“In Dokchitsi, Yulia P. told us that "her family hid a dozen of Jews, one lying under the couch: he had his heart cut to pieces by a bayonet." Her two brothers who tried to intervene were killed with all the Jews".
This is Yahad – In Unum's first research trip in Belarus. The research team interviewed 27 witnesses in 13 towns.
Vitebsk Region, Polotsk District
The first thing to note is that the situation in Byelorussia greatly differs from Ukraine. Firstly, the Polotsk Jewish community helped us in many ways. They gave us logistic and administrative support. Secondly, our investigation methods need to be adapted to the specific local conditions. Therefore, we interviewed many elderly witnesses in retirement homes. Lastly, many common graves are already protected by national monuments in Belarus.
– We can assume from the information we collected during this research trip is that murders were committed in public.
– We also noticed a large part of requisitions taking place in this region. Everywhere, for each execution, almost 20 carts were used under German orders to transport the handicapped Jews to the execution site and also place the bodies that had fallen out of the grave.
– The significant number of requisitions can be explained by the specific conditions of Jewish mass murders. In fact, many Jews were directly killed in their houses or in the streets. Many others burned alive in their houses or in synagogues. Therefore, people were requisitioned with their own tools to transport the bodies and burn them or bury them in a common grave. For the first time, we had confirmation that a requisitioned person actively participated in the murder of Jews.
– The level of violence described by the witnesses was extremely high: when the Jews could escape the mass murders, they joined the partisan controlled areas, when non Jewish family helped Jews and Germans discovered it, they all were executed.