Project «Voices of Jewish settlements. Vitebsk region.»
פיתוח קשרי התרבות בין העמים של ישראל ובלרוס
Memorial Jewish cemetery in Dokshitsy.
Dokshitsy is a small town in Vitebsk region. Nine kilometers away from Dokshitsy is a village where I was born – Parafianovo. Before the war there were a lot of Jews living in Dokshitsy. According to a census held in 1939, the population of Dokshitsy constituted 3.600 people, most of them Jews. When the war started most of them decided not to leave the town, not willing to believe that Germans would do them any harm. Nobody wanted to believe the stories about ruthlessness of German soldiers in other towns. Very soon a ghetto in Dokshitsy was created. All in all, 2653 people were killed in the ghetto during its existence. The last day of the Jewish community in Dokshitsy was May 29th 1942, when the ghetto was liquidated.
Boris Kazinets was one of the few ghetto prisoners that survived. He was lucky because he joined a partisan detachment and was fighting against Nazis, revenging for the suffering and death of his relatives and friends. His memories were edited in the book “Memory: Dokshitsy-Parafianovo”.
“I was born in 1919 in Dokshitsy. In 1934 I entered a Polish school. In 1941 I was drafted to the Red Army. On the morning of June 22nd 1941 the German Army illegally crossed the border and invaded the Soviet Union. Our detachment fought back but in the end we had to retreat in the direction of Baranovichi. We were then surrounded by Germans somewhere under Minsk. I, together with my friend Moti End, and other two soldiers managed to break through and thus we started wandering in the woods. By that time I’d already heard stories of how badly Nazis were treating Jews. On June 29th and 30th 1941 I managed to come back to my native town. There were announcements all over town, ordering all former soldiers to give in to Germans. I was dressed in regular clothes and therefore they could not know about my past as a soldier. The first Jewish victims were Mazin (he was insane) and Markman, who was shot in his own house. In July all Jews were made to attach a yellow mark to their clothes.
We were sent to work every day. The discipline was very strict. When Zalman Raskin was several minutes late, he was forced to crawl, and a German soldier hit him twenty-five times. We could not expect that soon not a single Jew would be left alive.
Then Germans began forming work groups. I was appointed to work in a sewing workshop.
The local administration was appointed in Dokshitsy. They were even more ruthless towards Jews than Germans were. As soon as Gestapo arrived in town, they “took proper care” of the Jews, who were Soviet activists. Those were Gronam Kloft, Abram Leviatn, Zalman Tsiklin and others. After four days of tortures they were taken out of town and shot. The location of their graves is unknown.
In August 1941 fascists gathered another group of victims. At that time we more and more often received information about mass murders of Jews in neighboring villages, such as Berezino and Begoml. The expectation of the catastrophe in Dokshitsy was slowly but persistently filling our minds.
In September 1941 a decree was issued about opening a ghetto in Dokshitsy. The ghetto area started from the synagogue garden and included several neighboring alleys and a part of the main street. All the specialists that were working for the Germans were allowed to leave the ghetto. My father and I made clothes for Nazis.
Map of Dokshitsy with inscriptions in Yiddish.
All the ghetto residents were beginning to starve. 300g of bread per person was the amount which was given every day, but not regularly. If it hadn’t been for specialists, who could leave the ghetto and exchange their possessions for food, the ghetto residents would have died of starvation before the execution.
The first pogrom took place in March 1942. The local Nazi police broke into the ghetto and started smashing everything. They said they were taking revenge for the time they had been under the Soviet rule. The following morning they ordered a group of young people to dig up a ditch next to Jewish graves. Then a group of arrested Jews was brought there and executed. Together with my uncle Zalman Freiman, many our neighbors were executed: Katsovich, Fridman, Sosman, Bloch, etc. After that pogrom many Jews started creating shelters where they could hide during German raids.
I continued working, but during rest hours my family and I stayed in an underground shelter. Nazis found many shelters and shot the people who were hiding there. Our family was lucky. They did not find us. After a big raid we went out of our shelter and saw an eerie picture. The ruthlessly murdered people were lying in the street in piles – everything was covered with blood. People were lying on beds in houses, as if they were so exhausted that they were unable to get up.
Liquidation of the ghetto took place at the end of May, 1942, on a Saturday. At 4 a.m. we were woken up by neighbors and my relative Zeinel Kazinits, informed us that the ghetto had been surrounded. Some of our neighbors hid in our bunker, too. At 8 a.m. Germans started looking for the entrance to our bunker. Then we heard: “Jews, come out!” Naturally, no one replied and they threatened to throw a grenade if we didn’t react. Staying inside was now pointless. I came out first and was hit on the neck with a cudgel. I dashed to the corridor, which lead to the door, jumped from the balcony and within seconds was on the other side of the street. The rest of the people were beaten mercilessly and my father was wounded on the head.
Suddenly I turned out to be among Judenrat’s people: Varfman, his wife and children. Within an hour 70 Jews were gathered at the entrance to the ghetto. Hartman, having seen my father’s bleeding head told one of the policemen to bring him water. Then he said to my father: “Do not worry, you will live”. Naturally, we did not believe that.
More and more Jews were coming. Gdalia Levin, who had tuberculosis, sat close to me and whispered: “Look attentively at the trees and the houses. You will not see them again. All of this will remain when we leave, nothing will change, but we will not be there. The world will continue living, but many Jews will not be there.” I remember these words even now. They are imprinted in my memory forever.
When Germans gathered 350 people, they ordered us to start walking. Near the trench we realized we were surrounded by a lot of policemen and fascists. People, who attempted to escape, were shot at once. One of the victims was lying next to me. The leader of Judenrat jumped into the trench, but he was brought back by one of the Nazis who said: “You, as their leader, will first watch us killing all of them and only then we will kill you.”
Bridge across the Berezina River.
At that moment Hartman approached me and called me to the side. He also called my father, step mother Gita and her daughter Haya. My brother Haim approached him, showed his permit and mentioned he had also been working for Germans. Instead of an answer he was hit on the face. He started running in the direction of the Jewish cemetery and was killed by a policeman.
Sara Markman, our neighbor, was standing behind me. She told Hartman she was my wife. He did not mind and let her stay. Shoemaker Yashin and his wife also joined our group, but their children were murdered. Hartman took us back to town and the execution near the trench started. We were locked in a garage 200 meters away from the trench. We silently sat waiting for our execution.
At dawn the door opened and in came Nazis. They gathered all the women and asked me who they could take and who was to be left. They said they could save only one person of each profession. My father immediately replied he was ready to die, since he was old and I was still young. I contradicted: “You know, I can only sew but I have no skills in cutting. My father is excellent at cutting.” The Germans consulted and decided to leave both of us. They took all the women and left. We spent the whole night in dead silence. The next morning they let us know we would live. We would not have to wear the yellow strip and we were granted the right to move freely around the town. We were promised houses and all we had to do was work obediently. “You will get a horse and a carriage to move your things and equipment”, - they said and left.
All the specialists were gathered near our house. Opposite, in a garden, we saw all the Jews that had been found in their shelters. They were ordered to undress, leaving only underwear on. Then they were pushed into a big barn. We saw more and more Jews being taken to the barn. The pile of clothes was increasing. That was the second day of the “campaign”. On the third day they were pushed out of the barn and forced to run towards the trench. All of them were shot in less than 30 minutes. Among them I saw the Shleifer sisters. They were dressed in short nightgowns and were shyly pulling them down.
The ghetto liquidation lasted 17 days. On the 17th day the Germans caught the last group of Jews, which consisted of 20 people. They had managed to escape from the ghetto and hid in the ruins of Jewish houses on the way to Glubokoye. A shepherd boy detected them and reported it to the Nazis. That day in June, 1942 was the end. The odd and terrifying thing was that only we, a tiny group of Jews, was left alive, to continue working.”
Jewish settlements in Vitebsk region
Vitebsk • Albrehtovo • Babinovichi • Baran • Bayevo • Begoml • Beshenkovichi • Bocheikovo • Bogushevsk • Borkovichi • Braslav • Bychiha • Chashniki • Disna • Dobromysli • Dokshitsy • Druya • Dubrovno • Glubokoye • Gorodok • Kamen • Kohanovo • Kolyshki • Kopys • Krasnopolie • Kublichi • Lepel • Liady • Liozno • Lukoml • Luzhki • Lyntupy • Miory • Obol • Oboltsy • Orsha • Osintorf • Ostrovno • Parafianovo • Plissa • Polotsk • Prozorki • Senno • Sharkovshina • Shumilino • Sirotino • Slaveni• Smolyany • Surazh • Tolochin • Ulla • Verhnedvinsk • Vidzy • Volyntsy • Yanovichi • Yezerishe • Zhary • Ziabki •