A Brief History of Vyshgorodok
Vyshgorodok, according to the sign that was placed in the center of the little village in 2007, was established during the twelfth century! Vyshgorodok is located about fifty kilometers (31 miles) south-southeast of the town of Kremenets. When Jews first settled in Vyshgorodok is a matter of conjecture; it is known that by the second half of the sixteenth century Jews already populated the neighboring towns and villages in the Province of Volhynia, in which Vyshgorodok is located.
In 1840, there were 177,622 Jews residing in Volhnyia Province. By the end of the century, the 1897 Russian Census listed exactly 1,078 Jewish residents, accounting for fifty percent of the town's population1. After World War One, the Jewish population had declined to 944 people2.
During the 1830's, in the neighboring town of Turzysk, a form of Hasidism took shape; by the turn of the century, most Vyshgorodok Jews were followers of Turzysk Hasidism3. During the early years of the twentieth century, many young Jews were increasingly attracted to the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment, and to Zionism. They shed the distinctive clothing and rituals that had sustained their forebears for centuries4.
Upon the forced dissolution of the Polish Kingdom in the late eighteenth century, Vyshgorodok, along with all of the Province of Volhynia, was incorporated into the Russian Empire, where it remained until the end of World War One when Poland was reconstituted. After the Second World War, Vyshgorodok found itself in the Ukraine, where it has remained.
In 1939, the Soviets arrived in the Province of Volhynia, occupying its towns and villages. A cynical pact – termed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact – sealed by Hitler and Stalin led to the dismemberment of the twenty-year-old nation of Poland. Just two years later, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were at war; Hitler abrogated the non-aggression pact in June 1941 by invading Soviet territory.
The Nazis were in Volhynia Province the following month – July 1941. By March 1942 the Nazis and their minions had established a sealed ghetto in Vishnevets, fifteen miles (25 km.) northwest of Vyshgorodok. Immediately, Jews from around the region, including Jews from Vyshgorodok, were herded into the ghetto by the Germans; Ukrainian collaborators policed the ghetto. August eighth saw Ukrainian policemen firing on ghetto residents, killing dozens. Three days later, on 11 August 1942, 2,669 Jews in the Vishnevets Ghetto – 600 men; 1,160 women; and 909 children – were led out of town and murdered. By November 1942 the Vishnevets Ghetto had been liquidated; Vishnevets was Juden frei5.