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Translation of Turobin chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Morris Gradel z"l
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This is a translation from:
Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume VII, pages 241-244, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(District: Krasnystaw; Province: Lublin)
Turobin (T) is first mentioned at the beginning of the 14th century as a private village of the noble family Dzierari(?). In 1389 King Wladislaw Jagiello granted it urban status. At the end of the 16th century it was incorporated into the network of estates of nobles of the House of Zamojski, who invested in and developed it. Under them T's economic status improved, and although the townlet retained its agricultural character, it held market days and two fairs a year and was the commercial centre of the district.
However, this period of prosperity came to an end in 1648-49, with the invasion of the Cossacks, and again on the outbreak of the first war with the Swedes in 1656. In 1701 a cholera epidemic struck T and resulted in many deaths. In 1795, after the Third Partition of Poland, T came under Austrian rule, and in 1815 became part of the Kingdom of Congress Poland as a Russian protectorate.
The 19th and 20th centuries showed no change in the occupational structure of the Jews. In 1851 there were in T 126 heads of Jewish families: 75 of them were engaged in trade, 30 in crafts, five were innkeepers, a few worked in agriculture and cattle-raising, and some had no profession and did whatever work they could get. The largest group of Jewish craftsmen were tailors, and the second largest butchers. The merchants included 54 stallholders in the market or were pedlars, while 16 were shopkeepers. At the end of the 19th century a local Jew established a small leather-processing plant, and home weaving also developed.
There was an organised community in T as early as the beginning of the 17th century. Its representatives were active in the Council of the Four Lands (for this and other terms, see Notes at the end of this translation), and its rabbis were known in Poland and abroad. At the end of the 18th century Moshe ben Pinchas participated in the Jewish delegation to the Sejm - Parliament of the Four Years (1788-92) - which had been invited to discuss the reform of the Jews. The community also embraced Jews from several villages in the vicinity and the townlet of Zolkiewka. In 1775, it was agreed that Zolkiewka should have ts own community. In the 1830s a new synagogue built of stone was erected in T and a cemetery consecrated on the outskirts of the town.
At the beginning of the century R. Shimon Wolf Auerbach was rabbi and head of the Rabbinical Court, and he also represented the community in the Council of the Four Lands (he died in 1632). Of the rabbis who succeeded him we know of R. Shmuel Ber Naftali Hirsz (died in 1632); R. Menachem Monish Chayut (rabbi of T in the 1670s), son of the prominent R. Yitzhak Chayut of Brody; R. Yitzhak Ber Uri Shraga Feiwel (1673); R. Zacharia Mendel (1691), author of Be'er Heteiv - a Commentary on Yoreh Deah and Choshen Mishpat (two of the four parts of the Shulchan Aruch) - who later moved to Cracow and Belz; R. Natan Nute Shapira (died in 1762); R. Elazar Lando (died in 1794); R. Aryeh Yehuda Leibush Igra; R. Noah Szmuel Lipszyc (from 1898), author of Divrei Shmuel and Zer Zahav, and a pupil of the Seer of Lublin; and R. Eliahu Lando, a descendant of R. Elazar, who held office for 40 years until his death in 1910.
For hundreds of years the community of T was deeply religious and much influenced by Chassidism. For some time R. Israel Morgenstern, brother of R. Menachem Mendel of Kock, resided in the town. It was only at the beginning of the 20th century that the Haskalah and Zionist movements arrived in T. The first Zionist group arose in 1904, and in 1906 we find mention of a branch of Poalei Zion. Before the First World War there appeared branches of Mizrchi and of several Zionist youth groups. A branch of the Bund was also set up in 1906. In 1913 a Jewish Public Library was opened.
On the eve of the First World War anti-Semitic riots broke out in T and many Jews were assaulted. The Jews themselves were alleged to have started the disturbances. When the war started acts of violence were renewed. The retreating Russian soldiers banded together with local inhabitants to loot Jewish shops and houses. During the war economic life almost came to a standstill, raw materials were not available, and many of the local Jews were reduced to penury. The community opened a public kitchen for the needy and supplied 200 meals a day free of charge. At the end of 1918, when General Haller's troops liberated the town from the Austrian and German occupiers, the Jews were attacked and beaten up by Polish soldiers.
During the war the restrictions on public and political activity imposed by the Tsarist regime were lifted, and the Jews of T were free to engage in cultural and political projects.
In the inter-war period, when Poland was cut off from the Russian and German markets, T lost its position as an export centre, and local trade also diminished in the wake of the economic depression in the whole country. In the 1920s and 30s the Jews barely eked out a living with their petty trading and peddling, and in constant competition with Polish cooperative shops that sprang up one after the other. Many Jews became permanently unemployed, and only survived with help from relatives in the USA, or from public funds. Amongst the few economically stable were the owners of the two flour mills, the brewery and the underwear factory, together with a few timber merchants who leased sections of the forest to estate owners.
In the early 1920s the American Joint helped the Jews of T to reestablsih their businesses. In 1924 a Jewish Cooperative Bank was opened that gave low-interest loans to merchants and craftsmen - this too with the support of the Joint. In 1927 the Joint financed the establishment of a Provident Fund that attracted some 200 members - a number that increased in the course of time. Craftsmen organised themselves in their own association and founded another Provident Fund, that gave interest-free loans. The traditional charitable organisations, such as Hachnasat Orchim, Bikur Cholim and Linat Zedek were reorganised and widened their activity. The association of former residents of T in the United States (founded in 1925) also supported these charitable bodies.
Despite all the economic dofficulties, the inter-war years were a flourishing period for cultural, political and Zionist activity in T. To the older organisations of Poalei Zion and its youth movement were added barnches of the General Zionists, Mizrachi and the Revisionists. In 1931 came the youth organisation Hanoar Hazioni and Hechalutz (The Pioneer), and in 1934 this latter body opened a training farm near T. There was also a branch of the more left-wing youth organisation Hashomer Hatsair in the town. All these bodies arranged social and cultural events, sometimes with the participation of the Jewish population in general.
Nor was the non-Zionist camp inactive. The old Bund continued, with its base in the mass of Jewish proletariat in the town; and a branch of Agudat Israel arose in 1922, with members mainly from the local Chassidim of Gur. Agudat Israel competed with the Zionists for influence in the Jewish population and in the community institutions. At first the Zionists had the upper hand in elections to these bodies, but in the 1930s they were overtaken by Agudat Israel. In 1926 this latter group opened a school of the Bet Yakov network, with some 150 girls. In 1929 came Poalei Agudat Israel, which had its own training farm.
In the elections to the Town Council the Jewish parties usually won 6 of the 15 seats, even though the Jewish population formed more than half of the town's. During the whole period the Town Council Executive included one Jewish member.
Jews were seized for slave labour in the very first days of the German occupation - for services, building, and various tasks in the town and its environs. To begin with the Germans did not show especial severity, and most of the Jews were able to continue their normal work. Exit from T was not forbidden, and many pursued their business in the towns of the district and even as far as Lublin.
At the beginning of 1940 Jewish refugees arrived from Lodz and Kalisz in western Poland, and from Frampol, Yanow and Bilgoraj. The refugees were lodged in the synagogue and other public buildings. Because of the overcrowding and the bad sanitary conditions, a typhus epidemic broke out in the winter of 1940, and in the absence of any Jewish doctor, the Polish doctor was obliged to tend to the patients. After a while, he was joined by a Jewish doctor from Krakow, and together they managed to contain the disease - but not before 40 Jews had succumbed to it.
At the beginning of 1940 a Judenrat of 10 members was appointed, most of them past leaders of the community, and with Szmuel Drymler as Chairman. A Jewish auxiliary Police Force was also formed, consisting of 20 constables, some of them refugees. Immediately afterwards a large contribution was demanded of the Jews. Since it proved impossible to raise the amount, Szmuel Drymler went to the German Governor of the District in Krasnystaw, and persuaded him to reduce the sum by half.
In June 1940 the Germans ordered the Judenrat to find 500 Jews for slave labour in the work camp near Lublin, but in the end only 200 were despatched. From then on, there were constant and increasing demands for Jewish labour. A group of workers was sent to Zamosc, and was engaged for six months in digging drainage ditches and in construction work. The Judenrat sent these Jews food and clothing from time to time, until they returned to T. In 1941 a number of Jews were sent to the labour camp at Rava Ruska near the Soviet border to dig anti-tank ditches. A committee of 15 members was responsible for food and clothing to workers in the camps. In the summer of 1941, when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, conditions for the Jews worsened, food became scarce - and although no ghetto was erected in T , Jews were not allowed to leave the town, except by special permission.
On May 15th, 1942, five S.S. officers, led by Bauer, arrived in T from Krasnystaw. Their excuse being that they had come to inspect the despatch of food and clothes to the slave workers at Rava Ruska, they arrested 13 of the 15 members of the Jewish committee and had them shot. Only the remaining two managed to escape. The S.S. rounded up another 50 Jews, shut them in a room in the house of Velvel Lorberbaum, who lived near the offices of the Judenrat, and murdered them by throwing hand-grenades into the room. These killings were assisted by Geniak Brankovic, one of the leading local anti-Semites.
Two days later, on May 17th, many S.S. troops came to T and with them an auxiliary force of Ukrainians. The remaining Jews in the town, some 2,700 souls, were assembled in the market square and sent to their deaths in Sobibor. Since there was no actual ghetto, a relatively large number of Jews managed to find hiding-places with Polish neighbours or to flee to the forest.
After the mass deportation a small group of slave workers remained in T. On October 14th these were sent via the ghetto at Izbica to the death camp at Belzec, together with the last of the Jews in the district.
Notes (in order of appearance in the text):
Council of the Four Lands: the Jewish self-governing body in Russia-Poland originating in the 16th century. Named for the four regions of Major Poland, Minor Poland, Red Russia and Lithuania, it was called in Hebrew 'Va'ad Arba Artzot'.
Shulchan Aruch: 'The Prepared Table' - the code of Jewish Law compiled by R. Joseph Caro in Israel about 1542 and amended for use by European Jews by R. Moses Isserles. It remains the standard source for traditional observance.
Chassidism /Has(s)idism: The Jewish revivalist movement originating in eastern Europe in the late 16th century. It maintains many of the characteristics of the time, such as its dress. Diverse sects of Chassidim hail from different towns and follow different leaders or 'rebbes'.
Haskalah: 'Enlightenment' - the European Jewish movement that introduced Jews to modern ways of expression and thought from about 1750 to about 1880. 'Maskil', an adherent of the Haskalah, is also used in modern Hebrew for an educated person.
Poalei Zion: 'Workers of Zion', a Marxist Jewish party founded in 1906. Its ideological 'father' was Dov Ber Borochov.
The Bund: Jewish political organisation formed in Vilna in 1897 to promote labour causes and Jewish nationalism - but opposed to Zionism.
The Joint: 'Joint Distribution Committee', an American Jewish organisation founded in 1914 to provide relief to European Jews during World War I - later expanded to service Jewish communities worldwide.
Hachnasat Orchim: a hostel for indigent Jewish travellers.
Bikur Cholim: literally 'visiting the sick', but also health service and even hospital.
Linat Zedek: basically a hospice for the poor and homeless, it also carried out a number of other welfare tasks.'
Mizrachi: the Orthodox Zionist Movement, founded in Vilna in 1902.
Revisionists: followers of the radically nationalist Zionist movement led by Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
Hanoar Hazioni: 'Zionist Youth'.
Hechalutz: 'The Pioneer', an organisation to train youth for immigration to Israel /Palestine, primarily to a kibbutz.
Hashomer Hatsair: 'The Young Watchman', a left-wing youth movement.
Agudat Israel: the Orthodox Jewish (anti-Zionist) political movement organised in 1912 in Europe, seeking to sustain the values of traditional eastern European Jewry.
The above notes were compiled by the translator / editor. Many of the definitions were taken from The Timetables of Jewish History, by Judah Gribetz with Edward L. Greenstein and Regina S. Stein (Simon and Schuster, 1993) and other sources.
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