(A Little History)
Częstochowa, the very ancient city in Poland which already existed two thousand years ago (in the times of Greece and Rome), does not possess any historical document according to which we may estimate accurately when the first Jews arrived there. Where did they come from and what did they do there?
It is also impossible to decide whether documents, regarding this, once existed and that they disappeared in the course of time or if there never was any registration at all concerning them.
But there is certain evidence which can help us find out about the Jewish history in the region around Częstochowa.
It is proven that in the period of the 12th‐14th centuries, Jewish merchants used to drive cattle through Krzepice and Kłobuck customs houses and that Wieluń, together with Breslau [Wrocław], Kalisz, Posen [Poznań], Tzoizmir (Sandomierz), Lemberg [Lwów] and Lublin, was one of the most important trade‐cities and had storehouses for transit‐goods which arrived there from the entire region.
Just as in Sandomierz and in Kraków, there were the central stores for Silesian goods. As early as the 13th and 14th centuries, Jews could move around there in perfect freedom.
Although Jews were banned from living in Wieluń (“Under the law or voluntarily”), the ban was first implemented in the 16th century. Prior to that, Jews could move freely in Wieluń.
Also later, even after the aforementioned ban was implemented, Jews continued to live in Wieluń.
The Polish “mieszczanie” (burghers) resented this and they filed a complaint to the authorities.
A further clue about Jews in the Częstochowa region is found in the incomplete census of Jews of the 16th century, which was carried out in order to obtain taxes from the Jews.
But the Jews found diverse ways to not pay the taxes which were demanded from them, more so than from others.
There are also various signs that, in the villages surrounding Częstochowa, there were already Jews at the time of the three wars between Sweden and Poland.
Silesia and the Częstochowa‐ Wieluń Region
Jewish traders from Silesia were found in the said area from very old times.
A small number of them settled nearby the customs‐houses around Częstochowa as early as in the 11th century.
We mention this epoch because, by then, there already appears the first information about Jews in Poland (in 1085), when the Polish Queen Judyta bought slaves from Jewish hands. It is true that this information does not yet prove that Jews were already then permanent inhabitants in Poland. It is possible that they only stopped at the trading houses in Poland.
We have already mentioned that the same conditions prevailed in the Częstochowa‐Wieluń Region, with regards to Jews, as in Poland generally and in Silesia. So, therefore, it was precisely there that the first trading settlements in Poland were located, the same as in Silesia. One thing is clear, that concerning the Polish territories (except Silesia), we have the first information about Jews ‐ specifically from the Warta‐Prosna area (Kalisz) and also from a neighbouring section of the said international trade route, which was from Silesia to Kuyavia [Kujawy] (Płock on the banks of the Weichsel [Wisła]).
Regarding the Kalisz‐ Płock region, the earliest information dates back to 1287. Jews had been there even earlier than in Kraków. The earliest unchecked information about Jews in Kraków comes from 1303, but more reliable data of Jews in Kraków dates first from 1356. From that same year, we also have the first information of Jews in Lemberg [Lwów]. (The first mention of Jews in the Posen [Poznań] and Tzoizmir‐Sandomierz area is from 1367).
That the settlement of Jews in the 11th‐13th centuries in the Warta‐Prosna region was possible is proved by the trade‐highway from Silesia to Kujawy, of which we write in the second chapter.
Highway from Silesia to Kujawy
The Silesian bishops granted the Jewish merchants the right to use the highway from Silesia to Kujawy to transport Silesian goods to Kujawy. The road passed through Beuthen (Bytom), from there through Bendin [Będzin] and the region of Zawiercie up to Częstochowa (with the Warta) ‐ to a roadside warehouse in Wieluń between the Warta and the Prosna, [and] from there on to Kujawy.
The abovementioned privileges were given by the Silesian bishops much earlier, as in the year 1226, when Wawrzyniec, the Bishop of Wrocław, granted the said privileges to those Jewish merchants who by the mentioned road (Wrocław‐Bytom‐Będzin‐Częstochowa‐Wieluń) transported their goods; the privilege was that Jews had the same rights in the customs‐houses as non‐Jews, as well as the same obligations that the non‐Jews had to fulfill.
These same privileges were later renewed by the Bishop of Breslau [Wrocław]. That the Jews there had such rights, in 1286, was written by the Bishop of Breslau to the Pope:
The standing of the Silesian Jews is better than that of the priests in Silesia. Jews live there freely and, at the same time, the priests live there in constant fear. They cannot speak their thoughts freely. A clue to the situation is the behavior of the heretics, the enemies of the Pope, whom we have already mentioned.
At that time, a wealthy Jewish banker named “Shloime” was very active at the Wrocław castle. The “mieszczanie” (burghers), as well as the Catholic Church, energetically pressured the Duke to banish the Silesian Jews. They were expelled, but only for a short time. A little later, the Jews were allowed back into Silesia and were given [even] more rights than before.
It is also good to present some chronological dates in connection to the growth of the Jewish settlement in Silesia.
The Earliest Mention of Jews in Silesia
The earliest mention of Jews in Silesia is from 1150 (a note about a Jewish settler from Klein Tinz [Tyniec Mały]). A later mention of Jews in Liegnitz [Legnica] is from 1170. There is information about Jews in Wrocław from 1174 and 1203.
Second half of the 12th century: Zgorzelec, Wleń. Of Bolesławiec from 1190, Lwówek Śląski ‐ 1209, Beuthen (Bytom), Schweidnitz (Świdnica), from 1227. Second half of the 12th century ‐ Zgorzelec, Wleń and Glogów; Koźla (Kosel), Pyskowice (Peiskretscham) ‐ 1272; Nysa (Neisse) ‐ from 1319, Złotoryja (Goldberg), Chojnów (Haynau), Namysłów, Opawa (Troppau), Brzeg (Brieg), ‐ from the years 1320‐1324; Środa Śląska, Strzelno (Strelno), Wojnowice (Oława district), Sokolow (Zuckermantel), Starą Ścinawa Nyska (Steinau), Góra (Guhrau), Lubin (Lüben), Wschowa (Fraustadt), Oława (Ohlau), Głubczyce (Leobschütz), Prudnik‐Terzbina from the years 1330‐1332 ‐ Otmuchów (Ottmachau), Uieździec, Widna (Weidenau), Grodków (Grottkau), Ratibor (Racibórz), Karniów, Jenerdorf, Kąty ‐ in the years 1330‐1332.
In a great part of these settlements, the Jews were the land‐laborers and also, in Silesia, the Jews were tricked and were victims of expulsions and massacres, especially between 1348‐1350, as in other parts of Germany and Poland, but these did not last long. Each time, the Jews were called back to Silesia, where they had much better living conditions than in Poland or Germany.
As early as the 15th century, we already find substantial communities in the Warta area, Piotrków‐ Sieradz, Twarda‐Dobrut, Lentschütz [Łęczyca], Koło, Turek and, a little later, in Bendin [Będzin], as well as Szarki (Szarek). It has not been determined that earlier there were no smaller Jewish communities in the region, but there are no precise details in regard to this. It is very much possible that the Bohemian Jews, as early as the 15th and 16th centuries, had immigrated to Poland due to persecution and also came to the Częstochowa‐Wieluń region; a small clue may be found in the surnames. For example: Sriba, Bem, Meryn, Frager were names many Bohemian Jews also used.
Jewish Rights are Established
In the 15th century, as well as in the 16th century, harsh laws were passed against Jews by the Sejmy [parliaments] which assembled in the Warta district. This is also a sign that, in that area, there were already Jews.
It should be mentioned that the said Sejm, together with the restrictions, also granted the Jews commercial freedom, especially in the time of Zygmunt I and, later, in the time of his widow Bona.
The Polish Szlachta [nobility], at that time, longed to broaden the privileges which [King] Ludwik had granted them in Koszyce. The Szlachta, who assembled at the Sejm, had great resentment against the German and Polish mieszczanie ‐ that they fleeced the Szlachta and their retinue of knights.
They claimed that Jewish manufacturing and goods were much cheaper. Therefore, the Sejmy in Nieszawa, Twarda‐Dobrut, as well as in Piotrków, especially the Piotrków Sejm of 1553, ruled that the Jews be under the jurisdiction of the Szlachta and not that of the king. The Sejmy also strongly limited the jurisdiction of the priests.
Jews Settle in the Częstochowa Region
The abovementioned ruling made it possible for Jews to settle in the nearest vicinity of Częstochowa (Rędziny, Grabówka, Mstów, Złoty‐Potok), as well as in Krzepice, Kłobuck and Koniecpol. As a result, Jews could now live in parts of Częstochowa [itself].
The Piotrków Sejm of 1553 also annulled the laws of the craftsmen's guilds, because they exploited consumers too much, demanding prices from them which were much too high.
Unfortunately, we do not have enough detailed sources to describe the financial occupation of the Jews in the Częstochowa‐Wieluń area.
But, a small example may be the fact that Jews lived in the Częstochowa‐Wieluń area in very early times in no lesser numbers than in other regions. It is important to note that Jews also busied themselves with agriculture, as we will show subsequently.
The historian Ringelblum, who bases himself on Tadeusz Czacki's explanation, writes that in Poland in the 18th century, there were just a few dozen Jewish farmer‐families; the facts that we bring here show that in the Częstochowa‐Wieluń area there were Jewish land‐workers in significant numbers.
Jewish farmers in the Częstochowa‐Wieluń Area
There is proof that, in the Wieluń area, there were several villages with Jewish farmers. As early as the 17th century, in this area, there was even a small village named “Żydowo” [Jewtown].
Among all these privileges concerning the said small villages of the Wieluń area, we have discovered lately the 1779 settling‐decree for the village “Żytniów” (this village is found between Praszka and Krzepice, near the Silesian border).
At the end of the 18th century, there were 108 living‐spaces in “Żytniów”, a village owned by three monastic institutions and twi private Szlachta.
One Jewish farmer, who is mentioned in the 1779 “privilege”, had ‐ it turns out ‐ leased land for one year from the szlachcic Jan Gutkowski, the owner of a third of the village of Żytniów.
By settling Jews in his village Żytniów, Szlachcic Gutkowski did not have the same intentions as the noblemen Małachowski and Zamojski, who with their settling‐attempts of Jews on their lands, wished to reform Jewish life in Poland. By settling Jews in Żytniów, Gutkowski simply wanted to raise the value of his village in the entire surrounding region. A characteristic fact should be mentioned here that, even earlier, at least from 1695 until the end of the 18th century, there was, among the inhabitants of Żytniów, a peasant‐family with the surname Szydziak.
It is possible that this Szydziak family was formerly Jewish. It was not unusual for Jews to convert to Christianity in Poland. In the 17th century, given surnames often gave a clue about their Jewish origins…
In the second half of the 17th century and beginning of the 18th century, Tomek Szydziak (1695), Kuba Szydziak (1752) and Jan Szydziak (1790) were in Żytniów.
In the shtetls, Jews dealt mainly in the transport of cattle to Silesia, as well as other diverse articles of interest to the east‐west trade in those days. Many of them were also craftsmen ‐ tailors, furriers, weavers and knitters. Almost no Jews took parts in other fields, such as timber, metal and the building trades.
A Polish Tourist and Writer on the Jews in Częstochowa
It is fitting to quote what the Polish writer and traveler, Julian Niemcewicz, tells in his memoirs: “During the first Swedish‐Polish war in 1653, the Częstochowa city council borrowed 100 thaler from a Jew” (but this is not yet, obviously, proof that the named Jew was a resident of Częstochowa).
The Polish historian Balinski also writes that, in 1655, Jews did not yet live in Częstochowa ‐ he possibly meant Nowa Częstochowa. But the same Balinski mentions that, in 1700, there was already a Jewish community in Częstochowa. Factual numbers first appear in 1763 (around 100 Jews in Częstochowa). At that time, a year after the coronation of Poniatowski as Polish king, i.e. in 1765, a new census of the Jewish population was conducted.
Statistical figures Regarding Jews in Częstochowa
Unfortunately, this census, exactly like the previous one, is not accurate because many Jews managed to talk their way out of it. This can be also seen from the figures on the Jewish population in subsequent censuses.
The “census‐takers” at the time “found” just 36 Jews in Częstochowa (18 men and 18 women). There is a correct theory that in Częstochowa there were then already more Jews than those the “census‐ takers” found.
From the same census, we discover that in the “Wohneinheit” [residential units] of Częstochowa (Starą Częstochowa or Częstochówka with various nearby small villages), there were then 38 Jews (22 men and 16 women).
Among the “parishioners” of Częstochowa, there were at the time 348 Jews (176 men and 172 women).
This means that in the two parts of Częstochowa, there were 74 Jews and among the parishioners, 348 Jews.
74 Jews in the whole of Częstochowa and 348 in all its “parishes” is a very small number, but in comparison with the general count of Jews in Poland then and especially in comparison with other Jewish towns around Częstochowa, this number is by no means small. True, the shtetl of Janów had, at the time, a few more Jews than did Częstochowa but, together with the “parishioners”, Częstochowa had then more Jews than Janów, including its “parishioners”. In Lelów (where later the great tsaddik [righteous man] Reb Duvid of Lelów lived), there were in that year only 222 Jews (100 men and 122 women). In the old settlement of Szarki (Szarek), there were 814 Jews (398 men and 416 women). Szarki was a large settlement. Bendin [Będzin], with its “parishioners”, then had a slightly fewer Jews than Częstochowa with its “parishioners”.
In 1808, material which Napoleon's Duchy of Warsaw had gathered on Jews in Poland was published. This was carried out according to the reforms planned for Jews. From this material, we discover a little more about the Jews of Częstochowa.
In 1808, there were 3,349 people in Częstochowa (of whom 495 were Jews, i.e. 14.8% of the general population). In all the towns, shtetls and villages of the Częstochowa powiat [county], there were, at the time, 6,963 inhabitants (of whom 1,310 were Jews).
We find slightly different numbers in Szymanski's work on Jews of Częstochowa. According to him, in the seven towns of the Częstochowa powiat, there were, in 1808, 6,416 Christians and 1,006 Jews. In 1810, the general population numbered 39,616, of whom 2,062 were Jews, i.e. almost twice as many as in 1808. At the time, in the entire territory of the Duchy of Warsaw, there was a smaller number of Jews than in the earlier census. But, it should be noted, in the Kalisz department to which the Częstochowa powiat also belonged, (only in the towns) there was a growth of around 50%!
The following figures (from 1808) show the exact number of Jews in Częstochowa and its nearest vicinity:
Figures on the total number of craftsmen and merchants in Czêstochowa (by nationality) around 1805 (before creation of the Duchy):
In the first years of The Kingdom of Poland (1816), there were 212,944 Jews in the entire land (of that, in Częstochowa and its parishes, around 1,400 Jews).
In 1825, there were 3,704,300 people in the Kingdom of Poland, of whom 355,737 were Jews (9.9%). In 1827, there were 1,141 Jews in Częstochowa. In 1831, Poland had a population of 3,762,002 (of whom 338,617 were Jews). In Częstochowa (in the entire powiat), there were, five years after the Unification, 2,360 Jews.
In 1856, there were, in the whole of Poland, 4,696,999 inhabitants (of whom 412,240 were Jews), in Częstochowa ‐ in 1857 – 2,679 Jews.
In 1897, according to the census, there were already 43,863 Jews in the Częstochowa powiat, of whom in Częstochowa itself – 11,704.
At the end of the 19th century, the number of Jews in Częstochowa was already seven times larger than in the first quarter of the 19th century at the time of the Unification (1826). In 1922, it was 22,663, while in 1931, 25,588 Jews.
The Growth Since 1700
Since 1700, the general population in Częstochowa and the neighbouring region steadily increased, as did the number of Jews.
It is a fact that the Częstochowa Christian Bakers' Guild, already by 1760, fought against the competition of the Jewish bakers who, not only baked for Christians generally, but for their religious‐ national holidays specifically. The Częstochowa city council then took it upon itself to help the Polish bakers in their efforts against the Jewish bakers.
There is definitive evidence that around that time, there were in Starą Częstochowa and its vicinity also other Jewish craftsmen, (weavers, tanners, tinsmiths, cobblers, medallion and souvenir‐ makers), who produced diverse merchandise for the pilgrims. Sometime later, the Jews were prohibited the manufacture, as well as the sale, of certain souvenir‐articles of a religious character.
The “mieszczanie” (burghers) and the municipality also complained to the lustrator [inspector, Pol.]. The [unintelligible, prob. Wilhelm] Błeszyński, a cabinet‐ szlachcic, who had his “juridica” in the city ‐ accommodated many Jews. The Jews busied themselves in diverse fields of commerce and craftsmanship, thus increasing the prestige both of the city and the guilds.
They claimed that the Jews did not wish to pay any payment, neither to the city nor to the guilds. Regarding the question as to whether in Częstochowa the “mieszczanie” had the privilege of “intolerance” (i.e. not allowing Jews to settle), a discussion was held at the beginning of the 19th century. The Częstochowa “mieszczanie” were not able to prove who had issued such document for them and when this was, because there were no guilds able to confirm that there had been indeed such a privilege “to not tolerate any Jews”. Only in the 1840's, when formal claims regarding the Jewish question were awakened, did the “mieszczanie” of Starą Częstochowa attempt to enforce their old system ‐ not to allow Jews to live in the entire Unified City of Częstochowa.
Szymanski emphasises, in his brochure about Częstochowa, that this system was not based on any legal privilege, but only on a “custom” and the traditions concerning the Częstochowa monastery's osada [settlement, Pol.] (close to the castle) … but in fact, within the territory of the said castle‐ osada, there were Jews.
It is noteworthy that, even in Wieluń, where effectively an official privilege “not to tolerate Jews” did exist, the Jews nevertheless did live and trade, as is shown in various documents.
In the 1840's, the Jews, in their struggle for the right to live in the city, stubbornly claimed that, according to their earlier privileges, they always had the right to live in the entire city and not just in Starą Częstochowa.
But, as we have already mentioned, there are no documents about tolerating Jews in the whole of Częstochowa or about not tolerating them. However, there are very well‐founded speculations from which we may infer that even in the monastery precinct of Jasna Góra (some small distance from the monastery and in the villages around Częstochowa and separately, around Starą Częstochowa and in Starą Częstochowa itself), for ages, there had been numerous Jewish merchants and craftsmen.
As we shall show subsequently, even during the Tsarist rule, it was impossible to push the Jews out of their long‐settled areas and pack them into ghetto‐precincts. It is known that, in the last decades of the Polish State ‐ before the partition, Częstochowa already had a sufficiently strong and consolidated Jewish community.
In the 18th Century
Shortly before partition of Poland, the Polish State was in a state of sharp decline. The crisis especially hit the cities.
The antisemites blamed the Jews for the situation, claiming that their competition was ruining their guilds. Despite there being no lack of prohibitions, the Jews managed to infiltrate the cities and take the local residents' livelihoods. But despite their large revenues, the Jews also remain poor, because they ruin themselves with their competition‐tactics.
There is also speculation that, due to the guilds' opposition and for no other reasons, a Polish szlachcic in Częstochowa appealed to King Poniatowski and requested permission to settle Jews in his estate ‐ settling them there is, apparently, connected with a certain industrial undertaking, because a szlachcic with a “juridica” did not need the king's permission to settle Jews with him.
At the end of the 18th century, we also hear of a Jewish doctor in Częstochowa named Hersch. This, too, is a sign that in the city and its vicinity there were already Jews at that time.
Foreign travelers, from the last quarter of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century, ascertained that in the broad area around Częstochowa, almost all commerce was in Jewish hands.
Following Poland's Downfall
Immediately after the occupation of part of Poland by Prussia (in 1793), there was hope for liberal directives regarding Jews, despite the fact that Prussia had already, in 1773‐1774, driven out (both from the Prussian territories and from Silesia) the “Beggar‐Jews”, i.e., people who did not possess a minimum of one hundred thaler ‐ a great sum at the time!
Those deported wandered over the fields and forests of Poland, especially near the border.
The darker elements, together with the other vagrants, organised themselves into bands of robbers ‐ bands of demoted Szlachta, “mieszczanie” (burghers), peasants and even gypsies. They robbed together, especially in the Częstochowa and Piotrków areas.[a]
During the Prussian‐occupation period, decrees against Jews were stricter: Jews were not permitted to marry younger than twenty five. Young Jewish couples were forbidden to settle in villages etc. Although these decisions were not fully enforced in reality, they nevertheless disrupted normal life.
Before Poland's downfall, the Polish magnates (from the families Radziwiłł, Potocki, Zamoyski etc.), with King Poniatowski at the head, built factories, mainly for the textile industry.
Part of this Szlachta was within the clutches of Calvinist and Arian heresies, which promoted honest work as a safeguard against the depraved lifestyle that the Polish Szlachta led at the time.
This same tendency strengthened during the Prussian occupation. Qualified craftsmen and industrialists also came to Częstochowa from the German borders.
We can find concrete information about Częstochowa at the time in the report written by a Prussian official to his king. In this document, we discover that a certain number of peasants also lived in Częstochowa. Also, from a later list of members of the Jewish community of Częstochowa, we see that, in the villages around Częstochowa (attached to its community), there were Jewish farmers with branching families, apparently already from generation upon generation.
From a (contemporary) report, we find out that Jews lived in such squalid apartments that the “kind‐ hearted Prussian officers” permitted them to move to better living‐quarters…
During the Prussian occupation, between 1793 and 1808, there stood, at the top of the Częstochowa Kehilla, a certain Reb Berysz Szapiro. From the protocols of the Kehilla's management's meetings, we see that the Kehilla's management had existed already for a long time ‐ even before 1793.
In 1806, Napoleon's army took, without resistance, the Częstochowa fortress for the Duchy of Warsaw. The renowned fortress of Częstochowa had already fallen in 1793, without real resistance, into Prussian hands. Like in the rest of the surrounding communities, the Częstochowa Kehilla employed wandering collectors who collected the taxes from the small settlements that were administratively bound to it.
Already in the time of the Duchy of Warsaw, the government strongly controlled the community's financial matters. More details about this are known from the month of Av 5568 (1808), from the first sitting of the new regime.
The leader, as well as the treasurer of the Kehilla (“wierni kahału Częstochowskiego” [trustee of the Częstochowa Kehilla]) was a certain Eliezer Lew. Usually the communities' treasurers were men of means but, according to Shatzki, whom we quote ‐ Eliezer Lewi received a handsome stipend: up to 6 Reichsthaler for 14 months (Tishrei and Nisan ‐ double stipend), in addition also a free apartment, even though it seems the community was a small one because, only a few years earlier, the Częstochowa community had freed itself from the community‐guardianship of Janów. Later, once the community became larger and wealthier, the rabbi of the city of Częstochowa also received a free apartment, but the head of rabbinical court and the judges lived in rented quarters. Lewi also received three percent of the moneys collected from the surrounding settlements, as well as a certain share of the rachash [acronym; payment to the Rabbi, Chazan (cantor) and Shames (sacristan)] as long as there was no rabbi in Częstochowa.
As I already mentioned above, the Jews at that time were mainly craftsmen and master‐craftsmen. A large section of them were also “meklers” (brokers) [from Ru. Маклер] for the Polish magnates.
But it is almost certain that, in the Częstochowa‐Wieluń area, there were also Jewish textile workers, as well as productive craftsmen in other fields. The Polish aristocrats at that time would capture vagrants (vagabonds) and beggars and force them to work in their factories. The noblemen gladly hired Jews as well, because they were willing to work for a smaller wage than others.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Jews began to create their own linen‐workshops and they received a monopoly on the manufacture of embroidery and lacework. Jews were already dealing in wool and woolen wares. They also developed the leather industry. We also hear of Jewish tanneries ‐ one of the first pioneers in this area was a certain Duvid‐Hirsch from Działoszyn.
Dr. Sziper [Schipper], in his work in Polish ‐ “On the History of Trade in the Polish Lands” ‐ writes: “According to a report from 1827, it turns out there were, in the Częstochowa region, certain Jewish factories”. The same report also informs that Jewish merchants and manufacturers, more than once, brought into the Polish and Russian markets foreign, usually Prussian merchandise, passing them off as Częstochowa and Polish goods.
This was the beginning of intensive activity on the part of Jewish merchants and bankers. It is known that some of these diligent men in the Polish economy came from Częstochowa and that they acted together with their relatives from Częstochowa.
More details on the Jewish share in the development of industry and trade in Częstochowa will come in the “financial section” of our book.
Concerning the Jews of Częstochowa in those days, we know a few more concrete facts:
First of all ‐ the aforementioned sitting‐protocol from 1808 which Shatzki quotes in his article about Częstochowa and its Jews (this same article is translated into Hebrew ‐ published in our book).
In this protocol, it is literally emphasised that there was then no rabbi in Częstochowa, although it was already then the centre of a large regional Kehilla for all the surrounding settlements, from which its collectors drew community taxes.
Then a conflict between the Częstochowa and Janów Jewish community councils broke out over the stamp‐tax [on Hebrew books] plan for Jewish settlements and that a certain Jew, named Leizer from Krotoszyn, presented it to the Minister of Finance as a source of new income for the money‐less Duchy of Warsaw.
Luszczewski implemented the plan together with the Minister of Culture, Grabowski.
At the time, in 1808, the Częstochowa Kehilla took over the guardianship over neighbouring Jewish settlements in Działoszyn (Zaloshin), Krzepice, Mstów (Omstov), Cynków, Kużnica, Kłobuck, Łobodno, Miedzno and Opatów. The conflicts regarding the tax‐affiliation of these settlements to larger Jewish communities were the daily bread of Jewish self‐government in Poland since it first existed.
It turns out that, in the Warta region, this conflict was stronger than elsewhere, because [it was] specifically the Sejm‐representative from Sieradz (in the Warta region) [who] brought up this same matter at the Sejm of the Duchy of Warsaw. He proposed that the Jewish inhabitants of the villages should belong to the nearest towns in the Wojewódctwa [Provinces] to which they officially belonged and not to the communities to which they are attached, according to their tradition.
The main reason for these conflicts was as a result of the industrial restructuring in Poland which caused important cities and towns to be weakened financially in comparison with the unimportant towns that took to industrialisation and thus became financially strong.
The older, mostly impoverished, settlements laid the entire tax‐burden on the younger, prospering settlements, who did not agree to this. According to a document, which Shatzki also quotes, it turns out that the Częstochowa Kehilla, although it had existed a long time, only set about reorganising itself precisely at the time of the Duchy of Warsaw.
Concerning the beginnings of a cemetery and a large synagogue in Częstochowa, around 1804, there are details in documents from the years 1864‐1868.
During those years (1864‐1868), the Częstochowa dozores [from Pol. dozór; the official committee in charge of Jewish religious institutions] conducted correspondence with the administrative committee of the Kingdom of Poland (through the Piotrków Commission of Peasant Affairs).
It dealt with the fact that, in its budget, the Częstochowa City Council included as an expenditure, and as an income, a sum of 90 rubles, the rent that it drew every year from the Kehilla without any legal basis.
In 1864, four Częstochowa Jewish elders approached a notary, as well as the Częstochowa City Council. They included Aba Epsztajn [Epstein] (74 years old) and Mojsze Grinbaum (78 years old).
Under oath and with a notarised signature, they gave the following declaration:
When they were very young, Jews would be buried in Janów, because it was not allowed to build a synagogue in Częstochowa and thus arrange a cemetery, because only a small number of Jews lived in the city.
The four elders also recounted that “60 years earlier (i.e. about 1804 ‐ according to other sources ‐ in 1801) permission was given to build a synagogue in Częstochowa and to arrange a cemetery, but under condition that the community would, in return, pay the Częstochowa City Council 90 rubles a year as rent”.
In their petition, the dozores wrote:
Seeing as how, according to the ukase (decree) of May 24, 1864, Jews received rights of residence in the entire city and equal rights with the Christians, the Dozór Bóżniczy [Synagogue Supervision] requests the annulment in the aforementioned budgets (municipal taxes) of the non‐rightful payment of 90 rubles a year.
This letter, as well as a subsequent letter in 1867 on the same subject, was signed by all the dozores: [Efrajm] Eduard Likiernik, Adolf G. Landau and Goldman.
In the 1867 letter, they emphasised that the Kehilla management had not found any proof that the said sum of 90 rubles for rent stood in connection with the building of the synagogue.
From this, we have indeed a definite sign that the synagogue and the cemetery were built and arranged around 1804. Up until then, the Jews probably prayed in minyanim [small prayer groups of at least ten adult males] and Chassidic shtieblech ["little houses"; small, often one‐roomed, congregational houses].
In 1864, all limitations on Jews were abolished.
A Christian couple had claims to a part of the location belonging to the Częstochowa Jewish community, on which the synagogue was erected.
The dozores, in the cited letter, proved that:
The synagogue's location (at ulica Nadrzeczna, 329a) is found on the map of Stara Częstochowa, which the geometra (surveyor) Schneider drew in 1809 (marked with the number 2882). In this same map, it is noted that the said location is the property of the Częstochowa Kehilla.
According to the note by this geometra, the location is “broad and long” as ulica Nadrzeczna, up to the banks of the Warta River and up to the location of the school which is under the number 283.
Seeing as there is a dispute (sprawa sporna) [disputed matter] regarding this matter, the dozores request appointing a biegły [proficient] (specialist geometra) who will prove definitively that the Christian couple's claim is incorrect.
Two Problems: Productivity and Ghetto
In the first decades of the 19th century, two problems stood before the Jews in Poland which had a bearing on the Jews of Częstochowa, the “holy” city of the Catholics. The first question was what to do with the Jews in Poland? Do they benefit or harm the Polish workforce? Can they be organised? And the second question: is it not advantageous to isolate the uncivilised Jews and to squeeze them into ghettos created especially for them?
For a long time, discussions were held on the subject and thereby the agencies of government issued severe decrees against Jews, obviously in Częstochowa as well.
Discussions Concerning Jewish “Productivity”;
The appalling Jewish misery [was] a result of the Polish feudal system, which brought no less misery to the Polish masses. The few factories that were built then were like a drop in the ocean…
In all the Sejmy from that time and especially in the first one of the Kingdom of Poland (from 1815), a fierce debate was conducted concerning the means by which to regulate the Jewish question.
All Polish politicians, from that time, looked upon the Jews as upon parasites. This was the only standard by which to handle the Jewish question in the Częstochowa rejon [region] as well … although the lists of community members in Częstochowa itself (for example, in 1847) had shown that nearly 60% of Jews were “craftsmen” and “workhorses” (“wyrobnicy”) and that, in the villages around Częstochowa (Rędziny, Wąsosz and others), there was a high enough percentage of Jewish farmers and tenants (pachciarze). It is noteworthy that, at the time in the whole of Poland, Jews busied themselves with crafts, except 36% of all Jews. Only 7.5% of Jews made a living from tavern‐ keeping and yet the antisemites made such a commotion!
The statistics showed that 4.25% of Jews worked in agriculture and the dairy trade, 12.27% were merchants, 12.5% [were] functionaries of various kinds and only 26.4% were without a specific profession or without a livelihood. But, only 1.27% were brokers. Naturally, these very statistic numbers, the same as all others from those years in Poland, are not accurate. As we have already mentioned, the Jews in Częstochowa were more productive, because in Częstochowa and its vicinity, already in 1847, great Jewish businessmen and financiers were active.
This situation, we think [was] a result of the influx of Jewish spinners and weavers who came from Silesia ‐ some even before the Prussian occupation ‐ [who] had an influence on the financial development of Częstochowa Jews.[b]
Also in the question of the cultural standing of Polish Jews which, in 1816, caused great debates in the Sejm as well, Częstochowa Jews stood higher than Jews in other Polish regions because, already in those years, they were “worldlier” than their brethren in other Polish regions.
Already at the start of the 19th century, there was a great number of Jews in Częstochowa who could sign also in Polish and who used Christian given names as well.
There were also many ultraorthodox Jews in the city ‐ Chassidim, who opposed any change in the Jewish living‐space. Only with the government's help did they succeed in receiving a bit of a say in the community matters.
Such a fact has been found documented:
The son of the Rabbi of Swarzędz, Reb Abraham Tiktin (Prussia), Reb Shloime Zalman married Rachel, Wolf Landau's daughter (the Landaus had double surnames, like Landau‐Kronenberg). Reb Shloime Zalman received full board with his in‐laws in Częstochowa for some years. In 1810, his son Gedalyahu (the name of his illustrious grandfather) was born. He, just like his father, was one of the most important orthodox rabbis in Breslau.
The rabbi Reb Abraham Tiktin was the first rabbi in the new Prussian territories and could also deliver his sermons in the German language.
All the Tiktins originated in the shtetl Tykocin (near Białystok) and were fierce opponents of the Jewish Reform Movement.
From the Landau (Rabbi Tiktin's in‐laws) family came some important personages in that era ‐ two famous Berlin gynaecologists, Dr. Leopold and Prof. Theodor Landau (both were born in Breslau).
Other relatives were the two Moszkowski brothers (Alexander and Theodor), famous in the German cultural world; Alexander was born in 1851 in Pilica (a small shtetl in Poland) Theodor ‐ in Breslau, to where his parents moved in 1853; Alexander was a famous musical expert and comical writer and editor and Theodor a famous pianist and composer.
In his aforementioned work, Szymanski also points out several moments in the history of the Jews in Częstochowa:
According to Szymanski's research, on the eve of the Unification, there was not one Jew to be found in Częstochowa. But this is not completely correct, as we shall see from the subsequent census figures. What indeed is correct is that, in the parts of Częstochowa which had a connection to the monastery, the “mieszczanie” were not overly “hospitable” towards Jews and, then again, the Jews did not show any great desire to settle close to the cloister either…
Szymanski's assertion that, in the villages around Częstochowa, there were no Jews is also incorrect.
Szymanski himself writes:
We can only guess that there was a dense network of Jewish leaseholds and taverns. But we do not have enough archival material and historical documents concerning that.
It is also incorrect, as it turns out, that there was an entire dense network of Jewish farmers in the region. This is found in various archival materials from Województwo Łódzkie [Łódź Province] (before January 1820 ‐ Kalisz [Province]) in connection to the Jews' municipal‐tax payments in many villages around Częstochowa. We also see this from the names of villages (for example: Żydowo and Żytniów, concerning which we will write more).
Stara Częstochowa [Old Częstochowa]
The monastery of the Pauline [monks] itself and the two castles around the area, with a number of work buildings were, between 1620 and 1813, a fortress of military importance. There were certainly no Jews there.
The chain of osiedle [Pol. settlements] around the two cities and the monastery were Kule, Zawodzie [‐Dąbie], Kamień, Ostatni Grosz [and] Stradom.
Concerning Stara Częstochowa, Szymanski writes that Jewish families had settled there quite early on. It is difficult to determine when the first Jewish families arrived there because, in the historical sources, the first information about this is from the second half of the 18th century. From inaccurate statistical compositions, we may accept that, in 1763, there were ‐ even according to Szymanski ‐ around 100 Jewish families.
The problem Concerning the Jewish Ghettos
Indeed, the question whether to place the Jews in separate ghettos was already raised the period of the Napoleonic “Duchy of Warsaw” (the decree dated March 16th 1809, which declares that, to prevent a concentration of Jews in the capital, as well as to protect the residents of other cities from harmful circumstances which are ‐ as it turns out, a direct result of the concentration of Jews in a small living area ).
Later also, on March 27, 1817, the decision of the namiestnik [Viceroy of the Kingdom of Poland] to tear down the wooden houses in the larger cities, also mentions designating an isolated part of the city for a Jewish quarter.
In April 1818, the Prezes [Pol. president, chairman] of the Kalisz Województwo committee, Stanisławski (later Województwo commissar for the Wieluń rejon), sent official orders for the Government Commission for Internal and Police Affairs (G.C subsequently) dated March 2, 1818, in which it is said that the crown wishes that, in the cities, the living‐quarters of Jews be separated from [those of] the Christians.
Later, the decision of the namiestnik concerning the tearing down of wooden houses in the larger cities also mentions an isolated part of the city for Jewish living‐quarters and buildings.
Regarding this, there were further regulations ‐ the final solution to the problem in the Kingdom of Poland (Congress Poland) was the Imperial‐Royal decree of April 25 (May 7) 1822.
In January 1823, the government agencies in Warsaw issued new decisions that were supposed to also apply to Częstochowa. The decree had foreseen that more than one or two families could not stay in one house; thereby, definitions were given [for] “family” and apartment. The decree required making official rental contracts between tenants and home‐owners. The contracts were to be approved by the mayor every year. The decree required the municipality to control the factual situation every year, as well as [to decide] whether to demolish half‐ruined wooden houses, in which mainly Jews lived, because these ruins were likely to bring about catastrophes.
This question ‐ as already mentioned above ‐ was also dealt with in the 1817 decree of the namiestnik.
Concerning a decision of the Government Commission for Internal and Police Affairs, which was sent over to the administrative council (the government, de facto) in Warsaw and to Częstochowa ‐ already at the beginning of May 1820 ‐ and once more ‐ in 1822, Częstochowa was informed through a document that was composed at the time of [a] visit from the prezes of the (Kalisz) Województwo, Radoszynski or Radoszymski who, in 1827, was already the “Geheimrat” (Radca Stanu) [Councilor of State]. It is told of this Radoszymski that his decision regarding the designation of a living‐territory for Częstochowa Jews, exactly as in other cities in Poland, was in concordance with paragraph 9 of the Emperor's decree (dated April 25th 1822). The Emperor had, in that same decree, ordered to publish the G. C.'s proposal (the regulation is also called “Novosiltsev's regulation”).
Accordingly, four streets were actually designated in Częstochowa as living‐quarters for Jews, namely these streets: Mostowa, Garncarska, Nadrzeczna and Senatorska.
The document states:
They lead from the marketplace to the synagogue, which is found in the Old City. All this, except the houses and places marked with the numbers 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,37,38,39 and 40. All these houses are found in the vicinity of the parish cloister. Seeing as the entire matter was not thoroughly debated and properly arranged at the time, the government has recommended, as quickly as possible, to work out and send over projects and plans concerning the separation of the Jews from the non‐Jews in the larger cities, as well as details regarding the number of Jews and Christians, about the walled and wooden houses, as well as, regarding the vacant land locations.
To this purpose, the government also required conducting new population registers to be sent over to Warsaw within three weeks. This only applied to the “national” cities, i.e. “powiatowe” [the main city in district] and other important cities where Jews were already living and in which Jews would live [in the future], as long as this was not against the regulations to which these cities were bound.
This was also relevant to Częstochowa.
At the same time, the number of permits for new Jews to settle in Częstochowa was decreased.
The Mayor and the City Office did not hurry to reply. Only after a sharp reminder dated 11th June 1821, in which an answer was demanded within eight days, did the aforementioned offices issue the required response, which stressed that the municipal institutions did not possess exact figures regarding how many Jews and Christians there were in Częstochowa. They also noted that there were more Jews than Christians there, that they occupied the best houses available in the market‐ square and in other streets and that they had these same houses either through inheritance or were received for the unpaid mortgages. In his reply, the mayor suggested that the Jews, who were willing to become “civilised”, should be permitted to continue living among Christians. The others, who will not do this, should be forced to live in a separate quarter (“ghetto”) on the ulica Nadrzeczna, on which they already have their synagogue.
From the following correspondence, it becomes clear that the G. C., knowing that the Jews were introduced into these places by the former (Prussian) government, as well as by certain government agencies of the Duchy of Warsaw, demanded to be informed concerning the number of Jewish families living in the city and to be sent copies of their permits to live there, as well as about a project regarding the territory where Jews were to be separated from Christians.
This was a direct result of the letter which the Częstochowa Christians sent to the G. C. on August 21st 1821 and in which they requested aid in order to regulate matters pertaining to the local Jewish population. On May 15th 1822, the City Office, basing itself on a regulation from the highest authorities, recommended to the community leadership (dozór bóżniczy) that it should announce at the city synagogue that every Jew must, within present days, present to the City Office's bureau juridical proof that support his right to live in the city. Not carrying out this order within the appointed time limit would entail a fine, even up to banishment from the city.
On 15th April 1823, the Attorney Genera also ordered the banishment of Jews from “Stara Częstochowa”.
But, just as in other cities, in Stara Częstochowa, the orders to banish the Jews were also not put into effect. A month after the unification of all parts of the city (on 19th September 1826), Jews, to whom the banishment applied, appealed to the commissar, whom Warsaw had delegated for the Wieluń rejon, concerning this matter. These same Jews claimed that, during the entire time, they had borne the war‐burden; some of them even possessed fixed assets. Others among them had received various concessions and they complained as to why the City Office demanded they leave the town, together with the newcomers.
The delegated commissar halted the deportation of these Jews, giving as motive for his decision the fact that these same Jews, after all, paid taxes both to the central government and to the municipality. He referred the matter to the highest authorities for consideration. What course the matter followed is unknown, but it seems that Częstochowa Jews did not leave the city on a massive scale.
On the other hand, later, the possibility of introducing Jews into Częstochowa was completely halted. A sign of this is that even Bursztynski, a teacher and later also secretary of the Kehilla, as well as Icek (Bocian), who was born in Częstochowa and at the time of the banishments was in Praszka and Abraham Ramower, who was banished from gmina [borough] Wyczerpy, as well as others, did not receive permission to settle in Częstochowa that year.
After studying the situation well, it emerges that
… in the streets (near the river) that take up about half of the city, there
are only manufacturers and craftsmen, who require large amounts of water for their
work, for example, tanners, spoon manufacturers, smiths and potters.
It is also ascertained that, in the Jewish quarter (the ghetto), there was a lack of space for future building.
Since it was difficult to cram all the Jews into their appointed quarter, the municipal authorities suggested widening the ghetto's borders to include that part of the city called “Nowa Częstochowa”, excluding from it only the Maria‐aleja [avenue; full name is Aleja Najświętszej Maryi Panny], as well as the new marketplace (near the Aleja). The municipality then also determined that ulica Nadrzeczna was unsuitable for building, because the ground there was low and muddy, whilst ulica Targowa and ulica Warszawska were still completely empty.
Since none of the projects for “Jewish ghettos” was carried through, the Jews were allowed, in all of the cities of Poland (including Częstochowa) to live everywhere, but after abiding by certain regulations. Outside of the “ghetto”, Jewish home‐owners were only permitted to live in timber houses for a period of five years, beginning 1st July 1829. If they had spacious houses, it was permitted for Christians to live in them as well. Timber houses were to be torn down. A Jew who built a house had, ‐ by decision of the relevant authorities, the right to live there. This decision was a boost for building up the city.
The project was to be realised by the summer of 1834, at the latest. Meanwhile, however, things were delayed. The national Uprising broke out in 1831 which, afterwards, hindered political‐ economic conditions in the country. The matter, again, came to a halt ‐ also on part of the Jews, who had many doubts. On 13th January 1833, two Jews, Mendel Horowicz and Joachim Bryll, voiced their doubts as to whether ulica Stara Krakowska was within the ghetto. The City Council investigated the matter and concluded that the street was not part of the ghetto territory. In their appeal, these two Jews expressed a question about Jews generally and not a matter which only concerned them personally.
The cholera epidemic that raged throughout Poland (and especially in Jewish quarters) was also a cause to cancel the plan. Christian city leaders understood that, if the Jews continued to be held in their narrow filthy quarters, the epidemic would spread further. Besides, Christian home‐owners, in the territory proposed for the ghetto, claimed that they would be ruined if the project was carried out. This was because prices of their properties in Stara Częstochowa had [already] fallen by a third from their former price. They made their appeal on 24th January 1833. A couple of weeks later, the same G. C. in Warsaw turned to the community leadership and, the same as the Christian home‐ owners, also demanded the postponing of the completion deadline to six years, explaining that the uprising of 1831 had delayed the preparatory works.
The difficulties in carrying out the ghetto plan were not a phenomenon peculiar to Częstochowa alone. This was a typical phenomenon for the whole of Poland. The Jewish and non‐Jewish arguments were convincing enough and, therefore, the G. C. halted the implementation of the “ghetto” decree.
Tsar Nikolai I “reminded himself” about this decree. On 7th (19th) September 1848, he allowed Jews to live amongst the general population only on the condition that each one must possess at least 1,500 rubles, that he must know how to read and write (Polish or another language), that he must send his children to open [general] schools and that he is forbidden from carrying Jewish garments or other distinctive signs. Tsar Nikolai permitted Jewish bankers and large businessmen to live on the main street of all cities.
As is known, the “Jewish territory” was formally implemented on 23rd April 1828.
Before implementing the ghetto, the “sekcja fabryczna” (factory‐section) of the Kalisz Województwo committee dealt with the project and, on 1st March 1828, sent its recommendations to the G. C. in Warsaw.
In the Województwo memorandum, it is mentioned that enough Jews were already living in the city.
Not considering the limitations of 1849, Christian and Jewish masters requested the government grant permission to the turner from Wieluń, Szaja Moskow (he was the first turner in Częstochowa and one of the founders of the toy industry in the city) to settle in Częstochowa.
Jews and non‐Jews tried hard on his behalf, because he had learnt woodturning in Germany and was a great expert and the other masters needed him, in order to learn the profession from him.
Tricked and opposed by the Polish “mieszczanie”, Jews clawed their way into prosperous area of Częstochowa. They built factories, great and small workshops and tiny little workshops. They bought properties. Typical, old Jewish confidence drove them to this and they actually brought benefit by buying these properties. The city developed vigorously and the property values increased. Also the capital invested in the factories brought steadily increasing large profits.
Regarding the development of industry and trade, there are details in the “financial section” of our book.
Jews scrambled to ulica Garncarska, then to ulica Senatorska and the Stary Rynek (the old market square in the Old City). The least “beloved” streets were Kozia, Mostowa and Targowa but, over the course of time, the value of these streets also grew.
At first, the Jews bought lots on ulica Senatorska, then later on Mostowa, the Stary Rynek [ulica Stary Rynek; Old Market St.], Nadrzeczna and the neighboring streets. When the Jews bought properties from Christians, they paid cheap prices, because the Christian owners wished to get rid of these places at any price, due to rumours that soon the Christians would be driven out by force from their houses, which were in the location planned for the Jews and that the long‐approved Jewish ghetto would be implemented there.
As we have already mentioned, in the 1860's, incidentally, the question regarding a separate “Jewish ghetto” surfaced, a short time before the uprising in January 1863.
The bureaucratic machine, which habitually worked slowly, slowly, stirred itself into action.
In 1860, the naczelnik powiatu [district chief] reminded himself of the issue and, basing himself on the earlier regulations, he began to gather further material regarding the enlargement of the territory of the “Jewish ghetto”. As a consequence, the Częstochowa community leadership, on 16th (22nd) January 1860, turned to the Warsaw government with a petition in which they wrote:
For some months already, the local municipal authority has been hounding eighty four Jewish families (over five hundred people in total) that they should leave their apartments [and] properties and move into the ghetto territory. The municipal authority is fully convinced that there is no undeveloped corner there and it knows that all the available places were built up years ago and that to cram these eighty four families into this narrow area is above human possibility.
Furthermore, the community leadership noted that:
… the regulations of 1829, regarding the question of a separate area for Jews, which must include a couple of streets and part of the “Old Market”, have never been carried out, because its implementation, since that time, was stopped. Besides this, in 1853, the Jew Salomon Rajcher was given permission to open a gewölbe [Ger. vault] on the Maria‐Street, where, until then. no Jew had lived.
Furthermore, the ‘Dozór Bóżniczy” points out that:
… the tearful material and moral descent of more than 100 Jewish and Christian families who live there, as well as the danger of the further spreading of epidemic illnesses (typhus and cholera), if the municipal authority's plans are to be carried out.
There are no documents regarding any further development of the matter, but it seems that the “gzeire” [Heb. decree] was again forestalled.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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.
Czestochowa, Poland Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2023 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 3 Nov 2019 by LA