In 1815–1816, two judicial processes against the Jews took place in Włodawa for ritual murder. Both cases resulted in acquittal of the defendant.
In the 1820s, Jews began to dominate the demographic structure of the town. In 1820, 59.5 percent of 3298 town inhabitants were of Jewish origin. When Włodawa came under the rule of Russia (1832-1862), tsarist authorities banned Jews from other localities from settling in Włodawa due to the borderline character of the town. Nevertheless, in 1857 there were 4,304 Jews residing in the town out of 9293 town inhabitants[2.1]. At the end of the 19th century, the Jews of Włodawa constituted about 66 percent of all the Włodawa residents. The total number of the inhabitants of the kahal remained stable in the interwar period: according to the 1921 census there were 4,196 Jews living in Włodawa, constituting 67 percent of all the town inhabitants. However, in the following years the percentage of the Jews in the demographic structure of the town decreased and before the outbreak of World War II Włodawa was inhabited by 5,650 Jews -- 60.7 percent of the whole town population.
A local branch of the Zionist political party “Mizrachi” was established in Włodawa in 1902 by Berl Rotenberg. In 1904 first Jewish bank in Włodawa was also established – Matis Holcman’s Banking House. In 1905 a worker’s strike led by the Bund and others was organized in town. In 1908, another Jewish bank, Wzajemny Kredyt (Pol.: Mutual Credit) was established in Włodawa. In 1914 the municipal council of Włodawa made an agreement with Eliezer Barnholc to introduce electric lights to the town.
In 1915–1916 a Jew, Lejb Lichtenberg, was the mayor of the town. Under his leadership, the shulhoyf, which had been damaged during the war, was repaired. In 1917, a local branch of the Orthodox Jewish party, Agudat, was established in Włodawa. The same year, a Jewish drama club was created.
During the interwar period, the kahal in Włodawa had about 7,000 members including Jews from the town and its environs. It was chaired by an eight-person board and rabbi. The last rabbi of Włodawa before the outbreak of World War II was Mendele Morgensztern. At the time, the kahal owned two brick synagogues, various houses of prayer, a kahal house, a mikvah and three cemeteries (two of them had already been closed down), none of which survived the war[2.2]. There were also many cheders in Włodawa and a Talmud-Torah school subsidized by the kahal. The school was attended by boys from the poorest families. Thanks to Rabbi Juda Arie Perłow, a religious school (yeshiva) was established in the town in 1924. The Jews of Włodawa mainly inhabited the centre of the town, i.e. the market square and its vicinity as well as the streets situated in the western part of the town: Wyrykowska (present day 1000-lecia Street), Solna (present day Czerwonego Krzyża Street), Okunińska, Furmańska, Kotlarska, Kozia (present day Hołoda Street), Błotnia (no longer in existence), and as far as Chełmska Street. They were mainly involved in crafts and trade.
In 1922, a union that gathered Jewish workers of many sectors and a branch of the Jewish youth movement “Hoshomer Hadati was established in the town. In 1923 that sports club Maccabi was organized. In 1924 a branch of a lefty party “Poale Zion” was founded as well. Eventually, Yehoshua Erlich established a branch of the Society for the Protection of Jewish Health in 1927. By 1939, 5,650 Jews lived in Włodawa.
Germans entered the town on 16 September 1939. Within a few days, they imprisoned some Jewish inhabitants of the town in the synagogue. The Jews were detained for 48 hours without any food or water. They were also shot through the windows. On 25 September 1939, the German army left Włodawa. After that, Independent Operational Group “Polesie” from the Polish army, under general Franciszek Kleeberg, entered Włodawa and spent a few days there. Subsequently, Soviet troops, which were occupying eastern Poland, entered the town and left on 14 October 1939. A number of Jews left the town with Soviet army. Soon thereafter, Włodawa was again occupied by the German army.
[2.1] Trzciński A., Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990, p. 21.
[2.2] Trzciński A., Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990, p. 20.
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