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Trokenheim, Ya‘akov

(1888–1943), merchant; leader of the Warsaw kehilah and Agudas Yisroel; and member of the Polish Sejm and senate. Born in Warsaw to an affluent Hasidic family whose members were followers of the Gerer rebbe, Ya‘akov Trokenheim received a traditional education while also learning Russian and Polish. Following his marriage, he became involved in the textile trade and managed his family’s considerable real estate holdings, located in the center of Warsaw’s Jewish district.

Trokenheim was an early adherent of Agudas Yisroel and was a typical representative of the Orthodox business elite who constituted one of the mainstays of Aguda’s leadership on both the local and national levels. He served on the Warsaw city council from 1919 to 1939. In the 1924 elections to the board of the Warsaw kehilah, Agudas Yisroel received 21 of the 50 seats. Trokenheim was chosen to be vice chair of the board, and following the 1931 and 1936 elections he served as its chair. When government officials dissolved the elected kehilah in 1937 and installed an appointed council in its place, Trokenheim was appointed a member of the executive and directed the departments of bequests and religious affairs. In national politics, he ran unsuccessfully for the Sejm in 1922 and 1928.

When a new election law empowered the president to appoint one-third of the members of the upper house, Trokenheim (along with Mojżesz Schorr, who represented the Zionists) was named to the senate in 1935. Though not the preferred candidate of his party, he gained the nomination through the recommendation of the interior minister, who also happened to be mayor of Warsaw and was well acquainted with Trokenheim from the city council. Trokenheim served two years in the senate and was subsequently elected to the Sejm, serving until the outbreak of World War II.

In all of his elective offices, Trokenheim distinguished himself through his behind-the-scenes intercession on behalf of individuals and institutions that encountered discrimination by Polish officials. Following the German invasion of Poland and fearing immediate arrest due to his political involvement, Trokenheim fled to Vilna, where he helped to provide aid to refugees who had gathered in the city. His efforts to obtain exit visas were unsuccessful. After the Germans attacked the Soviet Union, Trokenheim fled to Białystok. In November 1941, however, he returned to the Warsaw ghetto. In November 1943 he was deported to Majdanek, where he was executed.

Suggested Reading

Gershon C. Bacon, The Politics of Tradition: Agudat Yisrael in Poland, 1916–1939 (Jerusalem, 1996); Alexander Guterman, Kehilat Varshah ben shete milḥamot ha-‘olam: Otonomyah le’umit be-khavle ha-ḥok veha-metsi’ut (Jerusalem, 1997); Isaac Lewin, ed., “R. Ya‘akov Trokenheim,” in Eleh ezkerah: Osef toldot kedoshe 5700–5705, vol. 1, pp. 268–277 (New York, 1956).