Nalchik | Kabardino-Balkar Republic

/ Augodun A., born in 1931, a mountain Jew described the life before, during and after WWII. © Cristian Monterroso  /Yahad-In Unum Yahad’s team with a witness during an interview inside of a synagogue. © Cristian Monterroso  /Yahad-In Unum Augodun A., born in 1931: “Some Jews were recognized because they didn’t pronounce “r” very well. They were mostly Ashkenazi Jews. “© Cristian Monterroso  /Yahad-In Unum Augodun A., born in 1931, walking with Yahad’s team on the street of the Jewish neighborhood in Nalchik. © Cristian Monterroso  /Yahad-In Unum An abandonned building of Jewish center "Todushi". © Cristian Monterroso/Yahad-In Unum Under the occupation this house was transformed into the SS headquarters. © Cristian Monterroso  /Yahad-In Unum Sofia L., born in 1929: “The mountain Jews were supposed to be killed the following day, but when we woke up we saw the villages had been liberated by Soviet partisans.” © Cristian Monterroso  /Yahad-In Unum At the memorial where about 600 people, including hundreds of Jews were shot by Einsatzkommando 10. © Cristian Monterroso  /Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews and non-Jews in Nalchik

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Period of occupation:
October 28,1942- January 4,1943
Number of victims:

Witness interview

Augodun A., born in 1931, a mountain Jew: « The first units that arrived in Nalchik were Romanians. The Germans arrived shortly after that, followed by an SS unit during the night. At the beginning they didn’t know who the Mountain Jews were because when we speak our pronunciation is closer to Russians than to Hebrew. Under the German occupation everyone was subjected to perform forced labor. Me, for example, I had to go to the kitchen and to peel the potatoes. When they started to persecute Ashkenazi Jews we got scared because we thought that we would be the next. So, I had to bury the Torah in the ground so they couldn’t find it and identify us as Jews.” (Testimony n°707, interviewed in Nalchik, on May 16, 2017)

Soviet archives

« Straight after the occupation, under the order of the Marshal von K., the German troops start to exterminate the civil population of the Elbruz district in mass. The extermination was conducted by Einsatzkommando 10 headed by Mayor Sch., a German gendarmerie unit headed by senior lieutenant Sch. And the military Kommandantur of the town of Nalchik with its chief M. Under the order of the administration all the population of the district had to register at the registration office where the lists of people to arrest and to shoot were drawn up. From the first days of their arrival Germans started to arrest men, women and elder people. In the beginning the arrestees were confined into the basement located in the village of Gundelen (today Kendelen), where they were abused, tortured and forced to work without being given food.
On December 9, 1942, at 6am, all the detainees were taken by truck to Nalchik. After the liberation of Nalchik, the Red Army unit found 600 corpses in the anti-tank ditch close to the airfield, outside the town. Some corpses weren’t buried. The relatives recognized the residents from the villages of Gundelen (today Kendelen), Nizhniy and Verkhniy Baksan and Bylym among the corpses. […] Before being shot, the victims were tortured and mutilated by Gestapo.” [Act n°39, made on January 9, 1943, in Nalchik by State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); RG.22-002M/ Fond 7021, opis 7, delo 109, pp. 152-154]

German archives

« We reached the anti-tank ditch in half an hour by vehicle due to bad conditions of the road. Once there, I was placed on the surveillance spot about 300-400m away from the anti-tank ditch to prevent the passersby from coming close to the site. I won’t be able to tell how many men were affected to make the cordon. I think knowing that there were already about twenty men. Maybe we were four or five. Others had to go to the execution site and probably were part of the execution commando.
From where I was I could observe how all the detainees were placed at the same time at the edge of the ditch. The SD members present at the site positioned themselves at a certain distance ready to fire. They didn’t fire only one round. I didn’t hear any order being given either. They were isolated shots until all the people were shot. The prisoners had no luggage during the transportation toward the execution site and they weren’t forced to undress. They fired with rifles if I am not mistaken, because we didn’t have submachine guns. Besides the SD members there was no one else on the execution site, only some civilians who tried to cross the road that was sealed off and we stopped and sent back. The entire execution lasted maximum half an hour. After that, we came back to our headquaters. On the arrival the commando members who participated in the shooting were given schnaps. (…). According to me there were Jews among the victims. I remember seeing people looking like a typical Eastern Jews, with payots and beards. The women looked Jewish as well. I don’t know how many children were present, maybe three or four. They were carried. The oldest child must have been four or five years old.” [Deposition of Jacob G., a member of Einsatzkommando 10b, given on April 4, 1962, in Bremen; B162-980 p. 7/ 213 AR-Z 1899/66]

Historical note

Nalchik is the capital of the Kabardino-Balkaria Autonomous Republic which is the part of the Russian Federation.  It is located in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains. The territory of modern-day Nalchik was formerly known as Slabada. Back then it was home to native Kabardians, Balkars, Chechens, Adeki, and Cherkes. In 1818 the mountain Jews, or Gorniye Yevrei in Russian, started to settle down in the town.  Mountain Jews from Nalchik call themselves “Taten”. They have always kept in touch with Judaism, although they were geographically isolated from other Jews. Moreover, their rites, clothing and language were different. The majority of Mountain Jews lived in the east of the Caucasus, in Azerbaijan and Dagestan. In 1897 the local Jews numbered 1,354 making up 7% of the entire population, including 1,040 Mountain Jews and about 300 Ashkenazi Jews. The majority of them lived off small scale trade and craft. According to the Mountain Jew interviewed by Yahad, from 1931 to 1936 there was a Jewish kolkhoz. There was as well a synagogue, mikvah, and a Jewish school n°10. By 1939 the number of Jews has risen up to 3,007 comprising in 6% of the total population. When the Soviet Union was invaded by Nazi Germans many people including Jews evacuated to Nalchik. 

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Nalchik was occupied by Romanians followed by Wehrmacht and SS troops on October 28, 1942. Nalchik’s Jewish population, mostly Mountain Jews, suffered brutal beatings and tremendous harm, however, they were able to survive because they had blended with the local population due to mixed culture and tradition and similarity in languages. Thus, according to the report of the SS Bigadefuhrer, they weren’t considered as Jews, but “as people of mountain shepherds of the same kind as the Turkish ones”.  That is how the majority of them managed to survive, however, dozens of mountain Jews were killed before the order to not harm them was issued.  The Ashkenazi Jews were different as they were exterminated systematically. Straight after the Germans’ arrival all the local Ashkenazi Jews and Jewish refugees were marked with yellow Stars of David. They were subjected to perform forced labor.  In November, a sort of camp where the Jews were confined was created. On December 9, 1942, according to the Soviet archives, over 600 people including local Ashkenazi Jews and Jewish refugees were taken 2 miles outside the town to the airfield where they were shot dead into the anti-tank ditches.  According to the German archives, there was another execution of Jewish refugees in Nalchik, which took place on January 1, 1943. The victims were taken to the same anti-tank ditch and shot dead. All the executions were carried out by Sonderkommando 10b belonging to Einsatzkommando D which stationed in the town from November 1942 to early January 1943.

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