Translation of Brzostek chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Brzostek chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume III, pages 73-74, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(District of Jasło, Region of Krakow)
The settlement of Brzostek is mentioned in documents from the 12th century. It belonged to the monastery of Tyniec until 1394. That year, the Polish king granted Brzostek the status of a city. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Brzostek was known for the manufacture of earthenware vessels and shoes that were marketed even in Hungary. Horse and cattle fairs also took place there. The city stopped developing at the end of the 19th century, due to the fact that the railway line skipped over it. (It was 19 kilometers away from the Jasło train station.) A steam driven sawmill and flourmill were built there are the beginning of the 20th century. Brzostek was occupied by the Russian army during 1914 and 1915. (The Russians remained there for six months until their retreat.) Brzostek lost its city status in 1914, and was considered as a village for administrative purposes.
There were no Jews in Brzostek until the end of the 18th century. In 1783, it was noted that there are no Jews in the town, so the status of the residents is stronger than in other places. It is possible that an old tradition was maintained in Brzostek from the time that it had been a clerical city, that Jews were not permitted to settle there. The Jewish settlement of Brzostek began and developed only during the era of Austrian rule, when private ownership was the norm for cities and town (even of clerical towns). The community became organized and independent in the middle of the 19th century.
The Jews of Brzostek earned their livelihood from small-scale commerce and peddling, particularly with the products for which the town was known (earthenware and shoes), as well as through their participation in the local fairs. The sawmill and flourmill, which were the only two enterprises in the town, were established by Jews, who remained their owners until 1939.
The development of the Jewish settlement was restricted due to the distance of the town from the railway lines and roads. The long-standing enmity of the gentile residents of the town, and especially those of the neighboring villages, toward the Jews inhibited the development of the Jewish settlement. In June 1898, the villagers attacked a Jewish land lessee and the inn lessees in Brzostek and its region, pillaging their property and setting their houses on fire. In July 1900, they libeled the Jews of Brzostek that they apparently poisoned the postman who died from his illness. Even the expert opinion of the regional physician who stated that the man had died a natural death did not put an end to the anti-Jewish incitement. In 1905, a fire broke out in the field of the landowner of the village next to Brzostek. He blamed his Jewish neighbor for setting the fire, even though it was known that the fire started from a spark that fell from the pipe of the shepherd in the village. The Jew was imprisoned for three months, and disturbances against the Jews continued even after he was exonerated and released.
The Jews of Brzostek suffered greatly during the Russian occupation of 1914-1915. The Cossacks of the garrison pillaged the stores of the Jews. The gentile residents of the city also benefited from the loot. In 1914, the Cossacks imprisoned two Jews, a father and son, for the crime of spying. They tortured them and and told the son that he would be set free if he would kill his father. The son refused and was killed along with his father.
At the end of the war, the town was afflicted with want and poverty, and the Jews were literally starving for a piece of bread. The JOINT came to their aid. Through its support, a public kitchen was founded, the bathhouse was renovated, and the Bikur Cholim (Care for the Sick) society was rehabilitated. That society hired a physician who offered free aid to the poor.
With the support of the JOINT, a Gemilut Chassadim society was organized there in 1927. After two years of its existence, it gave 69 loans to the needy to needy Jewish merchants and tradesmen, to the sum of 7,575 zloty.
The economic situation of the Jews deteriorated during the 1930s. The sources of livelihood of the village peddlers dried up due to the anti-Semitic incitement that increased in the town itself and in its region. The Jewish butchers lost their livelihoods in 1937 due to the ban on kosher slaughter. Only one Jewish butcher received a permit to conduct his business.
A traditional, Hassidic spirit pervaded the city until the end of the First World War. From among the rabbis of the town, we know of Rabbi Yehuda Leibush the son of Rabbi Shmuel Wolkenfeld, who was appointed to his post in 1873 and served until 1912. Rabbi Yehuda Leibush participated in the convention of Galician rabbis that took place in Krakow in 1903. His son Elimelech, and subsequently his grandson Rabbi Chaim Wolkenfeld took his place after him.
The Zionist circles in Brzostek only organized themselves after the First World War on account of the opposition of the Orthodox. The Bnei Zion organization was founded in 1923. In the following years, the Akiva and Hashomer Hatzair organizations were founded in subsequent years. A library, dramatic club, and evening Hebrew lessons took place in the halls of these organizations. The local Jewish physician and several honorable people of the city also took part in the activities for the Jewish National Fund.
For the elections of the Zionist Congress of 1935, 56 shekalim (tokens of membership of the Zionist organization) were sold. The votes were broken down as follows: 40 for the General Zionists, 6 for Mizrachi, 8 for the Working Land of Israel List, and 2 for Mifleget Hamedina.
With the outbreak of the Second World War on September 1, 1939,
many of the Jews of Brzostek fled eastward. Some of them remained in the region of Eastern Galicia that was annexed to the Soviet Union, and others returned to their families in Brzostek. Some of those who had found refuge in Eastern Galicia were exiled to the depths of the Soviet Union at the end of June 1940.
When the area was occupied by the Germans, forced labor, restrictions of movement and monetary payments were imposed upon the Jews of Brzostek. The Jewish farmers were ordered to provide quotas of agricultural products to the authorities. The Jewish forced laborers worked at paving roads and on the agricultural farms of the region.
In 1941, a public kitchen was operated by the J. S. S., which provided hot meals for those in need. At the beginning of 1942, Jewish youth were snatched for work camps. All of the Jewish agricultural property was confiscated at that time.
On July 11, 1942, the Germans gathered up the entire Jewish population. When the Jews surmised that this was a liquidation aktion, several of them attempted to escape and hide in the villages of the region. Most of them perished, however, and met the same fate as the rest of the community. The following day, July 12, 1942, the Germans took the Jewish residents of the region of Krajowice to be killed in the forest called Podzamocka. Some Jews of Brzostek were among the victims. Jews of Brzostek were also murdered in the forests near Wozica and Sokolowka. In the following months, the Germans continued to hunt for the remnants of the community who were hiding in the region.
Bibliography:Yad Vashem Archives: 021/19.
Atz'M: Z-4/234 B, Z-4/2997.
AJDC Archives: Countries Poland, Medical Report 374; Reconstruction 399.
Jasło oskarża. Warszawa 1973. pp. 152, 192, 240, 272, 285.
Drohobyczer Zeitung: December 18, 1891; Hamagid, June 30, 1898, July 26, 1900, August 20, 1903; Hamitzpe, June 30, 1905, April 20, 1906, October 19, 1917.
Diwrej Akiba November 17, 1933; Nowy Dziennik March 15, 1934, December 22, 1934, January 8, 1937.
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