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Vishnevets

 

Vishnevets in Original Sources and Sefer Vishnivits

By Chayim Rabin

 

Introduction

Everything written about Vishnevets in the source material applies to New Vishnevets, meaning that this is what the book deals with. But since Jewish settlement originally began in Old Vishnevets, we need to see the two of them as having one successive demography. Their stages of historical change also included certain geographical changes in that the settlement moved from a hill to a valley, or vice versa, in the same location. This is not unique in the history of Jewish and non-Jewish towns.

The Polish sources available are very lean in the Jewish details that are the main focus of our review. All we can do is rely on chronological facts by comparing dates in order to draw Jewish information out of them. However, each historical research project is a large foundation of theories and estimations built by comparing and combining occurrences, and there is no history without such research.

 

History and Sources

According to Universal Encyclopedia, “the [fortress] was built in 1395,” but “the town itself and its daughters are mentioned for the first time in 1494.”

Also, Guide to Volin sees the end of the 14th century as the year that “the town of New Vishnevets was established near the village of Old Vishnevets.”

Volin is mentioned in history as the main section of Belorussia (see Schiffer), settled by Jews organized into communities. The most prominent was the community of Ludmir, which existed next to the oldest community, Kiev, from the 10th century on.

Two prominent dates that brought changes in the Jewish settlement in Volin also formed the character of the Jews who lived there. The first date is 1113, the year of Prince Monomakh of Kiev's riot, which caused the exile of Kiev's Jews. In the second year, 1169, the kingdom of Kuzaria was destroyed, causing a panicked migration of Jews from the kingdom's boundaries into the liberal Polish principality's lap, which opposed the Catholic Church and brought Jews from Germany to serve as agents to develop agriculture.

While the stream of migration from Kiev brought Jews who were expert in finance and agriculture, the Kuzari stream brought farmers who worked the land and land tenants.

As we know, both groups enriched the Polish principalities of Mazovia, Koivia, and Little Poland. They became a desirable element in all the developing principalities, mostly the Polish principalities in Ukraine, where they served as tax collectors and estate agents on the farms of the Polish princes, who regarded them as a link and gateway between themselves and the oppressed Ukrainians, who outnumbered them.

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Therefore, we can assume that persecuted Jews also arrived in Vishnevets and laid the foundation for an urban settlement, which in many cases was the only form of Jewish municipality in Polish Ukraine (Belorussia). Both sources mentioned above talk about “the town and its daughters” and the “town next to the village,” hinting at a Jewish settlement next to the village and its daughters, etc.

There is no written history for the abovementioned years, because, as we know, there is no written history for that part of the world, only historical facts mentioned here and there. These facts enable researchers to peek inside the events of those days in those countries, and their time period overlaps the period of this review.

Therefore, one can assume that Jewish Vishnevets put down roots in the area at the end of the 11th or 12th century, just as all of Volin's Jewry did. As Dr. Y. Schiffer notes, “Jewish migration from Kuzaria streamed here [to Polish Ukraine-Ch. R.] during the Kuzri kingdom era and its destruction. Jewish settlements began to grow during the 11th or 12th centuries at the latest” (The Jewish Economy 218/50).

In any case, Jewish Vishnevets is already mentioned in 1597 as a town that left a great impression on contemporaneous Jewish life (I am referring to Register of the Council of Four Lands). The fact that “the meeting” of the “leaders of the four holy communities in the Volin district”-that is to say, Ludmir, Kremenets, Lutsk, and Ostra-took place here (Register of the Council of Four Lands) proves two important, relevant facts: (1) Vishnevets was an important market town, and the meetings of the Council of the Four Lands took place only during a fair and only in the venues of large fairs (Lublin, Krakow, Lutsk, and so on). (2) There was a structure in Vishnevets fit to house such a meeting, meaning a respected rabbinate's community hall. Neither of these conditions for such a meeting blossoms overnight. We must understand that they are the result of the longstanding existence of a Jewish community. They are evidence that the market town-with an organized community, a respected rabbinate, and a site for an extensive interdistrict meeting- was not built overnight.

A very interesting incident took place in 1781, when the town's rabbi welcomed King Stanislaw August with an excited speech in Latin. What is interesting is that there was a rabbi in Vishnevets who could give a speech in Latin in that year and a community that employed such a rabbi. But the most interesting point is that Polish sources repeatedly mention it in the Polish Encyclopedia, which was under Catholic influence and financed by the church. This rabbi had authority, from their point of view, and if he held the rabbinical chair in Vishnevets, it was a sign that the town deserved him.

According to a Jewish census conducted 1765, “the community registered 475 Jews in Old Vishnevets, 26 in New Vishnevets, and 163 in the surrounding villages.” In addition, in the spring, 1,653 Vishnevets Jews were slaughtered, and their homes were destroyed with the Tatars' return from Berestechko (Jewish Encyclopedia).

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We can therefore say for sure that an established, rooted Jewish community existed in Vishnevets in the 17th century. That was also the location of the Tatars' hostile acts after their defeat in Berestechko, and the numbers mentioned above are not only a sign that the place and its name attracted Jews to return and settle there.

In 1847, “the Jewish community of Vishnevets” [emphasis added-Ch. R.] numbered 3,178 persons. This community was equal in importance and size to communities of 300 or 400 during the 13th and 14th centuries (Rupin, History of Jewish Sociology), which were then considered “large communities.”

 

Vishnevets in Sefer Vishnevets

This book is actually the last record of the town, and it seals her existence with one of grief. From this book alone one can learn about this community from the last trustworthy source. Since the editors of this book made sure to examine the material brought to them-even on descriptive, emotional, and spiritual matters-and test its accuracy, we can use the facts scattered in this material as a foundation for writing about the history of Vishnevets before its destruction.

The great majority of those who participated in writing this book are imbued with love, trust, passion, and honesty, and one can say that the grace of the place and its people is evident in all its Jewish residents' deeds. Its special landscape, the great Horyn River, the forest, and the palace, all of which are “gentile,” so to speak, added a special character to its Jewry.

Here stood a Jewry with a faith like that of all others, as the saying goes, “How lovely is this tree, etc., and it is bound in his soul,” but it can't ignore the scenery, and it absorbs moisture from it. The light and trees stimulate its soul's senses and take hold of its spiritual being. This palace illustrates a man's need of to reach his summit, and its loftiness, splendor, and power accompanied each Jew in Vishnevets from early childhood.

This Jewry could not remain wrung out and dehydrated from the entire “world of delusions” when the good landscape and its loftiness took hold of their senses and formed a different Jewish conception of heavenly devotion.

The only thing that could have happened here is a Jewry composed of Jews who, though devoted to their Judaism, had a childhood imbued with beauty and scenery, which allowed them to avoid everything belonging to today's world. And so the problems of the Jews, in regard to the Jewish world and its future, can reflect only its community's needs.

Therefore, we find here a reverent, integrated Jewry, which reinforces its belief by separating itself from national values, and therefore it has no attachment to extreme separatism and its piety.

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Therefore, an earthy state of mind arises here, a brother to the particular Jewish nature that does not allow extreme Jewish winds to blow here. They share their fate and help each other, but they do not force their opinions on each other, because anyone who harbors warm memories of his childhood in his soul cannot be tied down by the ropes of dry tradition and fossilization of the senses. A new kind of Judaism of friendship and unity characterized by the earthliness mentioned above is created here.

Therefore, the young people here also love their childhood landscape. They are powerless and angry because the landscape and palace were taken away from them and given over to the control of others. This same palace and its gardens are theirs in their soul, and when they find them suddenly locked, they rebel, and drama storms their soul. They are bound on one hand by their love of the place, where they can live if allowed to do so, and on the other by the need to live without it. It fathers the longing to create places like these that will always be wholly and entirely theirs. The two intertwined, rose, and set in motion hidden forces searching for salvation. And this formed the foundation and background for an active Zionist movement. It is nothing but national stabilization, a connection between man and his maker, and there is no power in the world that can unbind it. And it is in the language of our tangible Zionism, which is the opposite of messianic Zionism.

Every once in a while, and only on rare occasions, we find Hasidic uprisings in Vishnevets, but we do not find a closed piety that brings argument and hatred. We find a rabbi and judge there, but the two men did not gain control of those institutions as a result of division and quarrel between brothers. Also, in their so-called theoretical arguments, practicality takes over, and the calm landscape lowers your stature and silences any desire for conflict and pride; you become well liked when you are kind to the place.

We do not find stormy synagogues, exaggeration of the value of the book, and the need to escape and find refuge in it. Reading it here is within the limits, not above it.

And we find an effervescent generation of young people who tied themselves to the most influential Zionist movement in their town. They are passionate, and they express their passion by participating in organized activities, establishing organizations and movements, collecting money for national foundations, and staging shows, but above all, they nurture their bodies and physical fitness in order to physically wrestle with those who stole their landscape and the fortresses of their childhood, and they wrestle with them at every opportunity. The wrestling is not Jewish morality, and moral victory followed. The young people of Vishnevets express their anger in an almost non-Jewish way, and this is their distinction.

However, the book before us deals with a particular town and particular Jews. The villages extend to the town and its business as one organic existence. There is no wide separation between the two ethnic groups' lifestyles; there are Jews who deal with agriculture, and their attachment to the land and its growth is more natural than that of the area's gentiles. There is no devotion to rabbis, teachers, and judges as people who invade your thoughts, turn your emotions away from you, and drown your energy in a sea of legends and miracles. Also, R' Yosele Radiviler and his life story are discussed here in an earthy, logical way, stripped of all the trappings of wonder and legend that appear in other towns.

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The Vishnevets community was earthy and concrete, her people were people of action, and her public life was saturated with a strong desire for a simple, tangible life.

Circumstances based on racial stupidity and hatred also shocked this Jewry, and she tore herself from her home and looked forward to a national future.

When the great insanity erupted along with the Jewish Holocaust, the destroyer found here a town that was ready to uproot itself of its own will toward a better world and wanted only the time to decide for itself where this world was and what image it would have. There was no need to uproot it, because it would do that itself in time, if allowed to.

And before it wanted to uproot itself from here for her benefit and that of its dark neighbors, he came and uprooted it from her roots, without historical necessity or justification.

So the Nazis' crime grew and increased in the light of Jewish Vishnevets, as in the light of other similar towns, and turned into an abomination that will never be forgiven.


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Guide to Volin

By Dr. Mstislav Orlovich

 

Sources:

Antiquities of Volin, by Dr. Zigmunt Mormits

Art and Antiquities of Volin, by Dr. Yozef Piotrkovski

Originally written in 1923 and published in 1929

…In the wide lowland of the upper Horyn, 22 kilometers from Kremenets, lies the town of Vishnevets, with its 3,500 residents.

…The road from Kremenets to Vishnevets is not very impressive. It passes over the foot of the Podolia highland through wide, fertile fields that are bare of trees or forests. At the midpoint of the road, we pass the village of Horinka, from which flows the Horyn River, the biggest and most beautiful river in Volin.

…You can see Vishnevets only after you reach the last mountain before the town. As we descend deep into the valley, the town that appears is very picturesque, and the Formalitic Church steeple towers over the roofs of the small buildings.

 

History

Vishnevets is the base of the mighty principality of the Wisniowiecki family, which originated from Prince Dymitr Korybut, son of Algirdas.

At the end of the 14th century, he established the town of New Vishnevets next to the village of Old Vishnevets. The Vishnevets estates belonged to that family until its decline after the death of Vilna district governor Michal Serwacy, who died in 1744. Vishnevets and all property belonging to the Wisniowiecki family passed as a dowry from his granddaughter, Katarzyna, to the Mniszech family. This matter consolidated the families during the second half of the 18th century. The estates remained in the hands of the Mniszech family until the beginning of the 19th century, when they were transferred to the Plater family, and in 1852 Vishnevets and its offshoots were sold by Baron Andrzhei Plater to the Russians.

The Wisniowiecki principality extended to about 900 square kilometers and included a number of towns and 16 villages.

Vishnevets is located on the higher north shore of the Horyn, which created a number of large lakes at the base of the town. Most are marshy and muddy, and twisted water plants grow in them. The town follows the pattern of Kremenets and Pochayev, in that it consists of a row of ancient buildings that are typical of 18th- and 19th-century residential buildings in Volin. These buildings were built in the Classical or Imperial style. They are made of wood and covered with bricks on the outside. Their roofs are high, and their magnificent fašades have balconies and railings. The cottages that encircle the market and extend to its side alleyways are among the most beautiful in Volin.

 

The Palace

The most expensive antiquity in Vishnevets is the palace. It was built by Michal Serwacy Wisniowiecki in 1720 on the ruins of Jeremi Wisniowiecki's old defensive castle. At first, the structure was built in late Baroque style.

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In the Mniszech era, the palace was extended and rebuilt in the rococo style. As indicated by the memorial tablet in the main vestibule, the expansion of the palace was finished in 1781 and was financed by Michal Wandalin Mniszech and his wife, Urszula, of the Zamoyski family. At that time, the halls were redone with impressive decorations and furnishings in the traditional style of the Stanislaw August period. The Mniszech family also held a famous painting exhibit there.

The entry hall, staircase, and upper ballroom were decorated with 4,500 Dutch Delft porcelain tiles. In one of the halls was a series of portraits of Polish kings and other famous personalities. The mirrored rococo hall, the dining hall, a number of halls in the upper floor, and the library, with cabinets covered with paintings and portraits, were brilliantly appointed. Memorial plates hang the rooms where Stanislaw August and Pawel I once stayed.

Until the second half of the 19th century, when the palace was in the hands of the Poles, it was a substantial royal palace, and few of its style existed in Poland, but under Russian rule it slowly began to decay.

The contents of Marina Mniszech's famous art gallery were sold to Kiev and Moscow, and most of the palace's artistic beauty was removed with it. Most of the remaining art collections were saved by General Demidov, the palace's owner at the beginning of the 20th century. Although he was Russian, he showed respect for the history and art of Vishnevets. During World War I, Baron Grocholski purchased the estates and the palace.

…. In 1920, during the Bolshevik invasion, the palace was completely destroyed, its glory was stolen, and only its naked walls remained. The remaining artistic decorations and expensive collections were looted, and the Dutch porcelain tiles on the upper floor were also pulled out.

After the war, the Kremenets District Committee purchased the palace for $40,000, renovated the building, and turned it into a trade school, orphanage, and hospital.

…. The palace garden, which was planted on top of the hill that overlooks the Horyn River and covered around 3,000 dunam, was one of the most beautiful gardens in Volin.

The palace standing on the site of the Wisniowieckis' fortress and its ramparts and dugouts are still there today. The king's father, Prince Jeremi Wisniowiecki, was born in the fortress. In 1640, he created the palace garden on the site of the fortress. The garden was completely destroyed in 1672 by the Turks, who also pulled out the roots of the town's residents.

On the opposite shore of the Horyn River is the town of Old Vishnevets, a village with a population of 1,900 that replaced the old settlement.


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Vishnevets (History and Description)

Encyklopedia Powszechna

 

Historical Facts

 

1. Universal Encyclopedia (1867 edition)

…a town in the Volin region, Kremenets district, located on the right shore of the Horyn River between two big dams (lakes)…. It is famous for its ancient fortress, and its history is tightly connected with the history of the famous Korybut Wisniowiecki principality.

The fortress, next to which the town of Vishnevets was built, was erected in 1395 by Dymitr Korybut, the Sewacy prince who was exiled by Prince Witold. He received agricultural land in Volin from him, and he established his chain of generations there.

Some connect the building of the fortress and the house of Wisniowiecki to his great-grandson, whose name was Soltan.

The town itself and its offshoots appear only in the light of burning wars. It is mentioned for the first time in 1494, when a small Polish unit was defeated by Crimean Tatars.

In 1500, Ivan the Terrible was told that the Tatars had destroyed his towns, including Vishnevets, which they had completely burned, and that they had captured 5,000 people from the surrounding area.

The same chronicles recount that in 1502, 9,000 Tatars under the command of Mengli Girany's sons destroyed the area around Vishnevets with fire and sword, but Vishnevets is not mentioned in the report on the area.

Only on April 28, 1512, did the Poles repay the Tatars for the two defeats: a Polish army of 6,000 under the command of Count Mikolai Koniecpolski penetrated the lines of the Tatars' 24,000-man army, which was camping near Vishnevets, next to Lopuszyna. They killed many and took16,000 as prisoners.

After that, the enemy did not dare approach Vishnevets's fortified walls for more than 100 years.

In 1672, the fortress was rebuilt by Jeremi Wisniowiecki after it fell into the Turks' hands because of the Jews' betrayal (so to speak).

In 1781, after the death of Michal Serwacy, the last of the Wisniowiecki family, the estate was given to his daughters, Oginska and Zamoyska.

In October-November 1781, King Stanislaw August visited Vishnevets during the months to conduct talks with Prince Pawel of Russia. It is mentioned here that the town's rabbi welcomed him with a passionate speech in Latin.

In 1867, we find Vishnevets described as a town built of wood, rich in trade, and poor in industry. There was one fabric factory and a number of tanneries. Five thousand citizens were registered.

The fortress, which was rebuilt in 1720, contained a very rich collection of paintings and sculptures as well as a library rich in very important manuscripts.

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2. Jewish Encyclopedia, edited by Dr. Katsnelson and published in 1908-1913

…. In 1765, the Jewish community registered 457 Jews in the old city, 26 in the new city, and an additional 163 Jews in nearby villages.

It is said that in 1653 the Jews were slaughtered by Tatars returning from Berestechko and that their homes were totally destroyed.

In 1847, the Jewish community in New Vishnevets registered 3,178 people, and in 1897, 2,980 out of a population of 4,196.

 

3. Register of the Council of Four Lands, edited by A. Heylperin

1. In Register of the Council of Four Lands, the town is called Vishnitets.- V. Volin

2. In 5717 (1957), one rabbi wrote,

… “and despite this, I did not retreat, with God's help, blessed be He, and at the holy community of Vishnitets in Lutsk province, the leaders of the four holy communities in the Volin subdistrict, which are Ludmir, Kremenets, Lutsk, and Ostra, met. There on 18 Adar, we also appealed and renewed the decrees and requisitions.”

He is referring to boycotts of rabbis who buy their seats and rabbis who engage in Kabbalah.

From the Council of Four Lands' 1635 discussion of Volin matters in Vishnevets, we learn that Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heler, rabbi of Ludmir, complained bitterly that many had jumped on “rabbinate” positions in various towns and that district leaders and rulers of the provinces negotiated for the purchase of “rabbinate” positions and became rich from it. Yom Tov was authorized by the Volin community council to stand on guard and forbid the purchase of rabbinate positions, which was troubling a number of communities. The meetings of the council of Volin Assembly took place in Kozin, Korets, and Vishnevets. The community leaders' main business was the just distribution of taxes (Volin Treasury 2).


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Vishnevets in Ruins and Her Annihilated Jews

by Meir Or (Averbukh)

[Translation Editor's Note: This section has not been translated.]

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Vis027.jpg
Here is a portrait of Bat-Sheve Chazan, of blessed memory, a beloved daughter of Vishnevets, who on her death commended half of her property and that of her husband, Zalman Chazan, of blessed memory, to our organization.
Her estate, worth thousands of pounds, motivated us and set the publication of the Vishnevets memorial book in motion. Her part in setting up a memorial for our loved ones is significant-please remember her forever.

 

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