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Golovanevsk is a district center of Kirovograd region. Population is  5 982 people (2016).
In the XIX – early XX centuries, it was a shtetl of Balta uyezd, Podolia gubernia.

Most of the information about the post-war Jews of Holovanivsk was provided by Leonid Shmaevich, who was born there in 1946.

Jews lived in Golovanevsk starting in the late XVIII century.

In the shtetl there were two synagogues in 1889, a private male training school in 1909, and a Jewish savings and credit society in 1912.

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In 1905, a pogrom nearly happened in the shtetl. 15 Jews from Golovanevsk were fiercely beaten at the fair in the neighboring village of Troyany (now Zaporozhye region – editor’s note), a Jewish market was looted. After that event there was great anxiety among Jews of the shtetl. The non-Jews who came from Troyany after the fair to the village were beaten severely.

Former synagogue in the center of Golovanevsk, 2017

Former synagogue in the center of Golovanevsk, 2017

A man was sent to Balta in order to buy 15 revolvers for the shtetl. Khaim Ostroy organized a self defense detachment in the village. He collected money from wealthy Jews and bribed some officers in Balta, so they sent 100 soldiers to guard the shtetl. Thus, the pogrom was prevented in 1905.

Golovanevsk entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

Golovanevsk entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913

In 1915, immigrants from Holovanivsk purchased three plots in the Jewish cemetery in New York.

Before the Revolution, there were six synagogues in the town. Unfortunately, only one building has survived. The largest and main synagogue was located near the market. It was closed in the 1920s-1930s and became a power station. The walls of this building were about 1 meter thick. After the war, the building was dilapidated, and locals dismantled its walls for their own construction needs. One resident found a piece of parchment in the synagogue wall, which was once part of tefillin, and handed it over to Leonid Shmaevich. The building was finally destroyed in the early 1990s, and a hotel was built on the site.

Civil War pogroms

On December 18, 1917 a pogrom took place in Golovanevsk. It was stopped by the forces of the self-defense detachment. Nine non-Jews were killed.

In 1918 Chaim Ostroy organized a Jewish self-defense unit that numbered several hundred armed people. The unit successfully protected the county population from pogroms and attacks of gangs. 

Thanks to the self-defense detachment, Golovanevsk became an asylum where thousands of Jews fled from nearby shtetls that had been seized by pogroms. Because of the overcrowding, a typhus outbreak occurred in the shtetl killing hundreds of people.

PreRevolution building in the center of Golovanevsk

PreRevolution building in the center of Golovanevsk

Unfortunately, the self-defense detachment couldn’t confront huge military forces. In August 1919, the detachment was defeated by the Volunteer Army under the command of General Slaschev. Khaim and Yakov Ostroy were shot on Saturday, 12 days before Rosh ha-Shana. As a punishment for the fierce opposition of the detachment, the White Guards massacred 200 Jews in Golovanevsk. However, the local Roman Catholic priest hid the families of the detachment fighters, and consequently many Jews survived including Esfir, Khaim Ostroy’s daughter. It happened on August 4, 1919.

Boris Shmidt and Yakov Zaydman, members of the detachment, testified about the Ostroys’ murders in the Golovanevsk People’s Court which took place on the 28th of October 1931.

The pogroms caused a wave of internal emigration. According to statistical data, 43 families of Jewish refugees from Golovanevsk lived in Odessa in 1920, 156 people in total.

More information about pogroms and Jewish self-defense you can found here and here.

As a result of the pogroms, approximately 2,600 surviving Jews left Holovanivsk.

Between the Wars

In March 1921, Yevsektsiya (a Jewish section) of the Communist Party of Ukraine received financial assistance from the United States designated for the Jews of Golovanevsk who had suffered as a result of the pogroms and war.

Former Jewish school, 2017

Former Jewish school, 2017

Old Jewish houses in the center of Golovanevsk:

In 1925, the natives of Golovanevsk formed a Jewish agricultural association called “Friling” in the Odessa region.

Jewish population of Golovanevsk:
1847 – 1974 Jews
1897 – 4320 (53%)
1926 – 3474 Jews
1939 – 1393 Jews
2018 – 0

In the 1920’s, a Jewish school was opened in the town. 
In the 1930s, there was a Jewish School No. 1 in Holovanivsk. It was opened in the building of a pre-revolutionary educational institution. I could not determine whether it was a Talmud Torah or a synagogue.

In 1939, 1,393 Jews lived in Golovanevsk. In the 1930’s, Golovanevsk was a center of the Jewish National Village Council (3,230 inhabitants in 1931).


Golovanevsk was occupied by German troops on July 30, 1941.

The Jewish population of the village was annihilated in two major murder operations: in late September 1941, when 570 people were shot at three execution sites located next to each other, and in February 1942, when another 165 Jews were shot. Other sources report the number of Jewish victims to have been 900. 

Before first execution, all the Jews were driven into the building of a Catholic church and kept there for three days without food and water before being taken away for execution. The building of the church has not survived to this day.

In February 1942 the second mass murder operation directed against the Jews of Golovanevsk was carried out. The shooting took place in the yard of the local Consumers’ Coop. Before the shooting, the victims were rounded up by police. The Jews were then taken by a police investigation officer to the yard, to a cold storage pit. There the local police chief and his deputy immediately shot the Jews and threw their bodies into the freezer. The number of victims is estimated to have been 166, including 49 children. 

In late September 1941, Jews from Golovanevsk had been assembled in the Pioneer club, located about one kilometer to the northwest of Golovanevsk, There, in two fat-boiling pits two meters apart, Jewish victims were thrown into the pits alive. When the pits were full, the [remaining] people were executed with sub-machineguns. After the war, the remains of the victims were not reburied from there.

On September 23-25, 1941, Golovanevsk’s Jews were collected in the Pioneer club. Then they were murdered at three sites. Some of the Jews were taken by Gestapo members to the Volovik Ravine about one kilometer northwest of Golovanevsk. There a pit had been prepared. The Jews were unloaded from the trucks and forced to kneel facing the pit. Then they were shot to death with sub-machine guns. After the shooting the pit was covered with earth. 

There is another location in the forest where executions occurred, not far from the monuments, but the exact location is unknown.

Names of the victims on the Holocaust mass grave:

The actual grave of those shot is located near the monument itself, and somewhere there is a well into which the Nazis threw Jewish children alive.
During the construction of the monument, German rifle cartridges were found.  The Memorial was opened in the spring of 2014. In the spring of 2020, the monument was vandalized and was restored only by autumn. The names of 570 known Holocaust victims are inscribed on the monument.

The town was liberated by the Red Army on March 17, 1944.

In February 1942, 168 Jewish specialists, including 49 children, were shot near the synagogue in a glacier located 200 meters away. The glacier was a prototype of a refrigerator before the invention of electricity. It was a cellar where ice was brought from the river in winter and covered with straw. This ice did not melt throughout the summer, and the cellar was used as a refrigerator.
In 1958, Efim Goikhman, the director of municipal services, reburied the bodies of the Holocaust victims from the glacier into a park. The bones of the murdered were collected in bags and buried in a mass grave.

Mass grave at a local public garden, 2017

Mass grave at a local public garden, 2017

The Ukrainian inscription on the memorial does not mention the Jewish origin of the victims. It reads: “The shooting place of residents of Golovanevsk village.” 

After the WWII

After the war, many Jews stayed in evacuation or moved to Odessa.

In Golovanevsk itself, there were about 100 people after the war:
– The Milner family (musicians, Uncle and nephew Shunya)
– Aptekar (a barber and other barbers in the city were also Jews)
– Yuzik Bomberg (cart driver)
–  Zeida, who was involved in carbonating water
– Misha Zalyapin, who brought beer from Pervomaisk and sold it in Golovanevsk
– The Krutoyarsky family (they moved to Tashkent, then to the USA)
– Noyakh Goykhman with four children
– Lantsman
– Mikhail Dvorsky, worked as a cook
– two Schneider brothers
– Miller, Shnayder, Gomberg, Zaltsman, and Shames families

Jews, as before the war, sewed hats, clothes, and boots.

After the war, circumcision was no longer performed on Jewish children. Matzo was baked by the Jews themselves.
It was during Efim Goykhman’s time in Golovanevsk that a water supply system, a cinema, and a power station were built, and the entire city was electrified. He died in 1968 at the age of 43.
The unofficial rabbi in Golovanevsk after the war was Ihil Leibovich Goykhman. Before World War I, he studied in a yeshiva in Vilnius. During World War I, he went to the front instead of his brother Noyakh. After World War II, he told his grandson about World War I when he spoke in Yiddish from the trenches with Jews from the German army, urging them not to shoot at each other, and how Russian officers asked him to negotiate with the Germans about some local truces.

In Golovanevsk, Jews gathered for prayers only on holidays in private homes. People came individually, and after the last person, Leonid Shmaevich would lock the doors and crawl through a small window. Those praying had a Torah scroll.
In the 1970’s, an open trial was given to the local police officer for his brutal deeds during the war. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out what he was sentenced to.

The last Jews in Golovanevsk were Tanya Milner, whose sister took her to Israel, and Yuzik Gomberg, who passed away in the 2000s. There are still a few halachic Jews living in Golovanevsk, but they are fully assimilated and do not identify themselves with the Jewish people.

During our visit in 2017 we couldn’t find any Jews in Golovanevsk.

Jewish cemetery

There are approximately 5,000 graves in the cemetery.
In the 1960s, Efim Goykhman fenced the cemetery with a wooden fence. In 2014, a new wall was installed by Leonid Shmaevich.

The last burial in the cemetery occurred in 2015 when a Jew named Aptekar was buried. But he was not a local, he lived in a village near Golovanevsk.

Gates of Golovanevsk Jewish cemetery, 2017

Gates of Golovanevsk Jewish cemetery, 2017

New part of the cemetery:

Old part of the cemetery:



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