Known to the Jews as Horodno or Grodne.
Before World War II a County Seat in the Bialystok
Grodno before World War II, general view and the Nieman river
The Grodno district is located in northwest Byelorussia, bordering on
the north with Lithuania and on the west with Poland. The population
was largely Byelorussian, Lithuanian, and Polish. Four rivers – the Bug,
Narew, Nieman, and Bover – run through the district; there are a
number of lakes in the north and east. The agricultural produce of the
area consisted of rye, wheat, linen, tobacco, fruits and vegetables.
Industrial products have been diverse, including textiles, pelts, wool,
bricks, and alcoholic spirits.
Between the two world wars Grodno served as the county seat in the
district of Bialystok. It is located on the high right bank of the Nieman
River, near the Polish border, and is situated at an important railroad
junction on the main road from Warsaw to St. Petersburg. It was a
commercial center for grains and the site of a variety of industries: large
spinning mills, tanneries, and factories producing tobacco and
cigarettes, shoes, glass, paper, soap, and agricultural machinery.
Although Grodno was already inhabited during the first millennium
C.E., it is not mentioned in historical documents until the year 1128,
when it appears as the seat of its first prince, Vsevolod Davidovich. In
1224, it was destroyed by German knights, and in 1241, during the reign
of its fifth and last prince, Yuri Glebovich, by the Tatars. Immediately
afterward it was captured by the Lithuanians. In the early fourteenth
century Grodno was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1444 it
was granted city status (Magdeburg city rights).
Grodno was devastated in 1284, and again in 1391, in the wars
between Lithuania and the Teutonic Order (from eastern Prussia). In
1398, Prince Vitold of Lithuania made Grodno his second capital, after
Vilna. The king and his entourage occasionally stayed in Grodno, and
after the union between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy
of Lithuania (the “Union of Lublin,” 1569) the Polish Sejm (national
assembly) met there. King Stefan Batory of Poland resided in Grodno,
where he died in 1586.
During the period of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, Grodno was
an important Catholic center, and impressive church edifices from that
period still exist there. From 1655 to 1657 the Russians, who were at
war with Poland, occupied Grodno; they were followed by the Swedes.
Charles XII encamped there from 1705 to 1708, on the eve of his
invasion of Russia. Important sessions of the Polish Sejm were held in
Grodno: the “Silent Sejm” (1793), which was forced to approve the
second partition of the country; and the Sejm of 1795, prior to the third
partition, after which Grodno was annexed to the Russian Empire. In
1801, Grodno became the main city of a Russian province.
On the eve of World War I, Grodno’s defenses were reinforced, and
it was incorporated into the second line of fortifications in western
Russia, but in September 1915 it fell to the Germans without resistance.
In 1918, Grodno was returned to Poland and included in the Bialystok
district. With the partition of Poland between Nazi Germany and Soviet
Russia in September 1939, in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop
pact, Grodno was annexed to the Byelorussian Soviet Republic.
Grodno was one of the first Soviet cities captured by the Germans in
1941. In June 1944, it was retaken by the Red Army. Today, as the
twentieth century draws to a close, Grodno is a city in the state of
Grodno was one of the oldest Jewish communities in Greater Lithuania.
It appears that Jews already resided there at the end of the twelfth
century – refugees from the Kingdom of Kiev and from western Europe
who fled from the Crusades – but this cannot be confirmed. The first
reliable evidence of a Jewish community at the site is a charter of
“privileges” (a settlement permit specifying rights and obligations) from
1389, granted to the Jews by Grand Duke Vitold of Lithuania. The
document suggests that the Grodno Jews had already established a
synagogue and a cemetery and also owned real estate in and around the
town; they made a living from commerce, crafts, agriculture, and
leasing land. The charter, which was intended primarily to regularize
the Jews’ rights vis-a-vis the Christian townspeople, permitted their use `
of public grazing fields, forests, and meadows. The synagogue and
cemetery were exempted from all taxation.
|Number of residents
|Number of Jews
|*Estimate based on census of houses
From the Sixteenth Century Until the End Of World War I
The Status and Conditions of the Jews. In 1495, all the Jews, including the
Grodno community, were expelled from Lithuania. Their property was
confiscated and, in part, turned over to the Christian population. Eight
years later Prince Alexander permitted the Jews to return and to reclaim
their property. This was stated explicitly in a decree given by the prince
to two Grodno Jews, Eliezer Ben-Moshe and Yitzhak Ben-Faibush.
However, negotiations between the Jews and Christians on the return
of the property dragged on for years, until King Sigismund I of Poland
intervened on behalf of the Jews in 1526. In 1540, Queen Bona
reaffirmed the right of Grodno’s Jews to their real estate, but ordered
them to pay 17 percent of the taxes levied on Grodno by the duchy.
Lithuania’s Jews suffered badly during the military campaign
conducted by the Russian tsar (1655-1657). Although the tsar rejected
the demand of the city dwellers to expel the Jews, he imposed severe
restrictions that seriously affected their livelihood. In 1633, King
Ladislaus of Poland forbade the Jews to purchase new houses or to
enlarge the existing ones on the pretext that the Jews were overrunning
the city and causing harm to the Christians. In 1667, when the Polish
Sejm began to meet at Grodno, King Sobieski further reduced the areas
of Jewish residence, claiming that because of the Jews there were
insufficient rooms for the delegates to the Sejm. However, King
Mikhael Vishnovietzki (who reigned from 1669 to 1673) granted the
Jews a privilege that reaffirmed all their former rights.
Grodno’s Jews were not harmed during the calamitous events of 1648.
They were even able to serve as a haven to refugees who fled from
Chmielnicki’s forces and to extend financial assistance to their brethren
in other communities.
From 1616, the city’s Jews suffered from persecutions at the hands of
Christian zealots (the Jesuits), who kidnapped Jewish children and
baptized them as Christians. The Jews were forced to raise funds to meet
the high ransom payments demanded for the children.
In the eighteenth century the wars with the Swedes (1705) brought
destruction and devastation, and many fell victim to an outbreak of
plague in 1740. The Jews were also heavily burdened by debts, often
falling behind in their payments. Moreover, Christians who owed
money to Jews used various ruses to avoid paying their debts; many
were aided by government officials in their evasive tactics, as is
indicated by the Jewish community’s complaint to the king’s aides. Yet
some Jews had protectors among the nobility and turned to them for
support in this matter.
Shortly before and for some years after the partition of Poland (1793),
Grodno’s Jews became the target of blood libels. In 1790, Eliezer
Ben-Shlomo was accused of having committed ritual murder and was
executed, despite the king’s objections. The same pattern was repeated
in 1816 and in 1820, but on these occasions the imprisoned Jews were
released thanks to the intercession of the central government.
In 1906, following a pogrom against the Jews of nearby Bialystok, a
wave of refugees streamed into Grodno, where they found relief and
shelter. The pogrom, together with the antisemitic mood that
prevailed in the region from 1903 to 1907, spurred Grodno’s Jews to
take measures of self-defense.
Economic Life. The traditional occupations of Grodno’s Jews were
various branches of commerce (mainly agricultural produce and
timber) and crafts. Beginning in the late nineteenth century they also
ventured into industry.
In the sixteenth century local Jews made their living from export,
mainly of grains and other agricultural produce, to large cities in Poland
and Lithuania, but their goods also reached Koenigsberg, Danzig, and
Posen. When they returned from their business trips to such places they
imported into to Grodno iron and steel products, spices, rice, silk and
cloths, as well as other goods. The most important of these exporters,
Yehuda Bogdanovich, bore the title “Merchant of Queen Bona,” and
his family was famed for its wealth and influence among both Jews and
non-Jews throughout the Grodno region. His descendants were known
among Jews as “Yehudichis.” Other Grodno Jews also owned farm lands
and estates, but their number declined following the Union of Lublin in
1569: after that date they could no longer compete on equal terms with
the nobility, who were granted preferential status, like their Polish
The Jewish merchants in Grodno flourished and frequently took part
in fairs outside the city, even in the famous fair of far-away Leipzig.
Their economic success spurred the growth of the city’s Jewish
population in that it induced Jews from nearby towns to move to
Grodno. The city was ringed with Jewish settlements in nearby locales,
such as Novogrodek, Tiktin, Nowi-Dwor, and others.
In 1601, King Sigismund III acceded to the request of the Christian
townspeople and prohibited Jews from purchasing grains in villages or
at fairs and from transporting them on the Nieman River.
The farming out of taxes and tolls provided another solid source of
income for Grodno’s Jews. Here, however, they had to compete with
the Jews of Brest-Litovsk (Brisk), the largest and most important Jewish
community in Lithuania, and, indeed, they often lost deals to the
The many Jewish craftsmen encountered acute hostility from
Christians, in particular from artisans’ associations, which stopped at
nothing to interfere with the Jews and force them to join their societies.
The Jews fought for their rights and, in 1629 and 1633, were granted a
privilege permitting them to engage in crafts outside the framework of
the associations. Later, in 1654, the Jewish craftsmen were forced to pay
the associations a levy of five gulden and six funt of gunpowder for the
city’s defense. In return, they received the right to benefit from the
general privileges granted to non-Jewish artisans.
In the mid-nineteenth century the growing economic importance of
Bialystok proved harmful to Grodno’s Jews, who for centuries had been
the leading economic factors in the region. In 1859, Grodno merchants
still constituted 15.8 percent of all the merchants in the province, but,
by 1886, this had fallen to 12.3 percent. In no small degree this process
was caused by a series of great fires that swept the city in the nineteenth
century. On May 29, 1885, much of the city was consumed in a blaze
that also gutted six synagogues and the Jewish orphanage. Rebuilding
was undertaken with the aid of generous outside contributions,
including 25,000 rubles from the Tsar and 5,000 from the Crown
Prince. Another fire, in July 1900, laid waste the entire city, this time
destroying twelve synagogues, some of them centuries old.
Nevertheless, the Jews remained a central factor in the city’s economy.
In 1886, 65 percent of the real estate in Grodno was owned by Jews;
Jews owned 1,165 businesses (88 percent of the total); 103 of the 129
registered merchants were Jews; 76 percent of the city’s industry was in
Jewish hands; and Jews also accounted for 70 percent of the craftsmen,
a constantly rising proportion. Most of these commercial enterprises
were retail or small-scale businesses; the same applied to the crafts.
Portrait of Rabbi Nahumke (Nahum Ben Uziel)
Title-page of Rabbi Alexander Suesskind's Zava'ah
Excerpts from the statutes of the Chevrat Mishnayoth
Ve'Alshich in the "Across teh River" suburb, 1767
In 1897, there were 13,147 Jewish providers in Grodno:
Most of those employed in the tobacco industry worked in the factory
owned by Y. Shershevski, one of the largest of its kind in Russia and the
largest within the Jewish Pale of Settlement. An average of 1,800
workers were employed there, and hundreds more families made an
indirect living from the factory, nearly all of them Jews. The plant was
closed on Saturdays and on Jewish festivals, including the intermediate
days of Passover and Sukkot; it also had a synagogue for the workers’
|Clothing and textiles
|Commerce and agricultural produce
|Domestic service and day work
|Manufacture of fabrics
However, working conditions in the factories and the workshops were
abominable, the hours were long, and the pay was poor. Emissaries
from Bialystok and elsewhere tried to organize the workers to demand
their rights, but to no success. It was not until the end of the nineteenth
century that salaried carpenters and tailors went on strike; as a result
they were able to work fewer hours a day. A strike in Shershevski’s
factory achieved higher wages for the workers there.
The Jews maintained their dominant place in the city’s economy until
World War I, but later, when Grodno was returned to Polish rule, their
fortunes declined. In 1921, Jews owned 1,273 industrial plants and
workshops, which employed 3,719 workers (including 2,341 salaried
workers, of whom 83 percent were Jews); of these, 34.6 percent were in
the food industry, and 29 percent manufactured clothing. By 1937,
Grodno’s Jews owned sixty-five large and medium-sized plants,
employing 2,181 salaried workers (41 percent of them Jews), as
compared with 51 government and non-Jewish plants, which employed
2,262 salaried workers. Forty-five percent of all those employed in
Jewish-owned factories worked in the timber industry, but only 28
percent of them were Jews. The most important Jewish-owned
concerns at the time were: a large bicycle factory, a factory for leather
goods and artistic book-binding, a glass factory, a graphics and
lithographic enterprise, and foundries and breweries. Some of these
plants served as training sites for halutzim (pioneers) before they settled
in Palestine. (In the 1920s the Polish authorities nationalized
Shershevski’s tobacco factory and continued to operate it as a Polish
state enterprise, see below.)
Community Life. A deeply rooted and flourishing Jewish community life
existed in Grodno by the early sixteenth century. The community’s
leaders handled general affairs and, because the seat of the supreme
court (the Tribunal) of the Lithuanian duchy was located in Grodno,
defended Jews in libel trials (blood libels or accusations of “desecrating
By the end of the century, a number of batei midrash and yeshivot had
been established, and Horodno was written by the Jews as though it were
Har Adonai (“The Mountain of the Lord”).
Grodno also served as the Jewish spiritual center for the entire region.
Eminent rabbis and Torah sages resided there, and the city boasted a
famous yeshivah. In 1788, the Royal Press in Grodno printed the first
Hebrew book to be published in Lithuania. Five years later a second
Hebrew press began operating in the city; this would evolve into the
famous “Printing Press of the Widow and the Brothers Romm,” which
later relocated to Vilna.
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the peak period of
Lithuanian Jewry’s internal autonomy, the Grodno community
achieved primacy. The Council of Lithuanian Jewry (“Va’ad Medinat
Lita”), which was founded in the early sixteenth century and existed
until 1764, usually met in Grodno or in towns in the Grodno region –
Miesteczki, Zabludow, Krynki, and Amdur. The Council consisted of
heads of the Kehillah and the rabbis of the three major communities –
Brest-Litovsk (Brisk), Grodno and Pinsk (according to their order of
importance), and later also Vilna and Sluck. They also represented the
local communities that were under their authority. Seven communities
were under the authority of Grodno: Nowi-Dwor, Amdur, Miesteczki,
Kuznica, Ostryna, Radun and Lida, together with their subsidiary
communities (“surrounding settlements”).
The Grodno community elders not only represented them in the
Communities’ Council assemblies, they also determined their share of
the royal taxes, collected them, and raised funds for special purposes
(such as bribing government officials, and the like). The Grodno rabbi
supervised the rabbis of the other communities and was their supreme
arbiter; the rabbis of the three principal communities were signatories
to the Council’s constitution. The Grodno community’s senior status
was further reflected in the division of the various tasks and duties. For
example, the community undertook, under the regulations of the
Council, to arrange the marriage of ten needy girls every year (out of
thirty girls whose marriages were arranged by the Council). In 1639,
during the Thirty Years’ War, when destitute Jewish boys arrived in
Lithuania from Western Europe, the Council of Lithuania made the
Grodno community responsible for the upkeep and education of ten of
the fifty-seven boys.
When a dispute broke out between the Grodno and Keidaniai
communities over the supervision of a few small communities on the
banks of the Nieman River, the Council ruled, in 1662, that they would
be answerable to Grodno. In 1776, the Grodno Jewish community of
2,418 constituted the majority in the town.
Title-page of Nezer Aharon by Rabbi Miadler
Title-page of the records of the "Shas Chevrah"
in the "Across the River" suburb, 1830
Rabbi Mordecai Diskin, one of first
Grodno Jews who Settled in Petah-Tikvah
Letter of the "Yishuv Eretz-Israel" society in Grodno
concerning the purchase of land in Petah-Tikvah, 1880
Michael Uriahson, delegate to the 1st Zionist Congress
The tax levied on the community in 1761 was the same as for the
Brest-Litovsk community – 3,920 zloty (6.5 percent of all the taxes paid
by the Jews in the duchy). In 1776, following the disbanding of the
Council of the Lands and the division of its debts among the
communities, the Grodno community had to pay the enormous sum of
386,571 zloty (its annual revenues at the time were no more than 21,000
zloty). Even after the dissolution of the Council of the Lands, the
Grodno community maintained its standing as an organizational and
spiritual center in the region.
In 1617, a large fire devastated the entire Jewish quarter. Two years
later, King Sigismund III granted three Jews permission to rebuild their
homes. Instead of the wood synagogue, which was destroyed in the
blaze, a new brick synagogue was erected. (This may have been the
“great” synagogue known as Ha-Levush, because, according to local
tradition, its founder was Rabbi Mordecai Yoffe, author of Levush
Malkhut, a ten-volume codification of religious laws that particularly
stressed the customs of the the Jews of Eastern Europe.) In the
eighteenth century a second large Jewish community took shape, the
Ferstot (“Across-the-River” quarter); already in 1723 there was a report
of regular services being held in a large synagogue in that suburb.
Another fire, in 1899, again levelled the Jewish quarter, including the
Shulhoif (the synagogue courtyard-compound). Several hundred homes
and fifteen houses of worship, including Ha-Levush, were destroyed.
Grodno Rabbis. Grodno was famed for its scholars and for the high
reputation of its rabbis, who headed the yeshivah and served as
signatories for the statutes of the Council of Lithuanian Jewry. In the
sixteenth century the community’s spiritual leader was Rabbi Natan
ben Shimshon Shapira Ashkenazi, a great scholar of Hebrew and
Hebrew grammar, and the author, among other works, of Mevo She’arim
and Imrei Shefer. He was succeeded, in 1572, by Rabbi Mordecai ben
Avraham Yoffe, known by the title of his major work as “Ha-Levush”
(b. Prague, 1530; d. Posen, 1612).
Although Rabbi Yoffe was a towering religious figure, his appointment
generated a sharp controversy within the community because he was a
relative of the “Yehudichis.” In 1549, opponents of the appointment took
their complaint to Queen Bona. She summoned both sides to a hearing,
but because only one party appeared she transferred the arbitration of
the dispute to rabbis from other communities. In the wake of this case,
the queen decided to formalize the election of rabbis and regulate their
rights and obligations. A few years later, in 1553, she also formalized
the status of the heads of the communities and stipulated procedures for
appealing their decisions to the rabbis.
In time, Rabbi Yoffe came to be revered for his incisive wisdom. In
addition to his religious occupations, he tended devotedly to the
public’s needs, finding the time to attend the fairs at Yaroslav and
Lublin, where community leaders and rabbis from large communities
met to discuss matters of general interest. These meetings were the
forerunners of the Council of the Four Lands and the Council of
The Grodno chief rabbi usually also served as the president of the
rabbinical court and head of the yeshivah. Rabbi Yoffe was succeeded
by Rabbi Yuda, who was followed by Rabbi Ephraim Zalman ben
Naftali Hirsch Shor, author of Tevuot Shor and afterward the rabbi of
Brest-Litovsk (d. 1634). A number of well-known rabbis served in
Grodno in the first half of the seventeenth century: Rabbi Avraham ben
Meir Halevi Epstein (from 1616 to 1644); Rabbi Yehoshua Heshil ben
Yosef Harif (b. Vilna, c. 1580; d. Cracow, 1648), author of Meginei
Shlomo and Pnei Yehoshua; and, alongside him and for a time afterward,
Rabbi Yitzhak-Isaac ben Avraham Katz (d. 1643 in Grodno).
Grodno’s spiritual leaders after the Chmielnicki pogroms of 1648
were Rabbi Yonah ben Yeshayahu Te’omim (b. 1596, Prague; d. 1669,
Metz), author of Kikayon de’Yonah; Rabbi Moshe, the son of Rabbi
Natan Shapira of Grodno (d. 1665); Rabbi Yitzhak ben Avraham
(“Rabbi Yitzhak the Great”), who owned a vast collection of books and
ancient manuscripts; and Rabbi Mordecai Sueskind ben Moshe of
Rothenburg (Hesse, Germany), one of the most renowned rabbis of his
generation and author of a work of Responsa, who served from 1681 to
1683. The last to bear the title of Rabbi of Grodno was Rabbi Binyamin
Braude (d. 1818). The dispute over the rabbinate following Rabbi
Braude’s death led to its abolition in Grodno and the appointment of
dayanim (religious judges). Religious authorities who resided in Grodno
included the kabbalist and moralist Rabbi Alexander Suesskind, author
of Yesod ve-Shoresh ha-Avodah and Zava’ah. Another whose name was
known far and wide in the nineteenth century as a great scholar was
Rabbi Nahum ben Uziel – “Rabbi Nahumke” – but his modesty kept
him from assuming office. He devoted himself to raising funds and
caring for the poor.
A personality whose religious and spiritual influence during the
nineteenth century was remarkable – not only in the Grodno region but
in all Poland and Lithuania – was Rabbi Moses Isaac Darshan, known
as the Kelmer Maggid (1828-1899); he was the main preacher of the Musar
(“Ethics”) Movement (see the chapter on Lida).
The Poalei-Zion commitee in Grodno, 1904-1908
Farewell party fot Leib Jaffe prior to his aliyah
The first class of the Hebrew Pedagogical Courses
The poet Shaul Tchernichovsky on a visit to the Hebrew Pedagogical Courses, 1909
Education, Culture, Enlightenment. Nineteenth-century Grodno had
many batei midrash (religious schools) and study societies in the style of
the Mitnaggedim (opponents of Hasidism), in which Jews from all walks
of life studied Torah, and not only on the Sabbath. From about mid-century
greater emphasis was placed on educating the community’s
children. In 1849, a state elementary school was opened, followed by a
girls’ school and a vocational school. At the same time, a Talmud Torah
(religious elementary school) continued to operate (it had 240 pupils in
1879), as did the yeshivah (about 120 students). In 1886, there were
forty-nine Jewish elementary schools and hadarim (religious schools for
small children) in Grodno, which were attended by 869 of the city’s
1,100 Jewish pupils. In 1900, a heder metukan (reformed heder) was
founded under the auspices of the Zionists; it operated until Grodno’s
occupation by the Germans in 1915. The language of study was Hebrew
and the curriculum was infused with the ideals of the Jewish national
movement. Within a few years Arye Leib Miller established a second
modern heder, called “Yeshurun,” in which Hebrew, including
grammar, and Jewish history were taught. By 1906, there were 106
boys’ schools in Grodno, with 1,766 pupils (including about 100
hadarim attended by 1,200 boys).
In 1897, there were 5,611 Jews who had acquired a general education
in Russian, and another 4,411 whose general education was grounded
in other languages.
Pedagogical courses for Jewish teachers, sponsored by the “Society
for the Dissemination of Education,” gained fame throughout Russia
and served as models for teachers’ training in many locales. Hundreds
of pioneers of Hebrew education prepared themselves for their future
work in Grodno’s courses, as did well-known writers and poets
(Ya’akov Fichman, Ya’akov Lerner, Dr. Yisrael Rubin-Rivkai, and
many others). Since 1907, the courses were held in a building erected
especially for the purpose; it also housed an athletic association and a
library. The pedagogical courses continued until World War I.
Two renowned authors who lived in Grodno were the Hebrew writer
A.S. Friedberg and the Yiddish poet Leib Naidus.
Relief and Welfare. Jewish Grodno was rich in mutual-aid and welfare
institutions, as the city’s affluent Jews competed with one another to
establish orphanages, hospitals, old-age homes, and vocational schools.
In 1899, a cooperative savings and loan fund was founded in Grodno,
one of the first of its kind in Russia. Jewish welfare and relief
organizations included “Linat Zedek” (care for the sick), “Somekh
Noflim” (run by the community’s women), a clinic, a hospice for the
poor, and a fund that gave interest-free loans with the backing of the
Jewish Colonization Association (ICA).
Zionist and Socialist Activity. Zionism and the Hibbat Zion (“Love of
Zion”) movement had deep roots in Grodno, dating back to the
community’s support for the “Old Yishuv” in Palestine. Court records
from 1539 reveal that there was a Jewish couple from Grodno who
planned to settle in Jerusalem and who raised funds for the Jewish
community in the Holy Land. Reb Fischel Lapin, a community activist
in Jerusalem, arrived in that city from Grodno in 1863. Overall, in the
late nineteenth century, Grodno’s Jews were among the first to respond
to the call for national renewal. In 1872 and in 1880, societies for settling
Palestine were established in the city, and a branch of Hibbat Zion was
founded in 1890. Grodno was one of the most active centers of Zionist
activity in all of Russia. The leaders of the local Zionist movement were
the brothers Bezalel and Leib Yaffe. Zionist “shekels” (whose sale
determined the number of delegates to the conventions of the Zionist
Congress) were printed clandestinely in Grodno. In the first decade of
the twentieth century, a number of Zionist associations, including
Poalei Zion (“Workers of Zion”), were founded in the city.
At the same time, Grodno Jewry was receptive to social movements
and ideas. As early as 1875/6, a Jewish socialist circle was established
in Grodno. In the 1890s, Jewish labor movements, led by the Bund,
conducted political and trade-union activity among the workers of the
Grodno During World War I.
On September 2, 1915, the Germans captured Grodno and occupied
the city for three years. The war put an abrupt end to the city’s economic
boom, and Jews and non-Jews alike were plunged into a crisis situation.
Nevertheless, the Jews continued to maintain lively cultural activity.
Yiddish especially enjoyed a revival: Yiddish-language schools and a
Yiddish theater were established, and many cultural activities were
conducted in that language.