1 Execution site(s)
Lidia D., born in 1932, remembers how the Yesentuki Jews were first confined to the school building before being taken in gas vans in the direction of Mineralnye Vody:
“YIU: Was the school guarded?
W: Yes, the school was cordoned off by the soldiers and it wasn’t possible to come closer. We came there when the Germans left. Many locals, especially children, went there to take the Jewish belongings. My mother forbad us from taking anything from there. But anyway we wouldn’t take anything we just went there to take a look.
YIU: Did you see the Jewish belongings in all rooms or just in the three mentioned rooms?
W: I saw them only on the ground floor. They were forced to undress. When the gas vans arrived to the entrance the Jews were already gathered at the ground floor. Maybe there were Jews on the second floor, but all their clothing that hadn’t been taken by the Germans was left at the ground floor.
YIU: Was there a lot of hair or just a few braids?
W: There was a lot of hair. Later, the adults said that the Germans gathered the cut hair in bags and sent them to Germany.
YIU: Did you see the children’s belongings?
W: Yes, there were a lot of children’s belongings, for instance, dolls, pictures, potties, hats; everything was on the floor because Germans didn’t need that.” (Testimony n°582, interviewed in Yesentuki, on October 27th, 2015)
« […] The train conducted by P. stopped at the Mineralnye Vody station. The train was composed of 18 opened platforms and two cars at the rear of the train: one was closed and another one was a second class passenger car. The train transported about 1,800 people, the majority of whom were women, children, and elderly people. Despite the requests of P. the Germans refused to give any water to the passengers of the train. Three German soldiers and a German machinist came to see me and showed me an order written in German and in Russian saying to stop the train at the crossroads between Mineralnye Vody and Kumahorsk, at 484km. The train stopped on the bridge crossing the Kuma river. The Germans got off the train and checked the banks of the river. Then, they got on the train and ordered me to go back and to stop the train close to the glass factory. A German car arrived and two officers got out of the car. They ordered all the people sitting on the platforms to put their belongings close to the wagons. First, Germans selected a group of men who they brought to an antitank ditch located south of the glass factory, where two trucks were already parked. The second group of selected men was forced to load the belongings on the train. Meanwhile another group was brought in the direction of the antitank ditch. While walking, they threw away everything they had in their pockets, and tore and threw away their clothing. Then, women, children, and elderly people were brought to the anti-tank ditch. It lasted from 1pm to 6pm. At the end the group of men who loaded the belongings on the train was also escorted to the ditch. I drove the train back to Mineralnye Vody. » [Deposition of a machinist Aleksey S. given to the State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) in Mineralnye Vody, on July 12th, 1943; RG.22-002M: GARF: Fond 7021, Opis 17, Delo 2, p.202-204]
“We drove towards the airfield in Mineralnye Vody. I had to stop by the airfield building. My superior told me to wait there. So, I remained there but I could see what was happening. While waiting I didn’t see any air trainings. However, the building was occupied by one of the Luftwaffe units. From where I was, I could see the railroad that formed a bend on the right side of the ground. On the left side there was a ravine or an anti-tank ditch. I remember there were embankments of soil but the grass grew all over them. There were about ten or twelve freight cars parked on the railroads. When I arrived a column of people was marched from these cars to the pit, located on the left. According to my estimation, there were between 1,200 and 1,500 people. There were women and children. The people had to sit down close to the pit located on the airfield. After that, they were loaded in groups into the covered trucks and taken to another place where those of us who were waiting couldn’t see. They get inside the truck in groups of fifty or sixty people. From where I was, I couldn’t see the place where they got off the trucks. Those who waited remained about 800m-1km away from me. When I was observing the scene I noticed that they were gas vans. I have never seen any before but I heard a lot about them. After a while, when I didn’t see the gas vans anymore, I heard the gunshots. I suppose that those Jews who were force to unload the dead corpses from the gas vans, were shot dead while working. The gas vans were not equipped with dump body; so, all the corpses had be taken out one by one manually. [Deposition of Herbert S. Member of EinsatzKommando 12, given in Ratisbonne, on October 11th, 1962; B162-1151 p.24(213 AR-Z 1902/66 Vol. VI p.1349)]
Mineralnye Vody is located 155km west south of Stavropol. The first records of the Jewish community go back to the 19th century. This area was known for its health resorts. The biggest Jewish community lived in the nearby town of Pyatigorsk. Many Jews who settled down in these towns were mountain Jews. In 1893, 193 Jews lived in Pyatigorsk, and by 1920 its population reached 1,113 people making up 3% of the total population. There was a synagogue and a Jewish cemetery in Pyatigork. The majority of Jews lived off small scale trade. It is unclear how many Jews lived in the town on the eve of the war because hundreds of Jews, the majority of whom were women with children, old men, and some young men arrived to the towns once the war broke out. Some of them managed to evacuate to Kizliar in July-August 1941.
Mineralnye Vody was occupied by Germans on August 6, 1942. Immediately after the occupation, all the Jews were registered and marked with the distinguishing Stars of David on their clothes. They were subject to perform different manual work. The local Jews were murdered in the anti-tank ditch located close to the glass factory, 2,5km outside the town. The aktion was conducted on September 1st, 1942, by Einsatzgruppe D. Some Jews were shot dead by bullets at the edge of the ditch while others were gassed in gas vans and their bodies were buried in the same ditch. According to different sources between 200 and 500 Jews were murdered on that day. Within the next weeks about 2,800 Jews from Pyatigorsk and nearby villages, about 2,000 Jews from Yesentuki, over a hundred Jews from Zheleznogorsk, more than 1,800 Jews from Kislovodsk were murdered in the same anti-tank ditch near the glass factory. Before being gassed or shot by bullets in Mineralnye Vody, the Yesentuki Jews were confined in the school building, while the Zheleznogorsk Jews were detained in two different places: the cellar and the launtromat, Mechprachechnaya. Other Jews gathered at the railway station under the order and were brought to the execution site by train. In all, between 6,500 and 7,500 Jews were murdered in Mineralnye Vody.
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