"Sulejow (Silev)" - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume I
(Poland)

51°22' / 19°53'

Translation of "Sulejow (Silev)" chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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Acknowledgments

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Morris Wirth

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

Our appreciation to Sandy Zimmerman, who allowed us to publish
the translations which were done by Shalom Bronstein for her private use.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume I, pages 159-161, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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(page 159)

Sulejow (Silev)
(District of Piotrkow Trybunalski)

Translated by Shalom Bronstein

Population Figures

YearTotal PopulationJews
1,80853791
18271,242355
18571,256346
18842,7991,022
18974,6361,881
19215,7182,133
September 1, 1939 (?)About 600 families

Table of Contents

I.The Jewish Community Until 1918
II.Between The Two World Wars
III.The Holocaust
IV.Endnote
V.Sources

The Jewish Community Until 1918

Sulejow was founded at the end of the 13th century. In the succeeding centuries, the town was the property of the local monastery and Jews were prohibited from living there until the end of the 18th century. Only close to 1791 did the first Jewish residents come into view. They were two families of innkeepers who leased the local taverns, but they left after a few years. The permanent Jewish community began in the beginning of the 19th century when the Prussians took possession of the town from the monastery and annulled all its decrees and prohibitions. In the first half of the 19th century, Sulejow served as a small commercial center for a not very large agricultural area. Therefore, few Jews could find a means of livelihood there. With the growth in demand for the limestone quarried in the area of Sulejow and the lime produced by the town's kilns, the Jews discovered new economic opportunities. Close to the year 1860, there were 21 merchants, 28 artisans and one innkeeper among the local Jews.

The growth of the Jewish population aided in the establishment of independent community institutions. Until then, the Jews of Sulejow were considered part of the Piotrkow Trybunalski community. Even though it sought to achieve its independence, it was unable to do so. Only in 1864, with the approval of the Jewish community of Piotrkow did the authorities permit the setting up of an independent community in Sulejow. The community also included the Jews of seven surrounding villages. The cemetery was now consecrated; the land had been acquired for this purpose in 1839, the Hevra Kadisha was organized and a building was purchased for a slaughterhouse. Elections for the new community council were held in November 1864. Until the independent community was established, the Piotrkow community paid the salary of the Dayan. In the 1850's, R. Meir Greenbaum served in this post. In the first stage of its activities, the local community council engaged a Dayan, a Shohet [to slaughter meat] and two teachers (Melamdim). Appointed the first Rabbi of Sulejow in the second half of the 19th century was R. Moshe Valtfried, a descendant of R. Isaiah of Przedborz. He was succeeded by R. Jacob Mendel Milstein (d. 1921). The last rabbi of Sulejow was R. Moshe Aaron Valtfried.

Several years after the establishment of the independent community, the Jews were attacked on a number of occasions by their Christian neighbors. Before Pesah in 5632 (1872) one of the local Polish girls disappeared. The priest cast suspicion on the rabbi, R. Moshe Valtfried and on the officials of the community that they had kidnapped her in order to use her blood to bake matzah. The girl, who simply lost her way in the forest, was quickly found. However, the accusation and the mood that it created took on a life of its own and led to a series of attacks on the Jews. The Jews were attacked one other time, before World War I.

On Simhat Torah 5673 (1913 sic*) [see endnote], while the Jews were at prayer in the synagogue, Polish rioters broke into a grazing field where there were 120 Jewish owned goats. They killed them and threw them into the river. After this, they broke into Jewish homes and caused a great deal of damage.

Between the Two World Wars

During this time, there were no fundamental changes in the Sulejow Jewish community. In 1927 there were close to 200 men involved in commerce, 150 artisans, 10 teachers, including both religious and secular teachers, and some 50 teamsters who transported both goods and people on the 15 kilometer road between Piotrkow Trybunalski and Sulejow. The discovery of the town as a desirable vacation spot improved the economic lot of the Jews. In the surrounding villages, especially in Pshiglov [Przyglow] and in Wlodzimierzow, cottages and small hotels were built. Even though they were mostly owned by Jews from Piotrkow and Lodz, the vacationers provided a source of income for Sulejow's Jews. In the town itself, there were summer camps for children and youth from Lodz and Piotrkow. There were 117 stores in Sulejow in 1932 of which Jews owned 99. Between the years 1932-1937, the number of stores increased to 155, but the number of Jewish owned stores decreased. In 1937, because of the economic boycott against them, which harmed Jewish merchants, there were only 97 Jewish owned stores. The lime merchants were especially affected since until this time it was controlled by Jews. The boycott also had an effect on Jewish artisans. Rival Christian workshops were set up and people were urged not to utilize the services of the Jewish artisans.

Families most severely affected by the deteriorating economic situation, benefited from the help of charitable institutions and mutual aid associations that had been in existence in Sulejow for a long time. One group was the "Free Loan Fund" which had been established before World War I and renewed its activity in 1915. In 1937, its balance came to 32,000 zloty. Between 1932 and 1937, it provided 853 loans. In the 1920's, a branch of the Einehkeit Bank of Piotrkow, a Bund institution, opened. It closed in 1927. Shortly afterwards, another Jewish co-operative bank opened. It developed very quickly and it even earned substantial profits. Sulejow had an active "Bikur Holim/visiting the sick" society, which also developed in 1930 into a shelter society that provided medical assistance to people in need at reduced rates.

During the inter-war period, Zionist organizations that had their starting point in Sulejow at the beginning of the century as groups supporting Hovevei Zion were active. There were active branches of Mizrahi, Poalei Zion - Right and the Hitachdut. Of the politically oriented youth groups, Freiheit, Agudat Zion and Hehalutz, which also sponsored a drama club, functioned. Poalei Zion - Right founded a sports organization, named "Kraft," whose leadership passed to Freiheit in 1929. In 1920 or in 1921, the Zionists initiated a cultural society and alongside established a soup kitchen that supplied meals to some 90 poor children. The Bund branch in Sulejow also sponsored cultural activities and it, too, started a drama group.

In 1935, an organization of religiously observant artisans was established in the town.

The activities of the community faced financial difficulties on occasion. This led to disagreements between the delegates of the various factions on the community council, to resignations and even to the intervention of government officials. In 1935, the authorities appointed a community council.

On the city council of Sulejow in 1927, there were 24 members, of whom there were seven Jewish representatives. They were divided among the following: Bund - 2, Poalei Zion - Right - 1; Merchants - 2; Artisans - 2. In 1935, the city council levied an additional property tax of 1,000 zloty on the Jewish population for permission to establish an Eruv [to permit carrying on the Sabbath] in the town. It should be noted that not only the representatives of the Andaks, but also those of the Polish Socialist Party - PPS, supported this decision.

The Holocaust

Immediately after the outbreak of World War II, Jewish refugees from the neighboring cities of Piotrkow, Tomaszow, Radomsko, and also from Rozprza and Kamiensk, fled to Sulejow. It was quiet in Sulejow the first three days of the war. Between September 4 and 6 a population suffered from a number of heavy bombardments. As a result, a fire that encompassed the entire city, most of whose houses were constructed of wood, raged. Of the 93 houses in which Jews lived, 80 were destroyed by fire. The synagogue and all its Torah scrolls also burned. There were many casualties among the Jews. Most of the survivors sought shelter in the nearby forests or in the nearby sawmill of Jacob Kreitman. Jews fled to further places, to Warsaw and Lublin. After a few days passed, many refugees returned to Sulejow, which by then had been captured by the Germans. However, a large portion of the Jewish population, especially the wealthy and all the members of the community leadership, either did not return or returned and then left for good.

The Jewish victims of the bombardment were laid to rest on September 10, 1939 (the first day of Selihot/penitential prayers recited before Rosh Hashanah). In the Jewish cemetery only a few were buried. The rest, in two mass graves which were dug on the other side of the cemetery walls. Kreitman, the owner of the sawmill, supervised this project. He also concerned himself with the care of the many wounded, the ill and those without a roof over their heads or any means of sustenance. He created a shelter and public kitchen in his sawmill. As time went on, the care of the poor was transferred to the Judenrat that was set up by order of the German authorities. The chairman of the Judenrat was Ch. Weintraub.

The community continued to exist until October 1942. There were between 1,150 (June 1940) to 1,577 Jews (July 1942). A small stream of exiles and refugees into the town caused the population growth. In contrast, there were those who left Sulejow, mostly for Piotrkow or Warsaw [Warszawa]. The remaining Jews lived in houses that had been temporarily repaired. Their condition was relatively tolerable in that a Ghetto was not set up and they could secretly conduct business with the Polish population in the area.

The community was liquidated in October 1942. Some 1,500 Jews were expelled to the Ghetto of Piotrkow and from there, they were deported to Treblinka with all the other residents of the Ghetto between October 14 to 21, 1942. During the Aktzia of eviction, in Sulejow itself and on the way to Piotrkow, many perished, as they could not keep up with the pace. They were mostly the elderly and the weak.

Endnote

* - The number of the Hebrew year changes at Rosh Hashanah. From January 1, the last digit of the Hebrew year is the same as the Gregorian year; however, from Rosh Hashanah through December 31, it is one number ahead. Thus, Simhat Torah 5673, coming after Rosh Hashanah, can only be 1912 and not 1913 as stated in the text.

Sources

Yad Vashem Archives, M-1/E 527/464
AGAD: AKP 85/1, card 70v.
AP Lodz: Anteriora PRG 2572; LDS 444.
Piotrkow Trybunalski and Its Vicinity, Tel Aviv 1965, pages 204, 208, 921.

Newspapers

Folk un Land - April 26, 1932.
Haint [Today] - April 13, 1921; October 22, 1931; February 18, 1935;
     October 20, 1936; June 29, 1937.
Lodzer Folksblatt - September 3, 1915.
Lodzer Tagblatt - June 14, 1924.
Neieh Folksblatt - January 10, 1935.
Unzer Zeitung [Yiddish/Our Newspaper] - January 1, 1926, January 29, 1926; February 26, 1926;
     April 9, 1926; January 14, 1927; March 25, 1927; August 12, 1927; January 6, 1928;
     May 31, 1929; January 3, 1930; March 20, 1931.
Nasz Przeglad - October 25, 1935; October 19, 1937.


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