Vapniarka ( ), also known as
Wapnjarka or Wapniarka, is a
town in Vinnytsia Oblast, Ukraine, known since
1870 as a railroad station.
As of 2005, its population is
8,600. During World War
II, following the start of Operation Barbarossa, Vapniarka was
administered by Romania.
March 1944, it was included in the region of Transnstria
, and became the site
for a concentration camp
members of the Romanian
, many of whom were affiliated with left-wing
political groupings. This succession of
events formed a part of the Holocaust in Romania
World War II camp
Romania, under the leadership of Ion
Antonescu, joined the war on the Axis side and took part in the invasion of the
Union, its administration extended over the Dniester and areas up
to then forming part of the Ukrainian
SSR (see Romania
during World War II).
By that time, the 700
had fled or had been killed by the Nazi German
or Romanian troops. In October
1941, the Romanians established a detention camp in Vapniarka.
thousand Jews were brought to the site that month, mostly from the
city of Odessa.
two hundred died in a typhus
others were taken out of the camp in two batches, guarded by
soldiers of the Romanian
, and shot to death.
In 1942, 150 Jews from Bukovina
brought to Vapniarka. On September 16 of that year, 1,046 Romanian
Jews were also brought to the camp. About half had been banished
from their homes on suspicion of being communists
, but 554 had been included without any
specific charges being brought against them. This was the last
transport to arrive at the camp; its status was changed to that of
a concentration camp for political
, under the direct control of the Romanian Minister of
, Dumitru I.
. In practice, Vapniarka
was a concentration camp for Jewish prisoners, since no other
political suspects were held there — the only other inmates were
convicts. Of the 1,179
Jews in the camp, 107 were women, who were housed in two huts
surrounded by a triple-apron barbed-wire fence.
Among the Jewish prisoners were 130 members of the Romanian Communist Party
, and also Trotskyists
. Most of the prisoners, however,
had been arrested on purely arbitrary grounds. The inmates
established a camp committee to help them survive despite
starvation, disease, hard labor, and physical and mental torture.
Apart from the official committee, the camp also had an underground
leadership, and, together, the two bodies persuaded the prisoners
to observe discipline voluntarily.
The camp commandant introduced severe restrictions on the supply of
water. By keeping the camp meticulously clean, the prisoners were
able to overcome the typhus epidemic, but they suffered from the
poor quality of the food, which included Lathyrus sativus
, a species of
that was normally used to feed livestock
, and barley
that had a 20% straw content. A team of doctors among the inmates, led by
Dr. Arthur Kessler of Cernăuţi, reached the
conclusion that the disease presented all the symptoms of Lathyrism, a spastic
paralysis caused by the oxalyldiaminopropionic acid
present in the pea fodder.
Within a few weeks, the first
symptoms of the disease appeared, affecting the bone marrow
of prisoners and causing paralysis.
By January 1943, hundreds of prisoners were suffering from
Lathyrism. The inmates declared a hunger
, and demanded medical assistance. As a result, the
authorities allowed the Jewish Aid Committee in Bucharest to supply them with medicine, and the prisoners'
relatives were allowed to send them parcels.
It was only at
the end of January that the prisoners were no longer fed with the
animal fodder that had caused the disease, but 117 Jews were
paralyzed for life.
In March 1943, it was found that 427 Jews had been imprisoned for
no reason whatsoever. They were moved to various ghettos
in Transnistria, but they sent back to
Romania and released only in December 1943-January 1944. In October
1943, when the Soviet Red Army
approaching the region, it was decided to liquidate the camp. 80
Jews were sent to ghettos in Transnistria. 54 Communists were
taken to a prison in Rîbniţa,
Transnistria, where they were killed in their cells by SS men on
March 19, 1944.
group, which included most of the prisoners (565 persons), was
moved to Romania in March 1944 and imprisoned in the camp for
political prisoners in Târgu Jiu until after the fall of the Antonescu government in
August (see King Michael
Many of the former prisoners in Vapniarka were appointed to senior
posts in Communist Romania
them Simion Bughici