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Translation of "Działoszyn" chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of "Działoszyn" chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
Alex P. Korn
Alex P. Korn
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for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume I, pages 88-89, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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|Sep 1, 1939||?||about 2,000|
Działoszyn gained official municipal status in the beginning of the fifteenth century. The Jewish settlement was established there in the first years of the seventeenth century, but it was tiny and it began to grow only at the end of that century. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Jews had already become the majority of Działoszyn's population, and its Jewish community was the largest within Wielun County. In the eighteenth century, Jews from 104 settlements belonged to its Kehillah, among them the five cities of Krzepice, Pajeczno, Praszka, Wieruszów and Wielun. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the residents of these cities became independent Kehillot. In the middle of the eighteenth century a fire broke out in Działoszyn and destroyed many Jewish homes, or houses belonging to the nobleman in which Jews resided. The fire weakened the Jewish community.
State taxes and rental fees to the noblemen weighted heavily upon the Jewish community's finances, so much so that the Kehillah council was forced to borrow money from the nobility and the Catholic priests. With the passage of years, payment of interest put the Kehillah under more and more duress, and so the loans increased and multiplied, until the delay in payments brought about persecutions from the lenders. In 1740 the archbishop demanded that the Jews pay their debt to the monastery in Krzepice. Also, he prohibited Catholics from doing business with the Jews; and so, the Jews were forced to pay back their debt immediately. At the end of the eighteenth century the debt of the Jewish community of Działoszyn rose to a sum that was the largest for its time – over 41,000 zlotys.
The occupational structure of Działoszyn's Jews in the 1790's consisted as follows. At that time there were seventy Jewish merchants, of which a few dealt in paper, produce and leather. Fifteen Jews worked at administering breweries and liquor distilleries, and at inn keeping. There were then in the town seventy-five Jewish and thirty-six Christian craftsmen. Among the artisans were also bookbinders - for the production of Hebrew books. Several Jews in partnership with each other founded a tannery and, inter alia, also produced parchment. During this period a plan was attempted to establish a Hebrew printing house, but it did not come to fruition. In the eighteenth century and in the beginning of the nineteenth, the major portion of the Jews of Działoszyn was involved in the wool trade. Among them were large wholesalers who purchased wool from the peasants and the wealthy noblemen, and supplied it to the small-weavers and to Silesia for its weaving industry. In the first half of the nineteenth century, Działoszyn's merchants occupied an honored place in the commercial traffic between, on the one hand, the Kingdom of Poland and, on the other, the Prussian-occupied regions and Galicia. A few of these merchants came to great wealth, one of which was Kopel Yakobovitch, who, in 1861, contributed to Moses Montefiore the amount of 5,000 rubles for the building of a yeshiva in Jerusalem. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, the economic status of the Jews of Działoszyn worsened because of the decline in trade between the Polish Kingdom and Silesia, and because of the effect that the crises in the textile sector had on the wool trade. Działoszyn ceased to serve as a center for the wool business, and in 1870 its municipal status was canceled. At this time there were no sources of income remaining for the Jews of the town except in crafts and in peddling. In 1888 a third of the houses of the city went up in flames, and one hundred Jewish families were left homeless.
The first information concerning Dziaoszyn's rabbis comes from the seventeenth century. One of them was Rabbi Shlomo son of Moshe. In 1764 there were two rabbis in Działoszyn, and one of them served, so it seems, either as judge or as Maggid [morals preacher]. At the end of the eighteenth century the famous Maggid and Halachic scholar, Rabbi Shraga Feivish, lived in Działoszyn.* In the first decades of the nineteenth century two rabbis famous for being great men of Torah served in Działoszyn as judges. One was Rabbi Nathan HaCohen, son of Rabbi Ze'ev HaCohen, the rabbi of Lask, and the other was Rabbi Moshe [son of Gershon] who was one of the select students of the Seer of Lublin and the Maggid of Kozinice. He is known from his books, Tikunei Shabbat [Regulation for the Sabbath, a commentary on the Siddur], Mishpat Tzedek [Judgment of Righteousness, a collection of inspirational teachings culled from rabbinic sources on life's tribulations, originally published as a companion to the Psalms], Ge'ulat Yisrael [Redemption of Israel", a commentary on the Passover Haggadah consisting of a compilation of miracles accompanying the Exodus] and also responses to Halachic queries. Rabbi Moshe passed away in 1831. For a few years Rabbi Ya'akov Aharon Yanovski served as rabbi of Działoszyn, and served afterward in the years 1856-1866 as rabbi of Alexandrów. For a certain time, Rabbi Shlomo David Margolit, the author of Chidushei Marshadam [Original Works by the Teacher and Rabbi, Shlomo David Margolit], served in Działoszyn's rabbinate, and at some other time as rabbi of Luków. After his death in 1890, Rabbi Ya'akov Moshe Landau served as the rabbi of Działoszyn. He passed away in 1901. The last rabbi of Działoszyn was, it seems, Y.M. Bumatz [Sic: In Tchenstochover Yidn, page 336, Itshe Meir Boymatz is listed in the Charity Committee, and Rabbi Binjamin Eliah is listed as its chairman.]
At the beginning of the twentieth century the influence of socialistic ideologies began to spread among the youth of Działoszyn, [notwithstanding that] most of them had been educated within the spirit of the ancient traditions. These young people participated in the revolutionary demonstrations of 1905-1907, contributed towards the goal of revolution, and, during strikes, forced the Jewish merchants to close their stores. The leadership role of the revolutionary movement for the district was in the hands of the brothers, Chaim-Yehudah and Lewek Fuks. Other active revolutionary workers were Ya'akov Solmeirski, and the bakery worker Yisrael Berkowicz, who was arrested in 1908 and exiled to Siberia.
During the period between the two world wars, most of the Jewish population of Działoszyn was petty merchants and tailors who made inexpensive ready-to-wear clothing. They used to sell their own products in the markets and fairs, or travel among the villages with their wares.
The following Zionist organizations existed in Działoszyn: The General Zionists, Mizrachi, The National Guard [HaShomer HaLe'umi], and The Zionist Youth. In the elections for the Zionist Congress of 1939 the General Zionists won 18 votes, the Zionist Youth 30, Mizrachi 41, and the League for the Working Land of Israel won 3 votes. Especially prominent in the local Jewish community was the influence of Agudat Yisrael. Their control as well as that of other Charedim [ultra-Orthodox], was particularly strong in the Kehillah council. In the election to the Kehillah council in 1931 they won five mandates against the two of the Zionists. In the elections of 1934 the influence of the Zionists increased somewhat in its winning 3 mandates; whereas, Agudat Yisrael also gained 3, and the non-partisan candidates won 1 mandate. [Also prominent in Działoszyn was the right-wing Zionist youth group, Beitar, of which there was, on the basis of a head-count from a group photograph, about 40 individuals. - translator's comment]
Because of the deteriorated economic situation of the Jewish community of the Jewish community, the Kehillah council could not find the necessary funds even to reinforce the crumbling synagogue nor the Miqveh [ritual purification bath], which had already become nearly unusable. In the thirties the council managed to obtain donations from Działoszyners living abroad for the renovations of these buildings. In January of 1937 the Jews of Działoszyn received substantial assistance from the Jewish Aid Council of the Warsaw Jewish Community. In February of the same year a Gemillut Chassadim Fund was established, which was supported by the Joint [i.e., the American Jewish Joint Distribution Fund] and by former Działoszyners living abroad. However, these actions did not overcome the severe poverty of significant portions of the Jews of Działoszyn.
In the twenties several modern Jewish cultural institutions were established in Działoszyn. Around 1928 the Bildung [i.e. Education] Society was founded with a library next to it, as well as a Drama Circle. The second library, which was called The People's Library, was established in 1930 next to the Organization of the General Zionists. A plan for the opening of an elementary Jewish school was made, but it did not come to fruition because of a lack of funding.
In the thirties a wave of anti-Semitism enveloped Działoszyn. In 1936 windows of Jewish homes were often shattered. In December of that year and in January of 1937 the Emergency Guard forbade Christians from patronizing Jewish stores. On January 28, 1937, the situation came to outright rioting. The mob attacked Jewish stores and market stands, and any Jew that happened to be in the way was beaten. During these pogroms about forty Jews were injured, six of them seriously. The police unit that arrived from Wielun stopped the attackers and arrested several hundred people. The sentences were typical: of the rioters one was incarcerated for one month only, and from the other side, one Jew was sentenced to three months in prison, and another Jew to one month. The attacks on Jews continued and increased. In July, 1937, the Jewish cemetery was desecrated, the fence was destroyed, and many gravestones were smashed, and several graves were dug up and the bones of the dead were scattered [I found no evidence in the sources for this atrocity. Neither does my aunt, who was a teenager at this time, remember such an event. Translator]
During the war, in September of 1939, the town was bombed and was totally destroyed. The vast majority of the Jews of the town, nearly 2,000, ran for shelter to neighboring Pajeczno. A number of Jews from Działoszyn was also found in Zelów (Lask county) in 1939 or 1940, and about 250 in Kielciglow [sic?] (Wielun County). As for the refugees of Działoszyn in Pajeczno who had nothing, the local Joint committee took care of them. Many refugees, like the local poor, were hired out to wealthy Jews and others worked in those places for the Germans as forced labor. The fate of the Jews of Działoszyn was [ultimately] that of the other Jews of the region.
* The translator is a descendent of der maggid Feivish. return
Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem: S.5-1773.
AGAD (Archiwum Glowne Akt Dawnych): Ksie(n)gi Miejska Działoszyna, p.1679.
AP Lodz (Archiwum Panstwowe Miasta Lodzi i Wojewodztwa Lodzkiego):
KGK (Kancelaria Gubernatora Kaliskiego) III/1494, III/1541; 2096;
KWK (Komisja Wojewodztwa Kaliskiego) 188.
"Sefer Pinat Yikrat" (History of Tomaszow Lubelski), New York, 1968, p. 339.
Ksie(n)gi Kahalu w Działoszynia z drugiej polowy XVIII w., (Financial Record Book of the Jewish Community of Działoszyn from the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century), edited by Prof. Jacob Goldberg (emeritus) and Adam Wein in "Biuletyn Zydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego" 1965, nos. 53, 56.
S. Muznerowski, Krzepice w Przeszlosci (Krzepice in the Past), Wloclawek, 1914, page. 99.
E. Ringelblum, Projekty i proby przewarstwowienia Zydow w epoce stanislawowskiej (Schemes and Experiments to Reform the Jews in the Stanislawski Period), in "Sprawy Narodowosciowe", 1934, p. 196.
"Haint" : 29/6/1921, 9/11/1922, 3/3/1930, 5/6/1931, 20/8/1931, 1/2/1937, 3/2/1937, 12/10/1937, 6/12/1937.
"Das Judische Tagblatt": 13/6/1938, 23/8/1938, 12/12/1938.
"Lodzer Volksblatt": 22/7/1915.
"Neie Volksblatt": 31/1/1937, 2/2/1937, 5/8/1937.
"Die Zeit": 10/5/1929, 17/5/1929, 7/6/1929, 28/6/1929, 5/9/1930, 3/2/1934.
"HaTzefirah": No. 97, 1888
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