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Cherniakhov

Cherniakhov
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Черняхов(Russian), Черняхів(Ukrainian)

Cherniakhov is a small town, a district center of the Cherniakhov district, Zhitomir region. In the early XX century it was a shtetl of Radomyshl uyezd (district), Kiev province.

Most information about the post-war Jewish life of Cherniakhov was provided by the unofficial head of the Jewish community in Cherniakhov Raisa Makovoz during our visit in the summer of 2017.

Idl Ayzman’s (1922, Cherniakhov – 2017, Petah Tikva) fascinating diaries (here and here) shed light on the Jews of Cherniakhov in the 1920s – 1930s.

Idl Ayzman

Idl Ayzman

Virtually no information could be found on the Jewish life of Cherniakhov in the XIX – early XX centuries.

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Beginning

The Cherniakhov settlement was first mentioned in 1545.

According to the 1897 state census, the Cherniakhov Jewish community included 1,774 members. It was just under a half of the whole population of the shtetl.

Cherniakhov entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

Cherniakhov entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

Ten pogroms occurred in Cherniakhov during the 1917 revolution. As a result, the shtetl was comprehensively looted with no record of the victims.

In 1919, the authorities of the Ukrainian Republic refused local Jews to join the enlisted army.

In the 1920s, the synagogue was closed and was turned into a club.
In 1922, a Jewish school and kindergarten were built. The building houses a printing workshop nowadays.

The Gruzinsky and Shats families used to be the drovers in the shtetl. Despite the fact that their horses were taken to the Jewish collective farm, they bought new ones and lived much better than other Jews.
In the 1920s, the local Jews Ershl, Landman, Shloyme Polevoy, Meir (surname unknown) were considered to be poor in the shtetl.

In 1920's-1930's, it was a Jewish school in this building. Now it is a print house.

In 1920’s-1930’s, it was a Jewish school in this building. Now it is a print house.

In 1937 – 1939, a local doctor of Jewish ancestry Bliashev organised a hospital in Cherniakhovsk. For that the local authorities awarded him with a personal car, which he donated to the hospital. It was the first emergency vehicle in the shtetl. During the World War II, he was called up to the army and organized a hospital, where 30 out of 37 doctors were Jewish. After the war he did not return to Cherniakhovsk.

Jewish kindergarten in Cherniakhovsk, 1920’s. Photo provided by Raisa Makovoz.

Jewish population of Cherniakhov:
1897 – 1774(~50%)
1939- 1,482 (20%)
1950 ~ 250 Jews
1990 ~ 30 Jews
2017 – 5 Jews

Idl Ayzman mentions the following pre-war inhabitants of Cherniakhov: Etl Dubenko, the village council deputy; Shlema Levkovsky, Elia Vesler, tailor Itsik Igdal. Most of them were murdered in the Holocaust.
Moisey Shpoliansky led the choir and the orchestra of the Jewish school. Rokhl Leybman was a PE teacher.
The Jewish school was closed in 1937 and the language of instruction became Russian. Sheylok Giterman, its director, was demoted and became a teacher of German.
Before the war, there was a Jewish drama society which performed plays in Yiddish in the shtetl.
Idl Ayzman remembered how the Jews of the shtetl were savagely attacked and killed by their Ukrainian former neighbors.

Center of former shtetl, 2017

Center of former shtetl, 2017

In the 1920s, a Jewish collective farm name Politotdel was organised in the shtetl. Moyshe Shteynberg was in charge until 1941. Mostly the poor and small shopkeepers joined the collective as private trade was prohibited. The local drovers Gruzinskys had to give away their horses to the collective farm. The Goldbergs did not join the collective but they had to give up their horses and the grain mill. A former cantor of the local synagogue called Kiva was charged with guarding the grain mill. The collective was farming quite successfully, eventually building a house and a club for its workers. A dairymaid called Kopeyka was given a state award for her hard work. This fact surprised the whole shtetl. In 1937, the collective farm was no longer referred to as “Jewish”, though known as such locally.

Class in the Cherniakhov Jewish school, 1930s. 1 - Sonya Landman (lived in Lvov), 2 - Roza Giterman (lived in Kaliningrad), 3 - Sarah Simhovna Fabrikant (1922-2002), 4 - Aaron (lived in Kiev), 5 - Mihail Vaitman (killed in action during WWII). Photo provided by Raisa Makovoz.

Class in the Cherniakhov Jewish school, 1930s. 1 – Sonya Landman (lived in Lvov), 2 – Roza Giterman (lived in Kaliningrad), 3 – Sarah Simhovna Fabrikant (1922-2002), 4 – Aaron (lived in Kiev), 5 – Mihail Vaitman (killed in action during WWII). Photo provided by Raisa Makovoz.

Elia Sheynblat led a Ukrainian collective farm named after the Soviet marchal Voroshilov. In 1938, Boris Feldman was a judge, and Levitis was a head of the village council.

Jewish school in Cherniakhov, 1937. 1 - Shura Kovalenko (lived in Cherniakov and Korosten, died in Israel), 2 - Mark Semenovich Giterman (survived in WWII, colonel, lived in USA), 3 - Kisselman (survived in WWII, died in Ashdod, Israel on Victtory day 9-May), 4 - Manya Landman (she was a nurse in Soviet Army during WWII, woked in kindergarten), 5 - Faina Makovoz (emigrated to USA). Photo provided by Raisa Makovoz.

Jewish school in Cherniakhov, 1937. 1 – Shura Kovalenko (lived in Cherniakov and Korosten, died in Israel), 2 – Mark Semenovich Giterman (survived in WWII, colonel, lived in USA), 3 – Kisselman (survived in WWII, died in Ashdod, Israel on Victtory day 9-May), 4 – Manya Landman (she was a nurse in Soviet Army during WWII, woked in kindergarten), 5 – Faina Makovoz (emigrated to USA). Photo provided by Raisa Makovoz.

In the 1930s, Cherniakhov was the center of the Jewish village council (3,123 inhabitants in 1931). In 1939, 1,482 Jews (20.72% of the population) lived in the shtetl.

Jewish school in Cherniakhov, 1937. 1 - Tatyana Byalik (after WWII was a teached, died in Israel in 2000's), 2 - Aaron (lived in Kiev, emmigrated to Israel), 3 - name is unknown but he survived WWII, 4 - Sonya Landman, 5 - Roza Giterman, 6 - Lerman. All another boys from photo were killed in action during WWII, mostly in 1943. Jewish school in Cherniakhov, 1937. 1 - Shura Kovalenko (lived in Cherniakov and Korosten, died in Israel), 2 - Mark Semenovich Giterman (survived in WWII, colonel, lived in USA), 3 - Kisselman (survived in WWII, died in Ashdod, Israel on Victtory day 9-May), 4 - Manya Landman (she was a nurse in Soviet Army during WWII, woked in kindergarten), 5 - Faina Makovoz (emigrated to USA). Photo provided by Raisa Makovoz.

Jewish school in Cherniakhov, 1937. 1 – Tatyana Byalik (after WWII was a teached, died in Israel in 2000’s), 2 – Aaron (lived in Kiev, emmigrated to Israel), 3 – name is unknown but he survived WWII, 4 – Sonya Landman, 5 – Roza Giterman, 6 – Lerman. All another boys from photo were killed in action during WWII, mostly in 1943. Jewish school in Cherniakhov, 1937. 1 – Shura Kovalenko (lived in Cherniakov and Korosten, died in Israel), 2 – Mark Semenovich Giterman (survived in WWII, colonel, lived in USA), 3 – Kisselman (survived in WWII, died in Ashdod, Israel on Victtory day 9-May), 4 – Manya Landman (she was a nurse in Soviet Army during WWII, woked in kindergarten), 5 – Faina Makovoz (emigrated to USA). Photo provided by Raisa Makovoz.

Holocaust

It was occupied between July 13, 1941 till November 23, 1943.

In 1941, most of the horses from the collective were requisitioned by the army, the remaining horses were used to evacuate a small number of Jews.

On the 5th – 6th of August 1941, a detachment of Sonderkommand 4a arrested and shot all male Jews in Cherniakhov, 112 “Jews and Bolsheviks”.
During two other “checks” of the village the same detachment shot 44 Jews. On the 6th – 11th of August 1941, the headquarter of the SS infantry 10th regiment with its units were located in the village. They murdered 232 Jews in Cherniakhov on August 8, 1941.
More killings took place in September 1941. In total, 568 Jews were killed in Cherniakhov.
The shootings took place between the villages of Bezhov and Devochki (later turned into a gravel quarry). Over 2,000 people were killed there.
After the war, they were re-buried in mass grave at the central cemetery of the village. According to the data of the local culture department, 576 people were buried in it. 70 people were party activists, the rest of them were Jewish women, children and the elderly.

Another execution site was located near railway bridge. More information were found by Yahan In Unum research team.

Execution site, photo by Yahad In Unum

Execution site, photo by Yahad In Unum

In 1941, Idl Ayzman’s (1922 – 2017) mother Rayzl (1900 – 1941), brother Sema (1929 – 1941), sisters Fira (1932 – 1941) and Raya (1938 – 1941) were shot by the local police collaborators. Idl himself was called up to serve in the Red Army, which is why he survived.

The ethnic Germans from a nearby colony Neuborn participated in the killing of the Jews of Cherniakhov – even a former school principal Schwarz and a local Weber, who had friends among the local Jews. Later Weber was captured by the partisans, and executed by being tied to two trees and torn apart.

Only two out of 19 classmates of Semen Makovoz (1922 – 2007) returned from the war – Arkadiy (the surname is unknown) and Semen himself. 11 classmates died in battles near Prokhorovka at the Kursk Bulge, six classmates killed in action at the Kalinin front.
Nikolay Pavliuchenko pulled two little girls out of the mass grave after the shooting and his father saved them. In the 2000s, Yad Vashem awarded him the title of the Righteous Among the Nations.

List of the Jews from Cherniakhovsk who were drafted to Soviet Army and killed in action between 1941 and 1945:

In 1973, a local collaborator of the German police Vasiliy Prischepa was arrested in the Urals and sentenced to death. Eleven collaborators were also tried and sentenced to death.
In 1973, the bodies of those who had been murdered near the railway crossing were reburied at the local cemetery in a mass grave together with executed communists and Soviet war prisoners. The soil there was very damp so the bodies remained preserved for 22 years. However, after exhumation they decomposed immediately.
A woman, who was present at the exhumation, remembered seeing a mother in a white shawl cuddling two children.

Holocaust mass grave in local non-Jewish cemetery:

After the WWII

After the war, an informal minyan gathered at the rabbi’s house. After his death, his family left for Korosten and the archive was kept at their house.
After the war, a one-story building remained in the center of the shtetl. It was a synagogue closed in the 1920s or 1930s. It housed a club and a cinema, with a library in the rabbi’s room. The building was demolished in the 1960s.

During the court proceeding, the number of Jews who had been killed was revealed. It was 1,026 people.

In the 1990s, there was no formally-recognised Jewish community organisation. However, Hesed offices appeared in the town and started to take care of the Jewish elderly.
Buzia Eynovna Vugman (Karetnaya) was the Director of Hesed. She moved to Israel in 2010 and died there in 2015.
In 2017, only five elderly Jews remained in Cherniakhov.

Famous Jews from Cherniakhov

Moisey (Moyshe) Gershenzon (1903, Cherniakhov – 1943)
A Jewish playwright. He founded the Youth Jewish theater “Meshulakhes” (“Obsession”). He wrote songs, ditties, one-act plays, sketches. He both performed and directed plays. He was invited to the Kiev State Jewish (Yiddish) Theater (GOSET). He authored a famous play “Gershele Ostropoler”. He joined the Soviet Army while in evacuation. He perished in 1943 in the battle at the Krymskaya station.

Moisey Gershenzon

Moisey Gershenzon

Buzi (Berl) Olevsky (1908, Cherniakhov – 1941)
A Jewish poet, journalist and author, Ph.D. He worked at the Yiddish newspaper “Birobidzhaner Shtern” and at the “Forpost” periodical. He died at the front.

Buzi Olevsky

Buzi Olevsky

Yosif Bukhbinder (1908, Cherniakhov – 1993, Kiev), a poet. His several sisters were murdered alongside with his parents in 1941.

Jewish cemetery

The cemetery is located on the east of the settlement not far from railway station between Kalinina Street and Zhukova Street.

During the war, the gravestones from the Jewish cemetery were looted by local Ukrainians. However, in 1946, a local priest noticed a matseyva in someone’s yard. He said that he would perform no baptisms, funerals or weddings until the gravestones were taken back. The locals had to replace the gravestones.

PreWWII part of the cemetery:

Semen Makovoz and his two friends moved those returned gravestones to the new part of the cemetery.
The pre-war cemetery was not fenced, so now it is overgrown with grass and shrubbery.

The new part of the cemetery is being kept tidy thanks to the informal leader of the local Jewish community Raisa Makovoz.

A monument to Holocaust victims was erected at the Jewish cemetery in 2010. Kiper [?] found the money in Germany, some money was raised by local Jews.

Symbolic Holocaust memorial

Symbolic Holocaust memorial

 

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