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Tombstones of Jews, Lowicz, Poland, 1949


Tombstones of Jews thrown in a field, Lowicz, Poland, 1949

The Oster Visual Documentation Center, ANU – Museum of the Jewish People, Curtesy of Bilhah Lahav and Ilana Oshinsky

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A town in the province of Lodz, central Poland.

The Jews began to settle in Lowicz at the beginning of the 16th century. In 1516 they were expelled by archbishop Jan Laski and established themselves in the surrounding towns. Until 1797 the presence of Jews in Lowicz was authorized only on market days and during fairs. At the regional church synod held in Lowicz in 1556 it was decided to inflict severe punishment on four Jews of Sochaczew who had been accused of host desecration. At the close of the 16th and during the 17th centuries Jewish merchants played an important role in the Lowicz fairs. From the beginning of the 19th century the Jewish population of the town increased rapidly. The 60 Jews (2.5% of the population) who lived in Lowicz in 1808 earned their livelihood mainly as innkeepers and craftsmen. With the renewal of the Lowicz fairs in 1820 much of the trade in the town was in Jewish hands. In 1827 the Jewish community of Lowicz numbered 405 (11% of the population). In 1829 a wooden synagogue was erected; the local Jewish cemetery was founded in the early 1830s. In 1897 the construction of the great synagogue was completed.
During the years 1828--62 the Jews were allowed to live only in the Jewish quarter. In the course of time Chasidism gained influence in the community. In 1863 some Lowicz Jews contributed funds to the Polish rebels and collaborated with them in smuggling arms.
The Jewish population increased from 1,161 in 1857 (21% of the population) to 3,552 in 1897 (35% of the total). Their principal sources of livelihood were shop keeping, trade with the neighboring peasants and the soldiers of the local Russian military camp, and crafts. A considerable part of the Jewish poor was employed in the textile, stocking, and food manufacturing industries. Under the influence of the Bund, Jewish workers and students participated in the revolutionary incidents which took place in Lowicz in 1905.
From the beginning of the century Zionist groups were organized. At the end of 1914 there were Jewish victims and severe damage to property as a result of the battles which were fought in the town and its vicinity. In 1917 six Jewish delegates were elected to the municipal council, forming half of its members. In 1921 there were 4,517 Jews (30% of the total population) in Lowicz. In the inter-war period CYSHO (central Yiddish school organization) and Beth Jacob schools functioned. From 1935 to 1939 the weekly Mazovsher Vokhenblat was published in Lowicz. In 1931, 4,339 Jews (25% of the total population) lived in the town.
In 1933 anti-Jewish riots occurred, which were repelled by the Jewish self-defense.
On the outbreak of World War II there were about 4,500 Jews in Lowicz. The German army entered the town on September 9, 1939. That day all Jewish males were ordered to assemble in the market place. They were imprisoned in the synagogue and tortured for two days. During 1940 about 3,500 Jews from the town of Lodz province, which had been incorporated into the third Reich, were forced to settle in Lowicz. In May 1940 a ghetto was established there. On June 17, 1941, a decree forbidding Jews to live in the town or country of Lowicz was issued. All the Jews were transferred to the Warsaw ghetto and shared the plight of Warsaw Jewry. No Jewish community has been rebuilt in Lowicz after the Holocaust.