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Translation of Czeladz 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 419-420, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
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Czeladz is first mentioned in historical sources from 1228, when the Kazimierz the Prince of Opole transferred (see this entry) the Czeladz land and its surroundings to the nobleman Klement from the house of Rocze, in appreciation for the help afforded him during the siege on Opole. Kazimierz the First granted Czeladz its city status. During the Tartar campaign, in the year 1241, the city was completely demolished.
In the Czeladz region there are the remnants of a transit station from the 16th century used by traders and travelers, on the main byway leading from the Black Sea westward through the Carpathian Mountains. In the year 1623, during the 30 Year War period, bands of fighters from Germany raided the region and plundered the city and its residents. During the Swedish invasion in the year 1655 Czeladz was demolished once again and lost its city status. In the year 1807 Czeladz was made part of the Warsaw Princedom, and in 1813 was conquered by the Tsar's armies and annexed to the Congress Poland kingdom. Only in the year 1915, during the Austrian occupation in the First World War, was city status restored to Czeladz.
The Jews began settling in Czeladz in the second half of the 19th century, under a special authorization from the Russian administration, even though Jewish settlement in the border region was prohibited. The location of the city, on the border of Prussia and Upper Silesia, drew Jewish traders and pedlars to this area that had wandered between the villages on both sides of the border and sold their wares. With the opening of mines in the area the financial development of Czeladz accelerated, and more Jews settled there. After the suppression of the Polish Rebellion in 1863, the Tsarist administration increased its Russification policy in the region and opened up the city to Jewish settlers. The main employment of the Jews was in trade, including wholesale trade related to the mining industry. At the beginning of the 20th century a group of craftsmen, shopkeepers and pedlars established themselves in this place that provided services for the growing worker population. Most of the Jewish settlers came from Wolbrom, Zarki, Czestochowa, Olkusz and from Bedzin (see these entries). In the 1890's there were already about 80 Jewish families settled there.
The local kehila [Jewish community] did not have independent institutions and belonged to the kehila of Bedzin. It also never had a central prayer house and there were several minyanim [prayer groups of ten adult male Jews] that met in private houses and the shtibelach [small synagogues] of the Wolbrom, Gur, Radomsk and Kromolow Chassidim. At the beginning of the 20th century a serious dispute arose between the Jews of Czeladz and the head of the kehila in Bedzin, because the Jews of Czeladz attempted to become an independent kehila. During the First World War the kehila received the recognition of the occupying German administration as an independent community and a rabbi, Rabbi Eliezer Cwi Halevi Lewental, was appointed. The relationship with the Bedzin kehila was not dissolved, since Czeladz did not have its own cemetery and the dead were taken to Bedzin for burial.
Between the two world wars a central synagogue was built. Jewish high school students studied in the schools in Bedzin. The last rabbi of Czeladz was Rabbi Lipman Hersz Lewental.
Zionist activity began in Czeladz at the end of the First World War. In the year 1920 a branch of Mizrachi was established and later on, a branch of the General Zionists. In the year 1930 30 shekalim [fees] were sold in Czeladz to the Zionist Congress.
During the German-Austrian occupation two Jewish representatives were elected to the city council. In the city council elections in 1928 two Jewish parties contested, and together they received 400 votes. During this period a Jewish bank was also established, Kupiecki Bank, that mainly served the Jewish tradesmen and traders.
In May 1940 the Germans confiscated Jewish belongings, shops and residences. The Jews that continued to live in their homes were obliged to pay rent. In July 1940 a census of all the Jews in the city was made, and for this purpose the Jews were ordered to gather in several assembly points. After the list was completed, tens of young men were sent to work in Katowice. The Germans took 31 Jewish hostages and locked them up in jails in Sosnowiec. The detained were released after several days through the intervention of the Judenrat. The census day earned the name Bloody Wednesday by the Jews of the city, because of the maltreatment, beatings and the confiscation of property from the homes that accompanied the census activity. In October 1940 the Jewish council enlisted about 200 forced laborers to be employment in building and road making work in the area. At the beginning of 1941, as well, Jewish workers were taken to do similar work in Czeladz and Bedzin. It appears that the workers from Czeladz were also taken to distant locations. At the end of 1940 there were only 1,294 Jews left in the city, as against about 2,000 that were living there at the outbreak of the war. In June 1941 150 youths were sent to the Anglar 5 labor camps and a camp in the village of Przemic. At the beginning of 1942 a ghetto was established, and though a wall was not erected the Jews were not allowed to leave it freely. The living conditions in the ghetto were more or less bearable, being that each day tens of laborers would leave for work in Czeladz and Bedzin and they had the opportunity to obtain some food in their work places.
In May 1942 the Germans ordered the Judenrat to gather all the Jews at an assembly point pending their eviction from the city. The deportees were allowed to take with them 10 kilogram of personal belongings and foodstuffs. Jewish policemen carried out the deportation on behalf of the central Judenrat. About 800 of the Jews of Czeladz were transferred to Bedzin and from there to the gas chambers in Auschwitz. The Jews were not included in this transport continued to live in the ghetto till May 1943. Most of them were employed in various works in Bedzin, and in this same month they were transferred to Bedzin. In May 1943 they were also deported to Auschwitz, apart from several tens of people that were sent to labor camps.
Approximately 40 Jews from Czeladz survived, most of them workers who had been sent to labor camps; a small number hid out in the homes of Polish friends.
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