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Rostov on Don

Rostov on Don, Rostov County, Rostov District, Russia

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Jews lived in Rostov on Don since the late 18th or early 19th century. Up to 1888 it was part of the Jewish Pale of Settlement and in 1888 was included in the military area of the Don Cossacks. Even though according to tsarist law only certain categories of Jews could live in the area of Don Cossacks, those Jews who lived in the city before May 1887 were allowed to stay in Rostov on Don. At the end of 19th century the rapid economic development of the city began and Jewish businessmen, especially the Poliakov brothers, played a role in turning of Rostov on Don into a flourishing economic center of the Russian Empire.
In 1897 11,838 Jews lived in Rostov on Don, comprising 9.95 percent of the total population. Most of Rostov's Jews at the turn of the century were small-scale merchants and artisans, although there were also industrialists, larger scale merchants, and members of the free professions. 80 percent of all the physicians in the city at that time were Jewish.
From the 1880s to the mid-1920s Rostov on Don was an important center of the Zionist movement. There was a strong Poalei Zion branch in the city.
At the beginning of 20th century there were three Talmud Torah schools, a Jewish public school for girls, two synagogues, a prayer house, a study house at the main synagogue, and ahe gmilat hesed society for mutual assistance.
Vera Weizman (nee Hazman), the wife of the first president of the State of Israel, and the famous violist and composer Efrem Tsimbalist were born in Rostov on Don.
In 1881 and October 1905 there were pogroms in Rostov on Don. The large- scale three-day pogrom in Rostov on Don in October 1905 claimed the lives of 150 Jews. The Jewish self-defence force that tried to resist the pogromists was fired at by the Cossacks.
Even though Jewish refugees were not allowed to come to the area of Don Cossacks during World War I , many of them, inluding a large group of Habad Chassidim headed by Shalom Dov Shneerson settled in Rostov on Don. In the early 1920s there was a Habad yeshiva there.
During the civil war in Russia many Rostov Jews supported the anti-Bolshevik White movement. A number of young Rostov Jewish volunteers even enlisted in various White units.
After the establishment of Soviet rule in Rostov on Don, the social and occupational structure of the Jews started to change. In the mid-1920s about a quarter of Rostov Jews were state officials or industrial workers. In 1928 several classes with Yiddish as the language of instruction were opened at the local school for the working youth.
the Soviet authorities cracked down on all Jewish activties outside the state control. In 1921 there was strong propaganda campaign against the Habad Chassidic Jews in Rostov on Don and in 1925 many members of Zionist He-Halutz organization were arrested. In the late 1920s the choral synagogue of Rostov on Don was turned into a club and in the late 1930s the remaining Jewish cultural activties in Rostov on Don were banned.
In 1939 Rostov's 27,039 Jews comprised 5.4 percent of the total population.
After the beginning of German invasion of the Soviet Union tens of thousands of refugees, including many Jews, came to Rostov on Don. In September-November 1941 the Soviet authorities organized a large-scale evacuation from Rostov on Don. About 10,000 Jews succeeded in leaving the city during this period. The Germans occupied Rostov on Don for the first time on November 21, 1941. This occupation lasted only about a week. On November 29 the Red Army counterattacked and liberated the city. In the short period of their rule in Rostov on Don Germans ordered the establishment of a Jewish council, the registration of all the Jews, and the forcing of Jews to wear yellow Stars of David. About 1,000 Jews were murdered in Rostov on Don and the area in this short period of time.
After the liberation of Rostov on Don many of the Jews who left the city in autumn 1941 returned to it.
In the summer of 1942, when the Germans approached Rostov on Don for the second time another evacuation began. This evacuation was poorly organized and not many Jews succeeded in escaping before the city was reoccupied by the Germans on July 24, 1942.
Soon after the start of the second German occupation a number of victims who were defined as Jewish "partisans and Communist Party members," as well as Jewish prisoners from the local prisoners-of-war camp were shot outside the city. On August 4, 1942 Sonderkommando 10a of Einsatzgruppe D, which closely followed the German troops into Rostov on Don ordered a registration of the entire Jewish population of the city, including baptized children over 14 years old and those Jews who had some other nationality indicated in their identity papers. The carrying out of the registration was assigned to the Jewish council. Five days later the resettlement of the Jews in a separate quarter was ordered. On August 11, 1942 all the Jews of Rostov on Don who appeared, supposedly for resettlement in the ghetto, were taken by truck northwest of Rostov on Don and either shot or murdered in gas vans in a several day massacre which claimed the lives of about 2,000 people (more than 10,000 according to Soviet sources).
The murders of Jews in Rostov on Don, both of prisoners-of-war and of those who had hid but were ultimately caught, continued after the large-scale massacre of August 11-14, 1942. It is diffiuclt to establish the number of Jews murdered in Rostov on Don during the German occupation. The Soviet reports speak about between 15,000 and about 30,000 Jews murdered in Rostov during this period.
Rostov on Don was liberated by the Red Army on February 14, 1943.