Kovel Oldest Jewish Cemetery
The exact period of the cemetery’s establishment is unknown, but it can be assumed that the cemetery emerged in the late 16th century. It was called “yashan noshan” (“the oldest one” ). According to Yizkor Kovel’, a tombstone dating from 1611 was recorded during the 1930s. Most likely, the cemetery was demolished during WWII. During the researches conducted about 20 years ago, there were some tombstones found. Though, today, there are no traces of them on the site. The territory is partially overbuilt with houses, while the rest of it belongs to a local school, whose principal is not familiar with the past presence of the Jewish cemetery.
The Jews began to settle in Kovel’ from the early 16th century onwards. The community had a cemetery and a Chevra Kadisha. From 1614, Jews gained the right to reside in all streets of the city, having been restricted previously to certain residential areas. The Jews of Kovel’ suffered during the Khmelnytskyi massacre. In 1651, about 20 Jewish families lived in the town, and a synagogue was built in 1660. After Rabbi Mordechai of Neskhizh moved here from Toykut, Hasidic Judaism began to gain followers belonging to the streams of Trisk, Neskhizh, and Ruzhin. In 1857, the city was severely damaged by fire. Four synagogues existed in 1865, and by 1910 nine more were built. In the late 19th and early 20th century, a Jewish hospital, a Talmud Tora, and five private colleges were operating in the town. Zionist organizations and parties, including Hovevei Zion and the Bund, were active. The city had two Jewish cemeteries. In 1897, the Jewish population numbered 8,521 and, by 1921, increased to 12,758. During WWI, the economic conditions worsened, and the community suffered epidemics as well as pogroms from 1919 to 1920. During the interwar period, Kovel’’s educational and cultural spheres flourished: two Hebrew schools, a Tarbut gymnasium, an ORT specialized school, three sports clubs, three Jewish libraries, a drama studio and a literary circle led by I.-L. Perets functioned. Jews made up half of the city municipal administration. On June 28, 1941, the city was occupied by the Nazi troops. In the spring of 1942, two ghettos were set up, one specifically for Jewish craftsmen and their families. Together, they confined about 24,000 local Jews and those from surrounding areas. During the first Aktion, which took place between June 3 and 5, 1942, 8,600 Jews were murdered. In 1970, around 250 Jews were residing in Kovel’. A famous resident of Kovel’ is politician Chaim Pazner (1899-1981).