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Translation of Lututow chapter
from Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Lututow chapter
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
Roni Seibel Liebowitz
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume I, pages 146-148, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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(Province of Wielun)
Translated by Tami Rosenfeld
Edited by Jerry Liebowitz and Dorothy Clark
In the first half of the 19th century, a community committee was established, a synagogue was built, and a cemetery was consecrated. Acts of charity were [an] ongoing [feature of the community]. Rabbi Yitzchak Ze'ev Froman was one of the best known rabbis of Lututow. He signed the famous manifesto of Rabbi Chaim Eliezer Waks and Rabbi Yehoshua Mekutno, regarding the priority attributed to the etrogs [citrons for Sukkot] from the land of Israel. Rabbi Froman's son, Rabbi Shlomo Froman, followed his father to become the city's Dayyan [religious judge] in 1885. After his father died in 1905, he replaced him as the Rabbi of the city. Rabbi Shlomo Froman was given a great honor by the Polish people. Very often they chose the Rabbi to be their mediator in their (mainly business) disputes with their Jewish neighbors. Rabbi Shlomo Froman continued his position until the 20th century. The last Rabbi of Lututow was Rabbi Y.L. Schwar.
The 20th century brought to the Jews of Lututow modern cultural and political activities. At the time of the German occupation in 1916, the first Zionist circle was established in Lututow. In 1917, a Hebrew school was founded and later joined the school union of Tarbut [culture]. In 1915, the Jewish Association of Gymnastics and Sports was also established.
There were several organizations in Lututow that were active. These included the General Zionists, Hamizrachi, Hashomer Hatzair, Hashomer Haleumi (later Betar), and the Zionist Youth. A WIZO [Women's International Zionist Organization] circle also was founded. The results of the election to the Zionist Organizations indicated the division of influence among the Zionist camp in Lututow:
|Number of votes|
|General Zionist B||51||||2|
|The Revisionists Grossman||48||||1|
|The League for Israel Labor||14||5||26|
|The General Zionist Youth||||||19|
In this period, there was great activity in Lututow by Agudat Israel and also by the local chapter of the Bund.
The management of the Jewish community was for some time in the hand of Agudat Israel, which was supported and led by Rabbi Froman. In 1931, Agudat Israel gained six mandates; two mandates were gained by the Alexander Hassids. The Zionist parties were disqualified by the authorities.
The center of the cultural life in Lututow was the Hebrew School of Tarbut. Next to that was an ongoing Drama Circle. Rich cultural activities also occurred in the Zionist youth organizations: Betar had a wind instrument band; the Zionist Youth had a drama class; and the Bialik Circle taught Hebrew and literature.
The climax of anti-Semitism among the Polish population was the pogrom of July 1923. A direct cause of the pogrom was a dispute between a minor priest and two young Jews who had swum in the same swimming pool with the priest, despite his opposition. The next day, following prayers, the priest gave an incendiary speech in which he declared that the Jewish boys had wanted to drown him in the pool. Instantly, a large crowd gathered, ready to start the pogrom. Facing this danger, the Jews sent a delegation headed by Rabbi Froman to the priest, asking him to calm the crowd. Nevertheless, tensions persisted in the town. On the Sabbath, in his sermon in the synagogue, the Rabbi condemned the Jewish youngsters who had not yielded to [the wishes of] the priest. In order to show regret, he ordered the Jewish women not to go out for a stroll on the Sabbath for two weeks. The Rabbi also went to the veteran priest of Lututow to ask him to act to prevent renewal of outbursts [against the Jews]. Nevertheless, on July 19, on market day, about a thousand farmers from the area arrived carrying rods and bars. The Jews summoned the Wielun police. Since nothing happened up to the afternoon, the police left the city. As soon as they were gone, the attackers started robbing the stores and stands and beat the Jews. They broke into their [Jewish] apartments and pulled down and shattered their windows. By the time the police returned, about one hundred Jews were hurt: among the wounded were many merchants from Zloczew that had come to the market. The unrestrained farmers also beat Jews in the neighboring villages or Jews that they met along the way. The police arrested 24 participants of the outbursts, but most of these were released after a short investigation. When the pogrom was over in Lututow, the Jewish representatives in the Sejm (Parliament) posed a special question. The Minister of Interior avoided condemning the riots. The pogrom atmosphere continued in Lututow for many months. And, to [enhance] the rumor that the Jewish boys had wanted to drown the priest, the [false] accusation that the field was poisoned by them was added.
In April 1931, the city was again threatened by a new pogrom. It began with a beating of several Jewish merchants on their way from Wieruszow to Lututow. A few Jewish young men rushed to rescue the merchants, and the beaters were taken to the police. This act was followed by the spreading of a rumor through the town that the Jews wanted to murder two Poles. Soon the Poles began to throw rocks at the Jews and to break windows in their stores and homes. The police refused to intervene. Only after the urgent and extraordinary efforts of Jewish delegations contacting Wielun's authorities did the police enforce order.
The anti-Semitic atmosphere had an impact even on the elementary school. In 1931, a Jew was elected to be the head of the student council. The teacher who supervised this council disqualified any Jew from this position. Another teacher hit a few Jewish students during the pogrom while yelling slaughter all the Jews.
At the end of 1939 (probably in November), the Germans arrested many known figures Poles and Jews (who were named as dangerous people). Among them was the wealthy merchant and local public figure, Walman. He had refused to be part of the confiscation of money, gold, and valuables from the Jewish population. The prisoners, Poles and Jews, were taken to the prison in Wielun and then to a concentration camp in Radogoszcz, near Lodz. It is not known how many of them returned to Lututow. It is known only that Walman returned sick and with broken teeth.
It is important to tell the following story of persecution in the first period of the occupation: In 1940 (probably the beginning of the year), a German bicyclist was killed as he drove over a mine in the neighboring forest. The Nazis collected many Jews from their homes as well as from the streets, walked them into the forest, and then had dogs chase them so that they would go into the mined area where the bicyclist was killed. Fortunately, there were no additional explosions.
The Judenrat [Jewish Council] was founded by the order of the authorities and was made up of people who had not held public positions before the war. The head of the Judenrat, Ayzik Ehrlich, took care of the Jews in Lututow as much as he could.
The date when the ghetto in Lututow was established is not known. This was an open ghetto, divided by a main highway, which was authorized only to Ayran movement by car or by foot. The Jews were forbidden to leave the ghetto without special permit. In December 1940, there were 1,375 Jews in the ghetto 1,128 were residents of Lututow and 247 were refugees from others places and surrounding villages. (It is probable that part of the local Jewish residents left the city in the first year of the occupation.) In 1942, there were 1,200 people in the ghetto. Because this was an open ghetto and the possibility to buy food was available, the situation of the Jews of Lututow, in terms of supplies, was not bad. The crews of Jews that worked outside of the ghetto enabled contacts with the surroundings, negotiations, and food smuggling. The work of these crews was difficult. The Germans abused and paid them a minimal daily salary50 pfennig [German coin equal to 1/100th of a Deutschmark]. The condition of better work was given to only a privileged few, who were employed in German businesses. This was mainly at Beit Haborsky [Borsky House], previously owned by Jews and then in German hands. From time to time, the Germans sent groups of Jews that were unemployed to labor camps around Poznan. One of these transports did not come through because of the fierce opposition of the head of the Judenrat. In January 1941 (or 1942), the Germans demanded the regular quota of male workers. In those days, the inhabitants of the ghetto already knew about the horrible conditions in these labor camps. When they found out about the upcoming transport, all the males escaped, except those who were officially employed. Only 50 Jewish workers who were employed by German businesses showed up in the market square in front of the head of the German labor division. They were confident that they would not be sent away. When the German clerk ordered the head of Judenrat to bring him the unemployed males, he told the clerk publicly that the Jews were ready to work but not to die. He added that only he himself is available to the authorities, and he will not kidnap other people.
A group of young Jewish men and women were employed for a long time at Camp Island (Ostrowek), near Lututow. They paved a road. Although it was forbidden, it was easy to maintain contact with this camp: the ghetto Jews visited their relatives there, and the camp inhabitants came to the ghetto.
In addition to the kidnappings for the labor work camp, the ghetto life was disrupted by visits of a unit called Frigale Commando, which probably included German policemen from Wielun. These Germans used to assemble Jews, ranging from the young to the elderly, in the market and then inflict group beatings on them.
On January 24, 1942, the population of Lututow was shocked by the execution of Yosef Geldsman [Gelcman], who worked at Borsky House. The Nazis accused Geldsman of sabotage (apparently a theft of fur). He was jailed and was going to be hanged in the region city of Wielun. But the business owner demanded a public execution to cause panic and fear in the Jews. The evening prior to the execution, the Germans spread a rumor that they would release the accused in exchange for a ransom. To assist in the collection of the ransom, a few Poles showed solidarity and helped in collecting funds by giving away their own valuables to the Judenrat. Patik, the Polish barber, was especially active in collecting the ransom. When the collection was completed, a delegation of Judenrat members went over to bring the ransom to the Gestapo representatives, who were waiting in a restaurant. Everybody expected the release of the prisoner, but the Germans took the accused to the gallows through a sideway and ordered two Jews to hang him.
It is appropriate to note the friendly attitude of some of the older Germans who lived in the place towards their neighbors, the Jews of Lututow. One of the Germans, Ludwig Schreiter, a member of the city council before the war era, was known as an anti-Semite. However, he assisted many Jews during the occupation period. When the flour-mill was officially transferred to him, he secretly continued to pay a substantial part of the earnings to the real former owners, Freilich and Herschlikovitch. He also employed mostly Jews in the mill by covering up their identity. Another [friendly] German, Robert Witich, a teacher who refused to register as a Volksdeutch [ethnic German who lived in Poland], used to visit the Jewish youth in the ghetto and lifted their spirit. The Germans sent him to a concentration camp, and there he suffered from a lung disease; from this illness he died after the war.
The liquidation of the ghetto began on August 25, 1942. The German policemen broke into the Jewish quarter, shooting. All the dwellers of the ghetto were crowded into the church. A group of the old and the weak were brought to the Judenrat building and were shot. Several Jews were ordered to bury them in the cemetery. The Jews were locked for two days in the church until the arrival of Biebow, the head of the German administration of ghetto Lodz. He was accompanied by several workers of this office and Gestapo personnel from Lodz. They made a selection of the locked Jews in the church. Eighty healthy men were selected and were sent to Wielun. At Wielun, also, the Germans acted to terminate the Jews. Of the 80 men sent to Wielun, 50 were transferred to the Lodz ghetto. They were sent there along with 900 Jews capable of work from Wielun and its vicinity. The remaining 30 were sent the day after their arrival to Wielun back to Lututow for a short time. They were instructed to collect the remaining Jewish wealth and pass it to the authorities. After completing their work, they also were sent to the Lodz ghetto. The rest of the Lututow Jews were jailed in the church and sent to the concentration camp in Chelmno. Only 30 Jews from the handful of Lututow Jews in the Lodz ghetto remained to witness the liquidation of this ghetto in August 1944.
After the war, about twenty former residents of Lututow returned to the city. They saw that the synagogue was partly destroyed and had been used as storage for junk. Also the school was partly destroyed; and the cemetery was completely destroyed. The survivors installed a matzeva [gravestone] in memory of the Jewish population that had vanished. And, as soon as the increasing number of Jews being murdered in the area became common knowledge, even these few survivors left the city.
IYUSH: 03/683; M-1/E 799/671.
AZM: S.5-1773, S.5-1801.
Heint 9.11.1922, 6.7.1923, 3.8.1923, 5.8.1923, 1.6.1924, 24.6.1924, 26.4.1927, 21.4.1931, 22.4.1931, 27.4.1931, 19.8.1931, 29.4.1932, 16.10.1935, 9.8.1936, 15.3.1937, 28.4.1937, 14.7.1937, 12.4.1938, 23.7.1939; Lodzer Tagblatt 23.7.1923, 8.8.1923, 29.11.1923; Neie Folks-Tzeitung 12.3.1928; Die Tzeit 25.10.1929, 21.3.1930, 28.3.1930, 16.5.1930; Dziennik Praw 1843 vol.31, p. 332; Nasz Przegl¹d 6.8.1923.
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