Th earliest mentions of Jews living in Kluczbork date back to 1414.

However, it was not until the mid-18th century that Jews started to settle in the town in large numbers. In 1748, there was still only one Jews living in the town. Sources from 1751 mention Jewish residents of Kluczbork, but do not provide any exact numbers. However, data from 1772 shows that the town had as many as 24 Jewish residents. By 1787, their number had fallen to 19 (0.9% of the total population).

In 1809, Kluczbork had 54 Jewish residents – 2.2% of the population. The first house of prayer was opened in the town in 1840. In 1845, there were as many as 158 Jews living in the town, constituting 4.3% of the population. In 1848, the Jewish community of Kluczbork became a legal entity. However, it still did not have its own synagogue or cemetery. Interestingly, Jews were formally banned from settling in Kluczbork until 1848. However, the local authorities were issuing many special permissions, especially for merchants and affluent Jews. In 1856, a house of prayer was established in a private house at Damrota Street, The Chevra Kadisha burial society was founded in Kluczbork in 1860. A year later, the town had 304 Jewish residents (7% of the population).

Simon Cohn, a Jewish merchant from Kluczbork, was supplying the Prussian army in weapons during the war with Prussia in 1866 and the war with France in 1870–1871. He became a favourite of the Prussian authorities and received the title of secret commercial councillor (Gehaimrat). In 1872, he moved to Berlin but he did not forget about his hometown. He donated a plot of land for the construction of a secondary school (Opolska Street) and once it was opened, he funded a scholarship for poor student attending the facility. On 3 September 1883, Simon Cohn received the title of a honorary citizen of Kluczbork.

Kluczbork Jews were highly assimilated into the German society. In 1868, the Bourgeois High School (Höhere Bürgerschule) in Kluczbork had 51 Jewish students (among a total of 160 pupils – 31.9%). At the time, Jews were some of the more affluent and better educated inhabitants of the town. In 1869, there were 406 Jews living in Kluczbork, making up 3.8% of the population, while 763 Jews lived in the entire county (2%).

In 1872, the Association of Upper Silesian Synagogue Communities (Oberschlesische Synagogen-Gemeinden) was founded. It also included the Kluczbork community.

In 1885, the secondary school in Kluczbork was attended by 34 Jews (among a total of 157 students), and in 1888, there were five Jews among the ten graduates from the facility. In 1886, a Jewish school and a synagogue were erected in Kluczbork. The late 19th century saw the emergence of active anti-Semitic circles which issued their own periodical – Kreuzberger Nachrichten.

After the end of World War I, many Silesian Jews decided to migrate West, usually to large urban centres in Germany. The same trend could be noticed among the Jewish population of Kluczbork.

In the plebiscite held on 20 March 1921, 37,957 votes (95.6%) were cast in favour of the town remaining in Germany and thus Kluczbork was not incorporated into Poland.

In 1923, there were 325 Jews living in Kluczbork, and 371 in the entire county. In 1928, a new Jewish cemetery was established. Around the same time, the Association of the Jewish Veterans of the First World War was created. The Zionist Organisation was also active in town.

As in entire Germany, an anti-Jewish boycott was organised in Kluczbork on 1 April 1933. As a result of the adoption of anti-Semitic acts and increasing anti-Jewish violence in the country, many Jews decided to leave Kluczbork. Most of them migrated to Western Europe or the United States. In 1933, there were 275 Jews living in Kluczbork, and in 1936 – only 63.

During the Kristallnacht (9/10 November 1938), the Nazis burned down the Kluczbork synagogue. All Jewish shops were vandalised, with the goods cats out into the streets. Many Jews were severely battered.

The unrelenting German repressions triggered an exodus of Jews from Kluczbork. The national census of 1939 showed that there were 33 Jews and 24 people of mixed origin (so-called Mischlinger) living in Kluczbork. In November 1942, only one Jew resided in the town. There is no information on his further fate.

The Jewish community of Kluczbork was not revived after the war. The only larger concentration of Jews in the region could be found in Opole.

Bibliography

  • Arczyńska A., “Żydzi w Powiecie Kluczborskim,” Kurier Kluczborski 1999, no. 4.
  • Baj J., “Spotkania z historią. Synagoga,” Kurier Kluczborski 1992, no. 1.
  • Borkowski M., Kirmiel A., Włodarczyk T., Śladami Żydów: Dolny Śląsk, Opolszczyzna, Ziemia Lubuska, Warszawa 2008.
  • Cimała B., Kluczbork. Dzieje miasta, Opole 1992.
  • “Kreuzburg,” [in:] Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before & During Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, New York 2001, vol. 2, p. 677.
  • Maser P., Weiser A., Juden in Oberschlesien, Berlin 1992.
  • Stefańczyk K., “Żydzi w Kluczborku,” Kurier Kluczborski 2001, no. 5.
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