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Victims of the Koriukivka Massacre Remembered on the 70th Anniversary of the Tragedy

01 March 2013, 21:25

This March marks a sad day for Ukrainians, as we mark the 70th anniversary of the mass murder that took place in Koriukivka village in Ukraine in March 1943. The Koriukivka massacre became one of the largest German punitive expeditions against civilians in the World War II.

Before the war, Koriukivka, founded in 1657, was a large village located in the woods near the crossing of borders of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, with population of 12 thousand residents. In the three centuries of its history, Koriukivka has never seen anything close to the horrors brought by Nazi occupation that started in late 1941.

Just as in all other Ukrainian cities, towns and villages, terror was the method of Nazi control. During 1942, they shot all 300 Jews of Koriukivka, killed 131 family members of partisans and Communist activists, and all 12 Gypsies of the village.

In the spring of 1943, as the Soviet-German war raged for almost two years, Germans were forced to retreat to the west: after the Stalingrad, it became clear that Axis would not win the world war. While the Red Army, encouraged by recent victories, was advancing to regain the lost ground, partisan operations in German rear became more active.

During the German occupation, Koriukivka was a center of Soviet partisan warfare in Chernihiv Oblast (Region). On the night of February 27, 1943, the partisans led by Oleksiy Fedorov successfully attacked the local Axis garrison, which consisted mostly of Hungarians, and freed prisoners from the village prison.

On March 1, 1943, SS units arrived to Koriukivka seeking revenge. They encircled the village and started methodical massacre. All residents were rounded in groups of 50 to 100 persons, brought into large buildings, and shot. They finished with setting the whole village on fire.

Koriukivka was freed by Soviet troops on 19 March, 1943. A report on the number of victims and inflicted damage was compiled in the same year. The investigators found human bodies that were shot with submachine guns and heavy machineguns, beaten dead with gun-butts or thrown into fire alive. The total number of casualties in the village was 6,700 on that single day. Thus, the Koriukivka massacre became the bloodiest Nazi reprisal raid of World War II.

The Koriukivka tragedy stands among many other similar Nazi massacres, such as Oradour-sur-Glane (France, 642 victims), Lidice (Czech Republic, 320 victims), Khatyn (Belarus, 149 victims).

1,377 villages were burned by Nazis in Ukraine alone. The number of civilian casualties in Ukraine exceeded 5 million, ranking it on par with Russia and Poland as greatest victims of Nazi atrocities.