Holocaust Testimonies and Documents from YAHAD
***WARNING ABOUT GRAPHIC CONTENT TO FOLLOW: If you do not feel you wish to read this, please STOP NOW.***
GERMAN POST-WAR COMMISSION REPORT:
The English translation of 6 pages of archival documents from YAHAD Paris covering post-War investigations and interviews about mass exterminations in the region in and around Rohatyn is available for download at the bottom of this page under the heading Attachments and labelled Yahad German Post War Commission Translation. This translation of German to English was provided by member Herb. The original reports in German are also available for download at the bottom of this page under the heading Attachments and labelled Yahad German Post War Commission1-4. These reports were obtained by member Marla.
TESTIMONIES OF THE HOLOCAUST FROM UKRAINIANS NEAR ROHATYN:
The following "testimonies" were transcribed from videos watched on 10/27/09 at the Paris office of YAHAD (10th arrondissement) - the testimonies were recorded in Ukrainian with a French translator that accompanied Father Patrick Desbois and his team. What follows are the English transcriptions of the French oral translations (provided by member Marla):
TARNOPOL 2005 (VHS)
(All names of witness are spelled phonetically)
Witness #1 - video corrupt - fragmented audio and visual.
Could not get town name or witness' name (a woman).
Witness #2 (about 15 minutes - good audio quality)
Testimony of "Stefan" born 1943 and taken in BEREZHANY
Q - What happened here?
A - (He was young but he has heard from the old people):
First they shot all the old Jews. Many, many Jews were killed here. They lined the Jews into columns with a German at the head and at the rear of each column, then walked them to the pit that was already dug. There was a table set up at the pit and behind the table sat a German named "Ruber" (phonetic spelling) with a pistol.
One by one the Jews marched onto a plank of wood over the pit and shot by Ruber; then he discharged his pistol and re-loaded. During all this, there was a bottle of schnaps or cognac on the table which he drank from, throughout the killing.
Q - How long did the killing last.
A - Don't know.
Q - How many pits were there?
A - Two.
Q - Were children also shot?
A - Yes. Some fell on their parents in the pit. Some were only wounded, but all went into the pit. The ground over the pit moved for many days after.
Q - Did anyone push the ground with their feet to stamp it down?
A - Yes. And the Germans brought men to the pit a couple of days later to cover it again.
Witness #3 (about 8 minutes of testimony - short and very poor audio quality).
Testimony of Mrs. Raskastefaya born 1924 and taken in ROHATYN.
This witness saw the trucks carrying the dead Jews. The Jews were killed all around, multiple places (not rounded up and killed in one spot) and then their bodies gathered and transported to Berezhany where they were dumped into two mass graves.
Q - What happened here? What happened to the Jews?
A - All killed by the Germans.
Q - How?
A - Shot. All. The people were told not to look at the Jews or their bodies. We were all scared. On the road to Berezhany there was (inaudible - a man? woman? family?) and a child. The Germans stopped them and beat the child around the head, poking out one of his eyes. I saw this. The woman and the child were crying. I was crying, too. Many Jews tried to hide. The people (Ukrainian? German? Polish?) brought them out of hiding.
Q -How were the bodies taken to Berezhany?
A - By trucks. Bodies were picked up all along the way to Berezhany. The pits were already dug in Berezhany. The bodies were taken there.
Q - Did she see who shot the Jews?
A - Yes, but she was scared and she hid and watched from her hiding place. The Germans had warned the people not to look at the Jews. Her brother worked at the mill and he was shot and
killed too by the Germans in less than one minute; for no reason.
Q - So the Jews were not killed in their houses?
A - No, but everywhere else.
Witness #4 (about 20 minutes of testimony - good audio quality).
Testimony of Mr. Nicola Reyhovovich born 1931 in Nairaiv and taken in NAIRAIV
Q - Where did he live during the War?
A - On the other side of town. His parents worked the land.
Q - Were there many Jews here before the War?
A - Many. Involved in commerce, agriculture, etc.
Q - What happened here?
A - When the Germans arrived, they arrested all the Jews, everywhere, on the spot. Some hid in a cave. The Germans gathered then into the Synagogue and kept them there for a few days. After, they were taken to a pit that was dug and shot.
Q - How were they taken there?
A - On foot, as it was not far away.
Q - What happened at the pit? How were they killed?
A - The Germans shot them. Bullets. Then covered the ground (closed the pit). My father forbid me from going to look, but I did. The ground was moving.
Q - Why would the ground move? Because not everyone buried was dead?
A - No. Some were only injured. The Gestapo used their feet to push at the ground and to push the soil down. Some pushed Jews into the pit from the edge if they were only injured, then covered the pit.
Q - How many Jews were killed?
A - Not sure, maybe 500 or 600. Men, women, and babies.
Q - Were all the Jews killed at the pit from NAIRAIV or brought from elsewhere?
A - Mostly from our town, but some brought from elsewhere.
Q - Did the Germans "live" in the town (during all this)?
A - Yes, they lived in the houses taken from the Jews, and they also had other places they made their own. They had a laboratory and an abbatoir, too, for feeding themselves.
Q - What about the Deutsche Volk? Were they here?
A - Yes. They and the Gestapo - lived in houses requisitioned from the Jews, and also the schools and clubs. The Gestapo also lived at this grandfather's house.
Q - What else do you remember?
A - The Germans came here between 1942 - 1944 and left in 1945.
Q - Did any Jews come back to NAIRAIV after the War to see the place?
A - No.
Q - Were any saved?
A - No.
Q - What about the houses today that used to belong to Jews?
A - People live in them.
Q - The pit - has anyone ever come back to see where it was?
A - No. No one before you.
Witness #189 (total audible testimony about 17 minutes)
Testimony by a woman born 1931 (did not get name due to corruption of the VHS, nor did I get the first 5 minutes of testimony)
Q - where were the Jews lined up?
A - The line was alongside the pit. The children clung to the nearby trees, hiding, and watched. I was one. SS officer "Ruber" (phonetic spelling) sat in a chair and ordered the Jews to undress. They stood beside the pit, completely naked. Ruber killed them.
Q - did anyone resist the order to undress?
A - No. No one resisted. All undressed
Q - Completely?
A - Yes.
Q - Where did they (the Germans) put their clothes?
A - They threw them into a wagon.
Q - The order to shoot - how was it started?
A - What? They assembled all the Jews beside the pit,
then shot them.
Q - How? By groups, by family?
A - No - everyone was there, no groupings.
Q - How were they shot - in the face? back?
A - Neck.
Q - Pistol or machine gun?
A - Pistol.
Q - How many shots per person?
A - Ruber used only one shot. One per person. Him alone, no one else.
Q - How many Germans were there that day?
A - A lot to guard the Jews lined in columns. Ruber arrived in the morning by a car similar to a jeep (I am paraphrasing here)
Q - At what time of the day did the killing start?
A - All Aktions started at the ghetto in the morning, then they assembled the Jews and brought them to the pit, and it ended at the end of the day. No killings at night.
Q - When they were done, did the Germans stay in town?
A - They left when they were done because there were no Jews left alive.
Q - Getting back to the clothes, what happened to the clothes the Jews took off?
A - I don't know.
Q - (Inaudible question)
A - All the kids that watched then went home. Everyone saw the Jews get killed.
Q - How old were you in 1943?
A - 12
Q - Did the Germans see you hiding and watching?
A - No. I was in the tree and hidden by the branches.
Q - When you went home that night, were you scared of what you saw?
A - No, because we lived far from the pit.
Q - Is this the first time you have ever told anyone about all this?
A - Yes.
BORBKA 2009 (DVD)
BOBRKA is about 30 km from L'viv. There was a synagogue, an Orthodox Church, City Hall, many Jews.
I only listened to witness #732; YAHAD had already transcribed into French - in written form - the testimony for witness #735. I did not watch/listen to the other three testimonies (i.e. witnesses #733, 734, and 736). Copies of these are at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and Fabrice Jonckheere has promised he would try to put a priority on getting these three testimonies reduced to paper, in French, and sent to me.
One problem with these testimonies: there is far more Ukrainian being spoken here than is actually being translated into French. It would be a very good idea to get someone who understands Ukrainian to sit down and translate this testimony in its entirety. The witnesses would speak for several minutes but only a few lines would then be translated by the Ukrainian translator into French. What follows is therefore only a brief part of the bigger testimonial that was given. This is therefore not completely a "question and answer" testimony like the prior testimonies.
Witness #732 (about 65 minutes)
Testimony by a woman about 80 years old):
Q - Did the Jews go to the same schools as the Ukrainians and Poles?
A - All went to the same school. I finished school in 1938. My parents were farmers. My husband was a chauffeur. There were very many Jews in commerce - they had stores. Ukrainians bought everything they needed from these Jewish stores: gas, goods, groceries, salt, etc.
Q - Were the Jews in town very religious?
A - Yes, especially the old ones - very traditional. Each morning they would assemble in the school and pray and discuss.
(There was a large section here that did not get translated, but it sounded like she, in part, started listing names of Jews who lived in the town; one such Jew - name given but inaudible - sold milk to her mother; another sounded like "Moise" who went to the same school as her).
The village was heavily bombed. Every house was damaged. When the Russians left, the Germans came in with cars, trucks, and tanks. Many men in town (sounds like non-Jews?) were arrested when the Russians left and put in prison or killed.
(Again, the witness had a lot to say about all this, but very, very little was translated into French).
Q - Were your parents victims, too?
A - Yes.
Q - When did the problems start for the Jews? Right away after the Russians left?
A - 1941 it started for them. The Germans took over the Jews' stores.
(Again, much was said at this point but little translated).
Q - How did the Jews work if the Germans took their stores?
A - Some exchanged produce from the fields; some left town.
(lots of info missing here and not translated)
Many Jews were professors, attorneys, doctors, and judges.
(at this point, it sounded like the witness started again listing names - Katz? Bly? Bleh? - more testimony than was translated; this woman really had a lot to say).
Bly (or Bleh?) (phonetic spelling) was the town doctor, and hs wife was a dentisit - the Germans kept them alive for a long time. Josef Chomanivsky (phonetic spelling) was the Mayor.
1942 - the ghetto was marked on the map; Jews had to start wearing an armband
(some misc comments here that didn't make sense involving the town park/town center and the Cathedral - perhaps the ghetto boundaries).
A pit/ditch was dug in the nearby forest. The Jews undressed in the road to the pit.
Q - were people from other nearby villages brought there too?
A - Yes.
(lots more discussion here than was translated):
Some Jews resisted. Some parents had babies in their arms. People gave the children candy (bon-bons) on the road to the pit. I threw candy to the children in the open trucks.
The Gestapo was everywhere to guard the Jews in the trucks going to the pit. There were Jews brought here from other towns in the region and then taken to the pit in the trucks.
The Ghetto had its own Jewish Police. It was enclosed with barbed wire fence.
(At this point, the witness went into a long story that began "on one Sunday" and had something to do with young Jews being stopped, grabbed, and then taken somewhere and killed on the spot. Very little translation and some parts almost inaudible. Sand was somehow also involved with the story. It ended with the young Jew turning to the witness - she knew him - and bidding her farewell (adieu) before being killed).
I remember another story - a woman with a baby that kept crying. The baby was only 1 years old and he wouldn't stop. The mother strangled him to make him stop crying.
(I am wondering if part of this story was not translated, as perhaps they were in hiding???)
By the end of 1942, all the Jews in the Ghetto were dead and killed.
1944 - the Russians came back to town. Everyone was sick and dying. It was War and we were at the Front. The Front passed by our town!
Q - Getting back to the pit in the forest - when did the killing start?
A - Morning - it lasted all day for 3 days. No killing at night.
(More testimony here about trucks being full).
The Jews were assembled in the center of town and taken to the pit in the forest. They walked onto a plank over the pit and fell in.
Q - One by one they mounted the plank and were shot?
A - Yes. In a line, one by one.
(a lot of testimony followed that did not get translated by involved the Mayor, houses previously owned by Jews, and Jewish belongings in them).
The Mayor let people go into the houses and take stuff. People moved into the houses. The Ghetto and the houses are still there.
("Sand" discussion again - inaudible and large parts not fully translated. Also, much discussion about a brick factory, which continued to function during the War. "Sand" and the brick factory are both discussed in greater detail in the next testimony from BOBRKA).
Q - When trucks left the Ghetto for the pit in the forest, how many were there?
A - 3 - full.
Q - Were the people in the Ghetto hospital also killed?
A - I don't know. I didn't hear. I assume so, but I didn't hear. Maybe.
Q - tell me about the Ghetto entrance.
A - There was a main door - I don't remember where. The Jewish Police guarded them there. If someone needed something, like medicine, the Jewish Police went out and brought it in.
(Misc. comments, only a few of which were then translated):
This is a story the world should know. Kids today do not know anything about this history. It should be told and taught in school
(Father Desbois at this point came into the camera view and conducted the remaining interview):
Q - Where was the Gestapo located?
A - The third house on the left next to the pharmacy. A private house. The Mayor was moved to the post office building.
Q - Were papers/documents needed to circulate around town?
A - Yes.
Q - Were there other buildings used by the German police?
A - Only the Gestapo was here - about 10 of them (this seems too low to me, so maybe a problem with the translation). They patrolled the streets everywhere.
(More untranslated testimony).
There was no electricity in town at this time because of the bombings.
Q - What about the Ukrainian police?
A - They were housed in other buildings. There was about 10 of them.
(again, this seems low to me - maybe a translation problem).
Plus there was the Jewish Police in the Ghetto.
Q - Could the Jewish Police leave the Ghetto?
A - Yes.
Q - Did anyone hide any Jews?
A - I don't know.
Q - Did you work in the store throughout the War?
(This info must have been in the earlier testimony but not translated).
A - Yes - throughout the occupation period. German money was used at the time to buy things from the stores - everything was German including the town administration.
When the Russians came, same thing. The Germans recruited/took (?) young Ukrainian men to work in Germany.
Q - Was there a train station in town?
A - Yes - about 4 km from here.
(more untranslated parts, some involving the Black Market):
The Black Market functioned during the War and occupation. Poverty was everywhere during the War. You could buy anything on the Black Market, but no one had any money.
Q - Did the (Orthodox) Church stay open during the War?
A - Yes, all during the War, the occupation, and after. The Catholic Church, too, but in 1961 it was closed and became a sports center.
Q - Did the Germans go to Church, too?
A - I don't know.
(more untranslated stories and misc)
Clandestine, secret organizations existed - but I don't know how many belonged.
Witness #735 (34 minutes)
Testimony of a man born 1927.
Interview conducted by Father Desbois with Ukrainian and French translators.
Highlights from the French 9-page transcription of the testimony:
Q - What did you see happen to the Jews?
A - First, there was one Aktion. The Germans made them leave the Ghetto, walk to the train station at GLEBOVITCHI, 6 km from here. Some Jews stayed in the Ghetto hiding in closets, walls, etc. It is said that when they were found, they were taken to BELZ and burned. Of those that hid, the Germans went looking for them; when they found them, they were taken to the brick factory ("briqueterie" in French), 1 km from here. The Germans made us dig pits/trenches - I know because I dug one. My father ordered me to dig and help. The trenches were 4 meters by 4 meters.
At first we didn't know why we were digging them. Then they brought the Jews by groups and ordered them to undress. I saw this with my own eyes. We hid and watched after we dug the trenches, even though we weren't supposed to watch. Once undressed, the clothes were set to the side. The Jews were ordered to lie down in the trench; the German plice then shot them.
Q - Lie down directly in the trench?
A - Yes. Men, women, and children. When the trench was full, it was covered and second trench was dug. Afterward, they (Germans? kids? people?) I couldn't tell) took the Jewish belongings/clothes to the "BOJNITSA" (synagogue) and searched through the pockets for money and other objects of value. They took everything they could. I saw it all. They drank vodka while they did this to celebrate.
(More about the trenches):
The Germans directed the digging of the trenches and the dimensions; namely, the Gestapo. They stood on the side and "walked off" / paced off the dimensions for us. The trenches were very deep, too - 2 meters. It took 1 1/2 hours to dig each trench. They were easy to cover because it was all sand; we were near the brick factory. There were "steps" dug into the earth for walking
down to the bottom of the trench. This is how the Jews got down there. They were then shot with rifles ("carabines" in French). Our house was located next door to the Gestapo - the Gestapo was housed in the music school. The music school and our house are both still there today. (Getting back to the Jewish belongings/clothes):
There was a lot of "TCHERVONETS" (Russian money) found in Jewish belongings that had been taken to the "BOJNITSA" (synagogue) - they acted like fools and tossed it in the air. The wiser, older people kept it and later used it to buy things. In another episode I remember, some people from neighboring villages, such as VOLOVE, L'VOV, KHODOROV, came to BOBRKA to sell milk, butter, and other products - the Germans waited for them and then took it all for themselves! My family survived because we had a field for planting. The Germans confiscated everything. After that, they left. Our street was called CHEVTCHENKO (when it was Polish is was called SOBETSKI). Jewish furniture was taken out of Jewish houses - if they were on the 3rd or 4th floor, out through the window or carried down the stairs. Many Jews built artificial walls in which they hid; they also hid in closets (armoires) where they could not be seen. If they were found hiding, they were shot on the spot.
(Back to the trench discussion):
The trenches were already dug by the time the Jews arrived there. We hid and watched. Later we covered the trench. Jews were assembled/gathered in groups of 4 or 5, undressed, then descended (by the stairs) into the trench. There were 5 or 6 shooters on the sides. All fired at the same time. No one was only wounded - all were killed.
One story involved a Jew being taken to the trench - he pulled a watch out of his pocket and threw it at a Ukrainian he knew when he passed by.
Q - What happened to the Jewish furniture after it was taken out of the Jewish houses?
A - Some took for themselves; some was sold off. It took about a week to bring all the Jewish belongings to the synagogue from all the houses. Many people just helped themselves to Jewish things.
(Another "episode" remembered by the witness):
("VERTEP" is the Ukrainian tradition of creating a "living" or virtutal biblical scene at Xmas, then acting it out in the town center or going from door-to-door).
We were in the process of doing a VERTEP when the Germans called us over - one of us was dressed like a Jew and was about to be arrested, but we explained to them he was not a Jew but a Ukrainian disguised as a Jew. They all laughed and then gave us money and sent us home.
Q - How many dug the trenches?
A - There were about 12 of us - all young men.
There was another trench dug near the brick factory and one dig at the Jewish cemetery, not far from here. There was also a smaller trench for the few remaining Jews that were killed at the end, over by the pine trees. All this happened in 1942. At the end of 1943, toward winter, "they" (who is they????? Germans?) opened the trenches and disinterred the bodies/remains, taking them away in covered trucks. I don't know where they took them - the trucks passed down our street. I don't even know exactly who did this. Two big, covered trucks, maybe more.