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[Page 341]


Bobrek

50° 20' 18° 52'

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld


The settlement of Bobrek, 12 kilometers south of Bedzin, came into existence at an unknown time on the bank of an enormous pool that was created around 1850, not far from the border with Austria, which the White Przemsza River marked out. The pool, by the Ploczka tributary that ran in this region, was not at all small; one kilometer in length and 400 meters wide.

For many years almost nothing was known about this settlement, and only the discovery of coal layers in the region brought up its name. In 1806 a mine-tunnel by the name of “Jacek” was opened in the village. When the administration of the mines was transferred to the former Polish Bank, the mine opened a water tunnel and equipped it with a 40 horsepower steam engine for pumping water. On the north side of this mine, within the forest, on the right hand side of the road leading to Dandówka, a second mine called “Edward” was opened a little later. Both these mines existed up until 1860. Together with the “Jacek” mine another mine called “Jozef” was opened. A large fire broke out in this mine in 1823, which was in fact extinguished with water from the Ploczka tributary. However the mine was flooded, and the work in it ceased. Close to the mine a zinc foundry was erected in 1822, which by 1850 was already inactive and had been converted to living quarters for the miners.

The village of Bobrek was located in the middle of the main road between Niwka and Dandówka, not quite near the road, but on the side, closer to the forest near the White Przemsza River, and near the Opadowa village. The village was built on the slopes of a low hill. Most of its Polish residents worked in “Jozef” coal mine that was in Bobrek or close to the village. Not far from the Przemsza River, was a Russian border guard camp whose soldiers would, from time to time, patrol the village and even buy in the Jewish stores. Sometimes they would even terrorize the residents as they stormily passed through the streets as if they planned to break into the houses and loot them. I remember on one occasion when I visited my uncle Reb Jankl Langer, a wholesale trader in the village, the noise of stampeding of many horses was heard in the evening. My uncle peered out and saw the Cossacks as they galloped in the village streets in order to frighten the community. My uncle immediately closed the store and waited for the “storm to pass”.

It was a small village with a couple of streets and alleys with houses built from stone, most of them single storey and the rest double storey. Almost all of the Jews of the village lived on the main street, which crossed the village along all its whole length. This street would be reached by those coming from Niwka and going towards Dandówka and to the railway bridge near the Klimontów village. Apart from the main street there were a number of not very long alleys, and this was the whole village. The Jewish storekeepers would supply the requirements of the mine workers on credit till their pay day. There were around a hundred Christian families living in the village, some of whom would cultivate pastures belonging to them.

The Jews living in the village made their livelihood, as mentioned, from the mine workers and dealt in trade and craftsmanship. Jankl Langer, born in Modrzejów and the son-in-law of the wealthy Szmajahu Zajdler from Niwka, opened a large wholesale store in Bobrek after his marriage, and it was possible to find “all sorts of good things” in it. Indeed, it was always possible to see customers from the village's women who came to buy their requirements. Efraim Friszer was the owner of the first butcher store in the village and saved the village's women the trouble of making their purchases outside the village – be it in Niwka or Dandówka. Also living in the village was Icek Lubleski, Lajbisz Najer the postman, Aszer Brukner (before moving to Dandówka) the vendor of alcoholic drinks to individuals without a government permit, and others. Initially, on Sabbaths and festivals there was not enough worshippers for a minyan [the quorum of ten adult Jews required for communal worship], and the village Jews would go to Niwka to pray. Later the number of Jewish families rose to 15 and the first minyan was completed with young men and adults. In addition a number of worshippers from the nearby area came especially to complete the minyan.

There were also a number of Jews who worked in the Bobrek coal mine – Jews with a special permit from the Russian authority, like Szymon Gutman the “Cantonist” [Jewish boys kidnapped during the Czarist regime for military service] who served for a long time in the Russian Army, and also Majer and Adolf Lubleski from Niwka.

The plots of land between Bobrek and Niwka on one side and more – between Bobrek and Dandówka on the other side, were substandard because of holes and cracks caused by the coal mines, like the “upheaval of Sodom and Gomorrah” [totally devastated]. All of the lands looked like after a large earthquake, or after a severe bloodbath. And even though it wasn't forbidden for walkers to go along the paths – it was difficult to go between the hills and the valleys that stretched through this area. Apart from the mines that were under governmental supervision in the Swierze region there were also the Prussian “Prom Quarries”, that were opened – according to the complaint of the mine manager in 1817 – at locations that been noted in early searches on behalf of the Prussian government. Deep in the ground, under the homes of the miners, ran tunnels and mines in which the residents of these homes worked. The whole area of the forest between Bobrek and the railway lines at the back of Dandówka was full of small manholes and mine shafts. Amongst the contactors that ran the small coal mines were members of the Zmigrod family from Sosnowiec, who supplied professional expertise, with Mendl Klajner from Modrzejów, who tried his skills in the flour mill that he had in Modrzejów and also in coal production. However overwhelming all of them was enormous Rudolf mines that lay between Niwka and Bobrek and the railway carriages at the Sosnowiec junction and that continued further on, and not including from the “field”[?] wagons that were common in the area, that traveled there and back during all the working hours and dealt in transporting coal to the railway station in Dandówka. The village of Bobrek itself, in spite of its few houses and its residents, had plenty of work.


[Page 342]


In the “Deep underground” crater, working life teemed incessantly – above and below, down deep and in the street. It was as if Nature had blessed this place with minerals that were utilized by the people. In particular those from Germany and nearby Silesia with a large capital behind them enjoyed its benefits, who had invested their money here saw great success in their businesses.

The Jewish settlement in the village continued, even though there were changes in the population. Jankl Langer's store was transferred to here into the hands of Spokojny, the son-in-law of Friszer (Koszlok) from Niwka, who kept up the business. Langer abandoned the village in order to educate his only son Herszl, who mainly sat outside his parents' home, till the whole family was forced to move to Sosnowiec. And thus a number of Bobrek people moved to Niwka and Dandówka which were larger than it, however in their place others came looking to make a livelihood here. And what wouldn't a Jew do to make a living? Most of the Jews of the village came from villages in the region and some of them from towns in the Kielce region.

Only after the founding of an independent Poland and its liberation from the Russian authority following World War One was the Jewish settlement in the village liquidated, for different reasons, till it was completely abandoned.


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