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PAMIAT’ — MEMORIAL to the Volozhyn Region



In 1996 the authorities of the Volozhin region published a book, written in the local Byelorussian language.


The book contains 450 pages. It describes the region’s history and geography. The Volozhin region (poviat) expands some sixty Km. from Bogdanovo eastward through Vishnievo & Volozhin to Rakov, and forty Km. from Losk southward through Volozhin & Piershay to Ivianietz .


In the region’s southern part between Volozhin and Ivianiets, alongside the Islotsh river expands the big Volozhin and Nalibok forest ("Pushtsha").


Working diligently with the material( 450 pages) that was written in strange, new literary Byelorussian-language, we identified some material concerning the Jews, who populated this area and formed the majority of the towns inhabitants.


The written material regarding the Jews is scarce and disproportional in its little regard to the most horrendous mass murders that had been committed in the Volozhin region by the bestial invaders and by their ardent local supporters.





New order in Vishnevo


By K. Pobal


Volozhin "Pamiat’" book, page 164.


Translated from the Belarusian language by M. Porat. 


A Red Army convoy approached the outskirts of Vishnievo on June 27th 1941 at an early afternoon hour. German aircraft bombed the convoy. While the bombs devastated the Soviet unit, they also set on fire seven houses on Volozhin Street. The bodies of the Red Army soldiers were promptly buried in the Old Graves. The Germans had occupied the town on the same day. They immediately established a Police center. Local people were appointed as policemen and commanders. The policemen killed a group of Vishnievo residents on the first day of their appointment.


Without delay they hang signs around the town with written orders: "Each Jew should put a yellow patch formed as a six pointed star (David’s Star) on the breast and on the spine". "Who’s sheltering a Jew would be shot". "Who’s giving bread to a Jew would be shot". "Who’s sheltering a Communist or a Soviet soldier would be shot". The old (Polish) administrative partition was renewed. Vishnievo became a Gmina (Village authority) in the Volozhin Poviat (region), Vilna Oblast’ (District). All inhabitants of the Gmina area had been obliged to behave according to the local authorities orders. The police imprisoned each one who did not seem be loyal to the German regime. An inhabitant of Polish or Belaruss nationality only could receive an "Ausswais" some identity card. Jews and other people had no right to carry it. Those whom they did catch without "Auswais" were shot or sent to forced labor in Germany.


In the first days of occupation the Germans ad the "Politsays" established the Jewish Ghetto on the Krevo Street.


In M. Mikhaylashov’s book " The Anger Storm", published in Minsk (1971), chapter "The Court Trial" page 207 we read: "In mid July 1942 we came to the town Volozhin , where we shot some two thousand Jews — men, women and children. Grabe was the execution commander. In Volozhin I personally shot hundred and twenty Jews. Later I arrived in the Vishnievo hamlet with our sondercommando unit. Here we executed one thousand five hundred Jews. The action commander was Grabe"


Today in place of the execution stands a memorial. In big letters it asserts: "In 1942 t 2066 Soviet citizens were shot here".


In the summer 1992 Mr. Shimon Peres the Israel foreign minister visited Vishnevo. He looked for the tombs of his ancestors and also visited the big slaughter place of his relatives and childhood friends who were so bestially annihilated in 1942. Peres was born in Vishnievo. He has gone to Israel before the war.





Memories From Vishnievo Ghetto:


By Ema Mikhaylovna Murtshanka - Voroniezh (Russia)


Volozhin "Pamiat’" book, (page 166).


Translated from Russian by M. Porat.


"I expirienced and witnessed with my own eyes the bestial deeds of the Fascists murderers and their local cooperators in the Vishnievo Ghetto. Yes, so it was: Together with my family, childhood friends and relatives, also with the rest of the dejected Jewish residents of Vishnevo, at the age of seventeen I was physically thrown (by the hands of the fascists and their local collaborators- the traitors) into the Vishnievo detention Ghetto-camp. Here I experienced during the years of 1941-42 every method of abuse and the most horrific and tormenting treatment by the hands of the fascists and their murderous local helpers.


One day they enclosed the entire Vishnievo-Jewish population into the Tserkov (Russian church). All of them were ordered to lie on the floor and had been left in this position for the entire day without any water or food. At evening time, they were dispensed with armed guards, each one to his home to pick up the most needed things. Immediately afterwards the Jews were ordered to reassemble on Krevo Street. When we arrived, we found that a high fence with barbed wire encircled Krevo Street.


So that is how the Vishnievo Concentration Ghetto Camp was created. Here were detained the entire 1600 Vishnievo Jews. From this day on began our painful life inside the fascists’ inhuman detention camp. One Thousand six hundred people had to live on one tiny street. In each tiny room three to four families were crowded including men, women, elderly, sick people and children.


During the summer warm days the Ghetto dwellers would somehow manage to survive, they were exchanging the objects they quickly succeeded to take into the ghetto for food.


But when the cold arrived, the miserable inhabitants lacked food and firewood. The sole salvation was in the daily hunt for jobs by the ghetto youngsters. They would work for the Germans who in exchange gave them a small amount of food. They would be taken into the forest to prepare firewood, or to the Bogdanovo rail station. On the way they would exchange some objects, which we still succeeded to guard by some miracle. The Politsays robbed the most valuable objects.


The returning workers succeeded to bring a bundle of twigs, a bottle of milk or few potatoes. But all these goods had to be hidden in the most sophisticated ways. The most pleasurable event for the Ghetto guards used to be to deprive the "food smuggler" of their sprinkle of twigs at the camp gates. And when the poor, tired and terrified Ghetto workers would be able to breath with relief hopping to bring a bit of food to their little sisters or to supply some heating for their old and sick grand parents, suddenly they appeared, the Politsays and maliciously conducted an precise search. When the prohibited matter would be found they would take it away, beat bestially its possessor and let him go home bleeding and lacerated with an empty bundle to unite empty handed with his impatiently waiting, cold and hungry relatives.


And even more frustrating was to see our previous colleagues and schoolmates among the cruel inhuman beasts, the local Politsays.


On our way to work we were permitted to go upon the road only not on the sidewalk. We were obliged to wear on the chest the yellow-blue David star patch. But more than cold and hunger we feared the abuse and maltreatment of the Germans and their assistants. In particular feared it the children and youngsters.


We were very afraid of the Policeman Yourovitsh and the commander Pashkovski. I will never forget their evil faces and their cruel tortures. Until now I see in my nightmares their bestial faces.


They had a dreadful hobby. Horse riding they used to break into the ghetto and to chase all the inhabitants on the street, all of them, men, women, old, young, children and babies. They used to beat the chased Jews with horsewhips until unconsciousness. When satisfied, they would find a baby in his mothers’ arms and would pierce the child with a rifle mounted bayonet, to stick it in his body, to lift the pierced child and to fling him with his head down, on the stones. When the mother went crazy, they cold blooded shot her. The local murderers witnessed all that. They laughed joyfully. The bandits used to take photos of the horrible scenes.


Every day the camp awaited its impending liquidation. The Germans did not conceal it. The imprisoned could not sleep. Anticipating the worse, they listened to each rustle and to the wild songs and vociferations of the oppressors. Once when we were at work in Bogdanovo, Yelena Gurevitsh my friend and I, we chose the first opportune moment, we run into the forest and finally joined the Tshapayev Partisan unit.


The Vishnievo ghetto concentration camp was liquidated on August 1942. The murderers encircled the Ghetto and chased all the Jews into an empty barn at the end of Krevo Street. Soon they began the shooting. Gasoline was spilled over the barn and the survivors with the dead were burnt together.


At my return to Vishnievo after the victory I found on the barn’s place a tall hill. All of it was filled with black burnt human bones. Above the hill a horrible smell of ashes spread. And that was all that remained from my family, my close friends and all the Vishnievo Jews. After the war from the entire Vishnievo Jewish population survived only 10 to 15 persons. And now we are only two: Gurevitsh Yelena Israilovna who lives in Perm and I. " ( there are a few others alive in the U.S) 





Vishnievo Massacre witnesses


Told by Gelanovo & vicinity peasants- inscribed by K. Pobal


Volozhin "Pamiat’" book - (page 167).


Translated from Belaruss language by M. Porat.


Dubitski Petr Yosifovitsh (born in 1914) and his wife Dubitska Stefanida Ludvikovna (born in 1919) survived the German occupation in Vishnievo. They witnessed the mass destruction of the Vishnievo Jewry. They told that the first lead to death were the area physician, Doctor Padzelver, his wife the accoucheuse and their beautiful daughter. The executioners shot at any one who tried to run away.


Mikhaylovska Felitziya Yosifovna (born 1919) had seen with her own eyes a pretty, five years old Jewish girl running away. The local Politsay shot at her once than for the second time and the girl fell. At the first stage groups of 20-30 Jews were led to execution under guard. Afterwards they were transported in cars. By the evening all the Jews were shot. Fumes of human burned bodies spread around the town and the surrounding area.


Kavetska Mariya Ivanovna (born in 1927) from Vidkaushtshina hamlet remembers how the innocent Jews had been executed by shooting in Gelanovo in the building that belonged to Ms Zara. Many had attempted to run into the high rye fields. The enemy bullets attained them also in the fields. The executors mobilized men with horses and carts in the neighboring hamlets to stack the dead bodies in piles and to burn them. The wind blew from the east side and the distinctive smell expanded all the way to Bogdanovo. The bodies burned for an entire week.


Vikentiy Matsveyitsh Gerassimovitsh from Gelanovo hamlet told us:


"It happened at Sunday in a warm summer day. The captive "Inhabitants", the genocide victims crowded inside the ghetto fences. Politsays guarded the gates. The situation seemed to be normal. Nothing in Vishnievo indicated the oncoming disaster. Unusual Germans arrived in cars and entered into the ghetto territory. The Jewish captives had been formed in ranks, men, and women with children and old people. The Vishnievo inhabitants worried. "What is going on?" whispered the women. Nobody was permitted to approach the ghetto. After a little while some twenty to thirty people together with their families were separated from the mass of Jews. They were chased to the end of Krevo Street to Gelanovo.


The building owner, Ivan Zara was sent away. The building was encircled by machine guns. Doktor Padzelver, the most respected person in Vishnievo, with his spouse and daughter were at the head of the conveyed to Gelanova victimes.


From the Ghetto broke out screams "The German gun men are leading the captives to death". Women from Gelanova hamlet begged the German commander: "Pan! Let the doctor go. He did not any evil, not to us and not to you. This man saved by his work people from death. Save him, do not destroy him!"


The German refused: "He did not heal you, he infected and contaminated you". Doctor Padzelver resembled a professor. He used to heal people from various maladies. He performed chirurgical operations. The doctor drove his own car and he taught the children to speak Polish.


Five Germans stood at the building. The Jews were conducted inside five after five and here they were shot. In the house was a cellar, into which were thrown the victims dead, wounded and alive. After the first group was murdered the Germans changed the method. They ceased to chase the Jews by foot; on its place they transferred the victims on cars. When discharged, the Jews were conducted five by five into the building. They were forced to climb on the bodies and were shot. A part of them was killed. Some of them were left alive among the dead bodies. Until the evening the Vishnievo Jews were completely executed. The Guards and their local assistants spilled gasoline on the building and set it on fire. Some survivors began to run from the building. The guards shot them. People from neighboring hamlets had seen some Jews who succeeded to run".


The destruction of Rakov Jews


Report written in August 1945


Volozhin "Pamiat’" book - (page 165).


Translated from Belaruss language by M. Porat.


The committee head: Svitko I.T. - Committee members: Yatskaviets I.D., Kirzov P.M., Nissinov M.F., Garshkov, Lavrishkov, Batalin had set this report about the crimes done by the Fascist occupants in the Radushkovits district.


Witnesses: Rutkovska Leonida B., Gerasimovitsh, Grinholtz Vosip Isakovitzh , Grinholtz Aron Davidovitsh.


The witnesses reported that the Germans had assembled in 1942, June 14th in Rakov, as if to work forty-five Jews. They had been led to Baruzints at two Km. from Rakov. The Germans gave them shovels and ordered to dig pits. After the pits were ready, the Germans placed the forty-five captives facing the pits and shot them from machine guns.


The same year in August 29th the Germans assembled all the Rakov- Ghetto Jews, forced them to dig pits, afterwards they counted hundred and five persons and ordered them to lie in those pits. All of them had been shot at the gendarme Drobel’s command.


The Jews who survived were lead to Rakov. On the way they had been ordered to sing and to dance. Satisfied by the concert, the murderers forced all the captives to lie down with the face to the soil. At the gendarme Ferverg’s command they had been shot accordingly to each killers’ choice. One of the bandits had cut of with his axe the physician’s head because he was not satisfied with the victim’s song. In this action too were killed hundred five persons.


In 1942, February 4th, the Politsay commander Mikhal Ziankevitsh ordered all the Jews to take their belongings and to assemble on the synagogue courtyard for departure to Minsk. When the Jews assembled they were ordered to pose all the valuables aside and to enter into the synagogue. Some of them tried to go back, but they have been beaten to death with rifle shafts. Crying children were pierced by rifle bayonets and thrown over the crowded heads. The synagogue doors and windows were blocked with nailed planks. The murderers spilled gasoline on the walls and set the building on fire. Nine hundred twenty eight Jews had been burnt to death on that winter day in the Rakov synagogue.





The destruction of Volozhin Jews


By M. Batvinnik


Volozhin "Pamiat’" book - (page 164).


Translated from Belaruss language by M. Porat. 


We are taught by the documents from the Central archives of the Belarus Republic and from Yad Vashem in Jerusalem how was created the Volozhin ghetto and how the Volozhin Jews had been destroyed during the German occupation. These documents are based on witnesses’ testimonies.


On June 1941, a number of days after the Germans occupied the town they assembled forty-five Jews and forced them to dig a pit. The pit diggers were shot on place. The wounded were buried alive.


The entire Jewish population was chased into the Ghetto, which had been fenced on the right Volozhinka shore alongside the Dubinski Street.


In October 1941 the Germans assembled 220 people in the cinema building near the Polish military quarters. They were lead by tens to the nearby sport-stadium. Here all of them were shot. After the war the local authorities raised a memorial woman statue, on which it is engraved in Russian: "The German Fascists bestially killed here hundreds of Soviet citizens during the Fatherland war in the years 1941-1945".


In May 1942 came a German sondercommando unit on motorcars from Vileyka. They assembled 1500 men, women and children and killed them near the Volozhin graveyard. The murderers searched the ghetto for hidden Jews. They shot on place every one that was found. The bodies had been piled and set on fire, to hide and to camouflage the horrible crime.


In August 1942 the murderers assembled 300 Jews on the left Volozhinka shore beneath the Shapoval road into a stall, which prior to it served as a place for flax drying. They set fire on the building and the victims had been burnt, most of them alive.


In summer 1943 the last Volozhin Jews had been destructed.