“Assia (born 1929) was a Jewish girl living in Zarechie. She was rounded up by Germans and policemen who had come to her family’s house, and they were taken to the place where all the Jews from the village were gathered. Her father took advantage of a moment when the guards leading the column did not watch them to push her aside, telling her to seek shelter in one of his friends’ houses. From the house’s window, she could see the Jews sitting on the ground and waiting. Then, the Jews from Chklov arrived on trucks. They were forced into a barn where they had to leave all of their belongings. Some Germans came to the house where Assia had fled and asked the Belarusian family whether she was Jewish. They said she was their niece…
The Jews were then led in a column to the neighboring village of Putniki, where they were killed in a ditch that had been dug out to prevent the cows from roaming into the cemetery. Assia could hear the gunshots and she essentially lost her entire family.
After this, Assia wandered about for a long time. She pretended to be a Belarusian orphan from Minsk. She was once arrested by policemen, but one of them knew her father and took pity: he left open the door of the cell where she had been sent".
From June 11 to Jun 27, a Yahad in Unum team completed their thirteenth investigation trip to Belarus, in the region of Mogilev, with an occasional expansion into the region of Minsk. In the course of this investigation, the Yahad team interviewed 34 witnesses.
Administrative region of Mogilev
Investigated towns/villages: Khotimsk, Rodnia, Konovka, Miloslavtitsi, Khotovij, Krasnopolie, Kostiukovtichi, Klimovichi, Krichev, Prudok, Maliatichi, Chamovo, Gori, Lenino, Naprasnovka, Rudkovshchina, Vereshchaki, Gorki, Chklov, Putniki, Cherikov, Slavgorod, Bykhov, Voronino, Pogost, Novoselki.
The region in which the Yahad team worked was quickly occupied by the Germans, as early as the summer of 1941, but remained under military administration, because the front was so close. Before the Germans arrived, many Jews were evacuated.
During this trip, the Yahad team interviewed significant witnesses of the tragic events of the war, but they were not always easy to find. In most of the areas investigated by the Yahad team, the population was deported and the villages were burnt down after the Germans withdrew on a trajectory following the River Dnieper in 1943. As a result, there were many population movements after the war. It should also be noted that some villages, especially in the south of the region, were hit by radioactive rains after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and that many people deliberately moved away from their homes afterward.
– Most of the shootings took place rather early. Between the summers of 1941 and 1942, there were, among others, several small Jewish towns where a ghetto was not created and the Jews were not set apart. They kept on living freely until they were executed and the tragedy took place within a single day.
– Sometimes, at the same location, there were several shooting sessions of selected victims. When a ghetto was created, it often was open and hardly guarded, so that the witnesses barely remember it. Those ghettos were oftentimes short-lived.
– The team led fruitful investigations in the town of Chklov, where some 2,000-5,000 Jews were killed in successive shooting sessions. The archives and historical documents were quite inconsistent, especially concerning the shooting sites.