“PAMIAT” - MEMORIAL to the Volozhyn Region

(*Pamiat' means Memorial)

Translated from Belarus language by M. Porat

Edited by Judy Montel

The book describes the region's history and geography. The Volozhin region ( Rayon in Russian, Poviat in Polish) covers some sixty kilometers from Bogdanovo eastward through Vishnievo, Volozhin to Rakov, and also forty kilometers from Losk southward through Volozhin, Piershay to Ivianietz.

In the region's southern part between Volozhin and Ivianietz, alongside the Islotsh river is the big expanse of the Volozhin and Nalibok forest (“Pushtsha”) .

Working hard on this strange, new literary Belarus-language, we could detect among the 450 pages some material about the regional Jewish communities, which populated this area and formed the major part of its urban inhabitants.

The written material is scarce and disproportional to the terrible mass murder that was committed on the Jewish population which was completely exterminated in the Volozhin region by the bestial invaders and by their ardent supporters.

The Volozhin Region area

Islotsh – brook of the Berezina River, across a meadow in the Volozhin Forest.

New order in Vishnievo

By K. Pobal


A Red Army convoy approached Vishnievo on June 27 th 1941. German aircraft bombed the convoy in the afternoon. The bombing had also set on fire seven houses on Volozhin Street. The bodies of the Red Army soldiers were buried in the Old Graves cemetery. The Germans invaded the town the same day. They established a Police center. Local people were appointed as policemen ( Politsay ) and commanders ( Komiendanty }. The policemen killed a group of Vishnievo people on their first day of operation.

Without delay they hung out written orders:

“Each Jew should put a yellow patch formed as a six pointed star (Star of David) on his breast and spine”.

“Whoever shelters a Jew will be shot”.

“Whoever gives bread to a Jew will be shot”.

“Whoever shelters a Communist or a Soviet soldier will be shot”.

The old (Polish) administrative partition was renewed. Vishnievo became a Gmina (Village authority) in the Volozhin Poviat (region), Vilna Oblast' (District). All inhabitants of the Gmina area were obliged to behave according to the local authorities' orders. The police imprisoned anyone who did not seem to be loyal to the German regime. Only an inhabitant of Polish or Belarus nationality could receive an Ausswais , a kind of identity card. Jews and other people had no right to carry it. Those whom they found without an Ausswais were shot or sent to forced labor in Germany.

The Germans with their assistants, the local “ Politsays ”, established the Jewish Ghetto on the Krevo Street during the first days of occupation.

In M. Mikhaylashov's book “The Anger Storm”, which was published in Minsk (1971), in the chapter “The Court Trial” on page 207 we read:

    ”In mid July 1942 we have gone to Volozhin town, where we shot some two thousand Jews – men, women, children. Grabe was the execution commander. In Volozhin I shot personally hundred twenty Jews. Later I arrived in the Vishnievo hamlet with our Sondercommando (Special Commando) unit. Here we executed one thousand five hundred Jews. The action commander was Grabe”

Today there is a memorial at the site of the execution. On it is written:

“In 1942 here were shot 2066 Soviet citizens”.

Mr. Shimon Peres, the Israeli foreign minister visited Vishnievo in the summer of 1992. He looked for the tombs of his ancestors and visited also the big slaughter place of his relatives and friends who were so bestially annihilated in 1942. Peres was born in Vishnievo. He had gone to Israel before the war.

The destruction of Volozhin's Jews

By M. Batvinnik


We are taught by the documents from the Central archives of the Belarus Republic and from Yad Vashem in Jerusalem how the Volozhin ghetto was created and how the Volozhin Jews were destroyed during the German occupation. These documents are based on witnesses' testimonies.

In June 1941, a number of days after the Germans occupied the town, they assembled forty-five Jews and forced them to dig a pit. The pit diggers were shot where they stood. The wounded were buried alive.

The entire Jewish population was chased into the Ghetto, which had been fenced on the right shore of the Volozhinka alongside Dubinski Street.

In October 1941 the Germans assembled 220 people in the cinema building near the Polish military quarters. They were led ten by ten to the nearby sport-stadium. Here all of them were shot. After the war the local authorities raised a memorial, the statue of a woman, on which it is engraved in Russian: “ The German Fascists bestially killed here hundreds of Soviet citizens during the Fatherland War in the years 1941-1945”

A German Sondercommando (Special Commando) unit on motorcars came from Vileyka in May 1942. They assembled 1500 men, women and children and killed them near the Volozhin graveyard. The murderers searched the ghetto for hidden Jews. They shot at sight every one that was found. The bodies were piled and set on fire, to hide and to camouflage the horrible crime.

In August 1942 the murderers assembled 300 Jews on the left shore of the Volozhinka beneath the Shapoval road into a stall, which prior to it served as a place for flax drying. They set fire on the building and the victims were burnt - most of them alive.

The last Volozhin Jews were murdered in summer 1943.

The destruction of Rakov Jews

Report written in August 1945


The committee head: Svitko I.T. - Committee members: Yatskaviets I.D., Kirzov P.M., Nissinov M.F., Garshkov, Lavrishkov, Batalin submitted this report about the crimes done by the Fascist occupants in the Radushkovits Region.

Witnesses: Rutkovska Leonida B., Gerasimovitsh, Grinholtz Vosip, Isakovitzh, Grinholtz Aron, Davidovitsh.

The witnesses reported that on June 14 th , 1942, the Germans had assembled forty-five Jews in Rakov, as if to work. They were led to Baruzints two kilometers from Rakov. The Germans gave them shovels and ordered to dig pits. After the pits were ready, the Germans placed the forty-five captives facing the pits and shot them with machine guns.

The same year on August 29 th the Germans assembled all the Rakov-Ghetto Jews, forced them to dig pits, afterwards they counted hundred and five persons and ordered them to lie in those pits. All of them were shot at the gendarme Drobel's command.

The Jews who survived were led to Rakov. On the way they were ordered to sing and to dance. Satisfied by the concert, the murderers forced all the captives to lie down with their faces to the soil. At the gendarme Ferverg's command they were shot, each according to the killers' choice. One of the bandits cut the physician's head off with his axe because he was not satisfied with the victim's song. Also in this Action, one hundred and five persons were killed.

On, February 4 th , 1942, the Politsay commander Mikhal Ziankevitsh ordered all the Jews to assemble on the synagogue courtyard with their belongings for departure to Minsk. When the Jews assembled they were ordered to put all the valuables aside and to enter the synagogue. Some of them tried to go back, but they were beaten to death with rifle shafts. Crying children were pierced by rifle bayonets and thrown over the crowded heads. The synagogue doors and windows were blocked with nailed planks. The murderers spilled gasoline on the walls and set the building on fire. Nine hundred twenty eight Jews were burnt to death on that winter day in the Rakov synagogue.

Memories from Vishnievo Ghetto:

By Ema Mikhaylovna Murtshanka - Voroniezh (Russia)


“I witnessed and saw with my own eyes the bestial deeds of the Fascist murderers and their local cooperators in the Vishnievo Ghetto. Yes, so it was: Together with my family, friends and relatives, also with other wretched Jewish Vishnievo inhabitants, at the age of seventeen I was flung by the fascists and their assistants - local traitors - into the Vishnievo detention Ghetto-camp. Here, during 1941-42, I experienced all kinds of abuse and horrible hell treatment from the fascists and their murderous local helpers.

They enclosed the entire Vishnievo-Jewish population into the Tserkov (Russian church). All of them were ordered to lie on the floor and were left in this position for the whole day without any water or food. In the evening, severely guarded they were released, each one to his home to pick up the most needed things. Immediately afterwards the Jews were required to reassemble in the Krevo Street. When we arrived, we saw that a high fence with barbed wire encircled Krevo Street.

Thus the Vishnievo Concentration Ghetto Camp was created, in which were detained all the 1600 Vishnievo Jews. From this day began our painful life inside the fascists' inhuman detention camp. One thousand six hundred people had to live in a small lane. In each tiny room were crowded three or four families including men, women, elderly, sick people and children.

During the warm summer days the Ghetto dwellers would manage to live in some way, exchanging for food the objects they had managed to grab and take into the ghetto.

But when the cold arrived, the miserable inhabitants lacked food and firewood. The sole salvation was in the daily trip to work of the ghetto youngsters. They were led into the forest to prepare firewood, or to the Bogdanovo rail station. On the way they would exchange some objects, which we had still succeeded in keeping by some miracle. The Politsays stole the most valuable objects.

The returning workers succeeded in bringing a bundle of twigs, a bottle of milk or few potatoes. But all these goods had to be hidden in sophisticated ways. The most joyful event for the Ghetto guardians was to deprive the “smuggler” of his sprinkle of twigs at the camp gates. And when the poor, tired and terrified Ghetto worker would be able to breath with relief hoping to bring a bit of food to his little sister or to supply some heating for his old and sick grand mother, suddenly they appeared, the Politsays and searched him maliciously and thoroughly. When the prohibited matter had been found they took it away and beat its possessor bestially. Then they let him go home bleeding and lacerated with an empty bundle to be met empty handed by his impatiently waiting, cold and hungry relatives.

But even more frustrating was to see our previous colleagues and schoolmates among the cruel inhuman beasts, the local Politsays .

On our way to work we were permitted to go upon the road only. The use of sidewalks by a Jew was forbidden. We were obliged to wear on the chest the yellow-blue Star of David patch. But more than cold and hunger we feared the abuse and maltreatment of the Germans and their assistants. In particular, the children and youngsters feared it.

We were very afraid of the Politsay Yourovitsh and the Komiendant (commander) Pashkovski. I will never forget their evil faces and their cruel tortures. Until now I see in my bad dreams their bestial faces.

The Politsays had a dreadful hobby. They used to break into the ghetto horse riding and chasing the detained Jews from the dwellings onto the street, all of them, men and women, old and young, children and babies. They used to beat the chased Jews with horsewhips until unconsciousness. When satisfied, they looked for a baby in his mothers' hands. The child had been pierced with a rifle-mounted bayonet; the small body was lifted and then flung head down, on the stones. When the mother went crazy, they shot her in cold blood. The local murderers witnessed all that. They laughed joyfully. The bandits used to take photos of the horrible scenes.

Every day the camp awaited its liquidation. The Germans did not conceal it. The imprisoned could not sleep. Awaiting the worst, they listened to each rustle and to the wild songs and vociferations of the oppressors. Once when we were at work in Bogdanovo, Yelena Gurevitsh my friend and I, we chose a convenient moment, we ran in the forest and finally joined the Tshapayev Partisan unit.

The Vishnievo ghetto concentration camp was liquidated in August 1942. The murderers encircled the Ghetto and chased all the Jews into an empty barn at the end of Krevo Street. The shooting began immediately. Gasoline was spilled over the barn and the survivors with the dead were burnt together.

At my return in Vishnievo after the victory I found a big hill at the site of the barn. All of it was filled with black burnt human bones. Above the hill stood a horrible smell of ashes. And that was all that remained of my family, my close friends and of all of Vishnievo's Jews. After war only 10 to 15 persons of the entire Vishnievo Jewish population survived. And now there are only the two of us alive: Gurevitsh Yelena Israilovna who lives in Perm and me. “

Vishnievo Slaughter witnesses

Told by Gelanovo & vicinity peasants- inscribed by K. Pobal


Dubitski Petr Yosifovitsh (born 1914) and his wife Dubitska Stefanida Ludvikovna (born 1919) survived the German occupation inside Vishnievo. They witnessed the mass destruction of the Vishnievo Jewry. They said that the first conducted to death were the physician Doctor Padzelver, his wife the midwife and their beautiful daughter. The executioners shot at anyone who tried to run away.

Mikhaylovska Felitziya Yosifovna (born 1919) saw a pretty, five-year-old Jewish girl running away with her own eyes. The local Policemen shot at her once then a second time and the girl fell. At first groups of 20-30 Jews were led to execution under guard. Afterwards they were transported on cars. By evening all the Jews had been shot. Fumes of burned human bodies spread through the surrounding towns.

Kavetska Mariya Ivanovna (born 1927) from Vidkaushtshina hamlet remembers how the blameless Jews were shot in Gelanovo in the building that belonged to Mr. Zara. Many ran into the high rye fields. The enemy bullets reached them also in the fields. The executioners mobilized men with horses and carts in the neighboring hamlets to heap the dead bodies in a pile and to burn them. The wind blew from the east and the smell reached until Bogdanovo. The bodies burned during an entire week.

Vikentiy Matsveyitsh Gerassimovitsh from Gelanovo hamlet told us:

“It happened on Sunday in a warm summer day. The captive “Inhabitants”, the genocide victims, crowded inside the ghetto fences. Policemen guarded the gates. The situation seemed to be normal. Nothing in Vishnievo indicated the oncoming disaster. Unfamiliar Germans arrived in cars at the ghetto territory. The Jewish captives had been formed into ranks, men, and women with children and old people. The Vishnievo inhabitants worried. “What is going on?” whispered the women. Nobody was permitted to approach the ghetto. After a little while some twenty to thirty people together with their families were separated from the mass of Jews. They were chased to the end of Krevo Street to Gelanovo.

The building owner, Ivan Zara was sent away. The building was encircled by machine guns. Doctor Padzelver, the most respected person in Vishnievo, with his spouse and daughter were at the head of the victims conveyed to Gelanovo.

From the Ghetto broke out screams “The German gunmen are leading the captives to death”. Women from Gelanovo hamlet begged the German commander: “Pan! Let the doctor go. He did not any evil, not to us and not to you. This man saved people from death with his work. Save him, do not destroy him!”

The German refused: “He did not heal you, he infected and contaminated you”. Doctor Padzelver resembled a professor. He used to heal people from various maladies. He performed surgery. The doctor drove his own car and he taught the children to speak Polish.

Five Germans stood at the building. The Jews were conducted inside five by five and here they were shot. In the house was a cellar, into which the victims were thrown dead, wounded and alive. After the first group was murdered the Germans changed the method. They ceased to chase the Jews by foot; instead they transferred the victims by cars. When they got down, the Jews were conducted five by five into the building. They were forced to climb on the bodies and were shot. Some of them were killed. Some of them were left alive among the dead bodies. By the evening the Vishnievo Jews were all executed. The Guards and their local assistants spilled gasoline on the building and set it on fire. Some survivors began to run from the building. The guards shot them. People from neighboring hamlets saw some Jews who succeeded in running away.”

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