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Translation of the
Memorial book of Briegel-Brzesko and vicinity

(Brzesko, Poland)

 

Project Leader: Deborah H. Long
JewishGen Liason/Advisor: Lance Ackerfeld

Project Synopsis

This project is being initiated in order to fund the translation of the 270 page Yizkor Book. Originally published in Hebrew and Yiddish in 1980 in Ramat Gan, Israel, the editors are Chaim Teller and Liber Brenner. The goal is to eventually provide a complete translation of this book to JewishGen. JewishGen currently has no translation of any pages available.

Key Audiences

Jewish genealogists who have ancestors from Briegel/Brzesko will be interested in possibly learning the fate of family members. The project will also be of interest to those studying Briegel/Brzesko, Poland, a town about 32 miles ESE of Kraków and 299 km south of Warsaw.

Project Importance

Yizkor books are unique sources of information on once vibrant towns, primarily in central and Eastern Europe, whose Jewish populations were destroyed in the Holocaust. Written after World War II by émigrés and Holocaust survivors, YIzkor books contain narratives of the history of the town, details of daily life, religious and political figures and movements, religious and secular education, and gripping stories of the major intellectual and Zionist movements of the 20th century. The necrologies and lists of residents are of tremendous genealogical value, as often the names of individuals who were taken to extermination camps or died in the forests are not recorded elsewhere.

According to Virtual Shtetl, Jews began settling down in Brzesko probably from the moment the town of Brzeg was granted the municipal rights under the Magdeburg law by Queen Jadwiga in 1385. By the 19th century, there was a significant increase of the number of Jews in Brzesko, their main occupation being at that time commerce, inn-keeping and distillery business. At the turn of the 20th century, Jews constituted two-thirds of Brzesko inhabitants. They lived at the Market Square, Wapienna, Rynek Dolny and Zielona Streets. They had their own ritual abattoir, several houses of prayer, and a synagogue, which was destroyed by fire in 1904. The Jewish community also ran a hospital for the poor, which was mentioned in a resolution passed by the community authorities dated June 20, 1884. The Israeli Kehilla with a Registry of Vital Records covering a range of towns and villages within the county had its seat in Brzesko.

Brzesko Jews had a great influence upon the town's life not only due to the important part they played in commerce. Many enlightened Jews participated in the social, cultural and political life of the town. They took part in the works of the town council and were widely esteemed.

A “New Jewish Cemetery” was originally thought to have been built and replaced the “Old Jewish Cemetery” in 1846, when the latter became full. However, more recent research found gravestones dating back to 1823 or 1824. It presently contains about a thousand tombstones, with the last burial having taken place in 1950. It is the burial place of at least two Tzadiks (“righteous” in Hasidic tradition) and has been a destination of pilgrimages in the past. During World War II the German occupation authorities used the kirkut as an execution site. Around 200 Jews were killed by the Nazis at the cemetery on 18 April 1942 and additional persons from the area who had been murdered were buried there as well.

Brzesko was destroyed by its German occupants. Already in September 1939, the authorities in occupation excluded Jewish councilmen from the town council. Discrimination of Jews began. On September 22, a regulation was issued, according to which all Jewish shops had to be marked. All the Jews who were able to work were obliged to perform various cleaning jobs in town. In the spring of 1941 a ghetto was established in Brzesko. 6000 people were crammed into a small area.

The ghetto dissolution took place on September 17 – 18, 1942. All Jews were gathered at the market square in Brzesko and told to stay on their knees from the morning until midday with their hands raised, they were robbed of valuables and put on a train, while the sick and unfit for transport were shot on the spot. Approximately 500 were murdered during these street aktions. 2,000 Jews were sent to Belzec extermination camp the same month. A year later, the rest of the Brzesko Jews were sent to Auschwitz.

Project Description

As funds become available, Yiddish pages will be translated into English by a professional translator. Eventually, Hebrew pages will also be translated. The book is small enough to be translated from beginning to end at an orderly pace, without pause. The project coordinator will review the translation and work closely with the translators.

Estimated Cost

A full translation is currently estimated to cost $2,500. This may change and can be adjusted over time if necessary and if translation is more burdensome than expected.

 


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