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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.

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

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.

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 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. 

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.

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. 

Names of the victims on the Holocaust mass grave:

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

According to some sources the bodies of the Jewish victims were buried at the execution site, the County Consumers’ Cooperative Building, in June 1947. In 1958, following the decision of local authorities, the remains of the victims were exhumed and reburied in a mass grave at a local public garden, which today is next to Suvorov Street. In the early 1960s, Goykhman, head of the Golovanevsk Consumers’ Cooperative, initiated the erection of a memorial at the burial site.

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

I could find very little information about after-war Jews of Golovanevsk.

After the town had been liberated, Jews began to return from the evacuation and front. The Miller, Shnayder, Gomberg, Zaltsman, and Shames families were among those who came back to the town.
Ikhil Goykhman was an informal rabbi. Minyan was gathered in his house. Nobody gathered for praying after his death.
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.

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

Jewish cemetery

The last grave at the local Jewish cemetery is dated back to 2015.

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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