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[Page 109]

50 years of trade and industry

by Dawid Liwer

Translated by Rita Ratson

Donated by Erin Einhorn

Bed-109.jpg [10 KB] - Dawid Liwer

The city of Będzin is one of the oldest in Zagłębie. On the unpaved road of trade that tied together mid-Poland and neighboring Germany – had for many generations, developed as an important trade and industrial center.

When we write about trade and industry we are refer to the Jewish participation, since all of the founding work in developing the trade and industry in our city was almost completely carried out by the Jewish population. Beginning with large trade companies, wholesale and retail businesses, up to and including very small industries, was for the most part in Jewish hands.

Initially, in the years before the outbreak of the Second World War, there were Christian wholesalers, who existed thanks to the large support of the Polish government organizations, which were interested in repressing Jewish trade.

The import and export of various materials to Poland passed through Będzin through to other countries and back. There are no exact figures in official sources on the participation of the various sections of the population in the trade development of our city. Therefore, in order to receive information on how particular economic branches developed in our city, we made use of information that was passed on by word of mouth, which were recalled more or less in detail, relating to the economic development of Będzin.

The Growth of the Jewish Population

Będzin was amongst the first five cities in Poland, in which the Jewish population was stable and increased steadily, through the sturdy economic foundations of the city, in which Jews had built and developed a major trade and industry. Będzin had achieved her particular Jewish character due to the fact that it always had a large Jewish majority. The following table shows the growth of the Jewish population from 1789 to 1939, and the percentage of the city's general population (according to M. Kantor-Mirski, Z. Lesczynski and other sources).

Year Gen. Pop. Jews Percent
1789 1,200 300 25.0
1835 2,500 1,200 48.6
1855 3,350 2,240 68.0
1897 13,550 10,839 80.0
1921 30,000 18,210 60.0
1931 50,000 24,000 44.0
1939 60,000 27,000 45.0

In 1941, with the stream of refugees from surrounding areas, Będzin there were approximately 40,000 Jews there.

In 1897, 80% of the population was Jewish, in 1921 there was only 60% and in 1931 it fell to 44%; at the same time the total population of Będzin grew threefold in the period from 1897 to 1939. The reduction in the percentage was the result of the politics of the Polish administration, which favored the pure Polish population. This meant that the administration had skillfully raised the Polish percentage there.

In 1931, Będzin was amongst the top ten cities of Poland, by virtue of the number of Jewish citizens and in 1937 she was already amongst the top seven cities in Poland.

The Jewish industry and enterprising spirit

It is quite amazing to recall that the industry was founded completely by the Jewish enterprising spirit and skill without significant capital and without assistance from the Czarist and later also the Polish governments. Jewish youth, who had come from Bet Hamidrash, for whom the Bet Hamidrash was their public university, founded an entire industry – the coal industry (which was not in Jewish hands). There were only a few Jewish coal miners, and the Jews transported and distributed the Zaglembian coal to distant Russia and also beyond the borders of the country so that by the year 1935 coal export reached was 35% of the entire production, which came to approximately 7½ million tons.

[Page 110]

In the same manner, Jewish industry helped develop not only coal mining in Zagłębie, but also the large plants belonging to the families Potok, Szajn, Fürstenberg, as well as the tens of smaller iron and metalworking plants. Jews built large limekilns, screw and nail factories, zinc and paint factories and so on.

[Please note that this is a partial translation of this article]

[Page 118]

Linas haTzedik[1] Moyshe-Skeynim [2]

A. Gold

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund


There was a linas hatzedik in Będzin already in 1900, which was located at Mandzewer Street. Iron cots with straw mattresses covered with white bedding, stood in several rooms.

The linas hatzedik served respectable visitors who would come to the city and because of the economic situation they received a free bed for the night. The visitor would bring a note from the gabbai [4] of the synagogue and the shamas [5] then showed him where to sleep. The visitors received food at night and breakfast, bread and tea, at no cost.

The linas hatzedik was supported by monthly dues that a regular collector would solicit from the businessmen.

In 1905 the linas hatzedik expanded and one room was converted into an orphans home where only boy orphans starting at age 4 were accepted. The gabbai then was Reb Yisroel Yitzhak Minc, who had a large grocery business in the city at Jatka Street. Despite the fact that Reb Yisroel would wear a white, ironed shirt with a black tie (which at that time was treyf [6] for the Hasidim), they had respect for him. The gabbai enlisted two additional businessmen and they were the committee.

In 1906 the linas hatzedik moved to Yehiel Winer's house, into a large building of 12 rooms where there already were 30 orphans and 10 old men. The orphans wore a special uniform, loose cloth coats and four-cornered hats. Every morning the shamas would lead the children to the Talmud Torah [7] where they received their upbringing and “education.” Minc, the gabbai, Reb Ayzyk Gold, Eliezer Baczikowski and Meir Beri, created a women's committee then, which helped gather money, because the income from monthly dues and from donations could not cover the large expenses of the institution.

The women, Chava Winer, Leah Kaminer, Mirl Zajanc and others would be occupied with collecting food, clothing [and] shoes. It is particularly worthwhile to remember Mrs. Zisfeld, who was strongly devoted to the orphans. She would wash and comb [their hair] and make sure that they were dressed in clean clothing.

In 1912 the linas hatzedik, under the protection of the well-known philanthropists Reb Hendl Nunberg and Dr. Wajnciher, arranged a flower day[8] that brought in a large sum of money. The orphans were raised there until age 12 and, later, they were assigned to an artisan and the very capable to a higher level school.

When a larger number of orphans arrived after the First World War, a committee was created in the city that was called Dobroczynność, of which Dr. Wajnciher, Tsirele Szajn, Mrs. Paradistal, Yakov Gutman and others were at the head. From the start, the work of the committee consisted of erecting a kitchen for the poor population and later the care of the orphans in the city. One of the most beautiful buildings in Poland – the orphan's home, a large three-story house, run with the most modern techniques, with all of the necessary facilities that a modern children's home needed – arose in the city thanks to the devoted work of Tsirele Szajn.

The Germans transformed the house into an island of terror for Zagłębie Jewry; it served as a transit camp to Auschwitz for all of the Będzin Jews.

[Page 119]

Bed-119.jpg [49 KB] - The 'Kupat Chesed' fund
The “Kupat Chesed” fund [benevolent fund]

First row: Borzykowski, Cukerman, Fürstenberg
Second row: Montag, Sztrochlic, Appelbaum, Fiszer, Zysman
Third row: Broner, Rembiszewski, Potasz, Hampel, Buchner, Goldstein, Jachimowicz, Lewenstajn, Spiegelman
Fourth row: Frydler, Frochtcwajg, Rozenker, Minc, Frydler, Lemberg, Meryn, Kugelman
Fifth row: Zilbersztajn, Gutensztajn, Gittler, Joskerowicz, Granek

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Hospice for the poor return
  2. Old age home return
  3. Charity return
  4. Assistant to the rabbi return
  5. Synagogue caretaker return
  6. Unkosher return
  7. Religious school for poor boys return
  8. The selling of flowers return

The Gmiles Khesed Fund


Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

One of the most popular institutions in the city, Ahavat Khesed[1], a synagogue, was founded in Nukhem Cukerman's house in 1912; in time, the gabai [2] created a “petty cash,” where the poor members received a gmiles khesed [3]. However, the outbreak of the First World War interrupted its activity. The fund revived its activity in 1920, but in a smaller-scaled premises. In 1921 several activists came together at Ahavat Khesed who decided to found a gmiles khesed fund. A larger meeting was called at which Reb Nukhem Cukerman donated the premises as a possession of the fund. Several thousand zlotes were donated then right on the spot and a managing committee was elected: L. Borzykowski – chairman, M. Apelbaum – vice chairmen, Y. Fiszer – treasurer, B. Sztrochlic, M. Zisman – secretary and R. Montag – director. Entering the council: Sh. Levensztajn, M. Hampel, H.L. Goldsztajn, M. R. Szpigelman, B. Rembiszewski, L. Braner, Y.B. Potosz, G. Buchner, D. Gutenztajn and H. Zilbersztajn (Israel). The well-known philanthropist, Sh. Furstenberg, was elected as honorary chairman.

From the beginning, the institution meant to create a general rescue activity for the poorest Jewish masses. Despite the fact that there already were prosperous Jewish banks in Będzin, the gmiles khesed fund immediately was one of the most visited institutions in the city; hundreds of retailers and artisans had the gmiles khesed fund to thank for their existence.

In the third month of its activity the fund gave out 70 loans in one month with a sum of 20,000 zlotes. And thus as a large number of requests from the needy began to flow in, the members carried out a large collection activity in the city which brought in several tens of thousands of zlotes. Seeing the productive activity of the fund, the Joint[4] helped with 40,000 zlotes in 1926. Thus the fund distributed over 100,000 zlotes during its first year. Every year the sum of the loans grew larger –until the [Holocaust].

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Love and Mercy return
  2. Assistant to the rabbi return
  3. Interest free loan return
  4. Distribution Committee return

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