Particularly cruel treatment was inflicted on the Jewish population with the installation of the German administration in the colonies. Maria N., b. 1929, a resident of Colony No. 14, says: "They burned a 5 pointed star on the forehead of every Jew in the village. … I saw these stars, it was awful."
After 14 days of research in Ukraine, the Yahad – In Unum team investigated 20 villages in the Dnepropetrovsk region north of the town of Nikopol. The team was able to locate and fix the exact GPS coordinates of about two dozen Jewish settlements of which nearly 85% had completely disappeared.
At the completion of this research mission, the Yahad – In Unum team had identified 16 mass graves of which nearly 60% have no memorial and were therefore totally unknown, and interviewed 49 witnesses.
It is important to note that the witnesses interviewed by the Yahad – In Unum team during this research mission fell into two new categories:
– Those who lived in the Ukrainian villages neighboring the Jewish settlements;
– Those who lived in the Jewish settlements themselves, after the massive removal of Jews from large cities like Dnepropetrovsk and Nikopol.
Investigated towns/villages: Perchotravnevé, Tavritcheskoïé, Lenineskoé, Kirovo, Kirovo 2, Poutilovka, Novossofievka, Ordjonikidze, Khmelnitskoïé, KroutoïBereg, Chevtchenko, Tchkalovo, Maksimovka, Golovkovo, Goloubovka, Lochkariovka, Krasnoarmeïskoïé, Krinitchevatoé, Okhotnitchié, Vesseloé
The limited amount of archival information on the area investigated and the specifics of the studied area, required that the Yahad – Unum team conduct a detailed investigation of the pre-war and war-time periods.
In the 1920s and 1930s, this area of central Ukraine was settled by a large number of Jews arriving from Belarus and Russia following an agreement between YCOR (Yiddish Colonization Organization in Russland) and the governing Soviet regime. Several witnesses recalled that organization. Dmitry M. (born 1926) said: "Even livestock had a YCOR brand.”
YCOR also provided money, wood and iron for the construction of entire settlements where the Jewish population was subsequently installed. The mode of settlement was as follows: the Jews arrived, settled in the Ukrainian villages neighboring the future colony and participated in building it with the local population. Fyodor P. (born in 1913) remembers: "They brought a family of Jews in our house and we were told that they would live with us while the house was being completed a few kilometers from our village. It was even proposed to my mother to work on it. She agreed because it paid well."
The Jewish settlements appeared soon, after a few months. They coexisted with German settlements as well as with Ukrainian villages. From the beginning they had no names, only numbers 1, 3, 8, 15, 23 to 25. Most witnesses rarely remember the names of the colonies Lenindorf, Fraïdorf, Ozetovka … for them, there were only numbers.
– An almost total lack of Soviet and German archives regarding the territory investigated;
– The disappearance of about 90% of villages where the Jewish population lived before the Second World War and therefore the difficulty of locating witnesses;
– The investigation was focused on the research of former German and Jewish settlements that had disappeared thus requiring that it be conducted in Ukrainian villages surrounding the probable location of these settlements;
– Recurrent execution of Roma;
– In the absence of archival records, the evidence collected by the Yahad – In Unum team adds important general information to an understanding of the region’s history.