Larissa (born 1937), was deported to Birkenau with other people from the town. She was very young, but when she recalls the selection process when the train arrived, she sounds as if she were reliving the scene. She was pried from her aunt’s arms and fainted. The Germans thought she had died and threw her upon a heap of corpses. She was then transported by the sonder kommandos to the furnaces. When she came round, she was hidden in a crate where the clothing of the dead was stored. One of the kommando’s members took care of her and became her foster father after the war. Larissa spent two years in the camp, protected or hidden by women in different buildings for prisoners.
Note: The featured pictures do not correspond to the witness quoted above or the 34th trip, they are taken from Yahad's 35th research trip to Ukraine.
From October 25 to November 10, 2012, a Yahad-In Unum team completed the 34th investigation to Ukraine in the region of Donestsk, the second in that region. In the course of this mission, the Yahad team interviewed 35 witnesses.
Region of Donetsk
Investigated towns/villages: Donetsk, Krasnogorovka, Marinka, Volnovakha, Novozlatopol, Khlebodarovka, Zlatoustovka, Andrievka, Zugress, Makïevka, Komsomolskoie, Novopetrikovka, Staromlynivka, Krasny Loutch, Krasna Poliana
The area studied was occupied by the Germans as early as the autumn of 1941. It remained under German military administration until it was liberated in 1943. It is part of the Donbass, one of Europe’s major industrialized territories, based on numerous coal and iron ore mines. In addition, the region is heavily urbanized. As could be expected in a densely populated area, the war caused many population transfers, and this made the Yahad team’s work more arduous, since finding witnesses and identifying historic sites was not easy on such terrain.
– Contrary to other regions farther west in the country, and except for some important cities or some clearly identified Jewish colonies, there was no conspicuous traditional Jewish life. Most of the Jews had been assimilated.
– During this mission, the team visited the district of the former Jewish colonies of Novozlatopol. In fact, they were a cluster of villages with a predominantly Jewish population, employed in the local kolkhozes. After an initial investigation in 2006 and in order to develop research, the team went back to Novozlatopol, the main center of of the former Jewish colonies, east of Zaporozie. Those former Jewish colonies are now mostly deserted and decaying “ghost villages." The Jews of Novozlatopol were progressively rounded up by local policemen and led on carts to the militia’s building, where they were locked up before they were shot in the back yard. There were approximately 800 victims. The shooting took several days, and to cover up the noise, the executioners demanded that the Ukrainians make more noise by banging on pots and pans.
– In the small town of Volnovakha, the team found interesting testimonies on war prisoners. There were no archives on the subject, but three camp sites had been identified: one at a railroad garage, another in a building along the railroad line, and a third in former stables. The local population managed to feed the prisoners with relative ease since the local or German guards let them do so.