Translated by Lance Ackerfeld
A. The settlement from the beginnings of its existence
Zagórze this was an early settlement located 5 km from Będzin on
its south-east side, at the top of a hill from which there was expansive
scenery of a picturesque valley along the White Przemsza River. There are no
details of the village at the beginning of its existence, and it is not known
when it was founded, and who its founders were. It can only be assumed, that it
already existed in the second half of the 13th century. It was known, that to
the east of the village, two km away, for a period of time there had been a
small village called Wola Zagórska. This name allows us to assume that
the origins of Zagórze go back to the 13th century, since a number of
villages by the name of Wola originated in the settlement period
that began during the period of Kazimierz the Great. The lord or land owner
would place colonists on meadows or uncultivated land. These colonists of the
village-to-be received a partial or full exemption of any payment or tax to the
lord, which was known as: an unwilling exemption.
After the colonists settled in these pastures, the village received the name of Wola, and sometimes with the addition of the name of the village where the lord or the lessee lived. All the villages on Polish land, whose number today is 233, originated in the middle ages and mainly during the period of Kazimierz the Great, and its possible that Wola Zagórska exists from this period and since the village received the additional name of Zagórska, it can be assumed that the first colonists were brought there by Lord Zagórze, meaning that Zagórze had existed many years before then.
The early origins of Zagórze are proved by the fact that in the 15th century there was a noblemen's estate mentioned in words by the historian Dlugosz in Pradia Militaria. The same soldiers' settlement in Piast Poland in the 12th century in the Boleslaw Krzywousty [Boleslaw III Wrymouth] period, served as a beginning for a new type of noblemen's village and of courtyard farms and estates. Therefore if a soldiers' settlement already existed in Zagórze during the time of Dlugosz, then there is no doubt that its origins were in the 12th century.
In the second half of the 15th century the village was the property of Jan Zagorski from Zagórze and Jarocki from Sielce (according to Dlugosz). At the end of the 6th century, once again nothing was heard about Zagorski, and at the time the lessees of the village were Krzysztof Jarocki and his relatives Kasper and Katrina. In the first decade of the 17th century Kasper and Katrina Jarocki's plots were transferred to Stanislaw Dembnicki from Mydlniki, whose name is mentioned in a document from the town of Będzin from 1612. Zagórze was transferred from Dembnicki to the Goslawskis, the last lessee of which was Michael Goslawski, the priest of Myslowice, who died in 1666. After this the masters of the village came from the Mieroszewski family. In the middle of the 18th century Zagórze was transferred as a grant to Ludwig Mieroszewski, and in 1864 the village was purchased by Gustaw von Kramsta, trade advisor of the Prussian royalty, from the Szimanskis. The successors of this last man sold Zagórze to some wealthy French, amongst the owners of the Sosnowiec Company of mines and foundries and belonged to them up until recent times.
The older part of the village was considered as the group of houses that was located on the right hand side of the Modrzejów-Dabrowa road (on both sides of the old road running from Porombka to Będzin via Wilcza Góra). The small village of Wola Zagórska was also part of it. The first section stood near a forest at the north-west end of the village, and the second on the northern side in a forest near Dabrowa. At the beginning of the 19th century the Brzezie (also named Wanczyków) farm lands, which belonged to the town of Będzin, was annexed to Zagórze, and unrightfully taken up by Stanislaw Mieroszewski together with the inn located in it.
Zagórze was from earliest time part of the Myslowice outskirts. Amongst the notable places in Zagórze, the rebel graves should be mentioned which existed in the form of a quite large mound with a stone monument on the hill near the road leading to Sosnowiec. The mines in the Zagórze region began operating in the first half of the 19th century. The first coal mine was opened near the old Wancikow farm. The second one was opened in the area of the Józefów farm. Nothing is to be said about these farms except that in 1860 they were still operating under the name of Ignac. After being transferred to the Sosnowiec mining and foundries company, they began being relatively utilized under the name of Martimor. At the beginning there was only one shaft. In 1900 a second shaft called Martimor was opened. For the first time their depth reached 300 meters.
Likewise in 1840 a steel foundry was established in the area of Zagórze,
that was active with short breaks up until recent times under the name of
Huta Paulina, and was owned by the Sosnowiec Company. The yearly
production reached 23,000 cubic meters up until 1910 and employed 309 workers.
B. The history of the Jewish settlement
It was difficult to absorb Jews in Zagórze or in the coal mines and foundries because of political reasons. The first Jews settled there in 1880. Amongst them were Szlomo Zeriker, Mosze Zaks, Heniek Rechnic among the owners of the coalmine near Zagórze and a partner in the Flora mine in Reden he was an Alexander Chassid, philanthropist and in the winter months would send coal to the poor; in 1932 he moved to Warsaw and he died there in 1938; the Warsaw community demanded a large sum of money for burial fees, and hence he was buried in Dabrowa; his brother Jakob Rechnic was a learned religious man, and in his home he organized a prayer meeting and a special place for visitors. He was a philanthropist, had a large family, and one of the distinguished men of the region. Szmul Hafetz from Russia was the owner of a limestone mine in Zagórze from 1890; he was a scholar and was a certified ritual slaughterer, educated, and supplied limestone to all the mines. He was wealthy and he kept a Bet Midrash in which most of the youths studied. In the end he went bankrupt. About 60 years ago he had a brother living in Rehovot by the name of Szymon Hafetz. In 1937 Szmul made aliya [went to live in Israel] and settled in Rehovot, and he died there of heart disease when he was over seventy years old. In the census of Russian Poland there were already 124 Jews amongst the 1290 people in Zagórze.
Szlomo Zeriker organized his own prayer meeting in his home even before the Bet
Midrash was founded. He was a trader and an educated religious man. Reb Dawid
Ehrenfryd who was born in Zarki organized a prayer meeting of 40 worshippers in
his home, and he was a scholar and gave charity surreptitiously. His brother
ran his business and he studied torah and carried out mitzvoth, had
his own torah scroll, and organized Mitzvah celebrations when the
writing began and when it was completed, in which rabbis of the region
participated. Heniek Richtiger was a scholar and for a certain time even held a
prayer meeting in his home. Every evening he would sit with Ehrenfryd and they
studied together. Mosze Fajtman was one of the first Jews there, he worked as a
butcher and had a butcher shop, was a simple Jew who was known as a strong man.
He was a religious man, generous to his fellow men. Mordechai-Wolf Feder
an Alexander Chassid, a scholar, a little vision impeded, a coal merchant ; one
of his sons, Jona, ran the Yesod Hatorah [Origins of the Torah]
school in Będzin, and his son, Abram Icchak, a coal merchant, had a shtibel
[small synagogue] for the Alexander Chassidim in his home.
His son, Szraga Feder, from Kvutzat Abram, was killed in a traffic accident; his son-in-law, one of the founders of Kfar Etzion, Rachel's husband, moved to Tel Mond and was killed by a mine during the War of Independence. Another son, Jenkl Feder, made aliya after the Holocaust, married a converted Jewess in Germany and died at an old age in Herzliya; Ari Skoczylas from Będzin, a philanthropist has a son in Israel; Israel Icchak (his family name couldn't be found), one of the first in the place, the owner of a mill, a Chassid, a philanthropist, took care of the children's education, fed them and made a place for them in his home; Reb Szmelka Zajdler a brilliant scholar, a sharp mind, a Radomsk Chassid, was the owner of a grocery store and had properties, and was the son of the Nagid, Reb Neta Zajdler from Dandówka; Mosze Grinwald served in the Russian army, a Chassid of Zarki (Triesk), in the army he didn't falter [and partake] in non-kosher food, a brilliant scholar, a musician and cantor, remaining after him is and a religious daughter in Kibbutz Ein Hashomer, and another son in Australia; Josef Zonabend one of the first people there, maintained the mikve [ritual baths] in S. Zeriker's home, his son, Aba, is in Australia; Joszua Melech Szikman the gabbai [beadle] at prayer meetings, an excellent musician, an Alexander Chassid, in the last years he moved to Będzin, his son Kalman served as a chazan [cantor] in Canada and is son Jechezkiel is in America; Icchak Hersz Winer, son-in-law of Heniek Goldberg from Zagórze, was a teacher for older students and later the principal of the Mizrahi school in Sosnowiec and Katowice. Over a certain period of time it was a place that drew Jews in from outside of Zagłębie who came there and ran businesses and worked in various trades and earned their living in an honorable manner.
With the crisis that came following the First World War, some of the Jews moved to Dabrowa, Będzin and Sosnowiec, however about forty Jewish families remained there. The youth there were progressively religious, and a organization of Tzirei Zion [Young Zion] was founded there at the initiative of Twardowicz, Zonabend, the Zaks boys and others. In 1920 during the war of Poland with the Bolsheviks most of the youth emigrated to France and other countries in Europe (amongst the chalutzim [pioneers] was Chaim Elisza Twardowicz who died in the old city in Jerusalem, was extremely religious, and left a family in Israel). A Tzirei Mirzrahi [Young Mizrahi] organization was also founded in Zagórze at the initiative of Chaim Welner from Będzin, Katzengold and Szpilberg. The clubroom was in Ehrenfryd's courtyard, and the chalutzim moved to Dabrowa. A Chalutz Mirzrahi [Pioneering Mirzrahi] also existed, and its members prepared for making aliya and hachshara [pioneer training]. Earlier they opened their clubroom in Mosze Zaks's home, and finally transferred to 3 Krótka Street in Dabrowa.
Amongst the members of the Kibbutz Hachsara [training farm] in Zagórze, the religious writer, Majer Orian is situated in Israel, and he excelled in his lectures on the Rambam that he held in Dabrowa and surroundings. In 1934 an envoy of the Hapoel Mirzrahi [Worker's Mirzrahi] from the Land of Israel visited in Poland and visited in the Hechalutz Mirzrahi in Zagórze together with Rabbi Menachem Hager zl from Sosnowiec. At the time, the Poles threw rocks at the assembly; in the Zagórze forest there was a large reception held in 1934 with the participation of Zelig Motel from Będzin, and the kibbutz influenced the prime of the youth in Zagórze to join the Torah Ve'avoda [Torah and Labor] organization. A large portion of youth from the Gordonia organization in Dabrowa took part in the reception. In spite of the differences between them, the youths walked every Shabbat from Zagórze to Dabrowa to spend time in the clubrooms with Bnei Akiva, which was led by one the finest counselors, Menachem Bokowski from Kielce, whilst Heniek Richtiger and Mosze Grinwald founded a place there for Agudat Yisrael. Zagórze was subject to the rabbinate in Dabrowa and participated in kehila [Jewish community] and rabbinical matters.
In 1936 Rabbi Lewi from Dabrowa passed away and the town's elders crowned his son-in-law, Rabbi Baruch Epsztajn a scholar, as his replacement and who had previous leanings towards Agudat Yisrael. In the Dabrowa kehila elections, the Jews of Zagórze supported Rabbi Epsztajn in the Radomsk Chassidim party, which was led by Mendl Liberman and in second place stood Dawid Ehrenfryd. The later was never a public figure, however he was elected because of his integrity and uprightness, and since the Jewish leaders supported Rabbi Epsztajn, the Jews of Zagórze had full confidence in him, in spite of those opposing the rabbis.
During the Nazi regime in Germany, anti-Semitism spread through Poland and did not miss out on the Zaglembian region. The financial crisis in the area further strengthened the anti-Semitism with all the more intensity. The Martimor mine only operated two days a week and the unemployed quarreled. The shops were gradually transferred to Polish hands and Jews looked to emigrate to places overseas and to the Land of Israel. In the air there was a terrible feeling of an approaching storm without knowing from exactly where. The first sign came with the deportation of Polish-born Jews from Germany to Zbaszyn on the border without clothing and possessions. Later came riots by Nazi agents in Poland and in Zagłębie, till the Nazi Holocaust arrived and put an end to the great Polish Jewry and to the Jews in Zagłębie.
Amongst the survivors from Zagórze in Israel there is: Ruwen Gecel son of Dawid (Ehrenfryd), from the Zajdler family, Grinwald (in Tel Aviv), Cesia and Gucia Wandersman (Ramat-Gan), Pnina daughter of Reb Lajb Matz (Tel Aviv), Rachel and Sima, daughters of Reb Jankl Zajdler and Judka Ehrenfryd (Tel Aviv), Skoczylas (Bat Yam). Many emigrated to other countries: a family went to Canada, Zonabend and to Austria, Gryncajger and Najman to Paris, Kalman Szikman to Canada and so on.
The Jewish settlement in Zagórze took an important place in public life
and society, donated a great deal of money to national funds, participated in
pioneering activities, and it had considerable strength in the general Jewish
public in Zagłębie.
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