When Nikolai M. (born 1930 at Goulkevichi) went to visit a friend, little did he expect to become the witness of a well-organized execution. He recalls it all with exceptional accuracy and shared his painful recollections with the Yahad-In Unum team: “Women, children and men were separated into three clearly distinct groups on the edge of the antitank ditch. The children were killed first. Each one had to squat down with his or her back over the edge of the ditch. A German holding a container by its handle came close to the child, dipped a stick into the container and brushed it against the child’s lips. The child then fell backward into the ditch. The mothers who tried to save their children were shot at once and their bodies were thrown down into the same ditch.”
Over two weeks of research in Russia, the Yahad-In Unum team led investigations in 16 towns and villages in the Krasnodar region in southern Russia. Our research was focused essentially on the area located southeast of the city of Krasnodar itself. The goal of this first investigation was to launch Yahad-In Unum's research into the region bordering the Caucasus and Georgia.
In the course of this research mission, the Yahad-In Unum team identified 21 mass graves, 85% of which have no memorial and are therefore totally unacknowledged, and interviewed 47 witnesses.
Region of Krasnodar
Investigated towns/villages: Besskorbnaia, Dondukovskaia, Gulkevichi, Grigoropolisskaia, Kurganinsk, Krasnaia Poliana, Labinsk, Ladojskaia, Mikhailovskaia, Novonikolaievka, Oktiabrskaia, Udobnaia, Petropavlovskaia, Zelechuk-Mostovoi, Sovietskaia, Temirgoievskaia
As the Wehrmacht advanced, the Jews from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia were evacuated to other territories of the USSR before they were occupied by the German army. The Jewish population began reaching the Krasnodar area in 1941 and kept on arriving until a few days before the occupation started. Some managed to move on further East, but many were caught up with and executed on the spot.
The killings were not at all organized in the part of the region of Krasnodar studied by Yahad, and the proceedings may have varied according to a number of factors, especially time, since the Nazis occupied this Soviet area for approximately six months, which was very long.
The investigations conducted by Yahad-In Unum in this region revealed the following characteristics:
– The scarcity of Soviet or German archives concerning the investigated territories;
– The mass arrivals of Jewish refugees from the occupied territories of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and the organized transfer of these refugees;
– The multiplicity of the execution sites as well as of the categories of victims on whom our team’s investigation was focused: Jews, Roma, Soviet war prisoners, partisans, communists and komsomols;
– The special lot reserved to Jewish children during the mass shootings.
One of the major characteristics of the Krasnodar region is the virtually universal organizational method to kill the Jewish refugees, and especially the children. This method consisted in separating the Jewish children from their parents and poisoning them before or after the adults were shot.