« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

[Page 213]

Geographic Highlights of Zaglembie {Cont.}

3. Geological attributes

To understand the geological area of Zaglembie, one must visit the museum at Dabrowa Górnicza. The place is the heartland of the coal region and the museum located near the middle school is a must. The initiator of the museum was Prof. Dr. Piwawar who started to collect in 1910 mineral information in the area, especially of Zaglembie. Today, the museum has several large halls and laboratories. There is also a large geological museum in Katowice, Upper Silesia, connected to the teaching institutions in the area. This museum is perhaps richer in material than the one of Dabrowa but the atmosphere is rather chilly. By comparison, one feels welcome at the Dabrowa museum. Here every pebble is explained and treated as a living item. The local geologist explains the geological mysteries of the natural resources, their origin, their formation, the depth of the various layers of minerals and the length of these layers. He presents maps and sketches that enable you to understand the planning of the exploitation of the mineral resources. He also explains the various items exhibited at the museum. Mineral specimens from various mines and at various depths that he connects to particular ages and can trace them practically to the creation of the universe.

We discover that the coal region of Zaglembie has been in existence for million of years in geological chronology. The area had a tropical climate during that period when the coal layers was formed. The area was then flooded by sea waters and remained inundated for millions of years during which the limestone layers was formed. Eventually, waters receded and plant, vegetation, and animal life resumed their life cycle. This process was stopped by the ice age that covered the area with a sheet of ice several hundred meters thick. The mountains of ice moved twice over the area from North to South and seriously affected the shape of the land of Zaglembie and left big deposits of sand, clay and stones.

With the receding of the ice age, the climate began to change. Drier and warmer weather started to prevail. Vegetation, plant and animal life, as we know them today, slowly resumed their life cycle. The sun, the wind and the rivers continued their natural work that consisted of leveling certain areas and tearing other areas away from the landmass, the so-called natural leveling process. According to a sketch of a geological map of the North Eastern Polish coal region, we see that that the coal layers extend from the German borders in the West to the towns of Olkusz and Chrzanow in the East.

[Page 214]

The entire coal region consists of 3400 square kilometers. The Zaglembie share of the coal region covers 2000 square kilometers. The geological profiles indicate to us the depth of the coal layers. The lowest point is 1000 meter below ground level and is located in Upper Silesia. In our area there are three main layers of coal that are called: the Upper Reden, the Reden, and the Lower Reden. Reden was a coal director. The thickest coal layer of 18 meters thick is found in the mine called “Paris”. The layer begins with the topsoil and runs beneath the surface at a depth of three meters. We find a number of such layers in Zaglembie that are located near the surface. The coal mine Paris is the most interesting not only in Poland but also throughout Europe.

Here we can familiarize ourselves with the early methods of coal exploitation. The coal layers were almost exposed or merely covered with a few meters of earth. The latter consisted of sand or chalk that had to be removed to expose the coal. Then it was chopped away as pieces of stones in the quarry.

Later they exploited coal by the “carbon system,” is surrounded with various layers of limestone that were formed at a later period in the geological age, the so-called Triassic system or period. These layers contain iron, zinc, lead and huge amounts of clay and sand. The latter elements are essential for the development of a ceramic industry. Zaglembie has industry that produces materials for road construction and the base of buildings. The region has brick and cement factories, stone quarries, chalk ovens and a factory that produces hardened bricks that are used along street pavements and roads. Thus we find in Zaglembie, many buildings built with local limestone, notably the Bedzin castle and the supporting walls.

Following the Triassic system or period along the Siewer-Zawiercie road, we meet the Jurassic system that is very rich in iron and clay. We delved at length with the geological facts of the region in order to provide the reader with an understanding of the natural richness of the area. These treasures helped the constant economic development of our region.

4. The topography

To understand the physical formation of Zaglembie, we must examine the special topographic map of the area.

From a geographical point of view, Zaglembie is part of the Silesian plateau that is part of the Galician plateau according to some geographers. The highest point of the plateau is at Lubianca, 389 meters above sea level, located between the villages of Twardowice and Mieszkowice.

[Page 215]

The second high point at 382 meters above sea level we find at Dorotka in Grodzie. In spite of the fact that the Lubianka is higher than the Dorotka, the latter dominates due to its sharp pointed ascent. On a clear day, one can see from the Dorotka not only the Zaglembie region but also the entire periphery starting from the North, the hamlet of Siewierz, to the South, we see Upper Silesia and even the contours of the mountains. Along the East we see the entire area of Olkusz, especially the “Deser of Blendower” and along the West, the Polish and even German industrial chimneys [the region of Bytom].

Besides these two mountains tops, the Silesian plateau has many elevated spots but they never reach the above mentioned mountain heights. The lowest point in the region is the ancient hamlet of Modrzejów near Sosnowiec where the three rivers: the black and white Przemsza and the Brynica merge. In the large meadows along the Przemsza Rivers, began most of the Zaglembian cities.

5. Arable land

The arable land of Zaglembie is sandy or chalky and requires great physical efforts as well as financial investments to produce good agricultural results. During the industrial development of the area, the average peasant found jobs in the mines, the smelting plants and other industrial enterprises that paid better wages than their farms.

As a result, many former farmers lost interest in agriculture. We can see small plots of mismanaged or badly maintained plots of land that provide the owner with a secondary income. We also see large well managed farms that belong to the coal mine owners. The small plots grow mainly potatoes, cabbage, corn and oats. The large farms grow barley, clover and a variety of vegetables.

Lately, we notice a stress on garden farming. With the growing industrialization of the area there is of course a greater demand for fruit and garden produce.

6. The climate

The climate of an area is determined by its geographic width, height [mountains, flatland] and distance from the sea. As mentioned earlier, Zaglembie is situated under the 50 degrees and between 250-392 meters above sea level, the Silesian plateau. The entire area is elevated and reaches the Carpathian Mountains that are about 100 kilometers away. The area is also under the influence of the Atlantic Ocean that is about 1200 kilometers away and affects the weather of Zaglembie as well as that of Western Europe. The Zaglembie region is thus located in a weather zone that changes rapidly. The climate contributes to the geographical complexity of the Zaglembie region. The meteorological studies are still inefficient to cope with precise weather forecasts for the area. There is a poorly equipped meteorological station in Bedzin whose credibility is somewhat limited. It is located in a school at Malabandz and is affiliated with the national Polish meteorological institute in Warsaw. As an example we present the observations for the year 1935.

a) The Temperature

The average annual temperature was 8.2 degrees. The highest temperature was 34.4 degrees [24th of June] centigrade and the lowest temperature was minus 21 degrees centigrade [9th of January].

b) The Barometric pressure

The average barometric pressure was 751.1 millimeter
The maximum was 764 ml. [1st of March]
and the minimum was 720 ml. [2nd of December]

c) The various winds

North winds about 10 days
Northeastern winds about 35 days
East winds about 37 days
Southeastern winds about 12 days
Southern winds about 31 days
North western winds about 60 days
South western winds about 82 days
Western winds about 83 days
No winds about 15 days

From the above figures we can see that Zaglembie received in 1935 most of its winds from the West and least from the North.

d) Cloudy days

Totally cloudy 137 days
Partially cloudy 178 days
Clear 50 days

[Page 216]

e) Annual rainfall

The annual rainfall in 1935 was 740 millimeters of water that included the rains, snow, and dew. We must add that meteorological stations that exist but a few years cannot give a clear picture over the long span of time.

7. Irrigation

Zaglembie is part of the Baltic network of rivers that irrigated the area. The three rivers – the Black Przemsza, the White Przemsza and the Brynice – and their effluents crisscross the entire Zaglembie-Dabrowa region. At the southern exit of the city of Sosnowiec, Modrzejów-Niwka, the three rivers meet and flow as one stream in the direction of Nowy Bierun near Auschwitz. The river is now called the Pszemsze and it joins the Wisla River. The sources of the rivers are located in the “Trias Shwell” that rise above Zawiercze to Czestochowa.

The Brynice has its sources behind a place known as Markowice [region of Zawiercze]. Until Babrowniki, the river has low banks and the valleys are constantly inundated. These areas are covered with water plants and once these areas had many water birds. From Babrowniki to Myslowice the banks rise here and there. This border river was previously totally unregulated, lately certain sections have been regulated, notably at Czeladz and between Sosnowiec and Myslowice.

The Black Przemsza has its sources in the region of Zawierce. Until Siewiers, the river flows from East to West and then South. This river is the longest amongst the three rivers and between Siewiers and Bedzin there are frequently floods following the melting of snows due to the low banks. The river has a few confluents that cross the mine and industrial areas that pick up many debris and color the water. Hence the name of the river.

The White Przemsza is the shortest and cleanest of the rivers. Its sources are behind Bledow, Olkusz area. Thousands of people swim here each summer.

Plans call for the total regulation of the three rivers that will convert the waterways into a highway of coal transportation. The regulation of the rivers will also provide the cities of Sosnowiec, Bedzin and Dabrowa with large areas of land that are presently partially flooded. These steps will also expose the lakes and the limestone wells in the area that are presently overgrown with vegetation. During the winter, the area provides ices for the local breweries. The three cities mentioned above also draw their water from the rivers. The water is purified and distributed to the consumers. Other residents in the area use well water or the water from the rivers.

8. Plants and Animals

To provide a full account would require a sizable description that we cannot do within this context. We will therefore limit ourselves to a description of the area as seen by a visitor.

We already mentioned that the soil of Zaglembie is sandy and not too conducive to plants or animals. This of course does not mean that man did not cultivate fine harvests or raised animals, but this required intensive investments. We also find some interesting biological specimens in Zaglembie in the quarries, notably roots. In other areas grow some plants called “Razchodnik” and in the Bledowner desert we find sandy plants. In the small watersheds, we find swamp plants, tiny fish, frogs, snakes, swamp insects as well as rabbits and critters. Among the trees, we find a variety of chirping birds.

9. The Population

The population of Zaglembie, like all industrial areas, represents a mixture of people. If we examined the birth certificates of the previous generation, we would discover that a large percentage of the people stem from the area, with a sizable influx of people from the remote areas of the province of Kielce. The Bedzin region had in 1937 a total population of 356,430 people, including 60,000 Jews. The city of Sosnowiec and vicinity had 122,766 people, including 27,000 Jews. Three coal mines, three smelting plants, two spinning plants and some other small industrial plants surround the city. The center of the city gives the impression of a commercial center and this is where the main Jewish population is concentrated. The other sectors of the city give the impression of industrial sectors and we see there the mines and plants of the city.

The city of Bedzin and vicinity had a population of 50,000 people including 24,000 Jews. The city is a commercial center. On the outskirts are located several large industrial plants, notably a zinc and a cable plant, 2 limestone ovens and three brick factories. In Koszelew and Kasawer we find coalmines, in Balabandz an oil-coca-butter factory and the Zaglembie hydroelectric station that provides electricity for the region of Zaglembie. Most of the Jews in Bedzin live in the center of the city, while the non-Jews live on the outskirts.

The city of Dabrowa had a population of 40,000 people including 5,000 Jews. Here we find two large mines and some Frenchmen that live in the city. They are mostly part owners of factories or higher municipal officials. The fourth city in the region is Czeladz with a population of 20,000 people, including 1,200 Jews. The mines “Saturn” and “Piaski” as well as the ceramic factory, provide the economic basis of the city. The rural communities, Grodziec, Zagórze, Strzemieszyce, Lagoze, Woikowicz, Ragoznik and Ragownik represent a mixture of rural and industrial character. The villages in northern Zaglembie represent an agricultural character.

In the region of Bedzin, there are 509 people to the square kilometer while in Sosnowiec there are 3530 people to the same area. The density of population gives one an indication of the development of the areas. In summary we can state that Zaglembie is considered to be densely populated in Poland. The region has agricultural, agro-industrial, industrial and urban communities. Due to the favorable transportation facilities [railways, tramways, and buses within Zaglembie and nearby regions] we find many commuters and haulage facilities of merchandise.

[Page 217]

The Jewish Settlement in Sosnowiec

by Gerszon Stawski
Translated by Bill Leibner

In the history of Polish towns, Sosnowiec ranked as the fastest-growing city. The city grew very rapidly almost at an American tempo of building. From a dense forest it grew to a modern city of 125,000 people in a few decades. A hundred years ago, the city center was a mere forest where some robbers or bandits from neighboring Germany found refuge from the law, for no normal person would dare to step into the forest. Robberies took place along the borders of Poland and Germany and the perpetrators found refuge in the forest. There were also rumors that the forests contained ferocious beasts, as the local population told horror stories about the place. The general population was terrified of the forests. Only with the building of the Zabkowice-Katowice railway line in 1858-1859 did the fears start to disappear. Small settlements started to grow along the railway line that formed present day Sosnowiec. The railway station in the midst of the forest received the name of Sosnowiec after the nearby village that was called “Stary Sosnowice”.

[Page 218]

Sos218.jpg [10 KB] - Abram Icchak Blumental
Abram Icchak Blumental,
the first Jewish community leader

Some Jewish families already lived in the small villages, notably Pogon, Wygwizdów, Old Sosnowiec, Ostrogorka, Milowice and others that would eventually form the city of Sosnowiec. Coal mines, zinc smelting places and small industrial plants already existed around these villages. This in turn attracted Jewish families that saw a commercial opportunity to earn a living.

The Jewish community in Sosnowiec began in 1860 around the railway station. The first Jewish families in town were well-to-do people who bought lots around the railway station and built large homes. Amongst them were the Hamburg family from Bedzin and Avraham Icchak Blumental from Modrzejów. Hamburger built the first hotels in town, named “Warszawski” and “Victoria” [opposite the station]. Blumental built a large house on Targowa Street that has number 11 on it today. He was elected village mayor of Sosnowiec in 1880 and remained in office until 1890. The first mayor of the city of Sosnowiec was thus a Jew.

From the railway line there was a road to Modrzejów that crossed the forest. Here lived scattered small farmers. This is today's Modrzejów Street that is the commercial center of the town. Jews that came to the frontier town to earn a living purchased the huts. They were torn down and replaced with sizable houses. The first Jewish real estate proprietors in town were Blumental, Hamburger, Laibele Binder, Ajzyk Ingster, among others.

During the first years, the construction was done at night since it was impossible to obtain building permits from the Russian administration. The latter was totally opposed to the building of a town along the border with Germany. Due to the haste, the Modrzejów Street zigzagged in some places. But the growth of the city was not to be stopped by the Czarist officials in far away places. The city grew by leaps and bounds at night. Entire streets were built quite rapidly. Of course, the official watchmen were bribed. The city expanded in length, width and height. In the nineteenth century, Russia realized that a village has transformed itself into a city and began to issue building permits. The city of Sosnowiec was officially recognized as a city in 1902. It also received officially its municipal status that also included the nearby villages.

[Page 219]

With the growth of the city population, the Jewish population also grew. Most of the Jews that settled in Sosnowiec between 1860-1870 were mostly from the immediate vicinity, Bedzin, Modrzejów, Olkusz, Wolbrom, Pilica.

With the increase of traffic with Upper Silesia, a customs office was opened in Sosnowiec in the seventies. Many large haulage and shipping companies opened offices in town, notably the Ginsburg Brothers, Adolf Openhajm, St. Rajcher, and others. The city attracted many educated Jews, some of whom implanted the roots of Jewish assimilation. The latter ideas were especially popular amongst the Jews that came from Czestochowa.

Originally, the Jewish population of the city consisted of a few congregations of Radomsker and Alexander Hassidim, some religious Jews, and a few assimilated families that organized and financed the communal life of the Jewish community. Legally speaking Sosnowiec still belonged to the Jewish community of Bedzin. In 1880, Sosnowiec accepted Rabbi Arie Lejb Gitler as the first head of the Jewish judicial council. He was previously the head of the Jewish judicial council of Krakow but the Austrian authorities refused to grant him residence since he was a Russian citizen. He settled in Bedzin and when Sosnowiec started to look for a spiritual leader, he presented himself and was accepted for the post. He remained at this post until he passed away in 1888.

With the death of Rabbi Arie Lejb Gitler, his son, Rabbi Abram Majer Gitler, who resided in Pinczew, was invited by influential people in Sosnowiec to accept his late father's position. The Rabbi of Bedzin also granted his consent and the son took over the office. He retained the position for 37 years until he passed away the fifth day of Cheshvan in the year 5686 [1926]. He wrote numerous manuscripts that are presently being prepared for publication by the special committee that was created for this purpose in the USA. His son is the head of this enterprise.

In 1885 the Iwangoroder railway line was completed. The line connected Iwangorod, presently Deblin, with Zaglembia, which shortened the distance to Russia since there was no need to travel through Warsaw. Sosnowiec became the center point for the transfer of Russian wheat to Germany. This provided many economic opportunities for people that flocked to the city to find employment and financial opportunities. Sosnowiec replaced Warsaw as the wheat center for Germany. Many wheat dealers settled in the city and became important financial contributors to the Jewish community in the city. Some also became important leaders of the community, notably, Wolfson, Kabak, Hersz, Lipszyc and Orlowski.

The city continued to grow rapidly and was nicknamed “Polish America.” Thousands of people arrived daily from far away hamlets in the region of Kielce, from Chmielnik, Pinczew, Checziny, Jedzejow, Staszew, Dzialoszyce, etc.

Sos219.jpg [17 KB] - Rabbi Abram Majer Gitler z''l
Rabbi Abram Majer Gitler z''l

The Jewish community of Sosnowiec established a Jewish cemetery in 1894, in spite of the objection of the Jewish community of Bedzin, which was legally responsible for the Jewish community of Sosnowiec. The hasty erection of the cemetery was primarily due to the cholera epidemic that erupted in the city in 1893. In 1896 some well-to-do Jews began to build the first large synagogue in Sosnowiec. Although there were several small synagogues, or shtibelech, and several prayer halls in rented places, notably the “German school” at Targowa Street, there was insufficient space and therefore a large shul had to be built. The main contributors to building the synagogue were Chaim Josef Zajonc, Yehoshua Pachter, Jakob Wajnberg, and Josef Lidzbarski. The synagogue was built quickly since there was no shortage of funds. The social and philanthropic activities of the Jewish community revolved around the “Dobratchinastch” club that was controlled by the assimilated Jews. Hassidic or religious Jews were not admitted to the club. The club also maintained excellent relations with the local Russian authorities.

[Page 220]

Among the leaders of the club were Dr. Najfeld, St. Rajcher, and Adolf Openhajm. They obtained recognition from the Russian authorities for the Sosnowiec Jewish community. The Bedzin Jewish community was furious since Sosnowiec was under its jurisdiction and had to pay dearly for the various community services that it provided to the Jews of Sosnowiec. The independence of the Sosnowiec community meant a sizable loss of income for the Jewish community of Bedzin, and the latter fought the decision. But St. Rajcher had excellent contacts with the Governor of Piotrkow, who in 1898 granted an independent charter to the Jewish community of Sosnowiec. Thus ended the dependence of Sosnowiec on Bedzin's services. Sosnowiec also received jurisdiction over Jewish residents in the nearby villages of Pogon, Szielce, Katerine, Wygwizdów, Milowice and a few others. Since the city of Sosnowiec still had no municipal authority, the Jewish community of the city was placed under the control of a Bedzin city official.

The first selected members of the Jewish community of Sosnowiec were St. Rajcher, Adolf Openhajm, Dr. Jakob Najfeld, and Adam Bergman, the treasurer of the community. They held office from 1899 to 1902. The Jewish community of Sosnowiec showed its total independence by inviting the Rabbi of Czestochowa, Rabbi Nahum Asch, to swear in the new kehila leadership of Sosnowiec. The community of Bedzin was not consulted. The Rabbi officially performed the ceremony in the new synagogue in the presence of the Jewish community leaders and the Russian district official. The Jewish community at the time numbered about five thousand people. The total income of the Jewish community was 3251 rubbles. The expenses amounted to 4156 rubbles. St. Rajcher, the presiding officer of the Jewish community, covered the deficit.

The Russian district official insisted that the Sosnowiec Jewish community select an official Rabbi for the town. Many candidates applied for the position but Rabbi Majer Abram Gitler who already presided over the religious judicial council, was selected to be Rabbi of Sosnowiec. He had the support of the head of the kehila as well as some elements of the Jewish middle class in the city. In addition, the Jewish community also selected a Rabbi to represent it before the non-Jewish community. The current rabbi was unfamiliar with the local language or custom of the area. Well-to-do communities selected an additional Rabbi to represent the community to the outside world. This Rabbi had a religious education and also a formal general education that enabled him to communicate with the authorities in their language. Rabbi Steinzalc, from Rajowice, was very successful at his task since he maintained the position until the Russian Empire collapsed.

In 1900 some Hassidic Jews of Sosnowiec brought a Hassidic Rabbi to town. He was the son-in-law of the Rabbi of Wolbrom, Rabbi Icchak Glickman. He soon became very popular within the Jewish community. The kehila recognized him too as Rabbi of Sosnowiec. The community thus had two rabbis until 1925 when Rabbi Majer Abram Gitler died. Rabbi Glickman then became the official rabbi and head of the judicial council of the town. The rabbi was a scholar and a shaper of ideas. He stressed honesty and poverty. He was very popular amongst the Jews in town. He died in 1929, Cheshvan 16, in the year 5690.

One of the oldest institutions in town was the Talmud Torah where Jewish children received the basics of prayers and customs. It was not popular since a few Hassidic Jews that did not permit changes controlled it. The institution was the exact opposite of the assimilated kehila leadership. The two institutions were constantly at war. With the election of Dawid Englard to the kehila, he began to popularize the idea of reforming the Talmud Torah in town. The idea gained ground. Soon a new Talmud Torah opened sponsored by the Zionist organizations. Here the stress was on the Bible and the Hebrew language. Facing competition, the old Talmud Torah began to modernize and new ideas crept into the curriculum. The author of this article, Gerszon Stawski, influenced the shaping of the Talmud Torah. Berisz Warszawski also contributed a great deal to the strengthening of the institution. It was essential to prevent the assimilated Jews from influencing the Talmud Torah or from using their money in building the new Talmud Torah building. This building was registered in the name of the society of the Talmud Torah and not in the name of the kehila. This was done to prevent the assimilated leaders of the community or left factions to dictate terms to the Talmud Torah institution. The aim was to enable the institution to implant the religious spirit in the Jewish youth. The active members of the society were Jakob Lejb Abramczyk, Berisz Warszawski, Mosze Königsberger, Jakob Sztahl, Gerszon Stawski, and Mosze Akiba Magierkiewicz. The big Talmud Torah building was erected on Jasna Street with the help of Rabbi Gitler and Mosze Marianke. The remarkable edifice was a testimony to the hard and dedicated work of the people involved in the institution.

[Page 221]

The beginnings of the National movement

National movement activities began in Sosnowiec in 1897 when the poet Chaim Nachman Bialik took up residence in the city. This author, who would become the giant of the Hebrew literature, was a master of the Hebrew language. Some of his best poems were written in the city during 1897-1898. He attracted to his views many young national intellectuals who spread his ideas among the Jewish residents of the city. He also organized the Zionist organization in the city. In this endeavor he was joined by Jakob Wajnberg, Gerszon Stawski [a former member of the Odessa Committee, a forerunner of the political Zionist movement], Mosze Gerszon Feldstajn [known short story writer], Haim Josef Zajonc, Mendel Szapiro, and Szlomo Okonowski. Bialik also attracted some of the assimilated Jews to his political activities, notably Kempinski, who would later be sent to the fourth Zionist Congress as a representative of Sosnowiec on the recommendation of the great poet.

With the departure of Ch. N. Bialik and Feldsztajn from the city in 1899, Zionist activities declined. Some other figures stepped forth, notably Dr. Wajsman [today leader of the Jewish kehila of Swalk], Klajnic, and Berisz Tencer. The last two people were the first collectors of money for the Jewish National Fund [K.K.L] and were very active on behalf of the Zionist movement in town. Gerszon Stawski was a Zionist delegate from Sosnowiec to the 6th Congress in Basel and led the fight against the Uganda plan [proposal to replace Uganda with Palestine as a place to settle Jews].

In the Years of the Revolutionary turmoil

During 1904-1905, many young Jews abandoned Zionism and joined the revolutionary forces. They joined the ranks of the ”Bund”, the Socialist party, and the Poalei Zion parties. Many young people also preferred to stay clear of political activities for fear of the Tzarist police, which opposed all political activities.

With the defeat of the revolutionary parties, the Jewish youth slowly began to return to the Zionist organizations. New leaders appeared, notably Dr. Perlman [formerly of Kielce] and Israel Mosze Wajnreb. Both were dedicated members of the Zionist cause and served it to the end of their lives. Wajnreb was a Zionist delegate to the 9th conference of Zionists in Hamburg, Germany.

During the Russo-Japanese war, Sosnowiec received a large influx of Jews from large and small cities. Many of them brought with them their Zionist views which were hostile to assimilation. This was also a factor in weakening the hold by the assimilated on the Jewish community leadership.

At the 1905 elections of community officials, the following representatives of the middle class were elected: Yehoshua Slotszewski, Lejb Englard and Szmul Rechnic. The presiding officer was Slotszewski, who was an honest and energetic leader. But he created many enemies by his insistence on collecting all dues owed to the community, contrary to the former leader of the community, Rajcher, who covered deficits with his own money. Slotszewski was frequently denounced for his manner of financial management that resulted in Russian officials checking the budget. He took his revenge on some of his opponents by refusing to provide community services to them, namely burial services. This caused strife within the community and frequently resulted in delaying the burial of people, which is a contravention of Jewish law. The community strife and division continued until 1909. Then there were elections and a new team entered the community office. The new members were Mosze Kenigsberg, Yehoshua Pachter, and Mosze Fiszel. Their term of office that extended to 1913 was known as a peaceful period. The secretaries Wiezbicki and later Lewenhof managed the office of the community for many years.

The society of “Chovevei Sfat Avar”

The branch of the “Chovevei Sfat Avar” [Lovers of the Past Language] in Sosnowiec was very active in 1907. This cultural society was created in St. Petersburg and had branches throughout the Russian Empire. The Sosnowiec branch brought many authors and poets who read their works. These meetings attracted many young people. The writer, Mosze Stawski, was very active in the branch. He lived in Sosnowiec from 1905-1908. He surrounded himself with a circle of talented writers who were primarily interested in Yiddish culture in Sosnowiec. He also wrote some of his best works while in the city.

The “Hazamir”

With the disappointment of the revolution, the Jewish youth began to look anew for ideas. In Sosnowiec as well as in other cities in Poland, “Hazamir” branches were created to provide lectures, recitals and concerts for the Jewish youth. These activities were very popular and attracted large audiences. They stressed the cultural aspects of the Jewish community. These branches were very active for several years and provided many youngsters with the rare opportunity of listening to concerts, lectures and recitals.

[Page 222]

The Jewish Colonization Association

The J.C.A. Association devoted itself primarily to emigration and there was a great deal of work in the area. The emigration stream to Western Europe and the United States went mainly through the city of Sosnowiec. It was the task of the organization to help the helpless and the persecuted Jews from the hands of the Czarist police and regulations. The organization provided them with judicial, financial and moral support. A great deal of pressure was used in St. Petersburg to obtain a permit for the Sosnowiec branch of the J.C.A. organization.

The head of the local branch was the attorney Bernard Openhajm, assisted by Dr. A. Perlman, Karol Hamburger, Yehoszua Slotszewski, Israel Mosze Wajnreb, and Gerszon Stawski. The Sosnowiec branch of the J.C.A. organization helped many emigrants and was a dedicated charitable institution.

The Occupation

With the outbreak of WWI in August 1914, normal life ceased to exist. The city that pulsated stopped breathing. All commercial life ceased. Exporters of wheat, wood and metal to Germany were unemployed. Importers from Germany had nothing to import. The white-collar workers were in the street seeking some work to sustain themselves. All social life came to a halt except for the emergency committee to help the needy. The first priority was the stranded people in the city. Most of them were merchants or residents from different places in the country. There were also some Russian Jews that the German expelled from Germany. With time, some of these people were sent home but this required large sums of money.

It took some time for the occupation authorities to establish the necessary administration to handle these refugees. Meantime, a civilian committee representing the population with Jewish participation started to function in the city. The Jewish delegates were Hersz Lipszyc and Salezi Majmon. The Jewish population was well treated by the committee. Even the food distribution in the city was fairly distributed between the Jewish and non-Jewish population. Later, Jewish and Polish committees were created to handle the food distribution in the city.

The Jewish committee consisted of Kon, Mamlok, Zajonc, Wolfson, Lipszyc, Rothschild, Stawski, and Hamburger. The kehila members Gronem Saper and Adam Branicki ably assisted them.

In the municipal elections of 1917, the following Jews were elected to the municipal council: Bernard Openhajm, Maximilian Rajcher, and Ignacy Landau; Salezi Majmon from the second district, Szmul Rechnic from the third district; Julian Kabak, from the fourth district; Adolf Landau and Henryk Kwiatek from the fifth district; Mosze Judenherc, and Hermann Berniker from the sixth district.

From 1913 to 1917 Gronem Saper, Adam Bernicki and Mosze Fiszel were the leaders of the kehila. In 1917, a new leadership was elected consisting of Haim Josef Zajonc, Hersz Lipszyc, Mendel Szapiro, and Israel Mosze Wajnreb. Lipszyc immediately resigned and was replaced by Lejbisz Zendel, who was to become an effective community leader. The leadership remained in office to 1924. Lejbisz Zendel later became the head of the community. He will be very active in many community affairs and assume an ever greater role in the life of the Jewish community of Sosnowiec.

The later period of time I consider to be too recent to be objectively analyzed and therefore I stopped at this point.

[Page 222]

The Jewish Community of Sosnowiec

Translated by Bill Leibner

The Jewish community of Sosnowiec was under the jurisdiction of the kehila of Bedzin until 1899. At the time, the Jewish community of Sosnowiec was relatively small in numbers but influential in money matters. The community had 350 dues-paying members.

A cholera epidemic that began started in 1893 forced the Jewish community to create a Jewish cemetery in 1894. Up to that moment of history, Jews of Sosnowiec were buried in Bedzin.

[Page 223]

The first officials of the Jewish kehila were St. Rajcher, Dr. Jakob Neufeld, Adolf Openhajm and Adam Bergman, the treasurer. All these people represented the assimilated Jews of Sosnowiec. The second team of officials included Yehoshua Slotszewski, Szmul Rechnic, and Lejb Englard. The third elected team of Jewish officials were Mosze Fiszel, Yehoshua Pachter, and Moshe Königsberg. The fourth team consisted of Mosze Fiszel, Adam Branicki, and Gronem Saper. The fifth team consisted of Israel Mosze Wajnreb, Haim Josef Zajonc, Mendel Szapiro Hersz Lipszyc, and Leibisz Zendel. This team was appointed by the German occupation authorities and remained in office until 1924.

The elections of 1924 resulted in the elections of five Zionists and five Orthodox Jews to the community council. The presiding officer was Dr. Abram Perlman and Leibisz Zendel was the vice president. The chairman of the council was Dr. Tuvia Melodista and the vice-chairman was Leibisz Szwajcer. Dr. Perlman passed away in 1928 and was succeeded by Leibisz Zendel, who remained in office until 1935. During that year the community faced a difficult financial crisis as well as sharp conflicts within the council due to the Rabbinate elections that resulted in the dissolution of the Jewish community council by the Polish authorities. The government then appointed a council headed by Berisz Tencer.

In September of 1935, new community elections were held, but the officers did not assume their offices until February 28th, 1937. The council consisted of Salomon Lajzerowicz (Zionist), President of the kehila, Simcha Wilczyk, Vice President, Ruwen Czapnik, Ajzik Lejb Fajerman, Szlomo Chaim Warman (Religious-Economic block), Dawid Lewartowski, Icchak Leibisz Sztajnfeld (Mizrahi), Szalom Pilc (League in support of Labor in Palestine), Szalom Nahum Langer (Artisans), and Mosze Kajzer (Agudah).

On December 5th, 1938, Ruwen Czapnik resigned and was replaced by Mendel Czechowski. On January 18th, 1939, Icchak Sztajnfeld resigned from office and was replaced by Mosze Meryn (Zionist).

The community council now consists of the following people: Josef Majtlis, President (Religious-Economic block), Bernard Jazni, Vice President (Revisionist Zionist), Szlomo Dalesman, Chaim Dancygier, Dawid Leczner, Abram Liberman (Religious-Economic block), Dr. Tuvia Melodista (Zionist), Josef Goldberg (League in support of Labor in Palestine), Dr. Hersz Liberman (Poalei Zion left), Baruch Szepkowicz (Mizrahi), Baruch Secemski (Aguda), Joel Diamant (Artisans), Baruch Dawid Dudkiewicz (Small Merchants), and Abram Rotner (Religious Independents).

With regard to the rabbinical chronicle history in Sosnowiec, we noticed the following developments. Since 1902, Rabbi Dawid Sztajnzalc, who represented the Jewish community to the non-Jews, was in office and Rabbi Abram Majer Gitler performed the religious functions. His appointment as the official rabbi of Sosnowiec was later confirmed by the German occupation authorities. The head of the judicial office was at the same time Rabbi Icchak Glickman. Rabbi Menachem Szwarc has acted as temporary rabbi to this day.

The annual community budget amounted to about 200,000 gulden. In 1938 there were 2,628 taxpayers in the community who paid taxes ranging from 5 to 1,000 gulden. The main sources of revenue were individual taxes, slaughter taxes, and burial revenues.

The budget in 1938 allocated 50,000 gulden, approximately 25% of the budget, for welfare, religious and cultural needs of the Jewish community.

The community employed 35 people, including 5 people in the office.

The city of Sosnowiec and vicinity had about 125, 000 residents including 27,000 Jews that represented 22% of the population.

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

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

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

  Sosnowiec, Poland     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page

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

Copyright © 1999-2024 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 31 Dec 2006 by LA