Hgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/Kiev.htmlgeocities.com/candlemaker_kaprov/Kiev.htmldelayedxzJ|cOKtext/html@܌|cb.HFri, 10 Jun 2005 01:23:26 GMTMozilla/4.5 (compatible; HTTrack 3.0x; Windows 98)en, *zJ|c Kiev
Also:   Kiov (city, Ukr.)

KIEV (Kiov), capital of Ukraine.

The Jewish Community before 1667

Kiev's central position on the River Dnieper at the commercial crossroads of 
Western Europe and the Orient attracted Jewish settlers (Rabbanites and 
Karaites) from the foundation of the town in the eighth century C.E. At first 
most of them were transient merchants from both east and west. Ancient Russian 
chronicles relate that some Jews from Khazaria visited Vladimir, the prince of 
Kiev, to try to convert him to Judaism (986). About that time a Jewish 
community already existed in the city. The abbot of Kiev, Theodosuis the 
Blessed (11th century), is said to have visited Jewish homes at nights and to 
have held disputations with the householders. A "gate of the Jews" is mentioned 
at the time of the riots which broke out on the death of Prince Svyatopolk 
(1113), when the populace also attacked Jewish houses. Benjamin of Tudela 
mentions "Kiov, the great city," and Pethahiah of Regensburg visited the town 
on his way to the Orient (12th century). During the same century Moses of Kiev 
lived in the town. He corresponded with Jacob b. Meir Tam in the west and the 
Gaon Samuel b. Ali in Baghdad. Under Tatar rule (12401320) the Jews had been 
protected, earning them the hatred of the Christian population. With the 
annexation of Kiev to the principality of Lithuania (1320), the Jews were 
granted certain rights ensuring the safety of their lives and property. Several 
of them leased the collection of taxes and amassed fortunes. As the Jewish 
community increased in numbers so did the number of scholars, although the 
statement found in several sources, "from Kiev emanate Torah and light," is an 
exaggeration. During the 15th century Moses (b. Jacob Ashkenazi the Exile) of 
Kiev II wrote commentaries on the Sefer Yezirah, on the Pentateuch commentaries 
of Abraham ibn Ezra and others, and held disputations with the Karaites. In the 
Tatar raid on Kiev (1482) many Jews were taken captive.

Like the rest of the Jews in the principality of Lithuania, the Kiev community 
was expelled in 1495. When the decree was revoked (1503), the community was 
reestablished. However, in 1619 the Christian merchants obtained from King 
Sigismund III a prohibition on permanent settlement of Jews or their 
acquisition of real estate in the town. They were allowed to come into Kiev for 
trading purposes alone and might remain one day only in an inn assigned to 
them. In spite of this, a few Jews continued to live in the town under the 
protection of local officials, who saw them as a source of income. Russian 
sources relate that Jews were killed in Kiev during the Chmielnicki massacres 
(1648). On the demand of the citizens, John II Casimir of Poland and Czar 
Alexis renewed the prohibition on Jewish settlement (1654). This became final 
with the annexation of Kiev to Russia (1667). The Russian Orthodox academy 
there fomented hatred of the Jews and its students attacked any Jew they found 
trading in the town.

From 1793

After a break of about 150 years the community of Kiev was reestablished in 
1793, after the second partition of Poland. In 1798 the community acquired land 
for a cemetery. The earlier conflict between the Christian citizens and the 
Jews began once more. While the Jews struggled for settlement in Kiev, the 
economic and commercial center of the southwestern region of Russia, the 
citizens persistently endeavored to expel them, basing their claim on the 
status quo since Sigismund III and adding that "holy" Kiev was "profaned" by 
the presence of the Jews.

In spite of this, by 1815 there were about 1,500 Jews in Kiev (not including 
transients), with two synagogues and other communal institutions. Eventually 
Czar Nicholas I acceded to the demands of the citizens and at the end of 1827 
residence in Kiev was forbidden to Jews. In part due to representations by 
state officials, who pointed out that the expulsion would worsen economic 
conditions in the town, the execution of the decree was twice deferred. In 
1835, however, on the expiry of the last postponement, the Jews left the town. 
Despite this, they still played an important part in its economic life for 
Jewish merchants came in their hundreds to the large annual fairs held from 
1797 in Kiev in January. With their assistants and servants, they made up 
5060% of the fairs' participants. In 1843 Jewish temporary visitors were 
officially permitted, provided that they resided and bought food in two 
specially appointed inns. These were leased by the municipality to Christian 
agents, who were empowered to deliver to the police any Jew who did not stay in 
them. At the beginning of the reign of Alexander II these inns were abolished 
(1858), and instead a special payment to the municipality was levied upon the 
Jews as compensation for the losses caused by the abolishment of the inns. In 
1861 two suburbs, Lyebed and Podol, were assigned to those Jews entitled to 
reside in Kiev (wealthy merchants and industrialists and their employees, 
members of the free professions, and craftsmen). The number of Jews in Kiev 
increased to 3,013 (3% of the total population) in 1863 and to 13,803 (11.8%) 
in 1872.

In May 1881 a pogrom raged in the streets of the city, supported and encouraged 
by the governor-general, General Drenteln. Jewish houses and shops were looted, 
and many people were injured; 762 families were completely ruined. The damage 
caused was evaluated at 1,750,000 roubles. From that date the authorities began 
sporadically to investigate the residence rights of the Jews in Kiev. Until 
1917 the city became notorious for the police "oblavy" ("hunt attacks") for 
Jews without residence rights. In 1891 the authorities ordered that a 
considerable portion of the income of the Jewish community be allotted to the 
police to cover the cost of their measures to prevent Jews entering the town. 
In spite of all these persecutions, the number of Jews in Kiev continued to 
increase. From 31,800 (12.8%) in 1897, they rose to 50,792 (10.8%) in 1910 and 
81,256 (13%) at the end of 1913. In fact the number of Jews was greater, since 
many evaded the census. Many Jews also lived in the suburbs and townlets around 
Kiev and only came into the city daily on business. There were some wealthy 
Jewish families in Kiev, who included many of the magnates of the southwestern 
Russian sugar industry (the Brodsky and Zaitsev families). Many Jews were 
employed in their factories in the town and the vicinity. The city also had 
many Jewish physicians, lawyers, and other members of the liberal professions. 
Kiev University attracted Jewish youth; in 1886 Jewish students numbered 236 
and in 1911, 888 (17% of the total number of students), the largest 
concentration of Jewish students in a Russian university. Some Hebrew writers 
lived in the city, notably J. Kaminer, J. L. Levin (Yehalel), M. Kamionski, I. 
J. Weissberg, E. Schulman, and A. A. Friedman. Shalom Aleichem, who lived in 
Kiev for some time, described the town in his account of life in Yehupets.

In the wake of Jewish revolutionary activity, on Oct. 18, 1905, a large-scale 
pogrom occurred. Neither army nor police controlled the rioters, who ran amok 
unhindered for three days. Indeed, soldiers protected the hooligans from the 
Jewish self-defense organization. The rioters attacked the houses of the 
wealthy, but their attacks were mainly directed against the poor suburbs. 
However, the pogrom did not interrupt the development of the community, which 
became one of the wealthiest in Russia as well as one of the most diversified 
socially. In 1910 there were 4,896 Jewish merchants in the town, 42% of all the 
merchants there, but nevertheless 25% of the community had to apply for 
Passover alms during that same year. The community was officially recognized in 
1906 as the "Jewish Representation for Charity Affairs at the Municipal 
Council." Its income from the meat tax (see korobka) and other sources amounted 
to 300,000 roubles annually. A Jewish hospital for the poor which served the 
whole of Ukraine was opened in 1862, followed by a hospital specializing in 
surgery, a clinic for eye diseases (under the direction of M. Mandelstamm), and 
other welfare institutions. In 1898 a magnificent central synagogue was built 
by means of a donation from L. Brodsky. From 1906 to 1921 S. Aronson was rabbi 
of Kiev; notable as kazyonny ravvin ("government-appointed rabbi") were Joshua 
Zuckerman, the first to be appointed to this office, and S. Z. Luria. Between 
1911 and 1913 Kiev was the center of the notorious Beilis blood libel trial and 
the town was then racked by the agitation of the members of the Union of 
Russian People ("Black Hundreds"). In 1911, after the assassination of prime 
minister Stolypin by a Jew in Kiev, severe pogroms were on the point of 
breaking out there, but the authorities decided to restrain the rioters.

During World War I, residence restrictions in the town were lifted for Jewish 
refugees from the battle areas. The years 191720 were years of upheaval for 
the Jews of Kiev. With the March 1917 Revolution, all the residence 
restrictions were abolished and Jews at once began to stream into the town. In 
the census at the end of 1917, 87,240 Jews (19% of the total population) were 
registered. A democratic community was established, led by the Zionist Moses 
Nahum Syrkin. Meetings and congresses of Russian and Ukrainian Jews were held 
in Kiev, the central institutions of Ukrainian Jewry were set up there, and 
Jewish writers and communal workers of every shade of opinion and party became 
active in the town. Books and newspapers were published and cultural 
institutions, led by the Hebrew Tarbut and the Yiddish Kultur Lige, engaged in 
a variety of activities. In the spring of 1919, the number of Jews had grown to 
114,524 (21%).

With the first conquest of the town by the Red Army, which lasted from February 
to August 1919, Kiev became a haven for refugees from the pogroms sweeping the 
provincial towns of Ukraine. The running of the Jewish community was handed 
over to the Yevsektsiya, and the systematic destruction of communal 
institutions, traditional Jewish culture, and national parties began. With the 
retreat of the Red Army, an attempt was made to form a Jewish self-defense 
unit. When Petlyura's forces entered the city they arrested the members of the 
self-defense unit and 36 of them were executed. A month after Kiev was occupied 
by Denikin's "Volunteer Army," thugs initiated a period of pillage, rape, and 
murder of the Jews which lasted until the "Volunteers" were driven out by the 
Red Army (December 1919). The Jews in Kiev suffered heavily during the famine 
and typhus outbreak of 1920. In the August 1920 census they constituted one 
third of the town's population. In 1923 Kiev had 128,000 Jews (32%), 140,256 
(27.3%) in 1926, and in 1939, 175,000 (c. 20%).

During the first 20 years of the Soviet regime, Kiev became a major center of 
the officially fostered Yiddish culture, with a school system catering for many 
thousands of pupils and students, culminating in institutes of higher education 
and learning, such as the department for Jewish culture at the Ukrainian 
Academy of Sciences (1926) which in 1930 became the "Institute of Proletarian 
Jewish Culture" under the direction of Joseph Liberberg. This state-sponsored 
activity attracted even Jewish writers and scholars from the west, such as Meir 
Wiener and others. Some valuable research works on Yiddish language and 
literature were published there. Many Yiddish poets and writers, among them 
David Hofstein and Itzik Feffer, lived and wrote in Kiev. There were also a 
Jewish state theater, Yiddish newspapers, journals, and publishing houses. In 
the early 1930s Liberberg and some of his associates headed a group of Yiddish 
intellectuals who went to the newly established Jewish autonomous region in 
Birobidzhan to organize Jewish educational and cultural work there in 
conjunction with the Jewish academic institute in Kiev. Several years later, 
with the forcible liquidation of all Jewish institutions, including libraries 
and archives in Kiev, one of the most important centers of Soviet Yiddish 
culture ceased to exist. 

[Yehuda Slutsky]

Holocaust Period

The fall of the city to the Germans on Sept. 21, 1941 marked the end of Kiev 
Jewry. Some of the 175,000 Jews living in Kiev in 1939 managed to flee eastward 
to central Russia just before the Nazi occupation but the vast majority was 
slaughtered by the Einsatzgruppe C, Sonderkommando 4A, commanded by Colonel 
Paul Globel, who was under orders to exterminate the Jews of Kiev "including 
their families." According to the official S.S. report a "clever" stratagem was 
adopted to overcome "the difficulties resulting from such a large-scale 
action." On September 28 (Tishri 7) 2,000 notices were posted in and around 
Kiev, announcing that: "All the Jews of Kiev and the vicinity are to appear on 
Monday, September 29, 1941, at 8:00 a.m. on the corner of Melnikovskaya and 
Dukhtorovskaya [near the cemeteries]. They are to bring their documents, money, 
other valuables and warm clothes, linen, etc. Any Jew found disobeying these 
orders will be shot. Citizens breaking into flats left by the Jews and taking 
possession of their belongings will be shot." (For Jew the derogatory 
word "zhid" was used and not the usual evrei.) Not suspecting what lay in store 
for them, almost all obeyed the German order. Rumors had been spread, 
apparently by the Germans themselves, that the Jews were to be evacuated to a 
ghetto or a labor camp. One of the very few survivors, Dina (Vera) Mironovna 
Pronicheva, described the massacre to the Russian author Anatoli Kuznetsov, and 
served afterward (April 1968) as a witness at the trial of the Babi Yar 
murderers held in Darmstadt, West Germany. She gave details of the Germans' 
methodical mass murders in the ravine of Babi Yar near the Jewish cemetery. 
When the Jews arrived in great numbers at the cemetery, they were herded into a 
closed area bounded by barbed wire, so as to prevent their escape. Hundreds of 
Germans, aided by the Ukrainian militia, blocked off the way back. The Jews 
were all ordered to put down their bundles and to strip naked. They were then 
led in groups down the side of the ravine, and machine gunned from the opposite 
side. Heaps of earth were thrown over the bodies, burying both dead and 
wounded. According to the official report of the S.S. unit in charge of the 
mass extermination, 33,771 Jews were murdered in Babi Yar on Sept. 2930, 1941.

Babi Yar continued to be a mass execution ground throughout the German 
occupation. An official committee of investigation set up in Kiev after its 
liberation reported that about 195,000 civilians and prisoners of war were 
slaughtered in mobile gas chambers or by execution squads. Over 100,000 of them 
were executed at Babi Yar (the Soviet report omits details of the number of 
Jews among them). The testimony of a Jewish captain of the Soviet army on the 
Germans' attempts to eliminate traces of the slaughter in Babi Yar was 
published on Feb. 10, 1944 in Eynikeyt, the journal of the Jewish Anti-Fascist 
Committee in Moscow. He testified that "the Germans brought 300 Soviet 
prisoners in chains to Babi Yar in May 1943. These prisoners were forced to 
construct huge ovens in the earth, and in each oven about 4,000 corpses were 
cremated. About 100,000 bodies were cremated in this manner, and afterward the 
prisoners who had carried out the cremations were themselves cremated. Eighteen 
of the prisoners survived the action" (including the witness).

In the struggle against anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, Babi Yar became a 
symbol of pro-Jewish support, crystalized in the poem Babi Yar by Yevgenii 
Yevtushenko. Despite recurring requests by Soviet intellectuals, including 
Yevtushenko and Viktor Nekrasov, the Soviet authorities refused to erect a 
monument to those massacred there. Jewish survivors made attempts to hold a 
memorial day each year, circumspectly choosing the eve of the Day of Atonement. 
When in the early 1960s it became known that there were plans to turn Babi Yar 
into a new residential area, there were protests from Jews and non-Jews alike. 
At the end of the 1960s, the ravine of Babi Yar remained a desolate 
wasteland. "In Babi Yar there is neither monument nor memorial" (Yevtushenko). 

[Benjamin West]

After World War II

At the end of World War II, when thousands of Jews began to return to liberated 
Kiev, they often encountered a hostile attitude on the part of the Ukrainian 
population, many of whom had been given, or taken, the dwellings and jobs of 
the absent Jews. There were even isolated physical clashes between Jews and 
Ukrainians. During the next 15 years, however, the number of Jews in Kiev 
reached more than 200,000 (officially, in the 1959 census, their number was 
154,000, 13.9% of the total population). Nearly 15% of them declared Yiddish to 
be their mother tongue. Out of about 14,000 Jews living in the smaller towns of 
the Kiev district, around 33% declared Yiddish to be their mother tongue.

The only synagogue in Kiev, with room for about 1,000 persons, was situated 
downtown in the Podol quarter. On holidays, particularly on the Day of 
Atonement, also the memorial day of the Babi Yar massacre, several thousands 
attended the service, overflowing into the courtyard and the street. A number 
of services (minyanim) were held in private homes, but when their existence was 
discovered, they were closed and the owners severely punished. A mikveh, a 
place for the ritual slaughtering of poultry, and a mazzot bakery were attached 
to the synagogue. From 1960 until 1966 the baking of mazzot was prohibited and 
several Jews were punished for baking them "illegally" in their homes. The last 
rabbi to officiate in Kiev was Rabbi Panets, who retired in 1960 and died in 
1968; a new rabbi was not appointed. Until 1960 the synagogue board's chairman 
was Bardakh; the atmosphere was relatively relaxed, and visitors from abroad, 
who arrived in increasing numbers from the late 1950s, were cordially received. 
The situation changed abruptly in 1961, when a new board, headed by Gendelman, 
was appointed. Gendelman, in an aggressive manner, implemented meticulously the 
instructions of the Soviet authorities, harassed members of the congregation, 
and prevented any contact between them and foreign visitors. He was eventually 
forced to resign in 1967 because of the growing tension between him and the 

In 1959, on the 100th anniversary of the birth of Shalom Aleichem, a plaque was 
affixed to the house where he lived before World War I bearing the text: "Here 
lived the famous Jewish writer Shalom Aleichem (Rabinovich)." Shortly afterward 
the plaque was replaced by a new one on which the words "famous Jewish" 
and "Rabinovich" were omitted. In May 1966 a group of Kiev Jews went to Moscow 
and submitted a petition to Mikhailova of the Central Committee of the 
Communist Party, about the establishment of a Yiddish theater in Kiev. The 
petition stressed the fact that 82 Jewish actors were ready to participate. M. 
Goldblat, one of the survivors of the Yiddish theater in the U.S.S.R. and the 
last director of the Yiddish theater in Kiev, declared his readiness to 
organize the new Yiddish theater. The petition also included a list of plays by 
Jewish Soviet and classic writers for the repertoire. The petition was rejected.

In 1957 four elderly Jews were sentenced in Kiev to several years of 
imprisonment for "Zionist activity." One of them was Baruch Mordekhai Weissman, 
whose Hebrew written diary about the "black years" was smuggled out and 
published anonymously in Israel, under the title "To my Brother in the State of 
Israel" (1957). At the trial Weissman was not accused of smuggling out his 
manuscript, but of keeping Hebrew newspapers and participating in a "Zionist 

In 1959 the Kiev municipality opened a new Jewish cemetery and decided to close 
the old one at Lukyanovka, near Babi Yar, which had been desecrated and partly 
destroyed during the Nazi occupation. Local and foreign Jews were allowed to 
transfer the remains of their relatives to the new cemetery if they defrayed 
the expenses involved. American rabbis arranged for the transfer of the remains 
of the hasidic rabbis of the Twersky family, and the president of Israel, Izhak 
Ben Zvi, received permission from the Soviet head of state to transfer to 
Israel the remains and the tombstone of his friend Ber Borochov (1963).

Kiev continued to be a center of Yiddish writers, many of whom had served terms 
of imprisonment under Stalin. Among them were Itzik Kipnis, Hirsh Polyanker, 
Nathan Zbara, Eli Schechtman, and Yehiel Falikman. Several books in Yiddish and 
translations in Russian and Ukrainian were published between 196070. The 
Ukrainian authorities usually prevented Jewish cultural events being held in 
their capital, Kiev. For years, at least from 1960 until 1966, not a single 
Jewish folklore concert took place there, and Kiev Jews had to travel to nearby 
towns to attend such events.

During the campaigns against "economic crimes" two Jews, B. Mirski and 
Shtifzin, who worked in a Kiev publishing house for art books, were sentenced 
to death (1962). At that time the local Ukrainian press indulged in almost 
undisguised anti-Semitic incitement. This campaign culminated in the 
publication of T. Kichko's notorious "Judaism without Embellishment" by the 
Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian Republic (1963). Though the book was later 
censured by the ideological commission of the Central Committee of the Soviet 
Communist Party in Moscow, Kichko reappeared in 1968 with a new anti-Jewish 
book "Judaism and Zionism" and was rewarded by the authorities for his 
achievements in "anti-religious education."

The refusal of the municipal authorities to erect a memorial in Babi Yar, after 
an exhibition of models for such a memorial was officially arranged in 1965, 
was ascribed to the popular anti-Semitic atmosphere prevailing in the city. 
Protests against this omission were voiced by Russian and Ukrainian writers 
(e.g., Y. Yevtushenko, V. Nekrasov, Ivan Dzyuba, and others).

When an international poultry exhibition took place in Kiev in 1966, and Israel 
was represented by a stand equipped with exhibits and explanatory literature, 
tens of thousands of Jews from Kiev and all over the Ukraine streamed there. 
After the Six-Day War (1967), Jewish national feeling reemerged publicly in 
Kiev. The anniversary of Babi Yar became a rallying day for Jews, most of them 
young, who came not only to recite Kaddish but also to express their Jewish 
identification. Wreaths bearing inscriptions in Yiddish and Hebrew were laid 
and there were occasional attempts to make speeches, but on every such occasion 
the police intervened to remove the wreaths and silence the speakers. After one 
such gathering a young Jewish engineer, Boris Kochubiyevski, was arrested in 
1968 on the charge of "spreading slander against the Soviet regime," after he 
and his non-Jewish wife Larissa had applied for an exit permit to Israel. In 
May 1969 he was sentenced to three years imprisonment with hard labor. At his 
trial Kochubiyevski made a passionate speech, declaring his Zionist credo. In 
summer 1970 an open letter was published abroad, addressed to the prime 
minister of Israel, Golda Meir, to UN Secretary U Thant, and to various 
international institutions, signed by ten Jews from Kiev who claimed the right 
to settle in Israel. In August 1970 the same ten persons wrote a second letter 
to President Shazar, making it known that, after having been refused exit 
permits, they had renounced their Soviet citizenship and asked to become 
citizens of Israel. 

[Zvi Ofer]

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