Testimony:

Anna (born in 1931) was requisitioned to fill in the grave of Jews who were killed in the town of Postavy in November 1942. There were several thousand victims. She watched the whole day of shooting and was marked for life by it. As she was filling in the grave, the German executioners were drinking alcohol.

From 11 to 26 May 2016, a Yahad-In Unum team conducted a 19th research trip to Belarus, in a geographical area straddling the administrative regions of Vitebsk and Minsk.

As usual in Belarus, the premises were very cooperative to allow the Yahad team to do research, and the witnesses were not reluctant to speak. This particular trip was marked by great wealth and diversity of the testimonies on the following: shooting of Jews, Gypsies and Communists, anti-partisan actions and burnt villages, deportation of Belarusians to civilian camps, prisoners of war…

During the course of this trip, the Yahad team interviewed 40 witnesses, investigated in 22 localities, and identified 23 execution sites.

Places:

Sharkovshchina, Postavy, Dunilovichi, Germanovichi, Rudobist, Petrovichi, Myadel, Budslav, Polesye, Opsa, Vidzy, Dubrovka, Kozyany, Kusevshchina, Krivichi, Dolghinovo, Vileyka, Kurenets, Vileyka.

 

Historical Background:

Quickly occupied by the Germans during the summer of 1941, the covered area was then placed under German civil administration. The Red Army liberated the territory in 1944. Before the war, there was a very large Jewish population.

 

Key Findings:

– Establishment of ghettos in many of the principal towns of the district at the time. Ghettos were sometimes open, sometimes closed.

– Sometimes ghetto-to-ghetto transfers were made, concurrent with forced labor and at times progressive elimination of the Jews (saving the specialists for last).

– In late 1942, most of the Jews were killed. Especially since the local powers justified the rapid elimination of the Jews because of partisan activity.

– Many Jews managed to escape and join the partisans.

– In addition to the usual methods of shooting in pits, there are several examples of mass killings directly in the ghettos during their liquidations: Jews are slaughtered in savage and quite messy manners, or locked up in homes that were set on fire. The ghettos are burned.

– Strong involvement of local police in the killings.

– Presence of the Baltic police battalions in the area.

This trip was made possible with the support of the German Federal Foreign Office.