December 22, 2000
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has received important new documents from the Kalmyk Republic of the Russian Federation, detailing at least seven previously unknown mass executions of Jews during the Holocaust. The massacres were conducted by the Einsatzgruppe D during the republic’s occupation by German and Romanian armies between August and December 1942. The documents were held in the Kalmyk State Archives and provide the first accounts of these killings. The archives include the names of victims, contemporary eyewitness testimonies, and exhumation reports of the mass graves. Between 500 and 700 Jews were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators in Kalmykia.
“This is an amazing part of the history not only of the Holocaust, but also of the only Buddhist state in Europe,” states Wesley Fisher, the Museum’s Director of International Programs. “That the Nazis pursued Jews to this distant, Soviet republic is testament to their determination to annihilate all Jewry. We’re deeply grateful to the Kalmyk government for making these documents available, and in helping us understand this tragedy.”
The records were presented to the Museum at the “Balka Gashun” Holocaust memorial site in Kalmykia. More than 1,000 people were in attendance, including the Chairman of the Kalymk government, Aleksander Dorzhdeev; Vice President, Vyasheslav Ilyumzhinov; the Minister of Culture, Nikolay Sandzhiev; and the Chief Rabbi of the Volograd Region, Zalman Yoffe.
“The records received by the Museum, are only the first consignment of a larger store,” stated Vadim Altskan, Director of the Museum’s Survivors Registry and Museum official who accepted the documents on the Museum’s behalf. “More reports are undoubtedly hidden in old KGB files, and the Kalmyk government is committed to finding them and making them available.”
During World War II, Kalmykia was an autonomous republic in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It is located between the Volga and Don Rivers, to the southeast of the European part of Russia. It is a predominately Buddhist state, although its practice was restricted during Soviet rule. Today, Kalmykia is part of the Russian Federation.
Before World War II, only a handful of Jews lived in the republic. Following the June 1941 Nazi invasion of the USSR, several hundred Soviet Jews fled to the republic seeking refuge. The Red Army liberated the republic in December 1942, and in February 1943, the Soviet Extraordinary Commission to Investigate Nazi War Crimes (SECINWC) began documenting Nazi atrocities that occurred there, but the reports remained buried in the archives.
In 1943, the Soviet government accused the population of collaborating with the Nazis, and the republic was dissolved. The Kalmyk reports were never forwarded to the SECINWC headquarters in Moscow. The entire populace was exiled to Siberia until 1957, when the autonomy of the region was re-established. Approximately one-half of the Kalmyk people perished while in exile.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national institution for the documentation, study and interpretation of Holocaust history, and serves as this country’s memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust. Since opening in April 1993, the Museum has welcomed more than 15 million visitors. The Museum’s primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy; to preserve the memory of those who suffered; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.