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Pokotilovo

Pokotilovo

Pokotilovo is a village in the Novoarkhangelsk district of the Kirovograd region in the Ukraine.  In the XIX and XX centuries, however, it was considered a shtetl in the Uman Uyezd, and part of Kiev province.

Beginning

According to historians, the first Jews settled in Pokotilovo in the XVIII century. By 1897, more than half of its residents were Jewish.

Reports differ on the number of synagogues or prayer houses that existed during the XIX century.  Some say two; others report three.  The number appears to be dependent on what constituted a synagogue and how stable and prosperous the community was at any given time.

One historian identified a rabbi by the name of Khaim (or perhaps Chaim) Goldstein (1845-?) in 1866.  Another identified  Matvey Leonovich Galperin as a state rabbi in the 1900’s.

Pokotilovo entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

Pokotilovo entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

From the memories of  Michael Stiefel (1871-1954):

My father had had several businesses. He bought and sold oxen and also operated a distillery. During the summer months they would pasture the oxen on the steppes and during winter they would keep them near the distillery. During the sultry hot weather these oxen would be sent from the steppes to the markets of the larger cities where they would be sold. Then, during Spring, the winter oxen would be shipped to market. In addition to these, my father also held the concession leased out by the lord manor of the province of Pokotilov.

Valednitzky family in Pokotilovo. Photo taken from <a href="https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/pokatilovo/family_history/family_history_valednitzky.html">kehilalinks.jewishgen.org</a>

Valednitzky family in Pokotilovo. Photo taken from kehilalinks.jewishgen.org

There were about 500 Jewish families in Pokotilov in a general population of 1,000 families. The Jews lived within the town and the non-Jews on its outskirts. But, during all these years, both Jews and non-Jews lived together peaceably and on very friendly terms. In fact, during the 1880’s when pogroms were raging throughout all of Russia, we were left unharmed.

There was one large synagogue (“Beth Ha-midrash”) where most everyone would worship. For the wealthier elite and for the more learned Jews was a “Kloiz” (a synagogue) and for the youth was also a Kloiz called the “New Kloiz.”

When I was three years old I was sent to the “Cheder” (elementary Hebrew school) of a teacher (a “melamed”) named David Isaac Somchas. He was a good, honest Jew (also a Kohen), but very quick-tempered. From him I received more than my share of swats and blows.

Our home was the largest and the most beautiful one in town, occupying number of blocks. The trees surrounding the house practically reached th clouds The acacias, broom-trees, conifers, flowers and roses grew everywhere. On one side was an orchard. Then, behind the house was a large field of cucumbers. In the courtyard stood a number of buildings.

We departed on the following day, my grandfather, Nissan Stiefel, who was the wealthiest man throughout our entire area, gave us one thousand rubles for expenses — just to get rid of us.

In 1928, four agricultural cooperatives were formed in Pokotilovo. In 1929, government officials organized two collective farms there, one Ukrainian and one Jewish. In 1930, the two farms merged.

All synagogues were closed in 1920’s-1930’s.

Vishnevetskiy family, Pokotilovo 1920's

Vishnevetskiy family, Pokotilovo 1920’s

Holocaust

Jewish population of Pokotilovo:
1897 – 1670 Jews (55,1%)
1920 – 1453 Jews
1931 – 1023
1950’s -2 Jews

War came to Pokotilovo in August,1941, when members of the Wehrmacht (the German Nazi war machine) occupied the town. That winter, on 12 February 1942, the Podvysotskiy police(Ukrainians nationals) of about 70 people and the Zhandarmery (armed Germans) of 100 men, organized the mass murder of the Jewish population.

According to witnesses, the policemen arrested the Jews in their houses, escorted them to a local school, and then led them to the banks of the Yatran River for execution.  While the Germans shot the local Jewish population, the local policemen stood along the river bank, on the bridge, and on the frozen surface of the river to prevent anyone from escaping. One Jew managed to escape the area near the mill but changed his mind and came back saying that his life no longer mattered as all his children had been shot.

Local residents reported hearing screams for a long time and from many kilometers away. The number of Jews short that day was 333 .

Some Jews managed to hide during the first day of the executions, but the cold weather made it difficult for them to remain in hiding. The Ukrainians did not allow those Jews who avoided execution to return to their homes.  Those who survived the first day of executions were massacred the next day.

After the executions, Ukrainian residents filled the village center where the Jewish population had resided and robbed the martyr’s possessions and destroyed Jewish-owned homes.

The Memorial to the victims of the fascism was built in the 1970’s to commemorate all the Jewish people killed in February 1942. Jews weren’t mentioned on the monument. It was restored in 2006.

After the WWII

After the war, only two Jewish front-line soldiers returned to the village. That was Vladimir (Volko) Bilomlinskiy (? – 2000’s) and the orphan Boris Ivanovich Broitman (? – 1977?).

Volko, a glazier, was married to a Ukrainian woman. His grandchildren still live in the village.

Center of the village is full of abandoned buildings. Former shtetl is slowly ...

Center of the village is full of abandoned buildings. Former shtetl is slowly …

Boris Broytman, a cattle dealer,  was the richest resident of the village. People remember him as a good man who gave candies to village children and helped his neighbors.

One of the village synagogues was purportedly closed in the 1920’s. A club was organized in its place, then a shop. In the 1990’s, village residents wanted to use the building for a church, but because of the Jewish history of the building, they refused. Now there is a warehouse.

Jewish cemeteries

Today, the town of Pokotilovo has two destroyed Jewish cemeteries.

The older one sits in the center of the village. Visitors can find several large gravestones there but inscriptiuons are unreadable.  There were many more,headstones in the 1980’s,  but local residents stole the stones to use for building.  Prior to WWII, the community had a  watchman live in a special house in the cemetery. This building no longer exists.

Last trace of Pokotilovo Jewish community

Last trace of Pokotilovo Jewish community

A new Jewish cemetery is situated outside the village in the middle of a field. The territory is covered with bushes so it is impossible to check the gravestones in summer.

Pokotilovo New Jewish cemetery

Pokotilovo New Jewish cemetery

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