History of Staszów, Poland
by Dr. N. M. Gelber
Translated by Hanna Tuchman
Edited by Jean-Pierre Stroweis
The Formation of the Town
Staszów is one of the oldest towns in Poland and, like most Polish towns, it developed from a rural into an urban settlement.
The village was owned by Stasz Komyotko, who, according to documentation of the year 1245 donated a plot and fields to serve as a site for the building of a church.
The name of the village Staszówna is probably connected with the private name of the donator: Stasz, who was its founder. Afterwards, the village passed to the ownership of Piotr Bogorja Trotnicky. [The list of the successive owners of Staszów is given in Appendix I].
In the 15th century Staszów was acquired together with a few neighboring villages (Rytwiany and Jastrzębiec) by Marcyn Melównica. His wife, Dorothea nee Tarnowsky, contributed much towards the development of Staszów. During the years 1436-1537 the village was owned by Jan Rytwianski, then by his daughter, Eva, who was married to Mikolay of Kurozwęki, and then by their sons.
Hyronimus Łaski, who was married to a great-granddaughter of Jan Rytwianski, Anna of Kurozwęki, turned Staszów from a village into a town, after having granted it the privilege of holding markets there , as of the year 1526. This was a symbol of being a town. This privilege he received from King Zygmund I, in a special decree in the Latin language, saying that the village of Staszów was accorded the rights of a town. Łaski invited artisans from abroad, especially weavers, with the intention to develop the weaving trade on the spot. Moreover, he brought other trades as well. After a short time trade unions were established: in 1553 the weavers, in 1621 the tailors, hatters and furriers, in 1635 metal and woodworkers, in 1655 shoemakers and in 1670 clay workers.
The town also passed through difficult times, especially during the Tatar invasion, when it was completely destroyed. In the 16th century, during the Reformation which reached Poland, the Italian, Austin Suchin, spread the Arian religion. The owner of Staszów, Jan Semiansky, joined the Arians with great enthusiasm, and in 1569 established another town in the area, called Raków, where he settled the said Suchin. Suchin founded one of the first communities of the new religion in Raków and made it the stronghold in his war against the Catholics. In the year 1580, Ulbricht Jaski built in Staszów a church and a school for the Arian faith. In 1596, after the defeat of the Arians, Andrzej Ciołek turned the church over to the Catholic faith, and it existed such until 1914.
The town suffered greatly during the wars with the Cossacks, who invaded the town several times, looted it and murdered many people. The town's population was not spared by the great cholera epidemic of 1705, when the greater part of its population perished. During the 16th and 17th centuries there were fierce struggles within the Polish nobility concerning the foreign policy of the country. This added little peace to the town.
During the Revolution of 1794, Tadeusz Kośzciuzko and his army passed through Staszów heading for Połaniec, after his victory over the Russians at Raclawice, with the intention of barring their passage on the river Wisła (Vistula). Three heavy battles took place against the Russian armies under the generals Denisów and Khruchtchew, in which Kośzciuzko brilliantly defeated the Russians.
The owner of Staszów at that time, Prince Adam Czartorisky, contributed money to Kośzciuzko's army and ammunition to the value of 54,083 zlotys.
In the beginning of the 19th century, Russian and Austrian armies likewise passed through Staszów. Thus, in 1809, when the Austrian army under General Geringer was defeated near Sandomierz he withdrew via Staszów to Kielce. Needless to say, all these military movements passing through the town, caused great suffering and economic damage.
Moreover, great suffering, distress and loss of lives were caused to Staszów's population during the cholera epidemics (1821, 1893), and the fires (specially in 1854, 1874), which destroyed many houses and any economic life or development was paralyzed for a considerable time.
Due to its geographical location - being situated on the main commercial road between Kraków and Lublin - and its proximity to Warsaw and the Wisła (Vistula) river, Staszów played an important role in the economy of Poland, since early days. The town was part of the Sandomierz district, within the Sandomierz voivodeship (province) until 1795.
A turning point in the town's economic development occurred during the ownership of the Sieniawski family. who acquired the town in the beginning of the 18th century, through the marriage of Elizabeth Helena Lubomirska (daughter of Marshal Stanislaw Herakliusz Lubomirsky, known also as a writer and philosopher) to Adam Mikolai Sienawski, who was a follower of the Polish King August II. This family contributed greatly towards the development of Staszów, in particular during the time of his heir, his daughter, Maria Zofia, who was widowed in 1709 and remarried in 1731, to Prince August Alexander Czartoryski, uncle of the last Polish king, Stanislaw Poniatowski.
In the year 1795, Staszów and the Sandomierz voivodeship became part of Austria and the authorities attached it to the Radom Kreiss (district). This district was then put under the command of the Commissioner of Galicia, whose headquarters was in Lwów.
In 1809, a part of Western Galicia was occupied by Prince Joseph Poniatowski, and the Radom district, including the town of Staszów, was returned to the Warsaw principality. In the new administrative partition, Staszów was declared as seat of the Staszów district. During the Kingdom of Poland (1815), Staszów had two representatives in the Departmental Council of Radom, in the District Council 10, and in the Sejm (Parliament) in Warsaw, where it had one seat (Josef Chomantowski).
During the Principality of Warsaw, and later under the Kingdom of Poland (1815), Staszów was part of the Sandomierz voivodeship (province), and from 1837, part of the Sandomierz guberniya (government). In 1844, the guberniya of Sandomierz was replaced by the guberniya of Radom, and Sandomierz joined again the district of Sandomierz.
The town owners of the Czartoryski family were interested in developing Staszów into an important industrial point and to this end had established in 1780 a weaving mill with an annual output of 600 bales.
Their daughter, Izabella, who was married to Prince Stanislaw Lubomirsky, continued to encourage industry. Her daughter, Julia, was married to Leon Potocki, and during this time, Staszów passed to the ownership of the Potocki family, remaining so until the year 1887. This family made an important contribution towards the industrial development of Staszów: Leon Potocki established the Agricultural Bank to promote agriculture. His son, Arthur, established a dyeing and finishing plant for woven fabrics in 1820. In 1823 he established a modern weaving mill and in 1827 a textile finishing plant for wool fabrics. He also established a wool bank (bank welniany) in order to give financial security, based on an investment of 18,000 zlotys, among them 14,000 zlotys was available for the purchase of wool and 4,000 for granting credit to weavers. The bank was headed by a representative of Potocki and by three weavers. The factory was very successful and considered one of the three best in Poland. Stress was put on the quality of the manufactured goods and on the coloring. Weavers not up to standard were severely punished.
During the Potocki era, the town enjoyed a prosperous period of economic and social gains, such as the erection of a hospital in 1837. In the year 1887, the ownership of the town passed into the hands of the Radziwill family through the marriage of Rosa Potocki to Prince Maciej Radziwill, who continued developing the town. He established schools, economic and social institutions, such as, an urban credit bank, financed by 95 members, 41 of whom were Jewish, with a capital of 4,540 rubles, in 1899. The bank reached a capital of 139,508 rubles in 1913. 52,508 rubles of this capital belonged to 339 members who were Jewish out of a total membership of 1,157 at that time.
In the year 1886 the urban bank was established on the riverbank of the Czarna River. At that time there were two Catholic churches, two primary schools, a court of justice, and the urban hospital with 28 beds. There was also a Home for Aged People, established in 1817.
Towards the end of the 19th century, four doctors, five medical orderlies, one pharmacy and one veterinarian were active in Staszów. The town was headed by two mayors and voting rights were accorded to guild members and merchants, subject to endorsement of the town owners. Elections were held until 1863 and the last elected mayor was Jan Malewsky. As of 1804, the mayor was appointed by the ruling governor.
The following industrial enterprises were established towards the end of the 19th century: a brewery, two soda factories, two water mills and one paper mill. At the same time there were 192 artisans, of these, 51 were cobblers, 24 tailors, 20 barrel-makers, 16 bakers, 14 carpenters, 12 masons, 10 milliners, 10 potters, 17 tanners and 18 butchers. Most of the 120 shops were in Jewish hands. The population in 1886 amounted to 7,971 permanent inhabitants and 820 temporary soldiers (infantry regiment) as compared to 3,107 in 1827 and 5,104 in 1857. It consisted of 2,668 Poles, 15 Pravoslavs, 8 Protestants and 5,280 Jews.
The number of houses in Staszów throughout the years 1788-1913 is very interesting: in 1788, 348 houses; in 1827, 354 houses; in 1841, 362 houses; in 1857, 367 houses (of which 107 houses were of concrete), in 1913 there were 424 houses, 282 of concrete and 142 of wooden construction.
The Jewish Population
The first Jewish settlement in Staszów took place when the village turned into a township, in 1526. Right from the start there was an organized community belonging within the framework of Jewish autonomy in the District of Kraków-Sandomierz.. This unit also included the districts of Opatów, Szydlów, Chęciny, Pinczów and Wodzisław.
The community of Staszów was included in the district of Szydlów, together with the following communities: Szydlów, Tarnów, Rimanów, Zmigrod, Dukla, Nowo Miesto, Chmielnik, Pacanów, Oleśnica, Żabno, Dabrowa, Stopnica, Połaniec, Bogoria, Raków, Wiślica, Kurozwęki.
Many years after having settled down, the community encountered a heavy crisis. In the year 1610 the Jewish community fell victim to a blood libel. As a result of the trial all the Jews were expelled from the town.
In the trial, the Jew Samuel of Staszów was accused of kidnapping a Christian boy, son of Jan Kówal, while he was playing in the sands, and passing him over to the Jews of Szydlów, where he was supposedly tortured for the purpose of getting blood for matzot. The Jews of Staszów and Szydlów, arrested under Tenzinski's orders, were slaughtered, and their bodies thrown to the winds. Samuel's daughter was ordered by Tenzinski to convert to Christianity and Jewish property was confiscated to be used for the construction of the church gable. The Christian boy's body was buried in the church of Jacek. On his grave the following epitaph was engraved:
Joannis Kowal i Suzannae Nierychłowska civium Staszoviensium filius; cujus vox sanguinis vindictam clamat, ut judaei nominis christiani hostes pellantur Staszovia.
(The blood of the son of Staszów's citizens, Joannis Kówal and Susanna Nierychłowska, calls for revenge, that Staszów's Jewry, foes of the Christian name, should be expelled from Staszów.)
However, in spite of the expulsion, it seems that Jews remained in Staszów, which we deduce from trials that took place in 1668 in the region, known as Little Poland. Jew were accused of theft of ritual objects from churches, and of infanticide. This type of trial took place not only against Jews, in Raków, Iwaniska and Apt (Opatów), as well as in Staszów. Formally, however, the Jews were repatriated to Staszów only 80 years later in 1690, following an appeal of the Staroste (Prefect) of Nowo Miesto, Oplinski, to the Jews to return to Staszów. The legend says that he was punished for this deed of infidelity and all his children died. Oplinski himself died in 1704.
After the return of the Jews to Staszów, the Jewish community grew so in numbers that they were again able to establish an organized community. In the 17th century, the family Landau occupied the rabbinical chair of Staszów. Rabbi Yehuda Lev Landau, from Szydlów, was chosen as Rabbi of Kraków, and Samuel, one of his five sons, was chosen head of the Staszów community, serving also as its rabbi.
In the year 1714, when the Gaon Zvi Hirsch Ashkenazi - the Chachem Zvi - (1660-1718) was obliged to leave his rabbinical chair in Amsterdam, because of the dispute with the rabbi of the Sephardic community, Rabbi Shlomo Ilan, and to return to Poland, he came to Apt (Opatów) to live in the home of his father-in-law. Shortly afterward there was a great fire and he had to leave the house.
On this occasion he became acquainted with the court agent of the nobleman Sienawski, with the landowners of Staszów, and with Rabbi Israel of Rytwiany, who invited him to make his home either in Staszów or in Rytwiany. Thus the Chachem Zvi settled in Rytwiany, near Staszów ,and stayed there until he was offered the Rabbinate of Lwów.
In 1718 the Jews received permission from Staszów owner, Elizabeta Sienawski, to settle in Staszów. They were granted the right to build a synagogue and establish a cemetery, the two basics of every community. After the scroll of privileges was burnt by a fire in the city, the community requested from Prince Alexander Czartoryski, husband of Elizabeta, that he issues a renewed confirmation of rights. And so, in 1772, a new paper, called the Letter of Existence, was issued by the Prince. [See complete transcription in Appendix II ]. This document stated the following rights of Jews:
In the first half of the 18th century the Jews of Staszów had commercial contacts with the Breslau Fair. It is known that the merchant, Leibl Gerstel, visited there in the year 1725.
During the 18th century the Jewish population flourished and expanded. Jews settled in the buildings and shops in the town center. This fact was stated by the Director of Mining in Poland, Johann Philipp von Carossi, in his book on travels in Poland.
A census done in 1764, counted 607 Jews aged over one year. Supposing that each family counts 4 to 5 members, there were about 104 family heads.
Twenty thereof were listed as artisans and other professionals, as follows:
2 tailors, 3 hat makers, 3 jewelers, 1 butcher, 1 hairdresser, 1 glazier, 1 shopkeeper, 1 rabbi, 1 trustee of the community, 2 teachers, 2 musicians and one street beggar.In the middle of the 18th century, there was a great improvement in Jewish life. The main centers of the weaving industry were in Staszów, Węgrów and Grodno, in Lithuania. In Staszów there were strong guilds of the Polish and German weavers, who were excellent professionals, brought into town by its owners in 1755. According to the law, the guilds were entitled to employ hired labor (women) in their workshops as well as in home industries.
Czartoryski encouraged the training of additional artisans and increasing the number of workshops, as he realized that the expansion of the weaving industry would contribute to the development of Staszów and its economic stability.
Even before the industry was established, about 200 persons made a living out of preparing work for the weavers. While the number of weavers was 15, some 450- 600 persons made a living on wool combing for the weavers. Each artisan employed 30 to 40 workers for combing and spinning. Although these were seasonal occupations, they provided a basis for the existence of many families. When, however, towards the second half of the 18th century, the establishment of factories was considered one of the most effective means to restore the Polish economy, Czartoryski decided to establish a factory. After initial difficulties were overcome, the industry became more efficient, especially upon arrival in Staszów of an administrative manager of the manufacturer named Seydewitz. When the factory was put into operation, disputes with local weavers erupted, as they considered the factory a competitive undermining of their livelihood. The factory's workers were considered Lumpengesindel.
However, in the course of time, the weavers realized that the factory did not affect their livelihood and they got used to the situation. In the year 1773, there were 89 employees in the factory, of whom 12 were laborers (8 from Staszów, 3 from Sandomierz, and 1 from Miroslaw).The rest of the employees were Germans from Bielsko. The factory expanded and needed more manpower. At the time people were kidnapped from the streets or poorhouses in the cities and brought to work in factories. Prisoners, unemployed persons and beggars were made to work in factories. In the villages the landowners made their vassal farmers (pañszczyzna) work in factories. The latter, however, were not dependable workers, as they often absented themselves to work in their fields. Seydewitz, who needed a strong labor force for the factory, turned to the Jewish community of Staszów, considering the poverty in which they lived, he hoped that he might find enough good men among them.
He suggested that the Jews, in particular the women whom he considered good workers, would be trained first. He feared that Jewish women would not work for him of their own free will, thus he issued a decree (einen scharfen Befehl) compelling them to work at home for his factory. The same compulsory system was imposed on the village women -giving them the choice to work at home or in the factory.
Jewish women worked in weaving mills in other towns as well -- Niemerów and Horodinca. In a kitchen utensil manufacturing factory in Grodno, 400 Jewish women were employed.
Employment in such plants provided the means not only for a decent living, but also made the Jews more productive and furthered their advance into new professions.
In the second half of the 18th century, the Jewish population increased considerably, reaching the figure of 776 persons in Staszów and surrounding towns, by 1764. The community was forced to contribute to the payment of debts of the State Committee of Kraków - Sandomierz a sum of 322,834 zlotys. The debts imposed on the communities of this state were a heavy burden.
Only after the whole area was annexed to Austria, did changes in the organization of the Jewish community and its living conditions took place. The community was under Austrian laws, whereby restrictions were placed on Jewish commerce, as well as on Jewish marriages. Following what they did with the Galician Jews, the Austrian authorities issued a series of edicts, in a process of secularization, that would make the Jews eligible to receive the civil rights. Thus, they were compelled to add Polish surnames to their Jewish family names, but were allowed to choose their own names, unlike Galicia where the bureaucracy decided the names. From the period on, these names remained, up until today, such as: Tchaikowski, Lubelski, Rabinowicz, Dawidowicz, etc.
The burden of taxes during Austrian rule was heavy. Duties on meat imposed on Jewish commerce were: each litra of meat was 3 kreuzer, 2 kreuzer for pigeon, 14 kreuzer for geese, 6 kreuzer for chicken or duckling and 20 kreuzer for swan. Duties were placed on candles per piece. And each Jewish family lit two candles every Saturday and holiday.
These taxes remained in force even after the area was annexed to the Principality of Warsaw, in spite of the efforts made by the communities to annul them. These rules helped to impoverish the Jewish population.
On top of these taxes, a considerable tax was put on the Jews for the Polish Army, decided upon by the military authorities. In the Department of Radom, to which Staszów belonged, the communities accumulated a debt of 247,217 zlotys. They were unable to pay this tax which was for the maintenance of the military authority of the Warsaw principality.
The annexation of the area to the Warsaw principality and the subsequent regime imposed caused great hardship to Staszów's Jews. Several plans were submitted to the State Council referring to the evolution of the Jewish question in Poland. The trend of these proposals was the following: to fix the situation of the Jews in the spirit of secularization, and to create conditions for the assimilation of the Jews to the Polish people, according to the requests of the speaker of the State Council, Kaitan Kozmian. The fix resulted in a number of legal restrictions, starting with the prohibition for Jews to sell liquors and other alcoholic beverages. After Novosilchow was given bribes by the Jews, this decree was cancelled, but other civil decrees were issued, such as the re-establishment of the authority, de non tolerandis Judaeis, which could expel Jews from certain towns. In Staszów, the authorities determined only that Jews could not settle in the main streets of the town. In 1809, the Prefect Kusinsky imposed a number of additional decrees which were hard to bear. They were forbidden to live in Christian quarters and a special area was designated for them; only in special cases was a Jew permitted to live in the town, for examples, if he had at least 10,000 zlotys in cash, or if he was an artisan or manufacturer. Jewish males were ordered to shave and dress as the rest of the population, to learn to read and write Polish and to teach their children the Polish language. Rabbis were not permitted to enact a boycott (cherem) without a permit of the Polish authorities. In accordance with these orders, the landowner of Staszów, Izabella Lubomirski, assigned the living area to the Jewish population to be between the River Czarna and Dluga Street.
Living conditions worsened daily. Censuses were held from time to time to determine the number of Jews living in the villages, who by now, were supposed to gradually decrease. Also, Jews were not allowed to employ Gentile servants and assistants. Between the years 1814-1825, a Registry of Jews was kept, which included births, marriages and deaths. In compliance with the Codex Napoleonis , the registry was kept by the Catholic Church and not the Jewish constituency or rabbis. In the year 1819, the Jewish community was ordered to transfer its cemetery out of the town's boundaries. In the same year a plot was acquired for 517 zlotys and a new cemetery was opened in 1825.
Within the framework of arranging Jewish affairs in the Kingdom of Poland, between 1818-1825, the community was liquidated in 1822 and all the documents and accounting records were taken away.
As a result of these limitations, the economic life of the Jewish population of Staszów was devastated. The prohibition to deal in certain branches, including the alcohol industry; their expulsion from the town, and the seclusion in which they found themselves, unable to trade within the town's boundaries, all these and more economic restrictions impoverished the community, whose situation became very grave.
Because of the evictions of Jewish populations from the surrounding villages, more Jews came to settle in Staszów, crowding the Staszów area accorded to them. As in other communities, here too a decree was issued determining the number of people permitted in one apartment or house. Conditions were set as to which types of work or business was allowed for the Jews. The Jews became poorer and poorer and more degraded. They had little chances or hopes for improving their situation. It is interesting to note that compared to the Jews' situation, the same period was one of prosperity for the rest of the Polish population. In the years 1811-1825, Polish agricultural output reached a peak, commerce waxed great, and new marketing outlets were found in Russia, after customs duties between the two countries were cancelled. In Staszów too, the new prosperity was felt, there was wealth and economic improvement among the artisans. The Jews, however, managed to enjoy the economic growth to a limited degree, only, and paid very dearly for it.
Further taxes were imposed: viz. bartending tax, Kosher meat tax, a tax on a permit to enter Warsaw. These taxes were severely enforced. In view of the grave economic situation, the Jewish population tried to settle in agricultural areas.
On February 4, 1823, the commissioner issued a decree whereby Jews who wanted to do agricultural work could settle on governmental or landowners territories. Promises were given for tax exemption of between 3 to 12 years. Wood was allocated for their buildings without payment and other facilities were granted.
On the basis of this decree, a group of Jews from voivoideship Kalisz submitted an application on April 8, 1923 for agricultural settlement, but encountered difficulties on the part of the authorities. The wealthy Jew, Shlomo Zalman Pozner, who was very enthusiastic about the idea of Jews returning to work the earth, tried, together with other Jewish activists, to intervene with the authorities in this matter. Several noblemen were willing to put villages at the disposal of the Jews, but there were few candidates. In the years 1840-1843, the question of encouraging Jews to work the land arose again. The government exhorted the Jews to work in agriculture and promised to grant the same privileges to the settlers as were offered in 1823.
Esteemed rabbis of Warsaw, among them such tzaddikim as Reb Isaac from Warki and Reb Isaac Meir Alter, published an appeal to all the Jews of Poland, calling on them to become engaged in agriculture. All over Poland important Jews and rabbis urged that the Jewish population settle on agricultural land. Rabbi Zalman Pozner was the most active in this appeal.
A meeting of rabbis and heads of Jewish communities was held in Warsaw where the subject was discussed. In implementing this idea, these representatives of Polish Jewry saw the only prospect of improving their situation.
The aim of this movement was to acquire estates with all the rights attached, without any limitations, and to settle Jews on the land, establishing entirely Jewish villages.
At this meeting, eight persons, representing all the various groups of the Jewish population, were elected. These elected ones appealed to Commissioner Paskiewicz with the request to appoint a committee from the Jewish representatives to deal in the acquisition of land and its settlement. However, the commissioner did not respond to this request in spite of the fact that the heads of the community submitted in the same year (1842), several applications on the matter.
On the 2nd of February, 1843, the Commissioner issued a decree on the appointment of a committee for Jewish settlement, but consisting of no Jewish members as the Jews had suggested. The committee was ordered to compile all the laws published in Poland concerning the settlement of Jews and to adapt them to the laws in force in Russia. Thus, a permit for settlement would be given only to Jews in possession of 1,500 rubles. Settlements were to be made only in special locations set aside for this purpose, and no less than five families were to settle on one site. Wealthy Jews would be permitted to acquire land from individuals. The committee would decide under what conditions the Jews could hire Gentiles to instruct them in agriculture. An ordinance would be published whereby the Jews would be permitted to establish a foundation for the collection of contributions.
Meanwhile, Jews endeavored individually, to obtain permits for the acquisition of land for settlement purposes. In the Department of Radom, the Jew Joseph Worm, submitted in 1842 an application to the commissioner to receive land under a lease for him and his heirs in perpetuity. This land belonged to the city of Radom.
The authorities of Sandomierz informed him on May 29, 1843 that they had available land, but as it was situated in an area where Jews were forbidden to settle, they had to apply to the heads of districts involved and were unable to make any commitments until they received a reply.
However, on June 30th of the same year, the Sandomierz authorities replied that under no circumstances were available lands belonging to towns to be given to Jews, as this would only bring harm to the towns and their populations, on the one hand, and would not help the Jews to get used to agricultural work. This, because they love idleness and hate work.
Meanwhile, Jews in many places acted on their own and applied to the noblemen in the estate towns to receive land on lifetime leases, or other type of leases. Others purchased land with a view of settling Jews on it. The landowners were not sure that the government would permit the Jews to settle on the land and applied to the authorities for instructions.
Influenced by this movement, which also reached Staszów, a group organized an appeal to the landowner of Staszów, Count Potocki, to obtain land for settlement from him.
Adam Potocki was a man who had for a long time tried to arouse Jewish interest in agriculture and a love for the land. Thus, Potocki agreed to settle ten Jewish families on his estate, Adamówka. When the Jews established the settlement, they called it, Palestinka. Potocki gave the settlers land to work, living quarters for each family, and tools. Thus they came to the place ready to start. For the living quarters and tools they had to pay 817 zlotys, in installments for 6 years. Lease payments were determined by the kind of land and the number of animals on pasture land.
The following families settled there: (1) Izrael Dizenhaus, (2) Pinchas Weinrib, (3) Zatma (?) Strauss, (4) Leizar Sternberg, (5) Bezalel Wizentier, (6) Izrael Goldstein, (7) Yechezkiel Orkan, (8) Szmuel Goldberg, (9) Leizar Ehrlich, and (10) Josef Frankel.
The lease was signed for the period of 25 years.
On May 15, 1846 the contract was endorsed by the Commissioner of Poland. The settlement, however, existed only six years, and in 1852 it was closed down because the land was not cultivated. The equipment was sold. This was one of the first Jewish settlements in Poland.
This initiative of Potocki and the Jews was supported by the governor. In 1848 there were 14 Jewish settlements in the Radom guberniya. They contained 562 families. In 1849, there were 15 settlements with 1180 Jews (596 males and 584 females). Another 200 families were engaged in agricultural work. Seven of these settlements out of the fifteen were exempted from military service.
In the second half of the 19th century the economic situation of the Jewish population improved. Retail commerce was almost entirely in Jewish hands, and wholesale commerce almost entirely as well. The same applies to businesses such as grain, timber (from the big forests in the area), beer (and other beverages), as well as the gypsum industry of the area. The number of Jews engaged in artisanship increased. In 1840, 12 Jews leased the lighting service of the town for payment of 12 zlotys each to the town owners. However, in 1863, during the Polish uprising, the quiet life attained after so many efforts, received a serious setback.
Upon the eruption of the uprising, the Russians gathered infantry and artillery in the area, on the basis of rumors that the headquarters of Commander Langiewicz was there. The headquarters of the Russian armies was stationed in Staszów proper.
Already in the years 1861-1863, during demonstrations, Polish relations towards the Jews were hostile. In 1861, the demonstrations in Opatów bore a clerical-nationalistic character. The local Jewish population abstained from taking part. The demonstrators attacked Jewish homes and broke windows. The incident had a strong effect on the Jews. Yet, Jewish students participated in the demonstrations of 1862. Jews were also accused of spying on the Poles in favor of the Russians and suffered from these accusations.
The relationship between Jews and Poles became worse in Staszów, particularly in 1863, when some Jews allegedly passed information to the Russians. On February 12, 1863, Langiewitz departed with his unit of 600 men from Sw. Krzyz in the direction of Raków, as he was unable to stand against the Russians. On his way he was able to escape the Russians, and on February 14th he entered Staszów. Three days later, on February 17th, the revolutionaries were attacked by the Russian armies, under the command of Colonel Zagriashko. On the 18th, the revolutionaries had to withdraw and the Russians entered Staszów.
After the town was occupied by the Russians, they plundered the houses of the Poles in revenge for the revolt, but did not touch Jewish homes, as the latter did not participate in the revolt, nor did they help the revolutionaries. After the incident, the Jews bought the looted goods from the Russians for 500 rubles. When the Russians left the town, the Jews returned the robbed goods to their Polish owners, without demanding any payment.
In October 1863, General Czachówski, with 1000 soldiers, entered the District of Sandomierz from Galicia. A Jewish captain named August Rosner commanded one of the companies. Rosner was an Austrian officer and he joined the uprising under the name Róza. He was a brilliant fighter but in an encounter with a Russian company that came from Staszów, he and his 80 men were killed. The years of the uprising paralyzed economic life, and only in 1864 conditions returned to normal.
In 1820, there were 1,399 Jews in Staszów and 1,562 Gentiles. Within seven years the Jewish population grew to 2,062 compared to 1,871 Gentiles in 1827 (52.4% Jews). In 1841 there were 2,903 Jews compared to 2,080 Gentiles. In 1856, there were 3,206 Jews and 1,803 Gentiles. In 1857, 3,246 Jews and 1,823 Gentiles (64% Jews). In 1897 the Jewish population reached 4,885 and Gentiles 3,000 (61.9% Jews).
In the year 1913, the Jewish population counted 7,634 persons, including 4,054 males and 3,580 females. In 1921, in the new restaured Poland, there were 4,704 Jews and 3,653 Gentiles. The Jewish population now represented 57.5%.
During the first World War, Staszów's Jewish community suffered considerably, especially during the summer of 1914 after the Austrians occupied the town. (withdrawing on September 6th of that year). The Russians returned to Staszów on September 15th and thereafter the Cossacks raided Jewish shops and homes, robbing and mugging brutally. On Yom Kippur, one Jew was hanged on a lamp pole and eight were shot by order of General Nówików. In October of the same year, the Austrians returned to Staszów, remaining for a few days only. The frontline moved from day to day until the town was liberated finally from the Russian Army in May, 1915 by the Austrians, who remained there until the establishment of the New Poland.
The Owners of the Town of Staszów, from the 15th Century
Letter of Existence, accorded to the Jewish Community of Staszów in the Year 1772
The community of the town, Staszów, requesting the rights accorded to them by the town owners preceding me, which, so far, were implemented only by custom, I therefore recommend by this confirmation, to keep these rights and command my administration to implement them.
Issued in Warszawa, on June 20, 1772. Signed by A. Czartoryski.
This document was endorsed by: Izabella Czartoryski Lubomirska, Alfred Potocki, Adam Potocki, in the year 1797, and registered in the Land registration, in the Book: Liber transactionum, No. 95, Page 82, which is in the archives of Sichów, in the documents of 1858, No. 196.
by Rabbi Dr. David Graubart, Chicago
Translated by Miriam Leberstein
Staszów, the town of our birth, has already entered the memory of the people as a place of the spirit. Because the earthly Staszów was destroyed, we are left only with the intangible, the entirely spiritual Staszów: the Staszów of the soul. The spiritual portrait of our beloved town stands before us in all its breadth: a town with its rabbis, its Hasidim, its maskilim, and its overall spiritual and intellectual essence.
According to the monograph on Staszów written by the priest Szieka, the town belonged to the Radziwiłł and Czartoryski families, renowned Polish nobility, who were known for their pro-Jewish traditions. Incidentally, the famous pious convert of Wilno, [Walentyn] Potocki, (called Count Polany in a Hebrew song), was related to the Radziwiłł family.
The town is mentioned in a number of old books and Hasidic religious works, among others, the memoir, Megiles Sefer [The Scroll of the Book], by the Gaon Rabbi Jacob Emden, who lived in the eighteenth century. Rabbi Emden, or, as he was called by his acronym, JaBeTZ, writes that his father, the renowned Gaon Rabbi Tsvi Ashkenazi (called the Khokhem Tsvi, spent about two years in Staszów during his travels throughout Europe. In our town the Khokhem Tsvi was the guest of his admirer, Princess Czartoryska, proprietress of the town and of the neighboring village Rytwiany, or Ritvin, as the Jews called it. The small, white house on Synagogue Street where the Khokhem Tsvi lived still stood in Staszów in my time.
Here is the relevant, valuable excerpt from Rabbi Jacob Emden's above-mentioned biographical work, Megiles Sefer. [The text in Hebrew appears here. The author continues:] I will avail myself of the following Yiddish translation [of the Hebrew excerpt] by the Canadian Yiddish writer, H.G. Shimen, that was published in 25 Years of the Staszówer Young Men's Mutual Benefit Society, Toronto, 1956:
After my father, zl, set out on his travels, God granted that he found favor with a rich Jew, one of the most respected in Poland, with a reputation for good deeds, Reb Yisroel Rytwin, an official called an econom, steward of an estate owned by Countess Szaniawska (= Czartoryska? -D.G.), over whose property he was the actual ruler… . And this man was a pious Jew and an intelligent person, who took upon himself the good deed of taking my father and his family into his home. He gave him an apartment on his property in Staszów or in Rytwiany, and provided him with all the personal and household necessities, giving him cows, milk butter, bread, wood, meat, fish and everything needed to run a household…and he did this with great pleasure, with love….
In this way several years passed, until 1718, when my father was appointed Rabbi of Lemberg (Lwów), and Reb Yisroel was sad to lose this opportunity to do a good deed, to house the great Torah scholar for a number of years…
If I were to relate everything that happened to us in Lemberg, it would take too long. Four our sins, father didn't last long there, not even a quarter of a year. He left behind his good name, dying on Rosh Chodesh [beginning of the month] Iyar, 1718, at the age of 58. This light of the Jewish people was extinguished and all of Poland wept at the sad news.
In the Hasidic world Staszów is known for quite an important historical incident, the death of the Lubliner Rabbi, Rebbe Yakov Itsik Horowic, called the Seer of Lublin. The story is well known and has to do with the rabbi's death on Tisha B'av, 1815. During the time his desperate Hasidim were searching for him, he was found by Reb Leyzer Chmielniker, a son-in-law of a well-known Staszówer Hasid. The latter is called in Hasidic books (among them Ten Lights by Harav Yisroel Berger, and others) Harav the tsaddik [saintly], the poresh [ascetic], the exemplary Rabbi Tsvi Hirshele of Staszów.
Many stories circulated in Staszów, even decades later, about this remarkable Rabbi Tsvi Hershele, wondrous legends of this great saintly man. In his pious way not wanting to take pleasure in the sinful world, he shut himself up in his room, where he remained for more than twenty years without ever setting foot over the threshold. From this years-long seclusion in meditation, he derived the name, the poresh. He died on the 20th of Tammuz, 1835. An oyel [gravestone in the form of a house] was erected on his grave, which became a place of attraction for thousands of people, who streamed there for years, in search of a remedy against the evil eye, both for individuals and for communities.
Staszów is also mentioned in rabbinical books on [Religious] Questions and Answers, including those dealing with matters of divorce and deserted wives. In this connection, there is a famous ruling in favor of a deserted wife from Staszów, issued by the Kozhenitser [Kosienice] Magid, the Gaon and Tsaddik Rabbi Yisroel Hofsztajn, ztsl. My father, the Gaon Rabbi Yehuda Leyb, mentions the case of the deserted wife of Staszów in his book of questions and answers, Khavalim b'neimim.
Staszów also had several [non-Hasidic] rabbis renowned in the Jewish world. There is no doubt that the Staszówer rabbi was the just mentioned Gaon, Rabbi Yehuda Leyb Graubart, zl, who was known in the entire world of Jewish scholarship for his important works, in addition to his work as a community activist of the highest level. Before him, the position of chief rabbi of Staszów had been occupied by a grandson of the holy Jew, the Porisover [Parysów] Rabbi, the Gaon, Tsaddik Rabbi Avrom Rabinowic. Also well known were Rabbi Mayerl Staszówer, ztsl, the Gaon and Hasid, Reb Moyshe Shaltiel Gerszt, zl, the star pupil of the Ostrovitser [Ostrowiec] rabbi, and Gaon Rabbi Mayer Yehiel Halevi Halbsztok, ztsl, who is remembered by Staszówer Jews as a truly saintly man.
In conclusion, I think it no exaggeration to say that, apart from the position held by Staszów in the socio-economic and secular-cultural life of Jewish Poland, the town held an important role in the religious-Hasidic-rabbinical-scholarly realm, a role that was greatly disproportionate to the size of Staszów's Jewish population.
by Herszel Pomerancblum
Translated from Polish to Yiddish by the late Herszel Pomerancblum
Translated from Yiddish by Hannah Bar-Ziv
Edited by Jean-Pierre Stroweis
Staszów, a town in the province of Sandomierz, is located on the banks of the river Czarna which flows into the Wisła [Vistula] at a distance of 17 kilometers [10 miles] by the town of Połaniec [in Yiddish Plontz]. The soil in the Staszów area consists of three layers: gypsum, lime and sand. Staszów is located 210 kilometers [131 miles] for Warsaw, 114 kilometers [71 miles] from Radom, 48 kilometers [27 miles] from Sandomierz and 52 kilometers [28 miles] from Ostrowiec. Its area was 1743 morgas [i.e. 10.4 km2 or 2607 acres], on 120 morgas [i.e. 0.7 km2 or 180 acres] of which houses and streets were built.
The town had 13 streets, 3 squares and 420 houses out of which 305 were stone houses and 115 wooden houses. The streets are paved and neatly maintained. The market square is planted with trees. The town park by the river was constructed in 1886.
The town had two Catholic churches, a synagogue, two elementary schools, five Jewish "Cheders", a court of law, and investigating judge, a post office, a hospital with 25 beds, a shelter for 25 needy people with an income of 1,321 rubles in the year 1881, a military hospital, 4 doctors, a veterinarian doctor, 5 paramedics and a pharmacy.
The factories that operated in the town: A brewery with 3,000-ruble worth production and 5 employees; a honey maker with 2 employees and 600-ruble production, 2 soda-water producers, two modern water-operated flour mills with 21 employees and an income of up to 18,000 rubles. Their breakdown by professions: shoe-makers 51, tailors 24, barrel makers 20, butchers 18, bakers 16, carpenters 14, millers 12, hat-makers 10, floggers 7 and 120 shop keepers.
In 1886 the town had 7971 permanent residents and 820 temporary residents. Their religion distribution was as follows: Catholics 2,668, Eastern Orthodox Christians [a.k.a. Pravoslavs] 15, Protestants 8 and Jews 5,280.
In 1827 there were in town 350 houses and 3,107 residents.
In 1857 there were 367 houses out of which 107 were of stone, and 5,104 residents out of which 3,303 were Jewish.
The average income was around 4,500 rubles and the capital deposited in the Polish Bank 10,000 rubles.
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