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Khotin

Khotin
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Khotin is a district town in the Chernivtsi region, Ukraine.

It was founded in the X century in Kievan Rus. Since the second part of the XIV century, it was part of the Moldavian principality. It was also under the power of Poland. Since 1711 it has been under the influence of Turkey. According to the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1812 Khotin together with Bessarabia was incorporated into Russia. In 1918 it was annexed Romania. By 1940 the Soviet Union annexed the territories of Moldova including Khotin. By 1963 Khotin had been a district center of Chernivtsi region, USSR.

Much more information about Jewish life in Khotin can be found in Khotin Yizkor book.

Beginning

A Jewish population first appeared in Khotin in the late XIV – early XV centuries. In the XV and XVI centuries, Jewish merchants passed through Khotin which was an important trading post on the road from Turkey to Poland. They paid some customs fees and took part in fairs in Khotin.

PreRevolution view of Khotin

PreRevolution view of Khotin

Jewish population of Khotin:
1897 – 9291 (50%)
1910 – 9132 (43,2%)
1930 – 582 (14%)
1939 – 5785 (37%)
2009 – 29Jews
2011 – 15 Jews
2017 ~ 5

In the XVII century, a community of Karaites was in Khotin. The first written evidence of the community of Jewish rabbanites dates back to 1741. In 1756, apostate Ia. Frank and his followers escaped from Polish to Khotin. Jews from Russia settled in Khotin in the mid XVIII century. A Jewish community from Germany collected money for them. During Turkish rule, the Jewish community increased. In 1807, 216 Jewish households were registered in the town. It was 23% of the total amount. 340 families lived there.

A synagogue can be seen in a plan of the Northern part of the town of 1817. Trade was the main occupation of the Jews. They traded with other parts of Bessarabia, with Ukraine (mostly smuggling). They also rented estates, mills, churns, and distilleries.

Jewish communal buildings, including Dovid Shmuel's kloyz in Khotin. PreWWII photo

Jewish communal buildings, including Dovid Shmuel’s kloyz in Khotin. PreWWII photo

When Bessarabia became a part of the Russian Empire its population including Jews was freed from conscription. This caused active Jewish immigration to the town. In 1831, special trade privileges were given to Khotin.

In 1847, 1,067 Jewish families lived in Khotin. In the 1860’s, there were six-seven thousand Jews. In 1847, a state Jewish training school was opened. In 1857 – a private Jewish women school; in 1860 – a Jewish hospital.

Oldest building in Khotin. It was customs in XVIII century

Oldest building in Khotin. It was customs in XVIII century

In 1861, they began to build a large stone synagogue and finished it in 1900. Talmud-Torah was built in the early 20th century. Khasidism was very popular among religious Jews. In the early 19th century, Isaiia Shor was a rabbi in Khotin. In the late XIX century, the members of Starkovskii family were the rabbis.

Former synagogue in Khotin. Building was reconstructed and used as an apartment block

Former synagogue in Khotin. Building was reconstructed and used as an apartment block

In the second part of the XIX century, an economy of Khotin declined because of distant location from the railway. The Jewish population didn’t increase. In 1897, 9,291 Jews (50.2% of the total population) lived in Khotin. In 1910 – 9,132 Jews (43.2%). The Jews engaged in crafts and trade, including smuggling. The Jews from Khotin were closely connected with the Jews from Galicia and Podolia.

Former home of Grand Rabbi Mordechai Israel Twersky of Khotyn, Ukraine. A grocery occupies structure's first floor. July 12, 2011. Photo credit: Mordechai I. Twersky

Former home of Grand Rabbi Mordechai Israel Twersky of Khotyn, Ukraine. A grocery occupies structure’s first floor. July 12, 2011. Photo credit: Mordechai I. Twersky

Jews used to live in tight crowded narrow streets of Old town called “anticipation of Istanbul”. People said that it was possible to bypass the whole Old town on the roofs of the Jewish houses.

After Russian Revolution

In 1917, after February revolution in Russia the first secular Jewish community was organized in Bessarabia. In 1929, it was acknowledged by Romanian authorities. A school with a Tarbut system was established. Hebrew was taught to adults and primary school students were taught in Yiddish, a Jewish bank and social organizations were formed during the period of Romanian rule. Since 1925, Tsaddik rabbi Mordekhai Israel Tversky has been living in Khotin. In 1930, the Jewish population was 5,785 people (37.7%).

Admor of Khotin - Rabbi Mordekhai Israel Tversky. He was killed in 1941

Admor of Khotin – Rabbi Mordekhai Israel Tversky. He was killed in 1941

In 1930, 5,788 Jews lived in Khotin.

Holocaust

Only a few of Jews had been called to the army. Some of them had escaped just before the Romanian occupation which took place on July 7th 1941.

Romanian authorities gathered all local Jews in the building of the women gymnasium for the registration.

Former synagogue in Khotin. Building was reconstructed and used as an apartment block

Former synagogue in Khotin. Building was reconstructed and used as an apartment block

They had been kept there for several days without water and food. People slept on the floor. At nights German and Romanian soldiers took the girls out and nobody saw them again. After authorities selected and transported all the intellectuals including lawyers, teachers, and rabbis to the Jewish cemetery. About two thousand people were executed there. The names of 558 victims were found out.

On July 8th, at night, Einzatskommando 10b shot 150 “Jews and Communists”. They were taken to the country and executed in the field behind the cemetery of soldiers of WWI. The Jews were robbed every day. The synagogue was destroyed. A lot of Jews were killed in their own homes.

On July 9th 1941, the Romanians and Germans arrested 80 people selected from the local intellectuals. They all were taken to Siguranta ( Romanian secret police), lined up and convoying outside the town. They were led into the swamp (former lake) and shot. Then soldiers and officers began to destroy Jewish property. The bodies of the dead Jews were allowed to be buried only next day. The Jews dug out a mass grave and buried 80 people there.

On August 1st 1941, about 4,300 Jews who had survived were gathered in a local square and then driven to the Dniester River. 200 (according to other sources – 500) of them were killed on the road to the river in Sokiriani forest. The rest of the  3,800 Jews were settled in Sokiriani.

In October 1941, 400 Jews were sent to Transnistria. On May 20th 1942, 126 Jews lived in the town. In June 1942, almost all of them were deported to Transnistria. Only 20 families were left in the town according to Mayor’s instruction from October 11th 1942.

Headstone (right) of Grand Rebetzin Batsheva Twersky of Khotyn, Ukraine in Murafa Jewish cemetery, Murafa, Ukraine. July 14, 2011. Photo credit: Mordechai I. Twersky

Headstone (right) of Grand Rebetzin Batsheva Twersky of Khotyn, Ukraine in Murafa Jewish cemetery, Murafa, Ukraine. July 14, 2011. Photo credit: Mordechai I. Twersky

Former head of Khotin police Smidu was one of the first chiefs of the local administration. He was known as a shameless bribe-taker and extortionist. He led the shooting of 40 best Jews of the town and made the rest of them leave the town.

Holocaust mass grave in Khotin Jewish cemetery

Holocaust mass grave in Khotin Jewish cemetery

However, the Romanians left one Jewish family of each occupation in craft.

After WWII

After the war the Jewish part of the town was completely destroyed. A lot of houses were ruined even in the trade center.

The synagogue (restored) in Khotyn, Ukraine. July 12, 2011. Following the war it was used as a storage facility. Photo credit: Mordechai I. Twersky

The synagogue (restored) in Khotyn, Ukraine. July 12, 2011. Following the war it was used as a storage facility. Photo credit: Mordechai I. Twersky

The majority of those Jews who had survived the Holocaust left Khotin after the war and moved to Israel.

In 1970, about 1,000 Jews lived in Khotin. There was a synagogue. A number of Jews was greatly reduced though.

Old PreWWII Jewish houses in Khotin, 2016

Old PreWWII Jewish houses in Khotin, 2016

The Jewish families have been moving to Israel, the USA, and Germany since 1991.

In 2016, only several elderly Jews lived here. They couldn’t gather in the synagogue to celebrate autumn holidays because of their poor health…

Jewish Cemetery

 

 

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  1. Thank you.

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