History of Trochenbrod
The story of Trochenbrod begins in 1835, when a group of Jews took advantage of an edict that exempted Jewish farmers form being conscripted into the Russian army. They obtained a piece of barren marshy soil overrun by snakes and wolves and surrounded by wild forest in what is today northwestern Ukraine. Trochenbroders figured out how to drain the marshy land to raise crops and livestock but predominantly worked in commerce, crafts and trade – establishing a bustling town in rural environment. By 1938 the town’s exclusively Jewish population had grown to about 5,000. The town boasted a wide variety of shops, workshops, small factories, and craftsmen that served the surrounding Ukrainian and Polish villages. Devotion to religious life in Trochenbrod flourished with every Shabbat, Jewish holiday and wedding. Trochenbrod had become the only freestanding Jewish town ever to exist outside the biblical Land of Israel.
In August 1942 the Nazis and their helpers marched all the people of Trochenbrod to a nearby forest where mass-grave pits had been dug, and murdered them. A few managed to escape and hid in the forest for many months. They endured unspeakable hunger and cold and sickness and constant danger of discovery that would bring torture and death. Some who escaped managed to find and join Partisan groups, and fought the Nazis from their forest bases. At the end of the war only 33 survivors from Trochenbrod were still alive. Not a trace of the town was left.
Today only a handful of emigrants and survivors form Trochenbrod remain. Descendants of emigrants and survivors, however, number in the thousands. They are spread all over the world, but their lives are forever connected by this special place where they or their parents once played, worked and, celebrated together. The first international gathering of these Trochenbroders took place at the site of Trochenbrod in August 2009.