Kaluga | Kaluga

/ Galina K., born in 1933: “They were standing in front of the queue. People were walking along the fence, but at some distance from it, because otherwise they could have caught fire. The Germans with rifles were guarding them.”© Thomas Cecchelani  /Yahad-I Galina K., born in 1933, had a Jewish mother. Together with her sister, her mother and her uncle, they survived the occupation.  © Thomas Cecchelani  /Yahad-In Unum The Yahad-In Unum team during an interview. © Thomas Cecchelani  /Yahad-In Unum The women’s  monastery, known as “Red Mountain,” where the camp was created, still functions as a women’s monastery  today,.   © Thomas Cecchelani  /Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Kaluga

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Women’s monastery
Period of occupation:
October 11–December 30, 1941
Number of victims:

Witness interview

Galina K., born in 1933: “Y.U.: After the Germans came, did you stay long in your house or were you told to leave?
Witness: That is exactly what I wanted to tell you about. The Germans settled in, my mother and the neighbor performed duties for them, but one day they threw a bomb. A vehicle with guns was standing in the courtyard. They escaped somewhere. There were many of them in other houses around. There were wooden houses… My father told… No, he had already gone to the army. We decided to move to the wooden houses, because there were no windows in our house. We went there, but suddenly the armed Germans came and asked if there were any Jews. A young man came out. He lived on the ground floor and was of a similar age as my father. He came out and pointed at my mother. The German hit her in the back with the buttstock and took us away. We had just crossed the street and were standing ready to enter the house. The Germans told us to line up and took us to the concentration camp. That was the essential part I forgot to tell you about. I am sorry for that.
Y.U.: How did they bring you to the camp, by truck or on foot?
Witness: They made us march and followed us with the rifles. Do you know where the camp was?
Y.U.: Yes.
Witness: It was a women’s monastery with proper rooms. They brought my mother, me, my sister and Uncle Misha to one of those rooms. We lived in it, but my mother did a clever trick. She made Uncle Misha undress and put a woman’s dress on. My mother and sister occupied one bed, and I took another one. Mother put some clothes on the floor for Uncle Misha and told him to lie down on them and stay like that all the time. He stayed there all the time we spent in the camp, and he survived.” (Witness n°890, interviewed in Kaluga, on August 14, 2019)

Soviet archives

“Circular prior to the announcement
It is forbidden to the yids: to leave the town’s limits, to visit the markets on the market days, to communicate with other members of the population, or with the representatives of the German army by greeting them, asking them questions or other things; to trade, to receive any resident at their houses for any legal or other questions.
The yids have to create their own council that needs to elect the head who will be the only one to address the Municipal administration.
The labor office has the register of all the yids of working age, women from 16 to 50 years old, men from 16 to 60 years old, that could be asked to perform different kinds of forced labor, unless they are able to present special exemption from the medical commission.
It is forbidden to slaughter the cattle and the poultry using yids rituals.

Under the Kommandant’s order, all the yids of both sexes residing in the town of Kaluga and its district have to register at the municipal administration of Kaluga between November 1st and 5th (between November 1st and 10th for other localities of the district). At the same time, all the yids, men, and women, have to sew on their coats and suits two distinctive signs in the form of five pointed stars of yellow color, 8cm in diameter, one on the right side of the chest, and another one on the left side, on the back. All the people who do not follow the order will be prosecuted in front of the Military Court.” [Documents taken from the Soviet Extraordinary Commission: GARF 7021-47-4]

Historical note

Kaluga, first mentioned in 1371, is located on the banks of the Oka River, 188 km (117 miles) southwest of Moscow.  The first record about the Jewish community in Kaluga goes back to the end of the 18th century. The majority of Jews who lived in the town were involved in small-scale trade and artisanal manufacturing. The community had its own cemetery and a synagogue. On the eve of the war 833 Jews remained in the town, the majority of whom were evacuated once the Soviet Union was attacked by Germany.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Kaluga was occupied by German troops on October 11, 1941. At that  moment only 155 Jews remained in the town. During the first days of the occupation about 14 Jews, mainly members of the intelligentsia, were shot under the pretext of being Soviet activists. Shortly after that the anti-Jewish measures were implemented. Besides being forced to register and mark themselves with the yellow Star of David on their backs and chests, the remaining Jews were forbidden from going to the markets, leaving the town’s limits, excelling in their jobs and talking to non-Jewish population.

According to the Soviet archives another 8 Jews were shot on November 7, 1941, after being detained and starved for three weeks along with another fifteen, who were released and placed back in  the ghetto.

On November 8, 1941, all the Jews from the town and nearby villages were ordered to move into a ghetto created on the territory of the monastery, called “Red Mountain.” According to a half-Jewish survivor, interviewed by Yahad (YIU/890R) each family had a separate room where they stayed.  While being detained in the ghetto, all the Jews, men and women, fit to work, were made  to perform different kinds of forced labor, like cleaning the streets for women, and constructing a fence around the ghetto for men. Besides the forced labor the Jews were systematically subjected to robberies and assaults on behalf of police and Germans. The ghetto was guarded by Field Gendarmerie and local police and the inmates were allowed to leave its territory only at certain hours.

The ghetto was supposed to be liquidated on December 20-22, 1941, but with the approach of the Red Army, the mission wasn’t completed. During an unsuccessful attempt the ghetto was set on fire and several old people met their death, while the majority managed to evacuate and were liberated by the Red Army. Some Jews were randomly shot inside the ghetto during the process. 

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