Translation of Sokolow chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Sokolow chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume III, pages 276-278, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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Translated by Jerrold Landau
Donated by Leonard Oppenheim
(District of Kolbuszowa, Region of Lwów)
The place is mentioned at the beginning of the 15th century as a settlement surrounded by thick forests, in which King Wladysław Jagiełło would conduct a great hunt
in order to prepare meat for the battle of Grunwald in 1410. In 1569, the place received the status of a city under private ownership of two members of the nobility. During the 18th century Sokolów was a regional center of small-scale commerce and trade services. Market days were held every two weeks, as well as annual fairs. During the latter half of the 19th century, the railway lines bypassed the city. The closest railway station to the town was in Rzeszów, 24 kilometers away. The majority of the Christian residents of the city continued to work in agriculture at that time, and even into the 20th century. Some worked in trades, primarily shoemaking. A large fire broke out in 1904, and consumed most of the houses of the city, especially in the center. Only about ten houses remained intact. The town was also damaged during the time of the Russian conquest in 1914-1915.
There was no restriction to Jewish settlement in Sokolów from the time it was established as a city. The first Jews apparently settled in Sokolów toward the end of the 17th century. These were few families, who worked in leasing and innkeeping for the owners of the city. The Jewish settlement grew during the 18th century. At first, it was dependent on one of the larger communities in the district of Przemyśl, in the state of Reisin. However, at the end of that century, it obtained the status of an independent community with all its institutions. At the beginning of the Austrian rule in the district (starting in 1772), the community of Sokolów numbered several hundred individuals. Most of the members of the community were centered around the market square in the center. They had their own houses. In 1781, the Jews of Sokolów were in arrears in their house tax payment by a total of 27 guilder. The fact that the community was required to provide a significant quota of 8 families for settlement of the villages in 1789 testifies to the size of the community of Sokolów during that time. (That number of families were in general imposed as obligations upon Jewish communities numbering several hundred individuals.) The Jewish community of Sokolów grew during the 19th century, and reached its pinnacle during the 1890s. In 1803, the Austrian authorities paid the rabbi of the city a salary of 100 guilder per year, which was the standard salary in large Jewish communities of Galicia. Emigration overseas reduced the Jewish population of Sokolów somewhat. The great crisis in the annals of the Jewish settlement to that time, however, took place at the time of the fire of 1904.
Most of the Jewish houses, approximately 600, went up in flames. The Beis Midrash, synagogue, kloizes, and bathhouse were all burned. There was even loss of life (one adult and several children), and the property damage was very great. The Jewish communities of the area hastened to aid. Rzeszów sent tens of wagons laden with food and clothing. Money was collected in Kraków and sent to Sokolów some as a grant and the rest as an interest free loan that would be paid back when the community would be able. The community of Brzesko (Brigel) donated 2,000 crowns for the burnt ones of Sokolów. Even Count Zamojski from the Rzeszów area helped the Jews of Sokolów with shipments of food and building materials to erect temporary bunks.
In addition to the natural disaster that plagued the Jews of Sokolów, the security situation of the Jewish merchants also became shaky especially those of the peddlers of the villages of the area. In 1905, a regular annual fair took place in the village of Górno related to the Christian holiday of atonement of sins. Even the Jewish merchants of Sokolów set up their stalls at this fair, as was the custom from long ago. After a small dispute between a Jewish peddler and a farmer who refused to pay for the merchandise, all the farmers gathered there burst forth, overturned the stalls of the Jews, and pillaged their merchandise. The Jews were also beaten soundly.
In this situation, without places to live, and with sources of livelihood becoming restricted, many of the Jews of Sokolów were forced to leave their town and wander to other places. In 1910, the income of the communal council also shrank to only 8,500 crowns.
As has been said, the community of Sokolów was already independent at the end of the 18th century, and its rabbinical seat was one of the most honorable in the district. We know the names of several of the rabbis of Sokolów, who served in the holy post until the First World War. The first of them was Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch the son of Rabbi Pinchas Ari, the author of Imrat Tzerufa, who served in Sokolów until his death in 1816. Rabbi Shmuel the son of Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya, a student of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk (Lezajsk) and the Seer of Lublin, followed him on the rabbinical seat of Sokolów. Rabbi Shmuel moved from Sokolów to Kraków, where he died in 1820. Apparently, Rabbi Yisrael the son of Rabbi Mordechai-Aryeh Charif served after him. It is possible that Rabbi Yisrael went to serve in Sanok, where he died in 1840. During those years, Rabbi Elimelech the son of Rabbi Asher Yeshayahu Horowitz (from the dynasty of Rabbi Naftali-Tzvi Horowitz of Ropszyce) settled in Sokolów. He served as the head of the rabbinical court and also led a community of Hassidim. Rabbi Elimelech died in 1862. Even before 1860, Rabbi Yitzchak Habenstreit served as the rabbi of Sokolów, and apparently his son Yehoshua received the rabbinate from him. By 1880, Rabbi Yehuda the son of Rabbi Yitzchak Ungar already served as the rabbi of Sokolów. He moved to Rzeszów in 1905where he conducted an Admor court (He was known as the Admor of Rzeszów). In 1900, Rabbi David the son of Rabbi Moshe Halberstam was appointed as rabbi of Sokolów. Rabbi David lived in Vienna during the First World War, and was still living there in 1922.
The Ahavat Zion organization was set up in Sokolów in 1893-1894. It had about 60 members, mostly lads from the Beis Midrash who became involved with Haskalah.
In 1917, momentum began in the Zionist organization in Sokolów and its activities. The founding meeting of Mizrachi took place in that year. Many of the important householders of the community participated. The attendees donated money to purchase a dunam of land in the Land of Israel. In the elections to the communal council that took place at the end of 1917, members of Mizrachi succeeded in electing three delegates, as opposed to one from the Orthodox. That year, the Bnei Zion organization was founded with a registration of 150 male and female members. A library was set up alongside the organization, and courses in Hebrew and general studies were opened. The organization collected money for the Land of Israel, and also donations for the local poor. In May alone, 800 marks were collected for assistance - to the poor.
The wave of pogroms against the Jews that afflicted the area in November 1918, apparently skipped over the Jews of Sokolów. However, an attempt to perpetrate a pogrom against them took place in May 1919. The farmers of the area, armed with sticks,
axes, sacks and backpacks, streamed by the hundreds in the direction of Sokolów to perpetrate a pogrom against the Jews, but the police and gendarmes pushed the masses away. The next day, the hooligans succeeded in penetrating the city and even started acts of pillage. This time, the gendarmes opened fire and shot several of the hooligans. They retreated. The local priest Szado and Dr. Bukowski worked to calm the situation.
The Jews of Sokolów were supported by the JOINT at the end of the First World War. A public kitchen was set up, and food and clothing were distributed to the needy. A charitable fund was set up in 1930. The initial sum of money came for the most part from donations from Sokolów natives in New York.
Chapters of the General Zionists, Mizrachi, Young Mizrachi, and the Revisionists operated in the city during the inter-war period. The youth movements of Hanoar Haivri, Akiba, Beitar, and Young Mizrachi were set up. A Hachsharah Kibbutz was set up, which had 23 members in 1934. The following votes were cast in the elections to the Zionist Congress in 1927: 40 for the General Zionists, 20 for Mizrachi, and 20 for the Revisionist Zionists.
The cultural activity was centered around the Hatechiya organization, which set up a library and an amateur drama group. Evening Hebrew courses were given by Hatechiya. A Jewish sports hall, called the Jewish Organization for Exercise and Athletics operated in 1921-1922.
We only have sparse information about what happened to the Jews of Sokolów during the Second World War. In September of October 1939, the occupation government intended to deport the Jews of the town to the eastern side of the San River. The order was indeed issued, but the deportation did not take place due to a change of the border line, moving it farther away from the town.
A ghetto was set up in Sokolów in 1941. That year, residents from other villages of the area were also gathered there. These villages included Wola Raniżowska, Zielonka, and Mazury. Some Jews of the village of Raniżów were brought in to the ghetto in July 1941. In the autumn of that year, the authorities ordered the Judenrat of the city of Kolbuszowa to deport more than 20 families to Sokolów and nearby Glogów due to the great crowding in the Kolbuszowa Ghetto.
A Judenrat existed in Sokolów, but we do not know any details of its composition and its mode of operation. There was also a Jewish police force and command. With the financial assistance of the JOINT and the J.S.S. [Judische Sociale Selbsthilfe or Jewish Self-Help], the Judenrat set up a public kitchen in Sokolów for the poor, which distributed food portions to them from time to time. In February 1942, approximately 200 needy people received assistance (hot meals from the kitchen, or small financial stipends). The Judenrat, with the participation of the J.S.S., attempted to provide employment or trade study opportunities for young Jews. This was also so that they could obtain work permits to protect from deportation. Therefore, they planned to open courses in carpentry and linen sewing in February 1942, but it seems that these efforts did not come to fruition. In the spring of that year, efforts were made to employ Jewish youth in agriculture with the local farmers.
During the early days of May 1942, Gestapo men from Rzeszów arrived in Sokolów, and took out several Jews to be killed. This aktion was similar to the aktions that took place at that time in other places in the Kraków district. Apparently, the victims were those who were designated by the Nazis as Communists.
Units of the German police arrived in Sokolów in June 1942 to perpetrate the liquidation aktion. A selektion took place, and finally 35 Jews were shot, mainly the elderly and handicapped. The Jews were deported to Rzeszów, and housed in bunks that stood outside the ghetto, along with deportees from other towns of the area. Several days later, the Germans ordered a small group of Sokolów residents to return to their town to dismantle the houses of the ghetto and to gather the abandoned property of the Jews. Most of the Sokolów deportees in Rzeszów fell victim to the mass deportations from that city to the Belzec death camp, that took place in July 1942.
Yad Vashem Archives: JM/1572; M9/8(1); 021/6, 021/15, 021/17, 021/19.
AMTI: HM/7101, HM/7102.
ATz'M: S-6-2181, Z-4/222-23, Z-4/2997-II.
AJDC Archives Country Poland, Medical Report 377.
Pinkas Kolbuszowa: New York, 1971, pp. 466, 508.
Hamitzpeh: July 29, 1904, August 12, 1904, November 25, 1904, July 21, 1905.
Hatzefirah: May 10, 1917, May 17, 1917, May 31, 1917, December 13, 1917, February 20, 1917, February 28, 1928.
Nowy Dziennik: May 19, 1919, March 3, 1927, May 10, 1930, January 10, 1931, November 8, 1932, March 3, 1933, January 5, 1935, May 30, 1938.
Diwrej Akiba :November 17, 1933.
Tygodnik Żydowski: November 18, 1932.
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