The oldest mention about Jews in Nieszawa near Toruń (Dybów) comes from 1446. According to the king’s privilege from 1559, Jewish people were not allowed to settle in Nieszawa[1.1]. Despite this ban, Jews arrived in the town.

Permanent Jewish settlement began in the 19th century. The following families came to Nieszawa from Dybów and Fordon in 1802: family of Dawid Cohn, Jakub Lewi, Michał Matis, Izrael Hertz, Josef Abraham, Hersz Boruch, Szymszon Majdański, Beniamin Lubawski, Salomon Barciński and Abraham Fordoński. Later on, Jews settling in Nieszawa came mostly from the towns in Kujawy and Dobrzyń Land.

The key elements of a community infrastructure were set up relatively quickly. The first house of prayer existed already in 1809, while the cemetery was established approximately a year later. It was located in the southern part of the town, away from the buildings and near left embankment of Vistula, in the vicinity of the gravel-pit. The cemetery encompassed an area of 0.26 hectares in the 20th century; it had an irregular shape, resembling a trapezoid. The cemetery was surrounded by a fence as early as in the 1840s. Approximately 20 years earlier, a ritual bath was opened.

From 1836, Jews made efforts to build a synagogue. A remarkable contribution to its establishment was made in 1840 by Dawid Służewski who gave the Jewish community a yard where the synagogue could be built. Służewski had bought the building of the old brewery before. As he pulled it down, he donated all materials from the demolition for building the synagogue. The works started in 1841 and the building was put into use in 1849. The classical-style synagogue was an impressive building on a rectangular plan, plastered from the outside and having metal roofing.

Initially, the Jews living in Nieszawa fell under the authority of kehilla in Służewo. The Jewish community in Nieszawa became fully independent before 1816 and it spread over Jews from neighbouring Aleksandrów Kujawski. Over time, Jews from Aleksandrów began to dominate both demographically and economically over Jews from Nieszawa. As a result, the name of the synagogue supervision was changed at the end of the 19th or the beginning of the 20th century and it gained an element which underlined dependence on Aleksandrów Kujawski. The official name was Synagogue Supervision (then Jewish Community) in Aleksandrów Kujawski-Nieszawa. The Community did not have a rabbi throughout most of the 19th century and his duties were taken up by shochetim and cantors. The following persons performed this function until 1867: Abram Łęczycki, Abraham Tytoń, Mosiek Jakub Zysman (lower rabbi from 1840 and rabbi from 1848), Aron Hersz Lewi, Mojżesz Toroński (Toroński).

On 1 July 1828, a Jewish district was established in Nieszawa. The borders of the district were designated by Ogrodowa Street and partly: Szeroka Street, Targowa Street and Przemysłowa Street. Jews coming to Nieszawa quickly monopolized trade in some products, for example spices, cubit goods, cloth, leather and wool, paper, shoes, iron and Nuremberg wares. Goetz Cohn was a trader who stood out because of his mobility and resourcefulness in the first half of the 19th century. In 1821, out of 13 people who were in the register of trade tax payers, as many as 12 were Jews. Similar situation was with some trades. For instance, only Jews were metalsmiths, bookbinders, hat makers and hairdressers in 1838. In 1850, out of 56 tax payers 25 Jews (45%) lived off trade and 15 craft (approximately 27%). Among fee payers for synagogue supervision in 1851, there were: 11 merchants, 1 negotiator, 8 traders, 1 baker, 2 medics (Aron Służewski, Layzer Zander), 3 glaziers, 4 stall keeper, 3 middlemen, 2 writers, 1 barber-surgeon (Lejb Służewski), 1 freighter, 4 tailors, 1 furrier, 3 shoemakers, 1 metalsmith, 2 unskilled labourers, 1 cotton wool maker, 1 carpenter, 7 poor people[1.2]. It is worth knowing that in the 19th century, some of the Evangelical and Catholic townsmen of Nieszawa demanded, to no avail, that the authorities of the Kingdom of Poland reintroduce the settlement ban for Jews from the 16th century[1.3].

The outbreak of World War I and regaining independence by Poland in 1918 marked a new period in the history of the Jewish community in Nieszawa. Trade, which brought much income to the Jewish merchants during the partition period, became less profitable in the new reality. Nieszawa was no longer located close to the border with Prussia. During the war some Jewish merchants, who made much money on corn trade, lost their fortunes. Many people decided to leave Nieszawa and move to bigger towns or to go abroad. Consequently, Jewish community in Nieszawa declined during the whole interwar period. Those who stayed in the town still dealt with trade but usually on a small scale. In 1928, 25 out of 89 people from Nieszawa district who held patents (merely in category II) were Jews. They were registered in the Warsaw Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Among trade businesses, shops and warehouses owned by Dawid Wildenberg, Julian Bobrownicki and Landau were the most famous in Nieszawa.

Weingoth was rabbi in Jewish community in Nieszawa from the end of the 19th century until 1918-1920. His successor was Abraham Zonabend who came from a rabbi family and died at the end of the 1920s. His brother, Jehuda Lejb Zonabend, was rabbi in Dobrzyń upon Drwęca. Abraham’s brother-in-law, Icchak Meir Bornsztein, was rabbi in Gostynin, and his cousin Iszohar Grojbard was rabbi in Będzin. The next rabbi of Aleksandrów-Nieszawa kehilla was Jakub Hersz Gendzähler, appointed on 28 December 932. He was born on 20 September 1903 in Sanok and lived in Aleksandrów Kujawski. Around 1935, Pozner, who came from Warsaw, was probably chosen a lower rabbi or rabbi’s assistant. He succeeded Erlecher from Służewo who died in the 1930s.

Jews were members of the Voluntary Fire Brigade in Nieszawa. Jewish girls and women took part in actions of Samaritan team attached to the Voluntary Fire Brigade, whereas men played in the Fire Brigade orchestra. In May, during the sunset in Nieszawa, Poles and Jews played “Witaj majowa Jutrzenko” (a Polish patriotic song) taking turns on the trumpet. Salo (Salomon) Toruński (Toroński) was a well-known person among people living in Nieszawa. He left the town at the end of the 19th century and went to the United States where he quickly made a considerable fortune. He used to send significant sums of money which was allotted for buying equipment for the school and the Fire Brigade. Toruński contributed to the rebuilding of the elementary school in Nieszawa. Moreover, he gave the town a portrait of Kazimierz Jagiellończyk. Before each school year, Salo Toruński funded sets of textbooks and workbooks for school children. In recognition of his achievements, the town named a street after him. Another distinguished person was Zakrzewski - founder of the first power station in Nieszawa and a member of the local Jewish community. He bought a part of the Plebanka manor and divided its area between local peasants. In token of their appreciation, these peasants changed the name of their village to Bertowo in honour of Zakrzewski’s wife – Berta.

In the second half of the 1930s, anti-Semitic incidents took place. A woman distributing anti-Jewish appeals published by the Poznań newspaper “Samoobrona narodu” (“Self-defence of the Nation”) was detained on 21 February 1936. Anti-Jewish posters coming from the printing house Obrona Ludu (People’s Defence) in Toruń appeared in the streets in the night on 21/22 February 1936. They were published by Longin Nawrocki, son of the mill owner in Nieszawa. Nawrocki put the posters up again at night on 25 February. Jewish shops were picketed in December 1938 and in January 1939 during an action organized by members of Związek Młodych Narodowców (Union of Young Nationalists) and Związek Młodzieży Polskiej (Union of Polish Youth) [1.4].

In September 1939, the western part of Poland came under German occupation. The behaviour of the Germans (who marched into the town on 8 September 1939) towards Jews in Nieszawa during the first days of the war was “uncommonly appropriate”. For instance, the Germans did not introduce forced labour. However, this "appropriateness" ended after a week. Thirty-two most wealthy inhabitants of Nieszawa were arrested, including 12 Jews (among others Graubart with his 4 sons, Jagoda, Brantuch, Gotlibowicz, Gross, Zakrzewski). On the next day, the inhabitants of Nieszawa were driven to the town square and ordered to watch the event. The Germans imposed flogging upon each of the detainees (from 40 to 70 lashes). Jagoda, who started asking questions to one of the officers, was given an additional punishment of 60 lashes. The beaten people were released except for Jagoda who was detained. After a couple of days, Jagoda and two Poles who were caught during a robbery were shot. The Germans, who used searching for weapons in Jewish houses as an excuse, started to pillage and plunder.

Eventually, all Jews from Nieszawa were displaced at the end of October 1939. The synagogue was burnt and the cemetery destroyed[1.5].  

After the war, in 1946, only several Jews settled in Nieszawa. They established a local department of the Central Committee of Polish Jews. The department was within the jurisdiction of the district Committee in Włocławek and ceased its operation at the beginning of 1947. Last Jews left the town in the 1950s[1.6].

 Bibliography

  • T. Dziki, Żydzi w Nieszawie w pierwszej połowie XIX wieku, „Ziemia Kujawska” 2004, vol. 17.
  • T. Kawski, Gminy żydowskie pogranicza Wielkopolski, Mazowsza i Pomorza w latach 19181942, Toruń (2007).
  • T. Kawski, Kujawsko-dobrzyńscy Żydzi w latach 19181950, Toruń (2006).
  • T. Kawski, Mniejszość żydowska w województwie pomorskim (bydgoskim) w latach 19451956, [in:] Kujawy i Pomorze w latach 19451956. Od zakończenia okupacji niemieckiej do przełomu październikowego, W. Jastrzębski, M. Krajewski (eds.), Włocławek (2001), pp. 205–228.
  • T. Kawski, Żydzi z Kujaw, ziemi dobrzyńskiej i Bydgoszczy ocaleni z Shoah. Przyczynek do poznania struktury społeczno-zawodowej, zmian osadniczych oraz migracji ludności żydowskiej w Polsce po II wojnie światowej, [in:] Wrzesień 1939 roku i jego konsekwencje dla ziem zachodnich i północnych Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej, R. Sudziński, W. Jastrzębski (eds.), Toruń – Bydgoszcz (2001), pp. 365–392.
  • Wloclawek we ha Swiwa. Sefer Zikkaron, K. Fiszel Tchursz, M. Korzen (eds.), Tel Awiw (1967), pp. 797–798.  
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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Z. Guldon, "Skupiska żydowskie w miastach polskich w XV–XVI wieku", [in:] Żydzi i judaizm we współczesnych badaniach polskich, vol. 2, K. Pilarczyk, S. Gąsiorowski (eds.), Kraków (2000), pp. 21–23.
  • [1.2] Wojewódzki Konserwator Zabytków w Toruniu (Provincial Conservator of Historical Monuments). Delegatura we Włocławku, Dokumentacja cmentarzy, sign. 188 (Nieszawa); „Głos Nieszawski” 1932 no. 5, p. 2; T. Dziki, Żydzi w Nieszawie w pierwszej połowie XIX wieku, „Ziemia Kujawska”, 2004, vol. 17, pp. 54-62.
  • [1.3] T. Dziki, Żydzi w Nieszawie w pierwszej połowie XIX wieku, „Ziemia Kujawska” 2004, vol. 17, pp. 60–61.
  • [1.4] T. Kawski, Gminy żydowskie pogranicza Wielkopolski, Mazowsza i Pomorza w latach 1918–1942, Toruń (2007), p. 28.
  • [1.5] Wloclawek we ha Swiwa. Sefer Zikkaron, K. Fiszel Tchursz, M. Korzen (eds.), Tel Awiw (1967), pp. 797–798; T. Kawski, Kujawsko-dobrzyńscy Żydzi w latach 19181950, Toruń (2006); T. Kawski , Gminy żydowskie pogranicza Wielkopolski, Mazowsza i Pomorza w latach 19181942, Toruń (2007), pp. 17–28.
  • [1.6] T. Kawski, Żydzi z Kujaw, ziemi dobrzyńskiej i Bydgoszczy ocaleni z Shoah. Przyczynek do poznania struktury społeczno-zawodowej, zmian osadniczych oraz migracji ludności żydowskiej w Polsce po II wojnie światowej, [in:] Wrzesień 1939 roku i jego konsekwencje dla ziem zachodnich i północnych Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej, R. Sudziński, W. Jastrzębski (ed.), Toruń – Bydgoszcz (2001), pp. 365–392; T. Kawski, Mniejszość żydowska w województwie pomorskim (bydgoskim) w latach 19451956, [in:] Kujawy i Pomorze w latach 19451956. Od zakończenia okupacji niemieckiej do przełomu październikowego, W. Jastrzębski, M. Krajewski (eds.), Włocławek (2001), pp. 205–228.