“Radomysl Wielki” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume III
(Poland)

50°12' / 21°16'

Translation of “Radomysl Wielki” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Lancy Spalter

Translated and submitted to the Yizkor Book Project by Lancy Spalter
for the Kolbuszowa Region Research Group (KRRG)

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission
to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Polin:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume III, pages 338-341, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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(pages 338-341)

Radomysl Wielki

(Sub-district Mielec, District Krakow)

Translated by Lancy Spalter

Population
YearOverall
Population
Jews
18803,1411,670
18903,3321,920
19002,9321,702
19103,0531,875
19212,4681,422

Radomysl Wielki was founded in 1581 as a private town, property of the nobility. The king exempted it of taxes for a period of 4 years and granted it rights to hold fairs. But the town was mainly based on agriculture, the source of sustenance of its dwellers. Some dealt in the trade of horses.

Jews were at first denied residence in R-W and the first Jewish settlers had to live out of town. The earliest Jews of R-W were found in the suburb of Blonie. They were farmers who leased the land from the town owners. With the development of R-W, the Jews became its urban social stratum and all the trade was in their hands. The Jewish merchants marketed the surplus of the agricultural produce of the area also in the neighboring towns. As from the early 18th century, some Jews of R-W leased estates in the area. Jews also made a living from crafts and there were shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, glaziers and tinsmiths. In the 18th century, tavern keeping was an important source of income among R-W Jews.

In 1764 there were in R-W 300 Jews older than one year of age. Sixty-two Jews lived in hamlets. The number of breadwinners exceeded 70; 15-16 out of them were merchants, 5-7 were craftsmen and 2-3 officiated in religious services. With the annexation of R-W to Austria, Jews were excluded from sources of sustenance in which they had engaged till then, especially from tenancy and from the production and sale of alcoholic beverages. Most families continued to make a living from small trade and from crafts, including stalls at the market and peddling in neighboring villages. To escape the hardships of poverty, many sought to immigrate. Immigration increased considerably in the 1880's. In the early 20th century, Jews were badly damaged by the great fire in town; most of the Jewish homes burned down.

An organized, independent Jewish community did not exist in R-W until the 18th century; the settlement was subject to one of the larger communities in the region. As far as the community's organization was concerned, R-W belonged to the district of Sandomierz-Krakow. By the end of the 18th century, there was already a Jewish cemetery, and the Jews used to tell that they had received the land for the cemetery as a gift from the town owners. On the same land, they built a synagogue, a Beth Midrash and a ritual bath that had been “consecrated”.

Rabbi David ben Rabbi Meir Hacohen was the first rabbi of R-W, having come from Kolbuszowa. His term in town lasted apparently from the end of the 18th century to early 19th century. His son, Moshe, continued after him. In 1886, Rabbi Shmuel Engel was appointed as Rabbi and Head of the Rabbinical Court. He had authored the books “She'elot Uteshuvot Meha-Ra”sh” (Questions and Answers from Rabbi Shmuel) and “Chidush Meha-Ra”sh” (Innovation from Rabbi Shmuel). The name of Rabbi Shmuel was prominent in Galicia and he was recognized as a magistrate and great scholar. At the outbreak of WWI, Rabbi Shmuel left town and settled in Koszyce, were he was appointed Rabbi and Head of the Rabbinical Court. Chaim, his son, occupied his place in R-W, first as Head of the Rabbinical Court and, on this father's death in 1935, also as Rabbi.

Most of the Jews of R-W were Hassidim. Rabbi Abraham Chaim Horowitz, the Admo”r 1 of Plontsch (Poloniec), resided there for a long time. The town had kloizes 2 of the Hassidim of Zabno and Nagrodzisk. Towards the end of the 19th century, the first Zionist circles appeared in R-W. The “Zion” group was the first foundation of the Zionist Organization in town. The library opened in 1911 and also a Hebrew complementary school, that taught some 50 children. Still, most of the children studied in private “Cheders” 3. There was an attempt to establish a “Talmud Torah” 4 in 1910, but WWI delayed the project until the early 1920's. At the outbreak of WWI, more than a few Jews left the town, which had been conquered by the Russians, and most did not return after the Russian retreat.

Between the Wars

All November of 1918, the Jews of R-W were subject to terror inflicted by the Polish soldiers that raided the town. The local rabble and the soldiers actually carried out a pogrom on the town's Jews. They were beaten on the streets and their homes and shops were ransacked. The Jews of R-W organized a self-defense group, made up mostly of soldiers in the Austrian army who had returned home. The pogrom lasted several days. The local Catholic priest played a notorious role in instigating against Jews.

At the end of 1918, an Aid Committee was created. Its main purpose was to restore the Jewish economy, which had been badly damaged during the war and the unrest of the transition months. With the support of the Joint, a public kitchen was opened to cater free hot meals to the poor. In the years 1918-1922, half the Jewish population needed welfare. Some received assistance from their relatives in the U.S.A. and some applied to the public welfare institutions mostly funded by the Joint.

Small trade, which had been the source of income of most R-W Jews, was almost stagnant at the end of the war. An improvement of the economic situation of the Jews was felt only during the late 1920's. The Jews established in town warehouses of chemical fertilizers, two factories of cement, a small factory of sweets, cosmetics laboratories and many dealt in hatting, a craft that flourished in R-W. Some 20 families made a living from peddling in villages but, in general, many breadwinners aged 25-40 were unemployed. Many of them left town and moved to nearby places. A group of youngsters immigrated to Germany. The most stable sector was that of the craftsmen. They included 6 tailors, 5 bakers, 3 tinsmiths, 3 carpenters and a few who worked in bookbinding, barbershops and other public services.

According to incomplete available data, the distribution of Jewish earners at this time was:

Income of work forceNumber
of workers
Merchants60
Shopkeepers, peddlars and carpenters100
Craftsmen and day laborers80
Liberal professions12
Sustained by relatives abroad40
Undefined40
Total332

Many needed support to ensure a living for their families. For this purpose, in 1927, the Kupat Gemilut Hassadim 5 was established; it granted free loans. During the first three years, the Fund granted 566 loans for a total of 72,350 zloty. The merchants and craftsmen organizations (“Yad Harutzim”) came also to the aid of the needy and gave their members low-interest loans. There were also traditional welfare institutions – “Bikur Holim” 6, “Linat Hatzedek” 7 and “Tomchei Ani'im” 8.

All the Zionist organizations active in Poland and their Youth Movements existed in R-W during the inter-war period. The most remarkable were the General Zionists “Tzionim Klali'im” who took most of the votes in the elections to the Zionist Congresses. Indeed, the results of the elections indicate the balance of power between the different Zionist currents (see table).

Results of the elections to the Zionist Congresses (1929-1935)

YearTzionim Klali'imPoalei ZionRevisionistsMizrachiWorking
Eretz Israel
192969352518--
193169--4113
1935157----371

There was a branch of “Agudat Israel” in R-W with a school for girls “Beth Yaakov”. The extremely orthodox Jews had a decisive influence in the Community Council. Most children continued to learn during this time in private Cheders and only a minority attended the Hebrew complementary school of “Tarbut” in addition to their regular education according to the state laws. Jews had a remarkable influence in the Town Council; about half the Council members were Jews, as was the Deputy Mayor. And yet in the 1930's the antisemitic propaganda increased in town. There were cases of shattered windows in Jewish shops, events that foretold the oncoming WWII.

The Second World War

During the last days of August 1939, there was increased tension and fear among the R-W Jews. Many young Jewish men were enlisted to the Polish Army. After the outbreak of the war, many Jewish refugees sought shelter in town, and were assisted by the community. When the front became closer, many local Jews started to abandon town and to move with other refugees eastward. R-W was taken by the Germans on September 7, 1939, and the same day Wermacht soldiers abducted Jewish men for forced labor.

On the day following Yom Kippur 5700 (September 24, 1939), called by the local Jews “The Black Sunday”, SS units rounded up the Jewish homes, dragged out mainly the men and concentrated them in the market square. Here they abused them and pulled their beards. As a result, many shaved their beards themselves; Orthodox Jews, who could not come to terms with the situation, refrained from going out on the streets.

The curfew, the restrictions of movement outside town, the heavy taxes and the damages to the sources of income, impoverished the R-W Jews. During the first months of the occupation, the Jews held contacts with the local population and, by trading goods for food, they tried to alleviate their economic situation. The order to establish a Judenrat came at the end of 1939. The heads of the community hesitated whether to take part in this institution, but they decided to obey, out of responsibility for the welfare of their fellow members.

Yermiahu Leibovich, a firm Zionist who had been Deputy Mayor before the war, was assigned to head the Jewish Council. The Judenrat's functions included gathering home furniture and furnishings to hand over to the Germans, collecting contributions and supplying a daily quota of people for forced labor. There was a welfare department working side by side with the Judenrat; they helped the needy and, on their initiative, a public kitchen was organized. Jewish refugees from Mielec, Dembica and especially Krakow came to R-W in 1940. They joined the lines of those in need of help. The welfare department and public officials did their best to ease their hardship.

In early January of 1940, the Germans registered all the Jewish men in town to ensure full and controlled utilization of the work force.

In the fall of 1940, kidnappings of young Jewish men to be sent to the Pustkow Labor Camp started. Some weeks later, a few succeeded to escape from the camp and returned to town. They told about the hard conditions in camp. The news made the R-W Jews organize a public committee to send food, clothes and medicines to the Pustkow Camp inmates. To create permanent working places considered as essential by the Germans and thus prevent that Jewish men be sent to labor camps, the Judenrat established small factories and workshops. Such was the brush factory, in which many Jews were employed.

In the winter of 1941-1942, the community's situation worsened. Hunger and disease killed many. There was a typhus epidemic and the Judenrat operated a special sanitary department to take care of the sick. A hospital was organized, but the families preferred to tend to their sick at home, from fear of their exposure to the Germans.

In March of 1942, after all the Mielec Jews had been expelled, a group of refugees from Mielec arrived in R-W. Among the refugees were the head of the Mielec Judenrat, Dr. Fink, and the commander of the Jewish police, Mordechai Chilevitz. Some days later, the Germans deposed Leibovich and replaced him with Fink from Mielec as head of the local Judenrat. Mordechai Chilevitz was made head of the Jewish police. The latter reorganized the police force and included people of his own from among the refugees. One of the testimonies claims: “the Judenrat's attitude towards the members of the community became harder; up till then, the Judenrat had been manned by Jews from R-W, who were well acquainted with the people and knew how to show thoughtfulness…”. Chilevitz was later on commander of the Jewish police of the Plashow Camp, and he was much criticized.

On April 28, 1942, Gestapo people arrived in R-W and demanded that the Jewish “communists” be handed over to them. They had the names of four people. Three of them were warned in time and escaped. Yechezkel Eisland, member of “Hashomer Hatzair” and of the first Judenrat, was caught by the Gestapo. He tried to escape with the help of two local Jewish policemen, but was caught once again and executed right away.

Additional groups of people expelled from Dembica arrived in R-W in the spring of 1942. The onus of their care fell on the local community. The operation of the public kitchen that offered hot meals to the refugees was expanded. News of mass deportations of Jews from the area spread fear in the R-W community. Several dozens tried to escape town and reach the nearby villages to wait until the expulsions were over and then return to R-W. But the German police and local collaborators thwarted most of these attempts. Young Jews also tried to move to the Mielec Labor Camp, which housed an airplane assembly line. They assumed that the importance of the line to the Germans would prevent their being sent to an “unknown destination”.

At the end of June of 1942, Jews from the surroundings, Borowa among them, were brought in to R-W. In early July of 1942, the Judenrat received an order to hand a list of all Jews from R-W and the vicinity that were 60 or older. Right away the order was changed and the list had to include the names of all the Jews in town and the vicinity. Some 500 men, especially those with a trade, received certifications from their employers, which were signed by the Gestapo. These events incremented the unrest in the community.

By mid July, a contribution was imposed on Jews. The Germans even hinted that if this contribution were paid, the order of deportation would be cancelled. Although the money was delivered on time, the deportation was not annulled. On July 17, 1942, the Germans closed all accesses to town. Two days later, on July 19, 1942, all R-W's Jews were summoned to the market square not later than 7:00 AM. A selection was performed on the spot. The elderly and the sick were put apart. Relatives, who did not want to part and tried to move from one group to another, were killed then and there. Among the victims were a large number of children who wanted to stay with their parents. All the elderly were led to the cemetery and shot into open pits. Those left at the market square were put on carts and taken to Dembica, where Jews from all the area had been concentrated. A few days later, there was an aktsia in Dembica. The fate of the Jews from R-W was no different than that of the others. Some were executed there and some were sent to the Maidanek death camp.

The extermination of the R-W community was followed by a hunt for Jews who had succeeded to escape to the forest during the deportation. The hardships of survival in the forest and the peasants' refusal to give them food and refuge made most of them fall in the hands of the Germans and get killed. In the Dolce forest, a group of some 60 Jews, mostly from R-W, became organized. They procured arms, mainly for self-defense. In 1944, the Germans' searches in the forests increased and the belt around the group of Jews became tighter. In the autumn of 1944, the heads of the group decided to benefit from the fact that the Soviet front was close and to try to cross to the Russian side. Confronted with German soldiers, they crossed a mined field and 12 were killed. Some 35 succeeded to cross to the Russian side and were saved.

Glossary:

1 Admo”r – Initials of “Adonenu Morenu Ve-Rabbenu” (Our Master, Teacher and Rabbi) – title given to the head of a Hassidic sect. Back
2 Kloiz – Hassidic prayer house Back
3 Cheder – Learning institution in which children received private tutoring in reading, writing and Torah. Back
4 Talmud Torah – Community fund devoted to the schooling of children from needy families. Back
5 Kupat Gemilut Hassadim – Benefactory Fund Back
6 Bikur Holim – Community service for the care of the sick. Back
7 Linat Tzedek – Free sleeping facilities for poor Jewish guests. Back
8 Tomchei Ani'im – Aid Fund to cover the needs of the poor. Back


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