« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 17 - Hebrew] [Page 469 - Yiddish]

History & Happenings


A History of Sanok and the Region

by Ozer Pipe

Translated by Jerrold Landau


In the Beginning

It is surmised that the settlement of Sanok and its environs was founded approximately 4,000 years ago[1]. According to archeological finds in Sanok, Dubiecko, Zagorz, Czaszyn, Tujank[*1], Plonna, Pielnia, and other places, we learn that settlements were founded along the length of the San River. Most of the finds are from the Roman period, particularly from the 1st and 3rd, century of the Christian Era[2].

Ancient Sanok was first built on a mountain, surrounded from the north and east by valleys that rise up to hills and tall mountains, covered primarily with coniferous trees. The rich vegetation adds a unique splendor to the scenery of Podcarpathia or the low Beskid, in the background of the tall Carpathian mountain range that begins on both sides of the region and bisects Galicia into two parts, eastern and western. The San River and the wide valley alongside it already served in ancient times as a very easy communication and business artery between Ruthenia (Rus Halicka), Hungary and Poland. The San that merges with the Osława in Zaslaw reaches Sanok from Olchowca and continues on in the direction of Biala Gora, Trepcza and Miedzybrodz that lie to the right of the river. Afterward, it connects with the Sanoczek River and disappears from the horizon in the north. The river twists in an S shape from Olchowca to Trepcza, including also the city of Sanok. There are historical sources that surmise that between the suburbs of Poszdmieszca and Dombrowka Polska, there was once a pond called Skalowka, as well as another pond in the region of the civic hospital along the way to Posada. These two ponds dried up, and all that remains is fertile earth in those places[3]. As stated, the beginning of the ancient settlement was 4,000 years ago. On the other hand, it is surmised that the settlement became a city only in the 11th century of the Common Era. Its lands were situated between Ruthenia, Hungary, and Poland of that time. Sanok had become an important administrative center already by the 12th century, called Ziemia Sanocka (the lands of Sanok) in documents[4], serving as a main crossroads between three neighboring lands. The region once included the lands of Berziw, Lesko (Linsk), and significant portions of Krus[*2], Przemysl and Istryk[*1]. Early on, before the annexation of Sanok to Poland, it was included in the Duchy of Ruthenia. It is known that the Hungarian King Geiza II conquered the fortress of Sanok in 1150 C.E. and took an important woman as a hostage in his dispute with the Duke of Ruthenia[5].


Under the Rule of the Kings of Poland

On account of the importance of the area of Sanok and its vicinity as a crossroads, as has been stated already, the city of Sanok was a point of dispute between the neighboring kingdoms, and it is no wonder that Poland as well set its eyes upon that area in order to strengthen its business connections with Hungary and Ruthenia. The city of Sanok was officially annexed to Poland in 1340 C.E. by the renowned king Kazimierz the Great (1333-1370).

[Page 18]

This step was taken after the uniting of the various duchies of Poland in 1320 by King Wladyslaw Łokietek (1306-1333). Not only did Kazimierz the Great authorize the Magdeburg Charter in 1366 that was granteed by the Duke Jerzy II Trajdonowicz in 1339, which granted the residents of the city autonomy in the running of the city and its judiciary, but he also added to their rights. For example, when he visited the city in 1368, he freed the merchants from various taxes for a ten year period in order to further develop the business connections with Ruthenia and Hungary. He was also the first to grant Sanok the privilege of convening a large annual fair for the near and far regions, as well as for people from Ruthenia and Hungary, prior to the Christian Pentecost[6]. The kings Kazimierz Jagiellończyk (1447-1492) and Zygmunt Stary (1506-1548) expanded the number of fairs to two or three times a year by 1515[7]. Of course, these continued to develop the city to the point where it became an important center of commerce. King Wladyslaw Jagiełło (1386-1434) contined to significantly develop Sanok and its region. After the death of Jadwiga, he married Elżbieta Granowska from the town of Pilica. The marriage ceremony took place on May 6, 1417 in the Church of St. Michael in Sanok[8]. Elżbieta had a special affection for Sanok, and she put her mind to strengthening the means of defense of the city, as well as improving the landscape by planting trees in the city, and other such things.

This era can be considered to be the golden age of the city. However, the flourishing did not last for a long time. Great tragedies afflicted the city. A large epidemic broke out in 1448, and gigantic fires broke out in 1470 and 1566 which destroyed the efforts of many past generations.

Kazimierz Jagiellończyk, the king of that time, helped to restore the city after the first fire, with the assistance of Archbishop Grzegorz of Sanok. King Zygmunt II Waza freed the residents of the city from taxes after the second fire. Sanok made great preparations for defending the city against a possible attack by the Turks who pillaged Poland during the years 1478-1504. To the city's good fortune, they skipped over the city, and no evil befell it. In 1510, King Zygmunt Stary (1506-1548) granted the city the permission to set up a central sewage system. The guilds and workers unions also succeeded in increasing their autonomy[9].

The Italian Duchess Bona Sforza (1493-1557), who married King Zygmunt the Old in 1518, introduced a revolution in the realms of defense, crafts and literature, and she built schools and hospitals. After the death of her husband she returned to Italy, and was poisoned in 1557 by her secretary Pappacoda.

The city insignia was composed of three parts: a white eagle on top, the city patron in the image of the angel Michael on the lower left, and a snake holding a child in its mouth – symbols of the Sforza family of Italy[10].

Since a new danger arose from invasions from the east (the Tatars and Cossacks), the Queen ordered that the cities and fortresses of the king must be fortified. She carried this out in 83 cities, including Sanok, and in 772 villages that were under her patronage. The city again strengthened itself and returned to a flourishing situation. However, this time as well, it was not for a prolonged period.

During an investigation by the central authorities in 1565, it was noted that during the city fairs, 2,000 horses from Hungary would be brought in, as well as heads of cattle that grazed in the mountain. This means that the commerce was well developed. On the other hand, Sanok is not mentioned among the cities that traded in Hungarian wines, as was done in other cities of the Carpathian foothills.

In the area of work, Sanok served as an important center for the region during the 15th and 16th centuries. We must point out that Sanok served as the place of residence of the Starosta (regional governor) and the regional courthouse, which forced

[Page 19]

people needing this service from the entire region to visit the city – however for reasons that are not understood, the city found itself in a sharp decline in both the economic and social realms. It is possible that there were cities that were closer to the King's highway. The area leading to Dukla, next to which were situated Krosno and Lesko, developed at the expense of Sanok. Many fires afflicted the city. We can add to this the fear of a Tatar invasion in 1624, which caused people to avoid entering its gates, even though it did pass over Sanok. From this we can perhaps understand the reasons for the long decline from the latter half of the 16th century until the first partition of Poland in 1772, when Sanok transferred to Austrian rule, leading to a new, more positive fate.

With the loss of Polish independence from the three partitions during a brief period (1772, 1792, 1795), Sanok passed over to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Many Austrians settled in the city, and the central government supported them significantly. This regime lasted until 1918, when Poland attained its independence following the First World War. In 1885, during the era of Austrian rule, the railway line from Zagorz to Stróża was laid down. This greatly aided the development of the city. Through this Sanok drew closer to Krakow and Lwow in various ways, and it connections to these two business and manufacturing centers were strengthened.


Important Places in the City

As has been mentioned, the city's beginnings were atop a mountain surrounded by ancient fortifications, some of them natural and some of them man-made.

san019.jpg [36 KB] - The Zamek Fortress
The Zamek Fortress


The Zamek Fortress

Without doubt, the oldest place in the city is the fortress atop the mountain that served as the center and head

[Page 20]

of the city. The San flowed at its foot, and served as a natural line of defense against enemies. Indeed today, when the San has changed its course, it is difficult to believe this, but sources from 1636 and 1675 and even from the 19th century prove that the waters of the San actually reached the foot of the mountain[11]. The kings of Poland would stay in the fortress during their frequent visits to the city. We know that the fortress served as an inn during the times of the visits to the city of Kazimierz the Great, Wladyslaw Jagiello, Queen Bona Sforza, the sister of Zygmunt August, Queen Isabella, Zofia Holszanska and other honorable visitors to the city[12]. In 1809, a revolt against the Austrians broke out, headed by Kaswari Krasicki, one of the leaders of the szlachta (nobility). A battle took place on the mountain of the fortress.

In our time, the fortress turned into a civic museum that is open to tourists, through the efforts and under the directorship of Stefan Stefanski, a native of Sanok.


The Franciscan Monastery

At first it was a wooden building that was erected in the center of the city, but outside the city walls, in 1377 by the benefactor Wladyslaw Opolcyk[*3]. Queen Elżbieta Granowska permitted it to move into the bounds of the city in 1384. It went up in flames in the great fire of 1476. About 70 years later, in 1640, the monastery was rebuilt. It remains in its current state to our day[13].


The Church of St. Michael

The Roman Catholic Church that was known by the Jews as Koszciol was built out of wood in the gothic style during the time of Kazimierz the Great, as his personal gift at the time of his visit to the city in 1368. The church went up in flames in 1782. In its place, in 1886 a church was built in the small marketplace (Mali Rynek) in the present state.

Communal causes and private individuals in Sanok participated in the underwriting of the new building. Apparently, Jewish residents of the city were among the donors to the building. There is a story that we are unable to verify as fact that in one of the marble stables that were attached to the inner walls of the building, the name of the matron of the Kanner household, the director of the farm and business of this prominent family, is included, as an expression of gratitude for her generous financial contribution. Some people note that efforts were made by the members of the family to have the name, and particularly the picture, removed from this place, but to no avail.


The Gymnasium for Boys

It was founded in 1888 and turned into a civic high school for the region. It served the surrounding area for 70 years, and until this day.


The Jalniwsky Wagon Factory

It started in 1840 as a small workshop. . Through the years, it developed into a huge factory, employing 1,700 workers during the inter-war period. To this day it is an important manufacturing center, not only on a civic scale, but also to some degree on a national scale. A modern factory that later merged with the central one in Krakow, was founded in 1913.

[Page 21]


The Garden of the Monument to Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1746-1877) [*4]

He was the head of the revolt against the foreign enslavers of Poland, and participated in the American War of Independence. There is a monument to him in the small garden that serves as an observation point over the San. It was erected in 1902. The Germans destroyed the monument during the latter war[14].


The Adam Mickiewicz Civic Garden

The residents of Sanok, both Jewish and gentile, cannot imagine the city without the civic garden that is renown for its bountiful trees, bountiful bushes and walkways, verdant grassy meadows, and aromatic lilac trees that intoxicate one's walk during their season of blooming.

The garden, which was founded by the pharmacist Jan Zarowicz in 1896, is located on the highest area of the center of the city, on a natural forested area that remains from the early days. It became closer to the city after residential houses were built close by. The name “Aptekorka” that is used by the residents come from the term “pharmacist” “Aptekarz” in Polish. In 1898, on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of one of the greatest Polish poets Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), the students of the local gymnasium poured piles of earth that raised up the valley, and raised up the name of the revered poet. On the peak of the grass-covered artificial hill, a monument was erected, upon which the name of the poet and the years of his birth and death are inscribed.

san021.jpg [36 KB] - The Adam Mickiewicz Civic Garden - Main Entrance
The Adam Mickiewicz Civic Garden – Main Entrance

[Page 22]


The Spring (S'Brind'l)

Not far from the Mickiewicz hill, strollers in the garden will be attracted to the spring that flows non-stop with fresh, sweet water. The spring was adorned with a dedication to Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849), the greatest Polish composer and pianist, on the occasion of the centenary of his birth. The dedication is in the form of a bronze tablet embedded into a hewn wall that surrounds the spring.



The city hospital was founded in 1857. With the passage of time, it became a regional hospital.

The Izba Skarbowa treasury house was established in 1867 and served as the center for the collection of taxes from six regions.

The military barracks (kasarkatin) was already in existence during the time of Austrian rule, and served the same purpose when the State of Poland was renewed in 1918.



As we begin to discuss the beginning of Jewish settlement in Sanok, we should note a few details about the beginning of the arrival of Jews in Poland in general. Reb Yehuda HaKohen[15] states in the record of his journeys in 1031, Jews from France passed over the land of Poland through Przemysl on their way to Kiev during the 9th and 10th centuries of the Common Era, which is still prior to the establishment of Poland. The minting of coinage was in the hands of the Jews, who were not only expert in this craft, but also felt themselves authorized to strike Hebrew imprints on the coins. Coins have been found from the era of Mieszko III containing the inscription “Mieszko III” in Latin and Hebrew[16]. Furthermore, on monuments found in the cemetery of Breslau from 1206 C.E., there are inscriptions that are indicative of the presence of a right Jewish community in Poland during the early days of the Piast dynasty[17]

King Boleslaw Chroby (992-1025) gave permission for Jews to come and settle in Poland. In 1924, King Boleslaw the Chaste (Pobozny) (1243-1279) issued a permit allowing the mass migration of the Jews of Western Europe to Poland. The pinnacle was reached by King Kazimierz the Great (1333-1370) who encouraged the settlement of Jews in all the cities of Poland. We can surmise that during this era, additional Jews were brought to Sanok and its environs, but to our dismay, we are not able to verify this in the document, since the archives of Sanok from the Middle Ages are primarily in Lvov, and we could not access them despite the efforts that we made to that end. According to the testimony of S. Stefansky, the director of the city museum of Sanok, apparently a document written on parchment exists in that museum stating that Jews were found at the annual fair in Sanok that took place on June 8, 1470[18]. We surmise that Jews lived in this important crossroads between the three nations of Ruthenia, Hungary and Poland even before the lands of Sanok were annexed to Poland. In any case, it is fact that there are stone monuments in Sanok that indicate that there was a Jewish cemetery from the era of Kazimierz the Great on the mountain in front of the Posada. This is a sign that the Jewish community was well rooted in the place even before this time. These monuments are almost completely buried in the earth, but the inscriptions on several of them were uncovered and exposed, and even readable to the eyes of the natives of our city, even those of our generation, who visited the place

[Page 23]

on various occasions. To our dismay, we do not have any photograph or transcriptions of these inscriptions, and certainly today all that we can rely upon is our knowledge and our memories.

The names of Jews appear in the Czach (guild) list of 1514. This provides clear evidence that Jewish craftsmen lived in the city as citizens with equal rights. In the year 1567, the name of “Judeo Uno” appears in the list of the 718 taxpayers of Sanok. He paid one zloty, and his name or his family name are not mentioned[19].

An important document about the history of the Jews of Sanok is a letter of summons from 1676 in which Bishop Stanislaw Sornowsky of Przemysl summoned the members of the city council of Sanok and the civic Wojat to a court case in the city of Berziw, accusing them of issuing permits for the purchase of houses in the center of the city and giving permission for Jewish craftsmen to work on Christian holidays, as well as for the additional crime of having Jews in the city despite the explicit ban of the Piotrkow laws. The bishop accused the Jews of incitement to murder or injure the local priest. The accusation is included in the document quotes by Borzemski, see note 20. It is not known for sure who beat up the priest, but we do learn from the document that the civic authorities did not give into the anti-Semitic church clerics despite the heavy pressure that was imposed upon them. The source does not bring down the verdict. From this we can learn that it apparently was not detrimental to the Jews, and we are allowed to surmise that this was because the status of the Sanok community in the 17th century was strong enough that not only did the local clergy not succeed in distancing the Jews from the gates of the city, but also the court case of the bishop who came to their aid concluded without a negative verdict against the Jews of Sanok[20].

Approximately 50 years later, we find King August II (1697-1733) granting additional rights to the Jews of Sanok (1720), and King Zygmunt August Poniatowski (1733-1763) certifying the rights of his predecessors in 1754[21].

An additional document regarding the Jews of Sanok was found in Breslau in the form of certificate from the years 1791-1800, dealing with loans and the sale of houses. In 1791, the names of Rabbi Manes Halperin, Avraham Berkowicz, and the merchant Simon Liber are mentioned among the householders of the marketplace (Rynek). In 1792, Leizer Romer, the merchant Chajmowicz, Yosef Herszkowicz, Yaakov Link, and Yaakov Yehoshua Herzig are mentioned.

In 1793, the owner of a field, Mendel Har, gave over half of the house to his son-in-law Yosef Herszkowicz, Chil Lowler and Hertz Fenig. In the years 1795 and 1796, David Fiszlowicz and Yosef Porec are mentioned as owing property or house taxes to the city council of Sanok[22].

The books of he Czachs (guilds) from the 15th century and onward are located in the civic museum of Sanok. According to the testimony of S. Stefanski the director of the museum, the names of 1514 Jews appear in the books of the crafts, however they are blurred and it is difficult to precisely decipher them. However, in lists that belong to a much later era, that came our way from the same source, we can identify the names of 19 Jewish craftsmen who are registered in the Czachs according to their various professions (furriers, tailors, seamstresses and others).

[Page 24]

According to the list from 1873-1939, there were 76 independent Jewish tailors in Sanok with the level of Meister, including eight women.

Candlestick makers 1
Brush makers 3
Dyers 5
Carpenters 7
Shoe polish makers 2
Umbrella makers 1
Tanners 1
Upholsterers 1
Wood engravers 4
Smiths 2
Boiler makers 2
Sock makers 1
Butchers 20
Furriers 12
Bakers 50
Photographers 4
Knife sharpeners 2
Shoemakers 13
Goldsmiths 7
Scribes 6
Tinsmiths 20
Soap makers 5
Hat makers 6
Cotton lining makers 2
Glassblowers 5
Bookbinders 4
Watchmakers 7
Factors? 1[*5]
Printers 2

In total, 196 Jewish craftsmen are listed from this era. Of course, the Jewish clerical professions such as cantors and shochtim, etc. are not mentioned in this list. From the aforementioned, we can definitely state that the handcraft trades were concentrated exclusively in Jewish hands in those times[23].


Jewish Communal Life in Sanok

For the aforementioned reasons, we do not have any facts about the size of the population of the city during the Middle Ages. Data from the years 1791-1800 exists in the civic archives of Breslau. At that time, the population of the city was 5,121 people of which 2,029 were Jews – that is 41.5%[24]

The population was divided into three main national streams: Jews, Poles and Ukrainians. During the interwar period of the 20th century, the population was equally divided between the three groups. In 1921, after the adjacent settlements of Posada Sanocka, Dąbrówka Polska, Dąbrówka Ruska and Wytostwo, which had small Jewish populations, were annexed to the city, the city numbered 12,261 people of which 4,391 (31.25%) were Jews. In 1939, the population reached 17,860, and after the Holocaust in the 1946 census, the population was 11,112. It is certain that the population drop of 6,748 people from the 1939 census is accounted for by the missing Jews who were murdered or fled during the war. This was indeed their number close to the beginning of the war. We are not far from the truth if we state that before the outbreak of the war, the Jews comprised more than 35% of the population of the city[25].

[Page 25]

san025a.jpg [26 KB] - The Talmud Torah building and its synagogue hall
The Jewish cemetery in Sanok (general view)

Among the rows of graves and nonuments we can see the small
structures (canopy) in which the rabbis and Admors are buried.

san025b.jpg [23 KB] - The entrance to the cemetery
The entrance to the cemetery

The face of my father and mother, and the Jews of the community envelop me,
With the strange landscape, beautiful with the falling leaves.
Weekdays, as well as Sabbaths and Festivals, the songs of the prayers
For I can no longer even go to the graves of my ancestors.

{A. Tz. Greenberg. The Breadth of the River.}


Text footnotes
  1. Ksiega pamiatkowa gimnazium meskiego w Sanoku 1958 Dr. A. Fastnacht, Zarys dziejow Sanoka. Pantswowe sydawnictwo Naukowe Krakow 1958. Page 14. return
  2. Ibid. Page 14. return
  3. Ibid. Page 14. return
  4. Ibid. Page 16. return
  5. Ibid. Page 15. return
  6. Ibid. Page 24. return
  7. Ibid. Page 25. return
  8. Ibid. Page 31. return
  9. Ibid. Page 26. return
  10. Ibid. Page 33. return
  11. Ibid. Page 14. return
  12. Ibid. Page 36. return
  13. Ibid. Page 32. return
  14. Ibid. Page 160. return
  15. See 7. return
  16. The Monthly: Yiddishe Schriften (Jewish Writings) number 11/12 – Warsaw 1961. Pages 174/5. return
  17. Yiddishe Schriften as mentioned above. return
  18. Mandel: One Hundred Years of Jewish Art in Poland. return
  19. Archiwum glownych akt dawnych – Warszawa as I-20. return
  20. Borzemski: Archiwa w Sanoku. return
  21. Wojewodzkie archiwum panst. Krakow – Varia 82 p. 82, p. 408-412. return
  22. Borzemski: Streszczenie pazywilejow krola Aug. II dia zyd. Sanokich. return
  23. Ibid. Found in the museum in the city of Sanok. return
  24. Ossolineum ksiega z lat 1791-1800. Wroclaw. Dr. Gelber: the Zionist movement in Galicia, palge 201. return
  25. Fastnacht – ksiega gimnazjum Sanok.return


Translator's footnotes *1.  I could not identify this town. return
*2.  Possibly Krzywcza return
*3.  It seems as if there is a contradiction in this sentence. return
*4.  There is an obvious error in one of these dates. According to the article in Wikipedia, he died in 1817, not 1877. return
*5.  The question mark is in the original text, indicating that the identity of this trade is unclear. return

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Sanok, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

Yizkor Book Director, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Lance Ackerfeld

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 26 Jun 2008 by LA