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מוקדש לזכר 300 שנים לקיומה של הקהילה היהודית ברוז׳אן שהוכחדה ע״י הנאצים ומשתפי הפעולה המקומיים בתקופת השואה במלחמת העולם השניה

Dedicated to the memory of 300 years of a Jewish community that was brutally annihilated by the Nazis and their local collaborators, in WWII.

A sub-Project of Jewish Communities of Mozavia District, Poland

This project seeks to collect all of the Jewish families from the town of Różan, Poland.

Photo: Obelisk commemorating the Jews of Różan. Few fragments of remaining gravestones had been used as building material of the obelisk.

Różan (ˈruʐan) is a town in Mazovian Voivodeship, Poland, on the river Narew.

Rozan was founded during the early days of the Polish Kingdom (the end of the 10th century and beginning of the 11th), as a strategic fortress on the highway from Warsaw to Russia. The town is situated 90 Kilometers north east of Warsaw and came under the rule of Czarist Russia after the partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century.

Jews settled in the region at the beginning of the 12th century at the invitation of the rulers, who granted them a bill of rights. In the 16th century there was an organized Jewish community in Rozan. Paying taxes to the council of the four lands. The synagogue was only completed in 1888.

During WWI, following the retreat of the Russian army from the region, Rozan was burned down and totally destroyed. The Jews fled from the town and returned after it had been occupied by the Germans. The houses and the synagogue were rebuilt and community life restored with the aid of former residents who had emigrated to the USA and of the Joint. The synagogue was also used for public meetings. There was also a small synagogue, which was heated and used mainly in winter. The Rozan Jews were divided between hassidim and mitnaggdim. The mitnaggdim prayed in the synagogues and the hassidim in the “Gur”, “Alexander”, “Radzimin”, “Amishov” and “Otwozek” shtiblach. Because of the religious character of the community, the synagogues and the shtiblach were the centers of public activity.

The community had a cemetery, a mikveh and a slaughter house. It also had charitable organizations and a benevolent loan society (Gmiluth hassadim fund). Its representatives took care of the Jewish soldiers serving in the army in the area. The community’s institutions, which were financed by progressive taxes, also served the Jews living in the surrounding villages. The children of the community studied in the “heder”, in the homes of the teachers and in the “Talmud Torah” school.

The small synagogue also served as Beth Midrash. An elementary state school for boys and girls with Jewish teachers was established after World War I, in an independent Poland. Here the pupils learned the Polish language. Later on, the pupils of the higher grades were transferred to the Polish school. Heder studies took place in the afternoons.

Then “Tifereth Bahurim” society was active until the 1920’s as a social and cultural society for young people. The “Beth Jacob” school for girls of the “Agudath Israel” was established in the 1920’s, as well as the “Yavne” school which was founded by the “Hamizrahi” movement. In the 1930’s an “Ort” vocational school was opened in Rozan. The Jews of Rozan earned their living from trades and commerce with the peasants of the neighboring villages. Few were financially well off; the majority made a meager living. Among them were builders, carpenter, tinsmiths, repairers of agricultural machinery, carters, shoe maker, saddler, tailors and hatmaker, bakers and butchers, all of whom sold their own products. Jews were also owner of stores selling textiles, building materials and haberdashery. There were proprietors of restaurants and workshop owners who employed workers under special year consisting of two periods, one between Sukkoth and Pesach and the other between Pesach and Sukkoth. The association of workshop owners played an active part in the town’s social life. Flour mills, a saw mill and a plant manufacturing bricks belonged to Jews, as well as the buses traveling on the Rozan-Warsaw line. Fixed market days were held twice weekly and a regional fair once a month on Tuesday. When the market days and fairs fell on Jewish holidays, they were cancelled. On the Sabbath and Jewish holidays absolute quiet prevailed and no business transactions were made in the town.

Relations between Jews and the local population worsened after the Russian-Polish war in 1920. For a short time Rozan was occupied by the Russians and when they retreated from the Polish army they killed some Poles in the town. This act was attributed to Jews and only the intercession of the leaders of the community prevented a pogrom. However, resentment against the local Jews persisted and they avoided going out on the streets on Polish holidays. Following the wave of anti-semitism in Poland in the 1930’s, the Poles instigated a boycott against Jewish shops and the authorities imposed heavy taxes on them. Jews who owned workshops were forced to obtain a license as a condition for continuing their trade, but the authorities made it very difficult to obtain such licenses. The buses on the Rozan-Warsaw line were nationalized. The Jews retaliated by boycotting the line and traveling to Warsaw by cart.

The “Bund” was active in Rozan from the beginning of the 20th century. It had a public library and organized social activities. After the establishment of Zionist organizations, the Bund’s activities lessened gradually. The “Left Poale Zion” movement was founed together with the “Borohov Youth” at the beginning of the 20th century. They had a library and conducted evening courses for workers. Their members had representatives in the local council. “Right Poale Zion” and “Young Zion” were also active in the town. The biggest local yhouth movement was “Hashomer Hazair”. Established in the 1920’s, its branch also served as a community center. It opened a public library, conducted Hebrew classes and coordinated Zionist activities, local national fund-raising and training for aliya. Adults were also active in the “Hehalutz” and the “working Erets Israel” movement. The majority of the Jewish population of Rozan was religious. It waqs against this background that the “Agudath Israel” movement developed in the town. It was religious and anti-Zionist, and enjoyed the recognition and support of the authorities. Under its patronage the “Poalei agudath Israel” was established. In the 1930’s thelatter changed into a pro-Eretz Israel movement. The “Mizrahi” movement became active in the second half of the 1920’s, and grew at the expense of “Agudath Israel”. It was “Bruria” for girls. A branch of Betar was also active in the town. These youth movements trained young people for aliya to Eretz Israel. The first olim left Rozan in the 1920’s. Four of Rozan’s sons later fell in Israel’s battles. In the 1920’s a few Rozan Jews were members of the communist party which was active underground. In the 1930’s, when legal immigration to Eretz Israel was stopped, their number increased.

In 1939, there were ca. 3000 Jews in Rozan out of a total population of ca. 5000.

The Holocaust period:

On the second day of the war, September 2, 1939, the Jews of Rozan fled eastwards with the aim of reaching the region controlled by Russia, to the towns of Bialystok, Grodno, and Vilna (Vilnius). Many reached Goworowo which which had been captured by the Germans on September 9. The Germans drove the Jews into the synagogue of Goworowo before setting fire to it. At the last minute a German officer released them from the burning synagogue. Some Jews were taken in lorries to Tannenberg Camp in Hindenburg, Prussia.

On October 27, 1939, following the Molotov-Ribbentrop agreement, the Rozan Jews were liberated from Tannenberg camp and brought to the Russian border. Some of them were shot and killed by German patrols. Other, who crossed the Russian border, arrived in Zambrow and then traveled to Bialstok. After a stay of six months there, they had to choose between becoming Soviet citizens or being exiled to Siberia. Some wanted to retun to the German occupied region, in the hope of finding their families. Most of the Jews who returned to the region occupied by the Germans were killed, either on the roads or in concentration and extermination camps. Those who had opted for Soviet citizenship were no longer free to leave the U.S.S.R. whilst those who were in Siberia during the war years, finally managed to leave the U.S.S.R.. It is estimated that several dozen families of these survivors are living in Israel, the United States, and other countries. Jews of Rozan who had escaped to Vilna and local Jews were transported to Estonia by lorry. On the way some of them tried to kill the German soldiers, but were shot on the spot. Those who remained were taken to the labor camp in Kibuli, Estonia, where they worked for eight months in a coal mine. In the camp there were Rabbis and doctors. There was also a “Sefer Torah”:and a daily “minyan: for prayers. Following the advance of the Russian army, the Jews were transported to the Stutthof extermination camp.

In 1942 a labor camp was set up in Rozan itself. The Jews there were housed in underground fortifications under inhuman conditions. Some of them had to do forced labor there, others were sent to do hard labor in military camps. On Sundays the Germans amused themselves by maltreating Jews, while German soldiers and local inhabitants looked on. These Jews, who were later transported to the Birkenau extermination camp, took part in a suicide action to blow up the crematoria.

Today, there are no Jews in Różan.

The remains of the Jewish Graveyard of Różan

The Jewish cemetery in Różan is situated near the river Narew, in the area called Wyjemka. It was established in the second half of the 19th century and destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. At the time when the Polish People's Republic existed the cemetery was nationalized and later sold. In 2003 Efraim Ben Dor purchased the plot where the cemetery was located.

In 2004 the cemetery was fenced thanks to the funds collected by Ziomkostwo Żydów Różana w Stanach Zjednoczonych i Izraelu [the Fellowship of Rozan Jews in the United States and Israel], the Foundation for the Preservation of Jewish Heritage Poland, the Foundation of the Nissenbaum Family and with support of the Town and Municipality of Różan.

On 31 May 2004 an obelisk commemorating the Jews of Różan was solemnly unveiled. Few fragments of remaining gravestones had been used as building material of the obelisk.