Horodenka is a little town in Eastern Galicia, which was said to be the administrative centre of a region containing forty-eight small villages.
The history of its organised Jewish communal life begins in the year 5743, although Horodenka is mentioned as a small village as early as 1579. According to historical documents it was raised to the rank of a city in the Seventeenth century when it passed into the hands of the famous Polish noble family Potocki, who owned the entire agricultural area. There are certain documents from which it would appear that a number of Jewish families were already living there in the early part of the Seventeenth century, even before it became a town. Reliable sources, however, make it dear that the Jews of Horodenka became significant as a community only in the middle of the Eighteenth century. Jewish merchants from the city are recorded among the visitors to the International Fair at Leipzig, 1739-1748.
Documents of the half-century 1870-1927 show that the average percentage of Jews in the entire population varied between 33% and 40%, against 45%-55% of Ruthenians (or Ukrainians) and barely 10% of Poles.
On the map Horodenka will be found at the point where the one-time Polish frontier touched on the frontiers of Russia to the East and Rumania to the South. As a result of this topographical position the inhabitants of Horodenka, and especially the Jews among them, were always the first to suffer at the outbreak of war between the above countries.
It should also be noted that although the Poles were a small minority, their historical and political aspirations in this region had the result that they were almost always in charge of municipal institutions and life. On the other hand the Ukrainians, who were usually in a numerical majority, were unable to take over municipal institutions and the mayoralty in the absence of properly trained and qualified political leaders. Nevertheless they developed national aspirations, and various official declarations from the neighbouring country encouraged them to attempt to join the Ukraine, which was under the Tzarist regime and part of Russia.
The Jewish Community had to find a way of living together with the other two national groups and their political aspirations which could not always be understood by their two neighbours. In addition, the Jewish leaders of the city often found it very difficult to maintain a single line of policy which at the same time enabled them to live satisfactorily among themselves and with their neighbours.
As a result there were constant disagreements between
|View on the main street in 1915
the various inner Jewish groups regarding the right steps to take as various political problems emerged. It followed that neither of the other national minorities was on friendly terms with the Jews, with results that were clearly felt between 1914 and 1917 during the First World War, when the city was repeatedly occupied and re-occupied by the Russians and the Austrians in turn. In this situation Jewish lives and property were in constant danger, and a virtual pogrom atmosphere was the order of the day.
However, the Jews of Horodenka faced their final tragedy during the Second World War. Horodenka had been occupied by the Russians a few weeks after the German attack on Poland in Autumn 1939. When the Nazis attacked Russia in turn, in June 1941, they occupied Horodenka and remained there until the end of the war. During that period of close on four years they virtually succeeded in their final solution by exterminating the whole Jewish population. In this they were gladly assisted by a large number of the local Ukrainians, who as a result have inherited all Jewish property in one way or another. According to reliable evidence about 3,000 adults and children were murdered in 1941 and 1942, in the course of three Actions.
A bare handful of Horodenka Jews succeeded in escaping from the city of their birth and made their way either to Russia or to Rumania. From them it is learnt that no significant resistance was shown by any part of the local population at the commencement of the Nazi occupation. Soon after the first Action, however, Jews ceased to believe Nazi promises and propaganda and began to realise their true position. Several young Jews then joined the partisans who were just beginning to organise resistance activities in the forests on the other side of the River Dniester. Thanks to this handful of men and women, who ultimately reached Israel, U.S.A., U.S.S.R. and Latin America, we know some facts about the destruction and annihilation of Horodenka Jewry and Jewish life.
No matter how much we grieve we cannot bring back our dear and beloved parents, our sisters and brothers and their innocent children, who were deprived of their lives so murderously during the liquidation of European Jewry.
In 1945 the first survivors arrived here in Eretz Israel and gave an account of what had happened. Those already in this country who had been born or had lived in Horodenka then organised a Committee with the aims of giving all possible aid and comfort to the newcomers, and establishing a monument for the thousands of Horodenka Jews who had fallen victim to the Nazis between 1941 and 1945. The various suggestions made about the most suitable monument included a proposal for a Memorial Volume to record the story of the Horodenka Jewish community from its beginnings until its end; a history covering a period of 2-4 centuries.
It was decided to adopt this proposal, and so a
|The beginning of printing the Sefer Horodenka
beginning was made with Sefer Horodenka, the Horodenka Book, which has been edited, written and financed by sons and daughters of Horodenka all the world over. Some of the articles, it is true, were written by persons who were not born there; but they either lived in the city for several years or married Horodenka men and women, and can therefore be regarded as residents.
We who have survived are the sole orphans and heirs of what was a flourishing community. We do not set out to produce a volume which is exclusive, nor do we aim at a work of outstanding literary value. What we have tried to produce is a joint co-operative publication made by and speaking for the survivors of this small Jewish town, as part of the history of that remarkable Jewry of Poland which existed for so long, until it was finally obliterated from the map of Jewry throughout the world.
In this brief English preface it is not our purpose to repeat all that is to be found in the Hebrew and Yiddish sections. What we aim to do is to give the children of those who came from our little birthplace some idea of the fate of their grandparents and kinsfolk, in order that they may from time to time remember those thousands who were slaughtered by the Nazis during the Second World War, with all the resources of modern science and organisation. And it goes without saying that this Sefer Horodenka could never have come into being if all the children of Horodenka who have survived the overwhelming catastrophe had not made every effort and assumed the necessary responsibility.
It should be borne in mind that this volume, like others of the same kind, has meant an outlay of about $ 8000, in addition to the difficulties involved in collecting and editing the material itself. It was possible to achieve this result only thanks to an agreement reached between the Horodenka townsfolk in the U.S.A. and Israel. In bringing about this agreement our friends Ruth and Abe Podway of New York played a very important part.
We wish to thank all those who have participated in any form in this volume, and who have helped to bring it into being. Thank you one and all for anything and everything you have done.
We would like all former members of the Horodenka community or from the surrounding villages, and all those who have the names of individual survivors coming from the region, to send their names on to us, in order that we may ensure that all of them have an opportunity of obtaining this volume. For we know that at the proper memorial season each and every one of us will read through the list of Jewish victims who gave up their lives to hallow the Holy Name and the name of the suffering Jewish people.
For and on behalf of the Book Committee
Tel Aviv, Rosh Hashana 5724, September 1963
|The meeting where the completion of the first part
of the book was announced — Tel-Aviv 14/11/1962
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