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Kerch

Kerch, Kerch County, Crimean ASSR District, Russia

To enlarge the map click here Former prayer house of local Jewish craftsmen. Today this is a historical museum of the Jewish community of Kerch.
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Photo by Mikhail Tyaglyy, 2011 Former prayer house of local Jewish craftsmen. Today this is a historical museum of the Jewish community of Kerch.
Photo by Mikhail Tyaglyy, 2011
The International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem Contemporary view of the former Krymchak quarter
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Photo by Mikhail Tyaglyy, 2011 Contemporary view of the former Krymchak quarter
Photo by Mikhail Tyaglyy, 2011
The International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem

An ancient Jewish community existed in this location already in 80 BCE, when the city was a Greek-colony named Panticapaeum. In the 9th and 10th centuries CE a large Jewish community lived here. The modern Jewish community began when Jews from the Russian Empire settled in the city. apparently in the 1830s, joining the Krymchak Jews who had long been living there. From the 1850s the Jews played an important role in the city's commerce: most local Jews were engaged in trade or crafts. Others earned their living by smoking fish or extracting salt. In 1897 4,774 Jews were living in the city, comprising 14.3 percent of the total population. On July 31 - August 1, 1905 a pogrom claimed several Jewish lives.
Under Soviet rule a number of Yiddish-language schools were operating in the city. In 1926 3,067 Jews (including 554 Krymchaks) were living in Kerch. By 1939 the total Jewish population had increased to 5,573 or 5.4 percent of the total population.
Approximately 3,000 Jews managed to leave the city before the arrival of German forces.
The Germans captured Kerch on November 16, 1941. On November 24 the Ashkenazi Jews were ordered to register within three days and to wear a Star of David on their chests and backs. According to a report of the city commandant's office, about 2,500 Ashkenazi Jews were registered. On November 28 the Krymchak Jews were ordered to register as well.
On December 1-3 most of the Ashkenazi Jews who were living in Kerch at that time were murdered. On December 29 some Ashkenazi Jews who were found in hiding by the Germans were shot to death at the same site.
The German plan to execute the Krymchaks on January 3, 1942 was not carried out at that time. Kerch was liberated by the Red Army on December 30-31, 1941 and remained under Soviet rule until May 13, 1942. During this Soviet interregnum some of the remaining Jews (mainly Krymchaks) succeeded in leaving the city.
On June 22, 1942 (or, according to another source, on July 8-9, 1942), after the second German occupation of the city, about 1,500 Krymchak Jews married to non-Jews and a few Ashkenazi Jews were shot to death. During July and August 1942 the military police (Feldgendarmerie) hunted down the remaining Jews who were in hiding and handed them over to an SS murder squad.
Kerch was liberated by the Red Army on April 11, 1944.