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The city of Pervomaysk is situated where the Siniukha River flows into the Southern Buh. It is 180 km away from Nikolayev, with a population of 82,000.

Pervomaysk is an amalgamation of three earlier settlements: Olviopol, Holta and Pervomaysk.

During the 18th century, the Olviopol settlement belonged to the Russian Empire, Holta belonged to Turkey, and Bogopol belonged to Poland. In 1919, these settlements were merged into a single city, thereafter called Pervomaysk.

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Olviopol, Holta and Bogopol on the Shubert's map, enf of 19 century. Photo was taken from

Olviopol, Holta and Bogopol on the Shubert’s map, enf of 19 century. Photo was taken from



In 1676, on the left bank of the Siniukha River near the Polish-Turkish borders, Cossacks built a fortress. Shaped like an octagon, it was called Orlik. This territory was sparsely inhabited and frequented by Crimean Tatars. It was a wild territory, near the deserted steppes of the Black Sea coastal region.

Jewish population of Olviopol:
1867 — 199 Jews
1897 — 1482 (21%)
1910 – 3284 (34%)

In 1743, the Russian government rebuilt the Orlik castle, preserving its original name. In the 18th century, the representatives of three powers — the Russian Empire, Turkey, and Poland — would meet there to solve important state problems.
In 1770, Russia renamed Orlik as Yekaterininshanets. In 1791, this was changed to Olviopol.

When the Crimean Khanate ended, the first Jewish settlement appeared on these lands.

In 1773, Olviopol came to be known as Yelisavetgradsky Uyezd, as part of the Kherson Gubernia.
In 1828, Olviopol was transferred to the jurisdiction of the military settlements department. The rights of Jews within the settlement were limited. In 1865, a synagogue was in operation. In 1887 Naftula Kanterman (1851 – ?) was a rabbi within the settlement. In 1905, a pogrom took place. In 1910, there were four synagogues and a Jewish cemetery. In 1911, two cheders (elementary schools for Jewish children) were operating in the town, with 30 students between them. In 1913, Jews owned the town’s only hotel, in addition to a barbershop, a photo house, and 12 stalls in Olviopol including all three groceries and two butchers. In 1915, there were five synagogues altogether.

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A short history of Holta: in 1762, cossacks and Ukrainian peasants formed the sloboda (free) Holta on the left bank of the South Bug River. Holta was part of Turkey until 1791, at which time the Treaty of Jassy was signed and the settlement was incorporated into Russia.

Jewish population of Holta:
1897 — 1245 (16%)

In 1810, Holta became the site of a shtetl within the uyezd (district town) of Ananyev, Kherson Gubernia.

In the late 19th century, Naftole Rapoport (1849 – ?) was a rabbi in Holta. In 1905, a pogrom took place in the shtetl.

What follow are the Jewish names from the lists of Holta businessmen in 1913:
Beytman, Bronshteyn, Vseliubsky, Gakman, Genel, Gerenshteyn, Gerikh, Grinshpun, Gutliansky, Drubich, Zborovsky, Kremenetsky, Litvak, Melamud Menaker, Odessky, Perelmuter Podlubny, Rakhman Rogulberg, Sigal Spivak, Tala, Umansky, Filshteyn, Tsvelikhovsky, Chertkova, Shembel Shildkrot, Yankelevich.
What follows are the names of dwelling-house owners:
Beytman, Virnik Vseliubsky, Geyman, Gringayt, Zborovsky, Kats, Kofman, Menaker Motelsky, Nemirovsky, Obodovsky, Poliansky, Portigal, Roytman, Sapozhnikov, Sigal, Tala-Mirochnik, Yankelevich.

One of the most interesting historic buildings of Holta is the Teresa Marholis school for poor Jewish girls. Teresa was a dentist. Having gone to the United States to secure funds for the school, building began in 1998. It took ten years to complete construction. During the Soviet era, the building was the site of a “Pioneer House.”. Today, the building is abandoned. Teresa Marholis was perished during the Holocaust together with majority of local Jews…

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In Holta, a Jewish neighbourhood existed on the site of present-day Engels Street, near the river. In the area was a famous synagogue, decorated with a pair of lions, a sight depicted on many pre-revolutionary postcards of Holta. We do not know when the synagogue was destroyed, but it may have been during either the 1930’s or during the occupation.


In 1750, Polish magnate Pototsky built Bogopol fortress on the left bank of the South Bug River, near Siniukha, at the border of Turkey and the Zaporozhian Sich. After the right bank of Ukraine had been merged with Russia in 1793, Bogopol was incorporated into Russia.

Bogopol on the postcard, beginning of 20 century

Bogopol on the postcard, beginning of 20 century

Jewish population of Bogopol:
1776 – 3 Jews
1790 – 141 Jews
1847 — 1399 Jews
1897 — 5909 Jews

In the 19th to early20th centuries, Bogopol was a shtetl of the Balta Uyezd, Podolia Gubernia.
In the early 20thcentury, there was a synagogue (built in the mid 19th century) as well as six prayer houses (including craftsmens’ prayer houses for tailors’, blacksmiths’ and others; Hasids primarily followers of the Talnovsky Tsadik, used to pray in the “Talnovsky School”).
There was also a cemetery, a chevra kadisha (in operation since the 1850s), a Jewish hospital (since 1899), a Talmud Torah (since 1901), a private men’s college, and a cheder (since 1916).

The oldest grave in the cemetery dates back to the early 19th century. A local Tsadik was buried there in 1842. Rabbi Motel, a son of Talnovsky Tsaddik David Tverskoy, was buried there in the 1870’s.

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A pogrom took place from 21-23 of October, 1905. Many Jewish shops were ransacked and burnt down, and nine Jews were wounded.

A few buildings still preserved in Bogopol are possibly the sites of the old Jewish prayer houses. However, our information at this time is imprecise, and we haven’t as yet found any evidence in the archives.

Birth certificate with sign of Bogopol official rabbi, 1918

There is a preserved building of Talmud Torah in Bogopol. According to locals, a very famous rabbi lived there before the revolution. Interestingly, itsentrance is situated at the back of the building, rather than the street side.

Fromer Talmur Torah in Bogopol

Fromer Talmur Torah in Bogopol

Old Jewish houses in Bogopol:

When the railway appeared in Golta, the town’s economy began to develop, helping to revive the region overall rapidly. In 1865, the railway connected Odessa to Balta. In 1867, connections were established from Balta to Olviopol, and all the way to Yelizavetgrad.

Former Jewish hospital in Bogopol. It was opened in 1899

Former Jewish hospital in Bogopol. It was opened in 1899

After the reform of 1861, industrial enterprises began to develop in the three settlements. This, along with the railway development mentioned above, contributed to the ongoing regional economic boom. Among the businesses that sprang up in Holta was a brewery, a tannery, a thresher repair workshop plant, tobacco and soap-making factories, and a printing house. In the shtetl, there were distilleries, potteries, as well as a photo studio. In the second part of the 19th century, gymnasiums for boys were founded in both Holta and Olviopol.

Center of Pervomaisk

Center of Pervomaisk

In 1880, a hospital with 20 beds was opened in Holta, employing three doctors and four paramedics.

Bieley family in the fron of their shop in Bogopol. end of 19th century - beginning of 20 century. Photo provided by Rick Luftglass

Bieley family in the fron of their shop in Bogopol. end of 19th century – beginning of 20 century. Photo provided by Rick Luftglass

Until the second half of the 19th century, Olviopol played a more significant role in trade and economy than either Bogopol or Holta. It was in Olviopol that mills and creameries were first established, as well as blacksmiths and potteries. Twice a year, people from nearby towns and villages came to take part in Olviopol trade fairs.

Destroyed old Jewish house in Bogopol and "replacement"

Destroyed old Jewish house in Bogopol and “replacement”


On the 1st of May, 1919, there was a general meeting of Olviopol, Bogopol, and Holta residents. At that time, the settlements were jointly renamed Pervomaysk, in honor of International Workers’ Day.

Shamis and Sindler families, Pervomaisk 1925

Shamis and Sindler families, Pervomaisk 1925

In 1919, pogroms in all three shtetls, perpetrated by members of the Volunteer Army. I couldn’t find the exact number of Jews killed, but they numbered in the dozens..
I could find very little information about the Jews of Pervomaysk during the interwar period.
In 1924, about 10,000 Jews lived in the city.
In the early 1920’s, local authorities built a new administrative building in the center of the town, shaped like a hammer and sickle. It was built using money taken from local businesspeople. Today, that building is the site of a library.
In the 1930’s, a Jewish district within Pervomaysk suffered after the flooding of the South Bug River.
The town of Pervomaysk is a town, district center of Odessa region in the USSR (now the Nikolayev region, in the Republic of Ukraine).

In 1939, 6,087 Jews lived there, representing 18.46% of the population.


On the 2nd of August 1941, the occupation began. From August through November 1941, a military commandant’s office ruled the town. First, it was ruled by the commandant’s office 676. Later, from October 1941, it was under the jurisdiction of the North commandant’s office. In December 1941, it came under the control of the German Civil Administration.
The left bank of Pervomaysk (Olviopol and Bogopol) became an administrative centre of the Pervomaysk gebiet (area), within the Nikolayev district of the Reichskommissariat Ukraine.
The right bank of Pervomaysk (Holta) came under Romanian jurisdiction starting on October 28, 1941. It became an administrative center of the Golta uyezd (administrative subdivision) in Transnistria.
Some two thousand of Jews were unable to escape the town. Hundreds of Jews were killed during the first days of the occupation. Military authorities established a Judenrat. In August 1941, theJews who had survived were relocated to a separate part of the town. They were forced to perform hard labour.
On November 13, 1941, under the pretext of fighting typhoid, prisoners were shot by SD command with the help of the local police. The head of the operation was Geytel, an ethnic German. About 30 families managed to survive; these were the families of specialists, including doctors. Many of them were subsequently killed during January 1942. In 1943, 72 more prisoners were killed.
At the end of 1941 through the beginning of 1942, Jews from the Kirovograd region were brought to the town to be shot there. 120 people from Yosipovka were killed in the shtetl. That winter, about 500 Jews from Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Vinnitsa regions were deported there. They were placed into two ghettos and one camp. As of February 20, 1942, 125 people lived in ghetto #1. The head of this ghetto was David Gays. 67 people lived in ghetto #2. Four prisoners escaped this ghetto, and two prisoners died. In 1943, 303 people lived in ghetto #3. 280 of these prisoners had been deported from Romania, 251 from Bucharest, and the rest of the Jews were from Bessarabia.

On April 29, 1943, under the order of local authorities, the prisoners were made to wear a white star of David (measuring 5 cm) on their backs and chests.
On February 20, 1943, only 202 prisoners out of 488 were considered fit to work. 104 of them had specialized jobs. The occupiers determined that they spent 250-300 occupation reichsmarks (about 0.6 marks) a day for 1 person. At the same time, for their work, Jews were given food coupons; these were valued at two reichsmarks for skilled workers and one reichsmark for unskilled ones. On the basis of this analysis, authorities decided to transfer the prisoners to Akmechetka where they were supposed to “feed themselves on their own”. They transferred 81 people in total: 60 prisoners from the working camp and 21 from both ghettos. Starting on March 7, 1943, the occupiers distributed ration coupons only to those prisoners who considered fit to work. The rest had to “feed themselves on their own”.

In April 1943, there were only 162 Jews remaining in both ghettos: 126 men, 30 women, and 6 children. 133 of these were sent to the camp at Akmechetka. In May of that year, prisoners deemed fit to work received food coupons as before, but starting in August they would only receive 75% of the previous sum.

On October 20, 1943, Romanian authorities inspected the ghetto. They remarked that most of the houses didn’t have window frames, that prisoners were sleeping in their everyday clothes, and that they were dirty because they didn’t have water. In ghetto #1 there were 97 people left. Working prisoner got 2-4 marks and were suffering from starvation. In the smaller ghetto #3, the conditions were found to be a little better with 25 people living in four little rooms. In the camp there were 140 prisoners remaining, who were deported from Bessarabia and Vapniarka camp.
From the spring untilDecember, 1943, the Organisation Todt had been building a bridge to connect Southern Transnistria and the German occupation zone. As a result, the majority of the prisoners were moved to the camps between Trikhaty and Ochakov.

In the late summer 1943, Jews tried to escape from Holta, with some of them forging documents. On October 28, 1943, the authorities of Transnistria deported back 43 Jews who had tried to run away from Holta. They began to control the prisoners more thoroughly. The chief of the police forbade leaving the ghetto after 7 p.m. Each working day lasted from 6 a.m. till 2 p.m., without breakfast. Prisoners came back from their work at 3 p.m. and were not allowed to leave the ghetto. They were forbidden to spend the night outside the ghetto.
On September 30, 1943, the first nine Jews from Chernovtsy were legally returned from Holta to their native town. In January 31, 1943, more Jews were “evacuated”. On January 20, 1944, the only remaining ghetto of Holta was in the center of the town, under the control of local authorities. Due to German troops entering the town, Jews were moved to the working camp, under Romanian guard. Although some prisoners died of starvation and illness, most of the prisoners managed to survive.

According to the documents of the Extraordinary State Commission, 120 Jews were shot in Pervomaysk during November, 3,600 during December, and 1,600 from February to March 1942. These numbers are exaggerated. Pervomaysk was liberated on March 22, 1944. A monument to Holocaust victims was subequently established there.
According to eyewitnesses, the ghetto in Holta was situated in the triangle formed by Grushevsky, Engels and Tolstoy streets.

In the 1960s, a monument was established at the site of the shooting at Kozorezyev Yar. The monument did not identify the nationality of those who had been murdered. A menorah was set upon that monument in the 2000s by the Rozenfeld, Borik, and Shenkin families. Local Ukrainian blacksmiths had made that menorah for free, but it didn’t last long; the menorah was stolen and sold as scrap. A new menorah was established, funded by local authorities. Students from school #17 regularly come to tidy the grave.

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In 2010’s, a place where Jews from Moldova were shot was found by teacher Anna Sizova and her students from school #15. A monument was established there:

Holocaust memorial erected by members of Grosfirer family in 2020’s:

After the WWII

After the war, up to 2000 Jews came back to Pervomaysk.
Old Nakhman (surname unknown) was an unofficial rabbi there. He had a Torah, and old men would gather at his place to pray.
Until recently there were even Jewish blocks in Pervomaysk. Old-timers remember untouched streets with Jewish houses, that had been preserved up to the 1970s.
Since the late 1890s, Jews have started to emigrate to Israel, the USA, and Germany in great numbers. An official Jewish community was formed by Gennadiy Shenkin in 1997. At that time, more than 1,000 Jews lived in the town. A branch of the Sokhnut (Jewish Agency) organization was opened in the town. For five years it assisted the majority of local Jews in immigrating to Israel.
A local Khesed organization helped Jewish elders. At that time, many Jews joined the community.
In the 1990s to 2000s, a Jewish Klezmer Band was active in the local Jewish community.

Head of local Chabad Synagogue in Pervomaisk, 2020

Head of local Chabad Synagogue in Pervomaisk, 2020


Famous Jews from Bogopol/Holta/Olviopol/Pervomaysk

Ishayagu Rafalovich (1870, Bogopol – 1956), was a rabbi, photographer and Doctor of Philosophy. Since 1882, he lived in Israel and studied in Yeshiva Ets-Khaim. From 1898-1902 he was a rabbi in Manchester, and from 1909-1924 – in Liverpool. Since 1924, he was a chief rabbi in Brazil.

Grigoriy Fingerman (Bogopol, 1890 – ?), was a psychologist. Since 1891, he lived in Argentina. He had been active in the Jewish youth movement.
There was a Jewish cemetery in each of three shtetls.

Zelig Brodetsky (1888, Olviopol – 1954, London) was a mathematician and Zionist activist. He immigrated to England with his parents at a young age and studied mathematics and mathematical astronomy at Cambridge and Leipzig. From 1920 to 1949, he was a professor at Leeds University, where he taught mathematics. Brodetsky was a convinced Zionist from an early age. In 1928, he became a member of the Executive Committee of the Zionist Organization of England. He joined the Board of Directors of the Jewish Agency, heading its political department in London. He ended his career in 1948 when he succeeded Chaim Weizmann as President of the British Zionist Federation. From 1949 to 1952, he served as President of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Zelig Brodetsky

Zelig Brodetsky

Jewish cemeteries

A cemetery in Olviopol was functioning in the late 1940s, but it was closed in the 1950s. Relatives were allowed to rebury the bodies at other cemeteries, after which that land was given to different private needs of the citizens.

Pervomaysk (Bogopol) Jewish cemetery






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