City in Ukraine. The first mention of Jews in Buchach (Pol., Buczacz) is from 1500; the population grew steadily thereafter, reaching a recorded total of 1,358 Jews in 1765. The town and much of its Jewish population survived the 1648 Ukrainian uprising relatively unharmed; the brief Turkish occupation of 1672 led to much heavier loss of life. In 1699, the Jews’ community privilege was confirmed by the town’s owner, the Potocki family, which granted them residential and occupational equality with Christian residents. Many Jews made their living from commerce, whether local, regional (with Kraków), or international (with the Ottoman Empire and Hungary). The cattle trade was particularly important. Other Jews were involved in the liquor business, fur, or in crafts. Not renowned for its Talmudic learning, Buczacz became a center of Sabbatianism in the mid-eighteenth century.
The city’s Jewish population grew rapidly under Austrian rule beginning in 1772, increasing from 1,464 in 1812 to 6,077 (67.9% of the total population) in 1870 and up to 6,730 (57.3%) in 1900. As in most of Galicia, Hasidism struck deep roots in Buczacz, producing several important rabbinical scholars. So too, though, did the Haskalah, whose representatives in Buczacz include the author Yitsḥak Fernhoff (1868–1919) and, most famously, S. Y. Agnon (1888–1970), who often portrayed the town in his fiction.
Following Jewish emancipation in 1867, Buczacz—with its large Jewish majority—emerged as a center of Jewish politics in Galicia. The city’s first municipal council in 1874 included 12 Jewish members out of 30. Bernard Stein, a Jew, served as mayor from 1879 until 1921. In 1879, the combined Buczacz-Kolomea-Sniatyn parliamentary district elected Rabbi Shimon Schreiber, president of the ultra-Orthodox Makhzikey ha-Das party. From 1883 to 1895, Yosef Shemu’el Bloch, a rabbi who helped develop Jewish nationalist sentiment throughout Galicia, represented the area. By 1914, nearly every Zionist party had established branches in Buczacz, as had a wide variety of other political and cultural organizations.
Jews of Buczacz suffered terribly under Russian occupation during World War I. Toward the end of the civil war that followed, Symon Petliura’s Ukrainian troops looted, raped, and murdered many local Jews. There were 3,858 Jews there at the time of the Polish conquest in 1921, representing slightly more than half of the total population. Interwar Jewish life reflected the general experience throughout Poland, with an extremely vibrant political and cultural life combined with rapidly declining economic conditions. Jews under Soviet occupation from 1939 to 1941 saw their communal life largely shut down or forced underground, while their numbers swelled with refugees from Nazi-occupied Poland.
Roughly 10,000 Jews remained in Buczacz following its conquest by Nazi Germany; thousands more fled eastward or were drafted by the Soviets. Nazis murdered most of those who remained, with Ukrainian collaboration, between late 1942 and early 1943. About half were killed just outside the city at Fedor Hill or else at the cemetery, while the other half died during aktions or at Bełżec. Tragically, 800 Jews who emerged from the forests following Soviet liberation in March 1944 were subsequently murdered when Nazis temporarily retook the city. Fewer than 100 Jews survived the final liberation, most of whom (along with 400 survivors from the Soviet interior) left for Israel or the West. The town’s Jewish community was not reestablished after the war.
Shmuel Yosef Agnon, ‘Ir u-melo’ah (Tel Aviv, 1972/73); Alicia Appleman-Jurman, Alicia: My Story (Toronto and New York, 1988); Israel Cohen, ed., Sefer Butshatsh (Tel Aviv, 1955/56).