In the thirteenth century, Czeladź was granted the de non tolerandis Iudeaeis privilege, which made it impossible for Jews to settle there. During the years 1443-1792 Czeladź was part of the Duchy of Siewierz (Księstwo Siewierskie) that was under the rule of Kraków bishops, and Jewish settlement on this territory was virtually impossible. The Jews were then living in Będzin, 4 km away. This situation did not change until the Second Partition of Poland (1793), as a result of which Czeladź fell under the reign of Prussia. Even though Frederick William III of Prussia allowed Jews to trade in the town, he prohibited them from settling there. In 1800 he issued the Regulation concerning the arrangement of Jewry in the Pilica and Siewierz District (Polish: Przepis względem urządzenia żydostwa w cyrkule pilickim i siewierskim), in which he ordered the expulsion of Jews who did not have a permanent place of residence, the listing of all local Jews, to issue passports to them and to give surnames to those Jews who until then had only used their names and the patronymic they had received during their circumcision[1.1]. Because of these restrictions, until the mid-19th century there had been no reference to the Jewish presence in Czeladź[1.2].

In 1815, Czeladź became part of the Kingdom of Poland (Congress Poland), which was subjected to the Russian Empire. Tsarist regulations required that Jews should have a special settlement permit in the border zone and at that time Czeladź was situated in the direct neighbourhood of the Prussian border. Nevertheless, the possibility of trading at the border of Upper Silesia attracted Jewish merchants and peddlers, who would visit borderland villages, selling their merchandise[1.3].

Legend names the Szwajger Family as the first Jewish family in Czeladź. They had permission to keep a shop but could not settle in the town. Other sources, however, say that the first Jewish citizen of Czeladź was Nachum Alter from Wolbrom, known as Nachum Alter Czeladzer or simply the Old Chołtyk (he lived at 6 Rynek Street). In the next years, the following families arrived in the town: the Fromers, Szwajcers, Klajners, Bermans, Rechnics, Sztrochlics, and Fiszmans. The first confirmed mention of Jews in Czeladź dates back to the year 1835 – a note in the records of the Registry Office of Będzin from 5 May 1835, which confirms the birth of Michał Faska, son of Chaja Sura, nee Sztajnic, and Samuel Ejzyk Faska[1.4].

Jews did not start to settle in great numbers in Czeladź until the late 19th century. That was a period when hard-coal mining was developing rapidly and new industrial plants were being established. The flourishing town needed new workers. After the Polish January Uprising in 1863, Czeladź was opened for Jewish settlers, most of whom engaged in trade, but gradually more and more Jews were being hired in the mining industry. In 1867, 62 Jews lived in Czeladź[1.5]. In 1890, there were already 89 Jewish families living in Czeladź[1.6].

At the beginning of the 20th century, a group of Jewish craftsmen, shopkeepers, and peddlers from Wolbrom, Żarki, Częstochowa, Olkusz, and Będzin settled in Czeladź. They provided various services for the growing population of Czeladź. Jews owned shops, bakeries, tailor's and shoemaker's shops (for example the famous shoemaker Josef Klajman), and butcheries (Chenoch Bloch, Haskiel Hönigman). Josef Heszkowicz opened a chemist’s[1.7]. The Jews from Czeladź were subject to the kahal in Będzin[1.1.6].

In the beginning, local Jews did not have their own houses of prayer so they used to meet in private houses and the Hassidic shtibels of Wolbrom, Góra Kalwaria, Radomsko and Kromołów. However, Będzin Rabbi B. Graubart strove to facilitate access to religious services to the believers and supported the establishment of new houses of prayer[1.8]. A proposal to establish their own independent community was very soon put forward, but it was strongly objected by the Jews of Będzin. It was not until during World War One that the German authorities recognized an independent Jewish community of Czeladź in 1914. Its first rabbi was Eliezer Cwi Halevi Lewental. After the cease of warfare the erection of the synagogue began. Members of the synagogue board were widely respected Jews, with Chaim Szwajcer, Berysz Hajda, Jakow Gelbard, Szaul Szwarcbaum, Nechemia Sztrochlic and Chaim Wajnberg among them[1.9]. The synagogue was built by the then Milowicka Street (today Katowicka St.). During the German occupation of the town in 1917 the following people were elected to the town council: Chaim Szwajcer, Eliasz Bouchowski, Herman Rechnic, and Chana Hajda Grin)[1.1.7].

After World War One, the town was part of independent Poland. In 1921, 753 Jews lived in Czeladź, which constituted 4.4% of the town’s entire population. In 1931, there were 1,077 Jews, which constituted 5.1% of the population[1.10]. Social and cultural organisations developed. The Jews established the sports club Maccabi-Będzin and the Merchants’ Bank (Polish: Bank Kupiecki). Young people attended secondary schools in Będzin. The last rabbi was Lipman Hersz Lewental[1.11]. Many Jewish organisations operated in the town, among them the Charity Fund (Gmilas Chesed), Society for Visiting the Sick (Bikur Cholim), Society of Assistance to the Poor Betrothed (Polish: Towarzystwo Pomocy Ubogim Narzeczonym), the women’s organization Frauen Fer (its leader was rebbetzin Lewental, whose members included Lajcia Rechnic, Chana Grin, Itele Gelbard, Fajgla Gelbard, and Ruchla Laufer), and the Chewra Kadisha. In 1938, the Jewish community numbered 1,126 members, which constituted 5% of the entire population of Czeladź. Jews at large resided in the following streets: Będzińska, Grodziecka, Bytomska, Pieracka, Milowicka, Szpitalna, Kilińskiego, and the Main Square (Rynek) [1.12].

During World War Two, on 5 September 1939, the German army seized Czeladź, and as early as October the town was incorporated into the Third Reich. Almost immediately Jews began to be persecuted and their property was  be confiscated. Before the end of 1939, Jewish workers were forced to pull down the local synagogue. In October 1939, the Germans ordered the establishment of a separate Jewish Council (Judenrat) made up of the town’s most prominent Jews. This Council was presided over by Mosze Meryn[1.13]. In November 1939, the Germans marked out a Jewish district, where they gathered about 1,300 Jews. Because Jews were exploited as cheap labour force, the ghetto would not be closed for quite a long time. But all Jews were ordered to wear armbands with the Star of David. The Jewish police were responsible for maintaining order in the district. Later, the local Judenrat became part of the Central Judenrat in Będzin, which consisted of six members presided over by Hersz Nusbaum[1.14].

In 1940, the German authorities confiscated the Jewish property in Czeladź[1.15]. A regional census was taken on 17 July 1940. The SS gathered all residents in several places with the help of the Polish and Jewish police. There were numerous instances of beating, battering, and property confiscation on that day. It later came to be referred to as the "Bloody Wednesday"[1.16].

In the autumn of 1940, Punkus Hoppel became the head of the Judenrat in Czeladź. He was subjected to the Central Judenrat of Eastern Upper Silesia (Polish: Centralny Judenrat Wschodniego Górnego Śląska, Centralna Żydowska Rada Starszych Wschodniego Górnego Śląska). On 1 October 1940 there were 1,222 Jews living in Czeladź[1.17]. From then on, Albrecht Schmelt, the Special Plenipotentiary of the Reichsführers-SS and Chief of the German Police for the Use of Foreign Labour in Upper Silesia, was responsible for the organisation of the forced labour of Czeladź Jews. A special Department of Forced Labour was established in order to group the contingents of Jewish workers. Until mid-1941, the head of the Department was Majer Brzeski. Divisions of young Jews were placed in forced labour camps in Katowice and Opole Regierungsbezirke[1.1.17].

In October of 1940, the German authorities ordered the Judenrat to select a group of approximately 200 workers, who were later taken to build roads around the town. At the end of 1940, there were 1,294 Jews living in Czeladź. At the beginning of 1941, groups of Jewish workers were moved from Czeladź to factories in Będzin. In June 1941, a group of 150 workers was relocated to the “Anglar 5" labour camp in Przemyce village. The only way to avoid deportation was to find employment in a workshop, but there were not many of them in Czeladź. About 50 people found work in the Józefów ceramic factory. Another group of Jews worked in the Rossner’s workshop in Będzin, where there were brought by tram[1.18].

The Nazi German concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was established in 1940. It was supposed to become the source of slave labour for the Upper Silesian Industrial Region (Polish: Górnośląski Okrąg Przemysłowy, GOP) and the Dąbrowa Basin (Polish: Zagłębie Dąbrowskie). On 21 June 1941, the Germans established a ghetto in Czeladź; it was located between the following streets: Reymonta, Wąska, Kamienna, and Spokojna[1.19]. No wall was ever built around the ghetto, but Jews were not allowed to cross its borders under death penalty. Living conditions in the ghetto were rapidly worsening. The lack of food and space and the cold led to the outbreak of epidemic diseases and caused many deaths.

In May 1942, the Germans conducted a great deportation of Silesian Jews to the camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. On 12 May, a group of 800 Jews was deported from Czeladź to the ghetto in Będzin, and later to the camp Auschwitz-Birkenau[1.20].

In the first days of August, Germans called for all Jews to stamp their identification documents in order to register for work. Entire families gathered on 8 August and the Germans used that fact to carry out a selection. Two hundred Jews were then driven out of Czeladź. They were brought on death transports to the camp Auschwitz-Birkenau[1.21]. In May 1943, the Gestapo liquidated the ghetto in Czeladź and deported all the remaining Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau[1.22].

In January 1945, the Soviet army seized Czeladź. In late January 1945, Jews started to arrive in the Dąbrowa Basin. Some of them were former inhabitants of Czeladź who were returning from concentration camps and trying to come back to their houses. Some came out of hiding places in the Dąbrowa Basin. After April 1945, they were joined by repatriates of Jewish origins who came from the Soviet Union (mostly from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan)[1.23].

In 1945, the Provincial Jewish Committee in Katowice (Polish: Wojewódzki Komitet Żydowski w Katowicach) was created. Initially it was situated in Sosnowiec. It was subjected to the Central Committee of Jews in Poland (Polish: Centralny Komitet Żydów w Polsce), located in Warsaw. Most Jews who were staying in Czeladź treated their stay as a stop on their way to the West or to Palestine. This notion strengthened after the murder of two Jews in Czeladź in August 1945. Almost all Jews left the town after this event[1.1.23].

In the late 1980s, Jews who were linked to pre-war Czeladź started visiting their birthplace. A person who cannot go by unmentioned is Abraham Green, who is the head of the World Society of Czeladź Jews. The first important event was the unveiling of the memorial to the Holocaust Victims from Czeladź on Mount Zion in Jerusalem in 1970, which took place through the efforts made by Abraham Green. As Green states, 75 former residents of Czeladź came to celebrate this occasion (among them were Fela Koniarska, Cwi Strochlitz, Josef Gelbard, Lea Mager-Cukierman, and Ryfcia Gruszka-Beserlglik). Six candles were lit to commemorate the six million Holocaust victims. Subsequently, prayers were said for the victims from Dąbrowa Basin and those Czeladź Jews who died after the war. It was, in Green's opinion, the most numerous meeting of Czeladź Jews after the war. Another obelisk with the inscription “Piaski” (a district of Czeladź) was placed next to the obelisk with the inscription “Czeladź” on it)[1.24].

In the 1990s, the contacts between Jewish descendandts of Czeladź and its current inhabitants intensified. At the invitation of the World Union of Jews of Zagłębie, young people from Czeladź schools were welcomed to visit Israel. In 2006, Abraham Green became an Honorary Citizen of the Town of Czeladź[1.25].

 

 

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