Shortly after the occupation of the town of Vinnitsa in July, 1941, the German troops discovered a mass grave in the courtyard of the town's prison. The grave, twenty metres long by six metres wide, contained the bodies of 96 Ukrainian political prisoners.
They were killed when it was found impossible to evacuate them prior to the arrival of the German troops. Behind the prison, in another courtyard, a second mass grave was found but the bodies were not exhumed. However, persistent rumours among the civilian population of Vinnitsa resulted in the discovery of more graves at three different locations.
In a pear orchard, 2kms outside the town, 38 mass graves were found, in the old cemetery 40 graves were discovered and in the People's Park another 35.
Digging began on May 25, 1943 and it was soon established that the victims had died some five years before. The digging was interrupted some time later by adverse weather conditions. It was never resumed because the Red Army re-occupied the area soon after.
By the time the Soviets entered the town, a total of 9,439 corpses had already been counted. All had a bullet wound in the neck.
Ukrainian witnesses testified that since 1938 until the arrival of the German troops in 1941, trucks kept coming and going day and night bringing dead bodies to the burial ground from the NKVD prisons in the area. Most of the victims were farmers and field workers (Kulaks) who were classed as 'enemies of the people' and who had resisted Stalin's collectivization policies.
Famous photo: The last Jew of Vinnitsa, 1941