In some cases, the Germans used to play harmonica and sing German songs with a Gramophone, while the locals dug the ditches. A lot of witnesses described striking scenes; many Jews tried to escape when they got out of the trucks or trains. A German sniper was in charge of shooting them from a distance and the corpses were taken back to the ditch, placed next to the others. When they came out of the train, many Jews fainted in front of the ditch as they realized their fate. Some Soviet prisoners, chained two by two at the back of each wagon, were in charge of throwing the Jews who fainted inside the mass grave.
First of all, this travel was unique as we met with many witnesses who were willing to speak. In this area, most of the victims were killed by police battalions, especially Battalion 314. Additionally, measures against partisans were typically very violent. In some villages, Germans shot Jews in 1941, after which they burnt all the villages to the ground and shot the Ukrainians to end the resistance.
We interviewed 60 witnesses present at the executions or conscripted by the Germans during this 15-day research trip.
Jekeln method – Most of the Jews whose shootings were witnessed were shot in accordance with the Jekeln method. A large ditch, up to 6 meters deep was dug in the village, and a lateral stair was built at one side of an inner wall. Jews were taken by truck to the edge of the ditch and were forced to remove their clothes. They went in groups of four, lied down in the ditch, foreheads kept to the ground. Only one German killed all the Jews, standing at the bottom of the ditch and walking over the corpses, he shot them in the back of the neck, one after another, often using a handgun. The German would wear a white coat, like a doctor; and asked to stop shooting several times to take a break and have a drink. In the meantime, some Ukrainians or Germans guards surround the Jews who had just stepped out of the truck. There would be a chief in charge of the execution who shouted: “Davay, davay !” (Next! Next!), every time that four Jews are killed. Then, another four Jews would descend down into the ditch.
Looting – There is a new wave of looting growing in this area. Even though a memorial was built in the city of Lutsk, where about 30 000 people were shot, the mass graves haven't been protected. Some looters dig holes almost everywhere, so there are hundreds of bones around the mass graves over a large perimeter. It's the same situation in Koven. The looters group all the bones they are not interested in together. Sometimes, there are mounds of femurs.