Komarno

Name in English: 
Komarno
Name in Ukrainian: 
Комарно
Name in Polish: 
Komarno
Name in Yiddish: 
קאָמאַרנע (Komarne)
Historical-cultural region: 
Eastern Galicia
Administrative District : 
Lviv Region
Population Data: 

Year

General Population

Jewish Population

1563

?

~100

1565

?

1530 (Including surrounding villages)

1880

5097

2084

1890

5239

2161

1900

5875

2507

1910

6141

2716

1921

5009

2004

 

Komarno is located about 30 km. south west of Lvov, on the banks of the Vereshytsia River. The city was founded in 1473 as one of the aristocratic cities, and its citizens were primarily employed in cloth weaving. During the wars of the 17th century, the city withstood battles with the Ukranian Cossacks, and the army of the Ottoman sultan was defeated in battle not far from the city. Following the division of Poland and the annexation of Galicia to the Austro-Hungarian empire, the weaving profession in the city was considerably weakened, due to the competition created with imported cloths from Moravia. The region’s inhabitants also worked in agriculture, fishing and the production of honey.

The Jews of Komarno

The Jewish community of Komarno was founded in 1555, and we have testimonies from 1594 of the taxes paid by the community. Already at the beginning of the 17th century, the Jews of Komarno built a stone synagogue in the city and consecrated a Jewish cemetery. The Jews of Komarno earned their livelihood through trade, primarily the trade of agricultural produce, which was the main occupation of the Jews of Eastern Galicia. The relations between the Jews and Christians of the city were good. During the 1648 massacres, the writers of the Chronicles of the period, Rabbi Nathan Neta Hanover (author of ‘Yeven Mezulah’) and Rabbi Meir b. Shmuel of Szczebrzeszyn (author of ‘Tzuk Ha’itim’) note that the Jews of Komarno fought alongside the Christians of the city and routed Khmelnytsky’s army, chasing them away with guns and cannons.

The rabbinic intelligentsia of the city, from its very beginning, produced literary works, and we have several fairly early compositions penned by Komarno Jews. Some of the rabbis of the nearby great city, Lvov, previously resided in Komarno, and even Rabbi Joseph Teomim, author of ‘Peri Megadim’, one of the most influential books written on the Shulkhan Arukh, lived in Komarno for several years. The personal doctor of the Graf Potocki and the prince Lubomirski was also a Komarno Jew, as well as key figures in the Council of the Four Lands. Alongside this, however, it appears that the community did not have a rabbi of its own until 1613. By 1635, however, we already possess documents signed “the Holy Jonah b. Pinchas, Head of the Beit Din of the Holy Community of Komarno”. From its beginnings until that point the community did not have a local rabbi, but rather a judiciary figure, who adjudicated relatively simple halakhic questions and referred more complicated ones to the rabbis of nearby Lvov. The community of Komarno was annexed to that of Lvov, and was only recognized as an independent community in 1765.

At the beginning of the 19th century, with the spread of Hassidism in Galicia, Rabbi Alexander Sender Eichenstein, from the village of Safrin, was appointed the rabbi of Komarno. Eichenstein was the brother of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch from Żydaczów, a central and influential figure in East Galicia, who was at the epicenter of the dispute with members of the Jewish Enlightenment movement. Eichenstein’s son, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Yechiel, a Hassidic-kabbalist who was one of the most prolific and original personages of the period, inherited the rabbinate of the city. He left behind him a variety of kabbalistic works, and was also considered a Talmudic scholar. His son, Rabbi Zvi Eliezer, who continued his father’s post as rabbi of Komarno through the end of the 19th century, also penned many works in kabbalah and served as the spiritual leader and ‘miracle worker’ for many of the region’s Jews. His descendants continued to serve as Hassidic masters in the city, and garnered much respect from Jews both of the immediate region and of wider Poland, as well as from their Christian neighbors.

Throughout the 19th century various free tradesman settled in the city, as well as doctors and merchants, and the city even boasted two Jewish trade unions, ‘Yad Harutzim’, the tradesmen’s union of the city, and ‘Oseh Tov’, the merchants’ union. With the granting of equal rights for the Jews at the end of the 19th century, Adolf Matanofski, an assimilated Jew, who handled the funds and institutions of the Jewish community, was chosen as the mayor of the city.

 

The First World War and the Period between the Two World Wars

During the First World War, in the autumn of 1914, Komarno was captured by the Russian army, which held it until the summer of 1915. Before they left the city, the Russian soldiers ransacks the Jewish stores of the city, and even took Jewish hostages, some of whom were executed nearby. After the war the Jews returned to their traditional occupations, with the added field of providing hospitality for the followers of the Rebbe of Komarno, who came from afar to receive his blessing. In addition, various Zionist parties began operating in the city, among other things building a secondary Jewish school in addition to the Talmud Torah and the Beit Yaakov girls’ school which were already in existence.  

 

The Second World War

During the Second World War, Komarno was captured by German Nazis in 1938 for a period of about two weeks. During this short period the Jews of the city suffered under forced labor and random executions imposed by the Nazis. The city, however, passed into Soviet hands in September of 1938 as part of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, but these new masters also terrorized the Jewish community. Although a local Jewish communist, Eliezer Freiwillig, was appointed mayor of the city, factories were nationalized, stores were boycotted and members of the local intelligentsia underwent forced labor in various fields. Rabbi Baruch Safrin of Komarno, the Hassidic rebbe, who was a respected figure in both the Jewish and Christian communities of the city, was banished from his home and forced to reside in a small house near the synagogue. In addition, many Jewish refugees began arriving in Komarno from western Poland, whence they had escaped in order to avoid the Nazi regime.  

With the capture of the city by the Nazis in 1941, the Ukranian police began terrorizing the Jews of Komarno. Various laws preventing the Jews from engaging in trade and from leaving the Jewish quarter, along with various edicts, demands for different ransoms and forced labor, caused many Jews to die of hunger during the winter of 1942. The Jews of Komarno were executed in mass executions by the Nazis and their Ukranian helpers in three main events. During the first of these, at the end of October 1941, several hundred Jews, primarily heads of families and various public figures, but also entire families, were shot into a mass grave in the Beresniak forest. At the end of 1942 about a thousand of the city’s Jews were captured and sent to the Belzec death camp, and the few hundred Jews who managed to escape this transport were sent to the Rudkyov ghetto. These latter were murdered in April 1943, together with the local Jews. When Komarno was liberated by the Soviets in July 1943 a handful of local Jews, who had survived by hiding with their Christian neighbors, were discovered.

 

 

Sources:

'קומרנו', פנקס הקהילות, פולין, ב, עמ' 481-478.

ברוך ישר (שליכטר), בית קומארנא: קורות העיר ותולדותיה, מהווסדה ועד חורבנה, ירושלים תשכ"ה.