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History of Sarny

SARNY, town in Rovno district, Ukraine.


It may be assumed that the first Jews settled in Sarny in 1901, with the opening of the railroad station there. As Sarny was then a village, Jews had difficulty, under the czarist restrictions on their settlement in villages, in obtaining permission to live there. After Sarny acquired the status of a town in May 1903, its Jewish community developed rapidly. During the Civil War after the end of World War I, the Jews of Sarny did not suffer from the pogroms in Ukraine, and the community aided refugees and orphans from other places. Sarny's economy was largely based on the lumber industry. In independent Poland, after Sarny was made the district capital in 1921, the city developed further. The Jewish population numbered 2,808 in 1921 (47% of the total), 3,414 (45%) in 1931, and 4,950 (45%) in 1937. A *Tarbut school was founded in 1920–21, and an *ORT school in 1923–24. There were also a talmud torah, and several ḥadarim. At the outbreak of World War II, preparations were under way for opening a Hebrew high school. Until the early 1920s ẓaddikim of the *Karlin-Stolin ḥasidic dynasty lived in Sarny, and later continued to visit it.

[Shmuel Spector]


Holocaust Period

After the outbreak of World War II many refugees arrived in Sarny, and by 1941 the number of Jews there had risen to 7,000. During the Soviet occupation (1939–41) the Jewish institutions were disbanded. The 2,000 refugees from German-occupied western Poland were transferred to the Soviet interior. The Germans occupied Sarny on July 5, 1941, and immediately the Ukrainians staged a three-day pogrom. There began persecution of the Jews, indiscriminate murder, seizure of able-bodied people for forced labor, and extortion of large sums of money. On the Day of Atonement (Oct. 1, 1941) they rounded up the Jews in Sarny for a census and ordered them to wear the yellow badge, instead of a white band with a blue Star of David. A ghetto was established in April 1942, packed with 6,000 persons, 15 per room, and a few weeks later the Jewish community was forced to pay a "fine" of 250,000 rubles ($50,000). In June 1942, when information of mass murders reached Sarny, armed groups were organized there. They planned to set a fire and escape into the forest. But when the Germans came, the secretary of the Judenrat convinced the groups not to act. The Germans transferred the ghetto Jews to the "Poleska" camp, where about 15,000 Jews and 1,500 gypsies Jews from near-by settlements were already concentrated. On Aug. 27–28, 1942, the Germans began to "liquidate" the community. A group headed by two Jews, Tendler and Josef Gendelman, cut the wire fence, ordered to set fire to the camp barracks, and called for a mass escape. Thousands tried to flee, many of them were shot, and only a few hundred reached the forests; there some of them joined the Soviet partisan units of Satanovski and Kaplan (both Jews).

Sarny was retaken by the Soviet army on Jan. 11, 1944. A handful of survivors returned from the Soviet interior, and about 20 Jewish partisans, some of whom had fought against the Ukrainian bands led by Stefan Bandera. The remnants of the Sarny community fenced in the local cemetery and restored the tombstones that had been used for pavements. In the late 1960s there were about 100 Jews in Sarny.


Sefer Yizkor li-Kehillat Sarny (1961). ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Spector (ed.), PK Poland, vol. 5 – Volhynia and Polesie (1990).

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