The first mention of Jews in Kraśnik dates back to 1530[1.1]. A year later the names of two Jews – Mojżesz and Salomon – were listed in historical sources. They maintained trade contacts with Gdańsk[1.2].

References to Jews involved in business in Kraśnik were recorded in the years 1556, 1560 and 1573. They made their living by leasing mills and ponds, as well by owning breweries and malt-houses[1.3]. It can be supposed that a house (or a room) of prayer had already existed at that time in one of the private buildings.

In 1584, Prince Aleksander Słucki abolished the de non tolerandis Judaeis law in Kraśnik[1.4]. In that period, Jews were obliged to pay taxes at a rate of one ducat and one hard thaler for the whole plot and a half of red golden and a half of hard thaler for a half plot. Landless Jewish tenants, people who did not possess any real estate, were also required to pay the same as the owners of the half plot[1.5]. By the end of the 16th century, Kraśnik Jews had their own synagogue, a rabbi’s house, a cantor’s house, a hospital and a Jewish cemetery[1.6].

The number of local Jewish residents increased rapidly in the last quarter of the 16th century. Jews from nearby localities, such as Zaklików, Urzędów or Modlibórz, began arriving in the town.

From at least 1593, a timber synagogue operated in Kraśnikl it was located in the southern corner of the Market Place, by the town tower and close to the rabbi's house[1.7], the cantor's house and the hospital (shelter), which indicates that an organised Jewish community already existed here. Apart from the main (community) mikveh, there were also private bathhouses in the town. It can be supposed that towards the end of the 16th century, the first Jewish cemetery was established on today’s Podwalna Street, though the fact that it actually existed was only confirmed by sources from 1625[1.1.6]. A ritual slaughterhouse operated in the town from at least 1605[1.8]. The first reference to shochetim in Kraśnik dates back to 1605[1.9].

Jews resided mainly around the Market Square, in Żydowska Street, Lubelska Street, and by the town walls. In Żydowska Street there was the only tenement house in the town; it was owned by a Jewish merchant called Moszka, dubbed “the Rich Man.” On the Market Square, there was the house of Jakub Ber, which was called “Heliasz’s house” as it had previously been owned by Heliasz, one of the first Jewish settlers in Kraśnik. The houses located by the town walls belonged to the shochetim – the families of Abel, Okas and Łoboda, undertaker Hośko, Lezor Szkolnik and the cantor. The Jewish hospital was also situated in this area.

Jews were mainly involved in trade and crafts. Among them were merchants, landlords and winemakers[1.10]. Some owned businesses. They traded in grain, honey, meat, salt, starch, fish and alcohol, just mention a few. They sold cloth, wool, linen, leather, wax, soap, candles, gunpowder and timber. They also traded in cattle. The Jewish Community Council in Kraśnik had three representatives in the Council of the Four Lands[1.11].

The municipal record books feature the names of two Jewish tailors – Icek Markowicz and Marek Ickowicz. Many Jews worked as butchers. Poor Jews often served in the houses of richer Jews as trade intermediaries, agents or coachmen[1.12]. In the mid-17th century, Jewish butchers became the exclusive meat suppliers of the population of Kraśnik. They traded in herring and fish from the nearby ponds. Kraśnik Jews also imported commodities such as pepper, saffron, cloves, soap, cumin and starch[1.13]. They paid the so-called “Jewish poll tax,” introduced in 1549, to the State Treasury. During Easter they handed specific spices over to the town authorities. It was due to the fact that on the night of Good Friday, Christians often raided Jewish houses. The town authorities would reinforce the guard for that night and in return they received spices[1.14].

In 1631, there were 50 Jewish families (around 380 people) residing in Kraśnik; they owned 30 houses and made up ca. 11% of the total population[1.15]. Records from the first half of the 17th century mention a few Jews amongst the inhabitants of Kraśnik e.g. the elderly Abram Józkowicz, the family of Abram Kocham, butcher Matys Rusinek, Szymon Czopownik, Abram Sukiennik and Icko Krawiec.

In 1637, the town suffered from a great fire. A Jew named Boruch was accused of causing it. On 10 November 1637, Tomasz Zamoyski forbade Jews to rebuild houses and stalls in the Market Square and ordered for a separate Jewish quarter to be designated in the area of the city walls[1.16]. In the same area, a new brick synagogue was built opposite the parish church; it later called the “Great Synagogue”[1.17]. The ban was later lifted in 1661. In 1643, Jan Zamoyski banned Jews from organising funeral processions which crossed the Main Square on their way to the Jewish cemetery.

In the first half of the 17th century, the majority of the buildings in the Square were owned by Jews[1.18]. At the time, the city and the Jewish community entered in a conflict concerning the maintenance of the city walls. Jews lived close to the walls and would often erect outbuildings next to them. The city authorities objected to this practice[1.19].

The development of the Jewish community of Kraśnik came to a halt due to the Khmelnytsky Uprising in the years 1648–1654. Anti-Semitic activities broke out in, among other places, Kraśnik, Biłgoraj and Tomaszów Lubelski. Numerous pogroms of the Jewish population, during which Jewish homes and shops were looted, became a disgraceful tradition of Kraśnik residents.

In the 17th century, Kraśnik was destroyed by invasions of Cossaks and Swedes and, as a result, living conditions deteriorated. The town was depopulated. The number of Jews fell significantly; in 1674, they comprised only 8% of the population[1.1.19]. Nonetheless, in the following years, the Jewish community reemerged. At the turn of the 18th century, Jews comprised 22% of the town's residents. They gained great influence in the cattle, crops, food and imported goods markets, as well in several branches of craft (for instance butchery)[1.20]. An important source of income for some families was licence to produce and sell alcohol[1.21].

In 1740, Jews received the right to live anywhere they wished and to conduct business activities in the town[1.22]. During the 18th century, the Jewish community expanded to such an extent that, in 1787, Kraśnik Jews, according to some sources, commprised 64-66% of the population[1.23]. By the end of the 18th century, Jews owned almost all the brick houses in the town centre, as well as the majority of breweries and distilleries. They led the way in the beer trade, as well as in wine, herring, textiles and timber[1.24]. Local Jews actively participated in the town's social and political life, also participating in municipal elections[1.25].

At the beginning of the 18th century, the old Town Hall became the property of Berk, a Jew. In 1731, with the consent of the heir to the town, the new Town Hall was also purchased by Herszek Eliak[1.26]. In 1787, 3,800 people lived in Kraśnik, including 2,430 (64%) Jews[1.27]. By 1827, there were 3,530 people living in the town, including 1,961 (55%) Jews.

In early 19th century Jews constituted a half of the population of Kraśnik. The kehilla owned a synagogue, a mikveh, and a hospital (shelter). In the years 1823–1857, a beth midrash was erected near the synagogue; the mikveh underwent a restoration in the middle of the century, and the reconstruction of the burnt down synagogue and house of prayer was initiated in 1861.

Over the course of the 19th century, the town became an important Hasidic centre. Followers of the Góra Kalwaria tzaddik and the tzaddik from the Lublin Eiger family both had shtiebelekh here[1.1.19]. In mid-19th century, the Hasidic community attempted to take control over the Jewish Community Council in Kraśnik. In 1867, riots broke out in the town in the aftermath of the election of the new rabbi. It was in Kraśnik that Abraham Eiger gained experience as a Hasidic leader. It was also where he established his first court. After the death of his father, he moved to Lublin took take over the leadership of all the Lublin Hasidim.

In 1883, 7,776 people lived in Kraśnik, including over 4,000 Jews (54%). By the end of the 18th century, Jews owned a water mill (Majer Szpiro), a windmill (Goldfeld) and a brickyard (Zysberg)[1.28].

At the beginning of the 20th century, an important source of income for some Kraśnik Jews was the construction of the railway line and the establishment of a garrison there[1.1.22].

In 1914, during World War I, the Kraśnik area saw bloody battles between the Russian and Austrian armies. Russian soldiers killed both local rabbis.

At the beginning of the 1920s, ca. 4,200 Jews lived in Kraśnik, constituting more than half of the town's population. The local Jewish Community Council was the largest in Lubelskie Province. Gradually, and with the help of the JOINT Committee, the community recovered from the damage of World War I and the effects of the economic crisis. From the early 1930s, the Zionist movement and the Agudath had great influence amongst Kraśnik Jews, as did the Bund[1.29].

During the interwar period, the Jews of Kraśnik owned the Great Synagogue and the Small Synagogue, three houses of prayer, a poorhouse, a number of cheders, and a cemetery[1.30]. In 1926, the mikveh was destroyed in a fire. Due to the community's dire financial situation, it was only rebuilt in 1936. Kraśnik had seventeen private houses of prayer[1.31], numerous cheders, aid organisations (among them the Gemilut Chesed loan society), and cultural and educational institutions (e.g. the I. L. Perec Jewish Library founded in 1924)[1.32]. In 1931, 11,516 people lived in Kraśnik, including 3,923 (32%) Jews[1.33].

Soon after the outbreak of WWII in the autumn of 1939, about 800 displaced Jews were sent to Kraśnik from such cities as Łódź and Kraków. Some were then transported to labour camps in Biała Podlaska, Chełm and Radom. On 15 September 1939, Germans chased several dozen Jews into the synagogue. There, on the night of 15 September, the Jews stood with their arms in the air while the Nazis burned books and scrolls in the synagogue. Jews were also forced to open their shops during the Jewish holiday of Rosh HashanahThat evening, Germans took both Jews and Poles as hostages. This action was aimed at terrorising the population of Kraśnik. The hostages, under threat of being shot, included Josef Szapiro, Dawid Zając and Szlomo Kohn[1.34].

On 28 November 1939, the Nazis formed a Jewish Council (Judenrat) composed of twelve people. F. Rabinowicz was appointed chairman. J. Wajsbrot and P. Kawa were the other Judenrat Board members. The Judenrat set up a team of ten people to organise help for the people in need. Among its members were Kraśnik Jews, two Jews from Łódź, and one from Janów. They were: Dr. Josef Szapiro, M. Kuchczyk, Abraham Dawidson and Mosze Zajfeld from Łódź.

In March 1940, a communal kitchen was opened; it was used by about 1,200 people each day. It only operated for a few months. During the 1940 Passover, the American JOINT organisation sent 1,200 kg of matzo for the most needy in Kraśnik. At the beginning of 1941, the Jewish Social Self-Help became active. Its members were Dr J. Szapiro, Bera Wajzberg (pharmacist), Abraham Dawidson, Szmul Plug, and Mosze Zajdenfeld. In April 1941 the organisation had the budget of 3,600 zł[1.35].

Some Kraśnik Jews became involved in partisan activities by joining Berek Joselewicz’s Jewish unit. During the war Jews cooperated with leftist organisations. During the occupation, Jews from Lublin, Kraków, and Warsaw also came to Kraśnik. In 1940, there were 5,469 Jewish people residing there.

The Kraśnik Ghetto was located in the area bounded by the streets: Bóżniczna, Szkolna, and Ogrodowa. In February 1942, over 6,000 people were held there. Germans herded around 3,000 Jews into the Market Square and then marched them to the railway station. During the march, German soldiers shot 70 people. The remaining Jews were loaded onto the train wagons and transported to the death camp in Bełżec.

The first deportation took place on 12 April 1942, when 2,000-3,000 people from the Kraśnik Ghetto were sent to the Bełżec death camp. The next transportations to Bełżec took place in the autumn of that same year.

The ghetto was liquidated in November 1942. At the time, a few hundred people were shot dead in the Jewish cemetery on Szewska Street. A group of a few hundred Jews was transported to a labour camp in Kraśnik-Budzyń and about 200 Jewish skilled workers ended up in the “Synagogue” labour camp[1.36]. Others were sent to the Zaklików Ghetto, from where they were deported to the Bełżec death camp[1.1.14].

In the early 1944, an underground resistance group operated in the “Synagogue” camp. They had been planning an escape of the prisoners, but Germans discovered the conspiracy and shot dead its instigators[1.37]. After the liquidation of the camp, the Jews who had worked there were sent to Annopol and – according to some sources – were recaptured by partisans on their way there[1.38].

Another, larger camp for Jews, operating from the autumn of 1942, was situated in Budzyń, a factory district of Kraśnik. Among its prisoners were Jews from Kraśnik, Bełżyce, Janów Lubelski, Minsk, Mohyliv, Smolensk, Vienna, Slovakia; a group of about 1,000 Jews was also transported there from Warsaw in 1943, following the collapse of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In January 1943, 13 Jews and 12 Ukrainian guards escaped from the Budzyń camp. Up to October 1943, the camp operated as an independent unit belonging to the Hermann Goring-Werke, and from January 1944, it became a sub-camp of the Majdanek camp. Prisoners worked at digging sewage ditches and on clearing the forest, and some were employed in the Heinkel production plant. Budzyń was one of the two camps which survived the “Erntefest” Action. In April 1944, some of the Jews from Budzyń were taken to the Majdanek camp[1.39], while on 22 July 1944, after the camp was closed, all of its prisoners were taken to camps located in Płaszów and Mauthausen[1.1.35]. On the road from Kraśnik to Urzędów there is a memorial plaque commemorating the victims murdered in Budzyń. There were also smaller labour camps for Jews near Kraśnik, located in such places like Gościeradów (ca. 200 people), Janiszów (ca. 900 people), Łysaków (ca. 500 people), and Rachów (ca. 500-600 people).

At that time, the German police force was led by SS and Police Commander General Odilo Globocnik. He was succeeded by Jakob Sporrenberg. The headquarters of the German military police were located in the building owned by a Jew, Rosenbusch Ziskiel[1.40]. The Nazi policemen who were particularly cruel in their treatment of the Jewish population were Kurt Korner, Restau Artur, Muttersbach Brunon, Philipp, Georgi, Reich Henryk, Weizel Hugo, Szmidt, Grosse and Kitzman. From among the Jews killed by Germans in the years 1941-1944, the names of 55 victims have been established. These were: Bańkowska, Zelik Beatus (18 Szkolna Street), Benjamin Grinapel, Abram Graf, Zelik Goldner (Bóźniczna Street), Ela Lederfajn (Szkolna Street), Erlich, Jenta Rajndel, Wolf Rajndel, Geła Wajsbrot, Josek Beck, Frajda Dawidson, Choma Erlich, Ita Erlich, Abram Erlich, Judka Gutfrajnd (Wesoła Street), Dawid Hirszbaum, Sarna Kessel (Narutowicza Street), Rachela Klocender, Tauba Rozenbusch, Hudesa Rozenbusch (Kościuszki Street), Choma Rozenbusch (Kościuszki Street), Abram Szafran (Narutowicza Street), Rojza Szafran (Narutowicza Street), Majer Wajnberg (Narutowicza Street), Walla Wajnberg (Narutowicza Street), Bajka Zając (Narutowicza Street). Among the Jews who were shot in the labour camp in Budzyń were: Chaskiel (Kraśnik), Met Chaskiel (Kraśnik), Cymerman, Dajtel (Kraków), Aron Fajngold (Trzydnik), Ferst (Łódź), Fersztman (Bełżyce), Fryda Fiterman (Gęsia Street), Izrael Fiterman (Gęsia Street), Józef Gołąb (Trzydnik), Herszkowicz (Warsaw), Bela Kawa (Gęsia Street), Berek Kawa (Gęsia Street), Pejsach Kawa (Gęsia Street), Lewkowicz (Warsaw), Kuszel Mogiluk (Smorgonie), Mojżesz Nudelman (Kraśnik), Anciel-Jankiel Pomaranc (Kraśnik), Dr. Pupko (Warsaw), Rozencwajg, Josef Szwarcman (Janów Lubelski), Szwarchard (Kraśnik), Wurman (Trzydnik), Zabner (Warsaw), Fajwel Zajdenwerk (Zaklików)[1.41].

During the war, many Poles provided assistance to Jews. Stefania Szmit serves as a good example here. She was arrested by Germans for hiding a runaway Jew. She was kept in the Lublin Castle and then murdered on 23 March 1944[1.42]. Another example is the story of Basia Tenenbaum, who was saved from death by a parish priest, Józef Baranowski, in Dzierzkowice near Kraśnik. A young married couple, Chemia and Sara Tenenbaum, who had relatives in Kraśnik, left their daughter with the Catholic priest. He found foster parents for the girl. The child was taken care of by Aleksander and Apolonia Ołdak, a couple living in the house of Szczepan and Zofia Wojtaszek in Dzierzkowice Wola. Accounts written by Kraśnik Jews (Hersz Broner and Abraham Olender, to name but two) bear witness to Jewish history during the German occupation. They are kept in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

After the war, several Jews lived in Kraśnik for a couple of years. In the years 1944–1946, both in Kraśnik and its surrounding area, Jews were falling victims to attacks which would often lead to the death of the victim. For example, two members of the Jewish Committee in Kraśnik were killed outside the town on 6 August 1944 by the Home Army members (301/2221)[1.43]. In 1993, Marianna Pawęzka from Kraśnik was awarded the Righteous among the Nations medal for saving, together with her husband, a teenage Jewish girl.

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Wichrowski Z., Szymanek W., “Z kalendarium historycznego miasta Kraśnika,” Regionalista – czasopismo Kraśnickiego Towarzystwa Regionalnego 1997, p. 4.
  • [1.2] Krakowski S., Krasnik, [in] Encyclopedia Judaica, eds. F. Skolnik, M. Berenbaum, Detroit – New York – San Francisco – New Haven – Waterville– London 2007, vol. 12, p. 338; Morgenstern J., “Z dziejów Żydów w Kraśniku do połowy XVII wieku,” Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego 1960, no. 34, p. 72.
  • [1.3] Piechotkowie J. i M., Oppidum Judaeorum. Żydzi w przestrzeni miejskiej dawnej Rzeczypospolitej, Warsaw 2004, p. 205.
  • [1.4] Jodłowska E., “Ocalić co się da,” Regionalista – czasopismo Kraśnickiego Towarzystwa Regionalnego 1994, p. 43.
  • [1.5] Litwin W., Szlak Chasydzki. Kraśnik, Fundacja Ochrony Dziedzictwa Żydowskiego [online] http://fodz.pl/download/szlak_chasydzki_krasnik_PL.pdf [Accessed: 21.12.2014].
  • [1.6] Trzciński A., Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990, p. 26.
  • [1.7] Trzciński A., Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990, p. 26; Wichrowski Z., “Kraśnicki Rynek,” Regionalista – czasopismo Kraśnickiego Towarzystwa Regionalnego 2000, p. 56; Kraśnik. Studium historyczno-urbanistyczne, ed. R. Grabski, Lublin 1984 (typewritten); Morgenstern J., “Z dziejów Żydów w Kraśniku do połowy XVII wieku,” Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego 1960, no. 34, p. 72.
  • [1.1.6] Trzciński A., Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990, p. 26.
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  • [1.9] Albin J., Rzemiosło i handel miasta Kraśnika w XVI i XVII wieku, [inZ dziejów powiatu kraśnickiego. Materiały z sesji naukowej, eds. K. Myśliński, J. Szafik, Kraśnik 1963, p. 79.
  • [1.10] Opas T., Kraśnik w pierwszej połowie XVIII wieku, [in] Z dziejów powiatu kraśnickiego. Materiały z sesji naukowej, eds. K. Myśliński, J. Szafik, Kraśnik 1963, p. 140.
  • [1.11] Trzciński A., Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990, p. 26.
  • [1.12] Czochór W., “Rzemiosło i handel w Kraśniku w XV i XVI wieku,” Regionalista – czasopismo Kraśnickiego Towarzystwa Regionalnego 1999, p. 23.
  • [1.13] Czochór W., “Rzemiosło i handel w Kraśniku w XV i XVI wieku,” Regionalista – czasopismo Kraśnickiego Towarzystwa Regionalnego 1999, p. 26.
  • [1.14] Litwin W., Szlak Chasydzki. Kraśnik, Fundacja Ochrony Dziedzictwa Żydowskiego [online] http://fodz.pl/download/szlak_chasydzki_krasnik_PL.pdf [Accessed: 21.12.2014].
  • [1.15] Wichrowski Z., Szymanek W., “Z kalendarium historycznego miasta Kraśnika,” Regionalista – czasopismo Kraśnickiego Towarzystwa Regionalnego 1997, p. 7.
  • [1.16] Wichrowski Z., Szymanek W., “Z kalendarium historycznego miasta Kraśnika,” Regionalista – czasopismo Kraśnickiego Towarzystwa Regionalnego 1997, p. 7.
  • [1.17] Krakowski S., Krasnik, [in] Encyclopedia Judaica, eds. F. Skolnik, M. Berenbaum, Detroit – New York – San Francisco – New Haven – Waterville – London 2007, vol. 12, p. 338; Piechotkowie J. and M., Oppidum Judaeorum. Żydzi w przestrzeni miejskiej dawnej Rzeczypospolitej, Warsaw 2004, p. 205.
  • [1.18] Wichrowski Z., “Kraśnicki Rynek,” Regionalista – czasopismo Kraśnickiego Towarzystwa Regionalnego 2000, p. 56.
  • [1.19] Litwin W., Szlak Chasydzki. Kraśnik, Fundacja Ochrony Dziedzictwa Żydowskiego [online] http://fodz.pl/download/szlak_chasydzki_krasnik_PL.pdf [Accessed: 21.12.2014].
  • [1.1.19] [a] [b] Litwin W., Szlak Chasydzki. Kraśnik, Fundacja Ochrony Dziedzictwa Żydowskiego [online] http://fodz.pl/download/szlak_chasydzki_krasnik_PL.pdf [Accessed: 21.12.2014].
  • [1.20] Krasnik, [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 2, New York 2001, p. 672; Albin J., Rzemiosło i handel miasta Kraśnika w XVI i XVII wieku, [inZ dziejów powiatu kraśnickiego. Materiały z sesji naukowej, eds. K. Myśliński, J. Szafik, Kraśnik 1963, p. 79.
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  • [1.22] Krasnik, [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 2, New York 2001, p. 672.
  • [1.23] Wierciński H., Opis statystyczny Guberni Lubelskiej, Warsaw 1901, p. 150.
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  • [1.25] Opas T., Kraśnik w pierwszej połowie XVIII wieku, [in] Z dziejów powiatu kraśnickiego. Materiały z sesji naukowej, eds. K. Myśliński, J. Szafik, Kraśnik 1963, p. 138; Kraśnik. Studium historyczno-urbanistyczne, ed. R. Grabski, Lublin 1984 (typewritten).
  • [1.26] Opas T., Kraśnik w pierwszej połowie XVIII wieku, [in] Z dziejów powiatu kraśnickiego. Materiały z sesji naukowej, eds. K. Myśliński, J. Szafik, Kraśnik 1963, p. 138.
  • [1.27] Makuch L., “Kraśnicka oświata w tekstach uchwał elekcyjnych XVIII wieku,” Regionalista – czasopismo Kraśnickiego Towarzystwa Regionalnego 1995, p. 23.
  • [1.28] Śladkowski W., Początki i rozwój przemysłu w powiecie kraśnickim w latach 1800–1915, [in] Z dziejów powiatu kraśnickiego. Materiały z sesji naukowej, eds. K. Myśliński, J. Szafik, Kraśnik 1963, p. 199.
  • [1.1.22] Krasnik, [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 2, New York 2001, p. 672.
  • [1.29] Krasnik, [in] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, eds. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 2, New York 2001, p. 672.
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  • [1.40] Szymanek W., Z dziejów Kraśnika i okolic w okresie okupacji niemieckiej w latach 1939–1944, Kraśnik 1989, pp. 14.
  • [1.41] Szymanek W., Z dziejów Kraśnika i okolic w okresie okupacji niemieckiej w latach 1939–1944, Kraśnik 1989, pp. 115–116.
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