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Kherson

Kherson, Kherson County, Nikolayev District, Ukraine

To enlarge the map click here Great Choral Synagogue of Kherson, 1902 Great Choral Synagogue of Kherson, 1902 State Central Photos and Film Archive, Kiev, copy YVA, Photo Collection 4147/133 Habad synagogue in Kherson, before 1917 Habad synagogue in Kherson, before 1917 State Central Photos and Film Archive Kiev, copy YVA, Photo Collection, 4147/78

Jews began to settle in Kherson in the second half of the 19th century and soon began to play a key role in the economic development of the city. By 1880 more than 50 percent of all the artisans there were Jewish. The second Israeli Prime Minister, Moshe Sharett (ne Shertok), was born in Kherson.
By the end of the 19th century the city was the location of one of the main branches of the Zionist movement. After the February (1917) Revolution in Russia Zionist activties in Kherson received a new impetus: a Hebrew high school affiliated with the Tarbut network and a Maccabi sports club were established. However, by the end of 1920s, all Zionist activity was suppressed by the authorities.
The Jews of Kherson suffered greatly during the years of revolutions and Russian civil war of 1918-1920. In a pogrom of 1905 their shops and houses were looted and one Jew was severely injured and later died. In April 1919 soldiers of Denikin's White Army staged a pogrom in Kherson. In 1921-1922 a famine ravaged the city, claiming, inter alia, the lives of thousands of Jews.
During the early years of Soviet rule the employment structure of Kherson Jews changed. Many of them became industrial or agricultural workers. In the 1920s and 1930s Kherson had a seven-year Yiddish school, a vocational school (which in 1930 became the Yiddish department of the local technical college), Yiddish departments in vocational high schools for workers (Rabfak), and a Yiddish library. In the 1920s there was also a Jewish division of the local court where cases were dealt with in Yiddish. In 1939 16,145 Jews lived in Kherson, comprising 16.7 percent of the entire city population. Many evacuees and refugees, first from Nazi-occupied Poland and, after June 22, 1941, from the western areas of the Soviet Union, added to that number. At the same time, many Kherson Jews managed to escape or move eastward in the framework of the state-orginized evacuation.
Kherson was occupied by the Germans on August 19, 1941. The mass murders of Kherson Jews, including of children, in gas vans began soon after the start of the occupation. On August 29 and September 6, 1941 about 200 Jews were shot on the pretext that they were involved in anti-German activity. Sonderkommando 11a reported that they had shot more than 400 Jews in Kherson by September 15, 1941.
At the end of August 1941 a Judenrat was established and ordered to register all the city's Jews. The Jews of Kherson were ordered to wear a yellow Star of David on the front and back of their clothes and to hand over to the Judenrat all the money and other valuables in their possession. As many as 1,000 Jews were taken daily for forced labor.
On September 7, 1941 the Jews of Kherson were concentrated into a ghetto surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by sentries with dogs. The ghetto was situated on the outskirts of the city. On September 23, 1941 the Jews in the ghetto were transferred to the local prison compound. On September 24-25, 1941 between 5,000 and 8,700 (according to various sources) Jews were taken to anti-tank trenches between the villages of Zelenovka and Rozhnovka, northeast of the city, and murdered there by Sonderkommando 11a. In January or February 1942 approximately 400 Jews married to non-Jews were murdered, apparently by an Einsatzkommando 12 unit.
Kherson was liberated by the Red Army on March 13, 1944.