The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tells the story of one survivor of the Einsatzgruppen in Piryatin, Ukraine, when they killed 1,600 Jews on April 6, 1942, the second day of Passover:
I saw them do the killing. At 5:00 p.m. they gave the command, "Fill in the pits." Screams and groans were coming from the pits. Suddenly I saw my neighbor Ruderman rise from under the soil … His eyes were bloody and he was screaming: "Finish me off!" … A murdered woman lay at my feet. A boy of five years crawled out from under her body and began to scream desperately. "Mommy!" That was all I saw, since I fell unconscious.
- Babi Yar
The most notorious massacre of Jews in Ukraine was at the Babi Yar ravine outside Kiev, where 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation on September 29–30, 1941. (An amalgamation of 100,000 to 150,000 Ukrainian and other Soviet citizens were also killed in the following weeks). The mass killing of Jews in Kiev was decided on by the military governor Major-General Friedrich Eberhardt, the Police Commander for Army Group South (SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln) and the Einsatzgruppe C Commander Otto Rasch.
- Dzerzhinsk (Romanov)
Between August 1941 and June 1942, 1,800 Jews were murdered in four mass executions in the town and nearby locations.
- Kamien Koszyrski
On 10 August 1942, all the Jews were expelled from their houses, led to the cemetery and murdered. This preceded the final, total annihilation of the Jews in Kamien Koszyrski. The place no longer exists.
- Rovno and Volhynia
Rovno was the administrative center of Nazi activity in the Ukraine, and therefore the elimination of the town’s Jews was intensive from the start. On 6 November 1941 about 21,000 Jews were led to a pine grove in nearby Sosenki and massacred. The remaining 5,000 were packed into a ghetto. In summer 1942 a new wave of killings was launched. The remaining Jews in Rovno were killed on 13 July 1942. Until October of that year some 142,000 Jews in Volhynia were murdered. By the beginning of 1943 all remaining Jews in ghettos and camps where liquidated. Those who managed to escape joined the partisans in Volhynia’s forests. Even there, Jews were often faced with hostility and antisemitism and found that they were rejected by non-Jewish resisters. It is estimated that only 1.5% of Volhynia’s Jews survived.
- Ivano-Frankivsk, formerly Stanislau
Pre-1918: Stanislau, city and province capital in Galizien, Austria
Pre-1939: Stanislawów, city and province capital in Poland
Fall 1939 to June 1941: Stanislav, Ukrainian SSR
1941-44: Stanislau, capital of the Stanislau Kreis, Distrikt Galizien, Generalgouvernement
1944-91: Stanislav, (renamed in 1962: Ivano-Frankovsk), province capital, Ukrainian SSR
Post-1991: Ivano-Frankivsk, independent Ukraine
Between 1941 and 1944, almost one and a half million Ukrainian Jews were assassinated when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The immense majority was killed by Einsatzgruppen firing squads (mobile execution units in the East), Waffen SS units, the German police and local collaborators. Only a small minority was shot after having been deported to extermination camps.
The British and Americans became aware of the massacres as early as 1941, and Soviet Commissions registered them between 1944-45. The main perpetrators of the « Holocaust by bullets » were judged during the Einsatzgruppen Nuremberg trials between 1947-48 and, from the late 50"s onwards, in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Despite accounts by the rare survivors and judicial inquiries, this part of Holocaust history, which took place in Eastern Europe, is still virtually unknown. Since 2004, Father Patrick Desbois and the Yahad-In Unum research team have found many Ukrainian witnesses who actually saw the massacres or were requisitioned during the executions of the Jewish population. The witness accounts that Yahad-In Unum have assembled, and systematically compared with written documents, provide information as to the whereabouts of five hundred forgotten common graves. Various pieces of material evidence relating to the genocide (firearms, gun-casing, bullets) have also been gathered together. It has finally become possible to preserve and respect the victims' burial places.