The Destruction of the Jews of Odessa in the Light of Rumanian Documents
Little is known of the fate of Soviet Jewry during the years between 1941 and 1944, as the Soviet Union has not made available the relevant documents. However, Ilya Ehrenburg and Vasili Grosman did make a study immediately after the war, which was published in Rumania in 1947. The Germans had conquered the entire Transnistria region of the Ukraine by August 1941, except for Odessa, and ceded it to Rumania. Odessa fell to the German–Rumanian army in October. At the outbreak of the war, Odessa had a population of 600,000 of whom 180,000 were Jews and by the time of the occupation half had been evacuated. During the first two days, there was a mass slaughter of Jews. A few days later the headquarters of the Rumanian army was blown up and in retaliation thousands of Jews and communists were murdered in mass shootings and hangings. Women and children were herded into warehouses, which were set alight. Many of the remaining Jews were deported to nearby death camps where they were slaughtered. The 30,000 Jews remaining in Odessa were put in jail. Many tried to escape but were arrested and tortured. The rest were transferred to ghettoes in towns surrounding Odessa. Many died in the packed rail cars or during the march to their destination in bitter cold. By February 1942, no Jews were left in Odessa and its Jewish cemetery was destroyed. Some Russians and Ukrainians hid and fed Jews. In the spring of 1942 the city recovered, even flourished, and the Rumanians saw it as a second Bucharest. Skilled workers were recruited from the ghettos. On the eve of defeat in April 1944, the Germans who had reoccupied the town blew up most of the important buildings before their withdrawal. Only a few thousand Jews survived.