First Jews appeared in Pleszew in the 16th century. However, there were only few people. Still in 1699, Zalewski - the owner of the town, issued a decree forbidding the Jews to settle permanently and allowing them only a short stay (up to three days).

The beginning of permanent Jewish settlement (in the Malin suburb) was only at the beginning of the 19th century. The first settlers were the Lewczyca, Graubart and Bravermann families. Despite protests of Christian merchants these families opened their stalls at the market square in Pleszew.

At the beginning, Jews from Pleszew did not have their own cemetery. Hence Samuel Bravermann, who died soon after settling in Pleszew, was buried in Jarocin. Other families were coming to Pleszew, among them Josef and Meite Sochaczewski, Eisig Cohn, Schmul Michel, Schmul Karminski, Israel Grzymisch. The growing Jewish community in the town initially needed only a small room rented for prayer purposes. Already in 1817, a Jewish cemetery was established. At the beginning of the 1820s, the already constituted Jewish community constructed its own house of prayer, and at the beginning of the 1830s, a synagogue was built. At that time, about 100 Jewish families lived in the town. In 1835, there were already 757 people. They were led by Rabbi Elias Guttmacher.

The co-existence of Jews and Evangelicals in the town was peaceful. News from 19th century are preserved about the community of Pleszew, which tell a lot about its character. On 15th August 1844, on special invitation, the whole board of the Jewish community of Pleszew took part in the ceremony of laying the cornerstone of the new Evangelic church in Pleszew. On 22 March 1859, Franz Michael Ludwig Ladewig, a Catholic from Pleszew, converted to Judaism and took the name Michael, son of Abraham. In December 1859, Aaron Joseph, a Jew from Pleszew, received the “Medal of the Rescuer” for his courage in putting out a fire. About 30 Jews from Pleszew took part in the wars for the reunification of Germany of 1864, 1866 and 1870-1871. Two of them: Nathan Jacob Kozminski and Lissner, medical doctor, were awarded the Iron Cross.

The middle of the 19th century was the best period in the history of Jewish community in Pleszew. In the years 1860-1871, around 1,000 people of Jewish origin lived in Pleszew, which constituted around 17% of the total population. Education developed. In 1852, Evangelical-Jewish school (Evangelisch-Jüdische Schule) was founded, which was attended by both Jewish and Evangelical children. In 1856, on the initiative of the community, a religious school was established; earlier, around 1830, there had been a beit ha-midrash run by Rabbi Elias Guttmacher. Efforts were made to establish an orphanage for Jewish children. Charities and associations began to form, such as the Union of Jewish Women (Polish: Związek Kobiet Żydowskich), the Association for the Care of Poor Jewish Children (Polish: Stowarzyszenie Opieki nad Biednymi Dziećmi Żydowskich), and later the Association for Jewish Culture and Literature (Polish: Stowarzyszenie Kultury i Literatury Żydowskiej). Many outstanding Jews of Pleszew worked for the benefit of the Jewish community. Among the leaders of the community distinguished themselves: J. Joachim - owner of a printing house, Louis Oppler - banker and J. Bravermann - town treasurer.

The Jews of Pleszew were also involved in the work for the benefit of the town. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Emil Joachim and Isidor Brandt sat in the town council, the function of the town council president was held by Isidor Strelitz (for many years) and the district veterinarian Jacobi. Councillors were Jacobi, J. Zarek, Michael Brandt, Ludwig Kaaß and Georg Galewski. Jacobi, the district veterinarian, also served as president of the town council. The treasurer of the town savings bank was Bravermann (he was also the secretary of the Jewish community, a councillor and a representative of the German town school (Deutsche Stadtschule). Also belonging to the city council or working in the magistrate were: Hirsch Leichtentritt, Samuel Lasker, Heinrich Richter, Israel Michelsohn, Hermann Joseph, David Gellert, Lesser Fink, J. Joachim, Moritz Brandt, R.A. Asch, Dr Peiser, Hirsch Brandt, M. Kozminski, Louis Oppler, Ludwig Ohnstein, Salo Gellert, Salo Michaelsohn.

At the beginning of XX century, many Jews from Pleszew left the town. They decided to emigrate to bigger cities - Poznań, Berlin or Wrocław. Some chose to emigrate to the United States.

In the interwar period, there were only a few Jewish families left in Pleszew. Most of them emigrated to Germany. At the outbreak of World War II, less than 50 people of Jewish origin lived in Pleszew. In the second half of October 1939, they were taken by the Germans to Szymanowice on Prosna River. They never came back to Pleszew.

Bibliographical note:

  • Heppner A., Herzberg I., Aus Vergangenheit und Gegenwart der Juden und der jüdischen Gemeinden in den Posener Landen, Koschmin – Bromberg 1909.
  • Niesiołowski K., Szkice i sylwetki z przeszłości Pleszewa, Pleszew 1938.

 

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