The Odessa massacre is the name given to the mass murder of Jewish and Romani population of Odessa and surrounding towns in Transnistria during the autumn of 1941 and winter of 1942 while under Romanian control.
Depending on the accepted terms of reference and scope, the Odessa massacre refers either to the events of October 22–24, 1941 in which some 25,000 to 34,000 Jews were shot or burned, or to the murder of well over 100,000 Ukrainian Jews in the town and the areas between the Dniester and Bug rivers, during the Romanian and German occupation. In the same days, Germans and Romanians killed about 15,000 Romani people.
Odessa had a large Jewish population of approximately 180,000, or 30% of the city's total population, before the war. By the time the Romanians had taken the city, between 80,000 and 90,000 Jews remained, the rest having fled or had been evacuated by the Soviets. As the massacres occurred, Jews from surrounding villages would be concentrated in Odessa and Romanian concentration camps set up in the surrounding areas.
The Germans and Romanians captured Odessa following a two-month siege on October 16. A delayed bomb placed by the Soviets detonated on the 22nd in the Romanian headquarters, killing 67 people including General Ioan Glogojeanu, the Romanian commander, 16 other Romanian officers and four German naval officers.
Blaming the Jews and communists for the bomb, Romanian troops began reprisals that same evening. By noon of the following day, October 23, 5,000 civilians had been seized and shot, most of them Jews. On the morning of October 23, over 19,000 Jews were assembled in nine gunpowder warehouses at the port, and summarily shot, after which the warehouses were set on fire. Some of the prisoners were burned alive.
That afternoon, over 20,000 were led out of the city in a long column in the direction of Dalnik. When they reached the village, they were tied together in groups of 40–50 people, thrown into an anti-tank ditch and shot. When the Romanians grew concerned that the killing would take too long, they moved the rest of the Jews into four large warehouses in which they made holes for machine guns. The doors were closed and the soldiers fired into the buildings. In order to make sure that all those inside the buildings died, they set fire to three of the buildings, (which were filled mainly with women and children), at 17:00 hours on the following day, October 24. Those who tried to escape through windows or holes in the roofs were shot or met with hand grenades. On October 25, the fourth building, which was filled with men, was shelled. These massacres were carried out under the orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Nicolae Deleanu and Lieutenant-Colonel C. D. Nicolescu. German soldiers also took part in the shooting.
Around 35,000–40,000 of the Jews that remained were moved into the ghetto in the suburb of Slobodka where most of the buildings were destroyed, and left outdoors for ten days, between October 25 and November 3, and many Jews died of exposure.
On October 28, a new massacre was started when 4,000–5,000 Jews were herded into stables and shot. By the end of December, an additional 50,000 Jews from the concentration camp at Bogdanovka had been killed. A further 10,000 Jews were taken on a death march to three concentration camps near Golta: Bogdanovka, Domanovka and Acmecetca. Those who survived the journey were murdered two months later, along with tens of thousands of other Jews who had been brought to these camps from northern Transnistria and Bessarabia.
In January 1942, the extermination ended with the killing of those who remained in Slobodka. From January 12–23, the last 19,582 Jews were transported in cattle wagons to Berezovka from where they were transported to the concentration camps in Golta. Within eighteen months almost all of them were dead.
Although these events are not doubted by historians, some accounts differ (often greatly) in the numbers, partially due to different definitions of what constituted the Odessa massacres, as opposed to other acts of genocide in Transnistria carried out by the Romanians, Germans, and their allies, including local collaborators.
The official report on the Romanian role in the Holocaust states that in the city of Odessa from October 18, 1941, until mid-March 1942, the Romanian military, aided by local authorities, murdered up to 25,000 Jews and deported over 35,000, most of whom were later killed. The report also details 50,000 Jews killed in Bogdanovka, and tens of thousands more in Golta and the surrounding areas. The Jewish Virtual Library cites figures of 34,000 Jews murdered during October 22–25, and the US Holocaust Museum concludes that "Romanian and German forces killed almost 100,000 Jews in Odessa during the occupation of the city." In other sources the number of people killed in Transnistria was 115,000 Jews and 15,000 Romani.