The purpose of this project is to identify and catalogue the families of the Jewish community of Kopychynsti, a small town in what is now Ukraine. Kopychynsti flourished as a Jewish community from the mid 19th Century until its almost complete destuction by the Germans and local Ukrainians in 1943.
The following is exceprted from a variety of sources, but primarily the Pinkas Hakehillot Polin- Kopychynsti, Ukraine.
Kopychyntsi (Ukrainian: Копичинці, Polish: Kopyczyńce) is a small town in Ternopil Oblast, Ukraine. It has a population of 7,036 (census 2001).
Kopyczynce was known as a village and first mentioned in 1340 as a village in the powiat of Trembowla in 1443, a church was built. In 1615 the noble family of Kopyczynsky took possession of the village. A fortress was built in Kopyczynce, which more than once had to stand the sieges of Tatars and Turks. Frequent invasions caused much damage to the community. Land of Halicz, itself part of Podole Voivodeship of Poland and then the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was granted a city charter in 1564. In late 1648, during the Khmelnytsky Uprising, a combined Cossack and Tartar army under Asand Demko seized the town. However, following the Battle of Kopyczyńce of May 12, 1651, in which the enemy forces were defeated by hetman Marcin Kalinowski, it returned to Poland. In 1672 the town was ceded to Ottoman Empire, but it returned to Poland after the Treaty of Karlowitz of 1699.
Kopyczynce became known as a noble-owned urban settlement during the late 17th or early 18th Century. During that time, and especially during the 19th Century, Kopyczynce developed into a trade, craft and agricultural industry center for the fertile agricultural surroundings, and mostly for the large noble estates. In the late 19th and 20th Centuries, the area produced fine wheat, sugar beet, flax and oleaceous plants – raw materials for the small local industries. And, indeed, Kopyczynce saw the establishment of an oil plant, two breweries, a sawmill and a brick factory. The town grew rapidly after it was connected to the railway that led to Ternopol. Kopyczynce was not particularly damaged during WWI; therefore, the sub-district government was moved from Husyatin to Kopyczynce during the inter-war period.
The first Jews apparently settled in Kopyczynce at the end of the 17th Century. It is known that in 1716 the small Jewish settlement of Kopyczynce was annexed to the Ternopol community. During the second half of the same century, the Jewish community of Kopyczynce was independent and ruled over the Jews scattered in its surroundings. Jacob Frank, founder of the Frankist sect, resided in Kopyczynce in 1755 and probably a number of his Chassidim were part of the Jewish population of Kopyczynce. The Jewish community of Kopyczynce grew rapidly during the second half of the 19th Century but later its population declined due to emigration on reversing slightly after World War I when residents of neighboring communities destroyed during the war moved to Kopyczynce.
The first Jews of Kopyczynce (in the 18th and early 19th Centuries) engaged in liquor sale, tenancy and trade, and a few, in crafts. With the growth of the settlement, the number of craftsmen, small merchants and peddlers increased. On the establishment of the Chassidic court of Rabbi Abraham-Yehoshua Heschel in Kopyczynce in 1894, a significant number of Jews made a living from services to the Chassidim who came to stay with their rabbi on Sabbath and Jewish holidays (innkeepers, restaurants, synagogue attendants, etc.). At that time, the craftsmen founded their union, Yad Harutzim, and the merchants' union was also established before WWI.
In the early 19th Century, when the Jewish community of Kopyczynce had reached stability, a synagogue and a religious learning institution were established. By the end of the century five additional prayer houses had been founded (of the Chortkov and Husyatin Chassidim). For as long as the community existed, it maintained all Jewish institutions (Chevra Kadisha burial society, attention to the sick, charity, etc.). At the end of WWI the Jewish community, under the auspices of the Joint and in association with the Town Hall, built a public kitchen which catered 150 free meals a day to the needy.
In 1920, the bathhouse and ritual purification bath were reformed. During the late 19th and early 20th Century, the majority of the community's committee was Orthodox and the minority were assimilated- the professional Intelligentsia. In the inter-war period, the majority of the committee was in the hands of Zionist representatives. Until WWI, the Jews held one-third of the seats of the Town Hall Council. Known local Rabbis:
-Rabbi Chaim Yaakov Rappaport during mid 19th Century; from the early 20th Century
-Rabbi Abraham bar Chaim Rosenberg, who devotedly officiated also during the inter-war period.
-Rabbi Yitzhak Meir bar Abraham Heshel, head of the Chassidic court, sat in Kopyczynce. He was fourth generation to Rabbi Abraham Yehoshua Heschel from Opatow, and son-in-law to the Husyatin Chassidic Rabbi Mordechai-Shraga Friedman
Rabbi Yitzhak Meir served also as Rabbinical Judge of the place. In 1914 he fled to Vienna (died 1935). His son, Rabbi Abrahm Yehoshua Heschel, succeeded him shortly after WWI. In 1936 he emigrated to Vienna and from there to the U.S.A. (he died in 1967).
The Orthodox Associations “Agudat Hacharedim” and “Agudat Tifferet Hadat” were created in Kopyczynce in 1912 on the initiative of Rabbi Yitzhak Meir and Rabbi Abraham Rosenberg.
The Germans conquered the city on July 7, 1941. On the first day of the conquest the German soldiers killed several Jews. The following day the Ukrainian militia evicted 50 Jews to forced labor with torture and humiliation. A few days later, 8 Jews were sentenced to death on charges of collaboration with the Soviets. On July 12 the Jews were commanded to wear a white band with a blue Star of David on their right sleeves. In the same month the Judenrat, headed by J.J. Zellermeyer, was established.
Before long, the structure of the Judenrat was changed and Hermann Roller was appointed to head it. A Jewish police force worked side by side with the Judenrat. Its first commander was David Locker, who was followed by J. Temerling, a felon. Maurice Roller, the brother of the head of the Judenrat, succeeded him.
On November 8, 1941, some 200 Jews were taken to the labor camp in Kamionka. In December 1941 more Jews were seized for labor camp, this time to Borki-Wielkie. On March 20, 1942, about 150 Jews were taken out of Kopyczynce to clean the roads leading to the city from snow. However, without prior notice, they were taken by the Gestapo to Chortkov, where they were held in jail for three days. From there, 100 were led to the camp in Kamionka and 50 to the labor camp in Gleboczek-Wielki. On September 30, 1942, a massive action started and on June 12, 1943 some 400 people were carried away from the ghetto in Kopyczynce to the ghetto in Chortkov, where they were killed. On June 18, 1943, 400 Jews were left at the Kopyczynce ghetto and the rest were taken to labor in neighboring estates. On July 20, 1943, the final destruction of the ghetto and of the Jews scattered in the area, began. On that day the ghetto was surrounded, as were all houses inside it. Each house, each corner were throughly inspected to reveal the last of the hiders. The hiding places were discovered and people were shot on the spot. The lack of food and water forced them out and they fell in the hands of the enemy.
Up until the conquest of the town by the Soviet Army on March 23, 1944, the survivors of the Jewish community were chased. 20 survivors gathered in town at the time of the liberation, but they were still in danger. Local gangs of Ukrainian nationalists (Bandara) were after the Soviet administration workers and after Jews. The survivors left Kopyczynce before long to Poland and from there to Israel and other countries