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Lutsk

LUTSK

LUTSK (Pol. Łuck ), capital of Volhynia district, Ukraine; until the end of the 18th century in Poland; under Russia until the end of World War i; between the two world wars again in Poland; and in 1939 annexed by the U.S.S.R., and included in the Ukrainian ssr. Nazi Germany occupied Lutsk in 1941, and after World War ii it became again part of the Soviet Union. In the 13th century a community of *Karaites settled there while the Rabbanite Jews were probably included in the bill of privileges given by the Lithuanian prince Vitovt in 1388. The last are mentioned in 1409 and in the bill of 1432 given by King Vladislav the Jagelonian. They were expelled in 1495 together with the Jews of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and allowed to return in 1503. In the 15th and 16th centuries many of them leased custom revenues, other taxes, and estates. The importance of Lutsk as a political and economic center grew after the union of Poland and Lithuania in 1569, and Volhynia was included in the kingdom of Poland, and made the town capital of the district (vojevodstvo). The Jews benefited by this new situation, some being engaged in large-scale commerce, some leasing the customs revenue, breweries, and potash production plants, while others traded in forest and *agricultural products. Lutsk Jews participated in the fairs of Lithuania and Poland, and established their own craft guilds. In 1580 the king ordered that the municipal taxes collected from the Jews should not exceed their proportionate share in the general population. He also renewed their right to live in Lutsk, and allowed representatives of the Jewish community to attend the meetings of the city council when it debated the levying of the city taxes. During the *Chmielnicki massacres of 1648–49 both Rabbanites and Karaites suffered heavily, but the community was soon reconstructed. By royal order in 1649 and in 1664 the Jews of Lutsk were permitted to trade freely in shoes; it was again established that they should pay no more than a third of the municipal taxes, this being their proportion of the general population. In the 18th century Lutsk suffered from the *Haidamack uprising, and from a *blood libel in 1764.

The Lutsk community participated in the regional (galil) council of *Volhynia, as well as in the *Councils of the Lands. The city was a center of Torah study and had many yeshivot. Among its famous rabbis in the 17th and at the beginning of the 18th centuries were Moses b. Judah ha-Kohen (formerly of Cracow), Jacob Schor, the son of Ephraim Solomon *Schor, and Joel b. Isaac Halpern, known as the Great Rabbi Joel. Part of the fortress built by Prince Witold was rebuilt as a fortified synagogue, with the permission of King Sigismund iii. From the gunmounts on the roof, Jews served as gunners during enemy attacks on the city, while underground tunnels led from the synagogue to other key buildings in the city. This building withstood the fires and enemy attacks of centuries. In 1765 there were 1,083 Jews in Lutsk, and under Russian rule during the 19th century the number of Jews in Lutsk was increased to 5,010 in 1847, and to 9,468 (out of a total of 15,804) in 1897, when the Jews were expelled from the rural communities following the czar's regulation of 1804. However, they lived under constant threat of expulsion, since Jews were prohibited from settling within 50 versts of the Russian border, and Lutsk was included in this category in 1844.

During World War i the Jews suffered both from the armies and from war devastation, as the city changed hands several times and was occupied by Russian and German troops. Under the rule of *Petlyura in 1918 many Jews were massacred, and when the Polish armies entered Lutsk they looted Jewish houses and organized anti-Jewish riots under the pretext that the Jews had helped their enemies. In the face of these assaults the Jews organized themselves in *self-defense. Between the two world wars the Lutsk community shared in the troubles and struggles of Polish Jewry, facing antisemitism and hostile economic and social legislation. For instance "Bata," the shoe factory opened in Lutsk with the assistance of the government, caused many Jewish shoe factories to close down.

The Jewish population grew in the 1920s. According to official figures, 14,860 Jews lived in Lutsk in 1921 (about 70% of the general population) whereas in 1931 they numbered 17,366 (48.5%). In 1937, however, they numbered only 15,880 (36.5%). The Jews took part in the civic life of the city and had their elected representatives in the city council. Between the world wars the Lutsk community led a rich religious and cultural life. Its last rabbi was Zalman *Sorotzkin. It had a hospital as well as several social and medical organizations, some of which were assisted by Lutsk Landsmanshaften in the U.S. A printing press attached to a Dominican monastery in Lutsk apparently produced some Hebrew books. Jewish schools were maintained by various organizations, among them the *Tarbut schools run by the Zionist organization and the Beth Jacob girls' school by the Agudat Israel.

[Shimshon Leib Kirshenboim]

Holocaust Period

By 1939 the Jewish population of Lutsk had increased to an estimated 20,000. Under Soviet occupation (1939–41) Jewish public life was repressed, Jewish organizations were disbanded, and private enterprises nationalized. Some Jewish businessmen were ordered to leave the town. In June 1940 the Soviet authorities uncovered the Zionist Gordonia underground and imprisoned its leaders. Many refugees who had fled to Lutsk from Nazi-occupied western Poland were deported to the Soviet interior. When the German-Soviet war broke out on June 22, 1941, many young Jews left together with the retreating Soviet forces. The town fell to the Germans on June 27, and a few days later some 300 Jews were murdered in retaliation for Ukrainian nationalist prisoners that had been killed, probably by the Soviet nkvd. On July 4, 3,000 Jews were put to death by the Einsatzkommando 4a in the nearby fortress (zamek) of Lubart. On October 19, 1941, a labor camp was established, and a ghetto was set up on December 11–12, 1941. The Jewish leaders made every effort to alleviate starvation and control epidemics. An orphanage, an old age home, and public kitchens were established in the ghetto, but the degree of suffering was hardly diminished. On March 15, 1942, a few hundred men were sent to Vinnitsa for the construction of the Fuehrer's hq there. Only three survived by fleeing to Transnistria. In the spring of 1942 a group of young Jews attempted to escape from the ghetto to the forests, but most of them were caught and murdered by the Ukrainians. A few, however, managed to join the Soviet partisans and fought the Germans as part of the Kowpak units. One of the refugees of the Lutsk ghetto, Joel Szczerbato, became the commander of the seventh battalion of the partisans. Meanwhile the Germans carried out the large-scale Aktion in which the majority of the Lutsk ghetto was murdered (Aug. 20–23, 1942). About 17,500 Jews were led to the Polanka hill on the outskirts of the city and massacred. On September 1, 1942, some 2000, most who emerged from hiding, were murdered. The remaining 500 Jews, who were employed as artisans in the labor camp, were executed on Dec. 12, 1942. However, the Germans encountered armed opposition on the part of these Jews, who had fortified their building, armed themselves with a few guns and other weapons, and repeatedly repulsed German attacks. With German reinforcements the labor camp was taken, with some German losses. Among those who helped Jews was Vitold Fomenko, who supplied food to the ghetto and false identity cards to fugitives, found hiding places, and saved dozens of Jews. When the Soviets captured Lutsk on Feb. 2, 1944, only about 150 Jews came out from their hideouts or the nearby forests. No organized Jewish life was renewed in Lutsk. There are Lutsk societies in the United States and in Israel, Sefer Lutsk having been published in 1961 by the Israel Lutsk society. In the late 1960s there was a Jewish population of about 1,500, but there was no synagogue, the former old synagogue having been converted by the authorities into a movie theater. In the 1990s most Jews emigrated from Lutsk.

bibliography:

Sefer Lutsk (Yid. and Heb., 1961); Pinkas Hakehilot, Poland, vol. 5; S. Spector, Volhynia and Polesie (1990).

[Aharon Weiss /

Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

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