Kolomyya, Ukraine Yizkor Book

Project Name. Translation of Kolomyya, Ukraine Yizkor Book, Yiddish, 1957

Project Leader
Claire Hisler Shefftz
Claire Hisler Shefftz z”l

JewishGen Yizkor Book Project Manager: Lance Ackerfeld

Project Synopsis

Pinkas Kolomey, edited by Shlomo Bickel, was published in 1957 in New York City in Yiddish by a committee of former residents to memorialize what was once their home and document its destruction through the testimony of survivors.

Kolomey, as it was called by its Jewish population, can trace its Jewish presence back to the 15th century. After the partition of Poland in the 18th century, it became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the province of Galicia, and was known as Kolomea. After World War I ended, Poland regained its independence and Kolomyja, spelled the Polish way, was in southeastern Poland . At the end of World War II, Kolomyja became part of the Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the town became part of Western Ukraine, spelled variously as Kolomyia and Kolomyya (the latter used by JewishGen).

Key Audiences

Jewish genealogists seeking to trace their roots in this town constitute the primary audience for the material.  However, the material has the potential to be of broader interest to scholars specializing in Jewish history and society in this region.

Project Importance

Yizkor books are unique sources of information on once vibrant towns, primarily in central and eastern Europe, whose Jewish populations were destroyed in the Holocaust. Written after World War II by émigrés and Holocaust survivors, yizkor books contain narratives of the history of the town, details of daily life, religious and political figures and movements, religious and secular education, and gripping stories of the major intellectual and Zionist movements of the 20th century. The necrologies and lists of residents are of tremendous genealogical value, as often the names of individuals who were taken to extermination camps or shot in the forests are not recorded elsewhere. Usually written in Hebrew or Yiddish, these important books are not accessible to most users, who cannot read these languages. Thus, the translation of these books into English unlocks this information to many more researchers all over the world. The JewishGen Yizkor Book Project received the award in 2002 for outstanding contribution to Jewish genealogy by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.

Before World War II, there were about 15,000 Jews in Kolomyja out of a total of 40,000 people. The town's Jewish population rose at times during the war as Jews expelled from Germany and Hungary and those from nearby towns were brought in to be eventually transported to their death. It has been estimated that 60,000 Jews were sent to their deaths from Kolomyja. They were killed in three major ways: shot in the nearby forest into a mass grave; shot in the ghettos; or, in greatest numbers, shipped to the death camp at Belzec which began operating in 1942. Between July 1941 and December 1942, almost all the Jews in Kolomey were killed. Few managed to remain hidden, obtain false papers as Christians, or escape over the mountains to Hungary. Under the Russian occupation from September 1939 to July 1941, some politically suspect Jews were sent to Siberia, not knowing at the time that they had a better chance of surviving Siberia than the more certain death under Nazi rule. Another small group of survivors, mostly young people and medical personnel, willingly went joined the retreating Russian army after the Germans attacked Russia in June 1941.

While escapes from transports to death camps were rare, there is a well documented attempt from German records in Christopher Browning's Ordinary Men. On the September 8, 1942 transport of 8,400 victims from Kolomyja bound for Belzec, carpenters allowed to carry some tools with them under the ruse that they were going somewhere to work, broke through the barbed wire over some air vents- many were shot but some escaped. One escapee tells his story of that transport in the yizkor book (“We Survived”, pp.376-413.)

The part of the yizkor book that deals with the Holocaust, or how they died, has been translated (pp. 325-429). How they lived, the larger part of the book and their lives, remains to be translated.

Project Description

Approximately 325 pages of Yiddish remain to be translated and put online at To accomplish that JewishGen will hire a professional translator. The project coordinator will select the order in which to translate the chapters and will work closely with the translator to ensure a grammatically correct and idiomatic translation. Specific tasks the project coordinator will perform include proofreading, editing, and preparing the work for submission to the Yizkor Book Project.

Estimated Cost.

Estimated Cost: $9,750


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Updated 14 Mar 2009 by LA