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Chapter I

Jews in Jordanow
(Jordanów, Poland)

49°39' / 19°50'

 

jor001.jpg
The hamlet of Jordanow is south of the city of Krakow (Crakow in Polish)

 

Jordanów is a town in southern Poland, on the Skawa River. It was founded in 1564 by Spytko Jordan who received permission from the Polish king Zygmunt August to build the hamlet on the salt road from Kraków and Wieliczka to Orava and Hungary. In 1581 it received permission to organize annual fairs that became well known for the goods traded there, namely horses, cattle, linen, earthenware and salt. Spytko had great plans for Jordanów but he died and his wife barely managed the hamlet. The area declined in importance as it passed from one noble family to another. In 1772, Jordanów was annexed by the Habsburg Empire and remained in Austrian Galicia until 1918. During Austrian rule, the town's economic situation slightly improved with the arrival of the railway in 188, but Jordanów remained poor, with high unemployment and no industry. It became a center for Jewish summer camps for children who came from Krakow. It is estimated that about 5,000 children spent part of their summer in Jordanów, which had a favorable summer climate. The Polish government also tried to stimulate tourism by promoting the spa industry in Jordanów.

The exact date of Jewish arrival in Jordanów is unknown. Since its founding in 1564, the town saw many traveling Jewish, merchants mainly salt dealers, passing through the hamlet but they were forbidden to reside or deal in salt in the hamlet. Jordanow was close to the famous Wieliczka salt mines that provided huge amounts of salt for hundreds of years to Europe. Salt was a very expensive item in the Middle Ages. Jews were forbidden to deal in salt by order of King Zygmunt August. This did not prevent them from dealing with salt derivatives or supplying the mines and miners with their needs. With the arrival of the Austrians, these bans were removed as Empress Maria Teresa and later her son Joseph II greatly encouraged the economic development of the area. Jews began to settle in Jordanów and help the local economy, as the chart below indicates. By 1870, a small Jewish community existed. The exact date of the erection of the synagogue in Jordanów is unknown. Presumably it took place in the second half of the nineteenth century. The Neo-Baroque style is characteristic of the second half of the nineteenth century. Moreover, the official list of sacred buildings from 1870 lists the synagogue in Jordanów. The synagogue was located in the center of Jordanow. The synagogue was destroyed during World War II . The Jewish community of Jordanow also represented the communities of Rabka and Makow. The rabbi's title was Rabbi of Jordanów, Rabka and Makow. In 1887, Rabbi Israel Shramber was appointed rabbi of Jordanów and remained at his post until he passed away in 1929. He was succeeded by his son-in-law, Rabbi Elkana Zuberman. He remained at his post until Germany attacked Poland in September, 1939. He then left Jordanów, as other Jews did, and headed east. The Soviets sent him to Siberia where he remained until the Polish-Soviet agreement allowed him to leave Siberia and settle in Kazakhstan. In 1946, Rabbi Zuberman returned to Poland and became chief rabbi of Walbrzych or Waldenburg, near Wroclaw. He later left for the United States. There was also a Jewish cemetery in Jordanów that served several adjoining small Jewish communities.

 

Year Jews Non-Jews
1880 80 1,236
1890 104 1,262
1900 158 1,345
1910 188 1,511
1921 238 1,486

Jewish population in
Jordanów through the years

 

According to the census of 1921, Jordanów was inhabited by 238 Jews, which made up 16% of the total population. The Jewish community was very religious and totally controlled by Orthodox elements. In the 1936 elections to the kehila, 300 voters participated, including the Jews of Rabka and Makow. The same year , A. Friedlich retired from kehila activities after serving the community for 50 years. 1936 also saw the creation of a “gmilu t chessed fund” to help the needy.

As mentioned above, the Jewish population of Jordanow was very religious. Zionism faced a tough struggle in getting a foothold in the hamlet. Israel Drucker moved to Jordanów in 1913 following his marriage to Rachel Tislowicz. He opened a jewelery store and tried to conduct Mizrahi Zionist activities. He was not very successful and returned to Krakow in 1914 with his family that now consisted of himself, his wife and his son Yeshayahu. Is rael's efforts were not in vain for Zionist youth movements began to appear in Jordanów. The big boost of Zionism came through the many summer camps of the Zionist youth movements. These youngsters spread Zionist ideas in Jordanow. In 1931, a branch of the religious youth movement “Akiva” or “ Bnei Akiva” opened in Jordanow. It was followed by the Marxist-Zionist youth movement “Shomer Ha-Tzair” in 1935, Jews in Jordanów also voted for Zionist delegates to the Zionist Congress.

The German army attacked the Jordanów area in Poland on September 1, 1939. A sizable number of Jews including the rabbi of the town, Zuberman, left and headed in the direction of Lemberg. The Germans came from the south or Slovakia and headed north to Krakow. Heavy fighting took place between the Polish and German armies, resulting in a great deal of destruction in Jordanów. On September 3, 1939, the Germans occupied Jordanów. A unit of of German tanks entered the center of town and began indiscriminate shelling of the private houses in the center of the marketplace. Out of 400 houses, 270 were completely destroyed. The people who lived in the destroyed homes had to find shelter. The town would also be the scene of large-scale destruction in January, 1945 when the Soviet armies headed south to Slovakia. Jordanów suffered a great deal in 1939 and in 1945. It received the highest Polish medal, the Order of the Cross of Grunwald.

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The Order of the Cross of Grunwald (Polish: Order Krzyża Grunwaldu) was a military decoration created in Poland in November 1943 by the High Command of Gwardia Ludowa, a World War II Polish resistance movement

 

When the Germans entered Jordanów on September 3, 1939, they began to persecute the Jews. Men and women aged 14 to 60 were conscripted into forced labor. Each day brought with it new orders and decrees that aimed at the pauperization of the Jewish inhabitants in the hamlet. Jews had to stop working their fields and were forced to surrender their agricultural tools. A ghetto was established where all Jews were forced to move. The Jews from the nearby villages were also forced to move to the ghetto of Jordanów. The Judenrat, headed by Erwin Kegal, was forced to provide labor for the Germans. Most of the workers were hardly paid and worked long hours building roads and rail lines. The Jewish economic situation was desperate. The “Judische Soziale Selbsthilfe” or Jewish Self-Help Society ( better known by the initials J.S.S.) located in Krakow decided to open a branch in Jordanow administered by the local Jewish population. The branch helped the poor and needy Jewish population and opened a free kitchen for the needy. The J.S.S. was the only Jewish welfare organization in Poland that was officially recognized by the Nazi authorities. The organization helped the Jewish communities. The organization received great assistance from the Joint Distribution Committee.

Then the process of liquidation of the ghetto of Jordanów began. The Gestapo arrested the Feig family, who were American citizens, and shot them. Other Jews were also arrested and shot. Then the Germans demanded a huge contribution that was collected and given to them. On August 29, 1942, 400 Jews were rounded up in Jordanów and sent to the death camp of Belzec. During the roundup action, hidden Jews were discovered, and killed on the spot. Elderly and sick Jews were led to the cemetery and shot, while others were murdered in the district of Strzcze. Some Jews fled to the forests but were eventually hunted down by the Germans or the Polish police. Jordanów has no Jews today.

 

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