Thursday, April 02, 2009

More Mass Graves in the Polesie

Further to Nick's earlier blog, I present below a number of extracts from Soviet Extraordinary Commission reports that were collated and translated from the Brest archives by Louis Pozez and published by Andrea Simon in her genealogical investigation, Bashert. These describe mass graves exhumations at four locations: Bronnaia Gora, Smolyarka, Malorita and Volchin.

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Simon met Pozez [who subsequently helped finance the processing of the Brest Ghetto Passport Archive] in 1997 when she went on a mission to Brest, organised by Pozez, which included a visit to her ancestral home in Volchin (various spellings; 21 miles south-east of Brest). On page 91, she introduces summaries of translations of mass graves documents sent to her by Pozez:
Louis Pozez sends me one section from the report, entitled "Act" and dated October 5, 1944. It's from the Brest Regional Assistance Committee, attached to the Extraordinary State Commission.
The report discusses three major locations. Firstly:
In Brona Gora, 117 kilometers from Brest, five pit graves were found, camouflaged with young, newly planted trees. Some of the graves were as long as 63 meters and as wide as 6.5 meters. Three of the graves were opened. At the depth of 2.5 meters, human bones and ashes were found; at 3.5 meters deep, there was a second layer of ashes and bones, inside of which were locks of hair, and handkerchief and some hair pins. Under the layer of ash was dark, red-brown liquid.

Near the pits the Committee found six areas for burning bodies. Around these areas, the Committee located many fragments of small human bones, including a child's shoulder bone, and other items, such as watches and coins.
We therefore have confirmation that the Soviets found human bones as well as ashes. Simon discusses the next two sites on p.268n.:
In the second area of mass graves, near Smolyarka, the committee found three pit graves. This section estimates that 3,000 "peaceful Soviet citizens" from Brest and nearby villages were killed in this area. The forensic evidence indicated that most of the victims were shot from a short distance. The third area, a kilometer northwest of the settlement of Malorita, contained nine mass graves. The committee opened two and determined that most of the victims were shot; some were buried alive. The number of "peaceful Soviet citizens" killed here was also estimated at 3,000. Besides these burial sites, the committee uncovered graves in the Brest prison yard, the Brest fortress, and in other locations in Brest.
Smolyarka was also the site of exhumations of four mass graves in 2006. A memorial is being erected.

The final Soviet site report of 1944, for Volchin, was sent to Simon by Yad Vashem via Simon's associates, Dov Bar and Shmuel Englender, and is titled Document Number 8:
On September 22, 1942, a group of nine Germans, with the help of 20 [local] police, organised a mass killing by shooting of Volchin's Jews and some of Chernavchich's Jews. [They were brought to the Volchin ghetto.] The total killed by shooting on that day was 497 people.

When we opened the big pit, we found many bodies. Most were naked and were thrown on top of each other. Bodies of men, women, children and babies.
To corroborate this evidence, the general prosecutor in Visoke interviewed witnesses on September 28, 1944, who confirmed that:

1. The policemen had been brought from the village of Motikali, where the population was reputed to be antisemitic.

2. The Jews had been deceived into believing that they were being relocated to the Visoke ghetto.

3. A road-building project was in progress at Chernavchich, from which unfit Jews had been sent. The road workers were killed upon completion of the project.

4. 500 escapees from the Brest ghetto were later killed in Motikali.

The murders were also corroborated by the leader of the Schutzmannschaft, Semenyuk, in his Soviet interrogation, and by witnesses who gave taped interviews in Volchin in 1993 and 1997, cited in detail by Simon.

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