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First pages of Zgierz Yizkor Book

{Loose page insert in front of book}

The Organization of Zgierz Natives in Israel
Address: Halperin, David Hamelech Street 51, Tel Aviv
Telephone 233870

Dear Friend!

We present you this book with deep feelings of the great moral obligation that fate has placed upon us – the remnants who survived the destruction of the holocaust. The purpose of this book is to perpetuation of the community of Zgierz, a community of 5,000 souls, which was ruined and destroyed by the Nazi Germans and their accomplices during the years 1939-1945. This book should serve as an eternal memorial and a warning to future generations:

Remember! Never Forget!
{The above text, starting from “Dear Friend!” is repeated in Yiddish in the lower half of the page.}

The Zgierz Yizkor Book Committee

Tel Aviv 5735 – 1975

{Title page}

The Book of Zgierz


An Eternal Memorial for a Jewish Community of Poland.


{Repeated in Yiddish and Polish}

{Reverse of title page}

Memorial Book Zgierz


Edited by David Shtockfish


{In Hebrew and English. Hebrew adds the following line.}

Vice-Editor: Y. A. Malchieli


Printed in Israel 5735 – 1975


Printed by “Lavav” Tel Aviv, Hamisgar Street 60.
Telephone 36564.


{Opposite to previous page}

Write this as a memorial in a book (Exodus 17, 14) [1]

{Introduction sections have no page numbers. The Hebrew and Yiddish introductions occupy two pages each.}


Introduction

{Hebrew}

With holy trepidation and deep spiritual satisfaction, we present this modest book to the honored readers, in particular to the natives of our town in Israel and in the Diaspora, in order to serve as a monument and memorial for the community of Zgierz, which was destroyed by the Nazi Germans and their murderous accomplices during the years of the holocaust (5700 – 5705, 1939 – 1945).

We indeed realize that we did not complete the task. Despite the great efforts that we put into this holy work, we were only able to obtain that which was possible to obtain via the meager methods that we had at our disposal. The working conditions that prevailed in our time and the financial situation did not ease our task. The small amount of money that we raised through difficult efforts was quickly used up, and organized financial assistance from the Diaspora did not reach us. Nevertheless, through the publication of the Book of Zgierz, we can see that the efforts of a group of people, who gave of their means and time with generosity and great dedication, were not in vain. These efforts were expended in order to memorialize and perpetuate the memory of the community in our town – its rich and variegated past, its unique human landscape – with feelings of love and respect to everything that is close and dear to our hearts.

We attempted to present to the future generations the story of the flourishing of the community of Zgierz through all of its stages of development; its tribulations and struggles with the earlier governing authorities and the specific conditions of the place and the region; the makeup of the community, its great activity and great stature in Torah, teaching, industry, business, the various crafts, the wisdom of the Jewish people and its literature; we attempted to present the communal vivaciousness of the Jews with regards to its outlook, goals, ways of life and human dedication; the communal, social, economic, cultural and ideological struggles; we particularly attempted to present echoes of the social life, the charitable and benevolent work which marked the epitome of communal life – all of these are accompanied by pictures and photographs that portray people and important communal events of our town.

There remains in our hands a significant amount of material which, for various reasons, technical and otherwise, were not included in this book. We hope that there will be people who follow after us, who will add in all those items that are fit to be published, and may they be blessed.

In general, the book does not follow a chronological order, and everything that is important is in its own place. Section by section, we attempted to merge a chronological order with an appropriate layout. We did this in a certain measure in order to provide continuity in family chains, to place in proximity members of the same family who are mentioned, and also to connect various organizations and factions with their appropriate ideologies. On the other hand, after the book had been printed in sections, some omissions came to light, and some items could not be put into their appropriate place. We express our regrets over this.

With the publication of this book, we believe that we have fulfilled a great moral obligation to the martyrs of our city, may they all be remembered for a blessing. With this recognition, we present the book with a silent prayer: May it be the will that this book should serve as an eternal memorial for all of those people, through whose efforts, steadfastness of heart and vision – including those righteous and pure people who are hidden among the “general populace”, the workers and simple folk – all together created the magnificent human mosaic of the community of Zgierz, which was destroyed along with the rest of the holy communities of Poland. May their souls be bound in the bonds of eternal life, and may their names be intertwined for all generations in the historical annals of the eternal people.

Our deep gratitude goes out to all of those who offered their assistance in any form; to those who gave us advice or support during difficult times of disappointment and weakness of resolve. We would particularly like to thank the directors of Yad Vashem of Jerusalem; the directors of YIVO of New York; the Jewish Historical Archives of Jerusalem; the “Shaarei Zion” library and its staff of Tel Aviv; Mr. Tzvi Shener, the directory of the Yitzchak Katznelson Beit Lochmei Hagetaot (the memorial institute for the ghetto fighters); Mrs. David Davidowitz, the directory of the museum of ethnography and folklore of Tel Aviv; G. Kressel, the writer and bibliographer of Holon; and Mr. Moshe Chaim Morgenstern of Tel Aviv – for their unique and relevant material that they provided.

Our gratitude and esteem go out to Mr. David Shtockfish, the editor of the book, for all the patience that he exhibited during our long, drawn-out efforts, and for the wisdom that he displayed for our sublime task.

We should remember for a blessing the first editor of the book, Mr. A. Wolf-Jasni of blessed memory, who began this sacred task and did not merit to see its conclusion. May his memory be blessed.

In the name of the Committee of the Zgierz Book and the editorial committee

Zeev Wolf Fisher

Tel Aviv, Tevet-Shvat 5735 (January 1975)


Introduction

{Yiddish}

With trembling and heartfelt emotion, I write the introduction to the Zgierz Yizkor Book. These few hundred pages are about an annihilated Jewish community, which was destroyed under terrible circumstances. The people were pursued and afflicted, robbed of their livelihood and their human means, at a time when onlookers cynically mocked them in their anguish; they were expelled from their homes into ghettoes where they suffered from hunger, their energy was drained; until the murderous Germans misled them with deceit and treachery, loaded them upon transports, and hauled them to the gas chambers and crematoria.

Upon us, the survivors, lies the holy duty to perpetuate the memory of the martyrs – and that is the purpose of this Yizkor book.

It is not sufficient to exclusively paint the tragic portrait of the destruction. The Jews lived and flourished in Zgierz throughout the course of hundreds of years. Therefore, this book presents significant material regarding the development of the Jewish community; the various streams of Polish Jewry throughout the previous century; the culture, political, religious and communal life – which had a strong effect on the Jewish people of our town. In this book, we will present detailed, interesting and instructive articles, memories and descriptions.

A few chapters were written by people who went through the Hitlerian concentration camps, work camps, ghettos, and wanderings during the years of the Second World War. Reading their stories, we all relive those bitter times.

Every town had its own characters and individualists. Zgierz was an industrial town. It was especially known for its textile industry, which employed a large number of Jewish and Christian workers. There were no members of the leisure class [2] there. Jewish entrepreneurs, initiators, and inventors passed through there, and the town took an honorable place in the economy of the country, a fact that will certainly be of interest to future historians.

Compiling such a book was a very difficult task, which took a great a great deal of time, energy and diligence. It required that everyone maintain a strong faith that we would be able to accomplish this task, that the Jewry of Zgierz would be memorialized by a monument, not of stone or of marble – but rather a spiritual, literary monument, enclosed between the two hard covers of this Yizkor book. This monument should be found in every home that has a connection to bygone Jewish Zgierz.

We owe thanks to all those who lent a hand to the production of this book – the committee members in Tel Aviv and New York. The highest gratitude goes to the initiator and actualizer, Wolf Fischer. Without him, the book of Zgierz would never have seen the light of day.

Fabian Greenberg, New York

{The following four pages are the table of contents}

{Page following the table of contents}

The first page of the book of Bronislaw Wiechnik, “Zgierz”, which was printed in Polish. It was published by A. Lach in Zgierz, 1933.


{15}

History of the City


{17}

Zgierz in Historical Sources

In the book “Polish Cities Throughout One Thousand Years” (“Miasta Polsky Wu Tiszoncelcziu”), published in 1965 in two volumes by the Osolinskich National foundation (Wroclaw – Warsaw – Krakow), we read the following details about the history of Zgierz.

Zgierz – a regional city belonging to the Lodz district. It is bounded on the south by Lodz, and is located on the Bzura River.

{Photo page 17 – General view of Zgierz.}

The communication artery that runs from Piotrkow and Leczyca to Torun passes through Zgierz. During the early middle ages, Zgierz was the property of the noblemen. It is first mentioned in 1231. There used to be a palace there, and some remnants from the time of the breakup of the feudal system still exist.

In 1255, the sources mention Alexei the Kaplan of Zgierz, and in 1295, the Rector of Zgierz. The first mention of Zgierz as a city is in 1318. At that time, a tax office existed there. During the 13th century, the settlement of Zgierz already was of a civic nature. In 1420, Zgierz was granted the rights of a city.

The growth of the city during the era prior to the beginning of industry began only during the 14th century and at the beginning of the 15th century. The main economic activities that sustained the civic population were agriculture, hunting, artisanship and trade – particularly after the city received the rights in 1505 to conduct weekly and annual fairs. The annual fairs took place three times a year.

In 1564, there were 129 homes, 7 guesthouses, and 33 workshops, including 6 butcher shops in Zgierz. It is possible to estimate that there were approximately 700 residents.

During the middle of the 17th century, there was a period of backsliding. In 1642, there were only approximately 142 people living there, not more. During the following 100 years, there was a marked improvement. In 1763, houses were built upon 56 lots. Among the citizens of the town who owned property there were the following artisans: 6 shoemakers, 7 potters, 21 manufacturers of wheels and wagons, 6 barrel makers, 3 hat makers, as well as butchers, smiths and others. There were also 6 salt merchants. To complete the portrait of the professional situation in Zgierz, we can add 1 miller, as well as some beer brewers and restaurant owners.

The fact of the transfer of the regional center of Brzeziny and Inowo Lodzki from Brzeziny, which was the town of the noblemen, to Zgierz, a city of the independent republic, in 1792, testifies to the rise of the prominence of Zgierz.

There was a synagogue in Zgierz. During the years of Prussian occupation, Zgierz was the seat of the regional government (from 1798). In 1802, there were already 77 houses and 463 residents of Zgierz.

Two Polish weavers, who began their efforts between 1817 and 1820, were the driving forces behind the establishment of the textile industry in Lodz, independent of government help. In 1819, there were about 60 weavers working there. The beginnings of Zgierz as a major industrial city was in the years 1820-1821, when, in accordance with a decision of the offices of the Polish governor, the agricultural / artisan oriented city changed its character, and took on the character of a diligent and progressive textile manufacturing city.

Representatives of the government of Congress Poland made the well known agreement with Zgierz, the most important agreement from the point of view of the development of the industrial city, which granted independent rights to the manufacturing in Lodz and the surrounding area. A new settlement sprouted up and developed next to the old city. This settlement started on the areas of the east bank of the Bzura.

The population of Zgierz quickly grew due to newcomers who were artisans, merchants and professionals: Poles, Germans, Jews and also Russians. The population grew from 994 in 1820 to more than 10,000 about ten years later. Favorable local conditions inspired the governing authorities to designate Zgierz as a manufacturing center. At the same time, various trades, organized into professional organizations, began to develop.

After 1822, the textile manufacturing industry became organized, and later on, the wool workshop did so as well. In addition, the manufacture of utensils and machines that were needed for the flourishing textile trade developed. The first steam operated felt factory was established in 1837.

Conflicts regarding status broke out already from the earliest time of the industrial development of Zgierz. A revolt of the workers against the artisans and the town government broke out in 1826. It was broken up by force with the assistance of an infantry unit that was called in from Leczyca after two days of street fights.

In 1829, Zgierz received rights and jurisdiction over other cities in the region, and the major was replaced with a council president. The first serious crisis in the history of the city took place after the failure of the November revolt. Despite the difficulties in manufacturing and marketing, the textile industry held its own during the difficult years between the two revolts, and even continued to progress. The number of workshops and factories increased. In 1866, there were already 11,341 residents of Zgierz, including 4,280 Poles, 4,346 Germans, and 2,633 Jews. 636 people were employed in the trades.

Zgierz was a city that was very concerned with its physical structure. This can be seen from the data in the lists of 1860: at that time there were 29 paved roads, public buildings, a town hall, a synagogue, a church, and manufacturing buildings. The people of Zgierz at that time lived in 317 wooden houses, 95 brick bungalows and 5 two-story buildings. Barter of merchandise took place on the two weekly market days, as well as during the six annual fairs that took place during the course of the years.

The population of Zgierz took part in the January revolt, and they participated in the various partisan organizations. The leader of the revolutionary movement and the demonstrations in the region of Zgierz was Kazimierz Wojchech Gadomski.

During the era of large scale manufacturing at the end of the 19th century, Zgierz took strong steps forward in its development. In 1891, the population was 17,743, and at the beginning of the 20th century, the population reached 21,034. There were 1,869 houses in the city, including 484 built of brick. There were 316 manufacturing enterprises functioning in the city. The 29 largest factories produced products with an annual value of 4,432,330 rubles, and employed 2,584 workers. The 12 next smallest factories had an annual production valued at 258,609 rubles and employed only 242 Zgierz natives. The local industry included the processing of wool. The German population was particularly prominent. It was progressive, active, and well organized into various organizations and factions. Various social and inter-factional disputes broke out.[3]

During the 1870s, the first social organizations began to function in Zgierz. The first widespread strikes began to take place in 1871-1874. In the years 1882-1885, Zgierz turned into a center of action of the “Proletariat” party of the Lodz district. The pride of the Zgierz “Proletariats” was a young weaver by the name of Jan Pietroszinski, who was killed on top of the Warsaw Citadel in 1886. The workers of Zgierz along with the workers of Lodz were particularly active during the battles of the revolt of 1905-1907.

The First World War impeded the economic development of the city. In independent Poland, the national conditions in the city changed: from among 21,129 residents, 16,232 were Poles. At the end of the 1920s, between the two world wars, the German population of Zgierz dropped to 2,358 souls. The city boundaries encompassed the entire old and new cities, along with the fields and suburbs of Piaski, Wolki and Przybylow.

Starting from 1903, there was a railway connection from Zgierz to Lodz and Warsaw via the Kalisz railway line, and with the regional seat of government by electric tram. A few years later, a new tramline started that went from Lodz to Ozorkow, and passed through the western part of Zgierz. From 1923, there was a railway connection between Zgierz and Kutna. At the same time, the chemical industry weakened, and the textile industry increased.

After the First World War, cultural progression took place. Along with the government Stasznicz Gymnasia and the German Frau Gymnasium, in 1919 a government seminary for girls and a government business school opened up. In 1916, the newspaper “Gazeta Zgierzka” started publication.

In 1927, there population of Zgierz was 23,130, and in 1931, it was 26,618. In 1938, the population was 27,853. Regarding the economic composition of the population, the percentage of the population that worked in industry reached 82%.

The era of German occupation made life very difficult in the city. A significant portion of the Polish population was transferred out of Zgierz. Much of the population was imprisoned in jail and in concentration camps. The Jewish population was completely destroyed. The cruelty of the Hitlerists reached its peak in the public murder on March 21, 1942 of more than one hundred prisoners in the area of the civic garbage dump who had been transferred from Radogoszcz.

From 1942, various military and citizen's organizations belonging of the Polish workers faction and the civil defense faction operated in Zgierz.[4]

In 1945, a new era of Zgierz history began. It was characterized by rebuilding and rapid development along the communist economic pattern. Along with the economic development, we should make note of the demographic situation. The population grew from 21,960 in 1946 to 37,647 at the end of 1961. The city occupied an area of 3,057 square kilometers.

Zgierz is an important center of the textile and chemical industries. The structure of the city improved, with multi story housing blocks, communal gardens, appropriate heating systems, and a complete health network with a modern civic hospital. There were 11 elementary schools, 13 trade schools, 2[5], and a school for teachers. The city had a fine swimming pool.

It is fitting to take note of the diligent protection of the antiquities of the city from the time of the beginning of the textile industry. There is a wooden church dating from the 18th century. The pride of the city was the above mentioned Jan Pietroszinski as well as Adolf Pawinski (1840-1896), the son of a soldier, who was a noted historian during that era.

Zgierz in “Yevreiska Encyclopedia” (St. Petersburg, 1908-1913)

In accordance to a decision of the Czarist government on December 21, 1824, this city imposed the same restrictions on the settlement of the Jews as existed in the city of Warsaw. In 1855, a residential quarter was set aside for the Jews, with various restrictions. These restrictions were cancelled in 1865.

In 1856, 6,690 Christians and 1,637 Jews lived in Zgierz. In 1897 the population was 19,108, of which 3,548 were Jews.

Zgierz in the “Encyclopedia Powszeczna” of Orgelbrand, Warsaw, 1884.

Zgierz is a city on the Bzura River in the region of Piotrkow, in the district of Lodz. It was settled in ancient times, and received the rights of the Magdeberg Charter in 1420. It was destroyed completely during the first Swedish war, and was subsequently rebuilt. The serious growth of Zgierz began from the time that the textile factories were established. The population is 11,000.

{Photo page 21: The entrance to the Henryk Sznekiewicz Public Gardens.}

{22}

{Pages 22—27 are the Yiddish version of 17-21. [3] [4]}

{Photo page 21: The town hall and the old market.}


TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES

1. This is a part of a verse of the Torah which commands the writing down of the history of the battle with Amalek so that it will not be forgotten by the Jewish people Back

2. The Yiddish word is 'luftmentchen', a word that is hard to translate. It literally means 'people of the air'. It refers to people who have no definite employment, generally due to them having independent financial means. Back

3. In the Yiddish text only, the following footnote appears: The source “Polish Cities Throughout One Thousand Years” completely diminishes and ignores the role of the Jewish people in the development of the city. Even the tragic destruction of the Jews during the years of the Hitlerian occupation is barely mentioned in the above-mentioned book. This is typical of the majority of the publications that appeared in Eastern Europe after the Second World War. (The Editor). Back

4. This paragraph and the next were omitted from the Hebrew section, and only appear in the Yiddish. My suspicion is that the Hebrew was translated from the Yiddish. These two paragraphs deal with post war history, and it is quite possible that the Hebrew translator felt them to be irrelevant, and perhaps even felt it was degrading to even make note of the post World War Two development of the city. Back

5. I am not sure what this word is: 'Litzeum'. Back

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