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[Page 81 - Yiddish] [Page 76 - Hebrew]

The City of Jaroslav and Its History

by Mundek Hebenstreit

Translated from the Yiddish by Pamela Russ

[ ] translator's remarks

Jaroslaw belongs to the oldest cities in Poland, which has a long history of over 800 years, including 500 years of Jewish activity and the period of the assemblies of the “Vaad Arba Artzot” [the Council of Four Lands; the central body of Jewish authority in Poland; 16th century to 1764], which would also take place in Jaroslaw.

I remember that more than once, with great amazement, we saw the historical houses on the marketplace, with their added on porches, or we visited the deep and curious cellars of our houses, and thought about when and in what sort of situation they were built, but we never received exact answers. Actually, for us Jews, this problem was not so essential. We were then living with the thought of how to solve our own burning Jewish problem: how to first free the Jewish nation from exile by getting to the Land of Israel (Zionists), or to liberate the world from capitalism and


Hala Targowa [“Market Hall”]

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at the same time also solve the Jewish problem (a group of Marxists), or simply: wait for the Messiah (a group of religious Orthodox Jews).

Now, when we live in our independent Jewish country and are writing a Yizkor Book about the life of Jaroslaw Jews, I feel it necessary to emphasize that in spite of the fact that about the history of the Jews in the city there has already been an article written by HaRav Moshe Shteinberg, it is appropriate to bring forth some general historical information about Jaroslaw itself.


The destiny of Jaroslaw was crystalized in the 12th and 13th centuries, under the influence of the Polish-Russian revolution in Przemysl border areas. The actual name of the settlement was connected to the name of the Russian duke Jaroslaw, who, while absorbing these areas into his duchy, had to call the settlement by his own name. But these are only conjectures that have no real historical substantiation.

In the year 1340, before the times of King Kazimierz [Casimir] the Great, Jaroslaw went permanently under the Polish rule.

The political relationship, similar to the economic relationship, stabilized. The number of residents of the city grew under the impact of the migration of a large number of settlers from other places of Lesser Poland and Szlonsk. During that time, Jaroslaw received local rights, such as the cities of Radzymin and Pruchnik did. This well-planned action of Casimir the Great continued into the times of the rule of Ludwik Wegierski (1372-1378). Jaroslaw has him to thank that it was the second, according to the order, to be granted local privileges, based on the “Magdeburg rule.” This gave the city great municipal rights and possibility to

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run the city and the economy. With this “new “ Jaroslaw, in the year 1387, Queen Jadwiga took over the “held” of the entire Przemysl ground, and gave the city of Jaroslaw as possession to the feudal lord Jan Tarnowski, and later, according to the order, the city remained the property of the Odrowazi, Kostkis, and Ostrogs.

At the end of the Middle Ages, Jaroslaw was already a large Jewish settlement that was built up with wooden and brick buildings. A large, successful cultural and economic development took place in the times of the 16th and half of the 17th centuries. The Jaroslaw fairs – known to those inside and outside the country, brought fame to the city.

These fairs that took place during the summers and lasted for three weeks, attracted a great number of merchants not only from Poland, but also from Germany, England, Moscow, Persia, Italy, and Spain. A large number of Jewish merchants would also come to these fairs, and at the same time, the Vaad Arba Artzot [the “Council of Four Lands”] would assemble as well. At this point, it is important to note that Jaroslaw of that time was located on a segment of the market square and the nearby streets. The area was surrounded by a defense wall, and according to the orders of the ruler of Jaroslaw – Zofia Tarnowska (at the end of the 16th century), the Jews were forbidden from living inside the city. Only a small number of Jews lived on the other side of the defense wall and in the area of Pelkinie.

At the cusp of the 16th and 17th centuries, there were already 3,000 residents. For the summer fairs, around 30,000 merchants would come to Jaroslaw.

The buildings on the market square are basically maintained to this day, and they were mostly used for business. Wide, comfortable entrance hallways through which large merchandise wagons could fit, the huge inner halls, which were called “wiata” [like carports, canopied for the wagons], were covered over the top [canopied] with glass,

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and this enabled them to bring the merchandise over in terrible weather conditions, and the premises for the stores and stalls were in the outside frontline arcades. For selling large volumes of merchandise, there were some city deep cellars. A significant number of Italians settled in the city. The large buildings of the past, which belonged to the Italians Attavanti and Arsetti, houses with small porches, are still maintained to this day. In the 16th century, Jaroslaw already possessed a water line. The water ran through wooden oak wheels that were found in the south of the city to the market square. This was a time of blossoming and good standing for the city.

Beginning in the mid-17th century, a slow but consistent downslide of the evolution of the city. This process of stagnation was a result of the long and constant wars of the Cossacks; Sweden, Turkey, and the Tatar attacks. And at the same time, businesses decreased – the merchants who used to come to the Jaroslaw fairs. The attacks of Chmielnicki's Cossacks (1649) marked particularly the city people, and especially the Jews of the surrounding areas. In the year 1656, the Swedish invasions were no less painful for the city. And particularly, the invasion of the month of March, when the Swedish soldiers, under the rule of King Karl Gustav, invaded Jaroslaw. The two-week Swedish occupation of the city affected the total liquidation of everything that was of value. After Jaroslaw, there were conflicts between the Swedish soldiers and the units of Czarniecki, which were described by Sienkiewicz in his magnificent work “Potop” [“Deluge”; Henry Sienkiewicz, published 1886]. But the Swedes had hardly left Jaroslaw, when soon the units of Rakoczy [Hungarian noble family, warred against King Casimir of Poland; allied with the Swedes] marched in and destroyed almost everything. This period of unrest, which began

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in the second half of the 17th century, stretched to the very end of that century.

In the year 1772, the Austrian military forces invaded the city, and for about 150 years they ruled, and the city was in their possession. As Jaroslaw was under their rule, many changes took place. New borders separated the city from Poland, with which the city was physically connected. The former trade business that took place during the large fairs were prohibited with only markets of small volume that would take place during the week in the nearby surroundings. In particular, the Jewish residents painfully felt the restrictions, as they, at the beginning of the 17th century, settled in larger numbers in Jaroslaw, taking up trade only.

In the second half of the 19th century, Jaroslaw was proclaimed as a free city and became the capital city of the district (1854).

Another new thing in the city area was in 1860, the new train line on the Krakow-Przemysl track, that cut through Jaroslaw. After it was connected into the transportation network, the city quickly revived.

In the years 1867-1914, many significant changes took place in the city, which appeared in the regulations of places and streets. Gaslights were also established (1900), the former suburbs were built up, and the population grew, which in the year 1910 already numbered 23,400.

The Jewish population, which at some point was forbidden from living in the center of the city, slowly and by degrees, took over all the houses in the area, that means: Grodzka, Opolska, Sobieskiego, Spetka, Lubelskie, and understandably, in the first line in the main square. During this period of building, the Poles settled in the suburbs, and particularly in the Krakow quarter of town.

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For interest sake, I would like to add that some buildings in the market square, which had an interesting historical piece, were inhabited by Jews, and they [the buildings] were also the property of wealthier Jews. For example, there was House #2, the quarters of the Kaiser Jusef II (1773). House #6 was the quarters of the Swedish ruler Karol Gustav X, during the time when he stayed with his Swedish army in Jaroslaw. Building #12 belonged to Queen Maria Sobjeska, and Building #15 near the main square was the sitting place of the committee of the National Guard during the time of the “Spring of Nations” (1848). The rich building with the so-called small porch, was built in the year 1750 by the Italian Arsetti.

The First World War in the years 1914-1918, created a lot of destruction in the city, which was a result of the bitter slaughters between the Russian-Austrian armies in the front lines of the San. The city passed from hand to hand. As a result of the unceasing military requisitions, the city population suffered from a lack of important foodstuffs.

In October 1918, after 146 years of captivity, Jaroslaw once again became an integral part of Poland. In the first years after the war, the city grew in population numbers, and quickly evolved. In the years 1924-1928, Jaroslaw acquired electricity and a large “trade center” was built. Trade grew very quickly, as did small industry and banking. These were in the first line of earnings for the Jewish residents, in whose hands there was about 80% of the various ventures of the city. It is important to underline that there was no real large industry in Jaroslaw, and few industrial projects, such as the tie factory (Salik-Reif), cake factory (Gurgul), the mills (Glosberg, Korn), eggs export (Sobel

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Margolis, Horn) and the bacon shop and brickyards did not make a great influence on the business of the city which had a trade and work character.

There were not many factories in the city. There were many military units in the city, which actually were not proportional to the size of a small city as Jaroslaw.

In the city, there were also a large number of middle schools, and in one of the schools, the school of [learning the] building [profession], there were students from other cities in the Lemberg administrative district. In Jaroslaw, there were two weekly publications: “Przeglad Jaroslawski” [“Jaroslaw Digest”], editor Shifman, and the “Tygodnik Jaroslawski” [“Jaroslaw Weekly”], editor Margiel.

In the 30s, the city was witness to many unrests caused by the peasants. These happened during the time of the “Green Week” [Zielone Swiatki”; Slavic “Pentecost”], and in August 1937, when 20,000 farmers, within a few days, blocked up Jaroslaw.

At the beginning of September 1939, Jaroslaw already felt the storm of the oncoming World War II. The city and the surroundings were heavily bombed by the German aircrafts. Soon the war operations came close to Jaroslaw, in which, after a brief battle, the enemy units invaded the city. This was on a Shabbat, September 10, 1939.

A great danger hung over the city's Jewish population, which was expelled from the city, and the Jews from the surrounding areas were murdered in the nearby places of death, such as: Pelkinie, Belzec, Komaczow.

With the expulsion of the Jews from the city, at the time of Sukkot 1939, the glorious history of the Jews of Jaroslaw came to an end.

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Excerpt from a Polish newspaper in Jaroslav, 1946


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