LUTSK - (Luck in Polish) pronounced wootsk
Lutsk (Polish Luck), city in Volhynia, Ukraine. Until the end of the 18th century in Poland; under Russia until the end of
World War I; between the two world wars again in Poland; and in 1939 taken by the U.S.S.R. Nazi Germany occupied Lutsk in
1941, and after World War II, it became again part of the Soviet Union.
There were Jews in Lutsk in the tenth century, and in the 13th Century a community of Karaites settled there. Both they
and the Rabbanites enjoyed the rights granted to the Jews of Lithuania in general and later of Poland-Lithuania. The importance
of Lutsk as a political and economic center grew. After the union of Poland and Lithuania in 1569, the Jews benefited by this
new situation, some being engaged in large-scale commerce, some leasing the customs revenue, breweries, and potash production
plants, while others traded in forest and agricultural products.
Lutsk Jews participated in the fairs of Lithuania and Poland, and established their own craft guilds. In 1576 the city
became part of the kingdom of Poland, and in 1580 the king ordered that the municipal taxes collected from the jews should
not exceed their proportionate share in the general population. He also renewed their right to live in Lutsk, and allowed
representatives of the Jewish community to attend the meetings of the city council when it debated the levying of the City
taxes. During the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648-- 49 both Rabbanites and Karaites suffered heavily, but the community was
By royal order in 1649 and in 1664 the Jews of Lutsk were permitted to trade freely in shoes; it was again established
that they should pay no more than a third of the municipal taxes, this being their proportion of the general population. In
the 18th century Lutsk suffered from the Haidamack uprising, and from a blood libel in 1764. The Lutsk community participated
in the regional (galil) council of Volhynia, as well as in the councils of the lands.
The city was a center of torah study and had many yeshivot. Among its famous rabbis in the 17th and at the beginning of
the 18th centuries were Moses b. Judah ha-Kohen (formerly of Cracow), Jacob Schor, the son of Ephraim Solomon Schor, and Joel
B. Isaac Halpern, known as the great Rabbi Joel. Part of the fortress built by prince Witold was rebuilt as a fortified synagogue,
with the permission of king Sigismund III. From the gunmounts on the roof, Jews served as gunners during enemy attacks on
the town, while underground tunnels led from the synagogue to other key buildings in the town. This building withstood the
fires and enemy attacks of centuries. Under Russian rule during the 19th century.
The number of Jews in Lutsk was increased when the Jews were expelled from the rural communities following the Czar's
Regulation of 1804. However, they lived under constant threat of expulsion, since Jews were prohibited from settling within
50 versts of the Russian border, and Lutsk was included in this category in 1844.
During World War I the Jews suffered both from the armies and from war devastation, as the town changed hands several
times and was occupied by Russian and German troops. Under the rule of Petlyura in 1918 many Jews were massacred, and when
the Polish armies entered Lutsk they looted Jewish houses and organized anti-jewish riots under the pretext that the Jews
had helped their enemies. In the face of these assaults the Jews organized themselves in self- defense. Between the two World
Wars, the Lutsk community shared in the troubles and struggles of polish Jewry, facing anti-semitism and hostile economic
and social legislation. For instance "bata," the shoe factory opened In Lutsk with the assistance of the government,
caused many Jewish shoe factories to close down.
The Jewish population grew in the 1920s. According to official numbers, 14,800 Jews lived in Lutsk in 1921 (about 70%
of the general population), whereas in 1931 they numbered 17,366 (48.5%). In 1937, however, they numbered only 15,880 (36.5%).
The Jews took part in the civic life of the city and had their elected representatives in the city council.
Between the world wars the Lutsk community led a rich religious and cultural life. Its last rabbi was Zalman Sorotzkin.
It had a hospital as well as several social and medical organizations, some of which were assisted by Lutsk landsmanshaften
in U.S.A. A printing press attached to a Dominican monastery in Lutsk apparently produced some Hebrew books. Jewish schools
were maintained by various organization and the Beth Jacob Girls' School by the agudat Israel.
By 1939 the Jewish population of Lutsk had increased to an estimated 20,000. Under Soviet occupation (1939-41), Jewish
public life was repressed, Jewish organizations were disbanded, and private enterprises nationalized. Some Jewish businessmen
were ordered to leave the town. In June 1940 the soviet authorities uncovered the Zionist Gordonia underground and imprisoned
its leaders. Many refugees who had fled to Lutsk from Nazi-occupied western Poland were deported to the soviet Interior. When
the German-Soviet War broke out on June 22,1941, many young Jews left together with the retreating soviet forces. The town
fell to the Germans on June 26, and a few days later some 2,000 Jews were murdered. On July 4th, 3,000 jews were put to death
in the nearby fortress (zamek) of Lubart. A ghetto was established in December 1941 and the Jewish leaders made every effort
to alleviate starvation and control epidemics.
An orphanage, an old age home, and public kitchens were established in the ghetto, but the degree of suffering was hardly
diminished. In the spring of 1942 a group of young Jews attempted to escape from the ghetto to the forests, but most of them
were caught and murdered by the Ukrainians. A few, however, managed to join the soviet partisans and fought the Germans as
part of the Kowpak units.
One of the refugees of the Lutsk Ghetto, Joel Szczerbato, became the commander of the seventh batallion of the partisans.
Meanwhile the Germans carried out the large-scale action in which the majority of the Lutsk ghetto was murdered (Aug. 19-23,1942).
About 17,000 Jews were led to the Polanka Hill, on the outskirts of the city, and massacred. The remaining 500 Jews, who were
employed as artisans in the labor camp, were executed on Dec. 12, 1942. However, the Germans encountered armed opposition
on the part of these Jews, who had fortified their building and repeatedly repulsed German attacks. With German reinforcements,
the labor camp was taken, with some German losses. When the Soviets captured Lutsk on Feb. 2, 1944, only about 150 Jews came
out from their hideouts or the nearby forests. No organized Jewish life was renewed in Lutsk.
There are Lutsk societies in the United States and in Israel. Sefer Lutsk was published in 1961 by the Israel Lutsk Society.
In the late 1960s, there was a Jewish population of about 1,500; but there are no synagogues, the former old synagogue having
been converted by the authorities into a movie theater.
[FROM BARK FAMILY WEB PAGE, Benjamin J. Bark, April, 1999 - http://www.bjbark.com/lutsk,.htm]