Russian strike kills Holocaust survivor in Ukraine

A Russian strike last week killed a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, according to Ukraine’s foreign minister.

Dmytro Kuleba, Minister of Foreign Affairs tweeted monday that Boris Romanchenko, a Jewish Ukrainian, died Friday following a Russian bombardment on his building. Kuleba called Romanchenko’s death an “indescribable crime”.

“Hilter survived, murdered by Putin,” the Ukrainian official wrote.

Romanchenko was born in 1926 in a small town near Sumy, Ukraine, and was among millions of Jews arrested by the Nazis after Germany invaded the Soviet Union during World War II. He was sent to Dortmund, Germany in 1942 and did forced labor until he was caught escaping in 1943.

Romanchenko survived several death camps, the first being Buchenwald – one of the first and largest camps in Germany where the Nazis murdered more than 56,500 people before the survivors were liberated in 1945.

He was also imprisoned in the Mittelbau-Dora subcamp and in the well-known camps of Bergen-Belsen and Peenemünde. In the latter, Romanchenko was forced to help build the German V-2 rocket, the first long-range guided ballistic missile.

Buchenwald Memorial also shared that Romanchenko’s relatives had confirmed his death. Her granddaughter told the memorial that a bomb hit her high-rise flat, which then burned down.

Romanchenko “worked intensely on the memory of Nazi crimes” and was vice-president of the International Buchenwald-Dora Committee, according to the memorial. In 2012, he read an oath – “to create a new world where there is peace and freedom” – to celebrate the anniversary of the camp’s liberation.

“We mourn the loss of a close friend. We wish his son and granddaughter … much strength in these difficult times,” the memorial said in a statement, adding that Romanchenko’s death “shows how how threatening the war in Ukraine is for the survivors of the concentration camps”.

He added: “Together with 30 other memorials, the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation has set up a network to help former victims of Nazi persecution in Ukraine.”

Six survivors renew the so-called Buchenwald oath from April 19, 1945, during ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp. A Russian strike killed Buchenwald survivor Boris Romanchenko (second from right) in Kharkiv, Ukraine on March 18, 2022.

Jens Schlueter via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to justify his invasion of Ukraine with the lie that his goal is to “denazify” the country. Western leaders, as well as Ukraine itself, have denounced the claims, pointing out that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a Jewish man who lost family members in the Holocaust. Zelenskyy compared Putin’s actions to those of Nazi-era Germany.

“It’s what they call ‘the denazification operation,'” Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine’s presidential office, said on Telegram of Romanchenko’s death, according to CNN.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city just 30 miles from the Russian border, has been under relentless shelling for more than three weeks now. According to Ukrainian officials, at least 500 civilians were killed in the area, including children.

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