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[Page 180]

Summary


50°52' / 19°58'
169.5 kilometers SSW of Warsaw


Year Total Population Jews
1822 1,380 688
1857 2,175 1,360
1897 3,722 2,528
1921 5,479 2,910
1939 – – – about 2,700


Wloszczowa received its rights as a city and permission to hold two annual fairs in 1539. A number of years later, three more fairs were added on.

In 1648-49, Chmelnitzki's Cossacks invaded and caused great damage to persons and to property, and soon after in 1656, Swedes came and brought destruction and chaos. For about 150 years, the town remained half destroyed, and only in the beginning of the 19th century it seemed to be renewed economically and demographically. In the time of the Congressional Polish Kingdom, new houses and some small factories were built. After the repression of the Polish revolt by the Russians in 1863, Russian soldiers stationed in Wloszczowa. In the First World War, in 1915, the Germans conquered the town until 1918.



Until the end of First World War

Jews are first mentioned in Wloszczowa in the documents from the beginning of the 17th century. It's not clear if they lived permanently in the city then. The real Jewish settlement started there in the 19th century. In the middle of it the Jewish portion of the population was two thirds. Their livelihood was mostly small business and trades, especially on the days of the fair and the market. In approximately 1860 the Jewish Community was formed and the synagogue was built. Within a few years Torah schools and institutions for charity and help were established.

Among the rabbis of Wloszczowa who are known to us by name, were: Rabbi Reuven HaCohen (the rebbe of Hasidic master), Rebbe Shlomo of the Radomsk (author of Tiferet Shlomo). In his time the father of the Radomsker Rebbe, Rabbi Dov Zvi, was also active as a rabbi. Then the rabbi was Rabbi Shmuel Zvi, a follower of Rabbi Avraham Aharon HaLevi, and later Rabbi Shimon Eidelis (Hertz).

In the beginning of the 20th century the first organization of young Zionists was formed, which dealt mostly collecting funds to send to Israel (Palestine at that time) and in learning Hebrew. They opened a branch of Poale Zion, and the Jewish non-Zionists formed a branch of the Bund. After the revolution of 1905-1906 these organizations were banned as political activity and closed down. In 1912, the authorities forbid the Jews even to open a public library. In 1925, after the German occupation forces abolished the old laws against political activity, the Zionists and the Bund reopened, and a rich cultural life developed. Evening classes in Hebrew and Jewish History, lectures, cultural events, and also two sport clubs – Maccabi and HaPoel.



Between the World Wars

When the independent Poland Polish government got more stable and order restored, the Jews went about reconstructing their businesses. In the year 1923, there were about 300 workshops and small factories in Wloszczowa in Jewish hands. In 60 % of them there were also hired workers, mostly Jewish The others were family run businesses, where the shop was usually also the home for that family. The activities were textiles and leather, food, building and cleaning materials. Most of the Jews continued in small businesses and peddling in the villages, and some had rented forestland and sold wood. In this period many Jews were unemployed and many others hardly made a living. To help them, the Jews founded some organizations for mutual helping and credit. Between 1925 and 1928 three Jewish banks were opened that gave credit on good terms. Also the old charity institutions were reestablished and loaned small sums of money to some businesses without interest. The associations for visiting the sick and welcoming travelers were institutionalized in this period too. At the same time the tradesmen and shopkeepers began to form unions, which had their own charity loan funds. They helped as well to receive the proper licensing from the government and represented the workers to the government.

Due to the growing economic straits, this period was filed with a vital political and Zionist activity as well as cultural one. The Zionists' organizations in Wloszczowa were: the general Zionists, Poale Zion, Mizrachi (orthodox), the Revisionists, and the youth of HaShomer HaZair, Beitar. The branch of Halutz was established in 1924, and with it a branch of the Young Halutz started its activity. The Halutz had an agricultural farm in the area and in 1925 the first group of young people went to the land of Israel. In the 30's a branch of Young Mizrachi was formed. The older sports groups were also going strong, Maccabi with 50 members and Hapoel with about 30.

The Zionists seemed to be in the majority and held the leadership of the community, but with them there were also active branches of Agudat Israel (very orthodox) and of the Bund (non-Zionists).

In 1935 Rabbi Chaim Usher Finkler, the Rebbe of Radoshitze, was appointed Rabbi of the town, though he remained living in Radoshitze and came at specific times to Wloszczowa.

Many of the children from the community studied in this period in private Torah schools and in the public community school. In 1925, the Agudat Israel formed a girl's school, Beis Yaakov. The Zionists tried to open in Wloszczowa a Hebrew school Tarbut, but though it was opened it was soon closed due to the fact that could not pay the tuition.

In the years of 20's and 30's, the Jews were usually holding half of the seats in the city council, 6 out of 12. Only in the elections of 1938, after the authorities took steps to reduce their strength, not more than two Jews were elected.

The growing anti-Semitism of the 30's put its mark also in Wloszczowa. The Jews were under growing economic boycott and many of them had no choice but to close their shops and stands in the market. At the same time, the numbers of the needy and those who received help was growing. In 1935, some of 200 Jews received help from the community treasury.



During the Second World War

In the first week of September 1939, Wloszczowa was taken over by Germans. Many Jews fled to the east immediately with the outbreak of the war, to the Soviet district, but most of them returned afterwards to Wloszczowa.

Already in the first days of occupation, the Germans began to abduct Jews to forced labor, and often also fell upon Jews and robbed their homes and shops. At the same time, they demanded money and enacted many laws and restrictions on the Jews. Businesses were taken over, their freedom of movement was restricted and they were made to wear a mark of distinction. According to the administrative rules of the Germans, Wloszczowa was included, in October 1939, in the district of the South of the General Government.

The Judenrat, Jewish Council, was set up; it seems, in the first weeks of the occupation. Most of its members were from the last community council. And Landau, the Head of the community before the war, stood at its head. With the Judenrat, they also established Jewish police.

Wloszczowa was not damaged by the fighting, and already in September many Jewish refuges from other villages and cities came streaming into Wloszczowa, after their homes were destroyed. At the end of September and the beginning of October, the Germans brought to Wloszczowa 300 Jews from Szczekociny and from Siewierz, towns, which were badly hit by bombing. At the end of 1939 came hundreds of refugees from Lodz, and about 200 Jews from Poznan. In February 1940, 440 Jews from Wloclawek arrived. Most of them were weak, sick and without anything. The Judenrat sent 275 of them to Kurzelow, and the rest were taken to two nearby villages. On the 10th of March 1940 there were 1455 Jewish refugees in Wloszczowa and the area. After a year their number rose to 1538 and in April 1942, there were 4277 Jews in Wloszczowa and the area (1654 of them were refugees).

At the end of 1939, a typhus epidemic spread among the refugees, and the end of January 1940, the Germans demanded from the Judenrat to set up within two days a hospital for the sick of the epidemic. The Jewish workers did it and reverted another building for that purpose. Within 24 hours, the craftsmen had made 25 beds and 25 blankets. Local Jewish people donated bedding and clothing for the sick, and on January 27 the hospital was opened. At the end of 1940 more than 2000 Jews of Wloszczowa were vaccinated against Typhus.

The welfare board of the Judenrat did very much to assist the refugees. They collected money, food, clothing and other things from the local Jewry. Within a few days everyone had been received into Jewish homes, and communal public kitchen was set up. At the end of 1939 or the beginning of 1940 a second public kitchen was set up also with the arrival of the additional refugees from Lodz and other places. From April 1940 these kitchens gave out more than 700 meals per day. The kitchen continued to function until at least March 1942, with short interruptions.

Assistance to the Jewish welfare council came from several Jewish organizations, which answered the call to help from Wloszczowa Judenrat (the Joint in Warsaw; TOZ; a health organization). But with the establishment of the Warsaw Ghetto, these shipments were stopped. In the years 1941-1942, the Jews of Wloszczowa received help from YSS in Cracow. Also some local Jews gave sometimes money for the refugees, through the welfare council. Also in Kurzelow, where in the beginning of 1940 hundreds of Jewish refugees from Wloclawek were sent (from Wloszczowa) to, the welfare council opened a public kitchen, where 300 meals per day were given out.

On the 10th of July 1940, the Jews of Wloszczowa along with refugees were sent to the ghetto. To a small, poor section of Wloszczowa more than 4000 Jews were stuffed and cramped in terrible conditions. With the move to the ghetto, the state of the Jews worsened terribly. German soldiers stalked the streets of the ghetto and persecuted the Jews, or worse. Especially infamous was a folkdeutsche from Lodz. His name was Julek (he was called "e;The bloody Julek"e;) and he liked to murder Jews just for his pleasure. The inhabitants of the ghetto were left without means of livelihood, because nearly all of their possessions and property had been taken from them by the Germans. In February of 1942, 2100 Jews were in need of support.

The welfare council took care also of hundreds of the Jews sent to labor camps outside of Wloszczowa. In 1940, the council sent to the laborers in the camps 15-20 packages per day. Responsibility for the arrival of those Jews to labor fell on the Jewish police. Whenever someone didn't appear to work, the Germans would take a Jewish policeman in that place. Occupiers demanded more and more laborers and in February 1942 all the Jews, who could work there, were taken to labor places and camps in Wloszczowa and in the area nearby.

In the summer of 1942 two groups of the Jews from Wloszczowa were sent to the labor camp in Skarzysko-Kamienna, the first group of 150 people.

The Ghetto in Wloszczowa was liquidated in September 1942. At first the Gestapo arrived and within a few days, probably on the 19th of September, two days before Yom Kippur, the Germans gathered all of the Jews into the main square of the town. In the Rynek they first separated 250 Jews, laborers, the Judenrat and their families. All of the rest, about 5000 souls were brought to the train station. Soon after, when the group of 250 who had been chosen to stay in Wloszczowa had disappeared, the Gestapo returned and took at random 70 more of them to join the transport. They were all sent to the concentration camps of Treblinka and Majdanek.

For 180 Jews left in Wloszczowa, mostly men, the Germans made a small work camp and they had to clean the deserted Ghetto. In the fall of 1942, some young men returned to the small camp. Those persons had managed to escape from Treblinka. They told the truth of what was happening in Treblinka, but none believed them. In December 1942, the Germans killed the last Jews of Wloszczowa.

Now it's hard to find anyone who remembers that Wloszczowa used to be a kind of shtetl before the World War Two and thousands of Jews used to live there…


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