Jews in Bykhav are first mentioned in documents dating back to the 1620s[1.1]. In the period of Polish rule, Bykhav belonged to the Orszan disctrict of the Trockie Province. Bykhav found itself on the list of towns in which the Jewish community suffered massacres during the Khmelnytsky invasion. Later, the Jews helped Grochowski - a Polish commander taken prisoner by the Russians in 1662 - informing the Poles about his location[1.2].
When the town came back under Polish rule, in 1669, the local Jews got privileges from king Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki. This privileges were given into the hands of Jews from Bykhav - Izaak and Abram Wolfowicz. The Bykhav Jews were thus exempt from paying taxes for the period of 20 years due to "extraordinary devastation of the citizens by the invasion of the Cossacks and the Muscovites". In the Bykhav pinkas of the Burial Society the first notations appeared in 1673. Another privilege was conferred upon the Jewish community by the owner of the town, Michał Sapiecha, in 1758. According to the census from 1766, the Jewish Community Co-operative consisted of 887 people. In 1772, after the first partition of Poland, the town was incorporated into the Mohylew Governorate.
From 1784 to 1805 the Jewish population of burghers, with a significant dominance of merchants, fluctuated between 873 and 1244 (the only Christian burghers evidenced in the tax books were 132 individuals, noted in 1787). According to the district register from 1847, the Jewish community in Bykhav consisted of 3046 people - 1545 men and 1501 women - and in total, 5727 Jews lived in the entire district. In the 1840s, Christians made up 2% of the general population of the town, which made it impossible to choose, apart from the mayor, a second city councillor who would be Christian. As a consequence, two Jewish councillors were allowed to be elected.
According to the census of 1897, 124,820 people lived in the district, 11,352 of whom were Jews; 6381 citizens lived in the city alone, 3037 of whom were Jews. The most popular occupation of Jews, both in Bykhav and in the surrounding villages, was trading, mainly in farm produce, and tailoring. In the district about 900 Jews supported themselves through farming. [1.3]. In 1880, there were 11 Jewish places of worship in Bykhav, 10 of which were wooden and one was made of brick - a synagogue built in the first half of the 17th century. [1.4].
During the Soviet times, in 1925, 11 Jewish families established a kolkhoz in Bykhav. A second kolkhoz in which Jews worked was established 4 years later. There was Jewish school in the town. In 1939, Bykhav was inhabited by 2295 Jews (the total number of inhabitants of the town was 11026). The German occupation began on July 4th, 1941. In September 1941, Nazis executed by the Dnieper River 4000 Jews from Bykhav and the surrounding areas [1.5].
- [1.1] ŻIH, Department of Documentation of Monuments, Bykhav
- [1.2] Bykhav, in: The Encyclopedia of Jewish life before and during the Holocaust, red. S. Specktor, New York 2001, p. 227.
- [1.3] ŻIH, Department of Documentation of Monuments, Bykhav, in: Jewish Encyclopaedia, St. Petersburg 1909, v. 5, p. 155
- [1.4] ŻIH, Department of Documentation of Monuments, Bykhav
- [1.5] Bykhav, in: The Encyclopaedia of Jewish life before and during the Holocaust, red. S. Specktor, New York 2001, p. 227-228.