Dimer (Yiddish Transliteration), Dymir (Polish), Димер – Dymer (Ukrainian), Дымер – Dymer, Dimer (Russian), דימער (Yiddish)
Dymer is a historic town located in Kiev region. The town’s estimated population is 5,817 (as of 2001).
Dymer became a part of Russia Empire in 1793, in XIX – beginning of XX century it was shtetl of Kiev Yezd of Kiev Gubernia.
Dymer is approx. 32 km from Kiev and in 93 km from Chernobyl.
Over the course of several centuries several ethnic groups co-existed on the abundant soil of Dymer. The Jews lived in Dymer since the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth rule.
In the XIX – beginning of the XX centuries the Jews were mostly engaged in handicrafts and trade.
The Jewish population of Dymer was 273 in 1847.
According to the outstanding local historian Lavrentiy Pokhylevych, 1,773 Orthodox Christians of both genders and 624 Jews lived here in 1887.
From 1906 Itzkhak Klodnitskiy (1886 – ?) was the rabbi of Dymer.
Last old house in the former Jewish neighborhood of Dymer
By the end of XIX century the town had acquired a bleaching plant which belonged to Eil Aronovych Rubinshtein, and in 1912 a Jewish loans and savings society operated in Dymer.
Civil War pogroms
During the Russian Civil War in Ukraine (1917–1922) Dymer Jews suffered from endless pogroms.
In autumn 1917 an armed Jewish self-defence force had already been established.
In January 1918 a detachment of Jewish soldiers stopped a pogrom attempt. The autumn 1919 was marked with devastating pogroms when on 5 September the units of the Volunteer Army (an anti-Bolshevik army in South Russia during the Russian Civil War) instigated a pogrom where over 40 women were raped, and a Cossack detachment headed by Struk instigated another pogrom in November.
Dymer entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913
The following passage about Struk pogrom comes from a witness statement written by Moshka Iyosifovich Khabenskiy, a resident of Ivankov settlement, Kiev guberniya, Radomyslskiy uyezd , formerly a Dymer resident, on October, 29, 1919.
“On Thursday evening of 18 September, a cavalry detachment headed by Struk entered Dymer. The officer stayed at Hilel Rubinshtein’s house and demanded the Jews to bring him 18,000 of poultry, 1,000 cigarettes and 10,000 rubles. The poultry and cigarettes were delivered, but only 5,000 rubles were collected. Iyosiph Litvinov gave the money to the officer in charge of the detachment. The next day on the orders of Struk a settlement governor Pavluschenko sent for Khanon Koganovskiy to come to the volost (a small administrative subdivision in Eastern Europe). I.T. Struk himself and a local clerk waited for him. Struk demanded Koganovskiy to collect 1,000 rubles from every Jewish house. Koganovskiy said that he was not an official to give orders, and he did not have any savings because he had lost his livelihood. Struk asked the clerk to give him a piece of paper, tore it in half, giving one half of it to Koganovskiy, and ordered to collect the money. He also added, “Tell them it is the Struk’s order and the money must be collected”. The Jews did not have this amount but they collected it by selling the boiler and other appliances from the Jewish communal bath-house to local peasants. In this way, the Jews collected 35,000 rubles and Khanon Koganovskiy brought the money to Struk. That day, on 19 September, I personally saw I.T. Struk in Dymer.
Jewish population of Dymer:
1847 – 273 jews
1897 – 984 (30%)
1923 – 145 jews
1939 – 153 (4%)
1989 ~ 20 jews
2016 ~ 5 jews
After Struk had received the money, his Cossacks entered the town and started looting Jewish houses and shops. They broke off doors and windows, smashed the furniture, and ransacked goods, furniture and other property from the houses and shops. They did not stop there and went on to rape and murder. Three Cossacks raped Itsko Dymerets’ wife at Zusya Koretskiy’s house. There were more rapes of young women. These soldiers took away 3,000 rubles from Mordko Gershevich Leschinskiy and murdered him afterwards. Everything started at nearly 5 in the afternoon and continued to 10 at night. It was the eve of Yom Kippur. Although, the holiday was coming and it is the holiest day in the year which Jewish people spend fasting and praying in synagogues, none of the Jews dared to leave their houses to go to the synagogue; all were scared to death. The same evening at nearly 10 o’clock, Struk and his detachment left Dymer. That night someone set fire to the house of a Jewish woman called Ginda. The house burnt to the ground but local peasants put out the fire. The Jews did not leave their houses the whole Saturday. They went outside only on Sunday. Then they noticed Leschinskiy’s dead body surrounded by pigs. The body was taken to the cemetery but not buried, because soldiers frequently attacked Jews when they were burying the murdered. It was also discovered that two Jewish men and one Jewish woman from Rykun settlement had been killed together with Leschinskiy. One elderly Jew died of shock. The soldiers tortured other elderly people by cutting their beards off and beating them. Many Jews were injured.”
Another report written by Shlema Zayaruznyi, a Dymer inhabitant.
“On 20 September, in the evening, the soldiers of Struk’s detachment entered Dymer and broke into the Jewish houses ransacking them and setting them on fire. All Jews tried to escape and hide with some local peasants. Only the very old stayed at their houses and took the brunt of the pogrom; they were beaten and tortured, like, for instance, Morel Golubchik. Soldiers beat up Meyer Epelbeim savagely and insulted his faith by cutting a Christian cross on his hands. They also beat old Polonskiy. All of them are in hospital now. Jewish refugees from Ivankov could not find shelter at local peasants’ and many of them perished. A peasant who has just arrived says that the locals collected dead bodies of the murdered Jews away from the dogs. The soldiers suppressed any defensive attempts of the peasants who helped the Jews. They ordered all locals to leave the town so that they would not prevent their pillaging and raping. Nevertheless, the peasants managed to stop fires spreading to Jewish houses. Now Dymer looks like a dead town; the residents have run away and the houses have been left empty. The rest are starving. Soldiers carry on destroying houses by breaking doors and windows so that the inhabitants could not come back to their homes. No one dares to leave their houses. We urgently need help.”
Between the Wars
Number of Jewish population dropped significantly by 1923 when there were 145 Jews.
At the end of 1920s Dymer Jewish community petitioned J. I. Shneerson to provide welfare assistance to repair their mikvah.
Local synagogue was closed in 1929 and converted to club.
Photo of the Dymer synagogue from newspaper, 1929. Wooden building was disassembled after the WWII
The area where Dymer Jews were settled before the Nazi occupation was between Lenina and Kosareva streets and people called it “a Jewish neighborhood”.
25-30 Jewish families lived in Pekhovka street (the central street of the Jewish quarter) before the war.
Local historian G.Alekseenko about pre-War Jewish neighborhood in Dymer:
Gavrilov Mykola Petrovych, born in 1922, recall in 2000’s:
Many Jewish families lived in Dymer before the war. Most of them were older, but there were lots of young Jews. Their children studied at school, the adults worked for various organisations in the area. Some of them worked for a local collective farm, for example, Mikhel Dymerets was a carpenter and Yankel Rodynskyi worked as a blacksmith. Older Jews were engaged in small scale trade, making shoes and clothing. All Dymer Jews had their own houses. Yasha Ruvynskyi worked for a local newspaper called “Shlyakhom kolectyvnym” (“On the way of collective work”) and his wife Maria was a children’s doctor.
Just 153 lived in Dymer in 1939, constituting only 4% of all the town’s inhabitants.
During the very first days of occupation over 70 residents of Dymer were shot in the forest near the local hospital. They were Communists and Komsomol (Young Communist League) members, high-ranking officials and activists. There were Jews among the murdered.
Dymer Jews were ordered to bring their valuables, warm clothing, food, documents, and get assembled in local schook for the departure to Kyiv. The locals who had horse-drawn carts were obliged to take their Jewish neighbors to Babiy Yar.
Spevak Ryva Mykhailivna, born in 1925, recalled in 2001:
“We were 5 children in the family. Two brothers were called up to fight in 1941, they went missing. After the war there was only me, Ryva Dymerets and Gornopolska who survived. When the war started, my husband and I were evacuated to Kuibyshev where he was doing military service. Before we left, I said, “see you” to my parents but that was the last time I had seen them”. After Dymer was liberated, the woman living next door said that she had taken Ryva’s parents to Babi Yar. Her father Mikhel, weak from torture, died on the way there. On arriving the German soldiers took her mother Cherna. The neighbor herself could hardly refuse the order – the Germans did not want any witnesses to stay alive, but she convinced them she had been ordered to return to bring more Jews to Babi Yar.
Former Jewish neighborhood in Dymer
“One day in Kosareva street, the Nazis buried an elderly couple Perla and her husband Avrum leaving their heads out. The passers-by were ordered to spit on them, and the Germans beat those who did not obey with their rifles. By the end of 1941 all local Jews were exterminated, but another order was then issued, ordering to report all Ukrainians married to Jews, the children born in mixed marriages as well as the children with a Jewish grandparent. In 1942 two Ukrainian women with their children were shot next to the town concert hall (nowadays there is a dance hall built in 2001). One of them called Maria Mykhailivna Yanovska was the wife of the local headmaster, Volodymyr Fedorovych Yanovskiy who was Jewish; the other one was Fabrytska whose Jewish husband was fighting at the front”.
Marchenko (Dmytrenko) Maria Yakivna, born in 1929, remembers that the Jews were not shot in Rykun: nearly 25 Jewish men were taken to Kyiv and only one woman, a pharmacist, was taken to Dymer forest. Savenok Olga Mykolaivna, born in 1928, recalls when she found out that 3 Jews were shot in the airfield. Zhadobko Vasyl Yukhymovych, born in 1925, says that the mass execution was carried out at the airfield in the ditches dug for water supply pipes. He said, “Naked bodies of the people shot by the local collaborators were lying in the ditch. Another execution place was behind the Jewish cemetery, but there is nothing over there, the soil was ploughed.”
During the occupation the Jewish community of Dymer was totally destroyed, leaving no trace of Jewish presence in the area. The tragedy of Dymer Jewry would have gone completely unrecorded if Tetyana Sergiivna Neiman, an aspiring scientist and a high school student at Dymer High School No1, was not interested in the history of the community. She spent the year of 2001 studying Holocaust sources, collecting documents and photographs, meeting survivors and collecting witness reports. Her research was published under the title of “The Tragedy of the Dymer Jewish Community in the XX century”. Below there are several extracts from this work:
“My name is Gavrilov Mykola Petrovych. I was born in 1922 in Dymer in the family of a villager. I want to share the memories of my Jewish fellow villagers I lived alongside with before the war.
During the war many Jews evacuated….When Dymer was occupied by the Germans, they killed the Jews first. Elderly Jews and children were brought on the carts from Rykun settlement to the town. All Ruvynskyi family except Yasha, together with Cherna Dymerets, whose legs did not work, were ordered to get onto the carts in Dymer. Yasha’s wife Maria had a newly born baby. They all were taken to Kyiv and shot there.”
“My name is Mandro Galyna Ivanivna. I was born in 1915 and have lived in Dymer ever since. I also lived in the town during the war. All Jewish families had many children. Local collaborators were taking Jews somewhere. People said there was an irrigation system with a reservoir somewhere near Rykun, and the collaborators could throw still alive Jews into that reservoir. I remember that a Jewish woman who was working at a local hospital had a baby and went home. When she was going home, someone told her the Germans had already killed her husband. She asked Ivan Davydenko to hide her, and he let the woman in. A neighbor living next door betrayed that woman. Local collaborators together with the Germans took her away and shot. I don’t remember that Jewish woman’s name.”
“My name is Dudchenko Anastasia Gavrylivna. I was born in 1922. I’ve lived in Dymer all my life. During the war I stayed in Dymer working in the forest. I remember a Ukrainian family living in Katyuzhanskyi shlyakh (nowadays it’s Shevchenka street) who was hiding a Jewish boy. Dymer collaborators knew about the boy and betrayed him to the German. They took the boy away and shot him. The family whose last name I don’t remember didn’t suffer.”
After the War
Some Jewish families returned to Dymer after evacuation but community life didn’t revived.
Few Jewish families emmigrated from Dymer to USA in 1970’s.
Nearly 20 Jews lived in Dymer in 1989.
In September 2011 a memorial was erected in the Dymer Jewish cemetery. The inscription in Ukrainian, Hebrew and English says, “This memorial was erected to commemorate Dymer Jews massacred by the Nazis during Holocaust in September 1941”.
Opening of memorial in 2011
In 2010’s here lives only few fully assimilated descendants of last Dymer Jews…
Old Jewish cemetery
Cemetery was used by Jewish communities for few cemeteries and was destroyed in the first half of XX century.
New Jewish cemetery
Dymer Jewish cemetery was used by the residents of Dymer and the Jewish colony Rykun’. It was destroyed by local Ukrainians after World War II. According to the Cemetery Project of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies, the local executive authorities held restoration works on the cemetery in 1970; the metal grave plates with Russian inscriptions might have been placed then. According the same data, the last burial on this cemetery took place in 1969.
Plate on the fence of Jewish cemetery which was reconstructed in 2015 for the German’s cost
Jewish prayer house
All information about this building was provided by its current owner during my visit in 2016.
The building is located opposite the site of the main Dymer synagogue.
The exact date of the construction of the building is unknown but it can be assumed that it was built in the second half of XIX century. During the renovation of the building, the owner found a metal plate of Insurance society dating back to 1835.
Metal plate of Insurance society
The building was used by the Jewish community as a prayer house though it belonged to a rich person who lived in Kiev and visited Dymer only at weekends and performed the duties of the shochet. The Rabbi resided there permanently . The house was sold after the Revolution and transformed into an inn.
Rebuilded building of Jewish prayer house in Dymer, 2016
The building was significantly reconstructed in 2010’s but I managed to take a photo of several original walls and rooms.
The original door frame was taken away but I managed to cut out the part with a mezuzah trace.
Cutting Mezuzah’s trace from door’s remains of Jewish prayer house
Holocaust mass killing site
Most of local Jews were killed in Babiy Yar. But the last Jews who tried to hide and were found in 1941-1942 were killed on the western outskirts of the town on the site of former Chkalov aerodrome.
Additional sources of information on the Jewish community of Dymer can found in the Kiev State Archive:
– District courts of Kiev province – Kiev, f. 227, 1782 – 1872, 2708 d. – statistical data on the number of Jewish population in Dymer in the years 1797 and 1858.
– District police departments – Kiev, f. 1260, 1859 – 1912, 1944 d. – Data on the expenditure of taxes in Dymer.
– Kiev district executive committee of the Council of workers, peasants and Red Army soldiers – f. ?-112, 1922-1930, 8846 d. – materials on the seizure of Jewish colonists’ land by Dymer residents;
– District executive committees of the councils of workers, peasants and Red Army soldiers – Kiev, f. ?-126, 1923-1932, 87 d. – lists and forms of tally sheets of Jewish migrants; summary of the report «Soviet power and ethnic policy », presented in Yiddish by the authorized representative on registration of Jewish migrants in the town of Dymer A,N, Friedland.
According to the lists of Kiev region Duma electors in 1907, 36 Jewish Dymer residents were registered; their property was evaluated as being worth 300 roubles and above. Compared with other shtetls in the county, this number is small. The list included Blinder Nahman Meerovich, industrialist, whose property was estimated at 2000 roubles; Polonskiy Shimon Kelmanovich (2300 rub.); and Olevskiy Nuhim Haskelevich (1500 rub.). This list also includes the Kladnitskiy brothers, Boruh and Shimon. The local rabbi was supposedly the son of Boruh Kladnitskiy.
ANIEVSKIJ Man’ Usherovich (800 rub.)
BALTER Lejba Borukhovich (500 rub.)
BERDICHEVSKIJ Elia Aronovich (400 rub.)
BLINDER Motel’ Lejzerovich (800 rub.)
BLINDER Nakhman Meerovich (2000 rub.)
VARSHAVSKIJ Nakhman Alterovich (800 rub.)
VENTSEL’ Zalman Iontelevich (400 rub.)
GLIKIN Moshko Berkovich (400 rub.)
GOLIK Lejba Iosevich (400 rub.)
GOLUBCHIK Mordukh Lejbovich (300 rub.)
GONCHAR Bentsion Itskovich (400 rub.)
GORODETSKIJ Avrum Khaskelevich (400 rub.)
GUTGARTS Khaim-Gersh (300 rub.)
GUTKOVSKIJ Ovsej Berkovich (600 rub.)
DEKHTIAR Nukhim-Avrum Borukovich (400 rub.)
ZHOVNIRSKIJ Ivan Petrovich (1000 rub.)
ZASNOVSKIJ Zelik Iankelevich (300 rub.)
ZAYARUZNI Khaim Nisonov (300 rub.)
KLADNITSKI Borukh Shlimov (400 rub.)
KLADNITSKI Shimon Shulimovich (300 rub.)
TOLOKUNSKII Leiba Mendelevich (450 rub.)
TOLOKUNSKII Motel’ Bentsionovich (300 rub.)
TOLOKUNSKII Neiakh Moshkov (300 rub.)
TROVSKII Ovsyei Izrailevich (400 rub.)
KHAZAN Aron Nuta Merim Itzkovich (300 rub.)
KHALEMSKII Avrum Moshkovich (600 rub.)