Bracław (Polish), Bratzlav, Bratslaw, Brazlaw, Braclav, Broslev, בראָסלעוו (Yiddish), Браслав – Braslav (Formerly), Брацлав (Ukrainian), Брацлав – Bratslav (Russian)
Bratslav is a townlet in Ukraine, located in the Nemyriv Raion of Vinnytsia Oblast, by the Southern Bug river. It is a medieval European city which dramatically lost its importance during the 19th-20th centuries.
Bratslav was founded in 1362 by duke of Lithuania Algirdas. A Jew leased the collection of customs duties in Bratslav in 1506, and it appears that a Jewish settlement developed in the town from that time. In 1545 the Jews were exempted from the construction of roads “so that they could travel on their commercial affairs.” The Jews underwent much suffering during the attacks of the Tatars on the town during the 16th century (especially in 1551).
Bratslav market square on old post card. 1-house of merchant Goviy-Lyser Bratslavskiy, 2-house of merchant Aron Khaimovich Krasnoshtein
At the beginning of the 17th century, commercial relations were maintained between the Jews of Bratslav and those of Lvov. In the Councils of the Lands, Bratslav was attached to the “Land of Russia,” of which Lvov was the principal community.
The current state of Aron Khaimovich Krasnoshtein
In 1635 King Ladislas IV confirmed the rights of the Jews of Bratslav. At the time of the Chmielnicki massacres, a number of Jews from Bratslav were murdered in Nemirov and Tulchin, where they had taken refuge. The community, however, was reconstituted soon afterward. In 1664, when the Cossacks invaded the land on the western side of the Dnieper River, they massacred the Jews in Bratslav.
Between September 7, 1802, and October 16, 1810 (date of his death), Rabbi Naḥman of Bratslav lived in the town, and it became an important ḥasidic center during this period. His disciple, Natan Steinherz, set up a Hebrew press in the town in 1819 and published the works of his teacher. At the end of that year, the authorities closed down the press after they had been approached by informers.
The community numbered 101 according to the census of 1765 (195 including Jews in the surrounding areas) and 221 in 1790 (398 including those in the surrounding areas). After Bratslav’s incorporation into Russia (1793), 96 Jewish merchants and 910 townsmen lived in the district in 1797. The Jewish population numbered 3,290 according to the census of 1897 (43% of the total population).
Bratslav entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directory by 1913. Part 2
Bratslav entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directory by 1913. Part 1
In the beginning of the 19th century, most of the industrial enterprises and workshops in the town were owned by Jews.
In 1853 there were one wooden synagogue and 3 prayer houses: “Old Beit-Midrash” (300 parishioners, rabbi Meilah Galitskiy), “New Beit-Midrash” (300 parishioners, rabbi Isaak Gelman) and “Kloiz” (203 parishioners, rabbi Shmuel Sirota).
Nearly all the shops also belonged to Jews and all the dentists and midwives were Jews. In the beginning of XX century community has one synagogue and 6 prayer houses. In 1909 head of Jewish Community was Rabbi Avraam-Yakov Rabinovich (1882 – ?).
In 1913 official Rabbi was Olshanskiy Abraham Davidovich. At the same time in Brayslav existed Jewish proffesional school (owner Soliternik).
Jewish population of Bratslav:
1765 — 101 jews
1847 — 1993 jews
1897 — 3290 (41,8%)
1910 — 6269 (55%)
1926 — 1940 (24,7%)
1939 — 1010 (25,4%)
1989 — 137 jews
2013 — 47 jews
Civil War pogroms
During Revolution Jews of Bratslav heavily suffered from numerous pogroms. Below is a not full list…
First pogrom in Bratslav was organized by soldiers of Cuban regiment at January 1918. It was stopped by selfdefense unit headed by WWI veteran Samuel Meyerovich Spector.
May 7, 1919: local teacher and priest together with peasants organized pogrom which continued 2 days. Among killed Jews were members of famous families Soliterman, Averbah and Umanskiy.
July 13, 1919: Lyahovich’s gang performed pogrom when more than 100 jews were killed.
July 15, 1919: During ataman Sokol’s gang pogrom were captured, tortured and killed respected members of Jewish Community I.Kagan, H. Dyak, I. Kohen, B. Leibeshkis and S. Zan. Huge indemnity was taken.
August 17, 1919: In a result of pogrom organized by Tutunnik gang were killed 9 Jews.
August 1919: In a result of pogrom were killed 350 Jews and 60 Old Believers.
April 1920: In a result of Volinets gang pogrom were killed 2 Jews and huge indemnity was taken.
Between May 1919 and March 1921, there 14 pogroms in Bratslav, over 200 Jews were killed, 600 children became orphans, and 1,200 people were left without livelihoods. As a result of the pogroms, many Jews left for the bigger towns.
This JOINT report dated by April 25th, 1923 I find here.
Bratslav, which was formerly an Uezd City, is at present a town belonging to the Tulchinsky District.
, Before pogrom, Present time
No. of inhabitants, 12000, 10000
Jews, 4000, 2500
Jewish houses, 300, 195
Jewish Shops, 120, 70
Bratslav brewery. Beginning of XX century. Building was given to Jewish community few years ago
Bratslav, which some time ago was a large and lively centre of an extensive territory, represents at present a deserted and poor town. This may be explained chiefly by the fact that all the bandits operating in the Podolskaya Gubernia made frequent raids upon this town. Many pogroms took place in Bratslav, but their number cannot be fixed precisely; there were 11 registered pogroms, but the actual number is much greater and the Jewish population lived during three years in an atmosphere of everlasting pogroms.
No. of persons killed during the pogroms, 350
No. of destroyed houses, 105
No. of widows, 168
No. of orphans, 54
No. of half-orphans, 84
No. of persons having lost capacity for work, 43
The number of persons who died from epidemic diseases has not been established. The Jewish population has lost its property. The number of refugees from other, completely destroyed places is 15 families.
Grave of Yankel Soliterman, his wife Rahel and son Volko who were killed during pogrom in 1919
The surviving Jewish population of Bratslav, amounting to 2500 persons, cannot be considered as belonging at present to any active social group. The trade of the town is but poorly developed; the artisans have also very little work. Therefore the town is still in acute need of systematic relief from social organizations. Up to the present time, there were actually no relief organizations in Bratzlav.
The Evobshestcom has organized one Children’s Home for 64 orphan children. In January, 1923, the Home was out off from Government support and now it is subsidized exclusively by the JDC through the Sovobkom and by the ARA.
The home is in need of repairs; also additional equipment, also additional equipment, viz. beds, furniture, plates and dishes, kitchen utensils. The amount of dotting, underwear and shoes for the children is very small and the stock of clothing on hand dose not even cover 50% of the requirements of this Home.
The supply of the Home with food stuffs has also to be arranged regularly. It must be pointed out that the children (46) are afflicted with the itch and 15 with Favus. In general, favus is largely spread among the Jewish children in Bratzlav and the Uesdrav has taken up the question of opening a special Children’s Home in Bratzlav for favus-infected children. However, due to the lack of funds, this plan has as yet not been carried out.
Soliterman mill on the Bug River. Pre revolution post card
The Jewish School which existed in Bratslav up to the end of 1922, is at present closed, sad the majority of the Jewish children of this town are deprived of any pedagogical supervision. It is most indispensable to reopen this closed school.
There are 138 uncared for orphans in Bratslav. It is therefore necessary to organize an open Children’s Home for 138 Children.
There are 2 medical institutions in this town: a District Hospital of the Uezdrav for 15 patients which does not extend medical aid to the pogrom stricken population, in view of the fact that it is situated at a considerable distance from the town, and one Dispensary of the Evobshestcom. It is necessary to supply the latter with additional equipment and medicaments, and to pay the personnel, without this, the dispensary will have to be closed, and the pogromized population will have no medical aid whatever. However, even in case of providing the Dispensary with all this necessaries for its normal work, the question of extending to the pogromized population continued medical treatment, must be considered as urgent.
Soliterman mill. View from Jewish Cemetery
The Sanitary conditions and conditions of living quarters in Bratzlav require a speedy solution of this question. The bath in Bratzlav is quits destroyed and requires repairs.
It is also necessary to open a Home for Aged for 50 persons in Bratslav.
Besides the regular subvention issued by the JOINT to the Children’s Home in Bratslav, the latter organization has distributed in that place 32 individual packages. These packages were received at the most critical time for the poor population and temporarily considerably improved the difficult financial condition of the Jewish population.
House of Shoihet (can suppose that it is house of jeweler Abraham Shoihet). Pre revolution post card
Bratslav, which is on one hand a completely destroyed place, and on the other hand concentrates a comparatively large Jewish population, (about 3500 persons) is in need of reconstruction relief along the lines of enlarging the economic activities of the population. The stoppage of trade and unemployment among the artisans may be explained at present mainly by the absence of floating capital in trade and the lack of instruments and raw materials.
In order to enable these two groups to improve their conditions, it is necessary to extend to them substantial relief in shape of credit.
However, in this particular case, this credit must be regarded as an addition to the means at the disposal of the population, but as the basic and only fund, which will be become a stimulus for the economic reconstruction of the town.
A Loan-Saving Society has already been organized at the initiative of the JOINT. The work carried on by this Society will be the most expedient form of relief to the pogromized Jewish population.
With regard to reconstruction relief, attention must also be given to the miserable living conditions in Bratslav. It is necessary to repair the Jewish houses in Bratzlav which have not been entirely destroyed.
The population dropped to 1,504 in 1923, rose to 1,840 in 1926, and dropped again to 1,010 in 1939 (total population 3,974).
Bratslav Jewish Cemetery
During the 1920s, many Jews worked as artisans but faced discrimination in their unions. The local government refused to grant land to Jews who asked to organize a farm cooperative. During the early stages of Soviet rule Jews in Bratslav engaged mostly in commerce and crafts. After the abolition of private enterprise many Jews became factory workers or clerks. In the 1920s and 1930s Bratslav had a Yiddish school. In the interwar period many Jews, especially younger ones, left Bratslav in search of further educational and job opportunities.
In 1939 Bratslav’s 1,010 Jews comprised 25.4 percent of the town’s total population.
Building on the territory of the brewery which was given to Jewish Community for reconstruction in Synagogue. Photo by 2011.
Many Jews succeeded in leaving Bratslav before it was occupied by German and Romanian forces on July 22, 1941. Soon after the start of the occupation Jews were forced to wear yellow Stars of David on their clothes. The killings of Jews also started during the first weeks of the occupation.
In September 1941 the town became part of the Romanian occupation zone of Transnistria and Jewish deportees from Bessarabia and Bukovina were transported to it. About 750 Jews from Bratslav itself and from the County were imprisoned in the ghetto, which they were permitted to leave once a week to obtain water and to buy food at the local market. Inmates of this ghetto were maltreated, robbed of their possessions, incarcerated, forced to perform various types of hard labor, and were shot. During the night between December 31, 1941 and January 1, 1942 most of the inmates of the Bratslav ghetto were sent to the Pechora death camp, although some Jews were left in Bratslav to carry out road construction work.
Monument to Bratslav Jews killed during Holocaust. Bratslav Jewish Cemetery
In February 1942 about 20 Bratslav Jews, mostly children and elderly people, were shot. In the spring of 1942 some of the Jews who had initially been left in Bratslav were also transferred to the Pechora camp; several of them were shot on the way. In the Pechora camp many of the prisoners died from starvation, disease, and the cold or were shot by guards while trying to escape.
In 1942 some of the inmates were transferred from Pechora to a labor camp in Zarudintsy, north of Bratslav.
Jewish deportees from Bukovina and Bessarabia and from various regions of Ukraine were incarcerated in two camps established in Bratslav in August 1942 to provide labor for German construction firms. Most of the inmates of the camps in Bratslav were murdered in several murder operations in 1942-1943.
The Red Army liberated Bratslav on March 17, 1944. At liberation only 200 Jews from Ukraine and 20 or 30 Jews from Bukovina and Bessarabia remained alive in Bratslav…
In 2015 Elena Tsvelik created a list of Holocaust survivals in Bratslav (51 names):
Aron Zusman, Golda Zusman, Faina Zusman (Feldman), Moishe Kupershmidt, Rakhel Korenvain (Kupershmidt), Grigori Kupershmidt, Rabbi Moishe-Yankel Rabinovich, Polina( Pearl) Garter, Rakhil Bronfman, Eva Bronfman, Khaya Ilvovsky, Lyuba Ilvovsky, Moisey Ilvovsky, Rafael Ilvovsky, Rakhil Mazhbits, Zyuzya Mazhbits, Esther Mazhbits, Nikolai (Nusek) Mazhbits, Evgenia Spektor (Mazhbits), Alexander ( Isroel) Mazhbits, Arkady Mazhbits, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Evgenia Tsirulnikova (Rabinovich), Frida Shmulenson, Fanya Smulenson, Leib Dikerman, Widow called “Bubelleh”, Sima Kabatskaya, Polina Kabatskaya, Petya Rozenberg, Alexander Miroshnik ( Polish Jew), Itta Manelis, Moishe Manelis, David called “Motuznik”, Maria (Musia) Vaisman, Boris Tsirulnikov, Julia Konstantinovskaya, Semyon Millshteyn, Shelya Vaisman, Manya (Miriam) Poberezhskaya, Arkady (Aron) Poberezhskiy, Alexander Poberezhskiy, Khaim Pressman, Khaika Millshteyn, Esther Levchenko, Betya Borodataya, Betya Poberezhskaya, Susia Kamennobrodskaya, Mora ( Marat) Kamennobrodskyi, Izyaslav(Izya) Kabatskyi, Maria Kabatskaya, Vita, Itta Manelis’ mother, Lev and Haya Rabin.
This small list of Jewish soldiers from Bratslav who were perished in Red Army was created in 1990’s by Rahel Manelis-Mirochnik
List of Bratslav Jews which were perished in Red Army
In 1989 there were 137 Jews in the town and in 1993 only 71. In 1995 a monument to those murdered in the Holocaust was erected in the local cemetery.
Holiday celebrating in Bratslav Jewish Community. Photo 2010’s
Now in Bratslav lives ~50 Jews. Head of community is Faina Barishnikova and due to this energic woman community get one building on the territory of brewery and creating synagogue here, on Jewish cemetery was restored monument to Holocaust victims, small museum of Jewish Culture was created. Jews regullary celebrating main Holidays.
Community website you can find here.
Now Bratslav is a place of regular Hasidim pilligrimage. Estamated number of Breslover Hasidim which visited Bratslav each year ~ 7000.
Now local Jewish Community planning to create monument on the place of destroyed in 1936 Old wooden Synagogue, create new monument for 50 Jews drown by nazi in Bug river, create monument on the massacre site in forest (400 victims). In 2014 Jewish community get permit use site of Big Synagogue.
The book “Yevreiskaya Atlantida” (“The Jewish Atlantis”) by Elena Tsvelik includes three essays united by a common theme – Bratslav. The first essay is the author’s family chronic, the second one tells the reader a story of two hasidic dynasties – Chernobyl and Breslov, and their influence on the life of Bratslav. The third one contains the life story of the last Bratslav rabbi Moishe Yankel Rabinovits (1887-1970).
Also these documents are available in different Ukrainian Archives:
Cemetery located on the high hill above Bug river and Soliterman mill. Most old grave is dating by 1765 with subscription “Josef son of Aaron”. Nathan Sternharz (Nathan of Breslov) was buried on this cemetery after his death at 1884. According to his will he was buried near the entrance to Jewish Cemetery and still there till our days. Ohel on the grave was renovated by Breslover Hasids in the beginning of 1990’s.
On cemetery locates big tombstone on grave of Soliterman’s family members who were killed during pogrom in 1919 and monument to Holocaust victims who were killed in Pechora and Bratslov concentration camps (erected in 1995).
Bratslav Jewish Cemetery
Nathan of Breslov (January 22, 1780 – December 20, 1844), also known as Reb Noson, born Nathan Sternhartz, was the chief disciple and scribe of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, founder of the Breslov Hasidic dynasty. Reb Noson is credited with preserving, promoting and expanding the Breslov movement after the Rebbe’s death. Rebbe Nachman himself said, “Were it not for Reb Noson, not a page of my writings would have remained.”
Sternhartz, who came from a well-to-do and Misnagdic family, met Naḥman and became his disciple in 1802, after having made disappointing visits to various other Hasidic courts. In Naḥman he found a master with the combination of seriousness of spiritual purpose and understanding of human failings that addressed his own needs. Throughout his last years, Naḥman relied heavily on Sternhartz, especially as the editor of his teachings. Although Sternhartz represented himself as Naḥman’s chief disciple, there is evidence that not all of Naḥman’s other followers, including some of his earliest disciples, accepted his leading role.
The same was true after Naḥman’s early death. Sternhartz lived in Bratslav for most of the following 35 years and led the community from there; however, some of Naḥman’s disciples stayed outside his sphere of influence. Sternhartz devoted himself fully to the task of publishing and disseminating Naḥman’s teachings and biography, recording the latter in great detail and treating the account as a sacred narrative. Sternhartz also wrote his own memoirs (Yeme Moharnat), which were published many years after his death, in 1876.
Building of Beit Midrash in Bratslav. Photo of 2012.
In 1913 there were 7 synagogue and prayer houses (I can assume that 1 synagogue and 6 prayer houses).
Building of Big synagogue. Pre-Revolution photo
Big Synagogue was destroyed in 1936 together with ortodox church. Syangogue was very old wooden, three-stored building. According to legend Rabbi Nahman preyed in it so it was build in the end of the XVIII century or before. Building of the mikva situated next to synagogue but it not preserved. Now on the place of old wooden synagogue located wasteland.
Now exist only one building of Beit Midrash (former prayer house) in Bratslav. It is using as a residential building.
Holocaust mass graves
According to testimonies of former inmates of the Pechora camp, on an unknown date in the first half of 1942 (in the summer of 1942, according to a report of the Soviet Extraordinary Commission) a certain SS unit murdered a large number of camp inmates, consisting mostly of children and elderly people. After being separated from the able-bodied prisoners, the victims were told they were going to Tulchin to dig peat but instead were loaded onto trucks and taken to large pits near Pechora and either shot to death or thrown into the pits alive.
Monument to killed Jewish children on the bank of Bug River
In the second half of 1941 a number of inmates of the Bratslav ghetto were taken by local auxiliary policemen to the bank of the South Bug River and shot there. The bodies were thrown into the river. It is unknown how many people were murdered in this way.
On December 31, 1941 or January 1, 1942, during the deportation of the inmates of the Bratslav ghetto to the Pechora camp, about 20 Jews who had tried unsuccessfully to hide in Bratslav were caught. They were also murdered on the bank of the South Bug River and their bodies thrown into the icy water of the river. According to one testimony and to the report of the Soviet Extraordinary Commission, this murder took place in February 1942.
At February 1942 in Bug River were drowned 250 Jewish orphans selected from Bratslav orphanage. Monument was erected on this site in 1990’s. At the same place were killed 50 Jews from Bratslav ghetto.
In early 1942 three siblings with the last name Pekar were also shot near the bridge over the South Bug River and their bodies thrown into the river.
Monument to 15 Jewish Boys killed by nazi in 1941 on Jewish Cemetery, Rennovated in 2013.
According to the report of the Soviet Extraordinary Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes, 8 Bratslav Jews, 2 men and 6 women, who in March 1942 were being taken from Bratslav to the Pechora camp were shot at the edge of the forest near the village of Marksovo, west of Bratslav, by Romanian gendarmes.
According to the report of the Soviet Extraordinary Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes, 4 Jews from Bratslav, three women and a child, were shot in April 1942 in silage pits outside Marksovo village, west of Bratslav, by Romanian gendarmes who were taking them to the Pechora camp.
Pechora camp prison’s jacket in Bratslav Jewish museum.
Apparently in the second half of 1942, about 10 or 18, according to various survivors’ testimonies, or 6, according to German documents, young Jewish inmates of one of Bratslav’s labor camps, mainly deportees from Bessarabia and Bukovina who had either tried to escape or engaged in resistance activities were murdered in the forest near the village of Grinenki, south of Bratslav.
According to some testimonies of former inmates of the Bratslav labor camp and to German documents, a group of Jews who tried to escape the camp, apparently in the second half of 1942 or in early 1943, were shot in a pit they were forced to dig, either right outside the camp or inside the camp itself.
Son of Mariaya Tkachneko with his mother’s Righteous Among the Nations Certificate. Bratslav
The inmates of Bratslav labor camps incapable of work, mostly elderly people or children, were taken in groups over time out of the camp and shot in large pits near the town of Raygorod, northeast of Bratslav. Thus, about 200 inmates, half of them children, were shot in June 1942. Another group of between 300 and 500 Jewish inmates was taken by truck on September 21, 1942 to the vicinity of Raygorod and either shot or thrown into pits alive. The massacre was perpetrated by the SS unit that was responsible for the Gaisin section of the Road 4 construction site. In January, August and, again, in late 1943 a total of about 400 more Jewish inmates of the Bratslav camp were murdered near Raygorod. The perpetrators of these massacres were apparently also members of the same SS unit.