Pages Navigation Menu

Chudnov

Chudnov

Chudnov is a city in the Zhytomyr region, located on the river Teterev.

Before the Revolution of 1917, it was a shtetl of the Zhytomyr district of the Volyn province.

Until the 20th century, there were 2 separate settlements – Novy (New) and Stary (Old) Chudnov, separated by the Teterev river. It was in Stary Chudnov that the majority of the Jewish population lived. Two settlements were merged into one in the 20th century.

I visited Chudnov during an expedition in the summer of 2020. Places connected with Jewish history were shown to me by the local historian Yuri Gaidash.

Article was translated by Daniel Pesin.

I managed to find very little information about the history of the Jews of Chudnov in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The first reference to Jews living Chudnov dates to 1648, when they escaped from the town during the Chmelnitskiy uprising. In 1756 Chudnov residents attacked Jews who sought refuge in the town from the Haidamaks.

Map of the Chudnov, 1769

Map of the Chudnov, 1769

In 1897 its 4,491 local comprised 80 percent of the total population of Chudnov. On May 1, 1903 200 local Jews participated in a strike organized by the Bund. Two years later, on May 1, 1905, 200 Bund members arranged a meeting but the local police spread the rumor that the Jews intended to blow up churches in revenge for the pogroms in Kishinev and Gomel, and threatened the Jews with another pogrom in the event that they held a demonstration.

Members of Chudnov Jewish self defence who were killed in Troyanov in April, 1905:

Members of the Bund’s self-defense organization killed 23–26 April 1905, in Troyanov.” Russian–Polish postcard with portraits of (left to right) P. Gorvits, Y. Brodski, and A. Fleysher. (YIVO)

Members of the Chudnov ‘s Bund self-defense organization killed 23–26 April 1905, in Troyanov.” Russian–Polish postcard with portraits of (left to right) P. Gorvits, Y. Brodski, and A. Fleysher. (YIVO)

Another photo of 23–26 April 1905 massacre (photos provided by David Sandler):

In 1910 there were a Talmud Torah school and three private vocational schools (two of them for girls) in Chudnov. During the Russian civil war the Jewish population suffered from a pogrom.

Chudnov entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 1

Chudnov entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 1

Chudnov entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 2

Chudnov entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913. Part 2

The shtetl was built along the Teterev River engulfed in greenery and surrounded by forests and meadows. Jewish livelihood was derived from skilled workmanship such as hat making, tailoring, and shoe making. There was also a spirits brewery that provided employment. There were two synagogues, a pharmacy, and a school that was built right after the Soviet revolution.

Martyrs from Chudnov who fell during the days of the pogrom in Ukraine.” Photomontage of portraits of three young men who were killed in Chudnov (now Chudniv) during pogroms that took place in Ukraine in 1919 during the Russian Civil War. Photograph by O. Tavakmalev. (YIVO)

Before the Revolution of 1917, there were 2 synagogues in the town.

Two Jewish kids, Chudnov beginning of 20 century. Photographer Tabakmaher. Photo provided by Dan Gellman

Two Jewish kids, Chudnov beginning of 20 century. Photographer Tabakmaher. Photo provided by Dan Gellman

Volunteer firefighter detachment in Chudnov, 1891

In the 1920s, there was a Jewish settlement council and 2 Jewish schools in Chudnov.

PreRevolution building in the center of Chudnov, 2020

PreRevolution building in the center of Chudnov, 2020

Chudnover Independent Benevolent Society was founded in New York on April 1, 1923, by immigrants from Chudnov. Provided sick and death benefits. Maintained cemetery plot. Visited sick members. Covered funeral expenses. Donated $25,000 to old age home and $200 annually, to local institutions. Contributed funds to Jewish agencies, including the United Jewish Appeal and International Israel Bonds. Functioned as a burial society. Society used the Beth David Cemetery in Long Island, NY.

The trading square of the town was located on the territory of the modern park called Shevchenko.

Under the Soviets Chudnov had a Yiddish school and a Jewish council that conducted its affairs in Yiddish. In 1939 the town’s 2,506 Jews constituted 46 percent of the total population.

Holocaust

40-50% of the Jewish population managed to evacuate before the arrival of the Germans.

 

Abandoned soviet tank on the street of Chudnov. Two typical Jewish houses are on the opposite side of the stree. Summer 1941

Abandoned soviet tank on the street of Chudnov. Two typical Jewish houses are on the opposite side of the stree. Summer 1941

Chudnov was occupied by the Germans on July 7, 1941. While the entire population was registered, separate lists were kept for the Jews. The Jews were concentrated under very harsh conditions of overcrowding in an open ghetto. The ghetto was formed in the poorest district of Chudnov on the peninsula, bounded by the Teterev River, modern Skala Street and Teterevsky Uzvoz Street.

View to ghetto from ooposite side of Teterev river

View to ghetto from ooposite side of Teterev river

They were required to wear a yellow Star of David on their sleeves. The Jews were also made to perform forced labour and suffered from cruel abuse at the hands of their supervisors. In early September 1941 Rabbi Yosef Mosuk and two elderly Jewish women were murdered after being publicly tortured before the entire population of the town. The Jews of Chudnov, along with Jews from nearby villages, were killed in three major murder operations between September and November 1941 by the Germans and the local police in 14 pits in the local park.

On September 9, 1941, the first action was carried out. About 900 people were selected and gathered in the club (former church) and then shot in the park. Families were destroyed not entirely, but one-two members from one family.

Church (club before WWII) where Jews were kept before execution

Church (club before WWII) where Jews were kept before execution

On October 15 or 16, 1941, the second action was carried out. The actual execution of Jews was carried out by local Ukrainian policemen. One of them, Valery Bukhanov, was particularly cruel.

In November 1941 – the third action, during which Doctor Libov with his little daughter, Doctor Frenkel with his family and the most valuable specialists who had not been killed before were destroyed.

After the destruction of the Jewish population, two hundred and forty-eight houses remained, which were dismantled by the local population.

The following victims appear in the memoirs of the survivors: Eli Sherman, Nuta Zilberman, Liza Gnip, Fuka Ulman, Nusya Britan, Aron Kilup, shoemaker Lizogub, Yankel Barshtman, Arka Tutiniker, Ruzya Furman, Pupa Barshtman, Uka Gilstein.

The Red army liberated Chudnov on January 6, 1944.

Soviet document about murders of Chudnov Jews, 1945:

In the lists of executed Jews, compiled immediately after the liberation of Chudnov, there are 3866 people.
One family in Chudnov was awarded the title of Righteous of the Nations of the World for saving Jews during WWII.

Polina Pekkerman provided many details about the extermination of Chudnov’s Jews. She survived the execution and got out of the execution pit, survived the war. After the war, she married in Chudnov and had 3 sons.

Maria Sandal survived the Chudnovsky ghetto, died in the USA at the age of 96 and left behind a book of memoirs. It was thanks to her efforts that a monument was erected at the place of execution in 2001-2002. One of the last local Jews, Zilberstein, was involved in organizing the installation on site.

Pages of Maria Sandal’s book:

Family of Maria Sandal

Family of Maria Sandal

In 1970, a park was planted on the site of the execution of Chudnov Jews, and a stadium was built next to the execution pits.

Monuments on the pits in Chudnov park:

After the liberation of the town in 1944 the mass graves in Chudnov park were uncovered and the bodies of the Jewish victims were reburied, apparently in one place.

The first monument on the grave of the dead was erected in the 1980s thanks to the efforts of the head of the village council Fedor Timofeevich Panasyuk, Boris Cherashny and Andrey Vasilyevich Danilov. But nothing was written about the nationality of the victims on the monuments, as everywhere else in the USSR.  It says: “In this place more than 3,000 of the county’s peaceful civilians fell victim to German Fascism.” On important memorial days, such as the Victory Day, the Chudnov liberation day, and others, flowers are brought to the memorial.

Today there are several memorials dedicated to the Jewish victims of Chudnov in various parts of the park. First, at the initiative of the local council, the relevant documents were studied and testimonies were taken from local witnesses. As a result, in 1986 or 1987, an official memorial was established in the Chudnov park, at the site that the locals still call “the watering place.” The victims were apparently reburied there in 1944. The Russian inscription on this memorial does not mention the Jewish identity of the victims.

In the 1990s relatives of the victims erected several smaller memorials. Most of the inscriptions contain the Star of David. Some of the memorials are located close to the official one. The Russian inscriptions on them say:
“Eternal memory to the victims of Fascism. We remember, we mourn. From their fellow townspeople”;
“Here lie the Jews of Chudnov, the first victims of the shooting, who were murdered by the German Fascists on 22.10.1941”; and
“Here rest the Jewish residents of Chudnov who were shot to death by the German Fascists on 22.10.1941. We will eternally remember. Your fellow townspeople.”

Two more memorials were erected further from the official one, in another part of the park, apparently where the shooting pits had been dug. The Russian inscriptions on them say:
“Here lie the Jews of Chudnov, the first victims of shooting (old people, women, and children), murdered by the German Fascists on 9.09.1941” and
“Unidentified remains of the Jews shot by the German Fascists on 16.10.1941.”

Holocaust mass grave in Noviy Chudnov with more than 100 victims:

Post WWII

After the end of WWII, many Jewish families returned from evacuation to Chudnov. In the 1960s, about 100 Jews lived in the town.

Religious Jews rented a (little) house on Skala Street and used it as a synagogue. Among the visitors of the synagogue were Borukh Nepevny, Avrum Zeltsev, Motya Reider, Bentsi Solodkiy, Abram Gindikin, Getsya Khait, Gersh Karpovetsky, Reisi Fishman, Borukh Fishman, Moishe Zeltser. The authorities actively interfered with religious gatherings. The unofficial rabbi was Abram Gindikin. The synagogue had a Torah scroll, which was later given to the Zhytomyr synagogue.

According to the second version, the unofficial rabbi was a Jew named Kolkin. He was summoned to the KGB many times because of his religious activities. He died in the 1980s.

Jews gathered in the unofficial synagogue until 1958-1960. By that time, most of the participants in the meetings had died.

In the 1980s, a show trial was held in Chudnov over a policeman who participated in the extermination of the Jewish population and was accidentally identified in the nearby town of Romanov. He was sentenced to a long prison term.

In 1991, the Jewish community was registered, which consisted of about 10 people. The head of the community was Jacob Mourie, who later died in a car accident.

Community members received regular help from the Joint.

But the old people died or left, and in 2021 only 1 Jew lived in Chudnov.

From the memoirs of historian Leonid Kogan:

The first time I visited Chudniv was in November 1994. At that time, 20 Jews were living there. I have recorded the names of a few individuals I spoke with: Yusem Etya Davidovna, Sandal Maria Yakovlevna, and Pekerman Mikhail Grigorievich. In the 1950s, about 200 Jews were living in Chudniv. After 1989, approximately 20 people left, and four were buried in the Jewish cemetery.

During the occupation, a part of the Jewish cemetery was destroyed. Out of roughly 500 remaining tombstones, around 50 are from the post-war period. Around 2000, I visited Yakov Murie (he passed away in 2002).

The last time I was, there was in 2007. At the initiative of dentist Eduard Mikhailovich Zilberstein, I was told that a fence was erected around the Bes Eylem (Jewish burial society) from the front. I took photographs of the matzevot (tombstones) and mass graves in the park near the Teteriv River.

The names of synagogues are extracted from archival documents (none of them have survived).

The building of the synagogue was located near the modern building of the city administration. It was dismantled after WWII.

Chudnov’s city administration, 2020:

Genealogy

Famous Jews from Chudnov

Mikhail Savelievich Gorb (real name Moisei Sanelevich Rozman) (1894, Chudnov-1937b Moscow) – illegal Soviet intelligence officer.

Mikhail Savelievich Gorb

Menachem Ribolov (1895, Chudnov – 1953, New York), journalist and critic

Lev Moiseevich Krivoy (1880, Chudnov – 1938, Moscow), rabbi, perished during Stalin’s repressions.

Jewish cemetery

Comments

comments

3 Comments

  1. My great-great-great grandfather was a moneylender from Chudnov surnamed Beckerman. We don’t know his first name, but he had a son Solomon who was probably a musician. My Beckerman relatives came from other towns in Volhynia: Rozishche, Proskurov, Zamosc (today in Poland). Musicologist Joel Rubin surmises that the family was originally in Chudnov and spread out from there. The numerous gravestones named Pekerman are suggestive, tantalizing – could these be cousins?

    Jonathan Baker
    thanbo at gmail.com

  2. There is a book, “Trees in the Snow” by Eva Smiller, whose first two chapters describe Chudnov before WWII and the destruction of the town’s Jewry during the Holocaust. The author tells her own story as one of those miracle survivors. She does not mention any ghetto, though. Jews lived in their homes and performed manual forced labor in designated places for the first few months of the occupation until the SS and the police started mass executions. The book recounts the story of Dr. Lebow (Libov), too.

  3. Thank you for compiling and posting this information.

    My mother, Rose Britton, and her parents, Isaac and Clara Britten, lived in Chudnov and emigrated to the United States in the 1920’s. Clara was a midwife and Isaac was a bank employee. Isaac was one of eleven children, and many of his nieces and nephews came to the United States. One branch of the family went to Argentina. Isaac was an officer of the Chudnov burial society for decades. There is a monument to the martyrs of Chudnov in the Chudnover section of Beth David cemetery.

    In the 1960’s my mother received a letter from some of her relatives who had been evacuated during the war. I would live to hear from anyone who has information about the family’s history or their ancestry.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: