Jewish Odessa: Odessa’s Schindler

Odessa’s Holocaust memorial is a tribute to one of the most tragic periods of the city’s history.

Hidden behind the sculptures and the plaques is a deeply personal story of an Odessa Jew, Yakov Maniovich. But it’s not only his story. It’s the story of thousands of Odessa and Bessarabia Jews who were killed and just several hundreds who managed to survive. It’s the story of Odessa during Romanian occupation and people who rescued the Jews.

He is known as “Odessa’s Schindler”. Archives of the Odessa’s Psychiatric clinic’s museum keep the letter from Steven Spielberg, who was thinking of making a film about this Odessan.

Professor Evgeniy Shevalev, the head of the Psychiatric clinic, who together with his son Andrey saved hundreds of Jews during the city’s occupation by the Romanians and Natzi.

In 1941 professor Shevalev was in charge of the Odessa’s Psychiatric clinic for 600 beds. The city’s occupation brought in many challenges, including finding medicine and food for patients. To raise so much needed money Shevalev sold some of the clinic’s property. Yet, the biggest challenge was rescuing the Jewish staff and patients. Shevalev filled up twenty new applications under fake names and the Jewish staff became the new patients in the clinic. Then, with the help of his son and colleagues, he amended the names on the applications of the Jewish patients. By the beginning of 1942 there hadn’t been any Jewish patients in the clinic.

Among the Jews who were hiding in the clinic were friends and acquaintances of the Shevalev family. In January 1942, Andrey brought to the father his friend, Vladimir Tendler, who escaped the Romanians on the way to the concentration camp. Shevalev taught him how to pretend being a mental patient. Later, Andrey brought to the clinic Liliya Rappoport, who survived the massacre in a village in Berezovsky region. Andrey and Liliya were part of Odessa’s defense in 1941. Liliya stayed in the clinic pretending being sick with autism until Odessa’s liberation from the Romanians and Natzi. After the war Liliya became a psychiatrist.

The exact number of the Jews saved by the Shevalevs is unknown, but Odessans still remember this family and the brave doctor. In April 12, 2001 Yad Vashem recognized Evgeniy and Andrey Shevalev Righteous Gentile.