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Translation of Ropczyce chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Ropczyce chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
Translated and submitted to the Yizkor Book Project by Yehudit Wanderman
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
for the Kolbuszowa Region Research Group (KRRG)
to put this material on the JewishGen web site.
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume III, pages 351-353, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
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In documents from the year 1252, Ropczyce is mentioned as an important village among the king's estates, as a place where salty springs were found. These evidently gave the village its name (in Polish Raphe is a salt water solution). The king transferred the village as a present to the nobles in the vicinity, and after a few years, in 1362, he conferred on it the standing of a city in accordance with the Hamagdebury Law. R' served as an urban center for the rural surroundings, and two annual fairs and a weekly market were held there. The local commerce was based on the agricultural produce of the surroundings; the trades, too, were based on the processing of the agricultural produce. Administratively, R' belonged to the Pilzno province and the Sandomierz district until the end of the 18th century. R' suffered from invasions by the Turks and the Tartars during the 16th century and by the Swedes in the 17th century. It was also frequently beset by fires which destroyed the houses which were usually made of wood. In the second half of the 19th century, R's economic development expanded and flour mills, liquor distilleries, beer distilleries and small looms were established and the number of artisans in the various trades increased.
Jews in R' are first mentioned in documents from the end of the 16th century. They dealt in local commerce, and were peddlers and artisans. King Sigmund Vaza (1587-1632) forbade Jews from living in the city, with the exception of those who collected the taxes. A short time later, this prohibition was lifted. King Jan Kazimir gave Jews the right to live in all parts of the city and to engage in commerce and crafts. They were also given permission to buy houses from the Christians and to own distilleries and taverns. During the end of the 18th century, within the framework of its efforts to enhance the productivity of the Jewish population, the community was told to transfer six families to an agricultural settlement. Indeed, five families left R' for the outlying areas, and the Jewish community was required to allocate 250 florins to support the settlement of each family. However, a few years later they all returned to the city. During the 19th century, the Jews continued to base their livelihood mainly on commerce. The civic market was the focus of the economic life; the stores of the Jews surrounded the market square where they had their stands. A few leased fish ponds and sold fish. The artisans practiced various crafts and the Jews were noted as tailors, carpenters and ironsmiths.
The Chasidic center, established in the beginning of the 19th century when Rabbi Naftali Horowitz located his court there and established a dynasty known by the name of the town, contributed to the development of the town and especially to its Jewish community. Rabbi Naftali was a student of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk and of the Seer of Lublin and wrote the books Zera Kodesh and Ayala Shlucha. Thousands of Chasidim streamed to the city on Sabbaths and Holidays, opening up new sources of livelihood for the Jews of R' in lodging and feeding the visitors who came to see the Rebbe. Rabbi Naftali died in 1827. His position was inherited by his son-in-law, Rabbi Asher Yeshayahu Rubin, the author of the book Or Yesha who served until 1845. After him, his son, Rabbi Menashe, author of Lehem Mishneh, continued the dynasty and served until 1891. His son-in-law, Rabbi Yitzhak Mariles , served after him until 1910. His son, Rabbi Menahem Mendel Mariles, followed him, and he was succeeded by his son Rabbi Menashe who served until 1932.
The Chassidic Rebbes served also as the Rabbis of the town. The Jewish settlements in the nearby villages were considered part of the R' community. These villagers were in severe disagreement with the R' community who protested strongly against the independence of the villagers; at one point the community forbade the burial society to bury the villagers. In the beginning of the 20th century a disagreement arose between the community and the villagers over the price of milk which the villagers wanted to raise. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Talmud Torah was established as well as the Tomchai Dalim society whose purpose was to support visiting poor people and to prevent them from going from house to house for alms.
During this period, the first Zionists appeared and they became engaged in a bitter struggle with the Chasidim who opposed any aspect of modernization in the public life if the Jews. In 1894, the Ahavat Zion society was founded, headed by Leibush Kurtz, one of the leading enlightened Jews in Galicia, a correspondent for Hamagid and author of a pamphlet called Zichron Zion. During the first years of the 20th century a branch of the Zionist Organization of Western Galicia was organized in R'. In 1911, a branch of Hamizrachi was founded.
The community suffered greatly from the results of the fire which broke out in the town in 1873. At the end of the 19th century and in the beginning of the 20th century anti-Semitic propaganda became increasingly evident in the town. Indeed, in 1897 the Jews were threatened by a massacre when a rumor spread among the peasants that the Jews in Krakow had killed a young Christian girl in order to use her blood. The priests in the town and in the villages were among the leaders of the instigators. The anti-Semitic atmosphere was intensified in 1910 with the arrival of a new priest to serve as the religious instructor of the local elementary school. He spread propaganda against the Jews and at his instigation a Christian cooperative was established to compete with the Jewish trade. In the elections to the Town Council held in 1913, the Jews tried to prevent this priest from being elected to the Council, but they were unsuccessful.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Russian military units captured the town of R'. As the soldiers entered the town they began to go wild and to plunder the property of the Jews. Many of R's Jews fled and those remaining suffered greatly from the villainy of the Russian soldiers. The town suffered from a lack of food. The economic activities of R's Jews ceased almost completely. Many of the Jews who had fled R' did not return even after the war was over. Attacks and harassment of the Jews took place repeatedly, this time on the part of the soldiers under General Haller who entered the city, and the mobs that accompanied them. Once again, there were many cases of violence; the Jews were attacked on the street and their stores were plundered.
The census of 1921 showed that the Jewish population of R' had decreased by 30% compared to their number in 1910. During the early 1920's an effort was made to rebuild the damage that occurred during the war. The Joint Distribution Committee came to the aid of many of the families needing support. All that remained in the hands of the Jews were the small shops and some peddling in the outlying villages as well as certain crafts. The storekeepers and craftsmen had to face strong competition from their Christian competitors who enjoyed favored treatment from the authorities. According to incomplete statistics, the Jews of R' owned 32 workshops. Most were in the field of food and clothing, employing a total of 39 people who were the owners of the workshops and their families.
As a result of the crisis which befell the Jews of R', they increased the number of charity organizations. In 1929 the Kupat Gemilut Hasadim was established and already in its first year of existence, the society gave out 83 loans in the total amount of 10,771 zloti. In 1932, the Cooperative Bank was established which helped the needy with low interest loans. Both the Kupat Gemilut Hasadim and the Cooperative Bank were founded with the support of the Joint which also helped with financial support for those rebuilding their houses and workshops. The Community Council, whose budget decreased from year to year, was able to give only minimum support to regular charity needs. Their main support was for activities such as Kimcha D'Pischa. At that season, the number of families who turned to the council for help grew from year to year.
Despite the difficult economic situation, community activities were renewed in the early 1920's. Especially prominent were the activities of the Zionist organizations of all kinds. Branches of the General Zionists, Mizrachi, the Revisionists and the Hitachdut were active. R' also had branches of the youth organizations of the various Zionist trends. Some of them established training stations, clubrooms for cultural activities and reading rooms. A branch of Agudat Yisrael was organized.
From the early 1920's, there was a struggle for control of the Community Council between the Orthodox trends and the Zionists. The Zionists achieved a significant representation in 1928, and a majority of the members in 1933. During the period between the two world wars, in addition to the Talmud Torah, there was a supplementary Hebrew school attended by more than 100 boys and girls.
During the late 1930's, there were often attacks on the Jews, attacks which sometimes resulted in physical injury. Venomous proclamations of incitement against the Jews were distributed, and windows were shattered in the synagogue and private homes. The anti-Semitic atmosphere that pervaded the town heralded the Second World War.
In April 1940 there were 773 Jews in R' including 60 refugees from other areas of Poland which were annexed to the Third Reich. By the end of 1940 another 45 refugees arrived, and during 1941 additional refugees were sent to R' mainly from Krakow. Another 224 Jews from the surrounding villages also came under the jurisdiction of R'. Among them were some who moved to R' in 1941 including six families from the village of Brzeznice who until then had helped the needy of R' with food and money. Others were transferred to R' in anticipation of the expulsion of the entire Jewish community in 1942.
Evidently, at the end of 1939 or in the beginning of 1940, a Judenrat was appointed in R' headed by Dr. Arnold Meister. In R', as in other places, the Jews were required to do forced labor, the organization of which was one of the responsibilities of the Judenrat. By the spring of 1941, there already were Jews from R' in the Postakov camp and it is known that another 200 men from R' were sent to this camp in May and June 1942. It is possible that some were sent to the camp even before then.
From the beginning of its establishment, the Judenrat aided the local poor, those who were wounded in the bombardments of September 1939, and the refugees. Already in March 1940, a welfare committee functioned through the Judenrat. In the beginning, each of the indigents received a financial supplement of 3-5 zloti per week, food, coal and wood. In March, aid was given to 46 persons, in April to 282, and in May to 221 persons. Refugees were given shelter. Possibly at this very time, a shelter was set up for the most needy which continued to function in 1941. At the end of 1940 a public kitchen was set up which originally served 65 hot meals a day; two-thirds of which were given to the needy without any payment. In 1940, the Judenrat received the money to help the needy from the Joint office in Krakow as well as from local wealthy people. From March to May 1940 ,the Judenrat budgeted more than 3,500 zloti for social aid.
In June 1941, a branch of the Y.S.S. was established in R'. From April to November 1941, 2,700 zloty were received in R' to help the poor. In the months of August and October 1941, members of the community contributed approximately 2,000 zloti for this purpose. In February 1942 the Y.S.S. branch dealt with 160 persons but the Judenrat and the Y.S.S. were still unable to provide for the minimum needs of the poor; more than half the Jews of R' were then in need of help.
In the summer of 1942 there were 284 children up to the age of 14 in R'. Already in the beginning of 1940 a local women's committee took care of the children from the most needy families. With the establishment of the Y.S.S. branch, the activity in this field increased greatly. A Tipat Chalav station was set up and 30 babies received a half liter of milk every day and nursing mothers also received food supplements. Forty- one children received additional meals in the public kitchen. In 1941, medical examinations of the children took place in the kitchen. Medical aid was given to the children in the clinic that was set up in 1941 and a dental clinic and bathhouse also functioned. In March 1942 efforts were made to employ Jews in the agricultural farms in the area the Y.S.S. reported that 20-30 places of employment were available. It is not known if the program was ever carried out.
On May 1942, after house to house searches , 48 men were taken to the camp in Postakov. In June 1942, the first aktzia took place in R', known as the men's aktzia. Twenty-three Jews were killed on the spot, and about 150 were sent to the Postakov camp. A few days after the aktzia, Jews who had still remained in the neighboring villages were transferred to R' as well as Jews from Wielopole Skrzynskie. In R', all these Jews who were expelled from their homes were placed in the ghetto, which had been set up in the latter part of June1942. On the 9th of Av (July 23, 1942) the ghetto was liquidated. All the elderly and the children were shot on the spot; those able to work were sent to Sendzishov Malopolski and from there together with the local Jews to the death camp in Belzec.
A few Jews hid out in R', but most were discovered and killed in time. It is told that one of them, Yaakov Leiman, hid out in various places near R'. He was armed and was trying to contact the partisans but, unable to locate them, he, on his own, took revenge on Polish informers.
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