After half an hour, the clothing of the thousands killed is back in the camp. The nerves cannot take it any longer. If anybody would have predicted I'd be able to live through such cruelty, I would not have comprehended it. The empty apartments, the silent streets, the dead city, how painful it is. Why can't we cry: why can't we get weapons to defend ourselves? How is it possible to see so much blood streaming and say nothing, do nothing, and wait for death, until one day you are next taken? Nobody wants to help us, nobody wants to save us.
Left all alone, without any pity, we are forced to go under
Salomea Luft, Chapter 8, 'From the Depths'
We can identify 17 Actions in Kolomyja and District between October 1941
and February, 1943:
|1)||12.10.1941||Synagogue destroyed. 3000 shot in Schaparowce forest|
|2)||06.11.1941||Several hundred shot in Scheparowce|
|4)||22.01.1942||Several hundred shot in Scharparow|
|5)||Resettlement - Belzec - Kolomyja District|
|6)||15.08.1942||Several Hundred Labourers shot|
|7)||Resettlement - Belzec - Kolomyja (Sniatyn / Kosow / Kuty / Zaplatow / Horodenka)|
|8)||07.09.1942||Orphanage Action - 400 children shot|
|12)||05.11.1942||Hallerback Group Murdered|
|Kolomyja and District resettlement transports to Belzec (3)|
|17)||11.-13.10.1942||Kolomyja and District|
On the outbreak of World War 11, on the 1st September, 1939, the Wehrmacht crossed the Polish border. On the 16th September, the Polish government fled to Kolomyja, and then over the border to Romania. The next day, 17th September, the first Russian tanks entered the town under the auspices of the German-Soviet non-aggression pact where certain amount of harmony and collaboration ensued, until the 22nd June, 1941, when the Nazi-Soviet Pact was terminated with the onslaught of 'Barbarossa'.
On the 3rd July, 1941, the last Russians left Kolomyja. The following day, the 4th July, Hungarian troops marched into the town where they remained for six weeks when relieved by the Wehrmacht.
No sooner had the Russians decamped, the first excesses against local Jews commenced. Ukrainian nationalists caught Jewish men and women in the streets, or dragged them out of their houses. They were being led, fettered through the streets of Kolomyja where the local population beat and abused them. They Jews were taken to public places where monuments of Soviet personalities had been erected. There, they were yoked to the monuments and forced to pull them down while at the same time were beaten with whips by. The Jews were ordered to break the monuments with their bare hands. During these proceedings many Jews were seriously injured. Jewish houses were ransacked and robbed. The Ukrainian intelligentsia took over the town administration.
After the entry of the Hungarians, comparative order returned to the town. Jews were ordered immediately to wear special arm-bands. The Hungarian authorities demanded labourers from the local council. The council listed only Jews who worked without payment.
The first German officials to arrive in the town were: Volkmann, who was appointed Kreishauptmann (Chief of District), the Stadthauptmann (Town Commissioner), Michael, head of the Labour Office, Dr. Jordon, Landwirtschaftsrat (Head of Supply Department) and Oberleutnant Haertl as Chief of a detachment of Schutzpolizei (City Police). Hans Kruger in Stanislawow ordered in reinforcements of Schupo into the Kolomyja districts to assist in resettlement operations. In October, 1941, 35 men of the Vienna Schutzpolizei (Schupo) arrived in Kolomyja. (5)
There were a number of 'murder squads'
drawn from a number of agencies. Initially, Einsatzgruppen, Waffen
SS and Wehrmacht personnel. Once the area was secured, internal security
forces took over. Although working at times on different agendas,
their tasks were identical: the extermination of all political adversaries
to the resettlement policies. These units were drawn from: Sipo-SD
(Gestapo Kripo etc.), Schutzpolizei (policemen from Vienna
District). This detachment of police in Kolomyja came together in a variety of
circumstances. Kleinbauer was a serving police officer in the Vienna police,
when on 6.10.1941, he was ordered to Kolomyja. Schipany had seen service with
the Schupo in Wilicka, Censtochau, Krakow, Tarnow and Lvov, when he was
transferred to Kolomyja. Pernek arrived via Kost in October, 1941. Ukrainian
Police Auxiliaries, Local militia (Ukrainian and Polish). These forces
were also supplemented by Railway Police and Council employees.
Sites of extermination.
The transports to Belzec and murder of Jews in the Scheparowce forest is central to the extermination of the Jews in the Kolomyja and we have some first hand accounts from the Schutzpolizei of how these executions took place. Other locations of mass murder in Kolomyja were the Jewish cemetery, the Jewish abattoir, the building materials management store in the ghetto, and the Prison under the command of the Prison Governor, Leopold Winkler, a career prison office from Vienna.
Individual confiscation of Jewish
property was forbidden. Only the Kreishauptmann and the Chief of
the 'SD. und Sipo' were authorised to confiscate Jewish property.
Special officials of the Judenrat collected the requested objects and handed
them over to the authorities. In August, 1941, Volkmann ordered the
Jews to hand over all their gold, silver, jewelry and all furs and woollens,
and refusal would be immediate death. It was accepted
that much of this property was pilfered by the operators. (7)
Once, an order was issued for all Jews to hand in their furs. They were collected and sorted in the Horowitz factory. Kleinbauer was in charge of this operation. I admit that I received a fur coat from the post. The furs were loaded and sent to Lemberg (Lvov). On the orders of the Gestapo, the Judenrat also took in precious stones and jewellery. (8)That same month, the Kreishauptmannschaft set up by a special decree, its own auxiliary police force, called Sonderdienst which was comprised of local Volksdeutsche (Ukrainians or Poles of part German descent, declaring themselves as Germans). A new force appeared on the streets: The Jewish Police Kommando, a direct arm of the occupying forces to enforce their Will on the Jewish population. (9)
At the end of August and the beginning of September 1941, detachments of the German Security Services began to arrive in Kolomyja from Stanislawow. On the 21st September 1941, the staff of the 'Sicherheitsdienst und Sicherheitzpolizei', commanded by SS-Obersturmführer Peter Leideritz, rounded up 250 Jews. Three days later they were taken to neighbouring Korolowska to be shot, but the Germans were prevented from carrying out these executions by the Hungarians.(10) Within weeks the Hungarians were ousted from the district and the German Security and administration took over.
On the 22nd September 1941, houses of the wealthy Jews were evacuated with immediate effect. The owners were not permitted to take any objects with them. The German authorities expropriated Jewish buildings in entire streets for their own purposes without payment or compensation. These seizures were accompanied by arrests, beatings and abuse of the Jewish population.
A centralised Judenrat operated in most districts, Kolomyja taking in the towns of Kuty and Kosow, etc., which resulted in much argument between their representatives.(12) The German authorities only dealt with the President of the Judenrat. They remitted to him their demands and he was wholly responsible for their strict execution. There was to be no compromise. The establishment of the Judenrat restricted arbitrary action. Persecution became organised and was carried out according to a predetermined plan.
The Judenrat organised the supply of Jewish labourers for the town administration. The Jews would officially receive wages amounting to 80% of the scale fixed for the Aryan population. In reality, the Jews received much less. The wages were paid directly to the Judenrat, who distributed a small amount to the actual worker, after taxes and other expenses. To protect the Jewish intelligentsia for as long as possible, many were employed by the Judenrat. The German Tax Authorities, headed by Dr. Lorens, demanded the payment of all taxes, even those that had been outstanding over many years.
On the 11th October, 1941, all Jewish teachers were arrested by the SD and removed to the prison to join many other Jews already detained. Lists of names and addresses had been complied by Ukrainian and Polish informers.
In the local prison, the Germans asked the Jewish prisoners for volunteers for work. Many answered this call to get away from the bad conditions in the prison. A small group of young Jews were selected and taken to Scheparowce, a forest near Kolomyja where they were forced to dig deep ditches. In the evening all of the diggers were shot. The detainees in the prison were given neither food or water, provisions sent into the prison by the Judenrat were stolen by the guards or given to non-Jews. The following day, the 12th October, (a Jewish holyday) all became clear: The SD, Schutzpolizei, and Auxiliary Police hunted down Jews in the streets and arrested them. Armed German Security Forces went to the Synagogue and stopped the service, then set it on fire. Everyone was removed, men, women and children. They were all taken to the Scheparowce forest just outside of the town where over 3.000 were all shot into the pits which had been previously prepared by the Jewish prisoners.
We are able know the Modus Operandi of these 'Aktions' by the interrogation of some of the perpetrators who were arrested after the war. (15) The background to these arrests are of importance as they detail individual responsibility in the manner of execution, and not the usual defensive obfuscation. Their apprehension came about as the result of five Jewish survivors from Kolomyja. (16)
Those arrested (17) acted very much like the norm, i.e., when they knew their precarious situation, they implicated others to lessen their own actions, and so to speak, spread the blame as a barrier to a more severe justice. There was no honour among this selection of thieves and murderers, as they crumpled under interrogation and 'spilled the beans' to save their own necks.
Ex Schupo officers Stanka and Straka were the first to break under interrogation and detail the systematic weekly killing of Jews in Kolomyja in the Scheparowce forest, the cemetery, ghetto and abattoir. Ex Schupo Uitz stated that his police detachment shot over 15000 Jews in Kolomyja.(18) Pernek tried to hang himself in the prison cell, but later he was so overcome with remorse, he requested pen and paper to record what had happened in Kolomyja and confirmed the forest liquidation's and the use of dogs to tear at Jewish throats.(19) An interesting fact emerged that has been discussed elsewhere, was that Lt. Gross refused to participate in killing actions and there had been a row with his commander (SD) Hertl. Gross was not included in further actions, and no disciplinary action was taken against him. (20) All admitted shooting of Jews and complicity in Belzec transports in the districts of Kuty, Kosow, Jablonow, Pistyn, Peczenizyn, Horodenka, Czernilicia, Gwozdiec, Sniatyn, Zablotow, and Zabie.
There seems little doubt that the methods and procedures in the killing fields, the clearing of the ghetto and the round-ups for deportation, were all co-ordinated on a set plan. These plans for 'Aktionen' were carried out to precise instructions originating (for the Kolomyja region) from Sipo-SD in Lvov (Katzmann) and Stanislawow (Kruger). The Modus Operandi for the SS/SD security services was identical all over the occupied territories in the east. (21) However, there were some slight deviations by individual idiosyncratic commanders which has been discussed elsewhere.
Firearms and ammunition used in the majority of the Jewish 'liquidations in Galicia and elsewhere, were Russian. The preferred weapons were the Russian machine pistol, ten shot rifles and machine-guns and personal side arms. Why this was so, is not clear. A German defeat at this time was inconceivable to the Nazis, so concern of any subsequent forensic examination of weapons to point at German implication was an unlikely reason. Maybe it is as simple as using obsolete ammunition to murder a discarded people at no cost to the Reich. This view is supported by events in Horodenka after the first action as we shall see. (22)
At the end of October, 1941, the Judenrat was ordered by the SD to pay a contribution of 100.000 Reichmarks and 50 kg of gold. (23) The Judenrat, believing that payment would ease the fate of those arrested on the 12th October, collected the money and gold together and paid up. Of the 1500 Jewish prisoners, only 150 were released. The rest were taken to Scheparowce and murdered. The Judenrat had been told that the young Jews who had been taken previously, had gone to work in Germany. Seven weeks later, the Judenrat found out the truth Scheparowce.
In late December, 1941, Himmler ordered the confiscation of all furs in possession of Jews. On the 26th December, the SD arrested 16 prominent Jews. The Judenrat were informed that these Jews would be held as hostage subject to the surrender of all furs held by the Jews. Failure to hand over the furs would result in the 16 Jews being executed. Within a few days all furs were handed over. SS-Leideritz told the Judenrat that the order to collect furs in August by Volkmann had been unlawful. (24)
Food was now very scarce and there were many cases of starvation, disease and outbreaks of epidemics. Acute famine was apparent at the end of 1941, which effected everyone, there were no rich Jews left to barter their property. Jews in the prison were not fed at all by the authorities and had to rely on the Judenrat.
By March 1942, their number of Jews had been reduced to 17.000. The rest had been killed in Scheparowce, the cemetery and the prison, or died of disease or starvation. It was the Germans intention to allow only 9.000 Jews to remain in a Ghetto marked out in the poorest part of the town. They demanded that the Judenrat hand over all old and sick Jews, and those not fit for work. Failure to reduce the Ghetto by this means would mean more drastic action by the Germans. The Judenrat, backed by Jewish public opinion, refused to consider any action of this kind.
Volkmann and Leideritz were on bad personal terms and each man tried to score off the other when it came to the establishment of the Ghetto. As they could not agree on any procedure, they ordered Hohlmann, the Stadthauptmann, to carry out the transfer. Hohlmann issued special decrees for the transfer. On the 23rd and 30th March, 1942 respectively. Every Jew was allowed to take only what he could carry. Jews found outside the Ghetto enclosure would be shot. On these dates the Jews had to assemble at special locations and enter the Ghetto by special gates under the control of the German authorities. By the 23rd March, all the Jews were in the Ghetto one week early.
On the 3rd April, Ghetto A' was surrounded by detachments of Schupo, SD and Ukrainian Police. Other members of the SD commanded by Leideritz, augmented by local Schutzpolizei from Tarnopol entered the Ghetto. All Jews were dragged out of their houses. The sick and those unfit for transport were killed on the spot. The remaining Jews were concentrated in the Synagogue. There was another selection, those fit for work were removed and sent home. Those that remained were kept in small rooms where many of them suffocated. That same evening they were taken to the rail station for transport. The communities in the Kolomyja districts that were to feel the full force of this action: Kuty, Tlumacz, Horodenka, Zablotow, Peczenizyn, Sniatyn were to be re-targeted in a second sweep in the September 'action'.
On the 4th April, the same proceedings were repeated in Ghetto 'B' Jews old and unfit for work were taken to the freight wagons where they were kept without food or water, imprisoned while other communities were rounded up.
On the 6th April, came the turn of Ghetto 'C'. Many hid as they knew the course of events. Jews found hiding were killed on the spot without regard to age or fitness. Parts of the Ghetto were set on fire to prevent Jews from escaping. SS and auxiliaries stood on guard near the burning houses to hinder attempts to fight the fires and killed every Jew trying to leave his house. Many Jews were burned alive.
During these proceedings more than 100 Jews were killed in the Ghettos. 5000 were taken for transport to Belzec. On the 7th April, 1942, all the Jews held over the past few days, were taken to the railway station and loaded onto cattle trucks. Up to 140 Jews were put into one wagon which caused many cases of suffocation. The train was sent to the extermination camp Belzec via Janowska. There were no survivors.
Between the 22nd to the 26th April, 1942, 4000 Jews were brought from smaller towns of the sub-district of Kolomyja to the city. (26) Approximately 1000 were immediately sent to the prison for deportation to Belzec. The others remained in the Ghetto to await their turn for selection.
The Jewish affairs were directed by a triumvirate composed of SS-Leideritz, Volkmann and Hohlmann. SS-Leideritz was in charge of all Jewish executions. The civil authorities directed by Volkmann and Hohlmann were in charge of the administration of Jewish affairs. Dr. Jordan, director of the Supplies Department (Landwirtschaftsrat) was in charge of food supplies for the local population. According to an official decree by the Generalgouvernement Jews were allowed special fixed rations. In fact, however, only a small portion of the official ration rations were handed over to the Judenrat which had to be distribute it among the community. The policy of Dr. Jordon, acting in co-operation with Volkmann and Hohlmann, and those who replaced them later, was to cause the starvation of the Jews.
It was forbidden under pain of death to buy illegally any food. Nevertheless the Judenrat succeeded in buying some additional food on the black market. It organised restaurants and people's kitchens. This effort, however, could not stem the famine. 40-50 Jews died daily from starvation. The officer of the Judenrat had to keep current lists of the Jewish population and had to register all cases of deaths. The lists were examined weekly by the German authorities which watched the progress of the hunger campaign. By accepting bribes and robbing Jewish property for their personal benefit, many German officers succeeded in accumulating large fortunes, among them especially Volkmann, Dr. Jordon, his successor, Hohlmann and his successor, Michael, Dr. Lorens, SS-Leideritz and Untersturmführer Frost. (27)
The individual arrests of Jews continued
in the Ghetto. Up to 150 Jews were arrested monthly and taken to
the prison. When the prison was full, the Jews were taken to the
Scheparwoce forest and murdered. Every Jew was compelled to work.
Jews found outside the Ghetto were shot. The SD would carry out private
murder actions against particular Jews. Two particular CID officers,
Wahrmann and Knackendoerfer, took great delight in killing Jews.
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