“Pilzno” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume III

49°58' 21°18'

Translation of “Pilzno” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem




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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume III, pages 291-293, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

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(Pages 291-293)

Pilzno, Poland

(District of Ropczyce, Region of Krakow)

Translated by Jerrold Landau


It is a town 12 kilometers away from the city of Dębica, but there was had no direct railway link to it. It was mentioned in documents dating from 1105, when it under the ownership of the Benedictine Monastery of Tyniec. In 1354, Pilzno was granted the status of a royal city in accordance with the Magdeburg charter. During the era of the Kingdom of Poland, Pilzno was a district city and the place of residence of the Starosta of the Sandomierz (Tzvizmir) Wojewoda. Pilzno was an important commercial center, since it was on the crossroads of trade routes leading southward to Hungary and eastward to Ruthenia. Several fairs and market days took place there, and in 1461, it obtained the privilege of first rights of storage of merchandise. Pilzno was known during the 15th and 16th centuries for its weaving and manufacturing of copper utensils. Like the other settlements in the region, Pilzno suffered from the invasion of enemies and from natural disasters. The city was destroyed by the Hungarians in 1474, and the Tatars invaded it more than once during the 15th and 16th centuries. The fires that brook out there in the years 1400, 1536, 1595 and 1629 caused great damage. Nevertheless, the city was later reconstructed. However, after the war with the Swedes during the middle of the 17th century and the destruction that came in its wake, Pilzno fell into decline and never returned to its former status. Pilzno was a district city during the era of Austrian rule until 1932. That year, the district was divided between Ropczyce and Jasło.

Several Jewish families lived in Pilzno until 1577. That year, King Stepan Batori granted a privilege to the city, according to which Jews were not allowed to reside there permanently, but were permitted to come to the fairs and to remain their for a specific period of time. Despite this, the ban on Jewish residency did not bring the hoped for benefits to the citizens. The houses abandoned by the Jews remained empty for many years, without purchasers.

In 1627, there were three houses in Pilzno owned by Jews. The owners paid property tax for them, but were not permitted to live in them. Generally, two or three Jewish families were granted special permission to reside permanently in Pilzno. In 1766, 21 Jews over the age of one year (that is, two or three families) lived in Pilzno, under the supervision of the community of Tarnów. After the partition of Poland, during the first decades of Austrian rule in the city, the number of Jews in Pilzno did not grow. This was due to the traditional enmity with which the locals related to them. The Jewish population of Pilzno grew with the ending of the restrictions on Jewish residency in Galicia in 1860. There were already 70 Jewish families there in 1866. A plot of land was purchased and a spacious synagogue was built.

Jews who lived in the villages near Pilzno were also affected during the wave of disturbances by the farmers in 1898. Their property in the inns and stores was pillaged. The Jews of Pilzno itself were not injured, but they remained in fear and tension.

Jewish refugees from Russia passed through Pilzno on their way to the west and overseas during 1905 and 1906. The Jews of Pilzno offered them assistance,

(Pages 292)

despite the fact that those were years of economic recession, and many of the city residents also emigrated. The Russian occupation of Pilzno during 1914-1915 caused a great deal of damage to the Jewish community. Many Jews left the city out of fear of the conquerors, leaving behind their property which was then pillaged. The wooden synagogue was damaged and the silver vessels therein were pillaged. Only the Holy Ark was left. After the retreat of the Russians in May 1915, there were approximately 12,000 refugees in the region of Pilzno who had gathered in various places. An assistance committee for these refugees was set up in the Jewish community of Pilzno. This committee was assisted with money from the Alliance in Vienna. To this end, 12,600 crowns flowed to the Pilzno committee from the Alliance, which itself received money from the American JOINT.

On November 4, 1918, many villagers from the area gathered around the market square and began to pillage the shops of the Jews. Many of the local Jews were beaten by the hooligans. The pogrom and pillaging were stopped only due to the efforts of the local clergy, the militia head Dr. Lewicki, and several local Poles who stood at the side of the Jews. The local riffraff and villagers of the area made another such attempt to perpetrate a pogrom against the Jews of Pilzno in May 1919. Order was restored that time as well, and the damage suffered by the Jews was not great.

We do not know the names of the first rabbis or religious teachers who served in the clergy of Pilzno from the time it became an independent community. The first information we have regarding such comes from the 19th century. In 1882, the signature of Rabbi Betzalel the son of Rabbi Naftali Chaim Horowitz, of the dynasty of Admor of Ropczyce, indicated that he was the rabbi of the city. He also led his community of Hassidim in Pilzno. In 1898, Rabbi David the son of Rabbi Binyamin Singer was appointed as the rabbi of Pilzno. He went into exile in Vienna at the outbreak of the First World War. Later he settled in Kosice (Kashau) where he died in 1922.

Under the influence of Zionists of Tarnów, the first Zionist group was organized in Pilzno under the name of “Yeshurun” already in 1894. In 1895, the Zionist activist Dr. Kornhauser settled in Pilzno. The group grew under his influence and numbered approximately 100 people after some years. The “Yeshurun” group was active until 1914. It was affiliated with the regional Zionist council of Western Galicia in Tarnów. Despite the opposition of the Orthodox, the Zionists succeeded in opening up a library in Pilzno. Their growing influence in Pilzno is shown by the fact that the Zionist gatherings took place in the synagogue for the most part. We should also note the fact that many of the Jewish youth of Pilzno studied in the public schools during that time.

Between The Two World Wars

The Jewish population of Pilzno developed after the First World War. Many Pilzno natives who went into exile at the time of the war did not return to their native city. A branch of the committee for assistance of the Jews of Poland was set up there in 1919. A public kitchen and an organization for the care of orphans and poor children were set up with the help of the JOINT. Approximately 20 children were under its care. The organization was also concerned with the students of the Talmud Torah cheder which was set up in 1921. In 1923, 196 students studied there, and there were six teachers and six classes.

The Gemach fund (charitable fund) assisted the Jewish merchants and tradesmen. It was established in 1927, and had given out 87 loans for a total sum of 14,245 zloty by the end of its second year of existence. The number of loans and total sum continued to grow during later years. In 1938, the Pilzno natives in the United States donated 200 dollars for the needs of this fund. After a portion of the district of Pilzno was annexed to the district of Ropczyce in 1932, the Jewish cooperative bank of Ropczyce took the Jewish merchants of Pilzo under its protection, and they received low interest loans from it.

The communal council was comprised for the most part of representatives who were elected prior to the First World War. In the elections of 1934, four representatives of the Citizen's List (the Zionists and those who joined them in the same bloc) were elected out of the total of nine. One of the supporters of the rabbi was elected as chairman. Rabbi Menashe Horowitz, the son of the aforementioned Rabbi Betzalel, served as the head of the rabbinical court during the years 1922-1936. Rabbi Moshe Singer the son of the aforementioned Rabbi David was chosen as rabbi of Pilzno in 1930. Rabbi Moshe immigrated to the United States in 1939.

During the inter-war period, chapters of the following Zionist organizations were set up in Pilzno: General Zionists, Mizrachi, and Revisionist Zionists. The following youth groups operated there during the 1930s: Akiva, Hanoar Hatzioni, and Gordonia. The voting for the Zionist congress of 1936 among the paid members was as follows: 56 for the General Zionists, 1 for Mizrachi, 23 for the Working Land of Israel List, and 13 for the State Party (Mifleget Hamedina).

The members of Agudas Yisroel in Pilzno were active primarily in the communal council. Their attempt to establish a Beis Yaakov girl's school did not work out well. In the realm of culture and publicity, the activities were mainly centered around the Hashachar club for independent study of Jewish girls (established at the beginning of the 1920s). A drama club was also set up during the 1920s. The income from its performances was dedicated to the library of the Jewish National Fund. In 1930, there were plans to establish a communal hall. Donations were collected, but the plan apparently did not come to fruition.

During the 1930s, the Jewish community of Pilzno struggled with increasing displays of anti-Semitism. During the first sitting of the local council, elected in 1928, several of the Polish delegates abandoned it with the complaint that “there are two many Jews on the council.”

During the meeting for the “anti-Avirit Protection Fund”[1], the harshest anti-Semitic mottoes were heard. The hoodlums began to pluck the peyos and beards of the Jews who were present at the meeting, and they left the meeting. That year, it often happened that the school children would oppress their Jewish counterparts in the classes,

(Pages 293)

forcibly removing their hats from their heads, and threatening them that “Hitler is about to come.”

In 1936, an elderly Jewish couple who worked in agriculture was murdered in a village near Pilzno. It is possible that the murder had a criminal cause, but the situation itself frightened the Jews of Pilzno. In 1935, there were many cases of inscriptions with anti-Semitic mottoes on the walls of the houses of Pilzno. In the finishing school for the working youth, there was an attempt to set up segregated benches for the Jewish students.

During the Second World War.

Information about the Jews of Pilzno during the Holocaust is sparse. There was a Judenrat, to which the Jews of the villages of the area were also subordinate. In the middle of 1940, the Judenrat organized the forced labor of the Jews. Until that time, forced laborers had been snatched by the Germans. The primary job was cutting and loading of trees in the forests, paving roads, and laying of railway tracks. The village Jews were occupied in agricultural work in the large farms of the area.

The Judenrat also concerned itself with the local poor. At first they distributed dry food to them, and after some time they set up a communal kitchen, which was already operating in February 1941. Apparently, the J.S.S. set up a regional branch in Pilzno at the end of 1941. Only toward the end of the existence of the community, on June 1942, was a ghetto set up there. All of the Jews of the nearby villages were also housed there. The total population of the ghetto reached 1,500 people. Twenty-six Jews were murdered during the time of the existence of the ghetto. At the end of June or during the middle of July 1942, the ghetto was liquidated and all of its residents were transported to the Dębica Ghetto. Seventeen Jews were murdered during the liquidation aktion.


Yad Vashem Archives: JM/1832-1834, M-1/E 1699/1567, 021/16, 021/19.
YIVO: 49 d, 49 h.
AMT'Y: HM / 7921, P/3-1163, PL/178
ATZ'M: Z-1/414, Z-3/820, Z-4/234.
AT”E: 123-VII, bin 15.
AJDC Archives: Countries – Poland, Cult. Rel. 344a; Reconstruction 344.
Book of Dembitz, Tel Aviv, 1960, page 144.
“Hamagid”, February 4, 1866, February 14, 1866, November 8, 1894, July 18, 1895, June 23, 1898, July 5, 1900, August 2, 1900, January 9, 1907. “Hamitzpeh” June 17, 1904, February 17, 1905, January 31, 1906.
“Diwrej Akiba”, November 17, 1933, April 3, 1936. “Hanoar Hacijoni” May 15, 1936, January 25, 1938. “Jüdische Rundschau”, November 19, 1918, “Nowy Dziennik” May 8, 1920, March 20, 1922, January 16, 1926, January 28, 1927, October 14, 1928, January 30, 1931, May 28, 1932, March 24, 1933, May 9, 1933, July 6, 1933,February 16, 1934, October 7, 1934, September 1, 1935, March 21, 1936, April 8, 1937. “Tygodnik Żydowski”, May 18, 1929.

Translator's Footnotes

  1. I have been unable to identify this organization. 'Avirit' generally refers to the air or atmosphere, but that does not seem to fit here. Return

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