by Shmuel Bennet
Translated by Jerrold Landau
1. Esterke in Radom
What is the source of the name Radom?
To this date, there is no precise answer as to how the town began. The beginning of Radom is enveloped in a historical fog. The people, however, weave legends that are transmitted from generation to generation. Some of these legends attempt to define how the city got its name.
One legend relates that Slavic tribes set up their camps in the fields near the current Mleczna. Across the fields there was a mountain that served as a fortress for them, as well as a point for religious and political gatherings. This hill was surrounded by a wall of sand and stones. A wooden castle stood at the summit of the mountain, in which the high ruler (the Wloder) of the surrounding Slavic tribes lived. To this day, this mountain is located in the area of the old city. During the 16th century, it was indeed confirmed that there was a castle on the mountain. In those times, the entire surrounding area was known in Latin as: mons gondam arcis the former mountain citadel. In previous centuries, the mountain was called: mon S. Petri the mountain of Saint Peter, and the surrounding area was called Piotrówka. When a large settlement was formed around the mountain, the residents called it Rad-Dom the Red House.
This is one theory regarding the name of the city. However, a second legend tells:
At one time, the Polish ground was covered with dense
forests, including the area of today's Radom. The large Zwoleń Forest spread out to the east. The Opoczno Forest was on the west side. The Kozienice Forest was on the north side. The forests were full of wild beasts and thieves. The Polish King Kazimierz the Great would go there to hunt. Once, he came to a settlement and the residents gathered around the king, who was known for his friendship with the downtrodden. The residents requested that the king grant the settlements rights and protection against the thieves. The king listened to them and answered them in only two words: Rad Dom. That means, I will give a recommendation. He ordered that the surrounding forests be cut down and that new settlements be founded. The existing settlement was to be expanded and brick houses and churches would be built. Indeed, that is what happened.
As an expression of gratitude to the king for his deeds, the residents named the settlement with the two words that the king said: Rad Dom.
This is a second version regarding the origin of the name of our city. There is, however, a third legend:
The king went hunting for deer in the Sulejów Forest. Suddenly, he saw a wild beast running in the direction of a settlement. A young girl was gathering berries there, and there was danger that the beast might attack. The king killed the beast and thereby saved the life of the girl, who was named Esterke, the daughter of a local Jew. Esterke was exceptionally pretty, with refined manners, and the king fell in love with her. He brought her to the Radom castle. He ordered that it be renovated, that houses be built around it, and that beautiful gardens be planted around the new quarter that the king built around the castle (which later became Rwańska Street in the Rynek). Later, he built a special palace for his beloved Esterke (houses number 5 and 6 on the Rynek), which is called Esterke's House to this day. The king often came to Esterke's house and was happy there. The surrounding residents called Esterke's house Rad Dom, the house of joy.
That is the source of the name of our hometown Radom.
2. After the Expulsion
After the expulsion 1746, the deportees had to leave behind their belongings, which they had obtained through many years of hard work. When they left Radom, where they had lived and worked, -- they left a wide field of activity for the Polish merchant and handworkers, free from Jewish competition.
However, they were not happy with their victory for long: First came an unusually harsh winter. Next, a large fire broke out that destroyed most of the old city and a portion of the new. Then came the drought of 1781, leading to terrible inflation. Two years later, the Mleczna River flooded the city , leaving behind slime that covered the streets. There was never such a period full of tribulations in Radom as there was at that time. Epidemics followed the fire and flood. The walls that surrounded the city were destroyed. No remnant remained of the royal towers. The castle was also partially destroyed and abandoned. During the Swedish-Polish war, the Swedish King Carl-Gustaf took revenge on the residents of Radom for destroying their military brigade. He completely destroyed the royal castle.
The city came to live economically during the time that the tribunal was active in Radom. It grew and developed. Jews again opened about 20 shops around the area where the tribunal sat, and Jewish merchants did business. However, they were once again a thorn in the eyes of the citizens of the city, who hated them and again succeeded in driving out the Jews with the power of the privilege. The conquerors again inherited the Jewish economic positions and their income from the tribunal sessions.
However, once again their happiness did not last long. In 1764, the Sejm disbanded the Radom tribunal, and the hopes and dreams of the citizens went to oblivion. The economic situation in the city grew more and more serious, and one could not hope for any help from outside. The entire country was shaken by the partition of Poland, and the war of the bourgeoisie that was in progress.
The Starosta [district leader] Potkanski then realized that he could only revive business in the city and increase the income with Jewish help. He convinced the citizens, who had no other choice, that they must agree to allow Jewish residents back into the city. They had previously suffered 43 years of terrifying, difficult, bizarre misfortunes, before they came to their senses and rectified the travesty that their parents had perpetrated upon the Jews.
On March 3, 1789, supported by the unanimous decision, the Starosta annulled the decree of 1746 and restored the rights of the Jews to settle in Radom. The Jewish ghetto in Radom, occupying an area near the royal palace in Podzamosca, began its existence from that time.
That particular area had suffered greatly from the aforementioned flood that left behind deep mud and swamps. The Jews did not despair, however, and they began to build their first wooden houses in that area (which later became the Shul Gasse), and built
up the first Jewish quarter, which was surrounded by the destroyed stone wall of the royal castle.
With the sums of money that Jews paid for the permission to settle, as well as the sums from taxes that were collected, the Starosta set out to restore the almost collapsed castle and to dig a canal through Krakowska and Stare-Miasto, to protect the city from future invasion.
At the time of the first partition of Poland in 1795, which marked the end of its political independence, Radom fell into the hands of the Austrians. It became an Austrian city and received all its directives from Vienna. However, the Poles did not make peace with the fact of their occupation, and they strengthened their struggle against the occupation. The legions took every opportunity to fight against their enemies and free the fatherland from their hands. Immediately after the creation of the Duchy of Warsaw, the Polish military, under the command of Józef Poniatowski, chased the Austrians out of Radom and liberated the city. There, Poniatowski's militia united with the army of General Dąbrowski on July 4, 1809.
However, the Duchy of Warsaw, which was set up by Napoleon, could not maintain itself without his help. Napoleon's downfall meant and end for the duchy, and the Russian military took over Poland. Congress Poland, with eight districts, was established in accordance with the Treaty of Vienna. Radom was the capital of the Sandomierer District.
A period of economic prosperity began in the city at that time. New houses, factories, and stores were built. The development was so significant, that the district commission could find no place to build their house other than Lubelska Street, which was previously the seat of the Starostowa [district office]. On August 1, 1844, when Nikolai I proclaimed the unity of the Sandomierer and Kielcer districts, including the Radom Gubernia, Radom found its place in the rank of large cities of Poland.
The decree of 1822 regarding the creation of separate Jewish quarters did not pass over Radom, even though, in any case, the Jews had not been outside of their ghetto for a long time. Life became stronger with the decrees, and the Jewish quarter developed and expanded to the extent that a new street was created: Wałowa.
The first Jew who broke through the walls of the Ghetto was Shabtai Fineklsztajn, a lessee of the appraisal office. The interior minister decided that he brings profit to the treasury, and he may therefore live in the Rynek.
by Leizer Fischman
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Two Radom journalists were employed in researching the history of the Jews in Radom: the student of Professor M. Balaban, Shmuel Benet, who began his work with the Radomer Zeitung, and in the periodicals about knowledge of the land; and Leizer Fischman (editor of the Radom Shtime) who wrote in the Trybuna.
The judge Josef Bekerman also began some historical monographs.
Their work provides a general picture of the period when Jews began to settle in Radom.
We know a few details about Jews in Radom in the previous centuries, which are included in the historical material about the city and in historical research about Jews in Poland. Those facts, however, do not give a general picture about the life of Jews in Radom in those times. In general, we must reach the conclusion that the history of Jews in Radom as a communal group (even a small one) dates from the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries.
I will bring down here the aforementioned details, but I can only create a detailed, reliable picture about the life of Jews in Radom from the year 1814, supported by material from the Radom civic archives.
I had the opportunity to research that material on the eve of the Second World War, and to publish it in part in the local Jewish press of Radom.
When one mentions the year 1814, one must note that the Jewish community consisted of 34 individuals two years previously, and by 1815 there were already 413 individuals (and 2,313 gentiles).
There was no
material regarding the past of the Radom Jewish community. There was also no ledger of the Chevra Kadisha [Burial Society], which is the basis of historical research for many Jewish cities in Poland.
One can also find a few details about Jews in the general material about Radom that notary Jan Lobjinski published in 1914, however they are presented very briefly, and they lose their historical worth due to his negative attitude toward Jews. For example, he blames the sanitation situation in the city at the end of the 18th century on the Jews, based on a document that is report to the police commission, sent by the commissary officer of the Sandomierz (Tzoizmirer) division. According to the report, there was no doctor or surgeon in Radom at the time, and the city sewers were not in good order: Everywhere there is a stench, and especially among the Jews. There is not even a bath. The air is polluted and has become suffocating. Lobjinski adds his personal remark: From this, one can surmise the degree to which the Jews (in whose hands was the largest portion of commerce), sullied our cities.
That remark cannot be understood, as Lobjinski states in the same monograph that first in 1789, the Starosta Aleksander Potkanski permitted a single Jewish family to live in the city. How could a single Jewish family pollute an entire city?
Then Lobjinski brings the fact that a Jew was burned at the stake in Radom in 1743, apparently for blasphemy.
In 1814, the Radom obywatels [citizens or squires] conducted a struggle against the few Jewish residents, to drive them out of the city. Were we not familiar with the history of that tragic period for the Polish people at the beginning of the 19th century, we would reach the conclusion that the obywatels had no other concern than the weakening of the privileges of the city of Radom. Then, the city changed hands from one occupier to another! This was taking place at the fateful time for the existence of the Polish people, at the time of the historic Vienner congress!
Let me now present the few details about the Jews of Radom in the early times, as described in various Jewish and non-Jewish publications:
In 1633, the Polish King Władysław II granted the city of Radom the privilege of De non tolerandis Judaeis, which forbade Jews from living and doing business in the city. In 1724, August II confirmed that privilege. In 1743, the Imperial Austrian court issued a special decree regarding this. However, since the Starosta Stanisław Świdziński had permitted a Jewish family to settle in the city, the obywatels turned to the same law that was the cause of a trial against the Starosta in 1746, and imposed a fine of 200 grzynwas if they do not leave the city.
The first Jew to officially receive rights of residence in Radom was called Mendel-Zelig. He had a shop near the castle. This took place on March 3, 1789. Relying on a special agreement between the Starosta of that time Aleksander Potkanski and the city council, he was not evicted. In the agreement between the Starosta and the city, there was a point noting that Mendel-Zelig and his family would lose their rights of residence in the event that he dies or he leaves the city. A few Jewish families who until then had lived in the periphery, outside the castle, began to move to the area of the city in 1795.
During the time of the tribunal that held its sessions in Radom from between two and twelve weeks a year, and to which many interested parties would come (officers of the kingdom, members of the clergy, as well as Jews), the city had to provide the visitors with means of living and other merchandise. Having no choice, the obywatels had to agree that, during that time, Jews could open shops around the castle, which was where the tribunal held its sessions. Jews legally opened approximately 20 shops there during the period that the tribunal was in session.
Then, the magistrate conducted an uncompromising action against the Jewish rights of residence, and even wanted to completely eject them from the suburbs. However, from time to time, the action was tempered through the involvement of the administrative authorities. There were only 34 Jews in the city in 1812, but two years later, one could already find a few hundred Jews there. In 1815, there were already 413 Jewish individuals more than 15% of the general population of the city.
The sudden growth of Jews in the city in such a short time can be explained by the chaos in the Polish royal life at that time. This was at the time of Napoleon's march through Poland to Russia. Jews then took advantage of the circumstances and came to Radom. This gave the obywatels or Radom no rest, and the city council did not sit with folded hands. In 1914, they brought it to the second highest council of the Duchy of Warsaw, which issued a decision on November 3 that the Jews are not permitted to live in the city itself, but only in the two suburbs of Podwalna and Neiwelt [Nowy Świat]. It seems that the verdict dealt with the fact that, in any case, the largest number of Jews lived in Podwalna, which was situated on the border between the city and the castle. On the other hand, the Neiwelt did not have any great significance
for the city, because it was not on a major road, and it was not developed.
On January 1, 1815, as a result of a consultation, the city council sent to the following letter to the Mayor Jozef Krilikowski (a Doctor of Philosophy, later a professor of Polish literature at the University of Poznań):
Since the Jews in Radom have no rights of residency, and as a result, given that the central regime permitted them to live in two places, so that the ordinance will not be invalid the city council must fulfil its duty to request that the mayor make every effort to ensure that the Jews will leave the forbidden places by the specified deadline.
Jews should no longer be able to build houses in Podwalna, on account of its small area and the danger of fires and communicable diseases. Rather this should be restricted exclusively to Niewelt.
The letter concludes with the following sentence:
The city council fully counts on and places complete trust in the mayor regarding the question of evicting the Jews from Radom, and expects that the will of the residents of the city will be carefully protected by him; he should be vigilant and should do everything necessary to achieve the goal and solve the problem
Even though the city council invested a great deal of energy to ensure that the Jews be driven out of the forbitten areas in a single day it did not come so easily to them. The reality was much more difficult. On January 28, the mayor stictly forbade the Christian homeowners in the city from renting dwellings to Jews. They were threatened with removing their rights of management of their homes if they transgressed the ban. He also warned the city notaries that he would not certify any agreement between Jews and homeowners in the forbidden areas.
The living conditions in Podwalna were unbearable, and Niewelt was far from the center of town and the sources of livelihood. The desperate Jews therefore remained in their old, forsaken places. On July 1, two soldiers from the eighth infantry division were billeted in every Jewish home. The soldiers were to receive full board, of the value of 13 groszy daily, from the Jews. Aside from this, the Jews had to pay the city treasury a fine of three zloty daily. The next morning, the mayor raised the payment for the soldiers to a full zloty, and the fine for the city treasury to six zloty a day. On the third day, he again raised the fine to nine zloty a day, and the daily allotment to each soldier to a zloty and 15 groszy, with good comfort.
The desperation reached the point where the Jews Frenkel and Moszkatblit left their dwellings. They set up their wives and children in rooms in the same courtyard, and they themselves fled from the city. The police inspector Skorupka reported to the mayor on July 5 that Frenkel and Moszkatblit had left Radom, and set up their families in rooms on a temporary basis. For security reasons, such as the possibility of fires, the mayor requisitioned those dwellings and ordered that the two families be evicted from the rooms on Friday July 7, with two communal administrators as witnesses that the eviction be carried out. The removed belongings were to be transported to the community in Podwalna, under the supervision of the eldest of the family. The requests of Mrs. Frenkel and Mrs. Muszkatblit to delay the eviction by two weeks were rejected.
A few days after the evictions, the mayor demanded that the parnasim [communal administrators] Chaim Simchowicz and Aharon Landau pay 78 zloty as sanction money to the city treasury, which was the amount owed by the evicted families for the soldiers that were billeted with them. The mayor justified his rights to demand the sum from the parnasim, for the evicted families, Frenkel and Muszkatblit, were formally given over to the supervision of the community. If the demand would be refused, three soldiers would be billeted in their private dwellings, who would have to be provided with full board in good conditions, as long as the aforementioned families remain under the protection of the community.
The two aforementioned parnasim approached the prefect in writing with their request. The mayor wrote the following words:
Do not believe the claim of the community that they did not take in the evicted goods free willingly. Furthermore, do not believe the claim that they only took in the goods because they were lying outside in the mud.
The mayor further requested of the prefect that he realize that the aforementioned communal leaders were acting against the ordinances of the authorities, and therefore should be punished appropriately. The prefect indeed informed the community on July 17 that he does not accept their request, and that the sum demanded by the mayor must be paid to the city treasury.
Thus, through the entire autumn, the question of collective responsibility of the community was established. The final decision of the prefect strengthened the hand of the mayor, and the enclosure of the Jews into the crowded ghetto became a reality.
We find among the city deeds from that time a document that expressed the difficult burden of the responsibility that the authorities placed
upon the community. The last one sought to avoid conflicts with the authorities. Perhaps there were other factors that caused the communal people to write the following memorandum to the city president:
We, the undersigned communal members, in our names and in the names of the entire community, being burdened with families and individual people of our religion, who are moving in greater numbers to the local city and who do not participate in the payments for the community or in the burden that we bear for the regime. Furthermore, when one of the newly settled people transgresses something, the local Jewish residents must be responsible for him, not even knowing the reason. Therefore, in order to avoid such unforeseen cases that cam bring harm to us, for we already bear enough difficulties permit us to give the matter over to the high president to consider. We request that he grant, in accordance with his rights, an order that he should conduct an inquiry of all arriving families and individuals of our religion. If it is determined that some of them, even if they have already been here for several years and have not been registered in the communal ledgers, are not found under our control we request that you order that they all be inscribed in our ledgers, so they shall remain under our control and they will also bear, along with us, all burdens for the benefit of the community as well as participate in all payments for the benefit of the national treasury, etc.
Signed: Lozer Margolis, Avraham Lezjorowicz, Chaim Symchowicz, Zelig Mandelewicz.
After considering the memo, the mayor wrote:
No more outside Jews will be accepted in our city. Those who have arrived through trickery must be registered in the community by the communal elders, and the community must deal with their issues. Further directives will follow! Since, according to the city rights, the Jews are forbidden from living here the communal heads are strictly responsible for every Jew who arrived in that manner.
From the requests and complaints of the Christian homeowners, one can see that they too were not happy with the restrictions of residency for Jews, because this brought them material harm. A special recalcitrance against those ordinances was seen from the owner of the lozhenkes (cabins). Mr. Olblinski and the mayor rejected it for lack of goodwill toward the city, stating that he was an unreasonable citizen.
The homeowner Jan Bojka (of the Lubliner suburb, opposite the Bernardine Church, which was later called Ulica Żeromskiego), where Ber Borochowicz lived, opposed the residency ordinances, and sanctions were placed upon him. In a letter to the mayor, he requested that he be freed, or at least that the penalty be reduced. However, his request was not accepted.
There is also a document a complaint against Mr. Staniszewski, the homeowner on Zereszkow, which was then a village that belonged to the city. The complaint was taken to the mayor by city steward Kodelski in July 1815, as follows:
Despite the directive of the mayor to the notaries to expel Jewish loafers from the villages, no positive results ensued. On the contrary, new Jews came to the villages, especially to the so-called brewery building owned by Staniszewski. Therefore, the undersigned request that the mayor be willing to enlist military help to preserve order. For in the absence of such help, we will be incapable of uprooting that stubborn Jews from the villages of the city.
A different homeowner in the same village, Mrs. Widocko, presented her petition to the mayor that the ban on renting dwellings to Jews is causing her material damage. The following was the response of the mayor to the petition: The request is approved. It is indeed true that Mr. Widocki's house is far from the city, and she has nobody else to whom to rent her dwellings, other than to Jews.
A conflict also ensued between the steward of the royal palace and the mayor: In 1789, an agreement was sealed between the Starosta of that time Mr. Potkanski, and he city council regarding permitting the Jew Mendel Zelig lifelong rights to live in the region of the castle. Now the mayor requested that the new ordinances also apply to Mendel Zelig. The steward, Mr. Chojnacki, wrote to the mayor on February 21, 1810, as follows:
No ordinance in this matter that goes against the agreement that was sealed between the Starosta Potkanski and the city has even the minutes judicial force. Any attempt to utilize executive means will be considered as a breach of the agreement.
As already mentioned, however, Mr. Olblinski especially participated in his fight against the residency ordinances, until he was victorious.
To illustrate the suffering and tragic situation of the first Jews in Radom, It is worthwhile to present another few documents and numbers.
The evicted Jews from the years 1815-1816 found themselves in an exceptionally difficult and desperate situation. The crowding was very great in Podwalna. This caused both the mayor and the city council to not permit the building of new houses there. Regarding Niewelt, aside from the fact that it was far from the city and the Jewish Podwalna, there was an insufficient number of houses there.
According to the statistical data from October 20, 1815, there were 413 Jews in Radom at that time. Probably, several other Jewish families lived in Podwalna.
We do not have sufficient data regarding how many Jewish houses were in Podwalna at that time. However, considering the small area, we estimate that Radom in general had fewer houses. From the statistical table, we know that in general, Radom had 200 wooden and 36 brick houses.
In the villages of the city where Jews also had to abandon their houses, there were 63 Jewish individuals in total: 27 in Dzierzków, 12 in Gołębiów, 8 in Zamłynie, 2 in Młodzianów, 9 n Wolia- Gołębiówska, and 5 in Kozia Góra.
There were 2,313 gentiles living in the city, and 603 in the aforementioned villages.
Moshe Hagelsztajn, the lessee of kosher slaughter, was among those who remined temporarily in their previous living places. At first, he was not evicted on account of the agreement with the regime regarding the kosher meet concession. In accordance with the agreement, he had rights to live in the city as long as the agreement was valid. Later, he continued to remain in his dwelling, for the agreement with his landlord was still in effect until June 24, 1816. However, the usual danger of being thrown out onto the street had its effect upon his nerves and upon the general state of health of Hagelsztajn's wife. She suffered from a severe state of depression, and was treated by Ryeba, the only physician in the city. When Hagelsztajn had to leave his house, his wife was in a particularly bad situation. Hagelsztajn presented a request to the mayor that he postpone the eviction for four weeks, assuring him that he would leave on time. The request was accompanied by a medical statement from the aforementioned Dr. Ryeba, as follows:
Mrs. Hagelsztajn has suffered from hysteria for a year already, and she often falls into a melancholy. The sick woman requires fresh air. Since the houses in Podwalna are overcrowded, and the air is not clean, the sick woman must therefore remain in her current dwelling at least for four weeks. The health situation of the sick woman should improve by then. Currently, she is very weak.
The mayor acceded to Hagelsztajn's request. He would, however, be fined if he does not move on his own accord by July 20, a few days before the end of the four weeks.
The situation with Mendel Zelig, who had the concession for the sale of salt, was similar. Mendel Zelig's daughter became deathly ill as the deadline for leaving the dwelling approached. Later, he became ill, and it was not possible to evict hm for a long time.
From the aforementioned documents and facts, we can see the attitude of the mayor and the city council toward the remaining Jews, and the means that that undertook against them.
The Population in Radom
Number % Gentiles
Number % Total of Jews
1815 413 15.5 2,313 84.5 2,726 1820 505 13.0 3,364 87.0 3,869 1822 505 13.3 3,278 89.7 3,783 1827 1,000 23.2 3,302 76.8 4,302 1828 992 23.0 3,514 77.0 4,306 1838 1,161 -- -- -- -- 1852 2,126 -- -- -- -- 1856 1,618 20.3 6,344 79.7 7,962 1862 2,724 27.0 7,349 73.0 10,073 1893 8,021 42.6 10,799 57.4 18,820 1897 11,277 37.7 18,619 62.3 29,896 1909 16,976 42.4 23,005 57.6 39,981 1910 20,530 43.1 27,074 56.9 47,594 1921 24,465 39.7 37,134 60.3 61,599 1931 25,159 32.3 52,743 67.7 77,902 1938 24,745 29.0 60,368 71.0 85,113
In 1905, the population in the entire region (including the districts of Radom, Kunice, Opoczno, Opatów, Kozienice, Drildz (Iłza), and Tzuzmir (Sandomierz) numbered:
Catholics 816,619 individuals Evangelicals 14,231 Pravoslavs 2,254 Jews 143,239 Total: 975,883 individuals
What the Civil Record Books State
According to the few documents and statistical data about Jewish life in Radom that we have in our possession today, we can deduce that the Jewish communal life in the city was first organized around the end of the second decade of the 19th century.
There were only 34 Jews in Radom in 1812. In 1815, the number grew to 413 individuals, and in 1820 to 505. The number was almost the same two years later. On the other hand, in 1828, we again see a significantly larger growth, with around 1,000 Jewish individuals. Apparently, the sudden growth was not natural, based on births. The increased number was due to Jewish immigration from the neighboring towns and villages. This changed the attitude of the local administration and connections.
If we assume that a Jewish family at that time consisted of four or five individuals on the average (that means, approximately 200 families), one can understand their weak situation regarding communal life in the full sense of the term. We indeed know that in the years 1812-1815, when the few Jews in Radom had to fight for their living rights there a few representatives made representations in the name of all of them. The situation underwent changes, causing the local authorities to see the need to regulate the civilian stand of the Jews which means to formally register the births, marriages, and deaths. Jewish communal life then took on a legal form and format, although there was no cemetery until the year 1831.
The civil standing was instituted on January 11,1836, when the first act was inscribed in the books. Incidentally, we find those books to be in well-preserved form to this day in the archives of the civic court of Radom.
Relying on those books, which the writer of these lines studied in 1949, , we discover many interesting details about those times. That source is also very important for us because we are unfortunately lacking many original Jewish sources, such as, for example, the ledgers of the Chevra Kadisha [burial society, which is the foundation of the history of local Jewish life for most locales. The collected statistical data in chronological form, regarding Jewish weddings, births, and deaths (which we present here in a special table) gives us a picture of the existence and growth of the Jewish population in Radom, almost from the beginning until the final destruction.
The local authorities in fact maintained three books in parallel, in which every Jewish event and Jewish civil situation was separately inscribed. This gives us the possibility to precisely determine the data regarding the civil situation, and to normalize and control other data and statistics.
The first death entry was registered on January 11, 1826. The literal copy of the entry (translated from Polish) is as follows:
January 11, 1826. According to the testimony of Avraham Blatt from Baruf a beadle, and Hershek Zylberberg from the village of Długojów, Freidel Wolf, a 50-year-old woman, died on January 10.
This is followed by the signature of the witnesses in the Yiddish language.
The first birth entry, registered on the same day, is literally as follows:
On January 11, 1826, the father Hersh Zylberberg, 34 years old, a farmer from Długojów, testified [about the birth of a child]. The child was named Shlomo. This was also confirmed by the witness Avraham Blatt, a beadle, and Aharon Fudelbaum, a glassmaker.
(The witness signed below, in Yiddish.)
A change took place in the life of the small Jewish community of Radom, in that they had to concern themselves with securing a full-time rabbi, who would be responsible to the authorities for the accuracy of the civil registry. The signature of a rabbi was missing from the aforementioned documents. The first marriage record, from May 28, 1826, was signed by the rabbi of Włodawa, Rabbi Leib Noach Kohen. The registration entry is as follows:
Leib Noach Kohen, rabbi of the city of Włodawa. Michael Lewi, 21 years old, the son of Jozef Solomon and Ewa, who are members of the medical trade (practice? profession?) and Ludwika Martinowa, Bebtel-Chaimowicz, 16 years old, daughter of Martin and Dorota from Włodawa. In the presence of the registration officer Feliks Lewkowicz, police council, and Stanisław Kwartszewski, pharmacist. In Radom, certified on the 21st of June 1826, Michael Lewi and Ludwika Bettel-Chaimowicz got married.
Signed: Rabbi Leib Noach Kohen.
This was the only case through the entire period of collecting civil registrations in Radom that non-Jews participated as witnesses. That case can
possibly be explained in that there may have not yet been a stable protocol for such cases, for until that time, the ledgers of civil registration were maintained by the church authority. In this case, it could also be that the parents of the young couple were to a large degree assimilated. We can deduce this from the Polish-style names and social standing as medical professionals.
A birth document is attached to a wedding entry of 1839, which tells us about a completely different form of inscribing birth events. On January 17, 1822, the parson of the diocese of Blotnica, which belonged to the deanery of Jedlinsk in the district of Radom, which dealt with the civil registry, reported that a resident of Blotnica (who lived there with rental and leasing rights) Shlomo Kalmanowicz, 24 years old, appeared with a newborn child of the female sex, born on the 15th of that month, at 4:00 p.m. He declared that the child was from him and from his wife Rachel Izraelowicz, 22 years old. His intention was to name the newborn child Lea-Malka. As witnesses to giving the declaration and presenting the child were Kalman Szliamowicz, a merchant, and Berek Michalewicz, an innkeeper in Blotnica. The canon Piotr Faltszewski, parson in Blotnica, certified the accuracy of the document.
The second marriage registration, from August 31, 1826, was signed by the local rabbi of Radom, Rabbi Chaim Lebendiker. He confirms that on August 22, the wedding took place of 20-year-old Chaim Weisbord, born in Radom, son of Abish and Zisl (who earned their livelihood from the slaughter of animals) to the 16-year-old girl Rachel, daughter of the butcher Leibish Rozenblat. The witnesses were Manek Blatt and the butcher Leib Kirszenbaum. Signed by: Rabbi Chaim Lebendiker of Szydlowiec, who lived in Radom.
Apparently, Rabbi Lebendiker did not serve as rabbi in Radom for a long time, because in the years 1831 and 1832, it was noted in the wedding registration book that no Jewish weddings were reported. This note is signed by Aharon Himelblau, spiritual leader (i.e. rabbi).
Taking into consideration the small number of registered weddings in relation to the size of the population, we can see that the Jews in Radom were indifferent to officially registering their formalities. For them, the religious wedding ceremony was sufficient to normalize family life. That means that the number of weddings was actually larger than the statistical numbers in the books would indicate.
Also, the sudden growth of the number of births was certainly a result of previous neglect. It would seem that the administration was then forced to register the children who had been born earlier, and who were not registered at the time.
The fact that no weddings were registered in the years 1831 and 1832, and that the number of births significantly declined, whereas the number of deaths grew (130 instances of death in 1931) was certainly due to the epidemic that spread in Radom.
Such a circumstance was also noted in Radom from the years 1915-1920, during the time of the First World War. There was a significant increase in deaths, a decline in the number of births, and a great decline in the number of weddings, as one can see from the table.
From the year 1831, the Jews of Radom had a cemetery in the village of Rajec, a few hundred meters to the right of the Radom-Kozienice highway. It was known by the label The Fourth Verst.
The civil registry books that were maintained in the Polish language switched to Russian from January 19, 1868. However, the signatures of the rabbis and witness were in Polish for a number of years. Rabbi Mohilewer was an exception, for he signed in Russian. The books were maintained in that fashion until the Austrian occupation. From then on, until 1940, they were in Polish.
From 1940, there was no longer any registration of Jews in the civil record books.
The final marriage was registered on September 1, 1939, the day of that the war broke out. That was the wedding of Yaakov Zwikelski. However, 223 deaths were registered from September 1 until the end of the year.
Fourteen new births were registered in 1940. During that same period, 22 births were noted, in which the baby died before a name was given. Also, 433 births of babies born in the last months of 1933 until the beginning of 1940 were registered late (seemingly due to the abnormal situation).
It is interesting that the registration of Jewish babies in 1940 included such names as Ryszard, Emelia, Felicja, etc. …
During the period of registration in the civil record books, from 1826 until 1940, 8,803 weddings, 40,076 births, and 26,671 funerals were registered in Radom.
Year Births Deaths Weddings Year Births Deaths Weddings Year Births Deaths Weddings 1826 42 53 3 1865 536 138 64 1903 386 278 141 1827 33 55 5 1866 306 218 63 1904 644 376 142 1828 20 52 1 1867 316 290 47 1905 375 250 92 1829 32 32 1 1868 385 304 39 1906 390 322 108 1830 62 48 1 1869 313 180 46 1907 511 286 130 1831 13 130 0 1870 277 232 43 1908 560 302 122 1832 32 37 0 1871 227 186 73 1909 660 356 153 1833 38 44 2 1872 253 202 55 1910 551 337 110 1834 39 47 2 1873 171 386 54 1911 575 319 123 1835 36 53 2 1874 422 188 48 1912 541 288 91 1836 45 57 2 1875 224 174 31 1913 580 317 128 1837 38 97 5 1876 197 158 30 1914 538 360 85 1838 22 60 3 1877 265 163 40 1915 401 692 38 1839 29 26 8 1878 303 269 42 1916 443 507 80 1840 24 42 5 1879 404 210 56 1917 430 510 98 1841 63 48 3 1880 290 196 62 1918 657 565 163 1842 74 38 8 1881 225 215 76 1919 918 502 260 1843 73 97 26 1882 305 219 55 1920 1019 536 227 1844 129 82 49 1883 261 181 67 1921 813 456 141 1845 158 85 18 1884 242 181 154 1922 572 319 153 1846 130 165 38 1885 239 285 54 1923 751 279 197 1847 98 170 24 1886 329 176 39 1924 635 352 138 1848 120 172 54 1887 234 181 60 1925 1000 310 198 1849 128 116 57 1888 90 209 62 1926 730 368 114 1850 95 88 38 1889 281 289 49 1927 865 270 115 1851 100 110 63 1890 250 207 59 1928 497 291 135 1852 130 138 53 1891 374 177 74 1929 830 301 161 1853 94 70 53 1892 310 316 68 1930 677 317 133 1854 241 174 47 1893 547 251 89 1931 505 276 117 1855 81 304 56 1894 503 581 80 1932 479 271 127 1856 92 192 55 1895 407 294 101 1933 463 350 121 1857 210 118 48 1896 797 172 114 1934 564 350 102 1858 106 92 66 1897 429 301 99 1935 509 325 110 1859 172 84 82 1898 456 294 101 1936 494 330 126 1860 104 140 64 1899 716 232 146 1937 525 323 116 1861 132 132 62 1900 443 254 86 1938 617 342 147 1862 416 144 64 1901 364 350 89 1939 747 430 55 1863 214 158 64 1902 356 225 121 1940 469 495 190 1864 333 124 46
by Judge Josef Bekerman
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Since the first Jew was martyred on the soil of Radom (he was burnt publicly on a pyre in 1743, apparently for blasphemy. It is possible that this was not the first case) Jews no longer left the city, and all deportations did not persist. For example, a few years after the deportation of 1746, we find 67 Jews on the list of residents who were living in Radom. The 67 lived there officially, had reported themselves and were inscribed in the lists. However, the number who lived there illegally is unknown.
Furthermore, those who were officially registered did not have equal civic rights. They also did not receive such later when Napoleon proclaimed civic equality in accordance with the law. The Starozakonne were not permitted to leave their ghettos and to utilize the privileges of the Napoleonic codes.
When permission was given in 1814 to set up a special quarter for Jews (on the Wolowa, behind the former walls of the city), there were already small, very simple houses there. There is testimony to this from an accusation by the fortress from the year 1567, which states:
There, there is a built-up courtyard. Nearby a wall and excavations, three of which are always full of water. In the corner of the low houses there is an exit from the ramparts.
The Congress Kingdom that was established on the ruins of the Duchy of Warsaw did not practically change the situation. The same civic rights, which they had according to the existing laws, were upheld for the Jewish masses. That means that the rights of the Jews were defined only according to their obligations that they had to fulfil, however, they had no rights to make use of the privileges.
In 1831, the Jews were obligated to add family names to their names. That year the community institutions were disbanded, and were replaced by parnasim [communal administrators] and communal heads.
For a long time, Jewish Radom did not have its own cemetery. The dead had to be taken to Przytyk and even to Opoczno. During the great cholera epidemic of 1831, they were first permitted to establish a Jewish cemetery at the Rajec baths. Within a brief period, it became full of fresh graves. That old section of the cemetery where the victims of the cholera epidemic are buried became overrun with weeds, covering all hills and valleys. One could no longer determine the location of a grave.
A cemetery is a symbol of independence: only a living settlement possesses its own cemetery. However, a Jewish community cannot exist without a synagogue. If the independent Jewish houses were to have an existence, they must also struggle to build a house for G-d. Yitzchak and Mendel Kirszenbaum, Yaakov Yechiel Margolis, Netanel Bekerman, and Yaakov Ditman the soap maker all became involved in that effort. The dedication of the synagogue took place in 1845.
The building of the Jewish hospital was much more difficult. Here it is appropriate to cite the song of the famous poet, Heinrich Heine, dedicated to his wealthy father, the philanthropist, who built a hospital for people who were suffering from a trifecta of misfortunes: poverty, illness, and Jewishness. In Heine's opinion, Jewishness was the worst of the three misfortunes, and this had no cure…
Until then, the situation was such that when my grandfather wanted to set up a shtibel on the ramparts, one of the honorable merchants warned him that he should not do so,
for the merchants would sever their business dealing with him and boycott him.
The great day for Radom Jewry first came on May 24, 1862 when they finally attained equal rights. This was granted by the nobleman and aristocrat Morgrabia Aleksander Wielopolski, who agitated against many high-profile people, and especially the priests.
The Jews considered this a miracle, and the nobleman Morgrabia Wielopolski was considered by them to be a great righteous gentile. However Aleksander Wielopolski fell into disgrace amongst his own, and they turned away from him. He left for Dresden, when he died, forgotten by all his friends.
When the body of the Morgrabia was brought to Poland, and his funeral passed through the town of Dzialoszyce, the local Jews came out to pay him his last respects. They brought his coffin into the synagogue and prayed for his repose, and for the elevation of the soul of the great, humanitarian benefactor.
Wielopolski was educated in the spirit of the Napoleonic codex, and in equality of the law for people. He regarded it as a great travesty when he once received a Jewish delegation that had been insulted. He told them:
I strive to rectify things, and to cancel every restriction that encumbers you, both as a minister of religion, as well as a jurist. The spirit of the citizenship law, which is a link in the chain that unites us with Europe, is against every exception of the citizenship court. I am also against the new notion that prior to obtaining equal rights, you must abandon work in industry and instead, hitch up to a plow. In truth, agriculture is very honorable work. I myself am an agriculturalists by calling. However, we always had enough workers of the soil, and we are specifically lacking a middle class. We will make efforts to develop such, and this will be your portion in the economy.
Morgrabia Aleksander Wielopolski was the first to open the doors of the ghetto. His reforms would have brought much more fruit had the authority not been removed from his energetic hand.
From the editor: this article is an excerpt from a larger work that Dr. Josef Bekerman published in 1937 in the Trybuna periodical of Radom.
by M. Stashevski
Translated by Jerrold Landau
A letter arrived from Frankfurt in 1936, which made an impression in Radom.
The letter was from the rabbi of Frankfurt, Rabbi Kirshenbaum, and was addressed to the rabbi of Radom, Rabbi Kestenberg. He writes as follows:
In its time, our community gave over, via the agency of Baron Rothschild, a sum of 3,600 florin, for the purpose of helping you build a synagogue in Radom.
We possess a receipt for that sum, signed by Mr. Reuven Rozenbaum and Mr. Yitzchak Korman, the president of the community.
Now, we unfortunately are forced to ask for that sum of money in return.
Our parnasim [communal administrators] read this, were surprised, and began to search into the old communal ledgers.
That letter was a sad statement regarding the situation of the Jewish communities in Germany, which were barely in the third year under the rule of the enemy of the Jews, Adolf Hitler, may his name be blotted out. If such a large, wealthy community as Frankfurt was forced to request a return of a sum of money that they had given for our synagogue decades previously, then the situation of the Jewish community in Germany was not happy at all
However, how did it come to be that this expenditure of Frankfurt came to be considered as a loan?
It is worthwhile to tell over a story from Piotr Bekerman, whose grandfather, Saneh Bekerman of blessed memory once told him:
You cannot hide it, the grandfather said, how much effort this cost us and how much degradation we had to suffer until we merited to have a synagogue in Radom. For until then, you should know, we were in a bizarre situation, without a way out: we did not have rights to build a synagogue, and we could not
create a community. We were also not permitted to have our own cemetery. Therefore, we were forced to transport our dead to Przytyk. We had to live in Radom but die in Przytyk, and it was quite a distance to visit family graves.
However, life is stronger than all the decrees, and does not care about the ‘quarters.’ Jews settled near the wall. The spread out through the surrounding small alleyways, with the crowded, suffocating huts.
At that time, the governor of Radom was the Count Oferman. More than once, I presented our unfortunate situation to him, until he himself found the fortunate way for us. He made use of a rare coincidence, thanks to which we were able to have the synagogue.
It was as follows:
Once, the government summoned me and said: ‘You can take advantage of a rare moment and have your synagogue… But this will require your personal effort in this matter. You must turn to a certain address…’
‘What must I do, Mr. Governor? Who should I approach?’
‘ To your Baron Rothschild… You are now traveling to Karlsbad to recuperate. From Karlsbad, the train goes to Frankfurt am Main. It is not far…’
‘To Baron Rothschild?’ I said in amazement.
‘Yes… When I was the Czar's adjuvant, I accompanied him to Karlsbad. I was present when your baron was introduced to the Czar. He was then dealing with a loan for Russia… The baron, with his wisdom and tact, made a good impression on the Czar at that time. I remember that, as they parted, the Czar said to your baron: If you need anything, you can always approach me… Furthermore, a permit to build a synagogue in Radom could only have been given by the Czar himself. He certainly remembers the promise that he gave to your Baron Rothschild, and if your baron would ask, the Czar would not refuse, I believe…’
‘What do you suggest!’ I called out in surprise, ‘Should I travel to the Baron?’
‘Go… I will give you a letter for the Baron that you will deliver to him in person.’
The governor gave me a sealed letter and, of course, I immediately traveled to Frankfurt with it. I requested an audience with Baron Amschel Mayer Rothschild, and he received me courteously. I gave him the letter from the governor and told him what was pressing us. The baron listened to me with his heart and the next day, he gave me two letters. Both were sealed, but I felt that our salvation lay therein… One letter was to our governor, and the second was to the well-known Warsaw banker Herman Epstajn.
As he gave me the letters, the Baron said:
‘One letter is a request to the Czar, and I hope that he will not refuse… The second letter is an accreditive that when you build the synagogue and start the roof, the banking house of Herman Epstajn will pay a specific sum of money[step in with financial assistance]. That is my personal contribution to your synagogue.’
So, what shall I tell you, children?… Not even a half year passed before the governor sent for me and told me the news: the Czar approved… He gave his consent to build a synagogue in Radom…
This is what Saneh Bekerman told his grandson Piotr. That is the story of the synagogue in Radom.
However, as it seems, not only did the Baron Rothschild give his own contribution for the synagogue, but the Jewish community of Frankfurt also responded warmly and gave their contribution.
Now, in 1936, the wealthy Frankfurt community unfortunately reached the state where it was forced to consider its donation as a debt.
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