Jaworo - Accident involving German Troops (Chris Webb Private Archive)

Jaworow is located 28 miles west-northwest of Lvow. In June 1941, there were approximately 3,000 Jews living in Jaworow. Following a brief German occupation in 1939, and then a period of Soviet rule, units of the German 17th Army occupied Jaworow again on June 25, 1941, only three days after the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union. They were greeted with flowers and great enthusiasm by most Ukrainians. Only a handful of Jews were able to escape with the retreating Red Army.  

In late June 1941, Ukrainian anti-Semites organised a pogrom in Jaworow, during which there was looting of Jewish houses and a number of Jews were killed. At that time the German Security Police shot and killed 15 Jews in a forest outside the town. The Jews were arrested on the basis of a list prepared by local Ukrainians, who sought revenge for the punishment of Ukrainian nationalists by the Soviet People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD). In the early day's of the town's occupation by the Germans, a military commandant's office (Ortskommandantur) governed the town.  

On August 1, 1941, Eastern Galicia was transferred to a German civil administration and became part of the Distrikt Galizien within the Generalgouvernement. Jaworow was initially in Kreis Lemberg-West, but from April 1, 1942, it became part of the Kreis Lemberg-Land. The Kreis was initially governed by Kreishauptmann Wilhelm Stockheck until mid-September 1941; then by Otto Bauer until March 1942; then by Dr. Werner Becker until early 1943; and finally by Baron Joachim von der Leyen. Each Kreis was administered by a county commissioner. Jaworow was part of the Landkommissariat Grodek, headed by SS-Untersturmfuhrer Josef Steyert. There was also a German Gendarmerie post in Jaworow, a Criminal Police (Kripo) post, and a detachment of Ukrainian Hilfspolizei, led by a man named Poslawski. The anti-Jewish 'Aktionen' in Jaworow were co-ordinated by a team of Security Police from Lemberg with the assistance of the German Gendarmerie and Ukrainian police.

In July 1941, the German military administration ordered the establishment of a Jewish Council (Judenrat) which was headed initially by Yoel Fuss, who was soon replaced by Sender Blum. A Jewish Police force (Judischer Ordnungsdienst) was also established. The Jewish residents of Jaworow, were also ordered to wear white armbands bearing the Star of David. The Judenrat had to collect contributions of money and valuables demanded by the German authorities. All Jews had to be registered. Another main task of the Judenrat was organising 400 Jews every day to perform forced labour, who were engaged in road construction, general cleaning, collection ammunition abandoned by the Soviet forces in the forests. Some Jews also worked at the Prisoner of War Camp for captured Soviet troops, where many prisoners died of starvation, or were simply shot and killed. On the construction sites, skilled Jewish craftsmen were paid one zloty per hour, and received an extra loaf of bread each week.

During the first eight months of the occupation, Jews were allowed to live in their own homes in the town, which were required to display the Star of David. Jews were banned from the main streets - Mickiewicza - Aleksandrowicza - Krakowiecka, and there was a curfew for Jews after the hours of 6 p.m. Jews were exposed to arbitrary arrests and beatings by the Ukrainian police, and there were many instances of plunder and rape. Jews were denied the opportunity to make a living, and many suffered from hunger. Until the spring of 1942, the only large scale deportations of several hundred able-bodied Jews to nearby forced labour camps, such as Jaktorow and Winniki.

In early April 1942, Landkommissar Josef Steyert appeared in Jaworow and he ordered the chairman of the Judenrat, Sender Blum, to demolish the Jewish Cemetery within two weeks. He also ordered Blum to hand over as 'contributions' large amounts of silk, leather and gold. Shortly afterwards Blum suffered a heart attack and he was replaced by David Badian, who was eager to carry out all of Josef Steyert's demands. A new head of the Judischer Ordnungsdienst, Buzie Hahn, was also appointed.

A month later, on May 5, 1942, the Germans carried out a deportation 'Aktion' in Jaworow, during which approximately 500 Jews were sent to the labour camp in Pluhow. Some of the Jews who were found to be unfit when they arrived at the labour camp were murdered on the spot. Soon after this 'Aktion' on June 10, 1942, 442 Jews from Wielkie Oczy were resettled to Jaworow and Krakowiec on Steyert's orders.

Another deportation 'Aktion' took place in Jaworow on November 7 -8, 1942, when a team of Security Police from Lemberg, together with German and Ukrainian police, aided by the Jewish Ordnungsdienst, brutally rounded-up 1,200 Jews, of which some 200 were murdered on the spot, whilst the others were deported to the Belzec death camp, where they perished in the gas chambers. Almost the entire membership of the Judenrat were deported and at the same time the Jewish hospital was also 'cleared.' On November 9, 1942, the German Gendarmerie and Ukrainian police went in search of Jews in hiding. Approximately 200 Jews were dragged from various hiding places, and the Germans shot them at the Jewish Cemetery.

On November 10, 1942, the Germans established a ghetto in the southern part of the town, which was surrounded by a barbed wire fence. Approximately 600 Jews were incarcerated in the newly formed ghetto. On the two days following the establishment of the ghetto, approximately 20 Jews were shot for being court outside the ghetto fence. On November 15, 1942, approximately 60 Jews working for the Wehrmacht's forestry office, they wore armbands which displayed the letter 'W,' were moved into a separate 'block camp' outside the ghetto. These workers received considerably better treatment.

Jews from the communities of Drohomysl, Szklo, Bonow, Twierdza and other villages were transferred into the ghetto during November 1942, but they were not allowed to bring with them many possessions. By early December 1942, the Jews from Mosciska, Janow, Sadowa, Wisznia, Krukienice, Hussakow and Krakowiec had all been transferred into the Jaworow ghetto. This increased the total population to approximately 6,000 Jews by mid-December 1942. Since members of the Judenrat and the Judischer Ordnungsdienst occupied the best apartments and were responsible for assigning living quarters, the new arrivals were forced to live on the streets for three days. All of them were finally crammed into 80 small houses  with just over 70 people living in each house. The ghetto area extended from the marketplace to Alexandorwiczo Street, circled around the Greek Catholic Church and the approaches to the synagogue. The ghetto had several gates, each guarded by a German patrol.

The extremely poor sanitary and hygienic conditions soon produced a typhus epidemic. The re-constituted Judenrat received permission to organise a hospital and the Judenrat tried to obtain rations for the Jews, but the rations distributed were well below subsistence levels, slightly less than 11 ounces of bread per day. According to some sources more than 1,500 people died of typhus and hunger during the ghetto's existence. In early 1943, approximately 500 able-bodied Jews were rounded-up and were deported to the Janowska Street Labour Camp, located in Lemberg.

On April 16, 1943, the Germans liquidated the ghetto. A team of Security Police from Lemberg, together with the local German Gendarmerie and Ukrainian police shot and killed over 3,500 Jews; some 2,500 Jews had already been killed by noon on that day, and the remainder were murdered over the following days. Following the selection of those fit for work at the Jewish cemetery, those destined for death were collected in the burned-out synagogue, before being taken off in trucks to be shot and killed in the Porudno Forest. The ghetto area was largely destroyed by fire, as the Germans and the Ukrainian police sought to drive out those Jews in hiding. A few hundred Jews remained in the 'block camp' for about a week or so after the 'Aktion.' Approximately 200 Jews who had emerged from hiding, were murdered a few days later, whilst some of the Jews from the 'block camp' managed to escape. The rest, approximately, 200 Jews were transferred to the Janowska Labour Camp in Lemberg, at the end of April 1943.

Only approximately 20 Jews returned to Jaworow, when the town was liberated by the Red Army on July 20, 1944, having survived in hiding, or in the forests with the Soviet partisans. According to a number of survivor testimonies, local Poles were generally more willing than Ukrainian locals to shelter Jews from the Germans.

Otto Bauer was killed by partisans during 1944.  Dr. Werner Becker worked in West German administration after the war, whilst the investigations into his wartime activities was closed in 1975, and he died in 1991. Baron Joachim von der Leyen perished in 1945, whilst the fate of Wilhelm Stockhec, the former Kreishauptmann, is unknown. The investigation into former SS-Untersturmfuhrer Josef Steyert by the Zentralstelle Dortmund was closed in September 1964, as he was no longer considered fit to stand trial; he died in November 1964.


Encyclopaedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933- 1945, USHMM, Indianna University Press Bloomington and Indianapolis 2012

Phtotograph: Chris Webb Archive

Holocaust Historical Society January 16, 2021