Lutzk, Ukraine



Jewish Population:

1897:  9,468 (60% of 15,780 population)

Family Members:

Jacob Israel Gouline, G GFather (father of Jeanne Highstein)

B 1875 Lutzk?; M Rachel Oks; Emigrated 1902; D 1944 Baltimore

Moshe Tzvi Galon, GG GFather (father of Jacob Gouline)

B ~1840  Lutsk?

Shabsa Saftl Oks, GG GFather (father of Rachel Oks)

B ~1850 Lutzk; M  Nekha Shkurnik; D b1919 Kremenets

Nekha Shkurnik, GG GMother (mother of Rachel Oks)

B 1852 Lutzk; M Shabsa Oks; D b1902

Yosef Shkurnik, 3xG GFather (father of Nekha Shkurnik)

B 1809 Lutsk; M Sheyndil Gertsburg; D 1904 Kremenets

Abram Oks, 3xG GFather (father of Shabsa Oks)

B ~1830 Lutzk; D b1873 Lutzk


Lutsk is an ancient Slavic town, mentioned in the Hypatian Chronicle as Luchesk in the records of 1085. The town began to prosper during the period of Lithuanian rule. Prince Lubart (died 1384), son of Gediminas, erected Lubart's Castle as part of his fortification programme. Vytautas the Great, Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1392 to 1430, founded the town itself by importing colonists (mostly Jews, Tatars, and Karaims). In 1427 he transferred the Catholic bishopric from Volodymyr-Volynskyi to Luchesk. Vytautas was the last monarch to use the title of "Duke of Volhynia" and to reside in Lubart's Castle. The town grew rapidly, and by the end of the 15th century there were 19 Orthodox and two Catholic churches. It was the seat of two Christian bishops, one Catholic and one Orthodox. Because of that the town was sometimes nicknamed the Volhynian Rome. 

During the Chmielnicki Massacres of 1648-1649 both the Jews and the Karaites were targeted. Before the attacks there were more than 300 Jews and 100 Karaites living in Lutsk; 55 and 20 households, respectively. Afterwards there were only 29 Jewish households and 3 Karaite households remaining.

The community began to rebuild, and by 1662 the Jewish community was the second largest in the region. Jews engaged in commerce, as well as in tailoring, shoemaking, and fur dressing. A Jewish tailors' guild was founded in 1721. 

In 1795, as a result of the Partitions of Poland, the Russian Empire annexed Lutsk. The Voivodeship was liquidated and the town lost its significance as the capital of the province.

There continued to be sporadic outbreaks of violence. There were blood libels levied against the Jews in 1696. In 1764 a Lutsk Jew chose execution over forced conversion to Christianity. Haidamack bands, paramilitary groups that carried out a number of attacks in Polish Ukraine during the 18th century, were a very real threat for the Jews in Lutsk throughout the 18th century.

The Jewish community in Lutsk participated in the regional (galil) council of Volhynia, as well as in the Councils of the Lands. Lutsk was a center for Torah study and was home to many yeshivas. Among the famous rabbis living there during the 17th and early 18th century were Moses b. Judah HaCohen (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 originally built by Prince Witold was rebuilt as a stone synagogue after King Sigismund III granted permission for the Jews to construct a stone synagogue to replace the wood one that had burned down. This fortified synagogue also had watchtowers and consequently, the synagogue became part of the town's defenses and the Jews were responsible for its maintenance. 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. For centuries the synagogue building withstood both fires as well as enemy attacks.

After Lutsk became part of the Russian Empire, the Jewish population in the town grew. This was due in large part to the eviction of the Jews from villages in 1804; many of those who had been expelled came to settle in Lutsk. The community continued to grow during the 19th century, in spite of the fires that broke out relatively frequently. Additionally, beginning in 1844 Lutsk was included in the list of border town that Jews were prohibited from living in; consequently, the Jewish community in Lutsk lived under the constant threat of expulsion. Nonetheless, the community continued to grow.


When the German-Soviet War broke out on June 22, 1941 many young Jews left with the retreating Soviet forces. The city fell to the Germans on June 25. The next day the city's residents carried out a pogrom against the Jews of Lutsk. During the rest June and in July, at least 3,300 Jews were shot and killed by the Nazis; 3,000 of those were killed on July 4th.

The Germans carried out a large-scale aktion (August 19-23, 1942) in which the majority of people in the Lutsk ghetto were killed. About 17,000 Jews were led to Polanka Hill on the outskirts of the city and killed.  About 500 Jews remained in the labor camp.

On December 12, 1942 the Nazis planned to destroy the labor camp and kill the remaining Jews working there. However, they were met with armed resistance from the Jews who had fortified their building and repeatedly resisted German attacks. German reinforcements and artillery were brought in, which eventually suppressed the resistance.

When the Soviets liberated Lutsk on February 2, 1944, only about 150 Jews returned to the city.

35 Oks’s from Lutzk were known to have died in the Shoah.

3 Galun’s from Lutzk were known to have died in the Shoah.

2 Shkurnik’s from Lutzk were known to have died in the Shoah.


  • Archives (Find a researcher that  works in Lutsk Archives that can help with researching Jews of the 19th and 20th century, who I can work with remotely.)
  • The Great Synagogue, built in 1629, was the religious,

educational, and community center of Lutsk Jews until