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The Holocaust in Krivichi

Execution of Jews in Krivichi
Holocaust by Bullets, a project of Yahad In Unum

During World War II, over 350 Jews were executed in Krivichi.

execution site

Execution site of over 340 Jews in Krivichi. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad In Unum

Soviet archives

“On April 20, 1942 the German Gestapo arrived from Vileyka and gathered the whole Jewish population of Krivichi in a barn. From there they were taken one by one to a place around 50m from the barn and forced to undress. Once 5 Jews were undressed, they were escorted back to the barn and shot by two German officers. In all, they shot 120 people. Later, when they were tired of shooting, they forced the remaining Jews, about 80 people, to enter to the barn and set it on fire. Sonia Davidova, 9 years old, tried to get out but she was thrown in the flames.

40 Jews managed to hide the day of the shooting but they were later discovered and gathered in a house, some of them were stabbed to death. Then a grenade was thrown in." [Act drawn up by the State Extraordinary Commission after the war; RG 22.002M. Fond 7021, Opis 83, Delo 7]

The rest of the Jews, about two or three families (up to 200 Jews, according other sources), were assembled in two Jewish houses on Proletarskaya street and forced to do farm work. They were not guarded. According to one witness, in September 1942, elderly Jews who were staying at home while the younger Jews worked were blown up with a grenade. The bodies of the victims were buried in the Jewish cemetery. Only four Jews returned to the village after the war.

Witness accounts

Immediately after the German occupation a Judenrat and local police were created. All Jews were registered and marked with yellow patches in form of the Star of David. They were subjected to perform different kinds of forced labor. Initially, local Jews lived in their own homes and the synagogue remained open, but all commercial activity was halted.

The first anti-Jewish Aktion was carried out on April 28, 1942, by German units from Vileyka and Dolginovo, assisted by local police. The Jews were taken on foot to a site behind the old school where a large, unfinished threshing floor owned by a local resident and a barn were located. Thanks to a local eyewitness, Yahad was able to obtain more information on how the execution was conducted. According to the witness, the victims were forced to undress down to their underwear inside the log house. Then they were forced to run to the barn and shot once they reached the middle of it. The distance between the log house and the barn was about 25 meters. When the execution was over, the Germans locked the barn and left. Local people then rushed to site to search for clothes, while Jews who were only wounded tried to come out of the barn. Fifteen minutes later, the Germans returned in two, three or four trucks, loaded the clothes and belongings, and set the barn on fire. The Germans left before the barn had burned down. About 130 Jews were shot during this Aktion and over 80 were burned alive in the barn. Some skilled workers, along with their families, managed to avoid the shooting.


Galina Sh., born in 1931, saw the Jews being forced to undress. German soldiers then forced them into a barn located near her home and shot them. At the end of the shooting, the Germans set the barn on fire.
photo © Jethro Massey/Yahad In Unum

Witness interview

Konstantin T., born in 1927: “The rest of the Jews, about two or three families, were gathered in two Jewish houses on Proletarskaya street and forced to do farming work. They weren’t guarded. Once, a cart carrying Germans passed by. They stopped and threw a grenade inside one of the buildings where the Jews were. Just beforehand they’d forced an old Jewish woman inside the house. Nobody in the house survived the explosion. One German entered the house to check for survivors, then they all left. I saw that from about 100-200 meters away. The Germans came from Vileyka; they wore light military uniforms. Only elderly Jews were at home at that moment, the others were all working. The bodies of the victims were buried in the Jewish cemetery. The rest of the Jews left the village after this incident. Only four or so of them came back after the war.” (Testimony n°906, interviewed in Krivichi, on May 23, 2016)


Jews shot in different locations in Krivichi were buried on the outskirts of the town
in a mass grave next to the ancient Jewish cemetery. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad In Unum

Yad Vashem: Untold Stories
Krzywicze / Krivichi

(NOTE: Yad Vashem uses the Polish spelling, Krzywicze,
because the town was part of Poland at the time of the Holocaust.)

On July 1, 1941, within days of Germany's attack on the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941), Krzywicze was occupied by the Nazis. At the time, there were approximately 450 Jews living there. On the next day, posters with anti-Jewish orders and regulations were hung throughout the town: Jews were prohibited from coming into contact with non-Jews, using the sidewalks, receiving medical treatment even from Jewish doctors, etc. They had to wear an identification mark in the form of a yellow patch bearing a Star of David. In October 1941, a Jewish council was established. There were occasional arbitrary killings of Jews.

On April 28, 1942, the Germans selected several "specialist" Jews, whom they returned to the town along with their families. The remaining Jews, about 250 people, were killed. Some were shot, while the others were burned alive, along with the bodies of those shot beforehand. The Jews who had evaded the massacre—the "specialists" and some of those who had hidden during the "Aktion" in Krzywicze—were incarcerated in the "Little Ghetto" on the eastern edge of the town. The remaining Jewish survivors of the massacre were caught by a Wehrmacht unit and sent to a labor camp at the Kniahinin railway station. This camp already housed a number of Jews from Krzywicze and from nearby Dołhinów, who worked on the railroad; many of them later escaped and joined the partisans. The "Little Ghetto" (where a total of 80 Jews appear to have been confined) consisted of two wooden structures surrounded by barbed wire, on the western (or right) bank of the Serwecz River. Many of the inmates were killed there. In September 1942, the last of Krzywicze's Jews, numbering about 40, were massacred. Only those who had managed to flee to the partisans survived the war.

There were two execution sites in Krywicze: the Vyhan ("pasture" in Belorusian) and the Little Ghetto

Murder Story of Krzywicze Jews at the Vyhan
Yad Vashem: Untold Stories

On April 28, 1942, the Germans virtually annihilated the Jewish community of Krzywicze. On that day, the German Security Police arrived from Wilejka and surrounded the town. Together with local policemen, the Germans assembled the Krzywicze Jews in a churchyard on the southern edge of the town. The perpetrators killed the elderly and the sick on the spot, after the local policemen had tried to seize the valuables that the Jews had brought with them. The policemen declared that whoever had valuables and handed them over would be spared. Some of the Jews believed what they had been told and complied. However, instead of releasing them, the policemen beat them and demanded more. Then, they killed them. Afterward, the Germans selected several "specialist" Jews – i.e., people with professions deemed useful by them – and returned them, along with their families, to the town. The rest of the Jews were led under guard across the Serwecz River, to a deserted barn in the "vyhan", a swampy meadow (In Belarusian, "vyhan" means "pasture"). There, the Germans and policemen ordered the Jews to take off their clothes. The local policemen led the victims to the barn in small groups, beating them brutally on the way. Then, the SS men shot the Jews, who numbered about 130. At that moment, some high-ranking SS officers arrived and ordered that the "Aktion" be hastened along. As a result, the perpetrators forced about 80 people into the barn and set it on fire. About 250 people died on that day, including those massacred in the town and those killed while trying to escape.

From the memoir of Eliezer Shud, a survivor from Krzywicze. Shud and his comrades managed to escape from Krzywicze during the round-up on April 28, 1942; they were captured by Wehrmacht soldiers two days later and sent to the labor camp at the Kniahinin railway station. There, he was told by eyewitnesses, Jews and non-Jews, how the murder operation had been carried out:

Those being led to their final destination continued on their way, abandoned to their fate and forgotten by both God and man. The first rows in the moving line were already squishing through the swampy clay and mud, the soil of the vyhan, about to be swallowed up. The middle and the end of the line were still walking through the streets of the town. The front section of the line was ordered to stop at a deserted barn at the edge of a path that led nowhere. It was a dilapidated wooden building that stood at a distance of 100 meters from Kotlianka, a dirty stream that collected rainwater and filth. This was the destination of all those who were walking. . . .

The end of the line had not yet arrived at that spot when the Germans started barking orders for people to hand over gold and silver, and anything else of value. No one responded. . . . More than that, a feverish movement began within the column. Those who carried money of any denomination—Polish zlotys, Soviet chervontsy and rubles—tore them into shreds, threw them to the winds, and tossed their coins into the swampy clay and mud, so that the Germans and their henchmen would not profit from them. . . . Immediately afterward, the order rang out: 'Take off your clothes! Disrobe! Fold your clothes in an orderly manner!' They used the butts of their rifles, rubber truncheons, belts, whips, and any tool they could lay hands on to mercilessly beat women, children, and elderly people, those clothed and those without clothing. In groups, the Jews were beaten mercilessly, as the armed guards pushed them into the dilapidated barn. While they were doing this to the first rows, additional rows of people kept arriving, and they received similar treatment. . . .

Then, all of a sudden, something happened that frightened and astonished the murderers. From inside the burning building, there emerged someone completely enveloped in flames, like a torch. He violently grabbed a machine gun from an SS man and shot him dead. For several seconds, he fired volleys in all directions, yelling: 'Even the tenth generation will avenge our blood! Let my soul die with my enemies! Shma Yisrael!' As he was firing, they shot him, and he fell. . . .

— Eliezer Shud or Shod (אליעזר שוד), "On the Sanctification of Life" (על קידוש החיים)
from the Krivichi Yizkor Book (English translation online)

Murder Story of Krzywicze Jews in the Little Ghetto
Yad Vashem: Untold Stories

In September 1942, the Germans liquidated the "Little Ghetto." They threw grenades into the building where the Jews had been gathered, then used knives to finish off the survivors of the explosions. About 40 Jews were killed in this massacre.

Krzywicze was liberated by the Red Army on July 4, 1944. In 1996, a monument was erected on the site of the massacre of April 28, 1942, by Jews from Krzywicze and their descendants.


Monument built in memory of the 350 Jews shot dead or burned alive
in the barn on April 28, 1942. ©Jethro Massey/Yahad In Unum

Other Resources:

Krivichi Yizkor Book selections translated into English

Memorial Scroll and List of Martyrs from Krivichi Yizkor Book

Yad Vashem: Shoah Victims from Krivichi

Search the entire Yad Vashem Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names

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