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Translation of Uscilug chapter from
Translation of Uscilug chapter from
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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume V, pages 32-34,
edited by Shmuel Spector, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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A town in the Ludmir district
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Donated by Christophe Philipon
(455 including the villages)
(442 including the villages)
(567 including the villages)
Ustilug is situated at the confluence of the Luga River and the Bug River. It is first mentioned in the middle of the 12th century, when the Kievan prince Iziaslav went out to conquer it. In 1431, a battle took place there between two Lithuanian brothers, princes Jagiello and Svidrigailov. Ustilug was owned by princes of the Lubomirski family starting from the 18th century. They changed the name of the settlement to Rozyampol in 1765, but the new name did not stick, and the town reverted to its former name of Ustilug.
We do not know when Jews first settled in Ustilug, but we can estimate that several Jews already were living there in the 17th century. The community of Ustilug was dependent on the community of Ludmir. In the income of the Council of Volhynia listed in Horochow in 1700, a small head tax of 100 zloty as imposed on Ustilug. The community of Ludmir even agreed to pay that amount. Its administrators claimed that the Jews of Ustilug were collecting money to build a synagogue. All of this points to the fact that we are discussing a poor community. In the censuses that took place in the latter half of the 18th century, the population of Ustilug is registered as between 300 and 350 individuals. However, we should note that the censuses were conducted in order to impose the head tax, so children below the age of one year and clergy were not included. In addition, there were also of curse evaders who succeeded in evading the census that was conducted directly by the Polish government.
At the beginning of the 19th century, an anchor harbor for boats began to develop on the Bug River. In time, Ustilug became an important depot for the export of grain and lumber, which was sent to Danzig, among other places, and from there, abroad. In 1901, for example, 145 boats left this harbor with merchandise worth 165,000 rubles. The number of Jews in Ustilug tripled by the middle of the 18th century, and the number once again doubled by the end of the century. The Jews comprised approximately 90% of the population of Ustilug b the middle of the 19th century. They owned a clear majority of the 100 shops. All 13 of the tradesmen in Ustilug were Jews.
Rabbi Yosef, the eldest son of Rabbi Mordechai of Neschiz, the student of Rabbi Yechiel Michel of Zoloczew and the founder of the Neschiz dynasty of Admorim served as the rabbi of Ustilug from the beginning of the 19th century until 1830. Rabbi Yosef's son Rabbi Levi Yitzchak founded the Stepan dynasty. From among his descendants, Rabbi Yosef's great-grandson Rabi Eliezer remained in Ustilug, where he served as the rabbi at the end of the 18th century. Rabbi Yosef Wertheim followed him, serving from 1905 until the beginning of the First World War. There were 12 synagogues in Ustilug those of the Hassidim of Belz, Trisk, Neschiz, Radzyn, Ruzhin, and others. There was a modern cheder in Ustilug from 1905-1915, founded by several teachers.
Most of the Jews of Ustilug left following the retreat of the Russian Army in the summer of 1915. Some of them moved to Ludmir, whereas most of them continued westward across the Bug River. After several days, when an Austrian-German governor was set up in Ustilug, most of the Jews returned to their town. The military governor appointed a Jew as major. The economic situation was difficult because the authorities placed restrictions of movement upon the Jewish merchants. Food was rationed. A kitchen was opened for the needy in order to help the community, and a committee to assist needy families was formed. Despite this situation, Jewish communal activities developed in Ustilug. With the permission of the authorities, a school was opened
with the languages of instruction being German and Hebrew. The principal was a Jewish captain from the Austrian garrison. Musical evenings were organized, a drama club was founded, and later also two libraries: one in Hebrew and one in Yiddish. A large parade in honor of the Balfour Declaration took place in Ustilug in 1917. A youth organization was established, from which the chapter of Young Zion sprouted.
Military rule began to disband after the revolution of February 1917. Units of the Austrian Army began to retreat and break apart in 1918. Young Jews gathered a bit of weapons and organized a local militia to preserve order and ensure the protection of the community. After some time, a small group of Polish legionnaires entered Ustilug. Members of the Jewish militia felt that this was a band of troublemakers, and opened fire on them. Fourteen Jews fell and others were injured in the brief battle that ensued. A unit of the Polish army arrived the next day. It conducted an inquiry and satisfied itself with the imposition of a financial fine upon the community. The Bolsheviks arrived in Ustilug prior to the Festival of Shavuot, 1920. They remained for about six weeks, until the Austrian authorities returned to Ustilug.
Between the Two World Wars
Ustilug had the status of a village until the First World War. Later, the Polish government granted it the status of a city. During the elections to the city council, most of the elected delegates were Jews. However, due to government pressure, the Jews were forced to satisfy themselves with one delegated in the city leadership, who served in the position of vice mayor. Until the beginning of the 1930s, the city secretary was also a Jew.
The primary occupation of the Jews during this period was small-scale commerce and trades. Those working in those two areas formed two unions. Each union established its own bank. Both banks received assistance from the Central Jewish Cooperative as well as the JOINT. The banks gave out small loans under easy conditions, thereby enabling their recipients to overcome the difficulties during periods of a general depression.
Two Hebrew schools were established in Ustilug during the 1920s, one from the Tarbut network and the second from the religious Zionist Yavneh. Similarly, a Hebrew kindergarten was founded, as were two libraries, one Yiddish and one Hebrew, which were established during the time of Austrian rule. They grew and became centers of cultural life in the town. Night classes, lectures, drama clubs, and other such activities took place there.
After Rabbi Yosef Wertheim left Ustilug at the beginning of the First World War, a rabbi and two rabbinical judges served there. Rabbi Pinchas Tabarski, a scion of the Trisk dynasty, was chosen to serve in the rabbinate of Ustilug from 1932-1937. Rabbi Yehoshua Sheintop served after him. He perished in the Holocaust.
Most of the Zionist factions functioned in Ustilug from the middle of the 1920s: the General Zionists with both of their subgroups, Mizrachi, Torah Vaavodah, the Revisionists, Poale Zion, and others. The Hechalutz and Young Hechalutz (founded in 1923), Hashomer Hatzair (founded in 1926/1927), Beitar, Young Mizrachi and other youth movements operated alongside them. 84 people voted for the 16th Zionist Congress that took place in 1929. The votes were distributed as follows: Poale Zion 20, Revisionists 19, Mizrachi 19, General Zionists 18, Hashomer Hatzair Union 8. These votes were considered invalid for the 18th Congress that took place in 1933. For that Congress, 422 people voted, as follows: Working Land of Israel list 218, Mizrachi 90, Revisionist Covenant 98, the two factions of General Zionists 15. 331 people voted for the 20th Zionist Congress that took place in 1917, broken down as follows: Working Land of Israel List 240, Mizrachi 57, General Zionists 54.
During the Second World War
In September 1939, Ustilug was a border city between the Soviet Union and the Generalgouvernement (occupied Poland) under the control of Nazi Germany. The Soviet government imposed restrictions of movement, and a third of the Jews of Ustilug were uprooted from their city. Most of them moved to Ludmir. Ustilug was bombarded and shelled heavily on the morning of June 22, 1941, the day of the outbreak of war between the Soviet Union and Germany. More than 80% of the houses were damaged, and approximately 500 people, including many Jews, were killed. Ustilug was conquered by the German Army toward evening of that day. The Germans quickly began to snatch Jews for forced labor. The Jews were put to work at fixing the bridge over the Bug River, cleaning the ruins, and loading ammunition and military provisions at the railway station.
|The Young Mizrachi and Hechalutz Mizrachi committee in Ustilug
(from Ustilug Yizkor Book)
At the end of July 1941, the Germans appointed a Judenrat and set up a
Jewish police force. 890 people of the town intelligentsia and notables were imprisoned at the end of October 1941 and taken out to be killed. After that, groups of youths were snatched from time to time and shot in the valley next to the Jewish cemetery. A ghetto was set up in March 1942, and close to 2,000 people were imprisoned there. The crowding was very great, with up to 20 people in a single room. Hunger pervaded in the ghetto, and epidemics, especially typhoid fever, broke out due to the crowding.
The Jews of Ustilug were transferred to the Ludmir Ghetto between September 1 and 15, 1942, where they were murdered along with the local Jews in pits that had been prepared in the village of Piatydnie. A small group of workers who remained to work in the military camp was liquidated at the end of the winter of 1943.
Approximately 300 natives of Ustilug escaped during the liquidation aktion, but most of them were discovered and killed. Only a few found hiding places with Poles or joined the partisans. Five youths of the Sepasow family armed themselves with weapons and attempted to join the partisans through the intermediation of a Ukrainian acquaintance. The acquaintance brought them to the units of the U.P.A. who murdered them all. Later, at the beginning of 1944 during the Tempest (Burza) Operation, several refugees of Ustilug joined units of the Krajowa Army (AK), some joining the fighting units and others joining the economic units. Shmuel Dimant, who served as a scout and guide in the Nekama (Zemsta) [Revenge] brigade, was among the fighters.
After the liberation in July 1944, approximately 30 Ustilug natives came out of the forests and hiding places. Returnees from the Soviet Union joined them at the beginning of 1945. The number of survivors of Ustilug was approximately 200.
In Memory of the Community of Ustilug A Memorial Activity by the HaYovel School, Tel Aviv, 5728 (1968).
Yalkut Volhyn, I. Booklet I (5705 / 1945), pp. 30-31.
Y. Landau, Good Memorial Book , Piotrków, 5652 (1892).
The Community of Ustilug in its Built State and in its Destruction, Tel Aviv, 5721 (1961).
Volhyner Shtime, July 12, 1929; August 30, 1929; March 7, 1930, May 2, 1930.
Bolshaya Encyklopedia, Vol. XIX, Peterburg, 1904.
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