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Translation of Brzozow chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Brzozow chapter from
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 III, pages 71-72, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(Powiat of Brzozow, province Lwow)
Comments in brackets  are those of Mr. Korn.
The nucleus of settlement that became Brzozow began as a royal village established in 1359 based on the Privilege of Kazimierz the Great. The village was founded on the principles of the Magdeburg Law, and its inhabitants were exempted from all taxes towards the king for a period of twenty years. In 1384, the ownership of Brzozow was passed over to the bishopric of Przemysl, whose bishops used to spend the summer months in the village. Between the years 1403 and 1413 municipal status was granted to Brzozow. In the first half of the seventeenth century plagues fell upon the residents of the region. Most of the population was occupied in trade and petty crafts, but particularly prominent was comb manufacturing, wood-carving, and the weaving of wool and linen. It was only in 1930 that Brzozow was linked to an electric grid. From the time of the Austrian annexation  Brzozow became a subdistrict settlement.
Like other cities owned by the priesthood, it was forbidden for Jews to live in Brzozow and in the surrounding estates. This prohibition was reconfirmed in 1676 by the bishop Staniskaw Sarnowski in a regulation wherein was stated that Jews were not permitted to live in the city, to take possession of fields or houses, to lease stores, nor to engage in trade. This may have been a response to the attempts at settlement on the part of some Jewish families. Indeed, until 1783 not one Jew had ever resided in Brzozow. In the years following, however, in the wake of the Austrian annexation and the subsequent cancellation of the privileges of the noble and priest owners of the cities, Jews began to settle in the region. By 1808 there were as much as one hundred and forty-four Jews residing in Brzozow. At the end of the nineteenth century the general population grew in number, and with it also the percentage of Jews: in 1880 it had reached 20.5%, and 28.3% in 1910. A decline in the number of Jews began after the First World War and subsequent to the economic difficulties that followed in the wake of the war.
In the fall of the year 1918 the residents from the villages surrounding Brzozow rioted against the Jews. Even prior to that, the Zionist activist Dr. Zelenfreund, upon witnessing the outbreak of anti-Semitism in the region, had turned to the local administration with the request to absorb Jews into the municipal militia. However, his request was rejected. On November 3, 1918, one hundred and four Jewish homes were plundered by rioters; but, there were no bodily casualties. The local militia did not respond at all to what was taking place under their watch. It was in these circumstances that a Jew by the name of Klarman, who had been a captain in the Austrian army, organized a Jewish self-defense group consisting mainly of high school students. The group succeeded in forcing the hooligans from the city.
The Jewish community council [the Kehilah] in Brzozow was established apparently during the first half of the nineteenth century. To the best of our knowledge, the first rabbi in Brzozow was Rabbi Eliyahu Veber. (He served there in 1868.) His son, Rabbi Shlomo, served as rabbi after him until 1912. In the eighties of the nineteenth century, Rabbi Moshe Issar Gabbel served in Brzozow either as an adjunct rabbi, or as a religious judge and teacher. His position was inherited in 1884 by his son, Rabbi Shlomo Gabbel, who continued in his duties right into the inter-war period.
After the First World War the economic situation of Brzozow’s Jews worsened as a result of the conflict and of the tax policies of the authorities. The Jews, who were occupied in petty trade, peddling and crafts, continued in these activities. In the twenties of the twentieth century the local Jews attempted to improve their situation somewhat with the aid of the Joint [i.e. The American Joint Distribution Committee]. A Gemmach Fund [Gemmach: abbreviation for “Gemillut Chassadim” = “Payment of the Righteous”] was established (In 1929 it made twelve loans in the amount of six hundred zlotys.) The Joint also cared for a group of children who had been orphaned by the war.
The first Zionist club was founded in Brzozow in the year 1902. The greater wave of Zionists, however, appeared during the period between the two world wars. In that time, several branches of the various Zionist parties were established: The General Zionists, “HaMizrachi” [= “The East,” religious Zionists], “Po’alei Tziyon” [= “The Workers of Zion,” socialist], “Hittachdut” [= “Unification”]*, and the Revisionists [right wing Zionists]. In the twenties the local youth group named “Bet Yehudah” [= “The House of Judah”] was active, having both a library and a drama circle. In 1929 the influence of the Revisionists increased; a significant part of the members of Bet Yehudah had joined them. (Bet Yehudah existed until 1932.) In the thirties local branches of the following youth groups were found in Brzozow: “HaNo’ar Ha’Ivri” [= “Hebrew Youth”], which afterward became “HaNo’ar HaTzioni – Akinv,” “HaShomer HaDati” [= “The Religious Guard”], and “Gordoniyah.” (In the year 1933 Gordoniyah sent twenty-four of its members to a kibbutz for Aliya preparation). At that same time the organization “Ezra” was active in the city. [Ezra was a German-Jewish organization supporting Zionist settlement, but in response to the pogroms in Eastern Europe, it also sent aid there as well.] From among the Zionist parties the one that had the strongest influence initially was HaMizrachi. At the elections for the Zionist Congress of 1927 it won 49 votes, while the General Zionists received 15 and the Revisionists gained 13. The situation changed before the Zionist Congress of 1935, when the socialist “List of the Working Land of Israel” gained 145 votes, the General Zionists 120, and HaMizrachi received 85 votes.
The local branch of “Agudat Yisrael” [= “Association of Israel,” non-Zionist orthodox party] dealt mainly with matters concerning the Jewish community council. It should be indicated that this council was dominated by the Zionists. In the council elections of 1928 the General Zionists received 218 votes and three mandates, while Agudat Yisrael received 122 votes and two mandates. The Zionist activist, Dr. Zelenfreund, was elected head of the Kehilah council, and he apparently continued in this post until the outbreak of the Second World War. At the end of 1929 members of Agudat Yisrael attempted to remove Rabbi Gabbel, who was also a Zionist, from his position. This attempt did not succeed. In 1933 there were three Jewish representatives at city hall. In 1920 a “Tarbut” school [Tarbut was an educational organization founded on Hebrew language and culture and on socialist ideals.] was established in Brzozow. In 1923 it had four classes, two teachers and 105 students; and in the year 1925 five classes, seven teachers and 205 students.
Information concerning the fate of the Jews of Brzozow during the Nazi occupation is incomplete. What is known is that within the first days of the invasion the Germans shot about three hundred residents of the city and from the surrounding regions. The ghetto was set up certainly close to the second half of 1941, and Jews from the neighboring villages were also crowded into it. In September 1941 a branch of the JSS [Judische Sociale Selbsthilfe, later called Judische Unterstutzung-Stelle, Jewish mutual aid organization which operated under Nazi occupation] was active within the ghetto to give aid to the Jews there.
On the tenth of August 1942, most of the residents of the ghetto – women, the elderly and young children – about 800 in number were shot by the Nazis in the forest next to the city. The few people who remained after the selection were evacuated to Iwonicz, and from there apparently to the extermination camp of Belzec.
*a merging of two socialist Zionist parties: the Israel-based, “HaPo’el HaTza’ir” (= “The Young Worker”) and the Diaspora-based “Tze’irei Tziyon” = “The Youth of Zion”). Hittachdut was absorbed into Po’ale Tziyon in 1930.
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