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[Page 6]

German Jews (1865-1922)

by Zygmunt Karski

Translated by Dr. Leon Chameides

A retrospective analysis is needed in order to fully appreciate the Jewish contribution to the economic and cultural development of Katowice.

The first Jewish inhabitants were the family of the wholesale iron merchant Hirschel Fröhlich who arrived in the village of Katowice, which then numbered 800 inhabitants, in 1825 and leased the property later to be known as Friedrichsplatz and now Ring.

“After his death, in 1826, his widow maintained the estate for a long time. In 1840, two Jewish families comprising 12 individuals lived here. These were the families of Isaak Grätzer who built the hotel Welt (now the Raclaw) in 1848, and of Marianne Fröhlich… In subsequent years, Katowice had the following Jewish population:”


From Rabbi Jacob Cohn, Rabbi of Katowice, his monograph “Geschichte der Synagogen-Gemeinde Kattowitz O/S.

The increased migration of new Jewish inhabitants to Katowice in the second half of the 19th century was due to a large extent to Dr. Holtze. He succeeded in annulling the laws of 1597 -”Privilegium de non tolerandis Judaeis” as well as the royal decree of August 3, 1781 which limited the settlement of Jewish merchants and artisans. These laws were still being enforced in other German states (for example in the Upper Silesian towns of Gleiwitz and Tarnowitz). These discriminatory migration quotas were the result of fear and apprehension of the strong economic competition of German Jewry. They tried to fight it with administrative methods, namely forbidding settlement, rather than economic means.

The progression of the village of Katowice to the rank of a city and, at a later time, a governing city, would not have occurred to the extent it did without the spiritual and economic contribution of German Jews. In reality, it would have been impossible to overcome the financial difficulties of the new city, which was compelled at its very beginning to borrow 15,000 taler in order to cover its most essential obligations, without the financial strength of the Jews.

In contrast to the foolish village “gromada” (community) who unsuccessfully tried “to muzzle…every justified request of 'Germans and Jews' with a flat 'nie chcemy' (we don't want to)” (Holtze), the downtrodden farmers understood quite clearly that the German Jews together with other immigrants who were arriving here, intended to end village life.

Of a total Katowice population in 1867 of 4,815, only 573 (12%) were Jews but they paid the highest share of the community taxes. This amounted to 1,292 taler (2.52 taler per person) in contrast to the Catholic population which paid only 1,232 taler (0.37 per person) and the 888 Evangelists who paid 994 taler (1.12 taler per capita) On a per capita basis therefore, the Jewish portion of the population paid three times as much as the Christians.

kat007.gif The stamp of the Jewish community from the beginning of the 20th century [26 KB]
The stamp of the Jewish community
from the beginning of the 20th century

This large contribution of the Jews led, at least in the early years of the establishment of Katowice as a city, to their justified claim for appropriate representation on the city committees. According to the three class election system which was still in force at that time, those who paid the highest taxes were entitled to administer it and determine its future The positive development during the ensuing period proved the correctness of this policy. Among the 92 members of the Municipal Council in the first thirty years (1866-1894) there were at least 30 Jews and this group was able to attain half the seats on the Council (9 of 18) during the first elections of 1866. The following were the Jewish councilmen:

Dr. Adolf Goldstein1866-1891
Salomon Königsberger1866-1882
Hermann Katz1866-1880
M. Eisner1866-1870
Salomon Hammer1866-1877 (his death)
Simon Schalscha1866-1894
Ignatz Grünfeld1866-1894 (his death)
Louis Knopf1866-1890 (his death)
Israel Glaser1866-1880
Heimann Fröhlich1870-1894
Hermann Dombrowski1870-1875
Elias Sachs1872-1892
Simon Ring1872-1881
Louis Borinski1872-1892
Dr. Jakob Löbinger1875-1878
Julius Breslauer1876-1888 (his death)
Dr. Adolf Berliner1876-1894
B. Hirsch1876-1883
Moritz Silberstein1878-1885
Valentin Cohn1878-1894
Sigmund Mokrauer1878-1879
Simon Schweizer1876-1892
Salomon Wiener1880-1894
Elias Sachs1880-1894
Adolf Landsberger1884-1894
Adolf Löbinger1886-1894
Salo Block1890-1894
Lawyer Epstein1892-1894
W. Badrein1894-
Adolf Feige1894-

In addition, two of the four administrators of the city, the physician Dr. Adolf Godstein and the merchant Samuel Minzer, who were elected from the members of the Council on March 14, 1866, were Jews. Based on the list of active members in the Jewish community mentioned by Dr. Jakob Cohn, it can be surmised that in the course of the next 30 years (until 1894), at least the following Jewish administrators were elected (based on the names of active community members mentioned by Dr. Cohn):

Dr. Adolf Goldstein1866-1891
Samuel Minzer1866-1869
Salomon Hammer1870-1877 (his death)
Elias Sachs1874-1882
Salomon Königsberger1877-1882
Dr. Jakob Löbinger1882-1894
Pharmacist Herzberg1892-?1894
Adolf Landsberger1892-1894
Salomon Wiener1894-

The builder Hugo Grünfeld, who was the third son of Ignaz Grünfeld, a past member of the City Council (1866-1894) and architect of the first synagogue, was re-elected to the City Council on November 14, 1926, when Katowice had already been Polish for four years. He had been a representative to the City Council (1908-1919) and subsequently became Chairman of the German Democratic Party. He had to resign from his position as Chairman of the German faction in 1930 because of his lack of knowledge of the official Polish language (his successor was Wili Adaszkiewicz) but continued as a member of the City Council until 1933.

The evaluation of the Jewish pioneers of Katowice would not be complete, if note were not taken of those who made the city famous as their birthplace:

Maria Goeppert-Myer, PhD., was born in Katowice on June 28, 1906. A professor and Nobel laureate, she studied natural science at Göttingen University and after finishing her studies married an American, Dr. J. Myer. From 1930 - 1939 she worked as a physicist in Baltimore; from 1946 at the National Argon Laboratory in Chicago; and from 1960 at the Academy of Natural Science and Engineering in La Jolla, California.

She was a 1963 Nobel prize recipient for research in the field of nuclear physics (development of shell model theory of the structure of atomic nuclei). She died on February 10, 1972 in San Diego, California.

Carl Borinsky, PhD., son of Louis Borinsky, member of the City Council (1872-1892) was born on June 11, 1861 in Katowice. He was a professor of German Language and Literature at the University of Munich and among other works published: “Poetry of the Renaissance” (1896); “Lessing” (1900); “History of German Literature from its Beginning Until Now” (1921). He died in Munich in 1922.

Hans Sachs, M.D., was the son of Elias Sachs, who was a member of the City Council (1880-1894). He was born in Katowice on June 6, 1877 and in 1914 became professor at the University of Munich. By 1920 he was head of the academic department for research in immunization and serum therapy as well as the head of the department of cancer research. He was one of the developers of the Sachs-Georgi reaction as a diagnostic test for syphilis. He died in Dublin, Ireland in 1945.

Kurt Godstein, M.D., the son of Dr. Adolf Goldstein, a member of the City Council (1884-1894) and City Administrative Committee (1892-1894), was born on June 6, 1878 in Katowittz. In 1922 he became Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry, and Psychopathology and later became the Director of the Neurological Institute at the University of Bonn. He died in the Hague (Holland).

Franz Landsberger, an art historian, was the son of Adolf Landsberger, a member of the City Council (1884-1894) and member of the City Administrative Committee (1892-1894). He was born in Katowice on June 14, 1893. Until 1933 he was the publisher of “Schlesische Monatshefte” in Breslau and his publications included “Breslau” (Famous Artisitc Sites) in 1926, and “Ancient Silesian Paintings” in 1927. He became Director of the Jewish Museum in Berlin (1933-1935) and served as Professor and Director of the Jewish Museum at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnatti, Ohio (1939-1958).

kat008.jpg Buildings in the Gothic style from the beginning of the [20th] century  [35 KB]
Buildings in the Gothic style from the beginning of the [20th] century

Arnold Zweig was born in Gross-Glogau, Silesia on November 10, 1887. His life in Kreutzburg and Katowice had a great influence on his literary creations. He studied at the Reali Gimnasium in Katowice and his first poem “The Guests” first appeared in the Kattowitzer Zeitung (1909). He became especially well known for his best selling novel “The case of Sergeant Grischa” (1927). He died in East Berlin, his last place of refuge.

[Page 10]

The Jewish Community of Katowice

By Dr. Rolf P. Schmitz

Translated by Dr. Leon Chameides

1. Historical Review

Our knowledge about Jewish families in the vicinity of Katowice dates back to 1733 and their role in the industrial development of this region is evident from its very beginnings. At the end of the 18th century the forge in the suburb of Bogocic was rented by Jews. Jewish life was interrupted in 1781 when Jews were forced to leave the environs of Katowice and were not permitted to return until 1787. One can pinpoint the date of the arrival of the first Jewish family in Katowice to 1825, the year that Hirschel Fröhlich leased a home. By 1840 the city had 12 Jews. The Jewish population grew along with its industrial development: In 1855, 102 Jewish citizens lived in the “city community”; in 1899 - 2,216; in 1910 - 2,979; and in 1932 about 9,000. The non-Jewish population grew even more substantially from 14,000 inhabitants in 1888 to 130,645 in 1930 - a sign of a flourishing industrial city.

Because of their small number and a lack of permission to organize, the Jewish families of Katowice initially joined the community of Myslowitz, in order to use its Mikva and cemetery. This situation was made legally necessary by the Law of the Jews of 1847. Until 1850, organized prayers took place only in Bogutschütz. Beginning in 1850 Jewish communal institutions, such as a prayer hall, a school for religious instruction, and a slaughter house, were maintained by the families who were themselves of modest means. However, their growing numbers, the improvement of their economic status, and their ambition to develop independent communal and religious institutions, spurred their community leaders into prolonged negotiations that finally succeeded in having their independence recognized by the royal authorities. These negotiations started on February 5, and were successfully concluded on April 4, 1862. The following is the text of the decree:

“After His Excellency, the President requested the separation of Katowice Jewry and its designation as an independent community, we have decided and herewith notify the Board of Governors by order of this day by authority of regulation #35 and 36 of the Law of the Jews of 23 July 1847, that the Jewish inhabitants of Katowice and from the surrounding areas of Halde and Brynow should, by January 1, 1866, separate themselves from the synagogue-community of Myslowitz and that the same should organize themselves as an independent synagogue-community of Katowice. We have charged the District Manager (Landrat), Mr. Solger with whatever measures are necessary to constitute the new synagogue-community of Katowice.”

Oppeln, July 4, 1865.
The Royal Government; Department for Internal Matters.

In 1866, following approval of the community's rules and regulations by the authorities, representatives and an administration were elected. The second administration, elected in 1867, was especially concerned with developing community institutions. A Mikva was established in the courtyard of the synagogue in 1867 and a cemetery was opened in 1868. The administration also greatly enlarged the borders of the community. Thus, in 1872 with the acquiescence of the community of Königshütte to which they had previously belonged, the Jewish inhabitants of Zalenze, Bedersdorf, and Ignatzdorf joined the Katowice community. In 1876 Domb, in accord with the decree of the Royal District Office of August 23, 1876, followed suit. In 1878, Josefsdorf and Hohenlohütte were excluded from the Königshütte community and joined Katowice. According to a decree of August 8, 1884 the Government acquiesced to the request of the Jews of Boguschütz and Zawodzie in the proximity of Katowice, to join the latter community.

kat011.jpg The 3rd of May Street  [40 KB]
The 3rd of May Street

An indication of the growing stature of the community was an international conference of the Chovvei Zion (Lovers of Zion), under the leadership of Leo Pinsker, that took place in Katowice in November 1884 (6th to 11th). Its aim was to unify and strengthen the hitherto individual efforts to colonize the Holy Land. The majority of the delegates came from Russia. Others came from France, Rumania, England, Germany, and Eretz Yisrael. At Pinsker's urging, the Conference decided to create a Montefiore Association whose aim was to promote and support Jewish agricultural activities and settlements in Palestine. As a first step 10,000 francs were sent to Petah Tikva and 2000 rubles to Yisod-Hamaaleh. In addition, a new committee, under Pinsker's chairmanship, was given the responsibility of dealing with all the issues that resulted from the union of the individual organizations. Its headquarters was in Odessa with a branch in Warsaw. This conference laid the foundation for the development of the Chovvei Zion organization in Russia. Organizations in other countries acknowledged the authority of the body elected in Katowice and kept close contact with it.

In the course of the next few decades the activities of the community developed in parallel with its growth. From 1891 until after the beginning of the next century, part of the community's resources were allocated for the Jews fleeing Russia, for whom the Katowice railroad junction provided a first haven. Another important milestone was the building of a new synagogue which was dedicated on September 12, 1900. Beginning in 1919, the organization and development of the community and its institutions was in the capable hands of Bruno Altmann, [whose father Leopold had been one of its early leaders]. A Hebrew School was established in 1935 and a Community Center, which served as a cultural center and a focus of a variety of community activities,.was dedicated in 1937.

In the 1930's anti-Semitism gained strength in the government, the parties, and among the populace. Economic and social pressures were used as an excuse to exclude Jewish citizens from various occupations and cities. The aim of these and other measures against them was to encourage their emmigration. Thus for example, the Prime Minister of Poland declared: “Bic nie wolno - bojtkowac owszem” (To physicaly strike is not permissable but to boycott - be my guest). The National Democrats and the National Radicals organized boycotts, street assaults, and attacks in places of Jewish concentration. They demanded that Jews be stripped of their citizenship and expelled. In the middle of 1935, the Farmer's Party wrote that emmigration was the only solution to the Jewish problem. This viewpoint, in a slightly different form, was even accepted by the Socialist Party (PPS). Beginning in 1935 acts of terror and pogroms against Jews continued and increased until the German invasion. They included attacks on businesses and institutions, and even acts of murder.

The Jewish community of Katowice did not escape the official anti-Semitic propaganda and acts of hostility which culminated in pogroms in 1937. Explosives were hurled at Jewish business establishments. In addition, the establishment of an anti-Jewish boycott caused great suffering and harm to the economic status of Jewish merchants. Polish artisan bureaus introduced “Aryan Regulations” which caused the expulsion of Jewish artisans. The anti-Semitic situation and acts of violence caused many Jews to leave Katowice. Thus in 1939 only 8,785 Jews or 6% of the population remained. During this distressing period, Rabbi Kalman Chameides toiled in an exemplary fashion; in 1937 he was appointed as an advisor to the city courts in matters pertaining to Jews.

During the first three months of the German occupation, the entire Jewish population of Katowice was forced to leave the city. The majority initially settled in the vicinity of Sosnowiec. After the end of the Second World War, approximately 1,500 Jews returned to the city. Almost all of them were from Poland and spent the war years in Russia. A Jewish Board of Upper Silesia with its headquarters situated in Katowice was formed. The local chapter of the Association for Jewish Culture and Social Affairs, existed with a communist core until 1967 when the Polish authorities resumed their antiSemitic actions. The provocation of official animosity caused the majority of the Jews of Katowice to leave not only their community but also Poland itself.

2. Religious and Social Institutions

a. Synagogue

Before the official establishment of the Jewish community of Katowice, its inhabitants joined the community of Myslowitz in order to have access to its Mikva and cemetery. However, because of the long distance from its synagogue, they arranged religious services in Bogutschütz together with Jews from Small Dombrowka, Hohenlohehütte, Domb, Bedersdorf, Zalenze, and the surrounding areas. Beginning in 1850, when their number had grown sufficiently, they arranged services in private homes or in rented rooms in Katowice. A combined effort to build a small synagogue in 1856 failed. Finally, a prayer house was built in Bogutschütz with a stipulation that it include residents of the above named villages.

The Jews of Katowice did not abandon their effort to build a synagogue of their own and in 1861 they decided to make this a reality. The parcel of land was initially registered in the names of Heimann and Adolf Fröhlich and was transferred as soon as the community became independent. The synagogue was dedicated on September 4, 1862 by Rabbi Dr. Deutsch from Sohrau and Rabbi Dr. Jaffe from Myslowitz.

By 1872, as a result of the incessant growth of the community, the synagogue could not accommodate all comers and it was therefore necessary, beginning in 1873, to arrange for an additional minian for the High Holy Days. In 1880 it was decided to enlarge the building and the dedication took place on April 20, 1883 but the enlarged synagogue was only able to satisfy the demand for a short period of time. The situation was aggravated by the addition of the communities of Bogutschütz and Zawodzie in 1884 to Katowice. A petition was sent to the community administration by 175 members in 1890 requesting a solution to the problem of the terrible overcrowding of the building during services. On October 1, 1896, Salomon Wiener, Chairman of Community Administration, disseminated “An Exposé Regarding the Building of a Synagogue and an Administration Building for the Synagogue Community of Katowice”. On July 14, 1897 the government approved a detailed construction and financial plan. The community purchased a parcel of land from the city on which it planned to build, a new Synagogue, an adjoining administrative building that would include a slaughter house for fowl, a butcher shop, study rooms, apartments for the sexton and janitor, a sausage factory, and a matzoh bakery. Four hundred thousand marks was budgeted for the project but the eventual cost exceeded 500,000 marks. On recommendation of the community board and its institutions, the proposed plans of the architectural firm of Ignatz Grünfeld was chosen from among three entries. The new synagogue, [with 670 seats for men and 514 for women] built in the renaissance style with echoes of late gothic, was dedicated on September 12, 1900. The synagogue was burnt and destroyed on September 4, 1939 with the entrance of German troops into Katowice.

b. The School

The pattern of education was also influenced by the development and growth of the Jewish community. Until 1860, children attended the Catholic school; their religious education was provided by private teachers. A private school of two grades was established in 1860; it was taken over by the community in 1866 and organized into three grades. The school was administered by the board as a private school for boys and girls and prepared its students up to a quarter of the Gymnasium level. The high standard of instruction as well as the independence of the school was restricted in 1870 with a decision by the city to take over all schools and change them into city, or national-communal schools. This decision, which was made on financial grounds, turned the jurisdiction of the Jewish school over to the city's school administration. The community administration was left with a right to recommend teachers for two grades, while the right to hire teachers was turned over to the municipality.

However, the final structure of the educational system had not yet been completed since in 1875 the municipality decided to change religious schools into “simultaneous” or “non-denominational communal schools”. The agreement to the plan included assurance to the Jewish community that Jewish students would be able to keep the Sabbath and holidays without prejudice from the school and that during extracurricular time they could fulfil their religious obligations. The new program of studies, which was to have become effective on April 1 1876, made allowances for the principles of these assurances. This however was not approved by the royal government, which ordered that the hours of instruction were to be divided equally on all days of the week and that those, either teachers or students, who could not participate for religious reasons must bear the cost of their actions. In as much as the agreed upon stipulations according to which the city authorities established the “simultaneous” schools had lost their validity, the municipal council decided to request the government to annul the law or to return the situation to its former state. The Jewish community supported this, claiming that a religious school could not be converted into a “simultaneous” school without the community's agreement. The personal intervention of the chairman of the municipal council, Dr. Holtze, with the government and subsequent discussions with a commissioner especially appointed for that purpose, came to an agreement whose validity lasted well into this century.

In addition to general subjects and a systematic teaching of religion, the school also offered instruction in Hebrew language. Previous aspirations to establish a religious school, exclusively supported by the community, next to community schools did not materialize because religious instruction was offered in every type of school. Under these circumstances it seemed more appropriate to establish a private Hebrew school that would be maintained by the community and administered by a board of governors appointed by the community. Until its violent dispersion, the community ascribed great importance to its desire for a Jewish, together with a general, education. Thus it succeeded in the third decade of the 20th century to establish a school of its own named after Berek Joselewicz and in 1935 to establish a Hebrew school.

c. Cemetery

Until 1868, the deceased of the community were buried in the cemetery of the mother community, Myslowitz. In 1869 a mortuary was built and gravesites prepared on a purchased parcel of land located on the west side of the road from Katowice to Nikolai. On September 9, 1869 the cemetery was dedicated to its mission in a religious ceremony. The first burial took place on February 2, 1870. In 1890, the mortuary was rebuilt and expanded.

d. The Rabbinate

After the community achieved independence and the missing community institutions were established, it was ready for rabbinic leadership. Until 1870, when he left for Eisenstadt, religious decisions were made by Israel Bornstein. On November 6, 1871, the community chose Dr. Jacob Cohn as its rabbi. He started on January 6, 1872 and served into the twentieth century.

e. Organizations

The spiritual development of the community paralleled its external demands. Thus on December 11, 1863 a Women's Association (Chevrat Nashim) was formed. to assist women and children.

An Organization for the Care of the Sick and Burial of the Deceased (Chevra Kadisha and Bikur Cholim) was founded on October 5, 1868. Its responsibilities included visiting the sick (including travellers), caring for them, providing comfort for the dying, and, in case of death, to arrange a proper burial according to Jewish practice.

A Benevolent Society (Chevrat Gemilut Chasadim) was founded on November 11, 1871 in order to provide assistance in technical and vocational training, even to non-Jewish children.

A Talmud Torah Society was formed in October, 1873 in order to foster the study of history, literature, and the principles and practice of Jewish living.

In September 1888 a Machzikei Evyonim (Supprt of the Destitute) Society was formed in order to relieve the deep distress of the Galician and Polish Jews who were arriving in the city in large numbers to find work. The society gave much aid to the many Jews who escaped the horrors of the pogroms in Russia.

An organization of young women was formed January 18, 1892 to help the poor with food for holidays and destitute brides with clothes.

The fact that the community had such a rich cultural and social life, whose center was in the new communal building (1937) and the fact that its members played such an important role in the development of the city, did not prevent their tragic end. In 1939, the Jews were expelled from their city by the Germans after which they were destroyed. In 1967, the Polish authorities completed the liquidation of the community which had started to rebuild itself.

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