50°04' / 23°58'
Translation of Zhovka chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Zhovka chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume II, pages 206-216, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Translated by Shlomo Sné
Edited by Francine Shapiro
In 1603 the king donated a confirmation charter (Ktav Kium-Patent) and the status of a town.
This area held the Poles, Ruthenians, Armenians, Tatars, and Jews who populated Zolkiew. They lived in the citadel and in two suburbs. In 1637 ownership of the town changed hands, coming to the noble Sobieski family who had family connections to the Zolkiewski family. Jan Sobieski, who became king of Poland in 1674, inherited it in 1661 from this family.
From the beginning of the eighteenth century until its annexation to Austria in 1772, the armies of the Swedes, Cossacks, and Russians passed through it, and attacked its population. Later it was declared capitol of the subdistrict.
The town suffered from high taxation, property confiscation, and fires. The worst fires were in 1691 and 1838. It also was afflicted by epidemics. The worst was in 1770 and hundreds died.
Zolkiew developed under the ownership of the Zolkiewski family, and flourished under the ownership of the Sobieski family, especially during Jan Sobieski's reign. At this time the town was full of merchants, and artisans, thus its importance among other towns of the region grew.
It is possible that a small Jewish settlement existed before the village of Winniki was declared the town of Zolkiew. A tombstone from 1640 was found in the twentieth century in the Zolkiew cemetery.
In 1600 the hetman (a chief) Stanislaw Zolkiewski, the owner of the city, permitted the Jews (the majority of them came from Lvov), to settle in Zolkiew, and to build a synagogue and bathhouse. His put their quarters near the gate of the city wall, where they were permitted to build houses. Zolkiewski permitted this through the influence of the city owner's agent, Israel Ben Yosef, nicknamed Edelis, in developing Jewish settlement in Zolkiew. According to it, the rights were ratified again in 1616: the community could establish a synagogue, mikve, and an area for a cemetery. It could also deal in various kinds of merchandise, like Christians. However, Zolkiewski was promoted to hetman of the Kingdom, and because of his work, he was not present in Zolkiew for months and years. During his absence, his wife Regina governed the town. The Jesuits had educated Regina, and under their influence she tried to limit the growth of Jewish settlement. She levied special taxes on every Jew who came to settle in Zolkiew, and limited the right to buy houses from Christians. After the death of the hetman and his wife in 1634, the town became the property of their son-in-law, Stanislaw Danielovich, the woyvoda (governor) of the Reisen District. Danielovich ratified the rights of the Jews of Zolkiew, which they received from their former owners. He even ratified and broadened them (he enlarged their living area, and approved the construction of a stone synagogue, etc.) This Bill of Rights was the basis of the rapid growth of Jewish settlement in Zolkiew. Before the granting these rights in 1628, the Jews were the owners of 21 buildings, but after 1680 the number of buildings with Jewish owners all over the town grew to 270, despite a fire in the city in 1645, and the events of 1648-49.
The flow of Jews who settled in Zolkiew grew after 1648 and 1649, especially from those who came from Lviv. Many of its members left it because of overcrowding, and the weak economy.
When Jan Sobieski was the owner of the town, and especially after he was crowned King of Poland, it was elevated from a small, provincial village to a town and political center. (The King, and afterwards his descendents, were generous to the Jews, and donated certain kinds of rights in 1664, 1657, 1687, 1691, and 1693.) This broadened their legal status in Zolkiew. Among other things, the Jews were permitted be present at elections of the Voyt (high officials), and construction the great synagogue was also confirmed. The personal physician of the king, and the chief customs inspector, Yakov Betzalel Ben Natan, donated much to making the community flourish in the Sobieski era. Doctor Simcha was invited by the king in 1670 to move from Lviv to Zolkiew, when Sobieski suffered from a severe illness.
During his stay in Zolkiew (until 1696) he was one of the community leaders, and he was famous for his expertise as a physician and also for his erudition in the Torah, as well as secular scientific fields. He knew how to take advantage of his influence in the court for the good of community members. Yakov Betzalel Ben Natan, as stated before, was the chief inspector of the customs house, and thanks to this role, he inspected custom posts in Reisen, Volhynia, and Podolia. His wealth can be ascertained because during the wars against the Turks, he donated 400,000 zlotys for the needs of the kingdom. So it is clear that his lobbying for the good of the Jews in general, and especially for the community of Zolkiew was fruitful. After the sale of Zolkiew to the family of Radziwill princes in 1740, those who bought it also ratified the rights that the Jews had previously held. However, the era of city ownership occurred during the Catholic Reaction (Counter- Reformation) in Poland. Its manifestation fell harshly on the Jewish community of Zolkiew. At this time friction grew between the Jewish community and the municipality. The city residents tried to drive out the Jews from merchandising and artisanship, and they were not permitted to have Christian servants, work on Sundays or Christian holidays, or be present on the street at Christian religious processions. They also had additional taxes levied on them by the municipality, and a special annual church payment. (The Jews of Zolkiew expended great effort and sums of money to repeal these laws. They borrowed money from the city residents, clergy, and nobility in the vicinity.) In 1750 the community debts grew to 100,000 zlotys, weakening its economic status. The various armies that passed through it burdened the community, since it was obliged to maintain them. Soldiers confiscated Jewish property arbitrarily more than once.
It is possible that the first Jews in Zolkiew were customers, tenants, or lenders as well as merchants. Town development resulted in broader Jewish economic activities. The majority became merchants, especially of food, textiles, leather, furs, clothing, and hats. A small Jewish minority made a living by cultivating, selling, and processing wood.
Jews were also busy in export during the eighteenth century. Representatives of Zolkiew were present at the fairs of Breslau and Leipzig, and Jewish wheat merchants exported their goods abroad through Danzig.
Liquor and mead distillation, as well as the production and marketing of beer, and the taverns that dispensed it, were generally Jewish businesses, whose quality was famous all over the country.
Since the seventeenth century, and especially during the eighteenth, the proportion of Jewish artisans grew. Butchers, bakers, tailors, and furriers were organized into societies of their own. But according to the law they had to constantly pay sums of money to the guilds of Christian artisans. There were also Jewish silver and goldsmiths, as well as those who worked with brass,
Expert tinsmiths, hat makers, and tent makers were famous all over Poland. During the economic deterioration on the eve of the partition of Poland, the number of workers in all fields qualified for work diminished from 431. There were only 263 professionals or men with permanent work: 58 made a living in commerce, plus 28 distillers and tenants, 128 artisans, and eight service and wage earners. In addition there were 44 Jewish religious functionaries and community clerks.
Until 1626 Zolkiew was a branch of the Lviv community, which had the right to permit residence and labor at certain jobs. It also fixed the tax rate of the Jewish inhabitants of Zolkiew. In 1626 the independent community was established, and its first rabbi was Yeheskel Yissachar Ben Hanoch Avraham, who held office until 1637. From the beginning of Jewish settlement in Zolkiew there was a place for prayer. When Jewish settlement increased, a synagogue was built in 1626. After a few years it was not big enough for the growing population. In 1635 the city's owner permitted the construction of a new synagogue. In 1662 the church also had obtained a required license it needed, and the building was completed in 1690-1691. The synagogue was built in Polish Renaissance style, similar to a citadel with a shielding wall. The interior dome rested on golden pillars, and the symbols of Poland and the Sobieski family, placed in the interior, still existed between the two world wars.
At first the local Jews buried their dead in the Lviv cemetery. The Jews began to use the cemetery from 1610, which had existed in the village of Winniki before the establishment of Zolkiew. When the community became independent, a cemetery was sanctified in the city, ratified by the city owner. Later the cemetery was enlarged in 1696, and during these years, other pieces of land were annexed, according to need.
The hospital (hegdesh) was erected near the community building, and baths were constructed in the first half of the seventeenth century. The community employed its own paraprofessionals, and from time to time certified physicians, among them famous physicians, such as Dr. Michael Ben Israel, who was nicknamed hashman (cardinal), and Dr. Emanuel de Yona, the personal physician of the king. The community also contained, it seems, a pharmacy. We know the names of the eighteenth century pharmacists, among them Moshe, nicknamed aptheker.
The community gave special attention to maintaining melamdim. A yeshiva with about 20 students was in Zolkiew from the second half of the seventeenth century. The regulations from 1619 obliged the male community members to feed eighteen yeshiva students who were also in Zolkiew welfare institutions. There were officials who collected money for the poor Jews in Eretz Yisroel. Emissaries from Eretz Yisroel also visited. In the years 1683-1693 the emissary from Hebron, Rabbi Avram Kimche, stayed in Zolkiew, and in 1746 the emissary from Sidon, (now Lebanon), Rabbi Shlomo Ashkenazi arrived.
As the community of Zolkiew consolidated as an independent community, the influence of community leaders and rabbi strengthened in the regional community.
The Zolkiew community was among the first that rebelled against the authority of Lwow. Since the second half of the seventeenth century, representatives of Zolkiew took part in conferences of the Reisen region, in Kulikow, Bobrka, Brody, and other places. Sometimes they cast the decisive vote in making decisions and regulations. At the beginning of the eighteenth century representatives of Zolkiew were even elected to the function of first leader (parnas) of the committee, or the regional rabbi. Parnas Iser Markowitz and the regional rabbi, Rabbi Itzhak Ben Zvi Landa moved the regional rabbinate to Zolkiew.
Representatives of Zolkiew were also members of the Council of the Four Lands: in 1666 Moshe Ben Aron of Zolkiew was a member, as was Itzhak Ben Zvi Hirsh Landa, who served between 1724 and 1731.
The very famous printer Uri Feibush Halevi from Amsterdam opened a printing press at the end of the seventeenth century in Zolkiew. From then Zolkiew became one of the three centers of Hebrew typography in Poland (Lublin, Krakow, and Zolkiew). By 1692 a siddur (prayer book) and the book Derech Yam HaTalmud were printed there. The heirs of Uri Feibush divided the business among themselves, and so there were two printing establishments in the city, which included eight presses. They employed eight typesetters, an engraver, and two bookbinders. Printing from Zolkiew had a good name all over Poland and abroad. For a short time Eliezer Paveer, the community secretary, did the proofreading. He translated into spoken Yiddish the play Gdulat Yosef, part of the Meisebuch, and Shivhe HaBesht.
Most of the rabbis of Zolkiew were among the most important religious scholars of the era, and added to the glory and honor of the community. Among the most notable were: Rabbi Itzhak Meyer Teomim Frankel (from 1670-1680), who was also erudite in secular subjects, and especially in medicine. His successor was Rabbi Hillel Ben Naftali Hertz in 1680, who had been the rabbi of Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbeck communities, and after his move to Poland, a rabbi of the Council of Four Lands. He lived in Zolkiew until his death in 1690, and there he finished his book, Bet Hillel. Next was Rabbi Yosef Yisachar Ber, son of the martyr Ovadia, (until 1697). From 1699 the town rabbis were: Avram Abeli, son of Rabbi Mordechai; and then Rabbi Yitzhak Segal Landa, son of Rabbi Zvi Hirsh, (who was elected regional rabbi in the year 1735-1753). Rabbi Pinchas Moshe, son of Rabbi Avram, a son of a leader of the Council of the Four Lands, became a rabbi in Zolkiew in 1743. He, too, was active in the Council of the Four Lands, and in the Committee of the Lwow Region. Rabbi Shimshon, son of Rabbi Yakov Meisels was elected rabbi of Zolkiew in 1747, in order to substitute for Rabbi Pinchas, previously mentioned, preoccupied with the Council of the Four Lands. During the years 1763-1772 the rabbi of Zolkiew was Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Ben Yisroel Halperin, who had been the rabbi of Vronki (Woroniaki). Besides these rabbis, Zolkiew was also famous for its dayanim (religious judges), magedim (religious preachers), and the leaders of its yeshivot.
Some of the famous followers of Shabtai Zvi settled in Zolkiew and were very active. Among them were Haim Melach, Mordechai Ben Yehuda Leib Ashkenazi, Itzhak Kaidener, and Fishl from Zoloczow. The Frankist movement did not have deep roots in Zolkiew. After the Lwow debate with the Frankists in 1758, there were only two from Zolkiew among those who converted to Christianity. Their names after the conversion were Paulus Zordnovsky and Mariana Yoterofska.
In the last decades before the partition of Poland, the worth of the Zolkiew community diminished. We learn of it from the community budget, since the community deficit grew from year to year. In 1750 the community allocated about half of its resources, 10,572 zlotys to pay debts and interest, and only about 1,000 zlotys for welfare and charity. The rest of the money went to pay various taxes and payments of the city owners, his subordinates, and the church.
In 1833 there was a big fire in the city, which destroyed most of the community's buildings. The hospital was rebuilt some years later and became a modern hospital.
During the Spring of the Nations, (the Revolution of 1848) the Jews of Zolkiew, like Jews of other communities of Galicia, had fervently hoped that salvation that would come from it. Zolkiew was one of the communities that signed the Petitions to the Parliament and emperor for abolition of limitations on the Galician Jews, and especially abolition of special Jewish taxation. In 1848 three Jews were nominated as members of the City Council. 100 Jews, who were headed by an officer, were members of the National Guard, established in Zolkiew in 1848. During the years of the revolution politicians were more inclined to be friendly to the Jews, and make them partners in the struggle for Galician autonomy. But the majority of Jews, Orthodox and Hassids, believed that people must be loyal to the authorities, and for this reason they were indifferent to politics in general, and to Polish ambitions. The process of abolition of limitations on the Jews continued until 1867-68, when Galician Jews gained equal rights. But even this act did not alter Zolkiew Jewish life very much. From the first half of the eighteenth century until its end, the community never returned to the prosperity of the glorious period of the Sobieski era. From the 1870's to 1939, the Jewish population of Zolkiew did not grow, and there were only small changes in it.
In the Austrian period, the whole economy of Zolkiew, and especially the Jewish economy suffered from stagnation, and even actual depression. It is true that the majority of the wholesale merchants continued to be Jewish, but only a few of them dealt with large quantities of merchandise. In 1820 there were nine wholesale merchants (the majority of them lived in Zolkiew), who were licensed storehouse owners, plus eight yeast makers, four cattle merchants, four mead merchants, five barley sellers, and four booksellers. The retail merchants and the peddlers, who were the majority, struggled hard for their living. In the Zolkiew district there were 236 artisans, (tailors, furriers, thread twisters, printers, and also a few artisans in other professions). They also worked hard for their meager living. This state did not change until the outbreak of the First World War, except for growth in the number of furriers at the end of the nineteenth century. The products of furriers from Zolkiew were renowned and famous, and the quality of their work was celebrated all over Galicia.
A glass factory owned by Jews, established at the end of the century, employed a few workers. The factory closed for a few years, and renewed its activity only in 1912. Hebrew printing houses, which existed in Zolkiew during the eighteenth century, were moved to Lvov by order of the Austrian authorities. Two printers from Lvov, Dov Berish Luria, and Zalman Leib Fliker established printing house in Zolkiew in 1858. Shmuel Pinchas Shtiller established a second print shop. Joseph Zvi Balaban established a third print shop in 1862. This factory did not last long, since it could not compete with the big printing houses in Lvov. In 1907 the Vienna Society for the Aid of Galician Jews established a sewing workshop for various kinds of nets for women's clothing. It employed about 12 girls.
At the end of the eighteenth century, and at the beginning of the nineteenth, very wealthy members, tenants and wholesale merchants led the community. Their role was confined to religious problems, and merely inscribing changes (e.g. birth, marriage, and death. FS). But the leaders had to solve some very difficult problems, such as paying debts, Jewish taxation, and discrimination in the production and marketing of alcohol, army registration, agricultural settlement, compulsory secular education, and abolishing traditional Jewish clothing. During the 1820's, the Hassidic movement expanded into the cities and towns surrounding Zolkiew, but did not have deep roots in Zolkiew itself. The community leaders were Mitnagdim. The rabbis who led Zolkiew from the beginning of the Austrian occupation in 1626 were not sympathizers of the Hassidic Movement: Moshe Zvi Hirsch, son of Rabbi Shimon Meislish (in Zolkiew from 1755-1803), followed by Rabbi Yakov Orenshtein (in Zolkiew from 1816-1828). By now there was a small circle of Maskilim (among them Baruch Zvi Neya, a teacher in the school established by H. Homberg, and the printing house owner Gershom Leteris).
In 1798, when he was 14 years old, Nachman Krochmal, (called RaNaK), afterwards one of the distinguished personalities and founders of the Enlightenment in Galicia, moved to Zolkiew. RaNaK studied and wrote books in Zolkiew until 1836, when he returned to his city of birth, Brody. His home in Zolkiew was the center, not only for the enlightened Jews of Zolkiew, but also for the large circle of Maskilim in Galicia during this era, which came to visit and learn from him. It seems that RaNaK was the community leader from 1821, and influenced many of its activities.
Thanks to him, Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Chayut (Chayus) was elected in 1829 to be Rabbi of Zolkiew and the subdistrict. Rabbi Chayut was the first and only rabbi in his era to pass the examinations for Lviv University and gained the title Master of Philosophy. Rabbi Zvi Hirsh moved in 1852 to be the Rabbi of Kalish. Besides these two giants of the Enlightenment, we should remember the Maskilim: Shimshon Bloch (who was born in the nearby town of Kuliczkow), who lived for a few years in Zolkiew, the author Mayer Leteris (son of the printer Gershom Leteris, who learned Hebrew literature from RaNaK, Leibush Upfeld, who had a religious and secular education, the poet Avraham Goldberg (his poems were printed in Bikurei HaItim, Keren Hemed, and Kochav Yitzhak), and Meyer Yehuda Maimon (his articles, poetry, and translations were printed in Hebrew periodicals).
Thanks to RaNaK and the group of Maskilim around him, Zolkiew had the status of an important center of Haskala in Galicia at this time, with Lvov, Tarnopol, and Brody. Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Chayut returned to Zolkiew in 1855 for a short time to be its rabbi, until his death that year. His heir, Rabbi Shmuel, son of Rabbi Yoel Waldberg, who was elected in 1857, possessed broad knowledge of religion and haskala, and the author of the books: Ateret Shoshanim, Divrei Shmuel, and Imre Daat. He also published articles in HaMagid. During this time, the Hassidim (especially Belz and Zydaczow Hassidim) became important factors among the Jewish public. They tried, though without success, to prevent the election of Rabbi Shimshon Hurvitz Meisels, who was supported by the Neorim (Enlightened and Mitnagdim) to be the Rabbi of Zolkiew. After the dispute that resulted in fights involving the police, Rabbi Shimshon Hurvitz was elected. He was the rabbi of Zolkiew until 1879. He gave the office to Rabbi Haim Leib Horowitz. Rabbi Pinchas Shimshon Elimelach Rimalt, who preceded him, was the rabbi of Chyrow, and became the rabbi of Zolkiew in 1905.
Community direction at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth was under the influence of both the Hassidim and the Enlightened. Among the community leaders was the distinguished Ignatzi Zucker, one of the assimilationist leaders. He took part in the Polish Rebellion in 1863, and was distinguished in battle. His home was a center for the Jewish National Movement in the city. During the years 1904-1911, he headed the community.
In the town elections, held in 1874, according to new economic regulations, 12 of 30 mandates were Jewish. The Jewish percentage did not differ in later elections until 1918.
Already by 1880's there was an Enlightenment center sympathetic to Zionist ideas. The Welfare Society, Nachaot Poalei Zedek, decided in 1891 to participate in the Zionist Movement. The Zionist Union, (Dorshay Shlomzion) was established in 1902 or 1903. In 1905 a branch of Poalei Zion was established, which organized a Furrier's Trade Union in 1910. Religious youths were organized in 1907 in a Zionist Union, called HaShahar. The first Zionists in Zolkiew had to compete with the stiff opposition of Hassidim, as much as with the Maskilim. This was the reason for difficulties when they wanted to establish a Hebrew school. The cultural activities ( i.e. popular lectures) were successful, and its influence grew among the Jews. In the 1914 town elections, the Zionists had four seats. In August 1914 the Russian armies occupied Zolkiew. They found it empty of Jews, because they succeeded in fleeing before the invasion. It is possible that a local garrison did not include Cossacks, because there is no information about robbery or raping Jews, as in other Galician towns. In May 1915, when the Austrian army returned to Zolkiew, town life returned to its routine. Community activities renewed with no economic activity. The Zionist union (Dorshay Shlomzion) reorganized in 1918, and approximately 18 youths took Hebrew lessons.
From November 1918 until June 1919 Zolkiew belonged to the Western Ukrainian Republic. At this time a National Jewish Committee was established instead of a Vaad, under the leadership of a Zionist, Avraham Shmuel Tzimels. During the months of the Ukrainian regime, branches of HaShomer HaZair, and the HaTcheya were founded.
Polish rule was reestablished in June 1919.
During the first years after the world war, the Joint aided many of the needy (about 70% of the Jewish population) in the city. It supported about 200 families in 1930, and paid out only 46,000 marks in January and February. It established a kitchen that gave two free daily meals to 640 children. It distributed 98 pairs of shoes, 105 winter coats, and 100 pairs of socks. The Joint supported 53 of the 120 needy orphans. 28 of them lived in the orphanage, which was already established before the war. In 1923 courses for sewing and embroidery were organized in the orphanage. Two years later they included about 50 girls. Unorganized American Jews who were born in Zolkiew helped their community and aided their relatives by sending food parcels, clothing, and money.
Some of them came to Zolkiew and donated big sums of money to community institutions. Their assistance to the community continued for some years afterwards, especially by the Joint for the Credit Associations that were established in 1930. The Gmilut Hassidim was founded in 1927 and began steady activity in 1929. During its first two years, it gave 547 loans of 3,371 zlotys. 157 of them were given to artisans, and 390 to small businessmen. In the year of the great depression (1939) and the hard winter, the treasury distributed: two wagons of coal, two wagons of wood for heating, one of potatoes, and one wagon of flour to the poor people of the town.
Zionist movements strengthened their influence between the two world wars. 1,476 of the Zolkiew population voted for the Zionists in the 1922 elections for the Sejm. A branch of Poalei Zion, and later of the Hitachadut Poalei Zion was one of the strongest Zionist organizations in the city.
In 1925 the Borochov Youth Organization was established, associated with Poalei Zion. In the Hashomer Hazair club, there were 60-70 members until 1939. From 1929 the Noar Hazioni was active, and a year afterwards the Betar club opened.
Mizrachi organized in 1922. In the elections to the Zionist Congresses the results were as follows:
|Eretz Yisroel HaOvedet||--||446|
Because of the strong influence of Belz Hassidim on the ultra-Orthodox, only a few of them declared membership in Agudat Yisroel.
Zionists held the majority in official community leadership. In 1921 and also in 1937 elections there were: five Zionists, one representative of Yad Harutzim, and two Hassidim.
In the election to the City Council in 1927, the Jews got 19 of 48 seats (14 of them were Zionists). The number of Jews in the City Council fell in later years because of election maneuvering by the authorities to deprive minorities of seats.
Rabbi P.A. S. Rimalt continued to be the town rabbi between the two world wars. In his term of office he had to challenge the opposition of Belz Hassidim, who were the majority of the ultra-Orthodox.
Before the First World War, Rabbi Avram Shmuel Rabinowitz, whose ancestry began with Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Lyady, settled in Zolkiew, and held a (Hassidic) court there. The Machutonim of the Belz rabbi, Rabbi Yoshua Rokach, did not oppose him, or interfere with his direction of the court or as the Admor of Julkova (i.e. Zolkiew-since he was a family member FS).
Although it had a tradition of Haskala, the Jewish educational system in Zolkiew was poor. The 300- pupil Talmud Torah, established before World War I, was often in danger of closing because the building was unhealthy and held a great number of pupils. In 1919 courses for learning Hebrew opened, but attracted few pupils. Comprehensive courses under the auspices of the Jewish Association of Elementary and Secondary Schools in Lvov were held in Zolkiew during the years 1923-24, but they, too, closed afterwards, apparently from lack of money. The majority of Jewish children studied in the general elementary school. Few went on to local government high school. (Eight Jewish children received high school diplomas in 1939.)
Small libraries existed in the Zionist clubs. The Jewish Association of Friends of Culture and Art opened the central Jewish library in 1939, and the majority of high school students and graduates were members of it. The local university graduates donated public lectures, teaching, and sewing courses for girls in the orphanage.
A drama circle was established in 1919, and was distinguished by a high level of theatrical presentation, of plays from the Jewish and non-Jewish repertoire. Zionist organizations also had clubs with drama groups.
Poalei Zion organized in 1934 a Sport Club, Hapoel, but it was not very active, and there is no information on how long it lasted.
Some Jews who fled the city because of the Germans returned. In Zolkiew there were a great many refugees from two sources: refugees who came in September, and refugees who decided to flee from the zone of German occupation, crossed the San River, during the months of October and November 1939, although the Soviets made crossing the border very difficult, and even closed it completely. There were Jewish refugees from Zamosc and that area after the Soviets gave this zone to the Germans, and Jews who lived in settlements in this area. They had had terrible experiences in the brief German occupation, and preferred to move to the Soviet area, and find shelter in Zolkiew, closer to Zamosc.
Local Jews assisted the refugees in finding living space and work. Local Jewish Communist activists took part in the local government, and many of them were members of the militia. Some Jewish families, especially the formerly well- to- do, were imprisoned and deported in the spring of 1940. Commerce stopped completely, and the majority of Jewish artisans became members of cooperatives.
At the end of June 1940, 100 Jewish refugees were deported into the Soviet Union.
Jews of Zolkiew established a committee that aided those refugees at the train station before their deportation. The connection was kept in some way, even afterwards when they were deported. In 1941 boxes of matzos and food were sent to the deported on the eve of Passover.
When the war between the Soviet Union and Germany erupted, there was panic among the Jews of Zolkiew, because it was near the border. Only a few succeeded in going eastward with the retreating Soviets. Local Ukrainians killed some of them.
On June 28, 1941 the Germans occupied the city. The next day the Germans burnt the large old synagogue, built in the reign of Sobieski. Corpses of prisoners who were murdered by the Soviets before their retreat were found in prisons, and this was the reason the Ukrainians and Poles attacked the Zolkiew Jews. In July 1941 the community suffered a series of persecutions: kidnapping into forced labor, a night curfew, prohibition on buying in the local market, and wearing a white ribbon with a Magen David on the right arm, and contributing 250,000 rubles and five kilograms of gold. To insure payment in 48 hours, the Germans took hostages. The Ukrainian police enforced the execution of this demand, and tortured the Jewish population.
The Judenrat was established in this month. The head was Febus Rubinfeld. Avram Shtreich was his second in command. Other members were Wilhelm Lichtenberg, P. Chatchkes, A. Chatchkes, Moishe Sobel, Natan Apfeld, Shimon
Wolf, Moshe Rotel, Ephraim Landau, Sender Lifschitz, Israel Shapira, and some others. Over time there were different members of the Judenrat. When the Judenrat was organized, the Jewish police was established. It included 18 members at the beginning, and its commander was a member of the Judenrat, P. Chatchkes.
The Judenrat and Jewish police had to carry out the orders of the Germans in supplying workers for compulsory labor or valuable items, and evacuation of Jews from houses that were given to German officers.
In August and September 1941, those who were rumored to be Soviet sympathizers, after questioning and torture, were murdered.
In the autumn of 1941 the Germans uprooted tombstones in the old Jewish cemetery, and used them to pave roads in the town and vicinity. At the end of December 1941, Jews were ordered to give up all their furs.
The distress of hunger increased in the winter of 1941-42, and after it came a typhus epidemic. Paralleling this, answering German orders, the Judenrat was very active in meeting the needs of the community. It established soup kitchens, and gave welfare to the needy. However, the financial resources of the Judenrat were very limited, and it could only help the needy a little. The staff of doctors and nurses in the Jewish hospital treated the sick, especially those who suffered from typhus, in order to try to minimize the size of the epidemic.
Even in this situation of struggle for existence, the educational activity in Zolkiew did not stop. About 30 teachers organized groups of 6-8 pupils, and secretly taught Jewish children. Their studies went on from the end of 1941 and at the beginning of 1942.
At the beginning of 1942 Jewish men were ordered to form a medical corps, which would determine their ability to work, according to three criteria: a) fitness for hard physical work, b) fitness for lighter physical work, c) unfit for physical labor. This allocation caused unrest in the Zolkiew community, especially among the members of the last group.
On March 15, 1942 the Germans demanded that the Judenrat furnish a list of laboring and non-laboring Jews. About 700 non-workers, ill and old, were taken from their homes and concentrated in the courtyard of the local castle. The Germans examined the list and supplementary selections, and then they were moved to the train station and sent to Belzec in cattle cars for extermination. The Judenrat and family members of the deported tried to determine the fate of the deported, and the destination of the train. They sent men in the direction of Belzec, and tried to get information from the farmers of this area. The truth, although partial and unclear, about the existence of extermination camp in Belzec was revealed to them after a short time.
Soon after the Aktion of March, S.S. men kidnapped 60 Jews for the labor camp in (Lackie) near Zoloczow. One of them succeeded in fleeing from the camp and returned to Zolkiew. He was hospitalized in the Jewish hospital. A few days later a German arrived at Zolkiew from the camp command and murdered the man. In addition the Judenrat was ordered to send another man to Lackie to replace the murdered man.
In the summer of 1942 trains that transported Jews from all over eastern Galicia to the extermination camp of Belzec passed through Zolkiew. Many deportees tried to burst out in all possible ways. Germans and Ukrainians who guarded the wagons killed many. Others died of injuries they suffered when jumping from the train. The local population all around the railroad tracks hunted the injured and uninjured. And really, at this time some of those who fled from the death trains appeared in Zolkiew.
At the beginning medical help was given to the injured in the Jewish hospital, but after the Germans began to search there for train escapees, the injured were taken to private homes. Members of the community also hid those who escaped and were not injured. The Judenrat and the Jewish police took part in organizing help for escapees.
Rescue activities were done despite great risk, and although there was fear of Germans carrying out collective punishment to the whole community.
The second mass Aktion began on November 22, 1942. The German and Ukrainian policemen kidnapped more than 2,000 people, and concentrated them in the courtyard of the citadel. Those kidnapped were denied food and water. The guards tortured and shot them. The demanded that the prisoners kneel for long hours, and all who could not do it were murdered on the spot. At the end of the Aktion people were put on a train that took them to die in Belzec. All over the streets of the city, and in the courtyard there were about 300 corpses of Jews murdered during the Aktion. The Jews of Zolkiew learned from those they cared for from other communities, who jumped from the trains that took them to Belzec. They prepared themselves for this possibility. Many youngsters had tools for breaking out, if they were possibly captured and deported, should they decide to flee the trains. And really, many jumped from the trains, which carried the victims of the second Aktion. The survivors of the Zolkiew community did their best to return their corpses to the city and give them a Jewish burial. In truth only a few succeeded in saving themselves and returning to Zolkiew.
The ghetto was established on December 1, 1942. It included Sobieski, Peretz, Reich, and Senizarska Streets, and the left side of the Dominican Square. Jews from neighboring towns: Kuliczkow, Mosty Vielkie, Dubrovitsa, and Glinsko were also brought to the ghetto. Jewish property was robbed during the transfer to the ghetto. The ghetto itself was overcrowded, and people were also domiciled in the Kloises of the Belz and Zydaczower Hassidim. An average of more than ten people lived in each room, without sanitary facilities. The ghetto was surrounded by barbed wire. Leaving the ghetto was prohibited. Border and gate were guarded outside by German and Ukrainian policemen, and inside by Jewish policemen. Only organized groups of workers left, accompanied by guards, to work in the city and vicinity. This situation increased hunger, and the typhus epidemic returned again ferociously. The number of people who died of this disease was more than 20 daily.
Some Jews fled the ghetto in the winter of 1942-43, and tried to save their lives by using Aryan documents, or by finding a haven with Christian friends. Truly, there were few Christians in Zolkiew who were ready to give a haven to Jews. The family of Valenti Beck, for example, while continually risking their lives, saved 18 Jews. In the ghetto itself Jews built hiding places in order to hide in them during actions. At the beginning of 1943 the Germans separated Jewish workers into two groups, those who worked in war production factories, and those who were employed by the German army in the camps. Many tried to get into these groups, hoping that this would give them immunity from expulsion to extermination camps, but the March 1943 Aktions showed that the exterminations continued. On March 15, 1943 the Germans announced a census of all men fit for work in order to check the certifications of employment locales. More than 600 men were gathered in Sokal stadium. Police units surrounded the place, and Wilhous, one of the commanders of the Janowska camp in Lviv was seen there. The men were transported by trucks and accompanied by the Haskars (units that combined Soviet prisoners of war who collaborated with the Germans, and were employed guarding the labor and death camps) to the Janowska camp, and they shared the fate of those imprisoned there.
On March 25, 1943 the liquidation of the ghetto began. The Germans and their aides combed the area. Men and women were taken out of their homes, and concentrated in the Dominican Square. Germans and Ukrainians equipped with axes destroyed walls and floors to discover hiding places.
Some of those who hid and were discovered were murdered on the spot. Some tried to flee from the ghetto, but policemen and groups of the local population, who actively took part in capturing fugitives, waited for those who escaped and took part in their murders. 100 men and 70 women of those concentrated in the square were separated and sent to the Janowska camp. About 60 skilled workers were taken out and housed in the labor camp established for them in town on Sobieski Street. All the others were taken to the Burk Forest, about three kilometers from Zolkiew, and shot in pits. The last of the Judenrat and police members were murdered in this Aktion. A group of workers who still remained in the work camp, or as it was nicknamed, The Jewish Block in the city, was employed in various kinds of work for the Germans, but especially in cleaning the streets and making order out of the moveable property that remained in the ghetto.
The German and Ukrainian policemen continued to search for those hidden in ruins of the ghetto. Truly, from time to time they discovered more hiding places. There are testimonies that in some instances those in the bunkers attacked their murderers. The work camp was also liquidated on July 10, 1943, and about 40 of its last prisoners were also murdered in Burk Forest.
The city was officially declared Judenrein (clean of Jews), but nevertheless in the period between July 1943 and July 23, 1944 the hunt continued for the remnants of Zolkiew Jews who were hiding in the town and nearby forest. The Germans used to concentrate the Jews they discovered, and when the group seemed big enough to them, they executed them in the Jewish cemetery. Some groups of this sort were moved in the autumn of 1943 to the Janowska camp.
There were about 70 survivors who were discovered after liberation. Also a few survivors from nearby settlements gathered in the town. At the end of 1944 the few remaining refugees lived in constant fear of the Bandera bands of nationalist Ukrainians active in the area. They actually murdered one Jewish woman.
Those who lived through the war years in the Soviet Union and returned to Zolkiew at the end of 1944 and the beginning of 1945 did not stay there long. They and the last members of the community continued into Poland, and from there to Israel, to Western Europe, and the United States.
Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2013 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 22 Mar 2010 by LA