Dunayivtsi, Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine: Annals

Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine

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The Jewish shtetl of Dunayevtsy was a center of the Hebrew and Zionist literary awakening. Scholars and authors born and educated in Dunayevtsy are Yehezkel Kaufmann, Zevi Scharfstein, Abraham Rosen, and Shemu'el Leib Blank.

Shemu'el Blank, born in the town in 1891, was a writer of short stories and novels. At age eighteen Shemu'el moved to Bessarabia, which became the geographical location for his accounts of Jewish rural life. When Blank immigrated to America in 1923, the venue for his writing immigrated with him; Jewish immigrant experiences in America became the focus of his creativity.

Dr. Yehezkel Kaufmann, professor of Bible at Hebrew University, contended that Judaism's monotheism did not evolve from paganism. Rather, Israel's monotheism was a completely new religion. The evidence for this view, he argues, is the absence of any polytheistic elements in Judaism. An excellent summary of Dr. Kaufmann's views on this issue and of his study of the fate of the Jewish people, can be found at Kaufmann.

There has been a Jewish presence in Dunayevtsy since at least 1765, when the community consisted of 1,129 Jews. The exact date that the town was founded is unknown; as a consequence, 1403 is celebrated as its year of establishment– the date of the earliest record in which the town is mentioned. Almost two centuries after its founding, King Sigismund III granted Magdeburg Rights to Dunayevtsy. These mediaeval rights gave the town some semblance of self-rule. In 1775, the Jewish population had declined to a mere four-hundred eighty-four souls, the survivors of the Haidamak uprising of 1768.

Dunayevtsy was the scene of a two year trial, extending from 1838 t0 1840, in which a large number of Jews were accussed of murdering two Jewish informers. Apparently, the accussed Jews were tortured; many died while incarcerated at hard labor.

German troops entered Dunayevtsy on 11 July 1941, promptly establishing a ghetto to isolate the town's Jews. Less than a year later, on 2 May 1942, the Germans set about murdering the three-thousand ghettoized Jews.

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  • Last Modified: 05-15-2012

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