According to a royal rescript issued in 1728, the settlement of Jewish families with privileges was to be tolerated in Hinterpommern (Rear Pomerania) as well as in Lębork and Bytów (Bütow). Despite this fact, no Jewish family lived in Lębork at that time.
The first mentions about two such families (15 people altogether) come from 1752. Moses Casper (Caspar) lived then in Lębork together with his wife and five sons: Gottlieb Moses - the oldest one, followed by Levin, Wulff, Casper and Benedikt. In addition, three other relatives lived with them, a farmhand named Daniel and an apprentice, also Gottlieb. The second Jewish family was the undertaker Joseph Wulff and his wife. A teacher of Jewish origin also lived in Lębork at that time.
In 1764, three Jewish families living in the town paid 44 thalers for protection from the state, of which Moses Casper paid 12 thalers and Levin Moses and Casper Isaac paid 16 thalers each. Two years later, Seelig Meyer came to town and in return for permission to settle in the town, he had to undertake to buy goods worth 1,000 thalers from the Berlin Government.
In 1812, there were already 15 Jewish families living in Lębork. After 1812, the number of members of the Lębork community increased, both due to the fact that Jewish newcomers settled in the town and to the high birth rate in the community. In the years of 1829-1846, there were 197 births and only 63 deaths, which gave about 11 births and 3-4 deaths per year. During this period, 17 marriages were concluded.
In the records of Lębork community from 1829, there is a record which states that 36 families - 197 people in total, lived there. The presidents of the community were the merchants Manasse Hirschberg and Falk Naumann, the cemetery was under care of Moses Wolff Stein and Jacob Zutrauen, the treasurer's office was held by Valentin Bindemann and Davin Sternfeld. The office of teacher, butcher and cantor was held by Itzig Jacoby. This situation did not change until 1845, with one exception: from 1832, the office of cantor was taken over by Salomon Joseph Simon
In 1861, the new status of the Jewish Community was signed. Ten years later the number of community members was 381. In the years of 1817-1911, the community had nine different rabbis. For most of them, working in the Lębork community was the first step to take up this office in another, larger community. The first and the most important rabbi in the life of the community was Dr Marcus Horovitz, who stayed in Lębork for only three years.
After his resignation in 1874, the office of a rabbi in Lębork was taken over by Dr Wilhelm Landsberg who had previously worked in Pasewalk and, in 1880, was relocated to Kaiserslautern. He was succeeded in Lębork by Dr Max Biram who, however, in 1887 was transferred to Jelenia Góra (Hirschberg). His successor was Dr Moritz Krakauer, who after a year moved to Leobschütz and finally became a rabbi in Wrocław (Breslau). The next rabbi in Lębork was Dr David Mannheimer, who later moved to Oldenburg. After him, Dr Caesar Josephsohn held the office for twelve years, and then took up a teaching position in Poznań (Posen).
From 1901 to 1906, the position of the rabbi of the Lębork community was held by Dr Julius Grünthal, who had previously worked in Chemnitz for a year and then had been moved to Pniewy (Pinne) near Poznań. He then became a docent at the preparatory institute for the teaching profession of the department of Judaism in Berlin. In the years of 1907-1909, the office of the rabbi in Lębork was held by Dr Leopold Neuhaus, who then moved to Ostrów. His successor and the last rabbi of the Lębork community at the same time was Dr Felix Salomon. He held this office until 1911 and then he moved to Bayreuth.
Julius Joel Weinkrantz, born in 1853, held the post of a teacher, cantor and butcher in the Lębork community between 1880 and 1920. In 1939, when retired, he still lived in Lębork. The number of members of the community in the years 1880-1887 ranged from 371 to over 400 people. Probably, this sudden increase in the 1880s was caused by the outbreak of anti-Jewish activities in a neighbouring province, West Prussia, which forced the Jews there to take refuge, among others in Lębork. However, in the following decade the number of community members decreased by approximately 25%.
At that time, there were also charitable organisations in the community, namely Chevra Kadisha and Israelitischer Frauenwohltätigkeitsverein, both founded in 1863.
In 1893, the number of members of the community was 372 people (86 households), two years later - 365 people (95 households) and another three years later - 290 people (94 households). At the beginning of the 20th century, the population of Lębork exceeded 10,000 and the number of the members of the Jewish Community varied between 265 and 306 people.
The budget of the community between 1903 and 1907 amounted to 5,271 to 6,500 marks and the religious school was attended by an average of 30 Jewish children. In 1911-1913, Lębork already had 14,000 inhabitants, 267 to 300 of whom were of Jewish origin.
Between 1909 and 1913, the community had a Verein für Jüdische Geschichte und Literatur (Association for Jewish History and Literature (Polish: Stowarzyszenie ds. Żydowskiej Historii oraz Literatury)), headed first by rabbi Dr Salomon and later by Bernhard Kinsky. Also Max-Priestersche-Stiftung, a foundation supporting the poor was active. The foundation allocated 15,000 marks for this purpose. In addition, the municipality also had an additional fund for charitable purposes.
During WWI, six Jewish soldiers from Lębork were killed at the frontline. In 1925, the community had 293 members. In the interwar period, many Jewish families left Lębork. After 1920, a few new families came to Lębork from West Prussia and from the area around Poznań, which, after the Treaty of Versailles, became part of the newly formed Polish state. Many Jewish families living there felt more strongly connected to Germany than to Poland, which was a direct cause of migration.
In 1926, the budget of the community was 12,645 marks and four years later it was as much as 15,900 marks. At that time, the number of members of the Jewish community was 310-290 and about 44 children attended the community’s religious school. Around 1930, the number of inhabitants of Lębork increased further to 19,000 and the Jewish population constituted about 1% of the whole population. For the sake of comparison, the percentage of Jewish population in the 19th century amounted to 4-5%.
The fact that the Jewish community took an active part in the life of the town is evidenced by the fact that Hermann Baum and Leo Wolffberg were members of the town council for many years and the doctor Dr Magnus Hirschfeld was a member of the health authority.
Despite the fact of boycotting Jewish shops and institutions after Hitler seized power (01 April 1933), for some time there was still hope that the dangerous situation of the Jewish population would calm down. On 16 June 1933, the community of Lębork was still quite numerous - it had 280 members then, and on 01 October 1935 - 255 members. Jewish families lived then also in the neighbouring villages of Choczewo (Chottschow), Gniewino (Gnewin), Sasino (Sassin), Żelazna (Zelasen), Tawęcino (Tauenzin), Wrzeście (Freist), Ciekocino (Zackenzin), Wierzchucino (Wierschutzin) and also in Łeba. The family of Julius Goldstrom also belonged to the Lębork municipality. They owned a trading house in Rokity (Groß Rakitt) in the Słupsk county, just next to the border with the Lębork district.
From 1935 onwards, the board was obliged to report to the local police station about the number of members in the community and about any changes occurring within the community. Since copies of these reports have preserved, it is easy to recreate the life of the community after 1933. It is known that until 23 September 1938. (this is the date of the last report) 148 Jews left Lębork; 62 of them went to Berlin, 6 to Szczecin and Słupsk, 5 to Gdańsk, 29 to other German towns, 3 to other European countries, 32 to Palestine, 3 to the United States, 5 to South America and 3 to South Africa.
At the same time, 23 deaths and only one birth were recorded in the community. Six Jews came to the city at that time, but only for the purpose of family reunion. The long-time leader of the community, Bernhard Kinsky, left Lębork with his family in 1935 and settled in the suburbs of Berlin. The then teacher, cantor and preacher - Max Kallmann, emigrated with his family before 01 July 1938, also to Berlin. In July 1937, the Lębork community still had 164 members, 2 of whom lived in Gniewino and Tawęcin, 4 in Września and 3 in Choczew.
During the Kristallnacht riots (9/10 November 1938), the last remaining Jewish shops in the town were demolished and Jewish men were arrested. Some of them were later sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Oranienburg.
Nothing certain is known about the further lives of these people. We can only assume that some of them emigrated to Berlin, and from there to other, safer cities. Those who were less fortunate, if they did not reach the age of 65, were sent on 09 July 1942 to the assembly camp in Słupsk, from where, together with the Jews from the Koszalin district, they were transported the next day to the east, most probably to Auschwitz. However, no lists with the names of the members of this transport have survived.
At the end of August 1942, another transport, this time of persons aged over 65, set out for Terezin (Theresienstadt). The train with this transport set off from East Prussia and stopped in various cities along the way, including Słupsk. Six Jews from Lębork were on that transport.
Probably no one survived, as most of the prisoners from the Terezin camp were later sent to Auschwitz. Jews who emigrated from Lębork to Berlin in mid-1939 or later were deported or died a suicidal death.
The further fate of only a few of the Lębork Jews is known: Fritz Pinkoffs, Gustav Schwartzkopf and Moritz Ausubel (Abel). After the war, 106 Jews lived in Lębork.
The Jewish Committee in Lębork (Polish: Komitet Żydowski w Lęborku) was established and was probably located at 3 Wyspiańskiego Street (Polish: ul. Wyspiańskiego 3). 26 Jews provided this address as their place of residence. Another 6 Jews provided only the information that they lived in the Jewish Committee. Larger groups of Jews lived at 15 and 16 Dąbrowskiego Street (Polish: ul. Dąbrowskiego 15 i 16) (10 people altogether), 1 Mechaniczna Street (Polish: ul. Mechaniczna) (9 people), 105 Gdańska Street (Polish: ul. Gdańska) (7 people), 11 Lwowska Street (Polish: ul. Lwowska 11) (4 people).
- Berendt G., Przyczynek do historii Żydów w Lęborku po zakończeniu II wojny światowej,[in:] Judaizm i kościoły wschodnie na ziemi Lęborskiej: seminarium naukowe. Lębork 20.07.2000, Lębork 2000.
- Salinger G., Zur Erinnerung und zum Gedenken. Die einstigen jüdischen Gemeinden Pommerns, vol. II, Nowy Jork 2006.