Monday, April 06, 2009

Brest Sources - Part 3: Domachevo

Domachevo, a spa town 25 miles south of Brest, had 3,316 Jewish inhabitants in February 1942, according to a German document cited by Dean in this collection (p.259). The fate of most of these Jews was documented in a Gendarmerie report dated October 6, 1942:

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On September 19-20, 1942, an anti-Jewish Aktion was carried out in Domachevo and Tomashovka by a special commando of the SD together with the cavalry squadron of the Gendarmerie and the local police stationed in Domachevo, and in total, some 2,900 Jews were shot. The action took place without any disturbance (cited in Dean, p.259).
This massacre is especially notable in three respects. Firstly, as Browning (p.138) summarizes, the Stadtkommissar for Brest, Franz Burat, wrote a response to the massacre which indicated that he and his SS counterpart, Rohde, were still making futile attempts to retain Jews for essential work in Brest:
Burat noted that the "sudden liquidation" of the Jews of Domachevo and Tomashovka had caused "profound distress" among the Jews of Brest who strove desperately "to prove their indispensability" through "a model organization of Jewish workshops."
Burat continued:
I must unconditionally plead for the retention of the most needed artisans and manpower.
These pleadings were, of course, in vain, as Burat and Rohde would be forced to implement the killing orders for the Brest ghetto issued by their superiors in October.

Secondly, the murders included the slaughter of Jewish children from an orphanage, whose clothes were then handed to ethnic German children attending a kindergarten in Domachevo (Dean, p.259; citing Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, p.1,075). A monument to these children and their teacher can be seen here.

Thirdly, Domachevo was the subject of a historic British war crimes trial held in 1999, which was the first trial in British legal history during which the jury was taken overseas to the scene of the crime. The defendant, Anthony Sawoniuk, was given two life sentences, upheld on appeal, for murdering two Jewish women during a hunt for survivors of the massacre.

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