The beginning of Jewish settlement in Lewin Brzeski was connected with the Edict on Civic Relations (Edikt die Burgerlichen Berhaltnisse der Juden), commonly known as the “Emancipation Edict”, issued on 11 March 1812 by King Frederick William of Prussia.
In 1820, Israel Bettsak from Biała Prudnicka settled in Lewin Brzeski, and in the following years, in 1834 - Lazarus Glaser, in 1835 - Herzl Glaser and in 1848 - Josef Barkawitz. The Jewish community in Lewin Brzeski was not large - in 1845 there were 20 Jews living in the town (1.33% of the total population).
According to Prussian regulations, an independent Jewish community could not be established in Lewin Brzeski because, in 1849, only 28 Jews lived in the town and, in 1851, seven Jewish families lived there (Joseph Beihoff, Eduard Glaser, Herzl Glaser, Lobel Grunm, Elias Krebs, Moritz Landsberger and Isaak Schuck). In 1871, 44 Jews lived in Lewin Brzeski (2.1% of the total population). In 1872, the Association of Upper Silesian Synagogue Communities (German: Oberschlesische Synagogen-Gemeinden, Polish: Związek Górnośląskich Gmin Synagogalnych) was established.
In 1880, 80 Jews lived in Lewin Brzeski, which constituted 3.6% of the total number of inhabitants. They worked mainly as traders, but there were also representatives of free professions among them. Most of them lived nearby the market square. In 1880, a Jewish cemetery with a pre-burial house was established. In 1883, an independent Jewish community was established in Lewin Brzeski. At first, the prayers were conducted in a rented flat.
It was not until 1901-1907 that a synagogue was built in what was then Bahnhofstrasse (today's Kościuszki Street (Polish: ul. Kościuszki)). The synagogue was consecrated by Rabbi Dr Leo Baeck from Opole. In 1907, the number of inhabitants reached its historical maximum of 82 people.
The beginning of the 20th century saw an increase in Jewish emigration to Western Europe. For this reason, in 1913, 74 Jews remained in the town. After the rebirth of the Polish state in 1918, Lewin Brzeski remained within Germany.
In 1932 the board of the Jewish community in Lewin Brzeski consisted of Glaser, Unger and Zucker. The Chevra Kadisha association operated in the community and ritual slaughter was carried out. The local Jews were mainly occupied with trade, but there were also representatives of liberal professions.
The action of anti-Jewish boycott in Lewin took place - just like in the whole Germany - on Saturday of 1 April 1933. Due to the anti-Semitic acts, most of the Jews left Lewin Brzeski and went to Western Europe or to the United States. In 1937, there were still 30 Jews in the town.
During the Kristallnacht, the Nazis burned down and then demolished the synagogue. Jewish shops and flats were also looted (including the shop of the rich merchant Glaser). In late 1938 and early 1939, further regulations prohibited Jews from entering cinemas, theatres, swimming pools and city parks. They were also not allowed to use sleeping cars and were forbidden to own radio receivers. In Lewin, Jews were employed only in the worst jobs, such as street cleaning.
During World War II, in October 1939, 29 Jews from Łódź were brought to Lewin Brzeski. They were placed in a makeshift forced labour camp and employed in the local sugar factory. In 1940, the Germans reorganised the slave labour camp in Lewin Brzeski. The local Jews were deported from Lewin Brzeski partly to the so-called transit camp in Rybna near Karłowice, and partly to Wrocław. The last two Jewish families were deported in 1942 to one of the Nazi extermination camps.
After World War II, the Jewish community in Lewin Brzeski did not manage to revive. A larger group of Jews settled in the region only in Opole.
- Banik J., Kochler J., Lewin Brzeski – monografia miasta, Lewin Brzeski 2005.
- Borkowski M., Kirmiel A., Włodarczyk T, Śladami Żydów: Dolny Śląsk, Opolszczyzna, Ziemia Lubuska, Warszawa 2008.