Mariupol siege and the 1905 pogrom

As I was retrieving some photographs of the bombed hospital in Mariupol from my downloads, I noticed a Word document called ‘Mariupol pogrom 1905’ which I had not needed at the time but thought I might want later. It was translated from a Russian website called Old Mariupol ( by Google translate and did not make a lot of sense, so I re-did the translation, and looked to see what I could learn about Mariupol in 1905 and whether there were any similarities to the situation today. I was immediately drawn to a section about a mass grave, as mass graves had first been mentioned in the news on Mariupol the day the hospital was bombed. I remembered the news report mentioning that over 20 people had been put in a mass grave that day.

Mariupol hospital bombing
Mariupol before Russia invaded
Mariupol Market Square

In Odessa in 1905, many mass graves, long trenches of 70 people each, had been dug in the cemetery. There were also newspaper reports in 1905 that bodies had been taken out of Odessa at night so people did not know how many people had been killed. Here is the story about someone looking for the Mariupol grave of his grandfather who had fought to defend the Jews in the 1905 pogrom, as people are defending Ukraine today.

Mariupol 1905 pogrom

Anatoly Mendeleevich Chudnovsky, chairman of the Mariupol Jewish Cultural and Educational Society, showed me a letter from Israel from B.D. Berkovich. Boris Davidovich asks to find the grave of his grandfather. “Isaak Berkovich, he writes, lived in Mariupol. In 1905-1907, I don’t know for sure, he led a Jewish self-defense detachment and died defending Jewish families during a pogrom.”

So, the mention of E.P. Lepanova about the shots in October 1905 are justified. Meanwhile, not a single printed source tells about the existence of Jewish self-defense in Mariupol. In the spring of 1994, MEKPO arranged a kind of Sunday in the old cemetery, in which the author of these lines also took part. And then I saw the mass grave of the victims of the Jewish pogrom in Mariupol in October 1905. It is an elongated concrete rectangle, divided by concrete lintels into 21 grave cells. In each cell is buried a Jew who fell at the hands of the Black Hundreds. Tombstones with the names of the buried were not preserved, and we could not fulfill the request of Boris Davidovich.

Isaac Berkovich had eight orphaned children, 2 of whom were sent by the local community to America. Three of his sons died fighting in the Second World War, one daughter died in the siege of Leningrad and another daughter was shot by the Nazis in occupied Lugansk. One son lived until 1980. There were no descendants left in Mariupol. The author of this article wanted Isaac Berkovich and the others who died in the pogrom to be remembered so he tried to find the names of the other victims.

Mariupol street

From the old teacher Sara Moiseevna Zhmudina, who was born on the day of the publication of the tsar’s manifesto on October 17, 1905, we managed to learn three more names of the victims of the pogrom. One was a student of the eighth grade of the gymnasium, Dora Zhmud, her brother David and the son of the synagogue servant Kazhdan (Sara Moiseevna, unfortunately, did not remember his name). Dora Zhmud was nineteen, her brother was nine, and the son of the synagogue servant was eleven. Leo Yarutsky

None of the other names could be found until this article was published online in 2012 and immediately someone posted a list of names on the Russian Jewish genealogy website j-roots, which is copied below Именные списки погромленных и информация об их семьях – Страница 2 – Еврейские корни ( . The son of the synagogue servant was Mendel Samuilov, only 8 years old.

 Elena G. » 28 окт 2012, 00:53

Killed during the pogrom of October 20-21, 1905 in Mariupol
(From the metrical book of the Mariupol synagogue, 1905)

Grodzinsky, Yakov Mordukhov, Nogai burgher, 21 years old
Azef Gersh Iosif Movshev, Mariupol burgher, 28 years
Berkovich Itsko Borukhov, Mariupol Burgher, 37 Years
Grinberg Mark Iosifov, Mariupol Burgher, 61 Years
Grinberg Sofia, Wife Mark, Mariupol Burgher, 62 Years
Grinberg Olga Markovna, Mariupol Burgher, 29 Years
Rabinovich Leizer Mordukhov, Burgher of Lubny, Poltava Governorate, 44 Years Old
Rabinovich Pesya-Rachel (Rosya), Leyzer’s wife, 33 years old
Rabinovich Tsipa Leyzerovna, 4 years old
Plotkin Nison Abram-Elev, burgher of the Tikhniche Jewish Society, Rogachev district of the Mogilev province., 18 years
Zhmud Dora Foleva, Melitopol burgher, 18 years
Zhmud David Folev, Melitopol burgher, 9 years
Kazhdan Mendel (Menakhem) Samuilov, Mariupol burgher, 8 years
Gorelik Leiba Gershkov, Ekaterinoslav burgher, 17 years old
Bobrov Iosya Aizik Movshev, Borisov burgher of Minsk Governorate, 18 years old
Livshits Rafail Borukhov, Mariupol burgher, 22 years
Kostyukovsky Dov Abramov, Zolotonosha Burgher of Poltava Governorate, 20 Years
Rabinov Abram Leyzerov, Lubensky Burgher, 11 Years
Rabinov Ielman Leyzerov, Lubensky Burgher, 12 Years
Iofe Gersh Benyaminov, Ekaterinoslavsky Burgher, 35 Years

Mariupol house

Earlier in the article, the author feels the need to justify himself:  Before turning to the sad pages of that troubled time, I want to make one remark. They tell me, and sometimes I myself think: why write about it? Well, it was, it was forgotten, after all. And is it worth it to blame the authors of books about Mariupol that, with rare exceptions, not only about the October 1905 pogrom, but also about the execution by the Nazis of the entire Jewish population of the city, they did not even consider it necessary to hint. Perhaps, in fact, it is not worth reopening old wounds, there is no need to remember the old. But no. The spiritual grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the Black Hundreds of 1905 are just trying to downplay the torments and sufferings of the Jewish people, the sufferings that aroused the sympathy of all decent people of the world for the Jews. No, it is necessary to write about what has been experienced, to write the truth and only the truth, “no matter how bitter it is.”

To add my thoughts to this, it is not just the Black Hundreds or far right who murdered the Jews in the pogroms or the Second World War; there were plenty of ordinary people who felt resentment against Jews and had no interest in keeping this story alive, and it is not just the murderers and their sympathisers who want to forget. The author is also not sure that forgetting is a bad thing. People want to remember heroic stories, not massacres of minorities. But there are many more people who want to hide the story of the Jews, including many Jews, who do not want to talk about the pain of the past, to save themselves and their descendants from endlessly grieving. What they do not realise is that silence does not obliterate feelings. The feelings live on and the descendants want to know what is behind them. Only time will tell what is remembered from the war going on now. We will have the photographs and videos and the hour by hour news reports, and then the memorials, but who knows how much we will know about the individual people who do not survive. But now they are all Ukrainians and the country is not divided as it was in the time of the pogroms.

2 thoughts on “Mariupol siege and the 1905 pogrom

  1. I have a copy of a story my paternal Jewish Grandmother, Bronia Rosenfeld Berkman, wrote remembering how her family was saved by their Ukrainian landlord, also a baker, during the pogrom of 1905 in Mariupol. She would have been about 9 at the time. The story ends with these words…”But for the grace of God and the family Switkovsky, I would not have lived to see it (this in reference to the formation of the Jewish state of Israel). God bless their souls”. I hope their descendants are making it through the present catastrophe. If it weren’t for brave, good, noble Ukrainians I wouldn’t exist. My maternal grandmother’s family in western Ukraine on the Polish border also were sheltered during the last great pogrom, but Bubby Bronia left us with a very dramatic written story that I treasure and hope will remain in the family forever. Down to my generation we are all, both sides of my family, Ashkenazi Jews by way of Ukraine.


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