Pages Navigation Menu



Khmelnik is a city and the administrative centre of the Vinnitskiy district. As of 2013, the population of the city was 28,217 people.
Khmelnik is located on the Southern Bug River, dividing it into Old and New cities.

The city was first mentioned in the chronicles in 1363. It was situated 6 km from the Black Road, used by Tatars and Turks during their attacks on Ukraine, and was a gateway to Podolia from the northeast. Therefore, Khmelnik gradually fortified itself, and by 1434, when it became part of Poland, it was a fortified castle with houses around it. In 1448, Khmelnik was granted the Magdeburg law.

In 1793, Khmelnytskyi became part of the Podolian Governorate of the Russian Empire.
In 1881, Khmelnytskyi had one of the largest Jewish communities in the Podolian Governorate. During the Civil War, a Jewish self-defence unit was organized in Khmelnik.

Synagogue in Kkmelnik, 1930's

Synagogue in Kkmelnik, 1930’s

Khmelnik entrepreneurs list from Russian Empire Business Directories by 1913:

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Jewish National Council operated, and a school with instruction in Yiddish was in operation. In the late 1930s, all synagogues were closed, and Jews were forced to pray in private homes. There were two rabbis in the town.
In 1935-1935, the only Jewish school in the city was closed, and teachers were repressed.

Old-age home in Khnelnik, 1910s-1920s. Credit by Shlomo Vasilevskiy

Old-age home in Khnelnik, 1910s-1920s. Credit by Shlomo Vasilevskiy

In 1934, a unique therapeutic radon water was discovered in Khmelnik, which has no global analogues. Since then, many sanatoriums have been built in the city and declared a resort area.

The 1939 census counted 4,793 Jews in Khmelnik, which constituted 64.8% of the total population. This number does not include the Jews of Ugrinovka, a village near Khmelnik (now part of the city). The Jewish population in the Khmelnik district numbered 810 people, most of whom lived in Ugrinovka.

In 1939-41, Jewish refugees from Poland settled in Khmelnik. Polish refugees were housed in the former synagogue building. Overall, the Jewish population of Khmelnik and Ugrinovka was about 6,000 people by the summer of 1941.

Khmelnik, 1930s. Photo from the collection of Pavlo Zholtovskiy and Stefan Taranushenko.

Part of the information for this article was taken from an interview with Israel Shvitelman, who survived the Khmelnik ghetto. In the 1990s, he gave an interview with the Shoa Foundation.

Khmelnik in 1930s:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


When Soviet troops were retreating, German aviation heavily bombed the city. During the retreat, a bridge over the river Bug was blown up. Germans entered the city on June 17, 1941.

The overwhelming majority of Jews could not evacuate and remained under German occupation.

The first order stated that Jews were prohibited from buying anything except for potatoes and peas at the market. But soon, another order explained that a Jew caught at the market would receive from twenty-five to fifty lashes. Thus, the Jewish population was doomed to starvation.

Jews were registered and forced to wear a white armband with the Star of David and later yellow circles with a blue six-pointed star on their clothing. A Judenrat was created, headed by Berko Elzon, Breitman, and others. Jews were subjected to constant humiliation and mockery.

PreRevolutuon building in Khmelnik, 2020

PreRevolutuon building in Khmelnik, 2020

They were only allowed to walk on the side of the road. If Jews did not walk on the side of the road, they were severely beaten.
The commandant Yanka, police chief Tarnavsky, and policemen Dremlyuga and Faryna were especially brutal. In addition, teachers at the local school played an active role in anti-Semitic propaganda.

On August 12, 1941, the Germans executed 229 Jews (mostly older men). According to other data, 360 men were killed, including a rabbi. Local Ukrainian communities also fell into this raid.
At first, they were gathered from all over the city. During the collection of the doomed around the city, if someone said they were sick with typhus, they were immediately shot in their own house.
The doomed were kept for some time in the district council building, where they were heavily tortured. After that, they were shot. After the war, this mass grave was opened, and the wife of a local Jewish hatmaker recognized his body.

Adel (in white dress, surname is unknown) and members of Tsiprin family during her visit to Khmelnik from USA, 1936. All people on the photo were perished during the Holocaust in Khmelnik or Pikov.

Adel (in white dress, surname is unknown) and members of Tsiprin family during her visit to Khmelnik from USA, 1936. All people on the photo were perished during the Holocaust in Khmelnik or Pikov.

In the fall of 1941, Jews from surrounding villages were resettled in the city and Jews deported by Romanians to the Vinnytsia region from Bessarabia and Bukovina.
In the fall of 1941, a ghetto was created. It was located in the old town on Shevchenko Street, on the bank of the Bug River, and was connected to the rest of Khmelnytskyi by a guarded bridge. The ghetto was fenced on one side with barbed wire. The Jewish population of the new city was ordered to move to the old town. The local people immediately looted abandoned houses.

Shevchenko Street, 2020

Shevchenko Street, 2020

During the resettlement of Jews, they were robbed.
Ukrainians who lived in the ghetto were not evicted and were very friendly towards the Jews.

Photo from the book "Feniks Khmelnik" by Isaak Resnikov

Photo from the book “Feniks Khmelnik” by Isaak Resnikov

The ghetto was prohibited from leaving, but Jews were forced to go in search of food, and those caught were either killed or severely beaten. Some Jews were taken from the ghetto to work and were forced to learn trades from local Ukrainian apprentices. In addition, the ghetto was subject to tribute, and the elder of the ghetto would go from house to house and determine how much each household had to contribute in valuables or money.

Old Jewish house in the territory of ghetto, 2020

Old Jewish house in the territory of ghetto, 2020

Jewish population of Khmelnik:
1897 – 5977 (51%)
1939 – 4793 (64%)
1991 ~ 100 Jews
2020 ~ 20 Jews

The elder of the ghetto was David Elzon. Prisoners were used for heavy forced labor, and women were used for harvesting crops. The deceased or those killed in the ghetto were sometimes allowed to be buried in the Jewish cemetery. Jews were forced to take water from the river. The synagogue was located within the ghetto area, and Jews were allowed to pray there.
The elder of the ghetto, David Elzon, had an unusually beautiful daughter. Her father wanted to save her. During a winter outing from the ghetto, she was noticed by the guards on the bridge, and to avoid falling into their hands, she jumped off the bridge and died.

PreRevolution brewery in Khmelnik

PreRevolution brewery in Khmelnik

At dawn on January 9, 1942, the SS, local police, and those who arrived from Litin surrounded the ghetto and began driving Jews to the Ugrynivsky Bridge. Here, a selection was made of the families of specialists. The remaining prisoners – 5.8 thousand people – were executed outside the city in a pine grove. A week later, on January 16, 1942, 1,240 Jews were killed there. After this, all Jews in the city, including those who had hidden or hidden during the execution, were gathered in the ghetto. White passes were issued to specialists and blue ones to others.

On January 25, 1942, a Gestapo officer saw rabbi Shapiro of Khmelnik. He dragged him out of his hiding place and began beating him, demanding gold. Finally, he pulled him out onto the street and stabbed him in the throat with a knife. Shapiro’s body lay for several days; the Germans did not allow him to be buried.

Grave of rabbi Shapiro in Jewish cemetery:

On June 12, 1942, 360 children were shot dead (Hungarian soldiers took part in the action). The aim of this operation was to destroy all Jewish children in Khmelnik. However, several teenagers managed to run away from the execution site.

The ghetto was liquidated on March 3, 1943, when 1.3 thousand of people were shot. After the ghetto was liquidated, a Jewish labour camp was created (135 people, including eight women). Its prisoners were executed on June 26, 1943: 50 prisoners were shot, and 82 escaped, including 13 who ran away from the execution site.

They were hiding in the territory occupied by the Romanians. There was an underground organization in the ghetto, which included L. Boima-Giller, A. Schwartz, and others. Many arranged secret hiding places in their homes. Several people fled to partisan units (Weisman and others).

Soviet troops liberated Khmelnik on March 10, 1944. In April 1944, several collaborators of the occupiers (deputy chief of police Shchur and others) appeared before a military tribunal. Several dozen Jews were saved by Ukrainians (the Oleksiuk family and others). With the help of a Ukrainian family, Mikhail Klinger and his sister were rescued. Abram Becker survived in the ghetto and then fought in a partisan unit.

Mourning events are held in Khmelnik annually on the third Sunday of August.

Annual meeting in 1988. Photo by Iosef Brener

Annual meeting in 1988. Photo by Iosef Brener

Meeting in 2020:

Some information about Holocaust in Khmelnik can be found here.
Details of Holocaust in Khmelnik:

After the WWII

After the war, many Jews returned from evacuation. Those who served in the Soviet Army and survived the war also returned.

There was no mohel in the city, and a mohel from Vinnytsia came to perform circumcisions on Jewish boys.
In the 1950s, up to 70% of children in local  Russian school were Jewish.

Khmelnik Holocaust survivors: Izrail Shtivelman with parents, 1950s

Khmelnik Holocaust survivors: Izrail Shtivelman with parents, 1950s

Unfortunately, I was unable to find more information about the Jews of Khmelnik in the post-war period.

The Jewish community was officially registered in Khmelnik only in independent Ukraine in the 1990s.
The first head of the community was Semen Moiseevich Berenshtein, who left for Germany in 1998.
After him, this position was taken by Irina Borshchevskaya. She left for Germany in 2001. 

Maria Koltonuk is the head of local Jewish community.

In the 1990s, the majority of Khmelnik’s Jews emigrated to Israel.

The Jewish community tried to regain ownership of the synagogue building but was unsuccessful.

Former syangogue in Kmelnik. Now it belongs to sanatory Radon. Photo by

Former syangogue in Kmelnik. Now it belongs to sanatory Radon. Photo by

In the 1990s, the community had a Jewish choir and ensemble.
One of the community activists was Stern, who gathered a minyan and knew how to pray. Stern lived to be 100 years old.
The last World War II veteran in the community was Goldenberg, the head of the railway sanatorium until retirement.

One of the community activists was Isak Abovich, a former prisoner of the Khmelnik ghetto. He contacted Khmelnik’s Jews living in the USA, Israel, and Germany and raised funds to repair and clean the Holocaust victims’ graves. With the funds raised in 2001-2002, monuments were reconstructed at all Holocaust mass graves.

Fist group of graves:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Second group of graves:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

View from the second group of the Holocaust mass graves:

Issak Abovich was the last prisoner of the Khmelnik Ghetto in the local Jewish community. In the 2000s, he moved to Israel to be with his daughter.

Isak Abovich dreamed of these gallows, and he decided to make them a monument.

Old Jewish cemetery

The old Jewish cemetery was destroyed. Now a sports stadium for School No. 4 stands in its place.

New Jewish cemetery

Grave of 360 Holocaust victims who were reburied here:

In the 1960s-1970s, human bones were found on the territory of the ghetto. They were reburied in the Jewish cemetery:

A guard constantly lives in the graveyard and monitors the order.
He compiled a list of graves:




Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: