Mikhail Zaslavsky, pictured here by the monument for Odessa’s Jews, is one of the only known survivors of the 1941 Odessa massacre. In the early morning of October 23rd, tens of thousands of Jews were hanged, shot, and burned alive when the Romanian military and German Einsatzgruppen (SS killing squads) launched a massacre and mass deportation of Odessa’s Jews. 16-year-old Mikhail was brought to a warehouse while his mother and four younger siblings were brought to another. The buildings were doused with gasoline fuel and set ablaze. Mikhail managed to escape through a hole and evade the onslaught of bullets, but 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 asked why he doesn’t leave Odessa, Mikhail said, “If I go, who will protect the bones of my family?”

Contributor: Jill Goltzer

Photo: ynet