Kamianets-Podilskyi massacre

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On this day in 1941, more than 23,000 Hungarian Jews were  murdered by the Nazi’s  in occupied Ukraine.

The Kamianets-Podilskyi massacre was a World War II mass shooting of Jews carried out in the opening stages of Operation Barbarossa, by mobile killing squads of Nazi German Order Police Battalion 320 along with Jeckeln’s Einsatzgruppen, the Hungarian soldiers, and the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police.

The killings were conducted on August 27 and August 28, 1941, in the Soviet city of Kamianets-Podilskyi (now Ukraine), occupied by German troops in the previous month on July 11, 1941.According to the Nazi German reports a total of 23,600 Jews were murdered, including 16,000 who had earlier been expelled from Hungary.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union had advanced to the point of mass air raids on Moscow and the occupation of parts of Ukraine. On August 26, Hitler displayed the joys of conquest by inviting Benito Mussolini to Brest-Litovsk, where the Germans had destroyed the city’s citadel. The grand irony is that Ukrainians had originally viewed the Germans as liberators from their Soviet oppressors and an ally in the struggle for independence. But as early as July, the Germans were arresting Ukrainians agitating and organizing for a provisional state government with an eye toward autonomy and throwing them into concentration camps. The Germans also began carving the nation up, dispensing parts to Poland (already occupied by Germany) and Romania.

But true horrors were reserved for Jews in the territory. Tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews had been expelled from that country and migrated to Ukraine. The German authorities tried sending them back, but Hungary would not take them. SS General Friedrich Jaeckeln vowed to deal with the influx of refugees by the “complete liquidation of those Jews by September 1.” He worked even faster than promised.

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On August 28, he marched more than 23,000 Hungarian Jews to bomb craters at Kamenets Podolsk, ordered them to undress, and riddled them with machine-gun fire. Those who didn’t die from the spray of bullets were buried alive under the weight of corpses that piled atop them.

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Janowska concentration camp and Lvov

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Awful atrocities were carried out at the Janowska concentration camp and surrounding Lvov(aka Lwow and Lviv) by the Nazis, Soviet troops and Ukrainian nationalists. To an extend it reminds me of the current situation in Aleppo where the population is being subjected by violence from all sides.

In September 1941, the Germans set up a factory on Janowska Street in the northwestern suburbs of Lvov, in southeastern Poland(today Lviv in Ukraine). This factory became part of a network of factories, the German Armament Works, owned and operated by the SS. Jews were used as forced laborers, mainly in carpentry and metalwork. In October 1941, the Germans established a camp housing the forced laborers next to the factory.

After the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland at the beginning of World War II, the city of Lwów in the Second Polish Republic(now Lviv, Ukraine) was occupied in September 1939 by the Soviet Union under the terms of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact.

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At that time, there were over 330,000 Jews residing in Lwów, including over 90,000 Jewish children and infants. Over 150,000 of them were refugees from the German-occupied western part of the Poland. In June 1941, the German Army took over Lvov in the course of the initially successful attack on the Soviet positions in eastern Poland, known as Operation Barbarossa. Almost no Jews of Lvov were alive at the end of the war, many being horrifically tormented and tortured before they were murdered.

The retreating Soviets killed about 7,000 Polish and Ukrainian civilians in June during the NKVD prisoner massacres in Lvov.

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The invading Germans blamed the NKVD massacre on the Soviet Jews in the NKVD ranks, and used the atrocity as propaganda tool to incite the first pogrom in which over 4,000 Polish Jews were killed between 30 June and 2 July 1941 by Ukrainian nationalists.

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The arrival of the Nazis let loose a wave of antisemitic feelings. Encouraged by German forces, local Ukrainian nationalists murdered additional 5,500 Jews during the second Lviv pogrom in 25–27 July 1941. It was known as the “Petliura Days”, named for the nationalist leader Symon Petliura. For three straight days, Ukrainian militants went on a murderous rampage through the Jewish districts of Lwów. Groups of Jews were herded out to the Jewish cemetery and to the prison on Łąckiego street where they were killed. More than 2,000 Jews died and thousands more were injured.

In early November 1941, the Nazis closed-off northern portions of the city of Lwów thus forming a ghetto.German police shot and killed thousands of elderly and sick Jews as they crossed under the rail bridge on Pełtewna Street (which was called bridge of death by Jews), while they were on their way to the ghetto. In March 1942, the Nazis began to deport Jews from the ghetto to the Belzec extermination camp. By August 1942, more than 65,000 Jews had been deported from Lwów and killed. In early June 1943, the Germans destroyed and liquidated the ghetto

In addition to the Lwów ghetto, in September 1941, the Germans set up a D.A.W. (Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke – the German Armament Works) workshop in prewar Steinhaus’ mill machines factory on 134 Janowska Street, in northwestern suburbs of Lwów (at that time in German-occupied southeastern Poland, now in western Ukraine). This factory became a part of a network of factories, owned and operated by the SS. The commandant of the camp was SS-Haupsturmführer Fritz Gebauer. Jews who worked at this factory were used as forced laborers, mainly working in carpentry and metalwork.

In October 1941, the Nazis established a concentration camp beside the factory, which housed the forced laborers along with the rest of the prisoners. Thousands of Jews from the Lwów ghetto were forced to work as slave laborers in this camp. When the Lwów ghetto was liquidated by the Nazis, the ghetto’s inhabitants who were fit for work were sent to the Janowska camp; the rest were deported to the Belzec for extermination. The concentration camp was guarded by a Sonderdienst battalion of the SS-trained Hiwi police guards known as “Trawniki men”.

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In addition to being a forced-labor camp for Jews, Janowska was a transit camp during the mass deportations of Polish Jews to the killing centers in 1942. Jews underwent a selection process in Janowska camp similar to that used at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek extermination camps. Those classified as fit to work remained at Janowska for forced labor. The majority, rejected as unfit for work, were deported to Belzec and killed, or else were shot at the Piaski ravine, located just north of the camp. In the summer and fall of 1942, thousands of Jews (mainly from the Lwów ghetto) were deported to Janowska and killed in the Piaski ravine.

The Nazis occasionally allowed small groups of Jews to go to town for daylong leaves of absence. They would use this temporary freedom to dig up Torahs that had been hidden in Lwów’s Jewish cemetery.The Torahs were then cut into pieces which were hidden under their clothes and smuggled back into the camp. After the war the various pieces were assembled into a single scroll, the Yanov torah, which is currently in California.

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Ahead of the Soviet advance, in November 1943 the new camp commandant SS-Hauptsturmführer Friedrich Warzok was put in charge of the evacuation of the Janowska inmates to Przemyśl.

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The Germans attempted to destroy the traces of mass murder during Sonderaktion 1005.

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Prisoners were forced to open the mass graves in Lesienicki forest and burn the bodies. On November 19, 1943, the Sonderkommando inmates staged a revolt against the Nazis and attempted a mass escape. A few succeeded, but most were recaptured and killed. The SS and their local auxiliaries murdered at least 6,000 Jews who had survived the uprising killings at Janowska, as well as Jews in other forced labor camps in Galicia, at the time of the camps’ liquidation.

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One of the inmates and a survivor of the Janowska Concentration camp was Simon Wiesenthal.

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In late 1941, Wiesenthal and his wife were transferred to Janowska concentration camp and forced to work at the Eastern Railway Repair Works. He painted swastikas and other inscriptions on captured Soviet railway engines, and Cyla was put to work polishing the brass and nickel. In exchange for providing details about the railways, Wiesenthal obtained false identity papers for his wife from a member of the Armia Krajowa, a Polish underground organisation.

She travelled to Warsaw, where she was put to work in a German radio factory. She spent time in two different labour camps as well. Conditions were harsh and her health was permanently damaged, but she survived the war. The couple was reunited in 1945, and their daughter Paulinka was born the following year.

 

 

The Hermann Graebe testimony.

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Herman Friedrich Graebe or Gräbe, (June 19, 1900 – April 17, 1986) was a German manager and engineer in charge of a German building firm in Ukraine, who witnessed mass executions of the Jews of Dubno on October 5, 1942 by Nazis. Following the war he wrote a famous and horrifying testimony.

“My foreman and I went directly to the pits. Nobody bothered us. Now I heard rifle shots in quick succession from behind one of the earth mounds. The people who had got off the trucks – men, women and children of all ages – had to undress upon the order of an SS man who carried a riding or dog whip.

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They had to put down their clothes in fixed places, sorted according to shoes, top clothing and undergarments. I saw heaps of shoes of about 800 to 1000 pairs, great piles of under-linen and clothing.

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Without screaming or weeping these people undressed, stood around in family groups, kissed each other, said farewells, and waited for a sign from another SS man, who stood near the pit, also with a whip in his hand. During the fifteen minutes I stood near, I heard no complaint or plea for mercy. I watched a family of about eight persons, a man and a woman both of about fifty, with their children of about twenty to twenty-four, and two grown-up daughters about twenty-eight or twenty-nine. An old woman with snow white hair was holding a one year old child in her arms and singing to it and tickling it. The child was cooing with delight. The parents were looking on with tears in their eyes. The father was holding the hand of a boy about ten years old and speaking to him softly; the boy was fighting his tears. The father pointed to the sky, stroked his head and seemed to explain something to him. At that moment the SS man at the pit started shouting something to his comrade. The latter counted off about twenty persons and instructed them to go behind the earth mound. Among them was the family I have just mentioned. I well remember a girl, slim with black hair, who, as she passed me, pointed to herself and said, “twenty-three years old.” I walked around the mound and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave.

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People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people shot were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was nearly two-thirds full. I estimated that it already contained about a thousand people. I looked for the man who did the shooting. He was an SS man, who sat at the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his feet dangling into the pit. He had a tommy-gun on his knees and was smoking a cigarette. The people, completely naked, went down some steps which were cut in the clay wall of the pit and clambered over the heads of the people lying there to the place to which the SS man directed them. They lay down in front of the dead or wounded people; some caressed those who were still alive and spoke to them in a low voice. Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the pit and saw that the bodies were twitching or the heads lying already motionless on top of the bodies that lay beneath them. Blood was running from their necks. The next batch was approaching already. They went down into the pit, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot.”

Graebe later provided vital testimony in the Einsatzgruppen Trial, one of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, invoking bitter persecution from many of his countrymen. To escape the hostility, Graebe moved his family to San Francisco in 1948, where he lived until his death in 1986. Hermann Graebe was honoured as a ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ by Yad Vashem.

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The Death Match 9 August 1942

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With the European Cup Finales upon our doorsteps it is time to go back into history of football for a bit.

Although as a Dutchman it aches me to admit that the Germans generally put up a good team for the tournament, there is however a black mark in the German football history.

KIEV, Ukraine — There are few striking features about Start Stadium except its disrepair. Wooden planks in the grandstand, like neglected teeth, are mostly loose or missing. Behind the tiny seating area, though, a sturdy column rises and supports a statue. It depicts a muscular, naked man heroically kicking a soccer ball into the beak of a trampled eagle.

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On the 9th of August 1942, a group of men who worked at Kiev’s Bakery #3 took on the might of the Nazi Luftwaffe team and triumphed.  The game was dubbed the “Death Match”.  It was a match that went down in legend and folklore.  It was a match that was used for Soviet propaganda.  It was a match that provided the inspiration for the 1981 film Escape to Victory.  It was a match where the events surrounding the game are still being discussed and debated.  It had come about because of the remarkable feats of F.C. Start.

On the 19th of September 1941 the Nazis successfully invaded and captured Kiev.  A few days after they took over the city, the Nazis slaughtered over 33,000 Jews at the ravine of Babi Yar.

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In their attempts to keep the local population under control the Nazi rulers decided to introduce a series of football matches in June 1942.  It was part of an effort to distract and pacify the populace with a sense of “normality.”  Little did they know that a group of former Dynamo and Lokomotiv Kiev players who worked at a bakery would turn into a symbol of resistance for the people of Kiev.

The formation of F.C. Start effectively began with Nikolai Trusevich.  Trusevich was the goalkeeper of Dynamo Kiev before the outbreak of World War II.  He enlisted in the army to defend Kiev but soon became a prisoner of war and was held in the Darnitsa camp after the Nazi’s captured the city.  Trusevich was eventually released, after signing papers pledging loyalty to the new regime (not that he had much choice considering the alternative), and returned to Kiev.

On August 6, 1942 FC Start played the German team Flakelf. There was an estimated 2,000 spectators in attendance, with each spectator paying a total of five rubles to attend. Zenit Stadium was lined with SS soldiers and police dogs as an attempt to intimidate the Start players.

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(I am not sure if this is an actual picture or from the movie which was made in 2012)

The Flakelf team consisted of German soldiers who manned antiaircraft guns around Kiev. FC Start dominated the first game by defeating the Germans 5-1. The German team would demand a rematch. The “Death Match” or second match took place on 9 August 1942 at the Kiev city stadium against the German team Flakelf, made up of air defense artillery football players.

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With an audience of 2000,the teams met again three days later, in the later so-called “Death Match”. The poster informed that Flakelf had a “strengthened” team but did not reveal any names. But it named 14 Start players, amongst them Lev Gundarev, Georgi Timofeyev and Olexander Tkachenko, Ukrainian policemen under German command.

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The score was 5–3 in favour of Start. Only the first half of the match is documented: The Germans opened the score, then Ivan Kuzmenko and Makar Honcharenko two times marked the 3–1 score for half time. After the match a German took a photograph of both teams showing a relaxed atmosphere. Some days later he offered a copy to former Lokomotiv player Volodymyr Balakin.This photograph was never published in Soviet times.

Afterwards the winners drank a glass of self-made vodka and met at a party in the evening.

There were stories that in the aftermath of the match the players of F.C. Start were rounded up and executed.  That wasn’t the case though as the team played one more game a week after the infamous “Death match,” thrashing Rukh 8:0.

On the 18th of August 1942 the Gestapo arrived at Bakery #3 and read out a list of names who were required for questioning.  The names were of the players of F.C. Start.  The Gestapo wanted to prove that the players were agents of the NKVD, the secret police, and knew that the organization had links to Dynamo Kiev prior to the war.  Apparently a picture of Nikolai Korotkykh in an NKVD uniform was discovered and he was tortured to death.  The story goes that his sister had turned him in after being interrogated by the Nazis.

The remaining members of the team were sent to a concentration camp at Syrets.  It was there, six months after they had been arrested, that Alexei Klimenko, Ivan Kuzmenko and Nikolai Trusevich met their fate.  The commander of the concentration camp, Paul Radomski, had ordered the prisoners of the camp to line-up and decreed that every third one would be shot.  There are differing reasons given for his decision to exact punishment, ranging from revenge for attacks by Soviet partisans to retribution for prisoner disobedience.  No matter what, they were three pillars of the F.C. Start side were felled.  Trusevich, it was said, was wearing the goalkeeping top he wore for F.C. Start in the final moments of his life.

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Makar Goncharenko, Mikhail Sviridovsky and Feodor Tyutchev, who were in Kiev as part of the work squad, took their opportunity to flee fearing that they would be killed if they returned to Syrets.

The reports give several reasons for the execution:

  • A conflict concerning the dog of the camp commandor Paul Radomski: Some prisoners were said to have beaten it with a shovel in the camp kitchen. On this situation one of the prisoners had attacked an SS soldier.Radomski
  • Punishment for the escape of some prisoners.
  • Disobiedience of prisoners who were ordered to hang other prisoners who tried to flee from the camp.
  • A sabotage act of partisans on a tank repair facility

After the fall of the Nazis the Soviet government initially played down the story of F.C Start with the exploits of the team only being recognized and broadly told in the late 1950s.  The regime soon came to realize the propaganda value of using the legend of F.C. Start to further their ideological cause. From then on the Soviet government used the story of F.C. Start for their own purposes.  They promoted the myth that a number of the team were immediately shot after the game and died for their ideology and ideals.  Indeed, when Goncharenko was discussing the aftermath of game in 1985 he claimed that Trusevich’s last words were “long live Stalin, long live Soviet Sport.”  Again, there are differing accounts of exactly what words, if any, Trusevic uttered.  Goncharenko may have felt obliged to give the regime’s version of events..

After the publication of a report in a German newspaper repeating the Soviet version a case about the “Death Match” was opened by the prosecution office of Hamburg in July 1974.As Soviet authorities did not collaborate on the case, it was closed in March 1976. In 2002 the Ukrainian authorities informed Hamburg about their new investigation. So the case was reopened, but finally closed by the investigation commission in February 2005. The commission was not able to find any connections between the game and the execution of people who participated in it, nor any person responsible for the executions being still alive. Radomski had been killed on 14 March 1945.

Either way one can not help but wonder if these men were killed because of the match.

Many may never have heard of this story while some may have forgotten it but the city of Kyiv shall forever remember this incredibly brave group of eleven men who stood for everything the city believed in, the men who held this city together through one year of the war, the men who defeated Germany, the men who expressed themselves through the sport they loved, the men who wanted to free Ukraine!

Two movies were inspired on the event. Although the 1981 one movie “Escape to Victory”directed by John Huston is only very loosely based on the match, the only similarities it has is a match between Germans and Non Germans during WWII. In the movie the Germans play allied POWs.

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In 2012 the Russian movie “Match” ,which is actually based on the event , caused quite some controversy in the Ukraine.

Regulators said the film could incite aggressive fans just weeks before Ukraine hosted several games played by Germany’s national team during the 2012 European Championship from June 8-July 1.

‘There always are people – hooligans – who use football to spill out their aggression and some of those people may be influenced by (the film),’ said political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.

In the Dynamo Kiev Stadium  in Kiev a monument has been erected depicting some of the players reputedly executed by the Nazis.

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Whether the players were eventually executed or not I don’t really know for certain, but given the fact that the Germans were defeated twice must have been a blow to the Nazi propaganda machine and therefore it would not surprise me in the slightest that the  men were killed because of this.

 

 

Deportation of the Crimean Tatars 1944

Let it never be said that the Eurovision Songcontest can’t be an inspiration to write a historical piece.

The lyrics for “1944” concern the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, in the 1944, by the Soviet Union at the hands of Joseph Stalin. Jamala was particularly inspired by the story of her great-grandmother Nazylkhan, who was in her mid-20s when she and her five children were deported to barren Central Asia. One of the daughters did not survive the journey. Jamala’s great-grandfather was fighting in World War II in the Red Army at this time and thus could not protect his family.

The forcible deportation of the Crimean Tatars from Crimea was ordered by Joseph Stalin as a form of collective punishment for alleged collaboration with the Nazi occupation regime in Taurida Subdistrict during 1942-1943.

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The state-organized removal is known as the Sürgünlik in Crimean Tatar. A total of more than 230,000 people were deported, mostly to the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. This included the entire ethnic Crimean Tatar population, at the time about a fifth of the total population of the Crimean Peninsula, as well as smaller numbers of ethnic Greeks and Bulgarians.

A large number of deportees (more than 100,000 according to a 1960s survey by Crimean Tatar activists) died from starvation or disease as a direct result of deportation. It is considered to be a case of ethnic cleansing.  For a long time Crimean Tatars and Soviet dissidents called for recognition of the genocide of Crimean Tatars. On November 12, 2015 parliament of Ukraine adopted a resolution recognizing the event as a genocide and declared 18 May as a Day of Remembrance for the victims of Crimean Tatar genocide.

The events of World War II   had a huge impact on the entire Crimean Tatar population. The Axis occupation of the Crimean peninsula precipitated a brutal war between Soviet partisans and German and Romanian forces. This war involved Crimean Tatars on both sides. After the Soviet victory   in World War II, the Stalin regime exiled the entire Crimean Tatar population to Uzbekistan and Eastern Russia. Crimean Tatar soldiers in the Red Army found themselves rewarded for their loyalty with harsh forced labor in coal mines and lumber camps in the Urals. These events still haunt the Crimean Tatars both demographically and psychologically. In 1939, the Soviet census counted 218,179 Crimean Tatars in the Crimean ASSR.[By 1953, their numbers in the USSR had dropped to 165,259 people scattered throughout Kazakhstan, Central Asia, the Urals, and Siberia. This loss becomes even more staggering when the pre-war growth of the Crimean Tatar population is taken into account. Between 1923 and 1939, the Crimean Tatar population increased from 150,000 to over 218,000.The scale of this demographic loss gives a small indication of the traumatic devastation the war, deportations, exile, and forced labor had upon the Crimean Tatars.

When the Soviet Union was first established, Crimean Tatars were recognized as the indigenous people of the Crimean peninsula under the policy of Korenizatsiya, and the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Crimean ASSR) was established.

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Under this administration, Crimean Tatars enjoyed cultural autonomy and the promotion of their culture, as the Crimean Tatar language had co-official language status along with Russian and Crimean Tatar cultural activities, including establishment of cultural institutions, museums, libraries and theaters, proliferated. However, under Joseph Stalin, the official policy of the Soviet government turned to one of repression. Under the policy of dekulakization, a number of Crimean Tatars were deported to Siberia and the Ural Mountains and the Crimean Tatar people suffered from the Soviet famine of 1932–33, which was exacerbated by the destructive effects of collectivization on Crimean Tatar orchards, vineyards and farms.

In September 1941, during the German 11th Army and troops from the Romanian Third Army and Fourth Army entered the Crimean Peninsula and started the Crimean Campaign of World War II. By November, they controlled the entire peninsula except for the city of Sevastopol. After a siege lasting for months, Sevastopol also fell and the peninsula was occupied by Army Group A with the 17th Army.

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With the fall of the peninsula to the Germans, the resistance activity of the Soviet partisans, led by A.N. Mokrousov and A.V. Martynov and organized by the NKVD and activists of the Communist Party began. However, Crimean Tatars were banned from joining this movement. Historian J. Otto Pohl has accused Mokrousov and Martynov of incompetence and extreme racism against the Crimean Tatar population. Some Crimean Tatar communists were forced out of their refuges in woodlands by the partisans, which resulted in their execution by the occupying German forces. The partisans specifically targeted and destroyed Crimean Tatar villages; according to Pohl, this was not because of their suspected collaboration but rather a “Slavic animosity against the Tatars”. Crimean Tatar villages were also pillaged for food by the partisans.

On 2 January 1942, the German government authorized the formation of “self-defense battalions” by the Crimean Tatars, and by 15 February, 1,632 Crimean Tatars had already been recruited into these troops Overall, the number of Crimean Tatar men who joined these battalions was around 2,000, a figure which was “given Stalin’s terror, surprisingly [small]” according to The Guardian.The motivations of Crimean Tatar men who joined these battalions varied. Some were members of the defeated 51st Army and had been taken as prisoners of war by the German Army. They joined the battalions to avoid the harsh conditions in the POW camps in Simferopol and Mykolaiv, where starvation and disease were rife. Some aimed to protect their villages from the activities of Soviet partisans. However, 15% of the adult male Crimean Tatar population remained active in the ranks of the Red Army, and some Crimean Tatars were taken to Germany as forced laborers, called Ostarbeiter

The official Soviet explanation for the deportations was that the Crimean Tatars betrayed the USSR and collaborated with Nazi Germany. GKO resolution 5859ss officially accused the Crimean Tatars of mass treason.

In the period of the Fatherland war many Crimean Tatars betrayed the Motherland, deserted from units of the Red Army defending the Crimea, and turned over the country to the enemy, joined German formed voluntary Tatar military units to fight against the Red Army in the period of occupation of the Crimea by German-Fascist troops and participated in German punitive detachments. Crimean Tatars were particularly noted for their brutal reprisals towards Soviet partisans, and also assisted the German occupiers in organizing the forcible sending to German slavery and mass destruction of Soviet people.Crimean Tatars actively collaborated with the German occupying powers, participating in the so called “Tatar National Committees” organized by German intelligence and were extensively used by the Germans to infiltrate the rear of the Red Army with spies and diversionists. “Tatar National Committees,” in which the leading role was played by White Guard-Tatar emigres, with the support of the Crimean Tatars directed their activity at the persecution and oppression of the non-Tatar population of the Crimea and conducted work in preparation for the forcible separation of the Crimea from the Soviet Union with the assistance of the German armed forces.

Most of the 20,000 Crimean Tatars in German military units, however, retreated to Germany in May 1944. The majority of Crimean Tatar young men remaining in the USSR were Red Army soldiers fighting against the Germans. Most of the Crimean Tatar population remaining in the Crimea in May 1944 were women and children.The Soviet government did not merely send suspected German collaborators and their families into exile. Instead it deported innocent women, children, invalids, Red Army veterans, Communist Party members and Komsomolists without exception. In March 1949 the special settlements contained8,995 former Red Army soldiers of Crimean Tatar nationality.These veterans included 534 officers, 1,392 sergeants, and 7,079 rank and file soldiers. Also among the Crimean Tatar special settlers were 742 Communist Party members and 1,225 Komsomolists.The charges of treason against the Crimean Tatar nation were thusspurious. A fact recognized by the Soviet government in 1967.

The real reason for the deportation of the Crimean Tatars appears to be related to Soviet foreign policy objectives in the Middle East.The Stalin regime had designs on Turkish territory after WWII. Moscow desired to obtain the Turkish provinces of Kars and Adharan. It also wanted to establish military bases in the Dardenelle Straits. In March 1945, Molotov informed the Turkish ambassador to Moscow that the Soviet Union was not going to renew the 1925 Soviet-Turkish Treaty of Neutrality. On 7 July 1945, Molotov formally requested that Turkey allow Soviet naval bases in the Straits and cede Kars and Ardahan. Stalin reiterated this request at both the Yalta and Potsdam summits.On 20 May 1945, the USSR demanded that Turkey acquiesce to Soviet desires on these matters.At this time the USSR began to put military and diplomatic pressure on Turkey to meet its demands. Part of this campaign involved a massive anti-Turkish propaganda effort among Armenians and Georgians in the Caucasus. Soviet actions aimed at forcing Turkey to meet its demands continued until September 1946. They ended when President Truman returned the body of the recently deceased Turkish ambassador to the US back to Turkey. Truman sent the ambassador’s body back on board the Battleship Missouri escorted by the Aircraft Carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt and several destroyers.Moscow understood this not so subtle message and ceased its bullying of Ankara.

The Stalin regime deported the Karachays, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Crimean Tatars, and Meskhetian Turks in preparation for this anti-Turkish campaign. All of these Muslim nationalities had historical and cultural ties to Turkey. They also all occupied strategic areas of the Soviet Union in relation to Turkey. The Meskhetian Turks inhabited the Georgian-Turkish border, the Karachays, Chechens, Ingush, and Balkars lived near the main highways through the Caucasus, and the Crimean Tatars made their homes near the naval bases and facilities of the Black Sea Fleet. The Stalin regime feared that these nationalities would not be completely loyal to the USSR in the event of a conflict with Turkey. In the minds of Stalin and Beria these ethnic groups represented a potential pro-Turkish fifth column living close to vulnerable Soviet military assets. Thus one of the main reason for the deportation of these groups was to prevent any espionage, sabotage, diversion, or other assistance to Ankara by their members in the event of a Soviet-Turkish conflict. The importance of the Crimean peninsula in such a conflict had already been demonstrated in the Crimean War in the last century. The Soviet leadership believed that military control of the Black Sea depended upon a solidly loyal population in the Crimea.   Hence the Stalin regime deemed it necessary to deport the Crimean Tatars with theirlinguistic, cultural and historical ties to Turkey far away from the region to Uzbekistan and the Ural

A total of 238,500 people were deported, compared to a recorded total of 9,225 Crimean Tatars who had served in anti-Soviet Tatar Legions and other German-formed battalions.

The deportation began on 18 May 1944 early morning in all Crimean-inhabited localities and lasted until 16:00 on 20 May 1944.More than 32,000 NKVD troops participated in this action.

The forced deportees were given only 30 minutes to gather personal belongings, after which they were loaded onto cattle trains and moved out of Crimea. A deportee recalled the knocking of their door at 3 am on 18 May and being given 15 minutes to get ready.[16] Despite the fact that the decree allowed the deportees to take their “personal items, clothing, household objects, dishes and utensils, and up to 500 kilograms of food per family” with them,some deportees did not take anything with them as the events were reminiscent of the Holocaust, and they expected to be killed soon.[16] The deportees were brought to central gathering stations in Simferopol and Bakhchysarai, and after a short waiting period, loaded on trains.

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183,155 – 193,865 Crimean Tatars were deported, 151,136 of them to Uzbek SSR, 8,597 to Mari ASSR, 4,286 to Kazakh SSR, the rest 29,846 to the various oblasts of Russian SFSR.According to NKVD records, 2,444 Crimean Tatar families were separated during the deportation.This was considered to be intentional by the Crimean Tatars, as they believed that the aim of the Soviet government was to achieve their deaths by any means; if not physically, then through grief and loneliness.At the same moment, most of the Crimean Tatar men who were fighting in the ranks of the Red Army were demobilized and sent into forced labor camps in Siberia and in the Ural mountain region.

According to eyewitness accounts, the NKVD officials forgot to deport the Crimean Tatars in the fishing villages of the Arabat Spit. On 19 July 1944, during a celebration about the deportation, when Bogdan Kobulov learned about these villages, he allegedly ordered that no Crimean Tatar should be left alive within 24 hours. Following this, all inhabitants of these villages were locked up in an old and big boat, which sailed to the deepest part of the Azov Sea and was then sunk. Soviet soldiers awaited in a nearby ship with machine guns.There are some theories that this incident is a myth. While there is no documentary evidence, Crimean Tatars refute these theories by eyewitness accounts, such as that of linguist Naciye Bekir.

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The train journey of the deportees to the destinations was carried out under harsh conditions and resulted in a large number of deaths. Michael Rywkin puts the number of deaths during the train journeys at 7,900, but Aurélie Campana wrote that this number could be underestimated. According to official Soviet data, 7,889 people, amounting to approximately 5% of the Crimean Tatar population was presumed dead during the deportation. The deportation was carried out in sealed box cars, and thousands of deportees died because of thirst. Beria related to Stalin that “no excesses were committed” during the deportation.

The cars were called “crematoria on wheels” by Crimean Tatars. The doors and windows were tightly bolted to prevent the entry of fresh air, there was no medical care and little food.This led to the deaths of especially elderly people and children, who could not withstand the suffocating conditions and the lack of food. Grigorii Burlitskii, a NKVD officer overseeing the deportation who later defected, reported that “they were packed into wagons like sardines, the wagons were locked and sealed and put under the guard of military detachments”. According to testimonies, the doors of the cars were only opened upon arrival to the Kazakh steppe and the dead were dumped along the railway track, with the deportees not given the time to bury them.

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Men and women were deported together, which constituted a problem due to embarrassment when it came to personal hygiene. According to eyewitness reports, a girl had her intestines explode as she was too shy to defecate in the presence of the men on the train. While some wealthy Crimean Tatars did take gold jewelry, ornaments and coins with them, they often had to trade them for food along the journey.

The deportation was poorly planned and executed; local authorities in the destination areas were not properly informed about the scale of the matter and did not receive enough resources to accommodate the deportees. The lack of accommodation and food, the failure to adapt to new climatic conditions and the rapid spread of diseases had a heavy demographic impact during the first years of exile

The Soviet government provoked xenophobia amongst the inhabitants of the destinations against the Crimean Tatars, as a part of a policy of demonization and dehumanization. According to Greeta Lynn Uehling, they were given precautions that “cyclops” and “cannibals” would be arriving and were advised to stay away from them.Some deportees were examined upon arrival by locals to determine if they had horns on their skulls.

From May to November 10,105 Crimean Tatars died of starvation in Uzbekistan (7% of those deported to the Uzbek SSR). Nearly 30,000 (20%) died in exile during the following year and a half according to NKVD data.

Upon their arrival in Central Asia, Crimean Tatars were forced to live in special settlement camps, administered by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and surrounded by barbed wire. They were forced to report to the settlement commanders every three days, providing an account of their family and work progress. Leaving the camps was punished by five years of hard forced labor.According to Soviet dissident information, many Crimean Tatars were also made to work in the large-scale projects conducted by the GULAG system. In these forced labor camps, deportees recall being assigned the heaviest tasks available and awoken before dawn for 12-hour workdays. According to official Soviet statistics, 86,917 deportees were placed in jobs under the Council of People’s Commissars, with the greatest number (56,961 people) being sent to Narkomzem.

The Crimean Tatars found the first years of exile in Uzbekistan extremely difficult. The Uzbeks met the exiled Crimean Tatars with hostility.NKVD agitatorspublicly slandered the Crimean Tatars as traitors and Nazi collaborators in Uzbekistan prior to their arrival. This NKVD propaganda stressed Crimean Tatar collaboration with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union while Uzbeks fought in the Red Army. Not only did the Uzbeks refuse to assist the dislocated Crimean Tatars, but in some cases they stoned them. The hostility of the Uzbeks dissipated after they learned the Crimean Tatars were fellow Muslims. Far from being Nazi collaborators who believed Central Asians were untermenschen (subhumans), the Crimean Tatars shared the same religious beliefs and traditions as the Uzbeks. The initial hostility of the Uzbeks, however, meant that the Crimean Tatars had to face the burdens of exile without any local assistance during 1944 and 1945

In Uzbekistan, Stalin ordered the settlement of Crimean Tatars in kolkhozes (collective farms), sovkhozes (state-owned farms) and settlements around factories for industrial and agricultural production.

The deportees partially provided the required workforce for the industrial development of the area. Regardless of their former profession and skills, Crimean Tatars were forced to do heavy labor. Their places of residence consisted of barracks, makeshift shelters, parts of factories and communal housing. This contrasted with their traditional lifestyle in villages and resulted in its destruction.

Crimean Tatar activists tried to evaluate the demographic consequences of the deportation. They carried out a census in all the scattered Tatar communities in the middle of the 1960s. The results of this inquiry show that 109,956 (46.2%) Crimean Tatars of the 238,500 deportees died between July 1, 1944 and January 1, 1947 due to starvation and disease.There are estimates that the death toll in the first five years is closer to 30% of the deported Crimean Tatar population.

The Soviet government planned the ethnic assimilation of the Crimean Tatar community into the Central Asian population. It destroyed Tatar cultural assets; this included the destruction of Tatar monuments and burning of Tatar manuscripts and books,including those by Lenin and Marx.

 

Tatar mosques were converted into cinemas and warehouses, gravestones of Tatars were used as building material. Exiled Crimean Tatars were banned from speaking of Crimea and official Soviet texts, including the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, erased all references to them. When applying for internal passports, “Crimean Tatar” was not accepted as an existing ethnic group and those that designated themselves as “Crimean Tatars” were automatically denied passports.The traditional production methods of the Crimean Tatars were destroyed through the force labor imposed on them.

The Soviet Union engaged in a policy of “toponymic repression” against Crimean Tatars. This commenced with a decree from the Party Committee of the Crimean Oblast on 20 October 1944, ordering the renaming of all Tatar, Greek and German-language place names (including mountains and rivers), and was followed by a decree of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet Presidium on 14 December, stipulating the renaming of all districts and district centers to Russian-language names. Two more decrees followed on 21 August 1945 and 18 May 1948, resulting in the renaming of 1389 more Crimean Tatar towns and villages.

The Soviet government of the time denied the nature of the deportation by claiming that it was voluntary and reflecting it in this light to the domestic and international media. At the time of the deportations, the term “resettlement” was used by the NKVD instead of “deportation”.

A revisionist approach was adopted in the historical presentation of Crimean Tatars, where they were represented as bandits and thieves that had no developmental contributions. In some Soviet spy novels, they were vilified as evil Nazi agents and traitors.

On 28 April 1956, by the decree of the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the USSR, the Crimean Tatars were released from special settlement, accompanied by a restoration of their civil rights. In the same year, the Crimean Tatars started a petition to allow their repatriation to Crimea. They held mass protests in October 1966, but these were violently quelled by the Soviet military. On 21 June 1967, the first meeting of the Soviet government, represented by the KGB Chairman, the Minister of the Internal Affairs and the Secretary of the USSR Supreme Soviet with a Crimean Tatar delegation took place. Prompt rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars were promised, but never fulfilled. On 27 August and 2 September 1967, thousands of Crimean Tatars took to the streets to protest in Tashkent. The protests were cracked down upon, but prompted official Soviet response.

Although a decree of the Supreme Soviet Presidium issued on 5 September 1967 removed the charges against Crimean Tatars, the Soviet government did nothing to facilitate their resettlement in Crimea and to make reparations for lost lives and confiscated property. Crimean Tatars, having a definite tradition of non-communist political dissent, succeeded in creating a truly independent network of activists, values and political experience. In 1968, 300 families were allowed to return, but this was only for propaganda purposes.Crimean Tatars, led by the Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization, were not allowed to return to Crimea from exile until the beginning of the Perestroika in the mid-1980s.

The 1991 RSFSR law On the Rehabilitation of Repressed Peoples addressed rehabilitation of all ethnicities repressed in the Soviet Union. However the law had various deficiencies, including unclear legal status of a number of peoples, such as Crimean Tatars moved across the borders of Soviet republics, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.After the annexation of Crimea by Russia, on April 21, 2014 Vladimir Putin signed the decree No 268

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“О мерах по реабилитации армянского, болгарского, греческого, крымско-татарского и немецкого народов и государственной поддержке их возрождения и развития”. (“On the Measures for the Rehabilitation of Armenian, Bulgarian, Greek, Crimean Tatar and German Peoples and the State Support of Their Revival and Development”), amended by Decree no. 458 of September 12, 2015. The decree addressed the status of the mentioned peoples which resided in Crimean ASSR and were deported from there.

After the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the Crimean parliament recognized the 20th century history of Crimean Tatars as a “tragic fate.”

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Crimean activists were calling for the recognition of the Sürgünlik as genocide. This was also supported by Soviet dissidents.Greta Lynn Uehling, in her book Beyond Memory: The Crimean Tatars’ Deportation and Return, wrote that the deportation of the Crimean Tatars satisfied the definition of genocide according to the UN Genocide Convention, as despite the fact that not all Crimean Tatars were exterminated, the genocidal intent of destroying a particular ethnic group and implementing calculated policies to achieve this was present.[On November 12, 2015 Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted a resolution on recognition of Crimean Tatars’ genocide. On May 11, 2016, it appealed to the international community, particularly the United Nations, OSCE, European Parliament and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to recognize the deportation as genocide.

 

Monument to the Forced Deportation of Crimean Tatars in Sudak.

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