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Generations of Jews in Nowy Sacz

To the Jewish History of Nowy Sacz
The Period of Old Poland

I. The City of Sandz Without Jews,
From the Beginning of the 13th Century Until After Gzira Takh [1]

The Development of the City Until the 16th Century

by Rafal Mahler

Translated by William Leibner

Edited by Renee Miller

The village that grew into the "free royal city of Nowy Sacz" toward the 13th century is as old as the other old Slavic villages in Poland. The name Sandec or Sacz refers to the name of the owner of the area, namely the Teutonic baron Sandomir or Sandko. The village developed into a city because of its favorable geographic location, a wide plain between the West Beskid Mountains, a geographic cauldron. Thus the small village had all the potential to develop into a city. The arms of the rivers Kamienica and Dunajec encircled the valley and converted the city into a fortress against its enemies. This provided the inhabitants with security and enabled the city to grow in peace. The fact that Sandz bordered the river Dunajec that was a river road to Slovakia and Hungary enabled the city to develop important commercial ties as well as a commercial basis.

In the year 1298, Nowy Sacz is mentioned for the first time in official records. The Bohemian King Wencelas II who also ruled Poland ordered the building of the city near the river Kamienica where the village Kamienica was located. The village belonged to the bishop of Krakow until this period. The name continued to be used until 1317 when it was permanently replaced by the new name of Nowy Sacz. Similar to other Galician towns, the population consisted primarily of German settlers.

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Mainly German colonists occupied the towns in Malapolska [Little Poland] and also Sandz. The first city administrators were named Arnold and Bartold. With time as in other cities, Polish farmers, artisans and merchants began to settle and slowly the city underwent the process of becoming Polish. The city books were still written in German in 1501 and the priests still preached in the German language. However during the 16th century, the city became thoroughly Polish and most people forgot the origins of some of the burghers of the city.

The River Kamienica

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During the days of King Wladyslaw Lokietek who unseated the Czech rulers and united Poland, the city of Sandz became one of the most important in the land. Commerce with Hungary was on the upswing. Wine, salt, iron, metal, copper, horses and other goods were imported from Hungary. Sandz competed with another city, Krakow and used the internal political situation to try to get as many royal privileges as it could from the king. In 1312, the German settlers of Krakow, led by the mayor Albert decided to revolt against the king Wladyslaw Lokietek and tried to replace him with a Germanized Silesian prince.

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The King crushed the rebellion and deprived the city of Krakow of many privileges that were then transferred to the city of Sandz. Merchants that traveled to and from Krakow had to stop in Sandz and sell their goods there for as long as the city withheld permission to continue their trip. As long as the city did not let them travel further (“Shtoplrekht” [right to receive payment from those passing through the town] – “prawoskado” [Polish]. The king added many other privileges to the city such as he exempted the burghers of Sandz from paying taxes in the provinces of Krakow and Sandomierz.

In 1319, a compromise was reached between the cities of Nowy Sacz and Krakow whereby merchants traveling from Krakow to Hungary must stop in Nowy Sacz. Merchants from the latter city that used the rivers Dunajec and the Wisla were forced to stop in Krakow unless they carried salt. in 1327 the same King gave the city of Nowy Sacz the right to hold an annual fair that would take place on July 13, the day dedicated to the Saint Malgorzata. All the participants to this annual event, Christians and Jews, whether they came from Hungary, Czchow, and Krakow were freed from paying road tolls at Old Sacz and Rytro for eight days prior to and eight days after the day of the fair.

The son of King Lokietek, Kazimierz the Great, who spent some time in Nowy Sacz in 1358, granted the city more privileges. Residents of the city were freed from paying road taxes in order to travel to eastern Galicia and to Hungary. In 1365, the King established a high court and assigned six cities to send representatives to this court. Nowy Sacz was one of these cities organized along the old Magdenburg legal charter. [2] The descendants of the king adhered to these privileges and even extended them to the city.

In 1427 King Wladyslaw Jagiellon established a tax rate for transporting wood and other merchandise along the rivers Dunajec and Wisla to the port of Gdansk. His son (Varnenchik) who was also King of Hungary published a privilege in 1440 in Buda that, in effect freed the residents of Sandz of paying taxes in his country, especially in the city of Lubomla [present day Lubovna] in the region of Cips. In 1453 his brother, Kazimierz the Jagiellon, permitted the city to build a bridge across the Dunajec and to collect the bridge tax. He also permitted the city to hold a second annual fair on November 11th, the day dedicated to Saint Martin. Similar to King Wladyslaw Lokietek's decision years ago, in 1512 the current king, Zygmunt the First also freed visitors to the fair from paying taxes. The exemption applied to all residents of Nowy Sacz, Krakow, and Hungary. It was in effect eight days prior to and eight days after the fair. In 1553, the Nowy Sacz received the privilege that all merchants arriving from Cips, (the area of Kezmarok) in Slovakia, must stop in the city with their merchandise.

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The fact that the city was located next to the Hungarian border gave the place great importance. Many important conferences and consultations took place there. Nowy Sacz received the son of the sister of King Kazimierz the great, the Hungarian King Ludwig who later became king of Poland. Here the Polish barons received Queen Elizabeth and her daughter, Queen Yadwiga. (Jadwiga). The Polish king Wladyslaw Jagiellon held meetings in the city with the Hungarian king, with the Prince of Mazowia, and with emissaries of the German Emperor. King Jagiellon spent extensive time in Nowy Sacz and his sons were raised there under the tutelage of the great Polish historian Dlugosz. They resided in the castle and would eventually rule Poland. *

From the Flourishing Period to the Deluge

The richness of the city kept growing. In the sixteen-century, six villages were attached to the city, including Piatkowe and Paszyn on the road to Grybow. Besides being an important commercial center, the city became an important center of domestic industry. The city became well known for their sickles, and farmers from around the area came to Nowy Sacz to buy this important implement. The city also had a well-developed wool spinning industry. In spite of these economic achievements, the city's social climate was far from healthy. A few very rich merchants ruled the city and frequent clashes took place between the merchants and their workers. The fact that the merchants were mostly Germans, until the beginning of the sixteenth century, while the workers were mostly Poles did not help the situation. In 1509, there were bloody battles in the city around the election of the administrator.

During the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century, commerce continued to flourish and grow. The main trading partner as before was Hungary. Wine was the most important staple. Sandzer merchants traveled to Trotcha (Torisa),Kashoi (Kosice), Eperies (Presow), Leitishoi (Levoca), Hunpala (Hunesdorf), Kezmorak, Bartefeld (Bardejov) and brought barrels of wine across the mountain tops or using the river Poprad.

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The wine was then shipped to Krakow, Lublin and Warsaw and to Kozmir; the transports floated along the Wistula River. Then horse drawn carts hauled the merchandise to Lublin and Warsaw. From Hungary, notably from Hetharsh (Lipany), large quantities of dried prunes were shipped along the Wistula to the port of Gdansk. The city of Nowy Sacz also delivered copper from the area of Cips in Slovakia throughout Poland. The previously mentioned staple of wood was also traded extensively through the city. Logs were floated down to the Dunajec River to the various sawmills. The wine trade required large outlays of moneys and forced the merchants to form partnerships with workers or with princes.

In addition to the Sandzer merchants, Hungarian wine merchants also brought their merchandise through the city. Some of them established their residences in Nowy Sacz and with time became permanent Polish burghers. As evidence, we have some family names that testify to their Hungarian origin, namely, Wegrzyn, Wengier and so on. The wholesale trade of the city also included the productions of the region, such as glass at Jazowsko and saletere (ingredient used in fire power) produced in Grybow. The city also received two additional annual fair days from King Wladyslaw the Fourth: in 1663, on the day of relocating the tomb of Stanislaw the Holy One (September 27th) and in 1639, the day dedicated to the Saint Wojciech (April 23rd). In the same edict the king also gave his permission to the city for two weekly market days on a regular basis. Every Thursday and Saturday were henceforth market days in Nowy Sacz. In and around the city, there were also market days that the Sandzer merchants visited. They traded at the markets of Stary Sacz, Mszanica (Mszana), Limanowa, Czechow, Iwonicz, Grybow, Bobowa, Gorlice and Tarnow.

The Polish kings granted extensive concessions to the city in this period similarly to those granted in the Middle Ages. Besides renewing the old concessions and privileges, they granted many new and important ones. In addition, the city also enjoyed the many small gifts and special endowments that were granted to the various worker guilds in the city. Some of these were directly related to the trade and commercial industries of the city. Thus, the Polish King Zygmunt the First renewed an old privilege to the city in 1615 and freed the merchants of the city from paying taxes for their merchandise that was shipped along the Poprad River in Hungary. The freed items were copper, iron, brandy, metal, and so on. They did not have to pay taxes at the custom station of Podlinec (Podolinec).

More important than the new concessions were the enforcements of the old laws to protect the merchants of Nowy Sacz. They feared competition from other cities especially in their trade with Hungary. The city merchants would do everything in their power to prevent strange merchants from Hungary from avoiding Nowy Sacz and forcing them to going through the city and, according to ”Shtoplrekht” they would not be able to proceed until the merchants of the city bought all the goods that they wanted.

* Geographic Dictionary of the Polish Kingdom: Nowy Sacz; Records of Counties and Districts, Volume IX, No. 2, 4, 5, 14, 16, 17, 18, 29, 30, 32, 44, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 54, 57, 59, 62, 67, 71, 86, 93, 104, 108, 125, 172, 173, 174, 176, 177.

(1) Gzira Takh the terrible period, namely the Chmielnicki pogroms. [translator's note]

(2) General names for a system of privileges "securing the administrative independence of municipalities," which was adopted in many parts of Germany, Poland, and Bohemia ("Encyc. Brit."). [editor's note]

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In addition, the out-of-town merchants had to pay a special tax for the maintenance of the fortified walls of the city. This tariff was highly regulated and specified the rate for various items. The Polish Kings of the period, just as their successors from Zygmunt-Augustus to Jan Kazimierz always renewed this right of the city of Nowy Sacz. They always admonished the merchants that any oyver [violator] of the “Shtoplrekht” of the city would face confiscation of their merchandise. The Sejm [Polish Parliament] would also frequently strengthen this privilege of the city by special resolutions. Nevertheless, many merchants tried to avoid the city on their return to Hungary by traveling for example, far round about to Nymark (Nowy Targ) and Amsene (Mszana Dolna).

The privileges of Nowy Sacz were obtained at great expense. The city paid bribes at each session of the Sejm that dealt with privileges for Nowy Sacz and that cost a great deal. The city also sent delegates with large amounts of money to the coronation of each new king. The king would receive from Nowy Sacz as well as from other cities the so-called “ ring money “ that was used to purchase jewelry for the new king. If the new king visited the city or the vicinity, for example, in Wisnicz, the city Nowy Sacz would mekhabed zayn [honor] him with expensive lox and wines. For a new privilege for the city, the king would receive two barrels of wine estimated at 300 Polish gildn. The city also would send delegates to the conference of the Wojewodztwo [provincial governors] offices of the Krakow region held in Proszowice to meylets-yoysher zayn [to intercede for] all the necessary legislation at the Sejm for the special provisions for the city of Sandz. Of course, the delegates would take with them sizable amounts of wines for the occasion.

The rich “patricians” were extensively involved in the commerce of the city. They also had inns in the market and warehouses on the outskirts of the city. Most of the residents of the city were occupied with work. At the beginning of the 17th century, King Zygmunt the Third established the privileges of a list of 30 guilds and their obligations. Among them were a merchant guild, shopkeeper guild, and one for cutters. Amongst the rich merchant families in the city were the Kostarkiewicz and the Aleksowicz families that existed until the 20th century.

The rich merchant class held the power in the city. The artisans and the poor classes had absolutely no say at city hall. Therefore, the rajcy [Pol: members of the council] used the city offices to stuff their pockets with money afn khezhbn [at the expense of] the community. With the beginning of the 16th century, the plain people, pospolstwo [Pol: the commoners] began to fight against the city officials and every few years new clashes broke out.

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In the year 1543, the King Zygmunt the First issued a psakdin [verdict] on complaints of the poor people. He rendered a verdict in their favor. Up to 1615, every six months the city councilors interchanged with each other for the position of administrator. A royal commission established that there must be annual elections for city hall. In addition to the six councilors, there would also be a judicial council of six elected aldermen and a bailiff besides .The head of the guilds elected 30 responsible men who participated in the election of the aldermen with representation of the “plain people”.

The city councilors ignored the reforms in favor of the “plain people” and continued to rule the city. They were elected each year but they remained in their seats for years. The city councilors and the aldermen not only freed themselves from paying municipal and governmental taxes but also sponsored all kinds of banquets at municipal expense. They also misused and frequently falsified municipal accounts. The monies were of course deposited to their private accounts. In a case before the court in 1645, a city councilor accused the former administrator of embezzling city funds; the accused replied that the councilor was but an oxen thief, both parties indeed revealed the truth, so to say...

The cultural life of Nowy Sacz was similar to that of other Polish cities of the same size, that is, very low. The only “intellectuals” in the city who could read besides the priests, were the city record keeper, the pharmacist, barber, teachers with a baccalaureate and several vinkl-advoktn [lawyers who took petty cases and were not above unethical actions]. At the parochial school, under the priests, the students were taught to read, write, simple mathematics, church songs and some elementary grammar. The city of Nowy Sacz was still far ahead of anything that the Karpathian region had to offer. The priest Simon Starawolski wrote in his Latin descriptions of Poland of 1632 that he believed the city of Nowy Sacz was a commercial and cultural center amidst a region of simple brewers.

The population of the city and the outskirts in this flourishing time was not more than four thousand, at the most five thousand souls. The city itself was surrounded with fortified walls and occupied a small area. At the market there were about 40 houses and in the middle was the city hall. From the market and parallel to it, there extended seven streets; Polska later changed to Kazimierza, and in Yiddish, Yidishe gas [Jewish Street]; Szpitalna later Krakowska, Drwalska where the Jesuit church was located is today part of the Jagiellonska near the market;

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Furmanska today Kosciuski - Rozana today Pijarska; Mlynska today Lwowska that leads to the Piekla. Swietego Ducha has retained its name and follows parallel along the east side of the market. The entire city except for the suburbs Przetakiwka, the Piekla (Zalubiczne was the name based on the small river Lubinka that flows through the village of Piatkow), the Grodzki and the Kaduk contained 224 houses in 1650; the suburbs listed 143 houses.

One entered the city through one of four gates in the fortified walls: in the north not too far from the present Helena Bridge, were two gates: the Brama Grodzka and the Brama Krakowska. In the east near the River Kamienica near the passage to the Piekla was the mill gate called Brama Mlynska, after the royal mills that were located nearby behind the gate. In the south, at the end of the present-day Jagielloner (Old Sacz) Street was the Hungarian gate called Brama Wegierska. There were 13 posts or fortified lookouts that were entrusted to the various guilds of the city. These guilds protected and maintained the fortified city walls. The blacksmiths protected the middle post; the shoemaker guild protected the north post, and the pot maker guild the corner post, which was later to be the old Jewish cemetery. In the east the posts were guarded by the brewers and wool merchants and further to the south, above the mill gate, was the post of the furriers. Above the Hungarian gate was the copper guild. The tailor and the spinner guilds were located on both sides of the gate. In the West, near the Dunajec River behind the Protestant church that stands there today, was the butcher guild and further southwest was the shopkeeper guild site.

The suburbs were separated from the city by fortified walls and wide ditches. The southern suburb (later called in Yiddish the Fershtat) was called Przedmiesce wegierske. In the Piekla in the east, over the River Kamienica was called Za Kamienica. There are still remains from the old walls today behind the place called “ Kriminal” along the side of the Dunajec; also in the garden of the Parafialne church along the river Kamienica and also in the garden of the Jesuits not far from there. All of the 13 checkpoints near the royal castle at the end of the Jewish Street were sites of the blacksmith guild.

The oldest buildings in Nowy Sacz from the flourishing period of the city still stand. The present-day Evangelical church located in the lane leading to the river Dunajec from the Jewish street (“the Schwabishe Tume”) [impure place] was built in 1299 during the Czech rule of Poland. At that time it was a Franciscan church in the Byzantine style. The royal castle on the north side of the Jewish Street near the Helena Bridge dates from the period of King Kazimierz the Great, of the 14th century. During the Austrian reign, the castle was used as a military powder room and a great part of the castle was

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restored. With the period of renewed independence of Cardinal Zbigniew Alesznicky started to build the present Parafialna Church para [church district] in the lane that runs parallel to the north-south line of the market. To this day, the church still retains the pointed windows of the Gothic period. The church also retained a copper baptismal basin from the Renaissance period, from 1557. The present Jesuit church was built by the Norbertine order that King Wladislaw Jagiellon created in 1409. *

The First Jews in Nowy Sacz

No study has yet been conducted on the question of when the first Jews settled in the city. Until the 15th century there were few Jewish settlements in the province of Krakow in general. There was a big Jewish community in Krakow itself where there was actually a Jewish street in the year 1304. We also know definitely that Jews were then living in Bochnia in the 15th century. These are two places from where the Jews were later expelled (from Krakow they were expelled to Sandomierz in 1495 and from Bochnia in 1605. The latter was a total expulsion) (1). We know of only one Jew in Jaslo that was mentioned in 1468 (2). In the same manner we have information that another Jew lived in Nowy Sacz in the 15th century since in 1469 he signed a document with the name of Abraham de Sandecz, or Nowy Sacz in Krakow. He was a member of the Krakow kehile that consisted of five members. They were forced to sign an agreement whereby they donated all the Jewish buildings along the Jewish Street to the Academia of Krakow. [3]

A second news item concerning a Jew in Nowy Sacz appeared in 1503 regarding a Jewish eye doctor named Abraham. A certain Jan Michalek deposited with a certain bank two marks (Grzywna) [throughout this period, grams of various amounts of silver were used as the base unit] in escrow stipulating that the doctor would be paid the deposit if he cured him, but if the doctor failed to restore his sight, he would not charge him for the treatment [4].

It is no accident that we have few notices about Jewish presence in the area until the Middle Ages. Just like Stary Sacz, Biczyce, Jaslo and Kros (Krasne Potockie, in Polish, on this side of the Sanok province) the Jews did not have the right to reside in these places.

*Jan Syganski, Nowy Sacz in the XXXX Wazow, Przewodnik nuakowy and literati, Volume 22, Idem, Nowy Sacz in Wazow, ibid. Volume 28; Idem, Zabytki dziejowe Nowy Sacz, ibid. Volume 29: Idem, Z zycia domowiego szlachty sandeckiej.

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Since Sandz was an important commercial center and Jews as mentioned before traveled to and from Hungary in the 14th century, we must assume that some Jews found ways or powerful protectors to allow them to settle in the vicinity, but not in the city itself - perhaps in the suburbs. This would explain the case of the Jew in Jaslo.

During the 16th century, some cities in Kleyn Poland [Malapolskie] like Pilzno, Beicz, and Krosno received bifeyresh [detailed] privileges from the Polish King, Zygmunt Augustus that Jewish could not live there. These privileges were called "Privilegium de non tolerandis Judaeis”, [Latin; the granting of the privilege to exclude Jews}] or non-tolerance of Jews. For Sandz no such edict was known but based on historical facts, the city did not tolerate Jewish presence. Thus, there is no mention of even a few Jews in the official records during the 16th century.

True, Jews from Krakow and other places in Poland used to travel to Hungary as they did in the Middle Ages through the Carpathians and there purchased wine and other products. They then brought these items back home. But referring to the previous era all merchants tried to avoid Nowy Sacz in order to avoid - as we mentioned earlier – the so-called "shtempl-rekht” stamp right" and to avoid the heavy duty imposed for the protection of the city wall, greatly reducing their profits. Thus, the great incentive to avoid the city. Furthermore, the city collected these taxes and used the money to fortify the walls and checkpoints in accordance with the royal charter that the city received. The importance of these tax duties can be seen by a royal decree issued on October 20th 1620 by Zygmunt the Third:

“ It was reported to us that certain Jewish merchants purchase metal and other goods in lower Hungary and then transport them to our land along the Dunajec River. The transportation is however done in such way as to avoid the stamp tax and other duties of the city of Sandz to which the city is entitled by royal decree. These frauds damage the city finances. We therefore resolve that all said merchandise apprehended by the Nowy Sacz authorities anywhere may be confiscated for the good of the city. Furthermore, as advised by the legal advisers, the merchandise of Jews shall be turned over to Nowy Sacz to be used for the maintenance and fortifications of the walls. The seizures from Jews will be of a permanent nature, regardless of the merchandise confiscated. We shall not itemize the long list of items that require the duty and stamp tax. However, it must be clear that the confiscated merchandise must be used for the good of the city and not for any individual benefit. All the proceeds must go to the restoration of the burned city in order to help it in its restoration of the fortified walls and posts. We must also call to your attention the fact that some Jewish merchants have certain exemptions that must be observed and honored by the officials. In these cases, the merchandise can not be confiscated...” [5]
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As we notice, the King protected those Jews with exemptions from persecution by the city officials by stating that their merchandise must be freed. Very characteristic is the fact that the King stresses the importance of using the proceeds of the confiscated revenues for the reconstruction and maintenance of the walls and posts and not to spend it for the needs of the city officials. The walls and checkpoints were seriously damaged during the last great fire (in 1611).

The same officials that so zealously tried to confiscate the merchandise of the Jewish merchants who tried to avoid the taxes, did everything in their power to prevent Jewish merchants from competing in the city. Some other cities in Poland also did not permit Jewish residence but enabled Jews to enter the city like all merchants in order to participate in the fair. The Nowy Sacz municipality did not even grant this minimal privilege to the Jewish merchants. On January 30th 1649, the newly crowned Polish King, Jan Kazimierz promulgated certain privileges to the city of Sandz on the day of his coronation. He assured the continuation of all privileges that the city had acquired previously and added a new edict to the effect that it barred all Jewish merchants from participating in the annual fair. Everyone may come to the fair but not Jewish merchants. [6] The city fathers did not wait for the royal decree; they had taken steps years before to prevent Jewish merchants from entering the city. There was a tradition in Sandz that the city watchman sat day and night in a little hut near the Grodsky gate not far from the royal castle and guarded the entrance in order to prevent riff raff and Jews from entering the city. [7]

In spite of the harsh decree, some Jews managed to enter the city during the annual fair and sell some of their merchandise. We find a clear indication of this in the trial that took place in 1632 before the city court. The Jew Daniel Morawicz from Wisznic had signed a contract with the guild of dyers that he would supply them with about 25 kilo of wool (or 50 weightstone, each stone weighs 32 pounds, a Polish pound is equivalent to 32 lewit, briefly about 407 grams {author's note}).


He also received an escrow bond in the amount of 475 zloty from the leader of the guild to cover the purchase. At the trial the Jew showed another purchase note for about 100 kilos of spring and fall wool. The guild denied the latter purchase and insisted that there was only one purchase of 50 kilos of wool. [8]

Similarly, the spinning guild decided to buy Jewish merchandise because it benefited them. So we hear 20 years later, in the second half of the 17th century, about several residents of Sandz who decided to make secret deals with Jews during the annual fair. In 1652 some Jews came to Sandz during the annual fair devoted to the Saint Margareta (July 13). There was a Polish merchant in the city that used to bitterly attack the underhanded methods of the Jewish merchants but presently decided to sell them house goods and to sell at the market Jewish goods that is, clothing, as his goods. The merchant guild complained to the authorities. During the fair of 1657, a Jewish merchant named Yakow ben Wolf deposited merchandise at the home of Polish nobleman. [9]

In this manner did brave Jews of Sandz manage to break the harsh edict that prevented them from competing in the city on fair days. During the same period in the 17th century, the Jews had managed to penetrated the city and reside there permanently. They even managed to lay the basis for the future organized Jewish community in the city. The Jews were assisted in their struggle by the political events that strengthened the feudal forces over the city elements.

Jewish Residents in Sandz at the Royal Castle

Starting with the 16th century, the feudal lords strengthened their power at the expense of the royal court. Beside important cities like Warsaw, Krakow, Poznan and Lemberg [Lvov], the royal central authority steadily weakened in the country at large. The princes steadily increased their powers. The royal appointed starostas [administrators] also began to intervene in the local affairs of the cities just like the princes in their own cities. The starostas ignored some of the royal privileges and became the dominant factors on the local political scene; they frequently played up to the municipal politicians.

Sandz was affected by this shifting of power. At the beginning of the 17th century, the king issued a ruling pertaining to the local elections in the city of Sandz. According to the context, the city council was to be elected annually and was to consist of six members: four representatives selected by the king's appointed administrator, one representative was selected by the old municipal councilors and the last was supposed to be selected by the bailiff and the aldermen. Four of the six would have to be nominated each year by the king's starosta. Sandz did not comply with the law. Instead it deprived the city of some revenue by pocketing it for himself through the granting of personal monopolies. [10]

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The Royal Castle

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Similar to other royal cities in Poland, the power of the starosta favored the Jewish situation in Sandz. The starosta would not permit Jews to enter the city to reside; he was anti-Semitic but he wanted Jews in his area. Similarly to the large princely estates, the starostas also needed the Jews; they also collected rents from the Jews for renting them places to live in his buildings, which was forbidden for the city residents to do. Furthermore, the residents were by and large hostile to Jewish neighbors.

The Lubomirski family had been the starostas of the city of Sandz since the 16th century. The princely family retained the position through inheritance until the 18th century. In addition to the power of the royal grod-staroste (starosta grodowy) the staroste was also supervisor of all royal estates including the city of Nowy Sacz, the royal castle and the surrounding areas that included the hamlets of Piwniczna, Grybow and 20 villages in the region. Some of the villages were:

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Biczyce, Czaczow, Pisazowa, Ptaszkowa, Kamionka. In the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century they also possessed the village of Nawojowa as their own.

About the administrators of the West Beskids [within the Polish frontiers lie portions of the Beskid Mountains] we know that the starosta of Czaczow, Jerzy Platenberg, who seized some royal holdings during the revolt of Kostka Nieperski (1651) [a peasant uprising] had some Jewish arendarn [business {leasing}] agents] on his estate. [11] We also have a notation that Stanislaw Lubomirski, the starosta of Nowy Sacz (held office 1597-1613) had Jewish residents on his estate at the beginning of the 17th century. Two of them were: Goldek (probably Polish version of Gdelyahu) and Wolf. They acted as agents for the administrator and bought fine materials and delicacies on credit for him from the Sandzer Jewish merchants. [12] Now, some years later, during the middle of the 17th century, Constantine Lubomirski had official Jewish managers that ran the royal mills in Sandz. In 1655, the manager of the mills was Yona ben Yaakow (Jonasz Jakubowicz). In 1651, the Sandzer mills were in the hands of a Jewish manager, namely Hannah bas Beinush (Anna Bienkowiczewa). Thus the city itself that was so opposed to Jewish residents did not shrink from employing a Jewish woman to run their business, just as the administrator used Jews for his business. Her son-in-law, Mordechai Breindlis (Marek Brandes) lived in her home in Sandz. In 1657, his place was searched and they found stolen silver jewelry that thieves have removed from a religious picture in the Franciscan church. The successor to Yona ben Yaakow to manage the royal mills in Sandz in 1657 was a certain Finkler. [13]

The above-mentioned Constantine Lubomirski had several Jewish arendarn in the various villages for example, Kamionka and Nawojowa to run his affairs. This became known because of a trial of a famous outlaw named Simko Ploch from Bagusza. The trail ended with a death sentence on the 23 of January 1653. The Jew Marek (Mordechai) testified before the city court that Simko and six associates attacked the storeowner Stanislaw Rogalski in Kamionka and then went to Nawojowa and rob a Jewish woman there. The court sentenced him to be “tsefertlen” [quartered] (chopped into four pieces)…[14]

The Jewish that lived in Sandz under the protection of the mayor apparently lived on the land of the royal castle. It is likely that the number of Jews was now sizable since they had a small synagogue on the land of the castle and even had a rabbi or a moyre-hoyroe [a Jew who can act as a religious leader].

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This information is derived from a trial that took place in Sandz in 1657. The above-mentioned Yakow ben Wolf had deposited merchandise with a Polish nobleman (Bartosz Skowronek) for the annual fair. The goods were never returned to Yakow and the nobleman claimed that the merchandise was stolen. The Jew gave testimony under oath and swore to its authenticity before two messengers of the court, “and before the rabbi of his community and at the door of the synagogue that was located on the grounds of the royal castle” (atque sui Rhabbim inoribus synagogae suae in castro sandecensi existentis). [15]. At a trial of small money matters in the Kalisz court, the same situation occurred. The first privilege for Jews in Poland, from the year 1264 stated that a Jew might not swear on the Torah but rather at the mezuze [a small tube containing an inscribed strip of parchment attached to the doorposts of premises of observant Jews] at the entrance of the synagogue. One may assume that Jews came to Sandz to the little synagogue to pray particularly on holidays and especially on the Yomom Naroyim [Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur]. In addition to the Sandzer Jewish community, the arendarn from the surrounding villages such as Nawojowa and Kamionka also came.

Where did these first Jews of Sandz originate? There is a basis for the hypothesis that most of them came from the city of Wisznic, located north west of Sandz. Besides, it is well known that certain Sandzer Jews of the 17th and 18th centuries originated in Wisznic. Es leygt zikh ofn seykhl [it is plausible] to assume that the original community of most Sandzer Jews is Wisznic: the city was the largest and closest Jewish community on the road from Krakow to Nowy Sacz. The Jewish community of Wisznic was founded after – as previously mentioned - the Jews from Boch (Bochnia) were expelled in 1605.

Wisznic was a private town the lord, the owner of the town was very pleased to accept the refugees from neighboring Boch in order to develop commerce and crafts in the city. The Jews of Wisznic did indeed trade in wines and would come in contact with Sandz on their journeys to Hungary. In addition, the oysvanderung [exodus] of Wisznicer Jews to Sandz greatly increased following the great pogrom that Wisznic suffered at the hands of the soldiers of Hetman Szerniecki. These soldiers had just repulsed the Swedish invaders. From a certain source, it is estimated that about 200 families from Wisznic left for Krakow in 1656 in order to save themselves. [16] We can also assume that following this war Wisznic was so devastated that the Jews among others, looked for sources of income in Sandz and the vicinity. When the city of Sandz opened the gates 17 years later to admit Jews, Wisznic was the natural source of people. Furthermore, both places were under the jurisdiction of the same lord: Wisznic belonged to Duchess Lubomirski, the counts of Wisznic were the mayors of the city of Sandz.

[Page 36]

Besides coming from Wisznic a stream of Jews also left Krakow for Sandz. This migration that started in the 17th century continued well into the 19th century.

The small Jewish community of Sandz as well as the other Jewish communities of Little Poland [translator's note: Little Poland = Malapolska, included Galicia] and Poland in general suffered greatly during the expulsion in 1655 of the Swedish forces from the country. During market days and in the churches, the peasants were told that if they helped oust the Swedes from Galicia, they would then be able to chase out the "Arianie".* Some priests even went sofar as to call for the killing of these people. This religious Christian sect had a wide following in Sandz among the feudal gentry.

During the first part of the 16th century, the Reformation gained many adherents in Poland especially in Nowy Sacz. The city became an important center of the radical Reformation movement. Characteristic is the fact that the 80-year-old martyr, Katerina Wogel, was burned at the stake in 1539 at the Krakower market for supposedly "having converted to the Jewish faith". She had a sister in Sandz named Orsula Kromer. [17] In reality, the heroic woman did not convert to Judaism but belonged to the sect called "Polish Brothers", a branch of the Anabaptist (Wiedertäufer [German]) movement. The more radical followers of the group were called “Anti-Trinitarians” or Unitarians since they did not believe in the godliness of Jesus nor in the godliness of trinity. These factors caused many elements to incite against the “heretics” and to claim that they were more Jewish than Christian. In 1558, there was a conference in Sandz of “dissidents” (not Catholic) from Poland and Bohemia. At the beginning of the 17th century, the prominent Polish leader and theoretician of extreme Arianism, the Unitarian Stanislaw Parnawski addressed a conference of followers at the Piekla in Sandz. Arianism was so extensive in the area that the tailor guild of the city of Sandz accepted them as members until 1630. Characteristically, the administrators that permitted the Jews to establish a small synagogue in the courtyard of the palace also permitted the Arianie to conduct their services there in a building of the castle. [18]

When the Swedes conquered Sandz and vicinity, the Arianie were naturally sympathetic to them since they were Lutherans. The clerical patriotic agitators grossly exploit this factor. It presented the Arianie as practically Swedish spies and traitors to the fatherland.

* the Arianie, also called the Bracia Polscy, "Polish Brothers," a radical socio-religious movement in the 17th century, connected with the Socinians, were expelled from Poland in 1658]. From the article that appeared in the Fall 1998 Polish Genealogical Society of America Bulletin. It is a translation by William F. Hoffman of entries from the Slownik Geograficzny, a 15-volume Polish-language gazetteer published 1880-1902. [editor's note]

[Page 37]

On December 13, 1655, neighboring Polish and Ruthenian peasants chased the Swedes out of the city of Sandz. The peasant force of about 3000 men then entered the city and robbed the royal palace. Among other things, they even robbed a box of jewels from the apartment of the Jewish mill manager, Yoyne ben Yakob. [19] We can surmise that the Jews that lived in the royal court ran for their lives with the appearance of the mob of peasants. The incited mob not only robbed the feudal lords that were sympathetic to the Arianie but also murdered some of them. According to the municipal court records of Sandz, one of them was arraigned and charged with spying for the Swedes. He was condemned and beheaded. Under the same charge, the Jew Finkler who was the manager of the estate of the administrator, Konstanty Lubomirski, paid with his life. [20]

The Last Royal Decree Against The Jews; Sandz Opens The Doors To The Jews

With the eviction of the Swedes from Poland the war ended. The city of Nowy Sacz was very impoverished as a result of the looting by foreign and Polish soldiers. The city life however, continued to flow in the usual traditional manner. The administrator Constantine Lubomirski not only continued to protect the Jewish residents and their commercial interests but also undertook the developments of new projects namely the construction of a brewery (browar {Polish}) that was managed by a Jewish arendar or entrepreneur. The non-Jewish merchants of the city and surroundings feared Jewish competition and resented these special policies. During the period of his grandfather's administration, Sebastian Lubomirski in 1596, the city councilmen petitioned the king Zygmunt the III complaining about the administrator's rule in the city contrary to all his policies. At that time there were but a few Jews hidden in the courtyard of the castle and the city did not need to be alarmed. But later, in 1657 the city councilmen and lawyers of Sandz petitioned the then king Jan Kazimierz complaining about the behavior of the administrator Konstantine Lubomirski for his liberal protection of Jews.

The petition listed all the stories about the administrator and stated that he behaved towards the city councilors worse than he did to his boot polishers. Furthermore, he frequently imposed various forced taxes and transportation levees for horses and carts on the residents of Sandz and interfered in court matters of the city councilmen and lawyers. The petitioners were particularly incensed at his behavior toward the city administrators as opposed to his treatment of the favored Jews:

[Page 38]

He called city council meetings at his palace and frequently forced members to attend these meetings and if they refused, he would send his dragoons to bring them to the assembly hall. He detained city councilors in a filthy room or in his jail and they remained there until they paid him ransom for their release. The city councilors frequently had to turn to Jews to intercede on their behalf for which they had to pay dearly, or assign their property to these middlemen. “Some of the houses in the city that were damaged during the war he had completely destroyed and in their stead, permitted the building of a large brewery run by the Jews” that is, by his managers. “In addition, he also maintained many Jews in the city contrary to the city rules and old privileges. With his power he used them in his commercial enterprises. This practice deprived the Christian burghers of their rights and privileges to earn a living. If someone dared complain, they were harmed by various intrigues”. [21]

The king sent the petition to a special municipal tribunal in Warsaw dealing with city matters. The administrator of Sandz was ordered to appear before the tribunal but the verdict is not known. In practical terms, we know that the administrator not only continued his policies with regards to the Jews but also encouraged some city dwellers to assist the Jews in their struggle for a livelihood: the burghers of the city used to rent houses to Jews and even sell houses to them, especially in the suburbs. There were often cases where non-Jews would trade the merchandise of Jews as though it was their own merchandise. This of course enabled the Jews to maintain their livelihood and reinforced the Jewish presence in the city despite the laws that prohibited it.

A year after the complaint of the Sandzer burghers against the administrators, in 1658, King Jan Kazimierz abdicated. His successor selected by the Polish nobles was Michael Korybut Wisniowiecki, a son of Duke Jeremi Wisniowiecki in skhus defun [as a reward]. His father was very popular amongst the ruling elements for his brave campaign against the Cossacks led by Bogdan Chmielnicki. Ten years later, the city council of Sandz again presented the petition probably as was the custom, supported by all kinds of gifts. The petition urged the king to abolish the right of Jews to live and trade in Sandz. On February 20,1670, King Wisniowiecki published the following decree in Warsaw for the city of Sandz:

“ It became known to the king “that the city of Sandz, because of a variety misfortunes” arising from the various wars had become so impoverished that only the king of Poland could help her “restore by a permanent law, the privileges that she once enjoyed” and “that the unbelieving Jewish people may not live or do any trade in our city”.
[Page 39]

The King granted the righteous and “correct” request “because wherever there were Jews, it became very difficult for Catholics to earn a living”. The Jews “used sneaky means, intrigues and dishonest dealings to eliminate their non-Jewish competitors. Furthermore, the unbelieving Jews never had the right to reside in our city and they will not now enjoy this right”. Based on the law of the Sejm (Parliament) of 1588, he confirmed all the privileges, residential rights and city ordinances of the city of Sandz and converted this consent into permanent law. In addition, the King confirmed the decree of 1648 issued by King Wladislaw the IV that all articles, sanctions and protective laws should apply to the city of Sandz as they do to the city of Warsaw. [22]

At the end, the king listed in great detail all the articles against the Jews of Sandz:

“The unbelieving Jews cannot own any houses in the city or suburbs of Sandz. They are forbidden to sell any merchandise or any liquor in the city. Beverages are permitted to be sold only during fairs and with a special permission from the city magistrate, liquor could be sold; all this at the penalty of death and loss of all property. No burghers of Sandz may rent his house to a Jew, or sell the merchandise of Jews as his own. The penalty for violating this ordinance could result in the exile from the city and the forfeiture of all belongings. Also, no Sandzer may rent his house to a Jew or sell Jews' merchandise under his own name, this under penalty of being driven from the city and losing all he owns under the laws of the city”. [23]
In spite of the severity of the royal edict aimed at the Jews that even threatened people with a death sentence, there was a ray of hope; the ban permitted Jews to sell merchandise and even beverages during the fairs, however, only with the permission of the local magistrate. Previously, Jews were not even permitted to enter the city during the fairs. It took but three years for the edict to be watered-down because of the harsh economic situation of the city during the second half of the 17th century. The ancient laws forbidding Jews from residing in the city began to break down.

The decline of Sandz had begun at the beginning of the 17th century as the result of a great fire that took place in 1522. The city emerged from the disaster and began again to rebuild the city and blossom as a commercial center. Sandz was again an important commercial center. This did not happen after the second fire in 1611. On June 19th 1611 a fire destroyed the entire city, the surrounding walls and strong forts. The burned-out residents of the city saw in the fire a divine punishment for the behavior of the city population.

[Page 40]

A clue to this reasoning was found in a line of the prophet Yeshayahu (line 58, section A). The phrase
was chiseled in Latin at the main church (Collegiate, today the Fare) above the pulpit: “Call with a full voice, do not restrain yourself, just like a shofar [ram's horn] blow with all your might and tell my people their sins - the entire line disappeared in the fire except for the last two words “ their sins”…[24]

But the city could not rebuild itself in spite of all the efforts. The fire was not the only reason for the failure to regain the position enjoyed previously. Another more serious reason was the corruption and misuse of funds by the city councilors and municipal officials. Large sums of money paid for the reconstruction and fortification of the walls and the city were pocketed. Furthermore, Sandz was also seriously affected, as were other Polish cities during the second half of the 17th century by various destructive wars:

Following the Cossack uprising in 1648 came the Swedish invasion in 1655 and the primary fighting took place in the Galician part of Poland as well as the Western part of the kingdom. The city of Sandz did not suffer too much from the Swedish soldiers but in 1655 the Polish liberators under the command of Czarneicki drove out the Swedes in 1656, liberated the city and robbed it of every single thing and then demolished the houses.

Within the year, in 1657, the Cossacks and the troops of the duke of seven Hungarian counties, Rákóczy an ally of the Swedes, conquered the city. Sandz was again robbed of everything of value and the city was devastated. The city was again plundered within 10 years, in 1666, by “their own” Polish forces during the civil war that Marshall Jerzy Lubomirski organized against the King.

Not less fatal than the wars themselves was the painful after effect left in those times by the wars, especially diseases and plagues. The epidemic that spread in 1661 from Lemberg to the area of Krakow and down to the Carpathian Mountains also claimed many victims in Sandz. Another such terrible epidemic swept through Sandz in 1665 and annihilated a portion of the population.

The tragic result of the wars and the epidemics was the terrible devastation of city of Sandz. In 1665 a royal commission surveyed the city and recorded that Sandz had but 1320 residents, all included. [25] The city reached such a low point that they had almost as small a population of Old Sandz counted as 947 souls. The city of Sandz and the suburbs did not amount to 200 inhabited houses. The number of demolished houses equaled the inhabited ones. There were a number of empty lots.

[Page 41]

The city that was famous for its artisan production, especially weaving, had a mere 40 artisans. Ten of them were shoemakers. [26]

The administrator of the city, Alexander Michal Lubomirski, realized that his city was in a terrible state and that he must act. Concerned with the situation of the city and the country in general, he went to the king and asked him to lift the ban on Jewish residence in the city in order to populate the devastated city and build up business there. He proposed that Jews be permitted to settle in the destroyed homes and be allowed to trade. These actions, he assured the king, would get the city out of the terrible situation. The sneaky administrator even added that the residents of the city were in full agreement with these proposals. The King, Michal Coribut Wisznowiecki accepted the arguments particularly since he wanted to insure a source of revenue for the royal treasury. He therefore issued in 1673 the following privileges to the Jews in Sandz (in brief):

“Taking into account that, because of a drawn out plague and in addition the Swedish war caused by the attack of the Hungarians* together with the Cossacks and other terrible calamities, the city has reached a state where many houses are empty and abandoned. Because of all this, the remaining residents of the city have declared that they cannot pay the taxes that the city is supposed to pay to the royal treasury. They have therefore consented to permit Jews to settle in the abandoned houses. The decision is to be carried out instantly in order to improve the situation of the city. We therefore permit the Jews to buy, improve and sell houses and to trade. They may not harm Christians and with the warning that they may not live among Christians. They are forbidden to trade in holy items or deal in anything profane or with underhanded means. They must respect the Christian faith or face serious charges. The Jews will pay taxes just as every other resident”. [27]

There is an hypothesis that the approval by the residents mentioned in the royal privileges allowing Jews to settle in Sandz was given only by those who owned empty lots and destroyed houses and wanted to sell them to Jews. Bekhol-oyfn [in any case] the city officials continued their traditional small-minded policy of hatred of Jews for fear that the latter would successfully compete with them in commerce.

[Page 42]

When the news of the privileges reached Sandz, the administrator and two members of the council appealed to the church office in the city, the Collegiate, to intervene against the unheard of violation of the privileges of Christians. It was only natural that the fanatical Jew-hating priests were more than sympathetic to these appeals and accepted them with great enthusiasm. They appealed twice to the administrator, in 1673 and 1676. The administrator who was the initiator of the privileges for Jews refused to listen to the pleas of the priests. (28) Polish Parliament in 1676 officially confirmed the privileges granted by the king in 1673. The ruler of the city was very active in obtaining this confirmation to strengthen the actions of the king. To protect itself against future city claims, the Sejm added a small clause to the privileges, namely “without damages to the city and its privileges”. (29) The clause was a mere cover and the phrase meant nothing. All Polish kings after Wisznowiecki down to the last king confirmed the privileges to the Jews of Sandz. Of course, you understand, each king was petitioned to reconfirm the privileges which they did. They received nice gifts for the confirmation from the Jewish community in the city. Jan Sobieski on the 14th of November 1682; August the Second on the 25th of August 1699: August the Third on the 15th of November 1754; Stanislaw August Poniatowski the 26th of September 1765. Thus in 1673 began a new chapter in the history of Jews in Sandz. A legal Jewish community was created that assumed over the years an ever more bekovedik [honorable, dignified] place amongst the Jewish communities in Poland, and later in Galicia.

* refers to the seven Hungarian counties - R. M.

[Page 44]


Return to Index



  1. M. Balaban, Dzieje Zydow w Krakowie i na Kazimierzu [What is happening for Jews in Krakow and Kazimierz], Volume I, Krakow, 1912, p. 52; Idem, Historja i literatura zydowska [History and Jewish Literature], Volume III, Warsaw, 1925, p. 181. Return
  2. Helcel, Starodawne prawa polskiego pomniki [Old-fashioned Polish legal monument], T. II, No, 3934: Jonas Judaeus de Jaslo Return
  3. Yewreyskaya Starina, 1910, p. 630-631 Return
  4. Szczesny Morawski, Sadeczyzna za Jagiellon, p. 366.[The Province of Nowy Sacz under Jagiellon]; I. Schipper, Studya nad stosunkami gospodarczyzna Zydow w Polsce podczas sredniowiecza, Lwow, 1911, p. 251 [The Economic Conditions of the Jews in Poland in the Middle Ages] Return
  5. Archiwum Panstwowe w Kraokowie, Ksiega przywilejow m. Nowego Sacza [State Archive in Krakow on Nowy Sacz, The Book of Privileges in Nowy Sacz] Return
  6. J. Syganski, op.cit., Przewodnik [Guidebook] n.i.l., Volume 27, p. 430 Return
  7. ibid, p. 312 Return
  8. ibid, p. 822 Return
  9. ibid, p. 523-4, 819 Return
  10. ibid, p. 18, 818 Return
  11. Ludwik Kubala, Kostka-Napierski, Szice Historyczne, Warsaw, 1903, p. 209 [Historical Sketches] Return
  12. J. Syganski, Przewodnik n.i.l., T. 27, p. 192, 262-270, T. 33, p. 37 Return
  13. ibid, p. 819. A.P. [State Archive] Krakow. Teki Schneidera 1160, urywek z ksiazki o Podgorzu [fragment of a book about Podgurze] Return
  14. ibid, p. 459 Return
  15. ibid, p. 819 Return
  16. Louis Lewin, Die Judenverfolgungen im zweiten schwedisch-polnischen Kriege, 1901 [Persecution of Jews in the Second Polish-Swedish War] Return
  17. J. Syganski, Przewodnik n.i.l., T. 27, p. 904 Return
  18. ibid, p.905 Return
  19. ibid, p. 920 Return
  20. Teki Schneidera, 1160, ut supra [as cited above] Return
  21. J. Syganski, Przewodnik n.i.l., T. 27, p. 18, 818 Return
  22. As is known, the city of Warsaw had, since 1529 a clearly expressed privilege “about not tolerating Jews”. Return
  23. ibid, p. 994 Return
  24. ibid, p. 24-25 Return
  25. ibid, p. 826 Return
  26. ibid, p. 170 Return
  27. Copies of the privilege Return

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