Valentina S., who was 10 years old and lived in Drogobuj with her parents during the war, told us how her family had fled the city when the Germans arrived for the second time during the summer of 1942 (they had already occupied the city in 1941, and the Russians had reconquered it the following winter). They stayed in a village in the neighbourhood, and were caught by Germans as they were fleeing by cart on the road to Minsk.
Then her forced journey west began. She was first a prisoner at a camp near Iartsevo, north-east of Smolensk. When she arrived at the camp, she had to undress and was disinfected, while a loudspeaker aired German and Russian songs with anti-Semitic overtones. In the fall, she was taken on a cart to the railway station, and then to Belarus on a cattle carriage. In Drissa, in the region of Vitebsk, she lived, confined in a school. She was transferred to Postavy, where the camp was surrounded by small lakes.
In these two towns; local people advised her not drink the water, because the Germans had thrown the bodies of murdered Jews into the wells. Then, she was displaced to Miory. The camp there had a barbed wire fence and the Germans selected war prisoners for forced labour in Germany. Valentina managed to escape from the camp with her mother, with the help of a Belarusian boy who had connections with the partisans.
(The picture above is of Antonina, another witness.)
During this 12-day investigation, the Yahad-In Unum team led research in 7 towns, including the city of Smolensk and the surrounding area. 9 mass graves were documented, 3 of which had been totally unknown. One of the specificities of Yahad-In Unum work in Russia is linked to the diversity of the categories of victims identified during the investigations: Soviet war prisoners, partisans, Vlassov, Gipsies, and Jews.
Region of Brest
Investigated towns/villages: City of Krasny, City and area of Smolensk: Gadionevka, Passovo, Sadki, Mogalenchina, Aleksandrovka, Village of Issakovo, Village of Sinkovo, Town of Oster, Town of Stodolishche, Town of Roslavl
One of the specificities of Yahad-In Unum work in Russia is linked to the diversity of the categories of victims identified during the investigations: Soviet war prisoners, partisans, Vlassov, Gipsies, and Jews.
Given these specificities of Yahad-In Unum’s investigation in Russia, we have chosen to write a report of our experience on this particular field, as during this trip we focused on the city of Smolensk itself, and to privilege those of the testimonies gathered by the team which proffer the most unprecedented historic facts, in the perspective of both Yahad-In Unum’s researches over the last five years and general historical studies.
– Fruitful field investigation in the city of Smolensk
– An eye-witness of the execution of 174 Gipsies in the hamlet of Aleksandrovka
– Russian populations displaced and sent west to German camps