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The Holocaust in Belarus: Voronovo

by Leonid Smilovitsky
Voronovo, originally on pp 171-2
translation donated by Peter Duffy

Voronovo:  In November 1941 a group of Jews from Vilna were put into the local ghetoo.  Among them were many representatives of the intelligentsia.  The artist Treger Grubiyash created a portrait for Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Before the war, he arrived to visit relatives, but could not return.  He was together with Doctor of Philology, Natan Tsimmel, Professor Orbach, a professor at the University of Warsaw, Doctor Gershun, mathematics professor Idelson and others.  They numbered 15 professors in all.

They were kept in the local clubhouse and they remained there for a week.  They were subjected to beatings and derision.  Heart-rending cries and moaning and groaning could be heard from the clubhouse.  Prior to the action, the Germans had ordered them to prepare a meal for themselves and to bring along some vodka.  On Saturday November 14, 1941, the prisoners began their "work".  Some 600 meters between the town and the railroad bed, there was a ditch to which they led Jews in groups of twenty, divided into groups of men, women & children.  They shot them, and they put a new group on top of the dead, and then shot them.  They shot women before the eyes of their husbands, and children before the eyes of the mothers.  They did not spare the wounded, burying them alive.

Some 268 Jews died on that day, and were buried in two graves at the Voronovo Station.

The second pogrom took place on May 11, 1942.  "The Germans saw no limit to their rage and cruelly turned on the peaceful population (from a document of the Aid Commission of the State Committee of the USSR of the Voronovo Region, February 28, 1945)".  People undressed and were killed mercilessly.  On that day, 1,291 Jews died, and all of them were buried in the mass grave near the Voronovo-Lida highway.  The total number of  people shot in the Voronovo region was 1,604, including 492 women and 299 children.  The Commission could only ascertain the names of 1,387 Voronovo Jews and refugees in Voronovo.

The organizers and active participants in these crimes were the official of gendarmie of Voronovo, Sergeant-Major Raymond, Police Commander Shefransky, Regional Economic Affairs Commander Belyakh, and they were assisted by Belarussian police.  (The original of the source is kept in the State Archive of the Russian Federation, Fond 7021, Inventory 86, File 38, Lists 1-67; a copy is at the Yad Vashem archive, M-33/706).

Author's notes:  Voronovo - an urban settlement, the center of the Voronovo region of the Grodno oblast, located 133 kilometers from Grodno; first mentioned in the 16th century as a small town in the Lida district of the Vilna gubernia.  In 1847 there were 199 Jews, and in 1897 1,432 (out of a total population of 1,574).  In 1921-39 it was part of Poland, and since 1939, a part of Belarus.  From June 23, 1941 to Jun 11, 1944, it was occupied by German forces who killed more than 2,600 people.  There is a mass grave of Soviet soldiers and partisans - it is a grave of the victims of fascism.  In 1964 an obelisk was erected, but no mention of Jews was made on it.

2003 Belarus SIG