Single mentions of Jews living in Dobczyce appeared already in the mid-16th century, however, according to certain sources – the exact date is 1564.
However, the first certain information comes only from the 17th century. It is recorded in the town books that in 1616 Marcin Zabłocki bought a bakery with a farm in Dobczyce from a Jew from Kraków called Herster. Thus we know that Jews not only lived in Dobczyce, but also conducted their business here. However, they never constituted a large group. Data from 1848 prove that only 41 out of 3,548 residents were Jewish.
The community was not established until the end of the 19th century. Due to its small size, the community never had its own cemetery and buried its dead in Myślenice, Wieliczka, and Kraków. In 1910, there were 404 Jews in the town, which accounted for 11% of the total number of population.
The Jews living in Dobczyce were involved with trade, inn-keeping and craft. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, their role in trade and inn-keeping increased, which was opposed by the Christian population and even led them to destroying Jewish inns and breweries. The Dobczyce townspeople were driven out of trade, which prompted them to set up the Agricultural Circle (Polish: Kółko Rolnicze), which was responsible for supplying Christian merchants with food and agricultural products.
Also the participation of Dobczyce Jews in crafts aroused violent emotions among Christians, as evidenced by the following entry from the parish chronicle:
The parish committee gave permission to Wincenty Koper to build a residential building behind the parsonage coach house, where the house and tannery owned by Jew Stamberger had stood before. This house and tannery were deliberately set on fire in 1886 at the instigation of Izydor Drożdż for money.[[refr.| Dobczyce Parish Archive, Dobczyce Parish Chronicle 1845-1910.]
The Jews of Dobczyce specialised in tanning and leather trading. At the beginning of the 20th century. Salomon Schreiber ran a tannery of yuft leather, and Kiwa Kurzman, Lejb Munzer, Jakub Munzer, Hersz Gasller and Aron Waldman, apart from tanning, were also involved in trading in leather and finished leather products. In the interwar period, the number of tanners increased. The guild was joined in 1918 by Wolf Schreiber, in 1919 by Mojżesz Waldman and Izaak Pistol, in 1922 by Isaac Kurzman, in 1925 by Shaim Pollak and, in 1927 by Dawid Mincer.
We do not know how the process of teaching the tanners of Dobczyce looked like as the guild documents burnt in 1939. However, we can assume that young students were taught by their fathers. This is confirmed by the minutes of the meeting of the Board of the Collective Guild, during which a certificate of completion of education in the tanning profession was issued. The certificate was awarded to Mojżesz Waldman from Dobczyce, who studied with his father, Hirsz Waldman, who had the right to educate pupils on the basis of an industrial charter issued by the Wieliczka district office on 31 December 1890 [[refr.|Archives of the Cracow Chamber of Crafts, Book of Minutes of Meetings, fascicle 13, file 40, L. p. 4.]].
Before the outbreak of World War I, it was possible to find the representatives of almost every profession among the Jews of Dobczyce. Friedmann was the owner of the sawmill, Heller owned the mill, Salomon Rozen dealt with ritual slaughter, Eisenamann ran a grocery shop. There were also two lawyers: Kaufer and Waldman and a dentist Silberstein. The community, despite its small size (about 700 people), was well organised. It had a synagogue in Jagiellońska Street (Polish: ul. Jagiellońska) and a rabbi named Fajerstejn. Opposite the synagogue in today's Witosa Street (Polish: ul. Witosa), there was a mikveh, the ruins of which have been preserved to this day. The Zionists, active since the 1920s, were the most active in politics. They had their own kibbutz, kindergarten, sports club and theatre group.
The coming of the Germans in September 1939 resulted in the imposition of a labour camp regime on the Jews of Dobczyce. The history of the community ended in August 1942, when the German occupation authorities issued an order for the Jews of Dobczyce to go to the ghetto in Wieliczka. On 27 August 1942, the Wieliczka ghetto was liquidated. Its victims were sent to the extermination camp in Belzec.
Today, there are almost no traces of the community in the town. The mill and the sawmill, as well as many houses belonging to the Jewish inhabitants, were swallowed up by the flood; only a few bricks remain after the mikveh.
- Dobczyce, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, vol. I, ed. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, New York 2001.
- Dziewoński L., Rzemiosło Dobczyc na przestrzeni dziejów, Dobczyce 2007
- Kawalec L., Dobczyce te mniej znane. Śladem mogił, Dobczyce 2004.
- Kiryk F., Rozwój urbanizacji Małopolski XIII–XVI wiek. Województwo krakowskie, Kraków 1985, p. 48.