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Translation of Piaski Luterskie chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.
This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of
Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume VII,
pages 384 - 387, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
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(pages 384 - 387)
PL was founded in the 16th century, in the area of Radum , by settlers that came from aristocratic families. Quarrels amongst the different families were frequent and control over the town changed hands a number of times. During the first half of the 17th century Calvinist clergymen settled in the place, turning it into one of the centers for the Evangelic Church in Poland.
A Jewish settlement is mentioned for the first time in documents dating from the end of the 17th century, in regarding to a murder case of a converted Jew by five other Jewish people. From the documents it seems as though the heads of the Jewish congregation might have been responsible for the act: the murderers were paid. The defendants were tried in front of two of the polish landowners, but the results of the trial remain unknown.
A survey conducted among the people of PL in 1764 shows that there were 5 Jewish land tenants, 5 bartenders, a Rabbi and two synagogue attendants. It seems as though majority of the population made it's living through leasing and commerce. In the year 1788, there were 139 registered Jewish tax payers.
In January, 1792, the Jews of PL sent a petition to the Russian authorities signed by Issac Mosskovitz. Their first request was that the authorities assist them in collecting debts of the local landowners to the Jewish tenants. In the beginning of the 18th century the debt stood at 120,000 pieces of gold, and by the end of it the debt had risen to a few million pieces of gold. The Jews offered to divide the debt into twenty yearly payments. In addition they requested that they be allowed to manage the internal life of the community and resolve different issues in special Jewish courts. Finally they asked to reduce the amount of taxes they paid, by eliminating small taxes, such as the tax for kosher butchering. From this document it is possible to learn about the main problems that the Jews of PL had to deal with at the time. In any event, the Russian authorities did not limit the size of the community and it quadrupled in size during the 19th century.
During the 1880's a number of large leather processing workshops, vinegar and starch factories, and a couple of oil refineries were opened in PL. Some of the members of the community made a living in these new factories.
In the second half of the 18th century the Jews of PL build a synagogue,
an elegant stone house that stood out among the wooden town houses. According
to a survey conducted in the area in 1764, there was one Rabbi in PL,
probably Rabbi Zvi Hirsh, the first of the of the community's Rabbis whose
name is recorded. Some of the other Rabbis to be mentioned are Rabbi Daniel,
the author of My Sweet Daniel. During the end of the 19th century and
the beginning of the 20th Rabbi Yehoda Laybush Licht (born 1839) presided
as the Rabbi of the community. His son, Rabbi Shlomo Licht, served for
a few years after his father and then left for Pasthavoz. He was the last
Rabbi of the PL community, and he was assisted by his son Rabbi Issac
The Jews Between Two World Wars
After WWI the Jews of PL kept to their traditional occupations of trade and commerce. However, during this period the economic competition between them and their Polish neighbors increased, and the winds of anti-Semitism that blow through the town intensified.
In april 1930, most of the houses in PL were consumed by a great fire. Close to 200 were left homeless, and a Jewish family of six perished in the flames. The leaders of the community declared official mourning, and money was collected for those damaged by the fire. In July 1931, another fire broke out in which many more homes were damaged.
In the evening of the elections to the city council, on June the 5th, 1930, the tension in town intensified. At the end of May a group of Polish thugs attacked a number of Jewish stalls in the local market, and a number of well built Jewish butchers and cart drivers fought back. In the ongoing fight, one Jewish woman was murdered. As a result of the incident two Jews and one Polish citizen were arrested. Whether any of them was put to trial is unknown.
Two rivaling parties competed in the local elections, one Jewish and the other Polish. The Jewish party received 1,403 votes, while the Polish party received only 915 votes, losing all representation in city hall. In response to the results, wide spread anti-Jewish protests were held. The central government disqualified the results of the elections.
In the second half of the 1930's there was a large increase in the number
of people living in PL, and land become a wanted commodity. In 1938, the
council of PL decided to confiscate the old Jewish cemetery and use the
land for residential homes. The community strongly protested the destruction
of the graveyard, but to no avail.
During this period anti-Semitic behavior reached new hights. Anti-Semites were not satisfied any more with commercial sanctions against Jewish shops; during 1939 there was a large increase in the number of violent attacks directed towards Jewish shops.
The 20's and the 30's were characterized by lively public activity among the Jews of PL. Most of the younger generation joined Zionist parties, though there was some activity of the Union of Israel and the Bond. In 1926, a training Kibbutz was established, in which 12 young men and 51 young women worked in agriculture. There is reference to a local branch of the left winged, Workers of Zion, party that was active in 1928. In the summer of 1930 a branch of the Beitar movement was founded in PL. Many of the young Jews in PL immigrated to Israel during those days. In June 1930, a Rabbi from Israel, by the name of Yoav Filitz visited the town. His visit became a colorful event that was witnessed by the majority of the Jewish community.
The Zionists were also active in the education and cultural life in
the community. In October 1929, a school belonging to the Tarbut chain
of schools was opened, a school that was closed down with the beginning
of WWII. In addition, two libraries were opened and a number of different
cultural activities were conducted by members of the community.
We can learn more about the relations among the different Zionist parties in P"L by looking at the election results to the Zionist congresses
|The Party||The Congress|
In the elections for the leadership of the community in May 1931 a non-political
party won 3 seats, the Zionists together with the Mizrahi movement won
the same number of seats, and the Union of Israel and the workers won
one seat each.
In 1937 Rabbi Meir Licht served as the Rabbi of the community.
During World War II
In the first few days of September, in response to the news of Germany's rapid progress in Poland, many of the Jews of PL fled eastwards. They were replaced by refugees from western Poland.
In the end of September 1939, units of the Red Army entered town. They established a revolutionary committee to offer support for the Soviet regime. At the head of this committee sat Yeheskel Koytzer, a member of the Jewish community. The committee was located in the building that used to accommodate the Polish police. However, after a short while the Russians retreated eastwards. On their way to the Soviet area beyond the river Bog, they were accompanied by many young members of the Jewish community. At the beginning of 1940, when a treaty between Germany and the Soviet Union was signed regarding the occupation of land, many of these young men returned to PL, since they had heard that the German authorities were not treating the Jews so harshly.
The first few days, during which the Germans established their control were used by local polish people for acts of robbery and revenge against the Jewish population. In September 1939, after the Soviet forces pulled out, and before the German forces pulled in, a number of Jews were taken to the old cemetery and shot. With the entrance of the Germans to PL the acts of violence were stopped. Despite different restraints that were enforced on the Jewish population life in PL had almost returned to normal during the first 2-3 months. Jews were still allowed to hold on to their businesses and property and work for their living.
In the beginning of 1940 the Germans erected an open ghetto, appointed a six man Yodenrat and began recruiting Jews for forced labor. The head of the Yodenrat, Mendel Pliski, was known as good-natured, nevertheless he executed all the German commands without objection. Immediately after the establishing of the Yodenrat the first group of 500 forced labors was sent to a working camp in Belzetz , and a second group was sent to Tzitzov. During this period the Jewish community was ordered to raise a certain sum of money. In order to ensure payment the German authorities took four members of the Yodenrat as hostages, these were Yosel Rosenblat, Yosel Ashman, Haim Gavretz and Hirsh Apelfeld.
During the winter and spring of 1940 large groups of refugees reached PL and the number of Jews reached 5,000. In February, 1940, a group of 565 Jews was brought from Schetsin. One of them was appointed head of the Jewish police. At the same time the Yodenrat opened a public kitchen with the help of the JSH (Jewish Self Help) in Krakov.
In June 1941, a second ghetto was established. Living conditions were difficult. In many cases up to 20 people had to share the same room. The public water well and the different public organizations were concentrated in the first ghetto. Medical services were also available in the first ghetto where a typhoid epidemic struck the Jewish community. An attempt to establish a hospital failed, mostly as a result of lack of medicine. The Yodenrat also operated in the first ghetto a sanitation department that was headed by Issic Vineglass and Berl Zinger. Residents of the second ghetto were allowed two hours a day in which they could visit the first ghetto and apply for different services.
On the 16th of March 1942, Dr. Richard Tork, head of the population and welfare department in Lublin county, called a meeting. The SS officer Hafle that was in charge of the implementation of operation Rinehard (deportations to concentration camps) ordered the deportation of PL Jews in order to make room for Jews from Germany. And indeed by the end of that month, the majority of PL Jews (3,500 people) were deported to the Belzen death camp. According to the original plan only 500 Jews were meant to be left behind as a work force, but in the end more than 1,000 stayed.
After the March action, large groups of Jews from within Poland and without were brought to PL. In April 1942, about 4,200 Jews arrived from Germany, another 1,000 came from the Czech republic and some arrived from Kalish. Within two months the population of the ghettos reached approximately 6,500 people. During this period people were still recruited for forced labor, especially on nearby farms. The condition of the laborers was considered a little better, since they had the option of smuggling food into the ghetto.
Most of the hardship fell into the hands of the Jews from Germany. During April-May, 1942, some of these Jews send letters to their families in Germany, urging them to do all that is in their power to return them back home. It was hinted that Jews are sent to far away places and that no one knows what becomes of them. However, according to different testimonies it becomes clear that the members of the community knew the exact fate of the March deportees, as they were told by two local Polish people who had followed the train to its destination.
The PL Ghetto was eliminated in the autumn of 1942. In September, some of the Jews were deported to Belzec and the remaining 4,000 were transferred in October 1942 to Trevniki and from there to Sobibor. The deportation was executed by an SS man by the name of Stribler, who had arrived from Trawniki to PL in order to take charge of the operation.
PL was one of five towns in the county of Lublin, in which the Germans had decided to concentrate the remains of the local Jewish community and refugees from other areas. Immediately after the local ghetto was emptied, at the end of October or the beginning of November, a secondary ghetto was erected in PL that housed close to 6,000 Jews. This ghetto was eliminated during February or March 1943. The men were transferred to Trawniki and they were not heard of again. The fate of the women and the children is also unknown.
From the thousands of Jews that resided in PL at the eve of the Holocaust, only 35 survived. Most of them were young men who had escaped deportation and had joined different partisan units.
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