50°24' / 22°50'
Translation of Zolkiewka chapter from Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Project Coordinator and Translator
Morris Gradel z"l
sincere appreciation to
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.
This is a translation from:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume VII, pages 196 - 198, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(pages 196 - 198)
The village of Zolkiewka (Z) is first mentioned at the beginning of the 16th century. It was named after its owners, the noble family Zolkiewski. In the course of time the village developed and held market days and annual fairs; and later on was declared to be a town. From 1815 until the First World War Z formed part of the Kingdom of Congress Poland. During this latter war, in 1915, it was occupied by the Germans.
The Jewish Community in Z Until the End of World War I
Documents from the beginning of the 17th century mention a Jewish merchant, an inhabitant of Z, and it is reasonable to assume that apart from him there were other Jewish families in the town. But an actual Jewish community existed only from the 18th century. At the end of that period there were about 100 Jewish families in Z, most of them house owners. Among their wage-earners were several artisans - tailors, shoemakers and others.
In the second half of the 19th century the number of Jews in Z increased considerably, and their share in local economic activity expanded constantly. They set up some factories, amongst them a flour-mill and tanneries. Jews were also the main distributors of local industrial produce and purchasers of agricultural producers from the peasants of the surrounding villages. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, the earnings of the Jews were considerably reduced as a result of growing competition from the Polish merchants and the establishment of a local Polish cooperative.
To begin with the Jews of Z formed part of the neighbouring community of Turobin. In 1775 the "Council of the Four Lands"* approved an agreement between the Jews of the two settlements that granted the community in Z independent status. In the same year the Jewish cemetery was consecrated, as was a synagogue built of wood - which went up in flames in 1852. After ten years or so work was begun on building a new synagogue, which included classrooms for the community's Talmud school. Building was completed in 1868.
In the 19th century the rabbi was Yehuda Leibush Licht, who was later appointed rabbi in Pershburg (?). In 1906 the minister was Rabbi Moshe Zvi Banker, and he was followed by Rabbi Felhendler.
In 1899 the "Provident Fund" was established, and in 1911 the
"Hospice for the Poor".
The first Zionist group was organized in 1904 and at about the same time branches of "Poalei Zion" and the "Bund" also made their appearance. In 1912 a Jewish Public Library was opened.
The Jews of Z supported the rebellion of 1863. In 1915 the German occupiers imposed economic restrictions on the Jews and even confiscated their wares. Towards the end of the war the inhabitants suffered bombardment by the retreating German army, and many houses were destroyed. There were also instances of Jews being beaten up by the soldiers.
The Jews Between the Two World Wars
Most of the Jews earned their living in this period, as before, from petty trading and crafts, and from peddling in the surrounding villages. A few worked in the small factories they had owned previously - textile works, tanneries, and a factory for soft drinks. which closed during the war but reopened afterwards. Tourism provided a new source of income, as Z was blessed with a dry and fresh climate and with many forests nearby, and these attracted summer visitors from the large towns, with a need for guest houses. restaurants, and also grocer and butcher shops and carting services.
The economic crisis that struck Poland between the two world wars also had serious repercussions for the Jews of Z. Their economic situation grew even worse in the 30s, due to growing competition from the Polish merchants and from anti-semitic propaganda, which called for a boycott of Jewish trade. In the early years following World War I help was forthcoming from the "Joint". The Provident Fund that had been set up before the war also expanded its activities and granted interest-free loans to the needy. In 1928 a Jewish Cooperative Bank was set up, and this provided Jewish merchants and artisans with low-interest credit. The Hospice for the Poor primarily helped that section of the community. In 1938 the whole townlet went up in flames, and the inhabitants lost their houses.
A result of the economic crisis of the 20s and 30s was an upsurge of social, cultural and political activity. Branches of several Zionist parties were established, such as "Mizrachi", "Poalei Zion" and the "General Zionists", together with their youth movements. 1923 also saw the appearance of a branch of "Agudat Israel". The Bund too resumed its activities after the war.
Many of the community's children continued to study at the Talmud Torah and private religious schools during this period. The girls and some of the boys attended the general government school.
In 1928 there broke out in Z violent anti-semitic riots. In 1936 the Jewish cemetery, which had been extended and improved, was desecrated, and many gravestones destroyed. Violent anti-semitic riots recurred in 1937; many Jews were beaten and house and shop windows smashed. Incidents of this kind were repeated in 1938, when the mob turned over counters in Jewish shops and beat up the owners.
The Second World War
The Germans occupied Z in mid-September 1939, and immediately began their maltreatment of the Jews, confiscating their property and seizing them for forced labour. A fortnight later the Germans left Z, and at the beginning of October were replaced by the Russians - and at once their supporters in the town, Jews and Poles, organized a militia which took upon itself administration of the affairs of Z and the preservation of order. However, after eight short days, when the dividing line between the German and the Russian zones in Eastern Poland had been clarified, Z fell under German jurisdiction and the Russians left. Together with them left a small group of their Jewish supporters. Only three days later the Germans returned, but this short time was sufficient for the local anti-semites to take advantage of the lack of authority to carry out a pogrom that killed 20 Jews and ravaged Jewish property - under the pretext that the Jews had favoured the Russians. On the arrival of the Germans, the Poles presented them with the names of Jews who had collaborated with the Soviets, and these Jews were imprisoned, but released shortly after.
In early 1940 a Judenrat was formed in Z under Leon Felhendler, the son of the former Rabbi. Among other members, active in affairs of the community, were Shaul Shoterk and Gershon Rotman. A Jewish police force was also established. The Judenrat and the Jewish police were responsible for providing the Germans with forced labour. In 1940 the Judenrat sent a group of Jews to the labour camp at Belzec, and shortly afterwards some 300 additional young people were sent to the labour camp at Ruda-Opalin, where they were occupied with digging sewage and irrigation ditches under such severe conditions that many of them died. The remainder were returned home after six months. In 1941 a small labour camp was established near Z with a few huts to house about 30 local workers, both Jews and Poles, who were set to work on building projects in the area.
There was then no ghetto in Z. The Jews were subject to a curfew and other restrictions. In October 1940 Jewish refugees from Kalish and Kolo arrived in the town. In March 1942 there were additional arrivals from Lublin, and in May 1942 from Riborzewice (?). On the eve of their first deportation there were some 2,300 Jews in Z.
On May 15th, 1942 S.S. personnel were brought to Z from the main town in the district, Krasnystaw, together with a contingent of Polish police, who evicted the Jews from their houses and assembled them in the market place. Jews who hid and were discovered were shot on the spot. After a process of selection some thousand Jews were transported to Krasnystaw, and from there to the extermination camp at Sobibor. The remainder were enclosed in the ghetto which was then erected in Z.
The second and final deportation of the Jews of Z took place in October 1942. Those remaining in the ghetto were transferred to the ghetto at Izbice, which was the assembly point for all the Jews of the district. From there they were sent, together with Jews from other townlets, to the extermination camp at Belzec.
The head of the Judenrat, Leon Felhendler, was one of the organizers of the revolt at Sobibor. He was murdered in Lublin in April 1945 by members of the "Armia Krayowa".
* For explanations of these and other organisations and movements mentioned in this survey readers are kindly referred to more detailed reference works. Back
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