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Rovno

ROVNO

ROVNO (Pol. Równe ), capital of Rovno district, Ukraine; under Poland until the First Partition (1793) and between the world wars. A Jew is first mentioned as hailing from Rovno in 1566, and Jewish creditors from the town are recorded in 1571. When the town passed to the princes of the house of Lubomirski in 1723, they tried to develop it by various means, including attempts to attract Jews there. On July 13, 1749, Prince Stanislaw Lubomirski granted a charter establishing a full-fledged community with all institutions. Prince Józef Lubomirski confirmed and renewed these rights on April 21, 1789. The kahal of Rovno is mentioned in 1739–40 in a decision at *Radom on the distribution of Jewish taxes in the Volhynia region of the *Council of the Lands. In 1765 there were 1,186 Jews in Rovno community (890 in the town itself and 296 in villages subject to the kahal); there were 2,147 Jews in the town in 1801; 3,788 in 1847; 13,780 (56 percent of the total population) in 1897; 21,702 (71 percent) in 1921; 22,737 in 1931; and about 28,000 in 1939. Under czarist Russia, Rovno became a border town not far from the frontier of Austria (at Brody), and developed into a commercial center dealing in military supplies. With the completion of the Kiev-Warsaw railroad and later with the Vilna-Rovno line (1885) it also became an important railroad center for all eastern Volhynia. Since it had become a supply center, various local light industries were also set up in the area under Polish rule.

The short-lived period of Ukrainian independence (1918–20) was a time of trepidation for Rovno Jewry. In the spring of 1919, the soldiers of *Petlyura carried out several *pogroms; later the town was conquered by the Red Army, and in the spring of 1920 it returned to Polish rule, which lasted until 1939.

A *Ḥibbat Zion group was formed in Rovno in 1884. Later various Zionist parties were established, with members participating in all the Zionist congresses. During Ukrainian rule Rovno's central Zionist office coordinated activities throughout Volhynia and Podolia. A *Bund group was formed in 1903. As in all Jewish communities in Poland, the *Haskalah was the forerunner of modern Jewish education in Rovno, and Zionism brought with it a revival of Hebrew. At first it was taught in the ḥeder metukkan (see *Education) and in private Hebrew schools. In 1911 a branch of the Ḥovevei Sefat Ever ("Lovers of the Hebrew Language") was formed. A branch of the *Tarbut organization, established in 1919, soon became the central branch for all Volhynia. That same year the Tarbut secondary school was established, and shortly after, three Tarbut elementary schools, several Hebrew kindergartens, a Tarbut Polish-language high school and a business high school. There was also a talmud torah, and for a short period (until 1921) there were two Yiddish schools. The Tarbut secondary school attracted Jewish pupils from all the villages of Volhynia. From 1924 to 1939 the Yiddish weekly, Vohliner Lebn ("Volhynian Life"), was published in Rovno.

[Shmuel Spector]

Holocaust Period

Under Soviet rule (1939–41), Jewish organizations ceased to function, Bund and Zionist leaders were imprisoned, Jewish businessmen were discriminated against, and Hebrew schools were closed down. Many Jewish refugees from western Poland found shelter in Rovno, which soon became one of the important centers of underground Zionist activity, helping Jews to escape to *Vilna and southward to the Romanian and Hungarian borders. With the outbreak of the Soviet-German war (June 22, 1941), young Jews joined the Soviet army. Rovno fell to the Germans on June 29, and on the same day 300 Jews were slaughtered. Murder and torture were rampant. Between October and November 1941, the number of Jews killed exceeded 1,000. A Judenrat was set up by the former director of one of the Jewish secondary schools, Dr. Bergman. With the introduction of the German policy of extermination, a Judenrat member, Leon Sucharczuk, committed suicide. Murder on the largest scale was committed on Nov. 6, 1941, when some 18,000 Jews from Rovno were machine-gunned in a pine grove in Sosenki. After this Aktion, a ghetto was established for the remaining Jews. Starvation and disease claimed many victims despite mutual help and attempts to reduce epidemics. On July 12, 1942 the 5,000 surviving Jews were brought to the vicinity of Kostopol and murdered there in a forest. Rovno Jews joined the partisan groups operating in the district and helped to liberate Rovno from the Nazis in February 1944.

Contemporary Period

After the war about 1,200 Jews were living in an area around the Great Synagogue. Only 100 were survivors from the original Rovno community. A search was made to find Jewish children among the peasants in the nearby villages and to mark the sites of the mass graves of Jews murdered by the Nazis. Gradually, like many others, the Rovno community dissolved through emigration. In 1957 the Jewish cemetery was divided into two sites, for a park and a grazing ground. The last remaining synagogue, consisting of only one room, was closed down by authorities in 1959, and Torah scrolls were confiscated. The former large synagogue was converted into a sports gymnasium. There was no monument on the mass graves of Jews murdered by the Nazis. In the late 1960s the Jewish population in Rovno was estimated at about 600. Only in the 1990s was a memorial erected in Sosenki for the Jews murdered by the Nazis.

[Aharon Weiss]

bibliography:

Rovnah: Sefer Zikkaron (1956); Słownik geograficzny Królestwa polskiego, 9 (1888), 818–23; Regesty i nadpisi, 1 (1899), no. 569; 3 (1913), no. 2321; Avatiḥi-Hadari, in: Yalkut Vohlin, 1 no. 8 (1947), 8–21. add. bibliography: Sh. Spector (ed.), Pinkas ha-Kehillot Poland, vol. 5 (1990).

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