OLYKA, town in Volhynia, Ukraine, formerly in Poland-Lithuania. Jews are first mentioned in the mid-16th century. During the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648–49, they found refuge in the local fortress. In the late 17th–18th centuries the Olyka community was the leading member of the Volhynian Council (one of the *Council of Four Lands). It was one of the principal communities of the council for the province of Volhynia (see *Councils of the Lands), with the right of veto in taxation deliberations. In 1703 the Olyka community protested that these rights had been violated by the leaders of the Volhynian council. In 1765 there were 645 poll tax payers in the Olyka congregation; the Jewish population numbered 2,381 in 1847; 2,606 in 1897 (62% of the total population); 2,086 in 1921 (48.1%); and according to figures of the Jewish Colonization Association, 2,500 in 1924. During WWI Jews suffered from Cossack troops and after the October 1917 revolution from various gangs that operated in the vicinity. In the interwar period the Zionist movement flourished, and it controlled the leadership of the community. A Hebrew school and kindergarten existed in Olyka. All these ceased functioning with the Soviet annexation in September 1939. The Germans occupied the town on July 1, 1941, after having bombed and destroyed 70% of the houses and killing 100 Jews. In August 1941 they murdered 700 Jews, and in March 1942 a ghetto was established, housing 3,500 persons, including many refugees. On August 29, 1942, most of them were executed near the old Radziwill castle. The 130 artisans who had been spared were subsequently murdered in early 1944; 23 young Jews escaped into the woods and were engaged in partisan warfare.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.