As extensive as Nazi Germany's program of extermination was during the Holocaust, a close look at the North Caucasus highlights some notable exceptions, where communities or small groups of Jews were rescued, were spared, or otherwise found ways to survive. This chapter proposes several unique factors, including the agency and customs of local groups, the slightly varied approach of a genocidal bureaucracy in fostering local relations, and the Nazi war machine's dependence on conflicted collaborators. The aim here is to emphasize the confluence of informal cultural and formal institutional influences particular to the North Caucasus in these rare cases.
This study explores cases of rescue and survival that reveal how local circumstances deviated from the prevailing patterns of Holocaust liquidation in other parts of Nazi-controlled Europe. In the following sections, we analyze three cases of Jewish survival in the North Caucasus: (1) the survival of Mountain Jews based on the efforts of their community leaders and their cooperation with the local population, Nazis, and a collaborationist government; (2) the organized group rescue of children in the village of Beslenei in Cherkessia; and (3) the survival of local Jews in Mozdok, a town close to the front, in a leather factory organized through their efforts.
The Occupation of the Caucasus and Victims of Holocaust in South Russia
During the German military's 1942 summer offensive directed at southern Russia, the primary aim was capturing the oil-rich Caucasus. As Hitler pronounced to General Friedrich Paulus, he would have to end the war, without “the oil of Maikop and Grozny.” Starting in July 1942, Germany advanced into the Caucasus. As of mid-November 1942, they occupied six regions of southern Russia, including Rostov oblast, the Krasnodar and Stavropol krais (the latter including Karachai and Cherkessia), Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, and a small part of Chechnya. By January 1943, however, the tide had turned. The Sixth Army was destroyed during the defeat at Stalingrad. Fearing Soviet encirclement, the remaining forces began retreating from the Caucasus.
In a departure from Nazi Germany's typical treatment of occupied subjects, German forces in the North Caucasus changed their “tactical concept of occupation authorities.”