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The Surroundings



(Kowal, Poland)

52°32' 19°10'

[Pages 753-766 - Yiddish]

Kowal and its Jewish settlement

Zalman Gostynski

Translated by Leon Zamosc

Kowal is a town in the district of Wloclawek, Warsaw Voivodeship in Poland. In the year 1569, the Jews received a plot of land for a cemetery from the starosta (governor). In 1578, King Stephen Bathory granted the town privilege of residence as well as a license to engage in trade and crafts. After the Swedish war (1656), when the town was almost destroyed, a large number of Jews settled in Kowal. The Jewish poll tax amounted to 300 guilders in 1721 and 900 guilders in 1734. At the end of the 18th century, the community was so deeply in debt that the king formed a special commission to regulate it. In the years 1827-1862, a Jewish quarter existed in Kowal. In the year 1756, 260 Jews lived in Kowal. In 1793 the town had 306 Jews (and 356 Christians). In 1852 there were 1,212 Jews and in 1897 their number was 1,402 (out of a general population of 3,993). In the year 1921, there were 1,227 Jews (out of a total population of 4,063) .

E. R. (Emmanuel Ringelblum), Encyclopedia Judaica, Volume Ten, p. 353.


The town of Kowal, in the land of Kujavia, reaches with its lineage into the antiquity of Poland's history. Crown documents show that in the year 1185, at the time of the Leczyca Congress, a church already existed in Kowal. In later times, the town grew, probably under the auspices of King Casimir the Great. Jan Długosz writes this in his chronicle: “On the 30th of April 1310, in the town of Kowal in the land of Kujavia, Princess Jadwiga, the wife of Ladislaus the Short, gave birth to a son Casimir. I mention the place and date of birth for the knowledge of future generations”. In those times, one of the most important communication routes in Poland - the tract between Kruszwica and Krakow – passed through Kowal, which was located in an area of thick forests. In the town there was a royal castle, of the type of protection “fortresses”, which was often visited by the Polish monarchs. Thus, for example, in the year 1420, King Jagiello received the Czech envoys in the castle of Kowal (Długosz).

All of this certainly contributed to the fact that the town enjoyed various royal privileges. The permission to hold up to three market fairs a week, granted to Kowal in 1519 by King Sigismund I, was an example of this kind of privilege and meant a lot for the town's economic and general development. In 1655, Kowal, like many other cities and towns in Poland, was destroyed by the Swedes.

During the reconstruction, the town attracted an intense Jewish immigration. This is mentioned in various documents, some of local character. Jewish citizenship, as usual, was not easy. The Jews were often economically disadvantaged. Thus, in 1713, King August II forbade them to distill and sell brandy. In 1777, the local bakers made it difficult for Jews to bake and sell bread.

According to statistical data going back to the year 1800, at that time there were around 2,565 Jews in the entire Brzesc Kujawski district (to which Kowal belonged). Russian statistics of 1878 indicate that the total number of Jews in the Kujavia region was 12,201, of which 1,324 lived in Kowal. By 1936, according to statistical data, there were 1,787 Jews in Kowal, out of a total local population of about 5,000 inhabitants.[1]

For the period 1878-1940 it is possible to obtain accurate information about births, marriages and deaths among the Jews in Kowal, based on original records of the Jewish community. The story of the recovery of these books is very interesting. In 1947, they were found in a village on the Polish-Czech border by a young priest who brought all the materials back to the town. Now they are collected in 18 volumes preserved in the National Council Magistrate's office in Kowal. Until the year 1916, the records were kept in the Russian language, later they were written in Polish.

And here are some details, calculated on the basis of the books. The number of Jewish marriages from 1916 to 1939 was 240. During the same period, 728 Jews died in the town and 823 children were born. The year with the largest number of marriages was 1926 (19 weddings). The year with the smallest number was 1938 (only 3 weddings). It is a telling fact that, out of 11 weddings in 1939, 6 were registered on September 1, the day of the outbreak of the war.

In that last book of marriage registrations there is a laconic comment in the German language: “This family book for the year 1939, which contains entries No. 1 to 11, will be closed. January 2, 1940. The Registrar”. That was how trivial it seemed to the German official to “close” 300 years of Jewish life in Kowal. But just as the life of this Jewish settlement of 1,800 people was not simple, its destruction was not simple either…

Until the year 1939, more or less like in the other towns of Poland, the Kowal Jews went through a constant process of ups and downs. From time to time, their fortunes would rise and fall, and sometimes their situation would get worse. Surrounded by rich Polish villages and large farms of ethnic Germans in the direction of Gostynin and Lubien, poor farms in the direction of Wloclawek, more farms in the middle of the town, and a few brickyards and two sawmills, the Jews for the most part made a living as craftsmen and to a lesser extent as traders. As stated above, they were subjected to periods of economic ups and downs. The Jews of the town did not consider their situation through the prism of historical-economic criteria. They remembered relatively recent times, which they divided as follows: “under the Russians”, “under the Germans”, “before the first fire”, “before the second fire”, and “after the second fire”. The second fire, which was very fresh in the memory of the generations that were caught under the Nazis, had taken place in the year 1921. Although their situation was objectively influenced by many economic and political factors, people (mostly the older generation) compared their present conditions with those that prevailed “before the fire”. That second fire had actually consumed almost the entire town. There were relief committees, and the American Jews sent money to them. People got organized and started to rebuild. On the site of the burned wooden synagogue, with two lions carved at the entrance, a bare yard remained. The beit hamidrash, which was built “for the time being”, was used as a synagogue. At the same time, a long wooden house was built near the site of the synagogue, in which several dozen families lived until the Germans deported them from the town – another “temporary” arrangement that lasted for 18 years! The “Knikarve” – that was how they called the communal house. It took the name from the Yiddish kniken leyz (killing lice), which they probably did not like there, just as they did not like the bugs, the filth, and the distress. For the most part, the Jewish street was not rebuilt. The street on the opposite side of the market square was rebuilt with money from the relief committee. Much of it, however, was soaked with the blood and sweat of hard work.


Kowal after the fire of 1921: the market square surrounded by burned houses


Among the Jewish craftsmen, many were shoemakers and tailors. Others worked as blacksmiths, turners and carpenters, hairdressers, gardeners, butchers, and bakers. There was also dressmaking, which gave a possibility for better-off families to overcome their wounded pride and put their children to work.

Apart from that, there were some merchant women, a grain dealer, a sawmill owner, a two-three-percent lender, wretched small shopkeepers, and owners of artisan workshops who all the time had to borrow on interest, qualified by a transaction permit.

In the mornings, loaded wagons took the products of the tailors and shoemakers to market fairs in Lubanie, Nieszawa, Chodecz and Lubraniec. Other tailors used to carry their goods to the village on their shoulders. At dusk, or later in the night, a villager would return from a long journey with a calf, a sheep or a goat on his shoulders. Another one carrying some chickens, furs or pelts. In the dark night, a butcher would quietly kill something in a secret mystical ritual.

There was no shortage of religious functionaries and “community fixers”, and it was not necessary to import from outside the two or three “informers” without which the system could not keep going. Three Jewish families owned a farm that was located right outside the town. It was called the “Ant” and it included a small water pond - the “Tashlich”. Because of the constant bitter disputes between the partners of the “Ant”, the farm went downhill from year to year…

Many people lived on allowances. Not one Jewish family was left to suffer in silence (so that our enemies will not rejoice – as the saying goes). The biggest part of the youth faced the problem of lack of prospects. There were cases of emigration to larger cities and aliyah to Eretz Israel. The economic boycott conducted in recent years against Jewish merchants and craftsmen aggravated the situation, adding to it a political color.

The Kowal Jews were different from those of the surrounding towns in that they were mostly broad-shouldered, with healthy muscles, the older generation as well as many of the youngsters. There were two Jewish sports organizations: the Zionist club “Maccabi” and the Bundist club “Morgenstern”. The “Maccabi” had the largest brass band in the entire neighborhood of Jewish towns. During the celebrations, the “Maccabi” orchestra always paraded along with the sportsmen. There were also large exhibitions on Lag Baomer. Big events were organized with dances and sports performances in the “Ant” farm or in the forest. Jewish sportsmen often came from Wloclawek. There was a strong rivalry between “Maccabi” and “Morgenstern”. The political-social life was much wider and deeper than the activity of the sports clubs.


“Maccabi” parade on the streets of Kowal
Heading the group: Arieh Piechotka. Carrying the flag: Michal Szperka.


A quite distinctive, separate group were the Orthodox. They had their Gerer shtiebel, where they started praying on Saturday evenings and served God with great devotion. They had their own lifestyle, both in matters of faith and everyday customs.

There were many Zionist parties of different shades. Among the older and middle generations, the Orthodox had more influence than the religious Zionists of the “Mizrachi” party. But among the youth, the organization “Poalei Mizrachi”, which combined pious and secular traits and was solid and serious-minded, was much larger than the Orthodox group, and also better in quality.

When the Revisionist Zionists split, a small group of “Grossmanists” emerged. The youngsters of “Betar” in Kowal were less aggressive than those of the “Betar” organization in the surrounding towns. The largest Zionist party was the “General Zionists”, which was very influential among the middle class. The youth of the shtetl went through a constant process of fluctuations, with inflows and outflows among such organizations as “Pioneers”, “Hanoar Haleumi”, “Gordonia”, and “Hashomer Hatzair”. Overall, the tendency of the fluctuations favored the youth organizations that belonged to the “League for the Working Land of Israel”.

A separate chapter was the “Bund”, both the party and its youth organization. The members were mostly young shoemakers and tailors, who worked for others or at home. They were very active, amazing fighting guys. Apart from that, there were the “Reds” (Communists). While it was difficult to differentiate them in terms of status, business or occupation, they included some children from families of the old generation, along with workers, shoemakers, some bakers' journeymen and others. In general, the youth was well-educated and serious. By the 1930s, they occupied leading positions in the libraries and drama circles, which were hotbeds of cultural activity in the town.

At the time, there were two libraries in Kowal: the Zionist library “Maccabi” and the library of the “Bund”. Together, they owned around 3,500 volumes, both Jewish and Polish books. The people of the drama circle presented a variety of plays, mostly at the assembly hall of the Firemen's Building. They staged plays such as Jacob Gordin's “Khasye the Orphan Girl” and “The Slaughter”, Shloyme Zaynvl Rapoport's “The Dybbuk”, William Siegel's “The Wedding Dress”, Isidore Lash's “The Road to Buenos Aires”, Peretz Hirschbein's “Carcass”, Leon Kobrin's “The Village Boy”, Osip Dimov's “Yoshke the Musician”, Sholem Aleichem's “Tevye the Milkman” (with Jacob Weisslitz in the main role), Sholem Asch's “Motke the Thief”, and Leo Tolstoy's “The Kreutzer Sonata”. In addition to Jacob Weisslitz, other renowned Jewish artists used to come – they directed plays and often acted as well.

The town experienced a great cultural upsurge, which spilled over into lively participation in youth organizations, political action, sports activities, or just vagabondism… Many disillusioned of love, political parties, and politics in general, used to meet in the town's two or three Jewish candy stores to play billiards, cards, and have fun with cheap jokes. In those candy stores, especially the “Aunt Rose”, random youngsters gathered, while their mothers and fathers worked hard to earn a little livelihood…

Speaking about organizations and institutions, it is worth mentioning the Gemilat Hessed Fund, which played a vital role in the most important area - the issue of economic subsistence. A small leaflet issued by the Gemilat Hessed Fund in the year 1937-1938 (which fell into my hands by accident), reported that the fund had been established in 1927 and that, during its first ten years, it had awarded 1,696 loans for a total amount of 190,000 zlotys. The treasury receipts of April 1st 1937 show a positive of 15,595 zlotys as follows: 6,347 zlotys from the American Joint Committee, 1,500 zlotys from the Main Branch of Gemilat Hessed, 269 zlotys in deposits, and 7,452 zlotys basic capital. The number of beneficiary members of the fund was 155.

In the town, as everywhere, the political differences were strong and sharp, to the point that very often families were divided by loyalties to different parties. Still, there were people who, exercising discretion and understanding, managed to keep the important institutions as safe as possible from political frictions.

Concerns about livelihood and lack of prospects, political action, dreams about a better life and fear for tomorrow, religious piety and conscious demonstrative semi-atheism, funerals with tears and weddings with joy, love and “eternal” suffering and disappointment, resignation among the parents and hopelessness among the youth, devoted grandfathers and grandmothers, and children who one day would have to leave home and stand on their own feet. Such was the life that pulsated in the 1,800 Jewish souls of the shtetl until the day when the Nazi hordes entered the town.

On the second day of Rosh Hashanah of the year 1939, the Germans occupied Kowal. An innocent notice was posted in German, Polish, and Yiddish: stay out of the streets after 6 o'clock, do not attack German soldiers, and a reassurance that no distinctions between nations will be made. On the third or fourth day, two Jewish manufacturing shops and a haberdashery store were raided and German officers took photographs of Poles robbing their Jewish neighbors. In all three cases it happened like this: a German came to the Jewish business saying that he wanted to buy something and asking to be shown some merchandise. Then he suddenly shouted in anger that “this Jew is a foolish schoolboy” and started throwing the merchandise out into the street. The Jews took it as a random incident…

Soon, orders were issued in rapid succession: confiscation of all Polish military property, Jews had to wear yellow ribbons, Jews were strictly forbidden to gather or talk about politics. One “incident” after another. On the ninth day, still another “incident”: a division of the S.S. passed through the town and demolished thirty Jewish houses. Then came the ban on engaging in trade and crafts and, right after that, Jews began to be press-ganged for forced labor. A contribution was imposed on the community, which was impossible to collect. As a “favor”, the Germans accepted gold and silver instead of money. Some purported klal-tuers (community activists) volunteered to the German gendarmerie to facilitate the drafting of people for compulsory labor. They quickly became “group leaders”. Arrogant in their attitude, they were strict with their fellow Jews, saying that it was all for the “good” of the community. “Makers” began to appear, who paid to be exempted from forced labor. Everything happened so quickly that the majority of the town's Jews could not even get their bearings about what was going on. It was the beginning of the disorientation that would prevail among the unfortunate victims right up to the crematories.

In the meantime, the helplessness was growing. On Yom Kippur, the Jews took the risk of gathering at home to pray. Assisted by local Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans), the gendarmes raided their houses. With the tefillin on their shoulders, those caught praying were taken to Koscielna street, where they were put to tear off cobblestones all day.


Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Leib Weingott


On the 25th of September at 10 o'clock in the morning, the rabbi of Kowal Shmuel Yehuda Leib Weingott passed away. Rabbi Shmuel Yehuda Leib had been born in Kalisz in 1856. That morning, a German gendarme came to his house and banged the door so hard that several windows fell out. The rabbi, who was very ill, rose up in bed and turned to Reuben Wyszogrodzki, who was sitting next to him: “Listen, Reuben, I have been through several wars and no window was ever cracked in my house. A very strange war, oy, nothing like a good war…” A few minutes after that, the rabbi passed away. It was forbidden to go to his funeral[2].

Hard work, beginnings of starvation, beatings by the Germans, money extortion and perhaps most tragic, dejection - this was the situation until December 11, 1940. That day, at 10 o'clock in the morning, the first deportation took place. The Jews who lived around the market square in Kazimierza Wielkiego and several other streets were given eight minutes to assemble. German soldiers broke into every Jewish home, accompanied by the local Volksdeutsche who were going to take over their economic assets on the spot. Apparently, the eight minutes were too much for them, since they shortened the time on their own to prevent the Jews from taking too much with them – otherwise, what would the Jews leave behind?

Five days without food, without water, in fully packed wagons to Malkinia train station (north-east of Warsaw). To what? Who knows? At that station, they kept them for a day and a night and then took them back to Szymanow near Blonie (west of Warsaw). Exhausted, sick, without a roof over their heads, without a pillow, without anything to drink, they only wanted one thing - to die! The biggest dream was to be on one's own bed, under one's own roof and nothing more! Little by little, however, the will to live returned. The brothers of the Szymanow monastery showed a lot of compassion and were very helpful. Straw mattresses, boiled water, pots and pans for cooking and sometimes provisions too. People started to come to their senses. In a short time, they began to try to resettle, some with family, some with acquaintances, or just finding a place in towns of the area like Blonie, Zyrardow, Grodzisk, and Wiskitki. By the end of the month, there were no longer smells of cooking in the Szymanow “winter camp”. This attempt to resettle in new places, however, would not last long.

In less than a year, all those who in the meantime had not died of hunger or other causes would meet again in the Warsaw ghetto. That was how these Jews of Kowal would be involved in the great tragedy and epic called the Warsaw Ghetto.

Meanwhile, life in Kowal somehow “normalized”, to the extent that people could still occasionally send a modest package of food to relatives in Warsaw. For example, when I wrote from the Soviet Union to my parents in Kowal, asking whether I should send them a package of food, they replied that although they needed it, I should send it to uncle Peretz Buks in Warsaw, who was more in need.

The Jewish forced workers in Kowal were put to demolish wooden houses and remove the cobblestones of the market square, where grass was sown. They paved streets and roads, cultivated fields, and worked cutting the forest. Even the holy figures of the Rook, Joseph, and the “Holy Mother,” the Jews had the honor to destroy. In the meantime, they got used to the Jewish “community activists” or “group leaders”. As the saying goes, when a plague spends the night at home, it becomes “homey”. The members of the Judenrat were indeed an old plague that had been “homey” for a long time…

The second deportation took place on June 23, 1941. There was an order that all men between the ages of 14 and 65 had to assemble in the local “school” for a job. On that same day, around 350 men from Kowal were sent to Wloclawek. In the former barracks of Torunska street they joined a large group of other Jews from the surrounding towns. In about a day, a long passenger train took them to Poznan. They were treated “politely” – at the Poznan station, the loudspeakers announced that the Jews had come to work voluntarily… The people in the transport were assigned to several Jewish labor camps around Poznan: 1) Steineck, 2) Eichenwald, 3) Gutterbrunn, 4) Stadium, 5) Radziwill Fortress. The “volunteer” work began immediately in various sites. Among others, the Galerchin-Galena park (today Park Solaki) was built with Jewish sweat and blood. There, the Jews encountered a large sand mountain and the marshes of the small river Bogdanka. The riverbed was channeled and the whole area was transformed into a fertile living place. That was why, when the “volunteers” went “home” at night, they dragged sick and dead people along. Wintertime was easier, because people had blankets. As far as we know, 34 Jews from Kowal died of hunger and typhoid in the camp Steineck and 15 in Radziwill Fortress. Four were hanged for resistance and two were shot.

Two months after arriving in Poznan, the first transports of people who were too sick to work began to leave. At first, it was not known where the transports were going, but the prisoners sensed that it did not mean anything good. Then they received the news that those who went in the transports were killed and burned, but they did not want to believe it.

Along with the despair, the indifference grew. There were those who volunteered to leave with the transports, even though they knew what was waiting for them.

Reuben Wyszogrodzki, a Kowal Jew who died a few days after liberation, wrote a memorial book in the Steineck camp, in which he listed several thousand names regardless of the martyrs's towns and cities of origin. When the memorial book, which he had written with so much devotion, fell into the hands of the Polish camp leader Ratajczyk, it was immediately burned on the spot.

The time came when Poznan needed to become Judenrein (clean of Jews). On August 28, 1943, the last transport of Jews from the labor camps left Poznan. Like all the previous transports, it was sent to Auschwitz. There were about 60 Jews from Kowal in that train. Because of some special order, the transport was kept in quarantine at a time when the people in other transports, after a selection, went straight from the railway tracks to the ovens. They arrived in Auschwitz around the 3rd of September. Another transport that arrived at the same time from the Sosnowiec ghetto went up in smoke straight from the wagons, but the Poznan transport underwent selection. Those who were not selected to work went to the crematoriums. They were clearly told that they were going to be burned and that, since they had been good workers in Poznan, they would use plenty of gas to make sure that they did not wake up in the ovens… All this happened in front of the eyes of the others, who had been selected for work in the coal mines of Jaworzno. Before he was taken to the ovens, one of the men from Kowal gave his last piece of bread to his brother, who was going to Jaworzno, wishing him to eat it in good health… There were eighteen Kowal Jews among those who were sent to the coal mines. Many of them survived.

By mid-October 1941, after two years of German rule, and while many of the Jews who had already been deported were dying of hunger and typhus in Warsaw or being sent to Auschwitz in the “sick transports” from the Poznan camps, the third and last deportation took place in Kowal. Volksdeutsche with lists in their hands entered the homes of the remaining Jews and gave them ten minutes to assemble. Up to four hundred women, children, and old people were herded into the local church, where they were kept for about ten days. There were cases in which some Polish neighbors or just acquaintances dared to bring them a piece of bread. It is difficult to know whether the majority of the Polish population lamented the tragedy of their fellow citizens, but they must have been certainly annoyed by the “profanation” of their ancient parish church. A long train, pulled by two locomotives. took the rest of the Jews of Kowal, together with the last Jews of Wloclawek, Lubraniec, Chodecz and other towns to Lodz, where they were interned in the city's ghetto.

In Lodz, their first impression was “good”. It was like being in a new world – our own Jewish police! In the broken hearts of the old men and women, in the shattered eyes of the children, there was a ray of hope. The transport was taken to Marysin under the escort of the ghetto police. The apartments were not ready yet, but the crowd was happy with the blocks, because they got food there. But the “good” feeling did not last long. Many children died from smallpox. There was an ordinance that all small children had to be vaccinated. Those who had acquaintances in Lodz went to them to get help in organizing themselves.

At that time, there were frequent deportations from the Lodz ghetto. Having plenty of wrecked human material in the blocks of Marysin, it was easy for the organizers of the ghetto transports to do their job – they simply went there and began to “sort out” the unfortunate women. Most of them were sent to the extermination camp in Chelmno, not far from Kolo. One of the two Jews who were miraculously able to escape from the extermination camp was Mordechai Zurawski from Wloclawek. Some young girls from the transport to Lodz were sent to labor camps in Poznan. Their chances of survival would depend on enduring the hard work. There they saw, from a distance, a group of Kowal Jews from the Steineck camp. For those who stayed in the Lodz ghetto, death came from hunger and typhus. They were buried in the Lodz cemetery, but it is impossible to find their graves. A very small part were deported from Lodz to Auschwitz in August 1944. Some of the girls who had been sent to the labor camps managed to survive.

After the third and last deportation, when the remaining Jews had been driven through the streets of Kowal to the nearby railway station in Czerniewice, the Germans found three old Jewish women who had not been able to follow. They were Esther Sarah Piechotka, Matel Kleinbaum and Machla Senator -- all around the age of 70. The unfortunate women were locked in a room without food or water. After a few days they lost their minds. Screams of desperation and madness were heard from the room. The Germans listened and enjoyed - which one would die first? how would her death play out in the crazy eyes of the others? After five or six days came the order to bury them. It was also done with “fantasy”, because the tortured old women were buried in one grave with their bedclothes, so that they would keep warm…


By orders of the Nazis, the Jews tear off the cobblestones of the market square


One dark night after the burial of the unfortunate old women, two young Jews crept from the railway station in Czerniewice to the town through the fields, on the side of the highway. They were Abraham Piechotka and Shlomo Pieprzynski. The first one lives today in Israel, the second one in New York. In 1939, they had escaped from Kowal and gone across the Soviet border to Rostov-on-Don. When the Germans occupied the area, the two boys had declared themselves as Poles and applied for work in Germany. On their way to Germany, they had decided to stop and secretly visit Kowal, despite the danger of such a step. Before entering the town they knocked on the door of a Pole who lived near the highway. He told them about everything that happened in the town and they immediately ran away…

During the Nazi occupation, two other young Jews tried to approach the Judenrein town of Kowal. After escaping from Warsaw ghetto in early 1942, they first came to the nearby village of Klotno. From a farmer they knew, they found out what had happened to the Jews of Kowal. But they did not manage to get out of that village. They were captured by the Germans and had to dig a pit for themselves before they were shot. After the liberation, with the help and support of the Polish authorities, the bodies of the two martyrs were exhumed. It was established that they were Yehoshua Trembski and Yosef Lubinski.

Hour after hour, year after year, the horrendous slaughter of the Kowal Jews continued as part of the annihilation of three-million martyrs in Poland. They died in the Warsaw ghetto, in the labor camps of Poznan, in the Lodz ghetto, in the coal mines of Jaworzno, in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, in the gas vans and cremation pits of Chelmno, and who knows where else. They gave up their souls, sanctified in suffering.



For this chapter, I used an obscure history of Kowal that was written in 1921 by the priest Alfons Jedrzejewski, who was a chaplain with the Polish army. The booklet, which by the way is full of anti-Semitic epithets, was given to me at the Kowal parish church. Here, I will try to clarify as far as possible the dates and facts that I mentioned at the beginning of the chapter.

Regarding the birth of Casimir the Great in Kowal (1310), the author probably relies on the chronicle of Jan Długosz. The privilege and permission to govern according to prawem chełmskim (the Chełm Law) was given to the locality of Kowal by King Sigismund the First on the day before St. Thomas, April 1519. With this privilege, Kowal's trade activities began. It is around that date and the following decades that, in my opinion, one must look for the traces of the Jewish immigration to the town.

The fact that Kowal was destroyed during the Swedish invasions is mentioned in Alfons Jedrzejewski's history of Kowal and in many other church documents of the Kowal parish. Regarding some of the other dates, I would like to quote directly from the booklet in Polish by Alfons Jedrzejewski: “After the wars with the Swedes, the town of Kowal did not develop because the starosta usurped the town's prerogatives and committed various abuses. Jews also started to settle in the town, which contributed to the collapse. In a document from 1659 we read that the Jews, after being cut off by the crown army during the past incursion, will now saddle the city because they have not shown respect for the law and have no law, so they should not make any obstacles to the townspeople in all trade and taverns, and indeed they should share the burden of all public and private contributions with the townspeople. Jews living in Kowal committed various abuses, so that in 1713 August II forbade the Jews to trade in alcohol, and in 1777 the bakery guild made it difficult for Jews to bake and sell bread. The Jews, however, mastered the trade in Kowal”.

Translator's notes:

  1. According to Isaiah Trunk (based on Mitteilungen des Gesamtarchivs der Deutschen Juden, volume IV, p. 92), 387 Jews and 1029 Christians lived in Kowal in 1797. See Trunk's chapter in this book: “About the past of the Jewish community of Brzesc Kujawski”, footnote 11. Return
  2. The details of Rabbi Weingott's last hours are told differently by Arie Leib Piechotka. See page 767 of this book. Return


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