Opyonki | Rostov

Mikhail M., born in 1928 witnessed the shooting of a Jewish family of three at a nearby quarry. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad – In Unum Maria K., born in 1924 remembers hearing shots coming from the quarry. She later found out a Jewish family were shot there. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad – In Unum Nikolai P., born in 1931: “When we got closer to see the bodies, they were still moving, in pain. The mother was still clutching her daughter’s hand.” ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad – In Unum The Yahad team interviewing Nikolai P. at the execution site. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad – In Unum This field used to be a quarry where several Jews were shot during the German occupation. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad – In Unum The Jews killed in this quarry were not even buried, their bodies were just dumped in some of the holes. The bodies were never reburied elsewhere. ©Les Kasyanov/Yahad – In Unum

Execution of Jews in Opyonki

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Stone quarry
Memorials:
No
Period of occupation:
1942-1943
Number of victims:
Several

Witness interview

Mikhail M., born in 1928: “I remember this Jewish family of three, an old couple and their 18-year-old daughter. They were shot by three German soldiers in gray uniforms. They were taken to a hole dug in a quarry away from the village. The young girl tried to flee but she was shot in the back by a German and then thrown into the hole. The old couple was shot from behind in front of the hole. The Germans only threw a few rocks in the grave and left it like that. A week later, the smell was unbearable. It was summer.” (Witness YIU/217R, interviewed in Opyonki on October 4, 2011)

Soviet archives

“Moved by fierce hatred of Russian people, the German fascist occupiers committed monstrous atrocities in the town of Prolestarskaya and in the district of Prolestarskii. There isn’t a crime that the Hitlerian executioners did not commit. Systematic killing, theft, abuse, sexual violence on women. This was all committed by the Hitlerians on such a scale that there is no doubt left that they did so on direct order and encouragement from the German command. […] In the town and all over the district the German slavers gathered 1,800 teenagers, young men and women, forcefully separating them from their families, and sent them to work in Germany.” [Act n°793 drawn up by Soviet State Extraordinary Commissio, GARF 7021-40-777]

Historical note

Opyonki is a village in the Proletarskii district, Rostov region, southwest Russia. It is located about 230 km (143mi) east of Rostov-on-Don. After the revolution, the village became ‘sovkhoz Proletarskii’, for its closeness to the town of Proletarsk. There were many Volksdeutsche living in the village. They were relocated to Germany in 1936. Because it was outside the Pale of Settlement at the time of the Russian Empire, there was no Jewish community in Opyonki, even after the Bolshevik revolution. As war broke out between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1941, however, many Jews fled eastwards and sought refuge in the Rostov region, including a few families in Opyonki. The Jewish refugees lived with the locals in their houses. Many who had enough money bought carts and continued their journey eastward. 

Holocaust by bullets in figures

The German occupation of Opyonki started in July 1942. A witness remembers that the Germans put up signs inviting Jewish refugees to present themselves at the Kommandantur, promising them a better life. But there were also drawings put up depicting Jews as slavers. 

There were not many Jews in Opyonki itself, but it seems the few Jewish families in the village were all caught by the Germans and shot on separate occasions. Yahad – In Unum found the confirmed execution site for two such families, five people in total. One of the families shot was composed of an older couple and their 18-year-old daughter. They were taken by three German soldiers to a nearby quarry outside the village and shot there. They were barely buried.

The other confirmed shooting Yahad discovered is that of two Jewish women, a mother in her twenties and her daughter. They were both shot in the same quarry by four Germans. Their bodies were left in one of the holes in the quarry, unburied. Once they shot the women, the Germans left in their car, that was parked nearby. It is likely other such shootings happened in this quarry, following the same modus operandi.

Just before the village was liberated, a huge column of prisoners marched through the village. There were about 200 of them, some on foot, some on carts. The Germans allowed the locals to get nearer to see if they knew anyone. But Soviet planes flew above, creating panic, and many prisoners escaped. The next day, the Red Army liberated Opyonki, in January 1943. 

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