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[Columns 209-210 - Hebrew]

The Purim Pogrom 5674 [1914]

by Shaul Viderman

Translated by Selwyn Rose

At the end of 1917, when the Bolshevik Revolution announced “freedom” for the citizens, there followed a sequence of changes of authority. The “Whites” and the gangs of the Ukrainian “Black Hundred” were not complacent about the new regime and conspired against the government, spilling their anger first of all upon the Jewish population. But the revolution and its echoes inspired the Jewish youth to stand up against the conspirators. Members of the Jewish “Self-Defense” returning blow for blow and refusing to allow them to harm the Jews of the town.

In the winter of 1918 the town was dominated by Ukrainian rioters at the head of which was the infamous Uskilka. On one of the Shabbatot early in the month of Adar (March), groups of Ukrainian hooligans from the local villages suddenly appeared on the streets of the town and began provoking the Jewish residents. Members of the “Defense” with the help of supporters of the Revolution within the town's population overcame the riotous thugs, beating them decisively, commandeered their weapons and forcibly expelled them from the town.

The Ukrainian thugs couldn't swallow this insult and on the festival of Purim that began just the Sabbath following the incident a large contingent of them, mobilized from the various villages, invaded the town. They attacked the synagogue and houses dragging out the men, young and old, taking them to the White army Barracks in Surmicze. Gangs of thugs broke into shops and houses robbing and looting whatever came to hand. The Christian residents did not participate in what was going on but didn't lift a finger to help their Jewish neighbors; more than that – they marked their doors and windows with a cross in order to identify it as a Christian house and the hooligans left them alone.

The rioter continue with their activities until the evening and the Jews trembled from fear and only when darkness came were the prisoners sent home suffering abuse and beatings on the way. Nevertheless among those originally taken there were eighteen people missing, thirteen from Dubno and five Jewish students from out of town.

For several days the families of the missing students searched for some sign trying to discover where they were but all their efforts directed to the authorities were in vain and none of their own searches in the area bore fruit and no one had any information. Only after ten days was the mystery solved: a worried woman villager came to a Jewish wagon-driver in Surmicze and told him that between her village and the barracks she had seen the hand of a man sticking out of the ground.

The Jewish wagon-driver immediately organized some public figures and activists in town and they went out to the place and after digging down deeply they found the bodies of the eighteen missing men. All of them had been shot by the villains and traces of brutalization found on their corpses.

The martyrs of the pogrom were brought to town for a Jewish burial in Dubno and the entire Jewish population of the town attended. That was the last “heroic” deed of the Ukrainian hooligan group in Dubno and their name lives on in ignominy.


[Columns 213-214 - Hebrew]

Sources of Livelihood of Dubno's Jews

by Moshe Cohen

Translated by Selwyn Rose

The writer of this survey, who was born and grew up in Dubno, living there for fifty years and taking part in nearly every public Zionist activity in town, apologizes in advance for any errors and inaccuracies which may have been introduced here. It has been written purely from memory and there has been no possibility to refer or examine sources to compare the figures quoted.

The main sources of sustenance of Dubno's Jewish element were: Industry, inn-keeping, trading, artisanship – tailoring, carpentry, iron-working and welding, butchery, fishing, transport and porterage; free professions: medicine, education, law, clerkship and religious services.

 

A. Industry

In and around the vicinity there were six large sophisticated flour-mills, the lion's share of the produce of which – after fulfilling local needs, was exported all over Poland.

Five of the above mills, “Solet”, “Zamkoba”, “Wohlin”, “Zabramiah” and “Economiah” were owned by Jewish residents of town while one was owned by a non-Jew – “Wohlitzer” – that was always rented and operated by Jews. Only in 1937 was one of the large mills, “Solet” owned by Shmuel Horowitz (Z”L)[1] sold to a Polish company.

All the owners of the mills (about 25 families), were in a good economic situation and a few of them were actually rich.

Most of the workers in the flour-mills - clerks, professional- and non-professional workers – were Jewish and most of them were well situated.

In and around town there were also factories under Jewish ownership manufacturing roof-tiles and cement piping but all the workers were non-Jewish. These owners were also substantially wealthy. Similarly the owners of the lime-kilns were Jewish but the workers were all non-Jewish.

There were also soap-making factories in the town owned by Jewish people. Several families made a living from them.

From 1927/8 the preparation and baking of Pessach matzoth began on an industrial scale that guaranteed employment for 40-50 families for four or five months each year.

In 1930 a Belgian company, in partnership with Polish and Jewish financial participation, opened a large factory for preserving meat and its products. One of the partners in the company was the well-known Łódź industrialist, Asher Cohen. The number of Jewish employees in that business was very small except for the suppliers of chickens and pluckers of the chickens.

There were twelve oast-houses or kilns, modern and well-equipped for drying hops. In these facilities the strong bitter smelling clusters of hops were dried and raked-over before being sacked up for the beer-brewing industry.

All these installations belonged to Jews, most of them from Dubno, like the Albert brothers, David and Tzvi Perle, the Barchash brothers, the Goldstein brothers, Eliezer Fishbein, Moshe Kellerman, Yechiel Katz and Emmanuel Mazurek; there were also Pessess(?) and Distenfeld of Lvov and Eliezer Goldfarb, a citizen of Dubno residing in Gdansk (Danzig). In 1932 Eliezer Goldfarb sold his factory to a Polish company.

During the season, that lasted from September to the end of March, about 2,000 -2,500 daily workers, most of them women from the town and surrounding villages, found work in these factories. The number of Jewesses amounted to 30-35% of the women workers. They were all daughters of poor families and their wages just about sustained them with careful planning; compared to them the salaries of the office and professional workers in the factories were satisfactory.

There were also eight grinding mills in Dubno milling buckwheat and millet into various grades and nearby oil-presses for expressing the oil, mostly for the farmers in the district who brought their crops of sunflowers. They paid partly in seeds and partly cash. Three of the mill owners mentioned here were wealthy while the rest needed to work quite hard to make it pay.

Soft drinks production, like soda-water, lemonade and other flavored drinks were manufactured in five factories. The owners worked very hard, especially during the summer months when there was a plentitude of work, and were well-established. They attempted to amalgamate and form a cartel but after a couple of years, in 1936, the cartel broke up because of internal dissensions and each went his own way.

[Columns 215-216 - Hebrew]

There were smaller enterprises operated by individual families – like in stocks and shares, the preparation of wine from fruit and raisins and the production of candies. There were also two factories manufacturing brushes, a factory for vinegar and a printing-house owned by individual families. In most of these enterprises the owners were not only workers in the factories but were engaged in selling their products, apart from the stock-market and printing-house enterprises where salaried professionals were engaged. The owners of all these enterprises did well and a few of them, the printing-house and a few of the stock-market families were rich.

Six or seven of the family-heads operated freight services via the railroad. They took care of all the documentation and formalities: invoicing, receipts and the reception and forwarding of goods. Their work was hard and carried a great responsibility but the reward was commensurate with the effort.

 

B. Hoteliers

The business of hostelry and inn-keeping in Dubno began very early with its roots in the days of the Polish kingdom. There were fourteen excellent hotels relative to the period and another thirteen of a somewhat lesser standard. Most of the hotel guests were nobles or land-owners from the area, owners of estates and forestry proprietors who arrived in town by horse. Nearly every hotel had stables or garage space except the “Francuski”, which belonged to the Perlman family (Z”L), where travelers who came from all over Poland by railroad or even from abroad, stayed. Mostly they came for business reasons but there were also the delegates, who came from all the Zionist movements such as the Foundation Fund of Israel, WIZO, “Tarbut” and others. These guests were warmly welcomed by the owners of the hotel in spite of the fact that the meetings of these groups were often rowdy and extremely noisy, disturbing the atmosphere for other guests of the hotel. Among others who stayed there were honored guests from Palestine like Rabbi Maimon and Yisroel Ritoff, Rabbi Gold, Mrs. Pewzner the founder of WIZO in Dubno, political and social and Zionist activists and politicians, citizens of Poland like Dr. Fischer, Dr. Gottlieb, Avraham Levisohn and others.

The restaurant and beer-halls were also significantly in the hands of Jews and their owners belonged to the middle-classes of Dubno society.

 

Dub216.jpg
A convention of Jewish artisans Poland's national holiday]

[Columns 217-218 - Hebrew]

C. Artisans and Laborers

Most of Dubno's Jews were artisans of different trades except for a few shoe-makers, builders, bakers and smiths who were not Jewish. A number of them had their own workshops and worked alone, or were assisted by professionals, apprentices and students. But starting in 1930, in accordance with the economic policies of the anti-Semitic Polish Government, non-Jewish apprentices, children of the local farmers, began to infiltrate the exclusively Jewish professions like tailoring, hairdressing and carpentry. These students began as apprentices but in a short while began to appear as competitors to the Jewish established businesses. Foreign artisans from Poland and Galicia began to arrive in town who were additional competitors of the Jewish artisans. All the Jewish artisans were members of one of two guilds centered in the capital, Warsaw: a general one at whose head in recent times was Yitzhak Litzmann (now in Israel); the second was left-wing and under the leadership of the “Bund” led by the local “Bundist” politician Leib Luchnick Z”L.

Most of the artisans – their number in total were a few hundred – barely made a living except for a few tens who were highly skilled. A few were even wealthy.

Butchery

There were between 20-30 families trading in this business. They bought cattle in the surrounding farms, brought the animals to town where they were slaughtered and sold to the butcher-shop owners in town. The work of these Jews was very hard but their level of sustenance was considered secure.

Fishing

Fishing was carried out in the stream and lakes in the area by a number of Jewish families among them working as professionals who went fishing in the Ikva. In addition they would buy fish from non-Jewish fishermen and owners of local fish-ponds in the area and with the help of their wives sold all the fish in the local market.

 

D. The Free Professions

In medicine, pharmacy, dentistry and law the Jewish population of Dubno held a respectable place – about 60%-70% of the total academic professions, except engineering which was virtually entirely in the hands of the non-Jews. These professionals were respected and dignified and holders of wealth and assets. There were also a number of nurses, some of whom worked in hospitals and some privately.

Education and Instruction

Generally speaking Jewish teachers were not accepted by the public municipal schools so their number in town was few. Most of them worked in the private Jewish schools and in private instruction. There were about 18 families of teachers and although they didn't go hungry their sustenance was insecure.

Clerical work

Jewish clerical workers were not accepted in government offices at all and until 1928 there were no Jewish clerical workers in the town's municipal offices and institutions – except Mr. Leybish Halperin Z”L, the municipal treasurer. But after the municipal council elections in 1928 a few Jewish clerical workers were taken by some of the municipal institutions but their numbers barely reached 7% or 8% of the town's clerical staff. However in the Jewish institutions of town such as the cooperative banks and private companies the entire clerical staff was Jewish. About 40-50 families were involved and their standard of living was reasonable.

Religious services

Included in religious services were Rabbis, cantors, ritual slaughterers, synagogues and Study-house sextons and beadles, community clerical staff and sacred articles institutions – about 50 families. Of them only about seven or eight families – the ritual slaughterers – earned a reasonable living while all the rest had a less than adequate wage and a member of the family found it necessary to take on additional employment or live a life of poverty. Only the two rabbis, the two town rabbis – received a regular fixed payment but even that was miniscule.

 

E. Transport

Autobus service

The Jews were the first of Dubno's citizens to develop an inter-urban bus service covering an area within a radius of about 100 km – from Dubno to Lutsk, Rivne, Kremenets and Radziwiłłów (Radyvýliv, Radzivilov). At the start it was the initiative of a few individuals but after a short while a few companies came into existence investing much capital and effort. In time the branch was invaded by foreigners and after a period of unfair competition caused a number of the Jews to fall away. Eventually, however, they all united, fixed routes and time-tables and the transport system continued to develop and function until the outbreak of war in 1939. In any case the autobus service was an economic blessing for the life of the town, its developers and workers during all the years of its existence.

Wagon-masters

From its earliest years there had always been wagon-masters and carriage drivers for the transportation of passengers within the town and its surroundings and especially to the railroad station that was about 4 km from the center of town. Apart from just two or three non-Jews all the wagoners and carriage drivers in town were Jewish and only from 1930 did a few non-Jews break into the business with their wagons, in accordance with the economic policies of the Polish

[Columns 219-220 - Hebrew]

government. Generally speaking about 40 families, mostly Jews of little means made their living from the transportation business with difficulty. There were also about 25-30 wagon-masters, all of them Jewish, working very hard who operated as haulers of goods and whose income was a little more secure – especially after they united in 1922 in one guild under the management of Naphtali Steinwertzel Z”L who through his dedication knew very well how to protect their interests and how to develop contacts with all elements connected to the transportation and haulage of goods and freight thus obtaining better deals for his members and a better living standard.

Water-carriers and porterage

Because of the non-existence of organized plumbing installation in the homes, water-carriers operated in town; they drew water from the River Ikva and transported the water in barrels or even in buckets on yokes over their shoulders. Thus was drinking water delivered to the homes until 1907 when an artesian well was dug in the center of town. About twenty families made a living from the transportation of water. It entailed extremely hard work especially in the cruel winter months and it didn't bring in a good livelihood. Indeed, in this occupation also there were intruders that infiltrated from the year 1930 and who, like the water-carriers, were not Jewish, and began to supply water to Polish families who, in the process of time had come to live and settle in town. It was somewhat paradoxical that in later years the economic situation of the water-carriers improved a lot because the job-status was considered inferior and demeaning and as such members of families of standing declined employment opportunities in the field and since the population had grown from year to year the income of the water-carriers had increased correspondingly.

The occupation of porterage was entirely in the hands of Jews until the end. About 20-25 families were occupied and the work was physical and very hard. Young people also were not attracted to this work so those who worked at porterage prospered accordingly.

 

F. Commerce

Commerce was the principal source of income for most of the local Jews of Dubno. And about 60%-65% of the Jewish population was involved in, and secured their sustenance from it. The larger traders were organized into the 'Traders' Society' and the smaller businessmen in the 'Society of Small Traders'. The centers of both societies were in the capital, Warsaw. At the head of the 'General Traders' Society' in Dubno at the time stood A. Kahana, Shmuel Barchash and Yisroel Moshe Laschower and for the 'Small traders' Society' Ben-Zion Shtoff and Moshe Pinchosovich.

Commerce in Dubno fell into two sectors:

  1. Trade in imported goods, like groceries, fuel, textiles, paper, leather for shoes, books, writing materials, haberdashery, clothing, metal-work, paints and building materials.
  2. Trade in the exportation of agricultural produce like hops, clover seeds, wheat, flour, fruit, eggs, hens, furs and skins.
    Wholesale trade in imports is divided into wholesalers and retailers.
Wholesale trading, that found a major focus on groceries, supplied all the needs of the retailers in town and in the surroundings for a radius of about 50 km. Until 1926 the trade was entirely in the hands of Jews. That same year a large Polish cooperative was founded in town and following it a Ukrainian one. Both of them became the suppliers of all the non-Jewish shop-keepers in town and the surrounding villages. All other products that the shop-keepers needed were brought from Warsaw, Łódź and nearby Równe and insignificant items, like iron- and metal-work, furs and textiles were imported from trading-posts and industries in Russia. After 1920 when the entire area was disconnected from Russia and passed to Poland most of the retailers dealt with Lvov.

Apart from two or three non-Jewish or foreign owners the retail trade was entirely in the hands of the Jewish population until 1925 when a stream of non-Jewish people streamed into town, mostly Polish, who began to enter the retail trade here and there until, in 1939 they represented about 15% and they even created a Society of their own.

In general terms about 400-500 resident families, a significant number, made a living from import and retail enterprises in town. About 60%-70% of them relied more or less on their shops and a regular circle of customers and clients. Most of these families belonged to the middle-class and about 10%-15% of them were in an even better economic position, while 20%-25% of the families not so well-founded and sold their wares in kiosks or market-stalls. Their customers were passers-by or villagers from the area and in addition they needed to take their wares two or three times a week to other local village markets on their respective market days and fairs and only by those means could they hope to continue trading and survive economically but still with difficulty.

About 12-15 Jewish families were engaged in trade in building materials - with timber in all its forms, cement, plaster, porcelain etc., and lived well.

Four veteran families of long standing were in a partnership trading wholesale in the petroleum industry and its associated products: A. Kahana, Shmuel Barchash, Avraham Guberman and the Harmetz family and in recent times the Binstok brothers also entered the

[Columns 221-222 - Hebrew]

trade. They had large storage tanks and warehouses next to the railroad station that were used for supplying the town and surrounding areas. When the autobus and taxi service developed, they built a gas-station at the approaches to the city and at the center of town. These families were all rich and made an excellent living as did their employees – six or seven families; they received good salaries from which they could live comfortably.

Agricultural trade

There were three large trading houses for the export of eggs. They received eggs into their warehouses from the surrounding villages via small traders. The owners of these storehouses, the longest established was the Nachtman(?) family, specialized in the selection and packaging of eggs for export to companies abroad with whom they had made commercial connections. Only Jews – about 15-20 were working in the selection and packaging of eggs; their salaries were low and their economic situation difficult.

About 20-30 families were engaged in the chicken trade. The hens were bought either directly from farmers or from outside traders who would acquire the birds from sources at the entrance to town, markets or fairs. The lion's share of chickens were sold live at large centers, like Warsaw, Lvov and so on while the remainder especially geese were fattened and later slaughtered and sold to the local population. All the Jewish traders in fowl made a good living.

The trade in skins furs and pig's bristle was also carried on by two or three traders who bought the stock from itinerant Jewish traders, from farmers or peddlers from the villages. From their store-houses in town they sorted the skins, dried and salted them, then sold them throughout Poland. These Jewish traders also did well to the benefit of their families.

As stated the major suppliers of eggs, chickens, skins, furs and pigs' bristles, were some tens of poor families and peddlers who wandered around the markets or the suburbs of town, travelled to local fairs purchasing the above items in small quantities bringing them to town and selling to large traders. These families were mainly impoverished making their livelihood with great difficulty.

The trading in fruit was also in the hands of the Jews who bought from the orchard owners while the fruit was still on the tree and sometimes even before it blossomed. They picked the fruit at their own expense, bringing it to town storing it in cool cellars and marketing the major portion by wagons to the large towns of Poland, while the remaining fruit was sold to shop-keepers for the local population. This sector also found employment for 30-40 families among whom the wholesalers made a good living and lived well while the other families were less fortunate, living more modestly, selling them via retailers to the local population.

There were also a few shopkeepers selling flour, grits and chick-peas. They bought their supplies from the local mills and were part of the middle-class.

 

G. Field produce and seeds

The entire area of Dubno, within a radius of 40-50 km., was rich agricultural land farmed mostly by Ukrainian farmers with a few Czechs, Poles, Germans and a few Jews.

Until 1861, the year that the farmers' were released from what was virtually a feudal vassalage, the agricultural land, including the forests and rivers, was owned by the government, by Prince Bariatinski, the Counts of Malinov, Samorodov, Satiov and Taranowka, or to Polish lords and smaller estate owners, churches and monasteries.

With the Land Reforms of 1884 lots of about 24 Hectares were given to each freed family including the small holdings they had before the Reform. Inasmuch as the allocated lands had been taken from the large estates in some cases small parcels of plowed fields of some of the farmers were at a distance from where they lived perhaps as much as 8-10 Km.

Similar lots were sold at reasonable terms for the Czechs who immigrated to the Dubno and Wohlin area in 1884. Most of the Poles and Germans had no land of their own; they rented land and also forests that in time were felled, plowed and sown.

Nevertheless in 1890 there were still large tracts of agricultural land in the hands of large landowners amounting to thousands of hectares and smaller land owners of up to one or two thousand hectares. The Wohlin farmers worked their land using the most primitive methods and without any guidance and consequently the produce was poor.

The produce was sold to suppliers and destined for export and for the army. It was during this period that army regiments were camped in Dubno - infantry, cavalry and artillery

[Columns 223-224 - Hebrew]

and most of their needs were supplied by local Jewish contractors. Nevertheless a large portion of the produce of the estates was sold to agents from Lutsk and Równe where, apparently even by now, good connections had already been made with the wider world and only a small amount remained to be sold to the Dubno wholesalers who dealt with the export of produce, like Joel Potashnick, Meir Glazberg and Shimon Falper - all of them prosperous Jews.

In order to acquire the raw produce from the small farmers, the retail traders, who were called 'produce sellers' in Dubno, settled in all the various approaches to town and from there they 'hunted' the farmer who brought his produce for sale. Whatever remained unsold at the entrance to town and got to the market-place was snatched up by the traders there who managed to make a small profit. The retailers sold the produce to army suppliers and partly to the flour-mills, for the draught- and pack- animals owned by Jews from town while anything left over was sold to wholesalers for export.

Especially strange was trade in clover-seeds. The farmers, especially the Czechs, would bring for sale small amounts of clover seeds - about 20-100 kgs., and neither the farmer nor the buyer had the least idea of the quality or the price. The retailer took a small sample of the clover, ran to the wholesaler and together they agreed upon a price, whereon he ran back to pay the farmer and immediately transferred the seeds to the wholesaler who generally related to the clover seed with special concern and stored it all in a room in the house.

The retailers of crops – 35-40 families mostly belonged to the middle-class and a few of them were in a better economic position.

In time the economic situation of the farmers deteriorated because their families grew and the land was divided among the family members thus reducing the per person income. As a result the amount of produce brought for sale was also reduced and the situation of the Jewish traders in Dubno worsened from year to year.

At the beginning of the present century, when rumors began to surface in Wohlin about a revolt of farmers in Russia, the estate owners, both large and small, began to offer hungry Ukrainian farmers plots of land for sale, while Poles and Germans were offered forested plots which when cleared would fetch a good price, but on condition that all the settlements that would be erected on the land would bear the name of the seller. That is why all the new settlements have names like Yanuvka (Bereslavka), Stanislavka, Vladislavka and so on. Around the same period, in 1907, the Land Reform Bill was published by the Russian Minister Stolypin according to which the authorities began to sell to Ukrainian farmers, owners of small plots of land, large plots of government land on condition that the farmer will erect his home on the land. The intention of the government was to liquidate the Ukrainian village on the one hand and to right the situation of the farmers on the other in order to neutralize the elements causing the rebellion, like what was happening in Russia. There is no doubt that the farmers benefitted from the reform for it gave them the real opportunity to develop farms that would indeed give them a reasonable living standard.

The Agrarian Reform – the sale of land to the Ukrainian farmers and the leasing of land to Polish and German settlers – opened up new possibilities for the Jewish dealers in farm produce in the county. For the farmers, who were impoverished and had to pay for the land, for drilling wells on the farm, for erecting a house and farm buildings; and for the German and Polish settlers who were obliged to clear the land of trees and arrange the fields for plowing and sowing and to exist for two years until the land brought forth its produce - there was no money and they turned to the Jewish dealers and borrowed from them the required financing. In addition the borrower was tied to conditions and the first was that he was obliged to sell his produce only to the person who loaned the money and thus the traders were guaranteed a fixed source of produce for their business. Indeed on more than one occasion it happened that the farmer, or the settler on the land who needed the money would sell his produce at the beginning of autumn and in the height of winter would return to the purchaser and buy back produce for his household and livestock that he had sold and pay for it significantly more than he had received for its sale.

That situation continued until 1915.

In the summer of 1915 when the Russian army was retreating before the Austrian army, that got as far as the environs of Dubno and the town was conquered by them. Many farmers fled their villages and escaped with their families to the depths of Ukraine and even to Russia. Dubno was cut-off from its surroundings because of the battles that were fought in the vicinity and that lasted for about ten months (from Rosh Hashanah 1915 until Shavuot 1916[2]), and the trade in field crops ceased in its entirety.

In 1916 with the commencement of the well-known Russian “Brusilov Offensive” a large part of Dubno was burnt and destroyed. Most of the town's citizens, who remained there after the Austrian conquest, were forced to escape westwards with the retreating Austrian army and leave behind all their possessions – some not too far away, some to Galicia and some even to Czechoslovakia.

In 1919, after the end of the war and following the disturbances and alternating authorities, the living conditions changed significantly and with them the manner in which trade and business was carried on, becoming unstable. The Jewish people continued doing business based mainly on the black market. In 1920 when Dubno and the surroundings were conquered by Poland and the peace agreement signed with Russia, according to which the border passed about 50 km south-east of Dubno, close to the town of Ostróg and about 120 km east of Dubno near the town of Korets, life slowly began to return to normal and with it business generally and trade in produce particularly also revived.

[Columns 225-226 - Hebrew]

In order to increase Polish settlement in the conquered territories, the Polish authorities began to transfer thousands of soldiers, released from the army to the area, apportioning land to them that had been confiscated from the estate owners especially lands that at one time had been the property of Princess Leonilla Ivanovna Bariatinskaya, later passed to Countess Shuvalova and also land from other Polish estate owners. The Government gave significant support to these soldiers, called 'settlers' and also provided agricultural guidance and training so that the new farms would operate in a modern fashion. Ukrainian farmers also benefitted from the training, developing and improving their farms. The level of education in the Ukrainian villages began to rise, thanks to new schools that were built.

The economic standing of the farmers increased significantly during the years of political instability in the Province, because the price of agricultural produce remained very high owing to the depreciation of the Polish Mark. The trade was now based mainly on the increased demands of the villages that had grown from year to year. The Jewish traders also took advantage of the situation and improved their own economic standing although they decided that the time had come to stop with the black market and return to normal trading. The trade in agricultural produce was the easiest course to absorb the black market traders since it didn't require professional knowledge and skills, had no need of a shop and it was possible to operate with modest sums of cash in order to manage a profitable business. The only necessary equipment needed was some kind of storage space in the approaches to town and a weighing machine. And indeed within a short time span storage huts were constructed 10 or 12 kms from town because every agent wanted to be the first to greet the farmer bringing his produce to town for sale. Within quite a short period of time about 40-50 Jewish families had entered the business in addition to the 50-60 families of retailers of field produce that already existed.

During the years 1920-1924 there was a significant rise in the standard of living of the residents, both rural and urban. Thanks to the increased demand the farmers likewise increased their planting of clover and wheat and the high prices paid for the produce because of the lowered

 

Dub225.jpg
The 15th Jubilee celebration of the members of the Cooperative bank for Artisans and small traders

 

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value of the currency, permitted a good profit for the traders among them the newcomers recently entering the trade. But in 1924 the situation again changed. The prices of field crops on the world markets began dropping after years of increased demand after the war and also the stability of the new Polish currency, the Złoti, blocked the speculation in crops that was based on the instability of the old currency. The business of the traders in field-crops became difficult and competition between them became fierce. Several attempts by the traders at the town's approaches to organize some kind of partnership failed to materialize and those partnerships that did start broke down in a short while. The Jewish traders who began to become impoverished tried to maintain their position with many different and questionable tactics, like mixing invalid material into the bulk or mixing different products - but it didn't help.

From 1920-1924, while the Polish Mark was devaluing, a great change took place in the marketing of field crops. With the expansion of cereal crop production a number of large sophisticated mills were constructed in Dubno, Równe, Radziwiłłów, Łutsk and most of the cereal was sold to them; the Polish army boycotted the Jewish traders and the wheat not yet sold to the mills was exported to other countries. Because of the situation the wholesalers in Dubno organized themselves into two or three companies marketing field crops for export.These companies were not concerned about the future, they took no great care to ensure the quality of the produce nor were they concerned about forging good business relations with their clients, they tried their best only to exploit the present complex situation to their advantage. Because of the situation the stability of the wholesalers was also undermined and a few of them also became impoverished.

In the meantime other external elements began a process of eroding the status of the Jewish traders both wholesalers and retailers; the government began increasing taxation on businesses in general and on agriculture is particular: the Polish commercial Cooperative in Dubno that, until now, had traded only in 'general necessities' now began to trade in the export business and began to apply pressure on the new Polish 'settlers' in the area, the released soldiers, to market their produce only through them. That, and more besides: the government taxes were levied on the Cooperative were substantially lower than those levied on the Jewish traders. Many farmers in the area not necessarily Poles, began marketing their produce with the Polish Cooperative and the Jewish traders had difficulty earning “a loaf of bread”.

In the light of that situation, in 1927, together with my friend Sandor Schwam, I approached all the businessmen in Dubno trading in field-crops and suggested to them that we form a cooperative. After exhausting negotiations and equally long debates, with the help of A. Kahana the chairman of 'The Society of Dubno Traders', the first 'Cooperative of Dubno Traders in Cereals' - “Uniah”(?) was formed in October 1927. The members of the Cooperative – 105 in number, were obliged by the Cooperative's constitution, to sell all their produce bought by them to the Cooperative alone, for a commission. Since all the traders paid a unified price for the produce deposited with the Cooperative and since the produce was stored in one granary it was possible to preserve the quality of the produce and thus prevent unfair competition. In addition every member was bound to maintain a closed account in the Cooperative to the value of one percent of his turnover as savings.

In spite of the internal frictions among the members the Cooperative succeeded in functioning well. It earned a good name in the produce Exchanges of Lvov and Gdansk and had clients of excellent standing. The Cooperative also purchased a carousel for sieving the produce and sieves for the clover seeds and was able to market grain to international standards and receive the highest prices. In Dubno itself the Cooperative had a good name and the financial institutions and the Polish Government bank in Równe granted the Cooperative good conditions. Even private individuals, who were not traders in field crops, began to deposit their savings in the cooperative reserves, relying on a clause in its constitution permitting the transaction. In addition to all this the development of the Cooperative was aided by the overall general complexity of the field crop market at that time.

However, objectors of the Cooperative, among them members of the management who were wholesalers and had joined the Cooperative under pressure from the general corpus of the dealers, undermined the society and at the beginning of January 1929 complained in an anonymous letter to the Province's Attorney General, the police and the Treasury's department of taxes concerning 'irregularities' and 'illegal activities' in the Cooperative. On the 16th January 1929 the Police were authorized by Attorney General to conduct a search of the Cooperative's offices and store-houses. They confiscated all the books and files of documents taking them for investigation by specialists in the Department of Taxes of the Treasury.

By using secret methods and special efforts we managed, with the guidance of Dr. Rotfeld Z”L, the well-known delegate to the Sejm, and many payments in order to get back some of the documents from the hands of the inspectors and after two or three weeks the examination failed to discover any wrong-doing and the entire documentation was returned to us and the Cooperative was permitted to continue its operations. But now the management was faced with a question: is there a way to continue operating with the present relationship between the members and the informer(s)? After much hesitation and consultations with advisors it was decided to liquidate the Cooperative. In April 1929 a General Meeting was called of all the members, in which it was decided to liquidate the Cooperative and thus, on 5th May 1929 the Cooperative ceased to exist.

[Columns 229-230 - Hebrew]

After the liquidation the position of the traders in Dubno worsened perceptibly and the competitiveness between the members became very harsh. The farmers became more suspicious and learned more about prices and weights and it was harder for the traders to deceive them and the retailers, apart from a dozen families who managed to hold out thanks to their savings from the 'good old days', found themselves in crisis. Most of them left the trade and began several other businesses – small trading, market stalls, middle-men in the hop trade, and so on.

The situation of the wholesalers also worsened after the liquidation because the clients had become accustomed to certain high standards of produce and expected those standards to continue and that required investment in storage near the railroad and the purchase of machinery for cleaning and sieving the produce. Since most of the wholesalers had no resources for that partnerships were formed with Jewish financiers who demanded high returns for their investments.

These were the conditions in the field crop trade that lasted for about ten years until the entry of the Red Army into the area at the end of 1939.

Now is the time to note that most of the Jewish traders in field crops in Dubno, both retailers and wholesalers, failed to save money for less successful times, nor did they cultivate friendly terms with the local farmers. Apart from the two Fischer brothers and their families, now in Israel, who found security during the Holocaust with Czech friends in the nearby village of Klischykha(?). All the others who failed to escape to Soviet Russia before the 22nd June 1941 perished in the Holocaust.

*

From what is described above one gets the following picture of the living conditions of the Jews of Dubno:

It seems clear from the above why the Jewish population of Dubno became so impoverished shortly before the Holocaust and the poor and poverty-stricken comprised one of the reasons why there were so very few survivors of the Jewish community of Dubno in addition to those few that for one reason or another managed to find a way to the distant reaches of Soviet Russia between autumn 1939 and 22nd June 1941.


Translator's Footnotes
  1. “Zichronoh(ah) Le-Bracha” a Hebrew post mortem honorific meaning: May he (or she) be remembered for a Blessing Return
  2. From September until the following May – about 9 months Return


[Columns 229-242 - Hebrew] [Columns 641-642 - Yiddish]

Two Years under Soviet Domination

by Moshe Cohen

Translated by Selwyn Rose

The events and details recorded here were written in April 1962, about 20 years after the actual events occurred and the writer apologizes in advance for any errors or inaccuracies that may possibly have crept in.

The writer made every attempt to recall from his memories precisely how he felt at the time of the actual events, It is possible that from the narrative itself, it will be clear and understood why there were so many Dubno Jews who were liquidated in the Holocaust compared to Jewish populations of other towns in the vicinity like Kremnitz, Łuck and Równe (Róvne) that were also under the Soviet heel but so many of them succeeded in fleeing to Russia even before the arrival of the Nazi armies

.

 

A

The Middle of August 1939

Every day the radio and newspapers brought information more and more worrying on the situation of the country. The source of the information was Hitlerite Berlin and the most worrying was the signing of the Ribbentrop–Molotov Agreement and the aggressive demands to address the status of the free city of Danzig that followed after it.

It was clear to everyone that war between Poland and Germany was virtually inevitable. On the 20th August the Polish authorities introduced mobilization of the reserves up to the age of 45. Tension and anxiety increase. The fact that so many men were mobilized and sent off to army barracks was enough to increase the worry and concern when it became clear that no one at home knew where the recruits had been taken. Fear and apprehension arose in the hearts of the families affected who were concerned about the air of anti–Semitism among the Poles and Ukrainians in town and the surrounding area.

[Columns 231-232]

After a few days we got to know that the men were still in the barracks because the Polish army as unable to supply them with uniforms and arms and the fact only increased the tension in town and awakened rumors of defeatism and helplessness.

In the meantime, the press and radio urged the public to store up food, clothing and boots and even advice on how to preserve and look after them. The buying mania that attacked the town caused a steep rise in prices. Everything indicated that war was getting close by the hour.

On Friday morning the 1st September the radio announced that the Germans had crossed the Polish border along its entire common frontier and was advancing eastwards into Poland. The Polish army was unable to withstand the attack and retreated eastwards towards the Polish hinterland.

The capital, Warsaw and other major Polish cities were bombed by waves of German aircraft while the Polish aircraft, far less in number and less well–trained for combat were unable to confront them. They were at a disadvantage both in the air and on the ground they were even unable to take–off.

The stream of refugees began fleeing the border areas following the retreating army in other areas as well towards the center of the country. In trains, buses, taxis and private cars and even horse–drawn carts – all moving eastwards and by 3rd September the first refugees had reached Dubno still going eastwards towards the Polish–Romanian border.

A few days later when it became clear that the situation at the Front was worsening and there was a grave lack of arms, ammunition and fuel, the despair began to fill our hearts and hordes of people fleeing before the advancing German army filled the roads leading eastwards. Vehicles that had run out of fuel were abandoned and left at the roadside and refugees making their way on foot sought refuge at the local villages for overnight shelter.

Dubno was also filled with refugees, mostly Jews who, through of lack of money and transportation were forced to stay in town. The overcrowding increased day by day and the price of food and other essential items skyrocketed. Stocks dwindled and ran out and it was impossible to bring in fresh supplies from the surroundings or from Warsaw and Lvóv because of the lack of transport.

The mobilized Dubno residents that had remained in barracks mostly returned to their homes and no one even noticed; only a few remained in the army and were sent to the Front. All around town work began on digging anti–tank trenches and defense positions in preparation should the enemy reach Dubno.

Members of the Polish Parliament, the General Staff and the senior State institutions left Warsaw and they, too, made their way in the direction of the Polish–Romanian border. Many of them arrived in Dubno which sits on the highway to Romania and part of the General Staff occupied the Gymnasium. Most of the public buildings in town were commandeered for the institutions that had arrived from Warsaw and it was rumored that even the President of the State and his retinue was to be found in the vicinity – ensconced in the Ledóchowski Palace at Smordva, about 18 kilometers from Dubno.

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, 12th September, Dubno was attacked for the first time by enemy aircraft. They struck at the railway station, a factory manufacturing food–preserves and the vicinity of the mobilization center, at the entrance to town from the direction of Zabramna Street. There, many people were engaged in digging anti–tank trenches; there were several dead bodies and some injured people lying among the diggers. Close by were two damaged houses as well and buried beneath the rubble were the residents, most of them Jewish.

The anxiety of the people intensified and panic was spreading among them. Fear of air attacks and bombing caused many to flee the town in the direction of Ostróg (Ostroh, Ostrów) from, and many people in town were mobilized to dig trenches, defensive positions and act as porters for the army at the railway station. The fear of being mobilized was almost as great as the fear of the enemy.

Under the pressure of the advancing German forces the local Polish authorities left town and began moving in the direction of Brody–Lvov. The police also left and in their place a civil militia was formed headed by the attorney Morovski. Nevertheless there were quite a few of the Jewish youth in service who were armed and fulfilled their duties guarding bridges, army stores and arsenals and directing traffic in town. Even so there was much fear among the Jewish sector regarding Polish and Ukrainian anti–Semitism. The Mayor was the only Polish official who stayed in town and then he too disappeared after two months some saying he crossed the border into German occupied territory.

Two days before the Polish army left the barracks in an unknown direction. All day and all night an endless convoy of military vehicles crossed the town in the direction of Brody–Lvov. The common belief – they were making for the Romanian border.

[Columns 233-234]

Now only Jewish refugees are arriving in town most of them on foot and lacking everything. They left their towns literally at the last minute before being conquered by the Germans. Non–Jewish refugees were seen no more.

Sanitary conditions in town were getting worse because some of the town's doctors had been mobilized and some had left because of the bombing and the advancing enemy. In the meantime the population grew from day to day because of the number of refugees arriving and staying with no transport available to carry them further.

On 16th September something very puzzling happened: a convoy of army vehicles entered town from the direction of Radziwiłłów (R'dzhivilub)–Brody, slowly – as if they were not certain which way to go. Here and there a soldier jumped from the trucks and hid behind a house and when the convoy passed he turned to one of the Jewish bystanders asking for civilian clothes to replace his uniform. These soldiers were Jews from the area who had decided to desert and return to their families.

At noon on 17th September the army convoy movement stopped entirely and not even one Polish soldier was to be seen in town. Apparently the Polish authority in Dubno had been liquidated. In the meantime the militia had been expanded. Everyone who thought it proper and correct to join the militia received a rifle and was sent to assist in keeping order in town. Nevertheless some wild elements, mostly Christians but some few Jews as well, broke into army stores stealing things. The oast–house for drying hops belonging to a company owned by two brothers that was being used as a food–store by the army and contained much sugar, salt and other food–stuffs, was broken into and robbed within hours while the militia–men stood to one side wondering whether to intervene.

 

B

That same day, 17th September there was an announcement on Moscow radio that the Russian government, in view of the disintegration of the official Polish authority, had decided to liberate western Ukraine “…from the yoke of Polish over–lordship” and gave instructions to the Red Army to cross the Polish–Russian border and to enter western Ukraine in order to preserve the peace of the citizenry. The announcement added that the Red Army had already crossed the border and was close to the Rivne (Równe)–Dubno–Kremenets (Kremenitz), triangle.

The announcement from Moscow radio that the Red Army was closing in on the town raised spirits and encouraged a feeling of security in the hearts of the residents, especially the Jewish sector. The militia strengthened the guard and quiet reigned in the town, without disturbances, except for the robberies taking place in the army store–houses.

Towards morning of 18th September at about 4 o'clock, a crowd began to gather in front of the Town Hall. Most of the crowd were Jews although all the city Council members and the president at their head were there, ready to welcome the Red Army that was already at the city gates.

At precisely 5 o'clock a convoy of Soviet tanks entered the town on Pantaliya Street headed by a luxury limousine containing a uniformed Russian general. The convoy halted in front of the Town Hall and the general stepped out of his limousine and turned to the crowd that received him with cheers and applause, thanking them for their welcome and asking everyone please “to disperse and go to work.” He announced that during the day additional army units will be arriving in town and that detailed information regarding the running of the town under the new authority will be published a little later. After that he entered the Town Hall and spoke with the Council, returned to his automobile and the convoy continued in the direction of Radziwiłłów–Brody. Throughout the day different units of the Red Army, especially tanks and artillery, drawn by tractors the like and size of which had never been seen before in Dubno, continued to drive through the town and crowds of people stood at the roadside all day watching them pass by going west from time to time breaking out into stormy applause.

During the day the new authority's directions were published on the streets regarding the running of the town: the residents were instructed to continue working; all the shops are to remain open; it is absolutely forbidden to raise prices or over–charge; the Polish złoti will remain as the legal tender and is equivalent to the Russian ruble; a curfew is in force between the hours of 10 at night until 6 in the morning.

Throughout the following two days units of the Red Army continued to make their way through town on their way westwards in the direction of Radziwiłłów–Brody and a few units established themselves in different locations in town. The organization of the military authority began.

On the night of 19/20 September after the start of the curfew the sound of rifle– and machine–gun fire was suddenly heard in town. No one knew from where it came or the reason for it. Lights were turned off in all the houses and fear entered everyone's heart. In the morning there were rumors that some gangs had attacked units of the Red Army but there was no confirmation of the rumor. The victims of the shooting were one Soviet soldier killed near the post–office and the daughter of Mottel Nudler was also killed and two Jewish women injured, apparently by stray bullets.

From that night quiet reigned at night.

The gentle behavior and politeness of the Soviet soldiers, both the units that passed through and those of the standing garrison towards the population, should be mentioned here. Their manner of speech was cultured and courteous – indeed, it was a complete surprise to those who remembered the Russian soldier from the days of the Tsar and even the soldiers of the revolutionary years of 1917–1919. The Jews of town, those who had relatives or friends in Russia and who for years had been completely cut off from contact with them, suddenly began to receive cables congratulating them, letters from their families and friends wishing them well now they have been liberated from their “Polish lords,” and wishing them “a life of freedom among the

[Columns 235-236]

family of peoples of the Soviet Union.” Indeed all the cables and letters were couched in a similar unified language. At the same time, the old border between Poland and Russia remained closed for citizens of the two countries, and apart “special cases” and visits no one managed to go to Russia or from Russia to the “liberated” areas.

 

C

A few days after the entry of the Red Army the organization of day–to–day life began under the Civilian–Party authority with the blessing of the army and the N.K.V.D.

The first thing the new government did was – free all the prisoners from the prisons.

The area of Dubno that in Poland's day comprised the area from Radziwiłłów in the west to Warkowicze in the east, from Mizoch (Mizotch) in the south–east to Malinów, Ostrozhets in the north, is now divided into seven districts: Radziwiłłów, Kozin, Verba, Dubno, Mizoch, Markowitz(?), Malinów and Ostrozhets. In each sector Government institutions and independent municipalities were set up.

All the schools were re–opened and even increased their absorption capability and new schools were opened. In every village an elementary school was opened and laws of compulsory education were enacted. In Dubno an Advanced Institute of Pedagogy was opened and in Mizoch a two–year seminar for teachers.

A road–widening operation was begun that included resurfacing and the highway reached from the Russian border, though Dubno to Lvov.

An employment office was opened in order to arrange employment not only to residents who remained without the means to sustain themselves but also for the thousands of refugees who remained stuck in town. The office tried to find suitable work for everyone's capabilities. There were many varied opportunities available and it was not difficult to find the right people for the right job: clerks were required for all the administrative institutions and reorganized offices; new schools had need of teachers, administrators and inspectors; road–works were under the control of the N.K.V.D. that needed staff as office–workers, store–men and the supply of materials and food for the workers – for the “dirty” work thousands of Polish prisoners were available who were accommodated along 350 kilometers of the highway. School–leavers of middle– and high–school were designated as teachers, managers and inspectors in the gymnasium while school–leavers after seven years of the elementary schools were sent to “crash–courses” for teachers of those same elementary schools and received full salaries even during their training. “Crash–courses” were also given for practical nursing and the girls received salaries as soon as they commenced their studies.

Everyone who wanted to work, found work and everyone who wanted to study could learn at intermediate or high school and even at the university in Lvov, free of charge providing they had the appropriate certification.

The traders and shopkeepers presented a problem on their own. There were shopkeepers who believed in the stability of the Russian authorities, and were suspicious of confiscations hurried to sell their stocks at regular prices in order to liquidate their businesses and undertake “productive employment” – clerking or teaching. On the other hand there were those, mainly the bigger dealers, wholesalers, who were doubtful of this stability and tried to “make money”; these hid most of their goods and sold them only in dribs and drabs and raised their prices as high as their patrons were willing to pay. Indeed, in time it became clear that there was a great scarcity of many basic necessities, especially clothing and footwear and the traders and manufacturers of these goods raised their prices and became wealthy.

In the meantime the shops gradually emptied of their supplies and long queues formed, waiting for hours upon hours and more than once returned home, as empty–handed as they had come. Soviet officers and soldiers bought whatever they could lay their hands on without bargaining and sent everything back to their homes in Russia thus increasing, on the one hand, the profits of the dealers while on the other hand hastening the end of the supplies in the town. It is true that the new regime opened a few co–operative shops later on but the sales were restricted and the prices high and only the elite and privileged were able to buy there.

 

D

In the meantime the N.K.V.D. and the militia had become organized and gave tangible signs of their authority. Jews of standing in the community and traders who owned property were arrested and accused of profiteering. Large apartments and rooms were confiscated for the use of government offices and accommodation of clerks brought in from Russia. Large houses were nationalized and their tenants and owners compelled to pay rent to the authorities. Factories for processing and preserving meat and vegetables, breweries and flour–mills were requisitioned and transferred to the Government together with all their equipment. All the forests were also nationalized. All the schools were transferred to the authorities and the language of instruction changed from Polish to Ukrainian, except in a few cases where the parents dared to demand that another language be used – either Polish or Yiddish. The “Tarbut” school was transferred to a larger building but was forbidden to teach Hebrew, religious or Jewish subjects; the language of instruction was changed to Yiddish and Ukrainian taught as a second language. The monastery in Panienska Street was closed and in its place a government hospital was opened. The synagogues were also closed. The first was the newest the largest “Mesharetei–Tzedek” that was converted into a tailoring and shoe–making co–operative. After that, the “Ba”ratz[1] synagogue was converted into a Party clubhouse. Every synagogue that was closed was allocated a new “noble function for the ‘masses’”.

[Columns 237-238]

All the Jewish organizations including youth organizations were forbidden to operate. The Community Council was liquidated and all the charity and help institutions that were connected with it were passed to the authorities and lost entirely all semblances of their Jewish nature and background and as a direct result thousands of helpless and destitute Jewish refugees, until now supported by those organs were affected. Only after a Jewish deputation appeared before the First Secretary of the area Communist Party were they granted permission to open a popular “restaurant” and even granted a rationed quantity of food–stuffs, partly free of charge and partly at nominal prices and those who were actually destitute, free of all charge.

With the completion of the highway widening and tarring program work began on the streets of Dubno itself. All the shops and shacks in the center of the town that served as groceries or butchers were demolished and in their place a pleasant broad plaza that changed completely the overall aspect of the area. On the expanse between Zamkova Street and the castle a new municipal park was laid out that also improved the town's appearance.

The Soviet authority was also concerned with culture. Soviet films were screened in the cinemas at prices acceptable to all levels and Soviet actors appeared in local theaters. Two “Culture–houses” were opened for the public where one could find newspapers, journals and various games but only some of the youngsters used the facilities; most of the residents of Dubno's Jews, especially the older ones, had some reservations about the new culture and were not entirely happy with it. Here, it is worth mentioning that even a few of the local Communists, who had spent years in Polish prisons and had been released only recently by the Soviets about whom they had dreamed for years, were disappointed and dissatisfied even though most of them had been given positions and good apartments provided for them.

 

E

Life slowly returned to normal. Humanity began to adjust to the new reality and came to terms with it. Bus services that had been created with Jewish financing and entrepreneurship were nationalized and began operating again and the citizens were no longer anchored to their place and could travel again. Many of the refugees began to leave Dubno and make their way to surrounding towns and villages,

For about three months the Polish złoti remained legal tender and equal in value to the Russian ruble and all trade continued function in that currency. The authorities even paid employees and suppliers in złoti. Suddenly, on 4th December 1939 at 9 in the morning a radio announcement informed everyone that at 12 noon that day the złoti will cease to be legal tender and the Russian ruble will replace it. The announcement fell on the town like a bolt from the blue. No one had Russian rubles; on the other had nearly everyone had sums of Polish złoti that suddenly became worthless. Intervention by the local authorities produced no results because the announcement came from Moscow. Later–on there was an announcement permitting the exchange of up to 300 złoti for rubles at the government bank providing it can be proved that the money was obtained by legal and legitimate means from government sources. All those who had kept their money in złoti managed to sell them later at 3–4 złoti for a ruble to Jews who sneaked into Nazi occupied territory where the złoti was still legal tender.

At that time the negotiations over the final borders between Russia and Nazi Germany came to an end. The border that had run along the line Lublin–Rava–Rusko–Sanok was now moved eastwards to the line Kovel–Volodymyr–Volynskyi–Lvov. Thus the territory conquered by Germany now approached Dubno which was only 93 kilometers distant from and according Russian law foreigners were not permitted to reside closer than 100 kilometers from the border. The refugees who remained were obliged to uproot themselves and move to several small villages to the east of Dubno.

Anti–Semitism in the meantime was growing among the Poles and Ukrainians. It didn't help that many Jewish people were employed in Government and municipal institutions and part of their duties was to collect taxes, revenues and agricultural produce, operations that were not well–tolerated by the general public at the best of times.

 

F

And now the arrests began. On 9th April 1940 tens of people were arrested, many of them Jewish, and among them a few public activists: the Albert brothers, the Barchash(?) brothers and the Perle brothers. No one had any idea of the why and wherefore of the arrest and anxiety hit the town. After four days, on 13th April, all the other members of the family were arrested and exiled by the administration to Siberia and all their property confiscated.

The major impact on the Jewish population of Dubno was the arrest of the Perle brothers who were active Zionists – David Perle for many years was chairman of the local Zionist Party and his brother Tzvi was head of the Foundation Fund for Israel. Apart from their Zionism there was no palpable reason for their arrest and the Jews saw in that a clear violation of the Soviet Government's promise made when they entered the town that no one would be harmed for Zionist activities during time of Polish rule especially since such activity was at that time legal.

After a while, of those arrested at the same time only a few were released and even they were from Soviet Russia and not Poland, among them the Albert brothers. Until this day the fate of the others is unknown. The family members who had been exiled to Siberia were released in Russia after the Soviet agreement with General Sikorski on 12th August 1941 and most of them returned to Poland after the repatriation agreement of 6th July 1945.

[Columns 239-240]

G

In order to complete the “Sovietization” of the territory the process of exchanging legitimate Polish identification documents with Russian passports began. The majority of the town's citizens saw the action favorably until it became clear that some of them, especially the Jews, received passports that were valid for one year only instead of the usual five years. It also became clear that the holders of these passports were required to fulfill Article 11 of the Soviet Constitution. At first no one knew what Article 11 was but then discovered that according to its terms – “He who doesn't work – doesn't eat.” Holders of these passports, therefore, saw themselves cast as second–class citizens and they were under certain restrictions. All attempts to nullify the decree, even in the Soviet courts with the help of Soviet lawyers from Kyiv (Kiev) who received very high fees, were unsuccessful: only a very few managed to obtained five–year passports.

The obligation to change identification documents also fell on those refugees who settled in the towns and villages and the N.K.V.D. men knew that most of the refugees were not interested in obtaining Soviet citizenship. They were offered an alternative: those who didn't want to accept Soviet citizenship were free to sign a document requesting a return to territory conquered by Germany and the Soviet authorities will return them to their previous place of residence according to the agreement that existed between Russia and Germany regarding the exchange of populations. It became clear that most of the refugees waited with great impatience for the possibility of returning to their original homes and families who had remained on the other side of the border. Although they knew that life under Nazi rule was difficult for Jews most of them preferred it to the hard life as Soviet citizens. In the meantime those who were waiting to return to German territory began seeking opportunities to acquire Polish złoti in exchange for gold, dollars and shares they held because they knew that the Polish złoti was legal tender there and in Russian–held territory it could be bought very cheaply.

But one night it was discovered that the Russian offer was a sham and all those who had signed the request were rounded up during the night and under the guise of returning them to German–held territory were sent to distant Siberia where they were forced into hard labor. Indeed something sweet came out of that: all those who survived the harsh conditions were released from Siberia according to the Sikorski agreement and, with the termination of the war and the establishment of the Polish Republic, about 200,000 Jewish exiles were repatriated and returned to Poland.

In the meantime the N.K.V.D. continued with their program of incarceration, particularly of Jews, who were investigated for their political and Zionist activities both past and present. The investigations were always conducted in an atmosphere of threats and investigations of the families as well and the results were often admissions of activities that had never occurred while others, those not yet arrested, were careful not to meet even with friends and family in order not to implicate them or cast doubts upon them in the eyes of the N.K.V.D.

In the middle of 1940 all those born in 1919 were mobilized and those found fit to serve sent to basic–training camps and then transferred to units of the Red Army deep inside Russia. The fate of those mobilized is unknown to this day.

 

H

Not long after rumors spread in Dubno emanating from the BBC that Hitler was preparing to attack Russia and indeed, on Sunday 22nd June 1941 at 4 in the morning, we suddenly heard the thunder of artillery and explosions close to Dubno. No one knew what was happening until the announcement came at 7 in the morning from radio Moscow and Berlin that the German air–force had bombed military targets in Ukraine, in Byelorussia and Soviet Russia itself and also an airfield being built close to Dubno was bombed. The number of people injured was small, a few killed and 20–30 injured – because it happened to be Sunday and some thousands of workers on the airfield, who had been brought from Russia, had not been at work.

Throughout the morning hours Moscow Radio continued to broadcast detailed information about the attacks of the German air–force on the military and civilian targets throughout Russia and the hearts of the Dubno residents stopped beating.

At noon we already saw convoys of Russian tanks and heavy artillery of the Red Army moving through Dubno on the way eastwards. It was clear that the Red Army was retreating before the German attackers. At the same time as the army retreated, the evacuation of the workers' families together with Soviet military personnel who came to Ukraine and settled also took place. The evacuation of the families took place using thousands of trucks that moved in long convoys carrying women and children, furniture and household goods in the direction of Lvov–Brody. They passed through Dubno and Równe to the old Russian border near the town of Korets (Koretz) and from there onwards into Russia. The convoys of families continued without pause for twenty–four hours and then suddenly stopped entirely. It seems that all the families had been evacuated.

[Columns 241-242]

With the knowledge of the German attack came the immediate mobilization of all men up to the age of fifty and the gymnasium on Panienska Street was allocated as the mobilization center. Medical and management committees were set up and the examination and registration was executed rapidly. But to everyone's surprise virtually everyone who reported was sent home to await a recall. Only a few tens of them were distributed to various units of the Red Army. It seems that the decision not to activate the mobilization sprang from a certain lack of faith by the Soviet authorities in the local citizens. In September of that same year in the vicinity of Woronicze I personally met several of those mobilized and they too were removed from active duty and placed in work–units engaged in digging anti–tank trenches behind the Front.

The 23rd of June passed quietly in Dubno without any disturbance. There were no attacks by enemy aircraft and no convoys of military vehicles passed through town. In the afternoon there were no more evacuations or convoys of Soviet families. As a result rumors spread in town that the Russians were retreating with Germany's agreement to the old Russian–Polish border from before 17th September 1939 and they stopped their attacks. On the other hand the Russians claimed that the present quiet was due to the destruction of the German invader by the Red Army and the Communist Party Secretary in Dubno that I met in the street that same evening said: “Tell your friends that all is well. The families that were evacuated will be returning and life will resume as it used to be”

But the following morning an evacuation program was started and the local administration institutions began leaving, travelling eastwards. Documents and files were packed others were burnt, rifles were distributed to the Russian workers in addition to the pistols that were already in their possession and everyone just waited for the order to go. The request of the Jewish workers to join the evacuation was refused: “Nobody's getting ready to leave”; “Everyone is ordered to remain at his post”; “We have no transport available for you.” Only a few isolated people were able to join the departing Russians at the last moment, in addition to tens of younger people, members of the Young Communists in town who had a government vehicle placed at their convenience. They were evacuated together with the Soviets who decided not to wait for the Germans to arrive and left for the Soviet Union.

There were some Jewish men in Dubno who decided not to wait for the arrival of the Germans and left of their own accord, some on foot and some on bicycles, in the direction of Mizocz and Ostroh, leaving their families and property behind them. Only a few of them succeeded in crossing the frontier to the Soviet Union; they were the ones who stayed alive.

All the rest, the entire Jewish community of Dubno decided either to remain there, to get their confiscated and nationalized property in return and try to cope with life under the approaching German army, or to leave or came to terms with the impossibility of leaving town and hoping for the best. The “Final Solution” of the Nazis was not yet known. On the evening of that same day, 24th June 1941 advance units of the Nazi army arrived in Dubno and the town passed to their hands. From all the Jewish people who remained no more than a handful remained alive.

I personally left Dubno on Tuesday 23rd June towards evening on a horse–drawn cart with my son for Równe and from there to the Russian frontier. I was one of the very few given the possibility behind the retreating Russians, thus saving my life. From all the members of my family who remained in town, I was the only one who remained alive; my father, brother and sister, and their families, I never saw again.

 

Translator's Footnote
  1. בר”ץ a Hebrew acrostic for Rabbi Eliezer Zadok, a leading Rabbi of the Tannaim generation, the last of the generations of Talmudic scholars. Return

 

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