The Nazi invasion June 22, 1941
On June 22, 1941
Germany attacked the USSR. The strategic importance of Odessa to the Nazis was great. The Nazis wanted to capture Odessa and
Sevastopol to end the Soviet domination of the Black Sea, and advance on Soviet coal and oil fields. The Nazis could not advance
on Crimea until Odessa fell.
Odessa quickly built three defensive lines with barricades, trenches,
and anti-tank obstacles. The first was 12-15 miles (20-25 kilometers) from the city, the second 6-12 miles (10-14 kilometers),
and the last along Odessa's suburban edge. All day long pensioners, children and women reinforced the barricades with sandbags
Between July 22nd and October 16th, 1941 Nazis bombed Odessa
The 73-day siege began as Nazi troops advanced on Odessa on August
5th. A few days later Odessa was blocked by land.
Located on a flat steppe, Odessa had no natural barriers to protect
it. The coastal batteries along Odessa had been designed for a sea battle, not a land battle.
Factories that had formerly made consumer goods quickly switched to
military production. 134 different types of goods were produced and sent directly to the front. This included armored tractors,
armored trains, anti-tank mines (made of lipstick tubes), flame throwers (made of tine cans and oil pipes), mines (made of
tin cans), and hand grenades. Passenger ships and boats also were modified for military use.
The Nazis concentrated 300,000 men on Odessa, six times more men and
five times more artillery than Odessa.
Odessa used the sea as a lifeline to ship out wounded and to gain
more men, weapons, and supplies. Over 900 voyages were made from the Crimea to Odessa.
Only 30 aircraft defended Odessa.
On August 19 the Nazi's seized the settlement of Belya-evka,
which supplied Odessa with water. As a result a water rationing system began. Water ration cards were issued. The rate was
1/2 bucket of water per person, per day.
By mid-September the fighting became particularly fierce as
the city defenders held a strip of the coast only 18.5 miles (30 kilometers) wide. From the Dolphin heights in the northeast,
the Nazis began to shell Odessa with long range guns, while their aircraft bombed the coast and town. Odessa was reinforced
by soldiers from Moscow, bringing the total number of soldiers defending Odessa up to 5 divisions.
The Soviets decided to deliver a counter strike against the Nazis.
On the night of September 21st, a group of warships arrived from Sevastopol near the Grigoryevsky cape east of Odessa.
The marines landed on the cape and pierced the Nazi's frontline. Troops in Odessa also began to attack. The landing party
took several small villages, seized a great amount of weaponry, pushed the enemy back 3-6 miles (5-10 kilometers) from the
city, and stopped the shelling from the northeast.
Retreat October 1st - October 16th, 1941
By the autumn of
1941, the Nazis were advancing on Moscow and Leningrad, had captured Kiev, and had invaded the Donets coalfields and
Crimean peninsula. Because of the threat to the Crimea, the USSR decided to evacuate from Odessa on September 30.
The evacuation took place from October 1st to October 16th.
During this time the Soviets attempted to shroud the evacuation. Major counterstrikes were launched, rumors were spread about
redeployment of forces, and trenches were created giving the appearance that the city was preparing for a winter siege. The
Nazis believed this ploy. 86,000 army members and 15,000 civilians were evacuated to Crimea. These divisions in Sevastopol
held out against the Nazis for 250 days.
Old fishermen today say that when the last caravan sailed out of Odessa,
it was accompanied by a vast amount of seagulls. They too left Odessa.
During the 73 day long siege of Odessa, over 160,000 Nazi troops were
killed, almost 200 aircraft were shot down, and a hundred tanks were destroyed. The resistance in Odessa had slowed down Hitler's
advance on Russia.
Occupation October 16th, 1941
In the evening of October 16th, 1941 the Nazi's entered Odessa. Immediately they issued marshal law. Citizens
were forbidden to leave there homes without special passes, a night curfew was imposed, they were forbidden from keeping Soviet
propaganda books, and they were not allowed to sing Russian or Ukrainian songs.
Gallows were set up on the squares, and thousands of people, mostly
Jews, were deported to concentration camps in the region. During occupation it was under Romanian administration as the capital
Several partisan groups formed to resist the Nazi occupation.
Liberation of Odessa April 10th, 1944
On March 24th, 1944, Marshal Rodion Malinovsky commander of the 3rd Ukrainian front, began to attack the city.
The Soviets knew that the Nazis were trapped and had know were to
retreat, and that they had mined all of the most prominent schools, hospitals, theaters, factories, and port installations.
The Soviets decided to seize the city with no preliminary artillery shelling and without air bombardment.
The partisans assisted in this attack, and destroyed the groups sent
out to blow up the city. The partisans also stopped the Nazis from blowing up the damn across the Khadjibey Liman. This saved
a significant part of the city. The partisans stopped the Nazis from blowing up the port, Scientists club, science library,
opera theater and other buildings. The partisans also cut off roads of retreat for the fleeing Nazis.
By April 10th, 1944 Odessa had been liberated.
The rapid advance of Malinovsky's troops and the help of the partisans
had stopped many of the Nazis plans to destroy the city. But many other structures had been badly damaged or destroyed: the
port, many factories, the train station, homes, schools, libraries, the water works and power station. The Nazis stole all
of the trolley cars and 127 tramcars. The Odessa fleet had lost 75% of its cargo ships and passenger liners.
More than a quarter of a million people, 280,000 Odessites (mostly
Jews) were killed during the occupation, many in concentration camps.
World War Two (The Great Patriotic War) had a profound psychological
effect on the Soviets. Tens of millions of Soviets died. Almost every person in the former USSR lost at least one family member
in the war.
Ukrainians believe that the Soviets won World War Two. They refer
to the fact that America only joined the European land war in the later part of the conflict, after the Axis was in retreat.
Speaking with some Ukrainians you get a sense that Ukrainians feel that America in WW2 was opportunistic, only wanting to
control the spoils of what the Russians had already won with their own blood. One historian said that America "won the war"
with the lives of the Soviet soldiers. There is some justification to this view; the USSR lost more lives in the Great Patriotic
War than any other nation.
Throughout the Cold War, the Soviets built hundreds of thousands of
monuments in memory of the Great Patriotic War. During the Cold War the Soviets wanted to be assured that their military defense
was strong, to make sure that a devastating invasion would never happen again. The Soviet memory of the Great Patriotic War
shaped much of the Cold War.