“In a small hamlet near Dribin, the Yahad team found Vassili (born 1921) who provided information about police recruitment, in which he was directly involved. One day a woman brought him a summoning order from the judge of Dribin, with no reason indicated. Vassili spent the night there with other young men. The following day, they were taken by truck to Gorki. In Gorki, he was questioned in an office by Preuss, the local German officer mentioned in all the archives and by all the witnesses we met. Vassili described Preuss as a “middle-aged little fat man, rude and unpleasant.” During the questioning, Preuss urged him to become a policeman while promising a pension for his parents. Vassili did not give in to the pressure and refused. Preuss’s intepreter, who sided with Vassili, helped him with his answers.
Preuss eventually released Vassili and promised that he would receive a notice for forced labor in Germany. Vassili never received the notice. When he left, he saw the other young men who agreed to enlist getting drunk off schnapps with the policemen. Vassili said he was the only one who had refused”.
From April 20 to May 6, 2012 a Yahad – In Unum team conducted our twelfth investigative trip to Belarus and the first one in the Moguilev region. The Yahad team conducted investigations at 17 localities, interviewed 44 witnesses and identified 18 sites of execution. In some of these sites, forgotten by collective memory, they remain without memorials, the bodies were exhumed in the 1950s and re-buried in Jewish cemeteries.
Administrative region of Mogilev
Investigated towns/villages: Golovtchine, Tchaoussy, Dranoukha, Riasna, Tchernevka, Dribin, Soukhari, Moguilev, Kazimirovka, Stare Pachkovo, Polykhovichi, Selets, Dachkovka, Mstislavl, Esmony, Belynitchi, Chepelevitchi.
The studied zone was occupied by the Germans from the late summer 1941 until 1943. This zone remained under military administration.
There were no available archives and almost no information about the tragic events that occurred in the studied localities. Below are the major findings from Yahad’s investigation.
– When the Germans came, many ghettos were set up under the control of the Ortskommandanturen. In general, ghettos did not last for long – from a few days to a few months. They were many different kinds, open or closed, with or without a fence, made up of streets and houses or improvised in public buildings.More often than not, they did not construct ghettoes as the Jews were already concentrated in designated neighborhoods.
– The extermination of the Jews and the Roma in the studied area took place shortly after the arrival of the Germans. They occurred between summer 1941 and winter 1942, mostly by Einsatzkommandos 8 and 9, by Einsatzgruppe B, by Police Battalions 316 and 322, with the help of the local Belarusian police. Most of the time, the shootings took place in remote areas like forests.