The story of how the Nazis wiped out 58,000 Jews in Kolomyja. Galicia, setting the local ghetto afire and torturing the president of the Jewish community to a point where he committed suicide in the presence of Gestapo officials, was told today to Jewish organizations here by an eye-witness of the tragedy.
Thousands of the Jewish victims were burned alive by the Nazis and other thousands were taken to neighboring woods and shot. The ghetto was burned to the ground to insure that not a single Jew remained alive in any hideouts there.
“When the German armies entered Kolomyja,” the eye-witness’ account reads, “there were 58,000 Jews in the city. They began mass-executions of Jews by taking 3,400 Jewish men and women to the neighboring forest of Szczeparowiec on October 12, 1941 and machine-gunning all of them. About three weeks later, on November 6, they took 500 Jews from the Mokra quarter of the city and shot them all on the pretext that a Jewish family gave shelter to an anti-Nazi agitator.
“After that,” the testimony continues, “Jews were executed as hostages practically every day. By September, 1942 only 8,000 Jews were left in the ghetto. The other 50,000 Jews had all been massacred on various pretexts and most of the time without any pretext at all.
THOUSANDS OF NAKED JEWS HERDED INTO TRUCKS
“On September 7, 1942 the Nazis assembled all the 8,000 Jews at once place. After permitting 1,700 of them to return to their homes, they ordered the remainder to completely undress and to hand their clothes and shoes to Gestapo guards. They were then herded into trucks, naked, and taken to the city of Rawa-Russka where they were all burned alive.
“Meanwhile, the Nazis continued to drive into the ghetto of Kolomyja hundreds of Jews from neighboring townships. When the population in the ghetto again reached 6,000, the Nazis rounded up 5,700 of them on October 4 and transported them in trucks to Rawa-Russka where they were also burned alive.
Many of the Jews from the nearby towns, realizing that the Kolomyja ghetto was only an assembly center from where they were to be led to their death, attempted to hide themselves. In order to unearth these Jews, the chief of the local Gestapo on November 5 summoned the president of the Kolomyja Jewish Council, Dr. Horowitz, and using torture attempted to secure from him the location of the hideouts. To “prove” that he was determined to locate the hiding places, the Gestapo chief personally shot 150 Jews in front of Dr. Horowitz. Unable to stand the torture any longer, the president of the Jewish Council committed suicide in the Gestapo office.
“Taking revenge for the defiance shown by Dr. Horowitz, the Gestapo chief arrested 1,600 Jews in the ghetto that day and executed them in the Szczeparowiec woods. A few hundred Jews, however, remained in their ghetto hideouts. In order to make certain that not a single one of them would remain alive, the chief of the Gestapo ordered the ghetto burnt down to the ground, thus finishing the process of making Kolomyja “completely judenrein.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.