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Kolbuszowa From Its Beginnings

By Dr. I. M. Biderman

The official name of the city-and before being declared a city it was a village and before that a mere hamlet-was Kolbuszowa (the spelling changed at different times: in 1513 it was Colbuschowa and in 1565 Kolbussowa and from 1581 on Kolbuszowa and so it has remained to this day). According to a legend the name is connected with a robber highwayman named Kolbuch or Kolbush or perhaps Kolbas, who ran wild in this vicinity and did a great deal of mischief. When he was caught at long last and the danger was past, the incident was immortalized by naming the place after him. However, this is but one of the many legends that were popular hereabout. From such documents as the privilege given to the settlement by King Jan Sobieski in 1690 and the regional location certificate of 1700 of the owner-nobleman Joseph Carl Lubomirski we learn about the existence of a place "formerly called Kolbuszowa". To date historians have not found any other birth-certificate although a number of researchers are of the opinion that such documents did exist at one time but were destroyed in the frequent fires that plagued the community-in one of which the municipality was burned to the ground-and in other catastrophes that befell this place, such as wars, conquests and banishment.

The name is mentioned quite late, in a tax-list, at the start of the sixteenth century, among the hamlets on the estates Rzocho which belonged to Stanislaw Tarnowski. This Stanislaw of Tarnow, who as the castellan (=kasztelan) of Radom, used to purchase the villages neighboring on "Kolbuszowa and Virinia" from their owner, the nobleman Mikolaj Kolbuski who inherited them, inasmuch as "these estates belonged to his family from times immemorial". This Kolbuski was the scion of one of the German colonists who settled in this region in accordance with royal decrees; his name was Colbe, Colber or Colbur. He became wealthy and increasingly successful, finally attaining the status of a nobleman, one of the "nobility" after whom his entire inheritance was named. At first it was called Colbershof, i.e., Colbe's courtyard or farmyard; later the name applied to the whole village.

The transfer of the estates to the Count of Tarnow diminished the previously recognized autonomy of Casimir the Great (1333-1370) by the adoption of the laws of the nobility, which also introduced feudal forced labor by the peasants for their masters.

In Polish folklore may be found the remains of proverbs and expressions related to the history of Kolbuszowa and to the occupations of its inhabitants. The archaeological finds in this region attest to the existence of a very ancient, entrenched settlement in this area, which was inhabited by shepherds and tillers of the soil of ancient Slavic origins, long before Poland's historic emergence as a kingdom.

Generation told generation with pride about the master-craftsmen who produced violins, the famous "Kolbuszowa violins" that became a household word in the whole region and served to publicize the artistic creators of that delicate instrument and the place in which they lived. The dense forests, covering vast distant stretches of land, drew the first colonizing settlers into this region, providing them with a source of abundant livelihood, inasmuch as their main work was carpentry and wood-carving and particularly a superlative, highly artistic type of cabinet-making which in later periods brought renown to the city.throughout Poland and even beyond.

The topography of the region stood out conspicuously in the broad stretches of the Sandomierz steppes of which it was an organic part and in which forests primeval spread out without restraint, serving as a protective shelter for wild animals and against wicked men. Kolbuszowa or Kolbussov--as the Jews referred to it for hundreds of years, so recording it in books, official documents such as divorces and the like-chose for settlement purposes the low portion of the Sandomierz Basin of the Kolbuszowa-Sokolow Heights, between the Nil and Kolbuszowka Rivers, and the right tributary of the Trzesen-Leng River, neighboring on the Swierczowka or Przyrwa, once known as Trzesn Wielka. Other bodies of water, too, encircled the town, as the two lakes Ogonek-Gat and the Red Sea, and around them were, as already pointed out, the great forests and a sandy desert known far and wide as the "Sahara of Kolbuszowa".

Administratively, Kolbuszowa belonged throughout centuries to the Korczyn-Pilzno region of Sandomierz in Lesser Poland. During Poland's political dependence (1772-1918), the city was welded into the Austro-Hungarian monarchy as part of Galicia, was attached to the borders of the district of Tarnow and subordinate to the central government offices of the city of Lwow (Lemberg). In the period between the two world wars (1918-1939) it was a county city of the province (wojewodztvo) of Rzeszow.

The rapid development of the town was doubtless expedited by the existence of roads and highways which connected it with the neighboring region, villages, towns and cities and even the world-at-large. The city was located at a great crossroads leading across the country's borders: on one side was the "Cracow Road" which passed Tarnow and Krseszow in the direction of Ruthenia, and on the other side--the "Madyar Road" which stretched from Sandomierz through Rzeszow and Dukla to Hungary.

The real beginnings of the settlement are enveloped in a veil of various legends. It is a known fact that as far back as the thirteenth century a settlement existed here. It is difficult to ascertain whether Jews already lived here then. The names of the places roundabout the town, as Verynia, Przewrotna, Zarembki and others in that category, as well as documents of later periods dealing with the division of certain stretches of land and the supervision over them as they were the property of Poland's kings, attest to the fact that they constituted organic parts of the royal security structure all along Poland's borders.

Together with the "Jungle of Sandomierz" (Puszcza Sandomierska) this vicinity too was the property of kings, princes and counts of the Piastic dynasty. Poland at that time presented itself as a splintered territorial entity which remained in the inheritance according to the will of Boleslaw of the Crooked Mouth (1102-1139). Within the framework of military colonization the Piast rulers as early as the latter half of the thirteenth century brought settlers from the Slavic tribes on the opposite shore of the Vistula River in order to strengthen the safety of their own interests against invasions from without, and gave them to the settlers as "common property" the defense settlements near 'Kolbuszowa': Przewrotna, Raniszew and Wojkow. Thus the king tried to concentrate most of the supreme authority within the country. After a long period of dissension, the Kingdom of Poland was finally united in the fifteenth century. In the battle over the Piastic dominance, there came to Sandomierz in 1312 Count Wladislaw Loketek the Short-Legged (1260-1333) and put down the townspeople rebellion. It is said that on his way back he stopped off in Kolbuszowa and to commemorate his visit, built a church there.

Whether Loketek found Jews living in Kolbuszowa is hard to say. It is not impossible, in fact it is reasonable, to suppose that itinerant Jews and merchants pitched their tents there for a transient or even permanent stay. We should keep in mind the fact that this settlement was on the high road of the commerce of that time. The fact is known that in the southeast portion of Poland near Cracow and Sandomierz there existed already then Jewish settlements, established along the important commerce-route which stretched from Hungary across Poland. In the privilege granted by the king to the city of Nowy Sacz, all the merchants regardless of whether they were Christians or Jews, were freed from paying taxes when traveling from Cracow or Hungary to the fair in Nowy Sacz.

In the privilege-granting document we read as follows: "In order that our citizens may derive the fullest and most efficient use of their annual fair, we in our generosity hereby free permanently from paying all types of taxes all of the merchants and guests of every status and circumstance, Christians and Jews passing through, or returning from Cracow or from any of their other places."

Although Loketek's visit is shrouded in doubt, there is no doubt whatever that his son, Casimir the Great, showed great interest in this whole region. Proof for this may be seen in a very ancient recently-discovered document from the year 1366 which is related to the "village of Zlotow on the edge of the forest adjacent to Raniszow on the Zlotow River." According to this document the city of Rzeszow and Baranow and the villages of Mrawle and Bodek were founded. The king aspired to have the areas adjoining the borders very densely inhabited. Therefore, cities were then founded such as Nowy-Targ, Ropszyc, Przeworsk and Grodzisk beside Lezansk; in Cracow there lived already at that time 14,000 citizens, in Sandomierz 2,470, in Opatow (Apt) 870. A particular intensity characterized the settlement of those places that had been destroyed and emptied by the Mongolian invasion. Local Jews and immigrant newcomers took an active part in building the new cities, towns and settlements.

It should be noted here that the document given by Casimir the Great dates to the same era and was granted in 1367. In it he undertook "to renew and confirm the recorded privileges of the Jews in Cracow, Sandomierz, Liopol (Lwow-Lemberg) and all of Rus and the regions of Lublin and Sandomierz". It is quite possible, as we have already pointed out, that there were at that time already Jews living in Kolbuszowa, which was an organic part of the Sandomierz region, for the privilege-document shows that Jewish settlements existed then in the entire area.

The 1459 document distinguishes officially between the land properties of.the king, whose estates were in Raniszow and Wola, and the estates of the Mielecki family who owned Mielec and Cmolas and the above-mentioned Tarnowski family who owned Kolbuszowa. In 1515 the hamlet was elevated to the sitatus of a village joined to Verynia. A 1581 document includes a list of.taxes the population was obliged to pay Count Tarnowski as well as details such as the following: 66 farmers cultivated 24 fields, 20 owned farms, 12 were newcomers, 10 were poor, 12 were craftsmen, etc. It is not illogical to surmise that the term "new" or "craftsmen" conceals a number of Jews who had settled there.

In 1536 Kolbuszowa was still being mentioned together with Verynia, as a single blooming, successful village. The Tarnowski court built the great Lellewyt castle; and even though the Tartar invasion engulfed Rzochow and Rzemien and the whole Sandomierz steppe, the nobles of Kolbuszowa exploited the crisis and the demand for Polish wheat, lumber and wood-products for the benefit of expanding and developing their village. In 1581 it had over 600 inhabitants.

In the latter half of the sixteenth century, when many private cities were built in the region, as Mielec, Rudnik, Sokolow, Glogow, Radomysl, and others, Kolbuszowa had all the opportunities to advance and likewise be declared a city. In theory it was still an agricultural village but in practice, it had already grown into an important urban center thanks to the ceaseless labors of the peasant population and the skillful work of the craftsmen who devoted themselves primarily to working in wood. Helpful in its advancement were also the middlemen, the Jewish merchants who distributed the products near and far, and the court officials and servants who added glory and brilliance to the castle. But the magnate, Tarnowski, master of the castle and the village, already owned the city of Rzechow, and to his heirs already belonged the city of Tarnow, and one branch of the familywas occupied with fortifying the city of Tarnobrzeg, known as Dzikow. Due to complicated family matters Count Tarnowski was forced, with the approval of King Stefan Batory (1575-1588), in 1585 to sell his whole state, including Kolbuszowa and other estates, to the brother of his wife, Heronim Mielecki, governor of Sandomierz. The new owner of the estates became their patron but had no intention of transforming the village into a city since he had already long been the owner of the city of Mielec with its Renaissance-style castle.

In 1616 the Kolbuszowa estates and the environs were transferred to the commander "Herman" Stanislaw Lubomirski who had gained renown as the victor in the battles against the Turks near Chocim, and later also as the governor of Cracow. In keeping with his plans to build fortifications and strengthen security positions, he transformed the castle of Rzemien into a strong citadel and that of the newly-acquired Lancut, into a bastion. Count Lubomirski decided to build a summer palace for himself and his son in Kolbuszowa, against the background of a magnificent panoramic view, beside a river flowing between gently sloping mountains, encircled by lakes and dense old forests of various wild growing trees, the Sandomierz Forest. (Kolbuszowa still remained a village, despite the royal visits paid to it by the Polish king Sigmund the Old and his wife, Bona, and King Zygmunt-August and his Austrian Catherine. In addition to Kolbuszowa they also visited the estates in the Sandomierz region such as Wielowies, Dzikow, Rzemien.) The magnificent palace, unique in style and construction, became the center for big lumber deals. The strong river current made the export of lumber possible. Two watermills and a brewery were built at that time, mining of iron-ore was begun in the area and a new settlement of fishermen and hunters was started near the Rybaki. The name of the castle of Kolbuszowa, however, rang far and wide across "the land of Poland, Lithuania and even further". It was built of colored wood according to an artistic model of Kolbuszowa and superlatively finished by local carpenters. Here in fact arose the renowned center of Kolbuszowa art-furniture which foretold the high quality of Polish craftsmanship in all the villages and hamlets of the nobles. To this day some of these pieces are to be found in museums all over the world.

The year 1642 saw Kolbuszowa become the place of residence of the governor of Cracow, Alexander Michal Lubomirski. His court expressed interest in the village and this advantage led to a constant increase in the population. There is no doubt that the court determined immediately to declare Kolbuszowa a city, but in 1652 the "black plague" spread across all of Lesscr Poland and in 1655 the Swedes overran it in the famous "flood", looting Sokolow and sending Kolbuszowa up in flames.

In 1683 Prince Joseph Carl Lubomirski was appointed the new governor of the region. He was the governor of Lubaczow and Sandomierz and also bearer of the title "Extraordinary Crown Marshal" and subsequently the owner of the immense inheritance of Ostrog. The new master ordered the fairs for the sale of livestock and lumber to be moved from the place adjoining the church in the marketplace to a spot across the Nil River opposite the palace "on the canal". The fairs became leading events for the whole region, attracting merchants and customers not only from the neighboring communities but also great crowds from Glogow to Nisko.

This edict was issued by the new owner of the estate in Wola Justowska near Cracow on September II, 1683, and stated the following (translated from the Polish):

"In order that the fairs may be held as of old, so that the people may profit from them to the maximum degree, and show the greatest measure of hospitality to those who come from other places, we have designated the market-place to be between the inn and the brewery, where every one will be able to conduct his business as he sees fit."

From the term "every one" we may deduce that Jews were already resident in Kolbuszowa or that they were enabled to frequent the fairs. Only in a later edict published by Joseph Carl Lubomirsky, which we will quote subsequently, were the Jews mentioned directly.

Following the decisive victory in 1683 in the battle against the Turks at the city of Vienna, King Jan Sobieski expressed his gratitude for the assistance given him by Lubomirski "in the war effort against the Turk" by publishing a royal decree singling out "the city of Kolbuszowa in the Sandomierz district and Pilsen region" and encouraging it, in a firm statement signed and sealed with the royal seal, to participate in the five annual fairs and in the weekly market-days held every Sunday. In the privilege document issued in Warsaw on June 3, 1690, in the sixteenth year of his rule, King Sobieski declared the following:

"On market-days it will be possible forever more, without distinguishing between sex or status, condition, occupation or position, rule or faith, in this city of Kolbuszowa, containing all kinds of merchandise-wheat, barley, fodder and other produces and seeds as well as horses, cattle and sheep, lumber and wood-products, liquors and all salable goods-to come in order to buy, sell, barter and negotiate, whiskey, mead and other liquors, and in security and peace buy and sell merchandise for merchandise, in barter, and to negotiate all kinds of fair and permitted deals."

Jews are not directly mentioned in this document. They are, however, mentioned indirectly where the king encourages his subjects to participate without discrimination as to status or faith in the fair--and market-days of Kolbuszowa. Sobieski, whose attitude toward the Jews was good, considered them too, chiefly no doubt because he wished a goodly population for the city as well as new sources of livelihood. There must already have been Jews in Kolbuszowa, enjoying the equal rights granted to everyone in the region and including therefore this town too. In this document the village was referred to as a city, indicating that it had already previously been declared a city. We thus learn of its status as a city.

In January, 1700, Joseph Carl Lubomirski, ruler of the city and its environs, on whose name King Sobieski had issued his above-mentioned privilege decree, published his own declaration. As stated, Joseph Carl was a great favorite of the King and the declared head of the Crown's lands. Later he was made Marshal of the Court, and the Crown, Marshal with the special designation of "Hetman" accorded him because of his victorious battles against the Turks and in other military undertakings that he carried out with utmost devotion and success for the benefit of his king. King Sobiesky openly expressed great affection and deep appreciation for him and bestowed on him the immense inheritance of Ostrog. His exceptional abilities and excellent relationship with the king brought him vast wealth, and to the city belonging to him it brought the royal recognition as a city which we mentioned above.

His declaration, written in Polish, is because of its significance, here cited in full translation:

"I announce to everyone who should know this--in our day and in the days to come--that all the cities, towns and villages, have with the kindness of their owners and patrons, grown and blossomed and become rich. Therefore, I too, in my desire to see my estates constantly prospering, and recognizing the place as suitable, have founded a city on the land I inherited, stretching behind my palace, known long since as Kolbuszowa, in a location upon which I hereby permit people to settle without any preconditions and to build for themselves as they choose, using my forests freely, to construct houses with tiled roofs for the benefit of all who wish to live in proximity to my place of residence, in keeping with the model seen in other cities.

"To all of them I grant full freedom in their undertakings, in commerce, in buying, and in the conduct of taverns wherein mead, whiskey, beer and wine may be held without payment of any tax whatsoever for a period of twelve years. These taverns may continue to exist henceforth as well, having at the conclusion of twelve years to pay two zloty for the brewing of every log-measure of beer, and a quarterly payment of two zloty for the distillation of whiskey. For locations in the market-place they will pay an annual rental fee of one zloty; and all who use the pasture-lands in cultivating their fields will pay two zloty; street-vendors will pay 15 grosz annually for their places; the payment for cultivating the soil will be the same as for a location in the market-place; and those among them who have at their disposal not lands but gardens, will each pay one zloty for their garden. Moreover, those who will erect houses of stone or brick, I free them forever from payments and grant them permission to conduct winehouses. It will be their duty to look after the roads leading to the mill, to the defense dugouts and to the shores of the river, without any exception whatsoever, as is the custom in other cities.

"For the settlement and population of the city with all of its lands, tilled soil, fields, forests, gardens and pastures that we have ordered to be measured, as we considered the size of the areas in order to set aside certain portions of land and fields to serve as crossings between the fields, roads and borderlines set for certain reasons, which I approve and recognize forevermore as I declare in this privilege document. This privilege is herewith granted with the approval of His Majesty the King, who has declared the Law of Magdeburg as the basis for judicial matters and all kinds of disputes which may arise in market-places and fairs, and to which this document refers.

"To all craftsmen of every trade I herewith grant permission to belong to professional guilds and to keep order within them and behave in accordance with that order. All of this I approve and reinforce in granting this privilege.

"Jews who use the land and city-soil for cultivation and to whom this is useful, are--like the citizens of the city--duty bound to pay taxes. Those who do not have at their disposal soil to cultivate and the source of their livelihood is commerce, will belong to those who pay rental-fees for places of residence and will pay equal sums in taxes. Their places of residence will not be in the market nor in the rear rows nor spread out upon the face of the city except for those three who are already there; they may not transport on the side whiskeys of the tenants, thereby harming the city because of the palace.

"The palace servants, who live beside me but whose possessions are in the city, must be subservient to the laws of the city and must hand over and pay the taxes due from them for their city properties; other duties pertaining to the palace and differences of opinion which may arise in various matters as well as their safety, I leave to be disposed by myself.

"Tenants and others who have no trade but live as tenants, shall not dare to brew beer or whiskey of their own but shall obtain these from the owners in vessels and barrels for the purpose of selling them.

"Also those who bring harm to the fairs of the city of Kolbuszowa, go out on the roads and take the sellers while yet they are on their way to the city, conduct negotiations and buy, things that cause unpleasantness to the citizens because of these transactions, I therefore command the governor in this letter, the present governor and the one who will follow him, to keep watch over these matters and not permit damage to occur.

"By the way, I make note that meat will be cut one day a week, that is on Sundays, so that the city may be more full during the fairs. As I approve this document with my signature, I herewith affix my seal, in Kolbuszowa, on the 12th of January, 1700.

(-) Lubomirski, Marshal of the Crown and Court."

From the above document it may be clearly seen that the Count divided the population of the city into three categories: 1 ) artisans, farmers and townspeople; 2) noblemen, aristocracy and the palace servants; 3) tenants and Jews. The last, he deprived of the right to settle or to operate stills. As pertains to Jews he declared the number three as a sort of limit and refused to grant them permission to spread out. Truth to tell, however, the actual circumstance of the Jews in the earlier and later periods of the Polish kingdom were never reflected in official commands, privileges or laws enacted by kings or the aristocracy. The economic conditions of the Jews were never influenced completely and decisively by the legal declarations and edicts of the central, secular, royal authorities or of the church. The orders did not work efficiently for very long. At the most, the laws and privileges constituted only a certain phase of the ceaseless struggle between the Jews and the Christian townsmen. In practice the circumstances of the Jews were much better than in theory.

There is no doubt that already then there were many more than the three Jewish families notwithstanding what was recorded in the official orders. What interested the King and the Count most of all was the rapid population of the cities they owned. The firm letters issued by the King and the document concerning marketplaces and fairs published by the Count attest to this interest on their part.

In those days the private city of Kolbuszowa (which belonged to Count Lubomirski and not to the King) covered an area of 759 hectars west of the Nil River to Blonie in the Krokwa section and Nowa Wies.

During that same period the lumber industry developed in great strides in the city and its environs. "The State of Kulbuszowa" won renown by means of its artistic and superlative furniture. Farmers and craftsmen of the slave-labor force, who came here from the villages in search of work, were exploited by the master. Similarly exploited were the carpenters and craftsmen skilled in woodcarving who made their products in their workshops and then brought them into town to give them the famous Kolbuszowa finish and luster.

The city continued to grow and the Jews found means to evade the limitations placed upon them by the nobility's law of 1700. In the time of the reign of Joseph Carl's son, Alexander Dominic Lubomirsky, these limitations were cancelled altogether as concerned the Jews by the Prince himself. This happened in 1713, in a decree issued on June 13th, with the aim of hastening and expanding the population of the city. Before long the Jews became the main factors in the commerce of the region; they exported the furniture to distant places, and became partners in the rapid development of the city. As a result they enjoyed the admiration and recognition of the governor of the city and of its residents.

Alexander Dominic Lubomirsky apparently did not issue any new decree concerning the Jews in the Kolbuszowa state. We do know that the lord gave his approval to his father's privilege document, endorsing it and adding the following clause (translated from the Latin): "Confirming the declaration made here regarding the Jews, I place no limit on their number in the state or on.their rights, [which werel previously guaranteed to them."

Presumably, there was as yet no distinct Jewish community in Kolbuszowa at that time. But the Jews' petition to their master to grant them permission to build a synagogue may be considered the beginning of an organized Jewish life there. In 1736 the lord did in fact grant such permission. The synagogue was located in the Kanti-Zagacz vicinity where the Jews then lived.(1)

This nobleman's friendly behavior toward the Jews is attested definitely by a series of documents. He allowed the Jews to act as middlemen between the artistically skilled cabinet-makers of Kolbuszowa and the consumers who purchased their wares. The latter were as a rule wealthy Polish magnates. Thus we find, for example, that a Jew by the name of Rabinowicz, who was such an agent, wrote a letter dated June 5, 1717, to Countess Siemienska of Rytwian and Pulawy, informing her that he had intervened on her behalf with Kolisz the cabinet-maker and had received from him a promise "to send the finished panels to Pulawy (via the River Vistula)."

In the adjacent city of Rzeszow, which also belonged to the aristocratic Lubomirsky family, the Jewish residents were obliged "to have every household equipped with rifles equal to the number of men therein, sixty magazines, and three pounds of gunpowder for every rifle." The Jews' participation in the defense of the cities was widespread in the kingdom's eastern sections. These new cities were from the start preponderantly Jewish and the relations between the Jews and the nobility became firm and good. Theoretically the Jews were still under the authority and ownership of the King, but in practice they enjoyed in progressively increasing measure the patronage of the magnates. This fact was reflected in the economic development of the Jewish settlements. The Kolbuszowa community, too, benefited from these good relations.

The community grew progressively larger. Jews arrived from other sections, where their lot was harder. At that time the Jewish community was already to be found represented in the Council of the Four Lands, and on a certain occasion appears as a community subordinate to the Central Jewish Kehilla of Opatow together with several other communities.


The greatest blossoming of the industry of furniture-making, carpentry, wood-carving and other related crafts occurred in Kolbuszowa after its recognition as a city, in the.era of the Sanguszko family of nobles, during the latter half of the 18th century, and especially in the days of the great Lithuanian marshal, Pavel Carl, who acquired all the properties through marriage into the aristocratic family Lubomirsky. Prince Sanguszko's palace was situated in Dubno, the leading city of the district; now he was given also the palace of Kolbuszowa. During this period the number of souls in Kolbuszowa rose to two thousand, including also Jews.

Pavel Carl Sanguszko, the new master, did not issue a privilege-document of his own with regard to the Jewish residents. Acting as did his predecessors, and as was the custom in those days, he confirmed the previous rights which the Jews and other residents already enjoyed. When he assumed ownership of the estate from the Lubomirsky family of Kolbuszowa, he endorsed the Act of 1700, confirming it in all its "points and paragraphs," and applying his own signature as well as the handwritten signature of his wife, Marianna Lubomirska-Sanguszko.

Kolbuszowa grew and expanded into a center of commerce and labor. It consisted of two separate communities, the Christian and the Jewish, each of which had its own organized self-government; neither interfered in the affairs of the other. Each community had its individual authority and hall, but in the 18th and 19th centuries they had one seal in common which represented the combined municipal organs of the city and which had the following design: two hands clasping each other against a background of a cross and a star-of-David. This symbol showed that the Poles and the Jews were united in mutual friendship, with the white wings of an eagle spreading over them from the tip of a green shield.

In 1724 the Gentile artisans began to organize themselves in professional guilds. Carpenters, wood-carvers, smiths and locksmiths were granted special status as the "Great Guild", similar to that of nearby Sokolow. The latter had monopolistic guilds for the production of household articles of all kinds and for items made of wood. Kolbuszowa decided that in order to broaden its production more, it would not suffice to limit itself to producing art-furniture that could serve only the members of the rich aristocracy of the princes within and without the country's borders; it determined, therefore,to compete with Sokolow in the production of a variety of household articles as well as inexpensive furniture, to meet the manifold needs of the inhabitants of the surrounding towns and villages. The Great Guild did not accept townspeople and certainly not Jews. Here it should be added that in a later period Jews did succeed in penetrating this industry, easily competing with others because they agreed to smaller profits; they produced and sold the articles themselves without paying middlemen's commissions, basing their calculations on a large turnover.

It appears that the lord, Pavel Carl Sanguszko, did not show any particular interest in the Jews who lived in the neighborhood. He surrounded himself with the German colonists who had come from Saxony and settled here. He was an ultra-pious Catholic and his behavior to and interest in the "old rituals" (as Jews were called) was limited at best and favored certain converted Jews. A document dated 1736 refers to "our Elias-Davidek" (Elijah David) of the castle, but his greatest attention was bestowed on those who changed their faith as for instance, Dobrowolski (1732), Kolbuszowski (1732), Uznanski (1739).

In that era the palace of Kolbuszowa became a center of culture and politics. Local industry was prospering, its reputation spreading throughout Poland and even to other countries. The masters of the Kolbuszowa district were the Sanguszkos, who had family connections in Lithuania; the Lubomirskys, branches of whose huge family were scattered throughout the country; and the more recently risen family of Count Tyszkewicz who had succeeded in publicizing the city and its wood-products in many countries of Europe. Other types of work now began to be introduced, with Jews also being allowed access to them. True, the relationship with the masses around them was always characterized by tension, brought on by envy and competitiveness. The city soon possessed professional guilds for cobblers, weavers, tinsmiths and tanners. Moreover, an altogether new source of livelihood now made its appearance, the production of violins, flutes and other musical instruments. What is more, the Kolbuszowa violin became worldknown for its superb quality because of the fine wood and the delicate, artistic workmanship. Besides commerce, Jews undoubtedly worked also at crafts. As everywhere else, they initially developed the crafts closely related to their Jewish way of life, based for many generations on the instructions of the Shulchan Aruch and on custom. Thus there were in the city Jewish tailors, weavers and tanners, the latter being particularly known for the strips of leather they made for their own and for others' consumption. Well regarded too were the Jewish butchers, bakers and the like. Jewish labor was greatly aided in its growth by the Jewish merchants and shopkeepers who utilized their connections with the Jewish communities of Poland and the neighboring countries. The position of the Jews in town improved consistently. The master's kindly attitude toward them led to a continuous increase in their numbers. This was visibly expressed when Janusz Aleksander, son of Pavel Carl Sanguszko became the new master of the castle. The youthful new owner was very friendly toward the Jewish residents. The Jews had asked the old master for permission to build a synagogue and also to enable them to bury their dead in a cemetery of their own. Although they took the advance precaution of securing the good will of the deacon of the local Catholic church, a priest by the name of Reszmian, who gave them his approval, there are no documents to prove that the lord, Pavel Carl,(2) did in fact agree to fulfill their request. Their petition was signed by the Jews Yudkowicz, Leibowicz, Lefkowicz, Moskowicz, Nechumowicz and Zykowicz. Most likely he did not grant them his permission; the evidence to support this conclusion may be found in the fact that the loan which the Jewish community received in 1746 from the Christian, Stanislaw Kuczkowski, in the sum of one thousand zloty, was guaranteed "by the whole Jewish population," but the synagogue was in no way mentioned. In 1761 the Jews Abramowicz, Tobiaszowicz, Lezanski and Dukielski again petitioned for a cemetery but this time we do find the synagogue's existence mentioned. It is very possible that the aged Sanguszko did finally, before his death in June 1750, agree to the building of a synagogue, the so-called "older" synagogue (which the Germans destroyed in 1941). The above-mentioned loan was actually intended for its building. In 1761 it obviously existed as a richly-furnished synagogue, for in that year it was recorded for a mortgage in the sum of 5000 zloty to the credit of the Catholic priest Ruzancew of the Royal Church in Raniszew.

The young Sanguszko, Janusz Aleksander, took over the Kolbuszowa estates in 1751 and confirmed, in that same year, the privileges of 1700, adding a clause to the effect that "the endorsement would not be contradictory to the dispositions that were later announced"; he must certainly have had in mind the building of the synagogue which was permitted. The cemetery was already in existence prior to the year 1760 when Sanguszko, in allocating a rather large subvention for erecting a new church, mentionedin his Act of March 3, 1760-"the fields on Podkierkucie, which have been given to the local Jews," warning them "not to commit any indecencies and not to dare work in the breweries and ovens on the (Christian) holidays, and not to hold public funerals or celebrate weddings on those days on which these are forbidden by the church," under penalty of being fined for the benefit of the castle and of the church.

In 1763 the young Sanguszko issued another edict from his Dubno castle, which warned the Jews ... once and for all ... to be sure and carry out punctually all the previous decisions to which they had agreed and by which they had promised to abide in connection with the Kolbuszowa church and to pay ... punctually on the Roman Easter holiday one scone (measure of weight) without any excuses or pretext, or to bring 40 Polish zloty on the "eve of the resurrection" (Easter Sunday night), for the benefit of the castle in Kolbuszowa.

It is particularly noteworthy to relate here the tale that one of the last of the Lubomirskys, Jerzy Marcin, who owned the castle of Kolbuszowa, married Eva, the daughter of the "false messiah" Jacob Frank, after the latter's death in 1791. Another version has it that it was not the daughter he married but her servant.

After the first partition of Poland in 1772, Kolbuszowa as part of Galicia belonged to the district of Tarnow. In accordance with the decree of the Imperial Chancellery of Vienna dated November 14, 1785, Kolbuszowa was designated a small town (miasteczko). The regulations instituted by Emperor Joseph II altered the conditions under which Galician Jewry lived. In 1787 German surnames were adopted; it was at this time or a few years later that there appeared such names as: Goldberg, Blum, Geldzahler, Reich, Hutner, Haar, Saltz and others. The decree issued in 1789 by the central government in Vienna prohibited the Jews who lived in the surrounding villages from moving into the cities. The ban applied particularly to those Jews who were not engaged in agriculture or handicrafts, forbidding them to work as peddlers or lease contractors or innkeepers.

Only under the rule of Count Tyszkiewicz and his representatives in 1795-1805 did conditions change. Several times the townlet burned down to the ground in fearful conflagrations. The population was reduced and became even more poverty-stricken.

There was friction between the Court and the local church (a dispute concerning a large field of pasture known as Blonie) and the master of the district encouraged Jews to come and settle in the townlet. Whereupon, from the suburbs and from more distant points Jews streamed into Kolbuszowa, Jews who, as the master "pressed it in his announcement, were "intended not only to increase the number of citizens but also to develop and expand the commerce of Kolbuszowa." He added that the Jewish newcomers "would have to do a good deal of building; for this purpose he promised to sell through the Court the needed materials and assured himself on the part of the Jews that they will pay all taxes; and for this reason he was putting the 'vacant lots' up for sale." Among those who settled in the market-place here at this time were: David Lichtsinn, Leizer Rosenberg, Judke Hirsch, the Rachmielys, Yitzhak Stroch, Nachurn Kushnir, Koenig, Yaakov Diamand, Leib Zuss. This Leib Zuss, a well-to-do Jew, was granted permission to erect "a building with public facilities where all manner of trade and commerce would be carried out and where a tavern would be operated, with the special approval of the Court as to the drinks to be dispensed."

Kolbuszowa's wealthier Jews of that period also helped the local carpenters and turners, who sent the furniture they made to Cracow and even as far as Warsaw to be sold, by lending them considerable sums of money. The loans were negotiated on the basis of promissory notes. The Christian artisans undertook to repay their debts immediately upon returning to Kolbuszowa, putting their homes up as collateral to guarantee the transactions. These were recorded in the "municipal books" (Vol. II--153, 154, 178, etc.) Thus, in 1804, Isaac Zuckerman "gave to the dealers Jozef Snopkowski and Cichocki merchandise valued at 1000 zloty for products for Warsaw, guaranteeing his money with their entire possessions." In 1806, Moshe and Chayim. Auchhisiger, Leib Goldberg and Yossef Blum took the artisan Wroczenski to court for not paying them the sum of 550 reinish which was the value of the goods he had taken on credit and transported to Warsaw.

In that same year, 1806, Count Jerzy Tyszkiewicz sold the Jews the right to become innkeepers throughout the Kolbuszowa district, which included the town itself and eight villages, for the sum of 25,000 Polish zloty to be paid annually. Of the "Jewish public residing in Kolbuszowa," another document states, "whatever the Jew Leib Zuss, citizen and merchant of Kolbuszowa, signs in contract with the merciful master, our 'Dziedzic', his Excellency, Count Tyszkiewicz, is for the benefit of our entire community." (Municipal Real Estate Books, II)

There is an entry in the muncipal books of the year 1804, about the "sexton and supervisor" Liftig (II, 137) who served on the basis of the Kolbuszowa rabbi's confirmation (II, 192-3). There is an 1808 seal with the inscription "Jewish community of the city of Kolbuszowa," with a star of David in its center. There is also a record dated 1809 regarding the ritual bath which in keeping with the town's tradition, was built there; it was used among others by the famous Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshel, who later became the pillar of Polish hassidism and is referred to as "The Apter."

The Jewish community of Kolbuszowa could not remain aloof to everything that transpired around it and unable to isolate itself from ongoing events, reacted to the political changes in the country: the tri-partite division of Poland, the 1848 Spring of Nations, the Polish uprisings of 1830 and 1863, the Josephan politics of Austria as regards Galicia in general and the Jewish population in particular. In that period of ups and downs the Jews of Kolbuszowa were caught in a trap of decrees, special taxes and other hardships against which they tried to defend themselves in all manner of ways and means, in the effort to cancel or at least reduce them. In 1848, forced labor was abolished; as a result hundreds of peasants and their families were freed in the district of Kolbuszowa. In 1861, Austria published a special order with regard to self-government in Galicia. All of these occurrences were reflected in the innermost life of the local Jewish community.

It is interesting to read the impressions recorded by a German who visited Kolbuszowa in 1804 for a time. In his book, Remarks on a Journey Through Galicia, J. Rehrer wrote: "The city is full of tree-shaded homes in the market-place and frame-houses nestling in the green of magnificent gardens and very ancient trees. Everything combines to give the impression of an oasis in the midst of the sand desert known hereabouts as the Sahara of Kolbuszowa." According to him the number of inhabitants had reached 3,262 souls, exclusive of the neighboring villages. Of this number, 1,987 were Jews. In other words, the Jews in town then comprised the majority.

In 1867 Kolbuszowa was declared a district-city. Consequently, new areas, courts, farms and estates of the Tyszkewicz family were attached to it. A year later, in 1868, the population received with great anticipation the announcement that its administration was being transferred into the hands of the Starosta (sheriff) and that a county court-house was being established there.

The starosta also had a County Council functioning with him. The county included the cities of Razniew, Sokolow and Majdan and all the villages roundabout.

Despite the exterior achievements of the city, Kolbuszowa suffered an enormous decline in its economic condition and its position due to the fact. that the leading source of livelihood, which had supported most of its population for over 200 years-the production of art-furniture---decreased alarmingly. The reasons were: 1) the democratization of life in Poland reduced the demand for these expensive art pieces; 2) Vienna was not interested in having a provincial city in Galicia compete with furniture manufacturers in the capital; and 3) mass production of furniture in the leading city of Austria made it cheap and available to all, undermining the exclusivity of the Kolbuszowa art. Like many other cities in Galicia, the development of Kolbuszowa was all at once frozen.

Such were the circumstances until the outbreak of the first world war. The battles between the Austrian and Russian armies were waged here. In 1915 Czarist Russia completed her conquest of the city. Most of the Jews abandoned their homes, fleeing from the Russians; upon returning, they had to try their luck anew.

The city's later progress, the development of the community and its organizations, and the tragic extermination of the Jews there, will be related in the following chapters of this Memorial Book.


Footnotes

  1. In his book "Holy Stones" (Dvir, Tel Aviv, 1959) David Davidowicz states that the Kolbuszowa synagogue was erected in the sixteenth century, which according to our calculations is not correct. As concerns the interior of the synagogue, the eminent writer--known for his expertise in Jewish architecture and art--says that the style lacks unity because the synagogue was repeatedly redecorated. However, the remnants of ornaments and the typically-Jewish motif characterizing the murals (the signs of the zodiac and others) attest to the fact that an artist with very good taste gave the synagogue a magnificent and at the same time traditional appearance. Back

  2. We may note here in passing that in 1730 Pavel Carl Sanguszko visited the Land of Israel which of course the Christians too consider the Holy Land. He also went to Egypt. It appears that as his imagination was kindled, he wished to bring something back to his native land and consequently gave to the river flowing through his town and to the nearby lake names taken from the ancient East. Back

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