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Translation of Krasnobrod 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 513-515, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(Region: Zamosc; Province: Lublin)
There are no data on the beginnings of K. The town is first mentioned in the second half of the 16th century as an urban settlement, at first the possession of the noble family Leszczynski, and from 1767 of the family Targowski. Its situation on the road from Zamosc to Lwow was a major factor in its development, and it became a local commercial centre. It was granted municipal status in 1584 by King Stefan Batory, and its privileges were confirmed in 1763 by King August III. In addition to the weekly market days, six annual fairs were held. From 1815 until the First World War K fell within the bounds of Congress Poland.
In the summer of 1913 a fire broke out and destroyed half the houses in the town; and in 1915, before the citizens had had time to rebuild their dwellings, a second conflagration occurred as a result of the battles in the vicinity. K was occupied that same year by the Austrians, and held by them until they withdrew in 1918.
The first Jews settled in K in the second half of the 16th century. They engaged in trade and crafts - and in the 19th and 20th centuries also in leasing forests and orchards.
As the number of Jews increased they were given permission to establish a community, to build a Bet Midrash (for this and other terms, see Notes at the end of this translation) and to consecrate a plot of land for a cemetery. One of the gravestones here dates from 1577, and thus the cemetery must have existed before then. The Bet Midrash burned down in 1915 in the midst of the battles, but was rebuilt after the war. The community also embraced the nearby village of Chitkow.
In the period 1822 to 1862 Jews were forbidden to settle in K, in accordance with the edict forbidding Jews to reside in border areas. In the latter year the Tsar rescinded this order.
Among the rabbis of the community known to us were: R. Tsvi Hirsz Segal Minz (died 1772); R. Mordechai Josef, Head of the Bet Din , and his son, R. Izrael Jakob, who also held this post; R. Izrael Elazar (in 1880); R. Yehoshua Heszel Hakohen, who afterwards officiated in Szczebrzeszyn; and in the 20th century, before the First World War - R. Tsvi Yechezkiel Michelsen, later rabbi in Plonsk and Warsaw. The latter was a renowned historian, and placed his knowledge at the disposal of many writers. He perished in the Holocaust. Also of note are R. Nachum Feigenbaum, author of the apparently unpublished Halachot Rabta Leshabta , who served until his death in 1917. After him came Dayan R. Meir Zylberman; and the last rabbi of K - from 1924 - was R. Menachem Monish Margules. He too died in the Holocaust.
The various Chassidic schools exercised considerable influence in K. Prominent in the first half of the 19th century were the Chassidim of Radzyn, Turzysk, Gor and Belz.
On the outbreak of the First World War the Jews of the area were called into the Russian Army, and their families were left without means of support. Some of the Jews left the town.
Nor did the establishment of an independent Poland in November 1918 bring an end to the travails of the Jews of K. In 1919 and 1920 Polish ruffians attacked the local Jews. During the war between Poland and Soviet Russia many Jews fell victims to the troops of the Ukrainian General Bulak-Blachowic - an ally of the Poles - who entered the town on August 29th, 1920. The Ukrainian soldiers murdered two Jews and wounded another 50, raped Jewish women, and looted Jewish property.
At the end of this war the Jews of K began to build their lives anew. In the 20s and 30s they again engaged in trade and ran small workshops as they had done before. A few of them dealt in timber, grain and cattle - and some families found a livelihood in providing services for the holidaymakers who came to the area in the summer months. Summer camps for Jewish children were also held under the auspices of Taz (the Jewish Health Organisation in Poland).
The boycotting of Jewish trade and crafts, and the economic stagnation that embroiled Poland, and other factors, motivated many Jews, mainly the young, to emigrate. Many went to South America, but there were also some who went to Palestine. This period saw activity by various Jewish mutual aid societies. The Provident Fund gave low-interest loans to small Jewish artisans, and the Bikur Cholim helped finance health treatment for people of few means.
This was also a time of much and energetic Zionist activity. The main parties in K were the General Zionists, Mizrachi and Left Poalei Zion. The leading youth movements were Hechalutz, of whom some members emigrated to Palestine, Hanoar Hazioni, and Freiheit (Dror). Among non-Zionist organisations in K was a branch of the Bund. A few members of the community belonged to the Communist Party, which was illegal. In 1929 some of them were arrested by the police.
Some of the Jewish children continued to attend the traditional cheder, others learned in the elementary schools of the Yavneh type, founded by Mizrachi - and after the government enacted a bill of compulsory education yet other Jewish children went to the Polish elementary school. There was a Jewish public library in K with a reading room, which also served as a meeting-place for young people and where amateur drama and literary groups were active.
Anti-Semitism, which increased throughout the 30s in Poland, did not pass K by. The Jewish merchants and craftsmen were subject to a prolonged economic boycott. There were many incidents of provocation, and local peasants stopped buying from Jews. From time to time anti-Jewish riots would break out. In the autumn of 1937 there was a case of blood libel. One night a ten-year-old Christian girl disappeared, and the rumour spread that the Jews had murdered her as part of their rituals. It was only in the spring, when the snow and ice melted, that her body was found and it was established that she had drowned in the river.
In February 1940 the Germans appointed a Jewish committee (Judenrat), consisting of 12 members. Its main task was to mobilise the Jews for forced labour and to distribute the food rations. All Jews over the age of ten were ordered to don a white armband with a yellow Magen David . The Jews of K had to crowd into the few houses left standing after the bombardments of the autumn. In the spring of 1940 the Germans sent 32 Jews to build fortifications along the Soviet border. On December 24th, 1940, German trrops stationed near K broke into Jewish houses and looted their property. In the spring of 1941 Jewish refugees from Lodz and Wlocawek were brought to K. They came with nothing and the situation in the ghetto deteriorated from day to day. Many, both local Jews and refugees, starved to death, and a typhus epidemic broke out in the ghetto.
The early summer of 1942 (during the Festival of Weeks - Shavuot) marked the end of the Jews in the ghetto. The Gestapo entered the town and ordered the Jews to assemble in a hut behind the local monastery and to hand over all their items of value. The same day the Gestapo murdered some members of the Judenrat. On the morrow the Jews were transported in carts, assembled for the purpose, to the extermination camp at Belzec. A mere handful managed to escape, and shortly afterwards returned to their houses, under the impression that the danger had passed. However, in July 1942 the Gestapo returned to K, fired into the houses where there were Jews and set them on fire. Ten families died on the spot. On October 26th, 1942, the Germans took the last of the survivors to a hole prepared for them and there they were mowed down by machine-guns. The few that were still alive were taken in carts to the camp at Izbica.
In February 1943 the Germans mounted a search for those Jews who had fled to the surrounding villages and woods, aided by Polish collaborators who hauled the Jews from their hiding-places and delivered them to the Germans. At this time too the last of the Jews of Chitow were exterminated. The Nazis destroyed the synagogue, and with the help of local Poles, ploughed up the Jewish cemetery until nothing remained.
Bet Din: The local Rabbinical Court.
Halachot Rabta Leshabta: Rules for Great Sabbath ?(Aramaic).
Chassidic/Hassid/Hasid: Adherents of Chassidism, the Jewish revivalist movement originating in eastern Europe in the late 18th century. It maintains many characteristics of the time, such as its drss. Diverse sects of Chassidism hail from different towns and follow different leaders, or rebbes.
Bikur Cholim: Literally 'visiting the sick', but also 'health service' or even 'hospital'.
Mizrachi: The Orthodox Zionist Movement, founded in Vilna in 1902.
Poalei Zion: 'Workers of Zion' - a Marxist Jewish party founded in 1906. Its ideological father was Dov Ber Borochov.
Hechalutz: 'The Pioneer' - organisation to train young Jews for immigration to Israel, primarily to a kibbutz.
Hanoar Hazioni: Zionist Youth.
Freiheit (Dror: Yiddish/Hebrew, meaning 'Freedom' - the Youth Movement of ?
Bund: Jewish political organisation formed in Vilna in 1897 to promote labour causes and Jewish nationalism - but opposed to Zionism
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