SOKOLKA, town in Bialystok province, N.E. Poland; until 1795 within Poland; until 1807 under Prussia; subsequently until 1915 the town belonged to Russia, reverting to Poland after World War I. Jews settled in Sokolka in the latter half of the 17th century. In 1698 they were granted a royal privilege giving them rights to engage in commerce and own property. There were 522 Jewish poll-tax payers in Sokolka and its surroundings in 1765. The Jewish population of the town numbered 1,454 in 1847; 2,651 (52% of the total) in 1897; and 2,821 (46.4%) in 1921. Jews there earned their livelihood from trade in agricultural produce, hides, and crafts. Jewish contractors developed the tanning industry in Sokolka from 1868, which before the outbreak of World War I employed 700 workers. The Jewish workers' movement began to organize locally in the late 19th century; Zionists began activity in the early 20th century. All Jewish parties were active there between the two world wars. Jews from Sokolka joined the Third Aliyah and helped to found *Kefar Malal in Ereẓ Israel. Jews were occupied in over 80% of the businesses and crafts in the town. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee helped to set up a tanning cooperative. Community institutions included schools of the Yavneh, *Tarbut, and CYSHO, a Maccabi sports club, and two libraries.
After the outbreak of World War II a large number of refugees from the surrounding areas and western Poland reached the town. By the end of 1939 there were some 9,000 Jews in Sokolka after it passed to Soviet rule (1939–41), and the activities of the Jewish community institutions and other Jewish bodies ceased. After the outbreak of the German-Soviet war, the town was captured by the Germans (June 27, 1941), and the Jewish population subjected to forced labor, restrictions on movement, and financial payments. In the fall of 1941 a ghetto was established. On Nov. 5, 1942, all the Jews in the town were assembled, a Selektion was carried out, and most were deported to the camp at Kelbasin, where all the Jews of the surrounding area were taken. A few weeks later the Jews from Sokolka were transported to the death camp of *Treblinka. Over 200 remained in the ghetto in Sokolka and worked in a factory for felt boots. These few were murdered on Jan. 18, 1943. The town was declared judenrein. Isaac Goldstein from Sokolka headed the unit of Ha-No'ar ha-Ẓiyyoni in the Warsaw ghetto uprising of April 1943. Also from Sokolka was Leah Perlstein, a leader of He-Ḥalutz in Poland who distinguished herself by acting as a liaison officer between the Warsaw ghetto and the Polish underground movement to obtain arms for the uprising; she was killed during her mission.
Z. Honik, in: YIVO Bleter, 2 (1931), 454; Sefer Sokolka (1968); J. Shleymkovich, in: Folkshilf, no. 9 (1937); B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach XIX i XX (1930), 83, 87, 89.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.