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Translation of Bobowa chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Bobowa chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
Project Coordinator & Translator
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume III, pages 63-64, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(Gorlice district, Krakow region)
Bobowa, which was owned by the nobility, gained the status of a city in 1339. In the second half of the nineteenth century it was famed for its home industry of lace-making, which was an important source of livelihood for many of the local residents. The rest supported themselves with crafts and also agriculture.
We do not know for certain when the first Jews settled in B', but in 1765 there already resided [in B'] about 44 families, which owned 29 houses. A few families lived in the villages near B'. In 1765 their number was 14 souls. The Jews dealt in leasing, in taverns, in trade and some in crafts. In a document from 1781 there are Jews listed among those who were called upon to pay property tax but could not pay it.
With the establishment of the Hassidic court of the House of Bobov in 1893, the sources of livelihood for the local Jews expanded. Branches of various services developed, such as: guest houses, restaurants, etc., for the congregation of Hassidim who came to see their Rabbi.
We do not have information about the rabbis who served the community in B' before the late 19th century. In 1893 Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam, founder of the dynasty of Admorei Bobov, settled there. The Hassidism of Bobov was a synthesis of the Hassidism of Sanz-Dzikov (Ropshitz), which was the root source of the founder of the dynasty of Bobov. The special nature of Bobov Hassidism was particularly expressed among the young people. Rabbi Shlomo maintained a yeshiva in B' called Etz Hayim, in which the number of students quickly reached 300 young men who came from the whole area. Rabbi Shlomo passed away in 1905, and his place was filled by his son, Rabbi Ben Zion, who led his Hassidic community until the holocaust. He died in Lvov in 1942. Rabbi Ben Zion's son, Rabbi Shlomo Halberstam, continues the tradition of Bobov Hassidism in New York. The Hassidic Rabbis of Bobov also served as local [community] Rabbis [in Bobov]. In the Hassidic world the melodies of Bobov were famous, and those close to the Rabbi's court were famed as Hassidic singers.
In November 1918 the Jews of B' were harmed by the rioting of the local farmers and the soldiers of General Haller, who conquered the city. The rioters stormed the homes of the Jews and looted their possessions. In the following years, with the rise of anti-Semitism in Poland, the economy of the local Jews was harmed because of the boycott of [Jewish] business and trade.
As we said, most of the Jews of B' were Hassidim. The first shoots of the Zionist movement appeared there only after WWI. In 1928 a branch of the General Zionists was founded, which opened evening classes in the Hebrew language and also a Maccabi sports club and a drama club. In 1931 Mizrachi was founded, and with it youth groups: Hashomer Ha'dati [and] Bruriah. In the 1920s Ezrah for pioneers was also active. About 100 members who paid the shekel voted in the elections for the [Zionist] Congresses. Their votes were divided between the General Zionists (in 1931 59 votes; in 1935 52 votes), Hitachdut (in 1931 16 votes) and Mizrachi (in 1931 18 votes; in 1935 3 votes). A Zionist house of prayer was established in 1930. In 1923 the government appointed a community council. A third of the elected members of the municipal council were usually Jews.
The Second World War
B' was captured by the German army on September 7, 1939. Due to the hard-fought battles near the town there were casualties among the local residents and houses in the town were destroyed. It can be assumed that some of the local Jews left B' for the east, but only a few of them managed to reach the area captured by the Russians. The town became a place of shelter for hundreds of Jews from the area. Before September 1939 there were 658 Jews living in B', and in March 1941 there were 300 Jewish refugees in the town, in April 412 refugees and in July of that year arrived an additional 160 deportees from Gorlice. In January and in March 1942 the Nazis deported to B' more than 200 Jews from villages in the area, and in July that same year many Jews from nearby Stroza. In October 1941 a ghetto was established in the town. By the end of its existence, in August 1942, the number of its residents was over 1,500.
At the beginning of 1940 a Judenrat was active in town, headed by Shmuel Messinger. As early as September 1940 Messinger appealed to the J.S.S. in Krakow for aid to B', mainly for the refugees, who had nothing. In April 1941 a branch of the J.S.S. was opened in B'. By the end of 1941 the center in Krakow directed funds to its treasury almost monthly. Altogether in 1941 4,650 zloty was budgeted for welfare, in March 1942 1,300 and in June 1942 800 zloty. The grants from the J.S.S. helped support the communal kitchen which was established there, apparently at the end of 1940. The number of meals at the kitchen grew from 94 in February 1941 to 240 in November of the same year. These meals, consisting of 2-3 courses, were for many their only daily food. The kitchen operated until the destruction of the ghetto.
In November 1940 the neediest children received breakfast and lunch. In the period between March 1941 April 1942 about 70 children gained this aid. The Judenrat was unable to aid another 200 needy children.
At the end of 1940, or the beginning of 1941, there operated a sort of school. It was supported by the Tzentos in Krakow. In 1942 a day-care center was established, which had about 75 children. In addition to food the children of the day-care center also received medical aid. Despite the difficult conditions in the ghetto, the lack of food, of clothing, and even of heating material in the winter, and despite the crowded conditions, no contagious diseases spread in B' until February 1942. It must be mentioned that until December 1941 there was no Jewish doctor locally. We believe that these satisfactory conditions were due to the assistance of the Polish mayor, brother of General Wieniawa- Dlugoszowski. This mayor also helped individual Jews, among others the son of Rabbi Unger from Tarnow, who received from him Aryan documents, and [disguised] as a Pole he survived the holocaust. In order to support the ghetto inhabitants and to prove to the Germans that the Jews were a productive element, there was founded in June 1942 a Workshop for Jewish Craftsmen tailors, shoe-makers, [and] upholsterers. The first orders to the workshop came from the Wehrmacht unit camped near the town, and from the Landskomissar from Gorlice, but due to difficulties involved in receiving official recognition of this workshop, the workers were unable to continue their work.
Visits from men of the Gestapo and the Gendarmerie from Jaslo (the district capitol during the holocaust), which became more and more frequent from January 1942, terrified the Jews of B'. In January 1942 they murdered the members of one family, in February about 29 Jews, and in March 23 prominent Jews, who were summoned to the Gestapo as if for a talk. In the beginning of August 1942 210 young men were taken from B' to a labor camp in Biezanow.
In the second half of August the ghetto was liquidated; about 400 Jews women, the elderly and children were shot by the Gestapo in the Dombro [sp.?] forest near B'. Many young people were transferred to the labor camp in Szebnia. The remaining people were deported to the Gorlice ghetto and from there to extermination in Belzec with all the local Jews. According to another source, some Jews from B' were also transferred to the ghetto in Biecz.
Among the deportees to Gorlice was the chairman of the Judenrat, Messinger. The men of the Gestapo in B' offered to free him and his family from the transport to Belzec, but he refused to save himself if all the members of his community were not freed. When he refused the Germans fell on him , beat him brutally, and threw him into the railroad car.
[Words in brackets are additions or clarifications by the translator.]
Yad Va'shem Archive, Jerusalem: JM/1572; M-1/E 104-43; M-2/240; 03/1841; 016/1373.
Central Zionist Archive, Jerusalem: KH4B-354(1); Z-4/99; Z-4226-24B; Z-4/234B; Z-4/2997-II.
Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People, Jerusalem: HM/7101.
Archive of the Labor Movement, Tel Aviv: 123-VII, file 10.
Jaslo oskarlza. Warszawa 1973, pp. 195, 203-294.
Nowy Dziennik 18.5.1919, 28.7.1919, 24.8.1919, 16.5.1923, 17.2.1927, 20.12.1928, 18.3.1931, 24.4.1931, 19.12.1931, 17.5.1932, 18.11.1932, 24.6.1933, 30.4.1937; Tygodnik Zydowski 24.4.1931, 18.11.1932.
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