Jews first arrived in Działoszyce in the 16th century. A larger influx of Jews was recorded after 1707, following the issuance of a privilege by the town’s owner Jan Stradomski. As Adam Penkalla writes, “In the first half of the 18th century, their community facilities had already become part of the town architecture, including a synagogue complex”[[ref:|Penkalla A., Żydowskie ślady w województwie kieleckim i radomskim, Radom 1992, p. 39.]].

The first timber synagogue was erected in 1707 and then burned down in 1732. Another was constructed in the second half of the 17th century. It too burned down in 1846. A neoclassiccal, brick synagogue, with a gabledroof was built in 1852[1.1]. It had very sophisticated architectural and sculptural adornments[[ref:|Zabytki Ziemi Kieleckiej. Katalog wystawy, ed. M. Kubiakowski, Kielce 1973, p. 17.]]. Outside the synagogue, a triangular gabled wall contained Hebrew inscriptions[[ref:|Jagielski J., Zabytki żydowskie w Katalogu Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, “Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego” 1985, no. 3–4, p. 146.]]. A cheder, library, mikveh and rabbi’s apartment were situated in the building's annexe. A cemetery was established on the road leading towards Skalbmierz.

In 1765, 651 Jews lived in Działoszyce. For the most part, they were involved in trade and craft. By1820, their number had increased to 1,256.

In 1877, the funeral procession of Aleksander Wielopolski passed through Działoszyce. He was Director of the Government Commission for Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment, which had brought about equal rights for Jews in the Kingdom of Poland. The funeral cortege coming from Dresden stopped in front of the local synagogue.

“A crowd of Jews from all over the area was waiting for the funeral procession. The Rabbi said kaddish for the deceased. Twenty-four singers, who were brought in by the Jewish community council especially for the occasion from Kraków, sang psalms of mourning. Representative of the local community, Dr. Stejermarck, delivered a condolence speech in Polish, and the son of Aleksander Wielopolski, Zygmunt, thanked him on beghalf of the family (...)”[[ref:|Sabor A., Sztetl. Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce, Chmielnik, Pińczów, Chęciny, Kraków 2005, pp. 10–11.]]. A crowd of Jews then escorted Wielopolski's coffin to Młodzawy, where the governor was buried.

In 1899, of Działoszyce's 5,170 inhabitants, as many as 4,673 were Jews[[ref:|Sabor A., Sztetl. Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce, Chmielnik, Pińczów, Chęciny, Kraków 2005, pp. 12–13.]]. Six tanneries, three brickworks, two oil mills, two candle factories, a gypsum mine and a tile factory all prospered in the town. Door-to-door trade was dominated by Jews. The town square was a kind of social meeting place where one could gossip, chat and share viewpoints. The proximity of the Austrian border created favourable conditions for smuggling. Russian merchants from such distant places as Siberia came here to obtain bead necklaces smuggled from Kraków.

The moment of regaining independence in November 1918 was very unfortunate for the Jews of Działoszyce. General Haller's troops, the so-called “Blue Army”, entered the town. They were known for their persecution of Jews. At that time, Zalman Zudzynowski was killed. Jankiel Skopecki had his beard cut off and was robbed of a gold watch[1.2]

In the inter-War period, the local Jewish population was very active in terms of social and political initiatives. In the years 1924-1927, the merchant Icek Rubin, a Chassid and disciple of the Góra Kalwaria tzaddik, was a deputy mayor’s deputy. Salomon Gertler and Dawid Srebrny served as lay judges. The Town Council, established in April 1932 by the the provincial governor, includedf Pejsach Szternberg, Mendel Rożenek and Izrael Wajnsztok. In 1934, P. Szternberg, M. Rożenek, Aba Granetman, Lejba Groswald, Icek Chil Minc, Szmul Lewkowicz and Menesze Herszlewicz entered the Council on behalf of the Independent Bloc for Cooperation with the Government. In 1939, the Town Council consisted of Icek Abram Chaba, Symcha Jurysta, Szmul Lewkowicz, Icek Chil Minc and P. Szternberg. Josek Kruk became a lay judge and P. Szternberg was appointed Deputy Mayor deputy.

In the mid-1930's, the town had a population of 6,755, including over 5,000 Jews who played a crucial role in local industry, craft and trade. Gerszon Szental owned a brickyard, Szmul Gertler a concrete plant, and Moszek Kajzer run a candy and chicory factory. H. and S. Brojgies, Ch. Mekler and L. Wajsblat owned three tanneries. Szenthal, Kac, Ickowic and Rożenek were the owners of water mills. The “Miodownik & Szteinfeld” company ran an oil mill, and a soda water factory belonged to Enoch Horowicz and Aron Rubin. Jews ran bakeries, as well as underwear, metal, carpentry, hat, photographic, hairdressing, bookbinding, shoe sole, tailor, cordage, hosiery, brush, shoe, glass, cold meat and watch-making shops[[ref:|Księga Adresowa Polski (wraz z W.M. Gdańskiem) dla handlu, przemysłu, rzemiosł i rolnictwa, Warszawa 1930, p. 204.]].

The town had fifty grocery stores, twenty textile shops, seven haberdasheries, two pharmacies, three tea shops, two pubs, and three restaurants[[ref:|Księga Adresowa Polski (wraz z W.M. Gdańskiem) dla handlu, przemysłu, rzemiosł i rolnictwa, Warszawa 1930, pp. 204–205.]].

Usury was also a very popular way of making money, but it was practised without publicity[[ref:|Jerzmanowski J., W starych Kielcach, Kraków 1975, p. 128.]]. The Cooperative Bank, led by Herszel Moher, was owned by Jewish shareholders. Loans were also granted by the Cooperative Shareholders’ Bank, the Cooperative Merchants’ Bank and the Cooperative Bank[[ref:|Spis uczestników obrotu czekowego PKO, Warszawa 1933, p. 305.]]. Jews from Działoszyce purchased feathers on a mass scale, which were then locally sorted, packed, and then exported through Będzin to Wrocław, Prague and Berlin. The Shipping and Commission Office, owned by Salomon Gertler, was a significant player at that time. In 1933, the following people, among others, were entitled to trade in PKO bank cheques: Icek Abram Chaba, Lejzor Epsztein, Tobiasz Meryn and Moszek Laskier. Professionals included doctors,Icek Segal and Szmul Edelman, a dentist T. Rozenwajg, feldshers Moszek Uszer Moszenberg and Chil Rok, and a pharmacist Pikus Szternberg.

It should be noted, however, that besides prosperity and wealth, there also was poverty. Hawkers, seasonal workers, day laborers, junk dealers and stallholders constituted quite a large group within the Jewish population.

Agnieszka Sabor describes life in Działoszyce as follows: “The townspeople met (…) during wedding ceremonies which took place on Friday afternoons in the square between the synagogue and the Jewish community building, or at concerts of amateur music groups. Travelling theatre troupes were frequent visitors to the town, as well. (…) Pious Hassidim from all the neighbouring towns and villages came to town in order to see the Rabbi of Działoszyce, Elizer Epstein”[[ref:|Sabor A., Sztetl. Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce, Pińczów, Chmielnik, Chęciny, Kraków 2005., p. 14]]. When chazans or choirs arrived in Działoszyce for concerts, the events were like festivities for the Jewish masses.

In the inter-War period, apart from Działoszyce, the Jewish Community Council encompassed Sancygniów, Drożejowice, Topola, Boszczynek, Czarnocin and Skalbmierz (overall 1,340 families)[1.3]. At the end 1924 and 1925, Skalbmierz wanted to separate itself from Działoszyce and create an independent Community Council. However, the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment would not agree to this.

During the election in 1924, Działoszyce was considered a large community. The following were elected: Icek Jakub Cukierman, Icek Rubin, Pejsach Szternberg, Wolf Kazimierski, Aron Moszek Wajnsztajn, Josek Kamelgarten, Boruch Pinkarz and Abram Majerczyk[[ref:|APK, UWK I, file no. 1511, k. 35.]]. I. Rubin was appointed the President of the Community Council, I. J. Cukierman was his deputy, and M. A. Wajnsztajn was appointed Council Secretary. Zionists predominated the Council, which reflected community attitudes.

One of the first preserved documents issued by the Ministry of Religious Denominations and Public Enlightenment to the Jewish Community Council contains an order to raise the salaries of Chief Rabbi Mordka Icek Staszewski and Rabbi Lejzor Epsztajn by 1,000 and 500 zlotys, respectively. The money was ordered to be taken from cancelled “incidental expenses” and from “purchase of flour for holidays” provisions[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1400, k. 469.]]. The Ministry also decided that revenue from slaughter was under-estimated in relation to the size of the population[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1400, k. 409.]]. According to preserved data, the fee for the  slaughter of an ox or a cow was 6 zlotys, while slaughtering a calf cost 2.50 zlotys. Interestingly, when slaughter was conducted for the needs of Polish people, prices were much lower. They paid only 3 zlotys for the slaughter of a cow and 1 zloty for a calf[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1400, k. 470.]].

The Community Council was weakened by personal animosities[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1601, k. 20.]]. Council members had many reservations regarding the Council Chairman the chairman of the board and filed a lot of complaints to the district authorities. They accused him of  “shady dealing.” In 1927, for example, he was accused of partial appropriation of the flour brought from Kalisz for the holiday of Passover[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1568, k. 1, 2.]]. One of the denunciations stated that he used 30 zlotys from the community budget to erect a monument in memory of his dead daughter Małka Grynszpan[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1568, k. 1, 2.]]. There were also serious arrears in the payment of salaries to community clerks. In 1927, rabbi complained that he had not been paid all of the salary that was due to him[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 57.]]. The Council also had a great deal of trouble with Aron Wajsztajn, a cashier, who was accused of financial misappropriation. The Council's scale of fees and budget were not prepared on time and were approved only in the third quarter. As a result, Council fees were almost never fully collected due to numerous appeals that were filed. Two persons were responsible for conducting circumcision, namely Lejzor Epsztajn (paid 600 zlotys a year) and Abram Kohn (200 zlotys). The difference in their remuneration resulted in numerous complaints. In 1927, as many as 1,360 oxen and cows (for 6 zlotys each), 552 calves (2 zlotys each), 18,856 geese, 24,744 chickens and 4,919 pigeons were slaughtered by the Council[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 117.]]. The majority of the poultry slaughtered was exported, mainly to Silesian Province and to Germany.

In 1928, the Jewish Community Council of Działoszyce owned a brick synagogue for 800 people (with a women’s gallery), steam bathhouse, a prayer-house in at ul.Zakościelna 86, a poultry slaughterhouse, a brick school, a Talmud Torah at Rynek 97, a shtiebel, a residential building and an 8.5 acre cemetery[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 26.]]. The slaughterhouse was situated in ul.Stawiska 176. Despite financial difficulties during 1928-1930, the Council bought one additional house.

In 1930, the Community Council 's assets were regarded as being of considerable value. The synagogue was valued at 100,000 zlotys, the bathhouse at 6,000 zlotys, the prayer-house at 15,000 zlotys, the poultry slaughterhouse at 3,000, the brick school at 70,000 zlotys, the Talmud Torah building at 25,000 zlotys, two residential houses at 60,000 zlotys, the shtiebel at 8,000 zlotys, the cemetery (together with its fence) at 12,000 zlotys, and the prayer-house for women at 20,000 zlotys. The total amount was 300,000 zlotys[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1516, k. 27.]].

According to its 1927 budget, ritual slaughter and communal fees were the main sources of income. Slaughter was to generate income of 38,690 zlotys, communal fees 6,620 zlotys, permits to erect cemetery monuments 750 zlotys, bathhouse fees 5,000 zlotys, sale of matzos 2,769 zlotys and the lease of pews in the synagogue 5,000 zlotys. Altogether, budgetted income stood at 66,577 zlotys[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 155, 156.]]. However, the anticipated income was not achieved. Expenses was budgetted as follows: salary of Rabbi M. I. Staszewski – 5,600 zlotys annually; Rabbi Moszek Kozin – 2,656 zlotys; teacher Kiwa Rozenberg – 840 zlotys; shochetim Moszek Lewita, Jonasz Klajman and Icek Frydberg – 3,584 each; cantor Szaja Śpiewak – 1,626 zlotys; and of Community Council secretary Jan Mendelbaum – 2,520 zlotys. Additionally, it was planned to spend 800 zlotys for the maintenance of the office; 1,000 zlotys for lighting and heating in community buildings; 4,500 zlotys for the renovation of buildings; 3,000 zlotys for the renovation of cemetery walls; 4,000 zlotys for new pews for the synagogue; 4,500 zlotys for allowances for the poor; and 270 zlotys for the maintenance of the poultry slaughterhouse[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 156.]]. An amount of 5,500 zlotys was allocated to Talmud Torah, which was attended by 80 boys taught by Josek Rakowski, Jankiel Szklarczyk, Josek Glat and Jakób Leszman. Interestingly, all the abovenamed teachers filed complaints about not being paid their entire salaries. The case was brought to light after the intervention of the Jewish Religious Members of Parliament Caucus[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 399.]]. Under the auspices of Aguda, the Bais Yaakov school for girls was opened, which prepared them for the role of being mothers and wives. Działoszyce also had its own library containing 3,000 volumes, mainly of religious literature.

When at the end of 1927, the Community Council Chairman I.Rubin left town for a lengthy period of time, his duties were taken over by A.Wajsztan. When drafting the 1928 budget, it was discovered that the Council was in debt by 13,122 złoty and there was little chance of settling that debt. Communal fees, although low (6 to 300 złoty) were had to collect[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 523.]]. In 1929, the Communal fee was mandatory for 877, while 240 families were exempted from payment.

In 1930, the District Office took several import decisions. Chairman Council Chairman I.Rubin was dismissed and replaced by Pejsach Szternberg[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 297.]]. In addition, Aron Majerczak and Josek Kamelgard were appointed as Council members. The cheder run by the Jawne Association was declared illegal and its further financing was forbidden. Rates for weddings (5,10 to 50.75 zlotys) and funerals (1.50 to 20 zlotys) were also set[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 27.]]. In November 1930, under the supervision of the Community Council, a synagogue renovation sub-committee was established.

Działoszyce was inhabited by many Hassidim. On 31st October 1930, the Rabbi Twerski Hassidic Prayer House Association was established in Lublin, with its offices in Działoszyce[[ref:|Kaczmarkiewicz M., Stowarzyszenia żydowskie w województwie kieleckim (19181939), “Biuletyn ŻIH” 1994, no. 1–3, pp. 67, 74.]].

In 1931, income was budgetted to be 61,070 zlotys. This was comprised of 35,000 zlotys from slaughter, 12,390 zlotys from communal fees, and the arrears from 1930 which amounted to 6,440 zlotys. The County Office introduced further changes. The Community Council Chairman remained on his position, but new members, Chaim Ryba, Majer Spiro, Izrael Pomerenc and Beniamin Pinczewski were added. Moszek Kołatacz and Herszel Moher were the Secretaries. An independent commission was established with Abram Aba Granabaum as its head, which was to set the amount of communal fees[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 432.]]. Despite the state authorities' great efforts, the above-described changes did not fix the situation.

In 1932, budget revenues were estimated at 55,000 zlotys, being 6,000 zlotys less than in the previous year. The plan was to earn 35,000 zlotys from slaughter, 10,170 from communal fees, 3,000 from the sale of matzos, 100 zlotys from cemetery monuments, and 400 zlotys from funerals[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 829, 861.]]. Again, the finances did not go as planned. This was mainly due to the fact that many people had not been paying communal fees, some even since 1924. As a result, in 1932, the Rabbi was to be paid 5,600 zlotys, but received 3,080 zlotys; the lower rabbi was paid 2,232 zlotys instead of 2,528 zlotys; Secretary 2,582 zlotys instead of 3080 zlotys; and money collector at the slaughterhouse was paid 490 instead of 620 zlotys[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 861.]]. Everyone blamed the Community Council for the situation.

According to the 1933 census, the Działoszyce Jewish community consisted of 5,979 people. Slaughter was supposed to bring in revenue of 39,000 zlotys, communal fees – 14,416 zlotys, and other sources – 4,975.85 zlotys. Altogether, it was planned to earn 58,391.85 zlotys. Rabbi’s and lower rabbi’s salaries were to amount to 5,900 zlotys and 2,800 zlotys a year, respectively. Budgetary expenses were planned as follows: salaries of community officers – 17,433 zlotys, other costs – 5,283, investments – 4,000 zlotys, subsidies – 2,800 zlotys, charity – 5,000 zlotys, and other expenses – 5,175.85 zlotys.

In 1937, the Council's non-fixed assets were valued at 16,500 zlotys, whereas its fixed assets were worth 95,500 zlotys. The considerable difference in the valuation of assets by comparison to the early 1930's is most striking. Debt was reported to amount to 5,082 zlotys[[ref:|State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 3354]]. The Zionists, making up 50% of the Community Council, were still the most influential group. Orthodox Jews and the Mizrachi followers also held a strong position.

The 22nd May 1937 was a day of mourning for many Jews. As a result of a storm, two small rivers flooded the town, claiming the lives of six people. The waters swept away 28 houses and left 130 buildings seriously damaged. As reported in “Gazeta Kielecka,” among the victims there were Abram Kleiner (aged 86), Maria Koźma (84), Łaja Wdowińska (64), Chawa Wdowińska (8), Aron Wdowiński (5) and Rajgla Rajcher (72)[[ref:|”Gazeta Kielecka” 1937, no. 126.]]. The Community Council acted quickly and organised immediate aid for the victims. The flood also covered the district of Pińczów, Olkusz and Miechów. The areas affected by flood were visited by, among others Governor Dr. Władysław Dziadosz. A council to aid the flood victims was established in Kielce.

At the beginning of September 1939, Działoszyce was affected by bombing. The German army entered the city on 7th September. Repressive measures against the Jewish community began immediately. Jewish property was looted, private houses were taken over and Jews were ordered to wear Star of David armband. A curfew was enforced – from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am for Christians, and from 8:00 pm to 6:00 am for Jews[[ref:|Sabor A., Sztetl. Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce, Pińczów, Chmielnik, Chęciny, Kraków 2005, pp. 20–21].]].

Mosze Josel Kruk became the head of the Judenrat and tried to negotiate with the Germans. A social services committee was created which distributed food amongst the poor. Daily, 1,500 hot meals were distributed. The Jewish Community Council also made efforts to maintain the spiritual life. Among other initiatives, it organised a ball for children and a performance on the occasion of Hanukkah[[ref:|Sabor A., Sztetl. Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce, Chmielnik, Pińczów, Chęciny, Kraków 2005, pp. 20–21.]].

During the existence of the ghetto in Działoszyce (since 1941), young people were deported for forced labour. The Germans carried out executions. Around 1941, in the overcrowded ghetto, the first cases of diphtheria and typhoid were reported.

On 1st September 1942, the town was cordoned off by troops. Ten thousand Jews staying in the ghetto were gathered into the market square. Most of them were transported to a collection point in Miechów and then to the extermination camp in Bełżec. About 1,500 remaining people, children and older people, who were unable to walk quickly, were transported on horse-drawn carts to the Jewish cemetery and there were shot. About 18 people tried to hide in the mill, but they were found and executed[[ref:|Sabor A., Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce, Pińczów, Chmielnik, Chęciny, Kraków 2005, pp. 23–25.]].

After the War, all that remained of the Działoszyce Jewish community were the ruins of the synagogue which had been built in 1852. People tried to forget about the presence of Jews in town. But, after 1989, the situation began to change. A former rabbi and survivor of the Holocaust, Leon Kruk, came to Działoszyce. Before the War, he had lived in ul. Krakowska. A small monument was erected in the town (near the park in ul. Skalbmierska). Its inscription says: “In commemoration of the Jewish inhabitants of Działoszyce murdered in 1942. On the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, local community. Działoszyce, 1st September 1989”[[ref:|Sabor A., Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce, Pińczów, Chmielnik, Chęciny, Kraków 2005, p. 29.]].

In 2002, filmmakers Menachem Daum and Oren Rudowsky, came to Działoszyce. Daum is the son-in-law of a man rescued from the Holocaust by the inhabitants of the neighbouring village of Bronowo. He took his sons on a trip to Poland to meet the people who saved their grandfather. In this way, the film entitled Hiding and Seeking (“Zabawa w chowanego”) directed by Daum was made. In 2003, the director again visited Działoszyce and his film was screened in a local school[[ref:|Sabor A., Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce, Pińczów, Chmielnik, Chęciny, Kraków 2005, pp. 28–29.]].

Bibliography

  • Penkalla A., Żydowskie ślady w województwie kieleckim i radomskim, Radom 1992.
  • Sabor A., Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce, Pińczów, Chmielnik, Chęciny, Kraków 2005.
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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Burchard P., Pamiątki i zabytki kultury żydowskiej w Polsce Warszawa 1990, p. 137.
  • [1.2] Sabor A., Sztetl. Śladami żydowskich miasteczek. Działoszyce, Chmielnik, Pińczów, Chęciny, Kraków 2005, p. 13.
  • [1.3] State Archive in Kielce, Kielce Provincial Office I, file no. 1684, k. 250