It is not known when first Jews settled in Latowicz. Certainly, they lived there already in the second half of the 16th century. Perhaps Abram Seczemski, a mill owner, was one of the first Jews in the settlement mentioned in the inspection of the Latowicz Starosty in 1565.
At the end of the 16th century, the townspeople lodged a complaint to King Zygmunt III Waza, in which they reported that due to the intercession of the starost of Latowicz, several Jews acquired properties in the town and were engaged in trade, at the same time, making competition for Christian merchants[1.1]. In his response, King Zygmunt III Waza issued on 7 December 1596a privilege in which he forbade the Jews to stay in Latowicz and also “to purchase, move in, rent, or repurchase houses on the land of the town or, under any pretence, measure, shape, art or invention, to possess it”.
The Jews, through Jan Gniewosz – the Starost of Latowicz, appealed against this decision, referring to the privilege allowing Jews to live in the towns of the Kingdom of Poland.
In 1599, King Zygmunt III Waza - reminding that de non tolerandis Judaeis privileges were in force in various towns - upheld his position from three years before, at the same time issuing a decree forbidding Jews to live and trade in Latowicz. The decree required Jews to leave the town within 6 weeks[1.2]. The above decisions stopped the development of Jewish settlement in Latowicz for about 200 years. Probably single Jewish families lived temporarily in the town and nearby villages. “Tobiasz Arendars the Jew” is mentioned in the document entitled Lustracja Starostwa Latowickiego of 1613.
Further records about Jews come from 1789. In document entitled Skarga Miasta JKM Latowicza przez co upadek Jego do Jaśnie Wielmożnej Lustratorów Podanej, the townspeople complained that Duke Czartoryski allowed “Jews to stay in an inn at Wymyśl, which has been ruining our right for sixty years”. Around 1790, Berek Szmul became the administrator of the Starosty of Latowicz. In 1792, there was a “Lewek, the Jewish winemaker” living at the market square, in Przedmieście Wymyśle in a wooden inn there lived “Mośko Lewkowicz the innkeeper, Majer the son, the Jews, servants of 3 Jews”, and in another house - belonging to the parish priest - lived ”Hayżyna the Jewish Baker”[1.3].
Jews appeared in Latowicz in greater numbers during the Partitions of Poland. In a register prepared in 1820 entitled Opisanie Historyczne oraz Topograficzno-Statystyczne Miasta Narodowego Latowicza Mayor Piotr Żychlinski wrote: “In 1794, during the Revolution in the country, the Jews hiding from the Russian Army started looking for protection in Latowicz and, from that moment forward, started settling there without any permission from the Government. No part of the town was delimitated for them because they were forbidden to have any possessions. When the town undertakes to regulate its matters, the issue of the houses of the Jews will be easily clarified.”
From 1816, the town's bridge-lessee was Józef Herszkowicz, and from 1820 - Paweł Herszkowicz. In 1820, 61 Jews lived in Latowicz.
In the years 1822-1823, the Commission of the Mazovian Voivodeship (Polish: Komisja Województwa Mazowieckiego) attempted to stop the development of Jewish settlement in Latowicz, by “removing Jews from trade, manufacturing and alcoholic beverages, but even by completely expelling them from the town”. However, the Commission's guidelines were not implemented. A significant breakthrough was brought by the tsar's decree of 1826, which granted Jews the right to settle and build houses in Latowicz. The eastern frontage of Market Square, the southern part of Psia Street (Polish: ul. Psia) - later Prosta Street (Polish: ul. Prosta), today: A. Kuźniarskiego Street (Polish: ul. A. Kuźniarskiego) (from Market Square to Izraelicka Street (Polish: ul. Izraelicka)), the western part of Izraelicka Street (between Psia Street and Publiczna Street (Polish: ul. Publiczna)) and the northern part of Publiczna Street (from Market Square to Izraelicka Street) were designated for development.
The number of Jews in Latowicz gradually increased - in 1861 there were 133 Jews in the town, and in 1864 – 151. A wooden synagogue and a mikveh were built in the eastern part of the market square - in the place where the Community Office is located today.
One of the rabbis - possibly even a tzadik - in Latowicz was Yaakov Yitzhak Weinberg, a grandson of the famous Yaakov Yitzhak Horowitz, called the “Seer from Lublin”. In 1906, Icek Szlama Rommer, born in Garwolin, the son of the Hasidic rabbi Jankiel from Ryki, grandson of the well-known rabbi Natan Neta, who came from Parysów, was appointed a rabbi of Latowicz.
Not much is known about the history of the Jews of Latowicz at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and in the period before 1939. Zygmunt Gajowniczek, a historian of the region, limits his information on the subject to stating that Jewish merchants dominated trade, they also dealt with tailoring and shoemaking, and competed with Christian inhabitants in these fields as well. The Address Book of Poland (Polish: Księga Adresowa Polski) of 1929 lists a dozen Jewish merchants and craftsmen from Latowicz who ran grocery shops (Ch. Ajzenberg, M. Akierman, Ch. Kofman, H. Rapoport, S. Szerman, Majer Sztejn, Mosze Sztejn, S. Zalchendler, Ch. Zylberknopf, M. Szlamozar, A. Zyman, Ch. Zyman), making or selling sparkling water (Ch. Sztejn), selling corn products (M. Jabłonka), running a tea shop (S. Sztejn), shoemakers (Ch. Brawerman, S. Szerman), stonecutters (J. Zylberberg) and blacksmiths (L. Zylbersztejn).
In the census of 1921, 416 inhabitants of Latowicz declared to be of Jewish origin. At that time, Jews constituted 23.5% of the entire population of the village, which had 1,763 inhabitants. Additionally, single Jewish families lived in nearby villages, among others in: Budki Wielgolaskie (8 people), Dąbrówka (9 people), Iwowem (7 people), Jeruzal (25 people), Łukowiec (6 people), Oleksianka (7 people), Płomieniec (15 people), and Waliska (5 people).
In the first days of the World War II, German planes bombed the town. Many people - including refugees heading east - were injured. As a result of the bombardment and fires, a considerable part of the buildings was destroyed. Among other things, the wooden synagogue and the mikveh building burnt. By order of the German occupation authorities, a Jewish Council (Judenrat) was formed in Latowicz. It consisted of Chaim Płatek (president), Majer Piaskowski (deputy president), Majer Akierman (secretary), Chaim Zysman (treasurer), Wolf Zabielski, Mendel Szlechter, Aron Winograd, Gerszon Warszaw, Abram Berger and Munysz Ajzenberg. They were also members of the Committee to Aid Poor Jews (Polish: Komitet Pomocy Biedym Żydom). Both organisations had to face the difficult task of providing accommodation and food for many of the needy. “The list of the local poor” prepared by the Committee in March 1940 included 137 people. In addition, the Committee and the Council took care of the Jewish inhabitants of the surrounding villages, including Jeruzal and Wielgolas, with a total of over 130 people[1.4].
The situation was very difficult. During the warfare in September 1939, about 90% of houses in Latowicz inhabited by the Jews were destroyed. An attempt to rebuild the synagogue and mikveh was made, but the work was stopped due to lack of sufficient funds. On the occupant's order, Jewish families had to leave buildings owned by Poles. Out of necessity, each flat was occupied by several families. Over time, the Germans introduced a prohibition on trading with Poles.
The lack of food, clothing and fuel was gradually making itself felt. The Committee for Aid to Poor Jews received support from, among others, the Jewish Social Self-Aid (Polish: Żydowska Samopomoc Społeczna), which successively allocated funds from the American Joint Distribution Committee. These funds were used to buy medicines, wholemeal bread, flour and groats. However, these funds were insufficient to satisfy basic needs. At the end of 1940, the German Labour Office (Arbeitsamt) imposed a fine of 1,600 zlotys on the Jews from Latowicz. This worsened the already difficult situation[1.5].
In the middle of 1941, the Jewish Council in Latowicz (Polish: Rada Żydowska w Latowiczu) informed the Jewish Social Self-Aid about more and more frequent cases of infectious diseases. In time, a typhus epidemic broke out. The sick were sent to a hospital in Mińsk Mazowiecki. The Jewish Council and the Committee to Aid Poor Jews found it difficult to cover the costs of treatment and maintenance of the patients.
The duty to provide 50 labourers had been imposed on the Jewish Council in Latowicz. They were were then sent to a forced labour camp in the village of Chyżyny, 7 km away. The camp was located in four barracks on the Świder River. Polish peasants convicted of failing to deliver a contingent and Jews from Latowicz, Otwock, Parysów and Warsaw were detained there. The prisoners were used for land reclamation work[1.6].
In November 1941, the Germans established a ghetto in Latowicz. The ghetto was probably not fenced, but it was forbidden to leave its area. In a letter to the Jewish Social Self-Aid, the members of the Jewish Council informed: “One cannot trade at all, because even leaving our town as ‘closed for Jews’ is not allowed”[1.7].
In December 1941, the Germans deported about 230 Jews from the Jeruzal community to Latowicz. The displaced - deprived of their homes and opportunities to earn a living - were in an extremely difficult situation. More than half of them had no means of subsistence, some suffered from various diseases. The influx of the deportees worsened the already dramatic housing situation [1.8].
From April 1942, 27 Jewish workers from Latowicz walked the slave labour camp in Kuflewo every day. Their daily food ration consisted of 200 g of bread and swede soup. The Jewish Council of Latowicz also tried to help them[1.9].
In the spring of 1942, there were about 700 Jews in Latowicz. The situation of people imprisoned in the ghetto was dramatic. A letter sent on 29 April 1942 by the Jewish Council to the headquarters of the Jewish Social Self-Aid gives a clear testimony to this fact. At the end of the handwritten letter, there were words underlined and end with an exclamation mark: “Save us!”. This is the last letter from Latowicz that has survived in the Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute [1.10].
The extermination of the Jewish population of Latowicz took place on 14 October 1942. On that day, the Germans forced the ghetto inhabitants to leave the town. They were led on foot through Siennica and Kołbiel to the railway station in Pilawa. They were all killed in the gas chambers of the Treblinka death camp.
After the liquidation of the ghetto, some Jews hid in Latowicz and its surroundings. From the autumn of 1942 to January 1943, a nine-year-old girl of an unknown name, the daughter of Adam Tannenbaum, before the war the owner of the “Elmar” factory in Warsaw, was given shelter by 21-year-old Helena Palewicz, a Home Army (Polish: Armia Krajowa) soldier. Having escaped from Warsaw, the girl used her assumed name: Elżbieta Jaworska. As a result of the denunciation, the girl and Helena Palewicz were put into custody in Latowicz, and later in Mińsk Mazowiecki. Probably, thanks to bribing the Germans, they both managed to regain their freedom. In January 1943, the girl returned to Warsaw and, after the end of the war, she emigrated to France[1.11].
In 1943, Iza Edelszajn came to Latowicz several times. However, she was known here and could not stay in the village for longer[1.12]. In nearby Strachomin, a man was hiding, probably under the assumed name of Paweł, who was able to wait until the end of the war. A tragic fate met 17-year-old Szmulek Brawerman hiding in a haystack in the village of Waliski with the help of Poles. In April 1944, Zofia K. denounced the boy, who, after being taken to Latowicz, was shot by Police of the General Government.
In May 1944, Fiszel Goldman, who was hiding near the village of Starogród, came to the Latowicz police station. During one of his trips to collect food, he was stopped by a peasant, Jan L., who, together with Józef K. and Stanisław Z. led Goldman to Latowicz. While in custody, Fiszel Goldman got a hacksaw from someone, sawed through the bars and escaped. However, when he was on his way back to his forest hideout, he was shot and buried in Budziska. The three peasants who captured F. Goldman were tried in 1953 and were sentenced to prison. In another trial, the aforementioned Zofia K. from the village of Waliski was also sentenced to 5 years and 6 months in prison.
It is not known how many Jews of Latowicz survived the Holocaust. In the List of Land Tax Payers, compiled on 13 December 1946, the following names of Latowicz residents were listed: Moszek Akierman, Ber Moszek Palkenfeld, Perec Jabłonka, Jankiel Kac, Ita Szac[1.13]. Jews, whose names are unknown, were supposed to lease a diesel mill at Św. Ducha Street (Polish: ul. Św. Ducha).
It can be assumed that all Jews left Latowicz in the following years.
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- Engelking B., Jest taki piękny słoneczny dzień..., Warszawa 2011, p. 162.
- Gajowniczek Z. T., Dzieje Latowicza, Latowicz 1999.
- Latowicz, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1933–1945. vol. 2, part A: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, ed. M. Dean, Bloomington 2012.
- Latowicz, [in:] Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, vol. 4: Warsaw and its region, ed. A. Wein, Jerusalem 1989, p. 244.
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- Niedźwiedź J., Ostas C., Opracowanie studialne wartości kulturowych gminy Latowicz, „Zeszyty Historyczne Latowicza” 2000, vol. 2, part 2.
- Wajs A., Miasto Latowicz i jego mieszkańcy w 1792 r., „Regiony” 1996, no. 3.
- Wąsowski J., Jerzy Jan Wąsowski opowiada o Żydach z Siennicy, [online] https://sztetl.org.pl/pl/miejscowosci/s/799-siennica/104-teksty-kultury/138363-jerzy-jan-wasowski-o-zydach-z-siennicy [accessed: 6 April 2021].
- [1.1] Horn M., Regesty dokumentów i ekscerpty z Metryki Koronnej do historii Żydów w Polsce (1697–1795). vol. 2, Rządy Stanisława Augusta (1764–1795). part 1, 1764–1779, Wrocław – Warszawa – Kraków – Gdańsk – Poznań – Łódź 1984, pp. 70–71.
- [1.2] Horn M., Regesty dokumentów i ekscerpty z Metryki Koronnej do historii Żydów w Polsce (1697–1795). vol. 2, Rządy Stanisława Augusta (1764–1795). part 1, 1764-1779, Wrocław, Warszawa, Kraków, Gdańsk, Poznań, Łódź 1984, pp. 70–71.
- [1.3] Wajs A., Miasto Latowicz i jego mieszkańcy w 1792 r., „Regiony” 1996, no. 3, p. 143.
- [1.4] Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Inventory of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Team, years 1939–1942, file no. 210/445, Lists of persons residing in or arriving at Latowicz, 04 Marcz 1940, pp. 1–21.
- [1.5] Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Inventory of the Jewish Social Self-Aid Archive, file no. 211/634, Correspondence between the Presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Aid and the Jewish Council in Latowicz. 1941-1942, 10 August 1941, p. 13.
- [1.6] Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Inventory of the Jewish Social Self-Aid Archive, file no. 211/634, Correspondence between the Presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Aid and the Jewish Council in Latowicz. 1941-1942, 11 September 1941, p. 22.
- [1.7] Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Inventory of the Jewish Social Self-Aid Archive, file no. 211/634, Correspondence between the Presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Aid and the Jewish Council in Latowicz. 1941–1942, 04 January 1942, p. 28.
- [1.8] Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Inventory of the Jewish Social Self-Aid Archive, file no. 211/634, Correspondence between the Presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Aid and the Jewish Council in Latowicz. 1941–1942, 15 December 1941, p. 26.
- [1.9] Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Inventory of the Jewish Social Self-Aid Archive, file no. 211/634, Correspondence between the Presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Aid and the Jewish Council in Latowicz. 1941–1942, 29 April 1942, p. 40.
- [1.10] Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Inventory of the Jewish Social Self-Aid Archive, file no. 211/634, Correspondence between the Presidium of the Jewish Social Self-Aid and the Jewish Council in Latowicz. 1941–1942, 29.04.1942, p. 42.
- [1.11] Pelczarska S., Waślicka J., Wspomnienia Stanisławy Pelczarskiej i Jadwigi Waślickiej o Helenie Palewicz, „Zeszyty Historyczne Latowicza” 2000, vol. 2, part 4, pp. 27–28.
- [1.12] Archive of the Jewish Historical Institute, Collection of accounts of Jews who survived the Holocaust, file no. 301/3175, Account by Iza Edelszajn (Halina Glubowska), 09 February 1948, p. 2.
- [1.13] State Archive in Warsaw, Otwock Division, Files of Latowicz Community, file no. 22.