96-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Killed When Russian Forces Hit His Ukraine Home

Boris Romantschenko lived through four Nazi death camps. He was killed Friday by a Russian strike on his apartment building in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv

Boris Romanchenko
Boris Romantschenko. Photo: Buchenwald_Dora/Twitter

Boris Romantschenko, a Holocaust survivor who lived through four Nazi concentration camps, was killed Friday when Russians shelled his apartment building in the city of Kharkiv, the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation announced Monday. He was 96.

"We are horrified by the violent death of Boris Romantschenko in the war in Ukraine," the foundation says in a statement emailed to PEOPLE. "A bullet hit the multi-story building in which he lived. His apartment burned down."

Romantschenko survived Nazi death camps — including Buchenwald, Dora and Bergen Belsen — and served as a vice president of the Buchenwald-Dora International Committee for Holocaust survivors for many years, working "intensively on the memory of Nazi crimes," the group says.

The foundation shared a photo from April 12, 2015, when he read the Oath of Buchenwald in Russian and said, "Building a new world of peace and freedom is our ideal."

Ottomar Rothmann from Germany, Alojzy Maciak from Poland, Edward Carter Edwards from Canada, Pavel Kohn from the Czech Republic, Caston Viens from France and Boris Romantschenko from the Ukraine renew on April 12, 2015 in the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial
Boris Romantschenko reading the oath of Buchenwald. Michael Reichel/TSK

"Now he has been killed by a bullet that hit his house," they wrote in a tweet. "We are stunned."

Romantschenko was born on Jan. 20, 1926 in a Ukrainian village called Bondari. In 1942, he was forced into a German labor camp. After an escape attempt, he was caught and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp in January 1943.

Romantschenko was later moved to Peenemünde, where he had to help build the V-2 rocket, and then to the Mittelbau-Dora and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.

Russia has relentlessly attacked Kharkiv with an array of weaponry, including artillery, rockets, and guided missiles, destroying the historic city and leaving over 500 dead there, The New York Times reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said a goal of his invasion of Ukraine is the "denazification" of the country, which critics say is twisting history for his own gain.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish, and many of his family members were killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.

On March 1, Russian bombs in Kyiv damaged the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, where in September 1941 Nazis killed almost 34,000 Jews within 36 hours.

At the time of the Russian bombing at Babyn Yar, Zelenskyy said in a tweet that history was repeating itself: "To the world: what is the point of saying 'never again' for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? At least 5 killed. History repeating…"

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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