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The Nazi plan to exterminate Odessa’s Jews in WWII

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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.

Jewish prisoners escorted by Romanian troops in WWII
Jewish prisoners being escorted by Romanian troops during WWII. (Bundesarchive)

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

Adolf Eichmann
Adolf Eichmann was the architect of the Holocaust. Here he is seen on his trial in Israel in 1961. (Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Mishka Zaslavsky Odesa Holocause survivor
“Life prevails; the important thing is this never happens again” Mishka Zaslavsky, sole Odesa Holocaust survivor.

By Almighty God and with honor:
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(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)

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George Hand

Master Sergeant US Army (ret) from the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. In service, he maintained a high level of proficiency in 6 foreign languages. Post military, George worked as a subcontracter for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on the nuclear test site north of Las Vegas Nevada for 16 years. Currently, George works as an Intelligence Analyst and street operative in the fight against human trafficking. A master cabinet-grade woodworker and master photographer, George is a man of diverse interests and broad talents.