When I hear the name “Odesa” I shiver. When I hear the name “Kyiv,” I then think of Babi Yar and I shiver all the more.”
In the first half of the 20th century, Jewish populations were spread all over Europe.
During World War II, Adolph Hitler planned to exterminate in full all Jewish presence in the continent. To that effect, the Einsatzgruppen (Death Squads) were formed and directed by a Hitler appointee to cover designated sectors of Nazi-occupied Europe and deliver the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”
The “Final Solution to the Jewish Question” was the official code name for the murder of all Jews in Europe.
“Between 1941 and 1945 the Einsatzgruppen Schutzstaffel (Task Force Protection Squadrons (SS), related agencies, and foreign auxiliary personnel murdered more than two million people, including 1.3 million of the 5.5 to 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust just in the Einsatzgruppe zone of responsibility alone,” according to historian Raul Hilberg.
Before WWII, Odesa was a hub of Jewish political and cultural activity and nearly one-third of the city was Jewish. By the time Axis ally Romania took over the city, thousands of Jews had promptly fled Odesa or had been liberated/evacuated by the Soviets.
The events that finally lead to the massacre in Odesa were remarkably similar to the execution of those who perished at Babi Yar one month earlier in September 1941.
Related: Operation Chariot: The great raid on the St. Nazaire dry dock
The Nazis’ plan unfolds in Odessa
In late October 1941 in Odessa, a remote-controlled explosive device was placed in the building where the Romanian Military Commander’s office was located. The explosive was the work of sappers from the Red Army. The explosion killed some 67 persons with blame residing squarely on the Jews and communists.
The following day a contingent of Romanian troops and the dreaded Einsatzgruppe marched into town with the express intent to exterminate 10,000 Jewish hostages.
Scores of false de facto government edicts were distributed among the residents of Odesa demanding that all Jews report to a specified location in the city for relocation.
Upon arriving at the specified place, the Jews were portioned off to various locations and executed using a number of gruesome execution methods. The killing of Jews was rampant and raw. Large groups were shot or burned to death alive. This is the truth of war.
After the war, some 22,000 Jewish corpses were found in mass graves throughout Ukraine.
By Almighty God and with honor:
(Continued in part II)
Feature Image: Germany, April 16, 1945. Slave laborers in the Buchenwald concentration camp near Jena; many had already died from malnutrition when U.S. troops of the 80th Division entered the camp. (Photo by Pvt. H. Miller/U.S. Army)
Sheila Berg says
Thank you for this little article. All stories need to be documented and told. Never Forget!!!
Aj Pandolfino says
I will say— 101st screaming eagle paratrooper division as a grandfather— All they did was take Stalin!! And his traditional practices of religion became their law!! And the Middle East was there too!! I also had them as well – As my grandfather!! World War II Stalin of the Soviet union took over 60 million people Germany took six! – then taken to Russia 🇷🇺 as American allies who are now helping Ukraine for religious law in that area of time!
Why do you think America got rid of that when we just did equivalent?
Anthony Joseph says
Great Grandfather was Army Ww1 infantry to begin- The truth was Prussian!!! Turned out to be a holiday!!!
george E. Hand IV says
Ms. Irene, you truly are a treasure.
G Sott says
Bought your book, “Brothers of the Cloth.” WOW.
george E. Hand IV says
Brother G Scott,
thank you sincerely for your time and interest in my book.
God’s grace keeps you,
Miriam Ornstein Rodriguez says
My mother, Esther, was 14, and living a good life with her six brothers and sisters in Bereksais, Hungary. Her father was a merchant of his own store and they wanted for nothing. Then the Nazis came, rounded all the Jewish people up and sent them by rail cars to Auschwitz. Upon arrival, her younger brother, Danny, was shot and killed along with her father because Danny was scared and wouldn’t stop crying. My Grandmother, Rose, and some of her children were sent to the gas chambers and then the crematoriums. My mother and her sister, Miriam, remained in Auschwitz till liberation and Miriam, whom I’m named after, died of typhus in her arms that day. One sister, Elisabeth, survived Ravensbrook, another sister, Illy, survived but I can’t remember from where and one brother, Eugene, survived 6 camps and was liberated from Majenek. He never recovered and spent his life living away from his sister’s working on a cruise ship and living life as a hermit. He never married. All three sisters found each other through the Red Cross while recuperating in Sweden. My mom was 46 lbs at the time of liberation. All three moved to NYC as an uncle who survived the war sponsored them. They arrived via ship into Ellis Island and stayed close and all 3 went on to marry and have children and live long lives into their 80’s. None of them had numbers tattooed on their arms because when they arrived in Auschwitz they were the last of Hungarians and we’re there just to be killed. As G-d would have it, I wound up working at The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC for 5 years. My mother never spoke of those horrible years. My aunt Elisabeth gave her
testimony to the Simon Weisenthal Center in Los Angeles. I miss them all.
george E. Hand IV says
Your story is a book pining the day that it might be graced by an author. I would never nag such a person as you, knowing how indescribably private the matter may be to you and on behalf of your mother and her sister Miriam, sister Elisabeth, sister Illy, brother Eugene.
By almighty God and with honor,
geo humbly sends
yankee papa says
My mother showed up at our home one day with four Romanian Jews… Ike and Eva and their son and his wife. Charming people, and by 1964, when I met them…they spoke fairly good English. Ike and Eva barely survived a concentration camp. Their son had escaped deportation and had joined the partisans…where he met his future wife. After the war, the Soviets decided to arrest Ike and Eva for some unknown reason…and also their son and daughter-in-law… (the latter for having a history of shooting oppressors?) Non-Jewish friends were able to smuggle them out of the country… -Yankee Papa-
george E. Hand IV says
RGR all, Yankee Pawpaw,
your life has been a treasure chest.
I can’t wrap my mind around how evil a person can be. When you read history and think how can this happen? Society can be so beautiful and then you see the evil side and it does make you shiver.
Thanks Geo for this article as a reminder of our history.