Table of Contents

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With the publication of our Yiskor Book, we have added yet another monument to those already erected; we have kindled another candle in memory of our destroyed and martyred people; another link has been added to the great chain of tragic events which terminated in the systematic murder and annihilation of a third of the Jewish people by the Nazis. This Yiskor Book is the Monument to our hallowed community (Kehila), who were the victims of this willful and predetermined destruction. Our book is filled with tears and memories. It brings back (in print) the history of the Jewish Community in Zdunska-Wola and the dynamic Jewish life that flourished there; it relates the tragic days that preceded the terrible liquidation and the dreadful holocaust that followed.

It was no easy task to gather sufficient material to depict the many facets of our city, its people and their life, and the communal and philanthropic activities which enriched our city.

It has taken much painful effort to gather and record the facts from those who lived through the tortuous days before the final destruction; the various murderous “actions”

which were perpetrated by the Nazis (may they be forever cursed), and the last selection at the cemetery, at the end of August 1942, that resulted in the almost total liquidation of our Community (Kehila).

In our efforts to gather all the necessary data, we appealed to our Landsleit throughout the world and to various archives, including the Archives of Yad Va-Shem, the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, and to prominent personalities and various institutions. After untiring efforts and labour which took up numerous days and nights that ran into months and years, we succeeded in collecting the various articles and pictures which appear in this book.

In compiling g the section on heroism, we were beset by many obstacles because, as is well-known, our city was unlike the border towns or villages, or the towns of White Russia and the Ukraine, in that it did not come within the boundaries of partisan and underground activities. However, we were certain that there existed among the youth of our city, youngsters with a healthy sense of defending Jewish honour by joining the partisans or by fighting on the various fronts.

After much diligent research, we are able to publish a number of stories about our active partisans and underground fighters, and of those front-line soldiers who served on various fronts, many of whom lived to be among those who marched into Berlin and delivered the final death-blow to the bloody murderers.

For a number of reasons, we have not included detailed accounts of the economic structure of the Jewish population and how they earned their living, simply because, in many instances, there is not a single person who survived to give us this valuable data. Although here and there among the articles included, some information is given.

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It is important to mention that our Yiskor Book is a collective product. None of the contributors are professional writers. The majority have taken pen in hand for the first time in order to set down their reminiscences and descriptions. This must be borne in mind if the reader should come across some inaccuracies or repetitions. However, it should in no way detract this work from its value, for it was written by people from our city, in simple language, and in all truth and sincerity.

In conclusion, we should like to express our heartiest thanks to the Archive Centre of Yad Va-Shem in Israel, to the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, and to all the other institutions and communal leaders for their efforts in helping us gather these data . . .

To the editor, Elchanan Ehrlich, for his care and devotion to the work, for his strenuous and diligent labour, and for the stylish and aesthetic appearance of this book. . .

To Leila Kaye-Klin, for her work in editing the English section of this book . . .

To the President of the Zdunska-Wola Society in America, Philip Rosenberg, and to his wife, Pearl, for his fatherly concern and for raising the finances, without which there would be no possibility of publishing this great work . . .

To the active workers in the American Landsmanschaft, and especially the dynamic energy of Herman Holender, a member of the editorial committee, and his wife, Sarah, who did not let themselves rest, but solicited our Landsleit, scattered in various countries, to raise funds, and sent in a great deal of material, for which we are truly grateful . . .

To the Secretary, Raphael Krakovski, and active workers of the Zdunska-Wola Landsleit in Paris, for their active participation in gathering material of great values, especially in regard to the participation of our Zdunska-Wola Landsleit in the French Underground . . .

To a fellow member of the Editorial Committee, Yitzhak Arad (Erdinast), a warm and devoted co-worker, for his very learned essays and dedication to the work entrusted to him . . .

To the members from Va'ad, Joseph Riba, Arieh Zillberberg, Arieh Stashevsky, Kasriel Klein, Joseph Salamanovich, and Pincas Neidat, for their assistance, especially in the technical work of gathering and grouping the illustrations, and other work, including the bookkeeping and correspondence.

Our heartiest thanks go to Dr. Jacob Goldberg, who supplied us with the history of Zdunska-Wola for our book.

To Mr. A.S. Geshury, for the tremendous effort and research he put into the articles regarding the great personalities and leading lights of old Zdunska-Wola. He spent days and weeks in university libraries, combed through hundreds of books and journals, in order to ferret out all facts and information relating to our city. Our warmest and heartiest thanks go to him for his work.

To all those who have made their contribution by translating from one language

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to another; by correcting the manuscript and the proofs, in their efforts to eliminate all errors – our sincere recognition . . .

To our devoted editorial member, Abraham Kalusiner, who transformed his nights into working hours dedicated to this hallowed volume, which now lies before you, who made it his life's goal, in order that this Zdunska-Wola Memorial Album be a successful and valuable work. Abraham Kalushiner's contribution cannot be measured by monetary value alone, it soars higher . . . much higher. . . for he succeeded in inspiring and elevating the entire Editorial Committee; he pointed the way in his pursuit after data and research, and his efforts to depict the horrors and bestialities perpetrated on our martyrs. At the same time he did not forget – nor did he permit others to forget – the heroes of Zdunska-Wola, who have been thrown to the four winds – to many strange lads. Those who from the very beginning of this noble undertaking have helped in the creation and gathering of all these valuable documents and information, know full well how to evaluate his efforts.

And, last – but certainly not least – to our Chairman of long standing, Abraham Frankel and his wife, Hanna (Hene), who have dedicated all their activities to the organization as a whole, and to the Yiskor Book in particular, who have worked on the project from the very beginning to the very end. . ., using their organizational abilities to the fullest . . . Abraham Frankel succeeded in creating an active circle, that became infected with his enthusiasm for the realization of this epic work. The home of the Frankels was for many years the workshop where, with slow but determined effort, the Yiskor Book was fashioned. It is therefore tot his couple, Abraham and Hannah (Hene) Frankel that we owe a deep debt of gratitude for our achievement.

Thanks are also due to all our friends in Israel and throughout the world, for their assistance and trust, which encouraged us in our noble efforts. May these modest words be some measure of reward for all those who made every effort to bring out this Yiskor Book, dedicated to the hallowed martyrs of Zdunska-Wola.

The Editorial Committee

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The History of Jewish Settlement in Zdunska-Wola

by Dr. Jacob Goldberg

The first Jewish settlement in the town, began in the second half of the eighteenth century, during the period when a new municipal settlement was being formed. Its beginnings long preceded the foundation of the textile centre in the district of Lodz (early nineteenth century). Apparently, there even existed a rural settlement in Zdunska-Wola 650 years ago, but the lack of any official data in the documents of those days, as was customary in village and minor settlements, does not enable a description of the events and trends in their development. Some small notes among various documents from the years 1525, 1532, 1673 and 1679, in their content does not give us much, but only indicates a “feudal” system where the peasant was compelled to give free labour to his feudal “Paritz” (Polish estate owner).

The name of the village “Wola” indicates that the nobleman was exempt from paying taxes. By the 17th century the village was still called “Panska-Wola” (Wola – goodwill or freedom). Apparently the meaning hints on freeing the “master” (Pan in Polish) of his obligations. It is assumed that a number of “pottery” craftsmen lived there who made and repaired ovens (Zdun in Polish). And so by the middle of the 17th century, the village was called “Zdunska-Wola”. Zdunska-Wola changed into a municipal settlement only at the end of the eighteenth century, and until the settlement of the Jews, it was a small unimportant hamlet, one of the estates of a feudal middle-class family.

The fast development of this village, into a ferment and growing settlement, is bound up with the social and economic events in the Poland of the eighteenth century. Indeed, the new trends and aspirations contributed a lot to the development, but mainly the ambitions and will on the part of the rich and middle-class aristocracy had their share in this and with the help and encouragement of Stanislaw Poniatowski (the last of Poland's kings) they strived to rehabilitate and enlarge the forsaken and deserted towns. One publicist of the time aptly described the situation as follows: “In our Poland, in place of towns there are wide empty plots whose ruins hint of the towns that were, and are no more”. The aspirations and achievements of the “Paritzim” (noblemen), did not stem from patriotic reasons, but were mainly a result of personal economic ambitions. They hoped that their income would grow, and those whose estates did not merit existing municipal status tried to establish their own.

The very same aims and ambitions also spurred into action he middle-class estate-owner, to whom the village Zdunska-Wola belonged. The two little villages of Stenszica and Awenczin, which in the nineteenth century were included in the existing territory of the town, also constituted part of the estate of the same land-owner.

To establish a new town it was necessary to obtain a special royal permit, but the estate owner of Zdunska-Wola did not receive such an official document. Although in those days the partition of planned municipal settlements was not yet taken into consideration, nevertheless, the kind and his followers did not find a valid reason to set up a new municipal settlement within the triangle of veteran Sieradz, Lask and Szadek. The aim was primarily to rehabilitate the existing settlements. There was also a fear that a new colony would compete with the royal and feudal ones which already existed.

After many attempts on the part of the estate-owner, a compromise was found. In the year 1773 a document was issued which gave permission for a “fair” to take place once a month, in order to ensure that the village of Zdunska-Wola would not gain the status of a townlet. This document stressed that the a “fair” should be held in a place, far

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from the village, called Czekai. This document read as follows: “At the appointed place, called Szekai, permission is hereby granted for peoples of all nationalities (as stressed by the writer of the document), their merchandise, agricultural produce, cattle and horses, may come to buy, sell, and exchange freely and securely”. However, this very alleviation, turned the locality de facto into a townlet.

Felix Zloltnitzki, the estate owner of Zdunska-Wola and the townlet known as Czekai, acted to the best of his ability to enlarge and develop the settlement. He immediately built the “Ratusz” (Local Council residence), close to which was a plot for horses and carts. The actual construction of this building symbolized for him the beginning of a town. In fact in the year 1788 they were forced to renovate the “Ratusz” (apparently because of negligence while building). The above-mentioned land-owner supplied the wood and building materials from his estate.

Zlotnitzki was not content with the authorization for the holding of the “fairs” and the building of the “Ratusz”. He strived for a varied local population, and sought to bring in commerce and craft. But under the prevailing conditions, the critical state of the towns of Poland caused by a hundred and fifty years of chaos and neglect, it was difficult to find local sources on which to build a consolidated settlement. Therefore, the estate-owner followed the example of other landowners, that is, he brought in Jews. He relied on the Czekai admission permit, which emphasized the permission to enter and practice commerce to “various peoples” (including also Jews) enabling them, on this basis, to settle in Czekai. To give the place a character of a town, he established among other things congregations, and for this purpose he built a wooden church. The public buildings, the church plus the “Ratusz” gave the place the shape of a real town.

This energetic and active man did not manage to complete his task. He died at a young age and the custody of his property and of his young children passed over to Messrs. Patrakanski and Maslewski. The latter continued to put into effect the plans of the former, they finished the church building and helped settle and integrate a few Jewish families in the town.

In the year 1788, 15 years after the “fair” permits were granted, there lived in the settlement of Czekai, 17 Christian families, 3 Christian bachelors, and 11 Jewish families, totaling 50 (?) souls, compared with 12 peasant families living in the village of Zdunska-Wola. Only at the beginning of the 19th century did the settlement of Czekai also acquire the name Zdunska-Wola.

The families in the village Zdunska-Wola were all engaged in agriculture, 8 owned middle-sized farms and 4 owned smaller farms, while in Czekai there were 17 tradesmen and artisans, classified as follows: 3 tailors, 3 cobblers, a baker, a weaver, a blacksmith, a tiler (tiler of roofs), a carpenter, a barber, a saddler, a tanner, a barrel-maker and two furriers. Among the above-mentioned tradesmen, 7 were Jews, and they were: the three tailors, the two furriers, the baker and the barber. Also three merchants are mentioned, who apparently were also Jews, one is mentioned by the name of Wolf Tabaznik (possibly a tobacco merchant). It is worth mentioning that during the referred period, not one of the Jews in Czekai engaged in the “generally accepted” professions, such as lease-holders, brewers or public-house owners.

Up until the beginning of the nineteenth century the population of Czekai did not exceed 150 souls, a small population, in comparison with half the townlets in the same district, which amounted to approximately 500 souls. The professional make-up was also different, whereas in other places most of the population lived from agriculture and the few merchants and artisans were Jews. In the existing settlements there was a way of life which did not include the artisans and merchants unlike developing townlets which were based on commerce and craft according to the new prevailing conditions.

The mobilization and settling of the Jews in the town did not present any difficulties, because the aristocracy and the local population conducted a propaganda campaign in the big Jewish settlement of nearby Lask and all the settlements in the surrounding district of Sieradz to prevent the Jews

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from operating public houses and breweries, which was authorized by the District Council a few times, in the years 1783, 1786-87. It is possible that these people settled in Czekai, and abandoned their previous employment.

Most of the names of the first Jewish settlers give a clue to their place of origin (it was not yet a custom of Jews to have surnames), for example: Wroclaw, Warshawski and so on. Here is a list of the parental families who lived in Czekai in 1788: Warshawski – furrier; Warshawski, Itzik – tailor; Yacobowitz, Wolf – tobacco merchant; Zulta-Broda – furrier; Czarni – tailor; Kochman – merchant; Lewek – baker; Obashni – tailor; barber (name not known); Berkowicz (occupation not known).

The living conditions of the first Jewish settlers, compared with the general living conditions of those days, were not bad. It was recorded in a property list that: “The furrier Zulta-Broda lives in a new house, which was built all straight and smooth, by the Hon. Mr. Maslowski. In the room there are three windows – where three panes are missing – the floor is from wood, a chamber (apparently a kitchen and pantry) and a stove. The door is from boards on hinges with a handle and lock. The yard is nicely fenced, as is the entrance gate (platun?).” A melting furnace for glass in the district was not available, which accounted for the missing panes. This was a usual occurrence. The “Paritz”, however, did not limit building materials, but was careful about spending ready cash. The apartment of the above-mentioned included: a room, a kitchen or pantry, and a work-room. The work-room also served as a shop for the sale of his produce. The flats were built to suit the needs and profession of the tenant, whereas the flat of the “Paritz” was rather small: two rooms, a roomlet, and two cupboards. Understandably, not everyone owned a comfortable flat like the above-mentioned furrier. The list mentioned: the barber – one room; the baker pays rent and taxes for his one room. The merchants, Wroclawski, Yacobowicz and Bercowitz had their own houses (were not rented). The latter built himself a new house in 1887. Some lived in houses belonging to the “Paritz”, others in two-family houses (dwojak in Polish) or four-family ones (czwaraki). These were the houses which had been built for the permanent settlers or for the farmers who permanently hired themselves for work on the estate. As mentioned a few Jews lived in this house and the rest in the one-family houses. Immediately upon the building of the church, Maslowski donated materials for the building of a synagogue, where there was also a “Cheder”.

Here is a description of the house: “A synagogue where the Jews congregate was built by Paritz Maslowski. The roof is from bricks; it has six large windows; there are two small rooms with two windows on the second side of the synagogue. This is a big new house”. The beautiful synagogue building, was apparently the work of a talented Jew from the town of Lask. This same Jew built the splendid synagogue in Lask and Lutomiersk, which were prime examples in the field of architecture. His name was Hillel Benyamin, who met his death while building the Zlotszow synagogue. The beautiful synagogue added much to the external appearance of the new town.

In the 'eighties of the eighteenth century there were 15 new houses in Czekai, a synagogue, a church, and a council house, all of which were built by the estate-owner. In addition to this, three houses were built by the Jewish settlers and four were built by the Christian ones. The purpose of investing in building was to create suitable and convenient conditions for the settlers on the one hand, and to exploit the trees and raw materials in the district on the other hand, as the timber and lime, as well as stone, had no outlet owing to the lack of a river for transportation. The building brought a satisfactory rent for the Paritz. Fifteen years after the rise of the settlement, there was a net yearly income from rent of 736 zlotys and 15 groszy, a weighty sum for those days (the price of 14 cows). Rent for the Jews was 57 per cent, despite their being only 37 per cent of the population. The incomes in cash filled the gap in the estate as it was difficult to turn agricultural produce into ready cash because of local conditions. The Christian tenants paid less rent as they were obliged to give 12 working days a year to the estate, work for which

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the Jews were exempt, because the estate-owner appreciated the “cash” sums of 421 zlotys which the Jews paid him for rent and the synagogue and “Cheder” were also included within this sum. The approximate amount charged by the estate-owner To a Jewish family was 38 zlotys a year, (4 pairs of shoes or half a year's servant's pay on the estate). From this rent – approximately 27 zlotys, Jewish tenants paid 50 per cent more than a gentile tenant the largest amount was paid by the merchant Kochman – 50 zlotys, compared to others who paid 40 zlotys for comfortable flats down to 16 zlotys rent for the barber mentioned earlier, who in addition to being a barber was also engaged in curing the sick. He was also obliged to shave and cut the hair of the estate-owner and his servants, without payment. It was customary for the landowners to exploit the profession of the settlers to suit their own needs.

Rental payments represented only a part of the taxes and payments that were imposed on the Czekai Jews. These were: State taxes; chimney tax; a large household paid 2 zlotys for a chimney tax, a small household – 1 zloty and 15 groshy a year poll tax was 2 zlotys per Jewish inhabitant from the age of one year upwards. Special taxes were also taken by the congregation, namely the Lask congregation, to which the Czekai Jews were affiliated. Even though they had their own synagogue and “Cheder” the community was too small to manage independently. They had to pay “property tax”, “ritual slaughter” tax etc., to the Lask congregation. Because the Lask congregation was overloaded with debts – 32,000 zlotys, of which two-thirds was owing to the Catholic Church community and on which they had to pay 2,000 zlotys a year interest, it is understood that the Jews of Czekai were not exempt from bearing this burden. The payments and taxes of the agricultural peasants who had a low standard of living was small due to demands of the artisans for agricultural produce, especially as pressure was put upon the peasants to purchase their commodities at Christian establishments who also smallholdings and were not pressed down with taxes and property rates as were the Jews. All this hindered the growth of the local Jewish population up until the beginning of the 19th century. The growth of the settlement, especially the Jewish settlement began only when the place became an industrial zone, creating economic conditions for growth and development.


Part II

Despite the fact that Czekai eventually rose to municipal status, it still remained a small settlement and after the second partition of Poland and also in the years 1793-1806 (when under Prussian rule), her development was completely curbed. With its inclusion into the Warsaw principality the situation did not improve. In an era of political changes (including the Napoleonic period), the position of the Jewish population there was extremely difficult. Essential changes only began in 1815, with the reestablishment of the Polish monarchy and the beginning of important developments in the textile industry of the district.

The planned industry by the Polish monarchy incorporated the area which later became the industrial center of Lodz. The industrialization of the settlement of Czekai and the annexed village of Zdunska-Wola, developed far beyond the comprehensive planning and organization of the government.

Stefan Zlotnitski brought 10 skilled weavers to the place in 1816. In order to get more artisans, he ran three enlisting agencies in Greater Poland and Selesia. The artisans were mainly Germans. In the year 1824, 149 artisans and weavers lived in Zdunska-Wola, 119 black labourers, 3 dyers and two operators.

Within the local industrial development the settlement became well-known and during this period it attached itself to surrounding settlements such as Brzezin, Ozorkow and Alexander, and even outdid them.

It is worthwhile mentioning that the above-mentioned Paritz also put up a clothes factory in Alexander.

When Czekai and Zdunska-Wola became a consolidated industrial zone, the estate owner tried to obtain full recognized municipal status. The 60 year-old permit which Czekai held was only for trade

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fairs and, with the renewal of the Polish monarchy, the authorities demanded documentary proof on the municipal status of the settlement which also during Prussian rule had not been granted. He applied to the authorities as early as 1815, hiding the fact that Czekai lacked any official legal document, and in a simple manner he wrote: “As up till now the town of Czekai did not take advantage of past rights, and because presently there are living here many hand-weavers from abroad and he therefore asks that official permission be granted to annex Czekai to Zdunska-Wola, so that together they be promoted to a town”. In the year 1825 his efforts bore fruit ad this consolidated area was recognized as the industrial town of Zdunska-Wola. After gaining municipal status, conditions changed, both for veteran settlers and for newcomers. The Jewish population grew rapidly and the composition of trades and businesses changed, according to prevailing conditions. However, though the Jewish population and industry grew, conditions were not altogether favorable, many rights were denied them and various restrictions were imposed. Special terms were granted for residents of new industrial towns, however, mainly for exporters and industrial workers, comprising mostly Germans. In places where industrialists and artisans concentrated, they demanded in conjunction with the central authorities, that Jewish immigration be limited.

On obtaining municipal rights, Stefen Zlotnitzki strove to impose the same restrictions and rules as were customary in the towns of Zgersz and Alexander. He wrote the following: “The mayor or the police may not gibe the Jews the right to reside in Zdunska-Wola without a permit from the Paritz, in order that Jews shall not outnumber the Christian population.” Despite his awareness that his father and the custodians tried to bring in Jews, his only concern was to serve the purpose of the authorities, the demands of the industrialists and the German weavers. A point of interest in this same application is that he asks for a license for a Jew to open a public house: “No local Jewish settler is in possession of such a license for a public house although he is also interested in hindering additional settlement of Jews, nevertheless many merchants come from abroad to trade, therefore, there is a vital need to establish a public house.” He asked for a license on behalf of a veteran Jewish settler, according to his instructions. The same purpose (even against his will) is found in a special document which was written and signed (like a contract) by the Paritz, by the Catholic clergy and Jewish representatives. A document such as this was the foundation on which the industrial town of Zdunska-Wola was based. “The Hon. Zlotniski does not wish and is not interested that there should be too many Jews in Zdunska-Wola. Therefore the Jews who live in the center of the town, should be evacuated and allowed to buy land only in the Stefana and Ogrodowa Streets.”

No Jewish representative signing this document was keen to do so, because these restrictions were among the conditions for permitting the settlement to become a town, they limited the improvement and economic development also for Jews. The above-mentioned certificate was signed by Yaacov Hillel Warshawski (apparently of the Warshawskis tracing back to the 18th century).

With the confirmation of the settlement as a town, the Jews received from the Paritz a piece of land for a cemetery and for this also it was necessary to get a Government permit because the Jews of Czekai did not have their own cemetery and were compelled to bury their dead in Lask. At that time it was also necessary to obtain a permit from the head of the Polish Church, a thing which entailed much effort and expense. During the period of the Polish monarchy, a permit from the official authorities was sufficient.

On 25 October, 1825, the State representative in Warsaw confirmed the changeover of the industrial area of Zdunska-Wola into a town. In paragraph 5 of the same document, which pertains to the Jews, their rights (restrictions) were specified. The area which ran parallel to the square was added within the town limits. It was desirable that there be a direct connection to the synagogue – which was allowed to remain in its place, the permit read as follows: “The synagogue which is located in the central square is allowed to remain there only if it is not

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situated at the entrance to the square.” What happened to the synagogue later is not known.

The position, rights and conditions granted to Zdunska-Wola were similar in detail to those of Lodz and Zgersz. The same applied to the number of Jews with “special rights”. One paragraph states: “In Zdunska-Wola Jews will be permitted to live in other streets also, on condition that they build on empty plots, or in place of wooden houses, build brick ones covered with tiled roofs, and that they be industrialists or independent artisans and manage their own weaving workshops. The same applies to big textile merchants.” This possibility referred to only a part of the well-to-do Jewish population, so that they invest in building and this way expand and widen the town.

At the time of the establishment of the settlement of Czekai, none of the major allowances from the Felix Zlotniski period remained for the Jews, since all the privileges were now granted to the Germans who represented a large portion of the population engaged in textile. But despite all these restrictions Jewish numbers grew within the general population.

From 1832 until 1837 the population remained stable at a little more than 3,000, then commencing from 1838 a systematic and permanent rise began:

1838 – 3,554 residents
1839 – 4,699 residents
1865 – 7,979 residents
divided up as follows:
Jews 2,532 – 32 per cent of the population;
Poles 3,759 – 21 per cent of the population;
Germans 3,759 – 47 per cent of the population.
From then on the population grew steadily. At the end of the 19th century there were 17,500 citizens making a change in the composition of the population. The division is as follows:
Jews 6,057, 34.6 per cent of the population;
Poles 7,013, 40.0 per cent of the population;
Germans 4,430, 25.3 per cent of the population.
The percentage of the number of Jews and Poles grew, whereas the number of Germans decreased. Actually, there were more Jews than officially registered, because a large portion lived there without permission and their names did not appear in the documents. In a check-up which took place in 1841 it was found that “Mayor Sernetki, allowed the Jews to live in the town, without registering them in the book of the Local Council.” The above-mentioned claimed in his defense that “the number of Jews entering the town without permission, were given an order to evacuate.”

The rapid growth of the population resulted in the development of the clothing industry especially in the field of cloth and cotton manufacture. Such a varied form of local industrial development was in itself a rare occurrence.

When the textile industry in Zdunska-Wola began to develop it founded itself on the basis of the Craftsmen's Foundation (Guild) who engaged in the sale of raw materials as well as of the finished article. In the 20's of the 19th century, it was mainly a center for the manufacture of cheap (vulgar) cloth which supplied the local needs of the peasants in the neighborhood and of the lower classes in the town. The manufactured article had already reached important dimensions. In Zdunska-Wola alone they then produced 7,895 rolls as compared with Kolo (an important industrial center) which only produced 3,820 rolls a year.

The number of weavers grew rapidly. In 1824 there were 149, and in 1828 – 200 craftsmen. With the growth and centralization of factory-owners, the craftsmen came up against difficulties in obtaining yarn and had to bring it from afar. Likewise, the supply outweighed the demand and the decreasing purchasing power of the surrounding population made it difficult to sell locally. It was therefore necessary to think of exporting. Understandably, the individual craftsmen were not able to keep up and the businessman came into his own. There appeared a businessman who gave the weavers the yarns, and on receipt of the finished article paid them a fixed fee as was agreed upon previously.

One of the first organizers of this new style of work, was a German called Harer, who exploited the weavers to such an extent that their complaints reached the authorities.

In the textile factories of Zdunska-Wola in the 19th century, the Jewish merchants held a central position. By the year 1820, they employed a large

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number of house-weavers (chalupniki) from the surrounding villages, which was for the weavers a supplement to their income from agriculture.

The central figure among the Jewish industrialists in the first half of the 19th century was a Jew named Feiwish Opotowski, who originated from nearby Shadek. He moved over to Zdunska-Wola in 1823. In this new developing town he found ample commerce in textile and other manufacture. In 1827 Zlotnitzki informed the District Government committee in Kalish: “The Jew, Feiwish Opotowski, a big commercial manager of the industrial produce of the town deals with exports abroad – to Russia and China – he is important and vital to the industrial plants. He has also put up an industrial plant. In 1826 he made an agreement with 4 weavers of German origin. Conditions of the contract allow him the exclusive right over the weavers work and its sale,”

In 1829 he also made such contracts with other craftsmen. The conditions are characteristic in content to the terms of agreement between the plants and the craftsmen. Here are the terms of agreement laid down by Feiwish Opotowski: “The goods are obliged to be finely woven in a mixture of colors with a delicate and good finish. Damage in the work obliges the weaver to bear a third of price of the wool. The labor costs right up to the final account will be borne by the weaver. With the transfer of the finished goods, an exact account will be made for every roll according to the price.”

In 1829 the above-mentioned put up an industrial plant, under the same primitive technical conditions, except that the workers were concentrated in the hall of the plant-owner.

In the years 1829-31 Hirsch Dide founded a local wool spinnery, in partnership with a German by the name of Neustadt. At the same time they brought in the first mechanical loom, thereby the plant obtained the character and likeness of a modern factory.

With the expansion of the industrial plants in the towns, additional names of factory owners appear, for example, Moshe Shtalpern, Shmuel Lipshitz (local people), as well as a number of Jews from nearby Lask: Langer and Abraham Kempinski, who also exported to Russia. The raising of plants, especially by outside people, caused the local factory-owners and their union to rise against the establishing of new plants out of suspicion and fear of competition. Also the large local plants were accused of ousting the smaller plants and craftsmen. The incitement and propaganda which began as a consequence of a pending crisis was conducted in the whole district of Lodz. The Mayor of the time, Karl Tangerman, distinguished himself, and was later recognized (during World War II) as having paved the way for the Nazis and in whose steps they followed. In his report of 1844 we read: “This factory is a humiliating fabrication, only the Jews could have conspired it. The worker is helpless, without any will of his own. He is subject to double losses, first of all they estimate his yarn at a high price, and payment for his work is lower than accepted.” This very ignorant reasoning shows his willingness to believe that the factory is a Jewish fabrication, especially as most of the complaints, on the part of the workers, were directed against the big German industrialist Harrer from Szeradz.

The strong economic action of the same period didn't last long, due to the crisis in the textile industry that began with an epidemic which broke out among the sheep, bringing about a severe shortage of raw material (wool). The crisis continued with the Polish uprising during the years 1831-33. As a result of the uprising the Czarist authorities adopted a policy of tyranny and oppression, which disturbed and almost completely paralyzed the export to Russia and to China. The apathy and degeneration which began in 1830 continued, and if in 1832 there were 170 looms in operation, then in 1835 their number decreased to 99, in 1841 to 72 looms. Only in the 'seventies did a recovery begin in the weaving industry.

The cotton industry developed in the town together with the weaving industry, beginning with home industry (chalupniki), after which the factories followed. In the cotton industry the Jews played a bigger part than in the weaving field. At the beginning of 1824 there were 12 looms in the town and by the end of the same year the number

[English page 13]

already reached 125 looms. Factories were established in this branch of the textile industry, firstly by Kunce, Appel and Donat. The suppliers of raw materials were Jews, who were the owners of cotton warehouses in the town. Two Jews from Zdunska-Wola, Bronowski and Beharier, also had cotton warehouses in Constantine. Another two Jews, Landau and Ludwick, sold cotton yarn to Lodz, Pabiantiz, Turek and Kalish.

A Jew by the name of Memrat had a special role in Zdunska-Wola. He obtained almost the sole rights to operate yarn warehouses for the whole district of Kalish. It was his intention to put up a factory in Zdunska-Wola, and to compete with the German factory owners, who exploited the local weavers, but he relinquished his intention for three years, because he came to an agreement with the German factory owners who obliged themselves to purchase the yarns only from him, as well as to sell him their finished products exclusively. Immediately after the agreement in 1833, he put up a factory which existed until 1836. In that year he liquidated his factory, because of his many surrounding activities in banking, in commerce and various other fields. He became very rich, as his year warehouses brought in a lot of capital, and in the year 1841 there were 978 looms in Zdunska-Wola alone, making the demand for raw material for cotton very great. In his last years he completely abandoned the yarn trade and established a large bank in Kalish where he was one of the philanthropists in the town. He founded a special fund for the Jewish hospital in Kalish. This fund was later enlarged by his descendants.

Also a Yaakov Pelz put up a factory for cotton material. But he found his way into industry in a different manner than the others. He began as an expert weaver and not as a merchant. In 1837 he received a certificate as a skilled weaver from the office in Podembice. He was one of the few Jews who received such a certificate. In the crisis which followed the revolt he moved to the district of Lublin. In later years he traded in cotton material and moved to Zdunska-Wola. In 1859 the Zdunska-Wola local council confirmed that “the said industrialist, dealer in cotton materials, is a manager of a weaving workshop on his own account. Seventy-five workers, craftsmen and apprentices, are engaged in the workshop.” At the same time it was the largest factory in the town. Therefore Pelz's social economic rise was basically different to that of other local industrialists, who through their interest and desire to develop the town turned to industry. The small percent among the local Jewish industrialists derived apparently from the fact that the place was near Lodz, with whom they had ties, connected with commerce and industry.

The first mechanical factory (Damil Fabrik?) was founded in 1860 by Strauss. (Dide's factory was not modern.) By the end of the 19th century another three mechanical factories were established: Aldet, Wiener and Karl Kuske.

All our knowledge of the Jews in the town, are drawn from official municipal documents. However, in the above-mentioned documents only people of special economic importance in the town are mentioned, not the simple Jews, whose names we came across during the crisis. For example: in the year of the big depression, when 374 loom operators were on strike and 1,364 men were left without any source of income, the council management composed a list of 318 names of residents who were in need of aid, and in which two Jewish weavers are mentioned: Naftali Kroll, owner of two looms, with two dependents, and the second, Hirshel Yoskowitz, owner of three looms, with four dependents. They were not the only cases needing aid, because the crisis hit all trades and all fields of work. Despite the crisis which hit the town, the number of Jews learning the weaving trade grew. There were also those who moved to other places in order to specialize in their profession. In one of the documents it is mentioned: “In May 1859 Wolf Rosenstein came to Pabiaitz from Zdunska-Wola for a period of two months in order to specialize in the weaving trade.

For the Jewish population the textile industry created new possibilities for economic substance.

But they had to struggle against the restrictions which began in 1825, and continued until the second half of the 19th century. These limitations

[English page 14]

affected, in particular, those who wished to build or buy houses.

Even a distinguished Jew like Feiwish Opotowski came up against these restrictions. Feiwish Opotowski, a prosperous businessman and an honored person, needed a large and spacious house to suit his requirements and his position. He wanted to build a house in the central square but although the manufacturers and the merchants were allowed to build outside the two appointed streets, their descendants did not have inheritance rights. Opotowski wanted a building license, which would enable his sons who came after him to live in this house. In 1827, Stefen Zlotnizki – ab un-official partner in his business – in a special application, approached the government committee in the district of Kalish, requesting the following: “Since there is an empty plot in the town square which belongs to Opotowski, he wishes to build on it a one-story house, with a tiled roof, and if the same will receive a government permit he wishes that after his death his children will be able to occupy it and own it. A positive answer to this application will speed up the building of fine houses in the town.” In the Government's negative reply it is written: “To the majority of Jewish householders in the specified streets there is no right of inheritance.” Zlotnizki was not satisfied with the negative reply, he explained that by depriving Opotowski of a permit would serve as a precedent, as a result of which the rich Jews would stop building houses and this situation was liable to hinder the development of the town. After building was resumed, the license was confirmed. They, however, silently passed over the problem of inheritance. The many difficulties which Opotowski encountered, his feelings being hurt on the one hand and the crisis which hit the industry on the other hand, resulted in his abandoning his industrial activities and he went over to other fields (alcoholic beverages and a bakery). In 1847 he bought a farm in the village of Janishewica and settled there.

The limited rights regarding the dwelling places of Jews lasted five years, but beginning from 1830, the not so well-to-do Jews also started to infiltrate to other parts of the town. Because many of them did not have the means to build brick houses, they built wooden ones, whereupon the local authorities intervened and renewed the restrictions of and even augmented them. Because the town management and the district commissioner closed an eye, the authorities enacted that “the local management has no right whatsoever to confirm and to arrange matters concerning the building licenses for Jews.” In connection with the renewal of restrictions the old customs were revived, Jews were pushed out of their houses, and back into the two streets. Also the competition which surrounded the place after the crisis acted in this direction.

In 1853 Christian settlers applied to the regional court representative, complaining that “Jews contrary to the restrictions imposed in 1848, are spreading all over town, and on the basis of a license from the district commissioner are putting up 'huts'” (in the document the term “hut” is stressed). And so from this time onwards, every Jew who intended building in the prohibited streets was compelled to prove that he was complying with the terms demanded according to the 1848 orders.

In 1862 Zelig Herschfinkel of Warsaw brought a wooden house, in order to destroy it and put a brick one up instead, he applied for a license as follows:

  1. I know to read and write in the Polish language.
  2. I send my children to a Polish school, and it is a fact that they know both the Polish and German languages fluently. They read and write in same.
  3. I and my family do not wear the traditional Jewish clothes, and we are not different in our dress from other cultured people.
  4. A custodian of treasury income of the town, and lottery agent, as well as a wholesale wood dealer, I openly manage the turnover of the three enterprises, I have my own capital amounting to the sum of 3,000 ruble (cash)?

Hirsch Grenk also tried to obtain the same type of permit as the above. Although he was a rich merchant, his own capital was not as large as Herschfinkel's. The local offices confirmed that

[English page 15]

Grenk and his wife Leah, complied with the economic conditions, because their property was worth 10,000 cash (?). Included in their property was the goods they traded o credit from Nuremburg and also local produce. They also were cultured people. Authorization was also given on account of their daughter Hinda who had studied for three years in the local school, and even finished the school with distinctions. Other Jews used the same reasons in order to obtain permits. To name a few: Pelz, Bradar, Goldberg and Kubawski. It took a number of years to obtain such a permit. Only the more well-to-do were able to avail themselves to these conditions.

With much effort the shape of Jewish life, that had found its beginnings in the early '70's of the 18th century grew and unfolded. Their varied occupations and different positions began to operate according to the developing conditions in the textile industry. So a basis was established for a varied and rich life, which widened and expanded into the 20th century. It is not necessary to describe the later events, for they are well-preserved in the hearts of those who survived the tragedy of the holocaust.

Translated from the Hebrew
by Leila Kaye-Klin, Jerusalem

[English pages 15-19]

Reminiscences of Zdunska-Wola – City of My Birth

by Phillip Rosenberg

This chapter of reminiscences from my home town, Zdunska-Wola, Poland, is written just 47 years after I left my beloved city for America in 1919.

Being unable to set down any memories of the unprecedented catastrophe which befell the three and a half million Jews of Poland, including the 12,000 from our home-town, I will content myself by describing certain highlights and episodes of my life in Zdunska-Wola, during the first 25 years of my life, and how they influenced my childhood up until the time I went my self-directed way as a grown-up person.

Let me begin with my childhood. I was born in 1894, the youngest of 7 children, to a family which suffered great poverty. My father, Zisl Hersh was a fur-cutter, who never earned a decent wage. He would travel around, among the peasants in the villages, with his needle, his scissors and his iron, repairing old fur coats, sheepskins, or other clothes, and at times, sewing new ones, in return for which he would bring home some vegetables and a small amount of money. In order to increase his income, he would also sell fish for the Sabbath, and my mother, Leah Drizl would help him sell it.

It was a hard and tedious life. My father was not the only one who worried all week about how he would feed his large family, but his biggest worry was preparing food for the Sabbath. This was the one day when Jews would put their cares and worries of a livelihood aside, transferring themselves, in their fantasy, to another, spiritual world.

At the age of 10 I could no longer continue my studies in the “cheder”. Conditions at home were such, that I had to begin to “earn” some money in order to help increase the family income. Because there was no other alternative, my father took me out of the “cheder” and apprenticed me to a tailor to learn the trade. I was not the only one in town who had to do this. This was also the fate of many of the young people in our home town, who grew up in impoverished homes, and were forced by circumstances, to cut their normal years of learning, and take upon themselves, the responsibility of earning a living at a still tender age.


Zdunska-Wola – An Industrial and Proletarian Center

In the early years of the twentieth century, immediately after the “rehearsal” of Czarist “democracy”, when the absolutist, reactionary Czarist Government was forced, by the pressure of strengthening communal, labor and progressive powers, to grant an open, free, democratic, parliamentary tribune, the so-called “Duma”, where the demands and desires of the broad masses of the population, found expression.

These achievements raised and encouraged the hopes of the Jews that an immediate solution to many problems was in the offering. Their dream was to be freed of three of the worst evils which were a source of torment to the Jews under the Imperial Czarist Regime: poverty, lack of civil rights and anti-Semitism. The Jewish community of Zdunska-Wola also suffered from these evils.

About this time larger and smaller textile factories began to spring up around us. In the midst of horrible exploitation, the workers were forced to work under the prevailing labor conditions of long working hours for a very low wage, under intolerable sanitary and hygienic conditions, without any social security.

The textile factories were closely tied up with “Polish Manchester” – the textile center of Lodz, where over a thousand Jewish and non-Jewish workers were employed. The raw materials were sent to Zdunska-Wola from there and, after completion of the work, were sent back to Lodz as ready-made manufactured goods.

Under these conditions Zdunska-Wola became transformed not only into a big industrial center, but also a big proletarian one with political, communal and trade union activities.


The impact of the Revolutionary Movement

This dynamic activity of the local Jewish working class residents began to develop even in the factories themselves in order to fulfill the urgent needs of the oppressed workers, needs which stemmed from the anti-social employment system. Later, this activity began to spread out far beyond the confines of the factory walls encircling all the other interests of the Jewish working-class.

This activity rose to a higher pitch with the rise of the revolutionary movement which swept through Russia during the years 1904-1905, and also spread through Poland. In this respect, our Zdunska-Wola was no exception. The Jewish workers also found expression representing every shade of political opinion.

Among the Jewish workers, together will all workers generally, there also blossomed forth a new revolutionary upsurge. The Czar dispelled the “Duma”. Which he regarded as too dangerous an instrument in the hands of the more advanced of the population.

This very upsurge, brought new life and a growing spirit of struggle into the ranks of the disillusioned workers. A very special role was played by the “Bund” and this was due to the Regional Committee in Lodz.


Various Different Views

Simultaneously there arose various other Jewish mass-movements, in all spheres of the political spectrum, including the various Zionist groups in the Jewish community.

It was, therefore, quite natural that in the background of this multi-colored rainbow of political differentiation, in movements which eluded one the another, in this cultural and spiritual climate, where variant ideologies of world political systems fought against each other in no small manner, amongst these deeply serious and dedicated people, each one had with full conviction received from his parents and grandparents a heritage. He believed with all his heart and soul in these truths and only in these truths. In this heated atmosphere it was quite natural that there be fiery discussions, which would begin around the family table at home, and spread to the streets, to meetings, and wherever people gathered together. Discussions took place in which every single faction made a maximum effort to influence others with all possible, logical and moving arguments, in order to convey his ideas to his listener.


Members of the Baker's Union


A Discordant Dissonance

It is truly regrettable, that side by side with the absolutely positive and active youth, which threw itself heart and soul into an all out effort to build a new world, a world of enlightened people with national and social ideals, there also appeared groups of irresponsible elements, who, by their brutal conduct, brought a discordant “dissonance” into that idealistic atmosphere.

These groups of “toughs” were always ready to start fights, be stool pigeons and not infrequently resort to murder. They helped the police worm their way into inner party hide-outs, to terrorize the leaders of the revolutionary organization, participated in efforts to crush the movement of the workers and bring about the arrest of its most important leaders.

There comes to mind a tragic and explosive episode in Zdunska-Wola, when these very nefarious people murdered Abraham Shloime Kurtzel on his way home from work.

Abraham Shloime Kurtzel was an innocent victim. He was a very quiet worker, who was passive to the labor movement. The hireling murderers (cutthroats) lay in wait for an important leader of the revolutional “Achdos” movement, whom they wished to remove permanently from the scene. But just then Abraham Shloime Kurtzel came along, and believing that he was the “Achdos” leader they were lying in wait for, they murdered him.


Zelig Wolf Rosenberg


This murder took place on Sunday night. On the following day, when the news of this brutal and nefarious deed spread through the city, a mightly demonstration of protest took place condemning this terrible terrorist act. The worker stayed away from the factories that day. The entire population of Zdunska-Wola was roused to a pitch of anger.

A big funeral was arranged, in which thousands of workers took part. The little “Bund” and its membership played a big part. Soldiers and police broke up the funeral, but the workers continued to march, carrying the casket. The police once again attacked the procession and arrested many workers.

The perpetrators of this murder never dared show themselves again in the city. Shortly after it became known that they had fled to America. In a terrible rage, the workers, not being able to put their hands on the murderers, vented their anger on the homes of these renegades, as well as the homes of their families.

The police constantly persecuted and arrested workers generally, and especially the revolutionary leaders to the workers. These terrorist attacks always increased just before the first of May.

Among the arrested Jewish leaders of the workers were: Zelig Wolf Rosenberg (who played an especially important role in the revolutionary movement in our city, and was nicknamed the “Achdos” group); Moishele Hitelmacher, Abraham Krasne, the glazeer, Moishe Karo, Rab Motl Karo's son,


Committee members of the “Zukunft” – Yugent-Bund
(Young Bund Movement)


who at that time had a bar in the market place; and others.


1914 – The Germans Destroy Kalish

The First World War erupted. The Germans crossed the Polish border and when they stormed into the city of Kalish they began to destroy it and rob the civilian population. As usual, in such cases, the chief victims were the Jews, whose possessions were mostly of a movable character. Filled with justifiable fears (bordering on panic) the Jewish population began to flee to wherever their feet carried them.

In this situation, the Jewish community of Zdunska-Wola came forward with immediate assistance, hitching up their horses and wagons or whatever they could mobilize, and rushed to Kalish in order to help carry off the fleeing refugees, providing them with food and lodging and supplying other elementary needs.


The Initiative of the “Bund”

In 1916, a Tailors' Guild was organized with the aid of the “Bund” and it immediately set to work to organize various cultural and communal institutions such as clubs, libraries, a dramatic society, a sports society, etc. The initiators of these were: Yankelevitch, the pharmacist; Lubashetz, the dentist: Falke Krakowsky, the first secretary; Philip Rosenber, Smiechow and others.

Many Jews, the common people, the workers, the craftsmen, the wagon-drivers, the butchers, the carriers, the laborers, stood watch and guarded Jewish lives and defended Jewish honor.

At the same time they founded trade unions for various crafts, which brought in a new stream of life to the ranks of the Jewish workers and artisans.

About that time, right after the first World War, I left Zdunska-Wola, but I was bound to my hometown by a million ties…Until there descended upon it the greatest mass murderer of all time – Hitler may he be forever cursed – and tore up by its very roots my dear, beloved, unforgettable city, together with all Polish Jewry, of which Zdunska-Wola was an organic part.

Zdunska-Wola, I will never forget you….


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