In Ouman, the team found Mikhail (b.1928), witness of a terrible massacre by asphyxiation. He testifies: “The Germans piled the Jews on top of each other in the cellar of a building, and then sealed the door. They waited around 2 hours and re-opened the door. Everyone had suffocated to death. I then saw other Jews who were brought in to remove the bodies. But one of them refused to do this awful task. The Germans then took him and made him stand in a container mixed with quicklime. They threatened him with their guns and prevented him from getting out. The chemical reaction burned the feet of the poor man, who started a kind of dance, because he could no longer keep his feet planted there. He ended up dying.”
A Yahad – In Unum team conducted the 24th research trip to Ukraine during a 13-day investigation in the regions of Vinnytsia and Tcherkassy. This trip completed preceding investigations already done along the DG IV, a strategic road leading to the Caucasus via Dnepropetrovsk, built by the Germans when they occupied the area in the summer of 1941, the construction of which was possible due to the skilled work of Jewish laborers imprisoned in the work camps along the road.
During this research trip, the Yahad team visited 10 localities, interviewed 46 witnesses, and identified 11 mass graves or execution sites.
Administrative region of Vinnytsia and Tcherkassy
Investigated towns/villages: Oradivka, Talalaieva, Ivangorod, Krasnopilka, Teplyk, Ossitna, Pogorila, Oudytch, Djoulynka, Ouman
With the exception of Ouman, a major city, the places investigated were villages or towns where work camps were established for Jewish labor. In most cases, the Germans used pre-existing structures, such as schools, in order to create improvised camps generally enclosed by a fence or barbed wire, and guarded by local police. Imprisoned men, women and children were ordered to do various tasks or to work on the construction of the road. In the majority of cases, not much of the local population resided in the places investigated, with the exception of Ivangorod and Teplyk. The Jews held in the camps generally came from surrounding cities, as well as many from neighboring Transnistria, then under Romanian occupation. They worked with a number of Soviet prisoners of war as well as with requisitioned Ukrainians.
In general, in 1942 or the beginning of 1943, the Jews held in the camps were shot mostly in isolated places, away from the towns. Nevertheless, the work of the ground investigation led our team to numerous witnesses of shootings, who were mostly children or adolescents at that time.
In the city of Ouman, which is the main center of the region visited, the majority of the Jewish population, more than 15,000, was held in one quarter of the city. The ghetto was emptied in several stages, until the spring of 1942. The main shootings occurred in the ravine of Soukhoi.
– Small, yet numerous, work camps
– Numerous witnesses of shootings
– Ouman, a Jewish city in turmoil