Janowiec, a private town owned by Piotr Firlej, the castellan of Wiślica, was located on the land belonging to the village Serokomla and it was granted town character in 1537 by the royal privilege of King Sigismund II. Augustus[1.1]. It is said that the first Jews settled there probably as early as in the 14th century[1.2]. In 1580 the town received an ordination, i.e. a foundation document regulating the system of local authorities and defining the inhabitants’ rights and duties[1.3]. After the line of the Firlej family had died heirless, the Tarło Family took over Janowiec and afterwards, from the 16th until the 18th century, it was a property of the Lubomirski Family. In the next centuries it belonged to the Piaskowski, Miroszewski and Ćwirko-Gotycki families. In the early modern period Janowiec was situated at the intersection of important trade routes from Eastern Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine to Silesia, Greater Poland, Saxony and Brandenburg[1.4]. Christian and Jewish merchants from Janowiec traded in grain, floated such goods as leather, wax or canvas to Gdańsk and imported herrings, spices, wine and vinegar from there[1.5]. Yet the immediate proximity of Kazimierz Dolny, which was an important grain trade center in the 16th century, hindered the development of Janowiec. At the beginning of the 17th century, the town’s position was further weakened because the local river crossing lost popularity in favour of the one situated several kilomerers to the north, near Puławy,

In the 16th century a residential and defensive castle was built on the escarpment above the town. Nowadays we can still admire its stabilized ruins. The history of that building is interwoven into the history of one of the greatest aristocratic families in Poland as well as with the most outstanding Italian and Dutch architects working in Poland – Santi Gucci, who worked for the Firlej Family, and Tylman van Gameren, having close relations with the Lubomirskis. Traces of the Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo can be found in the castle’s architectonic and decorative elements which preserved to modern times, .

In the 17th century, Janowiec developed along the route from Radom to Kazimierz towards the river crossing. A parish church constituted the heart of the town, and two marketplaces, a Christian and a Jewish one, were located on its left and right side. The low-rise building of the town hall, the impressive synagogue and some brick multi-storey houses, which belonged to richest townsmen, created an urban ambience. Other buildings in Janowiec were wooden one-storey houses which partially served as homesteads. Apart from the town hall, which was pulled down, and the synagogue which was destroyed by the Nazis at the beginning of the Second World War, the town architectural arrangement is to some extent still visible nowadays.

In 1656 Janowiec was almost completely plundered and burnt to the ground by the Swedish army[1.6]. This damage, alongside with the decline in importance of the river crossing, contributed to a gradual collapse of the town, which changed hands several times in the next years. At the end of the 18th century, next to Christian families, more and more Jewish families settled down in town[1.7]. After the First Partition of Poland Janowiec passed under Austrian rule and later on, together with the entire Galicia, it was incorporated into the Duchy of Warsaw. After the Congress of Vienna, Janowiec became part of the Kingdom of Poland which was under the supremacy of the Russian Empire.

A big flood in 1824 destroyed the fields and gardens of the town’s inhabitants. At that point there were 127 houses in Janowiec, out of which 17 were brick and 110 were wooden houses, where altogether 704 people (497 Christians and 207 Jews) used to live. In Janowiec there were twelve shoemakers, four tailors, three furriers, six bricklayers, one gravedigger, blacksmith, wheelwright, carpenter and capmaker[1.8]. There was an elementary school, an orphanageas well as a shelter for old and crippled people. Four fairs and a daily market took place in Janowiec[1.9]. In December 1869 Janowiec, like many other towns falling into decline, lost its town charter and was transformed into a settlement[1.10]. During the First World War it was seriously destroyed as in July 1915 withdrawing Russian troops set it on fire. After the fire, most of the buildings were rebuilt from local white stone bonded with clay.

In the interwar period Janowiec was mostly inhabited by Catholics and Jews. Catholics lived mainly in the town’s western part, which spread around Radomska Street, whereas Jews used to live in its eastern part. The village, though overpopulated and squalid, was in its relative heyday. A seven-form school was established, a National Police station and the municipality seat was moved to Janowiec. In 1927 lands belonging to Janowiec were parcelled out. In 1930 the Loan Association (Kasa Pożyczkowa) and a post branch office were opened.

During the Second World War Janowiec, together with other villages and towns located on the left bank of the Vistula River, was incorporated into the District of Radom, which belonged to the General Government. Shortly after the German army entered the village, persecution of Jews began. In October 1940, the Nazis set fire to the building of the synagogue and profaned the Jewish cemetery as they used matzevas to pave roads. The ghetto of Janowiec, which was created in 1940, covered the whole area of the village. At the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942 the situation in Janowiec was very hard because the ghetto was overpopulated, it had five as many inhabitants as before the outbreak of the war. At the end of 1942 the liquidation of the ghetto began. Some of the village’s inhabitants were sent to labour camps, most of them, however, were taken to the extermination camp in Treblinka.

During the Second World War a strong resistance movement existed near Janowiec – troops of the Union of Armed Struggle (Związek Walki Zbrojnej – ZWZ) of the Country’s Army (Armia Krajowa – AK) and guerrillas connected with the leftist movement operated on that area. In 1944 Janowiec was pacified- 56 people were arrested and 20 of them were executed on spot, whereas the rest was sent to concentration camps[1.11]. In 1944 Janwiec was destroyed due to the fights carried on in its vicinity.After the liberation only 17 houses could be inhabited. When the war was over, the villlage was rebuilt.

As a result of the administrative reform in 1955, the Janowiec Municipality was separated from the Kozienice County (Kieleckie Province) and was incorporated in the Puławy County (Lubelskie Province), which had a good influence on its development.

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] P. Sygowski, Żydzi Janowca w latach 1811-1864 – w świetle Ksiąg Urzędu Stanu Cywilnego z Archiwum Państwowego w Lublinie i Dokumentów Centralnych Władz Wyznaniowych z Archiwum Głównego Akt Dawnych w Warszawie [in:] Historia i kultura Żydów Janowca nad Wisłą, Kazimierza Dolnego i Puław. Fenomen kulturowy miasteczka – sztetl. Materiały z sesji naukowej „V Janowieckie Spotkania Historyczne” Janowiec nad Wisłą, 28 czerwca 2003 roku, edited by F. Jaroszyński, Janowiec nad Wisłą 2003, p. 45.
  • [1.2] G. Janusz, Miasto Janowiec nad Wisłą. Ustrój władz miejskich i stosunki społeczno-ekonomiczne w świetle przywilejów, Janowiec 1999, p. 11.
  • [1.3] J. Teodorowicz-Czerepińska, Janowiec, województwo lubelskie. Studium historyczno-urbanistyczne, Lublin 1989, mps w PSOZ w Lublinie; za: P. Sygowski, Żydzi Janowca..., p. 46.
  • [1.4] R. Kubicki, J. Wijaczka, Żydzi w Janowcu i Kazimierzu Dolnym w XVI-XIII wieku [in:] Historia i kultura Żydów…, p. 13.
  • [1.5] Ibidem., p. 20-21.
  • [1.6] G. Janusz, Miasto Janowiec..., p. 21.
  • [1.7] Ibidem, p. 48.
  • [1.8] Ibidem, p. 24.
  • [1.9] Janowiec [entry] in: Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego. Województwo lubelskie. Wyciąg haseł, Lublin 1974, p. 112.
  • [1.10] G. Janusz, Miasto Janowiec..., p. 24.
  • [1.11] Ibidem., p. 27.