The Jewish population in Kherson was much larger in summer 1941 than the pre-war
population. The city population had been inflated by Jews and non-Jews alike fleeing
Poland after the Germans had overrun that country in September 1939. Later, after
22 June 1941, when the Germans broke the
Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Agression Treaty, many more refugees from the western areas of
the Soviet Union arrived in Kherson. Many Jews wisely continued fleeing eastward under the auspices
of Soviet evacuation efforts. Nevertheless, a large number of Jews were still in Kherson when the
Germans arrived in mid-August 1941. The Nazis did not waste time; an initial roundup and murder of
the Jews began soon after their arrival.
By early September 1941, the remaining Jews were forced into a ghetto. The scenario was the same
been imposed by the Germans in Poland and would be repeated in all the regions that the Germans
conquered. The ghetto was surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by sentries and dogs.
A Judenrat (Jewish Council established by the Germans to carry out Nazi anti-Jewish policy)
was set up; Jews were registered; the medieval wearing of
a Star of David on one's clothing was imposed; valuables and money were turned over to the Judenrat;
and Jews were requisitioned into forced labor. Before the end of that month, Jews were
moved again – this time to the local prison. The large-scale mass murders were soon to begin.
Luck played a role in the survival of a number of Kherson Jews. Yad Vashem has recorded the memoirs
of some of these survivors on its website. These memoirs can be found in the database section entitled
The Untold Stories.
After the Nazis had executed several thousand Jews, they decided to release
those remaining women who were married to non-Jews. Yudit Agracheva took advantage of this temporary
reprieve and escaped.
Yudit's story & that of
Fanya Moiseenko and her infant son also took advantage of the Nazis' “largesse”;
she and her son found their way to a nearby village where a local woman hid them. Lyudmila Burlaka's
escape, as she and her family were walking to their deaths, is harrowing. Read both of these stories at
Fanya & Lyudmila.
These women would most likely have not survived if it were not for the risks that local people took
in protecting them. Yad Vashem has recognized these Righteous Among the Nations. Among these
courageous people are
the Sopora Family;
the Nesterenko Family;
and Yevgenia Zamoroko née Lysenko, who
received a posthumous award in 2007.