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Translation of Horodlo chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Morris Gradel z"l
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This is a translation from:
Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume VII, pages 145-146, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(Region: Hrubieszow; Province: Lublin)
Horodlo (H) is first mentioned in the middle of the 14th century as a settlement owned by the Princes of Lithuania. Owing to its geographical location, on the banks of the River Bug, H developed into a transit station for goods. In 1413 it was the venue for signing of the pact uniting Poland and Lithuania. In 1462 H passed into the possession of the Kingdom of Poland. King Kazimir Jagiello granted it urban status and the right to hold a weekly market day and two fairs a year. The local population consisted of Poles, Ukrainians and Jews.
H's economic and demographic development was subject to fluctuation, particularly after the frequent wars and invasions, and other mishaps. In 1500 the town was destroyed by the Tatars; in 1648 it suffered badly at the hands of Chmielnicki's troops; and in 1706 it was seized by units of the Swedish king, Karl VII. In 1850 a fire broke out that destroyed most of its houses.
With the Second Division of Poland in 1793 H passed under Austrian rule and the ownership of the Polish nobleman Kajtan Winiawski; in 1807 it was included in the Grand Duchy of Warsaw; and from 1815 until the First World War it formed part of the Kingdom of Congress Poland. In 1915 H was occupied by the Austrians and the Germans, who remained there until 1918.
Jews were known to have settled in H as early as the second half of the 16th century. In the decree year of 1648 most of them were murdered by Chmielnicki's gangs - only 13 survived.
In the second half of the 18th century the community was reestablished and began to develop. In 1765 there were 220 Jews in H, owning 29 houses and eight shops. Most of them were merchants, a few artisans. Four Jews were engaged in the production and sale of strong drink, and others obtained the concession of collecting taxes, such as those on the sale of salt, participation in markets, and use of scales. The community of H at the time was organised and had a wooden synagogue, a Bet Midrash (for this and other terms, see notes at the end of this translation) and a cemetery. The first synagogue went up in flames in 1850, and in 1865 another, built of bricks, was erected. There were three cemeteries: the two oldest lay near the river (not far from the market place) and outside the town; the new one lay on the road to the village of Strzyzow.
H was strongly under the influence of Chassidism. Most of its rabbis belonged to the Chassidim of Radzyn, but there were also small stiebelich (prayer-houses) of the Chassidim of Gor, Turzysk and Belz. Among the rabbis of H at the beginning of the 18th century only the name of R. Benjamin Ze'ev Ber Yekutiel, author of A'naf Etz Avot (Offenbach, 1719), is known. In the second half of the 19th century the rabbi was R. Yekutiel Ber Josef Eliezer Gelernter. His son-in-law, R. Moshe Leib Halevi Berman - author of Tiferet Banim , the Responsa Chak Moshe (Warsaw, 1927), Zichru Torat Moshe (Bilgoraj, 1938), and Kol Yehuda - officiated from 1889 until the Nazi occupation. He perished in the Holocaust.
The community of H also embraced the nearby villages of Strzyzow, Rowine, Kowale, Kopylow , Lisek, and Mecz.
At the beginning of the 20th century some Jews were also elected to the Town Council of H.
During the First World War the Austrian and German occupiers imposed heavy taxes on the inhabitants of H and confiscated their goods. Many of the Jews were reduced to penury. A Jewish Aid Committee was set up, and with the help of the Joint a soup kitchen for the needy was opened.
At the end of the war the Jews continued to engage in small trading and peddling, and a few of them in crafts. The Jewish pedlars went from village to village with their wares, and bought agricultural produce from the farmers. The Jewish artisans included tailors, carpenters and shoemakers. Three Jews were water-suppliers, and a few others were woodcutters and porters. The Jewish craftsmen of the time established a trade organisation. They were also, together with the shopkeepers, instrumental in starting a Provident Fund to help small businesses with interest-free loans. A Linat Zedek was also opened, as was a Hachnasat Orchim and an Agudat Nashim. The latter furnished cheder pupils with milk and light meals.
In the inter-war period the community continued to live in accordance with religious tradition, but at the same time the Zionist movement played an increasingly active role. The General Zionists, Poalei Zion, and the Revisionists were all present, as well as a branch of Hechalutz. Both Orthodox and Zionists were represented in the community council. The last heads of this body were Petachia Blat and Aharon Chaim Feder, both Radzyn Chassidim. The Town Council consisted of 24 members: 12 Poles, 6 Ukrainians, and 6 Jews.
Many of the Jewish children of H continued to attend the traditional cheder, as in time immemorial; some of them went to the Polish elementary school in the town. In the 1920s the Zionists opened a Hebrew elementary school of the Tarbut network, and with it a public library with Hebrew and Yiddish books. The school was also a centre for various groups, mainly literary and drama.
On September 26th, 1939, H fell to the Germans. Soldiers at once broke into Jewish shops and presented the goods to the Polish inhabitants. A few days later the Germans withdrew and were replaced by Soviet troops, but these only stayed a fortnight and withdrew beyond the River Bug, in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Russian troops were accompanied by a few Jews who moved to the Soviet occupation zone in eastern Poland.
With the return of the Germans came immediate acts of persecution and violence against the Jews. Many were seized for slave labour. A curfew was imposed on the Jews, and anyone found outside in the evening or night was shot. At the end of 1939 all Jews over the age of 12 were ordered to wear a white armband with a blue Star of David . Jews who lived in spacious flats were evicted and rehoused in smaller and poorer accommodation, sometimes with several families to an apartment. Crowding and hunger led to outbreaks of typhus, with many victims.
In H as elsewhere a Judenrat was appointed. In the spring of 1941 the Germans ordered local Poles to destroy the synagogue. The fence around the cemetery was also torn down, and the area used for sheep and cattle grazing. In the summer of 1941, with the outbreak of war between Germany and the Soviet Union, the situation grew even worse. The Jews were forced to prove that they were working for non-Jewish farmers. Jews without work permits were expelled from the town. Jews begged the farmers to employ them and offered them money for work permits. To save their lives Jews had also to hand over clothes and utensils in exchange for food. After a while they remained with nothing, the supply of food ran out, and there was a shortage of wood for fuel.
At the beginning of 1942 the Jews of H heard about the elimination of other communities in the district. In the spring of that year the members of the Judenrat journeyed to Hrubieszow in an attempt to persuade the German authorities to annul the order expelling them from Horodlo - but the Germans declined to reply. On the contrary, they seized Petachia Blat, a leading member of the delegation, and executed him.
Eight days after Passover 1942 the first deportation from H took place. 680 men, women and children were assembled in the market place in nearby Uchanie. Only Jews who were working on estates or farms were exempted from this deportation. Three Jews who hid were seized a few days after the deportation and murdered in the Jewish cemetery. Non-Jews were placed in the houses of the Jews, and a few houses were pulled down by peasants for building materials. A few days after Shavuot the remaining Jews of H were taken to Uchanie. On June 10th these, together with the Jews of Uchanie, were taken to the railway station of Miaczyn. There the aged, women and children were removed, put into goods wagons, and sent to the extermination camp at Sobibor. Many of them, particularly those who showed resistance, were killed at the railway station.
Young people and others fit for work, who had been separated from their families at the station, were divided into two groups. One group was returned to Uchanie, and from there sent to work on the estate at Stazyn; the other group was transferred to the concentration camp at Stawy, near Chelm. In the autumn of 1942 the Germans also murdered the Jews who had been sent to Stazyn.
The local inhabitants, notorious for their anti-Semitism, usually prevented the Jews from finding any hiding-place. Those who managed to escape to the woods were mostly caught and killed, or handed over to the Germans. Amongst the few Jews who were saved by the peasants was a girl, Frajdl Perlmutter. For two years she was hidden by a Polish peasant couple, Majtek and Katja Bodniewski, who saw to all her needs.
Notes (in order of appearance in the text):
Bet Midrash: a school, usually attached to the synagogue, giving religious instruction mainly to adults.
Chassidism / Has(s)idism: the Jewish revivalist movement originating in eastern Europe in the late 16th century. It maintains many of the characteristics of the time, such as its dress. Diverse sects of Chassidism hail from different towns and follow different leaders or 'rebbes'.
Joint: Joint Distribution Committee - an American Jewish organisation founded in 1914 to provide relief to European Jews in World War I, later expanded to service Jewish communities worldwide.
Linat Zedek: basically a hospice for the poor and homeless, it also carried out a number of other welfare tasks.
Hachnasat Orchim: a hostel for indigent travellers.
Agudat Nashim: 'Women's League'.
Cheder (pl. cheders, chadarim): literally 'room' - religious Jewish elementary school (today also 'Sunday School' in West).
Poalei Zion: 'Workers of Zion', a Jewish Marxist party founded in 1906. Its ideological 'father' was Dov Ber Borochov.
Revisionists: followers of the radically nationalist Zionist movement led by Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
Hechalutz: 'The Pioneer', an organisation to train youth for immigration to Israel /Palestine, primarily to a kibbutz.
Shavuot: the Feast of Weeks, or First Fruits; also commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
The above notes were compiled by the translator/editor. Many of the definitions were taken from The Timetables of Jewish History by Judah Gribetz with Edward L. Greenstein and Regina S. Stein (Simon and Schuster, 1993).
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