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Korosten

Korosten
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Искорость – Iskorost’ (Russian), Коростень – Korosten’ (Ukrainian)

Korosten (Iskorosten – by 1923) is a town, a district center in Zhitomir region. Since the 14th century it has been incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Since 1569 it has been a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Since 1793 – a part of the Russian Empire.

In the XIX – early XX centuries it was a shtetl of Ovruch uyezd, Volyn gubernia.

Beginning

Jews in Korosten were first mentioned in 965.

In the mid-XVII century, Cossack squads of Bogdan Khmelnitskiy almost completely destroyed Jewish population of Korosten. A Jewish community was reborn in the XVIII century.

In 1865, there were two synagogues in Korosten.

Korosten entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913, part 1

Korosten entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913, part 1

Korosten entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913, part 2

Korosten entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913, part 2

In the XIX century, the construction of the Warsaw – Kiev – St Petersburg railroad line contributed to the demographic and economic growth of the settlement. In 1897 1,266 Jews were living in Korosten, where they comprised 48 percent of the total population. By 1914 numerous local shops and small businesses were owned by Jews.

Six synagogues were functioning.

In 1918, the organization “Poalei Tsion” was functioning in Korosten.

Civil War pogroms

In February 1918, military units of Central Rada carried out a pogrom against the Jews of Korosten.
On the 13th of March 1919, Red Army units also carried out a pogrom. 70 houses were destroyed. A cantor of the synagogue was killed. The pogrom was stopped due to unexpected cannonade from Petliura’s side who began to attack Korosten.
On the 20th of July 1919, Sokolovskiy’s band organized a pogrom.

In 1919 – 1920 also while revolting against Soviet rule, numerous local armed groups attacked Jews and plundered their property in various settlements around Korosten. In reaction, many Jews fled to Korosten.

Between the Wars

During the early Soviet era most of Korosten’s Jews were artisans and could barely make a living. In 1925 a Jewish agricultural cooperative “Obraztsovyy Trud”(“Model Labor”), consisting of 21 families, was organized in the town.

In 1925, branches of various Zionist organizations were functioning. Two Yiddish speaking clubs, five libraries with Yiddish books, four Jewish six-form schools, and 15 organizations of Jewish youth functioned in Korosten. In 1925, the Jews from Korosten organized seven Jewish agricultural collective farms in Kherson region: “Red cereal grower” (53 people), “Royter Poer” (98 people), “New life” (44 people), “ Rakovskiy collective farm” (77 people), “ Nae Lebn” (34 people), “Red worker” (100 people), “Usher Shwartsman collective farm” (18 people).

In 1926, a Rabbis’ Conference took place in Korosten on Sh. Kipnis’ initiative and upon authorization of the Soviet Power. 50 rabbis from different regions of the USSR took part in it. Y.I. Shneyerson was elected as a head chairman. The conference decided to merge Jewish religious communities to counteract the threat of faithlessness and assimilation. An executive board was elected. Right after the conference, Kipnis was arrested and the executive board was dissolved.

This photo was captured from video of Korosten media company:

 Rabbis’ Conference in Korosten, 1926

Rabbis’ Conference in Korosten, 1926

A two-storied prerevolutionary synagogue “Gornostaypol” was on Bannaya street. It had been functioning since before the war. The 1926, rabbis’ conference took place in this building. This building doesn’t exist anymore.

Yehoshua Chaim Matusov was a rabbi in Korosten.

In 1929, 80 children studied in underground kheders.

School #1 was a Jewish school before the war.
In 1939, 10,991 Jews lived in Korosten. It was 35.68% of the total population.

Holocaust

Jewish population of Korosten:
1847 – 331 Jews
1897 – 1266 (48%)
1926 – 6089 (50%)
1939 – 10 991 (35%)
1959 ~ 6800 (18%)
1970 ~ 6200 (11%)
1992 ~ 4000 Jews
2017 ~ 500 Jews

On the seventh of August 1941 it was occupied by German troops. The majority of the Jews managed to evacuate to the East during the period between the beginning of the war and the capture of the town. All men liable for military duty were called up to the army or became volunteers. Approximately 12-13% of prewar Jewish population weren’t evacuated.

In July-October 1941, German military police controlled the town. The German military administration formed a city-government with auxiliary Ukrainian police. The latter was formed out of the local citizens and took an active part in all “Jewish actions”. In late October 1941, the power passed to the German Civil administration. Korosten became an administrative center of the gebiet (region). Korosten gebiet was a part of Zhitomir general district, Reichskommissariat Ukraine.

Soon after the occupation of Korosten “a Jewish residential area” (an open ghetto) was formed. It was situated on one street. The Jews were prohibited to leave or to buy food products from the Ukrainians, and the Ukrainians were prohibited to get in touch with the Jews. The Jews were also obliged to wear a band with a yellow six-pointed star on their left sleeve. Jewish men had to work hard and were bullied and humiliated by the Ukrainian policemen.

Holocaust mass grave in Korosten

Holocaust mass grave in Korosten

An announcement “All the Jews are to gather in school number five on the first of September and have all the documents and valuable things with them” was posted all over the town.
During the first three weeks of the occupation of Korosten a Sonderkommand 4a had carried out three actions which led to mass shootings of the Jews. They shot approximately 1,000 people.  The Ukrainian police drove the Jews to the building of school number five. From there they were driven to the shooting place which was two kilometers away from the town. Commander of Sonderkommand Standartenfuhrer SS Paul Blobel led the execution himself. A chief of operational unit C brigadefuhrer SS dr. Otto Rash took part in the shooting.

The Jews from Hungary were also killed in Korosten district in 1943. They appeared in Ukraine in 1942 together with parts of the second Hungarian army, where they served as workers. The Hungarian Jews appeared in Zhitomir region in 1943. Hard work, poor feeding, and violent treatment caused their depletion; diseases contributed to the death of many workers. A hospital for sick people was organized in the village Kupische, nine kilometers away from Korosten. It was located in a brick house and had several rooms. The majority of the patients lay in open barns. The whole territory was surrounded by barbed wire. A lot of people died of typhus every day. Their bodies were piled at the wall of a neighboring stable. On the 29th of April 1943, the occupants decided to stop this source of infection. One of the barns with 600 people in it was burnt. Those who tried to flee were shot. Still one small group of the Jews had managed to escape in spite of their wounds. They survived and told what had happened. When Hungarian Minister of Defense V.Nagy got to know about this he ordered a special commission to conduct an investigation to reveal the perpetrators. However, the commission came to a conclusion that “the fire was a consequence of Jews smoking”.
Partisan detachments were functioning in Korosten district. They included more than 200 Jews. Among the soldiers of Moyshe Gildenman’s detachment a 17-year old girl Sarah-Liba Zigman was a very remarkable figure. Partisans called her Liuba. She shot the head of Korosten police Peter Tsukanov, the former lieutenant of the Red Army. He had been captured by the Germans, finished special “gestapo” school and took an active part in the operations of the German troops against the partisans.

Jews from Hungary were killed on this site. Photo by YadVashem

Jews from Hungary were killed on this site. Photo by YadVashem

Korosten was first liberated by the Red Army on November 17, 1943 but was reoccupied by the Germans on the following day.
The town was finally liberated on December 28, 1943.

Memorial to Hungarian Jews in Kupische village. Photo by YadVashem

Memorial to Hungarian Jews in Kupische village. Photo by YadVashem

In early 1944, an emergency commission made an investigation of the atrocities of Fascist Germany. According to Soviet sources, the total number of Jewish victims from Korosten and the surrounding settlements was 6,000 – 7,000. Journalist Mikhail Prigornitskiy was a member of the commission and a witness. He described all the deeds in the newspaper “Korosten truth”. Yanina Nikolayevna Ivashchenko told about the shooting. She lived opposite the place where the ditch was:

A column of Jews from school number five was led to the end of Zhmachenko street. Six or seven Germans together with the policemen selected 30-40 people from the column, led them to the ditch and shot them. Children were killed with the buttstock and thrown into the ditch. They were covered with sand. The sand was all in blood.

River Uzh flows in Korosten. There was a tannery on the right bank. Jews who lived in Brovar worked in that plant. Germans came there to check whether all the Jews went to school number five. One 80-year-old Jew David Rozenberg refused to go to the school. He was made to dig a pit with his hands. He was attacked by the dogs and buried half alive. The rest who refused to go to school were shot right near their houses.

These photos of the list of Holocaust victims were shot in 2017 during Summer expedition in the office of the local Jewish community:

After the WWII

After 1945 some Jews came back to Korosten. The Jews from nearby villages and shtetls moved to Korosten as well. Their communities were completely destroyed during the war.

After the WWII, it was almost Jewish steet. Families Kipnis, Guralnik, Gendelman and many other leave there

After the WWII, it was almost Jewish steet. Families Kipnis, Guralnik, Gendelman and many other leave there

In 1946, a synagogue was opened in Korosten on 55 Kirov street. 30-50 people used to gather for prayers on weekdays, 70-80 people – on Saturdays, and up to 400 people – on holidays. Shokhets and activists of the community were Abo Avrumovich Farovich (1880 – ?), he was also a moel, Gersh Aizikovich Karant (1885 – ?) and B.I. Shleifman (1885 – ?).

On this site was synagogue after the WWII. Building was destroyed in 1980's-1990's

On this site was synagogue after the WWII. Building was destroyed in 1980’s-1990’s

In the late 1940’s, the community gathered money to repair the synagogue, and help poor Jews. They also organized cartels which baked matza and led memorial services at the mass grave. In the late 1940’s – 1950’s, several minyans were gathered in private houses. In 1957, the synagogue was closed and a pioneer house was opened in it. However, religious life wasn’t over in the town. In the 1960’s – 1970’s, Trosman was a rabbi. In the late 1970’s – early 1980’s, an illegal minyan was functioning in Korosten. They also had a shokhet.
Since the late 1980’s, Jews from Korosten have been moving actively to Israel and other countries.

In 1989, a society of Jewish culture was formed in Korosten. It was located in an old one-storied building which belonged to the Jewish community. The first bar mitzvah was organized in 1990. Rabbi Shlomo Brayer from Berdichev was invited to conduct it. He brought the first tefilin to the town.

There was a synagogue in 1980's. Now it is an office of local "Hesed" branch

There was a synagogue in 1980’s. Now it is an office of local “Hesed” branch

In 1992, society “Mitsva Chernobyl” and a Jewish Sunday school were founded in Korosten. In 1994, club “Mazeltov” was started. In 1992, a rabbi from Israel Aron Berger (born in 1963 in Israel) came to Korosten. The revival of active Jewish life in the town was due to him. Boris Kogan has been the Head of the Jewish community since the beginning of 1990’s.


The local authorities gave the community an abandoned dormitory building which was repaired. There was constructed building with a mikvah and a synagogue in the yard.

Complex of synagogue, hotel and mikvah in Korosten, 2017

Complex of synagogue, hotel and mikvah in Korosten, 2017

In 1994, a Jewish school for boys was started. In 1995, a synagogue was opened. It also had a small yeshiva and mikva. 42-43 boys studied at school in its best years. The school had a dormitory.
Rabbi Aron Berger left for Israel in 2008. At that same time, the Jewish school was closed. Chabad Rabbi Rabinovich’s yeshiva was in the building of the school for a short period.

Inside Korosten synagogue

Inside Korosten synagogue

Famous Jews from Korosten

Iosif Yefimovich Samusenkov (Meylakhstein) (1928, Korosten – 1991, Moscow),was a football player and a coach.

Yefim Aronovich Tartakovskiy (born in 1928, Korosten), was a surgeon.

Leonid Dayen (1929, Korosten – 2017, New York), soviet poet and journalist. More information you can find in this interview.

Old Jewish cemetery

Cemetery was destroyed after the WWII

Site of destroyed Old Jewish cemetery in Korosten

Site of destroyed Old Jewish cemetery in Korosten

New Jewish cemetery

It is locating in Western outskirts of the city, near the Zhytomyrs’ka railway station. There are thousands of graves.

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