They Made the Jews Lie Down on Both Sides of the Ditch

(From the testimony of Heinrich, a serviceman in the 307 police battalion, concerning the massacre of the Brest-Litovsk Jews on July 10, 1941.)

That day we were awakened at three. The day of the execution was probably July 10, 1941. At first we were ordered to line up, armed with "98" rifles and ammunition. The task was to take all the males in the Jewish neighborhood out in the streets. The could get dressed and take as much luggage as they could carry. We were told that Jews were being sent to work in Germany...
The gathering of Jews and their arrangement in the streets inside the Jewish neighborhood went on until six in the morning. Part of our battalion was sent to the site of the execution in trucks. The rest guarded Jews on their way there.

The site was located to the south of Brest-Litovsk, outside the forts, and looked like dunes. A ride to this place from the downtown would take fifteen minutes.

When we arrived, i.e., at 6:30, we were met by an SS unit, obviously a company. The SS soldiers, armed with sub-machine guns surrounded an area (a circle) 600 meters in diameter. Besides the SS, there were SD soldiers in gray uniforms. Judging by what I heard later, these units, after the execution of the men, took care of the women and children who were brought by SS units to the site of the execution after noon. These soldiers were also armed with automatic weapons.

There were twelve ditches: ten meters in length, 2.5 meters in width, and three to four meters deep. I think one could fit 600 corpses in such a pit. To avoid a mistake concerning the number of Jews that were shot that day (since I gave the figure of 10,000 before), I want to emphasize that during the described action about 6,000 male Jews were shot. From later discussions I learned that the figure was 10,000.

We did not have chloride or lime or any other disinfectants. Shortly after we had arrived, a big column of Jews came from the town. It was stopped about 300 meters from the ditches. While the Jews were turning in their luggage, platoon commanders designated shooting soldiers. After this we were given instructions on how the execution should be conducted...

According to the instructions, groups of fifty people were taken to the ditches and laid down on both sides of them, face to the ground, so that their heads stuck out above the pits. Behind each Jew there was a designated soldier with a "98" rifle, bayonet attached. A shot was made as following: the tip of the bayonet was put to the back of a victim's head. After this, a rifle was to be moved to an angle of forty-five degrees, and a shot was to be fired. It often happened that a skull was torn off along a bullet path. From time to time, if an angle was too wide or a victim was holding his head too high during a shot, a bullet would go through the neck. In such cases an officer or a platoon commander would finish off victims, shooting them from hand guns.

We soldiers had to throw corpses into the ditches. No one was putting the corpses into stacks. In such fashion the execution went on until the afternoon. In the beginning, one of the long sides of a ditch would be approached by ten to twelve men to be shot. But later it became impossible to maintain such a uniform rate, and the shooting became sporadic.

The Jews were dressed when approaching the pits. They did not need to undress in advance. This action ended by 4 p.m. After it ended we were taken back to barracks in trucks. Our service for the day was over.

As far as I remember, we did not get any food and, this is for sure, alcoholic beverages during the day. There were no festivities.

We were not to keep the action secret. There were no discussions among us servicemen after the action. And if there were, then only condemning it.

Almost all of the Jews that I am describing accepted their fate with stoicism and heroic self-control. I personally lived throughout this in a state of trance and could not help being amazed by the Jews.

Gitelman, Zvi, Bitter Legacy: Confronting the Holocaust in the USSR. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1997. pp. 281 - 283

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Ken Lewis
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April 4, 1999
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