"Przedborz" - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume I
(Poland)

51°05' / 19°53'

Translation of "Przedborz" chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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Acknowledgments

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Morris Wirth

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Our appreciation to Sandy Zimmerman, who allowed us to publish
the translations which were done by Shalom Bronstein for her private use.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland,
Volume I, pages 206-208, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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(pages 206 - 208)

Przedborz
(District of Konskie)

Translated by Shalom Bronstein

 

Population Figures

YearTotal
Population
Jews
1764/65(?)665
18272,7171,801
18574,2683,154
18975,9274,089
19215,8853,749
September 1, 1939 (?)approx. 4,500

 

Table of Contents

I.The Jewish Community Until 1918
II.Between The Two World Wars
III.The Holocaust
IV.Sources

The Jewish Community Until 1918

Przedborz is mentioned in documents dating from 1145 as being under the jurisdiction of the Trzemeszno Monastery and King Casimir III(the Great – 1330-1370) granted it the status of a city in the 14th century. In 1638, a fire destroyed the city and it burned again in 1660, after the Swedish Wars. On the other side of the river was the suburban community of Widoma that had 340 residents in 1862.

It seems that the first Jews settled in Przedborz during the days of Casimir [Kazimierz] the Great. There is a tradition that the King came to visit the city and helped its Jews. The first authoritative account of Jews in Przedborz is from the year 1595. From that year, the king of Poland prohibited the Jews of Przedborz from purchasing new homes or acquiring houses in the city. In 1636, the Jews had 10 of the 162 housing units in the city and a synagogue. A fire destroyed the houses and synagogue in 1638. In that same year, the king gave Jews permission to rebuild their homes and the synagogue but it is not known if this was carried out. Nearly nineteen years later the entire Przedborz Jewish community was wiped out by the bands of Czarniecki (1557)*. After the 1660 fire, Jews began to return to Przedborz, and it seems that from then on they made up the majority of the population and owned most of the town's homes. (After the fire, it appears that the Christian residents left the city and did not return). In 1745, the Jews were permitted to build 25 houses in the center of the city; by the end of the century, they had 37 houses. In the middle of the 19th century, a Jew by the name of Goldberg established one of the first two factories in Przedborz. Another Jew, whose name was Weinman, built a large toy factory and a sawmill in the beginning of the 20th century. However, the main source of livelihood for the Jews of Przedborz was commerce and skilled crafts.

It seems that there was already a Jewish community in Przedborz at the end of the 16th century. It was then that the cemetery that served the community until the middle of the 18th century was consecrated. The reestablished community was organized at the end of the 17th century, after the majority of the Jews had been murdered, as was stated above, by the bands of Czarniecki. By the middle of the 18th century, the community was prosperous, and it erected a magnificent wooden synagogue, one of the most original examples of artistic creation in Central Poland. It would seem that it was constructed by Yehudah Leib, the most famous artist of his day, who also built the Pinczow synagogue and began to construct the synagogue in Dzialoszyn. The new cemetery in the suburb of Widoma, which functioned until the Holocaust, was also consecrated at this time. In Widoma, which was across the river, there was an offshoot of the community with its own rabbi and head of the religious court.

The name of Przedborz was known throughout Poland. The community's first known rabbi was R. Aaron, who in 1684 was involved in the well-known controversy in Amsterdam concerning the local rabbi, R. David Lido. Serving as rabbi in the beginning of the 18th century in Przedborz was R. Naftali Herz Landa, the son-in-law of R. Tzvi Ashkenazi (Hatam Sofer). He died in Przedborz in 1729. Among the twelve signatories to the edict of excommunication issued by Polish rabbis against the Frankists, is the signature of the rabbi of Przedborz, R. Saul, son of Shmuel Landa. The approbation of the next rabbi in Przedborz, R. Yehuda Leib, is found in the book of R. Joseph Tiktin, Rosh Yosef, which was published in Feurth, Germany in 1764.

R. Natan Neta Eybeschutz, the nephew of R. Jonathan Eybeschutz, followed him in the position. He gave an approbation to a new edition of the Talmud which was published in Nowy Dwor in 1783. Serving as rabbi in Przedborz for a short time was R. Arieh Leib Halpern, the author of Hidushei Hamihar”a. He left Przedborz for Opatow from where he went to Sochaczew. Among his disciples were two young men whose names became greatly respected in Poland. One, a native of Przedborz, R. Ya'akov Yitzhak, later known as “The Holy Jew of Przysucha;” and the second, a native of Lask, R. Isaiah of Przedborz, known as “Weltfreid – i.e., Happiness of the World.” When R. Arieh Leib Halpern left Przedborz, the two of them went to study with the rabbi of Lissa, R. David Tevel, and finally they were the disciples of the Seer of Lublin (Hozeh MiLublin).

When R. Isaiah Weltfried was appointed rabbi of Przedborz, he established a Beit Midrash that produced some of the generation's leading rabbis, such as R. Shlomo Rabinovitz of Radomsk [Radomsko], the author of Tiferet Shlomo and R. Aaron of Krakow. He was noted as an Admor (head of a Hasidic dynasty) and founded the dynasties of Przedborz and Rozprza. After his death in 1831, his son Emmanuel refused to succeed to his position, and in his place, it was occupied by R. Moshe, son of R. David of Lelow. Only when R. Moshe moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1850, did his son Emmanuel agree to occupy his father's former position as rabbi. He served in Przedborz until his death in 1865. After his death, a controversy broke out in the town over the position of rabbi. At first, his son, R. Abraham Moshe, who was noted for his musical arrangements for the High Holiday prayers, was named rabbi. However, he had disagreements with the community and left to serve in Sulejow and Rozprza. He returned to his city in 1915 where he was welcomed with enthusiasm. He died in 1918. In 1885, R. Yehudah Licht, a native of Belzec, was appointed rabbi of Przedborz. He was well known through his book Sefer HaBe'er, a commentary on the Aramaic translation of the Torah. He was followed by R. Leibish “Harif,” who is known as one of the most important deciders of Jewish law of the generation. Larger communities invited him to serve as their rabbi, but he declined and served Przedborz until his death.

There is no indication of the secular enlightenment (Haskalah) gaining a foothold in Przedborz until World War I. Modern schools were not established there and life continued according to Jewish tradition. Until 1918, no modern political organization operated. However, in 1905 some overtones of the revolution did arrive. The “revolutionaries” from among the young people threatened the leader of the community, Haim Marmelstein, and he had to hide from them for a few days in the cemetery.

During World War I, a soup kitchen was organized in Przedborz that distributed food rations to needy Jews and to refugees who arrived from other cities. After the Balfour Declaration, the Tzi'erei Zion organization was founded (1918), “Kultur Verein,” and alongside it a library bearing the name of Sholom Aleichem.

Between the World Wars

The majority of the Jews of Przedborz earned their living during this time through trade and skilled crafts. A small number of them were factory owners and a few dozen were factory workers. Except for the ten major lumber merchants, most of the Jewish retailers in Przedborz had stalls in the market or were peddlers in the villages. Most of the 200 skilled artisans were tailors or shoemakers. Fifteen carpentry shops marketed their produce in Silesia and Lodz. Among the professionals were two Jewish doctors.

In the 1920s, economic organizations were established: the organization of petty merchants (1924) and the organization of skilled craftsmen, which concerned itself mostly with getting professional licenses for its members. These two organizations established free loan funds that lent money to their members at no interest. The Co-operative Bank in Przedborz was established in 1927 and capitalized at 3,300 zloty. It lent up to 250 zloty to the needy at low interest.

The economic condition of the Jews in Przedborz worsened in the 1930s. The authorities impounded many stores whose owners were behind in tax payments. The Jews of Przedborz sought help from the town's former residents living in the United States. In 1932, some 200 families required help of the Passover Fund [for their holiday needs]. During the interwar period, many young people left the town and moved to other cities.

Practically all the Jewish political parties that existed in Poland, except for the Bund, operated in Przedborz. Among the Zionists, the strongest movement was the Mizrahi. In the elections for the Zionist Congress in 1929, it won 62 out of the 123 votes cast and in 1938, 218 out of 320 votes. Mizrahi organized the Torah v'Avodah and the Hashomer Hadati youth movements. It also established two kibbutz preparation units, one for the youth of the city and the other for religious pioneers from other towns. The town also had branches of the General Zionists, Poalei Zion, Hitachdut and Hatzahar. The Hehalutz youth movement also had a branch in Przedborz and they, too, launched a kibbutz pioneer preparation unit. At the end of the 1930s, branches of the Dror, Noar Tzioni and Betar youth movements were founded. Agudath Israel also organized in Przedborz in the beginning of the 1920s. In 1922, the organization Agudath Israel Youth [Tzierei Agudath Yisrael] was set up and it had 150 members when it was started. In Przedborz, there was also a recognizable group of Jewish communists. At the end of the 1930s, they took control of the Kultur Verein and were active in the areas of culture and education.

The influence of the various political parties was not felt in the Jewish community elections. The residents preferred voting on local concerns. The head of the community all this time was Zisman Tiberg, a Zionist leader. He arrived in Przedborz during World War I and was highly thought of both by the Jewish community and government officials. He was an active participant in the Polish underground in 1905. In the municipal elections of 1930, the Jews won 14 of the 24 seats. For a while, a Jew served as vice mayor of the city. Of the 8 members of the city management, there were almost always 2 Jews.

The rabbi of Przedborz until the Holocaust was R. Natan David Greenboim, the grandson of R. Leibish “Harif.” Besides the synagogue and the Beit Midrash, there were five prayer houses [shtiblach]. The largest was that of the Gerer Hasidim.

Even between the two World Wars, the Jews in Przedborz did not have secular educational institutions. A “new' Heder was established with the modern innovation of separate graded classes. In all of the Hadarim, in the afternoon some Polish and mathematics was taught. The girls studied in the Polish elementary school, and beginning in the 1930s, they also studied in evenings at the Beth Jacob School established by Agudath Israel in Przedborz. For one year, 1927-1928, a Yeshiva run by R. Haim Asher Gorfinkel, the Admor of Radoszyce existed in the town.

Przedborz had two libraries – one, connected with the Kultur Verein and named for Sholom Aleichem was under communist influence, the other was connected with Mizrahi. The Kultur Verein also had an active drama club especially in the 1930s.

The sport's organization, Gibor, was founded in the beginning of the 1920s. After most of its membership left the city, the branch was closed in 1927 and resumed activity in 1930.

The Anti-Semitism that increased in the area in the 1930s, showed its signs in Przedborz especially in 1927 with attacks on the Jewish peddlers in neighboring villages.

The Holocaust

In World War II, there were fierce battles for the control of Przedborz. The Germans entered the city and were forced to withdraw. Only after further battles did they capture it. The city was virtually reduced to rubble, especially its center, which was totally inhabited by Jews. Among the sites destroyed by fire were the beautiful old synagogue and the house of the Admor, R. Isaiah. Most of Przedborz's residents sought refuge in the surrounding area. On their entry into the city, the Germans shot Jews that they picked off on the bridge. When they finally captured the town, they opened fire on the Jews in the marketplace. In both cases, there were dead and wounded. In the first days of the occupation, Jewish males were held for three days in the ruins of the synagogue and the Beit Midrash. Immediately afterward, a hunt for all Jewish males began in order to send them for the difficult work of repairing the bridge that had been destroyed in the battle, to work in the sawmill of Bieltzki and in the quarries in the area. Between the years 1940-1941, young Jews were sent to labor camps, among them was one in Czestochowa. Before the ghetto was set up, that is in 1939 and the beginning of 1940, several Jews from Przedborz or Jews from the area, who were caught, doing business or buying needed supplies in the surrounding villages were shot. Among them were Kleinman, Marmelstein, from the village of Czermno, and Veitzenblit. Witnesses testify that the Germans caught them after Polish informants betrayed them.

In Przedborz, a Judenrat was appointed. Avigdor Tannenbaum, formerly a lumber merchant and restaurant operator and the leader of the local Revisionist Zionists was chosen chairman. A Jewish police force was also established. A ghetto was created in Przedborz in the beginning of 1940, presumably in January, in the suburb of Widoma, where mostly Jews lived in its center. The ghetto was not walled. At its outer limits were signs sternly warning Jews not to leave its confines. However, Jews left without interference. The 'Aryans' also came to the ghetto. The Jews carried on illegal trade in the area and purchased food without any difficulty. On the other hand, a Jew caught by the police outside the ghetto could expect to be fined and the death penalty awaited anyone caught buying and selling – as described above. Later on during the occupation, in 1941 or 1942, the ghetto was closed, but we have no data on the nature of its closing. From then on, contact with the area was more difficult, and they were forced to make do with the food rations distributed by the authorities.

When the ghetto was established it had only 2,800 residents. Many Jews left the city during the war [1939] and in the first months of the occupation. With time, the flow of refugees who were joined by relatives of Przedborz residents from other locations increased the number to its maximum of 3,300 in May 1942. Jews from surrounding villages were transferred to the ghetto in March or April 1942, bringing the number to 4,300.

The community was liquidated on October 9, 1942. The Jews were relocated to Radomsko, some on foot (32 kilometers) and some on wagons. On the way, near the village of Granice, many Jews tried to escape and the German police shot most of them. The Jews of Przedborz who were brought to Radomsko were deported on October 10-12, 1942, along with the local ghetto residents, to the Treblinka death camp. In the Aktzia in Przedborz, the German police murdered the elderly, ill and many children. The Germans promised the eight members of the Jewish police and one member of the Judenrat, presumably to get their help in the deportation, that they would not be deported from Przedborz. They lived up to their promise, in their own way – while the deported were on their way, the Germans had these nine shot.

A few of the Jews from Przedborz survived the Holocaust, either in hiding or in 'Aryan' houses of acquaintances. After the war in 1945, nine Jews, eight men and one woman, left their hiding places and returned to Przedborz. They lived in the former restaurant building that was owned by the Jew Vishinsky before the war. They suffered a bitter fate. In 1945 or 1946, even before the Pogrom in Kielce, they were attacked by members of the right-wing Polish underground, bound and loaded on a truck. They took them to the nearby forest in Radoszyce where they were shot. The leader of this Pogrom was Dovski, a well-known pre-war anti-Semite. The names of the victims that we know are – Leizer Lizband or Liwerant, Leibel Schwartz and his wife, Bezalel Vishinsky, Haim Alexanderovitz and Lipmanovitz.

In the 1960s, some former residents of Przedborz visited the town as foreign tourists. They found the Jewish houses of Widoma destroyed. In Przedborz itself, most of the Jewish houses were destroyed in 1939. The Jewish cemetery in Widoma, near the bridge, was completely defiled, with only a few tombstones remaining. The other tombstones were used to pave the streets of Przedborz and Widoma during the days of the German occupation.

 

Przedborz Synagogue (from the 1930s)

Sources

Datner, Sh., Wehrmacht un Felkermord [Wehrmacht and Genocide] in Bletter far Geschicte [History Newspaper], 1951, volume 4, section 2, pages 61-62.
Piotrkow Trybunalski and Vicinity, Tel Aviv, 1965, page 269.
Radomsk and Vicinity Yizkor Book, Tel Aviv, 1967, page 988
Yad Vashem Archives, E/87-2

Newspapers –
Di Zeit – 1930, numbers 18, 20, 21, 22, 35, 39, 40; 1931, number 1; 1932, numbers 1, 19, 21.
Einikeit - October 9, 1945
Haint - August 27, 1931; July 31, 1935.
Hatzofeh – 1934, number 1669.
Lodzer Folksblatt - November 11, 1915.
Unzer Tzeitung - June 24, 1927.

Notes

* This date appears in the Hebrew text although it seems incorrect and does not fit. Perhaps, it should be changed to 1667. Return


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