Yahad – In Unum Interviews with Rohatyn Holocaust Witnesses
Witness #: YIU/2096U, female, born 1932
Yahad trip #: 45UK, recorded 11Jun2016
Record time: 00:48:41
Languages: Ukrainian, French
I = Interviewer, W = witness
[0:00:19] W: In 1932, in March.
[0:00:26] І: In 1932?
[0:00:28] W: Yes, yes.
[0:00:36] І: And where were you born?
[0:00:38] W: Here, here.
[0:00:50] І: And earlier, before the war, this was already Rohatyn?
[0:00:58] W: Yes.
[0:01:08] І: And, for this locality, was there any name? Did this area have any other name earlier? This place?
[0:01:24] W: No.
[0:01:25] І: This place was called Babintsi?
[0:01:29] W: Yes, Babintsi. There was upper and lower Babintsi, they used to say.
[0:01:55] І: What did jobs did your parents do before the war?
[0:02:01] W: Nothing, they had a farm, horses, cows, a field.
[0:02:09] І: And this was Poland before the war?
[0:02:13] W: Yes, this was Poland.
[0:02:15] І: Are you Polish or Ukrainian by ethnicity?
[0:02:21] W: Ukrainian. My grandfather was called Sokolovsky.
[0:02:34] І: Had you started school before the war?
[0:02:35] W: I started school when the Germans were here. Under the Germans I attended school.
[0:02:41] І: Before them you didn’t go to school?
[0:02:43] W: No, no. Under the Germans I started [to attend school]. I know that I didn’t even finish class three. I was just starting to learn some German.
[0:03:07] І: What ethnicity were people in Rohatyn before the war? What ethnicity, Ukrainian, what else?
[0:03:18] W: No, only Ukrainians.
[0:03:19] І: In Rohatyn?
[0:03:21] W: Yes.
[0:03:22] І: Were there any other ethnicities?
[0:03:23] W: No, there weren’t
[0:03:24] І: Were there Poles in Rohatyn?
[0:03:28] W: No, the Poles had already left.
[0:03:31] І: No, before the war?
[0:03:34] W: There were Poles before the war, but they had already left [by the start of the war].
[0:03:35] І: And Jews? Were there Jews here?
[0:03:48] W: Yes, there were a lot.
[0:03:52] І: Did you have any Jewish neighbors? Neighbors?
[0:03:55] W: No. They were all in Rohatyn.
[0:04:04] І: They lived in the center?
[0:04:06] W: Yes, yes.
[0:04:08] І: What did they do there? Where did they work?
[0:04:11] W: They were in business. Selling, they had shops. They brought stuff here, materials, all sorts of things.
[0:04:33] І: Did you know any Jews perhaps? Perhaps your parents had friends who were Jewish. Was there anything like that?
[0:04:41] W: No, no, no.
[0:04:56] І: Do you remember when you first saw the Germans, when they came here? Do you remember the day when you first saw a German?
[0:05:07] W: Yes I remember.
[0:05:09] І: And how was it?
[0:05:10] W: Well, the war had already started.
[0:05:13] І: So you saw. You went out onto the street and saw a German.
[0:05:18] W: They were quartered in our house. We were here and they lived in the house there, they hammered nails into the wall and hung everything on them.
[0:05:42] І: And did it happen that anyone from among your neighbors, among the inhabitants of Rohatyn, left before the Germans came. Went somewhere, hid?
[0:05:54] W: No.
[0:05:55] І: That didn’t happen?
[0:05:56] W: No, no.
[0:05:58] І: Some people were evacuated perhaps?
[0:05:59] W: No, no.
[0:06:03] І: The Germans who lived with you here, who were they? Were they simply soldiers, what did they do?
[0:06:11] W: They were soldiers. On the hill they had a garrison, and that was all.
[0:06:22] І: Were they here long?
[0:06:25] W: They were not here long, as I know. Until the war ended.
[0:06:31] І: No, were they here a week, or for all the length of the war, they stayed in your house?
[0:06:40] W: I don’t know, because we moved here to the village by the wood. He [a German] came and said “what are you doing here? Everyone has left and you are here?” So we left everything behind and moved. They were dropping bombs. [0:07:17] І: Later, when the front moved, did you return to your house?
[0:07:20] W: Yes, yes.
[0:07:29] І: And later, when the front moved further away, did any Germans come to establish authority. Were there any Germans here?
[0:07:38] W: There were no Germans, but Russians.
[0:07:42] І: No, during the war, were there Germans, during the occupation, were there Germans here, who came here and established their rule?
[0:07:55] W: When we returned, the Germans had left.
[0:08:16] І: When the Germans were here, during the occupation, was there any commander, senior officer, who gave orders, anything like that?
[0:08:08] W: I don’t know, I didn’t see that. I know that there were soldiers in our house and I don’t know anything else. They gave us biscuits, they said they were called tsipakh.
[0:08:43] І: Can you say what happened to the Jews in Rohatyn? What happened to them? What do you know about them?
[0:08:53] W: The Germans attacked them. They took them up there to dig a pit and guarded them. They took those who had been digging away, they had dug a large pit, square, as wide as it was long, then they brought them from Rohatyn here to stand by the pit, they lined them up and shot them. And they fell in a pile in the pit. Some raised their hands, asked to be pulled out. I was small and on the hill there was an old building, a barn, and we could see from there to the pit.
[0:10:26] І: You saw then the Jews dug the pit?
[0:10:30] W: We were watching from the barn, we saw. And they [the Germans] stood, kept guard, but they [the Jews] did not flee. They dug. And then they finished digging. In Rohatyn they [the Jews] had a tunnel under the whole town, such a big one, they climbed into it and hid in this tunnel. And then, when one child came out of the tunnel, and they [the Germans] saw, then they dragged them all out and killed them. A Jewish woman… [the witness is interrupted] [0:11:40] І: Did you see the tunnel that ran under the town?
[0:11:45] W: I didn’t see it. I was afraid to go there.
[0:01:52] І: When you saw that they were digging a pit, was it early? When was it? Already lunchtime or afternoon?
[0:12:04] W: Lunchtime.
[0:12:05] І: At lunchtime. How many dug the pit roughly?
[0:12:15] W: Well, many, as I know, perhaps 8 or 10.
[0:12:20] І: Only men or were there women as well?
[0:12:23] W: Men.
[0:12:34] І: And when you saw them digging the pit, did you see how they got here, did they come just to dig?
[0:12:44] W: They were digging.
[0:12:45] І: They were already digging.
[0:12:48] W: And they stood, guarding them. There were Jews where we were who hid.
[0:13:03] І: Who guarded the people digging – Germans or who?
[0:13:09] W: Germans, Germans. And afterwards when they killed the ones in town… [the witness is interrupted] [0:13:22] І: Wait, we will come back to this. Did they take a long time to dig the pit?
[0:13:24] W: How should I know how long?
[0:13:26] І: Well, did you watch for a long time? One day, the whole day, or…
[0:13:32] W: I don’t know how long.
[0:13:46] І: You didn’t see whether the Germans explained to them what size the pit should be, from where to where they should dig? Did they indicate anything like that to the Jews who were digging? Did you see if they showed them where [to dig]?
[0:14:03] W: Yes, yes.
[0:14:11] І: Was the barn far off?
[0:14:13] W: No, here on the hill.
[0:14:22] І: Was it 50m or 100m? What distance was it roughly from the place where they were digging?
[0:14:29] W: About 100m.
[0:14:36] І: Was it your barn?
[0:14:40] W: No, but I used to go there.
[0:14:42] І: It belonged to some other people?
[0:14:44] W: Yes. The others in the barn were like me.
[0:14:52] І: Were there a lot of you in the barn?
[0:14:53] W: There were three or four watching.
[0:15:06] І: The pit was square?
[0:15:07] W: Yes, square. As broad as long.
[0:15:11] І: And if we compare your house with the pit, was it as big or a bit smaller?
[0:15:19] W: A little larger perhaps.
[0:15:20] І: Larger than this house.
[0:15:22] W: Yes. There were many of them, the Jews. They killed them in Rohatyn and carted them here up to the pit dead.
[0:15:56] І: The place where they dug the pit, what was there there – a field?
[0:16:00] W: A field.
[0:16:06] І: And were there some cottages nearby?
[0:16:08] W: No, no, there weren’t. Тhey had already put this there – Turks were buried there, there was a cemetery.
[0:16:19] І: When they killed them, when was that, what time of the year, spring, summer? Was it warm or…?
[0:16:31] W: No, it was like spring.
[0:16:33] І: In spring.
[0:16:35] W: It was already warm.
[0:16:49] І: After the Jews had started to dig the pit, did you see what happened to them? When they had dug the pit, did they get taken somewhere?
[0:17:00] W: They were taken away, they were away. But then they were brought back.
[0:17:17] І: Together with all of them.
[0:17:18] W: Yes.
[0:17:26] І: And when the Jews dug the pit, how many Germans roughly were guarding them?
[0:17:34] W: I don’t know.
[0:17:35] І: But roughly? And when they were digging, did they urge them on at all, beat them?
[0:17:42] W: No, no they didn’t beat them. They didn’t beat them, but they stood above them.
[0:18:01] І: After how much time did they start to shoot? They dug the pit, how much time passed between their digging the pit and [the Germans] starting to shoot?
[0:18:11] W: Well they finished digging and the shooting started immediately.
[0:18:13] І: Right away?
[0:18:15] W: They immediately started to drive them towards the pit.
[0:18:18] І: Straight after they had finished digging, the Germans started shooting?
[0:18:19] W: Yes, yes.
[0:18:29] І: And how did they [the Germans] take them to the shooting, the Jews? In a column, on foot, or by road?
[0:18:37] W: No, in a column.
[0:18:38] І: On foot?
[0:18:39] W: Yes. And they told them to stand by the pit. To stand, then they shot them and they fell into the pit.
[0:19:03] І: Did you see the column that was brought to be shot? Was it long?
[0:19:09] W: It was large. There were many there.
[0:19:15] І: And who guarded the column?
[0:19:19] W: well, those Germans.
[0:19:21] І: With dogs? Did the Germans have dogs?
[0:19:30] W: Did they have dogs? Yes. In Rohatyn it was worse.
[0:19:47] І: So the column came and went straight towards the pit, or did they position them on the side, and then bring them up [to the pit] in groups?
[0:19:55] W: No, [it went] straight to the pit.
[0:19:57] І: Straight to the pit. How many people were in the column? Hundreds, dozens? Less than a hundred or more than a hundred?
[0:20:14] W: I don’t know, there were many, I saw. Many.
[0:20:21] І: Can you say roughly how many? 100, 200?
[0:20:27] W: Perhaps 100. Then carts brought more and more from the town.
[0:20:40] І: Did they carry any things with them? Suitcases for example?
[0:20:46] W: No they didn’t.
[0:20:59] І: Was everyone in the column on foot? There were no carts? They didn’t put any living people on carts?
[0:21:05] W: No, no everyone was on foot.
[0:21:14] І: And then they brought to the pit, how did the Jews behave, did they look at it calmly or did they start to weep? To shout?
[0:21:25] W: I don’t know, it was far off, I was in the barn, There was a very fine Jewess whom a German liked… [the witness is interrupted].
[0:21:44] І: Was the pit deep?
[0:21:46] W: Yes, it was deep.
[0:21:51] І: About the height of a person or more?
[0:21:55] W: Yes.
[0:21:56] І: As deep as this house [is high]?
[0:21:58] W: Yes, it was deep. After they threw the bodies in, blood welled up from there. It was dreadful.
[0:22:21] І: Before they shot them, did the Germans order them, the Jews, to undress or…
[0:22:26] W: No.
[0:22:39] І: Then they brought them in small groups to the edge of the pit and shot them? Then the next came up?
[0:22:45] W: Yes, yes.
[0:22:56] І: When they brought them to the pit, did they stand with their faces to the pit or their backs?
[0:23:02] W: With their faces.
[0:23:12] І: About how many stood at the pit each time? How many did they take and put there? 10 people, 20?
[0:23:20] W: As many as the pit was large
[0:23:26] І: How many was it possible to stand there roughly? 10 or more?
[0:23:33] W: Perhaps 10, perhaps 15.
[0:24.07] І: Could you see who was shooting? The shooters?
[0:24.11] W: The Germans?
[0:24.14] І: Yes.
[0:24.16] W: I could see them.
[0:24:18] І: There was one person shooting or were there many?
[0:24:20] W: There were many.
[0:24:23] І: How many roughly? 5? 10?
[0:24:26] W: Perhaps 10.
[0:24:29] І: Perhaps 15?
[0:24:33] W: As [wide as] the pit [allowed], that’s how many were stood there.
[0:24:34] І: And they stood in a row like…
[0:24:36] W: Yes, yes.
[0:24:53] І: The Jews stood on the edge of the pit, and the Germans stood behind them by the pit?
[0:25:00] W: Yes yes.
[0:25:03] І: No, from that [the other] side?
[0:25:05] W: They stood facing the pit, as you said.
[0:25:18] І: What guns did the Germans use – automatics or rifles? Did they fire off rounds or single shots.
[0:25:25] W: Some sort of automatics.
[0:25:30] І: They shot rounds, not single shots?
[0:25:35] W: No, no, yes.
[0:25:38] І: Single shots?
[0:25:39] W: Single shots.
[0:25:47] І: And you say there were using automatic weapons? Automatics shoot off ten rounds at once.
[0:25:54] W: no, it wasn’t like that. Rifles.
[0:25:56] І: Rifles, OK, and when they shot, what did they aim at? At the heads? Or in the back?
[0:26:14] W: I was far off, how could I see that? One boy went to look, and they beat him and then sent him to the pit.
[0:26:34] І: Could you see when the Germans were shooting, did they carry out their work mechanically, they didn’t laugh, smoke, nothing like that?
[0:26:45] W: No, no, yes.
[0:27:00] І: Did you watch until they had shot them all, or did you leave before then?
[0:27:04] W: Before. I was the same [age] as those children there…
[0:27:26] І: And did you see how many groups they shot? Did they bring many groups to the pit and shoot them? Or did you just see it once and then fled?
[0:27:36] W: No, they kept bringing them.
[0:27:41] І: And did you watch for a long while?
[0:27:42] W: Yes.
[0:27:54] І: And while they were shooting them, did they do anything like laying out the corpses, did anyone step down into the pit to lay out the corpses? So that they lay in a row? No one did anything like that?
[0:28:07] W: No.
[0:28:09] І: Did they throw earth over [the corpses] in between? Or just at the end?
[0:28:11] W: In between. But I don’t know who threw earth in. I know that afterwards blood still welled up from there. Blood flowed up and out.
[0:28:33] І: Was there a gravedigger there? A gravedigger, the one from the graveyard?
[0:28:41] W: No there wasn’t. There wasn’t, no.
[0:28:51] І: And was there a board at the edge of the pit, so that they all fell from there? Did they all stand at the edge of the pit?
[0:29:00] W: Yes
[0:29:02] І: But there was no boarding?
[0:29:04] W: No, no.
[0:29:10] І: You say that they would throw earth over. So they would shoot one group and throw earth over, or did they throw earth over at the very end?
[0:29:18] W: At the very end, on everyone in a pile, they brought more on carts from Rohatyn, they threw them in.
[0:29:43] І: You saw how they carted corpses up and dumped them? You were still watching when they brought the dead corpses?
[0:29:53] W: Yes, yes.
[0:29:59] І: Were there a lot of carts carrying up corpses?
[0:30:04] W: There might have been 4 carts.
[0:30:06] І: And they travelled back and forth.
[0:30:09] W: Yes. They threw them on the cart, arms up, and carted them like that. And then threw them into the pit.
[0:30:30] І: And from where were the corpses carted?
[0:30:31] W: What?
[0:30:33] І: Where did they cart the corpses from?
[0:30:36] W: From Rohatyn, from the town. They discovered the tunnel, and killed them all.
[0:30:48] І: And when they were carting them [the corpses], who drove the carts? Whose carts were they and who was driving them?
[0:30:54] W: Germans. The Germans drove them.
[0:30:57] І: The Germans themselves. And the Germans on the carts, did they wear uniforms?
[0:31:11] W: The cart drivers were ours [Ukrainians].
[0:31:19] І: Locals?
[0:31:20] W: Yes.
[0:31:26] І: The cart driver was on the cart, the corpses were there [on the cart] and the Germans walked beside the cart? The Germans?
[0:31:36] W: No, no.
[0:31:47] І: And when they brought the corpses, the Germans who were shooting, they were still beside the pit? Or had they already left?
[0:32:01] W: No they weren’t.
[0:32:13] І: And they brought the carts with corpses on the same day as they were shooting? Or on the next day?
[0:32:20] W: No.
[0:32:22] І: On the same day?
[0:32:23] W: Later. They shot all the people, and then they brought those [corpses].
[0:32:30] І: On the same day, or later?
[0:32:33] W: Later. A day after, something like that.
[0:32:43] І: On the day that they were shooting, they did not close the grave immediately?
[0:32:50] W: No, because they were still bringing corpses from the town. They threw them in so that they already piled up over the pit, there were so many
[0:33:05] І: When they stopped carting them did anyone guard the pit over night? [0:33:13] W: I don’t know. But those in the pit were still alive, moved, stretched out their hands to be pulled out.
[0:33:41] І: This was still while the shooting was taking place?
[0:33:43] W: Yes, yes
[0:33:54] І: And did anyone get out of the pit and escape?
[0:33:57] W: No.
[0:34:03] І: And did you see how they threw earth over the pit the next day?
[0:34:09] W: No I didn’t see.
[0:34:20] І: You said that there was a man who threw earth over afterwards. You didn’t see him?
[0:34:29] W: No, no.
[0:34:33] І: So you only think that there was someone there, to bury the pit over with earth?
[0:34:40] W: One man went to watch the shooting. He looked similar… They beat him and put him with the Jews. He only went there to watch.
[0:35:12] І: That man was not a Jew?
[0:35:17] W: No, no, he was from our street. The Germans shot our people too. 21 students from our church.
[0:36:06] І: Did you see when they killed our people [Ukrainians]?
[0:36:09] W: No I didn’t see, but I heard that people said that the students had been shot.
[0:36:16] І: Why were they shot?
[0:36:17] W: I don’t know. Perhaps they fought for Ukraine… The Jews were also good.
[0:36:39] І: At that place, where they shot them, was there any other shooting, or it was just once?
[0:36:52] W: Of Jews?
[0:36:53] І: Yes.
[0:36:55] W: No, they shot them all at one go, carted them there.
[0:36:59] І: And it was only one time that there was shooting there?
[0:37:02] W: Yes.
[0:37:10] І: And there is now a monument at that place?
[0:37:12] W: They put something there. Not far off. In front of the pits, the Turks erected a monument, because there was a military cemetery. There was a cemetery.
[0:37:44] І: This was then which war, in which century?
[0:37:58] W: When my mother was as small as I was then.
[0:38:02] І: Back in the 19th century?
[0:38:04] W: Mama was born in 1904.
[0:38:26] І: After they were shot, there were no more Jews left in Rohatyn?
[0:38:31] W: No, there weren’t.
[0:38:38] І: There was only one action in Rohatyn?
[0:38:40] W: Yes. Perhaps some were still hiding in the forest. Some left, perhaps. There were no more left [in Rohatyn], they fled to the forest, hid.
[0:39:12] І: Before they were shot, the Jews were still living in their houses or did they round them all up, and afterwards they took them all to be shot?
[0:39:29] W: Some in their houses, and others fled to the forest somewhere. Even in our gardens they hid where trees had been uprooted, they came and we gave them food, because they were hungry.
[0:40:01] І: Did you also give them something to eat?
[0:40:03] W: Well, they asked for food, since they were hungry.
[0:40:10] І: Did you give food to Jews in hiding at your place or somewhere else?
[0:40:16] W: No, there where trees had been uprooted, by the banks.
[0:40:30] І: What did you give them to eat?
[0:40:35] W: What we ate ourselves is what we gave them.
[0:40:37] І: And what did you eat at that time, if I may ask? Did you give them milk or bread?
[0:40:48] W: We gave them bread.
[0:40:49] І: Potatoes?
[0:40:50] W: Potatoes.
[0:41:00] І: So did they hide out for a long time beside the river, by the uprooted trees? Did they stay there a long time?
[0:41:06] W: No, not long.
[0:41:09] І: How long?
[0:41:10] W: Because they left when the whole action here had finished. They went somewhere. In the forest, as far as I know, perhaps they went somewhere else?
[0:41:34] І: And when there were no Jews left, what happened to their houses and their property?
[0:41:42] W: Nothing, torn apart, torn down. Now there is a market there. Their utensils they took somewhere, dumped somewhere, I don’t known much. Pots and pans and all that.
[0:42:26] І: Did you see any other scenes like that shooting? Perhaps terrible things you remember? Anyone else beaten or killed? Did you see anything else?
[0:42:40] W: By the Germans? No. I can say, by the church, 21 lads, so young.
[0:42:57] І: Thank you very much for what you have told us. One more question: can we tell other people what you have told us, people who are interested in history, history students, scholars?
[0:43:09] W: Yes, yes, yes.
[0:43:11] І: We can? Thank you. [change of location to the road by the south mass grave] [0:43:19] І: What is this place called? What is its name? This village?
[0:43:29] W: This was a field. Rohatyn field. From Rohatyn. And Babintsi – was on the other side. This was Rohatyn field.
[0:43:53] І: And now look. Was the pit at the same place as the memorial?
[0:43:56] W: Yes, yes, at the same place. O, I hadn’t seen it, because I am not able to walk, I am only seeing it all now.
[0:44:16] І: And where were you when you saw them digging the pit?
[0:44:20] W: Over there, up on the hill. There were cottages there. There was a barn and we hid there.
[0:44:38] І: Does the barn still exist or is there nothing standing there now?
[0:44:40] W: There is nothing there now.
[0:44:51] І: Did the column they marched to be shot follow the same road that we drove along?
[0:44:55] W: Yes, yes, yes, the same road.
[0:45:03] І: They came from Rohatyn?
[0:45:06] W: Yes, yes.
[0:45:18] І: And on that day, what was the weather like? Was it warm or rainy, or sunny?
[0:45:26] W: It was like today. It was spring.
[0:45:37] І: Did the Germans allow people to come to this place or not?
[0:45:45] W: No, they didn’t. They chased people away. They [some Jews] were asking to get them out of the pit. Oh, they have planted flowers, I didn’t see that before.
[0:46:18] І: The column that came, did it stop beside the pit?
[0:46:20] W: Yes.
[0:46:20] І: Like our car now.
[0:46:23] W: Yes, yes.
[0:46:33] І: And when they brought up the group to be shot, did some weep or shout? Did the Jews weep or shout when they were shot?
[0:46:49] W: They did not weep. It was only men. The column they brought was only men.
[0:47:11] І: But you said that there were children? Or was that a different time?
[0:46:16] W: They were in the tunnel. That’s where the women were, then they were all dragged out.
[0:47:34] І: So the women and children were in the tunnel. Did you see anything in that respect? Or did you just hear about it?
[0:47:45] W: I heard about it, how could I have been there? I was small, how could I have gone to Rohatyn? They said it was a large tunnel that went under the whole town.
[0:48:00] І: There where they were shooting, there were only men?
[0:48:04] W: yes. And they killed the women and children in the town, and carried them on carts.
Ukrainian-language transcription: Marta Panas-Bespalova
English-language translation: Graham Stack
Text © 2016 Yahad – In Unum.
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