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Olevsk, Olevsk County, Zhitomir District, Ukraine

To enlarge the map click here Building of the former Yiddish school in Olevsk  
Photo by Mikhail Tyaglyy, 2015 Building of the former Yiddish school in Olevsk
Photo by Mikhail Tyaglyy, 2015
The International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem

The first reference to Jews in Olevsk relates to 1721. In the late 19th century the Jewish population amounted to 1,187 or 56.5 percent of the total population. In December 1918 and in 1919 the local Jews suffered from pogroms. During the early Soviet period Olevsk was a border settlement and in the 1920s many Jews passed through the town on their way out of Soviet Russia. Around 1925 groups of the illegal Hashomer Hatzair and Hehalutz Zionist movements were active in Olevsk. A Yiddish government-sponsored school operated in the town. In 1939 the Jewish population of the town numbered 2,196, which was 42 percent of the total population.
Olevsk was occupied by German troops on August 8, 1941. While most of the local Jews were at the front or had been evacuated to eastern areas of the country, about 100 families remained in the town. On August 20, 1941 the Ukrainian People's Revolutionary Army Battalion, also called the Polessian Sich, led by Taras Borovets (Bulba), entered the town. The Sich army carried out pogroms, causing damage to Jewish homes and looting Jewish property, as well as abusing the Jews. A heavy ransom was imposed on the Jews and their properties were the targets of numerous acts of looting. The Germans mainly assigned the Jews to useless labor tasks in order to humiliate them. Three Jews were beaten to death while performing one of those jobs. According to some sources some of these atrocities were carried out at the Sich headquarters in the center of Olevsk. In October 1941 a ghetto was established in several local houses of the town; Jews from some nearby villages were also incarcerated in the ghetto. The ghetto inmates had to wear yellow patches with the Star of David on their backs and chests. A murder operation against the Jews of Olevsk was carried out in November 1941. Sources note that some of the ghetto inmates remained alive until the end of April 1943. Most likely they were artisans whose services were considered useful by the Germans. In early May 1943 those Jews were taken by truck outside the town to the nearby forest. There they were apparently shot to death.
Olevsk was liberated by the Red Army on January 2, 1944.