KHOTIN


KHOTIN (Hotin in Romanian; Khocim in Polish), town in Bessarabia, today Moldova. Jewish merchants traveling from Constantinople to Lvov in the 15th and 16th centuries used to pass through Khotin, then an important customs station on the Polish-Moldavian border on the commercial route between Turkey and Poland. Similarly, Jewish merchants from Poland used to visit Khotin for the fairs held there, evidence for which dates from 1541. However, the residence of Jews in Khotin is first mentioned in documents in 1741. When the Frankist movement arose in nearby Podolia in the 18th century (see Jacob *Frank and Frankists), Khotin, then under direct Turkish rule, served as a refuge for Frank and his followers when they were forced to leave Poland. In this period it also served as a refuge for *Judaizers who fled from Russia, and the community even sent emissaries to Germany to collect contributions for their maintenance. The Jews of Khotin then maintained a flourishing trade with the Ukraine and other regions of Bessarabia, and they also leased the management of estates and various branches of the farm economy. There were 340 Jewish families in 1808.

After the incorporation of Bessarabia into Russia in 1812 the community grew as a result of the large Jewish immigration into the region. The community numbered 6,342 in 1864 and 9,227 (50.2% of the total population) in 1897. A Jewish government school was established in 1847 which encouraged the growth of Haskalah; a private school for girls was opened in 1857. The Jews in Khotin were subject to the restrictions on Jewish residence in the border zones, and suffered, mainly at the end of the 19th century, from persecution by the authorities, who expelled them from Khotin on the grounds that they had no rights of residence in the city. In the first half of the 19th century, Isaiah Schorr, one of the most important rabbis in Bessarabia in the period, officiated in Khotin. After Bessarabia was incorporated into Romania in 1918 the community led an active cultural and communal life. Before World War II its institutions included a hospital (founded in 1865), an old-age home, a soup kitchen, a talmud torah, and a *Tarbut elementary school. It numbered 5,786 (37.7% of the total population) in 1930.

[Eliyahu Feldman]

Holocaust Period

In 1940, after Khotin was incorporated into Soviet Russia, it had a Jewish population of 15,000, including some Russian Jews who had settled there. When war broke out with Germany a number of Jews managed to escape to other parts of the Soviet Union. The city was captured by German-Romanian forces on July 7, 1941. The Jews were ordered to stay indoors, and detachments of soldiers, commanded by SS officers, went from house to house and arrested some 2,000 of them who were taken to the city square and shot. A few days later the remaining Jewish population was ordered to assemble in the Jewish school, and all those found hiding were shot on the spot. At night the soldiers removed women and girls from the school and assaulted them, sometimes killing them afterward. After a few days spent without food or water, hundreds of Jews died, especially the sick, the old, and the very young. On the fifth day German troops, commanded by an SS officer, picked out Rabbi Twersky and 57 professional men among the detainees (lawyers, doctors, and teachers), took them to the outskirts, and killed them all. Meanwhile, the Jewish houses were looted by the local population. On August 1, the surviving Jews were taken to the village of Barnova, east of the town, where some of them were forced by the Romanian soldiers to dig their own graves, in which they were buried alive. The rest were sent to the concentration camp at Secureni (Sekiryany). The 3,800 Jews now left in the city of Khotin were marched to *Ataki, where many succumbed to an epidemic that broke out there. The survivors were sent back to Secureni, where hundreds more died of typhus and other diseases. Finally, the rest were deported to *Transnistria, from which only a few returned. Of the prewar Jewish community, only 500 Jews were left in 1945.

In 1970 the Jewish population was estimated at about 1,000. The Jews had their own cemetery, but there was no synagogue.

[Jean Ancel]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

M. Carp, Cartea Neagrǎ, 3 (1947), 81; Herz-Kahn, in: Eynikeyt (Sept. 22, 1945).


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.