3 Execution site(s)
Roman I., born in 1926: "A ghetto was built in the Jewish neighborhood inhabited mostly by poor Jews. They had to wear armbands with the Star of David. All of the Jews from the town were confined there. The ghetto was created at the end of the fall. The Jewish men were subjected to perform forced labor. They were taken by Jewish police armed with batons. They were very brutal. One day, I saw a Jewish policeman beating an old Jewish man. Those Jews who didn’t work were not allowed to leave the ghetto’s territory. The ghetto was fenced in with barbed wire and I didn’t go there because of the guards. The ghetto existed until 1943, but starting from 1942 the Jews were deported to the Belzec camp. In 1943 the ghetto was liquidated. There were several Aktions during which the Jews were taken to Petrykiv and shot. Sometimes, we could hear the gunshots coming from the ghetto.” (Witness n°2632, interviewed in Ternopil, on July 17, 2019)
"On September 5, 1941, the German authority hung throughout the town posters reading: “All the Jews had to move to a precise area, "Judenviertel" (as they called the ghetto) before September 25, 1941". Those who didn’t move within the given time will be killed. Being afraid to be condemned to death, my family, including my wife, my mother and my grandmother, and I moved into the ghetto, number 30 on Rynok Street, on September 25, 1941. I lived in the ghetto but I was working outside of the ghetto, as specialist in the pharmacy. I had a special pass, delivered by the town’s Statskommissar, which allowed me to leave the ghetto’s territory. Besides these passes, all Jews had to wear a white armband bearing a blue six-pointed star which they had to buy for 5 zlotys. Those, who didn’t wear them whether inside or outside the ghetto, were immediately arrested and shot by the Gestapo. […]
Once the ghetto was created, the Gestapo named 24 people who formed a Judenrat. They were responsible for the ghetto inmates, had to maintain order and public cleanness, and to ensure that the execution of the Gestapo instruction is completed. […] I don’t remember if there was Jewish police. […]
There was a supply office headed by a Jew named Labiner. Later, he was put into prison by the Germans and he has never come back. In the supply office, one could get 70gr of bread per person; other food products weren’t distributed there. No one could leave the ghetto’s territory to go buy bread or anything else to eat at the market for instance. In order to leave the ghetto’s territory one should had a pass.
[…] There was a Labour exchange office in the ghetto, where the work orders were distributed among the inmates. The office was managed by Germans, Petiler and Vezolt. Hundreds of people were sent for all kinds of forced labor through this office. Sometimes it happened that some Jews who had been taken for work didn’t return. They were shot dead while working. Among those who did come back, there were always those who were beaten with their heads broken.” [Deposition of a Jewish survivor Ernest Sigal, given to the Soviet Extraordinary Commission (ChGK), on July 1, 1944 ; RG.22-002M : 7021-75-105]
“Question: What were you told before the Aktion? How the Aktion was conducted?
Answer: Normally, they arrived unexpectedly. I never expected that this would happen again. The day before, in the evening, it was explained that the following day, at a precise hour, we would start. But I was never told the details. I won’t be able to describe the process of how it was; I knew only that the Jews were supposed to be brought to the execution site outside of town. I won’t be able to recall for sure if they were marched or brought on vehicles.
Question: Once you arrived at the site, what happened next? What could you see?
A: There was a big pit dug in advance. […]
Question: What task [were you supposed to do]?
We were given them only on our way. […] The victims were brought to the site and we had to fire at them. They were many. We were about thirty. The Ukrainian auxiliary police were also present. They had to secure the perimeter, they participated in the shootings. It happened that I couldn’t continue to shoot. […] If I remember right, the victims didn’t have to undress. They had to come to the edge of the pit, kneel down, where they were shot in the nape of the neck.
Question: Did you kill people there? Do you know how many you killed?
Answer: There were several hundred. […]
Question: […] Someone who fires with a gun at close range, without any distance between the fact and the consequence. That is a big difference, isn’t it?
Answer: I was also disgusted by that.
Question: How can one get to the point of pulling the pistol trigger?
Answer: Very likely it was the reason why I couldn’t participate in the entire process.
Question: The thing you did at the pit, precisely killing people by firing in the nape of the neck at close range, was it considered back then as one of the possible tasks a soldier could have?
Answer: Honestly, I had scruples. I was so shocked myself and I hesitated if we could absolutely claim that. I discussed that with Müller, but he said that we could do nothing, that those were the orders. I also mentioned the question of responsibility, ours as well as the future generations. I wanted to say that others would bear the responsibility. We don’t have to bear this responsibility. But we were obliged to follow the orders. […]
Question: Is it true that the victims who attempted to escape were shot on the spot?
Answer: They were shot dead by the guards who sealed off the territory.
Question: Can you confirm that what you have said before, during your interrogation, that there were women and children among the victims during this Aktion? –
Answer: Yes, there were. But, I don’t know if it was the first time that children and women were shot.
Question: How long did the execution last? Approximately?
Answer: Three or four hours. It might be two hours and a half. You should understand that everything was done in chaos. I didn’t have the notion of time.
Question: Did Schone fire from the edge of the pit or did he finish off the victims?
Answer: He did both. Me also, once I had to finish off a man. He told me: “Shoot him dead, don’t you see he is suffering.” [Interrogatory of Cerwony about the execution of Jews in Ternopil; BArch B162-18008]
Ternopil, also known as Tarnopol, is located 120km (75 miles) southeast of Lviv. The town was founded in 1540 by the Polish governor, Grand Crown Hetman Jan Tarnowski. The Jewish community began in the town shortly after that. By the middle of the 17th century, there were at least 300 Jewish families. As a result of the pogroms in 1648-1649, the majority of them fled while others were murdered. However, with time, and good economic conditions the Jewish community was rebuilt. By 1765, 1,246 Jews lived in the town, and in 1869, there were 11,000 Jewish residents, comprising 52% of the total population. In 1772 Ternopil was annexed to Austria as part of Galicia and remained under Austrian rule until 1918, aside from a period between 1809 and 1815 when it was ruled by Tsarist Russia. Briefly, at the end of 1918, the city was part of the Western Ukrainian Republic, before it was taken over by Poland where it remained until 1939. In 1939, Ternopil was incorporated into the Ukrainian Social Soviet Republic as a result of the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact. While being under Polish rule several branches of various Zionist organizations as well as of Agudas Yisroel and the Bund were established. The majority of Jews worked in small business (there were 76 Jewish commercial properties, 364 shopkeepers, and 205 Jewish-held taverns). In 1921, there were 16,320 Jews. Under the Soviets, the Jewish community organizations were dissolved, political parties prohibited, and Hebrew education discontinued, and the Yiddish schools nationalized. By June 1941, the Jewish population increased to 18,600 due to the relocation of Polish Jews who were attempting to flee on the East from the German occupation.
Ternopil was occupied on July 2, 1941, by the 9th German Panzer Division and SS Division Wiking (Viking), which conducted the shootings and pogroms in the area. It remained under German occupation until its liberation on April 15, 1944. Immediately after the German arrival, a pogrom was organized during which several hundred Jews, including 127 members of Jewish intelligentsia, were murdered in the streets, at their homes, and in the synagogue while their belongings were looted. This pogrom was committed by Sonderkommando 4b and SS division Wiking with the participation of the local villagers.
An open ghetto was established in September 1941 and in December the area was fenced in with wooden planks and barbed wire. According to the sources, the ghetto numbered about 12,000 Jews including those who were brought from the nearby villages. At the end of December, 5 members of the Schwartz family were shot for not handing over their fur coats which were requested by Germans. Systematically, all Jews fit to work, including women, who were subjected to forced labor. Thus, in the late 1941-early 1942, several hundred young Jews were sent to the labor camps in Velyki Birky, Kamenka, and Velyky Glybochok. In May 1942, several hundred women were sent to perform work at a synthetic rubber plantation near Chortkiv. On March 23, 1942, another large scale execution took place where approximately 630 Jews, including 150 children were taken to the forest and shot.
There were five main deportations of local Jews and those from the immediate region; Zbarazh, Mykulyntsi, and Strusiv, to the Belzec killing center. The first deportation was conducted on August 31, 1942, the second one took place a month later, then again on September 30, 1942, and the next two in October and November. In the course of these Aktions about 6,000 Jews were deported to Belzec.
In November 1942, the remaining Jews; the majority of whom were specialists and those ‘useful’ for the Reich, were relocated to a newly created Jewish labor camp, also called a Julag. From March to June 1943, several mass executions, as well as isolated killings, of the Jewish inmates took place. On June 18-20, the ghetto was liquidated. The victims were taken to different locations; the forestnear the villages of Dragunivka, Yanivka, and Petrikov, where they were executed. According to the eyewitness interviewed by Yahad, the Jews had to undress prior to being shot in groups. The camp existed until its total liquidation in mid-July 1943. During the liquidation about 2,000 remaining inmates were exterminated along with the members of Jewish police near the village of Petrikov by the Gestapo and Ukrainian police.
In all, in the course of several Aktions conducted between 1941-1944, by Gestapo and the Security Police, more than 10,000 Jews were killed in Ternopil, about 6,000 were deported to the Bełzec camp, over 1,000 were sent to various labor camps, and several hundred died in the ghetto due to lack of food and bad living conditions. Only 750 Jews native to Ternopil managed to survive the Holocaust.
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