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Translation of Zurawno chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Zurawno chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume II, pages 213-215, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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Translated by Ilana Kraus
We have no precise information about the beginnings and initial development of Zurawno's Jewish community. The first Jews who settled in the town were involved in leasing, bartending, and trade. They were mainly small tradesmen and artisans, and some became successful and even wealthy. The economic situation of the Jews of Zurawno was most probably reasonable. In 1850, a well-known Jewish merchant from the town was elected to the chamber of commerce in Lvov, and two other Zurawno Jews made a sizeable donation to the hospital in Lvov.
An organized community with various institutions already existed in the eighteenth century and the Jewish population continued to grow. Prior to WWI, the W. Kessler Foundation supported the old-age home. A certain amount of this institution's budget was set aside for hachnasat kalah to cover wedding and other expenses for one poor bride a year. After the First World War and the death of the foundation's trustees, the institution was supported by the va'ad hakehila (community council). Before WWI, a bank was established in Zurawno, which provided credit to those in need, especially small tradesmen. After its transfer to the va'ad hakehila, the bank stopped operating for all practical purposes.
Several famous rabbis served in Zurawno, among them Rabbi Moshe Shaul son of Rabbi Yehuda Leib (who was the town's rabbi during the second half of the eighteenth century and died in 1759). He was followed by Rabbi Yehuda Leib, son of Rabbi Moshe, the author of Shevet MeYehuda. Prior to 1812, Rabbi Alexander-Sender, son of Rabbi Yitzhak-Isaac Eichenstien of Komarna (died 1818, Komarna) served for a time as av bet din (head of rabbinical court) of Żydaczów and Zurawno. In 1839, the av bet din of Zurawno was Rabbi Yona Cohen of Reisha. In the 1850s, Rabbi Eliezer Lipmann Yoelish served as av bet din in Kanihiniche and afterwards in Zurawno. Rabbi Yehoshua-Yitzhak Yair Horowitz son of Rabbi Yaakov, who was the rabbi of Dukla, the preacher (maggid) of Lvov, and the Rabbi of Zurawno, as well as the author of Emunot and De'ot (beliefs and opinions,) died in 1851. In 1888, Rabbi Pinhas Halevi Ish-Horowitz began to serve as moreh tzedek (halakhic teacher)) and Rabbi of Zurawno, continuing in that capacity until 1908. In that same year he founded a Hebrew school (apparently a heder metukan [modern heder] where Hebrew and Bible were taught using new methods). Rabbi Yitzhak-Yehuda Shmalkis, the greatest Rabbi in Galica at the time, served for a time as the av bet din in Zurawno, Bzhezhani and Premzyl before being appointed av bet din in Lvov, where he died in 1906.
Zionist activity began early on in Zurawno. The Zion society, founded in 1899, had 60 members. In 1908, a Zionist association, a branch of Tikvot Zion in Lvov, was established and continued to be active until 1912; its membership consisted mainly of merchants. In 1909 a Hebrew school was established whose principal, Yaakov Frost, was responsible for all the schools in Galicia. In that same year, a Jewish club was set up to organize cultural activities and sponsor lectures on Jewish topics.
Between the Two World Wars
After the First World War, the situation of the Zurawno community deteriorated and the population was reduced by half. The general decline of the town can be illustrated by the fact that the bridge over the Dniester River, which had been destroyed during the war, was only reconstructed in 1931, and even then it was never used because there were no decent roads leading to it. In that year as well, the town was still not connected to the electricity grid. In the early years following WWI, the Jews of Zurawno received assistance from the Joint (AJDC) for a variety of rehabilitation activities, and starting in 1923 an assistance committee and an orphans' committee began to function. In 1928 the town had a credit union with 80 members, which was affiliated with the central credit cooperative in Warsaw. In 1927 a Gamach (gemilut hasadim) fund was set up, which gave out seven loans in the amount of 410 zlotys in 1929. In 1933-1934, 64 loans were allocated and the amount reached 1,578 zlotys; however, only one year later, there was a reduction in the scope of the loans. In 1929, thanks to the influence of the Jewish representatives in the municipality, various amounts of money from the municipal budget were allocated to Jewish public institutions, among them: the Gamach fund (400 zlotys); the Hebrew school (480 zlotys), the orphans' committee (480 zlotys); and the mikveh (500 zlotys). The community's budget for that year was divided as follows: 400 zlotys for the Gamach fund; 1,700 zlotys for the Hebrew school; 150 zlotys for the Jewish National Fund; 100 zlotys for the Keren Heyesod (Palestine Foundation Fund); 25 zlotys for the Tarbut library; and 25 zlotys to Ezra. Assistance and support activities continued in the 1930s as well, up to the outbreak of WWII.
In 1923, the community's religious leader was Rabbi Yehoshua Horowitz, who had also completed his studies at the Vienna University faculty of medicine and received the title Doctor of Medicine. In the 1930s, the post was held by Rabbi Bratspies; after his death, and a struggle for the position, his son, Rabbi Moshe Bratspies, took over.
Zionist activity was renewed after the end of the First World War. In 1923 a branch of the Hitachdut (World Union of Poalei Zion) was active in Zurawno and in 1925 a local branch of Ezra was started. In 1930, a local Betar group was set up and in 1931 the Revisionists formed an organization in Zurawno. A branch of Hashomer Hatzair was in existence by 1934, which included 30 members at that time. By 1939 this group was, in reality, the only Zionist youth movement functioning in town, although a branch of HaShahar, a youth organization of radical Zionists, formed a group that same year.
In the elections for the Zionist Congress of 1929, the General Zionists received 38 votes, Mizrachi 10, and Poalei Zion, 17. The elections for the Zionist Congress of 1935 yielded the following results: the General Zionists received 62 votes; Mizrachi, 12; Eretz Yisrael Haovedet, 41; and HaShahar, 2.
In the 1928 elections for the kehila (community), 236 people out of 288 potential voters took part. The results were that the community board included three Zionists, one representative of Yad Charutzim, one from Yehudi Leumi (National Jews), one from Hitachdut, and two from Mizrachi. The leader of the Zionists in Zurawno was elected to head the kehila. The new board worked in earnest to rehabilitate the community, rebuilding the synagogue as well as the beit midrash that had been unused for thirteen years following its destruction. Under this board, the Hebrew school also began to function again. In the community elections of 1933, the General Zionists won again, with four representatives in contrast to one representative from Mizrachi and three from the Yehudi Leumi party. A Mizrachi representative headed the community. From 1934 onward, the kehila faced difficult financial circumstances, and the salaries of the officials and religious functionaries were not paid that year. This state of affairs led the local ritual slaughterers to demand that the kehila allow them to collect the fee for slaughtering animals by themselves. They were joined by the local rabbi, who had also not received his salary on a regular basis.
In 1927, a Tarbut library was operating in Zurawno. It was able to purchase books with the help of a drama circle that donated most of its proceeds for this purpose. In this period as well, courses in Hebrew were offered, however, most of the Jewish children attended Talmud Torahs. In 1932-1934, a supplementary Hebrew school affiliated with the Tarbut network operated in Zurawno with only one teacher.
In the winter of 1941-1942, more than 150 Jews died of hunger and disease. On March 13, 1942, the bodies of two Ukrainians were found in a well in town. The Jews had no connection with this incident, however, but it was used as a pretext for a launching an attack against them. Bands of Ukrainians, encouraged by the Germans, broke into Jewish homes, beating up every Jew they could find and stealing their property. When the pogrom was over, a group of Jews was taken to Chodorow and nothing was ever heard from them again.
On June 15, 1942, all the Jewish men were ordered to come to the area next to the Judenrat for registration. Out of those who had assembled there, several dozen young men were taken and transferred to the work camp at Chodorow. Hunger continued to take its toll and in July 1942, 17 people died.
On September 4-5, 1942, there was a mass aktion and several hundred people were sent to Belzec for extermination. The local population took part in hunting for Jews who had gone into hiding and handed over those who they caught to the Germans. In the middle of September 1942, the ghetto was set up and the remaining community members felt that their suffering had increased even more because they were now cut off from the outside world.
On September 25, 1942, the Germans announced that every Jew in Zurawno would have to move to the ghetto in Stry by October 1, 1942. After a large bribe was paid, the edict was made somewhat less cruel; some members of the community were allowed to remain for the time being, while others were deported to the ghetto in Stry, where they were among those deported for annihilation.
In the winter of 1942-1943, those who remained in Zurawno attempted to find work in industries producing essential items for the German economy, mainly quarries, lumber yards, and scrap metal. In this way they hoped to obtain immunity from the next deportation. Others searched for hiding places with Gentile acquaintances and built bunkers in the surrounding forests; however only a few individuals managed to survive in this manner.
On February 4, 1943, several Jews were executed and the sporadic murder of Jews continued until the beginning of June. The last group of Jews in Zurawno was murdered on June 5, 1943. The town was liberated by the Soviet army on July 23, 1944. The few survivors headed toward for Poland and continued to the West.
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