“Łagów” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume VII
(Poland)

50°47' 21°05'

Translation of “Łagów” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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This originally appeared in the Kielce-Radom SIG Journal, Volume 5, Number 3 (Summer 2001)
and has kindly been donated by Warren Blatt, Editor of this journal.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume VII, pages 267-269, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1999


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Łagów

by Shmuel Levin and Rachel Grossbaum-Pasternak

Translated from the Hebrew by Seymour Baltman

Edited by Jerry Tepperman

In Yiddish: (Lagev)
(Opatów district, Kielce province)

Population Figures

YearTotal
Population
Jews
1662171-
18271,32760
18571,304142
19212,5271,269
1939-~1,400

Łagów is first mentioned in records from the 11th century as a property owned by the Catholic Church. In the vicinity of the town, a particular form of clay was found that was well suited for the manufacture of porcelain wares.

Łagów was recognized as a minor city in 1253. (It appears that it got lower status rights because the number of inhabitants had not, at that time, reached 486 persons). In 1453, the King of Poland, Kazimierz IV Jagiellon [1427-1492], raised the administrative rank of Łagów and changed it to a full city according to the Magdeburg Law. As such, it was allowed to hold two annual fairs every year. In 1504, the boundaries of Łagów were expanded to include parts of the forest adjacent to it, including the land that had been utilized for the production of clay for the porcelain industry. During this period, Łagów enjoyed strong economic improvement, and a factory was built for the production of glassware.

In 1578, iron ore and lead were discovered in the vicinity and factories were built there which manufactured iron utensils. At that time, there were 47 tradesmen in the city, including four liquor distillers. When the Swedes invaded Poland, in the middle of the 17th century, the combatants passed by Łagów without incident and the city was able to continue its growth and expansion uninterrupted. However, by the end of the 17th century, the city was devastated by a fatal epidemic, which wiped out all but 171 residents. At the beginning of the 18th century, a city revival of sorts began, and once again a few factories were established for the production of porcelain wares. By 1739, the number of annual fairs increased to 10 per year, and many people were attracted to those events from far and wide. At that point, a large inn was built. After the Polish insurrection in 1863, in which many of the citizens of Łagów participated, the Russian authorities closed several factories in the city and the city's standing with the regional governments declined. There remained only a few small factories for the production of fire-resistant porcelain wares. In the year 1869 Łagów's city status was taken away, and even as a part of the independent Republic of Poland after World War I, it remained a provincial industrial town, without official city status.

Until the end of the 19th century, we have no evidence of the existence of an organized Jewish community in Łagów. In 1827, no more than 60 Jews resided there, but from that point their numbers grew continuously – in 1852 the Jewish community numbered 142 people; and by 1921 the population grew to 1,269 people. The Jews of Łagów, as did their brethren in other Polish cities, earned their living from commerce and trades and from participating in the market days and the fairs. They earned their livelihood with difficulty and hard work. In 1903, the newspaper Izraelita published an article on the poverty and difficult existence of the Jews in Łagów, and described the absence of needed help from outside sources. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Jews of Łagów became organized into a community and built a small synagogue. In 1908, a community leadership committee was chosen and they appointed Rabbi Tzvi Dov Rozen, who served as Rabbi in Łagów until 1924. His successor, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Shwartz (died 1937), was the second and also the last Rabbi of Łagów. After him, no other Rabbi was appointed to take on those rabbinic responsibilities.

During the First World War, many of the sources of livelihood for the Jews had disappeared, and many residents were compelled to rely on the regular assistance from the general community fund for the poor. In 1915, a community kitchen was opened in Łagów to feed the large numbers of poor people.

In 1919, at the end of the war, the armies of General [Józef] Haller of the Polish forces passed through Łagów, took advantage of their position to pillage the stores of the Jewish community, and to cut the beards and brutalize passing Jews, thereby causing them intense suffering. Also, in 1922, when a large fire erupted in the town, the Jews were used as a scapegoat and were accused of setting fire to the settlement. The police opened an investigation and concluded that the Jews were innocent of the crime.

In addition, in the later part of that decade, particularly in the days of the economic crisis of the 30's in Poland, a crisis whose effects were also severely felt in Łagów, the Jews suffered more intensely than others in the competition for the ever-shrinking sources of income. There were Jews who left the town, some to bigger cities within Poland, and others to locations outside the country.

However, despite the economic distress and emigration from Łagów, this period in Łagów's history was characterized by an increase in community and political activity. Specifically, the assorted Zionist parties flourished, along with their respective youth movements. There were also those in Łagów who were followers of “Agudath Israel”.

In the period between the two World Wars Łagów contained a synagogue, a few prayer houses, shtibelech of Gur and Alexander Chassidism, and a minyan of trades people. The Jewish community in Łagów had no cemetery of its own[1] and the dead were generally taken to nearby communities for burial (principally to Opatów).

 

During the Second World War

Łagów was conquered by the Germans during the first week of the war [September 1939]. During the fighting in the area, many houses were destroyed. In anticipation of the arrival of the Germans, a group of young Jews escaped to Eastern Poland, which was under Russian occupation. Immediately after their arrival, the Germans began conscripting Jews into forced labor. At the end of 1939, a Judenrat [Jewish council] was established in Łagów and with their help, all of the Jews of the city were taken out of their houses and moved into inferior accommodations in the market area of the town. At first, they continued to be able to leave their homes as before, but in March 1942 the area was closed off and it became a ghetto.

The Germans were not successful in extorting large financial contributions from the Jews of Łagów, because most were miserably poor. Even threats did not help. Even so, the Germans killed hostages, conducted searches in Jewish homes, and looted their insignificant property, but they were unable to find any money. Many young Jews were sent to work camps.

In March 1941, one hundred refugees from Vienna were brought to Łagów, and then in July 1941, another large group of refugees arrived from Radom, barefoot, starving and sick without anything they could call their own. They were housed in the study house, and in the small synagogue of Łagów. As a result of the congestion and poor sanitary conditions, an epidemic of typhus broke out that killed a significant portion of the town's residents.

As mentioned earlier, in March 1942, the streets of the Jews were fenced with barbed wire and a small gate was built, in order to enclose the ghetto. It was forbidden to leave the ghetto, and anyone who dared to contravene this prohibition was liable to punishment by death. In the spring of 1942, a new wave of evictions of Jews from ghetto to ghetto began in the district of Radom. At that time, there was a reduction in the number of food cards that were distributed to the Jewish workers in the ghetto by about one-sixth, and the famine in the ghetto became more intense.

In July 1942, according to a list that was prepared in advance, the Germans removed 460 young men from the Łagów ghetto to an unknown destination. The Germans claimed that they were sent to a secure place and that they were working there on behalf of the German war effort, but no indication of life was ever received from any of them.

In August 1942, a rumor spread in the ghetto that the Germans were expelling Jews from ghettoes in the area to extermination camps. Many began to find for themselves an assorted variety of hiding places. Some turned to farmers in the area to beg for help, but only a few farmers were ready to endanger themselves to assist Jews. In addition, on December 15, 1942, the German head of the Radom district published an order and announced that anyone who gave assistance to Jews would be sentenced to death. Despite that threat, there were Polish individuals who dared to hide Jews and also shared their bread with them. One, Ignacy Bazurski, who used to bring food to many Jewish families from Łagów and even tried to find places for them to hide, was given up to the Gestapo by a Polish accomplice, and was tortured to death in a German prison.

On October 27, 1942[2], S.S. personnel arrived in Łagów and with them, Ukrainian and Polish police. They broke into the houses and took out all the Jews to the yard beside the Judenrat building. The sick and old were shot in their beds. Many children were shot to death. In the yard in front of the Judenrat building, the Jews were lined up in rows according to their families and from there moved toward the train station. Even on the way to the train station many Jews were shot. Those who survived, about 2,000 in number, were put into wagons soaked with chlorine and were transported to Kielce (q.v.). After a brief stop there, all of them were sent to Treblinka. During this general expulsion from Łagów, the Germans permitted some tens of Jews to remain. Those Jews were put to work to collect and sort the property that the expelled residents had left behind, to bury the murdered victims and clean the ghetto. After some time they too were sent to the extermination camp.

 

Sources:

  • Izraelita, May 5,1903. [See below]
  • Zbrodnie na Palakach dokonane przez hitlerowców za pomoc udzielaną Żydom, Główna Komisja Badania Zbrodni Hitlerowskich w Polsce (Warszawa, 1981), p. 24
  • From Izraelita, a weekly Jewish newspaper published in Polish in Warsaw, 1866-1913.
    Nr. 23, May 30 (June 12) 1903, pages 272-273.


    “Izraelita” Correspondence

    From Łagów in Radom Guberniya the following correspondence has arrived amongst the others:

    In our locality, as in many neighboring shtetls, where mostly very poor Jews reside, such a degree of extreme poverty and depression governs, that even the oldest people do not remember such horrible times. The life of Łagów's Jews and of the Jews in the other shtetls is a wretched daily existence.

    Probably the only help for those paupers – who with horrible efforts are managing to earn a small piece of bread, barely sufficient to avoid death from starvation – is to become engaged in agricultural work or to move somewhere else.

    But even those efforts can not be accomplished without outside assistance, since the residents of Łagów and the similar backward communities can only complain about their situation and suffer with all humility, but they cannot fight, due to the lack of initiative and money. But those outsiders that can take initiative and possess money would not even think about the Yidlakh of Łagów.

    For example, if they would at least peep at the shtetls in the deep provinces where the Jewish proletariat is dying from hunger all their life – they could, after all, do so much good. The young generation of those poor beggars is healthy material after all, and from them, in appropriate circumstances, one could develop competent people.

    People from Łagów need assistance to resettle and to begin a new life: to educate them, to open their eyes for their daily wretched existence – this is a goal of all Jewish associations, charities and circles, since they do not identify those goals themselves.

    Translated from the Polish by Alexander Sharon


    Translator's Footnotes

    1. This contradicts other reports, including the U.S. Preservation Commission; Przemysław Burchard; Jerome Hershman's visit. See pp. 19, 21, 23. - WB. Return
    2. All other sources give the deportation date as October 7, 1942, e.g. Yitzhak Arad, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (1987), page 395, Table 3; also A. Rutkowski, in BŻIH, 1955 #15, page 164. - WB. Return


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