TRUCHENBROD – LOZISHT The Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora
Two small towns adjacent to each other in the district of Luck in the Ukraine. Between the two World Wars in the Wohlin province of Poland.
Within the boundaries of Poland, Truchenbrod was known as Zofjowka, and Lozisht as Ignatowka. The townlets are located about 45 kms west of Rovno and about 30 kms east of Luck. In the 1830s in the Russian Pale of settlement, during the reign of Czar Nikolai I, the two Jewish communities, known then as Truchenbrod and Lozisht, established a joint community. Zofjowka (or Truchenbrod) was founded in 1835, when Jews from Bielorussia and Wohlin settled on 7,000 dunams of land they acquired from a noble family. In 1865, at their request, they gained urban status, and the place, at that time called Truchenbrod, became a townlet. In 1889, 1,200 Jews were living there.
At first the Jewish residents earned their livelihood in farming or working as tanners, petty traders and craftsmen. In the early 1900s, a glass factory was erected, leading to the economic flowering of the town and its environs.
After the 1914 outbreak of World War I, the economic situation declined. Young men were recruited into the army, and financial assistance that some of the town's families received from the United States ceased to arrive. In the fall of 1915 the frontline neared the town. Cossacks in the Russian army and local Ukranian gangs attacked the Jews. Plundering their possessions: hunger and want prevailed. The Jewish residents organized to defend themselves, and in the meantime, the area was conquered by the Austrians. In spite of the strict regulations of Austrian occupation authorities regarding the maintenance of decent sanitary conditions, a typhus epidemic broke out, in which many Jews of Truchenbrod perished. Jewish men between the ages of 15 and 60 were taken for forced labor. An Austrian priest and several army officers opened a local school to teach children German. After nine months, the Austrians retreated, and the Russians returned. During the 1917 revolution, the Jews did not suffer casualties, thanks to their organized self-defense. At the end of World War I, Zofjowka and Ignatowka were included in the area of independent Poland.
The town boasted seven synagogues, four of them belonging to the Hasidim. The first rabbi to serve there was Rabbi Itzi Weisman. When rabbi Baruch Zeev Beigel took over the position in 1910, the Berezina Hasidim chose their own rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Beider Perlmutter, who died in the epidemic of 1916. Rabbi Gershon Weisman served after him, alongside of Rabbi Beigel, until both perished in the Holocaust.
A modern Heder (religious elementary school) was established in the town in 1910, and classes were held where adults could learn to write Yiddish and Russian. In 1912, a Hebrew school was opened which taught the Russian language as well as religious subjects. This school was closed in 1914.
In 1922, a Hebrew school of the "Tarbut" network was opened in Zofjowka, with an affiliated kindergarten: it remained in operation for four years. Later, a Polish state school was started: most of its teachers and students were Jews. Religious studies were taught privately. For a short time, a Yeshiva (Talmudic college) also functioned in Zofjowka.
In 1921, 1,531 Jews and 18 non-Jews lived in Zofjowka. Its economy grew quickly in independent Poland following World War I. The tanneries began using machinery to facilitate their work, and ten dairies, comprising about 500 cows, sold their dairy products in the surrounding towns. In the wake of the economic crisis of the thirties and the Polish government's support of the Polish cooperatives, the livelihood of the Jews were again adversely affected.
Zionist activity began in town before World War I, when in 1908 the "Zionist Society" was founded. After the war, branches of all Zionist movements and most of youth movements began functioning there. The most active ones being "Hechalutz" and "Beitar". Local training camps were set up, and prior to 1939 forty-five families, mostly farmers, emigrated to Eretz Israel. In the fall of 1938 the first course in Poland for "Etzel"commanders was held in Zofjowka. In 1934, a branch of the "Zionist youth" was formed. There was also a clandestine Communist group.
Ignatowka, which is Løzisht, was founded in 1838 as a Jewish agricultural colony. In 1897 it had 567 Jews on 2,800 dunams of land. Their number increased, and at the beginning of the twentieth century reached 1,204.
During World War I (1914-1918), Ignatowka was damaged, and all of the Jews left (most of them to Barom Hirsch's colonies in Argentina). Following the war, the damaged farmsteads were renovated with the assistance of the "joint distribution committee" whose representative for the entire district was situated in the town.
The Jews made their living mainly from dairy farming: milk products were marked in the big cities. The town also had a large flour mill and tanneries. Between the world wars, Ignatowka was an independent community. Two rabbis officiated there: Rabbi Zalman Schuster and Rabbi Shimon Goldstein. In the twenties there were two synagogues. Almost all the Jews were Hasidim.
Between the world wars, Zionist activity was concentrated in Zofjowka, where there was a kindergarten, a Hebrew school, a library and branches of the Zionist movements. Most of the Ignatowka youth belonged to the "Beitar" movement, which opened a branch there in 1932. "Beitar" and "Hechalutz" groups from across Poland came to Ignatowka for agricultural training. In the twenties, several Jews emigrated to Eretz Israel. In 1922, there were 577 Jews in the town.
On the eve of World War II, approximately 2,300 Jews resided in Zofjowka and 900 in Ignatowka.
The Holocaust Period
At the start of World War II (1 September 1939) and following the pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the eastern sections of Poland, including Wohlin, were transferred to Soviet jurisdiction. With the arrival of the Soviets, a group of 20 youth, members of Zionist youth movements, mainly "Beitar", crossed the border to Vilna. In 1941 they reached Eretz Israel, where most joined the "Lehi" movement. During Soviet rule, Jewish refugees from occupied Poland settled in Zofjowka and the number of its residents rose to 3,500. At the same time, the number of Jews in Ignatowka rose to 1,200.