Cernigovas (Lithuanian), Charnihau (Belarusian), Czernihów (Polish), Tschernigow (German), Tshernigov (Yiddish), Чернигов – Chernigov (Russian), Чернігів (Ukrainian)
Chernigov is a historic city in northern Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Chernihiv Oblast, as well as of the surrounding Chernihiv district within the oblast.
In the first half of the tenth century, Chernihiv was part of the lands which paid tribute to the Khazar Empire. During this period, Khazar Jews settled in the city. In the XIth century, a Jewish community was established in Chernihiv. During the existence of the Principality of Chernihiv (1054 – 1239), the city was a centre of Jewish scholarship. A number of Jewish sources from the XIIIth century, for example, respons of Rabbi Yitzhak (England) mention Rabbi Itsh (Yitzhak) from Chernihiv. In 1239, the city was destroyed by the Tatar Mongols.
In 1611, Chernihiv was captured by the Poles, and Jews settled in the city again, but in 1623, King Wladyslaw IV published a decree on the expulsion of Jews from Chernihiv province because of complaints from local merchants and craftsmen about competition from Jews. However, the decree was not implemented.
The Jewish community of Chernihiv was destroyed during the revolt of Bohdan Khmelnytsky in 1648. During the Russian – Polish war (1654 – 1667), the city was occupied by Polish troops and Jews once again began to settle here. Later, when Ukraine became part of Russia, there were repeated attempts to expel Jews from the province, and pogroms also regularly took place.
In 1855, Jews were denied the right to purchase land.
In the middle of XIXth century rabbi was Perez Hen – one of the prominent Chabad Chasidim, an official rabbi of Chernihiv. His son Hayyim David Zevi Hen was the next rabbi.
In the late XIX – early XX century in Chernihiv were 6 synagogues and prayer houses. They were on Liskovytsi and in the streets: Shoseynaya, Nicholayevskaya and Pyatnitskaya.
According to the census of 1897, the total Chernihiv population was 27,006 inhabitants, including 8,805 Jews (over 29%). The main occupations of the Jewish population were trade and commerce. In the early 20th century, there were four synagogues in Chernihiv, and many other houses of worship. Most religious Jews belonged to the Chabad movement.
In 1905, after the publication of the Tsar’s manifesto on October 17, more than half of the October pogroms throughout Russia took place in the Chernihiv region (390 out of 630 pogroms). As a result of pogrom in Chernigov one jew was killed and many wounded (this one grave still exist on jewish cemetery).
In 1906 members of a newly organized Jewish self-defense committee were imprisoned by Russian authorities for the illegal possession of weapons and the committee was disbanded.
During the Civil War, the Jewish community of Chernihiv again suffered greatly from pogroms, organized by armed groups of the Directorate and the White Army of Denikin.
After Civil War
JDC published on web-site report from Chernigov (beginning 1920′s):
Chernigov is the principal city in Chernigov Gubernia and is situated on the Desna River. During the period of navigation it has a water communication with Kiev. The city is situated at the narrow gauge railway and is within 75 verst from the station Kruty.
The total population before the pogrom was 40000, and the number is still unchanged. This is also the case with the number of Jews which is now, as than 10000.
However, the city repeatedly suffered from pogrom led by Denikin and Petlura which resulted in 40 murdered, 100 wounded and 30 house destroyed. There are 170 families of refugees from other, more injured places.
The city shows no visible signs of destruction but the economic condition of the Jewish population has grown considerably worse, as compared with pre-war time. Especially sad are the condition of refugees, primitive workers and artisans who have no work whatever at present.
Relief is administered to the pogromised population by Government institutions – Gubzdrav, Gubsobes and Gubnarobraz; by the JOINT, ARA, Evobkom and ORT.
List of Jewish children institutions with number of children and personnel
The are at present 9 children’s institutions in the city which mainly serve the needs of orphans and the children of the most needy people.
- Closed Chuldren Home #1 40 10
- Closed Chuldren Home #2 25 6
- Public School 95 11
- Sewing School “Trud” 111 15 Girls only
- Smith and locksmith school “Young Proletariat” 60 (boys only) 10
- Kindergarten – Severyansk Street 35 5
- Kindergarten #5 45 5
- School Asylum 60 5
- Favus Home 33 3
All the above mentioned Institutions are supervised by the Narobraz and subventioned bythe JOINT through Evobcom and ORT.
Closed Chuldren Home #1 is in good condition and is in need only of additional equipment and regular supply with food-stuffs in required amount.
Closed Chuldren Home #2 is located in unsatisfactory building and has inadequate amount of underwear and bed-linen. It is necessary to repair the premises, to equip it additionally, to deliver clothing and shoes for the children and to supply the Home regularly with food stuffs.
Full version of report you can find here.
Under the Soviet government, community and religious life of Jews of Chernihiv was gradually destroyed. In the early 1920′s, all religious and private Jewish schools were closed, and were relaced by state Jewish schools, but the latter were also closed by the authorities in the second half of the 1930s.
Chernigov was occupied by German troops on September 9 (or on September 12), 1941. Before the occupation many local Jews succeeded in leaving the town to join the Red Army or to escape to the Soviet interior. During the war Jews from the Chernigov District were active in partisan units; some of them, for example Kamenskiy, Berenshtayn, and Gilchik, even became partisan leaders.
Chernigov’s Jews were ordered by the German authorities to register on September 29, 1941. They were also ordered to wear white armbands with yellow Stars of David and were recruited for forced labor. The Germans moved the Jews of Chernigov into a small area around the old market. At the beginning of the second third of September 1941 the detachment of Sonderkommando 7b shot 19 Jews from Chernigov. On October 23 116 Jews and on October 24 another 144 Jews were shot by Sonderkommando 4a. A few days later the same unit arrested 49 Jews (according to one German source) or 48 people, including 30 Jews and 18 partisans (according to another German source), and shot them.
In November 1941 most of the remaining Jews were shot by Germans. Those Chernigov Jews who were not shot during the November operation were shot in their own homes or imprisoned in the Chernigov city prison and, then, shot in the area of the prison or in another location. On December 1, 1941 only 57 Chernigov Jews were still alive. They were all shot by Germans and their helpers in late 1941 or in 1942. Due to the lack of local specialists, some Jews from Hungary and Rumania were transported to Chernigov and kept alive to work in labor camps in 1942/1943. Most of them died from the unbearable conditions or were murdered by Germans.
Many Jews from various locations in the Chernigov District were murdered in Chernigov city. Jews from Shchors, Kozelets, Koryukovka, and other locations were imprisoned in Chernigov and, then, shot later.
Chernigov was liberated by the Red Army on September 21, 1943. Total numbers of Holocaust victims still unknown (~ 2000).
The Jews, who returned to Chernihiv after the war, along with all Jews in the Soviet Union, suffered from new restrictions, implemented by the authorities. Jewish comminty was registered in July 4, 1946 (219 members), head of community was Indman.
During the anti-religious campaign in 1959, the last operating synagogue was closed, and all the religious items were confiscated.
The revival of the Jewish community began in 1989 with the creation of the Chernihiv Centre of Jewish Culture. Then, according to the census of 1989, the Chernihiv region population included 6,184 Jews.
Modern Jewish Community has ~ 3500 members. Head of community is Semen Grigorevich Belman (+38 0462641958). Due to his efforts Festival of Jewish culture take place in Chernigov every year. He and members of Hesed origanize scientific сonference of jewish history in Chernigov region once at year.
Office situated in a building of kindergarten which was provided by local authorities. In office situated next Jewish organizations: kindergarten, sunday school, synagogue, chorus. Newspaper “Thia” issues every month.
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More than 70% of buildings were destroyed during WWII in Chernigov.
Traditional area of Jews settlement in Chernigov in the second half of XIX – early XX century were Liskovytsya and area of Voskresenskaya street . Voskresenskaya street in 1920′s was named after the hero of the revolution Murinsona. There are few buildings on this street build in the beginning of XX century.
Synagogue was built in 1863-1864 according to a project of architect Shetinskiy on the place of old wooden synagogue. It was closed in th ebeginning of 1920th with other 7 prayer houses and synagogues. Before the WWII was owned by belong to marketing cooperative. During a war building was badly damaged but restored. After the war building was a Pioneer Center, civil defense courses and a theatre since 1988.
All requests of Jewish Community to return a building were rejected by local authotiry during 1990th-2000th.
It is a only one building of synagogue which have remained in Chernigov. Now jews can pray only in a special room in a office of Jewish Community.
Address: Rodimceva str., 4
One another building of synagogue remained at Liskovytsi, now it belongs to the school number 4.
The cemetery has a stone fence on three sides. There is a metal gate – an entrance to the cemetery. The gate is always open. Oldest known gravestone is February 1903 – Benjamin Isaakovich Mindelis. Cemetery was closed in 1975 and last known Jewish burial was in the same year. Vegetation regulary cleares by Jewish community of Chernihiv. According to information from Semen Grigorievich Belman oldest part of cemetery (19 century) was destroyed by german tanks during a war. There are no gravestones on southern-west part of cemetery and it confirm such hypothesis. On the cemetery located gravestone of 1905 pogrom victim(Tyrovskiy) and graves of jews killed during Civil War (Myrinson, Shylman, Nitsberg and others).
Unique wooden tombstone from Chernigov Jewish cemetery was found during demolition of old building not far from this place. It is only one wooden matzeiva which was found in Ukraine.
Address: crossing of Lubecheskaya str., 4 and Voikova str.
Markels’s house and drugstore
Kalman Markels was a junkman and rather lucky guy. He win in lottery 200 000 rubles Due to this money his sun Isaak Markels get education in Kiev University (pharmacist). Before death Kalman bequeathed most part of money to his sun and 150 rubles for jewish community each year.
Isaak inherit most of father’s money and start its own bussiness. There are 2 buildings in Chernigov connected with Markels family.
It was built by Isaak Markels in 1872 and it was the biggest in the end of XIX century. Markels sell drugstore before World War I and emmigrate to USA with whole family (wife and 2 children Olga and Moses). During WWII building was practically destroyed but rebuilded after war. Now it is central drugstore in Chernigov.
Address: Shevchenka str., 4/7
It was built in the beginning of XX century. One part of house owner gave to bank. Since 1917 building belong to GPU-NKVD and used as a place of interrogation and execution. In 1919 there was killed 19 most prominent citizens of Chernigov. They were a hostages of GubChK. Many people was killed there during 1937-1939.
Sanitary-epidemiological services was placed here after the WWII.
Address: Peremogi ave., 77
Hozenpud was a merchant. He owned the mill on Strizhen river and shops selling fur. At the beginning of XX century Hozenpud emmigrate to USA and leave his home Chernihiv Nobility as asylum for orphans and children from poor families.
Holocaust mass graves
In October 1941 a large groupe of Jews form Chernigov was arrested and taken to a quarry of Brick Factory No. 2 on Shevchenko Street. From there they were taken under guard to the murder site in Roshevshchina. The murder was carried out by Germans in charge of the field gendarmerie with the help of local Ukrainian policemen. That site also known as Yaroshevshchina or Royevshchina and was located in a garden near 130 Shevchenko Street. Jews were systematically arrested and shot in this location during different periods of the occupation. However the number of 4,000 Jews, given in one testimony as being shot is inflated.
At the mass murder site of the Jews of Roshevshchina there is a memorial to the Soviet civilians who were murdered by Germans during the occupation of Chernigov. It is located on a street named 50 Years of the Young Communist League. The memorial has an inscription in Ukrainian that says: “Stop, passerby! Honor the dear memory of your countrymen! At this site 7,500 Soviet civilians were tortured to death by the German fascist invaders in 1941-1943.” In 1966 the bodies of the victims were transferred from Roshevshchina to a mass grave at the cemetery in Yalovshchina.
- Berezovyy Rov
On November 18, 1941 all the remaining Jews of Chernigov were ordered to appear at the central square for resettlement. Those who did come to the square were taken under guard to the building of former Brick Factory No. 2. From the Factory Jews were taken in small groups to pits in Berezovyy Rovin (the direction of the village of Koty) that had been prepared in advance. There Jews were ordered to take off their clothes, and then were shot dead by Germans with assistance of Ukrainian police. According to testimonies, the mass shooting lasted three days.
After that Jews of all ages and both genders were also taken by the Germans with the help of Ukrainian policemen to Berezovyy Rov from Chernigov city prison. The Jews were forced to take off their clothes and were then shot in prepared pits.
There is a monument at present on Mira Street at the bottom of the Berezovyy ravine. At this place about 800 Jews were shot by Germans and their accomplices in November 1941. The area of the monument is marked with plaques. The pyramid-shaped monument is about 4.3 meters high. Designed by Sergiyevskiy and Kopeykina, it was erected in 1963. On the front of the monument there is an inscription in Ukrainian that says: “Here lie buried about 1,500 Soviet civilians who were tortured [to death] by the German fascist invaders in 1941. The memory of these people who were killed in the struggle for the freedom and independence of our Motherland will remain in our hearts forever.” The inscription continues: “In fond memory of you who live forever in our hearts.” On the lower part of the monument there is also an inscription in Ukrainian on a plaque which was placed on the monument in 1991 by the Jewish community of Chernigov. The text says: “At this site on November 18, 1941 the German invaders shot 800 Jews from Chernigov.”
In November 2001, on the 60th anniversary of the mass murder of Chernigov’s Jews, the Jewish community of Chernigov affixed to the monument a plaque with a Star of David and the inscription: “We remember – Jews from Chernigov, 2001.”
- Chernigov city prison
During the period of the German occupation of the city Jews from Chernigov and other locations in the Chernigov District were arrested and imprisoned in the Chernigov city prison. Many of them were shot in the area of the prison at different times; some of inprisoned Jews were taken to other mass murder sites and murdered there.
Jews who were not murdered in the 3-day operation in the Berezovyy Rov were taken to this mass murder site in November 1941 and systematically murdered.
Some Jews were shot there later, in the spring of 1942, when Jews of all ages and both sexes were taken from the Chernigov city prison to the mass murder site. The Jews had to take off their clothes and they were shot in prepared pits. The mass shooting was carried out by the Security Service and Ukrainian policemen. A total of 15,000 civilians and prisoners of war were shot at this location.
- Second Kholodniy Yar
Some Jews were taken from the Chernigov city prison and shot at different times by Germans, with the help of local Ukrainian policemen, in a ravine of the Second Kholodnyy Yar.