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Khmelnik, Khmelnik County, Vinnitsa District, Ukraine (today Khmilnyk) )

To enlarge the map click here A street in Khmelnik, 1920s-1930s A street in Khmelnik, 1920s-1930s Courtesy Benjamin Lukin and Boris Khaimovich

Jews were first mentioned in Khmelnik in 1565. In 1648, the town’s Jewish community suffered heavily from the Khmelnitsky Cossack pogroms.
During the Russian Civil War (1918-20), Khmelnik Jewry was targeted by anti-Soviet and anti-Tsarist irregulars. In 1919, an effective Jewish self-defense organization was formed, mainly by Tzeirei Tzion members.
The onset of Soviet rule brought about major changes in the lives of Khmelnik’s Jewish inhabitants. By the 1930s, private commerce was banned, many artisans formed cooperatives, and Jewish kolkhozes were established. Nearly half of the Jewish population accepted white-collar or blue-collar jobs; others continued to practice their trades. The government established a Jewish Ethnic Soviet and a school, both of which conducted their affairs in Yiddish.
The 1939 census revealed 4,793 Jews in Khmelnik, comprising 64.8 percent of the total population. This number did not include the Jews of Ugrinovka, a village close to Khmelnik, immediately across the Southern Bug River (Ugrinovka is now part of the town of Khmelnik). The Jewish population of Khmelnik County numbered 810 people; the majority of them lived in Ugrinovka.
In 1939-41, some Jewish refugees from Poland settled in Khmelnik. Together with the residents of the town and their children who had came to Khmelnik for a vacation, the overall Jewish population of Khmelnik and Ugrinovka reached at least 6,000 in the summer of 1941.
The German Army occupied Khmelnik on July 17, 1941. There was no organized evacuation from the town, and so the vast majority of its Jews remained under German occupation. The mass murder of the Jews began a short time after the occupation, and lasted until June 26, 1943.
In the fall of 1941, Khmelnik’s Jews were concentrated in a ghetto consisting of several streets in the old town, fenced in with barbed wire. Many Jews were brought in from other localities too, including a large number of people from Ulanov.
The Jews of Khmelnik County shared the fate of the town’s Jews. The sixteen remaining Jewish “specialists” were killed near the end of 1943.
Khmelnik was liberated by the Red Army on March 10, 1944.