“Toporov” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume II
(Toporov, Ukraine)

50°07' / 24°43'

Translation of “Toporov” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator and Translator

Angela Brice

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume II, pages 253-254, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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Toporow

(Tarnopol Region, Radziechow District) 

Population

YearWhole
Population
Jews
18803,4601,133
19004,4211,400
19213,421689

Early Jewish Settlement up to the Second World War

Toporow was established as a private town by aristocrats in 1603 and was granted royal recognition in 1606. In the Cossack wars of 1648-9, the King's forces saved the town. The town grew in the 19th century despite occasional outbreaks of fire, which destroyed whole sections of it. In 1884, 70 houses were destroyed by fire; in 1904, 120; in 1930 the damage to houses and property was estimated at 200,000 zlotys, and in 1935, 22 houses were burnt.

The town also suffered at the hands of the Russian conquest in 1914-15, when houses were looted and destroyed by the Cossacks.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the town was noted for its production of earthenware vessels, which were also provided to other towns.

When the town was founded in 1603, the Doge, Andzhei Tanchinsky granted certain basic privileges to the Jews living there, better than those of other Jews at that time, such as the permission to build and own houses, sell goods, etc., unrestricted practice of trades (such as butcher, glazier), and the brewing and sale of beer. They were also granted permission to set up a synagogue. Patronage by the lords of the town, however, didn't prevent the occasional incidents from troops stationed in the neighborhood, or local thugs. In 1635 an army unit rioted, destroying many houses, both Christian and Jewish, and desecrating the synagogue. Many citizens were hurt and some killed, including Isaac the Jew.

Despite such events, the Jewish community continued to grow. In 1717 a head tax was imposed on them of 300 pieces of gold per year, the sum included Jews from the surrounding villages. In the 19th century the Jewish population increased, reaching its maximum of about one-quarter of the total population by the 1880's. Thereafter there was a decline, with a tendency for the Jews to move away from Toporow, following several outbreaks of fire. One occurred in 1844 and another in 1904, where over 200 Jewish families lost everything, including the roof over their heads.

In the First World War, at the time of the Russian conquest in 1914-15, hunger and plague denuded the population, which never really recovered, also partly due to the natural disasters, the fires that claimed 8 houses in 1920 and 22 more in 1935. When the Jews tried to rescue their possessions, they were obstructed by the citizens, including a visiting theatre group.

From earliest times the Jews of the area were permitted to carry out various trades, selling and inn-keeping. In the 19th century many were employed in making and supplying earthenware vessels to the surrounding area. Others dealt in wood selling and produce. One of them, Schmuel Finkel, a successful timber dealer, served for a time as chairman of the local community committee, before World War I. At this time, Jewish workers set up "Yad Harutzim" centered on the house of prayer of this name.

Between the wars, the economic situation was up and down. Relations with the neighbors were not very friendly. A local co-operative was set up.

Until the end of the 18th century, Toporow subordinate to the community in Brody, but from the 19th century, they were independent. Most of them were Chassidim. In addition to the synagogue known as the "Great", Toporow had a "Kloyzim" house of prayer, founded by the Belzer Chassidim and others, Olesk, Stratin and Husiatin-Ruzhin. The Chassidim were influential in the area and represented the Jews on the local council. They sent scouts to the surrounding area. Rabbi Meshulam Zalman Yosef Zilberfarb, grandson of the Admoyer from Olesk, became Rabbi in 1896. He also led the Admo”r court according to the tradition of Olesk and the Koydanov Chassidim. He held both posts until he was killed in the Holocaust, either in Belzec or according to some, shot in the forest.

The Zionist movement was slow to get off the ground. The first branch was in 1923 with others following in 1925 and 1930. A theatre group was founded in 1924, and put on performances, despite the disapproval of the Rabbi.

In the elections to the Zionist Congress, the General Zionists received most of the votes.

World War II

At the time of the Soviet authority, in 1939-40, there was a change in the social and economic situation and most people had to abandon their businesses and look for work with the local council or in co-operatives. Long-standing tradesmen couldn't find work and had to live off their savings. In 1939 a people's school was founded, using Yiddish as its basic language. Many of the youngsters were given the chance of serving in the Soviet military but at the beginning of 1941 most of the troops became Russian or Ukrainian. At this time the Jews stood out for their contribution to the cultural life of the town.

On 24th June 1941, two days after the German invasion of the USSR, Wehrmacht soldiers entered Toporow. In broad daylight they took Jews captive, including Rabbi Zilberfarb. They imprisoned them in the Great Synagogue and the Germans and Ukrainians abused them.

On 26th June 1941, with the encouragement and permission of the Germans, they were slaughtered by the Ukrainians. There was a manhunt through the streets and 180 Jews were captured and taken to the forest and killed. They took the opportunity of rounding up other groups of Jews and adding them to the mass grave.

At the beginning of July 1941, the Judenrat was set up under the chairmanship of Yaakov Wolfert. The Jewish police handed over 20 people. One of their first tasks was to escort members of the S.S. into Jewish houses to seek people for enforced labor and to confiscate property. Among the restrictions placed on the Jews was an injunction on leaving the place, at risk of the death penalty.

In the autumn of 1941 several groups of Jewish youngsters were taken to work camps at Palohov or others in the Tarnopol area. In March 1942 about 90 Jews were captured and were sent with 120 local people to Belzec concentration camp. In September 1942 another "Aktion" took place and at least 120 (one source says 200) more Jews were sent to Belzec. In November of that year a number of Jews from Toporow were rounded up and sent to the Brody Ghetto.

In February 1943 the last vestiges of the community, 110 people, were evacuated, presumably to Belzec. This marked the end of the Jewish community in Toporow. One or two survivors made contact with Soviet partisans working in the area. After the Liberation in spring 1944, several of them brought court actions against Ukrainians who had worked with the Germans to destroy the Jewish community in Toporow.

AJB 4.98


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