The earliest records of Jewish presence in Ozorków date back to the late 18th century. Jews were attracted to the town by its growing textile industry, including the wool and cotton spinning mill and the Schlösser family cotton factory. Abraham Liwrach's textile factory was established in 1830. The growing number of factory workers boosted the development of Jewish crafts and trade. An independent Jewish community was established in Ozorków in 1819. By 1897, the town already had 5,837 Jewish inhabitants, who constituted 50% of the overall population.[1.1]

In 1921, Ozorków was inhabited by 4,949 Jews. Representatives of the Jewish community held three seats on the Municipal Council. Before 1939, the mayor of the town was Wacław Kropp. In the interwar period, after the local cotton mills had been cut off from the highly absorptive Russian market, the once thriving industry collapsed. As a result, living standards in the town deteriorated drastically. In October 1937, the tensions caused by the difficult economic conditions came to a boil and resulted in anti-Semitic riots and boycotts of Jewish shops. The events significantly worsened the economic situation and living conditions of the Jewish population.

During World War II, on 7 September 1939, Ozorków was captured by the German army. The occupier carried out several executions; among the victims were 24 Jews. A local Judenrat was appointed, with Szymon Barczyński as the president and Szymon Liska as one of the members. The commander of the Jewish police was Joszua Pareczewski. In early 1941, the Germans established the Ozorków ghetto, in which they confined nearly 6,000 Jews. Initially, the ghetto was not sealed, and its inhabitants led lives not unlike those before the war. Schools remained open and prayer services were held regularly. Textile and shoe factories located within the Jewish quarter provided jobs for most inhabitants of the ghetto. There were also some 1,000 people who worked in factories outside the ghetto. In 1941, a group of 400 Jewish workers was deported to labour camps operating in Poznań and its environs.

The first step in the process of liquidating the ghetto was the execution of eight or ten Jews accused of assisting in the escape of a Jewish woman. The Germans ordered for all the residents of the Ozorków ghetto to witness the execution. The person responsible for the hanging of the arrested Jews was SS unit commander Major Heinrich Butschkow. The bodies were left on the gallows for two days. In May 1942, the Germans deported 1,700–2,000 Jews, mostly children, the elderly, and women, to the Nazi extermination camp in Chełmno (Kulmhof). About 1,000 Jews remained in Ozorków. The reduced ghetto was converted into a labour camp. By August 1942, all the local Jews had been transported to the Łódź ghetto.[1.2]

Bibliography

  • “Ozorków,” in: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life before and during the Holocaust, S. Spector, G. Wigoder (eds.), vol. 2, New York 2001, p. 959.
  • “Ozorków,” in: The Yad Vashem Encyclopedia of the Ghettos during the Holocaust, G. Miron, Sh. Shulani (eds.), vol. 2, Jerusalem 2009, pp. 567–568.
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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Chlebowski B., “Ozorków,” in: Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, vol. 7, F. Sulimierski, B. Chlebowski, W. Walewski (eds.), Warszawa 1886, pp. 790–791.
  • [1.2]Ozorków,” in: The Yad Vashem Encyclopedia of the Ghettos during the Holocaust, G. Miron, Sh. Shulani (eds.), vol. 2, Jerusalem 2009, pp. 567–568.