DONETSK (until 1924 Yuzovka, and until 1961 Stalino), industrial city in the Eastern Ukraine, established in 1869–70 when an iron mill and coal mines were opened. The Jewish population numbered 3,168 in 1897 (11.5% of the total). They were occupied as petty traders and artisans. In 1887 a magnificent synagogue was built, a talmud torah opened, and charity organizations were established. In 1887 the authorities prevented a pogrom against Jews and Englishmen, but during a pogrom which lasted for three days from October 20, 1905, many Jews were killed and wounded and synagogues and Jewish houses were destroyed. In 1910 there were three synagogues and five Jewish private schools. Zionism was active and a delegate was sent to the Sixth Zionist Congress. During World War I many refugees arrived and were helped by a local Jewish committee. Between the wars the general population grew by 400% and the Jewish population doubled. There were 11,300 Jews living in the town in 1926 (10.6% of the total population). In 1922 most of the Jews were artisans and were dominant in tailoring and hide production. In the second half of the 1920s there were 300 Jewish workers (among 12,000) in the big steel mill, 30 of them professionals. There were several hundred young Jews among the 4,000 workers employed in the construction of new steel mills. There was one Yiddish school with 320 pupils in Donetsk, and in 1935 it had six Yiddish and five Russian classes. In 1939 the Jews numbered 24,991 (total population 466,268). At the beginning of the German-Soviet war thousands of Jews were evacuated with their families by their factories or organizations, such as about 1,500 Jews employed at the Stalino Works who left with their families for the Urals. The town was occupied by the Germans from October 20, 1941, to September 8, 1943. A large ghetto was set up and its inhabitants were kept without food or medical aid, with hundreds dying every day. In December Einzatzcommando 6 murdered several hundred Jews. In April 1942 the liquidation of the ghetto commenced. The Germans took the Jews to the abandoned Maria mine and threw most of them down the shafts alive. They also used gas vans, throwing the bodies into the mine. Some 15,000 Jews were murdered there. According to the 1959 census, the Jewish population numbered 21,000 (3% of the total). There was a synagogue, a rabbi, and poultry slaughtering until 1959, when the synagogue was closed down during High Holiday services. In 1963 the militia clamped down on minyanim and confiscated religious articles, returning only prayer shawls. In 1970 the estimated Jewish population was 40,000. Many immigrated to Israel and the West in the 1990s but Jewish life was revived, with Pinchas Vyshedsky as chief rabbi from 1995 and a full range of religious, educational, and cultural services offered to the community.
Eynikeyt (March 3, 1945), 2; S. Schwarz, The Jews in the Soviet Union (1951), index.
[Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.