|Bashta A castle from the 14th century|
|A Hebrew inscription on the Collegiate (church) wall, built in 1449 and was renovated in 1560. The first line is: You are indeed a hiding God…|
Translated by Y. A. Horowitz
Pultusk through the Ages
The history of Pultusk is as long as that of the Kingdom of Poland. The first reports of the reign of King Miszko were given to us by the Jewish traveler Abraham ben Jacob. A historical fact is that already in 966 a fortress was built for the purpose of stationing soldiers (Kastelnia in Polish). The site was chosen due to the strategic importance of the town, which is located on the right shore of the Narb river, where it divides into two channels, one crossing the city and the other surrounding it. The place was first mentioned in the privilege document of Conrad 1 Prince of Mazowshe from 1227. The city was known as Poltowska and official documents in Latin used the name Poltuwia.
The settlement was granted, as an exclusive possession, to the Plotzk bishops. To date, no reason or date is known for this gift; however, it determined the nature and essence of the town for generations. As Pultusk was selected as the center of their administration, the bishops added to their titles the dignified title Princes of the Pultusk region,Princeps territorii Pultoviensis and then Dukes of Poltowa. In the city, as in all other places belonging to the church, Jews were forbidden to settle or even stay temporarily.
As one of the most beautiful places in the Mazowshe region it drew the attention of the enemies of Poland and suffered greatly from attacks, looting and robbery by neighboring nations: Lithuanians, Russians and Jedzwingans; in 1337 the Lithuanians turned the city into ashes and rubble.
The Bishop Clemens Fizchale rebuilt the city and in order to encourage its development he granted it in 1339 the rights derived from the Chelmno lawPrawo Chelminskie. Its prosperity continued from the 14th century thanks to the heads of the Catholic clergy. By setting up luxury buildings and palaces they aimed to demonstrate their secular power. During all this period the city developed without experiencing revolutions and war storms. Most of its ancient buildings were established during this period, some of them adorn the city to this day. Governors and kings gave the city various rights and the princes Mamzowshe, Zimobit, Kazimierz and Wladyslaw liberated the town dwellers in 1432 from the obligation of taxes. King Sigmund gave permission to surround the city with a wall because of its special topographical situation.
In the Polish War with Sweden between King Jan Kasimir and the Swedish Carl Gustav, the latter captured Pultusk in 1656 and the armies caused it great destruction. The fires that struck the city frequently, as well as epidemics and floods caused the decline and impoverishment of its inhabitants. In the second war with the Swedes in 1703 Pultusk conducted a bloody battle against the King of Sweden Carl VIII and the Sassi armies under the command of General Steinau, who were dealt a crushing defeat. In 1806, its immediate surroundings served as the scene of battles between the armies of Napoleon and the Russian troops. On the Arc de Triomphe erected by Bonaparte in Paris the name of Pultusk is engraved among the names of battles and battle fields that he succeeded in. Despite the destruction that it suffered over many generations, the city is still considered one of the most beautiful cities in Poland and has preserved some of its beautiful old buildings.
Pultusk served at various times as an important cultural center. In the Collegiata (a church where the elder clergy gathered) one of the teachers was the priest Wujek, who translated the Bible from Latin (Vulgata) into Polish. Another teacher was the famous Polish preacher, literary stylist and Jew hater Pyotr Skargah. In this Collegiata there is until today a plaque with engraved verses in Hebrew. In a school that gained fame far away from the city limits some famous personalities whose names were revered in Poland and abroad studied, and graduates of the school were the Chancellor of Poland Jerzy Osolinski (15951650), famous at the time in European capitals for his bold political plans, and the writer Victor Gomolitzki.
Beginnings of Jewish settlement in the city
As mentioned above, it was forbidden for the Jews to live in the city, but as in other places of this kind they circumvented the ban by settling in places and rural areas around Pultusk, that were privately owned and were not part of its Jurisdiction.
In court books and legal documents of the land of Mazowshe from the 15th century we find a report of a Jewish settlement in Pultusk already in the year 1480. A legal document of 1483 1486 mentions the name of the Jew of Pultusk Rubin (Reuven). In his book on the history of the Jews of Warsaw Dr. Jacob Shatsky mentions Pultusk as one of the cities where Jews who were expelled from Warsaw in 1483 relocated. Dr. Isaac Schiper too, includes the City's Community when estimating the size of the Jewish population in Poland in the 14th and 15th centuries. It is clear beyond any doubt that the Jews could not settle in thiskingdom of bishops and it is reasonable to assume that they would come into town from thoseJurisdictions and would stay only during the hours of the day for business purposes. A confirmation of this situation we find later, in a handwritten manuscript from 1786, which states among other things:The city has not one Jew nor does it tolerate (them M. R). Jews do not have any kind of settlement permission (Incolatum ullum), i.e. citizenship, not even the slightest place, to the extent that, even if a certain Jew came to town on business he could not stay there overnight, but would have to go to another village or city. However, the Jews who found their livelihood in the city and would leave it before the evening of that day, called their settlements beyond the walls of the city Pultusk Community. The noble Bishops, the Christian clergy at all stages of the Catholic hierarchy, the Polish aristocracy and even the townspeople, being in need of a dealer, a lender on interest or a Jewish broker, fulfilled their duty of maintaining the sanctity of their capital by prohibiting the crucifiers of the messiah from settling in town. But in fact the Jew belonged to the urban landscape of Pultusk. Indeed, the surge of blood libels that swept the cities of Poland in the late 16th century affected also Pultusk. In the year 1597 Peter Skarga, Commissar on behalf of the king testified against a number of Jews from the city accusing them of buying holy bread from the church robber and defiling it. According to Skargah's instructions the miserable Jews were tortured, then they admitted to the crimes they did not commit and were burned to death. And as a curiosity, one hundred twentyfive years earlier, on the 9th of September 1471, the Pultusk citizen Stanislav Gaudek was sentenced for heresy of the religion of Jesus and for converting to Judaism. However, as rightly indicated by I. Trunk this was perhaps referring to theCazech Brotherhood reform movement, which at that time spread in Mazobwshe.
According to the historical data collected by Pavel Wizhbitzki, the town clerk in 1884, in his review of the history of the city, the Jewsinfiltrated the city in 1794 with the partition of Poland, but were driven out by the decision of the Bialistok Bureau (Kamera Bialistocka the government office for supervising state assets). These attempts of infiltration were made by Jews residing in villages near Pultusk, from Popowa, a village about 18 kilometers from the city, and from the village Poplawii, that most of its land was the property of Natan Neta Nutkewitz, who was related the Porozcnik (Lieutenant) Hermann Nutkewitz who distinguished himself in the wars of Napoleon, whilst serving in the legions of Dombrowski.
Migration to the city and its development after the settlement prohibition was abolished
With the French army's entry into Poland, the Jews settled unimpeded in the city as of 1806 and already in 1815 received permission to establish a synagogue. This house of prayer, which was expanded and renovated in 5624 (1864) burned down on 21 July 1875 and the same year was rebuilt.
According to an article published inHamelitz in 5655 (1895), No. 71 by Jacob Maharshak (presented to us by Mr. Moshe Zinnowitz), the first settlerwith a license of the bishop who did not excel in his hatred to Jews was the SHUV [ritual slaughterer and examiner] Rabbi Asher Anshel son of R. Aryeh Friedman.
As a result of this, a number of craftsmen: tailors, shoemakers and the like who were useful to the bishop and his priests, were allowed to settle and maintain a foothold in thisholy city. And although the congregation was small and its embers was very few, they were still granted a license to establish a House of Prayer for the worship of God. In 1815 a cemetery was also built on some of the lands of Zalman Lobranitzer (a new resident from the town of Lobranitz close to Wlotzlowek, described in a document as follows:one of the leaders of those who came, Rabbi Zalman Lobranitzer (named after his village of residence) who was the owner of an estate, a plot of land was designated for a graveyard for the Jews. (For the full article, see appendix). Until then, the dead were taken to the town of Makowa or to the village of Popova, which was thena place of residence for Jews and all the needs of the community were there, synagogue and bet Midrash, Mikvah and cemetery and so forth. In 1882 the cemetery was expanded by the acquisition of 2252 cubits of agricultural land in (about 1.5 hectares) and in 1885 the central government in Lomza agreed to cover part of the costs of its fencing 1781 rubles and 731 Kopeks. Since the settlement was permitted the Jewish settlement evolved with rapid steps. The following tables indicate the size of the Jewish population in the city, according to the official data of the Russian government.
growth in %
The table clearly demonstrates the constant increase in the number of Jews in Pultusk in absolute terms as well as relative to the general population, and we learn from it of the quickening tempo of the Jewish settlement in the city. During 15 years from 1810 to 1825 additional 525 Jews settled, an increase of 444.9 percent; from 1825 to 1865 the percentage reached 401.7 percent and at the same time the Christian population only grew by 136.0%.
After the increase in the number of Jews in the city with the opening of its gates, from 1825 there was almost an equal increase for the next 64 years, if we divide them into two periods of 32 years each: from 1825 to 1856 the Jewish population had grown almost threefold and from 1856 to 1888 two and half times more. However, from 1865 there seems to be a constant process of slowing down from 1856 to 1865 the increase was 73.9% in total (for a period of 10 years) and from this year to 1888, a period of 24 years, only 47.4%.
From 1831, after the failure of the Polish uprising, Congress Poland entered a period of economic prosperity. The Russian areas with all their markets opened up for the products of the burgeoning Polish industry. In 1845 the first railway Warsaw Czestechowa, was built, which was later to be extended to Vienna. This track was quite far from Pultusk, but the river Narb served as a convenient thoroughfare to the Vistula River which was used to transmit goods to the Polish capital and to Tohron and Danzig in the north. From Warsaw one could also use the train to transport the produce to the south of Poland. On the fruitful soil of Mazowshe the Pultusk Jews developed a multiscale trade in grains and woods and created a thriving industry of processing agricultural products. In the city and its suburbs there were 13 flour mills that were activated by the power of water and wind. In 1875 (after the great fire) Julius Kronenberg established a brewery in a twostorey house on the street corner of Benedictinska (later Piyotr Skargi). Furthermore, there was a tannery, a weaving mill, a lumber mill, 2 factories for soda water and other enterprises.
The slowing down of the development and its causes
The dates of the founding of the flour mills that we have, lead us to the almost identical conclusions we drew from the above tables on the development of the city's Jewish population. In the year 1821 six mills were established, in 1848 two, three in 1861, one mill in each year of 1871 and 1879. If from 1821 until 1861 we find that 11 flour mills were founded, then the two additional mills were established each in an interval of 9 years.
The reason for the slowing down rate of the development of the population and industry can be found in two factors: Firstly, the opening of the railroad of Warsaw Bydgoszcz that was connected with the railway of WarsawCzestechowa Vienna. The second reason is the Polish uprising in 1863. The new railway that also became known as The Wisla railway led to the West, to the developed and industrial Germany that was an excellent market for raw agricultural produce and materials. With its opening the value of the waterways depreciated and the nearest railway station was far from Pultusk, at a distance of 22 kilometers. It is obvious that the dealers and manufacturers could not compete with their counterparts whose towns and villages were close to the train tracks. During the Polish uprising fierce battles raged between the rebels and the Tsarist army around the city. The martial law that was declared in the state and the political uncertainty paralyzed the trade and industry. The great fire that broke out in 1875 gave a decisive blow to the city's economy.
Some improvement of the situation was marked with the placement of two battalions of Russian troops and the establishment of a regional hospital. Around the city, large military maneuvers were held every year and many of the Jews earned their livelihood as military providers. However, the city as a whole did not enter the cycle of economic and industrial revival that began with the reform of Wilopolski in 1862, which abolished all restrictions that were forced upon the Jews in this area.
In 1887 the periodical Hatzefirah (issue 207) published a statistical report regarding the employment of Jews in Pultusk. (See Appendix at the end of the article). From 1079 earners 17 were mediumclass merchants and even more than that, only seven were members of the second guild, suppliers to the government and the army. There were 251 small merchants, of which 60 were stallholders in the market. Out of 64 grain traders, most of them small scale, there were 7 exporters. There were also two landowners and six flour mill owners. The rest of the 732 wage earners, 67,8% of the total of 1079, were various brokers, craftsmen and apprentices, coachmen, porters, drudgery workers and various religious personnel.
The public life
Pultusk Jewish public life until the outbreak of World War 1 was quite tranquil. The Rabbi, Dayan and community leader (Dozar from the word Dozortze guard or supervisor. The community was officially called by the authorities Dozor Boz'nitz'ni, i.e. supervision of synagogues) were the representatives of the Jewish public in Pultusk in front of the authority and were appointed only from among the dignitaries of the city. Their functions were reduced to maintaining the community assets and supervision of the religious life and education of the sons to Torah and mitzvoth.
With the German occupation in 1914, things changed. Thanks to the relatively liberal rule of the Germans, the cultural and public life developed and the World Zionist Organization was founded. With the visit of the German army chaplains Rabbi Dr. Pinchas Cohen and Rabbi Dr. Emanuel Carlebach, Agudath Israel organization and its youth movementZeirei Agudath Israel were founded with the support of the military authorities as a counterweight to Zionism. Being interested in winning the hearts of the Jewish public against the growing Polish independence movement, the Germans promoted an electoral law for the community aimed at establishing selected public Jewish representatives. However, it did not materialize to the level of actually selecting community representatives, but the very idea of democracy led to public agitation and caused the beginning of the process of decreasing dependency on the Jewish rich and powerful. A public library and a Jewish high school were established in the city. The influence of religion was slowly reduced.
The era of the Polish government
With the victory of the Allies and the rebirth of Poland, during the transition between military and civilian rule, the Jews of Pultusk suffered greatly. The Polish soldiers under the command of the officer Haller (the Halerchiks) cut beards and abused the residents. In the PolishSoviet War of 1920 the city was occupied temporarily by the Red Army whose hungry and barefoot soldiers looted everything in sight.
During the period of the independent Kingdom of Poland, the Jewish population of Pultusk reached 40 % of the total population. The former Christian city, the center of Catholic bishops and clergy became a vibrant Jewish city.
The twenty years of Polish rule were marked by a chain of harassment of the Jewish masses. Grawski, SlawoiSkladkowski are markers in the policies that brought about the impoverishment of the Jewish middle class. The pogroms and economic boycott, with the consent of the heads of the government, the unbridled antiSemitism on the one hand and the AntiSemitism that claims to seek a socalled political solution to for the Jews of Poland on the other hand, all paved the way for Hitler's armed thugs and prepared the hearts of the masses of the Polish people to be active or passive participants in the murder of the millions.
Providence had it that the fate of the majority of the community in Pultusk, whichin the year 1939 numbered more than seven thousand people, was different from their brethren in other cities. When the Germans entered the city they decreed that the Jews leave. The Jews were expelled to the Russian occupied territories, crossed the border and were received favorably by the officers and soldiers of the Red Army.
The history of the city of Pultusk and its prosperity with the development of the Jewish community bear true testimony to the amazing vitality of Polish Jewry and its creative forces human resources that were destroyed by the wicked.
Brought to print: Moshe Zinnowitz
Translated by Y. A. Horowitz
In the early years no single Jew was seen here, since the city of Pultusk was a very holy city for Catholics. Here was the main place of residence of the bishop who was in charge of the entire land, the largest Catholic seminary for budding priests, and hundreds of priests walked the streets. Until now the bishop's palace is standing high, but during the last Polish uprising it was taken by the royal treasury and turned into a military hospital, and the priests dispersed all over. To this day, the Catholic prayer house has on its four walls biblical verses written in the Hebrew language.
It is obvious that the Jews were not allowed to settle in this holy city and those traveling through here had to find alternative roads, since the Catholic boys stoned the heads of the Jews who dared to travel through the city.
The beginning of the Jewish settlement in the city of Pultusk was ninety years ago. The first Jew who settled in Pultusk was the slaughterer Rabbi Asher Anshel son of Rabbi Aryeh Friedman O.B.M. At that time the number of Jews was very small, since one bishop who was not as hateful to the Jews permitted a few craftsmen tailors, shoemakers, etc. who were useful to him and his many priests, to enter and settle in this holy city. And although the congregation was small and the number of its people very few, they were allowed to establish a house of prayer for the worship of the Lord.
At that time there was not yet a cemetery for Jews in this town and the dead were taken to the Jewish cemetery in the city of Makowa, a distance of three miles, and then they sent their dead for burial to the village Popowa which is now considered as part of the city of Serotzk; that village was the place of residence of the Jews and all the needs of the community were there, synagogue and Beit Midrash, mikvah, a cemetery, and the like.
Legend has it that the first Jews who settled in Pultusk were persecuted by the mob to an extent that they were prevented from worship their Lord openly. On the holy Shabbat night it was impossible to light candles in their homes and they sat in darkness, because had they done so they would have the mob pelting them with stones. But then, when Jews began to multiply and from near and far they flocked here for businesses and trades, it became a city of commerce and the trade of grain and woods thrived and prospered. The city was given the name The Little Danzig, as they were yet no railways covering the width of our country, and the road from Warsaw Vilna Kovno Peterburg passed through this city; the main road is called until today 'Peterburg way. As the community suffered from the lack of a cemetery and it became difficult to carry the dead to the small village Popowa, especially during the cold days, a philanthropist who had just settled in town, R'Zalman Lubranitzer (named after the village of his origin) donated a plot designated for the Jewish cemetery.
One of the important persons buried in the new cemetery was the elder son of the late Reb Yaakov Alexander Shach O.B.M. On his grave stone were engraved the following words:The year 5575 , he is the first in this cemetery. This grave stone was renewed by the Chevra GACHSHA (Society of doing true kindness). In the Pinkas (register) of this Society it states that they have appointed guards at the graveyard in order to protect the one and only grave in accordance to the religion and custom. (This Society was established in 1818).
As the number of Jews increased and the synagogue became too small to include in it all the worshipers, the worshippers began to pray in private separate Minyanim. Then a fire broke out in the city and burned down the synagogue (because the building was made out of wood), which was then rebuilt in the year 1864, with statuesque stone walls, and a beautiful Torah Ark glowing with the glory of holiness.
The following is told by the city's elderly residents: one of the first Jews that settled in Pultusk, provoked the anger of the priests and they commanded the mob to expel him from his house and town. He traveled to Warsaw and met the state governor, Minister Paskewitz, who showed him compassion and gave an order that the Jew should be taken back to town (Pultusk) with great honor, cheer and song, and so it was: the army men came out to greet him and took him (in town) with songs and melodies.
By the grace of the merciful emperor, the benefactor Alexander the Second, the gates of the city Pultusk opened up to all the Jews to live there and buy for themselves estates, and keep their possessions as they wished. They would not be dependent on the government of the priests, but rather will be allowed to manage their separate community; until then the census books and the births and deaths registers of the Jews were kept by the priests. Since then the number of the Jews grew to a third of the city's Christian population. There are among them some very rich and owners of many assets, and most of the houses and large properties belong to them.
From the time that the Weichsel railroad was built, the shine of Pultusk was gone and its glory was removed. The breath of life in the wheels of commerce has stopped, the sound of the ships and boats on the Narwe River was not heard as before. Passersby would not go through here and would not stay overnight here. The elders of the city mourned about it, because the hand of God afflicted it badly. It was struck by a mortal plague, from which it can no longer be cured.
Translated by Yocheved Klausner
Pultusk: Distribution of occupations among the Jews of Pultusk:
|Merchants of the Second Guild employed by the government||5|
|Buyers and exporters of grains||7|
|Providers for the army||2|
|Traders in woolen clothes||2|
|Traders in silk clothes||11|
|Merchants in the market place||60|
|Sellers of spirits and beer||39|
|Fish sellers in the summer||12|
|In the winter||15|
|Tailors for men||25|
|Tailors for women||28|
|Melamdim (children's Torah teachers)||34|
|Teacher appointed by the government||1|
|Wooden boards merchants||2|
|Apprentices and helpers||193|
|Scribes and agents||26|
Translated by Yael Chaver
The ancient town of Pultusk has its roots as far back as the time of Poland's emergence, when the first information about the rule of King Mieszko was reported in the travel writing of the ArabJewish merchant Avraham benYaakov. It is a historical fact that as early as 966 there was a military fortification on the spot (kasztelania in Polish) because of its strategic importance. The city lies on the plain of the Narew river, on its right bank, where the river splits into two streams: one running through the city and the other encircling it. Pultusk is first mentioned in the privileges of Conrad I, the Prince of Masovia, in 1227. The city was then known as Pultawska, and in official documents bears the Latin name Pultovia.
The town was handed over to the bishops of Plock as their property. The reasons for this gift are unknown, but over the generations it determined the character and nature of the city. When they chose Pultusk as the seat of their bishopric, the bishops titled themselves the Princes of the Pultusk territory (Princeps territorii Pultoviensis), and later the Dukes of Pultusk. Jews were forbidden to settle and even to stay temporarily, as in other locations that were part of church property.
As one of the most beautiful places in Masovia, Pultusk attracted the attention of Poland's enemies, and suffered from many attacks, pillaging, and destructions by Lithuanians, Russians, and Yotvingians. In 1337 Lithuanians completely destroyed the town and reduced it to ashes and dust.
Bishop Klemens Pierzchala restored the ruined town, and granted it the Chelmno rights in order to stimulate its development. Its prosperity, from the 14th century on, was due to the heads of the Catholic church, who strove to exhibit their worldly power by building magnificent structures and palaces. During this time the town developed and was not subject to war and fateful changes. Most of the ancient structures were built diromg this period; some of them still decorate the town. Dignitaries and kings granted it special privileges, and the dukes of Masovia Siemovit, Casimir, and Wladyslaw freed the citizens (mieszczanin) of various levies. King Zygmunt I permitted the building of a wall around the city because of its unusual topographic situation.
During the PolishSwedish war between King JanCasimir and CarlGustav, the latter conquered Pultusk in 1656 and his armies destroyed the town. Recurring fires, the Black Death epidemic, and frequent floods caused the decline and impoverishment of the population. In the second war with Sweden in 1703, Pultusk was the location of a bloody battle between the Swedish King Gustav III and the Saxon forces led by General von Steinau; the Saxons were thoroughly defeated.
In 1806, Napoleon's army and Russian forces battled in the near environs of the town. Napoleon's Arc de Triomphe in Paris includes Pultusk among the names of battle sites that brought him victory. Despite the ravages over the generations, the town is one of the most beautiful in Poland, and several ancient, beautiful structures remain.
During various periods Pultusk served as an important center of culture. Among the teachers in the Collegiate (a church in which the canons assemble) were Jakub Wujek, translator of the Latin Bible (the Vulgate) into Polish, and the famous preacher and master of Polish style as well as antiSemitePiotr Skarga. To this day, the building houses a tablet engraved with Hebrew verses. The school, which was well known far beyond the borders of Pultusk, graduated teachers who later became renowned all over Poland and even outside it. This is where Chancellor Jerzy Ossolinski, who was later prominent in the major cities of Europe with his bold political plans, as well as the writer Wiktor Gomulicki, completed their schooling.
The Beginnings of Jewish Immigration to the Town
As we mentioned earlier, Jews were forbidden to live in the town. However, as in other places, they avoided the prohibition by settling in lots and country areas, which were on the outskirts of Pultusk but were held privately and not under the jurisdiction (iursdica) of its authorities.
The court records and acts of Masovia, dating to the 15th century, include information about a Jewish settlement in Pultusk as early as 1480. The records for 14831486 mention the name of the Pultusk Jew Rubin (Reuven), originally from Warsaw. In his history of the Jews of Warsaw, Dr. Yaakov Shatzky mentions Pultusk as one of the towns where Jews from Warsaw settled after the Warsaw expulsion of 1483. Dr. Yitzchok Shiffer includes the Jewish community of Pultusk in his estimate of the total Jewish poluation in Poland in the 14th and 15th centuries. Certainly, Jews were not permitted to settle in this kingdom of bishops, and it is accepted that they came to the city from the previously mentioned jurisdictions and stayed only for the day in which they carried out commercial business. We find confirmation of this situation in a later manuscript, dating to 1786, which recounts, among other things: The town has not even a single Jew, and does not tolerate them. There are no Jewish citizens (incolatum ullum), not even the smallest, most distant hiding place, so that if a Jew came to the town to do business, he could not stay the night within it and and had to travel to the country or to another town. On the other hand, the Jews who made a living in the town and had to leave at sunset called their quarters beyond the walls the community of Pultusk. The highranking bishops, the priests in all ranks of the spiritual hierarchy, the Polish nobles and the townspeople, all needed the Jewish merchant, moneylender, and middleman. The bishops paid lip service to the sanctity of their Catholic estate by prohibiting the residence of the crucifiers of God. In actual fact, the Jews were an integral component of the Pultusk landscape. Certainly, the wave of blood libels that overtook Poland at the end of the 16th century did not avoid Pultusk. In 1597, Piotr Skarga was commissioned by the king to deal with the accusation against several Pultusk Jews that they had bought a Host (holy bread) from a nonJew, who had robbed and defiled a church. According to Skarga's order, the unfortunate Jews were tortured, confessed to a crime that they had not committed, and burned alive at the stake. Interestingly, 125 years earlier, on September 9, 1471, the Pultusk resident Stanislaw Gaudek was tried for denying Christianity, and becoming Judaized. However, as Y. Y. Trunk correctly remarks, this was probably related to the heresy of the Czech brothers, which at that time had spread through Masovia.
According to the details that collected about the history of the town in 1884 by Pawel Wieswicki, the magistratesecretary, Jews were gathered into Pultusk in 1794, during the first partition of Poland. However, they were expelled by decree of the Byalistok office (which controlled government property). The Jews who lived in the environs tried to move into the town, from the village of Popowo, 18 kilometers from Pultusk, and from Poplawa, where most of the land was owned by Nosn Note Notkyevich. He was proud of his connection with his relative Lieutenant Herman Notkyevich, who had distinguished himself during the Napoleonic wars in Dambrowski's forces.
Immigration to the Town and its Development following the Abolition of the Residence Prohibition
With the French army's march into Poland, the Jews settled in the town in 1806, with no obstacles. As early as 1815 they received permission to establish a synagogue, the house of prayer. It was enlarged and renovated in 1864. It burned up on July 21, 1875, and rebuilt the same year, more beautifully than before the fire.
According to an article that was published in HaMelitz in 1895, no. 71, by Yankev Maharshak (thanks to M. Tsinovich), the first [Jewish] resident of the town with the permission of a bishop who was not distinguished by his hostility to Jews was the shokhet Asher Anshel, the son of Aryeh Fridman. Afterwards, several other professionals were given permits: a tailor, a cobbler, and similar artisans who were needed by him (the bishop; M.R.) and his many priests. They were allowed to settle and set up residence in a reliable spot in this holy town. Although the community was small and consisted of a very small number, they were permitted to establish a prayer house to pray to God. In 1815 a cemetery was established on a piece of land that belonged to Zalmen Lubranitser, a new resident who came from Lubraniec near Wloclawek. As presented in HaMelitz, One of the first arrivals, Reb Zalmen Lubranitser (so named because of his town of origin), who was a landowner, donated a piece of his property specifically for the burial of Jews. (The entire article is attached at the end of this article.) Until that time, the deceased were transferred to the small town of Makowa, and then taken to the village of Popowo
which was then a Jewish center, containing all the necessities of the community: synagogue and house of study, mikveh, cemetery, and the like. In 1882 the cemetery was expanded, thanks to the purchase of 2252 cubits (about 1.5 hectares) of agricultural land. In 1885 the authorities in Łomza undertook to cover part of the expenses involved in fencing the plot, in the amount of 2781 rubles and 731 kopeks. Following the permission to settle, the Jewish community of Pultusk began to develop rapidly. Below is a table detailing the growth of the Jewish population in the town, based on the official publications of the Russian communal authority.
Table, headings right to left: Year; total population; total Jews; percentage; growth of the Jewish population in percentages
The table clearly shows the consistent growth in numbers of Jews in Pultusk, both in absolute numbers and compared to the general population. The fast rate of Jewish immigration to the town is evident. In the course of 15 years, from 1810 to 1825, 525 Jews arrived an increase of 444.9%. From 1825 to 1865, the population increase was 401.7, while during the same period the Christian population increased only by 136.0%. After the rapid rise in the number of Jewish residents that occurred once the town gates were opened, the 54 years between 1825 and 1888, divided into two 32year sections, saw almost the same increase: from 1825 to 1856, the Jewish population almost tripled, and between 1856 and 1888 it grew more than twoandahalffold. However, starting in 1865, a permanent slowing process was noted: in the period 18561865 the population increased by 73.9% (during ten years), whereas in 18651888, a period of 24 years, it increased only 47.4%.
Following the failure of the Polish uprising in 1831, Congress Poland entered a period of economic development. Immense Russia opened its gates to the products of Polish industry, which was developing rapidly. In 1845 the railway line between Warsaw and Czestochowa was opened, and was later extended as far as Vienna. This railway viaduct ran far from Pultusk, but the Narew river served as a convenient connection to the Vistula; the latter could move merchandise to the Polish capital as well as further north, to Danzig and [tuyern]. Goods could also be transported southwards from Warsaw by train. The Jews developed an extensive grain and timber trade, based on the produce of the rich Masovian soils. There were 13 mills powered by water or wind in Pultusk and its environs. In 1875 (following the great fire) Juliusz Kronenberg established a liquor plant in a twostory structure at the end of Benediktinsk Street (later Piotr Skargi). Also active were a tannery, a spinningmill, a sawmill, two soda factories, and other enterprises.
The slowing of development and its reasons
The founding dates of these mills lead us to the same conclusions that we have reached through analyzing the table of growth of the Jewish population. In 1821 6 mills were founded, 2 in 1848, 3 in 1861, and one each in 1871 and 1879. If 11 mills were founded between 18211861, the two later ones were built 9 years apart.
The slowing of later development of the Jewish population and industry in the town is linked with two factors: the opening of the WarsawBydgoszcz railway line (which was connected with the WarsawCzestochowaVienna line), and the Polish insurrection of 1863. The new railway line, also named the Vistula railway line, extended westward,
to industrialized Germany, which was an outstanding market for agricultural produce and raw materials. Once this railway line was open, the importance of the rivers diminished; the closest railway station was located 22 km from Pultusk. Obviously, the merchants and producers of Pultusk could not compete with their fellows in the towns and sites near the railroad.
During the Polish insurrection, bitter battles raged in the surroundings between the rebels and the Russian military. The state of emergency and political uncertainty paralyzed trade and industry. The fire of 1875 was an enduring blow to the town's economy.
A certain improvement occurred with the deployment of two Russian regiments in the town, and the establishment of a district hospital. Largescale military exercises were held yearly in the environs, and some Jews made their livelihood as suppliers and providers for the Russian military. However, the town as a whole did not become part of the economic and industrial revival that began with Wielopolski's reform of 1862. This reform abrogated all the limitations that applied to Jews in these areas.
In 1867, the HaTsfira newspaper (no. 207) published a statistical study of Jewish professions in Pultusk (see Supplement 2 in the Hebrew article What Jews Do). Of 1079 people with occupations. 17 were medium or even large merchants. Only seven were merchants of the Second Guild: suppliers to the government and army. There were 251 small merchants, among them 60 market shopkeepers. Of the 64 grain dealers, most were working on a small scale; 7 were exporters. There were also 2 landowners and 6 millers. The remainder, 732 (67.8% of the total 1079 Jews), were traders, artisans and apprentices, cartdrivers, porters, manual laborers, and (not to be compared) various religious functionaries.
Social and Community Life
Before the First World War, Jewish social life continued calmly along the timehonored traditional routes: the rabbi, the religious judge, and the community council president (popularly known as the dozer, derived from the Polish words dozor boznicni synagogue supervisor, as he was termed by the authorities) were the representatives of the town's community towards the authorities. They were elected, or nominated, from among the higher, richer social class. Their functions were limited to overseeing the community funds, supervising the regular routine of religious life, and education of children towards the Torah and religious commandments [mitzvahs].
The situation changed with the German occupation of 1914. Thanks to the liberal German regime, cultural and communal life developed, and a Zionist organization was set up. With the visit of the German military rabbi, Dr. Pinchas Cohen, and Rabbi Dr. Carlebach, the Agudas Yisro'el and Tse'irei Agudas Yisro'el political parties were established. The German authorities supported these parties as a counterweight to Zionism. As the Germans were interested in gaining the sympathy of the Jewish population in order to turn it against the Polish national movement, they instituted a community voting system, with the aim of creating an elected Jewish body of representatives. Although an election was never held, this democratic idea led to social agitation and was the beginning of a gradual liberation from dependence on rich and influential members of the community. A Jewish community library as well as a Jewish high school opened in the town.as well. Religious influence declined.
Under Polish government
With the Allied victory and the creation of the Polish Republic, in the interim between military and civilian rule, the Jews of Pultusk suffered considerably. Polish soldiers, under General Haller (Hallertshikes) tore out beards and harassed the Jewish residents. During the
SovietPolish war of 1920, the town was temporarily held by the Red Army; the hungry, barefoot soldiers pillaged whatever was available.
During the period of Polish independence, the Jewish population of Pultusk rose to 40% of the general population. The formerly Catholic town, the center of bishops and the Catholic clergy, became transformed into a vibrant Jewish settlement.
The twenty years of Polish rule were linked with ongoing persecution of the Jewish population. Grabski and SlavojSkladowski pointed the way towards the politics of impoverishment of the Jewish middle class. Pogroms, the economic boycott by the Endeks, with the agreement of the higher government officials, unchecked antiSemitism, and that which masqueraded as a political solution for the Jewish masses, paved the road for Hitler's armies, at the right time for Poles to become active or passive partners in the murder of the [Jewish] millions.
It was divine will that most members of the Pultusk community (over 7,000 people in 1939) met with a different fate than their brethren in other towns. Once the Germans came, the Jews were ordered to leave the town. They were driven out to regions occupied by Soviet soldiers. They crossed the border and were received cordially by the officers and soldiers of the Red Army.
The history of Pultusk and its rise, along with the development of the Jewish community, is clear proof of the vitality of the Polish Jewish community and of its creative powers a human treasure that was so cruelly annihilated.
Brought to print: Moshe Tsinovich
Translated by Yael Chaver
Even before ancient times, no Jews were noticed or found here, because the town of Pultusk was extremely sacred to Catholics. This was the chief residence of the bishop, whose castle covered a large area. The large seminary structure and the hubbub of clergymen and hundreds of priests were apparent in the streets. To this day, the bishop's palace rises on the highest point of the town. During the last Polish uprising, the palace was devastated by the government treasury, and has now become a military hospital; the priests were scattered widely. The Catholic prayerhouse still stands; verses such as From the rising of the sun etc. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk etc., Hear, O Israel etc., are inscribed in Hebrew on all four sides.
Naturally, Jews were forbidden to enter this sacred city. Travelers wishing to pass through the town were forced to detour around it; the Catholic children threw stones at the heads of the Jews who dared to ride through their town.
The beginning of Jewish settlement in Pultusk was about 90 years ago. The first to take up residence in the town was the shochet Reb Anshel, son of Reb Aryeh Friedman, may his memory be for a blessing. One bishop, who had no special hatred for Jews, granted them permission, but their number was then very small.
Several artisans were allowed to settle: a tailor, a shoemaker, and the like, which the bishop and his priests needed. They established residence in a designated area in the holy town. Though the community was small, numbering very few, they were permitted to lay the foundation for a house of worship.
At that time there was still no cemetery for Jews in this town; their deceased were carried to the Jewish cemetery in Makowa, ten versts away. They later sent the dead to be buried in Popowa (now within the town limits of Serock). Popowa then had a Jewish population, with all the requirements: a synagogue, a besmedres, a mikveh, a cemetery, and the like.
According to legend, the first Jews who settled in Pultusk were so persecuted by the general population that they could not worship their God openly. On Sabbath evening they could not light candles in their homes, and could only sit in darkness. Otherwise, a mob would pelt them with stones. However, the Jews later started to increase in number, and other Jews began streaming in from near and far, thanks to their businesses and professions. The town had become a commercial center for the surrounding population. Commerce in grain and timber flourished, and the town became known as little Danzig. At that time there were no railway lines spanning the country. The roads from Warsaw to Vilnius, Kaunas, and St. Petersburg led through Pultusk; that highway is still known as the St. Petersburg road. The community realized that there was a great need for a Jewish cemetery, because carrying their dead to the small village of Popowa was very difficult, especially during the freezing winter and thaw seasons. One of the first settlers, Reb Zalmen Lubranitser (so named for his town of origin), who was a landowner, donated some of his land for a Jewish cemetery.
One of the first deceased persons to be buried in the new cemetery was the elderly rabbi, Yankev, the son of Alexander Shakh, may his memory be for a blessing. The headstone on his grave bears the following words: In the year 5575, this was the first burial in the cemetery. The headstone was restored by the community burial society. The Burial Society ledger notes that they set watchmen over the cemetery for a week, to watch the grave, as is the custom. (The Burial Society was founded in 181415.)
As the numbers of Jews increased, the synagogue became cramped and too small for the entire congregation; people started to pray in private settings. A great fire then broke out in the town, and the synagogue was burned down (the structure was wooden). It was rebuilt in 5624, with stone walls, and has an aura of holiness.
The earliest settlers recall that one of the first Jews to settle in Pultusk aroused the rage of the priests; by their command, the rabble drove him out and did not allow him to settle on his land. He went to Warsaw and had an audience with the Governor, who at that time was Count Paszkiewicz. The latter took pity on him and issued a decree that he should be brought to Pultusk with great pomp, trumpets and song. This did indeed happen: the military came out to greet him and saw him into the town with songs.
Thanks to the favor and good deeds of the compassionate, kind Tsar Alexander II, may he rest in peace, the gates of the city were opened for all Jews to settle and acquire plots that suited them. They would no longer be dependent on the power of the priests, and would be recognized as a community; previously, the birth and death records of Jews were held by the clergy. Today, the number of Jews
is onethird of the Christian population. Some are very wealthy and own much property. Most of the houses and large fortunes belong to them.
After the Vistula railway line was constructed, the greatness of Pultusk was cut short. Its beauty vanished, as its life faded along with its commerce. The tumult of ships and boats on the Narew was no longer heard. Travellers did not stop or spend the night there. A rich person had a fortune, and the town elders lamented that she had been stricken by God: she was afflicted with a terrible disease, from which she would not recover.
Translated by Yael Chaver
Haynt No. 13, Warsaw, January 21, 1929
The Charity Fund
Saturday night, January 5. the general meeting of the Charity Fund took place, chaired by Avrom Ruzsa. Secretary YehudaAryeh Lefkovich's report of the twoyear activity of the fund was recognized. The fund now has 600 members, and has won the trust of the entire Jewish population of our town. The Charity Fund gives loans without interest in sums of 50 to 100 zloty; 500 borrowers have enjoyed the loans. The loans are longterm, to be repaid in installments. The fund now consists of 20,000 zloty. The meeting resolved to include members in return for a sum of 100 zloty, according to Article 12 of its statute; people can contribute larger sums if they so wish. It was unanimously resolved to nominate the following persons as members of our society: Simkhe Melnik, Nishnievich, M. Deliktis, Yeshaye Brzhezinski, HirshLeyb Sokol, Bunem Gradshteyn, Betzalel Mayersdorf, YaakovLeyb Novominsky, Velvl Yazhina, and Gedalia Vloska.
A Fast in Pultusk
Nayer Haynt, No. 22, Reflection of the Province
The rabbi decreed a fast in Pultusk, because of an Orthodox speaker.
It happened in this way:
The shlimakehs (Shlomei Emunei Yisroel) of Pultusk brought one of their speakers, who held a sermon at the artisans' guild. At the same time, they did not forget to bring in the police for protection.
But the shlimakehs also wanted the local besmedresh to enjoy a sermon; this was resisted by the young folks, because there had long been an agreement with the local rabbi that the besmedresh would not be a site for any political speakers, even Orthodox ones.
Unfortunately, this time, the agreement was breached, and the speaker began to talk. The young folks did not want him to speak under any circumstances, and they ended up singing di shvue, drowning out the speaker with whistles.
The next day, Saturday, the rabbi came into the besmedresh and spoke as follows:
Once, when I was still in Gostynin, a cantor came to pray in the synagogue. Several people drowned him out by whistling. The tsaddik of Gostynin, who was still alive then, came into the besmedresh from his room, in his stockings, and decreed a fast day. If that was the case then, and now so many people whistled and sang di shvue, a fast day is certainly called for. I therefore decree that the Sunday of the week that starts with reading the BaMidbar Torah section everyone must fast, young and old alike, and perhaps the sin will be forgiven.
Moment, 1938, No. 42, February 18.
Up to 42% of the residents of Pultusk are Jews. The local Jewish community is not an old one. Jews were not allowed to live here earlier, because the town belonged to priests.
From a social point of view, Pultusk is backwards. There used to be a gymnazya but nothing came of it. There is no Jewish school; there is only a szabsowka where 700800 children study. There is no elementary school, and hardly any artisans' association. Our town was recently visited by the ORT representative, Mr. Ostashinski, who succeeded, after long efforts, in organizing a local ORT committee. Chairing the committee is one of the most energetic community activists, Ms. Deliktis. She, together with several other women, led the project of feeding the children in the szabsowka. Additional members of the committee were Mr. Grinboym, the community secretary Yablonka, Brzhezinski, and Perl Burshteyn. Of the artisans, Seker, Yaner, Ms. Piekarz, Kirshenboym, Kopilevich, Menster, and others.
The committee undertook to run training classes for tailors, as well as an advanced course for carpenters; sewing courses for girls, and eventually – knitwear courses. It is to be hoped that, thanks to the energy of the chairwoman, the committee's work will succeed, and our town will be enriched by several important Jewish institutions.
Moment, No. 232, 1938
About six months ago, a branch of ORT was organized here. It carried out an advanced course in womens' dressmaking, under the direction of Mr. Kozhen. The course was very successful. Over 30 people participated in the courses. The chief instructor of ORT in Warsaw, Mr. Grinberg, recently carried out the ceremonial examination at the branch. Mr. Kusatkovski is now leading a knitwear course. Ms. Deliktis and Secretary Zuger head the local activities of ORT.
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