In the late 1930s, the Jewish population of Buczacz―celebrated as the home of future Nobel Prize Laureate, Shmuel Y. Agnon―numbered about 7,500 people, representing approximately one-third of the town’s population. Buczacz sustained extensive destruction during World War I, prompting the departure of many of its residents. After the war, a struggle was waged in the town between the Poles, Russians, and Ukrainians, and in 1920 several Jews were murdered by Symon Petliura’s Ukrainian army.
The town had a thriving Jewish political scene, with particularly active Zionist parties and youth movements. The community moreover boasted cultural and welfare institutions and a Jewish hospital.
In the wake of the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Soviet officials, among them Jews, managed to flee from Buczacz to the east.
The Germans transported Jewish refugees to Buczacz in a number of waves. In August 1941, thousands of Jews that had been deported from Carpatho-Ruthenia by the Hungarian authorities arrived in the town. After some two months they were deported to Kamenets-Podolskiy, where they were murdered. Some 350 men from Buczacz were killed too.
In May through July 1942, Germans concentrated the Jews of the nearby towns and villages in Buczacz, raising the number of Jewish inhabitants in the town to some 10,000 people.
The first deportation from Buczacz took place on October 17, 1942. German and Ukrainian police raided the town and arrested about 1,500 Jews, who were deported to Belzec. The second operation in Buczacz was carried out on November 27, 1942. About 2,500 Jews were apparently apprehended and sent to Belzec in this operation, while another 250 people, including forty-five children, were killed in the town. The remaining Jews, as well as the Jews who had been deported from other localities, in all some 5,200 people, were massed under conditions of extreme overcrowding in the Buczacz ghetto in December 1942. The murder of the Jews continued in the months to come.
The ghetto was liquidated toward mid-May 1943, when most of its remaining residents were transferred to the nearby towns of Czortkow, Tluste, and Kopyczynce. Most were killed within a short time in operations carried out in these towns.
Buczacz was liberated by the Soviets on March 23, 1944, reoccupied by the Germans, and finally liberated on July 21, 1944.