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Translation of Nowe Miasto chapter
from Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Nowe Miasto chapter
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume I, pages 156-158, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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Translated by Miriam Bulwar David-Hay
Jewish settlement until 1918
Nowe Miasto was granted the status of city in 1400. After a low period in the city's development in the 17th century, its private owner [presumably a Polish nobleman] sought in the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th to revive its economy and expand its building area, and established a weaving factory there that operated only until 1831. In 1843, a large portion of the city went up in flames, and a year later it lost its city status, which was only returned in 1916.
The Jews did not face any obstacle in coming to settle in Nowe Miasto. In the second half of the 18th century, about 30 Jewish families lived in the town, who were occupied mainly in trades (among them five tailors) and commerce. Several made their living from lease-holding. In the 1820s, the district and central authorities tried to limit the rights of the Jews to purchase immovable assets (houses and lands) in the city, but the city's private owner objected to this, saying that only he had the authority to decide matters in the lands under his jurisdiction.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries (until World War I), the Jews in Nowe Miasto continued in their traditional occupations, commerce and trades, servicing the farming outskirts of the town. A small group of Jewish merchants became wealthy from wholesale grain commerce and as lease-holders on plots of forest to be felled. In the late 19th century, Jews owned a water mill, and a few years before World War I, also the sawmill next to the water mill. The owner of the beer factory in Nowe Miasto was also a Jew. In these relatively large factories Jews were not employed, apart from family members of the owners and a few clerks.
In the mid-18th century, the Jews had an independent kehilla [Jewish community council]. In this period, the old wooden synagogue was built, with artistic interior decoration, such as on the Torah ark and the bimah, carved from wood. The old tombstones in the cemetery are also from the second half of the 18th century.
The first rabbis, who served in Nowe Miasto in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, were R. Chaim Meir, an in-law of the Admor R. Moshe of Przedborz, his heir R. Yaakov, and R. Yosef Walensztein (in 1828, R. Yosef left the city or passed away). A year later, R. Natan Neisztetler was chosen for the rabbanut in Nowe Miasto and this was approved by the authorities. In 1835, the rabbi's seat in Nowe Miasto was occupied by R. Mordechai Margielewski, a student of R. Symcha Bunem of Przysucha, and sat in it until the 1860s. During his time in office the community was able to retain a dayan [a rabbinical court judge], and in 1833-1846 R. Avraham Michal Cohen served as dayan (from 1846 he was the rabbi of Ujazd). In the late 19th and early 20th centuries rabbis who served in Nowe Miasto were R. Avraham of Parysow and Rabbi Lewinson (who left Nowe Miasto close to World War I). After him in the rabbinical seat was R. Shlomo Zerach Kestenberg, who abandoned his service in Nowe Miasto in 1924. After this the rabbi of Nowe Miasto was R. Gavriel Rabinowicz.
During the period when Hassidism was spreading (in the 19th century), a number of outstanding Hassidim from Nowe Miasto sat as students in the courts of Przysucha, Kotsk, and other courts. Several of them managed branches of their rabbis' courts in shtieblech in Nowe Miasto.
On the eve of the First World War, the first groups of Zionists organized in Nowe Miasto, then a cell of the Bund was established.
Between the two world wars
The changes in the occupational structure of the Jews of Nowe Miasto were almost unrecognizable. To the aforementioned industrial factories owned by Jews, was added the only factory for oil, which employed 10 to 15 Jewish workers and a hand-operated rake. In the commercial field a branch was added for Jews: the purchase of fish from pools in the area and their delivery to large cities. In trades, which provided a living for more than half the residents, the tailors and shoemakers still had the upper hand. Around 15 families earned a living in the inter-war period from home-weaving linen products and rural scarves. In other trades too the Jews were a majority. For example, among the bakeries in the town, there was only one owned by non-Jews. The town's only blacksmith and all the tinsmiths and barbers in the town were Jews. Transportation was entirely in the hand of Jews (carts and porters). At the end of the 1920s, two Jewish entrepreneurs from Nowe Miasto opened a bus line to Warsaw. The cooperative bank supported the industry and commerce of the Jews with loans at low interest rates. A Jewish merchants' association was formed, with its main function being to ease the process of obtaining commercial licenses for its members.
By 1925, branches had been established in Nowe Miasto of most of the political parties that existed in Poland between the two wars: general Zionists (Al Hamishmar), Poalei Zion, Mizrahi, and their youth movements. At the end of the 1930s, the hand of the Working League for Eretz Israel was strengthened, winning the 1939 elections to the Zionist Congress with 63 votes out of the 91 shekels sold [Congress members had to pay dues of one shekel], while the Mizrahi movement and the general Zionists each won 14 votes. In Nowe Miasto, there was also the Revisionist Histadrut [Federation of Nationalist Workers] and Beitar (starting from 1930). Among the Zionist youth organizations -- Hashomer Hatzair, Gordonia, Hehalutz, Hapoel Hamizrahi -- the last-named was the most active. In 1930, they established a hachsharah group [a training group preparatory to making aliyah] in the local sawmill, and included youth from other cities. Agudat Israel, Poalei Agudat Israel, and Bnot Yaakov also operated in the town. In the Bund, which was established before World War I, there were a few dozen members. A Jewish Communist group also operated in the city. Two of them were prohibited in the 1930s. Most of the parties and youth organizations had their own clubhouses, small libraries, and sporting activities.
In managing the community Agudat Israel was in charge, and a member of that body served as chairman for the entire period between the wars. In elections for the management of the community, the Zionist bloc usually won two to three seats, and the Bund for the most part one seat. The remaining seats normally fell to Agudat Israel or Hassidic groups. In the city council, the Jews had eight representatives among 18: three from Agudat Israel, two Zionists, one from the Bund, and two from economic or social lists. Throughout all the terms of the city council, a Jew served as deputy mayor.
Two schools comprised the entire Jewish educational system of Nowe Miasto: the Beit Yaakov girls' school, founded by Agudat Israel, with about 30 students; and the Yavneh school of five classes, founded by Mizrahi in 1920. At this time a drama club was established in the town, and participants were members of the youth organizations. In the absence of suitable halls, performances were held in the municipal firefighters' building.
In the 1930s, the Jews of Nowe Miasto suffered greatly from the increasing anti-Semitism [then prevalent across Poland]. Jewish peddlers were not permitted at all to enter the villages. On market days the Endeks [members of the anti-Semitic Polish Narodowa Demokracja party, known from its abbreviation, ND, as Endecja] placed boycott guards in front of Jewish shops and market stalls. In February 1935, the Endeks organized demonstrations against the Jews and harassment of them, and during these beat and injured many Jews and smashed windows in their apartments and shops. There was also an attempt to turn these riots into pogroms against Jews, but the intervention of the mayor and the police prevented this. In September 1937, the Jews were attacked again: Stalls were overturned and their owners beaten. Again the police intervened, and the local Polish socialist party PPS called for an assembly, where a businessman from Rawa Mazowiecka made a speech in which he condemned the boycott against the Jews and called for a life of cooperation and peace between the Jews and the Poles.
One of the first orders against the Jews of Nowe Miasto, with the conquest of the city by the Nazis, was the compulsory registration of single men (in late 1939 and early 1940). They were ordered to appear in Rawa Mazowiecka. When the men arrived in Rawa, 50 to 60 of them, they were arrested, placed in a [train] carriage, and driven to Lublin. There they were pushed roughly out of the carriage, made to run to the city, and imprisoned in a camp where they spent a number of months. From the camp they were taken out for hard labor, mainly in the surrounding farms.
Punitive taxes were imposed several times on the Jews of Nowe Miasto. One of them, 10,000 zlotys, was accompanied by the arrest of 20 to 30 hostages taken from the town's wealthiest and most respected [families]. The Germans ordered the dismantling of the old synagogue, as they hesitated to burn it for fear of the fire spreading. A Judenrat [Jewish governing council] was chosen, at the head of which was placed Mottel Cylich, formerly the owner of a restaurant. The Judenrat had eight to 10 members. A Jewish police force was also established. One of the first missions of the Judenrat was to organize daily work teams, according to the demands of the authorities. These teams worked mainly at improving the ground in the region and at improving the river channels. Despite the regular quotas for manpower that were supplied every day, the Germans frequently carried out street hunts and put those they caught to work at different jobs.
Information about the creation of the ghetto varies. According to one testimony, the ghetto was established in 1940; the Jews were ordered to relocate to one small street, Targowa Street, in which only Poles had lived until then. According to other information, the ghetto was established in the spring of 1941 outside the city, and was surrounded by a fence. The residents had a curfew of 5 p.m.; the German police would shoot those caught outside their houses after this time.
With an influx of refugees and uprooted Jews from other places, the number of Jews in Nowe Miasto almost tripled; in February 1941, it contained 2,603 souls, among them 1,593 refugees, and in November 1941, it contained 3,700 souls. The refugees who arrived up to February 1941 came in part from cities in the Warsaw district: Mogielnica, Bledow, Piaseczno, Jeziorna, Grojec, Tarczyn; 600 Jews were brought in from Austria. In October 1941, several hundred people arrived from the 1,500 who were expelled from Tomaszow Mazowiecki and were scattered to different places. Between November 1941 and February 1942, the number of Jews in Nowe Miasto fell by 700, possibly because the men were sent to work camps. Afterwards, in August 1942, the number rose again to 3,400 because of the liquidation of the neighboring town of Odrzywol (on August 20, 1942) and the transfer of 400 Jews from there to Nowe Miasto. The large number of refugees increased the crowding in the ghetto. The refugees were housed in improvised wooden huts and suffered hunger and poverty, and their death rate was high.
The local Jews earned a living largely from illegal industry for customers from the surrounding population. Those Jews who owned factories or workshops, which at this time were transferred to the Volksdeutsch [ethnic Germans living in Poland], usually continued to work in those factories, as simple workers. This happened in the Jewish-owned sawmill. The children were sent to a village to buy food, but were shot if they were caught by the German police. In 1940, one bakery owned by Jews was still operating, which was permitted to bake for Jews. From 1941, the Germans did not give the Jews any food rations. There was only one Jewish doctor in the ghetto. When cases of typhus were discovered, the Judenrat set up an isolation room, but eliminating the epidemic was difficult because of the lack of medicines, and because of this the death rate was high, especially among the refugees living in poverty.
The German police frequently visited the ghetto and searched inside apartments. If they discovered food or merchandise, the Jews were beaten and even shot. The situation of the Jews in Nowe Miasto worsened in late 1941 and early 1942. The killings of Jews increased in frequency. At the beginning of 1942, the shochet [the ritual slaughterer] and his wife were shot in their apartment, and on the same day the Germans murdered three other Jews. On Rosh Hashanah 5703 [September 1942], German police broke into the house of one of the Judenrat members, Weitzner, and took him outside the city and shot him. A short time later, the Germans ordered the Judenrat to assemble: Those who arrived, seven or eight people, were tied up and shot. When, despite the curfew, their families came out to the cemetery to bury them (the cemetery being some distance from the ghetto, and only four Jews being permitted to participate in funerals), the German police shot them, and another four or five people fell.
The liquidation of the ghetto did not surprise the Jews of Nowe Miasto. The akcja [from the German aktion, used to describe Nazi liquidation and extermination raids] took place on October 22, 1942. A few Jews managed to find hiding places with Polish acquaintances, in return for large sums of money. On the day of the akcja, the local authorities brought carts in which they transported the Jews (around 3,000) to neighboring Drzewica. The same day or the next, the Jews of Nowe Miasto, along with the Jews of Drzewica, were transported to Opoczno, and there, on October 27, 1942, the liquidation was carried out and the Jews were sent to Treblinka.
In Nowe Miasto, only 20 to 25 Jews remained, for the purpose of cleaning the ghetto and collecting the abandoned property of the Jews. After they finished their work, they were sent to Tomaszow Mazowiecki, to the ghetto that was established there.
Out of the residents of the town at the outbreak of World War II, 55 remained alive; four of them returned to Nowe Miasto, but stayed there for only a short time.
Yad Vashem Archives: E/87-2; M-1/Q 2388/599.
Central Zionist Archives: S.5-1774, S.5-1801.
AP Lodz: Anteriora PRG 821, 2532, 2538, 2577.
Haynt newspaper: Dec. 2, 1930; Sept. 8, 1937; Dec. 20, 1938.
Neier Folksblatt newspaper: Sept. 3, 1937.
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