Ukrainian volunteers collect remains of Holocaust survivor grandfather

May he find peace at last: Ukrainian volunteers collect the remains of Holocaust survivor grandfather, 96, killed by Russian bombardment in Kharkiv

  • WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
  • Boris Romantschenko, 96, was killed on Friday in a rocket attack in Kharkiv
  • On Tuesday, volunteers collected his remains from destroyed apartment block
  • Romantschenko survived four different concentration camps from 1943 to 1945 
  • His death was confirmed by family and a Holocaust memorial foundation 
  • It comes as Russia continues its brutal bombing campaigns of Ukrainian cities 

Ukrainian volunteers have collected the remains of a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor who was killed in a Russian rocket attack.

Boris Romantschenko endured the horrors of the Buchenwald, Mittelbau-Dora, Bergen-Belsen and Peenemünde Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War.

He died on Friday when a Russian rocket slammed into his apartment block in the second city of Kharkiv. Earlier today, his remains were collected from the destroyed building by a team of volunteers.

The news of his death was reported by the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation and confirmed by Romantschenko’s son and granddaughter.

The foundation, which operates the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora camp memorials and supports education around the Holocaust and Nazi Germany, said: ‘We are deeply saddened by the death of Romantschenko.

‘We mourn the loss of a close friend. We wish his son and granddaughter, who brought us the sad news, a lot of strength in these difficult times,’ the foundation’s statement read.

Boris Romantschenko, a survivor of four Nazi concentration camps, died on Friday when a Russian rocket slammed into his apartment block in the second city of Kharkiv

Earlier today, his remains were collected from the destroyed building by a team of volunteers

Municipal workers and volunteers remove debris of a damaged residential building in Kharviv, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues

Romantschenko was the long-time Vice-President of the Buchenwald-Dora International Committee in Ukraine, and regularly engaged in memorial and remembrance parades.

His death comes as the result of Russia’s sustained bombing campaigns of residential centres across Ukraine as they continue their attempts to pound the nation into submission.

Boris Romantschenko was born on January 20, 1926 in Bondari near the city of Sumy in Northeastern Ukraine.

Although he was not Jewish, he was taken by German soldiers when he was 16 years old and deported to the German city of Dortmund in 1942 to work as a forced labourer, as part of Nazi intimidation tactics against the Ukrainian population at the time.

A failed escape attempt in 1943 saw him arrested and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, but he also spent time in the subcamp of Mittelbau-Dora, as well as Bergen Belsen and Peenemünde – where prisoners were forced to build V2 rockets for the Nazi war effort.

Despite the horrendous conditions, Romantschenko managed to survive three years of captivity at the hands of the Nazis.

An aged Romantschenko, dressed in the blue and white stripes of a concentration camp inmate, stood in front of the infamous phrase ‘Jedem Das Seine’ which adorns the gates at Buchenwald 

During a 2012 anniversary celebration of the liberation of Buchenwald, the Holocaust survivor returned to the concentration camp square and declared in Russian: ‘Our ideal is to build a new world of peace and freedom’ – part of an oath taken by camp survivors.

A picture posted on Twitter by the Buchenwald-Dora foundation showed an aged Romantschenko, dressed in the blue and white stripes of a concentration camp inmate, stood in front of the infamous phrase ‘Jedem Das Seine’ which adorns the gates at Buchenwald.

Translated as ‘to each his own’ or ‘to each what he deserves’, the phrase was used cynically by the Nazis in tandem with ‘work sets you free’ as they put millions of Jews to death.

The foundation said it has partnered with 30 other remembrance groups and associations to set up an ‘aid network’ to support former Nazi persecutees in Ukraine, including through donations of food and medicine.

It also plans to offer practical help to survivors fleeing Ukraine by picking them up from the Ukrainian border or finding them accommodation in Germany.

There are still some 42,000 survivors of Nazi crimes living in Ukraine, according to the aid network.

Director of the Buchenwald-Dora foundation Jens-Christian Wagner confirmed Romantschenko’s death and said the elderly Holocaust survivor had not strayed far from his apartment for months for fear of being infected with Covid prior to the Russian invasion. 

Wagner in February warned that Ukrainian Holocaust survivors in the east of the country were at risk as Russia began its invasion.

Romantschenko miraculously survived three years of captivity at the hands of the Nazis and four different concentration camps (Liberated prisoners of Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, 16 April, 1945)

In this file photo taken on January 27, 2020 a barbed wire fence encloses the memorial site of the former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald near Weimar, eastern Germany

He said the war is ‘particularly tragic for the Ukrainian concentration camp survivors who suffered with the Russian prisoners in the camps and who are now sitting in the air raid shelter and are threatened with their lives by Russian bombs.’

‘This is what they call the ”operation of denazification”,’ said the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s widely disbelieved claim that ridding Ukraine of Nazis was one reason for Moscow’s invasion.

‘The whole world sees Russia’s cruelty,’ Yermak added.

Russia’s assault on Ukraine, now in its fourth week, has been stalled by the Ukrainian army and territorial defence forces who have inflicted major losses on the invaders.

But Moscow’s failure to seize a single major Ukrainian city has seen Putin’s forces resort to using their air superiority and heavy artillery to conduct sustained bombing campaigns of residential areas, causing massive destruction and considerable civilian casualties.

Nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people have already been driven from their homes, including 3.4 million who have fled abroad, according to the United Nations, one of the fastest exoduses ever recorded.

A UN tally includes more than 900 confirmed civilian deaths but the true total is thought to be much higher. 

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