The most disturbing case of the treatment of children we encountered is that of the half-Jewish children of Novovitebsk, as narrated by Vladimir, born in 1935. One morning, while the adults worked in the fields, the Germans entered the village nursery school, and removed all of the half-Jewish children, as designated by the local police. They were driven in a large cart to the outskirts of the village, where a grave had been dug beforehand. The Germans aligned the oldest at the edge of the pit and shot them. The heads of the younger infants were smashed against the wheels of the cart and their bodies were thrown into the pit.
Vladimir stood in the bushes with some friends and saw the shooting of the half-Jewish children – some of them were his cousins. Several days later, he came across another cart full of Jewish children. This is the first time that we encountered a Kinderaktionen.
This is the first time that a Yahad team went to an Oblast in eastern Ukraine. One feature of this region to highlight is the virtual absence of any source material on the area, in either the German or the Soviet archives. For this reason, we first focused our research on the former Jewish kolkhozes.
During this research trip, we interviewed 46 witnesses in 18 villages and towns. Of the 10 execution sites found, three had a memorial, sometimes inaccurately placed.
Region of Dnepropetrovsk
Investigated towns/villages: Krassyné, Novojytomyr, Zlatooustivka, Kamianka, Izloutchyste, Nova Zoria, Vilne, Ielizavetpilia, Jovtnevé, Novopodilske, Novovitebske, Jovte, Novi Kovner, Odroubok, Marïivka, Ievdokïivka, Ingoulets, Kryvy Rig.
Before the war, the District of Stalindorf consisted mainly of Jewish kolkhozes. The Jewish community settled in the area in two stages: a first wave in the 19th century – Kamienka was founded in 1808, Novopodilske, Novi Kovner and Novovitebske in 1847; then a second wave between the wars. The village of Krassyné was founded by Chioma and Bobroch,a Jewish pharmacist and accountant in March 1924. Jews, Ukrainians and ethnic Germans coexisted in these colonies. The village of Kamianka, for example, was composed of three kolkhozes: Ukrainian ("the red partisan"), German ("hope") and Jewish ("Stalin"). Each nationality had their own school and cemetery. However, some villages had a single kolkhoze, managed by a Jewish administration, but with the three nationalities working together: such was the case in Krassyné, a prosperous settlement with a cinema, library, radio station and a newspaper – in Ukrainian. Few true differences existed between the villagers: there was a common everyday language, a shared kolkhoze; and marriages between Jews and Ukrainians were frequent.
The dynamism of these kolkhozes contrasted with the development of other villages of the region: Kamianka had electricity, which was lacking in surrounding communities. Agro Joint, an American organization created in 1924, participated in the growth of these settlements, providing supplies, building materials, all of which allowed these collective farms to survive the great famine of 1932-1933.
– Prewar Jewish kolkhozes – Before the war, the District of Stalindorf consisted mainly of Jewish kolkhozes.
– The implementation of extermination – Upon arrival in the Jewish settlements, the Germans appointed a new staroste, a policeman in every village, and prompted the Ukrainians and ethnic Germans to take over the kolkhozes which had been abandoned at the beginning of the hostilities.
– The children of the Holocaust – More particular is the fate of the children. See testimony above.