V. Burnosova

On the execution of Jews in the town of Sebezh

Jews survived in Sebezh for a long time in spite of the fact that the Germans used them for the hardest labor: digging trenches, repairing a railroad dismantled during the retreat of the Red Army. In the beginning, the commandant of the town was Austrian. Jews bribed him (gold, valuables) and he made various concessions. These were bribes in the proper sense, not some sort of official requisitions.

By the spring of 1942, a new commandant came and executed Jews after all. Jews were taken to be shot.1 Ditches were ready in spite of it being winter time. Probably, they had been dug by POWs. Jews were shot by policemen, headed by their Chief, Buss. They say that during the execution Buss took a three-to-four-month-old baby from a woman, thrust it in the air and shot from a hand gun, saying, "So that Kike blood does not pollute Russian soil." The child fell right into a pit.

Russians were made to bury corpses. One of them said that some of the executed were only wounded, some slightly scratched. But they were all buried. In the next half hour one could hear moaning from under the ground (it was ten to fifteen degrees below zero)

The Jewish population of Sebezh at this time consisted mostly of women, children, elderly, and adolescent girls. One boy of twelve, following his mother's advise, hid in the chimney and then left. He reached the house of the head of the village of Presni, having crossed a frozen lake. The boy begged the man, "Take me, I'll be your helper and you will not have to feed me. I'll pick mushrooms and berries. Just don't take me back to Sebezh." The village chief's wife fed the boy. The chief harnessed his horse, placed the boy in a cart and took him to Sebezh to turn him in to the Germans. He could have saved him.

One Jewish woman worked as an interpreter for the Germans. She was from Leningrad, a Hertzen Institute graduate. First she worked in Sebezh. Then she was transferred to Idrits. Someone informed on her, and the commandant sent a car to bring her to Sebezh. A witness saw her in a car with Germans. The Jewish lady said, "Valia, I will not be back. Someone denounced me." She was so eager to live.

There were people in Sebezh who greeted the arrival of the Germans. Jews were killed in March only by (local) policemen. The Germans were merely looking on. Later the Germans could argue, "No, we are not cruel. Your people are."

There were a few policemen who joined the partisans. The police force in the area was very large. After the war policemen were sentenced to twenty-five years but amnestied and rehabilitated soon.

(The language and style of the original are preserved for publication.)

Source: Yad Vashem Archives, D-3/4655, as cited in Yitzak Arad, ed. Unichozhenie Evreev SSSR v gody nemetskoi okkupatsii (1941 - 1944) (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1991) pp. 214 - 15.

Gitelman, Zvi, Bitter Legacy: Confronting the Holocaust in the USSR. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1997. pp. 280 - 281

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