2 March 1925 - 12 March 2023
Fedir Mykyforovych Omelchenko was born in the Ukrainian village of Bondury near Poltava, where he grew up with his siblings. Circumstances were harsh, which is why the family moved to the Siberian region of Altai in 1933, hoping for better living conditions. The famine there was so severe that the family was forced to return. Fedir Omeltschenko had to drop out of school and worked in agriculture to support the family financially.
With the invasion of the Soviet Union by the German Wehrmacht in 1941, the family's situation worsened. The father was deported and his brothers were killed in fighting at the front. Fedir Omeltschenko was deported to Nuremberg in December 1942, where he had to do forced labour. After the factory was bombed, he was sent to work in a mine near Cologne, where he was seriously injured due to the catastrophic working conditions. The hospital was bombed and the weakened Fedir could escape. A little later, at the end of August 1944, the police arrested Fedir Omeltschenko in Frankfurt and transferred him via a Nuremberg prison and the Langenzenn labour camp to the Flossenbürg concentration camp, where the SS registered him as a civilian labourer on 21 September 1944.
Fedir Omeltschenko described his arrival in Flossenbürg with the words: "There you see already, there in Flossenbürg, that it is your end. Here you will die." But he only stayed in the main camp for a few days. The SS deported him to the Hersbruck/Happurg subcamp. He is one of about 9,000 prisoners who were to drive underground production facilities for armaments production into the mountain in Happurg. Fedir Omeltschenko survived with the help of a Russian doctor. He was finally liberated after two death marches in an abandoned military camp where the US army found him and took care of him.
Fedir Omeltschenko joined the US Army and witnessed Germany's surrender as an American soldier. He decided to return home, but this did not go smoothly as he was accused of espionage due to his service in the American army. At first he remained in the Moscow region, but eventually returned to his home village of Bondury, where he met his father again. Omelchenko worked in the collective farm, and from 1947 in a mine in the Donbass. After that, he lived in Vinnytsia from 1980.
Fedir Omeltschenko visited Flossenbürg Memorial almost every year since 2002 to share his experiences with younger generations. He always emphasised that he has no bad feelings towards Germans and remains a loyal companion of the concentration camp memorial.
During these days, our thoughts are with Fedir Omeltschenko and his family, to whom our sincere condolences go.
Prof. Dr. Jörg Skriebeleit and all the staff of the Flossenbürg Memorial