The Jewish community in Mysłowice
Translated by Atalya Buskila Levy
Edited by Yocheved Klausner
In regard to the origins of the Jews of the Mysłowice vicinity or of Mysłowice itself, there was a logical assumption claiming that they came from Poland. Dr. J. Lustyg, Mysłowice Jewry historian, challenged this assumption, by proving through a 1421 document, that in Bytom, for instance, Jews were already residing at that time and the Duke Heinrich III of Głogów acknowledged, in a 1299 privilege, the rights given to them in the time of his fore-fathers. According to Sztencel, Jews resided in Silesia in ancient times; as in Poland they were welcomed there, and dating back to the beginning of the 13th century they have possessed lands and estates. Biermann (in History of the Duchy of Teschen) says: the Jews are mentioned in Silesia's most ancient documents. They appear as land and field owners who would work them and pay taxes and tithes. And so was said in a certificate from March 2nd, 1226: The Jews operating the plow in the land of the Bytom fortress must pay the tithe in full. Hence, a long time prior to the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and their migration to Poland Jews were already residing in Silesia. Anyway, there is reason to believe also the assumption, that the Mysłowice Jews came from Poland and emigrated from there, due to the place's vicinity to the border, due to the good and close relations always existing between Mysłowice and Poland, and lastly due to the large number of Jews in Poland, some of them moving to the districts on the other side of the border as well. On the other hand it is clear, that Jews of other than Polish origin resided there as well and they quickly became part of the local commerce and other livelihoods, especially those families who worked at the leasing of estates, inns and such. It must only be regretted that, back then they did not yet have surnames, and so it is quite difficult, or even impossible, to mention the individual families.
The oldest article concerning a Jew of Mysłowice is from 1654, according to which a Jew named Zelek is acknowledged as a beer and schnapps brewery owner. Therefore it can be presumed that Jews resided in Mysłowice a long time before then. On July 17th 1675 there was a mention of the Jew Israel Markowicz, leaser of schnapps from Mysłowice; he leased the cities' inn keeping. Other than him also residing locally at that time were Meir or Meierowicz, Mark Moishowicz and Yonah. Meir and Yonah were grocers, Mark butcher. Within the vicinity are also mentioned Yaakov Gad in Sielce, Yaakov Meirowicz in Chorzów, and leaser Moshe Yaakowowicz in Tychy. The Jews were probably also employed in the casting business. On January 7th 1655 and also on January 28th 1677 the name Kuźnica Mortkowa (Mordka's family) that was in the vicinity of Mysłowice was mentioned. Mortka is the Polish popular common name to the Jewish name Mordechai. Apparently the masters of the hütte or its leaser used this name that was mentioned in regard to the hütte. Jews did not have surnames in those days, as previously mentioned, and they were only called by their first names. The name following the first name was the father's name, such as the mentioned Yaakov Meir, or a suffix to the father's name by the form of owicz, such as Markowicz, Meirowicz. Where a special name was used, it would mostly be a pejorative, such as the mentioned Gad, whose meaning in Polish is: crawling animal.
On June 25th 1680 an order was published in the name of the nobleman Mieroszówski, master of a part of Mysłowice, by the following text (translation from Polish): I herewith declare by my name and in the power of my rights to the town of Mysłowice, that as in any place and all times Jews do not belong to the city's court-houses and judiciary, but to those of the palace and the estate's masters. Therefore, anyone who has a claim against a Jews residing near Mysłowice on land under my command is tied with me and with my judgment and has no authority to bring his claim to another place or authority and he must wait for a righteous judgment in my court-house. Signed on the day of 19 in the year 1680, judge and minister of the von Scziwir palace by his own hand.
Even prior to this order this judiciary of the estate masters was already in use, as is apparent from one negotiation from June 18th 1679, in which Yaakov Meir was accused for one debt he owed to a rope-maker citizen of Raciborz, apparently for merchandise he has taken from her with the intention of trading it, and he was imposed to give a guarantee in front of the council, something which was done according to the order of the estate owner named Agnes Mierosz and not on behalf of the council, as was usually the case. On the other hand, this order serves as proof that the city's council was previously handling judiciary matters concerning Jews, and continued that, since the estate master's judgment cause a great deal of obstacles.
On January 13th 1683 the Jews Mr. Salomon and Mr. Yonah Lewek and Mr. Marek the butcher they were also referred to as of no faith were invited under the estate master Jan Mieroszowki's order to mayor Kudira, and he informed them that they must follow through the 1682 agreement, according to which they were obliged, each on his own, to pay a red Złoty (Ducat). It was probably the protection-Złoty, which was imposed on Jews in other places as well to pay the estate masters in return for the permission to reside locally, a payment which was mentioned only once. The leaser appointed by the estate masters was not obliged to pay this tax, since as a leaser he was probably exempt from it.
On March 21st 1691 the Jew Salomon leaser of schnapps was first
mentioned, a man honored not only by the Jews, but by the rest of the
population as well. He was a citizen, house owner, and also owner of many
lands, and had a rather large number of house-servants. In 1698 he was amongst
the accountants mentioned in the yearly report, a remarkable achievement which
no other Jew had gained.
It should be noted, that he had signed the review protocol himself in Yiddish, while it can be assumed, that he was also fluent in the Polish language. His surname was Markowicz, and his ancestors' origin was Prague. He was still alive in 1714.
Local Jews had probably constituted some kind of a community even back then, for in December 5th 1687 a Jewish woman being sworn in front of the Jewish court was talked of. And still it must be presumed, that during the holidays they would visit the synagogue in Będzin, a city with which they were in contact. They also used the Będzin community's cemetery. Bytom Jews were specifically mentioned in an old Będzin writing that the Będzin priest Jan Kotulski had filed a demand in the 90's of the 17th century against the Jewish community based on regulatory claims. Amongst other things he complains: They (Będzin Jews) dared to bury foreign Jews, from Poland and Silesia, without the accuser's knowledge and without paying the priest burial-taxes. (By the way, for burial-spots 15 Polish Groszy were paid in 1588). If Bytom Jews, whose numbers were larger, were therefore joined with the Będzin community it must be assumed that the Mysłowice Jews, which were largely outnumbered by the Bytom Jews, also joined the Będzin community when it came to their religious errands, in light of the fact that the distance between Mysłowice and Będzin was a great deal shorter than the one between Bytom and Będzin, and the few families in Mysłowice were yet unable to maintain an independent community. In regard to the claim mentioned above it should be remarked, that in 1692 the Myslowician priest Stanisław Zigmontowice and in 1604 the priest Nicolai Jerziorcowice of Grójec and Mysłowice were among the officials appointed by the Kraków bishop to settle this dispute.
And this is the appropriate place to tell about the oath of the Jews from that time. One Krakow Jew submitted to the council on November 10th 1692 a sworn demand against the Mysłowice Jews Salomon Markowicz and Yonah Yaakowowicz, to testify whether they know anything of one named Lewek Israelowicz, lawyer for Sinai and Lewek Jelinek. The oath was termed as following: We, Salomon Markowicz and Yonah Yaakowowicz swear by the name of God who created the heavens and the earth and all that is above the heavens and on the earth below and the ten commandments given to us by Moshe on the mountain of Sinai, that we know nothing of the mentioned Jew and heard nothing about him.
It seems that at the beginning of the 18th century the parish had announced its independence as a community, for it already had a cemetery, as one of the oldest headstones in the cemetery attests, that according to the Hebrew calendar is from the year 5482, i.e. 1722 according to the Gregorian calendar. This headstone is without a doubt one of the oldest in this cemetery that had been expanded several times, since it stands in the corner where the first tombs were set-up. Indeed, the number of Mysłowice Jews at the time was not larger than at the end of the 17th century, and if they still thought it right to be organized as an independent community already then the reason can be found in the Cholera epidemic that raged through Poland in the first and second decade of the 18th century and the means that were taken against it. For them it would have then been easier and more convenient to join the Modrzejów Jewish community, which was established at the same time, as the founding-year of the cemetery there shows. The oldest headstone of those still remaining there shows the year 5474, i.e. 1716 AC. And nevertheless they've founded an independent community.
Before the Mysłowice community erected the synagogue, a prayer-house existed there within one room, and this room existed for a long time. The prayer-room was founded on the occasion of one Jew being sworn in August 31st 1751. In 1767 the community back then still an unimportant community already had a rabbi by the name of Abraham Moses.
From the following letter (in Polish) dated April 18th 1747 it can be seen that the Jews already had their own courthouse at that time: The master Bolff (Wolff) and the eldest of the rabbinical judges in your courthouse (i.e. the Jewish courthouse). We write to you on behalf of our mayor and the village-headquarter office, that the butcher Yaakov Kulma complained to us about butcher Ersel Kuzma, that he owes him 4 Thalers for one cow and that he has lost additional 4 Thalers. For that we grant you a stay until the next Wednesday, until 18th of April, and ask you to be so kind as to bring Ersel Kuzma to be sworn in before you. And if he will not agree to be sworn in he must place payment for the damage to the Jew Yaakov Kulma with you, he must reimburse him for the delay, and give us notice from your court, as we are always committed and obliged to pay what one owes the other. With this notice we are always affectionately inclined towards your courthouse. Alb. Jocha, mayor with the sworn masters. And so the Jewish court is explicitly mentioned. This courthouse had authority, as apparent by that negotiation, only in matters of arbitration.
Of the families often mentioned here: Yaakov Psaraski, Yaakov Similowicz, Shimonowicz (Shimonsohn), founding father of the Danziger family; he was first mentioned on July 13th 1713 and ever since 1715 followed Salomon Markowicz in regards with the inn keeping lease, later as the Kruk landlord (the Market, no. 1), and as the owner of various lands; the Kuczma family is first mentioned in May 6th 1727, and at the end of the previous century received the name Fischer; most of them dealt with cattle slaughter.
Assimilation of Jews amongst the Christians stemmed from the fact of one Jewish
woman's conversion to Christianity, on February 20th 1739, as mentioned in the
registries. And on the other hand the religious-orthodox concepts on both sides
were strict, as can be seen in a juridical negotiation, in which the leaser
Yaakov Simon complains against Regina Kuczira, that she seduced his son to
visit during the weaving-evenings at the woman Posteick, and expressed his
concern, that he might convert to Christianity if Kozniercz's daughter would
marry him. Amongst the witnesses the estate mistress appeared as well. Worthy
of attention is one witness's opinion: A Jew that converted to
Christianity and a wolf are one and the same. The Kuczira woman was
eventually judged. On March 11th 1743 the first German signature of one Jew was
found, a potassium-distiller of Janow, who signed a Polish report written by
Friedrich the Great's government had exhibited an unaccommodating attitude towards the Jews. The laws regarding many Jews were considered exceptional and referred to foreign Jews, mainly Polish Jews. The Prussian government demanded explanations in regards to the Mysłowice Jews as well, and in an edict issued on July 10th 1744 it was said (from Polish):
On July 26th 1753 a kind of tax named Tolerant, is mentioned, which was imposed on the Jews by Friedrich the Great.
One of the harshest rules issued in Potsdam on March 8th 1780 contained an edict, according to which all Jews inhabiting the state, and especially all inn-leasers, must abandon their businesses and move to certain places, where they will be allowed to reside along with the other Jews residing there and purchase limited properties; in the cities as well their business was limited to certain professions, and even the Kuczmas were expropriated of the craft of butchery which was the livelihood of Jews from times immemorial. According to one order published by the Bureau of War and King's Lands in Breslau on August 17th 1780, the Jews banished from the villages were granted permission to reside in the following places adjacent to the Polish border: Biron, Nikolai, Mysłowice, Bytom, Tarnowice, Gliwice, Oisek, Przykryciem, Guttentag (Dobrodzień), Lubliniec, Rosenberg (Olesno), Reichstahl Bralin, Wurtenberg, Międzybórz and Pitchen.
It seems that this rule, despite its harshness, had no effect on the accumulation of Jews in Mysłowice. For in 1771 there were 43 Jews in a population of 919 people there, and in 1797 amongst 866 residents were only 78 Jews. A bigger concentration of Jews existed those days in New-Silesia (southern Prussia), a former province of the Prussian Kingdom, which was constituted of one part of a region given to Prussia during the second and third division of Poland in the years 1793 and 1795. This situation continued until the Treaties of Tilsit in 1807. After residencies for Jews were fixed for a quarter of a year from August 1st till November 1st 1781, a total of 14 families moved here at that time from Zalinza, Baranów, Michałkowice, Witków, Dąbrówka, Dąb, Międzyrzecz (Pliss county), Mikulčice, Stolarzowice, Rokitniec, Nirada, Bielszowice. Many moved from here to Poland as well, as most families banished from the village had done. At that time there were many instances of Jews converting to Christianity in order to avoid the law. Few families, who were former-Jews, lived in Mysłowice for a long while using other names than those of their ancestors.
Despite the immense pressure, the Jews also enjoyed the changes that took place. Asher Yaakov was, as previously mentioned, leaser of inn-keeping from the estate masters; Michael Yaakov (Orgler) was a national tobacco distributor, Kuczma (Fischer( was leaser of butchery. Trade had spread more and more amongst the Jews and some even purchased land estates. Michael Yaakov bought not without official opposition on May 14th 1787 the corner-house opposite the church. Asher Yaakov, who inherited his father Yaakov Simon's properties, had purchased the no. 18 house in the market square. A few families received surnames and based on a few signatures it can be seen that they knew how to read and write German.
Of the Jewish families mostly spread within the city, are the Schaefer and Kuznitzki families. The former originated from Toszek, in the first decade of the eighteenth century, while the latter came here from Miechowice during the second decade.
The city swimming pool
The Railroad Street with the Post Office building
Along with the growth of the city's population, the number of its Jews grew as well. In 1823, 196 Jews resided here along with the citizens of the palace, in 1831 225, in 1854 107, in 1861 840, in 865 826 Jews. By authority of the July 23rd 1847 law, matters of the local community were also finally fixed. The Mysłowice community became a focal point including a regional synagogue, and encompassed also the following localities: Brzezinka, Slupna, the Mysłowice palace, Janow, Shopinice, Rozdzin, Dąbrówka, Bogucice, Katowice. On August 17th 1854 the election of the new community committee took place, including: the committee Leibel Danziger, Meir Hamburger, Heimann Kuźniczki; delegates: Marcus Bender, Malcheor Bloch, Moritz Danziger, Salomon Zilbermann, Yaakov Shefer, Avraham Kuźniczki, Y. S. Zilberberg, Yossef Hausdorf, Moses Weissler.
This excellent organizational institute granted the local Jews an efficient instrument to manage their internal affairs, while locals of other faiths did not achieve that.
In the middle of the last century a rabbi served in the Mysłowice community, who excelled in his knowledge of Jewish matters. The rabbi was David Deutch, who lived in Żary (Sorau) since 1846. By chronological order the following rabbis served in the city: Kohen, since 1815; Weissler, passed away in 1837; since 1838 David Deutch; since 1846 Bach; since 1852 Dr. Yaffe. The community's clerks received income as follows: the rabbi 600 Thaler including rent, the cantor Levin 550 Thaler including rent, the beadle Kiksman 266 Thaler and a free apartment in a dwelling belonging to the community near the synagogue.
Since 1826 the community has had a magnificently built synagogue, covered with schist, on the right side of Beuthen Street. The simple building was kept exceptionally clean, but inside it resembled the traditional old synagogue. The three buildings adjacent to it were also owned by the community. Apart from these the community also had a public bath house near the Przemsa River, in the vicinity of the former municipal brewery, and as previously mentioned a cemetery near the Sofina Hütte, on the Kwiatchko. It is mentioned in December 3rd 1787 in Polish by the Jewish cemetery. Between the new cemetery, installed in 1864, and the old cemetery was a road. At that year a new road was paved instead of the old one which was very bad passing from the Fiask to the cemetery.
The community inherited the following estates:
Upon the departure of the first representative Moritz Treuman from the city, the community's committee included the following members: the committee: Heiman Kuźniczki, Simon Shefer, Heinrich Landsberger; the delegates: Wilhelm Landsberger, chairman; David Gruenwald, Yosef Hausdorf, Is. Kuźniczki, Simon Spietzer, Morris Staub, Moses Weissler.
At the beginning of the 19th century Dr. Winter served as the Mysłowice rabbi, an educated and enlightened rabbi, who was loved by all residents of the city and even beyond it. From here he moved to serve as a rabbi in Homburg and with the rise of the Nazis to power he moved to London. His son-in-law, Dr. Israel Weinstock, worked at the JNF head office in Jerusalem. In Mysłowice also resided a few Jews which came from outside of Prussia, such as David Schneiman, native of Pilica in Poland, and from Galicia as well.
The lovely synagogue, despite its smallness, largely affected the Modrzejów youth, who visited it on Saturdays and weekdays, and even during the holidays, and were affected by the excellent order that existed in it.
According to the results of the referendum, which was conducted in the
Upper-Silesian region, Mysłowice was passed from German to Polish
authority in the end of WWI. Most Mysłowice Jews did as their Katowice and
other cities' Jews had done, who did not want to exchange their German
citizenship with a Polish one, and moved to the Silesian region still in the
hands of the Germans.
In Mysłowice Jews from Poland had settled, and were given the control of the local community's institutions and continued to maintain them. Along with its move to Polish rule the typical Polish Anti-Semitism had moved there as well, and various measures against the Jews were immediately taken. With the Nazi occupation the Jews were uprooted from there and upon the end of the war not one Jew had remained there.
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