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Translation of Kolki chapter from
Translation of Kolki chapter from
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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume V, pages 166-168,
edited by Shmuel Spector, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(A town in the district of Łuck on the Styr River)
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Donated by Brian Reiser
Kołki was a town until almost the end of the 16th century. An ancient fortress called Romanow that belonged to family of the Sanguszko noblemen was located near the city. In a document from the year 1570 it is stated that already at that time the area was populated by people of the Catholic, Pravoslavic and Jewish faiths. In 1589, the prince who owned the place received the civic rights of the Magdeburg charter for Kołki. In the 18th century, the city passed to the ownership of the Radziwiłł family, who built a castle nearby.
As has been noted, already in the middle of the 16th century, an unknown number of Jews lived in Kołki. We can assume that an organized Jewish community was formed already at the end of that century, when the town became a city. There was already a large Jewish settlement on the eve of the Tribulations of Tach ve Tat, for it is known that the community was greatly afflicted by the attack of the Cossack army. One source states, Such a large number of Jews were slaughtered here, that to this day there is still a remnant of the weir that was erected from their bodies. After this catastrophe, only six Jewish houses remained. However, the Jewish community recovered quickly. In 1672, two merchants from Kiev complained that the Jew Pesach, who was an official of the owner of the place, along with the servants and the Dragun soldiers, stole the merchandise that they had brought with them and kept it locked up for two years. In a meeting of the council of the Volhyn District that took place in Horochow January 1700, a head tax of 400 zloty was imposed upon the community of Kołki. This sum testifies that the Jewish community was of medium size.
The Jewish population of Kołki grew in the 19th century. They earned their livelihood from the purchase and export of mushrooms, dried wild berries and nuts. Some were occupied in small scale commerce and others in trades. There were two flourmills, a sawmill, and 99 stores. In Kołki there were four synagogues of various Hassidic leanings, including Trisk, Stepan, and others. Rabbi Yehoshua Glazer and Rabbi Yehoshua Himmelfarb served in the rabbinate from the 1890s. People of Kołki were known throughout Volhynia. The name of Reb Pessi Schnitzer (Kolker) was especially known.
During the time of the First World War, in September 1915, a battle between the Russian and German armies took place on the Styr River, near Kołki. Kołki was attacked and burned to the ground. Its Jews dispersed.
Between the Two World Wars
At the beginning of the era of Polish rule, approximately one third of the Jews returned, and the general population declined by a half. This settlement had the status of a town council. The Jews of Kołki were occupied in the forestry business, furs, agricultural products, as well as small scale business and trades. These economic activities were supported by the People's Bank and the Charitable Fund.
There was a Tarbut Hebrew School in Kołki until 1927. This institution closed due to financial difficulties and the opposition of the Orthodox circles. There were four libraries in Kołki. Two were called Tarbut (for adults and children), one was called Y. L. Peretz and was under the auspices of the Bund and Poale Zion, and was under the auspices of the Chashmonai sports organization. The Y. L. Peretz library suffered from the machinations of the Orthodox circles in the city. Drama circles operated under the auspices of these libraries. They were very active, and even put on performances in the region. Literary evenings, lectures and other such events took place under their auspices. A Hachshara Kibbutz of Hechalutz was established in Kołki in 1925.
During the Time of the Second World War
The Germans entered Kołki on July 3, 1942, and immediately set up a five-person Judenrat and Jewish police. After some time, the Ukrainian police arrested approximately 50 men, including eminent members of the community, in accordance with a pre-established list. They were apparently captured for labor, but later it became known that they were all murdered. In October 1941, the Jews were commanded to gather within half an hour into an unfenced ghetto. Jews from the nearby villages were joined in with them. They numbered approximately 2,500 people, and lived in extremely crowded conditions, with 5-6 families per dwelling, and 8-10 people per room. The Jews of the ghetto were conscripted into forced labor in the nearby forests, fixing the bridge over the Styr River, and various service jobs. In the beginning of the summer of 1942, the chairman of the Jundenrat and two of its members were ordered to appear before the representative of the German government, where they received an edict that was apparently fraught with risk to their lives. They refused to fulfill the edict, and then were beaten, taken outside the town and murdered.
The ghetto was surrounded in September, 1942. Many people attempted to hide or escape. Most people were discovered or were shot as they were escaping. The Germans left 40 workers behind. The rest were brought to pits that were dug outside the town, where they were murdered. The men who remained alive returned to the ghetto. Jews who escaped or hid were joined to them. At that time, a group of 15 youths organized themselves. They armed themselves with a revolver and a sawed off shotgun, they went out secretly into the forests of the region. The ghetto was again surrounded by German and Ukrainian police in October 1942. Aside from the few who escaped, all the Jews were brought to the pit and murdered.
The group that escaped to the forest continued to be active, and its members obtained weapons for themselves. To this end the members of the group attacked, among others, the Ukrainian guards of the Osowa (a Jewish agricultural settlement) police, the house of the forester, and others to the point where all of the members were armed. In January 1943, the members of the group decided that there is no point in working alone, and that they must join a larger partisan group. To this end, a delegation of eight fighters was sent toward the northeast in the direction of Polesia. Along the way they met up with a group of fighters from Zofjówka, and together they reached the Kovpak group. With the permission of the leaders of the group, the people returned to bring their friends. However, when they returned to the region, they discovered that all of their friends had fallen in an ambush. They returned to the Kovpak group, fought with that group, and participated in the military campaign of the Carpathian Mountains. During this campaign, one of the heads of the group, Zosia Chaiczyk, was appointed to the home command in the division of the survivors of Skalat.
Kołki was liberated by the Red Army on February 3, 1944.
Ayush 03/1312, 016/2889.Translator's Footnotes
Yalkut Volhyn A. Volume 2. (5705 1945). Volume 3 (5706-1946).
Sh. Spector. The Holocaust of the Jews of Volhyn, 1941-1944. Jerusalem, 5746 (1986).
D. Katz, Saved From Fire, Warsaw, 1983.
Volhyn, Łuck, April 1, 1927, May 6, 1927.
Volhyner Life, Rovno, December 23, 1924, April 24, 1925, May 8, 1925, August 7. 1925.
Volhyner Shtime, Rovno, January 20, 1928, September 7, 1928, June 21, 1929, September 13, 1929.
Folksshtime, Warsaw, June 24, 1978, March 3, 1979, April 6, 1979, May 19 1979, December 8, 1979.
Regestry I nadpisy, Vol. II Peterburg, 1913.
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