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The Jewish Community of Rivne/Rovno

Rivne

Also known as Rovno

Polish: Rowne, Jewish sources: Rovna

A city in western Ukraine in the historical region of Volhynia. The administrative center of the Rivno Oblast. Under Polish rule until 1793, 1920-1939

In 2014 there were approximately 600 Jews living in Rivne. What was once the Great Synagogue was converted into a sports center, the Avantgarde, during the 1950s. Since 2003 there has been a Chabad, with approximately 30-50 people attending its Shabbat services. Hessed Osher, one of a number of Hessed centers built by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, is the center of Rivne's Jewish community. Gennady Fraerman is the director of Hessed Osher, as well as the head of the Rivne Jewish community.

In 1991 a memorial was built in the Sosenki Forest, approximately 4 miles (6km) from Rivne, where, on November 7-8 1941 approximately 18-22,000 men, women, and children from Rivne were shot and killed.

HISTORY

Jews are first mentioned in Rivne in 1566 and Jewish creditors from the town are recorded in 1571.

The Jewish community of Rivne fell victim to the Chmielnitski Massacres of 1648-1649. In 1649 there were six Jewish homes in Rivne, and by 1654 there were only two. By the 18th century, however, the Jewish community began to recover, evidenced by the fact that in 1700 the Jews of the town were paying 1,000 zlotys in poll taxes. In 1723 the town came under the possession of the Lubomirski family, who made efforts to develop it and attract Jews there. On July 13, 1749 Prince Stanislaw Lubomirski granted a charter that allowed for the establishment of an official Jewish community, with affiliated institutions. Prince Josef Lubomirski confirmed and renewed these rights on April 21, 1789. The Kahal (official governing body of the Jewish community) of Rivne is mentioned in 1739 when the Council of Four Lands reduced the amount of taxes that the community of Rivne was required to pay.

The Hasidic movement was influential within Rivne. The Magid of Mezritsh, Dov Ber, lived in Rivne from 1760 until 1772. That year a number of Hasidic leaders gathered in Rivne in order to discuss and respond to the recent ban placed by the Gaon of Vilna on Hasidim.

At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century Rivne began developing rapidly. This was largely a result of the building of the Kiev-Warsaw railroad, and the subsequent Vilna-Rivne line that was completed in 1885. Because of the railroad, Rivne became an economic and commercial center for Volhynia.

A Hibbat Zion group was formed in Rivne in 1884. Later various other Zionist parties were organized in the city, and their members were active participants in Zionist Congresses. A chapter of the Bund was formed in 1903. During the Russian Revolution of 1905, the Bund and Zionist socialist parties were particularly active in Rivne. A number of Jewish trade unions were also formed. When the city was briefly under Ukrainian rule, Rivne's central Zionist office coordinated activities throughout Volhynia and Podolia.

The influence of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) and the Zionist movements resulted in an interest in reviving the Hebrew language. At first, Hebrew was only taught in the cheder metukkan ("reformed" cheder) and in private Hebrew schools. Later, however, the Jews of Rivne would have a number of options when it came to learning Hebrew. In 1911 a division of the Chovevei Sefat Ever ("Lovers of the Hebrew Language") was formed. Tarbut established a branch in Rivne in 1919, which soon became the central branch of the organization for Volhynia. That same year, the Tarbut high school was established, which attracted Jewish students from villages throughout Volhynia. The high school was followed by two Tarbut elementary schools and several Hebrew kindergartens. There was also a Talmud Torah, two Yiddish schools, and two Jewish high schools in which the language of instruction was Polish.

The short-lived period of Ukrainian independence (1918-1920) was a difficult time for the Jews of Rivne. During the spring of 1919 Symon Petliura's soldiers carried out several pogroms; later the city was conquered by the Red Army. In the spring of 1920 Rivne reverted back to Poland.

From 1924 until 1939 the Yiddish newspaper, "Vohliner Leben" ("Volhynian Life") was published weekly in Rivne.

Rivne became part of Soviet Ukraine in 1939. During this period (1939-1941) Jewish organizations were forced to stop their activities, Bund and Zionist leaders were imprisoned, Hebrew schools were shuttered and Jewish businessmen often found themselves discriminated against. Many Jewish refugees from Western Poland sought shelter in Rivne, which soon became an important center of underground Zionist activity, helping Jews escape to Vilna and towards the Romanian and Hungarian borders.

After the outbreak of the Soviet-German War (June 22, 1941), Rivne fell to the Germans on June 29 1941; that same day, 300 Jews from Rivne were killed and by the end of the summer about 3,000 Jews had been murdered. More than 1,000 Jews were killed between October and November 1941. A Judenrat was established and led by the former director of one of the Jewish high schools, Dr. Moisei Bergman and Yakov (Leon) Sukharchuk. Both committed suicide before the end of the year. On November 7-8, 1941, approximately 21,000 Jews from Rivne were taken to a pine grove in Sosenki and killed. A ghetto was then established for the remaining 5,000 Jews.

Starvation and disease claimed many victims in the ghetto, in spite of efforts to reduce epidemics. The ghetto was liquidated on July 13, 1942. A number of Jews managed to escape Rivne and joined the partisan groups operating in the district. On February 5, 1944 they were able to help liberate Rivne from the Nazis.

After the war, about 1,000 Jews were living in Rivne, in an area around the Great Synagogue; only 100 of them were survivors from the original community of Rivne. A search was made to find Jewish children among the peasants in the nearby villages and to mark the sites of the mass graves of Jews murdered by the Nazis. A community organization and synagogue were opened. Former partisans began organizing illegal emigration to Palestine and by 1946 most of the Holocaust survivors who had been living in Rivne had emigrated; in the meantime, other Jews from the interior of the Soviet Union began arriving in the town, thus maintaining a relatively stable Jewish population.

In 1957 the Jewish cemetery was divided into two sites, a park and an area for cattle to graze. The remaining synagogue, which consisted of one room, was closed down by authorities and its Torah scrolls were confiscated. The former Great Synagogue was converted into a sports gymnasium. The mass graves of the Jews murdered by the Nazis remained unmarked until 1991. The Osher Shvartsman Jewish Culture Society was established in 1989 on the site of a small synagogue building of the Trisk Hasidim.

In 1765 there were 1,186 Jews in the Rivne community (890 in the town itself, and 296 in the villages subject to Rivne's Kahal); by 1801 there were 2,137 Jews in the town. That number rose to 3,788 in 1847, to 13,780 (56% of the total population) in 1897. During the 20th century, until World War II, the Jewish population continued to rise; there were 21,702 in Rivne (71%) in 1921, 22,737 in 1931, and about 28,000 in 1939. In 1959 there were 1,311 Jews living in Rivne (2% of the total population). In 1970 that number rose to 1,787, and in 1989 there were 1,230 Jews in the city.

Notable figures from Rivne included the historian Mark Wischnitzer, the linguist Nokhem Shtif, the socialist Moyshe Zilberfarb, the journalist and social welfare advocate Sophie Irene Loeb (1876-1929), the former Canadian senator Mira Spivak (born 1934), the Polish poet Zuzanna Ginczanka (pen name Sara Ginzburg, 1917-1945), the Israeli writer Dahn Ben-Amotz (born Moshe Tillimzeiger), and Fania Mussman (1913-1951), the mother of Israeli writer Amos Oz.
Place Type:
City
ID Number:
136043
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
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Tuchin (Pol. Tuczyn),

Village in Rovno Oblast, Ukraine.

Within Poland before 1772 and between the two world wars.

Jews began to settle there at the beginning of the 18th century. There were 514 Jews paying the poll-tax in Tuchin  in 1765. Jews of Tuchin  in the 19th century were occupied in small-scale trade in agricultural products, the raising of livestock, and crafts. The establishment of an army garrison in the vicinity at the beginning of the 20th century brought improvements in the economic sphere. The Jewish population numbered 1,180 in 1847; 2,535 (67% of the total) in 1897; and 2,159 (73%) in 1921. During the Civil War in 1918-20, the Jews in Tuchin  suffered from the frequent changes of the forces in control of the area (Ukrainians, Soviets, and Poles). Within Poland, in the interwar period, Zionist parties were active in the community. The livelihood of the Jews in Tuchin was severely affected from 1925 by the support given by the Polish authorities to Poles who settled there.

The number of Jews in Tuchin increased to some 3,000 in 1941 when refugees from western Poland found temporary shelter there. Under the Soviet occupation (1939-41), the Jewish organizations were not permitted to function. Tuchin was captured by the Germans on July 4, 1941, and the signal given to the Ukrainians to carry out pogroms in which 70 Jews were killed. That month 20 Jewish leaders were arrested and shot. In the following years various forms of persecution including restriction of movement, the seizure of able-bodied people for slave labor, and the wearing of the yellow badge were introduced. Some of the intelligentsia were murdered. A ghetto was established in August 1942. At this time, news reached the community about the wholesale murder of the Jewish population in the neighboring cities. On September 23, 1942, an order was given for all Jews to assemble at the ghetto gate. The leaders of the community were aware of the impending disaster and a decision to revolt was then taken by the head of the Judenrat, Gecel Schwarzman, supported by his two deputies, Meir Himmelfarb and Tuwia Czuwak. The Jews themselves set fire to many houses in the ghetto for defense purposes when the Germans began to break into it. Some young Jews had managed to acquire firearms, and the Jews in the ghetto offered strong resistance. Many fell in the fighting that ensued. Subsequently some 2,000 Jews escaped to the forests, but many of them were delivered up by Ukrainian peasants to the Germans. The Nazi authorities issued a proclamation that those who returned to the ghetto voluntarily would be allowed to live on there.

Approximately 300 Jews returned, and were immediately taken to the local cemetery and shot. Those who remained in the forests suffered from hunger and exposure and were harassed by the Ukrainian gangs of Stefan Bandera. A few Tuchin  Jews managed to reach the Soviet partisans and joined them in their struggle against the Germans. The revolt of the Tuchin  Jewish community was exceptional in that an entire and united community challenged the German forces.

After the war, the community was not revived. The survivors settled in Israel, the United States, and Canada. A memorial book, Sefer Zikkaron Li-Kehillot Tuchin -Krippe (Heb. and Yid.) was published in 1967.

Hoszcsa

Hoshcha


A small town in the district of Rovno, Ukraine. From 1920 till World War II (1939-1945) was in the area that was Poland. After the war it became part of the Soviet Union.

Hosht is on the banks of the Horin river close to the Rovno, Zitomir-Kiev road. Jews apparently settled there in the second half of the 16th century and were part of the Ostrog Jewish community as far as religious services were concerned. They were forced to leave the town in 1668 because of the pogroms following the Cossack Rebellion under the leadership of Bogdan Chmelnizki. They later returned and rebuilt their homes. The head tax of 140 gold pieces that was imposed on them in 1700, proves that several Jews were then living there.

In the sixties of the 19th century, the town was built entirely of wood. About 300 Jews lived in 32 houses. The only synagogue was also built of wood, and the town suffered from periodic fires. During that period there were 428 Christian residents in the town.

In 1915, during World War I, Hosht was in the war-zone and many Jews fled. They returned before the October Revolution (1917) and in order to protect themselves during the civil war that followed, they founded a public committee to raise ransom funds and a self-defense unit composed of young Jews.

Jews were victims of the pogroms during the rule of Semion Petlura, a Ukrainian leader (1879-1926). Some Jews were killed in villages near Hosht. The Polish soldiers who conquered the district in 1920, were the ones who victimized the Jews in the town.

There were three synagogues in Hosht. The oldest was the great synagogue built in the 17th century. The second was the Yeshiva College in which there were meetings, lectures and other public events. The third synagogue was in fact a small house of prayers.

Scores of families who lived in the neighboring villages were dependent on the town for religious and community services.

During the years 1900-1904 Rabbi Joseph Lamdan officiated as rabbi. He was a Zionist and a member of the enlightenment movement. After him, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Leib Rabinowitz served as rabbi. He perished with his community in the Holocaust.

From the year 1495 onwards, the town had the privilege of conducting yearly fairs. The first Jews there were petty merchants and tradesmen. They also participated in the weekly market fairs in the town and area.

During the period between the two world wars, a large part of the Polish army was stationed in the area and was the main source of revenue for the Jewish merchants and tradesmen. The economic condition of the community improved during this period. A son of the community, the philanthropist Abraham Mazor of the United States, established a mutual-aid fund. In 1928 the organization of Jewish tradesmen established a workers bank which was, in reality, a mutual-aid fund. This organization, which was established in 1927, was also active in obtaining diplomas and licenses for its members. They also made efforts to gain places for their representatives in the local public institutions.

In Hosht there were several important Jewish merchants. Several Jews owned flour mills.

At the beginning of the 20th century, already, there was an awakening of Zionist sentiment in Hosht. In 1904 a public Hebrew library was established under the influence of Rabbi Lamdan, the Zionist, and supported by, the Association for the Dissemination of Education the library was the center of Zionist and nationalist activity. The First World War cut off this activity which was resumed only after the war.

In 1917 a Hebrew kindergarten was founded and in 1929 the Hebrew school joined the Tarbut chain of schools. In 1935 there were 120 students in the school. During evening hours there were Hebrew studies for adults.

During this period, under Polish rule, several parties were Zionists, Socialist Zionists, Mizrachi and Zionist Revisionists. Among the Zionist youth groups, a branch of Hechalutz (the pioneer) was founded in 1920. The Hashomer Hatsa'ir (youth guard) was founded in 1923, and in 1930 Gordonia and Betar.

On the eve of World War II there were close to 1,300 Jews in Hosht.


Holocaust Period

When war broke out on September 1, 1939 many Jewish refugees were concentrated in Hosht which was close to the Soviet border. They were on their way to the interior of the Soviet Union. In accordance with the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement, the Soviet Union occupied the eastern sector of Poland and Hosht was now in the Ukraine Soviet Republic.

In 1940 the Soviet authorities established a hospital in Hosht which served the entire population.

On the 29th of June, 1941, a week after the Germans attacked the Soviet Union, the German air force bombed the town. Many homes were destroyed and 165 Jews were killed.

On July 4, 1941, the Germans occupied Hosht. They immediately began to round up Jews for forced labor. Ten of the 40 Jews who were taken to repair the bridge over the river were shot by German soldiers.

The Jews were forced to live in a ghetto in one section of the town near the synagogues. They were made to wear identifying badges and a Judenrat of seven members (Jewish Community Council) was appointed by the Germans. The young people of the ghetto tried to organize a revolt and large scale flight but did not succeed.

A year later the Germans started the organized mass destruction of the Jews of Hosht. During three actions (liquidation operations) Ukrainian police under the direction of German soldiers assembled groups of Jews and killed them near the town. On May 20, 1942, 400 Jews were killed. On September 25, 1942, 350 Jews were killed and on November 14, 1942, 123 Jews were killed. 20 Jews who had skills useful for the German war effort were left in the town and kept in a work-camp. When the Germans decided that they were no longer useful, they were killed, too, by the local Ukrainian police on July 17, 1943.

During these actions some Jews succeeded in escaping and finding sanctuary with some Polish and Ukrainian families. During the third action, 17 Jews escaped.

Hosht was liberated on January 18, 1944. Twenty-two Jews who had been in hiding till the end of the war returned to the town. About 40 Jews, among those who had fled to the Soviet Union in 1941, returned to Hosht. Because of the enmity of the Ukrainians and the desire to live among Jews, they returned to Poland under the repatriation plan, the return of Poles to their homeland, whose eastern boundary with the USSR, was moved westwards and emigrated to the western countries.

In 1942 letters were exchanged between the Hosht refugees in Soviet Russia and the members of the Hosht community in Eretz Israel. That year the Association of the Jews of Hosht was founded. It cooperates with the sister organization in the United States (Society of Hosht) established in 1918. With the help of the organization in the United States, the Jews of Hosht have been memorialized in two volumes, one in Hebrew and one in Yiddish.

Bones of Jewish victims of Hosht were taken out of the mass grave in the village of Semonov and brought to Israel in 1957 by a survivor, Itzhak Golod. They were reburied in the cemetery in Kiryat Shaul, Tel Aviv. The Association of Jews from Hosht, with the help of the sister organization in the United States, erected a monument on the site. Every year memorial services are held there for the holy victims of the Hosht community.

Demidowka

In Ukrainian: Demydivka 

A small town in the district of Rovna, west Ukraine. Until World War II it was part of the region of Volhynia, Poland.


Demidowka was a small town surrounded by villages. In the second partiton of Poland in 1793 the region was annexed to Russia and remained so until the end of World War I.

There is no written documentation as to the beginning of Jewish settlement at Demidowka. Apparently, it did not occur before the end of the 18th century. Descriptions of the town of the last third of the 19th century portray a poor small town, far away from highways, inhabited mostly by Jews. At the end of the century 679 Jews formed the entire population of Demidowka. In 1921 the Jews formed less than half of the town’s population, 595 out of 1283. During World War I Demidowka was for a time under Austrian occupation and at the time of the Civil War which followed the Communist Revolution the Jewish inhabitants of Demidowka organized their self-defence with the help of the Jews of Mlynow, a neighbouring settlement.

A weekly market day was held at Demidowka on Thursdays. Farmers of the surrounding villages brought their agricultural products and the Jews exhibited their merchandise. Most of the Jews engaged in petty trade and in crafts, but there were also a small number of textile merchants and some merchants of cattle and wheat. Three flour-mills were owned by Jews. Among the craftsmen were carpenters, plasterers, builders, tailors and shoemakers. There were also peddlers, who were called villagers. They made a round on foot of the surrounding villagers and exchanged their little haberdashery for food products.

Because of the lack of organized communal institutions, the answer to social problems in many fields was individual. A local charity fund did not meet all the needs and two women, on their own initiative, engaged in providing the requirements of Sabbath to poor families. The community had also a mikveh and a public bath.

There were three synagogues in Demidowka, all in the northern part of the town. The oldest and the nicest of them was the Shil. It was a wooden construction, three storeys high, and the large dome in the center of the ceiling was decorated with paintings which symbolized the 12 months of the year and the 12 tribes of Israel. The Shil was used only on Sabbath and feast days and most of the worshippers were simple people. The bet midrash was a large building and was used daily, by people of all walks of life. People came to the bet midrash for the purpose of study and occasionally just for idle talk. The new synagogue, the kloise (house for study of torah and prayer), was the synagogue of the richer people. Two Hasidic Admors, who had followers at Demidowka, used to come to the place once a year and their visit always constituted an important public attraction.

Following elections in 1928, a joint regional community was set up for five settlements in the area, including Demidowka. There was a rabbi for the regional community, in addition to a rabbi for each of the five communities. The rabbi of Demidowka was Rabbi David Alperson, who was greatly appreciated by the local Jews and also by the Christian inhabitants. He perished in the Holocaust.

The Jewish children acquired their education in an elementary school and in a heder of three grades. In the higher grade the children were taught German, Jewish history, arithmetic, and Yiddish. The children of well-to-do families continued their studies at the bigger towns in secondary schools or in yeshivot. Local inhabitants with university education gave lessons at their homes in general studies and Hebrew to small groups of young people who were eager to widen their education. There was also a rich library at Demidowka, mostly in Yiddish, with many books of fiction and non-fiction. National newspapers and weeklies provided information on world affairs and often more than one person joined hands in the subscription of a publication.

At the end of the 1920s a Jewish doctor came to live at Dimidowka.

In the period between the two world wars, a Zionist activity was developed by political parties and the youth movements. In the elections to the Zionist Congresses in the 1930s four parties took part, the General Zionists, the Revisionists, Hamizrachi, and the Eretz Israel Labour Movement, which generally won the majority of votes. Of the youth movements, Hashomer Hazair began its activity at the beginning of the 1920s and Hehalutz Hazair, which attracted the majority of the youth, in the middle of the decade. There was also a local branch of Betar. A training kibbutz of Hehalutz for Aliyah to Eretz Israel was set up at Demidowka at the beginning of the 1930s. It trained also young people from neighbouring settlements.

On the eve of World War II there were close to 1,000 Jews at Davidowka.


The Holocaust Period

Following the outbreak of World War II (September 1,1939) and the occupation of Poland by the Germans, Demidowka, along with the rest of eastern Poland, came under the rule of the U.S.S.R., in accordance with the pre-war agreement between Germany and the U.S.S.R. (the Ribbentrop-Molotov Agreement of August 1939). The new regime was favourably accepted by most of the population. Zionist activists were not persecuted and some of them were even appointed to public posts. The synagogues remained open but the number of worshippers diminished. Refugees from the German occupied parts of Poland arrived at Demidowka. Some of them were deported by the Soviets to the east, and they were the ones who survived the war.

With the German attack on the U.S.S.R. on June 22, 1941, some Jewish young people tried to escape east to inner Russia, and a few of them were killed by Ukrainians when they left the town. In the town itself, already before the entry of the German troops, the Ukrainians began harassing and robbing the Jews. This state of affairs even intensified when the Germans entered the town. A local Ukrainian body, in the employment of the Germans, put Jews to exhausting work, just for the sake of sadistic treatment. A German officer maltreated the local rabbi. The Jews were ordered to wear the yellow patch, for identification. A Jewish notable was ordered to form a Judenrat and be its head. The Jews were forced to hand in money and valuables. Young Jews were abducted in the streets and sent to labor camps. By the demands of the German authorities, the Jews were sent to forced labor in the agricultural farms of the area and in the turf mines of the Kremnitz region.

Through the Judenrat, the forced laborers were provided by rotation. For their work, the Judenrat received flour, which it divided among the families in accordance with the number of their members. The hunger forced many Jews to exchange items of their property for food.

In the winter of 1941 all the Jews were concentrated in a ghetto that included ten houses and three synagogues. The ghetto was surrounded by a wooden fence, two metres high, with barbed wire on top. The ghetto was watched by Ukrainian policemen. In October 1942, less then a year later, the Jews were assembled on a site in the ghetto, and denied food for a week. At the same time the Jews who were interned in the forced labor camps were returned to the ghetto. When they noticed that the ghetto was surrounded by guards they sensed the danger, but only a few dozens of them managed to escape. At that time, Ukraininas were put to dig pits near a wood, a few kilometers out of the town. On the 8th of October all the Jews of the ghetto were taken to that place and there all of them were shot to death. The number of the victims was over 1,500, and according to two testimonies - more than 3,000.

Since there were only about 1,000 Jews at Demidowka, it follows that the victims included also Jews of the neighbourhood. A small group of those who had managed to escape, headed by Abraham Ingber, was aided by young Ukrainians. They obtained arms and became a nucleus of a group of partisans, which included also Poles and Ukrainians. The group fought against the Germans and their supporters, the nationalist Ukrainians. All the Jews in the group, with the exception of three, were killed in the course of the fighting.


Demidowka was liberated in March 1944. Only about 30 of its Jewish inhabitants survived the war. Thanks to the dedication of Abraham Ingber, the scene of the massacre was found and on October 12,1993, a memorial monument was erected at the place. Many were present in the unveiling ceremony, among them representatives of the authorities and representatives from Israel. Another memorial monument to the victims of Demidowka has been set up at the cemetery of Holon, near Tel Aviv. Earth from the massacre pit was interred under that monument.

Truchenbrod - Lozisht

In Jewish sources T"L (TAL) communities.

Two small towns adjacent to each other in the district of Lutsk in the Ukraine. Between the two world wars in the Wohlin province of Poland.

Within the boundaries of Poland Truchenbrod was known as Zofjowka, and Lozisht as Ignatowka. The townlets are located about 45 km west of Rovno and about 30 km east of Luck.

In the 1830s in the Russian Pale of Settlement, during the reign of Czar Nikolai I, the two Jewish communities, known then as Truchenbrod and Lozisht, established a joint community. Zofjowka (or Truchenbrod) was founded in 1835, when Jews from Bielorussia and Wohlin settled on 7,000 dunams of agricultural land which they had acquired from a noble family. In 1865, at their request they were granted urban status, and the place, at that time Truchenbrod, became a townlet. In 1889, 1,200 Jews were living there.

At first the Jewish residents earned their livelihood in agriculture, and also by working as tanners, petty traders and craftsmen. At the beginning of the twentieth century a glass factory was erected, leading to the economic flowering of the town and its environs.

In 1914 following the outbreak of World War I, the economic situation declined. Young men were recruited into the army, and the financial assistance that some of the town's families had been receiving from the United States ceased to arrive. In the fall of 1915 the frontline drew near to the town. Cossacks who served in the Russian army and local Ukrainian gangs attacked the Jews, plundering their organized to defend themselves, and in the meantime, the area was conquered by the Austrians. In spite of the strict regulations of the Austrian occupation authorities regarding the maintenance of decent sanitary conditions, a typhus epidemic broke out, in which many Jews of Truchenbrod perished. Jewish men between the ages of 15 and 60 were taken for forced labor. An Austrian priest and several army officers opened a local school to teach the children German. About nine month later the Autsrians retreated, and the Russians returned.

During the 1917 revolution, the Jews did not suffer casualties, thanks to their organized self-defence. At the end of World War I, Zofjowka and Ignatowka were included in the area of independent Poland.

The town boasted seven synagogues, four of them belonging to the Hasidim. The first rabbi to serve there was Rabbi Itzi Wolf Weisman. When Rabbi Baruch Zeev Beigel took over the position in 1910, the Berezna Hasidim chose their own rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Beider Perlmutter, who died in the epidemic of 1916. Rabbi Gershon Weisman served after him, alongside of Rabbi Beigel, until both perished in the Holocaust.

A modern heder (religious elementary school) was established in the town in 1910, and classes were held where adults could learn to write Yiddish and Russian. In 1912 a Hebrew school was opened which taught the Russian language as well as religious subjects. This school was closed in 1914.

In 1922 a Hebrew school of the Tarbut network was opened in Zofjowka, with an affiliated kindergarten; it remained in operation for four years. Later, a Polish state school was started; most of its teachers and students were Jews. Religious studies were taught privately. For a short time, a yeshiva (Talmudic college) also functioned in Zofjowka.

In 1921, 1,531 Jews and 18 non-Jews were living in Zofjowka. Its economy was quickly revitalized in independent Poland following World War I. The tanneries introduced machinery to facilitate their work, and ten dairies, comprising approximately 500 cows, marketed their milk and milk products in the surrounding towns. In the wake of the economic crisis of the thirties and the Polish government's support of the Polish cooperatives, once again the livelihood of the Jews was adversely affected.

Zionist activity began in the town even before World War I, when in 1908 the Zionist Society was founded. After the war branches of all the Zionist movements and of most of the youth movements started functioning there, the most active ones being Hechalutz and Beitar. Local training facilities were set up, and prior to 1939 forty-five families, most of them farmers, had emigrated to Eretz Israel. In the fall of 1938 the first course in Poland for Etzel commanders was held in Zofjowka. In 1934 a branch of the Zionist Youth was formed. There was also a clandestine communist group.

Ignatowka, which is Lozisht, was founded in 1838 as a Jewish agricultural colony. In 1897 it had 567 Jews on 2,800 dunams of land. Their number increased, and at the beginning of the twentieth century reached 1,204.

During World War I (1914-1918) Ignatowka was damaged, and some of the Jews left, most of them to Baron Hirsch’s colonies in Argentina. Following the war, the damaged farmsteads were renovated with the assistance of the Joint Distribution Committee and of Ort, whose representative for the entire district was situated in the town.

Products were marketed in the big cities. The town also had a large flour mill and tanning workshops. Between the two world wars Ignatowka was an independent community. In the twenties there were two synagogues. Almost all the Jews there were Hasidim.

Between the two world wars, Zionist activity was concentrated in neighboring Zofjowka, where there was a kindergarten, a Hebrew school, a library and branches of the Zionist movements. Most of the youth of Ignatowka belonged to the Beitar youth movement, which opened a branch there in 1932. Beitar and Hechalutz groups from all over Poland came to Ignatowka for agricultural training.

In the twenties several Jews emigrated to Eretz Israel.

In 1921 there were 577 Jews in the town.

On the eve of World War II approximately 2,000 Jews resided in Zofjowka and 900 in Ignatowka.


The Holocaust Period

Upon the outbreak of World War II (1, September 1939) and following the pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the eastern sections of Poland, including Wohlin, were transferred to Soviet jurisdiction. With the arrival of the Soviets, a group of 20 youth, members of Zionist youth movements, mainly Beitar, crossed the border to Vilna. In 1941 they succeeded in reaching Eretz Israel, where most of them joined the Lehi movement. During Soviet rule Jewish refugees from occupied Poland settled in Zofjowka and the number of its residents rose to 3,500. At the same time, the number of Jews in Ignatowka rose to 1,200.

On 22 June 1941 the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. Zofjowka and Iganowka were conquered at the end of June. The Germans appointed an Ukrainian administration for the area and established an auxiliary police (Schotsmen) of Ukrainians. During the first days of the occupation, Jews were murdered and Jewish possessions destroyed and plundered by rioting Ukrainian villagers. Once again Jewish selfe-defence was organized.

At the beginning of July, the Germans appointed a Judenrat (a Jewish council subject to the authorities), and the Jews were required to do forced labor in agriculture and in local factories that now served the Germans. 50 Jews from Zofjowka were sent to work at the railroad station in the town of Kiwerce, where they were subjected to brutality at the hands of their German and Ukrainian guards. In the fall of 1941 the agricultural farmsteads of the Jews were confiscated, as were their furs, other warm clothing and objects of value. The Jews were also commanded to pay hundreds of rubles in ransom money. 

Dr. Klinger, a Jew who posed as Folksdeutsch (a German native of the town) made contact with the German leadership and arranged for the employment of Jews in the production of leather bags and boots for the Germans. The work was done in town and kept them from being sent to do forced labor. The identity of Dr. Klinger was revealed and he was murdered by Ukrainian police. On 25 July 1942, the Jews of Ignatowka were transferred to Zofjowka, where the Jews of Zofjowka and the vicinity were concentrated in the center of the town. Those whose skills were in demand were moved with their families to the nearby area of Selishche. Rumors spread that the Germans were planning to slaughter the Jews still remaining in Zofjowka. Those who attempted to flee to the forests were shot by Ukrainian policemen who patrolled the town for that purpose. On July 27th the final aktion (liquidation aktion) was carried out. The Schotsmen brought trucks to the town, tossed the children into them, and in
their wake, marched the adults to the forest, across to pits that had been dug near the village of Yaromla. There the Jews were murdered by shooting and buried in mass graves.

In the second aktion, which took place on the Day of Atonement, 2 September 1942, the Jews living in Selishche and those who returned from the forest for the holy day prayers were also slaughtered. While digging the pits, some of the Jews attacked their German and Ukrainian guards with the shovels they held. During the ensuing struggle, some Jews managed to escape to the forest.

In town there remained only a few dozen Jews, from among those who prepared leather products for the Germans. In the third aktion which took place in December 1942, they too were slain. Ten Jews, who served the Germans as labor foremen and remained alive a little while longer, were imprisoned in the synagogue in Zofjowka and died when the synagogue was set on fire. The town was declared Judenrein (cleansed of Jews).

Even before the aktions, Jewish youth organized to resist and began collecting weapons. In September 1942 they set up a base in the nearby forest, and were aided by Ukrainian communists. They were joined by Jews who escaped during the aktions, and made contact with Soviet partisans. In November 1942 the group moved to northeast Wohlin, and operated within the Kovpack group of the Soviet partisans. Sixty-four Jewish partisans who came from Zofjowka also joined partisan units which operated in that area.

In February 1944 Zofjowka and Ignatowka were liberated by the Red Army. The Jews did not return there; their possessions had been plundered and their houses demolished by the Ukrainians.

In August 1992 monuments were raised on the spot in memory of the Jewish communities of T"L who had been murdered by the Nazis and their henchmen. The monuments were erected by a delegation from Israel composed of former members of these communities. In the area where in the past the two townlets stood, there they found fields of wheat and corn. Of the towns there was no trace.