The earliest mention of the Jewish community of Gostynin in historical sources dates back to the 15th century. In 1626, the local brewery and malt-house were leased by a Jew. It was also in the 15th century that a wave of accusations regarding ritual murders allegedly committed by the Jewish community swept through the town.

The Jewish community was most likely established in the first half of the 18th century. Its members were primarily involved in trade, inn-keeping and crafts, predominantly tailoring, furriery and butchery[1.1].

The wooden synagogue located on Olszowa Street burnt down in 1809. After its reconstruction, it was once again destroyed in a fire in 1899. A new brick building was erected to replace it. The synagogue and prayer house were located near the marketplace. The Jewish entrepreneurs held a monopoly on the local trade. In 1898, only one major Polish-owned shop and several minor stalls operated alongside numerous “Jewish” shops. Before the introduction of monopoly on liquor, Jews ran 36 inns selling alcohol. When Gostynin became one of the localities situated alongside the new road connecting Płock with Kutno, Jews were the first to launch a regular omnibus service between the two towns (in 1867). It was also a Jewish man who in 1925 launched the first permanent car service operating between Łódź and Warsaw. His name was Motyl, though he was widely known as “Czerwony” (“Red”). He carried out his services in partnership with Jan Marcinkowski and Antoni Galar. Many Jewish people were involved in smuggling goods across the Prussian border.

In the 19th century, several hosiery production plants were opened in Gostynin. The largest of them, owned by Abraham Mosze, employed around 20 workers[1.2]. In the years 1823–1862, a Jewish district existed in the town. It was very crowded, with Jewish houses built extremely close to one another.

In 1866, there was a total of 178 houses in Gostynin, 29 out of which belonged to Jews. An average of 22.4 people lived in a “Polish” house, 12 in a “German” house, and 23.1 in a “Jewish” house[1.3].

In the 19th century, Gostynin was an important centre of Hasidism. It was the seat of Tzaddik Jechiel Meir Lipszyc. On each anniversary of his death, his grave was visited by crowds of Hasidim.

The beginning of the 20th century saw the establishment of the illegal socialist “Achdut” organisation founded by activists of the Bund – its branch had been opened in Gostynin by Towie Jakubowicz (alias: Abraham Garbus). A drama club was also formed. However, it was not until World War I that more Jewish organisations became active in the town. Among these was a free diner, the Linas Hatsedek charity (1915), the Hatehiya (1915) and its subordinate institutions: the Hertzliya, the Maccabi Gymnastics and Sports Association, and the Habima drama club. A reading room was also opened in the I. L. Perec library. Działowski, a conductor who had arrived to the town from Łódź in 1915, established a choir in the town. The local Jewish theatre was thriving under the direction of Adam Domb.

After the restoration of Polish independence, branches of major Jewish political parties were opened in Gostynin. These were the Bund (leaders: Jakub Lejb Pinczewski, Szlomo Motyl, Abraham Zając), the Zionist Organisation in Poland, Agudath Israel, Poale Zion–Right (leaders: Szmuel Wolf Pinczewski, Jakow Zarchin, Kriszniewski, Towia Jakubowicz, Mosze Moryc), and Poale Zion–Left. Some Jews joined the illegal Polish Communist Party or the Communist Union of Polish Youth. The Hatehiya was dissolved after the formation of independent political parties. The free dinery was closed down. The interwar period also saw the establishment of trade unions of tailors, shoemakers, transport workers, domestic workers, and hairdressers.

Jakow Miller, a chazzan well respected in Gostynin, migrated to America in 1920. Rabbi Silman died in early 1921. The process of selecting the new rabbi was marked by fierce competition between the Hasidic and the Orthodox community united against Zionists. It was the latter group which eventually pushed their candidate through. The post of the rabbi was given to Borensztajn from Bielsk, a supporter of the Zionist ideology. The Bund branch operating in the town ran a number of sister associations: Zukunft, Skif, and the Morgenstern sports club. Poale Zion had its own club and a sports team. The Agudath financed the operation of the Beit Yaakov religious school for girls. Jewish emigres from Gostynin established their landsmanshaft in New York[1.4].

At the beginning of the 1940, soon after the outbreak of World War II, there were 1,600 local Jews and ca. 650 displaced Jewish people living in Gostynin. On 15 March 1941, a ghetto was established in the town, with a total area of 1.5 ha. It was located in a square area delineated by Olszowa Street (now Kardynała Wyszyńskiego Street), Piłsudskiego Street (up to the Skrwa river), Bagnista Street (running from the marketplace) and the right-hand side of Zamkowa Sreet. Ca. 3,500 people were held in the ghetto. They were mainly citizens of Gostynin and neighbouring towns, such as Gąbin. Some worked in tailoring and lingerie factories, while others performed agricultural, construction, and cleaning works. They received food rations which bordered on starvation. A ration per person consisted of 250g of bread and 100g of fat per week, 250g of sugar per month, and a quarter of a litre of skimmed milk. People who worked outside the ghetto, in a labour camp for Jews, received extra 250g of bread. Some of the Germans most cruel in their treatment of Jews were Jacob Pohl (owner of a store selling metal products), Buder, Gustav Baum Arendt (partner at the company Arendt & Wilhelm, Hoch- und Tiefbau), Gustav Ilichmann, Weiland (head of the labour office), and Hein (shoemaker)[1.5]. People who died in the camp were buried in Wola Łącka. In March 1942, a group of Jews from the Gostynin Ghetto was transported to Konin. The others were eventually transported to the Chełmno (Kulmhof) camp and executed on 7 April 1942. Only a small group remained in the town. The final liquidation of the ghetto took place in August 1942. Its residents were taken to the Łódź Ghetto[1.6].

A branch of the Central Committee of Polish Jews was founded in Gostynin after the war. Its board was composed of Abram Dziegański and Lejb Bagno. On 30 January 1946, there were 44 people registered in the Committee. There is no information on the further history of Jews from Gostynin. It can be assumed that most of them left Poland over the following years[1.7].

Bibliography

  • Dąbrowska D., “Zagłada skupisk żydowskich w „Kraju Warty” w okresie okupacji hitlerowskiej,” Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego 1955, no. 13–14.
  • Fijałkowski P., Żydzi w województwach łęczyckim i rawskim w XVXVIII w., Warsaw 1999.
  • Konarska-Pabiniak B., Gostynin. Szkice z przeszłości, Gostynin 2004.
  • Ziółkowska A., “Gostynin,” [in] Encyclopedia of Camps And Ghetthos 19331945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Ocupied Eastern Europe, ed. M. Dean, Bloomington 2012, p. 54.

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Fijałkowski P., Żydzi w województwach łęczyckim i rawskim w XVXVIII w., Warsaw 1999, passim; Guldon Z., “Skupiska żydowskie w miastach polskich w XV-XVI wieku,” [in] Żydzi i judaizm we współczesnych badaniach, vol. 2, eds. K. Pilarczyk, S. Gąsiorowski, Kraków 2000, p. 24.
  • [1.2] Konarska-Pabiniak B., Gostynin. Szkice z przeszłości, Gostynin 2004, pp. 25–26.
  • [1.3] Szczepański J., Dzieje Gąbina do roku 1945, Warsaw 1984, pp. 54, 72, 199.
  • [1.4] Konarska-Pabiniak B., Gostynin. Szkice z przeszłości, Gostynin 2004, pp. 27–45.
  • [1.5] Ziółkowska A., “Gostynin,” [in] Encyclopedia of Camps And Ghetthos 19331945, vol. 2: Ghettos in German-Ocupied Eastern Europe, ed. M. Dean, Bloomington 2012, p. 54.
  • [1.6] Dąbrowska D., “Zagłada skupisk żydowskich w „Kraju Warty” w okresie okupacji hitlerowskiej,” Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego 1955, no. 13–14, fig. 11, p. 168; Obozy hitlerowskie na ziemiach polskich 19391945. Informator encyklopedyczny, Warsaw 1979, p. 186; Konarska-Pabiniak B., Gostynin. Szkice z przeszłości, Gostynin 2004, pp. 40–43.
  • [1.7] Skibińska A., “Powroty ocalałych,” [in] Prowincja noc. Życie i zagłada Żydów w dystrykcie warszawskim, eds. B. Engelking, J. Leociak, D. Libionka, Warsaw 2007, pp. 505–599.