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Translation of
Yizkor Book for Augustow

(Augustów, Poland)


Project Leader: Jeanette Garretty Reinhard
JewishGen Liason/Advisor: Lance Ackerfeld

Project Synopsis

This project is being initiated to fund the translation of Sefer yizkor il-kehilat Ogustov, veha-sevivah, from Hebrew to English.  This edition was published in Hebrew in 1966 by Irgun yotsʾe Ogusṭov ṿeha-sevivah be-Yiśrẚel in Tel-Aviv ((561 pages).

Augustów was founded in the year 1561. King Zygmunt August, for whom Augustów is named, granted it privileges at that time according to the Magdeburg Charter as well as permission to conduct two annual fairs and two market days per week. The city is located near ponds, rivers, and forests. Already from the time of its founding, Augustów served as an important crossroads and a center from where trees were sent by rivers and over land to the port of Danzig. In 1621, Tatar bands pillaged Augustów and took about 500 people captive. Augustów once again suffered an enemy invasion in 1658. The city was often seriously afflicted by fires that broke out there frequently. The first partition of Poland in 1772 left Augustów within the borders of Poland. In the later partitions, Augustów first became part of Prussia, and then returned to the boundaries of the Kingdom of Poland in 1915. Augustów was a district city at that time, and it retained that status until 1866, when it was annexed to the Lomza Guberniya.

The first Jews settled in Augustów at the time of its founding. We have a document from 1564 stating that a Jewish citizen of Augustów, whose name is not mentioned, received parcel of land from the king as payment for his contribution to the founding of the city. In 1578, King Stefan Batory granted the Jews of Augustów the privilege to work in commerce, crafts, and tavern keeping. We have a document from 1640 listing the Jewish families that lived in Augustów. The Jews played a significant role in the fish trade that developed amongst the fishermen of the ponds of the region. The Jews leased the ponds at certain times, and the fishing was conducted under their supervision. The marketing of the fish was also in their hands. In addition to the commerce and trade, the Jews of Augustów also earned their livelihoods from communications. About 50 Jewish families lived in Augustów toward the end of the 18th century. The Jewish population of Augustów grew during the 19th century, especially between the 1830s and 1860s. During the latter half of the century, the Jews set up three flourmills, one operating by the power of the Augustów Canal; two sawmills, a brick kiln, a tannery whose products were marketed throughout Russia; and a factory for porcelain tiles. From 1868 and onward, a brigade of Russian soldiers camped in Augustów. Their presence enabled the Jews to earn their livelihoods by providing various services. Other Jews served as providers for the army.

Toward the end of the 19th century, the Jews of Augustów suffered from fires that broke out in the city that burnt down their houses. The economic situation of the Jews after the fires continually worsened. Jews from nearby cities came to their aid. Baron Günzburg and Moses Montefiore also helped in the reconstruction. Stalls in the streets of the city were set up in the place of the shops that were burnt. A non–insignificant number of Jews earned their livelihoods in the small–scale textile manufacturing that was set up in Augustów and the region at that time. Several also worked in leasing the nearby forests.

World War II was catastrophic for the long-established Jewish community in Augustow. In the middle of May 1943, the Germans brought groups of Jews to Augustów who were members of the Sonderkommando 1005, whose job was to conceal the traces of the Nazi atrocities. Between 3,000 and 5,000 bodies were burned in two places, the Szabczo Forest and Klowica Forest, where mass murders had taken place near Augustów. Most were of Jewish men, and the rest were Poles and Russians.

From the community of Augustów, with a former population of 3,000 Jews, only several dozen people survived. Five of them hid on the Aryan side. The Jewish houses of worship in Augustów were destroyed, and the cemetery was plowed over.

Key Audiences

Jewish genealogists seeking to trace their roots to Augustow, Poland and the surrounding area. However, the material has the potential to be of broader appeal to scholars interested in the region or specializing in Jewish history and society.

Project Importance

Yizkor books are unique sources of information on once vibrant towns, primarily in Central and Eastern Europe, whose Jewish populations were destroyed in the Holocaust. Written after WWII by emigres and Holocaust survivors, Yizkor books contain narratives of the history of the town, details of daily life, religious and political figures and movements, religious and secular education, and gripping stories of the major intellectual movements in 20th century Europe. The necrologies and lists of residents are of tremendous genealogical value, as often the names of individuals who were taken to extermination camps or died in the forests are not recorded elsewhere. Usually written in Hebrew and/or Yiddish, these books are not accessible to a wider audience. The translation will unlock this information for many more researchers all over the world. This project will result in the creation of a primary English language source of information for anyone doing research on the town and its Jewish community.

Project Description

Table of Contents and Name Index have already been translated into English and published on line by JewishGen Yizkor Book Project. Jeanette Garretty Reinhard will assist with coordinating the funding, and major donors will select a translator. She will submit the final translation to the Yizkor Book Project Manager for approval and for posting on the Jewish Gen website.

Estimated Cost

A full translation is currently estimated at $15,000-$17,000


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