Nina T. (born 1928) is one of three survivors of her village of Liakhovo, where the Germans killed virtually everyone. She shared those painful recollections of the mass murder of the population. She will never forget April 14, 1942. The Germans herded all the inhabitants into the main street, and then sent them to a few houses.
Nina T. remembers: “I was separated from my mother. The Germans pushed us into one room of the house. I bumped on something and fell down. The shooting started immediately from behind and a bullet brushed just past my head. I lost consciousness. When I came round, the body of my dead little sister was lying on top of me. I smelled gasoline. The Germans were talking in the corridor. One girl started screaming. A German came back and said, “Russische Schweine!” and he began shooting at everybody.” Nina T. survived by jumping out of the window as the house was burning, but her whole family perished that day.
Over two weeks of investigation in Russia, the Yahad In Unum team carried out research in 13 towns and villages in the Smolensk and Pskov regions. This was the third investigation of its kind, with the aim of completing Yahad’s inquiries in the Smolensk area and to start work in the Pskov area.
In the course of this investigation, the Yahad In Unum team recorded 22 mass graves, nearly 50% of which have no memorial and are therefore totally ignored, and interviewed 55 witnesses.
Regions of Smolensk and Pskov
Investigated towns/villages: Dukhovshchina, Sytshovka, Viazma, Ielnia, Glinka, Demidov, Pochinok, Velij, Usviaty, Sebej, Pustoshka, Nevel, Velikie Luki.
The proximity of the war front was mentioned in every testimony. Long convoys of Ukrainian and Polish refugees, including many Jews, journeyed across this area as they fled the Germans’ progress. During the Nazi occupation, there were German soldiers everywhere: each village apparently accommodated a number of Wehrmacht men, who were resting before they went back to the front.
Although the German occupation in this area was relatively short (less than a year, except in the area of Taganrog), Yahad found traces of numerous crimes whose victims were Jews, but also civilians and Soviet war prisoners.
– The rarity of Soviet and German archives about the investigated territories.
– The fact that the war front was close and kept moving, so that the dates of German occupation vary from one place to another.
– The multiplicity of the categories of the victims targeted by our investigation: Jews; Gipsies, Soviet war prisoners and partisans.
Because the front was so close, when they suspected that there were partisans in a village, the Germans spared no one and exterminated the whole local population (sometimes by burning down villages)