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Part one:

Brzeziny and Brzeziny Jews[Ed1]

Brzeziny in History

brz003.jpg - Joseph Shaibowicz

by Joseph Shaibowicz

Translated by Renee Miller

Edited by Fay Bussgang

 

brz005.jpg - An old church that was later renovated
An old church that was later renovated

 

Forward

Information about the modern history of Brzeziny and its Jews was burned with our holy community and mixed in with the ashes of the millions of our people who were martyred. What's more, until this day, no history or monograph about Brzeziny has been written. Therefore, my task has involved great difficulties. Not only did the historical materials have to be analyzed; they first had to be found and assembled. This is, therefore, a pioneering work. Naturally, this is not a full history of our town. There are still scattered treasures with documents in different archives and museums throughout the world that are waiting to be used and still need to be examined. Today, after Hitler's plague, when our shtetl lies in ruins together with Polish Jewry, this work is a modest contribution to the memory of the thousands of our people, who, with their hard work and virtuous, toiling lives made it possible for our shtetl Brzeziny to become known throughout the world.

I use this opportunity to thank the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, the Institute for Jewish Research (YIVO) in New York, and, most particularly, the entire staff of the Kurski Archive in New York for their useful advice and much-needed friendly help.

J. B. S.

I

Towards a History of Brzeziny

The town Brzeziny [Bzhezhiny] is in the Lodz [pronounced “Woodch”] province by the Mrozyca River, a powiat town [county seat], seven kilometers away from the Koluszki train station, twenty-one kilometers from the city of Lodz, and 101 kilometers from Warsaw.

The history of the town is long and consists of several stages. The first one cannot be determined; it is wrapped in a thick haze. The town's beginning reaches back to the early epoch of the rise of the first towns in Poland, approximately over nine hundred years ago. There are documents as early as the 14th century, for example, showing the privilege granted by King Casimir [Kazimierz] the Great with a right to hold fairs. Two hundred years later (1566) this privilege was reaffirmed by King Sigismund Augustus [Zygmunt August]. Because of the lack of written documents before the 14th century, we must examine the earlier centuries of Brzeziny through the architectural form of the churches; their style bears witness to the beginnings of Brzeziny.

A legend recounts that in distant times it was a spread-out town, and it was called Krakowek. However, due to a punishment by God, it collapsed. There is also a story that because of an epidemic, the entire population died out.

The legendary tale relies on the fact that even now one can find in the fields and meadows in and around the town signs of stone foundations and cobblestone streets…the legend seems to relate that for extraordinary reasons, on the spot of the former Krakowek, there grew a forest of birches [brzozy]. From that comes the name of the newly-risen town “Brzeziny.”

Brzeziny, over a long period of time, had become famous in the market places all over Poland for its crafts. Initially, during the time of the Swedish wars with Poland (1621–26), sharing the fate of many other towns, it was destroyed. This was followed by an infectious disease that had been raging through Western Europe and in Poland. Inscriptions on matseyves [gravestones] from the year 1629 – still visible in the town cemetery – show evidence of the epidemic.[Ed2]

In the course of time a new town arose on the ruins of the former great Brzeziny. A bourgeois element arrived that did not know its past. People often encountered caves and ruins in the earth and, unable to understand them, attached a supernatural motif, thus creating the legends. The first historical documents that we have are from the 14th century.

A. Szelewski, in a “historical-archeological” account about the parish church and other monuments in Brzeziny, based on a statistical description of the town, states that “the town Brzeziny had a glorious beginning – it was called Krakowek (little Krakow) – and that it must have covered a wide area, judging from the ruins of collapsed houses that remain and from the paved paths around them.[1] The history writers also confirm this.” And Wajer states that the Swedes had to assault the Lasocki Castle.[2]

Various stories circulate about the Swedes. Surowiecki indicates that in general the towns fall was apparent in the following ways: “The glorious state of these towns and their inhabitants disappeared in Poland. Only sad memories and feeble shadows remind us of them. There, where monarchs with their numerous courts used to reside, there, where beleaguered people found refuge with the citizens, now the few families passing through cannot find any place even for one night. In Wislica, Ketrzyn, Warta, Radom, Opatow, Kolo, Chojna, Nowe Miasto, Brzesc-Kujawski, etc., where once Sejms [Polish parliaments] and land councils met, where royal assemblies and landowners' meetings were held, now you cannot find three decent houses for travelers in these places. Streets, suburbs, little palaces, beautiful community houses of once great Sandomierz, Lublin, Gniezno, Rajgrod, Drohiczyn, Bydgoszcz, and many other places lie buried in gardens, in fields, in ruins. Only accidentally discovered caves, cellars, and streets found here and there bear witness to their former greatness.”

In his remarks he adds, “Minister Lubienski, going once outside Brzeziny, found between gardens and wildernesses a significant water source and also mud, because of which, he was forced, with difficulty, to leave the place. Upon returning there after a time, he observed that the water and the dirt had disappeared. Astonished by this unexpected happening, he began to dig in the earth, and here and there he found cellars and signs of precious town walls that in the past had once been incomparably larger.”

In order to better understand contemporary Brzeziny, it is necessary to have some concept of ancient Poland.

In the year 960 in Poland there arose the first royal dynasty with the legendary Mieszko who married a Czech princess and accepted the Christian faith.

(There is a legend that the first Polish king was a Jew by the name of Abraham Prachownik. The peasants, unable to decide who should become their king, decided to place a guard on the bridge to Krasnik or Krasniewicz, and the one who appeared first on the bridge would become king. At dawn the first person to appear was the Jew Abraham Prachownik, and the peasants crowned him king. The Jew hid himself as he did not want to be their king. On the third day Mieszko collected a multitude of peasants and, with sticks, stormed Abraham Prachownik's house. The Jew, pointing at him, told the peasants that this Mieszko should become the king as he was strong and had courage, and Mieszko became king.)

This was the beginning of the Piast Dynasty, which ruled for five hundred years. At that time in the Brzeziny vicinity lived the Mazovian tribe, which had spread to Sieradz and Leczyca [Wenchitsa], the boundary of the Polanian tribe. The Polanian tribe occupied the area of Poznan, Gniezno, and Kalisz and was the largest and most important among the many tribes in Poland. The entire land was later named after the Polanian tribe – Polonia, Polska – pola (field). The names of the other tribes quickly disappeared. The Piast Dynasty united numerous tribes between the Odra and Bug Rivers and created one kingdom.[3]

This was also the time when Poland adopted Christianity (963). Until that time the tribes were pagans; they believed in the cult of the dead, in fire, in the sun, etc. Even until as late as the 12th century, idolatry was widespread. Names of people and places are reminders of this.

In the 11th century there was already a settlement in Brzeziny. In 1099 the building of the parish church, Swieta Anna [Saint Ann], began. In honor of the completion of the church, the year 1123 was engraved on the bell.[4] Brzeziny became the most important place in the area. Hundreds of years later the church was rebuilt (1710). From the parish church, underground, ran a cave and a stone canal in an obscure direction. There is a hypothesis that the passage was built during the time of the Tartar invasion or the Swedish wars. These are only assumptions.

In a geographic dictionary we read that “the date of the establishment of Brzeziny is unknown. The authenticity of the privileges that King Casimir the Great gave in 1366 and were confirmed through Sigismund Augustus in 1566 is doubtful. In the 15th century it must have been a well-populated town, since for the Prussian war, the town provided thirteen armed men at one time, while other towns from the Leczyca voivodeship, to which Brzeziny belonged at that time, supplied only two …”

This war of the Teutonic Order of the Knights of the Cross, which often attacked Poland and other Slavic lands, forced the Poles to marshal all their strength in the fight against the Order – which ranked as a most treacherous and aggressive arm of Prussian feudalism. In 1410 the Poles succeeded in defeating them in a historic victory at Grunwald. The Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians, and Russians had joined together in the bitter fight against hatred of Slavs. The war of the united army against the Knights of the Cross was financed to a significant degree by Jews.[5] The victory over the Order was not complete because of intrigues and the intense opposition of the Vatican – since the Knights of the Cross had carried out the wars ostensibly against pagans in order to turn them toward Christianity. Only in the time of Casimir IV Jagiellon [Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk] (1427–92) did Poland finally liquidate the political power of the Knights of the Cross and regain access to the Baltic Sea. At that time Brzeziny was among the most significant towns in Poland. After the controversy over Prussia and the expansionism of the Prussian feudal lords, Poland moved into the first rank of the advanced monarchies in Europe.[6] After making peace on 9 October 1466 in Torun, Poland got back the territories of East Pomerania [Pomorze] and Michalowska [now part of Chelmno] and also Malborg, Elblag, Sztum, and Warmia. Prussia came under Poland's control.

In a second place we read that in 1585 the town of Brzeziny was a very large town in which good artisans lived.[7] The town belonged to a landowning family, the Lasockis. The Swedish wars reduced the population and impoverished the inhabitants. As a result, Antoni Lasocki, kasztelan (starosta) [local administrator] of Gostynin, striving to improve the lot of the town, went to King Sigismund Augustus[Ed3] in 1577 and asked him for a permit for three annual market fairs in the following order – on the morning after the new year, on the Monday after Boze Cialo [Corpus Christi], and on the morning after St. Bartholomew's.

Only in the 15th and 16th centuries do we have actual information about the economic condition of the town. From it we see both in terms of the population and the craftsmanship that Brzeziny could be considered to rank among the most important towns in Poland. Clothing articles produced in Brzeziny were distributed in the markets of Greater Poland [Wielkopolska] and also in the east where there was a great demand for them.

There are two versions as to when Brzeziny became a town, both from the 14th century.

The first version is from 1315. At that time Brzeziny became a town and introduced fairs. In the Middle Ages only a town had the right to have fairs. The status of town also meant a guarantee of protection for the inhabitants.[8] Because of this important event, a new stone church was erected in Gothic style; the date 1315 is visible on the iron doors. The Gothic style is completely in accord with the architecture of that time. The decor of the church was famous in all of Poland. In the course of the century the artistry lost its luster. The superb paintings that made it famous in Poland were dirty by then and were often stuck together. The wooden roof was repaired endlessly.

On the great altar was kept an exquisite picture of the Lord's Resurrection painted on wood. In the shrine was the major painting of Christ's coronation, also painted on wood, with a gypsum undercoat. The extremely large altar and the exquisite paintings are an incomparable reminder of the Polish-Czech art of the 14th and 15th centuries, which was strongly influenced by the Prussian art of the Middle Ages. Later the church collapsed, and only in the middle of the 19th century was a new church built on its ruins (1856).

The second version is finally a documented one. In 1366 King Casimir the Great gave Brzeziny the privilege of becoming a town and holding periodic fairs. King Sigismund Augustus reaffirmed this privilege in 1566. Not all historians are in agreement about the authenticity of this privilege. It is presumed that the first version is the correct one. In honor of the privilege given by Casimir the Great, the Church of the Holy Cross was erected.

In the 15th century, after the town grew, the Church of the Holy Spirit was built, together with a hospital.

Jozef Lasocki, who was also the kasztelan (starosta) of Gostynin, erected a new church in 1737.

In 1860 Prince Ignacy Polkowski rebuilt the church. In 1627 the landowner Kasper Lasocki erected a Reformed Church in Baroque style. Twelve years later (1639) a small chapel was added to it. In 1700, Adam Lasocki, who later became the kasztelan in Sochaczew, built a church. In 1719 the Brzeziny burgher Stanislaw Bojakiewicz erected a wooden church.

A well-known traveler by the name of Verdum visited Brzeziny in 1690, and he describes it as a superb, large town with pretty houses. Particularly, he remembers the churches from the 14th century in Gothic style and also a castle where the kasztelan, who was a member of the Senate, lived.

In 1457 Piotr Lelewicz from the Brzeziny area was appointed kasztelan in Inowroclaw and later became an advisor to the king's court.[9] His name, or his father's name, was signed on the treaty at Brzesc [Kujawski] with the Knights of the Cross in 1436.

The economic development of Brzeziny corresponded to the development of other towns; the significance of this is thought to be very important.

Sarnicki wrote that in 1585 there were “select, skilled craftsmen” in Brzeziny, that the clothing industry was highly developed, and, at the Poznan market, textiles from various towns and shtetls were found – from Kutno, Grojec, Leszno, Brzeziny, Plock [Pwotsk], Sierpc, Lowicz [Wovich], Leczyca [Wenchitsa], Kolo [Kowo], Inowroclaw, Lomza [Womzha], Rychwal, Plonsk [Pwonsk], and Sieradz.[10] From there they were transported in the direction of Vilna and Minsk, and in a second direction, to the west, where it is possible they were brought as unfinished goods that were later reworked as finer cloth.

In the 16th century the economic condition of the town was very good. In 1576 the earnings in Brzeziny surpassed the earnings of the provincial town of Leczyca. Here are a few figures from the town taxes:

from the roads – 76 grzywnas [old Polish coin]
from 40 kegs of hard liquor – 24 grzywnas a piece
from 35 vagabonds – 12 grzywnas each
from 30 artisans – 4 grzywnas each
from 50 tenants – 12 grzywnas each
from 12 women – 6 grzywnas each
from 10 women – 6 grzywnas each
from 3 women – 9 grzywnas each
from 3 women – 8 grzywnas each
from 2 women – 4 grzywnas each
from journeymen artisans – 8 to 11 grzywnas each
from 23 bakers – 4 grzywnas each
from 29 innkeepers – 12 grzywnas each
from 9 coachmen – 12 grzywnas each
from 10 butchers – 12 grzywnas each
from 3 cloth makers – 12 grzywnas
from 7 petty merchants – 12 grzywnas each
from 79 1/2 lan [wan] [about 3300 acres] of land – 20 grzywnas each
Altogether the town paid 271 florin, 11 grzywnas, and 4 dinars.[11] At that time, Jews played an active role in the economic life.

Strykow, which in the past also had large markets, only paid 61 florin.

The economic life in Brzeziny, as everywhere during the Middle Ages, was entirely regulated by the church. The priest blessed the merchants on the day of the fair and had authority over the life of each individual from birth to death. The Catholic Church considered itself the guardian of religion – which was not yet firmly established in the hearts and minds of the inhabitants. In general Brzeziny was one of the first places where Christianity was widespread. As early as 1180, in the provincial town Leczyca, a convocation of the Christian Synod took place where certain restrictions against Jews were established. Participating in the assembly, apart from a large number of clergymen, were Boleslaw, the Prince of Silesia in Wroclaw, Leszek, the Masovian, and Otto, from Poznan.

In the 18th century a clear decline became apparent in Brzeziny due to the frequent wars and internal discord in Poland. In 1772 Prussia took over the most Polish[Ed4] areas of the Polish state – the voivodeships [provinces] of Pomorze (Pomerania), Malborg, and Chelmno – with the exception of the cities of Gdansk [Danzig] and Torun [Thorn]. Twenty years later Prussia seized Gdansk and Torun, the provinces of Poznan, Gniezno, Inowroclaw, all of Kalisz, Brzesc, Kujawa, sections of Sieradz, Wielun, Leczyca, Plock, and parts of Rawa and Mazowsze [Mazovia] with a total population of 1,200,000 souls. At that time Brzeziny was included under Prussian rule and became the seat of the land council [landrat] under the name of South Prussia. (In this period, according to an imperial decree from 17 April 1797, it was required that every Jew add to his Jewish name a surname, which he could choose himself.) This lasted fourteen years, from 1792 until 1806. In this period a large German immigration to Brzeziny began. Also, the then small shtetl Lodz belonged to the powiat of Brzeziny.

At the end of the 18th century the Prussian Kaiser visited Brzeziny during his extensive travels over the recently captured Polish territories. The Kaiser remained a little longer in Ujazd, a small town near Brzeziny.

From 1807 until 1815, in accordance with the boundaries established by Napoleon, Brzeziny was under the control of the Duchy of Warsaw.

The third and last partition of Poland (following the heroic Kosciuszko uprising in 1795), which was ratified in St. Petersburg 26 January 1797, gave Prussia the remainder of the Rawa and Mazowsze provinces, with Warsaw as the capital, and named it “New East Prussia.”

According to the resolution at the famous Congress of Vienna (1815) – where those at the very peak of reactionary Europe of the time convened, with Metternich at the head – Brzeziny, together with Congress Poland, passed under the protection of Tsarist Russia and belonged to her until 1914. Afterward Tsar Alexander I visited the most important towns in Poland, among them also Brzeziny and the small town of Lodz (1825). At the beginning of the 19th century Brzeziny had four times as many people as Lodz. Brzeziny received a commendation from the Tsar.

During World War I Brzeziny was occupied by Germany from 1914 until the proclamation of Poland's independence in 1918.

The modern Brzeziny that we knew arose and developed without any tradition; it moved ahead only as an outgrowth of the industrial development in all of Poland in the 19th century and in very close connection with the tumultuous industrial growth of Lodz and vicinity. Consequently, we have to think about the Brzeziny of the 19th and 20th centuries independent of the previous centuries, that is, before the 1793 division of Poland.

 

brz007.jpg - A street in Brzeziny at the intersection of Traugutta and Nowe
Miasto  (New Town) Streets
A street in Brzeziny at the intersection of
Traugutta and Nowe Miasto (New Town) Streets

On the right is the house where Dr. Stodolkiewicz lived,
and on the left is the house of Arje Dawid Perlmuter

 

II

The Textile Industry and Tailoring in Brzeziny

A.

The development of tailoring in Brzeziny came about after other forms of production had blossomed all over Poland.

At the end of the 18th century there arose among the prosperous Polish population a consciousness and the sense of a need to industrialize the country. Also, the owner of Brzeziny, the landowner Lasocki, wanting to elevate the town from its lowered status, had begun to bring from afar German weavers from Prussia to produce goods. He gave them various privileges. They were also given the northeast part of the town (Nowe Miasto–New Town) so they could build homes for themselves there. In 1801 a certain Johann Freilich settled there. In 1802 his brother, Christian, and Samuel Arnold came. In 1804 Samuel obtained Polish citizenship.

After the Congress of Vienna (1815), when Poland was ultimately divided between Prussia, Russia, and Austria, many Germans streamed into Brzeziny. Later, with the great capitalistic development of Lodz, many of them left Brzeziny and settled in Lodz and surrounding small towns. Izabela Lasocka, who came from the well-known aristocratic Oginski family, took a special interest in the German artisans in Brzeziny. She helped the newcomers to establish and develop cloth production. A. Szelewski wrote in 1851, “The Lasocin part of town (called after the owner, landowner Lasocki) is inhabited throughout with experienced artisans.”

The great influx of colonizers in such a short time changed the appearance of the town. Brzeziny, as early as the year 1795, just after the fall of Poland, had numbered two hundred fifty families, even counting the Jews, and barely five brick dwellings and 184 wooden ones. Nevertheless, in the time of the Prussian reign, Brzeziny became the seat of the land council. (Brzeziny and vicinity fell to the Prussian Kaiser in the year 1793.)

In a short time, the work of industrializing the town, then a part of Congress Poland, bore fruit. In 1818 there were already eighty cloth producers in Brzeziny. Each workshop employed hired helpers; there were workshops that employed as many as seventy men and women workers. In 1824, 194 masters were already employed in weaving cloth. Navy blue cloth was manufactured for the military.

The development of the cloth industry significantly influenced the increase in the town's population. By 1827 the population already numbered 3,492 residents. At that time Jews amounted to 27.1 percent. There were already 299 dwellings.

In the year 1831 town boundaries were established. We have little information with which to evaluate how the established borders affected the future development of the town. However, it happened that textile manufacturing mainly sought the domestic market. No great economic changes were evident. In the year 1839 Lasocin (the part that had belonged to the landowner Lasocki) was turned over to the state. In the year 1851 there were 4,783 residents, excluding the military. The number of permanent residents there was much greater than in the powiat town of Rawa, to which Brzeziny belonged at that time. In that number are included 2,404 Catholics, 1,887 Jews, and 587 Evangelical Christians [Protestants].

Although the establishment of a number of borders between Congress Poland and Tsarist Russia did not bring about any great change in the textile industry, what did matter is the development of the Lodz textile industry – especially the introduction of steam-run machines and mechanical improvements. This development created a world-class, powerful competition for Brzeziny manufacturers and also for the cloth weavers in the surrounding shtetls. Cheap Lodz products dominated the domestic market and also found a larger market in Russia. The great demand for Lodz goods influenced the growth of the Lodz textile production, and simultaneously, Brzeziny textile production fell.

Szelewski writes:

“In this town, from as far back as one can remember, cloth manufacturing flourished and continues to this day, but now only less fancy kinds are manufactured. There are 16 such manufacturers of medium quality cloth, of baja [thick flannel], dery [saddle cloths], szale [shawls], etc. Dery from Brzeziny are particularly elegant and sought after in Warsaw. There are 74 cloth manufacturers, 2 dyers, 2 stocking-thread manufacturers, and 1 oil producer. There are 277 artisans, 77 shoemakers, 67 tailors, and 19 bakers. They come for bazaars and fairs, especially for grain and cattle, horses, and everything for which one does not have to pay rogatka [a toll] – various textile products of cotton, linen, footwear, attire, and so forth. The shoemakers and tailors carry their products to other towns, and the customers clamor for Brzeziny articles. Fairs in Brzeziny occur fourteen times a year.”

Counting the “producers and traders,” Szelewski includes under that name all sorts of products and trade that were brought to the bazaars and market fairs in Brzeziny. At that time, shops were uncommon. The trading took place in the town marketplace on market days.

“Additional producers and merchants in Brzeziny were 3 town merchants, 23 stall keepers, 3 wine dealers, 1 aquavit dealer, 13 butchers, 10 wagon drivers, 4 harness makers, 8 cotton manufacturers, 11 cloth merchants, 6 iron merchants, 15 grain dealers, 25 salt merchants, 3 glaziers, 15 wood merchants, 15 pot merchants, 1 chimney cleaner, 5 leather merchants, 9 wool merchants, 14 herring merchants, 15 flour dealers, 1 musician, 3 gardeners, 8 producers and sellers of candles and salt, 3 of vinegar, 5 producers of oil, 4 paper, 18 miscellaneous, 4 dealers in used clothing, and 2 guest houses or hotels.”

The manufacturers produced 37,800 arshin [Russian measure equal to 28 inches] of a middle quality textile, 27,880 arshin of coarse. The value of the machines and accessories was 4,575 rubles. Besides that, everyone had a bit of land. If one did not succeed in his specialty, the parcel of land helped him.

There were six guilds – textile workers (cloth weavers), potters, bakers, tailors, shoemakers, and a separate German guild. The town paid 2,737 rubles and 8 kopeks in taxes, weight and land fees.

According to Szelewski's description, everything ran its natural course. The manufacturers were the owners of the weaving workshops and worked for themselves at home, often with the help of one or several artisan workshops; they worked with their family and hired helpers. To a certain extent the artisans were independent both in work and also in their production methods. In the course of events, in the struggle with machine production, the working classes lost their independent role, and the great majority became proletarians. Others became cottage workers [chalupnicy].

Below is a table of independent textile manufacturers and their gradual disappearance during the period of one hundred years. We will look at the time period 1801 to 1901.

Table 1

YearNumber
of Masters
Number
of Workers
Production
in Arshins
Production
in Rubles
18011
1818ab 80114
1824194612
185190

65,680

27,607
1880b 25158,800
188619254,110
18921315

8,690

189314159,600
18996112,100
19003102,000
19015102,280
 

a)  According to information from Vice Mayor Bojakiewicz
b)  Samuel Orgelbrand, Encyklopedia Powszechna (Universal Encyclopedia)

Table 1 shows the rapid growth of textile manufacturing until 1840 [perhaps 1824?] In the subsequent fifty years the Brzeziny textile manufacturers struggled against the Lodz textile industry. The rivalry could not last, and over time, almost all the individual workshops closed. The kind of influence the textile industry had on the general evolution of the town and its inhabitants, as well as the development of the town, is demonstrated in Table 2.

Table 2

Year# Inhabitants# Catholics # Jews# Protestants# Houses
1827a3,49227.1%299b
1859c5,185

40.0 %

47.0 %

13.0 %

459
18867,420 538d
18907,98041.2 %e 47.2 %

11.5 %

558
1893f8,79438.9 %

49.9 %

11.1 %

682
19009,641
1903 g9,181
1905
190716,92040.0 %
1910h15,581
191317,10854.4 %
 
  1. P. Radecki
  2. P. Radecki
  3. Samuel Orgelbrand, Encyklopedia Powszechna (Universal Encyclopedia)
  4. Obozy Piotrkowskiej Gubernii (Camps of the Piotrkow Gubernia)
  5. Orgelbrand, Encyklopedia Powszechna
  6. Strasburger and Grobski
  7. Tydzien Piotrkowski (Piotrkow Week)
  8. Rocznik Statystyczny (Statistical Yearbook)

B.

Tailoring

The beginning of home tailoring in Brzeziny came about in the year 1886. Before that there were tailors in the town, Christians and Jews, who worked for local markets. The Christians – some of them also owners of land – produced “white fabric” from clean white wool. They sewed thick white coats for peasants from the principality of Lowicz [Wovich]. They distributed them through markets in Lowicz, Piatka [Piontka], Zychlin [Zhichlin], and other places. These industries, comparable in size to the Lodz cotton thread production, were so large that they overwhelmed the surrounding markets. Gradually the demand fell, and finally, in the last twenty years only two tailors (Budrzewski and Bojakiewicz) were left.

In 1886 several Jewish tailors began sewing suits of clothing of so-called “pilka” [coarse cloth]. They took them to Warsaw for sale. At the beginning, they had been only occupied with sewing trousers, which the tailors Winter, Dymant, and Rozen made. Later they also made vests and then men's jackets, taking all of them to Warsaw on consignment, where Russian agents on commission came to purchase the suits to take to Russia.

From this modest beginning sprang up Dymant's first shop. According to what the organizers said “you could put the entire shop on one table.” The contract workers worked together with the journeymen in one room. Others got wind of the cooperative, and, unable to join it, decided to create for themselves a second cooperative, into which entered Najman, Majer Horn, and Hil Rozenstrauch.[12] The first two sewed men's jackets, and the third, sets of trousers and vests.

As we see, shortly after the first phase of tailoring in Brzeziny, a division of labor was introduced. Everyone specialized in one part of the suit. Later production was divided up even more. Other towns also adopted the Brzeziny system of work.

When the tailors got wind of the fact that the men's clothing they produced was bought in Warsaw and traveled all the way from Warsaw to Russia, they began making direct contact with Russian concerns. In 1892 newcomers from Kishinev assisted Aron Lechtreger, who was literally ruined during a pogrom in Russia, in this. Being himself an agent on commission and knowing the Russian market, he sent samples of Brzeziny production to Russian merchants. Small shipments to Russia of suits of clothing began at once. He was also one of the first to pay for merchandise with a promissory note, which gave impetus to an increased production.

The characteristic feature of tailoring in that epoch was the origin and the far-reaching development of the so-called “magazines” [magazyny][Ed5] whose owners had committed a certain capital and worked in the magazine, worked alone, and also parceled out work to tailors to do at home.

In 1892 the Tydzien Piotrkowski [Piotrkow weekly newspaper] mentioned that in Brzeziny there was a workshop for men's attire as well as a storehouse for petroleum. In 1894 there were already a number of magazines with an annual volume of 79,000 rubles.[13]

The year 1893 had an increased number of significant bankruptcies for the newly arisen tailoring trade; almost all the magazine owners had failed to pay regularly. The only exception was Szotenberg and Zygmuntowicz, one of the largest firms in Brzeziny. Having a solid financial base and organized bookkeeping, they demonstrated not only an ability to survive the difficulties of establishing workshops but even showed growth, and in 1908 they established their own bank. The numerous bankruptcies indicated the speculative character of tailoring at the time of the establishment of the magazines. The arriving Russian element had not thought how to develop tailoring, only how to become rich. A repercussion from the occurrences of bankruptcy also found a place in the press, where we find the following notice concerning Brzeziny:

“Manufacturers from Lodz suffer from the bankruptcies in Tomaszow, Zgierz, and Bialystok, as do a great number of poor tailors in Brzeziny, who, together with their families, have invested weeks and months of work and also their savings and uncollected promissory notes. A definite stagnation has occurred, and thousands of machines stand idle.”

In 1894 the situation improved; three million rubles worth of suits of clothing were sold. A number of the bankrupted firms were working again after they came to an agreement paying off twenty to forty percent on their debt.

In general, one must stress that since the rise of tailoring in Brzeziny, there were favorable and unfavorable cyclical circumstances in trade – good times and deep crises. The crises provoked bankruptcies, and many people fled to foreign countries. When times improved, the debt was reduced, and production started again. As an illustration we will take the years 1894 to 1896 inclusive.

In the beginning of 1894 there was a standstill, but soon there was a lot of work. 1895 was an exceptionally good year; tailors could not keep up with the orders from Russia, and Brzeziny experienced a time of prosperity. In 1896 a crisis came – little work and a great number of bankruptcies.[14] Consequently, we see that every year the artisan experienced different times depending on the demand for his products. There was a constant uncertainty that was closely linked with the production of stock.

As we see, the creators and organizers of the inventory system were Jews who came from Russia. The Russian-Jewish immigrants encouraged the creation of workers' cadres – masters and journeymen. This phenomenon appears particularly clear in the mobility of the population – the permanent and temporary residents of Brzeziny – and especially in the rapid growth of the town.

To illustrate this, we cite here the growth of some towns in the time 1860–1921 according to Weinfeld.

An increase in the population took place during the passage of time. After the war, the decrease of the Brzeziny population was significant. Professor Buzka states that the population of Congress Poland grew 35% in the years 1819 to 1858. In the period from 1823 to 1853 Brzeziny grew 68%. From 1858 to 1910 the population in Congress Poland grew 167 percent, and for the same time period Brzeziny grew almost twice as much – 300 percent.

The listed numbers show two important periods: first, the years 1890–96, when Russian-Jewish immigrants came to Brzeziny in large numbers and established tailoring enterprises; and second, the years 1905–14, the time of the renewed Russian-Jewish immigration under the influence of the revolution (1905) and the pogroms in Ukraine.

In 1907, thirty-five hundred souls came to Brzeziny, which amounts to twenty-one percent of the population of the town at that time. In fact, the Jewish population in 1903 amounted to fifty-five percent of the entire population. In later years the percentage dropped somewhat.

Because of the rapid growth of the population, there was a severe housing shortage and an extremely acute shortage of places for workshops. There was a great deal of construction activity. Many houses were built. The majority were brick houses, which in 1859 had amounted to barely two percent; in 1904 [brick houses] surpassed twenty-three percent. Brick houses also improved fire safety.[15]

Enterprise Owners, Masters, Journeymen

In the tailoring profession there were three main levels – magazine owners, masters, and journeymen (apprentices and female hand stitchers belonged to the journeymen category). In addition to the three main levels there was a series of independent artisans who were totally independent economically in their tailoring work. These were makers of padding, buttonhole makers, and one can include bookkeepers and magazine employees. The following table from 1921 shows the increase in number of souls in Brzeziny and other towns.[16]

Growth in Percentage

Town1800 – 18101910 – 1921 1800 – 1921
Warsaw+485.1+ 119.2+578.4
Lodz+ 1473.6- 94.0+ 1385.9
Czestochowa+ 806.7+ 112.7+ 900.9
Brzeziny+ 300.4- 68.4+ 207.8

Population in Thousands

Town18601870188018901900191019131921
Warsaw161.0297.0383.0523.1686.0781.0845.1931.2
Lodz32.639.045.2136.1288.1480.3450.3451.8
Czestochowa9.014.821.228.747.672.689.689.6
Brzeziny5.1 6.37.915.515.517.110.5

Number of Souls
who make a Living from Tailoring

Together (Totals)*
 
Shopkeepers50174
Cutters935
Bookkeepers522
Padding makers1252
Padding workers2280
Master Tailors3081396
 
Total 4061759
 
Journeymen450622
Apprentices255125
Hand stitchers (female)248200
Masters, women2760
Buttonhole makers1065
 
Total9901072
 
Grand Total2831

* [Meaning of this column not clear. Ed]

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