“Sokolow Podlaski” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume VII
(Poland)

52°24' / 22°15'

Translation of “Sokolow Podlaski” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume VII, pages 339-342, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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(Pages 339-342)

Sokolow Podlaski

Sokolow District, Lublin Province

Written by Avraham Klevan

Translated by Attorney Meir Garbarz Gover

YearTotal PopulationNo. of Jews
1765-- 163
1827 3,6771,186
18583,9642,522
18939,7385,329
19218,0554,430
1931 9,9185,027

Sokolow is mentioned in writings commencing the 1400's. Owners were magnates of the Kiszka family. At that time this village received town privileges and became a trade and craft center for its agricultural surroundings. In the 1750's the town became property of Prince Michael Ogienski. Small silk, linen and leather belts factories were established.

Sokolow was annexed to Prussia in the Poland third partition on 1795. Sokolow became part of the Warsaw Principality established 1807 by Napoleon. Sokolow was part of Congress Poland from 1815 to WWI. The town was occupied from 1915 to 1918 by the Austro-German army.

The Jewish Community from Its Foundation to 1918

Jewish traders, small craftsmen, tanners, furriers and shoemakers settled in Sokolow it the beginning of the 17th century. Prince Jan Kazimierz Krasinski, owner of the town in the 17th century, saw it as an important development factor, equalized their rights with Polish inhabitants and secured their membership in the local professional Guilds. He protected them and threatened to punished local anti-Semites.

In the second half of the 17th century an organized Jewish community was established, a wooden school Beit Midrash was erected and a cemetery dedicated on the bank of the Struga River. A new cemetery was sanctified in the second half of the 19th century. A Rabbinical Court and the Prince's Court had parallel jurisdictions for Jews commercial and matrimonial matters.

In the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish settlement in Sokolow grew rapidly. Trade and crafts remained the main income sources for Sokolow Jews. 1904 census showed 637 Jewish craftsmen: bakers, tailors, blacksmiths, shoemakers, tanners, furriers, whitewashers, carpenters, glaziers, tinsmiths, and more. Some worked at home, some worked in tanneries workshops, shoemakers workshops, sewing workshops and others. Many of the local traders exported shoes and boots to Russia.

A big fire in 1910 burned most of the Jewish houses and the Beth Midrash. After the fire, neighboring Jewish communities helped to erect the new 'Great Synagogue'.

As the community grew, more Hassidim were in town. At the end of the 19th century, Sokolow had Shtiblach (small synagogues) of branches of Kock-Gerer, Alexander, Kaluszyn and Radzyn Hassidim.

Some of the Rabbis that held positions in Sokolow were: R' Chaim Lejb from Kaluszyn author of “Pri Chaim”, R' Zwi Josef, Rabbi Mosze Zwi Wejngarten, author of “Chidushey Mahar”m Zwi” (Warsaw 5651-1890/1) who moved to Siedlce in the middle of the 19th century; R' Binyamin Eliyahu Kantor author of the book of sermons “Chelek Yaakov” (Piotrkow 1914) who moved to Dzialoszyn in 1898 due to fights with Hassidim; R' Yitzhak Zelig Morgensztern (appointed 1900, died 1939), grandson of the admu”r (“our master and teacher” title of a high Hassidic rabbi) of R' Menachem Mendel from Kock. R' Yitzhak Zelig Morgensztern became an admu”r himself and based his court in Sokolow. His followers built a brick Beth Midrash in Sokolow. He established a yeshiva in Sokolow that functioned between the two World Wars and young men from the entire region came to study there. Another rabbinical teacher in Sokolow was Breslau Chassidim R' Mordechaj Halbersztat.

Until the 20th century, the Jewish community of Sokolow kept and preserved its religious-traditional nature. At the turn of the 20th century there were 4 benevolent and monetary Jewish institutions in Sokolow: “Linat Zedek”, “Lenachem Aniyim”, “Somech Noflim”, “Kupat Gmilut Chasadim” and in 1907a cooperative “Kupat Milve Vechischon” was founded, which lent funds to small businesses.

A Jewish “Bund” proletarian branch was established in 1900 and “Poaley Zion” branch in 1905. 1905 revolution saw common Jewish and Polish protests and strikes. Workers were the first to strike and also the apprentices of tailors and shoemakers, who were working 14-16 hours shifts on minimal salary that was paid late. Strikers demanded improved working conditions and salary. Reaction days after failure of the revolution saw destruction of those groups who were severely persecuted. Economical and social distress caused mass Jewish youth immigration to west Europe and overseas.

At the break of WWI, Russian authorities blamed the Jews for helping the Germans, thus they robbed Jewish property and murdered few Jews before retreating. The Germans occupied the town in 1915 and levied high taxes and confiscated Jewish property. Due to the hunger caused, the Jewish Community opened a public kitchen for the needy, where they received hot meal.

In spite of the economical stress of that period, the Jews enjoyed freedom without precedent as the Austro Germans lifted the banns of political activities. Thus “Bund” and “Poaley Zion” renewed activities. In 1916 a new “Mizrachi” branch was established. In the fall of 1917 “Poaley Zion” founded workers club where there was a library and night school courses.

New town's council had 6 Jewish representatives out of 9.

Sokolow Jews between the Two World Wars

Transition period between the end of WWI and establishment of the renewed Polish state was a no secure period for the Jews. In the 1920 Polish Soviet war, Sokolow was occupied by the Red Army for a certain period. The soviets established a Revolutionary Board manned by Poles and Jews. After the Soviet retreat, the Jews were blamed for helping the Bolsheviks and the Polish soldiers who freed the town persecuted the Jews and robbed and confiscated Jewish property. Many Jews escaped town and hid in the fields. 6 Jews were murdered by Polish Anti-Semites. As a result, many emigrated and left Sokolow.

Between the two World Wars Jews were reconstructing their businesses mainly the traditional small trade and crafts. Income sources were scarce. Jewish owned flour mill, brick factory and print house employed Jews and Poles alike. But Polish owned sugar factory, which employed hundreds of workers banned Jewish work. To overcome economical stress, credit institutions, unions (divided by professions) and benevolent organizations were developed. In 1920 “Kupat Milve Vechsachon” was reopened and “Kupat Gmilut Chasadim”, a benevolent society, was established. In 1929 Merchants Bank was founded and the Health Committee TA”Z (Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludnoś Żydowskiej) inaugurated a children infirmary.

The orthodox traditional way of life slowly gave way to Zionist movements. At the beginning of the 20th century there were already the first Zionist branches in Sokolow. “Tzeirei Zion” (Zion Youth) from 1919, “Poaley Zion” (Zion workers), “Poaley Zion Small” (Zion Workers Left), “H'Mizrachi”, Revisionists, and the youth movements “Gordonia” (founded in 1925), “Freiheit”, “Dror” (founded in 1927), “Hashomer Hatzair” (1927), “Hashomer Hadati” (1929), and Beit”ar.

The participation in the Zionist Congresses shows the growth of the Zionist movements in Sokolow. Towards the 15th Zionist Congress (in 1931) saw contributions for 251 “Shekels”, while the 21st Zionist Congress in 1939 saw contributions for 607 “Shekels”. The election results were: 53 votes for “AL HAMISHMAR” (“Zionim Klalliim” General Zionists), 200 votes for H'Mizrachi”, 269 votes for “Eretz Israel Haovedet” (Working Israel).

The strongest non Zionist party was Hassidic “Agudat Israel”, but there was also a “Bund” branch with its “Zukunft” Youth Movement, and SKIF Children Organization, and the Communist Youth Movement operating underground under Polish regime.

1928 election results for the Jewish Committee were: General Zionists, “H'Mizrachi”, and Union traders: 8 out of 12 votes, Zion Workers 1 vote, “Bund” 1, “Agudat Israel” 2. Head of the Committee became Chaim Jakob Szpadel. The 1929 Town Council elections resulted in 2 Jews out of 6 seats.

The children of the community studied in Jewish Kindergartens Cheders, Talmud Torah schools, “Yavne” “H'Mizrachi” school, and “Beit-Yacov” girls' school. About 150 pupils attended the local Yeshiva headed by Rabbi Icchak Zelig Morgrnsztern. Other attended the Elementary “Szabasowka” School which was closed on Saturdays as well as on Sundays.

The rich public life in Sokolow included also cultural activities. Two Jewish libraries existed in town: the “I. Ch. Brenner” of “Poaley Zion” and “Dow Ber Borochov” library. People attended Drama and Literature clubs who ran in the Yiddish language and a Sports Club “Hapoel”.

Known Jewish writers and journalists emerged from Sokolow: Baruch Winogora, Mordechai Tzanin, Szimon Weiss, and the poets Izik Platner and Izrael Jakob Morgensztern.

Jew-Gentile relations were limited mainly to business relations. 1930's Anti Semitism influenced Sokolow as well: riots against Jews broke on Pesach 1937. Members of the National Democratic Party (ND Narodowa Demokracja), the Endeks, injured innocent Jews and caused damage to Jewish property. Jewish stores and stands in the local market were set afire. Jewish made merchandise was banned. The instigators were town's council member Racka and insurance agent Szwintochowski. The heads of the Jewish community appealed to the director of the region who did not come. Local police did not lift a finger. The Sokolow pogroms were highly condemned in the Jewish newspapers and raised a discussion in the Warsaw Sejm. As a result policemen from Lublin were sent to Sokolow.

Riots returned on September 1937 and February 1938. Neighboring Jews in the Tribniec and Lozowo villages suffered from the economic boycott as well. Number of benevolent needy rose drastically.

World War II

In the second half of September 1939, a Red Army unit occupied Sokolow, but after a week they withdrew according to the Molotov-Ribentrop Pact. Many Jewish youngsters accompanied the retreating Red Army. Soon after, the German Wehrmacht marched into town. On the first days of the German occupation Jewish males were kidnapped for slave labor and abuse.

At the end of 1939 a 6 member Judenrat was chosen by the Germans. It was headed by the former head of the local community Chaim Jakob Szpadel. Szpadel died soon after and Nachum Lewin was nominated instead. The Judenrat was ordered to enlist Jews age 15 to 60 for slave labor, and to collect fines and contributions. About 1,000 of Sokolow Jews were sent to Slave work camp in the Kurczew village about 15 km south of Sokolow. A forced labor camp was established within the town's borders and in a nearby Polish estate as well.

An open Ghetto was established in two streets around the main synagogue. Jews were evicted from their homes into those two streets. Traffic out and into the Ghetto was allowed and the Jews could buy products from the nearby Polish farmers. However, an order by SS officer Grames in the beginning of 1941 banned Jews to come into the villages on the river Bug, due to proximity to the Soviet border. Then the situation of the Jews worsened.

As of the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, in the summer of 1941, the Sokolow Ghetto became a closed Ghetto; a wall was erected around it, with barbed wire on top of it. The Ghetto was guarded and sealed from the outside by Polish Gendarmerie headed by Polish SS agent Surdik, and from the inside by the Judenrat Police. Smuggling food into the Ghetto became dangerous and scarce. 2000 refugees from the regions of Lodz and Kalisz added to the Ghetto's inhabitants hunger and disease. Daily death rate was very high.

In the summer of 1942 rumors spread about deportations of Warsaw and Siedlce Jewry to Death Camp Treblinka. At the same time Germans started deporting groups of Jews from Sokolow to an unknown destination where nobody returned. Many tried to escape but most of them fell in the hands of the Germans or handed over to them by collaborating Poles.

On the evening fast of Yom Kippur 5703 (10 October 1942) the Sokolow Ghetto was liquidated by an Action (aktzia, akcja). German SS troops, Ukrainian collaborators units and Polish Police units encircled the Ghetto, herded the Sokolow Jews to the local Rynek (Market Square) and transported them is sealed cattle train wagons directly to nearby Treblinka, where they were promptly exterminated upon arrival.

Many tried to escape the deportations, but were caught and shot on the spot. Their bodies were buried by local Poles in pits that were dug near the Sokolow Train Station for that purpose. 50 Jews were spared for the process of collecting Jewish property into storage hangars. Soon after they concluded this work they were promptly shipped to Treblinka, where they never saw the next day sunrise. After the Sokolow Ghetto liquidation, the Jewish local cemetery was demolished as well.

On 26 November 1942, the Kurczew Slave labor camp was liquidated. Few of Sokolow Jews managed to escape to nearby forests and joined local partisans. Two of them were Reuwen Rozenberg and Anszel Farbiarz. Two others Baruch Winogora and his painter wife Chana Kowalska, who immigrated to Paris before the war, joined in the summer of 1940 the French Underground. They were shot to death by the Germans in 1942 in the La Turel Camp. Another Sokolow born who fought in the French Underground was Herszel Kojfman.

Sources:

YIVO Archive 49.
Yad Vashem Archive 3198, 03/2734.
Central Zionist Archive: 1801, S5/1774, 3003-IV, Z4/215-681.
P. Granatsztejn “My SHTETL Sokolow”, Buenos Aires 1946.
Memorial Book for Sokolow Podlaski, Tel Aviv 1962.
S. Polialowicz, “Destruction of Sokolow Podlaski” Tel Aviv, 1957.
Bafreiung” Feb 6,1919. Oct 27, 1919.
Das Yidishe Tagblat”, Mar 8, 1932. Jan 18, 1933. Oct 29, 1935.
Heint” 1910, 1917, 1921-1939.
Lubliner Tagblat”, Jul 22, 1929.
Naye Folkzeitung”, Jan 16, 1927. Feb 23, 1932.
Siedlcer Vochenblat”, Feb 13, 1925. May 13, 1927. Feb 8, 1929. Feb 15, 1929. May 17, 1929/ Feb 14, 1930. Aug 29, 1930.


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