First Jews appeared in Józefów after the town’s foundation in 1725 and soon established an independent community[1.1]. Most Jewish people lived around the Market Square and at Sitarska Street. The first, wooden synagogue was erected south to the Market Square in 1735 or 1744, depending on the source. The Jewish cemetery was located farther to the south[1.2]. The community was quickly growing in numbers, with Jews constituting 60% of the local population by the end of the 18th century. In the second half of the 19th century, a brick synagogue was erected in Józefów; it has been preserved to the present day.

Local Jews dealt mostly with trade in timber and crafts (tailoring, shoemaking, hat making), distilling and selling liquors, and ran workshops located at the local quarry[1.3]. In the years 1824–1841, a printing house founded by Szyja Waks and Dawid Sadie operated in the town. It published Hebrew books, circulars, and official forms. In the 1930s, the production of this single printing house accounted for 80% of the total volume of publishing in Lubelskie Province. Another printing house was established ca. 1830 by brothers Baruch and Szlomo Zecer[1.4]. Józefów thus became one of the most vibrant centres of printing in the entire province, with over a half of the town’s Jewish population employed at the production and sale of books[1.5]. Publications printed in Józefów were produced for both the domestic and the foreign market – Russia, Romania, Moldavia, and Turkey. However, Waks’s printing house soon proved unable to fend off the competition of cutting-edge enterprises from Warsaw, Lviv, and Vilnius, and was eventually closed down in 1883, after its premises were destroyed in a fire[1.6].

In the second half of the 19th century, the Hasidic movement managed to gain great popularity among the Jews of Józefów, with its central figures being rabbis B. Hercensztok and Szymon Panczewski[1.1.1]. There were also shtiebelekh attended by the supporters of tzaddikim from Góra Kalwaria (Ger), Aleksandrów (Alexander), and Warka (Vurka). The first Jewish political parties were established in the town during World War I – these were branches of the Zionist Organisation and Mizrachi[1.1.4].

After WWI, the Jews of Józefów struggled with difficult economic conditions which continued to worsen with the advancing economic crisis. Most families would live off petty trade and crafts, some also leased orchards and were farmers. Several bigger enterprises operated in the town, including a beer brewery and a vodka distillery[1.1.4]. A credit union was established in Józefów in 1927, followed by a co-operative bank in 1929. The town’s inhabitants received aid from the JOINT committee and from the former Jewish residents of the town who had migrated to the USA.

Most of Józefów’s inhabitants were very religious, which thwarted the early development of political activities in the town. Zionist parties and organisations – Poale Zion and Mizrachi – had the greatest following. There was also a cell of the Bund in the town and a branch of the Orthodox Agudath. The HeHalutz youth organisation was founded towards the end of the 1920s[1.7]. The Jewish community ran a Talmud-Torah school and a yeshiva with ca. 50 students. There were also several cheders in the town, as well as a Yavneh school operating under the auspices of Mizrachi (est. 1926) and a Beit Yaakov school for girls run by the Agudath (est. 1928)[1.8].

The Red Army entered Józefów on 17 September 1939 but soon withdrew from the town in accordance with the German-Soviet agreement. As the troops were leaving, they were joined by a group of ca. 300 Jews seeking to flee east[1.9]. During the German occupation, two labour camps for Jews were established in Józefów[1.1.9]. A ghetto was formed in March 1941. Apart from the local Jewish community, its population also comprised Jews deported from many nearby localities and a group of ca. 600 people displaced from Konin[1.1.5]. In the summer of 1942, there were ca. 1,800 people held in the ghetto.

In May 1942, a group of Gestapo officers from Biłgoraj shot ca. 120 Jews in the streets of Józefów[1.1.6]. On 13 July 1942, following a selection, ca. 200–400 young men from the local ghetto were sent to labour camps in Lublin, while the remaining 1,200–1,700 people, mostly women, children, and the elderly, were shot in a mass execution on Winiarczykowa Góra[1.10]. The execution was described in detail in the book Ordinary Men. Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland by Christopher Browning[1.11]. The event has also been commemorated with a monument placed at the edge of the forest, by the road connecting Józefów with Biłgoraj.

In early November 1942, around a dozen Jews from Józefów were put on one of the German transports from Biłgoraj to the Bełżec death camp[1.12].

Bibliography

  • Browning Ch., Ordinary Men. Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, New York 1992.
  • “Jozefow,” [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 578.
  • “Jozefow,” [in] Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, vol. 7, Jerusalem 1999, pp. 256–258.
  • Kuwałek R., Z Lublina do Bełżca. Ślady obecności i zagłady Żydów na południowo-wschodniej Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 2007.
  • Trzciński A., Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990.
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Footnotes
  • [1.1] |Trzciński A., Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990, p. 17.
  • [1.2] |“Jozefow,” [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 578; Trzciński A., Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990, p. 17.
  • [1.3] |“Jozefow,” [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 578.
  • [1.4] |“Jozefow,” [in] Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, vol. 7, Jerusalem 1999, pp. 256–258.
  • [1.5] |Kuwałek R., Z Lublina do Bełżca. Ślady obecności i zagłady Żydów na południowo-wschodniej Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 2007, p. 25.
  • [1.6] |Kuwałek R., Z Lublina do Bełżca. Ślady obecności i zagłady Żydów na południowo-wschodniej Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 2007, pp. 25–26.
  • [1.1.1] |Trzciński A., Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990, p. 17.
  • [1.1.4] [a] [b] |“Jozefow,” [in] Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, vol. 7, Jerusalem 1999, pp. 256–258.
  • [1.7] |“Jozefow,” [in] Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, vol. 7, Jerusalem 1999, pp. 256–258; “Jozefow,” [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 578.
  • [1.8] |“Jozefow,” [in] Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, vol. 7, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 1999, pp. 256–258.
  • [1.9] |“Jozefow,” [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 578.
  • [1.1.9] |“Jozefow,” [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 578.
  • [1.1.5] |Kuwałek R., Z Lublina do Bełżca. Ślady obecności i zagłady Żydów na południowo-wschodniej Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 2007, p. 25.
  • [1.1.6] |Kuwałek R., Z Lublina do Bełżca. Ślady obecności i zagłady Żydów na południowo-wschodniej Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 2007, pp. 25–26.
  • [1.10] |“Jozefow,” [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 578; Kuwałek R., Z Lublina do Bełżca. Ślady obecności i zagłady Żydów na południowo-wschodniej Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 2007, p. 25.
  • [1.11] |Browning Ch., Ordinary Men. Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, New York 1992.
  • [1.12] |Kuwałek R., Z Lublina do Bełżca. Ślady obecności i zagłady Żydów na południowo-wschodniej Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 2007, p. 26.