Survivor Recalls 1941 Nazi Massacre of Jews in Odessa
An interview with a survivor of the 1941 massacre of Jews in Odessa was published by the German media outlet Deutsche Welle earlier this week.
Mihail Zaslavsky — who was 16 at the time — recalled being rounded up with his family after the Nazis took over Odessa on Oct. 16, 1941.
Following a bomb attack on the local Nazi headquarters the next week, the Jews were targeted for retaliation.
Zaslavsky was brought to an artillery warehouse. “I was carrying my five-year-old brother, and we had barely reached the bunker when they yanked him away from me,” Zaslavsky told Deutsche Welle. “I was given a terrible blow in the back. I could not tell if it was from a foot, a rifle butt or a baton, but in any case I was sent to the side, where men, including elders and teenagers, were standing. We were brought to the last building at the back. My mother and my siblings — I was the oldest of five — landed in another barrack.”
After some time I heard a motor. A car was coming. Everything was showered with gasoline or another fuel and set on fire. After some time, when everything was burning, I noticed that the fire had burned a hole on one side of the building. I rushed through it.
As I said, I was young and athletic, and I was fighting for my life. I came out and there was a barrier, but it wasn’t a barrier like in concentration camps, it didn’t have barbed wire. So I found my way through the fence and ran. I immediately heard machine guns shooting in the background.
I heard screams. I heard bodies falling. I heard footsteps. I turned around and saw that the other warehouse was burning, and that the flames were raging into the sky. I reached a corn field that had already been harvested, so I snaked my way through it until I reached an area covered with trees. I fell there, breathless.
I rested there until the evening. Then in the evening I went through back areas and alleys of Odessa — I knew the city very well — until I reached the Polish cemetery. I climbed over its wall and spent the night there.
Homes are now located at the site of the massacre — in which the rest of Zaslavsky’s family was killed.
“It’s normal, life prevails,” Zaslavsky said. “The important thing is that this never happens again. Remembrance is more important than memorials.”