It is not known when Zgierz changed from a town to a city, and what type of role it played during the first century of the Polish kingdom. Evidence of the ancient settlement of the city can be found from the objects that were found in the nineteenth century in the sandy areas along the way to Konstantyna: knives and arrows made of stone  that belong to an early epoch when the inhabitants of what later became the Polish kingdom did not yet use metal. Trenches were also found in the same area. They were dug out in the southwestern area of the city, and are called the Swedish Trenches by the residents of Zgierz.
These archeological artifacts tell, albeit in a clouded manner, about the beginning of the settlement that later took on the name Zgierz. We do not know about the origins of the name. In old documents, the settlement is referred to as: Zguyr, Sguyr, Segey and Shegrz.
The first document that mentions the settlement of Zgierz informs us that in the year 1231, at Easter  the following people arrived: Konrad the leader of Mazowia in the company of the great Polish Duke Wladyslaw Adanicz, the Wlaclawyker Bishop Michael, and others. In a decree of Kazimierz the Duke of Leczyca and Kujawa, issued in Zgierz in 1248, the local taxes are designated to the Woczodker Church, which then must cede them to Duke Wladyslaw Luketek. In a deed of exchange of land, Zgierz was called a city belonging to a duke. In the year 1345, Duke Wladyslaw of Dozhin and Leczyca granted Zgierz the right of regional administration (wojewodztwo). The following belonged to the regional administration: two mills with their lakes, pasturelands, meadows, forests, beehives, and other such things. It is also evident that at that time, there were already artisans in Zgierz, for the same document establishes the taxes that each artisan must pay.
Later documents, from 1388 and 1391, describe controversies that Zgierz residents had with surrounding peasants. These controversies were adjudicated through the civic court of Leczyca.
The Polish King Aleksander (1501-1526), a former Lithuanian Grand Duke, recognized Zgierz as a municipal settlement and assigned to it one annual fair as well as weekly market days, which transformed Zgierz into an economic center of the area. Lodz was then a small town that did not appear in any documents from that time.
In later years, Zgierz strengthened its civic appearance. The tax ledgers show that in the year 1576, the town had 17 artisans, 3 taverns, 3 liquor stills, 6 merchants, and a few rural enterprises that also belonged to Zgierz.
The population records of 1661 report that the city had 10 owned houses  , 3 breweries, and 2 shoemakers. Of the 21 potters, only one remained, who worked for the court. Due to war and disturbances, business almost ground to a halt, and the three annual fairs were discontinued. Only one annual market day remained. From the records, we know also that the Zgierz residents paid most of their taxes in a natural fashion  , although they could have paid with money. Several rural enterprises belonged to the city as well.
About one hundred years later, in 1765, Zgierz already had 56 houses and a greater number of artisans: 7 potters, 6 shoemakers, 5 coopers, 13 wheelwrights, 6 carpenters, and other artisans.
A population record (lustracza) from 1789 records 65 houses and the same number of artisans as in 1765. By the end of the 18 th century, no great changes had taken place in the town.
The Jews answered the query of Zawodski as follows: As far as we remember, during the time of the former Polish regime, there were five or six Jewish families living in Zgierz. During the time of the Prussian regime, more arrived. Every Old Believer  looked for a livelihood. Seeing that there were no businessmen or artisans in this city, such as tailors, etc., the Old Believers approached the civic authorities (that is to say the burmistrz  ) with the request to be allowed to become involved n this city. After a meeting with the citizens, who had permitted the believers to live there, a formal decree of migration was made. They owned property, and were able to continue owning property.
The first official documents from the city of Zgierz that mention Jews are from the year 1813. These documents include a letter of exchange between the vice president of the Zgierz Powiat and the burmistrz (bergermeister) of Zgierz regarding the right of the Old Believers to purchase houses there.
In the first letter, dated May 10, 1813, the vice president writes:
According to the rescript of the all-powerful, illuminated president, delivered here on April 28 th , supported by a message of direction from the ministers responsible for these matters, containing the directives for formalizing the protocols of qualifications of the Old Believers who wish to own land in the city, I divide it up in this manner (the directives for formalizing the protocols)
The honorable burmistrzs (bergermeisters) of the cities recommend that the protocols be adopted, in the event that such should take place.
The document dated May 10 th 1813 (unsigned) relates to the beginning of the activities of the Polish authorities in Warsaw to substantiate the rights of the Jews who lived in the Polish cities. In a second letter from October of that same year, the vice president of Leczyca clarified to the burmistrz of Zgierz, that he will make efforts to investigate which Old Believers possess various agreements and contracts. That is to say, that someone sold houses and land to Jews. Such purchases must be reported within 48 hours to the vice president, and immediately thereafter to the president.
The local priest, who appeared before the vice president of the Zgierz Powiat with an accusation against the citizen Skilski who wished to lease his house to a Jew, also took part in the activities to restrict the rights of residents of Jews in Zgierz. The above mentioned house was a house that stands in very close proximity to the church, right near the great altar.
The vice president who wrote about this to the Zgierz magistrate made mention that this was against the monarchy and against the religion, and requested from the magistrate to strictly forbid Jews from living there without there without the permission of the government.
In September of the same year, the representative of the burmistrz of Zgierz sent an application to the vice president of the Zgierz-Leczyca area requesting that he certify a deed of sale for a house that the citizen Jan Hejna, who lived in the city of Zgierz, sold to the Old Believer Rafael Dobrzynska  .
In later documents, it is not mentioned whether the purchase of the house from Rafael Dobrzynska actually took place, but this was the first official document regarding the purchase of a house from a Jew of Zgierz. That purchase, which was certainly not the first, was the beginning of the struggle for the rights of Jews to settle in Zgierz. This was similar to the struggle in nearby Lodz, which at that time had a population of 58 Jews (13.4% of the general population).
In later years, the struggle increased. The Vienna Congress of 1815, which established the new order in Europe after Napoleon's downfall, liquidated the Duchy of Warsaw and established the Kingdom of Poland, which was later called Congress Poland, and had a semblance of autonomy from the Czarist regime. A provisional government was established in Warsaw, under the auspices of Czar Alexander I. In the new Polish constitution there was a clause stating: The Israelite people are granted all rights of citizenship, which are certified by the present assembly. Laws must be passed to enable the Jews to fully participate in the rights of citizenship.
Relying on this point, the Commission for Improvement, founded in Warsaw in 1815 and headed by the liberal Polish duke Adam Czartoriski, began to work for the improvement of the lives of the Jews in Congress Poland. After lengthy discussions, the Commission reached a consensus with the anti-Semites led by the priest Stasicz, in association with personalities hostile the Jews from the Czarist regime. The Improvement of the Jews finally was able to begin a project to create Jewish ghettos in Polish cities.
Those above mentioned forces that were hostile to the Jews began their actions with a letter to the Warsaw regime on November 5, 1816, regarding a plan to enumerate the Jews who live in cities. The letter was also sent to the wojewodzkis (regional heads) who were requested to submit their enumerations to the various commissioners. They were to transmit the request to the various commissioners. The commissar of the Leczycza region submitted the following written request to the Zgierz burmistrz on November 5, 1816:
With respect to the recent rescript from the eminent commissar of the Mazowia Wojewodztwo, who requested the action of the burmistrz of the city of Zgierz, that he should within four days present a list of the Old Believers (Starozakonny) who live in the market area of the city of Zgierz. This list must include the following items:
From Leczyca, November 5, 1816
Signed (not legible)
That letter to the burmistrz of Zgierz, later translated into Yiddish, faithful to the Polish chancellery style of that time demonstrates clearly that the first Jews came to settle in that city, which, along with Lodz, became a center of work, business and livelihood. From that letter to the burmistrz it is clear that: 1) Jews already lived in Zgierz in 1816, and 2) Just as in Lodz and other cities of Congress Poland the Polish authorities of that time began activities to distance Jews from the market, which was the most important location of livelihood. They were to be pushed into a ghetto, which was designated as a Jewish precinct.
It can also be seen that the few Jewish families in Zgierz of the time, just like Jews in other Polish towns, fought a legal battle, supported by the law, against being wedged into a ghetto. For two years later, on October 2, 1818, the Commissar of the Leczyca area approached the burmistrz of Zgierz with a request to transmit the privileges of the city, with respect to the setting up of a separate precinct for Jews.
This letter mentions the privileges that existed in certain old cities in Poland, where Polish kings or dukes of that time did not permit Jews to settle in their areas, or enclosed them in their own neighborhoods by means of setting up a precinct for Jews.
Regarding this project, the historical number of residents of Zgierz from the year 1318 was submitted as 400, including 198 Jews (49.7 % of the Zgierz population), which seems like an unbelievable exaggeration. We can see from this that false data was submitted into this project. A correct statistic from the year 1827 set the Zgierz population from that time as 3,162 residents, and Jews made up only 7.8% of the total population of Zgierz (Dr. F. Friedman Dzezi Zydi Lodzi, number 41, Slavonic Geography, B).
There are other unintelligible facts available in this document, which is kept in the archives of the city of Zgierz. As is recorded there, in the privilege, the inability of Jews to settle in Zgierz stems from the year 1038, from the Mazowian duke Ziemowit, when in fact, that duke actually lived in the 15 th century. The project also answers the question: From when and under whose authority were Jews allowed to settle in the city? According to the privileges from the year 1589, this was granted by the Polish King Zygmunt III and confirmed by the Sejm Conferences of 1768. From that time on, according to the document, Jews began to settle in Zgierz.
The conclusion of the project was: the market in the center of the city was heavily populated, and Jews had already taken 40 places. Jews were not supposed to be permitted to live there. They were only allowed to live on Sowja Street, which was vacant, and a distance from the center. According to the document, Jews already had 16 places there (among 13 Christians).
As can be seen, this project of the Zgierz burmistrz presented several incorrect facts regarding the Jews of Zgierz. With this project began the difficult struggle of the Jews for their rights to live in the town. A few Jewish families purchased houses in Zgierz and settled there. These include the aforementioned Leizer Moszkowicz, Jachim Leizerowicz, Lewka Stoma and Berek Zelnik. As is mentioned in one of the documents, Leizer Moszkowicz, the Old Believer, purchased a place in the city of Zgierz already in 1812, and built a liquor still there. The other Jews most likely also established their affairs there, which aroused the wrath of the Polish authorities.
The commissar of the Mazowia Wojewodztwo ordered the burmistrz of Zgierz, in a document dated July 12, 1820, to call upon the Old Believers (whose names were previously given) to officially declare: 1) The places where they (the Jews) occupied, acknowledged as being illegal by the Wojewodztwo commissar. 2) The houses and the places where Jews lived, which they were obligated to sell to Christians. 3) That the burmistrz is setting up a six month period during which the Jews must sell their houses, and if, during this period, they are not working towards a sale, all of the income from these places and houses will be sequestered, or the houses will be sold and all of the proceeds will go toward the accounts of the hospital.
The drastic decree of the Mazowian Wojewodztwo commissar, which demanded that the Jews leave their places in Zgierz for which they did not hold a concession, was signed by the vice president of the committee (name not legible), and by the General Secretary Filipecki.
The first Jews of Zgierz were not able to act upon their rights to settle in the city, and they brought the issue to the authorities by means of petitions and requests. When the overseer of the city, who at that time served as the central municipal authority, signed for the brewery of Leizer Moszkowicz, he entered into a dispute with the Wojewodztwo committee, the answer was as follows: The Old Believer had already purchased a place in the city of Zegsza (an old name of Zgierz) from the citizen Koranski and built a brewery there, without having a concession to purchase such a place from a Christian.
Further, in the answer of the Wojewodztwo commissar regarding the ordinance to sell Jewish property to Christians, if such were not to take place, the income was to be sequestered and given over to the hospital. The accusation against Leizer Moszkowicz was ultimately thrown out.
The burmistrz of Zgierz carried out the instructions of the Wojewodztwo commissar and informed the Old Believers that they must sell their houses and properties to the Christians, in order that the burmistrz will be able to give the required report to the Wojewodztwo commissar. Once the Jews were informed that they must sell their houses, the burmistrz of Zgierz informed the Wojewodztwo commissar.
The first Jews of Zgierz Leizer Moszkowicz, Jachim Leizerowicz, Rafael Dobrzynska, Lewek Sloma and Berek Zelnik did not rush to carry out the orders of the Mazowia Wojewodztwo commissar, and their houses were not sold to Christians.
Near to the city of Ozorkow and its current colony of Aleksander, one can find the city of Zgierz. It is a settlement on the highway that runs Leczyca to Piotrkow, between thick forests and the dark countryside, but with a fruitful soil, on the Bzura River. The local residents are either farmers or Jews. The appearance of the city is not orderly: separated houses in poor condition. It does not have any fairs or yearly market days, since it is lacking any privileges. Indeed, in general, the settlement of Zgierz does not warrant the designation of city.
Rembelinski continues with his report: In the past year, there was evidence of 60 manufacturers who came from various places, including from outside of the country, and requested places to set up their businesses. Since there were no municipal places for them to buy, they went to the ministry of the interior and police, who granted them the farms that lay across the Gszankis. It was hard to acquire lumber with which to build, and the manufacturers were left with their desires unfulfilled. They had to live off groszys  . No more than fifteen manufacturers lived in Zgierz. The remainder moved on after a few months of waiting emptily. Most of them went to Ozorkow or Aleksander.
From that segment of the report that Raymond Rembelinski sent to the Duke Maniestnik, one can comprehend the situation of Zgierz during the first 20 years of the nineteenth century, when the town and the entire region began to be built up as a center for the textile industry.
The manufacturers who visited Zgierz were German weavers from Silesia, where the textile manufacturers were undergoing a crisis during that time. The German manufacturers were in the area of the Bzura River, which was sparsely populated, with many empty areas. They found appropriate grounds upon which to get settled there. Rembelinski took note of the immigration of those German weavers, and set forth a plan to create a textile center in the Leczyca region. The plan was adopted by the leaders of the Polish regime of the time, the priest Stasicz and Mastowski. With the approval of the Czarist authorities of Petersburg, the Silesian German manufacturers were granted privileges to acquire land and o set up factories in the empty areas around Zgierz.
Between the years 1818 and 1820, there are unfortunately no statistics about the number of Jews who lived in Zgierz. However, their number was certainly significant, as is shown by a later section of Rembelinski's report, where he expresses an inimical attitude toward the Jews who already lived in Zgierz, or who were making efforts to settle there. Rembelinski wrote to the town accountant regarding giving over territory to the manufacturers who wish to establish factories in Zgierz.
If one desires to bring about a positive result regarding the entrepreneurs, one must firstly insure that the territory of the entire city is designated, and that the plan must be duly executed. Regarding this, I recommend that the rights of rental of premises for the citizens of the town, which exploitatively abused by the sickening Jews, be given via an auction for three year terms. This will be good for the city, and good for the public.
Later Rembelinski points out that there is an elementary school Zgierz. The parish priest does not teach religion there. The teachers are not especially capable and in the schools the Jews (Zydki)  manifest their expertise in teaching.
As a result of that report, the minister and the regional commissioner for internal affairs and police Mastowski and the Priest Stasicz adopted Rembelinski's plan. The obstacles were removed, and the German weavers and manufacturers were granted the possibility of arranging their affairs in Zgierz. Jews came upon a fresh shift of enemies, who waged a stubborn battle against the rights of Jews to live in Zgierz, including in the Neistadt section of town where the manufacturing center was being built.
At the same time, when the German immigrants, who were longstanding enemies of Poland, were granted special privileges of residency in Zgierz, the Polish authorities strengthened their battle to restrict the rights of Jews to settle in the town, with the exception of the ghetto, and they did not allow the number of Jewish residents to increase.
On January 25, 1819, Paniatowski, the overseer of the cities of the Mazowian Wojewodztwo, requested that the Leczyca burmistrz remind the Zgierz burmistrz regarding the need to separate the Old Believers from the Christian population. During the succeeding two years, the negotiations took place regarding the creation of a Jewish quarter. It is also evident that the Zgierz municipality did not rush to carry out the anti-Semitic decision of the Warsaw regime and the instructions of its own regional commissioners. The semi-rural Zgierz was in need of Jewish artisans and businessmen. However, new ordinances from the regional commissioners arrived in succession. Thanks to Zawodski who made a request from the commissioner of the Leczyca region, as of October 1821, Jews were forbidden by the Zgierz municipal authorities to live on the larger streets, since the issue of the Jewish quarter had not been resolved.
On account of an intervention by the Zgierz burmistrz to the Mazowian Wojewodztwo authorities, the ordinance that required to Jews to sell their homes in places that they had acquired through a legal concession was postponed, since the area for the Jewish quarter had not yet been prepared. In that manner, the burmistrz made sure that the Old Believers would no longer be allowed to acquire houses in the quarters of Zgierz. Relying on that attitude, the Wojewodztwo commissioner rejected the request of Rafael Dobrzynska to be permitted to build a house in the Forstadt near the mill, and to be granted a concession. The rejection notice mentioned that one must wait until the rights of Jews to live in Zgierz are clarified.
As can be seen from documents, the Zgierz municipal authorities made no efforts to set up the Jewish quarter. The Polish regime in Warsaw, which was ostensibly autonomous, independently acted upon the situation by confirming the rights of Jews to live in the cities. The commissars of the regions took the chance of acting upon their anti-Semitic ordinances. Since the Zgierz municipal authorities did nothing in this respect, the all-powerful commissioner Adjunkt Zawodski, the overseer of the cities of the region of Leczyca region, came to town to conduct an investigation regarding the rights and privileges of Jews to live in Zgierz. Zawodski interrogated the three senior Poles in the town and four Jews the elders of the community), and inquired of them regarding the rights and privileges of Jews to live in Zgierz.
It took place on the land of the city of Zgierz, on February 10, 1882 thus begins the protocol regarding the statement given by the eldest citizens: Wietszarik, the former burmistrz in the days of the Polish regime and, prior to that, a civic councilor under the Prussian regime; Kazimierz Radzinski and Pawel Domanski. They answered the queries of Adjunkt Zawodski as follows:
In previous times, as far as we remember, two (Jewish) tailors came to Zgierz, and lived in rented premises with appropriate rights. In a tavern that is called the Starosztyner, a Jew, by virtue of a signed contract with the Starosta (town official) of Zgierz, took possession of a tavern that is known to this day as the Polwark Zegszanik. At first, during the time of the Prussian regime, Jews were able to make their living arrangements in the city. The elder Wolf was granted a lease to the Propynacia.
No agreements existed between citizens of the city and the Jews. There were also no court injunctions. The Old Believers never had any rental rights in the city. At first, prior to the time of the Prussian regime, when the citizens were given the duty of providing drinks to the military, the city would have been glad to grant Jews the right of rental. However, later, the Old Believers came upon the rights of rental in other businesses via auctions.
Regarding the leasing of the Propynacia by the Old Believers, the city had no reason to prevent the Jews from earning their livelihood, provided it was arranged through an appropriate contract. The city did not sign any agreements with the Old Believers. There was no reason to move the Jews into a separate quarter.
Prior to the time of the Warsaw Duchy, a few Jews purchased immovable property from Christians. Regarding the acquisition of such objects, the Jews neglected the appropriate permits.
This protocol with the signature of the Polish elders from the investigation of Zawodski shows that the simple Zgierz folk had little interest in sequestering the Jews into a separate Jewish quarter in town. The arrival of Jews and their economic activity was regarded a natural occurrence for the local Poles. It was only the Polish authorities in Warsaw along with their regional committees who were insistent that Jews be separated from the Christian population by means of a ghetto.
The declaration that was presented by the four communal elders Leizer Moszkowicz, Jakob Kalski, Lewek Solomonowicz and Moszek Goldberg presented to Zawodski for the most part confirmed the facts that were presented by the Polish elders. The overseer of the cities in the Leczyca region, Adjunkt Zawodski, concluded his inquiry regarding the rights of the Jews to live in Zgierz. Similar investigations were also conducted in other cities of Poland. The accumulated material was presented to the Warsaw regime, and, after considering it, instructions were issued by the committee of internal affairs on July 14 th , 1822.
The instructions included in the first ordinance, in accordance with article 3 of the decision of February 14 th , 1818, stated that Any Jew who did not have a concession for a tavern in the previous year cannot be issued a new one.
The second point of the instructions repeated the De non tolerandes privilege of the Middle Ages, which stated that the cities had the right to refuse to admit Jews. The Jews who already held concessions and rights to own a tavern can remain in the city. The following points made the following additional statement: Jews who live in the city without a concession and do not own any immovable property in the first year (of their settlement in the city), must leave the city. The Jews who own immovable property and concessions must (with brief period of time) sell their property and leave the city.
Full rights of residence in the city, that is to say in Zgierz, were given only to those Jews who owned immovable property by rights of government concessions. The rights to immovable property can be transferred to an heir until the end of the family (when there are no longer any heirs).
The instructions end with the following announcement: These orders must be followed precisely and accurately. Approved by the acting minister representative of the royal committee (signed by Stasicz and General Secretary Skalski).
These instructions (actually ordinances) from the authorities in Warsaw, which were also sent to all the cities of Congress Poland, apparently also to Zgierz, defined the limitations upon the rights of Jews to live in the larger Polish cities. However those cities which were first beginning to develop and expand at that time could not manage without Jews as a factor in business and labor. Those cities that were in the process of development took the initiative to deviate somewhat from the anti-Semitic ordinances that came from Warsaw, and gave the possibility to Jews in the first place to wealthy Jews such as merchants and artisans to settle in the cities.
The Jews at Poland at that time, who were considered to be residents of the country, struggled with all their might for their rights to live in the cities of Congress Poland, as well as in the new settlements that were being developed as centers of manufacturing, labor and business. Zgierz was such a settlement, which was being set up as a manufacturing town even prior to Lodz. For a historical reason, the development of Zgierz slowed down, and Lodz overtook it.
When Jews took note of the ordinances from Warsaw affected their settlement in Zgierz, as can be seen from the documents that were brought down; they found themselves engaged in only a mild struggle against the local citizens during the second decade of the 1800s. All of the ordinances against Jews settling in Zgierz, which were preserved in the archives, indeed originated from the regime in Warsaw and were sent to the burmistrz of Zgierz via the regional committees. Under the threat of punishment, they required him to carry out the anti-Jewish ordinances. No documents show any evidence that the Zgierz municipal authorities did anything to carry out the ordinances against the Jews.
Jews settled in Zgierz, as they did in Lodz and other cities. The Jew haters in the allegedly autonomous Polish regime in Warsaw (in fact a puppet of the Czarist reactionary authorities) forced through the project of restricting the Jewish population in the cities by setting up a ghetto, or in official language a Jewish quarter. That project was strongly supported by the priests.
TRANSLATOR'S FOOTNOTES1. A specific type of stone is referred to here: Kzszemien stone. I am not sure what this is. Back
2. Curiously, the term used here is the Christian Passover. Back
3. The number seems low. I suspect that these refer to multi-family dwellings, where the owner earns his living from the rent. Back
4. Meaning by giving measures of produce in lieu of money. Back
5. Kreiz Stadt, a main city of a region. Back
6. The term is very strange, literally meaning 'Old Believers'. It apparently means 'Jews', as believers of the 'old' religion. From a later footnote in the text, it comes from the Polish word Starozakonny). Back
7. From the term 'bergermeister', which means mayor. Back
8. A footnote at this point in the text reads as follows: The Old Believer (Starozakonny) Rafael Dobrzynska is the father of the later eminent Admor Reb Avrahamele of Czeczanow, the founder of the Strikower rabbinical dynasty. Later, after the father's death, he took on the name Roda, or Rafaelowa. For further about this, see the article about the Strikower Rebbe in the chapter on personalities (from the editor). Back
9. Groszy is a small unit of Polish money. The connotation here is having to live off of small coins. Back
10. This expression contains a diminutive, with a slightly derogatory undertone. Back
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