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Ustrzyki Dolne chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume II, pages 59-62, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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Translation donated by Tanya Buchman
Ustrzyki Dolne was built close to farm area with the same name at the beginning of the 19th century, and her role was to provide trade and crafts to the property nearby and to the farms in the area. In the middle of the century a sawmill was established in UD and a brick kiln, which revealed the kerosene in the area and established a refinery. Later in the century this was transferred through an iron rail line, that went from Lvov to Budapest and from Krakow to Stanislova. In the first weeks of WWI, the city was captured by the Russians and in May 1915 freed by a unit of Austria. In the winter of 1918-1919, the area of UD was abandoned and there were very heavy battles between units of the Republic of Western Ukraine and the Polish Army. At the time of the war there was significant destruction to the city and many houses went up in smoke.
Jews were among the first founders and residents in UD, and until the WWI, they were 60% of the general population. Those that were not Jewish (mostly Ukrainians), lived on the edge of the city and worked in agriculture (small farms and gardens). At the end of the 19th century it was these workers that were employees of the sawmill and the brick kiln.
At the beginning of the 19th century, 2 rich Jews settled in UD, Mendel Jupnik (it seems he leased to those who prepared salt in the area) and Shmuel Zinval Bravar. The two of them leased out property and thus acquired estates in UD. Along with them, other new residents found their way of making a living, and the city began to develop. Mendel Jupnik and his descendants were among the most affluent members of the small city. Rav Shmuel Zinval Braver , Chasid of the Seer of Lublin and his and students, also continued the line of the rabbinate, and was the first Rabbi of UD.
At the time of the Russian occupation during WWI, most of the Jews of UD escaped with their lives and only 17 families remained. At the end of 1915, after the city was freed by the Austrian Army, the refugees began to return , and in 1918- 1919, the Polish soldiers from the unit of General Heller struck the Jews of the place, and abused them. Many of the refugees did not return to their place of birth. A minority of the Jewish population at the time between the wars went between immigration and across the sea and Aliyah to Israel ( more than 150 people were Olim.)
The livelihood of the Jews in UD, during the time of the establishment of the settlement, was dependent on small commerce, the peddlers of the farms and handicrafts. Most important tailoring, fur workshops, and hat making. In 1921, the Jews of UD owned 5 workshops, and a sawmill. There were 170 people employed there (of them 57 were foremen and 21 were relatives.) In addition, 6 Jews worked in the sawmill (project heads and their clerks), and well as 71 non Jews. many of the Jewish workshops, 54 of the total, were involved in branches of apparel, and of them 12 were laborers. It reflects the image of the period that preceded WWI, that most of the Jews of UD continued to continued to occupy themselves with small trade ( many small stores and grocery stores and stands on market day) and with peddling in the farms and and and they earned their livelihood on the market stands.
An independent congregation was organized approximately in UD in the 1930's, mostly from there. It was said, one of the first residents of UD, Rav Shmuel Zinval Braver , was the first Rabbi. The rabbinate was inherited by his son, Rav Yesischar Ba'arish Ba'ar, who was previously the rabbi of Litovisk .He died in 1859, and after him, his grandson Rav Moshe Aba. All three of the aforementioned rabbis managed the Hasidic rabbinical court (Admor). Fav Moshe Aba's son-in-law, Rav Yishayahu Zalman Kalack, who was elected to serve on the Rabbinate after the death of his in-law, no longer served as the Hasidic head rabbi (Admor). At the beginning of the 20th Century, Rav Yosef, son of Yitzchak Meshulam Zalman Rinman, was chosen to be the Rabbi. Most of the Jews of UD were Hasidim, and most of the Minyanim were influenced by the Bloz Hasidim. After them, they were influenced by the Rizine Hasidim (Sadigora Hasidim and Chortkover), and the Hasidim of the house of Dinov (especially Bluzov). Because of the conflicts between the streams of Hasidim, a congregation was founded in the 20th Century by two rabbis. One tended to Bloz and the toward Sadigora. Between the two world wars, Rav Avraham Rinman and Rav Shalom Liter served the community. The two of them were killed in the Shoah in 1942. From the year 1900 approximately, Rav Yosef Moskovitz settled in Isterik as the chief Rabbi (Admor(, (a descendant of Rav Meir Mefremishlein), who ruled the court. A few years before the outbreak of WWII, Rav Yisroel Shapiro settled in the town as the Rav of the Dinov and Bluzov.. Rav Yisroel survived the Shoah, despite being locked in a few German concentration camps. And at this time he has a court in Brooklyn, NY. In the community (Isterik), a synagogue was established (it was destroyed during WWI and rehabilitated during the 30's) the old Beit Hamidrash (it appears to have been the first Beit Hamidrash in the city), and the new Beit Hamidrash.all existed, and well as two Klozim (congregations), one from the Blozive Hasidim and one from the Sadigora Hasidim. A synagogue of craft workers (the diligent ones - Yad Haruzim), and a Minyan of Admor of the town, Rav Yosef Moskovitz were also founded in Isterik.
The town committee was dominated by the Hasidim, especially the people from Bloz. Between the two World Wars, the Zionists feared them ( because most of the mandates were divided by a margin of 4 Hasidim to four Zionists). At the end of the Austrian era, most of the council of the city was in the hands of the Jews. The head of the council was Moshe Frankel.
The first Zionist group was established in UD in 1902, however the conditions of the place was less than perfect, and the activities were almost underground. In 1908 a branch of Zionist activities was established. The movement launched extensive activities after WWI. In 1919 or 1920 the group 'Kadima', and after 'Hechalutz Betsalel', and then a few years groups were organized in UD, the Association for the Workers of Zion, Mizrachi, and with it Mizrachi Workers and Daughters of Mizrachi Workers and also youth groups, Hashomer Hatsair, Gordonia, and the youth group Betar. And besides this a Drama group was started in 1922, and a few years afterwards a library. In the election to the Zionist Congress in 1931the votes were split as follows: General Zionists - 9, Mizrachi - 29, Hitachdut - 99, Revisionists - 19. After WWI, a branch of Agudat Yisroel came to UD.
A group from the Association of Craftsmen belonged to the general workers party, and they were pursued by the government, who were suspicious of their establishment . Some of them were arrested and put in prison for about 6 months. It is true that there were a few Jews who belonged to the Communist Party or were among their fans.
Until 1914 most of the children of Israel learned in Hederim or groups that continued Torah studies in the Beit Midrash. A few, mostly the girls, learned n the general schools among 4 classes. In 1923-1924 a Jewish union of secondary folk schools was founded in Lvov with courses of general education and Jewish studies there. There were also courses in Hebrew and Jewish history given by the association Kadima. However the big institution Jewish learning for girls was the Beit Yaakov system (established in 1922 by Agudat Yisroel), and they had about 100 students.
In the last years before WWII, the Ukrainians attacked the Jews of UD with the revelation of anti-Semitism. Mostly they attacked peddlers returning from the farms. in 1936 a school for army airmen was opened in a close village. Most of the cadets came from the area surrounding Ponan, and were highly anti-Semitic. They occasionally raided the city and rioted and beat and smashed the windows of Jewish homes.
When the war started there was a big panic in the Jewish settlements. Many escaped east, however the roads were blocked and the Germans were advancing fast. That is why, in most of the cases the escape was foiled and the Jews slowly came back to the city. The Germans conquered the city Uscie Zielone between September 8th to September 10th, 1939. They immediately captured Jews to do forced labor, cleaning cars, cutting trees, etc. In the synagogues the Germans installed stables. In the beginning of the conquest by the Germans, the Ukrainian policemen arrested 40 to 60 Jews in the outskirts of the city. They put them in the German police station for one or two days, and in the sports club called 'Sokol'. After the Germans robbed the Jews, they enjoyed playing with them by throwing off the bridge into the river, Stavonz. Then they murdered them in the forest named Zamzi, next to the village of Barhi. That is where they were buried in a common grave. Two Jewish teenagers that heard about it ran out of the city to warn Jews coming back to UD to be aware of what to expect from the Germans. Unfortunately these two teenagers were later caught and killed.
For a few days the German and Ukrainian policemen ambushed Jews that were crossing the bridge to the city and threw them into the river. The Germans and the Ukrainians would burst into the Jewish homes and beat and rob the residents. At this time the leader of the Jewish community was Mendel Poitsher. He was killed and we don't know the details of his death. The Germans attacked the Jews during prayers int he synagogues; they rounded up 120 Jews and forced them to work at the airport in Ostianova. They were forced to carry different parts of the planes into the garages. The Germans abused the older Jews and cut their beards and made them do humiliating things for the pleasure of the Ukrainian police chief.
The Russian armies entered the city during Sukkot, at the end of September, 1939. The Jews rejoiced at the coming of the Russians. During Hoshanna Rabba, Jews that were killed by the Germans earlier were able to be buried the right way. A huge funeral for hundreds of Jews was a mourning for all the Jews in the city. The Russians promised to punish the Ukrainians that took part in the massacre of Jews , but most of the Ukrainians escaped and the Ukrainians that were caught were not punished by the Russians, contrary to what they promised earlier.
The Jews of the city saw the negative side of the Russians - Jewish institutions were dismantled, Jews were expelled from their nice homes and Russian officials and clerks took over. Some of the local communists harassed the people that were rich in the past. The Polish refugees that arrived from west Poland at this time were expelled to Russia and some of the
local Jews too.
After the start of the German-Russian war (June 22, 1941), some young Jewish men were recruited to the Red Army. When the Russians left the city on June 24, 1941, only a few Jewish people were able to leave with the Russians. On June 24, 1941, the Germans took back the city and the German police established the Judenrat (the Jewish police). The head of the Judenrat was Doctor Shimel, he was a veterinarian. It's members were Rappoport, the dentist, Shimon Reich, David Sheinbach, the lawyer Shtrener (the son), David Herman, Moshe Horowitz (later on he left or was fired from the Judenrat). The first request of the Germans from the Judenrat was to deliver 150 Jews to help with difficult work around the village Yalov in early July 1941, and because the Judenrat didn't deliver the Jews fast enough, the Ukrainian police took Jews by force from their homes to work in the farms. In the meantime some Ukrainian farmers arrived after the police and threatened to kill the Jews. The Ukranian mayor of the city, Doctor Hokivitz, saved their lives by sending a group of Ukrainian policemen to control the farmers. (by the way, the Ukrainian Mayor, Doctor Hokivitz, was known for his noble attitude towards Jews that were persecuted, and defended then on many occasions. After some time the Germans killed him or pushed him to commit suicide. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian farmers succeeded in kidnapping two Jews and took them to the forest and killed them.
From this time forward the Judenrat was obligated to provide a workforce for the Germans all the time, in order to build a prisoner camp for the Russian captives in Ostianova, to cut the trees in the forest, and to work in agriculture. The Jews received only 250 grams of bread per day from the Judenrat, and not from the Germans. A week or two weeks after the Germans conquered the city, they ordered the Jews to wear a star of David band on their sleeves. If a Jew was caught not wearing the band, the punishment was 25 lashes, and in certain cases the punishment was death. It was forbidden for Jews to work in the market or on the main street. They had permission to work only on the side streets only. The curfew for the Jews was 7:15 PM. The German and Ukrainian policemen expelled Jews from the nice homes and robbed all their goods, and the Judenrat was asked to give them a hand in the matter and supply the Germans with coffee, tea, etc. These goods were taken by the Judenrat from the affluent Jews. It was forbidden for Christians to sell food to the Jews and the Ukrainian police often checked the Jewish homes to find food that was hidden. Jewish people were also hungry and most of the time they were not able to get food on the black market. The Judenrat established a popular canteen and served soup to the very poor people.
In December 1941 or January 1942, the Germans ordered the Jews to give the furs in their possession to the German police station. Later on the Judenrat was ordered by the Germans to take the jewelry and all valuable items from the Jews and give it to the Gestapo chief.
In April 1942, a big campaign of forced labor of Jewish people started. A group of Jewish people participated in the construction of the 'Virtechpent Hof' (a farm for the Gestapo by the river Strovinz). On this farm they cultivated garden vegetables, they built buildings for the farm, for the horses, and a bridge built mostly from the stones form the Jewish cemetery. Another group of Jews worked to dismantle Russian bunkers next to the border in some of the cities. A lot of Jews worked in the forest cutting the trees, etc. The Jews that owned wagons were put to work there to transfer the wood. Another group worked at the local refinery.
In June 1942 the Germans ordered the Judenrat to send 24 intellectual women to work in offices, but in fact they went the women to cut trees. The Judenrat was able to free the women very soon in this case.
On Shavuot 1942 the Germans ordered a list of the Jews 65 and older and ordered them to come to the Judenrat building and to wear holiday clothes. Almost 300 people were taken to the local jail and they were taken out at night. One group was shot in the market, next to the court house (and maybe in the building itself). And the Germans gave orders to bury the dead Jews in the cemetery. The second group was taken to the Zamsi forest, next the the village of Barhi and there they were shot by the Germans. The dead bodies were buried in a communal grave on the same spot. After the massacre of the older Jewish people, the members of the Gestapo came out every night to the surrounding villages and shot and killed Jewish people. Only a few Jewish people were able to survive the hands of the Germans. They were mostly the Jews with a trade that was vital to the Germans (like the owners of horses and wagons that are used to transfer the wood from the forest). At the end of July 1942 or the beginning of August, 1942, they brought these surviving Jews (among them Jews from Tcharna and LItovisk) to UD. Next to the Gestapo building, the Germans took their wagons and goods. Even quilts made of feathers ( which took weeks of handwork to complete) were unraveled and the search by there Germans, some Jews were killed. It was a big problem for the Judenrat to find houses for the refugees from other villages. Including the refugees, the Jewish population in the city was around 3000 in August, 1942. The treatment of the Jews by the Germans became harsher. Jews were killed for committing the smallest infraction. The killing was done on the banks of the river. The Germans (Gestapo) stamped the documents of Jews that were special workers with a special stamp, to protect them from expulsion. These Jews had hopes of staying alive and staying in the city, because their trade, cutting trees, was vital to the Germans. We don't know the exact date of the expulsion from the city, but it was probably August 9, 1942. The Germans ordered the Judenrat to have the Jews pack their belonging for a trip tot he labor camp in Zaslaviya, to work in a paper factory. Capital punishment was expected for the Jews that did not follow this order. The next day Ukrainians farmers arrived in town, with their wagons, to transport the belongings of the Jews and some of the Ukrainians even took furniture belonging to the Jews. All the Jews were ordered to lock their homes and put the keys in an envelope with their name and address, and give it to the Judenrat, who gave it to the police. At night the wagons controlled by the guards left the city and arrived at the labor camp in Zaslaviya the next day. In this camp all the belonging of the Jews were put in a big pile and the people were taken to the factory and the barracks. From this point the destiny of the Jews of UD was the same as many Jews from all different places. They were exterminated in the death camps Belzeits or were killed in the villages and small cities around Zaslaviya After the expulsion of the Jews to Zaslaviya, on 60 to 70 Jews stayed in the city among the sawmill workers. They worked there until November or December, 1942, and they were transferred to an unknown destination. They were killed or were taken to one of the labor camps in the region (maybe to Zaslaviya).
After the war the streets of the city where Jews lived in the past looked like a place that had been destroyed. The wooden homes were dismantled . Only the stone buildings were in better shape, among them the synagogues and the Torah studies schools.
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