When Daniel Popov’s grandmother was a little girl, she was rounded up with her family by the Nazis, and made to wait for a transport. As they were standing in line, the little girl’s mother asked her to get her some water. Strangely, the Nazi officer allowed her out of the line. When she returned, everyone was gone. The entire group had been transported to Zmievskaya Balka, where they were murdered.
Last month, Daniel, a 21 year old student living in Rostov-on-Don, stood contemplatively, at the same spot where 68 years ago, his grandmother’s family was murdered.
On August 11-12, 1942, German soldiers herded 27,000 residents of Rostov – most of them Jewish citizens – to a secluded area at the edge of the city, where they were summarily executed.
It was the largest massacre of innocent civilians in Russia, and yet, until recently, information about it remained buried among the horrors of the Holocaust.
68 years later, survivors, relatives, and students of the Ohr Avner Jewish Day School, participated at a memorial event, last month, and vowed not to allow those murdered, to be forgotten.
At the event, a memorial project, initiated by Mr. Yuri Dombrovsky, a Moscow-based businessman, together with the Jewish community of Rostov headed by Rabbi Chaim Danzinger, was launched. The project’s goal is to gather names and specific information about the men, women and children murdered here.
Mr. Yevgeni Mavshovitch, 79, whose family escaped just before the Nazis entered the city, has already collected the names of 2500 Jewish victims massacred here. Most of the names collected thus far have been culled from government archives, but those involved in the project say they hope that survivors living all over the world will come forth with more information.
“The largest genocide of Jewish people in Russia took place right here. It is our responsibility that their memory be kept alive forever,” says Yevgeni.
With each passing year, the number of survivors who can offer testimony continues to shrink. Rabbi Chaim Danzinger, Chabad representative to Rostov, says “there is an urgent need to gather names, stories, and historical information while we still have an opportunity to hear about it from survivors of the war and their immediate relatives.”
Alena Yuritsina, a third grader, was at the event. “This was my first time at Zmievskaya Balka. Our teacher told us about the Nazis who killed so many Jews and civilians in our city of Rostov-on-don. “It was terrible to hear about such small children who were killed, and to be standing at the same place that it happened.”
Rabbi Danzinger is eager to see momentum grow for this project, and is urging readers wanting to learn more about the massacre, or anyone who can share information of relatives who may have been killed there, to visit: www.rememberingrostov.com.