Kopai (Kopay) | Vinnytsia

/ Zoya O., born in 1932. Zoya’s aunt saved a Jewish woman Dora by hiding here in t     he attic until the liberation. ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The Yahad-In Unum’s team during an interview. © Aleksey Kasyanv/Yahad-In Unum The former location of the camp where the Jews from Kopaihorod and those brought from Bukovina and Bessarabia in October 1941 were confined. ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The location of the mass grave where the Jews who died in the camp were buried. ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum The location of the mass grave where the Jews who died in the camp were buried. ©Aleksey Kasyanov/Yahad-In Unum

Execution of Jews in Kopai

1 Execution site(s)

Kind of place before:
Sand quarry
Period of occupation:
Number of victims:

Witness interview

Nadia G., born in 1931: “I will tell you, because I used to bring them food to that station in Kopaihorod. My mother would scold me because of the Romanians that were there. She would say: “Don’t go there, because they can hit you very hard and throw you into that quarry. I was small and skinny as a child. When my mother went to work, and you know it was such a life, that I already started baking bread by myself at the age of 14 years old, and to cook at the age of 12, I did what I wanted. My mother made that mamalyha. I found a clean tug, wrapped a few pieces, and I went there. I had been there three times. We had a very bad potato harvest, but I took a few little potatoes and baked them. Then, I took my father’s coat and tore the pockets, because how much can you fit in the pockets? I could barely walk. Once there, I threw the food and they ate it, poor things. But, on the third time, [when I came] I was threatened with a gun to my chest. I got scared. But when other people of the village saw a Romanian pointing a gun at me, they started to yell. As a result, he let me go. I came home and told my mother about it after a day or two. My mother told me to not leave the house anymore, so I didn’t.
Y.U.: Were there many guards?
Witness: There were four of them. You know it was a small forest and they put a barbed wire, that way they needed more people to guard, not just two. So, I saw four of them. But I don’t know if they were guards; I can’t tell you.” (Witness n°2652U, interviewed in Volodiivtsi, on September 2, 2019)

Historical note

Kopai is located 80km (50mi) southwest of Vinnytsia. Back then it was a railway station with only three houses and a forest around. No Jews lived in the Kopai station before the war. A big Jewish community lived in the nearby village of Kopaihorod, located 7km southeast of Kopai.  According to the first official census in 1847, 617 Jews lived in Kopaihorod and nearby villages. In 1886, there were three synagogues and a Jewish cemetery. By 1897, the Jewish community grew up to 1,720 people comprising almost 60% of the total population. The majority of Jews were merchants or artisans. On the eve of the war, only 1,075 Jews lived in the town, making up about 37% of the entire population.

Holocaust by bullets in figures

Kopai was occupied by the German and Romanian troops in the second half of July 1941. By that time, about 70% of the Kopaihorod Jews managed to evacuate. The village remained under Romanians and became part of the Transnistria from September 1941. In September 1941, the remaining 300 local Jews were displaced to a camp created in the forest near the station of Kopai. In October 1941, several thousand Jews brought from Bukovina and Bessarabia were confined there. The camp was fenced in with barbed wire and guarded by four Romanians. During its existence, the detainees were selected to perform various forced labor. Those Jews who died due to typhus or hunger were buried in the forest, in a sand quarry. Today, there is no marker at that place. According to the historical sources and the archives, in the end of November 1941, the detainees were brought back to Kopaihorod where they were placed in the ghetto. Although, the local witness n°2635U interviewed by Yahad mentioned that the remaining Jews from the camp were gathered and locked up in the basement, a sort of a bunker, for about two months. According to the witness, this happened at the end of the occupation, which led us to believe that not all the detainees were transferred to the Kopaihorod ghetto in November 1941. Some, the exact number is unknown, remained in the Kopai camp until the end of the occupation.

For more information about the executions in Kopaihorod please refer to the corresponding profile.

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