|Only a remnant survives of the Linat Cholim Jewish hospital
in Sosnowiec, crying to the Heavens. The remains of the sign in
Polish and Yiddish is displayed above the entrance, as witness
to the Nazi vandalism.
The history of the Jewish settlements in the regions of
Dabrowian Zagłębie and Upper Silesia
(Chapters of their history)
by Me'ir Shymon Gashury (Brukner)
Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
|January 1972||Tel Aviv||Shvat 5732|
Published by the Sosnowiec and surroundings émigrés organization in Israel
|Introduction: Jewish settlements in the Zaglembian region||291|
I previously wrote in the monograph called History of the town of Sosnowiec and its vicinity about the three towns that made up the Jewish triangular thread of the Zaglembian region, and they are: Będzin, Sosnowiec and Dąbrowa Górnicza that made up most of the people and most of the buildings from a general and a Jewish aspect in the region.
However, I believe that I would not have done my duty to the Jews in the region living in many towns and villages if I don't complete this by describing a similar history for them. These Jewish settlements are worthy of a chapter by themselves because of a spiritual need to recall their memory as well. It is a good thing that the writer was very involved in the whole area being born in one of these settlements and also from regular visits to almost every location and from personal contact with the Jews in each place, to the point that the writer knew the name of each Jew, personally and of his family. This deed has not been carried out up till now, and I think that it is a mitzvah to also immortalize the memory of these settlements that had been up till now viewed as unknown territory and to add an aspect to the museum of Polish Jewry that was destroyed by the foul Nazis.
It is possible to allocate the Zaglembian region from this point of view into two parts.
In this area there are in total two to three old Jewish settlements, whose names are mentioned to various extents in documents, memoirs and travel logs, and these are Będzin, Modrzejów and Czeladź. In Zagłębie there were a number of places in which Jews were forbidden to settle because of the Catholic law ne tolerandum judaeis (non-sufferance of Jews) according to the special privilege that was given them like, Slawków, Czeladź, Siewierz, Kozieglówki, that belonged to the same places that were deemed holy for them. It was only thanks to Russia when the administration of Congress Poland was transferred according to the decision of the congress in Vienna (1815) that the gates of Zagłębie were opened wide to the immigration of Jews, and even more after the failure of the Polish Uprising in 1863. They began streaming to there from near and far and in a relatively short time Jewish settlements were created in the towns and villages, in the farms and agricultural settlements, with a grass-roots, traditional lifestyle characteristic of Polish Jewry that was uprooted and destroyed by the murderers of the people the German Nazis.
Similar to the history of Zagłębie itself, the origins of the Jews is concealed in confusing legends and anecdotes. However, one thing is certain, in that there was a certain change in the attitude of the authorities towards the Jews and their settlements from when the Zaglembian region was included in the area conquered by Russia. During the Polish Kingdom period a certain settlement region existed for the Jews, and quite a number of towns and villages were blocked from Jewish settlement. The Russians cancelled this prohibition and the Jews began streaming to the settlements that were new to them. In the Zaglembian region a law was implemented in 1823 that forbade Jews from outside the area to settle in Będzin or its vicinity without a special license from the central authorities, on the excuse that the town was located 21 verst [a Russian unit of length: 1.067 km] from the border with Prussia and Austria. This law remained in force till 1862, when Emperor Alexander the Second cancelled all laws and limitations of the settlement of Jews in all of the Polish Congress towns, apart from the limitation of settling in an area close to the border, and it wasn't easy for a common Jew to receive a license to settle in the Zaglembian region from the central authorities in Warsaw. However the strong need of the Jews to find a shelter and a place with a livelihood overcame the government laws. Indeed the old Jewish settlements in Będzin and Modrzejów made it easier for Jews to settle in the nearby villages.
Indeed the Zaglembian region was large and spread out, with tens of villages
and farms, without Jews, and the farmers made a meager living from their lands
that did not excel in their fertility. And justice was done by the person who
discovered treasures in the coal diamonds in deep underground recesses, and an
easier source of livelihood was opened up to the farmers' sons who started
working as miners in the coalmines and earn relatively more than the income
from agriculture. The mine owners took care of themselves from the outset
without looking after the laborers and improving their accommodation situation,
cheap economy and other desirable institutions, and the laborers themselves
hadn't managed to take care of themselves and prepare suitable arrangements for
supplies. This opened up an excellent opportunity for the Jews to act as the
intermediaries between the employers and the employees, in offering the miners
food requirements and under favorable conditions supply with credit till their
wages were paid, and the villages also had a lack of various tradesmen in the
field of clothing and foot-ware and related fields and in this area also, the
Jewish tradesmen could be of benefit. The new spirits opposing the reactionary
Russian authority had yet to be born, and only later was the Socialist movement
founded, with the P.P.S. being the largest of them, that excelled in its wide
The Jewish merchants who had become accustomed to trade in every town and village in Poland came looking for a livelihood in the areas close to Zagłębie, and there were also those that came from the Kielce and Piotrokow districts and served as purchasing agents for agriculture produce and sold them goods from the city.
On the other hand there is a belief that the first Jews came to the villages of Zagłębie from their homes from towns in the area and not as settlers, rather as purchasers of agricultural produce, and towards evening they would return to their homes in the nearby towns. However there were quite a few occasions in which the farmers offered their Jewish guests to stay overnight, and hence a friendly relationship was established and the farmers were willing to rent apartments to them and open up shops, that is to say, these Jews went to live in the villages via the back door, without a license from the authorities, and even the government clerks made out they were unaware of this, and only after the Jewish settlement arose and established itself did problems arise regarding Jews living on farming land (wloscianski) or civil land. The community of Będzin and Modrzejów absorbed Jews in the villages as much as possible, since as a result their influence was expanded and they even benefited from the income of the religious needs from these new places. Earlier the Jews lived in apartments rented from farmers who benefited from the new income, and only after financial establishment did the Jews begin building houses of their own, of which some were several stories high, and Christians lived in them as well.
The mitzvah of entertaining guests was very popular in all the young Jewish settlements in Zagłębie. They had a traditional willingness to help their fellow man however they could, financially, traditionally, publicly, and also personally. When the blue box of the KKL [Jewish National Fund] for the redemption of the Land of Israel was introduced, it was given pride of place in the Jewish homes. Even institutes teaching Torah and philanthropic enterprises were a source of great support and anyone who happened to one of these settlements would feel himself at home.
It is needless to say, that the Jews from the towns and villages in Zagłębie were loyal to the tradition and the religious and cultural character in its fullest meaning. Quite a few were learned scholars, geniuses in their youth, educated in the spirit of Chassidim, and were owners of a rich assortment of books on Judaism and Torah, Chassidism and education, and even newspapers like Hazfira [The Siren] with Ha-Asif annuals [a literature journal] of Nahum Sokolov and excelled in their noble attributes imbibed with a spirit of the love of their fellow man, and a feeling existed as if everyone were part of the one family.
The area of the Zaglembian region wasn't always the same over all periods of time. There were periods that it was called Great Zagłębie and it spread out towards Zawiercie and Olkusz. On the other hand there was a Reduced Zagłębie after certain areas were taken away from her and annexed to other regions. There is room to describe the Jewish settlements in the villages and farms spread about the area of Reduced Zagłębie and perhaps someone will come forward and complete what is missing here.
The heart bursts in pain from the loss of all of this Jewry, and the passage
from the Thirteen attributes prayers is recalled: The
holy city and provinces were caused disgrace and humiliation and all its
delights were captured and removed
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