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Translation of Dabrowa Górnicza chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of
Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume VII,
pages 131-135, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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In the middle of the 13th century the village is mentioned and it was known as Zagórze, a place in which Dabrowa Górnicza would later be built. Remnants of ancient mines that were apparently used for extracting silver and gold were found from this period. In 1241 the miners from the villages in this area participated in the fighting against the Tartars.
Old Dabrowa belonged to the Sziwer princes who ruled the Zaglembie area in the 15th century. In 1588 soldiers belonging to Maximilian the Austrian attacked the village, as they were passing through Dabrowa Górnicza on their way to Krakow. In the years 1655-1656 Dabrowa Górnicza was completely burnt down by the Swedes and the residents moved to Czestochowa (see this entry). Before the Swedish occupation there were about 450 settlers in the village, and after the fire only 100 settlers remained.
The development of modern Dabrowa Górnicza began in the year 1785. It was then that coal deposits were found in the area, but only in 1795, after the region was transferred to the Prussian administration, did the Prussian emperor, Fredrick the Great, establish the first mine. The mine was named after Count Wilhelm Raden, and nearby this a small miners' settlement began to develop. In the year 1813 the ownership of the mine was transferred to the Warsaw Princedom government, and the Interior Minister, the Polish priest Stanislaw Staszyc, was placed in charge of mining and marketing the coal. In the year 1817 the establishment of founding plants began, and in 1831 a founding plant for lead and steel was established in nearby Huta Bankowa. Thus the basis for the establishment of modern Dabrowa Górnicza was completed, that included old Dabrowa, the settlement area in Raden and the steel plants in Huta Bankowa.
The industrial development in this location and the need for mine workers drew workers from Poland and beyond to Dabrowa Górnicza. In the year 1838 German workers from Saxony came there, and after the Polish Rebellion of 1830-31 workers from the Grodno and Novogrudok regions were transferred to Dabrowa Górnicza. In 1860 there were approximately 600 settlers living there, but Dabrowa Górnicza had not earned the city status. However, from 1870 onwards an intensified development began in the area, and workers with various professions related to the local industrial branches in addition to miners and industrial workers settled in Dabrowa Górnicza.
In July of 1911 Dabrowa Górnicza was badly damaged in a fire; about 50 houses were burnt down and tens of domestic animals perished. In 1915, during the Austrian occupation, Dabrowa Górnicza received city status, and Edward Koszynski was appointed to be the first mayor.
Up until the end of the 18th century Jews did not settle in Dabrowa Górnicza, apart from one family that was mentioned in the 1890's. Later also Jews, by a decree of the mines administration, could only rent public bars and inns in the area around the mines. The fact that Dabrowa Górnicza was considered a rural settlement made it difficult for the Jews to receive permission for settlement. Only in the year 1828, because of a lack of manpower, were Jewish workers accepted for work in the mines. In this year the first two Jewish families settled in Dabrowa Górnicza, Rozencwajg and Natan. In 1836 the Krakow regional inspector allowed several more Jews from Bedzin (see this entry) to settle in Dabrowa Górnicza and to trade in his jurisdiction.
A turning point in the relationship to Jewish settlement began in 1841. Till then there was no weekly market day in Dabrowa Górnicza and the mineworkers were forced to purchase their foodstuffs and their other necessities in Bedzin. In 1841, when the settlement received permission to hold a weekly market day, Jewish traders came to Dabrowa Górnicza from Bedzin to sell their wares and some of them settled there. The Jewish settlement grew there towards the end of the 19th century. Most of Dabrowa Górnicza's Jews came from Bedzin and settled in old Dabrowa.
From the beginning, the livelihood of the Jews of Dabrowa Górnicza was based on providing services to the working public and the mine managers. In a survey of Jewish livelihood that was made at the end of the 19th century there were 82 families in Dabrowa Górnicza who made a living from trading and pedaling, 72 tradesmen (of which there were 17 tailors that owned sewing workshops, 13 butchers, 8 metalworkers, 4 watchmakers, 2 bakers, a fur trader and a hat maker) and also 8 wagoners and 6 laborers. There were several contractors and bookkeepers. We have no information on the livelihood of the remaining 10 families.
The kehila [Jewish community] belonged to the kehila in Bedzin from an administrative viewpoint. Up until the First World War there was no synagogue in Dabrowa Górnicza; public prayer took place in private homes in old Dabrowa, in Raden and Huta Bankowa, however the authorities did not look upon this favorably and made a list of those going to these makeshift synagogues. In 1910 the kehila of Dabrowa Górnicza made an important stride into turning it into to an independent kehila. In this year the Jews were permitted to open a Jewish cemetery. Up until that year the Jews of Dabrowa Górnicza buried their dead in Bedzin. In this year a Dozór Boznici (a representative kehila committee) was established, that replaced the elected kehila committee. Chanoch Gerszon Szpielberg stood at its head. On the eve of the First World War the Dozor Boznici led a communal struggle against a group of Polish business owners and clergy, that had put pressure on the Russian authorities to expel the Jews from Dabrowa Górnicza, claiming that their settlement in this place was illegal, since Dabrowa Górnicza at that stage was not a city. And indeed, thanks to the efforts of the Jewish committee, that approached the Ministry of the Interior in Warsaw and the authorities in Petersburg, the expulsion was prevented.
In 1916, during the Austrian occupation, this committee received permission from the occupying authorities to be a Jewish community council. In this same year the building of the central synagogue in Szofan Street was completed. Rabbi Alter Mosze-Aron Levi (the Rabbi from Poznow) served as the rabbi of the Dabrowa Górnicza community from 1910, however the rabbinate in Bedzin refused to recognize him, since officially the kehila of Dabrowa Górnicza was subject to the kehila in Bedzin. Only in 1912 was Rabbi Levi recognized as the official rabbi of the Jews of Dabrowa Górnicza. Rabbi Levi wrote Ner Lamea [Candle for the hundred] and the Tevuot adama [The earth's yields] and served in the local rabbinate till his death in 1933. The dayan [judge] was Rabbi Mosze son of Rabbi Dawid Rapaport, who had already been elected in 1894.
In 1902 a group of young men established a savings and loan fund, but only in 1912 did the fund receive the recognition of the authorities.
During the First World War the Jews of Dabrowa Górnicza received assistance from the aid committee of German Jews in Berlin and at the end of the war from the Joint, as well. Public kitchens and tea distribution centers were built in the Raden mining area. Likewise, a public clinic was established which also served the non-Jewish population. In 1916 a group of Chovevei Zion [Lovers of Zion] opened a small public library there. In 1917 the occupying Austrian authorities carried out the first election for the city council and four Jewish representatives were elected. Because of the relatively comfortable conditions under the Austrian occupation, Jews from other places settled in Dabrowa Górnicza during the war; the new city council compelled every Jew that wished to settle in its district to obtain a license beforehand.
In the 1920s four banks were established in Dabrowa Górnicza under Jewish ownership: The People's Bank, Kupiecki Bank, that were owned by Agudat Yisrael people there, Spoldzielcze Bank and the Spoldzielcze Kredytowi Bank, that were managed by the leaders of the Zionist movement in the city, a member of the Et livnot [A time to build] group. There were about 300 members listed in the Jewish trade association of Dabrowa Górnicza. The commercial activity of the city can be learned from the number of bonds belonging to Jewish traders in the 1920s: in 1925 their number was 5,674, in 1926 3,511, and in 1928 the number of bonds of the city banks belonging to the Jewish traders was doubled and reached 7,225.
Already in the first years of an independent Poland the influence of the Zionist movement was felt in Dabrowa Górnicza. In August 1918 a national Mizrachi conference took place there; at the beginning of the 1920s Mizrachi was the largest Zionist group in the city. In this year 200 shkalim [membership fees] were sold. In 1920 a local fund was established called Keren Yosef Haglili [Josef the Galilean Fund], that collected about 6,000 marks for financing the activities of the various Zionist groups in the city.
The Jewish youth movements began to operate in Dabrowa Górnicza at the end of the First World War. In 1917 a group of educated youths established the basis of a Hashomer Hatzair [Young Guard] center there, through several ideological seminars on the subjects of society and economy. The center was established at the beginning of the 1920's, but experienced an upheaval and was disbanded between 1925-1926. Several of the movement activists joined the Poale Zion Smol [Left Workers of Zion] and the Bund.
Several years later the Hashomer Hatzair center renewed its activities, and in the 1930s it was the largest Zionist youth movement in Dabrowa Górnicza. The Gordonia movement established a center in the city in 1928 and in 1931 a Hashomer Hadati [Religious Guard] was established, that was subject to the influence of Tzirei Mizrachi [Young Mizrachi]. In the years 1924-1925 a Hechalutz [The Pioneer] organization of hired workers was organized in the city. After several years, in 1928, the group underwent a crisis after most of its members were fired from their work. The group disbanded and in 1929 several of its members went to live in the Land of Israel. At the beginning of the 1930s, the Hechalutz movement established a training kibbutz called Borochov, that in 1933 numbered some 70 members. The kibbutz was well established from a financial viewpoint and its members earned their living from work in the factories in the cities.
In 1925 the Zionist activists of the Tarbut [Culture] society established a public library, Ezra, in which there were about 600 books in Hebrew and Yiddish. Tarbut members held Hebrew evening classes and lessons for adults on subjects like the history of the Jewish people and the history of the Zionist movement. In 1920 2,270 zlotys was collected in the city towards the shekel project. Amongst the Zionist parties active in Dabrowa Górnicza were Poale Zion Smol and the General Zionists. In the elections to the Zionist Congress in Dabrowa Górnicza the following results were received:
|The Working Land of Israel party||323||245||280|
The institutions of the kehila were subject to the influence of the ultra-orthodox circles. In 1931 an election for the kehila council in Dabrowa Górnicza took place in which Agudat Yisrael received 148 votes and 2 mandates, the Kremilov Chassidim, a large group of Chassidim there, received 138 votes and 2 mandates. The two craftsmen parties received a combined 4 mandates, the National party 3 mandates, and the Zionist Left parties one mandate. The last elections to the kehila took place in September 1936 and 1,037 voters took part. The Agudat Yisrael party earned two seats in the kehila council, Mizrachi 2, the craftsmen party 3, non-aligned party 2, the Zionist Histadrut party 1, Poale Zion TS 1, Revisionists 1.
The kehila partially financed the various aid institutions, like the Malbish Arumim [Clothing the Needy], the Bikur Cholim [Visiting the sick] society and the Kupat Gmilot Chassidim [Philanthropic Fund]. In 1929 about 7,000 zlotys were collected for purchasing land for a new cemetery, after there were no further burial locations in the old cemetery and the Jews of Dabrowa Górnicza were forced to bury their dead in Bedzin.
After the death of Rabbi Alter Mosze-Aron Levy (in November 1933) a severe dispute arose in Dabrowa Górnicza regarding the appointment of his successor. For about 6 years there was no rabbi in the city and only in August 1939, several days before the Germans invaded Poland, Rabbi Baruch Epsztajn, son-in-law of the previous rabbi, was elected to this position.
The first Jewish school, Hamizrachi, was established in Dabrowa Górnicza in 1920. In its school curriculum general school subjects were combined with religious studies. The language in school was Hebrew and Polish. In the 1930s the school developed and became part of the Yavne educational chain.
In July 1925 a blood libel was spread in Dabrowa Górnicza. The trader, Dawid Belfer, was charged with kidnapping a Christian child in order to use his blood for ritual purposes, but a police investigation showed that there was no basis for these allegations. In the years 1936-1937 anti-Semitic incitement by the Endecja circles, and there were several cases of physical injury to Jewish traders in the city market.
The Germans entered Dabrowa Górnicza on the 3rd of September 1939. After several days, on the 9th of September, 15 Jewish men were kidnapped as hostages and were sent to jails in Katowice. Already in the first weeks of the occupation Jews were taken to carry out various forced labor in the city. At the end of September a decree declaring that the Jews were obligated to wear an armband with a Magen-David [Star of David] on it. The Zaglembie region was completely annexed to the Reich and a central Judenrat was established, that was located in Sosnowiec (see this entry) and was headed by Mosze Meryn. He was appointed to head all the Jewish communities in Zaglembie, and the local Judenrats were subject to him.
The Judenrat in Dabrowa Górnicza was established by Mosze Meryn in November 1939 and was subject to him. Amongst the members were several community activists from the period before the war and some new activists. At their head was the trader Icchak Burstzajn and was assisted by Dr. Mitelman, the head of the health department, Szlomo Freund and Abraham Najfeld. In the December of 1939 the Germans obligated the Jewish council to obtain 5 kg of gold, 30 kg of silverware and 25,000 marks in cash. This order was accompanied by the kidnapping of several additional hostages that were held in the jail in Sosnowiec.
At the end of 1939 (or the beginning of 1940) about 700 Jews were brought to Dabrowa Górnicza that had been deported from Czechoslovakia and from Silesia, and the number of Jews in the city rose to about 6,300. In March 1940 most of the Jewish stores and businesses in the city were confiscated. The confiscation process and transfer of the businesses to Germans continued for several months.
At the beginning of 1940 Jews were inducted to carry out forced labor. The Jewish council mustered youths between the ages of 18 to 25, and from this list hundreds were inducted into forced labor, and several of them were sent to labor camps in Germany, being that the Zaglembie region was annexed to the Reich. The first group, which numbered 400 me, was sent in October 1940 to the Groß-Mislowitz [Greater-Myslowice] camp. Before they left they received a food parcel and provisions for the journey from the central Judenrat. Many of the Jews were employed in various works in the city. In the winter of 1941 a work group was established for clearing the snow; the workers received a wage that was barely enough to buy basic foodstuffs. The main work places of the Jews were in workshops that were built before the war in Huta Bankowa, the industrial area of Dabrowa Górnicza. About 2,000 Jews were employed in these work places that produced for the German army. In November 1941, 450 Jewish youths were sent to labor camps in Germany. An additional group was taken from Dabrowa Górnicza in March 1942, close to the date of the first deportation to the extermination camps. They were held for a short time in the Raden area close to the city and from there transferred to Sosnowiec.
In 1940, with the money from the YSS organization (Jewish Self Aid) in Krakow, a public kitchen was opened from which about 1,000 meals a day were distributed to the workers and their families. Likewise a clinic and children's home were opened, in which 50 children from the poorest families lived. Two kindergarten teachers ran the children's home. During this period a closed ghetto was not established, and this fact, together with the widespread induction to work, the living conditions in Dabrowa Górnicza that evolved were slightly more comfortable, compared to other ghettos in the General Government region.
In May 1942 the deportation to the extermination camps of the Jews in Dabrowa Górnicza began. The Judenrat was ordered to prepare a list of 700 Jews. The Jews fated for deportation assembled in the square next to the Jewish Council building. They were allowed to take 10 kg of personal items and food. This group was sent to Auschwitz. During the same period additional Jews were inducted to do forced labor and sent to labor camps in the Breslau area.
The large deportation of the Jews of Dabrowa Górnicza was on the 12th of August 1942, on the day that substantial selections were carried out in Bedzin and Sosnowiec. The aktzia, known as the Great Deportation began at 8:00 o'clock in the morning. The Jews were ordered to assemble in front of the kehila building for registration and classification purposes. The deportees assembled at the said hour, most of them wearing festive clothing. The selection began at 10:00 o'clock. The selection was carried out by Koszynski, who was representative of the Gestapo commander Dreyer, responsible for the deportations from Zaglembie on that day. The Jews were sorted into three groups: those with working permits, head of families in which one or more of its members had working permits, and a group of adults and families with children. Amongst the Jews the opinion was aired, that there was a little chance of the third group to remain in the ghetto, since the Germans didn't need them for work. Regarding the second group, most of the people that were included in it believed that they would manage to remain in the ghetto. The first group was regarded as the safest of them all.
From amongst the 3,000 Jews that assembled for the selection in the morning 1,500 were returned to their homes. The rest, fated for deportation, were kept all night in the square and a heavy guard responsible for them. The heavy rain that fell during the night enabled several people to sneak away from the square and find a hideout.
In the morning, a group of deportees were transferred to Bedzin and put up in the orphanage. We do not know when these Jews were deported to Auschwitz. It is estimated that this was on the 17th of August; a train with the deportees from Bedzin set out to the extermination camp and apparently on it were 1,500 deportees from Dabrowa Górnicza.
The Jews in the working groups, who had remained in Dabrowa Górnicza, were collected in the ghetto, which was closed after the Great Deportation. The ghetto included Lukosowski, Szofan, Okazia, Fajracki, Pola and Stara Bendzinska Streets. A Volksdeutscher by the name of Kozra was in charge of the people in the ghetto. The ghetto was very crowded people were living 6-7 to a room. In the autumn months of 1942, about 650 Jews were taken out of the ghetto and transferred to the Skarzysko Kamienna (see this entry). The last Jews from Dabrowa Górnicza were deported from the city in the month of July 1943. At the time of the deportation there were about 1,000 Jews and three were transferred over three days to the Srudula Ghetto in Sosnowiec. Most of them were sent to Auschwitz together with the Jews of this city and a few of them were transferred to various labor camps.
About 300 Jews from Dabrowa Górnicza survived the labor camps and made it to Liberation Day. In 1956 there were 55 Jews living in Dabrowa Górnicza, most of them refugees who had returned from the USSR and settled in the western areas of Poland. At the beginning of the 1950s there were only a number of Jews living there.
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