"Zdunska Wola" - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume I
(Poland)

51°36' / 18°56'

Translation of "Zdunska Wola" chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Morris Wirth

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to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume I, pages 111 - 116, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem (with supplemental information from the Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book,
published by the Zdunska Wola Association in Israel in conjunction with the Zdunska Wola Societies in the Diaspora, printed in Tel Aviv, 1968)


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(page 111)

Zdunska Wola
(District of Sieradz)

Translated by Alex P. Korn

Population Figures

YearTotal
Population
Jews
178828 families11 families
18272,758468
18576,3471,676
18657,9792,532
189715,7467,252
192118,9237,885
193122,4258,814
May 1, 1939?about 9,400

Table of Contents

1. The Jewish Community Until 1918
2. Between The Two World Wars
3. The Holocaust

 

The Jewish Community Until 1918

A small village by the name of Zdunska Wola existed on the site of the modern town since the middle of the 17th century, but the settlement had apparently existed as early as 1403 [1] and was known then as Panska Wola. In the late 18th century, Felix Zlotnicki, the nobleman who owned the estate containing the village of Zdunska Wola, had requested of the king of Poland to grant it municipality status, but, instead, was permitted in the year 1773 merely to arrange for monthly fairs to be held not in Zdunska Wola but in the nearby village of Czekaj. Armed with this limited royal approval he nevertheless built a “Ratusz”, or town hall, and then a wooden church. In order to stimulate economic development, he also brought in Jews. By 1788, 11 Jewish families and 17 Christian families were living in Czekaj. The next estate manager, Maslowski, contributed the materials for the building of a synagogue, which included a cheder [a single-room, elementary Jewish school] and from which he received rent payments. With the end of the Napoleonic wars and the reestablishment of the Polish monarchy, the local nobleman of that time, Stefan Zlotnicki, the son of Felix, received royal assent in the year of 1825 to his request of 1815 to annex Czekaj to Zdunska Wola and to raise the status of this amalgamated settlement to that of a municipality under the name of Zdunska Wola. In its early years, Zdunska Wola served only as a centre for commerce and crafts, but with the development of the textile industry in the Lodz region, it, as well as the other regional towns, grew and developed. Most of this growth occurred in the last third of the nineteenth century. As was the case for these other textile-based cities, it was the craftsmen who came from Germany who were responsible for the city's development; they were the first industrialists, as well as the workshop foremen.[2]

As previously stated, Jews arrived in Czekaj/Zdunska Wola in the 1780s. The heads of the eleven families listed in 1788 included 4 tailors, 2 furriers, 2 merchants, a baker, a barber and one whose profession was not known. The Jews were well-off and had good living conditions; the merchants among them lived in spacious houses of their own, while the others rented quarters from the nobleman. When Zdunska Wola's municipal status was ratified by Warsaw [Warszawa] on October 25, 1825, it was stipulated that Jews were to live only on two streets, Stefan[3] and Ogrodowa, located in a corner of the market next to the synagogue. The Jews became active in the industrial development of the city. For instance, appearing in a list of city residents for the year 1827 was Feivish Opatowski, who was engaged in the textile business exporting as far as central Russia and China. In 1829 he established a large weaving factory where the weavers worked within its walls rather than in their homes. Hersz Dide founded a wool spinnery in partnership with a German by the name of Neustadt, and they brought in the first mechanical loom.[4] Also prominent was Ludwig Memrat, who had a virtual monopoly on yarn warehousing in the Kalisz district, as well as an exclusive arrangement with the German weaving factory owners in Zdunska Wola whereby he would sell his yarn to them and then buy their finished products for distribution. After leaving the yarn business, he concentrated on his banking activities. [5]

In the 1830s and the beginning of the 1840s, industry declined in the city due to a sheep epidemic, which caused a shortage in wool, and due to the Polish uprising of 1831-1832 against Russian rule. The decline is manifest in the numbers of operating looms: 170 looms in 1832 and 72 in the year 1841. Industrial recovery was marked by the founding in 1860 of the first steam powered factory in Zdunska Wola. Among the 839 employees in the city's textile industry at the end of the 1860s 396 were Jews, but most were craftsmen working out of their homes. In 1893 Moshe Aharon Wiener built a modern, mechanized textile factory, whose ownership was later transferred to the Jews, Rozen and Wislicki.

The Jewish community in Zdunska Wola was founded officially in 1828, but had in 1825 already appointed its first rabbi, Rabbi Levi Tzivis [Ciwis] Levin, who was a maternal uncle of Rabbi Hanoch Henich HaKohen, the “ rebbe of Alexander”.[6] In the year of its official founding, the Jewish community of Zdunska Wola was authorized to sanctify a plot of land for use as a cemetery. (Until then they had buried their dead in neighouring Lask.) Rabbi Tzivis served as rabbi for 5 years (1825-1830). Serving after him were Rabbis Moshe Rubin (1830-1836) and Menachem Mendel Litmanowicz (also called “Lissauer”) (1836-1871, died on 15 Ellul, 5633/1873).[7] The latter had been the rabbi of Lissa [Leszno] in the province of Posen [Poznan], and when the Enlightenment had infiltrated that city, he could not accommodate himself to it, resigned from his post and moved to the Kingdom of Poland. During his period of service in Zdunska Wola, he had become one of the disciples of the rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kock [pronounced, “Kotsk”]. The rabbinate passed afterward into the hands of Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Fleisher (1871-1902), who was a chassid of Gur/Ger [Gora Kalwaria], thereby continuing in the tradition of his predecessor, and was a frequent visitor to the courts of the “Chidushei HaRim” [Rabbi Yitzhak Me'ir Alter of Gur], the “Sefas Emes” [Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter] and of Rebbe Hanoch Henich of Alexander. After Rabbi Fleisher's death on the 18th of Sivan, 5662/1902[8] , Rabbi Yerachmiel Yishayahu Mintzberg (1902-1905) was appointed. He also was a chassid and was known as a prodigy in his youth. At the age of 16 he was ordained by Rabbi Yehoshua Trunk of Kutno. Not long after his appointment to the rabbinate of Zdunska Wola, he fell ill and died on the eve of Rosh HaShanah, 1905, in Warsaw, where he had gone to seek medical treatment. A dispute broke out in the community over the choice of a new rabbi between the Gerer chassidim , on the one hand, and, on the other, the Alexander chassidim and a few “Enlighteners”. It was the latter party that won with the choice of Rabbi Eliezer Lipshitz (1907-1932), a brother of the Rabbi of Kalisz. In spite of the dispute that arose over his appointment, he succeeded in becoming endeared to by all the Jews of the city through his pleasant behaviour, and in the course of time, he was accepted by both sides.

The first synagogue, which was built in the 18th century, was too small to contain the Jewish community, which was continually expanding. In 1840, when the bet midrash [study hall] was built, the synagogue was destroyed and in its place was built a new one, which was completed in 1858. In 1893 a wing was added to the synagogue, and it was in that form that it stood until the Holocaust. At the end of the 19th century there were also about 10 “shtiebelech” [informal prayer rooms in private building] in Zdunska Wola.

With the establishing of a city council in Zdunska Wola in the second half of the 19th century, the authorities used to appoint a mayor, while 3 council members were chosen by the residents, one representative for each ethnic group living in the city (Polish, German and Jew). And so there was always a Jewish representative in the city council.

The first social-professional organization in Zdunska Wola was founded at the end of the 19th century and was called the “Sherer” Society. Its membership was mainly chassidic, and some of these professional craftsmen became wealthy and built themselves large factories. Although this put them outside of the workers' class and formally outside of the organization, they continued nevertheless to be members but only within the social context; they continued to pray in the society's synagogue. Another important fraternity which was founded at the same time (1897) was the Tailors' Society, “Chayatim”, which assisted its membership by providing interest-free loans and free burial shrouds to the deceased from among the city's poor. The tailors also had their own synagogue. Also at the end of the 19th century the sick benefit society called the “Meshumarim” was founded consisting of 70 members, and they also established their own synagogue. In 1907, a sick benefit society called “Bikur Cholim” was founded which, in addition to fulfilling its customary functions, also established a fund in 1909 for the granting of loans to the needy; it was in operation until 1914. In 1915, when plague spread through the town, a sanitation committee was appointed. It operated a quarantine room in an abandoned factory for those afflicted with the infectious disease, a sanitarium, and a children's and youth village for needy children.

One can see the beginnings of political awareness in Zdunska Wola with the establishment in the early 20th century of the Chovevei Tzyon [The Lovers of Zion] organization. It was based mainly in the town's Lithuanian prayer house, and it attracted Zionist intellectuals. Next to the Chovevei Tzyon was the youth organization, Tze'irei Tzyon [Youth of Zion]. In 1912, Zionists in Zdunska Wola were charged by the authorities with carrying out illegal activities. The accused were defended by Yitzhak Grinboym, and they were acquitted. At the beginning of the century there were also several Jews from Zdunska Wola who were members of the Polish Socialist Society, the PPS [Polska Partia Socjalistyczna]. The Bund appeared in Zdunska Wola in 1905 (initially, apparently, under the name, “Achdut”, Unity). During the Revolution of 1905, its members participated in demonstrations and other illegal activities. Members of the Bund executed a policeman, who was noted for his suppression of demonstrations, for his being an informer. Two of the policeman's attackers were sentenced to death, but were eventually pardoned. In 1912, the police confiscated an “arms cache” belonging to the Bund in which were found several old guns.

At the end of the 19th century the first institution for modern education, the Talmud Torah, was founded in Zdunska Wola. Unlike the traditional education that was provided by a melamed [an elementary level teacher] in his own home, the Talmud Torah was housed in its own building in which there were five classrooms. Afterward, a Zionist cheder [schoolroom] was founded in which “Hebrew in Hebrew” was taught, and its students even knew how to speak Hebrew. In 1898 the first governmental elementary school for Jewish children was established in Zdunska Wola, which was followed by a second one of the same type. Before the First World War, a drama club, “Harfe” [Harps], was founded in Zdunska Wola, and, next to it, there was a choir group. In 1912 an athletics club, “Turen Farein”, was organized in the town; it began with 30 members and ended up in 1916 with 230 members. It had its own gymnasium and was in possession of athletic equipment. The Zionist Organization founded the first library in the town in the year 1916.

Between The Two World Wars

After the First World War, Zdunska Wola rapidly regained its economic health. The Jews of the town earned their livelihoods primarily from commerce and from all the activities connected with the textile industry. In the 1930s, 70 textile factories were Jewish-owned, most of them being of average size, but a few were large-sized. One thousand and one hundred workers, approximately half of whom were Jewish, worked in these factories. Also under Jewish ownership were nearly 360 workshops specializing in various crafts such as garment manufacturing, processing of food, metal, and leather products, and in construction. These workshops employed 848 people, almost all of whom were Jewish (among them were 512 factory owners and family members). Among the 2,063 workers, who were employed in the town's industries and crafts, 1,559 were Jews. The economic crisis of the 1930s hurt Zdunska Wola's factories less than it did the larger factories in the region's industrial centres. What contributed to this phenomenon were the lower wages in Zdunska Wola (80% of the average, acceptable wage in Lodz) and the ability of smaller factories, most of which were home-based, to adapt to the difficult circumstance.

Agudat Yisra'el [The Association of Israel] occupied the largest domain on the political map of Zdunska Wola. Since its founding in 1919 by the Gur chassidim, it was active in all aspects of Torah culture and ritual, and it held the upper hand in almost all of the elections. In the 1920s a branch of Tze'irei Agudat Yisra'el [The Youth of Agudat Yisra'el] as well as the women's organization, “Bnot Agudat Yisra'el” [Daughters of Agudat Yisra'el] were established. In 1927, representatives of Agudat Yisra'el, together with members of Endek[9] denied support in the City Council for the Jewish athletic club, Turen Farein, [but for very clearly different reasons: the former because of the Jewish club's secular aspirations, the latter because of its anti-Semitism - translator's comment] but voted in favour of supporting the Polish athletics club, Sokol [”Falcon”]. Next in importance in the political stream were the Zionists, which organized themselves, as stated above, at the beginning of the century and continued in their activities in the inter-war period. In the year 1929, 256 representatives in Zdunska Wola were elected for the Zionist Congress, and almost half of the votes (168) went to the Mizrachi party [“Easterner”, a religious Zionist party]. In the year 1935, 768 representatives were elected to the Zionist Congress, and the votes were divided almost equally among the main streams: the General Zionists [under the name, “Al HaMishmar” = “On Guard”]: 267, Mizrachi: 235, The League for the Working Land of Israel: 236, and two smaller Zionist streams: 30 votes. Following the splitting up of the General Zionists into two factions in 1931, members in the town almost unanimously joined Yitzhak Grinboym's radical faction, Al HaMishmar, which opposed Chaim Weizmann's accommodations with the British[10] . Al HaMishmar earned itself significant influence in the town's Jewish community. Mizrachi was one of the oldest Zionist institutions and its members were among the first Zionists in the town. In 1929, the associated youth group, “Po'alei Mizrachi” [The Workers of Mizrachi] was founded out of the older group, “Tze'irei Mizrachi” [The Youth of Mizrachi][11] and, some time later the women's organization, “Yehudit”, was established. The branch of Po'alei Tzyon established itself in the town at the end of the First World War, and, after the party split into left- and right-wing factions (1921), in Zdunska Wola the Left Wing Po'alei Tzyon became the central stream in the town. In 1924, however, the Right Wing Po'alei Tzyon established itself in the town, and in the course of time its influence surmounted that of the Left Wing Po'alei Tzyon. The Right Wing Po'alei Tzyon held courses in languages (Hebrew, Polish, German), in the natural sciences, and in physics. They founded a choir, a drama group, and controlled the venerable athletic club, Turen Farein. In 1929 a branch of HeChalutz [“The Pioneer”] was founded and set up a local training farm using the money that they had earned from baking matzot . A branch of “Dror” [“Freedom”] existed in the town for a short period of time. A chapter of HaShomer HaTza'ir [The Young Guard] was organized in 1920 and was active intermittently until the Holocaust. In 1930 a chapter of Beitar [Brit Trumpeldor, a right wing Zionist youth organization] was established here, and, in the course of time, a branch of the Revisionist Party was founded in affiliation with it. In 1935, the Beitar group in Zdunska Wola organized a preparatory training camp, which had 25 members. The Bund, which had been founded back in 1905, expanded its activities during the inter-war period, establishing professional guilds, a bakers' co-operative, a drama circle, and in association with it, a youth movement called “Tzukunft” [“Future”], as well as a children's organization called “Skif”. The illegal Communist Party had several Jewish members and they were active, in the main, in the professional organizations, and they also arranged evening classes for workers and students.

Agudat Yisra'el dominated the Jewish community. In 1924 it had seven representatives in the community's administration out of a total of twelve. In 1931, it had 10 out of 17 representatives. The rabbi, Rabbi Moshe Ber, who served in the rabbinate of Zdunska Wola beginning in the year 1935, was a senior operative of Agudat Yisra'el in Poland.

In the first elections to the City Council the Bund won and earned five mandates. However, in 1924, among the 9 Jews elected to City Hall, 5 were members of Agudat Yisra'el. In 1930, again 9 Jews were elected: 4 from Agudat Yisra'el, 2 Zionists, one tradesman, an Alexander chassid and a Bundist. For the City Council elections in 1939 a special Jewish civil block was set up, and it won 6 mandates, whereas the Bund received only one.

Public institutions which had operated in the town before the First World War developed and expanded the scope of their activities during the inter-war period. Organizations representing the interests of large merchants, of small merchants and of craftsmen were established. The organization for industrialists, which was under the control of Agudat Yisra'el sympathizers, founded a commercial bank, called The Bank for Industry (1925). The second bank which was founded in the town during this period was established for the sake of the craftsmen and the small merchants. It emerged out of a charitable fund which used to grant interest-free loans. With the assistance of the Cooperation Bank in Warsaw, this fund expanded its operations in the 1930s and turned into The Bank for Trade and Commerce. Serving the common folk in a homey style, it was affectionately called, “Our Bank”. The Bank of the Sick Benefit Fund [Bikur Cholim], which had been founded and had closed down before the First World War, was revived thanks to the initiative of the Warsaw office of T.O.Z. [Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludnosci Zydowskiej, i.e. The Society for the Safeguarding of the Health of the Jewish Population].[12] This was the largest bank in the town which operated among all the strata of society, and employed, in 1934, 10 workers. The Bikur Cholim Society [see above] continued its activities in this period. Other societies were also active in Zdunska Wola: “Bet Lechem” [House of Bread], “Tomchei Aniyim” [Supporters of the Poor], a branch of O.R.T. [Russian acronym: Obschestvo Remeneslenovo i Zemledelcheskovo Trouda, i.e. Society for the Promotion of Handicrafts, Industry and Agriculture Among Jews]. In 1939 there was a plan to found a technical school in the town.

Between the two world wars the number of Jewish educational and cultural institutions in Zdunska Wola increased. In the 1930's, in addition to the Talmud Torah which had already existed, the religious schools Yesodei HaTorah and, for the girls, Bet Ya'akov were founded. At the beginning of the 1920s a school belonging to the Tarbut system, which taught the Hebrew language, was established, but it closed after a few years. A governmental elementary school for Jews (“Szabasowka”) was in operation in the town, but 90% of its students were girls. Later, a second school of this kind was opened. Because there was no Jewish secondary school [gymnasium], and since the Polish gymnasium took in few Jewish students, the political streams set up evening classes to provide some post-elementary education. The political parties also operated libraries in the town. The Zionists and the Bund placed their libraries alongside their branches; the largest of them was the library named after Poland's Bund leader, Vladimir Medem. Even the drama circles operated as affiliates of the political parties. The most important of these was named after Ansky, and it also put on performances in the surrounding towns.

In addition to Turen Farein, which operated under the auspices of Po'alei Tzyon, there were in Zdunska Wola additional sports clubs: Makabi, Morgenstern, and the unaffiliated Green-Weiss. This organization also had an orchestra.

The Holocaust

The breakout of war in September, 1939, found victims among the Jews. During the bombings, the Jewish-owned textile factory belonging to Wislicki was destroyed. Many Jews left the town at that time, but most returned during the cease-fire. During the first weeks of the occupation some of the young, unmarried males left for the territories conquered by the Soviet Union.

When the Polish authorities left the town, persecution of the Jews began immediately: their stores and dwellings were looted by the resident ethnic Germans (the “Volksdeutsche”) as well as by ethnic Poles. When the Germans were conquering the town (September 6-7, 1939) these people informed on wealthy or respectable Jews, with whom before the war they had maintained commercial relationships, and they even joined the conquerors in tormenting Jews.

On the next day after the taking of the town, the Germans destroyed the large synagogue: they threw grenades at it, burned all the sacred articles in it, and forced the Jews to vacate the ruins. Afterward, they installed a stable in it. A short while after, the Germans destroyed or closed the modern building of the Talmud Torah and all of the prayer houses. Either during the conquest of Zdunska Wola or the day after, three Jews were shot by the Germans: Avraham Hirsh Herszberg, Mordechai Mendel Strykowski, and his son-in-law, Ozerowicz (and perhaps another Jew, Waiskol)[13] . The event is related in several versions: The Jews were either killed in the apartment or in the shtiebel [prayer room] while the Germans were searching the house and found the Strykower chassidim in the midst of prayer, or they were killed in the street or in the square after they were forced to carry out degrading work while other Jews were forced to watch.

On the days of November 9 to 11, 1939, the Germans carried out an operation that was intended primarily against the Jews, but also against the Polish intelligentsia. The Jews and the Poles were blamed for the killing of a German policeman in the street. Immediately, a hunt was carried out for Jewish males (or were ordered to present themselves at the City Hall), and 3,000-3,200 of these were arrested. First, the Germans tormented them (some were also killed) and afterward they imprisoned them in the Sieradz prison. A short time later they released them, but obligated them in writing to leave the town within the next eight days. It is not known whether the prisoners fulfilled their obligation to leave the town or not. During that same operation, prominent local people, Jews and Poles, were arrested as hostages; among them was Dr. Yaakov Lemberg, who used to be the leader of the General Zionists in Zdunska Wola before the war. According to an unconfirmed source several of the Jewish hostages were hung in the market square, and the remaining were released.

In December, 1939, the Germans embarked upon a campaign to remove the Jews from the town, and demanded of the kehillah [the Jewish community] that they produce a list of 400 families for expulsion (it is believed that they were to be expelled from the town until December 25, 1939). The delegation from the kehillah leadership, Brykman, Morgenstern and Levi, requested Dr. Lemberg to try to convince the German authorities to annul the decree. Dr. Lemberg appealed to the mayor of Zdunska Wola using the mediation of local Germans whom he had met before the war during the activities of the national minorities block and who were also patients of his. And so, the decree of expulsion was annulled (apparently, in exchange for a punitive fine of 50,000 zlotys). The authorities were satiated by the removal of about one hundred Jewish families (in November/December) from their dwellings on the main streets, and by the confiscation of their belongings. It is possible that the Jews of Zdunska Wola were forced to pay in the course of time an additional fine (of 250,000 zlotys).

Between March and May, 1940, at the outskirts of the city - bounded by Stefan and Ogrodowa Streets - a ghetto was set up. Eight to nine thousand people were ordered to pack themselves into this small area. The uprooting and transfer into the ghetto was completed within three days with cruelty and crudity, and everyone brought there was permitted to take only hand baggage. For almost one half of the year the ghetto was open and was not fenced in. The only external indication of the existence of the ghetto was the pillar at a corner of one of the streets upon which was a plaque bearing a yellow Star of David. The Jews were permitted to exit the ghetto and go into the town every day but only between the hours of 10 a.m. and 12 noon. An exception was made for those Jews who were employed by the Germans, and they were entitled to spend all day on the outside. The “Aryans”, however, were entitled to enter the ghetto without any kind of limits. There were incidences of attacks on the homes of Jews and looting of property. The perpetrators were in the main Germans from Wolin [Germany], new settlers in Zdunska Wola. The open ghetto made the acquisition of food possible, but it was at exorbitant prices, and the suppliers were Poles. In the course of time the ghetto became surrounded by a wooden fence with barbed wire, and it was closed off on September, 1940.

There was considerable fluctuation in the number of residents in the ghetto, and it was due to the constant movement of Jews into and out of the town. It is believed, according to estimations, that in the years 1939-1940 about 2,000 Jews left Zdunska Wola, about one thousand of which escaped to the Soviet Union. In December, 1940, in the closed ghetto there were 7,500 Jews who were local and about 800 refugees or exiles from other locales, from the areas around Sieradz, Widawa, Szadek, Burzenin, etc. Also, in the following years deportees were brought in from the region. In 1941 1,000 Jews were brought into the Zdunska Wola ghetto from Sieradz and 180 from Majaczewice. In the beginning of 1942, 200 Jews were brought in from Sieradz and Ozorkow.

The sources concerning the appointment of the Jewish administration contradict each other. The first “Elder of the Jews” in Zdunska Wola is assumed to have been Jacobsohn; but, he failed in collecting the fines for the Germans (November, 1939?) and he fled the city. According to the evidence of other Jews native to the city, we are informed that in the summer of 1940 the mayor demanded of members of the kehillah administration to establish a liaison between the Jews and the German authorities. They suggested Dr. Lemberg. After some time, perhaps after the closing of the ghetto, the Germans appointed him as the “Elder of the Jews”. A Judenrat [Jews' Council] was also appointed and its members were Leib Brykman, who was past vice-president of the kehillah and a city council member, Meir Wieruszowski, Tuvia Najdat, Aharon Pyk, Shlomo Walfisz, Berish Lipszic, Yankel Bulka, Landsberg, Avraham Grynbard, Okladek, Fiszel Lewi, M.F. Krys (a shoemaker), and David Nuskowicz (a home tutor). Except for the latter two, all the Judenrat members were from the merchant class, with Wieruszowski and Brykman additionally representing the ultra-religious circles. All of these men were respected public figures. Upon the appointment of the Judenrat a Jewish police force numbering twenty men was also organized. Its commandant was Aharon Pyk and his deputy was Wajsberg. Of the various departments within the ghetto administration mention must be made of the court of justice, in which three Judenrat members were chosen to determine civil cases. The Germans, on the other hand, judged criminal matters, as was their policy in other ghettos. The Labour Department of the ghetto supplied the Germans upon demand with a Jewish labour force by means of recruiting crews for daily work outside of the ghetto, or by means of preparing lists of Jews to be sent to labour camps. The department also dealt with public works executed within the precincts of the ghetto itself.

In September, 1941, the living conditions worsened to some extent when the Germans set up a Kripo (Kriminalpolizei) police station. This police unit instigated a continuous plundering of Jewish property and began a campaign against food smuggling, including the searching of homes and the applying of severe punishments upon the discovery of illegal materials or articles. The names of those arrested were recorded in the Kripo's blacklist.

The Jewish administration, and in the main Dr. Lemberg, endeavoured to find work for the ghetto's population and to obtain additional food for them. After extended negotiations with the authorities, factories and workshops which produced products for the German army were put into operation in the ghetto in 1941. The largest factory of all was the fur factory, which produced fur cloaks and employed several thousand workers. The German company, Striegel und Wagner, managed the factory. Other operations included: a factory belonging to the firm, Szymaszek, and workshops for dressmaking, for hosiery, gloves and boots, and for straw shoes. The straw shoe factory became famous in all the region. In May, 1942, when the factories' general management came to visit the Lodz ghetto, the manager of the straw shoe factory also came to the Zdunska Wola ghetto in order to check out the organization and set-up of the factory there. The population of the ghetto sought very much to work in these factories because of the wages and the additional portions of food, and also because they saw in this work as a kind of writ of protection against being sent to labour camps and as a safe way to spend the war. Crews of Jews also worked, as stated above, temporarily in the city, in agriculture in the surrounding regions, and in the ghetto itself (public works); a number of Jews worked also in Krobanow, which was a distance of 5 kilometers from Zdunska Wola, building homes for Germans who were brought in from Wolin and Romania. The work conditions there were difficult because the Germans abused the Jewish workers.

The Jews worked also in the ghetto's farm, which was established in the spring of 1940 due to the initiative of Dr. Lemberg and with the permission of the German authorities. The area of the farm was 112,000 square metres, and occupied the land that was used before the war by Jews and resident Germans for vegetable gardens. The farm was now managed by the Jewish administration, and was intended to supply the ghetto with agricultural produce. There were 28 goats on this farm, and their milk was intended for the ghetto's children. The farm also served as a training ground for 30 young men and 20 young women who were members of Zionist youth groups which were organized into three groups. After work hours in the field and farm, these young people learned Hebrew, Jewish and Zionist history, and occupied themselves in drilling exercises. The lecturers were the group leaders, and Dr. Lemberg also gave lectures. The father and son Chabelak served as agricultural guides. Members of the training administration were: Petachia Shmulewicz, Henik Spiegel, Yosef Feld, Leib Kobalski, and Dov Lemberg. The training kibbutz was in existence until the ghetto was liquidated in August, 1942; at that time, most of the members of the training kibbutz were classified by the Germans as suitable for work and therefore were sent to the ghetto in Lodz. The group members continued their intellectual and educational labours under the auspices of a unified Zionist youth organization, “The Zionist Youth Front”.

Religious life in the ghetto of Zdunska Wola was carried out in secret because of the general prohibition against public prayers and because of the destruction of the synagogue and the closing of the prayer houses. At the beginning of the capture of the city, the two rabbis, Rabbi Moshe Ber and Rabbi M. Gelbard left the city. Rabbi Moshe left for Warsaw and perished in the Warsaw ghetto in 1942. Rabbi Gelbard moved into Soviet territory and perished in the Ukraine the same year. In spite of the difficulty and disruptions, Jews prayed on holidays in private apartments. Marriage ceremonies were conducted secretly by the shamash, Yankel [Pakentreger].[14]

In June-July, 1941, groups of Jews were sent to the labour camps in the Poznan region. These groups were put together based on lists prepared by the ghetto's Labour Department by order of the German authorities or following a hunt and selection of males over the age of 14 carried out by German policeman with the assistance of Jewish policemen. During these months about one thousand people were sent to labour camps in Lenzingen [Zabikowo] and Loebau [Lubawa], which are near Poznan [Posen]. Among those sent out, some tens of Jews, perhaps as many as 100, were returned to Zdunska Wola in August 16, 1942; most of these were expert craftsmen. According to reports of some of former residents of the ghetto, the return of the Jews was the fruit of Dr. Lemberg's efforts, who had argued with the German authorities about the essential need for these Jews in the ghetto's factories.

In the winter of 1941, Dr. Lemberg was informed by Polish rail workers about the death camp in Chelmno, and about the putting to death there of Jews from various communities in the Warthegau. It is believed that he passed on this information to the members of the Judenrat, as well as to other Jewish communities in the area via anonymous letters. Among these communities was that of Lodz.

Twice in 1942 (a number of sources mistakenly give the year 1941) Jews were publicly hung in the ghetto of Zdunska Wola: once on Purim and another time during Shavuot. Each of these two times, ten Jews who were accused by the Germans of smuggling food, of economic crimes and for sabotage were hung on gallows which erected in the field off Steszycka (pronounced: Stenshitska) Street[15] . Two death decrees were arranged for display, and the Jews were forced to be spectators of the dismal exhibition. By order of the Germans, Jewish policemen served as the hangmen. On Purim, Gestapo bureaucrats from Lodz, who issued the decree, demanded that Lemberg determine who the victims would be. He thought that he would be able to point out only 4 individuals: himself and his family. He was beaten for this answer. The Germans picked out those to be sentenced from the Kripo's blacklist, which has been mentioned above. Jewish or German policemen arrested them. However, the danger of death still hung over the heads of Dr. Lemberg and his family, but, according to one report, a Kripo bureaucrat whose mother had been treated by Dr. Lemberg saved his life. Among the known victims are Nachum Eliahu Zylberberg, Nachum Jochimowicz, Shimon Jakubowicz, Leib Rogozinski, and Moshe Zelnik.[16] It is believed that Zylberberg died of a heart attack just before the hanging. During the holiday of Shavuot, the Gestapo again demanded ten victims from the Jewish administration and threatened to kill 1,000 Jews by shooting if they would refuse to carry out the instruction. This time, the following were hung: Shlomo Zielichowski, Yaakov Rudol, Yaakov Kohn, and seven other Jews. According to evidence from ghetto residents those also killed were: Morgensztern, Hersh Leizer Szwarlinski, Avraham Bialik, Yechezkel Truskalaski, the Meizler brothers, Shmuel Shemayah Jakubowicz, Binyamin Feivel Radol, Uri Paszczik, and Mendel Kahan.16 The Gestapo men forced Dr. Lemberg, either during one of the executions or during both of them, to read out the death sentences and the reasons for them, thus to “justify” the hangings. He also called out to the Jews to keep quiet, which was in the interest of everyone (in order to prevent additional victims). Eyewitness accounts provide testimony to the spiritual strength and the dignified stance of those sentenced for execution. According to what was related, Shlomo Zielichowski, a simple G-d-fearing Jew, behaved with heroism. He prayed and fasted in prison. Before the hanging he turned to the assembled Jews with words that encouraged them and instilled them with hope. He urged the policemen on and donned the hangman's noose around his neck. The poet Yitzhak Katznelson memorialized his heroism in the poem, “The Song of Shlomo Zielichowski”.[17]

After the hangings on Purim and Shavuot life in the ghetto worsened. The hunts multiplied and people who had been caught by the Germans disappeared without a trace. After Shavuot the German police burst into the ghetto, captured 30 people and took them to an unknown destination. In the ghetto the German doctors carried out a tattooing campaign of all the residents with the letters, A, B or P.[18] The exact date of this action is not known. At the end of July, 1942, Gestapo personnel from Lodz arrived at the ghetto, conversed with Dr. Lemberg and surveyed and measured Steszycka Square. This activity caused dread in the hearts of the residents; even Dr. Lemberg and the Judenrat council members were enveloped in silence.

On the day of August 28, 1942, German police surrounded the ghetto. The liquidation of the ghetto began at 4 in the morning. With the accompaniment of beatings and abusiveness, the Jews were expelled from their homes and were brought to Steszycka Square. Here the first selection was carried out. Children, the elderly, and the invalids were separated from the crowd, were taken into trucks and taken to the death camp of Chelmno. Afterward, the rest of the children were brought, by foot or by trucks, to the cemetery, and there a second selection was carried out. Biebow, the head of the German administration of the Lodz ghetto, and Gestapo bureaucrats from Lodz participated in this process. The Jews were moved through the narrow gate in the cemetery's fence, and the Germans divided the entering queue into those suitable for work and those not suitable. The group fit for work, 1,000-1,200 in number - most of them young and healthy males - were transported by train to the Lodz ghetto. The second group - the majority numbering 6,000-8,000 souls - were transported to the death camp of Chelmno. The “aktion” lasted 2-3 days during which were killed on the spot (in homes, in the square, and in the cemetery) about 550 people, among whom were 40 sick hospital patients. It is possible that one transport containing those intended for extermination was sent to the Chiszczica [sic?] Forest near Warta, where they were shot and their bodies cremated. In the train station at Zdunska Wola before the Jews were loaded into the train cars, Biebow demanded of them to hand over to him all valuable articles in their possession. Before the train went out of the station, Biebow took Dr. Lemberg out of the train car. After Dr. Lemberg was beaten, Biebow took him by car to an unknown destination. It is believed that Lemberg was shot in the cemetery. Evidence gathered after the war add details to these facts: Dr. Lemberg was shot together with his dog, and they were buried together. Before the ghetto's liquidation the Germans once suggested to Dr. Lemberg to arrange a selection among the Jews, and, at another time, Biebow had made an offer to him that he work in collaboration with him managing the Lodz ghetto. But, Dr. Lemberg rejected both offers.

In the sealed train cars that took Jews to Lodz, there was terrible overcrowding that was impossible to bear. There was no water. During the two days of travel about 30 people died. Some young men succeeded to raise the chain fence and jump out. All of them perished.

In the Lodz ghetto the fate of those remaining Jews of Zdunska Wola was the same as the fate of the rest of the residents of the ghetto. Part of them was sent to labour camps in the Poznan area. Upon the liquidation of the Lodz ghetto most of them were sent to Auschwitz and to other camps. Of these about sixty people survived.


Footnotes (added by the translator)

1. Miasta Polskie w Tysiacleciu, Volume 2, page 93, edited by Mateusz Siuchninski, publisher: Zaklad Narodowy Imienia Ossolinskich Wydawnictwo, 1967. Back

2. From the Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book, English Section: “The History of Jewish Settlement in Zdunska Wola” by Professor (emeritus) Jacob Goldberg, pgs. 6-15. Back

3. Stefan Street (ulica Stefana) was later renamed ulica Sieradzka and is now the northwestern extension of ulica Laska. Back

4. Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book, English section, page 12. Back

5. Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book, English section, page 13. Back

6. Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book, page 48. Back

7. See profile on Rabbi Menachem Mendel Litmanowicz/Lissauer in Yizkor Book, pgs. 178-180. Back

8. Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book, page 49. Back

9. Endek, the National Democratic Party, was a Polish nationalist, anti-socialist, and anti-Jewish political party. See Chapter 1, “Poland”, in: The Jews of East Central Europe Between the World Wars” by Ezra Mendelsohn, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1983. Back

10. See page 314, “Leksikon Tzyoni” (Lexicon of Zionism”) by Efrayim and Menachem Talmi, published 1978, Sifryat Ma'ariv. Back

11. See pages 139-140, Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book. Back

12. See pages 80-82, Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book. Back

13. On page 332 of the Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book, the individuals are listed as: Avraham Yidl Herszberg, Mordechai Mendel Strykowski, and the latter's son-in-law, Avraham Orzechowski. Back

14. See photo and character sketch on page 351 of Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book. Back

15. See map on page 564 of the Yizkor Book indicating the site of the gallows and page 346 showing a photograph of one of the hangings. Ulica Steszycka is now called ulica Getta Zydowskiego. Back

16. The Yizkor Book, on page 346, lists those who were hung on the eve of Purim, 1942: Yaakov Bialik, Nachum Elieh Zylberberg, Volf Tuch, Yechezkel Truskalaski, Nachum Jochimowicz, Shimon Jakubowicz, Moshe Meizler, Shmuel Hirsh Meizler, Leib Rogozinski, Yaakov Mendel Shlizenger. Those hung during Shavuot were Shlomo Zielichowski, David Chezkielowicz, Mendel Kohen, Mordechai Morgensztern, Hersh Luzer Saborzinski, Hershel Starzinski, Shaye Ber Santor, Uri Paszczik, Binyamin Rodal, Yehuda (Yol) Shmul. Back

17. See Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book, pages 327-331. Back

18. See Zdunska Wola Yizkor Book, pages 333-334. The letter A assigned the tattooed individual to life and the letters B and P to death. Back


Sources

Yad VaShem Archives, Jerusalem: M-1/E 644/538; M-1/E 778/646; M-1/E 980/849; M-1/E
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Archiwum Glowne Akt Dawnych w Warszawie (Main Archive for Ancient Documents in Warsaw):
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Davar: January 14, 1940.
Haint: August 13, 1924; December 21, 1927; July 4, 1929; July 14, 1930; May 24, 1931; July 31, 1935; January 21, 1936; April 26, 1939.
Yeda Am: 1956, Vol. 4, Sections 1-2.
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Dos Naye Lebn: May 31, 1945.
Folks Tzeitung: April 29, 1928.
Landsberger Lager Caitung: August 23, 1946.
Nowy Dziennik: May 27, 1937.


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