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Translation of Lutowiska chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Lutowiska chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
Our sincere appreciation toYad Vashem
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume I, pages 296-298, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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Translated by Avner A. Feld
Jews settled in Lutowiska together with its early development as a town. In the second half of the 19th century the Jews were the majority of the population (the non-Jewish dwellers of the town lived mostly in the suburbs, working in agriculture on plots of land and in farming related activities, such as blacksmiths, coachmen, coopers and as hired workers at the estates of the local lord. The main occupations of the Jews of Lutowiska were in ox trading, petty trade, as small shop and stall owners during market days, as peddlers in the nearby villages and in handcrafts. There were also a number of inn owners and leasers from the local lord in town and in its vicinity.
At the end of the 19th century a number of local Jews bought some plots of land and earned their living as farmers. At that time a prominent local Jewish land owner was Mendel Rand. He immigrated to Palestine in 1904 and built a block of houses in Jerusalem known as the Rand Houses (they were handed over to the Kollel Galicia after he died).
In 1928-1930 about 17 Jewish families (78 people) earned their livelihood from agriculture. They owned about 600 dunams (about 133.5 acres) of land (out of which 400 dunams (about 89 acres) were used for cultivation of field crops, and 125 dunams (about 28 acres) was used for pasture). They also owned 13 horses and 51 heads of cattle and some chicken coops. According to estimates made at the time, in order to sustain the farms the Jewish peasants needed immediate support of large sums (70,000 zlotys to buy more land, 10,000 to buy tools, and 9,000 zlotys to buy livestock and horses). This money was not available, so they barely earned a living. The livelihood of the rest of the Jewish inhabitants of Lutowiska was also difficult, and in 1929, the then rabbi of the town, Rabbi Meyer Weinberger, asked for urgent support from the New York based organization Ezrath Torah for himself and for his community, most of which were extremely poor, according to him.
It seems that already in the first half of the 19th century, there was an organized Jewish community (Kehilla) in Lutowiska. The first rabbi of the town we know of was Rabbi Issachar son of Rabbi Shmuel-Seinvel Baer. After serving in Lutowiska he served as a rabbi in Ustrzyki where he died in 1859. He was followed by Rabbi Naftali Marilles (died in 1890). He, in turn, was followed by his family members: his son, Reb Pinchas Elimelekh Baer and after him his brother, Reb Yaacov-Koppel Marilles. For a while Rabbi Levi son of Rabbi Yehi'el-Menahem Montner served in Lutowiska as a rabbi. He moved at the beginning of the 20th century, to Belz where he served as head of the Jewish Religious Court (Beth din). At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century the Hassidic leader (Rebbe) Rabbi Yesha'aya-Shalom Rokeach, a scion of the house of the Hassidic leaders of Belz and Rophshitz settled in Lutowiska. Between the two World Wars the rabbis of the town were Rabbi Pinchas-Elimelekh Baer and Rabbi Koppel Marilles, who was succeeded by his son-in-law, Rabbi Meyer Weinberger. The last rabbi of Lutowiska before the Second World War was Rabbi Yerahmiel Rathaus.
The town had a stone synagogue. Adjacent to it was the Small Synagogue and two batei midrash where young men studied during the daytime and heads of families (balei-bothim) studied in the evenings. There was also a Kloiz (a Hassidic prayer and study place) of the followers of the Hassidic court of Ruzhin.
When World War I erupted, most of the Jews of Lutowiska fled the town fearing the approaching Russian army. In September 1915, 25 of the remaining Jews were arrested and accused of spying. They were chained, taken to Sambor and were severely tortured en route. Finally, they were banished to inner Russia together with the local Christian physician who protested to the Russians about the way they were treated.
Between the two World Wars, the economic condition of the Jews in Lutowiska deteriorated, (among other reasons, because of the decline of the livestock trade), but at the same time the public and social life flourished. In 1921 a Zionist society called Ha-Shahar (The Dawn) was established as well as two youth organizations Achva (Brotherhood) in 1926 and Ha-Noar Ha-Zioni (the Zionist Youth) in 1930. In 1922, Ha-Shahar society established an afternoon Hebrew school in which 69 students studied in four classes. In the same year, another society, Ha-Tsfira (the Waking Call), was established. In its club there was a library, where a drama group, lectures and Hebrew courses took place.
71 eligible voters voted in the elections for the Zionist Congress in 1931: 8 for the General Zionists, 1 for the Union (Hit'ahdut), 11 for the Revisionists, 15 for the Radicals.
The local town council had a Jewish majority, but the mayor was Polish. The usually good relations between the Jews and the rest of the population soured in the years preceding the Second World War. Jews and especially Jewish peddlers in the villages in the vicinity were harassed by Ukrainian nationalists who often threatened to harm the Jews when Hitler comes.
On the eve of Sukkoth (September 27) 1939, Soviet troops entered the town and were greeted gladly by the Jews. But soon the negative aspects of Soviet rule emerged: nationalization of shops and industrial plants, liquidation of Jewish institutions and shortages in supplies of basic goods. Some of the Jews in town were engaged in smuggling over the Hungarian border, and one was shot to death. The wealthy and land owners were especially persecuted. Not only was their property confiscated, they were banished from the town altogether. The plight of Jewish refugees who arrived from the western parts of Poland was not easy: first they lived in severe poverty and later they were expelled by the Soviet authorities to distant parts of Russia.
When war broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union (June 22nd1941), the Germans re-entered Lutowiska. A Judenrat was formed and Rabbi D. Rand was appointed as its head. The Jews in Lutowiska were taken to forced labor in the town and in its vicinity.
The Jewish population was annihilated in June or July 1942. A group of Gestapo men from Ustrzyki Dolne arrived in town, all the Jews were assembled in the Market place and a Selection took place. 800 people, mostly children and the elderly, were taken to a hill above the church, to a large grave that the Jews were forced to dig earlier, and were shot and buried there. The head of the Judenrat also perished in this massacre. According to another version, he was shot earlier, when he refused the German demand to hand over the 800 people.
The remaining Jews of the town were taken in July or August 1942 to Ustrzyki Dolne where they met the same fate as the local Jews: in September 8, 1942 they were all sent to the Zaslawie (Zaslaw) Camp in the Sanok district, where they were murdered or sent to Belzec for extermination.
A small group of Lutowiska Jews hid in the forests in the vicinity, as individuals or in groups. Almost all of them were discovered and murdered by the German or Ukrainian policemen or by the Ukrainian nationalist partisans. Only a handful survived. About a dozen Jews who lived in Lutowiska before the war survived due to the fact that they were in the Soviet Union.
|*||I would like to dedicate this translation to the memory of the Jews of Lutowiska and the surrounding villages. May they rest in peace.|
|**||I am very grateful to Moshe Benzioni for reviewing the translation and to Shuki Ecker for his knowledgeable criticism and support.|
|***||More about Lutowiska today can be found at: http://www.lutowiska.com/english.htm|
|****||The Jewish cemetery in Lutowiska still exists (I visited the place in 2004). Many of the tombstones have fallen, some are already erased by time, but some are still standing. Pictures of the cemetery can be viewed at: http://www.lutowiska.com/cmentarz.htm|
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