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Translation of Wysokie chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
This is a translation from:
Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume VII, pages 169-170, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(District: Krasnystaw; Province: Lublin)
Wysokie (W) is first mentioned in 1417, when a Catholic church was erected there and when it was probably granted urban status. Many of its inhabitants were engaged in various crafts, especially in tailoring and shoemaking. In 1627 there were 19 craftsmen in the town. During the first Swedish invasion (in the middle of the 17th century) and the second (in the beginning of the 18th) W suffered much damage, and it was only in the 19th century that it was rebuilt and began to grow. To its craft workshops were then added a few small plants for leather processing, and distilleries.
As early as the middle of the 18th century there were a few dozen Jews in W - mainly small merchants and innkeepers. The Christian townspeople, who wished to curb the growth of the Jewish population, obtained from the king in the second half of the century the privilege of De non tolerandis Judais (in fact, a ban on Jewish settlement). Despite this Jews remained in the town, and in the first half of the 19th century even increased in number. Most of them engaged in small trading and crafts.
At the end of the First World War the number of Jews decreased, and their share of the population dropped from 56% in 1895 to 27.3% in 1921. They maintained their traditional occupational pattern. The economic depression that hit Poland in the first years after the war also had negative repercussions for them. At the same time, there was increasing competition from the Poles, who infiltrated the traditional Jewish occupations of trade and crafts, and they even organised cooperatives. In the 1930s, with the growth of anti-Semitism all over Poland, the Jews were also subjected to economic boycott.
In 1926 many of the Jews of W were indicted for having houses built on land belonging to Christians that had only been leased to the Jews for a hundred years. When this period expired the Jews were ordered to return the land to its owners. The Jewish members of the Sejm (the Polish Parliament), with the support of some Christian members, intervened, and apparently the indictment was quashed.
There was never an independent Jewish community in W, which came under that of Krasnystaw, in whose cemetery Jews from W were also interred. Nor was there a synagogue in W, and on the Sabbath and Holydays the congregation gathered in a private house. There was a small Bet Midrash (see Note at end of translation), where the children were taught by a student. Young people wishing to study further had to move to a bigger town.
The district of W was occupied by the Germans in the middle of September 1939; after a fortnight they were replaced by Soviet troops, but returned when the frontier had been determined by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and the Red Army withdrew to eastern Poland.
Very little is known about the Jews of W under the German occupation. Whether they remained or were moved to nearby towns is uncertain - but their fate was that of all the Jews of the area. In the autumn of 1942 the majority of them were despatched via the Izbica ghetto to their deaths in Belzec.
In the spring of 1942 a labour camp had been set up in W, and in May - when the deportation of the Jews of the area had begun - some 200 Jews arrived in W from Turobin and nearby settlements. The inmates of the camp were lodged in two houses belonging to local peasants, and were set to work building, and in improving the houses of the German administrators. In the autumn of 1942 the camp was dismantled, and the Jewish workers likewise sent to extermination in Belzec.
Bet Midrash: a traditional house of study, giving religious instruction mainly to adults.
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