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[Page 81]


by Mordechai Hampel

50░20' / 19░12'

Translated by Dr. Hannah Berliner Fischthal

The name “Dąbrowa”[1] stems from a previous community with the name of “Old Dąbrowa,” which was located in the Zagłębie neighborhood hundreds of years ago, and was overgrown with thick forests. That Old Dąbrowa gave its name to the contemporary city that developed quickly, thanks to the “black diamonds” (coals) stuck in its earth.

It is hard to determine when Dąbrowa was established, since it did not have any estates or any farms that generally create villages. We should accept that Dąbrowa was founded in the 15th century.

Areas overgrown with oak woods used to be called “Dąbrowa.” The Polish people willingly settled in such neighborhoods, which had their specific characteristics. They used the cones from the trees for various purposes, even as a treat for cows.

Primitive populations always respected oak woods, and they even considered the giant oaks as holy.

Dąbrowa suffered from frequent unlucky events: fires, robberies, and attacks from surrounding populations, especially from the Swedes and Germans.

There were times when the inhabitants abandoned their community, because of the natural and human misfortunes, but they would return again and renew the earth.

Conflicts broke out between the residents of Dąbrowa and their neighbors in Będzin, which led to the use of weapons. The reason for the arguments was a forest with the name “Radocha.” This forest was near the terrain that belonged to the Będzin citizens.

After the Swedish war, the land with the forest “Radocha” was divided into estates by the Będzin governor, who built several houses and distributed them with a certain area of land among Dąbrowa residents, permitting at the same time the Będzin residents to use the Radocha fields to nourish their cows.

When after a certain time a Dąbrowa citizen was nominated to be the new governor, he forbade the Będzin people to use the very terrain. The results were bitter battles to the point of bloodshed.

The “war” raged a longer time and ended with a victory for Dąbrowa, and “Radocha” was officially recognized as an existing part Dąbrowa.

Searching and rummaging material about Zagłębie Jews in old books and yellowed newspapers, we came across a correspondence, which was printed in the Hebrew daily paper Hatzfira, 75 years ago (August 1894). We give several citations from the letter in Hatzfira:

The large coal mine “Paris” in Dąbrowa is burning. All efforts of the firefighters to stop the fire have not yet been successful. Gasses and mountains of smoke emerge without stopping from the mines and that makes the rescue operations difficult. We imagine, that not only wood and machines are burning, but also coal. If this assumption is true, we will have to flood the mine with water, or cover it with earth. The damage is extraordinarily huge. Not a shred remains of all the buildings and machines. We are told that a machine found in the mine was worth hundreds of thousands of rubles. The loss is estimated at millions of rubles. Thousands of workers are left without work and without an income.

A few days later a telegram appeared in Hatzfira:
“There is hope to conquer the fire.”
The “French-Italian Society,” owner of the burned mine “Paris,” was strongly hit by the fire, but the Society – we learn from other sources – later invested huge amounts in that mine, and newly restored it, so that it produced, thanks to the improvements, more coal than before.

The first coal shaft in Dąbrowa was “Reden,” which was dug in the year 1796 by the Prussian government in the time of Friedrich the Great. The very popular name of the colony “Reden” stems from the director at the time of the German building industry, whose name was Friedrich Wilhelm Count Reden.

[Page 82]

In 1806 barracks were installed for the workers next to the shaft. About twenty years later, sixteen walled-in houses and twenty-four wooden houses were built, which were the beginnings of today's Dąbrowa. The earlier barracks were promised to become a hospital, after appropriate changes. The hospital was maintained by a certain percentage of workers' salaries (one groschen for every złoty), of monthly expenses, taxes, and assorted other funds.

The “Reden” shaft had to endure during its existence quite a number of fires and tragedies that demanded human sacrifices.

Since 1870, many people have migrated from all over the country. Different kinds of people – businessmen, industrialists, and workers expecting a good salary – came because of the quick development of the new community, which truly had bright prospects, thanks to its rich natural treasures (iron, coal and more).

Dąbrowa had several colonies and suburbs, of which we note the most important: “Kaszelew” (earlier “Ksaver”), “Midlice,” “Huta-Bankowa,” “Staszic,” “Poniatowski,” “Miejskie,” “Pod Floron,” and more.

It is interesting that notwithstanding the quick development of Dąbrowa, it was considered a village until 1915. Its status was elevated to a city only in 1916.

The first nominated city president (1916), through the Austrian occupying powers, during the First World War, was Edward Kaczyński.

The first normal city president (1917), elected by the people, was the known scholar, professor, and geologist, Dr. Adam Piwowar, who made great accomplishments for the Polish nation, and was awarded the highest order, “Polonia Restituta.”

In the 1930s Sejm deputy Dr. Zbigniew Madejski had the power of city president.

In 1931, the count of the general population reached 34,000 persons, from which about 6,000 were Jews.


The first Jews appeared in the area of Dąbrowa about the 18th century.

In 1767 there was a certain Jakob Josepovicz, who had the tavern in the inn called “Pod Leves” (“Under the lion”), between Old Dąbrowa and Będzin, but, because Jakob Josepovicz lived in Będzin, he did not qualify as a resident of Dąbrowa.

From the years 1816 until 1828 a law directed by the mountain-builders[2] forbade Jews from having inns or taverns in the environment of shafts and ironworks. Whoever would transgress this decree would receive the maximum punishment, and everything he owned would be confiscated. Jews were also not permitted to work in the mines.

First in the year 1828, when mountain-building workers were scarce, the prohibition was called off and Jews could be employed in the coalmines.

In that time, the first Jewish family in Dąbrowa lived in the “Reden” colony, exclusively for excavation workers, near the mines. This was a certain family with the name of “Cajgen,” which was also called by assorted similar names, and finally remained with the name “Cygusz.”

In 1828 the Rozencwajg and Natan families arrived. The head of the family, Aron Natan, knowing that dealing with liquor was forbidden in the “Reden” colony, opened a store with mead, known by the name of “Miod.”

The “Miod” was actually not a bad liquor, and the innkeeper was called by the name “Miodownik,” in honor of his good and tasty myod-drink. Aron Natan actually became so used to his nickname “myodownik” that he really started to call himself: Miodownik (this very family was well known in Dąbrowa until their murder – M.áH.).

First in the year 1864 a larger wave of Jews streamed into Dąbrowa. Among the most important families we know of: Frochtcwayg, Wajszalc, Cajtband, Nager, Szpigelman, Strzegowski, Rechnic, Gliksman, Liberman, Glecer, Bajtner, Halpern, Nusbaum, Szlezinger, Grosfeld, Grinbaum, Dąb, Kanarek, and others.

In the Hatzfira (April 1896) a certain M. Z. Najfeld writes:

“The number of hired hands and workers in the assorted workshops and factories in Zagłębie reaches several tens of thousands. There is no factory that should not employ hundreds of people, not even speaking about the Huta-Bankowa and the industrial factories where thousands of people work. The largest part of workers were born here, but there are also immigrants from Germany, France and from other countries.”

[Page 83]

“Although happy about the growth and well-being of industry in our Dąbrowa-Zagłębie region, we regret at the same time the fact that among the workers in the factories there are very few Jews, who are mostly businessmen and brokers and live from businesses spun in the air.”

“The manufacturers (also the Jewish ones) argue, that a Jew is not good at physical labor and because of that he is eliminated from being hired in the industrial projects. Thus it is no wonder, that among the beggars who go from door to door, we can find young and healthy men, who want to work and earn, but to our shame, they put out their arms for a handoutů”

“According to the last taken census of the Dąbrowa population, the city had about 40,000 people, among them Poles – 33,707, Germans – 2,924, Jews – 2,554, French – 318, Russians – 259, Italian – 16 and 6 Tatars.”

The Jews in Dąbrowa until 1910 belonged to the Jewish community of Będzin, and the dead were buried in the Będzin cemetery until 1916.

In 1910 the Jews in Dąbrowa became independent, proposing a “supervisor of the synagogue” in the city, which later represented the Jewish community. The first caretakers, elected by the “supervisor of the synagogue,” were: Jakob Mendel Gliksman, Szlomo Rechnic and Dawid Weber, who held their positions until 1916, without any salary.

The first Rabbi in Dąbrowa was Reb Mosze Aron Lewy, of blessed memory, and as “podrabiner” [assistants to a rabbi] (we used to call the helpers with that name), Rabbis Reb Aba Szlezinger and Reb Mosze Rapoport, of blessed memory.

Rabbi Lewy sat on the throne of rabbis over 20 years, and after he passed, his son-in-law Reb Baruch Epsztajn, may his blood be revenged, was elected after long arguments and contentions.

(2 photos of the Rabbis – in the Hebrew section)

In June 1916, Mordechai Lejb Miodownik, Icek Majer Nusbaum and Lejbl Strzegowski were elected to the “Supervisors of the Synagogue.” As representatives – Reuben Grosfeld, Dawid Grinbaum and the healer Mosze Mitelman.

In 1918, with the establishment of liberated Poland, the community was founded with a council and a managing committee. The first president of the community council was Herc Towja Liberman, the first president of the managing committee – Lejbl Strzegowski.

With the initiative and active help of Berl Fuks, Alter Futerko, M.áL. Miodownik, Kopel Chrzanowski, Mordechai Hilel Ferens, Icchak Majer Luksemburg, Herszel Rajchman and M. Mitelman, the Dąbrowa synagogue was built in 1916 (on the “Miejskie,” near the Okrzei Street). The property for the shul was a gift from liberal donor Berl Fuks.

The Polish Forest management gave the Christian population a place for a Christian cemetery, and out of equal rights, a place was also given the Jewish community for a cemetery, entirely free, on Jaworowa Street. The elderly Reb Gerszon Chanoch Szpilberg, from the old time Dąbrowa leaders and Zionists (he made aliyah to Palestine in 1935, died in 1966), tells us interesting details of the first age of the Jews in Dąbrowa.

Among the first Jews in Dąbrowa was the above-mentioned Cygusz, whose real name was Lejbele Frochtcwajg. His father-in-law, the grandfather of Mrs. Szpilberg, Reb Mosze Frochtcwajg, had received over 100 years ago special permission to settle in old-Dąbrowa, where Jews were forbidden to live, and he opened there the only butcher shop, where the Christians also bought meat. Reb Mosze Frochtcwajg's wife was a fine and caring person who distributed meat and money to poor people for Shabbat and holiday.

Until 1902 there was no Jewish social community life. At that time, several young people, with Szlomo Halpern and Gerszon Chanoch Szpilgerg at their head, began to organize social activities.

The first work consisted of founding a Jewish Savings and Loan Account, which the Russian powers first recognized and confirmed in 1912, after long dealings and interventions by the government, which kept arguing for years, that the Jews do not need a separate loan treasury, because the existing Christian treasury in the town could, at the same time, also please the Jewish interests.

In 1910 the Bishop of Kielce visited Dąbrowa, and the entire population, including the Jews, got ready to welcome their holy guest with a festive celebration.

[Page 84]

On behalf of the Jews, a separate committee of social workers and important leaders representing the Jewish community, was elected.

The members of the committee, dressed in special, newly sewn clothes and white gloves, greeted the bishop with a loaf of bread and salt at the Warsaw-Vienna train station. The bishop answered with a prayer, expressing his wish that peace and tranquility should rule among all religions, groups and peoples. *

* The Bishop also visited Będzin, where a Jewish delegation, headed by Rabbi Graubart, greeted their guest in the Polish language.
In 1910, the Russian commissar and overseer of the peasant terrain in Dąbrowa brought a few hundred Jews to trial for settling on “Włościańskie” [peasant] land. This territory was legally only for peasants and forbidden to Jews, who were permitted to live solely in the Miejski area, meaning in the city neighborhood. In order to defend the interests of the accused Jews, a committee was elected consisting of Szlomo Halpern, Gerszon Chanoch Szpilberg, Szlomo Rechnic, and Symcha Szwajcer as legal council. Szwajcer was completely accepted in legal circles and even well known lawyers respected his opinion. Although he did not have a diploma as a lawyer, his knowledge of judicial legal codes surpassed those of the experts.

After a few disputes, appeals from both sides, longer dealings with those in power, and with the general-governor in Warsaw, Skalon, it was finally confirmed that Dąbrowa with all its neighborhoods was to be considered as “mieiski” (city) land. And as a matter of course, Jews were permitted to live in all parts of Dąbrowa.

The opposing party was not happy with the decision, and delivered an appeal to the highest command in Petersburg, but in the meantime the war broke out.

The Zionist organization, before the First World War, managed its branches and well-developed activities in all areas. Its accomplishments were recognized and complimented by the Central Committee in Warsaw.

Zag084.jpg [26 KB] - Committee of Jewish savings-and loan-treasury
Committee of Jewish savings-and loan-treasury
in Dąbrowa (1912)

Standing from right: Ruwen Grosfeld, Yisrael Zilberszac,
Dawid Josef Grinbaum, Jankel Mitelman, Gerszon Chanoch Szpilberg.
Sitting: Jakob Szalom Fiszel, Nachman Aron Gutman,
the dentist Sternik, Szlomo Halpern, Dawid Ber Zigrajch, Sztorchajn

[Page 85]

Zag085.jpg [31 KB] - Welcoming committee for the visit of the Kielce bishop
Welcoming committee for the visit of the Kielce bishop
in Dąbrowa (1910)

Standing from right: Sander Rajchman, (2 and 3 – unknown),
Szlomo Rechnic, Gerszon Chanoch Szpilberg, Josef Nuta Szwimer, Eliezer Frochtcwajg
Sitting: Dawid Josef Grinberg, healder Mosze Mitelman, Korpensztajn,
Dawid Ber Zigrajch, Mosze Nawer

Among those concerned with social welfare were: Szlomo Halpern, the Hebrew teacher Berisz Janowski, Jakob Śliwka-Shalvy, Abram Grosfeld, Mosze Trajman, Cwi Juda Lenczner, Barzilai and others. The same people also established in Dąbrowa the first Yiddish-Hebrew library. They remember to this day their joy when they received their first books from Warsaw for the library: all the writings of Mendele Mocher Sfarim, given as bonuses for the readers of the daily newspaper “Haynt.”


1914. An infernal fire seizes the world: the First World War broke out. The Germans marched in from nearby Katowice towards Zagłębie. A few months later, the Germans left Dąbrowa and the Austrians came in their place. The long train-bridge between Będzin and Dąbrowa became the German-Austrian border.

The Austrian occupation forces were generally well disposed to the Jews. There were a few high-ranking Jewish military personnel in command who took care that no harm would befall the Jewish population, God forbid. The Jewish representatives could count on the loyalty of this circle of commanders.

In order to correctly distribute enough food for people to survive, a general city committee was founded, with Jews and Christians alike, to divide the cartons. The divided products were not enough in order to feed the population. Residents also used the “Black Market,” where one could get all good things for “excited” prices, a luxury which very few Jews could afford.

[Page 86]

Whereas the “supervisor of the synagogue” in charge of the needs of the Jewish Savings and Loan Treasury was not active, the management for the Jewish Savings and Loan Treasury took upon itself the task to found a Jewish approval-committee to provide the poor Jewish population with food products that would absolutely be free. At the head of the committee stood the dentist Sternik, Dawid Ber Zigrajch, Jakob Szalom Fiszel, Nachman Gutman and other important leaders.

A special woman's committee for the Jewish children was founded, which consisted of Lea'le Rozen-Klugman (died during the war in Russia), Leasze Futerko (during the war she left for Indochina and her fate is unknown), and other concerned souls. The main work of the committee consisted of education: teaching Hebrew and assorted Jewish points of view, so that our youth, in this hour of emergency, should not be distanced from Jewish spirituality and spirit.

Jews in Dąbrowa also received important help from the American “Joint” during the war, especially for Jewish children. For this purpose, known philanthroper Leibel Strzegowski founded a committee in his own house which took care that all the children in Dąbrowa be fed with food from America: white bread, rice, cocoa, containers of milk, dried fruits and more “good” treats, which were delicacies in those years. Leading the committee were Aron Lemkowicz, Jakob Towja Kożuch, Fiszel Szpilberg and others.

The students in the cheders and from the “Mizrachi” school received their portions every day in their learning facilities, and the children out of school came to the kitchen of the institution and ate there.

We also have to remember in a good way the support, which the Jewish community in Dąbrowa received from the fully earned “Help Union of the German Jews” in Berlin, the head of which was Dr. Paul Nathan (died in 1927), which had an assignment to help the spiritual and real development of their “comrades in faith,” especially in eastern Europe and in the Orient.

In the “Reden” colony, there was a youth society “Ezrat Moshe,” named for a murdered Zionist young social worker Mosze Hirszfeld (shot in tragic circumstances by a German patrol in the first days of WW I). He would gather challas before Shabbat and holiday (a rarity in those years of the First World War), and other products, and distribute them among homes of the poor, of which there were many.

On the subject of social help in the First World War, in “Huta-Bankowa” a “tea hall” was also active, which performed necessary work founding a kitchen, where people could eat breakfast and other meals very inexpensively. Among the special social helpers of the “Tea Hall” we should list: Mordechai Szwarcbaum (Israel), Rechnic, Mosze Dawid Rajchman (both murdered) and others.

Later was also founded in “Reden” a “Bikur Cholim” [help for the sick] society, which gave medicinal help and medications to the entire Jewish population quite free. The society employed several doctors, a healer, even a midwife, and was maintained by monthly payments from the Jewish inhabitants. The Society also took care of the very sick and provided them with people who willingly would stay overnight with them.

Zag086.jpg [12 KB] - Reb Gerszon Chanoch Szpilberg
Reb Gerszon Chanoch Szpilberg,
among the first residents in Dąbrowa

(died of old age in Tel Aviv, 1966)

Zionist work in the war was forbidden by the Austrian powers, but the work nevertheless went forward, understandably – illegally. The Zionist press (“Hatzfira” and “Dos yiddishe folk”), published in Warsaw, was not permitted to be brought into the Austrian occupied territories.

[Page 87]

As Dąbrowa was on the border, the above-mentioned newspapers (weeklies) were “black-marketed” from Będzin to Dąbrowa, and from there they were sent out to more Austrian cities. Even the known Zionist social worker, the official Rabbi from Krakow and later Sejm-Deputy, Dr. Jehoszua Thon, received these newspapers through the Dąbrowa “Associations of Zionists.”

After the war, with the establishment of the Polish independent state, pogroms against the Jews took place in many Polish cities, also in our Kielce province, but in Dąbrowa – and in all of Zagłębie in general – there were not any large pogroms, only small excesses, like cutting Jewish beards by Polish recruits and soldiers, known by the name “Halertshikes.” Also this did not last long, because the democratic state power cared about order in the city. The Polish workers, who had educated the Rav in the city, did not allow any pogroms against Jews and called on the Christian population for religious tolerance, worker solidarity, and brotherhood of people.

Old Jewish Dąbrowa had remarkable types and personalities and it is appropriate – my co-speaker tells me, Herr Szpilberg, – to memorialize a dear Jew in these pages, of whom the remainder of Dąbrowa Jews speak until this day with reverence: Reb Ruwen Glazerman, known with the name Ruwele “licht-tsiyer” [chandler], a soul who deeply loved the poor people, who had hidden pity for the indigent.

There is a story that when he met, on a windy, frosty day, a poor man walking in the street in torn shoes, he, Ruwele “licht-tsiyer,” took off his own boots and put them on the pauper, and he himself went home barefoot, in torn rags wrapped around his feet.

He was truly virtuous; love for people gave him reason to live. He gave away his salary, which he received for his sermons in the study house (he could teach and preach), and his last farthings to the needy.

Even he, this lamed-vovnik[3], like all the dear people that were his equals, could not escape the evil Nazi slaughter.


At concluding my two articles about Sosnowiec and Dąbrowa, I express my thanks to the honorable old men – Reb Szlomo Kalisz, Reb Szmul Krystal, Reb Nechemje Zinger, Reb Gerszon Chanoch Szpilberg (all already in the true world), and to my friends Marian Priwer, Baruch Priwer, Efraim Lenczner, for the various ideas and pictures which I received from them for this work about the two Jewish communities in Zagłębie.

A separate thanks is due to the Hebrew and Yiddish libraries and archives in Tel Aviv, Bialik House, and Beit Ha'am, for their willingness to provide me every time with appropriate old historical documents.

Zag087.jpg [31 KB] - Participants in a Flower-Day
Participants in a Flower-Day
in honor of Jewish National Fund in Dąbrowa

(chol hamoed Passover, 1921)

  1. “Oak tree”. return
  2. Mine workers union? return
  3. One of the 36 just people on which the world is based. return

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