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Translation of "Konskie (Kinsk)" chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of "Konskie (Kinsk)" chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
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Our appreciation to Sandy Zimmerman, who allowed us to publish
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume I, pages 240-243, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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|September 1, 1939
|The Jewish Community Until 1918
|Between The Two World Wars
Konskie Synagogue (picture from the 1930s)
The first references to the Jewish community of Konskie come from the 16th century. In 1588, Konskie's Jews received rights from the king that permitted them to trade with no limitations in foodstuffs in the cities and villages; these rights were confirmed by the king's successor in 1635. The community grew to one of the largest in the entire area from the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries. This growth had its source in the development of industry in Konskie itself as well as in the surrounding estates of the city's nobleman. Local industry produced metal items and from the middle of the 19th century a number of carriages (up to 400 a year). Konskie's Jews sold these products in local markets and fairs and also in the larger fairs in other places, e.g. in the distant city of Lowicz. Commerce was the Jews' main source of livelihood. Nearly all local commerce was in their hands: 5 wholesale metal warehouses; 8 cloth stores; 4 delicacy shops; 4 wine and spice shops; 16 taverns and restaurants and 82 grocery stores. There were some Jewish wholesalers who bought the region's crop and transported it afterwards to Piotrkow Trybunalski and Warsaw [Warszawa]. Of the 120-recorded artisans at this time in Konskie, the Jews were represented chiefly in their traditional occupations. In 1863, the town had 13 Jewish tailors, 3 hatmakers, 24 shoemakers and 11 carpenters. There were also one or two butchers and bakers in Konskie. Transporting goods was an important area where Jews made their living. It supported a few dozen families who delivered packages and were teamsters and porters. The porters even organized into groups to work together as units at the railroad station. A unique source of income for suppliers, merchants and especially itinerant Jewish peddlers were the army maneuvers that took place annually in the area. At the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, Jews were among the organizers of industrial production in Konskie. Jews owned two very large factories producing iron goods Hochberg and Kronenblum, as well as the sawmill and flourmill. These factories did not employ Jews, but in the smaller workshops, such as some brass foundries, a few Jews, sometimes as many as fifteen, worked.
By the second half of the 18th century, the Konskie community had its own cemetery, Hevra Kadisha and other communal institutions. Attesting to the community's growth at this time is the contemporary synagogue building. It is one of the most important examples of wooden synagogues that the Jews built in Poland. In 1905, it was refurbished and some parts built of stone were added, such as a wall that separated the women's section and an addition on the ground floor.
The first rabbi known by name who served in Konskie in the 1820s (his name is recorded in 1827) was R. Yekutiel, a disciple of the Seer of Lublin [Ya'akov Yitzhak of Lublin, d. 1815]. Following him were R. Mendel (about 1829) and R. Joshua of Kinsk [Konskie]. For a short time in the second half of the 19th century, R. Moses Yehiel Halevi Stashevski was rabbi. A distinguished figure of the circle of rabbis and Admorim [heads of Hasidic dynasties] was R. Pinhas Rabinowitz, the great-grandson of the Jew from Przysucha [Ya'akov Yitzhak, the 'Yehudi,' d. 1814]. His presence brought a multitude of both local and visiting Hasidim and he forecast the possibility of the coming of the Messiah at any moment. After his death in 1901, his sons carried on the tradition of the dynasty, and one of them, R. Nathan David, headed the court in Konskie. Close to 1896, R. Yoav Joshua Weingarten, one of the greatest authorities in Jewish law [Halakha] assumed the rabbinate. Previously, he served in Lutomiersk and Gostynin. His decisions in Jewish law are gathered in the work Helkat Yoav on the four parts of the Shulhan Arukh. R. Yoav Joshua died in 1922.
The first Zionist groups in Konskie organized at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century. They carried out their educational and cultural activities in the framework of the Tarbut library that was founded at that time. A cell of the Bund was organized around the years 1905/1906, and its members were involved in revolutionary activity in the city such as strikes and demonstrations. During World War I, the Bund established a public [soup] kitchen and a cultural center with a library and drama club. It had its own auditorium, the only one in Konskie, where lectures and performances were held.
Very active socio-economic organizations were founded in Konskie between the wars. These included those of the merchants, the small retailers, and the artisans, who established a free loan association. Four Jewish banks granted credit to merchants and artisans the Co-operative Bank, the Mercantile Bank, the Co-operative Credit Bank and the Credit Bank, which was individually owned. All came into being between 1920 and 1922. The Jewish tailors, shoemakers, butchers and self-employed workshop operators each conducted their own traditional self-help organizations as well as their own minyan. In contrast, hired employees in the factories and workshops joined the general specialized workers groups in Konskie that included both Jews and non-Jews. The overwhelming influences in the general workers' groups were the Polish Socialist party, PPS, the Bund and a group of communists, which included Jews.
All the Zionist political parties found in Poland had branches in Konskie in the inter-war period. The youth groups affiliated with the parties and pioneer training groups were also established. Most were affiliated with leftist Zionist parties and they were followed in number by the General Zionists (the Al Hamishmar group). Three hundred thirty people participated in the 1939 elections to the Zionist Congress. Their votes were as follows 178 for the League for Working Eretz Yisrael, 110 for the General Zionists (Al Hamishmar) and 42 for Mizrahi. The Revisionists and their youth movement Betar were organized in Konskie in 1931. The Bund had a great deal of influence in Konskie and it operated mostly in the framework of the general professional organizations and in the city council. In these two areas, it co-operated with the local branch of the PSS [Polish Socialist Party]. Agudath Israel in Konskie was organized with the end of World War I and worked in the community in the field of education. Besides the base of Agudath Israel, the Gerer Hasidim, Konskie also had Alexander, Radomsk and other Hasidic groups.
Until the 1930s, the Zionists dominated the community and the chairman, Hochberg, the representative of the General Zionists, was always elected from their ranks. From 1931 control of the community passed to Agudath Israel. In the city council, most of the Jewish places were in the hands of the Bund. In 1936, the Bund secured 5 of the 6 seats that the Jews won with Poalei Zion gaining only one.
Beginning in 1922, the son of R. Yoav Joshua, R. Meir Weingarten served as the rabbi of Konskie. He was the last rabbi of the city and perished during the Nazi conquest. R. Ch. Rabinowitz, scion of the dynasty of R. Pinhas, also perished during the years of the occupation. Between the wars, R. Perel, a descendant of the Admor of Radoszyce, settled in Konskie and conducted his court. It attracted mostly plain down-to-earth people.
During this time, several Jewish schools were started in Konskie. The community founded a Talmud Torah. In 1920, Agudath Israel established a Yesodei Torah Heder and a Beth Jacob school for girls. Beginning in the 20s, under the sponsorship of the Zionists, a Tarbut School and Hebrew speaking kindergarten functioned. However, most of the Jewish children attended the government run school that had 7 grade levels (the Shabasovka). A Yeshivah was set up in 1928, with some one hundred students including some from other cities. The two libraries already mentioned, Tarbut of the Zionists, and the Peretz library of the Bund, were the largest in Konskie at this time. In addition, the political parties and youth movements maintained smaller libraries. In the factory of Mintz, for a period of time there was a Jewish orchestra. For a long period there were Jewish sports organizations in the city: Haminatzeah, Maccabi (under Zionist sponsorship) and Shtern (under Bund sponsorship).
As early as the end of World War I, anti-Semitism began to affect the lives of the Jews. In 1919, they suffered from violent attacks by the soldiers of General Haller. Under the guise of searching for weapons, Jewish houses were rummaged, including the Beit Midrash. During these searches, merchandize and items of value were confiscated and some Jews were beaten. In Konskie during the 1930s, the boycott activities against the Jews continued and guards were posted to prevent people from entering Jewish owned stores. There were also attempts to arouse more vehement demonstrations. Two leaders of the Andaks knocked down a roadside crucifix in March 1936 and accused the Jews of this desecration. The police prevented violent reactions. In July 1937 during the time of fairs in the nearby villages Niedziela and Lopuszno, members of the Andak's boxing club attacked Jewish peddlers and merchants at the fairs, overturning their carts, beating them and expelling them. In this instance, too, the police stopped the rioting. In September of the same year, windows in some Jewish homes were smashed, among them was the residence of the Admor of Radoszyce. One Jewish woman was also injured in this attack.
The makeup of the Judenrat established by order of the authorities changed as time went on. The chairman throughout was Joseph Rosen, a city official before the war. Only the names of two other members who served are known Alter Stark and Yehezkel Gottlieb. A 30-man Jewish police force was also set up.
Information about the setting up of the Konskie Ghetto differs. It is almost certain that it was established by the gradual relocation of Jews over a long period of time. In any event, by the spring of 1940, it contained all of Konskie's Jews. It had two separate parts one in the area of Nowy Swiat Street and the other in the center of town in the area of Zydowska Street. The names of some of the streets incorporated in the Ghetto are Jatkowa, Maja 3-ego, Pocztowa, Krakowska, Joselewicz and Rynek. The two parts of the Ghetto remained open and this was not because it was not walled in. Polish landlords were permitted to remain in the Ghetto occupying their own homes. Under these conditions, contact with the Polish population, leaving the Ghetto illegally and purchasing food on the 'Aryan' side were not all that difficult. Only from time to time, were Jews who left the Ghetto without permits arrested. According to witnesses, the Ghetto was closed in the spring of 1941, but the signs of this closure are not known. From then, contact between the two parts was limited to specified hours under the scrutiny of the Jewish police. Even so, contact with Aryans was not difficult as Poles still lived in the Ghetto. Even imposing the death penalty for leaving the Ghetto illegally (an order by the head of the Konskie District dated December 12, 1941) did not have any practical affect on increasing their isolation or lowering their living conditions, as the punishment was not implemented. Through bribes, the German police released Jews who were caught outside the Ghetto without permits or their armbands.
The Ghetto was terribly overcrowded. Its limited area held nearly 7,500 people, of whom 2,000 were refugees or who fled from Lodz, Plock, Warsaw and vicinity as well as from other places. People from Lodz arrived between 1939 and 1940, and 1,200 people from Plock came in February 1941. The Jews of Konskie did not look favorably upon the refugees who drastically increased the crowding in housing, caused food prices to rise and added to the economic impoverishment. The Judenrat operated a public kitchen for the indigent. There are reports on the existence of an orphanage or shelter in the Ghetto that had 250 residents and where one meal a day was served. Some Jews survived by selling the remnants of their possessions, others through smuggling. Workshop owners did illegal work for their Aryan customers and also for the German authorities that were dependent on skilled Jewish experts such as bakers, shoemakers and plumbers. A segment of the Jewish population worked in the city's industrial complexes, especially in smelting iron ore. In June 1942, they provided employment for 420 Jewish expert workers. Jews also worked in agriculture in the area farms and estates that had been passed to German hands. In the largest of these, which belonged to the German Feitung, 200 young Jews worked. Every day the Jewish workers of the above places were brought in groups under guard to their plants or farms.
The Jews were tormented by round-ups for forced labor to be done in the city and its vicinity. In one of them, all the young people were required to report and most were sent to the forced labor camp at Hrubieszow. Little by little, most of those sent there returned either illegally or by request of German institutions in Konskie. The German authorities also harassed the Jews by frequently breaking into their homes to steal their possessions.
The relocation of the region's Jews to Konskie in the spring and summer of 1942 served as the beginning of the liquidation of Jewish settlement in the area. With this concentration, the number of Ghetto residents went from 7,250 in June 1942 to 9,000 in October/November 1942. Even during its actual liquidation, Jews were being brought to Konskie's Ghetto from the surrounding areas, from Radoszyce, Gowarczow and other locations.
The liquidation of Konskie's Ghetto began in November 1942, but there is contradictory evidence on its various stages. An assumption is that in November there were two expulsion Aktzias, close to one another (November 3-4, 1942 and November 7-9, 1942). During them, the vast majority of the area's residents were sent to Treblinka. During these Aktzias, a few dozen Jews were killed on the spot. There is more detailed information on the second Aktzia. At night, German, Polish and Ukrainian police surrounded the Ghetto and in the morning farmers' wagons were gathered next to it. The Jews were assembled in the marketplace and commanded to leave all their baggage there. Everything was taken, some on wagons and some by foot, under guard to Szydlowiec that was already cleared of Jews Judenrein. A group of young people who worked at the Feitung farm and those who managed to hide in the Ghetto or on the Aryan side remained in Konskie. In Szydlowiec, where Jews from other places were also brought, the deportees were housed in the ruins and empty buildings of the tannery. Conditions were terrible cold, complete starvation and the typhus plague broke out immediately. The ruins were surrounded by a heavy German guard and only a few Jews managed to escape. They were helped by Poles they knew who followed them to Szydlowiec. After a few days, the Jews were sent to Treblinka. The few Konskie Jews who managed to escape and returned, joined the group of Feitung workers. After the second Aktzia, the Ghetto of Konskie was officially liquidated. The Feitung workers were concentrated at the farm. Over the next few weeks, the Germans brought Jews in hiding that were caught to that farm or they killed them. Some Jews in hiding on their own joined the legal workers and so there were a few hundred people gathered at the farm, jammed 50 people to a room. In this way, a sort of Jewish work camp came into being. They were sent not only to do agricultural work but also to destroy the cemetery, load and unload freight at the railroad station and other similar kinds of work. As time went on, a portion of the Jews was brought to the city and housed in one of the large blocs. They were also joined by a number of 'illegal' Jews. Shortly thereafter, (probably November 24, 1942) a 'Selection' was carried out among these Jews. It seems that it was done by Jewish police. On official orders, 70 young and strong men were chosen and sent to the Hassag camp in Skarzysko Kamienna. After this 'shipment,' about 700 Jews remained in the bloc.
The third and final Aktzia took place January 6-7, 1943. All the Feitung workers were first brought to the bloc and at night German police surrounded them. In the morning, they were all transported to Szydlowiec, where an official 'return' Ghetto was set up. Its purpose was to lure area Jews in hiding to leave their refuges. On January 13, 1943, with the liquidation of the Szydlowiec Ghetto, all the Konskie Jews including another 5,000 assembled there were sent to Treblinka. The police continued to pursue Jews hiding in the old Ghetto of Konskie and on the Aryan side. Those found were either shot on the spot or were sent group by group to the 'return' Ghetto in Szydlowiec as long as it was in existence. Many of the Poles in Konskie sheltered Jews and provided needed help; in this way a substantial number were saved. Special mention must be made of Henrik Stanislawski and his family. A number of young Jews who escaped the Aktzias, fled to the forests and attempted to join the Polish Partisans, were murdered by them. Among them were Shmuel Zweig, Neta Zisman and Hirsch Wroblevski. The shoemaker Hirsch Wroblevski helped the Jews of Konskie extensively during the occupation. Through his work for the German authorities, he succeeded in freeing Jewish prisoners and arranging many other important matters.
Of the Jews living in Konskie at the beginning of the war, some 200 spent the time hidden by Poles or escaped with the help of Aryan documents (mostly women and children). Another small group, up to 15 in number, survived the Nazi camps and between 60 to 70 returned from the Soviet Union. Some men arrived in Eretz Yisrael with General Anders' army. After the war, a few Jewish families lived for a short time in Konskie.
Central Zionist Archives S.5 - 1773
Yad Vashem Archives E/87-2; M-1/E 812/681; 03/1659, 03/2883, 03/3154
NewspapersDas Yidishe Tagblatt September 1, 1938
Di Zeit 1931, numbers 42, 43 and 45
Haint February 14, 1918; May 5, 1939
Nayeh Folksblatt March 6, 1936
Nasz Przeglad July 14, 1937; September 3, 1937
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