When WWII started in September 1939, there were approx. 30.000 Jews in Pińsk. When city was liberated on July 14, 1944 by the Red Army, only seventeen Jews who had been hidden by Christian families came out of hiding. The names are known of twenty others who had escaped to the forests and joined the partisans.
On the July 4th 1941, the Nazi-German army conquered Pinsk. It was the first large city in occupied territories whose Jewish population was to be completely annihilated. On the 9th of July, part of the Einsatzgruppe of the SS (for special tasks) arrived in Pinsk and immediately began persecuting the Jews including the murdering of several of them. On 30 July 1941, Reichsf hrer SS Heinrich Himmler order in this manner: “All of the Jewish men in Pinsk sh ould be executed, and the women and children should be driven into the swamps".
|... Jewish women and children should be driven into the swamps!|
On July 4th, 1941, the Nazi armies conquered Pinsk. Beginning July 9, 1941, part of the commando forces of the operation detachment for special projects, was settled in Pinsk and started with decrees and persecutions against the Jews, including individuals’ murder.
|July 1941. Germans conquered Pinsk. New German signs on the street.|
The August 1941 Aktion took place about a month after the Germans arrived. On August 2 or 3, 1941, Franz Magill, commander of the mounted unit (Reitende Abteilung) of the SS 2nd Cavalry Brigade, received the following order (evidently from Himmler):
By order of the RFSS, all Jews aged 14 and over who are found in areas being combed shall be shot to death; Jewish women and children shall be driven into the marshes. The Jews are the partisans reserve force; they support them. The killing by gunfire shall be carried out in accordance with orders from the local SD offices. In the city of Pinsk, the killing by shooting shall be carried out by cavalry companies 1 and 4, which are to be transferred to Pinsk. This Aktion is to begin at once. A report on the implementation shall be submitted.
Magill forwarded the deadly order to the cavalry companies, and the killings took place on August 5–8, 1941
On the 5th of August 1941, 8,000 Jewish males were killed by the first cavalry company of the SS, near the village of Posienicze – Iwaniki, approx. 4 Km. north from Pińsk. The Nazis used the pretext that Jews were being taken to work as laborers for three days. The murdering continued through the 6th of August. The German fourth cavalry arrived in Pińsk later on August 6th to help expedite the actions.
On the 5th of August 1941, 8,000 Jewish males were killed by the first cavalry company of the SS, near the village of Posienicze – Iwaniki, approx. 4 km north from Pinsk.
On the 7th of August 1941, the two companies along with the local Polish militia drove Jews out of their homes to the gathering area near the village of Kozlakowicze, west from the Pinsk along the Pina river. The murder of Jewish males from the age of 6 upwards continued and another 3,000 were murdered.
See MAP OF PINSK
During these tragic days in the first days of August 1941 at least 11,000 Jewish males lost their lives. During the evening of the 8th of August, orders were received by the cavalry company to leave Pińsk and continue on to other destinations while combing the area as per the original plan. This later order enabled part of the Pinsk community – made up mainly of women and children – to live for a little over a year.
Approximately 20,000 Jews were left behind after the departure of the SS cavalry units.
On October 22, 1942 rumors broke out in the ghetto that Christians were digging deep pits near the farm of Dobra Wola - Dobrovolia. Panic broke out, and in order to calm the public Ebner gave his word to the members of the Judenrat, that these pits were intended for storage of fuel for the airport placed there.
On Wednesday, October 28th, 1942 it was a comparatively quiet day in the ghetto. Searches at the gates of those who returned from work were perfunctory and most of the food brought in was allowed to pass. There were less beatings by the Polish policemen than usual, but there were earlier rumors and tension in the ghetto!
|German report about the aktion in the Pinsk Ghetto. There is an information that one Jew attacked during the action German officer sitting on a horse. The Jewish fighter was shot by other Germans.|
On Sunday, November 1st, 1942, there was the last selection among the Survivors at the Hospital next to the Ghetto (Szpital Ziemski). During the three days of the action, hundreds temporerly saved came to the hospital to join those who had been set earlier aside as skilled or otherwise required workers, hoping to save their lives there. The hospital place became overcrowded and squalid. No food was given and the only nourishment was raw beets and other roots, brought in from the nearby vegetable gardens. Even from the pits, twenty young men were brought back to the hospital. They had already undressed, when the Germans, observing their strong build, asked them whether they wanted to work. “If you work, you will live”. But the skilled workers and others were sorted again: not all were to be spared. They were told that they will go to the work. S. S. troops, however, instead of leading the men to work, took them to the Karlin cemetery and shot them on the spot, a scene witnessed by hundreds of Jews watching from the hospital windows.
143 Jews remaining after this selection were handed over to the Polish police, who conveyed them via Albrektowska and Zawalna streets to the city jail on Brzeska street.
Later "the remaining Jews" were transferred to the Little Ghetto.
Later "the remaining Jews" were transferred to the Little Ghetto.
During November - December 1942, the searches for hiding Jews in the area of the old ghetto continued. Practically every day Jews were found and murdered. These searches were organized by the head of the Polish police. During the nights, the inmates of the little ghetto could see cought Jews who had been apprehended sitting on the ground, in the cold, not far from the fires the policemen kept going. They were as if petrified, neither speaking nor crying. During the weeks of hiding they had been half frozen, starved and haunted by constant fear. Among them were babies. They had to wait until a sufficient number of Jews had been collected. Then they would be led to Dobra Wola - Dobrovole and shot.
On December 23, 1942, 143 "saved workes" were murdered at Karlin Cemetery in the north-east corner of the ghetto. Karlin Cemetery was earlier the place of numerous daily burials and become the place of the last action in Pinsk ghetto, just one day before Christmas Eve 1942.
On July, 14th, 1944 Pińsk was captured by the Red Army. Only 37 Pinsk Jews, of 30.000 prior to Holocaust, survived.
Epilog 20 years after Pinsk Holocaust
Katharina von Kellenbach, Ebners niece wrote;
I was about thirteen when I read that my uncle, Alfred Ebner, was accused of killing 30,000 Jews, and that his trial was to be discontinued because of health considerations. Alfred Ebner was sitting across the table from me while I was reading this news release. He was a regular guest at family gatherings and I had often visited his family's house in Stuttgart before my family moved to Munich. I remember my confusion and inability to make sense of this information while he sat peacefully (and apparently healthy) among my family. What was I to make of the fact that my family did not censure him? Would my family not ostracize him if he had killed one person, or two? The fact that he sat among us unperturbed seemed to imply that these murders never happened. I wondered, how does one person kill 30.000 people? Where did he do it? Who were his victims?