Smolevichi (Smalyavichy, Smolewicze, Smolewitsch) | Minsk

/ The Jewish cemetery. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Vera R., born in 1928: “When the pit was almost full, the victims had to climb down into it and lie down on the dead bodies. Then they were shot.” ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Tatiana K., born in 1926: “I saw the column of Jews being taken to the shooting site. Behind the column I saw a cart loaded with corpses.” ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Lev P., born in 1929: “The Jewish inmates from the ghetto were forced to work. In winter, they brought water from the river to the kommandantur. The Germans forced the Jews to give them their gold until they were completely ruined.” ©Jethro Massey/YIU A witness shows Yahad’s team the execution site of 200 Jewish men. It was a cellar in an abandoned farm, but now it is in the middle of a field. (Execution site n°1). The bodies were reburied at the Jewish cemetery. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum The Jewish cemetery located on the outskirts of the town where the remains of 200 Jewish men were reburied. The inscription reads in Russian: “Memorial for those killed by the German invaders on September 13, 1941.” ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum The witness points out the sand quarry outside the town where between 2,000 to 3,300 Jews were shot. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum The monument that stands a few hundred meters away from the execution site, close to the main road. Execution site n°2. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad - In Unum Sketch of the Kurovshchina Farm execution site GARF 7021-87-13; copy YVA JM/20009. ©Taken from Yad Vashem Sketch of the Gorodishche Hill execution site GARF 7021-87-13; copy YVA JM/20009. ©Taken from Yad Vashem

Execution of Jews in Smolevichi

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Sand quarry (1); Cellar in an abandoned farm (2)
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Between 2,000 to 3,300; 200

Witness interview

Lev P., born in 1929: “One day we were grazing cows in the forest with my friends. Suddenly we heard screaming and gunfire coming from about 150-200 meters away. Then we saw the column of Jewish men being led to the site of the gunfire. They were being escorted by Germans with German shepherds. We learned later on that the women and children were the first to be killed and then the men. On another day, I saw a column of women, elderly people and children. They were being led to the hill. The execution lasted the entire day. The villagers said that only two people managed to escape.” (Witness n°939, interviewed in Smolevichi, on August 5, 2017)

Soviet archives

“[…] On the Gorodishche (Koplitsa) hill, 2 km south of Smolevichi, we have found four mass graves in which, in the period from August 19 to October 4, 1942, German-fascist invaders shot and buried 4,100 people, including 3,300 Jews and 800 prisoners of war and other civilians.
During the German occupation the entire Jewish population of the town was gathered in a place called the “ghetto” which was surrounded with barbed wire. Their belongings, clothes, food and furniture were confiscated by the German authorities. For about a month, the German-fascist occupiers mistreated the Jews by making them sleep outdoors and depriving them of food. Many Jews were shot in the ghetto.
On August 28, 1941, 1400 Jews: the elderly, women with children, and adolescents, were driven in columns out of the ghetto, under the pretext of resettlement to another location. […] The Jews were taken to Gorodishche hill where a pit had been dug in advance. Once at the site, they were stripped down to their underwear, led inside the pit and shot with automatic weapons. A large number of children were thrown inside the pit and buried alive.
In the autumn of the same year 1941, on Gorodishche hill, 1,000 Jews and 106 prisoners of war were shot in the same way. [...] In 1944, the German-fascist invaders opened the pits on Gorodishche hill and burned the bodies in order to erase the traces of their crimes. [...]” [Act drawn up on September 25, 1944 by the State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); RG 22.002M: 7021-87-14]

German archives

“[...] We arrived at the Market Square and saw between twenty to thirty Jews with shovels and hooks. As usual S. had previously ordered the village chief to set up this labor group. This group of men left the village, turned left, and came to a forest. We followed them in our vehicles. [...] When the Jews arrived at the forest they had to dig a pit. Once the pit was dug, they were shot. I suppose they were killed with sub-machine guns. The Jews could not have known that they would be shot; otherwise they would not have come.
One of the following days we went back to Smolevichi. [...] When we arrived, most of the Jews were already at the square, watched over by the Wehrmacht. The Wehrmacht, the OD and our men took the Jews out of the village. Most of them were women and children. There must have been several hundred people. The execution site was located on a hill. From my post at the square I could not see [...] the pit. I don’t know who conducted the shooting. It is possible that the Wehrmacht fired too. The victims in the square could hear the shots but could not see the execution. [...] [Deposition of EK8 member, Willy K., drawn up in Cologne on Mars 1, 1963. B162-3291]

Historical note

Smolevichi is located 37 km northeast of Minsk. The first records of the local Jewish community date back to the late 17th century. In 1897, 1,927 Jews lived in the town, making up 64% of the total population. The Jewish elementary school was opened in 1920, and by 1926 it was attended by 250 children. During the 1930s, two Jewish kolkhozes operated in the town. At this time the majority of Jews worked in the kolkhoz, factories or lived off small-scale trade and handicraft. A local Jewish council was active in Smolevichi during the Soviet period. There was a Jewish cemetery and synagogue in the town. In 1939, 1,385 Jews lived in the town, comprising 21% of the total population.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Smolevichi was occupied by the German forces on June 26, 1941. Shortly after the occupation all the Jews were marked with yellow Stars of David and confined to the ghetto, which was surrounded with barbed wire. They lived in terribly overcrowded conditions, with a lot of people dying of hunger, disease and torture. Young Jews able to work were required to perform heavy labor.

According to historical sources and the testimonies of the local villagers interviewed by Yahad, several executions took place in Smolevichi. During the first Aktion carried out on July 28, 1941, between 150-200 Jewish men were selected and taken away under the pretext of being taken to carry out hard labor. They were shot in a barn located in the fields east of Smolevichi. On August 28, 1941, during the liquidation of the ghetto, circa. 3,300 Jews were put into a column and taken 2 km out of city to the sand quarries, to a place known as Gorodische-Kapitsa hill. Once there they were forced to undress and shot in a pit dug in advance. The Aktion was carried out by Einsatzkomando 8 and the Wehrmacht. The remaining 250 Jews were shot in the same way in mid-September 1941. Witnesses also revealed several isolated executions by shooting and hanging; the victims were not only Jews, but also the partisans and locals who helped the Jews. Before retreating, in 1944, the Germans opened the mass graves and burned the remains trying to hide the traces of the mass crime in the framework of Operation 1005.

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