Galina Bolchovskaia statement
Note: Galina’s husband was not Jewish
Khmelnytskyy, March 29, 1973
Galina Bolchovskaia [Galina Bolkhovskaya Mikhaylovna], daughter of Mikhail, born 1920 in Starokonstantinov. She is Jewish, a citizen of the USSR and not a [communist] party member. She has a 7th-grade education and lives in Starokonstantinov at Karl-Marx-Str. 43.
The deposition began at 10:00 AM and ended at 1:35 PM.
Before her deposition the witness stated that she wished to make her statement in the Russian language because she speaks Russian fluently.
In response to the questions asked of her, G. M. Bolchovskaia made the following statement:
I was born and raised in Starokonstantinov. The war befell me in Peremyshel, where I had moved with my husband, who was serving with a military unit as a voluntary enlistee. During the evacuation from Peremyshel to the east, my daughter, who was born in 1940, became very ill. I was forced to discontinue the evacuation in Proskurov (now Khmelnytskyy ) and go to Starokonstantinov, where my mother and two of my sisters—born in 1924 and 1927—lived. For the first while (about 2 months) I lived with them. Then my husband returned from captivity. He took a position at the agricultural enterprise that had been founded in place of the former Sovkhoz [state farm]. There he was given a room and I moved in with him. The enterprise was within the city limits of Starokonstantinov next to the grounds of the sugar factory.
Just after the occupying army had marched into our city, we noticed that the local population, especially the Jews, had lost all human rights. From conversations with local citizens I learned that a German soldier had shot an old Jew because he would not give him box-calf boots. The old man had no boots and suggested that he give him more valuable objects, but the fascist did not listen.
Already, some days after the arrival of the fascists they demanded of the [German] founded and self-governing Jewish community that all young men be commandeered for labor. The Germans did not say what sort of work was involved. The self-governing community provided about 180 to 200 men. These people were led out of town, and their fate was unknown for some time. Their relatives turned to the regional commissar with questions about the matter. The occupiers answered that the people were “working.”
After some time, a Ukrainian woman who was bringing milk into town secretly whispered to some Jews that documents and articles of clothing were lying about in the “Noviki” forest, their owners unknown. The people went there, and some of them recognized the belongings and documents of “those transported off for labor.” It was clear that they had been killed. The grave of those who perished has yet to be found.
About August 1941 the entire Jewish population was ordered to go to the city square in the vicinity of what is now the bus station. Those who had small children stayed at home. This order, too, was transmitted by the self-governing Jewish community. Who issued it, I don’t know. I left my child with my mother (I didn’t want my mother to go to the square, but rather that she stay at home) and went to the square with my sisters. The gathering began around 4 AM. The vehicles were already on the square. The German soldiers drove the people who had assembled there onto the truck beds. The truck that I was loaded onto took me to the garrison. The others were brought there too. The people were assembled on the parade grounds between two barracks. There were very many of us. It was said that on that day 11,000 people [German translator’s note: alternately II thousand, i.e., 2,000] people were assembled. It seems as though the Germans had not counted on there being so many people. The people were kept there until noon. Then some of the people were selected for various tasks. In the main, these tasks had to do with the preparation of the garrison barracks. I was also selected, to clean up the barracks after whitewashing. During the selection, the Germans stated that the sick could step to the side. Some of the people took advantage of this. Others hoped to be released from the square that way.
The sick were loaded onto 18 trucks and transported somewhere. The same day it was learned that they had all been shot at the “Noviki” forest.
I left my mother’s house and moved to my husband’s sometime in early autumn. Shortly thereafter, the ghetto for the Jewish population was instituted. Even before the ghetto was set up, the Jews had been subject to various humiliating restrictions. For instance, they had to wear special armbands with the “Star of David” on them (later the armbands were replaced by patches of yellow cloth to be sewn onto the chest and back [of the garment]). Jews were forbidden to use the sidewalks. There were other restrictions too, but I can’t remember them all. I do not know who gave the orders addressed to the Jews, because I did not see them myself. I heard about the orders from other citizens.
My mother and sisters went into the ghetto in winter 1942. That was the 2nd ghetto. It was in the area of the present-day market and adjoined Izyaslavskaya Street. The first ghetto was located in the city center. My daughter was at my mother’s. During this time, my 2nd child, a son, was born. My daughter had stayed with my mother to protect her from unnecessary insulting actions. At first the occupiers exercised a certain restraint toward those with children.
From time to time I visited the ghetto. I brought my mother food that I was able to obtain. I noticed that the ghetto inhabitants were living under very bad conditions. The people were starving. Fuel to heat the rooms was lacking. It was very crowded. In the room where my mother was living there were always 7 other people. In the spring of 1942 I took my daughter out of the ghetto to my place because there were rumors afoot, according to which the ghetto inhabitants were to be killed.
On May 19, 1942 the entire Ukrainian population was informed by those in power [they] were forbidding them to leave their houses before 12 o’clock the next day. I heard about this order from some city resident.
I realized that the ghetto inhabitants were facing a bloodbath. My assumptions were proven correct. As I later learned, the Germans took absolutely all of the Jewish population out of the ghetto to the grounds of the railway station (near the “acquisition and purchase area for grain” and the machine-tractor station) and shot all of them there except for the Jewish skilled craftsmen. When the craftsmen had returned, they reported that there was a large pit at the killing grounds, with steps [for] the victims [to] get to the bottom of the pit. The Germans shot them from above. I do not know who actually shot the citizens or who organized the shooting. The people who told me of it didn’t know either. My mother and both sisters perished in this shooting. I concluded that because they were no longer in the ghetto.
I avoided their fate because I bore no resemblance to a Jewess and lived with my husband outside the ghetto. The neighbors knew my ethnicity, but none of them betrayed me.
The day of the shooting at the railway grounds, new groups of Jews were quartered in the ghetto. People from Ostropol and the former Ostropol district were led past our house. I saw this column myself and heard the people in it telling one another where they had been taken from. After the death of my family I never once visited the ghetto. I cannot report anything about the living conditions of the new group of victims. These people were shot on November 28, 1942 if I remember correctly. A day before this event the local population was forbidden to leave their houses the following morning. I did not see the people led to the place of execution, but shooting from the direction of the “Noviki” forest could be heard near our house all day long.
During the next 2 or 3 days one could constantly hear shots in the street. Those were the shots that killed Jews who had hidden themselves until the mass execution. I cannot say who killed these people, because I did not see it myself.
In the first days of December 1942 some acquaintance (I cannot remember the woman now) took me to the building where the childrens’ library is now, where a proclamation was posted saying that anyone who betrayed a Zhid [German translator’s note: Zhid is a derogatory term for a Jew] would receive a monetary reward. I cannot remember who signed the proclamation. The proclamation was in printed form.
On December 19, two policemen arrested me at my residence. I was taken to the police station and interrogated twice by the chief of police. (I cannot remember his name.) His first name was Ivan. He demanded that I acknowledge that I was Jewish. I refused to acknowledge that. Four days later I was handed over to the SD. Rumor had it that the police chief I mentioned was killed by partisans a short while later.
I found myself imprisoned in the cells of what is now the Militia building. My neighbor brought my son, who had been born in January 1942, to me. Several times I was taken to be interrogated by Graf, the head of the local SD. At the first encounter Graf addressed me in German. This was a provocation based on the fact that Jews generally understood German. I made a face as though I understood nothing. Then the translator began to scream, “Why don’t you answer when Graf is talking to you?” That is how I learned that it was Graf interrogating me. I had heard of him before. I knew that Jewish craftsmen had sewn him a good fur coat. I had also heard that he was present at the field of the mass shooting on November 28, 1942. These facts were current among the Ukrainians.
I must state that Graf did not beat me or insult me. He only demanded that I acknowledge that I was a Jewess. To determine my ethnicity he viewed my face from the front and in profile. At the end of this examination he stated that one of my parents was Jewish. I disputed this.
During one of these interrogations , Gedrich, then the head of the office of labor, visited Graf. I knew him because I had seen him at the office of labor, where I had to report daily. I also knew of him because the local populace spoke of the cruelty of this fascist. It was said that he had once taken 10 prisoners from the jail to dig up the garden of his lover, and that he had then killed them himself. I do not know the particulars of this case.
The day that Gedrich [Ghedrikh?] visited Graf in my presence, he was in a great hurry and asked Graf to step into the hall with him. I believe that otherwise things would have come to a bad end. I believe he would have simply advised Graf to shoot me without determining the particulars.
I was released at the end of February 1943.
I would like to add the following to my statement: I have now remembered a shooting of Jews by the Fascists. That was in July or August 1941. The Germans took 20 men to peel bark off of trees in the “Noviki” forest. After doing this work, the men were shot. Among the 20 men was the husband of my aunt. It is possible that other cases of such shootings occurred, but they are not known to me. In all the cases I described, I do not know who in particular shot the people (I mean the shootings of the Jewish population).
The transcript was read by the chief investigator at my request. It is a correct transcription of my words.
Note: Translation from German by Roger Lustig, with some editorial changes by Barry Chernick