Volodymyr-Volynsky is a city located in Volyn Oblast, in north-western Ukraine. The city is also called Ludmir and Volodimir. The village of Piatydni is located around 8 km away from the city of Volodymyr-Volynsk. In 1939 Wolyn was one of the 16 provinces in Poland. It had an area of 35,754 square Km. The population of Wolyn was slightly over 2 million people. The breakdown: 68% Ukrainian, 16.6% Polish, 9.9% Jewish, and 5.5% Czech German or Russian.
REFUGEES FLEE EAST
Jewish refugees from cities and towns in Poland fled to the Wolyn district -- away from Hitler's armed forces -- beginning in 1939. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, hundreds of thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish refugees fled the advancing German army into eastern Poland, hoping that the Polish army would halt the German advance in the west. Many of the refugees fled without a specific destination in mind. They traveled on foot or by any available transport -- bicycles, carts, or horses -- clogging roads to the east. Most took only what they could carry.
Some refugees could not escape Poland before Soviet and German authorities established their control of the country. By the time some refugees reached the German-Soviet demarcation line as well as Poland's borders with her neighbors they found both closed and heavily guarded. Some refugees attempted to sneak across, often at great danger. Those caught trying to cross between occupation zones or trying to flee without papers faced arrest and arbitrary violence at the hands of both Soviet and German border guards.
From August 5 to 22, 1942, Jews were forced to dig three large pits under the direction of the engineer Schwarzbot. The Nazis told these slave laborers that the area was going to be used to park airplanes and that the pits would be used for underground storage. One thousand Jews were taken to Piatidin to dig the pits. All were shot and murdered.
Many Jews who worked in agriculture in the area around Ludmir (Volodimir) were returned to the Ludmir ghetto. Jews in the ghetto prepared hiding places after hearing rumors that the pits at Piatidin would be used as a place for their murder.
During the last four months of 1942, a total of around 18,000 Jews were shot in this area (including the three pits and pits near the jail in Ludmir) because of the intense Nazi hunt for any living Jew in the area. The murders were carried out by the gebietskommissar Wassterheide, a Nazi named Hiller, and a woman named Johanna Zelle.
There were escape attempts. Most of those who tried to flee were caught and taken to the jail and from there to the killing fields of Piatidin. The walls of the jail were covered in writing: "Avenge the Jewish blood that has been spilled!"
This was the first pogrom in the Ludmir area. Around 4,000 Jews were allowed to survive in the small ghetto. Their job was to sort the belongings of the 18,000 Jews who had been murdered. High quality products were stolen by the Germans and low quality products were given to farmers in the area of Ludmir. The Ludmir municipality sold Jewish homes to Poles at low prices.
Today this memorial stands in the area where the mass graves for Jews were dug at Piatidin.
Piatidin, as it was in 1939-1945, no longer exists. The closest cities are Volododymyr (Ludmir) and Novovolynsk.
On November 13, 1942 the Second Pogrom began in Ludmir. A Nazi named Kraus was involved in the murder of nearly 100 Jews in the ghetto. This was followed by the shootings of many more in the ghetto, around 3,500 total. Several attempts by the youth in the Ludmir ghetto to contact the Polish partisans were unsuccessful. This pogrom lasted from Aug. 20 to Jan. 1, 1943.
After these executions, around 500 Jews remained in the ghetto.
On Purim, 1943 one hundred Jews were sent from the Ludmir Ghetto to Piatidin to cover the open graves. They said Kaddish for the deceased, most of whom they recognized. On June 13, Jews were again sent to Piatidn pits because the ground had settled and dead bodies were exposed. Jews were forced to bury those bodies.
On December 13, 1943, Jews were burned alive on the road from Ludmir to Kavalniatz.
Only a few dozen Jews from the area around Ludmir had managed to survive these atrocities. Many other places that witnessed such massacres in WWII period in the Volyn region remain unmarked and unprotected.
Sources: 1) U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum: Refugees;
2) Yizkor Book for Wolodymir Wolinski.
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