Under Świdnica Duke Bolko I the Strict, Świdnica Jews were excluded from the town jurisdiction and subjected to the duke’s court jurisdiction, thus obtaining direct protection from the ruler. Additionally, they also had their own court that heard cases involving members of the community. Dzierżoniów Jews were subject to its jurisdiction from 21 March 1370. At that time Princes Agnes granted Świdnica Jews Rabbi Oser (Judenbischof) and Lazar and David Falk the privilege of independent jurisdiction for the whole community of the duchy[1.3]. Earlier, on 6 December 1328, Świdnica Duke Bolko II the Small confirmed all to-date rights of the Jewish community and obliged them to fulfil the same duties and services as Christians. [1.4]. In 1363, Bolko II granted again - first to Świdnica, and then to other towns of the duchy, including Dzierżoniów - the statutes and the Magdeburg Rights that regulated the order in towns. Apart from general rules, provisions related to Jews were also included [1.5].
Jews in medieval towns made their living from retail and wholesale trade, crafts and usury. There is a note in the chronicle of Dzierżoniów stating that on 18 October 1333 the town councillors and mayors of Dzierżoniów, Ziębice, Strzelin and Ząbkowice Śląskie borrowed 160 grzywnas from a Wrocław Jew. The loan was guaranteed by Wrocław councillors. The usury business conducted by Jews caused resentment among debtors and often entire town communities, which carried the risk of turmoil and unrest. What made things worse during the increase of anti-Jewish sentiment was the plague of the Black Death, which decimated European population. This triggered a wave of anti-Semitic excesses, particularly in German-speaking countries and towns, including Lower Silesia. Pogroms took place in 1349 and 1360 in Wrocław and in 1389 in Świdnica. This certainly affected the situation of Dzierżoniów Jews[1.6].
Jews tried to live normal lives between the periods of unrest. They looked for safe places for living and trading. Due to the mediation of their fellow believer Seman (Simon), Jewish tradesmen passing through Dzierżoniów gained in 1395 a valuable privilege of duty-free passage through the town, which terminated with the death of Seman[1.7] Seman himself moved from Dzierżoniów to Brzeg after gaining a safe-conduct pass from Brzeg Duke Henry VIII[1.1.7]. Only a few names of Dzierżoniów Jews are mentioned in 14th and 15th century chronicles. These include the already-mentioned Seman, Jakob and Jonas von Reichenbach who stayed in Wrocław and Manil (Mendel) von Reichenbach, to whom the Ziębice duke owed huge sums[1.1.7]. Also mentioned is Michel von Reichenbach, who lived in Oława in late 14th century and offered loans to bishops and dukes. Michel von Reichenbach, who died on 10 April 1426, was referred to as the Rabbi of Erfurt and Wrocław. He was said to have lived in Kąty Wrocławskie in 1417. In this case it is uncertain whether the reference is to Lower Silesia’s Reichenbach or other town with the same name[1.8]. The 14th century Jewish community in Dzierżoniów did not have its own cemetery and had to use one located in Świdnica, established around 1289. In a protective letter dated 21 March 1370, Duchess Agnes decided that the Świdnica Jewish cemetery would be the only graveyard in the Świdnica Duchy [1.9].
The next wave of persecution of Lower Silesia Jews came in the 15th century. Italian preacher, inquisitor and future Catholic saint Giovanni da Capestrano came to Wrocław on 13 February 1453. His sermons led to violence against the Jewish community of Wrocław. In a showcase trial, 41 Wrocław Jews were sentenced to death. The remaining members of the community were expelled and their property confiscated. Children under the age of 7 were taken away from the Jews, baptised and entrusted to the care of Christian families[1.10]. This led to a decline of the Jewish community of Wrocław and spurred pogroms in other Silesian towns. Prominent representatives of the Świdnica Jewish community were imprisoned and forced by use of torture to admit they had desecrated the communion bread. Due to the forced confessions, 10 male and 7 female members of the Świdnica Jewish community were burnt in public. The rest were expelled and their property was confiscated, including the cemetery, which was taken over by the town and the Church[1.11]. One night in June, stirred up Dzierżoniów Christians also made an attempt on the lives, health and property of their Jewish neighbours. According to a chronicle, the victims were expelled from their poor households and the town[1.12].
As a result of these events, the Jewish community was non-existent until the 19th century. An obstacle to its rebirth was a privilege issued by Czech King Ladislaus the Posthumous in 1457 in which he banned Jews “until the end of times” to settle down in Silesian towns. They could stay in Silesia only temporarily during trade events or fairs[1.13]. Occasionally, Jewish refugees passed through Dzierżoniów after pogroms in other parts of Europe. Some 300 expelled Jews travelled the route from Prague to Poland in 1542. They gained protection and a 146-strong armed escort between Kłodzko and Dzierżoniów. However, they were not allowed to stay for a longer time[1.1.7].
At the beginning of the 18th century, Jews occasionally tried to settle down in and around Dzierżoniów. A well-known case involved Baron Gotlieb von Sandratzky, the owner of a notable estate in nearby Bielawa, who rented his house to a Jew in 1707. The baron was made to abide by the law that was in force at that time. The event was mentioned in historical records in 1708. The records also mention a question filed by the municipal council on 5 August 1777, addressed probably to the public administration (Domänenkammer) in Wrocław (which oversaw Jewish matters, among other issues), in which the councillors asked whether Jews could be granted a permit to stay in Dzierżoniów in order to support trade. Although the permit was to be issued only temporarily, the answer was negative. Due to the above-mentioned settlement ban, no Jew lived in Dzierżoniów still in 1800[1.1.7].
Despite the restrictions on permanent settlement of Jews, the 18th century town was visited by Jewish merchants due to the fact that Dzierżoniów was located on an important trade route. The chronicle of the town of Dzierżoniów refers to Jewish merchants and a theft of a large amount of money. On 5 April 1772, Greek merchant Pauli was robbed of 5,300 florins in the “Under the Black Eagle” inn (Zum schwarzen Adler). Jewish merchants were suspected of the theft, but the charges were dropped after they were captured and searched[1.14].
After 1742, Dzierżoniów came under the Prussian rule. At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries Prussia introduced legal changes that allowed the rebirth of Jewish communities. The emancipation edict of 11 March 1812 was a milestone on the way of accepting the Jewish community as fellow neighbours. As a result of the edict, Jews were given permanent second names, rights and liberties equal to those enjoyed by Christians, including the freedom to purchase real estate and work in various professions. Initially, the communities emerged in larger cities, including Wrocław, but later also in smaller towns and localities.
Until the end of the 18th century, Dzierżoniów hosted mainly Jews who traded wool imported from Wielkopolska (Greater Poland), Mazowsze (Masovia) and Galicia. It is worth noting that the economy of the Dzierżoniów region was based on the textile industry. Due to the significance of wool trade for efficient operation and development of manufacturing, Jews were allowed to stay at the Zur Sonne inn next to the Świdnicka Gate. The length of stay was determined by the time required to conduct the necessary trade activities. However, trade relations were becoming stronger, therefore several Jews stayed in the town on an almost permanent basis already in 1784 (except for Jewish holidays). Still, they were not granted permanent residence or town citizenship. The Jewish merchants who stayed in the town around 1792 included David Isaak, Liebmann Meyer, Matthias Isaak (Cohn) and Isaak David. They came from Kalisz and Krotoszyn [1.15]. As time passed, they became the first members of the Jewish community. They significantly influenced the development of the local textile industry and therefore the local economy. Jewish wool imports to Dzierżoniów at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries are estimated at 6,000 bales a year[1.1.7].
In 1809, Isaak David and Lippmann Meyer were again referred to as living in Dzierżoniów. They were middlemen in the sale of wool from East Prussia and the Duchy of Warsaw. Although they stayed in the town, they did not have permanent residence. Löbel David, Jakob Hersch, D. M. Auerbach from Fordon and Beniamin Wolff from Krotoszyn, who later took the name of Reibach, came to the town for similar purposes. Moses Salomon from Uraz, who offered foreign exchange services and traded securities, also came to Dzierżoniów. In 1810, Simon Kremser, a supplier from Ziębice, tried in vain to receive a residence permit in Dzierżoniów[1.16]. Given the fact that no Jew was granted a residence permit in the town, one note in August Sadebeck’s chronicle seems particularly interesting. It refers to the conversion to Christianity of a certain Jewish woman from Wrocław, who was baptised by pastor Fuller in the Dzierżoniów church on 1 September 1799. The woman later married a surgeon from Borek Strzeliński. One can assume that the conversion and marriage to an Evangelical Protestant made it possible for her to improve her social status[1.17].
In May 1811, the Jews who stayed in Dzierżoniów bought abandoned buildings and the garden of the Knights of Malta Commandery with the aim of building a synagogue (!), a mechanical spinning mill, a print shop and a warehouse.
True and legitimised Jewish settlement in Dzierżoniów started only after 1816. Initially, Jews who had residence in other towns settled in Dzierżoniów, including Isaak Naphthali, the son of a Wrocław teacher Isaak Naphthali. He received Wrocław citizenship on 8 March 1813 and subsequently on 13 January 1816 was granted a permit to settle in Dzierżoniów together with his family[1.18]. Abraham David Hirsch from Poznań and Levy Naphtali were granted the right to settle in the town in 1817[1.19], and so were Lippmann Reichenbach (known earlier as Lippmann Meyer) and Wolf Reinbach (known earlier as Benjamin Wolff[1.20]. In the following year Baruch Neulander, Berel Nehemias, Abraham Stern, David Stern from Wrocław and Salomon Heller were the next Jews to settle in the town[1.21]. In 1819, distiller Isaak Lax and his family joined the group of local Jews[1.22]. There were no new entries in 1820, but next year Pinkus Baad and his family received a residence permit[1.1.22]. Also mentioned was Mathias Isaak Cohn, who had stayed in Dzierżoniów for more than 20 years[1.1.22].
According to official statistics, 376 Jews with citizenship and 7 Jews without such right lived in the Dzierżoniów district[1.23]. In recognition of particular merit, Jews could receive the Prussian citizenship and therefore the right of residence in Dzierżoniów. One of such Jews was the above-mentioned Matthias Isaak Cohn (earlier known as Mathias Isaak), the son of Isaak Cohn. He received citizenship in 1826 following a recommendation by Dzierżoniów’s authorities. Lippmann Meyer born in Chybie in 1791 as Nathan Neta ben Lippmann Heilprin, received the same privilege in 1835. He later took the name of Reichenbach that was the German name for Dzierżoniów. Some 18 Jews lived in the town in 1835, which compares to 45 in 1825[1.24]. They lived at the market square and in the main streets as from 1816 they were no longer forced to settle in designated areas of the town[1.25].
Isaak Naphtali, who settled in the town in 1816, is considered to be the founder of the Dzierżoniów Jewish community. In 1817, Isaak Naphtali, Isaak Cohn, Lippmann Reichenbach, Wolf Reinbach and Abraham David Hirsch were forced to purchase a plot and to establish a cemetery. A similar case happened one year later, when textile and clothes tradesman Abraham Stern purchased a plot of land for a cemetery[1.26]. However, it is impossible to specify its location or confirm it served its purpose. Since 16 May 1825 the city files referred to a burial place of Dzierżoniów Jews while chronicle writer August Sadebeck located it behind the town barns [1.27]. Jewish historian Bernhard Brilling estimated that the cemetery behind the Wrocław Gate was created in 1826[1.1.26]. It is almost certain that he refers to the same cemetery that has survived until today in Bielawska street.
The professional structure of the local Jewish community is quite interesting. Although the emancipation edict offered the freedom of taking up various jobs and trades, excluding certain government and military positions, the professional structure of the community remained relatively undiversified. Trade-related professions were the dominant ones[1.28]. Representatives of other professions, such as doctor, pharmacist and teacher, appeared with time as well.
Initially, the community operated based on principles that had been known for centuries, with traditional prayers, services and instructions. However, societal changes influenced the evolution of the life of the community. In 1830s, there was a clear dispute between traditionalists and supporters of reforming Judaism, who were known as followers of the Haskalah movement. The dispute became clear both in large and smaller towns. After Rabbi Meyer Őlsner left in 1841, the Dzierżoniów community split up. Two officials emerged as leaders in the community. The conservative faction was led by Abraham Breslauer, who held his office from 1841 to 1852[1.29]. Local press of 1851 refers to Grunfeld, a different conservative rabbi, as the one who said prayers for the king[1.30]. Heinrich Schwarz from Rawicz was the liberal rabbi and teacher between 1841 and 1859[1.31]. As a supporter of the Haskalah movement, he introduced (similarly as in entire Germany) the German language as the language of Jewish religious service and education. He also started to give sermons in German following the example of Christians. In 1854, Heinrich Schwarz prepared and published a liberal prayer book in German which was specially designed for the Dzierżoniów community, called Dibbrei Schir. Psalmem für den öffentlischen Gottesdienst zunächst für die Israelische Gemeinde zu Reichenbach i. Schlesien[1.32]. Local press reported evidence of the conflict in the Jewish community. In relation to the king’s birthday, in 1851 and 1852 the press mentioned celebrations held in both synagogues, i.e. the old and the new one[1.33]. The dispute was related to a small community that in 1852 consisted of 98 Jews, including 32 men who ruled the community[1.34]. Gradually, the tensions eased. Representatives of both Jewish factions met on 27 March 1853 and one day later the last prayer in the so-called old synagogue took place[1.35]. After Heinrich Schwarz left, Moritz Cohn from Rawicz was employed on 9 October 1859 as the cantor and cult official of the re-united community.
Since 1847, the Dzierżoniów community was a part of the Świdnica synagogue area, which also included the Świdnica, Strzegom, Wałbrzych and Niemcza counties[1.36]. This was due to the relative small size of the community as the 1830 census showed 45 Jews living in the town (1.06% of Dzierżoniów’s total population)[1.37], in 1840 – 52, in 1844 – 59 (1.15%)[1.38]. Independence of the communities could have been achieved through an increase of the population and through receiving a statute. The Dzierżoniów community was officially formed in 1834 and in 1847 it received a government-endorsed statute[1.39].
Nationalistic attitudes strengthened among Dzierżoniów Jews in the 19th century, in line with the prevailing trends. Silesian rabbis supported joining the Prussian army and even recommended such enrolment as a civic duty [1.40]. Prior to becoming one of the first leaders of the local Jewish community, Löbel Naphtali joined the 9th regiment of Landwehr in 1813 (during the Prussian War of Liberation) Other Dzierżoniów inhabitants who served later in the Prussian army included: merchants Baruch Neuländer and Abraham David Hersch from Twardogóra (1817), Abraham Stern (1818), Salomon Hellen from Wrocław (1818) and distiller Joseph ben Hirschel Lax from Kluczbork (1821) and Itzig Lax, who was buried in Frankfurt on Oder on 15 October 1842[1.41]. Among war casualties was Rabbi Moritz Cohn’s son Julius Cohn, who died near Worth during the Franco-Prussian War (on 6 August 1870)[1.42].
The emancipation edict of 1812 made public education available to Jewish youth. Jewish children could get the same education as other children. In 1855, they attended the Evangelical Protestant municipal school [1.43]. Jewish pupils attended Judaism lessons initially taught by the official rabbi[1.44]. In 1880s the teacher’s post was offered to a man who went by the name of Biberstein and ran a common Jewish school[1.45]. Jewish boys from Dzierżoniów and nearby areas also attended the King Wilhelm’s six-grade high school which was opened in 1868 and was located in today’s Piłsudski street. Jewish girls attended a girls’ school and boarding house ran by Bertha Ritter.
Dzierżoniów Jews started efforts aimed at building their own school to educate their children. In 1868, representatives of the housing committee and community leaders Meyer Wartenberg and Heymann Cohn applied to the local authorities to construct a school for Jewish children. The petition was rejected by the officials. However, as the community had already purchased a plot of land for the purpose, the authorities suggested building a synagogue, which could offer both a classroom for teaching the youth and accommodation for the teacher[1.46]. This idea was implemented in 1875. The lack of a school building did not mean that Jewish schooling was non-existent. Until 1880s children probably attended lessons in the rabbi’s house or the synagogue.
As the Jewish community assimilated with the rest of the population, got richer and more influential, Jews started to attend all state and even religious celebrations The co-existence of representatives of various religions can be attested to by the 1859 celebrations of the 700th anniversary of the Catholic St. George Church. Jewish inhabitants decorated their houses and flats and gave “beautiful evidence of assimilation and agreement,” as the local press put it. Anniversaries that were important for the German state were celebrated both in the synagogue and the local churches. In the period of prosperity and fortune of the 19th century, all kinds of anniversaries and jubilees were important events in the life of the town, as recorded in its chronicle. They were a proof of both social and personal acceptance of the Jews.
One of the most important events for the Jewish community was the introduction of a town’s new statute in 1875, which concerned citizens’ civic rights. The new regulations enabled every independent man who was above 24, lived in the town for more than a year and paid taxes, to vote and to stand in elections. A similar situation could be observed in Wrocław, where Jews could serve as city councillors and preside over the council from mid-19th century[1.47], and they could also be members of the local government. Given the fact that the election statute was based on class affiliation, local Jews could become members of the authorities due to their high financial status. In the 19th century, the following Jews served public functions: merchants Michaelis Moser and Heymann Cohn, and Max Herrnstadt, who was both a town councillor and the sanitary doctor[1.48]. Additionally, the to-date immigration fee of 18 marks applicable to all who wished to settle in Dzierżoniów was replaced with a citizen’s rights fee [1.49].
The Jewish community of Dzierżoniów reached its highest number of 185 members in 1871[1.50]. The community which comprised the Dzierżoniów and Niemcza counties (with Dzierżoniów, Bielawa, Niemcza and Piława) included 257 Jews in total[1.51]. A subsequent census of 1880 showed a decline in the number of the town’s Jewish citizens to 155. 14 more Jews lived in other localities that were part of the community. This resulted from migration to larger cities, including Wrocław. According to an 1890 census, 155 Jews lived in the entire Dzierżoniów county and 13 in the Niemcza county. The number for both counties dropped to 118 in 1900 and to 99 in 1910[1.52]. This was a result of emigration to America, Western Europe and larger cities within the country.
The Dzierżoniów community was relatively stable until the outbreak of World War One. The assimilated Jewish population, alongside the rest of the German society, was overtaken by pro-war euphoria in the summer of 1914. The enlisted Dzierżoniów inhabitants included Alexander Fleischer’s son Ernst, who was given the rank of a major[1.53], Ludwig Danziger’s son Willy, who died on the front on 1 May 1917 [1.54]. The following ones also gave their lives for the motherland: Siegfried Weiß (died in 1914 in Sassey) and Bruno Wolff (died in 1915 in Łowicz)[1.55]. World War One caused another drop in the Jewish population in Lower Silesia. Ill-nutrition, illnesses and war losses claimed the lives of 10% of Wrocław inhabitants, including those of Jewish origin[1.56]. According to a 1925 census, the Dzierżoniów Jewish community included 92 members. The economic crisis and the political situation resulted in further decline in the size of the Jewish population. In 1930s the number dropped to just 71 for Dzierżoniów and 80 for the Dzierżoniów and Niemcza counties[1.57].
After Hitler came to power on 30 January 1933, "victory marches" took place in Dzierżoniów, which were reportedly attended by 1,000 Sturmabteilung members, according to Schlesischer NS-Beobachter, a Wrocław-based NSDAP publication. In March 1933, just after the elections won by NSDAP, the town saw the unification of political, social and economic life. The name of today's Miodowa street, historically known as Judengasse (Jewish Alley), was changed into Georgstraβe (George Street). Members of the small local community faced a wave of repression. 67 Jews lived in Dzierżoniów at that time. 80 people of Jewish origin lived in the whole Dzierżoniów county, which was expanded in 1932 at the expense of the Niemcza county[1.58]. The Jewish community had 28 real members (practicing men), including 17 in Dzierżoniów, 9 in Bielawa and 2 in Niemcza. Repression and pressure initially resulted in moderate emigration to larger cities, Palestine, Western Europe and America. However, emigration intensified as time passed and anti-Semitic activities became more brutal. A campaign of boycotting Jewish shops and companies was launched all over Germany already on 1 April 1933. However, it did not bring the expected results as Jews were still present in Germany's economy. The matter was to be regulated by the Nuremberg Laws, including the Law on the Reich citizenship and Law on the protection of German blood and honour of 15 September 1935, which introduced further repression, this time in conformity with the law. In November 1935, Jews were deprived of German citizenship, banned from owning property and performing most professions.
Repression increased after the Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) of 10 November 1938. At that time, the Dzierżoniów press published numerous bitter articles which glorified Ernst vom Rath and described him as an incarnation of German virtues, whereas Jews were considered to be acting against the German state and society[1.59]. The pogrom was planned and well-prepared. The incidents involved Nazi militants who were joined by people feeling dislike towards Jews and those who were susceptible to indoctrination. Compared to the incidents in Świdnica, Kłodzko and Wrocław, where synagogues were burnt and private houses were vandalised, the events in Dzierżoniów seem less striking. Shops and the synagogue were vandalised, with windows broken in the latter[1.60]. A number of arrests were made as well. Among imprisoned Dzierżoniów Jews was Franz Kantorowicz, who was arrested and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he stayed until 8 December 1938. He was released from the camp and managed to emigrate to Great Britain with his family[1.61]. Another tragic sign of growing terror was the murder of factory owner and merchant Julius Beer[1.62].
The requirement that all Jews take a second name to indicate their origin, introduced in August 1938, was yet another form of repression. Terror was reflected in Dzierżoniów's Register of Deaths. It records the death of Sigismund Israel Karlsberg, born in France, who served as a rabbi before World War One[1.63].
Immediately after the Kristallnacht, property belonging to Dzierżoniów Jews was subjected to the process of "Arianisation." In December 1938, Weyl & Nassau mills were taken over by Edgar Fletscher[1.64]. Willy and Ernst Fleischers' A. Fleischer G.m.b.H. mills and the Cohn Gebruder G.m.b.H. plant were also taken over. Fleischer G.m.b.H. was purchased for 225,000 marks by brothers Günther and Gerhard Jordan from Drogosław near Nowa Ruda. This case illustrates the brutal methods of “Arianisation” of the Jewish property. In November 1938, Ernst Fleischer and his son Hans were arrested and imprisoned in Dzierżoniów. Beaten up and presented with a threat of being shot dead, they agreed to sign a document of a "cheap" sale of their company that was worth some 2 million marks[1.65]. Local press euphemistically referred to such events as "planned removal of Jewish influence from the German economy"[1.66].
From 12 November 1938 Jews were forced to pay an additional levy, which was known as Jewish penance (Judenbusse). Later the name of the payment was changed into Judenvermögensabgabe), or a tax on Jewish assets. The levy was imposed on Jews whose property value was estimated at more than 5,000 marks. 33 people were charged with the payment in Dzierżoniów. They had to pay the money to the Dzierżoniów financial office on strictly defined dates, having calculated in advance both the instalments and the total amount due[1.67]. Increasingly brutal pressure by the Nazis causes some Jews to emigrate, thanks to which they managed to survive. The destinations included Great Britain, Palestine, Paraguay, Brazil, the United States and China[1.68].
According to the census of 17 May 1939, there were 25 full-blooded Jews (Volljuden) living in Dzierżoniów, including 15 men and 10 women. Apart from this group, there were also 1st and 2nd rate citizens. This division was created under the Nuremberg Laws. 29 people made up the group, including 16 half-Jews (who had two Jewish grandparents) and 13 quarter-Jews (who had one Jewish grandparent)[1.69].
The suicide committed by Felix Israel Danzinger on 11 May 1939 could serve as an illustration of the difficult situation at that time. Danziger was a leader of the Jewish community in early 1930s[1.70]. Sometimes suicide was the only way out for the hounded and desperate Jews who did not want to or could not emigrate.
The property of the Jewish community was taken over by the government, while the synagogue and the Jewish cemetery were administered by German cemetery guard Konrad Springer and survived the war virtually intact. The Jewish community members were not so lucky, though. First deportations of Jews from Lower Silesia to Poland started in 1940. From 1 July 1941 Jews were forced to wear black armbands with a yellow Star of David, and from 1 September 1941 they were forbidden to leave their homes [1.71].
An important step that paved the way for eliminating Jews from Lower Silesia was relocating them from smaller towns to Wrocław, where the ghetto was established in the area of today’s Włodkowica and Sądowa streets. Some older persons were then transported from Wrocław to transition camps in Rybna and Krzeszów. People born in Dzierżoniów are mentioned in those camps’ registers[1.72].
With the development of increasingly detailed plans concerning the fate of Jews, the Germans also planned how they would use Jewish property. All items of any value were to be taken account of and evaluated, including bank accounts, receivables, debts and real estate. The impoverished Jews who were unsure of their future were forced to fill in financial disclosure forms, in which they stated their property which was often insignificant and consisted of furniture, dishes and clothes[1.1.72].
Having concentrated the Jewish population in one place, Germans launched the next stage, the extermination. Jews from Wrocław district, including those from Dzierżoniów, were taken away in massive transports to various concentration camps and places of extermination between 1941 and 1944. Transports to ghettoes in Kowno, Terezin (Theresienstadt) and Łódź left from freight train station Wrocław Nadodrze. They also headed for the Lublin district and the death camps in Sobibór, Bełżec and Treblinka and to concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau[1.73].
A very brief but extremely tragic chapter of the complex history of the Jewish community in Dzierżoniów was the establishment of forced labour camps between 1944-1945. Arbeitslager (AL) Reichenbach operated in the city itself, and separate labour camps were also established in Bielawa and nearby towns, where prisoners, including Jewish men and women, worked on the site of Dzierżoniów arms plant, constructed air-raid shelters and houses[1.74]. Few traces of the camps have been preserved. A small monument to the people who were murdered and died of illnesses and exhaustion in the nearby camp can be found in Lasek Pieszycki (Pieszyce Forest).
The last and still open chapter in the history of Dzierżoniów Jews is post-war settlement. The Jews who survived the Holocaust started to form their structures and organisations already in July 1945. The number of Jews in the area was considerably higher (initially 1,200) in 1945 than before the war[1.75]. Between 1945 and 1950, Dzierżoniów turned into a vivid centre of Jewish life. Jewish settlement in Lower Silesia resulted both from spontaneous migration of people and the policy of then authorities. The number of Jewish people in Dzierżoniów reached almost 12,000 in July 1946[1.76], and peaked in November 1946 at 17,800[1.77] The majority of settlers were repatriates from the USSR and Jews from the Polish territories. For a short time Dzierżoniów became the centre of the post war Jewish settlements and as such it was even sneeringly referred to as “Żydków” (“the Jewish Town”)[1.78]. Those who came to Dzierżoniów found jobs in newly-opened industrial plants, healthcare, police, administration, secret police and prison guard service[1.79]. 16 Jewish co-operatives existed in the town, including those associating tailors, shoemakers, hairdressers and electricians. Some of the Jewish repatriates worked as farmers. According to Dzierżoniów’s Productivity Department, 28 workshops and 5 farming settlements were established in the town by July 1945, while by September the number of facilities that offered jobs grew to 127[1.80]. In order to coordinate settlement activities in Lower Silesia, on 17 June 1945 the town was visited by representatives of Jewish committees from all over Lower Silesia, which resulted in the establishment of the Provincial Jewish Committee chaired by Jakub Egit[1.81]. The committee was headquartered at 23 Krasickiego street, opposite the preserved synagogue. Dzierżoniów was the hub of Jewish life in the Regained Territories until April 1946, when the committee was transferred to Wrocław[1.82].
The establishment of the State of Israel, political changes in Poland and the subordination of parties and educational, cultural and social institutions to the communists increased migration trends and reduced the Jewish community of Dzierżoniów. The number of Jews living in Dzierżoniów went down to 5,680 by the second half of 1949. Next year 3,730 Jews, or 28% percent of the total population declared their will to emigrate from the Dzierżoniów county[1.83].
Emigration of Jews intensified in 1967 and 1968 due to an anti-Semitic campaign waged by then authorities. Jews, who were slandered, fired from work and treated as second-rate citizens, emigrated to Israel, Canada, the United States, Australia and the Scandinavian countries[1.84]. The activities of the Jewish Social-Cultural Association were temporarily suspended. Although small, the local Jewish community exists until today and continues the historical trail of Dzierżoniów Jews. Jews who live in Dzierżoniów used to face open anti-Semitism and indifference, but now they witness growing interest in their culture and past, as evidenced for example by the organisation of the Jewish Culture Week.
- [1.1] Reichenbach (Eulengebirge/Schlesien), in Alicke K.-D., Lexikon der jüdischen Gemeinden im deutschen Sprachraum, vol. 3, München, 2008, p. 3462.
- [1.2] The first reference to Jews in Świdnica dates back to 28 July 1285, when Wrocław Duke Henry IV Probus defined their privileges, rights, duties and property tax system. See: A. Grotte, Synagogenspuren in schlesischen Kirche, (1937), 26.
- [1.3] A. Grotte, Synagogenspuren in schlesischen Kirche, (1937), 26.
- [1.4] Świdnica. Zarys monografii miasta (Świdnica. An Outline of the Town’s Monographs) W. Korta (ed), Wrocław–Świdnica, 1995, p. 64.
- [1.5] Świdnica. Zarys monografii miasta, ed. W. Korta, (1995), 64.
- [1.6] L. Ziątkowski, Żydzi we Wrocławiu (1999), 16.
- [1.7] B. Brilling, Die jüdische Gemeinde Mittelschlesiens Entstehung und Geschichte, (1973), 160.
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