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[Page 185]

Dabrowa Górnicza[1]

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Dabrowa – the village and the industrial settlement – in the Czarna Przemsza (Black Przemsza) Valley already existed during the Polish Congress period (1815-1917) as an important quarry center. The quarries began there in 1796, when the Prussian authorities discovered a coalmine here and founded an industrial settlement that was named after the mining manager of the Reden quarry.

[Page 186]

In the years 1815-1823 another two quarters were founded: “Huta Bankowa” and “Kasbar” that were managed by the Polish Bank.

In 1816 there were only 3 houses for laborers, whilst on the other hand there were 54 residential and office buildings for the factories. In 1825 there were 4 zinc foundries and 4 raw material furnaces and employed 250 laborers.

According to a ledger from 1823 there were in Dabrowa, belonging to the government, 97 factories, 31 furnaces, 1 coalmine, 1 raw material furnace, the production output in this same year was 20,0000 cent. of zinc, 100,000 of coal; 60,0000. The value of the production reached 600,000 gulden.[2]

In the years 1826-1842 a number of industrial plants were founded – steel and zinc factories (1827-1836). In the years 1854 and 1861 new coalmines were opened. With the enlargement of the coalmines and the founding of the industrial plants the settlement also grew, that was comprised of clerks and laborers, and in 1861 reached 600 people.[3]

In 1878 there were 9 industrial plants, which employed more than 1,000 laborers, and the number of residents rose to 6,000 people.

In 1921 the number of residents was 39,860, of which 4,304 were Jews (10.8%).

During the period of the Polish Uprising in 1863 a company of rebels was stationed here and stood firmly in their support of the clerks and laborers, and prepared equipment and artillery. In February companies led by Teodor Ceszkowski occupied Dabrowa.[4] The mines as well as tax offices in a number of locations was transferred to the national government authority, however only for a number of weeks, since the whole region was occupied again by the Prussian army.

At the end of 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Dabrowa developed as one of the industrial centers of Poland.

With the organization of the mines and quarries in Dabrowa, a decree was announced by the mining management in Warsaw, which forbade Jews in this area to own hostels, inns and access to the mines. According to the law of 1818, Jews were prohibited from mining and quarrying businesses, prevented from receiving licenses for searching for natural resources and forbidden for partaking in the mining business.[5]

In the years 1815-1825 the mines suffered from a lack of laborers and were unable to supply the local needs, at which stage Minister Lubecki ordered that the plans for expanding the mines be expedited and manpower taken care of. In the same years Jews began working in the mines. In 1824 Lubecki agreed to allow Jews to be taken on as day laborers with a weekly wage, as temporary workers. In 1828 the first Jews that came from Bedzin were taken on.

The settling of Jews in the area in fact began in the second half of the 19th century. As the industrial development grew so did the number of Jews. In 1897 there were already 500 Jews, who were affiliated with the Bedzin kehila [community]. In the main they dealt in trade, transport and a few of them in clerical work.

Individual Jews participated in the mine and quarry industries at a much later date. The Russian law of the 28th of April (10th of June)[6] 1892 totally limited the Jews from participating in the coal industry. According to this law, Jews were forbidden to take part in any mining activities in Congress Poland. The cancellation of this law during World War One opened up an opportunity for the Jews in this economic branch. Several Jews managed to overcome these limitations: nominating non-Jewish managers to their factories, as did the Zmigrod family from Bedzin.

Amongst the first industrialists and mine lessees in Dabrowa was the Rechnic family. The family came to Dabrowa after 1864 and took an active part in Jewish life. To begin with Rechnic ran a quarrying business, his sons Henryk and Szmul dealt in coal marketing, and gradually transferred to mine leasing. During the years 1909-1909 Henryk managed the “Matilda” mine in Dabrowa, and from 1900 the “Karol” mine in Zagórze. His brother Szmul managed the “Jeroslaw” mine in Niwka. Henryk Rechnic leased the “Karol” mine from 1915, expanded it, brought in machinery and sold coal himself. The production output rose to 5,305 tons in 1915 and 56,359 tons in 1922. His sons Bernard, Jechiel and Jakob worked together with him, and also leased the “Maximilian” mine in Golonóg, and in the years 1935-1937 the “Hilena” mine.

In 1934 Henryk Rechnic was forced, under pressure from a Sosnowiec company, to cancel his lease agreement, and liquidate the “Karol” mine. His sons continued their businesses until the Nazis entered and they were killed.[7]

A large number of Jews from Dabrowa and surroundings did not want to be affiliated to the Bedzin kehila [community] and began striving to achieve a status of an independent kehila. In 1908 several Jews from Zagórze, Józefów and Zakobwice approached the district minister in Piotroków with a request to separate them from the Bedzin kehila and permit them to establish, together with the Jews of Dabrowa an independent kehila. They justified this request, by the fact that Bedzin was far away from them and it wasn't able to supply them with their religious needs. The district administrator in Bedzin expressed his opinion, that the Jews of Dabrowa and the aforementioned villages were the poorest in the Bedzin kehila and it was difficult to collect the kehila taxes from them. The formation of a kehila with a rabbi, synagogue, cemetery, “mikve” [ritual bathhouse], and wage payments would be a difficult financial burden beyond their means.

Since some of the residents of the aforementioned places approached the district minister with a request not to break the ties with the Bedzin kehila, the district minister decided on the 23rd of June 1909 to refuse the request regarding an independent kehila. The group that had requested to break ties served an appeal to the senate in Petersburg.

Before the senate could deal with this appeal, homeowners from Dabrowa, Huta Bankowa, Reden and Golonóg served the district minister a second request to break ties with Bedzin.

[Page 187]

Those opposed requested that the “revolutionary request” regarding breaking ties with Bedzin be refused, since they didn't have the independent manpower to take care of the new kehila.

The district minister determined that the district administrator should check and determine absolutely the number of Jews wanting to break ties and those opposing it, and likewise clarify if they would be willing to take upon themselves the outlay involved in an independent kehila.

The district administrator assembled Jews from the mentioned places, who were tax payers in Bedzin and had voting rights. Of the 136 Jewish residents from Dabrowa, “Kolonja”, Huta Bankowa, Reden, Józefów, and Golonóg, 125 were in favor of breaking ties, whilst 11 were opposed. The wealthy amongst them expressed their willingness to cover the expenditure at their expense of the outlay of the new kehila, if the authorities would agree that Zagórze, Józefów, Golonóg and Zabkowice would not be affiliated with the new kehila.

Once again, the opposition served their protest to the district minister claiming that those in favor were bribed, and thus creating an artificial majority. However all those in favor were obligated to pay the kehila tax to cover its expenses, as decided by the regional management committee at its meeting on the 9th September 1910, in reply to their request and allow them to establish an independent kehila in Dabrowa, that would include Huta Bankowa, Reden, Golonóg. There was no opposition on the part of Bedzin. In this manner the appeal in Petersburg was cancelled.

On the 1st of January the kehila was established, and immediately set about selecting a rabbi. The candidate was Rabbi Alter Lewi from Pacanow. His appointment caused dissension on the part of Rabbi Graubart from Bedzin. In 1908 Rabbi Lewi purchased a house in Bedzin and settled there, after he left Pacanow, and from time to time he would travel to Dabrowa to carry out religious duties. Rabbi Graubart saw this as trespassing and on this issue he approached Rabbi Gaon Elijahu Chaim Majzel from Lodz and the Admor from Krimolow, Rabbi Natan Nachum Rabinowicz. They wrote to Rabbi Lewi, and he replied that the issue had already cost him 2,000 rubles. This letter fell into the hands of the opposition, who attached it to their protest to the district minister as a proof of bribery. However in spite of everything, Rabbi Lewi was elected on the 20th of June 1911 by a large majority, and his election was approved by the district minister.

The opposition continued their battle and appealed the approval to the district minister, General Skolon. When he also approved the election of the rabbi, they served an appeal to the senate in Petersburg, which reached discussion as World War One erupted.

Following Rabbi Alter Lewi, his son Mosze Aron served as rabbi. He died at the end of 1933, at the age of 62.


Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

Up until the beginning of the 18th century Modrzejów was the village of Modrzew, and only in 1706[*] it became a private village based on the privilege [license] presented by King August the Third and received the name Modrzejów. In the privilege, market days and annual fairs were defined. In 1762 King August the Third approved a special privilege for one day to be set apart as a market day, and in 1778 he approved the privilege, and in 1810 in the period of the Warsaw Princedom, it was approved by Friedrich August.

The town was located near the Czarna Przemsza (Black Przemsza) River near the border between Galicia, Silesia and Congress Poland, opposite the city of Myslowice, that for a lengthy period was connected with Modrzejów. The main road from Prussia to Kraków ran through Modrzejów.

During the period of the Warsaw Princedom a settlement was established near the town called Henryków. In the main part of the town were large salt warehouses.

In 1827 there were 32 houses and 229 residents. In 1860 – there were 55 houses, four of them were mansions, and there were 433 residents.

In 1884 there were 656 residents in Modrzejów, most of whom worked in the mines and the industrial plants there[9].

In 1897 the general population grew to 1,358 residents.

A small Jewish settlement which included a few individuals already existed in the middle of the 18th century. After the village turned into a town other Jews settled there, however they were affiliated with the Bedzin kehila [Jewish community]. In fact the Jewish settlement didn't grow more than this.

According to the census of 1765 there were 5 Jewish families including 25 persons [10] that lived in five houses. In 3 houses there from 1 to 5 persons, and in 2 of them, 2 to 10 persons. Amongst the 25 persons there were 14 men, 6 of them married, 8 unmarried boys; 11 women, of which 6 were married and there were 5 unmarried girls[11].

From the above data we learn that the settlement didn't develop, since it was in the border region and it was forbidden for Jews to settle there.

In February 1842 a special envoy was sent by the administrator of the Olkusz region to check on the situation in the Jewish settlement; to prepare a list of the items located in the synagogue, and also to check the ledgers and documents that the Jews possessed and in the kehila office. According to the protocol of the 16th / 28th [12] of February 1842 the envoy called for the head of the town, Andzrej Konieczny, who declared that there was no kehila committee in Modrzejów, rather twice annually two Jews, Mosze Policer and Israel Paniower, collected taxes. Both of these mean were invited to come. The envoy asked them: Why hadn't the Jewish settlers nominated a synagogue supervisor, and if they had a list of items in the prayer house and a gazette of the district laws. To this they replied: “We don't have a synagogue supervisor, because the residents of Modrzejów are affiliated with the Bedzin kehila, and we don't have a list of items or a law journal, because we never received one. The synagogue doesn't belong to us, since it located is in a rented building”.

[Page 188]

In the protocol it was particularly emphasized, that the Jews of Modrzejów wanted an independent kehila with their own kehila leaders. After the receipt of this declaration the envoy went with the town head to the Jewish representatives in the prayer house and there wrote down a list of all the items. According to the lists there were 31 benches, a torah cabinet, a bima [platform] in the middle of the hall, 4 platters, 19 candelabras and chandeliers, 4 torahs with the ornamental curtain covering the front of the Holy Ark in the synagogue. All 78 items were valued at 47 rubles and 20 kopecks. In the list it was particularly emphasized that there was no silverware[13].

The request to break ties with the Bedzin kehila and the organization of an independent kehila had not yet been fulfilled. The authorities, under pressure from the Bedzin kehila, weren't willing to agree to this request. The people of Modrzejów did not rest and persisted with their efforts. As a first step to achieve community independence they endeavored to receive their own rabbi or substitute rabbi and not to be dependant on the Bedzin rabbinate.

On the 16th / 28th of July 1846 they presented a request with all the required documents to receive a “consensus” for a rabbi Ruwen Buksman[14]. This matter continued for years. In the meantime it turned out that Buksman had fled overseas in 1846 to evade conscription.

On the 18th / 30th of January 1852 the Bedzin regional administrator announced: “Since the residents of Modrzejów have not delivered a declaration requesting Buksman as a substitute rabbi, a “consensus” can not be produced”.

The matter had yet to be solved when another problem arose, to whom to return the postal duty of 31 rubles and 30 kopecks that Buksman had paid out. Later when the authorities had failed to find neither him nor any of his family, it was decided to transfer the sum to the Bedzin council treasury.

In 1864 of the 433 residents of the village there were 375 Jews and 58 Christians. The Jews made their living in grain trading, and some of them were employed in mine work. There was also a Jewish owned chicory plant whose annual output came to 750 pood [Russian weight; 40 Russian pood = 16,375 kilograms].

At this period of time there were 55 houses, 51 of them wooden houses and 4 mansions. The Jewish settlement participated in the budget of the Bedzin kehila and brought its dead for burial in the cemetery there.

In 1863 a division of the Polish Uprising took over Modrzejów, however the Jews didn't suffer because of this. On the 11th of February the rebels organized a festive ceremony on establishing an administration. From the description of one of the residents of Myslowice, who came to participate in this ceremony, we learn a number of details: Two officers of the Bojszów division [15], one of them had formerly worked in the mine in Dabrowa, and the second was a nephew of the town council leader in Modrzejów, who ran the campaign. The residents gathered at the center of the town, where a proclamation of the central committee was read announcing, that from then on they had to heed their orders, and in a short while all those capable of carrying weapons would be conscripted to the national army. After this they signed the protocol of the ceremony together with the town council leader, and the town council leader promised to carry out the administration of the town on behalf of the central committee. Finally, they took the Russian weapons from the town council building, the tax office and the salt warehouses, and the money found in the government safes to the sum of 1,200 rubles, and also the saddles and uniforms that were left behind by the Russians[16].

Everyone obeyed the rebels' orders and helped them enthusiastically. In Olkusz only a small squad of rebels remained. In the various villages the rebels cancelled the farmers' tithes and obliged the village clerks to check this. The courthouses remained, however they were required to give a verdict in the name of the national government in Modrzejów. All the houses there belonged to Count Renard: Therefore they compelled his agent Moebius to sign a grant, and the rents that had already been paid went for repaying mortgage.

As the number of Jews grew to around seventy families, a supervisory committee (“Dozór bóznicy”) was established comprised of M. Szarf, M. Goldfeld and J. Szajnweksler. In 1865, in the name of the Jewish residents, the committee approached the authorities with an application to grant them kehila status allow them to receive a rabbi and establish their own cemetery, since Bedzin was 7 verst [a Russian measure of distance equivalent to 3,500 feet or 0.6629 mile or 1.067 kilometers] distant from Modrzejów and it was not convenient to bring their dead there. In the application they emphasized that they had a synagogue, a bet midrash, mikve and also the land for a cemetery. They suggested Dawid Bonem Brechner, a Modrzejów resident, for the rabbinate, and also the approval of Reb Gabriel Dancygier from Radom, that he had the credentials to serve as rabbi.

Rabbi Brechner was born on the 22nd of June 1844 in Bedzin and his father was Icchak and his mother Gitl. At the age of 14 his father sent him to study with Rabbi Klinger in Plasow, after which he studied with Rabbi Mosze Zionic in Olkusz and also with Rabbi Mosze Baum in Zory. In the special document that was presented to the authorities it was noted that he knew how to read and write Polish, German and Yiddish, and was affiliated with any secret society in the country or overseas, had not taken any part in the Polish Uprising in Modrzejów of 1863, and that he had served as a dayan [judge] and substitute rabbi.

It should be noted that in 1851, the aforementioned Ruwen Buksman was taken on as rabbi however, since he didn't make any actual commitment, the district minister didn't agree to present him with a “consensus”. Buksman left the city. When the candidacy of Brechner was presented and supported by the town leader, in 1866 the district minister only approved his position as the assistant Rabbi in Bedzin.

After negotiations an agreement was reached with Rabbi Brucher, who was taken on as rabbi with an annual wage of 100 rubles and a free apartment. The validity of the agreement was set for six years. The leaders of Modrzejów did not suffice with this arrangement and presented a second request, through the auspices of the Olkusz regional administrator, to the district minister regarding the breaking of ties of Modrzejów from Bedzin, and to establish a special kehila in Modrzejów, Niwke, Sosnowiec and Sielce that would be relinquished of participating in the Bedzin budget. The Olkusz regional administrator agreed, however the district minister found the issue complicated, and demanded a detailed proposal from Olkusz with expenses and an explanation of how the breaking of ties would not cause financial damage to Bedzin, and the statistics of the homeowners in the prospective region.

[Page 189]

When a new rabbi was elected in Bedzin, after the death of Rabbi Langfus, Modrzejów refused to consent to his intervention in its affairs. A dispute erupted. Even after the election of Rabbi Kimelman, Modrzejów remained a branch of the Bedzin kehila.

In 1885 an application to break ties with Bedzin was presented once again. On the recommendation of the regional minister, the district minister in Piotrokow agreed on the 25th of September 1885 to the establishment of a kehila in Modrzejów.

In 1863 the Jews of Modrzejów supported the Polish Uprising and several individuals also took an active part. Joachim Monszajn was sentenced to three years jail for distributing pamphlets about the national government.

Following Rabbi Brechner, Reb Iszaja Englard was elected as substitute rabbi.

In 1884 Modrzejów numbered 656 residents, 586 of them Jews and 70 Christians. From 1897 the population grew to 1,350 people of which only 401 were Jewish.

On the other bank of the Przemsza River, opposite Modrzejów, was the town of Myslowice. In front of it was the village of Otto from Polica, that even in 1360 received a privilege from Prince Mikolai from Oppeln [Opole] and Ratibor [Racibórz]. In 1483 the ownership was transferred to the Prince of Cieszyn, and in 1517 to Prince Kazimierz II, who sold Myslowice together with Przyczyna to Aleksander Turzon. In the meantime, the village developed into a town with a number of estates. In 1536 Jan Turzon sold Myslowice together with some of the estates to Stanislaw Solomon and the second part to Kaminski.

After a number of years Krzeszowicz bought the town from Jaroszewski. He united all the estates into a single unit, and in 1679, with the approval of Emperor Leopold the First, founded an ordinance, that is to say, the family assets could not be sold or allocated but passed on to a single heir only. In 1830, after a decision by the family members, the assets were sold to Mariafin Winkler.

In the 18th century there were only a few Jews. In 1775 the number of residents was 312; in 1850 – 5,335 people; in 1875 – 6,657 people.

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  1. See the article by M. S. Gashury , "Dabrowa Górnicza The eternally gloomy town". return
  2. Enc. Orgelbranda, volume 7, pages 842, 844  return
  3. Slownik Geograficzny, volume A, pages 923, 924  return
  4. W. Tokarz, volume 7, pages 64, 100 return
  5. Natalja Gasierowska: Górnictwo i livarianictwo w Krol. Po. 1815-1830, page 212 return
  6. See footnote 13 return
  7. S. Jaros: Wiadomosci o zydach czynnych w polskim przemysle weglowym. Bulletyn Zyd. Institutu Histor. Warszawy, 1960, no 35., pages 94-96 return
  8. See I. Eisenband : Ludnosc Zydowska w Król. Polskem w 19 wieku return
  9. Josef Kleczynski i Franciszek Kluczycki: Liczba glów zyd. w koronie z taryfy roku 1765. Kraków, 1898 Dr. Aleksander Czeszynski: Spis zydów wojew. Krakowskiego r. 1765. Kraków 1898, page 9 return
  10. See Dr. Mahler, plate 27 return
  11. Ibid, plate 68 return
  12. 16th / 28th – notes two dates: The first – Gregorian, the second Julian, as it was used (and still is) by the Russian Orthodox. return
  13. Inwentarz bóznicy wyznania mojzeszowego miasta. Nodzejów wskutek zorkryoptu wg. komisarza obwodu olkuskiego z dnia 16/28 stycznia 1842 r. Nr. 2258. HM 3434. return
  14. “Mieszkancy zydzi Modrzejowa zycza sobie miec Rabinem starozakonnego Rubina Buksmanna przedstawionego”. return
  15. “Sie trugen keine Waffen und hatten blau-rosa-weiße Schleifen an den Mützen als einzige Auszeichnung”. return
  16. Volume 18, pages 721-722, Enc. Orgelbranda return

       *    Translator's note: The references to dates and kings are not clear. return

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