Zhytomyr Old Jewish Cemetery
The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown. It was marked on a 1900s Russian map. There was a Christian cemetery nearby which was also demolished. According to the Commission on the Preservation of Jewish Heritage, the Jewish cemetery was closed for burials after the war. Construction of vocational school number 29, a hostel and sports ground and a mechanical repair plant on the site of the cemetery began in 1972.
Zhytomyr (Ukr., Rus. Житомир, Yid. זשיטאָמיר) did not have a noticeable Jewish presence until the 18th century. In 1751, there were 346 Jews in Zhytomyr, although officially Jews were not allowed to settle in the city. In 1753, 33 Jews were tried in Zhytomyr in a blood libel, with 13 of them executed. The Jewish population was 882 in 1789, which was about 33% of the total population, and it grew to 1,261 in 1791. In the late 18th century, Zhytomyr became a major Hasidic centre. After annexation by Russia in 1793, the city became the capital of the Volhynian Governorate in 1804. In the mid-19th century, Zhytomyr had one of the two Jewish printing presses, allowed in the Russian Empire (the other one was in Vilnius). A government-sponsored rabbinical seminary was opened in 1848 and became a teacher-training college in 1873. Russia’s first Jewish vocational school was established in 1862. Both institutions were closed in the mid-1880s. In 1897, the Jewish community numbered 30,748 (46.6%).
The Jewish community maintained 27 synagogues, 2 cemeteries, a loan fund, a hospital, an old people’s home, 54 chadarim, a talmud-torah, a two-year school with over 600 students as well as 5 private schools. The Bund became active in Zhytomyr in 1901. Dozens of Jews were killed in the pogrom of 1905, among them members of Jewish self-defense groups. Several more pogroms followed during the Civil War of 1918–1921. After the Bolshevik takeover, the Soviet authorities closed most of the Jewish religious institutions. A Chabad cheder operated clandestinely, as did Zionist groups. An underground Chabad yeshiva was active in 1934–37. On the other hand, the state promoted Yiddish culture: Jewish comprehensive and vocational schools, as well as a teacher-training college operated in the city and a Jewish theater was established in 1934. In 1926–29, Yiddish was the working language of one of the law courts. Jews from Zhytomyr founded 13 agricultural colonies in the Kherson District, a Jewish collective farm operated on the outskirts of the city. In 1939, Zhytomyr had a Jewish population of 28,733 (30.5%). During the German occupation, the Jews who had not managed to flee, were confined in a ghetto. Most of them were murdered in July–October 1941. Some Jews managed to escape and join the partisans. Several thousand Jews returned after the war. Jewish community life was partly restored with the synagogue reopened in 1945, albeit briefly closed in 1962–63 during Khrushchev’s antireligious campaign. There were 14,800 Jews (14%) in Zhytomyr in 1959. Mass emigration to Israel and the US occurred in the 1970–90s. According to the 2001 census, the Jewish population of Zhytomyr was 1,328. Several Jewish cultural and religious organisations have been active since the 1990s.
It is not known when the cemetery was founded. It is marked on maps from around 1900. New burials ceased after WWII. The cemetery was demolished in the mid-1970s.