Chełm is located in Eastern Poland. The town grew around an easy to defend hill, on which the first fortifications were build in the year 1001 by the rulers of Kievian Rus. Until 14th century the town and region changed hands between Rusins and Poles, for a short while it formed nominally independent state - duchy. From 1366 Chełm region belongs to Poland. The town is small even in European standards (some 60 000 inhabitants) nevetheless it used to be a capital of a voievodship and for eight days during WWII it was the Polish capital! The strip of Poland close to our Eastern borders used to be called 'Polska B', as it is the least developed part of the country, and indeed Chełm may serve as an excellent example of a Polish town which is provincial, though an ex-capital... Provincial does not neccessarily mean boring in Poland or i n fact in all europe. And Chełm may be a little far for from the beaten paths but it is extremely interesting and fascinating place. With its' numerous secrets to uncover, with people gentle and helpful, and the slow life in beautiful surroundings and remnants of the past – the catholic churches, the orthodox and the synagoge, numerous ages-old schools, the basilica and the former chalk mine corridores under virtually all the town, and the ghost Bieluch living there...
Chełm [xɛu̯m] (Speaker Icon.svg listen) (Ukrainian: Холм, Kholm meaning the hill) is a city in eastern Poland with 67,702 inhabitants (2007). It is located to the south-east of Lublin, north of Zamość and south of Biała Podlaska, some 25 kilometres from the border with Ukraine. Since 1999 located in the Lublin Voivodeship, previously the town was the capital of a separate voivodeship.
The city is of mostly industrial character, though it also houses numerous notable historical monuments and tourist attractions. In Jewish humor, the town is the legendary capital of foolishness.
Chełm gives its name to the protected area known as Chełm Landscape Park, which lies to the north and east of the city.
In 1921: out of a total population of 23,221 there were 1,369 Orthodox Christians (Ukrainian and Belarusians), 9,492 Roman Catholics (Poles), 12,064 Jews, and 207 Lutherans (Germans).
"Wise Jewish Men of Chelm"
Jewish folklore considers the Jewish residents of Chelm (Yiddish: חעלﬦ, Hebrew: חלם often transcribed as Helm) fools. There are a lot of popular stories about their "smart" conduct. For example: One Jewish Chelm resident bought a fish on Friday in order to cook it for sabbath. He put the live fish underneath his coat and the fish slapped his face with his tail. He went to the Chelm court to submit a charge and the court sentenced the fish to death by drowning. See some more examples in "Jewish humor: Chelm".
Most well-known of these stories and storytellers are those of Isaac Bashevis Singer, a Nobel Prize-winning Jewish writer in the Yiddish language, who wrote The Fools of Chelm and Their History, published in English translation in 1973.
Other notable adaptations of folklore Chelm stories into the mainstream culture are the comedy, “Chelmer Khakhomim” (“The Wise Men of Chelm”) by Aaron Zeitlin, “The Heroes of Chelm” (1942) by Shlomo Simon, published in English translation as “The Wise Men of Helm” (Solomon Simon, 1945) and “More Wise Men of Helm” (Solomon Simon, 1965), and the book “Chelmer Khakhomim” by Y.Y. Trunk. The animated short film comedy Village of Idiots also recounts Chelm tales.
Almost all of the Jewish population was killed in the Sobibór extermination camp during The Holocaust. Some managed to shelter in the underground tunnel system below the city.