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Translation of Kostopol chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Kostopol chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem Published in Jerusalem
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume V, pages 168-170,
edited by Shmuel Spector, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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(District town in east Wohlin)
Translated from Hebrew by Meir Garbarz Gover
Up to the 1780's Kostopol was a small village and Iron mine named Ostlec Wielki. In 1792, owner of the estate magnate Leonard Wortzel, received from king Stanislaw August Poniatowski, town privileges for his estate including the right for an annual fair. Magnate Wortzel inhabited the town with farmers and Jews, and build inns. He changed town's name to Kostopol, to name it after his daughter's name Konstantyna.
Jewish population grew gradually, but increased towards the end of the 1890's when a local train station was built on the Rovno-Vilna line. There after plants were erected to process agriculture products: two flour mills, Oil press, spinning mill, sawmill, and a match factory.
A central synagogue was built; A Kosher Butcher and Rabbi were appointed. R' Szmuel Zilberstein from Miedzyrzec Podalski held the position till 1932 and was replaced by his son R' Aszer Zilberstein.
A 1906 fire destroyed most of the town's buildings. There after most houses, including a big synagogue were erected using bricks. Jewish Kindergartens CHEDERs, private girls' school were established. The poet Jacob Lerner established a Hebrew school.
WWI cut off the town from west Europe. Many refugees passed through and were helped by the local Jews. After the 1917 Communist revolution parties were established: Zionism Union, Zion Youth, and Zion workers.
The German occupation of 1917-1918 brought economic improvement. Jewish self defense force was established. Bribes were paid to Petlura soldiers to avoid local Pogroms. Bolshevik collaborators were executed.
There were periods of hunger and plagues but no death victims.
In the 30s there were 260 stores in Kostopol, 180 of them Jewish owned. Jewish merchants controlled the grain, cattle, eggs, iron, clothing, textile, pharmacies, and perfumeries industries. 75% of other merchant segments were as well in Jewish hands. About half of the small industry registered shops were owned by Jews. Jews were the majority of tailors, hat makers, painters, watch makers, and semesters.
A Cooperative Bank was established in 1928 by uniting two banks: Commerce Bank of the Merchants Union and National Bank of the Crafters Union (established 1926).
A Benevolent Society was established in 1928. The Bank and the Benevolent Society operated till September 1939.A non Jewish Municipal Savings and Loan Bank were doing business mainly with affluent Jewish merchants and crafters.
In the 20s Jews held 6-8 seats out of the 12 seats in town's council. They were about 40% of town's population and a Jewish vice Mayor served in a non paying capacity. In the 30s number of Jews in town's council dropped to 4-5 and one directorship member: Mr. Lawnik.
In the 1928 Jewish Communities Council elections, Kostopol was joined by nearby Derazhne, Stepán and two Jewish agricultural communities: Osowa and Male Siedliszcze. The candidates were mostly Orthodox Jews. In the 30s elections most elected were of Zionists parties. A third synagogue in Kostopol was erected in 1924. An additional Rabbi to R' Aszer Zilbersztein became R' Mosze Zwi Milman. After R' Zilbersztein died, R' Milman and R' Mosze Szternberg from nearby Aleksandria ran to office. R' Szternberg was elected by mere 32 votes. This caused a community argument, thus, de facto both Rabbis served the community simultaneously.
R' Szternberg immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1937. The Rabbi appointed after him was R' Krieger who perished in the Holocaust with most of Kostopol Jewry.
After WWI, a Hebrew School was open under the management of Zalman Leibowicz (Ariel), an educator from Eretz Israel. The school, a library and a children's infirmary were supported by Joint. After the aid from the Joint was stopped the school was closed bur re-opened in 1926/27. Also the kindergarten and library were re-opened, under the TARBUT school chain. All these institutions operated until 1939. Then, under Soviet occupation in September 1939, the school became part of the Soviet education system.
Zionists movements in Kostopol renewed their operations after the 1917 civil war and establishment of Polish rule. The Hebrew Society operated in drama circles and in the library. HECHALUTZ The Pioneer movement branch was established in the 1920's. 20 candidates for ALIYA (immigration to Eretz Israel) were practicing in a nearby Jewish HACHSHARA farm and sawmill. HASHOMER HATZAIR The Young guard branch was established in 1926 and soon after became the most influential youth movement in the shtetl. Two groups of candidates for ALYAH to Eretz Israel were established: Kibbutz Wohlina II and EL AL. Their members were among the founders of Kibbutz Negba in Israel. The Revisionist party was established in 1929 together with its Youth Movement BEITAR. They became the second largest Youth Movement in town and had their own candidates groups for immigration to Eretz Israel. Up to 1939, 209 of Kostopol youngsters moved to Israel: 114 from HASHOMER HATZAIR, 63 from HECHALUTZ, 32 from BEITAR.
Voting results to the various Zionist Congresses:
18th Congress 1933: Total 491 votes; General Zionists 21, HAMIZRACHI 19, Revisionists 61, Revisionist Alliance 145, Working Israel 245.
20th Congress 1937: total 237 votes; General Zionists 43, HAMIZRACI 7, State Party 25, Working Israel 245.
21st Congress 1939: Total 154 votes; General Zionists 29, HAMIZRACHI 4, State Party 9, Working Israel 197, Zion Workers 5.
A forced labor camp was established, manned with Jewish labor, at the Clerks Residents on the west part of town.
Workers received daily bread ration of 200 grams. Their families were nourished by a public kitchen operated by the Judenrat. Jewelry, furs and valuables were confiscated. Heavy levies were imposed on the Kostopol Jews.
On 16 August 1941 the Germans gathered 470 Jewish men, including most affluent Jews in the community and Judenrat head Dawid Dajan. They were transported outside of Kostopol and all of them were executed. Their families were rather notified that they were sent to work camps and the families were eluded by the Germans to send them money. The money was confiscated by the Germans. On 1 October 1941 the Germans gathered about 1,400 Jews, family members of the 1st group that was executed. The German promised to transport them to the work camp were their family members are. Instead, this 2nd group was transported to the Slaughter House outside Kostopol and executed. Pits were prepared in advance to bury the victims.
The Jewish Ghetto in Kostopol was erected in 5 October 1941. 10-15 people were forced into each room. Fortunately no plagues erupted due to the overcrowding. Just 100 Judenrat members, Jewish Police and key professional were exempt and could live outside the Ghetto.
25 August 1942 was the liquidation day for the Kostopol Ghetto: Ukrainian and German Policemen encircled the Ghetto. All Ghetto remaining inhabitants were transported to nearby village Khotinka and exterminated upon arrival. A few escaped but were caught by local Ukrainians, extradited to the Germans and murdered thereafter.
In the forced labor camp in town the Jewish slaves revolted during the daily census: Gdalia Brajer was the leader. When he shouted HURA started a mass escape. Some reached the nearby forest, but most of the escapees were caught and killed by local Ukrainians. Some survived by the help of Polish villagers and joined Soviet Partisans units.
Kostopol was liberated by the Red Army on 31 January 1944. About 270 Kostopol Jews survived. This figure includes the ones that managed to escape east before extermination.
Yad Vashem Archive: M-1/E-1844, M-1/Q-30, M-1/E-1616, M/11/B-98, 03/848, 03/2902, 03/2904, 016/1805.
Central Zionist Archive: Z-4-586, Z-4/2023-I, Z-4-3605-2, S-5/1707, S-5/1773, Z-4/231/46-B, Z-4/2686, S-5/1713.
P. Gryszpun Milsztein: Living on debts: The Holocaust period, Tel Aviv 1966.
Kostopol Book; Life and Death of a Community, Tel Aviv 1967.
DAS NAJE WART, Rowno The New Word Yiddish Newspaper
WOHLINER WOCH, Rowno Wohlin Week Yiddish Weekly
WOHLINER LABEN, Rowno Wohlin Life Yiddish paper.
WOHLINER PRESE, Luck Wohlin Press Yiddish paper.
WOHLINER ZEITUNG, Rowna Wohlin Paper Yiddish paper.
WOHLINER SHTIME, Rowno Wohlin Voice Yiddish paper
|Dedication of Tarbut school in Kostopol 1928
(The Yizkor Book of Kostopol)
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