views updated


KOLOMYYA (Pol. Kołomyja ; Ger. Kolomea ), city on the Prut River in the Ukraine; under Polish rule until 1772, Austrian rule until the end of World War i, and then again under Poland until 1939, and then annexed to the Ukrainian S.S.R. There was a flourishing Jewish community in Kolomyya as early as the 16th century. They paid two-thirds of the city taxes and received various trading rights; they were allowed to take part in the election of the mayor and other city officials. During the *Chmielnicki massacres (1648/49) the community was destroyed and some 300 Jews murdered; however, it soon recovered. After 1772 it shared the fate and status of all Polish communities under Austrian rule (see *Austria-Hungary, *Galicia, *Joseph ii). The Jews of Kolomyya engaged in a wide range of economic activities, including the retail trade, the leasing of forests, and the wholesale trade in wood; they benefited from Kolomyya's new ties with Walachia and Moldavia, which became even more profitable when Kolomyya became an important railway junction on the Lvov-Chernovtsy-Jassy line. In the beginning of the 18th century there was some influence of the *Shabbetai Ẓevi movement in the city and its environs; preachers such as Ḥayyim Malakh, Moses Meir from Zholkiev, and Elisha Shor from Rohatyn visited there. Besides the many ḥadarim, a Jewish elementary school was established by the government in 1788 (see Naphtali Herz *Homberg). The number of Jews in the town rose from 1,057 in 1765 to 2,033 in 1812; 8,232 (almost 50% of the total population) in 1869; 12,002 in 1880; and 16,568 (again almost 50%) in 1900. From the beginning of the movement Ḥasidism gained adherents in the town, becoming predominant in the community and thus ensuring its extreme Orthodox character until the second half of the 19th century. In 1886 a Jewish elementary school was founded by the *Israelitische Allianz zu Wien. During the elections to the town council in 1878, Jews obtained the majority of seats and a Jew, Dr. Maximilian Trachtenberg, was elected mayor. In 1873 a Jew, Dr. Oscar Henigsman, was elected to represent Kolomyya in the Austrian parliament. Hillel *Lichtenstein, rabbi from 1863 to 1891, strengthened Orthodoxy in the community. At the end of the 19th century almost all craftsmen were Jews, and Jewish industrialists owned most of the clothing factories and some of the oil refineries; there was a factory for prayer shawls. All transportation by carts was in Jewish hands.

From 1918 Kolomyya suffered economically as a result of the loss of the Moldavian and Walachian markets and the Jews were further hit by the anti-Jewish economic policies of modern Poland. The number of Jews in the town began to decline, from 18,930 in 1919 to 14,544 (total population 31,708) in 1921, and 14,332 in 1931. In 1921, 499 industrial premises (mostly small ones) belonged to Jews, and they employed 1,362 Jewish workers (90% of all employed), 557 of them in textile and clothing production. In 1930 they suffered from aggressive competition from Polish and Ukrainian cooperatives, which led to economic decline and the need for the community to organize relief for many of the local Jews. The social and cultural life in the Jewish community was marked by the activities of the different parties. Especially active among the Zionist organizations were the Ha-Shomer Ha-Ẓa'ir youth groups, the Hitaḥadut, and the *He-Ḥalutz. The first group of ḥalutzim left Kolomyya for Ereẓ Israel in 1920. Hakhsharah groups, which prepared their members for life in Ereẓ Israel, operated in the town. *Betar organized a group called "the national soldier" which led paramilitary activities. Two Zionist newspapers appeared in Kolomyya: the Nasz Glos in Polish and the Unser Shtime in Yiddish. In 1930 a coalition of *Agudat Israel and *Mizrachi parties elected the politically active Joseph Lau as rabbi.

[Shimshon Leib Kirshenboim /

Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

Holocaust Period

After the Soviet occupation of the town on Sept. 17, 1939, all organized Jewish life ceased. Jewish economic life was affected by the nationalization of factories and wholesale and petty trade. A sizable number of Jewish pupils studied in government schools where Yiddish was the language of instruction. When the Soviet-German war broke out in June 1941, Kolomyya Jews were drafted into the Soviet army. Many young Jews volunteered, as did Jewish doctors and nurses. On July 4 the city was captured by the German-allied Hungarian army. On August 18 the Ukrainians dragged out some 2,000 Jews in the nearby forest to be killed, but the Hungarian governor intervened and prevented their execution. During the following weeks Jewish refugees from Hungary who did not have Hungarian citizenship were sheltered by the Jewish community in Kolomyya. In September 1941 the town came under direct German administration, resulting in mass murder, extortion of large sums of money, and the kidnapping of Jews for slave labor. The head of the *Judenrat, Mordecai Horowitz, committed suicide in November 1942.

The Jewish community of Kolomyya was liquidated in the following Aktions: Nov. 15, 1941 – 500 Jews were murdered on the excuse that a Jewish leader who had been active during the Soviet occupation was hiding on their street; Jan. 24, 1942 – attacks were directed against the Jewish intelligentsia; March 24, 1942 – three separate ghettos were established, each surrounded with barbed wire; April 2, 1942 – 1,000 Jews were sent to *Belzec; Sept. 7, 1942 – 8,700 Jews were sent to Belzec; Oct. 3, 1942 – 4,500–5,000 Jews were sent to Belzec. All the remaining Jews, some 1,500 in number, were concentrated in one ghetto and were subsequently taken to Szeparowce forest nearby and executed (February 1943). When the Soviet army liberated Kolomyya in early August 1944, only a handful of Jews remained alive. They were joined by another small group of Jews who returned from the Soviet Union. They stayed in the town for a short period to mark out and enclose the sites of the Jewish mass graves, and soon left for Poland and for overseas. Kolomyya societies exist in Israel and New York. A memorial book, Pinkas Kolomei, was published in 1957. The Jewish population in Kolomyya in 1957 was estimated at about 200 families and at about 350 persons (70 families) in 1969.

[Aharon Weiss]


Pinkas Kolomei (1957), incl. bibl.