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In the Pathway of Generations

Prof. Y. Talmon



Jewish Rypin – a small town like all the small towns of Poland, Lithuania, Reissin-Ukraine, Galicia or Bessarabia, that is the bounds of the classical settlement between the Oder and the Dnieper where two or three generations ago, about ninety percent of Ashkenazi world Jewry were concentrated. On that plain of north-eastern Europe, and the only mountainous partition of the Carpats, they were settled for


Prof. Y. Talmon


hundreds of years, under the same sky (which was mostly low and grey) in the same climate, worshipping their God according to a religion which determined every minute of their lives and thought, restrained by the same fences and hedges, decreed by the laws of the kingdom, knitting private dreams and spinning visions of Jewish redemption and the renewal of worlds. It was an unstable existence, albeit a life full of intensiveness, rich and bubbling with folklore, while, in the meantime, legend and reality still had not separated yet in the people's very strong and deep

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emotions. In the days to come, the dams broke towards the seas and the waves of mass immigration spread out beyond the ocean to North and South America, to Western Europe and to Palestine and then fountains of arrested vitality spurted out and latent talents raged. The result was manifested in mighty and active Jewish groups, with astonishing individual attainments in all fields of human endeavour; in economy and in organization, in spiritual production and public leadership, in science and in art.

Jewish Ripin – yes, a small town like all small towns, and I say this not to underrate it but to the contrary, I say it out of a proud feeling, mixed with love. If I were, like a historian seeking to roll up a large scroll and trying out of a miniature to paint an impressive picture of the history of a people, or like an author, to write of a sunken world and its various colours, lights and shades, I should not hesitate to consider Jewish Ripin a typically suitable instance. It was not attached to religious scholars or poets, leaders or financial magnates. It had no academy of great significance nor did riotous disturbances shake it; neither pogroms or bloodshed; nor was it the cradle of public or spiritual movements. Yet, Ripin embodied the entirety of Jewish destiny during the last generation: the whole mould of existence and all spiritual and ideological movements found expression in the community of Ripin – the struggle between the old and the new; the traditional and the revolutionary. Birth-pangs of new times were painfully felt in it and only the Holocaust utterly destroyed it as it erased off the face of the earth hundreds of other Jewish communities.

The young people of Ripin were among the first and the most daring who, in time, (as though directed by Providence) began to prepare shelters and new places for Jewish existence, both in the Motherland and in the New World, and in all those places, they left their prominent impressions.

While I come to consider the most typical characteristics of the Jews of Ripin, I begin to think of the particular intensiveness which characterized its people. All the colours of the rainbow were represented in Ripin, as the reader will see for himself

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from the detailed descriptions by the those who knowledge is more precise and whose memory is more fresh: from religious extremists who went down from the side-walk in order not to come into contact with a woman passing by and pious women, who fasted every Monday and Thursday; to the communists even to whom revolution existed behind our walls and men of learning to whom the revolution was within – up to “Amharazim”' who could hardly read a prayer-book; from jesters and from others who would not hesitate to utter bawdy abuses. I said “intensiveness” but, if you wish, I will call it zeal and probably, even jealousy. I still remember that on one feast day (it was Shavuot, if I am not erring) when I was a small boy, Zionist lads smashed the windows of the residence of the Agudath Yisrael, head of the community. I still remember the disgraceful incident when, on a Friday evening, a young Zionist leader approached the “shohet-hazan”, due to begin with the “Lechah Neranena”, and took off his prayer shawl saying: “You shall not pass before the Holy Ark because you did not vote for the Zionist list in the community elections”. I have heard and read from those of Ripin authors, who are more senior than I, in this direction about the ex-communications which members of each hostile camp hurled at the others and about acts of revenge such as throwing dirty water on people seated under their tabernacles, and others in the form of sharp abuses.

On the other hand, who can recall, without trembling, the extreme idealism, the remarkable self-sacrifice, the martyrdom of members of the Shomer Ha'tzair and the pious men of Gur, Zionist leaders and devotees of the communist revolution? I still hear ringing in my ears the singing or the “hora” dance around the fire in a forest, or the enthusiasm of audiences to listen to a speaker and the lamentation (which I well recall) the public broke into when a meeting was held on the bloody disturbances in Palestine in 1929. Almost every young man or woman was attached to a youth movement in the town and few are the examples of spontaneous organization in communal societies during the first days of the National Home as those of the Barzilai group of Rypin.

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However, they were not like leaders or public workers with an indivisible loyalty to an ideal, or with an ambition to power and glory, but like a row of unknown soldiers. Sometimes it seems to me that this intensiveness was at least connected with the last that ours was a boundary of Jewish settlements in Poland. To its north, in the Danzig Corridor, Jewish settlements were lean because most of the older ones among them, now inside Poland, had been attached to Germany prior to Polish independence of 1918, had worked for Germany during World War I and got spiritually influenced by its culture, but had no confidence in Polish rule and looked at the Poles with contempt.

The emigrants from Congressional Poland or Galicia did not plant roots in the province of Turing or Polan. Again, anti-Semitism was particularly strong because in the past, the Poles had justifiably seen in the Jews friends of the foreign German rule and a Germanizing instrument. We were at the extreme border – and I remember that in my childhood, I had a feeling of loneliness; and in days of terror, as I observed from a hill the fields, the woods and the farmers' huts far to the north, I realized that we were the last, and a voice within me whispered: “Natorei Karta are the defenders of the wall”.

The situation of our Jewish town as a border-town shaped it not a little in other directions. Prior to 1914, Ripin was a border-town lying between two mighty empires of the Czars and the Kaisers, but its population was, of course, Polish. In addition to the fact that its position as a border-town entitled it to furnish work, strong winds of German education and culture blew upon it from the north. Furthermore, in and around Ripin were German quarters which had partly been established since the Middle Ages by Polish princes who sought to build up towns (almost utterly out of existence until then) and invited German settlers, granting them all sorts of privileges. From an economic-social point of view, this disturbed Jewish settlements – of Ripin in particular – and of all Polish Jews in general. The vast Russian market, for which Congressional Poland acted as a factory, was closed, and smuggling activities through the adjacent border came to an end. The new countries

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encompassed themselves with very high taxes, and each new government tried to form a swollen body of officials and establish an army out of anything. Taxes were imposed mainly upon Jews, the latter being both the town's middle class and a national minority from whom it was an act of virtue to draw the maximum, thus compelling them to emigrate.

Poland was bubbling with the strong wine of nationalism. It had the ambition to build up a Polish middle class and to ensure itself a normal, healthy society, of course, at the expense of the Jews, who were struggling for their lives. Unluckily for Europe, those countries beyond the ocean, and especially the United States of America, shut their doors before the new emigrants, and the result was that Central and Eastern Europe (except Russia) contributed to the rise of Nazism and Fascism.

Jewish youth felt itself unwanted. In fact, most of it was unwanted, economically speaking, because even if it shunned physical labour, there was actually no work sufficient to absorb the young who took to shopping, peddling and hawking the jobs of their parents. The same crisis which in the late twenties and the early thirties had hit the world and cast into the streets unemployed millions and threatened to paralyze culture, or even to destroy it, affected very hard the Jews of Poland in general and of Rypin in particular.

While I delve into my memory, I see before me that features dominant in the life of the town during my childhood: the prospects of the day, the meagre preparation for the Sabbath, the question where to get a loan in order to settle tomorrow's bill, what the children would do when they grew up, and what the end would be to their going around when they reached maturity. All these features, and the instability of the times, imparted to life a provisional characteristic. Parents dreamed of sending their children beyond the sea. They envied families which earlier and quickly got separated from their sons and daughters. It was most lucky to be alone and cut off the dear ones, relatives and place of birth. Probably it was not an accident

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that of our town flowed a tide of emigrants to such an extent that there is no corner on earth where you cannot find them, foremost among them being Israel and the United States. Something characterized the Ripinese and those who emigrated from it and that is the invisibility of their poverty. Secretly their souls wept, as when on Fridays they installed pots on fire which contained no meat or fish but water so that the neighbours might think that those were preparations for the Sabbath. That is where the feelings of Ripinese stem from, when they are insulted, and also the dream of all of them about another world, the expectation for a moment of sure revival and resurrection. The young saw three lights of redemption: Palestine, the Soviet motherland or a country beyond the seas to emigrate to. But in that hour, the actual place where you were born, where you grew up and where your fathers had lived for generations, looked at least more real, at least desirable.

I hesitate to add – lest I should commit a grave error, now that things have already taken a form of actuality – that within us, lurked a dim feeling of an impending Holocaust.

From a spiritual consideration, there was in this border-town a special tension during the dark hours between sunset and sunrise – a tension resulting out of the contradictory and painful tendencies of the time. This town was, in fact, religious and none took the liberty on Saturday to go in the street with a lighted cigarette or to buy non-kosher meat from a “goy” meat shop, but the sweeping majority of the young walked out of religion and the traditions of their fathers. Many families were disrupted and a war broke out between fathers and sons. With many of the young, the change took place rather too quickly and without compunction; with others, it was associated with problems, difficulties and stings of conscience which implanted a feeling of sin and guilt for the rest of their lives. A single man, the only one qualified in his generation, namely the late Rabbi Shmuel Zanwill Pozner, succeeded with his vast love for the Jewish spirit to reconcile those disruptions within himself. The extremists defended their principles with despair while the liberals found for themselves new religions.

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In Czarist days, our small town lay within the province of Plotzk, one of the most ancient towns in Poland, on the banks of the Vistula, the principal river of Poland, adorned with ancient legends, popular songs and poems.

During most of the period of independent Poland, between the two World Wars, Rypin was included within the District of Warsaw, the capital. It lay in the most northern section of the district and, for political reasons, was annexed for a time to the district of Pomerania or Torun, so that the Jews of Ripin and the vicinity found themselves an ill-treated minority in the midst of the population of Wojewodztwo in the Danzig Corridor. Their demands and the influence lost their weight with the district authorities. Each district had its own style and the Jews at the north of Warsaw had their own characteristics, as others in other districts too.

There was a peculiar mixture of political loyalties. The Jews in general hated Czarist tyranny and the corruption of its representatives and their sole weapon against authority in a conquered country was bribe and hypocrisy. As to their relationship with the Poles, it was ambivalent.

During the Polish rising of 1863, and the revolutionary movement in the years around 1905, there was no lack of collaboration with the Poles and of solidarity in their struggle for independence. On the other hand, in the years of independent Poland, between the two wars, the strong Jewish national feeling awaked an understanding of the blazing patriotism of the Polish people, and many important factors infused in the Jews a spirit of contempt and hatred towards the Poles. In contrast to the organizational activity and capacity of the Germans, the Jews saw the Poles as failures. The rivals most difficult to Jews, in the economic and the professional fields, were the Poles and we must not underrate the closeness of Yiddish to the German language as well. I still remember that during my childhood, the name “goy” sounded to me as referring to Catholic Poles and not to Germans; though I did realize that the latter were obviously not Jews. I felt that the Germans in the vicinity were not simply Gentiles.

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It would be shocking to think of it today, but the pre-Hitlerite relations between Jews and Germans in our vicinity were friendly. Most famous are the 1914 leaflets in Yiddish of Gen. Ludendorf (later Hitler's friend and his follower in the zoological anti-Semitism) and those, in Hebrew and Yiddish, dropped in those days by aeroplanes (“Here comes the Redeemer”)….

In the twenties, Jews and Germans stood together on election lists. Out of those Germans rose such who, during the German invasion, helped in the acts of repression and extermination as experts who had the experience and knew the secrets.

It is not surprising the that in the mixed loyalties of the time, Jewish unity grew stronger and deeper and consciousness in this direction burned like a flame. The Jews were an isolated people and if everyday life and the problems of work drew them towards a certain country out of which they could wrench out their meagre livelihood, and the difficulties of their existence awakened in them a vigilant sense of realism, their actual motherland was not a temporal one but a heavenly one, a vision and a dream – to the religious it was the coming of the Messiah, to the Zionists it was a Jewish country, to the Communists and their friends, it was world revolution. And the real constitution, according to which they lived, was the Shulhan Aruch code of laws and the established set of virtues, or the theories of Marx, or the rules of Zionism and the building up of a Jewish country. But all these things were far from everyday problems and immediate material interests.

During the last two generations, fate led me into personal contact with a number of important Jews in towns and cities not far from Ripin and I had the privilege to listen to and be in the premises of the late Rabbi Nahum Sokolov of Weisgrod on the Vistula – the prince and glory of Polish Jewry. I had the great honour, when being a visiting lecturer at Colombia University of New York, to meet my friend Prof. Israel Halperin of the Hebrew University, who was an honorary visitor

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in a I.W.A. party and enjoy the hearty blessing of the late Yose Opatoshu, author of “Polish Forests” which are in fact the forests of Ripin and the adjacent Malava where the late Opatoshu was born (and where also Victor Alter, the Bund's leader, fell martyr to Stalin).

The late Shalom Asch I did not see face-to-face but everybody knew the prodigy from Kutna. As to Isaac Grunbaum from Plotzk, some years ago I reminded him in a conversation of his visit to Ripin at the end of 1920 on the occasion of an evening address for the final elections. He was received by a vast audience in a timber store premises of the Korewas; and when the great leader stood on the balcony to speak in Yiddish, the “goyim” who gathered in hundreds began to shout and throw stones. The crowd diffused in all directions. Later the same evening (I was still a small boy then) I was excited to see a car (still a rare thing in Ripin) stopping near one of the houses at the old city gate, and the honourable men of the Ripin community carrying on their very hands their beloved elect to the house where he had to speak to an invited audience. I shall not speak much about my coming into contact with the Israel Premier, David Ben-Gurion, the man from Plonsk, mid-way between Ripin and Warsaw.

I have thought, more than once, of the question whether there is a common denominator for these personalities and whether it is possible to show common characteristics in them as representatives of the Jews of our area, but said to myself that it might be possible to speak about a common Jewish style or text. In the personalities I have listed, were prominent not the erudition or biblical keenness of Lithuanian Jews nor the elasticity and the manners of, for example, Galician Jews but such characteristics as sharp imagination, strong vision, fountains of romantic feeling, great idealistic tendencies, a much-developed sense of self-respect and a knightly spirit that was ready to respond. These characteristics were not a little emphasized by the fact that in our area, the Jews were relatively more attached to the land than in many other areas and that relations with the Gentiles, (that is, the aristocracy on the one hand and the peasants on the other, but not the towns-people) were more than friendly than in many other places.

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The Jews of the area absorbed something of the romanticism of those Poles who fought against the repressors of Polish nationalism.

At the same time the geographical scenery and the spiritual climate did their work, knowingly and unknowingly. In the following pages the readers will find, they who were educated in our city and others whose children know only its name but have the sentimental curiosity to urge them to turn over the pages of a book devoted to the native place of their parents – a rich and varied picture of a city, a gallery of different and strange types, and can breathe the air of a world that has disappeared and been irreparably destroyed.

Who can in his imagination describe Ripin without Jews?: the synagogue and the adjacent school like a heap of ruins on which probably new buildings have arisen; Praga Street; the Brodniza Road without Jewish walkers on Saturday afternoons; the desolate Shomer Ha'tzair cell where songs died away and discussions got choked; the market without Jewish peddlers on Tuesdays and Thursdays; the absence of Jewish children hurrying up to the “Heder”, afraid to pass by the church lest they might be kidnapped and baptized by force?

Nor are there Bible studies any longer in the repaired room of my teacher Rabbi Yeshaya Gottfeld – teacher, poet, play-righter, with his lot of troubles – out of a book which I well remember presenting a picture on the first page (if I am not mistaken) of a huge sun shooting its rays in all directions, and in its extreme left, a Jew behind his plough in the land of Palestine. No more do the hearts of children throb with a feeling of pride, the beauty of a dream and the thrill of yearning…

I recall that while I was a boy of about eight and on my way to the school at Piaski Street, near Blaustein's shop down towards the bridge, I saw the blue and white flag on the occasion of the opening that day of the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus near Jerusalem. Who could then predict that a day would come when I should be the first, as the son of Rypin and Professor of History of this University, to be assigned the task of saying the mourning obituary on the destruction of the martyred community of Rypin?

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History of the Jews of Rypin

Dr. M.N. Gelber

The town of Rypin, also known as Odelka, is one of the oldest inhabited places in Poland. In pre-Christian times, Rypin was covered with great forests and surrounded by valleys and scores of lakes, rivers, springs and swamps.

Settlers from Maeovia, Kujawy and Pomorze began to penetrate these regions. The Slavs were attracted to them because of the abundance of fish and animals and the fertile soil.

In the course of time, they settled in the area of Staro-Rypin and founded a settlement which they called Ripino. According to some research scholars, the origin of the name is the Latin word “r i p a”, meaning bank or shore since the town spreads over a river bank (which does not tally with the facts). However, Staro-Rypin did cover the bank of a stream. Other scholars claim that the name derives from quite a different circumstance. There came to Staro-Rypin in very ancient times a settler who had apparently been sent by a prince name Rypa. He chose that place and founded, either on his own initiative or at the command of his prince, the settlement which in a short time became a fortress against Prussian attacks.

Baleslaw Chrobry raised the settlement to the status of a fortified town with a number of farming villages and a number of privileges in a document to the Benedictine monastery established by him. It is stated there that the fortified town of Rypin was obliged to levy 9 dinars on every ninth animal and ninth fish. In the same document, it is also mentioned that fairs were held in the town and that it had an inn, two mills, artisans and even a palace and a bathhouse.

There is no doubt that in that period, Rypin was already

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an orderly fortified town. The historian Jan Dlugosz mentions it specifically. (Fortresses and their Royal Holdings, Rypin).

In 1139, upon the partition of the Kingdom by Boleslaw the Wry-Mouthed among his sons, Boleslaw the Curly-Haired received the proving of Dobrzyn together with Chelmno, Mazover and Kujawa. All these were also inherited by his son Leszek who, being childless, bequeathed them all to Kazsimierz the Just, whose heir was Konrad of Maeovia. Wishing to make his estates safe against the attacks and incursions of the idol-worshipping Prussians, upon the advice of Kristian, the head of the Cistercians of Ulowa near Danzing, he created a guard of priests from Dobrzyn and in the charter of the 4th July, 1222, he handed over to them the palace at Dobrzyn and the lands between the river Kamienica and Chelmia. This was of no avail. The Prussians declared war on the friars of Dobrzyn and after a battle lasting two days, they won a battle near Brodnica. In 1229 they destroyed the palace at Rypin and Dobrzyn and devastated the whole area.

In 1228, Konrad invited the Crusaders to defend his estates against the Prussians. According to the charter of privilege of Dankov of 2nd September, 1236, Rypin was annexed to the province of Dobrzyn. At that period, the town suffered almost yearly from attacks, invasion by the Prussians and from 1286 by the Lithuanians, and from fierce battles in which a considerable number of the inhabitants of the town were killed.

After the severe defeat inflicted on him by Giadomin in 1323 in which about 3,000 men were slain and 20,000 taken captive and all his estates burnt, Prince Wladyslaw requested his uncle King Lokietek, to grant him another principality for his lifetime. The latter gave him the principality of Lenczyca. From that time on, Lokietek and Kazimierz the Great claimed their rights of possession of the Dobrzyn province. In 1343, Kazimierz obtained the province by an agreement with the Crusaders signed at Kalisz and before his death, bequeathed it to his grandson Kazimierz, Prince of Szcezecin. In 1376, the Dobrzyn province was restored to the kingdom as Kazimierz

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died without heirs. But it was not for long as in 1396 Wladyslaw Opolski handed it over to the Crusaders as security for an amount of 40,000 gulden.

By the treaty of Racions in 1404, King Wladyslaw Jagiollo got back all the province and annexed it to the Kingdom. All these events also affected Rypin, which destroyed the whole town. Prince Wladyslaw of Dobrzyn became impatient at the situation and resolved to build the town and palace in an entirely different way and in a different place for reasons of security. He chose an area two kilometres from Staro-Rypin. On the island between the swamps and lakes was a village name Rypino and there he chose to build a fortress and establish a town inside it.

On 24th June, 1345, he granted the place a charter as a town and brought in settlers. Among these was the German Eberhardt who received the charter for establishing a settlement as well as a tract of land (210 morg). He was promised half of the law-court fees, a third of the income from trade, free tree-felling in the forest and free fishing in the River Rypianica. In the charter, it was laid down that part of the rent from housing, cloth shops, bakeries and shoemakers' shops should be utilised for the needs of the town. The inhabitants were exempted for ten years from all levies and taxes (every citizen was obliged to pay 6 dinars on every plot of land after 10 years). Of this sum, the town was to get 2; the head of the township 2 and the prince 2.

By the charter, the town was allowed to keep a bathhouse, half of the income of which was fixed for the needs of the town and the other half for the head of the township. In exchange, all the prince's court was promised the right to bathe forever without payment. The inhabitants were given the right of free fishing in the river. Moreover, a hospital with 12 beds was established in the town in memory of Prince Zyamyovit. This hospital received a permit to make and sell beer and meat, to manage an inn, and also to settle artisans on its land –

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blacksmith, weaver, butcher, fisherman, tailor and cobbler – as well as to maintain a mill with a pond. In 1349, Tylu served as mayor.

Germans and Poles responded to Eberhard's appeal. In a short time, the town was established; the prince's palace and a church were built and around the town, a wall with two gates – east and west. The town received 23 Chelmno wluki.

By a charter of the 24th June, 1345 the town also obtained a number of sources of revenue and privileges, exempting it from all obligations and taxes for 10 years.

In 1349, the town was permitted to build mills on the River Rypianica. The town began to develop. In particular, there was a growth in trade and in the number of artisans organised in guilds.

But the development of the town did not continue for long as a result of the oppressive taxes of Prince Wladyslaw Opolski and a wave of attacks by the Crusaders who conquered the town in 1391 and set fire to it.

In these years and up to 1409, the town suffered greatly from them. Only the Polish victory at Grunwald put an end to their invasions.

The town was completely destroyed and it was in a sorry state from every point of view for nearly one hundred years.

But, in 1525, King Zygmunt I granted the town a number of privileges with the object of improving its position and increasing the number of its inhabitants. The town recovered slowly and in 1564, it numbered 700 souls, mostly small farmers, pedlars, shopkeepers and artisans – cobblers, tailors and carter – blacksmiths, weavers, potters, bakers, tanners and tinsmiths. They paid taxes of 10 gulden, 24 groschen and 70 gulden for beer, meat and brandy. There were only 30 houses in all of the town. Despite the easier conditions granted by the privileges, the town did not progress.

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But in the days of King Zygmunt Augustus, a change took place. On the initiative and with the help of the king, the walls of the town, which had been destroyed in the days of the wars with the crusaders, were restored, the number of estates was increased and through this, its revenues were stabilised. The town was made the capital of the district (Starostwo), with a Castelan at its head.

In the winter, an army post with an infantry regiment was established. A court of law was also set up for the whole Dobrzyn province. In accordance with the constitution of 1593, assizes were held here three times a year, two weeks after the assizes of Lypno.

The concentration of the authorities and their offices in the town increased the possibilities of development. In particular, it attracted new residents and improved the economic situation for the citizens' benefit.

In the 17th century, the fairs held at Rypin were already well known; they made a substantial contribution to its growth and expansion.

In that century, Rypin was district centre with two towns and 115 villages. 112 settlements belonged to the Rypin district.

The economic changes half-way through the 18th century brought in their train of decline from a town to a tiny and poor town-let but, through leasing it, holding fairs and the settlings of Jews, they succeeded in improving the economic situation.

In 1763, the castellan Mikhail Podosky leased the town and its holding for 5601 gulden. By a decision of the Sjem in 1768, the law-courts were transferred from Borownik to Rypin. In 1778 King Poniatowski permitted the holding of three annual fairs: on 23rd April, 28th October and 28th December.

After the partition of Poland, Rypin came under Prussian rule. It was one of the few towns worthy of the name and was, therefore, fixed as the seat of the district courts, the chief salt warehouse and an army camp.

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In 1789, there were 72 houses and 250 inhabitants in the town. 112 settlements belonged to the Rypin district.

According to the report of June 1793, on the department of Piotrkow, a district tax office was established in Rypin with six advisers and it covered Rypin, Dobrzyn, Plock, Borownik, Szrensk, Wyszogrod and Bielsk.

In the report Rypin was described as being like the other towns, badly built and with its inhabitants in state of poverty. The lack of artisans was particularly emphasised. The head of the department made a number of suggestions to the King for improving the economic situation, a programme for building in the towns and also suggestions for improving the cultural and educational position.

Rypin served as a district capital for 112 inhabited places. At the head of the district was the State Counsellor, Von Zisch, who was elected by the representatives of the provinces and his assistants were Rndrat Tobian (tax collector) and the knight Grodka and a messenger.

In 1807 the town suffered in the Franco-Prussian war. It was destroyed by the armies passing through it.

Only in the days of the Principality of Warsaw, and later in the days of the Kingdom of Poland, did the position improve and the town became a well-known centre of commerce.

In the 19th century, public and educational institutions as well as factories were established there.

In 1808, there were 405 inhabitants in the town; in 1827 there were 1427 and in 1830 there were 1619. In 1838 there was already a boys' elementary school in the town.

In 1857 (on 27th of September) a fire broke out in which 89 houses were burnt and 208 families left homeless. The restoration of the town was completed in 1859 in accordance with a plan which had been worked out. In 1862 there were already 256 houses and 2904 inhabitants.

The events of the revolution of 1863 left their mark and their particular imprint of Rypin too.

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Under the command of Valerian Ostrovski there were organised in the neighbourhood of Rypin squads of Polish fighters of 800 men. On 4th February, 1863, they attacked the Russian forces in the town and succeeded in capturing it – but not for long as after several days, they were compelled to retreat. Of course the Russians avenged themselves on the inhabitants of the town and caused them great suffering. In April 1863 and March 1864, squads which had been organised in Prussia attempted to cross into Rypin, but without success. After the rebellion, life returned to its usual course. The town expanded and the number of its inhabitants continually increased.

In 1880 there were 58,000 inhabitants in the Rypin district. Of these, 54,991 lived in villages outside the town of Rypin.

In the eighties and nineties, factories were set up in the town and district, employing a considerable number of workers as well as two brandy distilleries, three breweries, two tanneries, 24 brick works, two soap factories, 1 for oil, 5 for vinegar, 6 for iron tools, 2 steam mills, 31 water mills and windmills and 5 sawmills. The value of their produce was 191,440 roubles. Apart from this, there were 684 workshops with a production to the value of 42,053 roubles.

In the days of Russian rule, the administration of the town was in the hands of the Russian government. At the head of the town was the mayor who was appointed by the governor and assisted by advisory officials.

In the outbreak of World War I, there was a change. A citizens' committee was organised in the town to carry out governmental functions and occupy itself with maintaining order. On 24th August, 1914, the Germans entered the town. Up to November 1914, it passed from the hands of the Germans to the Russians and back again.

At the end of November 1914, the town was conquered by the Germans and remained in their hands up to November 1918.

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The occupying authorities placed an adviser at the head of the municipality and next to him the mayor.

In the 1916 elections to the town council were held in accordance with a law published by the Governor-General von Beseler and nine members were elected.

The municipality succeeded in achieving several objectives for the benefit of the town such as electricity works, which began operating in August 1917 and also the annexation of the village Piaski to the town.

On 11th November, 1918 the German forces in the town began to collapse and the Polish military organisation seized power.

On 31st August, 1919 under the restored Polish Government, elections were held to the 24-member town council. 15 Christians and 9 Jews were elected. At the first meeting of the council on 6th October, 1919, Joseph Bodaznovski was elected mayor, assisted by a municipality of.

With this there began a new era in restored Poland.



Jewish Settlement

It cannot be established when Jewish settlement in Rypin began. It is known that Jews already dwelt there in the 16th century and in the survey ilustragja of 1564, in which 700 inhabitants of the town were enumerated, it was reported that among the inhabitants were several Jews without their exact number being given.

Because of the depressed situation of the town, Jews were not attracted to it.

From a list of the population in the diaconate of Rypin, we learn that 80 villages subject to the Catholic Church of Rypin, there were (apart from 4704 Catholics and 1092 dissidents) 150 Jews, some of them in the town of Rypin itself and in 19

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villages, there were 36 Jews, divided according to the following districts:

Chrostkowo 8 villages 13 Jews
Rogowo 13 villages 19 Jews
Radomino 3 villages 5 Jews
Roz 16 villages 40 Jews
Sadlowo 10 villages 30 Jews
Rypin 19 villages 36 Jews
Zalh 11 villages 16 Jews

  80 Villages 159 Jews

In the period when the Polish cities waged war against the Jews, demanding the limitation and even abrogation of their right to reside there and engage in trade and crafts, and for this purpose even banded together in order to carry out jointly their policy against the Jews – it was precisely the municipality of Rypin which tried to attract Jews, promising them the privileges of permanent citizens. Apparently, in view of the depressed economic situation of Rypin, its townsmen saw in the Jews the element which could contribute to its economic improvement and stabilise its position from the commercial point of view, especially after King Poniatowski permitted it to hold three annual fairs. A short time after the granting of this royal privilege, the municipality decided to grant a charter to the Jews.

The townsmen themselves, on their own initiative and out of a desire to improve the economic situation of the town, attempted to get Jews to settle there.

In 1779 the municipality issued, with the approval of the King, a special order stating that with the agreement of the municipal bodies they had reached the decision that it was desirable that the Jews residing in the town should be recognized as citizens of the town with rights for themselves and their heirs, for the purpose of expanding trade in the town. For this reason, they had decided to bestow these rights on them : - 1) to conduct trade in textiles and in all goods weighed on scales or measured by the cubit: 2) to permit

[Page 22]

them to invite butchers and one baker: 3) their law-suits should come before their own (Rabbinical) court and in case of disobedience, the mayor would extend his aid: 9) they were to be allowed to use their own cemetery.

This charter formed the basis for the development of Jewish settlement and promised Jews rights of permanent residents with the right to trade, acquire buildings and plots of land and also the right to their own organisation. A special quarter (Targowo Street) was given to the Jews.

On the basis of the charter, the Jews arranged their communal organisation and founded a religious academy with 5 scrolls of the Law and a number of books.

The community had its own cemetery. It is traditionally related in the community that the graves of great Jews were there, but, their names are unknown. This belief is based on the instructions of the Rabbi of Brodnica to bury him in Rypin, for the cemetery there was the resting place of great men.

In the sixties of the 18th century, Rabbi Mordechai Lorshe left Rypin and received the surname Rypiner. His son, Zvi Hirch, was born in Warsaw in 1770. In 1790 he moved to Ravicz and is the ancestor of the Ruppin family.

In the days of Prussian rule, the economic situation of the Jews of Rypin was similar to that of the other towns under Prussian occupation.

The community was burdened with debts and the artisans were without a livelihood.

From a legal point of view, the government recognized the existence of the privileges in 1779, but only temporarily. After a time, they annulled the special Jewish quarter. A decisive change came about in 1797.

In a regulation issued on 7th April, 1797: General-juden-Reclyent fur sud un neu-ostpreussen.

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There was laid down in 5 chapters (71) clauses the arrangement desired by the authorities and the policy of the Berlin government. According to this, the right of residence in the new areas was permitted to Jews who were already dwelling there at the time of the conquest and who had a regular occupation.

New taxes were levied on the Jews. Apart from the Polish poll tax which was raised from 3 to 10 gulden, they were obliged to pay: 1) a toleration tax of 2½ thalers every fourteenth day if a Jew came to a place where he was not numbered among the permanent residents. 2) The protection tax for the privilege of living in the state and engaging in an occupation, in accordance to the assessment of the minister of the district. 3) Marriage licence fees. Heiratsuzen from 2-150 thalers according to the assessment of the minister of the district. 4) Army tax imposed on every Jew without distinction, from the age of 14 to 90, of 1 thaler and 16 groshen a year. Only volunteers for the army were exempt from this tax. 5) Stamp tax (Stempeisteuer) on Hebrew figures, Rabbinical documents, etc.

According to this regulation, the rights of the community and Rabbinate were limited to religious affairs only and the adjudication of the Rabbis was annulled completely.

All suits and claims had to be brought before the general courts. The staff and the leaders of the community, the Rabbi and religious officials, were appointed by the authorities. The community was forbidden the use of ex-communication, punishment and methods compelling the Jews to obey its orders. Matters concerning ritual slaughter and the sale of meat were taken out of the hands of the congregation and handed over to the slaughterer.

In effect, the community was divested of all content and turned into a tool in the hands of the authorities.

The regulation was of course received by the Jewish public with feelings of fear and apprehension with regard to

[Page 24]

the Jews of Rypin, the meaning of this regulation was the destruction of the trade which had been promised them in the privileges of 1779. After the above-mentioned regulation had been published, the representatives of the communities gathered at Kielcezo to determine the attitude of the Jews to the regulation and the results to be expected from it for the Jewish masses.

Those assembled there saw first of all a danger in the restrictions on the extent of trade and the crafts and also in the proposed amendments in the field of education which were not to their liking. The marriage fees which were intended to restrict the natural increase of the Jews, aroused fear and doubt among the Jewish leaders.

The assembly decided to appeal to the King and his ministers and in order to prepare the necessary money for expenses, every community, large or small, was exhorted to give “the value of a third of the head-tax, which is one Polish gulden per person”.

In October 1797, the Jewish delegation appeared in Berlin and after negotiations, received on 20th November, 1797 the reply of the Government, including a number of eased conditions for the benefit of the Jews.

In the course of time, the officials realised that in many cases the clauses of the regulation need not be implemented, so they stopped the expulsions from villages – which had also severely affected the Jews in the vicinity of Rypin – and permitted residence in all the towns as well as the membership of Jewish craftsmen in guilds and also eased conditions for obtaining pedlars' licences. These benefits were again annulled in 1800.

The occupation by the Prussians continued until 1806 after their defeat in the War with France.

In the days of the Duchy of Warsaw, the Jews of Rypin suffered like all the Jews of the duchy under the heavy burden of taxes. Apart from a food tax and a meat tax, they also paid

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a toleration tax of 2.1/2 to 10 thalers per family, a marriage tax and also general taxes.

The heaviest burden was the tax on kasher meat. In there was set up in Rypin by the decree of the governor, instead of the community, a synagogue commission Dozor-Boznicy possessing limited authority and subordinate to the Government commission for internal affairs, religion and education in Warsaw. The commission was headed by 3 inspectors (Pozors) who were elected for three years. The commission prepared, together with the Rabbi, a budget for the needs of the commission for the entire year: the synagogue, the houses of prayer, the salaries of the Rabbi, religious court judge, cantor, the synagogue attendant, watchmen, the secretary of the community, poor relief and the maintenance of the sick in hospitals outside of the town if there were no hospital on the spot.

The budget was covered by the income from the bathhouse and ritual bath, payments for weddings, circumcision, funerals and community taxes (Skaldka prznymuszowa) of the Jewish inhabitants according to their property and earnings.

During this period, which in1808 had 405 inhabitants, grew till it was populated by about 2,000 inhabitants with a considerable number of houses.

Jews played a substantial part in the development of the town. They concentrated in their hands the trade within the town and its vicinity as well as the export trade in farm produce and leather.

The proximity of the town to the German border and the local Jews' trade connections with Germany had no small influence on the cultural character of the Jewish trading class. Even though on the surface they did not appear as supporters of the Haskalah, it is not impossible that their connection with German Jews led to a spiritual ferment among them and that they “peeped into” the Haskalah literature and German books.

This ferment was expressed in the days of Rabbi Nahum Menashe Guttentag who served as Chief Rabbi from the fifties

[Page 26]

to the seventies of the 19th century. He was a descendant of Rabbi Yom-Tov Heller who wrote the “Yom Tov Supplement” and was also a scion of the author of “Tueri Zahav” (“Golden Columns”). He also knew several languages: Russian, Polish and German and was learned in the general sciences. He maintained contact with the German communities over the border and was invited there to preach to the members of those communities. He was also requested to serve as Rabbi there but refused because he did not want to leave his community.

Rabbi Guttentag was active in public life and was on friendly terms with the leaders of the Polish population and the local Polish priest. When the insurrection broke out in 1863, he was one of its sympathisers and supporters and, according to family tradition, even delivered patriotic speeches in Polish to the rebels.

This conduct met with the opposition of the Hassidim of Kock and Gur, who formed a considerable part of the Jewish population and who regarded him as a sympathiser of the Haskalah – which alarmed them – against this background there broke out a quarrel with all its attendant manifestations.

In those days it was customary for the Rabbi or his wife to sell yeast and Sabbath wine. In this way they gained part of their livelihood as the community was unable to pay him a full salary. The Hassidim called for a boycott of such purchases. Apart from jeopardizing his livelihood, they scorned and slandered him. All these deeds of his opponents did not deter Rabbi Guttentag. By they did not rest and did not shrink from denouncing him as a rebel to the authorities during the insurrection.

During the insurrection the Rabbi cooperated with the Polish priest and they formed an interim government. After the rebellion failed, the Rabbi fled to Berlin whence he returned a year later.

For many years there prevailed strained relations between the families of the Rabbi and his opponents.

Before his death, he commanded his children and grandchildren “to accept the way of Hassidim as the way of Judaism”.

[Page 27]

According to family tradition, he did this despite the suffering the Hassidim had caused him for he realised that the Haskalah led to assimilation and he, therefore looked to Hassidim to heal the breach.

In spite of all this, the work of Rabbi Guttentag in the cultural field left a deep impression on his community.

In the second half of the 19th century, there could already be discerned the budding of the Haskalah among the Jewish youth who longed for the broader fields of Europe. There were already enlightened men like Aharon Carmel and the teach Kalman Pivobarsky, who encouraged the young people to read Haskalah and scientific books. One who was prominent both as a doctor and a Hebrew author was Dr. Israel Frankel (1857-1910), who was born in Rypin to Moshe David Frankel in 1857. In his home he received a traditional education and studied the Talmud and went to Germany where he studied medicine and later became a doctor in the Russian army. He began to read Haskalah literature and thus there awakened in him the ambition to study science. But he was compelled to do this in secret.

The cultured Aharon Carmel, his uncle, helped him to leave Rypin and go to Wloclawek where he studied with Rabbi Karu. At night, he concentrated on studying for entry to a secondary school and in 20 months, succeeded in passing the entrance examinations and join a secondary school. After a short time, he transferred to a classical “gymnasium” in Plock where he completed his studied with distinction. He did not neglect his Hebrew studies. After matriculating, he went to Warsaw and studied medicine at the University. In 1885, he qualified as a doctor.

In Warsaw he specialised in internal diseases. Despite being so busy, he did not neglect his interest in Hebrew literature. He was a lover of the Hebrew language and while still a medical student, wrote Hebrew articles for “Hatsefira” on the natural sciences, medicine and hygiene.

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After settling in Warsaw as a doctor, he published in “Hatsefira” almost weekly for twenty years, articles on medicine, particularly preventive medicine, in an easy style understood by every reader, in the form of a pleasant chat. He attempted to find suitable expressions in Hebrew for medical terms and to present them to the ordinary reader in a popular form.

In 1889 he published his articles in Mishmr-Hariuth “Guardian of Health”, which became a popular book.

After his book appeared, he wrote short articles in “Hatsefirah” called: “Boughs from the Tree of Life”, which were a kind of medical chronicle in which he wrote in an easy succinct style about new discovered in the field of medicine and innovations in hygiene. He published these articles every week until his death.

Dr. Frankel, who was one of the most famous doctors in Warsaw, was popular with the Jewish masses because of his kindness and his readiness to help and treat the poor without fee.

After the death of the author 'Hanatz” (Tsvi Hirsch Neimanovitz) who edited and wrote a weekly chronicle: (“Brosh Homiot”), Dr. Frankel wrote at Nahum's Sokolow's suggestion, a weekly chronicle signed: “The Eternal Wanderer”.

Dr. Frankel was also a friend of Yitzhak Leib Peretz and participated in his compilations: “Die Yudische Bibliothek” which appeared in three volumes from 1897 to 1895.

In the 19th century, the Jewish population grew from 315 persons (out of 405 inhabitants) in 1808 (77.8%) to 731 out of 1,855 (39.4%) in 1827 and 1054 out of 2.272 (46.7%) in 1857.

According to the statistical operation carried out on the initiative of Jan Bloch, in which instructive material was collected on the part played by the Jews in the economic life of the Polish Kingdom, in the Rypin district which, in those years, was included in the Plock government: there were 3410 inhabitants of whom 1245 were Christians and 1156 Jews. In 1897, the Jews numbered

[Page 29]

4367 in the Rypin district; in the town of Rypin itself, the Jews numbered 1706 out of 4735 inhabitants making 36% of the total population.

According to the report of the Joint Committee which began working immediately after the end of World War I in 1918; there were 3300 Jews out of 9000 inhabitants in Rypin. 500 of these were indigent and homeless. There were two hospitals and one Jewish soup-kitchen in the town.

In the first Polish census in 1920, the Jews of the Rypin district numbered 5258. Out of 11,319 inhabitants of towns, there were 4767 Jews (42.1%) and in the villages there were 507 Jews among 67,041 inhabitants (10.8%).

Out of 7,234 inhabitants of the town of Rypin, there were 2791 Jews (38.6%).

From 1919 to 1939 the following representatives of the Jews were elected to the town councils:

Town Executive: Members of the Council:
1) Bezalel Stenczel – watchmaker, member of the town council
2) Shlomo Stenczel – frame factory owner
3) Shmuel Pessah Gurman – iron merchant
4) Shimon Luxembourg – merchant
5) Shlomo Braun – timber merchant
6) Mr. Bornstein – merchant
7) Michael Levi
8) Yitzhak Braun
9) Dr. Bronz – doctor

All the above were killed by the Nazi between 1939 and 1941.


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