In all likelihood, Jews obtained the privilege to settle in Markuszów shortly after the chartering of the town, that is in the mid-16th century. However, the oldest historical records to mention Jewish people living in the locality date to as late as the 1630s. Sources from 1661 list nine Jews among a total of 208 taxpayers residing in Markuszów.

In 1681, Markuszów Jews were granted permission to build a synagogue. In 1686, the town received numerous privileges from King John III Sobieski, including some benefitting the Jewish population. Although the earliest record to mention a synagogue in Markuszów dates back to 1799, it can be assumed that an independent religious community had operated in the town since at least 1766[1.1] and therefore a house of prayer and a cemetery must have been established at that point. Archival sources from the 18th century point to the existence of a “Jewish town” and “Jewish marketplace” in the south-eastern part of the locality. As was the case in many other towns, the Jewish population of Markuszów dealt mainly with trade and crafts.

In the second half of the 19th century, the Jewish community of Markuszów started to rapidly grow in size. In 1861, the town had a population of 826, including 387 Jews (46%). In 1885, the total population increased to 1,256 people, of whom 672 were Jews (53%). A new Jewish cemetery was mapped out. A second synagogue (or house of prayer) was erected in 1855. The same period also saw the creation of a complex of artificial lakes in the town, with a new Jewish suburb – Łachy – founded on its eastern banks.

In the late 19th century, the Hasidic movement gained a significant number of supporters in Markuszów. In 1916, Abraham Moshe Weintraub founded a local Hasidic dynasty. Before the outbreak of World War I, there were also several Zionist groups operating in the town; their activities intensified in the interwar years. In 1909, Markuszów had a population of 2,216, including 1,321 Jews (59%).

In the early 1920s, Jews constituted over 54% of the entire population of Markuszów. They lived mainly in the centre of the town. The kehilla owned a synagogue, house of prayer, two Jewish cemeteries (the old one was closed for burials), as well as a mikveh and ritual slaughterhouse.[1.2] The community also boasted the Chevra Kadisha burial society and other charitable associations, as well as various political parties and organisations, e.g. a branch of the Orthodox Zionist Mizrachi.[1.3] In 1930, J. Rubinsztejn was the rabbi of Markuszów, and A. Ejdejsztejn was the kehilla secretary. A. Goldsztajn served as the sexton of the synagogue and the cemetery, while Ch. Goldsztajn was a shochet. 

In the interwar period, the residents of Markuszów, including Jews, were experiencing serious economic hardships. This was due to several factors, including the damage suffered by the town in World War I and the exacerbating economic crisis, which brought with itself intensification of anti-Semitic sentiments. On the eve of World War II, Markuszów had ca. 2,000 Jewish inhabitants, constituting ca. 66% of the entire population of the town.

After the outbreak of World War II, the town was bombed by the German Luftwaffe. The centre, inhabited primarily by Jews, was almost completely brought to the ground. Over the course of the war, the Nazis destroyed the Jewish district in the south-eastern part of the town, including the synagogue and the cemetery.

In late 1939, shortly after Markuszów was seized by German troops, a Judenrat was established in the town. A ghetto was set up in May 1941. April of the following year saw the first mass deportation from the Jewish district, with ca. 500 Jews – mostly elderly and ill people – transported to the death camp in Sobibór. A big group of refugees from Slovakia was resettled to the ghetto in their place. As a result, the population of the district reached ca. 1,500 people. On 8 May 1942, after the announcement of another “deportation” campaign, a group of Jews fled the town. Most of them were eventually captured and shot, while the remaining ghetto prisoners were deported to Sobibór on the following day.

Three Jewish partisan units operated in the vicinity of the town, formed by 50 Jews who had managed to escape from Markuszów. All of the fighters, however, were apprehended by the Germans and executed.

 Bibliography

  • Dąbrowski R., Mniejszości narodowe na Lubelszczyźnie w latach 1918–1939, Kielce 2007.
  • Hurbana u-gevurata shel ha-ayara Markuszow, D. Shtokfish (ed.), Tel Aviv 1955.
  • Kubiszyn M., “Markuszów,” in: Śladami Żydów. Lubelszczyzna, Lublin 2011, pp. 278–281.
  • Łowczak S., Burzliwa historia Markuszowa, Markuszów 2001, p. 60.
  • “Markuszów,” in: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, S. Spector, G. Wigoder (eds.), vol. 2, New York 2001, p. 797.
  • Przesmycka E., Przeobrażenia zabudowy i krajobrazu miasteczek Lubelszczyzny, Lublin 2001, p. 277;
  • Teodorowicz-Czerpińska J., Markuszów. Studium historyczno-urbanistyczne, Lublin 1984 [typescript].
  • Trzciński A., Śladami zabytków kultury żydowskiej na Lubelszczyźnie, Lublin 1990.
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Footnotes
  • [1.1] According to some sources, the local kehilla may have been founded as early as before 1686; see: Teodorowicz-Czerpińska J., Markuszów. Studium historyczno-urbanistyczne, Lublin 1984 [typescript]; cf. “Markuszów,” in: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, S. Spector, G. Wigoder (eds.), vol. 2, New York 2001, p. 797.
  • [1.2] State Archives in Lublin, Lublin Provincial Office 1918–1939, Social and Political Division, call no. 730, p. 4; also call no. 817, p. 4; 722, p. 2; ibid, call no. 817, p. 4.
  • [1.3] State Archives in Lublin, Lublin Provincial Office 1918–1939, Social and Political Division, call no. 484, p. 4; R. Dąbrowski, Mniejszości narodowe na Lubelszczyźnie w latach 1918–1939, Kielce 2007, p. 53.