"In the city of Lida, Zenon (born 1936) delivered a testimony about the payment of contributions by the Jews. It was a very common practice among Germans prior to extermination of the Jews. Zenon and his family had to move because their house was located in the ghetto. He managed afterwards to enter the ghetto to see his former house and he witnessed the Jews paying their contributions in the market place, which was surrounded by the Germans. They were placing their jewels and their valuables into buckets".
From April 15, 2014 until May 1, 2014 a Yahad-In Unum team led a fifteenth investigation trip in Belarus, in the Grodno region. During this investigative trip, the Yahad team interviewed forty witnesses and led investigations to twenty-four shooting sites.
Administrative district of Grodno
Investigated towns and villages: Mikhalichki, Vorniany, Ostrovets, Ochmiany, Novossiady, Jouprany, Amoliany, Berventsy, Soly, Smorgon, Tolminovo, Novossiady, Norchty, Golchany, Krevo, Vichnevo (Misnk region), Volojyn (Minsk region), Bakchty, Ivié, Stanevitchi, Iatoltovitchi, Lida, Vassilichki, Jeloudok, Radoun, Vorovo, Belitsa, Novogroudok, Popkovitchi.
The investigated region was part of the Polish state before the war. It was occupied by the Germans as early as the summer of 1941, and then it was put under a civilian German administration.
A large part of the area that Yahad investigated was located not far from the Lithuanian border. This area, which had been inhabited by the Poles since the Middle-Ages, was still mostly ethnically Polish. From 1942 on, it became part of the German administration of the Generalkomissariat of Lithuania.
– Concerning the repression of the Jews, most of the Jewish villages of this area underwent a quick settlement in ghettos.
– The Shoah was particularly murderous in this region, the more so due to the suddenness of the German invasion and the proximity of the front left few chances for the Jews to escape. The farther one goes from the Lithuanian border, the more one has to face cases of organized mass murders, as is the case in most of the country.
– Another pattern of extermination – the team also visited two towns where the Jews were burnt alive in their houses.
– The Yahad team also met witnesses of the shootings of Roma. These are valuable testimonies as there are few documents and archives about these events.
– Nearly one-third of the Belarusian population was killed during the war. In addition to the Jewish and Roma genocides, the remaining part of the Byelorussian civilian population suffered tremendously from the conflict. Rare are the villages where our teams did not face the remembrance of these other civilian sufferings.