Project Name. Translation of Kolomyya, Ukraine Yizkor Book, Yiddish, 1957
Claire Hisler Shefftz
JewishGen Yizkor Book Project Manager Lance Ackerfeld
Kolomey, as it was called by its Jewish population, can trace its Jewish presence back to the 15th century. After the partition of Poland in the 18th century, it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the province of Galicia, and was known as Kolomea. After World War I ended, Poland regained its independence and Kolomyja, spelled the Polish way, was in southeastern Poland . At the end of World War II, Kolomyja became part of the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the town became part of Western Ukraine, spelled variously as Kolomyia and Kolomyya (the latter used by JewishGen).
Before World War II, there were about 15,000 Jews in Kolomyja out of a total of 40,000 people. The town's Jewish population rose at times during the war as Jews expelled from Germany and Hungary and those from nearby towns were brought in to be eventually transported to their death. It has been estimated that 60,000 Jews were sent to their deaths from Kolomyja. They were killed in three major ways: shot in the nearby forest into a mass grave; shot in the ghettos; or, in greatest numbers, shipped to the death camp at Belzec which began operating in 1942. Between July 1941 and December 1942, almost all the Jews in Kolomey were killed. Few managed to remain hidden, obtain false papers as Christians, or escape over the mountains to Hungary. Under the Russian occupation from September 1939 to July 1941, some politically suspect Jews were sent to Siberia, not knowing at the time that they had a better chance of surviving Siberia than the more certain death under Nazi rule. Another small group of survivors, mostly young people and medical personnel, willingly went joined the retreating Russian army after the Germans attacked Russia in June 1941.
While escapes from transports to death camps were rare, there is a well documented attempt from German records in Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men. On the September 8, 1942 transport of 8,400 victims from Kolomyja bound for Belzec, carpenters allowed to carry some tools with them under the ruse that they were going somewhere to work, broke through the barbed wire over some air vents- many were shot but some escaped. One escapee tells his story of that transport in the yizkor book (We Survived, pp.376-413.)
The part of the yizkor book that deals with the Holocaust, or how they died, has been translated (pp. 325-429). How they lived, the larger part of the book and their lives, remains to be translated.
Estimated Cost: $9,750
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Updated 14 Mar 2009 by LA