It is impossible to determine when exactly first Jews began arriving in Chodel. Individual Jewish settlers probably appeared in the town in the mid-18th century, while a large scale influx of the Jewish population likely took place later, in the mid-19th century.[1.1] A document issued in 1517 banned Jews from settling in the town. Moreover, Jewish settlement in Chodel was limited due to the ownership status of the town – it was a property of the Jesuit Order.
The oldest document confirming the presence of Jews in Chodel dates back to 1746 and mentions one local Jewish resident – an inn lessee. Other preserved records show that in 1787, Chodel had 31 Jewish inhabitants, most of whom were either traders or craftsmen. Jews were also owners of two breweries and two houses.
In 1843, a brickyard was established in the town by Izrael Cukierman, but it was soon closed down due to objections of the town’s erstwhile owner. In 1857, Chodel had a population of 590, including 123 Jews, the majority of whom were traders or financial brokers. There were also some Jewish craftsmen in the town, including tailors, shoemakers, tanners, weavers, and bakers. A private house of prayer and a mikveh operated in Chodel since ca. 1860 or earlier, while one of the local buildings was converted into a synagogue in the second half of the 1860s. The limits of the Jewish cemetery had been marked out by 1872. In the 1890s, the synagogue, destroyed in a fire, underwent reconstruction and a new mikveh was built.
In 1910, Jews constituted 40% of Chodel’s population. Most of them made a living from trading in grain, selling goods from market stalls, and practicing crafts. The town had one Jewish saddler, one tinsmith, three tailors, six dressmakers, eight shoemakers, four carpenters, a few bakers, four glaziers, and one feldsher. According to the data from the Lublin Treasury Chamber, 20 out of 23 shops in Chodel were Jewish-owned. During World War I, most of the Jewish houses and shops as well as the synagogue were destroyed.[1.1.1]
More comprehensive information regarding the Jewish community can be found in interwar sources. In the early 1920s, Jews made up nearly a half of the entire population of Chodel. Thanks to the preserved records, we know that the community had a synagogue, two houses of prayer, a mikveh, a ritual poultry slaughterhouse, and a cemetery. In the interwar period, two Jewish tanneries operated in the town (owners: Hersz Hochsztejn and Samuel Knoploch), as well as five kosher butcher’s shops and the F. Cyrkiel & Co. transport enterprise. In 1915, a communal house of prayer was established in Chodel.[1.2] In 1939, the kehilla managed a brick synagogue, a house of prayer, a cemetery, a mikveh, and a ritual slaughterhouse.[1.3]
A ghetto was formed in Chodel during the Nazi occupation. Its population comprised local Jews and people displaced from Kraków and Lublin. By mid-1941, the total number of Jews residing in Chodel nearly doubled (1,644 people) as compared to the data from 1939.[1.1.1] On 28 June 1942, a group of Jews displaced from the territories of the Third Reich was enclosed in the ghetto in Chodel. There was also a forced labour camp for Jews in the town. In May 1942, a mass execution was carried out in Chodel – several hundred people were murdered.
The ghetto was dissolved on 21 September 1942, with all Jews displaced to the nearby town of Poniatowa or to Opole Lubelskie, depending on the source.[1.1.1] From there they were probably transported to the camps in Sobibór and Bełżec.[1.1.1] After the extermination of the Jewish population, Germans commenced the dissolution of the Chodel Jewish cemetery. The site was ultimately destroyed by the local population after the war. The synagogue and the mikveh were pulled down after 1945, despite the fact that both building were preserved in a good condition.
- [1.1] “Chodel,” [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 254.
- [1.1.1] [a] [b] [c] [d] “Chodel,” [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 254.
- [1.2] State Archives in Lublin, Lublin Provincial Office, Social and Political Division, ref. no. 730.
- [1.3] State Archives in Lublin, Lublin Provincial Office, Social and Political Division, ref. no. 804; State Archives in Lublin, Lublin District Office, ref. no. 632, f. 28.