Balta | Odesa

/ The Jewish cemetery in Balta © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Today, at the Jewish cemetery of Balta, only photos remain of the lives that were decimated by the war. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Yevgenia K.:: “When the Germans poured the gas over the house and set it on fire, the Jews locked up inside started to scream and try to get out of the building. Anyone who tried to escape was shot dead on the spot. “© Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Some of witnesses are reticent to speak on camera for many different reasons. Yahad’s team takes time to explain the importance of testifying and reassure them. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Dmytro P., born in 1929: “There were women, men and children in the column. Everyone walked on their own. They walked calmly. I guess they knew that they would be killed. Some of them asked for a piece of bread.“ © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Volodymyr O., born in 1929, was requisitioned to transport the bodies to the Jewish cemetery: “The Jews were placed in an abandoned house and burned alive. Those who tried to escape were shot by the Germans.” © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Yahad’s team with the witness during the interview: “Once the house was burned down with the Jews inside, their bodies stayed in a field for several days, facing the burnt house. Under the sun, they began to decompose.” © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum The Yahad team at the execution site of the Jews with an eyewitness who describes the macabre scene he saw. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum Dmytro P. points out the site where a pit was located. “When I came to take a look at the pit 2 or 3 hours after the shooting, the ground was still moving and there was nobody here.” © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum The memorial at the site where the remains of the Jews burned alive in the house were buried. © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum The location of the execution site which was an airfield back then © Jordi Lagoutte/Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Balta

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Airfield/house
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
50/48

Witness interview

Volodymyr O., born in 1929, was requisitioned to transport the remains of the Jewish victims to the cemetery: "I know that some Jews were shot in the ravine just when the Germans began to withdraw. Others were burned alive. It happened at the end of the occupation, after a day of forced labour at the railway station, they were never taken back to the ghetto. They were taken to a house, which used to belong to Rodion Kovaliov. He had been evacuated by that time. The Jews were locked up in the building and burned alive. One Jew, named Gershko, managed to survive because he was separated from the column and returned home by himself. Everyone thought that he was a little bit « Mischlinge »… And the following day, he came to see us and he told us that all the Jews had been burned alive in that house. Later, when the Soviets arrived, they requisitioned local people to transport the remains. I was also requisitioned. I can tell you that it was an awful scene.” (Witness n°2061, interviewed in Balta, on May 25th 2016)

Soviet archives

“On August 7th 1941, under the pretext of forced labour, about a hundred Jewish men were gathered at the building now housing the executive committee. On the night of August 7th-8th, 80 of them were shot.
In the winter of 1943, the Germans, accompanied by Romanians, transferred Jews from Nikoyaev to Balta for forced labour, but on their way they were murdered. About a hundred corpses were taken to the railway station at Balta. From the railway station, we had to transport the corpses on wagons to the cemetery.
In the autumn of the same year, the Germans, along with Romanians, took the Jews from the ghetto to the fields for the construction of a landing site where about 50 people were shot.
A pogrom was organized when the occupiers began to retreat […], they rounded-up the Jews in the streets and in their houses and shot them dead on the spot. Between the 26th and 28th of March 1944, about 300 (the number is partially illegible, translator’s note) people were murdered. On March 28th, 1944, the Germans, helped by the Romanians, assembled about 40 (the number is partially illegible, translator’s note) to take them to the railway station to carry out forced labour. Later, they were confined in the buildings near the farm. It was set on fire with the Jews alive inside. None survived. Among the victims there were two young girls aged 15-16 years. [Deposition of a requisitioned local man, Dinelsha R., born in 1874 in Balta, made on October 11th,1944 to the Soviet State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK); RG 22.002M. Fond 7021, Opis 6, Delo 84]

Historical note

Balta was founded in the 16th century and is located 225km north of Odessa. The first Jewish community was recorded in the same century, living on both sides of the town, which was divided between Turkey and Poland. In the mid-17th century, the town was put under the rule of the Russian empire. The town was an important trade centre. The majority of Jews were involved in the grain train and the manufacture of agricultural products. There were flour mills and a liquor distillery belonging to the Jews. Other Jews lived off handcrafts. There were shoemakers, tailors, and other artisans who were united in cooperatives. There was a Jewish cemetery, a synagogue built in 1905, and two Yiddish schools. Under the Soviet rule, many religious institutions were shut down and cooperatives were transformed into kolkhozes.  The Jewish community suffered from several pogroms (1768, 1882, 1905, 1919). Their houses and shops were looted and destroyed and several hundred Jews were killed, which significantly decreased the Jewish population. Many of the Jews fled to the nearest bigger city, Odessa. The Jewish population, which numbered 13,234 in 1897 comprising 57% of the total population, had therefore decreased to 9,116 by 1926 (39.6%) and on the eve of the war less than 18% of the town’s inhabitants were Jewish (4,711 Jews). Balta was occupied by the Germans in early August 1941.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

The Jewish population was exterminated over the course of several aktions which started from the very beginning of the occupation and lasted right up to the Germans’ withdrawal. On August 7th 1941, about 140-200 Jews were gathered in the tribunal building, before being supposedly transferred for forced labour during the night. On the August the 8th, however, they were shot on the road in the direction of the village of Kozatskoye.  

From September, Balta was occupied by Romanians and incorporated into the Transnistria zone. By this time, all the remaining Jews, along with the Jews deported from Bukovina and Bessarabia, were confined in the ghetto. According to different sources, the Jews numbered betwenn 1500 and 3700. According to a local witness interviewed by Yahad, there were two entries to the ghetto, located on Synivaksa and Tkatchenko Street. They weren’t guarded. Life inside the ghetto was managed by a local Jewish administration. The Jews fit to work were subjected to forced labour, especially skilled workers.

In the autumn of 1943, about 50 Jews were taken to work on the construction of the airfield, but they were shot dead on the spot. Between March 26th and 28th 1944, the Germans and Romanians shot dead about 300 Jews in the streets. During one of the last executions, carried out on March 28th 1944, 48 Jews were burned alive in the house where they had been confined after returning from a day’s forced labour.

All the aktions were conducted by Germans and Romanians.

Jewishgen

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