A dramatic account of how the people in the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic in the Caucasus, near Georgia, united with the Jews, who have lived in the region for centuries, to resist the Nazi armies, is reported in the Caucasian press.
For hundreds of years the Jews in this part of the Caucasus had lived peacefully side by side with the neighboring Kabardians, Cherkas, Russians, and Balkarians. They had particularly close relations with the Balkarians, who considered themselves kinsmen of the Jews because they stemmed from the Khazars, who became converted to Judaism in the latter part of the eighth century.
When the Germans invaded the Caucasus they looted the Jewish and Balkarian settlements of cattle, farm equipment and clothing. In one village they drove together the entire population, which consisted, mainly, of aged men, women and children, and ordered the Jews to step to one side and the Balkarians to the other. When no one moved and the Germans threatened to open fire on the crowd, one aged Balkarian cried out, “We have been living together with the Jews for centuries and we shan’t separate from them now.” The Nazis replied by ordering the Balkarians to dig graves for the Jews, but still not a Balkarian moved.
Then the Germans told the Jews to dig graves for the Balkarians, offering to spare them if they would do so. But, now, not a Jew moved. Suddenly the strained silence was broken by 90-year-old Abner Noah, who said, “We shall rather dig our own graves than dig graves for our friends.” Enraged, the Nazis opened fire on the crowd and the Jews and Balkarians fought back fiercely with knives, spades and axes. But the uneven battle soon ended and the Germans murdered those survivors who were unable to flee into the mountains and set fire to the village.
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.