Yad Vashem The Untold Stories. The Murder Sites of the Jews in the Occupied Territories of the Former USSR

Photograph of a (Yiddish) note, written in pencil, found in the clothes of a female corpse, during an exhumation carried out in October 1944, at the mass murder site of Jews near the village of Antanase, near the town of Obeliai, Rokiskis District, Lithuania
“My dearest,
Before I die, I am writing a few words,
We are about to die, five thousand innocent people,
They are cruelly shooting us,
Kisses to you all,
Translation of a Yiddish note, found in a woman’s clothing, during an exhumation carried out in October 1944, at the murder site of Jews near the village of Antanase, Lithuania
Ivangorod, Ukraine, A German policeman aims his rifle at a woman and her child, 1942.
YVA, Photo Collection 143DO5

About The Untold StoriesIvangorod, Ukraine, A German policeman aims his rifle at a woman and her child, 1942

The mass murder of Jews in the occupied areas of the former Soviet Union began with the German invasion of the USSR on June 22, 1941. The Wehrmacht combat units were accompanied by four SS death squads (Einsatzgruppen A,B,C,D), whose mission was the immediate liquidation of all Jews (men, women and children). Day after day, together with local collaborators, the Einsatzgruppen carried out this mission – without restraint or compromise. From the Baltic regions in the north – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – across to Belorussia, Russia and Ukraine, and down to the borders of the Caucasian regions in the south, they combed every area under their occupation for Jews, and murdered each and every one they laid their hands on.
Entire families were often wiped out in a single day – grandparents, adults and children. They were murdered in forests, Jewish cemeteries, anti-tank trenches, on the banks of rivers and in the rivers themselves, and in pits dug along the way (mostly by the victims themselves). The horror was revealed in its entirety when the postwar Extraordinary Soviet Commission began to investigate Nazi crimes and discovered that entire communities of Jews had been completely destroyed. Their fate was related, in many cases, by local neighbors (some of them collaborators), as well as the very few Jews who had survived the murder operations and lived to tell their tale.
In “Untold Stories,” the fates of the mid-sized and smaller communities are revealed, as well as documentation on the nearby murder sites in the German-occupied areas of the former Soviet Union. Of extreme importance too are descriptions of efforts made locally to commemorate the murdered Jews. Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research has been intensively researching and identifying a vast amount of relevant documentation, photos and testimonies, so that this relatively neglected part of Holocaust historiography can now begin to be told.

This site currently presents information about the fate of Jews from locations in Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Russia who were murdered at many different mass murder sites, as well as about the postwar activity of Jews in commemorating the Holocaust victims. All the geographical terms appear as indicated in the official population censuses before the war.
The construction of the site employed a considerable number of documents, photographs and video materials from the Yad Vashem Archives and other archives, including video testimonies given by survivors to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, as well as from private collections. Use was also made of Holocaust research and memoirs, along with the Yiddish-, Russian- and Hebrew-language press.

The three main thematic divisions of the site tell concisely and informatively about:

  • Community: the prewar life of Jews in each location and their fate during the years of the Nazi occupation
  • Murder Sites: the murder actions, the perpetrators and the places where Jews were killed by the Nazis and
    their local collaborators
  • Commemoration: postwar activities commemorating Holocaust victims.

Each of the three divisions contains extensive supplementary material presented as “Related Resources.” The related resources in Community contain a “List of Jewish Victims” and stories of “Righteous Among the Nations.” The related resources in Murder Sites contain eyewitness reports and documents under the headings of “Soviet Reports,” “Written Testimonies,” “Written Accounts” and “German Reports.” The related resources in Commemoration include written testimony and information from Yad Vashem’s Central Database of Shoah Victims’ Names (Pages of Testimony). Each of these sections is accompanied by videos.

While the preparation of the site involved the use of all available materials related to the topics, only the most important ones, of general interest, appear on the site itself. Although they are often closely related, materials that differ in genre and source sometimes appear in different sections of the site in order to create an overall picture of topics and events. Sometimes different sources give contradictory information (for example, the dates of shootings or the number of those killed). In such cases, the texts on the site include all the information, thus illustrating the complexity of such a project. We would be grateful for any corrections or additions, which would help resolve some of the contradictions, and provide further details of the overall events.

Online Guide

Educational Materials

Mass murder of Jews in Liepaja, Latvia, 1941
To view - click here
Mass Murder of Jews in Liepaja, Latvia, 1941
Archival footage of JUDENEXEKUTION IN LIBAU 1941 (Mass Murder of Jews in Liepaja, Latvia, 1941)
Courtesy of Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv/Transit Film GmbH
Interview with Reinhard Wiener, German photographer of the mass murder in Liepaja. The interview was given on September 27, 1981.
Part I - click here
Part II - click here
Interview with Reinhard Wiener, German photographer of the mass murder in Liepaja. The interview was given on September 27, 1981.
YVA O.33 1222

Vinnitsa, Ukraine, A German soldier shooting a Jew atop a mass grave, 1943.

The Routes of the Einsatzgruppen Killing Unit

Related Resources

About the Site

This site was created with generous support of:
Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany - Claims Conference
Dr. Moshe Kantor,
Chairman of the European Jewish Fund
The European Jewish Fund
The Moshe Mirilashvili Center
for Research on the Holocaust
in the Soviet Union