“Kuty” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume II

48°16' / 25°11'

Translation of “Kuty” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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Francine Shapiro

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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume II, pages 460-463, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

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(pages 460-463)

Kuty, Poland

(Kosov Region, Stanislavov District)

Translated by Shlomo Sneh with the assistance of Francine Shapiro


Jews in Kuty until 1919

Kuty was established in 1715 by one of the barons of the Pototski family. The law that established the city gave the Jews full municipal rights, and it seems they and a few Armenians were a majority of the people in the city. The Jews received permission to build a synagogue and sanctify a cemetery. During the Polish Kingdom, the community grew larger, and its condition was very favorable.

This was ascertained by the amount of the head tax that the Jews paid to the owner of the city: 330 zlotys in 1717, 400 in 1736, and 500 in 1759.

After the beginning of Austrian rule in 1772, the Jewish situation worsened. The previous community leadership was abolished, and instead of it the authorities nominated a Jewish officer as a leader, who collected the taxes arbitrarily, and the amounts grew from year to year. When the Jews of Galicia received equal rights in 1868, the situation in Kuty also improved. The old form of community leadership was revived, and all the special taxes that were levied only on Jews were abolished.

At the beginning of the Austrian era the Jews made their living through trade (especially in dried fruits), tanning, carting, and artisanship. At the end of this period a small number of Jews made their living by being clerks in the government and municipal institutions. During the 1870's a loan fund was that was established for industrialists and artisans helped the tanners and millers by financing their businesses. Until the 1930's Kuty was not connected to the railroad, and for this reason many Jews made their living by haulage.

The Kuty community was famous for many distinguished people who were born there. The most renowned among them was Rabbi Avraham Gershon Kitover, the brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov. According to the Hassidic tradition, the Baal Shem Tov also lived near Kuty during the hester, the concealment, and made his living by digging up clay that was sold by his wife to the people of Kosov and Kuty. The legend recounts that in this period the Baal Shem Tov met the famous robber Dobosh, and he succeeded in preventing him from harming Jews.

Apparently the first rabbi of Kuty was Rabbi Moshe, the son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Kitover. In the beginning he was one of the opponents of the Baal Shem Tov, but afterwards acknowledged him. Rabbi Moshe died and was buried in Kuty in 1738. There is a tradition that he started the practice of not burying people with their tallis, but only with their shroud. During the 1840's the rabbi of Kuty was Yakov Epshtein. After him came Rabbi Zvi the son of Rabbi Avraham Landsman. The rabbi of Kuty for dozens of years was Rabbi Yosef Shmuel Gelernter, author of the books Harei Besamim and Rashei Besamim. His son, who succeeded him in 1893, was the author of the books Oneg Hayim Le Shabat, Sinchat Ha Chag. and Pri Etz HaChayim. During Gelernter's term of office the dayan was a very distinguished scholar, Rabbi Yakov Shor.

The synagogue, which was built in the first years of the community, was the most glorious and the biggest of the city buildings. Near it were two little synagogues, the Butchers' Synagogue and the Tailors' Synagogue. There were also three study houses. The Hassidim prayed in three cloises (little Hassidic synagogues), of Vishnitz, Kosov, and Chortkov. The cemetery, which was sanctified at the establishment of the community, was full by the end of the nineteenth century, and a new cemetery was sanctified instead of it. The Hevra Kadisha, whose members worked voluntarily, organized a loan fund for artisans.

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the Jewish children did not have a secular education, except for the period of schools for Jews, which were established by H. Homberg (1785-1806). The boys and the girls learned in the traditional heders until this century. And only then some of the boys and the majority of the girls began to study in a general school in the city. Safa Chaya (living language), established a complementary school in Kuty during the first years of the twentieth century. It included 59 pupils, and only 11 of them were boys.

The Zionist circles were organized in Kuty at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Union of Zionist Women was established in 1905, and in 1908 a branch of Poalei Zion. The Poalei Zion activists organized a strike of 50 tannery workers, which had partial success. The Poalei Zion had a youth organization, Yugend, which owned the only library then in the city.

From the beginning of the twentieth century the immigration of Kuty Jews increased overseas, and especially to the United States. During the First World War the city experienced many acute changes: two Russian occupations ( in 1914 and again in 1916), the flight of part of the population, the establishment of the Western Ukrainian Republic (November 1918-March 1919), a brief occupation of the city by the Romanians, and the renewal of Polish rule in June, 1919. A national Jewish committee was elected in Kuty that included only Poalei Zion members during Ukrainian rule. When the Romanians ruled, the Jews defended themselves forcefully from abuse (maltreatment) by Romanian soldiers. One Jew in succeeded in putting a cruel Romanian soldier in prison by putting him in his cellar for two days.

Between the Two World Wars

During the renewal of Polish rule, there was a small amount of development in the city. It was connected to the railroad and also a road from Kolomea via Kosov was put through to Kuty. In the mid 1930's Kuty was connected to the electric grid. A Polish cultural hall was established which included a movie hall, and the Jews had use of it for payment.

After the city was connected to the road and to the railroad, the majority of cart owners became drivers. During Polish rule there were two new sources of income, summer resorts and a carpet industry. Most of the work was done at home, and in order to make a living, the workers had no alternative to but to work 15 hours a day. A new profession arose among the Jews, traveling salesmen, who sold the products of Kuty all over Poland. During the two world wars the Jews of Kuty continued to make their living in sawmills, tanneries, and flourmills, minor trade, and artisanship.

The leadership of the community was mainly orthodox. Severin Hornshtein, an assimilationist, was its head. The rabbi after the death of Rabbi Haim Gelernter was Rabbi Leib Yetshet, who died in the Holocaust.

Jews had very little influence in the City Council, although the Jews were half of the population. But in 1934 only 5 Jews of the 16 members were elected to the City Council.

Among the mutual aid institutions were WIZO, which had 100 members and focused on social assistance, and the Jewish merchants and artisans union, which helped its members with loans and a free-loan fund. Doctor Marcus Olsacker established the Jewish orphanage in 1918, and it became a haven for 16 of about 100 orphans who were then in Kuty. The rest were sent to families. Along with general studies, the orphanage pupils also learned spinning. After they learned the profession, the worked producing carpets. Thanks to the initiative of Dr. Olsacker, the municipality donated land in 1930 for the orphanage. In 1936 a building was erected which was also a hostel for kibbutz life training, financed by a carpet workshop.

The majority of the Jewish girls continued to study in the general school during this era. On the other hand, the majority of the boys studied in Talmud Torah. The complementary Hebrew school was reopened during the 1920's, and a kindergarten was added. In 1930 an Orthodox Girls' School was established, Beit Yakov.

The majority of the Jewish parties that were active in Poland had branches in Kuty. A few Jewish youths were members of the illegal Communist Party, or were
sympathizers. Nechama Meltzer (“Vera”) of Kuty, imprisoned in 1936, was active as the leader of the Communists in the region. She was sentenced to six years in jail. In the same year, Michael Groy, another Communist activist was imprisoned. In 1938 thirteen Jewish Communists were sent to jail, among them nine girls from the town's carpet industry.

The General Zionists were the oldest of the Zionist parties. The Poalei Zion was the most active. There also were local branches of Hitachdut, Mizrachi, and from 1930 the Revisionists and the National Party after the split. The Hashomer Hazair was established in 1921, and continued to be active until 1939. Gordonia was established in 1926, and ceased to exist at the beginning of the 1930's. Betar was established in 1930, and apparently it was active until 1939.

There were two public libraries in Kuty. The larger belonged to Hashomer Hazair, and had 600 volumes. The second belonged to Gordonia . In 1925 a Jewish sports union was established, Maccabi, which was active sporadically until the war.

There was a problem every year from the beginning of the development of summer resorts in Kuty, because Polish guests tried to injure Jews. They failed because Jewish youth organized for self-defense. But in 1937 they smashed windows in Jewish homes in the city.

We can learn about the proportional Zionist trends from the elections to the Zionist congress.

Zionist Workers
National Party

The Second World War

After the Polish authorities evacuated the city in the middle of September, and Kuty was without any administrative authority, groups of Jewish youth organized for self-defense against the local villages and Ukrainians who made preparations for carrying out pogroms against Jews. Some of the Jewish groups armed themselves with weapons of the Polish police, and mainly kept a connection between Kuty's community and Jews who were scattered in nearby villages.

On September 17, 1939 units of the Red Army entered Kuty. A temporary local committee was organized, and a large number of the members were local Jewish Communists. There were also many Jewish youths in the militia, but after the strengthening of the Ukrainization process, many Jews were fired in 1940 from the local municipal institutions.

The Soviet authorities nationalized flourmills, tanneries, and many workshops. Their Jewish owners had administrative limits. These were connected to the restriction of movements outside the city, and difficulties in getting jobs. Wholesale trade was halted immediately, and retail trade reduced. Private shop owners could not renew their stock of goods, and they suffered greatly from taxes. Artisans were forced to organize in cooperatives. Jewish communal and party activities were prohibited. The Zionist library was moved to the general municipal library. The books were classified, the majority of them were found to be unsuitable, and were burned.

At the beginning of 1940, a group of Jewish volunteers went to work in the River Don basin, but returned after a few weeks because they were disappointed by work conditions and the difficulties of life there.

The Soviet authorities opened a Jewish school in Kuty whose language of instruction was Yiddish. In the spring of 1941 some local Jewish Communists were convicted of being Trotskyites. Also Jews continued to be arrested for economic crimes. Only a few of Kuty's Jews escaped into the interior of the Soviet Union when the Red Army retreated in the end of June 1941.

On July 1, 1941 the city was occupied by Romanian and Hungarian units, which were allies of the Germans. The Romanian soldiers tortured the Jewish population horribly. They arrested Jewish leaders and were ready to free them for a large sum of money. The behavior of the Hungarian soldiers was less callous, although they also kidnapped Jews arbitrarily for compulsory work. The Romanians left the city after a short time, and the city remained under Hungarian rule until the end of August 1941.

At the end of July, 1941 Jewish refugees from Karparteros were brought to the city. The local Jewish community took care of their needs and did its best to lessen their suffering. In September 1941 the city was placed under the direct administration of the Germans, who demanded a contribution, made Jews liable for compulsory labor, limited the freedom of movement, ordered them to wear a white armband with a blue Star of David, and robbed property.

The Germans nominated Menashe Mendel as head of the Judenrat. The Judenrat tried its best the divide the hardships that were placed on the community fairly. It was under the administration of the Judenrat of Kolomea. At the end of October, 1941, the head of the Judenrat in Kolomea, M. Horowitz, demanded a large sum of money from the Jews of Kuty. Menashe Mendel refused to obey this order, and complained that the Jews of Kuty already paid their share of this “contribution.”

For this reason he was fired from his job, and Zygmunt Tillinger was nominated as head. This man was obedient to all the demands of Horowitz and the Germans.

The great famine and freezing cold during the winter months of 1941-1942, and the resulting typhoid epidemic caused many deaths among the Jews. The Jews used to come at night to the farmers' fields near the city and try to get some food. The villagers ambushed them, and every Jew caught by them was murdered or turned over to the Germans. In order to lighten the suffering by starvation, the Judenrat opened a soup kitchen that distributed hundreds of bowls of watery soup a day.

In the spring of 1942 information came to Kuty about mass exterminations in the Jewish communities in the surrounding areas, and liquidations of all Jewish communities. The Jews of Kuty began to build hiding places in the city and nearby forests. Individuals and groups tried to flee to Romania, but only a few succeeded. On the way to the border the Ukrainian farmers attacked many of those fleeing. As it was said before, the great majority of local population had unfriendly attitudes to the Jews. The attitudes of the Armenian priest, S. Manyogevitch, (differed from those of the Ukrainians), who preached that they should help the Jews, sell them food, and he himself hid some Jews.

On the morning of April 10, 1942, the last day of Passover, 5702, trucks came to Kuty from Kolomea full of S.S. and Gestapo officers. Within minutes of their entry to the city, they shot every Jew they encountered. Ukrainian police units were attached to the Germans, and together they attacked the Jewish houses. In order to discover those who were hidden, the buildings were burned, and whole streets, which were populated by Jews, were set on fire. Many Jews who tried to escape from burning buildings were thrown directly into the fire. Others were murdered by shooting in the street. About 950 were killed in this Aktion . Those who were murdered were buried in the Jewish cemetery, and other remained buried under the remains of the burned buildings.

On April 24, 1942 the Germans ordered the Jews who did not have a permit from their work places to be transferred to the Kolomea ghetto. Some Jews committed suicide to save themselves from the torture of expulsion. And really, many of the 500 who were expelled either died, or were murdered on the way to Kolomea. September 7, 1942 was the date of the final liquidation of the Kuty community. More than 800 Jews were expelled from Kuty to the Kolomea ghetto, and from there they were sent to the Belzec extermination camp. One group of youths was sent to the Yanovska camp in Lvov. Only 18 artisans remained in Kuty, and they were killed two months later. Kuty was declared Judenrein.

The hunt for hidden Jews continued until the liberation of the city by the Soviets in April, 1944.The few survivors left the place. Jewish life in Kuty never resumed.

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