49°54' N, 25°45' E
Translation of Wisniowiec chapter from
Translation of Wisniowiec chapter from
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(A small town in Kremenets Province)
Translated by Thia Persoff
|1937||5,000||3,000||According to city hall.|
|1942||?||2.669||According to the Nazi security service
report for the day of the annihilation.
For many years, Vishnevets was the property of the Wisniowiecki princes, and it was named for them. In 1395 one of the princes, Dmitry Korybut, built a castle, and the settlement grew around it. In 1494, the settlement was attacked, robbed, and destroyed by Tatars. But in 1512 the Poles, under Hetman Koniecpolski's leadership, defeated the Tatars there. In 1640, Prince Jeremi Wisniowiecki rebuilt the castle.
The Jews settled there in about the second half of the 16th century, after Ukraine was annexed to Poland. Wishing to win over important members of the nobility who owned settlements, the king gave generously of the Magdeburg privileges to assorted settlements. As far as we know, the first meeting of the Volhynia district council took place in 1635. The rabbi of Ludmir, R' Yom-Tov Lipman Heler, presented for approbation a petition to forbid the purchase of rabbinical posts from the nobles who owned the settlements. That same year, Rabbi Lipman Heler brought his proposed amendment to the Council of Four Lands, which convened in Jaroslaw, for approbation. It was validated and made into law for all the Jews in Poland.
Although the Vishnevets Jews escaped the harsh decrees of 1648, the Tatars who returned after their defeat in battle near Berestechko in 1653 hit them hard; the Tatars attacked Vishnevets, robbing and murdering many of its Jews. Not long afterward, the Jews returned and settled there. In 1672, the town was attacked and conquered by the Turksaccording to a Polish source, It is postulated that it happened because of the Jews' betrayal. In 1781, the last Polish king, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, visited the town. Among those greeting him was the town's rabbi, who made a speech in Polish. The townspeople, including the Jews, donated a cannon to the king.
In the 19th century, the number of Jews in Vishnevets increased. They dealt in agricultural products and assorted manufactured goods, such as pottery household articles, leather, boots, and sheepskin coats. The Jewish community and the local Help for the Poor society supported a Talmud Torah for the children of the poor. A few went to the Russian school, which had two classes. From the mid-19th century, R' Yehuda Leybush Averbukh was the town's rabbi, and after him, in 1888, came R' Meir Nachum Yunger-Leyb.
At the beginning of World War I, the headquarters of the Russian army's sixth brigade was situated in Vishnevets. On one hand, this brought economic prosperity; on the other, the officers and Cossacks insulted the Jews. After the 1917 revolution, the Jews woke up to social and political activity; study and drama groups were formed, and a library was established, as well as chapters of political parties. During the civil war, the Jews in town suffered from gangs who attacked mainly those with means. The rulers, who had changed, extorted ransom and assorted taxes. When information circulated that a pogrom was expected, a self-defense group was organized and prevented bloodshed. After a pogrom in the nearby town of Tshan (Teofipol), refugees from there settled in Vishnevets.
Between the Two World Wars
In the first days of Polish rule, a large emigration movement began; in 1920, about 400 persons left Vishnevets (about 14% of the local Jews). The town's economy did not change, as manufacturingsmall as it waswas based on products from agricultural sources: sewing coats from sheepskin, making linen cloth, and making wood products. The villagers manufactured the raw material, and the Jewish merchants brought their products to the markets and exported them, mainly to Zbaraz and Tarnopol, Galicia, which had paved roads leading to it. The town had three flourmills, two gristmills, and three plants for producing oil and tanning leather. They all produced for local consumption. In addition, merchants (mostly Jewish) exported raw agricultural products. Each week, about 100 companies exported 15 train carloads of assorted grains, 2 tons of wool, and 3-4 carloads of poultry. Each month, three companies owned by Jews exported 12,000 meters of homemade (by the villagers) linen cloth to Galicia. In the area of crafts, the Jews were concentrated in the professions of tailoring, carpentry, and tinsmithing. Two financial institutions supported this economic activity: a national bank and a benevolent, interest-free fund. The latter dwindled greatly at the end of the 1930s.
In the center of town stood the Great Synagogue, and around it were seven houses of worship. At that time, R' Meir Nachum Yunger-Leyb and R' Yosef Erlikh were the rabbis. Both died in the Holocaust. After World War I ended, the two Chezkel sisters started a private school, where Russian, Yiddish, and some Hebrew were taught. At the same time, a modern cheder, where lessons were conducted in Hebrew, was founded. In the mid-1920s, both were closed, and after a while a Tarbut Hebrew school, in which most of the town's children very soon studied, opened. This school functioned until September 1939. For some time, there was an active Hebrew kindergarten near the school and a Talmud Torah for children of the poor. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, there was also a yeshiva there. In the 1929/1930 school year, 52 students were enrolled there.
From the early 1920s, youth group chapters were active there. These turned out to be the center of the town's cultural life. They set up a library, a drama club, a string orchestra, and a sports club. Among those movements were Youth Guard, Zionist Youth, Young Pioneer, Betar, and Freedom. Adults belonged to Pioneer and General Zionist Pioneers. In 1933, a Pioneer training kibbutza branch of Kibbutz Klosovawas established in town. The results of the voting for the various Zionist Congresses were as follows:
For the 16th Zionist Congress (1929), 150 persons voted. The General Zionists received 35 votes; Mizrachi2; Revisionists6; Union Youth Guard38; Labor Zionists69.
For the 18th Congress (1933), 638 persons voted. The General Zionists received 106 votes; Mizrachi75 votes; Brit/Revisionists86 votes; Land of Israel Workers' Party370; Union1.
For the 18th Congress (1937), 461 persons voted. The General Zionists received 57 votes; Mizrachi50; Land of Israel Workers' Party354.
For the 21st Congress (1939), 352 persons voted. The General Zionists received 55 votes; Mizrachi64; State Party2; Land of Israel Workers' Party227; disqualified4.
During World War II
In September 1939, after the Poles retreated, the Ukrainians gathered to organize a pogrom against the Jews. Quickly, young Jews organized for self-defense, arming themselves with weapons left behind by the Polish soldiers, and prevented the Ukrainian riot. When the Soviets entered the town, a few Jewish communists took control of the town. They informed on Zionist activists and the well-to-do, who were then arrested by the Soviet authorities and exiled to Siberia.
The day before the declaration of war between Soviet Russia and GermanyJune 22, 1941a hasty conscription was conducted. Many young Jews were marched to Yampol, and from there they were sent to the front in the Tarnopol district. From there they retreated to the Dnieper and later to labor brigades.
When the Germans entered Vishnevets on July 2, 1941, the local Ukrainians carried out a pogrom, robbing and acting brutally and sadistically. On July 12, 36 Jewish hostages were taken and arrested; all but one were murdered in cold blood by the Ukrainians. On July 30, 400 men, including the town's rabbi and other pillars of the community (Dr. Yosef Tsinberg) were ordered to assemble. They were badly tortured by the Ukrainians, taken out of town, and murdered. On September 4, 1941, all 146 of the Jewish citizens of Old Vishnevets were murdered. From that time until the ghetto was established on March 16, 1942, 60-70 persons died of starvation, especially those from families that had been left without a provider. Jews from nearby Vyshgorodok and area villages were brought into the ghetto. The number of Jews incarcerated in the ghetto came to about 3,500. The ghetto was closed; Ukrainian guards were posted at the gate to make sure no food would be brought in. The people inside had to exist on a daily portion of bread, which at first was 140 grams and was later reduced to 100 and then 60 grams. Dozens of people died of starvation. An attempt to form a Judenrat failed; the candidates refused to take part until a person fluent in German was chosen to head it. According to survivors, this man did all he could for the Jews.
|Rabbi Nachum Yungerley,
the last rabbi of Vishnevets
(from Sefer Vishnivits)
On August 8, 1942, a demand came for the ghetto Jews to hand over 120 tons of flour. The Judenrat could not collect such an amount, and the Germans were forced to be satisfied with a few hundred kilograms. On the Sabbath, August 8, 1942, the ghetto was closed and surrounded by Ukrainian policemen. The blockade lasted a few days, while the policemen shot into the ghetto and killed dozens of occupants. On August 11, 1942, 2,669 Jewsmostly women (1,160) and children (909)were taken out of town and murdered. The killing lasted two more days, as some who had hidden and some escapees were caught. The last ones were shot on the Sabbath, August 22, 1942. The escapees who were not caught were mainly young people. They came to Galicia (which still had ghettos), to the towns of Zborow and Zbaraz. When the time came for those ghettos to be eliminated, some people were hidden by Poles or Ukrainian Shtundists.
The Red Army freed Vishnevets on March 6, 1944. The few survivors did not stay in town but moved to Kremenets.
Government Military Archive, C-46/231/4-Z, 2686/4-Z, 1774/5-S.Translator's Footnote
From the Ruins and Turmoil of War: Register of the Jewish Assistance Committee in Vilna (1919-1931), 1931.
Sefer Vishnivits: Sefer zikaron likedoshei Vishnivits shenispu besho'at hanatsim [Memorial book to the martyrs of Vishnevets who perished in the Nazi Holocaust] (Tel Aviv, 1970).
Hatsefira[The siren], Warsaw, 19 Elul (1913.
Voliner tsaytung [Volhynia newspaper], Rovno, 11.18.1932, 12.9.1932.
Archives of the Central Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland, Warsaw, Residual SS and Police Units Collection, 77, k-4.
W. Pawlino, Observations and Data on Polish Mercantile and Crafts Opportunities in Volhynia, Warsaw, 1938.
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