“Rożyszcze” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume V
(Rozhyshche, Ukraine)

5055' / 2516'

Translation of “Rożyszcze” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem Published in Jerusalem


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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume V, pages 200-201,
edited by Shmuel Spector, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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[Page 200]

Rożyszcze
(Rozhyshche, Ukraine)

(A town in the district of Luck)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

Population

Year General
Population
Jews
1784 ? 13
1847 860 576
1897 3,860 3,169
1921 3,263 2,686
1937
(December)
6,470 4,070

 

During the 16th century, the town of Rożyszcze was still the property of the Pravoslavic Church, and the site of the Metropolitan (Vladyka). We can surmise that for this reason, Jews were not permitted to settle in it at that time. Only toward the end of the 18th century, after it transferred to the ownership of the secular nobility, did Jews settled there. The settling increased during the first half of the 19th century, and especially toward the end of that century, when the Kiev-Warsaw railway line was laid, and Rożyszcze was designated as a railway station. Around that period, the Jews played an honorable role in the economy of Rożyszcze: of the 27 weaving businesses, two brick kilns, the beer brewery, and the 17 shops, the majority were in Jewish hands.

The railway line contributed to the additional expansion of the processing and export of agricultural products. The merchants of Rożyszcze purchased large quantities of grain, butter, eggs, cattle, and other products, and exported them by train to other areas. Aside from this, they set up additional enterprises for milling grain, weaving wool and flax, brewing beer, etc.

A modern cheder was opened in Rożyszcze for the 1902-1903 school year. Zionist activity began in Rożyszcze from 1904, centered around the Mevaseret Zion organization. A chapter of Bund was also opened there. After the 1905 revolution, a self defense organization was set up. In 1910, a Talmud Torah for the poor was set up, funded by the community, as well as a private school for Jewish youth.

In the summer of 1915, Rożyszcze became a battlefield. The Austrian Army conquered the town, and the front halted nearby. When the front retreatd, the town was almost completely burnt down, and most of the Jews left.

 

Between the Two World Wars

With the founding of the Polish government, most of the Jews of Rożyszcze returned to their town. They rebuilt their houses anew and reestablished themselves economically with the help of the JOINT. Now as before, the Jews were the decisive majority of the town, more than 80%. During the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, 10 Jewish representatives sat on the town council of the 12 people. They also served in the leadership of the town as the vice mayor and one member of the leadership council (Ławnik). From the middle of the 1930s, there was no longer a Jewish vice mayor in Rożyszcze, and the Jewish representation diminished on account of the changes of the civic bounds due to the addition of villages with gentile majorities. According to the town council, the percentage of Jews ha dropped to 63% by December 1937.

The number of representatives on the city council had an influence on the budgetary allocation for the educational and assistance institutions. In reality, it was the Jews who paid most of the civic taxes. In 1930, the deprivation of the Jews did not yet stand out, for at that time, approximately 13% of the town budget was allocated to Jewish institutions – a similar allocation as was given to Polish and other institutions. During those days, one of the squares of the town was called by the name of Y. L. Peretz, and there were streets named for Ansky, Bialik, Trumpeldor, and Sholom Aleichem. At that time, the town publicized its announcements to the community also in Yiddish; however starting from the middle of the 30s, along with the shrinking of the Jewish representation and the increase of the intermixing of the regional and district authorities with the activities of the town council, the budget to the Jewish institutions was cut deeply, the town council stopped publishing announcements and street names, and the [identity] of the square changed.

From the beginning of Polish rule, Rożyszcze returned to its position as a regional center for the working and export of agricultural products and lumber. In 1937, there were two mechanized flax weaving enterprises, several very small textile factories,

[Page 201]

a large flourmill, two small flourmills, and a furniture factory. Most of these enterprises were owned by Jews.

Wholesale commerce flourished. Hundreds of wagons of agricultural produce were exported to various areas of Poland, as well as abroad. The export of grain, fowl, eggs, fruit, flax, and hides was in the hands of the Jews. Jews also played an honorable role in the export of cattle and hops.

There were already 320 retail shops in Rożyszcze, of which 270 belonged to Jews. Branches such as textiles, mechanized clothing production, shoes, leather, lumber, medicine, and writing implements were completely in Jewish hands. Approximately 94% of the tradesmen in the city were Jews.

The Jews were assisted in their economic activities by several financial institutions. Two banks operated in Rożyszcze during the 1920s: “Bank Hamniyot” (Bank of Shares) that was affiliated with the center of cooperative organizations in Poland, and the Merchants' Bank, founded by the Zionist circles. These two banks merged in 1926. In 1936, the tradesmen's union formed a charitable fund. Despite the great hardships stemming from the difficult economic situation, lack of funds, and other restrictions ,these institutions functioned until September 1939.

A leadership committee of eight members and the rabbi of the community stood at the head of the Jewish community of Rożyszcze. During the 1920s, Rabbi Avraham Ber Gutman served in the rabbinate in Rożyszcze, and Rabbi Moshe Spector did so during the 1930s. There was a large synagogue there, as well as a Beis Midrash and several Hassidic prayer halls, especially of Olyka and Turisk.

In 1919, a school was opened where they taught in Yiddish and Hebrew. In 1925, this school started teaching in Yiddish only, and joined the Tsysho network. The school struggled with budgetary difficulties and suffered from a dearth of students. It was closed during the middle of the 1930s. In 1925, a Tarbut Hebrew school was found, with a Hebrew kindergarten alongside. These two institutions developed and grew, and continued to exist until September 1939. These schools served as locales for cultural activities. Libraries and drama clubs functioned alongside them, and performances, celebrations, etc. were conducted.

There were chapters of almost all the Zionist movements in Rożyszcze. Youth movements also existed with their chapters. The activities of Hashomer Hatzair and Beitar stood out. During the 1930s, there were 2 Hachsharah kibbutzim in the city, one of Hechalutz and the second of Beitar. Sports clubs operated alongside the youth movements.

The results of elections for the Zionist Congresses were as follows:

For the 16th Zionist Congress (1929), there were 68 voters. The General Zionists received 22 votes; Mizrachi – 4; Revisionists – 29; Hashomer Hatzair Confederation – 7; Poalei Zion – 6.

For the 20th Congress (1937), there were 153 voters. The General Zionists received 19 votes; Mizrachi – 35; Party of the State – 5; List of the Working Land of Israel – 94.

On June 24, 1941, the western part of Rożyszcze on the banks of the Styr River was conquered by the Germany Army, whereas the Red Army buttressed itself on the east bank. The battle between the two armies continued until June 28, 1941. Many houses were burnt, and civilians, including Jews, were killed as a result of the exchange of fire. Several tens of drafted youth succeeded in leaving the town. They later transferred to work brigades, and were saved.

After the town was conquered by the Germans, the local Ukrainians perpetrated a pogrom, which resulted in the torture of Jews and pillage of Jewish property. After several days, the Germans arrested 10 Jews as hostages, who were taken out to be killed. Apparently this was retribution for the killing of a German soldier. Two aktions were perpetrated in Rożyszcze during the month of July 1941. During the first one, 80 local notables were killed, and in the second one – 350 men. The Jews were ordered to wear the special Jewish symbol – a white armband with a Star of David. This symbol was switched to a yellow patch in September 1941. According to German directives, a Judenrat was set up in Rożyszcze, the members of which were former communal activists; as well as a Jewish police force with 20 members. The Jews were ordered to go out to forced labor in agricultural work in the villages, and in the peat mines. Twice they were ordered to pay heavy ransom to the Germans. Furthermore, their valuables were confiscated.

In February 1942, the Jews of Rożyszcze were locked into a ghetto, into which Jews from the villages of the neighborhood were also brought. The ghetto consisted of 60 small, one-story houses, and the crowding was great: 25-30 individuals crowded into a single room. The daily ration of bread was 100 grams. A communal kitchen operated in order to alleviate the hunger a bit. A small hospital operated in order to overcome illnesses and epidemics. 72 youths who were sent to Vinitza to build the fuehrer's headquarters. All perished, with the exception of one who succeeded in escaping to Transnistria, which was under Romanian rule.

Toward morning on 10 Elul 5702 (August 23, 1942), the ghetto was surrounded, and its Jews were transported to pits that were dug along the way to the village of Kopaczówka, where they were all murdered. Approximately 80 people succeeded in escaping, and were saved thanks to the help of Czech and Polish villagers[1]. Dr. Fried, a physician and refugee from Carpatho-Rus, was active in these assistance activities. He disguised himself as a Czech. Dr. Fried was murdered by Ukrainian nationalists on the eve of liberation for his assistance of Soviet partisans. Several of the escapees joined Soviet partisan brigades, especially the Brinski brigade. Rożyszcze was liberated on February 2, 1944.

Sources

Yad Vashem Archives: 03/703, 016,2072, 03, 2015, 03, 3878, 03, 3303, 016, 2681, m-1E-1226
Atz'm: Z-3/866, Z-4-2023-I, Z-4-2686, S-5/1801.
My Town Rożyszcze, Tel Aviv, 1976. Volhynia anthology I, book II (5705).
Hatzefira, Warsaw, 14 Kislev 5672 (1911).
Our Life, Kowel, Jan 29, 1937, Feb 12, 1937, Feb 26, 1927, Apr 23, 1937, June 4, 1937, June 11, 1937, June 25, 1937, July 9, 1937, July 19, 1937[2].
Volhynia, Luck, Jan 14, 1927, Jan 21, 1927, April 22, 1927, April 29, 1937.
Volhynier Gedank, Rowne, Feb 10, 1928.
Volhynier Woch, Rowne:, Aug 13, 1926
Volhynier Lebn, Rowne, June 26, 1925
Volhnier Press, Luck, Jan 24, 1936, Apr 24, 1936
Volhynier Zeitung, Rowne, Apr 1, 1932
Volhynier Shtime, Rowne, Jan 13, 1928, Feb 24, 1928, May 24, 1928, Aug 31, 1928, May 31, 1929, June 21, 1929, Jan 10, 1930, Jan 24, 1930, Aug 8, 1930, Oct 31, 1930
W. Pawlino, Uwagi I dane o mozliwośchiach ekspansji gospodarczej kupiectwa I rzemiosta polskiego na Wolyniu, Warsaw, 1938.
Translator's Footnotes
  1. Re Czechs in Volhynia, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czechs_in_Ukraine Return
  2. I suspect the 1927 year in this list is a typo, and should be 1937 Return


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