Gorodische – Городище (Russian), Gorodish, Horodishtch (Yiddish), Horodische – Городище (Ukrainian), Horodyshche, Horodysce, Gorodisce, Gorodyszcze (Alternative Name)
Horodyshche is a historic town located in Cherkassy region, center of Horodyshche district. Horodyshche is located on the Vilshanka River, a tributary of the Dnieper. The city’s estimated population is 14,480 (as of 2011).
Before Revolution, Horodyshche was a shtetl of Cherkassy County, Kiev Gubernia.
There is no exact information when Jews first settled around the area of modern Horodyshche. However, they must have already lived there during the popular uprising of the Ukrainian peasants when Haydamaks murdered a lot of Polish gentry and Jews.
The proportion of Jews among the population of our region increased significantly in the XIX century. More can be found in the archived documents and pre-1917 census and reports.
In 1900, there were three synagogues and one Talmud-Torah in Horodyshche.
Horodyshche entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913, part 1
Horodyshche entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913, part 2
In 1910, a Jewish hospital was established in the town. It had six beds and was financed from the box taxes. The hospital also provided free health care to the Jewish poor. In 1912, it was awarded the status of a district hospital. It included a pharmacy and a pharmacy storeroom. Now the building houses the regional military committee but the sign “The Jewish hospital” is visible.
Sign “The Jewish hospital” on the building of military committee, 2009
Volodymyr Сhos provided a short but interesting description of the Jewish way of life here: “The Jews lived in a tightly-built, segregated community, the houses very close to each other. The courtyards were small and frequently shared among several families. They had no gardens or land for cultivation. The interior furnishing depended on its owner’s occupation. Their houses were not at all spacious or very clean, with some exceptions. Despite the fact that Jewish houses were poor and unkempt, there weren’t any thatched roofs.”
Nearly 3,500 Jews (800 families) lived in Horodyshche before the First World War.
The Civil War
In May 1919, during the Grigoryev pogrom L. Kagan, Tregub, R. Sosonovskaya, E. Dienerstein were killed, and all Jewish stores were looted. The pogrom instigators were local teachers and the students of the local high school and the agricultural college. Not only did they instigate the pogroms, they were also active participants of ensued looting and murders. In total, seven people were killed and three wounded, one of them fatally.135 houses were damaged with the total cost estimated at three million rubles.
Recognition of pogrom victims in Horodyshche
Rogovoy, a member of the Boguslav self-defense unit, describes the pogrom in Horodyshche in September 1920 in terrible detail. It was organized by ataman Golyi. “As a result of bandits’ efforts, there are up to 500 killed, 250 wounded, and several women raped. The wild fury of the roaring crowd didn’t spare even babies. There are mutilated dead bodies in town because the victims were not shot but slaughtered with knives and cudgels. All local hospitals are filled with women raped, many of them fatally.
Pogrom victims in Horodyshche
Only on Monday a part of the Boguslav unit supported by the Red Army entered Horodishche and managed to put a stop to the massacre. Only faced with the machine gun fire from the armored vehicle, which arrived from the Tsvetkov direction, the bandits finally decided to flee. Many people, already lined up to be murdered, were pulled out to safety from under the mass of the dead bodies. Heaps of young women’s bodies are lying in the streets of the town, their stomachs bayoneted as they were raped. When moving dead bodies, people find mothers still clutching their slaughtered babies.
Horodyshche Jewish self-defence unit
There was a body of an old man, his penis cut off and stuffed into his mouth. At the moment the town looks like a cemetery, all Jewish houses looted, the town covered in down from ripped pillows and mattresses. Some people went mad. A lot of orphans remained. The photos of the violence that took place in the town are attached. They were made by the chief of Boguslav security, his assistant and some guards who first entered the town. They caught 15 bandits, the wife of the bandit Golyy was among them.”
Horodyshche Jewish self-defence near local synagogue, beginning of 1920’s
Between the wars
As a result of terrible pogroms the Jewish population of Horodyshche shrunk significantly. Most refugees had no wish to return to the place of unimaginable violence inflicted on their people.
We do not have the exact data, but in the 1920s the Jewish population fell to 500-1,000 people.
In the 1920s the Soviet authorities began their policy of Jewish resettlement. The Ukrainian society of land management of working Jews (OZET) was in favor of it. Many Jews moved to Crimea, Zaporizhia, Kryvyy Rih and to Birobidzhan, the Soviet Jewish Autonomy in Siberia. One of the 19 branches functioning branches of OZET was in Horodyshche, in Cherkassy region.
Begelfer family in Horodyshche, 1922
In 1939, 510 Jews (four per cent of the total population) lived in Horodyshche.
The town was occupied by the German troops in early August 1941. 60% of the pre-war Jewish population was under the German control. In summer and autumn 1941, the town was under the German military commandant’s authority. Locals volunteered to work for the council and the auxiliary Ukrainian police. The head of the Ukrainian police was Nosarev, Zhuk was his deputy. In December 1941, the town came under the German Civil Administration control. Horodyshche became a part of Smela county (Gebiet) of Kiev regional commissariat (Gebietcommissariat) of the Reich commissariat in Ukraine.
Soon after the occupation of the town, the council followed the orders of the German military commandant’s office. It organized the registration of all Jews, enforced the wearing of the armband and deployed Jewish workers in road maintenance, buildings restoration etc. The Jewish ghetto was established in the autumn of 1941. The Jews were prohibited to leave its boundaries or trade with the Ukrainians, soon leading to starvation in the ghetto. The ghetto was finally destroyed on the 29th of March 1942, when all local Jews alongside with nearly 300 Jews from nearby villages were driven out to the courtyard of the Horodyshche police station. At dawn of the next day they were shot in the ravine near the natural boundary of Sadstantsyya. According to some other sources, the ghetto was destroyed on the fourth of April 1942. The Jews were shot by the Ukrainian police and German gendarmerie.
Holocaust mass grave near village Mliyiv
Mychaylo Lavrentiyovych Kravchenko, PhD (Biology) (1925-2006), a native of the village of Mliyiv, remembered the details of the shooting. His memories were published in Rivne in 1994. ”Near the yard of the collective farm, a 50 meter long trench was dug. They explained to the local population that it was going to be a training ground, a firing range. Two Maxims [Maxim machine guns – translator’s note] were set on the opposite side and aimed. When the wagon train with the Jews approached, the carts turned into the yard. The people were lined up on the road and led away without any explanations. They saw the trench, when they walked 50 meters. They began to panic. The machine gun started firing. Every fifth bullet was explosive. The people started to run away but they were faced by the submachine guns. The people tried to run to the hill as it was the only way to freedom… But even the machine guns still reached them there.”
Jewish population of Horodyshche:
1852 – 295 (13%)
1864 – 3,064 (30%)
1914 ~ 3500 Jews
1939 – 510 Jews
2016 ~ 10 Jews
Only one Jew, called Gergel, survived the shooting.
The murder of the Jewish population was done by the order of the German chief of Horodyshche gendarmerie lieutenant Oster with the active participation and guidance from the head of the Ukrainian police Nosarev, agricultural commandant Feldman, interpreter Lange, the deputy chief Zhuk and also ordinary policemen Tihenko, Bondar, and others. Moreover, the policemen of the entire Horodyshche district together with German extermination units took active part in the shooting as well.
R. Zaslavskaya was a member of the resistance movement in Horodyshche. She was executed.
On the seventh of March 1944, the Horodyshche commission of investigation of the Nazi war crimes during the temporary occupation uncovered the pit with the corpses and examined it. The detailed report is kept in Cherkassy archive.
List of Horodyshche Jews who served in Soviet army and were killed in action:
After the WWII
After the War, few Jewish families returned to Horodyshche – Kamenetskiy, Roytman, Valednitskiy and some others.
The older members of the community still remembered where the buildings of former Jewish stores and workshops were on the square of Peace in the center of the town.
In 1968, the center was totally rebuilt and all old Jewish houses were demolished.
Reconstruction of the center of Horodyshche, 1968. Big white house belonged to merchant Saltanov.
The unofficial head of the Jewish community was Moisey Velednitskyy.
In the early 1980s, the USSR tried to extradite Mykola Zhuk who lived in the USA. He was born in the village Dyrdyn, worked as a deputy police chief during the German occupation. He took an active part in the destruction of the Jewish population of Horodyshche. In 1943, he escaped with the Germans and after the war he lived in the USA.
He did not take his family with him, and in the 1960s he began sending them parcels from Philadelphia, US on behalf of Mykola Shchuka. At the official request of the KGB, in the early 1980s, the American Jewish prosecutors and lawyers came to the USSR and directly to Horodyshche and Mliyiv as well. Gergel, the only survivor of the shooting, was questioned by the Americans. He did not confirm the fact that Zhuk took part in the shooting personally and as for his rescue he explained: “I escaped through the bushes. I ran out of them right towards Mykola Zhuk. He could have killed me but instead he turned away. So I kept running.” The USA refused to extradite Mykola Zhuk.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, mass migration of Jews to Israel, Germany and the USA began, which marked the end of the Jewish community of Horodyshche.
Jewish community was created again in 1994. First chairman was Mikhail Kamenetskiy (emmigrated to Germany). But most of Jews emmigrated to another countries.
In 1995, 15 Jews stayed here and in 2016 there were about ten people.
These are the originals of the 1846-1862 registers in the archive of Cherkassy region.
Holocaust mass grave
The grave is located one and a half kilometer away from Horodyshche near the village Mliyev. A reinforced concrete memorial was put here in 1945.
In the 60s, the elected chairman of the community Moisey Veletnitskiy collected the money and had a fence made. The members of the Jewish community moved a granite slab from the top of the grave of the local Jewish Community Leader from the early 1900s monument and placed it on the existing Soviet memorial.
The Holocaust monument base is made of metal, perhaps the whole thing. It originally had a star on it, five pointed. The whole thing is not in good shape and probably should be replaced.
Yefim Yakovlevich Sokolov (1905, Horodyshche – 1999), a famous Soviet specialist in the energy field.
Dovid-Ber Slutskiy (1877, Horodyshche, Cherkassy district, Kiev province. – 1955), a writer, an interpreter. He made his debut in literature with the essays in Hebrew in 1903. In 1948, he was arrested in Stalinist purges and died in prison hospital.
Lev Robertovich Gonor (Ravumovich) (1906, Horodyshche – 1969, Moscow), General-Major of the Engineer Corps.
Iosif Leshchinskiy (Khmurner) (1884, Horodyshche – 1935, Poland), an essayist, a public figure. He studies in a heder and some yeshivas till the age of 14. He joined the Zionist movement in Odessa in 1899. In 1903, he came to Warsaw where he gave private lessons, became a popular activist of Zionist movement, one of the theorists of territorialism in the Jewish working movement. In 1905-1910, he lived in Vilno then in Kiev. He studied in Sorbonne. In 1912, he came back to Russia. In 1914-1915, he accompanied Jewish refugees. In 1917, he was a representative of the party “Fareynikte” in Kiev Central Council, he also took part in the organization of the “Cultural League”.
Yakov Leshchinskiy (1876, Horodyshche, Cherkassy district, Kiev province – 1966, Jerusalem), a sociologist, an economist, a Zionist, and a public figure.
The biggest part of the old Jewish cemetery was destroyed after the war. There is a bus station and a gas station in its place now. Several dozens gravestones remained on the surviving part of the cemetery.
Among the surnames, there are Furman, Shternberg, Arhangorodskiy, Zhavotovskiy, Brodskiy, Boguslavskaya, Shpolianskaya and others. Some surnames have been touched up with white paint, which shows that they had been visited by the relatives.
Mass grave of pogrom victims, 1920’s
Monument to Holocaust victims
Inscription on the oldest gravestone:
אש חשוב ו[נ]כבד
ר יצחק אהרן
בן דוב הלוי
נ” ב” אדר ב תרנד
Is an important and respected man
Reb Yitshak Aaron
Son of David Halevi
From [the village] Orlovets
Died on Adar Bet 2, 5654.
May his soul be bound in the bond of life.
Inscription on the most recent gravestone:
רבקה בת שלמה
אשת ה” אברהם
נפ אד רח אלול
תר – תנצבה – צח
Is an important woman
Rivka, daughter of Shlomo
Wife of Abraham
Died on Elul 1, 5698,
May her soul be bound in the bond of life.
In 2009, a small monument in memory of the Holocaust victims was placed on the surviving part of the old Jewish cemetery.
Inscription on the monument:
“To the men, women, elderly and children
Who were brutally killed
During the fascist occupation
Only because they were Jewish.
This must not happen again.
Eternal memory to the dead.”
After the war, the plot of land at the city cemetery was given to Jews.
Information was taken from Lo-Tishkah web site.