The oldest sources documenting the history of Jews in Hrubieszów date back to 1440 and discuss the merchant Eliasz (Eljahu), who was travelling to Kyiv through ‎‎‎‎‎Łuck. Sometime during the mid-15th century, Jews in Hrubieszów received a number of privileges for wine trade and management of the town tax chamber.

In 1447, Jecho Sokołowicz from Hrubieszów leased a salt mine in Jasnica and tariffs in Sambor. In 1456, Kazimierz Jagiellończyk granted Jews from Hrubieszów, Michael and his son Jechuda, the right to purchase and sell wine and all sorts of wares throughout Poland and to provision the royal court. The Jews of Hrubieszów were also excluded from the jurisdiction of courts and from paying tolls and tariffs in the country[1.1]. In the last quarter of the 15th century, brothers Joske and Szach Szachniewicz, possibly the most powerful leaseholders in Poland at the time, leased out tariffs in Hrubieszów. In 1500 the lease was taken over by Joske's son, Jakub. In 1551, Hrubieszów had 13 Jewish inhabitants occupying 4 houses; in 1560, there were 40 Jews living in 5 houses.

In 1578, King Stefan Batory granted the Jews of Hrubieszów a number of privileges thanks to the support of the district head Stanisław Tęczyński; the privileges rendered them equal in rights and responsibilities to the Christian townsfolk. The king also gave the permission for the construction of a synagogue and houses for the cantor and the rabbi. The Jews of Hrubieszów also received the privilege to buy and reside in houses in the centre of town and gained the right to set up shops and stalls at the marketplace, conduct trade in goods of all sorts, including meat, alcohol, and food, and brew beer. The new legal and formal regulations led to a rapid influx of Jews to town. Probably as early as 1578 a site for a Jewish cemetery was designated and a wooden synagogue was built[1.2].

In 1648, Hrubieszów was devastated by Khmelnytsky's troops marching on Zamość. During the invasion, the synagogue and school were destroyed, along with Jewish homes and stores in the centre of the town; a large part of Hrubieszów's Jewish population was killed. The survivors spread out through the surrounding villages; the town was plagued by famine and epidemics. The community was reborn mainly thanks to a group of townsfolk who managed to survive the Cossack invasion on Lublin. In 1664, 84 out of all 103 plots in Hrubieszów's town centre stood empty and only 19 had any buildings located on them. The whole town had only 22 Jewish houses in it.

In the beginning of the 18th century, the town began to recover. It was then that the first brick inns were built in town, and in 1715 a new brick synagogue was built. In 1765, Hrubieszów had a population of 2,500 and 381 houses, 135 of which belonged to Jews. The Jewish quarter was located west of the New Market (Polish: Nowy Rynek), near the synagogue. Most buildings in the quarter were two-storey brick houses which had stores and workshops on the lower floor, and the owners' living quarters on the upper floor. In 1736, a fire ravaged a large part of the town, destroying 27 Jewish homes and the synagogue.

From the 18th century until the beginning of the 20th century Jews made up a considerable majority of Hrubieszów's population and controlled trade, industry, and craft. Jews thus had decisive influence on the economic development of the area. In the early 19th century, a strong Hasidic community developed in Hrubieszów, which was home to various rabbis, including Josef ben Mordechaj Kacenelenbogen and Rabbi Efraim Zalman Rokeach.

By the end of the 19th century, Jews, made up nearly 60% of the population and owned several schools, hotels, two hospitals, most of the houses and stalls by the market square, as well as breweries, mills, and an oil mill. The largest company in Hrubieszów was a tobacco factory established in 1896; it belonged to Herszko Kania. The Podgórze district housed farming machines and tools factories belonging to Albert Cingerot, and a coppersmith's workshop[1.3]. Jews were also involved in crafts, and large numbers of Jews worked in the production of clothes, shoes, and food. Jews were coopers, furriers, rope makers, paint makers, metalworkers, carpenters, sheet metalworkers, woodworkers, and glass makers.

In the 1860s, the town had a clockmaker, two goldsmiths – Herszk Wajsman and Szloma Cung – as well as a printer – Gecel Gutfeld. There were also two bookbinding workshops, belonging to the Sojfer family and Cham Fajer. According to data from 1904, there were 140 cobblers, 30 masons, 20 carpenters, 15 blacksmiths, 15 bakers, 10 coopers, 10 rope makers, and 8 glassmakers, as well as a large group of tailors (probably several hundred people)[1.4].

The main source of income for the Jewish population of Hrubieszów was traditionally trade, mostly in textiles and clothes, coats, housewares, art, luxury articles, and books. Jews ran over 90% of Hrubieszów's animal trade, as well as 88% of the food and grain trade. The primary collection of stores and slaughterhouses was at the town marketplace and its immediate surroundings.

Some of the wealthiest merchants in the town were Jakow Perec, Abram Brandt, Berko Szapiro, as well as Szloma Regiel, Hemia Berliner, and Josif Gertner. In addition to industry, trade, and craft, the Jewish community got a significant portion of its profits from leasing stores, squares, bathhouses, slaughterhouses, and mills. A part of the population also drew income from property and transport[1.5]. During that time, numerous elementary schools for Jewish children were also established. In 1844, a Jewish hospital was constructed, and in 1874 a new, impressive brick synagogue was built in the place of the old one.

The Interwar Period

During the interwar period, like in many other towns of the regions, the Jewish population economically dominated Hrubieszów and owned most of the buildings and stores. Despite past conflicts, relations between the Christian and Jewish communities in Hrubieszów were relatively good. There was a relatively large number of Jews in the town council and in the courts; they were also involved in the cultural and social life of the town and sat in the boards and councils of the town's cooperative banking associations[1.6]. Among the most active members of the Jewish community were people such as Fiszel Silberstein (president of the Jewish hospital and the shelter for Jewish orphans), Szmul Brand (chief provisioner to the Hrubieszów garrison), Zysia Rojtman (owner of a store and factory), Beria and Leja Rozenblum (owners of a shoe store), and Josef Wertheim (Hrubieszów's rabbi in 1936).

The Jewish population at the time lived mainly in wooden houses, located in the area of the old marketplace and its adjacent side streets, many of which still carry their old names – e.g.: Jatkowa, Krucza, Szewska, Łazienna.

The community managed a brick synagogue, two prayer houses (owned by Lejba and Frajda Sztern), a cemetery, a funeral parlour, a hospital, a shelter for the elderly, an orphanage, an interest-free loan fund, the Jewish Community co-operative store, a bathhouse, aid societies (Linas ha-Tsedek and Beit Lechem) and religious schools (Talmud Torah for boys and Beit Yaakov school for girls). The community also helped finance the activity of three Zionist organisations: Keren ha-Yesod, Keren Kayemet, and Keren ha-Yishuv[1.7]. In addition, the town had six private prayer houses and numerous cheders. Hrubieszów also had a thriving cultural life, thanks to the I. L. Peretz library, Jewish schools (among them the Hebrew school Tarbut), and numerous political parties and organisations — the most dominant of which were Zionist parties such as Poale Zion-Left. Aguda Yisrael and the Bund were also quite popular. In 1928, the newspaper Unzer Wort was published in town.

In the 1930s, deteriorating economic conditions caused another wave of emigration to the United States, Argentina, Mexico, and Palestine[1.8].

During the Occupation

After the outbreak of World War II, some Jews in Hrubieszów (ca. 1,400 people) fled across the Bug river, into the territories of the Soviet Union. Those that remained in the town were placed in a ghetto established on 15 June 1940 in the area bounded by Rynek, Ludna, and Jatkowa streets.

In May 1942, a large group of Jews from surrounding villages was deported to the Hrubieszów Ghetto; in early July, another group from the ghetto in Belz (which was being liquidated at the time) came to the Hrubieszów ghetto. In total, about 10,000 people passed through the Hrubieszów Ghetto, including Jews from Częstochowa, Mielec, and Kraków.

The Hrubieszów ghetto had a Jewish resistance organisation, and among its activists were Salomon Brand and Arie Perec (Leon Porecki). In early June 1942, about 3,400 Jews were sent from Hrubieszów to the death camp in Sobibór, and another 2,000 were sent to the labour camp in Budzyń. Further transports from Hrubieszów, carrying about 2,000 people, left for Sobibór in late October 1942. Ca. 500 Jews were executed in the Hrubieszów cemetery, and several hundred more were used as forced labourers in a concentration camp established in Hrubieszów.

In September 1943, the camp was dissolved and the ghetto was liquidated. Ca. 150 Jews were executed by Germans at the local firing range, while everyone else was sent to labour camps in Sokal and Dołhobyczów[1.9]. Germans destroyed both synagogues in Hrubieszów, as well as the cemetery and prayer houses.

After the liberation by Soviet forces in July 1944, Jewish survivors returned to Hrubieszów. There were about 200 of them in the town in May 1945, but most of them soon left. By August 1946, there were only 42 Jews living in Hrubieszów; many of them moved away in the following years.

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Footnotes

  • [1.1] Zapała M.,Śladami osadnictwa żydowskiego na Ziemi Hrubieszowskiej,” Biuletyn Towarzystwa Regionalnego Hrubieszowskiego 1996, no. 4 (113), pp. 9–11.
  • [1.2] Pinkas Hrubieszow, ed. B. Kaplinski, Tel Aviv 1962.
  • [1.3] Hrubieszów, [in] Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol. 3, Warsaw 1882, p. 179.
  • [1.4] Nowak J., Działalność gospodarcza społeczności żydowskiej Hrubieszowa w latach 1864–1914, [in] Miejskie społeczności lokalne w Lubelskiem 1795–1918, ed. A. Koprukowniak, Lublin 2000, p. 183.
  • [1.5] Nowak J., Działalność gospodarcza społeczności żydowskiej Hrubieszowa w latach 1864–1914, [in] Miejskie społeczności lokalne w Lubelskiem 1795–1918, ed. A. Koprukowniak, Lublin 2000, p. 184.
  • [1.6] Nowak J., Działalność gospodarcza społeczności żydowskiej Hrubieszowa w latach 1864–1914, [in] Miejskie społeczności lokalne w Lubelskiem 1795–1918, ed. A. Koprukowniak, Lublin 2000, pp. 185–197.
  • [1.7] National Archive in Lublin, Lublin Provincial Office 1918–1939, Social-Political Department, ref. no. 778, Budżet Gminy Wyznaniowej Żydowskiej w Hrubieszowie 14 I 1936, p. 8; National Archive in Lublin, Lublin Provincial Office 1918–1939, Social-Political Department, ref. no. 714, Charakterystyka budżetu Gminy Wyznaniowej Żydowskiej w Hrubieszowie za rok 1922, p. 2.
  • [1.8] Hrubieszow, [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 532.
  • [1.9] Pinkas Hrubieszow, ed. B. Kaplinski, Tel Aviv 1962.