Translation from Russian, of brochure published in Byelorussia
WORDS OF REMEMBRANCE
FOR VICTIMS OF ZEMBIN GHETTO
Zembin... This ancient settlement, located 28 kilometers northwest of city of Borisov has been multinational from the beginning of its existence. An Eastern Orthodox church, a Catholic church and a synagogue have resided peacefully next to each other and have not bothered anybody. The Bolsheviks with their martial atheism closed up the temples, but that did not change the relations between the people.
However, in July of 1941, Zembin was taken over by Hitler's aggressors and that resulted in almost immediate persecution of Jewish population, which represented about half of the settlement's population. All Jews were ordered to where yellow symbols on their ches! and back. They were not allowed to communicate with other people of Zembin. In order to step up persecutions, the Raboche-Krestyanskaya Street next to the Jewish cemetery was turned into a ghetto, where Jews were forcefully relocated to. However, this wicked camp lasted only one month.
In the middle of August, for several days 18 Jews were ordered to dig a huge pit in the ground on the outskirts of Zembin, which supposedly was needed to bury damaged and unnecessary army equipment, left on fields. The pit was dug, but steps made out of soil could not but raise alarming suspicions.
Everything became clear early morning on Monday, August 18, 1941, when policemen Gnot and Golub went around the ghetto and declared the order of German authorities for all the Jews without exception to gather at the market place for checking of documents.
When everyone had gathered, it became apparent that there was no way back. Armed repressors pushed the crowd towards the pit and made them stand on knees. But then they were allowed to sit on the ground, in order to "rest" while awaiting their turn.
First of all, about 20 of the stronger men were taken into the forest, where the pit was located. Soon after that shots were heard, which turned sitting on the ground, doomed to death people into hysteria. But tears and throat tearing screams only caused fascists to furiously beat people.
Including children, women and elderly, the doomed were sent with kicks and punches, in groups of 15-20 persons to their death. (Only two young children of Hasya Hodasevich, born from a mixed marriage, were spared.)
At three o'clock everything was over, and the pit, where lied 927 Jews covered in blood, was covered with soil. This horrific, not having any rational, action was carried out by the occupants under supervision of the chief of Borisov security force gauptshturfurer Shonem, with participation of Gestapo officers Berg and Valter, commandant of Borisov Sharer, commandant of Zembin Eleka, as well as translator Lutzke, who were helped by fascist sympathizers from among the local population: Vasili Haritonovich, David Agof, Philip Kabakov and others.
After the war, the grave of the genocide victims was framed by a fence with a memorial board by relatives. The grave was entered into the Catalog of historical monuments and culture and, later, received the status of protected by the government location. However, this place has been several times vandalized by "gold diggers" and other vandals. In 1992 the marble memorial board was completely destroyed, which forced the Jews from the society "Light of Menorah" to search for sources to erect a new memorial symbol. (new board was placed in March of 1993)
In the rural areas of Borisov district, the grave of Zembin Jews remains to be the largest mass burial of the wartime. However, only in 1993 did the local government decide to erect a monument their, dedicated to the 50th anniversary of freeing Belorussia from fascist occupants, which turned out to be empty promise.
Who lies in this grave? The interest in this question was not raised by the authorities for very long and could cause political difficulties (for example, the accusation in nationalism). That is why, fifty years later only a small number of names were remembered.
Ratner (Minkov) Raska
Shimanovich (Sisman), Hyena
V ilenskiy (Shimanovich), Matlya
At this point the memorial list ends. About 700 names were left unremembered. The archives did not help either. The official list of victims in Zembin, made by the local committee in August of 1944, that is immediately after overthrough of German occupation, contained only five Jewish names. It is a sad fact, though you could explain it in the following way: the totalitarian regime did not try to preserve the memory of victims of war equally, but did it on a selective basis, even though, it proclaimed everywhere that no one and nothing was forgotten.