MIEDZYRZEC PODLASK


MIEDZYRZEC PODLASK (Pol. Międzyrzec Podlaski; called Mezhirech or Mezrich by the Jews), town in Lublin province, E. Poland. An organized Jewish community existed in the town from the middle of the 17th century. Between 1689 and 1692, the parnasim of the community of Miedzyrzec Podlaski waged a stubborn struggle against the leaders of the community of *Tykocin (Tiktin) for the hegemony over the Jewish communities in the vicinity of *Mielec. A magnificent synagogue, which was still standing in 1970, was erected in Miedzyrzec Podlaski at the beginning of the 18th century. The owners of the town during the 18th century, the Czartoryski family (see Adam *Czartoryski), encouraged Jews to settle in order to develop the town. At the fair held twice a year in the town, local Jewish merchants, as well as those from other towns, played an important role. In 1714 the community of Miedzyrzec Podlaski and the Jews of the surrounding villages which were under its jurisdiction paid 1,000 zlotys as poll tax. In 1759 a compromise was reached between the communities of Miedzyrzec Podlaski and *Lukow: the Jews living in the surrounding villages and townlets would pray in Miedzyrzec on the High Holidays and would also bury their dead there; they would pay their taxes one year to one community and the next year to the other. In the 19th century, during the period of Russian rule, there were no residence restrictions in Miedzyrzec Podlaski. Around the middle of the 19th century, the influence of Ḥasidism spread among the Jews there. At the time of the political agitation in Poland (1861), a Hebrew manifesto on the contemporary problems was circulated among the Jews of the town. In 1863 a number of the local Jewish craftsmen assisted the Polish rebels supplying them with equipment and food. During the second half of the 19th century, a Jewish working class emerged which found employment in the sawmills, the tanneries, the production of ready-made clothing, and hauling. The organized Jewish proletariat and youth participated in the 1905 revolution. At the end of 1918, a Jewish self-defense group was active in the town. Between the two world wars, branches of all the Jewish parties were established, as well as Jewish educational institutions (*Tarbut, CYSHO, Beth Jacob). During the 1920s a weekly, Podlashier Lebn, was published.

[Arthur Cygielman]

Holocaust Period

Before the outbreak of World War II, there were about 12,000 Jews in the town and they constituted 75% of the total population. During the first year of Nazi occupation, about 4,000 Jews from other places were forced to settle there. In December 1939, 2,300 Jews from Nasielsk, Pultusk, Rupiń, and Se-rock were deported to Miedzyrzec Podlaski. In April 1940 over 1,000 Jews from Slovakia were deported there, followed by 600 Jews from Cracow, Mlama, and Mielec. In June 1940 about 2,300 men were deported to six forced labor camps organized in the vicinity of the town. Almost all of them perished. On Aug. 25–26, 1942, the first deportation to the *Treblinka death camp took place. Other deportations followed on Oct. 6–9, 1942, and Oct. 27 of that year. Over 11,000 Jews perished in these deportations, but hundreds succeeded in fleeing into the surrounding forests. Some of them organized small guerrilla units that operated in the vicinity.

In October 1942 the Germans issued a decree about the establishment of a ghetto in Miedzyrzec Podlaski. Jews who fled into the forests were encouraged to return and promised that no more deportations would take place. The Germans managed to concentrate over 4,000 Jews in the ghetto. In December 1942 about 500 of them were deported to the Trawniki concentration camp, where all of them perished. On May 2, 1943, the ghetto was liquidated and all its inmates were deported to the Treblinka death camp and exterminated there. Only about 200 Jews were left in a forced labor camp, but they too were executed on July 18, 1943, when the town was declared judenrein. After the liberation of the town in July 1944, 129 Jewish survivors settled there, but after a short time they left because of the inimical attitude of the local Polish population. Organizations of former residents of Miedzyrzec Podlaski are active in Israel, the United States, and Argentina.

[Stefan Krakowski]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Halpern, Pinkas, index; Cracow, Archiwum PAN, 3795 (= CAHJP, ḤM 6739); B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach xix i xx (1930), 35; A. Eisenbach et al. (1963), index. HOLOCAUST: J. Horn (ed.), Mezrich Zamlung: Isum (comps.), Żydzi a powstanie styczniowe, materiały i dokumenty 10 Yortsayt (1952). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Horn, Mayn khoruve haym (1946).


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.