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Borislav, Ukraine

BORISLAV (Pol. Boryslaw), city in Ukraine (until 1939, Galicia, Poland). Borislav, which at the end of the 19th century was nicknamed the "California of Galicia," in 1920 supplied 75% of the oil in Poland. The industry was pioneered by Jews. Around 1880 the numerous wells they founded employed about 3,000 Jewish workers from Borislav and the vicinity. At this time, large Austrian and foreign banks, subsidizing modern techniques, began to squeeze out smaller enterprises and Jewish labor, although a number of wells were still Jewish-owned. In 1898 some of the unemployed workers petitioned the Second Zionist Congress to grant them the means to immigrate to Ereẓ Israel. At the request of Theodor Herzl, the Alliance Israélite Universelle assisted approximately 500 workers to leave for the United States. The Jewish community of Borislav had been affiliated with the *Drogobych kehillah and became independent in 1928. From 1867 to 1903 Borislav formed part of an Austrian parliamentary electoral district in which the majority of the constituents were Jewish. In 1887 the first society of Ḥovevei Zion was established in Borislav. In 1860 the Jewish population of Borislav numbered about 1,000; in 1890, 9,047 (out of a total of 10,424); in 1910, 5,753 (out of 12,767); in 1921, 7,170 (out of 16,000); and in 1939 over 13,000.

[Nathan Michael Gelber]

Holocaust and Postwar Periods

When the town came under Soviet administration in 1939, the Jewish institutions were disbanded and political parties ceased to function. Jewish merchants were forced out of business, while artisans were organized into cooperatives. Refugees from western Poland were deported from Borislav to the Soviet interior in the summer of 1940. When the war with Germany broke out (June 1941), many young Jews joined the Soviet army, and others fled with the retreating Soviet authorities. The town fell to the Germans on July 1, 1941, and the following day the Ukrainians staged a pogrom against the Jewish community, killing more than 300 Jews. A *Judenrat was set up, headed by Michael Herz. The first Aktion took place on November 29–30, 1941, when 1,500 Jews were murdered in the forests of two neighboring villages. The following winter (1941–42), hunger and disease made inroads on the Jewish community. In 1942 able-bodied Jews were sent to the labor camps of Popiele, *Skole , and *Stryj , and in August 1942 about 5,000 Jews were sent to the *Belzec death camp. Two separate ghettos were established, followed by a series of roundups in which hundreds were sent to Belzec. Toward the end of 1942 a special labor camp was established in Borislav for the oil industries. The extermination of the Jewish community continued with the execution, at the city slaughterhouse, on February 16–17, 1943, of some 600 women, children, and elderly people. During May–August 1943 the remaining Jews were killed and only some 1,500 slave laborers were temporarily spared. Jews who tried to hide in the forests and in the city itself were mostly caught and killed by the Germans, with the cooperation of local Ukrainians belonging mostly to the bands of Stefan Bandera. In April–July 1944 the local labor camp was liquidated and the last surviving members of the Jewish community were brought to *Plaszow labor camp, from where they were transported to death or concentration camps in Germany. There were resistance groups among the young Jews of Borislav, but the only detail known about them is the fact that one of their leaders, Lonek Hofman, was killed while attempting to assault a German foreman. When Soviet forces took Borislav on August 7, 1944, some 200 Jewish survivors were found in the forests and in local hideouts. Another 200 Jews later returned from the Soviet Union and from German concentration camps. A monument was erected to the Jews who fell in World War II but was allowed to fall into disrepair. The Jewish cemetery was closed down in 1959. In 1970 the number of Jews in Borislav was estimated at 3,000. There was no synagogue. Most of the Jews left in the large-scale emigration of the 1990s.

[Aharon Weiss]


Gelber, in: Sefer Drohobycz ve-ha-Sevivah (1959), 171–6; K. Holzman, Be-Ein Elohim (1956); T. Brustin-Berenstein in: Bleter far Geshikhte, 6, no. 3 (1953), 45–100; Sefer Zikkaron le-Drohobiz, Borislav, ve-ha-Sevivah (1959), Heb. with Yid.

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