TROCHINBROD - (Zofiowka)
by Eleazar Barco (Bork)
Translated from the Hebrew by Karen Engel
TRUCHENBROD – LOZISHT
The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora
The small town of Trochinbrod, about 30 kilometers northeast of Lutzk and some 15-20 kilometers from the main highway and rail road between Lutzk and Rowne, was also called Zofiowka, after a Russian Princess (Sofia) that gave land for a Jewish settlement in Russia.
The settlement started out in 1835 as a farming colony. Soon it expanded and became a town.
According to what the elders of Trochinbrod say, the Kieberca - Lutzk railroad was to pass by Trochinbrod, but the citizens objected, fearing that their cattle would get hurt by trains. Since then, Trochinbrod and the neighboring town, Ignatiowka, are separated from the main cities.
In 1889, 235 families (about 1,200 people) lived in Trochinbrod. In 1897, the population numbered 1,580. During the next forty years Trochinbrod expanded even more, and in 1938 3,000 Jews, and not a single non-Jew, lived in the town. Lighting the oven on the Sabbath, for instance, was done by a non-Jew from another town. His pay was usually a piece of challah.
The mail carrier in a Jewish village was usually a Jew, but the postmaster was not, according to the Russian and Polish custom.
The inhabitants of Trochinbrod were mainly farmers, dairy farmers, and tanners. They were widely known as industrious, prosperous people. The children studies at the heder and later in yeshivot.
The area of Trochinbrod was only 640 desyatin (1,728 acres). Because it was impossible to develop and enlarge Trochinbrod many were compelled to emigrate to lands across the sea, such as North and South America, including Argentina. There, they continued to be farmers and were very prosperous.
During the World War (WW I - 1914-1918) Trochinbrod suffered much. The front was about seven kilometers from the town. Its inhabitants were forced to do jobs that they were not familiar with for the Austrian and German armies for a period of nine months. The army would distribute small portions of bread, salt, and the hindquarters of beef, which was slaughtered by Jewish butchers who worked for the army.
At the start of the Russian Revolution, the young people of Trochinbrod organized many Hebrew institutions and raised funds, but their work was disturbed when the Bolsheviks seized power. For a few months Trochinbrod was a "no-mans land" between two opposing camps--- the Poles on one side and the Bolsheviks on the other. From time to time they would come to Trochinbrod and create trouble.
Merchandise came to Trochinbrod from the towns of Kowel Lutzk and Roziszca, which already belonged to the Polish. The merchandise was sold for gold coins to the inhabitants of the town or to merchants from Rowne.
Many robbers used to hide in the woods, waiting for merchants. They would kill the merchants and take their merchandise. So many merchants were killed in this way that a special place was made for them in the town's cemetery.
When Trochinbrod was captured by the Polish, the national Zionist organization resumed its former order, and the people of Trochinbrod worked with renewed zest. They raised more money and taught Hebrew in a Hebrew school, headed by Rabbi Eliyahu David Yisroel Schuster, who also gave private Hebrew lessons. Teaching and learning Hebrew was one of the main functions of the Zionist organization.
At the of the fourth aliyah some Jews from Trochinbrod came to Israel, and later many others tried to do so as well. There were many difficulties, and only seven of them actually made it to Israel . No one knows what became of the many that could not get there.
There were seven synagogues in Trochinbrod. There were three big ones and four Hasidic study houses, named after the Hasidic leaders from Trisk, Olika, Berezna, and Styfem. But when the rebbe from Trisk visited the town, even the Hasidim from the other study houses came to hear him teach. The residents respected every "good Jew" (as they used to call the Hasidic leaders).
For about thirty yeas, until the present war the rebbe in Trochinbrod was Rabbi Boruch-Zeev Beigel. He lived a simple life and was sharp- witted, but the residents of Trochinbrod did not like or respect him. The town had another rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Bider from Berezna. The Zionists respected him and called him the Berezner Rebbe.
At the time of World War I Rabbi Bider won some recognition from the Austrian commandant of the town. With his influence many of the Jews were forced to work on tie Sabbath and holidays were released, and their work was lessened on weekdays. During the time of Austrian rule he taught the children and young people and took care of them.
During the typhus epidemic that began in 1917, many were killed. Among them was Rabbi Bider, but his memory remained in the hearts of the people of Trochinbrod.
After his death, the two sides compromised and together placed Rabbi Gershon Weissmann in the rabbinical. office. He was the son of: Rabbi Hayim Weissmann, who was once a judge in the town and the father-in- law of Rabbi Zeev Beigel.
Rabbi Gershon Weissmann was a unique personality. He prayed according to the custom of the Karlin Hasidim. In 1940, when the Russians captured the town, the Communists did not want this fanatical rabbi in their town. They accused him of underground salt trading and exiled him to Siberia.
The Jews of Trochinbrod had strong characters and were used to the situation in those days, so they did not let anyone deprive them of their privileges. In 1925 a law was made that the Jews of Trochinbrod were not allowed to let their herds of cattle graze in the pastures of Prince Radziwill. The law was written by the prince's foreman and by the watchmen of his forests, who belonged to the gang of: Belchowicz, a well known robber. The Jews refused to accept this law, and fierce quarrels and fights ensued between the watchmen and the Jews. When the watchmen saw that they could not fight the Jews, they brought the matter before Prince Radziwill. The prince, who had nothing to do with the law, ordered its abolition and allowed the Jews of Trochinbrod to let their cattle graze in his pastures as before.
From the news that reached Israel we know that the Jews of Trochinbrod were killed (like the other Jews in the towns and villages of Volhynia) by the Nazis. They were led to the village of Trosliniec, 12 kilometers from Trochinbrod, and were murdered there. But a few managed to escape to the woods and to join the partisans who fought the Nazi beasts and caused them serious damage. Trochinbrod caught fire and was burned down completely, and there is not one Jewish person living there. The partisans and the others who managed to escape numbered 33 in 1944 and were found mainly in the area near Lutzk.
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translation of the base document translated above.
The following is from a poor photocopy; all unreadable text is marked with [?]
Two small towns adjacent to each other in the district of Luck in the Ukraine. Between the two World Wars in the Wohlin province of Poland.
Within the boundaries of Poland, Truchenbrod was known as Zofjowka, and Lozisht as Ignatowka. The townlets are located about 45 kms west of Rovno and about 30 kms east of Luck. In the 1830s in the Russian Pale of settlement, during the reign of Czar Nikolai I, the two Jewish communities, known then as Truchenbrod and Lozisht, established a joint community. Zofjowka (or Truchenbrod) was founded in 1835, when Jews from Bielorussia and Wohlin settled on 7,000 dunams of land they acquired from a noble family. In 1865, at their request, they gained urban status, and the place, at that time called Truchenbrod, became a townlet. In 1889, 1,200 Jews were living there.
At first the Jewish residents earned their livelihood in farming or working as tanners, petty traders and craftsmen. In the early 1900s, a glass factory was erected, leading to the economic flowering of the town and its environs.
After the 1914 outbreak of World War I, the economic situation declined. Young men were recruited into the army, and financial assistance that some of the town's families received from the United States ceased to arrive. In the fall of 1915 the frontline neared the town. Cossacks in the Russian army and local Ukranian gangs attacked the Jews. Plundering their possessions: hunger and want prevailed. The Jewish residents organized to defend themselves, and in the meantime, the area was conquered by the Austrians. In spite of the strict regulations of Austrian occupation authorities regarding the maintenance of decent sanitary conditions, a typhus epidemic broke out, in which many Jews of Truchenbrod perished. Jewish men between the ages of 15 and 60 were taken for forced labor. An Austrian priest and several army officers opened a local school to teach children German. After nine months, the Austrians retreated, and the Russians returned. During the 1917 revolution, the Jews did not suffer casualties, thanks to their organized self-defense. At the end of World War I, Zofjowka and Ignatowka were included in the area of independent Poland.
The town boasted seven synagogues, four of them belonging to the Hasidim. The first rabbi to serve there was Rabbi Itzi [?] Weisman. When rabbi Baruch Zeev Beigel took over the position in 1910, the Berezina Hasidim chose their own rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Beider Perlmutter, who died in the epidemic of 1916. Rabbi Gershon Weisman served after him, alongside of Rabbi Beigel, until both perished in the Holocaust.
A modern Heder (religious elementary school) was established in the town in 1910, and classes were held where adults could learn to write Yiddish and Russian. In 1912, a Hebrew school was opened which taught the Russian language as well as religious subjects. This school was closed in 1914.
In 1922, a Hebrew school of the "Tarbut" network was opened in Zofjowka, with an affiliated kindergarten: it remained in operation for four years. Later, a Polish state school was started: most of its teachers and students were Jews. Religious studies were taught privately. For a short time, a Yeshiva (Talmudic college) also functioned in Zofjowka.
In 1921, 1,531 Jews and 18 non-Jews lived in Zofjowka. Its economy grew quickly in independent Poland following World War I. The tanneries began using machinery to facilitate their work, and ten dairies, comprising about 500 cows, sold their dairy products in the surrounding towns. In the wake of the economic crisis of the thirties and the Polish government's support of the Polish cooperatives, the livelihood of the Jews were again adversely affected.
Zionist activity began in town before World War I, when in 1908 the "Zionist Society" was founded. After the war, branches of all Zionist movements and most of youth movements began functioning there. The most active ones being "Hechalutz" and "Beitar". Local training camps were set up, and prior to 1939 forty-five families, mostly farmers, emigrated to Eretz Israel. In the fall of 1938 the first course in Poland for "Etzel"commanders was held in Zofjowka. In 1934, a branch of the "Zionist youth" was formed. There was also a clandestine Communist group.
Ignatowka, which is Løzisht, was founded in 1838 as a Jewish agricultural colony. In 1897 it had 567 Jews on 2,800 dunams of land. Their number increased, and at the beginning of the twentieth century reached 1,204.
During World War I (1914-1918), Ignatowka was damaged, and all of the Jews left (most of them to Barom Hirsch's colonies in Argentina). Following the war, the damaged farmsteads were renovated with the assistance of the "joint distribution committee" and of "[?]rt", whose representative for the entire district was situated in the town.
The Jews made their living mainly from dairy farming: milk products were marked in the big cities. The town also had a large flour mill and tanneries. Between the world wars, Ignatowka was an independent community. Two rabbis officiated there: Rabbi Zalman Schuster and Rabbi Shimon Goldstein. In the twenties there were two synagogues. Almost all the Jews were Hasidim.
Between the world wars, Zionist activity was concentrated in Zofjowka, where there was a kindergarten, a Hebrew school, a library and branches of the Zionist movements. Most of the Ignatowka youth belonged to the "Beitar" movement, which opened a branch there in 1932. "Beitar" and "Hechalutz" groups from across Poland came to Ignatowka for agricultural training. In the twenties, several Jews emigrated to Eretz Israel. In 1922, there were 577 Jews in the town.
On the eve of World War II, approximately 2,300 Jews resided in Zofjowka and 900 in Ignatowka.
The Holocaust PeriodAt the start of World War II (1 September 1939) and following the pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the eastern sections of Poland, including Wohlin, were transferred to Soviet jurisdiction. With the arrival of the Soviets, a group of 20 youth, members of Zionist youth movements, mainly "Beitar", crossed the border to Vilna. In 1941 they reached Eretz Israel, where most joined the "Lehi" movement. During Soviet rule, Jewish refugees from occupied Poland settled in Zofjowka and the number of its residents rose to 3,500. At the same time, the number of Jews in Ignatowka rose to 1,200.
On 22 June 1941, the Germans attacked the Soviet Union. Zofjowka and Ignaowka were conquered at the end of June. The Germans appointed an Ukrainian administration for the area and established an auxiliary police (Schotsmen) of Ukrainians. During the first days of the occupation, Jews were murdered and Jewish possessions destroyed and plundered by rioting Ukrainian villagers. Once again Jewish self-defense was organized.
At the beginning of July, the Germans appointed a Judenrat (Jewish [?] council subject to the authorities), and the Jews were required to do forced labor in agriculture and in local [?]es that now served the Germans. [?]50 Jews from Zofjowka were [?] at the railroad station in the town of [?] where they were subjected to brutality at the hands of their German and Ukrainian guards. In the fall of 1941, the farms of the Jews were confiscated, as were their furs, warm clothing and other objects of value. The Jews were also commanded to pay hundreds of rubles in ransom money.
Dr. Klinger, a Jew who posed as "Folksdeutsch" (a German native of the town) made contact with German leadership and arranged for the employment of Jews to produce leather bags and boots for Germans. The work was done in town and kept them from being sent to forced labor. On 256 July 1942. when the identity of Dr. Klinger was revealed, he was murdered by Ukrainian police. The Jews of Ignatowka were sent to Zofjowka, where they, along with the Zofjowka Jews were concentrated in the town's center. Those whose skills were in demand were moved with their families to nearby Selishche. Rumors spread that Germans were planning to kill the Jews remaining in Zofjowka. Those who attempted to flee to the forests were shot by Ukrainian policemen who patrolled the town for that purpose. On July 27th the final "Aktion" (liquidation action) was carried out. The Schotsmen brought trucks to the town, tossed the children into them, and in their wake, marched the adults to the forest across to pits that had been dug near the village of Yaromla. There the Jews were shot and buried in mass graves.
In the second "Aktion," which occured on the Day of Atonement, 2 September 1942, the Jews living in Selishche and those who returned from the forest for the holy day prayers were also murdered while digging pits. Some of the Jews attacked their German and Ukrainian guards with the shovels they held. During the struggle, some Jews managed to escape to the forest.
In town there remained only a few dozen Jews, from among those who prepared leather products for the Germans. In the third "Aktion" which took place in December 1942, the too were slain. Ten Jews, who served the Germans as labor foremen and remained alive a little while longer, were imprisoned in the synagogue in Zofjowka and died when the synagogue was set to fire. The town was declared "Judenrein" (cleansed of Jews).
Even before the "Aktions" Jewish youth organized to resist and began collecting weapons. In September 1942 they set up [?] in the nearby forest, and were aided by Ukrainian Communists. They were joined by Jews who escaped during the "Aktions," and made contact with Soviet partisans. In [?] the Jews [??] Wohlin, and [???] ¨Jewish partisans who came from Zofjowka also [?] partisan units which operated in that area.
In February 1944, Zofjowka and Ignatowka were liberated by the Red Army. The Jews did not return there; their possessions had been plundered and their houses demolished by the Ukrainians.
In August 1992 monuments were raised on the spot in memory of the Jewish communities of Truchenbrod - Lozisht whose residentswere murdered by the Nazis and their henchmen. The monuments were erected by a delegation from Israel composed of former members of these communities.
In the area where in the past the two townlets stood, there they found fields of wheat and corn. Of the towns, there was no trace.