Odesa (Odessa) | Odesa

The map of the Odesa region © USHMM Odesa Brodsky synagogue. Postcard. © Taken from https://www.mishpachaorphanage.org Jewish men assembled for registration, Odessa, 1941 © Yad Vashem archives Jewish men assembled for registration, Odessa, 1941 © Yad Vashem archives Post hang all over Odesa announcing the creation of the ghetto. Credit: Yahad-In Unum / Yahad’s team during an interview. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum Mikhail S., 1925-2019, a Jewish survivor. He was the only one from his family to survive the action when the Odesa Jews were taken to the munition wharehouse and burned alive. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum The prison where the Jewish families were confined prior to be killed. Today, it is still a prison. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum The woolen factory at Slobodka where a ghetto was created. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum The site of the ghetto. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum School n°122 where according to the Jewish survivors, the families were taken for a selection. After the selection the Jews were taken to the prison, and then to the munition wharehouse. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum Zinaida V., born in 1931, a Jewish survivor from Odesa. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum Ludmila T., born in 1933, a Jewish survivor: “After being liberated from the prison, we came back home, but we didn’t stay there long. Several weeks later or so we had to move into the ghetto at Slobodka. I remember it was already winter.”  © Omar Gonzale The witness points to the road to go to the ghetto. Back then it was called Olguiyevskiy Spusk. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum The site of the former ghetto in Slobodka. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum Vladimir K ., born in 1925, a Jewish survivor. He was taken as a blood donor for a Romanian officer while in the ghetto at Slobodka. He escaped shortly after and survived the war. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum The building where the police station was located. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum Monument at the location of munition warehouse where between 28,000 to 40,000 Jews were burned alive. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum Memorial to all of the Jewish victims murdered in Odesa under the occupation. © Omar Gonzalez/Yahad-In Unum /

Execution of Jews in Odesa

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Over 50,000

Witness interview

Valdimir K., born in 1925, a Jewish survivor :
“YIU: As we understood you ended up in the Slobodka ghetto?
W: Yes, of course, I was there. So, after I came back from that village, I didn’t know where else to go, so I went into the ghetto at Slobodka, because there, at least I could sleep on the hay and have something to eat. There was an entry through which everyone could enter. It was impossible to get out, but to enter – it was an easy thing. And I didn’t have another choice. I stayed in the ghetto for a little more than one year. We knew all the possible ways in and out of the ghetto, which was located in the former woolen factory. Once, a high ranking officer came, he asked to line up all the young boys. This officer pointed at me with his finger and I was taken away. He was wounded and needed blood. My blood was taken which was used to infuse him. They were our doctors and our nurses who did it. After, they told me to run away from the ghetto, because if not they [the fascists] would take all my blood. They gave me something to eat, and one or two days later, I escaped from the ghetto.” (Witness n°2464, interviewed in Odesa, on September 7, 2018)

Soviet archives

“At 12 a.m. on October 19, 1941 the Romanian authorities started to drive all of the remaining inhabitants of Odesa, under the pretext of registration, to a gathering point at the Bulgarian School on Chizhikov Street as well as to other points. From that location, a column of about 2,500 people, including women, men and children, were marched toward the munitions depot. They had been told that they were being taken to the rear to work. In all, there were about 35 warehouses, I do not remember exactly. All of the civilians; the men, women, and children, carrying various belongings and other property, were forced into the empty warehouses. They filled nine warehouses, which were 100 meters long and 80 meters wide. This continued until 3 p.m. At 3 p. m. of the same day I noticed that barrels with gasoline which were already at that location, near the railway station, began to be rolled toward the warehouses where the civilians, who were mostly Jewish, had been driven.
When the barrels had been rolled up to the warehouses, a pump hose was inserted into the barrels and they the Romanians soldiers started to pump the gasoline into the warehouses filled with people. After the gasoline was pumped into the warehouses with the people, they began to wrap sticks with rags to make torches that were then lit so that the fire was spread over the nine warehouses, where the civilians were locked in. The unbearable screams of the burning women and children, the cries of women and children: "Save us, do not burn us, do not kill us, it hurts" could be heard. At this time I, together with the civilians Nikolay Karpovich Nazhivenko, Anna Alekseyevna Kruchova, Tatyana Kruchova, and others, were standing about 60-80 meters from the burning warehouses with the people inside and saw flaming, burning people throw themselves out of the windows and doors of the warehouses, crying, pleading to be saved. All those civilians who faced inevitable death from the fire threw themselves out of the windows and doors in an attempt to save their lives but, instead, they had their hands and feet cut off on the spot or were shot dead. These people could not escape and died painfully in that place.” [Deposition of Lyubov P., born in 1912, a Ukrainian, controller at the railway station, lives in Odesa, at 3, passage Gorievo, given to the State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK): RG.22-002M: 7021-69-343]

German archives

« It should be between 1941 and 1942 when I was going from the outskirts of Odesa to visit the center; my path was blocked by Romanian guards. I was ordered to move back. I stepped a couple of meters back and waited to see what would happen next. After a moment I saw a column of prisoners, - they were Jews, male and female with children. The column was about 1km long. They were forced into the barracks fenced in with barbed wire. The Jews had to put their belongings in a pile at the entrance. I was about 1km away from this fenced domain. I could see that some of them attempted to escape. From afar I could see the stoned barracks without a roof. The smell of gasoline was very strong and I saw the black smoke coming up. That is how I learned that these poor people were burned alive. I got scared and tried to get back to my home by a different road.” [Deposition given by Lydia W., in Wolfsburg, on January 2, 1962; B162-2291– 213 ARZ 294/1960]

Historical note

Odesa, founded in 1794 by Catherine the Great, is located on the banks of the Black Sea, in southern Ukraine. Odesa is named after the Greek colony of Odessos, which existed there prior. From the beginning, Odesa was a multinational city, with substantial numbers of Armenians, Turks, Tatars, Poles, Greeks, and Jews, as well as some French and English. The first synagogue in the city was established not long after the foundation of the town. By 1799 there were about 4,573 residents and by 1813 its total population grew to 25,000 people. By 1892 there were already 404,000 residents, including 124,511 Jews. It was the second-largest Jewish community in terms of size in the Russian Empire. Under the leadership of such prominent figures as Admiral de Ribas and Duc de Richelieu, who served as the city’s governor between 1803 and 1814, the town became an important economic and cultural center with a large naval port.  Many prominent Jewish writers both in Yiddish and Hebrew, such as Shalom Yakov Abramovitsh (Mendele Moykher Sforim), Asher Hirsh Grinberg (Ahad Haam), Isaac Babael, Ilya Ilf and others lived and worked in Odesa. By the end of the 19th century, Odesa became home to the largest Zionist movement, however in the 1920s-1930s the movement was banned by the Soviets. At that time there were many synagogues, and in Odesa there were at least 7 of them that were closed or turned into Klubs. In 1925 Odesa Brody synagogue was turned into the Rosa Luxemburg Workers house.  The Jews of Odesa were rather wealthy. The industrial enterprises were owned by Jews. Many Jews were involved in wholesale and small scale trade, and crafts. At the same time, many Jews were employed as industrial workers or state officials. Half of the doctors, midwives, and pharmacists were Jewish.  On the eve of World War II, a third of the population, some 180,000 people, was Jewish. In 1939-1940 many Jewish refugees arrived in Odesa from Bessarabia and Bukovina.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Odesa was occupied on October 17, 1941, after a two-month siege by Romanian troops. Shortly after, the German army arrived. By that time more than half of the Jewish prewar community managed to escape to the east, leaving behind about 90,000 local Jews and 30,000 Jewish refugees.  Following the occupation, Odesa was officially declared part of Romanian Transnistria. The Jewish actions started immediately after and were conducted throughout October by Sonderkommandos, composed mainly of Volksdeutsche, Romanian gendarmes and local police.

During the first few days between 5,000 to 8,000 people (according to different sources), mainly Jewish intelligentsia and communists were murdered at the city dump. Less than two weeks after the Romanian occupation, on October 22, 1941, following the blowing up of the local Kommandant headquarters which resulted in many high-ranking Romanian and German officers being killed. Approximately 19,000 Jews were shot dead and their bodies were burned near the port. At the same time, under the order of Sonderkommando 11b commander, about 5,000 Jews, both male, and female, were executed in the well near the building of the former NKVD sanatorium, where the headquarters of the Sonderkommando was then located. The victims were taken to the execution site by Romanian gendarmes. They were ordered to undress and hand over their valuables before being shot at the edge of the well.

On the following days, October 24-25, 1941, about 40,000 Jews were rounded-up and taken to the village of Dalnyk where they were slaughtered. Another 3,000 more were shot in the anti-tank ditches outside the city.  At the same moment between 28,000 and 40,000 local Jews were rounded-up, taken first to school n°122 for selection, according to the witness interviewed by Yahad, or directly to prison. During the following days, the selected Jews were marched to the munition warehouse on Lustdorf Road where they were burned alive, men and women separately, while others could come back to their houses. Those who attempted to escape from the burning buildings were shot dead on the spot.

In late October- early November, the deportation of Jews started. About 30,000 Jews were marched to Bohdanivka, located 125km north of Odesa. Many Jews, especially those who were too weak to move forward, were shot dead on spot during the way.

In November all the remaining Jews were confined into the two ghettos: one was located at Slobodka, on the site of the former woolen factory, and another one at Dalnik. The ghetto at Slobodka was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by Romanian gendarmes. Due to disease, bad living condition and lack of food many Jewish inmates died over the next three months. Some were hanged or killed on the site of the ghetto.

On November 15, 1941, the last mass execution took place. On this day, about 1,000 Jews were taken to the former Red Army’s shooting ground where they were killed.  By February 1942, nearly all the prisoners had been deported to the villages in the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions; Domanivka, Bohdanivka, and Kryve Ozero where they all were killed. In 1943, only 54 Jews were listed as legally residing in Odesa. In all, some 600 Jews managed to survive the occupation until the town’s liberation, on April 10, 1944. 

To know more about the killings of the Odesa Jews and Jewish refugees in Dalnyk, Bohdanivka, Domanivka and others places please refer to the corresponding profiles


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