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My Family

Dr. Moses Einhorn

The Einhorn Family

Before I begin to describe my hometown which was destroyed, Volkovysk – its history and development, its dreams and those who built it, its characters and personalities – I am allowing myself to provide a short portrait of my own family, the Einhorn Family. I am certain that my Volkovysk landsleit, who knew my family well, will understand the underlying impulse that drives me to do so.

The Einhorn family is venerable, large, and has many branches. The Einhorns are spread out in a variety of countries, and were I to attempt to bring the life story and characteristics of all of them here, it would take up a great deal of room. I will therefore satisfy myself with recording what I will bring to mind of the more well-know of the Einhorns, and those with whom I am best acquainted and near to. I will begin my portrait with a short overview of my family tree (thanks to the information provided to me by Dr. Shimon Einhorn of Tel Aviv) – beginning with Reb Ozer[1], the sixth generation before me.

Reb Ozer, who lived in the vicinity of Grodno, was the son-in-law of Rabbi Zvi-Hirsch Hanover, and the father-in-law of Rabbi Yehoshua Zeitlin and Rabbi Aharon Brody. Reb Ozer's son was Reb Isser.

Reb Isser had three sons: Zvi Hirsch (the eldest), who was my great-grandfather, Ze'ev Volf (who put together a fine commentary on Medrash Rabbah), and Ozer, “Der Moskver[2].”

OzerDer Moskver” had several daughters and four sons: IsserDer Groiser” (named this way because he was tall), who lived in Grodno, Shmuel-Leib (who went away on an exploratory expedition to North Africa, and vanished there), Yitzhak and Eliyahu.

IsserDer Groiser” had three sons: Abraham (Rabbi of Sokhovolya), Mendel and Moshe (who lived in Bialystok).

Abraham (the Rabbi of Sokhovolya), had three daughters and three sons, from whom we especially know Professor Max Einhorn, (a renown gastroenterologist in New York).

Mendel's grandson is Dr. Shimon Einhorn (a well-known Hebraist and scholar), who lived in Minsk and was a military physician during the First World War; he later settled in Tel Aviv, where he lives to this day, where he practices as a specialist in nervous disorders.

Moshe had three daughters and three sons, among which were specially recognized: Aharon Einhorn (a well-known author and associate of the Warsaw periodical, “Heint”), who was killed by the Nazis, and Joseph Isser – an agronomist, and one of the first teachers at “Mikveh Yisrael” and a professor of Hebrew works on the subjects of Anatomy and Agronomy. He is also recognized as the classic translator of the works of Carlyle and Hippolytus into Hebrew. Eliyahu's children: Chaim Moshe, Isser, Leah and Chas'sheh – emigrated to America. Their children – well-known merchants, industrialists and professionals – all live in the United States.

Zvi Hirsch, my great-grandfather, dealt in turpentine, and lived in Slonim which is also where he passed away.

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Chaim Ozer (my grandfather), was the oldest son of Zvi Hirsch. Chaim Ozer was the first of the Einhorns to settle in Volkovysk, where he too dealt in turpentine. My grandfather Chaim Ozer died as a young man, and after he passed away, Dvora (my grandmother) continued the business of dealing in turpentine, and later on opened a pharmacy. My grandfather Chaim Ozer had six sons and three daughters: Rivka-Elkeh, Joseph-Isser (military physician in Moscow), Shmuel, Shaul-Zalman, Bluma, Kadish-Benjamin, Yitzhak-Zelig (was an engineer in St. Petersburg where he participated in a variety of projects), Tzivia, and Zvi-Hirsch (my father).

Rivka-Elkeh married Rabbi David Shlomo Grodzhensky (Rabbi of Ivie) – and their son was the famous scholar, Rav HaGaon Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzhensky[3] (from Vilna), who died at the onset of the Second World War. A daughter of Rivka-Elkeh's, (a sister of Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzhensky)[4] was married to Rabbi Yitzhak Kossowsky (who was the Rabbi of Volkovysk).

Shmuel's sons were: Chaim Ozer (a lawyer in Volkovysk), and Yankel (had a general store in Volkovysk), whose son Mulka (Shmuel Einhorn) lives today in Tel Aviv, and is well-known there as a merchant and importer.

Kadish-Benjamin was a medical doctor, and also – for a period of time – Kozioner Rabbiner[5] in Volkovysk; His son is the well-known Yiddish writer, David Einhorn.

My father Zvi-Hirsch was the youngest son of my grandfather, Reb Chaim Ozer, and after the death of his mother, Dvora, took over the pharmacy in Volkovysk. He was therefore known throughout Volkovysk as “Herschel Der Apteyker.”

* * *

Fate decreed that while I was still young, I would be torn from the bosom of my home. While still a young man, I went away to the Land of Israel to study in the Hebrew “Hertzeliya” Gymnasium, and later I studied medicine in America. However, I always remained closely tied to my loving family and home city. The warm and full-hearted atmosphere of my home remained in my memory from my earliest childhood – and I always made an effort in order to maintain ties with my nearest and dearest. As a student of the “Hertzeliya” Gymnasium, I would always travel home during the summer on vacation, and also later, as a doctor in America, I would from time-to-time visit my family in Volkovysk. You will understand that I kept up an intensive contact through correspondence with my family, who were deeply baked into my heart.

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My Father


Zwi Hirsch Einhorn


My father stands before me, as if he were alive, with his sympathetic demeanor. He was of medium build, had fine features and had a full head of hair. He was good and gentle, and all Volkovysk residents, whether Jewish or Christian, respected him and were drawn to him with [a] great [sense of] loyalty. People would come to seek his counsel regarding their various maladies and other matters. And he never grew tired of demonstrating his goodness and patience, and receiving everyone with a hearty smile. He would address hundreds of letters on behalf of the residents to their relatives and friends in America. He had a deep knowledge of the science of pharmacy and in therapy. When I was already a physician, and used to travel back to Volkovysk to visit, I would look through the formulations he had left behind, and literally was awestruck by his extensive knowledge of pharmacy. I myself, in my own practice, did not stint in using many of his formulations which had proven to be very effective.

He was drawn with great love to his children, and gave them all a good upbringing. He was an observant Jew – he would pray every morning – but he was no fanatic. He also exhibited tolerance to all people. On the eve of Passover, he would prepare haroseth, and many residents of Volkovysk would come to partake in this haroseth for their own Passover Seders. In his goodness and gentleness, he served as a shining role model to his children, and after his passing on 6 Tevet 5679 (1918), my sisters Pes'shka and Rosa took over the good deed of writing addresses on behalf of Volkovysk residents writing to their relatives and friends.

My Mother


Mikhlah Kagan Einhorn


My mother Mikhlah came from Lida and was a daughter of Reb Chaim Leib Kagan, a prominent merchant of Lida, and businessman. The Jews of Lida would lodge funds for orphans and indigent brides, etc., with him for safekeeping. To this day, Lida landsleit in America recall the name of Reb Chaim Leib Kagan with reverence and respect.

My mother had an aristocratic bearing. She was tall, thin and pretty. She was both good and gentle, and loved to dress elegantly. She also was possessed of a high order of intelligence and deep understanding. She was strongly dedicated to her children, and together with my father, created the warm atmosphere in our home that bound each of us children to one another with the greatest ties of love and commitment.

When my mother became seriously ill in 1926, I closed up my office in New York and traveled to Volkovysk. All the children were gathered at home. My sisters, Lisa, Rosa and Pes'shka were with her during the entire length of her illness and her decease. She passed away on the first day of Shavuot 5686 (1926).

My parents had seven children: Shmuel, Lisa, Ozer (Oscar), Rosa, Dora, Myself, and Paula (Pes'shka) .

Shmuel died while still a child – not more than five years of age.

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My Sister Lisa


Lisa Einhorn Kharakh


My oldest sister, Lisa married Shimshon Kharakh and lived in Warsaw and Lodz, until she and her husband made aliyah to the Land of Israel at the beginning of the 1930's, and settled in Tel-Aviv.

In her youth, Lisa was considered one of the most beautiful and intelligent young ladies in Volkovysk. She stood out as someone with a good heart, and was very committed to her home city and its charitable institutions. We, the younger children, would always look up to our older sister Lisa with great respect and love.

After the last World War, in July 1945, as soon as the first possibility arose, I flew from New York to Israel to visit my sister Lisa. The war in Europe had just ended, and I might possibly have been the very first civilian to come to Israel after the war. The exceptional joy with which my sister received me could not lighten the terrible anxiety that she felt. Her love for her family was always deep, and as she herself never had children, Rosa and Pes'shka's children were baked into her heart as if they were her very own.

While in Israel, I learned from Kotliarsky, Roitman and Shayn'eh Lifschitz – the surviving witnesses of the tragic occurrences in Volkovysk – of the bitter fate of my family, who shared in the destiny of all the Volkovysk Jews. However, I lacked the strength and energy to convey the terrifying news to my sister Lisa, whom I always took into my confidence during my stay in Israel. Daily, she would ask me if I had found out anything new about Volkovysk, and carried herself with the hope that perhaps some member of our family remained alive. “If Rosa and Pes'shka were still alive – she would simultaneously argue – they most certainly would have found some way to get in touch with us, and if truly they are all gone, I cannot make any sense out of continuing to live.”

On my return to America, I regularly wrote extensive letters to her and attempted to comfort her. I send her many gifts, so she would know that she was permanently imbedded in my heart. But, on her part, she seldom wrote, and I often had to wait for an extended period before receiving a letter from her, which [never failed] to be redolent with love and dedication.

Like a thunderclap on a clear day, the terrible news reached me that my sister Lisa had suddenly taken ill and passed away – 15 Sivan 5706 (1946).

My Brother Oscar


Oscar Einhorn


My brother Oscar left home at an early age and went to Tashkent, and later settled in Sosnowiec where he married, and opened an business that sold optical and photographic equipment. Things went well for him, and from time to time, he would travel to Volkovysk to visit the family. He had three children. At the time that the Nazis occupied Sosnowiec and installed a ghetto there, he was able to obtain an Aryan passport and conceal his identity, passing as an Aryan in Czenstochova.[6] In 1944, the Nazis discovered his true identity and shot him. One of his daughters, Terenya who was married and lived in Ostrin, was killed together with her two small children. The second daughter, Halina, was deported to Theresienstadt where she spent two and a half years in that concentration camp, and miraculously survived. Her two children also survived. Oscar's wife and his son, Jerzy lived in Warsaw, where they lived as Aryans for the entire duration of the war and also were saved from death.

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My Sister Rosa


Rosa Einhorn Pshenitsky


My sister Rosa was much beloved in Volkovysk. She had very good looks and much intelligence. She was very gentle and good-hearted. She also – just like my mother – was tall, thin and graceful. She had thick black hair, big black eyes, finely chiseled features, and a smile that expressed great goodness and sympathy for her fellow man. She was totally dedicated to helping the poor and downtrodden with her whole heart, and in her final years became interested in the Land of Israel.

Rosa completed the course of study at the Government Gymnasium in Grodno, and afterwards studied in Warsaw, where she graduated as a dentist even prior to the First World War, and opened a clinic in Volkovysk. I can still remember the joy we all felt in our house, at the time we went to get Rosa at the railroad station, when as a Gymnasium student, she would return home from Grodno for Passover.

During the period of the First World War, all of my sisters (except Pes'shka) went to Russia – and Rosa was subsequently installed as a dentist in the Minsk district. When my father fell ill in 1918, Rosa returned to Volkovysk and looked after him until he passed away. She again opened her clinic in Volkovysk and developed a large practice. She was one of the most popular dentists in the entire region. She later married an engineer, Mulya Pshenitsky, who ran a large electric generating plant and a glassworks. Nevertheless, she continued with her profession. When her first child was born, a girl, she named her Dora – after her beloved young sister who had died.

Rosa treated her patients – whether Jewish or Christian, rich or poor – in the same manner, giving no heed to whether they had the means to pay or not. She was always prepared to help the indigent, and she was broadly generous in supporting worthy causes, both Jewish and non-Jewish alike. The Volkovysk Jews counted her as their first citizen. In the time of the Nazi regime, when the murderers concentrated all the Volkovysk Jews into the bunkers, and Rosa received a special permit to remain in the city and continue her practice as a dentist – Rosa would provide to Dr. Marek Kaplan and Dr. Yitzhak Resnick (who at that time found themselves in the Volkovysk bunkers) food packages, that Christians in their villages sent for them.

Rosa was equally protected by the Christian Volkovysk populace, and it is noteworthy: even the troops of the murderous Gestapo showed respect for her charismatic personality, and they were prepared to let her stay behind alone at the time that they were sending off the last of the Volkovysk Jews to Auschwitz, but without her daughter Dora, she had decided to share the fate of all Volkovysk Jews, and was killed at Auschwitz.

Rosa's daughter Dora inherited much of her mother's beauty and intelligence – and she also stood out with her skills in gymnastics. She was very attached to her mother. When the Nazis burst into Volkovysk, Dora had a chance to save herself. Stevka, the Christian [sic: housemaid] who raised her, and took care of her from childhood on, wanted to take her to her village. But Dora did not want to be separated from her mother and remained in Volkovysk. She later was killed in the Auschwitz camp.

My Sister Dora


Dora Einhorn


My sister Dora was also a pretty and good person, and was loved by all who knew her. She graduated from the Volkovysk Women's Gymnasium with distinction, and entered the university in Warsaw. However, when the First World War broke out, and the German occupation began, Dora fled to Odessa, where she completed the course of study in dentistry. She was later appointed as a dentist in the Minsk district, where she worked

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alongside her sister Rosa. Approximately nine months after my father's death, Dora came home for Rosh Hashana. She caught typhus while riding the train, and arrived in Volkovysk gravely ill. Despite the fact that she received the best medicine and care, she nevertheless died two weeks later – at the budding age of 24 years – 5 Tishri 5680 (1919).

I visited Volkovysk in 1921. At that time, nearly two years had passed since Dora died, but despite this, my mother and sisters continued to mourn for her, and Rosa would visit her grave site every day.


My Sister Paula (Pes'shka)


Paula Einhorn Yanovsky


Terenya Einhorn Greenkraut, my brother's daughter.
Slain by the Nazis with her two children



Millie & Herschel, my sister Pes'shka's children killed in Treblinka in December 1942
Yulik & Chan'keh, my brother's grandchildren, killed by the Nazis along with their mother, Terenya


My family in the year 1910
R to L: My sisters – Rosa, Dora, Lisa and her husband, Shimshon



My sister Rosa as a Gymnasium student
My sister Lisa on a visit to Volkovysk in 1938. On her right, Pes'shka's children, on the left, Dora (Rosa's daughter)



The sole survivors of my entire family, Halina & Jerzy Einhorn, my brother's children



Dora, killed at the age of 18 in the Auschwitz camp
Dora (Rosa's daughter) & Millie (Pes'shka's daughter)


Dr. Moses Einhorn


My sister Paula (Pes'shka) even as a young person, took over the affairs of my father's pharmacy at the time that he fell ill, and she managed the pharmacy even after his death. We all respected her sensibility and sense of responsibility. She was strongly attached to and loyal to the family. She studied at the Volkovysk Gymnasium and spent nearly her entire life in Volkovysk. She married Joseph Yanovsky, a merchant, and had three children: a son whom she named after my father, and a daughter whom she named after my mother. She was murdered, along with her husband and two children, in the gas chambers of Treblinka.

* * *

Apart from my brother's son and daughter, I now remain as the only one survivor from our large family. This is all that remains of my parents' children. I do not understand nor apprehend the ways of God.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Ozer is from the Hebrew word for ‘help.’ Related to the name Ezra. Return
  2. Indicating, perhaps, a connection with Moscow Return
  3. See There Once Was A World by Yaffa Eliach, Little Brown (1997) pp. 190-1. Eliach uses the spelling Grodzinski. Return
  4. From both the 1965 and 1967 1968 South Africa Jewish Year Book, and Neil Rosenstein's Book, The Unbroken Chain, we learn the following: He married:
    1. Feyge Leah (died in 1907), daughter of Rabbi David Solomon Grodzhensky (and sister of renowned Rabbi Chaim Ozer).
      Children were: Deborah, Chava, David Solomon Kossowsky
    2. Feyge (died Tel Aviv in 1976), daughter of Meir Goskind and the niece of his first wife.
      Children were: Rabbi Mikhl Kossowsky, Chaim Kossowsky
  5. Apparently a title used to designate a senior, or chief physician. Return
  6. This likely is the city of Czestochowa, which is not far from Sosnowiec. Return

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Volkovysk, My Home City

by Dr. Moses Einhorn, New York

Moshe'keh – Herschel the Pharmacist's son, Rosa the Dentist's brother


The History of Volkovysk

A Little History, Data and Statistics

Volkovysk has a rich historical past, which occupies an important place in the history of Poland, Russia and Lithuania, not to mention the important historical significance that Volkovysk had as a large Jewish community, a city an a Mother in Israel. As I think about the glorious past and the tragic end to Volkovysk – a sea of memories and sad recollections swims through my mind, and it is nigh impossible for me to concentrate on setting down the record of “what used to be” in writing, about Volkovysk . However, I cannot help myself. I think that in the Volkovysk Yizkor Book, there must be a short, concise description of the history and topography of the city. I will therefore attempt here, attempt to convey a short topographical exposition in general terms about Volkovysk.

The Geographic and Topographical Situation


A Panoramic View of Volkovysk
(Photographed from the Rosher Barg; The Schlossbarg is visible in the distance)


A Pre-WW I Russian Map of the Grodno Guberniya


Volkovysk, an outlying city in the Grodno Guberniya,[1] is on the Volkova River, on the Bialystok-Baranovich[2] railroad line. The city lies in a valley, surrounded on three sides by mountains. The old Volkovysk railroad station stands between Berestovitz and Zelva. The city of Volkovysk itself is 90km from Bialystok and 112km from Baranovich. The soil around Volkovysk is sandy and mountainous. The hills, which are found to the south of the city, are called “Die Schwedische Berg[3]” and have the appearance of entrenchments. From the many pieces of munitions found there, it would appear that these hills served as fortifications in the time of the Polish-Swedish war.

The swamps that are found in the Volkovysk area are principally in the south and southeast. The biggest swamps are found around Novy-Dvor. About a quarter of the area consists of forests. The forests consist primarily of fir trees. The Bialystok-Baranovich rail line runs from west to east.

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In the Volkovysk ambit, twelve smaller towns are found that had Jewish residents:1) Izavelin[4], 2)Yalovka, 3) Lopenitsa, 4) Lisokovo, 5) Amstibova[5], 6) Novy-Dvor, 7) Piesk, 8) Rosh, 9) Svislucz, 10) Zelva, 11) Volp, 12) Porozovo.

The first settlers in the Volkovysk area were the Zaviekovshchizna in the Zamkov Forest, several kilometers from Volkovysk. There are still traces there of stone foundations.


The Origin of the Name, “Volkovysk”

The Schloss Barg


The Street in Front of the Stores in the Town Square


Boulevarna Gasse
(Right: Houses of Manya Galai, Kobrinsky, Marantz, Poliachek
Left: The Orthodox Church)


The Wide Street

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The Boulevarna (Kosciuszko) Gasse
(Right: Houses of: Khantov, Galiatsky (the Barber)
Left: Avromsky Galai (the Butcher), and Efrat)


The Bus Station on the Wide Boulevard
(Left to Right, the houses of: Mordetsky, Lytus, Lapin, Einhorn (white arrow), Shiff, Slutsky;
On the other side one can see Zhemenshky's houses)


According to the writings of Bulakovsky – from the end of the 17th century (the writings were in the library of the Sapieha[6] Grafs[7] in Ruzhany, translated into Russian and published in the Vilna newspaper Vilny Vestnyk in 1881) – there was a very thick forest in the place where Volkovysk is now located, where two gangs of bandits had their hideouts. The leader of one gang was named Volko, the leader of the second gang was called – Visek. These gangs used to attack and rob riders [going through the area]. A man named Zavieka apprehended these bandits, hung them, and ordered that their hideouts where they concealed themselves in houses be built over. He named this new settlement Volkovisek, after the two robber chieftains, Volko and Visek. On the spot where the bandits lived, a large memorial was erected. Later, the memorial was cut up and used as a foundation for a church.


Incidents & Facts in Chronological Order

In the year 1000 A.D. Max Pusto dug a lake next to which he built a “Svientina” (a holy building) named Niyai. Traces of this lake can be found in the Zamkover Forest that are called the “Maxokovi Lug.”[8] On the south side of this settlement was the “Svientina Smiguza,” on the spot where today the Pohiblover Swamps are located. There, Vighaytis Al. Vihayis built himself a great palace (remnants still can be found around the

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Schwedische Barg). This settlement grew substantially by the 11th century. According to Bulakovsky's writings, the Jadzvings, on the nights of the 15th and 16th of February 1038 fell upon Volkovysk, murdered its inhabitants, stole all their possessions, and burned the city. It is further told that in the years between 1124-1130 a great flood occurred from the river Nietufy that annihilated the town. In the year 1224, the Tatars destroyed a greater part of the town, which at that time belonged to a Russian noble. After the death of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Dingold, the Mongols attacked Russia, and destroyed Volkovysk along with other cities. Later it was rebuilt by Mendug[9]. In 1252, the city was taken by the Volhynian Duke Wasil. In this fashion Volkovysk was sometimes in the possession of the Russians and sometimes the Lithuanians. In 1258 a treaty was agreed to, in which Volkovysk was given to Mendug (a Lithuanian) who built a beautiful palace there (part of the stonework of the palace were subsequently used as gravestones).

After Vielon murdered Gedymin, Volkovysk and Novogrudok were taken over by his youngest son, Koriat[10], whose mother was the Russian noblewoman, Jewna[11]. He beautified and built up the city to a great extent. His son Alexander, together with Olger[12] launched an invasion in 1365 against the Teutonic Knights and brought a great amount of booty and many prisoners to Volkovysk. He improved the city even further.

Twenty years later, [Wladyslaw] Jagiello ceded Volkovysk to Witold[13] in return for the Troki region.

At that time, Volkovysk acquired historical significance, because in the year 1385 the king, Jagiello sent emissaries from Volkovysk to Cracow to advise, that, along with the entire Lithuanian nation, he would adopt the [Roman] Catholic faith, if [the Polish princess] Jadwiga would become his wife, and the Poles would accept him as their king. Negotiations dragged on for a long time, and Jagiello waited for an answer, living in a palace in Volkovysk, which is where he later received the Polish emissaries – Wlogan from Lublin[14], Pyotr Szafraniec (pronounced: Shafranyetz)[15] from Cracow, Mikolaj from Zawichost[16], and Kristin from Ostrov. It was agreed there between the two sides (in 1386) that the entire Lithuanian nation would adopt the Catholic religion. From that time on, Jagiello referred to himself as “King of Poland, the First Duke of Lithuania and Ruler of the Rus.” A plan was also agreed to whereby Jagiello would undertake the obligation to travel to Lublin on the 2nd of

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February for a general conclave. From that time onward, Volkovysk prospered. Special churchmen were brought there to instruct the populace in the elements of the Catholic faith, and pagans were pursued and driven out.

With the help of the residents of Rosh (near Volkovysk), a triumphal arch was erected, through which Jagiello marched along with selected Polish supporters. Jagiello, who was pleased with the quality of how he was received, ordered a cathedral to be built. This promise made a deep impression on the Duke Witold, who erected the Cathedral to St. Mikolai. In the year 1409, suddenly on a Sunday March 16, the Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen (Germany)[17] fell upon the city of Volkovysk, murdered many people, burned the city and took many prisoners. Later, thanks to the fact that the city was located between great forests, it was once again re-built.

At the beginning of the 16th century, the Lithuanian Grand Duke Alexander accorded the city may rights and privileges – and this was formalized in 1507 during the reign of Sigmund II. During the 16th century, Volkovysk already was counted among the first class cities in Lithuania, and an important area city in the Novogrudok Guberniya. The Sejm (Legislature) met often in Volkovysk.

At that time there were nine thoroughfares in Volkovysk: Slonimer, Jasikover, Biskupier, Jesuitzka , Vilner, Piekarski, Piesker, Zamkova, and Petroshovsker. To this day, traces of these streets remain near the Rosh River. There were smithies on the Slonimer Gasse, and a Jesuit institution, which was built over in 1598 by Oskierka.

Volkovysk was destroyed during the time of the Swedish-Polish war, when Jan Kazimierz reigned. In 1656 the city was surrounded on three sides: from the south – the Swedes, from the northeast – Polish and Lithuanian military forces, from the northwest – the Tatars. A heavy battle ensued for three days, and finally the Swedes were vanquished. As a memorial to that time, the treaty hill (Schwedische Barg) remains to this day. The hill was 50 meters high. It had been even higher than that.

A hundred years later, in 1762, Volkovysk had only 112 houses, and in the year 1792, there were already more than 1000 houses, a Catholic Cathedral and an Orthodox Church. In 1794, Volkovysk became a regional city of the Slonim Guberniya. Later, it was transferred to the Lithuanian Guberniya, and in 1802 – to the Grodno Guberniya.

In 1812, Volkovysk was the principal headquarters of the Second Russian Army. During Napoleon's invasion, from the 15th to the 16th of November, a very intense battle took place there between Sacken's Russian Corps (consisting of 28,000 soldiers) and Reiner's French division. The French were put at risk of encirclement and were forced to withdraw, and because of this, the city was so frightfully devastated that only a small number of houses were left standing. The municipal apparatus of the city had to be transferred to the neighboring town of Izavelin.

By 1817 there were once again 156 houses in Volkovysk, and in 1860 – 492 houses, and in 1891 the city already had 910 houses, five warehouses for a variety of merchandise, and 334 stores. A few years before the outbreak of the First World War, in 1910, Volkovysk was already a large city, with a population of 14, 593 people.

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In “Volkovysker Leben” from January 15, 1932, the results of a population census were printed that had then been taken. According to that calculation, Volkovysk had at that time a general population of 15,147 souls and 2006 residential dwellings.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Province, in Russian Return
  2. Also Baranovichi Return
  3. Seemingly, the Swedish Mountains Return
  4. Also Izabelin Return
  5. Called Mstibov or Mstibovo or Mscibava Return
  6. The Sapiehas were the developers of Dereczin. See The Dereczin Memorial Book. Return
  7. A Graf is a nobleman, comparable to a Duke or Earl in western nomenclature. Return
  8. Perhaps ‘The meadow of Max [Pusto]’ Return
  9. Also rendered as Mindaugas Return
  10. Koriat Mikhal was born in 1306 and died in 1360. He was the Prince of Novgorod, father of the line of the Princes of Podoloa. He died in 1360 Return
  11. Jewna Iwana Wszwolodowicza, daughter of Prince Smolensk. Return
  12. Also called Olgierd or Algirdas Return
  13. Also called Vytautas Return
  14. The first emissary, “Wlogan from Lublin,” was likely Wlodko (Wlogan) from Ogrodzieniec, which is located close to Czestochowa. Return
  15. Szafran means ‘Saffron’ in Polish. Return
  16. In Polish history texts, Mikolaj from Zawichost is called Mikolaj from Ossolin. It is 30 miles from Ossolin to Zawichost. Ossolin is a small town, where the palace was located, but Zawichost is much bigger, and located at the bank of Vistula (Wisla) River. This is likely why the bigger town is mentioned in Dr. Einhorn's book. Return
  17. On July 15, 1410, a decisive battle, one of the biggest in the Middle Ages, took place near the village of Grunwald (also known as Tannenberg). On one side were the Teutonic Knights with West European mercenaries, about 27,000 soldiers commanded by Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen. On the other was a larger army of Jagiello and Vytautas, supported by Czech and vassal Tartar contingents, of about 39,000 men. The allied forces included a unit from Bierascie. By the end of the day, the Teutonic Knights were defeated. Some 8,000 of them were slain, including the Grand Master of the Order. Return

The History of the Jews in Volkovysk and The Towns


Napoleon's House on The Poritzisher Gasse
Napoleon headquartered in this house during his march on Moscow in 1812)


The Entrance to the Old Railroad Station


The Principal (Central) Railroad Station


The Brick Factory of Minch, near the Schloss Barg


There is an historical source (“Regesta y Zapiski”), where a record exists of Jews living in the Volkovysk area in 1577. It is brought out there, that because of the risk of war, it was decided to levy a head tax of 12 groschen on everyone – including the Jews.

In the folio of the Vaad Arba Aratzot[1] details are recorded of the taxes that the Volkovysk Jews paid at the demand of the Lithuanian Duke in the years 1680 and 1693.

In Volkovysk, and its nearby surroundings, there were 1,282 Jews living in 1766, and 4,881 Jews in the entire district.

In 1797 there were 1,829 Christians in Volkovysk and 1,477 Jews and Karaites.[2]

In 1847 there were 5,946 Jews in the entire Volkovysk district. They were found in the following settlements:

City/Town Jewish
Volkovysk 1,429
Zelivian[3] 856
Izavelin 297
Lopenitsa 88
Lisokovo 232
Amstibova 304
Novy-Dvor 53
Porozovo 397
Piesk 662
Rosh 287
Svislucz 997
Yalovka 372

[Page 12]

In 1860 – out of a general population of 3,472 residents – there were 1,518 Jews.

In, 1891 there were 8,057 residents in Volkovysk, of which 1,934 were Eastern Orthodox, 2,752 [Roman] Catholics, 16 Protestants, 23 Muslims, and 3,232 Jews. In that year there were 19 factories in Volkovysk (tobacco, candles, bricks, etc.) And there was also (from earlier times) the known fabric factory of Pines and Zabludowsky, whose annual revenue was fifty thousand rubles.

In that year (1891) there were two Eastern Orthodox churches in Volkovysk and a Catholic cathedral, a Jewish synagogue, six Jewish houses of study (Bet HaMedrash), one pharmacy, three civilian hospitals, four military hospitals, and one post office. The Catholic cathedral was constructed by Jan Lentovsky in the years 1841-48.

In the vicinity (apart from the city) in that year (1891) there were 121,102 residents – 11,571 Jews. There were 220 work establishments (mills, tanneries, etc.). In that year, 588 patents were issued. There were 36 “second category” merchants, and 325 small businessmen. Commerce was transacted mostly in the markets and market fair days. Most of the merchants were Jews, because there were not permitted to engage in other occupations. Jews were forbidden to own land, and they were excluded from holding government positions.

In 1897, there were 12,942 Jews in the entire district (excluding Volkovysk), who comprised 9% of the population. In Volkovysk proper, there were 5,528 Jews who made up 53% of the general population. Also, for a majority of the towns in the Volkovysk area, the Jews made up more than 50% of the population.

In that year (1897) the following was the count of the general population and the Jewish population in the towns mentioned previously:

Zelva 2,803 1,844
Zelivian 600 81
Izavelin 963 454
Lisokovo 876 658
Amstibova 1,228 389
Novy-Dvor 1,481 183
Piesk 2,396 1,615
Porozovo 2,028 931
Svislucz 3,099 2,086
Yalovka 1,311 743

[Page 13]

In 1910, there were 14,593 residents in Volkovysk, of which 55% were Jewish. There were two Orthodox Churches in the city, one Catholic cathedral, and one synagogue.

In that year (1910) there were 187,200 residents in the entire Volkovysk district, of which 82% were White Russian, and 12% Jews. There were 14 towns in the entire district, and 1,031 villages and inhabited byways.

Volkovysk survived two large fires. The first fire took place in 1886. At that time, nearly all of the houses (that were then constructed from wood) burned down. Afterwards, a greater part of the city was rebuilt using brick. In the second fire, which took place in 1908, part of the center of the city was consumed, the entire Wide Boulevard (die Brayteh Gasse)[4], the Mitzrayim Gasse, and the Schulhof with the old historic synagogue, and the houses of study. But Volkovysk was quickly rebuilt. Also, at the time of the First World War, during the German occupation, a fire took place in which a large part of the Kholodoisker Gasse was consumed.

During the time of the First World War, in the year 1915, Volkovysk was taken by the Germans. At that time, a portion of the populace fled deep into the Russian heartland, but the larger portion of these returned after the War.

In that war, the old railroad station was destroyed, and the barracks of the 16th Brigade. After the War Volkovysk passed under Polish hegemony. In the years leading up to the Second World War, Volkovysk was significantly renovated and built up. The entire Karczyzna neighborhood was rebuilt and occupied by Jews. Old, small shacks were built over, and developed into large structures. Volkovysk became one of the most important railheads. There were two attractive railroad stations – old and new Volkovysk. The Volkovysk abattoir was famous throughout Poland and was noted for the latest technology. The cement factory in Rosh was also well-known. Apart from the various clinics, Volkovysk had two hospitals, one Jewish and the second Polish.

During the Second World War, at the time of the German invasion of Russia, ninety percent of the city was destroyed. From June 22-29, 1941, the city underwent a terrifying bombardment by the Germans. During the period of Nazi control, on November 2, 1942, the Jews of Volkovysk and vicinity were rounded up and concentrated in bunkers near the barracks. Many transports, filled with Jews, were sent to the extermination camp at Treblinka. The last transport left Volkovysk on January 26, 1943 to Auschwitz. At that point Volkovysk became Judenrein. At the time of the retreat of the Nazis in 1944, the small part of the city that had remained intact, was also destroyed. At this time there are approximately 18 Jews in Volkovysk – a few had returned from inside Russia, and a few from Volkovysk, who had become partisans in the forests, saved themselves.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. The Committee of the Four Lands. A Jewish governing body of this area of the Pale of Settlement. Return
  2. A niche sect of Jewish people who adhered only to Mosaic Law (the Torah), but not Talmudic and rabbinical teachings. Return
  3. Possibly Zeljanevicy Return
  4. Later on, in a picture, this main thoroughfare is also identified as having had the Polish name, Ulica Szeroka. In the third part of the Trilogy, Volkovysk, edited by Katriel Lashowitz, the street is also called the Sheroka Gasse by some of the contributors to that volume. Return


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