A street scene in Vishnevets
A man (Harry) in Israel was showing his friend, Moshe, how the Internet works. Moshe asked if there was anything from his hometown, VISHNEVETS. After searching, they found this page of my grandfather's information. Moshe, very excitedly said "look! that drawing (of the village street) is mine!"
I would like to thank Moshe Segal for his permission to use the drawing and give credit where credit is due. -- Arlene Parnes
After many years of "not noticing" anything about my history other than snippets from my maternal grandmother, I was convinced by Rabbi Malcolm Stern to begin researching my family. I began with a small book written by my paternal grandfather, Louis Parnes (Israel Juvitzer) when he was 85 years old. I have not been able to ascertain when or where he dropped the latter two names, but his Naturalization Papers in 1902 bear only the first names.
He came from Wisnowiec (now Vishnevets) in 1890 and his wife, Clara Asia, from the nearby shtetl of Kremenets.
I hope that some of his memories help people who might be searching in the same area. There are not many names, and none of any females.
People mentioned in the book "The Vanishing Generations" in relation to Vishnevets:
As a result of my putting this information here on Shtetlinks my grandfather's sister's descendants found me after 50 years of lost contact. I now know that sister's name, her husband's and all the way down the line to a cousin living 20 minutes away from me.
If anyone has more information, I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vishnevets (Wisnowiec Nowy) at 49o33/25o35, was located at the head-waters of what were two major river systems -- The SLUCH and the GORYN in the southern part of Volhynia adjacent to the border of Galicia and directly in the path of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. It was destroyed in 1943. My grandfather, Louis Parnes, described it as follows in his book THE VANISHING GENERATIONS, published in 1954 when he was 85 years old. The photos are also from the book.
"It was a small town of brick and wooden houses crowded together and surrounded by a succession of splendid cherry orchards -- which was the abode of the eminent Polish Princes, the Wishnewetzky's, in the 15th century, and was on the verge of becoming the capital of all-Russia in 1674, under the leadership and conquest of the Princes Michael and Valusah Wishnewetzky..... The 15th century was the history-making era of Poland, when Prince Michael Wishnewetzky proclaimed himself Field Marshal and declared war on Russia -- forcing the enemy to quit the field of battle and retreat to Moscow-- only later to suffer defeat as he approached with his Polish volunteers the gates of the Kremlin.
"Among the volunteers who distinguished themselves in battle against the Russians were many Jewish soldiers from Wishnewitz, whose courage and obedience won the admiration of the Polish Princes for performing any dangerous enterprise they were to undertake, and for their confidence in themselves, who thought it a point of honor to refuse defeat and never to give way.
"In recognition of their unsurpassed loyalty, the Wishnewetzky's remained the permanent friends of the Jews and regarded them with the truest affection even at the time when Poland sank into serfdom, and was at the close of the eighteenth century partitioned among her three neighboring nations, Russia, Austria and Prussia, with Wishnewitz falling under the tyrannous Russian yoke.
"From a point near the turn of Wishnewitz, the beholder enjoys a most striking and wonderful prospect of the ancient castle of the Wishnewetzkys, situated on the summit of a hill. The grounds were extensive...
"Actually the city of Wisnewitz was two cities in one. A river divided the city into two halves, which were linked together by a bridge spanned over the river uniting the old and the new city. The old city had a tiny population of about fifty families, while the bulk of the Jewish population, consisting of four hundred families, lived in the new city, which was surrounded by rich and extended farmlands owned by non-Jews, since there were no Jewish landowners in Russia in those days in accordance with the old Russian laws prohibiting Jews to buy or possess land or even rent and operate a farm estate in behalf of others.
"...in 1804 the Czar Alexander I issued a special decree (ukase) granting the Jews the privilege of acquiring land and settling on their own farms... But in the early days of my childhood, the old discriminating laws were still enforced, and the Jews of Wishnewitz had to struggle bitterly for their survival and poor livelihood. They were confined chiefly to small business, such as peddling, marketing of agricultural products and in the smaller towns and villages they would combine handicraft with the business of liquor distillers and of innkeepers. ...our Jewish innkeepers, unlike their non-Jewish competitors in that profession, were compelled to pay exceptionally high taxes, plus additional big fees for the liquor permit. ...taxes so extremely high that it was utterly impossible for a Jewish innkeeper to earn but a poor living with the full help and cooperation of his wife. The Jewish women, to help out their husbands, would bake delicious cakes and tasty rolls, only to attract the eyes and appetites of non-Jewish customers whose wives did not posses the skill and talent, or the "know-how" of the art of Jewish specially flavored baking. This avenue of making a living was soon closed to the Jews by Russian law and the Jews soon had to find a way out of the financial problems. Electricity was brought to the shtetl by a German Lumber Company in 1888 and evryone was astonished at its power to light up the area."
Louis describes the shtetl as having a kheder (primary school) -- besmedresh (study house) where the males spent long hours studying "the sublime truths of the Talmud, halakha (code of laws) and agada (legends). The doors were always open to those who wanted to study.
"At all times one could observe men of all ages walking into the poorly illuminated room and seating themselves upon the long wooden benches, opening the huge old folios of the beloved Talmud, of Mishnah, or sometimes joining a group of other Talmudic scholars who were engaged in the discourses of the Holy Scriptures."
"The town was very proud of its "Bride's Aid Society" an institution devoted to assisting orphan girls or daughters of impoverished families.... obtaining funds from donations and traditional house to house collections in behalf of hachnoseth kaleh (bride's dowry) for money, even wedding gowns and furnishings for the home."
In 1893 Louis and friends formed the Wishnowitz Benevolent Society, of which he was president and then served on the Executive Board.
In July, 1921 the Society raised $70,000 and sent Mr. Louis Rothman back to Visnevets with a detailed list of the destitute in the town. To hide the money it was sewed into his underclothes. He returned in two months and brought with him 264 men, women and children to New York. This took place at a good time as in 1924 new quota laws went into effect.
While Mr. Rothman was in Wishnewitz, "he organized a committee to assist in the building of a local Community House and an Orphanage and until the outbreak of September 1939 and the outbreak of World War II the group in the United States supported the institutions, as well as sending $1,000 every fall to be distributed among the poor for winter's fuel. Out of its prewar 5,000 Jewish population, only a handful of ninety-three survived the camps in Germany and Italy, while the others perished. The group continued to send money to anyone they could find until about 1952 when there were none left in the shtetl -- most of them having moved to Israel, a few groups to South America and a very few to the United States."
JewishGen Family Finder
Do you have roots in Vishnevets? Would you like to connect with others researching the same community? Click the button to search the JewishGen Family Finder database.
U.S. Holocaust Museum
The Washington, D.C. museum has a database of documents you can search for references to Vishnevets. Click here to launch your search, or here to learn about the museum and its archives.
Send comments or suggestions to Arlene Parnes, or Michael N. Groberg
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