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Translation of Nowy Zmigrod chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Nowy Zmigrod chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume III, pages 152-154, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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( district of Jaslo, region of Krakow)
(Situated south of Jaslo, Galicia, Poland)
Towards the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century, Zmigrod was a road fortress situated on the commercial roads leading to the Ukraine in the east and to Hungary in the south. During the 14th century the place received the status of a city and was entirely owned by a feudal family. The small city owed its fast growth due to the wine trade. Wines were brought to Poland from Hungary. Zmigrod was destroyed in 1474 by the invading Hungarians. The city survived two fires during the 16th century (1522 and 1577). Zmigrod started to decline from the 18th century to the end of the 19th century. Henceforth, the economic situation began to improve slightly and the population resumed growing. The Christian population worked primarily in agriculture, manual trades and weaving. The place lost its status as a city in 1919 following World War I and the name Nowy (New) was added following World War II.
The first information about Jews in Zmigrod dates to 1410. Jews were permitted to settle throughout the city. Zmigrod attracted them due to the commercial opportunities that the place offered. One hundred years later, the place has already a thriving Jewish community that surpasses other communities in the area. This fact is supported by the large two story synagogue that was built in the 16th century and remodeled in the 17th century. Above the sink was inscribed the date 1606 and one of the holy ark curtains was dated 1670. The Jewish community of Zmigrod had under its jurisdiction many Jewish communities notably Jaslo and Gorlice. The latter communities had to bring their dead people to Zmigrod to be buried. With time Gorlice and Jaslo grew and slowly gained their independence from Zmigrod. The community managed to recover from the fire of 1577. But several generations later Zmigrod suffered greatly as a result of the Cossack and Swedish invasions. The community was forced to barrow money during the second half of the 17th century in order to survive. The debt was slowly repaid. In 1694, the Jewish community barrowed 125 thaler from the bishop of Krosno and was unable to repay it until 1785. Compounded interest was paid on this loan for years.
1243 Jews lived in the villages surrounding Zmigrod in 1765. The total Jewish population of the city of Zmigrod and the neighboring areas consisted of 1926 people above the age of one year. Statistics indicate that there were 159 Jewish breadwinners and 41 of them were listed as working in the following occupations: one tax collector, 2 merchants, 8 tailors, 7 hat makers, 2 glove makers, 2 jewelers, 1 butcher, 1 rabbi, 1 cantor, 7 Hebrew teachers and 1 musician. The rest of the bread winners avoided the census or worked for other people. Some of them were supported by their families. The figures indicate that most of the Jews were artisans and the Hebrew teachers probably thought the children of the surrounding areas.
The Jews owned 67 houses that were very crowded and some of them contained as many as 6 families. According to the financial report of the Austrian authorities in 1781, most of the Jews of Zmigrod were in the lowest tax bracket. Of the 359 tax payers in the city and vicinity, 183 paid less than 25 gulden, 160 paid between 25 to 100 gulden, 6 paid between 101 and 350 gulden and one Jew was listed as having to pay more than 300 gulden per annum. The Austrian authorities can not be accused of going easy on the Jews of Zmigrod as evidenced by the harshness with which taxes were collected. Any delay resulted in threats and possible punishments. In 1781, the Jews of Zmigrod were forced to pay tax arrears in the sum of 35 thaler or face heavy fines.
During the period that called for the resettlement of the Jews, the community of Zmigrod undertook to resettle on the land 17 families in 1791. Each family was to receive 250 florins. The plan was not very successful for only 4 families settled on the land by 1805. In 1794, a school for Jewish children was established in Zmigrod as part of the state school system. The school belonged to the H. Homberg school system. We know practically nothing about the school, whether it functioned and if so for how long. Perhaps, it was merely a school on paper without any real basis.
The Jewish community flourished from the end of the 16th century until the middle of the 18th century. The post of rabbi in Zmigrod carried great weight in the area. The community maintained a yeshiva headed by a rabbi. We know some of the names that headed the yeshiva. In 1680, Rabbi Awraham headed the institution and then his son took over the position (he died in 1720). Between the years 1692 and 1695 Rabbi Menachem Mendel headed the community and the yeshiva. He later assumed the post of Rabbi of Wengrow. He was followed by Rabbi Benyamin Zeew Wolf Rimner in 1698. On his passing away in 1721, the position was granted to Rabbi Awraham Shor and he was succeeded by Rabbi Yehoshua Heshil Blumenfeld in 1770. As we stated earlier, the Jewish community began to decline financially in the 19th century. Many of the Jewish residents began to leave the city and some even moved to Gorlice and Jaslo that developed rapidly. During the eighties we see a decline of the Jewish population that continues into the 20th century. A great exodus took place during World War I. Many of the Jews of Zmigrod also left for overseas during this period.
Most Jews in Zmigrod were Hassidic Jews. The most popular rabbi was the Sandzer Hassidic Rabbi. Thus, it is not surprising that these Hassidim supported and insisted on appointing a Sandzer Hassidic Rabbi for the post of Rabbi of Zmigrod. Indeed, the first Rabbi to be appointed was Benyamin Zeew, a student of the Sandzer Rabbi Chaim Halbershtam. He passed away in 1902 and was succeeded by Rabbi Mordechai Dawid Unger. The later was followed by his son-in-law Rabbi Asher Yeshayahu Rubin. In 1907, Rabbi Sinai Halbershtam was accepted as Rabbi of Zmigrod and served the community until 1939 (he died in Siberia, Russia).
Zmigrod faced its first blood libel case in 1905. A gentile accused a Jewish family of kidnapping his 14 year old daughter in order to kill her and use her blood for ritual purposes. 5 Jews were arrested and detained. After a long investigation that proved their innocence, Vienna ordered their release. The maid was accused of perjury and was sentenced to three months in jail. It took a long time for the passions to settle down in Zmigrod. The farmers in the area kept constantly visiting the holy victim and anti-Jewish rumors kept circulating in the city.
The period between the two world wars started with a pogrom against the Jews of Zmigrod in November 1918. The farmers from the region and the local mob started the pogrom. The former came with their wagons to the city to buy cheap at the market, meaning to rob the Jewish goods. Indeed, they soon started to rob Jewish homes and stores. Movable items disappeared rapidly; the rest was trampled or destroyed. Jews were beaten, hurt, and some severely injured. The local gentile population and the better educated elements ignored the whole event. Some of the latter even led the mob to Jewish homes. The police was called and arrived from Jaslo. They were told that the Ukrainians attacked Poles. When they saw the pogrom, they returned to Jaslo and stated that Jewish provocateurs acted up.
Zmigrod lost the city status in 1919 and the Jewish population declined steadily and reached 800 people in 1939. The community gave the appearance of a poor and abandoned place. The ' Gemilat Hessed fund that was established with the help of the American Joint in 1927 distributed 30 loans of 3000 zlotys each in 1929. The fund faced closure in 1938 due to lack of money. Former residents of Zmigrod in the USA kept the fund going. This picture of poverty contrasted sharply with the picture of the famous synagogue that the Polish government took under its protection as a national monument.
The Jewish community elected 12 representatives to the kehilla and they ran the community. In 1928, the number was reduced to 8 with a permanent seat for Rabbi Sinai Halbershtam.
Between the wars, several branches of the Zionist movements opened their doors to the Jews in Zmigrod. The General Zionist party opened the first branch and was soon followed by a branch of the Mizrahi party. The first youth branch was that of the Noar Hatzioni followed in 1933 by the Akiva group that stressed Hebrew language. In 1919, a club named Hatchiya opened its doors where lectures were to be held and a library opened. The reading room next to the library was opened in 1939.
At the elections for the Zionist Congress in 1931, 28 Jews of Zmigrod bought shkalim or Zionist membership cards that allowed them to vote for representatives. They voted for the General Zionist party. In 1935, 148 Jews of Zmigrod voted for the following Zionist parties: 66 votes for the General Zionists, 73 for the Mizrahi party and 6 votes for the labor party in Palestine.
The ban on kosher slaughtering in 1937 in Zmigrod reached the lowest economic point in Jewish life in the community between the wars. Kosher meat had to be brought from Jaslo and one butcher had the necessary permit.
With the outbreak of World War II, many Jews fled east across the San river but most of them soon returned home. Some of the Jews remained there and were soon rounded up by the Soviet authorities and moved to the interior of the country in 1940.
As soon as the Germans occupied Zmigrod, orders aimed at the Jews began to appear. Jews were limited to travel, had to wear armbands, were forced to contribute money and forced labor.
At then end of 1939 a Judenrat was established headed by Hersh Eisenberg. The Germans ordered it to survey the entire Jewish population in Zmigrod in order to provide them with cheap forced labor. Jews repaired roads and bridges, they even worked in agriculture. In 1940, many Jews from the area were driven to Zmigrod. The community even received Jews from Lodz, Poland. The Judenrat and the J.S.S. (Jewish Self Help) local committee provided lodgings, clothing and medical assistance for the needy. Many local Jews as well as poor Jewish refugees received warm meals from the public kitchen.
The second half of 1940 witnessed a real dragnet for Jewish laborers throughout the area. Some of them build fortifications for the German army facing the Russian army. Others were forced to do hard work along the roads. These workers were hardly fed and starved for food, they soon developed diseases, and were abused.
In the first half of 1942, a ghetto was established in Zmigrod and more Jews were forced to move into the community from nearby villages. The Jewish population reached 2,000 people. The overcrowded conditions were beyond description. The Judenrat and the Jewish population made great efforts to obtain jobs outside the ghetto in order to keep contact with the outside world and to obtain orders from the German economy for local artisans. At the beginning of July 1942, the Judenrat was ordered to make a contribution of 100,000 zlotys or face the death of Hersh Eisenberg.
On July 7th 1942, all the Jews were ordered to assemble in the square whereupon they were surrounded by German, Polish and Ukrainian police units. Women, children, sick and elderly people were separated from the able bodied people. The latter were directed to a table where representatives of the various German firms issued them work permits. These were then directed to a separate corner of the square. A blanket was spread in the square and the Jews were forced to deposit all their valuable possessions. On the day of the round up, the head of the Judenrat, Hersh Eisenberg was murdered by the Germans under the pretext that he did not pay the requested contribution. Three other people were killed with him including his two children. After hours of waiting, 1250 Jews were led to the forest of Halbow where they were killed in prepared pits. Some of the survivors of the round up were send on August 15th 1942 to the Zaslaw labor camp near Krakow. Another group of survivors were sent to the Plaszow death camp. The last remnants of the Jewish population were then sent to the Belzec death camp at the end of the summer in 1942.
During the great round up of Zmigrod Jews in July of 1942, a few dozen Jews escaped to the forests. A group of 70-80 Jews wandered throughout the area and searched shelter. They were hunted down by the German and Polish police as well as by the local farmers. Some f the Jews were killed in skirmishes, others were apprehended, questioned, tortured and finally killed. During the second half of 1943, three Jews from Zmigrod were caught by the Germans and brought to Jaslo where they committed suicide.
Bibliography:Yad Vashem Archives,TR-10/778;016/1764;M-1/E 728/602
YIVO Archives; ADRP 49H
Central Historical Archives of the Jewish People in Jerusalem;
HM/712, HM/7101, HM/7099, HM/7096
Central Zionist Archives; Z-4/226-24; Z-3/178, Z-3/149
American Joint Archives; Poland, Reconstruction 399.
Jaslo, Oskarza, Warszawa 1973, pp12,59.
'Hamitzpe (newspaper) ; 24/3/1905, 31/3/1905, 16/6/1905
Hatzfira (newspaper) 19/1/1906
Kol Machzikei Hadath (newspaper)23/6/1905
Divrei Akiva 26/12/1936
Chwila Wieczorna (newspaper) 15/4/1935
Noar Hatzioni (newspaper) 17/11/1933, 26/6/1936
Judishe Rundshau (newspaper) 22/11/1918
Monatsschrift der Oesterreichisch (newspaper) Wien, May 1905
Nowy Dziennik (newspaper) 14/12/1919, 24/1/1931, 28/1/1933,
11/2/1934, 5/1/1936, 8/1/1937, 20/5/1938,23/5/1929,4/6/1939.
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