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[Page Tet and Yod]


Translated by Gabrielle Johnson and Osnat Ramaty

With deep respect and the feeling of a strong commitment we commemorate the existence and the destruction of the Jewish community of Sosnowiec and those of the Zagłębie region. We present our Sosnowiec and Zagłębie compatriots in Israel and abroad with this commemorative book on our Jewish communities that have been annihilated in the European genocide.

We did not have access to all the sources and archives to evaluate all the material for showing a complete and reliable picture of Jewish life throughout the generations in our city and region. The editor, who was born in our city, gathered over the years the extensive and complex material published in this book. Despite a number of problems, this material has been compiled with great effort, endurance, a feeling of responsibility, and with minimal financial support.

We were determined to fulfill two goals by publishing our book: the representation of ours and the adjoining Jewish communities during their existence and during their destruction. This book is built on two pillars: the history of the Jewish settlements and communities, and their fate during the shoah.

Our book covers the history of the Jewish community of Sosnowiec and their adjoining settlements during their glorious past until their fast and bitter end. We would like to shine the light of love and comfort on the Jewish life in Sosnowiec and Zagłębie throughout all its development stages and generations.

The publication of this book serves as a commemoration to the unknown individuals of our Jewish communities. It is a symbolic act of lighting a candle in memory of the victims of our city and the region - those victims that have been made known by their rabbis, by authors, scholars and their students, as well as those involved in honorary community service. We remember the leaders of the Jewish communities, all individuals involved in community service, the Jewish people, the wonderful youngsters, and the avid pioneers, who all gave a helping hand in building Israel, as well as the sons that gave their lives for the creation of the state of Israel. We remember the institutions, associations, and movements in their national, cultural, economic, and religious lives.

We would like to thank all those individuals and institutions that made the publication of our book possible. Blessed be all our Sosnowiec and Zagłębie compatriots who are now scattered all over the world and who encouraged and supported us with information and their strong commitment to facilitate the publication of this book in memory of our holy Jewish communities.

This book appears in cooperation with our Sosnowiec and Zagłębie compatriots in Israel, the USA, and Europe.

Tel Aviv, May 1973 The Editor

[Page 11]

The history of Sosnowiec and Zagłębie

by M. Sh. Gashury

Sos011.jpg [15 KB] - M. Sh. Gashury
M. Sh. Gashury (Brukner)

1. Sosnowiec – Zagłębie's youngest “daughter”

a) Various Stories about the Village and the Town

Translated by Gabrielle Johnson and Osnat Ramaty

Sosnowiec is said to be the “youngest” town of all the towns and villages in the Zagłębie region. That town has neither such a rich history as Będzin, Siewierz, Czeladź and Modrzejów, nor can it be compared to the ancient town of Niwka.

Yet the Sosnowiec soil has a few stories to tell about the town's history.

Sosnowiec came into Polish possession before the 10th century. Different armies passed through the area and a number of important events were recorded to have taken place there. However, in general, Sosnowiec successfully managed to keep away from most of the political showdowns.

Sosnowiec avoided becoming a mercenary of Genghis Khan's empire, whose army, coming from the vast steppes in Mongolia, galloped on their small, swift horses via Lignitz (Legnica) in Lower Silesia almost all the way to Berlin at the beginning of the 13th century.

Sosnowiec did not have to suffer from the Piast[1] civil war or from the political development in independent Poland to the country's triple partition instigated by its border nations Austria, Prussia, and Russia.

Sosnowiec did not participate in the Polish revolution against Russia led by Kosciuszko[2], and it did not fight the army of Napoleon the Great – an army that chased their Russian counterpart all the way to Moscow.

Sosnowiec was spared from many misfortunes that befell other parts of Poland. It was not before a few years prior to World War I when Sosnowiec seemed to awaken with wide-open eyes from a long hibernation. Years after the lengthy Russian occupation of Congress Poland[3], and after the socialist request to set up an army against the imperialistic regime and its oppression, Sosnowiec realized what it had been spared, and found its place in the geographic and economic development of a flourishing Zagłębie.

The transformation of Sosnowiec from a village to a town took place during the era of Tsarist Russia. During that time the town made the transition to major industry. Sosnowiec benefited from economic development during the final years of the Tsarist rule, as did other towns. Coal and ore mining developed into a growing industry sector, factories and a network of railway lines were built. Sosnowiec became the hub for two central railway lines in Russian Poland as well as the center of communication for the capital city of Austria and for Prussia. Each of these factors had an effect on the prestige of the industrial working class, and transformed the town to a dynamic center of that region.

The times during the reign of Tsar Nikolai II had a positive, yet fateful influence on the Jewish population. From an economic point of view the industrial development in Russia helped the Jews to become an important factor in the industrial development in general. A small upper class had become very affluent and held stronger positions than industrialists, all sorts of entrepreneurs, bankers, and traders. At the same time, the Jews were banned from working in the iron and coal industry in Zagłębie. The only chance for Jewish workers was to be employed at smaller Jewish-owned factories where work conditions were not particularly good.

In the year 1827, when the Russian power put together a list of Polish villages, the name Sosnowiec had not yet appeared. This may serve as evidence that Sosnowiec did not even exist back then. However, only a short time after the founding of the settlement it started to develop rapidly, and became a major center of communication and industry.

It was not before 1902 when the Russian power granted the town charter to Sosnowiec. Prior to that year, the settlement had existed as a village for over half a century. A never-ending stream of immigrants from the surrounding region had been settling in Sosnowiec. The Jews took an active part in the economic development of the town.

[Page 12]

b) From a Village to a Town

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

In the delta between the Black Przemsza River and the Brynica Brook sits the metropolis of Zaglembian Dabrowa and Sosnowiec.

The present center of the town, that is only several decades old, covers some 12 neighborhoods and villages, like: Old Sosnowiec, Pogoń, Sielce, Środula, Dabrowa Góra, Milowice, Modrzejów, Radocha, Konstantinów, Ostra-Górka, Kuznica and the Zagórze region.

Even more than a hundred years ago there were thick forests spread over the area of the present town and its surroundings, in which there were various animals living and hunting for prey within it, like bears and wolves, and here and there were swamps which were difficult to access and nearby them, there were flocks of birds. There was no-one about who would consider, in the middle of any fine day, going into the thick woods above the right bank of the Przemsza, between the present Wawel Street and Kosciuszki Square. This was a terrible and frightening place; a patchwork of sturdy elms that had been uprooted during storms, tangles of rotten and filthy briers and thorns spread over foul smelling muddy ground, with teams of insects covering this area. This delta, that wasn't inaccessible in the winter months, served in the summer as a dwelling place for bands of robbers. In 1840 the gang of the Silesian robber, Bratibor who was renown in the whole region of Upper Silesia, lived here. Not less frightening was the Wygwizdów Delta (this delta was previously known as “Zagrowola”), that was then considered as an isolated bend on the Przemsza River in the region of the later to be streets: Snieszna, Golembia, Szeczna, Chemiczna, and Konstantynowska. Between the aforementioned deltas in the past ran the Będzin-Pogoń way (approximately from Rybna Street to the Aszer Palace in Sielce), there was a trail near to a dam which twisted along called the “Czartowska Sciezka” (“Devil's Trail”). In a place near to the Przemsza dam, there was already a mill in 1825 which, as it were, was always grinding something, and also for many years served as a sort of settlement. The third in the series of deltas, that people were wary of entering, was the Cieszyniacz Forest that was located between Old Sosnowiec, Milowice and Pogoń. In this delta, that in 1870 was for the most part deforested, a gang of robbers of 40-50 individuals led by the famous leader Pistolka and Eliasz sought a hideaway there. (Members of this Silesian gang, to whom a number of murders were held responsible, were sentenced to death by the court in Bytom, but received a pardon from King Wilhelm the First. A picture of these robbers could still be seen in 1911 in the Panoptikum in Berlin). East and north of the palace in Sielce, even from the second decade of the 19th century, a virgin forest spread out where no human had touched. In about 1845, along the length of the Brynica, from Milowice to Modrzejów, there was still a deep swamp that had pine trees growing in it. Even in the center of Sosnowiec, in places where the parochial Church, the Sosnowiec Society office and the Russian Church stand, even in 1870 there was a thick forest and swamps.

Apropos the wilderness, deltas, forests and swamps that covered the area of the present day town and its surroundings, in which herds of buffalo, deer and bears lived, it is worth adding, that for many, many years before Sosnowiec was established (from the 1st to 5th BCE) these wildernesses and forests were surging with people and the Lausitz tribes, who were displaced from their homes under pressure of the Germans and sought refuge here. In this wilderness a small settlement, formerly a village, developed from 1902 into a town, whose rapid and surprising growth occurred thanks to the abundant layers of coal located not only in its vicinity but also in the nearby regions.

[Page 13]

Sos013.gif [29 KB] - Map of the town of Sosnowiec

Map of the town of Sosnowiec and surroundings

Of all the villages that were included in the area of the later to be town of Sosnowiec, there was one from which the town took its name, according to later sources, and also the original sound of this name raises doubts. In all the documents we come across the names “Sosnowca” and “Sosnowiec” (also when written in Hebrew, or Yiddish, in Hebrew newspapers of the time there was no consistency, sometimes it was written as “Sosnowca” and sometimes as “Sosnowiec”) There were and are zealous supporters and opposers to the origins of the name in relation to the first and second version, and those of these who bring forth proof and testimonies of documents and mentions in various literature. The supporters of the name “Sosnowiec” firstly raise all the known facts, that in around 1830 there was a settlement called “Sosnowiec” near to other settlements and grounds of estate owners. An official document notes, that there was a village called Sosnowiec (and later Old Sosnowiec). An opinion is held, that the origin of the name Sosnowiec is from pine trees (“Sosne” in Polish) that grew in this settlement, and the origin of the name is topographical. Holders of this opinion support their claim by the fact, that settlements or villages with topographical names appear from the end of the 15th century and onwards only in forested regions.

Together with those struggling to clarify the name of the new town is the Polish historian, Jan Kantor-Mirsky who claims that such things never happened and said that since the lists of villages from the year 1827 do not mention nor Sosnowiec nor Sosnowca it is a sign that in reality there was no village. In the book by the famous Polish historian, J. Dlugosz wrote: “The fact that indeed there is no note about the settlement of Sosnowiec, simply comes, in my opinion, through inaccuracies here and there in the material in the book and the omission of the settlement in the lists from 1827 was caused by a distraction, as proved by previous parochial documents in Czeladź, from which it is evident that the Sosnowiec settlement had already existed six years before the lists, and that in 1821 it was called Sosnowiec or Sosnowca by a policeman by the name of Tomasz Gitner who lived in the village. (because of the illegible handwriting it was difficult to thoroughly check if the word was Sosnowiec or Sosnowca)”. Dlugosz asked, “Why is there silence relating to the village in the parochial and Czeladź documents from before 1820?”

[Page 14]

Whilst searching through the parochial ledgers the historian became convinced that in 1820, a Jan Labusz who was an estate owner and home and farm owner, aged 40, lived in the village of Sosnowiec. And since he was a native of Sosnowiec and received the estate as inheritance from his father, who was found to have lived there at least from 1820. He also found a further four residents from 1820, farmers who lived in this settlement, were born there and were 40 -50 years old, proving that the settlement was a farm, or yard, from about 1750, but nonetheless birth records could not be found in Czeladź records not for Jan Labusz and nor for the other four residents, in despite of the fact that they were born in Sosnowiec. According to this, Dlugosz determined that there were errors in the birth certificates from Czeladź after 1821, and inaccuracies in the official documents as a result of the transfer of some of the suburban regions and the marking of new borders of the suburban regions, of which the suburban regions of Czeladź were included; and Sosnowiec settlers that were transferred to the Milowice suburbs were listed not as being from Sosnowiec rather as settlers from “Pogoń”. For him the question arose, why specifically Pogoń and not Sosnowiec? Nothing had existed in 1820? And indeed, Sosnowiec and other settlements had been transferred to the Miroszowsky estate, recorded in old ledgers as “land properties of Gzichów and Małobądz and their related surroundings”! By the way, it appears, that on the border of the Cieszyniacz forest that belonged to Sosnowiec stood an inn called “Postakowa in the forest”, and in the civil status certificates of 1821 the name Herszlik Kenner, a Jew, appears as the innkeeper.

From perusal and searching of documents from various suburban areas it appears that for Kantor-Mirsky, Sosnowiec appears for the first time from 1780 onwards, and not in any place other than in the field of Pogoń a half a kilometer distance north of the present railway station. It was located in a pine forest right of the road leading from Będzin through Pogoń and the area on which the Sosnowiec-Modrzejów train terminal now stands.

The explanation of the annals of the village's names is assisted by the ledgers of the Gzichów estates, within which Sosnowiec was located. The ledgers are from the years 1780, 1864 and 1875. The records from 1780 mention the Gzichów and Małobądz properties, and Pogoń and the fields belonging to it, however the name Sosnowiec is missing. This can be identified with a birth certificate from the same period from the Mislowice suburbs, which only mentions Pogoń with its related fields without names; whilst from the Czeladź documents that were previously quoted, we know that Sosnowiec had already existed at this time and was comprised of several shelters.

The records from the year 1864 mention the properties: Gzichów, Małobądz, Pogoń and related fields, Ostra-Górka and Sosnowiec, and in a copy from one of the old ledgers of the Gzichów land estates and Małobądz that was prepared in Kielce in 1865, we already find a village by the name of Sosnowiec. In 1867, in directive almanacs containing land measurements of farmers' lands in the villages of Pogoń, Sosnowiec and Ostra-Górka, the name Sosnowiec appears again.

We find something interestingly new in lists of the estates of Gzichów from 1875; in this we find the names: Gzichów, Małobądz, Pogoń, Ostra-Górka, the village of Old Sosnowiec on a land area of 143 morag [a morag is approximately 5 dunam[4]] in addition to woodlands (of which there were 4 morag of cultivated fields), the host settlement of Sosnowiec-Mislowice (previously: Postakowa below the forest) with an area of 12 morag, the New Sosnowiec settlement with an area of 340 morag. Kantor-Mirsky analyzed the documents and came to the following conclusion: the different lingual formats of the name Sosnowiec related to two separate settlement units: an older settlement which preceded the later Sosnowiec; and the younger one, the new name of the field settlement – Sosnowiec.

Sos013.jpg [35 KB] - The corner of three empires
The corner of three empires
(Germany, Austria, Russia)
View from Myslowice

[Page 15]

Over time the younger Sosnowiec took over the name of the older settlement, and thus the two name derivations arose.

c) The Town at its Beginning

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

The Sosnowca village that gave its name to the neighboring town was located within forests and swamplands that encircled the marshy Przemsza River valley. On the western side the settlement bordered on the Cieszyniacz Forest that was located at the southern tip of Mislowice, and to the north it bordered on the village of Pogoń (this last village penetrated deeply into the center of the present town; as a result of this a mine was already founded in 1815 by the name of “Pogoń” in conjunction with the company that would later be responsible for it). To the east the border of Sosnowca ran from the houses on the line of roads that would later be defined: Malachowska, Targowa and Teatralna, perpendicular to the Brynica River, which served as the southern border of the village.

Even though the settlement began hundreds of years ago on these lands – the landscape remains primal. The whole area of the Sielce estate – apart from the green pastures above the Przemsza in the section of the border with Silesia – was covered in forest. In the northern section were a number of lime hills enveloped by a thin layer of sand. On the lands of Sielce there was only the forest management colony, and the Sielce palace was used mainly for hunting. It didn't include very much grazing land.

Due to the insubstantial settlement in this area there wasn't a developed network of roads. The main way led from Będzin through Pogoń on a direct line to Sosnowiec, to Modrzejów and from there to Sielce. Around Sonowcza roads branched out crossing through to Ostra-Górka through to Mislowice and through Sielce. The way to Mislowice, which swamps and drought alternately appeared on it, was sometimes “paved” with pine tree twigs. Whereas the value of the road that led from Sosnowiec to the mill above the Przemsza grew greatly at the end of the century with the development of the settlement, being that it served as the only link with Sielce which was rich in stones and clay.

The first buildings and houses of the Russian authorities in Sosnowiec were: the terminal from 1859 (the first manager was Friedrich Olkis), the border guardhouse from 1838, the tax office from 1859 (the first administrator was Onofri Karpowicz, and the secretary was Konstantin Pragier). In the first administrative authority of Sosnowiec was the village head, Abram Blumental, a Jew, and his office was located near the present Targowa Street that was then still surrounded by swamps. It is hence worthwhile noting a little about the personality of the first village leader.

Abram Icchak Blumental, the first village leader of Sosnowiec, came from Modrzejów, and together with Hamburger from Będzin bought plots of land around the terminal on which they erected the first large buildings. Hamburger erected the first hotels – the “Warszawski” and the “Wictoria”) opposite the terminal), and Blumental established a large building at number 11 Targowa Street. This Blumental was elected in 1880 to be the first village leader of Sosnowiec, after the village stood independently. He served until 1890.

Amongst the other “institutions” that were a necessity of the time and the first in Old Sosnowiec, the following can be enumerated: “The Under the Star Inn” restaurant (from 1841, near the present Deblinska Street) whose owner was Marcel Krystal (opposite the restaurant a forest opened out in which the diners sought peace and tranquility); a banquet hall in which gypsies would play music (in 1860 Karol Rol was the manager); the Jewish “mikva” (this was also near Deblinska Street). The first agency and trade office also developed on Sosnowiec land (in 1859, and its owner: the Jew, Wilhelm Majerhold). The first tradesmen dealing in boot making, baking, furniture and rope making settled in Old Sosnowiec.

Table of Contents Next Page »

  1. Piasts – the Piast dynasty dates back to its fabled, rural founder Piast whose descendants were Siemowit, Leszek, Siemomysl, and last but not least Mieszko I. Return
  2. Tadeusz Andrzej Kociuszko – Polish general and nationalist. He served with George Washington in the American Revolution (1776-83). He returned to Poland in 1784, fought against the Russian invasion that ended in the partition of Poland, and withdrew to Saxony. He returned again in 1794 to lead the revolt against the occupation, but was defeated by combined Russian and Prussian forces and imprisoned until 1796. Return
  3. Napoleon was defeated in 1812. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna established the Kingdom of Poland, commonly known in English as Congress Poland, and in German as “Mittelpolen”. Return
  4. A dunam is 1,000 square meters, about 1 ½ acre. Return

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