BILGORAJ, small town in Lublin province, Poland. A Jewish community had been established there by the second half of the 17th century. Many of the Jews perished during the massacres of 1648–49. In 1765 Jewish poll-tax payers in Bilgoraj and the vicinity numbered 661. The Russian prohibition on Jewish settlement of the western border area (see *Russia) halted the growth of the community until the restriction was rescinded in 1862. The Jewish population numbered 1,637 in 1841; 3,486 in 1897; 3,715 in 1921, and 4,596 in 1931. In interbellum Poland many Jews were employed in the horsehair-weaving industry. The brothers I.J. *Singer and I. Bashevis *Singer, Yiddish writers, were born in Bilgoraj. A Hebrew printing press was established there in 1909 and continued to publish numerous Hebrew and Yiddish books until the Holocaust.
It is estimated that over 5,000 Jews lived in Bilgoraj before the outbreak of World War II, constituting more than half the town's population. On Sept. 11, 1939, almost the whole Jewish quarter was set on fire in a heavy bombardment by the German air force. A few days later German troops entered the town and immediately organized anti-Jewish pogroms. On September 29 the German army withdrew, but the occupying Soviet army had to cede the town to the Germans a week later. About 20% of the town's Jewish population left for the Soviet Union together with the retreating Soviet troops. On June 25, 1940, a ghetto was established. In the course of 1941 and 1942 a number of deportations took place; on Nov. 2, 1942 almost all the remaining Jewish population was deported to *Belzec death camp. On Jan. 15, 1943, the last 27 survivors who had remained in hiding were shot. A group of young men organized a small partisan unit which operated in the surrounding forests. The Jewish community was not reestablished after the war.
T. Brustin-Bernstein, in: Bleter far Geshikhte, 3 no. 1–2 (1950), 65–76, table 3; Khurbn Bilgoraj (1957).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.