Translation of Trzcianne chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Trzcianne 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 VIII, pages 361-363, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(Region of Bialystok, District of Bialystok)
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Donated by Kathryn Wallach
The town of Trzcianne was founded during the 18th century by the merger of three large villages on the Kosówka River*, approximately 40 kilometers northeast of Bialystok. With the third partition of Poland in 1795, Trzcianne was annexed to Prussia. It became part of the Russian Empire in 1807. It was under German occupation for three years (1915-1918) during the First World War. It then became part of independent Poland. Its residents were almost all Jews. Trzcianne was not connected to the railway line. The only means of transportation was horse and buggy, and its economy remained
weak even during the 20th century. At first, Trzcianne was under Soviet rule during the Second World War. It was conquered by the Germans at the end of June 1941. The Soviet Army liberated the entire area in the summer of 1944.
Several Jews settled in one of the villages of Trzcianne at the beginning of the 18th century. Two of them leased the harvest from the nobleman Njebowsk. A third one leased the church lands from the local priest. A fourth, the cattle merchant Mordechai Jankelewicz, exported 15 oxen and 20 goats a large enterprise at that time. The Jewish population of Trzcianne increased sharply as the 19th century progressed. At the end of that century, the population was close to 2,300 individuals, comprising 98.4% of the general population! The sources of livelihood included small-scale commerce, shop keeping, taverns, various trades, and wagon driving. There were several well-based wheat merchants there. Most of the people lived in small, wooden houses, and grew vegetables and fruit trees in their yards. At times, they also kept fowl, a cow, or a goat for the use of the family.
The community of Trzcianne had two houses of worship. The children studied in cheder, and some continued their studies in the Jewish gymnasjas [high schools] of Grodno and Bialystok (see entries). From among the rabbis of Trzcianne, we know of Rabbi Binyamin Biksha Lazdman (in the middle of the 19th century); Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak the son of Rabbi Gedalia (in 1869); Rabbi Baruch Eliahu Halperin (1911); and Rabbi Yosef Joselewicz.
At the outbreak of the First World War, even young Jews were drafted into the Czar's army. The local economy ceased during the time of the German occupation, from the autumn of 1915 until the end of 1918. Many of the residents were drafted to forced labor. From the end of the 19th century until the 1921 census that took place right after the First World War, the Jewish population of Trzcianne declined by approximately 40%. This was due primarily to continuous immigration, as well as the mass escape to Russia during the first years of the war.
At the end of the war, the Jews had difficulty reconstructing their destroyed houses and returning to their businesses. The communal activists raised money and founded a benevolent fund to grant interest-free loans to peddlers and small business owners so that they could replenish their inventory and equipment. Many of the Jews of Trzcianne were involved in refining pig bristles to manufacture brushes. Wagon driving was also common amongst the Jews. There were fewer small-scale merchants and shopkeepers after the war, and there were no longer any wholesalers left in the town at that time. On the other hand, more Jews were engaged in the free professions. The only pharmacist who owned a pharmacy in Trzcianne was a Jew. There were also several teachers. Even though the Poles were a small minority in Trzcianne, anti-Semitic incitement took place during the late 1930s.
After the First World War, Jewish political and Zionist activity took place in Trzcianne as it did in other Jewish communities of the region. During that era, a Zionist rabbi, Rabbi Binyamin Eliahu Ramigolski from Siemiatycze (see entry) served the community. Most of the Jewish children, especially the girls, studied in the Polich public school in Trzcianne at that time.
With the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Jews from the western districts of Poland that had been conquered by the Nazis fled to Trzcianne. The community of Trzcianne set up an assistance organization for the refugees, and ensured the provision of dwelling places and food for them. The Jews greeted the Soviets with joy when they entered Trzcianne on September 17..
The Soviets closed or nationalized the private shops with their merchandise, and opened a cooperative government store in Trzcianne. The Jewish pharmacist was deported along with his family to the Soviet Union. His son, a captain in the Polish Army, was captured by the Red Army. Tradesmen, including those expert in the working of pig bristles, were organized into a work cooperative. Several Jewish youths who were Communists in the past, were appointed as officials in the new government institutions. Jewish teachers worked in the local school that now operated under the Soviet curriculum.
The German invasion of the Soviet Union began on June 22, 1941. German bombardment caused fires to break out in Trzcianne, and the city was conquered already by the second day. The German command ordered the Jews to remain in their homes. German soldiers along with local collaborators brought them to a giant pit outside the town. The Jews were held in the pit without food or water for eight days, from July 28 until Aug 4, 1941. Several mothers could not stand the suffering of their children, and strangled them with their hands. The Germans murdered groups of Jews each day, until nobody was left alive in the pit. Approximately 600 people were murdered in the pit. The Germans claimed that this was a punishment for the killing of three German paratroopers in Trzcianne at the beginning of the invasion of the area. A few Jews managed to escape from the pit. A Polish farmer named Sobocinski from the village of Kraczak his two Jewish girls in his house. He prepared to marry one of them toward the end of the war. However, on the day of the wedding, several people from the Polish underground and the nationalist Armia Krajowa (AK) shot the two girls to death. They beat the farmer to unconsciousness. Several other Jews who were hidden were turned in by the locals to the Germans, and were murdered. Only a few Jews of Trzcianne survived until the liberation.
Yad Vashem Archives 016/22 03/837, 3033[Page 363]
Biuletyn Glównej Komisji Radania Zbrodni hitlerowskiech w Polsce [Newsletter of the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland] -- BGK Vol. VIII (1956) p. 127.
Datner, Eksterminacja ludności zydowskicj w okręgu bialostockim [Extermination of the Jewish population in the Bialystok district] BZIH 60 (1966) pp. 9, 14, 20.
Leszczyński, Zydzi ziemi bielskiej od polowy [Jews from the land of Bielsko] XVII w. do. 1795, r., pp. 37, 155.
Struktura spoleczna ludności zydowskiej miast I miasteczek dawnego obwodu bialostockiego w latach 1864-1914 [The social structure of the Jewish population of the towns and villages of the former Bialystok region between 1864 and 1914], BŻIH no. 3-4 (131-132) Warsaw 1948, p. 51
* Note: According to the former mayor, Mr. Zdzisław DĄBROWSKI, the only river in Trzcianne is the MUCHAWIEC.
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