Thousands of Jews were drowned in the oil wells around the city of Maikop in the Caucasus before the Nazis were forced to retreat from the area this past winter, it is disclosed in a report of the official government Commission to Investigate Nazi Atrocities, released here.
The report, which is based on various eye-witness accounts of civilians who either succeeded in fleeing from Nazi-occupied territory or who managed to survive until the Red Army recaptured the towns in which they were living, quotes Miriam Wardamacka, a Jewish teacher from Riga, who had been evacuated to the Caucasus from Latvia.
Miss Wardamacka states that thousands of Jewish refugees from western Galicia and western White Russia, who had been sent to the Caucasus, were executed by the German troops in Maikop. Among the Jews found in the oil wells by the Russian forces, she said, were the noted professor of Riga University, Dr. Menachem Rubin, and Isaac Gurian, a member of the staff of the Riga daily “Savodnia.”
In the town of Shackty, which is a few miles north-east of Rostov, the advancing Red Army found the corpses of 30000 Jews who had been drowned in flooded coal mines by the fleeing Nazis, the commission’s report states. A signed statement received by the commission reveals the fate of a typical Jewish family in the town – that of Boris Margolin, who had been employed as an engineer in one of the mines.
Margolin remained in the town after its occupation hiding among the workers, according to the statement. When the Gestapo learned that he was still in the town, they visited his house every day, threatening the family with reprisals unless they would disclose his whereabouts. When Margolin learned that his family was in danger, he returned to his house and shortly afterwards the Gestapo arrived. One of the agents, named Warmund, pounced on Margolin. Hearing the noise, some workers rushed to the house. The Gestapo started shooting at random, killing the entire Margolin family, including Margolin’s 70-year old mother. This was the signal for the wholesale slaughter of the Jews in Shachty.
A similar report released by the commission tells of the German massacre of a Jewish family in the Vorishilovograd district. The text as made public here reads:
“In a locality named Kamensk, near Voroshilovgrad, some ten Gestapo men entered the house of the inhabitant Bernholtz, where they found his wife, two daughters and his 16-year old son Isaac. The Gestapo agents asked them to disclose the where abouts of the father, which were unknown to the family as he had joined the partisans. The sister Esther and Rachel Bernholtz were beaten with whips until blood was streaming from their wounds. The boy was also whipped and one of his ears torn off. The wife of Bernholtz was also badly manhandled. The son was ordered to beat his mother. He refused and attacked one of the Gestapo men, whereupon he was beaten till he fell unconscious. When two neighbor women came to the Bernholtz house two hours later they found Mrs. Bernholtz and her two daughters dead.”
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.