3 Execution site(s)
Vasili V., born in 1930: “My grandmother, her granddaughter and my grandfather were taken to a clay sand pit in the village. It was someone from the village grazing his cows who told me all this. They were told to turn around, my grandfather had to undress first because he had a nice suit. My grandmother said: "shoot me from in the front, I won’t turn around". They shot her from the front, then my grandfather and the little girl.
As for my brother, the policemen asked him if he was Jewish. They told him "we’ll see if you are or not, take off your pants". I don’t know if my brother started to cry or not, but they shot him and left him like that.
I was still in the river, with the water freezing to my neck. I got out of the water, I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t feel my limbs. A woman who lived on top of the hill, who was washing her clothes, saw me and said "what are you doing here? Don’t move, I’m going to look for my husband and my brother, they will come to get you in a cart". They came, they lifted me up, I could not move my legs or my arms. They took me to their house and stripped me naked. The police were still in the village. They gave me clothes of their own because they had no children. They were much too big for me. They hid me in the barn below the cow feeder, I was very cramped. When the police left the village, after looting it, they took me out of the stable, gave me vodka to drink, poured it all over my body and put me on the stove, a Ukrainian stove, over which people used to sleep. I sweated all night long, I was soaked. That’s how they saved my life. If they had left me, I would have died. The next morning, my mother, who had heard that I was alive, came to get me.
I won’t tell you the rest. We stayed in hiding a lot, the people of our village, with whom we had a very good relationship, hid us.” (Testimony n°86U, interviewed in Ostroh, on August 2, 2004)
"On September 1 of the same year , a German detachment arrived in Ostroh once again. Early in the morning, they began to drive the Jewish residents to the square near the sawmill on Manuilskiy Street, under the pretext of sending them to perform forced labor. When all the Jews had been assembled at the square, trucks arrived. The young men, women, and children were loaded onto them and driven toward the Krivin railway station, where, in the forest near the village of Netishin, they were shot dead. The continued until evening, and as many as 3,000 people were killed in this murder operation." [Deposition of a Jewish survivor Benzion K., born in 1891, given to the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); GARF 7021-71-64]
Ostroh is a town located in northwestern Ukraine. It is 37 km (23 miles) southeast of Rivne, which is a major city in the region. Jews began settling in Ostroh during the 15th century. The town’s Jewish community grew significantly during the 16th century, establishing a synagogue and a hospital. In 1648, approximately 1,500 Jews lived in Ostroh, and the town became commonly referred to as “New Jerusalem.” During the 17th and 18th centuries, Ostroh’s Jews were frequently persecuted by Cossacks and students of the local Jesuit college. In the 1730s, the Jews’ Tatar neighbors intervened to prevent an imminent Cossack pogrom, and that event was celebrated annually by the Jewish community on the day after the end of Passover. In 1793, Ostroh was ceded from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to the Russian Empire. Following its annexation, the town became one of the largest centers of Jewish book publishing in Russia. Between 1794 and 1824, seven Jewish printing presses were founded there. During the 19th century, members of the Jewish Enlightenment, or maskilim, became more prominent. They established a Talmud Torah school and a hospital. The town was also home to a strong Hasidic community and dynasty. By 1897, 9,208 Jews lived in Ostroh, making up 62% of the total population. After World War I, Ostroh became part of the newly-established Republic of Poland. During the interwar period, Jews mostly worked in the commerce and agricultural production industries. In September 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Poland and occupied Ostroh. The Soviets closed all Jewish institutions and remained in the town until July 1941.
When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, a sizeable number of Jews were able to evacuate from Ostroh into the Russian interior. When German forces arrived, approximately 7,000 Jews remained. The Nazis and the Soviets fought a fierce battle that lasted until July 3, 1941, which resulted in a German victory. In the summer and fall of 1941, the German authorities imposed many antisemitic measures against Ostroh’s Jewish community. They ordered all Jews aged 16 to 60 to perform forced labor and threatened them with death if they refused. Men cleared the town’s streets of debris, among other menial tasks, while women performed more domestic duties, like office cleaning. A Judenrat (Jewish Council) was also established during this time. Jews were forced to wear the Star of David and were forbidden from leaving town. The Germans carried out an initial Aktion soon after they occupied Ostroh. 300 Jewish members of the intelligentsia were rounded up and shot in the Jewish cemetery. A second Aktion took place on August 4, 1941. SS troops and Ukrainian policemen rounded up the Jewish population in the town square and marched them to a forest southwest of Ostroh. The SS conducted a selection of Jews based on their ability to work, marital status, and gender. Men, women, and children who could work were sent back to Ostroh, while the remaining 1,000 to 1,300 Jews were shot. On September 2, 1941, a third Aktion occurred. A German Reserve Police Battalion entered Ostroh and rounded up all Jewish males. They were told that they were to report to a sawmill outside of town for forced labor. Many Jewish men refused to believe the Germans and a few managed to escape during the march to the sawmill. Once they arrived, the Jews were divided into groups and transported by truck to a mass grave, where they were shot. While this massacre was taking place, some of Ostroh’s Christian leaders realized what was happening and intervened with the German authorities to save the Jews. Their intervention saved about 500 Jewish lives. The September Aktion killed approximately 2,500 Jews, and about 3,500 Jews were murdered during the second half of 1941. After the September Aktion, the Germans established a new Judenrat, since all of its original members had been murdered. In June 1942, the Germans relocated Ostroh’s Jews to a ghetto in a part of town that was devastated by Allied bombing. By this time, only about 3,000 Jews remained in the town. On October 12, 1942, Jews from nearby villages were relocated to the Ostroh ghetto. On October 15, German and Ukrainian police liquidated the ghetto. They rounded up its inhabitants and took them to the forest near the town of Novogo, where they shot approximately 2,000 people. Some Jews managed to escape or hide during the Aktion. The German authorities sent units to search for them, and during the second half of October 1942, about 1,000 Jews were captured and executed. From 1941 to 1942, the Germans and their collaborators murdered approximately 6,500 Jews in Ostroh. When the Red Army recaptured the town on February 5, 1944, only about 60 survivors remained. They briefly returned to Ostroh before immigrating to Poland, Israel, and the United States.
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