3 Execution site(s)
Yevdokia M., born in 1937 to Jewish mother and Ukrainian father: “I was born in a mixed family, my mother was Jewish. I also had an aunt, my mother’s sister. In our family, we didn’t follow any Jewish tradition, we didn’t even speak Yiddish. Although, my aunt spoke Yiddish from time to time. Before the war, we lived peacefully. My mother worked for another Jewish family who treated her well. She did different kinds of work at home and in the field. I must say that not many people in Zvenyhorodka knew that my mother was Jewish, that fact might have saved my mother’s life. She survived the war. Her name was Maria.” (Witness n°2761U, interviewed in Zvenyhorodka, on August 26, 2020)
«[…] The German bandits carried out terrifying atrocities in the camps of Zvenigorodka and Nemorozh. They forced the Soviet citizens to perform heavy and insurmountable work and inflicted them with inhuman pain before being assassinated.
On June 14, 1942, the German bandits drove about 1,500 Soviet civilians through the town’s streets toward the Opornyi [Dubrova] Forest to be shot. Before this tragedy, they [the victims] were forced into a camp, robbed of their valuables, and many of them were tormented to death. The children and the elderly who could not walk fast enough to the killing site were murdered in the town by German bandits. The children were grabbed by the legs and had their heads smashed against stones. The bodies of murdered children and elderly people were thrown onto trucks and taken to the forest.
On that day the children and elderly were murdered in the forest in front of their family members. The rest of the people were taken 7 kilometers from the pit to a stable. After indescribable humiliations, during the night and the following morning, they were taken to a pit and murdered. The wounded and still alive ones were buried in the pit together with those who had been murdered. A case is known of a female civilian who, together with her child, managed to emerge from the pit alive and return to Zvenigorodka. […].». [Act drawn up on April 19, 1944 by Soviet State Extraordinary Commission; GARF 7021-65-241, pp.81-86]
«[…] There were shootings in Zvenigorodka as well. The victims were those who were denounced by the Russian population. As good as I remember, they weren’t Jews. I won’t be able to tell if these people had improper conduct. We proceeded to the search of each appartement, during which I had to secure the house. As a result, under the order of the SD [man] two people were arrested and driven to our headquarters. I can’t say what happened to these people after. One day, I received an order to participate in an execution along with a couple comrades from our group. There was a natural ravine near the forest, not far away from the locality. About ten or twelve men who were detained as prisoners by the SD at our [H.Q.], were shot at this site in the same way as those from Lwow [Lviv]. I participated in this aktion during which I fired once.” [Deposition of Kurt Greinitz, member of Reserve Police Bataillon 9, given in Tempelhof on March 3, 1959; BArch B162-5224 p.144]
Zvenyhorodka is located 65km (40mi) southeast of Uman and 156km (97mi) south of Kyiv. The first records of the Jewish community go back to the 16th century. Although due to constant danger and pogroms, the Jewish presence wasn’t considered important since only a dozen of them lived in Zvenyhorodka in the late 18th - early 19th century. Once the town became part of the Pale of Settlement of the Russian Empire and with the railway construction, the Jewish population increased rapidly. In 1897, 6,389 Jews lived here comprising 38% of the total population. The majority of Jews lived off trade and small industries. There were tobacco factories, steam mills, a brewery,soap, and cement plants. Some of them were artisans. In the late 19th century, the Jewish community had five synagogues, and a mikvah. The Jews suffered greatly from three major pogroms that were carried out by various warring parties between 1918 and 1920 during the Civil War. In the late 1920s, a Jewish collective farm [kolkhoz] was created. According to the Russian Jewish Encyclopedia, in 1926, the Jewish population of Zvenyhorodka numbered 6,584 people making up 37% of the total population. As a result of the immigration, on the eve of the war, only 1,957 Jews remained in the town making up only 14% of the population.
Zvenyhorodka was occupied by the German troops on July 29, 1941. In 1939 after the invasion of Poland, some Jewish refugees arrived in Zvenyhorodka. The town remained under German military administration until December 1941. Then it was taken over by the Civil administration until its liberation in late January 1944. Shortly after the occupation, all the remaining Jews, according to the estimation of the historian Martin Dean, 1,300, were registered and marked with distinguishing yellow Stars of David. In September 1941, the ghetto was created in the former Jewish residential area. In late September or early October 1941, about 100 Jewish were arrested under the pretext of being taken to work, but were driven outside the town, to the meadow, called Lapteva Levada, where they were murdered. The execution was conducted by a detachment of Einsatzkommando 5. In May 1942, about 100 Jews were brought from Vilshana. The next morning 300-350 Jews fit to work were selected and transferred to the labor camp of Nemorozh, located 5 kilometers north. According to the historical sources, 1,800 Jews remained in the Zvenyhorodka ghetto at the end of May 1942. The ghetto was liquidated on June 18, 1942, or, according to some testimonies on July 14-15). On this day all the Jews from the ghetto were taken to the town prison. After 80 skilled workers were separated from the rest, 1,375 Jews were taken to the Dubrova Forest, 15 kilometers southwest of Zvenyhorodka. Once there, they were forced to strip naked, and then shot dead at a trench by two Germans from the German Security or Order Police. The skilled workers as well as some inmates brought from the labor camps were murdered in August 1943 in the Dubrova Forest. According to the testimonies, isolated shootings of the Jews were carried out during the entire occupation.
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