“Wyszkow” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume I
(Poland)

52°06' / 21°28'

Translation of “Wyszkow” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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Michael R. Tobin

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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume I, pages 199-201, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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{Page 199}

Wyszkow
(Pultusk area, Warsaw region)

Translated by Francine Shapiro

YearTotal
population
Jews
18084376
1827960278
18571,5901,067
19219,0844,412
1939ca. 12,000ca. 5,000

This county village existed here from the thirteenth century. The owners of the town were the Bishops of Plock. In 1502 the Bishop granted Wyszkow municipal rights. The town was located in a big forest, on the shore of the Bug River. Its development was connected to logging, then sending the trees down the river by rafts. The lumber was sent to Danzig and other places. Fishing in the Bug River was another important source of income. Near the end of the sixteenth century, Wyszkow became a significant center for trade and crafts in the region. In 1578 there were already a few shoemakers, carpenters, and tailors in Wyszkow, as well as religious school buildings and apartments for community clerks. Some inhabitants made their living through agriculture. Wyszkow was totally destroyed in the war between Poland and Sweden in the 1750's, and didn't recover from the devastation until the nineteenth century. In 1777 there were only 77 houses. After the third partition of Poland in 1795, Wyszkow was first annexed to Prussia, afterwards to the Duchy of Warsaw (in 1807), and finally to the Kingdom of Poland under the auspices of Russia (in 1815). During the nineteenth century small industries developed, two flour mills were built there, and a factory for processing leather. The Germans (1915) occupied Wyszkow during the First World War, and they stayed there until its end. It is probable that Jews settled in Wyszkow in the seventeenth century. Documents from that time mention a few Jews who leased distilleries for alcoholic spirits, but Jewish settlement didn't increase. Even at the beginning of the nineteenth century there were still only two Jewish families in Wyszkow. The number of Jews in Wyszkow grew during the nineteenth century, to about 1,000 people by mid-century. By then the Jews constituted about 70% of the local population. The economic situation and the Jewish sources of income in Wyszkow crystallized at the end of the century. The majority of them made their living through crafts and small businesses, and by selling goods and giving craft services in the weekly and annual fairs that took place in Wyszkow. The Jews owned a few factories, including workshops that upholstered chairs. Also Jews owned flour mills that were built then. At the beginning of the twentieth century in Wyszkow there was one Jewish doctor under the auspices of the Pultusk community.

About 1860 a Beit Midrash was established, and this year saw the beginning of an independent community. After a short time a mikva was built and the first charitable institution was established, which dealt with free loans, and gave medical services to poor patients. A Talmud Torah and yeshiva called Darchei Noam were also established.

The majority of the Jewish people were Hassidim. The biggest grouping among them was Radzimin Hassidim, and they were the leaders of the community. In Wyszkow there were also groups of Gur and Alexander Hassidim, and they had a synagogue of their own.

The first rabbi of Wyszkow was Ben Zion Rosenbloom, who was a religious leader at the end of the nineteenth century. After him came Rabbi Yakov Arie Morgenshtern, who led the community until 1934. After the death of his uncle, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Gutterman, who was the last Admor of the Radzimin Family, Rabbi Yakov Arie replaced him, and moved to Radzimin. His son, Rabbi David Shlomo Morgenshtern, replaced him in Wyszkow. During the leadership of Rabbi Yakov Arie a new yeshiva was established, Bet Yosef, which had a few dozen students. The majority of them were not from Wyszkow.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the first Zionist group was formed, called the Zionist Association. This association established groups for learning the Hebrew language, and collected money for the Keren Kayemet. Bund and Poalei Zion groups were also established during this period. During the era after the Revolution of 1905-06, these groups were disbanded when the authorities pursued them. Their activities began again only during the German occupation during the First World War. In 1912 a public library was established as an experiment, but the authorities did not permit its opening. It was established only three years later, in 1915. Bene Zion and Tzeirei (young) Zion were established at the end of the First World War. The Bund established the trade union called Hitachadut, which had many cultural activities. It organized lessons in the evening in order to complete the education and vocational training, and they contributed to a certain change in employment of the youngsters.

Between Two World Wars

After the groups of the Polish army entered Wyszkow in 1918, there were pogroms. Some Jews were brought to a People's Court in the new Polish regime, and then detained. Jews organized their own self-defense and stood against the rioters. Jewish representatives' faction in the Sejm sent a parliamentary question about the riots. The pogrom atmosphere continued for some months, because the authorities backed away from denouncing the rioters.

After the First World War the Jewish community of Wyszkow was in distress. The economic situation was difficult, and the majority of breadwinners were unemployed. The Jews continued to make their living by trade and peddling. Some of them were craftsmen, and many were tailors. Their living was hand-to-mouth. Those who held wood leases for cutting timber, and those who leased dairies from landlords were better off. It is true that Jews owned the flour mills, but they only employed a few people. The majority of the workers were not Jews. Jews established a little beer distillery and brick factories.

The Joint (Distribution Committee) helped the poor Jews of the town, and in 1925 helped to establish a Cooperative Bank, whose credit benefited the Jewish families in Wyszkow. In 1927 a Free Loan Fund was established with the help of the Joint, which gave no-interest loans. In 1935 the fund made 532 loans, a total sum of 50,000 zlotys. The list of those who received loans in that year included 40 tailors, 50 shoemakers, 12 carpenters, 6 butchers, and 180 more craftsmen in other professions- the total was 216 craftsmen from the merchants got loans 9 manufacturers and notions associated with the production of clothing. 24 leather-and shoe merchants, 16 grocers, 79 stall owners in the market and in the city streets, 6 peddlers in the villages and 170 more small businessmen—the total 304 merchants. It is estimated that this number included the majority of the Jewish merchants in the town. In Wyszkow, as in other Jewish communities in Poland, Jews did their best to make life easier for themselves by organizing mutual aid societies. The societies called Linat Hatzedek and Bikur Holim continued to support the poor people, including the period between the two wars. The old, established societies of small businessmen established free loan funds, and these societies also took care of getting licenses to establish workshops for their members.

The activity of the economic organizations was limited because of the special conditions of Poland during this era, but they were very active in the political sphere. There were branches of all the Jewish parties that were active in this era in Poland: General Zionists (Al HaMishmar and Et Livnot), Poalei Zion, the Mizrachi, and the Revisionists. The Zionist Youth organization was established in 1931. At the time Poalei Zion established a branch of the Hechalutz, which organized a kibbutz-training group at one of the farms in the area. There also were branches of Hashomer Hazair and Hashomer Leumi (afterwards called Hanoar Zioni).

The results of the elections of Zionist Congresses expressed the relative influences of the streams in the Zionist camp: the number of those who bought shekels (membership cards were called shekels) was 300 on average. In the elections to the Zionist Congress in 1929 were in these proportions: 35 for the Mizrachi, Et Livnot 13, Revisionists-10, the League for Working Palestine 17,Al Hamishmar 11, Hechalutz 15. During the 1930's the proportions of the Zionist camp changed, and it was expressed by the strengthening of those organizations that concentrated around the League. In the elections of the last Zionist Congress before the war in 1939, the League had 191 votes; Poalei Zion 74, Mizrachi 56, Al Hamishmar 56, Et Livnot 27.

An Agudat Yisroel branch in Wyszkow, which was already established in 1916, founded organizations connected to it. In 1922 Zeirei Yisroel and in 1925 B'not Yisroel was founded. In 1934 Agudat Yisroel established a branch of Poalei Yisroel. The local branch of the Bund was also very active.

Many cultural activities were concentrated around political organizations. Poalei Zion organized evening lessons for workers. Betar had a woodwind orchestra, and the Zionist Youth had groups for drama and learning Hebrew language and literature. Some sport clubs were active there as well. Maccabi was noteworthy (established in 1927). Leftist circles influenced Skala, a club established in 1929. During the first part of the 1930's, the Kochav Club was established, an offshoot of the Poalei Zion party.

At this time there were many Jewish educational institutions in Wyszkow. About 120 children studied in a Talmud Torah. In 1927 Agudat Yisroel established a girl's school, Beis Yakov. Zionists established a Tarbut School. The last school was opened in 1928 because of lack of funds. A government elementary school for Jewish pupils was also opened in that year, and the majority of pupils were girls.

At the beginning the Jewish community leadership was dominated by Zionist representatives. During the 1930's the situation changed, and the leadership passed to Agudat Yisroel. One of the Jewish members of the City Council was also a member of the executive Branch of the city. This tradition continued until the last years before the Second World War.

The strengthening of anti-Semitism and the economic boycott of Jewish crafts and trades in the middle of the 1930's caused the gradual decline into poverty among the Jews who were shopkeepers or had stalls in the market. At the beginning of 1937 there were a few incidents of throwing stones at the synagogue and Jewish houses. A local priest directed the agitation against the Jews.

Mordechai Anilewicz, the commander of the Jewish Fighting Organization of the Warsaw ghetto Revolt was born and educated in Wyszkow. At the end of the revolt, remnants of the fighters were concentrated in the Wyszkow forest, and a Jewish Partisan Unit named for Anilewicz was organized there.

During the Second World War

During the first days of September 1939, life went on as usual. Only a few Jews left the town. The situation changed completely on September 5. On this day the Germans bombarded Wyszkow a few times. Houses were burned and destroyed, and many people were injured or killed. The population, among them the Jews, left the town in a panic and hid in the forests in the vicinity. Whole families fled to other towns in the area or in the direction of the Soviet border. When the battle was over, many of them crossed the border to Bialystock, and from there continued to the interior of the Soviet Union. On September 9, after heavy bombardment by air, and heavy shelling on the ground, the German army occupied Wyszkow.

The German soldiers shot and killed a few Jews whom they found in the streets at their entry. On the day of the occupation hundreds of Jews were crowded (voluntarily and maybe according to German order). The soldiers burnt the house with the Jews in it. Afterwards the Germans began to remove Jews from their homes, and concentrate them in the market square and other places. The majority of the men were killed. The Germans permitted women and children to leave Wyszkow. Jewish houses that still stood were burned. The pursuit of the Jews in hiding in cellars, bunkers, fields, and forests continued for days. The corpses of the murdered Jews were buried in the places where they were killed, all over the town. In Shventoyanska Street, about 50 meters from the statue of Holy Yan was a mass grave of about 50 Jews. Jews were buried in the court of the mikva, the court of the secondary school, all over the city, near the granaries, in fields, and the forest close by. All over the route between Wyszkow and Yadov there were corpses of Jews from Wyszkow. The blood harvest of the Jews of Wyszkow in the first four or five days of the Occupation was estimated as more than 1,000. After September 13 not even one Jew remained in the city. Some of the refugees of Wyszkow lived in nearby places, such as Volomin, Yadov, Tlushz, Makow Mazovietzki, Novydvor, Kosov, etc., and also in Warsaw. Their fate was the same as the fate of the local Jews. The majority of them died in the extermination camps.

Some of the Jews of Wyszkow took part in underground activities in ghettos and camps. One of them was mentioned before—Mordechai Anilewicz, Commander of the Fighting Organization of the Warsaw Ghetto, was born in Wyszkow. Another fighting Jew born in Wyszkow was Dr. Leichert, a doctor in Wyszkow, and a member of the committee that organized the underground in Treblinka.

From a community that had more than 5,000 people, only a few hundred survivors remained. The majority of the survivors were in the Soviet Union during the war.


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