I followed the first column up to the execution site next to the railway tunnel, in two pits. The column was accompanied by Germans on motorbikes with machine guns. The policemen had told someone that the Jews were going to be shot, and this person told everybody. My friends and I were behind an embankment not far away.
The Jews waited in a tunnel under the railway; the Germans took as many Jews as they could, generally 10, and made them stand around the pits. The policemen had sticks to beat and push the Jews. Six Germans made the Jews line up on the edge of the pit (tunnel), then started shooting with machine guns. There were three of them next to each pit and they shot the Jews over the two pits at the same time. The children wanted to follow their parents and jumped down into the pits by themselves. When there were no Jews left, the policemen filled up the pits.
When it was all over, people (including me) came out of their hiding places to look at the pits. The earth was still moving, because the children who had jumped down were still alive. The following day, policemen came back to pour gasoline and burn the bodies. The fire lasted three days. – Nadejda Y. (born 1928)
From November 4 to November 20, a Yahad in Unum team went to Ukraine for a 28th investigative trip, the second one in the region of Odessa and the third in the region of Nikolayev. Over the course of this investigation, the Yahad team interviewed 60 witnesses, and found 28 shooting sites, most of which had no memorial.
Administrative regions of Nikolayev and Odessa
Investigated towns/villages: Peshchtany, Brod, Stavki, Kudriavtisvka, Kolossivka, Vinogradivke, Bondoriovka, Novopavlivka, Zielone, Kutuzivska, Mikhaïlivka, Novogregorivka, Vessele, Nikolaievka (formerly part of Vessele), Mostove, Iastrebinove, Dmitrivka, Stepanivka, Rumynskoie, Novossiolovka, Novo-Alexandrivka, Ursulovka, Sovkhoz Tymyriazieva, Sukhaya Balka, Zabara, Poriechie.
Historical Background and Findings:
As early as the beginning of November 1941, virtually all the Jews living in the region had been killed. What is important to note is that this region was occupied not by German troops, but by Romanian ones. Another particularity of this region was the high number of German villages inhabited by Volkdeutsche. One of the missions of Einstazgruppe D (EG D), apart from annihilating Jews, was to observe these villages. For Himmler, this region was ideal for colonization because of the presence of German villages.
The Sonderkommando R (SK R) played a key role in this region as they had been created shortly after the attack on the USSR. This commando saw to the transfer of Volkdeutsche to the territories controlled by the Reich. It was composed of 160 permanent members, accompanied by 200 persons of the NKK (Union of National-Socialist Drivers). SK R took up the mission of looking after these Germans. They first conducted a census, which found 130,000 Volkdeutsche in 228 villages. They were given apartments, school before they started to recruit Germans to create troops, called Selbstschutz. The personnel of this Selbstschutz had no proper military training.
Shortly after it was created, the Selbstschutz started hunting the former neighbors who were close to the Bolsheviks, as well as local Jews who had not been killed by EG D. At the administrative level, SK R and the Selbstschutz played a key role in the region of Transnistria, which, like the whole territory on the left bank of the Bug, belonged to Romania. Only in June 1942 did the SS manage, through negotiations with the Romanians, to obtain administrative control over the Selbstschutz in this region. This is why the Selbstschutz was able to play a decisive role in the extermination of Jews in Transnistria until then. It had become a parallel institution to EG D, which for its part had no power in this region (because of the Romanian administration).
The extermination of Jews by the Selbstschutz is linked to the events in Odessa. In the winter of 1941-1942, the Romanians had a major problem with the creation of a ghetto in Odessa. The simple solution to the lodging, food and healthcare problems was to expel the Jews from the occupied territories. The Jews were thus transferred by the Romanian constabulary to the Volkdeutsche’s territories. The Jews who fell down unconscious on the side of the road were to be “finished off by the Selbstschutz.”
However, most of the expelled Jews were led to the North East, to the Generalkommisariat of Nikolayev. In the vicinity of Voznessensk, on the border of the German administrative territory, where the Bug was too wide to cross without difficulty, the Jew stopped and waited for their fate on the territory of the commandos in Lichtenfeld and Rastatt.
This investigation aimed at identifying the execution sites and finding witnesses of the extermination of the Odessa Jews in the region of the Volkdeutsche.
The operating mode was almost always the same. The Romanians chased the Odessa Jews to the North on the roads linking villages. Sometimes they kept them for a few days in barns, hen-houses or stables, before they went on to the three main execution sites: Domanevka, Bogdanovka and Akhmetovka. The Jews who could no longer walk were shot on the spot and thrown down with those who had succumbed to starvation or to the cold into graves that had been dug up by requisitioned locals. But most of the time groups of Jews were kept at those places (autumn-winter 1941). As they suffered from hunger and the cold, they received food from the villagers, sometimes in exchange for valuables. Finally, a German commando accompanied by Ruomanian policemen executed the Jews in a ravine, a natural hollow or a pit that had been especially dug up for that purpose.
In virtually all sites, witnesses have been identified. Most of them could report not only the place of the executions and the way they were carried out, but also the places where the Jews had stayed before the executions.