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Novaya Odessa

Novaya Odessa
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Novaya Odessa has been a regional center of Nikolayev district of Ukraine since 1976.

It was founded in 1776. In the XIX – early XX centuries, known as a shtetl of Novaya Odessa (Fedorovka), Kherson uyezd and gubernia.

During our ethnographic expedition in the summer of 2018 very little information was found on the Jewish history of Novaya Odessa.

Jews settled in Novaya Odessa in the late XIX century. In 1897 1,010 Jews lived in the town, where they comprised 18.3 percent of the total population.

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In 1868, there was a working synagogue in Novaya Odessa. In 1910, two synagogues were registered in the shtetl.

Jewish population of Novaya Odessa:
1897 – 1010 (18%),
1910 – 4205 (42%)
1923 – 389 Jews
1939 – 228 Jews
1990х ~ 45 Jews
2018 ~ 10 Jews

In the 1890s, Lev Kagan was appointed a rabbi there, the town’s only chemist’s and both ironmongery stalls owned by the local Jews.

The Jewish community was severely persecuted during the Civil War.

In 1926, the Jews from Novaya Odessa organized four Jewish farming societies in the Kherson region. Seven families joined the first one (name not known), with the same number in the second one “Rakitno”, four families in the third one “Pervoye Odesskoye”, 14 families in the “Pervoye Odesskoye Pereselencheskoye” society.
In the interwar period there was a Yiddish school in Novaya Odessa that was closed down in the late 1930s.

River South Bug near Novaya Odessa

River South Bug near Novaya Odessa

By the end of the 1930s, most Jews had left Novaya Odessa: in 1939 the remaining 228 Jews made up only 3.8 percent of the population.

Holocaust

Information about Holocaust in Novaya Odessa was taken from YadVashem website.

German and Hungarian troops occupied Novaya Odessa on August 12, 1941. Most of Novaya Odessa Jews managed to leave before the arrival of the enemy armed forces. In September of the same year, a ghetto was established in Novaya Odessa in a large courtyard between houses on the town’s main street. The exact location of the Jewish ghetto in the town is unknown. Jews from Novaya Odessa and from the villages in the region, along with refugees from Bessarabia, were brought there. The ghetto inmates were forced to sew Stars of David onto their clothes. They were brutally maltreated and forced to perform grueling work.

Assisted by the local collaborators, the Germans separated ghetto inmates in categories. The Jews who had a trade that the Germans could use were separated, together with their families, from the other inmates. The latter, numbering approximately 30, were ordered to take their belongings and valuables, on the pretext that they were being relocated in order to work. Instead, they were taken a short distance from the town and shot in ditches, dug in a pre-war airfield. Before being shot the victims were forced to strip naked and to hand over their possessions.
In early October 1941 the remaining ghetto inmates were divided into two groups, taken to the same place, and shot in the same manner. The perpetrators of these massacres which claimed the lives of a total of 125 victims were members of the German military police (Feldgendarmerie)and, probably, also of a unit of Sonderkommando 10b of Einsatzgruppe D, and local collaborators.

Unmarked Holocaust mass grave in nirthern outskirst of Novaya Odessa

Unmarked Holocaust mass grave in northern outskirts of Novaya Odessa

The murder of those Jews from Novaya Odessa and area who managed to survive the large-scale massacres of September and October 1941 but were apprehended later by Germans and local auxiliaries apparently continued at the same location well into 1942.

According to one testimony, the first group of Novaya Odessa Jews to be murdered in late September 1941 was led to the area of a brick factory on the town’s outskirts and murdered in clay pits there.

Novaya Odessa was liberated by the Red Army on March 16, 1944.

After the WWII

The ruined synagogue is located in the center of Novaya Odessa in the former Jewish quarter. We can assume that the synagogue was closed sometime in the 1930s. First, it was a two-story building but later the second floor was dismantled. After the war, the building housed a local power station and then a sawmill. Later the building was bought by a private individual and it is now abandoned.

There was a rabbi’s residence built in 1918 near the synagogue. The house has been completely rebuilt, with a local Ukrainian family living in it. The owner of the house said that he had found some evidence of older outbuildings that suggest there was a mikvah there.

Former Rabbi's house

Former Rabbi’s house

The Jewish cultural community was first registered in the 1990s but the name of its first chairperson could not be found. At that time the Jewish community had 45 members, who cleaned up the local Jewish cemetery.

Alexander Demyanovich Prokopchuk was the second chairman of the Jewish community. He was responsible for the construction of the Holocaust memorial in the center of Novaya Odessa. The marble monument has a Star of David, a menorah, and the image of barbed wire carved onto it, together with an inscription in Ukrainian that says: “To the bright memory of the Novaya Odessa Jews who were shot by the German occupiers in September 1941. We owe it to them to remember always and to mourn!” There is also a Hebrew abbreviation meaning “May their souls be bound up in the bond of life.”

Symbolic Holocaust memorial in the center of Novaya Odessa

Symbolic Holocaust memorial in the center of Novaya Odessa

Alexander Prokopchuk died in the 2010s and after that the community ceased to exist. Prokopchuk’s son Vadim claims that approximately 10 Jews still survived in the town. However, it was not possible to establish if any of them were observant Jews.

In the 1980s, a small manufacturing plant was being built near the place of the mass wartime shootings but the collapse of the Soviet Union prevented it from completion.

The dilapidated remains of the synagogue and the Jewish cemetery are the only evidence of a large Jewish community of Novaya Odessa.

Jewish cemetery

The Jewish cemetery is very small, with only post-war burials found there. It can only be assumed that there was another older cemetery but it did not survive.

Novaya Odessa Jewish cemetery

Novaya Odessa Jewish cemetery

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