Bohdanivka (Bogdanivka, Bogdanovka, Bogdanowka, Bogdanovca) | Mykolaiv

Execution of the Odesa Jews and Jewish refugees in Bohdanivka

4 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Ravine (1); Pigsties (2); Wells (3)
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
About 40,000

Witness interview

Ion T., born in 1921, a sedentary Roma who was drafted into the Romanian army and was sent to Bohdanivka with his unit.
YIU: How do you know that the people who were shot were Jews?
W: I know because I spoke to them just before the execution.
YIU: Were you forced to guard the Jews as well?
W: Yes, of course. We guarded them.
YIU: How many Jews were there?
W: There were between 400 to 700 Jews. There were men, women, the elderly and children. There were men with long beards and curly hair.
YIU : Where were the Jews gathered? What was this place?
W: The Jews were confined to the stables. They slept inside. From time to time they were given some soup made from cabbage.
YIU: Where were you when you guarded them?
W: We were outside, but we could easily speak with them, like I do with you.
YIU: Where were the Jews from?
W: They were from Romania. The majority of them were from Romania.
YIU: Did you sleep there as well? How did you guard them?
W: No, we took turns every three hours. There was a caserne [barrack] not too far away where we slept. There were four guards per shift. We had to circulate the entire perimeter of the stables.
YIU: Who came to escort the Jews to the shooting?
W: They were Russians.[local police]
YIU: Were there Germans with them? Or people who were dressed in civilians but spoke German?
W: No, there were only Russians.
YIU: How were they dressed? Did they have an armband?
W: No, they didn’t. They were dressed in military uniform.
YIU: How many people did they take from the stables at a time?
W: The Jews were taken in groups of about 40 or 50 people. I didn’t count them though.
YIU: Did the Russians enter inside and take the group or were you supposed to prepare the group?
W: There was a person who called for them. The one who was called had to step forward and wait near the door. They didn’t know what would happen to them, poor people.”(Witness n°143, interviewed in Cluj, Romania, on August 30, 2015)

Soviet archives

« We arrived in Bogdanovka, district of Domaniovka, region of Odessa, at night. We found that the bunk beds, bread and fat had been prepared for us for the night. At night, I heard other policemen talking that we had been brought here to participate in the execution of Soviet citizens of Jewish nationality, who were detained in the sovkhoz [state-run farms] pigsties located close to the village of Bogdanovka. The following morning, once we were lined up, Andrusin announced that we were here to participate in the execution of Jewish citizens. Then, in columns we were taken to the sovkhoz. Upon our arrival there we saw the Romanian and German gendarmes there. The Soviet detainees were confined to the pigsties. There were many. There were thousands of people of different ages, including children and older people.
The execution started in the morning. Other policemen from Pervomaisk and I, along with the policemen from Domaniovka and Bogdanovka, formed a security cordon around the sovkhoz. On the site of the sovkhoz there was a forest, near which a ravine was located. The ravine was created by a waterway from the river. The victims were taken to this ravine where they were shot by the policemen. The execution lasted for 3 days. The first or the second day, the corpses of the shot Soviet citizens caught fire. I don’t know if the fire was set on purpose or not, as some policemen said this was caused by incendiary bullets which were used during the shooting. While the corpses of the Soviet citizens were about to be burned, others victims were brought to be shot.” [Interrogation of an accused policeman from Pervomaisk, Anatoli Kotsiubinskiy, made on October 24, 1952 ; RG 31.018 :Reel 10, part III / Ukrainian Secret Service Archives (SBU), Delo n°11716.]

German archives

“I think I am the only former resident of Bogdanowka [Bohdanivka], who lives in the Federal Republic of Germany. Another citizen from Bogdanowka, Josef K., lives in the USA.
It is correct that immediately following the German occupation of Bogdanowka, a Selbstschutz [ethnic German self-protection unit] was established. My husband, Johann B., was recruited. I don’t know if he was the leader of the Selbstschutz in our community. I don’t know who the leader in Bogdanowka was. There was not another man with the name of my husband. [...]. From time to time the Selbstschutz had to go from Bogdanowka to Rastadt for schooling. I’m not aware of any further tasks they had to do in outer Bogdanowka. About the mass shootings of Jews in Bogdanowka I don’t know anything. Like I said in my last hearing, I saw how the Jews in larger groups were chased toward the east. These treks were disrupted because people move slowly. I know that a group of these Jews had to sleep in a hayloft behind Bogdanowka when it was very cold, and they froze to death. I never saw the victims. My father-in-law told me that. He has already died.
The Selbstschutz of Bogdanowka was involved in this action. But I did not hear that there were Jews shot. My husband never told me anything about it. Indeed I was not informed that my husband had a leading part in it.
I once heard, that there were some Jews locked up in the pig stables of the kolkhoz for one night before they were chased the next day with other arriving Jews.” [Deposition of Lydia B.., given in Kleve, on May 21, 1968, about the executions in Bohdanivka; B162-2310 (p. 2) – ARZ 294/1960]

Moldovan/Romanian Archives

« The massacre started on December 21, 1941. In the camp the inmates were dispatched in the following way: in some stables there were ill and infirm, mainly those, who were not able to go to the forest, where the execution was supposed to take place. Others were crammed in the remaining stables.

The first massacre was carried out against the ill and infirm people. The stables, where they were confined, were poured over with oil or gas. Beforehand the stables’ roofs had been covered with a layer of straw.  Then, an order was given to torch the stables and in several minutes from 4,000 to 5,000 inmates, confined in two stables, were burned.

Another site where the remaining [43,000] Jews were massacred was the forest near the camp. The Jews were taken to the forest where they were stripped and had their belongings taken away. Once on the site, they were forced to kneel on the edge of the ravine and shot in groups of 300-400 with the explosive bullets. The massacre continued at the same pace on December 22 and 23, 1941, and was suspended from [December] 24 to 28.

Taking in consideration a big number of victims, 43,000, Isopescu Modest ordered to burn the bodies in order hide the traces. For this job, 200 strong inmates from the detainees were chosen. The cremation lasted two months, from January to February 1942. The process used by the 200 requisitioned was the following: at the base of the pyre there was a layer of straw and a layer of woods. Then, the bodies were put in between, and then another layer of straw and wooden logs, and in that way. The pyres were about 2m high and about 4-m large. The bulky bodies should have been placed near the sickly ones, in that way the fat from the first ones would help to burn the others. At the end, the 150-200 requisitioned were shot. On December 24 [Note: most probably there is a mistake, and it was on December 23], Isopescu Modest personally assisted to the execution and took pictures.” [Accusation act of the General Romanian prosecutors  Avram Bunaciu Dumitra Saracu, RG – 25.004M.0019]

Historical note

Bohdanivka is a village located on the banks of the Bug river, about 125km northwest of Mykolaiv and 170km northeast of Odesa. Prior to the war there were no Jews living in the village. It was home to both Ukrainians and Russians. In 1928, under the Soviet rule, a large sovkhoz was created near the village. This farm specialized in pig farming; thousands of pigs were housed in over a dozen pigsties. Many German colonies were set up in this area under the rule of Catherine the Great, 18th century.  The area was occupied by the Romanian army in summer 1941. The Jewish victims who were brought to and murdered in Bohdanivka were native to Odesa, as well as the Jews who were deported from Bessarabia and Bukovina under the order of Antonescu.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

On August 19, 1941, Bohdanivka became part of Transnistria, which was controlled by the Romanians. The village was very important geographically due to it’s location on the river Bug which marked the border between the German and Romanian occupied territories. In mid to late September a concentration camp, which later was transformed into a death camp, was created in Bohdanivka, and the first deportations were carried out by the Romanians. Approximately 15,000-16,000 Jews were brought to Bohdanivka from the districts of Tiraspol and Bessarabia. During the next few months, an additional 1,500 Jews more were brought from Kryve Ozero, and another 30,000 Jews were brought from Odesa in late October or early November. The convoy of Jews from Odesa were marched by foot and passed through the Berezivka, Mostove, and Domanivka. Hundreds were shot dead on the way for being too weak to continue. Two months later, another group of Jews from Odesa arrived. This time they were transported in cattle wagons toward Berezivka, from where they were taken on foot to different camps, including Domanivka and Bogdanivka.  All of the Jewish deportees were placed in the camp created on the grounds of the former sovkhoz. They were confined into 25-30 pigsties and cowsheds. There was a kitchen and the detainees received food rations once per day. The camp was fenced in with wooden planks and barbed wire on one side and with the river on the other. If someone attempted to escape by the river, he was shot dead on the spot by the Germans who were stationed on the other side. The camp was guarded by local policemen and Romanian gendarmes, according to the testimonies collected by Yahad. In mid-December between 2,000 and 3,000 Jews, according to Altman, died in the camp from typhus and the cold weather. In order to prevent against typhus it was decided to conduct a mass execution of the detainees. On December 17, 1942, between 4,000 to 5,000 sick and disabled people were placed in two pigsties and burned alive. Then, in the course of the next  three days, December 21 to December 23, at least 40,000 Jews were shot in a ravine located nearby. The Jews were shot in groups of 70-100 people. According to one of the eyewitnesses (n°YIU/1262U) interviewed by Yahad-In Unum, during some of the executions the Romanians used a wooden plank which was put across the pit. Before being shot they were forced to undress to their underwear. Once undressed, they walked onto the plank in groups of four and then they were shot with submachine guns. The shootings were conducted by local police brought from Golta, Pervomaisk and Bohdanivka, as well as by Volksdeutsche [German colonists] due to the limited number of Romanian gendarmes. Many eyewitnesses mentioned seeing a German woman who gave orders.  After a four day pause to celebrate Christmas, the shooting continued from December 28 to December 31. An additional 11,000 Jews were shot in the ravine. An additional 2,000 Jews were shot during isolated actions conducted from January 10 to January 15, 1942. Besides the main execution site, with the help of the local residents, Yahad-In Unum could identify the location of wells where the Jews were killed at different periods of time. Supposedly, in one of those wells, dozens of Jewish children were thrown in alive. In order to hide the traces of the murdered victims, an operation, known under the number 1005, was conducted. During two months, from January to early March, 1942, all the bodies were arranged, put on pyres, doused with gasoline and burned. According to the testimony recorded by Yahad, they were Bessarabian Jews as well as prisoners of war, who were forced to do this task. The majority of them were killed afterwards.

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