the forest near the railway station. ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad – In Unum Galina V., born in 1914: “All the Jews were told to move to the ghetto. MY Jewish friend who was expecting a baby any day was authorized to stay at home for a while, but then was also taken to the ghetto.” ©Nicolas Tkatchouk/Yahad – In Unum

Execution of Jews in Slavuta

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
ca. 2,000

Witness interview

David G., born in 1921: “I was drafted to do my military service in November 1940. When the war broke out, I was doing my military service in Nikoalev [Mykolaiv today] at the Navy base. Shortly after I was drafted into the Red Army. I wasn’t in Slavuta during the war, I only went back there in 1945. I found out that my mother and my sister Hannah had been killed along with 27 members of my family who lived in the area, including in Krasnostav and Berezdiv. My sister Hannah, born in 1929, was killed in an isolated shooting. I was told that she managed to get out of the ghetto to go look for some food, some potatoes because they had nothing to eat. She never came back. She must have been caught and killed on the spot.” (Witness n°2921, interviewed in Slavuta, on July 17, 2021)

Soviet archives

“The Commission has established the following record of the atrocities and barbarities committed by the German-Fascist invaders in the town of Slavuta and its district during the occupation. According to the testimony of citizen D., who witnessed a shooting, "for the first shooting a group of 800 Soviet skilled workers was selected. The execution took place 300 meters northeast of the barracks, not far from the Slavuta-Shepetovka road, at the foot of the hill "Lysaya Gora", (former shooting range).
During the research of the above-mentioned locality, two pits were found and opened: the first one is 22m long, 3m wide and 2m deep, the second one is 10 m long, 2m wide and 2m deep. When opening the pit, the Commission established that the bodies were without tops and bottoms, with clothes and shoes. A total of six graves were found at this location. It was found that some of the victims had been shot in the back of the neck. According to the witness D., people were shot in groups of 15-20. They stood on the edge of the pit, the Germans who shot them were 15-20 feet away and fired in bursts. The people then fell into the pits, those who were still alive were finished off. During the examination of the pit, the Commission found a passport in the name of Khaym Idovyi, born in 1923, and a pen. […] According to the deposition and testimony of citizen Dmitriy N., southeast of the military barracks, in the small forest "Svirzhok", plot 50, between the Slavuta-Tashki road and the Gorin River, more than 2,000 people were shot.” [Act drawn up by Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on April 26, 1944; GARF 7021-64-814]

German archives

“A: […] I remember, that we were first assigned to carry out the murder operation of Jews in Slavuta. I was assigned, alongside other members of my unit, to drive the Jews - men, women, and children, entire families - out of their homes. I can’t remember whether those Jews were taken [to the murder site] on foot or in vehicles. However, I do know for sure that we were supposed to tell those Jews that they were being taken for work. It seems to me that we had to say that the men would go to work and the women to a camp.
Q: From whom did you receive this assignment?
A: I mean Goslar ordered us to drive the Jews from their houses on the street and to tell them that they were going to work or to a camp. G. probably received this assignment from Kreuzer.
Q: When did you learn that the Jews were going to be shot?
A: I believe it was in the evening when all the company members assembled in large numbers.
Q: You were assigned to be one of the shooters at the execution. Who assigned you to be a shooter?
A: When we arrived at the murder site, we stood to one side because we wanted to avoid this assignment, [but] we were called by Kreuzer, G., B., H., and H., who were standing near the pit. Either H. or H. Pushed a loaded rifle into my hands. What is certain is that I was told that I, together with other company members who had been assigned to be shooters, had to enter the pit. […] When I admitted, during the last interrogation, that the shooters were randomly chosen on the spot, I believed that this assumption was correct since at the murder site Kreuzer shouted "Hurry up. No loafing! Do you think you are girls?!" etc. Then Kreuzer was standing on a small mound of earth on the edge of the pit. When I had to enter the pit, the shooting process was already in full sway. A company member showed the Jews how they had to lie down [inside the trench]. I know for sure that Kreuzer called me from the edge of the pit, saying that I should aim my rifle straight at the back of the heads and then shoot. At that time Kreuzer was standing near the edge of the pit, to my left.
Q: Did you see Kreuzer shooting as well?
A: I do remember that Kreuzer frequently shot into the pit while standing on the edge of it. I mean that Kreuzer finished off only those persons who had not died immediately. It is possible that due to the nervous state of the shooters, they weren’t able to aim accurately and that a couple of the victims were not killed immediately. According to my current recollection, only one shooter was standing in the pit, and there was another company member who ordered the Jews to lie down. Since every shooter was armed with a rifle loaded with 5 bullets, the same number of Jews had to be put in the pit.” [Deposition of a member of Police Reserve Battalion 45, given in the frame of the process against Engelbert Kreuzer, former commander of the 45th Reserve Police Battalion 2nd Company, March 1969; B162-6667: ARZ-651-1967]

Historical note

Slavuta is a town in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, western Ukraine, located 115km(71mi) north of Khmelnytskyi itself. First mentioned in 1619, the town remained under Polish rule until 1793 when it was taken over by the Russian Empire. The first records of the Jewish community go back to the early 18th century. The town was known for its printing house, established in 1791 by Moshe Shapira, son of the Hassidic rabbi. It operated until 1836. In 1897, the Jewish population numbered 4,891, comprising 57% of the total population. The majority of Jews at this time worked in industry or produced cloth and paper. Many of them were merchants. The community had three synagogues, with the oldest one dated from 1731, and a cemetery. During the Civil War, in 1919-1920, several Jews were victims of the pogroms. As a result of insecurity and displacement to bigger towns, the Jewish population decreased. In 1926, only 46% of the population was Jewish, with 4,701 Jews living in Slavuta. The majority of them worked in artisan cooperatives, state owned factories or owned shops. In the 1920s, a Yiddish school was opened, but it was closed in 1935 alongside some of the synagogues, and other cultural institutions. On the eve of the war in 1939, about 5,102 Jews lived in Slavuta, making up 34% of the total population.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Slavuta was occupied by German forces on July 7, 1941. By that time some Jews had managed to escape, but the majority remained in the town. According to the German registration records on August 18, 1941, 1,304 Jews lived in Slavuta.

The shootings of the Jews were conducted from the middle of  August to late 1942 by different units stationed in Slavuta. The first mass shooting was conducted right after the registration, on August 19, 1941. The next two Aktions were conducted on August 30 and 31. During these shootings, conducted by the Police Reserve Battalion n°45 about 1,500 Slavuta Jews were murdered in the Tashki forest outside the town. On the execution days, Jewish men, women and children were first assembled under the pretext of being taken to work or transferred to labor camps (in case of women), but were taken to the execution site instead, where trenches had been prepared in advance. Once on site, the Jews were shot from a rifle or a sub-machine gun to the back of the head, in groups of five, either on the edge of the pit, or inside the pit while laying facing the ground. The battalion chief, E.Kreuzer, finished off any victim who was still alive by firing from the edge.

A closed ghetto was established on March 1, 1942. It was located in the former Jewish area, surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by Ukrainian auxiliary policemen. That same month, Jews from nearby villages such as Hannopil, Berezdiv, Krasnostav and Kylykiiv were transferred to the Slavuta ghetto. While the elderly, sick and children were murdered on their arrival in the cellars located near the ghetto’s entrance, others were settled in the houses alongside the local Jews. The ghetto was so overcrowded that some inmates had to stay outside in the yards.  All the inmates were marked with yellow distinguishing badges and were subjected to forced labour. According to one testimony, in the same month 500 Jews were taken from the ghetto to work  in a quarry near the town of Berezdiv. Those who didn’t die from hunger or exhaustion were shot dead if they were considered unfit to work. According to the archives, due to overcrowding and inhumane living conditions in the ghetto, fearing an epidemic, the Germans murdered about 300 young children by throwing them into a well located near the entrance to the ghetto.

In May 1941, the remaining Jews were resettled in another part of town, while the skilled workers were separated and held in a building. On June 25 or 26, 1942, the ghetto was liquidated. That day, the majority of the Jews, mainly women, children, and elderly people were loaded onto several trucks, and taken to the water tower, located near the POW camp where they were murdered. Upon their arrival they were ordered to get off the trucks and to strip naked. In groups of three, the victims then had to get inside the pit and lie down facing the ground. The execution was conducted by German Security police, under the command of the Gebebietkommissar of Shepetivka, with the help of the local police. At the very end of June, 13 Jews found hiding were shot to death by the Germans near the school. The skilled workers spared during the June mass shooting, were murdered in September 1942.

In early December 1942 a large group of Jewish POWs was shot to death by SS men at the Slavuta POW camp, Stalag 301. The prisoners were taken to a trench located in the southern part of the camp at the edge of a nearby pine forest. According to one testimony, the victims were placed in groups of 20 along the length of the trench and, on the order of an SS officer, were shot in the head with machine-guns.

According to the Soviet archives, about 13,000 civilians were murdered in Slavuta during the occupation. We believe that this number is over estimated, but we can definitely count several thousand Jews among the Nazi victims.

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