Odesa First Jewish Cemetery
Odessa’s First Jewish cemetery was established in the late 18th century. It was closed in 1912, and in 1935, under the Soviets, the cemetery was destroyed. During WWII, the site was completely demolished and subsequently built over.
There is no information available about the Jewish community of Khadzhibei (the Turkish name of the territory of Odessa before its Russian annexation). However, it existed before 1789, when Russian troops captured the Turkish fortress. The Jewish population of the city of Odessa, in 1795, numbered 146 (10% of the total population). In the early 18th century, a synagogue, cemetery, Talmud Tora and hospital were functioning in the city. From the mid-19th century, Jews were dominant in many trade spheres such as cattle selling, grain export etc. Jews were engaged in medical practice, jurisprudence, engineering, architecture and other professions. In 1886, 44 synagogues were operating. The educational sector was developed during the second half of the 19th century, and 200 hederim and 40 elementary schools were functioning in the city in the early 20th century. By 1897, the Jewish population had grown to 138,935 (34% of the total population). Additionally, 1,049 Karaites resided in Odessa. In 1905, 300 Jews were murdered in a pogrom. After the revolution of 1917, self-defence formations were organised in the Jewish community. Odessa was a centre of the Zionist movement from the years of the establishment of the Benei Moshe society in 1889, and the so-called Odessa Committee, whose official name was the Society for the Support of Agricultural Workers and Craftsmen in Syria and Palestine. Many prominent writers and leaders of the Zionist movement, such as Tel Aviv’s first mayor Meir Dizengoff, as well as Zalman Epstein, C. N. Bialik, and Ze’ev Jabotinsky were active in Odessa. In the early 1920s, the Soviet government encouraged the development of Yiddish: the official correspondence of the militia organisations and courts were kept in Yiddish, and there were also Jewish departments in local teacher’s colleges. In 1928, the Museum of Jewish Culture was founded. By 1939, the Jewish population had reached 200,961 (33% of the total population). Nazi and Romanian troops occupied Odessa on October 16, 1941. From October 23 to 25, 1941, the number of Jews who were executed, burnt in barracks or shot is estimated to be more than 40,000. On January 10 to 11, 1942, a ghetto was created in the Slobodka neighbourhood. The ghetto concentrated the Jewish population before their deportation to execution sites. One such site is the region of Berezovka, where as many as 33,000 Jews from Odessa were murdered in early 1942. According to official data, the ghetto operated until June 10, 1942; however, the last transport left to Berezovka on June 23, 1942. Jews began returning to Odessa after April 10, 1944. In 1958, 102,000 Jews were residing in Odessa.