Yevpatroia (Eupatoria) | Crimea

Crimean Karaite © Taken from Wikipedia, Public domain / In the center of Yevapotria, 2013. ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The synagogue in Yevpatoria. © Mona Oren/Yahad-In Unum A Karaite house of worship in Yevpatoria. Karaite architecture is unique among Abrahamic religious design in that Kenesas are traditionally oriented in a north-south direction.  © Mona Oren/Yahad-In Unum Inside the kenesa. Karaite worship borrows heavily from Islam, requiring the removal of shoes and the use of prayer mats.  © Mona Oren/Yahad-In Unum Yahad’s team is looking for witnesses in Yevpatoria. ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Lidia R., born in 1930, with her lived in a Jewish colony, called Kary-Komzet, located 35km away of Yevpatoria. She used to go to the town to visit her Jewish friend Nadia Britman, who was murdered along with her family in Yevpatoria. ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Ya The execution site where the Jews were murdered on November 23, 1941. This site used to be located near the cargo freight station. © Mona Oren/Yahad-In Unum The execution site where the anti-tank ditches used to be located. © Mona Oren/Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Yevpatoria

2 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Anti-tank ditches at cargo train station (1) and at Krasnaya Gorka (2)
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
650/150

Witness interview

Lidia R., born in 1930, sheltered a young Jewish boy who escaped from the pit at Krasnaya Gorka :
Y. U.: Did he tell you something about the execution?
W: Yes, he did. He told us that first all the Jews were gathered. I don’t remember where exactly they were gathered, but I think it was on the former military base. He said that the truck arrived and they were taken in groups to Krasnaya Gorka. They were ordered to undress! He undressed and his mother and sister told him to fall inside once he heard the gunshots. He was only wounded in his shoulder, but he was completely covered with blood because of other corpses that fell on him. He managed to get out. He waited until night, got out of the pit and ran for 35km to our village. He knew it was a Jewish colony here. He arrived at our doorstep because we had a light on. He was surprised to see Russians living in the colony. But back then, we all helped each other. We gave him some food and my father’s clothes. He said that he would go further. After the war, we found out that many families helped the Jews, but under the occupation people didn’t talk about that. We were afraid of our own neighbors.
YIU: Did he tell you whether they stayed facing the pit or the shooter? –They faced the pit.
YIU: And how he knew when to jump inside?
W: His mother told him to jump before. And his sister covered him with her body. He told us that his name was Israel. I told him that it was a country! Then, he told his name was Izia. And that is all. Then, he left.» (Witness n°1699U, interviewed in Yevpatoria, on May 19, 2013)

Soviet archives

“From the beginning of the occupation, the German executioners started exterminate the Jewish population. On the 4th day of their stay in the town, the Germans ordered all the Jews to register and wear distinctive six-point stars on their front/back/clothing. They were sent to perform hard and dirty labor. […]
On November 20, 1941, the Germans ordered them to appear with their belongings at the military buildings located in the direction of the resort railway station under the pretext of evacuation. The 650 Jews who remained in the city set out on their final way. There were men, old people, and women with newborns. They walked along believing that they were going to be relocated. They were detained in those military buildings for two days.
On November 23, 1941, the mass extermination of the Jews started. Half undressed; they were forced onto the trucks and taken to the end of the anti-tank trench in the direction of the cargo train station where they were shot. […] Later, more than 150 Krymchak Jews were executed with the same cruelty. […]
In the anti-tank trench extending from the freight train station to the resort railway station, we discovered an execution site of the Jewish population where, according to the testimonies of the eyewitnesses and the results of the carried out excavations, 650 Jews were murdered.” [Act drawn up by the State Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on July 5, 1944 ; RG.22-002M : Fond 7021, Opis 9, Delo 35]

German archives

“[…]Shortly before, or after, the arrival of the unit in Yevpatoria a mass execution of Jews took place there, although it is not clear who carried it out. Following this, individual Jews continued to be sent to the unit by the police and the gendarmerie. Each time the Jews were detained in a prison located next to the unit’s living quarters until at least ten of them were assembled. When this had been done, K. ordered the defendant E. to prepare the execution of these Jews. Thereupon, E. formed an execution squad from members of the unit and, on the eve of the execution, once again asked every prisoner whether he was Jewish. The victims, who each time consisted of at least ten Jewish men, and, sometimes, included women as well, were taken by truck to an anti-tank trench located north of Yevpatoria. The truck stopped some 300 meters from the anti-tank trench. After the area was cordoned off, each time three to four of the group of victims who remained in the truck covered by a tarpaulin were taken to the anti-tank trench and placed with their backs to the pit. Not far from the anti-tank trench the victims, some of whom were crying and pleading for their lives, were forced to undress to their underwear. Immediately afterwards they were shot on the command to fire of the defendant E. and they fell into the anti-tank trench. The unit’s commander, K., was present each time at the execution site; he was in charge of the executions, which lasted 15 to 20 minutes.”[ Accusation against Johannes Sch. and other members of Sonderkommando 11b, made on May 5, 1975, in Munich; ZstL 1Js 58/1522-59/1112]

Historical note

Yevpatoria is a town located about 75 km northwest of Simferopol, on the western shore of the Crimea.  The Jewish community existed here under Tatar rule from 15 to 18th centuries.  At the end of the 18th century, there were about 100 Karaite families and a few Krymchaks, who followed Judaism but spoke Tatar language.  The town became the biggest center of the Karaites community all over the Russian empire. The Karaites, originated in Persia, are the strict followers of Torah, who rejects Talmud. The community had their own synagogue, press, school for cantors. According to the 1897 census, 1,592 Jews, both Krymchak and Ashkenazi, and 1,525 Karaites lived in Yevpatoria. At that time, different Zionist organizations were established. Several Yiddish schools were opened in the town. Due to the pogrom carried out in 1905 and migration of Jews to other towns, only 10% of the entire population was Jewish in 1926.  In 1920s many Jewish agricultural colonies were established in the area. The colonies were built with the help of American Agro Joint, supplying the colonists with agricultural equipment, seeds, and helping them to buy livestock. Local Jews lived off agricultural work, breeding, vegetable gardens, vineyards and small-scale trade. On the eve of the German occupation in November, 1941, the Jewish community numbered approximately 4,249 Jews, including Karaites, Krymchak and Ashkenazi Jews. 

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Yevpatoria was occupied on November 6, 1941. More than a half of the Jewish population managed to flee the town before the Germans arrived. Immediately after, a Judenrat was established and all the Jews were ordered to wear yellow badges in form of the Star of David on their chests and backs. It was prohibited to leave the town under threat of being killed. The Karaites community wasn’t persecuted by Germans as they weren’t considered as Jewish. The first mass shooting took place on November 23, 1941, near the cargo train station. It was conducted by Sonderkommando 11a. The victims, who were the Ashkenazi Jews, were first gathered on the territory of the former military base on November 20, and then three days after were taken by truck to the anti-tank trenches to be shot. According to the witnesses interviewed by Yahad, the Jews were brought to the execution site by truck. They had to undress and stand on the edge of the trench. The victims were shot in the back with machine guns. Many succeeded to survive the execution and stayed in hiding in the nearing villages.  According to the Soviet archives, about 650 Jews were shot and buried on that day.   In the late December 1941, 150 Krymchak Jews were murdered by members of Sonderkommando 11b in the anti-tank ditches located at Krasnaya Gorka. During 1942, several isolated executions of those Jews who were found in hiding took place.

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