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The Jewish Community of Kielce

Kielce

Capital of Kielce province, south-east Poland.


Jews were excluded from Kielce by a royal "privilege" granted to the city in 1535. Kielce belonged to the estates of the bishops of Krakow until 1818, and thus the prohibition on Jewish settlement remained in force. In 1833 a small number of Jews settled in Kielce. They were expelled in 1847 but returned shortly afterward. In 1852 there were 101 Jews in Kielce and the congregation was affiliated to the neighboring community at Checiny. It became a separate community in 1868, and a cemetery was established. The Jewish population increased from 974 in 1873 to 2,659 in 1882, 6,399 in 1897, and 11,206 in 1909, mainly by immigration from the adjacent small towns. A pogrom in 1918 did not prevent the growth of the community, which by 1921 numbered 15,530 (37.6% of the total population), and by 1931, 18,083. Jews pioneered in exploiting the natural resources of the region and developed industries, commerce, and crafts; among enterprises established by Jews were several banks. Jewish
Organizations included associations of Jewish merchants and artisans, an old-age home, and an orphanage, as well as a library, a high school, and a number of religious and secular Jewish schools. A Yiddish weekly was published jointly for the Kielce and Radom communities.

In 1939 about 25,000 Jews lived in Kielce.


The Holocaust period

The German army entered the city on September 4, 1939, and the Jews became the subject of terror and persecution. During the first months of 1940 about 3,000 Jews from Lodz and its vicinity were deported to Kielce, whose Jewish population swelled to about 28,000. On March 31, 1941, a decree was issued to establish a ghetto. On the eve of Passover the ghetto was sealed off from the outside world. A Judenrat was appointed, chaired by Moshe Pelc, who was eventually arrested and deported to Auschwitz for resisting German orders. His place was filled by Herman Levi, who tended toward collaboration with the Germans. The situation of the population in the ghetto rapidly deteriorated. About 4,000 people died during a typhus epidemic in 1941. In the course of three days (Aug. 20-24, 1942), about 21,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka and exterminated. The ghetto was virtually liquidated. The remaining 2,000 Jews were concentrated in a newly established slave labor camp.

Preparations in the camp for an armed uprising, conducted by an underground organization headed by David Barwiner and Gershon Levkowicz, did not succeed. In 1943 a number of deportations from the labor camp took place of about 1,000 people for slave labor camps in Skarzysko-Kamienna, Blizyna, and Pionki, where only a handful survived. The last deportation took place in august 1944, when all the remaining Jewish prisoners were sent to Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Kielce became officially Judenrein. Leon Rodel of Kielce was one of the commanders of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.


After the war about 200 Jews went to Kielce; some were survivors of Nazi camps, or had hidden in the district, and others had come back from the interior of the Soviet Union.

Their reconstruction of the former organized Jewish community aroused anger among Polish anti-Semites, who opened a vituperative campaign against the existence of a renewed Jewish community in Kielce. The campaign culminated in an armed pogrom against the Jews - mostly by Polish nationalists and including a few communists (July 4, 1946). The Jews had no adequate means for self-defense since the police had confiscated the few pistols among them just one day before. In this pogrom, the largest attack on Jews following the Nazi era, 42 Jews were murdered, and many others wounded. The pogrom gave impetus to the Jews in Kielce and to the other survivors of the Holocaust in Poland, including those who had returned from the Soviet Union, to leave Poland en masse for the west. They reached the displaced persons camps and joined the massive berichah movement to Eretz Israel.

A monument was erected in the Kielce Jewish cemetery to perpetuate the memory of the victims of the Kielce pogrom.

In 1996, the 50th anniversary of the pogrom, a memorial ceremony was held in Kielce, attended by more than 3,000 people. Government officials and representatives of the Catholic Church and Jewish groups were among the participants. Government authorities unveiled a monument in front of the former Kielce synagogue.

Organizations of former members of the Kielce Jewish community exist in Israel, the US, Canada, Argentina, and France.

Place Type:
Town
ID Number:
160266
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:

Related items:
Rabbis, cantors and dignitaries sitting
sitting for a photo in front of the synagogue
in Kielce, Poland, c.1920
Members of the Jewish community host Jewish
soldiers who serve in the Polish Army during Passover, Kielce, Poland, 1928
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Yehoshua Navon, Israel)
A renovated synagogue in Kielce,
Poland, 1950's.

Koszyce

A town in the district of Pinczow, the province of Kielce, Poland.

Koszyce is located about 48 km north-east of Krakow, on the tributary of the Wisla river and on the banks of the Szreniawa river that flows into the Wisla.

The name of the town is derived from the Polish word kosz (basket). Reeds grew on the banks of the river, and the Poles fashioned baskets from them for many purposes.

The town was built on a hill in the heart of a fertile agricultural area. Its streets were paved with stones and drained properly. Many houses were built of brick.

There are no clear records of the beginnings of the Jewish settlement in the town. It seems that some Jewish families came there at the beginning of the Jewish settlement in this part of Poland (14th and 15th centuries). Other Jewish families came from parts of the Austrian empire and settled in the town at the end of the 18th century.

During the First World War (1914-1918) the residents of Koszyce suffered when the town was occupied in turn by all the fighting armies, since it was located on the border between Czarist Russia and the Austro-Hungarian empire.

During the period between the two world wars the Jewish population numbered about 25% of the town's total population.

The Jews of Koszyce were observant traditional Jews for the most part. The community was conducted according to Jewish law, and the rabbi was also the judge. Cultural life was centered in the bet-midrash (study house), which was also a prayer-house. Next to the study house were the ritual baths. On Fridays and holiday evenings all the Jewish stores were closed, and these were the majority; a festive atmosphere was everywhere; the appearance of Rabbi Chaim Meir Cinamon in the central square was the sign that the Sabbath or holiday had begun.

There was a Jewish cemetery in Koszyce, and among the community institutions - hevra kadisha (a burial society), gemilut hassadim (interest free loan society), linat zedek (a free bed for Jewish travelers), kimcha de'pascha (a Passover fund) and hachnasat orchim (hospitality committee). The community took care of its poor members.

The cooperative bank, all of whose members were Jewish, was established and operated by Abish Levenstein, Jacob Kaminsky and Mendl Silberberg. The library had approximately 2,000 volumes in Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish.

From the end of the twenties until the outbreak of World War II, Nachman Bodenstein was the head of the community, representing it before the authorities. In 1928, when fire broke out in the synagogue, he, together with other members of the community, succeeded in saving the torah scrolls and afterwards organized the rebuilding of the synagogue. The funds to rebuild the synagogue came solely from donations of the local Jews.

Children at the age of five started their studies in the cheder. Among the many teachers in the community, the best known was Mordechai Ehrlich, who was called Mordechai Melamed, he taught generations of children in his home. Other teachers settled in town or came to stay only for one or two seasons.

In the mid-twenties, the teacher Michael Singer came from Eretz Israel. He was a great expert of the Hebrew language. He settled in Koszyce with his family and taught the young pupils Judaism, Bible studies, Hebrew and general secular studies. Children over the age of seven studied in the morning in the Polish elementary school and in the afternoon in the heder. There was no high-school in town, and the Jewish students who wanted to continue their studies had to go to the district town.

Koszyce, like other towns in the area, developed into a marketing center for agricultural produce and supplies for the peasants who lived on the estates, villages and farms on the fertile banks of the Szreniawa river. Most of the trade in the area was in Jewish hands. Trade was conducted through the commercial center of Krakow. In the spring and winter, when the Wisla was full, transport was by boat on the river. The cultural contacts of the community were with the community of Krakow and not with the Kielce community, because transportation to Kielce was difficult.

Most of the trade in town was on Tuesday, the weekly market day. Four Jews were grain merchants, and three dealt in stores, two shoe stores, ten general stores, two stores for metal goods, two for timber warehouses, two stores for shoe uppers and leather goods, two stores for ice-cream and soft drinks and four butcher shops. Only three general stores and four butcher shops were owned by non-Jews. Among the Jews were some craftsmen who sold their products in stalls on market day. Some merchants went to the villages to buy agricultural produce. There were five tailors, four shoemakers, a carpenter, a tinsmith and two glaziers. A small workshop for knitwear developed into a factory and supplied work for a number of young Jews.

On the evening following market day, the Jewish storekeepers and craftsmen would travel to Krakow by wagon, in order to replenish their supplies. Sometimes they were attacked by robbers.

The wholesale trade in beer was also in Jewish hands, and the only bar in town was busy mainly on market day.

In the villages surrounding Koszyce, there were several Jewish families who farmed on rented land. Some had small shops, but their main income came from farming.

In the mid-19th century the Kuptchik family acquired an estate two kilometers from town. After World War I, at the end of the twenties, most of Poland's land was divided among the Polish peasants. The family was left with about 100 acres (400 dunams) and a flour-mill on the banks of the Friedrich, Blatt and Sercez acquired a farm near Koszyce; the farm was used by them as a vacation resort, and was managed by a Jewish family from Koszyce. The wealthy Jews lived in brick houses on the central square of the town.

During the years three Jewish doctors worked in town, among them Dr. Josef Obajanski, a native of Koszyce.

In the 1920s, when there was a nationalist awakening among the Jews of Poland and after the fame of the soccer team Hacoach Vienna spread, a Jewish soccer team called Yardenia was organized in Koszyce by the brothers Ozer and Ephraim Levenstein, which was active for several years.

In 1929, when the Friedrich and Blatt families came to their vacation farm near the town, Jonah Blatt organized in Koszyce a branch of the youth movement Beitar, and the brothers Elimelech and Zeev Friedrich organized a branch of Hashomer Ha'leumi" (the national guard), later to become Ha'noar Ha'zioni" (the Zionist youth).

At the end of the thirties, a teacher from Lithuania came to settle in Koszyce and organized a branch of the youth movement Torah Ve'avodah" (torah and work), later to become Ha'mizrachi.

The Zionist youth movements organized lectures and discussions on subjects connected with Zionism and Jewish history; their clubrooms became cultural and social centers for the young people and contributed to the spread of the Zionist ideology and the dedication to Eretz Israel. Most of the Jews in Koszyce contributed to the Keren Ha'kayemet.

Shlomo Ehrlich and Shalom Strauch, members of Ha'noar Ha'zioni in Koszyce, left for a training kibbutz in preparation for their Aliya (immigration) to Eretz Israel.

In 1939 there were more than 700 Jews in Koszyce.

The Holocaust Period

With the outbreak of World War II (September 1, 1939) and the conquest of Poland by the Germans, some Jews, mainly men and youths, escaped from Koszyce, heading east. Those who settled in Lwow, then under Soviet occupation, were sent to camps in the interior of Russia and so survived the war.

In Koszyce, the life of the Jews changed completely. Though the German military command, the police and the gestapo were stationed in the nearby town Kazimierza Wielka, their representatives came to Koszyce to carry out the new decrees. On Rosh Hashana during Tashlich near the river, a truck full of German soldiers stopped there and they attacked the praying Jews. They threw their hats into the river, cut off their beards forcibly and paraded them through the streets of the town into the main square where they publicly harassed them.

Until the end of 1940, most of the stores were still in Jewish hands and business continued. At the beginning of 1941, all the Jewish stores and stalls were closed; market day went on without them. Craftsmen continued to work for some time. Some merchants who hid their wares conducted some sort of barter trade, mainly to get food.

A Judenrat (Jewish council) was appointed by the Germans, and a Jewish police unit was organized. No ghetto was established, since the homes of the Jews and Poles were in mixed neighborhoods. During the first months of the occupation, about 100 Jews from the surrounding villages, some of whom were natives of Koszyce, came to town.

The synagogue building, where Jewish prayer services were now forbidden, became a corn barn. The torah scrolls were taken to private homes, where prayer services were held. The Germans destroyed the cemetery completely.

The Judenrat collected money and contributions (ostensibly donations) for the Germans and organized, upon the Germans' order, groups of workers for forced labor. At first, the Jews worked in the nearby German army camps and in limestone quarries on the banks of the Wisla and they received wages. A voluntary organization for self-help was formed in the community to supply food and clothing to the needy.

In the winter of 1941 all the furs in the possession of the Jews were confiscated. As the war proceeded, the demands of the Germans grew, and the plight of the Jews worsened.

In the spring of 1942 a group of young Jews, headed by Nehemia Weintraub, was organized in order to join the Polish partisans A.L. (Armia Ludowa - the People's Democratic Army), but the Polish go-between did not come to the meeting place. The group disbanded and only a few succeeded in returning to Koszyce.

In the fall of 1942 there were rumors of the coming destruction of the community. Jews dug bunkers for themselves or fled to the ghetto of Bochnia. There were some Jews who hid in the homes of Polish peasants.

On November 2, 1942 the Jewish community of Koszyce was destroyed. Hundreds of wagons and horses were prepared in advance in a nearby field in order to take the Jews of Koszyce to the death camp in Belzec. The Jews of Koszyce were sent to the death camp in Belzec. Young poles, members of the Junaki group, helped the Germans capture the Jews hiding in the bunkers.

The number of survivors who came back to town after the war was less than 40. Most of them emigrated to Eretz Israel, and a few emigrated to the United States and to Canada.

Konin      

Town in the province of Poznan, central Poland about two-thirds of the way on the east–west route from Warsaw to Poznań.

 

21st Century

Almost all of the Jews left Konin by the end of the 1940s. There may be a few individuals still living there.

 

Early History

The Jewish settlement of Konin was among the first to be established in Poland. It was mentioned in a Polish court record of 1397. In 1425, permission was given for two fairs a year to be held in the town, and these became central to Jewish economic activity. In the 15th century, there were some 180 Jews, living in 12 wooden houses, engaged in money lending, commerce, and crafts. At the end of the century, a fire ravaged a large part of the town, and the Jewish population was also hard hit. In the 16th century, an outbreak of cholera reduced the Jewish numbers. By 1633, the Jews were concentrated in one area of the town and they remained during the whole history of the community, in what was known as the Street of the Jews. After another epidemic in 1662, and in the wake of the destruction wrought by the Swedes in 1707, the number of Jews declined once more.  It was estimated that 168 Jews lived in Konin in 1764–1765 (making up 24% of the town’s population). A magnificent synagogue was erected in Konin (1763-66) and was decorated in 1829 by the Jewish artist Zanvel Barash of Kepno.

Konin was under Prussian rule from 1793 to 1807. After Konin passed to Russia in 1815, local economic activity increased as did the Jewish population and Konin became an important center for trade with Germany. The establishment of industry in Konin was mainly due to the Jews. Jewish wholesalers had large warehouses that supplied industrial products to the whole region. They owned breweries, stocks of building materials, cement products, tiles, pipes, and roofing felt. Wealthy Jews engaged in the wholesale trade of salt and timber and established flour mills and a textile industry.

The first Rabbi of Konin was Rabbi Zwi Hirsh Amsterdam who held office for 39 years (1810-1849). He founded a yeshiva in Konin. A main synagogue Groyser Shul, and a smaller study house, containing a Hasidic shtibl (synagogue) were built. He was succeeded by Tzevi Orbach of Leszno. Rabbi Zwi Hersz Orbach was the Rabbi from 1849 until his death in 1883. He was the author of Divrei Torah on Choshen Mishpat, published in Warsaw in 1881. In 1884, the rabbi was Zwi Hersz Bierzynski, who led his flock for 21 years until his death in 1905, and was an associate of the author of the Sfat Emet.

The relatively early involvement of the Jews of Konin in the country's political life was shown by the participation of some of them in the Polish revolt of 1863.

In the middle of the 19th century, a study group for Talmud was established. The Great Synagogue was built in 1766, and renovated in 1829, with the assistance of the artist Zajnwel Barasz. In 1870, a beit midrash was established and there were various Hassidic prayer-houses in Konin. The influence of the Haskalah was increasingly felt in Konin. The Jewish secular lending library was one of the largest of such institutions in Poland. There were also other organizations in Konin, such as prayer, bible, and Sabbath preservation societies. At the end of the century and the beginning of the 20th, there were active charitable organizations: health services, a hostel, dowry collections, provident funds, etc.

Influential, informal groups were comprised of Agudath-supporting Hasidim, as well as independent Orthodox Jews. Their leader was Baruch Działoszyński, a city councillor, and chairman of the Jewish Community Council. They centered around the Administration Committee, concerning themselves with education. The Hasidim became more numerous in Konin towards the end of the 19th Century. They were more liberal than their peers from the East. The young Hasidim did not wear beards. Factions with much less influence in the town included assimilated Jews, supporters of the Polish Communist Party and the Folkspartei.

Until 1830, the Jewish dead were buried in the village cemetery in Czarków. At the same time, from 1806 to 1808, the dead were also laid to rest in the “new” Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of the city.

 

20th Century 

In 1900, there was one Jewish doctor in the town, two dentists and a lawyer. A library was established in 1901. The Jewish community had a state elementary school and a network of religious schools. The Bund had begun its activities in 1905, and its members took part in strikes and demonstrations but the Russian authorities arrested many Bund members and virtually stopped its activities. The rabbi of the town from 1906 was Rabbi Jakow Lipszyc, who held the position from 1906 until the end of the community in the Second World War.

In 1913, a Zionist group made its appearance with some 200 members and an Arbeiter Heim (workers' home) was opened. Izrael Szpigelfogel opened a loan and savings bank, which helped establish Jewish industries. At the outbreak of the First World War (1914–1918) fierce battles raged around Konin. Many Jews of other towns found refuge in Konin. The Jews suffered both under the Russians and the Germans. In the autumn of 1914, the Germans arrested many of the community leaders. In 1915, overcrowding and malnutrition caused a typhus epidemic. German occupying forces appointed Konin’s only Jewish mayor, Bernard Dancyger, and allowed a range of political activities that had been banned by the Russians. Bund activities were resumed and a Maccabi sports group was established. Jews actively participated in the City Council and five Jews were employed in its commissions. There was also an ORT (trade) school. The Yavneh School was opened in 1918, as was the dual language (Polish and Hebrew) Jewish Gymnasium, with Aleksander Rusak as its first headmaster. Sports clubs were also to be found in Konin - Maccabi (1918), Shimshon, and Hapoel, as well as the sports sections of Betar and the Bund. Until 1919, Konin lay close to the Prussian frontier. Jews working in Konin played a major role, especially in the export of agricultural products, though the mass of Jews were artisans and small-scale traders.

In May 1920, nine out of the total of 24 councilmen were Jewish. In independent Poland, Jewish political activity, both Zionist and non-Zionist, flourished. The process of secularization continued through education, theatrical and musical presentations, and Jewish sport organizations. According to the Polish census of 1921, there were 2,902 Jews in Konin (29% of the total population). Between 1920 and 1929, a Jewish secondary school functioned which was attended by 200 pupils. Its directors included the physicist Leopold Infeld. In 1921, eight independent prayer houses operated and 72 out of the 240 registered industrial plants belonged to Jews. In 1923, the Yesodei Hatorah Cheder School opened. The community boards were dominated by Orthodox Jews and non-partisan representatives. Agudat Israel, which appeared in Konin in the 1920s, also established a Youth Movement in 1925, while ten years later a branch of Poalei Agudat Israel was formed. Agudat Israel exercised considerable influence in the community council.

Between the Two World Wars, Jews had great influence on the economic life of the town even though antisemitic harassment continued. Mechanized carpentry shops were set up and a plant for producing gramophones was established. Many Konin Jews made a living by moving from one market to another.

In 1928, 10 of the 25 industrial plants and 168 out of the 487 craft workshops (34.3%) were “Jewish”. In general, the larger shops, factories and warehouses were owned by Jews. In the 1930s, economic conditions for Jews rapidly worsened as the town’s economy declined and extreme Polish nationalism undermined intercommunal harmony. In the Second Republic of Poland, there was an economic boycott of Jewish shops. The representatives of the Jewish elites, especially those assimilated, however, did not experience any kind of hatred.

The election held in 1931 revealed some changes in political preferences amongst the Jews of Konin. The Religious Jewish Block, representing all the houses of prayer received 152 votes (2 seats), and the Democratic United Jewish Block, whose members were representatives of various branches of Zionism received 326 votes (6 seats – 4 for the General Zionists and 2 for the Mizrachi). In the last elections prior to the outbreak of war, held on 30 August 1936, seven lists were put together. The lists included Orthodox, Zionist Revisionists, The Jewish Peasant Party, General Zionists, The Bund and Poale Zion Right. In 1931 the youth movement Freheit was established. The League for Israel Workers included: Poalei Zion, Freiheit, the Worker, the Pioneer, the Young Pioneer, Hapoel, and Hashomer Hatzair. In 1933, a Pioneer training kibbutz named after B. Borochow, was established.

The Jewish library in Konin continued its activities, and in 1936 contained 8,190 books. Drama groups associated with the League for the Working Labour of Israel and the Bund were also in evidence. Cultural personalities connected with Konin included the painters Szaja Szer, Michail Eliahu Zadek, and his brother Menachem Zadek; the sculptor Marek Lewin; the writer and journalist Meir Wajnsztajn; and the choreographer Mania Lipinski. There were approximately 3,000 Jews living in Konin in 1939.

 

The Holocaust  1939 – 1945 

German troops entered Konin on 14 September 1939, the morning of Rosh Hashanah, and drove Rabbi Ya‘akov Lipszyc and the other worshipers out of the synagogue. The synagogue was desecrated and its contents were destroyed. The Jewish cemetery was ploughed up and part of the Jewish district was demolished.  On November 30th, 1939, the Germans surrounded a number of streets densely populated by Jews, ordered them to take with them absolute necessities only, and assembled them in a Jewish school. In December 1939, about a thousand were deported. Only 1,500 Jews remained in Konin.

In July 1940, the majority of those remaining in Konin, were sent to forced labor. In October of 1941, the remaining Jews of Konin were assembled and were taken to the forests of Kazimierz Biskupi, and murdered there. Most of them were forced into open pits of lime and buried alive. During their retreat in early 1945 the Germans removed the bodies and burned them, in order to conceal the evidence of the crime.

At the beginning of 1943, several Jews banded together to carry out acts of sabotage and arson. In August 1943, most of these saboteurs met their deaths in the action, but some survived. Among the prisoners in Konin and the group of rebels was Rabbi Yehoshua Moshe Aaronson, who wrote a diary Megillat Beit Haavadim. The diary and other testamentary documents were given to a Polish carpenter for safekeeping. Several of these papers survived and bore witness to the life and fate of the internees of Konin.

About 200 Jews from Konin survived the war. By the end of 1946, 60 people had returned to the town. They established a branch of the Central Committee of Polish Jews but their situation was difficult. Their flats had been taken over by Poles and the attitude of the local population was hostile. By 1965, most of the Jews left the town and there were only two Jews left. The synagogue, vandalized by the Germans, was restored after the war, and is now used as a public library.

Kamienna

(from 1928 Skarzysko-Kamienna )

A town in Kielce province, east central Poland.

A mine workers' quarter in the 19th century, the locality received municipal rights in 1923. Jews settled in Kamienna in the 1890s with the development of industrial enterprises for steel production and tanning. A Jewish community was organized on the eve of World War I. In 1921, 1,590 Jews constituted 20% of the total population. In addition to shopkeeping, they engaged in hide processing, shoemaking, mechanics, and dyeing. Before World War II, 2,200 Jews lived in Skarzysko-Kamienna. The German army entered on September 7, 1939, and immediately initiated anti-Jewish terror. On May 5, 1941, the ghetto was established. In October 1942 an aktion took place in which the town's entire Jewish population was deported to the Treblinka death camp and exterminated.

After the liquidation of the ghetto a massive Julag (Judenlager), a slave labor camp, was set up in the town. In January 1944 the camp officially became a concentration camp. It existed until August 1944, when all its inmates were deported to other concentration camps, mainly Buchenwald in Germany and the Czestochowa-"Hasag" camp in western Poland. Altogether about 15,000 Jewish prisoners passed through this camp, but over 10,000 of them perished there. Many prisoners died of hunger and disease due to the subhuman conditions prevailing in the camp. Others were murdered by the SS men on the camp's staff. A resistance organization active in the camp smuggled out a small number of prisoners for guerilla activities, but preparations for a general armed revolt failed. After the war the Jewish community in Skarzysko-Kamienna was not reconstituted.

Kozienice

(Rus. Kozenitsy)

A town in Kielce province, east central Poland.

In 1661 the Jews of Kozienice referred to a privilege dated 1616, which probably was the oldest granted to the community. In 1661 five Jewish house owners lived in Kozienice, while ten other families resided in rented dwellings. In 1722 the Jews paid a poll tax of 354 zlotys; this was increased to 630 zlotys in 1726.

In the 1780s, through Jewish initiative, a soap manufactory was established in the town. From 1791 the Jews of Kozienice also engaged largely in the production of stockings. At the beginning of the 19th century the Maggid Israel b. Shabbetai Hapstein, one of the most influential tzaddikim, lived in Kozienice. The community numbered 1,365 in 1765, 1,185 (59% of the total population) in 1827, 1,980 (65%) in 1857, 3,764 (59%) in 1897, and 3,811 (55%) in 1921.

Lelow

A village (formerly a town), in Kielce province, south east central Poland.

Several dozen Jewish families were living in Lelow in 1547, but in 1564 only six families remained; each paid the King one red guilder residence tax and a certain quantity of spices for the right to slaughter cattle. During the 16th and 17th centuries Jews played an important part in the Lelow fairs. In the first part of the 18th century they had grown to a considerable community, paying 741 zlotys poll tax in 1718 and an annual average of 1,050 zlotys in 1733--37. In the district, which included the communities of Lelow, Naklo, Janow, Pilica, Szczekocin, and Zarki, there were 3,415 Jews in 1765, when 335 Jewish poll tax payers were recorded in Lelow and 18 villages were under the community's jurisdiction. By an agreement with the townsmen, in 1778, the Jews were released from the payment of municipal taxes, as well as from the duty of billeting the troops. Between 1823 and 1862 Jewish residence was restricted to a specific quarter. The community numbered 269 (29% of the total population) in 1808, 339 (39%) in 1827, 480 (53%) in 1857, 720 (60%) in 1897, and 638 (52%) in 1921.

Before the outbreak of World War II there were about 700 Jews in Lelow. The Jewish community was liquidated in September 1942, when all the Jews were deported to Treblinka death camp. After the war the Jewish community of Lelow was not reconstituted.

Pińczów 

Russian: Pinchov; Yiddish: Pinchev

A town in Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, Poland.

During the 16th-18th centuries Pinczow was a busy market town in Sandomierz province. The date of the foundation of the Jewish community is unknown, but the fact that it sent representatives to the Councils of the Lands testifies to its signficance in the 17th century. During the attacks led by the Polish hetman S. Czarniecki (1656), the Jews of Pinczow suffered comparatively little since they took refuge with the local margrave, and were defended by his troops. The Pinczow district (Galil) was included in the province of Lesser Poland.

One of the most interesting relics possessed by the community is the hand-written prayer book which was completed according to an inscription by a scribe named Elijah b. Samuel Gronenn in January 1614 (published by S. Dubnow in Voskhod, 14, no. 4 (1894), 149-50). Other records of later years mention martyrs who died as a result of blood libel accusations and during the massacres in the 1640s and 1650s. In 1765 there were 2,862 Jews registered in the district, most of whom lived in the town itself; there were 2,877 Jews (70% of the total population) in the town in 1856 and 5,194 in 1897; in the latter years there were 13,716 Jews in the whole district.

At the outbreak of World War II there were about 3,500 Jews in Pinczow. In October 1942, 3,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka death camp. During the deportation, hundreds of Jews fled into the surrounding forests. About 100 joined the two Jewish partisan units headed by Michal Majtek and Zalman Fajnsztat. These units merged and operated in the vicinity until February 1944, when they incurred heavy losses near Pawlowice. After the war the Jewish community of Pinczow was not reconstituted.

Klwów 

A village in the district of Kielce, subdistrict of Opoczno, central Poland.

Klwow was a town from the year 1413, but lost this status in the 19th century. There was no opposition to Jews settling in Klwow. Since the early 19th century this small Jewish settlement had a beith midrash and a cemetery.

In 1863 Klwow had about 500 Jewish inhabitants, half of the total local population.
In April 1864 a local Jew was accused of spying for the Russians, and was hanged by the Polish insurgents.

Most of the Jewish breadwinners in Klwow were peddlers and artisans, who found their customers in the markets of neighboring towns.

In 1939 the Jews of Klwow numbered some 80 families.


The Holocaust Period

Following the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 the number of Jews in Klwow increased due to the arrival of refugees and reached 456 persons in May 1941. The community of Klwow was liquidated in October 1942, when all its Jews were sent to their death at the Treblinka extermination camp.

Poland

Rzeczpospolita Polska -  Republic of Poland 

A country in central Europe, member of the European Union (EU).

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 4,500 out of 38,500,000 (0.01%). Main umbrella organization of the Jewish communities:

Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland - Związek Gmin Wyznaniowych Żydowskich w Polsce (ZGWŻP)
Phone: 48 22 620 43 24
Fax: 48 22 652 28 05
Email: sekretariat@jewish.org.pl
Website: http://jewish.org.pl/

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Poland

1096 | Migration of the Heretics

Where did the Jews come to Poland from? Scholars are divided on this question, but many believe that some came from the Khazar Kingdom, from Byzantium and from Kievan Rus, while most immigrated from Western Europe – from the Lands of Ashkenaz.
One of the theories is that the “butterfly effect” that led the Jews of Ashkenaz to migrate to Poland began with a speech by Pope Urban II, who in 1096 called for the liberation of the holy sites in Jerusalem from the Muslim rule. The Pope's call ignited what would come to be known as The Crusades - vast campaigns of conquest by the Christian faithful, noble and peasant alike, who moved like a tsunami from Western Europe to the Middle East, trampling, stealing and robbing anything they could find along the way.
Out of a fervent belief that “heretics” were “heretics”, be they Jews or Muslims, the militant pilgrims made sure not to bypass the large Jewish communities in the Ashkenaz countries, where they murdered many of the local Jews, mostly in the communities of Worms and Mainz on the banks of the Rhine. Following these massacres, known in Jewish historiography as the Massacres of Ttn”u (after the acronym of the year of Hebrew calendar), Jews started migrating east, into the Kingdom of Poland.

1264 | The Righteous Among The Nations from Kalisz.

In the 13th century Poland was divided into many districts and counties, and to rule them all an advanced bureaucratic system was required. In 1264 the Polish prince Boleslav, also known as the Righteous One of Kalisz (Kalisz was a large city in the Kingdom of Poland) issued a bill of rights that granted the Jews extensive freedom of occupation as well as freedom of religious practice. This bill of rights (privilegium, in Latin) allowed many Jews – literate merchants, experts in economy, bankers, coin makers and more – to fill various roles in the administrative apparatus of the kingdom.
At that time, the Catholic Church in Poland was in the habit of disseminating all sorts of blood libels against the Jews. Article 31 of the Prince Boleslav of Kalisz's privilegium tried to rein in this phenomenon by stating: “Accusing Jews of drinking Christian blood is expressly prohibited. If despite this a Jew should be accused of murdering a Christian child, such charge must be sustained by testimony of three Christians and three Jews.”

1370 | From Esther to Esther

It turns out that Esther from the Scroll of Esther was not the only Esther who saved the Jewish people. Legend tells of a beautiful Jewish woman from Poland named Esther'ke who was a mistress of King Casimir II the Great of Poland (1310-1370) and even bore him two daughters.
It is unclear whether it was love that aroused Casimir's sympathy for the Chosen People. What is known is that according to legend, like the Queen Esther from the Purim story, Esther'ke also looked out for her people and asked the King to establish a special quarter for Jews in Krakow (and this quarter is no legend). The King acquiesced to his lover's request and named the quarter for himself – the Kazimierz Quarter. In addition, and this is no legend either, messengers were sent to all Jewish communities in Poland and beyond inviting the Jews to relocate to Krakow, then the capital of the kingdom.
The invitation to come to Poland was like a much-needed breath of air for the Jews of Ashkenaz, for those were the days in which the Black Death ravaged Europe, which for some reason was claimed to have “skipped” the Jews. For the audacity of not contracting the plague, the Jews faced baseless accusations of having poisoned the drinking wells in order to spread the plague.

1520 | A State Within a State

In the early 16th century the center of gravity of Jewish life gradually moved from the countries of Central Europe to locations all over Poland. According to various historical sources, in the late 15th century there were around 15 yeshivas operating throughout Poland. The study of Torah flourished in the large communities and became the central axis of Ashkenazi religious life. It is no surprise, therefore, that the common name for Poland among the Jews who lived there was “Po-lan-Ja” - or in Hebrew: "God resides here".
The status of the Jews in Poland had no equal at the time anywhere in the world. Almost everywhere else in Europe they were persecuted, expelled and subject to various restrictions, whereas in Poland they were granted a special, privileged status.
In the early 16th century there were some 50,000 Jews living in Poland. During these years an interest-based alliance began to form between the Jews and the Polish nobility. The nobles, wishing to avail themselves of the Jews' connections and skills in business management, appointed Jews to various positions in the management of their feudal estates and gave them bills of rights according them special status.
In 1520 the “Council of Four Lands” was established in Poland. This council, which was a sort of “state within the state”, was composed of the representatives of all the Jewish communities of Poland, from Krakow and Lublin to Vilnius and Lithuania (which were then still part of the Polish “Commonwealth”). The main function of the Council was to collect taxes for the authorities, and it enjoyed judicial autonomy based on Jewish halacha. The Council operated for 244 years, and is considered the longest-lasting Jewish leadership in history, at least since the First Temple Era.

1569 | Demon-graphics

In the year 1618 the authorities of Krakow appointed a commission to find the reasons for hostility between Jewish and Christian merchants. The chairman of the commission, an academic by the name of Sebastian Miczynski, found that the reason for the animosity was the rapid increase in the number of Jews in the city, stemming from the fact that “none of them die at war or from plague, and in addition they marry at age 12 and multiply furiously”.
Miczynski's conclusion was not without basis: The growth rate of the Jewish community in Poland, known in research as “The Polish Jewish demographic miracle”, was indeed astounding. By the mid 17th century the number of Jews in Poland reached several hundred thousand – about half of all Jews in the world. By the mid 18th century their numbers reached approximately one million souls.
However, although Miczynski's diagnosis was correct, the reasons he offered for it, which were heavily tainted by anti-Semitism, were unsurprisingly wrong. Various researchers have found that the reason for the relatively rapid growth of Jews in Poland was a low rate of infant mortality among them compared to the Christian population. Among the reasons for this one can offer are the culture of mutual aid prevalent among Jews, the fact that newlywed couples usually lived with the bride's family, which offered better nutrition, and the fact that Jewish religious laws enjoin better hygiene practices than were the norm in the rest of pre-modern Europe.
In 1569 Poland annexed large parts of Ukraine under the Treaty of Lublin. Many Jews chose to migrate to Ukraine, and found a new source of livelihood there – leasing land. This they once again did in conjunction with the Polish nobility. Many of the Ukrainian peasants resented the new immigrants. Not only did the feudal lords tax them heavily, they thought, now they also “enslave us to the enemies of Christ, the Jews.”
During this time some brilliant intellectuals emerged in the Jewish areas of Poland, including Rabbi Moses Isserles (aka “The Rema” after his acronym), Rabbi Shlomo Lurie and Rabbi Joel Sirkis, and the great yeshivas of Lublin and Krakow were founded. The rabbinical elite was also the political elite among the Jewish community, setting the rules of life down to the smallest detail – from the number of jewels a woman may wear to requiring approval by community administrators in order to wed.

1648 | Bohdan The Brute

Had there been a senior class photo of all the worst oppressors the Jewish people have known, Bohdan (also known as Bogdan) Khmelnytsky would probably be standing front and center in it. Khmelnytsky, the leader of the Ukrainian Cossacks who fought for independence against Poland, was responsible for particularly lethal pogroms against the Jews of Ukraine. These pogroms were fueled by a combination of Christian revival and popular protest against Polish subjugation. The Jews, who were seen as the Polish nobility's “agents of oppression” paid a terrible price: Approximately 100,000 of them were murdered in these pogroms.
The Khmelnytsky Massacres, also known in Jewish historiography as “The Ta”ch and Ta”t Pogroms”, left the Jewish community of Poland shocked and bereaved. The community's poets composed dirges and the rabbis decreed mourning rituals. A chilling account of these events can be found in the book “Yeven Mezulah” by Jewish scholar Nathan Hannover, who fled the pogroms himself and described them in chronological order. In time many works were written based on this account. The most famous are “The Slave” by Isaac Bashevis Singer, and the poem “The Rabbi's Daughter” by the great Hebrew poet and translator Shaul Tchernichovski.
Despite the grief and sorrow, the Jewish community of Ukraine soon recovered. Proof of this can be found in the accounts of English traveler William Cox, who wrote 20 years after the massacres: “Ask for an interpreter and they bring you a Jew; Come to an inn, the owner is a Jew; If you require horses to travel, a Jew supplies and drives them; and if you wish to buy anything, a Jew is your broker.”

1700 | A Very Good Name

The year 1700 saw the birth of the man who would reshape Orthodox Judaism and become the founder of one of the most important movements in all its long history: Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer, far better known as the Baal Shem Tov, or The Besh”t for short.
The Baal Shem Tov began his career as a healer with herbs, talismans and sacred names, thus becoming known as a “Baal Shem” - a designation for someone who knows the arcana of the divine names, which he can use to mystical effect.
Rumor of the righteous man who performs miracles and speaks of a different Judaism – less academic and scholarly, more emotional and experiential – soon spread far and wide. Religious discourse soon included terms such as “dvekut”, which means “devotion”, and “pnimiut”, meaning “inner being”. Thus was the Hasidic movement born, emphasizing moral correctness and the desire for religious devotion, placing a high premium on the discipline of Kabbalah. The immense success of Hasidism stemmed from its being a popular movement which allowed entry to any Jew, even if he wasn't much for book smarts.
The Besh”t also set the template for the form of the Hasidic circle: A group of people coalescing around the personality of a charismatic leader who provides each member with personal guidance. Among the most famous Hasidic movement today one can count Chabad/Liubavitch, Ger and Breslov, which was founded by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (the great-grandson of the Besh”t), and is unique in having no single leader or “Rebbe” or Admor, a Hebrew acronym which stands for “Our Master, Teacher and Rabbi”, the title of other Hasidic leaders, as none is considered worthy to carry the mantle of the founder.
Those were also the years in which Kabbalist literature began to spread in Poland, along with various mystical influences, including the Sabbatean movement. One of the innovation of the Kabbalist literature was the way in which the issue of observing commandments was perceived: In establishment rabbinical thought, the commandments were seen as a device for maintaining community structures and the religious lifestyle. The Hasidim, on the other hand, claimed that the commandments were a mystical device through which even a common man may effect changes in the heavenly spheres. In modern terms one may say that the meaning of observing the commandments was “privatized”, ceasing to be the property of the rabbinical elite and becoming the personal business of every common observant Jew.

1767 | What Came First – Wheat or Vodka?

To paraphrase the eternal questions of “what came first – the chicken or the egg?” 18th century Poles asked “What came first – wheat or vodka?” What they meant is, was it the great profitability of grain-based liquor that created mass alcohol addiction, or was it the addiction to alcohol that created the demand for wheat? Either way, the idea of turning wheat into vodka had a magical draw for Jews in the steppes of Poland. In the second half of the 18th century vodka sales accounted for approximately 40% of all income in Poland. The Jews, who recognized the immense financial potential of this trade, took over the business of leasing liquor distilleries and taverns from the nobles. In fact, historians have determined that some 30% of all Jews in the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania had some connection to the liquor business.
But liquor was far from the only field of commerce the Jews of Poland engaged in. They traded all manner of goods. In a sample of data from the years 1764-1767, collected from 23 customs houses, it was found that out of 11,485 merchants, 5,888 were Jews, and that 50%-60% of all retail commerce was held by Jewish merchants.
The reciprocal relations between the Jews and the Magnates, the Polish nobility, became ever tighter. Save for rare phenomena, such as the habit of some nobles to force Jews to dance before them in order to humiliate them, these relations were stable and dignified. Historians note that the Jewish leaser “was not a parasite cringing in fear, but a man aware of his rights, as well as his obligations”.

1795 | The Empires Swallow Poland

Until the partition of Poland, Poland's Jews could live in cities such as Krakow or Lublin, for example, with almost no direct contact with the outside political and legal authorities. Most of them resided in towns or hamlets (“Shtetl”, in Yiddish) where they lived in a closed cultural and social bubble. They spoke their own language, Yiddish, and their children were taught in separate institutions – the cheder for young children and then the Talmud-Torah. The legal system and political leadership were also internal: The tribunals and the Kahal, which operated on the basis of halacha, were the sole court of appeals for the settling of disputes and disagreements.
The only connection most Jews had with the outside world was in their work, which usually involved leasing of some sort from the nobles. Proof of this can be found in the words of Jewish storyteller Yechezkel Kutik, who wrote that “In those days, what was bad for the paritz (the Polish feudal lord) was at least partly bad for the Jews. Almost everyone made their living from the paritz”.
In 1795 Poland was partitioned between three empires – Russia, Austria and Prussia, the nucleus of modern Germany. This brought an end to the shared history of Poland's Jews, and began three distinctly different stories: That of the Jews of the Russian-Czarist Empire, that of the Jews of Galicia under Austrian rule, and that of the Jews of Prussia, who later became the Jews of Germany.
The situation for Jews in Austria and Prussia was relatively good, definitely when compared to that of Jews living under Czarist rule, which imposed various financial edicts upon them and allowed them freedom of movement only within the Pale of Settlement, where conditions were harsh. The nadir was the outbreak of pogroms in the years 1881-1884, which led to the migration of some 2 million Jews to the United States – the place that would come to replace Poland as the world's largest host of Jews. Upon the partition of Poland, most Jews living in that country found themselves under Russian rule. Please see the entry “The Jews of Russia” for further information regarding them.

1819 | The Jews of Galicia

The image of the “Galician Jew” was and still is a code not only for a geographic identity, but mostly for a unique Jewish identity which combined a multicultural-ethnicity with a cunning, humorous, warm and sympathetic folklore figure. The “Galician Jew” could be a devout Hasid, an enlightened educated person, a Polish nationalist or a Zionist activist, a great merchant or a vendor trudging from door to door. This Jew was weaned on several different cultures and could gab in several tongues – German, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian and Polish.
Galicia extended over the south of Poland. Its eastern border was Ukraine, but the Austrian empire ruled over it from 1772 to the end of WW1. In the second half of the 19th century Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph granted the Jews fully equal rights. The city of Lvov became a magnet for educated Jews from all over Europe. Yiddish newspapers, including the “Zeitung”, operated there at full steam, commerce flourished and Zionist movements, among them Poalei Zion, played a central role in reviving Jewish nationality.
At the same time the Hasidic movement also flourished in Galicia, branching out from several Hasidic courts and dynasties of “Tzadiks”. Among the best known of these Hasidic sects were those of Belz and Sanz, which preserved the traditional Hasidic lifestyle, including dress and language, and maintained tight relations with the “Tzadik” who headed the court.
Galicia was also the soil from which the writers of the age of Haskala (the Jewish Enlightenment movement) grew – from Joseph Perl, the pioneer of Hebrew literature, who in 1819 wrote “Megale Tmirin” (“Revealer of Mysteries”), the first Hebrew novel, and ending with Yosef Haim Brenner and Gershon Shofman, who lived in Lvov and skillfully described Jewish life there in the early 20th century.
The multicultural, equal-rights idyll ended for the Jews of Galicia against the backdrop of cannon shells and flames of WW1. The region of Galicia passed from hand to hand between the Austrian and Russian armies, and the soldiers of both massacred the Jews again and again. This is what S. (Shloyme) Ansky, author of “The Dybbuk” and the writer who commemorated the fate of Galician Jews during the war, wrote on the subject: “In Galicia an atrocity beyond human comprehension has been committed. A large region of a million Jews, who but yesterday enjoyed all human and civil rights, is surrounded by a fiery chain of iron and blood, cut off and set apart from the world, given to the rule of wild beasts in the form of Cossacks and soldiers. The impression is as though an entire tribe of Israel is becoming extinct.”

1862 | The Siren Call of HaTsefira

While the Haskala, the Jewish Enlightenment movement, was born in Western Europe, its echoes soon reached the eastern part of the continent as well, and Poland in particular. One of the seminal events illustrating the roots put down by the Haskala movement in Poland was the founding of the periodical “HaTsefira” in Warsaw. “HaTsefira” became one of the most highly-regarded Hebrew newspapers and sought to take a real part in the process of secularizing the Hebrew language and turning it from a liturgical tongue to a living, everyday medium.
The newspaper gained steam in the late 1870s, when the editorial board was joined by Nachum Sokolov, journalist, author and Zionist-national thinker, who in his latter years served as President of the World Zionist Organization. Sokolov gradually reduced the emphasis of “HaTsefira” on popular science, giving it a serious journalistic and literary character instead. Under his leadership the periodical became a daily in 1886, and soon stood out as the most influential Hebrew newspaper in Eastern Europe, until it died out in the decades between the World Wars.
All of the most prominent Hebrew writers of those days published their works in HaTsefira: Mendele Mocher Sforim, Y.L.Peretz and Shalom Aleichem in the 19th century, Dvorah Baron, Uri Nissan Genessin, Shalom Ash and Yaacov Fichman in the early 20th century, and just before WW1 it was home to the works of a few promising youngsters, including Nobel-winning authour Shmuel Yosef Agnon and acclaimed nationalist poet Uri Zvi Greenberg.

1900 | Warsaw

In the first decade of the 20th century Warsaw became the capital of the Jews of Poland and a global Jewish center. The city was home to the headquarters of the political parties, many welfare institutions, trade unions, and Jewish newspapers and periodicals published in a variety of languages. Prominent in particular was juggernaut of literary and publishing activity in this city from the 1880s to the eve of WW1.
Among the most famous literary institutions of the period were the Ben Avigdor Press, which ignited the realist “New Movement” in Hebrew literature; Achiassaf Press, founded by the tea magnate Wissotzky, which operated in the spirit of Achad Haam and published books of a Jewish-historical nature; the HaShiloach newspaper, which was copied from Odessa and was edited for a year by Chaim Nachman Bialik (later anointed national poet of the State of Israel), the newspapers “HaTsofeh” and “HaBoker” and more.
All these and many others were produced at hundreds of Hebrew printing presses which popped up like mushrooms after a rain. This industry attracted Jewish intellectuals who found work writing, editing, translating and doing other jobs required by publishing and the press. In his essay “New Hebrew Culture In Warsaw” Prof. Dan Miron wrote that: “All the Hebrew writers of the time passed through Warsaw, some staying for years and others for a short time”.
Also famous were the “literary tribunals”, especially that of author Y.L. Peretz, who held a sort of salon or court at his home which was frequented by eager literary cubs. These would submit their callow works to the revered giant of letters and tremblingly await his verdict. The Peretz court was far from the only one, though. Jewish writers and intellectuals arrived from all over Russia to “literary houses”, “salons” and other establishments, convened mostly on Sabbaths and holidays to discuss matters of great import. One of the most famous of these was the home of pedagogue Yitzchak Alterman, whose lively Hanukkah and Purim parties drew many intellectuals. These, we assume, served as inspiration for little Nanuchka, the host's son, later to become famous as poet Nathan Alterman.

Jewish Demographics In Warsaw

Year | Number of Jews
1764 1,365
1800 9,724
1900 219,128
1940 393,500
1945 7,800


1918 | The First Jewish Party in Poland

Upon the end of WW1 the Jews of Poland also fell victim to the game of monopoly played by Poland against its neighbors, particularly Soviet Russia. The Poles accused the Jews of Bolshevism, the Soviets saw them as capitalists and bourgeoisie, and these accusations turned into dozens of pogroms and tens of thousands of Jewish murder victims.
In 1921, after 125 years under various occupiers, Poland once again became a sovereign and independent state. At first the future seemed bright. The new Polish constitution guaranteed the Jews full equality and promised religious tolerance. However, like many of the supposedly democratic states formed between the two world wars, the regime in Poland also swayed between the values of Enlightenment and equality and an ethnic-based nationalism.
This was the unstable reality under which the Jews of Poland lived for 18 years, until the start of WW2. During these years the Jews experienced some bad times, during which for example they were banned from public office, and were discriminated against in matters of taxation and higher education admissions, where quotas were set limiting the number of Jews at the universities. At other times, mostly under the reign of Jozef Pilsudski (1926-1935), who was known for his relative opposition to anti-Semitism, the edicts issued against the Jews were eased.
During the Pilsudski era the Jewish parties combined to form a joint list for the legislative elections, winning 6 seats in the Sejm (lower house of the Polish parliament) and 1 in the senate, which made them the sixth-largest party. This was a mere 11 years before the outbreak of WW2 and the Holocaust of Polish Jewry.
One of the most influential figures among Jewish political leadership in Poland was Yitzhak Gruenbaum (Izaak Grünbaum), leader of the General Zionists Party, who foresaw the rise of dictatorial elements in the Sejm and made aliyah in 1933. He was right. From 1935 until the German invasion Poland was ruled by an openly dictatorial, anti-Semitic regime. During these four years some 500 anti-Semitic incidents took place, the system of “ghetto benches” was put in place, separating Jewish and Polish students at universities, and the employment options of Polish Jews were limited to such a degree that the Jewish community of Poland, numbering over three million people at the time, was considered the poorest diaspora in Europe.

1939 | The Holocaust of the Jews of Poland

September 1st, 1939, the day the Nazis invaded Poland, was etched into the collective Jewish memory in infamy. Of 3.3 million Jews who lived in Poland on the eve of the Nazi invasion, only around 350,000 survived. Some 3 million Polish Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust.
The annihilation of the Jews of Poland took place step by step. It began with various decrees, such as the gathering of Jews in ghettos, the obligation to wear an identifying mark, the imposition of a curfew in the evenings, the marking of Jewish-owned stores and more – and ended with the execution of the “Final Solution”, a satanic plan of genocide, which culminated in the deportation of the Jews of Poland to the extermination camps of Auschwitz, Majdanek, Sobibor, Chelmno and Treblinka – all located on Polish soil.
One of the best known expressions of resistance by the Jews of Poland to the Nazi plan of annihilation was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The revolt symbolized a triumph of spirit for the Jews of the ghetto, who embarked on it although they knew that their chances of winning or even surviving were nil.
Alongside the armed resistance by the Jews of the ghetto there was also cultural resistance. In October 1939 Emanuel Ringelblum – a historian, politician and social worker – started the “Oneg Shabbat” (“Sabbath Delight”) project in the ghetto, in which he was joined by dozens of intellectuals including authors, teachers and historians. This collective produced many works of writing on various facets of life in the ghetto, and thus became an archive and think tank dealing with current events while documenting them for future historians' reference.
In August 1942, in the midst of the deportation of the Jews of Warsaw, the archive was divided in three and each part buried for safe-keeping. Two of the three parts, secreted in metal crates and two milk jugs, were found after the war. These two parts, located in 1946 and 1950, serve to this day as imported first-hand sources on Jewish life in the ghetto, and also as testament to the courage and spiritual strength of the intellectuals whose only weapons were the pen and the camera.

2005 | Jewish Renaissance in Poland?

At the end of WW2 there were some 240,000 Jews living in Polish territories, 40,000 of them who survived the camps and another 200,000 refugees, returning from the Soviet Union territories. The displaced Jews lived in poverty and cramped conditions, and were treated with hostility by the general population despite their attempts to integrate into Polish society. In July 1946, just a year after the war ended, this hostility erupted in a pogrom in the city of Kielce. The pretext for the murder of 42 out of 163 Holocaust survivors in the city, and the wounding of most of the rest? The ancient blood libel about matza and Christian children.
This is where the Zionist movement swung into action, managing to smuggle about 100,000 of the remaining Jews in Poland to Israel under the “Bricha”, or “Escape” movement.
After WW2 Poland became a Communist country, which it remained until 1989. 1956 saw the start of the “Gomulka Aliyah” (named after Wladislaw Gomulka, Secretary General of the Polish Communist party), which lasted for a few years and brought some 35,000 more Jews to Israel from Poland. In 1967 Poland cut off relations with Israel and in 1968, amidst an anti-Semitic incitement campaign, another few thousand Jews made aliyah. This practically brought an end to the Jewish community of Poland.
At the start of the new millennium, Poland was considered the greatest mass grave of the Jewish people. The numbers speak for themselves: Before WW2 there were around 1,000 active Jewish communities in Poland, but in the year 2000 only 13 remained. Before the war Warsaw was home to almost 400,000 Jews. In 2000 only 1,000 Jews remained.
And then, at the start of the new century, a so-called “Jewish Renaissance” took place in Poland, and is still going on today. In 2005 a museum was opened across the street from the Warsaw Ghetto, where 1,000 years of Jewish history in Poland are on display. Once a year a Jewish festival is held in Krakow, exposing thousands of curious visitors from all over the world to Jewish songs and dance, kleizmer music and Yiddishke food. The Jewish theater is thriving (although it includes but one Jewish actor), and around the country “dozens of “Judaica Days” and symposiums on Jewish topics are held annually.

* All quotes in this article, unless otherwise stated, are from “From a People to a Nation: The Jews of Eastern Europe, 1772-1881”, Broadcast University Press, 2002

Stopnica

A small town near Busko, in Kielce province, central Poland.

Jews settled there in the 17th century. They owned 12 houses in the town in 1663. The Jews of Stopnica had certain trading rights in this period and were exempt from services to the governor (starosta). They were granted a royal privilege in 1752 authorizing their communal autonomy and rights to engage in trade and crafts, the latter being regulated by an agreement concluded in 1773 between the leaders of the community and the municipal authorities. The representatives of the province (galil) of sandomierz, within the framework of the councils of lands, convened in Stopnica in 1754 and 1759. There were 375 Jews paying the poll tax in Stopnica and 188 in the surrounding villages in 1765. Between 1823 and 1862 the authorities of Congress Poland placed difficulties in the way of Jewish settlement in Stopnica because of its proximity to the Austrian border. In 1869 Stopnica lost its status as a city. During the 19th century Chasidism gained influence within the community. The Jewish population numbered 1,014 (49% of the total) in 1827; 1,461 (69%) in 1857; 3,134 (71%) in 1897; and 3,328 (76%) in 1921. They were mainly occupied in small-scale trade and crafts, including tailoring, shoemaking, and carpentry, and in carting.

During the German occupation Stopnica belonged to the general government, Radom district, in Busko county. At the outbreak of World War II there were about 2,600 Jews in Stopnica. In the course of the fighting the town center - mainly inhabited by Jews - was burnt down. After the Germans entered, shooting Jews on the streets became a common phenomenon. The Jews were compelled to pay a high contribution (fine) and in order to ensure payment the Germans took as hostage leading Jewish personalities, some of whom were killed. On the eve of Passover 1940, 13 Jews were dragged from their homes and shot.

An open ghetto was set up but the Jews were forbidden under penalty of death to leave it. Tailoring workshops were established, providing the craftsmen with some employment and small wages. The number of Jews grew gradually with the influx of deportees and refugees from Plock, Gabin, Radom, Lodz, and Cracow, and in 1942 from the surrounding villages. By November 1940 there were 3,200 Jews in Stopnica; in May 1941, 4,600; in April 1942, 5,300; and in June 1942, 4,990. On the eve of Passover 1942, the police shot the president of the Judenrat and his son. On November 5-6, 1942, the liquidation of the ghetto took place. The German police and Ukrainian formations, with the help of the Polish police and the fire-brigade, shot 400 old persons and children at the cemetery, sent 1,500 young men to labor camps in Skarzysko-Kamienna, and drove the remainder, about 3,000, on foot to the train station in Szczuczyn (Shchuchin). On the way many were killed. Jews caught in hiding in the ghetto were shot or included in the transport. The victims were sent by train to Treblinka. In Stopnica itself about 200 young Jewish men and women remained alive, employed in workshops and on road building. This group was sent in January 1943 to labor camps in Sandomierz and Poniatow.

Odrzywol


A village in the district of Kielce, cenrtral Poland.

The village of Odrzywol, owned by aristocrats, received the status of a town in 1418, and developed into a commercial center for an agricultural hinterland. By the end of the 18th century nine yearly fairs were held in the town. In 1858 Odrzywol was damaged by fire, in the wake of which an economic depression developed.

Jews were permitted to settle in Odrzywol. At the beginning of the 19th century there were 20 Jews living in the town. By the end of that century the Jewish community numbered more than three hundred members and comprised a third of the town`s population. Among its outstanding rabbis were Rabbi Yehuda Laibosh Licht (born in 1839), the author of the Ha-Ber, which compared the translations of the torah with those of the Talmud and the midrashim (collection of rules), and Rabbi Tzvi Rinkovitz, who officiated in Odrzywol until 1920 and was known as an outstanding maggid (narrator) and author of Chelkat Tzvi, an interpretation of the tractate Megilah.

The community had traditional educational institutions and an amateur theater group, and also a Jewish cemetery.

The first Jews earned their living from small trade an crafts, especially in markets and fairs. Between the two world wars most of the town`s shops were owned by Jews, and they also acquired small factories, among others an oil press and a dying enterprise. The livelihood of the Jews was threatened during the economic depression and the wave of antisemitism of the 1930s. Many families left Odrzywol to look for employment in other places. In November 1935 peasants incited by the Endeks (N. D. Narodowa Democratia, an antisemitic right wing party) attacked Jewish shops and fair stands. Due to the intervention of the police the riots stopped and the culprits were brought to justice.

In 1939 there were 320 Jews living in Odrzywol.


The Holocaust Period

The number of Jews increased after the outbreak of the war in September 1939, due to the arrival of refugees in Odrzywol. In 1941 there were more than 700 Jews in the town. In the fall of the same year the Germans herded them into a very small area on the outskirts of the town. The overcrowding reached the extent of 13 persons per room. The detainees were used as forced laborers.

In August 1942 the Odrzywol ghetto was liquidated and its Jews were transferred to Nove Miasto. Two months later they were taken, together with the local Jews, to the Treblinka extermination camp.

Wierzbnik Starachowice


A town in the district of Kielce, central Poland.

The town stands on the river Kamienna, a tributary of the Wisla, near the Skarzysko-Ostrowiec railway line. Wierzbnik was founded in 1624 on the left bank of the river.


After the partitions of Poland (in the years 1772-1795), the district became part of Czarist Russia.

In 1939 Wierzbnik and Starachowice were united and received the status of a town. Since 1949 it is called Starachowice.


Jews came to the area in the mid-17th century and settled in Wierzbnik towards the end of the 18th century.

At about the end of the 19th century, or beginning of the twentieth, Wierzbnik received the status of an independent community and Rabbi Jacob Arieh Gershonowitz Morgenstern, from the town of Lukow, was appointed the community's rabbi. The last rabbi of Wierzbnik was Rabbi Ben-Zion Rabinowitz.

The beth-midrash building was completed in 1910. The offices of the community and Talmud tora school were built nearby. At the same time, a mikve (purification bath) was opened. The local cemetery was also used by Jews of the surrounding areas.

The organized community had a beth midrash, which was used as a central prayer house. There were many Hassidic "stiblach", among them those of the Gur, Amshynow, Sokolow, Cmielow, Ozarow and Wonhock Hassidim. The children of the community studied in the heders.

In addition to heders, the community had other educational institutions, among them the Mizrachi and Beit Jacob schools, as well as a Tarbut Hebrew school. A Talmud tora school for families of limited means functioned between the two world wars. For a time it was financed by the joint which also provided free meals for the children.

The Beit Joseph yeshiva was founded in the 1930s and functioned only for a few years. At this period the polish government attached the Jewish community of Wanhock to Wierzbnik one.

The Jewish population was involved in the public life of the town. Its representatives took part in municipal affairs and acted on the community's behalf in its relations with the Polish authorities.

The rich forests in the vicinity of Wierzbnik were the basis for the development of a timber industry. Its various branches were sources of income for Jews. Plywood factories and saw mills were owned by the Jewish families Heller, Lichtenstein and Kalmanson.

In the middle of the 19th century, the Jewish family Rotband from Warsaw, set up a foundry and metal factory in Starachowice, which had big deposits of high-quality iron ore. At the beginning of the 20th century, this plant developed into the big "Starachowice Works". In 1920-1922 it was nationalized by the polish government and became a military industry, employing about 20,000 workers, none of whom were Jews.

At this time the Heller family, who owned an international timber industry corporation, founded a modern plywood factory and saw mill. These enterprises were a source of income for the Jewish population in Wierzbnik and also supported welfare organizations as well as social and cultural institutions of the Jewish community.

Jewish inhabitants in Wierzbnik also earned their living by trade, and various services to the inhabitants of Starachowice and the surrounding villages. A market day was held in Wierzbnik once a week. Jews and Poles had good-neighborly relations. The local polish population refused to cooperate with the government when - due to the wave of antisemitism which swept Poland following the economic crisis in the 1930s - the authorities declared a boycott on business and trade with Jews.

The Jews who had fled from Russia after the 1917 revolution and were employed by local factories causes the arousal of Jewish national and Zionist awareness in Wierzbnik.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a local branch of the Histadrut Hazionit was established which trained Haluzim for Aliya to Eretz Israel. Later on, branches of the Mizrachi, Revisionist and Poaley Zion Smol, and of the youth movements Gordonia, Betar and Zionist Youth, as well as the sports organizations Maccabbi and Gwiazda were set up. Hassidim from all the stiblach were members of the Agudat Israel branch which was established in the town.

The Tarbut school contributed to the popularity of the Hebrew language and became the center for the town's cultural and social activities.

At this time, the head of the community was Shmuel Puchaczevsky, the last holder of that office in Wierzbnik.

In 1939 about 3,200 Jews were living in Wierzbnik, out of a total population of some 40,000.


The Holocaust Period

With the outbreak of World War II (September 1, 1939), Wierzbnik-Starachowice was bombed from the air. Most of the Jews fled from the town, but they returned after a few days.

On September 5, 1939 the German army occupied the town. Each day new regulations were issued, placing restrictions on Jews. They were ordered to wear a yellow patch, to hand over their jewellery, silver and gold coins to the Germans. They were not allowed to frequent public places or to have contacts with the non-Jewish population. Food was rationed. Jews were rounded up on the streets and sent to forced labor. From time to time the community had to pay ransom, which the Germans called contributions.

At the end of Yom Kippur that year, the beth hamidrash was set on fire and all the tora scrolls were burned. The fire also destroyed the nearby building, housing the community's offices and Talmud tora.

In the spring of 1940 , refugees from Lodz and Plock arrived in the town. The Jewish quarter was overcrowded, which resulted in the spread of diseases. The community set up a shelter and soup kitchen for the needy. The ghetto was established in May 1940. At the beginning it was not closed, and it was possible to buy food in the town. Later, trade stopped, the ghetto was closed, and the number of destitute people increased.

Those fit for work were employed at the Starachowice Works, which supplied the German army and later became part of the Hermann Goering Werke. Rumours of mass exterminations reached the town and Jews tried to obtain permits for work in factories essential for the war effort.

On October 27, 1942 - 16th day of the month of Heshvan the Wierzbnik-Starachowice ghetto was liquidated.

The Jews were taken at dawn to the market place and surrounded by SS troops, Polish policemen and Latvian units. The Latvians beat the Jews and robbed them. Those who had work permits were separated by force from their families and sent to labour camps at Strzelnica and Majowka near the town. Others, considered fit for work, were taken to the local saw mills and the electricity plant. The remainder of the ghetto population were deported to the death camp of Treblinka. Jews who had not been in the market place that morning and were found in the ghetto were shot on the spot. That day, 5000 Jews were sent to death and about 1500 sent to labor camps.

Thousands died in the labor camps in the region of whilst others were killed or deported to death camps following selections, separation of the fit from the unfit for work.

In 1944, the Jewish fighting organization (Z.O.B.) Succeeded in making contact with men in the labor camps and gave them money to buy food. This contact encouraged Jews to escape from the camps. Some of those who escaped were killed by the German and Ukrainian guards, others were murdered by antisemitic Polish partisans who were members of the Armia Krajowa. In July 1944, the camps were liquidated and the inmates deported to Auschwitz.

Many young Jews of Wierzbnik-Starachowice fought the Germans in the ranks of the Polish army. Some of them, who had escaped to Russia at the outbreak of the war, joined the Red Army. Those who had escaped from the ghetto and labor camps joined local partisans and cooperated with Polish partisans, who were members of the Armia Ludova.

A partisan unit called Garbaty, under the command of a man from Wierzbnik, Jechiel Bravermann, was well known for its daring operations.

After the war most of the Jewish survivors of Wierzbnik immigrated to Israel. Some went to U.S.A. Canada and other countries. The few Jews who returned to their home town after the end of the war, were murdered by Polish marauders.

The local Jewish cemetery still exists. It has over 200 tomb stones with Hebrew inscriptions.

Chęciny 

A town a town in Kielce County, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, Poland.

A Jewish community is first recorded there in 1465. In 1656, during the Swedish-Polish War, 150 Jews were murdered by the soldiers of Stefan Czarniecki. There were 912 Jews living in Checiny in 1765, including a large number occupied in the salt trade, 14 bakers, 11 distillers, and 5 butchers. The city council granted the right to manufacture and trade in alcoholic beverages to Jews. The Polish Kings Michael Wiszniowiecki and John III Sobiesky confirmed the trading rights of the Jews in the town. For some time the Jews in Checiny formed the large majority of the population, numbering 2,860 in 1856 (76%), 4,361 in 1807 (70%), 2,825 in 1921 (55%), and 3,100 in 1939 (60%).

The German army entered the town on September 5, 1939, and during the winter, Jews from Kielce and from the territory of Warthegau incorporated into the Third Reich were deported there. On June 24, 1940, 250 young men were sent from Checiny to the forced labor camp in Cieszanow, where all of them perished. In June 1941 a closed ghetto was established. In June 1942, 105 men were deported to the forced labor camp in Skarzysko-Kamienna. On September 13, 1942, the second day of Rosh Ha-Shanah, the ghetto was liquidated, and the entire remaining population deported to Treblinka death camp for extermination. The Jewish community in Checiny was not refounded after the war.

Radoszyce

A town in Końskie County, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, in south-central Poland.

Radoszyce was already a town of the clergy prior to 1428. When it was expropriated from the church at the beginning of the 19th century Jews started to live there.

As the town became the center of a Chassidic dynasty the Jewish community grew and at the end of the 19th century constituted half of the total population, numbering 1,730 persons. The founder of the dynasty was Rabbi Yissaschar Dov-Ber (Baal Mofet) who initiated the grass root character of the Radoszyce Chassiduth in the years 1820-1849. He consecrated the local cemetery. His 1901 it was Rabbi Hillel who insisted to talk Hebrew and dedicated money donations to settlements in Eretz Israel; until 1925 Rabbi Eliezer David and after him Rabbi Israel Josef. As community rabbi officiated Itzhak Finkler, the son-in-law of the founding admor, and after him his son, Rabbi Meir-Menachem. During April-August 1915 the Russians deported most of the Jews from the town, the rabbi`s house was destroyed and his rare books stolen.

Between the two world wars a bikur cholim society was active in the community. There was a Jewish physician and a chevrah kadisha (burial society).

Jews were busy in small trade and artisanship, especially tailoring. A few were iron merchants. Jewish inn-keepers rendered services to visitors to the court of the admor. Livelihood difficulties increased between the two world wars when a division occurred among the Chassidim and the number of visitors decreased. The economic boycott of the polish artisans and the antisemitism of the 1930s threatened the meager livelihood of the Jews.

After the First World War a branch of the Zionim Klalim was founded in Radoszyce gaining wide support in the community and opened a Jewish library. The Revisionists and Beitar were active too. A Polish elementary school was opened.

In 1939 the Jewish community of Radoszyce numbered some 400 families.


The Holocaust Period

During the German occupation in September 1939 many houses were destroyed and most of the local Jews fled. Refugees from the occupied territories joined the 500 Jews of Radoszyce in 1940/41 and in the spring of 1942.

All 4,000 Jews staying in Radoszyce were sent to their death at the Treblinka extermination camp at the beginning of November 1942.

Przysucha

A town in Masovian Voivodeship, south-east central Poland.

The Jewish population of the city increased during the 19th century. In 1865 there were 2,907 inhabitants; this number grew and in 1921, 3,238 inhabitants, including 2,153 Jews (66%) lived in Przysucha. The ancient synagogue, which stood in the town until the Holocaust, testified to the antiquity of the Jewish community. The Jewish settlement became renowned through its tzaddikim. One such prominent Chasidic leader, Rabbi Jacob Isaac b. Asher Przysucha, acquired a world reputation among Jews. Another renowned Chasidic leader of Przysucha was Rabbi Simchah Bunem, the disciple of the Yehudi Ha-Kadosh. After World War I there was a considerable amount of communal activity. Upon the eve of World War II the Jewish community was headed by Joseph Meisels. Its rabbi was Rabbi Elhanan Fuks.

Szydlowiec

Town in Kielce province, east central Poland.

As a center of trade, smithery, and production of building materials, Szydlowiec attracted Jewish settlers from the end of the 15th century. By the end of the 17th century there was an organized Jewish community under the jurisdiction of the Sandomierz-Krakow province. In 1765 the Jewish population of Szydlowiec and its environs numbered 902 persons. Johann Philippe de Carosi, a German in the employ of the Polish King, visited the town in 1779 or 1780 and found a densely populated Jewish quarter whose population constituted about 90% of the total inhabitants of the town. The Jews engaged mainly in commerce of agricultural produce as well as timber, building materials, beverages, hides, and ironware. In 1788 the owner of the town, Duke Radziwill, granted the Jews additional municipal land and the right to erect additional dwelling houses, a synagogue, and a cemetery. Between 1825 and 1862 Jews were not permitted to reside outside their quarter. The Jewish population of Szydlowiec
grew considerably from the 19th century, numbering 2,049 (64.8% of the total population) in 1827; 2,780 (73.2%) in 1857; 5,298 (71.3%) in 1897; and 5,501 (77.1%) in 1921. In the second half of the 19th century Jewish contractors developed the building materials and tanning industries. In 1905-06 Jewish workers and youths, led by the Bund and Po'alei Zion, actively participated in the struggle against the Czarist regime.

After World War I the town quickly developed into a shoe-producing center (with 14 tanneries), completely controlled by Jews, and provided work for many hundreds of shoemakers, fitters, and travelling salesmen. The ten stone quarries also belonged to Jews, and their products were widely distributed. The Jews in Szydlowiec also had a long tradition of trading in hardware. There were several Jewish libraries, trade unions - especially a strong leather workers' union - and groupings of all parties active among Jews in Poland.

On the outbreak of World War II there were about 7,200 Jews in Szydlowiec. On September 23, 1942, 10,000 Jews from Szydlowiec and its vicinity were deported to the Treblinka death camp. On November 10, 1942, the Germans established four new ghettos in the region at Sandomierz, Szydlowiec, Radomsko, and Vjazd. The Jews were encouraged to leave their hiding places in the forests, being promised security in these ghettos. Thousands of Jews, not seeing any possibility of surviving in the forests during the winter, responded to the German appeal. About 5,000 Jews were concentrated in the ghetto of Szydlowiec. The Jewish community was liquidated when the remaining 5,000 Jews were sent to Treblinka. After the war the Jewish community of Szydlowiec was not reconstituted.

נובי קורצ'ין

Nowy Korczyn

שם נוסף: Nowe  Miasto Korczyn  / נובה מיאסטו קורצ'ין

עיירה בנפת בוסקו במחוז שוויינטוקשיסקיה, פולין.

בשנת 1258 הנסיך הפולני בולסלב החמישי "הביישן" מעניק זכויות עיר ליישוב שהקים 3 ק"מ מזרחית מארמון הולדתו בסטארי קורצ'ין (Stary Korczyn - קורצ'ין הישנה). העיר החדשה להבדיל מהישנה כונתה נובה מיאסטו קורצ'ין ("העיר החדשה קורצ'ין"). ליישוב הוענקו זכויות לערוך מספר ירידים שנתיים וימי שוק שבועיים. הישוב החדש חולש על הנהר נידה, לא הרחק מהמעבר על נהר הוויסלה ובצומת של שתי דרכי מסחר: נדרך מקרקוב אל רוס של קייב (היום אוקראינה) והדרך מקושיצה ההונגרית (היום בסלובקיה) לעיר סנדומייז' בפולין. הנסיך בולסלב בנה במקום מנזר פרנציסקני וארמון מעץ. בשל מיקומה האסטרטגי, מרכז כלכלי וצומת דרכי מסחר העיר הייתה אחד המקומות החביבים לקיום כינוסים תקופתיים של בני האצולה הפולנית בחבל פולין קטן.

בשנת 1300 פשט על האזור הנסיך של רוס של קייב ושרף את הארמון מעץ. המלך הפולני קזימייז' השלישי "הגדול" (שלט בשנים 1370-1333) בנה במקום ארמון מבוצר מאבן, הקיף את העיר בחומת מגן ותעלת מים שמימיה ניזונו מאגם מלאכותי צ'ראוריה ((Czartoria שנכרה לשם כך. המלך וולאדיסלב השני לבית יאגללו הליטאי ומלכי פולין שששלטן אחריו ישבו בקרקוב אך לעיתים קרובות נהגו לנפוש, להתארח ולחתום על חוזים עם שליטי האזור ב נובה מיאסטו קורצ'ין.

בשנת 1474 שריפה כילתה מרבית בתי העיר. כדי לעזור בשיקומה העיר קיבלה פטור מכל תשלומי חובה ומיסים למשך 12 שנה. לאחר שתי שריפות נוספות העיר הורשתה לגבות מס מהסחורות והתבואה שעברו דרכה לנמלי הים הבלטי.

בשנת 1579 מלך פולין זיגמונט השני אוגוסט הקים בעיר בית חולים ובית עירייה. בזמן הזה היו במקום 19 מבשלות בירה, 22 מפעלים להתססת תבואה עבור המבשלות, 3 טחנות קמח, 7 בתי מטבחיים ואסמים לשמירת התבואה לפני שהועברה על דוברות לגדנסק. בעיר הוקם בית חרושת לייצור תותחים, רובים, חומרי נפץ ותחמושת. בעיר היו כמה בתי מרחץ והייתה מערכת מפותחת לאספקת מים.

לאחר שבשנת 1592 המלך זיגמונט השלישי וואזה העביר את מרכז השליטה של מלכות פולין מקרקוב לוורשה, אצילי פולין קטן איבדו מכוחם וגם העיר נובה מיאסטו קורצ'ין החלה לדעוך. ב-1606 מרדו האצילים המקומיים במלך פולין. המרד כשל, אך במהלך הקרבות נשרפו רוב בתי העיר. הפלישה השוודית (1655-1650) גרמה להרס נוסף למקום. ארמון המלך נהרס. העיר איבדה את מרכזיותה הכלכלית והפוליטית. ב-1702, תוך כדי מלחמות הצפון, העיר סבלה מהרס נוסף. ב-1776, במטרה לחדש את כלכלת העיר מועצת העיר נתנה אישור לשימוש באבנים מטירת המלך ההרוסה לבניית מבנים בעיר, ביניהם גם בניית בית כנסת.

לאחר החלוקות הרבות של פולין בין המעצמות השכנות נובה מיאסטו קורצ'ין  נכללה בתחומי מלכות פולין כחלק מאימפריה הרוסית. בשנת 1869, בגלל המרידות הרבות של הפולנים נגד האימפריה הרוסית, ובדומה לרוב ערי מלכות פולין, המקום איבד את זכויות העיר והפך לכפר. זמן קצר אחר כך היישוב שינה את שמו לנובי קורצ'ין (Nowy Korczyn).

בתקופה של מלחמת העולם הראשונה (1918-1914) נובי קורצ'ין מצאה את עצמה במרכז הקרבות ונכבשה על ידי האוסטרים בעזרת הלגיון הפולני של צבא אוסטריה שלחם בפיקודו של יוזף פילסודסקי.

בין שתי מלחמות העולם נובי קורצ'ין נכללה ברפובליקה הפולנית המחודשת.

 

היהודים בנובי קורצ'ין

היהודים מתועדים לראשונה בנובי קורצ'ין בתחילת המאה ה-16, האיזכור הראשון על כך הוא משנת 1530. בשנת 1557 מוזכר בעיר הסוחר אברהם ובשנת 1558 יש איזכור על מלווה בריבית יהודיה בשם אנה יעקובובסקה. בשנת 1564 רשומות בעיר כמה משפחות יהודיות אשר שילמו את מיסי המלך בפלפל. ב-1569 הקהילה היא כבר בעלת בית כנסת ובית עלמין. (בית העלמין הוקם כנראה בשנים 1569-1554). היהודים רשאים לגור בשכונה מחוץ לעיר אך בשנים 1569-1566 יש להם כבר אישור לבעלות על ארבעה בתים בתוך העיר. היהודים הפעילו בשכירות את הטחנות של העיר, מה שהבורגנות המקומית לא ראתה בעין יפה.

הפלישה הזרות לפולין, של השוודים (1655-1650) ושןב של השוודים ביחד עם הקוזקים וההונגרים ב-1657 גרמו להרס רב בעיר.  כדי לאושש את כלכלת העיר, ב-28 במאי 1659 המלך יאן קאז'ימייז' העניק ליהודים כתב זכויות, ואישר להם לבנות בית כנסת, להקים בית עלמין והבטיח להם חופש כלכלי. הרובע היהודי הוקם באזור שיפוטו של מושל העיר.

בשנת 1676 הקהילה מנתה מעל 100 יהודים משלמי מס העיר.

ב-1702 בית הכנסת נהרס בקרבות מלחמות הצפון ונבנה מחדש ב-1724.

בשנות שילטונו של המלך אוגוסט השלישי סאס (1763-1733) הרב המקומי היה גם נציגו של המלך. גידולה ושיגשוגה של האוכלוסייה היהודית בעיר גרמה לבורגנות המקומית ב-1744 לדרוש מהמלך לגרש את "צאצאי ישראל" מהעיר. המלך לא נעתר לבקשות. ב-1759 אישר המלך אוגוסט השלישי את בחירתו של רב הקהילה, הרב שאול בן שמחה שמחביץ. ב-1765 הוקם בית עלמין חדש בנוסף לישן. ב-1775 המלך סטאניסלב אוגוסט העניק ליהודים מכתב המגן אותם מפני כוחו וסמכותו של מושל העיר. ב-1776 מועצת העיר החליטה לפרק את טירת המלך ההרוסה ולבנות מאבניה בנייני ציבור. ב-1779 המלך סטאניסלב אוגוסט פוניאטובסקי נתן אישור לבניית בית כנסת ואבנים שנלקחו מטירת המלך שימשו גם לבניית בית הכנסת על הגבעה החולשת על העיר. ב-1777 המלך סטאניסלב אוגוסט הקים ועדה לבוררות הסכסוך בין היהודים והנושים הנוצרים שלהם. ב-1779 היהודים התלוננו בפני המלך שמועצת העיר לא עושה כלום כדי לשלם את חובה והמושל מיקולאי ריי אף איים על הרב שאול בסנקציות.

ב-1787 היה בבעלות הקהילה בית כנסת, בית עלמין וחדר. בנובי קורצ'ין התגוררו 499 יהודים ובסטארי קורצ'ין אשר השתייכה לקהילת נובי קורצ'ין,  התגוררו 66 יהודים.

בשנים 1867-1823 השלטונות הרוסים הגבילו את ההתיישבות היהודית בעיר בגלל קרבתה לגבול עם האימפריה האוסטרית. באותו הזמן (1827) העיר מנתה 1,232 יהודים אשר היוו 51,4% מכלל התושבים. בשנת 1866 נחנך בית הכנסת שבנייתו ושיפוצו נמשכו שנים. הבניין, מהמפוארים בממלכה, היה מקושט בציורי קיר ולידו פעלו בית מדרש, בית חולים ובית מחסה לעניים ששימש גם כבית זקנים.

כשקורצ'ין איבדה את זכויות העיר ב-1869 התגוררו במקום כ-3,300 תושבים, מהם כ-2,300 יהודים (69.7%). ב-1885 נשרף בית הכנסת של הקהילה. השיפוץ ארך כמה שנים ובמסגרתו והורחב בית הכנסת ובפרט ועזרת הנשים שלו.

האוכלוסייה הנוצרית התייחסה בעוינות להודים אך ללא אלימות. הפולנים האשימו את היהודים בהעסקת נשים פולניות אשר סיגלו לעצמן את שפת היידיש והמנהגים היהודיים. כמו כן, הסוחרים היהודים הואשמו בעידוד  שיכרות. 

ב-1921, במפקד האוכלוסין שנערך בפולין העצמאית שקמה לאחר מלחמת העולם הראשונה, נמנו בנובי קורצ'ין 2,478 יהודים אשר היוו 67,3% מכל התושבים במקום. בתקופה שבין שתי מלחמות העולם היהודים עסקו במסחר זעיר ובמלאכה, כגון עיבוד עורות, קליעת סלי נצרים, עיבוד קורות עץ וחייטות. במקום התקיימה פעילות תרבותית ופוליטית ערה. בעיירה יש יצוג לרוב המפלגות, ביניהן פועלי ציון, החלוץ, השומר הדתי, המזרחי, אגודת ישראל, הרוויזיוניסטים, הבונד והמפלגה קומוניסטית. במקום פעלו מספר ספריות שבהן התקיימו קורסים לעברית. חינוך הילדים התקיים בבתי ספר של הרשתות "יבנה" ו"בנות יעקב". בקהילה פעלה חברת "גמילות חסד". הרב יוחנן סילמן כיהן כרב העיר.

בשנות ה-1930, בזמן המשבר הכלכלי בפולין, היחסים עם האוכלוסייה הנוצרית היו מתוחים. השלטונות הורו ליהודים להשתמש במסמכים הרשמיים של הקהילה בשפה הפולנית בלבד ולהסיר את הכיתוב באות עברית צהחותם הרשמי של הקהילה. הפולנים גם הגבילו את התשלומים שגבתה הקהילה על שירותיה. השלטון קבע את גובה המשכורות של הרב יוחנן סילמן, של משגיח הכשרות שמואל בלומנטל, של השוחטים משה פלדשטיין, בורובסקי והמרה ושל פקיד הקהילה הרמאץ'.

בשנת 1931 הקהילה מנתה 2,820 יהודים אך בשנת 1937 מספר היהודים ירד לכ-2,530 שהם היוו 80% מכלל תושבי העיר.

הפולנים הלאומנים קראו לחרם על המסחר עם היהודים. 170 משפחות היו זקוקות לסיוע. יוצאי הקהילה בארצות הברית הקימו אירגון לעזרה בשם "ארגון אפשטיין". באביב 1939 לקראת חג הפסח שלח האירגון 1,400 זלוטי למשפחות נזקקות ו-700 זלוטי לתלמוד תורה המקומי.

תקופת השואה

ב-1 בספטמבר  גרמניה הנאצית פלשה לפולין1939. הגרמנים כבשו את נובי קורצ'ין ב-8 בספטמבר מיד התחילו להתעלל ביהודים והחלו החטיפות לעבודות כפייה. כעבור שבועיים הוקם יודנראט אשר תפקידו היה לדאוג לתשלום כופר בסך 20,000 זלוטי אשר הוטל על היהודים ולספק יהודים לעבודות הכפיה.

באביב 1941 הוקם גטו פתוח בכמה רחובות קטנים ואליו הועברו 2,478 יהודי נובי קורצ'ין והסביבה. באפריל 1941 הובאו לגטו יהודים ממערב פולין וכ-300 יהודים מהעיר ראדום. מספר תושבי הגטו הגיעה לכ-3,700. הצפיפות והמצוקה היו גדולים. היודנראט, בעזרתו של האירגון היהודי לעזרה הדדית, ה"יס.ס." שמרכזו היה בקרקוב, הקים מרפאה לטיפול במחלת הטיפוס וכמו כן הפעיל  מטבח ציבורי שסיפק מדי יום 200 ארוחות לנזקקים. הגרמנים ניצלו את היהודים לעבודה בבתי מלאכה ("שופים") לתפירה, לסנדלרות ולנגרות עבור הצבא הגרמני.

ב-2 באוקטובר 1942 כיתרו את הגטו יחידות ס"ס, כוחות של ז'נדרמים גרמנים ומשטרת עזר של אוקראינים. היהודים שנאספו נלקחו ברגל לתחנת הרכבת בשצ'וצ'ין (Szczuczyn) המרוחקת כ-20 ק"מ. במתקשים ללכת הגרמנים ירו במקום. בתחנת הרכבת בשצ'וצ'ין צורפו ליהודים מנובי קורצ'ין יהודים מפאצאנוב (Pacanow). כולם נדחקו לקרונות משא והוסעו למחנה ההשמדה בטרבלינקה.

בגטו נובי קורצ'ין נשארו כ-70 יהודים, ביניהם חברי היודנראט ומשפחותיהם, חברי המשטרה היהודית והמשפחות. הם נצטוו לאסוף את הרכוש שנותר מאחור. אליהם הצטרפו עוד כ-270 יהודים שברחו ליערות הסביבה או שיצאו ממקומות מחבוא והורשו על ידי הגרמנים להשאר בבתי הגטו.

ב-24 בנובמבר 1942 חלקם של הנשארים נשלחו לעבודה במפעליHASAG  בסקאז'יסקו קאמיינה (Skarzysko Kamienna) ובמחנות עבודה באזור קיילצה. הגטו חוסל סופית במאי 1943, הזקנים נרצחו במקום והצעירים נשלחו למחנה עבודה בקיילצה.

לאחר השואה

ב-22 ביוני 1944 הצבא הנסובייטי שחרר את מזרח פולין עד לובלין ושם נעצר. בסוף יוני 1944 נובי קורצ'ין היתה חלק מ"מדינת הפרטיזנים החופשית" אשר הוכרזה על ידי המחתרות הפולניות ה"ארמייה קראיובה" ו"בטליוני חלופסקייה" על השטחים עד נהר הוויסלה ומעבר לה שעוד לא שוחררו. ה"אוטונומיה" תקיימה במשך מספר שבועות עד שהגרמנים דיכאו אותה. נובי קורצ'ין שוחררה על ידי הצבא האדום ב-17 בינואר 1945.

שרדו את השואה כ-30 יהודים, חלקם שרדו את מחנות העבודה וחלקם במסתור. המשפחה של יושב ראש היודנראט מצאה מסתור מבעוד מועד אצל משפחת מאציאגובסקי (Maciągowski) הפולנית, מספר יהודים הוסתרו על ידי המשפחות פיבובארצ'ק (Piwowarczyk) וקוקוצ'ק (Kukuczak).

בניין בית הכנסת ההרוס בחלקו שנבנה מאבני הטירה המלכותית שימש לאחר המלחמה כמחסן לתבואה. שרד בו המקום המסוגנן של ארון הקודש. היום המבנה ריק והוכרז כמסוכן. בית העלמין הישן אשר הוקם בסביבות 1569-1554 נהרס כולו  - אין זכר למצבות, על שטחו נבנו מחסנים שונים.

בית העלמין החדש אשר הוקם ב-1765 נהרס על ידי הנאצים, המצבות נלקחו כחומר בניית כבישים ולחיזוק שפת הנהר. מה שנותר נלקח על ידי האוכלוסייה המקומית. השטח שימש כשטח חקלאי. תודות למאמצים של ישראל מאיר גבאי בית העלמין נוקה, גודר מחדש, הוקמו מחדש כמה מצבות שנמצאו בסביבה. בשטחו של בית הקברות הוקם אתר עם 3 מצבות לזכר הצדיקים המקומיים: הרב יוסף ברוך אפשטיין, הרב קלונימוס קלמן אפשטיין בן יוסף ברוך אפשטיין היהודי והרב חיים מאיר בן קלונימוס קלמן אפשטיין.

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The Jewish Community of Kielce

Kielce

Capital of Kielce province, south-east Poland.


Jews were excluded from Kielce by a royal "privilege" granted to the city in 1535. Kielce belonged to the estates of the bishops of Krakow until 1818, and thus the prohibition on Jewish settlement remained in force. In 1833 a small number of Jews settled in Kielce. They were expelled in 1847 but returned shortly afterward. In 1852 there were 101 Jews in Kielce and the congregation was affiliated to the neighboring community at Checiny. It became a separate community in 1868, and a cemetery was established. The Jewish population increased from 974 in 1873 to 2,659 in 1882, 6,399 in 1897, and 11,206 in 1909, mainly by immigration from the adjacent small towns. A pogrom in 1918 did not prevent the growth of the community, which by 1921 numbered 15,530 (37.6% of the total population), and by 1931, 18,083. Jews pioneered in exploiting the natural resources of the region and developed industries, commerce, and crafts; among enterprises established by Jews were several banks. Jewish
Organizations included associations of Jewish merchants and artisans, an old-age home, and an orphanage, as well as a library, a high school, and a number of religious and secular Jewish schools. A Yiddish weekly was published jointly for the Kielce and Radom communities.

In 1939 about 25,000 Jews lived in Kielce.


The Holocaust period

The German army entered the city on September 4, 1939, and the Jews became the subject of terror and persecution. During the first months of 1940 about 3,000 Jews from Lodz and its vicinity were deported to Kielce, whose Jewish population swelled to about 28,000. On March 31, 1941, a decree was issued to establish a ghetto. On the eve of Passover the ghetto was sealed off from the outside world. A Judenrat was appointed, chaired by Moshe Pelc, who was eventually arrested and deported to Auschwitz for resisting German orders. His place was filled by Herman Levi, who tended toward collaboration with the Germans. The situation of the population in the ghetto rapidly deteriorated. About 4,000 people died during a typhus epidemic in 1941. In the course of three days (Aug. 20-24, 1942), about 21,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka and exterminated. The ghetto was virtually liquidated. The remaining 2,000 Jews were concentrated in a newly established slave labor camp.

Preparations in the camp for an armed uprising, conducted by an underground organization headed by David Barwiner and Gershon Levkowicz, did not succeed. In 1943 a number of deportations from the labor camp took place of about 1,000 people for slave labor camps in Skarzysko-Kamienna, Blizyna, and Pionki, where only a handful survived. The last deportation took place in august 1944, when all the remaining Jewish prisoners were sent to Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Kielce became officially Judenrein. Leon Rodel of Kielce was one of the commanders of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.


After the war about 200 Jews went to Kielce; some were survivors of Nazi camps, or had hidden in the district, and others had come back from the interior of the Soviet Union.

Their reconstruction of the former organized Jewish community aroused anger among Polish anti-Semites, who opened a vituperative campaign against the existence of a renewed Jewish community in Kielce. The campaign culminated in an armed pogrom against the Jews - mostly by Polish nationalists and including a few communists (July 4, 1946). The Jews had no adequate means for self-defense since the police had confiscated the few pistols among them just one day before. In this pogrom, the largest attack on Jews following the Nazi era, 42 Jews were murdered, and many others wounded. The pogrom gave impetus to the Jews in Kielce and to the other survivors of the Holocaust in Poland, including those who had returned from the Soviet Union, to leave Poland en masse for the west. They reached the displaced persons camps and joined the massive berichah movement to Eretz Israel.

A monument was erected in the Kielce Jewish cemetery to perpetuate the memory of the victims of the Kielce pogrom.

In 1996, the 50th anniversary of the pogrom, a memorial ceremony was held in Kielce, attended by more than 3,000 people. Government officials and representatives of the Catholic Church and Jewish groups were among the participants. Government authorities unveiled a monument in front of the former Kielce synagogue.

Organizations of former members of the Kielce Jewish community exist in Israel, the US, Canada, Argentina, and France.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People

Nowy Korczyn
Szydlowiec
Przysucha
Radoszyce
Checiny
Wierzbnik-Starachowice
Odrzywol
Stopnica
Poland
Klwow
Pinczow
Lelow
KOZIENICE
Kamienna, Skarzysko-Kamienna
Konin
Koszyce, Poland

נובי קורצ'ין

Nowy Korczyn

שם נוסף: Nowe  Miasto Korczyn  / נובה מיאסטו קורצ'ין

עיירה בנפת בוסקו במחוז שוויינטוקשיסקיה, פולין.

בשנת 1258 הנסיך הפולני בולסלב החמישי "הביישן" מעניק זכויות עיר ליישוב שהקים 3 ק"מ מזרחית מארמון הולדתו בסטארי קורצ'ין (Stary Korczyn - קורצ'ין הישנה). העיר החדשה להבדיל מהישנה כונתה נובה מיאסטו קורצ'ין ("העיר החדשה קורצ'ין"). ליישוב הוענקו זכויות לערוך מספר ירידים שנתיים וימי שוק שבועיים. הישוב החדש חולש על הנהר נידה, לא הרחק מהמעבר על נהר הוויסלה ובצומת של שתי דרכי מסחר: נדרך מקרקוב אל רוס של קייב (היום אוקראינה) והדרך מקושיצה ההונגרית (היום בסלובקיה) לעיר סנדומייז' בפולין. הנסיך בולסלב בנה במקום מנזר פרנציסקני וארמון מעץ. בשל מיקומה האסטרטגי, מרכז כלכלי וצומת דרכי מסחר העיר הייתה אחד המקומות החביבים לקיום כינוסים תקופתיים של בני האצולה הפולנית בחבל פולין קטן.

בשנת 1300 פשט על האזור הנסיך של רוס של קייב ושרף את הארמון מעץ. המלך הפולני קזימייז' השלישי "הגדול" (שלט בשנים 1370-1333) בנה במקום ארמון מבוצר מאבן, הקיף את העיר בחומת מגן ותעלת מים שמימיה ניזונו מאגם מלאכותי צ'ראוריה ((Czartoria שנכרה לשם כך. המלך וולאדיסלב השני לבית יאגללו הליטאי ומלכי פולין שששלטן אחריו ישבו בקרקוב אך לעיתים קרובות נהגו לנפוש, להתארח ולחתום על חוזים עם שליטי האזור ב נובה מיאסטו קורצ'ין.

בשנת 1474 שריפה כילתה מרבית בתי העיר. כדי לעזור בשיקומה העיר קיבלה פטור מכל תשלומי חובה ומיסים למשך 12 שנה. לאחר שתי שריפות נוספות העיר הורשתה לגבות מס מהסחורות והתבואה שעברו דרכה לנמלי הים הבלטי.

בשנת 1579 מלך פולין זיגמונט השני אוגוסט הקים בעיר בית חולים ובית עירייה. בזמן הזה היו במקום 19 מבשלות בירה, 22 מפעלים להתססת תבואה עבור המבשלות, 3 טחנות קמח, 7 בתי מטבחיים ואסמים לשמירת התבואה לפני שהועברה על דוברות לגדנסק. בעיר הוקם בית חרושת לייצור תותחים, רובים, חומרי נפץ ותחמושת. בעיר היו כמה בתי מרחץ והייתה מערכת מפותחת לאספקת מים.

לאחר שבשנת 1592 המלך זיגמונט השלישי וואזה העביר את מרכז השליטה של מלכות פולין מקרקוב לוורשה, אצילי פולין קטן איבדו מכוחם וגם העיר נובה מיאסטו קורצ'ין החלה לדעוך. ב-1606 מרדו האצילים המקומיים במלך פולין. המרד כשל, אך במהלך הקרבות נשרפו רוב בתי העיר. הפלישה השוודית (1655-1650) גרמה להרס נוסף למקום. ארמון המלך נהרס. העיר איבדה את מרכזיותה הכלכלית והפוליטית. ב-1702, תוך כדי מלחמות הצפון, העיר סבלה מהרס נוסף. ב-1776, במטרה לחדש את כלכלת העיר מועצת העיר נתנה אישור לשימוש באבנים מטירת המלך ההרוסה לבניית מבנים בעיר, ביניהם גם בניית בית כנסת.

לאחר החלוקות הרבות של פולין בין המעצמות השכנות נובה מיאסטו קורצ'ין  נכללה בתחומי מלכות פולין כחלק מאימפריה הרוסית. בשנת 1869, בגלל המרידות הרבות של הפולנים נגד האימפריה הרוסית, ובדומה לרוב ערי מלכות פולין, המקום איבד את זכויות העיר והפך לכפר. זמן קצר אחר כך היישוב שינה את שמו לנובי קורצ'ין (Nowy Korczyn).

בתקופה של מלחמת העולם הראשונה (1918-1914) נובי קורצ'ין מצאה את עצמה במרכז הקרבות ונכבשה על ידי האוסטרים בעזרת הלגיון הפולני של צבא אוסטריה שלחם בפיקודו של יוזף פילסודסקי.

בין שתי מלחמות העולם נובי קורצ'ין נכללה ברפובליקה הפולנית המחודשת.

 

היהודים בנובי קורצ'ין

היהודים מתועדים לראשונה בנובי קורצ'ין בתחילת המאה ה-16, האיזכור הראשון על כך הוא משנת 1530. בשנת 1557 מוזכר בעיר הסוחר אברהם ובשנת 1558 יש איזכור על מלווה בריבית יהודיה בשם אנה יעקובובסקה. בשנת 1564 רשומות בעיר כמה משפחות יהודיות אשר שילמו את מיסי המלך בפלפל. ב-1569 הקהילה היא כבר בעלת בית כנסת ובית עלמין. (בית העלמין הוקם כנראה בשנים 1569-1554). היהודים רשאים לגור בשכונה מחוץ לעיר אך בשנים 1569-1566 יש להם כבר אישור לבעלות על ארבעה בתים בתוך העיר. היהודים הפעילו בשכירות את הטחנות של העיר, מה שהבורגנות המקומית לא ראתה בעין יפה.

הפלישה הזרות לפולין, של השוודים (1655-1650) ושןב של השוודים ביחד עם הקוזקים וההונגרים ב-1657 גרמו להרס רב בעיר.  כדי לאושש את כלכלת העיר, ב-28 במאי 1659 המלך יאן קאז'ימייז' העניק ליהודים כתב זכויות, ואישר להם לבנות בית כנסת, להקים בית עלמין והבטיח להם חופש כלכלי. הרובע היהודי הוקם באזור שיפוטו של מושל העיר.

בשנת 1676 הקהילה מנתה מעל 100 יהודים משלמי מס העיר.

ב-1702 בית הכנסת נהרס בקרבות מלחמות הצפון ונבנה מחדש ב-1724.

בשנות שילטונו של המלך אוגוסט השלישי סאס (1763-1733) הרב המקומי היה גם נציגו של המלך. גידולה ושיגשוגה של האוכלוסייה היהודית בעיר גרמה לבורגנות המקומית ב-1744 לדרוש מהמלך לגרש את "צאצאי ישראל" מהעיר. המלך לא נעתר לבקשות. ב-1759 אישר המלך אוגוסט השלישי את בחירתו של רב הקהילה, הרב שאול בן שמחה שמחביץ. ב-1765 הוקם בית עלמין חדש בנוסף לישן. ב-1775 המלך סטאניסלב אוגוסט העניק ליהודים מכתב המגן אותם מפני כוחו וסמכותו של מושל העיר. ב-1776 מועצת העיר החליטה לפרק את טירת המלך ההרוסה ולבנות מאבניה בנייני ציבור. ב-1779 המלך סטאניסלב אוגוסט פוניאטובסקי נתן אישור לבניית בית כנסת ואבנים שנלקחו מטירת המלך שימשו גם לבניית בית הכנסת על הגבעה החולשת על העיר. ב-1777 המלך סטאניסלב אוגוסט הקים ועדה לבוררות הסכסוך בין היהודים והנושים הנוצרים שלהם. ב-1779 היהודים התלוננו בפני המלך שמועצת העיר לא עושה כלום כדי לשלם את חובה והמושל מיקולאי ריי אף איים על הרב שאול בסנקציות.

ב-1787 היה בבעלות הקהילה בית כנסת, בית עלמין וחדר. בנובי קורצ'ין התגוררו 499 יהודים ובסטארי קורצ'ין אשר השתייכה לקהילת נובי קורצ'ין,  התגוררו 66 יהודים.

בשנים 1867-1823 השלטונות הרוסים הגבילו את ההתיישבות היהודית בעיר בגלל קרבתה לגבול עם האימפריה האוסטרית. באותו הזמן (1827) העיר מנתה 1,232 יהודים אשר היוו 51,4% מכלל התושבים. בשנת 1866 נחנך בית הכנסת שבנייתו ושיפוצו נמשכו שנים. הבניין, מהמפוארים בממלכה, היה מקושט בציורי קיר ולידו פעלו בית מדרש, בית חולים ובית מחסה לעניים ששימש גם כבית זקנים.

כשקורצ'ין איבדה את זכויות העיר ב-1869 התגוררו במקום כ-3,300 תושבים, מהם כ-2,300 יהודים (69.7%). ב-1885 נשרף בית הכנסת של הקהילה. השיפוץ ארך כמה שנים ובמסגרתו והורחב בית הכנסת ובפרט ועזרת הנשים שלו.

האוכלוסייה הנוצרית התייחסה בעוינות להודים אך ללא אלימות. הפולנים האשימו את היהודים בהעסקת נשים פולניות אשר סיגלו לעצמן את שפת היידיש והמנהגים היהודיים. כמו כן, הסוחרים היהודים הואשמו בעידוד  שיכרות. 

ב-1921, במפקד האוכלוסין שנערך בפולין העצמאית שקמה לאחר מלחמת העולם הראשונה, נמנו בנובי קורצ'ין 2,478 יהודים אשר היוו 67,3% מכל התושבים במקום. בתקופה שבין שתי מלחמות העולם היהודים עסקו במסחר זעיר ובמלאכה, כגון עיבוד עורות, קליעת סלי נצרים, עיבוד קורות עץ וחייטות. במקום התקיימה פעילות תרבותית ופוליטית ערה. בעיירה יש יצוג לרוב המפלגות, ביניהן פועלי ציון, החלוץ, השומר הדתי, המזרחי, אגודת ישראל, הרוויזיוניסטים, הבונד והמפלגה קומוניסטית. במקום פעלו מספר ספריות שבהן התקיימו קורסים לעברית. חינוך הילדים התקיים בבתי ספר של הרשתות "יבנה" ו"בנות יעקב". בקהילה פעלה חברת "גמילות חסד". הרב יוחנן סילמן כיהן כרב העיר.

בשנות ה-1930, בזמן המשבר הכלכלי בפולין, היחסים עם האוכלוסייה הנוצרית היו מתוחים. השלטונות הורו ליהודים להשתמש במסמכים הרשמיים של הקהילה בשפה הפולנית בלבד ולהסיר את הכיתוב באות עברית צהחותם הרשמי של הקהילה. הפולנים גם הגבילו את התשלומים שגבתה הקהילה על שירותיה. השלטון קבע את גובה המשכורות של הרב יוחנן סילמן, של משגיח הכשרות שמואל בלומנטל, של השוחטים משה פלדשטיין, בורובסקי והמרה ושל פקיד הקהילה הרמאץ'.

בשנת 1931 הקהילה מנתה 2,820 יהודים אך בשנת 1937 מספר היהודים ירד לכ-2,530 שהם היוו 80% מכלל תושבי העיר.

הפולנים הלאומנים קראו לחרם על המסחר עם היהודים. 170 משפחות היו זקוקות לסיוע. יוצאי הקהילה בארצות הברית הקימו אירגון לעזרה בשם "ארגון אפשטיין". באביב 1939 לקראת חג הפסח שלח האירגון 1,400 זלוטי למשפחות נזקקות ו-700 זלוטי לתלמוד תורה המקומי.

תקופת השואה

ב-1 בספטמבר  גרמניה הנאצית פלשה לפולין1939. הגרמנים כבשו את נובי קורצ'ין ב-8 בספטמבר מיד התחילו להתעלל ביהודים והחלו החטיפות לעבודות כפייה. כעבור שבועיים הוקם יודנראט אשר תפקידו היה לדאוג לתשלום כופר בסך 20,000 זלוטי אשר הוטל על היהודים ולספק יהודים לעבודות הכפיה.

באביב 1941 הוקם גטו פתוח בכמה רחובות קטנים ואליו הועברו 2,478 יהודי נובי קורצ'ין והסביבה. באפריל 1941 הובאו לגטו יהודים ממערב פולין וכ-300 יהודים מהעיר ראדום. מספר תושבי הגטו הגיעה לכ-3,700. הצפיפות והמצוקה היו גדולים. היודנראט, בעזרתו של האירגון היהודי לעזרה הדדית, ה"יס.ס." שמרכזו היה בקרקוב, הקים מרפאה לטיפול במחלת הטיפוס וכמו כן הפעיל  מטבח ציבורי שסיפק מדי יום 200 ארוחות לנזקקים. הגרמנים ניצלו את היהודים לעבודה בבתי מלאכה ("שופים") לתפירה, לסנדלרות ולנגרות עבור הצבא הגרמני.

ב-2 באוקטובר 1942 כיתרו את הגטו יחידות ס"ס, כוחות של ז'נדרמים גרמנים ומשטרת עזר של אוקראינים. היהודים שנאספו נלקחו ברגל לתחנת הרכבת בשצ'וצ'ין (Szczuczyn) המרוחקת כ-20 ק"מ. במתקשים ללכת הגרמנים ירו במקום. בתחנת הרכבת בשצ'וצ'ין צורפו ליהודים מנובי קורצ'ין יהודים מפאצאנוב (Pacanow). כולם נדחקו לקרונות משא והוסעו למחנה ההשמדה בטרבלינקה.

בגטו נובי קורצ'ין נשארו כ-70 יהודים, ביניהם חברי היודנראט ומשפחותיהם, חברי המשטרה היהודית והמשפחות. הם נצטוו לאסוף את הרכוש שנותר מאחור. אליהם הצטרפו עוד כ-270 יהודים שברחו ליערות הסביבה או שיצאו ממקומות מחבוא והורשו על ידי הגרמנים להשאר בבתי הגטו.

ב-24 בנובמבר 1942 חלקם של הנשארים נשלחו לעבודה במפעליHASAG  בסקאז'יסקו קאמיינה (Skarzysko Kamienna) ובמחנות עבודה באזור קיילצה. הגטו חוסל סופית במאי 1943, הזקנים נרצחו במקום והצעירים נשלחו למחנה עבודה בקיילצה.

לאחר השואה

ב-22 ביוני 1944 הצבא הנסובייטי שחרר את מזרח פולין עד לובלין ושם נעצר. בסוף יוני 1944 נובי קורצ'ין היתה חלק מ"מדינת הפרטיזנים החופשית" אשר הוכרזה על ידי המחתרות הפולניות ה"ארמייה קראיובה" ו"בטליוני חלופסקייה" על השטחים עד נהר הוויסלה ומעבר לה שעוד לא שוחררו. ה"אוטונומיה" תקיימה במשך מספר שבועות עד שהגרמנים דיכאו אותה. נובי קורצ'ין שוחררה על ידי הצבא האדום ב-17 בינואר 1945.

שרדו את השואה כ-30 יהודים, חלקם שרדו את מחנות העבודה וחלקם במסתור. המשפחה של יושב ראש היודנראט מצאה מסתור מבעוד מועד אצל משפחת מאציאגובסקי (Maciągowski) הפולנית, מספר יהודים הוסתרו על ידי המשפחות פיבובארצ'ק (Piwowarczyk) וקוקוצ'ק (Kukuczak).

בניין בית הכנסת ההרוס בחלקו שנבנה מאבני הטירה המלכותית שימש לאחר המלחמה כמחסן לתבואה. שרד בו המקום המסוגנן של ארון הקודש. היום המבנה ריק והוכרז כמסוכן. בית העלמין הישן אשר הוקם בסביבות 1569-1554 נהרס כולו  - אין זכר למצבות, על שטחו נבנו מחסנים שונים.

בית העלמין החדש אשר הוקם ב-1765 נהרס על ידי הנאצים, המצבות נלקחו כחומר בניית כבישים ולחיזוק שפת הנהר. מה שנותר נלקח על ידי האוכלוסייה המקומית. השטח שימש כשטח חקלאי. תודות למאמצים של ישראל מאיר גבאי בית העלמין נוקה, גודר מחדש, הוקמו מחדש כמה מצבות שנמצאו בסביבה. בשטחו של בית הקברות הוקם אתר עם 3 מצבות לזכר הצדיקים המקומיים: הרב יוסף ברוך אפשטיין, הרב קלונימוס קלמן אפשטיין בן יוסף ברוך אפשטיין היהודי והרב חיים מאיר בן קלונימוס קלמן אפשטיין.

Szydlowiec

Town in Kielce province, east central Poland.

As a center of trade, smithery, and production of building materials, Szydlowiec attracted Jewish settlers from the end of the 15th century. By the end of the 17th century there was an organized Jewish community under the jurisdiction of the Sandomierz-Krakow province. In 1765 the Jewish population of Szydlowiec and its environs numbered 902 persons. Johann Philippe de Carosi, a German in the employ of the Polish King, visited the town in 1779 or 1780 and found a densely populated Jewish quarter whose population constituted about 90% of the total inhabitants of the town. The Jews engaged mainly in commerce of agricultural produce as well as timber, building materials, beverages, hides, and ironware. In 1788 the owner of the town, Duke Radziwill, granted the Jews additional municipal land and the right to erect additional dwelling houses, a synagogue, and a cemetery. Between 1825 and 1862 Jews were not permitted to reside outside their quarter. The Jewish population of Szydlowiec
grew considerably from the 19th century, numbering 2,049 (64.8% of the total population) in 1827; 2,780 (73.2%) in 1857; 5,298 (71.3%) in 1897; and 5,501 (77.1%) in 1921. In the second half of the 19th century Jewish contractors developed the building materials and tanning industries. In 1905-06 Jewish workers and youths, led by the Bund and Po'alei Zion, actively participated in the struggle against the Czarist regime.

After World War I the town quickly developed into a shoe-producing center (with 14 tanneries), completely controlled by Jews, and provided work for many hundreds of shoemakers, fitters, and travelling salesmen. The ten stone quarries also belonged to Jews, and their products were widely distributed. The Jews in Szydlowiec also had a long tradition of trading in hardware. There were several Jewish libraries, trade unions - especially a strong leather workers' union - and groupings of all parties active among Jews in Poland.

On the outbreak of World War II there were about 7,200 Jews in Szydlowiec. On September 23, 1942, 10,000 Jews from Szydlowiec and its vicinity were deported to the Treblinka death camp. On November 10, 1942, the Germans established four new ghettos in the region at Sandomierz, Szydlowiec, Radomsko, and Vjazd. The Jews were encouraged to leave their hiding places in the forests, being promised security in these ghettos. Thousands of Jews, not seeing any possibility of surviving in the forests during the winter, responded to the German appeal. About 5,000 Jews were concentrated in the ghetto of Szydlowiec. The Jewish community was liquidated when the remaining 5,000 Jews were sent to Treblinka. After the war the Jewish community of Szydlowiec was not reconstituted.

Przysucha

A town in Masovian Voivodeship, south-east central Poland.

The Jewish population of the city increased during the 19th century. In 1865 there were 2,907 inhabitants; this number grew and in 1921, 3,238 inhabitants, including 2,153 Jews (66%) lived in Przysucha. The ancient synagogue, which stood in the town until the Holocaust, testified to the antiquity of the Jewish community. The Jewish settlement became renowned through its tzaddikim. One such prominent Chasidic leader, Rabbi Jacob Isaac b. Asher Przysucha, acquired a world reputation among Jews. Another renowned Chasidic leader of Przysucha was Rabbi Simchah Bunem, the disciple of the Yehudi Ha-Kadosh. After World War I there was a considerable amount of communal activity. Upon the eve of World War II the Jewish community was headed by Joseph Meisels. Its rabbi was Rabbi Elhanan Fuks.

Radoszyce

A town in Końskie County, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, in south-central Poland.

Radoszyce was already a town of the clergy prior to 1428. When it was expropriated from the church at the beginning of the 19th century Jews started to live there.

As the town became the center of a Chassidic dynasty the Jewish community grew and at the end of the 19th century constituted half of the total population, numbering 1,730 persons. The founder of the dynasty was Rabbi Yissaschar Dov-Ber (Baal Mofet) who initiated the grass root character of the Radoszyce Chassiduth in the years 1820-1849. He consecrated the local cemetery. His 1901 it was Rabbi Hillel who insisted to talk Hebrew and dedicated money donations to settlements in Eretz Israel; until 1925 Rabbi Eliezer David and after him Rabbi Israel Josef. As community rabbi officiated Itzhak Finkler, the son-in-law of the founding admor, and after him his son, Rabbi Meir-Menachem. During April-August 1915 the Russians deported most of the Jews from the town, the rabbi`s house was destroyed and his rare books stolen.

Between the two world wars a bikur cholim society was active in the community. There was a Jewish physician and a chevrah kadisha (burial society).

Jews were busy in small trade and artisanship, especially tailoring. A few were iron merchants. Jewish inn-keepers rendered services to visitors to the court of the admor. Livelihood difficulties increased between the two world wars when a division occurred among the Chassidim and the number of visitors decreased. The economic boycott of the polish artisans and the antisemitism of the 1930s threatened the meager livelihood of the Jews.

After the First World War a branch of the Zionim Klalim was founded in Radoszyce gaining wide support in the community and opened a Jewish library. The Revisionists and Beitar were active too. A Polish elementary school was opened.

In 1939 the Jewish community of Radoszyce numbered some 400 families.


The Holocaust Period

During the German occupation in September 1939 many houses were destroyed and most of the local Jews fled. Refugees from the occupied territories joined the 500 Jews of Radoszyce in 1940/41 and in the spring of 1942.

All 4,000 Jews staying in Radoszyce were sent to their death at the Treblinka extermination camp at the beginning of November 1942.

Chęciny 

A town a town in Kielce County, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, Poland.

A Jewish community is first recorded there in 1465. In 1656, during the Swedish-Polish War, 150 Jews were murdered by the soldiers of Stefan Czarniecki. There were 912 Jews living in Checiny in 1765, including a large number occupied in the salt trade, 14 bakers, 11 distillers, and 5 butchers. The city council granted the right to manufacture and trade in alcoholic beverages to Jews. The Polish Kings Michael Wiszniowiecki and John III Sobiesky confirmed the trading rights of the Jews in the town. For some time the Jews in Checiny formed the large majority of the population, numbering 2,860 in 1856 (76%), 4,361 in 1807 (70%), 2,825 in 1921 (55%), and 3,100 in 1939 (60%).

The German army entered the town on September 5, 1939, and during the winter, Jews from Kielce and from the territory of Warthegau incorporated into the Third Reich were deported there. On June 24, 1940, 250 young men were sent from Checiny to the forced labor camp in Cieszanow, where all of them perished. In June 1941 a closed ghetto was established. In June 1942, 105 men were deported to the forced labor camp in Skarzysko-Kamienna. On September 13, 1942, the second day of Rosh Ha-Shanah, the ghetto was liquidated, and the entire remaining population deported to Treblinka death camp for extermination. The Jewish community in Checiny was not refounded after the war.

Wierzbnik Starachowice


A town in the district of Kielce, central Poland.

The town stands on the river Kamienna, a tributary of the Wisla, near the Skarzysko-Ostrowiec railway line. Wierzbnik was founded in 1624 on the left bank of the river.


After the partitions of Poland (in the years 1772-1795), the district became part of Czarist Russia.

In 1939 Wierzbnik and Starachowice were united and received the status of a town. Since 1949 it is called Starachowice.


Jews came to the area in the mid-17th century and settled in Wierzbnik towards the end of the 18th century.

At about the end of the 19th century, or beginning of the twentieth, Wierzbnik received the status of an independent community and Rabbi Jacob Arieh Gershonowitz Morgenstern, from the town of Lukow, was appointed the community's rabbi. The last rabbi of Wierzbnik was Rabbi Ben-Zion Rabinowitz.

The beth-midrash building was completed in 1910. The offices of the community and Talmud tora school were built nearby. At the same time, a mikve (purification bath) was opened. The local cemetery was also used by Jews of the surrounding areas.

The organized community had a beth midrash, which was used as a central prayer house. There were many Hassidic "stiblach", among them those of the Gur, Amshynow, Sokolow, Cmielow, Ozarow and Wonhock Hassidim. The children of the community studied in the heders.

In addition to heders, the community had other educational institutions, among them the Mizrachi and Beit Jacob schools, as well as a Tarbut Hebrew school. A Talmud tora school for families of limited means functioned between the two world wars. For a time it was financed by the joint which also provided free meals for the children.

The Beit Joseph yeshiva was founded in the 1930s and functioned only for a few years. At this period the polish government attached the Jewish community of Wanhock to Wierzbnik one.

The Jewish population was involved in the public life of the town. Its representatives took part in municipal affairs and acted on the community's behalf in its relations with the Polish authorities.

The rich forests in the vicinity of Wierzbnik were the basis for the development of a timber industry. Its various branches were sources of income for Jews. Plywood factories and saw mills were owned by the Jewish families Heller, Lichtenstein and Kalmanson.

In the middle of the 19th century, the Jewish family Rotband from Warsaw, set up a foundry and metal factory in Starachowice, which had big deposits of high-quality iron ore. At the beginning of the 20th century, this plant developed into the big "Starachowice Works". In 1920-1922 it was nationalized by the polish government and became a military industry, employing about 20,000 workers, none of whom were Jews.

At this time the Heller family, who owned an international timber industry corporation, founded a modern plywood factory and saw mill. These enterprises were a source of income for the Jewish population in Wierzbnik and also supported welfare organizations as well as social and cultural institutions of the Jewish community.

Jewish inhabitants in Wierzbnik also earned their living by trade, and various services to the inhabitants of Starachowice and the surrounding villages. A market day was held in Wierzbnik once a week. Jews and Poles had good-neighborly relations. The local polish population refused to cooperate with the government when - due to the wave of antisemitism which swept Poland following the economic crisis in the 1930s - the authorities declared a boycott on business and trade with Jews.

The Jews who had fled from Russia after the 1917 revolution and were employed by local factories causes the arousal of Jewish national and Zionist awareness in Wierzbnik.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a local branch of the Histadrut Hazionit was established which trained Haluzim for Aliya to Eretz Israel. Later on, branches of the Mizrachi, Revisionist and Poaley Zion Smol, and of the youth movements Gordonia, Betar and Zionist Youth, as well as the sports organizations Maccabbi and Gwiazda were set up. Hassidim from all the stiblach were members of the Agudat Israel branch which was established in the town.

The Tarbut school contributed to the popularity of the Hebrew language and became the center for the town's cultural and social activities.

At this time, the head of the community was Shmuel Puchaczevsky, the last holder of that office in Wierzbnik.

In 1939 about 3,200 Jews were living in Wierzbnik, out of a total population of some 40,000.


The Holocaust Period

With the outbreak of World War II (September 1, 1939), Wierzbnik-Starachowice was bombed from the air. Most of the Jews fled from the town, but they returned after a few days.

On September 5, 1939 the German army occupied the town. Each day new regulations were issued, placing restrictions on Jews. They were ordered to wear a yellow patch, to hand over their jewellery, silver and gold coins to the Germans. They were not allowed to frequent public places or to have contacts with the non-Jewish population. Food was rationed. Jews were rounded up on the streets and sent to forced labor. From time to time the community had to pay ransom, which the Germans called contributions.

At the end of Yom Kippur that year, the beth hamidrash was set on fire and all the tora scrolls were burned. The fire also destroyed the nearby building, housing the community's offices and Talmud tora.

In the spring of 1940 , refugees from Lodz and Plock arrived in the town. The Jewish quarter was overcrowded, which resulted in the spread of diseases. The community set up a shelter and soup kitchen for the needy. The ghetto was established in May 1940. At the beginning it was not closed, and it was possible to buy food in the town. Later, trade stopped, the ghetto was closed, and the number of destitute people increased.

Those fit for work were employed at the Starachowice Works, which supplied the German army and later became part of the Hermann Goering Werke. Rumours of mass exterminations reached the town and Jews tried to obtain permits for work in factories essential for the war effort.

On October 27, 1942 - 16th day of the month of Heshvan the Wierzbnik-Starachowice ghetto was liquidated.

The Jews were taken at dawn to the market place and surrounded by SS troops, Polish policemen and Latvian units. The Latvians beat the Jews and robbed them. Those who had work permits were separated by force from their families and sent to labour camps at Strzelnica and Majowka near the town. Others, considered fit for work, were taken to the local saw mills and the electricity plant. The remainder of the ghetto population were deported to the death camp of Treblinka. Jews who had not been in the market place that morning and were found in the ghetto were shot on the spot. That day, 5000 Jews were sent to death and about 1500 sent to labor camps.

Thousands died in the labor camps in the region of whilst others were killed or deported to death camps following selections, separation of the fit from the unfit for work.

In 1944, the Jewish fighting organization (Z.O.B.) Succeeded in making contact with men in the labor camps and gave them money to buy food. This contact encouraged Jews to escape from the camps. Some of those who escaped were killed by the German and Ukrainian guards, others were murdered by antisemitic Polish partisans who were members of the Armia Krajowa. In July 1944, the camps were liquidated and the inmates deported to Auschwitz.

Many young Jews of Wierzbnik-Starachowice fought the Germans in the ranks of the Polish army. Some of them, who had escaped to Russia at the outbreak of the war, joined the Red Army. Those who had escaped from the ghetto and labor camps joined local partisans and cooperated with Polish partisans, who were members of the Armia Ludova.

A partisan unit called Garbaty, under the command of a man from Wierzbnik, Jechiel Bravermann, was well known for its daring operations.

After the war most of the Jewish survivors of Wierzbnik immigrated to Israel. Some went to U.S.A. Canada and other countries. The few Jews who returned to their home town after the end of the war, were murdered by Polish marauders.

The local Jewish cemetery still exists. It has over 200 tomb stones with Hebrew inscriptions.

Odrzywol


A village in the district of Kielce, cenrtral Poland.

The village of Odrzywol, owned by aristocrats, received the status of a town in 1418, and developed into a commercial center for an agricultural hinterland. By the end of the 18th century nine yearly fairs were held in the town. In 1858 Odrzywol was damaged by fire, in the wake of which an economic depression developed.

Jews were permitted to settle in Odrzywol. At the beginning of the 19th century there were 20 Jews living in the town. By the end of that century the Jewish community numbered more than three hundred members and comprised a third of the town`s population. Among its outstanding rabbis were Rabbi Yehuda Laibosh Licht (born in 1839), the author of the Ha-Ber, which compared the translations of the torah with those of the Talmud and the midrashim (collection of rules), and Rabbi Tzvi Rinkovitz, who officiated in Odrzywol until 1920 and was known as an outstanding maggid (narrator) and author of Chelkat Tzvi, an interpretation of the tractate Megilah.

The community had traditional educational institutions and an amateur theater group, and also a Jewish cemetery.

The first Jews earned their living from small trade an crafts, especially in markets and fairs. Between the two world wars most of the town`s shops were owned by Jews, and they also acquired small factories, among others an oil press and a dying enterprise. The livelihood of the Jews was threatened during the economic depression and the wave of antisemitism of the 1930s. Many families left Odrzywol to look for employment in other places. In November 1935 peasants incited by the Endeks (N. D. Narodowa Democratia, an antisemitic right wing party) attacked Jewish shops and fair stands. Due to the intervention of the police the riots stopped and the culprits were brought to justice.

In 1939 there were 320 Jews living in Odrzywol.


The Holocaust Period

The number of Jews increased after the outbreak of the war in September 1939, due to the arrival of refugees in Odrzywol. In 1941 there were more than 700 Jews in the town. In the fall of the same year the Germans herded them into a very small area on the outskirts of the town. The overcrowding reached the extent of 13 persons per room. The detainees were used as forced laborers.

In August 1942 the Odrzywol ghetto was liquidated and its Jews were transferred to Nove Miasto. Two months later they were taken, together with the local Jews, to the Treblinka extermination camp.

Stopnica

A small town near Busko, in Kielce province, central Poland.

Jews settled there in the 17th century. They owned 12 houses in the town in 1663. The Jews of Stopnica had certain trading rights in this period and were exempt from services to the governor (starosta). They were granted a royal privilege in 1752 authorizing their communal autonomy and rights to engage in trade and crafts, the latter being regulated by an agreement concluded in 1773 between the leaders of the community and the municipal authorities. The representatives of the province (galil) of sandomierz, within the framework of the councils of lands, convened in Stopnica in 1754 and 1759. There were 375 Jews paying the poll tax in Stopnica and 188 in the surrounding villages in 1765. Between 1823 and 1862 the authorities of Congress Poland placed difficulties in the way of Jewish settlement in Stopnica because of its proximity to the Austrian border. In 1869 Stopnica lost its status as a city. During the 19th century Chasidism gained influence within the community. The Jewish population numbered 1,014 (49% of the total) in 1827; 1,461 (69%) in 1857; 3,134 (71%) in 1897; and 3,328 (76%) in 1921. They were mainly occupied in small-scale trade and crafts, including tailoring, shoemaking, and carpentry, and in carting.

During the German occupation Stopnica belonged to the general government, Radom district, in Busko county. At the outbreak of World War II there were about 2,600 Jews in Stopnica. In the course of the fighting the town center - mainly inhabited by Jews - was burnt down. After the Germans entered, shooting Jews on the streets became a common phenomenon. The Jews were compelled to pay a high contribution (fine) and in order to ensure payment the Germans took as hostage leading Jewish personalities, some of whom were killed. On the eve of Passover 1940, 13 Jews were dragged from their homes and shot.

An open ghetto was set up but the Jews were forbidden under penalty of death to leave it. Tailoring workshops were established, providing the craftsmen with some employment and small wages. The number of Jews grew gradually with the influx of deportees and refugees from Plock, Gabin, Radom, Lodz, and Cracow, and in 1942 from the surrounding villages. By November 1940 there were 3,200 Jews in Stopnica; in May 1941, 4,600; in April 1942, 5,300; and in June 1942, 4,990. On the eve of Passover 1942, the police shot the president of the Judenrat and his son. On November 5-6, 1942, the liquidation of the ghetto took place. The German police and Ukrainian formations, with the help of the Polish police and the fire-brigade, shot 400 old persons and children at the cemetery, sent 1,500 young men to labor camps in Skarzysko-Kamienna, and drove the remainder, about 3,000, on foot to the train station in Szczuczyn (Shchuchin). On the way many were killed. Jews caught in hiding in the ghetto were shot or included in the transport. The victims were sent by train to Treblinka. In Stopnica itself about 200 young Jewish men and women remained alive, employed in workshops and on road building. This group was sent in January 1943 to labor camps in Sandomierz and Poniatow.

Poland

Rzeczpospolita Polska -  Republic of Poland 

A country in central Europe, member of the European Union (EU).

21st Century

Estimated Jewish population in 2018: 4,500 out of 38,500,000 (0.01%). Main umbrella organization of the Jewish communities:

Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland - Związek Gmin Wyznaniowych Żydowskich w Polsce (ZGWŻP)
Phone: 48 22 620 43 24
Fax: 48 22 652 28 05
Email: sekretariat@jewish.org.pl
Website: http://jewish.org.pl/

 

HISTORY

The Jews of Poland

1096 | Migration of the Heretics

Where did the Jews come to Poland from? Scholars are divided on this question, but many believe that some came from the Khazar Kingdom, from Byzantium and from Kievan Rus, while most immigrated from Western Europe – from the Lands of Ashkenaz.
One of the theories is that the “butterfly effect” that led the Jews of Ashkenaz to migrate to Poland began with a speech by Pope Urban II, who in 1096 called for the liberation of the holy sites in Jerusalem from the Muslim rule. The Pope's call ignited what would come to be known as The Crusades - vast campaigns of conquest by the Christian faithful, noble and peasant alike, who moved like a tsunami from Western Europe to the Middle East, trampling, stealing and robbing anything they could find along the way.
Out of a fervent belief that “heretics” were “heretics”, be they Jews or Muslims, the militant pilgrims made sure not to bypass the large Jewish communities in the Ashkenaz countries, where they murdered many of the local Jews, mostly in the communities of Worms and Mainz on the banks of the Rhine. Following these massacres, known in Jewish historiography as the Massacres of Ttn”u (after the acronym of the year of Hebrew calendar), Jews started migrating east, into the Kingdom of Poland.

1264 | The Righteous Among The Nations from Kalisz.

In the 13th century Poland was divided into many districts and counties, and to rule them all an advanced bureaucratic system was required. In 1264 the Polish prince Boleslav, also known as the Righteous One of Kalisz (Kalisz was a large city in the Kingdom of Poland) issued a bill of rights that granted the Jews extensive freedom of occupation as well as freedom of religious practice. This bill of rights (privilegium, in Latin) allowed many Jews – literate merchants, experts in economy, bankers, coin makers and more – to fill various roles in the administrative apparatus of the kingdom.
At that time, the Catholic Church in Poland was in the habit of disseminating all sorts of blood libels against the Jews. Article 31 of the Prince Boleslav of Kalisz's privilegium tried to rein in this phenomenon by stating: “Accusing Jews of drinking Christian blood is expressly prohibited. If despite this a Jew should be accused of murdering a Christian child, such charge must be sustained by testimony of three Christians and three Jews.”

1370 | From Esther to Esther

It turns out that Esther from the Scroll of Esther was not the only Esther who saved the Jewish people. Legend tells of a beautiful Jewish woman from Poland named Esther'ke who was a mistress of King Casimir II the Great of Poland (1310-1370) and even bore him two daughters.
It is unclear whether it was love that aroused Casimir's sympathy for the Chosen People. What is known is that according to legend, like the Queen Esther from the Purim story, Esther'ke also looked out for her people and asked the King to establish a special quarter for Jews in Krakow (and this quarter is no legend). The King acquiesced to his lover's request and named the quarter for himself – the Kazimierz Quarter. In addition, and this is no legend either, messengers were sent to all Jewish communities in Poland and beyond inviting the Jews to relocate to Krakow, then the capital of the kingdom.
The invitation to come to Poland was like a much-needed breath of air for the Jews of Ashkenaz, for those were the days in which the Black Death ravaged Europe, which for some reason was claimed to have “skipped” the Jews. For the audacity of not contracting the plague, the Jews faced baseless accusations of having poisoned the drinking wells in order to spread the plague.

1520 | A State Within a State

In the early 16th century the center of gravity of Jewish life gradually moved from the countries of Central Europe to locations all over Poland. According to various historical sources, in the late 15th century there were around 15 yeshivas operating throughout Poland. The study of Torah flourished in the large communities and became the central axis of Ashkenazi religious life. It is no surprise, therefore, that the common name for Poland among the Jews who lived there was “Po-lan-Ja” - or in Hebrew: "God resides here".
The status of the Jews in Poland had no equal at the time anywhere in the world. Almost everywhere else in Europe they were persecuted, expelled and subject to various restrictions, whereas in Poland they were granted a special, privileged status.
In the early 16th century there were some 50,000 Jews living in Poland. During these years an interest-based alliance began to form between the Jews and the Polish nobility. The nobles, wishing to avail themselves of the Jews' connections and skills in business management, appointed Jews to various positions in the management of their feudal estates and gave them bills of rights according them special status.
In 1520 the “Council of Four Lands” was established in Poland. This council, which was a sort of “state within the state”, was composed of the representatives of all the Jewish communities of Poland, from Krakow and Lublin to Vilnius and Lithuania (which were then still part of the Polish “Commonwealth”). The main function of the Council was to collect taxes for the authorities, and it enjoyed judicial autonomy based on Jewish halacha. The Council operated for 244 years, and is considered the longest-lasting Jewish leadership in history, at least since the First Temple Era.

1569 | Demon-graphics

In the year 1618 the authorities of Krakow appointed a commission to find the reasons for hostility between Jewish and Christian merchants. The chairman of the commission, an academic by the name of Sebastian Miczynski, found that the reason for the animosity was the rapid increase in the number of Jews in the city, stemming from the fact that “none of them die at war or from plague, and in addition they marry at age 12 and multiply furiously”.
Miczynski's conclusion was not without basis: The growth rate of the Jewish community in Poland, known in research as “The Polish Jewish demographic miracle”, was indeed astounding. By the mid 17th century the number of Jews in Poland reached several hundred thousand – about half of all Jews in the world. By the mid 18th century their numbers reached approximately one million souls.
However, although Miczynski's diagnosis was correct, the reasons he offered for it, which were heavily tainted by anti-Semitism, were unsurprisingly wrong. Various researchers have found that the reason for the relatively rapid growth of Jews in Poland was a low rate of infant mortality among them compared to the Christian population. Among the reasons for this one can offer are the culture of mutual aid prevalent among Jews, the fact that newlywed couples usually lived with the bride's family, which offered better nutrition, and the fact that Jewish religious laws enjoin better hygiene practices than were the norm in the rest of pre-modern Europe.
In 1569 Poland annexed large parts of Ukraine under the Treaty of Lublin. Many Jews chose to migrate to Ukraine, and found a new source of livelihood there – leasing land. This they once again did in conjunction with the Polish nobility. Many of the Ukrainian peasants resented the new immigrants. Not only did the feudal lords tax them heavily, they thought, now they also “enslave us to the enemies of Christ, the Jews.”
During this time some brilliant intellectuals emerged in the Jewish areas of Poland, including Rabbi Moses Isserles (aka “The Rema” after his acronym), Rabbi Shlomo Lurie and Rabbi Joel Sirkis, and the great yeshivas of Lublin and Krakow were founded. The rabbinical elite was also the political elite among the Jewish community, setting the rules of life down to the smallest detail – from the number of jewels a woman may wear to requiring approval by community administrators in order to wed.

1648 | Bohdan The Brute

Had there been a senior class photo of all the worst oppressors the Jewish people have known, Bohdan (also known as Bogdan) Khmelnytsky would probably be standing front and center in it. Khmelnytsky, the leader of the Ukrainian Cossacks who fought for independence against Poland, was responsible for particularly lethal pogroms against the Jews of Ukraine. These pogroms were fueled by a combination of Christian revival and popular protest against Polish subjugation. The Jews, who were seen as the Polish nobility's “agents of oppression” paid a terrible price: Approximately 100,000 of them were murdered in these pogroms.
The Khmelnytsky Massacres, also known in Jewish historiography as “The Ta”ch and Ta”t Pogroms”, left the Jewish community of Poland shocked and bereaved. The community's poets composed dirges and the rabbis decreed mourning rituals. A chilling account of these events can be found in the book “Yeven Mezulah” by Jewish scholar Nathan Hannover, who fled the pogroms himself and described them in chronological order. In time many works were written based on this account. The most famous are “The Slave” by Isaac Bashevis Singer, and the poem “The Rabbi's Daughter” by the great Hebrew poet and translator Shaul Tchernichovski.
Despite the grief and sorrow, the Jewish community of Ukraine soon recovered. Proof of this can be found in the accounts of English traveler William Cox, who wrote 20 years after the massacres: “Ask for an interpreter and they bring you a Jew; Come to an inn, the owner is a Jew; If you require horses to travel, a Jew supplies and drives them; and if you wish to buy anything, a Jew is your broker.”

1700 | A Very Good Name

The year 1700 saw the birth of the man who would reshape Orthodox Judaism and become the founder of one of the most important movements in all its long history: Rabbi Israel Ben Eliezer, far better known as the Baal Shem Tov, or The Besh”t for short.
The Baal Shem Tov began his career as a healer with herbs, talismans and sacred names, thus becoming known as a “Baal Shem” - a designation for someone who knows the arcana of the divine names, which he can use to mystical effect.
Rumor of the righteous man who performs miracles and speaks of a different Judaism – less academic and scholarly, more emotional and experiential – soon spread far and wide. Religious discourse soon included terms such as “dvekut”, which means “devotion”, and “pnimiut”, meaning “inner being”. Thus was the Hasidic movement born, emphasizing moral correctness and the desire for religious devotion, placing a high premium on the discipline of Kabbalah. The immense success of Hasidism stemmed from its being a popular movement which allowed entry to any Jew, even if he wasn't much for book smarts.
The Besh”t also set the template for the form of the Hasidic circle: A group of people coalescing around the personality of a charismatic leader who provides each member with personal guidance. Among the most famous Hasidic movement today one can count Chabad/Liubavitch, Ger and Breslov, which was founded by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (the great-grandson of the Besh”t), and is unique in having no single leader or “Rebbe” or Admor, a Hebrew acronym which stands for “Our Master, Teacher and Rabbi”, the title of other Hasidic leaders, as none is considered worthy to carry the mantle of the founder.
Those were also the years in which Kabbalist literature began to spread in Poland, along with various mystical influences, including the Sabbatean movement. One of the innovation of the Kabbalist literature was the way in which the issue of observing commandments was perceived: In establishment rabbinical thought, the commandments were seen as a device for maintaining community structures and the religious lifestyle. The Hasidim, on the other hand, claimed that the commandments were a mystical device through which even a common man may effect changes in the heavenly spheres. In modern terms one may say that the meaning of observing the commandments was “privatized”, ceasing to be the property of the rabbinical elite and becoming the personal business of every common observant Jew.

1767 | What Came First – Wheat or Vodka?

To paraphrase the eternal questions of “what came first – the chicken or the egg?” 18th century Poles asked “What came first – wheat or vodka?” What they meant is, was it the great profitability of grain-based liquor that created mass alcohol addiction, or was it the addiction to alcohol that created the demand for wheat? Either way, the idea of turning wheat into vodka had a magical draw for Jews in the steppes of Poland. In the second half of the 18th century vodka sales accounted for approximately 40% of all income in Poland. The Jews, who recognized the immense financial potential of this trade, took over the business of leasing liquor distilleries and taverns from the nobles. In fact, historians have determined that some 30% of all Jews in the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania had some connection to the liquor business.
But liquor was far from the only field of commerce the Jews of Poland engaged in. They traded all manner of goods. In a sample of data from the years 1764-1767, collected from 23 customs houses, it was found that out of 11,485 merchants, 5,888 were Jews, and that 50%-60% of all retail commerce was held by Jewish merchants.
The reciprocal relations between the Jews and the Magnates, the Polish nobility, became ever tighter. Save for rare phenomena, such as the habit of some nobles to force Jews to dance before them in order to humiliate them, these relations were stable and dignified. Historians note that the Jewish leaser “was not a parasite cringing in fear, but a man aware of his rights, as well as his obligations”.

1795 | The Empires Swallow Poland

Until the partition of Poland, Poland's Jews could live in cities such as Krakow or Lublin, for example, with almost no direct contact with the outside political and legal authorities. Most of them resided in towns or hamlets (“Shtetl”, in Yiddish) where they lived in a closed cultural and social bubble. They spoke their own language, Yiddish, and their children were taught in separate institutions – the cheder for young children and then the Talmud-Torah. The legal system and political leadership were also internal: The tribunals and the Kahal, which operated on the basis of halacha, were the sole court of appeals for the settling of disputes and disagreements.
The only connection most Jews had with the outside world was in their work, which usually involved leasing of some sort from the nobles. Proof of this can be found in the words of Jewish storyteller Yechezkel Kutik, who wrote that “In those days, what was bad for the paritz (the Polish feudal lord) was at least partly bad for the Jews. Almost everyone made their living from the paritz”.
In 1795 Poland was partitioned between three empires – Russia, Austria and Prussia, the nucleus of modern Germany. This brought an end to the shared history of Poland's Jews, and began three distinctly different stories: That of the Jews of the Russian-Czarist Empire, that of the Jews of Galicia under Austrian rule, and that of the Jews of Prussia, who later became the Jews of Germany.
The situation for Jews in Austria and Prussia was relatively good, definitely when compared to that of Jews living under Czarist rule, which imposed various financial edicts upon them and allowed them freedom of movement only within the Pale of Settlement, where conditions were harsh. The nadir was the outbreak of pogroms in the years 1881-1884, which led to the migration of some 2 million Jews to the United States – the place that would come to replace Poland as the world's largest host of Jews. Upon the partition of Poland, most Jews living in that country found themselves under Russian rule. Please see the entry “The Jews of Russia” for further information regarding them.

1819 | The Jews of Galicia

The image of the “Galician Jew” was and still is a code not only for a geographic identity, but mostly for a unique Jewish identity which combined a multicultural-ethnicity with a cunning, humorous, warm and sympathetic folklore figure. The “Galician Jew” could be a devout Hasid, an enlightened educated person, a Polish nationalist or a Zionist activist, a great merchant or a vendor trudging from door to door. This Jew was weaned on several different cultures and could gab in several tongues – German, Yiddish, Hebrew, Russian and Polish.
Galicia extended over the south of Poland. Its eastern border was Ukraine, but the Austrian empire ruled over it from 1772 to the end of WW1. In the second half of the 19th century Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph granted the Jews fully equal rights. The city of Lvov became a magnet for educated Jews from all over Europe. Yiddish newspapers, including the “Zeitung”, operated there at full steam, commerce flourished and Zionist movements, among them Poalei Zion, played a central role in reviving Jewish nationality.
At the same time the Hasidic movement also flourished in Galicia, branching out from several Hasidic courts and dynasties of “Tzadiks”. Among the best known of these Hasidic sects were those of Belz and Sanz, which preserved the traditional Hasidic lifestyle, including dress and language, and maintained tight relations with the “Tzadik” who headed the court.
Galicia was also the soil from which the writers of the age of Haskala (the Jewish Enlightenment movement) grew – from Joseph Perl, the pioneer of Hebrew literature, who in 1819 wrote “Megale Tmirin” (“Revealer of Mysteries”), the first Hebrew novel, and ending with Yosef Haim Brenner and Gershon Shofman, who lived in Lvov and skillfully described Jewish life there in the early 20th century.
The multicultural, equal-rights idyll ended for the Jews of Galicia against the backdrop of cannon shells and flames of WW1. The region of Galicia passed from hand to hand between the Austrian and Russian armies, and the soldiers of both massacred the Jews again and again. This is what S. (Shloyme) Ansky, author of “The Dybbuk” and the writer who commemorated the fate of Galician Jews during the war, wrote on the subject: “In Galicia an atrocity beyond human comprehension has been committed. A large region of a million Jews, who but yesterday enjoyed all human and civil rights, is surrounded by a fiery chain of iron and blood, cut off and set apart from the world, given to the rule of wild beasts in the form of Cossacks and soldiers. The impression is as though an entire tribe of Israel is becoming extinct.”

1862 | The Siren Call of HaTsefira

While the Haskala, the Jewish Enlightenment movement, was born in Western Europe, its echoes soon reached the eastern part of the continent as well, and Poland in particular. One of the seminal events illustrating the roots put down by the Haskala movement in Poland was the founding of the periodical “HaTsefira” in Warsaw. “HaTsefira” became one of the most highly-regarded Hebrew newspapers and sought to take a real part in the process of secularizing the Hebrew language and turning it from a liturgical tongue to a living, everyday medium.
The newspaper gained steam in the late 1870s, when the editorial board was joined by Nachum Sokolov, journalist, author and Zionist-national thinker, who in his latter years served as President of the World Zionist Organization. Sokolov gradually reduced the emphasis of “HaTsefira” on popular science, giving it a serious journalistic and literary character instead. Under his leadership the periodical became a daily in 1886, and soon stood out as the most influential Hebrew newspaper in Eastern Europe, until it died out in the decades between the World Wars.
All of the most prominent Hebrew writers of those days published their works in HaTsefira: Mendele Mocher Sforim, Y.L.Peretz and Shalom Aleichem in the 19th century, Dvorah Baron, Uri Nissan Genessin, Shalom Ash and Yaacov Fichman in the early 20th century, and just before WW1 it was home to the works of a few promising youngsters, including Nobel-winning authour Shmuel Yosef Agnon and acclaimed nationalist poet Uri Zvi Greenberg.

1900 | Warsaw

In the first decade of the 20th century Warsaw became the capital of the Jews of Poland and a global Jewish center. The city was home to the headquarters of the political parties, many welfare institutions, trade unions, and Jewish newspapers and periodicals published in a variety of languages. Prominent in particular was juggernaut of literary and publishing activity in this city from the 1880s to the eve of WW1.
Among the most famous literary institutions of the period were the Ben Avigdor Press, which ignited the realist “New Movement” in Hebrew literature; Achiassaf Press, founded by the tea magnate Wissotzky, which operated in the spirit of Achad Haam and published books of a Jewish-historical nature; the HaShiloach newspaper, which was copied from Odessa and was edited for a year by Chaim Nachman Bialik (later anointed national poet of the State of Israel), the newspapers “HaTsofeh” and “HaBoker” and more.
All these and many others were produced at hundreds of Hebrew printing presses which popped up like mushrooms after a rain. This industry attracted Jewish intellectuals who found work writing, editing, translating and doing other jobs required by publishing and the press. In his essay “New Hebrew Culture In Warsaw” Prof. Dan Miron wrote that: “All the Hebrew writers of the time passed through Warsaw, some staying for years and others for a short time”.
Also famous were the “literary tribunals”, especially that of author Y.L. Peretz, who held a sort of salon or court at his home which was frequented by eager literary cubs. These would submit their callow works to the revered giant of letters and tremblingly await his verdict. The Peretz court was far from the only one, though. Jewish writers and intellectuals arrived from all over Russia to “literary houses”, “salons” and other establishments, convened mostly on Sabbaths and holidays to discuss matters of great import. One of the most famous of these was the home of pedagogue Yitzchak Alterman, whose lively Hanukkah and Purim parties drew many intellectuals. These, we assume, served as inspiration for little Nanuchka, the host's son, later to become famous as poet Nathan Alterman.

Jewish Demographics In Warsaw

Year | Number of Jews
1764 1,365
1800 9,724
1900 219,128
1940 393,500
1945 7,800


1918 | The First Jewish Party in Poland

Upon the end of WW1 the Jews of Poland also fell victim to the game of monopoly played by Poland against its neighbors, particularly Soviet Russia. The Poles accused the Jews of Bolshevism, the Soviets saw them as capitalists and bourgeoisie, and these accusations turned into dozens of pogroms and tens of thousands of Jewish murder victims.
In 1921, after 125 years under various occupiers, Poland once again became a sovereign and independent state. At first the future seemed bright. The new Polish constitution guaranteed the Jews full equality and promised religious tolerance. However, like many of the supposedly democratic states formed between the two world wars, the regime in Poland also swayed between the values of Enlightenment and equality and an ethnic-based nationalism.
This was the unstable reality under which the Jews of Poland lived for 18 years, until the start of WW2. During these years the Jews experienced some bad times, during which for example they were banned from public office, and were discriminated against in matters of taxation and higher education admissions, where quotas were set limiting the number of Jews at the universities. At other times, mostly under the reign of Jozef Pilsudski (1926-1935), who was known for his relative opposition to anti-Semitism, the edicts issued against the Jews were eased.
During the Pilsudski era the Jewish parties combined to form a joint list for the legislative elections, winning 6 seats in the Sejm (lower house of the Polish parliament) and 1 in the senate, which made them the sixth-largest party. This was a mere 11 years before the outbreak of WW2 and the Holocaust of Polish Jewry.
One of the most influential figures among Jewish political leadership in Poland was Yitzhak Gruenbaum (Izaak Grünbaum), leader of the General Zionists Party, who foresaw the rise of dictatorial elements in the Sejm and made aliyah in 1933. He was right. From 1935 until the German invasion Poland was ruled by an openly dictatorial, anti-Semitic regime. During these four years some 500 anti-Semitic incidents took place, the system of “ghetto benches” was put in place, separating Jewish and Polish students at universities, and the employment options of Polish Jews were limited to such a degree that the Jewish community of Poland, numbering over three million people at the time, was considered the poorest diaspora in Europe.

1939 | The Holocaust of the Jews of Poland

September 1st, 1939, the day the Nazis invaded Poland, was etched into the collective Jewish memory in infamy. Of 3.3 million Jews who lived in Poland on the eve of the Nazi invasion, only around 350,000 survived. Some 3 million Polish Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust.
The annihilation of the Jews of Poland took place step by step. It began with various decrees, such as the gathering of Jews in ghettos, the obligation to wear an identifying mark, the imposition of a curfew in the evenings, the marking of Jewish-owned stores and more – and ended with the execution of the “Final Solution”, a satanic plan of genocide, which culminated in the deportation of the Jews of Poland to the extermination camps of Auschwitz, Majdanek, Sobibor, Chelmno and Treblinka – all located on Polish soil.
One of the best known expressions of resistance by the Jews of Poland to the Nazi plan of annihilation was the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The revolt symbolized a triumph of spirit for the Jews of the ghetto, who embarked on it although they knew that their chances of winning or even surviving were nil.
Alongside the armed resistance by the Jews of the ghetto there was also cultural resistance. In October 1939 Emanuel Ringelblum – a historian, politician and social worker – started the “Oneg Shabbat” (“Sabbath Delight”) project in the ghetto, in which he was joined by dozens of intellectuals including authors, teachers and historians. This collective produced many works of writing on various facets of life in the ghetto, and thus became an archive and think tank dealing with current events while documenting them for future historians' reference.
In August 1942, in the midst of the deportation of the Jews of Warsaw, the archive was divided in three and each part buried for safe-keeping. Two of the three parts, secreted in metal crates and two milk jugs, were found after the war. These two parts, located in 1946 and 1950, serve to this day as imported first-hand sources on Jewish life in the ghetto, and also as testament to the courage and spiritual strength of the intellectuals whose only weapons were the pen and the camera.

2005 | Jewish Renaissance in Poland?

At the end of WW2 there were some 240,000 Jews living in Polish territories, 40,000 of them who survived the camps and another 200,000 refugees, returning from the Soviet Union territories. The displaced Jews lived in poverty and cramped conditions, and were treated with hostility by the general population despite their attempts to integrate into Polish society. In July 1946, just a year after the war ended, this hostility erupted in a pogrom in the city of Kielce. The pretext for the murder of 42 out of 163 Holocaust survivors in the city, and the wounding of most of the rest? The ancient blood libel about matza and Christian children.
This is where the Zionist movement swung into action, managing to smuggle about 100,000 of the remaining Jews in Poland to Israel under the “Bricha”, or “Escape” movement.
After WW2 Poland became a Communist country, which it remained until 1989. 1956 saw the start of the “Gomulka Aliyah” (named after Wladislaw Gomulka, Secretary General of the Polish Communist party), which lasted for a few years and brought some 35,000 more Jews to Israel from Poland. In 1967 Poland cut off relations with Israel and in 1968, amidst an anti-Semitic incitement campaign, another few thousand Jews made aliyah. This practically brought an end to the Jewish community of Poland.
At the start of the new millennium, Poland was considered the greatest mass grave of the Jewish people. The numbers speak for themselves: Before WW2 there were around 1,000 active Jewish communities in Poland, but in the year 2000 only 13 remained. Before the war Warsaw was home to almost 400,000 Jews. In 2000 only 1,000 Jews remained.
And then, at the start of the new century, a so-called “Jewish Renaissance” took place in Poland, and is still going on today. In 2005 a museum was opened across the street from the Warsaw Ghetto, where 1,000 years of Jewish history in Poland are on display. Once a year a Jewish festival is held in Krakow, exposing thousands of curious visitors from all over the world to Jewish songs and dance, kleizmer music and Yiddishke food. The Jewish theater is thriving (although it includes but one Jewish actor), and around the country “dozens of “Judaica Days” and symposiums on Jewish topics are held annually.

* All quotes in this article, unless otherwise stated, are from “From a People to a Nation: The Jews of Eastern Europe, 1772-1881”, Broadcast University Press, 2002

Klwów 

A village in the district of Kielce, subdistrict of Opoczno, central Poland.

Klwow was a town from the year 1413, but lost this status in the 19th century. There was no opposition to Jews settling in Klwow. Since the early 19th century this small Jewish settlement had a beith midrash and a cemetery.

In 1863 Klwow had about 500 Jewish inhabitants, half of the total local population.
In April 1864 a local Jew was accused of spying for the Russians, and was hanged by the Polish insurgents.

Most of the Jewish breadwinners in Klwow were peddlers and artisans, who found their customers in the markets of neighboring towns.

In 1939 the Jews of Klwow numbered some 80 families.


The Holocaust Period

Following the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 the number of Jews in Klwow increased due to the arrival of refugees and reached 456 persons in May 1941. The community of Klwow was liquidated in October 1942, when all its Jews were sent to their death at the Treblinka extermination camp.

Pińczów 

Russian: Pinchov; Yiddish: Pinchev

A town in Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, Poland.

During the 16th-18th centuries Pinczow was a busy market town in Sandomierz province. The date of the foundation of the Jewish community is unknown, but the fact that it sent representatives to the Councils of the Lands testifies to its signficance in the 17th century. During the attacks led by the Polish hetman S. Czarniecki (1656), the Jews of Pinczow suffered comparatively little since they took refuge with the local margrave, and were defended by his troops. The Pinczow district (Galil) was included in the province of Lesser Poland.

One of the most interesting relics possessed by the community is the hand-written prayer book which was completed according to an inscription by a scribe named Elijah b. Samuel Gronenn in January 1614 (published by S. Dubnow in Voskhod, 14, no. 4 (1894), 149-50). Other records of later years mention martyrs who died as a result of blood libel accusations and during the massacres in the 1640s and 1650s. In 1765 there were 2,862 Jews registered in the district, most of whom lived in the town itself; there were 2,877 Jews (70% of the total population) in the town in 1856 and 5,194 in 1897; in the latter years there were 13,716 Jews in the whole district.

At the outbreak of World War II there were about 3,500 Jews in Pinczow. In October 1942, 3,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka death camp. During the deportation, hundreds of Jews fled into the surrounding forests. About 100 joined the two Jewish partisan units headed by Michal Majtek and Zalman Fajnsztat. These units merged and operated in the vicinity until February 1944, when they incurred heavy losses near Pawlowice. After the war the Jewish community of Pinczow was not reconstituted.

Lelow

A village (formerly a town), in Kielce province, south east central Poland.

Several dozen Jewish families were living in Lelow in 1547, but in 1564 only six families remained; each paid the King one red guilder residence tax and a certain quantity of spices for the right to slaughter cattle. During the 16th and 17th centuries Jews played an important part in the Lelow fairs. In the first part of the 18th century they had grown to a considerable community, paying 741 zlotys poll tax in 1718 and an annual average of 1,050 zlotys in 1733--37. In the district, which included the communities of Lelow, Naklo, Janow, Pilica, Szczekocin, and Zarki, there were 3,415 Jews in 1765, when 335 Jewish poll tax payers were recorded in Lelow and 18 villages were under the community's jurisdiction. By an agreement with the townsmen, in 1778, the Jews were released from the payment of municipal taxes, as well as from the duty of billeting the troops. Between 1823 and 1862 Jewish residence was restricted to a specific quarter. The community numbered 269 (29% of the total population) in 1808, 339 (39%) in 1827, 480 (53%) in 1857, 720 (60%) in 1897, and 638 (52%) in 1921.

Before the outbreak of World War II there were about 700 Jews in Lelow. The Jewish community was liquidated in September 1942, when all the Jews were deported to Treblinka death camp. After the war the Jewish community of Lelow was not reconstituted.

Kozienice

(Rus. Kozenitsy)

A town in Kielce province, east central Poland.

In 1661 the Jews of Kozienice referred to a privilege dated 1616, which probably was the oldest granted to the community. In 1661 five Jewish house owners lived in Kozienice, while ten other families resided in rented dwellings. In 1722 the Jews paid a poll tax of 354 zlotys; this was increased to 630 zlotys in 1726.

In the 1780s, through Jewish initiative, a soap manufactory was established in the town. From 1791 the Jews of Kozienice also engaged largely in the production of stockings. At the beginning of the 19th century the Maggid Israel b. Shabbetai Hapstein, one of the most influential tzaddikim, lived in Kozienice. The community numbered 1,365 in 1765, 1,185 (59% of the total population) in 1827, 1,980 (65%) in 1857, 3,764 (59%) in 1897, and 3,811 (55%) in 1921.

Kamienna

(from 1928 Skarzysko-Kamienna )

A town in Kielce province, east central Poland.

A mine workers' quarter in the 19th century, the locality received municipal rights in 1923. Jews settled in Kamienna in the 1890s with the development of industrial enterprises for steel production and tanning. A Jewish community was organized on the eve of World War I. In 1921, 1,590 Jews constituted 20% of the total population. In addition to shopkeeping, they engaged in hide processing, shoemaking, mechanics, and dyeing. Before World War II, 2,200 Jews lived in Skarzysko-Kamienna. The German army entered on September 7, 1939, and immediately initiated anti-Jewish terror. On May 5, 1941, the ghetto was established. In October 1942 an aktion took place in which the town's entire Jewish population was deported to the Treblinka death camp and exterminated.

After the liquidation of the ghetto a massive Julag (Judenlager), a slave labor camp, was set up in the town. In January 1944 the camp officially became a concentration camp. It existed until August 1944, when all its inmates were deported to other concentration camps, mainly Buchenwald in Germany and the Czestochowa-"Hasag" camp in western Poland. Altogether about 15,000 Jewish prisoners passed through this camp, but over 10,000 of them perished there. Many prisoners died of hunger and disease due to the subhuman conditions prevailing in the camp. Others were murdered by the SS men on the camp's staff. A resistance organization active in the camp smuggled out a small number of prisoners for guerilla activities, but preparations for a general armed revolt failed. After the war the Jewish community in Skarzysko-Kamienna was not reconstituted.

Konin      

Town in the province of Poznan, central Poland about two-thirds of the way on the east–west route from Warsaw to Poznań.

 

21st Century

Almost all of the Jews left Konin by the end of the 1940s. There may be a few individuals still living there.

 

Early History

The Jewish settlement of Konin was among the first to be established in Poland. It was mentioned in a Polish court record of 1397. In 1425, permission was given for two fairs a year to be held in the town, and these became central to Jewish economic activity. In the 15th century, there were some 180 Jews, living in 12 wooden houses, engaged in money lending, commerce, and crafts. At the end of the century, a fire ravaged a large part of the town, and the Jewish population was also hard hit. In the 16th century, an outbreak of cholera reduced the Jewish numbers. By 1633, the Jews were concentrated in one area of the town and they remained during the whole history of the community, in what was known as the Street of the Jews. After another epidemic in 1662, and in the wake of the destruction wrought by the Swedes in 1707, the number of Jews declined once more.  It was estimated that 168 Jews lived in Konin in 1764–1765 (making up 24% of the town’s population). A magnificent synagogue was erected in Konin (1763-66) and was decorated in 1829 by the Jewish artist Zanvel Barash of Kepno.

Konin was under Prussian rule from 1793 to 1807. After Konin passed to Russia in 1815, local economic activity increased as did the Jewish population and Konin became an important center for trade with Germany. The establishment of industry in Konin was mainly due to the Jews. Jewish wholesalers had large warehouses that supplied industrial products to the whole region. They owned breweries, stocks of building materials, cement products, tiles, pipes, and roofing felt. Wealthy Jews engaged in the wholesale trade of salt and timber and established flour mills and a textile industry.

The first Rabbi of Konin was Rabbi Zwi Hirsh Amsterdam who held office for 39 years (1810-1849). He founded a yeshiva in Konin. A main synagogue Groyser Shul, and a smaller study house, containing a Hasidic shtibl (synagogue) were built. He was succeeded by Tzevi Orbach of Leszno. Rabbi Zwi Hersz Orbach was the Rabbi from 1849 until his death in 1883. He was the author of Divrei Torah on Choshen Mishpat, published in Warsaw in 1881. In 1884, the rabbi was Zwi Hersz Bierzynski, who led his flock for 21 years until his death in 1905, and was an associate of the author of the Sfat Emet.

The relatively early involvement of the Jews of Konin in the country's political life was shown by the participation of some of them in the Polish revolt of 1863.

In the middle of the 19th century, a study group for Talmud was established. The Great Synagogue was built in 1766, and renovated in 1829, with the assistance of the artist Zajnwel Barasz. In 1870, a beit midrash was established and there were various Hassidic prayer-houses in Konin. The influence of the Haskalah was increasingly felt in Konin. The Jewish secular lending library was one of the largest of such institutions in Poland. There were also other organizations in Konin, such as prayer, bible, and Sabbath preservation societies. At the end of the century and the beginning of the 20th, there were active charitable organizations: health services, a hostel, dowry collections, provident funds, etc.

Influential, informal groups were comprised of Agudath-supporting Hasidim, as well as independent Orthodox Jews. Their leader was Baruch Działoszyński, a city councillor, and chairman of the Jewish Community Council. They centered around the Administration Committee, concerning themselves with education. The Hasidim became more numerous in Konin towards the end of the 19th Century. They were more liberal than their peers from the East. The young Hasidim did not wear beards. Factions with much less influence in the town included assimilated Jews, supporters of the Polish Communist Party and the Folkspartei.

Until 1830, the Jewish dead were buried in the village cemetery in Czarków. At the same time, from 1806 to 1808, the dead were also laid to rest in the “new” Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of the city.

 

20th Century 

In 1900, there was one Jewish doctor in the town, two dentists and a lawyer. A library was established in 1901. The Jewish community had a state elementary school and a network of religious schools. The Bund had begun its activities in 1905, and its members took part in strikes and demonstrations but the Russian authorities arrested many Bund members and virtually stopped its activities. The rabbi of the town from 1906 was Rabbi Jakow Lipszyc, who held the position from 1906 until the end of the community in the Second World War.

In 1913, a Zionist group made its appearance with some 200 members and an Arbeiter Heim (workers' home) was opened. Izrael Szpigelfogel opened a loan and savings bank, which helped establish Jewish industries. At the outbreak of the First World War (1914–1918) fierce battles raged around Konin. Many Jews of other towns found refuge in Konin. The Jews suffered both under the Russians and the Germans. In the autumn of 1914, the Germans arrested many of the community leaders. In 1915, overcrowding and malnutrition caused a typhus epidemic. German occupying forces appointed Konin’s only Jewish mayor, Bernard Dancyger, and allowed a range of political activities that had been banned by the Russians. Bund activities were resumed and a Maccabi sports group was established. Jews actively participated in the City Council and five Jews were employed in its commissions. There was also an ORT (trade) school. The Yavneh School was opened in 1918, as was the dual language (Polish and Hebrew) Jewish Gymnasium, with Aleksander Rusak as its first headmaster. Sports clubs were also to be found in Konin - Maccabi (1918), Shimshon, and Hapoel, as well as the sports sections of Betar and the Bund. Until 1919, Konin lay close to the Prussian frontier. Jews working in Konin played a major role, especially in the export of agricultural products, though the mass of Jews were artisans and small-scale traders.

In May 1920, nine out of the total of 24 councilmen were Jewish. In independent Poland, Jewish political activity, both Zionist and non-Zionist, flourished. The process of secularization continued through education, theatrical and musical presentations, and Jewish sport organizations. According to the Polish census of 1921, there were 2,902 Jews in Konin (29% of the total population). Between 1920 and 1929, a Jewish secondary school functioned which was attended by 200 pupils. Its directors included the physicist Leopold Infeld. In 1921, eight independent prayer houses operated and 72 out of the 240 registered industrial plants belonged to Jews. In 1923, the Yesodei Hatorah Cheder School opened. The community boards were dominated by Orthodox Jews and non-partisan representatives. Agudat Israel, which appeared in Konin in the 1920s, also established a Youth Movement in 1925, while ten years later a branch of Poalei Agudat Israel was formed. Agudat Israel exercised considerable influence in the community council.

Between the Two World Wars, Jews had great influence on the economic life of the town even though antisemitic harassment continued. Mechanized carpentry shops were set up and a plant for producing gramophones was established. Many Konin Jews made a living by moving from one market to another.

In 1928, 10 of the 25 industrial plants and 168 out of the 487 craft workshops (34.3%) were “Jewish”. In general, the larger shops, factories and warehouses were owned by Jews. In the 1930s, economic conditions for Jews rapidly worsened as the town’s economy declined and extreme Polish nationalism undermined intercommunal harmony. In the Second Republic of Poland, there was an economic boycott of Jewish shops. The representatives of the Jewish elites, especially those assimilated, however, did not experience any kind of hatred.

The election held in 1931 revealed some changes in political preferences amongst the Jews of Konin. The Religious Jewish Block, representing all the houses of prayer received 152 votes (2 seats), and the Democratic United Jewish Block, whose members were representatives of various branches of Zionism received 326 votes (6 seats – 4 for the General Zionists and 2 for the Mizrachi). In the last elections prior to the outbreak of war, held on 30 August 1936, seven lists were put together. The lists included Orthodox, Zionist Revisionists, The Jewish Peasant Party, General Zionists, The Bund and Poale Zion Right. In 1931 the youth movement Freheit was established. The League for Israel Workers included: Poalei Zion, Freiheit, the Worker, the Pioneer, the Young Pioneer, Hapoel, and Hashomer Hatzair. In 1933, a Pioneer training kibbutz named after B. Borochow, was established.

The Jewish library in Konin continued its activities, and in 1936 contained 8,190 books. Drama groups associated with the League for the Working Labour of Israel and the Bund were also in evidence. Cultural personalities connected with Konin included the painters Szaja Szer, Michail Eliahu Zadek, and his brother Menachem Zadek; the sculptor Marek Lewin; the writer and journalist Meir Wajnsztajn; and the choreographer Mania Lipinski. There were approximately 3,000 Jews living in Konin in 1939.

 

The Holocaust  1939 – 1945 

German troops entered Konin on 14 September 1939, the morning of Rosh Hashanah, and drove Rabbi Ya‘akov Lipszyc and the other worshipers out of the synagogue. The synagogue was desecrated and its contents were destroyed. The Jewish cemetery was ploughed up and part of the Jewish district was demolished.  On November 30th, 1939, the Germans surrounded a number of streets densely populated by Jews, ordered them to take with them absolute necessities only, and assembled them in a Jewish school. In December 1939, about a thousand were deported. Only 1,500 Jews remained in Konin.

In July 1940, the majority of those remaining in Konin, were sent to forced labor. In October of 1941, the remaining Jews of Konin were assembled and were taken to the forests of Kazimierz Biskupi, and murdered there. Most of them were forced into open pits of lime and buried alive. During their retreat in early 1945 the Germans removed the bodies and burned them, in order to conceal the evidence of the crime.

At the beginning of 1943, several Jews banded together to carry out acts of sabotage and arson. In August 1943, most of these saboteurs met their deaths in the action, but some survived. Among the prisoners in Konin and the group of rebels was Rabbi Yehoshua Moshe Aaronson, who wrote a diary Megillat Beit Haavadim. The diary and other testamentary documents were given to a Polish carpenter for safekeeping. Several of these papers survived and bore witness to the life and fate of the internees of Konin.

About 200 Jews from Konin survived the war. By the end of 1946, 60 people had returned to the town. They established a branch of the Central Committee of Polish Jews but their situation was difficult. Their flats had been taken over by Poles and the attitude of the local population was hostile. By 1965, most of the Jews left the town and there were only two Jews left. The synagogue, vandalized by the Germans, was restored after the war, and is now used as a public library.

Koszyce

A town in the district of Pinczow, the province of Kielce, Poland.

Koszyce is located about 48 km north-east of Krakow, on the tributary of the Wisla river and on the banks of the Szreniawa river that flows into the Wisla.

The name of the town is derived from the Polish word kosz (basket). Reeds grew on the banks of the river, and the Poles fashioned baskets from them for many purposes.

The town was built on a hill in the heart of a fertile agricultural area. Its streets were paved with stones and drained properly. Many houses were built of brick.

There are no clear records of the beginnings of the Jewish settlement in the town. It seems that some Jewish families came there at the beginning of the Jewish settlement in this part of Poland (14th and 15th centuries). Other Jewish families came from parts of the Austrian empire and settled in the town at the end of the 18th century.

During the First World War (1914-1918) the residents of Koszyce suffered when the town was occupied in turn by all the fighting armies, since it was located on the border between Czarist Russia and the Austro-Hungarian empire.

During the period between the two world wars the Jewish population numbered about 25% of the town's total population.

The Jews of Koszyce were observant traditional Jews for the most part. The community was conducted according to Jewish law, and the rabbi was also the judge. Cultural life was centered in the bet-midrash (study house), which was also a prayer-house. Next to the study house were the ritual baths. On Fridays and holiday evenings all the Jewish stores were closed, and these were the majority; a festive atmosphere was everywhere; the appearance of Rabbi Chaim Meir Cinamon in the central square was the sign that the Sabbath or holiday had begun.

There was a Jewish cemetery in Koszyce, and among the community institutions - hevra kadisha (a burial society), gemilut hassadim (interest free loan society), linat zedek (a free bed for Jewish travelers), kimcha de'pascha (a Passover fund) and hachnasat orchim (hospitality committee). The community took care of its poor members.

The cooperative bank, all of whose members were Jewish, was established and operated by Abish Levenstein, Jacob Kaminsky and Mendl Silberberg. The library had approximately 2,000 volumes in Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish.

From the end of the twenties until the outbreak of World War II, Nachman Bodenstein was the head of the community, representing it before the authorities. In 1928, when fire broke out in the synagogue, he, together with other members of the community, succeeded in saving the torah scrolls and afterwards organized the rebuilding of the synagogue. The funds to rebuild the synagogue came solely from donations of the local Jews.

Children at the age of five started their studies in the cheder. Among the many teachers in the community, the best known was Mordechai Ehrlich, who was called Mordechai Melamed, he taught generations of children in his home. Other teachers settled in town or came to stay only for one or two seasons.

In the mid-twenties, the teacher Michael Singer came from Eretz Israel. He was a great expert of the Hebrew language. He settled in Koszyce with his family and taught the young pupils Judaism, Bible studies, Hebrew and general secular studies. Children over the age of seven studied in the morning in the Polish elementary school and in the afternoon in the heder. There was no high-school in town, and the Jewish students who wanted to continue their studies had to go to the district town.

Koszyce, like other towns in the area, developed into a marketing center for agricultural produce and supplies for the peasants who lived on the estates, villages and farms on the fertile banks of the Szreniawa river. Most of the trade in the area was in Jewish hands. Trade was conducted through the commercial center of Krakow. In the spring and winter, when the Wisla was full, transport was by boat on the river. The cultural contacts of the community were with the community of Krakow and not with the Kielce community, because transportation to Kielce was difficult.

Most of the trade in town was on Tuesday, the weekly market day. Four Jews were grain merchants, and three dealt in stores, two shoe stores, ten general stores, two stores for metal goods, two for timber warehouses, two stores for shoe uppers and leather goods, two stores for ice-cream and soft drinks and four butcher shops. Only three general stores and four butcher shops were owned by non-Jews. Among the Jews were some craftsmen who sold their products in stalls on market day. Some merchants went to the villages to buy agricultural produce. There were five tailors, four shoemakers, a carpenter, a tinsmith and two glaziers. A small workshop for knitwear developed into a factory and supplied work for a number of young Jews.

On the evening following market day, the Jewish storekeepers and craftsmen would travel to Krakow by wagon, in order to replenish their supplies. Sometimes they were attacked by robbers.

The wholesale trade in beer was also in Jewish hands, and the only bar in town was busy mainly on market day.

In the villages surrounding Koszyce, there were several Jewish families who farmed on rented land. Some had small shops, but their main income came from farming.

In the mid-19th century the Kuptchik family acquired an estate two kilometers from town. After World War I, at the end of the twenties, most of Poland's land was divided among the Polish peasants. The family was left with about 100 acres (400 dunams) and a flour-mill on the banks of the Friedrich, Blatt and Sercez acquired a farm near Koszyce; the farm was used by them as a vacation resort, and was managed by a Jewish family from Koszyce. The wealthy Jews lived in brick houses on the central square of the town.

During the years three Jewish doctors worked in town, among them Dr. Josef Obajanski, a native of Koszyce.

In the 1920s, when there was a nationalist awakening among the Jews of Poland and after the fame of the soccer team Hacoach Vienna spread, a Jewish soccer team called Yardenia was organized in Koszyce by the brothers Ozer and Ephraim Levenstein, which was active for several years.

In 1929, when the Friedrich and Blatt families came to their vacation farm near the town, Jonah Blatt organized in Koszyce a branch of the youth movement Beitar, and the brothers Elimelech and Zeev Friedrich organized a branch of Hashomer Ha'leumi" (the national guard), later to become Ha'noar Ha'zioni" (the Zionist youth).

At the end of the thirties, a teacher from Lithuania came to settle in Koszyce and organized a branch of the youth movement Torah Ve'avodah" (torah and work), later to become Ha'mizrachi.

The Zionist youth movements organized lectures and discussions on subjects connected with Zionism and Jewish history; their clubrooms became cultural and social centers for the young people and contributed to the spread of the Zionist ideology and the dedication to Eretz Israel. Most of the Jews in Koszyce contributed to the Keren Ha'kayemet.

Shlomo Ehrlich and Shalom Strauch, members of Ha'noar Ha'zioni in Koszyce, left for a training kibbutz in preparation for their Aliya (immigration) to Eretz Israel.

In 1939 there were more than 700 Jews in Koszyce.

The Holocaust Period

With the outbreak of World War II (September 1, 1939) and the conquest of Poland by the Germans, some Jews, mainly men and youths, escaped from Koszyce, heading east. Those who settled in Lwow, then under Soviet occupation, were sent to camps in the interior of Russia and so survived the war.

In Koszyce, the life of the Jews changed completely. Though the German military command, the police and the gestapo were stationed in the nearby town Kazimierza Wielka, their representatives came to Koszyce to carry out the new decrees. On Rosh Hashana during Tashlich near the river, a truck full of German soldiers stopped there and they attacked the praying Jews. They threw their hats into the river, cut off their beards forcibly and paraded them through the streets of the town into the main square where they publicly harassed them.

Until the end of 1940, most of the stores were still in Jewish hands and business continued. At the beginning of 1941, all the Jewish stores and stalls were closed; market day went on without them. Craftsmen continued to work for some time. Some merchants who hid their wares conducted some sort of barter trade, mainly to get food.

A Judenrat (Jewish council) was appointed by the Germans, and a Jewish police unit was organized. No ghetto was established, since the homes of the Jews and Poles were in mixed neighborhoods. During the first months of the occupation, about 100 Jews from the surrounding villages, some of whom were natives of Koszyce, came to town.

The synagogue building, where Jewish prayer services were now forbidden, became a corn barn. The torah scrolls were taken to private homes, where prayer services were held. The Germans destroyed the cemetery completely.

The Judenrat collected money and contributions (ostensibly donations) for the Germans and organized, upon the Germans' order, groups of workers for forced labor. At first, the Jews worked in the nearby German army camps and in limestone quarries on the banks of the Wisla and they received wages. A voluntary organization for self-help was formed in the community to supply food and clothing to the needy.

In the winter of 1941 all the furs in the possession of the Jews were confiscated. As the war proceeded, the demands of the Germans grew, and the plight of the Jews worsened.

In the spring of 1942 a group of young Jews, headed by Nehemia Weintraub, was organized in order to join the Polish partisans A.L. (Armia Ludowa - the People's Democratic Army), but the Polish go-between did not come to the meeting place. The group disbanded and only a few succeeded in returning to Koszyce.

In the fall of 1942 there were rumors of the coming destruction of the community. Jews dug bunkers for themselves or fled to the ghetto of Bochnia. There were some Jews who hid in the homes of Polish peasants.

On November 2, 1942 the Jewish community of Koszyce was destroyed. Hundreds of wagons and horses were prepared in advance in a nearby field in order to take the Jews of Koszyce to the death camp in Belzec. The Jews of Koszyce were sent to the death camp in Belzec. Young poles, members of the Junaki group, helped the Germans capture the Jews hiding in the bunkers.

The number of survivors who came back to town after the war was less than 40. Most of them emigrated to Eretz Israel, and a few emigrated to the United States and to Canada.

A Renovated Synagogue in Kielce, Poland, 1950's
Members of the Jewish community host Jewish soldiers who serve in the Polish Army during Passover, Kielce, Poland, 1928
Rabbis, cantors and dignitaries in front of the Synagogue in Kielce, Poland, c.1920
A renovated synagogue in Kielce,
Poland, 1950's.
Members of the Jewish community host Jewish
soldiers who serve in the Polish Army during Passover, Kielce, Poland, 1928
(The Oster Visual Documentation Center, Beit Hatfutsot,
courtesy of Yehoshua Navon, Israel)
Rabbis, cantors and dignitaries sitting
sitting for a photo in front of the synagogue
in Kielce, Poland, c.1920