The date of the arrival of the first Jews in Andrychów remains unknown. They were encouraged to settle regularly in the area due to the charter issued by King Stanisław II August Poniatowski in 1767 for the then proprietor of Andrychów, Stanisław Ankwicz. There is no detailed data about the number of the Jewish inhabitants of the town regarding that period.
Towards the end of the 18th century, the weaving sector developed significantly in Andrychów. It attracted Jewish merchants from other parts of the country. In the 19th century, the local products went to Istanbul, Smyrna, Alexandria, Venice, Barcelona, Lübeck, Hamburg and Moscow.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the number of Jews in Andrychów started to increase quickly. In 1799, the town was inhabited by merely 37, whereas in 1816 by as many as 90 Jews. In 1851, Andrychów had the highest proportion of the Jews (17.4%) in history. Most of the local Jews made a living as traders and alcohol sellers. However, more and more of them gradually turned to craft and manufacture. They were getting richer and richer and thus more and more important in the town. In 1852, a Jewish reading room was founded. In 1884, in place of the wooden one, the community built a German-style brick synagogue that could accommodate 600 people[1.1]. A Jewish cemetery was established the same year.
Materials produced in the factories operating in Andrychów became popular in all of Europe. Around 1864, the local Jews imported cotton yarn to the town and received ready canvas. Those involved in this business were Ferdynand Stamberger, Joachim Grunspan, Maurycy Unger and Israel Israeli. Moreover, a number of the Andrychów Jews were owners of dye works. The community had its representatives in the town council, which, in 1867, had 10 members, of whom two were Jewish.
The exact date of the creation of the Jewish community in Andrychów remains unknown. What is known is that the kehilla must have been created before 1884 because that year the local Jews founded a Jewish cemetery. The successive presidents of the kehilla were Maurycy Unger, Maurycy Herbst, Teodor Feliks, Ferdynand Stamberger, Bernard Stamberger, Arnold Weinsaft and Dr. Joachim Lowicz. The first rabbi of the kehilla described in sources was Józef Kobak, who became famous in Andrychów as a scholar. From 1860 on, he was the head of the Jewish school. Kobak founded the “Jeszurun” monthly. Dajans Aszer Rabin and Jakub Szlomo played a significant role in the community.
The 1890 data mention as many as 654 Jewish residents of Andrychów. The local Jews worked in industry, trade and craft. Towards the end of the 19th century, the number of the Jews started to decrease slowly, as the merchants who were not involved in the weaving industry found it hard to make a living in the town[1.2]. In 1900, there were only 621 Jews in Andrychów.
A mechanical weaving mill owned by Czeczowiczka Brothers, who were Czech Jews, was launched in 1908 and made a breakthrough in the history of Andrychów. At the beginning of its operation, the enterprise employed around 500 workers but in the period prior to World War II there were around 4,000 people working in the factory. Another important Jewish entrepreneur was Teodor Feliks, who owned a hydraulic mangle with a dye-works. Around 1913, his company employed around 40 people.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Zionist movement started to develop in Andrychów. In 1912, the first Zionist organization was founded here. After World War II, the leading Zionist activist in Andrychów was Herman Hammer.
After World War I, the Jewish population had shrunk significantly. In 1919, there were 511 Jews in Andrychów, whereas in 1921, only 409. The reason for such a substantial decrease in the number of Jews was a crisis which hit Andrychów after Poland regained independence. Some of the Jews had to close their factories and move to Bielsko and other cities due to the fact that numerous outlets in Galicia were opened to factories from Łódź. In that period Jews preferred to settle in Wadowice.
In the period between 1925 and 1930, a Zionist youth organization called “Hashomer Hatzair” operated in the town. A few Hasidim were involved in its activity. There was also an association of Zionist women called “WIZO” (Women's International Zionist Organization). Its leading female activists were Fani and Berta Krumholz, Berta Kuperman, Ala Landau, Mania Lowicz, Regina Weinsaft and Berta Wolf. After 1930, the “Akiva” organization became responsible for all the Zionist work. The organization was highly supported by the town and the rabbi. It was founded by Pola Biter and managed by Stela Weinsaft and Natala Goldberg. The organization activity was interrupted by the outbreak of the war in 1939.
Eight Jews became members of the Town Council after the elections to the Town Council in 1927 (out of 40 seats). The Poles cast their votes for the Jews as well, and the result was satisfactory given the number of the Jewish population in the town.
Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Andrychów had 387 Jewish residents. On September 4, 1939, the town became occupied by the Nazi army, and later incorporated into the Third Reich. The occupier undertook actions aiming at the destruction of both Poles and Jews in that area. Some of the Andrychów Jews managed to escape to the eastern parts of
Poland, which were occupied by the Soviets[1.3].
Persecutions started immediately after the occupier entered the town on September 3, 1939. The Germans, accompanied by a group of Poles, plundered the Jewish shops. The Jews who lived in the representative buildings of the town were removed from them. The Germans would turn them into administrative, military and police buildings. They also seized shops owned by Jews and put them in the hands of the so-called “men of trust”. Small factories were given to Volksdeutsches. Soon thereafter, some of the Jews who had not been able to move to the territories occupied by the Soviet Union came back to the town in which, at first, they were refused to stay[1.4].
On November 24, 1939, the Nazis set the Andrychów synagogue on fire. According to the written testimony given by some eye-witnesses, German soldiers did not let anybody put the fire out.
On 17-21 December, the Germans were preparing a census of the people of Jewish origin. The list revealed that the town was inhabited by 370 Jews. It is estimated that one third of them constituted Jews who had fled Śląsk Cieszyński (Cieszyn Silesia). Also special identity documents called kennkartes were issued during the census.
From the beginning of the occupation the German authorities used different repression measures. The Jews of Andrychów were made to remove waste, clean the streets, whereas young girls would clean houses of the displaced Poles. Those houses were given to German settlers. Some people, regardless of sex and age, had to work on the regulation of the River Wieprzówka.
In late 1939, the Germans established a Judenrat, which had one woman among its members (Ella Landau) and was headed by Aharon Weinsaft. The Judenrat was then forced to become subordinate to the Central Office of Jewish Councils (Polish: Biuro Centralne Rad Żydowskich na Wschodni Górny Śląsk), which had its seat in Sosnowiec. Weinsaft was arrested for permitting kosher slaughter, which the Germans prohibited and was succeeded by attorney Lowicz, and then by Kromholz[1.5].
From January 15, 1940, the Jews were made to wear bands with the Star of David. To make the Poles hostile towards their Jewish neighbors it was a deliberate move on the part of the Germans that they used the Jews to work on changing the names of the streets from Polish to German, on demolishing the Grunwald Monument and the St. Florian’s Chapel located in the market place. This was to evoke hatred in the Poles. Despite the objection by the Judenrat, 60 men were sent to a labor camp.
In the fall of 1941, the German authorities decided to create a ghetto for 300 Jews. It was to be located in the poorest part of the town, in the triangle encompassing Szewska, Brzegi and Koświckiego Streets. There were 51 houses built across the area of 25 hectares which the ghetto occupied. It took the Nazis merely a few days to remove all the Poles from the area letting them take only their hand luggage. The ghetto in Andrychów was an open ghetto, and only its middle section on Brzegi Street was surrounded with a two-meter wire fence. The rest of the streets were under police supervision. Transports with Jews from the nearby towns were directed to the Andrychów ghetto. Those towns were Nidka, Inwałd, Czaniec, Kęt, Żywiec-Zabłocie and Biała.
From the very beginning of its operation, the ghetto was created as a forced labor camp for Jews. At the same time, it served as a proving ground. The ghetto was located near the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp so the representatives of the Red Cross would often pay visits. On those occasions the German propagandists would prepare a "flagship" of humanitarian treatment of Jews in the Third Reich. Order and cleanness were common in the ghetto. There were no epidemics. The Germans would turn a blind eye to the fact that the Jews contacted those outside the ghetto and let them buy goods in a grocery shop located on the grounds. There was a sterile kitchen here. Two Polish physicians were allowed to come to the ghetto[1.6].
People in the ghetto took great care of cultural and social life by arranging common Shabbat dinners, celebrating holidays, giving secret lessons during which older students helped the younger ones, or by taking care of the children of those women who worked outside the ghetto. However, the Jews could only stay in the ghetto as long as they were in good health and able to work. The “useless” ones were directed to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
The imprisoned Jews believed that through discipline and solid work they would avoid extermination. There were no escape attempts from the Andrychów ghetto. By July 1942, as few as eight people died here and they could be buried in the Jewish cemetery[1.7].
In the spring of 1942, the German authorities started a systematic dissolution of the ghettos across Upper Silesia. Jews from other towns were sent on death transports to gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Mass removals took place in Andrychów as well. The biggest removal took place on July 3, 1942 when the Jews were rounded up at “Palestine” on Batorego Street. There was a “selection,” as a result of which 40 people were sent to a death camp, whereas one hundred were taken to labor camps. Sixty of them, along with the Judenrat and Jewish police, were moved to the Wadowice ghetto, but taken back after a few weeks to continue working in Andrychów[1.8]. Another big removal of the Jewish population was on September 15, 1942. According to the estimates, more than 200 people were taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau that day.
In May 1943, the Andrychów ghetto was transformed into a forced labor camp for Jews. It was named “The Jewish Camp of the Water Management Office in Katowice, Bielsko Branch, Construction in Andrychów” (Die Jüdische Lager des Amtes für Wasserwirtschaft in Katowice, Filiale in Bielsko, Bau in Andrychów). It occupied an area of 1.25 ha, in which there were 16 houses. The territory was surrounded by a two-meter wire fence. The Gestapo started managing the camp and prepared a list of the Jewish labor force. According to the register, there were 150 people in the ghetto involved in the regulation of the River Wieprzówka. The group consisted of 47 women, ten 14-year-old boys and one 15-year-old girl. The oldest man was 68 years old. The rest of the men were between 17 and 60 years old. German medical boards also examined the Jews in terms of their health condition. It was verified that only 34 out of the 89 examined Jews were capable of working[1.9]. In July 1943, all of the men were transported to other labor camps, and the only ones to be left in Andrychów were women, who were then sent to Auschwitz[1.10]. There were escape attempts in the camp. It should be noted that there were two successful attempts, the one by Dawid Silberschuet, who went to Israel after the war, and Lila Bader, who escaped from the transport in Skawinia. In total, approximately 25 Andrychów Jews survived the Holocaust, most of them – in labor camps.
Some Poles like Kazimierz Kreczmer, who, every Friday, would bring food to the agreed place or Ludwik Zacny, who, too, provided food supplies to the Jews, helped the Andrychów Jews.
- Andrychow, [in:] Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, ed. S. Spector, (New York, 2001), p. 44.
- S. Fishman, Andrychów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1939–1945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, part A, eds. P. Megargee, M. Dean, (Bloomington, 2012), p. 140.
- [1.1] Andrychow, [in:] Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, (New York, 2001), p. 44.
- [1.2] Andrychow, [in:] Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, ed. S. Spector, (New York, 2001), p. 44.
- [1.3] S. Fishman, Andrychów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1939–1945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, part A, eds. P. Megargee, M. Dean, (Bloomington, 2012), p. 139.
- [1.4] S. Fishman, Andrychów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1939–1945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, part A, eds. P. Megargee, M. Dean, (Bloomington, 2012), p. 140.
- [1.5] S. Fishman, Andrychów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1939–1945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, part A, eds. P. Megargee, M. Dean, (Bloomington, 2012), p. 139.
- [1.6] S. Fishman, Andrychów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1939–1945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, part.. A, eds. P. Megargee, M. Dean, (Bloomington, 2012), p. 139
- [1.7] S. Fishman, Andrychów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1939–1945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, part A, eds. P. Megargee, M. Dean, (Bloomington, 2012), p. 139
- [1.8] S. Fishman, Andrychów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1939–1945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, part A, eds. P. Megargee, M. Dean, (Bloomington, 2012), p. 140.
- [1.9] S. Fishman, Andrychów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1939–1945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, part A, eds. P. Megargee, M. Dean, (Bloomington, 2012), p. 140.
- [1.10] S. Fishman, Andrychów, [in:] Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos 1939–1945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, part A, eds. P. Megargee, M. Dean, (Bloomington, 2012), p. 140.