Stalinist Great Terror: Mass Killings--Vinnytsia Massacre

Figure 1.--The NKVD engahed in mss arrests durung the GreatTerrot (1937-38). The Germans found Nthe NKVD mass grves around Vinnytsia while still in possssion of the Western Ukraine (May 1943). Here local resudents are searching for missiung loved ones among the exhumed bodies (June 1943). Less than 10 percent were ever identified.

Just before World War II, the Soviet secret police (NKVD) murdered individuals as part of the Great Terror (1937-39). Mass graves at Vinnytsia in the central western Ukraine reveals that several hundred people, mostly men, were shot. This was done clandestinely and we have been able to find little informtion on investigations or court procedures. The normal NKVD operation was to have the vistims undress, tie their hands behinf their backs, and then shoot while they were still in local prisons with 22 calibre pistols. The small calibre meant that many had to be shot twice or more. Many for unknown reasons thad their skulls broken. The bodies were then buried in isolated pits. The individuals were knon to be in NKVD custody, but the families were told that they were still alive and sentenced to terms in the Gulag. Some were told that the indiciduals had died of natural causes. Most of the families members simply never received word on what was happened and most were too frightened to ask questions. They were mostly men, adults of varying ages. Most had been buried wuthout their clothes. A few older women were still dressed. It is believed that they were individuals thought by the NKVD to be Ukranian nationlists. The Germans discovered 91 mass graves were discovered at the three different locations. They exhumed 9,432 bodies (including 149 women). Not all of the sites had all yhe bodies exhumed. No one knows how many of these mass graves exist througout the former Soviet Union. It is likely that virtually every NKVD prison had sites where bodies of prisoners were buried. The NKVD action was not brought to light until discovered by the Germans during World War II. The action is similar to the Katyn killings, but these individuls were mostly Ukranians and not military officers. Local people were able to identify 468 bodies. Another 202 were identified on the basis of documents and evidence found in the graves. They were mostly Ukrainians, but there were also 28 ethnic Poles. There is little evidence indicating why the NKVD arrested them or what they were charged with. Some personal belongings, documents and trial documentation were buried in a separate pit not far from the mass graves. We do not know to what extent this evidence was studied. Exhumations began (May 1943). [Vasiliev] The International Commission brought in by the Germans was only present a few days (July 1943). After the War the Soviets were focused on covering up the whole episode, nit in investigaring it. As with the Katyn mass graves, the Germans brought in international experts to document the grave and use it as useful propaganda against the Soviet Union. Typically at the same time, the SS was setting in motion Aktion 1005 to destroy evidence of the enumerable mass graves of mostly Jews scattered all over the western Soviet Union as a result of Einsatzgruppen Aktiones. After the Red Army recoocupied the area and as with Katyn, all mention of the incident was supressed and not brought to light sgain until Ukraine emerged from Soviet control.


Mackiewicz, Józef. "Klucz do "Parku Kultury i Odpoczynku" ["Keys to "Park of Culture and Leisure" The title refers to the leisure park the Soviets built over the graves after the War.] The article was published in Jacek Trznadel. Katyń. Zbrodnia bez sądu i kary [Katyn, Crime without trial nor punishment]. Zeszyty Katyńskie II ). (Warsaw: Antyk, 1st ed. 1997), pp. 329–339.

Vasiliev, Valery and Yuriy Shapoval. "Stages of 'Great Terror': The Vinnytsia Tragedy"( Zerkalo Nedeli, № 31 (406) (August 17–23, 2002),


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Created: 10:38 PM 6/17/2014
Last updated: 10:38 PM 6/17/2014