Translation of Przedecz chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Przedecz chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 1989
Published in Jerusalem, 1989
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume IV, pages 379-380,
published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1989
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
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Wloclawek District, Warsaw Province, Poland
Translated by Leon Zamosc
Przedecz is located on the shores of Lake Przedecz. The settlement is first mentioned in the 12th century, when it was owned by the Archbishop of Gniezno. In the second half of the 14th century, King Kazimierz the Great purchased Przedecz and the surrounding lands from Archbishop Jaroslav Skotnicki. In 1393 a fortress was built and Przedecz became the seat of the Starosta (governor of the area on behalf of the king). Przedecz was in those years a trade and craft center for the agricultural surroundings and a transit station for merchants who moved from south to north and east to west. In 1538 Przedecz was hit by a fire that affected most of its houses. The restoration of the town began in 1548, when King Zygmunt August granted the locals the rights to hold weekly market days and produce and market liquor. In 1612, there were 88 houses in Przedecz. In the mid-17th century, the town was destroyed during the Swedish Wars - only 40 houses were left standing. Przedecz' economic recovery began at the beginning of the 18th century, when King Augustus II granted the locals permission to hold two weekly market days and six annual fairs in the town. In 1808, Przedecz was included in the Duchy of Warsaw and from 1815 until the First World War in the territory of the Congress Kingdom of Poland. During the war, the town was occupied by German army units from 1915 until their retreat in 1918.
We do not have exact information about the beginnings of the Jewish settlement in Przedecz. While the place was owned by the Archbishop of Gniezno, the Jews were forbidden to settle. The first Przedecz Jews probably came at the end of the 14th century, during the reign of King Kazimierz the Great. During the period of the Council of Four Lands (1667--1764), the Przedecz Jews belonged to the Jewish community of Brisk D'Koya (Brześć Kujawski), which was part of the Greater State of Poland (according to the division of the Autonomous Jewish Organization in the Council of Four Lands). At that time, most of the local Jews made a living from commerce and crafts.
In 1774 the total taxes collected in Przedecz amounted to 752 zlotys and 15 groschen. From that, 600 zlotys were paid by the Jews, and half of the total amount had to go into the king's treasure. According to partial data, in 1793 the number of residents in Przedecz was 355 - of which 139 were Jews. Among the Jews were ten tailors, three merchants, three butchers, one jeweler and one baker. By 1857, the number of Jews in Przedecz had doubled as a result of the arrival of families from the surrounding villages. During the 19th century, most of the Przedecz Jews continued to make a living from trade and crafts. As stated, Przedecz was an organized community with a Beit Midrash and a cemetery, but it was not independent.
There are no available details about the rabbis of Przedecz before the 19th century. At the beginning of the 19th century, Przedecz became an independent community that included the Jewish groups living in surrounding localities such as Izbica, Klodawa, and Dabrowice. Regarding the rabbis who then served in Przedecz, we have information about the long tenure of R. Chaim Auerbach during the years 1860-1900. He was followed by R. Moshe Chaim Blum between 1900 and 1905 (he left Przedecz to serve in Zamosc). Next came R. Yehoshua Heshl David Goldschlak, who served in Przedecz from 1905 to 1924 (he then moved to Sierpc). The last rabbi of Przedecz was R. Yosef Alexander Zemelman, who was connected to the Jewish underground resistance and perished in the spring of 1943 during the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The last rabbi of Dabrowice, R. Moshe Drachman, also perished in the Shoah.
During the interwar period the Jews of Przedecz (about 250 households) continued to make a living mainly from petty commerce. Most of the small merchants were active on market days and peddled merchandise in the surrounding villages. Some Jews were grain and poultry traders or leased orchards.
A welfare society, Bikur Holim, was established to take care of the sick among the poorer Jews of Przedecz. The Gemilat Hesed fund, which had been started in 1905 and renewed its activities in 1923, provided small, interest-free loans to petty traders and needy artisans. With the help of the American Joint Committee, a Popular Bank was set up in 1926 providing loans for up to 500 zlotys. The bank was closed in 1936 due to the difficult economic situation that then prevailed in the Jewish community.
Also In those years, the Zionist Organization was established in Przedecz and its influence grew. There were branches of the General Zionists, Mizrahi and the Revisionists. In addition, branches of Tzeirei HaMizrachi (1929), Hashomer Hadati and Betar operated in the town. In 1937, the number of eligible voters for the 20th Zionist Congress reached 70, of whom 67 participated in the election. The results were as follows: List of working Israel 30 votes, Mizrahi 28, and General Zionists 9. Dr. Aaron Brand Urban, one of the activists of the Zionist Organization in Przedecz, emigrated to Palestine, where he worked and taught pediatrics at the hospital Bikur Holim in Jerusalem. Dr. Urban was also active in the Israel Medical Association.
There was also a branch of Agudat Israel in Przedecz. Most of its members were followers of the Gur Hasidim. Rabbi Yosef Alexander Zemelman was one of the active figures in that group.
Jewish boys studied in the traditional heders and the girls in the Beit Yaakov school established by Agudat Israel. Most of the children also attended the municipal school. Several youths from Przedecz and the surrounding towns studied at a yeshiva that operated in the town's Beit Midrash. A public library was opened in Przedecz and next to it was a reading hall that served as a cultural center. One of the activists at the center was the local physician Dr. Abraham Diamant.
During the Second World War
The German army entered Przedecz at the beginning of September 1939. As in other occupied towns, they began to press-gang Jews for forced labor and steal their property. On the night of Shemini Atzeret, the Germans set the synagogue on fire and accused the Jews of doing it. The Germans abused Rabbi Yosef Alexander Zemelman and other dignitaries of the community, which was forced to ransom them. There were youngsters who left their homes and fled east, to the area of Poland that was under Soviet rule. Some of the residents of Przedecz escaped to the Warsaw ghetto.
In 1940, the Germans sent almost half of the Przedecz Jews to forced labor camps in the Poznan area. Most of them perished there from starvation and disease. The remaining Jews were confined in Przedecz ghetto until its liquidation between April 21 and 24, 1942. The Germans crammed the Jews into the local church and left them there without water. Many of them died from lack of air. On April 24, 1942, the last of the Przedecz's Jews were deported to the Chelmno extermination camp.
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