Chapter Three



(Russia, Germany, Ukraine)


By G. Urinsky



Under Russian rule


Hundreds of people in the city were obliged to move due the mobilization of reservists that was carried out at the start of August 1914. A part of the Jewish reservists were taken for military service as transporters and the remainder were taken for military formations.


War operations were a distance away so they did not interfere with life in general[1]. When the Germans came closer to Warsaw at the end of September, many Pruziners who were living in Warsaw escaped to Pruzhany. It was then far from the war front and those who escaped believed that the war would not come to Pruzhany.  During the winter of 1914 - 1915, the Jewish population's economic situation was not bad. Tailors and shoemakers of Pruzhany were able to do well making and fixing military supplies.


Local train stations were under the jurisdiction of the military as were other stations in Poland. Merchandise was brought to the Pruzhany Station (in Lineve) and from there was transported to different places on boxcars. In this way, trade was more dynamic and some of the Jewish population (merchants, dealers and artisans) had good benefits.


On the other hand some lost the resources provided to relatives and family of reservists by Americans because the normal monthly money flow from America stopped. For this reason a store was opened in the Shtibl in the Bet Medresh (synagogue in the Religious Studies School) where bread and vegetables were sold cheaper than the market price, the loss was covered with voluntary help.


A committee to collect money for war purposes was founded by Natchalstvo[2] and Jews contributed important amounts. All this had no effect on the strong anti-Semitic tendency that local rulers began to show towards the Jewish population. The outstanding person in this anti-Semitic action was the Nobility Marshal (Predvoditel Dvorianstva), a  paleographer[3].


A characteristic document, a letter of February 17 1915 in which the paleographer was mentioned was saved and was sent to "Kazioni Ravin" Goldberg.  It read:


The Honorable Mr. Moisei Berkovitch.

The attitude of most of Jews with respect to military duty is well known. The number of Jews that avoid military duty in Grodno Gubernia gives a clear testimony that the behavior of Jews in wartime is not the best. In the last military service, members of a rich Jewish family made efforts to liberate a completely healthy son from military service. By luck, in the Pruzhany military commission, there were employees who would not allow this evasion from military service. If at the same time some dozens of Jews fulfilled their duty, these exceptions confirm the general rule.


The kind of behavior that Jews were observed perpetrating, regarding regulations that protect the population from price speculation, is not allowed in wartime. The following data about the most needed products will clarify this for you.  On February 9th some products that are important for Christians during the Great Post (veliki post) time were sold in Pruzhany, and, it was demonstrated, Jews sold potatoes 100% more expensive than the fixed price, herring 25% more expensive, carrots 199% more expensive, peas 150% more expensive, etc.[4].


The ease with which Jews of Pruzhany conduct business can be demonstrated by the fact that most of mentioned products were bought in the store that is in same building as is the Administration.[5]*


All large military purchase orders, such as boots and military clothes, were given almost exclusively to Jews. This gives them so much profit that they would not even dream of helping Russian peasants, who have on their backs the high duty of homeland defense. The Military needs supplies but without the strain of the Jewish economic yoke. In this way, mainly Jews, without considering their protectors, are those that get rich due to the war but do not serve in the military as faithful and subjected Russian citizens assume it.


In a letter addressed to my name, the Grodno Governor said, "Military successes depend on the activity of welfare organizations". You know that Pruzhany Jews, who do not fulfill their military obligations, should contribute to the local fund 500 rubles for war needs.


In Russia today life is very difficult.  You listen as an adult, to the noise of shots[6]. You will surely understand which kind of behavior Jews should have for their own interests.


Therefore, I request that you answer today in writing about the current situation concerning the issue of collecting contribution aforementioned and also inform me about the reasons for which they block this matter. 


Accept my full respect.





The same paleographer later terrified the Jewish population and took from them approximately 8.000 rubles.  The community collected that money to build a Jewish Hospital. Bigger taxes were imposed on merchants of fruits and vegetables (apple loaders) that were located in a basement in the police administration building; they had to pay a 1000 ruble fine. 


In March 1915, news was received that some dozens of Jewish families who arrived in Pruzhany from Yedvabne, a town in the area of Lomzshe that was under Russian military power, were expelled. A committee was formed[7] to receive those who were expelled. These homeless families from Yedvabne were housed in places rented for them. Each family received a certain sum of money each week for groceries, and those that had an occupation were offered work.  


Then, at the beginning of summer, dozens more families that were expelled from village of Novidvor, also of the Lomzshe area, were received in Pruzhany. Homeless children were located in groups and they were taught Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian. 


During the summer of 1915, when the retreat of the Russian army from Galitzia and Kroin began, Poland began to move great homeless groups, especially of Lublin area. This dampened the spirit of the population, but nobody had any idea that the German-Austrian army would occupy our region so soon.  


It was thought that near Brisk, which was considered strongly protected, the German-Austrian army would be stopped for a longer time. As a result of a forced evacuation of the population of Brisk and surrounding towns, a great number of homeless were brought to Pruzhany. Hundreds of Jewish families stayed in Pruzhany, as they then believed that the military forces the central nations would soon enter the town and they would be able to return as soon as possible to their homes.


News arrived about violations by the Russian army that occurred during their retreat, and it created a panic in the Jewish population. Fearful of the Germans, most of the rural and urban Christian population got ready to evacuate together with the retreating Russian army. This was because the peasants heard news about the terrible events that happened to the civilian population.


The Russian military power retreated to the border of Grodno and invited the people to evacuate with them. In many cases other groups advised inhabitants to remain in their places. The Russian army was not as systematic in setting fire to cities and villages or in the destruction of properties as had happened in other regions.


The Jewish population, except for some rich families, did not think of abandoning their houses. The number of Russian army details that left was greater each and every time. Cossacks also appeared. A commission was formed and, with the money collected from the Jewish residents, bought tobacco, matches, sugar, and rolls, which they distributed among the soldiers that passed through the city. Under the orders of the Major, a representative of the committee was informed about each group that went passed and they gave each soldier his portion. The Cossacks received the most attention from the committee.


During the retreat of the Russian army, the normal assaults and fires did not happen in Pruzhany. Already then, there was an order to the army not to start fires nor pursue or harm the population. The offerings that soldiers and Cossacks received had it influence on them and kept them from bothering the people. Pruzhany was one of the cities that suffered fewer indignities during the Russian army retreat. Especially to be highlighted is the attitude of Cossacks (those from the Don and also those from the Urals) who, in last days before the entrance of German-Austrian army, expelled many of the soldiers who tried to steal.[8]


In general, in the armies that passed by Pruzhany, there was a deep feeling of resignation after losing the strong city Brest, on which they had so many hopes, to the enemy. Beginning in August, when the evacuation of Russian government institutions had already begun, the Grodno Governor, Shebeko, arrived in Pruzhany. He named a committee of four members, two Jews and two non-Jews, to be the representatives to the military power, however this committee did not have any value.


A large formation of Cossacks arrived in the city some days before the central countries’ army came into the city. The Cossacks’ commandant gave the impression to the people, through   the Zemski Soiuz representative that was in the group, that he had orders to set fire the city, but through an important “tip" he could avoid it. From the beginning it was understood his threat as a blackmail, to press the Jewish population in order to get money. But when they saw that he left with some Cossacks and surrounded some houses and spread gasoline around them, a representative of the committee went to commandant and gave him the "tip" of 500 rubles. Then, the commandant removed the order to set the city on fire and on the same day he left Pruzhany with his regiment. 


Three days before Pruzhany was to be occupied by the German-Austrian army, the city was totally evacuated of all governmental institutions, including the administrative power and the police. Only a military commandant of army groups was left. An urban militia of one hundred people was formed, that was responsible for taking care of and bringing order to the city. They did not carry weapons; they only had a white band with the initials, in Russian, PCM (Pruzhany Citizen Militia) on their sleeve.  


A Committee of four people[9], directed this Militia. The committee’s office was located in the building of the Town government. Russian personnel, when evacuating with Gorodskai Starosta[10], took all the files and the moneybox during a 24-hour period by working day and night. Some soldiers went about the stables robbing cows and horses. Some soldiers evicted the urban militiamen, but when the militiamen were more numerous, they went to the officials passing by, and the officials evicted the soldiers.  


Those nights were terrible. The horizon and all around was red from villages that were set on fire. The uninterrupted thunder of canons was heard. The city was surrounded everywhere by homeless who were resting in their cars. The population confined themselves to their homes, alert enough to each noise to be startled and, unarmed militiamen walked in the streets and had constant conflicts with armed soldiers. People were on guard against dangers because a careless step could only bring a spill of blood and then a collective pogrom.


Anyway, days passed without any humans being victimized and not a house was set on fire. The highest tension happened during the last night. Russian soldiers of Oriegord set Neguidish St. (Patzevich) and Seltzer St. (Dombrovske) bridges on fire. The militiamen’s committee, informed of this, transferred location of the Town government office to the Birnboim Hotel on the other side of the bridge. Firemen were ready with their equipment to prevent nearby houses from catching fire. 


No combat took place between the two armies. One day, before entering, the German airplanes dropped bombs on the city, but the bombs did not cause any damage. One day after the entrance of Germans, a Russian airplane dropped bombs on the city without causing important damages. A bomb fell in the Gubernia yard and burned a barn. 



Austrians and Hungarians arrive


At dawn on Tuesday, August 31 1915, the first Austrian-Hungarian spies on bicycles entered the city and the German army marched in directly behind them. After weeks of terror and tension, the Jewish population of the city felt a slight relief with arrival of German army.


The Brest homeless, who had hopes of returning to their homes as soon as the Germans occupied the Pruzhany, were especially happy. An Austrian-Hungarian military force first occupied the city. On the third day after their occupation, a commandant[11] was designated.


The day after the city was first occupied, a group of Hungarian gendarmes with their special uniforms, black hats with feathers entered. By their attitude and their incomprehensible language (all they spoke was Hungarian) they panicked the population. The Urban Militia committee again worked in the Town government building.


The captain of the Hungarian gendarmes summoned the Committee members to a meeting and, speaking in German, declared that he is now the boss of the city and on the following day he would order the Town government’s civil officials to be constituted. The same night he called other citizens, informed them that he already had designated all of the Town’s government officials and that they had already begun to work. If any of the members tried to renounce the appointment, they would be subject to a military trial.  


Municipal officials were assigned as follows: burgomaster, his assistant, four commissioners, two councilmen whose function was to provide housings for the army, and a militia chief[12]. This town civil government commission worked for 8 months until May 1916, when the Germans created a civil commission with a member of the German military as Mayor. That commission during all its existence had town government functions and also police and tribunal functions. The commission consisted of 20 militiamen; 17 Jews, 2 Poles and 1 Russian. Members of the commission and the militiamen received a salary paid from tax income. The Austrian-Hungarian military command existed for approximately one month. The Austrian command imposed big demands on the town government. They requested people and cars, and for the smallest delay, the Jews were punished and were assessed large money fines.




(German demands, hunger, bad sanitary conditions, no education system)


Germans immediately created their own command that governed at same time as the Austrians. One month later, the Germans expelled the Austrians and took over all city power.  


The city was dominated by epidemic illnesses, such as dysentery and cholera. The town government tried to combat the epidemic. The suburban city of Gorki was taken over, its inhabitants, the Metchanes, left the city and their houses were empty. A barrack was designated in these houses for persons sick with cholera. Specialized personnel took charge of them. A dozen people died from the cholera epidemic. The majority of the deaths were among the homeless people from Brest. After a short time the epidemic was brought under control.  .


Because peasants and landowners were gone, there was a large quantity of non-harvested crops, especially potatoes, in the fields.  The urban population had sown potatoes in the fields for their own consumption. At the end of September, an expert of a company located in Gut Gubernia, came to the town government and demanded that the workers go to the Gut fields to harvest the potatoes and store them until winter to fill the needs of the urban population.


When Germans took command of the city they continuously demanded houses, furniture and other home products for use by the officials passing through. The Germans in charge gave written receipt for anything confiscated, committing themselves to return everything, but they did not return anything. They took a great amount of furniture, cushions, etc out of the city. Hardship in the city was terrible. The biggest and best houses were taken over by the Germans and their inhabitants were evicted. They took over occupancy of the houses, while in the city they were still thousands of Brest homeless.


For this reason and because of hunger, a terrible typhus epidemic began to spread in the city. As before, the German military power occupied the same Gorki village and set up an isolated place for typhus sick people there. A doctor[13] and medical personnel were assigned there. This isolation place existed during the whole period of the German occupation. The Germans combated typhus with special bathrooms. They forced the population to go there by force and with special apparatuses they disinfected those that had nits. They took inhabitants to bathrooms, and, in the homes, all the bedclothes and dressing garments were treated with very strong disinfectants. In spite of all measures taken, the typhus epidemic spread a lot and many died. When a member of a family got sick, they isolated the whole family. Soon the isolation place became overcrowded and a part of the Chvatke suburb was turned into an isolation area. .


The population's economic situation worsened more and more. The Germans took charge of everything, merchandise and groceries disappeared. Communication with the external world was very difficult. To leave the city it was necessary to receive a special pass from the temporary command that was called the Delouse Action Certificate. Specialized sanitary workers went through the houses to fumigate bedclothes, dressing garments and heads. They only did this to houses that were under Germans occupation.


The Austrians occupied Lineve, approximately 10 kilometers southwest of our city. There the German pass[14] did not have any value. Anyway, during the winter of 1915-1916, the emergency had not ended. We still lived off the remains that were picked up during autumn in the abandoned fields. One could get necessities and groceries little by little if you had the money to pay for them. The poor received help from the Town government and, at the end of the winter, a popular kitchen was founded that gave bread and soup in exchange for coupons. A unit of women was also founded, who were in charge of helping poor sick persons. They began to sell bread according to prices fixed by the military power. The Military command distributed flour, 100 grams daily per person. The population lived with the hope that war soon would end.


The first commandant, Major Von Offen, a typical German, continually demanded that the town government surrender to the Command different objects, mainly furniture. He rejected all negative answers on this or any other demand. The second commandant, Hoipman Tzitshman, a reservist official and an intelligent man, took into consideration the town government’s complaints and demanded less each time. Using his authority he tended to favor the civil population objections to the different injustices made by German officials and soldiers, many times with positive results. However, he was the commandant for a short period, and in December temporary Mayor Hoipman Velman was designated as commandant.


His appearance panicked the population. Tall, fat, with a faced marked by scars, blind in one eye and a monocle on the other one, he continually carried a whip in his hand. In his first days as commandant, he summoned all militiamen and warned them that if any of them found a dog in the street, they should catch it at once using their hook that always had nearby. Frequently the civilians who went to the Command to complain were punished with blows.


Some time before, a fight broke out between the Municipal commission and the rich people of the city. In the first stage of uneasiness they hid in their houses, but then they wanted to be able to influence the activity of Town government as it had a democratic base. In the end a civic committee of 25 people was founded. It was a kind of a civic advisory group that was composed of workers and other popular people.


When major Tzitshman was commandant, the Town government went to him with a request: to supply the needy population with a quantity of potatoes. The potatoes were harvested and stored in Gubernie's yard. The population was forced to do this work and to keep them for winter as ordered by the German official.


When Velman was the Major, he answered requests as follows: the German are willing to give a quantity of potatoes, with the condition that the Town government pays with gold. After an agreement between the civic commission and the Town government, they sent this answer to the commandant, “In view of the fact that the Town government does not have any gold, it rejected the potatoes”. Some days later, in January 1916, Velman ordered the Town government to come (in Rosemblum's Moier) in front of all members of civic committee, and he delivered a speech.  He screamed at the top of his lungs; the speech was a continuous scream; it began and ended with the words, “pigs and dogs”. The end result was that he arrested all the members of the civic committee.  They were told that, if in the course of several days, they did not produce the gold, they would be sent to Germany to a civil prisoner’s camp.


Members of civic committee and the Town government, approximately 30 people, were surrounded by armed soldiers and taken to the red jail on Potsht St. (May 3). Along the way, the German soldiers used their rifle breeches to hit those that walked upright. All those who were arrested were put in the basement and were only given bread and water. Jail guards were given a strict order: do not to bring them any food. Only one member of civic committee, the Mayor and his assistant were not arrested. During the day the Mayor brought the demanded gold (600 rubles), and by evening all the prisoners were liberated. The potatoes that the commandant distributed were almost all rotten and icy and most were discarded. 


At beginning of the German occupation, schools hardly existed.  There was only a private school for girls in the Russian language and some private Jadorim (schools for religious studies). Most of children did not attend any school. They wandered and drifted around in the streets. In November 1915, a people's activist's group[15] planned a fundraiser for a popular school. It was immediately successful. A building downtown at Prijodskoie St. and Oiezdnoie St was found[16] that had in its attics some furniture and supplies usable for primary and state schools; there were some study chairs and school supplies, maps, terraqueous globes and study books.   All of these items were brought to this place, student registration began and some hundreds of students of Pruzhany and those homeless of Brest were registered. They were taught in Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian. The central language of all courses was Yiddish. Teachers were recruited for the Pruzhany and from the homeless Brisk[17] students. They also recruited professionals and intelligent youth all of whom served without salary. Textbooks for general courses were in Russian, the teachers knew the Russian terminology. The teachers met at night to translate the terminology into Yiddish and they prepared lessons for the following day.


It was very difficult to get gasoline and clothes. It so happened that a teacher had some oil of Provance, A special lamp with a wick was made that worked well enough to provide light for the students. The Town government subsidized the school with 50 rubles and a similar sum was gathered in the city. With those funds they bought books and school materials that were given free to the students.


The residence problem was very difficult. All the larger houses were taken by the Military. In the city there were some thousands of Brisk homeless[18]. The hardship was very severe and the German military power frequently evicted the inhabitants of houses in order to occupy them for themselves. On several occasions the Germans tried to occupy school place, but every time they tried the Jews were able to reject their attacks. Thanks to the intervention of the school collaborators who were members of Municipal Civil Committee, occupancy of the school building was not permitted. But on the same day that the members of the civic committee were jailed for not giving the gold required in exchange for potatoes, the school building was occupied. School tables and all school material were thrown out onto the street. In the school building there was a Brest homeless person who was evicted from another house and he was soon evicted from the school building by the military power. The first social school with prevalence of Yiddish language ended in this way after only two working months of existence.


The following summer in the year 1916 there was an attempt to again establish a school. The commission[19] established a program for a popular school with Yiddish as its study language. This project was sent to the army inspectors for their permission and to the German Town government for approval. After a short time, the answer arrived that the program was approved, not only for Pruzhany but also for the whole area. Finally, after several months a school with German as study language and using local personnel[20] was established for Jewish children. With great effort the founders had to undo their project[21]. If they did not obey they were told that they would be taken to prisoners' camp. Later, in 1917, a private primary school was established by A. ROZENSHAIN and M. SHAPIRO and Yiddish was the study language.


The German commandant announced to the Town government that workers should be nominated to place straw on the icy prairies around Tschachtshe, approximately 8 km. from the city. The Town government warned the population and told them that the Germans promised meals and a wage of 3 marks per day. Approximately 100 youths, most were from the Brest homeless, registered for work. The Germans took all those that registered to work. Soon, the news arrived that the workers were not satisfied with the conditions, and they wanted to quit, but the German powers did not allow the workers to quit unless they were very sick.


All those, who originally volunteered to work, were forced to stay in their work places. Food was terribly bad. The labor conditions were very difficult because they worked in a cold and humid area with improper clothing and some of their shoes were in dire need of repair. Parents and workers' relatives came to the Town government in large groups screaming for aid. Because they were registered in the Town government, they expected help from them in obtaining permission for the volunteers to leave this work. The Town government’s request to the commandant for assistance was unsuccessful so the Town government sent clothes and groceries to the laborers. Workers remained there until end of winter.


The German military power built a power station to supply electric energy to the city, but only for the use of German institutions and houses occupied by the Germans. The civilian population did not have electric power. The Germans demanded that the cost of construction of the power station was to be paid by the Town government. Since the Town government did not have money, they had to impose on the Jewish inhabitants several special taxes in the name of a war action taxes.


At the end of the winter of 1916, the German military power ordered that a group of Brest homeless be evicted and sent to nearby villages that were vacated by its inhabitants. The richer people among them protested to different powers, they were not evicted and they remained in the city. Those evicted considered this as a serious punishment, they protested vigorously in opposition to the eviction. Later during the German occupation, the situation was less difficult for most of those evicted, particularly those who were in charge of rural works in villages. All those that settled in villages were forced by Germans to work on the land.


In the nearby towns of Malch and Shereshev, some inhabitants were forced to be in charge of   workers on the land. More than a few times, the Germans forced men and women to push a plow. In exchange, they gave them, for a payment, horses and rural tools, and frequently a German soldier as guide and assistant. They also gave seeds with the obligation of returning twice as many, after the crop was harvested. Farm labor was applicable to the Jews of Pruzhany and, more so, to the population of the surrounding villages.  


Every year the number of Jews that were in charge of rural tasks on the land grew larger and larger. Landowners and peasants had the biggest amount of land not being worked. The heart of the Gubernia containing some 8000 to 9000 hectares was worked by Jews and partially by German that had colonized among special peasants. In Shemenetshi and Shubitsh, lands were worked by Pruzhany Jews including the fields of the Christian Poles surrounding the city and fields of peasants of nearby villages.


During the summer of 1916, and the following winter, the conditions were the most severe. The lack of goods increased significantly to the maximal level that resulted in an escalation of smuggling and libertinism. The demoralization increased. Many young women were sustained by their Official acquaintances and German soldiers, and through them received different privileges in form of permission to send and receive merchandise and groceries.  The German military power opened a brothel downtown on Seltzer St in  the Mostovlaski hotel.  The prostitutes were brought from places unknown and they worked day and night. Patrols became more frequent and the last remains of merchandise and several objects were confiscated.


At the beginning of year 1916, women opened a popular kitchen on Selzer St. in the Beis Medresh (school of religious studies) that was constructed of masonry. To start 200 grams of bread per person was distributed and later 180 grams per person. In addition at the start, a bowl of soup, Dirgemitze, containing potatoes, vegetables, carrots, etc. was added. Every day they distributed 600 to 800 portions.  Later in years 1917 and 1918, the quantity increased up to 2000 portions daily[22].  A local committee of social activists[23] managed the kitchen.


The German commandant gave products to the kitchen and, a German soldier was sent to watch over the committee’s work that was controlled by the town. The civil town government was disbanded in May 1916, and the German military power created a town government with a German from the military as Mayor. Some Jewish officials worked in the town government. Some hundreds of Guilden sent by Berlin to help the committee arrived from time to time. Another committee made distributions to those who had the greatest need. Money sent by American relatives through neutral countries very rarely arrived to the addressee. The German town government took most of the money.


Within the German army there was a lot of corruption, with a great deal of robbery and smuggling. German soldiers openly sold merchandise that had been confiscated by the German police. Products addressed to the popular kitchen under town government’s responsibility were confiscated by the military and were sold to private people. The popular kitchen committee maintained constant battles with the town government to get bread, potatoes and Gemitze.


The German gendarms were very bad to the population and inflicted all manners of punishment upon them. In Pruzhany there were three field gendarms most with fat, brutal faces and large bellies. They terrorized the whole population with their cruel methods. The non-Jewish population called the Jews collectively Moishelech and they called each Jew Moishe.


For their work, the gendarmes used as confidantes, people from the local population. In the winter of 1916 the Germans created an obligatory work battalion called TZ.A.B., an  abbreviation for Tzivil Arbeter Batalion or Civil  Workers Battalion. They took workers by force and sent them to different working places. Germans took people from their homes during the daytime and took people from their homes in the middle of the night. The TZ.AB were militarily brutal as was the regimen of the forced workers battalions. Some Batei Midroshim (schools of religious studies)[24] [25] buildings were used as barracks. They put barbed wire around the buildings and maintained a constant surveillance. The forced workers received little pay so they were unable to get enough to eat. Most of them were from Pruzhany or from other villages. Those of Pruzhany were sent to the area around Baranovitsh. Many young Jews went voluntarily to work in Bielovetz, where the Germans maintained dozens of big sawmills for use in forest product manufacture.


During the years 1915 & 1916 a small train track was built, for a distance of approximately 12 kilometers from Pruzhany to Lineve, by voluntary workers, most were Jewish youths from Pruzhany. The volunteers received better pay and better food. Some Jewish youth also worked in rail workshops at the Lineve station (today it is called Arant Shitze). After some time many of the workers became specialists and were employed in responsible positions by the train line.


In the new synagogue yard the German constructed big barracks that included a hospital for prisoners.  Some of the Botei Midrashim were taken for this purpose. Jewish girls from the city worked as nurses in the hospital.


Still in that time cultural life continued. At the beginning of 1916, a comedy for the benefit of the ladies commission was put on by the ladies. The play was called, The Sheiguets of the City [26].  It was a sour satire on the city’s society and some of its people. In autumn of the same year there was a literary night[27]. All the soldiers and German officials that were in the city went to these shows. The literary presentation made a deep impression on the Germans although they understood little of it's content. They could not imagine that the population in the East had cultural interest and possessed literary concepts. The Mayor, Hoipman Abel, a merchant from Berlin, when he met Jewish authorities always said this stereotypical sentence, "Your contribution was wonderful. Although I didn't understand everything it did have literary expression".


The library existed for almost the whole period of the German occupation. Books were obtained from the City Social Library and each book was lent out several times a week.  On Saturdays there were discussions on literary issues.  During the years 1917 & 1918, those who loved the theater[28] acted in or put on shows.  One night was devoted to humorous literature.


At the beginning of 1917, through some people's initiative[29], a children home was opened. Children went there until 3 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and they received two meals a day. The German civil commission provided groceries. More than 100 children from the ages of 4 to 8 attend. This home existed until 1921.



Pruzhany in Ukraine


According to the Brest agreement signed by the Germans and the Ukranie Comission, Ukranie, the jurisdiction of the Pruzhany are passed to the Ukraine. The area would extend as far as Shereshev approximately 16 kilometers from Pruzhany.  Shereshev already belonged to Lithuania and the Germans tried to influence the population of Pruzhany to become unified with Lithuania but without success


After the Russian revolution new winds began to blow. The military régime loosened a little, and Russian homeless began to return. Social life began to work more dynamically. Workers were organized into a Professional General Union. At the beginning the Union met at private homes and later they met in the children's home that was on Tzerkevne St.. There were meetings almost every evening[30]. The Bund and Fareinikte(United) organizations were created. A dozen people were members of the Bund. The Fareinikte, was a group of ten members. The Bundist and the Fareinikte cooperated with the Professional Union. With regard to the Library, an arduous struggle began.


After the failure of the German army in the autumn of 1918, a revolution broke out and the situation changed radically. The German soldiers created a commission and they got ready to evacuate occupied areas. In October 1918 a civic committee was created and little by little took over the administration of the city from the German domain. In December, the German army totally evacuated the city. They stayed for a short time in the Lineve rail station.


[1] Interest in war events was, of course, extraordinary high. There was a person in charge of paying the Telegraphic Agency of Petersburg (" P.T.A ".) for telegraphic news, and the same day printed them in Russian and  distributed them.

[2] Russian Local authoruty

[3] He was later vice governor of Argangelsk, and after the out-break of February's revolution, was collaborating with Moscow Grodonatchalnik. Until World War II he was in Kobrin, where he received the qualification of "good"

[4] It is characteristic that except for herrings, the other articles are sold by peasants

[5] Bigger fines were imposed on fruits and vegetable merchants (apples loaders) that had a store in basement of the police administration building. They paid a 1000 rubles fine.

[6] German then bombarded Osovetz, near Bialestok, and the thunder of canyons was heard in Pruzhany

[7] In fact there were two committees, one of older people that gathered economic means, and one of young people that were in charge of relocating the homeless.

[8] This is characteristic. Cossacks frequently said that Jews of this area are different to those of the other side of the river Bug, those were Zshidei (T. N Jews) and these Yevrei (T. N. Hebrews).


[10] Major nominated by Grodno

[11] Austrian command was formed by the whole Austrian nationalist conglomerate. The commandant was Polish, his assistant was Czech and his secretary was Rumanian. Later, when Hungarian gendarmes wanted to give a warn to German soldiers, they took a Jewish militiaman as translator. 

[12] As Intendant was named G. CHAIKIN, as vice A. D. SHAIBMAN, as member of the town government or as the Germans called it Gemeinde  Beirat, G. URINSKY, M YANOVITCH, A. POMERANIETZ and VITKEVICH (a Pole that was replaced by OSHEPOVSKY). Councilmen were I. GLEZER and VAILEVSKY (a Russian) who was militia Chief and then W. NITZBERG. Some of them changed later. 

[13] Refoel Milchiker was a medical student in Prague University. He died of typhus in Pruzhany in 1919

[14] In Zaprud, 28 km. from Pruzhany in address to Kobrin, at one time Yakob Mestel, the well-known actor and Jewish writer was major, as the he remembers it in his book, An Austrian official's Memoirs 


[16] In  Mark Platz (Mark Place) residence of Goldfain (Munie Sirkes)


[18] Among them was Hoicher, high school teacher


[20] Later, we will tell the methods the beginners of this school used

[21] TN As teaching language was not Yiddish but German

[22] The population consisted of approximately 9000 people. Among them there were 8000 Jews (of these nearly 3000 were Brest homeless). None of the population was Polish. Of Russian population there were some100 souls, and the rest was evacuated

[23] The Committee had seven members: V. GRINBERG, G. MINTS, SHAMSHANOVITSH, G. URINSKI, M ZELVIANSKI & V. NITZBERG. In the beginning there were also ASHER POMERANIETZ and IOSEF POMERANIETZ. The kitchen manager was BEN-TZION CHAIKIN.

[24] Batei - Midrashim: Hachnosas-Orchim, Malbush-Arumim. In the Big Synagogue there was a prisoners hospital

[25] Chauffeurs lived in Ein Yakov. The Neguidisher together with surrounding buildings was used as a hospital for German soldiers. In Beit Yakov there also was a hospital. The Russian Orthodox Church in Patzevtsh St. was used for theater shows for soldiers.

[26]The cast was composed of: N. URINSKI, I. BABITSH, MOTL AND BERL POLAK and OSHER PO-MERANIETZ.  I. BABITSH read his works, M. y B. POLAK read plays by PERETZ, S. ALEICHEM and FRUG.

[27] G. URINSKY gave a speech

[28] Organized by Itzchak Glezer


[30] Main founder of the Professional Workers Union was M. SHAPIRO (of Brest). The officials of the Union were: I. GELMAN, M. GLEZER, ETC