“Krosniewice” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume I
(Krośniewice, Poland)

52°15' / 19°11'

Translation of “Krosniewice” chapter
from Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem

 

Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Leon Zamosc

 

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume I, pages 246-248, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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[Pages 246-248]

Krosniewice
(Kutno District)

Translated by Leon Zamosc

 

Year Total
Population
Jews
1576 (?) 6
1764/65 (?) 79
1793/94 276 96
1808 514 236
1827 430 250
1857 1,206 717
1921 3,509 1,259
Sept. 1, 1939 (?) 1,200-1,300

 

The Jewish community until 1918

Krosniewice was granted city status during the first half of the 15th century. It developed considerably through the rest of that century and the next. In a document from 1568, Krosniewice was mentioned among 33 cities in Poland where Jewish populations already existed. In 1576 a fire caused heavy damage and the Jews were temporarily released from the obligation to pay taxes. It seems that some of the Jews left the town due to the fire, since the figures from that year 1576 indicated that only 6 Jews remained. Following the wars of the middle of the 17th century, Krosniewice was destroyed again, leaving a population of only 200. In the 18th century, there was a small Jewish settlement in the town. In 1765, 18 Jewish families lived there, of whom 13 had their own small houses and 5 rented apartments. Among the Jews of Krosniewice there were then 3 tailors. In 1793, there were 26 artisans in Krosniewice, half of them Jews. Among the Jewish artisans were 10 tailors, 2 butchers and one cloth weaver. Eleven Jews were engaged in trade, of which 5 were shopkeepers in the market, and the other 6 traded in these industries: two in cloth, one in textiles, one in paper, one in hides and one in iron. Two Jews had inns in the town (the other 4 inns were owned by townspeople), one Jew was in charge of the property tax levied on carts passing through the bridge near the town. Among the Jews there were also two paramedics.

In the 19th century, Krosniewice maintained its character as a town of agriculture and handicrafts. It hosted urban markets and fairs, playing the role of small commercial center for the surrounding area. This provided livelihood opportunities for the growing Jewish population. By the end of the 19th century, the wealthy forestry trader Yaakov Engelman stood out among the Jews of Krosniewice. He had businesses in several villages, one of which was named after him: Yankovica.

In the first half of the 19th century, Krosniewice maintained an independent community. A prominent figure among the rabbis of Krosniewice was Shimshon Orenstein, who served as rabbi from 1849 to 1864 and headed the yeshiva (he later served as rabbi of Ozorkov and Kalisz). On Shabbat he used to teach lessons on the Shulhan Aruch and Ein Yaakov. He was widely known as a clever practitioner of Torah law and was often cited in halakhic rulings. His essays and questions-and-answers were published by his grandson in two books: “Nezirot Shimshon” and “Tiferet Shimshon”. After Rabbi Shimshon Orenstein, the rabbinical throne of Krosniewice was occupied for a short time by Avraham Landau, known as the Rebbe of Ciechanow. He was followed by Rabbi Avraham Borenstein, author of the questions-and-answers books “Avnei Nezer” and “Agali Tal”, who served as rabbi of Krosniewice until 1876. In 1877, Rabbi Gershon Engelman, son of Rabbi Aharon of Kolo, was appointed rabbi of Krosniewice. Rabbi Gershon Engelman had previously served as rabbi of Shleshin. When Rabbi Gershon passed away in 1901, his son Shlomo Engelman replaced him as rabbi of Krosniewice and continued to serve until World War II. He died in Krosniewice ghetto in 1941.

In the years 1888-1912 Rabbi Chaim Lerman, son of Rabbi Eliyahu of Wiskitki, lived in Krosniewice. During the second half of the 19th century, Rabbi Avigdor Shmuel, brother of Rabbi Gershon Engelman, also lived in Krosniewice. After his death in 1903, a dispute broke out between Kolo and Krosniewice over the right to bury him. The court of Krosniewice ruled that he should be buried in the local cemetery.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the first groups of the Bund were organized in Krosniewice. After the 1905-1907 revolution they dispersed to avoid persecution and imprisonment by the Czarist authorities. Some Bund members had to flee abroad. During World War I, the town suffered from famine and epidemics. However, despite the difficult situation, the local Jews displayed extensive cultural and social activity, establishing a library and the organization “HaZamir” (Nightingale). At that time, the first Zionist groups also appeared in Krosniewice.

 

Between the two world wars

After World War I, there was a decline in the economic situation of the Jews of Krosniewice. The wealthier Jews (grain merchants, cattle and horse merchants, etc.) lost possessions, while the poorer Jews (tiny merchants, peddlers and most of the artisans) became destitute. During the 1920 war between Poland and the Soviet Union, the Polish authorities arrested several Jewish residents of Krosniewice accusing them of spying for the Bolsheviks and four of them were imprisoned in a camp near Krakow. As they passed through the town, units of General Haller's Polish Army victimized the local Jews (among other things cutting the beards and peyot of the elderly). During this distress, the Jewish community was also devastated by a typhus epidemic.

In the years 1925-1924, the activity of Zionist organizations increased in Krosniewice. There were local branches of almost all the Zionist organizations in Poland at that time. They ran a club, drama classes, libraries, and a brass band. Among the Zionists there was considerable influence of the League of Workers for the Land of Israel, followed by the General Zionists. In the 1939 elections to the Zionist Congress, the League for the Land of Israel won with 28 votes, followed by the General Zionists with 23 and the other parties with only a few votes. The local Bund gained considerable influence. In the 1930s, the Bundists built their party house with a playroom and a library. The young organizer Israel Hoffman stood out among the leaders of the local Bund. Later on, he was active in the Bund organization in Warsaw, where he served in the main council of the Confectionery Workers' Union and during the Holocaust was active in the Warsaw ghetto underground. After the suppression of the ghetto uprising, he was sent to the Poniatow labor camp, where he participated in an attempted armed resistance by a group of Jewish inmates. In the period between the wars, several cells of the Communist Party also operated in Krosniewice. Some of the Jewish activists were arrested, tried, and sent to the Barza Kartusket concentration camp.

 

The Holocaust

In September 1939 the Germans shelled Krosniewice for three days. There were many victims, including Jews. Some locals attacked the Jews, among other things beating Yitzhak Faivish Rivsky, who was highly respected by the Jews of Krosniewice for his scholarship and charitable actions. He died shortly afterwards due to the rioters' injuries. The German army occupied the town on Monday, Rosh Hashana, September 15 1939. German soldiers grabbed Jews in the street and trimmed their beards, so the Jews hid in their homes. The soldiers came to the synagogue, smashed the windows, unfolded the Torah scrolls and desecrated them. The abuses continued: in the following days the Jews were brought to the synagogue and beaten, and seven Jewish dignitaries were taken hostage and held in prison until the community paid a high ransom. Religious Jews were forbidden to grow peyot and wear traditional dress. The Jews were evacuated from the best apartments, drafted for forced work, and all their shops were confiscated. Poles from the area occasionally took part in the looting and destruction of Jewish property. Among other things, the wooden furniture of the Beit Midrash was hewn and burned. The German mayor often visited the Judenrat, which had meanwhile been established, with new demands for goods, money, and forced laborers. The mayor showed sadistic tendencies, personally beating Jews and molesting girls.

The ghetto was established in 1940. It encompassed several streets in the vicinity of Kutnovska Street, a total of 40-35 small houses. There was great overcrowding in the ghetto, especially because Krosniewice's Jewish population increased during the war with the arrival of several hundred deportees or refugees from surrounding areas. In 1940 there were 1,500-1,600 people in the ghetto, with an average of 50-40 crowded in a typical small house. Sanitation conditions were appalling, and water had to be brought from outside the ghetto. Every day, German ghetto policemen took men out of the ghetto, to work mainly on the railway near Lancice. Forced labor applied to all men aged 18 to 60, three days a week (or 20 hours). The Jews of Krosniewice had no source of income and were prevented from buying food on the black market. Hunger was prevalent, even though the isolation of the ghetto from the environment was not absolute.

The ghetto population suffered attacks and robberies almost daily, mostly perpetrated by German soldiers and local ethnic-German policemen, but sometimes also with the participation of the Polish population. In the first half of May 1940 (or 1941) the S.S. raided the town. They beat Jewish laborers in various places, attacked the ghetto residents and robbed apartments. When the Jews complained to the German authorities, the S.S. retaliated: they tortured to death one of the organizers of the complaint, watchmaker Fischel Frankenthal (dragging him around tied to a horse). Then they attacked the ghetto again on a Sabbath. They beat many Jews and imprisoned a group in a building that served as German barracks outside the ghetto, where they were abused and subjected to mock executions.

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah 5702 (September 1941), the Germans sent the first transport of young men from Krosniewice ghetto to forced labor camps near Poznan. They continued to hunt the men until a total of four transports had been sent to the labor camps. When leading one of the groups towards Kutno, the Germans shot dead the son-in-law of the late Rabbi Shlomo Engelman, Rabbi Shmuel Chaim Lifshitz, who was seen by the ghetto people as heir to his father-in-law's position as rabbi. After these deportations, only the sick, the elderly, and women and children remained in the ghetto.

The Jewish ghetto of Krosniewice was liquidated in March 1942, on the day of Esther's Fast. When the Jews were gathered for deportation, the mayor told them that they would be taken to Bessarabia. He ordered them to go back to their homes to prepare and rest for the journey. When a woman asked whether they would be sent to Chelmno, he vehemently denied it. On the same day and into the next, all the remaining Jews of Krosniewice were loaded on trucks and transported to the extermination camp in Chelmno.

After the war, a group of approximately 80 Jewish survivors returned to Krosniewice for a short time. By October 1945, there were only 8 Jews there. Of the buildings of the Jewish institutions before the war, only the synagogue and the mikveh were still standing in Krosniewice.

 


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