Daily Life | Trade & Crafts
| Institutions &
Organizations | Education
| Community during the Second World War | After the War
Life in Żółkiewka had its own rhythm, determined
by the seasons, the weekly markets, the Holidays and any unusual events.
The markets were held on Mondays (as they still are). They used to
take place on the big square in the center of the village.
During market days Żółkiewka's
inhabitants, Jews and Poles alike, exchanged goods, stories and news with
visiting traders and buyers from the area.
It is important to call to mind that even in the interwar period,
not a single Jew in Żółkiewka had a telephone.
The everyday language of the Jews in Żółkiewka
was Yiddish. Yiddish was used in the homes and in most if not all conversations
Many of them, especially the older ones did not even know Polish.
Trade & Crafts
Most Jews in Żółkiewka had a trade or a craft.
Among the most popular craft categories at that time were tailors, shoemakers,
tanners and mill operators.
Many had their own business: general stores existed alongside
small haberdashery stalls, tailor, shoe, food and hardware stores. In addition,
there were also several retailers and dealers. Others earned a living by
trading and peddling wares in nearby villages.
Jews were also the main distributors of local industrial produce and purchasers
of agricultural producers from the peasants of the surrounding villages.
Between to two world wars, Tourism provided a new source of
income, as Żółkiewka was blessed with a dry and fresh climate
and many forests, and these attracted summer visitors from the large towns,
with a need for guest houses, restaurants, and also grocer and butcher shops and
carting or transportation services. In the 1930s, the earnings of the Jews were
considerably reduced as a result of growing competition from the Polish
merchants and the establishment of a local Polish cooperative.
There was also anti-Semitic propaganda, which called for a boycott
of Jewish trade.
Institutions & Organizations
Synagogue: In 1862 several community
constructions began, especially a new synagogue. In 1868 a new brick synagogue
was finished. It also hosted a Talmud-Tora school.
Loans & Welfare: In 1899 an interest-free loan fund for the poor was founded; and
in 1911 a Hospice for the Poor "Gemiłus
Chased" was established.
Political Organizations: There were branches of several political organizations: Poalei Zion, Bund and Mizrachi.
1923 also saw the appearance of a branch of "Agudat
Israel". The Bund resumed its activities after WWI.
Occupational Associations: Federation of Jewish merchants and Federation of Jewish
Zionism: The first Zionist group was
organized in 1904 and at about the same time branches of "Poalei Zion" and the "Bund" also made their
In 1912 a Jewish Public Library was opened.
In the years between the wars, the economic situation deteriorated
so more mutual help was required - the "Joint" assisted the community
and the Provident Fund that had been set up before the war also expanded its
In 1928 a Jewish Cooperative Bank was set up, and this provided
Jewish merchants and artisans with low-interest credit.
Last three Rabbis of Żółkiewka: In the late 19th century the rabbi was Yehuda-Leibush Licht. In 1906 it was
Rabbi Moshe-Zvi Banker who was followed by Rabbi Felhendler.
An elementary school in
Żółkiewka in the early 1930's – class of Chaim
Photo property of Chaim Zylberklang
In the 1930s there were five Jewish schools in
Żółkiewka: three Chederschulen, the
Talmud Torah and the "Beyt Jacob" school.
The children, whose parents were too poor to pay one of the Chederschulen,
attended the Talmud Torah.
Girls and some of the older non-orthodox boys studied jointly with
the Polish children for the next few years in government schools. There was a
separation only for "religion studies".
Due to the small population and because of the relatively small size of the
village, all residents knew each other, both Jews and Poles - various trade and
social contacts were common.
Community during the Second
From the start of the occupation, the Jews in
Żółkiewka were the object of Nazi repression. First they were
robbed of their property; all Jewish businesses had to be marked with the Star
of David and a sign in German and Polish.
As of December 1939 had all the Jews who were older than ten
years, wearing a white band with blue Star of David on the right arm. Other
regulations, which the Germans had adopted in the first months of occupation,
said for example that all Jews had to bow when they saw a German soldier and
they had to clear the way for the soldier if their paths crossed. Soon all the
Jewish schools were closed.
In early 1940 a Judenrat was formed under Leon Felhendler,
the son of the former Rabbi. The same Leon Felhendler
would later be one of the organizers of the Sobibor revolt.
A Jewish police force was also established and together with the Judenrat was responsible for providing the Germans with
In 1940 the Judenrat sent a group of
Jews to the labor camp at Belzec, and shortly
afterwards some 300 additional young people were sent to the labor camp at Ruda-Opalin,
where they were digging sewage and irrigation ditches under such severe
conditions that many of them died. The remainders were returned home after six
months and monetary "fines".
In October 1940 Jewish refugees from Kalish
and Kolo arrived in the town.
In March 1942 there were additional arrivals from Lublin and in
May 1942 from additional towns. On the eve of their first deportation there
were some 2,300 Jews in Żółkiewka.
In 1941, the Germans ran a small forced labor camp near
Żółkiewka on Lubelski Street, in
which both Jews and Poles were imprisoned. They were sent to work on building
projects in the area.
On the 14th May 1942, SS personnel were brought from
Krasnystaw together with a contingent of Polish police. They evicted the Jews
from their houses and assembled them in the market place. Jews who hid and were
discovered were shot on the spot. After a process of selection some thousand
Jews were transported to Krasnystaw, and from there to the extermination camp
at Sobibor. The remaining Jews were enclosed in the ghetto which was then
erected in Żółkiewka.
The final destruction of the Jewish community of
Żółkiewka was in October 1942. On the 16th, all
remaining Jews were forced to walk about 20 kilometers (~14 miles) to Izbica
that served as a concentration point for the whole area. From Izbica they were
deported to the extermination camp Belzec.
After the War
Most of the Jewish survivors are those who left the war or
followed the Russian army as it retreated in October 1939. The survivors and
their families are now scattered all over the world.
After the Second World War there were many emigrations from Poland,
especially among the remaining Jewish population. It was impossible for Jews to
return to what used to be their home, where their closest relatives and friends
suffered and were brutally murdered and there to start a new life. The
situation in all of Poland was unstable and hard but Jews, as always, had additional dangers.
Many of the surviving Jews from Żółkiewka and the
area gathered in Lublin. After the city was captured by the Red Army in July
1944, Lublin became a center of Jewish life in Poland for a few months. In
August 1944, a Committee for Jewish Aid was setup there. Leon Felhendler, Rabbi's son, organizer of the Sobibor revolt
managed to escape alive to Lublin but was murdered there in April 1945. Feldhendler's killing was one of at least 118 murders of
Jews in the Lublin district between the summer of 1944 and the fall of 1946.
Most survivors, after meeting other survivors started a long and
dangerous trip, crossing several countries to "Western" deportation
There they applied for and awaited visas to Palestine (under
British Mandate at the end of the war), the US or other countries. The wait
lasted several years for most.
(English & Polish), Żółkiewka Official web site,
Jewish Life in Europe site, Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich, Pinkas
Hakehilot – Polin, Yad VaShem
Back to the Żółkiewka home page
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Compiled by Tamar Amit
Updated 4 February, 2014
Copyright © 2011-2014 Tamar Amit
[Background based on image by The Inspiration Gallery]