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Voznesensk

Voznesensk
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Вознесенск(Russian), Вознесенськ(Ukrainian)

Voznesensk is a town and a district center in Nikolayev region. The city’s estimated population is 35.843 (as of 2015).

In the XIX – early XX century it was a shtetl of Elisavetgrad Yezd of Kherson Gubernia.

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When the foundation stone was laid on May 10, 1795, the population was composed of a mix of Ukrainians, Russians, and Moldovans. From the late XVIII century when Poland was partitioned and merged with the Russian Empire, Jews began to arrive, quickly contributing to the growth of the town. From the nineteenth until early twentieth century, it was a shtetl in Yelizavetgrad uyezd, Kherson gubernia.

From 1828 until late in the nineteenth century, the town held the status of a military settlement, thus limiting the number of Jewish residents. Nevertheless, according to the 1897 census, by the late nineteenth century, Voznesensk Jews controlled nearly 85% of trade and 46% of artisan businesses.

Jewish population of Voznesensk:
1864 — 1249 Jews
1897 — 5932 (37%)
1910 — 7663 (39%)
1920 — 6177 Jews
1926 — 5116 (23%),
1939 — 2843 Jews
1996 – 180 Jews
2018 – 50 Jews

The first synagogue was completed In 1863, headed by congregation rabbis Khaim Gertsenshteyn (1864-1869), Iyeguda Teplitsky (1869-1895), and Yakov Meir Yako (1895-?).

By 1909, the synagogue was supplemented by 6 prayer houses, private Jewish training schools for both boys and girls, as well as a Talmud Torah. In 1911, there were 85 students in the Talmud Torah, while 345 students attended the 14 kheders.

More than 6,000 Jewish inhabitants of the town owned small tanneries, mills, and chaise workshops. Moreover, they were renowned specialists in leather currying, as well as cobbler and wheelwright businesses. Prosperous traders engaged in bread trading were among the shareholders of Voznesensk society of bread-traders’ and ship owners’ communities.

Old house in Jewish neighbourhood of Voznesensk

An old house in the Jewish neighbourhood of Voznesensk

Adolf Kibrik, father of the XX century People’s Artist of USSR Yevgeniy Kibrik, was a major agent in the bread trade and he owned of a fleet of barges. Zaychik, another wealthy trader, owned several houses in the center of the town – around the Pochtovaya market at Nikolayevskaya and Pushkinskaya streets – a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.

In 1912, a Jewish savings and credit society was formed, and a railway line connecting Odessa and Bakhmach ran through the town, significantly contributing to growth of Voznesensk’s economic life. In 1916, a Jewish artists’ community was organized under the leadership of Zaslavsky and Basmanov.

Before the Russian Revolution in 1917, Jews constituted 37.7 % of the total population, consisting mostly of politically neutral artisans and traders who were unsupportive of revolution.

Old Jewish houses in the centre of Voznesensk, 2018:

Ya. M. Ayzman was a local rabbi related to a large family. His nephews Vladimir and Grigoriy were members of a revolutionary party “People’s Will”. Among other prominent family
members there were Moisey, a Jewish novelist, and David, an author of popular drama and prosaic works about the life of Jews.

Today, there is a restaurant called “Vladimir” in one of Voznesensk central streets of (near the market). This building used to be the town former central synagogue erected in the late XIX century. It was closed by the 1930s and the building was given to a pioneer club. After the second world war, the building housed a restaurant called “Ukraine”; it was completely renovated and its structure lost its original look. The Jewish community tried to get this building back in the 1990’s but local authorities at the time refused to allow this.

Former synagogue in Voznesensk:

Two prayer houses at 23 Pushkinskaya street (now it is a dwelling house) and a sports school at Ursulov lane, 5 have been reconstructed and preserved. One-storey house with a high roof and five windows is a part of preserved prayer house.

Voznesensk Talmud Torah is mentioned in “Memorable book of Kherson gubernia, 1911”. Its director was Daniil Brodsky. Llike other training schools it was financed by the religious Jewish community. Five six year-old boy orphans lived here and were given secondary education and some professional training to help them succeed as adults.

It was opened in a two-storey house which was built especially for this purpose by V.Zeltser in 1895. After 1917, a seven-grade Jewish school was there, then an office of military trade, now it is a dwelling house. The house has been preserved in its original look, it hasn’t been repaired or rebuilt. Thus, now it is in emergency condition.

A typical pre-revolutionary building is preserved at Pushkinskaya street.

Russian Revolution

I couldn’t find any information about Jewish pogroms in the 1917-1920 Civil War period, but 100% certain that they took place in Voznesensk.

On the 4th of August 1919, the infamous Odessa gangster Misha Yaponchik was executed in Voznesensk for desertion from the front. There are two versions of the location of his grave: the first is that it is where the gravestone is situated now, the second is that his grave is in a part of the Jewish cemetery destroyed during the war.

Grave of Misha Yaponchik:

Two brothers – Motia and Tevel Abramovich were soldiers in the Civil War. The first one died near Kiev in 1919. Tevel Abramovich was a head of the collective farm “Guzhtrans”. He was repressed in 1937 and miraculously survived. Later he took part in World War II and after the war returned to the town.

Between the WWI and WWII

In 1926, a Jewish school #3 was opened in the town. Gordon was its director. 116 children studied there with two teachers. In 1920, an orphanage for Jewish children was opened as well.

Bilingual school #4 was also functioning in the town. Batitskaya was its director.
In 1925, Voznesensk Jews founded an agricultural community in Kherson district. It consisted of seven families.

Old house in Jewish neighbourhood of Voznesensk

Old house in Jewish neighbourhood of Voznesensk

In the 1920’s – 1930’s, all synagogues were closed in the town.

In 1928, 500 people gathered at a meeting concerning the closing of the prayer house at Kupecheskaya street. They decided to open a communistic Jewish club in it.

In 1930’s, all synagogues and heders were closed.

Holocaust

On August 6, 1941 the Nazis captured the town.

The territory of the current Nikolayev region was divided between Romanian and German occupation zones. The boundary was mostly along the South Bug river. Voznesensk was on the German side of the river that’s why the Jews who had failed to get to the Romanian side had very little chance of survival.

Local inhabitants recall that 200-250 Jews were shot. The shootings took place mostly in the autumn 1941 in the pastures near Natiagaylovka.
Not only local Jews but also Jews from Moldova and Odessa were shot in the Voznesensk district.

A sad story about a local Jewish musician:

Shootings also took place near the villages of Zeleny Yar and Vesely Razdol where 230 were shot. 3,500 people were shot near the pond and the quarries of village Yastrubinovo. More than 1,000 Jews from Odessa were shot near the village of Dmitriyevka. In 1961, a monument commemorating those murdered in the war was erected here.

On March 20, 1944 Soviet troops liberated Voznesensk.

In 1972, a group of Nazi criminals were brought to court in Munich. They were the soldiers of operative command 11 B. One of the items of charge was their participation in mass destruction of Jews from Voznesensk.

The indictment included the episode which stated:
“On the unknown day in September 1941 a subcommand under leadership of accused Figner by order of SS Obersturmbanfuhrer Persterer shot about 200 Jews outside the town of Voznesensk – men, women, and children because of race. People had to take off their clothes in the building near the place of the execution and then in groups of 30 persons were led to the anti-tank moat or gravel quarry where they were shot either in the back or in the head…”

During Soviet times, a monument was erected on that mass grave where there is an artificial lake. When it was excavated, human bones were found there. There are no mention about the Jewish nationality of the victims on the monument.

Holocaust memorial in Voznesensk, 2018

Holocaust memorial in Voznesensk, 2018

After WWII

After the war, many Jews came back from evacuation and from the Soviet army.

Zaluzhin was an informal rabbi and a head of the community. Jews had to pray in the houses of illegal minyan members because they were being constantly chased. For instance, they prayed at Kogan’s, Rabuta’s or Grigoriy Burdenny’s homes.
Fayvel Grigoryevich Ryklin (1916 – 2011) was a religious Jew, who knew Hebrew and could pray properly. He was the last veteran of WWII in the community.

There was a shoykhet in the town.

The current Jewish community was officially organized in the 1990’s. Its first head was Dmitriy Kasilovich Abramovich, and he served in this position from 1996 until 2012. The community used to gather in Dmitriy Abramovich’s son-in-law’s house to celebrate holidays and Shabbats. Then they had been gathering in the local library for ten years.

There was a kleyzmer band in the Jewish community from 2001 till 2006.

The Charitable foundation “Hesed Menahem” helps elderly and sick people.

Famous Jews from Voznesensk

Isahak Yulisovich Barenboym (1910, Voznesensk – 1984, Kiev), was an engineer-bridge-builder.

Shik Abramovich Kordonsky (1915, Voznesensk – 1943, Konstantsa, Romania) was a hero of the Soviet Union, a pilot of the Black Sea marine airforce. In 1943, he flew his plane – which was on fire – into the enemy ship and and drowned it.

Yulan Grigoryevich Oksman (1895, Voznesensk – 1970, Moscow) was a literary critic.

Jewish cemetery

There is only one Jewish cemetery in Voznesensk. It is still in use. We couldn’t find any information about the second cemetery. Perhaps it didn’t exist at all.

Gates of the Voznesensk Jewish cemetery

Gates of the Voznesensk Jewish cemetery

Only a little part of the cemetery has been preserved. Its bigger part was looted by the Germans during WWII. They used gravestones in repair work.

The grave of UK citizen who died in Voznesensk during a business trip in 2014

The grave of UK citizen who died in Voznesensk during a business trip in 2014

A grave of Pribuzhany rabbi Pinkhas from Illyintsy, Besht’s student, has also been preserved. The gravestone was renewed by Uman rabbi Meir Gabay several years ago.

The part of the cemetery that had been destroyed has since been built up with railway warehouses, homes, and a road.
A mass grave of Soviet soldiers of different nationalities who died during the liberation of Voznesensk in 1944 is situated at the cemetery.

Grave of the Soviet soldiers

Grave of the Soviet soldiers

There was a short period when local authorities allowed burying local non-Jews here but soon they prohibited it. For this period a few graves with crosses appeared at the cemetery.

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