Volhynia and Rovno

Historical Background

Jews prior to their execution by the Germans, Zdlobunov, UkraineJews prior to their execution by the Germans, Zdlobunov, Ukraine

Volhynia – an area in North West Ukraine. With Nazi Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the German army advanced so rapidly that most of Volhynia’s Jews were trapped, and only an estimated 5% were able to flee eastwards. As soon as the area was occupied, pogroms perpetrated by the local population as well as mass shooting of Jews by the German Einsatzgruppen began. Ghettos were established where Jews lived in terrible conditions and under a regime of terror and forced labor.

Rovno was the administrative center of Nazi activity in the Ukraine, and therefore the elimination of the town’s Jews was intensive from the start. On 6 November 1941 about 21,000 Jews were led to a pine grove in nearby Sosenki and massacred. The remaining 5,000 were packed into a ghetto.

In summer 1942 a new wave of killings was launched. The remaining Jews in Rovno were killed on 13 July 1942. Until October of that year some 142,000 Jews in Volhynia were murdered. By the beginning of 1943 all remaining Jews in ghettos and camps where liquidated. Those who managed to escape joined the partisans in Volhynia’s forests. Even there, Jews were often faced with hostility and antisemitism and found that they were rejected by non-Jewish resisters. It is estimated that only 1.5% of Volhynia’s Jews survived.