Poltava | Poltava

A view of the "market place in morning. Farm women from the surrounding villages stand in rows over their merchandise" (English caption): (right) a church. 1920s-1930s © From the Archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Workers pose in a carpentry workshop subsidized by the city’s Society to Aid Poor and Sick Jews, and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee,1929 © From the Archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Outdoor portrait of workers at a shoemaking workshop subsidized by the city’s Society to Aid Poor and Sick Jews, 1929 © From the Archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research A display of farming produce at the Jewish school,Poltava, Ukraine. © Yad Vashem Photoarchives Forced laborers in the camp, 1942, Poltava, Ukraine ©  Yad Vashem Photoarchives / Lidia V., born in 1937: "The Germans chased all the residents to the street neighboring the pit and forced us to watch the shooting of the Jews." © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum Grygoriy S., born in 1925, is one of the last survivors of Buchenwald living in the Poltava region. He recounted the horrors he lived through in the camp to the Yahad team. © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum Vanda K., born in 1927: “On my street, one Jewish family lived. They lived in house n°11. There was a couple with two children. Their house was marked. The Star of David was drawn on the windows.”© Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum Viktor S., born in 1936:”Before the retreat in September, 1943 the Germans put on fire all the houses. Before they entered and took the food. If they met someone on the streets they shot them dead. ”© Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum Lidia V., born in 1937: "The Jews had to take off their jewelry and put it in a crate. They also had to undress. Then, they were forced to stand at the edge of the pit and they shot them from above." © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum The execution site of Jews, Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war and communists © Kate Kornberg/Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Poltava

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Anti-tank ditch in the city center
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:
Over 3,500

Witness interview

Vanda K., born in 1927, remembers: « To distinguish the Jewish houses, the Jews were ordered to draw a Star of David on the windows. On my street, one Jewish family lived. They lived in house n°11. There was a couple with two children. Upon the German arrival they continued to live in their house, but at one day the father of the family was take, under the pretext of forces labor, but he has never come back. After a while, all the Jews were told that they had to gather at the center of the city under the pretext of being relocated. I didn’t see them gathering but I saw the column going in the direction of the orthodox cemetery. They marched in a crowd escorted by Germans and policemen.” (Witness n°1940, interviewed in Poltava, October 23, 2015)

Soviet archives

« Several days after, posters were plastered on the walls throughout the town reading that all Jews have to put on the windows of their houses a Star of David. […] All the Jews were subjected to the forced labor. If they didn’t obey they would be punished to death. My neighbor, the old Munimes [the name is not illegible] aged of 80, was also taken for work. But, one day he didn’t come back home. Most probably he was killed by Germans.
The Germans also forced two Jewish doctors to perform the work. The two doctors Rosenbaum and Bogdanovsky went for work every day during three weeks. Every day, Germans conducted searches, confiscated the valuable work material, and forced to perform different services. Around November 15, an order was plastered on the walls reading that all the Jews had to present themselves on November 25 at a meeting point from where they would be relocated. The place where they would be relocated would be given afterwards. The Jews were authorized to take food provision for three days and valuables.[…]”(Act of Soviet Extraordinary Commission, drawn up in 1944; RG 22.002M : Fond 7021, Opis 70, Delo 950)

German archives

« Later, I went to see the Army because that plan about the mentally ill people moved me. The army refused my request to give food to the patients. It was not possible because when the Russians retrieved they took many commodities with them and they would not be enough. After the refusal from the army, I came back to the group. They could help me neither. Instead they asked me to shoot the patients of the asylum. After unsuccessful attempts, I came back to the chief doctor. We arranged that my commando would shoot dying patients, while others were supposed to stay in the asylum. The doctor hoped to keep them alive. She asked me to choose by herself the patients who would be shot and she said that she would give them powerful injections and they would not be any problem. I was told after by my subordinates the injections might have been so strong that the majority of the detainees had been already dead or immobile on the execution site. I was not present during the execution. I think at that time I was in the army or somewhere else. It was S. or J. who was in charge of the execution. There were 10 members of the commando. I think that between 50 and 80 ill people were executed. I knew afterwards that we had to kill 565 out of 865 ill people. As for me the number should be false. I didn’t threaten the chief doctor to execute the ill people. It was her who asked me to come.” [Deposition of a member of commando, Sk4b-– Hamm, made on March 12 1963; B162-3776 pp.14]

Historical note

Poltava is the capital of Poltava district, located 340km southwest from Kyiv. The first records about Jewish community dates back to the beginning of 18th century. The number of Jews increased and at the beginning of 19th century represented about 20% of total population. According to the census in 1987 there were 10,954 Jews including many Jews native from Belorussia and Lithuania. In the course of Jewish history there were 10 synagogues, the last one was destroyed in 1956, a Jewish cemetery, a Talmud Torah which was transformed later in an elementary school, Yeshiva, special vocational school for girls, subventionned by American organization. There was a strong Zionist movement in Poltava.  Thanks to the support of local intelligentsia the Jews from Poltava didn’t suffer from pogroms of 1905 and 1917-1919 carried out in the districts of Poltava and Chernihiv. Until 1927 Poltava remained a center for printing of Jewish religious books

Back then Poltava was a big city with many industries and manufactories, which were mostly owned by Jews (for example flour mills, the distilleries, lumber warehouses). However, the majority of Jews lived off trade or handcrafts. Under the Soviet regime many religious institutions were closed. The artisan unions were created.

On the eve of the war, there were less than 10% of Jews in the city. The city was occupied by Germans on September 18, 1941. By that time many Jews succeeded to evacuate on the East.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Immediately after the Germans’ arrival, all the Jews from the city were registered and marked with the armbands bearing the Star of David. The houses were also marked with the Star of David. A Judenrat was established . All Jewish men Jews, even elder people, were subjected to forced labor. Those who refused or were too weak to work were shot dead. The Jews continued to live in their houses till the mid-November 1941 when they were told to present at a certain date at the meeting point under the pretext of being relocated. Such types of posts or messages transmitted by German authorities were very common in this region. Even if some Jews suspected that they would be killed, the majority of them presented by themselves taking food provision for 3 days and valuables.  The biggest action was conducted on November 23 (25), 1941, when about 3,000 Jews were taken to the Pushkarev street where they were shot in the anti-tank ditches. Apparently, babies, the babies were thrown alive in the pit. According to the eyewitness interviewed by Yahad, who was forced to go to the execution site by the policeman along with other local people, before being killed the Jews had to put their valuables in a special box and undress. The Jews were shot at the edge of the ditches by the Germans who fired from the sub machine gun. There was a German dressed in special clothes, nor doctor rope neither uniform, who made a selection of Jews before they were killed.  

According to the German mobile squads reports, before this big execution, several hundred Jews ( about 600 in all), were shot in the course of two weeks, from 14 to 30 October, 1941, in different places along with political officials, wreckers and thieves.

In the fall 1941, about 565 mentally ill people were shot or thrown in the pit after having received lethal injections in the hospital.

In all, according to the Soviet archives, about 8,000 Jews from Poltava and vicinity were murdered in Poltava.


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