Pogrom of May 2-8, 1919

I. Testimony of the Physician Joseph Benjaminovich

Isaacson, July 21

Zlatopol is a town in the government of Kiev, canton of Chigirin, a verst and a half from Novo-Mirgorod and the border of the government of Kherson. It has 15,000 inhabitants, of whom ten or twelve thousand are Jews. The chief occupations are small handicrafts and commerce. During the war and the revolution speculation throve. Previously the town was consid ered very poor, but later it began to be considered decidedly rich; there was no poverty at all. This was true of the Chris tian population as well as the Jewish. There was no open anti Semitism visible, but the Christians lived a separate life from the Jews.

From the time of the fall of the Hetman's power, and the appearance of the Petlurist regime, and afterwards of the Soviet regime, the town constantly was visited by various detachments and gangs, which seized the power, levied contributions, and sometimes pillaged and took away weapons. There came the gangs of Kotzyr, Lopata, and Yastrensky, in general each with about sixty to eighty men, not more than a hundred. There was a militia and a home guard in the town, and latterly even a self- defense guard, but they all ran away at the first shots, and the gangs would penetrate into the town without resistance.


When the Soviet regime was established, the local population discovered with amazement that Jews were at the head of many of its institutions. This led to the accusation that all Jews were responsible for the disorganization of life, and anti-Semitism increased. At the same time there arose among the sur rounding peasantry an opposition and a rebellious movement against the communistic Soviet regime. In the neighboring vil lage of Listopadovo (two versts from Zlatopol) the peasants were armed, and threats came from there against the town. The holiday of May 1 was the occasion for the pogrom. The local intellectuals (young students and gymnasium boys) wanted to parade with the Ukrainian flag. But the Executive Committee would not allow it. The May-day manifestation took place ; many Jews, artisans and apprentices, took part. The day passed without disturbance, but on the next day there appeared armed groups from the direction of Listopadovo, which opened fire and entered the town. Some of the Jewish inhabitants hurriedly fled to Novo-Mirgorod ; the rest hid in cellars and garrets. They began to shoot all the Jews they met, and on the next day began a general pogrom and pillaging, which lasted a whole week. The Executive Committee and all officials, without difference of nationality, had already fled in the morning (May 2). About sixty Jews were killed. They set fire to the whole market square and to several houses, expecting that the whole town would burn up. But fortunately there came a rain so heavy that the other houses were saved. The local bourgeoisie and part of the intel lectuals took part in the pogrom and the looting. The pogrom stopped "of itself," since everything was looted and all the inhabitants had fled to Novo-Mirgorod. After about a week the inhabitants began to return. There remained in town the head of Kotzyr's band, who had set up a government, in the expectation that Grigoriev's uprising would succeed. When a pogrom broke out later in Novo-Mirgorod (May 17), the pogrom was repeated also in Zlatopol on the same day. With the suppression of Grigoriev's uprising Kotzyr disappeared from Zlato pol. The narrator is an inhabitant of Zlatopol, where he practised medicine. He also escaped to Novo-Mirgorod, and on his return found his entire apartment, his chemical-biological laboratory, and all his instruments, plundered. Certain instruments were found on the premises of the local hospital, from which he infers that the hospital staff took part in the pillaging.

II. Extract from Report on the Town of Zlatopol by the Instructor of the Government of Kiev, Comrade Romsen

Until the revolutionary overturn, Zlatopol had not been touched by any pogrom outbreaks, even in the year 1905, when a wave of pogroms broke out all around. It did not reach Zlatopol ; and this was not accidental. As far as can be ex plained, these relations with the peasantry were based on mutual confidence and solidarity, and with the intellectuals there existed a bond based on culture and enlightenment. But the revolution broke out, and the population triumphantly reacted to that joyous sound. The Jewish inhabitants also took open part in the fes tivity. Soon the local intellectuals and the nearby landowners, seeing before them dangerous rivalry in the persons of capable and intelligent Jewish workers, united with the ruined land- owners. They stood in opposition to the changes that were being carried out. They adopted the usual methods, playing upon the ignorance of the peasant masses, inflaming them with various calumnies. They said the revolution, speculation, high prices, everything was the handiwork of the Jews, and the only way out was repression. The agitation grew, and the village teacher in the country, and the priest and the intellectuals in the town, at markets, at peasant gatherings, in the co-operatives everywhere the work went on. And soon its harvest appeared in the form of individual outbreaks of looting of wares belonging to shopkeepers and Jews.

Petlura appeared on the political horizon, and gave free rein to the chauvinistic feelings of that crowd with its mad thirst for Jewish blood. Then came bands under the flag of the slogans of the bolsheviks, mainly from Chigirin; under the pretext of searches they systematically terrorized the Jewish population. The band of Yastrensky, and then that of Lopata established arbitrary regimes, always solely in regard to the Jewish inhabi tants. The local League of Labor, composed of representatives of the trade unions of the town, declared itself an Executive Committee; but they were not able to accomplish anything owing to absence of connections with the central power. Only in Feb ruary, when the Soviet regime was growing stronger, was a Soviet elected here, into which honorable and conscientious peo ple entered. About April 2 there arrived 80 of Lopata's men, occupied the Soviet, tore down the portraits of Lenin and Trotzky ,and tried to start a pogrom; but the Soviet entirely forestalled this outbreak, and called for 120 men from Yelisavet grad, who after killing 40 of Lopata's men took the rest pris oners (40 men). Lopata got away, but promised to be avenged on the "Jew Soviet." But the Soviet at this time sent two dele gates to Kiev to solicit the separation of Zlatopol into an inde pendent unit, unconnected with Chigirin, which was a nest of bandits and counter-revolutionaries.

At this time, having misgivings as to the weakness of the government over the canton, the local and volost Executive Committees quarreled; and the local intellectuals decided to make use of this moment in unison with Lopata, Kotzyr and other bandits from Chigirin. They sent their agitators through the towns and villages calling people to an open uprising against the Jews. Upon a designated signal fifteen villages were to take up this crusade. There was needed only an external occasion, which was not slow in presenting itself. This was the day of the international holiday, May 1. When the procession under red flags began, there suddenly appeared the Ukrainian national flag, which was to figure in the first ranks. The authorities declared that it was an international holiday, and that consequently international flags had to be in the first position. The flag was removed. On the next day the sound of the warning bell rang out, rifle-shots were fired, and the bloody feast began. The first day yielded modest results, several innocent victims and complete destruction of their property. On the third of May they carried out the wares from the shops, accompanying it by incessant shooting.

But the systematic pogrom began only on Sunday the fourth. On that day both the year-old child, and the eighty-year-old man, both the workman and the factory-owner, were alike found guilty of bolshevism and mercilessly shot. Of course cases of violation of girls were not lacking. The result was 69 killed and 300 wounded.


By categories No. of persons

Breadwinners 5

Cabmen 3

Undefined professions 21

Artisans 10

Liberal professions 5

Servants 5

Petty tradesmen 11

Unknown 9

Total 69

Of the wounded I did not succeed in getting statements by categories.

The burning of the plundered homes and shops lasted about three weeks. They stole everything, beginning with pokers and wooden spoons and ending with pianos. Nails were taken out of the walls, doors and window-frames were removed, the win dow-glass was taken from the frames. They took the last blind nag from a pauper water-carrier.

The result:

No. of houses in Zlatopol before pogrom 1100

No. of houses burned 15

No. of stores before pogrom 285

No. of stores burned 275

Homes wrecked 1065

Homes remaining undestroyed 20

Stores remaining undestroyed 10

The wares and property were carried away by thousands of carts. From the Artisans' Loan and Savings Association alone they took out 130 poods of butter, 9,000 poods of wheat, and 30,000 poods of sugar. It is curious that in some way or other a part of these goods came into the hands of the Russian co operatives, and are to this day being sold, without a return being made to the owners. There have been cases of the seizure by a Russian co-operative of the Jewish co-operative's premises; for the latter is still active. The public hospital robbed drug- stores and has not yet made any returns. The approximate results of calculations covering only one quarter of the popula- tion that remains show the following picture of losses of prop- erty:

Categories No. of families Extent of losses

Merchants and factory-owners 62 9,062,100

Small tradesmen 146 4,476,700

Artisans 296 9,849,000

Liberal professions 47 2,688,800

Servants 50 1,494,000

Undefined occupations 84 2,540,400

Total 685 30,111,000

To complete all this horror famine was added, since the peas ants were forbidden to export their products under pain of most severe punishment, and the stricken population was condemned to drag out its existence for the course of seven weeks without bread and without any assistance from outside. Of the govern ment there was no trace. Both the Soviet and the trade unions had scattered at the moment of the pogrom. At last a detach ment of Zhivoder's brigade of sharpshooters arrived at the station, and occupied the place after a brief exchange of shots. He issued an order about bearing arms, but the order had no effect. Zhivoder soon departed, and with him half the population dragged themselves away all who could in any way get away anywhere ; to such an extent had horror mastered them. There remained almost no one but beggars, among whom famine typhus began to rage. The public hospital refused to take the sufferers. Gradually the peasantry began to sober down, asking themselves where was that malicious Jewish speculation? before the pogrom a box of matches cost a ruble and a half, while after the pogrom the robbers sold them for ten and twelve rubles ; and so with all wares. Peasants began to appear in the market, in many cases expressing sympathy and trying to justify themselves, saying that it was not their fault, but that the landowners and intellectuals had deceived them. They be gan to bring in bread, and relations in a way became smoothed out. On June 20 a punitive detachment from the third army arrived, under the command of Zinkov, and began trials, but in the majority of cases not with the right persons; while the flagrant hooligans and robbers whom they succeeded in arrest ing were let off with a fine of ten to fifteen thousand. They took away the stolen goods, but gave back almost none to the naked and barefooted population, but took it all to the station and loaded it on their own cars. So it went on for about eight days. No one was in the least concerned to establish a government and a local punitive detachment ; on the contrary, the militia's last three rifles were taken away. In such circumstances the punitive detachment decided to leave this unhappy town ; and together with the detachment all the rest of the inhabitants started out, but they were thrown out of the cars. The detach ment departed, and the population, seized with terror, remained in expectation of death and a repetition of the nightmare, since the peasants, the bandits, and the intellectuals were much ruffled after the trials conducted by Zinkov. It's the Jews, they said, that brought in this Jew detachment (the commander, Zinkov, was a Jew). On that night of evil memory I arrived at the station, and found a picture of frozen horror like that of a struggling trapped animal. When they found that I had come as an instructor to show them aid, they advised me to depart at once by the return train, for they were actually all there at the station and were preparing to leave. But I decided to re main as long as there were even a few families there. Towardf morning the rumor went around that the bandits killed by the punitive expedition were going to be exhumed; and since the graves were at the station, the whole population was in danger. And, however, hard as it was, we had to apply to those who in one way or another, whether by their passive attitude or by active work, had perpetrated the pogroms, and had to ask them for help, assuring them that if it were repeated the punitive de tachment would again take vengeance on innocent intellectuals.

At last, we succeeded in persuading the president of the trade unions at Novo-Mirgorod to send a guard of three men to the station, after entreating him to organize a home guard in gen eral, and giving him 5,000 rubles for the expense. When the train came some hundreds of people in all left; the rest wan dered back home.

When I came in touch with realities, my first help was de- voted to buying a number of rifles for self-protection from the bandits. I telegraphed in all directions, to Kiev, Odessa, Yelisa vetgrad, asked for a detachment or at least for weapons for self protection; but have not yet received an answer. In the meet ings old men, women and children cried with one voice: "We want nothing, we are hungry and barefoot, but instead of bread give us protection, give us arms." And up to the present day nothing has been done ip this respect. Every day almost there are murders and robberies. In the name of those 250 Jewish volunteers who entered the Red Army, they demand that at least the possibility be afforded to their fathers and mothers to arm themselves, that they may at least die an hon orable death. This is the single desire of all; if they must die, let it be not in a garret, but with arms in their hands.

III. To the Commission for Furnishing Aid to Persons Who Have Suffered from the Counter-Revolution (Central Sec tion of Aid to Victims of Pogroms} : Note of Report of the Members of the Zlatopol Executive Committee

The pogrom in Zlatopol began on May 3 and continued almost uninterruptedly during the space of four weeks. Two months before the pogrom the Executive Committee knew that if special measures were not taken, a pogrom in Zlatopol was unavoid able. All the guerrilla detachments of the canton of Chigirin, when they arrived at Zlatopol or passed by Zlatopol, introduced a special anti-Semitic atmosphere. In this respect the detach ment commanded by Lopata was especially distinguished. He openly agitated in the volost assemblies and in the villages, and roused the peasants to pogroms. This was early in April, 1919. Lopata with his detachment from Chigirin went to Lebedin, and thence via the villages of Lipianko, Turlo and others headed for Zlatopol. Even before his arrival peasants from the villages came to us in the Executive Committee and reported that Lopata in his speeches at the assemblies was urging them to pogroms. Upon Lopata's arrival in Zlatopol, on April 5, or a few days earlier, the air of the place reeked with pogrom senti ment. Lopata did not conceal his views and openly declared before the Executive Committee that the Jews ought to be cut down. Then the Executive Committee had to summon an armed detachment from Yelisavetgrad to prevent a massacre; and Lo pata's detachment was destroyed. The Executive Committee had recourse to this extreme measure only when several members of the committee had been arrested, and when Lopata declared a state of siege in the town and demanded that within 24 hours the population pay the arrears of national taxes reckoned against them. In his order on this subject he stated that failure to pay the arrears in the time allotted would result in repressive measures even to the point of bombarding the place. After this incident a delegation went to Kiev to report. From Kiev an extraordinary prosecutor was sent to Zlatopol, who collected a mass of documentary evidence implicating Lopata, the members of the Chigirin Extraordinary Commission, and others. The prosecutor left Zlatopol on April 23, and stated that he was going to Kiev for a detachment, and that he would go with the detachment to Chigirin and would take all measures to put a stop to the criminal activities of the Chigirin "workers" and to clear the whole canton of Chigirin of bandits. But from that time the Executive Committee has received no information as to the results of the investigation, while it is reliably known that Lopata and the others are at liberty in Chigirin to this very day. Two days after the beginning of the pogrom in Zlatopol, on May 4, a detachment arrived there from Chigirin under the command of Kotzyr the younger, but this detachment only served to make the pogrom more violent, since the bandits felt complete impunity and even support from the soldiers and the commander of the detachment. Of the activities of these gentry details arc set forth in the report of A. Khromchenko. At present the situation in the town is tragic. The Jewish population is literally dying of hunger. The whole population is left without any means both the merchants, who were well-to-do before the pogrom, and the artisans, who have lost their instruments and materials. Famine typhus is raging in the town. The Executive Committee considers that the sum of 300,000 rubles, released by the governmental section for furnishing aid to Zlatopol, is en tirely insufficient, since with present high prices such a sum can only serve for very temporary aid, and it is far from possible by such means to render assistance to the artisans, to get them the instruments of production and to provide for the collective shops. It is necessary also to consider that the Jewish Loan and Savings Association, and the co-operative "Self-aid," which supplied the Jewish poor people with their supplies of pro visions, have been left without means and until now have not begun to function. These enterprises served eight thousand of the Jewish population, and this population cannot get along with out them. They must be subsidized extensively in order that they may begin to operate again. It is also necessary to organ ize the issuance to the population of long-time loans without interest, in order that they may again engage in their occupa tions, and not be turned into chronic beggars.

In conclusion we solicit for Zlatopol a sum of several million rubles. Only in that case can it be hoped that in time the popu lation will be able to get out of its tragic situation.