from Insularity to Expanding Horizons
|The Oshpitzin and Zator district without Jews. The Edict of Intolerance towards Jews. The Medieval Laws of Austria. 51 Jewish homes in Zator in 1776. Dozens of Jews in Andrychow in 1806. 3 Jewish families in Biala. Wadowice's gates opened to Jews in 1819. As of 1860 Jewish domicile is permitted in all cities and districts. Municipal rights granted to Jews of Oshpitzin. The Bari [?] Confederation drafts Oshpitzin Jews into the army. Old restrictions and prohibitions for Jews in civil matters. The Granek [?] trial in the Zator Palace in 1786. The text of the oath administered to a Jew in the Zator Palace.|
For hundreds of years the two cities, Oshpitzin and Zator were part of the two principalities of the same names akin to an island in mid-ocean, surrounded by dozens of Christian settlements without a Jewish population due to the anti-Semitic policies of the Piast dynasty of Princes, which were opposed to those of the Polish kings, and permitted Jews to live only in the cities of Oshpitzin and Zator. In the Chronicles of the Council of Four Lands which contain the decisions of the period between 1580-1764 and in the roster of the communities that paid royal taxes in that period there is no information at all about any Kehillot other than the previously mentioned two. Moreover, on the map of Polish Jewry for the period of 1667-1764 (which is appended to the Chronicles) no Jewish settlements or Kehillot are listed in the western part of the Krakow region, to wit: In the districts of Wadowice, Biale, Myslenice, Zywiec, etc.
Only the names of the cities Oshpitzin and Chrzanow appear there, whereas it does list Kehillot and Jewish settlements even in the most faraway and isolated places. For many years the Edict of Intolerance of Jews had been in force in the area of our concern and which continued even after the annexation of these principalities by the Polish kingdom in 1564. As a result it was a rare event to find Jews in these cities and villages until the 17th and 18th Centuries other than Jewish travelers, and even in villages the settling of Jews was undesirable. It can be assumed that the Jews of Oshpitzin and Zator did not accept the de facto situation of the Edict of Intolerance of Jews and made efforts to attain a lessening of the restrictions, but that was no easy task. This law, which so deeply humiliated Jews, had also been in force after the partition of Poland by the Austrian kingdom for a period of time. The Austrian kingdom was immersed in the medieval laws, which limited the civil liberties of Jews even in Vienna and certain districts until 1859. Indeed, in the revolutionary period of 1848, under pressure from freedom movements, it published a constitution in the city of Olmutz, which authorized civic equality to Jews as well, but was rescinded only two years later. However, from 1859 on, after Austria's defeat in the Italian Wars (Solferino 1859) and by the Prussians (1866), there was a change for the better. In order to safeguard its continued existence, the Austrian government began to publish liberal laws from which Jews benefited to a large degree, since until that time in 1867 they had suffered from discrimination more than any other people. Now a new constitutional period began. In 1867 a law was enacted which rescinded the reactionary decrees that were still on the books from the previous period, and following that was the law of 1868 which promised equality to all peoples and religions, and included were the Jews in Galicia.
We have already described the penetration of Jews into villages and village farmsteads in a separate chapter. The law relating to the politics of administration affected the Jews in the cities as well. Polish law permitted Jews to acquire real estate in the cities. Yet in 1776 Jews in Galicia (according to the census) were homeowners numbering 15,771. The number of Jewish owned homes in Zator, though, were only 51 out of the total of 27,991 homes. Outside of the Oshpitzin and Zator principalities, there was the Myslenice district which belonged to the Zator region. Nearly all the Jewish buildings were in the territory of the principality and according to the conjecture of the traveler Hackwith [?] in his description of his travels in Galicia there was not yet even one Jew in Myslenice. In 1776 the number of Jewish homes in Zator was smaller than in any of the five other districts. The Jewish homes in the principalities of Oshpitzin and Zator were mostly in the cities of the same name, and it seems also in Andrychow. Roehrer [?] mentions Andrychow in his journal of travels in Galicia in 1806. In Myslenice he found a few Jews, whereas at that time there were dozens of Jewish families living in Andrychow. In 1808 there were three Jewish families in Biale. Jews were not permitted to live in Kenty, Zywiec, and Wadowice, and these prohibitions were renewed by Kaiser Franz on the 28th of May, 1793. In 1819, however, when Wadowice became the county seat, the prohibitions for Jewish domicile in these places came to an end. Indeed, by 1830 there were 200 Jews in Wadowice out of 3031 inhabitants. To begin with they entered Wadowice indirectly, as settling on the village lands of Mikolaj on the Grobel [?] near Wadowice, where some time later they set up a Bet Midrash for prayers in one of these homes, and by degrees the Jewish area of settlement move towards the center of town. According to the ordinance regarding Jews wanting to live in the center of town, they were required to build homes of stone as a safeguard against fires. Not wishing to invest such large sums required in building homes of stone, Jews bought standing homes of wood from Christians, which brought about the ordinance of April 16th 1785, according to which Jews were forbidden to buy homes other than of stone from Christians. Additionally, a new royal ordinance of March 28th 1805 prohibited Jews from buying real estate from Christians. Not until August 5th 1848 were these laws directed against Jews revoked by the Viennese Parliament, and in 1860 Jews were given the right to live in all cities in Austria, and only in that year was the prohibition forbidding Jews to live in Wadowice and Zywiec abolished.
Settling, and expansion of Jewish settlements, in the forbidden areas was extremely difficult. Jews fought to have the right to live like all other citizens without regard to religious affiliation, and the problems were many. There were city ordinances which prohibited Jews from working at certain crafts. Jews were permitted to butcher and supply meat only to Jews, and not to Christian customers. Jews were permitted to sell Kosher meat to the Christian population only on market days or holidays. The list of laws and ordinances prohibited and restricted Jewish trade. At first it was forbidden to peddle from house to house, but later the laws became less restrictive. Jews were forbidden to trade in gunpowder and military coats, and they were forbidden to barter with peasants in exchange for liquor or inferior goods, or for payment in advance of delivery. Jews were forbidden to buy grain still in the fields, or wool still on the sheep, or unborn calves, and any Jew contravening the law would be punished by banishment from the country. Jewish peddlers were forbidden to manufacture or trade in products holy to Christians or to contract for any endeavor in churches. The villainy directed against Jews is remarkable in the plethora of decrees which will not be detailed at this point. The intent here is only to describe the atmosphere permeated with hate for Jews on the part of the Catholic Emperors in Vienna.
Jewish rights in the cities existed only in those places which relied on established privileges, Throughout the Oshpitzin principality there was no such place. Jews had no city rights even in Oshpitzin, in spite of the fact that the city was called Second Jerusalem, and this by way of ridicule.
Personally, a Jew could purchase such a privilege of the highest order, which gave him full rights, and even active or passive rights in the city administration. Jews were not eligible for positions in the postal services *. An exception for a brief period of liberalism (from 1789 to 1793) did permit some Jews to acquire land with the attendant legal privileges involved.
Indeed, access to High Schools or Universities was closed to Jews. In 1830 there were only five Jews in the Lwow University who studied law. In 1848 only 32 Jewish students were being educated in all of the Gymnasia [University preparatory schools] of Galicia. The hindrance in gaining acceptance was official. A Jew could not officially be sworn in according to the Christian format of the oath. Yet in order to gain an appointment in a government post it was necessary to pass examinations and hold a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Jews were allowed to sit for examinations for a secular doctorate only, whereas acceptance for a government post was predicated on passing the examinations for a doctorate of the Two Laws: The secular and canonical, which was possible for Christians alone. The only post open to Jews from 1791 on was that of attorney, a doctorate in civil law, and allowed them the privilege of appearing as attorney for clients of any faith. Another exception of benefit to Jews was the permission to practice medicine as physicians and surgeons.
The region of the Oshpitzin and Zator Principalities was the first to deviate from the policy of the Polish state not to draft Jews for military service. Before the first partition of Poland the Bari Confederation ruled the region and its policy was to induct Jews for military service, and following them, the policy continued with the Austrian government as well, after the conquest of Galicia. In 1788 the order was proclaimed to draft Jews as well as Christians to the army. This caused a great deal of excitement within the Jewish population and confusion as to the unprecedented ramifications of the order. The consequences were soon in coming. Many of the Jewish youths fled over the borders of the country, and there were those who maimed themselves or hid out within the country. The mobilization of 1790 for the war against Turkey in Galicia brought into the army 40,112 Christian draftees, the majority peasants, and 1,061 Jews. In that year, however, Kaiser Leopold II exempted Jews from military service, and instead levied an exemption tax of 30 Gulden per draftee. This situation prevailed until 1804, when once again the order of mobilization was issued and included Jews and the exemption possibility was revoked. The statistics of that mobilization indicate that in 1829 there were 416 Jewish draftees. It is not known how many of these were from the Oshpitzin region which was included in the draft. Neither is it known how many Jews emigrated from Oshpitzin to avoid the draft, especially to nearby Hungary where they were not obliged to serve in the army.
The Austrian Laws of Toleration in fact permitted freedom of religion for the Jewish faith. Yet, certain limitations were contrived to limit religious freedom in consonance with public order and taste. It was forbidden to use the Jewish holy places for the concealment of smuggled contraband. In the village of Gorzyn [?] there was a prohibition by order of the regional authority of Myslenice dated December 6th 1804, by which it was forbidden to desecrate the Sunday day of rest, and following that was a second paragraph which contained the decision that on these days no Jew should dare in any way to do any business or face confiscation. In an order of the day on February 22nd 1794 there was an admonition to the company supplying the army, that the following goods should not be obtained from Jewish suppliers: Grain and fodder. Jews were forbidden to have Christian house servants, and in general since 1774 it was forbidden for Jews to employ maidservants, and only on Sabbath or Festival days was it permissible for Jews to employ Christians as Shabbes Goyim for the essential requirement. As exception to these rules, it was permissible for Jews to employ Christians as teamsters or as laborers in distilleries or beer breweries. A Christian who became ill in a Jewish home had to notify the local authorities with the goal that he be transferred to a Christian home. During public Christian processions or the cavalcade of a Priest with the Holy Sacrament no Jew dared to show himself with head covered on the streets, squares, or at the windows of their homes. On Jewish Festivals or at weddings it was forbidden to have fireworks or processions with torches and candles punishable by a 10 Ducat fine and flagellation. Moreover, they were forbidden to surround the cities with the wires used for a Sabbath Erev [making it one domain for permitting carrying outside the home on the Sabbath]. This prohibition lasted for one year only, and was revoked on condition that it does not interfere with traffic or cause any damage. In Wadowice, this prohibition continued, and Jews were required to put out fires on the Sabbath day. It was not permitted for Jews to solicit funds for charitable purposes without a license from the authorities, and especially prohibited were the Yom Kippur appeals for the support of indigent Jews in the Land of Israel.
There was a unique affair involving the authority to adjudicate in Jewish matters in all of Galicia and especially in the Oshpitzin region. We will cite only one example of its coming into effect even in the independent rule of the Zator Palace. In the chronicles of the Zator Palace there is a decree to ameliorate judicial punishment in a trial which took place on 1786 between Blazei Wanaty [?], a cattle-dealer from Barwinka [?] Village and between an adherent of the Old Testament Salomon Granek [?] also known as Lang, an innkeeper in the tavern of the Zator Palace near the River Skawa, and the honorable Woiciech Krzystakowicz [?] a tailor and citizen of Zator, and the upright Antony Purdzuki [?] and Woiciech Janiki [?] born in the village of Witanowice [?] who was building a house in Zator at the time. The trial involved the theft or robbery from Wanaty of a money pouch containing 44 Ducats, who accused all of those summoned. The Zator administration passed the matter on to the Religious Court of the Zator Municipality. Details of the process and transcripts of the religious court are missing from the record, except for a little notation, indicating that because of the lengthiness of the trial it was recorded on a number of pages. From a perusal of the documents of the municipality it became clear that Wanaty and his friend Jacynti Bilice [?] testified that they came to Granek's tavern one night for lodging, and that Bilice mentioned to Granek that Wanaty was carrying money, and that Granek responded that the inn was a safe place and that the craftsmen that were in the room were known to him. From the statement made by Granek, however, it turned out that Wanaty and Bilice had arrived at the tavern when drunk, without revealing to Granek anything about money, but wanting only to lodge there. To this, Granek and his wife responded that the tavern was open to everyone. Granek added that Wanaty had become drunk from drinking wine at the fair in Zator, and that towards evening as he left the town woozy with drink he had lain down near the river before he came to the tavern. Finally, the Jew explained himself, that if one of the travelers had informed him that he had money, he would have demanded that he show it to him and to turn it over to him for safekeeping, especially during the days of the fair at Zator. The palace authorities after mulling over the statements of the two sides, and hearing witnesses who testified that Granek was the innkeeper and concessionaire of the Spitkowski family for some years and now at the Zator tavern for five years without any remarks against him and had never been accused of theft, and the craftsmen that were then drinking wine at the tavern had never been involved in anything it is therefore the order of the Zator Palace authorities that Shlomo Granek and his entire household should be made to swear, and also the craftsmen who had been there would be required to swear. Wanaty agreed to all of this. The documents also contains the wording of the oath as it was made by Granek:
I, Shlomo Granek, also known as Lang, swear by the name of the creator of heaven and earth, in truth and without falsity or treachery or intent of same, without jealousy or hate or friendship or lack of friendship or anything else which would change the truth, I can affirm that I did not take any monies from Blazei Wanaty in the tavern of the Palace during the fair at Zator on June 26th 1786 who came for the night, and I did not see any money pouch on the person of Wanaty, not by anyone else or through my wife, for if I had taken the money there will come upon me all the curses mentioned in Deuteronomy and the fire that burned Sodom and Gomorra and all the curses of the Torah will befall me.
Granek swore the text of this oath in the presence of Stanislaw Krygorski, a member of the Zator City Council, and that of Blazei Wanaty, and Jacynti Bilice and a group of Jews including Moshe Unof [?], Shmuel Hershel Wiernik [?], Mark Sinai Shkolnik, Moshe Markowicz and many others. The oath was also affirmed in writing in the ledger of ordinances with the signature of Granek in Hebrew script. After the administration of the oath Wanati dropped the suit and further investigation and released Asher Granek and Jakubowicz from taking an oath. At a later instance he similarly released Pordzuki and Janiki. The report of the procedure of the Palace administration which had been convened according to paragraphs 206, 207, and 208 of the Trial Procedures made an impression, while giving Wanaty freedom of action in his search for the money wherever he could find it. The trial concluded with the issuance of an official document attesting that money had been lost or stolen from him, which was presented to him with the signature of Count Donin, the Lord of the Zator authority. As far as Wanaty was concerned, he submitted a note according to which he forgives all who had stood accused, and with that the onus of the trial was removed from the Jew Granek and the craftsmen who had been indicted. It is clear that the Austrian procedures had been used, which from 1776 were mandatory in all of Galicia. There are those who see in this an example of the fairness of the court in its objectivity and disclosure of truth, and also in the little details of the procedure as recorded in the court ledgers. Jews, on the other hand, regarded the Austro-Galician law as being directed against them inasmuch as the intentions of the Austrian bureaucracy were despised by all of the inhabitants of Galicia. All of the Austrian actions since the conquest of Galicia had been directed primarily against Jews. The Austrian bureaucracy excelled, not only in procrastination, contempt, and alienation by the authorities who regarded themselves as the lords over the masses, but, in Jewish eyes, the bureaucracy was tainted with anti-Semitism, and from their viewpoint there was practically no difference between bureaucracy and anti-Semitism. The only difference was that the bureaucracy masked and concealed it.
Oshpitzin and Environs
on the Demographic Scale
|The 1921 Polish census. 5,425 Jews in Oshpitzin out of 33,535. Jewish percentage in Oshpitzin is 44.5%. The numbers of Jews in Zator, Wadowice, Biala, Zablocia [?], and Sucha [?]. Oshpitzinian Silesia has 1,599 Jewish villagers. Decrease in Jewish numbers in Oshpitzin. 980 Jews in Oshpitzin district in 1910. 5,340 Jews in Oshpitzin in 1921. 7,000 in 1934.|
The following table illustrates the dispersion of the Jewish population in the outlying areas as subdivided into administrative regions, which had previously constituted the Oshpitzin and Zator principalities.
|11 villages, Zator principality||9,394||20|
|11 villages, Skawina region||5,845||96|
The greatest concentration of Jews in the Oshpitzin region was in the city of Oshpitzin, which was the oldest of the settlements. The larger concentrations in the Biale, Wadowice and Zywiec regions came about from movement of settlers in the Austrian period.
The next table shows the distribution of Jewish domicile in cities and suburbs:
Following Oshpitzin, the greatest concentration of Jews in 1929 are: Zator, Wadowice, Biale, Zablocie, and Sucha. In Zywiec there were only 2 Jews, though the Jewish ghetto of Zywiec was nearly adjacent to Zablocie. Out of 12,269 Jews, 11,130 lived in cities and towns and suburbs, and 1,499 in villages. The village population totaled 258,796 in the former Oshpitzin region of Silesia, of which 1,499 Jews represented only 0.5%. These village Jews, an unknown number of owners of farmsteads, and were primarily estate managers, brokers, storekeepers, and moneylenders. Dr. Potak, the author of a book on Oshpitzin is of the opinion that this was a group of people whose occupations dealt with careless exploitation of the feckless peasants and their propensity for drunkenness and litigation. Stanislaw Szczypanowski classified the partnership between the Polish aristocracy and the Polish Jew as follows:
The Polish aristocrat and the Jewish broker or concessionaire are two sides of the same lie, on top the aristocrat, on the underside the Jew. They are akin to Siamese twins organically connected, and the connection is the inn. These pathological stories did not bring honor to anyone, nor did they add to the repute of the healthy segments of Jewish society.
In the departure of Jews from Galician villages there was a decided difference from the departure from villages and rural areas in other places. Elsewhere, Jews left hurriedly, as if fleeing from the pressures of impending pogroms. In the Oshpitzin region, the migration came as a result of the influence of higher education and culture of the peasantry in conjunction with the loss of the political power of the great landowners, the primary defenders of the Holy Galician Inn of worldwide fame, which they entrusted to the Jewish innkeepers as concessions and to their Jewish estate managers.
The relative increase of Jews in the settlements of the Oshpitzin region can be seen from the following statistics: In the forty years 1881-1921 the number of Jews rose most remarkably: In Wadowice from 18.5 to 20.9%; in Biale from 10.4 to 17.5%; in Sucha 4.5 to 12.9%, and in Zablocie from 13.4 to 17%. By contrast, there was a decided decrease in Oshpitzin, where their numbers decreased from 53.3 to 44.5%, and in Andrychow from 16.4 to 9.8%. The increases above were due to the departure of the Jews from the villages as a result of competition, and after 1910 also due to the abrogation of the old laws protecting the feudal rights of the aristocracy, as a result of which trade and inn-keeping were now mostly in the hands of Christians. Of those leaving the cities, however, not all were from the surrounding areas. In the ten years from 1891 to 1901 the number of Jews in the Wadowice district decreased by 5.6%, while in Wadowice proper the increase during that period was 33.6%. In that period the Biale district had a rise of 2.9% of Jews, while in Biale and Lipnik themselves the rise was by 11.3%. These statistics indicate that the Jews stemming from other districts were most of those that left. In the period of 1901-1910 many Jews from Russia and Congressional Poland settled in the Oshpitzin region because of the turmoil of the revolution against the Russian regime and the propensity of the Tzarist administration to foment pogroms against the Jews. By 1910, 980 of such Jews had settled in the Oshpitzin region, 449 in the Biale district, 172 in the Wadowice area, and 141 in Zywiec.
These immigrants who had come from outside the region were mostly Jews. In the period between 1911 and 1921 there was a general decrease of population in the cities of Biale, Wadowice, Kety, Zator, Zywiec, and Lipnik, which was caused by the First World War and its attendant hardships due to mass mobilization and the loss of Christian prisoners of war on the various front lines, which caused major losses in the Christian population. Throughout the war there was a major migration of Christians which caused a critical shortage of housing. Much of the urban population took refuge in rural areas close to cities. The policy of the railroads proffering students, clerks, and laborers in transportation routes and low fees, brought about a diminution of urban population, in that inexpensive rail travel made it feasible for these classes to live in the villages and work in the city. Moreover, new restrictions in home crafts and production caused apprenticeships to drop and led to mass movements of people from the city to the village. Under these circumstances, as the Christian population left the cities and towns en masse, Jews streamed in the opposite direction, as was the case in Biale and Wadowice, and the rise in Jewish population was therefore greater than would have been expected. 
The Central Bureau of Statistics published a portion of the data collected in the second general census in the Biale District, according to which the Jews numbered in 1931:
|Biale and Lipnik||1878 in 1921||now 1903|
|Oshpitzin, Kety, and Wilamowice||5785 in 1921||now 6139|
|In 53 village communities||246 in 1921||now 609|
|Totals||7909 in 1921||now 9951|
There was then an increase of Jews in the decade between 1921 and 1931 by 2042, or 20.5%. Jewish numbers in village communities were four times as great, or to be more exact: in the suburbs near the cities of Biale and Oshpitzin. Jews in the Biale district represented 7.1% of the population, when the total had reached 139,172 inhabitants in 1931. In 1921, by contrast, Jews were 6.8%. Out of 9,951 Jews affirming the Mosaic Faith, 5,932 claimed Yiddish as their mother tongue, and the rest asserted that it was the Polish language. Similarly, claimed over 500 Jews in the Biale District, who in 1921 considered themselves Germans.
In Zywiec Jews tallied:
* [typo should be 2247]
In the Wadowice District Jews tallied:
The number of Jews in Wadowice grew by 44 souls or 12%. Their proportion in relation to the overall population in this district 145,143 was 2.5%. In this district there were 2070 who declared themselves as belonging to the Jewish People.
The number of Jews in the three districts reached 15,681 in 1931, or 3.8% of the overall population total of 415,219 souls. The increase of Jews during the decade 1921-1931 was 3,472 or 15.2%.
The Biale District showed the most significant rise in the number of Jews and was followed by Zywiec. This increase remained steady due to the industrialization of the two districts, and in Zywiec even more than that despite poor education. The smallest rise of Jewish numbers was in the Wadowice District, from which emigration of Jews is evident. In 1921, in these three districts of the ancient principalities, 5,965 of 13,434 Jews declared themselves as such, i.e. 44.4%. In 1931, however, 8,917 of 15,861, or 56.2% declared Yiddish or Hebrew as their mother tongue. It is difficult to evaluate Jewish trends in the cities of the principalities during the years 1922-1931. That is the reason for the lack of published statistics on religious or national affiliation.
There is yet another attempt at assessing the situation by comparing the Church statistics as included in the listing of the Krakow Archives from 1935, which cannot be relied upon. The numbers of Jews found in them are based on information supplied by the villagers. Not all the numbers are exact. Not by happenstance are the total numbers of Jews in a parish missing, and are represented by numbers of families, and sometimes no numbers at all are reported, such as in the Andrychow parish. Several totals are rounded off to the nearest hundred, such as in the Oshpitzin parish, which raises doubts. With these caveats the following should be treated with respect to the comparisons between the parish statistics and those of the government census of 1921. 
|Parish||# of Jews in||+/-|
|Biale, Lipnik, &Leszczina||1878||2700||822+|
The most significant of these numbers is the low one for Wadowice district. When we now examine the exact relationships as obtaining in the former Zator principality, it turns out that during 13 years the number of Jews in Wadowice parish decreased by 286 in the city of Wadowice and six nearby villages. In the Zator parish the city of Zator and four suburban villages during that time only two Jews were added.
Below we display the comparison table of Jewish numbers in village parishes of the Wadowice district in the years 1894 and 1934, that is to say a 40-year period.
|Parish||# of Jews in|
|Glymbowica||(one family) 21|
|Graboszyce||(one family) 10|
These figures show that in 29 parishes of the Wadowice district there were 1182 Jews in 1894. In 1934, however, the number of Jews had dwindled to 177 plus 12 families, or 60 souls, altogether 237 people. During 40 years the number of Jews decreased by 845. Reference to the 1921 census indicates that of the 220 village communities in the principalities region, 110 of them had Jewish communities, and yet no one in these 110 communities declared his Jewish affiliation, since the Jews had left the villages and had gone to the nearby towns or to other locations in Austria, and some to the United States.
Jewish Oshpitzin had formerly been called Oshpitzin of Jerusalem because of the majority of Jews who lived there. Yet the numbers indicate that before the Second World War that majority was not overwhelming, and that in the villages of the Oshpitzin and Zator principalities to find a Jewish resident was indeed a rarity.
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