Holocaust Remembrance Day: Extermination of Odessa Jews

The Holocaust Remembrance day falls on May 2 this year and in the few following posts I will publish several documents concerning the treatment of the Jewish population in my hometown of Odessa, Ukraine issued by the Romanian Authority which occupied Odessa from 1941-1944.

At the beginning of the occupation there were 80,000-90,000 Jews who did not evacuate from Odessa. When the city was liberated on April 10, 1944 there were reportedly only 600 left. Somewhere in the Odessa Region my 6-year old Father survived in the ghetto with help from kind people and lots of  luck. The area where he lived with my Grandmother was occupied by the Italians who were not very enthusiastic about being in the war and their relative reluctance to torture and execute the Jews might have resulted in more survivors than in the areas controlled by Romanians who proved themselves to be ruthless murderers.

Many places in Odessa and the Region have memorial markers where the executions were conducted, such as a place where over 25,000 Jews were burned alive shortly after the occupation started. Unfortunately, I never stopped or paid attention to them, probably like most people. I saw more memorial markers today, while researching this post, than I remember seeing when I still lived in Odessa.

The Russian text is found in the National Archives of the Odessa Region, translation mine. If I have time and patience I will also try to translate a personal memoir written by a survivor; translation is a long and tedious process, and even though I start with a machine translation, it still doesn’t always come out right. Feel free to let me know if I can correct some grammar or spelling errors.

Order № 1

Order of November 7, 1941 by the commander of the city of Odessa praetor Colonel Niculescu that all the men of Jewish descent between the ages of 18 and 50 shall, within 48 hours report to the city jail, and their families – deliver the food to the imprisoned Jews.

“Odessa newspaper”. – November 7, 1941 – № 25. – P. 4.

I, General, commander of the city of Odessa, acting pursuant to Supreme Decree № 1798 of 21 June 1941 and Art. 486 Code of Military Justice in the interests of public safety and order,

ORDER:

Art. 1. All the men of Jewish descent, aged 18 to 58 years are required to appear at the city jail (Greater Fountain Rd.) within 48 hours from the time of publication of this order with only the essential items. Their families are required to bring them food to jail. Those who disobey this order if found after the expiration of the 48-hour period, will be shot on site.

Art. 2. All the inhabitants of the city of Odessa and its suburbs are required to report to the appropriate police units every Jew fitting in the above category who failed to comply with this order. Those who harbor, as well as those who know and fail to report the Jews will be punished by death.

Art. 3. Officers of military and civilian police are charged with determining what constitutes the violation of this order.

Art. 4. This order is published throughout the city and suburbs, streets, public buildings, railway stations and port and is in force upon its publication.

 

Odessa, 1941, Jews arrested by the Germans. Copyright © 2011 Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority

 

 

Order № 23

Order № 23 dated November 11, 1941 Romania by Chief Marshal of military forces Ion Antonescu and the Civil Governor of Transnistria G. Aleksyanu about a special registration for the Jews, preparation of special lists, resettlement of Jews in the colonies and the organization of their work duty.

“Odessa newspaper”. – November 20, 1941 – № 9. – S. 2.

We, Ion Antonescu, Romania’s Marshal and Chief of the troops under the authority entrusted to us the Supreme Decree № 8 1 dated 19 August 1941 in Tighina and with participation of Professor ALEKSYANU, Civilian Governor of Transnistria, bearing in mind that the territory of Transnistria contains a significant Jewish population evacuated from war zones; keeping in mind the need for the Jews to reside in predetermined locations to provide security for the area; also bearing in mind that the Jewish population should support its existence with its own labor and funds –

ORDER:

Art. 1. All the Jews who arrived in Transnistria from areas of hostilities or who lived previously in Transnistria and resettled in other areas in connection with military operations, as well as those Jews who will later be relocated – have a responsibility to obey the rules set forth in this order.

Art. 2. Inspectorate of the Gendarmerie of Transnistria establishes areas where Jews can settle; resettlement is made in accordance with the number of family members in homes remaining from the Russians and Jews who have fled. Every Jewish family receiving the housing, should bring it into a proper condition and keep it clean. If the number of dwellings should prove insufficient, the Jews could be settled in private homes specifically assigned to them, with the establishment of predetermined rent.

Art. 3. All Jews who are a part of any such settlement or community, must be entered  in a special list which states: name, nationality, religion, age, occupation, location of origin. Every Jew will be issued a document listing all of the above data.

Art. 4. No Jew can leave the assigned settlement  without a special permission issued by the district or county Prefect (police chief).

Art. 5. All Jews who are a part of a settlement form a colony, which is managed by the head of the colony, appointed by the praetor from the population of the settlers. Assistants to the Chief of the colony are the team leaders: Chief of the colony appoints a leader for each group (20 people) who is responsible for the presence of all its members, cares about their well-being and reports each violation committed by any member of the group. Chief of the colony and team leaders are responsible personally for the presence of Jews in the colony and the execution of the orders of the Administration and the Gendarmerie.

Art. 6. The Chief of the colony must submit lists of all members of the colony holding a special profession, all artisans and craftsmen and of all the persons able to work. On the basis of lists submitted by the chief of the colony, the mayor or village headman will organize labor in the colony and in a city or village, as follows:

  • those who possess any special profession will be at the disposal of the colony and will be engaged in work as needed;
  • master craftsmen will perform the work assigned to them in accordance with their profession;
  • all others (those of unskilled labor) will be at the disposal of city or rural authorities and will be used in various tasks for the needs of the colony, town or village, or other works for public purposes. In particular, they will be used for field work, to work on improvement of roads and bridges, on harvesting of timber and wood, stone and other materials. Food ration cards will be issued for the day worked, equal to 2 marks per day for the skilled laborers and tradespeople and 1 mark for the unskilled laborers.
  • Gendarmerie authorities are obliged to constantly check and monitor the status of Jewish settlements, bringing to the attention of higher authorities all the detected violations.

Art. 7. The Jews from one colony will be allowed to work in another colony only with the permission of the district or county prefect. The movement of specialists from one district or county to another will only be allowed with the permission of the Director of the Division of Labor with the Civilian Government.

Art. 8. Every Jew found outside the colony without proper authorization will be treated as a spy and immediately punished by military laws in time of war.

Art. 9. Jewish professionals may be used with the permission of the Governor for the restoration of the industry destroyed by war, rebuilding of businesses, or on any other work deemed necessary.

Art. 10. District and county prefect and the Gendarmerie inspectors are charged with the responsibility of bringing this order into execution.

Signed in our office November 11, 1941.

The Civil Governor of Transnistria Professor G. ALEKSYANU

*Transnistria Governorate (Romanian: Guvernământul Transnistriei) was a Romanian administered territory, conquered by the Axis Powers from the USSR during Operation Barbarossa, and occupied from 19 August 1941 to 29 January 1944.

  • Anonymous

    In memoriam of the 80,000+ Odessa Jews who died during the occupation…
    It is utterly terrible what happened during the Holocaust, I cannot imagine how people can deny it…
    I hope this never happens again.

    And I think Transnistria is some screwed up Soviet-style dictatorship now.

  • Anonymous

    In memoriam of the 80,000+ Odessa Jews who died during the occupation…
    It is utterly terrible what happened during the Holocaust, I cannot imagine how people can deny it…
    I hope this never happens again.

    And I think Transnistria is some screwed up Soviet-style dictatorship now.

  • Anonymous

    In memoriam of the 80,000+ Odessa Jews who died during the occupation…
    It is utterly terrible what happened during the Holocaust, I cannot imagine how people can deny it…
    I hope this never happens again.

    And I think Transnistria is some screwed up Soviet-style dictatorship now.

    • Actually I served in the military in the area that is now called Transnistria

  • Anonymous

    In memoriam of the 80,000+ Odessa Jews who died during the occupation…
    It is utterly terrible what happened during the Holocaust, I cannot imagine how people can deny it…
    I hope this never happens again.

    And I think Transnistria is some screwed up Soviet-style dictatorship now.

  • I Travel for JOOLS

    It’s almost impossible to imagine. I have often wondered why they didn’t run but I see from these orders they probably didn’t think they were going to be executed if only they obeyed and they apparently didn’t have any guns.

    According to Wiki, in 1938, Germany passed a law where Jews were forbidden from having guns. Here’s what I found out about Russia from just one site : “The Soviet Union prohibited civilian gun ownership in 1929. Josef Stalin once reportedly said: “We don’t let them have ideas. Why would we let them have guns?”

    So, the Jews were pretty much defenseless.

    I can’t even put into words what I think of people who would do what those monsters did to the Jews.

    • Keep in mind that in 1941 most of the able-bodied men were mobilized and many “useful” people and their families were evacuated to Siberia and Central Asia. So by the time of the occupation you had mostly old people, women and children. And in the rural areas where my Father lived I don’t think they even evacuated anybody. Not your normal resistance contingent. There were many cases of Jewish resistance, even in Odessa, but in the majority these people were pretty much helpless. And while there were many occasions when non-Jews hid and otherwise helped the Jews and saved many lives, there were numerous times when the population turned the Jews in, for awards, for their property and apartments, for the old grudges, etc. After the war everyone knew who the traitors were, people don’t forget this kind of stuff, but they were still forced to live side-by-side. As far as guns, I think during the wartime they weren’t that hard to come by.

      • Anonymous

        If guns were easy to get during wartime, why didn’t something like the Warsaw Uprising take place in Odessa?

        • Odessa ghetto had a lot less people and was liquidated fairly quickly. And Warsaw Uprising, while heroic, didn’t really improve people’s chances for survival that much.

  • Jo Co

    “Hitler had the right idea! he was just an underachiever! Kill ’em all, Adolf! All of ’em!” -Bill Hicks