Lunna-Wola During and Post
the First World War (1915-1921)

In September 1915, the Germans invaded Grodno area and occupied the area for approximately three years, until the end of the First World War. During the period of German occupation, the small, predominately Jewish town of Wola was officially annexed to Lunna. Many Jews, however, continued to refer to Lunna as "Lunna-Wola". Several Jews from Lunna-Wola who served in the Russian army were taken prisoner by the Germans, including Aron Friedman from Wola, Yudel Gisser from Lunna and Mendel Kaplan, who was born in Kamenka, moved to Lunna and later became a director of a Jewish Hebrew school in Lunna. After his capture, Mr. Kaplan was sent to forced labor at estate owners in Hungary. Aron Friedman was a prisoner of war in Scheidemuehl - formerly in Germany (about 80 kilometers from the pre-World War One German-Russian border), and now the town of Pila in western Poland. Pictured below is a photo of Aron Friedman taken in 1917 when he was a prisoner of war in Scheidemuehl. Another picture includes part of a letter sent in 1916 to Aron Friedman by his wife Golda.

Aron Friedman (1917)
(Libe Friedman-Ahuva Glick Collection)
A letter sent to Aron Friedman
from his wife Golda (1916)
(Libe Friedman-Ahuva Glick Collection)

During the First World War foreign commerce ceased to exist and internal commerce reduced, and Jews and non-Jews experienced a shortage of food and were plunged into a crisis situation. The German occupying force assisted the residents by distributing food and, in general, proved to be relatively benevolent occupiers. Miriam Welbel-Rutenberg, a former Lunna resident, recalls that at the beginning of the war, due to fighting near the Neimen, her family moved to live with relatives residing in a village away from the front. When Miriam's family returned to Lunna after the fighting in the area had ceased, they found their house occupied by German forces. The Germans, however, allowed Miriamís family to reoccupy the largest room in the house, where they lived until the Germans withdrew from Lunna. According to Miriam Welbel-Rutenberg, the Germans were good neighbors and the Welbels even received gifts from Germany from the families of some of the soldiers occupying her familyís house. She emphasizes that the behavior of the Germans during the First World War was entirely different than those of the Second World War. The recollections of Miriam Welbel-Rutenberg appear in a booklet "Our Miriam is 90 years old" (published in 2000 by her family in Israel.)

Under the German rule all children aged six and above, including Jewish children, were required to attend a German language school established by the Germans. In addition, Jewish children were allowed to engage in religious and Hebrew and Yiddish language studies for several hours a week.

After the Germans evacuated the Grodno region, including Lunna, in 1918, a period of chaos ensued while Russia and Poland fought for control over the region. By the end of hostilities in 1921, the Grodno region came under Polish rule. Rabbi Iser-Yehuda Unterman, who served as the Rabbi of Lunna-Wola from 1916 to 1921 (he was later elected to become the Rabbi of Grodno and of Liverpool, England. In 1946, he became the chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel.), described his experiences during the transition between the German and the Polish occupation:

"As a new Rabbi in Lunna-Wola I was immediately impressed by the difficulties the German occupation caused. The Germans assigned me to be the town leader. In this role I dealt with tremendous difficulties during the transition; the German evacuation and the Polish annexation, the war between Poland and Russia, the Polish evacuation and after a few months, the Russian evacuation, and my extreme reaction to the killing of young Jews by the Polish. I was under risk, G-D rescued me. Later, it was devastating to hear the murders the Nazis performed in this town"
(translated from "Shevet from Yehuda" by Rabbi Iser Yehuda Unterman)

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Compiled by Ruth Marcus & Aliza Yonovsky Created May 2007
Updated by rLb, March 2020
Copyright © 2007 Ruth Marcus

All the photos are presented by courtesy of the families and are not allowed to be reproduced without their permission.

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