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Translation of Frysztak chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Frysztak chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
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Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume III, pages 295-298, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(East of Krakow, South of Tarnow, North East of Jaslo)
The city was established in 1366 by king Kazimierz the great. It was settled by German colonists and the original name was Frushtadt. In 1374 the ownership of the city passed from local feudal hands to the monastery of the Cistertzy order in Kopsibinica. Apparently Frysztak was severely affected by the Swedish invasions in the middle o the 17th century. The economic decline continued for years to come. There was a slight economic upswing during the second half of the 17th century. The city became known for the fairs notably textiles. Towards the end of the 19th century, the place was connected to the railways. Following W.W.I. Frysztak lost the municipal status.
It appears that as early as the 15th or the 16th century, there were already some Jewish families in Frysztak. During the economic decline of the city in the 17th century, the restrictions on Jewish inhabitants seemed to have eased for the number of Jews kept increasing while those of the German settlers and their descendants steadily declined. In the middle of the 17th century, we find that Frysztak has a well organized Jewish community including a cemetery that continued to function until the period between the two great wars. Some tombstones date back to 1650. The synagogue was also built during this period and was severely damaged by fire in 1890.The kehilla or communal registry book started in 1700 and continued until the shoa The study center contained many ancient books and manuscripts, one of which was printed in Venice in 1546.
The kehilla also attended to he needs of Jews that lived in the area and their number reached 97 in 1765.Jews were already property owners and some owned homes. During this period, the Austrian period, Jews were forced to pay back taxes in the amount of 8 gulden.
The Jews were the majority of the city population until the shoa. The non-Jewish population inhabited the suburbs of Frysztak where they had their gardens or farms. Jews dealt primarily in commerce and provided the necessary commercial and artisan services in the area. Frysztak had no industry but one Jewish owned power driven saw mill that burned to the ground in 1932.
The farmer riots aimed at the Jews that began in the area in 1898 also affected the Jews of Frysztak. In the month of July of 1898, the farmers attacked the Jews of Frysztak and robbed many Jewish homes and businesses. The police appeared and used their weapons to restore order. 6 rioters were shot and 5 were seriously wounded
The American Joint helped the Jewish community following W.W.I. medical clinic was established by 1923 and the doctor's salary was partially paid by the American organization. The Joint and the Polish Jewish Association of Assistance, organized trade courses, to provide Jews with the opportunity to acquire trades. In 1923, a committee was established with the help of the joint to assist the refugees. The local mutual assistance fund was very limited due to shortage of funds. In 1929 it granted only 5 loans that amounted to 250 zlotis. The fund ceased to exist for a number of years and then resumed its activities in 1933. In 1935, another association was established to help financially the local artisans obtain self renewable annual licenses
In Frysztak resided for a while (towards the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century) Menachem Mendel of Rymanow, outstanding student of Rabbi Elimelech of Lejansk. With him resided in Frysztak, his famous student Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Hakohen from Rymanow. At the beginning of the 19th century, the head of the religious Jewish court was Rabbi Itzhak Wagshal. His son, Yehiel Wagshal was supposedly granted the status of Rabbi at the age of twelve and assumed his father's post on his demise in 1883.Yehiel's son, Israel Wagshal, succeeded his father. In 1895, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Halbershtam, son of Tzvi Halbershtam, was appointed Rabbi of Frysztak and he remained at this post until 1907 when he moved to Dukla to assume the post of Rabbi of the city. His son, Rabbi Chaim Baruch Halbershtam assumed the position of Rabbi of Frysztak. He devoted himself more and more with questions of the Hassidic movement and left the spiritual communal affairs in the hands of his son, Rabbi Dawid Arieh Leibush Halbershtam. The latter became eventually the Rabbi of Frysztak and will be the last Rabbi of the community. Both father and son will perish in the shoa.
Frysztak received a reputation as a fanatical place in the area. The community followed the extreme precepts of orthodox Jewry and did not tolerate the slightest deviation. There was not even a breath of Zionism in the shtetl. Several young yeshiva students tried to open a non-religious library in the hamlet and barrowed some books from nearby Strzyzow. The religious opponents took matters in their hands and set the place on fire. Following serious discussions within the community to prevent the matter from reaching the courts, the culprits admitted their deeds and promised to pay damages to the library in Strzyzow.
The same attitude prevailed even after W.W.I. Rabbi Halbershtam and his followers were determined to keep the place out of reach for changes. In 1927, the Zionist organization managed to organize an ad hoc committee to direct matters. This committee called for an assembly in the local synagogue however the meeting was disrupted by religious opponents who chased the participants from the synagogue. Rabbi Chaim Baruch Halbershtam forbade the collection of money in 1939 for the K.K.L on the eve of Yom Kippur. Despite all these maneuvers, Zionism made progress and in the thirties we see various Zionist organizations that begin a program of activities and information. Branches of the " General Zionist", Mizrahi and the Revisionist movements, are established. Youth groups, namely " Bnei Akiva" and Beitar" are very active. The later established an agricultural training farm in 1934 with sixteen students. At the election for the Zionist Congress in 1931, the General Zionists received 65 votes, the Zionists-Revisionists received 26 votes and the Mizrahi movement 20 votes.
In the communal elections in 1939, two Zionists were elected to the board that was dominated by extreme orthodox elements. Besides the private " heders" or Hebrew school, the community maintained a Talmud Torah. In 1934, Hebrew courses were opened in Frysztak along with a drama club. The new library opened in 1927 and replaced the burned library of 1913.
Frysztak was occupied by the Germans on Sep 8th 1939. A week later, the second day of Rosh Hashana 1939, a unit of the Wehrmacht arrived and surrounded the synagogue and the study center. They burst into the worship places and killed a few congregants, set on fire the holy books and took with them 4 or 5 Jews. They then headed towards Strzyzow. They killed the Jews along the road near the forest of Lentownia and buried them in the Catholic cemetery opposite the sight of the killing. The cemetery was then destroyed.
The Germans then began a systematic system of kidnapping Jews for various forced labor details. They burst into Jewish homes and stores and looted them. The larger stores were seized. Some religious Jews had their beards and peyote shaved. All Jews had to wear a white arm band with a star of Dawid in it as of January 1940. Night curfew was imposed on all Jews. All Jews aged15-60 had to participate in the forced labor chores that consisted primarily of building roads, laying rails, and digging underground tunnels. Part of these projects was destined to be the headquarters of the German Army in Stepina that will later attack Russia. The large construction project was headed by the Germany construction company " Eskania.
In 1941, a Jewish work camp was established in Frysztak primarily for Jews of Warsaw who were also busy with the building of the railway from the village of Wisnica to Stepina. They also worked at the quarries near the village of Czeiswinia as well as in other projects related to the future Army headquarters. The inmates
walked each day 10 kilometers from Frysztak to their work places. They were mistreated and abused while working. Some of them were even buried alive in the construction. Due to the overcrowded condition in the labor camp, a typhus epidemic started. The camp was closed in the fall of 1941 and the surviving inmates were sent to the labor camp of Pustkow.
The Germans appointed a Judenrat in Frysztak in 1939 and also established a Jewish police force. The Judenrat prepared lists of workers for the forced labor details and also administered Jewish life in the community. It handled the absorption problems of the Jewish refugees (Jews came from Lodz towards the end of 1939 and from Krakow in the spring of 1940). It distributed food to the needy. It helped to establish a branch of the J.S.S.( Jewish Self-Help Association) in Frysztak that provided assistance to 200 families in the early part of 1942. A public kitchen and a medical clinic were also established.
An attempt was made early in 1942 to establish an agricultural training farm on a previously owned Jewish farm of about 40 acres of land in the area. The instructor was supposed to have been the owner of the farm. There was also a project to employ 40-50 Jewish workers on 4 farms in the Frysztak vicinity. We would not be surprised that these projects were indeed implemented for Jews wanted to get safe jobs in order to avoid deportation to labor camps. As a matter of fact, some Jews slept on Polish farms in order to avoid deportation.
4 Gestapo men from Jaslo arrived on the first of July 1942 to Frysztak that only had Polish police. They ordered all Jews aged16-35 to present themselves in the market place. A few hours later, they were released. On July 12, 1942, the Gestapo from Jaslo killed 250 Jews from Frysztak, Kolaczyce, Bzostek and other communities in the area. The Jews were killed in the forest of Podzamce near the village of Krajowice.The ghetto of Frysztak was liquidated between the 16th -18th of August 1942. Most of the Jews of Frysztak were sent by trucks to Jaslo and from there they were sent to the death camp of Belzec on the 19th or 20th of August 1942.
Some Jews from Frysztak had been sent to the ghettos of Przemysl and Rzeszow however most of the Jews of Frysztak were sent to Jaslo and then to Belzec. About 35 Jews were selected to remain in Frysztak and clear the ghetto area. They were then sent to Przemysl where they shared the fate of the local Jews. Amongst the Jews of Frysztak was also Rabbi Hannan Halbershtam of Kolaczyce and his family. They came to Frysztak in 1940 from Rzeszow. They were hiding in the ghetto that was being liquidated and were discovered by the Germans. There are claims that about 100 Jews hid in the forests surrounding Frysztak or were hidden by farmers. Supposedly there was also a group of 35 armed Jews in the area. The Gestapo and the German Army searched the area frequently towards the end of 1942. In 1943 there remained about 20 Jews from Frysztak in the area.
Many righteous gentiles paid with their lives for helping or saving Jews from Frysztak. On July 3rd 1943, the Germans shot Aleksandra Firga, Felix Czolgusz, Stanislaw Oparowski, Wiczek Szliwa, and Jozef Fonfara from the village of Markoszowa and Kozlowek for helping Jews. On July 15th 1943, the Gestapo found at the home of Franciszek Urban in the village of Tolkowica a Jew and two Jewish women from the Yari family in Frysztak. The Jews were killed in the nearby wood. Franciszek Urban managed to escape but committed suicide after a few days of wandering about. We must also mention the righteous gentiles that succeeded in saving Jews, namely Wladislaw Ksionzek from the village of Kozohow that provide Aryan papers to a group of Jews and also searched hiding places for them. Suzana Ksionzek saved two Jewish female doctors from Lemberg, Kacpar Polak from the village of Kozohow saved the Appelbaum family from Frysztak, Michael Szweinton from the village of Neiwodna saved six members of the Rossler family from Frysztak, and Eugeniusz Neidzela from the village of Markoszowa saved 8 members of the Weiss and Schmidt families in Frysztak.
Yad Vashem Archives,JM/ 1828-1847, JM/ /1572, M-1/E 1828/1690, M-1/Q2457/628, M-10/PH26-1-3, M-10/PH 27-1-8 021/17, O21/16. O16/1952 M-1/Q 1420/189
Central Historical Archives of the Jewish People in Jerusalem; HM/7101
Central Zionist Archives; Z-4/226-24, Z-4/222-23, S-6/2181. American Joint Archives; Poland, Medical Report 377, Reconstruction 399
Book about Strzyzow and vicinity, Tel Aviv 1972; pp137-172
Almanach gmin zydowskich w Polsce vol. 1. Warszawa 1939., pp 109-110; Jaslo oskarza, Warszawa 1973, pp12,48,76,77,176, 181-182,191, 197-201, 259, 261, 272, 291-299; S.Zabierowski, Rzeszowskie pod okupacja hitlerowska.Warszawa 1975, pp73-77
Hamitzpe (newspaper) ; 3/6/1904, 5/12/1913,17/3/1918
Divrei Akiva 2/2/1934
Nowy Dziennik (newspaper);7/5/1920, 11/4/1927,20/10/1929 29/3/1930, 13/12/1933, 11/5/1935, 9/8/1935, 5/1/1936, 13/1/1938, 17/2/1938.
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