Kherson (Cherson) | Kherson

Habad synagogue in Kherson, before 1917©Yad Vashem Photo archives Great Choral Synagogue of Kherson, 1902©Yad Vashem Photo archives Ivan Kh., born in 1927: “I know that several shootings took place there, because I heard gunshots several times.” © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum Viktor A.: “When my mother heard about the shooting, she bribed a guard by giving him her jewelry in order to save me. She swaddled me in a coat and passed me  to a neighbor through the prison bars” © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum Lilia S., born in 1934: “While my father was at the front my grandmother and I were confined to  the ghetto that was fenced in with barbed wire ” ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum The witness shows the photo of her grandmother Olha Lubarska, shot in 1941 in Kherson, and her grandfather, Matvii Lubarskyi, who passed away in 1933 ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum Matrona Yarova, a woman who took a Jewish boy through the prison bars and saved him ©From the personal archives. Photo taken by Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum Raisa P., born in 1931: “On our way to the shooting my mother pushed me out of the column to save me. ” ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum Larysa S., born in 1935: “Me and my mother were imprisoned along with other Jews born into mixed families. ” ©Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum Yahad’s team with a witness near the execution site © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The witness shows a place where several anti-tank trenches were located. Between 5,000 and 10,000 Jews were murdered here.  © Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Kherson

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before :
Anti-tank trenches
Memorials :
Yes
Period of occupation:
1941-1944
Number of victims :
Between 5,800- and 9,000

Witness interview

Ivan Kh., born in 1927, says: “In the autumn of 1941, the Jews who stayed in Kherson were gathered in stables next to the local prison. They were ordered to take their valuables with them. After, they were taken to the anti-tank trenches and shot. I know that several shootings took place there, because I heard gun shots several times. I saw people digging those trenches. The shooting site was located 3km away from the village of Zelenivka.” (Testimony n°2210, interviewed in Zelenivka on May 21st, 2017)

Soviet archives

“[…] The fascist administration ordered all the Jews to wear six pointed Star of David on their chests and backs. The Jewish population was subjected to perform hard and very often humiliating manual labor. They had to clean bathrooms, transport heavy things, were harnessed instead of horses to pull the cars with engines off, etc. A while after the occupation all of the Jewish population gathered in the so-called ghetto, located in the area of Forshandskiy street and nearby streets. They were not allowed to leave its territory neither during the night or the day. On September 23rd, 1941, about 8,500 Jews were, first, confined to the prison, and then, taken by truck outside the town in the direction of the kolkhoz, were they were shot. According to numerous testimonies children under 12 years old were not shot but poisoned with a pasty mixture that was put above their lips. […] Germans pushed the corpses of those who were still alive inside the pit which was later filled in. The ground continued to move for a long time. In all, under the German occupation about 10,000 Jews were murdered in Kherson.”[Act drawn up by State Extarordinary Commission (ChGK) on April 19th, 1944; RG 22.002M:7021-77/421]

German archives

“[...] Towards the middle or the end of September 1941, the Hauptkommando was transferred from Mykolaiv to Kherson. At that time, the Vorkommando, or more precisely the Teilkommando, had been already stationed there, under the orders of Hauptsturmführer H. The Kherson ghetto had already been created when the commando arrived. I cannot say today how many Jews exactly were confined there, but it is for sure that there were several thousands of them. [...] I know that the execution of Jews was carried out in Kherson before the arrival of the Hauptkommando. As far as I can remember, there were two executions. I was not present at those executions, nor did I give the order. They took place while the Teilkommando and Hauptsturmführer H. were stationed in Kherson.
After the arrival of the Hauptkommando, I gave the order to execute Jews, including men, women and children, gathered in the ghetto. I do not remember looking for or defining the execution site. During the Aktion, Jews from the ghetto were brought to the outskirts of the city. I do not know if the Jews were driven there by truck or brought there on foot. Both are possible. The execution took place at the edge of two anti-tank trenches located 8-12km outside the city, and 1-2km from the main road. I think that the execution lasted only one day. But considering the large number of victims, it is possible that the executions were carried out over several days. [...]
The victims were gathered at a distance of one hundred meters from the execution site. The site was hidden from them by the trucks. There were two execution commandos, each composed of 10-12 shooters, who remained at the edge of each trench. Each execution commando was divided into two or three groups and took turns during the execution. The victims were brought from the gathering site to the execution site and had to stay facing the pit. There was a shooter for each victim. During this execution, we fired with guns. [...]" [Deposition of Einsatzkommando 11a chief Paul Z., drawn up in Munich on January 9th, 1968; B162-1004]

Historical note

Kherson, situated in southern Ukraine, is the administrative center of the Kherson Region. It is an important port of the Black Sea and the Dnipro River. The town was founded in 1778. The first records of the local Jewish population date back to the second half of the 19th century. A lot of Jews immigrated to Kherson as a result of the southern region policy of resettlement.  According to the census, the Jewish population increased from 3,832 people in 1847 to 17,755 in 1897, making up 30% of the total population. Most of them were engaged in trade or handcraft. At that period Kherson was an important center of the Zionist movement, however from 1920s all Jewish institutions were closed. There was a Yiddish school, Tarbut schools and Yiddish department at local university. The Jews suffered from the pogroms conducted in 1905 and 1919 during which shops and houses were plundered and one person died. In 1921-1922 the whole local population suffered from a famine where thousands of people died. At that time many Jews were involved in industry and agriculture. In 1939, 16,145 Jews lived in Kherson comprising only 17% of the total population. Among the local Jews there were many refugees who had come from the west fleeing the Germans.

 

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Kherson was occupied by the German forces on August 19th, 1941. Many local Jews managed to evacuate from the city by that time leaving behind almost 45% of prewar Jewish population. Soon after the occupation the anti-Jewish measures were implemented. From August 20th, the Judenrat was created and all the Jews were forced to wear the Star of David. 17 Jews who refused to wear it were shot dead. After the Jews had to register themselves in Judenrat and give all their money and valuables. The first executions were conducted on August 29th and September 6th, 1941, killing about 400 Jews by mid-September 1941, according to German reports. On September 7th, 1941, a closed ghetto which numbered about 5,000 Jews, according to the historical resources, was created. All the Jews fit to work were subject to perform manual hard and humiliating labor. Then, all Jews were transferred from the ghetto to the prison. They joined the children from mixed marriages whom had already been gathered there a couple days before. On September 24th to  September25th, 1941, a mass shooting occurred 7 km north-east of the city near the village of Zelenivka. According to different historical resources between 5,000 and 8,000 Jews from the ghetto were shot in groups in two into anti-tank tranches by Sonderkommando 11a. In January 1942, another execution of 400 Jews from mixed marriages took place in the city.

Jewishgen

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