|Ghetto Map *
Kolomyja (Pol.: Kołomyja, Germ.: Kolomea) is a city in the Southwest Ukraine
where Jews had lived since the 16th Century. Between 1772
and 1918 this area was a region
within the Habsburg Empire, thereafter becoming a part of Poland until the outbreak of WW2.
Approximately 15,000 Jews lived in Kolomyja when on 17 September 1939
, Soviet troops
entered the city, and the region within which it was situated was incorporated into the Soviet Union,
would eventually rise to more than 60,000 during the
course of 1939-1941
. The Soviets retained control of the city until the outbreak
of hostilities with Germany in
. On 3 July 1941
, the Soviets withdrew from Kolomyja,
and the following day Hungarian troops, allied to
Germany, occupied the city.
From this time onward Jewish property was confiscated and restrictions were imposed.
Jews had to wear the Star of David, and many were taken for forced labour. These conditions
deteriorated still further after the city came under German control on 1 August 1941
. The new
(Chief of District) was Klaus Volkmann
as head of the Labour Office, and Oberleutnant
Herbert Härtel (Hertel, Hertl)
as Chief of a detachment of the
(City Police). In August 1941
ordered the Jews to hand over all of their gold, silver, jewellery, furs and woollens. Refusal to obey this
order would result in immediate death. It was accepted that much of this property was pilfered
by the occupiers. By a special decree that same month, the Kreishauptmannschaft
set up its own auxiliary police force called Sonderdienst
, which was comprised of local
To carry out the planned "resettlement" actions to
, and the mass killings at
the town slaughterhouse, and the town prison, units of SS, police, Gestapo
, Ukrainian police
auxiliaries and local Ukrainian auxiliaries were ordered to Kolomyja. On 21 September 1941
the staff of the SD and Sipo
, commanded by SS-Obersturmführer
rounded up 250 Jews. Three days later they were
taken to neighbouring Korolowka
to be shot, but
these executions were prevented by the Hungarians.
In August 1941
was established, led by
Mordechai (Markus, Motye) Horowitz
. A centralised Judenrat
operated in most districts, with Kolomyja including the towns of
, etc. This resulted in
much argument between the various local and district Jewish representatives. The Judenrat
organised the supply of Jewish labourers for the town administration. The Jews officially received
wages amounting to 80% of the scale fixed for the 'Aryan' population. In reality, the Jews received
much less. The wages were paid directly to the Judenrat
which distributed a small amount
to the actual worker, after taxes and other expenses. Survivors held very different opinions about
the activities of the Judenrat
generally and of Horowitz
particular. Some accused Horowitz
of collaborating with the
Germans; others believed that he was a victim of circumstances. Before the war
was a very well known and respected industrialist in Kolomyja,
but he refused to be
elected to the public institutions of the community and the city. During the war he was appointed
to his position by the Gestapo
, but before this occurred the Germans had wounded
him, arrested him, and sentenced him to death. These facts weakened his will. Becoming the
chairman of the Judenrat
changed his life. Although before the war he was not a
religious person, he organised minyans
(the quorum of ten males necessary to conduct
a religious service) in the office of the Judenrat
, knowing very well that it was illegal.
He paid attention to the poor. His resolve was probably also weakened by the fact that in
he had lost his wife. He had refused to release her from a group of
arrested people, explaining that he could not treat her preferentially when other people were
being taken to their death. Concerning other members of the Judenrat
Dr Moshe Hutchnecker, Lazar Biber, Isser Reichman
or those who collaborated closely with the Gestapo
(Joel Jakobi, Itzele Ganeva
– it is not possible to state today if these
individuals were really members of the Judenrat
), survivors' opinions are much
more damning than those expressed in respect of Horowitz
|Franz Stanka *
|Franz Straka *
On 11 October 1941
, all Jewish teachers were arrested by the SD and removed to the prison
to join many other Jews already detained. Lists of names and addresses had been compiled by
Ukrainian and Polish informers. In the local prison, the Germans asked the Jewish prisoners for
volunteers for work. Many answered this call to escape the bad conditions in the prison. A small
group of young Jews were selected and taken to
a forest close to Kolomyja, where they were forced to dig deep ditches. In the evening all of them
were shot. The detainees in the prison were given neither food nor water; provisions sent into the
prison by the Judenrat
were stolen by the guards or given to non-Jews. The following
day, 12 October
, (a Jewish holyday) the SD, Schupo
, and Auxiliary Police hunted down
Jews in the streets and arrested them. Armed German security forces entered the synagogue
and stopped the service, then set the building on fire. Everyone was removed. More than
3,000 men, women, and children were taken to the Szeparowce
|Jacob Uitz *
|Franz Pernek *
where they were shot into the pits that had been previously prepared by Jewish prisoners.
Interrogation of certain perpetrators in post-war trials provided information regarding the scale
and method of these executions. The former Schupo
and Franz Straka
detailed the systematic weekly killing of Jews in Kolomyja, in the
, the cemetery and the abattoir.
stated that his police
detachment shot over 15,000 Jews in Kolomyja. Franz Pernek
tried to hang himself in his prison cell, but later was so overcome with remorse that he requested
pen and paper to record what had happened in Kolomyja and confirmed the forest liquidations
and the use of dogs to tear at Jewish throats. Lt. Karl Gross
participate in killing actions, resulting in an argument with Härtel
was not included in further actions; no disciplinary action was taken against him. All of the
accused admitted the shooting of Jews and complicity in
transports in the districts of
|Karl Gross *
Kosow, Jablonow, Pistyn, Peczenizyn, Horodenka,
Czernelica, Gwozdziec, Zablotow
The accused Othmar Kleinbauer
"In the year 1942, I was in command of an "action" in the Jewish
cemetery in Kolomyja when men, women and children were liquidated.
Pernek gave the order to the Jews to take all their clothes off and the old
to go to the front
of the pit. Pernek shouted, "Come on, lie down in the pit here, it
doesn't hurt. The quicker you are, the better for you." The order was that the people always lie
down on their stomachs in the pit and were then killed by a bullet in their head. I saw the results
of the explosive dumdum bullets which shattered the heads of those killed beyond recognition.
Again, about 40 persons, elderly men and women were taken to the cemetery. I gave the order
for everybody to undress and go into the pit. They had to lie down on the edge, not inside the
pit, and were then shot
with a bullet in the neck.
|Franz Schipany *
The accused Franz Schipany
"In the Autumn of 1941, the Jews were surrounded in the ghetto
and driven to the prison. From there they were marched to the
Szeparowce Forest, where they were liquidated by the SD. The Jews had to
go naked into a sand pit, lie on their stomachs and were shot in the head by myself. I
carried out other liquidations in the Jewish cemetery and the prison and also outside
Kolomyja, in Zablotow, Sniatyn, Ottynia, and
At the beginning of November 1941
, the SD were searching for particular Jews (who were
now believed to be in the Jewish police) and who had worked for the Soviets. The Judenrat
were given an ultimatum - give them up within 1 hour or all Jews living in the vicinity of their
residences would be executed. The Jews surrendered and were shot on the spot. Nevertheless,
the SD, headed by SS-Hauptscharführer Gerhard Goede
and accompanied by the Ukrainian auxiliary police, broke into houses on
and arrested all the Jewish
inhabitants. Jews trying to escape or hide were immediately shot. 600-1,000 old and sick
Jews and women with children were arrested and taken to the prison. The official explanation
of this "action" was that the SS were looking for a former Soviet militiaman who was Jewish.
The following day those arrested were all taken to the Szeparowce
and murdered. Shortly after the liberation a survivor from the Kolomyja Ghetto,
|Police Officers *
described this execution. When the mass
graves had already been prepared and the victims were gathered on the edge of the pits:
"Chlipko from the Hilfspolizei,
a Ukrainian who was from Bukovina, said that he wanted to demonstrate
a mass execution of Jews without using bullets... He explained how he wanted to spare the
Judenrat the cost this institution would have to bear for used munitions. The grave
was in the form of a quadrangle. Chlipko ordered the victims to
lie around the grave so that their bodies were on the earth with their heads over the graves.
Next he took a big axe, and like a crazy man he jumped over the prostrate bodies and with
every stroke of the axe one head fell into the grave. After this he became very tired and
was completely splashed with blood.
The SS men put a stop to this kind of execution and the rest of the Jews were executed "in the
On 23 December
, all Jews who possessed a foreign passport were ordered to the
The 1,200 who followed this order were also taken to Szeparowce
and killed. On 24 January 1942
, 400 Jewish intellectuals were
imprisoned, tortured, and killed.
On 23 March 1942
a ghetto was established in three sections – A,B, and C.
16,000-18,000 Jews were
forced to move into 520 ghetto houses, among them the thousands of refugees from occupied Poland
who had arrived in Kolomyja since September 1939
, and Jews deported
: “evacuated”) from surrounding villages. The living conditions were
as appalling as in many other ghettos. The Jews suffered from famine and epidemics. Nevertheless the
attempted to relieve the misery, even organizing cultural and educational events.
On 3-6 April 1942
, Ghetto C (where those unfit for work were crammed together)
was surrounded and
. The houses were set on fire and the inhabitants driven out.
Hundreds of Jews were shot or died by jumping out of windows. Together with hundreds of expelled
Jews from Ghetto B, a total of 3,000 Jews were deported to Belzec
During this first deportation from Kolomyja people had tried to rescue themselves and had hidden in
cellars and attics. In the course of the 'action' Ukrainian policemen and SS men used grenades,
so that many houses in the ghetto were destroyed and people were burned alive. In late April
around 5,000 Jews from the surrounding region were forced to move to Kolomyja. People arrived from
Kuty, Kosow, Zablotow
and other towns.
As the Jewish skilled workers could not be replaced by new "Aryan" settlers,
allowed some Jews to return to their homes, for example to
Later he ordered that unskilled and unemployed family members should be brought back to Kolomyja.
Although many of Kolomyja's Jews had already been killed or deported, the ghetto was still
overcrowded with new victims who had been forced move to the city from other places in the county.
, who survived the first deportation from Kolomyja,
described life in the ghetto at that time:
"Supplies of food were finished and hunger began to stalk the ghetto.
Potato-peelings, slaughtered cats and dogs were the most luxurious food. Soup was cooked
from nettles. Because of the effects of starvation, sickness spread in the ghetto. The people
swelled from hunger and they died in the streets. Every day about 50 bodies were gathered
from the streets.
Because of the desperate lack of food, the author of these memoirs decided to escape from Kolomyja to
. It was the first step toward survival.
|Visit of the Governor Dr Lasch *
On 29 August 1942 Friedrich Katzmann
(Generalmajor der Polizei
und RKF Galizien
) ordered the clearing of the Kolomyja District. On 7 September 1942
around 5,300 Jews were ordered to assemble at Aleja Wolnosci
from where they were brought to the station. 4,769 Jews were transported in 48 wagons to
. During this action around 530 Jews were
shot in the city. From 8-10 September
, 5,500 Jews were driven out of the
surrounding towns and
villages. Hundreds had to walk - for example, 50 km from Kuty
and 35 km from Kosow
- to Kolomyja.
At Kolomyja station only 30 wagons were waiting for them, and so the police forced 180-200
people into each wagon. At the same time another freight train was waiting at the station:
20 wagons, containing 4,000 Jews from Horodenka
. Both trains were combined to form a
very long and overloaded 50 freight-wagon transport. Because of the summer heat, all of the
Jews in the wagons had meanwhile undressed, suffering from thirst and lack of air.
At 20:50 the train started to Belzec
, at nearly
a snail’s pace. Those who jumped off the train through the small windows from which the victims
had removed the barbed wire were shot by the accompanying police commando. In
the train had to stop because the
barbed wire had to be reinstalled. This happened at each of the next stations. After 14 hours
the train arrived at 11:00 in Lwow
. There the Jews
destined for work at the
were replaced by
Jews who were no longer fit for work. Then
the train started toward its final destination, even slower than before. Shortly after leaving
the police command had already
expended its ammunition. Therefore the killers threw stones at the escapees, and used their
bayonets. At 18:45 the death train arrived in Belzec
When it was unloaded it was discovered that 200 Jews had perished in the wagons. (See the
for a complete account). It should be noted that
might have prepared two reports, which are not identical.
It is possible that either because of this or due to a typing error the number of fatalities of Jews in transit is quoted
by some sources as 200 and by others as 2,000. Given the size of the transport, and in comparison with other transports,
it seems probable that the higher figure is the more accurate.
Among those included in the September transports from Kolomyja was a young girl,
. She recorded:
"The screaming and yelling did not cease until late afternoon, when
the train finally moved. To where? There was no doubt – ultimately to death.I was in one of those
wagons, along with my parents. We were still together. My parents probably thanked God that
I often lost consciousness, because what was taking place inside the wagon exceeded the
most vivid conception of purgatory. How long did it last? Hours? Eternity?
Whenever I recovered consciousness I was still there – in hell. In a wagon that could hardly
contain 50 or 60 people, some 200 had been packed. (...) Cries, stench, and the acrid odour of
chlorine. (...) Through the screams and the drumming of the wheels we could hear shooting. In a
moment of awareness, I realized that we were standing naked, pressed to the side of the wagon.
With their intertwined arms, my parents had created a kind of shelter. It was thanks to this that I
was still alive. I noticed that everybody was naked, although I remembered that we had all
entered the wagon fully clothed. It was so hot that people had somehow managed to undress
themselves in the midst of the crowd. Those standing in the middle were probably already dead,
but were unable to fall down.
From 11-13 October 1942
4,000 Jews were deported to
among them the children of the Kolomyja orphanage. The ghetto was now reduced in size.
"After the number of Jews was reduced in this way, the authorities
decided that the first Jewish quarter would be enough for those who were left. And this is how it
happened. Some carried only as much as they could with their hands to their new "dwellings."
Whole families were already rare: parents had lost their children and children had lost their
parents. Nevertheless it was impossible to drive everyone into one corner. There were still
too many Jews to crowd into the few small streets. And those who still owned something paid
large sums to get housing. The destitute ones were thrown out into the streets. Despite the
harsh cold, people had to live in destroyed synagogues, in cellars and in attics. Typical of those
times were the homeless children. Without parents, without a home, they lived on the streets.
With a little dish and a little spoon in their hands, they went from house to house and constantly
one heard their little cries: "Lady, lady, only one little spoon of food", "Housewife, only a little bit
of bread", "Lady, only some hot cooked soup!" Only seldom was there found a warm-hearted
person for almost every woman was just as hungry as the begging child.
They wandered about forlornly until they perished, swollen from hunger.
Because of the hopeless situation, together with his sister Miriam
committed suicide in his office at the
in late October 1942
. There is an account that in his final
letter he wrote that
he had lost all hope of saving the last Jews of Kolomyja. The same account suggests that
heard of the death of the chairman
of the Judenrat
, he said cynically: "He was a proper Jew. He saved
us work and a bullet.
" In the final Aktion
on 4 November
a further 1,000 Jews were killed at
. On 20 January 1943
remaining 2,000 Jews were concentrated in a few ghetto houses, where they were incarcerated until the
ghetto was liquidated on 2 February 1943
. The last inhabitants were murdered at
The Red Army liberated Kolomyja on 29 March 1944
. Only a few Jews had survived. They emigrated
to Poland, Romania and Palestine. Lusia Borten
Kolomyja in September 1944
. She recalled:
"We saw whole streets that were burned together with their inhabitants.
The densely populated Jewish streets between Walowa
and Legionow Street and the market place,
the former first ghetto with the Talmud Torah, Bais Hamidrash, the Kosover Synagogue, the
Vizhiner, the Boyaner, and little shuls along with the large and renowned Great Synagogue-
they were all destroyed…
The beautiful centre in Kolomyja, where once thousands of Jews traded, the
Rynek, the so called "Canal", the
Hai Platz (Plac Sienny ?- Kopernik Street ?), Pilsudski Street with its
many stores: all are empty.
The gentiles that I formerly knew are almost all here. Market day looked as it did before (only
without Jews). Many good things were for sale. On display for sale were old furniture, bedding,
clothing, underwear, entire Jewish households - even candlesticks and prayer shawls. And everyone
bought. Jews had no choice. They spent their first and last earned Groshn. They were in
effect, naked and barefoot. They were afraid for their lives. A Jew couldn't go to a village.
Their lives were in danger. Once we were shot at in the middle of the city. Luckily, the bullet
missed my husband's ear.
In later years, the "Organization of Kolomyjers in the State of Israel" produced a collection of
testimonies, which began:
"In the name of thousands of men, women, and children who were killed in the
and in the Jewish cemetery in
Kolomyja; in the name of the last ghetto orphans who were left without a roof over their heads and
died of hunger or were shot in the streets of the ghetto; in the name of the elders and little children
who died of hunger, thirst and exhaustion in the trains on the way to the
concentration camp; in the name
of thousands who were dragged naked from their beds and driven to their deaths; in the name of all
who were shot trying to escape, WE ACCUSE THE MURDERERS!"
|Johann Gall *
|Alois Steiner *
In addition to those mentioned above, the following were arrested in
in connection with crimes committed in the
Kolomyja district: Alois Steiner, Johann Gall, Karl Gross,
Josef Ruprechtshofer, Leopold Winkler, Reisenthaler
committed suicide in his cell before he could be deported to the Soviet Union.
was extradited to Poland and executed there.
's preliminary proceedings in
were dismissed because of illness.
During the occupation Härtel
had been one of the cruellest Schupo
Kolomyja. Shortly after the end of the war Jozef Urbanski
also a survivor of the Kolomyja Ghetto, wrote about the crimes committed by
"He was a sadist for whom the killing of people was a wild pleasure.
He visited the ghetto quite often and there he ordered the Jewish police to gather old people.
He set them in a row and attempted to kill several people with a single shot. (...) I remember how
Härtel, once visiting the ghetto, saw a young
girl in the street,
the daughter of a doctor from Kolomyja. Before the gathered members of the Judenrat he began
to extol her beauty. Later he took her in his arms and shot her with his revolver, explaining that
he did not want her to suffer later.
|Leopold Winkler *
Former members of the Kolomyja Schupo
, arrested in Austria in 1947
extradited to the
Soviet Union at the end of 1948
, and released in a general amnesty in
to return to Austria.
Of the 14 surviving men who had been arrested in 1947
, only 6 were then tried
for their crimes by
Austrian courts. In post-war trials in West Germany, Goede
was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 6 years, while others received modest sentences or were
acquitted. After the war Volkmann
under the pseudonym Peter Grubbe
as a correspondent for West-German
newspapers. His preliminary proceedings by StA "Darmstadt
Goede, Gerhard Johannes
- life sentence + 6 years
- 7 years
Schä., Eberhard Lorenz
Schw., Werner Otto
- 3 years
(Polizei Sipo Kolomea) Crimes committed in Szeparowce
in 1941-43: Mass and single killings as well as deportations to KL Belzec
G., Ernst Erwin
- 7 years 8 months
(Polizei Sipo Kolomea) Crimes committed in Oct. 1941 in Kolomea and
: Mass killings of the Jews in Szeparowce
Kolomea as well as in neighbouring Kossow
Simon Wiesenthal Center *
Kolomyja Memorial Book *
Ronny Roberts *
Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Testimonies and Memoirs by Survivors.
Gutman, Israel, ed. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust
, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1990
Sandkühler, Thomas. “Endlösung” in Galizien
, J.H.W. Dietz Nachf. GmbH, Bonn, 1996
© ARC 2005