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Gorodenka, Ukraine

GORODENKA (Pol. Horodenka), city in Stanislav district, Ukraine. Jews first settled there under Polish rule during the middle of the 17th century, but an organized community was only formed in the beginning of the 18th century. In 1743 the Polish landowner granted them by a privilege the right to live in the town and to engage in commerce (excluding trade in Christian religious appurtenances) and crafts. The community received land for building a synagogue and for a cemetery. Jews of Gorodenka were dealers in grain, timber, and salt, wine makers, distillers of brandy, beer brewers, tavern keepers, and leasers and managers of estates. According to the census of 1765, 863 Jews lived in Gorodenka and 133 in 14 villages in the vicinity, affiliated to the Gorodenka community. In the middle of the 18th century there was a group of Shabbateans and Frankists in the town. During the 1760s most of the Jews in Gorodenka joined the ḥasidic movement, among them *Nahman of Horodenko , one of the closest disciples of *Israel b. Eliezer Ba'al Shem Tov .

The city passed to Austria in 1772. In 1794, 30 Jews in Gorodenka (12 families) joined to found an agricultural settlement. Despite their economic difficulties, the rate of taxation levied upon the Jewish population was five times higher than that for the Christian population. According to data of 1890, 4,340 of the 11,162 inhabitants of the town and 7 of the 18 members of the municipal council were Jews. By the end of the 19th century a local *Benei Zion society had been founded, which by 1897 consisted of about 150 members. A Jewish boys' school financed by Baron *Hirsch functioned from 1898 until 1914. The first Hebrew school was opened in 1907. At the beginning of the 20th century, the community had a great synagogue and a number of battei midrash and hasidic prayer houses. In World War I the Jews in Gorodenka suffered severely under the Russian occupation. In 1916 Jewish houses were set on fire and nine local Jews were hanged on a charge of espionage.

Gorodenka was within Poland between the two world wars. The Jewish population was 3,048 (out of 9,907) in 1921 and 3,256 in 1931. World War I left in its wake 200 widows and 220 orphans, and postwar competition with the Poles and Ukrainians was a cause of economic hardship for the Gorodenka Jews. Subsequently, many emigrated to the United States, Canada, and South America, and hundreds of others to Ereẓ Israel.

[Arthur Cygielman]

Holocaust Period

Within a few days of the outbreak of war between Germany and the U.S.S.R., Gorodenka was occupied by Hungarian troops. The local Ukrainian populace immediately attacked the Jewish inhabitants, murdering and robbing them. Subsequently, Jews from Carpatho-Ruthenia (which had been annexed by Hungary) arrived in Gorodenka, having been driven from their homes. A local Jewish committee was set up to deal with the situation. Aid was extended to the local Jews and refugees. When the city came under German administration in September 1941 conditions deteriorated. Anti-Jewish measures were enacted, including restriction on free movement on the streets, compulsory wearing of the yellow *badge , and the institution of slave labor. In November the Jews were concentrated in a ghetto. On Dec. 4, 1941, they were assembled, allegedly to receive immunization against typhus, but were guarded by the Germans and their Ukrainian collaborators in the great synagogue. The following day they underwent a "Selektion," and those classed as "nonproductive" – 2,500 Jews – were taken to mass graves dug between the villages of Michalcze and Simakowce, and murdered. On April 13, 1942, a second Aktion was carried out in which 1,500 were sent to the death camp of Belzec and murdered there. In May and June hundreds of Jews were taken from Gorodenka to Kolomyya, where they shared the fate of the Jews there. Some of the inmates fled to Tlusta, where they found temporary refuge. The liquidation of the ghetto started in July and was completed on Sept. 6, 1942. The last Jews were sent to the Janowska labor camp in Lvov. During the Aktionen, some Jews escaped; some joined partisan groups, and 40 succeeded to flee to Romania. On March 24, 1944, Soviet forces returned to Gorodenka, but by then only a few Jews were left. They subsequently left for Poland in transit to Palestine.

[Aharon Weiss / Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]


M. Bałaban, Spis Żydów i Karaitów ziemi Halickiej i powiatów Trembowelskiego i Kołomyjskiego w roku 1765 (1909), 18; M. Freudental, Leipziger Messegaeste (1928), 141; W. Tokarz, Galicya w początkach ery józefińskiej … (1909), 356–7; B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach xix i xx (1930), 100, 122; Sefer Horodenka (Heb. and Yid., with Eng. introduction, 1963).

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