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[Page 288]

Sos288.jpg [40 KB] - "Linat Cholim"
Only a remnant survives of the “Linat Cholim“ Jewish hospital
in Sosnowiec, crying to the Heavens. The remains of the sign in
Polish and Yiddish is displayed above the entrance, as witness
to the Nazi vandalism.

[Page 289]

On the rivers of Dabrowian Zagłębie

The history of the Jewish settlements in the regions of
Dabrowian Zagłębie and Upper Silesia

(Chapters of their history)

by Me'ir Shymon Gashury (Brukner)

Translated by Lance Ackerfeld

January 1972 Tel Aviv Shvat 5732

Published by the Sosnowiec and surroundings émigrés organization in Israel

[Page 290]

Legend for the Jewish settlements in Zagłębie and Upper-Silesia

Introduction: Jewish settlements in the Zaglembian region 291
Ostrogórka 15
Oswiecim 11
Imielin 113
Bobrek 341
Bytom 11
Będzin 105
Brzezinka (Birkental) 113
Golonóg 342
Gzichów 345
Grabocin 376
Maczki-Granica 358
Groß-Chelm 113
Dąbrowa Górnicza 95
Dabrówka 157
Dandówka 346
Debowa Góra 351
Henryków 365
Wysokie-Brzeg 357
Warpie 345
Zawodzie 375
Zagórze 351
Zagłębie 87
Ząbkowice 354
Janów 111
Józefów 352
Jezor 357
Modrzejów 292
Malobadz 345
Milowice 360
Myslowice 110, 292, 316
Niwka 365
Niemce 369
Sosnowiec 11
Strzemieszyce 336
Slawków 327
Slupna 371
Pogon 17
Porombka 373
Puszkin (?) 351
Piaski 327
Pekin 375
Czeladź 320
Kozieglówki 380
Kazimierz 376
Katowice 111, 113
Klimontów 376
Ksawera 327
Krolewska Huta 111
Radocha 16
Rapkis (?) 377
Szopienice 111
Siewierz 380
Sielce 17
Srodula 17
Brynica 91
White Przemsza 91
Black Przemsza 89

[Page 291]

Jewish settlements in the Zaglembian region – Introduction


I previously wrote in the monograph called “History of the town of Sosnowiec and its vicinity” about the three towns that made up the Jewish “triangular thread” of the Zaglembian region, and they are: Będzin, Sosnowiec and Dąbrowa Górnicza that made up most of the people and most of the buildings – from a general and a Jewish aspect – in the region.

However, I believe that I would not have done my duty to the Jews in the region living in many towns and villages if I don't complete this by describing a similar history for them. These Jewish settlements are worthy of a chapter by themselves because of a spiritual need to recall their memory as well. It is a good thing that the writer was very involved in the whole area being born in one of these settlements and also from regular visits to almost every location and from personal contact with the Jews in each place, to the point that the writer knew the name of each Jew, personally and of his family. This deed has not been carried out up till now, and I think that it is a mitzvah to also immortalize the memory of these settlements that had been up till now viewed as “unknown territory” and to add an aspect to the museum of Polish Jewry that was destroyed by the foul Nazis.

It is possible to allocate the Zaglembian region from this point of view into two parts.

  1. The part that includes old, large and small settlements that I have already described;
  2. The new and unknown part, because these Jewish settlements began later, in the second half of the 19th century and onwards, under difficult political conditions, apart from other obstacles that were encountered with every step. Here again there is room to provide a wide description of Jewish life in the region within the background of their modest and traditional lives within Zagłębie, that because of the character of the new settlement a new meaning is received.

In this area there are in total two to three old Jewish settlements, whose names are mentioned to various extents in documents, memoirs and travel logs, and these are Będzin, Modrzejów and Czeladź. In Zagłębie there were a number of places in which Jews were forbidden to settle because of the Catholic law “ne tolerandum judaeis” (non-sufferance of Jews) according to the special privilege that was given them like, Slawków, Czeladź, Siewierz, Kozieglówki, that belonged to the same places that were deemed holy for them. It was only thanks to Russia when the administration of Congress Poland was transferred according to the decision of the congress in Vienna (1815) that the gates of Zagłębie were opened wide to the immigration of Jews, and even more after the failure of the Polish Uprising in 1863. They began streaming to there from near and far and in a relatively short time Jewish settlements were created in the towns and villages, in the farms and agricultural settlements, with a grass-roots, traditional lifestyle characteristic of Polish Jewry that was uprooted and destroyed by the murderers of the people – the German Nazis.

Similar to the history of Zagłębie itself, the origins of the Jews is concealed in confusing legends and anecdotes. However, one thing is certain, in that there was a certain change in the attitude of the authorities towards the Jews and their settlements from when the Zaglembian region was included in the area conquered by Russia. During the Polish Kingdom period a certain “settlement region” existed for the Jews, and quite a number of towns and villages were blocked from Jewish settlement. The Russians cancelled this prohibition and the Jews began streaming to the settlements that were new to them. In the Zaglembian region a law was implemented in 1823 that forbade Jews from outside the area to settle in Będzin or its vicinity without a special license from the central authorities, on the excuse that the town was located 21 verst [a Russian unit of length: 1.067 km] from the border with Prussia and Austria. This law remained in force till 1862, when Emperor Alexander the Second cancelled all laws and limitations of the settlement of Jews in all of the Polish Congress towns, apart from the limitation of settling in an area close to the border, and it wasn't easy for a common Jew to receive a license to settle in the Zaglembian region from the central authorities in Warsaw. However the strong need of the Jews to find a “shelter” and a place with a livelihood overcame the government laws. Indeed the old Jewish settlements in Będzin and Modrzejów made it easier for Jews to settle in the nearby villages.

Indeed the Zaglembian region was large and spread out, with tens of villages and farms, without Jews, and the farmers made a meager living from their lands that did not excel in their fertility. And justice was done by the person who discovered treasures in the coal diamonds in deep underground recesses, and an easier source of livelihood was opened up to the farmers' sons who started working as miners in the coalmines and earn relatively more than the income from agriculture. The mine owners took care of themselves from the outset without looking after the laborers and improving their accommodation situation, cheap economy and other desirable institutions, and the laborers themselves hadn't managed to take care of themselves and prepare suitable arrangements for supplies. This opened up an excellent opportunity for the Jews to act as the intermediaries between the employers and the employees, in offering the miners food requirements and under favorable conditions supply with credit till their wages were paid, and the villages also had a lack of various tradesmen in the field of clothing and foot-ware and related fields and in this area also, the Jewish tradesmen could be of benefit. The new spirits opposing the reactionary Russian authority had yet to be born, and only later was the Socialist movement founded, with the P.P.S. being the largest of them, that excelled in its wide propaganda.

[Page 292]

The Jewish merchants who had become accustomed to trade in every town and village in Poland came looking for a livelihood in the areas close to Zagłębie, and there were also those that came from the Kielce and Piotrokow districts and served as purchasing agents for agriculture produce and sold them goods from the city.

On the other hand there is a belief that the first Jews came to the villages of Zagłębie from their homes from towns in the area and not as settlers, rather as purchasers of agricultural produce, and towards evening they would return to their homes in the nearby towns. However there were quite a few occasions in which the farmers offered their Jewish guests to stay overnight, and hence a friendly relationship was established and the farmers were willing to rent apartments to them and open up shops, that is to say, these Jews went to live in the villages via the “back door”, without a license from the authorities, and even the government clerks made out they were unaware of this, and only after the Jewish settlement arose and established itself did problems arise regarding Jews living on “farming” land (wloscianski) or civil land. The community of Będzin and Modrzejów absorbed Jews in the villages as much as possible, since as a result their influence was expanded and they even benefited from the income of the “religious needs” from these new places. Earlier the Jews lived in apartments rented from farmers who benefited from the new income, and only after financial establishment did the Jews begin building houses of their own, of which some were several stories high, and Christians lived in them as well.

The mitzvah of entertaining guests was very popular in all the young Jewish settlements in Zagłębie. They had a traditional willingness to help their fellow man however they could, financially, traditionally, publicly, and also personally. When the blue box of the KKL [Jewish National Fund] for the redemption of the Land of Israel was introduced, it was given pride of place in the Jewish homes. Even institutes teaching Torah and philanthropic enterprises were a source of great support and anyone who happened to one of these settlements would feel himself at home.

It is needless to say, that the Jews from the towns and villages in Zagłębie were loyal to the tradition and the religious and cultural character in its fullest meaning. Quite a few were learned scholars, geniuses in their youth, educated in the spirit of Chassidim, and were owners of a rich assortment of books on Judaism and Torah, Chassidism and education, and even newspapers like “Hazfira” [“The Siren”] with “Ha-Asif” annuals [a literature journal] of Nahum Sokolov and excelled in their noble attributes imbibed with a spirit of the love of their fellow man, and a feeling existed as if everyone were part of the one family.

The area of the Zaglembian region wasn't always the same over all periods of time. There were periods that it was called “Great Zagłębie” and it spread out towards Zawiercie and Olkusz. On the other hand there was a “Reduced Zagłębie” after certain areas were taken away from her and annexed to other regions. There is room to describe the Jewish settlements in the villages and farms spread about the area of “Reduced Zagłębie” and perhaps someone will come forward and complete what is missing here.

The heart bursts in pain from the loss of all of this Jewry, and the passage from the “Thirteen attributes” prayers” is recalled: “The holy city and provinces were caused disgrace and humiliation – and all its delights were captured and removed” …

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