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

49°40' / 25°09'

Translation of “Zborow” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Francine Shapiro

 

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for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume II, pages 202-205, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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(Pages 202-205)

Zborow

(Zborow area, Tarnopol district)

Translated by Shlomo Sneh
Edited by Francine Shapiro

Population Table

YearNumber of
Inhabitants
Jews
1765(?)655
18803,8782,109
18904,069 1,873
19004,8292,084
19105,6562,265
19213,7301,086
1931(?)1,900

Jewish Settlement from the Beginning until 1919

The nobles of the Zborowski family established Zborow in the sixteenth century.

It burned down completely in 1645. In 1649 there was a battle nearby between the Polish army, commanded by the king, and the united armies of the Tatar Khan and Chmelnitzki. The Polish army was almost defeated, but succeeded in bribing the Khan. He left the battle, which ended without a definite victory for either side. The Cossacks, and their allies, the Tatars, destroyed the city again in 1667. Then Zborow came under the ownership of the Sobieski family, established a castle near it, and accorded it rights according to Magdeburgian Law.

At the end of the nineteenth century the Lwow-Tarnopol railroad line track ran close to the town. The town again suffered from a big fire in 1891.

Zborow Jewish tradition said that there was a Jewish community even before the Chmelnitzki revolt of 1648-49, but we do not have any records.

Apparently the first Jews settled in Zborow at the beginning of the 1780's. In 1689 King Jan Sobieski, then the owner of the city, gave the inhabitants an extensive bill of rights, as he did for all his private towns. According to it the Jews were permitted to make their living in all fields of trade an artisanship. They had the right and obligation to defend the city. In court cases between town residents and Jews, the representative of the owner of the city had the last word.

Jewish social conditions worsened at the beginning of the eighteenth century. About 15 local Jews were accused of murdering a Christian beggar woman, and were almost hanged. But at the last minute, as the result of a Jewish investigation among the beggars of the area, the criminals were exposed, and the negative verdict was canceled. The local Jews celebrated a little Purim in memory of this day, the 12th day of the Jewish month of Shvat. During the middle of the eighteenth century Jews were accused of smashing the statues in church, but saved when a Christian clerk confessed that he was the culprit.

During Austrian rule Zborow Jews worked almost exclusively in trades of every kind. There were only a few Jewish artisans, mostly tailors. At the beginning of the twentieth century a young Jewish tailor, Moshe Rotlov, tried to establish an artisan's association, but the attempt failed. Poor Jews made their living as porters and carters. Professionals existed in Zborow by the middle of the nineteenth century. The first physician was Doctor Kroynish, a Maskil, who left his heirs a library rich in Jewish sciences, afterwards used by all the Maskilim of Zborow. At this time Dr. Brust lived in Zborow. He established two big public parks. One son, a lawyer, Joseph Brust, lived in Mayerling, near Vienna. He converted and became the mayor. Despite his conversion he helped his community and sent it funds. In 1912 he bought some land for a Jewish community center. He also supported his teacher, Zvi Zverdling, who was famous as one of the best grammarians of his generation. He also donated a large sum of money for community needs. In the 1880's and 1890's Dr. Nagler worked in Zborow. He did not take money from poor patients, and sometimes even bought them medicine from his own pocket. From the end of the nineteenth century until 1931 Dr. Sturm was active in Zborow. He was a Zionist sympathizer, and for some years before World War I he was the mayor. At this time there were two Jewish lawyers and two Jewish doctors.

In the 1890's Rachiburski, a Polish noble who had fled from Siberia, came to Zborow. He established a bank and an insurance company. Many of the Jews of Zborow were helped by his bank, and were insured by his company. After the fire of 1889 all the insured got their money, even those whose payments were late. For many years Rachiburski was the mayor, and was famous for warm and tolerant relations with Jews. At the end of the nineteenth century Yakov Katz, the local rich man and head of the community, established a private bank that helped the Jewish merchants greatly. His son-in-law, Aaron Jupnik, headed it. He was a Maskil, poet, philosopher, and mathematician, who corresponded with many of the great figures of the time, including Einstein and Weizmann. These Zborow rabbis are famous: Rabbi Moshe Yakov Ashkenazi, son of Rabbi Natan, who wrote the book Hidushei Halachot. He died in 1780. For a short time Rabbi Alexander, son of Rabbi Mordechai Margaliot, was the rabbi of Zborow. From there he moved to Shebursk. The rabbi of Zborow at the beginning of the nineteenth century was Rabbi Yakov Perl. In the middle of the nineteenth century the rabbi of Zborow was Rabbi Avraham, son of Rabbi Zvi Hirsh Teomim, who wrote the book called Hesed Avraham. From Zborow he moved to Buchacz. Rabbi Avram Abba Isserles, a descendant of the Ramah, replaced him. From 1880-1894 the local rabbi was Natan Neta Yakov Dov, who later moved to Sanok. Rabbi David Kleinhandler was elected rabbi of Zborow at the end of the nineteenth century. The herald of Hassidism in Zborow was Rabbi Yosef Moshe Shapira, a disciple of Dov Ber of Meszerich, a preacher in Zborow and Zalozce.

Not all the Jews of Zborow became Hassidim. There was also an important group of Mitnagdim, mainly centered on the large Bet Midrash. Among the Mitnagdim were rabbis Teomim and Isserles.

During the years 1867-1914 the Admor, Rabbi Meyerl Moshkovitz, great-grandson of Rabbi Yehiel Michel from Zoloczow, and grandson of Rabbi Meyer of Przemysl lived in Zborow. In 1914 he moved to Hungary and died there.

The synagogues of Zborow were: the Great Synagogue which was rebuilt after the fire of 1889, the big Bet Midrash, the Mitnagdim center, the small Bet Midrash, where Rabbi Moshkovitz prayed, and the Kloises of Stratin and Belz.

As in other cities of Galicia, Herz Homberg established a school in Zborow for Jewish boys in 1786, but this school had a short existence, and was closed by 1796. In 1871 a general government school for girls was opened, and some Jewish girls were among its pupils. The boys, except for a few, continued to have a traditional education in cheders. At the end of the nineteenth century Baron Hirsh established a boy's school. The level of instruction at this institution was high, and it included many Christians among its pupils, who preferred it to the general school.

By the 1890's there was a branch of Hovavei Zion, and the Yiddish poet Yitzhak Averbach was a member. A Zionist group was organized in Zborow after the first Zionist congress, led by Yoshua Feldman-Redler, afterwards famous as an author and journalist, called Rabbi Binyamin. He and his brother, Simcha Bunim, (later a member of the Polish Sjem and a Mizrachi leader) established a Zionist club called Achva.

Zionist influence in Zborow became evident. More than 1,000 people attended the memorial meeting for Hertzl that took place in the Great Synagogue in 1904. The Zionist leader after 1910 was Dr. Matityahu Weinreb, a lawyer. The Zionists established a room for reading newspapers from all over the world. The Turnbe -Haller club had lectures.

During the First World War many Zborow Jews fled into the Austrian Empire. The Russian army unit that occupied the city acted fairly to the Jewish public. Many of those expelled from Tlumach were brought to Zborow during the Russian occupation, and this added to the precariousness of the health and economic situation. From time to time, epidemics erupted, mostly typhus. Many Zborow inhabitants and many more refugees died. The leaders of the Jewish community fled, and because of it the community could not assist them.

After World War I ended, and in the chaos that followed, a Jewish Self- Defense group was organized. Yakov Fuks, who was formerly an officer in the Austrian army, headed it. The city was not yet quiet after the Polish Army occupied it in 1919. The Red Army occupied it for a month in 1920.

Between the Two World Wars

Many of the refuges of Zborow did not return to their homes after the end of the war, but some of them returned during the 1920's. The Joint helped the Jews with money and training (for their rehabilitation). Sources of income did not change, and most lived by all sorts of trade, and a few by artisanship. (No Jews did building or metalwork.) Some Jews continued to work as porters and carters. At this time there was a big number of Jewish professionals.

A Jewish bank was established in Zborow in 1935, which also served Christian clients. The bank made small-interest loans with small pledges. In 1938 the sum of the pledges was 80,000 zlotys, and the capital was 110,000 zlotys. There was a Free Loan Fund. This fund was established in 1929, and in 1936-37 it gave 82 loans, whose sum was 4,974 zlotys. Loans were given to: 161 small merchants, 35 artisans, 16 workers, 15 farmers, and 3 others.

Elections to the Municipality and the community were not based on parties, but were by individual candidate. Sometimes members of the same party belonged to different lists. In the municipal elections of 1933, six of the 16-member City Council were Jewish, three of the six were from a Jewish list, and the others were from the Polish Senatzia Party. One Jewish Senatzia representative was a Zionist. Adolph Morgenstern, who was a member of the General Zionists, was elected vice-mayor. In the elections of 1939, only 3 Jews were elected, and Morgenstern was elected a member of the municipal administration.

Until 1925 two officials, Adolph Morgenstern, and Moshe Haim Zilberman, also a General Zionist governed the community. After the elections of 1925, in which the Zionists were victorious, Aharon Zupnik, a non-Zionist, was elected the head of the community. He was popular with everyone. After he left Zborow in 1935, Binyamin Reiss of the Hitachadut was elected head of the community. He also left Zborow in 1938, and Adolph Morgenstern was nominated.

Two rabbis were in Zborow at this time. After Rabbi David Kleinhandler died during the war, there were two who demanded his inheritance: his son, Rabbi Shlomo Kleinhandler, and the long-standing Dayan, Benzion Shalita. The dispute was not settled, and both of them officiated together.

In 1937 a committee was organized that established a soup kitchen, thanks to the assistance of American expatriates. From the middle of 1937 until the beginning of the Second World War two meals a day were served to 150 poor people. The kitchen was supported by CENTOS.[1] There was also a summer camp that served poor children. Every month Americans sent $70, and sometimes more to the community, which divided the money among the poor.

At the beginning of the 1920's a general private high school was started through Jewish initiative. It also included non-Jews, but some years later it closed. At this time a complementary Hebrew school opened, which continued through the whole period. It also had a kindergarten. Agudat Yisroel established two schools: an elementary school for boys called Yesodei HaTorah, and Beis Yakov for girls. The Jewish library, drama club, and Maccabi Sport Union were noteworthy institutions. Relations between Jews and Christian were generally reasonable.

In 1935 the authorities prevented a trial boycott of Jews, which had been declared by the Ukrainians. In a nearby Ukrainian village there were terror activities against Jews. They spoiled the produce of Jewish farmers, and broke their windows.

The Second World War

The local Polish administration used Ukrainians from the nearby villages (Konucha, Krassna, Palaftza, etc.) to create a pogrom against local Jews in the middle of September 1939. Only the arrival of the Red Army soldiers on September 17, 1939 prevented the pogrom. A temporary urban committee was established, and its members were Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews. Factories and supply depots owned by Jews were nationalized, and gradually private trade stopped by the end of 1939. The community institutions, political parties, and public organizations ended their activities or fell apart by themselves, but the intervention of the Soviet officials was not perceptible. Members of Beitar planned to cross the border into Romania to make aliyah, but were caught, jailed, and expelled to the Soviet Union.

In the spring of 1940 most Jews received identity cards that contained Paragraph 11-because of their “bourgeois” status. This limited their freedom of movement, and the possibility of living in a central city. The artisans organized cooperatives according to professions, and many also worked in government stores and offices. There were cooperatives in which all the members were Jewish, and there were arrangements for not working on Saturday, and keeping the sanctity of the Jewish holidays. Jewish youths were conscripted into the Red Army after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, but because of the rapid German progress only some of them succeeded in reaching army units, and fleeing to the East. When the Soviet Union evacuated the locality and withdrew its personnel, small groups of Jews left for the Soviet Union

On July 4, 1941 the Germans entered the city, and on the same day began to murder the Jews. Germans and Ukrainians took Jewish men out of their homes and concentrated them in an enclosure near the store owned by Meir Adler, with the excuse that they were needed for work. Many did not believe the German and Ukrainian aides, and because of it there were men who chose to hide, not come. More than 1,000 men in were executed in two mass pits: one near Meir Adler's store, and the other in the Municipality courtyard.

The Judenrat was established by German demand in July 1941. Yakov Fuks headed it, and among its members were Dr. Bund, David Herman, Hirsch Shapiro, Sonia Averbach, Yakov Schwab, Binyamin Fleischer, and Leib Kroynish. A contribution of 1,500,000 rubles was levied onto the community at the beginning of August. The Judenrat was also ordered to supply hundreds of men for forced labor every day. In order to ease life the Judenrat established a soup kitchen.

In August 1941 Germans and Ukrainians held a roundup for local Jews who were active in Soviet Authority institutions from 1939-1941, and dozens of people were executed in the Prisovtza forest.

In the winter of 1941-42 famine and epidemics caused many deaths among the Jews.

A group of Jewish workers who were vital to the German economy and their families was concentrated in the middle of 1942 in the middle of the town in a work camp, called an open camp. Its inhabitants were given relative freedom of movement, and even a feeling that this camp might afford some immunity of expulsion.

A second work camp was established in Zborow. This camp was closed, and like the others, was for forced labor. The regime and the conditions in it were most difficult. Jewish youths from Zborow and nearby communities were placed in it.

In August 29, 1942 there was a mass Aktion. Before the Aktion the Germans “promised” that those who had a permit for vital work place would be immune from expulsion. For this reason many of them did not hide and were taken with others for extermination. About 1,300 were put into railroad cars, taken to Belzec, and killed.

Jews from the nearby towns of Zalozce, Pomorzhany, and Jerzierna were moved to Zborow after the Aktion. The ghetto of Zborow was established in the autumn of 1942. The Jews were put into two streets near the Stripa River. It was surrounded by barbed wire, and the area was densely crowded. Each room had 10-15 people, and the health conditions in the ghetto were terrible. A typhus epidemic spread.

On April 9, 1943 there was another Aktion. Germans and Ukrainians burst into the houses and did what they could to find those hidden. It was not difficult to round up 2,300 people because the Jews were concentrated in a small space. These people were taken to an area behind the Sokolnia Sports field, forced to dig trenches, and shot there.

After the Aktion the remnants of the Zborow community began frantic attempts to make shelters, and displayed resourcefulness in building bunkers. Some left for the Hungarian border, but the majority were caught and murdered.

In the final month of the ghetto's existence, a group of youths organized, began to collect weapons, and communicated with the partisans. Among the active underground members were Levi Remer, the commander, Binyamin Fleishner, Moshe Hammer, Dolek Rabfogel, and Yosef Tzeigerson. Because of a Ukrainian tattletale who pretended to be a Soviet partisan, the Germans were on the trail of the Underground.

The Germans also knew that Yakov Fuks, head of the Judenrat, had information about the existence of the Underground. They investigated and tortured him, in order to learn more details about the Fighting Organization. Yakov Fuks did not yield, and was murdered.

June 5, 1943 was the date of the last Aktion. Like the others, Germans and Ukrainians began by surrounding the ghetto and combing it from house to house, expelling those marked. Members of the Jewish Underground called on those in the ghetto to flee. Underground members also shot at the Germans. The Germans retreated and brought reinforcements, but the Germans did not enter the ghetto. They set fire to the buildings in which the fighters had barricaded themselves, and only after destroying them did they succeed in liquidating the ghetto. Only two work camps remained in Zborow by this time: the open camp, and the closed. Also there were some bunkers that were concealed during the liquidation of the ghetto. The Germans liquidated the open camp on June 5, 1943, and eight days later began to shoot the last occupants of the closed camp near the pits, which had had been prepared ahead of time.

During the liquidation of this camp there were a few instances of resistance, or flight to the forest. The Germans feared that opposition to them would spread among all the inhabitants of the camp, so they put all of the 600 into huts, and set them on fire.

During the last month of 1943 and the second part of 1944, there was a hunt for Jews who had fled to the forest, and still wandered and hid there. Some of those hidden in bunkers got ammunition for self-defense and food. During the liquidation of the bunker under the house of David Schwab, those who hid there fired at the Germans. The Germans bombed the bunkers and those who lived in it after a battle. Similar cases occurred in other bunkers.

We know from the testimony of survivors about the terrible deeds of the local population, especially Ukrainians, against Jews who hid in fields and forests nearby.

On the other hand, there were Righteous Gentiles who endangered their lives to rescue Jews. Among them were Antos Sukinski, and the Polish priest Jan Pavlitski, who saved some Jews.

Zborow was liberated by the Soviets on June 22, 1944. About 25 survivors who came out their hiding places were in the town. In a short time some Jews who were in the Soviet Union during the war arrived in Zborow. The survivors of the community concerned themselves with commemorating those who were murdered during the German occupation. The majority of them left in 1945 for Poland, and from there to Palestine, the United States, and other countries.


Translator's Footnote

  1. In a posting to the Yizkor Book Digest of October 16, 2006 David Wilk of Israel responded to a query by the translator. He wrote that “According to the Encyclopaedia Judaica (vol. 2, col. 829), Centos was a child-care group established in Poland by the Joint Distribution Committee.”

    Aida Rauch from Belgium provided a full explanation of the term:

    “CENTOS (Polish acronym for “Centrala Towarzystwa Opieki nad Sierotami” meaning National Society for the Care of Orphans) was together with TOZ one of the leading Jewish welfare organizations in pre-WW II Poland.

    It continued to provide welfare services under the ZSS name (Polish acronym for Zydowska Samopoc Spoleczna) meaning Jewish Communal Self-Help) during the WW II Nazi occupation of Poland.

    One of its orphanages was the renowned Dom Sierot in Warsaw (Orphan's Home) under the direction of the famous Dr. Janusz Korczak, pediatrician and pedagogue.”

    Fay Bussgang of the U.S., also defined the acronym:
    “It should be CENTOS, an anacronym for Centrala Opieki nad Sierotami (Organisation for Child and Orphan Care) supported by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JOINT).
    We are grateful to these three readers of the Yizkor Book Digest who responded to Francine Shapiro's question. Return


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