Tuesday, January 15, 2019

October 23, 1941: The Odessa Massacre

Thursday 23 October 1941

ATS women operators 23 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"ATS women operate a rangefinder at the anti-aircraft training camp at Weybourne in Norfolk, 23 October 1941. A mobile 3.7-inch gun can be seen in the background." © IWM (H 14985).
Holocaust: There are many massacres during World War II, and all of them are horrible. However, certain incidents stand out in stark relief for taking barbarity to a new level. On 23 October 1941, events play out in Odessa which remaining stunning in the depth of their violence and depravity. This is the Odessa Massacre.

Matilda tank, 23 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
A Matilda tank of the 49th Royal Tank Regiment advances through a smoke screen during an exercise near Dover, 23 October 1941. © IWM (H 14960).
After the Red Army abandoned Odesa on the night of 15 October and Romanian troops entered it on 16 October 1941 after a 73-day siege, things temporarily settled down in the large seaport. However, before the boarded ships and left, the Soviet troops set explosives in a large building on Marazlievskaya Street which they had used as the headquarters of the NKVD (Soviet state security service, similar to the Gestapo). Other retreating Soviet troops had done this elsewhere previously, most notably in Kyiv, but the Romanians either did not suspect there might be booby traps, or they did not check carefully enough for them. On 22 October, a full week after the Soviets departed, the Soviets detonated the mine (either through a time-delay fuse or by radio signal) in the Marazlievskaya building and a massive explosion leveled it. The blast killed 67 people, including the Romanian Major General Ion Glogojanu, commander of the Romanian 10th Division, and 51 of his staff. Among the dead were four German Kriegsmarine officers, 35 soldiers, 16 officers, and nine civilians. The occupying authorities - those that survive - are furious.

ATS gunners, 23 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"ATS women operate a predictor at the anti-aircraft training camp at Weybourne in Norfolk, 23 October 1941. A 3.7-inch gun can be seen in the background." © IWM (H 14972).
The Romanians and Germans did not know immediately who set the explosion, but they knew who they could punish for it. Romanian leader Ion Antonescu ordered immediate reprisals against local civilians. He required that 100 Communists and people the Jewish faith be executed for each of the 35 ordinary soldiers who perished in the blast and 300 for each officer killed. Obviously, this was going to amount to a lot of deaths. The Romanian Commander of troops, Gendarmerie Lieutenant Colonel Mihail Niculescu, issues an order:
Military Command of the mountains. Odessa brings to the attention of the population of Odessa and its surroundings that after the terrorist act committed against the Military Command on October 22, on the day of October 23, 1941, were shot: for every German or Romanian officer and civilian official 200 Bolsheviks, and for every German or Romanian soldier 100 Bolsheviks. Taken hostage, which, if repeated such acts, will be shot together with their families.
However, what transpired as a result far exceeded these totals.

Italian POWs arriving in England, 23 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Italian prisoners of war on deck with their kit waiting to disembark at Greenock." These POWs arriving at Greenock are to be used to do farm work. 23 October 1941. © IWM (A 6210).
The next phase of horror begins on 23 October 1941. A German SS Einsatzgruppe arrives at the destroyed Marazlievskaya building, survey the damage along with Romanian security troops, and they immediately set to work. The troops simply walk across the street to an apartment building, drag all the residents out, and shoot or hang all of them. Then, they raid nearby streets and markets before heading out into the suburbs and executing everyone that they find. A reported hundred men are shot at the Big Fountain, about 200 at the Slobodka market, 251 in Moldavanka, 400 are hanged in Aleksandrovsky Prospekt - the carnage is everywhere. Some hostages are marched down Lustdorf Road to an industrial area, where they are shot or burned alive.

Digging potatoes for the war effort, 23 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
"Mrs. John Steel, daughter of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, the pathologist, is now digging potatoes at the request of the LCC An ambulance driver, Mrs. Steel is spending her spare time on potato digging with several other of her colleagues in the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service, at an LCC hospital in Essex." 23 October 1941. © SSPL / Pastpix / Science & Society Picture Library Image Ref. 10551683.
In addition to this first rampage, the Odesa city government issues an order on 23 October 1941 requiring all people of Jewish descent to report to the village of Dalnik on 24 October. The penalty for non-compliance is death. The killings continue. The total number of deaths in this incident is unknown, but 22,000 bodies are found in a mass grave after the war. It is estimated that the city loses 10% of its population in the Odessa Massacre. While many different dates are submitted for the start of the Holocaust, 23 October 1941 is a good candidate.

Berkeley lab cyclotron under construction, 23 October 1941 worldwartwo.filminspector.com
The framework of the184-inch cyclotron facility taken on October 23, 1941. This was at the Berkeley Lab in California, a key component of the subsequent Manhattan Project. Principal Investigator/Project: Image Library Project [Photographer: Donald Cooksey]. U.S. National Archives.

October 1941

October 1, 1941: Germans and Finns Advance in USSR
October 2, 1941: Operation Typhoon Broadens
October 3, 1941: Air Battles Near Moscow
October 4, 1941: Stalin Contemplates Defeat
October 5, 1941: Hoth Goes South
October 6, 1941: First Snowfall After Dark
October 7, 1941: Stalin Gets Religion
October 8, 1941: FDR Promises Stalin Aid 
October 9, 1941: FDR Orders Atomic Bomb Research
October 10, 1941: Reichenau's Severity Order
October 11, 1941: Tank Panic in Moscow
October 12, 1941: Spanish Blue Division at the Front
October 13, 1941: Attack on Moscow
October 14, 1941: Germans Take Kalinin
October 15, 1941: Soviets Evacuate Odessa
October 16, 1941: Romanians Occupy Odessa
October 17, 1941: U-568 Torpedoes USS Kearny
October 18, 1941: Tojo Takes Tokyo
October 19, 1941: Germans Take Mozhaysk
October 20, 1941: Germans Attack Toward Tikhvin
October 21, 1941: Rasputitsa Hits Russia
October 22, 1941: Germans Into Moscow's Second Defensive Line
October 23, 1941: The Odessa Massacre
October 24, 1941: Guderian's Desperate Drive North
October 25, 1941: FDR Warns Hitler About Massacres
October 26, 1941: Guderian Drives Toward Tula
October 27, 1941: Manstein Busts Loose
October 28, 1941: Soviet Executions
October 29, 1941: Guderian Reaches Tula
October 30, 1941: Guderian Stopped at Tula
October 31, 1941: USS Reuben James Sunk


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