BOLEKHOV (Pol. Bolechów), city in W. Ukraine; from 1945 to 1991 in the Ukrainian S.S.R. (formerly in
; from 1772 to 1919 within Austria, subsequently in Poland). Municipal status
was granted to Bolekhov in 1612 by the lord of the town, and the Jews living there were accorded the right to participate in municipal elections for the mayor and council. In 1780 the Austrian government founded a Jewish agricultural settlement near Bolekhov named New Babylon; although the Jews were shortly afterward superseded by Germans, the name was retained. Jewish occupations in Bolekhov in the 18th century included trade in Hungarian wines, cattle, horses, and salt from the local mines. Later they extended to other trades and crafts. Industrial undertakings established by Jews included timber and other mills, tanneries, and furniture, soap, and candle factories. The oil industry founded in Bolekhov after World War I, and its position as a summer resort, also provided sources of Jewish incomes. Bolekhov was a cradle of the Jewish Enlightenment movement (
) in eastern Galicia, the Jews there taking an interest in Polish and other foreign languages even in the 18th century. Prominent among its leaders were
Dov Ber *Birkenthal
, author of a famous autobiography, and
, principal of the modern Jewish school, where both Hebrew and German were taught.
The Jews formed a considerable majority of the population until World War II. In 1900 there were 3,323 Jewish inhabitants (78% of the total); in 1925, 2,435. In elections for the Austrian parliament (1867 through 1906), Bolekhov formed part of a constituency with largely Jewish voters. In 1931 there were 2,986 Jews.
When World War II broke out, Bolekhov came under Soviet occupation until July 2, 1941, when the town was occupied by Slovak and Ukrainian units under German command. The German commander established a Judenrat, headed by Dr. Reifeisen, who shortly afterward committed suicide. The Jews were segregated in a ghetto established in the autumn of 1941 and the intolerable living conditions there were aggravated by the arrival of refugees from the villages in the district. Relief was organized with great difficulty, and by the spring of 1942 most of them had died of starvation. Some Jews were employed in the local tanneries. Later, Jews were employed in lumber work at a special labor camp. In late October 1941, the German police seized over 1,850 Jews. After being tortured for 24 hours, some succumbed and the rest were brought to a mass grave in the Tanjawa forest and shot. The second mass liquidation took place in early August 1942 when a manhunt was conducted jointly by the Ukrainian and Jewish police for three days. The victims were herded into the courtyard of the city hall, where some 500 persons were murdered by the Ukrainians and some 2,000 dispatched by freight trains to
death camp where they perished. By 1943 only 1,000 Jews remained in the ghetto, in the work camp, and a few in the Jewish police. These were gradually murdered and only a few managed to escape to the neighboring forests. Some joined the partisans, while others perished there during the first few weeks. By the time of the Soviet conquest (spring of 1944) only a handful of Jews remained alive. In the district of Bolekhov, there was a group of Jewish partisan fighters who operated under the command of a Ukrainian communist.
B. Wasiutyński, Ludnósć ẓydowska w Polsce w w. XIX i XX (1930), 122; Y. Eshel and M.H. Eshel, Sefer ha-Zikkaron li-Kedoshei Boleḥov (1957).
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