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Translation of Kromolow chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
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This is a translation from:
Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume VII, pages 511-512, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(Subdistrict of Zawiercie, Kielce District)
Kromolow is an ancient settlement in Poland. At the beginning of the 16th century the noble Bonar family who were Calvinists believers built a Calvinist church in Kromolow. Then in 1574 Kromolow became the property of the Firlay family who converted to Catholicism and the church which has been Calvinist, became Catholic also. As the years passed, the ownership of Kromolow changed from one noble family to another. In the 18th century, spinning and weaving mills were established in Kromolow. The last king of Poland, Stanislaw II Augustus Poniatowski, renewed the town rights of Kromolow, based on an old privilege, which increased the number of annual fairs permitted to the owners of the village.
In the 19th century, a textile industry developed in Kromolow. In 1836, there were in Kromolow 72 wool weavers, 52 cotton weavers and some more artisans in related professions. The textile industry and its marketing were the main source of income for most Kromolow residents, Jews as well as Christians. Several Kromolow residents owned fields or gardens. The income sources did not change much at the beginning of the 20th century; They did not change after Poland became an independent country between World War I and World War II. Nevertheless, because of competition between the Kromolow textile industry and other textile industry centers in Poland such as Lodz, Bialsko and Bialostok, the textile production in Kromolow decreased somewhat.
The first Jews settled in Kromolow in the 16th century. The local residents claimed that there was approximately 400 year old tombstone in the old Jewish cemetery. In 1905, the old Jewish cemetery was full to capacity, and the community got permission from the authorities to prepare a new cemetery.
Most of Kromolow's Jewish people were merchants or artizans. At the end of the 19th century and in the early 20th century there were ten large traders in Kromolow, considered large by local standards. The rest of the traders were shopkeepers and peddlers. Most of the Jewish artisans were tailors and bakers. The Jews owned all the bakeries in the village.
Since its establishment, Kromolow, and especially its Jewish quarter suffered from natural disasters, fires, and epidemics. In 1852, there was an outbreak of cholera, The Great Epidemic, in which many Jews died. They were buried in one communal big grave in the old cemetery. In 1864 the Russian authorities withdrew Kromolow's town status as part of the Russians' penal reaction to the villages whose residents participated in 1863 Polish rebellion.
During World War I the number of Jews in Kromolow decreased. Russian orders forced many Jews to leave Kromolow, and the Kromolow Jewish community formerly larger than nearby Zawiercie's, continued to shrink. In the past the Zawiercie Jewish residents were under the authority of the community of Kromolow and bury their dead in Kromolow.
The economic status of Jews in Kromolow deteriorated. Evidence of the deteriorated economic status is the tax rate paid by the local Jews to the community. In 1903, the wealthy class of the community, 50 in number people paid first-level taxes, Jews who had moderate means, numbering 94 people, paid second-level taxes, Jews who had sufficient means, 135 people, the poor and distressed, paid third-level taxes, The majority of the Jewish population, 1461 Jews, were wretchedly poor and did not pay taxes at all.
Apparently, the Jews in Kromolow, after first settling there, founded a Jewish community. In the 19th century, the traditional public institutions common in Jewish Communities already existed.
At the beginning of the 20th century the Admor (title of Hassidic Rabbi) Rabbi Nathan Nachum Rabinowicz, who was a member of the Admors from Radomsk, came to live in Kromolow and founded a rabbinical court. He served also as Kromolow's Rabbi, until he left for Zawiercie. He was killed in the Holocaust. His son, Rabbi Shlomo Elimelech, succeeded him as a Rabbi, but later he also left for Kaminsk and then for Zawiercie. Rabbi Shlomo Elimelech was killed in the Holocaust three months before the liberation of Poland. His conduct in Auschwitz sanctified the name of the Lord. Rabbi Elchanan Dawid Szydlowski was the next Rabbi of Kromolow. He served until the Holocaust and was the last Rabbi of Kromolow.
During the years between WWI and WWII, people continued to move to the big cities and to emmigrate. Some people tried to find a living in the nearby town of Zawiercie, which was then on the rise, but many moved farther to big cities or emmigrated to foreign countries. During this time the rise of social and public life of the Jews in Kromolow stopped. The Jewish and the Zionist parties did not found new branches in Kromolow. The only exception was the Revisionist branch, founded in 1930, but it was closed after a very brief period.
In 1939 about 200 Jews lived in Kromolow. When the Germans occupied Kromolow, they did not establish a Ghetto or appoint a Judenrat. Like their brothers in Poland, Kromolow Jews suffered under the German occupation, from restrictions and persecutions. They were forced to wear a white arm band with the Star of David. The Germans inflicted upon the Jews various restrictions that made it difficult for them to get food. The Jews were victims of abuse, kidnapping, forced labor, etc. The Germans in particular abused Orthodox Jews. They plucked their beards, set dogs after them and forced them to exercise. The Germans inflicted abusive and degrading forced labor on the Jews. Three or four Germans stood guard over one laboring Jew. One day the Germans set the synagogue and the study school on fire. Several Jews risked their lives to save the bible and other holy books from the blaze and then attempted to hide them. The Germans brought Rabbi Elchanan Dawid Szydlowski out of the Synagogue. He was wrapped in his Talith and praying shawl, and he was crowned with his phylacteries. The Germans poured water over him, plucked his beard, and brutally abused him in front of the people who gathered there to watch the scene.
At this time, Kromolow Jews got a little help, from the Independent Jewish Help Foundation in Krakow, along with free meals, food packages and children's clothes.
In March, 1941, the Jewish community in Kromolow came to an end. The Germans transferred Kromolow Jews first to Zawiercie and then, probably at the beginning of 1942, the Germans sent them to Auschwitz.
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