The earliest mentions of the presence of Jews in Nisko date back to the late 18th century. The community started to develop after the settlement was purchased by the Reinchenbach family in 1834. At that time, it became the seat of the district authorities, and the local Jews were granted the right to establish an independent kehilla.

In 1880, there were over 273 Jews living in Nisko. In 1900, the local community had 972 members. It owned a synagogue, but it could not afford to employ a rabbi. In 1910, 5,658 Jews lived in the Nisko District, constituting 8.2% of all inhabitants. However, the size of the Jewish community decreased significantly as a result of the military operations of the years 1914–1915.

In 1921, there were 3,936 Jews in the Nisko District, including 499 in the town itself (10.5% of the population). The Petty Merchants' Society operated in the town alongside the Merchants' Society, which was chaired by Mendel Herzlich in 1939.

Nisko was seized by the German army in September 1939. As early as 28 September, the occupiers deported some of the local Jews to the other bank of the San river, that is to the Soviet occupation zone.

Soon afterwards, the idea was conceived to convert the area of Nisko into a semi-autonomous “Jewish state” under the supervision of the SS. The author of the project was Adolf Eichmann, the chief “expert for the solution of the Jewish question” in Nazi Germany. On 12–15 October, Eichmann was looking for an appropriate location; he found it precisely in Nisko on the San. The first three transports from Ostrava, Vienna and Katowice arrived to the town between 19 and 20 October. The first camp was set up in the nearby village of Zarzecze. Officially called Durchgangslager bei Nisko, it was managed by Eichmann himself. The arriving Jews had to build their own barracks and dig wells. At the end of October, subsequent transports came to Nisko from Vienna and Katowice. A total of 95,000 Jews was displaced to the camp in Nisko. However, the deteriorating living conditions in the camp, high mortality rate, hunger and epidemics soon prompted the Germans to abandon the idea of establishing a “Jewish state.” On 13 April 1940, the camp in Nisko was liquidated. The surviving prisoners were allowed to take their belongings and return to their houses.

Some of the remaining Jewish inhabitants of Nisko were murdered at the local cemetery, others were sent to the ghetto in Ulanów. In October 1943, the Germans murdered ca. 100 Jews near an old brickyard in the nearby Zarzecze.

Bibliography

  • “Nisko,” [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life before and during the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, New York 2001, vol. II, pp. 894–895.

 

 

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