Jews may have first appeared in Krosno in 1385, but it is certain that they already had lived in the town in 1427. The first Jews to be named in historical documents were brothers Nachem and Lazar from Ransburg, who were granted permission to settle in the town for three years by King Władysław Jagiełło. However, in 1569 Krosno received the de non tolerandis Judaeis privilege, confirmed in 1614. The privilege largely restricted Jewish settlement in the town, which at the time was an important commercial centre. Jews would therefore settle in the suburbs or in nearby localities, for example in the town of Korczyn.

In 1587, the Municipal Council issued a regulation banning Jews from staying at the local inn or in Christian houses in Krosno longer than one day. However, historical sources mention that one of the suburban mills was leased by a Jew called Leon. In 1588, a Jew from Rymanów by the name of Józef lived in Przedmieście Dolne (Lower Suburb). He was a coachmaker. In 1614, King Sigismund the Old issued a privilege confirming the 1587 decision of the Municipal Council. However, some Jewish people must have permanently resided in Krosno regardless, as historical records mention the participation of Jews in the armed resistance put up by the burghers in 1633 against Sanok Chamberlain Stanisław Siecieński.

The markets of Krosno were very popular among the Jews of Dukla and Rymanów. The economic crisis of the second half of the 17th century exacerbated the animosities between local merchants and Jews. The conflict culminated in the decree of the Krosno Municipal Council of 1700, allowing for robbing and even murdering Jews from Rymanów without any repercussions.

In the mid-18th century, the settlement ban imposed on Jews ceased to be strictly enforced. At the time, one of the Krosno tenement houses had a Jewish owner. However, no members of the Jewish community officially resided in the town in 1785. In 1815, the inn located in “Pustyny” was leased to Jew Herszek Tessel. Three houses in the town belonged to Jews in 1851.

In the second half of the 19th century, the development of the local industry and the abolishment of the settlement ban attracted large numbers of Jews to Krosno, especially in the 1880s. In 1870, the town had only 26 Jewish inhabitants, but in 1890 – 327, and in 1900 almost three times as many – 961. The Jewish population would move to Krosno from nearby localities and villages, looking for employment opportunities and improvement of living conditions. While the numbers of Jews living in the entirety of Galicia were steadily decreasing due to migration and difficult economic situation, Krosno experienced an opposite trend. The development of industry and beneficial commercial conditions made the town a place to find a better life, not only for Jews.

Before 1900, the Jews of Krosno belonged to the community in Korczyn and buried their dead in several nearby cemeteries, including the one in Rymanów. A separate Jewish community was formed in the town in 1900 and a synagogue was erected. It was a two-storey brick building housing a prayer hall, ritual slaughterhouse, the manager’s flat, beth midrash, religious school, and administrative rooms of the community. At the time, the entire community had 1,546 members. In 1904, Samuel Ozon Fuhrer became the first rabbi of Krosno. He held the post until the outbreak of WWII. Great contributions to the formations of the Krosno kehilla were made by Mechel Hirszfeld. In the early 20th century, the town became the residence of Tzaddik Aron Elimelech Shneur Zalman Tverski, descendant of the Chernobyl dynasty.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Jews of Krosno made a living from trade and owned most of the stores in the town. The Merchants’ Association was opened in the town in 1896; its head was Zelman Oling.

In 1910, there were 6,254 Jews living in the entire district (7.5% of the population), and in 1921 – 4,861 (6%), including 1,725 in Krosno itself, that is 25% of all its inhabitants. In the interwar period, local Jews owned 55 industrial and artisan production plants; they also worked in trade, sold alcoholic beverages, and were liberal professionals. There were several charitable associations in the town: Bikur Cholim, Harnaset Orchim, Gemilut Chesed – which ran an interest-free loan fund, Tomchei Aniyim – providing aid to the poor, Linas Cholim – offering food aid, the Association of Jewish Women, and the Mutual Aid Fund. The Tarbut Association opened a Hebrew school in Krosno in 1920. In 1925, a Beit Yaakov school for girls was founded in the town. Jewish children also attended cheders and a Tarbut-Torah school. The Agudath HaNoar HaIvri youth organisation was active in the town and organised Hebrew language courses.

A number of Jewish political parties opened their branches in Krosno. The Orthodox Agudath was headed by Eber Engeländer and Samuel Hirszprung. The president of the Organisation of General Zionists was Mojżesz Wiesenfeld, and of Mizrachi – Samuel Rosshländler. There were also cells of Hitachdut, the Bund, and Poale Zion in the town. Many youth organisations were active: HaShomer HaTzair, HeHalutz, HaNoar HaIvri, Betar, and Brit HaShahar, as well as two sports clubs: Gideon and Maccabi. The youth organisations ran a drama club and a music club. All craftsmen could join the Grand Guild, but there was also the independent Jewish Craftsmen’s Guild, whose elder was Abraham Münz, and the Yad Charuzim Association of Jewish Craftsmen, presided over by Adolf Münz. Local tradesmen were associated in the Merchants’ Association, headed by Józef Stiefel until 1939. Krosno also boasted the Merchants’ and Industrialists’ Bank and the Folk Bank, which in 1938 had 374 shareholders. In 1938, there were 2,729 Jews living in Krosno.

An anti-Jewish incident took place in Krosno on 25 December 1938. A group of Christian youth vandalised the seat of the Maccabi sports club and broke the windows of one of the Jewish houses.

In early September 1939, a group of ca. 500 Jews deported from the Reich and escapees from the west arrived to Krosno. After seizing the town, Germans expelled some of the Jews to Sanok and forced them to cross the San River, where they reached the Soviet occupation zone. Several days later, the Wehrmacht shot 12 Jews from Jasło and Krosno in Warzyce.

In June 1941, there were 2,072 Jews living in Krosno. A shelter for Jews from nearby localities operated in the devastated synagogue until the end of 1941; it was run by shammes Silberberg. The Germans appointed Jehuda Engel head of the Judenrat; his deputy was Mosze Kleiner.

The Judenrat established the Jewish Self-Help, later converted into the District Welfare Committee. It was active until 12 November 1942. Its head was Samuel Rosshländler. Several dozen Jews worked in the refinery in Jedlicze, and ca. 160 – in factories in Krosno. The Jewish Workers’ Union was established on 1 Februrary 1942. It was presided over by Leopold Altman, who produced various goods in demand in the Reich.

A part of the local Jewish population was deported to ghettos in Brzozów, Jasielnica Rosielna, Jasło, Korczyn, Rymanów (100 people on 19 November 1941), and Nowy Zmigród. The remaining people were gathered in a ghetto. On 10 August 1942, ca. 120 were killed in a mass execution at the local Jewish cemetery. A group of ca. 1,000 people was sent to the death camp in Bełżec. A labour camp subordinate to the Luftwaffe was opened in Krosno on 28 August 1942. It employed ca. 160 Jews, and the post of the supervisor was held by Lejb Langsman from Gorlice. The ghetto was finally liquidated on 5 December 1942, with 600 people deported to the ghetto in Rzeszów and the death camp in Bełżec. Ca. 125 still remained in Krosno until January 1944; they were workers at the Luftwaffe camp. They were transported to the camp in Szebnie on 27 January 1944.

Several executions of small groups of Jews were carried out in Krosno and its surroundings in the years 1941–1944. In January 1941, five Jews were shot in Turaszówka. In the spring of 1942, the Germans shot six Jews, including four children. In August 1943, three Jews hiding in Odrzykoń were burned alive in the house of Pole Andrzej Wajda. Jews captured after the liquidation of the ghetto were shot in the Krosno synagogue. The manhunt for hiding Jews lasted until March 1943 and resulted, among others, in shooting seven children in the street and burning their parents alive in a house previously owned by Jews.

At least a dozen Jews from Krosno were rescued by Father Jan Zawrzecki, captain in the Polish Army and soldier of the Home Army. He would take children to the church bell tower and later find them a hiding place in the monastery or at the houses of Polish families. He also obtained the Kennkarte of a deceased weaver for an old Jewish woman and sent her to Warsaw with two daughters, Anna and Giza. All three women survived the Holocaust. After the war, Giza worked at the secretary’s office of President Bolesław Bierut. After the war, Zawrzycki was tried for his activities as member if the Home Army and the Freedom and Independence; the Jews he had rescued (including eight people from Israel) provided their support and testified to the priest’s heroic deeds during the Nazi occupation. After the liquidation of the ghetto in Ojców, eminent Polish-Jewish composer Józef Kollner and his wife and son went into hiding in the vicinity of Krosno, finding shelter at the house of a country organ player who had earlier taken lessons from Kollner. After Kollner’s wife was arrested, him and his son gave themselves in to the Gestapo. They were eventually shot.

Bibliography:

  • “Krosno,” [in] Pinkas ha-kehilot Polin. Entsiklopedya shel ha-yishuvim ha-Yehudiyim le-min hivasdam ve-ad le-ahar Sho'at Milhemet ha-`olam ha-shniya, vol. 3: Galitsia ha-maravit, Shlezya, eds. A. Wein, A. Weiss, Jerusalem 1984.
  • Potocki A., Żydzi w Podkarpackiem, Rzeszów 2004. 

 

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