The first Jewish community in Iława was formed at the beginning of the 18th century. Documents dating back to 1722 mention 15 Jewish families living in the town, probably holding special privileges. Iława was also visited by Jewish traders from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – in 1732, the municipal officials prohibited the local population from purchasing wool from Jews, calling them rogues (Schelme) who were committing tax fraud against the Royal Treasury and the city. However, the 18th-century policy of the Prussian state towards Jews was wavering; in 1763, there were no Jews in Iława.
In 1794, only one family was recorded to live in the town – it was Rabbi Jacob Abraham and his relatives. This may serve as proof that the community of Iława had begun to re-emerge even before the issuance of the Emancipation Edict in 1812. In 1801, the widow of Rabbi Abraham married Kasper Laser – also a rabbi, who as a newcomer to the town had to pay an appropriate amount to the municipal treasury and lend 33 pounds of wool (ca. 15 kg) to each of the ten clothiers of Iława. In 1805, Daniel Abraham settled in the town, paying 103 thalers and 3 groshes to the municipal authorities. A religious school was established in Rabbi Laser’s house, which also served as a house of prayer. At the beginning of the 19th century, a religious cemetery was opened.
The next chapter in the history of the community began with the Emancipation Edict coming into force on 11 March 1812. At that time, Iława was inhabited by eight Jews with municipal rights. In the 19th century, the community experienced rapid development, especially in the 1840s and 1860s. During these decades, Iława was inhabited by over 180 Jews, who constituted over 8% and over 7% of the population, respectively. A synagogue was built in the town at the time.
The traditional occupation of the local Jews was trade. Before World War I, J. Fürst, Gerson Fürst and H. Loewenstein (or Loewenthal), among others, had their stores at the Market Square. Jewish residents of Iława were quickly Germanised, becoming loyal members of the Prussian and later German community. During World War I, three Jews born in Iława died in the ranks of the Imperial Army. There were some mixed marriages. In 1907, Evangelical Christian Heronimus married Henrietta Mendelssohn; in 1916, Paul Bruno Richard le Brutze, a Calvinist, married Anna Jacobsohn; and in 1920, Ludwig Ascher from Berlin married Olga Emma Klein, member of the Evangelical Christian Church.
The local Jewish population was very active in the interwar period. In 1927, the Jewish Literary Association was established in Iława. In 1932, the community consisted of 100 people (0.8% of the total population), including 24 contribution payers. The board was composed of: Siegfried Fischer (35 Kaiserstraße), Bernhard Kalkstein (2 Kaiserstraße), Jacob Isaacsohn (4 Hindenburgstraße). Max Frank performed the role of the preacher (Prediger), butcher, and teacher. The property of the community included, among others, the synagogue at 10 Magazinenstraße, a cemetery, and a ritual slaughterhouse. Religious education was provided to 11 children.
Anti-Jewish sentiments intensified after the National Socialists came to power. The aggression affected both Jews and people living in mixed marriages (in 1939, six “mongrels” lived in Iława). Many people decided to move to Berlin or migrate to the United States and France. The hatred towards Jews reached its tipping point on the Kristallnacht, during which the synagogue was burnt down. In 1939, there were no Jews in Iława.
Among the victims of the Holocaust and World War II there are the names of 38 people born or living in Iława. They were transported to the ghettos in Theresienstadt, Riga, Minsk, Piaski and Litzmannstadt (Łódź). They died in the above-mentioned places and in the German Nazi camps in Auschwitz and Treblinka.
Bibliography and archives
- Führer durch die jüdische Gemeindeverwaltung und Wohlfahrtspflege in Deutschland: 1932–1933, Berlin 1933, p. 29.
- General-Verzeichniss sämmtlicher in dem Departament der Königl. Regierung von Westpreussen vorhandenen Juden welchen das Staatsbürger-Recht ertheilet worden, Marienwerder [1812?], pp. 19, 38, 49, 54, 60, 63, 70, http://kpbc.umk.pl/dlibra/doccontent?id=26796 [accessed: 9 May 2019].
- Groszkowski R., Baruchowski S., Iława na dawnej pocztówce, Iława 2000.
- Löwenstein L., Die jüdischen Gefallenen des Deutschen Heeres, der Deutschen Marine und der Deutschen Schutztruppen 1914-1918. Ein Gedenkbuch, Berlin 1932.
- Piątkowski A., “Iława w czasach nowożytnych (wybrane zagadnienia),” [in] Iława, Olsztyn 1999.
- Szczepański S., “Mieszkańcy Iławy na tle dziejów miasta (do 1945 r.),” [in] Iława 1305–2005. Siedemset lat dziejów, Olsztyn 2006.
- Secret Prussian State Archive – Prussian Cultural Heritage in Berlin, Ministerium des Innern, Das Etablissement der Juden in der Stadt Deutsch-Eylau auf Grund des Edikts vom 11. Marz 1812, 1814, file no. Rep. 77 (M) Abt. I Sekt. 34 Tit. 1021 No. 1.