“Ozorków” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume I
(Poland)

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Translation of
“Ozorków” chapter
from Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume I, pages 42-45, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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[Page 42]

Ozorków

(District of Łęczyca)

Translated by Jerrold Landau

 

Population

Year Total
population
Jews
1827 5.308 1,034
1857 6.577 3,262
1897 11,531 5,837
1921 12,589 4,959
Sep 1 1939 (?) 5,000-5,500

Ozorków, one of the new manufacturing centers in the Łódź textile district, was founded in 1807 and gained the status of a city in 1820. Jewish merchants and tradesmen settled in this developing settlement. The merchants did business with lumber and wool, providing to the local weavers. Some were also weaving contractors, who organized the weaving production into workshops of home-based weavers.

During the 1830s, Avraham Librach built the second large factory in Ozorków. After ten years, the factory had divisions for sewing, weaving, cutting, curing, and dyeing. Librach's factory was known throughout Poland, and earned the praise of the government. However, Librach's factory ceased operation during the 1860s. This fate affected almost all the weaving enterprises that did not transfer to the weaving of cotton.

In the middle of the 19th century, Ozorków became an important center of the manufacture of cotton. The role of the Jews was recognizable. Among them there were manufacturers, home-based weavers, and factory employees. In 1887, six sewing enterprises and six curing enterprises for cotton were in Jewish hands. During this period, there were 458 weavers, 83 sewers, 15 cotton makers, and 15 dyers among the Jews. Many tailors from Ozorków and a large groups of Jewish female sewers (among the 119 Jewish sewers, 69 were women) formed a cooperative for locally weaved textiles. Until the outbreak of the First World War, the textiles, and especially the products of the cooperative, were exported to Russia. Aside from textile manufacturers, Jews were represented in all areas of trade and business. The following illustrates the professional breakdown of the Jewish population in 1887.

Profession # %
Employees and home workers in textiles 571 51.3
Manufacturers 12 1.1
Tradesmen 273 24.5
Merchants 135 12.0
Members of the various free professions 123 11

Until 1820, the small Jewish settlement of Ozorków was subordinate to the community of Parzęczew, and the dead of Ozorków were buried in the cemetery of that town. An independent community was established in Ozorków about three years later. The Jewish community of Ozorków reached an honorable status among the communities of the area due to its renowned rabbis and the Yeshiva that produced many rabbis and scholars. A rabbi was brought in at communal expense at the beginning of the community's existence. Until that time, the Jews of Ozorków would ask the local scholars their questions on Jewish law. One of them was Rabbi Avraham Yisachar Ber Gelbard, a Hassid of Opatów. He served as a rabbinical judge. He set up the aforementioned Yeshiva and even taught there. He refused to accept the post of official rabbi that was offered to him. Therefore, the community chose Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Zajdel of Łask as rabbi in 1820. After his death in 1836, Rabbi Zeev Lypszyc ascended the rabbinical seat. He died in 1864. He was a descended of the well-known Rabbi Shmuel HaKohen of Łask. The synagogue and Beis Midrash were built with his initiative in 1851. He was fluent in Polish, German, and Russian, and wrote poems in excellent Hebrew. Rabbi Shimon Orensztejn, a descendent of Rabbi Meir Zylech of Łask, served as the next rabbi. He served as rabbi of Ozorków until 1887, and then ascended the rabbinical seat of Kalisz. He left behind two works: “Nezirut Shimshon” and “Tiferet Shimon”, which were published posthumously. Rabbi Simcha Yair Rozenfeld served as rabbi of Ozorków for three years. He served as rabbi of Piotrków Trybunalski after he left Ozorków. He left behind the work “Ora Vesimcha” (commentaries on Aggadaic lore and Chumash), which was published posthumously. The following rabbi was Rabbi Aleksander Ziskind HaKohen Lipszyc (died in 1912), from the family of the rabbis of Parzęczew, and formerly the rabbi of Piontak. He left behind many approbations, a collection of novella and didactics.

At the beginning, the Hassidim of Kock and Worki dominated the Hassidic community of Ozorków. Later, several shtibels of the Hassidim of Gur, Aleksander and even of other streams opened. Rabbi Shmuel Abba, the Admor of Żychlin, lived in Ozorków between 1851 and 1894. His influence was well recognized in the Hassidic movement of the city and area.

In the presence of such prominent rabbis, and with the atmosphere of Torah and Hassidism that pervaded in the city, there were also scholars who did not take up a rabbinical role. Some were members of large manufacturing families. Rabbi Lipman Szarodzki (1838-1902) was one of those close to the Admor of Żychlin. He served as a rabbinical judge in Ozorków without expectation of remuneration. He left behind the “Imrei Eliezer” commentary on the Passover Haggadah, novella in manuscript form on the Talmud and halachic decisors, and a commentary on the Chumash called “Torat Eliezer.” The manufacturer Reb Shmuel Chaim Jaszowski of Parzęczew, who settled in Ozorków and died in 1902, earned the reputation of an expert scholar. He wrote the “Chukei Dat” Responsa book on Yoreh Deah (Warsaw 1871), as well as the “Einei Shmuel” commentary on the Bible. One of the veteran Gerrer Hassidim, a merchant from Ozorków, Rabbi Itzik Wladislawsky (died in 1910), served as a rabbinical judge in the city without remuneration. Rabbi Shlomo Avraham Jachta, one of the wealthy people of Ozorków, and a student of Rabbi Zeev Lypszyc, would exchange halachic views with rabbis throughout the world of his time. Some of these halachic decisions were published in 1894 under the name “Bikurei Shlomo.” The second part was published posthumously. Many of his novella remained in manuscript.

In the survey of political life of the Jews of Ozorków, it must be noted that a group of local Jews participated in the revolutionary movement during the years 1905-1907. Zionism established its roots already before the First World War, however a Zionist movement and a cell of Poalei Zion were only established during the time of German occupation. In February 1918, Rabbi Rappaport, who was living in Ozorków at the time, established the Mizrachi organization. A community center was set up in 1915 through the efforts of a group of young people. It had

[Page 43]

a library, a hall, and a kitchen that provided hot drinks, bread, and meals for children at a low price. The Hazamir organization also operated, organizing many entertainment events in their large hall. Public gatherings also took place in that hall. A Yavneh School was also established in the town.

 

Between the Two World Wars

With the renewal of Polish independence, Ozorków manufacturing lost the Russian market place. This loss caused an immediate decline in the number of employees in the factories. The owners of small weaving workshops and the home-based weavers who worked manually suffered from want. Some of the Jewish weavers found employment in the large factories of Łódź. The tailors worked for the merchants of the local cooperatives as well as for the large clothing shops of Łódź. The 1929 depression caused a definitive turn for the worse. The economic situation of a significant portion of the Jewish community who earned their livelihoods from manufacturing or commerce related to manufacturing became tragic. Many families sustained themselves primarily from the little bit of help that arrived from the Ozorków natives in the United States. The situation improved a bit at the beginning of the 1930s. Nevertheless, many merchants of the cooperative of Ozorków had to move to Łódź, and a large number of tailors were forced to seek their livelihood there. Some of the Jews who remained without permanent work were employed from time to time in communal activities through the efforts of the civic work division. However, in 1935, the city council limited the number of Jews in those jobs.

Aside from several large factory owners, a significant portion of the Jews worked in home-based weaving, with one or several looms. In 1921, there were 80 textile enterprises in Ozorków owned by Jews. Of those, 41 had no employees, and were operated by the owners and family members. 478 employees, including 135 Jews, were employed in the other 49 enterprises. The situation of the home-based weavers worsened during the mid-1930s, because the hand looms were no longer effective, and were displaced from the marketplace by the mechanical looms. During this period, close to 200 Jews wove with hand looms. Most of them were elderly, and were hired for brief periods with workdays longer than 10 hours, for 20 zloty per week.

During that time, the Szelser enterprises – the largest factory in Ozorków, was transferred to the Jew Meir Fogel. This factory employed more than 3,000 employees, including 150 Jews, around 1935. A large number of Jews were employed in management. The work conditions in the factory of Berek Blaszt, which employed close to 200 employees, were worse than in the other enterprises in the town. The employees often worked close to 12 hours a day, and received a lower salary (1.5 zloty per day). Therefore, a strike broke out in that factory in 1935, but it was put down with the involvement of the police. This matter was dealt with at length by the local Jewish circles and the Jewish newspapers, for Blaszt was an observant Jew who served as a trustee of the new Beis Yosef Yeshiva.

Chapters of most of the political factions that existed within Polish Jewry operated in Ozorków between the two world wars. The General Zionists and the Zionist left had the most influence. The number of supporters of the left leaning Poalei Zion increased around the time of the Second World War.

List Number of Votes
1935 1937 1939
General Zionists A 133 199 177
General Zionists B 23 -- --
Mizrachi 33 40 53
National Zionists 45 -- 5
League for Working Land of Israel 126 167 166
Left leaning Poalei Zion -- -- 242

Representatives of Agudas Yisroel, the “Orthodox,” Hassidim of Aleksander and Strykow, tradesmen, and property owners were also included in the communal council, aside from the Zionists and the Bund.

The Jewish parties would generally receive about a third of the votes in the elections for the town council. In 1919, they received 7 out of 22 mandates. In 1934, 6 out of 24; and in 1939, 8 out of 24. In the 1928 elections, the local Bund recived the majority of the Jewish mandates (4).

At the eve of the elections to the city council in 1934, attempts were made to set up a German-Jewish Socialist bloc. Representatives of the Bund, right leaning Poalei Zion, and the German Workers Party gathered together to discuss this matter, but the bloc was not formed due to differences of opinion between the Bund and Poalei Zion. Nevertheless, the Bund collaborated with the non-Jewish parties, frequently with the Polish Socialist Party (P.P.S.) and the German Workers Party. Those parties conducted joint demonstrations on May 1 in 1932 and 1933.

Rabbi Dov Ber, one of the renown rabbis of that era, sat on the rabbinical seat of Ozorków from 1912 to 1939. He was known as an excellent orator. He was active in Agudas Yisroel, and served as the vice chairman of the Union of Polish Rabbis for a period of time. He was in the Warsaw Ghetto during the time of the extermination, where he perished.

The anti-Semitic atmosphere increased in Poland during the 1930s. The town council elected in 1934, in which the majority was from the government party (Sanacja), refused to provide social assistance to the Jews. During that time, attacks on the Jews increased, often ending in fatalities. When the attacked Jews attempted to demand their rights in court, the court often decided against them. In December 1935, some unknown people damaged the windows of the synagogue. The cemetery was desecrated in June 1936, and several gravestones were destroyed. That year, a Jewish couple was attacked and injured, and the police refused to punish the attackers. An assembly was convened with the participation of about a thousand weavers (mainly Poles), and the government was forced to punish the guilty party. The economic boycott against the Jews also increased. On Christmas eve, 1934, the “Orndobnik” newspaper of the Endekes, published the names

[Page 44]

of Poles who “failed” by purchasing from Jews and using the services of Jewish barbers. The strike for better wages that broke out in Meir Fogel's factory in October 1937 served as the beginning of a new wave of anti-Semitic activity, whose motto was “the war against Jewish manufacturers, who take advantage of Polish workers.” On October 5, 1937, the boycott guards set up a blockade in front of the stores and stalls of the Jews in the market. The police did not disturb them.

 

The Holocaust

Fierce battles over Ozorków took place in September 1939. After the conquest, the Germans were forced to retreat. During, the second conquest on September 5 or 7, 1939, they poured their wrath on the population and shot many residents to death. Among the other citizens, 24 Jews were shot on the first day of the occupation. The Germans burnt down the synagogue and Beis Midrash on the following days. The Jews were not allowed to extinguish the fire, and were commanded to take down the walls of the burnt synagogue. The Nazis began to hunt for Jews and sent them to harsh labor – among other things, to bury the many bodies around the city.

The Germans ordered that a Judenrat be set up. Shimon Barczinski, a Zionist activist from the pre-war years, was appointed as the chairman. His deputy was Shimon Liska. A Jewish police force was set up, with Yehoshua Poznaczovski as the commander. He was a youth with technical knowledge, who held the rank of captain. The commander and his deputy excelled in their coarseness. Therefore, the rumors spread that they were agents of the German authorities.

The evacuation of Jews form the main streets and the best dwellings began at the end of 1939 and the beginning of 1940. They were ordered to move to the alleyways that were designated for them, and were not allowed to take anything with them. In this manner, the ghetto was set up in stages, even though there was no official command to establish it or for Jews to move to it. There was great crowding within the bounds of the ghetto. With the passage of time, the neighborhood was fenced in with a barbed wire fence, but it was not closed off, and no guards guarded it. Some Jews continued to live outside the ghetto, on the small alleyways of the town.

The Germans set up several manufacturing enterprises in the ghetto, that produced provisions for the German institutions: workshops for tailors, shoemakers, furriers, and for producing wooden shoes. The Jews also worked in German enterprises outside of the ghetto. For example, the Furster Und Burger enterprise employed 1,000 Jews in December 1940. The Jews tried to the best of their abilities to get jobs in those enterprises. They presented themselves as professionals, and made use of any advantage that was possible. They were paid a small salary that enabled them to exist, and working outside the ghetto made it easier to smuggle food. In addition, everyone regarded working for the Germans as a protection from deportation from the ghetto. Therefore, the Judenrat made efforts to open workshops in the ghetto and to obtain orders. Apparently, the head of the Judenrat, Barczinski, visited the Łódź Ghetto for several days in April 1941 for discussions with Romankovski, the head of the Judenrat there, for this purpose.

The hunts and snatchings perpetrated by the Germans to provide people for the labor camps in the Poznań district or for deportation to the harsh labor camps in the town and the area affected the lives of the Jews. The snatchings took place even though the Judenrat provided set quotas of workers for these jobs. The deportation of the Jews of Ozorków to these camps began in 1941. At first, volunteers presented themselves as well. However, volunteering ceased when knowledge of the terrible conditions came from the camps. In the hunt of April 4, 1941, 400 men were snatched and sent to the Stadion Camp near Poznań. This hunt was apparently the first and largest. The families of the Jews who were sent to the camps were left without a livelihood earner, and they found themselves in difficulty, even though the Judenrat provided them small sums. One Jewess was daring enough to approach the German work office in Ozorków to demand either the wages of her husband who was working in the Stadion Camp or his return home. This fact is mentioned in the correspondence between the Nazi authorities in Warthegau regarding the great poverty of the families of the camp workers. Aside from providing support for these families, the Judenrat also sent packages to the camp workers with the permission of the German authorities. Wealthier members of the families of the camp workers also attempted to the extent possible to send packages to the ghetto.

The Germans tried specially to damage the religious property of the Jews. A hunt for Jews throughout the entire town was conducted on Purim, 1940. Men, women, and children were brought to the yard of the police station, where the Nazis burned a Torah scroll before their eyes and forced the Jews to dance. Nevertheless, secret religious life did not stop. The Jews worshipped in homes, and Reb Yosef the shochet maintained a regular minyan [prayer quorum] in his home. The children studied Torah secretly.

The period of the liquidation of the Jewish settlement of Ozorków started by taking 8 or 10 Jews out to be killed during the first months of 1942. According to the official version of the Germans, this was a punishment for the escape of a Jew from a building designated for the quarantine of Jews in the ghetto. When the Germans demanded that the Judenrat give over ten Jews to be killed, Barczinski and Liska began serious but ineffective efforts to annul the decree. Finally, the Jewish policemen were forced to arrest ten Jews. They chose them primarily from among the refugees from other cities. According to one version, the Germans freed two of them in return for a large bribe. All the residents of the ghetto were brought to the gallows and were forced to watch the hanging. The bodies remained hanging for two days before the Jews were permitted to bury them.

In March or April 1942, apparently 300 or 500 Jews from Ozorków were deported with the pretext that they were not fit for work, or to apparently prevent a typhus epidemic. It is possible that among them there were children below the age of ten who had been taken from their parents. In April 1942, a committee of German doctors examined all the Jews of Ozorków. All the Jews who were brought into the school building (apparently located outside the ghetto) were ordered to strip. After a quick examination, they were all marked on their bodies: the young and strong with the letter A, and all the rest with B.

The mass deportation of the Jews of Ozorków took place on April 21-23, 1942. All the Jews were brought into a yard next to the aforementioned school. The German policemen conducted a selektion, torturing the Jews in the process. The weak and elderly (estimated at 1,700 to 2,000 individuals) were sealed up in the school building and transported to their deaths the next day. The Jews who were selected for life (mainly expert tailors) were returned to the ghetto, and later transported

[Page 45]

to the Łódź Ghetto by tram. There were 790 individuals (or 1,387 – different versions exist) in one or two transports. According to one version, children below the age of ten were removed from their parents one month before this deportation. According to another version, young children of parents who were designated to be transported to the Łódź Ghetto were taken at the time of the aktion.

After the action, close to 1,000 (or 1,000 plus several hundred) Jews who were fit for physical labor remained in Ozorków. The Germans crowded them into a small living area. Police took them each day, arranged in rows, to hard labor in the city or nearby area. This remnant of the ghetto-camp existed until August 1942. On August 20-21, 1942, German guards surrounded the ghetto. The Jews (1,027 in number) were brought to an adjacent field, placed on electric trams that were waiting for them, and transported to the Łódź Ghetto. It is said that, in the tram, a Jew, Shimon Frajdman, asked the Germans carrying out the aktion if this was a form of payment for their work for the Germany Army. He was shot immediately, and his body was removed from the tram.

There were many Jews of Ozorków in the Łódź Ghetto. Those who arrived in May 1942 succeeded in bringing a bit of personal properly with them, but they group of August deportees did not bring anything with them. The August deportees were housed for some time in quarantined dwellings because typhus cases were detected among them. Many of the Jews of Ozorków, primarily tailors, were employed in the workshops of the Łódź Ghetto. The rest were set to work camps in the Poznań area a brief time after their arrival, in accordance with quotas that the authorities demanded from the Łódź Judenrat.

After the war, close to 30 Jews lived in Ozorków for a period of time.


Sources

Yad Vashem Archives 03/2853.
Atz”M: S-5-1774, S.5-1801
AP Łódź: Anteriora PRG 2505.
Ozorków, Jerusalem 1967: Sh. Lipman, In the Camps Around Posen, in “Pages of Pain and Destruction,” Melbourne, 1949, pp. 86,87; Book of Łęczyca (Lunshitz), Tel Aviv, 1953, pp. 1790-192.
“Heint” August 8, 1919, December 23, 1924, June 2, 1925, May 20, 1931, May 31, 1931, July 31, 1935, June 14, 1936, July 12, 1937, July 26, 1937, November 9, 1937, May 26, 1938, March 6, 1939, May 17, 1939. “Zgierzer Blatt” May 24, 1924. “Lodzer Verker” September 14, 1928, June 27, 1930, August 29, 1930, September 5,1930, May 6, 1932, May 5, 1933. “Lodzer Tagblatt” October 25, 1917, February 20, 1918. “Lodzer Folksblatt” July 22, 1915, September 14, 1915, February 14, 1918. “Neie Folksblatt” January 29, 1935, June 21, 1935, December 29, 1935, March 5, 1936, June 12, 1936, June 28, 1936, August 3, 1936, November 25, 1936, December 23, 1936, November 9, 1937. “Neie Folks-Zeitung” May 2, 1928, July 11, 1928, December 24, 1929, March 14, 1934, May 30 1934, March 2, 1935, May 11, 1935, July 15, 1935, August 10, 1935, December 13, 1935, March 24, 1936. “Hatzefira” February 3, 1888.


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