WEGROW


WEGROW (Pol. Węgrów; in Jewish documents: Vengrove), town in Warszawa province, E. Poland. Jews settled there at the beginning of the 16th century, when it was under Lithuanian rule. They engaged in trading both locally and abroad, and in tax farming. An organized community was established soon after the middle of the 16th century. After the town was incorporated within the kingdom of Poland in 1569, the community developed rapidly to achieve a leading position among the communities of the region. The owner of the town, Jan Kazimierz Kraniński, in an attempt to attract new Jewish settlers, granted the community in 1655 a privilege confirming its right of judicial autonomy, freedom to engage in trade and crafts, and exemption from municipal taxes. It imposed on the Jews an annual tax of two zlotys per household, and a one-time payment of six zlotys by new families as a domiciliary fee. At the beginning of the 17th century the Wegrow community had jurisdiction over the communities of Ciechanowiec, *Sokolow, and later Miedzyrzec *Podlaski and others. After a prolonged struggle against the kahal of *Tykocin, the Wegrow kahal obtained official representation at the *Council of Four Lands, and from the 1660s headed the independent galil (province) of Wegrow, which survived until 1764. In 1715 the Ciechanowiec community broke free of the authority of Wegrow, to be followed by Miedzyrzec in 1753. In 1765 there were 3,623 poll-tax payers under the community's jurisdiction, of whom 581 lived in the town. In 1764 the Wegrow community was the sixth largest in the Polish kingdom. Up to 1788 the Jewish community of the Praga suburb of Warsaw was affiliated to that of Wegrow as regards the payment of the poll tax.

In the second half of the 18th century Jews of the town traded in cattle, participated in the fairs of Breslau, Berlin, and Koenigsberg, and were occupied as tailors, weavers, furriers, bakers, and carters. The Jewish artisans were mostly organized in independent guilds. The pinkas of the dayyanim of Wegrow for 1781 to 1814 (now in the National and University Library in Jerusalem) provides an important source for the social and economic life of the community. In the 1790s Jewish entrepreneurs established workshops for wool weaving and tanning, and wealthy merchants were purveyors to the Polish and Russian armies. In 1794 a branch of the Hebrew printing press of *Nowy Dwor, founded by J.A. Krieger, printed books in Wegrow, including *Josippon.

In 1815 Wegrow was incorporated within Congress Poland. The community numbered 1,463 (48% of the town's population) in 1827; 2,343 (61%) in 1857; and 5,150 (62%) in 1897. From the 1870s many Jews took up occupations as jewelers, manufacturers of luxury goods and ritual articles, and engaged in transportation. At the beginning of the 20th century many Jews in Wegrow were occupied in the knitting and tanning industries. The *Bund gained considerable influence among the local workers in 1905.

In 1918 the *Po'alei Zion established Bet Borochov; later Tarbut, Central Yiddish School Organization (CYSHO), Yavneh, and Beth Jacob schools were established. In Orthodox circles the Gur (*Gora Kalwaria) Ḥasidim became influential. The Jewish population numbered 5,227 (55%) in 1931.

[Arthur Cygielman]

Holocaust Period

At the outbreak of World War II there were about 6,000 Jews in Wegrow. Immediately after the German army entered the town, attacks were made on the Jewish population, and on Sept. 23, 1939 (the Day of Atonement), the rabbi of Wegrow, Mendel Morgenstern, was tortured to death. During 1940 about 1,500 Jews from other parts of Poland were forced to settle in Wegrow, and the number of Jews there had grown to about 7,500 by the beginning of 1942. On Sept. 22, 1942, several thousand Jews from Wegrow and the vicinity were transferred to the *Treblinka death camp, where they perished. However, the majority of the Jewish population had managed to escape to the surrounding forests the previous day. Almost all of them were eventually caught and shot by German armed units who searched them out. The last 100 Jews, who had remained in a local forced-labor camp, were executed on May 1, 1943.

The community was not reconstituted after the war.

[Stefan Krakowski]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Halpern, Pinkas, index; L. Loewenstein, Index approbationum (1923), 15, 18, 85, 102, 132, 140, 143–4; E. Ringelblum, Projekty i próby przewarstwowienia Żydów w epoce stanisławowskiej (1934), 94; idem, Di Poylishe Yidn in Oyfshtand fun Kościuszko (1937), 123; R. Mahler, in: YIVO Historishe Shriftn, 1 (1937), 644; Z. Rubashow (Shazar), ibid., 187, 189; M. Baliński and T. Lipiński, Starożytna Polska, 3 (1845), 412; R. Rybarski, Handel i polityka handlowa Polska, w XVI stuleciu, 2 (1928), 89, 93, 149, 155–8; M. Kremer, in: Zion, no. 3–4 (1936), 311; Yevreyskaya Starina, 4 (1911), 286; B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce w wiekach XIX i XX (1930), 35, 66, 72, 77.


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