The Nadwórna Jewish Community during the Holocaust
The Nadwórna Jewish Community in the Early Years of WWII
At the end of September 1939, the Soviet Union occupied Nadwórna as part of an agreement between Nazi Germany and the USSR to divide Poland (the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty). Many Jewish refugees from Polish areas occupied by the Germans streamed towards Nadwórna. During the period of Soviet rule, Jewish public activities ceased, private trade was liquidated, large factories were nationalized and most of the light industry workers were organized into cooperatives. Members of the anti-Soviet Ukrainian underground murdered a number of Jewish families in the city suspected of cooperating with the communists.
On 1 July 1941, some two weeks after the invasion of the Soviet Union by the Germans and its allies, Nadwórna was occupied by the Hungarian army – allies of the Germans. A number of Jewish public officials established a committee, and turned to the Hungarian military authorities with a request to prevent harassment by the Ukrainians – to no avail. Pogroms carried out by the Ukrainians in mid-July resulted in the murder of dozens of Jews. A few weeks later, some 1,000 Jews without Hungarian citizenship from the Zakarpattia region, now occupied by Hungary, were exiled to Nadwórna. The number of Jews in the city grew to 5,500.
In September 1941, Nadwórna was passed to German rule. A Judenrat was established, headed by Dr. Maksymiljan Schell and his deputy, Isaac Schapira. The Jews were ordered to wear a white armband bearing a blue Star of David, and some were snatched for forced labor. At the same time, murders and harassment by the Ukrainians continued. Among the victims were Dr. Michael Sterer, the last head of the Jewish community before World War II.
On 6 October 1941, a mass aktion began. Germans and Ukrainian police officers broke into Jewish homes and began to concentrate their residents in the square by the church. Many Jews were murdered on the way for refusing to walk to the concentration site, as well as others who tried to flee the square. In the afternoon, the Jews were taken by truck to the Bukowinka Forest, where they were shot and thrown into pits. During this aktion, over 2,000 Jews, many of them women, children and elderly, were murdered. In addition to Jews from Nadwórna, the victims included Jews from nearby villages as well as refugees from Zakarpattia. The victims' homes and most of their contents were given to the German occupation authorities, and the rest was plundered by local Ukrainians.
A few days after the October massacre, the remaining Jews of the city received permission from the Germans to cover the killing pits in Bukowinka, as many of the victims' bodies were still lying on the surface of the ground. The Jews of the city fenced off the site and said a communal kaddish (prayer for the deceased) in the victims' memory.