“Turek” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume I

52°02' / 18°30'

Translation of “Turek” chapter
from Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem



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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume I, pages 130 - 131, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

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(Pages 130 - 131)

(Turek Province)

by Aharon Weiss

Translated by Moshe Shubinsky

Edited by Ada Holtzman

The Population Structure

The Jews

Turek as a city was church property until the partition of Poland. City charter was granted in 1357. The first Jews appeared in Turek at the beginning of the 19th century partially from nearby Dobra and for a few years the Jews in Turek were attached to the institutions of this community. They used to bury their dead in the cemetery o Dobra. A Cholera epidemic in 1830/1 killed many Jews and the community dwindled in numbers. But, by the middle of the 19th century, Jewish population grew again at a fast rate and contributed to the growth of the textile industry in the town. They were also active in commerce, oil, matches and soap manufacture. Jews also owned textile dye plants.

On Yom Kippur 5618 (27/10/1857) the synagogue was set on fire following a hate campaign by a Polish priest but a new one was built by 1861 in “Breiter Gasse”, the structure was renovated and expanded in 1910. A fire consumed 40 Jewish houses in 1878.

The Polish revolt of 1863 saw the participation of Jews such as Mordechai Manes, a medic from Turek. Another Jew was the deputy mayor during the revolt. In February 1889 local farmers attacked Jewish merchants and many were injured and their property was robbed.

It appears that Turek's community became independent by the middle of the 19th century. From 1850 to the middle of the 1870's the rabbi of Turek was R' David Haim Braun. He was followed by R' Hirsz Leib Waxsman. 1906 saw the establishment of a yeshiva (Talmudic college). In 1899 a charity “Gemilut Hasadim” (making righteous deeds) was started. Many other organizations started at that time- Linat Tzedek (shelter of the poor and homeless), Hachnasat Kala (dowry collected for the poor bride) and the Ahiezer Society for mutual support. A primary government school for Jewish children was set up in 1886.

Zionism came to town in 1912 and at the end of 1916 the Ttzeirei Zion (Youth of Zion) association was set up with 100 members. It run Hebrew classes for 40 pupils and a library. By 1917 many more associations started to operate – the youth culture association (“Kultur Jugend Farjen”) and sport association “Turen Farjen”. By 1918 the Tehia club with a chorus was started, the Zamir (The revival club and the nightingale chorus).

In the interwar years Turek Jews carried on as artisans and small merchants. By the 1920's there were 138 Jewish workshops, 51 of which employed workers and the rest just the owners. Amongst those were 68 confectioners, 46 cloth manufacturers, 3 metal workshops, 6 food production, 4 leather workers and one stonemason. The number employed in artisanship was 260. An artisan association was established and it initiated the establishment of a cooperative bank. In 1924 the needle worker union was first organized

Turek had a large number of Zionists parties: the Mizrachi, Zionim Klaliim - General Zionists (Al Hamishmar - on guard and Et Livnot – time to build), Poalei Zion (the workers of Zion) and the Revisionist movement. In 1926 the Hashomer Haleumi youth movement, part of the General Zionists party was set up and turned into the “Hanoar Hazioni” - Zionist Youth Movement in 1931. Turek also had a Beitar association. In the Zionist camp the Mizrahi and the General Zionists were most influential. The Zionist congresses in 1930's saw elections and the number of voters were- 450. In 1937 the votes cast were as follows- Al Hamishmar 77, Et Livnot 89, Hamizrachi 149, Haliga Haovedet (the Working Israel league) 69.

After the First World War the Agudath Israel and Poalei Agudath Israel was organized. The Bund was also active in Turek with their youth movement the “Tsukunft”.

The Rabbi, R' Pinhas Halevi Wangrub officiated from 1924-1932. He was one of the founders of Agudath Israel in Poland. The last rabbi was R' Pinchas Weiss who accompanied the community on its last journey during the holocaust.

After the end of WWI, the Mizrahi opened a modern Heder and a Jewish kindergarten. Agudath Israel opened an elementary school: “The Torah”. Important role in the cultural life of the community served amateur theatre. There were also operating sport associations: Shomria, Bar Kochva and Trumpeldor affiliated to the Zionist youth movement and the Bund youth movement “Morgenstern”.

It is worthwhile pointing out that the Jewish sculptor and painter Hanoch Heinrich Gliczenstajn (1870 – 1942) was born in Turek in 1870 and left it in 1887. He received in his hometown traditional education and he kept ties with his townspeople until his last days.

The outbreak of war in 1939 saw the immediate confiscation of Jewish goods and slave labor kidnapping. These forced laborers were used to repair war damaged roads and bridges. In just a few days the Germans took hostages and 15 were murdered. In November 1939, 700 Jewish men were held in the synagogue and sent to Kolo and then to Bochnia near Krakow for slave labor.

For a time the community tried to keep in touch with the deportees in Bochnia by sending them food parcels. After a while some of the deportees were sent to Miêdzyrzec and the link between them in the Generalgouvernement area and Turek was severed. By January 1940 the process of confiscating Jewish properties and shops was complete and the synagogue was set on fire and destroyed. In February 1940 some of the Jews were relocated to a special area in the “Breite Gasse”. By July 1940 all the remaining Jews were moved into what now became the Turek Ghetto. At first people could leave the Ghetto and tried to survive by selling property to buy food. Many were starving and the Judenrat, headed by Herszel Zymanowoda, initiated actions for mutual aid, like: a soup kitchen. Mordechai Strikowski was the commander of the Jewish police. In the summer of 1940 60 Jews were kidnapped by the Germans for forced labor in Poznañ and a few weeks later 30 more were taken. With the worsening situation, Jews were leaving and seeking shelter in Warsaw some even going to the Soviet zone in Eastern Poland. By 1940 there were only 1750 Jews remaining in Turek.

In October 1941 on Yom Kippur the liquidation of the ghetto started and the Jews were taken to rural ghetto in the region of Kowale Panskie, south of Turek where many Jews of the area were concentrated.


Translator's comment

The Turek synagogue was damaged by fire but not destroyed. It was used as a storehouse after the war and is now the Turek Cinema. The front of the building had been removed recently when the cinema was built.

The town acknowledges the synagogue value to the Jewish people but refuses to renovate it.

The Jewish Cemetery in Turek was re-dedicated in August 2003 in the presence of survivors, descendants of Turek Jews and local dignitaries and a memorial erected on the site.

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