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History of Przedecz and its Jews

By Professor Dr. Aharon Brand-Urban

Organization of Natives of the City of Przedecz (Pshaytsh) in Israel

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Przedecz – General Historical Review

Translated from the Hebrew by Marshall Grant

© by Roberta Paula Books

The name of the city is Przedecz, and this is the way it appears in all historical Polish documents, and maybe even those written earlier.

In Yiddish, the city is called Pshaytsh, and during the period of autonomous rule of Polish Jews, 1580-1764, meaning during the period of the Council of Four Lands (the Council of Three Lands, the Council of Five Lands) the city was called Pshaytsh and belonged to Poland - it was governed by the Brzesc Kujowski voivode, often called Brezesc-Koya in rabbinical literature. In the period between the two world wars, the city was affiliated to the district of Wloclawek, and up to 1936, it was governed by the Warsaw voivode, then the Pomerania voivode, meaning the city of Torun. In the years preceding the second world war, large areas belonging to the Warsaw and Lodz regions were transferred to the Turan voivode [Ed. Note: Probably Torun] – Pomorze and Poznan, with the goal of leaving the division of Poland in the past and emphasizing their affiliation to genuine Polish areas – as opposed to those that were annexed when Poland was divided by Prussia. This would later be the real reason for transferring the area in which Przedecz was located to the Turan voivode.

From a geographical perspective, Przedecz is located not far from the Kolo district on the Warta River, and Kutno and Wloclawek. It is 9 km from Klodawa to the south, 9 km from Chodecz to the north, 27 km from Kolo to the south, 24 km from Krosniewice to the east, and 10 km from the Izbica Kujawska, Brdow and Dabrowice forests. Chelmno, the Nazis' first death camp in which Jews from the area were murdered, including from Przedecz, was 30 km from the city.

The city of Przedecz is situated on a hill along the eastern bank of the Przedecz lake, which stretches into a semi-circle from south to north. It is 3 km long and 1 km wide. Due to the swamps located near Arkuszewo and a tributary near Zbijewo, a long strip of the lake reaches all the way to the village of Szczecin. The Zglowizczka tributary connects in the direction of the Vistula River. In addition, the lake's waters were also connected to the west by the Korzecznik and Modzerowskie lakes to the Goplo lake and the region known as Poland's historical cradle, located 35 km from the city – Gniezno. This is where the first eagles of Poland existed and the source of the connection to Germany, as was shown in the visit of Otto III in the year 1000.

It is worth focusing on the etymology of the word Przedecz, although I was unable to find any information in existing literature. It appears the source comes from Przedzic (today Wyprze-

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dzac), meaning to be early to go, to pass. An analogy is the etymology of the adjacent forest Chodecz, which comes from chodzic. These terms show that these cities were used in the past by travelers. Other cities in the areas show that this kind of terminology was used, such as Konin, Kolo, and Kowal whose meanings stem from travel by horses and Izbica and Klodawa, whose meaning is affiliated to crossing a river.

A straight line can be drawn between Kalisz, Kolo, Przedecz and Czudec all the way to Wloclawek on the Wisla [Ed. Note: Vistula] River, and from there to Turan and Mazovia. It appears to me that this route was used during the period for transporting merchandise in general, and for amber specifically, toward the center of the southern shore of the Baltic Sea, which was rich with this material. In the beginning of organized settlement of this area, which began in the beginning of the 20th century, this was actually the area where the amber trade was concentrated. In the 12th century, the crusaders took control of the amber trade and Christian Czechs (Zucnfte) organized the purchase of amber from them. The amber trade was controlled by the Princes of Pomerellen – Little Pomerania, which was part of western Prussia stretching along the left bank of the Wisla River between Pomerania and the Poznan region, all the way to the Baltic Sea. From these princes, it was transferred to the crusaders, and at the outset of the 14th century, it was transferred to Danzig fishermen and the Oliwa monastery.

In any case, the geographical area of the Przedecz Lake and the city appear ideal for the transfer of merchandise, especially for amber merchants and due to the early presence of Jews there. These Jews came from the southwest – Kalisz, and from the west – Gniezno, and from the direction of Wloclawek. It should be noted that in these places, coins made by Jewish coin makers in the beginning of the second century were found with Hebrew inscriptions.

Przedecz's landscape is typical of the Kuyavia region of Poland. A land of broad expanses of flatlands, reaching up to the Goplo lake, and slowly declining towards the Wisla. It is covered with wetlands, sands and small forested hills. The region is divided into an area rich with pastures, on which a few trees grow, and a more forested area, located beyond Brezesc and Kowal. This area is mostly dominated by white pine, with a small amount of oak. Many lakes have dried up, or were drained, and green grassy pastures have evolved there. Agriculture is developed and the farmers are rich. The dress of the local population in Kuyavia is well known in Poland, it is colorful, but dominated by shades of blue. The women's head coverings were red and flowery. The city of Przedecz, which grew from the west to the Przedecz Lake, has been in the heart of Poland since its inception, and its settlement began around the year 1000.

The adjacent city of Klodawa, which is an excellent transfer point, is southwest of Przedecz, and has been historically recognized since the 11th century. King Boleslaw, “crooked mouth”, was born in 1085. Klodawa later served as the center for Polish Christian culture. Many prominent and well-known people lived there and established famous schools there. Kings of Poland in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries would visit there often, making the city a respectful one. There is no doubt that this city influenced Przedecz.

A historical mention of Przedecz can be found as early as 1136 when Pope Innocent I, when approving the belongings of the archbishops in Gniezno, mentions the

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city's lake by the name Przedecz. Of course, the special importance of this place was well known due to it being a transfer point for merchandise and the fishing villages in the area. Przedecz was first officially recognized as a city before 1393.

The Knights of the Cross (Krzyżacy) fought many wars with the Poles in this region and Przedecz became their military stronghold. They are the ones who built a castle there and named it Mossburg, a name used by the Nazis to name the city after it was captured. In 1360, Casimir the Great acquired lands there from the Archbishop Yaroslav Skotenitzki of Gniezno. He laid down a rampart that was specially made and was 100 meters long, 20 meters wide and 10 meters high – which made the fortress into a mighty castle that still stands today.

In 1383, Ziemowit the Prince of Mazovia gave the city and all its assets to the Bartosz Wezenburg duchy. The deed of sale mentions that the city is part of “terra nostra Cuyavie”, our land of Kuyavia, with the castle geographically affiliated to “Super Klodawa”. In 1437, this protective fortress in Przedecz was under the control of Kasztelan Wiślica. He allowed the city's residents to live their lives according to German laws (Magdeburg Law) and awarded special rights. In 1459, the city was small and provided only two armed soldiers for the Malbork War [Ed. Note: Possibly Marienburg]. The rights awarded by Kasztelan Wiślica were reaffirmed in 1562 by King Zygmunt the Old. [Ed. Note: These dates may be a bit confused. According to Wikipedia, Sigismund II Augustus, son of Sigismund I the Old, took the throne in 1548.]

During this period, the city was the district capital. In 1538, it was destroyed by fire and King Zigmont II, August, immediately upon ascending to the throne, awarded special rights to promote its development. He repealed the starosta rights and other rights of the city's residents in 1437. The noble Wojciech Korycinski, Minister of the Army (Chorazy) of Kalisz, who was supported by Bona, the king's wife, was appointed starosta and purchased forests and villages from the local Soltys and promised to rebuild the ancient castle that was slowly deteriorating. The castle was renovated in 1555 and August Zigmont tried to award more rights to the villagers. It is interesting that he also awarded them the important right to purchase alcoholic beverages without taxes. In 1564, a census was carried out and the findings showed that there were only 28 people of employment age. The starosta of Przedecz expands, and Kłodawa, which was the spiritual and economic center, was now affiliated to the growing city (possibly due to the fire that destroyed the city in 1523) – as did many other neighboring villages. The civilian rights of the city's residents, generously given by August II, were reaffirmed by future kings. In 1722, August II declared two main market days and six large market days (Jarmark). Stanisław August expanded civilian rights in 1774; in 1793-1806, after the division of Poland, the city was transferred to Prussia, and between 1806-1812 it was affiliated to the Warsaw duchy.

In 1815, following the Vienna Congress, it was part of the Kingdom of Poland (under the Russian Empire), meaning Congress Poland. Parts of the city are now allocated to the settlement of textile experts who came from Germany (Sukiennicy), which promised to forever pay their rental fees.

Of the ancient buildings that once stood, now only the church from the 15th century remains. Of the evangelical church, built on the remains of the fortress that was again destroyed in 1789, only the round tower, which once housed the church's bell tower, remains. In 1862, the city had 1,864 residents, however, in 1867 it loses its municipal rights and again becomes a community with rural characteristics. Municipal rights were once again awarded to Przedecz in 1919.

In 1961, the city stretched over 7.7 square meters and had 330 households – many of which belonged to Jewish residents. When the World War II broke out, there were 2,112 residents in Przedecz.

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The History of the Jews of Przedecz
with Some Data about the Jews of the Area

Translated by Jerrold Landau

© by Roberta Paula Books

Przedecz is situated in the center of Greater Poland, the location of the oldest settlement of Jews in Poland. The earliest history of the Jews of Przedecz cannot be determined precisely, but general knowledge of the development of the city and its geographic area can be the basis for conjectures about the earliest times that Jews were there. Jewish settlement in Poland began in the west of the country and expanded toward the area in which the city of Przedecz is situated.

During the ninth century, the Slavic tribes dwelling in the area of Greater Poland united under the leadership of the earliest of them – the Polians who lived in the area of Gniezno. This alliance was established at the end of the tenth century, and formed the conditions for the advancement of the Polish kingdom.

As has already been explained above, the area was an easy route from east to west, rich in agriculture and ripe for economic development. As can be surmised, Jews were also attracted to the area; and the geographic-topographic situation, with easy routes of passage, provided an easy arena for business. It seems that the etymology of names (see earlier) of the old areas of settlement in the district perhaps confirm this matter. During the Roman era, when Jews were residing in Western Europe, the trade route passed through this district to the north-eastern Baltic Sea, from where valuable amber was brought to the empire. The geographer Ptolemy (Ptolomius) from the second century mentions Kalisz (Calissa) in our district. In any case, it is clear that the first Jews arrived in this area of western Poland during the 11th and 12th centuries, and settled there. They came from the west and the southwest. Later, the influx increased during the era of the Crusaders and other tribulations of the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. Coins from the 12th century, imprinted with Hebrew inscriptions, note names of Polish rulers. It is interesting that the names and titles of the Jewish money imprinters have been found in the areas of Kalisz, Gniezno, and Włocławek. The geographic locations of these three cities form a triangle, with Przedecz at the center.

The Jewish settlement in Greater Poland continued to develop during those centuries. During the 11th century, Jewish commercial caravans travelled from Regensburg to the duchies in southern Russia (where the Khazars also lived), especially to Kyiv. They passed through southern Poland. However, we first hear of Jews passing through Krakow in 1304. On the other hand, we find permanent settlements in Poland before this time, especially in the western part of the country, particularly in Greater Poland and Polish Silesia. Jewish settlement in that district was commensurate with the settlement of Germans. Even the legal charter given to the Jews was based on those brought in from the cities of Germany, such as the Magdeburg Charter.

Duke Mieczyslaw Stary (Mieczyslaw the Elder) granted privileges to Jews during the middle of the 12th century, according to which a large monetary penalty would be inflicted for ignoring them. In 1264, the Jews were granted the Kalisz Charter (status kaliski) by Duke Bolesław V, the Pious. Principles of this charter were: the Jews were to pay the property

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of the prince They were obligated to pay taxes to him, but they were to benefit from his protection, freedom of commerce and dealing with money lending. Jews were given the rights of movement from place to place. They could travel from place to place and from state to state throughout the entire land of Poland with all sorts of merchandise, to do business to their hearts content, to sell, buy, and barter. There was a common law for Jews and gentiles in matters of taxes. A Jew hosted in a gentile home could dwell in security. Jews were permitted to perform ritual slaughter [shechita] in all places where they lived, and sell non-kosher meat[1] to gentiles. The Jews lived as servi camerae regis, servants of the king's chambers. They were worthy of this protection as they brought benefit as lenders and merchants.

Despite the involvement of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), who stated that Jews are not cheaters and do not engage in ritual murder, the clergy opposed rights for the Jews, and Jewish settlement in lands under rule of the clergy was forbidden. As noted above, during that period, Przedecz was a settlement belonging to the Archdiocese of Gniezno. As a place under church rule, we can assume that there was no permanent Jewish settlement, although it is perhaps possible that Jews involved in trade passed through the north and west trade routes that went through it – especially since there were Jewish money changers in nearby Gniezno. However, since the time that Kazimierz the Great took over Przedecz from Archbishop Jarosław of Gniezno, and from the time of the fortification of this entire area at his hands in the middle of the 14th century, including the fortified Crusader Castle in Przedecz, for the purposes of defending the area from the clerical strongmen on the one hand, and for the development of commerce on the other hand – we can surmise that Jews lived there, albeit their numbers were certainly small. Rights were given to the settlements in this area in accordance with the Magdeburg Charter. In any case, Jews are mentioned in Gniezno in 1267, in Posen [Poznań] in 1379, and in Pyzdry in 1382. Jews are mentioned in the city of Koło (in the notebooks of the district court in Konin) in 1429, in Łęczyca in 1468, in Kłodawa in 1487, in Kutno in 1513, in Brisk-Kwia [Brześć Kujawski] in 1538. There is no doubt that there were Jews in those places before those days.

During the 15th century, the number of Jews in all of Poland is estimated at twenty to thirty thousand. It is therefore clear that the settlement in those cities was small.

It is worthwhile to note here that in 1538, there were fifteen Jewish houses in Brześć Kujawski, which is close to Przedecz. One hundred Jewish families were killed in that city in 1656 by the Polish soldiers of Czarnecki, who were fighting against the Swedes, after they were advised to convert to Christianity to save their lives, but they refused to do so.

In the Lustracja, a population census and economic survey that took place in 1628-1632, that is before the Swedish wars, it is noted that the city of Przedecz was, to some extent, destroyed. Of the 88 houses that existed in 1612, only 40 remained, some of which had been damaged by the fire. The number of residents was small at that time. The census does not mention Jews.

King Zygmunt August (1548-1572) granted the Jews of Kłodawa the rights of settlement, but this privilege was interrupted during the period of King Władysław IV (1632-1648).

In the years 1720 and 1739, the fundamental rights of Zygmunt August were reconfirmed, and Jews were given the possibility of residency. There were already 164 Jews in the city in 1765.

Przedecz was notated as Pshaytsh by Y. Heilpern in the map of the Council of the Four Lands in 5427 -

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5524 (1667-1774), and noted as a community that was not independent (see the map). It is appropriate to note that throughout the entire Voivode [Ed. Note: Wojewoda in Polish, meaning warlord or an administrative district or County] of Brześć Kujawski, to which the city was affiliated, there was no city that was listed as a primary community or that was independent. Nearby independent cities were Kalisz, Krotoszyn, Leszno, and Poznań, which had hegemony in the Council of the Four Lands, to which they sent their representatives. There were no cities in the area of Przedecz in which Jews were forbidden from living, such as the city of Bydgoszcz, which was in the Leslau Wojewoda (Włocławek Wojewoda), north of the Brześć Kujawski Wojewoda.

(Map page 377: Greater Poland from a map of the Council of the Four Lands, 5427-5524 – 1667-1764). Przedecz is notated as Pshaytsh. Independent cities are notated with a double circle.}

In the year 1774, the total sum of taxes paid in the city of Przedecz was 752 zloty and 15 groszy. Of this, the Jews of the city were obligated to pay 500 zloty. Jews were forced to pay relatively large sums. Half of this sum was transferred to the treasury of the crown, that is to the treasury of the Kingdom of Poland. The Jewish population of Poland was 430,000, and that of Lithuania was 157,649, not including infants less than one year old. We can surmise that the total number was larger – that is 750,000 individuals. 42% were listed as tradespeople, and only 6% as merchants. In accordance with the ledgers of the Four

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Lands, the number of Jews in the Brześć Kujawski Wojewoda, which included Przedecz, totaled 1,267 individuals; the Łęczyca Wojewoda – 2,903; the Kalisz Wojewoda including Gniezno – 12,995. The number of Jews in Przedecz does not appear. However, in the surrounding cities, for example Kalisz, there were 609 Jews, 133 in Konin, 256 in Koło, and 262 in Kleczew. The average of all the cities and towns in the district of Kalisz was 256. In the villages of that district, the average was 6.5 Jews. It should be noted here as well that the Jewish community was interested in hiding the total number of individuals to avoid the taxes that were set by population, and were enforced with pressure and threats. In any case, it is clear that the number of Jews in Przedecz was not large.

After the partition of Poland, the Germans conducted a census in 1793/4 using a precise questionnaire. The city was not known as Przedecz at that time (the Crusader name Mossberg, used [later] by the Nazis, was not mentioned, even though a special question was asked about additional names of the places included the census). The city belonged to the General Directorium, Suedpreussen VI, and was “royal.”

It is worthwhile to mention a few details from the plethora of data in that census: The streets were paved with stone. There were 78 houses, of which 72 were covered with straw roofs and 6 with wooden shingles. A synagogue is not mentioned; however, there is no doubt that a house of worship, a mikva, and a cemetery existed, based on the number of Jews enumerated there.

A magistrate building [city hall] existed. Heating was only with wood. There were no sources of peat or coal. There were 355 residents of the city, including 146 children below the age of ten. The population included 216 Catholics and 139 Jews. I estimate that the number of Jewish families was approximately 20-30. The division by source of livelihood was as follows

Bakers 1 1
Butchers 0 3
Blacksmiths 2 --
Merchants -- 3
Weavers 1 --
Tanners 1 --
Smiths -- 1
Belt makers 1 --
Locksmiths 2 --
Tailors -- 10
Shoemakers 7 --
Pavers 1 --
Wagon builders 1 --
Carpenters 1 --
Wood engravers 1 --

In addition, in the city there were: a barber and surgeon –, a liquor distiller – 1, tavern owners

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– 2, a beer brewer – 1, a merchant of firewood – 1, a midwife – 1, an organ player – 1, an undertaker – 1. All were Christians. There were no organizations for professional guilds.

At that time, the census indicated that there was room for another baker, butcher, wagon builder, weaver, and tailor. The intention was that they could be brought to that place, and would be able earn their livelihoods there. In any case, another gentile tailor should be brought. According to that census, most of the Jews were working in tailoring, and only 3 of the 18 mentioned worked in commerce. On the other hand, there were no Christian merchants. The report specifies that the three Jewish merchants did not have a concession or monopoly for commerce.

The city council consisted of six individuals. The names mentioned were not Jews (and this makes sense, since Jews were not granted all the rights of civic citizenship at that time). None were fluent in the German language.

There was a four-room hospital in the city under the auspices of the priest. The city was permitted to conduct six annual fairs (jarmarki), but they did not actually take place. There was no pharmacy in the city. One had to travel to the pharmacy in Lubraniec to obtain medicine.

We can learn about the number of Jews in the following period from the various censuses that took place. They are summarized in the following table.

Jews (percent)
1808 645 210 (32.6%)
1824 1,562 ?
1827 1,935 346 (17.9%)
1857 1,955 606 (31.0&)
1921 3,040 840 (27.6%)
1940 ? 769

From the numbers, we can see that the gentile population grew threefold between 1808 and 1827, whereas the Jewish population only grew by 65%. In 1832, there were 1,562 residents, living in 125 houses. This population included 109 weavers. This was the period when weavers (sukiennjcy) from Germany settled in the city, leading to its development, albeit not as hoped. One of the conditions made by the German settlers was the restriction of Jewish settlement in their places, something which was not fulfilled to its full extent. On the other hand, the number of Jews doubled by 1857, whereas the gentile population did not grow. This was because the village Jews were forced to leave their places since they lost their livelihoods based on the leasing of taverns and the selling of liquor. From that time, the percentage of Jews in the city remained at around 30% until the great Holocaust. Of the 3,040 residents in the city in the 1921 census, there were 2,149 Poles, 93 Germans, and 798 Jews. The total number of Jews was 840, since 42 Jews registered themselves as “Poles of the Mosaic persuasion,” something that seemed strange in our region. According to that census, the percentage of Jews was 28%. This was one of the

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lower percentages relative to the situation in other cities. That census indicated that the population of Poland was 25,694,700 (aside from Silesia and Vilna), of whom 2,771, 949 were Jews – i.e., 10.8%. The areas with the largest concentration of Jews were Warsaw, at 33%, followed by Łódź at 14.5%.

Przedecz was part of the region of Warsaw. However, large parts of greater Poland were transferred to the regions of Poznań and Toruń (see further on) before the Second World War, and Przedecz was joined to the latter. In those Wojewodas, the census only shows a percentage of Jews of 0.3%-0.5%. The regions of Poznań and Toruń were relatively empty of Jews. Following the annulment of the restrictions of Jewish life in Prussia in the middle of the 19th century, the crowding in those areas was great, as was the aspiration to improve their economic life, and there was a mass migration of Jews to Germany. Przedecz and other cities at the border of this region had belonged to Russian-Congress Poland, and therefore, the proportion of Jews in the city itself did not change, despite the fact that at that time, and especially at the beginning of the 20th century, a significant Jewish immigration to America and the Land of Israel began. This relatively static situation also applied to the Jews of the region of Włocławek, where the proportion of Jews grew from 8.9% in 1897 to only 9.9% in 1921.


Chaim Hertzberg (Hyman Hershberg), in the United States, a native of Przedecz, who volunteered with the Hebrew Brigade of Jabotinsky, and served in the Land of Israel when the country was conquered from the hands of the Turks. He was named after Rabbi Chaim Auerbach of blessed memory, the rabbi of city, who died before he was born.

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Finally, we will note in this chapter that 769 Jews were listed in the city in the census of 1940, following the outbreak of the war.

Special articles published here will discuss the communal organization of the Jews of Przedecz. In our survey, we will include only the following words: At the beginning of the 20th century, an awaking of the communal organization of Przedecz began. Jewish Economic-cultural organizations and political movements of all stripes began, as was common in Poland. The community operated in a democratic fashion, and Jewish representatives operated within the rubric of the city council. In addition, an Orthodox Beis Yaakov School was started, albeit most of the Jewish children studied in the general public schools. There was a Jewish bank in the city, and a rich Jewish library. A portion of the youth studied in the high schools of the cities of the area. The townsfolk will describe all this, however.

I wish to bring here an interesting statistical fact that was found in the Zionist Archives in Jerusalem. The number of individuals who paid shekels [tokens of membership in the Zionist organization] in the city for the 20th Zionist Congress, according to the elections of July 11, 1937, was 70. 67 voted by cards, of whom 30 voted for the Working Land of Israel, 28 for Mizrachi, and 9 for the General Zionists. The Revisionists, whose numbers were large, did not vote at that time for the congress, which was after the founding of the new Zionist movement. The head of the community was a Zionist. The relations between the powers in the city can be estimated according to the composition of the community. The rabbis of the city were Hassidim of Gur, Kock, and Przysucha. The final rabbi, Rabbi A. Zemelman, may G-d avenge his blood, was chosen as a man of Aguda, which testifies that the power of that organization was great in the city.

Surnames were only established officially in the city during the years 1821-1824. The names were given in accordance with the former places of residence, or were chosen according to the will of the people. Sometimes, a derogatory name was given to a Jew. There were families that had traditions brought in from afar. This was the case with two rabbis who are mentioned in the chapter dedicated to the history of the rabbis of Przedecz: the name Horowic came from a large family of rabbis and great ones who originated in Hořovice, Bohemia in the 15th century, and the name Auerbach has its source from the end of the 15th century from the city of Auerbach [Auerbach in der Oberpfalz] near Regensburg in southern Germany. Many names testify to the roots of families in nearby cities such as Klodowski, Lencicski, Sochaczewski, Zichlinski, Pozner, etc.

At the beginning of the German occupation, Przedecz belonged to Warteland (the land of the Warta River), which encompassed the oldest area of the Polish land. The situation of the Jews in those regions was very difficult. There, the Nazis operated quickly to annihilate the Jewish population. Harsh steps had already been taken in the regions of Poznań and Toruń, to which Przedecz belonged, during the first months. The desire was to render the region Judenrein. The racist Nurnberg laws immediately applied to this region, which was home to 400,000 Jews. The first death camp, Chelmno, began to operate not far from Przedecz on December 8, 1941. The labor camps in that area operated under particularly harsh conditions, and they quickly turned into death camps.

In Włocławek – the Powiat [Ed. Note: a Polish subdivision similar to a County] city of Przedecz, the Commissar Kramer was the first during the Holocaust period, on October 24, 1939, to issue the order for the Jews to wear the yellow triangle. Around the same time, the order was given to wear the yellow armband on sleeves. Forced labor was also imposed on the Jews and gypsies in that month.

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The decision to annihilate the entire Jewish population was taken no later than October 1941. At that time, all the processes in Chelmno were ready. On January 2, 1942, Greizer issued the command to annihilate the Jews of Wartegau. Thus, all the Jews of Koło (2,300 individuals) were sent to Chelmno between December 7-11, 1941. The Jews of Dębia (1,000 individuals) were sent between December 14-17. The Jews of Kłodawa (1,500 individuals) were sent between January 9-12, 1942. The Jews of Izbica Kujawska (1,000 individuals), and the Jews of Bugaj (600 individuals) were sent between January 12-14, 1942[2]. The first group from Łódź arrived on January 16. On January 24, the Jews of Piotrków Kujawski were sent; on February 2, the Jews of Sompolno (1,500 individuals) were sent; on February 2, the Krośniewice, Żychlin, and Kutno ghetto was liquidated; the Jews of Łęczyca (1,200 individuals) were sent on March 29. The Jews of Przedecz were sent for annihilation between April 21-24, 1942. After that time, the annihilation of tens of additional towns continued. The process was to gather all the Jews into the church or synagogue, where they were crowded with terrible density, without water. Many died of suffocation. Human excrement filled the place. Some of the people, especially the elderly and children, were shot during the roundup. This is what also occurred in Przedecz, where the local Commissar ordered the Jews to pay for the windowpanes that were broken by those locked in the church so that they would not suffocate from crowding and lack of air.

A large number of youths from Przedecz perished in the labor camps of Poznań, which were infamous for their cruelty and complete isolation from the outside world. The first camps were set up there in 1940. In 1943, there were 100 such camps. During the first period, the laborers were allotted 320 grams of bread, 14 grams of fat, and 35 grams of horsemeat per day. Sometimes, some sugar or jam were added. However, in 1943, terrible hunger prevailed, and the prisoners were forced to work from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. These camps turned into death camps, for the people worked outside in all types of weather without significant clothing. Diseases spread, especially skin diseases, infestations, and most prevalently, diseases due to malnutrition.

When the writer of these lines visited Przedecz in 1966, he found two Jewish families: one about to immigrate to Australia, and the second a Jew who married a gentile woman. The place, with all houses standing on their ruins as previously, looked like a ghost town. The synagogue was destroyed, the cemetery was devoid of gravestones, and fear pervaded in the streets.

Translator's footnotes

  1. This refers to ritually slaughtered kosher animals which were later found to have defects, or in which a mishap occurred in the slaughtering process itself, rendering the animal non-fit for kosher consumption. Rather than losing the investment, such slaughtered meat would be sold to gentiles. Return
  2. The text indicates 1941, but I suspect this is a typo, and 1942 was intended. [Ed. Note: Considerable detail about Chelmno and the populations from each town sent to Chelmno can be found in Patrick Montague's excellent book Chelmno and the Holocaust: A History of Hitler's First Death Camp © May 2020.] Return


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