The Yahad team met Valentina (born 1932). She once accompanied her aunt who had been hired to clean up the authorities's offices, who were in charge of the camp of Moglino, a small village just outside Pskov. This camp had been set up in a former school, not far from the road to Riga. Valentina vividly remembers a German (probably the camp commander) seated at his desk, squashing a fly and telling her aunt: “Look, I squash this fly just as I kill Russians.”
From August 28 to September 2012, a Yahad-In Unum team completed our ninth research trip to Russia, the first in the region of Pskov. In the course of this investigation, the Yahad team interviewed 42 witnesses and found 10 shooting sites.
Region of Pskov
Investigated towns/villages: Pskov; Peski; Moglino; Kresty; Torochino; Porkhov; Zapolianie; Cherniakovitsy; Gloty; Ostrov; Gryzavino; Opochkha; Novorjev; Puchkinskie Gory; Idritsa; Loknia; Maevo; Novosokolniki.
The region where Yahad carried out research was occupied virtually immediately, during the summer of 1941 and remained relatively close to the front during the rest of the war. This region is where the communication lines to Moscow turn off either to the Baltic states or to St. Petersburg (then called Leningrad). As such, it was a strategic area and there were major troop movements. The occupiers therefore opened many prisoners’ camps there. They were dulags (transit camps), stalags (for ordinary war prisoners) and oflags (for officers). The Soviet prisoners were detained in terrible conditions. The ultimate goal of the Nazis was to starve or work them to death or to allow diseases to kill them off. There were also numerous mass executions.
The Yahad team was able to access a series of archives on some of those camps, to find and interview a number of witnesses who had seen what was going on there, and to identify smaller, often unacknowledged camps, which had been set up as short-term centers for labor commandos.
– The war prisoners’ camps of the region were sometimes also used for civilians.
– The Yahad team was able to find numerous witnesses who told us about the painful journey of their deportation to the Baltic states or to farms in Germany and Austria.
– The area of the Yahad team’s researche during this mission was not part of the territories where Jews lived historically. They were not numerous and not assimilated. Many Jews managed to escape to the east before the Germans arrived. The most important Jewish group lived in the town of Pskov. The few hundred Jews who had stayed in the town under German occupation were killed at the sand quarry near the village of Vauliny Gory in December 1941, but few inhabitants remember this. The memorial which recognizes this slaughter is badly located, nearly a mile or so away from the exact location of the shooting.
– In the region under investigation, there were also many Gipsies historically.In the town of Pushkinskie Gory (where Pushkin spent his holidays), the archives and historical documents available to Yahad mentioned the shooting of about seventy Gipsies. The killing had been ordered by the Ostkommandantur as reprisal against partisan activity. Thanks to our investigators and also with the help of the local museum, the team was able to identify several witnesses of the Gipsies’ tragic lot. Today, there is a memorial at the place where the Gipsies were killed, but no mention is made of the category of the victims.