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Korosteszow (Polish), Korostysiv, Коростишів (Ukrainian), Коростышев – Korostyshev (Russian)

Korostyshev, is a town and district center in Zhitomir region.

It was founded in 1471 and was included into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Since 1569 it was a town in Zhitomir county, Kiev voivodeship (province) in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1793 it was incorporated into the Russian Empire. In XIX – early XX centuries, it was a shtetl in Radomysl district, Kiev province.


Jews have been living in Korostyshev since XVI century. In 1602, a synagogue was functioning there.

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Jewish population of Korostyshev:
1765 – 316 Jews
1847 – 2657 Jews
1897 – 4160 (53% of total)
1926 – 3017 (37%)
1939 – 2170 (19%)
1989 – 215
1995 – 70

In 1772, the kahal paid 1,240 zloty of poll tax. The kahal was the third largest in the region by the number of Jews after Berdichev and Chudnov.

In the late XVIII century, rabbi Meir lived in Korostyshev. He was a student of one of the righteous men of Chasidism in Ukraine Zeyev-Volf from Zhitomir (?-1798). In the early XIX century, M.- N. Tverskoy’s grandson Moyshe (1789 – 1866) founded Chassidic dynasty in Korostyshev. After his death his son Mordkhe (1842-1916) continued the dynasty, then his grandsons Menakhem-Nokhum-Iosef-Bentsion and Yitskhok-Avrom-Moyshe kept their family tradition . In 1885, there were three synagogues in Korostyshev. Since 1892, Shraga Gorodetskiy was the rabbi in Korostyshev. In the 1900’s Menakhem Bialyk was a rabbi.

Grave of Rabbi Tverskoy on the destroyed Old Jewish cemetery in Korostyshev. It was reconstructed by Hasidim according to memories of elderly local Jews in 2000’s.

In 1894, N.M. Bialik owned three sawmills. In 1895, I.D.Baru had a match factory. In 1912, a Jewish savings-and-loan society was functioning in Korostyshev.

Korostyshev photos of An-sky ethnographic expedition:

In 1914, there were six synagogues in the shtetl. Aron-Srul Berkovich Ratner was a rabbi. All four doctors were Jewish. A Jewish hospital worked. Kurisis was a doctor there and his daughter helped him . The locals knew her after her husband’s surname Zeltsman.

All four doctors were Jewish. A Jewish hospital worked. Kurisis was a doctor there and his daughter helped him . The locals knew her after her husband’s surname Zeltsman.

Former synagogue in Korostyshev

Former synagogue in Korostyshev

A considerable part of Korostyshev population was engaged in crafts. There were more than 100 sewers and tailors, and 40 bricklayers and stove-settlers in the shtetl. More than 17 smiths were advertising their services and products. There were four of them in the small area between Kiev-Brest highway and teachers’ seminary. Most of them belonged to the Jews.

Inside some Korostyshev synagogue, 1910's. Photo by An-sky expedition

Inside some Korostyshev synagogue, 1910’s. Photo by An-sky expedition

The only drugstore in Korostyshev, all five shops of pharmacy goods, 22 out of 24 groceries, eight out of nine haberdasheries, 17 manufactories’, all 12 bakeries, all five stalls of tin and hardware goods, all three timber yards, the only stationery shop, both parquet workshops, three out of six cloth factories, and a tar plant belonged to the Jews.

Korostyshev on the PreRevolution post card

Korostyshev on the PreRevolution post card

The central part of the shtetl and attached streets were populated mostly by the Jewish artisans and traders. A market place was located there as well. It used to be extremely vivid.

Civil War

At the end of 1918, a pogrom took place in Korostyshev. It was carried out by the Petlurite troops. In February 1919, Sokolovsky’s band organized the pogrom in the shtetl.

Bolshevists’ partisan detachment of Kalistrat Gelevey was acting in the area of Korostyshev. It prevented several Jewish pogroms.

Site of Big Synagogue. It was destroyed in the second half of XX century.

Site of Big Synagogue. It was destroyed in the second half of XX century.

In the 1920s, ex-residents of Korostyshev organized a community in Detroit, the USA. It supported those who had suffered from the pogroms in Korostyshev.

Between the Wars

In 1925, the natives of Korostyshev organized the communes named after Volodarskiy and Vinchevskiy, and two collective farms in Kherson district. One collective farm was called “Vozrozhdeniye” (revival) and the other one was named after Leckert.  In February 1925, a commune named after Volodarskiy was founded in Korostyshev. In the 1920’s Yiddish Schools were open in Korostyshev. Last 10-year Yiddish School was liquidated in 1940.

JDC report about Korostyshev Jewish Community by 1923:

Korostyshev is situated on the Brest-Litovsk Road, 105 versts from Kiev, and 28 versts distance from Zhitomir.

General population (before/after pogroms):6,000/6,800 Jewish population (before/after pogroms):3,000/3,525

The greater part of the Jewish population is engaged in small trade and handicrafts.

Before the civil war, there existed in the town 13 small cloth factories in which 500 persons were employed, out of whom 450 were Jewish (girls), there also existed a lighting-match factory in which some scores of Jews were employed; this factory is closed up. At present, there exists in the town only a paper-mill in which 250 persons are working, out of whom 80 are Jews.

Last PreWar house in former Jewish neighborhood, 2016

Last PreWar house in former Jewish neighborhood, 2016

The town underwent no pogroms, owing to the self-defence organization which existed there, the troops of Denikin which were in 30 verts distance from the town, tried to pillage it but were driven away by the Red Army. Nevertheless, there is a great number of orphans and half orphans in the town; these are orphans of refugees from neighboring places. Part of these children are being taken care of by the Children Home for 35 children, which has been oorganized and is subventioned by the J. D. C.

There also exists in Korostyshev a Jewish Public School which is attended by 200 children. The School is in need of repairs and school appliances.

The Jewish home for Aged which exists in the town (for 20 persons) leads a miserable existence in view of the fact that it receives no assistance from anywhere.

Birth certificate of Zuz Aronovich Boltanskiy (1934-2017), issue in Korostyshev with Yiddish stamp of Jewish city council

Birth certificate of Zuz Aronovich Boltanskiy (1934-2017), issue in Korostyshev with Yiddish stamp of Jewish city council


As was already mentioned, in our letter of August 14th, 1923, a fire occured on August 2nd which destroyed 22 houses, 19 belonging to Jews, and 3 to poor peasants. Twenty flve families with the total number of persons 126, were deprived of home and shelter.  This fact was reported to JDC by local representatives Yankel Gorobetzky and Berko Giberman.

In the 1920’s Yiddish Schools were open in Korostyshev. Last 10-year Yiddish School was liquidated in 1940.


Detailed information about Holocaust in Korostyshev was taken from Valentina Shapovalova’s (born in 1914) diary which was published in the local newspaper in 1997.

Korostyshev was captured by the Germans on July 9, 1941. The same day Jewish sufferings began. On July, 12 some Germans gathered a group of old Jews and made them dance, eat grass and drink water from the pit, they cut their beards. The Germans continued mockery the following day and after that they shot the elders.

Jew Varshaver was made to get into the pit with resin and after being mocked at was shot in front of his neighbors.

One day the Germans rushed into the Jewish houses and shot the whole families. People say the Jews were denounced by local Ukrainians. Those Jews who had survived were allowed to bury the bodies only in six days. Several pits for 60-80 people were dug out. Then the Germans shot Jewish men in front of their wives and children. The women were made to fill the pits with ground.

There was a Gestapo during the WWII with unmarked mass grave in the front of it.

There was a Gestapo during the WWII with unmarked mass grave in the front of it.

After that, the Germans announced about the registration of the Jews and organized a ghetto in Petrovskiy street. The Jews from nearby villages were led to live there as well. Polia Maslovskaya was chosen to be the head of the ghetto. She taught music before the war. Ten Germans also settled in the ghetto to control the Jews. They called for Polia every day and raped her. There were 360 women and 40 men in the ghetto.

Former Jewish ghetto

Former Jewish ghetto

On September, 12 1941, (according to the other information it was September, 22) the Jews were said they were going to a special district to live in. The whole night everybody was awake praying and fasting in the ghetto. In the morning all Jews were ordered to go to Zhitomir-Kiev highway to get into the trucks but the crowd was driven to the Southern outskirts of Korostyshev to Dolina tract. Locals remember that there were more than 2,000 people in the column including war prisoners, communists and Gestapo captives. In the outskirts of the shtetl the column was divided and led to two places of shooting. Three pits had already been dug out on each of them. A part of the children was pushed away from the column and saved by the local Ukrainians. The Germans first shot the children in front of their parents, then the adults. Polia Maslovskaya threatened the Germans before death but was shot at once. Children, women and men were buried in three separate pits. The graves were filled with ground by the local policemen. The ground above the graves shook for three more days.

This list of Holocaust victims was made by World War II veteran Idl Grigoryevich Raykh (1912 – 2007) after his returning from the front in 1945:

Holocaust victims list

Holocaust victims list

Idl Grigoryevich Raykh (1912 – 2007)

Idl Grigoryevich Raykh (1912 – 2007)

Yosip Pavlenko’s family saved Rakhel Shilerman and her daughter Busia. Rakhel’s two sons were shot by the Germans. The Pavlenkos helped prepare false documents. Both mother and daughter survived.

Holocaust mass grave on Korostyshev New Jewish cemetery

Holocaust mass grave on Korostyshev New Jewish cemetery

Some Holocaust victims were buried (reburied?) on New Jewish cemetery. I don’t know details about this Holocaust mass grave. Names on the gravestone: Avrom Steinbarg, Ezra Steinbarg,
Idle Hertzstein, Yisroel Herznstein, Idle Kelman, Boruch Kats, Rohl Hertzstein, [?] Steinbarg ,Elke Katz, Malke Kelman, Rohl Belzer, [?] Weisman, [?] Hertzstein:

After the War

After 1945, some Jews came back to Korostyshev. In 1946, a synagogue was opened in Korostyshev (Red Square, 36). It was a 2-store wooden building. Second floor was a woomen section. On weekdays 20-25 people attended it, on Saturday – 30-35, on holidays – 100-125. Aron Moiseyevich Korol (1882 – ?) was a Rabbi, shochet and mohel, Shaya Borukhovich Gornstein (1876 – ?) was a cantor. Mordke Leybovich Goldstein (1876 – ?) was a rabbi according to the documents but not in reality. In 1953, A.M. Korol was arrested for “getting in touch with the American Jewish organization”. He was in prison in Korostyn and his wife had to go there in order to cook kosher food for her husband. He was released later. Aron Moiseyevich Korol emmigrated with family to Riga, Lithuania.

Next people visited Korostyshev synagogue after the War: Batler, Futerman, brothers Oislender, Iosel Samuilovich Rogal (1906-1989), Tzalik (surname unknown), Doliner, Waisman, Mordko Kholodenko with brother

There was a synagogue after the WWII

There was a synagogue after the WWII

Most Jewish children visited local school №2. After the War, in Korostyshev returned former local policeman Shpakovskiy who was involved in mass killings during the War. He wasn’t sentenced by local authorities.

Rogal family in Korostyshev, 1953

Rogal family in Korostyshev, 1953

Matzot was baked unofficially in Batler’s houses. Batler was a former teacher of Yiddish school. I didn’t find information about closure of Korostyshev synagogue but assume that it was done by local authorities in the beginning of 1960’s.

In 1970’s-1980’s, WWII veteran Meir Oislender (1907-1992) was unofficial local Rabbi. He was married 3 times. His first family was killed in Korostyshev during the Holocaust. He married after the War and after the death of the second wife, he married to Mila, teacher of local kindergarten. For prayer Jews gathered unofficially with big caution.


In the late 1980’s  – early 1990’s, the majority of Korostyshev Jews moved to Israel and other countries.

These family photos were provided by Betya Kholodenko during my visit to Korostyshev in 2016:

A Jewish community was registered in Korostyshev in 1997. Nikolay Ivanovich Lifshits was elected as a head.

Famous Jews from Korostyshev

David Naumovich Gogshtein (1889, Korostyshev, Radomysl district, Kiev province – 1952), a poet , member of Jewish anti-fascist committee. In 1948, he was repressed and shot in 1952.

David Naumovich Gogshtein

David Naumovich Gogshtein

Pinkhas Israilevich Dashevskiy (1879, Korostyshev – 1934), a political activist, son of a military doctor. He studied in Kiev Polytechnic institute. In 1902, he entered the society “Poaley Tsion”.  After Kishinev pogrom in 1903, he made an attempt on the life of essayist and member of the Black Hundreds P. Krushevan. Dashevskiy was sentenced to five years of the disciplinary battalion. In 1906, he was freed. After 1917, he worked as an engineer in Manchuria and on the oil fields of the Caucasus. In 1933, he was arrested for being a Zionist and died in the prison.

Yakov Tsalevich Forzun (1924, Korostyshev – 2015, Israel, Or-Akiva), a Hero of the Soviet Union (1944). Since 1942 he was in the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (RKKA). Machine-gunner private Forzun was awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union for his courage and heroism which were shown in the battle during the Western Dvina crossing. Since 1946 he was in reserve. He used to work as a brigadier at Zhitomir plant “Rembyttekhnika”. Since 1991 he lived in Israel.

Holocaust mass graves

Both graves locates in southern outskirst of the city (see map above).

After the war, those Jews who had returned home set the monuments on the graves but they were destroyed.

In 1945, a hill was made above the grave and a metal fence was installed. In 1986, a plate of gabbro (1.75 x 0.8 m.) was put in the center of the grave. There was a memorial inscription and a Star of David on it. A granite plate (0.65 x 0.6 m.) with the memorial inscription in Yiddish was put in front of the grave. There are the flowerbeds framed by black granite (5.3 x 5.3 m.) to the left and to the right of the plates.The inscription on the large plate says: “The ashes of the citizens of Korostyshev killed by the German fascists during the years of the World War 1941-1945 rest here.”
The inscription on the small plate says in Yiddish: “We remember you. Never again.”

First grave:

Second grave:

Old Jewish cemetery

It was located not far from the shtetl’s center and destroyed in XX century. Grave of Rabbi Tverskoy was reconstructed by Hasidim according to memories of elderly local Jews in 2000’s. Memorial The cemetery is located in Shevchenko Street on territory of house №15.

New Jewish cemetery

The cemetery is located in Geroiv Nebesnoi Sotni, №103. It still in use.



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