Kerch | Crimea

Studio portrait of a group of young Jewish metallurgy-workers, some wearing goggles and work coveralls. 1930s © From the Archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research / Pelagiya M., born in 1930: “The Germans ordered them to march toward the highest point of the trench. Those who could not walk were murdered on the spot.”  © Guillaume Ribot  /Yahad-In Unum Mikhail R., born in 1926: “The Germans forced men to undress to verify something. You know for what purpose. And when they found what they wanted, they put the Jews aside.”  © Aleksey Kasyanov  /Yahad-In Unum The place where the Jews were gathered prior to be taken to be shot in the trenches. © Aleksey Kasyanov  /Yahad-In Unum Oktyabrskaya street in Kerch, 2004. © Guillaume Ribot  /Yahad-In Unum At this place the camp used to be created in December 1941, shortly before the city was taken back by the Soviets. © Guillaume Ribot  /Yahad-In Unum Yahad-In Unum team interviewing one of the witnesses in Kerch during the field research in 2013.  © Aleksey Kasyanov  /Yahad-In Unum Mikhail R., Yahad’s witness, near one of the execution sites.   © Aleksey Kasyanov  /Yahad-In Unum The antitank trenches near the village of Bagarevo. (Execution site n°1) © Guillaume Ribot/Yahad-In Unum Pelagiya M. with father Patrick Desbois at the execution site in Kerch where thousands of Jews were murdered in December 1941. The place was located close to Bagerove village.  (Execution site n°1)  © Guillaume Ribot  /Yahad-In Unum Yahad-In Unum team interviewing one of the witnesses in Kerch during the field research in 2004. © Guillaume Ribot /Yahad-In Unum An execution site near the stone quarry where, according to Yahad’s witness, about 20 Jews were murdered. Their bodies were thrown into the well.  (Execution site n°3)  © Aleksey Kasyanov  /Yahad-In Unum Execution site near the Adzhymushkay trenches where about 1,500 Krymchak Jews and few Ashkenazi Jews were murdered on June 22, 1942. (Execution site n°2)  © Aleksey The memorial at the execution site where the Adzhymushkay trenches used to be located. © Aleksey Kasyanov  /Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Kerch

3 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Anti-tank trenches (1,2); Well (3);
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:

Witness interview

Pelagiya M., born in 1930: «It was a very cold winter 1941 when the Jews were brought in covered trucks from Kerch to the anti-tank trench, located outside the town close to our house. We watched through a crack in the fence. They screamed and cried. The Germans ordered them to march toward the highest point of the trench. Those who could not walk were shot dead on the spot. The others were killed in the pit. We came to the site the night after. We saw dead bodies of a woman and her children and a bunch of clothes next to the pit. Before the Soviet troops arrived, the Germans filled in the trench. » (Witness N°119, interviewed in Kerch, on December 28, 2004).

Soviet archives

“On November 29, 1941 an order issued by the German authorities was posted on the streets throughout the city ordering all the Jews, regardless of their age or sex, to appear at Senaya Square by 9 a.m., and to take with them food provision for 3 days. Those who showed up at the square were taken to the city prison; afterwards, they were driven to the Bagerovo anti-tank trench, where they were shot to death. The following people from our courtyard were shot to death: Salomon, Lyubov, Fanya, Manya, and Dusiya Grinman; Meir and Basya Zamorshin; and Gershman Finkel; from our Sadoyi Lane approximately 120 people were shot to death by the Germans.” [Deposition of Ivan Domashenko, born in 1893, given to the Soviet Extraordinary Commission (ChGK) on August 2, 1944; RG.22-002M : Fond 7021, Opis 9, Delo 39]

German archives

B162-986. "The SS officer told me that all of the Jews were going to be shot and that there would be no exceptions. I then asked him what would happen to the girls I had seen in [the SS’] rooms. The SS officer said that this was a bitter experience. Sometimes, they were able to give the girls to another execution commando but, in general, they had to do it themselves due to lack of time."

“I asked SS-Hauptsturmführer F. to describe precisely the place where the Jews had to be shot. It was a former Russian anti-tank trench located between Hirschdorf and Kerch. […] When I was on the road from Kerch to Hirschdorf, the trench was on the right. […] F. told me that about 2,000 Jews would be shot there. […] Trucks with men, women and children arrived from Kerch. […] They were transported to a field by truck. Then, in groups of 20-30 the Jews were escorted to the anti-tank trench and lined up at the same level as the shooting commando. The shooting commando was composed of five or six SS men. The Jews had to jump into the trench and stand up facing the wall. […] I saw twice how one SS man getting down in the pit with a rifle shooting children in the nape of the neck. Those children, as I said before, did not cry, but, were very frightened, looked around sitting on the dead bodies of their dead mothers.” [Deposition letter of Josef F., Wermacht soldier, Giessen, Germany, on February 13, 1965, BArch B162-986].

Historical note

Kerch is a town located on the Kerch Peninsula, east of the Crimea and about 200 km east of Simferopol. The modern Jewish community was established in Kerch in early 19th century, when the Jews from the Russian Empire moved to the peninsula. However the Jews lived here since 9th-10th century, or even before when the town was founded as an ancient Greek colony and was called Panticapaeum. According to the 1897 census, 4,744 Jews, including Krymchaks and Ashkenazi, lived in the town making up 14% of the total population. The majority of them mainly lived off small scale trade and handcraft. Others worked on salt extraction. There were a couple of synagogues, each confession had its own, several Yiddish schools.  By 1926, the Jewish community numbered 3,067, including some 500 Krymchaks, and by 1939 it rose up to 5,573. Approximately 3,000 Jews managed to leave the city before the Germans occupied the town in mid-November 1941.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Kerch was occupied by Germans on November 17, 1941. One week after the occupation all the Jews were registered and marked with distinctive badges in form of a six pointed star.  On November 29, 1941, all the Ashkenazi Jews were ordered to gather at the Senaya square with food provision under the pretext of the future resettlement. Those who showed up were taken and confined into the prison. Once in the prison, their valuables were confiscated.  Some Jewish women and young girls were raped. A couple of days after, on December 1-3, 1941, the Jewish detainees, including 2,500 Ashkenazi and hundreds of non-Jews, who showed up at the square , were taken to anti-tank trench located 4km away from Kerch, close to the village of Bagerovo. Once on the site, the Jews were forced to undress and get inside the trench in groups of tens where they were shot with machine guns. The execution was conducted by Sonderkommando10b, an Einsatzgruppe D unit. Later, on December 29, 1941, the remaining Ashkenazi Jews who were caught in hiding were brought at the same site and shot. Besides the Jews and non-Jewish civilians, Roma were shot at this place throughout December 1941.  

At the same time, a labor camp was established in a school building, but it existed less than a month. Approximately 2,000 people were held there, including Soviet prisoners of war and Jews.

From December 30-31, 1941, until May 13, 1942, Kerch remained under the Soviet rule after its successful but not lasting liberation. During this time many Jews succeeded to escape thought the Kerch Strait.

On June 22, 1942 (or, according to another source, on July 8-9, 1942), once the city was retaken by Germans for the second time about 1,500 Krymchak Jews married to non-Jews and a few Ashkenazi Jews were gathered and taken by truck to the anti-tank trenches near Adzhimushkay village, where they were shot to death.  Supposedly, some victims were suffocated in gas vans on their way to the site. According to a witness interviewed by Yahad-In Unum, about 20 Jewish workers at a stone quarry were killed in summer 1942 and their bodies were thrown in a well located on a field 150 meters from the quarry. In July-August 1942 the German Feldgendarmerie continued looking for Jews in hiding. Those who were found were shot dead in the anti-tank trenches near Adzhymushkay.  Besides the Jewish population, the Soviet prisoners of war and well as civilians were shot at this place during the Germans’ “second” occupation.


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