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Translation of Dombrowa Tarnowska chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Translation of Dombrowa Tarnowska chapter from
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
Richard A. Cooper
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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume III, pages 107-111, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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Dombrowa Tarnowska is first mentioned as a village set up under the Magdeburg laws in a document dated 1422. It appears that the village existed before that date, during the second half of the fourteenth century. During the 15th and 16th centuries it developed to become a commercial and cultural centre for the surrounding area. During the years 1611 1614 there were many artisans in the village including tailors, shoemakers, furriers, weavers, potters, oil producers, etc. During this period there was also a metal works, a saw mill, and a flour mill. There was a weekly market as well as an annual trade fair held in October, (during the 18th 19th centuries the trade fair took place three times a year). During the 18th century Dombrowa was famous for its horse and cattle markets.
Until 1637 Dombrowa belonged to the estate of the Legenza family. One member of the family Mikolai Legenza was the secretary of King Zigmund August of Poland (mid 16th century). His son, Mikolai Spitak Legenza, a writer and orator famous in his time, set up a printing press in Dombrowa (in 1618) where he had his books printed. During the 16th 17th centuries the area became a significant cultural centre; visited by many famous people of the time.
Between 1691 and 1693, when the area belonged to the Lubumirski family, a town called Lubumeiz was established near Dombrowa. Between 1690 1110, 300 people settled there. In time, the village became part of this town and together became known as Dombrowa Tarnowska. Two other villages were established nearby in 1773 1774, Bagainica and Zasamcza which were only annexed to the town in 1926. During the 19th century, Dombrowa was a backward town; with wooden houses susceptible to fires which broke out almost every year, (between 1883 and 1889 the town was destroyed by fire four times). Till 1939 the citizens of Dombrowa used an 18th century water system. Only in 1906 did Dombrowa become part of the railway line linking it with Tarnowska.
It appears that the first Jews settled in Dombrowa at the end of the 16th century. Documents from the year 1611 mention an inn keeper named David Womberg. A Jewess named Salomeh was baptised in the local church in 1691. With the development of the town (at the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th) the number of Jews in the town grew. It can be assumed that at the end of the 17th century there was an organised Jewish community in Dombrowa. In 1765 there were 646 Jews (147 families) in Dombrowa; 57 of the families owned their own houses. Most of the Jews lived on the northern side of the town. The majority were artisans and a minority were businessmen. Among 51 heads of families listed in the 1765 census, 28 were artisans (9 tailors, 3 hatmakers, 3 smiths, 3 glassmakers, 4 bakers, 3 butchers, a needlemaker and a metal worker, ) and only 4 businessmen. In addition there was a valuer [term not understood] rabbi, Chazan, assistant Chazan, 5 teachers, 2 wedding entertainers, a Shamash, undertaker, 'Hekdesh" attendant and a bath house attendant. At the end of the 17th century there were workers guilds in Dombrowa and two Jewish butchers belonged to the butchers guild. Some local Jews hired trade franchises in 1760 for the sale of beer and alcoholic drinks in Dombrowa and the neighbouring villages of Niecience and Kozobovica for the sum of 16,000 'coins~'. The franchise also included the right to sell tobacco, candles and fuel as well as the use of the flour mills and tax due at the fairs and weekly markets held in Dombrowa. Their names are: Michoel Moshkowitz Bolslavsky, Yekel Radgovsky, Mark Otpinowsky, Yosef Pauka, Shlomo Patzanovsky and Shlomo Yakobovitz.
Four Jewish families were instructed by the government to leave Dombrowa in 1796 1797 to settle in a village under the Austrian "productivity" policy. The expenses (250 florins per family) were charged to the local Jewish community. Under the same government policy a Jewish school was founded by H. Homberg in 1788 attended by 30 children. In 1794 this school existed only for the summer, and it ceased to exist in 1799. At the end of the 18th century Dombrowa, in common with other Jewish communities which had become part of Austria found itself in debt.
During the first half of the 18th century the Hasidic rabbis of the Unger family set up their "court" in Dombrowa, something which had an effect in increasing the Jewish population. At this period most Jews were involved in small business and artisanship. Many of the Jews at this time were poor. The poor were the first to succumb to the cholera epidemic of 1855. The epidemic broke out again in July 1873 and by the end of the month 30 people had died. On one day alone, the 4th August, 22 Jews died of the epidemic. This time the Jewish community organized itself to try and improve the situation. A small Jewish hospital was set up and an appeal was made for funds to feed the poor.
As already mentioned the Jewish community of Dombrowa was established in the second half of the seventeenth century. In 1697 a wooden synagogue was built. A new and more elaborate synagogue was built in 1865. This synagogue building was financed by the local philanthropist Isaac Stern.
The first rabbi of Dombrowa was Rabbi Zevi Hatevy Lichtig, who served as rabbi in 1780. In 1800 the position was held by Rabbi Zevi Hersh Unger. In the 1870s and l880s Rabbi Yosef Katz served as rabbi and later became rabbi of Janow. He was followed by Rabbi Shabsai Katz Rapaport. After his death in 1898, his position was filled by his grandson Rabbi Nachum (the son of Rabbi Yekel) Weidenfeld, the author of Chazon Nachum. (He perished in the Holocaust.)
A Hasidic dynasty was founded in Dombrowa by Rabbi Mordecai Dov, the son of Rabbi Zevi Hersh Unger during the first half of the 19th century. He was disciple of (Rabbi Yaacov Yitschok Horowitz] the "Hozeh" of Lublin. After his death in 1843 he was succeeded by his son Rabbi Yosef (d. 1866), who was succeeded by his son rabbi Yisrael Elimelech who later moved to Zabno and was known as the Zabno Rebbe. It appears that his place was filled by his brother inlaw (soninlaw of Rabbi Yosef) Rabbi Meir the son of Rabbi Menachem Mendel [Rubin] of Glogow, author of Mevaser Tsedek, who moved later to Rszeshow. In 1880, Rabbi Moshe Elyakim Briah (the son of Rabbi Yisrael Elimelech Unger) was rebbe in Dombrowa. He moved to KoSiCe (Slovakia) in 1914 and was succeeded by his son Rabbi Yitschok Eliezer. Between the wars the following Hasidic rebbes lived in Dombrowa: Rabbi Chayim Yechiel the son Rabbi Meir (Rubin], Rabbi Yitschok Isaac the son of Rabbi Chayim Yechiel, and Rabbi Meir, a grandson of Rabbi Chayim Yechiel. Rabbi Meir Rubin perished in the Holocaust.
Until the introduction of compulsory education in Galicia, Jewish children learnt only in "Cheder". After that a small number, first of girls and later boys as well, began to attend the local schools. From 1871 a representative of the Jews of Dombrowa served on the local Board of Education, which was situated at first in Tarnow and later in Dombrowa. A Jewish school founded by Baron Hirsh was established in 1893. In the school year 1983 4 it was attended by 49 pupils and in 1908 it had 150 pupils. The language of instruction was Polish but Hebrew was also taught. In 1908, Rabbi Shabsi Katz opened a Yeshiva which was attended by 60 young men.
Dombrowa had a Zionist group already in 1893. Among the founders of the group were members of the professional intelligentzia; doctors, lawyers and managers. Leon Mahler was the representative of Dombrowa Zionists at the Regional Organisation of Zionist Groups of West Galicia.
From the 10th of November 1914 the town was under Russian occupation. The resulting conditions of starvation and poor health caused an outbreak of typhoid in January 1915 which claimed many Jewish lives.
At the end of 1918 a pogrom was conducted by local villagers against the Jews of Dombrowa. Many Jews were injured and houses and shops were looted and destroyed. The local police arrested several suspects, but in April 1919 the pogroms were repeated; this time with the participation of General Haller's troops. In that year the Polish representatives in the town council suggested that the local villages should become part of the administrative district in order that the Jews should not form a majority of the town population. The Jewish councillors resigned in protest.
During the last years of the (first World) war and particularly after the end of it, the local Zionists increased their activities. During the 1920s and up to 1939 the following groups had branches in Dombrowa; Mizrachi, General Zionists, Poalei Zion and the Revisionists. 104 Shekalim were sold in Dombrowa for the 16th Zionist Congress in 1929, and 474 for the Congress in 1935.
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From the twenties onwards there were groups of "Gordonia" and Young Mizrachi. A branch of "Akiva" was set up in 1921. During the thirties, there were also groups of "Hanoar HaZioni" and "Hashomer Hadati".
Agudas Yisrael also had a branch in Dombrowa and acted as successor to the Machzikei Hadas religious organization which had been set up in 1881. A continual feud went on between Agudas Yisrael and the Zionists over their influence in the Jewish community council. In 1918 more than ten Zionist representatives joined the council, but the council was dissolved by the Polish government in 1919. A commissioner was appointed with the task of arranging new elections. The elections took place in 1921. The influence of the Zionists in the Community council was reduced. In 1934 three Zionist representatives were elected including the chairman of the council Moshe Fleisher. Other Jewish groups which operated with financial support from the Town Council were "Bikur Cholim" (aid for the sick) "Gemilus Chasodim" (free loan fund) and "Tomchei Aniyim" (aid for the poor).
In the municipal elections of 1921, 23 of the 38 town councillors elected were Jews. In 1926 after three neighbouring villages (Bagainicia, Podkoszeileh and Rodi Zazamca) were annexed to Dombrowa,the number of Jewish councillors decreased. It appears that throughout the period between the two world wars, the post of deputy mayor was held by Jews. The position was held by Yosef Chill from 1921 to 1927, and Yaacov Chill from 1934 to 1939 both of them from a family of landowners in Dombrowa.
Because of the poor economic situation after the first World War the community was unable to afford the upkeep of the Baron Hirsch School (founded 1893). The building was rented to the Town Council, as was the "Talmud Torah" building.
In the autumn of 1934, a branch of "Tarbut" (Jewish culture) organisation was founded and they organized Hebrew language courses. Jews were among the founders of the local "Gymnasium" (high school) which was opened in the twenties, and there were Jews among its teachers as well. A Jewish library had already been set up by the Zionists in Dombrowa before the first World War, and it continued to exist between the wars. A "Macabi" sports group was established in the early thirties but it had to close down soon due to financial difficulties.
The peasants in the Dombrowa area were supporters of the Polish Peasants Party (Stranicbo Ludova) and frequent anti-government demonstrations took place in the area. Anti-semitic slogans were often displayed at these demonstrations, and the Jews of Dombrowa were always afraid of these demonstrations being directed against them, leading to pogroms.
Between December 1939 and March 1940 Jewish refugees from other parts of Poland which had been annexed by the Third Reich (Lodz, Skiernowicz and others towns) and Cracow arrived in Dombrowa. By the end of 1940 there were several hundred refugees from Cracow in Dombrowa. Numbers of refugees grew further in the spring of 1941, and in the spring of 1942, Jews who had been expelled from the surrounding villages arrived as well. 1500 Jews from Dombrowa were sent to a labour camp which had been set up in Postkow in March 1942. In May 1942, 3,100 Jews were living in Dombrowa.
During the years of German occupation most sources of income for the local Jews ceased to exist and by the middle of 1941, 80% of Jews required assistance for food, clothing and shoes.
The Judenrat which was established at the end of 1939 or the beginning of 1940 organized an aid committee for those in need. Financial help, food and clothing was already provided in 1940 to a substantial number of refugees, as well as Dombrowa Jews who had been sent to labour camps in Dombrowa, Nowy Sanc and Postkov(there were 100 Jews from Dombrowa at this camp in the spring of 1941). At the end of 1940 a soup kitchen was established next to the Judenrat; in May 1941 it provided 330 midday meals per day. (It provided 7815 meals a month, out of which 1054 were not paid for.) The kitchen still existed in March 1942.
In September 1940 the Judenrat applied to the Jewish Aid Society in Cracow for financial aid. Because the Society was being reorganised at the time, this request was not answered until the end of the year. From January 1941 to May 1942 the Aid Committee of the Judenrat and later the local branch of the Aid society received 9000 Zlotys. In April 1941 alone, the Judenrat distributed 5,833 Zlotys to those in need and in May of that year 4,273 Zlotys. At the end of 1941, the Judenrat organised a distribution of wooden shoes to those in need at a cost of 3000 Zlotys.
In June 1942 (apparently after the first "transport") the Judenrat set up workshops in which 412 people were employed. They included 215 tailors, 43 shoemakers, 24 blacksmiths, 16 furriers etc. The workshops had about 160 machines. They operated under the temporary permit issued by the German occupation forces in Dombrowa.
The bad state of health, the starvation and poverty caused a typhus epidemic in February 1941. Twelve Jews were affected, two of whom died. A temporary hospital was set up in the Talmud Torah building, where some of the typhus victims were accommodated. On the 19th of February the German government announced a curfew in the town; the villagers were not allowed to enter the town and the Jews were not allowed to leave their homes. The Judenrat chose 70 men whose duty it was to go shopping to provide food for all those under house arrest and distribute hot meals from the communal kitchen (500 portions a day without any payment). In January 1942 the epidemic broke out again, and a small hospital was again operating intermittently between the 15th of January and the 31st of March. It then closed and was opened again on the 22nd April.The Judenrat borrowed 2500 Zlotys for its activities from private individuals and received 500 from the Jewish Aid Society. These sums were not enough to cover the costs of the hospital and the medical staff worked without payment. It is noteworthy that until the middle of 1941 there were no Jewish doctors in Dombrowa, but in 1941 there were two Jewish doctors, both refugees from Cracow, and the Judenrat set up a clinic. At the end of 1941 Jews were forbidden to leave the town; Jews found outside the town were shot. The small amount of trade with neighbouring villages ceased as a result. Young men were taken to forced labour at Postkov.
At the beginning of 1942, the Germans began to murder Jews in their houses and in the streets. On the 16th and 17th of March many Jews were shot to death in Dombrowa and Szczucin. On the 28th of April more than 20 Dombrowa Jews, including women and children, accused of being "communists" were killed. At the beginning of June, the Jews were required to pay a "contribution" of 50,000 Reichsmark. on the 19th of June the town was surrounded by German police. Jews were taken out of their houses to the town square. They were forced to stay for two hours on their knees with bowed heads. Whoever lifted his head was shot on the spot. During this roundup and during the time spent in the square more than 50 Jews were killed. Over 450 Jews were sent to the death-camp at Belzec. A group of youths who had been previously registered to be taken for forced labour and were being held in the Town Hall at the time of this roundup were then transported to the labour camp in Mielec.
Within a few weeks the Jews who still lived in the neighbouring villages were brought to Dombrowa. The Polish police helped the Germans in this action. On the 22nd July a closed ghetto was set up. On the 24th 25th July (according to other sources it was on the 17th of July) the main deportation took place. More than 100 Jews were murdered in Dombrowa and about 1800 were sent to the extermination camp at Belzec. Several hundred Jews were still in hiding in Dombrowa. During the second half of September 1942 the third deportation took place, in which Dr Neuberger, the head of the Judenrat was murdered. Now as well, some Jews managed to hide, or escape to the forests, but due to the harsh conditions in their places of hiding, most of them returned to the ghetto. This group too, were taken to Belzec, probably in October 1942. A small group of Jews were left to clean up the area of the ghetto, as well as the members of the Judenrat, the Jewish "police" and their families. About 30 of these were murdered by the Germans in April 1943 in Dombrowas's Jewish cemetery.
At the end of the war about 50 Jews returned to Dombrowa, but they left together with the waves of Jewish emigration from Poland after the liberation.
AJDC Archives: Countries - Poland, Reconstruction 399
Dabrowa Tarnowska: Zarys dziejow miasta i powiatu, Warszawa 1974; S.Zabierowski, Pustkow.
Hitlerowskie obozy wyniszczenia w sluzbie poligonu SS,Rzeszow 1981.
Nasz Glos - jednodniowka Hitachdut malopolski Zachodniej i Slaska.
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