The Volochisk Jewish cemeteries

There are actually three Jewish cemeteries in Volochisk. The The one that is the most visible, on the top of the hill near the river and the railway tracks, is known as the “old” Volochisk Jewish cemetery, the “new” Jewish cemetery is the location of the Holocaust memorial, and there’s a third, older Jewish cemetery that is almost completely destroyed.

Piled-up gravestone fragments at the oldest Volochisk cemetery in 2001. Photo by Jeremy Grant.

The “old” Volochisk Jewish cemetery

There are around 100 headstones remaining at the “old” Volochisk Jewish cemetery, the earliest dating from 1849, but most date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and are badly damaged and unreadable.

The “old” Volochisk cemetery, 1999, by Jeremy Grant.

Jeremy Grant, a Volochisk descendent, has been documenting the remains of Jewish life in Volochisk for the last two decades. On his first visit in 1999, he took photos of the old Volochisk cemetery, writing, “This is the old Jewish cemetery. Most of the graves I saw dated from the 1920’s or earlier. The new Jewish cemetery catering to the drastically reduced post war community, was, as far as I understood, based round the overgrown Holocaust monument. This old cemetery stands on top of a hill overlooking the river and the old town. Only a few gravestones remain. The site is not looked after, and many stones have been removed, probably to be used for building materials. It remains, however, a bewitching spot.” He translated the headstones that were still readable, few that there were, although most do not include surnames.

More recent photos, from 2016, can be seen here, and 2019, here.

The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative survey documented the current state of the cemetery and includes a 3D model (although you need a fast connection to view the model).

The “new” Volochisk Jewish cemetery and Holocaust memorial

The Volochisk Jewish cemetery is not at the same location as the Holocaust memorial, which is known as the “new Volochisk Jewish cemetery.” This site is the location of the mass grave, where Jews from Volochisk and the surrounding area were murdered in 1942. There were also post-war Jewish burials here, but according to this 2019 survey by the EJCI, all headstones have been removed, and the place is now an industrial park, although the memorial still stands.

Volochisk Holocaust memorial, 1999. Photo by Jeremy Grant.

Interestingly, the Holocaust memorial does not mention Jews. In the First Wolochiskers Benevolent Society 50th anniversary program, president Sam Trugman explained that they had attempted to send money to fund the memorial but were unsuccessful, which may explain the omission.

“The Nazi murderers  during the Second World War killed hundreds of innocent souls. Honor their memory! What remains is a common grave by the “Semenivke” (the crooked “path”), on the way to the station. According to an earlier letter of landsman Yitzchok Kumetz, the common grave was grassed over and a monument was erected with the help of the Odessa-Volochysk landsleit and the government. In that period 1946-1947, negotiations were held:  we, the “society”, were supposed to reimburse the cost of the monument, but unfortunately it proved impossible to transmit the money!!!”

The oldest Jewish cemetery

There is a third Jewish cemetery in Volochisk, which is actually the oldest of the three, with stones from the late 1700s and early 1800s. Jeremy Grant discovered the site on a visit to Volochisk in 2001. “This is the oldest of the three and has stones dating back to the 18th century. It is hidden in an overgrown field on the right-hand side of the road coming out of the shtetl going towards the new town, and just before the Orthodox Church. The field now makes up the backyards of several houses.  The graveyard is completely destroyed, with the gravestones broken up and strewn about or piled up.”

Jeremy’s photos of the surviving headstones, with translations, are below.

The locations of the Volochisk Jewish cemeteries

For more on researching your Volochisk roots, see Volochisk Jewish Genealogy.

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