August 28

This Day in History

World War II

Aug 28, 1941:

Mass slaughter in Ukraine

On this day in 1941, more than 23,000 Hungarian Jews are murdered by the Gestapo in occupied Ukraine.

The German invasion of the Soviet Union had advanced to the point of mass air raids on Moscow and the occupation of parts of Ukraine. On August 26, Hitler displayed the joys of conquest by inviting Benito Mussolini to Brest-Litovsk, where the Germans had destroyed the city's citadel. The grand irony is that Ukrainians had originally viewed the Germans as liberators from their Soviet oppressors and an ally in the struggle for independence. But as early as July, the Germans were arresting Ukrainians agitating and organizing for a provisional state government with an eye toward autonomy and throwing them into concentration camps. The Germans also began carving the nation up, dispensing parts to Poland (already occupied by Germany) and Romania.

But true horrors were reserved for Jews in the territory. Tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews had been expelled from that country and migrated to Ukraine. The German authorities tried sending them back, but Hungary would not take them. SS General Franz Jaeckeln vowed to deal with the influx of refugees by the "complete liquidation of those Jews by September 1." He worked even faster than promised. On August 28, he marched more than 23,000 Hungarian Jews to bomb craters at Kamenets Podolsk, ordered them to undress, and riddled them with machine-gun fire. Those who didn't die from the spray of bullets were buried alive under the weight of corpses that piled atop them.

All told, more than 600,000 Jews had been murdered in Ukraine by war's end.

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