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Berestechko, Ukraine

BERESTECHKO (Pol. Beresteczko), small town in Volhynia, Ukraine; until 1795 and from 1919 to 1939 within Poland. Jewish settlement there is first mentioned in a document dated 1569. Until 1648 the number of Jews exceeded 1,000. About 200 families perished in Berestechko during the *Chmielnicki massacres in 1648 -49. In the battle fought at Berestechko between the Cossacks and Poles in 1651 some 1,000 Jews fought on the Polish side, according to Nathan Nata *Hannover . There were 872 Jews registered in the community in 1765, of whom 632 lived in the town. It was devastated by a pestilence at the end of the 18th century. Rehabilitated shortly afterward, the community numbered 1,927 in 1847, 2,251 in 1897 (45% of the total population), and 2,210 in 1931 (total population 6,514). Between the World Wars the economic situation deteriorated. Most Jewish industry consisted of small enterprises processing agricultural produce for the local market. In addition, 177 shops of the town's 234 belonged to Jews, and they were the majority among artisans, accounting for 28 of 30 tailors and 18 of 19 furriers. A Hebrew school and a public library functioned and served as a cultural center for local Jews.

Holocaust Period

In September 1939 the Soviets annexed Berestechko, nationalized the economy, closed all Jewish communal institutions, and disbanded all parties and organization. The Hebrew school was turned into a Yiddish one.

On June 23, 1941, the Germans captured the city. On August 8 German police with the help of local Ukrainians rounded up 300 Jewish men and executed them near the local castle. A Judenrat was chosen from among former public activists and a heavy tax was levied on the Jews. From October 5 to 14 a ghetto was set up, surrounded by barbed wire. Some needed artisans were housed in separate quarters. Later Jews from nearby villages were brought in, causing great crowding in living quarters. From September 7 to 9, 1942, the ghetto population was murdered, with only a few managing to escape and hide. Berestechko was recaptured by the Soviet Army on April 24, 1944. The few survivors who returned from the Soviet Union found their homes in ruins.


PK Polin: Volhin ve-Polesie, S.V.

[Aharon Weiss /

Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

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