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[Page 33]

Dąbrowa Górnicza’s Jewry up until 1939

by Jan Zomba
(translated from Polish by Juda Londner)

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Dąbrowa Górnicza originally was a small village situated at the outskirts of a forested region, belonging to the governor of the district of Będzin. This village came into existence somewhere between the years 1700-1800. The first information available regarding its population appears in a census of Krakow residents from the year 1787. Dąbrowa then numbered 184 residents, including one Jewish family, consisting of five persons, whose name isn't mentioned in the census and whose fate is unknown. (Kelczynski: Krakow Regional Census of 1787, Archive of the Historical Krakow Committee 1894).

Layers of coal had been discovered in Dąbrowa two years earlier. For a certain period of time coal was, in fact, mined there, but on a small scale, and only for local consumption. Only after the partition of Poland in 1795, when these areas were annexed to German Prussia, was the first mine established in Reden. The Prussian authorities in the area did not encourage Jewish settlers in Dąbrowa. The authorities of that time published declarations, whose aim was to localize the Jewish population in the cities and determine precisely what professions would be open to them. There was even a list of products that they were allowed to market. The Jews were allowed to live in modest dwellings and employ a limited number of servants. Marriage was permissible only if bride and groom had both reached the age of 25, and only with the authorities' approval. The Jews living in the villages were compelled to move to the cities within five years. This fate, apparently, affected the first Jewish family of five in Dąbrowa.

The Napoleonic Wars influenced the political climate of Dąbrowa. With its liberation from the Prussian government, it was included in the Warsaw Duchies and, later, The Kingdom of Poland was created by the Congress of Vienna, that was known colloquially as “Kongresowa”. In 1816 a historical turning point occurred in Dąbrowa: in the Kingdom of Poland a patriot and writer by the name of Stanisław Staszic was commissioned as general manager of industry, trade and labor. He began a large scale, far reaching project in Poland. In this program, Dąbrowa served an important role; not only the Reden coal mine was established, but a number of tin-cutting industries were founded, and housing units were built for the workers in these industries. A series of government and industrial institutions were set up in the region. Dąbrowa became the center of Zaglembian industry: the first communal administration was initiated and later, a regional industrial authority.

Zaglembian Dąbrowa continued its development and construction. Minister Ksawery Lubecki followed Staszic. A large mine was established bearing his name between Będzin and Dąbrowa, as was a tin-cutting industry. A workers' town by the name of Ksawery was established alongside and eventually became an integral part of Dąbrowa.

After the November uprising, the Polish Bank took over the administration of the national industry for a number of years. The bank founded an iron foundry in Dąbrowa called Huta Bankowa, and opposite a residential suburb, in the years 1833-1845, which today forms the center of the town.

Thus did Dąbrowa take its shape in the eighteenth century. It was originally a combination of a village which today is known as Old Dąbrowa, the Reden residential suburb, Huta Bankowa and Ksawery. Each place had its own supervisor. There were no Jews among the Dabrowa residents; this was because they were prohibited from working in the mines or even residing in this region. In spite of these prohibitions, the Jews had all sorts of contacts with the mines and industries. The industries and the workers were in need of varied products and services. The supply base for these materials was near Będzin, and since a large number of the Będzin residents were Jewish, dealing in crafts and trading, they supplied the requirements of Dąbrowa and its population. A number of facts may be enumerated: in 1836 the Krakow regional supervisor issued trading licenses within a three mile radius of the Dombrowa jurisdiction to two Będzin traders, Salomon Brauner and Michael Szapiro. Szapiro, whose name appears frequently in documents of the Górnicza authorities as Liberant, supplied an array of different materials for the government industry. He quickly became known as an important contractor and affiliated with a partner by the name of Gratszlajm, apparently also Jewish, and both of them carried out all sorts of building contracts in the industrial plants.

In the 1840s the regular suppliers of work clothes in the plants were the Będzin tailors Peska and Marek Rozenriter.

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Noting this information, it was said that other tailors sold clothing privately to the workers, but the Górnicza authorities did not look favorably on this.

In the beginning, apart from the inns there were no stalls or shops, and the Dąbrowa population was compelled to supply all its own requirements from Będzin, which involved considerable difficulties. In 1841 the managerial committee of the Polish Kingdom deliberated on the fact that a population of thousands of people, quite a distance from Będzin, was forced to supply itself with its requirements over a great distance. The committee determined that every Wednesday would be a market day, and as a result of this decision the Będzin Jews could open up stalls. Some converted their stalls into permanent trading locations.

In 1860 Frochtcwajg and Abel Stridel of Będzin established a butcher shop in Reden. From documents relating to the markets in Górnicza we learn about the relationship of these butchers with other Jewish butchers that slaughtered and sold meat covertly.

Regarding the inns: for decades the right to establish them in the Dąbrowa juridical region was dependent on Będzin. The right was based on licenses given to the city by Polish kings, and was confirmed by the Prussian authorities in 1802. One Jew who obtained a license to open an inn in the Ksawery village was named Erlich. Thirty years later he filed a lawsuit in which he claimed that he had a identity card from Będzin and lived in Ksawery only temporarily. Among the Jewish names that we encounter in Będzin were wagon drivers who transported coal from the Dąbrowa coal mines. These examples prove that during the period in which Jews were forbidden to settle in Dąbrowa, they already played a vital role in running the town.

In 1860 the Russian authorities began imposing limitations on where the Jews could settle. The limitations were not completely explicit and the supervisor of the Olkusz-Szbrisko community was hesitant to carry them out in the Dąbrowa settlement. Apparently, the first Jew to receive a license to settle permanently in Dąbrowa was Szmuel Miodownik, a shoemaker from Będzin. In August 1862, Miodownik applied to the leader of the Olkusz district, requesting that he allow the leader of the Olkusz-Szbrisko community to permit him to settle in Dąbrowa. (M. Kantor, in his historical research of Zaglembian Dąbrowa noted without citing a source, that the Miodownik family origins stem from the Aaron Natan family, that in 1828 sold a honey based drink, and hence the name, Miodownik. This story is a legend, since it is not based on any source). Another couple of Jewish families settled in Dąbrowa before 1870. In 1863, in the old Dąbrowa village lived a Jakob Majman (or Najman) and Kopel Koszenowski, both of them traders, and in 1867 Icchak Miodownik, in 1868 Mordechai Lejb Miodownik (a baker), and also Tewel Lenner and Josef Magier (traders), in Ksawery in 1866 Szmuel Grat (a tailor), and in 1869 Szlomo Parasol (a trader). In 1868 in Reden lived a Szymon Sliwka (wagon driver). With the exception of Sliwka who was born in Żarki, the rest came from Będzin. (The local Będzin kingdom archive includes a list of the Jewish families in the Dąbrowa Górnicza community who came in 1898. The list details the number of persons in the family, profession, date that they settled in Dąbrowa and their birth place. According to the documents the date of arrival in Dąbrowa was established. It's possible that there were several errors, assuming that a certain number of people arrived there on dates before the year 1898. It's also probable that people from earlier dates had already passed away or had already left the region. Several names were illegible, since they were written by the Polish village official in flawed Russian).

There were a number of economic changes that took place in Dąbrowa around 1870. The industrial plants that had been government run underwent a leasing process and sale to individuals, to private investment companies and, in particular, to French companies. New factories were built like “Frisz”, “Flora”, “Jan” an assembly plant for “Pitzner and Gamper” machinery, and so on. These changes occurred throughout almost all of Zagłębie. Many people streamed into the plants looking for work. The Dąbrowa population grew continuously. Among the newcomers who came to find work, there were Jewish merchants, tradesmen and other professionals.

In the years 1870-1880 the following names appear in the Dąbrowa census: Distler, Gutman, Jungster, Kipelberg, Majerowicz, Melinowicz, Rechnic, Rozencwajg, Szywek, Szterner, Sztorchajn, Szwajcer, Frochtcwajg and Bitrich. The names appearing in the list were regarded as Będzin residents. There was no shortage of names of those who had come from further away: Zirek, Częstochowa and Pińczów.

In the years 1880-1890 the following families arrived in Dąbrowa: Blesem, Bugier, Brukner, Chamingman, Fersztenbeter, Frajlich, Futerko, Gitler, Gildbrom, Guterman, Lajtner, Londner, Majer Mitelman, Rajzer Rozmarin, Zygrajch, Tyszer and Cwiner.

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In the years 1890-1900: Baum, Bajtner, Burg, Brandys, Zajband, Cwilusz, Cigusz, Cafnik, Domb, Alberg, Ajzeman, Fricht, Fuks, Gerszfeld, Glajcer, Gorbas, Grosfeld, Grynbaum, Gutersztajn, Halperin, Janowski, Skibic, Jutkewicz, Kanarek Kilner, Kokotek, Kraus, Krajcer, Kerszner, Krzetoski, Kotlicki, Kozirowski, Landau, Lemkowicz, Liberman, Luksenburg, Laski, Majerowicz, Mirowski, Mirman, Nagar, Natan, Nower, Nusbaum, Potik, Prewo, Rajchman, Rozenblat, Rozencwajg, Rozenblum, Rozenfrych, Roszinek, Salomon, Glecberg, Strzegowski, Szlezinberg, Szpigelman, Sztubel, Szwarbach, Szwarcbaum, Tenenbaum, Wajszalc, Wisztad, Wit, Wisberg, Bibiora, Winer, Wilc, Zitelman and others.

The aforementioned list was taken from a Jewish census that was undertaken by the Górnicza community who were located in Dąbrowa. This community was founded in 1870 as part of the Olkusz-Szbrisko community. From this census we learn that later this area was known as Dąbrowa Górnicza. At the time there were 192 families consisting of 823 persons, of which 47 families consisting of 226 persons lived in Old Dąbrowa, in the Huta Bankowa colony 83 families consisting of 302 persons. In the Reden colony there were 56 families consisting of 260 persons, and in the Ksawery colony 6 families consisting of 35 persons. The average family numbered 3-4 persons.

The source of the families who came to Dąbrowa: About 67 families came from Będzin; the rest came from the Piotrków district and Radomsko. There were Jews that came from the following places: Wolbrom – 13 families, Olkusz – 10 families, Władysław – 8 families, Częstochowa – 7 families, Pińczów – 5 families, Żarki – 7 families, Żarnowiec – 5 families, Działoszyce – 4 families. New residents of those years came from: Sławków, Korczyn, Mirow, Cieksyn, Radom, Kątne, Skały, Włoszczowa, Radomsko, Jędrzejów, Będzin, Wieluń, Kuzniczki, and Mława.

At the end of the 19th century the majority of the Dąbrowa population were occupied in trade or crafts. 82 families supported themselves from the management of all types of stores, stalls, warehouses and so forth. Among them were 27 shoe shops, 17 sewing workshops, 13 butchers, 8 tinkers, 4 watch repairers, 2 bakers, fur traders, a hatter and a painter. Apart from that there were 8 wagon drivers and 6 laborers among the Jews. 12 men worked in various occupations, among which there were 3 contractors, a medic, a bookkeeper, and so on. We are uncertain of the occupations of some 10 families. Only a few of the Jews had their own homes. The first residents of Dąbrowa to own their own homes were Szmuel and Icchak Miodownik, Jakob Majman from Old Dąbrowa, Szymon Sliwka from Reden and Szlomo Parasol from Ksawery.

In the period between 1900-1914, until the outbreak of the First World War, Dąbrowa Górnicza continued to develop. The population grew and with it the Jewish population, so that in 1902 there were already 60 Jewish families, numbering 250 persons. The growth of the Jewish society caused a number of problems. One of them was the religious ritual: the Jews of Dąbrowa belonged to the “believing community”, which was how a member of the Będzin prayer house was called. The distance between Dąbrowa and Będzin was a burden on the Jews of Dąbrowa, and hence prayer houses with classrooms for the children “Cheders” were organized in the homes of private individuals. Houses like these existed in Szlomo Miodownik's house in Reden and in Szlomo Parasol's house in Ksawery. The first to enjoy these houses were the Jews living in Reden, in Huta Bankowa and Old Dąbrowa, and secondly the Jews living in Ksawery itself and in the regions close by. About 1880 there were another two prayer houses established, in Jakob Majman's house in Old Dąbrowa and in Berta Rechnic's house in the colony of Huta Bankowa.

The authorities didn't look kindly upon these prayer houses, and were afraid that illegal meetings were taking place. In the years 1874-1875 the chairman of the Górnicza committee was ordered, by the administrator, to prepare a list of those gathering in the prayer houses. In 1877 the governor of Piotrków permitted a prayer house to be held in the Parasol house in Ksawery, but refused to allow other houses to be used as prayer houses. In 1888 the governor ordered that the prayer houses in Dąbrowa be inspected and the “aron hakodesh” be sealed.

The Jews of Dąbrowa endeavored to receive a permit from the authorities to organize a Jewish community; however, they were unsuccessful. Only in 1910 was a Dabrowan prayer house organization instigated, run by a committee which included the following people: Dawid Nower, Szlomo Rechnic and Jakob Gliksman. Alter Lewi was chosen to be the rabbi, who carried out this position some 20 years. The committee was assisted by a fund collected from the Jews of the community, which was divided to three rates in accordance with their personal wealth. In 1912 there were 313 families, but only heads of families had the right to vote in the general meetings of the community which were held in order to approve the budget. The budget for the Dąbrowa community in 1914 was 1500 rubles, and was utilized to pay the rabbi, teacher, the “chazan”, the bookkeeper and the upkeep of the office.

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During the period of the First World War, in 1916, Dąbrowa was recognized as a town and received municipal rights. The occupying authorities allowed elections to be held and the organization of a prayer house committee. The newly elected representatives were Mordechai Lejb Miodownik, Icze Majer Nusbaum, and Lejbl Strzegowski. The new committee dedicated itself to the building of a synagogue in Miejska Street. The dedication of the following people should be noted: Berl Fuks, Alter Futerko, Mordechai Lejb Miodownik, Mordechai Parnes, Icze Majer Luksburg, Herszl and Mosze Mitleman.

Following the uprising to liberate Poland in 1918, the prayer house committee became the Jewish community of Dąbrowa, and in 1924 it was established as “the Jewish community belonging to the faith of Moses”. The community was made up of a council headed by Herszl Tuwia Liberman, and from a community committee led by Lejbl Strzegowski. The leaders of this new community brought about the establishment of a cemetery.

As Dąbrowa Górnicza became a town, the opportunity arose for the local Jews to take part in administration and influence the local economy. In the first elections for the town council, which took place in the 1917 war, the Jews received 4 officials: Aaron Zilberszlag, Szlomo Rechnic, Jochim Eliezer Rechnic and Stanislaw Kawe. It should be noted that between 1916 and 1917 the council was appointed by the occupying authorities and there were no Jewish representation. In the first meeting of the new town council on the 27th of November 1917, Stanislau Kawe read a declaration, in the name of the Jewish town council members, of their intention of working together on an equal basis with the other council members, for the welfare of the town. All the schemes for improving sanitary conditions, culture and economic development would find loyal support. “Our motto will be: Cooperative enterprise on a democratic basis, and we will demand the recognition of the rights of all citizens irrespective of religion or belief”.

The elections of 1917 (still during the period of occupation) were held on the basis of a Kurili system: electors were allocated to groups according to their wealth, profession and nationality. It turned out that the largest number of mandates was held by a small group of wealthy people. The first elections on a democratic basis took place in 1919 after liberation. The Jews achieved 10 mandates out of a total of 33 mandates. This was the greatest representation that the Jews managed to achieve in the Dąbrowa Town Council. In the festive meeting of the town council, Aaron Zilberszlag spoke on behalf of the Jewish representatives. He presented a political platform, on which the Jewish representatives would perform within the framework of the town council: Increasing the number of public schools and promising places to Jewish children and Jewish religious education. It should be noted that as a result of applications by the Jewish representatives to the council regarding disturbances that took place at the end of 1919, the town council reached a decision to express their condolences, and stated their belief that the general Polish population should not be blamed for this.

In later years the Jews continued their representation in the town council, among fluctuations and modifications. In 1925 a united list appeared which only achieved 4 mandates out of a total of 29. In the elections of 1928 the Jews appeared in 5 separate political parties. The National Jewish bloc received 571 votes (2 mandates) and a tradesmen's party – 527 votes (one mandate), the Bundist party – 128 votes (insufficient for a mandate), a Poale Zion party – 211 votes and Left Poale Zion – 187 votes. From the number of parties one can learn about the distribution of political leanings among the Jews of Dąbrowa.

While the first elections for the town council taking place following the liberation of Poland were run on full democratic principles, during the “Sentzia” (the anti-Semitic period), the elections were held only to guarantee results for this “Sentzia” party. The Jewish representation decreased because of this in 1934 to a single mandate and in 1939 to two mandates.

In the last two instances the Jewish representation in the town council was less relative to its proportion of the population in the town, from what is known from the general census and was as follows: In the year 1921 there were 39,860 residents in Dąbrowa, of which there were 4,304 Jews (2,068 men, 2236 women). This statistic does not indicate the professional structure of the Jewish population. The number of illiterate amongst the Jews reached 20.9 % (not including children up to the age of 7). In Dąbrowa the situation was even worse: the number of illiterate reached 21.5 %. The cultural level of the Jews was not encouraging, and this was a result of the Czarist regime. In coming years the situation improved, as a result of the instigation of compulsory education in the year 1924. Regarding the children of Dąbrowa, there were two schools run by the community. In 1931 the general population numbered 36,942 persons. The decrease in population can be explained by the fact that in 1923 part of the town, including Ksawery, became part of Będzin. The Jewish population in 1931 numbered 5150 persons, which made up 14% of the total population (of which there were 2,637 women and 2,513 men).

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dab037.jpg [35 KB] - Members of the Right Wing Poalei Zion
Members of the Right Wing Poalei Zion

The Jewish society in Dąbrowa developed a number of organizations over this period: The Jewish tradesmen club, the merchants club and the Kibbutz Mizrahi society. The Peretz library ran a wide range of advanced studies. In this field the following names should be mentioned: Dawid Bernard, Rechnic, Zisman Koszenowski, Mordechai Grosfeld and Jakob Riterband. The political parties organized a great many assemblies and evening classes.

The Jewish socialist Bund party existed even before the first World War, whose activities spread after the war through the influence of by Paschazon and his wife Betsy. The Bund activist in Dąbrowa was Abramowicz from Będzin, who organized professional guilds, in particular, amongst the tradesmen. They promoted the established of a Jewish cultural council, that carried out numerous activities in 1926. Later it was beaten and broken, on account of the war, like the other Jewish political parties. The activity of the Jews in the industrial field, in particular the Klajn brothers who established a plant for the production of steel wires, should be noted.

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Dąbrowa Górnicza in the years 1815-1939

At the dawn of its existence, Dąbrowa Górnicza and the surrounding region began as forgotten places of swamps and forests. The princes of Poland didn't concern themselves with these places. The interest in the place grew with the development of industry in Europe at the beginning of the 18th century, when the use of steam began to be used in industry and steam locomotives. The demand for coal in Europe increased. The interest in Dąbrowa and its surroundings came not from the Poles but rather from Prussian Germany.

Dąbrowa Górnicza[1] received its name from the early settlers, who had settled in the area known as “Old Dąbrowa” in the depths of the forest. Old Dąbrowa rapidly developed into the present town of Dąbrowa, thanks to the black treasure buried in its soil. It is difficult to know when and how the first settlement began. The name of the place comes from the oak (“Domb” in Polish) trees amongst which the town was built. One of the areas of the forest bears the name “Dambnik” to this very day.

In the years 1705-1806 the mines had not yet been opened. The Prussians utilized them during the period of the Kingdom of Poland. They were subsequently destroyed during the Napoleonic Wars. When the Kingdom of Poland was founded and Czarist Russia controlled the region surrounding the dark Przemsza River, the writer Stanislau Steshitz was appointed as general manager of industry and trade. During his period of administration, Poland developed industrially and commercially, and the mines of Reden and Herain were founded (according to the book by Yan Fiszhela, Katowice 1962, page 42). After 1815 more and more coal tracts were discovered in the region around Dąbrowa. The mines of Ksawery and others were founded, also in the region of Silesia -Fugon and Sctzmishitza. In the years 1934-1839 “Hute Bankowa” was founded utilizing funds from the Polish banks.

Dąbrowa, according to a review in the Geographical Encyclopedia of 1880

Dąbrowa is located in the Przemsza River valley. From a municipal and legal point of a view it is regarded a village. It is part of the Będzin district, located 112 meters above sea level. A Catholic church in the Gothic style is built there, as is a public school. The local civic authority was subject to the regional magistrates court.

Dąbrowa is located in one of the important regions of coal tract, a focal point for heavy industry in the Kingdom of Poland. In 1796, during the Prussian German regime, the mines in Dąbrowa began to be developed. An industrial settlement was built by a German administrator by the name of Reden, and to this day the place is known as the Reden Colony.

During the regime of the Pole, Benkin, between 1835 to 1842, two new sections were established: Hute Bankova and Ksawery. Old Dąbrowa (Alt-Dąbrowa) was previously a village by the name of Zagorze. Its inhabitants were affluent, whereas the Reden Colony located in the valley was quite poor. It too slowly took on the appearance of an industrial region: on both sides of the roads were open canals for collecting rain water and trees were planted. The first houses that adorned the region were the local administration buildings, in an attractive Gothic style: government offices and the district governor's office. Apart from these there were residential buildings for the factory workers that had previously served as an army camp barracks. Each building housed several hundred people.

The coal that was extracted from the depths of Dąbrowa Górnicza's soil was transported directly to factories belonging to the government and private enterprise. Up till 1816 the mines were utilized sparingly, apparently due to a lack of demand, but from this year onward the utilization of the mines received a large push. The Ksawery mine was founded on the extensive and high quality coal tracts, the layers estimated at around 50 feet deep. In 1861 a new coal mining region was opened by Josef Tczikovski, who was the manager of a number of mines. Corresponding to the opening of the mines, factories for the smelting of tin and steel were founded. A railway line linked the smelting plants with the mines.

In Dąbrowa Górnicza, the residents would say that there were no clear or blue skies, the sky was always covered in a layer of smoke, flames that rose from the smelting plants reflected in the sky, and it was difficult to differentiate between night and day; everything was sooty, the walls, the houses, the footpaths. A miner in his sooty clothing with a carbide torch in hand was an integral part of the town's landscape.

Apart from these two factories,

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there were also factories for firing bricks and flame resistant tiles for coating the smelting ovens. All these factories were centrally located in Hute Bankova.

The Reden colony served as a dividing line between the industrial areas and the rest of the town. Later, during the Polish bankers' administration, enormous steel smelting ovens were constructed on the main road to Reden and Ksawery. These ovens received the coal directly from the Nowa Levenska and Tczkovskigo mines. Reden and Tadiosh remained as government factories.

The extent of the coal production is reflected by the fact that in 1877 the mining tools were picks and steel bars. Within the mines the coal was moved with the aid of horses wearing eye shades (to prevent blindness). The lifts for lowering workers and coal were constructed from wood. Work was carried out in a kneeling position (the mines were very low) for over 10 hours a day. But for all that the yield that year was 313,385 kg. The following mines existed in Dąbrowa: Reden, Lewenska, Nowa Lewenska, Ksawery, Koshilew, Paris, Hironin Sczomen, Mikoli, Zofia, Made Kazimierz. In several of these mines steel and tin were extracted.

There were privately owned factories: “Serena”, for the rendering of the raw steel, “Lesczisczki”, for the firing of flame resistant bricks, “Sheyn & Partners”, for molding kitchen utensils, a steel wire factory, “Lesker & Partners”, that produced nails and chains, “Fikhlek”, that molded glazed ceramic pipes.

Due to the rapid industrialization of the town and the absorption of workers into it, the population from surrounding villages began streaming into Dąbrowa and the town grew from a handful of people living in the swamps and the forests, to 6000 residents in 1880 (According to the Royal Geographical Encyclopedia that was published in 1880).

The Jews in the great days of Dąbrowa Górnicza and the “Kalisza Code”

The history of the Jewish settlement in Dąbrowa is intertwined with the history of the Jews of Będzin, Sosnowiec and the entire region as far as Piotrków and Kalisz (where the “Kalisza Code” originated). The Kalisza Code was used for generations as the legal basis when Polish Jews demanded civil liberties. It caused a large reverberation in Poland for hundreds of years. In the history of Poland this was the first legislative action that affected a large extent of Polish Jewry, and was declared on the 8th of September, 1264 in Kalisz.

According to the theory of the historians, the Jews came to Poland in earliest times from two directions: from eastern countries of Kerusian and from western countries of Ashkenaz and Bohemia. The migration from Ashkenaz brought with it a distinct identity called the “Ashkenazi style”, which, at that time, penetrated the Jewish life and had a great impact on Eastern European Jewry. It is a fact that names were changed to give them an Ashkenazi sound.

From its outset as a state, Poland suffered enemies from every direction, especially Russia and Germany. As a result of this situation, Poland was subdivided three times. Each time the country was subdivided those that suffered the most were the Jews: there were laws introduced limiting their movements, prohibiting their settling, trading and participating in occupations that Christians were involved in. The rights given to the Jews by the “Kalisza Code” of 1264 were forgotten.

The Great King Kazimierz the “Kalisza Code” and invited Jews to settle in Poland and begin commerce, crafts and industry. With the renewal of their rights within the Polish communities, the economics of Poland began to undergo a trend of expansion, and textile industries were established in Lodz, Piotrków and Zabirza. Jewish commerce extended beyond Poland's borders; with the introduction of French, Italian and Belgian capital for the development of industry in Dąbrowa, the Jewish merchant was soon to follow.

The first Jews in Dąbrowa

(According to the General Jewish Encyclopedia [New York] Volume 3)

Dąbrowa Górnicza was one of the centers of coal mining in Poland. The first mines were operated by the Prussians in 1796 and in 1815 they were returned to the Polish authorities who operated them. In a government statement presented following the transferal of the mines, it was declared: all the Jews who are residents of Dąbrowa Górnicza and its environs are permitted to work in the mines, if that is their will. This declaration is presented to prove that in 1815 there were already Jews living in Dąbrowa.

This declaration was not the result of love of the Jews, but these were prosperous and boon years in the coal industry, and there was a large deficiency of workers, and hence, the Jews were also allowed to work in the mines. In exchange for giving them this permission, a license tax was taken from their wages. Despite this, many Jews worked in the mines and were not inferior in the work ability to their Christian neighbors.

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The introduction of Jews into Dąbrowa was fraught with difficulties, since according to its municipal legal status, parts of Dąbrowa were classified as rural, and by virtue of the Russian Czarist law, Jews were forbidden to settle in rural areas. This law was so severe that there was danger of possessions being confiscated. But for all that, the Jews did manage to move into Dąbrowa, using all sorts of ruses and bypassing the law.

The Jews were not allowed to run inns and restaurants in the vicinity of the mines and the factories. The situation improved with the success of the coal industry and the lack of workers. The Czarist administration did not enforce the law and allowed Jews to settle in the region.

Among the first Jews to settle in Dąbrowa was the Czygan family which was later known as Czyguscz (Lejble Czygucsz). The Rozencwajg and Natnow families were the next to arrive. The head of the Natnow family was called Aaron. Since Natnow knew that it was forbidden to run an inn that sold alcoholic beverages, he opened an inn which sold a honey-based drink, honey being nonalcoholic. The miners and the factory workers would come to him for a sip of “miodownik” (a type of drink), and the name stuck to Aaron Natnow. “Miodownik” remained as the family name and the original name was forgotten.

The industrial prosperity in Dąbrowa brought a stream of Jews to the town. Slightly later on the following families arrived: Wajszalc, Rotband, Londner, Negri, Szpigelman, Strzegowski, Rechnic, Gliksman, Liberman, Galeczri, Bajtner, Nusbaum, Schlesinger, Grosfeld, Grynbaum, Dombi, Krank and others.

Rabbi Chanoch Gerszon Szpilberg, of blessed memory, on how
the first Dąbrowa community came into being

When I first came to Dąbrowa in 1902, I found that there were many prosperous Jews dealing in commerce, industry and crafts. However, a community organization had yet to be formed. Dąbrowa was a kind of province of Będzin, from which community services were received. Dąbrowa did not have its own rabbi, and its spiritual stimulus came from the rabbi of Będzin, Rabbi Berisz Grobard. He was a progressive Jew, knowledgeable in the Torah and secular studies. Rabbi Berisz Grobard knew how to merge the “Halacha” laws and religious customs in everyday life, and maintained that the rabbi, in his approach to deciding on Kashrut laws, should be equipped not only with a knowledge of “Halacha” but also an understanding of anatomy. The rabbi was a well accepted personality in all circles, even among the strict and the progressive groups, since he was an honest character who was extremely learned.

Up till 1910 the Jews of Dąbrowa belonged to the Będzin Jewish community, and as members of this community they received the right to bury their dead in the Będzin cemetery, and use the Great Synagogue of this town. In 1910 the community of Dąbrowa became separated from that of Będzin and a type of prayer house council was established which served as the community's committee. The first chairmen of this authority were Jakob Mendel Gliksman, Szlomo Rechnic and Dawid Nower. They held their voluntary positions until 1910.

The first rabbi of Dąbrowa was Rabbi Mosze Aaron HaLevi (the Rabbi of Peczniew), while Rabbi Aba Schlesinger and Rabbi Mosze Rapaport performed as teachers.

By an order of the local governor from the 3rd of April 1912, elections to the prayer house council were declared, and took place on the 9th of June of that same year. Mordechai Lejb Miodownik, Icze Majer Nusbaum and Lejbl Strzegowski were elected to serve in the authority. Ruwen Grosfeld, Dawid Grynbaum and Mosze Mitelman were elected as stand-in representatives.

In 1918 the council was replaced by a community committee, which later received all the legal rights of implementation. The community was run by two institutions: the community committee and the functional committee. Up until 1924, Herszl Tuwia Liberman served as chairman of the community council, and Lejbl Strzegowski as head of the community committee.

Under the auspices of Beryl Fuks, Alter Futerko, Mordechai Lejbl Miodownik, Kopel Kareznowski, Mordechai Hillel Parnes, Icchak Majer Luksenburg, Hersczko Rajchman and Mosze Mitelman, a synagogue was built in 1916 in Sczufna road. The synagogue stood for quite some time without a roof. The building was completed by Mosze Micenmacher. Herszl Distler installed the windows (he was a great artisan in this field). Mosze Micenmacher, himself, donated a torah scroll to the synagogue (his wife Fajga was renown as a generous person).

In 1929 a committee consisting of the Będzin district governor, an architect representing the Dąbrowa township and members of the communal committee, met in a lot in Yibrowa street in order to evaluate its suitability as a cemetery, and they found it to be appropriate. In the same year, during the festival of Ta'anit Esther, “hakafot” were performed around the cemetery, led by Rabbi Lewin with members of the Chevra Kaddisha and town notables, in order to sanctify the place.

The expulsion of Jews from the Reden Colony

The law forbidding Jews to settle in villages and leasing land (which existed in Poland since the days of the Russian Czar) was enforced in Dąbrowa. The situation was paradoxical and from several aspects more severe and complicated than in the other places; the town was subdivided into three sections: Myska, which was named after the civic section of Będzin, and the two rural areas of Huta Bankowa and the Reden Colony. Russian law permitted the leasing of land. However, in regards to the Jews, there were a jumble of articles within the law that hampered their leasing of land or of settling their residentially. Jews could be located in the village as sort of overnight visitors but, under no circumstances, could They settle there permanently. The Reden Colony was part of the rural region, and as early as 1912-1913 there were tens of families that settled there and were well established financially and led a normal, independent communal life. Then “one fine day”, Weluscziansk, a village official , incited by religious sentiments and hatred for the Jews, lashed out against them, legally basing his actions on the law forbidding Jewish settlement in rural areas.

[Page 41]

The ruining of the Great Synagogue - dab041.jpg [28 KB]
The ruining of the Great Synagogue
A committee headed by Beryl Fuks, Icze Majer Nusbaum
and Mosze Micenmacher labored to see its completion

The situation worsened and all the pressure in regards to expulsion fell on one part of the town, which at that time didn't have an independent communal life. From a municipal point of view, it was reliant on the city of Będzin. The official submitted a legal claim to the General Governor in Warsaw to issue an expulsion edict. Suddenly, a whole community who had invested their finances and energy into developing this forsaken place, was in danger of being evicted and having their livelihood destroyed. The will to survive inspired them to organize themselves and fight back legally . They met in Sliwka's prayer house, which was the gathering place for all sorts of public events, and discussed the situation. They decided to form a civil rights committee. The elected members were: Simcha Szwajcer, Chanoch Gerszon Szpilberg and Szymon Gliksman; each household was taxed three rubles for the defense fund. They made contact with the best lawyers in Warsaw in order to cancel the expulsion edict and demand that the Reden area be recognized as a civic region.

In fact, the local villagers rejoiced in this battle, since they knew that the price of their land would rise as soon as the Reden Colony became part of the civic region; they secretly supported the Jewish claim, and farmers gathered at the Będzin District Governor and demanded that their land be annexed to the city. Despite the secret moral support that the Jews received from the farmers, the official received support from the clergy, the anti-Semitic clerks and also the factory and coal mine owners. The reason was simple: the civic area was highly taxed. Thus the Jews of the Reden Colony chanced into a struggle for survival in the “lion's jaws”.

The struggle went on for years. Legal claims and counter legal claims were submitted to the General Governor of Warsaw. (held by Rabbi Chanoch Gerszon, of blessed memory, written in Russian).

[Page 42]

An appeal to the Governor in Piotrków - dab042.gif [12 KB]

An appeal to the Governor in Piotrków 1913 by Rabbi Chanoch Gerszon Szpilberg
to allow the Reden Colony and its surrounds to be classified as civic
region in order to prevent their expulsion and the Governor's reply

The General Governor's Office
The Fifth Department
9th December 1913
No. 5266

To the resident of Dąbrowa,
Chanoch Gerszon Szpilberg, in reply to his appeal regarding the residents of Dąbrowa, in the Będzin district. Regarding the request for a change of status to a civic region, in order to present an approval in the Będzin district court house, this office informs you, under the auspices of the General Governor, that the aforementioned request will be brought directly to the attention of the secretariat of the local magistrate's court.

Vice Manager Dept.

In order to further clarify the background of the considerations of the authorities and the Governor General in Piotrków, in changing Dąbrowa from a rural to civic region, the entanglement of forces, the plots that were behind this problem, on which the fate of the Jews of Dąbrowa was held, the protocol is presented here, translated from Russian, [not translated here] of the meeting discussing this issue in the office of the General Governor. This protocol is held in the archives of Rabbi Chanoch Gerszon Szpilberg.

[Pages 43-47 deal with this protocol and its interpretation – this section has not been translated here]
The above documents show the fate of the struggle that the Jews of Reden engaged against the clergy, clerks and investors, and the intrinsic anti-Semitism that was prevalent in Czarist Russia. The fact that these lands were recorded as rural regions, is not supported since they had long ago ceased to be rural and the population did not make its livelihood from agriculture, rather than by industries in the area. In the meantime, the Jews of Reden lived in fear, the momentum to develop community organizations had weakened from a lack of certainty regarding the future, till the decision to send a delegation directly to Peterburg, to the interior ministry, in order to extract an edict allowing legal settlement for the Reden Jews. The delegation arrived in Warsaw and had to continue on to Peterburg, where in the meantime, WW1 had broken out. The official and the clergy, who had been under the jurisdiction of Russia fled the area, and the Jews of Reden were joyous since they were saved from expulsion.

  1. According to the book by Marjan Kantor-Mirski: From the past of Zagłębie Dąbrowskie and its surroundings. Sosnowiec 1931, page 236. Return

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