Odessa Massacre: 80 Years Later

The Odessa massacre took place 80 years ago on October 23, 1941. Mikhail Zaslavsky, who is pictured here by the monument for Odessa’s Jews, is one of the only known survivors. One week after Romanian and German troops took over the Ukrainian city, the Soviets blew up the Romanian army headquarters, killing 67 people. Because most of the Soviets had already left the city, blame was placed on the Jews. In retaliation, the Romanian military and German Einsatzgruppen (SS killing squads) launched a massacre and mass deportation of Odessa’s Jews in the early morning of October 23rd. Tens of thousands of Jews were hanged, shot, and burned alive. 16-year-old Mikhail was brought to an artillery warehouse nearby. He was forced into the last barrack, while his mother and four younger siblings ended up in another. The buildings were doused with gasoline fuel and set ablaze. Mikhail managed to escape through a hole and evade the onslaught of bullets. His mother and siblings, along with some 30,000 other Jews, were all murdered. Mikhail ended up in the Slobodka Ghetto, but later escaped with the help of a Ukrainian woman who hid him in her home. After Odessa was liberated in 1944, Mikhail joined the army and helped to liberate six countries. When he returned home, he married Ira z’l, raised a family, and worked as an electrician. When asked why he doesn’t leave Odessa, Mikhail says, “If I go, who will protect the bones of my family?” 

Source: American Society for Yad Vashem
Photo: ynet