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Jew-hating Ukranian Cossack “Haidamacs” brutally massacre approximately 8,000 Umani Jews

On This Day in Jewish History: June 19, 1768


On this day, 1768, Jew-hating Ukranian Cossack “Haidamacs” ("a self-governing warrior, commoner organization") brutally massacred approximately 8,000 Umani Jews. Many of them were slaughtered upon refusing to prostrate themselves before the cross. The massacre is described as one of the most brutal pogroms and the embodiment of hell on earth: children were slaughtered before their parents’ eyes, synagogues were destroyed by cannon fires, and fleeing Jews were sold out to the Haydamars by their treacherous Polish neighbours. When the corpses of Jews had filled up the streets of Uman that it became too difficult to pass, the Poles collected heaps of Jewish corpses and threw them over the city gates to the pigs and horses to devour. Only a handful of Jews survived the massacre, and those who had were deeply traumatized by the brutal slaughtering of their Jewish kins. This trauma also stained the consciousness of the entirety of Ukranian Jewry. Rabbi Nachman (also known as Nachman of Bratslav), is famously known to have requested to spend his last living days in Uman in order to be buried amongst the Jewish dead of the massacre. Following Rabbi Nachman’s death, Uman became a site of importance for Jewish pilgrims to pay visit to during the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah). In fact, the annual trip to Uman has become so crucial to Hasidic Jews that the head of the spiritual pilgrimage movement, Reb Noson, quotes: "Even if the road to Uman were paved with knives, I would crawl there — just so I could be with my Rebbe on Rosh Hashanah!" Today, around 40,000 Hasidic Jews pay visit to Rabbi Nackhma’s grave each year.


Uman had a rich history of European Jewry. For years, it had the reputation of being a city of klezmerim ("Jewish folk musicians"). This reputation was mainly attributable to Uman’s Mischa Elman, a popular Russian-American violinist whose record sales exceeded the millions. In addition to a culture rich in Jewish folk music, Uman is also known as one of the first centers of the Haskalah movement, or the Jewish enlightenment period, in the Ukraine. The leader of the movement was Chaim (Ḥaikl) *Hurwitz, whose son then established the first school based on Mendelssohnian principles in the Ukraine. Despite Uman’s flourishing culture and Jewish life, since their arrival to Uman in the 17th century, the town’s Jews were continuously subject to gentile-perpetuate violence. In 1648, the Jewish community was almost annihilated during the Chmielnicki Uprising- an anti-Polish rebellion that led to the creation of a Cossack state in the east at the expense of 500,0000 Jewish lives.


The atrocities of the Chmielnicki Uprising killed not only Jewish bodies but also Jewish souls and until the Nazi Holocaust, it would be the worst atrocity done on Jews in European history. The surviving elders of the region transcended Jewish customs and traditions to the underground in fear of repeated persecution. Limitations were set on wedding celebrations, fire dances, masquerades and Jewish comic entertainers. Jews across the nation were filled with despair as they reminisced stories of their families who had been buried alive, cut to pieces, or forced to kill one another. Out of desperation for a glim of light, there was a revival of Hassidim as well as a rise in messianic prophecies, including Shabbatai Zvi, one of Judaism’s most infamous false messiahs. Revival of messianic hopes is a common theme in Judaic history during times of hopelessness, as seen with the rise of Bar Kochba after the destruction of the Temple and David Alroy during turbulent times in the 12th century Persian Empire.


Albeit efforts to decrease Jewish visibility and seek refuge in revival of spirituality, the Jews of Uman would soon be subjected to another massacre in 1768. In early June 1768 the Ukrainian rebels under the command of Maksym Zalizniak marched on Uman after capturing Cherkasy, Korsun and Kaniv. The invasion lasted three days which were marked with lawlessness, bloodshed, and mass murder. A common historical misconception of the Uman massacre is that both Poles and Jews were killed. While some Poles were eventually killed by the Haydamars, their slaughter had occurred only after they had wickedly sold-out the Jews of Uman to the invading Haidamacs. After the Jews were massacred, the commandant of the Poles, Mladanovitch, was bound in chains by the Haidamac Cossacks. Before killing Mdladanovitch, Gonta-the commandant of the Cossacks-is quoted as saying: "You treacherously sold the Jews to me, and I by perjury sold you to the devil”. Of course, Mdlandanovitch’s treason would not be the last time the Poles would sellout the Jews; Two centuries later, the Poles would infamously sell-out their Jewish neighbours for a scanty financial reward from the Nazis.




https://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/7056-haidamacks https://www.yadvashem.org/untoldstories/database/index.asp?cid=1089 https://www.breslev.co.il/articles/breslev/uman/the_uman_massacre.aspx?id=9063&language=english

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