Kremenchuk, Ukraine 69 years after liberation
Kremenchuk, or Кременчук (Russian) Кременчуг (Ukrainian) is an industrial town in central Ukraine, in the Poltava administrative region along the banks of Ukraine’s famous Dnieper River. Most of the photos for this report, unless otherwise noted, are from: http://www.kremenchuk.org/eng.
The settlement of Kremenchuk was founded in 1571 and later the Kremenchuk fortress was built by French military engineer Guillaume Levasser de Boplan in 1638. The town quickly became an important city for transportation of goods from Russia to other parts of Europe.
Russian armies and the Navy was based here during the Russian-Turkish war (1787-1791) as local shipbuilders built the fleet for Russia’s Black Sea flotilla. In 1802 Kremenchuk was made a part of the Poltava oblast. Today railway cars and automobiles are manufactured in Kremenchuk as well as one of the largest truck factories in Europe to produce trucks for Russian auto maker KrAZ.
The city suffered during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Almost 90% of the city’s buildings were destroyed and thousands died, including most of the Jewish population. War records held in the Russian Extraordinary State Commission archives in Moscow detail how the destruction of the Jewish population was a primary goal of Nazi SS units occupying Kremenchuk.
Prior to the war almost 30,000 Jewish persons, about 47% of the total population, lived in the city. After the war there were approximately 8,000 Jewish survivors. The Germans made a point of destroying the city’s synagogues, leaving only the historic “Great” synagogue standing but stripped and the roof blown off.
This past January (2012) the Jewish community of Kremenchug was forced to again deal with anti-Semitism after a Molotov cocktail ignited a fire and damaged the synagogue exterior in the early morning hours of the New Year. The attack took place less than a month after the dedication of a new Torah scroll. Two months prior a similar attempted firebombing failed to fully ignite and spared the synagogue of damages.
(Photos for this report unless otherwise noted are from: http://www.kremenchuk.org/eng)