A Jewish community in Myślenice was established only in the second half of the 19th century. From 1805, de non tolerandis Judaeis privilege was in force in the town. It was granted thanks to provident townsmen, who feared Jewish competition on the trade route leading to Hungary and Orawa. At that time Jews settled in neighbouring villages such as: Budzów, Droginia, Jawornik, Lubień, Pcim, Rudnik, Osieczany, Stróża, Sułkowice (where a synagogue and a ritual bath were located) and in Dobczyce[1.1].

Jews appeared in Myślenice only when the Austrian parliament introduced a reform in 1867, which allowed Jews to settle in the entire Empire. The Jewish community was established already in 1874[1.2]. In the same year, a plot for a Jewish cemetery was registered in the court.

In the 1880s, the Jewish community was well-organized; the synagogue was under construction, a mikveh and a kosher butcher’s shop were operating. Jewish boys could attend a cheder, a yeshiva or a public elementary school – the last was chosen only by assimilated inhabitants. Due to the fact, that Jews arrived in Myślenice relatively late, they remained a minority and the community developed more slowly than in nearby municipalities. In the years 1880-90, the number of Jews in Wadowice increased from 404 to 975 people, that is by 141%; in comparison, in the same period the number of Jews in Myślenice grew from 386 to 482 people, that is only by 25%[1.1.1].

Considering religious views, the local Jews supported mainly Hassidism. The first rabbi was Naftali Perlman from Limanowa, a Talmud scholar. In 1881, he established and became the head of a branch of the Machzikej ha-Dat (which means “strengthening faith”). As a rabbi he was succeeded by his son Josef Samuel Perlman, student of Chaim Halbersztam from Nowy Sącz. During his tenure a new judge was appointed to the rabbinical court – Szymon Meir Dersowicz, husband of Josel Samuel’s sister. After the death of his brother-in-law, Josel Samuel was appointed chief rabbi and was highly respected in the town[1.3].

The last rabbi of Myślenice was Berisz Dersowicz, son of Szymon. He was not only a scholar of Talmud, but also received secular education. As he willingly took part in the town’s life, the authorities of Myślenice often invited him to public meetings where he gave speeches in Polish and Hebrew. When the war broke out and the German occupation came, he left the town with his family; they all died in Nowy Sącz[1.1.3].

According to Rachela Perlroth, the first elections in the community were held long time after it had been established. The first community president was Eliasz Pflanzer, succeeded by Dawid Korngut (1890-1919). For the next twenty years (1910-30), the kehilla was headed by Icchak Jeszajachu Perlroth, and later by: Eliasz Mendel Lustig, Eliasz Neuman, Hirsz Horowitz (1936–1937) and finally Mosze Perlroth, son of Icchak Jeszajachu Perloth (1938–1939)[1.4].

Eliasz Neuman was a pious Jew who ran a traditional house. In 1940, during a German action to “cleanse the town from communist elements” he was imprisoned in a penitentiary at Montelupich Street in Kraków and sentenced to death[1.1.4].

Hirsz Horowitz, born in Myślenice, was not only the kehilla’s chairman, but also a member of the town council. He came from the famous Isz Horowitz family. During his times, Doboszyński’s infamous  “March on Myślenice” took place. Horowitz, who was one of the victims of the National Radical Camp (Polish: Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny, ONR), acted as one of the main witnesses in the process against its leader. He died during the war together with his wife and two children[1.1.4].

Icchak Jeszajachu Perlroth was born in 1864 in Zakliczyn. In 1888, he married Miriam Leibler and moved to Myślenice. He had eight sons and five daughters. The Jewish community owed to him building the synagogue. Perlroth, together with his brother Chaim Jehuda from Żegociny, established a loan fund which supported poor craftsmen. He died during the war, probably shot by the Germans in the Niepołomnice Forest. Only Perlroth’s daughter Rachela survived the war[1.1.4]. Mosze Perlorth, son of Icchak Jeszajachu, was the last president of the Myślenice kehilla and a very popular and respected Jew. After the outbreak of the war he was arrested by the Germans, imprisoned at Montelupich Street in Kraków, and tortured there. Released after some time he came back home, where he died from injuries he had received[1.1.4].

Although Myślenice were predominantly Catholic and the Jews constituted a minority there, they always had a major influence on governing the town. Proportionally to the number of inhabitants, they were granted one seat in the town council, but usually they gained more, often thanks to votes of the Catholics. In the last period of the Jewish community’s existence, the following Jews were members of the town council: Mordechaj Natan Bittersfeld, dr Lazar Goldwasser, dr Karol Leibel, Izrael Karger, Eliasz Neuman and Chaim Weinman. Also Wolf Buchheister was about to join them, but as the Jews got 5 seats at that time, he resigned in favour of a priest[1.5].

In the Jewish community the most influential was the Agudath party. From 1910 and for the next 20 years, it was headed by Icchak Jeszajahu Perlorth. Zionist organizations were almost non-existent in Myślenice. In local elections carried out in 1928, the Zionists won only one seat. Therefore, only few Jewish children attended public schools; they were mostly children of the “intelligentsia” – doctors and lawyers. In 1926, a Zionist organization called Ha-Tikwa was established, which in Hebrew means “hope”. The town’s rabbi and the Hassidim strongly opposed it and called for a boycott. During elections to the Zionist Congress in 1935, only 22 contributions were made in Myślenice; 10 votes went for the General Zionists, 6 – for the List of Working Israel, 4 – for the State Party and 2 – for the Union. Some of the Jews, especially the younger, supported the Polish extremist left.

The Jewish population inhabited mainly the town’s centre – only several families settled in the suburbs. Jewish economic and trade life concentrated around the Main Square – there they sold their products during fairs and their stalls stood always near the district office; also there were located the best Jewish shops and restaurants. The only street in the town where no Jewish family lived was P. Skargi Street[1.6]. To the most affluent Jews belonged: Neumann, Korn, Laubentracht, Bittersfeld, Balsam, Hojda, Fröhlich, Goldwasser, Faden; the  rest of the community was rather poor[1.7].

Agnieszka Cahn, a resident of Myślenice, belongs to the Association “Wspólnota Myślenice” and in her guidebook she noted an interesting fact connected with the Main Square:

“Many inhabitants of Myślenice remembered the Perlroth family for… hanging out the washing on their balcony looking out on the Square. The more prudish citizens were irritated by this and believed that underwear should not be put on public view on the main square in the town. During a Town Council session, whose members were Jews as well, it was decided that if the balcony stands out from the outline of the building, it belongs to the Town and can be removed. And so it happened”[1.8].

Anti-Jewish incidents took place in Myślenice and its neighbourhood several times, beginning already at the end of the 19th century. In 1898, peasants from local villages attacked the Jews living Myślenice and almost completely robbed them. As a result, the majority of the Jewish community left the town. Next such riots occurred in the years 1918-21.

Yet the best known anti-Jewish incident took place on 23 June 1936, when Adam Doboszyński, member of the National Party, carried out a private “raid” on the Jews of Myślenice. Actions undertaken by him were to serve as an objection against political terror, which, according to him, ruled in Myślenice, and a lesson for the district official, whom Doboszyński accused of tolerating corruption and favouring Jewish entrepreneurs. In the night, the leader together with a group of 100 supporters entered the town; they cut phone lines, took control over the police station and broke into the district official’s house; then they plundered and destroyed Jewish shops, set wares on fire and beat resisting Jews. They even tried to set the synagogue on fire[1.9]. The incident lasted about two hours; later the rioters retreated in the local forests. The police managed to capture about 50 people who were put on court. Doboszyński’s trial was one of the most well-known cases in the interwar period[1.10].

According to Mendel Backer, the first victim of World War II in Myślenice, which began with German invasion on Poland, was Jew Basia Gassner. When the Germans were withdrawing from Myślenice in September 1939, the Polish Army blew up the bridge in the town’s centre. Basia’s house which was located nearby stood in fire and the girl burnt alive. In the first days of the war Jews from neighbouring towns, including Myślenice, fled to the east, but returned after several days or weeks. Often they found their shops plundered or handed by the Germans to the Poles who declared German nationality. Only Miriam Kunstlinger’s bakery still belonged to her and the owner continued to bake bread for the Jews[1.11].

Also refugees from other towns, such as Cieszyn, Kraków and Bielsko arrived in Myślenice. Relationship between them and local Jews was rather difficult. Beno Richtman recollected that “(…) the locals had it easier, they had better contacts, and the refugees were no religious fanatics, which was characteristic of the majority of Myślenice Jews. Our contacts were limited to meeting at work”. The refugees met in the flat of Mrs Korngut, a resident of Cieszyn born in Myślenice. There they discussed self-defence, subversion, and sabotage of work. Richtman mentions names of the participants: Eda Gassner with her sister Dola, Tosia Korngut from Cieszyn, Halina Faden, Lermer, Noë Heitlinger, Perlmutter – from Kraków[1.12].

The Judenrat in Myślenice was headed by Moryc Neiger, and to the management board belonged: Eliasz Neuman, Mosze Perlroth, Dawid Rand and Mosze Weiss. “Neiger, owner of a glass work, very honest and decent, but of weak character, became Wiess’s puppet – a refugee from Germany, who was of the worst sort. Short, obese, bald, always with a cigar in his mouth, obeyed all commands without batting an eyelid. Some of the locals: Perlmutter, Sachs, Wind – decent, but very timid – carried out all orders of Weiss”[1.1.12]. In March 1941, the occupant ordered all Jews living in nearby towns to move to Myślenice. The newcomers were especially friendly welcomed by Szlomo Silbering and his sisters, Genia and Mania[1.1.12].

In May 1942, the Germans prepared the first transport of forced labourers to the Julag I camp in Płaszów. Richtman writes: “The town was shocked, from each house somebody was taken. (…) sixty days later another transportation followed, this time made up almost entirely of children who taken away from their mothers, including me. One could feel the beginning of the end”[1.1.12].

In August 1942, the Germans ordered Jews from Myślenice, Kalwaria, Izdebnik, Sułkowice, Dobczyce and Gdów to gather in Skawina. People were staying there in stables, in the backyards. The town was surrounded by the police and soon the Jews were displaced to extermination camps in Bełżec and Treblinka[1.1.12].

Beno Richtman, who was then a prisoner in Płaszów, saw the train transporting those Jews: “Around four or five [o’clock] in the afternoon on one of those tragic days [end of September 1942 – editor’s note], when we were in Prokocim camp outside Płaszów, we saw dozens of cattle waggons under wire heading east. (…) [People closed inside] gave us signs from behind the wires. They managed to communicate the following message: we are from Skawina, we are going to die. Don’t forget us”[1.1.12]. Beno Richtman escaped from Płaszów on 3 July 1943[1.1.12].

Bibliographical note:

  • M. Becker, The First Days of the War, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967) [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page407 [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • A. Cahn, M. Cahn, Myślenice. Ślady żydowskiego miasteczka. Spacerownik, Myślenice (2011).
  • Z. Fenster (Olga Weinman), Teaching of Religion, Voluntary Institutions, Cooperation with the town council, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967) [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page392 [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • M. Grzebałkowska, Trzeba nakręcić paranoję, „Gazeta Wyborcza” from  22 July 2005.
  • D. Jakubowicz, The Doboszynski Pogrom (Doboszynski's March on Myślenice), [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 398 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page398 [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • D. Jakubowicz, Notes on the history of the Myślenice Kahal, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 381 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • R. Perlroth, The Kahal, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967) [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page385 [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • B. Richtman, Myślenice during the Holocaust, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967) [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page411 [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • M. Stoszek, Stosunki polsko-żydowskie w Myślenicach do 1939 roku a problem antysemityzmu w Polsce międzywojennej, copy of a MA thesis in the Archives of the Museum „Dom Grecki” in Myślenice, competition entries.
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Footnotes
  • [1.1] D. Jakubowicz, Notes on the history of the Myślenice Kahal, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 381 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • [1.2] M. Cahn, A. Cahn, Myślenice. Ślady żydowskiego miasteczka. Spacerownik, Myślenice (2011), p. 10.
  • [1.1.1] D. Jakubowicz, Notes on the history of the Myślenice Kahal, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 381 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • [1.3] D. Jakubowicz, Notes on the history of the Myślenice Kahal, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 381 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • [1.1.3] D. Jakubowicz, Notes on the history of the Myślenice Kahal, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 381 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • [1.4] R. Perlroth, The Kahal, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 385 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page385 [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • [1.1.4] [a] [b] [c] [d] R. Perlroth, The Kahal, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 385 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page385 [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • [1.5] Z. Fenster (Olga Weinman), Teaching of Religion, Voluntary Institutions, Cooperation with the town council, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 392 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page392 [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • [1.6] Archiwum Muzeum „Dom Grecki” (Archives of the Museum “Dom Grecki”), Prace konkursowe (Competition entries), no. MRM/I/1767/M; T. Slósarz, Myślenice – ulice starego miasta, mps 1981, pp. 1–12.
  • [1.7] Archiwum Muzeum „Dom Grecki” (Archives of the Museum “Dom Grecki”), Prace konkursowe (Competition entries), M. Stoszek, Stosunki polsko-żydowskie w Myślenicach do 1939 roku a problem antysemityzmu w Polsce międzywojennej [copy of a MA thesis].
  • [1.8] A. Cahn, M. Cahn, Myślenice. Ślady żydowskiego miasteczka. Spacerownik, Myślenice (2011), p. 36.
  • [1.9] M. Grzebałkowska, Trzeba nakręcić paranoję, „Gazeta Wyborcza” from 22 July 2005.
  • [1.10] D. Jakubowicz, The Doboszynski Pogrom (Doboszynski's March on Myślenice), [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 398 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page398 [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • [1.11] M. Becker, The First Days of the War, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha,Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 407 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page407 [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • [1.12] B. Richtman, Myślenice during the Holocaust, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 411 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page411 [accessed: 30 June 2015].
  • [1.1.12] [a] [b] [c] [d] [e] [f] B. Richtman, Myślenice during the Holocaust, [in:] Sefer zikaron le-kehilot Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, Memorial Book of the Communities Wadowice, Andrychow, Kalwarja, Myslenice, Sucha, D. Jakubowicz (ed.), Ramat Gan (1967), p. 411 [online] http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/wadowice/wad381.html#Page411 [accessed: 30 June 2015].